This special selection of new releases should
put you in the good
books of those on your
You can always tell a true book
lover. In the weeks before
Christmas he or she can be
standing around in book shops
with glazed eyes, perspiring gently on the forehead and obviously trying hard to control a nervous twitch around the
All this is a natural reaction to the horde of books which pours on to the b00k shelves at this time of the year and there we are, picking them up and putting them down, stroking them, mooning over them, wishing we could buy them all.
We've previously looked at Ian Moffit's "Retreat of Radiance (Collins (14.95) - a beautifully written thriller that pushes Moffitt into the first rank of Australian novelists with his first novel. A great gift.
Then there are the twin publications from Lansdowne - Ron Saw's "Mem- oirs of a Fox-Trotting Man" and Buzz Kennedy's "The Happy Heterosex- ual" both priced at $8, which is cheap when you remember the authors are both first-rate humorists. Look particu- larly for Saw's piece on old-fashioned dancing and Kennedy's about leaving footsteps in the sands of time.
Denis O'Brien's book all about us, "The Weekly" (Penguin, around $12.95) is packed with interesting read- ing and nostalgic photos. It would make a great gift for almost anyone and I'm not just saving that because it's about The Weekly. Have a look at it and you'll aee I'm right.
Pat Burgess (now known as Patrick Burgess because he has published his
first novel) has wandered in and out of my life ever since I became a journalist - as have Moffitt. Saw, Kennedy and O'Brien. And it's nice to be able to tell
that his book, "Money to Burn" Penguin, about $4.95) is a fast moving, entertaining book and great reading.
The last of this batch of journalists
turned-author is Phil Pearman who has
collected letters published in "The Aus-
tralian" over nearly 20 years and come
up with "Dear Australian" (Lans- downe $12). This, like all the others I've mentioned will suit any adult reader on
Two fishings books for dedicated
anglers - the first a funny ha ha book
by Bob Staines called "Wot a Whop- per" (Lansdowne $8.) Hate the joke
about using mother-in-law as bait, Mr
Staines, but had a good laugh at some of the others. Mostly for men. The sec- ond is a serious book from Rigby called
"Australian Fisherman's Atlas" ($11.95) by David Capel which is what it says it is and good value.
If you want to splurge on a really beautiful coffee table book and have lots of money to spend you really couldn't do better than buy Lansdowne's "The Fairy Wrens - A Monograph of the Maluridae" by Richard Schodde and illustrated by Richard Weatherly. This is a limited edition and only 500 are being sold at $395. However, cheer up. If you can't afford that one, even as an investment, there is an ordinary edition also, selling for $70.
Two other beauties - "A World of Horses" ($29.95) by Anne Charlish and published by Watts/Naturalis is packed with pictures of horses - many of them in a flower setting, and you couldn't find anything more romantic than that; the other is from Collins, "The Last Sit- ting" ($29.95) in which Bert Stern cap-
tures little Norma Jean in some unfor- gettable pictures taken a few weeks be- fore she died. Norma Jean? Marilyn Monroe, of course.
Each year I look forward with pleasure to Maribelle de Vera's excel- lent little diary "An Australian Woman's Calendar" (Hale and Iremonger $6.95). Interesting reading as well as jolly useful.
Two books of particular interest for reference, Doubleday's "What Animal is That?" by Harry Frauca ($29.95) and "Australia's Great Barrier ReeF' (University of Queensland Press $29.95) in which Robert Endean dis- cusses echinoderms and molluscs, and all that.
I mostly enjoy Jack Higgins and he has a great new thriller out in "Touch the Devil" (Collins $14.95). He brings back Liam (Devlin from "The Eagle has Landed"). It's a good his/hers book.
Australiana always makes good gifts and there's a lot around this year. Any of these will suit you if you want beauti- fully presented books: "Clancy of the Overflow" ($9.95) from Rigby: "Aussie Battlers" (Rigby $14.95) in which Michael Page and Robert Ingpen give us 60 ABs in word and picture; "The National Trust in New South Wales"
by Bill Richards (Rigby $29.95), nat- urally full of beaut pictures of old build- ings; "The Shearers" (Nelson $25) in which Patsy Adam-Smith has given us a companion to her "The Anzacs"; "Country Life in Old Australia" (Currey O'Neil $25), marvellous pic- tures of old pioneers and young ones, too, mostly barefoot and serious.
Nelson's "The Laughing Austra- lian" ($16.95) gives us a run down on our favourite bird by Toby and Juliana Hooper. No, not really a nature book - a lovingly compiled collection of the ways kookaburras have taken us over. And Lansdowne's bumper "The Book of Australia" by Robert Wilson ($45) sums it all up - our towns, our sports, ourselves in word and picture.
English migrants particularly should enjoy "A Treasury of Christ- mas" by Frank Muir and his son Jamie (Fontana/Collins) but the authors range over the traditions of Christmas so it's interesting for the rest of us as
Jon Cleary fans will be on the look- out for his latest "Spearfield's Daugh- ter" (Collins $16.95) in which Cleary gives us his usual great entertainment. Cleo is Australian but she meets a couple of Americans in Vietnam so the scene becomes international - which
helps explain Clean 's success. He gets us away from our humdrum lives.
There are many excellent chil-
dren's books in the shops this Christmas. These are just some to help you in your search for something really good.
If you like Australian stories for children look out for a group of little hardbacks from Lansdowne that are all priced at $8, all written by Leslie Rees and all with colourful illustrations - some by Margaret Senior and others by Hutchings.
These include "Digit Dick on the Great Barrier Reer', "Digit Dick and the Tasmanian Devil" and "Digit Dick and the Lost Opals"; there are three others in the Lansdowne Austra- lian Classic series which are also good value for youngsters - "The Story of Kurri Kurri the Kookaburra", "The Story of Two-Thumbs the Koala" and "The Story of Sarli the Barrier Reef Turtle" (this one, while written by Rees was illustrated by Walter Cunningham).
Densey Clyne, well known for her de- lightful writings on insects and ani-
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mals, her evocative photographs and work on wildlife films, has prepared four little books with some of her great photographs and with interesting texts for children in the Nature City series put out by Methuen and selling at $2.95 each. These include "Moths and
Caterpillars", "Birds", "Frogs and Lizards" and "Night Animals".
More books with photos for illustra- tions are the Little Riverboat Yarns series from Audio Books, all by Richard McRoberts and all priced at $2.99 - "Secret Journey", "The Big Race" and "Nothing But Trouble".
Will Australian poems for children ever take over from the traditional nur- sery rhymes? It could happen, now that Lansdowne Press has brought out "Australian Poems Are Fun!" Writers include Pixie O'Harris, Joan Mellings, C. J. Dennis, Lydia Pender, Jeanette Lingard, D. H. Souter, Irene Gough and
last, but definitely NOT least - Mary Gilmore. Cheerful illustrations by Dee Huxley. Priced at $8.
Ann Ferns stresses the true spirit of Christmas - loving and caring - in her "Once upon an Australian Christmas" (Lansdowne $8). Beauti- fully illustrated by Murray Frederick, Ms Ferns tells in verse what happens
on Christmas Eve in the Australian Bush, when Santa Claus is running
Susanne Ferrier's off beat, colourful illustrations make the alphabet a joy foryoungsters in "The A to Z of Absol- ute Zaniness" (Lansdowne $8), which features delightful verses bv Carol
From Collins comes "Australian
Birds" by Shane McCoy ($8.95) with more black and white drawings which
may well be appreciated more by adults than children. However, they are supported by a short description of birds included in the book. Better for older children than the little ones.
Collins also gives us Geoffrey
Dutton's "The Prowler", illustrated by Craig Smith ($9.95) with a nicely scary
chap on the cover being followed by a large resentful cat. This magnificent creature, it turns out, is Bottlebrush,
who lives with his mistress Miss Violet Nevertire, and helps catch the prowler who has been making life hell for resi-
dents of Samarkand Lane. I loved this 0ne - do look out for it.
If you like the traditional Christmas
rhymes. Collins gives us a pop-up ver- sion of "The Night before Christmas"
($5.95) by Clement C. Moore and il- lustrated by Michael Hague.
Pop-up books are great fun, and if you like to educate as well as entertain you might like to look for two that have been out for some time but still make great gifts. These are both from Kes- trel/Viking, both by Robert Crowther - "The Most Amazing Hide-and-Seek Counting Book" and "The Most Amazing Hide-and-Seek Alphabet
Parents and grandparents will love
the old fashioned illustrations in "Pan-
orama Pictures" a reproduction of an Antique Three Dimensional Book by Ernest Nister (Collins $7.95). This is another pop-up book that will appeal to the very young who are unlikely to be put off by the obviously English chil- dren in late 19th century clothes.
I must admit "The Day Mother Made a Steam Pudding" is not my cup of tea. If I were buying a book for a child I'd pass this over but tastes in books are of course, highly subjective so maybe you'll enjoy Simon McLean's cartoon illustrations for Ann Twell's
simple story. The book is from Lansdowne ($8).
Anne James' colourful illustrations for "Jo-Jo and Mike" (Nelson $9.95) coupled with Jenny Wagner's talent for telling children's stories mean that this is a book for you to look for in the shops, if you have some loving child who likes dogs. (If you have one who doesn't this book could help, because Jo-Jo is a nice dog, as Mike would tell you if he could.)
Do children enjoy looking at pic- tures painted by other children?
I've often wondered. Which leads me to Catherine Marshall's "Story Bible" (Hodder and Stoughton $19.95) which has colourful illustra- tions by children which will certainly appeal to most kids and adults. The stories of the Bible are told simply and well and I think this would make an excellent present.
However, I suggest you take a good look at it before you buy, just to make sure you're happy with the way the
stories are told.
Roald Dahl, as you might guess, is unlikely to give us anything that is not unusual and that's what you get in "Re- volting Rhymes" (Cape $10.95). Dahl takes a fresh look at old favourites like Cinderella, Snow White, Goldilocks et al. Good fun - as are the illustrations by Quentin Blake. W