three children's book reviews
The Secret World of Wombats
Written by Jackie French, illustrated by Bruce Whatley
ISBN 0-207-20031-9 RRP $14.95 AUD
This book contains everything you always wanted to know about those snub nosed bundles of fur on legs, called wombats. Jackie French in her own inimitable style takes the reader right inside the world of wombats. As well as the factual information about the habitat, growth cycle, habits etc of wombats, Jackie French gives a lot of information that only one who has know wombats for more than thirty years, and been friends with any number of them, could detail. She introduces the reader to the unique skills and characteristics of several wombats she has known over the years. She devotes a chapter to the topic of how to meet a wombat and what to do if you are lucky enough to encounter one.
Once again, Jackie has teamed up with Bruce Whatley, the combination that produced the bestselling picture book, ‘Diary of a Wombat.’ The sketches add an element of delight to a book which could bit fail to appeal to any child who’s ever wondered about the world of the wombat. Jackie gives a number of the lessons she has learned from wombats. At the back of the book Jackie has even included a number of wombat jokes. This book would appeal to children with an interest in non fiction and the world around them or those fascinated by the wambling creatures of Australia’s bush.
ISBN 0-00-721317-4 paperback RRP $19.95 AUD
Helen Dunmore’s novel also takes the reader into an unfamiliar world. The book starts off in Cornwall, idyllic for Sapphire and her brother Conor, until the day their father disappears, after going off to sea, an event which only confirms in their mother’s mind that she had been right to be always wary of the sea. After her father’s disappearance, her life takes a significant turn as Sapphire vows to find out what has happened to him.
Her curiosity also leads her to find out why Conor keeps disappearing for hours. When she follows him, Sapphire finds him talking to a mysterious girl. Soon, Sapphire has her own encounter with the equally mysterious Faro who takes her to Ingo.
Both the real area of Cornwall and the underwater world of Ingo, which Sapphire and Conor are introduced to, are beautifully portrayed so that the reader is soon transported into the world above and under the sea. The writing is visual, the characters interesting and there is tension that causes Sapphire and Conor to discover that the underwater, though beautiful, can be dangerous.
This is Helen Dunmore’s first book in a planned trilogy and I am sure readers of Ingo will be hanging out for the next book in the series.
Landon Snow and the Auctor’s Riddle
ISBN-1-59310-881-8 hardcover RRP $12.95 U.S.
This book starts the day before Landon Snow’s eleventh birthday celebration in Button Up, Minnesota. Landon is given two presents by his grandparents. The first is a dream-stone. The second is an old Bible that had belonged to Bartholomew G. Benneford, who reputedly made his fortune in the fishing industry before going on to build a library of the books he collected from all over the world. The family plans a visit to this special library the next day but then Grandpa Karl has an accident throwing the family’s plans into disarray.
Instead Landon, who likes to have ‘reasons for everything,’ embarks on a far different journey that takes him through a bookcase into a secret passageway. He tumbles through ‘The book of meanings’ into another world, peopled with strange characters. His companion for much of the time is this horse, Melech, as Landon sets out to uncover the meaning of the Auctor’s Riddle. Melech, originally a knight on a chess board, is an interesting character.
As I read this book, with its assortment of crazy characters, including the Odds, I kept thinking about Alice in Wonderland and her adventures, though I have to admit to not having read that book recently.
Again this book is one of a planned series with the second book due in 2006. Readers, who like an imaginative story, will enjoy finding out with Landon Snow the answer to the Auctor’s riddle.