Head Spinners: six stories to twist your brain

A fish sandwich.

A tingle on the arm.

A boring birthday present.


The fish has a secret.

The tingle is transforming.

The birthday present is a TIME MACHINE...

These real-world stories have an unreal twist that will keep you thinking long after you put the book down.


Teachers' reviews.

Click here for details or to buy Head Spinners.

Shortlisted for the 2011 Speech Pathology Australia’s  book of the year, Upper Primary

 "It Began with a Tingle", finalist in the 2011 Aurealis Awards, Children's Fiction (words). 


Scroll down to find out more about each of the six stories.


Reviews of Head Spinners:

This book has six awesome, excellent and amazing stories that will leave your head spinning. I think this book is great. I enjoyed all six stories, my favourite though would have to be Night Sight. I would definitely recommend this to people who like silly, suspense filled stories that are just different, even if just for a laugh. ReadPlus

Each story is complete and completely whacky, twisting and turning and then twisting again. It’s almost impossible to predict where each story will take you. They are funny, sad, slightly spooky, sometimes all at the same time. Aussie Reviews

I found it refreshing to see stories that are adventurous and have a solid story line and even touch on important lessons while respecting the reader enough to steer clear of resorting to being gross or childish humor or downright dark side as found in many novels today. Teachable Scotts Tots Homeschool


Tick-Tock Time Machine

When Sam's uncle gives him a home-made clock for his birthday, he’s disappointed it’s not a surfboard.

The next morning, Sam wakes up to find the clock gone. Then his uncle turns up, just as he did the day before, with the exact same birthday present...


I've always wanted to write a time machine story, and I had a ball with this one. I grew up hearing a story my dad told me about people who travel back billions of years to a time before the dinosaurs were around. The people step on a butterfly by accident and when they go back to their own time, everyone’s speaking a different language because of the flow-on effect of the death of that one butterfly. So my story was really just a simple leap of cheekiness to make the trip back in time mess-up something else in the ‘future’...

I like the way this story became more than just a time travel story with a twist – at the end, even though the time machine no longer exists, it still changed the main character’s future because of the impact the experience had on him. 


It Began with a Tingle

I first realised something strange was happening when the back of my arm began to tingle. It was just one lump, about the size of a mosquito bite, halfway between my shoulder and my elbow. It didn’t feel sore or itchy the way a bite might feel, it tingled and was weirdly warm...

Maybe it will just go away, I thought, and chose a top with long sleeves to wear.

I had to wear a long-sleeved top the next day, too. And the next.

For the rest of the week I wore long sleeves, because the lump on my arm didn’t go away. It grew bigger.


The idea for this story came from a kind of benign tumour called a teratoma. These are usually present at birth and contain normal tissue or organ components, except in highly abnormal places. Teratomas are often found in the midline of the brain and have been reported to contain hair, teeth and bone. Brain surgeon Dr Charlie Teo says: ‘I’ve actually found a finger inside the brain, a fully formed finger with the cartilage, bone, flesh and a fingernail.’

Also, the way the lump emerges as an arm in this story is based on the way legs grow on tadpoles. They begin as a lump and emerge from the body elbow/knee first. 


Alive Again

‘You’ve never stolen anything in your life!’ Mum said.

‘So why would I start now?’ I said, but my voice sounded thin. ‘Think about it, Mum. I didn’t steal the sandwich. I promise!’

Mum shook her head sadly. ‘But how did it get into your bag? I mean, no one else could have put it there.’

‘Yeah? Well it wasn’t ME,’ I yelled.

I had no idea who had swiped the sandwich, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was being punished.

Two weeks ago, Monty died. And it was all my fault. 


I wrote the first draft of Alive Again in 2001 and it took ten years and numerous redrafts to get it working. I find it poetic that the publication date for Head Spinners was exactly ten years after that first draft of one of the stories.

The idea for this story came from an ad on TV where a can of tuna was flipping around like a fish out of water. I developed it into a ‘reforming fish’ because of ‘pluripotent’ stem cells – where scientists can reprogram cells so that they are capable of becoming any cell in the adult body. The eventual application of this technique could be to repair and heal parts of your body – so I just pushed the idea to its limits... pieces of fish becoming alive again.

This story is also very much about death and regeneration and how all living things depend on the death of others in order to survive – animals die and become food for other animals, or simply decompose in the ground to provide food for microbes and plants. It’s not so much an obsession with death as a fascination with regeneration and the cycles of life. I also find it fascinating that there are elements in my body that have been cycling through different states since the beginning of time, and will continue to do so long after I have gone.  


Face the Vortex

‘Trust me, Alice,’ says Mr Tan. ‘I used to be afraid of heights, too. But then something happened and I realised you can’t run away from your fears forever.’

That's what Mr Tan thinks. But I have another idea. My class is going up to the top of the tallest building in the southern hemisphere. But not me.

I’m going to run right outta here.


I feel a bit cruel to do this to poor Alice, but I couldn't resist writing a story about someone who runs away from their fears only to find that the very act of running forces her to face those fears. I'm mildly afraid of heights myself... maybe not so mild, so it was fun to play around with my own fear. 


Night Sight

We take the corner so fast that my shoulder bumps against the door. I’m pinned back in my seat as Dad accelerates.

‘Where are we going?’ I say. ‘The shops are the other way. What about the rolls for lunch?’

‘Making... a slight... change of plans,’ mutters Dad between gear changes.

Oh no. Not again. I should have stayed at home. We’re swerving in and out of traffic like they do in the movies; I just grip the door handle and wait to see what happens next.

It’s not going to be boring, at least I know that much.


I’ve always been fascinated with sleep – it’s such a vital aspect of life but also so mysterious, a completely altered consciousness in all animals, every time they sleep. I like the idea that we can see things through the day and not consciously register what they might mean – so your subconscious ‘plays out’ ideas as you sleep. The idea of astral projection is so much fun I couldn’t resist writing about that, but there is no scientific evidence that it is possible. 


Evil Eye

That watch was about the spookiest thing I’d ever seen. It had a deep-blue face and a black circle in the centre where the hands were attached. It looked like a staring eye. There was no way I was letting that thing anywhere near my wrist. For all I knew, my great-grandmother had been wearing it when she died...

It was much better to sell the creepy thing so that some still living old lady could put it on her wrinkly wrist. That way, everyone would get something they wanted. It made complete sense.

At least, that’s what I used to think.


Evil Eye is a superstitious belief that you can accidentally cause harm to someone by looking at them with envy – and there’s so much envy around. Our whole advertising culture is based on sparking desire for something that we don’t already have.

I also find cooking fascinating – the way that it is a science and also so much a part of our culture. You could say that the food we eat has evolved along with us, and each generation has added to or altered dishes, so the food we eat today is a result of centuries of human creativity.