A one-eyed chook called Sheila...

Recommended Age: Infants and lower primary grades. An anthromorpic tale about a chook and her friends who have some exciting adventures and close shaves when they escape from the farm to avoid becoming the Christmas meal.  The story brings in a number of native animals and a not so native fox who is always on the prowl for his next meal. The book is divided into brief chapters which will make it a very satisfactory read for younger independent readers... The whimsical nature of the story is enhanced by the many delightful and unique drawings which yearn to be coloured in. Here is a book that will delight both the ear and the eye as well as stretch the imagination.

Reading Time, Children’s Book Council of Australia

Return of the Fox...

RECOMMENDED This third book in the series is one of both heart-warming and heart-wrenching moments, courage, wit and suspense. Dealing with some advanced social and environmental issues Return of the Fox is nevertheless an engaging and charming story. With 20 brightly illustrated chapters, the tale tells of the friendship, bravery, loyalty and adversity of a range of colourful characters. Sheila the one-eyed chook and her mate Elvis the wedge-tailed eagle have been living joyously in the Goonoo Forest since the downfall of Rufus the fox the year before. But when Elvis is struck down by the gunshot of some car thieving bandits, the fight for survival becomes their greatest challenge, in more ways than one. Sheila is also hurt and it is the support of the creatures banding together and the generosity of an old woman who help get these birds back on their feet and free from the danger that is the cunning fox. Safe and home at last the happy couple leave us with a wonderful feeling of triumph and heavenly bliss.

Author Pat Clarke does not hold back. Addressing sophisticated concepts like theft, arson, psychological trauma, death and extinction, her language is visual and intense. She has also incorporated clear morals, such as ‘…take the bad along with the good. Tomorrow is another day…’.  The illustrations by Graeme Compton equally reflect the intricacy and energy of the story with his water colour and line work standing out vividly from their white backgrounds. Return of the Fox has a wonderful Australiana flavour and many aspects of the text will lend themselves to constructive discussion among readers. This book is gripping and fluid enough for a pleasurable and rewarding read-aloud experience for children in all primary grades.

Reading Time, Children’s Book Council of Australia

Elvira and the Pilliga Mouse...

Elvira and the Pilliga Mouse is an engrossing story of self-discovery for young readers. Elvira is a wedge-tailed eagle who is blown away from Taronga Zoo in a storm and decides to use the opportunity to find her father in the Goonoo Forest before heading back to the zoo. So ensues an exciting journey for Elvira who saves humans and creatures in need along the way.

Pat Clarke’s first hand knowledge of Australian flora and fauna does not go unnoticed in this book. From descriptions of forest sounds to the workings of native animals and their feral predators, there is no mistaking the Australian-ness of this story. Graeme Compton’s illustrations support this idea beautifully with lightly coloured gum trees, koalas, goannas, kangaroos, wallabies, possums and black cockatoos littering the pages. The iconic sites of Sydney, the Opera House, Harbour Bridge and Sydney Tower are not missed either in Compton’s painted landscapes.

Each adventure and anecdote experienced by Elvira is punctuated with a chapter, allowing for a short reading session that satisfies rather than leaving the reader desperately wanting to read on – perfect for a bedtime reading companion.

The conclusion itself was sweet and satisfying with Elvira realising the best of both worlds, a life of freedom with her newfound mate, and a precious final farewell to her zoo handler, Shelly.

The additional glossary of species found in the Pilliga Forest is a touch of genius, that little something extra for the child who yearns to gather interesting and often unknown facts about animals!

I’d recommend this for the classroom library and the home bookshelf. Physically big enough for a group read with enough illustrations to satisfy the younger reader.

Reviewed by Katie Mineeff

Reading Time, Children’s Book Council of Australia

The Magic Forest of Goonoo...

RECOMMENDED. An imaginative story where the animals decide to do something about the trappers with guns who have come to their forest. Alerted to the danger by Maggie Magpie they are having a loud argument about what to do and this brought Rover the Barking Owl to their aid with a wise plan that they could carry out together. It’s quite ingenious and works a treat. Other good things about this book are the way all the writing is on one colour background so it is clear for the reader. The illustrations are full of details of the flora that exists in the forest and there is also a map and excellent information about all the animals that take part in the story given at the back after the story is told. This is a book rich in both imagination and information.

Reading Time, Children’s Book Council of Australia

Howie the Yowie...

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED This is a fantastic quintessential Australian story, complete with Aussie colloquialisms and slang. Set in the Goonoo Forest near Dubbo, this book marries fact, fiction and folklore to tell a wonderful story of the value of family, community and acceptance, to create an adventurous yarn about a girl named Hannah and her friendship with a Yowie named Howie. Hannah teaches her family to look beyond the tales of yowies and see Howie for who he is underneath all the hair. When a hunter comes looking for Howie the community joins together to help Howie and get him back to his family in the Blue Mountains. With other Australian creatures such as Bill the Bilby, to assist Howie on his travels, Howie makes it to the Blue Mountains after encountering both the good and bad of the Aussie bush. This is a great Australian story for children of all ages

Reading Time, Children's Book Council of Australia

The Flying Lesson...

RECOMMENDED No-one knows what grandad is doing in the shed, only that there is a lot of thumping and crashing from inside. In the nearby hen house the secret is spread with a round of Chinese Whispers: can it really be a Vulture Bite? When granddad finally reveals his project it is not a Vulture Bite but an Ultralight. He asks Wally the cockatoo to help him learn to fly his plane, but on his maiden flight the plane crashes into a tree at Dubbo Zoo. It takes six pelicans and Wally to rescue granddad unscathed, as lions roar and claw at the bottom of the tree. Entertaining and amusing, the Flying Lesson is an adventure with a distinctly Australia atmosphere. The colourful illustrations help to bring the story to life and the animal images in particular capture detail and character. Readers between the ages of 4 to 8 will enjoy being part of this madcap escapade along with Alex and Brittany, the grandchildren. The reader is left wondering about the gypsy wagon – the next project grandad intends to build – and the possibility for continuing adventures with grandad and his lively crew.

Reading Time, Children’s Book Council of Australia
Pat Clarke Author

About the Author: Pat Clarke

Graeme Compton Illustrator

About the Illustrator: Graeme Compton

Lynne Wilson Illustrator

About the Illustrator: Lynne Wilson