Sweetie May, by Lisa Shanahan

They rolled an old barrel full of diamonds up to the chest. Together they climbed up and slowly peeked over the rim. There on a bed of shimmering rose rubies, curled tight like a perfect pearl, was a tiny baby.

Captain Wildehide and Captain Leanbeam love to argue. They argue about anything and everything, from morning to night. The only thing they agree on is how much they both love treasure. So, when they find a cave filled with treasure they are delighted – until they discover that, as well as treasure, the cave has a baby in it. They can’t leave the baby alone in a cave – so they take her back to their ship.

Now they have something new to agree on – both captains love the baby. But still they argue – over who loves her most, over what needs to be done for her, and more. Perhaps they’ll never stop fighting – unless the baby can get them to stop.

Sweetie May is a gorgeously funny chapter book for early and middle primary aged readers. The two pirate captains are loveable, their fights silly and their discovery of a lone baby will intrigue and delight readers. Whilst Sweetie May doesn’t talk, her character is strong and endearing, aided by the line drawing illustrations by Kerry Millard.

Now part of the ABC kids fiction imprint, Sweetie May was first published in 1998, and was a CBCA Notable Book the following year.

Sweetie May (ABC Kids Fiction)

Sweetie May, by Lisa Shanahan, illustrated by Kerry Millard
ABC Kids Fiction, 2007

This book can be purchased online at Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Before the Storm, by Sean McMullen

For all the smoke, confusion, blood and death before her eyes, the sight of the youth that the others kept calling BC drew Emily’s eyes more than anything else. He shouted the precise orders, led the way, and sprayed fire from his strange rifle as they ran. Dark figures appeared at the end of a corridor, figures that fired pretty sparkles of light that began to cut down BC’s soldiers. BC stood his ground, shooting back at the attackers as one more of those beside him fell.

It is 1901 and Australia has just become a nation. Soon, the new Parliament will be opening for the first time. For Emily and her younger brother Daniel, this event is not terribly significant. Their lives will not be changed in any way. Unless, of course, they fall into the Yarra and are saved by a stranger who changes everything.

Fox S3 and his commander, BC, are also in Melbourne in 1901. What is different about them is that they are from the future, a future where the world is at war, and life revolves around the preservation of the British Empire. Fox and BC have travelled through time to 1901 to prevent the events which began the never-ending war. To do this, though, they need the help of Emily and Daniel and their dodgy friend, Barry the Bag.

Before the Storm is an absorbing time-travel adventure which combines Australian history with futuristic science to take readers on an action-packed ride. There is plenty to contemplate along the way, including the changing roles of women and the realities of war.

This is the first title of new imprint, Ford Street Publishing, and a strong beginning to this list.

Before the Storm, by Sean McMullen
Ford Street, 2007

Naughty Norton & Losing Norton, by

The most important thing is not to leave before your pony has learnt the day’s lesson. Today’s lesson was that I was in charge.

Norton is a pony with attitude. He likes eating and playing games, but he doesn’t like listening to his owner, Molly. Nonetheless, Molly loves Norton, and she thinks he’s the most perfect pony in the world.

Pony Patch is a new series from black dog books, and features the adventures of Norton and Molly. In Naughty Norton, Molly tries to catch Norton for her afternoon ride. Unfortunately, Norton has other ideas. In Losing Norton, Molly thinks Norton has been pony-napped.

Both stories are told in the first person voice of Molly, with illustrations which often tell us the true story, which is a little different from Molly’s version. For example, when Molly tells us how much Norton loves being with her, the illustrations show him running away.

This is a cute series, which horse-mad youngsters will love. A back of book glossary and hints for pony care are a useful addition.

Naughty Norton and Losing Norton, both by Bernadette Kelly, illustrated by Liz Alger
black dog books, 2007

A Bridge to Wiseman's Cove, by James Moloney

Carl was afraid to breathe. The weight of the bird and its piercing gaze was enough to freeze him there forever. ‘Now, Carl. Set it free.’

When Carl’s mum abandons him, his brother and sister, he isn’t too worried. Mum has gone off before, but she always comes back. But time goes past, and Mum doesn’t return. Then Carls’ sister decides she needs a break – and sends Carl and his brother Harley away. Deep down, Carl knows his sister isn’t coming back, either.

Now Harley is all that Carl has got – and he’ll do whatever it takes to keep him. Even when it means dropping out of school and looking for work. A low paying job on the barge to Wiseman’s Cove doesn’t seem much, but soon that barge is almost as important to Carl as Harley is.

First published in 1996, and winner of the CBCA Book of the Year, A Bridge to Wiseman’s Cove is a wonderfully moving tale of an unlikely hero. Carl is a self-confessed big boy, who isn’t particularly strong, or particularly clever. He struggles to connect with people, yet in the course of this story manages to make some unlikely connections which will change his life.

It is wonderful to see this back in print.

A Bridge to Wiseman's Cove

A Bridge to Wiseman’s Cove, by James Moloney
UQP 1996, 2007

This book can be purchased online from Fishpond

Touch Me, by James Moloney

‘When can I hold you then?’ he whispered. ‘I want to. I…’ He was going to say I love you – but what did that mean?

Rugby is the only thing that matters to Xavier. He’s in year 12 and wants desperately to make the school’s first fifteen side, and play with his mates to win the premiership for the first time in twenty years. His world starts to change, though, when he meets Nuala Magee. He’s never met a girl anything like her. She dresses like a boy, acting out a role which incenses boys and amuses other girls. She’s hard to get to know, but Xavier is determined to do just that.

Touch Me is a gripping read about rugby, first love and growing up. Xavier is a likeable main character, and the reader also sees important scenes from Nuala’s perspective, so that an understanding of both characters and the difficulties of their relationship is developed. A third important character is Xavier’s new friend, Alex, who is recovering from leukaemia and has had to face his mortality.

First published in 2000 by UQP, it has been republished by UQP along with others of James Moloney’s works, a wonderful opportunity to discover or rediscover his works, for individual readers, collectors and for libraries.

A wonderful, thought-provoking read.

Touch Me

Touch me, by James Moloney
UQP, 200, 2007Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Launched, by J. A. Mawter

Five riders stood astride their bikes. The late afternoon sun bounced off helmets and handle bars and bells and reflectors, giving the group an eerie luminescent glow. They were an odd assortment of kids, drawn together by their love of riding, especially stunt riding.

In this, the second instalment in the Freewheelers series, the Freewheelers decide to enter a local bike trials competition. They’ll need to do some serious practice to get ready, but when they find the ideal training ground they soon find that they have unwelcome company.

There are strange things happening. There is graffiti appearing in their favourite places – and it’s not just any graffiti. Bryce, one of the Freewheelers, used to be in a graffiti gang, and his tag is being used. The other Freewheelers are worried that Bryce has gone back to his old ways. Then, when Tong’s bike is stolen, Bryce again falls under suspicion. Can Bryce remain a freewheeler? And what can he do to clear his name?

Although part of a series, this offering stands alone, too, so that readers new to the series are not disadvantaged. With a mix of boy and girl characters, from different racial and family backgrounds, this is a series designed to appeal to readers of both sexes. There is plenty of bike action, a mystery to be solved, and issues including loyalty, graffiti and homeless kids.

Likely to be lapped up by readers aged 10 to 12.

Freewheelers: Launched, by J.A. Mawter
Angus & Robertson, an imprint of Harper Collins, 2007

Crossfire, by James Moloney

Luke could almost count the pig’s strides as it closed in…His father lay frantic in the dust, scarcely able to raise his head…The pig would kill him.

Luke doesn’t live with his dad, but he still idolises him. Dad is a hunter, a hard man who knows everything about guns. When Luke is suspended from school for hiding a gun in his locker, Luke’s mum is horrified, but Luke thinks she’s over reacting. He needed the gun to practise his shooting in the bush after school.

When Mum is unexpectedly hospitalised, Luke finds himself unexpectedly able to accompany his father on a pig-shooting expedition. He’s the only kid with a group of men – men who will, it seems, shoot at anything that moves. Luke starts to see the other side of shooting and killing. And when the expedition turns dangerous, he wonders whether all this is worth the thrill of the chase.

First published in 1992, a CBCA Notable Book in 1993, Crossfire has been reprinted along with other works by James Moloney, so that they can be enjoyed by a new group of teens. The story remains authentic fifteen years after first publication, with the high action text and timeless conflicts not being outdated.

This is an exciting and thought-provoking read, especially suitable for teenage boys.


Crossfire, by James Moloney
UQP, 1992, 2007

This book is available online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

To The Boy in Berlin, by Elizabeth Honey & Heike Brandt

A postcard from Leo Schmidt?
I can’t believe it!
I’m trying to solve the mystery of a boy called Leopold Schmidt who migrated to Australia years ago. Leopold is long dead, but this new Leo is very much alive (and kicking).

When Henni leaves a note in a box of old books under a house, she doesn’t really expect it to be answered by someone living on the other side of the world. But in a curious set of coincidences, the note she left for anyone related to Leopold Schmidt was found by the uncle of thirteen year old Leo, who lives in Germany. Soon, Leo and Henni are exchanging emails, trying to unravel the mystery of Leopold. Then there are the dramas of their own lives, which they share with each other in a way more honest and intimate than if they lived in the same town.

To the Boy in Berlin is a funny, but also sad and insightful story, told from the dual perspectives of Henni and Leo, through their exchanged emails. Each character’s emails have actually been written by a different author, in an unusual collaboration between Australian author Elizabeth Honey and her German translator, Heike Brandt. The idea was developed long distance, but fleshed out when Brandt was able to visit Australia.

The character of Henni will be familiar to fans of Honey’s work, having earlier appeared in titles including The Ballad of Cauldron Bay and Fiddle Back. The addition of a second viewpoint character and the novelty of the email format will delight fans of the earlier books, but this new offering also stands alone.

Great reading for 10 to 14 year old readers.

To the Boy in Berlin

To The Boy In Berlin, by Elizabeth Honey and Heike Brandt
Allen & Unwin, 2007

This book is available online at Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Tangara, by Nan Chauncy

The fun and laughter left Merrina’s face: she sprang lightly to the ferns and came to Lexie. Squatting before her on the ground she patted her shoe and looked steadfastly at her face as she said softly, ‘I’ll always know when you want me, Weetah – always.’
The way she said it made Lexie want to cry. After a little pause she blurted out, ‘I’ve got to go home soon. You won’t come and play with me then, Merrina?’
‘You must come here.’

First published in 1960 and winner of the CBCA Children’s Book of the Year, 1961, Tangara is now back in print under UQP’s Children’s Classics imprints.

As well as being regarded a classic, the book is important because it was the first novel to explore the treatment of the Aboriginal people in Tasmania from the Aboriginal perspective.

In Tangara young Lexie finds a shell necklace which belonged to her great-great Aunt Rita. This is the start of an adventure similar to the ones her aunt had. Lexie meets Merrina, an Aboriginal girl living in Black’s Gully, and the two form an unlikely bond. But Lexie will have to be strong to endure the nightmare that is about to confront her.

This is an absorbing read which is well deserving of the title ‘classic’. It is wonderful to see it back in print.


Tangara, by Nan Chauncy
This edition UQP 1997

This book can be purchased online at Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Cronin's Key Guide to Australian Trees

Lovers of native flora, gardeners and travellers will be grateful for this, the second in Cronin’s Key Guideseries, focussing on the over 325 species of tree to be found around Australia. The author, Leonard Cronin, has been studying and writing about Australian flora and fauna for thirty years, and his aim here is to share some of his knowledge with the general reader.

Each tree species is illustrated in colour and described in detail, to enable readers to identify specimens, and accompanied by a distribution map to show where it can be found in Australia. At the front of the book there are visual classification keys, allowing readers to use leaf shapes or eucalypt fruit shapes to find possible page matches.

This handy guide is small enough to take along in the car, caravan or even a daypack, and would make an excellent addition to the home reference library. It uses straight forward language which will be accessible to average readers with no scientific or botanical background.

Cronin's Key Guide to Australian Trees

Cronin’s Key Guide to Australian Trees, by Leonard Cronin
Allen & Unwin, 2007

This book can be purchased online at Fishpond. Buying through this link helps to support Aussiereviews.