By Jingo! by Janeen Brian

Few adults would dispute the value of alphabet books in presenting the letters of the alphabet and basic words to young children, but the challenge is always to take the book beyond a bland instructional tool and into something which will actually engage youngsters’ attention. If kids enjoy what they are reading (or listening to) then they are far more likely to absorb the intended lessons.

In By Jingo, author Janeen Brian manages to achieve this balance by presenting the alphabet lesson through a series of verses, one for each letter of the alphabet. Instead of just being told, for example, that G is for giraffe, youngsters can enjoy the following poem:

is made up
of five long stalks,
one for his neck
for his walks!

The accompanying illustrations, by the talented Dee Huxley, are full of colour and humour, again drawing children into the text.

Children will love the rhymes, the humour and the vibrant chalk-pastel illustrations so much that they won’t realise they are also learning. Teachers and parents will find the book a delightful way to teach children letters and sounds.


By Jingo!, by Janeen Brian and Dee Huxley
ABC Books, 2005

Sandra Collage and the Fossil Fuel Fiasco, by Tim Levy

Sandra grabbed the handset and started to dial her mother’s office number. She was so focussed on the call that she didn’t notice someone else was in the room until Number Two’s huge hand had covered her mouth and nose completely. His hand was cupping a piece of fabric doused in a special knockout formula.

When Sandra wakes up from a strange dream, she’s excited. Today is her birthday and she’s going on a birthday picnic with her mum. But when she tells her mother about her dream, Mum thinks the dream might hold the key to the scientific formula she’s been working on, and dashes off to work to try it out.

Sandra is upset, and goes off on the picnic by herself. When she dozes off in the sun, she dreams her mother is being kidnapped, and rushes home to phone her. Instead, it is Sandra who is kidnapped and she and her mum have to battle the man who wants to destroy the secret formula.


Part of the Travel Kids series, Sandra Collage is an exciting and humorous story, which includes plenty of extras. In between chapters there are games and travel tips designed to keep kids entertained while travelling, including a guide to reading in the car and not throwing up.

Suitable for ages 8-12.

Sandra Collage and the Fossil Fuel Fiasco, by Tim Levy
Random House, 2005

Orson McNeal, 100% Pure, by Tim Levy

Orson stopped. With his blindfold on, his nose and ears were incredibly sensitive. He could hear Fi screaming clearly. He was only part-way though his search, still in the front-left quadrant of the field. He wasn’t far from Fi and he knew he could help her – but this was a test, right?

The town of Welling is poised on the brink of trouble. The supply of orange juice is drying up and without a new gusher, mining operations may have to cease. What the town needs is a new OJ Sniffer to locate a new supply. Orson McNeal wants desperately to be that Sniffer. But there can only be one Sniffer, and Orson must compete with the rest of the town’s children, including his best friend Fi, to get the Sniffer’s badge.

Orson McNeal, 100% Pure is a humorous tale of friendship and adventure. Orson and Fi battle to save their town by locating a new OJ source, but in the process find themselves lost underground. What they find there could be the town’s saviour – or the final straw in closing operations.

Part of the Travel Kids series, Orson McNeal also includes loads of extras. In between chapters there are games and travel tips designed to keep kids entertained while travelling, including a guide to reading in the car and not throwing up.

Suitable for ages 8-12.

Orson McNeal, 100% Pure, by Tim Levy
Random House, 2005

Priestess of the White, by Trudi Canavan

When Auraya’s village, Oraylyn is in trouble, held ransom, her quick thinking finds a solution which is acceptable to all, and Oraylyn is saved. As a reward, Auraya is offered the chance to train as a Priestess. Time passes and Auraya is appointed by the gods to be one of the five guardians of the White. She has barely grown used to the idea when she is sent on a mission, as an ambassador trying to bring all the races of northern Ithania together, in line with the wishes of the gods.

But Auraya and the other chosen have many challenges ahead of them, not the least of which is the rise of a cult which seeks to claim power for themselves and to eradicate all non-believers.

Priestess of the White is the first in the new Priestess of the White series by Trudie Canavan, author of the much-acclaimed Black Magician Trilogy. This new offering is fast-paced and features an array of characters – human, animal and beast-like – which will draw the reader in and keep the pages turning.

Good stuff.

Priestess of the White, by Trudi Canavan
Voyager, 2005

Sassycat, by Richard Harland

Sassycat is very smart and very strokable, but when her family moves house she isn’t happy. This home has some strange vibes, and the other animals in the neighbourhood aren’t very welcoming. She is warned off exploring around her home and is intrigued by the rules the other animals make. Why can’t she cross the creek or visit the other cat that lives in the cemetery?

Meantime Sassycat’s family are in turmoil themselves, especially Rebecca, who usually looks after Sassy. Rebecca is troubled by disturbing nightmares and her mother seems unable to help her. Fortunately for Rebecca, Sassycat is a confident and clever cat, who is determined to help her and the whole neighbourhood.

Sassycat is a divine fantasy/animal adventure. Told through the eyes of the cat, the story is a mixture of horror and humour, as Sassy and her animal friends take on some frightening spectres which are looking for some new bodies to inhabit. Author Richard Harland is surely a cat lover, with the reader almost able to forget that cats can’t talk, lost in the authenticity of Sassycat’s vanity, poise and egocentricity.

A must read for ages 10 and up, especially for cat lovers.

Sassycat, by Richard Harland
Omnibus, 2005

The Seventh Tower Volumes 1-3, by Garth Nix

A long time ago, darkness fell upon the Castle. A veil was created over the world, upholding the rule of magic. One war ended…and another silently began.

Taj has spent his whole life living in darkness and knows nothing else of the world. But when his father disappears, Taj finds himself without a sunstone strong enough to protect him and his family – his ailing mother and his younger brother and sister. To find one he must venture outside the Castle and scale one if its magnificent towers.

But outside Taj finds himself in increasing trouble. He is rescued by his shadowguard but finds himself swept away from the castle and from all that is familiar. Finding himself among strangers, Taj is soon on a quest with an Icecarl warrior named Milla. Together they will seek out new sunstones and discover the secrets hidden by the veil.

This bindup brings together the first three books in The Seventh Tower series – The Fall, Castle and Aenir – in a hardcover volume. Garth Nix is one the leading fantasy creators, both in Australia and internationally, and the world created here will absorb young readers aged ten and over.

The Seventh Tower, Volumes 1-3, by Garth Nix
Scholastic, 2005

Audiobook Review: Clancy of the Overflow, read by Colin Friels

Banjo Paterson is one of Australia’s best loved and best known poets. His poems provide a rich portrait of rural life in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. And there is no better way to enjoy these poems than to hear them read aloud.

On Clancy of the Overflow, well-known award-winning actor Colin Friels reads unabridged versions of 13 of Paterson’s finest poems – including the title poem, Clancy of the Overflow, The Man From Snow River and The Man From Ironbark. Friels’ voice and delivery are perfect for Paterson’s work, being strong and unashamedly Australian, yet clear and resonant.

This is fine listening for audiences of all ages, from ten to adult, and could be used for classroom situations as well as for private listening.


Clancy of the overflow And More Classic Favourites from Banjo Paterson, read by Colin Friels
ABC Audio, 2005

Haunted Australia, by John Heffernan

Ghosts, spirits, spectres, spooks, apparitions, ghouls, banshees, min mins, Quinkans, feather-foots, poltergeists and doppelgangers. They come with a host of different names. But if you ever actually meet one, what you call it will be the last thing on your mind.

In Haunted Australia, John Heffernan takes young readers on a tour of the haunts and the haunters of Australia. From seemingly normal suburban homes which house macabre ghouls, to historic buildings with their own resident spooks, friendly or fiery, Heffernan explores a huge variety of hauntings, apparitions and experiences.

Young readers will be fascinated of tales of the ghosts who haunt everything from moving vans to prisons, in every corner of Australia. Heffernan uses first person accounts, short snippets, postcards and more to explore the mysterious ‘other’ side to Australia.

Sure to appeal to upper primary aged readers.

Haunted Australia, by John Heffernan
Scholastic, 2005

Space Demons The Trilogy, by Gillian Rubinstein

Andrew is bored by life. Even his computer doesn’t seem exciting any more. But when his father brings him home a new computer game from Japan, Andrew gets almost more excitement than he can handle. After struggling to get into the game, he finds himself absorbed by the challenge, but it is when he lets his friend Ben have a turn that things really hot up. Ben disappears into the game. When he comes out he is no longer keen on playing, but Andrew wants to go where Ben has been.

What follows is a frightening but exciting sequence of events. Andrew discovers that the secret to accessing the high levels of the game is hate. Only when the holder of a special gun (which has come out of the game) points it at another person out of hate, will that person be drawn into the game. The only way out is to fight and win against the space demons.

Space Demons is a high-interest, fast moving novel for teen readers. The concept of being addicted to a computer game is one which many teens will relate to, and the idea of that passion leading to a real involvement with the game is both confronting and intriguing.

First released in 1986, Space Demons has been packaged into one volume with its two sequels, Skymaze and Shinkei, making a substantial volume which fantasy lovers will find enthralling.

Space Demons – the Trilogy, by Gillian Rubinstein
Omnibus, 2005

Angels of Kokoda, by David Mulligan

Thank you David Mulligan. Thank you for writing a book that taught me so much about the atrocities of war alongside the power of mateship. I am ashamed to admit that, before I read Angels of Kokoda, I knew very little about Australia’s plight in Papua New Guinea. I knew nothing of the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels. Sure I’d heard of the Kokoda trail, friends of friends had backpacked there but after reading Mulligan’s book I now feel that I have been there, really been there.

Angels of Kokoda is told through the eyes of twelve year old Derek, the son of missionaries. It is about human frailty, human strength and human survival. It is about respect. Derek’s respect for his friend Morso and his native culture, and Derek’s increasing respect for his often prejudiced yet committed father.

Angels of Kokoda is about self respect, about being the best that you can be, about never giving up. It is an inspirational tale, a moving tale, a tale that should be told to all our children. And I can only be thankful that it has now been told to me.

Angels of Kokoda, by David Mulligan
Lothian Books, 2006