Collecting Colour, by Kylie Dunstan

This is Rose.
Rose has a best friend. Her name is Olive.
Their families live in the Top End of the Northern Territory of Australia.
There are lots of pandanus palms here. Pandanus palms have tall, thin trunks with long spiky leaves at the top.

Rose joins her Aboriginal friend Olive on a trip into the bush with her mother and Aunty to collect pandanus and ‘colour’. With them, Olive’s mother Karrang will make baskets, mats and bags. Rose and Olive help to harvest the pandanus and search for the roots and berries that will make the dyes to colour the pandanus. They rest in the middle of the day, finding shade by a river. It’s picnic time. And fishing time. They catch a big barramundi for their dinner. Back at Olive’s house, Rose learns how the berries and roots are prepared to make the colour that will dye the dried pandanus. Later they watch the older women make beautiful baskets and make their own small mats.

Collecting Colour provides a fascinating insight into traditional basket-making from the point of view of a small non-indigenous child. There is a wonderful sense of timelessness about the process, despite the use of a car to traverse the countryside. This is experiential learning in action! The two children are fully involved in searching for and harvesting the leaves, roots and berries that are the purpose of the journey. Collecting Colour is a large format hardcover picture book. Each opening is saturated with colour, the images created with a mixture of collage and paint. Endpapers show a range of colourful baskets and mats. Despite the information contained, this is not a text book. It is a lovely gentle story of the learning process and a small non-indigenous girl’s introduction to an age-old skill. Highly recommended for lower- to mid-primary readers and anyone interested in how pandanus bags are made.

Collecting Colour, Kylie Dunstan
Lothian Books 2008
ISBN: 9780734410221

The Dark Mountain, by Catherine Jinks

Mr Barton was being helped from the back of the dray. I could see at once that there was nothing wrong with his legs. It was the upper portion of his body that seemed to pain him. He moved stiffly, with many an involuntary wince and suppressed groan. Having reached the ground, he shook off his attendants as if the touch of their hands was entirely too much to bear.
My mother went to him, still carrying her youngest daughter. For a moment they stood together, and my mother’s hand was on his arm, and his head was bent close to her ear. Something about this attitude bespoke an intimacy that I had not hitherto suspected. Indeed, the contrast between his expression as he spoke to my mother, and his tone as he addressed the hovering servants, was startling.

In 1836 when Charlotte Atkinson’s mother rides out to inspect her property, it sparks a chain of events which dramatically change Charlotte’s idyllic childhood – and that of her siblings. Whilst the events of her mother’s journey are never fully explained, the violence which befalls her mother and her overseer, George Barton on that fateful day alter the family’s course for life.

Soon Barton is a part of the family, becoming Charlotte’s stepfather, and the family descends into financial difficulties, violence and public shame. For the rst of her long life, Charlotte is determined to unlock the sequence of events which led to her mother’s remarriage and the fracturing of the family.

The Dark Mountain is a gripping historical saga set in and around the Belanglo region of southern NSW. With bushrangers, mass murderers, family drama and the everyday difficulties of colonial life, the story is peopled with a vivid cast of characters including Australia’s first female novelist, and earliest serial killer.

Author Catherine Jinks shows her extraordinary versatility with every new offering – this time with a gothic story offering a vivid glimpse at life in colonial Australia.

A compelling read.

The Dark Mountain

The Dark Mountain, by Catherine Jinks
Allen & Unwin, 2008

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

Diary of a Wombat, by Jackie French and Bruce Whatley

Morning: Slept.
Afternoon: Slept.
Evening: Ate grass.
Night: Ate grass.

So begins the diary of Mothball a carrot-loving, doormat-destroying wombat – a picture book which has won hearts (and awards) around the world since its first release in 2002. Written from the first person (first wombat?) perspective of a wombat, the text gives us Mothball’s perspective of life, whilst the illustrations – by the talented Bruce Whatley – often show us a very different reality, with humorous results.

Previously published in hardcover and paperback format, this new release is in a delightful boxed set with a small format hardcover edition of the book and, for the first time, a small plush wombat – Mothball herself, complete with carrot.

This would make a gorgeous gift for a child of any age – this reviewer is way past her first childhood, but has souvenired the wombat for herself, much to the disgust of her children.

Diary of a Wombat, by Jackie French and Bruce Whatley
This edition Harper Collins, 2008

Whose eggs? by Jeannette Rowe

Whose eggs can you see?
Whose eggs can they be?

Continuing on from previous successful Whose titles, Whose Eggs is a delightful lift the flap book. Children are encouraged to flip the flaps to discover who belongs to the different eggs depicted on each spread. As well as chickens and birds, there are eggs for lizards, frogs, a platypus and dinosaurs. The final surprise is eggs which belong to a child – brightly coloured Easter eggs.

The flip the flap format, bright colours, simple illustrations and predictable text make this a winner for the prereader.

Whose eggs? by Jeannette Rowe
ABC Books, 2008

The Detachable Boy, by Scot Gardner

Crystal hooked her thumbs into her backpack straps and took off like a stampeding giraffe. ‘Yeehaa!’
Ravi rolled his eyes and slapped his thigh. ‘Hi ho, Ravi, away!’ he cried as he galloped to catch her.
I was winding up to dash after them when a black Saab came out of nowhere and thumped into me. Thumped me so hard my legs dropped off, my arms detached and my head bounced across the garden and rolled beneath a camellia bush.

John Johnson is a bit weird. That’s because he’s detachable. His body parts come off and can be put back on. This can prove a little embarrassing, so John hasn’t told his friends about his problem. So when he’s hit by a car in front of his friends, he hopes they haven’t noticed. They haven’t – but someone else has, and soon John and his friends are in danger. When Crystal is kidnapped, John has to use his detachability to fly to America in a suitcase and rescue her.

The Detachable Boy is a hilarious novel for primary aged readers with a blend of silliness, adventure and friendship. John’s ability to take himself apart and put himself back together gets him into as many scrapes as it gets him out of, and the twists and turns of this adventure often involve bits falling off or being put into funny places.

The humour and fun of this piece make it a sure winner with mid and upper primary aged readers.

The Detachable Boy, by Scot Gardner
Allen & Unwin, 2008

The Twisted Citadel, by Sara Douglass

The army marched its way to the doors of Elcho falling, and Maximilian and Ravenna saw, as if they stood only feet away, the man of darkness reach forward and pound his fist on the gates.
They will not open for him, said Maximilian.
They shall, said Ravenna.
The gates shrieked, and opened, and Maximilian saw Ishbel creep forth on her hands and knees, weeping.
The man of darkness reached down to her and lifted her left had, and Maximilian saw the Queen’s ring gleaming on Ishbel’s fourth finger.
:You have delivered to me Elcho Falling,” said the man of darkness to Ishbel, “and have sent its Lord into death. You have done well.”

As Ishbel and Maximilian, ride for Serpent’s Nest in the North to resurrect Elcho Falling, deep in the South the One is emerging form DarkGlass Mountain. He will stop at nothing to bring the downfall of Ishbel and Maximilian – and of Elcho falling. But The one is not the only enemy the pair have to face. Maximilian has command of a huge army, but within its ranks are traitors –those who don’t believe n him, and those who want to control Elcho Falling. Ravenna, who has been Maximilian’s friend, now seems to be against him. She has had a vision which shows Ishbel at the centre of Elcho falling’s demise – and if she can’t get Maximilian to believe her, then she will destroy him, too.

The Twisted Citadel is the second epic instalment in the DarkGlass Mountain trilogy and brings together the cast of its predecessor The Serpent Bride, though not all in the same alliances, as well as new characters, to continue the story of Elcho Falling and of Maxel (Maximilian) and Ishbel.

This is fantasy as it should be – with a well-defined world, an awesome cast of people and races, and twists and turn aplenty. Readers will be left wanting more – and eagerly waiting the third and final chapter of the story.


The Twisted Citadel (Darkglass Mountain)

The Twisted Citadel, by Sara Douglass
Harper Collins, 2008

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

Perry Angel's Suitcase, by Glenda Millard

Griffin came into the Silk family after the Rainbow Girls¬¬ – Scarlet, Indigo, Violet, Amber and Saffron – and before Tishkin. And then came Layla who was not born a Silk, but was sent to comfort them after Tishkin went away.
Perry Angel came last of all. He arrived on the ten-thirty express with a small and shabby suitcase embossed with five golden letters. It had taken him almost seven years to find the Kingdom of Silk..

When Layla hears that Perry Angel is coming to live with the Silks, she is at first excited, but then apprehensive at what the presence of a new member of the family will mean for her. She loves her visits to the Silk family – but what if there is no room for her any more? And what if Griffin doesn’t have time for her any more once Perry comes?

Griffin, too, has concerns. Why is Perry here and how can Griffin help Perry to smile? But Perry is the most scared of all. What if this big, boisterous family make him put down his suitcase? And what if they discover the truth about him? But worst of all, what if they send him back?

Perry Angel’s Suitcase is a breathtakingly beautiful tale for children, and for everyone who has ever been a child. Perry is a foster child who has never known a real family, and the Silk family is a loving family whose members have had hard times of their own. Layla, Griffin’s friend, is also an important part of this family, giving as much as she gets from her involvement with them. As a whole, the cast of this book is adorable, and the reader will be drawn in to Perry’s story from the first page.

This is a simply beautiful story.

Perry Angel’s Suitcase, by Glenda Millard
ABC Books, 2008

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

The Great Arch, by Vicki Hastrich

In the workshops the noise was deafening.
When the mangle straightened the largest plates of steel, the land shook all the way to the beach at Manly. And up on the bridge, inside the chords in the sweltering dark, the riveters’ pneumatic hammers rat-tatted a black headache – decorated by small fires of glowing scale falling from the red-hot rivets. This is when you knew you were alive, in the roar of work.

When work begins on the building of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, it seems an almost impossible dream – to build a bridge which will finally unite the city of Sydney, and, at the same time, bring the whole of Australia into the modern age. As all of Sydney watches the bridge rise across the harbour, no one is more enthusiastic, more obsessed, than Reverend Ralph Cage. From his rectory he watches the building, and as his parish struggles through the Great Depression, and is torn apart by the demolition and restructure which the bridge necessitates, Ralph is too absorbed in the marvel of the bridge to be aware of those around him.

The Great Arch is a story of one man’s obsession with the bridge, but it is more. Set it two time periods – during the building of the bridge in the 1920s and 1930s, and in the weeks after Ralph suffers a stroke in 1967 – it shows Ralph as both a dreamer and a man of faith. Though often unaware of the needs of those around him, he is nonetheless a man of emotion, inspired by the greatness of the bridge with which he is so obsessed. Readers may feel frustrated with Ralph, but will also come to understand hi and perhaps even to like him.

An intriguing story of how an ordinary man attempts to live big.

The Great Arch, by Vicki Hastrich
Allen & Unwin, 2008

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

Miracles of Mary, by Bridget Curran

For over 2000 years the Virgin Mary has inspired people of all nations, from differing cultures, differing levels of education and differing beliefs. Miracles attributed to Mary include apparitions, manifestations such as weeping statues, and simple prayers answered.

Miracles of Mary shares stories of Mary from around the world and across the centuries. Ranging from miracles associated with a statue in Sri Lanka, to a weeping statue in Japan and apparitions of mary in Yugoslavia and Portugal, the common element here is the presence of an apparition believed to be Mary or of an image or statue of Mary which is at the centre of the miracle.

Whilst the virgin Mary is often associated with Christian worship, and especially the Roman Catholic faith, the stories here come from people of a variety of religions including Muslims and Coptic Christians. They also come both from people who had a strong faith base before their experiences and those who had little or no faith.

For the reader, Miracles of Mary offers a range of remarkable stories which will inspire and uplift. The author, who lives in Perth, has spoken to people with numerous stories about Mary’s influence, and examined countless accounts, from which she has selected the stories included in the book. Readers do not have to have any particular belief or experience in order to be absorbed in and uplifted by these stories.

The Miracles of Mary: Everyday Encounters of Beauty and Grace

Miracles of Mary, by Bridget Curran
Allen & Uniwn, 2008

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

Wardragon, by Paul collins

A door opened. Ras and three guards appeared, escorting Jelindel dek Mediesar. The Wardragon waved the guards out and they withdrew. Jelindel did not take her eyes off the Preceptor’s mailshirt. The Wardragon heard her soft intake of breath. Good, he thought. She recognises her true nemesis. The one who will unmake her.
>>>HAVE YOU BEEN HARMED<< ‘Depends what you mean by harmed,’ said Jelindel, managing to keep most of the shock out of her voice. ‘Kidnapped in the night, shackled, exiled to this place, dragged here without a by-your-leave…’
Jelindel thinks the Wardahgon is destroyed and the mailshirt is safely buried, but something strange is happening in Q’zar, and now she must once again face the mighty Wardragon. This time the Wardragon is one with the evil Preceptor, and working with another former enemy, Fa-red. It will take all of Jelindel’s abilities, strength and wits to defeat the Wardragon. If she doesn’t, magic will be lost.

Wardragon is the fourth in the Jelindel chronicles and brings together Jelindel’s friends and foes from previous volumes, as well as a range of new characters, in a dramatic finale. There is action and drama, with twists and turns and some interesting character development as Jelindel searches for herself in the midst of the turbulent times by which she is faced. Jelindel’s companions Zimak and Daretor also grow and change in the course of this instalment.

For readers new to the series, there is enough back story to make this self contained, but those who have the previous instalments will be at an advantage.

An absorbing fantasy from a superb talent.

Wardragon, by Paul Collins
Ford Street, 2008