Pearlie and Great Aunt Garnet, by Wendy Harmer

Pearlie was busy hanging her beautiful clothes, frilly pillow cases and feather curtains in the warm sun, when her friend Jasper the elf flew straight into her wet pyjamas.

Pearlie and Jasper decide to host a surprise birthday party for their friend Opal. They write invitations for everyone except Scrag and Mr Flea. Next there are games to organise and food to order. Of course there must be a big birthday cake too. Scrag and Mr Flea hear about the party and decide to hold their own. Pearlie takes Jasper to Great Aunt Garnet’s wonderful shop. Great Aunt Garnet will deliver the cake later. Scrag and Mr Flea have a shopping list too, which also includes an enormous birthday cake. Great Aunt Garnet has two cakes to deliver. What could possibly go wrong?

Pearlie and Great Aunt Garnet is the latest in the ‘Pearlie’ series from Wendy Harmer. The illustrations are bright and the text accessible to readers making the transition from picture books to less illustrated works. Younger children will also enjoy having the story read to them. The book is a good size for small hands to hold. The credits refer to the animation experience of the illustrator and it’s easy to imagine these stories as an animated series. The story is simple, with a positive resolution and is sure to appeal to young readers.

Pearlie and Great Aunt Garnet, by Wendy Harmer
Random House 2007
ISBN 9781741667316

Songlines and Stone Axes, by John Nicholson

English-speaking people talk about ‘Dreaming tracks’ or ‘songlines’ when referring to the many pathways that criss-crossed ancient Australia. These are rough translations of Aboriginal words. People used the Dreaming tracks for everyday travel or trade, but originally these pathways followed mythical journeys of ‘Dreamtime’ ancestors.

Traders exchange shells for hunting spears. The shells are exchanged again, until they have been traded all the way to central Australia. Canoes are ordered, manufactured and delivered without the buyer ever meeting the manufacturer. Trade or exchange, ceremonial and spiritual, these transactions were governed by complex cultural understandings. Exchanges established or extended trust, or signified extra-clan patronage arrangements. Gatherings might be cued by need or by annual periods of plenty, for example the arrival of Bogong moths in the mountains of Victoria. Trade would follow the feasting. In the far north-west, traders from Sulawesi came annually and brought with them canoes, beads, belts, fish hooks and alcohol. They even brought Dutch coins, long before the First Fleet landed on the east coast of Australia.

Songlines and Stone Axes is the first in a new series, Transport, Trade and Travel in Australia. It provides a wide-ranging view into the culture of the first Australians. John Nicholson shows relationships between clans and between clans and their environment. These relationships shaped trade, travel and transport across the continent. Songlines and Stone Axes is a rich, rewarding read. There is a contents page, general and language group index. The narrative is interspersed with smaller information bites, encouraging and rewarding the ‘flitting’ reader as much as the more traditional reader. Nicholson’s drawings are almost photographic in detail. Recommended for upper primary readers.

Songlines and Stone Axes, by John Nicholson
Allen & Unwin 2007

Night of the Fifth Moon, by Anna Ciddor

Every day Ket raced around doing all the tasks that Faelan bid him. He picked nettles till his arms stung with pain from the pricking of the thorns. He clambered up the highest trees and crawled on swaying, brittle branches to fetch feathers from the birds’ nests for the druid’s cloaks. he stood for hours in freezing mountain streams trapping fish with his bare hands, while his legs turned to ice and leeches sucked his blood.
And every day he watched for a sign from the druid. For he knew that one day the druid would make him an assistant – an anruth. One day he would learn the druid’s secrets and take part in the mystic ceremonies. One day…

Set in early, pagan Ireland, Night of the Fifth Moon is an adventure. It tells of a time when druids were more powerful than warriors. Ket is one of six foster-children in the camp of the druid. They are surprised when Faelan, the druid, tells them that only one will become an anruth, a druid’s assistant. Each full moon, one of them will be sent away until only one remains. On the fifth moon, the final two will attempt to read a message written in ogham, the secret code of the druids. Ket is desperate to become a druid, but each moon he feels sure he will be the one sent away. He listens to the land, watches the birds and insects, learns as much as he can. But with each new moon he holds his breath, lest he be the one sent away.

Night of the Fifth Moon gives a fascinating picture of a society which appears simple yet is governed by quite sophisticated rules. Sacrifices and offerings are made to ensure the moon will return each month and spring will follow the long winter. Law is supported by brehons, who arbitrate disputes. Druids are revered as having power over the elements and the ability to predict the outcome of battles. Ket discovers the responsibility that comes with power and what can happen when power is used unwisely. Other themes include bullying, definitions of strength and the power of observation. There are strong male and female role models. Girls are as capable as boys and the same opportunities are available to them. Recommended for upper-primary to early-secondary readers.

Night of the Fifth Moon , byAnna Ciddor
Allen & Unwin 2007
ISBN: 9781741148145

Lucky Baby Yak, by Helen Manos

…Pema lay wide awake in the nomad tent and watched the flickering butter lamp through soft shaggy shapes on the wall. She listened to the noises of the grunting, growling night.

Pema and her brother Tenzin are part of a nomadic mountain culture. They are excited when Baby Yak is born. The first yak born for the summer will bring good luck. Good luck butter, good luck tent ropes, good luck bridle and saddle bag. But change is coming to the mountain people. Soldiers come from the east, calling for an end to nomadic life. The mountain people must find a way to protect their way, or lose it forever.

Lucky Baby Yak shines a warm light on an ancient way of living. The story is told with sympathy for all those who have lost their homes and way of life. But there is some understanding too for the soldiers imposing the will of others. Max Maxfield’s illustrations are simple and colourful, styled almost like photos in an album. There is sadness and hope. Grandmother is philosophical, Baby Yak has brought them luck, a chance to live on. This is a picture story book for a broad age range. It has much to say about endurance and acceptance as well as showing readers another way of living.

Recommended for 5-8 year olds.

Lucky Baby Yak, by Helen Manos and Max Maxfield

Lothian Children’s Books

ISBN 9780733621604

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Kenny's Big Adventure, by Philip Garside

Mr Butler is my English teacher and he has given me a lot of help and advice about how to write this book. He says that the first two chapters are where you put all the stuff that helps readers know who is who and what is what in your story.
Hi, my name is KB and this is my autobiography. I am thirteen years old and I am an only child except for my younger brother Martin.

Kenneth Boyd LeMesurier (KB) is so sure that his trip to Tasmania will be the most boring ever, that he only agrees to go if his friend Josh can come too. KB’s Dad and his mate Jim are on a field trip determined to find evidence that Thylacines still exist. KB, Dad, Josh and KB’s brother Martin fly to Tasmania where they are met by Jim. Their adventure begins almost immediately when they are followed from Launceston airport. Things become steadily more challenging the further they progress into the wilderness. But nothing could prepare them for what they find.

Kenny’s Big Adventure is written as though the nearly fourteen year-old main character is also the writer. There are comments about discussions with Mr Butler the English teacher and with the editors who help him find a shape for his story. This is an exciting, crazy adventure, made even funnier by KB’s ‘asides’. From his responses to a suggestion that he use more active dialogue tags, and that he describe the flora (‘We saw a lot of trees in the forest,’) and fauna (‘I’m glad that we didn’t’ see any snakes. I think Josh would have died had we seen snakes.’), the reader is offered another dimension on KB’s character. A wild and funny read. Highly recommended for mid- to upper-primary readers and early secondary.

Kenny’s Big Adventure, by Philip Garside
Hachette Children’s Books 2007
ISBN: 9780734410115

Going Bush, by Nadia Wheatley & Ken Searle

Ngurra means country and homeland.
Ngurra means campsite and cave.
Ngurra means nest and burrow.
Ngurra means home.

Nadia Wheatley and Ken Searle were asked to devise a project to build harmony among inner city children of diverse backgrounds. They took 16 children from Muslim, Catholic and public schools on a walk through the local bush. Over a number of weeks, they introduced them to the land and its traditional owners and to each other. Going Bush is a journal of their experience, including artwork, prose and poems from the children, tied together by Nadia Wheatley’s words and Ken Searle’s artwork and photos.

Going Bush brings the classroom to the environment, sharing its many faces with a group of children, many of them seeing it closely for the first time. There are stories of the Eora, traditional owners, and stories of white settlers and what they brought with them. This is living history, walking the path walked by others, stopping and feeling their presence, their knowledge, their legacy. By understanding the past, and the diversity of the land and its people, there is hope that the future can bring harmony. Going Bush contains many narrative forms, and must touch on every possible curriculum area. But its overwhelming message is about the power of the connection between people, and between people and land. Recommended for primary readers.

Going Bush, by Nadia Wheatley and Ken Searle,
Allen & Unwin 2007
ISBN 9781741149111

The Mystery of the Golden Crocodile, by Judith Rossell

Dear Explorer,

This appeal for help just arrived from an archaeological dig in the Valley of Giants, near el Ephant. A student has gone missing, along with an artefact which may be one part of the broken Seal of Sobek.

The Archaeology Department at The Valley of Kings has sent a letter to the president of Explorers Club, asking for help in finding a lost student. The student was apparently taken by a group of mummies said to be guardians of Sobek’s (the crocodile god) tomb. The president in turn, asks her members to help find the lost student and perhaps the tomb with its marvellous treasures. The scene is set, the clues are there. All The Mystery of the Golden Crocodile needs is a sharp-eyed explorer to make their way through the numerous dangerous paths. If successful they will find the student, and gain access to the tomb of Sobek and its unbounded wealth.

The Mystery of the Golden Crocodile is the third in this series of maze books from Judith Rossell. This, like previous offerings, is full of Rossell’s trademark drawings, colourful and intricate. Maze books are a great way of engaging all manner of readers, from reluctant to confident. For the reluctant reader they are accessible, encourage observation and reward effort. For the confident reader they enrich visual literacy. The Mystery of the Golden Crocodile introduces readers to Egypt and the wealth of history there. There are tit-bits about archaeology, villagers, gods and kings, burial tombs, landscape and fauna. Recommended for 5 yo + readers.

The Mystery of the Golden Crocodile, by Judith Rossell
ABC Books 2007
ISBN: 9780733319433

Drama Queen and Extreme Girls, by Sue Lawson

I’m Mickey Farrell, youngest girl in a family of three. My sisters, Sam and Gemma, are sports-tragics.
They dream of being sporting legends.
I dream of being a singing star.

And now she’s on TV.

The singing contest, Dream Diva, is over and Mickey is co-hosting TV series ‘Girls Stuff TV’ with winner, Skye and fellow finalist, Coco. In Drama Queen, the three girls visit a working dairy farm. Mickey and Skye are keen to experience everything they can, but Coco is less thrilled. As Eloise shows them around the farm, it seems that Coco is a magnet for everything from chook poo to…well…cow poo. It’s hard to feel sorry for Coco when she seems so mean.

Extreme Girls sees the trio, photographers and crew head to the river for a jet boat ride. Everyone is excited except Mickey who gets more anxious as the time approaches for the ride. Skye and others notice her discomfort and try to help. Coco notices Mickey’s discomfort and does all she can to rub it in. But there are underlying reasons for Coco’s behaviour.

Many young girls dream of winning a song competition and of being on TV. Drama Queen’and Extreme Girls show what it could be like to live that dream. But there is more to the series than make-up and fancy clothes. Inside each is an opportunity to learn about something new as well as to experience some of the challenges that come when you spend time in the spotlight. Mickey and Skye come to see through Coco’s prickly façade and to realise that some things are not quite as they seem. With short, active chapters and colourful covers, this series will appeal to collectors and girls who fancy a life in the spotlight. There is a quiz at the end of each book, tied to the content. Recommended for girls 8 years +

Drama Queen, by Sue Lawson
black dog books 2007
ISBN 9781921167706

Extreme Girls, by Sue Lawson
black dog books 2007
ISBN 9781921167713

Teeth Marks, by Rose Moxham

The wind felt perilous. It numbed his ears and pinned his mouth back into a crazy grin. All this speed – it felt good. He didn’t bother with the brakes, gave up trying to get a grip on the pedals. He spread his legs and let the steep incline carry him, hurtling past those stagnant shops, past the sleeping homeless guy, overtaking a car. The dogs free, barking and running after him. They loved him, even if Jude didn’t.

Nick is nineteen years old. He and his best friend, Robbie, are heading west to spend the summer fruit-picking. Beginning in the middle, when Nick rides his bicycle down a hill and ends up in traction in the local hospital, Teeth Marks reveals the past in flashbacks. Slowly, the reader is introduced to his friends and the other mostly long-term residents of the hospital. We meet blue-eyed Robbie, aspiring manager Max, dark-haired Jude and her father Bruno. Then there are the hospital people: non-speaking Al and his daily visitor Lindy; the not-so-sunny Nurse Sunni; Eric and his wife Iris. Nick’s arms, leg and heart are broken and he vents his anger on anyone who comes near. Five weeks he’ll be in traction, five long weeks. Nick’s stay in the hospital helps to mend more than his broken bones.

Teeth Marks is about freedom, hope, love, pain, consequences and more. It is a road trip for Nick, even when he’s trussed up in the Orthopaedic ward and can only move one of his legs. Despite the weighty subjects and challenging structure, there is plenty of humour here, some rockabilly music and the hard work that is fruit-picking. There are rich pictures of friendship and its many shapes. A rewarding read for mid- to upper-secondary readers.

Teeth Marks, by Rose Moxham
Allen & Unwin 2007
ISBN: 9781741147711

The Paw Collection, by Natalie Jane Prior

During the day Leonie was a schoolgirl.
At night she was a cat-burglar. While the world was asleep, she put on her cat costume and prowled the alleyways by moonlight.
Nothing was safe when Leonie was about.

Leonie is the world’s cheekiest (and possibly also youngest) cat-burglar. Modelling herself on Robin Hood, she steals from the rich and gives to the poor. She leaves opals in Saint Vinnies bins and writes out cheques for charitable foundations. Along the way she foils the plans of plenty of real crooks.

The Paw Collection brings together three previously published stories about the Paw, in a new chapter book format, with new illustrations by the talented Terry Denton. The humour and outlandish plots, coupled with Denton’s trademark silly illustrations make the book sure to appeal to readers aged six to ten.

What fun!

The Paw Collection, by Natalie Jane Prior, illustrated by Terry Denton
Working Title Press, 2007