Meanwhile Back on Earth

Meanwhile Back on Earth

Meanwhile Back on Earth













Meanwhile Back on Earth

Oliver Jeffers

HarperCollins, 2022

64pp., hbk., RRP $A27.99


“In all the cosmos, this one place in our solar system is where all of the people have lived for the whole time we’ve been people. We have always thought that Earth is so big that it’s best to divide it into smaller bits/ It seems we humans have always fought each other over space.”

And so, taking the well-known quote from Edgar Mitchell, Lunar Module Pilot on Apollo 14 in February 1971, who said, ” From out there on the moon, international politics look so petty. You want to grab a politician by the scruff of the neck and drag him a quarter of a million miles out and say, “Look at that…” as inspiration, Oliver Jeffers has created  this intriguing book in which a father takes his two children on a thrilling out-of-this-world adventure into space and invites them to look back at Earth and the conflicts that have taken place since the beginning of time.  

Calculating time using the speed that most people drive at (37mph or 60kph),  he drives the children to the various planets and then takes them back a similar amount of time in Earth’s history to show the conflict that was occurring at the time. So driving to the Moon would take a year and then a left turn would be a 78 year drive to Venus which would take them back to the middle of the 20th century and World War II. Each destination is tied to something catastrophic happening on Earth. 

While this is an interesting way of looking at history, the ultimate futility of conflict and encouraging young readers to strive for peace in the future, the concept is quite abstract, almost esoteric and thus more suited to older readers who have the maturity and ability to look at things from beyond their realm of personal experience. Although the text appears simple, and Jeffers has added some wit to lighten the load, and a timeline on the endpapers encapsulates both the time and space aspects of the journey, this is one best shared in a situation where discussion and clarification can take place. 


The Pharaoh of Asco Express

The Pharaoh of Asco Express

The Pharaoh of Asco Express












The Pharaoh of Asco Express

Jake R. Wilson

New Frontier, 2022

138pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99


Whatever happens, no matter what, DO NOT step into Asco Express because you might just end up leaving with more than you bargained for…
When eleven-year-old Wesley stops by at a mysterious local shop to buy a drink, he does not realise the trouble he is getting himself into. CURSED by the fiendish Pharaoh AKAHTEN IX, Wesley and his friends, Marishana and Aiden, must solve the evil spell quickly or be trapped for all ETERNITY!

This is a new series for younger readers that not only introduces them to past times but also the mystery genre  Using modern children and time travel is a familiar hook to capture a new audience, and this story has the added bonus of a mystery set in Ancient Egypt, a time and place that fascinates many.  It includes a glossary of some of the people and objects encountered in the story so the reader can quickly check for anything they’re not sure of. With the ending setting the scene for the next adventure, this is a series that will appeal to those younger, independent readers who are looking for something different. 

As well as the story itself offering an opportunity to travel an historical path to explore life in Ancient Egypt, teacher’s notes  promote an exploration of the mystery genre generally, with explanations of the key elements of a strong hook, a crime, an investigator, a villain, clues, a twist and a conclusion which, in itself, invites readers to add other mysteries they have read to a list which could broaden others’ reading horizons.  


Stacey Casey (series)

Stacey Casey (series)

Stacey Casey (series)










Stacey Casey (series)

The House that Time Remembers


The Cheeky Outlaw


Michael C. Madden

Nancy Bevington

Big Sky, 2022

164pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

Stacey Casey’s father is a terrible inventor. But now, despite years of failed inventions, he has created a functioning time machine.  But instead of sending him back in time, he turns their entire house into a time machine, transporting everyone and everything in it back into history, although they still have access to parts of 2022 like mobile phones and the internet.

In the first episode, Stacey and her friend Oliver find themselves in 1964 faced with a series of extraordinary events. They find a bizarre artifact and encounter strange man who seems to know Stacey … but why is he chasing them? Who set the school on fire? And what’s with all the famous people they keep meeting? Can the friends solve the string of unanswered questions and find their way home?

In the second in the series, Stacey, Oliver and Mr Casey are 100 million years in the past looking at dinosaurs. Suddenly they find themselves chased by an angry lightning claw and escape by an emergency jump back to 2022. Now they have two problems: a stowaway baby cooperensis dinosaur and a damaged time machine. To try and fix things they travel back in time to 1880s Australia where they find themselves faced with more challenges – outlaws, explorers and a mystery that could destroy the universe!

Historical fiction is a valuable way to take students back to previous times so they can immerse themselves in the way of life then and thus get a better understanding of the events that occurred and the decisions that were made, some of which may still be impacting them today.  This new series for independent readers who have developed that concept of times and lives  past being real, as opposed to the futuristic, imaginary world that much of contemporary literature places itself in, is another opportunity to broaden horizons.  For example, in the first story they find themselves still in their home town but in 1964 so students might like to investigate what their own town was like in 1964, perhaps interviewing residents who were there then or investigating how it has changed over 60 years and the causes for those changes, thus developing an understanding of how the past can reach out to shape the present. 

Teachers’ notes  linked to Australian Curriculum outcomes offer suggestions for implementing these sorts of investigations with a strong theme of linking today’s students’ lives to the events in the story, such as being accused of something they haven’t done, ensuring that the series is more than just a fictional recount of past events.