Four Great Aussie Stories

Reviewed by Dee White

As I was reading all four of these wonderful stories by Australian authors, I was reminded that the ability to laugh at ourselves, and rise up in the face of adversity is so much part of our culture – and has an important place in our literature.

All of these stories embody themes like friendship, finding a way out of difficult situations, loyalty and teamwork – each an integral part of the Australian way of life.

These Aussie School Books are relevant, easy to read and full of fun, and young readers will find them hard to put down.

Sailing in the Alice, by Kim Rackham,illustrated by Ben Hutchings
ISBN: 9781921255397

There’s a reason Mia’s family has carried a large empty cardboard box halfway across Australia.

They’re planning to turn it into a boat to race on the Todd River in Central Australia.

It takes Mia a while to get into the spirit of the race but eventually, she becomes just as excited about Soggy Sadie as the rest of her family.

In Sailing in the Alice, Mia learns that you don’t have to win a race in order to have fun.

Kim Rackham’s great characters and fun descriptions are bound to give young readers a ‘giggle attack’ similar to the ones that make Mia’s Aunt Sadie cry with laughter.

The action takes place in a uniquely Australian setting, and Ben Hutching’s illustrations help the reader feel as if they there on the banks of the Todd River.

Young readers will enjoy the humour and action of Sailing in the Alice, as well as its truly Australian flavour.

The Big Blowie,by Sally Murphy, illustrated by Craig Longmuir
ISBN: 9781921255366

Where else but Australia would a germ-spreading pest become the hero of a children’s story?

As Sally Murphy shows in her book, The Big Blowie, blow flies can be good for some things. If somebody doesn’t come up with an idea soon, the drought-stricken town of Lake Blowie is going to evaporate off the Tourist Map forever. That’s when ‘young Syd’ decides to tap into Australians’ love of all things big to create a stunning new attraction.

Everyone works together to get behind Sid’s great idea, and save their beloved town.

Sally Murphy’s colourful characters and their quirks give The Big Blowie humour and credibility.

The Big Blowie is for kids seeking a quick read that will amuse and entertain them from start to finish.

Emily’s Sheepdog,by Tracey Slater,illustrated by Phong Lam
ISBN: 97811921255427

A common thread in children’s books is to see the main character develop as a result of what happens to them in the story. Emily’s Sheepdog is a prime example of this.

Emily wants her very own dog for a pet, but on a farm, every animal has a job to do, and there’s no room for a dog that’s just a pet.

This doesn’t stop Emily. She uses all her ingenuity and imagination to acquire her very own sheepdog.

This clever story uses action, description and realistic dialogue to convey Emily’s plight.

Author Tracey Slater’s engaging story gives children an insight into rural Australian life.

Young readers will enjoy Phong Lam’s expressive illustrations, and the humour that Tracey injects into Emily’s Sheepdog.

Backyard Battles, by Trudie Trewin, illustrated by Craig Longmuir
ISBN: 9781921255410

What could be more Australian than a game of backyard cricket? Trudie Trewin uses this popular summer pass time as the setting for Backyard Battles, a story about working together as a team, and not judging people by first impressions.

When Lavender Street is challenged to a match by Snapdragon Street, it’s game on. Rivals, batsman extraordinaire Gazza, and super speedy bowler Sarah are forced to play on the same side to save the honour of their street.

Trudie Trewin has used clever dialogue and active language like, ‘bounced’, ‘stamped’ and whack to build up the tension in Backyard Battles.

As the two teams slog it out, Gazza and Sarah must work together to win their toughest cricket challenge yet, and in the process they develop a new respect for each other.

7-8 year old readers will enjoy this action packed story, and Craig Longmuir’s fun illustrations.

Published by Aussie School Books Pty Ltd
PB RRP $9.95 (ea)

Reviews by Dee White

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

Shape Shifters, by Goldie Alexander

Acacia had vanished. In her place was a tree with curly, yellow leaves. Every branch was covered in prickles.
Penny gasped. She couldn’t believe what her eyes were showing her. She blinked and blinked.

Penny is amazed when she sees the new girl, Lei-Lei, change the school bully into a tree. Lei-Lei has learnt to shape shift, and now Penny wants to learn to do it, too. Soon, both girls are able to shape-shift when they are in danger, but next they must learn to use this skill only for good.

Shape Shifters is an intriguing fantasy offering for primary aged readers. Kids will enjoy the novelty of the girls’ shape-shifting skills. At just 48 pages long and with plenty of illustrative support, Shape Shifters is ideal for children making the transition to junior novels.

Shape Shifters is part of the Aussie School Books series.

Shape Shifters, by Goldie Alexander
Aussie School Books, 2007