Review Blog

Jan 27 2017

Aliens, ghosts and vanishings: Strange and possibly true Australian stories by Stella Tarakson

cover image

Ill. by Richard Morden. Penguin Random House Australia, 2016. ISBN 9781925324969
(Age: 9+) Recommended. Non fiction. Supernatural. Ghosts. Tall tales. Myths. A compilation of intriguing stories which will amuse, frighten, delight and tantalise, is offered in this larger format, hardbacked book. The stories are divided into six groups: Mythical Creatures, Mysterious Locations, Haunted Places, UFO Sightings, Bizarre Disappearances and Strange Happenings. Each section contains about half a dozen stories, some of which will be familiar to some readers, while others will be wholly unknown. Readers will have a great time dipping into this book, telling friends and family about the stories they have read. The whole is served by a good contents page, fascinating illustrations, and a glossary, while each chapter has a page of web references for further research.
Written in a lively manner, the book is a great book to dip into.
I had heard of Cockatoo Island in Sydney Harbour but knew little about it, but its tale in the section, 'Haunted Places' gave me a firm understanding of the hardship endured by our convict ancestors as well as the tale of its haunting. By contrast, 'Bizarre Disappearances' chronicles the story of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370, which everyone must have heard of with the search continuing over the past two years, but the author discusses the conspiracy theories about the crashed airliner, adding another level of interest to the story. Two stories from opposite periods in the timeline of Australia's history: one based in fact with our convict history so well documented, while the recent is an event we know little of as the plane and its recorders have not been found.
Included too are the stories of Phar Lap, Azaria Chamberlain, the Bunyip, Lassetter's reef, the disappearance of Prime Minister Harold Holt, the Min Min, the ancient African coins, Hanging Rock and Tasmanian Tigers amongst others. Each is detailed enough for younger readers to learn about this story, and with references for further research adds a cue for further study.
I loved dipping in and out during the past few weeks, reading the ones I had never heard of and reading again of things part remembered. And others intrigued me because of the way the event is remembered after many years has elapsed.
Fran Knight

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