The Spirit of the Digger-Then and Now, by Patrick Lindsay

Much has been said and written about ‘The Digger’ – the soldier who has fought for Australia in numerous conflicts and who, to many, represents the spirit of Australia. But who exactly is the digger and what elements have gone into the forging of his spirit?

In The Spirit of the Digger author Patrick Lindsay explores just what it is that sets Australian soldiers apart from those of other nations. Using the words and recounted actions of Australian soldiers, he reveals the human aspect of the campaigns they have been involved in and provides insight into their lives, their thoughts and their spirit, to give the reader a deeper understanding of the character of the digger and the heritage they have forged for all Australians.

Lindsay looks at diggers both past and present – from the campaigns of Gallipoli, the Somme, North Africa, New Guinea, Vietnam, East Timor, Afghanistan and more. He prefaces the book with an example of how the spirit of the digger plays out away from the battlefield, describing Australian spirit and actions in the terrorist bombings of Bali in 2001.

This is not an easy read but it is inspirational, exploring an aspect of Australia’s history of which all Australians can be proud.

The Spirit of the Digger: Then and Now, by Patrick Lindsay
Pan Macmillan, 2003

The Other Madonna, by Scot Gardener

Madonna O’Dwyer is not the mother of Jesus and not a sex-powered pop diva. She’s a pretty ordinary girl, who works hard in a pizza shop and lives with her drama queen sister and her acoholic father.

Madonna’s mother died not long after she gave her the name she struggles with. The loss of a mother she never knew is a raw, black hole inside Madonna.

Now, at seventeen, Madonna’s friends are convinced she has an extraordinary gift – a gift of healing. Madonna isn’t convinced – she isn’t extraoordinary. She makes pizzas and washes dishes. Why would her hands have the gift of healing others, when she herself is so badly in need of healing?

The Other Madonna is an outstanding young adult read, combining humour and initimacy in a delightful blend. It is most suited to teens aged 14 and up.

The Other Madonna, by Scot Gardner
Pan Macmillan, 2003

Zombie Bums From Uranus, by Andy Griffiths

Since its release, Andy Griffith’s The Day My Bum Went Psychohas been a runaway success with young readers around the world. Now, the psycho bum and its owner, Zack Freeman, are back.

While Zack is struggling with his bum-fighter training, something is happening elsewhere in the solar system which could have disastrous effects.Zombie bums, which have been frozen in rings around the planet Uranus, have been defrosted and are headed for earth. Whether he likes it or not, Zack is going to have to fight them.

Armed only with a squeezy tomato sauce bottle and aided by three of the oldest bum-fighters on the planet, and, of course, his bum, Zack must fight the smelliest bums the Univarse has ever known or face the total zombie-bummification of the whole world.

With more bums, more grossness and more plain silliness than the first book, Zombie Bums from Uranus is bound to be a hit with the primary school audience. Of course, most adult readers will simply be grossed out, but then it’s not aimed at adult readers, is it?

Zombie Bums From Uranus, by Andy Griffiths
Pan MacMillan, 2003

Dying for Cake, by Louise Limerick

Five women meet regularly for coffee while their children are at school. But something bad happens – Evelyn’s baby goes missing and Evelyn herself is in pyschiatric hospital unable, or unwilling, to say where baby Amy is.

For the remaining members of the group, Amy’s disappearance triggers change. Unable to understand Evelyn’s illness and unwillingness to help find Amy, each woman begins to reevaluate her own life.

Plump Joanna decides she needs to lose weight, but all she wants to do is eat cake. Wendy has a secret she desperately wants to escape. Claire is trying to recapture her artistic talent. Susan wants to reclaim lost time. Overshadowing all, is Evelyn. She doesn’t say what she wants. But doesn’t she want her baby back?

Dying for Cake is a journey for understanding and for personal identity. The many faces of motherhood, of friendship and of truth are explored warmly, drawing the reader in to the complex lives of the characters.

Dying for Cake is the first novel for Louise Limerick, a Brisbane-born mother and author.

A heart-wrenching read.

Dying for Cake, by Louise Limerick
Pan Macmillan, 2003

The Tiger Project, by Susanna Van Essen

When Bella sees the baby Thylacine floating in a jar of preserving fluid, something clutches at her. She is moved more than she can explain. For weeks, the thylacine haunts her dreams, becoming a symbol of the frustrations of her own life.

Bella is in a wheelchair, disabled since birth. She wonders about her absentee father – who left when she was born – and whether she has inherited his genes. She is also involved in the struggles of her friends – Sylvia who has fallen in love with another girl, Claire, the class brain, and Adrian, the class clown. She also forges an unlikely friendship with a neighbour, elderly Olivia Peeves.

All of the strands of this story cause Bella to question how much genes influence an individual’s make up. As she works with her three friends on a project studying the thylacine, she gains a new perspective on life and love.

The Tiger Project is a humorous and insightful young adult novel, which explores complex issues in a simple way. Great reading.

The Tiger Project, by Susanna Van Essen
Pan MacMillan, 2003

The Possum Thief, by Dr Harry Cooper and Craig Graham

Kate loves her dog, Smudge, and her possum, Torchy. And Smudge and Torchy are best mates. Until now. Torchy has two new babies and Smudge keeps stealing them while the possum is sleeping. Smudge and Torchy are now the best of enemies! Even confining Smudge indoors doesn’t help. Mum and Dad decide Smudge will have to go to Grandma’s. Torchy will have to go back to the bush.

Kate needs help so she writes a letter to Dr Harry. With a bit of help from his dog Scarlet, Dr Harry soon has everything back to normal. This is a realistic story with a magical twist. Young children particularly will enjoy Scarlet’s special skills.

Fans of the television show will enjoy The Possum Thief, a Dr Harry adventure co-written by vet Dr Harry Cooper and Craig Graham (Pan Macmillan 2002) and delightfully illustrated by Mitch Vane’s lively watercolours.

The Possum Thief, by Dr Harry Cooper and Craig Graham. Illustrated by Mitch Vane
Pan Macmillan 2002

Marching Powder, by Rusty Young

When Australian Rusty Young reached Bolivia on his backpacking holiday, he wasn’t expecting to spend time inside a prison. Curiously, he wasn’t arrested, and he was free to come and go as he liked. This was the notorious San Pedro prison and Young’s reason for staying there was an English drug trafficker, Thomas McFadden.

The pair met when Young visited the jail for one of Thomas’s tours – where tourists were shown around the inside of the jail by inmates. Young was fascinated by Thomas’s story, and felt compelled to learn more and to help him. Thomas, in turn, had been wanting to write his story – Young could help that dream be fulfilled.

For three months Young stayed inside the prison, sharing Thomas’s cell, and documenting his story. The result is this book, Marching Story, which follows Thomas’s story from his arrest for trying to shift a large amount of cocaine out of the country, through his tumultuous adaptation to life inside a corrupt and violent prison system, through to his eventual release.

It is hard for a Westerner to comprehend that these are actual events – the stories of violence, of endemic corruption and blatant unfairness, are so incredible, they seem to be a well written novel. But this is nonfiction. San Pedro prison, where inmates are expected to buy their cells from real estate agents, to feed and clothe themselves and to have their innocent wives and children live with them in the prison, is real. Thomas and his prison mates are real. In fact the whole story is so frighteningly real that it is compelling reading. This is the story of one of the strangest places on earth, and one man’s struggle to survive in it.

Gripping stuff.

Marching Powder, by Rusty Young
Pan Macmillan, 2003

Wife For Hire, by Dianne Blacklock

Sam has made a career out of being a perfect wife and mother to her husband Jeff and their three children. So, when Jeff leaves her for another woman, she is devastated – and angry.

With her perfect life in tatters, Sam must make a new one for herself – and quickly finds the perfect job – working as a wife for hire. Sam works for professionals – men and women – who don’t have time for the jobs traditionally handled by a wife – shopping, travel arrangements, bill payment, gift purchasing and more. But when she is assigned Hal Buchanan as a client, she finds him a little difficult to work for, primarily because he doesn’t want to use her services.

As her up and down relationship with Hal develops and her family faces the challenges of new arrangements, she can longer organise everything to perfection. Letting go of her control is not always easy, especially where her emotions are concerned.

Wife For Hire is a lively combination of personal growth, romance and light humour. The effects of divorce on the individual and the whole family are explored, as are relationships between generations, and the search for self identity.

Great reading.

Wife for Hire, by Dianne Blacklock
Pan Macmillan, 2003

One Fourteenth of an Elephant, by Ian Denys Peek

At the start of the Second World war, Denys Peek was living as a civilian in Singapore, with his brother Ron and his parents. Like most other able bodied expatriates, he signed up as a volunteer to help in Singapore’s defense. When Singapore fell, in February 1942, Denys and his brother became prisoners of war, interred with tens of thousands of other British, Australian and Commonwealth men.

Transported to Siam, Denys spent the next three years living in Japanese run labor camps, forced to work on the building of the Burma-Thailand Railway.


In appalling conditions these men fought to keep both bodies and spirits alive, whilst enduring harsh and unreasonable work expectations, limited food rations, no sanitation, and the dismal prospect of never seeing their families or their countries again.


Over 20,000 men died in the construction of the railway. Many times during his three year ordeal Peek faced the prospect of joining their ranks. Miraculously, he survived, spurred on by a stubborn refusal to die, the bond he shared with his brother and his mates, and, at times, by psychic happenings that defied explanation.


In One Fourteenth of an Elephant, Peek shares his story with an intimacy and openness that stirs deep feelings in the heart of the reader. Writing in present tense, he recounts events as they happened, taking the reader with him on his daily quest for survival.


This is a book which reveals horrific suffering, events and brutality that almost defy belief – yet it is not a depressing story. Peek’s own survival and the courage and humanity showed by his fellow prisoners are an incredible demonstration of just how people can triumph over the strongest adversity.


Powerful, evocative – essential reading.


One Fourteenth of an Elephant, by Ian Denys Peek
Pan Macmillan, 2003


Take 40, by Leanne Mercer

There is no birthday more talked about, more anticipated than a woman’s fortieth. For some it is a daunting age – perhaps signalling the end of youth, and admitting to being middle aged – for others a time of great challenge as they face changes in life, career, relationships.

In Take 40 Leanne Mercer, executive producer of Good Morning Australia talks to 40 women about their experiences of turning – and being – 40. They discuss how they felt at the time and how they feel now looking back.

Amongst those who share their thoughts are radio and television personality Amanda Keller, swimmer Tracey Wickham, singer Marina Prior and Sarah, the Duchess of York. Each woman’s experiences of reaching this milestone are different, but the common thread is that turning 40 is not a signal to sit back and admit defeat, but rather a time to go for it, to move forward and do whatever it is you want to do.

Take 40 also shares tips for looking and feeling good, as well as advice on careers, dating, marriage and more. An excellent gift for a woman approaching this age, Take 40 is an inspirational and insightful read.

Take 40, by Leanne Mercer
Pan Macmillan, 2003