Avoid Being a Convict Sent to Australia, by Meredith Costain

It’s 1875 and you’re the son of a farm labourer in England…You hear there is plenty of work available in the new factories opening up in London, so you move there in search of a better life. You have no idea that in a few months’ time, this move will eventually take you to the other end of the earth.

Avoid Being a Convict Sent to Australia is a wonderful nonfiction offering which will appeal to primary aged children. What sets it apart from other books about convicts is that it speaks directly to the child, using the second person ‘you’. As you read the book, the things that happened to the convicts are now happening to you. You are arrested, imprisoned and sent to Australia, where your new life as a convict is pretty hard. The reader is subjected to all sorts of hardships, with the second person narration making it personal.

The use of bright cartoon-style drawings and other humorous elements such as handy hints (for example, convicts are told to hope that the King is in a good mood on the day of your trial!) make the book fun to read at the same time as being informative, with plenty of facts and examples, a back of book glossary and more.

This is an excellent educational offering, suitable for home or school.

Avoid Being a Convict Sent to Australia! (Danger Zone S.)

The Danger Zone: Avoid Being a Convict Sent to Australia, by Meredith Costain, illustrated by David Antram
Koala Books, 2005

This book is available online at Fishpond.

Dr Quark, by Nancy Walker & Lloyd Foye

In the Serengeti National Park
There lives a vet called Doctor Quark
Her waiting room is filled each week
With groans and moans and piercing shrieks,
From animals, both sick and sore,
Upon the chairs and on the floor.

Dr Quark’s waiting room has animals of all types and with a wide range of problems – from an antelope too fat to leap, to a zebra with one big white spot. As they wait impatiently to see the vet, the waiting room gets noisier and more chaotic. How will Doctor Quark choose who gets to see her first?

This cute rhyming text is filled with funny images of strange ailments – a springbok that thinks she is a sheep, an eagle that quacks, and so on – which young children will love. All are brought to life with the colourful, funny illustrations of Llyod Foye.

This a great read-aloud title.

Dr Quark, by Nancy Walker & Lloyd Foye
Koala Books, 2004

Storm Born, by Jenny Mounfield

Elissa is in trouble at school, yet again. When the other kids tease her, she fires up and the end result is always a trip to the Principal’s office. At home, things aren’t much better. Dad is always angry and there’s no money for the one thing Elissa thinks will make her happy – a horse.

When a beautiful black stallion appears in her yard after a storm, Elissa is sure the storm has brought him to her. She is desperate to convince her father to let her keep the horse. When a strange boy enters her life, the horse forges a bond between them and together they work out a plan to show the horse’s value. But just as things start to look brighter the boy, Michael, disappears. To help him, Elissa will have to face her fears.

Storm Born is a story about friendship, acceptance and family. Both Elissa and Michael come from families with problems, and their ability to support each other is a special feature of the book. Readers aged 10-12 will enjoy the story and be intrigued by the touch of magic which lends a twist of fantasy to the book.

An absorbing read.

Storm Born, by Jenny Mounfield
Koala Books, 2005

Tricky Little Hippo, by Jane Bowring, illustrated by Nina Rycroft

‘What is it, little one?’ said Egret.
‘Well,’ said Holly, ‘Honey was best at staying under water, and Heath was best at chasings. I want to be best at something too.’

Holly has fun playing with her hippo friends Heath and Honey, but she is never the best at anything. No matter how hard she tries, one of the others always outdoes her. Each night her wise friend Egret reassures Holly that she is the best at something, but Holly has no idea what that something is. When she does figure it out, she is finally the best.

Tricky Little Hippo is a gorgeous new picture book from the team of author Jane Bowring and illustrator Nina Rycroft. Youngsters will delight in the gentle humour of the tale, which has a subtle message about hidden talents and the notion that every child has unique abilities.

The design of this book is a treat. The watercolour illustrations are in rich pastels – with the browns of the hippopotamuses contrasting with the greens and blues of their surrounds. The two double page spreads of Holly swimming underwater, surrounded by golden fish and with the legs of her unsuspecting friends in the background, are especially clever. Another nice touch is the presence of Egret at times when Holly seems unware that he is there, suggesting that he is looking out for her, without interfering.

This is a lovely story for shared reading and would make a good bedtime story, suitable for two to five year olds.


Trciky Little Hippo, by Jane Bowring, illustrated by Nina Rycroft
Koala Books, 2005

Too Many Pears! by Jackie French

Pamela the cow loves pears. She loves them so much she will stop at nothing to get to them – even if it means crawling through a wombat hole or towing a tree behind her.

Unfortunately, Pamela’s pear obsession means there are no pears left for the people. Something has to be done to stop Pamela eating all the pears.

Too Many Pears is the latest humorous offering from renowned author-illustrator team, Jackie French and Bruce Whatley. Like so many of French’s books, the story revolves around food and animals, yet, as always, this story is unique. Whatley’s illustrations bring the tale to life, with the cow’s facial expressions a true delight.


Too Many Pears, by Jackie French and Bruce Whatley
Koala Books, 2003

Dinosaur Dinosaur

Youngsters love dinosaurs and the bold, bright dinosaurs illustrations in Dinosaur Dinosaur are sure to appeal. Of equal appeal is the format of this offering, with a short sheet page in between each double spread not just concealing part of the text and illustration for a surprise, but also altering each double page spread so that it depicts two scenes.

At the same time as it explores the interesting subject of dinosaurs, Dinosaur Dinosuar also explores opposites – short and tall, fast and slow, smooth and rough and so on. The use of simple rhyming text encourages youngsters to guess at the text and to use the picture clues to do so.

A cute offering for both home and preschool.

Dinosaur Dinosaur, written and illustrated by Matt Cosgrove
Koala Books, 2004

Me and My Dad, by Jill Kearney and Jamie Tufrey

The premise of this book is simple: it is fun to play with Dad. It is that simplicity which makes the book magic. The main character – a young girl – tells of the fun times she shares with her dad. Together they read stories, play with dolls, paint and more. Most importantly, the narrator tells us, she loves it when her dad loves her.

The bright illustrations by Jamie Tufrey capture the sense of fun from the text and youngsters will love the lift the flap format which shows the reactions father and daughter get from those around them.

It is really lovely to see a book focus on the relationship between father and child – especially father and daughter – and to see a dad doing daggy things like playing with dolls and dressups. This would make a great gift for a new father and is perfect for bedtime reading.

Me and My Dad, by Jill Kearney, illustrated by Jamie Tufrey
Koala Books, 2004

Harriet and the Fox, by Rina Foti

Life is great on Peachberry Farm until a greedy fox starts paying regular visits. He keeps stealing Harriet’s eggs. Harriet knows he is scary, but she is also determined to stop his raids. None of the other animals want to help – they are too scared. So it is up to Harriet.

When the fox makes his next visit, Harriet is ready for him with some special eggs which she has prepared just for him – with a dash of chilli. The unsuspecting fox gets more than he bargained for when he gobbles up the special eggs. Harriet watches in glee as he flees the farm, never to be seen again.

Harriet and the Fox is a bright and humorous picture book offering from author Rina A. Foti and illustrator Judith Rossell. The text is simple and youngsters will love seeing the mean old fox outwitted by the clever hen. They will also adore the illustrations with big, bold animals and loads of colour.


Harriet and the Fox, by Rina A. Foti, illustrated by Judith Rossell
Koala Books, 2004

Ghost Flames, by Neville Barnard

Twelve year old Daniel loves puzzles, but when he meets the ghost of Colleen O’Flarity he is confronted by more puzzles than he can solve. Why can he see and hear her when no one else can? What is that she is scared of? And what is so important that a second ghost goes on searching for it night after night?

Meanwhile, Daniel has problems of his own to confront. The other kids at school call him nobody because he keeps to himself all the time, and his new teacher thinks he’s a trouble maker. Now he’s somehow signed up to present a magic act at the school concert, despite not knowing magic and hating the thought of drawing attention to himself.

Could it be that helping Colleen solve her problems will help Daniel solve his own?

Ghost Flames is an excellent read for 10 to 12 year old readers, with a balance of mystery, self-discovery and action. Sure to appeal to young mystery and ghost-story enthusiasts, it will also appeal to those who like riddles and puzzles – including teachers.

Ghost Flames, by Neville Barnard
Koala Books, 2004

Battle of the Rats, by Sue Whiting

Moth’s new house is perched on a cliff top overlooking the best break on the coast. For a kid who lives for surfing, it couldn’t be better. The only problem is that the house is a dump. It stinks and it’s overrun with rats. Wherever Moth goes they are there, watching from the shadows, peering from the rafters. And they are in his room, chewing his things – even his beloved surf board.

As if life couldn’t get any worse, Moth has fallen out with his best friend, Tom. And now he’s in trouble with the school bully, Jaike. Jaike has met the rats and now he’s telling everyone that Moth’s home is infested. Moth is the joke of the school.

Moth’s family battle the rats but who will win? And who will beat the bullies?

Battle of the Rats is an excellent new novel for 10 to 12 year olds. Young readers will feel their skin crawl as they encounter the rats (both animal and human) with Moth.

A great blend of action and issue from outstanding author, Sue Whiting.

Battle of the Rats, by Sue Whiting
Koala Books, 2004