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Book News - September 2000

AUSTRAL ED Contact Details:
a division of gleebooks
PO Box 486
NSW 2037

Phone: 61 2 9660 2333
Fax: 61 2 9660 3597

ABN  87 000 357 317 www.gleebooks.com.au
email: austral@gleebooks.com.au

No 16 , September 2000

Greetings. I started writing this when I had just arrived back in Perth after a wonderfully relaxing week in the Flinders Ranges in the arid north of South Australia. We spent much of the time just walking along dry creek beds and through red gorges - so peaceful except for the screeching from occasional flocks of white cockatoos flying over. It’s a shame that the feeling of relaxation goes so quickly after just a few days back in the office. And now I am battling to tear myself away from the telecast of the Olympic Games so that I can complete this newsletter before September becomes October.

I am hoping to meet up with many of you again at the next Conferences. In November Ron and I will be at CERCOS from 9th - 11th in Hong Kong and then again in Nice for ECIS from 16th - 19th. On the way back to Perth, I land in Singapore about the same time as the IB Librarians’ Workshop from 28 - 30th and so will be staying on for it. So do come up and say hello if you are attending any of these Conferences. There will be lots of new books (as well as old favourites) at the Austral Ed display. At the ECIS Conference the Stand # is 108. It is such an enormous Exhibits’ area that the Stand # is definitely needed.

In Australia, after many years of debate, the Government has finally brought in a GST (Goods and Services Tax) of 10% on books as well as most goods and services. Exports are exempt and therefore overseas International Schools and teachers do not need to pay the GST. However since all Australian book catalogues etc will show prices which include GST, I have decided that it is easiest if Austral Ed book lists and newsletters from now on also show the price including GST. However in this newsletter I have included both prices, the one that includes GST and the price that Int’l Schools will pay. (This price is the GST price divided by 11 - since a GST of 10% is added to the original price.) You can see why everyone involved in small business is not at all keen on this GST!!

You have probably already noticed that many of the prices are very strange at the moment eg $13.41 or $16. 72. This is because publishers have been fearful of being heavily fined for raising the price more than exactly 10% and so these crazy prices will remain for some months.

I am gradually trying to update the prices on the lists of recommended books but time, as always, is the problem. At the moment some lists include GST and some have only pre GST prices. Contact me if you would like paper copies of the lists. Otherwise they are on the website: www.australed.iinet.net.au

And while we are talking about things financial, if your school has been thinking of purchasing some books from Australia, now is the time to do it. The Australian dollar has dropped almost 20% against the US dollar over the past 18 months. It is now less than 55 cents to the US dollar! Not good for Australians travelling overseas but excellent for anyone wanting to buy Australian books!

Darelyn Dawson will be one of the speakers at the IB Librarians’ Workshop in Singapore. I heard her speak very briefly once before about the program for Literature Circles that she and a colleague have established in the Sydney school where they are librarians. I am looking forward to hearing her speak in more detail as I am impressed with the book that they have written called Literature Circles: Reading in Action. It’s a dynamic approach to establishing discussion goups with students and how to make them an extremely valuable part of the school curriculum, as well as helping students develop a love of reading. A very helpful resource for primary and secondary teachers and teacher librarians.
Literature Circles: Reading in Action by Darelyn Dawson and Lee Fitzgerald pb $30.00 ($27.27 without GST)

Too Many Books to Read!

Like most of you, I always have a huge pile of books waiting to be read and so I admit when I first came across Just Tricking by Andy Griffiths I made an attempt to read it but was put off partly by the crazy, messy and very detailed drawings of Terry Denton on the cover and inside (they take so much concentration to read) and after reading a few paragraphs I tossed it aside. It took a Swedish librarian who is very enthusiastic about Australian books and who works in the British School in Tokyo to show me the error of my ways and to get me to give another try to these books, which are immensely popular with kids especially boys.

And it’s true the stories are very funny with an irreverent, infectious humour which is maintained throughout the story. And of course when I took the time to decipher some of Terry Denton’s tiny illustrations and to read the speech bubbles and flicked the pages to see the moving picture effect, I could see why kids love these books so much. Like the Where’s Wally books kids spend hours pouring over small detailed illustrations whereas my powers of concentration are much more limited. The stories are very different from the other famous Australian short story writer Paul Jennings. Paul’s stories usually have a surprise twist in the ending whereas Andy Griffiths’ stories maintain their humour throughout.

Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton have now combined on four titles: Just Tricking, Just Annoying, Just Stupid and Just Crazy. Each of these comes with excellent Teachers’ Notes which are free. Andy was a teacher and he and Terry Denton have devised some activities based on the stories that students will really enjoy. There is a selection of very funny True/False (or not enough evidence) questions to be answered and also quirky drawing and writing activities.
Just Tricking, Just Annoying, Just Stupid and Just Crazy pb $12.01 ($10.92 without GST) each (8 - 13 years).

And another confession. Margaret Clark is another Australian author who has been very popular for years. Years ago when I read a number of her books, her sense of humour just didn’t appeal. And so I haven’t read any of her books for years until Richie again said that a new series called Aussie Angels was very popular with the kids and that he really liked them as well. So I read, Okay Koala , the first in the series and again to my surprise I enjoyed it and was impressed by the amount of information included as part of the story on animals and Australian wildlife in particular. Twins, Meg and Mike, are the Aussie Angels and got the name through rescuing a number of animals. Their home is Animal Haven set in the Otway Ranges in the south west of Victoria, where their parents care for sick or injured or orphan native animals. This provides the setting for stories of adventure (in Okay Koala there is a dangerous bush fire) and humour. Margaret Clark lives in the area and obviously knows it very well. It provides a wonderful setting as it is next to the ocean but also near the mountains with dense bush land and so there is a wide range of sea and land animals to involve in the series. This is a very easy to read series with likeable characters and loads of information about the Australian bush and animals.
Titles so far are : Okay Koala, Whale of a Time, Seal with a Kiss, Hello Possum, Wannabee Wallaby, Cocky Too, Sheila the Heeler, A Horse of Course and Operation Wombat.
pb $11.95 ($10.88) each (7 - 11 years)

Librarians may be interested to hear that Richie wanted to have a theme of Australian books in the Library and so started off with an Australia Week which was so popular that it was later extended to Australia Month. As an alternative to using an arranged Book Club he also ran an Australian Book Fair. He brought out most of the Australian books in the collection (checked with me that they were still in print) and then invited parents and kids to come in and order the books they wanted. It was a great succes. Contact me if you would like more details.

Series, Series, Series

A few weeks ago I was at a family hotel where there was very loud music, lots of people dancing and large family groups talking and eating and one young boy at a table totally oblivious to what was going on around him. He was completely absorbed in a very thick book. Of course the book was Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire . I haven’t yet managed to read it, the latest in the Harry Potter series but it’s out and I am sure I will enjoy all 636 pages of it as soon as I get time to read it. Their popularity continues unabated and I am delighted at the thought that so many young readers will have the enjoyment of being immersed in a story that lasts and lasts and that they will feel very satisfied at having finished such an enormous tome. Hopefully in the future they will not be put off reading a book just because it is long. Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire hardback $35.00 ($31.82) (9 years up)

The rest of the series is
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone hardback $25.00 ($22.73) pb $14.20 ($12.91)
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets hardback $25.00 ($22.73) pb $14.20 ($12.91)
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban hardback $25.00 ($22.73) pb $16.40 ($14.91)

I know that librarians are searching around for alternatives to Harry Potter while they are so popular. Emily Rodda’s new fantasy series, Deltora Quest, is a possiblity. The eighth and final book in the series is due in November. It does not have the same level of humour, excitement or originality as the Harry Potter books but it is enjoyable. It involves a traditional fantasy quest to find the seven gems which make up the Belt of Deltora. Each book involves a perilous quest for Lief, Barda and Jasmine through seven very different lands to obtain the gems to free Deltora from the tyranny of the evil Shadow Lord.

Deltora Quest series
1 The Forests of Silence 2 The Lake of Tears 3 City of the Rats
4 The Shifting Sands 5 Dread Mountain 6 The Maze of the Beast
7 The Valley of the Lost 8 Return to Del pb $14.00 ($12.73) each (8 - 12 years)

Emily Rodda also wrote the Rowan of Rin series which has been very popular with an even younger age range. Rowan of Rin, Rowan and the Travellers, Rowan and the Keeper of the Crystal , Rowan and the Zebak pb $11.90 ($10.82) each (7 - 11 years)

I am very pleased that another more sophisticated series has been brought back into print, doubtless as a response to Harry Potter’s popularity. Diana Wynne-Jones is an extraordinarily inventive and witty writer from the UK and I remember her books with pleasure. The Chrestomanci series is about a series of worlds protected by an enchanter with nine lives. I am very keen to reread them and so have now added them to my evergrowing pile. (If you would like to read a review of them, look at the latest September issue of Magpies Magazine where Ray Turton write of her delight at rereading them after a gap of twenty years.)

Chrestomanci Series
1 Charmed Life, 2 Magicians of Caprona , 3 Witch Week, 4 Lives of Christopher Chant $11.99 ($10.90) each (8 - 14 years)

The Aussie Bites series has been so popular with kids that a number of librarians have just ordered one or two copies of the whole series which now numbers over 30 titles and more keep coming. The books are very recognisable because of the bite taken out of the corner and the range of stories is excellent. (The latest Serena and the Sea Serpent by Garth Nix is especially engaging.) For all the titles contact me or see the Puffin website www.puffin.com.au The publishers have decided to bring out a companion series for readers just beginning on their first chapter books. They are called Aussie Nibbles, with of course a smaller bite out of the corner of the book. Younger kids will be delighted. (6 - 9 years)
Titles so far are
Blue Hair Day by James Moloney First Friend by Christobel Mattingley
Freeing Billy by Meredith Costain Poor Fish by Jane Godwin
The Two Gorillas by Ursula Dubosarsky pb $9.95 ($9.05) each

Books for Young Adults

With such an emphasis in Australia on sports (very evident from the Olympics) it’s surprising that there has been so little fiction published for children or young adults on sport. A few series have become available recently but there has been very little that I would really recommend so to read a book about an Olympic swimmer by a new young author who was an Olympic swimmer herself is a treat. Lisa Forrest obviously writes from personal experience and it is such insights that provide the most interest as she describes how Nina Hallett’s world changes and how she copes but later collapses under the pressure of expectation and media attention when she achieves her goal of swimming record breaking times. Very believable and well written but perhaps the most interesting was the description of the feeling of immense pleasure when everything comes together and there is a silken feeling as she is able to glide through the water, effortlessly but very fast.
Making the Most of It by Lisa Forrest pb $16.39 ($14.90) (12 years up)

It’s interesting that James Moloney tried to write a book about rugby but found that the characters ended up taking over and rugby was relegated more to the background. Xavier is ayoung man for whom being picked for the first Rugby team at achool means everything until he meets and fall in love with Nuala Magee, an unpredictable, witty and engaging girl. The development of their very edgy relationship is absorbing. And Xavier begins to question the things that he had always taken for granted - even his commitment to the rugby team.
Touch Me by James Moloney pb $16.37 ($14.88) 14 years up

We have all been distressed by the terrible events in East Timor and I was pleased and surprised to read a book for children which gives an insight into the East Timorese people and their immense courage and fortitude. Jose Rodrigues was just 14 years old when the Indonesians took over East Timor. The book is set at that time and gives us a portrait of Jose and his family’s life in their village and of his love for a pet fighting cock which symbolises the fierce courage and determination of the East Timorese people. The book also gives some background to the events of 1975. It is an extremely well written and moving story.

No-name Bird by Josef Vondra pb $16.35 ($11.05) 11 years up

Aidan Chambers is a well known and respected UK author and literary critic. His latest novel has just been awarded the Carnegie Medal and it is excellent. Set in Amsterdam, it tells of two interwoven stories. Jacob Todd is visiting Amsterdam for the commemoration of the Battle of Arnhem in which his grandfather took part. However his view of his grandfather, and his perspective on life is changed as Geertrui Wesseling, now an old woman in hospital, tells her story about his grandfather who was sheltered by her family and with whom she fell in love. The interlinked stories are intriguing, the characters absorbing, the history fascinating and the descriptions of Amsterdam entrancing and the descriptions of Jacob’s delight and frustration as he struggles with a new language are delightfully humourous. This is a complex and sophisticated novel but it is overall a joyful book. There are moments of pain, of intense adolescent embarrassments but especially a feeling of liberation as Jacob sees new possibilities for himself. It is as though being in a new country liberates him of all his old expectations. This is a book to savour. For me by far Aidan Chambers’ best book. (14 years up)
Postcards From No Man’s Land by Aidan Chambers pb $25.20 ($22.91)

Picture Books

One of my favourite Christmas picture books will be reprinted just in time for Christmas. Of course I can’t understand why it was ever allowed to go out of print but for the moment I shall just be glad that it is back! The Nativity by Julie Vivas features the beauty and solemnity of the text of the original King James version of the Bible and this is wonderfully contrasted with the vitality, humour and originality of Julie Vivas’ illustrations. Mary is beautifully and heavily pregnant as she struggles to get on to the donkey that carries her to Bethlehem, Joseph is so loving and full of wonder as he looks at the new baby and the Angel Gabriel is delightful as he wanders in his hobnailed boots among the sheep looking out for sheep poo!
The Nativity by Julie Vivas pb $12.95 ($11.78)

We met first Ernie in Clive Eats Alligators pb $14.19 ($11.61) a simple but charming picture book showing the individuality and likes and dislikes of seven children. Here Ernie and his parents go to live in Arnhem Land in the north of Australia with the Gunbalanya Aboriginal community and so we get to know more about Ernie and also about 6 other Aboriginal children who become his friends. Ernie writes to his friends back home over the year and each letter shows us what he and his friends do as the weather changes with each new tropical season. It’s a wonderfully simple but vibrant introduction to Aboriginal life and culture in this community. The kids do ordinary things like playing football but they also go hunting and collect bark for bark paintings.
Ernie Dances to the Didgeridoo by Alison Lester hardback $27.35 ($24.87)

This is another excellent picture book set in India that I have added to my list of Children’s Books about Asia. Set in the jungles of India where tigers live and terrify the villagers, this is the story of the courage and cleverness of a little girl who outsmarted a tiger by wearing a mask on the back of her head. No matter which way she turned the tiger thought she was watching him and so didn’t attack. It’s beautifully illustrated and the text would read aloud very well.
Facing the Tiger
by Kerri & Larry Pitts illustrations by Jenny Sands hardback $22.95 ($20.87)

Non-Fiction from Round the World

Wake Up, World! A Day in the Life of Children Around the World by Beatrice Hollyer
hb $32.95 ($29.95)
A marvellous book which explores the lives of eight children each from different countries. It shows the similarities and also the contrasts as the children wake up, get dressed, go to school, play, have dinner and get ready for bed. We look inside their homes and see their families and the things they like. The children come from Australia, Brazil, Ghana, India, Russia, Vietnam, UK and USA; countries with very different climates and geography. There are also very different levels of comfort in their way of living but the excellent phtotographs show us the vitality of the chidren, the strength of their family life and the ingenuity of their games. A very appealing book which celebrates the diversity of the children of the world. This book has been published in association with Oxfam and all royalties go to Oxfam which provided the photgraphers who took the excellent photographs.

Vendela in Venice
by Christina Bjork and Inga-Karin Eriksson translated from the Swedish by Patricia Crampton hardback $26.40 ($24.00)
A beautifully detailed and illustrated book on the delights of Venice by the same author who gave us the wonderful Linnea in Monet’s Garden. hb $24.20 ($22.00) That book gave us a wonderful introduction to Monet’s art and life through the enthusiasm of a little girl visiting his garden for the first time, and similarly this book gives us an introduction to the history, art and culture of Venice through the eyes of Vendela when she visits the city with her Dad. Beautifully illustrated by Inga-Karin Eriksson, the book is packed with information about the delights of Venice but it is all so easy to absorb since it is in story form. I would recommend the book not just to children but to anyone planning to visit Venice in the future as reading travel books on the city can become all too overwhelming because of the incredible amount to see. For nine years up.

Building the Sydney Harbour Bridge by John Nicholson hardback $24.95 ($22.70)
With the prominence of the Sydney Harbour Bridge in the television coverage of the Olympics this book has come out at a most opportune time. John Nicholson tells and illustrates in fascinating detail the story of the building of the “giant coat-hanger”; of the engineering problems it faced and of the work it provided for thousands of men during the Depression years. The detailed illustrations of the steel work (53,000 tonnes of steel and 6 million rivets were used) are very interesting even for me, not known for my interest in things mechanical. Nicholson as always brings a personal touch to the story in his descriptions of the workers during the Depression and of the dangers as they worked at great heights above the harbour and of course the lone horseman who galloped up and cut the ribbon with his sword before the Premier of NSW was able to formally open the bridge in 1932. He was a disgruntled Royalist who thought that a member of the British Royal family should have opened the Bridge!

The Australian Children’s Book Of The Year Award Winners and Short List 2000

Many of you have already received the Short List for this very important Australian Award but the winners were only announced in August.

Book of the Year: Older Readers
(NB Some of these books are for older readers)
48 Shades of Brown by Nick Earls pb $16.37 ($14.90)

A very funny book that I reviewed in the September ‘99 newsletter. Dan is a charming young man if slightly scatty in his last year at school. His attempts to cope with calculus, the absence of his mother in Geneva for a year and his total lack of knowledge about washing, shopping or any home survival skills as he shares a house with his bass playing 22 year old aunt Jacq and her captivating university friend Naomi make hilarious reading. Make sure you read it yourself, don’t leave all the pleasure to the students. (14 up)

Honour Books
Killing Aurora by Helen Barnes pb $16.37 ($14.90)

An original and challenging book. It is a suburban satire which looks at the pressures of an advertising world obsessed with the slender female body, at school life and a number of disfunctional families with a sharp and often black humour. It is also a chilling look at a girl suffering from anorexa nervosa . For senior students.
Borrowed Light by Anna Fienberg pb $16.42 ($14.93)
Callisto is aptly named after a moon. She is fascinated with astronomy, she feels distant from people but is always wanting to please. A story about a relationships and about having the strength to be yourself. (14 up)

Stripes of the Sidestep Wolf
by Sonya Hartnett pb $18.56 ($16.88)

Again a theme of an isolated bush town and coming to terms with oneself. The discovery of a living thylacine (or Tasmanian Tigher) believed to be extinct, gives a sense of hope.
Tyro by David McRobbie pb $14.18 ($12.90)
Set in Scotland in 1953 this is a strong story about the effect of violent bullying on a shipyard apprentice. (14 years up)

Stony Heart Country by David Metzenthen pb $14.18 ($12.90)

When Aaron’s father is sent to a small country to rationalise the workforce of its one major industry, Aaron knows he is in for a rough time. A moving well crafted story. (13 up)

Book of the Year: Younger Readers
Hitler’s Daughter by Jackie French pb $12.95 ($11.78)
An absorbing thought-provoking book about the power of story and the nature of evil. Can the children be blamed if a parent does something terrible?
Honour Books
Hannah & the Tomorrow Room by Libby Gleeson & Ann James pb $10.89 ($9.90)
In this, the third story about Hannah she is thrilled at the thought of having her own room but everything is spoilt when the room is suddenly needed for her sick grandpa.
Captain Mack
by James Roy pb $13.08 ($11.89)
A novel about the unlikely friendship between Danny who is being bullied at school and an old man who was a POW in Burma during the war and now feels imprisoned in a nursing home. A sympathetic look at what really constitutes bravery.

Graffiti on the Fence
by Elaine Forrestal pb $14.18 ($12.90)
The exploits of the local skateboarding trio infuriate Lallie, an elderly neighbour but when Hellz gets to know her he is very surprised.
Hazel Green by Odo Hirsch pb $14.22 ($12.93)
Hazel Green is a spirited heroine and the Yak is an introverted boy who is a mathematical whiz. They both live in the Moodey Buiding and when Hazel is wrongly accused of stealing their friendship makes them a formidable team.
Rowan and the Zebak by Emily Rodda pb $11.90 ($10.82)
Fourth in the very appealing series of fantasy stories about Rowan. Here Rowan must travel to the distant lands of Rin’s ancient enemies to rescue his little sister, captured by a monstrous flying creature.

Picture Book of the Year (Some of these picture books may be for mature readers.)
Jenny Angel by Margaret Wild illus by Anne Spudvilas hardback $25.13 ($22.85)
A very moving story about a girl who believes that she is her brother’s guardian angel and as long as she and he believe, then he will not die. This is a story about the Jenny’s journey from denial to acceptance. Beautifully illustrated
Honour Books
Luke’s Way of Looking by Nadia Wheatley illus by Matt Ottley hardback $27.35 ($24.87)
Luke has a very different view of the world and this is seen in his paintings which infuriate his teacher. A chance visit to the Modern Art Gallery thrills Luke and gives him confidence when he discovers that others also see the world in a similarly highly imaginative way.
Memorial by Gary Crew illus by Shaun Tan hardback $24.95 ($22.69)
The tree was planted as a memorial to the men who died in the war but now there are other priorities.The wonderfully detailed illustrations add a complexity to what is for me an often disappointing text. For Upper primary up.

Buffy an Adventure Story
by Bob Graham hardback $27.44 ($24.95)
Another charming story from Bob Graham about a dog who can perform wonderful tricks but is searching for a home where he can be truly himself.
The Great Bear by Libby Gleeson illus by Armin Greder hardback $24.90 ($22.64)
The unusual dark and haunting illustrations of this story give a nightmarish background to the sparse text which tells of a captive dancing bear which escapes death to become the Great Bear constellation. For Upper Primary up.
Hello Baby by Jenni Overend illus by Julie Vivas hardback $25.20 ($22.91)
It’s not often that I feel I have to warn teachers about a picture book for young children, especially one that is beautifully illustrated and gives such a warm and comforting depiction of the birth of a baby brother in a very close delightful family. The problem is that some people and cultures will be offended by the nakedness of the mother as she gives birth. A good picture book perhaps to stimulate discussion for older students.

Eve Pownall Award for Information Books

Fishing for Islands: Traditional Boats & Seafarers of the Pacific by John Nicholson
hardback $25.90 ($23.55)
John Nicholson designs, illustrates and writes superb nonfiction books. In Fishing for Islands he links his obvious love of boats and his interest in their design, decoration and how they are built with the history of the settlement of the Pacific region. (9 - 16 years)

Honour Books
Crash! The Search for the Stinson by J Beck, D Blacklock & K Allan pb $14.95
An absorbing account of a very famous air crash in 1937. A young bushman found the wreckage after making his way through almost impenetrable mountain bushland. How the two survivors were brought down from the mountains makes fascinating reading. The story is presented in detail, chronologically, with many quotations from the rescuer and the survivors, as well as colour and black & white photos, illustrations and newspaper extracts. An extraordinarily well told story of courage and physical endurance. (9 years up)
Inside the Australian ballet by Diana Lawrenson hardback $27.35 ($24.87)
Not just about the dancers but also about the large team of skilled people who are essential to the functioning of the Australian ballet (and of any large ballet company). Interesting information including details of the tight minute by minute procedure that has to be followed before curtain call. Excellent layout and photographs. ( 9 years up)

How to Guzzle your Garden by Jackie French pb $14.24 ($12.95)
Jackie French is amazing. As well as being a talented children’s author she also writes innumerable gardening books mainly for adults. This one is for children. Here she explains that one of the major delights of gardening is eating all the delicious things you have grown. She describes with great enthusiasm how to grow plants even if you don’t have a garden.
Sand Swimmers by Narelle Oliver hardback $24.95 ($22.69)
A unique look at Australia’s so-called “Dead Heart”. Narelle Oliver has managed to combine on the same double page spread, a narrative frieze depicting Sturt’s journey (and short quotes from his diary) while the main illustration shows us the landscape that Sturt would have seen. However Oliver also includes the creatures that Sturt did not see - a wonderful variety of creatures that lived both on and below the surface of this harsh desert landscape and she shows us some of their unique ways of survival. An innovative and beautiful book which can be appreciated by upper elementary and middle school students.
Tapestry by Maria Pallotta-Chiarolli pb $18.60 ($16.91)
Maria traces back the tapestry of her story though five generations of Italian Australians. A complex story very much for senior students.

(By the way I thought that some of you may be interested in a new Graduate Diploma Studies of Asia for teachers which is being offered by distance. A leaflet is enclosed.)

If you would like to order any of the books reviewed in this newsletter or in the accompanying lists, send orders to Austral Ed by fax, post or email.

All prices are in Australian dollars.


© Kate Shepherd 2010.