Road Story, by Julienne van Loon

Diana Kooper is running. She is looking straight ahead through the warm rain, all silvery in the fluorescent streetlight. The footpath beneath her is so shiny and black it could be liquid.

When Diana Kooper crashes her car, she flees the scene, leaving her best friend slumped and bloodied in the passenger seat. She jumps on a train out of Sydney, then a bus and eventually finds herself at an isolated truck-stop, where she lands a job as a kitchen hand. Here she struggles to forget her past, not knowing whether her friend has lived or died.

Life at the truck-stop is not easy, either. The owner, Bob, has a gambling problem which has landed him in hot water. When his dog is brutally stabbed to death and then Bob rolls his ute, Diana knows that trouble is brewing.

The winner of the 2004 Vogel Literary Award, Road Story is a haunting tale of youth, relationships and addiction. One of the most effective parts of the story is that the author has chosen to focus on the way other people’s addictions impact on the main character.


Road Story, by Julienne van Loon
Allen & Unwin, 2005

Father Koala's Nursery Rhymes, by Kel Richards

Tom, Tom the piper’s son,
Stole a pig and away he run.
Tom got caught, the pig got away,
And Tom went sailing to Botany Bay.

There is no doubt that kids enjoy hearing silly poetry – the sillier, the better. And Father Koala’s Nursery Rhymes is full of silliness.

Australian versions of popular nursery rhymes fill the pages, with Three Fat Chooks (instead of Three Blind Mice), Here We Go ‘Round the Banksia Bush, Swaggie Put the Billy On and many more. The comic illustrations of Glen Singleton complement the humour of the rhymes and, in many instances, outshine it.

This is not great literature, but is something children will enjoy.

Father Koala’s Nursery Rhymes, by Kel Richards, illustrated by Glen Singleton
Scholastic, first published 1992, this edition 2005

The BIG Picture Book, by John Long

The Universe formed out of clouds of gases
(or was it always there—
everywhere atoms buzzing with energy?
The Universe is a mystery.
The beginning of all things is a mystery.

The Big Picture Book explores the mystery of the Universe and of our Earth in this stunning exploration of the birth of Earth and of life as we know it. The book takes the form of a timeline, with each double page spread being one step on the timeline, from 12 billion years ago when the Universe first formed, until today, and even takes a glimpse at what the earth might be like in another 50 million years.

With simple text, author and palaeontologist John Long explains concepts such as the Big Bang, the formation of the solar system, the beginnings of life on earth and the development of the continents. The illustrations by Brian Choo present specualitive glimpses of each time period and are complemented by by photos of fossils, landscapes and the stars.

This offering will fascinate young starlovers and enquiring minds and the photographs and illustrations will captivate.

The BIG Picture Book, by John Long and Brian Choo
Allen & Unwin, 2005

The Glory Garage, by Nadia Jamal & Taghred Chandah

We call the obsession with collecting household items for married life ‘the glory garage syndrome.’ We’re talking serious shopping here and it affects many Lebanese girls long before an engagement ring is on their finger.

Growing from childhood into adulthood presenets challenges for every young woman. She must try to find her own identity, balancing the demands of her friends, family and teacher, with her own needs and beliefs. But, when that girl is a from a Lebanese Muslim family, growing up in Australia, there are a whole range of extra challenges.

The Glory Garage explores some of these challenges through candid real-life stories told by young Australian women of Lebanese-Muslim heritage. Covering issues and tales of identity, prejudice, oppression, terrorism and religious fundamentalism, the book gives a fascinating insight into the lives of these women and others like them.

Readers will be left with a greater understanding of the lives lead by these women and of the Islamic faith in general.

Enlightening reading.

The Glory Garage: Growing Up Lebanese Muslim in Australia, by Nadia Jamal & Taghred Chandah
Allen & Unwin, 2005

One-o-saur, Two-o-saur and In-o-saur, Out-o-saur, by David Bedford & Leonie Worthington

These two colourful books each deal with a basic learning concept using bright dinosaur pictures and simple text.

One-o-saur, Two-o-saur is a simple counting text, from one to twelve. Simple rhyming text and the bright illustrations of Leonie Worthington show the dinosaurs doing simple things, some more dinosaurly than others. For example one-o-saur is seen hopping on one leg, whilst on the next page two-o-saurs are hatching from their eggs.

In-o-saur, Out-o-saur is a book of opposites with even simpler text (one word a page) and, again, the bright, humorous illustrations of Leonie Worthington. Each double page spread presents a pair of opposites – in-o-suar and out-o-saur; awake-o-suar and asleep-o-saur.

This is a cute pair which will appeal to the very young.

In-o-saur, Out-o-saur and One-o-saur, Two-osaur, both by David Bedford & Leonie Worthington
Little Hare, 2005

The Great Brain Robbery, by Tom Scott & Trevor Grice

Illicit drug use is not a new problem for parents of teens, but it is one which seems to be constant. In spite of decades of programmes aimed at spreading the message about the dangers of drug-use, young people continue to use and abuse drugs, in the process exposing themselves to risks they seemingly refuse to believe in. The Great Brain Robberyexplores the problem of drug abuse, equipping parents and other adults with tools to understanding the problem and, possibly, to dealing with it.

In the first part of the book, The Challenge, the authors explore challenges faced by parents and teenagers and share real stories of families affected by drug use. The second section, The Danger List provides an alphabetic reference guide to the most commonly used drugs – including alcohol, marijuana and designer drugs. The third, brief section, The Hard Science explores the workings of the brain and the impact of drug use on brain function.

This is an accessible, no-nonsense guide for parents, which spells out the facts and provides plenty of case studies. It would also be an enlightening read for teenagers.

A sobering read.

The Great Brain Robbery, by Tom Scott & Trevor Grice
Allen & Unwin, 2005

The Memory Book, by Neil Curtis

Trying to classify this book is a real challenge – its is partly non-fiction, partly cartoon, partly inpsirational. But perhaps it is not meant to be classified, being, as it is, so different from any other book.

In The Memory Book author/illustrator Neil Curtis chronicles his memories of childhood, from birth till the age of seven. Curtis was born in England not long after the finish of the Second World War, and he and his family emigrated to Australia when he was seven, so these memories are of his childhood in England.

Some of Curtis’ memories are happy – like his recollections of the shop windows glowing like gold in the winter – while others, such as the images of his parents fighting, are sad. Whilst often intensely personal, there are also many memories that others will relate to their own childhoods.

Neil Curtis is an award winning illustrator, his most recent effort, the children’s picture book Cat and Fish, winning Picture Book of the Year 2004 in the Children’s Book Council of Australia awards.

The Memory Book is intriguing.

The Memory Book, by Neil Curtis
Allen & Unwin, 2005

Fast Food and No Play Make Jack a Fat Boy, by Andy Griffiths, Jim Thomson & Sophie Blackmore

The name Andy Griffiths is most commonly linked with funny books for children, and rightly so. However, his latest book is aimed firmly at adults. That said, there is much here which is trademark Griffiths, most notably his humour.

Fast Food and No Play Make Jack a Fat Boy is a collaboration between Griffiths, Jim Thomson, a former athlete and fitness instructor, and Sophie Blackmore, a dietician. Filled with practical information and advice, what really makes this book stand out is its use of a fictionalised case study, written by Griffiths.

Jack, an ordinary Australian boy, shares his life with us in a humorous first-person narration, which holds some very real messages and warnings. Overweight, always tired, hooked on television and computer games, Jack’s lifestyle is causing him problems. When his father, on whom many of his habits are modelled, has a health scare, the whole family struggles to make changes.

Each chapter of Jack’s tale is complemented with discussion of real-life facts, and action strategies for recognising the need for change and enacting that change. The advice is easy to follow, the strategies simple. There are no fad diets, no unattainable regimes and no preaching.

This is a book which every Australian parent should read. Kids, too, would enjoy the fictional story and, importantly, learn from it. Read aloud in class, it could form an excellent basis for health and nutrition lessons and a springboard for classroom discussion.


Fast Food and No Play Make Jack a Fat Boy, by Andy Griffiths, Jim Thomson & Sophie Blackmore
Pan, 2005

Whose Poo? by Jeannette Rowe

Parents who have older children may look at the title of this book and wonder if there is a need for yet another poo book. But those who are familiar with Jeannette Rowe’s other Whose books (including Whose ears? and Whose feet?) will be tempted to look at this one, too, and won’t be disappointed.

There is not a sign of any ‘real’ poo in this one – which is a relief in an illustrated book – with the poo instead being humorous and unexpected. Robot’s poo, for example, is nuts and bolts, whilst rocking horse’s poo is wood shavings. The final picture has a potty-training message with a child pointing into a potty and saying ‘my poo’.

Kids will love the humour and the lift the flap format, while adults will like the simple message about potty training – that it is fun.

Very cute.

Whose poo? by Jeannette Rowe
ABC Books, 2005

Totally Awesome! Weird! Cool! by Moya Simons

When Winnie’s dad tells her she is part-alien, she doesn’t really believe him. So when her cousin Lena come to stay, Winnie is amazed to realise that Lena can read her mind. When Lena starts flying, too, Winnie wonders if it’s possible that Dad’s story could be true.

Totally Awesome is the first of three stories in this volume, each previously published as single titles. With different child characters in each, the common thread is the subject matter – all deal with alien encounters – and the humour. The second story, Totally Weird sees Mop beamed up into an aliens hip – and rejected because she’s too smelly – whilst the third title, Totally Cool sees two spacemen attending a fancy dress party. Children will love the silliness of all of these stories and the humour of the cartoon-style illustrations of David Cox.

Suitable for children aged 8 to 12, thi is a totally fun offering.

Totally Awesome! Weird! Cool!, by Moya Simons
ABC Books, 2005