The Grief Book, by Elizabeth Vercoe with Kerry Abramowski

Grief is like manure:
if you spread it out it fertilises.
If you leave it in a big pile,
it smells like hell.
(Thomas Golden)

Everybody, the introduction to this books reminds us, experiences grief. It is a necessary part of life and, as such, can’t be avoided. But not all of us know how to deal with that grief, and this is very important. So, in this wonderful offering, author Elizabeth Vercoe and consultant Kerry Abramowski, offer a bag of strategies for dealing with grief. From simple things to recognising that you are grieving, to more momentous things like attending a funeral, the book is full of practical, honest suggestions for moving through grief.

The book is aimed specifically at young people, but will speak to those of any age experiencing any kind of grief – adjusting to illness, coping with the death of a loved one, dealing with a divorce, the list is endless. The text is accessible and realistic, coming from people who know about grief: Vercoe is a survivor of Hodgkin’s Disease and Abramowski has worked with young cancer patients. This experience generates an understanding and gentle tone.

The Grief Book is an outstanding offering for young people, parents and anyone experiencing grief or working with adolescents.

The grief Book: Strategies for Young People, by Elizabeth Vercoe with Kerry Abramwoski
Black Dog Books, 2004

101 Great Killer Creatures, by Paul Holper & Simon Torok

Which is most deadly – a lion or a flea? If you answered lion, you might be right, on a case- by-case basis. Most of us would rather meet a flea than a wild lion. But in fact, fleas have caused more human deaths than any large animal. This tiny insect is the transmitter of disease – and in the year 542, it spread the plague so widely that an estimated 40 million people died.

The flea is just one of the many dangerous animals discussed in this non-fiction offering aimed at fact-mad young readers. From the ocean to the jungle, and even back in time, 101 Great Killer Creatures explores the facts and myths that surround all kinds of animals.

The small, fairly dense text of the book is still highly readable. Authors Paul Holper and Simon Torok, both employees of the CSIRO, use a conversational style to convey information simply and with humour. The use of cartoons and anecdotes adds to its readability.

A fun read for ages 8-12.

101 Great Killer Creatures, by Paul Holper & Simon Torok
ABC Books, 2005

Maxx Rumble Football Series

It had been close all day. We were down to the last few minutes. They were in front by 4 points.
I was at full-forward. I’d already booted 2 goals…I mean 6…no, make that 9 goals. The Bullies decided to double-team me. That’s when they put two players onto one.
They sent their two biggest players to take me on.

Maxx Rumble loves sport. He loves everything about it – but most of all, he loves winning. As we follow his season playing for the Stone Valley Saints, there are plenty of wins to be had. But it doesn’t all go Maxx’s way. First he is Crunched!, then he is Slammed! and, in the most important game of the season he is Dogged!

Every book of this delightfully funny series pits Maxx against some challenging opponents. The fast-paced, wickedly humorous text of author Michael Wagner is matched by the comic illustrations of Terry Denton on every page.

Likely to appeal to all kids, these offerings will especially work their magic with reluctant readers, who will relish the short length and accessibility of the stories.

Crunched!, Slammed!, Flattened! ,Smashed! ,Twisted! ,Stretched! ,Winded! and Dogged!
All by Michael Wagner, illustrated by Terry Denton
Black Dog Books, 2004

Best Baby Names From Australia and New Zealand

Looking for a name for your forthcoming bundle of joy? Want something a little different than Adam or Matthew or Sarah? The Collins Gem Best baby Namesoffers more than 1200 names from around the world, from Abby to Zygmunta and from Aaron to Zygmunt. In between there are plenty of choices. What about Mila (meaning loveable), of Slavonic origin? Or Harun, an Arabic name meaning ‘exalted’?

An introduction gives some pointers about how to choose a name and a calendar reference offers a boy’s and a girl’s name for every day of the year.

This pocket sized offering is sure to be a help for parents struggling with this important task.

Best Baby Names For Australia & New Zealand, by Cecily Dynes
Collins Gem, 2005

Alexander the Great, Reckless Conqueror, by Carole Wilkinson

Alexander of Macedonia (also known as Alexander the Great and, by his enemies, as Alexander the Accursed) became a king at the age of twenty. While many thought him too young for the job and perhaps an easy target, he quickly proved his strength and courage.

In the eight years after he was crowned, he lead his army in a quest to conquer the known world. He defeated the Greeks and the Persians, was named Pharaoh of the Egyptians and travelled across India. He lead his army by example, leading the charge into battles and fighting hard, regularly sustaining injury.

Yet, for all his courage, Alexander was also a man of cruelty. He had anyone he considered a traitor or enemy put to death, and in his quest to rule the world left thousands of people dead or enslaved. Was he a great man or a ruthless tyrant?

Alexander the Great: Reckless Conqueror is an excellent exploration of the man, his times and his feats. Author Carole Wilkinson details his exploits with an emphasis on accuracy. She also offers a human insight into Alexander with fictionalised journal entries at the beginning of each chapter. Maps, illustrations and tables aid in understanding Alexander’s feats.

Wilkinson has a talent for making history accessible to young people.This offering will find a deserving home in school libraries and private collections.

Alexander the Great: Reckless Conqueror, by Carole Wilkinson
Black Dog Books, 2004

Dog Wars, by Michael Wagner

FINE! BE LIKE THAT! I’ll tell you the whole story, the full, complete story—the flea wrestling, Mum and Dad, the fights, all the trouble I caused, the war, everything! THEN WE’RE OUTTA HERE! OKAY?

The humans might call it Grandview, but to the dogs who live there, their suburb is known as Dogland. The dogs have their own sets of rules and their own way of sorting out problems and the humans are none the wiser. But when a flea on the lookout for adventure and excitement lands on Strongdog, the toughest dog of all, things start to change.

Dog Wars is a hilarious dog story with a very big difference – it is narrated by a flea. This sassy character, Faydo T. Flea, tells the story of his adventures onboard Strongdog, who he controls through subtle direction in his ear. Wagner uses this device for maximum silliness. Kids will love it and even adults will laugh out loud.

Each dog character is distinct and dog lovers will recognise their own dog breeds there, from the feisty poodle to the shifty dachshund and the dirty, but happy, mutt. Dog Wars is a dog-lover’s delight.

Dog Wars, by Michael Wagner
Black Dog Books, 2004

Maxx Rumble Cricket Series, by Michael Wagner

“How is THAT, umpire?” screamed Happy. “That’s gotta be out! Oh, come on, ump! Be reasonable. He was SOOOOO out! What are you doing to me, ump?”
“You haven’t even bowled the ball yet, Happy,” said umpire Freddy.

Maxx Rumble loves sport and he and his team mates have been training hard for the new cricket season. But Maxx’s team, the Stone Valley Saints are, well, saints compared to some of their opponents. It seems some people will stop at nothing to win a game of cricket.

In Rattled!, the captain of the Princely Pigdogs whinges constantly, then manages to completely rattle Maxx when it’s his turn to bat. In Sledged , the star of the Sproilt Bats, Thelma Thatcher uses all her skills to put people off. In fact, in each of the eight books of the series, the opposition team uses every tactic available to outwit Maxx’s Saints.

Each book is a quick read, self-contained and full of laughs. The comic illustrations by Terry Denton on every page add to the fun. Read alone or as a series, these are plenty of fun for sports-mad youngsters.

Sledged!, Rattled! , Cheated!, Bugged!, Hammered!, Whacked!, Spooked!, and Tricked! all by Michael Wagner, illustrated by Terry Denton
Black Dog Books, 2004 and 2005

The True Green of Hope, by N. A. Bourke

he closes her eyes, trying to remember more perfectly, trying to get the smell and the feel of that one afternoon clear in her head.

When she was thirteen, Sam’s mother abandoned her at the beach. One minute she was there, watching Sam surf, the next she was gone, and Sam was on her own, fending for herself.

Years later, Sam is in is a steady relationship and has a job in a hospital. When a coma patient is brought in who has the same name as her mother, memories start to return. What did happen on that day and what has happened in the intervening years?

As Sam struggles with her past she must also face her future as her relationship with Em, her partner of seven years, seems to be crumbling. Will she be able to find the truth and a way forward?

In this evocative and provocative novel, author N. A. Bourke explores the nature of truth, memory and love. Sam is a flawed character who seems unable to trust or to love with any completeness, and must recognise this for herself before she can move forward with her life.

The True Green of Hope is a resonant read.

The True Green of Hope, by N. A. Bourke
University of Queensland Press, 2005

Manners! by Karen Tayleur

My mum always calls them the ‘unwritten laws’ – the unwritten laws of good manners. You could probably break these laws and never end up in jail. But if you do break them you might find yourself without any friends.

First, David Mortimore Baxter learnt the importance of always telling the truth. Then he learnt about using excuses to get out of, and keep out of, trouble. Now, it seems, he’s intent on spreading the message about manners.

In Manners! David (the first person creation of author Karen Tayleur) explains good manners in all sorts of situations – from mealtime to movie time, both at home and away.

As with earlier titles in this series, this one is full of humour and will appeal to readers in a wide age group – from 7 to 12 and possibly beyond. David Baxter is a quirky, blunt character who tells it as he sees it with hilarious impact.


Manners! Staying Out Of Trouble With David Mortimore Baxter
Black Dog Books, 2005

The Country Undertaker, by Jim Eames

Here was my father, the brand new country undertaker, thrown in at the deep end of a funeral at least three times larger than he would have liked and probably the main reason I was sitting in the passenger seat of the Essex, wearing long pants, the only white shirt I owned and one of my father’s dark ties.

When Mick Eames moved his family to Holbrook in the 1940s, it was to pursue his career as a spare parts man, not to become the town undertaker. Soon though, his entrepreneurial skills came to the fore and he became first the local taxi owner and then the funeral director.

Jim Eames’ recollections of his father’s years as a country undertaker are candid, humorous and entertaining. Mick Eames’ story is at times funny, at others poignant and at all times gently honest. People who have lived in the country will recognise some of the characters, even without having ever visited Holbrook.

An enjoyable read.

The Country Undertaker, by Jim Eames
Allen & Unwin, 2005