The Mare's Tale, by Darrel & Sally Odgers

It was a noisy night at Cowfork House. The rain poured and the wind blew. Every so often, a small branch would crack and I’d hear the rustle and crunch as it hit the ground. It was so noisy that I didn’t hear the midnight train go through from Doggeroo Station.

When rough weather hits, Dr Max finds that his arthritis really bothers him. Trump feels sorry for Dr Max, but as she helps Dr Jeanie do her rounds she realises that it’s not just humans who can be affected by arthritis, when she meets an aging dalmatian. Also having trouble in the stormy weather is Helen, a pregnant mare expecting her first foal. Can Trump and Dr Jeanie help Helen and Paris (the Dalmatian) through their ordeals?

The Mare’s Tale is the second in the Pet Vet series from Darrel & Sally Odgers, who are also the creators of the ,I>Jack Russell: Dog Detective series. Trump is a likeable first person (fist canine?) narrator, who takes her new job as an Animal Liaison Officer at the Pet vet Clinic very seriously, even when she’d rather stay in bed out of the storm, or chase the rats she can hear in the stable. Her animal friends each have their own foibles and oddities which make for an appealing cast of characters.

As well as being entertaining, the series is informative, with Trump offering explanations of animal and veterinary terms, and hints for animal care.

The Mare's Tale (Pet Vet)

The Mare’s Tale, by Darrel & Sally Odgers

Scholastic, 2008

This book can be purchased online at Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Cranky Paws, by Darrel & Sally Odgers

‘Hello, Thomasina,’ I said. ‘I know you feel really bad just now. You’re scared, and you hurt, but you will feel better very soon. Dr Jeanie has just-’
That was as far as I got, because Thomasina stopped looking dazy and hazy, and tried to leap away.

When Davie brings an injured cat to Dr Jeanie’s vet clinic, he says its name is Thomasina – but Jeanie and Trump decide the cat’s name should be Cranky Paws. Cranky Paws spits and scratches whoever comes near – Trump, Dr Jeanie, even Major Higgins, the visiting cat. It seems no one can calm her down – but Trump has a plan.

Cranky Paws is the first book in the new Pet Vet series. Set in Dr Jeanie’s vet clinic, and told through the eyes (and voice) of Trump, a Jack Russell puppy, who is also an Animal Liaison Officer (ALO). Trump may be familiar to some readers, being the offspring of Jack Russell, Dog Detective, from the series of the same name.

With lots of interesting animal characters, different textual elements including word definitions, maps and diagnosis notes, there is plenty to draw young readers in.

Suitable for readers aged six and up, and ideal for those making the transition to chapter books and independent reading.

Cranky Paws, by Darrel & Sally Odgers
Scholastic, 2008

The Kitnapped Creature, by Darrel & Sally Odgers

If you take one horrible familiar cat-erwaul
And add one familiar smell and one yelling human
You get one familiar monster cat.
This is a fact.

All is not well in Doggeroo. Sarge, Jack Russell’s human, is sick in hospital and Jack has come across a problem. Someone has kitnapped Jack’s old enemy, the Awful Pawful. Much as Jack fears the cat, he knows something needs to be done.

In the meantime, Jack has other problems. He has to take care of Preacher, the junior Jack who has come to live with him, and his friend Foxie is sulking and proving difficult. Can Jack Russell solve the case without Sarge’s help?

The Kitnapped Creature is the eighth title in the Jack Russell: Dog Detective series and is filled with the fun and adventure readers have come to expect from the series. For those new to the series, the book stands alone, but will tempt them back to read the earlier titles.

Suitable for readers aged 6 and over.

Jack Russell 8: The Kitnapped Creature, by Darrel & Sally Odgers
Scholastic, 2007

Dragon Mode, by Sally Odgers

Reviewed by Kathryn Duncan

Every little boy has times in his life when he is in dragon mode and this is definitely no different in this wonderful book by Sally Odgers. Unlike real little boys, the main character knows what he does wrong when he is in dragon mode and that mothers, brothers, teachers and even the cat “don’t like dragons much.”

The illustrations are bright and entertaining and Chantal Stewart has done a wonderful job of capturing the emotions of each character – even in dragon mode, this little boy is rather appealing. Sally Odgers has kept the text simple and easy to understand for young children and uses repetition throughout to reinforce the two modes – dragon and boy.

As with all books, people will read different things into this story, but I found Dragon Mode to be about a boy being a boy (all little boys have two modes), and also about how children react to the behaviour of others. As the story progresses the main character appears in dragon mode when he is not getting the attention of someone, or when he does something they do not like. Maybe there is a message here for parents.

Dragon Mode is a book ready to become a favourite with pre-schoolers and early readers.

Dragon Mode, by Sally Odgers, illus by Chantal Stewart
New Frontier Publishing, 2007
HB rrp $24.95

The Phantom Mudder, by Darrel & Sally Odgers

Jack’s Facts
Dogs don’t do anything if there’s nothing in it for them.
People sometimes do.
That makes dogs smarter than people.
This is a fact.

Jack Russell is a fact loving dog. So, when there is a mystery to be solved he carefully establishes the facts then, with a dash of luck, comes up with a solution.

In the Phantom Mudder Jack visits a dog show, with his owner, Sarge. When dogs start turning up for their judging covered in mud, Jack senses a mystery and sets out to solve out. But who would want to mess up the dogs, and how would they do it?

This is the second hilarious title in the Jack Russell: Dog Detective series and is just as clever as the first. There are plenty of cute doggy illustrations, courtesy of illustrator Janine Dawson, and the use of a variety of text-types, including lists, glossaries and maps, which add an element which could be used for classroom purposes.

Loads of fun.

The Phantom Mudder, by Darrel and Sally Odgers
Scholastic Australia, 2005

Dog Den Mystery, by Darrel & Sally Odgers

I was running my ninety-fifth lap of the boring backyard. There was nothing else to do, except sleep in my basket and chase sparrows.
Then Sarge came home.
‘We’re getting a transfer, Jack’, he said.

When Jack Russell and his owner, Sarge, move to Doggeroo, he doesn’t expect to become a victim of crime. But he has no sooner unpacked his squeaker-bone than strange things start to happen. First an old boot disappears from the yard, then Jack’s squeaker bone is stolen. When his blanket and bowl disappear, too, Jack is determined to get to the bottom of this mystery. Jack Russell, Dog Detective, has his first case.

This is the first instalment in a fun new series from the husband-wife team of Darrel and Sally Odgers. Readers aged 7 to 10 will enjoy the humour and pace, as well as the novelty of the first-person narration of the tale, from the point of view of the doggy hero.

Teachers and librarians will be attracted to the series also, because of its easy-read format, with large font and plenty of illustrations, and its use of different text-types, including lists, glossaries, maps and more, which could be used as teaching tools and springboards to writing exercises.

Dog Den Mystery is a lively, fun read and readers will look forward to the next instalment in the Jack Russell: Dog Detective series.

Dog Den Mystery, by Darrel & Sally Odgers
Scholastic, 2005

Bunyips Don't, by Sally Odgers

Young Bunyip lived with Old Bunyip in the dankest part of the creek.
It was cold and not much fun.
‘Why can’t we live on the sunny side of the creek?’ asked Young Bunyip? “Because we’re bunyips, fathead,’ said Old Bunyip, ‘and bunyips don’t!’

Poor Young Bunyip. He is lonely and bored and just wants a little fun. But whenever he suggests anything fun, Old Bunyip repeats his refrain: ‘Bunyips don’t!’

Young Bunyip grows sadder and sadder until he meets some children who show him that old Bunyip doesn’t know everything – and that, perhaps, bunyips do.

Bunyips Don’t! is a fun picture book combining the writing genius of the talented Sally Odgers with the superb illustrative talent of Kim Gamble. Odgers has a knack of creating stories which are very Australian, full of fun, yet able to provide food for thought.The fun of Bunyips Don’t is enriched by the gentle messages about following your instincts and believing in yourself.

Gamble’s watercolour illustrations are a delight. The juxtaposition of the darkness of Young Bunyip’s loneliness with the brightness of company is clever and Young Bunyip’s facial expressions and cute cuddly body are endearing.

Bunyip’s Don’t was first published in 1996. It is little surpise that Scholastic have chosen to rerelease it.

Bunyips Don’t, by Sally Odgers, illustrated by Kim Gamble
This edition Scholastic, 2005

Buzztown Books

New publisher Ibis Publishing is focussing on producing series in its children’s imprint. The latest offering is three new titles in the Buzztown series, written by various authors and illustrated by Russell Tate.

Aron Artist’s Exhibition, by Sally Odgers and Fin Firefighter to the Rescue by Adrienne Frater are both small format full colour offerings whilst Buzztown Activity Book is a colouring book with activities relating to the series.

The series has a very retro feel, with each story telling the tale of one of Buzztown’s residents and their adventures in their chosen career. Previous titles have featured a cleaner, a waiter, a detective and a hairdresser. As well as the new activity book, each book includes suggestions for parents, and there are also activities on the Ibis website.

A fun series.

Fin Firefighter to the Rescue, by Adrienne Frater, illustrated by Russell Tate
Aron Artist’s Exhibition, by Sally Odgers, illustrated by Russell Tate
Buzztown Activity Book, by Kerrie Shanahan
Ibis Publishing, 2004

Hitmakers, by Sally Odgers

While watching television, Berry and Aidan are struck by the claims of the advertisements they see. Who decides what is “hot”, what is “hip”? Berry is keen to investigate these questions and drags Aidan along as an unwilling accomplice.

What Berry wants to know is how a song can be called a number one before it has even hit the stores, and how “everyone” can be wearing a fashion “this Autumn” when it’s still summer. Do consumer tastes and spending habits dictate what is “hot” or is it a plot by the advertising companies? As they move closer to finding the truth, Aidan and Berry must decide whether they are prepared to accept it.

Hitmakers is a fun children’s novel which explores consumerism, advertising and marketing through a fun story. Author Sally Odgers has a reputation for producing well-rounded stories and this is one of them – educational, yet fun to read too.

Part of the Breakers series from Macmillan Education, Hitmakers is just as suitable for private reading as it is for classroom sharing.

Hitmakers, by Sally Odgers
Macmillan Education, 2004

Matt the Mage – First Spells, by Sally Odgers

Like any good son away from home, Matt writes home to his parents every week without fail. But Matt isn’t really like any other boy away from home. For a start, Matt (his real name is Parramatta Wheatslump) is a mage. Then there’s the fact that Matt isn’t just away from his own – he has somehow ended up in an alternative dimension. His travelling companions – a mermaid and a talking camel – aren’t terribly normal either.

Matt has left his home – Starvation Station, Somewhere in Australia – in the hope of finding another mage who can tutor him.Before he finds his tutor he encounters all sorts of obstacles. Along with his weekly letters home to his Mum and Dad he sends installments of his story, explaining his tale both to his parents and to the reader.

Matt the Mage is a fun fantasy, its use of letters and notes interspersed with third person narrative a touch which will engage young readers. Sally Odgers, one of Australia’s most versatile and gifted children’s authors, always has something different to offer her readers. Matt the Mage will not disappoint.

Matt the Mage: First Spells, by Sally Odgers
Banana Books, 2004