Platypus Deep, by Jill Morris

Reviewed by Alison Miles

Having recently met the author, and having seen much of her work collected together, the abiding regard she holds for Australia’s native wildlife became vividly apparent. Along with many talented artists, Jill has brought the bush to young readers with such characters as golden wombats, fig parrots, crocodiles, geckos and platypuses. In this she could be compared favourably with another Queenslander, Narelle Oliver.

Platypus Deep follows Orni the platypus as he searches for a deeper home. It is this search that shows both platypus and reader how important the creek system has been to many animals over millions of years.

Orni’s journey visits the familiar imagery of Jill’s books – native animals facing nature while living in a world dominated by humans. The author lives in Maleny where non-fictional platypuses have recently experienced the disruption of human intervention.

A reading of this lyrical narrative suggests a quiet creek setting with just the trickle of a waterfall and FLIP FLOP of Orni’s flippers to rustle the peace. A carefully measured repetition of sounds and the appearance of echidna hunting for ants leads to a beautifully balanced book. It is hoped that Platypus Deep will continue to introduce this curious animal to children, and not be the only remaining evidence of its existence.

(For children aged 3-10)

Platypus Deep, by Jill Morris & Heather Gall
Greater Glider Productions, 2006
ISBN 0947304 74 6

© alison miles, 2006.

Mudflat Murder, by Rose Trapnell

Cricket wants only one thing more desperately than to be allowed into the Mangrove Grang – and that is to win the respect of his dad. If he can prove he is brave enough to join the gang, he is sure his dad will think more highly of him.

But, when a body is found in the mudflats and there is a crime spree around town, Cricket is caught up in something more serious than a kids’ gang.

With his friend Daniel he is determined to solve the mystery AND win Dad’s admiration. That’s if he survives that long.

Mudflat Murder is a mystery story but also deals with issues such as peer pressure, bullying and family relationships.

A sound story for ten to thirteen year old readers.

Mudflat Murder, by Rose Trapnell
Greater Glider, 2003

The Wombat Who Talked to the Stars

Unlike their cousins, the Southern Hairy-Nosed Wombat and the Common Wombat, the Northern Hairy-Nosed Wombat is seriosuly endangered. There are only 113 Northern Hairy-Nosed Wombats living in the wild. In this delightful children’s book Jill Morris explores the plight of these creatures using a combination of fact and fiction.

Presented as a journal from the first person perspective of one the wombats, Male Number 25, the book explores the differences between the Northern Hairy-Nosed and its cousins, its habitat, the events which have led to its near-extinction and what is being done to save it.

Male 25 uses a variety of writing forms in his diary – a poem, charts, diagrams, recount and simple reporting of facts and is ably supported by the illustrations of Sharon Dye, who also uses a variety of techniques, including aged parchment backgrounds, botanical illustrations and full colour spreads.

The Wombat Who Talked to the Stars has won a swag of awards since it was first published in 1997, including the Excellence in Educational Publishing Award (1997), the Best Children’s Book in the Whitely Awards (1997) and a shortlisting for the Eve Pownall Award, 1998.

The Wombat Who Talked to the Stars is excellent nonfiction about a subject that should be important to all Australians.

The Wombat Who Talked to the Stars, by Jill Morris and Sharon Dye
Greater Glider, 1997, reprinted 2004

Harry the Hairy-Nosed Wombat, by Jill Morris

Harry lives in a tunnel under a limestone rock. He comes out at night to walk to his favourite feeding spot. He likes his life near the sea. But one day men in big machines come and start moving the rocks and clearing a space for a new road. When Harry comes out that night he is scared and runs back to his tunnel. In the days that follow work progresses on the road and Harry finds it harder to get out of his tunnel each night, until the men realise the problem and come up with a solution.

Harry the Hairy-Nosed Wombat is one of six stories in this illustrated collection. Others focus on a red kangaroo called Rufus, a platypus called Percy as well as a possum, a koala and a numbat. Each story tells a tale of the adventures of one animal as it interacts with humans, but also highlights the uniqueness of the plight of the particular species.

With each story five or six pages long and supported by three illustrations, this title is best suited for reading aloud to those in early primary, or for independent reading for those aged eight and over. It would make great bed time reading and also an excellent classroom resource.

Harry the Hairy-Nosed Wombat & Other Australian Animal Tales, by Jill Morris, illustrated by Tina Wilson
Greater Glider, 2003

Koala Number One, by Jill Morris

Until now, Kolo has lived with his mother, safe within the koala colony. Now, though, his father tells him he must leave. There can be only one big male koala in the colony.

Out on his own, Kolo has difficulty finding a safe place to live. Much of his habitat has been destroyed, and he faces feral predators and other perils such as cars and bushfire. Finding food and shelter is his greatest challenge, but finding company his greatest desire, as he finds it is no fun being alone.

Koala Number One is a fictional story but, like all of the author’s books, is also very educational. Children are being given a glimpse of the threats faced by koalas as man encroaches on what was once koala territory. As well as facts and information scattered within the story, the final page of the book also presents relevant facts.

The illustrations of Heather Gall are a superb complement to the text of Jill Morris, with delightfully detailed depitctions of the koalas, the bush and more.

Koala Number One is suitable for ages 4 to 8 and, as an educational tool is appropriate even for upper primary aged students.


Koala Number One, by Jill Morris, illustrated by Heather Gall
Greater Glider, 2004

Wombat Down Below, by Jill Morris

Big Foot the Northern Hairy-nosed Wombat lives alone in his comfortable burrow. He comes out at night to feed and exercise, but is very aware of the dangers he faces oustide. The grasses are drying up and the night is full of predators – dingoes, wild cats and owls.

When Big Foot finds better feed in another feeding ground, he decides to build a new burrow. Night after night he works on this burrow, returning to his old place to sleep each day. Eventually, though, he moves to his new burrow. Here, his greatest moment of danger comes on the night of the full moon, when the bright light exposes him to predators. His quick thinking and the element of surprise help him to overcome the danger.

Wombat Down Below is a fiction story, but it is based on real events in a small national park in central Queensland, where the only remaining colony of Northern Hairy-nosed wombats is found. A double paged spread at the back of the book describes the plight of this critically endangered species, and efforts to ensure their survival.

Author Jill Morris is passionate about Australian wildlife and about educating children (and adults) through her stories. Illustrator Lucy Everitt has provided life-like detail, with a special feature the cross sections showing the inside of the wombat’s burrow.

Wombat Down Below is both an entertaining story book and an outstanding educational aid.

Wombat Down Below, by Jill Morris, illustrated by Luci Everitt
Greater Glider, 2004

Silly Baby Magpie, by Jill Morris

Silly Baby Magpie!
Big eyes and floppy head…
I’ve been scratching, screeching, tapping
Now I’m ready to be fed.

Silly Baby Magpie
, a brand new book from Greater Glider Publications, follows baby magpie from his early life in the egg through his youth and on to maturity. Along the way we see his antics as he learns and plays.

Author Jill Morris combines simple, lively verse with text boxes containing non-fiction information about the magpie, one of Australia’s most common birds. The story and information are complemented by the richly detailed illustrations of Heather Gall.

A fun and informative picture book.

Silly Baby Magpie, by Jill Morris, illustrated by Heather Gall
Greater Glider Publications, 2003

Listen for the Nightingale, by Zenda Vecchio

Kathleen’s life is without purpose. Her Mother, who never wanted her, has recently married and, as well as a step-father, she now has a little ‘sister’, Sally. To top it off she has just started at private girls school, where she is mostly alone and unliked.

When the serpent comes to beckon her with promises of happiness, she is lured by his talk of death. Suicide, she thinks, will put an end to all this. But another animal comes too – a nightingale which she will hear sing if only she can be patient.Kathleen will have to choose -the comfort of death with the serpent, or the comfort of life with the nightingale.Neither offers a quick path to happiness.

Listen for the Nightingale is a gentle young adult novel which looks at the issue of suicide as well as those of family, friednship and child abuse, among others. Whilst being challenging and thought provoking it is not a dark or depressing story. What is offer is an insight into the thoughts and life of one teenager with problems which lead her to consider suicide.

Listen for the Nightingale, with its ultimate message of hope, is a novel which would be well suited to classroom study, but is equally valuable for personal reading.

Zenda Vecchio is a South Australian author. Listen for the Nightingale is her first published novel.

Listen for the Nightingale, by Zenda Vecchio
Greater Glider Productions, 2002

Interview With Beverly Paine, Author of The Chimaera Conspiracy

Aussiereviews spoke to new author Beverly Paine about her new novel The Chimaera Conspiracy This is what she had to say.

AUSSIE REVIEWS: How does it feel to see your first novel in print?

BEVERLY PAINE: I am trying not to get over-excited and to take it in my stride, but every one around me, all my friends and family are over the moon. It’s a relief, after all the hard work, to finally hold the novel in my hand, but I haven’t read more than a few pages yet myself. The cover illustration by Perry Mallet is beautiful, just what I imagined. My lifelong ambition was to write science fiction novels and now it’s realised. I like that.

AR: The Chimarea Conspiracy has both an interesting setting and a controversial topic. Where did the idea come from?

BP: My interest in genetic engineering and cloning stems from my adolescent years. I was an avid science fiction writer, but over the last ten years I have followed the scientific developments with interest. The actual idea to set the story underwater came from encouraging my children to enter a short story competition staged by Lego as a promotion of their new Aquazone sets several years ago. As a child one of my favourite television shows was Marineboy, about a boy who could breathe underwater. The Chimaera Conspiracy is a blend of many ideas, nurtured over a lifetime.

AR: Tell us the story of The Chimarea Conspiracy ‘s creation – the process from first idea to publishing. Was it easy?

I began writing in 1995 and worked on the story off and on. Initially I wrote it using a third person and past tense and spent a lot of time working out the back story and the history of the characters. As the story grew I thought I had a trilogy on my hands. I rewrote and polished the first manuscript endlessly, and changed to first person, then finally sent it out to publishers in 1999. It was rejected by one publisher because they didn’t do series, but Jill Morris from Greater Glider Productions read it and offered a contract. Jill suggested a few changes, including a change of tense. Reworking the first chapter in present tense tightened up the story, and brought the main action in the second novel, already written, into the first in a way that surprised and delighted me.

I have learned a great deal about the craft of writing during the process of writing this novel. I think it is the hardest thing I have ever done, the most frustrating and the most exhilarating. I’ve plunged into the depths of depression, doubting myself as a writer, when faced with rewriting major sections; glided on wings of excitement and joy when it all worked well and new ideas or ‘perfect’ sentences appeared on the page; and impatiently waited out writer’s blocks – one went for six months after a major character unexpectedly wrote himself into the story! Greater Glider have worked patiently with me for over two years to produce the best story we could.

AR: As an experienced home school educator, do you have suggestions about how The Chimarea Conspiracy could be used for lessons in literature or other curriculum areas?

BP: I’d like to see young people explore where Katya, Coen and Edan go next – do they keep their heritage a secret and hide from the world, or do they declare their uniqueness and use their extraordinary abilities to help society? What would be the consequences of either action? There is great scope to explore the moral and ethical implications involved with human genetic engineering in the classroom. If my book excites young people to write stories of their own I would be very happy.

AR: Do you have any advice for other aspiring writers of young adult fiction?

Don’t spend too much time worrying about publishing during the writing process. Barbara Kingsolver said close the door and write with no one looking over your shoulder. Resist the temptation to put the work ‘out there’, even for feedback from family and friends, until you’re finished the first draft. Don’t even talk about the main ideas or characters unless you really need to – keep the energy bottled up for the fingers to use when playing on the keyboard or on the page.

The Chimaera Conspiracy, by Beverly Paine

My back aches and my body is numb from the vibration of the shuttle’s engines. I lock my right calf muscle, stretch my cramped legs and wince, flexing my foot to alleviate the pain. I’m hurting inside and out. It’s not fair. I don’t want to live on Aquadome.

Katya has never felt as if she belongs – not even in her own family. But at least living on the farm with her Aunt she has known some peace.

Now everything is about to change – she and her siblings are joining her parents in the Aquadome, an underwater research colony. Although she loves her parents, Katya does not want to go, without really understanding why. It has something to do with the dreams she often has – dreams so real she wonders if they are memories. She also hears voices in her head, voices she doesn’t understand.

At the dome, Katya comes into contact with some unusual people – first there’s the head of security, Jerome, who Katya doesn’t trust. Then there’s Coen, the strange boy who can swim with the dolphins.

Between them, these two sweep Katya up into a startling chain of events. As Katya fights for her own life and that of her new friends, she also embarks on a journey of discovery, learning secrets about her past she could never have guessed at.

The Chimaera Conspiracy is an outstanding new young adult novel by Australian author Beverly Paine. Ms Paine hails from South Australia and has previously published books and pamphlets on home schooling.

The Chimaera Conspiracy is part of the successful Storm Glider series of young adult fiction published by Greater Glider Productions.

The Chimaera Conspiracy, by Beverly Paine
Greater Glider, 2002, rrp (AUD) $14.30
ISBN 0947304525