Review Blog

Jun 07 2011

Noosa River holiday inspires Hazard River series

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by J.E. Fison
I admire authors who grow up with a burning desire to write - penning novellas in primary school and signing their first book contracts in their twenties. I'm not one of them. I took the long way round, but I had a lot of fun on the way and don't regret a moment of it.
As a girl, I was more likely to be found at the local creek, catching guppies, than writing or even reading a book. On holidays, I led my brother and cousins on boating expeditions around Moreton Bay, in Queensland - exploring mangroves and investigating the wildlife. When I did read, it was wildlife magazines and the Atlas of the World that kept me interested. I was into facts. I wanted to be an explorer when I grew up. I wasn't quite sure what that meant and was disappointed to discover that most of the world had already been explored. I had missed my calling by a few hundred years. So, I settled on journalism.
I spent my twenties working as a television reporter in Australia, Asia and Europe - covering the student uprising in China and the fall of communism in Eastern Europe. I also had the chance to travel extensively - camping with elephants in Kenya, encountering lions in South Africa and making friends with an orang-utan at the Sepilok Sanctuary in Borneo. Eventually I returned to my hometown of Brisbane and settled down to family life with a job in marketing and an interest in travel writing.
The children's fiction idea crept up on me while I was on holiday in Noosa with my husband and two sons. Most people know Noosa's Main Beach, Hastings Street and the Noosa National Park, but just across the Noosa River is an unspoiled paradise that is accessible only by car ferry - the Noosa North Shore. We spent a month there. My two sons hooked up with friends and spent the holiday exploring sands banks, building bush camps, making rafts, riding along dirt tracks to the beach, dodging snakes, avoiding sting rays and generally having a Boy Versus Wild adventure. I had to write about it.
Hazard River chronicles the holiday adventures of four children, Jack Wilde, the narrator, his brother, Ben, the Stink Collector, their neighbor, Lachlan Master, the Master of Disaster and Professor Bigbrains, Mimi Fairweather, who lives on a yacht in Hazard River. The stories are fast-paced and fun, but each one was inspired by a serious fact.
In the first story, Shark Frenzy, the children find a dead shark washed up on the sand. It has no fins. They decide to investigate. Their mission takes them to a marine park, where they find fishermen killing sharks for their fins. It's up to the children to stop them. Although the story is fiction, the issues are very real. Some experts estimate that 100 million sharks are killed each year, mostly for their fins. The practice of shark finning, where the sharks' fins are cut off and the body is dumped into the sea is widely condemned as barbaric and is decimating shark populations. It continues, however, to fill the demand for shark fin soup, which is considered a delicacy in Asia.
In the other books in the series, Bat Attack, Tiger Terror and Snake Surprise, the Hazard River gang comes up against rogue miners, smugglers and developers as they fight to protect ghost bats, koalas and even a couple circus tigers. In between tracking down the baddies, the kids fall into quicksand, get stranded on boats, find messages, discover super-cool secret bases and abandoned boats. They play pranks on each other, get lost, get found and get into a whole lot of trouble.
Editor's note: All three reviewers who read books in this series recommended them.
Pat Pledger

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