Antarctic Dad, by Hazel Edwards and Kevin Burgemeestre

‘Where’s your dad?’ ask the kids at my new school.
‘He’s gone to work in Antarctica,’ I say.
They don’t believe me, at first. But then I show them the photos.

Having a absentee father is never easy – but when Dad is off working in Antarctica, this presents its own set of problems. The dad in this story makes sure he’s still involved in his son’s daily life by exchanging emails and photographs and by sharing the adventures of Roo, the soft toy which has accompanied him to Antarctica. At home, his son misses his dad, but enjoys sharing his new-found knowledge of Antarctica, and his dad’s adventures, with the class.

Antarctic Dad is a fictional story which deals with issues of separation, but also provides information about Antarctic life and the animals and landscape of Antarctica. It is enjoyable as a simple story, but also has educational benefits for home and classroom use.

Author Hazel Edwards has been to Antarctica, and draws on her experiences to give this story authenticity. Illustrator Kevin Burgemeestre brings the story to life with watercolour illustrations filled with plenty of detail to be discovered by the viewer.

An excellent book.

Antarctic Dad, by Hazel Edwards and Kevin Burgemeestre
Lothian, 2006

Hoosh! by Janeen Brian

They are as tall as doorways and weigh around 450 kilograms.
They have two sets of long, curly eyelashes and extra inner eyelids to see through during sandstorms.
They are smelly and flies love them.
They can drink about 100 litres of water in a couple of minutes.

Camels are not native to Australia, yet they have played a very important role in our nation’s history since first being introduced in 1840. They have carried explorers, moved freight across the country, and played an essential role in massive construction projects such as the Rabbit-Proof Fence and the Canning Stock Route.

In Hoosh! Camels in Australia, author Janeen Brian provides a comprehensive study of camels, focussing on their role in Australia. From their evolution and physiology, to their introduction into Australia, their roles in Australia’s history, and a discussion of their current and future role.

Brian uses accessible language and her comprehensive research into the subject is evident – this is no lightweight treatment of the subject. The text is complemented by colour and black-and-white photographs, maps and sketches, providing a visually pleasing presentation, which kids will be drawn to – especially captivated by the cover photograph of the camel’s face, his mouth and nose shown in close-up detail.

This is an outstanding nonfiction offering.

Hoosh! Camels in Australia, by Janeen Brian
ABC Books, 2005

Save Our Sleep, by Tizzie Hall

Everybody needs sleep – and lack of sleep can be both exhausting and demoralising. So, for new parents, the lack of sleep caused by their baby’s lack of a sleep routine can be a real problem, impacting on their joy at having a new addition to the family. Save Our Sleepis a guide for parents, aimed at helping their babies to be happy and well-rested – with the spin-off, of course, that if baby has plenty of sleep then so too will her parents.

Writer Tizzie Hall has worked with babies and parents for over fifteen years, helping them to develop customised sleep routines which have settled restless babies and saved the sanity of their parents. She now presents her techniques and experiences in book format. The book explains why babies need routines, how these routines can become adversely affected, and what to do about it. Hall also explains how to teach babies to settle themselves, and how the way parents respond to babies can effect how they learn to sleep.

This is a no-nonsense book. Hall doesn’t provide an easy-fix – she spells out the effort required to develop a sleep routine and to fix sleep problems. She also uses plenty of case studies to show how her advice works in action. Parnets will find plenty of good, practical advice, and, hopefully, they key to a good night’s sleep for all.

Save Our Sleep, by Tizzie Hall
Macmillan, 2006

One-o-saur, Two-o-saur and In-o-saur, Out-o-saur, by David Bedford & Leonie Worthington

These two colourful books each deal with a basic learning concept using bright dinosaur pictures and simple text.

One-o-saur, Two-o-saur is a simple counting text, from one to twelve. Simple rhyming text and the bright illustrations of Leonie Worthington show the dinosaurs doing simple things, some more dinosaurly than others. For example one-o-saur is seen hopping on one leg, whilst on the next page two-o-saurs are hatching from their eggs.

In-o-saur, Out-o-saur is a book of opposites with even simpler text (one word a page) and, again, the bright, humorous illustrations of Leonie Worthington. Each double page spread presents a pair of opposites – in-o-suar and out-o-saur; awake-o-suar and asleep-o-saur.

This is a cute pair which will appeal to the very young. First released in picturebook format in 2005, they have now been repackaged as sturdy boardbooks, suitable for toddler enjoyment.

In-o-saur, Out-o-saur and One-o-saur, Two-osaur, both by David Bedford & Leonie Worthington
Little Hare, First published 2005, this edition 2006

Each Way Bet, by Ilsa Evans

‘And d’you know, I’ve been wandering around today thinking how lucky you are? House in the suburbs, lots of company, full life – I mean, you’re really important to people. See, you might think what I do sounds pretty romantic but, you know, no-one really needs me. Not like they need you.’
‘But that’s just it,’ Jill wailed miserably. ‘That’s exactly it! I don’t want to be needed anymore. Do you have any idea what it’s like to be needed like that for nearly twenty years? I’ve had enough! I just want to be me – no-one’s wife, or mother, or anything. Just. Me.’

When Emily Broadhurst returns home to yet another night alone in her singles pad, she is surprised to receive a phone call from her older sister, Jill. Jill is the mother of four, and the hostess of tomorrow’s family Melbourne Cup lunch. But Jill doesn’t want the responsibility of lunch – or of anything else. She’s exhausted and wants out. It is Emily’s idea that they trade places – Jill to spend the night in Emily’s flat, and Emily to organise and run the annual family lunch. Surely it can’t be that hard?

Soon, though, Jill finds there are complications she didn’t expect from sleeping in Emily’s bed, and Emily wonders how one is supposed to clean house, serve lunch, and keep three teenagers and a foul-mouthed toddler under control.

Each Way Bet is a warm, funny novel about family dynamics, and the grass-is-greener syndrome. As with Evans’ other books, she manages to focus on the events of just a few days, so that the reader shares a sense of immediacy in the unfolding events. No event, right down to wiping a bench or washing a dish, is considered too mundane to include – and with Evans’ wit, none of these small events are mundane. Evans captures the dynamics of a family gathering, complete with dramas of an unhappy wife, a possible pregnancy, pesky in-laws, and more with humour, keeping you laughing till the end, while still empathising with the characters and their emotions.

Lots of fun.

Each Way bet, by Ilsa Evans
Macmillan, 2006

Bertie and the Bear, by Pamela Allen

Reviewed by Alison Miles


Rambunctious, vivid, active and full of wonderfully repeatable words – this could be said of any of Pamela Allen’s picture story books, and is true of Bertie. No wonder she is often in the awards lists and her books are in library bags everywhere.

Allen’s colourful illustrations ‘above the line’ suggest movement from the first endpaper. Her use of white space focuses the eye on her characters. Bertie is being chased by a bear (who I think is really his friend) so the Queen steps in to shoo the bear away. The others join the chase for the fun and the opportunity to make a lot of musical noise (trumpet, gong, horn, flute, drum and voice playing BLAH! BLAH! and BONG BONG-NG-NG and OOOOOH! etc).

Impossible to read quietly, children in the three to six year old age group love to imitate the sounds and stamp and twirl with the characters. Allen has used handwritten crayon text within the illustrations to emphasise sounds. Her words are expressive with onomatopoeia used infectiously. The whole story is like a very active musical and movement piece (which could be printed on a scroll) fading gently to a pom pom at the last. As Bertie and the Bear so vividly conveys, children enjoy music and movement and this makes storytime fun!

Bertie and the Bear, by Pamela Allen
Penguin, 1990
ISBN 0140509720

Review © alison v miles, 2006. The Word Box blog @

Beyond the Break, by Sandra Hall

Whisky and pills. As children, we had sometimes talked about suicide. Just for the morbid thrill of it. And I had always chosen something dramatic – leaping forty storeys, swimming out to sea – but even then Annie had been adamant. Whisky and pills, Steph, she’d said to me. But they’d have to be the right pills, I’d answered. And you’d have to be sure you had enough. Of course, said Annie. That goes without saying.

When Steph finds the body of her best friend, Annie, she is devastated. Annie has committed suicide and as well as the sense of loss, Steph is also consumed by guilt. Why didn’t she see it coming and why didn’t she act to stop it?

Steph returns home to Australia and revisits the places of their childhood. The pair had met growing up in the beach Sydney suburb of Coogee during the 1905s. Now, in 1985, Steph finds the place changed but not unrecognisable. As she rekindles her friendship with a man who both she and Annie had relationships with in their late teens, Steph tries to make sense not just of Annie’s death, but also of their whole friendship.

Beyond the Break is a novel about friendship, family and growing up, set against the backdrop of Sydney’s beaches, especially in the 1950s. Whilst it explores issues including sexual inequality and family violence, it does so in a way which neither glosses over or becomes booked down in the issues. What is under exploration is the relationship between these two young women and, more broadly, their relationships with their families and friends.

This is a powerful and evocative read.

Beyond the Break, by Sandra Hall
Harper Collins, 2006

Gracie Faltrian Takes Control, by Cath Crowley

‘Give it to me,’ I whisper. I want to take the shot so bad…
The sound of smacked leather echoes and I’m off. I soar past Shukman, the strongest player from the opposition, and keep the goal clearly in sight. It’s so easy; I take a minute to play with the ball. I hook it onto my left ankle and toss it back to my right. Casual. Like I’m throwing with my hands. I tease everyone on the field.

Gracie Faltrain is happy – and why wouldn’t she be? She has a great boyfriend, her parents are back together, and the soccer season has just started. She is not going to repeat the errors of last season – she has learnt her lesson about being selfish.

But just as things seems to be going so well, Gracie has brand new problems waiting to bring her back down. Coach has entered the soccer team in the prestigious Firsts competition. A competition only for boys. And Gracie, as she is painfully aware, is not a boy. And it seems not even her parents want to support her fight to be included in the team. Off the field, Gracie is sick of watching her friend Alyce and her boyfriend Martin struggle to find happiness. She wants to take control and make sure they come out winners. But doing so could risk everyone’s happiness – including her own.

Gracie Faltrain Takes Control is a warm-hearted story about a soccer loving girl struggling to get it right – on and off the field. It is a feel-good book, but that is not to say that it is happy-ever after book. Bad stuff happens and Gracie has lessons to learn about life. Gracie is a likeable character but at times you feel like shaking her as her self-absorption makes her unable to see the truth – perceiving instead what she would like to be real.

A sequel to The Life and Times of Gracie Falrain, this book does stand alone, but is more satisfying read after the first.

A touching read.

Gracie Faltrain Takes Control, by Cath Crowley
Pan, 2006

Who Is It? Australian Animals of the Night, by Julie Murphy

Reviewed by Molly Martin


The narrative opens as we creep through the Australian bush with our torch (flashlight) at night. If we are quiet we may be able to see the secretive night creatures. An underwater world and a feathertail glider, a hollow log reveals an echidna; our adventure begins. There is a big wombat in a hole under the log, and a bandicoot making pointy bottom holes like ice cream cones as he searches for food. Up in a tree is a ringtail possum, while down in the grass is a grey kangaroo and her joey . Something up in the tree is grunting like a pig. A pig in a tree? No, it is not a pig. And, what can be splashing in the stream? There in another tree is a brushtail possum gathering leaves.

Who Is It? Australian Animals of the Night as presented by writer Murphy and illustrator van Hoesel is a delightful edition for all children. Australian children will recognize the critters, the torch and the setting. Children not familiar with the Australian bush or the critters will learn something of them.

The tale told on the pages of Who Is It? Australian Animals of the Night is presented in simple, child friendly prose. Illustrations are resplendent and colorful. As a teacher this book is one I have taken to use in my classroom. While the language used is a bit immature for my 4th graders, kids ages 9 – 10 years, the pictures and animals have much appeal. The work serves as discussion starter for beginning a study of some of the fascinating critters found in a country far distant from the plains of Oklahoma, USA. Children’s natural curiosity is piqued leading to the class ‘digging’ into books and internet for more information relating to the critters and land of Australia.

Who Is It? Australian Animals of the Night is a good addition to the eBook library whether the personal reading list or for classroom and library use.

I had a bit of trouble trying to use the flip book edition, however the pdf is easily navigated.

Enjoyed the read, happy to recommend.

Who Is It? Australian Animals of the Night, by Julie Murphy, illustrations by Richard JM van Hoesel
Writers Exchange, 2006

Reviewed by: molly martin
20+ years California classroom teacher, again teaching today in Oklahoma USA


The Resurrectionist, by James Bradley

When orphaned Gabriel Poll is apprenticed to great London anatomist Edwin Poll, it is intended that he will study and advance himself. The son of a gentleman who fell on hard times, Gabriel is fortunate to have found a guardian who offered him shelter when he was orphaned and is now sponsoring his apprenticeship. He should take this opportunity and use it wisely. But Gabriel finds himself in a house touched by a nasty undercurrent. To study and teach anatomy, Poll needs a regular supply of dead bodies and, with these in short supply from legitimate sources, Poll deals with resurrectionists – grave robbers who come in the dead of night.

Gabriel finds himself involved in a trade which operates amidst dark shadows and, when he loses his apprenticeship, is taken in by the resurrectionists, sinking ever further into the dark depths of their trade.

In the second part of the novel a man with a different name teaches art in the colony of New South Wales and takes commissions for the trapping and painting of bird specimens. But when he takes an interest in one of his young students, he realises that it is not possible to escape a dark past forever.

The Resurrectionist is a bleak, dark novel, yet it is compelling, with the reader drawn into Gabriel’s dark descent and willing him to find a way out of its horrific depths. Gabriel appears at first an innocent victim of circumstance but the paths he chooses show he is not simply an unwilling spectator.

Whilst playing out to an uncomfortable conclusion, the novel has depths and implications which are absorbing well beyond the final page.

The Resurrectionist, by James Bradley
Picador, 2006