Audiobook Review: Dogs and Mogs, read by Andrew McFarlane & Leah Vandenberg

Kids love stories about animals, and none more than tales about dogs and cats. Mogs and Dogsis sure to delight with eight stories about cats and dogs.

Some of the stories feature favourite characters, including Harry (best known from the picture book Harry the Dirty Dog) who features in two stories – Harry by the Sea and No Roses for Harry and Slinki Malinki, the cat from the Hairy MacLary series. Other stories introduce new characters, such as Benjy, the dog who doesn’t like his new doghouse in Benjy’s Dog House

The stories are read by Andrew McFarlane and Leah Vandenburg, whose voices may be familiar to children from their time as presenters on television’s Playschool.

This is a cute offering, likely to appeal to children aged 4 to 8.

Dogs and Mogs, Read by Andrew McFarlane and Leah Vandenberg
ABC Audio, 2004

Audiobook Review: Kim Lardner Collection

If there’s a bully at your kindy but you have no muscles, what do you do? If you’ve broken something do you tell your dad…or make him guess? A bandaid shows you care, but what if your dad won’t give you one?

The Kym Lardner Collection has stories which answer all of these questions – and many more. This three CD set includes stories, songs and silliness all recorded in live storytelling sessions presented by Kym Lardner.

Each CD is approximately 40 minutes long and intersperses Lardner’s stories with songs and audience interaction. Many of the stories use Lardner’s delightful portrayal of his three year old self and his escapades with his father (also played by Lardner, of course) and give fresh twists to ordinary childhood experiences – visiting McDonald’s; wanting a bandaid; or breaking something.

The enjoyment of the live audiences is obvious and kids aged 5 to 12 will laugh along and want to listen to these over and over.

The Kym Lardner Collection: Bandaid, Sunglasses and McMuscles
ABC Enterprises

Prochownik's Dream, by Alex Miller

Since the sudden death of his father, Toni Powlett has been unable to draw or to paint. His father was the inspiration for his art – the mentor who had taught him to love art for art’s sake.

Now, four years later, Toni finds inspiration again, through an unexpected source. Marina Golding, the wife of his former art teacher, makes contact when she and her husband return to Melbourne after a lengthy absence. Marina becomes the inspiration for a new set of drawings and paintings – The Marina Suite. Full of the passion for art, Toni loses track of other parts of his life. He forgets to collect his daughter from kinder, and his relationship with his wife becomes increasingly strained as he spends more and more time with Marina.

This is a story about an artist, but it also, importantly, an exploration of the struggle to balance art with life, of creative urges with domestic necessities. Powlett – who, in the course of the story resumes his parents’ real surname, Prochownik – is a talented artist who struggles to achieve this balance. At the story’s beginning he is a devoted father and husband, but as the story progresses he risks his marriage and his relationship with his young daughter as he rediscovers his artistic flair.

This is an absorbing read, with a depth which causes the reader to ponder its subtleties long after the story is finished.

Prochownik’s Dream, by Alex Miller
Allen & Unwin, 2005

The Truth About Magic, by Dave Luckett

Mr Tipkins lost his temper entirely. He smiled, and his smile was the sort of smile you see on the sort of wizard you don’t want to meet on a dark night. ‘You want something powerful, do you?’ he asked. ‘Something unusual? Something people will notice, eh? Well, take this!’

When Mr Tipkins, a gift-giver from the Department of Wishes of Faerie, arrives to bestow baby Alain with a gift, he gives him more than was intended. This has consequences not just for baby Alain, but for Tipkins as well, who finds himself sent away to the Collegium Magica to be trained as a Faerie Mage. While the Collegium offers plenty of opportunity for Tipkin, he soon finds that his new life won’t be at all straightforward.

The Truth About Magic is the first in a new fantasy series, School of Magic, with wizards, spells and magic aplenty. There is loads of action, some humour, and characters both likeable and dastardly.

Perfect for young fans of the fantasy genre aged ten and up.

The Truth About Magic, by Dave Luckett
Omnibus, 2005

Fire in the Blood, by Robert Macklin

150 years ago Frank Gardiner was the most famous outlaw in Australia, leading a team of bushrangers which included Ben Hall and Johnny Gilbert. He held up mail coaches, plundered gold and stole horses and cattle, but he claimed that he had never hurt any woman or committed a mean or petty act.

Frank Gardiner escaped hanging for his crimes, and was the first man to be exiled from Australia as part of his punishment. He lived out his days in America.

Fire in the blood is a fictionalised account of Gardiner’s life both in Australia and in the United States and provides an inside look not just at his escapades, but also at those of his contemporaries. Told in first person, Gardiner shares his past through a series of flashbacks, stimulated by the arrival in the US of Harry Hall, son of Ben. At the same time, Harry and Gardiner have dramas of their own—Harry, it seems, has come to America to kill Gardiner.

Whilst a work of fiction, most of this story is based on the facts of Gardner’s life. By using the novel form, rather than a straight non-fiction piece, author Robert Macklin provides an opportunity for the reader to explore the human side of the bushranger.

An intriguing read.

Fire in the Blood, by Robert Macklin
Allen & Unwin, 2005

Wishbone, by Janeen Brian

Henry wanted a dog…a little rough-and-tumble dog with feathery ears…Or a happy-go-lucky dog that splashed in puddles…Or a roly-poly dog that loved to have its tummy tickled.

All Henry wants is a dog, but Henry’s mum says that it isn’t possible. So Henry has to content himself with playing with the dog next door, Wagger. One day Wagger presents Henry with a bone, and soon Henry has an idea. He plants the bone just like his mum plants her bean seeds – and makes a wish.

When a little dog turns up on Henry’s back doorstep he learns that sometimes wishes do come true.

Wishbone is a cute doggy story filled with both the real dogs and those of Henry’s imagination, brought to life in the watercolour illustrations by Kilmeny Niland..

Youngsters will love the dogs and the whimsy of this story, and, of course, the happy ending.

Very cute.

Wishbone, by Janeen Brian and Kilmeny Niland
ABC Books, 2002

Jock and Aramis, by Ewan Battersby and Dianne Speter

n an upper storey chamber in the ancient city of Darrow, Professor Leopold Taras rose from his desk and bowed his head graciously. ‘Once again, I regret that I was unable to help you, Mr Le Faye,’ he said. As he watched his visitor leave the room, the kindly look in Taras’s eyes slowly faded and was replaced by an expression of dark desire. ‘Le Faye.’ He frowned. ‘It cannot be coincidence.’

When Aramis arrives in Bedlington, he carries a mysterious and important object. He is befriended by Jock, who saves him from a thief and soon the pair find they are being watched. To unlock the mystery they must travel to an isolated region known as the Wain, where they realise they must act to save the world as they know it.

Jock and Aramis is a fantasy adventure filled with animal characters both likeable and shady. Young fans of the genre will be drawn into Jock and Aramis’s quest and be keen to learn the significance of the disc which Jock carries.

This is a solid fantasy offering, suitable for readers aged 10 to 12.

Jock and Aramis, by Ewan Battersby & Dianne Speter
Scholastic Australia, 2005

Mustara, by Roseanne Hawke and Robert Ingpen

Every day Mustara and Taj look out onto a sea of yellow-red dust and stones. The sand rolls and shifts. Taj’s father says it is like the waves of the ocean and the Spinifex bushes are little boats blown about by the wind.

Taj’s father is an Afghan cameleer who trains camels to be used by explorers and for transporting supplies from Port Augusta to central Australia. When the explorer Mr Giles arrives, Taj hopes desperately that his favourite camel, Mustara will be chosen. But Mustara is too small and Taj and his friend Emmeline, the station owner’s daughter, try to feed him up so he will grow.

When Taj and Emmeline ride into the desert on Mustafa, they are caught in a sandstorm. Mustafa provides shelter for the pair, then brings them safely home, proving that, although he is small, he is ready to join the expedition.

Mustara is a beautiful story bringing to life part of Australia’s history which children may not be familiar with. It is brought to life by the stunning watercolour illustrations by Robert Ingpen, who captures both the starkness and the beauty of the Australian desert.


Mustara, by Roseanne Hawke & Robert Ingpen
Lothian, 2006

Outback, by Christine Harris

Before I came up north, I imagined that the outback would be dead quiet. But it never is. The bush is alive. It might sound silly, but it’s true. There’s the wind shaking leaves or blowing dust. Bird calls. The pounding of kangaroos…And even on a day when there is no wind and no animals or birds close by, if you sit really still you can hear bugs scratching under tree bark.

When Jimmy Porter’s dad is sent to prison, Jimmy is sent to live with relatives he’s never met, who live in Central Australia. It is 1927 and life in the outback is harsh. There is no communication with the outside world, no power, water supplies, education or shopping facilities. Jimmy misses his father and their city life, but soon comes to see the beauty of this strange place, and to form a bond with the cousins who make up his new ‘family’. When disaster strikes, Jimmy and his young cousins have to trek for help.

Outback is a diary-form novel, part of Scholastic’s My Australian Story series. Jimmy’s story is one which will intrigue young readers, with its contrasts to modern life. Harris creates likeable characters, set amidst events which are both exciting and significant. The storyline also provides an opportunity for readers to learn about the birth of the Flying Doctor service, and its importance to remote communities.

Outback: The Diary of Jimmy Porter, by Christine Harris
Scholastic, 2005

The Reef, by Di Morrissey

Since witnessing her brother drowning as a child, Jennifer has been terrified of the ocean. So when her husband tells her they are going to live on an island, she is terrified. As well as her fear, though, she has other issues: being removed from her family and fiends, and having to continue her important studies from a distance.

Branch Island is home to a trendy resort, which Jennifer’s husband Blair will help to manage. It also houses a scientific research station. The two organisations do not always operate in harmony, and as Jennifer finds herself drawn to the station and its staff, she learns a lot about herself and about her marriage. As her self-confidence grows and she learns to conquer her fears, she also has to cope with watching her marriage crumble.

The Reef is a novel of self-discovery, but it also includes plenty of action, as the island shelters some secrets which are shattering to all involved. After a slow start, which lingers through Jennifer’s early life, university studies and developing relationship with Blair, the novel picks up in pace and explores the personal issues of both career versus relationship and mother/daughter relationships, as well as the wider issues of environmental responsibility and the impact of development.

There is some much explored here that at times the reader can feel a little overwhelmed and some of the plot points touched on are left unresolved, but overall this is a solid read.

The Reef, by Di Morrissey
Pan, 2005 (First published in Hardcover by Macmillan, 2004)