The Amazing Spencer Gray, by Deb Fitzpatrick

Sitting at the edge of the oval at lunchtime, Spencer chewed his ham and cheese sandwich while Leon slapped his thigh in excitement.
‘Spence, you utter, utter—-‘ Leon shook his head, unable to finish.
‘I know,’ Spencer nodded, head down, trying not to smile at them too gleefully. ‘Cool, hey.’
‘You’ve got the wickedest dad,’ Charlie said.

Spencer’s mates are pretty impressed when Spencer goes his chance to go up in his dad’s glider, but no one is more excited than Spencer himself. His dad loves flying, and Spencer has been hanging out for years to go up with him. When he finally gets his chance, he finds the experience just as wonderful as he thought it would be. Until the day that they fly into a storm, and Spencer has to use all his reserves of courage to survive.

The Amazing Spencer Gray is a an exciting story of survival, as well as of family and friendship. Spencer and his family have experienced lots of changes, and, like any family, have disagreements and ups and downs. Young readers will enjoy the adventure and the novelty of the gilder scenes. Also attractive is the West Australian setting, with the landscape around Bluff Knoll a feature.

Suitable for primary aged readers, The Amazing Spencer Gray is amazing.

The Amazing Spencer Gray

The Amazing Spencer Gray, by Deb Fitzpatrick
Fremantle Press, 2013
ISBN 9781922089328

Available from good bookstores and online.

A & R Classics: Twelve Classic Australian Stories

In 1882 David Angus arrived in Australia and established a bookshop. he hired Scot Robertson, marking the beginning of what was soon known as Angus & Robertson. From these beginnings as a second hand bookseller, the company soon branched into publishing, publishing names including Banjo Paterson,  C.J. Dennis and May Gibbs.  Over a century later, the proud A&R tradition is being continued by Harper Collins, under whose umbrella the Angus & Robertson publishing brand now falls, with the launch of A&R Australian Classics, bringing back to life titles from across the A&R history.

The first twelve titles were released in March, and include:

The Battlers, by Kylie Tennant
Capricornia, by Xavier Herbert
The Cattle King, by Ion L. Indriess
The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith, by Thomas Keneally
The Timeless Land, by Eleanor Dark
The Sundowners, by Jon Cleary
The Pea-Pickers, by Eve Langley
My Love Must Wait, by Ernestine Hill
My Brother Jack, by George Johnston
My Brilliant Career & My Career Goes Bung, by Miles Franklin
Coonardoo, by Katharine Susannah Pritchard
Come in Spinner, by Dymphna Cusack & Florence James

This is a wonderful opportunity to rediscover old favourites and to explore titles which are part of the rich heritage of Australian literature, at a reasonable price (the RRP is $14.99). Each title includes a biographical note about the author, as well as introductions or notes from authors.

Publisher blurbs and downloadable teaching guides for each title are available here.

Coonardoo (Australian Classics)

The Little Dinosaur by Catriona Hoy illustrated by Andrew Plant

Millions of years ago, in a time before Australia existed, there was a land called Gondwana. It was very cold there, even in summer. In winter it was dark all day and all night.

Millions of years ago, in a time before Australia existed, there was a land called Gondwana. It was very cold there, even in summer. In winter it was dark all day and all night.

The Little Dinosaur begins many millions of years ago, when dinosaurs roamed the land we now call Australia. The reader is introduced to a specific dinosaur, now known as a Leoellynasaura amicagraphica, who lived – and died – so long ago. Skip forward to now, when a bone, buried for so long, is discovered by a palaeontologist. Slowly, carefully she works with the rock that holds the bone. Working with a team of experts, the palaeontologist recreates this little dinosaur, so she can be introduced to the world. The cover shows the little dinosaur sitting atop a rock, queen of her world. End papers spill with information about prehistoric Australia and about dinosaurs. Illustrations are a mix of full colour spreads and vignettes, in warm and cool colours that evoke the seasons. They are full of prehistoric details, down to the particular species of Thylacine portrayed.

The Little Dinosaur is firstly a picture book for sharing with dinosaur-lovers. The author is a senior science teacher and the illustrator well-known for his depictions of dinosaurs. Together they provide a reading experience that combines the imagined world of an individual and factual information about the environment in which she and others lived. It links the living dinosaur and her world with today and the way we learn about the past. It also introduces those who work to understand more about these fascinating animals. For the classroom, The Little Dinosaur provides the basis for introducing many science concepts to young students. Gondwana with its very different climate, landscape and animals. Food chains, palaeontology, and much more. There are multiple links to curriculum. Recommended for lower- to mid-primary readers and dinosaur fans of any age.

The Little Dinosaur

The Little Dinosaur, Catriona Hoy ill Andrew Plant
Working Title Press 2012
ISBN: 9781921504396

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

Meet My Book: Portraits of Celina, by Sue Whiting

I’m always happy to have visitors, and, today’s visitor is my lovely friend and clever writer Sue whiting, here to take part in the Meet My Book feature. Over to you, Sue.

1. Give us the details – title, publisher, illustrator, release date.

Portraits of Celina, Walker Books Australia, April 2013


2. Why did you write the book?

To be perfectly honest – I don’t know! I started out writing a very different book for a much younger audience about a genie, but it wasn’t working. My daughter suggested I ditch the genie, but keep the setting, characters and backstory. I took her advice (there’s a first time for everything) and started exploring the characters and ended up writing a YA suspense novel about a vengeful ghost and a family dealing with grief!

3. How long from idea to publication?

As with many of my books, it was several years from idea to publication. I am not fast. I first started working on the novel in 2008, though the half-finished manuscript lingered in my bottom drawer for a year or more (probably more like two).

4. What was the hardest thing about writing it?

Finding the time. I work full time, and for a while I was using that as an excuse for not writing, until I gave myself a stern talking to and made myself find the time. Consequently, I wrote most of the book on the train during my morning commute to the office.

5. Coolest thing about your book?

The creepy, ghostly bits – they were so much fun to write! As one reviewer put it I “went head to head with a ghost”. Also, hidden in the scenes with Bayley and Oliver, I share an intimate moment from my own life – the moment I fell in love with my husband (when I was just sixteen also). And that is pretty cool.

6. Something you learnt through writing the book?

Many things!
One: You can write a YA novel, work full time and keep your sanity (just).
Two: Writing romance scenes is REALLY hard.
Three: Writing darker themes and scary scenes is awesome.

7. What did you do celebrate the release?

On the day the book was released, I went to Kinokuniya Bookshop in Sydney with my daughter (to whom the book is dedicated) and her friend, took a cheesy photo of the girls holding the book in front of the display on the New Releases and then we went to High Tea in the Queen Victoria Building and toasted Celina with chilled glasses of champagne.

8. And how will you promote the book?

I have done a number of promotional activities with The Children’s Bookshop at Beecroft – a teacher/librarian event and some school visits. I also have a few festivals coming up: Sydney Writers’ Festival, Voices on the Coast, Southern Highlands Writers’ Festival, Ipswich Festival of Children’s Literature, as well as a couple of days of events with Westbooks in Perth. I also use my blog and Facebook page to publicise reviews and events and look out for opportunities to do interviews etc.

9. What are you working on next?

I am working on a new YA novel. It has the working title of The Awful Truth and is all about lies (and love and crime).

10. Where we can find out more about you and your book?
Facebook: here.
Publisher: Walker Books.
Buy online: here.

Thanks for sharing Sue. You can see my review of Portraits of Celina here.

Seadog, by Claire Saxby, illustrated by Tom Jellett

Our dog is not a trick dog,
a sit-still-then-roll-over dog.
Our dog is a seadog,
a jump-and-chase-the=waves dog.

Seadog is not well-trained, well groomed, trip-performing dog. Instead he is a fun lvng puppy who loves the sea and everything about it: the sounds, the sights and even – perhaps especially – the smells. And it is the smells that get him in trouble, because after he rolls in smelly fish he has to be taken home and washed. Seadog does not like the suds and water of a bath but he endures it, and is soon clean and fluffy – but only until someone opens the door.

Seadog is a delightful romp of a tale about a dog who loves the sea. In turn he is loved by his family and will be loved by young readers. The text is rhythmic and uses repetition, alliteration and internal rhymes to create something fun to read and to listen to. Kids will love joining in, especially on repeat readings, which will be in demand. Illustrations, by Tom Jellett, are a delight, and the big red Seadog comes to life against sandy yellows and watery blues which really capture the feel of the beach.

Perfect for early childhood, this is a book which warms the heart with its zest for life.


Seadog, by Claire Saxby and Tom Jellett
Random House, 2013
ISBN 9781742756509

Available from good bookstores and online.

Shallow Breath, by Sara Foster

The question begins to circle her as she hangs in the freezing dark water. The surface is only a few metres above, and she kicks her fins hard. Nothing happens. She is still trapped. Alone.

Desi Priest is coming home – but it’s not a joy filled homecoming. Two years ago she made a terrible mistake which shattered the lives of her family and that of her best friend, Rebecca. Some people are happy to see her – especially her good friend, Pete, who has been there for her for years. Others, like her daughter Maya have mixed feelings. It’s hard to forgive a mother who ahs missed so man important milestones. And others Desi is sure will not be happy to see her.

One person, though, Desi doesn’t expect to be waiting for her. There is a woman she has never met who shares a bond with Desi and with Maya. She has come seeking Desi’s help. If Desi helps her, she is risking her life and her already fragile future. If she doesn’t she may be turning her back on her beliefs, and placing Maya at risk. As she struggles with both her past and the present, Desi and her family come to grips with what has happened and face some uncomfortable truths.

Shallow Breath could easily have been an overcomplicated novel – there are seven or eight viewpoint characters, settings in five continents, and a slew of issues being addressed. But Foster draws them all together beautifully, and the switches are part of the layering of understanding which takes the reader on a journey towards understanding what has gone on and what is happening now. Several of the ke characters are animal lovers, keen to rescue or help animals including dolphins, whale sharks, elephants and kangaroos, and this is linked too to issues of domestic abuse and violence, ensuring that the various subplots link. Foster also has a keen sense of place, and West Australian readers will love the setting of Yanchep and Atlantis Marine Park both during its years of operation and now, abandoned as it is.

Shallow Breath invites breathless anticipation, building towards a shocking climax. It is a really satisfying read.

Shallow Breath

Shallow Breath, by Sara Foster
Bantam, 2013
ISBN 9781742753997

Available from good bookstores and online.

Definitely No Ducks, by Meg McKinlay

Everyone crowded in behind Abby, craning to see.
“Oh dear,” said Melvino.
“Our glacier!” said Lianna.
“Our whale!” said Sam.
“Quack!” said Max.

Max is back. He charmed readers in Duck for a Day, and now this wonderful little duck, and his human friends Abby and Noah (and their classmates) are back in a new adventure. If you haven’t yet met Max, what you should know is that he is a special duck – because he’s the class duck. He waddles around the classroom, curling up on the feet of the children and brightening their lives. He’s especially made a difference to Noah, helping him build in confidence and bringing Noah and Abby together as friends. Now, though, Max is in trouble. Someone – or something – has destroyed the class Antarctica display, and the principal says he will have to go. Abby and Noah are determined to prove that Max is not the culprit. If they don’t they’ll lose him.

Definitely No Ducks! is as compassionately quirky as its predecessor.  The concept of a class duck, and a teacher with a touch of Mary Poppins magic about her, is one which will amuse young readers, but the messages about honesty and acceptance and friendship, are important ones, and ones which McKinlay handles deftly.

This is a delightful little offering which will appeal to readers ages six and up,  and would be perfect for sharing in a classroom setting – though it may lead to pressure for a new classroom pet!

Definitely No Ducks!

Definitely No Ducks!, by Meg McKinlay & Leila Rudge
Walker Books, 2013
ISBN 9781921977855

Available from good bookstores or online.

Meet My Book: Clementine Rose and the Perfect Present, by Jacqueline Harvey

I’m having lots of fun ‘meeting’ the new releases of wonderful Aussie authors. Today it’s time to hear from the wonderful Jacqueline Harvey, here to tell us about her latest book. Welcome Jacqueline.

  1. Give us the details – title, publisher, illustrator, release date.

My latest book is Clementine Rose and the Perfect Present; Random House released 1 May 2013.  This is my third book for the year and it’s the third book in the Clementine Rose series.

Clementine Rose and the Perfect Present

2. Why did you write the book?

Clementine Rose and the Perfect Present is the third book in a series about a very sweet little girl and the adventures she has with her family and her teacup pig called Lavender.

3. How long from idea to publication?

I started writing the book in November 2012, although the idea had been percolating for a couple of months before that.  It has been a very fast turnaround as there are eight Clementine Rose books currently contracted with Random House and the release dates are only three months apart.
4. What was the hardest thing about writing it?

Time!  I’ve got two characters, Clementine Rose and Alice-Miranda on the go at the moment and this year there will be 6 new books including the Alice-Miranda diary for 2014.  Until  November last year I was working full time as the Director of Development at a school for girls in Sydney and writing on the weekends, in the evenings and during my holidays (basically anytime I wasn’t asleep or at work).  When I finished up at work I went on tour with Random House straight away so it really wasn’t until early December that I could get my teeth into the book properly.  Then it was incredibly intense with lots of writing and re-writing over the next month or so – I basically locked myself away for the summer and wrote.
5. Coolest thing about your book?

I think the coolest thing about my book is that there is a wedding at Clementine’s house in a huge marquee in the back garden.  Many of the guests are Sri Lankan and wear beautiful saris.  Clementine is very impressed by the fact that there is a wedding and with her penchant for clothes, she adores seeing the bride and guests.  The wedding planner, Sebastian Smote is pretty funny too.
6. Something you learnt through writing the book?

I had to do some research about Sri Lankan customs and what their flag looked like too.  I also learned about different types of cicadas but I can’t tell you why or it would give away the surprise.

7. What did you do celebrate the release?

Alice-Miranda in Paris was launched on the 1st March and we had a huge afternoon tea party at Shearer’s in Leichhardt with delicious French food, a fashion parade and craft activities where the girls fashioned colourful berets for Alice-Miranda to wear.  We had a second party at the Children’s Bookshop at Beecroft a couple of weeks ago.  Clementine’s book, coming hot on the heels of Alice-Miranda has been a little more low key but I’ve been touring schools and last weekend spent a couple of hours at the PLC Croydon Fair promoting both books.  In a couple of weeks we’ll celebrate at the official reopening of a lovely bookshop in St Ives called Book Review.
8. And how will you promote the book?

On my blogs and website, the Random House website, touring schools, visiting bookshops and any other publicity opportunities that come along.
9. What are you working on next?

I have just finished the structural edits for Alice-Miranda Shines Bright and Clementine Rose and the Farm Fiasco a week apart.  Now I am starting on the ninth Alice-Miranda title but at the moment I’m still debating exactly what it’s going to be.
10. Where we can find out more about you and your book?

I have a website and two blogs, and They are all linked and I try to update the blogs as often as I can.

Thanks Jacqueline. Clementine Rose and the Perfect Present is available now in good bookstores or online.

Meet My Book: Sea Dog, by Claire Saxby, illustrated by Tom Jellett

I’m loving having Aussie authors drop in to tell us all about their latest book. Today I’m especially pleased to welcome my friend, and wonderful children’s author Claire Saxby.Claire is here to tell us all about her beautiful new book, Sea Dog. Over to you, Claire.

1. Give us the details – title, publisher, illustrator, release date.

Seadog, illustrated by Tom Jellett, Random House. Release date was 1 May.


2. Why did you write the book?

I’ve always wanted to write a book about a dog, but even though we’ve had one for the past 6 years, it has taken until recently to find a way to do it. I wanted to capture the boundless joy that dogs seem to have for life. They don’t always do what we might like them to do, but there’s something about they way they are at the beach that is so free. I think children are the same, particularly at the beach. The beach is calming, energising, fun, messy, and hot/cold. And joyful.

3. How long from idea to publication?

This was a short one by picture book standards. I think it was less than two years from concept (in this form) to release. Although I confess to multiple previous attempts that fizzled before even becoming complete horrible first drafts.

4. What was the hardest thing about writing it?

Trusting myself. Letting go and just having fun with it. Getting close in, getting far enough away from the facts to find the fiction.

5. Coolest thing about your book?

To share the joy that a dog can bring. Tom’s illustrations are amazing. Seadog is so expressive.

6. Something you learnt through writing the book?

Not so much learnt but reinforced how much fun there is in playing with words.

7. What did you do celebrate the release?

I’ve had a ‘coastal launch’ for Seadog, but the official launch is yet to come. That’s 2 June at the 10th Williamstown Literary Festival. 2 pm. All welcome. 🙂

8. And how will you promote the book?

I’ve a few school visits planned, I’ll visit bookshops and libraries for story time. I’m also doing some promotion online via my blog.

9. What are you working on next?

I can’t quite decide. I have several projects I’d like to tackle, just can’t decide which one …

10. Where we can find out more about you and your book?

At my website, or my blog Seadog can be seen in bookshops EVERYWHERE!

Thanks for dropping in, Claire. It’s always a pleasure to chat with you.

Meet My Book: Guinea Pig Town and Other Poems, by Lorraine Marwood

I’m really pleased today to welcome brilliant poet, Lorraine Marwood, to the Aussiereviews blog. Lorraine has agreed to take part in the ‘Meet My Book’ feature. Over to Lorraine, and her answers to my questions.

1. Give us details: title, publisher, illustrator, release date.

My latest title is  Guinea Pig town and other poems about animals. Published by Walker Books Australia, illustrated by Amy Daoud and the release date was 1st April 2013.

Guinea Pig Town and Other Animal Poems

2. Why did you write the book?

I already have two collections of poetry with Walker and after discussion with my publisher we wanted a brand new collection of poems all about animals.

3. How long from idea to publication?

About 18 months of intense writing, re-writing, editing.

4. What was the hardest thing about writing it?

I think the hardest part was the whole nebulous idea of an animal poetry collection , but once the title poem was written (I wrote and sent poems in batches to be read by my publisher and editor) then the whole book suddenly took shape and direction.

5. The coolest thing about your book.

There were several cool moments- one was writing a flamingo poem after a visit to a restaurant garden several floors up in London (with flamingos)and after discovering the horn of a narwhal in Scotland. Also the way I wanted the cover designed and the breaking up of chapters into roads, crescents, avenues, all following the lead from the title poem ‘Guinea pig town’.

6. Something you learnt through writing the book?

That plunging in with an idea gradually takes shape and form and writing directs more writing. (Well I already knew this but it was reinforced.) Also that I love to research facts about an animal before writing. Very important for me as a poet.

7. What did you do to celebrate the release?

I had two fabulous launches on the one day sponsored by the local Bendigo library and the wonderful children’s librarian Tammy complete with an animal farm for kids to hold guinea pigs. There was a huge response.

8. And how will you promote the book?

Through facebook, school visits, my own blog and the writing of a poetry strategy to share the love of animals and poetry.

9 What are you working on next?

Ah, a bigger novel, another verse novel and of course I’d love to write another poetry collection- any ideas for themes?

10. Where can we find out more about you and your book?

Through my web site.
through the Walker Books website and through my blog.

Also I have a facebook author page

Thanks Sally for a great Aussiereviews site.

Lorraine Marwood

Thanks Lorraine. You can see my review of Guinea Pig Town here