The Red Dragon, by Andrew Lansdown

This is a gripping fantasy full of excitement, adventure and betrayal…

Colyn slipped his hand inside his shirt to touch the scar below his collarbone. The wound from the dragon’s tusk had healed up well, although it was still slightly tender. But the wound to his mind had not so easily healed…He would wake in a sweat, reaching frantically beneath his pillow for his knife.

Colyn, the Rykonc, bears the Kinrye knife of Klarin – the other-world where dragons are feared and slain. Stuck back in his own world, Colyn, longing for the adventure of Klarin, cuts a window between the worlds with his treasured knife and lures a small dragonette and, even worse, a rare red dragon, through to his world causing trouble in both worlds.

This is a gripping fantasy full of excitement, adventure and betrayal. While older readers might long for more, it is still a satisfying read peppered with lovable characters.

The Red Dragon, by Andrew Lansdown
Scholastic, 2006

Three 'It's True' Titles

The successful It’s Trueseries continues to educate and inform Australian children, and the latest releases from Allen & Unwin will not disappoint.

It’s True! Your Cat Could Be a Spy traces the history of spying through the ages, from the Trojans with their wooden horse, to the Ancient Romans, and Japanese ninjas. There are plenty of inside secrets of spying, including codes, and gadgets, sure to appeal to any budding 007.

It’s True! Space Turns You Into Spaghetti is an intriguing insight into the universe – from neighbouring planets, to distant galaxies. Mysteries of black holes, the possibilities of life on other planets, and the science behind space travel are all explored in simple language.

It’s True! You Eat Poison Every Day is an exposition of the myths and mysteries surrounding poisons – including the poisons that are in everyday objects, including food, and true tales of murders and attempted poisonings throughout history.

Each of these three offerings provides an intriguing insight into a different aspect of science and history, using down to earth language and cartoon-style illustrations adding a touch of humour and making the books accessible even to reluctant readers.

Suitable both for school and library collections as well as private reading.

It’s True! Your Cat Could Be a Spy , by Sue Bursztynski, pictures by Mitch Vane
It’s True! Space Turns You Into Spaghetti, by Heather Catchpole, pictures by Heath McKenzie
It’s True! You Eat Poison Every Day, by Peter Macinnis, pictures by Bettina Guthridge
All from Allen & Unwin, 2006

The Line Formation, by Pat Flynn

The coach looked up at the stand. ‘Let me say this, girls. I know y’all are as pretty as pictures, I can see that with my own eyes. But what I want to know is this: can you tackle? Because I tell you right now, I need some people who can tackle on my team and I don’t know if these boys can.’
Some of the girls gave a nervous giggle.
Then the coach spotted Ozzie. ‘How about you, boy. I know you can talk to all the purdy girls, but can you tackle? If you can, come down here right now, ‘cause I need some players who can tackle on my team.’

The Rugby League season is over and, before he decides what to do next with his life, Ozzie Eaton is off to Texas, for a year as an exchange student. He doesn’t know what he will find there – Hope, Texas is about as far away from Yuranigh, Queensland, as he could get. But the last thing he expects is to find himself playing football, American style.

Still, that’s exactly what happens. Ozzie proves that he can tackle and despite knowing nothing else about the sport, is given a spot on the team. Soon, he discovers he has skills he can teach his team – but equally, he can learn from his time as a team member, even if the hardest lessons have little to do with what goes on out on the field.

The Line Formation is a high-sport read aimed at teenage boys, who will enjoy the twist of an Australian showing the Americans how to play their own game. At the same time it also a novel about loyalty, trust, friendship and growing up. From the creator of the popular Alex Jackson skateboarding series, The Line Formation is a coming of age novel suitable for high school age readers.

The Line Formation, by Pat Flynn
UQP, 2006

In Search of Africa, by Frank Coates

Maina was staring at him when he stood. Kip expected to be teased for his excesses and waited for the snort of derision before Miana launched into his taunts. But Maina had a strange look in his eyes. He was peering at Kip, but not seeing him.
‘Why are you here, mzungu boy?’ Maina said. They were the first words he had spoken all morning.
Kip blinked at him. ‘To hunt bush pig or…’ But he realised that wasn’t what Maina meant. He fell silent again.

Growing up with his cruel mother and an ‘aunt’ who is really his mother’s lover, Kip is unhappy. Knowing little about his father, except that his mother hates him, Kip is treated as a little better than a slave. His only friend is Maina, a Kikuyu boy who tolerates rather than likes him, and allows him to join in on hunting expeditions.

As an adult, Kip has his own successful safari business, but is still haunted by memories of his childhood and by his curiosity about his origins. When he crosses paths with Maina, it is not a happy reunion. Maina is a government minister, with little tolerance of Kip or other whites. Moreover, there is a mysterious link between Kip and Maina’s girlfriend, Rose. It is through Rose that Kip starts to unravel the mystery of his father.

In Search of Africa is a story about family, about betrayal and about love. Set mostly in Kenya , but also in Uganda, England and Australia, it transcends the years from the Second World War until the 1990s. It begins with the meeting of an Australian and a Ugandan in a German prisoner of war camp, and follows the lives of the two and of their children, focussing on Kip, the Australian’s son, and Rose, one of the Ugandan’s children. Their stories are separate yet come together, at the same time exploring the turmoil of Ugandan and Kenyan politics, and the impact of war and of dishonesty on families.

Coates’ writing is graphic, transporting the writer to the places he sets his tale, with the detail which can only come of an affinity with the setting. This is a fine piece of writing and an absorbing tale.

In Search of Africa, by Frank Coates
Harper Collins, 2006

The Little Crooked House, by Margaret Wild & Jonathan Bentley

You know the rhyme. There was a crooked man…He bought a crooked cat, which found a crooked mouse. And they all lived together in a little crooked house.But the crooked house is too close to a train line and every time a train goes by, the whole house shakes. So the crooked man and the crooked cat and the crooked mouse and even the crooked house all move to a better place – a desert where there are no trains. But the desert isn’t the right place for them either, and soon they are on the move again.

This reworking of a traditional rhyme is full of the humour and joy that can be expected from author Margaret Wild. The whimsy of the storyline is perfectly complemented by that of the watercolour illustrations by artist Jonathan Bentley.

Youngsters will love the silliness of a house which can move from place to place, the detail of the illustrations and the repeated refrain of “Yippee-yi-yay!” which they’ll be joining in with by the end of the first reading.

First released in hard cover in 2005, this title has now been released in a paper back edition.

Lots of fun.

The Little Crooked House
The Little Crooked House, by Margaret Wild and Jonathan Bentley
This edition ABC Books, 2006

This book can be purchased online at Fishpond.

The Iron-Tree, by Celia Dart-Thornton

Jarred has a special gift – but it is one he must keep a secret. Still, his friends have their suspicions about him – he seems to evade death so regularly, that they wonder if he is invincible. Now Jarred and his friends are leaving their desert village and heading out to explore the world, in search of adventure. Jarred is hoping he will also find answers to the mystery of his father’s disappearance when Jarred was ten.

When Jarred meets Lillith he knows his life will never be the same again – but he doesn’t realise how closely their fates are linked. Then, when he visits the Red City, Cathair Rua, Jarred uncovers another secret, that of the Iron Tree, and at the same time the uncomfortable realisation of his father’s identity.

The Iron Tree is a gripping fantasy novel, with unique peoples and settings, which will fascinate lovers of the genre. Jarred’s problem – his apparent immortally – is an intriguing one which will provoke thought.

This is the first book in The Crowthistle Chronicles and readers will be keen to read the next instalment.

The Iron Tree, by Cecilia Dart-Thornton
Tor, 2004

Warrior, by Jennifer Fallon

Once Marla was a princess with no power – just a pawn in a male-dominated world. Now, though, she has become the power behind Hythria’s throne. But while she is playing her political game, Alija, the High Arrion of the Sorcerer’s Collective, is busily plotting her downfall.

There are other problems, too. Marla’s son, Damin, is being brought up in his uncle Mahkas’ house, but Mahkas is obsessed with his desire to see Damin marry his daughter. And Marla’s closest ally, Elezaar the Fool, is facing a crisis of his own.

Warrior is the second title in Jennifer Fallon’s Hythrun Chronicles. Like the first, it is a well-woven complex fantasy tale, with plots and subplots woven tightly together to keep the reader absorbed from start to finish.

An enthralling read.

Warrior, by Jennifer Fallon
Voyager, 2005

The Nightfish, by Helen McCosker

When Ant sees a fish that shines as brightly as a star, he wants to keep it. He catches it in a net and takes it home. Its glow fills his room and he is happy. But the nighfish starts to fade, and Ant doesn’t understand – perhaps the nightfish is hungry?

As Ant tries to figure out a way to keep the nightfish happy, funny things happen in his town – first the streetlights disappear, then the lighthouse. The creatures of the deep need their light. Ant has to make a decision.

The Nightfish is a stunningly illustrated picture book which, whilst being presented as a whimsical fantasy, also has a message about conservation. Ant has to accept the consequences of keeping the nightfish (or lightfish as the sea creatures call it) to himself.

In this her first picture book McCosker has used has used her lifetime of illustration work to wonderful effect. The colours of the sea – teals and aquas in the day, and rich blues, purples and greens in the night – as well as the detail of each illustration make each spread as unique as it is absorbing.

Nightfish is a beautiful offering.

Nightfish, written and illustrated by Helen McCosker
The Five Mile Press, 2006

Becoming Billy Dare

The words filled Paddy with a melancholy longing for his home. He thought of his mother and their very last conversation. ‘Remember, Paddy,’ she had said, ‘the greatest person in all the world is the priest…May the Lord kindle the flame in your heart and fill you with his goodness, darling boy.’

When Paddy Delaney leaves home, it is to travel to Dublin to enter St Columcille’s seminary , where he will eventually become a priest. But events there spiral beyond Paddy’s control and soon he finds himself stowing away on a ship bound for Australia.

Landing in Australia proves to be a challenge – when the ship is shipwrecked – but Paddy soon finds himself travelling the country with a circus, before trying to rough out a life for himself in Melbourne. Before he finds peace, he needs to identify his true gift.

Becoming Billy Dare is an absorbing historical novel, the second in the Children of the Wind quartet. Rich in historical detail this is a self-contained offering, but readers of the first in the series Bridie’s Fire will be happy with the overlap between the two, which sees an adult Bridie play a role.

Good stuff.

Becoming Billy Dare, by Kirsty Murray
Allen & Unwin, 2004

Quincy and Oscar, by Kerry Millard

Oscar and his dog Quincy have a close bond – they do everything together. When Oscar and his family move to a new neighbourhood, it seems no one there has any time for a new boy or a new dog. When Oscar goes to school each day, he is all alone. And, at home, Quincy is alone, too.

Then Oscar decides to take Quincy to school for the day, so that ‘that way, all day, they could be together’. Sharing their day with each other turns into an experience of sharing with classmates, and eventually, the whole neighbourhood, and as the day draws to a close, both Quincy and Oscar have found places in the community.

This is a gorgeous book about friendship and about belonging. Millard has created a gentle story, and brought it to life with vibrant illustrations rendered in a combination of watercolour, crayon, pen and pencil. A favourite spread is that of the pair walking to school, with one line of text – ‘Oscar and Quincy walked to school’, followed by a series of six illustrations showing their progress down the street, as a neighbour, the postman, a cat, a dog and a bird join their walk.


Quincy and Oscar, by Kerry Millard
ABC Books, 2006