Seasons of War, by Christopher Lee

I was young then. I remember the landing on the beach and the days of my time on the peninsula and returning home from the war, the past and the present coming together over the years. I remember the beauty of the ugly place.

Michael is a teenager off on an adventure, having joined up to keep his beloved brother Dan company. Their friends Knobby, Mack and Hughie are there too, and together they land at Gallipoli where they quickly realise that this campaign is like nothing they could have imagined.

From Australian screenwriter Christopher Lee, Seasons of War is a slim volume recounting one fictional soldier’s Gallipoli campaign. At the same time, it covers the major events of the whole campaign including insights into the workings of the British command (particularly General Hamilton), the tactics and statistics of all the major battles and the actions of the Turkish enemy. Michael’s story, though, is central, and as a first person narrator he is blunt about the horror of his experience, and of what goes on around him.

In amongst the great number of books released to mark the 100 year anniversary of the Gallipoli campaign, Seasons of War could easily be missed because it is a small book with an understated, though moving, cover  and it is not a comfortable read. But that’s the point. We need stories of war which paint the horror and the waste explicitly so that we understand as nearly as possible what happened.


Seasons of War, by Christopher Lee
Viking, an imprint of Penguin, 2015
ISBN 9780670078837

Available from good bookstores and online.

The Grace Stories, by Sofie Laguna

Pegasus looked so thin and hungry. If he had food in his belly, perhaps he would have the strength to pull the cart. That way the cab driver wouldn’t take him to be butchered.
She crossed the road, dodging carts and carriages and men pushing barrows, back to the man selling fruit. Without waiting to make sure his back was turned, or his attention elsewhere, she grabbed three apples, tossed them into her kettle and dived back into the traffic.

It is 1808 and Grace’s life is hard. She spends her days as a mudlark, sifting through the muddy bottom of the Thames in search of anything her cruel uncle can sell. Her only pleasure in life is a horse called Pegasus who she visits when she can. But when Pegaus’s life is in danger, Grace takes a terrible risk, and soon is sentenced to transportation to Australia.

Previously published as four separate books in the Our Australian Girl series, The Grace Stories traces Grace’s adventures in London, on the journey to Australia, and as she makes a new life in the colony.

Bound in hardcover with a magnetic clasp, this is a sturdy collectable edition which will delight history-loving readers.


Book Cover:  Our Australian Girl: The Grace Stories

The Grace Stories , by Sofie Laguna
Viking Penguin, 2013
ISBN 9780670077540

Available in good bookstores and online.

The Power of One, by Bryce Courtenay (Australian Children’s Classics Edition)

He had given me

the Power of One,

one idea, one heart,

one mind, one plan,

one determination.

Since it was first published in 1989, The Power of One has been loved by readers young and old. Telling the tale of Peekay, growing up in South Africa during the years of the second world war, in a time of political and social turmoil for the country, and more personal trauma for Peekay. Abandoned in boarding school at the age of five, and much-hated by the older children because he is English rather than Afrikaans, Peekay has to learn to be true to himself. Whilst his childhood is difficult, he makes a series of diverse friends who, together with Peekay’s own courage, set him on a path to success.

Part of the new Australian Children’s Classics series, this edition is abridged so that it covers the first half of Peekay’s story. Older readers will want to seek out the unabridged version, but this version is self-contained and finishes at a naturally satisfying point, providing an excellent introduction to Courtenay’s work for younger readers.

Book Cover: The Power of One: Australian Children’s Classics

The Power of One (Australian Children’s Classics edition), by Bryce Courtenay
Viking, 2013
ISBN 9780670077564

Available from good bookstores and online .

Evangeline: The Wish Keeper's Helper by Maggie Alderson ill Claire Fletcher

Evangeline is a stuffed toy elephant, all but forgotten by her previously loving owner.

One morning, when Evangeline was lying under the bed, as usual, wondering what to think about next, a broom suddenly appeared and swept her out onto the bedroom floor.

The next thing she knew she was thrown into a big black plastic bag with a jumble of other toys, books and old clothes. She lay there for a while, quite comfortable on what felt like a fluffy jumper, with her eyes open and her big elephant ears pricked to listen in case something else happened, but nothing did, so after a while Evangeline closed her eyes and zoned out.

Evangeline is a stuffed toy elephant. When her owner tires of her, she is transported Upstairs, which is where all toys go, eventually. There, their erstwhile owners may forget them, but the toys do not forget. After they have been ‘processed’, they are each assigned a job suited to their interest and experience. All Evangeline wants is to be special to someone, to be their beloved companion, rather than a forgotten toy. Evangeline makes new friends Upstairs, but all is not well in this new world. There is something very wrong, and it’s getting worse. Illustration pages/colour plates are scattered throughout, the images soft watercolours with ink outlines. Pages are coloured to give an aged look, as if this were a book from another time.

Upstairs is the place of wishes, of sanctuary. It may either be a new permanent home, or a waiting place until a toy is sent Downstairs to be someone’s special toy. It’s also a place of friendship, of happiness and fulfilment. It’s a magical place where time and space are measured differently. There are strong themes around friendship and abandonment, good and evil. But even in the examination of evil, there is understanding and a plea to look behind the behaviour to what motivates it. ‘Evangeline’ is a gentle story, in a lovely hardback cover, that will work well as a read-to story, as well as a story for confident independent readers. Recommended for junior primary and as a read-to for younger children.

Evangeline, The Wish Keeper's Helper

Evangeline, The Wish Keeper’s Helperr, Maggie Alderson ill Claire Fletcher
Viking 2011
ISBN: 9780670075355

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

The Carousel, by Ursula Dubosarsky & Walter Di Qual

This a book which makes for repeated oral readings, particularly by adult readers to children, who will love the rhythm of the words and the magic of the horses – real or imagined.

One winter’s day my dad and I
Went down to see the carousel.
We stood and watched as round and round
The little horses rose and fell.

This enchanting rhyming picture book begins with the protagonsit,a young girl, watching the carousel with her father before she, too, gets to ride on one of the painted horses. On the ride she is transported, imaging herself galloping free as the wind far from the carousel. But, when the ride slows, the girl feels the horse’s sorrow that it can never be free to leap and bound, to wander in the wilds. So she makes a wish that all of the horses will be free – a wish that she believes come true, with the sound of hooves in the night and the horses running free ever after.

The Carousel is a magical tale of imagination and freedom, told in rhyming verse which scans with a rhythmic echo of the rocking of the horses as they canter free. Most spreads have just one four line stanza, allowing the illustrations to dominate the text. And what illustrations they are – mixed media renderings of the magic of the carousel, and of the horse galloping across red earth, through blue water and against purple night skies.

This a book which makes for repeated oral readings, particularly by adult readers to children, who will love the rhythm of the words and the magic of the horses – real or imagined.

The Carousel

The Carousel, by Ursula Dubosarsky & Walter Di Qual

Viking, 2011
ISBN 9780670074624

This book can be purchased in good bookstores or online from Fishpond

Running With the Horses, by Alison Lester

Nina closed her eyes and imagined herself and Zelda in the Great Riding Hall. She saw the cheering audience, the glittering chandeliers and the dazzling spotlights. She heard the swelling music of the orchestra carrying them along. Nina was riding like her mother, as light as a summer butterfly. She could hear the soaring violins, the cellos, the drums…

Before the war, Nina lived with her father above the stables of the Royal Academy of Dancing Horses. Now, however, war has come and Nina and her father have to flee with the remaining horses, and Zelda, an aging cab horse. The journey across the mountains is filled with danger, but Nina and Zelda draw strength from each other.

Running with the Horses is a beautiful picture book story based on the true story of Vienna’s Spanish Riding School and the Lipizzaner stallions. Told in gentle prose with each page of text complemented by a black and white illustration and full page coloured illustration on the opposite page, this is both a visual and literary delight, perfect for reading aloud to primary aged children. Young horse lovers will delight in Lester’s art, and all children will be drawn into the excitement of the escape, at the same time learning some of the realities of war.

This is a story of hope which deserves to be shared.

Running with the Horses

Running with the Horses, by Alison Lester
Penguin/Viking, 2009

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

Animalia, by Graeme Base

Reviewed by Tash Hughes

One of Graeme Base’s earlier and best known books, Animaliais a treat.

Base himself didn’t think another alphabet book was needed in the world, so didn’t expect much of this book; how wrong he was! Animalia is an alphabet book, with most letters being allocated a single or double page. T and U, N and O share two pages between them.

Each letter has a poem that conjures up bizarre and interesting animal images, yet seems almost insignificant in the face of the illustrations.

Each page of the book is packed with pictures within pictures. The overall page scene relates to the letter’s verse; for instance, “Eight Enormous Elephants Expertly eating Easter Eggs” has a picture of eight elephants with Easter eggs!

Beyond that, the page contains many other items beginning with the letter for the page. In fact, there at least a thousand different alphabetised things in the book to find! Some are subtle, some are well hidden and some may take time to identify (such as the philosopher and politician, or the hamster, Humpty and hook). All are detailed and linked to the letter – even the can is a coke can and the wolf is white!

Like other books by Base, the book can appeal to many age groups, each group looking at the levels that are appropriate and being unaware of shared levels within.

As a final challenge, Base warns, “In Animalia, you see, It’s possible you might find me.” With care and effort, the boy Graeme can be found on each page in the book.

Some of the Animalia pages have also been made into jigsaw puzzles that are both fascinating and challenging because of the depths to each letter’s picture.

Animalia, by Graeme Base
Viking Kestrel, 1986