The Urban Escapees by Susan Ramage

The Urban Escapees

The Urban Escapees

A family of possums’ lives and habitat are threatened by urban creep. What will happen to them? Where will they go?

Can Louis, the boy who lives in the house at the top of the possums’ garden, save them before it’s too late?

An enchanting story of the relationship between a wildlife-loving boy and a Brushtail possum family. The Urban Escapees is also a powerful story of our times: about increasing urbanisation and its impact on the natural world.

The Urban Escapees

Through powerful story telling Susan Ramage has created a heart-warming tale that brings the big issues of urban creep and the subsequent destruction of our native flora and fauna into sharp focus. She makes the complex dilemma of development versus diversity instantly accessible and understandable to young readers by earthing the issue in a simple grass-roots tale. You will instantly fall in love with the characters who are beautifully brought to life by Nettie Lodge’s illustrations.

“”Trees are being replaced with taller and taller buildings,” sighed Benjamin. “I saw a cumquat tree growing on a roof! Trees used to grow in the ground.”

Animals and birds started to leave the area in search of safer places to live.”

“Things continued to change. Cranes and bulldozers appeared and there was more traffic, road work and pollution.”

“Louis’s dad drove to the edge of the National Park. Here the air was clean and filled with eucalyptus scents and the sounds of birdsong.”

As seen in October journal of ABC Gardening Australia

Praise for The Urban Escapees

“There was a great old mulberry tree and some sturdy native trees next door to my family home. Sadly, the trees disappeared when the neighbour’s house was torn down to make way for a block of units.

Fond childhood memories of hunting for mulberries and playing hide-and-seek came flooding back when I read Susan Ramage’s poignant tale, The Urban Escapees, about a suburban boy’s bid to rescue a family of Brushtail possums threatened by urban development at the bottom of his garden.

People need a place to live, but so do the birds and bees that pollinate our lives and the flora that balances our environment and helps keep our air clean.

Through powerful story telling Susan Ramage has created a heart-warming tale that brings the big issues of urban creep and the subsequent destruction of our native flora and fauna into sharp focus.  She makes the complex dilemma of development versus diversity instantly accessible and understandable to young readers by earthing the issue in a simple grass-roots tale. You will instantly fall in love with the characters who are beautifully brought to life by Nettie Lodge’s illustrations.”

Louise Evans, OAM
Journalist and author/documentary maker of ‘Passage to Pusan’
Listed in The Australian Financial Review’s Top 100 Most Influential Australian Women for 2019

“In this delightful story, young readers enter the life of the Brushtail family. Possum Way is a joyful haven of bush and colour, where the possums live peacefully. But when bulldozers and cranes arrive, the Brushtails have to find a new home, and Louis, the boy who lives in the house at the top of the garden, needs to think quickly and come up with a plan. Can Louis save the Brushtails? The Urban Escapees invites questions about urbanisation and its impact on nature.”

Susanne Gervay, OAM
Writer and Regional Advisor, Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators Australia East and NZ

“Educational and entertaining, thoughtful and fun.”

Jane Coffey
Director, Peribo Distributors of Fine Books

“As children across the world unite to strike against climate change, this is such a relevant story of urban sprawl and loss of habitats of indigenous wildlife, another problem that children are only too aware of … Fortunately this picture book story has a happy ending …  The colourful, appealing and sensitive illustrations highlight the story for young readers who will read the book with compassion and will identify with Louis. It’s a valuable lesson for young and old presented in a well-produced hardback picture book, written by an award-winning author and illustrated by an award-winning illustrator. It will be welcomed in classrooms where this problem and its impact is discussed.”

Margaret Hamilton, AM
Former Deputy Chair, Children’s Book Council of Australia National Board
Pinerolo, the Children’s Book Cottage, Blackheath

Keep It Simple Pavlova Recipe

Find out why Benjamin, Brogan and Louis enjoyed their pavlova so much!  Make your own feast from the recipe inspired by The Urban Escapees!

Serves: 6

Preparation Time: 5 minutes

Cooking Time: 1 hour (plus leave overnight)


3 large eggs

175g caster sugar

Whipped cream, to decorate

Fruit, to decorate

Dark chocolate, grated


Preheat oven to 150C/130C fan-forced. Oil and line a baking tray with baking paper.

Separate the eggs. Discard the yolks and pour the whites into a large bowl. Beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. You should be able to turn the bowl upside down without it falling out.

Gradually add the sugar to the egg whites, 2 tablespoons at a time, until all of it is incorporated.

Spoon the mixture into the centre of the baking tray and using a spatula, spread into a circle. A piping bag can be used but the spoon method will give a more rugged look. Don’t overwork the mixture.

Use the back of a metal spoon to make little peaks in the mixture around the edge of the circle – the sides should be thicker than the middle.

Reduce oven temperature by 10 degrees and place pavlova in the oven for 1 hour. Turn the oven off and leave the pavlova in the oven until cold. Serve with whipped cream and your choice of fruit and dark chocolate.

Kokoda Secret

Colonel Ian Hutchison was a revered soldier and one of the great figures in Australian military history. As Commanding Officer of the 2/3 Australian Infantry Battalion in the Battle of Eora Creek on the Kokoda Trail, he was thrust unexpectedly into command yet inspired his men to a smashing victory which was the turning point in the Kokoda Campaign. He continued to lead in further victories at Oivi, Soputa and Sanananda. In this important book, we learn the truth about the Battle of Eora Creek Ridge (‘the Lost Battlefield’) and why the magnitude of the victory has been covered up until now. What is the secret of Eora Creek that still haunts the Kokoda Campaign and is of national and international significance? We also learn of the influences and events which shaped Hutchison and prepared him for command in both the Second World War and the Korean War.

Kokoda Secret examines Hutchison’s career from the time he joined the Militia as a regimental cadet at the age of 16 in 1929 until his retirement in 1963, during which period his career mirrored the development of the twentieth-century Australian Army. Using ground-breaking research, extensive private papers and detailed interviews, this unique biography provides a compelling portrait of Colonel Ian Hutchison and a definitive study of battalion command in war and peace. In particular, it is a must-read for anyone interested in the truth of the Kokoda Campaign of 1942. It is also of immense significance in shedding new light on other key issues and campaigns including the Syrian Campaign, the Aitape- Wewak Campaign, the War Crime Trials in New Guinea, and the static phase of the Korean War. Over thirty years after Hutchison’s death, this book sets the record straight, and gives this great Australian the credit he deserves.


Second Prize, Non-Fiction

Praise for Kokoda Secret

“This outstanding book is well researched, written and structured. It is a great read. The detailed account of the Battle of Eora Creek (Kokoda Campaign) October 1942 conclusively lays to rest any doubts, misconceptions or ambiguities.

This book is a national treasure.”

Lt.-General Ken Gillespie, AC DSC CSM
Chief of Army 2008 – 2011 and Chief of the NSW Centenary of ANZAC Advisory Committee

“Ramage fills an important gap with this book … the key level of battalion command in which the actual combat effectiveness of an army is applied and tested.  … Altogether Susan Ramage has given us a vivid portrayal of what it was like to serve as a battalion commander in the Second World War and the Cold War.  The standard of her research and writing is high … 

The book is beautifully designed, printed and bound.  It is well provided with relevant maps, and benefits from a range of excellent photographs … For serious Australian students of war, this book is not to be missed, and Susan Ramage deserves our thanks.”

Professor Robert O’Neill, AO, FASSA
Chichele Professor Emeritus of the History of War University of Oxford 1987 – 2001 and Official Historian of the Korean War

“I think you have done a splendid job with your biography of Colonel Ian Hutchison”

“It is a great story and one which needs to be known widely.  The centre piece of the book is the Battle for Eora Creek in October 1942 and you have told it exceedingly well.  This part of the story makes an important contribution to the historiography of the Kokoda Campaign.” 

“Among Australian battalion commanders, Hutchison was one of the best, commanding AIF, CMF, Regular and National Service battalions over a ten-year period – a unique achievement.  In this respect the book also makes a fine contribution to Australian military history.” 

“Your research has been detailed and wide-ranging and the conclusions are sound and well-supported by the evidence.”

[From letter to Susan Ramage, 21 November 2012]

Professor David Horner, AM
Professor of Australian Defence History at ANU, Canberra (as he then was, now Emeritus Professor)

“In this biography … Ramage follows Ian Hutchison’s extensive military career as a soldier and commanding officer in the Middle East, New Guinea and Korea. Meticulously documented and drawing on a range of research materials including Hutchison’s touching letters to his wife, Kokoda Secret recounts the historic victory at Eora Creek. Compellingly written it portrays a man of courage, generosity, endurance and integrity.”    [Specific comments on Kokoda Secret]

“…engrossing reading and made impressive use of archival materials and interviews.”    [From general comments on the SWW Non-Fiction Prize entries]

Professor Anne Brewster
UNSW, School of the Arts and Media

Cover-up robs Aussies of Kokoda victory

“A critical Australian victory over the Japanese in jungle combat on the Kokoda Track in PNG during World War II has never been formally recognised.

Historian and award-winning author Susan Ramage reveals the Japanese subterfuge in her book Kokoda Secret, that also explains the significance of the Australian victory in the battle at Eora Creek.”

Aussie Kokoda victory hidden for 75 years

“A key Australian victory in the Kokoda Campaign of October 1942 was covered up when the Japanese backdated orders about a withdrawal from Eora Creek.

But the Australian heroics of October 1942 went largely unrecognised for 75 years because of Japanese subterfuge, revealed in the book Kokoda Secret.

About Susan

Susan Ramage is a graduate of the University of New South Wales and an award-winning author who lives in Sydney.

Her love of nature is celebrated in The Urban Escapees, her second book, where the story of Benjamin Brushtail and his family draws attention to the need for urban planning that is considerate and compassionate of the natural environment, including both wildlife and humans.

Susan’s first book, Kokoda Secret (ISBN 9780646913834) is a ground-breaking historical work which reveals, for the first time, a significant Australian victory on the Kokoda Trail during the Second World war.

Louis’s care for the Brushtail family and their endangered habitat and lives, together with the empathy he demonstrates in rescuing the injured Brogan and in helping his Dad relocate the family to the National Park, helps teach young children good values, including kindness and care for our wildlife and appreciation of the environment as a whole.

The Urban Escapees Book Launch

The Urban Escapees book launch was held on 14 November 2019 at The Royal Automobile Club of Australia in the Pioneers’ Room where the Welcome was given by the Club President, Michael Callanan.  Louise Evans OAM was the Master of Ceremonies and Denise Ora gave the Keynote Address.  Denise is the Executive Director of the Botanic Gardens and Centennial Parklands, the Mt Annan Botanic Gardens, the Mt Tomah Botanic Gardens and the Domain in Sydney.

Owen Bloomfield and the Ensemble from the Sydney Conservatorium of Music High School played the bespoke piece of music called ‘Possums and People’.  The music was especially composed by Owen to reflect the storyline and themes of The Urban Escapees.

“Such a brilliant launch. The fine musicians certainly added to the atmosphere. Such wonderful speakers! …

Your book is an absolute delight. The story is so pertinent to our times. It really touches a chord and not only identifies a really significant problem but also gives young readers ideas on how they can help the environment. The illustrations are marvellous. We can hope that the message reaches the adults who read to their children too.

My youngest granddaughter loves the story and wants it read again and again (she is not yet three years old).”

Dr Sharon Rundle
Book editor,
Chair, UTS Writers’ Alumni
Institute of Professional Editors, Society of Editors NSW
Editor, Society of Women Writers NSW and Women’s Ink journal
Writing Fellow, FAW, Asia Pacific Writers & Translators,
South Asian-Australian Writers’ Network

“Congratulations for your wonderful new book … and the awesome launch.  It was simply the best!!!  Great women presenters! … We absolutely loved Owen’s musical piece … His composition was brilliant and their (the Sydney Conservatorium of Music High School) playing outstanding.

Kian (grandson) will LOVE the book we’re giving him for his 8th birthday in December.  I showed it to a friend of ours last night, who said she was going to buy one for her oldest grandchild.  I’ll keep promoting your wonderful message!!!”

Louise Austin

Margaret McKay, Writer and Editor, wrote of her grandchildren’s “affection for Benjamin and his family, then concern for their dilemma, and ultimate joy that all was resolved.  The Urban Escapees is a perfect example of story arc, and is a story that incites conversation about important issues in a tender way.

The children adored the illustrations, as did I, and we found an abundance of delightful inclusions to comment upon, not the least being the possum attire.  Lola commented upon your highlighted treatment of particular words and phrases … Harvey was most interested in the animals, where they were perched, and what they might be thinking, which then led to a conversation about animals and birds having a thinking process … The story made them think about happy homes for animals and for humans …

Big congratulations to you for such beautiful writing, and combined with Nettie’s watercolours, an exquisite book.”

Photo Gallery

Susan with His Excellency General The Honourable David Hurley, AD DSC, then Governor of NSW (and now Governor-General of Australia), at the Kokoda Secret book launch
Susan at the Kokoda Secret book launch with Lt-General Ken Gillespie, Brigadier Colin Kahn, AO DSO, and the Scots College Honour Guard for the Governor
Susan "In Conversation" with Professor Robert O'Neill, AO, about Kokoda Secret at the Australian War Memorial (from book review published in Reconnaissance, Summer 2016, Newsletter of the Military History Society of NSW)
Susan with Lt-General Ken Gillespie, AC DSC CSM, Chief of Army 2008 – 2011 and then Chief of the NSW Centenary of ANZAC Advisory Committee, at the Kokoda Secret book launch