Dead Man's Gold, by Michael Torres

The sun was rising when Billy Stone left his family sleeping in their swags and set of for Black Hills Station. The station was getting ready for a cattle muster, and Bill was the best drover around. It was a clear morning, and the chatter of birds filled the air.

It’s an ordinary day for Billy when he sets out to Black Hills Station for the upcoming cattle muster. He’s a skilled drover and comfortable making his way through this challenging landscape. But this trip is going to be extraordinary, even before he reaches the station. When he stops at a waterhole to fill his water bag, Billy discovers a silver gun. He buries the bones he finds with the gun and determines to discover how they came to be there. There are still prospectors around and Billy learns about the hold that gold has over these men, past and present. Gentle watercolour images add to the wonder and mystery of this country.

Dead Man’s Gold is an outback story, an adventure, a treasure hunt, all rolled into one. It’s also a story about doing the right thing. Billy is a hero in the mould of old Western stories. He’s travelling alone, and overcomes every setback man or nature throws at him. His moral core is strong, although he’s not above a little mischief. He’s open, honest and very skilful. But he’s also prepared to learn from an old timer who shares his gold-mining secrets. Boys particularly will respond to this laid-back tale of adventure and mystery. Stories of the skills of Aboriginal stockmen are legend around campfires and on stations. Dead Man’s Gold brings one of these stories to a broader audience. Recommended for mid-primary readers.

Dead Man's Gold

Dead Man’s Gold, Michael Torres ill Sharyn Egan
Magabala Books 2010
ISBN: 9781921248191

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

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

A Girl Like Me, by Penny Matthews

Bertha gives me a look of such blazing fury that I flinch.
‘How would you have any idea about what’s right or wrong?’ she spits.
‘You think you’re so much better than me, don’t you? I’m not like you, Emmie, and I never will be.’

Emmie wants to be a writer, even though her family and friends scoff at the idea. She feels it unfair that she must stay at home and help her mother instead of continuing her education like her brother. So she sets to work at writing her novel – a stormy romance set in Yorkshire, far from the South Australian hills where she lives.

When Bertha Schippan comes to work around Emmie’s home, Emmie doesn’t know what to make of her. The young German girl seems a bit wild, but she is also full of life, and funny. When Emmie realises Bertha has terrible secrets, she wonders if tragedies can happen close tohome, jsut as much as they can happen in far away Yorkshire.

based partially on true events, A Girl Like Me is a beautiful novel for teen readers. Part coming of age story, part mystery, and set early last century, the story is finely crafted, with a balance of action and character development that totally absorbs the reader.

Wonderful reading.

A Girl Like Me

A Girl Like Me, by Penny Matthews
Penguin, 2010

This book can be purchased online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews. review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

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

Sam's Bush Journey, by Sally Morgan and Ezekiel Kwaymullina

Sam loved staying with his nanna, except for one thing.
Her house was surrounded by bush.
Nana liked to take Sam for long walks. But when they got home, Sam’s legs and arms would be covered in scratches from the spiky shrubs that grew in the bush.

Sam and his grandmother, Nanna, go for long walks in the bush. Nanna tells him all about the bush, about safe foods and shelter. But for Sam, the bush is full of danger and annoyance. There are gum trees that might drop their branches on him, and mosquitos and pesky mosquitos at the waterhole. But while his conscious self focuses on the things he doesn’t like, perhaps he is absorbing the teaching Nanna offers. In a dream, he is in the bush and lost. Piece by piece, he recalls Nanna’s words. When he wakes in his bed the next morning, extra-hungry, his view of the bush has begun to change. Bronwyn Bancroft’s colourful illustrations show a wonderful bush, full of colour and life.

Sam takes two journeys in this beautiful picture book. The first is the physical one through the bush, where he sees only the dark things, the potential for danger, the scratchy branches and the itch-making mosquitos. Nanna expresses no disappointment, just keeps providing information that Sam appears not to appreciate. But his dream takes him back into the same country and the reader discovers that Sam has learned more than seemed apparent. Knowledge is passed on and Sam begins to see beyond the obvious and to develop his own relationship with the bush. The message is simple and clear and the illustrations are bright and colourful. In the background are dark figures, perhaps suggesting that the wisdom imparted by his grandmother has come from the land itself. Recommended for junior primary readers.

Sam’s Bush Journey, Sally Morgan and Ezekiel Kwaymullina ill Bronwyn Bancroft
Little Hare 2010
ISBN: 9781921541728

Sam's Bush Journey

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

This book can be purchased online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews. review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

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

Grimsdon, by Deborah Abela

It wasn’t exactly stealing – it hadn’t been that for a long time, not since the floods came and wiped away everything they’d known.
Isabella was with the other kids, searching rooms, looking through cupboards and drawers. This time they were in a grand building with tall ceilings and views overlooking the harbour, but the furniture was tattered, the walls smudged with mould, and a chill wind cut through smashed windowpanes.

The city has been flooded by huge waves. Most of the people are gone, the buildings are abandoned, their feet deep in the new high tide line. For three years, Isabella, Griffin, Fly and twins Raffy and Bea have survived here on their own. They use flying foxes to get around, and found treasure to barter with the few adults they know. They live in an opulent apartment, an almost mystical dwelling, filled as it is with toy rooms, costumes and unusual furniture. Then Xavier arrives, flying his Aerotrope. Like the wonderfully inventive Griffin, Xavier can make amazing machines from unusual components. Xavier is accepted into their group, despite Griffin’s suspicions. Xavier shows them a bigger world. They offer him friendship. But there are mysteries here. Where did Xavier come from? Where are all the adults? Were the floods inevitable? Are there really sea monsters?

Deborah Abela gives the reader a super-paced adventure mystery, set in an abandoned city where water keeps the protagonists captive. Grimsdon uses multiple viewpoints but most of the action is voiced by Isabella, Griffin and Xavier. None tell their complete story though. Each has secrets. Adults are portrayed as thugs or bullies, with the exception of a scientist, discovered in the State Library. The children establish their own family and pool their skills to survive. The cover art suggests a very dark tale, and although intense and dystopian, there is plenty of hope and light in the relationships forged by the flooding disaster. The ending brings change, and character revelations, but offers hope for the future of the children, and for their world. Recommended for mid- to upper-primary readers.


Grimsdon, Deborah Abela
Random House Australia 2010
ISBN: 9781741663723

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

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

All Together Now, by Phil Cummings & Cassandra Allen

There’s a poor desperate dad, sighing, almost crying.
He puts his hands on his hips, turns to his kids,
Who are getting ready for a holiday and says,

Throw your bags on the truck, kids
Throw your bags on the truck.
Stop your running amuck, kids
And throw your bags on the truck.

Poor Dad. All he’s trying to do is get going on the camping holidays. But his kids, and there are a lot of them, seem determined to stop it happening. Not wilfully, just because they’re busy doing other things like teasing little sisters, and making kid towers and playing with the dog. But eventually they are on their way. The trip is longer and windier than some passengers enjoy and all are happy to arrive at the campsite. When the car is unpacked there’s time to watch the stars before dinner and a campfire singalong. Illustrations in warm tones show the magic of the bush and the wonders that are there to be found. They also beautifully capture the energy of the children.

All Together Now takes the rhythm of Rolf Harris’ ‘Tie Me Kangaroo Down’ and creates a story of family and camping. There’s a suggestion initially that the amount of work required might not be worth it, but it seems the memories of past outings keep Dad going through the packing stage. Any family who has been camping will recall all the parts of this story: the packing, the driving, the arriving, the experience, the joy of being in the bush. Those who have not been camping might just be tempted. And like ‘Tie Me Kangaroo Down’, these words just beg to be sung. Recommended for preschool and early primary children.

All Together Now

All Together Now, Phil Cummings ill Cassandra Allen
Omnibus Books
ISBN: 9781862918696

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

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

Count My Kisses, Little One, by Ruthie May & Tamsin Ainslie

Count My Kisses, Little One is a first counting book. A small girl frolics through the pages with ‘baby’ (a toy dog), and friends Rabbit and Bear (not that any are named). Numbers one to ten are counted in kisses as the group make their way through a single day. They play inside and out, read a story, have a bath and prepare for bed. The small girl is ‘mother’ looking after her ‘baby’. On each page there are hearts (kisses) to count, accompanied by a simple rhyme. Illustrations are gentle watercolours on a cream page, soft and beautiful. Count My Kisses, Little Oneis a square format hardback with a musk pink spine. The four characters dance their way across the cover, surrounded by kisses.

Count My Kisses, Little One is a lovely book for babies first being introduced to books and to numbers. There are lots of extras for them to find after the kisses have been counted. The activities of a normal day are modelled throughout, finishing with ‘baby’ being tucked up in bed. Small children will recognise and enjoy this portrayal of these familiar daily activities. Recommended for babies and preschool children.

Count My Kisses, Little One

Count My Kisses, Little One, Ruthie May ill Tamsin Ainslie
Little Hare 2010
ISBN: 9781921541254

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

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

The Magic Fair, by Sally Morgan

Kayla felt excited when she woke up.
The Magic Fair was in town! She had heard so many wonderful stories about the Fair. She could hardly believe she was finally going to see it for herself.
When Kayla arrived at the Fair with Uncle Mike and her cousin Peter, she was more excited than ever. But when she saw the sign hanging over the entrance gate, she shivered.

Kayla is going to the Magic Fair with her Uncle Mike and cousin Peter. She’s excited but not quite sure what to expect, particularly when the entrance sign advises caution. Peter pays no attention and when Uncle Mike leaves them to do their own thing, Peter takes off leaving Kayla behind. On her own, Kayla discovers all sorts of magical surprises throughout the Fair as she tries to find her naughty cousin. The Magic Fair gives Kayla a chance to have some fun and Peter a chance to atone for his bullying. Black and white illustrations appear on almost every opening.

The Magic Fair is a new title in Fremantle Press’s Waarda series for newly independent readers. They are small paperbacks with rich stories featuring indigenous families. Some are traditional stories while others, like The Magic Fair, are more contemporary. The message here is clear that bullies need to learn that their actions will have consequences. Kayla is cross with her cousin but rather than just be angry, she follows him to try to take him to account. She is helped in this by magical elements of the Fair. The Fair becomes almost like another character, guiding and helping her to find Peter. Sally Morgan also edits the Waarda Series. The final pages tell a little of her own story and why she wrote The Magic Fair . Recommended for readers ready to transition to short chapter books.

The Magic Fair , Sally Morgan
Fremantle Press 2010

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

This book can be purchased online from Fishpond.

Thirteen Pearls, by Melaina Faranda

Out of the evening shadows two faces looked down at me. Both young men. Both good looking. One Eurasian face with olive skin and dark eyes. The other haloed by a wild mane of hair. He was trying not to laugh.
‘I’m fine,’ I said. I wanted to cry.

Edie Sparks has a dream. She wants to sail solo around the world. But first she needs to finish her boat and, for that, she needs money. So when her long lost uncle offers her a job babysitting his four year old son over the summer, she jumps at the chance.

Soon she is on a tiny island off the coast of Far North Queensland, battling a seemingly uncontrollable child and a sullen, controlling uncle. The only bright side of the island are the two workers – Kaito and Leon.

Thirteen Pearls , part of the Girlfriend Fiction series, is a pleasing blend of adventure, romance and personal development. Whilst Edie learns, through trial and error, to care for and control her young charge, she also learns a lot about herself. At the same time, the story is liberally sprinkled with humour, with Edie a wry first person narrator.

An absorbing read.

Thirteen Pearls (Girlfriend Fiction), by Melaina Faranda
Allen & Unwin, 2010

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

I Love Me, by Bev Aisbett

Do you feel that life has left you out in the cold?
Do you feel unloved, unwanted or overlooked?
Do you reach out to others for support only to find that they leave you disappointed or dissatisfied?

Every person has times in his or her life when it seems no one is on their side. When you feel this way it is easy to also feel angry, hurt or depressed. But, says Bev Aisbett, author of I Love Me, there is one person you can always trust and rely on: yourself.

I Love Me is a simple guide to becoming your own best friend. Using cartoon style illustration and large, minimal text, the book is quick to read and easy to absorb. there are no lengthy sermons or detailed reflections – just no-nonsense talk aimed at helping readers forgive and love themselves.

From the author of Living With IT this is a helpful, uplifting offering.

I Love Me: A Guide to Being Your Own Best Friend

I Love Me: A Guide to Being Your Own Best Friend, by Bev Aisbett
Harper Collins, 2010

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

The Limping Man, by Maurice Gee

He was a small man, dressed in blood-red robes with yellow flames crawling upwards from the hem, and a cloth crown rising in folds and bulging at the back, where ribbons drooped over his shoulders like a waterfall. She had never seen a man dressed so foolishly. How could he hide? How could he get away when someone chased him? Then she remembered that he did not need to.

The Limping Man controls everyone who comes near him. But Hana and her mother are free of his power, until the day his soldiers raid the burrow, and Mam swallows poison rather than be burnt as a witch in People’s Square. Hana flees the city and in the forests and jungles beyond she makes friends with others who live beyond the Limping man’s reach.

When she meets Ben, son of Lo, they set out on a quest to discover the secret of the Limping man’s power and thus destroy him before his evil consumes the world.

The Limping Man is the gripping finale to the Salt trilogy, and, like its predecessors, moves skilfully through the physical and mental journeys of the characters. Each character has strengths and flaws which make them both likeable and real, and favourite characters from earlier offerings make appearances. The plot builds smoothly, with enough obstacles to keep the reader guessing.

Those who have not read the first two books could red this as a stand alone offering, but will get most value from reading the three sequentially.

The Limping Man (Salt Trilogy)

The Limping Man , by Maurice Gee
Text, 2010

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