Marty's Shadow, by John Heffernan

They’re not just tricks of light and dark. You hear them. You smell them, taste them, feel them. They seep right into you. They become you.

Marty and his brother Jack spend a lot of time on their own. Their father follows the work he can get, and comes home on weekends and occasionally during the week. Their mother has been gone seven years and although she writes sometimes, she isn’t coming back. Marty is haunted by memories of the time before his mother left. Their house was visited at night by the mysterious shadow man. For years Marty has kept the shadows at bay, but now they are haunting his dreams, even when he’s wide awake.

Marty’s only friends are his dog, Gwab and a girl, Nariah. But Nariah has troubles of her own. Labelled a ‘Paki’, she’s subject to whispered jibes at school. And at her family’s home, the local store, a series of small incidents is taking its toll. Marty’s efforts to help and defend her are welcome, but could lead him into trouble.

Marty’s Shadow is a heart-wrenching tale of facing demons, and fighting against the odds. Marty is, on the surface, a tough kid who is bringing himself and his younger brother up in spite of parental neglect and community disinterest. But as the story unfolds, Marty’s insecurities become increasingly apparent, as he has to confront the realities of both his present and his past. This is not a feel-good novel, but it is, in its own way, beautiful and is also deeply absorbing.

Suitable for ages 12 and up.

Marty’s Shadow, by John Heffernan
Omnibus, 2007

Monkey Come Home, by Bernard Gallate

I climbed the tree and spotted the frightened creature on a branch near the top. It had a long tail and was making a nervous chattering sound. Somehow it didn’t quite look a possum. I pulled myself up onto the next branch for a closer inspection and realised that it wasn’t a possum after all. It was a monkey! I couldn’t believe my luck.

When Avery finds a monkey in his back yard, he is amazed. Where did it come from and what should he do with it? He tries to keep the monkey a secret, but that isn’t easy. After his sister Serenity finds out, it isn’t long before Mum and Dad figure out that something is amiss. Then there’s the staff of PUXCorp who are looking for the monkey. What is so special about this animal?

Monkey Come Home is a fun junior novel, part of the ABC Kids Fiction series. There are twists and turns as Avery uncovers the monkey’s secret past, with other family and community members playing important roles. Reader aged 8 to 10 will enjoy the novelty of a boy owning (even if temporarily) a monkey, and the problems this creates.

An accessible and interesting read.

Monkey Come Home (ABC Kids Fiction)

Monkey Come Home, by Bernard Gallate
ABC Books, 2007

This book can be purchased online at Fishpond.

Seacastle, by Tansy Rayner Roberts

‘It’s been calling us all along.’ Thomas’s voice sounded as if it were coming from far away. ‘That’s why I untied the rope.’
Nick stared at him in horror. ‘You did what?’
‘It needs us, both of us.’

Thomas and Nick live near the shores of the mysterious Lake Shimmer, but only Thomas hears the lake, or something within it, calling him. When Thomas, who can’t swim, jumps into the lake, Nick knows he has to follow. But neither expects to end up in Habitat, another world. They have been called by the Beacon, which needs their help to save itself and to save Habitat from destruction.

Seacastle is the first book in a new series, The Shimmaron, with each title written by a different Australian author. In this volume, Tansy Rayner Roberts creates an intriguing world, with likeable and diverse characters, sure to draw in young fantasy lovers, who will eagerly await the subsequent titles in the series.

Seacastle (Lost Shimmaron)

Seacastle, by Tansy Rayner Roberts
ABC Books, 2007

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

A Whole Lot of Wayne, by David McRobbie

If our book could talk, Wayne, I wonder what it would say? I bet it would say, ‘Don’t just stand there, buy me!’

Wayne tells the stories of his adolescence, his friends, family, best jokes and biggest blunders. Wayne and Squocka get into all sorts of adventures and misadventures. A hilarious snapshot of life, love and friendship.

A Whole Lot of Wayne is a hilarious comedic anthology told from the viewpoint of Wayne that’s great for kids aged 9 to 13. Lots of laughs and good times await the reader of this fantastic book.

A hilarious anthology.

A Whole Lot of Wayne

A Whole Lot of Wayne, by David McRobbie
Allen and Unwin, 2007

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

The Shadow Maker, by Robert Sims

She put her fingers to her nose and sniffed something like soot or ash. At first she thought her face had been disfigured then realised there were no wounds on her cheeks. So where did the burnt smell come from? Tentatively she moved her fingertips to her eye sockets. That’s when she started screaming.

There is a brutal sexual predator on the loose in Melbourne. Someone is attacking young women, knocking them senseless and leaving them mutilated. The first woman is blinded, the next has her ears damaged. The attacks are getting worse, and women are dying. Detective Marita Van Hassel, from the Melbourne Sexual Crimes Squad, is called on to use both her profiling and investigative skills to try to catch this animal. But the killer is proving elusive, and he has Rita in his sights as well.

The Shadow Maker is a thrilling and disturbing crime novel, from new novelist Robert Sims. With some really dark moments, the novel is frightening in places, but Sims contrasts this with some romance and the day to day life of the detective character, to make it balanced and absorbing. Readers will find this book hard to put down and will be looking forward to more from Sims and his character, Rita Van Hassel.

The Shadow Maker, by Robert Sims
Arena, an imprint of Allen & Unwin, 2007

The House on River Terrace, by James Moloney

Ben doesn’t even know that his family owns Gwendolan House, an empty building on River Terrace. But his father, conservative politician Rob Fielding, is making a documentary about his family’s story, and wants to use the old family home as a backdrop. Ben starts to uncover the old stories of the house and of his family.

At the same time he develops an unlikely friendship with Jess, a street kid who is squatting in the house next door to Gwendolan House. Ben’s father wants the squatters out and frowns on the growing friendship, but Ben decides some things are more important than following his father’s rules.

The House on River Terrace is realistic fiction set in Brisbane, and deals with contemporary issues such as the plight of street kids, as well as more timeless issues such as family loyalty and father/son relationships. Ben Fielding is a boy nearing manhood who must learn to stand up for his beliefs and make his own decisions, as well as to be aware of the impact of his actions.

First published in 1995 and subsequently shortlisted for the Children’s Book of the Year Awards, it has been re-released by UQP, and remains both topical and an absorbing read.

The House on River Terrace, by James Moloney
UQP, first published 1995, this edition 2007

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

Whacko the Chook, by Mark Svendsen & Ben Redlich

Whacko the Chook is feeling sad, and decides she needs a friend – so she sets out to find one. But the other chooks are busy with their own lives, and don’t seem to need Whacko. Each rejection makes her sadder and sadder, until finally she gives in to the urge to go and hide in a nice dark place. But in the nesting box she discovers that her urge for a friend is also a deeper urge to lay an egg. With her new egg, Rodney, Whacko realises she has a friend all of her own.

Whacko the Chook is a humorous picture book story with a gentle message. Kids will love the different chicken characters – as well as Whacko, a plain white chicken with a scraggly red head, there is Henny-wise, a helmet wearing hunter, Chooky Looky, a crazy spotted hen who is convinced the sky is falling, and Pretty-Little Pennyfeather, a vain, conceited hen. Adult readers will enjoy creating voices for the four characters, with plenty of dialogue with which to have fun. The illustrations, too, will delight, with the browns and greys of the chook pen brightened with the reds of the hens’ heads and other splashes of colour. The hens’ facial expressions are hilarious.

This a fun offering which will appeal to the obvious preschool audience, but also to older children.

Whacko the Chook

Whacko the Chook, by Mark Svendsen and Ben Redlich
Lothian, 2007

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

Yirra and her deadly dog, Demon, by Anita Heiss and the students of La Perouse Public School

‘That’s it.’ Yirra’s mum stands up. ‘Demon’s done something disastrous nearly every day for the past two weeks. This is the last straw. You are grounded, Yirra, and you are NOT going on the excursion to Bare Island.’ Yirra’s mum is so angry she says each word louder than the one before, so Yirra knows exactly how angry she is.

Yirra loves her dog, Demon, a Siberian husky. But Demon is always getting into trouble. He steals the neighbours’ underwear, makes a mess in the yard, and jumps on people. Now Mum has had enough of Demon’s naughtiness and is threatening to get rid of him. Yirra only has two weeks to train him, or he will be sent away.

Yirra and her deadly dog, Demon is a fun novel for primary aged readers. Set in the La Perouse community, the book is a collaboration between author Anita Heiss and the students of La Perouse Public School. As such the book gives an insight into contemporary urban indigenous life in Sydney. And, because of the collaboration, the book has an authentic viewpoint character. Kids from all over Australia will connect with Yirra as she plays with friends, goes to school, and worries about her dog.

An entertaining read, suitable for 9 to 12 year ld readers.

Yirra and her deadly dog, Demon, by Anita Heiss and the students of La Perouse Public School
ABC Books, 2007

Thomas Trew and the Horns of Pan, by Sophie Masson

At that moment, the woman turned her eyes to them. She ignored the Gulls and focused her dazzling smile on Thomas, ‘Oh, Mr Trew,’ she said, ‘this must be your son, the Rymer.’ Her voice was sweet, silvery, beautiful. Her eyes looked deep into Thomas’s and he felt warmth flowing into him. She smiled. ‘How handsome he is! But that is not surprising, of course.’

Thomas Trew is happy living in Owlchurch, a town in the Hidden World. He especially loves his new friends, Pinch and Patch, who are teaching him magic. But the peace of the village is disrupted by the arrival of a mysterious visitor. Frodite Peree has been awarded the Horns of Pan, a very high honour indeed, and now she wants to so set up home in Owlchurch. Most of the villagers are delighted. Having such an esteemed resident will bring fame to the town. But Frodite wants to usurp Old Gal, who is Pinch and Patch’s mother, and Thomas is not so convinced that she is all she says she is.

Thomas and the twins set out to seek help, but their journey takes them far from home, and with time running out, they may not be back in time to stop the stranger taking over Owlchurch.

Thomas Trew and the Horns of Pan is the second title in the Thomas Trew series, but stands alone so that readers new to the series are not disadvantage. Thomas is a human child who has come to live in the magical Hidden World, where he has a special role to play as a Rymer. This role sees him respected and loved in the village, and playing an integral role in solving problems, which child readers will appreciate.

With unicorns, dwarves, witches and more mythical creatures, this is sure to enchant children aged 8 to 12.

Thomas Trew and the Horns of Pan

Thomas Trew and the Horns of Pan, by Sophie Masson
Hodder, 2007

You can purchase this title online at Fishpond. Purchasing through this link supports Aussiereviews

I've Lost My Kisses, by Trudie Trewin & Nick Bland

Suddenly Matilda felt something deep inside her chest.
A stretching feeling. Almost a burning feeling!
‘I’m filling up with kisses!’ she gasped. ‘Just exactly when I need them!’

Matilda Rose loves to kiss, but one day, much to her dismay, she loses all her kisses. Poppa is coming to stay, and Matilda is worried that she won’t have any kisses for him. She searches high and low, and, just as Poppa comes into view, discovers that the kisses are inside them. Matilda learns that kisses can’t really be lost – they will be there whenever she needs them.

I’ve Lost My Kisses is a delightful hard cover picture book. The text is simple, yet rhythmic, flowing from page to page with a gentle feel ideal for bedtime reading. The illustrations, too, are gentle, in watercolour and graphite pencil. Matilda and her family are black and white cows, with splashes of colour in clothing, butterflies and a fluffy yellow chicken which appears in every spread.

This is a charming offering which will be loved by children and adult readers alike.

I’ve Lost My Kisses, by Trudie Trewin and Nick Bland
Scholastic, 2007