Archives

Aliens, Ghosts and Vanishings

Aliens, Ghosts and Vanishings

Aliens, Ghosts and Vanishings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aliens, Ghosts and Vanishings: Strange and Possibly True Australian Stories

Stella Tarakson

Richard Morden

Random House Australia, 2016

288pp., hbk., RRP $A27.99

9781925324969 

Australia really is a ‘story country” and the tales, tall and true that have been collected in this volume prove just how rich and diverse this nation is.  Even our unofficial national anthem focuses on a ghost so why wouldn’t there be a wealth of stories about mythical creatures, mysterious locations, haunted places, UFO sightings, bizarre disappearances and strange happenings?

 

From bunyips and yowies to Azaria Chamberlain and the disappearance  of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, this is a collection that will absorb the lover of the weird, wonderful and utterly mysterious, some familiar and others not-so. Ostensibly for those 10 and over, its clear format, short chapters and abundant illustrations will appeal to any independent reader who is interested in finding out more about the strange and unusual that this country has on offer.   

As well as the stories themselves, there are pages with extra information and some of the sources the author used for her research are included for those who wish to investigate further.  

Identified as a Notable Book in the 2017 Eve Pownall Award for Information Books, I know a couple of young readers who are going to be having to do scissors-paper-rock to see who reads this one first.

Brambleheart

Brambleheart

Brambleheart

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brambleheart

Henry Cole

Katherine Tegen Books

288pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

9780062245441

Naming Day at the school on The Hill -an old rubbish dump on the edge of the woods – is the most important day for the students because it is then that they get their surnames based on their expertise in particular disciplines such as metal craft and weaving.  Chipmunk Twig, who prefers to read discarded picture books rather than the old instruction manuals preferred by the other students, is struggling to excel and seems destined to become a lonely Errand Runner. Shamed and embarrassed he runs away, falls into a river and when he reaches the shore he finds a golden egg from which hatches a dragon.  And suddenly his fortunes change – or do they?

Miss 11, an avid reader, was drawn to this book on a recent visit because it is the sort of story she likes and she immediately put her nose into it. However her comments afterwards suggested it did not live up to expectations.  Even though the writing is descriptive,  she said she was glad there were the pictures to help because her imagination wasn’t drawing them for her.

She felt that the storyline did not match her predictions and there were several gaps that were unexplained such as how Twig got back upriver; what is making Char the dragon so sick; enemy Basil’s change of heart and how Lily, banned from seeing Twig manages to accompany him on the final adventure.  She wasn’t keen on the up-in-the-air, to-be-continued ending which left the story unresolved until the sequel Bayberry Island is read. Sadly, Grandma didn’t have it. Perhaps if she did and all the loose ends were tied up she might have enjoyed it more.

Friendship and the ethics of keeping animals captive and cheating to achieve a goal are the themes of this story but to Miss 11, the target audience for the story, they were lost in her confusion of the story.

Unusual for me to publish a less-than-positive review but when you have the critique of the intended audience, it’s hard to ignore it.  

The Earth Book

The Earth Book

The Earth Book

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Earth Book

Jonathan Litton

Thomas Hegbrook

Little Tiger Press, 2017

64pp., hbk., RRP $A39.99

9781848575240

 

“In the vastness of space lies a tiny sphere that orbits an ordinary middle-aged star in a quiet backwater of the Milky Way.  It’s one of billions of trillions of worlds, yet it is the only one that we know supports life… let’s go on a voyage of discovery to the four corners of the globe.”

Beginning with the beginning of the planet’s existence and told in a narrative style suitable for the newly independent reader who likes to read non fiction rather than dipping and delving for specific information, this is a beautifully illustrated book that takes the reader on a journey through physical earth, life on earth, the regions of the earth and the human planet.  

With its retro colour palette, diagrams and pictures it reminds me very much of a similar book I used to pore over 60 years ago and which I still have, such was its importance to my understanding of the world.  While today’s youngsters have television and the Internet to take them on similar journeys, nevertheless there is comfort and security in having something on hand that can be referred to over and over on demand; that gives enough information to satisfy a curiosity while also being a springboard to seeking further understanding if that is required.  

However, the illustrations are not as clear as might be expected for a ready reference resource of this type and being unpaged, and lacking a contents page and an index make its use more a personal one than an essential element of a library’s collection.  It is one to recommend to parents who are looking to boost their for home libraries so their children can start to understand what this planet is and how it works. It may become as loved as mine did and decades on form part of a collection of adored childhood reads. 

As world events and personal dramas seem to envelop us, books like this tend to put mankind and indeed Earth into perspective in the scheme of things and we are left with a wonder and an awe of this ‘third rock from the sun” as well as a sense of hope that despite everything and everyone, this place will endure for our lifetime and that of several lifetimes to come. 

 

Bear Grylls: Survival Skills Handbook (series)

Survival Skills Handbook

Survival Skills Handbook

 

 

 

 

 

Bear Grylls: Survival Skills Handbook

Camping

9781783422593

Dangers and Emergencies

9781783422999

Knots

9781783422982

Maps and Navigation

9781783423002

Bear Grylls

Bonnier, 2017

48pp., hbk., RRP $A12.99

 

Apart from being the star of his Emmy Award winning television show Man vs Wild, Bear Grylls is also Chief Scout to the UK Scout Association and so a series of handbooks about survival with his name on it has authenticity and authority.  Drawing on his 21 years of experience in the British SAS and with a personal philosophy of “Life is and adventure. Live it.”, Grylls encourages young readers to get outdoors, explore what’s on offer and with the help of clear illustrations and information, take a few risks to maximise the experience. From learning to set up camp, build a fire, gather food and water safely, build a shelter to using a compass, reading a map and tying basic knots, these step-by-step instructions are a must for young children whether they are setting up a tent in the backyard for an overnight sleepover or being more adventurous out in the bush with friends. Even if they are not planning a trip, the tips and tricks learned here may well provide them with necessary knowledge for a sticky situation in the future.

There is a constant cry from the world of adults that kids are too screen-bound, too indoors-oriented and they need to get out more so the growing obesity epidemic is halted so this series would be a great support to any studies of survival, self-preservation, needs vs wants and perhaps even encourage some to look at joining the Scout movement.  

The Blizzard Challenge

The Blizzard Challenge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Blizzard Challenge

Bear Grylls

Bonnier,2017

128pp., pbk., RRP $A9.99

9781786960122

Olly hates activity camp and its pointless activities. Why should he bother building a stupid shelter or foraging for food with his teammates – he’d rather be at home in the warm and dry, where the sofa and the video games are.

But then Olly gets given a compass with a mysterious fifth direction. When he follows it, he’s magically transported to a high mountain range where he meets survival expert Bear Grylls. With his help, Olly must learn to survive in sub-zero temperatures, including what to do if the ice cracks when you’re crossing a frozen lake, or a blizzard sets in . . .

But can his adventure with Bear Grylls change Olly’s mind about teamwork and perseverance? And who will Olly give the compass to next?

This is the first of a 12 book series written for younger readers, each with a new hero who is given the magical compass to follow on an adventure.  Well-written, full of survival information embedded in the narrative and illustrated, it is perfect for inspiring the independent young reader to not only read but perhaps to also experience the outdoors for themselves.  Using just their knowledge and wits rather than magic, super powers or fantastic creatures to get themselves out of trouble this is a down-to-earth series that kids can really relate to.  This is something THEY can do and they can be their own hero.

While Miss 11 and Miss 6 might not be the female Bear Grylls, both adore their burgeoning Scouting journey and these books are going to be perfect additions to their bedtime reading routines as well as giving them even more knowledge and skills to build on for their next adventure.  

 

Storm Whale

Storm Whale

Storm Whale

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Storm Whale

Sarah Brennan

Jane Tanner

Allen & Unwin, 2017

32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781760293642

Bleak was the day and the wind whipped down when I and my sisters walked to town …

Surrounded by seabirds being buffeted every which way, wild waves  crashing on the shore and bitten by a chill wind that blew their skirts high, turned their legs blue and made their hair fly like a brumby’s tail, three sisters make their way to the beach undaunted by nature’s fury.  In fact they are delighting in it.  But that soon turns to anguish when they spot a whale stranded on the high tide line.  

Scarred old mariner, beached in hell,

Far from the cradling ocean swell,

Far from the peace of the ocean deep

Where ancient fugitives find their sleep.

Swept by the tide to its farthest reach,

Left with the kelp on the hard wet beach…

Dark as a demon, dull of eye

Waiting in silence to drift…or die

All day the girls battle to keep the whale alive, unperturbed by the weather and the waves soaking them to the skin.  But as dark rolls in and the driving rain sends them home, they have to leave the whale to its fate.  Even the cosy warmth of the fire doesn’t warm their hearts and their night is restless but dream-filled as the storm rages on.  Next morning they hasten back to the beach and discover a miracle…

Written in the most poetic language and accompanied by the most evocative illustrations, Storm Whale took me right back to my childhood in a seaside town at the very south of the South Island of New Zealand – next stop Antarctica- and brought back haunting memories of storms with wild winds that crashed the waves onto the rocks and made for the most exciting times.  While whales abounded, they didn’t become stranded on that part of the coastline although it was common on beaches not too far distant.  This is a story that not only paints a different picture of the seaside as the benign summer holiday playground of many of our students but brings to life the fury and magnificence of Nature and the insignificance of even those as mighty as whales in her power.   

The rhyming text suggest the ceaseless rhythm of the ocean and indeed, life itself, while both words and pictures give a subtle but strong message of respect and the need to appreciate, value and conserve.  

A most moving book that will touch the reader on many levels.

My Amazing Body Machine

My Amazing Body Machine

My Amazing Body Machine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Amazing Body Machine

Robert Winston

Owen Gildersleeve

DK Publishing, 2017

128pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9780241283806

Young children are always fascinated with their bodies and how they work and this new publication from DK is the perfect starting point for those who are ready to delve a little deeper.  Divided into nine sections, each dealing with a different but related phenomenon of the body, with bite-sized chunks of information in accessible text  interspersed with colourful informative diagrams and photos, this is would be an ideal addition to the family reference library ready to consult when questions are asked as well as the school library collection.  Having it out on display so students can leaf through it as they wait will spark lots of curiosity and a desire to find out more. The perfect introduction to the role of the encyclopedia as a starting point to finding out a little and sparking the desire to go to a more specialised book to find out more.

DK have been at the forefront of introducing non fiction to young readers for decades and this is no exception.

Vet Cadets (series)

Vet Cadets

Vet Cadets

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Welcome to Willowvale (Vet Cadets #1)

Rebecca Johnson

Puffin, 2017

180pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9780143782711

  

Willowvale Girls Grammar is an agricultural boarding school with 500 students offering a Vet Cadets program, and Abbey, Talika and Hannah are sharing a room. They need to learn to live together even though they come from very different backgrounds – Hannah obviously has money on her side and is a neat freak, while Abbey is the opposite, and Talika is Indian, which neither of the others have any experience of. But each has a family who loves them and fusses over them, and each has first day nerves. 

Nevertheless, adjust they must and it is not long before the adventures begin and they become an inseparable trio solving mysteries, causing chaos and all the time, learning more and more about the creatures they care for..

From the author of Juliet, Nearly a Vet  comes this new series for slightly older readers who are interested in caring for animals, perhaps even becoming vets themselves. With three other titles due for publication over the next few months this promises to be a great addition to your collection to satisfy those girls who are always after new animal stories. 

To celebrate the launch there are two Vet Conventions being held in Queensland but check the website for availability of spaces. 

Star Wars: The Visual Encyclopedia

Star Wars: The Visual Encyclopedia

Star Wars: The Visual Encyclopedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Star Wars: The Visual Encyclopedia

Adam Bray

Cole Horton

Tricia Barr

DK Publishing, 2017

200pp., hbk., RRP $A39.99

9781465459626

 

Forty years ago when most of the world was dancing to Saturday Night Fever  George Lucas created a collection of characters who lived  “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away”. Star Wars was launched and Hans Solo,  Princess Leia, C-3PO, R2D2,, Eowks and Darth Vader became part of our vocabulary and light sabres and X-wings were in everyone’s home!

Fast forward to 2017 and Star Wars has more fans now than then and it holds the Guinness Book of records record for the most successful film merchandising franchise ever.  So on this, the 40th Star Wars day, this visual encyclopedia will be greeted with enthusiasm from fans new and old.  

The publisher describes it best…

“Covering more than 2500 characters, creatures, planets, vehicles, Droids, weapons, technology and more from the Star Wars universe, this visual tour is the ultimate compendium for the epic saga and beyond.

With a full history of the galactic politics, the Jedi Council, and the Empire, Star wars: The Visual Dictionary walks fans through the entire timeline of Star Wars.  Galleries of images and information on every page, including lightsabers, languages, clothing and more are showcased with fascinating facts and trivia…Discover the food, architecture, transportation and more from this galaxy far, far away.  Each section of the book focuses on different topics to dedicate special attention and detail to every part of the universe, no matter how small.  From the planets in the outer rim to Padme’s bridal wear, nothing is missed.

A celebration of all things Star Wars, this visual museum is the perfect addition to any fan’s bookshelf.”

 

Given that I couldn’t keep the books on the shelves in my primary library two years ago, this would also be a great addition to a library’s shelves too.

History Mysteries: Lasseter’s Gold

Lasseter's Gold

Lasseter’s Gold

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lasseter’s Gold

Mark Greenwood

Puffin, 2017

88pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

9780143309321

In the 1930s as the Great Depression held Australia in its grip and people desperately wanted something to hope for, Harold Lasseter walked into the office of the president of the Australian Workers’ Union with a tale to tell that remains one of Australia’s greatest mysteries to this day.

He told Mr Bailey of a magnificent gold reef  that in 1897 he had discovered in the harsh, inhospitable and inaccessible country that is the desert lands where South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory meet.  But he lacked the money, manpower and equipment to return to it to exploit it although if the AWU were to back him…

Historian and author Mark Greenwood has taken his fascination with this subject that he first wrote about in The Legend of Lasseter’s Reef and turned it into another episode in this wonderful History Mysteries series, bringing the story of Harold Lasseter and his legendary reef to yet another generation of readers.  Was Lasseter genuine – or a conman? Where are the three hills that look like “ladies wearing sunbonnets”, “a group of Dickens women in Dombey and Sons”?,  Is there still a rich reef of gold waiting to be discovered – even explorer Dick Smith won’t divulge what he discovered!  If it is there, should it be explored and exploited or should the mystery be forever consigned to Australian folklore?

Accompanied by archival photos, a timeline, links to further information and references to his friendship with Lasseter’s son Bob who believes his father’s story and has made several expeditions to reveal the truth, this is just the sort of tale that will grip young readers encouraging them to look backwards as well as forwards and discover the stories of this country.

 

Amazing Australians in their Flying Machines

Amazing Australians in their Flying Machines

Amazing Australians in their Flying Machines

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amazing Australians in their Flying Machines

Prue & Kerry Mason

Tom Jellett

Walker Books, 2017

32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781922244635

Those of us of a certain vintage will remember a film from a few decades ago called Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines  (or if not the film, at least the earworm of its title tune).  The subtitle was How I Flew from London to Paris in 25 hours 11 minutes and the film focused on a fictional 1910 competition, when Lord Rawnsley, an English press magnate, offered £10,000 (about $A2 000 000 today) to the winner of the Daily Post air race from London to Paris, to prove that Britain was “number one in the air”.  Set less than a decade after the Wright brothers made that famous first flight at Kittyhawk in 1903 it offered a look at those early days of aviation and the costs and risks involved for those who live in an era when air travel is taken for granted.

But while the focus of flight was centred overseas, Australia was producing its own heroes who were also thinking about how humans could fly – people like Dr William Bland whose drawings of an Atomic Ship were displayed in the Crystal Palace in London in 1854 and Lawrence Hargrave who experimented with box kites to investigate the concept of wings in 1894 and whose work led to that iconic flight of Orville and Wilbur.

When we think of Australian aviation heroes we tend to think of Charles Kingsford Smith, Bert Hinkler and perhaps Nancy Bird Walton but in this book  the experiments and exploits of a number of other great aviators are brought to life adding to our incredible story of innovation and invention.  Written by authors who bought their own vintage aeroplane in 2000 and wanted to know its history, it brings to life the lives of those pioneers through imagined diary entries,  easily written facts and numerous archival photos and illustrations in a way that makes them accessible to young readers with a thirst to know more.  Fascinating reads within themselves, each story makes the reader want to investigate further – why were the long-distance, record-breaking flights so important to Australia?  Why were women not allowed to fly until 1927 and who broke the barriers?  Who is Deborah Wardley and why do girls owe so much to her? There are so many more heroes than the ten covered in this collection – offering students the opportunity to add another chapter to the timeline, or to investigate flight itself, including how the technical difficulties were understood and overcome without the aid of computers.

The best non fiction doesn’t tell us all the answers – it poses questions that make us want to investigate further.  Amazing Australians in their Flying Machines certainly does that. Could well be among those nominated for the CBCA awards next year.