Childrens’ and Teenage new books July-August 2013. Reviewer: Janet Croft
Rating: the more stars the better!
To Get to Me, by Eleanor Kerr and Judith Russell. HB from Random house. RRP $19.95
An informative and pleasant story about how Ahmed from the Middle East can reach Peter, who is in Sydney, so that the two of them can enjoy a visit to the zoo together. The story explains all the different forms of transport which Ahmed will need to use to reach Sydney. Good for readers of 3-8 years to learn something of the world, its size, and how to travel, in both content and pictures, preferably together with an adult.
Koalas, Kites and Kangaroos. By David Ridyard and Doreen Gristwood. PB from Scholastic. RRP $15.99
This is an attractive alphabet book for young children—the pictures are delightful, and all about Australian animals, birds, and features of our life and the font is very clear. Calling it an alphabet book is a bit deceiving in places however, because many of the words, particularly those that start with vowels, are not consistent in the sounds they represent. Just for example, there are three sounds suggested for the letter “a”, and three for ‘e’. As a teacher of children who find learning to read difficult, I prefer to see just the short vowel sounds introduced to young children first. For children of 3-6 years, but with guidance if they are trying to read the words themselves.
Omar the Strongman, by Gregory Rogers. HB from Scholastic. RRP $24.99
Although Omar begins work at the circus as a general odd job man, his job becomes much more significant and interesting after a short time. Fun story for readers of 4-6 years.
The Very Brave Bear, by Nick Bland. HB from Scholastic. RRP $16.99
An amusing and pleasant story told in verse a bit similar in style to that of Edward Lear, about a bear that tries to prove his bravery when compared with a buffalo. I think children of 3-6 years will enjoy the story, the illustrations and the verse.
Superkid, by Claire Freedman and Sarah McIntyre. PB from Scholastic. RRP $15.99
Another story told in rhyme, and with lots of illustrations which describe the possible activities in the style of Superman, of a boy who is called Superkid. All of his activities are helpful and kind to other kids. Fun to look at and to read for 4-6 year olds.
10 Silly Wombats, by Ed Allen and Andrea Edmonds. PB from Scholastic RRP $13.99
This book is an Australian version for young children of the traditional subtraction song “Ten Green Bottles”. The wombats don’t really look like wombats, and the pictures are fanciful, but it will be OK if there is an adult who can sing the words to a child of 2-5 years.
If you’re Cheeky and you Know it! By P Crumble and Chris Kennett. PB from Scholastic. RRP $13.99
Similar comments about this book as for the last—the story is based on a traditional song, and each of the animals presented in this story have a characteristic trait which is emphasised. The book will be most successful with children of 3-5 years if there is an adult who can sing the original melody of “If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands”.
The Bear went over the Mountain, by Louis Shea. PB from Scholastic. RRP $16.99
This book comes with the CD of the song—new words, and lots of animals but yes, the tune is the traditional form. For children of 4-6 years— No adult needed to have fun with this book and song….if the kids can operate a CD player by themselves that is.
Enoch the Emu, by Gordon Winch and Doreen Gristwood, PB from Scholastic. RRP $15.99
This story is delightful, and tells of how it is the father emu that has the responsibility of sitting on the eggs that his partner has laid, until they are hatched, and then to feed them. Fun illustrations, and enjoyably told. For readers of 3-6 years.
Primrose by Alex Smith. PB from Scholastic. RRP $15.99
Another amusing story of a princess, this time a girl who needs to learn to behave like a princess. Quite good fun, and with the serious lesson that at times all children need to learn how to behave when in company or formal situations. For girls mainly I suspect, of 3-5years.
Hold on Tight, by Sara Acton, HB from Scholastic. RRP $24.99
This is a story about holding on tight to your mum’s hand to feel safe, because of what might happen if you go by yourself and blow away. The illustrations are watercolours, and excellent, and I found the story to be fine day dreaming material about possibilities if a child were to let go of the hand. For readers of 3-6 years.
Jacko and the Beanstalk, by Kel Richards and illustrated by Rob Ainsworth. PB from Scholastic. RRP $13.99
Retelling of another traditional story, in verse, with Jacko, the not too bright kangaroo in the starring role. Some of the verse uses very colloquial language. OK for readers of 3-5 years.
King Pig, by Nick Bland. HB from Scholastic. RRP $24.99
King Pig cannot understand why his subjects—all sheep—do not like him, until he realises that he could help his subjects feel more comfortable if he was kind to them and make them some jackets. Enjoyable story, and a very clear message about the value of being kind to others. For readers of 3-6 years.
There was an Old Lady who swallowed a Mozzie, by P Crumble and Louis Shea. PB from Scholastic. RRP $14.99
This is another story cum song which has a CD with it. I liked this version—again, of a well known traditional children s song- because it is not complicated and the children will recognise the animals and birds that are used. There is also a different font used to emphasis the names of the creatures. For readers of 4-7 years.
***The Short Giraffe, by Neil Flory and Mark Cleary. PB from Allen and Unwin. RRP $12.99
This is one of the simplest but most appealing books in this batch of reviews. It will appeal to all children of 3-6 years, and even older, and shows how we all need to feel part of the crowd sometimes and that there is always a way to have everyone feel included in an activity. Excellent value, and beautifully presented. For children of 2-6 years.
Time for Bed, Fred, by Yasmeen Ismail. PB from Bloomsbury. RRP $14.99
Fred is a dog, which does not like to go to bed. Fred has all sorts of tricks to postpone going to bed—sound familiar? A fun story, with watercolour illustrations, which is suitable for children of 3-6 years, at bedtime.
Shhh! Don’t Wake the Royal Baby, by Martha Mumford, and illustrated by Ada Grey. PB from Bloomsbury. RRP $12.99
This would have to be one of the best examples ever of writing a book to tie in with a major media blown up event! The title is self-explanatory, with the baby who cries and refuses to go to sleep, the magnificence of the family house, and the involvement in the effort to have the baby sleep including some highly fanciful attempts of the baby’s great-grandmother. For readers of 3-6 years.
**Mr Whistler, by Margaret Mahy, with Gavin Bishop. PB from Gecko Press and Scholastic. , RRP $15.99
Wow—this is an extraordinarily good story—full of movement, style and fun, as Mr whistler tries to find his train tickets so he can visit his aunt. I love the illustrations, and I am sure that this book will be immensely popular as a read and reread story for children of 3-8 years. Delightful
***Bang, by Leo Timmers. PB from Gecko Press and Scholastic RRP $24.99
And wow again—another delightful story –this book has a large fold out which reveals the final consequences after the truck carrying a load of chickens runs into the back of a man who has just hit a rubbish bin which has been filled with books! This book comes originally from the Netherlands and it is great fun with a wonderful twist in the tale…or should I say tail? For readers of 3-7 years, and an excellent story for the adults to ask, “ What might happen next?” before the pages are turned.
From Puffin, I have two books related to AFL football. A colouring book, ($4.99) and a Sticker Activity Book. at $7.99
These two books contain lots of stickers and shirts and mascots to colour in, using colours appropriate to the colours of the various AFL football teams. These books will appeal to families where the football code of preference is AFL. The sticker book is suitable for children of 6-8 years, and contains photos, and articles about various star players, the colouring book is stylized, but will be suitable for children of 4-6 years.
My First Numbers Book, and My First words Book, Both of these are board books, again from the AFL, and released by Penguin at $9,99 each.
Both of these books are intended for families where AFL football is the football code of choice. The First words book uses photos to illustrate words which are about a trip to see an AFL match—there are words like equipment, defender, train, cheering, ball, whistle and boots, so it is the game which is the theme: it is not a list of easy words to learn. With the Numbers book each page repeats a picture again associated loosely with a day at the footy, with various illustrations repeated so that the kids can learn to count from 1-15. Fine for families to which these books appeal.
Possum Magic, by Mem Fox, with Julie Vivas. Board Book, from Scholastic. RRP $9.99
Yet another book in a form suitable for toddlers, about the animals in the Australian Classic Possum Magic. A pleasant way to interest really young children about the animals in the story which can be read to them at a later stage.
Let’s Paint, by Gabriel Alborozo. HB from Allen and Unwin. RRP $22.99
A book which seeks to encourage young children to enjoy learning to paint—it shows lots of examples of shapes, styles, and colours, and makes the point that it is important to experiment, and to enjoy what you are doing. A happy story to share with an adult, or other children. For children of 3-8 years.
The Extraordinary Mr Qwerty, by Karla Strambini. HB from Walker Books. RRP about $24.95
A story about a man who liked to be alone, but whose main claim to fame was that he was an inventor. There is no direct reference to the invention of the typewriter, other than in the name, and in two drawings at the start of the book. Lots of pictures to look at, and lots of inventions to find in the pictures, although I found that most of the story was dominated by the large number of hats on each page. I found it a bit difficult to work out what the message of the book really was. For readers of 6-8 years if it appeals.
The Secrets of Stonehenge, by Mick Manning and Brita Granstrom. HB from Frances Lincoln and Walker Books. RRP about $25
This is a really interesting, succinct outline of the history of Stonehenge, up to the current day, with glossary, illustrations and segments of facts as well as diagrams. It is intended for upper primary, and maybe junior secondary kids, but I found it absorbing too, and learnt a lot. A fascinating history book, but enjoyable reading, because there were so many things that I did not know.
*Digger, Dozer, Dumper, by Hope Vestergaard, illustrated by David Slonim. HB from Walker Books RRP $24.95
I expected this book to be about heavy vehicles and it is—what I did not expect is that the content would be presented as poems—there are sixteen of them, and each tells about the action and purposes of a vehicle in rhyme, and accompanied by large clear illustrations. The result is a book which I have read with 8-10 year old boys—they commented on the verse, but also that they liked the way it was done, because it made the content easy to remember….the vocabulary has been well chosen to be interesting but not too difficult so… attractive, different and suitable for 6-10 year olds—the younger ones in company with an adult.
***Papa and the Olden Days, by Ian Edwards and Rachel Tonkin. What was the War like Grandma, by Rachel Tonkin. Both are PBs from Walker Books and $16.95 each.
These two slim volumes pack a real punch with lots of information, and the most delightful illustrations—the titles are self explanatory, and the content is easy reading for older children, but will need to be read aloud for younger kids. The illustrations however are a joy to pore over, preferably with an adult, because of the numbers of items which people will recognise from homes where antiques have been kept. The other use I can think of for these books will be in an Old Folks home, because so much of the content will remind the oldies of their youth, and experiences, particularly during World War 2. Excellent quality and content for children of all ages, in company with an adult, and for junior secondary HSIE reading about Australian history.
****The Great Big Book of Feelings, by Mary Hoffman and Ros Asquith, HB from Frances Lincoln and Walker Books. RRP $24.95
This is another book which should prove very popular, this time with young children at home, or at school. It presents pages of faces, and people, with various expressions suggested on each spread. There are pages about people who look, happy, sad, bored, shy, worried, for example. The other use I immediately thought of for this book is to use it for social learning and talking about how to read facial expressions, for children who are autistic, and who have lots of trouble interpreting how people are feeling, from their facial expressions and body language. Excellent value, and suitable for children from about 4-15 years
Here come the Creatures, by Wes Magee. PB from Walker Books RRP $12.95
This is a great small collection of poems for children, with lots of poems about events, activities and creatures with which we areal familiar. I love the poem about the Skipping Line, and children will enjoy that the shape in which the poem is printed is very close to the shape of the skipping rope. These poems are easy to read, and often the rhythm of the poem reflects the sense of the words. Really good value for families and the classroom. For children of 4-10 years.
Meet Captain Cook, by Rae Murdie. HB from Random house. RRP $19.95
This outline of the life and major achievements of Australia’s best-known explorer will be suitable for primary school children. The biographical details are simply presented, with very basic illustrations accompanying the text; the stories of his sea voyages are similar, though with more text. The illustrations are very stylized, and the fate of Cook is not mentioned. Difficult words in the text are written in larger font, but for kids under about 9 years, it will be best read with an adult. A good introduction to the life of this great British sailor and explorer.
Junior Novels and chapter books.
My first Book of Jokes, from Scholastic. PB and RRP $9.99
What do you call a very quick astronaut? A Fastronaut…..What do cows like to eat for brekkie? ….moo-sli……Get the picture? Not many jokes, large pictures, and lots of laughs for kids of 4-7 years. Many kids will learn the jokes and then be able to pretend that they are reading themselves.
Cavemice, The Stone of Fire, and Watch Your Tail. Text of both is by Geronimo Stilton. PBs from Scholastic, RRP $$12.99 each
With Geronimo Stilton as the narrator, both these books contain stories about Geronimo’s cavemice Stone Age ancestors. I have found that these stories and books are being collected by some families, because of the humour, plays on words and the zany style of writing. In one family the children who are reading the stories are both girls and 12 and 15 years old—they have said that they find the imaginative stories really good fun. As usual with books form these series, the difficult to read words are in different font—and there are lots of hard words in these two books, so the readership is really for 8 years and over.
Nerdy Ninjas vs the Really Really Unreal Guys. By Shogun Whamhower. PB from Scholastic. RRP $9.99
Another in the series about four nerdy kids, who seem to fall in and out of trouble and weird happenings all the time. Here Pongo has to look after Farmer Fetlock’s cows, some of which have been wrapped in toilet paper. Is it an invasion of aliens? The humour in these stories escapes me, they are just too way out, but boys of 7-10 years seem to enjoy the nerds.
Big Dog, Bonnie, the little dog with big ideas, by Bel Mooney. PB from Walker Books. RRP $9.95
This thin little volume about Bonnie the Maltese terrier. Harry has always wanted a dog, but a big dog, which he can see in his mind, and which he calls Prince. When Harry’s mother sees a tiny white Maltese terrier at the lost animal pound, and takes it home, Harry find it very difficult to learn to love the small dog. How it happens makes for pleasant reading for young people who are stretching their reading matter to books with chapters, but still with drawings and simple vocabulary. For children of 7-9 years to read by themselves.
**Don’t Look Now 1, by Paul Jennings and illustrations by Andrew Wheldon. PB from Allen and Unwin. RRP $12.99
This solid little book is about Rick whose greatest wish is to be able to fly. Rick is convinced he can fly, and has the most amazing adventures—but—he can only fly when no one else is around. When any other living creature appears on the scene, Rick crashes to earth. Rick is reassured that he is normal when his father admits that he had the same talent when young, and that he sympathises with Rick. This is an excellent book for reluctant boy readers of 7-9 years—each page of the book contains only a small amount of text, and there are lots of pictures, as well as a fanciful, but fun story.
Bush Holiday, by Leonie Norrington and Brenton McKenna. PB from Scholastic. RRP $11.99
This is another in the little Mates series of stories for young Australian readers. The hard words are in different font, there are lots of coloured pictures and this story takes Tillithia on a long truck ride and bush holiday, eating bush tucker with her beloved aunt Doreen. For readers of 6-8 years.
***Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy, by Lynley Dodd. HB from Puffin. RRP $19.99
This is the special 50th anniversary release of this most wonderful, funny story, told in verse, which grabs the fascination of children, with its clever use of rhyme and rhythm, and most delightful illustrations. There are plenty of adults around who will remember this story from their youth, probably still be able to recite parts of the story, and who will certainly provide their own children with this magical and memorable story about Hairy Maclary the dog, and all the other animals who seem to be so brave, but cannot cope with the aggressiveness of Scarface Claw the cat……wonderful to see the book released again.
Andy G, Terry D, the Brave Tea-lady and the Evil Bee. By Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton. PB from Pan Macmillan. RRP about $10.
This is the reissue, with a different name of a story which first appeared in a book of short stories, about 15 years ago. It is a story for beginning readers, and tells how the two authors are chased by an evil bee, only to be rescued by the tea lady. It’s a simple story, but excellent to see it in larger format, and with coloured illustrations. The style of the story, and the illustrations remind me strongly of the Dr Seuss stories. Good for 4-7 year olds.
Novels for Upper primary ages.
*Mondays are Murder, and Dying to be Famous, both by Tanya Landman. PB s from Walker Books. RRP $13.95 each.
These two short novels are a really good way to introduce readers of 9-12 years to more complex thrillers. Both stories might be a bit confronting to tender souls, because there are dead bodies, but these are dealt with sympathetically, and without embellishment. The results are two stories, in which Poppy and Graham seem to be those who solve the crimes.
**The Cryptic Casebook of Coco Carlomagno . The missing mongoose. By Ursula Duborsarsky, with puzzles and illustrations by Terry Denton. PB from Allen and Unwin. RRP about $12
One of my keen and intelligent students, a girl of 11 years, is loving this series, and for all the right reasons—fun story with a solution to work out, and interesting accompanying puzzles. Coco and his clever cousin Alberta need to find the mongoose which is missing in the zoo. For keen readers of 9-12 years.
Boy vs Rat Dog, by Justin D’Ath. PB from Penguin. RRP $14.99
This is the fourth book in the Lost World Circus series. Colt lives and works in the circus, which is seeking to protect animals which are at risk of extinction because of the widespread rat flu. When Colt accidentally kills Zoltan the Rat dog, Officer Katt decides to punish Colt by removing his pet elephant Lucy from the circus. The story tells how Colt finds Lucy, learns and reveals to everybody all the secrets Officer Katt has wanted to keep hidden, and there is an exciting twist to the end of the story about Lucy the elephant. Really good reading for kids of 9-13 years.
The Academy, Game On, by Monica Seles. PB from Bloomsbury, RRP $15.99
This book was inspired by the experiences of world tennis star Monica Seles, when she spent time at the IMG Sports Academy in Florida in the US. She presents the academy here as a true to life sports training facility for gifted teenagers, and also for the rich and famous, who can pay to attend, as well as those who earn their places by skill. Maya wins a place at the academy, but finds that life there is not just all training, although that is very real, and very fierce. There is also plenty of social interaction among the teenagers who are there, and not all of it is pleasant. The stories of the training regimes are solidly realistic and show what hard work is required if anyone is to become a star in any sport. Mostly for girls this story, and for 10-15 year olds.
Lina at the Games, by Sally Rippin, and School Days for Ruby, by Penny Matthews. Both of these are PBs in the Our Australian Girl series from Puffin, RRP $14.95 each.
The story about Lina is set in 1956, with the excitement of the Olympic Games being held in Melbourne. Lina goes to the games as a reporter for her school magazine, but finds life more exciting and complicated than she had imagined. In the story about Ruby, it is 1931, and Ruby has trouble settling into her new school in the country. They have very little money and their father has gone away somewhere, but mother will not say where he is. The background for these stories has been well researched, and there are lots of little details like the singing of the national anthem at school, and celebrating Empire Day which are totally authentic. The stories are produced in large font, and they make interesting reading for girls of 9-13 years
***Violet Mackerel’s Pocket Protest by Anna Branford, illustrated by Sarah David. HB from Walker books RRP $19.95
Without any doubt at all, Violet Mackerel is the heroine who appeals most to my young girl students of 8-12 years. They love her feisty character, and the pensive way in which her thoughts are revealed in the story, as well as the large font, and the issues with which Violet and her family become involved. In this case, it is whether or not a particular old tree in the middle of the park should be cut down. Whenever I receive a new Violet Mackerel story, I immediately have to make a list of which girl can borrow the book first. No greater recommendation is possible. For girls of 8-12 years, including autistic children.
EJ 12 Girl Hero. Time to Shine, by Susannah McFarlane. PB from Scholastic. RRP $12.99
This is a story of recollections as Emma Jacks reflects on her early days as a Shine agent based in Australia, but solving problems around the world. The story involves flashbacks, and these are clearly introduced by texts, or emails. This book will help readers make sense of how Shine has worked as a positive secret agency in the other stories involving Emma. Like Violet Mackerel, and again, justifiably, this has become a very popular series with girls of 9-12 years.
The Keepers, by Lian Tanner. PB from Allen and Unwin. RRP $15.99
This is notifying readers of the paperback edition of this fantastic story, which I reviewed in hardback last year. The children who are involved and live in the Museum in Jewel are faced with the finale of the battle with the Flugelman and the mercenaries who threaten the city and the museum. It is up to Goldie to walk the Beast Road, and hopefully to become the first to survive this walk. I have thoroughly enjoyed this trilogy, and it has been a favourite among my students. Suitable for capable readers of 10-14 years.
The Loser list, Jinx of the loser, by H.N Kowitt. HB from Scholastic. RRP $14.99
Danny Shine is really unhappy, because he has not been able to do anything right, and now he is the jinx of the school, and is even called Jinx. How he finally manages to become unjinxed is the story. Laid back, all in a form of lower case printing, which is not easy to read, and lots of conversations with his mates. OK if it appeals to boys of 10-14 years.
Otis Dooda, by Ellen Potter. PB from Scholastic. RRP $14.99
This story is about Otis and his family as they move to New York, and find that many amazing things happen. Otis finds some weirdos on the subway he has to sleep in a box, and they have a lot of smelly times with a noxious sort of body bomb. The stories have a very American flavour. The print is large, there are lots of pictures, and nothing in the book really happens. For readers of 8-12 years.
***Refuge, by Jackie French. PB from Harper Collins. RRP $15.99
This is the story of migration to Australia, from earliest times, told in the form of a time slip-mixed with the experiences of a recent young arrival, Faris, who together with his grandmother is trying to reach Australia by boat from Indonesia. Mixed in with Faris’s experiences are the people he meets after his boat capsizes and he suddenly finds that he is one the coast of Australia, and meeting a lot of people whose origins were elsewhere and in another time. I found this part of the book a bit difficult to follow until I tuned into the time warp, and realised that the people Faris meets on the beach have arrived from a variety of countries, and over several centuries—and many more than that in the case of the aboriginal children. The book is sympathetic to the needs of the boat people, and other refugees, and makes the point very clearly that every one in Australia originated as a refugee or immigrant from elsewhere, in search of a better life. For readers of 8-12 years.
The Four Seasons of Lucy Mackenzie. , by Kirsty Murray. PB from Allen and Unwin. RRP $14.99
When Lucy is sent by her parents to stay for an extended period with her old Aunt Big because Lucy’s older sister is very sick in France and her parents have to go to be with her. Lucy does not expect to learn that she can walk through walls, and meet children from another time with whom she will experience lots of adventures and come to understand herself, and her aunt much better. A happy ending too, when Big and Lucy are able to travel to France themselves. Good reading for girls of 9-12 years.
The Storm Makers, by Jennifer Smith. PB from Hachette. RRP $12.99
This is the story of Simon and his twin sister Ruby, after they discover, largely by accident that the strange events of which Simon has been part , are because he is the youngest storm maker ever, and that he needs to learn to control his skill so that he can inflluence the weather for good, rather than for evil purposes. When Simon becomes involved with the nasty Rupert London, it is up to Ruby to help his see that London is evil, and that Simon needs to learn to trust Otis, Daisy, and ruby so that the future can be more positive for everyone. I enjoyed this story, which is set in America, but it seemed just a tad long overall. For capable readers of 9-12 years.
A very Peculiar Plague, by Catherine Jinks. PB from Allen and Unwin. RRP $14.99
This is the second in the series which began with A Very Unusual Pursuit. This story involves the same children—Bridie McAdam, and Jem, and the bogler Alfred. Bridie is now living with Miss Eames, and is learning to sing properly and to be a young lady, but when lots of children around the Newgate area disappear, Alfred feels compelled to come out of retirement, encouraged and supported by Jem, who wants to get back at Sarah Pickles for her earlier cruelty to him, and by Bridie too, for whom the life of a young lady is less interesting than finding bogles in the seedy areas of London. Excellent story, characters and good fun to read for children of 9-14 years.
Princess Academy, by Shannon Hale. PB from Bloomsbury. RRP $15
Miri is a small, delicately built girl who lives in a poor mountain village. When the Kings’ men arrive in the village, they announce that the king wants to choose a bride from the village, and that all the girls will go to a select academy to be educated before the king makes his choice. The tutor at the academy was very strict, and Miri becomes unhappy at having to choose between the luxury of being a princess or continuing to love her childhood friend Peter. The story takes several unexpected twists and raises several thought provoking topics. A good, easy to read story, with appeal to girls of 12-15 years.
*Chasing the Valley, by Skye Melki-Wegner. PB from Random House. RRP. $17.95
This story is described as Australia’s answer to the Hunger Games. It is the first in what is to be a trilogy. The story’s main character is a street kid, Danika Glynn, who has no family, thanks to a local power- hungry tyrant. Danika escapes the city wall, and attacks one of the king’s alchemy bombers. Danika then becomes the most wanted fugitive in Taladia. She joins a ‘refugee’ crew in the hope of reaching the Magnetic Valley and has to use her growing magical talents to survive, and help the others survive too. The characterisation is strong and it feels as if the reader is part of the action. I am really looking forward to the next book in the series. It makes for great reading for 10-15 year olds.
***Jamie Reign, by PJ Tiernay. PB from Harper Collins. RRP $16.99
The subtitle of this story is The Last Spirit Warrior, and it is a great story. The blurb on the front likens the story to the books by John Flanagan, The Ranger’s Apprentice, and there are similarities in the style of the stories. Jamie is half-caste Chinese and European; he can’t read, but he is expert at handling a tugboat in the seas and around the islands on the coast of China. In particular Jamie is skilled at reading the waters of the area, so that the tug boat owned by his brute of a father can make a living as a salvage vessel—Jamie’s father is a man who shows no mercy for the boats or the people he is supposed to be saving. When he meets Master Wu, Jade and Wing, Jamie realises that his future is not with his father, but with the Spirit Warriors who are seeking to make the world a better place for everyone. Good reading for 12-14 year olds.
**The Poison Boy, by Fletcher Moss. PB from Scholastic. RRP $14.99
I really enjoyed this story. Dalton Fly is an orphan, and his job is to taste the foods and drinks prepared for the wealthy of the city-state, to make sure that they are not poisoned. After Dalton’s fellow taster Bennie dies when they are in the house of one of the ruling families, Dalton unexpectedly meets Scarlet Dropmore, one of the wealthy children, and saves her life; their adventures together take a sudden twist as they try to work out who is behind the murders, why, and how to avoid being killed themselves. When Dalton himself realises that he is one of those whose lives are at risk, for a reason which he could never have thought of, the story becomes really exciting. Excellent reading for 12-15 year olds.
Wild Boy, by Lloyd Jones. HB from Walker Books. RRP $19.95
It is London, in the mid 1800s. Wild Boy is a freak, apparently rescued from an orphanage by a circus master, Augustus Finch, but in reality, then kept in the circus on display to the public, because he looks so weird, covered with hair all over his body. Wild Boy knows he is a freak, but keeps himself entertained by developing his powers of observation of other people—powers which mean that he is a skilled interpreter of people’s backgrounds and occupations and habits. It always has seemed that the legless man, called Sir Oswald is his friend, as well as the young acrobat Clarissa. Wild Boy and Clarissa become involved with the search for a murderer, and help the Gentlemen of London track down the man who has been developing the machines which can alter a person’s brain and personality. Good reading for 12-14 year olds.
*****Blame My Brain, by Nicola Morgan. PB from Walker books. RRP $14.95
This is the second edition of a book, subtitled “The amazing Teenage Brain revealed” and seeks to explain brain development, especially for teenagers. I found it fascinating reading. I love the section on whether you can read peoples facial expressions—and this would be a great section to use with teenagers who are on the autistic spectrum, and often have difficulty reading body language and facial expressions. There is a section on differences in outlook and ways of thinking between girls and brain puzzles as well. Good stuff, and a must read for all teenagers, and preferably their parents and teachers.
In the wings, by Elsbeth Edgar. PB from Walker Books. RRP $16.95
Ella’s grandfather had been a fine actor, and Ella loves the stage as well. When Grandfather comes to stay, Ella tries to prevent him learning that she suffers from stagefright, and consequently will not audition for a part in a Midsummer night’s Dream, in spite of the fact that the new boy in year nine, Sam Hennessey is involved. When Ella’s grandfather sets up a theatre club for young people, Sam is part of it, although there is a mystery about his father. Good reading, especially for teenagers –probably mainly girls–who are interested in theatre.
The Whole of my World, by Nicole Hayes. PB from Random house. RRP $18.95
This story is ostensibly about Aussie Rules football, and about one club, and how a young girl who was not permitted by law to play the game, turned into an obsessive spectator and fan. It is also about how really, the footy team was a cover and security blanket for the rest of Shelley’s life as she experiences grief over her mother’s death, ambivalence about being a girl in a man’s world, about boy friends, growing up and family life. The author admits that a lot of the story mimics her own experiences. For teenagers, probably mostly girls, of 13-15 years.
Stormbringer, by Phillipa Gregory, PB from Simon and Schuster. RRP $16.99
This is the second title in the Order of Darkness series. I reviewed the first volume a few months ago, and enjoyed that first book. This one follows a similar theme as Luca Vero, special emissary of the religious group the Order of Darkness, continues his journey towards Jerusalem, in company with the Lady Isolde and her servant, the Muslim Ishraq. The story is set during the Middle Ages, when Constantinople was one of the most important cities of the world. While the five in the group are stuck in a small town, they meet a young man who claims he is a saint, with holy powers. When there is a tsunami, it seems as if Luca’s servant Brother Peter has been lost forever. I didn’t enjoy this story as much as the first, but it is quite readable for 12-14 year olds.
Fairy Tales for Wilde girls by Allyse Near. PB from Random house. RRP $19.95
This is a fantasy, with Isola the heroine, brothers who are princes and meat eating unicorns to search for—and lots of other magical creatures. There is also a dead girl found in the woods… this is a debut novel, but it was just too fanciful and dark for me. Suitable for 14-16 year olds girls, if it appeals.
The Heiresses, by Allison Rushby. PB from Macmillan. RRP $14.99
I found it difficult to categorise this book—is it for teenagers, or adults? The three seventeen year old girls, Thalia, Erato and Clio are summoned to London by their aunt, from the homes where they have each lived as adopted children for their entire lives to date. They certainly did not know that they were in fact triplets. Soon however it is revealed that there was a mystery about their birth, and that maybe they are not the rightful inheritors of their biological mother’s fortune. Also that they have a half brother Charles, who is not pleasant. It is quite good reading, evidently in the style of Downton Abbey, which I have never watched! Certainly suitable for women, but in my mind, also for older girls of 15-17 years. It is quite good reading.