Praise, by Andrew McGahan

wasn’t a man of strength. I waited until the end of the shift. I closed up the shop. Then I resigned. Quietly. The manager asked me why. He asked me if it was something personal. There wasn’t much I could say. I was tired. I felt it was time to wind that part of my life down. Work wasn’t the answer to anything…

Three days after his twenty-third birthday, Gordon quits his job in a Brisbane bottle shop. He has seven hundred dollars in the bank and no plans to look for another job. He doesn’t know what he’ll do and he doesn’t care. Why should he?

Praise is a story about being young and hopeless in the Australia of the early 1990s. It isn’t a feel good book and in places is quite dark, but it feels pretty real and has a pathos which keeps the reader turning pages and, if they were young in those times (as this reviewer was) nodding knowingly.

Gordon lives in a world where sex, alcohol and drugs are far more important than work, and where planning for the future seems futile. In fact, for Gordon, the future is little more than waking up tomorrow and doing the same things over.

Praise won the Vogel award in 1991 and has been re-released in conjunction with author McGahan’s other, subsequent, books, including 1988, a prequel to this offering.

A gritty read.

Praise, by Andrew McGahan
Allen & Unwin, 1991, this edition 2005

Hugo the Lifesaving Sailor, by Lorette Broekstra

Hugo the elephant is off sailing in his boat, Gypsy. It is a lovely day and the other residents of Hometown are out having fun on the water, too. But when the wind blows up, there is a cry for help. Penelope Pentland has been swept out to sea. Hugo and Gypsy must save her. Soon everything is back to normal and Hugo leads the way home.

Hugo the Lifesaving Sailor is a simple adventure story for littlies – aged 1 to 5. With brief, basic text, bright primary colours and lots of animal characters, youngsters will follow the story and like the elements of repetition. For those at the older end of the age range, there are maps on the endpapers, which show Hometown and the path of Hugo’s travels.

Bright and attractive.

Hugo The Lifesaving Sailor, by Lorette Broekstra
Allen & Unwin, 2005

Malig Tumora, by James Moloney

Berrin winced at the harsh grip of claws around his wrists. He looked up at the creatures that held him captive. They were Gadges. Huge and powerful beasts, half man, half wolf, their repulsive heads reaching well over two metres from the ground when they stood on their hind legs.

Berrin is in trouble. With the tunnels flooded he is now in the grips of the Gadges, who want to make him their next meal. But the evil Malig Tumora has other plans for Berrin. With Berrin imprisoned in his menagerie, he has plans for Berrin – and for all humanity – that will change everything. Berrin has been in scrapes before, but this time he can’t see any hope of escape. .

Malig Tumora is the third book in the Doomsday Rats series and fans of the first two books wil lnot be disappointed with this newest instalment. There is plenty of excitement and intrigue, and a nice mix of heroes and baddies, all set in a fantasy world where all the adult humans have been drugged to work as slaves of the evil scientist Malig Tumora. Readers new to the series will find this offering self-contained enough to pick up the story line and enjoy the adventure.

Gripping stuff for fantasy fans aged 10 to 12.

Malig Tumora, by James Moloney
Angus & Robertson, 2005

Raising the Bar, by Michael Panckridge

We were well in front of the others, but did have the inside running. Fisk was getting closer as we turned into the final straight. As I looked up at 90 metres of straight, I felt a sharp sting near my right ankle. The next second I was flying through the air, blue sky and green grass spinning around me.

The team sports are over and the last two sports of the Legends series are here. First there’s athletics, and Mitchell needs to do well here for a chance at the over all Legend of Sport title. Only one person stands in his way – Travis Fisk, the school bully. Fisk will do anything to beat Mitchell, but is it possible he could go too far?

Raising the Bar is the seventh title in The Legends series, set at Sandhurst School, where the annual sporting competition seems to dominate everyone’s attention. These are absorbing books for sports-mad kids, with a good combination of sporting action and adventure.

Another great read.

Raising the Bar, by Michael Panckridge
Black Dog, 2003

Selby's Shemozzle, by Duncan Ball

Selby stopped in his tracks. ‘That is so incredibly funny,’ he thought in the split second before he started laughing uncontrollably. He doubled up and fell to the ground, pounding his paws in the dirt. ‘That is sooooooooo funny!’

Selby is back with more side splitting adventures and more shemozzles than one dog could expect in a lifetime. There are fourteen stories all featuring the world’s only talking dog as he gets covered in chocolate, turned invisible, wins the lottery and much more.

As always, Selby’s stories are recounted with the level of clever wit readers have come to expect from the loveable Selby. This is the thirteenth Selby title and marks the 20th anniversary of Selby’s adventures, which makes him one long-living dog.

Kids love Selby, and Selby’s Shemozzle is sure to please.

Selby’s Shemozzle, by Duncan Ball
Harper Collins, 2005

Horse Mad, by Dianne Wolfer

I’ve got a problem. For two years I’ve been a horse. Every morning I wake up, stretch my legs, roll onto my back and flick my mane. But that isn’t my problem.

When she wakes up on her eighth birthday, Alice discovers something terrible. She is no longer a horse. She can’t whinny or trot and she feels silly drinking out of a bucket. All her friends are horses, and if they discover Alice is no longer one of them, they may stop playing with her.

Alice tries everything to get her horsiness back, but when that fails she looks for other friends. She doesn’t want to be on of the Cool Girls or the Sporty Girls. She really misses her old friends. She might not want to be a horse, but she still likes the other members of the Pony Club.

Horse Mad is a cute, fun book. Author Dianne Wolfer gets across a message about friendship and belonging without being preachy or boring. Suitable for readers aged six to ten, horse mad or otherwise.

Horse Mad, by Dianne Wolfer
FACP, 2005

On the Buzzer, by Michael Panckridge

We started the game against Wetherhood with our best five. The Hoods players were tall, lean and mean. They managed to hassle us without drawing too many fouls. That was until Totem charged poor Rat fair and square with a massive full-frontal attack that sent Rat skidding across the floor on his backside and into the back wall.

The Legends competition at Sandhurst School is always pretty fierce, but the basket ball contest is promising to be the fiercest yet. Not only is school bully Travis Fisk out to make sure he wins, but the school’s rivals, Wetherhood, are doing everything they can to upset it too. It seems to Mitch and his mates that even their own coach, Mrs Cartwright, doesn’t want Sandhurst to win.

This is the sixth of eight titles in The Legends series. Each title focuses on one sporting contest in this sport-focussed school. The best participant in each sport is named Legend of that particular sport, and there is an ongoing battle to be overall Legend at the end of the year.

In this instalment, there are more twists and turns in the mystery of the library tunnel and some surprising developments in the interpersonal relationships between the various characters.

Another sound read.

On the Buzzer, by Michael Panckridge
Black Dog, 2003

To the Light, by Pat Flynn

School. It’s not that I hate it. It’s just that I don’t exactly fit in…And I have a sister who has all the kids and teachers fooled into thinking she’s the best thing since sliced cheesebread. Okay, I do hate it.

Jamie loves surfing. Jamie doesn’t like school. At the beach there’s best mates Mitchell and Scott, but at school there’s bullies like Rory, who insists on calling Jamie ‘James’ and Jamie’s sister, Sky, who is ranked most popular girl in the school. How can Jamie compete?

With the final surfing event of the year approaching, Jamie is determined to do well, and a chance meeting with a stranger who rides a Malibu may just be the catalyst.

To the Light is a fun book about surfing, school, siblings and what it means to be ‘in’. The interest of the surfing lessons is supplemented by some gentle life lessons, wrapped in an entertaining package. There is a surprise twist at the end that will have readers leafing back through to see how they could have missed it.

Great reading.

To the Light, by Pat Flynn
UQP, 2005

Over the Wall, by Michael Panckridge

His run-in was awkward. He was all over the place. When he did kick the ball, it was off the toe of his boot and came in low and hard. All the time, I sensed that his left hip was slightly forward, so I lunged to my right. I fended the ball down with my arms, centimetres from my face. It bounced back to Travis, who belted it back at me in anger. This time the ball found the net.

It is soccer season and time for the fifth legends competition in Sandhurst School’s year – the Legend of Soccer. Travis Fisk is boasting that he has this competition sewn up – but Mitchell has other ideas. He doesn’t want the bully to win.

This is the fifth title in The Legends series, with each title focussing on a different sport, and the Sandhurst students’ race to be the best at it. As with the previous titles there is plenty of sporting action, further developments in the rivalry between Mitchell and Travis, and an unexpected development in the mystery of the library.

Each book is self-contained, though readers will benefit from having read the previous titles. Great for sports-mad kids.

Over the Wall, by Michael Panckridge
Black Dog Books, 2003

Clearing the Pack, by Michael Panckridge

As soon as I started to jog in for the kick, I knew I was struggling. I hobbled and wobbled and had no sense of timing or coordination as I dropped the ball onto my foot.
It was the worst kick of my life. It floated for about 15 metres then hit the ground. I couldn’t believe what I’d done.
The ball bounced. And bounced again. It rolled forward.

Surfing, cricket and tennis are all over. Now it is football season at Sandhurst School, and with it, the Legend of Football competition. Mitchell Grady is leading the overall Legend competition, but school bully Travis Fisk is determined to change that.

The difference this time around is that football is a team sport, so Fisk and Mitchell, and the other contenders, are all on the same team. Is there a way Fisk can stop Mitchell from even competing? And will it make a difference?

Clearing the Pack is the fourth title in The Legends series and whilst self-contained, continues the ongoing struggle between Mitchell and Fisk, as well as the story of friendship between Mitchell, Jack, Bryce and Bubba and the mystery of the school library.

This is a good solid offering for upper primary aged readers.

Clearing the Pack, by Michael Panckridge
Black Dog Books, 2003