The Bushfire Brumby, by Delwyne Stephens

Reviewed by Dale Harcombe

Rachel and Tim visit their older brother, Roger at his farm. While there they meet up with a brumby and Roger agrees that despite the drought which is threatening his own livestock, they can keep the brumby. But they need a name for it. Nothing feels right.

Overturning stereotypes, it is interesting that it’s Rachel who likes the spiders and insects rather then her brother but she is the one wary of the brumby at first.

The Bushfire Brumby is a simply told story yet one with enough tension and drama that will make sure it appeals to a lot of kids. The story also gives a good picture of the effects of drought on country areas. The drought is portrayed realistically and from the description I could almost feel the oppressive heat. The story also gives a good picture of the effect on wildlife like kangaroos and emus as well as the sheep and cattle.

How the children learn to trust the brumby’s instincts and how the brumby earns his name is well handled. The illustrations effectively complement the text. I loved the sad look on the pony on page 14.

The newspaper report at the end is a good touch and will be useful for teachers looking for a variation in text types.

This book is a sure winner for young readers. Aussie Books are to be congratulated for their insight in publishing these highly readable books that reflect Australian life and humour as well as problems associated with our land.

The Bushfire Brumby , by Delwyne Stephens
Published by Aussie School Books, Distributed by Blake Education

Noodle Pie, by Ruth Starke

It made Andy feel funny inside to say – even to himself – ‘my grandmother’, ‘my aunt’, ‘my cousins’, and to see them all there in front of him. He looked to the very back of the group to see who was considered the least important family member. She wasn’t tall, so he didn’t see her until somebody moved. She had short hair and a fringe down to her eyebrows. There was a sullen expression on her small triangular face, or maybe she was just bored.

When Andy’s father, a former refugee, returns for a visit to Vietnam after twenty years, Andy goes with him. He is interested to see his father’s country and meet his relatives – but he also feels that it isn’t his country. He is Australian.

Andy isn’t too sure he likes his newfound family, either. They are rude, fighting over the gifts Andy and his father have brought, and the family restaurant Andy has heard so much about is a joke. The thing Andy finds hardest to accept is that not everyone is treated equally. His cousin Minh seems to do most of the work, but is the last to eat and receives nothing – not even respect – for her efforts. Andy is determined to change things.

Noodle Pie is an often humorous but also very insightful look into family relationships, cultural differences and the experiences of refugees. As Andy tries to make sense of his extended family’s way of life, he also learns about his father’s past, and gains a greater understanding of why things are as they are, both at home and here in Vietnam.

A fun and informative read.

Noodle Pie, by Ruth Starke
Omnibus Books, 2008

Ruby Rosemount and the Doomsday Curse, by Jodie Brownlee

Ruby tugged the trapdoor open and peered into the darkness.
‘Let’s get inside before someone sees us,’ said Avalon, bracing herself against the wind.
Ruby swallowed hard then stepped inside. Avalon and the magic carpet crowded in behind her. A sudden gust blew them forward and the trapdoor slammed shut. All was black.

Ruby Rosemount and her friends are off to Babylon to begin their studies in magic at the Academy of Peace. But then Ruby’s Mum and Grandma disappear and a terrible Doomsday Curse has been invoked which may mark the end of the world.

As Ruby, Jaffa and Avalon try to uncover who is behind the curse and how it can be reversed, Ruby also has to unravel her family’s history. Could it be that her father, who she thought was dead, is still alive.? And if he is, is he behind that curse?

This is the third title in the Ruby Rosemount series, and has a wonderful blend of magic, mayhem and humour. In earlier stories, Ruby is twelve when she discovers she is half genie. Now, she faces a battle to get her mother to allow her to learn magic and grow up as a genie rather than return full time to the human world. At the same time, she needs to build her confidence in her magical abilities if she is to stop the Doomsday Curse from taking full effect.

There is lots to enjoy here, and will appeal to readers from age 8 up.

Ruby Rosemount and the Doomsday Curse, by Jodie Brownlee
Omnibus, 2008

The Long Patrol, by Richard Plunkett

“I remember standing at the window…when that heavy calibre machine gun fire went off. That’s when the crowd of refugees came in, throwing their children over the (razor wire) fence, trying to get over. They were scared to death.” (Grant Taylor, Unamet Translator)

Australia’s involvement with the tiny nation of East Timor began in 1942 when Australian troops invaded the then Portuguese-run country to prevent it being taken by the Japanese. In the ensuing months Australians were helped by the East Timorese, forging a bond between East Timor and Australia. Unfortunately, this bond was not strong enough to see Australia take action when East Timor was crushed by an Indonesian invasion in the 1970s.

In 1999 when international pressure forced a referendum for independence to be held in East Timor, images of East Timorese being massacred were televised, and Australia finally returned to the region, sending a peace-keeping force and helping the country on its road to peaceful independence, a road which is still being travelled in spite of ongoing turmoil.

The Long Patrol is an insightful exploration of East Timor’s history and, especially, of the role played by Australia and Australians since 1942. It explores why and when Australia has been involved and the impact of that involvement – or of its lack. Part of the successful The Drum series from Black Dog books, there is much use made of eyewitness accounts to personalise the events and bring them to life for teen readers.

This is an accessible exploration of a part of Australian history with which many students would be unfamiliar.

The Long Patrol, by Richard Plunkett
Black Dog Books, 2008

Battle for Quentaris, by Michael Pryor

Nisha sent her ball of fire into the dark gap. She took a sharp breath and coughed when the shadows disappeared. The magical light revealed a large statue, snugly fitting into the cave.
The statue was of two mighty warriors in elaborate armour, standing on a raised oval platform. They faced each other with swords raised and shields ready, as if frozen in the middle of combat. One of the figures was golden and glittered like the sun. The other was silver, with a sheen like a wintry full moon.

When Nisha and her friends unearth a mysterious statue under the Old Tree Guesthouse, they little expect to meet the two warriors who are immortalised in the statue. But soon the pair turn up at the Guesthouse, each eager to claim ownership of the statue, and each prepared to fight fiercely to defeat the other.

If only the battle were just between the warriors. Instead, each uses mysterious powers to draw support from the citizens of Quentaris. Soon the city is divided into two sides, with friend against friend and neighbour against neighbour. The city could be ruined by the battle, unless Nisha can use her magic to find a resolution.

Battle for Quentaris is the final in the Quentaris Chronicles series from Lothian books, and like its predecessors is a gripping fantasy offering for young readers. One of the special appeals of this series is that each title stands alone, so that a reader new to the series could read this final title and not be disadvantaged. Having said that, those who have read earlier titles will enjoy seeing some familiar faces in this offering.

Exciting fantasy for readers aged 10 and over.

Battle for Quentaris, by Michael Pryor
Lothian, 2008

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

The True Story of Stuff, by James Valentine

Stuff. It’s everywhere. In your bedroom, in the kitchen, in the lounge room, everywhere is full of stuff. I’m talking about the ordinary stuff like chairs and carpet and dishwashing liquid and toast. You know what, it all has a story.

Whilst the title of this one, The True History of Stuff might suggest otherwise, this is a hilarious, most definitely fictional but nonetheless entertaining version of the invention of things we take for granted. With so much stuff originating from the long-forgotten nation of Trapezia, author James Valentine feels it only right to share the stories of the creation of different stuff, and share his passion for this forgotten land.

In this, Volume One, we learn how shampoo, peanut butter and the days of the week were invented, as well as following the narrator’s journey as he unearths more information about, and stories from, Trapezia.

The humorous stories are well complemented by the black and white drawings of Reg Mombassa and the novelty of a small-sized hard cover format.

Sure to be popular with 8 to 10 year olds.

The True History of Stuff, Volume One, by James Valentine
ABC Books, 2008

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

Does Your Love Life Add Up? by Max Coppa

We apply numbers to explain many things in our lives, says author Max Coppa, so why not use them to analyse personalties and find ourselves good relationship matches? In Does Your Love Life Add Up?Coppa explains the basics of numerology, showing readers how to calculate numbers for themselves, and then exploring the meanings behind those numbers.

The book invites readers to use numbers to discover:
– if a potential partner will be a good lover
– if a partner will be faithful
– a partner’s temperament and personality
– a potential partner’s strengths and weaknesses
and more. There are tables charting compatibility, opportunities to draw up personal grids, and a chapter examining the relationship between celebrity couples such as Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban.

This is a fun, easy to read volume for anyone with an interest in numerology, or looking for some light hearted fun with friends.

Does Your Love Life Add Up? by Max Coppa
Allen & Unwin, 2008

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

Vampires of Quentaris, by Paul Collins

Rad held his breath as a squad of tall humanoids passed by within yards of his hiding place. Vampires. The creatures had long, flowing hair, inhuman faces with jaws like those of snakes and jutting razor-sharp fangs. They were exquisitely dressed in black and maroon garments. Cloaks with strange hieroglyphs inscribed upon them hung from their shoulders as they strode purposefully down a trail. Their elegance seemed incongruous in this underworld.

When Rad de La’rel returns from a trip into the rift caves, he is shocked to find Quentaris unguarded. Quentaris is at war with neighbouring Tolrush, and every able-bodied fighter has gone. Taking advantage of the lack of security, vampires have come through the rift cave and are ready to take control of the city. Rad must fight this scourge, but he can’t do it alone and willing helpers are hard to find in the face of such a formidable foe.

Vampires of Quentaris is one of the final two titles in the Quentaris Chronicles series produced by Lothian books. The city of Quentaris is built near rift caves which open into countless worlds, and make Quentaris both a place of adventure and the site of diverse troubles. The arrival of vampires in the city makes for an exciting adventure which young fantasy fans will enjoy.

Exciting stuff.

Vampires of Quentaris, by Paul Collins
Lothian, 2008

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

The Tattooed Man, by Alex Palmer

The dead sat at the table like those who are about to eat but never will. Dinner tables set before them contained a meal left untouched. Their rested mouths, their closed eyes, the unshifting weight of their bodies, had a finality beyond waking.

When Paul Harrigan surveys a murder scene in Sydney’s north, he feels like he’s the only living person left in existence. Four people sit dead around a dinner table – a middle aged woman, an older man and a teenage boy, as well as the mummified corpse of a missing corrupt police officer. The woman is the ex-wife of a Senator, the boy their only son. This case is going to take Harrigan to places he doesn’t wish to go,.

Grace Riordan, Harrigan’s love interest, is not impressed that Harrigan is involved in a case when he’s supposed to be on leave. She wants him to take some time off, and to stop shutting her out. But she also can’t stop herself from getting involved. A former police officer herself, she takes risks she knows she shouldn’t – but perhaps in this case she might take one risk too many.

The Tattooed Man is a gripping crime novel, which mixes the personal life challenges of the main characters with a tale of political intrigue, ethics, espionage and more. There are twists and turns and many heart-stopping moments which will keep readers guessing.

An outstanding read from one of Australia’s rising literary stars.

The Tattooed Man, by Alex Palmer
Harper Collins, 2008