Halloween in Christmas Hills, by Karen Tayleur

Whenever Miles Cameron looked at Mr Jack’s house he couldn’t help but think of all his lost favourite balls. When the kids’ balls went over Mr Jack’s fence they didn’t even bother asking to get them back. Mr Jack kept the balls. That’s why the kids called him Stingy Jack.

The Johnson family love holidays – Australia Day, Christmas, St Patrick’s Day and Halloween. They like to dress up and celebrate with their neighbours. But one neighbour – Stingy Jack – never joins in. When Miles is allowed to go trick or treating for the first time, his siblings dare him to ring Stingy Jack’s doorbell. Soon, Miles is wondering whether that action will be his downfall. But Mr Jack has a surprise of his own.

Halloween in Christmas Hills is a humorous picture book story about Halloween and about appearances and friendship. The text also offers some insight into the Halloween tradition which is often perceived as being an American custom.

With the humorous illustrative style of Heath McKenzie, who manages to make the illustrations comic and creepy at the same time, this is a fun offering.

Halloween in Christmas Hills: The Legend of Stingy Jack

Halloween in Christmas Hills: The Legend of Stingy Jack, by Karen Tayleur & Heath McKenzie
black dog, 2009

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

Wildlife in Australia, by Louise Egerton

By world standards, many Australian animals look, well, a little strange. Take kangaroos, Koalas, the Platypus, the Southern Cassowary or the Gippsland Giant Worm. Extraordinary as they are, these animals are well adapted to their habitat but through what evolutionary hoops have these creatures jumped? It is almost as though the wildlife of Australia has experienced a separate evolution from the rest of the world and so, indeed, to a large extent it has.

Australia’s rich and diverse wildlife includes some unique creatures – including the Platypus, the koala and the kangaroo – which arouse curiosity throughout the world. But whilst these creatures may be well known, Australia is also home to may lesser known creatures – from mammals to fish, from birds to invertebrates.

Wildlife of Australia is a comprehensive hardcover guide to the animals which inhabit our land. With the help of over 70 experts, zoologist Louise Egerton and photographer Jiri Lochman have compiled a reference which details the animals, their environments, their behaviour and the threats to their existence. With stunning colour photographs on every spread, this is both an invaluable reference and a pleasure to browse.

Suitable for home collections as well as libraries and research, this authoritative offering is worth owning.

Wildlife of Australia

Wildlife of Australia, by Louise Egerton & Jiri Lochman
Allen & Unwin, 2009

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

Time of Trial, by Michael Pryor

There was no wind. Not a breeze, a zephyr, a fitful gust, nothing at all. Air is never this still, he thought, not even in a tomb. The thought made him shudder.

Having started university, Aubrey Fitzwilliam is trying to focus on his studies. But soon enough he’s thrust into another adventure. On top of all this, a mysterious stranger has appeared, offering Aubrey the chance of a normal life, but could this opportunity be more sinister than it appears? Aubrey finds himself knee-deep in golems, international mystery, emotions, family, trouble and even ghosts.

Time of Trial is the fourth title in the Laws of Magic series, and is another great fantasy story. With plenty to offer Pryor has no trouble writing a new and inventive story, whilst continuing to follow the themes from the previous book. Time of Trial will be best enjoyed by those who have read the earlier books, though could standing alone.

Great fantasy with a touch of reality.

Time of Trial (Laws of Magic)

Time of Trial (Laws of Magic) by Michael Pryor
Random House, 2009

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

Also in the Series

Blaze of Glory (2006)
Heart of Gold (2007)
Word of Honour (2008)
Moment of Truth (2010)

The Dangerous Book of Heroes, by Conn Iggulden & David Iggulden

There is a moment in some lives where the world grows still and a decision must be made. Robert Clive knew it when the Indian sun rose and he saw the huge army he had to defeat at Plassey, camped within shouting distance. Lisa Potts knew it when she decided to go outside one more time to rescue children from a machete-wielding maniac. At such moments, there is no one to save you. The decision is yours alone.

From the authors of the Dangerous Book for Boys, Conn and David Iggulden, comes this inspirational collection of stories about heroes. From throughout the British Empire/Commonwealth, from different times and of both genders, what these heroes have in common is their courage. In peace and in war, at home and abroad, these people have faced all kinds of situations with bravado and spirit of adventure.

Some of the heroes are already well known – including Laurence of Arabia, Scott of the Antarctic and Florence Nightingale. Others may be new to readers – such as Lisa Potts, a 21-year-old nursery teacher who was repeatedly attacked by a man wielding a machete, as she protected her young charges.

Each heroes story is detailed in a separate chapter with black and white illustrations and suggestions for further reading.

This hardcover volume could be read cover to cover but is also great for dipping into, making a fine addition to a home library for older children, teens and adults.

The Dangerous Book of Heroes

The Dangerous Book of Heroes, by Conn Iggulden and David Iggulden
Harper Collins, 2009

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

The Wheels on the Bus, illustrated by Mandy Foot

The wheels on the bus go round and round…

The words of the nursery rhyme will be familiar to adult readers, and, hopefully, children as well. What is different here is the way the bus journey has been brought to life by illustrator Mandy Foot, who has the red and white bus travelling Australia with a wombat at the wheel and passengers including a kangaroo, an emu and a koala. Visiting Bondi Beach, the Daintree forest, the Great Barrier Reef and more iconic destinations, the animals admire the views as the song progresses. At the back of the book there is simple sheet music for the tune, conducted by the animal cast.

There is much to find and admire in the illustrations, including a cheeky gecko hiding somewhere on each spread. Lots of fun for birth to school aged children.

The Wheels on the Bus

The Wheels on the Bus, illustrated by Mandy Foot
Lothian, 2009

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

My Private Pectus, by Shane Thamm

There’s something different about my body. It’s like the missing hole in a jigsaw puzzle your eyes keep going back to. If I were to take off my shirt you wouldn’t see my face, freckles or ratty hair. All you’d see is the crevice in the middle of my chest.

Jack might like footy, cars and girls, but that doesn’t make him the same as other teenage boys. What makes him different is the hole in his chest – caused by pectus excavatum, it means that his chest caves inwards. Only Jack’s best friend Gez knows about his deformity – Jack has never let anyone else see him without his shirt on. But as he navigates the twin trials of the school football team and his first relationship with a girl, Jack wonders how much longer he can keep his secret and how people will react when they find out.

My Private Pectus is a story about lots of the issues which confront older teens – relationships, self image, sporting prowess and family relationships – but the issue which most influences Jack’s life is that of body image. In keeping his deformity a secret he risks losing his friends. At the same time, he must also confront his confidence issues when it comes to connecting with his father, a retired soldier who is also the coach of Jack’s football team.

With a blend of humour, action and honesty, My Private Pectus is a satisfying read.

My Private Pectus

My Private Pectus, by Shane Thamm
Ford Street, 2009

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

Fill Out This Application and Wait Over There, by Ruth Starke

When I got up, a note from my mother was on the fridge, as per usual. It said, ‘Some of us have to work, Hailee. What about you? You have now been unemployed for 17 days.’ She has posted a version of this note every day since school broke up. Typical of her to count the week-ends. The only way to shut her up is to apply for one of the easiest-to-get jobs around. Later, I can look for something more challenging and satisfying.

Hailee Moxie is having a gap year. She is going to work and save up for a trip to Asia, before deciding if she wants to go to Uni or do something better. There are plenty of jobs out there for school leavers – all she has to do is apply for one. But soon, Hailee is discovering that jobs aren’t so easy to come by, and (sometimes) even harder to keep. With her Escape to Asia account holding a mere $129.65, Hailee needs to get a job. Fast.

Fill Out This Application and Wait Over There is a funny diary format account of life at the bottom of the job market heap. Fresh out of school, Hailee learns the hard way that applying for jobs is tough, and that working in low paid jobs , with few perks, is even tougher. At the same time she navigates the minefield of friendships and family relationships.

Hailee is a caustic observer of the world around her, making scathing observations about workmates, supervisors, uniforms and more. Whilst this is funny, at times it also shows her lack of awareness of the real world, allowing readers to compare Hailee’s attitudes with their own experiences and with reality.

A humorous read for teens.

Fill Out This Application and Wait Over There

Fill Out This Application and Wait Over There, by Ruth Starke
Omnibus, 2009

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

Tensy Farlow and the Home for Mislaid children, by Jen Storer

‘Students!’ exclaimed Matron Pluckrose, shaking her head and searching the pockets of her jacket. ‘There have been no st-ew-dents here since the war.’
She fumbled with her cigarette pack. Tensy felt her face flush and her tummy tumble. She stopped laughing.
‘But excuse me, Madam Matron,’ she persisted. ‘Only, how can you have a boarding school without any students?’
Matron blew a cloud of smoke into the little girl’s face.
‘Child,’ she said, and her face was stony, ‘this is no school.’

Tensy Farlow is in danger. Abandoned as a baby on the front steps of a hospital, then almost drowned in the River Charon before being rescued by the kindly Albie Gribble, Tensy has now been dumped in the Home for Mislaid Children by her adopted parents. There the wicked Matron Plucknose seems to have it in for her. But Matron Plucknose is not the worst of her problems. Rather, it is the fact that she was born without a Guardian Angel which places her in mortal danger.

In the Home for Mislaid Children, Tensy does manage to make some friends – but she also has a growing number of enemies. And in a cave in the cliffs below the home lurks an evil being who wants Tensy’s life force. But perhaps, just perhaps, Tensy is the only one who can make a difference to this dark, dark world.

Tensy Farlow and the Home for Mislaid Children is a wonderful gothic novel for children, with a blend of humour, action and warmth amidst the darkness of a home where children are neglected and enslaved, and dark forces dwell. Red headed Tensy is innocent but feisty, and has a special quality which attracts the good hearted, whilst repelling the bad. Otehr characters are also appealing, including the various angels who pepper the book, and even the baddies are endearing for their humorous portrayal.

With hardcover format, vine leaf embellishments on every page, and a gorgeous story, this is a book to treasure.

Tensy Farlow and the Home for Mislaid Children

Tensy Farlow and the Home for Mislaid Children, by Jen Storer
Penguin, 2009

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

Transported – A Pioneer’s Story, by Terry Spring

Reviewed by Kathryn Duncan

George Smith’s story is not unusual; many people have risen from poverty to achieve great things in their life, but author Terry Spring’s Transportedlets us get to know a man who, with a little bit of luck, achieved a lot more than what was expected of convicts in the 1800s. George’s story is one of inspiration and proving you can overcome obstacles – sometimes with a bit of luck – but mostly with a lot of passion and determination.

Claiming to be the illegitimate son of the King, George leaves his country home after the death of his mother to try and make a living in London. But London is not what he expected and despite his efforts to get ahead, George is eventually left with no option but to steal, a decision that changes his life and eventually sees his death sentence become a life sentence in the new colony.

Arriving in Sydney Cove in 1825, George’s experience with cows sees him out looking for new grazing pastures, an enviable position for any convict. This opportunity changes George’s life. Over the years he becomes respected for his skills and the chance finding of gold sets him up for life – but only once he has his ticket of leave. The reader is left in no doubt though, that regardless of the gold find, George would have found a way to buy the land he desperately wanted.

George is ambitious and determined to own as much property as he can. He marries Mattie, an indigenous girl from the local tribe with whom he has five children. After her death, George marries Maria, a devoted wife who lovingly raises George’s children until her early death.

Terry Spring brings George’s story to life; we get to know his character, his ambitions and his achievements. George is not always likeable; his ambition to own land is almost obsessive and may have been to the detriment of his family relationships; he grabs every opportunity that presents itself to increase his land holdings, but does not want to spend money to improve the family’s living conditions.

We learn about the opening up of rural NSW, the hardships that existed at the time and it is a change to read a story where the focus is on a NSW convict.

Transported is the type of story that makes the reader want to research their own family history. This is an interesting and enjoyable story that will appeal to many readers.

Transported: A Pioneer’s Story Terry Spring
PB rrp $24.99

Posse, by Kate Welshman

‘Let’s give her some more time,’ she says. ‘I can see this all blowing up into something it isn’t. If we just give her some time to get over it…’ She rubs her neck and frowns. ‘We don’t want any of this stuff about Bevan to get out. We’ll all be in trouble. They’ve already got their hands on Deborah’s pictures.’ She squats beside Patricia. ‘You’ve got to stop this, Patricia. They’re going to know something’s up. Get a bloody grip.’

Amy and her classmates are on school camp and they are hot. The temperature is soaring, and tempers are frazzled. In particular, things are tense between Amy and her best friend Clare. The handsome camp leader Bevan is singling Amy out for attention, but it is Clare who has the hots for him. Amy, quite honestly, isn’t interested in men – she’s a lesbian.

But after yet another fight, Amy visits Bevan in his hut, and things quickly turn serious. Soon, Clare has disappeared and Amy and their other friends are left not sure what is going on or who to turn to. In the aftermath of the night, friendships are strained, adults and teens alike reveal their true colours, and Amy must learn to examine her motives and her real feelings.

Posse is a YA novel with bite. Amy is a lesbian who is open about and comfortable with her sexuality . She comes from a broken home, with her mother and grandmother both with issues about men and about reality. She hasn’t seen her father for five years, and resents his perceived abandonment of her. Her friendship circle – or Posse – is made up of intelligent, witty individuals who are each very different. The issues she must confront in Posse include friendship, family and honesty, in a package which will challenge readers.

Recommended for older teens.


Posse, by Kate Welshman
Random House, 2009

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