Amazing Science, by Simon Torok & Paul Holper


• Have you heard about the turtle that breathes through its bottom?

• Did you know that your toilet seat is probably more hygienic than you kitchen chopping board?

• How do you drop an uncooked egg 10 metres without breaking it?

The answers to these questions and many more bizarre, baffling and simply amazing pieces of information can be found in this volume.

This new edition is actually a bind-up of four smaller, earlier titles – Weird! Amazing Inventions & Wacky Science, Whiz! Maths & Science Puzzles, Zap! Science Experiments and Wow! Science Facts & Trivia – and as such features a range of activities and facts, presented in a fun, easy to follow format, which will keep young scientist entertained for hours and interest children who think they aren’t ‘in’ to science.

The authors, Dr Simon Torok and Paul Holper both work for the CSIRO and have backgrounds working with kids, so are well-equipped to present such a book. The illustrations, by Stephen Axelsen, add to the entertainment.

An excellent read for kids aged 8-12 and for classroom and library collections.

Amazing Science! by Paul Holper and Simon Torok
ABC Books, 2005

Mega Trucks, by Deborah Murrell

Little boys love trucks and little boys’ parents love seeing their children absorbed in books, so a book that is packed with pictures of big trucks is sure to be pleasing to both parents and their sons. Of course, girls may well enjoy this one, too.

Mega Trucks is a large format picture book with 32 pages of truck pictures, with plenty of bright colour photographs of trucks in a range of work situations. There is also simple text discussing what the trucks are doing and exploring the different types of trucks and their uses. Most pages incorporate simple questions for discussion between child and adult or seek-and-find activities to get kids looking more closely at the pictures.

As well as providing plenty of entertainment, this offering will encourage an interest in books, and will help build communication and comprehension skills. Whilst this would seem to be a repackaged American product (the trucks are left-hand drive, for example), the language seems to have been appropriately adjusted.

Mega Trucks, by Deborah Murrell
Scholastic, 2005

$1 Coin Collection, by Julian Gray

Since 1984, when the dollar coin was produced to replace the old paper note, the Royal Australian Mint has produced twelve different designs on its reverse side. Produced to remember significant anniversaries, including the Year of the Outback and the Centenary of Federation, the designs include logos, people ad symbols which represent each occasion.

In this booklet and folder, readers are given insight into the process of choosing which occasions should be commemorated with the coins, and how that commemoration should be depicted, as well as explaining the significance of each design. There is also a brief explanation of the mint process and a page for readers to design their own $1 coin.

The booklet is enclosed in a sturdy cardboard folder which has plastic slots where readers can collect the twelve coins minted to date.

This will appeal to young coin collectors, or would-be coin-collectors and, at $7,95, would be a good gift idea.

$1 Coin Collection: Collect 12 Coins, by Julian Gray
Scholastic, 2005

The Innocent Mage, by Karen Miller

Reviewed by Davina MacLeod

Enter the kingdom of Lur, where magic is wielded by few and others are imprisoned if they dare try.

The Doranen have ruled Lur with magic since their arrival as refugees centuries ago when they fled from their homeland and the war started by Morg, the mage who was determined to be the ultimate ruler.

To keep Lur safe, the Olken inhabitants agreed to abandon their own magic. Magic is therefore forbidded them, and anyone who breaks this law will be executed.

Asher has left his coastal village to fulfil his dream of being able to make enough money to buy a boat for himself and his father, to escape from being under the heels of his elder brothers. He is at first employed in the royal stables, but is soon befriended by young Prince Gar, who appreciates Asher’s honesty and forthright manner. Asher soon finds himself with more money and power than he would ever have believed possible.

The Olken have a secret, a prophecy that makes the claim that The Innocent Mage will save Lur from destruction. Unknown to Asher, members of The Circle have dedicated their lives to preserving Olken magic until the saviour arrives. Asher has been closely watched by these preservers of magic. As the Final Days draw near Asher’s life takes a new and dangerous turn.

The back cover blurb tell us about the story and the magic that is a part of it – what it doesn’t tell us about is the magic of the writer of this top-notch fantasy. With excellent use of language in a well-told story that has a quiet raunchiness, and a piquancy that tickles the palate, Karen Miller keeps you wanting more. When an author who has made you laugh, writes that one character tells another that he is “My compass. My anchor. My candle in the dark.”, you know you have come across a master class writer.

The Innocent Mage is Karen Miller’s debut novel, the first of the duology Kingmaker, Kingbreaker published by Harper Collins Australia.

The Innocent Mage by Karen Miller
Harper Collins, 2005
ISBN 0 – 7322 – 8079 – 6

Ned Kelly's Last Days, by Alex C. Castles and Jennifer Castles

When Ned Kelly was captured after the Glenrowan siege in 1880, the colony of Victoria was united in its belief that he must be executed. Whatever modern Australians may feel, at the time of his capture, Ned was considered an Outlaw. He had been involved in violent thefts, the killing of policemen, the taking of hostages and an attempt to derail a train. He was both feared and hated, and few believed that he should not hang.

In the weeks that followed his capture, however, a questionable chain of events occurred. Whilst Ned was kept isolated in gaol, there were political manoeuvrings, blatant cover ups and high-level corruption being used to ensure he would hang. When that hanging took place, few Victorians realised that the legality of that execution was questionable, to say the least.

Ned Kelly’s Last Days is more than just another book about Ned Kelly. Whilst giving plenty of insight into Kelly and those around him in his last days, its real focus is on exposing the questionable judicial processes of the time and the way those in power were able to manoeuvre the process to achieve the desired outcome. Author Alex C. Castles (who, sadly, passed away before the book was published) was not focussed on whether or not Ned was guilty, but on the way ‘justice’ was served.

This is a fascinating read for anyone with an interest in Australian history or law.

Ned Kelly’s Last Days, by Alex C. Castles & Jennifer Castles
Allen & Unwin, 2005

The Dawn Stag, by Jules Watson

It is AD81 and Agricola the governor of Roman Britain is intent to conquer Alba, Scotland as he has captured the rest of Britain. He has been outwitted by Eremon before and does not plan on letting it happen again. Eremon, though has two new weapons: new allegiances, formed with the Kings and chiefs of the surrounding duns; and the new powerful love he shares with Rhiann. Together the pair hold the hopes of the nation.

When the armies of Alba and Rome finally meet it is in an epic battle which will decide the fate of a nation. No one who is there on that day will remain unchanged.

The Dawn Stag is the second book in the epic Dalraida Trilogy and, like the first The White Mare, is a boon for lovers of Celtic history, epic tales and historical fantasy. Author Jules Watson weaves a story which draws readers into its depths, connecting with the characters and living their highs and lows with them.

A dense volume, it is no light read, but this is its appeal – there is plenty of time to develop the characters, setting and, of course, the wrenching plot.

The Dawn Stag, by Jules Watson
Orion, 2005

Page Seventeen, Issue 1

Born of a frustration at the lack of publishing opportunities for new and emerging writers, Page Seventeen is a new twice-yearly collection of short stories, poetry, photographs and illustrations by Australian creators.

Independently produced by Celapahene Press, the publisher set up by writers Kathryn Duncan and Tiggy Johnson expressly to create this opportunity for Australian writers, the 132 pages of this volume offer an eclectic mix of different genres, forms and styles. What is common between pieces is the quality of the writing which has been well-chosen and well blended, with each new offering different from the one previous, but not jarring in its difference.

The binding and presentation of the volume is attractive, with a coloured cover and black and white photographs and illustrations peppered throughout. Contributor biographies are included at the end of the book.

This is an venture which is worthy of support. Submission and purchasing details are available at the Page Seventeen website.

Page Seventeen, Issue 1, edited by Tiggy Johnson and Kathryn Duncan
Celaphene Press, 2005

The Adventures of Charlotte and Henry

At Henry’s house there are funny little noises coming from the bathroom.
Henry’s mum says, ‘He’s so musical!’
Henry is slowly climbing the ladder of notes on his little plastic recorder.

Learning the recorder, going to the movies, having sleepovers with friends; these are just some of the familiar childhood experiences told in the charmingly simple stories which make up The Adventures of Charlotte and Henry.

These slice-of-life stories are each self contained and fully illustrated with author-illustrator’s Bob Graham recognisable brand of humorous detail. Each story is self-contained and comprises about six pages, with short text and lots of illustrations in full colour, with most pages having two illustrations with text beneath each.

This format would suit reading aloud as bedtime stories or independent reading by 6 and 7 year olds.

Very cute.

The Adventures of Charlotte and Henry, by Bob Graham
ABC Books, 2005

New Beginnings

On the 26th of December 2004, an earthquake under the Indian Ocean created a series of devastating tsunamis, killing over 280 000 people, and rendering homeless thousands more. Aid was needed straight away, and came from around the world, but the process of rebuilding is ongoing, and more help is still needed.

In New Beginnings, sixteen renowned authors have donated extracts from their forthcoming new books as well as unpublished short stories, free of charge, with proceeds going to various tsunami earthquake charities.

There are tantalising first chapters from authors including Maeve Binchy, J M Coetzee, Stephen King, Joanna Trollope and more as well as short stories from Margaret Atwood.

As well as getting a glimpse into these unpublished works (many of which will, of course, tempt you to buy the final products when they are released), buyers will have the pleasure of knowing their purchase is helping such a worthy cause.

New Beginnings, by Various Authors
Bloomsbury, 2005

Fivestar, by Mardi McConnochie

It all begins with an ad in the paper: Singer/dancers wanted for girl group. Soon, Daryl, the group’s creator and would-be manager, has his group of five girls, from different backgrounds but with one dream – to be famous:

Jules is the natural leader, outgoing, cheeky, bursting with energy and life.
Claudia is the cruel and beautiful fashion queen.
Ellie used to do competitive gymnastics. Now her obsessions need another outlet.
Sam is the one who can actually sing, and writes songs.
And Suzy is the girl next door, with her ponytails and optimism.

Together the girls become Fivestar, make their own reality TV show and become overnight superstars. Sound a bit familiar? It is, but deliberately so. The year is 1993 and the novel set in times and circumstances similar to those of England’s Spice Girls and other early reality television show stars.

Fivestar takes the reader inside the world of pop music and reality TV and back to the world of the early 90s, as the Fivestar girls ride the wave of success and sink to the lows of yesterday’s news. It is funny, sad and often real and will especially appeal to those who were in their early 20s in those years.

The one slight flaw in this book is that with so many main characters and shifts in perspective it is at times hard to find empathy for the girls. Having said that, readers will still be absorbed by the story itself.

A good read.

Fivestar, by Mardi McConnochie
Harper Collins, 2005