Catnapped, by Chris McTrustry

Matt’s Christmas holidays are boring. All his friends have gone away and there is nothing to do. Until all the cats in the neghbourhood start to disappear.

The adults don’t seem to think there’s anything suspicious happening, but Matt knows different. He is sure there is a mystery that needs solving. Who could be stealing the cats? And what do they want with them?

Matt sets out to solve the case. Along the way he makes two new friends, Hugh and Mary. Together the three learn that solving mysteries can be dangerous business.

Catnapped is a fun, fast-moving mystery for 8 to 12 year olds. With comic illustrations by Louise Prout it is sure to be a hit with young mystery lovers.

Catnapped, by Chris McTrustry
Banana Books, 2004

Releasing the Imbecile Within, by Paul Livingston

Releasing the Imbecile Within is is not just another self-help book. Author Paul Livingston has concluded, from years of observation, that most of our community leaders, opionion makers, celebrities and entrepeneurs lack vision and are, in fact, moronites. As a result, more and more intelligent, over-educated, critically minded individuals find themselves unemployed or, at the very least, undervalued. Livingston aims to help these people by guiding them towards greater levels of idiocy.

Livingston, better known to many as Flacco (a character he has played for over 12 years), takes his reader on a personal journey into ignorance in fifteen easy steps. With highly non-intellectual quotes from such geniuses as George Gobel, who claims “If it weren’t for electricity we’d all be watching television by candlelight” and plenty of ‘real life’ scenarios of imbeciles in action, this is an excellent guide to anyone who wants to release their inner imbecile.

The essential, stupid guide to surviving the 21st century.

Releasing the Imbecile Within: An Incomplete Idiot’s Guide, by Paul Livingston
Allen & Unwin, 2003

Wombat Down Below, by Jill Morris

Big Foot the Northern Hairy-nosed Wombat lives alone in his comfortable burrow. He comes out at night to feed and exercise, but is very aware of the dangers he faces oustide. The grasses are drying up and the night is full of predators – dingoes, wild cats and owls.

When Big Foot finds better feed in another feeding ground, he decides to build a new burrow. Night after night he works on this burrow, returning to his old place to sleep each day. Eventually, though, he moves to his new burrow. Here, his greatest moment of danger comes on the night of the full moon, when the bright light exposes him to predators. His quick thinking and the element of surprise help him to overcome the danger.

Wombat Down Below is a fiction story, but it is based on real events in a small national park in central Queensland, where the only remaining colony of Northern Hairy-nosed wombats is found. A double paged spread at the back of the book describes the plight of this critically endangered species, and efforts to ensure their survival.

Author Jill Morris is passionate about Australian wildlife and about educating children (and adults) through her stories. Illustrator Lucy Everitt has provided life-like detail, with a special feature the cross sections showing the inside of the wombat’s burrow.

Wombat Down Below is both an entertaining story book and an outstanding educational aid.

Wombat Down Below, by Jill Morris, illustrated by Luci Everitt
Greater Glider, 2004

ABC – A First Board Book, from Scholastic Australia

Parents like ABC books (also called alphabet books) for obvious reasons. It’s nice to think your young one is being educated at the same time he is being entertained. Youngsters like ABC books too – because they are full of bright pictures of things they know. They are able to point at, name and discuss these items, making reading an interactive experience. For older readers there is the thrill of being able to ‘read’ the book themselves by pointing at the pictures and saying the words.

ABC: A First Board Book is a sound example of the alphabet book format. Each letter has a page (or double page spread) of its own, with the letter clearly printed in the corner and several photgraph illustrations of objects beginning with the letter. Each picture is acompanied by its name.

The board book format is ideal for toddlers, with its small size and chunky pages making the book sturdy. The book is also full of bright colours, making it visually appealing.

Good value, at just $5.95 (rrp).

ABC: A First Board Book, from Scholastic Australia, 2004

Matt the Mage – First Spells, by Sally Odgers

Like any good son away from home, Matt writes home to his parents every week without fail. But Matt isn’t really like any other boy away from home. For a start, Matt (his real name is Parramatta Wheatslump) is a mage. Then there’s the fact that Matt isn’t just away from his own – he has somehow ended up in an alternative dimension. His travelling companions – a mermaid and a talking camel – aren’t terribly normal either.

Matt has left his home – Starvation Station, Somewhere in Australia – in the hope of finding another mage who can tutor him.Before he finds his tutor he encounters all sorts of obstacles. Along with his weekly letters home to his Mum and Dad he sends installments of his story, explaining his tale both to his parents and to the reader.

Matt the Mage is a fun fantasy, its use of letters and notes interspersed with third person narrative a touch which will engage young readers. Sally Odgers, one of Australia’s most versatile and gifted children’s authors, always has something different to offer her readers. Matt the Mage will not disappoint.

Matt the Mage: First Spells, by Sally Odgers
Banana Books, 2004

Shadowgate (Deltora Quest 3), by Emily Rodda

The popular Deltora Quest series continues with this, the second book of the third series.

Lief, Barda and Jasmine have reunited and have already managed to defeat the sister of the east, one of four evil creations left by the Shadow Lord to poison the land. Now the trio must seek and defeat the second Sister – the Sister of the North, hidden in the mountains which border the Shadowlands.

Together the three cross Deltora, helped by friends both old and new, and by the sleeping dragons they awaken. But along the way Lief and his friends have to face some of their biggest challenges.

The Deltora Quest series has attracted a strong following among young fantasy fans. It is an excellent introduction to the genre, with plenty of action and easy to follow plots which stand alone as well as developing the ongoing story.


Shadowgate: Deltora Quest 3, by Emily Rodda

Scholastic, 2004