Henry and Amy, by Stephen Michael King

Early one morning when Henry was out walking backwards, trying very hard to walk forwards, he bumped into Amy.

Whatever Henry tries to do, it turns out wrong. When he tries to draw a straight line, it turns out wiggly and when everyone around him is looking up, Henry looks down. When he meets Amy, who does everything perfectly, Henry thinks she is wonderful. Amy teaches Henry his right from his left and his front from his back. But deep down Amy wishes she didn’t do everything quite so perfectly, so Henry teaches her back-to-front and topsy-turvy. Together they become the very best of friends – right-way-round and upside down.

Henry and Amy is a gorgeous book about non-conformity and about friendship. Written by award winning author/illustrator Stephen Michael King, this treasure is filled with the whimsy which is his trademark. Henry and Amy are too good, too silly and too cute to be true – but that’s just the point. Youngsters (and adults) can enjoy the story whilst receiving a gentle but important message about individuality.

First published in 1998, Henry and Amy is in its sixth reprint, a testament to its popularity.

Henry and Amy (right-way-wound and upside down), by Stephen Michael King
Scholastic, 1998, reprinted 2005

Island of Secrets, by Tim Latham

Norfolk Island might be an Australian territory, but it operates very differently. There is no income tax, no tax on cigarettes and alcohol, no law to insist on the wearing of seatbelts, and no mobile phone network. It is an island where everyone knows everyone – and where half of the 1600 residents are related to the mutineers from the Bounty. But the apparent peace of Norfolk was shattered in 2002 when Janelle Patton, an Australian mainlander who had been working on the island for two years, was brutally murdered. Were the islanders living with a murderer in their midst, or was the act of a violent visitor? How could the murder be carried out in broad daylight, the body dumped in the open, without anyone seeing anything? And why was Janelle Patton killed?

When Timothy Latham visited Norfolk in the wake of the murder to make a radio program for ABC Radio National, he found a place with more problems than the murder. There were stories of widespread domestic violence, road and health systems which are struggling and a strong movement to secede from Australia, to prevent Australia having any say on how things are done on Norfolk.

Timothy’s coverage of the murder lead to his commissioning to write Island of Secrets which explores not just the killing but the unique makeup of the island community, in an attempt to give an insight into how such a crime could happen and how it could remain unsolved.

Like any book on the subject of murder, this is not happy reading, but it is well researched and informative, providing a fascinating glimpse of the society of Norfolk Island.

Norfolk: Island of Secrets, by Timothy Latham
Allen & Unwin, 2005

India the Showstopper, by Kerry Argent

Reviewed by Magdalena Ball

Exuberant showstopper India is a star. When she plays the mouth organ, everyone in the zoo responds. Popcorn flies into the air, the animals perform their best, and horses dance to her “funky jazz, disco and hop-hop.” But talent and popularity are no guarantee of a good audience or decent financial figures, and Barney the ringmaster calls in consultant/re-trainer Oswaldo the Magnificent to set the circus back on the road to financial success. In her first written publication, well known illustrator Kerry Argent has created an evocative and funny picture book. India is full of human-like foibles that children will relate to, and Oswaldo is a great big rhino in leopard skin, just scary enough to be plausible and still funny enough to keep young children laughing until the end.

The story tackles a situation which children will be familiar with, and deals in a very positive way with the notion of change, insecurity, and problem solving. Children will love the animated characters, and the sumptuous watercolour and ink illustrations. The colours are soft and burnished, and the animals’ expressions add significantly to the characterisation in this rich story. The plot and language are simple enough to appeal to the very young, but still contain enough drama for an expressive reader to keep the interests of older children. There is plenty of detail to point out as well, including things like curlers on the poodle‘s head and tail, iced donuts for morning tea, or the interesting pot plants outside the animal’s trailer. India is definitely the star of the show though, and the feel good ending will make this story one which children will request again and again.

India the Showstopper
By Kerry Argent
Allen & Unwin
Hardover, ISBN 1865085960, November 2005, $A24.95

This review first appeared at Preschool Entertainment. It appears here with permission.

Louisa May Pickett, The Most Boring Person in Class, by Rod Clement

My name is Louisa May Pickett and I have only one talent – Show and Tell. At my old school I was voted ‘The Most Interesting Person in Class’ three years in a row.

When Louisa May Pickett moves schools, she aims to spend all her spare time collecting incredibly interesting stuff to share in Show and Tell. What she doesn’t count on is that her classmates have even more interesting things to show. When Louisa brings her juggling mouse, Ruby brings a tap-dancing, singing rat; when Louisa takes her pet octopus, Lianne brings a giant squid; and when she brings her rare pink polar bear, Beverly turns up with King Kong. There is nothing Louisa May can do that will make her seem interesting – so she gives up and does just that – nothing. But it seems that doing nothing could be the most interesting thing she has ever done.

Louisa May Pickett, The Most Boring Person in Class is a delightfully silly book about the challenges of finding something for Show and Tell. Whilst Louisa May and her classmates’ offerings get increasingly unbelievable, parents and children will be able to relate to the underlying problem – the pressure of school ‘news’ sessions.

Great for home reading, this would also be a wonderful classroom resource for junior and middle primary.

Louisa May Pickett, The Most Boring Person in Class, by Rod Clement
Harper Collins, 2005

The Best Australian Poetry 2005, guest edited by Peter Porter

‘Best’, the editor of this collection tells us, is a difficult concept, because once you pass the number two , the comparative disappears into a mass of superlatives.With forty poems included in this collection, there are a lot of ‘bests’, but Porter (the aforementioned editor) tells us he had an embarrassment of riches to choose from and has chosen from them those he sees most worthy of the title. As an expatriate Australian with eighteen published volumes of verse and prizes including the Forward Prize and the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry, Porter is well qualified to act as Guest Editor and judge of what constitutes the best of Australian poetry.

To qualify for selection in the volume, poems must have been written by Australian poets and published in an Australian journal in the preceding year. The poems selected came from forty poets, published in 14 different journals – ranging from The Age and The Australian to Island, Meanjin and Southerly.

The poems on offer range from short and whimsical (in Bee Season Kirwan Henry that he likes bees
If not for their sting
Then for their stripes.
to the long and serious, such as Under the Shaded Blossom in which John Jenkins details an imaginary meeting between poet Wallace Stevens and mafia boss Meyer Lansky.

For those who like to read and digest poetry, this is a fine collection and for those who would like a taste of what is on offer, this is an excellent starting point. Other poets represented here include Fay Zwicky, Les Murray, John Kinsella and Bruce Dawe.

The Best Australian Poetry 2005, Guest Editor Peter Porter
UQP, 2005

HOP, Little Hare, by Margaret Wild & Peter Shaw

Little Hare is the sweetest little hare ever. He loves his Grandpa and they go everywhere together. Little Hare hasn’t learnt to hop yet – so he goes bump, bump, bump on his bottom – and Grandpa has a lot of aches and pains in his joints, so he goes hibble-hobble, hibble-hobble. Little Hare’s parents try to teach him to hop, but Grandpa tells them he’ll hop when he’s good and ready. It isn’t until Little Hare sees a sheep about to eat the one bush that can help cure Grandpa’s aches and pains, that he takes an almighty hop to save it. Soon Grandpa can go hibble-hobble-HOP and Little Hare can hop can hop along beside him. But sometimes, just for fun, he still likes to go bump, bump, bump.

HOP, Little Hare is a gorgeous new picture book from Margaret Wild, arguable Australia’s finest picture book author. The delightful watercolour illustrations by Peter Shaw are a perfect complement to he gentle humour and warm fuzzy feelings of the text.

A delight for adult readers and young listeners to share over and over.

HOP, Little Hare, by Margaret Wild & Peter Shaw
Little Hare, 2005

Erasmus James and the Galactic Zapp Machine, by DC Green

Wahoo! When I pulled that silver lever, it was like being sucked right into God’s cosmic vacuum cleaner. What a brain buzz! I spun through a sea of pulsing rainbow colour, past dimly remembered swirls of memory, right through the raw ingredients of the universe itself (or something else quite big). Just when I realised I could breathe without dying on my first flight with Zapp airlines, the in-flight show suddenly ended.

Erasmus James (Raz for short) can’t resist an adventure, so when his dad invents the Galactic ZAPP Machine, he just has to try it out. Before he has time to think twice, he has zapped across the galaxy to a strange planet. He is befriended by Franklin, a talking horse who takes him to meet the planet’s king. And that’s where Raz’s adventures really being. Soon, he is crossing the land on Franklin’s back, meeting huge talking chickens and getting into trouble with carnivorous horses.

Erasmus James and the Galactic Zapp Machine is an action-packed humorous adventure which will appeal to upper-primary aged readers (10 – 12). There are plenty of laugh out loud moments, intersperse with action and some gentle messages about family, friendship and even self-belief.

Plenty of fun.

Erasmus James and the Galactic Zapp Machine, by DC Green
Ibis Publishing, 2005

Talk Up Your Business, by Mary Morel

If you own your own small business, then chances are you are always looking for ways to make your business grow – to attract and keep new customers. In Talk Up Your Businesssuccessful businesswoman Mary Morel talks readers through ways to make the most of every opportunity to grow and promote a small business.

Morel explains how to use verbal marketing to network successfully, make follow up calls, become a public speaker to promote the business, make successful cold calls and grow a network of referrals and contacts. She also discusses ways to generate publicity through radio interviews and sponsorship.

This practical, no-nonsense guide is easy to follow and uses plenty of case studies and examples to show how the techniques can be put to good use.

If your resolution is to grow your business in the approaching new year, then Talk Up Your Business is a good starting point.

Talk Up Your Business, by Mary Morel
Allen & Unwin, 2005

It's Not All About You, Calma

He is back, Fridge. He turned up this morning like a bad smell, though I attempted to waft him away. We need to arrange new identities, false passports and visas for the Galapagos Islands. Give me the word and I’ll withdraw the forty-eight dollars from my savings account.

Calma Harrison doesn’t like to over-react, but when her long-absent father turns up in Darwin, she wants to leave town. After all, it’s been five years since he left town with a barmaid, and Calma isn’t ready to forgive him. To make matters worse, her mother (aka: the Fridge) seems to be keeping a secret from her and her best friend Vanessa has a huge problem.

Still, life’s not all bad. The new checkout boy at Crazi-Cheep , Jason, is gorgeous, and when Calma gets a job there she hopes to make him her boyfriend. Calma’s new English teacher, Miss Moss, is the best teacher she’s ever had and is helping her improve her writing.

But in spite of these good things, Calma’s life seems to be falling apart. Her relationship with her mum is increasingly strained, and her dad just won’t go away and leave her alone. Calma knows it’s up to her to fix everything once and for all.

It’s Not All About YOU, Calma! is a funny novel about some serious issues. Calma is, as she points out, an unreliable narrator, because she likes to stretch the truth. Her voice is fresh, sarcastic downright funny. Readers will laugh along with her, even in the midst of some pretty heavy events.

This is the sequel to The Whole Business of Kiffo and the Pitbull, but stands alone, so that readers don’t need to have read the first novel to love the second. Kiffo was short listed for this year’s CBCA Awards, and this novel is sure to find similar success.


It’s Not All About YOU, Calma!, by Barry Jonsberg
Allen & Unwin, 2005

Rubdown, by Leigh Redhead

Simone Kirsch is an ex-stripper who always wanted to be a cop. They wouldn’t have her, because of her background, so now she’s the next best thing – a Private Investigator. Unfortunately for Simone, her cases don’t seem to ever be straightforward. She seems to attract trouble. Big trouble.

Simone is hired to investigate Tamara Wade, the daughter of prominent Melbourne lawyer Emery Wade, and the sister of football star Blaine. But while she’s busy staking out the flat, Tamara dies in an apparent suicide. Simone thinks the case has come to a messy conclusion, but soon she is hired by one of Tamara’s former massage clients, who believes Tamara was murdered. Soon Simone realises that she needs to solve the case quickly – before she herself is silenced.

Rubdown is a sassy, fast moving detective novel, with plenty of twists and turns, some humour and a love interest. Simone is a likeably flawed P.I. with insecurities and foibles which keep the reader barracking for her to get it right.

This is the second book in the Simone Kirsch series, but it isn’t necessary to have read the first to get full enjoyment from this one.


Rubdown, by Leigh Redhead
Allen & Unwin, 2005