Money Smart Kids, by Dianne Bates

Kids, like adults, love money and, like adults, most kids want more money than they have at any given time. One of the problems for children is coming up with ways of getting more money that don’t involve nagging Mum or Dad.

Money Smart Kids will help solve this problem. Packed with hundreds of money-making ideas for kids to try, this handy little volume also gives lots of practical information such as budgeting advice, how to get and keep customers and how to work with a partner or team. There are also case studies of real-life children who have managed to make money for themselves or for charity.

The book’s design is also appealing, with plenty of headings and subheadings for easy reference and with case studies easily identified by their text boxes. A glossary, index of jobs, suggested further reading and lists of useful websites and phone numbers, round out the book nicely, making it both entertaining and useful.

Children aged 8 to 14 will enjoy this book. Parents will appreciate it too, for its honest and helpful advice for young people.

Money Smart Kids, by Dianne Bates
Ibis Publishing, 2005

Dirt Cheap, by Elisabeth Wynhausen

More than one in four Australian workers are casuals, pining for ‘perks’ like job security; one in three part-time workers want more work than they have; two thirds of young people have no choice but to enter the labour market as casuals.

When Elisabeth Wynhausen took a year’s leave from her job as a journalist to join the ranks of the minimum-wage workers, her friends and family told her she was crazy. That didn’t stop her. Soon, she was one of the casual workers, travelling in search of work and learning what it was like to work long hours for low pay and no respect.

As a journalist, Wynhausen had often written about the working poor. Now, she decided, she would join them, working alongside them and trying to live on the wage they earned. She wanted to see what it was like working menial jobs for low wages – and trying to live on earnings below the poverty line.

This is an offering which is, on the surface, entertaining. Wynhausen’s skill with words draws you into the story, almost allowing you to forget that this is not a fictional tale, but real life. She experiences boredom, injury and fatigue, along with the frustrations of having work doled out on a seemingly adhoc basis. She exposes the difficulties of living on minimum wages and on being treated as both dispensible and insignificant by bosses and employers who look to cut costs at every opportunity.

By joining the workforce in this way, Wynhausen offers a unique viewpoint of life from the shop floor in several industries – including retail, hospitality, cleaning, aged care and manufacturing.

An eye-opener.

Dirt Cheap, by Elisabeth Wynhausen
Pan Macmillan, 2005

Blue Star, by Norma Faulkner

Reviewed by V. Sterling


“That one couldn’t win a race if he was given a 30 minute start.”
Luke walked over to the cage. The dog pressed his nose up against the wire.
“Hullo, Benny. You miss Charlie and your friends I know, but you still have me.”
“But not for much longer, kid.”
Luke swung round. “So you’re going to sell him too?”
Frank snorted. “Sell him? No way. No one’d be mad enough to buy him, he’s going to Puppy Dog Heaven.”
“What do you mean?”
“Are you stupid kid? I’m going to put a bullet in his head.”

Blue Star is a charming tale of a boy’s faith in a “failure” of a dog. But there’s more to believing in an unwanted dog than just bringing him home. Blue Star is a racing greyhound and needs expensive care. Luke’s veterinarian father isn’t pleased to discover that Luke has bought the dog, especially as it seems Blue Star can’t earn his keep. Dr. O’Neill is more concerned about funding an ultrasound machine than will help many animals. Then the vet discovers why Blue Star loses races. But treatment is expensive. Can Blue Star be saved? Luke is sure of it but when Blue Star starts winning, his greedy former owner claims the dog back. Then tragedy strikes.

A satisfying story for animal lovers of all ages. For readers 10-14 years, published by Loranda Publishing.

Blue Star, by Norma Faulkner
Loranda Publishing, 2004

Hell Has Harbour Views, by Richard Beasley

The problem with drinking wine from a glass that won’t empty is that by 9.30 you’re pretty pissed. That’s when you start doing things you wouldn’t ordinarily do. Not sober. Like telling a group of clients that you could have handled a particular case a lot more expertly than one of the senior partners had. Like telling another client that he should stop sending work to a particular partner who is, in your opinion, a fool and instead send work to you because you, in your opinion, are not.

In another life, Hugh Walker was a lawyer with a conscience. But when he joined Rottman Maughan and Nash he indavertently sold his soul and so now, it seems, he has none.

Hugh spends his days making sure accident victims get no payouts, turning a blind eye to dubious billing practices and cheating on his girlfriends – both of them. His nights are spent in an alcoholic haze. But at least he’s earning plenty of money. He is, after all, on the way up. That’s what his bosses tell him. Hugh is no longer so sure.

Hell Has Harbour Views provides a satirical insider’s viewpoint of a big multi-national law firm, and of the goings-on within its halls. Hugh is an honest and witty first person narrator, giving an intimate and immediate perspective of events, with his own self-deprecating annotations and honesty.

Because it was recently made into a telemovie of the same name, many people who now read the book will have first seen the film, as was the case with this reviewer. Whilst I could not help imagining the characters as they were cast on television, this was not a bad thing. The telemovie was reasonably true to the book and was well-cast, with the characters in the book matching well with the actors who played them on screen.

Of course, having said that, the book is better than the film – as is so often the case with books that are made into films – with Beasley’s style making the story so much more witty, insightful and just entertaining.

A great read.

Hell Has Harbour Views, by Richard Beasley
Pan Macmillan, first published 2001, this edition 2005

The Slightly Bruised Glory of Cedar B. Hartley, by Martine Murray

It was Kite who showed me how to become an acrobat. But it was me who showed Kite that we could make a circus, Life’s great like that. It’s like a big game where you have to join forces because, let’s face it, you can’t be good at everything.

Cedar and her almost-boyfriend Kite have a circus and, if she does say so herself, they are pretty good. So when Kite turns up at training with the news that he and his dad are leaving town to join a professional circus, Cedar is devastated. What’s the point of going on?

Then her long-lost Aunt Squeezy turns up to stay and introduces Cedar to Inisiya, a refugee. When Cedar learns Inisiya’s story, she realises her own problems are not so bad, and resurrects the circus at the local community centre, sharing her skills with other children.

Then Kite suggests that Cedar come and audition for the real circus and, once again, Cedar’s life is turned upside down. Should she follow her dream or should she stay with her family and new friends?

This is the second book told in Cedar’s quirky first person voice. Cedar, who aims to be infamous, is starting to grow up in this volume, and has lessons to learn about friendship, family, love and community. While there are plenty of humorous moments and Cedar’s narration is both endearing and entertaining, there are also serious themes being explored.

Fans of the first book will love the second, but readers new to the series will love this one so much they’ll want to go back and read the first.

The Slightly Bruised Glory of Cedar B. Hartey, by Martine Murray
Allen & Unwin, 2005

Bad Bad Thing, by Julia Lawrinson

You could hardly blame my mother for not having been model parent material. Given that she practically had to rent a room at my primary school for all the ‘discussions’ she was called in for, Mum was on edge with me a fair bit. She didn’t understand why I couldn’t restrain myself from committing the kinds of acts that led to those ‘discussions’, and I couldn’t explain it to her.

Seb has always been a difficult child. She is late for class, gets into trouble with teachers and fights with her mother constantly. But when she gets involved with the school bad girl, Bonnie, her past seems tame indeed.

Bonnie is the self-crowned Queen of the school and she will stop at nothing to stay that way. When Bonnie’s boyfriend, Alex, dumps her for the new girl, Rachel, Bonnie is determined to get retribution. Seb is involved because she just happens to live next door to Alex and is also best friends with Bonnie’s sister Lavinia.

Seb knows that getting involved with Bonnie is not a good idea, but she doesn’t even begin to imagine how horrible the consequences will be.

Bad Bad Thing is a fairly intense novel for teen readers about loyalty, inegrity and bullying. Author Julia Lawrinson creates a scenario that will have readers squirming as they follow a plot too horrible to be true and yet frighteningly real.

Lawrinson’s characters are skilfully rendered with flaws and foibles that are believable. All except the nasty Bonnie and her equally horrible mother have both positive and negative traits. Seb is somewhat self-focussed and rash, but we see her grow through the book and learn from her mistakes. Her friend Lavinia is the nicest girl in the school and shows courage and integrity throughout, yet finds it hard to be there for Seb, perhaps because of her own problems. Seb’s mother may not know how to deal with her unruly daughter, yet when things turn bad, she is there to offer support.

The plot is gripping, with a sprinkling of humour, some dark, dark depths and a dash of optimism.

High school aged readers will be drawn into this story and will like that Lawrinson has left them to draw their own conclusions about some of the issues covered.

Compulsive reading.

Bad Bad Thing, by Julia Lawrinson
Lothian, 2005

The Scorpion's Tail, by James Moloney

Reviewed by Dale Harcombe


The action starts on the first page and keeps up a relentless pace as Berrin escapes from the dreaded Gadges into the tunnels underneath the city. Unfortunately, in doing so he reveals the hiding place of the Doomsday Rats – a group of children consisting of Dorian, Olanda, Ruben, Wendell, Quinn and their adult founder, Ferdinand.

With their secret uncovered the Rats prepare to defend themselves in the tunnels. This time though, the Gadges have a secret weapon – the creature created by Malig Tumora. This created being, known as a ‘probe’, can hear the whispered words and even their heartbeats to detect the presence of the Rats. It seems the days of the Rats are numbered.

If the Rats are eliminated there will be no-one left to fight the Malig Tumora, who keeps the adults of the city compliant and drugged by the fragrance of flowers carried through pipes into all homes in the city. In the course of trying to stop the Malig Tumora’s evil rule and defend their lives in the tunnels, the Rats encounter the Firedrake and a robotic scorpion.

This book is part of a series about the Doomsday Rats. Even those who have not read the first book The Tunnels of Ferdinand, will soon be drawn into the plight of these young survivors and their fight against the evil Malig Tumora and the Gadges. Author James Moloney has won the Australian Children Book of the Year twice, with Swashbuckler in 1996 and Bridge to Wisemans Cove in 1997. His comic novel Black Taxi was shortlisted for the 2004 CBC book for older readers and the Adelaide Festival Children’s Literature award.

The Scorpion’s Tail, by James Moloney
Angus&Robertson- an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers Paperback, 2005
RRP $14.95, ISBN 0 2071 9666 4

Who Dares? by Krista Bell

Rhys rode that wave like the champion he hoped to become this week, right here, where he’d been surfing all his life. He pumped it all the way to the beach, until he expertly flicked off the back of the wave. Totally satisfied, he watched as it dissolved into nothingness right next to the rocks. Brilliant, totally utterly brilliant.

This is Rhys and Toby’s second trip together to Lorne. Last time they managed to form a pretty good friendship and solve each other’s problems. This time the trip is all about surfing – they hope.

Both boys are entered into the Easter surfing competition and, in the days before, all they plan on doing is getting in some practice. But when Toby’s board bag is stolen from the beach, they are determined to track down who has taken it and other missing surf gear, even if it means time away from practice.

Before the comppetion begins, there is time for more than one mystery to be solved.

Who Dares is a mix of surfing, skateboarding and mystery, which is a blend sure to appeal especially to young male readers, but it is also a story of friendship, family and keeping an open mind. Whilst the focus is on the growing friendship between the two main characters, there is also an exploration of their developing understanding of the other characters they meet. The boys’ lessons about making judgements and valuing family are gently shared with readers without being preachy or didactic.

Who Dares? is a sequel to Who Cares? (the winner of the 17th Australian Family Therapist’s Award for Children’s Literature), but also stands alone as an entertaining read.

Who Dares?, by Krista Bell
Lothian, 2005

H20 – Stories of Water, compiled by Margaret Hamilton

In her poem My Country, Dorothea Mackellar described Australia as a land of ‘beauty rich and rare’; a land of ‘droughts and flooding rain’. These characteristics have shaped our land and our people. Although it is the driest continent on the planet, Australia is an island continent surrounded by water and most of us live on or near the coastline.

These were the thoughts which shaped Maragret Hamilton’s decision to compile a book of stories about water, a collection which drew contributions from some of Australia’s finest children’s authors.

These nine tales, whilst all focussing on the single theme of water, explore the very depth of that subject. Water can be life or death, passion or defeat, and all of these extremes, and more, are explored here.

Several of the stories deal with family holidays to the beach, a reflection of the importance of these events in Australian life, but each has a different focus. In Promise Simon French shows a dysfunctional family holidaying in the town where the father was born – and the power of the river there to bring past and present together. In Lost Boat Alan Baillie gives a modern-day take of the boy who cried wolf theme, as a group of bored kids play tricks on other beachgoers.

The pacing of this collection is good – with each story standing well alone, but also building an awareness of the power of water in all its moods. Readers will be moved in places, shocked or scared in others and amused in still others.

This would be a wonderful collection for classroom use, tying into themes of water and the environment, but it just as approptiate for individual reading.

H2O: Stories of Water, compiled by Margaret Hamilton
ABC Books, 2005

Who Cares? by Krista Bell

Nobody wants to share a secret with a stranger. So when Toby and Rhys are forced to spend their holidays together, they are determined to keep their secrets to themselves. They may be from the same school, but they don’t know each other at all, and that’s how they’d like it to stay.

Toby has a secret he doesn’t want anyone at school to know. If the other boys knew what he does in his spare time, they might make life difficult for him. Rhys also has a secret, but his is far darker than Toby could imagine. In a week at the beach, both learn a lot about each other.

Who Cares is a tale of friendship, family and secrets. The beach setting will appeal to teen readers, especially those with an interest in surfing, with much of the action taking place on the beach as Rhys shares his passion for surfing with Toby.

Who Cares deals with some serious issues, including alchoholism and its effect on family, but it is not preachy or unrealistic. The teen characters have problems – some of which are solved simply by sharing them, and others which require both adult help and time. Author Krista Bell shows that even the biggest problems can be addressed with the right blend of help and understanding.

Who Cares was the 2004 winner of the Australian Family Therapists’ Award for Children’s Literature, for its postitive portrayal of family relationships.

A great read for ages 12 and up.

Who Cares? by Krista Bell
Lothian 2003