November-December 2013 children’s and teenage new books -reviewer: Janet Croft

Best books have from 1-5 stars.  The more stars the better!

Picture Books

We wish you a Ripper Christmas, by Colin Buchannan and Greg Champion, with illustrations by Roland Harvey.  HB from Scholastic.  RRP  $19.99.

This book comes with a CD of the song of the written content of this book.  The tune is of course easily recognised, although with a slightly different title.  The animals are Australian, the delightful illustrations are some of Roland’s best, and the result is a book, with CD which small children of 3-7 years can play while they learn to read the words of the song for themselves.  Quite good value, but appropriate for a limited period of any year of course.

A Snugglepot and Cuddlepie Christmas,  with text by Mark McLeod. Illustrations are copyright to the Northcott society and Cerebral Palsy Alliance 2013.  HB from Scholastic.  RRP  $19.99

An imaginative look at the preparations of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie for their very Australian Christmas.  I love the way in which this story, written by Mark McLeod, has been matched with original illustrations from the work of the late May Gibbs to create a delightful and tasteful story for young children of 2-5 years.

Where’s Santa around the World, by Louis Shea.  HB from Scholastic.  RRP  $15.99

This is a well thought out look and find story, in the Where’s Wally tradition, as Santa takes his gifts for children to many interesting places around the world. Also travelling is Nat, who has been very naughty, and now is trying to steal Santa’s list of good and bad children so that everybody will receive gifts, not just those who have been good.  Most children love a look and find puzzle such as this, and there is a list of items and characters which can be found on every page, as well as Santa and Nat. I feel this book is really good value, as children of about 5 and over will pore over these pages time and again to see who, and how quickly they can locate the items.  In the process they will also be exposed to some of the world’s interesting historical sites and features.

What do Werewolves do when it’s not Halloween? By Heath McKenzie.  PB from Scholastic.  RRP 

Halloween is an ancient pagan and then Christian feast day which is now mostly celebrated in the USA only.  I’m not sure that I want to promote any increased observance of it in Australia, but given that Halloween is just one night of the year, it is a reasonable question to ask what the imaginary creatures which are supposed to appear on October 31, might do for the rest of the year.  This is a fanciful, and colourful story, and suitable for 5 -7 year olds if it appeals.

An Aussie Year, Twelve Months in the life of Australian kids, by Tania McCartney.  HB from EK books, released by Scholastic.  RRP  $19.99

This is an interesting concept and book.  It introduces five children from different backgrounds and cultures, and shows what happens within these cultures  in day-to-day life in Australia for every month.  Thus we celebrate Australia Day, and Easter, and Christmas, but also Harmony Day, Naidoc Week and the start of Ramadan – which is shown here as a fixed date month, whereas in reality it does change from year to year- there are also some recipes, and suggestions of life at school,  activities  to be seen on a farm and so on.  It’s a good assortment, and very sweetly presented with out overloading each double page monthly spread.  Good to stimulate discussion and questions for children from about 6 to 10 years.

*****Tom the Outback Mailman by Kristin Weidenbach, and illustrated by Timothy Ide.  HB from Lothian children’s books and Hachette.  RRP about $25.

This would have to be the best book that anyone in Australia could send to a child elsewhere in the world, to give them  a little history, but most of all, the life and flavour of the Australian outback. Tom Kruse was, for many years, the outback mailman along the Birdsville track in South Australia and Queensland. We see his old truck and read of the many activities which occurred on each trip that he made to deliver the mail to outback stations all along the track.  The print is large, and clear, and easy to follow, and the illustrations are clear, brightly coloured and historically correct.  At the back of the book is a timeline of Tom’s career, and of how mail delivery along the track has developed since.  There are also two maps, to give some idea of how long Tom’s mail run was.  A fantastic book and the best  picture book for kids that I have seen this year.

The Bouncing Ball, by Deborah Kelly.  HB from Random House, RRP  $19.95.  Ebook available.

A pleasant, very colourful story of what happens when a ball is bounced, and where it goes.  There is some excellent vocabulary, and use of prepositions in the story, which will be good to read to children of 2-5 years.

The Wombats go on Camp, by Roland Harvey.  HB from Allen and Unwin.  RRP  $24.99

A school camp as you have never known it! Twelve students, with the most varied names you could imagine, and two intrepid teachers have a very full week of activities with their students.  Activities of the week and attitudes of the campers are outlined in the extracts written by each of the participants.  A fun book for kids of 7-10 years to read.

There, There, by Sam McBratney.  PB from Koala and Scholastic, RRP  $14.99

This is a bit in the style of guess how much I love you….here, the little bear, Hansie seems to have plenty of accidents, but Dad always manages to make him feel better.  When Dad hurts himself, it is up to Hansie to think what to say to make Dad feel better.  Pleasant, with illustrations in warm colours.  Suitable for 2-4 year olds.

*I Spy Pets, by Edward Gibbs.  PB from Koala books and Scholastic.  .  RRP  $13.99

This is a fun way to introduce really young children to the game of “I spy”.  There is a big hole in the front cover, and throughout the book as we turn the page we see the eye of the next creature.  The pictures are large, and the text very simple. I think kids of 1-3 years will enjoy looking at and perhaps learning to predict the next page.  Good value.

My Daddy ate an Apple, and She’ll be coming round the mountain when she comes, are two books in paperback, with CDs from Scholastic New Zealand. RRP about $15 each My Daddy ate an apple tells of a zebra which ate a wormy apple.  The second book will be well known to adults, and is an appealing presentation.  Books are suitable for  3-6 year olds.

Junior fiction.

 

The Kensington Reptilarium, by Nikki Gemmell.  PB from Random House.  RRP  $16.95

Set to begin with in the Australian outback, just after the end of WW2, the four children are fending for themselves, quite capably, but not in orthodox fashion by adult standards, in the absence of their father, when they learn to their distress that their father has disappeared, and that they must go to live with their uncle and new guardian in a weird house in London. They find that Uncle Basti looks after many snakes in his reptilarium, and that he prefers the snakes to the children—until he gets used to them and vice versa.  It’s a fun story, easy to read and so wacky that kids of 7-11 years have found it fun, and slightly reminiscent of the flavour of Roald Dahl.

OMG!  All about Me diary, by Rachel Renee Russell.  PB from Simon and Schuster.  RRP  $16.99  

This is the latest in the very successful Dork Diaries series for girls. I like this diary, because it has heaps of good ideas for writing in it—the author has made suggestions for every day of the year, and has made  space for the content to be spread over two years.  The content is very girly—“Describe your new FAB hairdo” for example, also “What do you daydream about?” and “Has anyone ever done something to you ‘accidentally on purpose’? Explain what happened”.  There are plenty of cartoon style pictures as prompts, and sometimes there is a guided answer as well. This is an excellent method to encourage children to learn to write about what they are doing, and their feelings.  This book will make a good gift for girls of about 8-11 years.

Star Wars, Jedi Academy. By Jeffrey Brown.  PB from Scholastic.  RRP  $12.99

A story told as a continuous cartoon with extracts of a diary spread over several weeks of life at the Jedi academy for Roan, the new kid.  I like the way the days have been given different names.  The print is easy to read, and the content suitable mainly for boys of about 7-9 years.

EJ12 Girl Hero, Spooked, by Susannah McFarlane. PB from Scholastic, RRP $12.99

Just when I was tiring a little of these books there is an excellent story!  Here our heroine, and her team have to sort out the mystery of the theft of really old gold coins from various castles around England.  The background is different, and there is a real mystery for the reader to try to solve before our group does.  These books are favourites with girls of 9-12 years.

****Weirdo, by Anh Do.  PB from Scholastic, RRP  $12.99

I loved this story!  Imagine how a child feels when they have a strange name which leads itself to peculiar and humorous nicknames.  Then imagine this immigrant boy, whose parents called him Weir.  That would be OK, but not when your surname is Do!  It is a simple story, easy to read, and with amusing illustrations.   Boys of 8-11 years have loved this story, and I feel that it is a good story to read to a class, in preparation for a yarn about teasing, or strange names, or just for fun.

***The Grace Stories by Sofie Laguna.  HB from Viking and Penguin.  RRP  $24.99

This collection of four stories about the poor young English girl who lives with her unpleasant drunkard of an uncle. Because she was so hungry, Grace stole an apple but then, persuaded by a gypsy that Pegasus, the starved looking horse, was really hers, Grace tries to steal him to save him from his horrid master.  Grace was then transported as a convict to Australia and the rest of the stories describe her life and experiences in the new colony at the start of the nineteenth century. With large font, and attractive presentation, in a hard cover, with lock, like a diary, this is excellent reading for girls of about 9-12 years.

Ella and Olivia, the Christmas Surprise, by Yvette Poshlogian.  PB from Scholastic.  RRP  $6.99

A very simple large print, easy to read story about the perils of trying to stay awake on Christmas Eve, to see Santa Claus and how Ella and Olivia resist the temptation to open presents early.  For girls of 5-7 years if it appeals.

Redcap’s Christmas, by Susan Cason, illustrated by Ben Wood.  HB from Scholastic. RRP  $15.99

Redcap the imp wants more than anything else to work for Santa at the North Pole as preparations for Christmas are in full swing.  He gets the job, but life is really busy, and his new friend Jellybean is no help as she makes errors and gets into mischief.  A reasonable story for 6-8 year olds, with attractive illustrations, but the print is quite small, so maybe best read with an adult.

Animal Spirits, Book 1 Wild Born, by Brandon Mull.  PB from Scholastic.  RRP  $12.99

This is an interesting story, with a difference, as four children, each of whom discover that they possess the spirit and certain abilities of a particular animal, are brought together to fight the dark force which has entered the world of Erdas.  However, if they want to, readers can also become involved in this quest as the web site for this series involves role-play, and the adoption of an animal alter ego. This will certainly help comprehension of the book, planning skills and involvement with the series.   For 9-12 year olds.

The Saddle Club, by Bonnie Bryant.  I have two books here, each of which contains two titles: Horse Crazy and Horse Shy, and Horse Sense and Horse Power.  Each of the volumes is $12.95 RRP, and in PB from Random House. 

These four titles are good value for girls who are horse mad. Of course there is a simple story line to each one, but as always with these books, there is quite a lot of information about keeping and looking after horses, and the need to consider the well being of the animals at all times.  For interested readers of 9-12 years.

Tom Gates, Extra special Treats (not), by L Pichon.  PB from Scholastic.  RRP  $12.99

Another in this series of stories presented in words and pictures of Tom Gates, who is rather accident prone, at home and at school, but always manages to get by.  I have found that these books appeal to boys who are learning to read, and particularly to boys who show dyslexic characteristics.  For them, the very varied presentation of the story appeals strongly and they show more patience in reading each page correctly than with a straight book. For boys of 7-10 years.

*Stay where you are and then Leave, by John Boyne. PB from Random House, RRP  $21.95

I expect that next year we will be inundated with stories to commemorate in some way or other, the centenary of the start of World War 1. Alfie’s mother does not talk about Alfie’s father any more, even though the letters stopped coming a long time ago.  Alfie feels that there is something wrong, and fears that his father is dead.  Alfie determines to be of more help to his mother, and  he starts up a shoe shine business at King’s Cross Station.  Surprisingly,one day when he has shined the shoes for a military doctor, Alfie sees his father’s name  and where he is on a sheaf of papers, which blow away, and which Alfie then helps to collect.  Alfie investigates, and discovers that his father is alive, but that he desperately needs Alfie’s help to return to normal life. This is a timeless and touching  story. Appropriate for children of 9-13 years.

****The Royal Ranger, by John Flanagan.  PB from Random House. RRP  $17.95

At last, we have the conclusion to the Ranger’s apprentice series!  And it is a very satisfying conclusion.  Will is battle weary, and almost crazed with the wish to take revenge for the death of his beloved wife.  Will is encouraged by Halt to take an apprentice—one who is different in every respect from any other apprentice but it is not really a request that Will can refuse.  What happens as the  new apprentice learns and makes mistakes but helps to turn Will’s attitudes and life around makes for a really fantastic conclusion to this wonderful series.  For all fans of 11-15 years who have enjoyed the other 11 books in the series, or as a stand-alone.

**Everything We Ever Saw, by Roland Harvey.  HB from Allen and Unwin. RRP  $24.99

Harvey has produced six stories based on explorations by a family of certain areas of Australia, and here the stories have been compressed into one smaller, neat volume– In the City, the Beach, The Top End, The Bush, The Way to W.A and On the Farm.  This title should probably be classified as non-fiction, but children see the stories as that as they enjoy the varied activities described, and follow the maps of the journeys of Henry, Penny Frankie, mum and dad and Uncle Kev.  As always, Harvey’s quirky drawings are most appealing, even to adults and they add to the delight and time which children spend on each page. Because the book is compressed in size from the originals, some of the print is quite small. This is a fantastic book, and will make an excellent present for children of 7-11 years.

 Rainforest Lullaby, by Sally Odgers, with illustrations by Lisa Stewart.  HB from Scholastic RRP  $$24.99

A simple story, told in verse of some of the creatures found in the Australian rainforests.  The drawings are mostly recognisable as the creatures they represent, but I dislike the use of the different font in which the names of the creatures are written.  They are not easy to read, and add nothing to the story.  The book is appropriate for young children of 2-4 years in company with an adult.

Blossom Possum and the Christmas Quacker, by Gina Newton and Christina Booth.  HB from Scholastic.  RRP  $19.99

I think this story is supposed to be funny, and amusing;  it is quite punny, with sound alike words such as “Koala Claws” for Santa Claus.  I am sure that the meaning of “the Land of Nod’ will be beyond the knowledge of the children of the age for which the book is intended, about 3-6 years.  The slang phrases in the book may well need to be explained by an adult.

***Year of the Jungle, by Suzanne Collins.  Memories from the Home Front.  HB from Scholastic.  RPP $24.99

The author of The Hunger Games has written a memoir of the year when she was about six years old, and her father had to go to fight in the war in Vietnam.   This is quite a powerful story, and beautifully presented with strong illustrations, colour coded for the seasons as the year passes—which for a six year old—takes so long!  At Halloween, when she tells old ladies that her dad is in Vietnam, they give her too many sweets, and she starts to feel anxious.  She doesn’t like seeing TV footage of the war, because it is so awful.  The reader can feel Suzanne’s childhood worry, but I hope that children of 4-8 years who read this story—preferably with an adult—will be encouraged to talk about the feelings, and to feel sympathy for her, without feeling threatened themselves.  A good book to read aloud  for a class or library lesson.

**Clumsy Duck, by Britta Teckentrup.  PB from Koala Books and Scholastic. RRP  $14.99

Duck is very clumsy when he is walking on land and playing with Chick.    It is only when he takes to the water and discovers that he can swim that he realises that he is an excellent swimmer.  A gentle story about learning that everybody is good at something!  Fun reading for children of 4-6 years.

 

Non-fiction.

**Banjo Patterson Treasury, illustrated by Oslo Davies.  In a durable soft cover, from Random House. RRP  $19.95

Because these poems were written just over a hundred years ago, their content sometimes requires interpretation for today’s children given that Patterson wrote largely about life in rural and regional settings. .  In this volume we have all of Patterson’s best known and loved  poems, including the Man From Snowy River, and Mulga Bill’s Bicycle, but there are also lesser-known poems such as some written during the First World War, and poems about Federation.  This is an attractive volume, with uncrowded pages, and illustrations.  It is suitable for all families, and school libraries.

*Burning the Bails, by   Krista Bell, illustrated by Ainsley Walters.  PB from One day Hill and Scholastic.  RRP  $19.99

This tells the story of a cricket match held at the historic Rupertswood Homestead, outside Melbourne in 1882, at which the ashes, possession of which has been the goal of competing cricket teams from England and Australia ever since, were supposedly created after a friendly game.  This book tells the story as fiction, but there is an excellent section of facts, and how the Clarke family was involved at the end of the book. A useful book for trivia fans and would be cricketers of any age.

Teenage fiction.

 

*****Ethan’s Choice, by Rachel Carter.  PB from Scholastic.  RRP $15.99

About four years ago Ethan, who is now eleven stopped talking. Of course his parents are worried about him, and Ethan is worried about himself, but there is no way that he wants to go back to school, when he had been so badly teased for his inability to talk.  He doesn’t know why he doesn’t talk either, but he just can’t.  He doesn’t have any friends any more of course, and is content that he and his parents live on a riverboat, the Deity.   One day however, another boat ties up near the Deity, and to his initial horror, Ethan realises that there is a girl who acts friendly towards him on board.  He is relieved when Polly does not pressure him to talk, and gradually the two children start to spend time together.  Ethan realises that Polly is unhappy because her parents have split up, and she misses her father.  Ethan finds that gradually he is able to communicate with Polly when he writes notes to her, and as he shows her more of his special places along the riverbank, the notes become longer and more frequent.  Polly says that there must be some reason why Ethan can’t talk, and as Ethan thinks about this and shows Polly his special places, he remembers more of past events.  This is a vivid and realistic portrayal of the dilemma of an elective mute, and how the mutism is eventually resolved makes for excellent reading.  I wasn’t sure how to categorise this book, but feel that it is suitable for capable readers of about 11 and older.

***Ice Breaker, by Lian Tanner.  PB from Allen and Unwin.  RRP  $18.99

I first read Tanner’s books with the Keeper Series, which I thoroughly enjoyed.  This first book in what is to be the Hidden Series is intriguing and very readable also, and I look forward to the rest of the series.  Here Petrel is the “Nothing Girl’ on an old ice breaker ship which has circled the southern icepack for about three hundred years. Petrel doesn’t know who her parents were and she has no place within any of the major groups on the ship. Her only friends are two talking rats. She is expert at living unnoticed by everybody. When Petrel is responsible for saving a mysterious boy from a cave on the ice cap, her life changes, and so does life on the ship.  It’s a really good read, and will be enjoyed by boys and girls of 11-15 years

The Debt: Take a Life, by Phillip Gwynne.  PB from Allen and Unwin.  RRP  $14.99

At last, the final instalment in this series about how 15-year-old Dom Silvagni has managed to overcome sometimes massive odds to carry out the previous challenges given him by the Debt—the mafia type organisation to which Dom’s family has been indebted for generations. His final task, before he is released from his obligations, is to take a life.  How Dom comes to terms with his conscience and succeeds, by rather devious means to fulfil his obligation, as well as to wipe out the Debt, makes for fascinating and enthralling reading.   Supposedly this is for upper primary readers, but my suggestion is for age 12 and above.

These Broken Stars, by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner.  PB from Allen and Unwin.  RRP  $18.99

This is the first in what is to be a science fiction trilogy about a young woman and an older man, a soldier, as together they face the battle to survive when they are the only survivors of a crash on a mysterious hitherto unknown planet which not only contains other forms of life, but also a mystery which they need to solve.  This is a long story, with many complications and multiple narratives to follow, but the major deterrent of the story for me was the tiny font.  For older teenagers of 15 plus.

*****Russian Roulette, by Anthony Horowitz.  HB from Walker Books.  RRP  $22.95

This is the book you MUST read if you ever wondered why, at the end of Stormbreaker, the first book in Horowitz’s wonderful series of the boy spy Alex Rider, Yassen Gregorovich, did not kill Alex when he had the chance!  In Russian Roulette we live Yassen’s  early life  in Russia, in the years after the Chernobyl disaster, and the breakup of the old Russian Confederation.  As always Horowitz has done his research impeccably, and the story sweeps us along from the death of Yassen’s parents and subsequent events, as he grew into the man and  then the killer who  was to spare Alex.  We also learn why.  Essentially this is the story of how to grow a terrorist who has no loyalties to anything other than money and his own survival.  I intend to suggest this book to year 12 students who are studying the theme of Belonging….so they can realise what not belonging involves and how dehumanising the process is! Horowitz has given us another gripping novel set in a factually accurate social and political background—sobering, but wonderful writing and a great story for 12 years and older.

Battle Magic, by Tamora Pierce.  PB from Scholastic.  RRP $19.99

There is a very strong Chinese flavour to this fantasy story of war, and of young warriors, both male and female who use magic to fight with.  The author comments in her dedication   that ‘All war is hell’, and certainly this story include lots of violent magical weapons, and the need to use them.  I found the language confusing, even with the comprehensive glossary at the back, and I did not enjoy the story.  For readers of older than 14, if it appeals.

The Last Girl, by Michael Adams.  PB from Allen and Unwin.  RRP  $19.99

This is a powerful and scary story about Danby, who finds, after the end of the known world, that she is able to hear what everyone else is thinking, but that they cannot understand her.  She realises that she has to try to save herself, and Evan, her really young brother.  They set out from Sydney to find refuge in the mountains, where her mother had a secluded retreat, but have to fight every bit of the way against crazed people.  When she meets Nathan, Danby feels that her load might be shared, but he is not what he seems, and then Jack too, seems to offer support and help, but is really only after power for himself. I found it easy to read, but it became a bit too fanciful, and repetitive, with frequent disasters, or   illnesses for someone.   The story is told in the first person, and   is intended for readers of 14 years and over.

Kinslayer, by Jay Kristoff.  PB from MacMillan.  RRP $29.99

This is the second in the Lotus Wars series.  Yukiko is the heroine, but her powers are spiralling out of control as she seeks  to renew the nation’s broken Shogun dynasty.  Another involved fantasy, set this time in Japan, with heaps of action and yet another in the series to come. At more than 600 pages, I did not have the stamina to finish the book.   For readers of 14 years and older.

The Eye of Mind; the Game is on, by James Dashner.  PB from Random House.  RRP  $19.95

I loved Mazerunner, by this author and he is also the author of the multi-volume Infinity Ring series.   This story is the first of a series called the Eye Of Mind, and is about a teenager called Michael, who spends more time playing the virtnet than in reality.  Michael comes to the notice of the authorities when they need to catch another gamer, Kaine, who is  albe to take players hostage, and then harms them, leaving them brain dead.  The story is all about advanced technology, gaming, virtual reality, and cyber terrorists. Michael and Sarah  try a variety of strategies to cross the portal from reality to fantasy, and Kaine seems more prepared for them than vice versa.  This is a readable story, intended for reluctant readers who are game savvy.  It is a good read for 12-16 year olds.

*Jump, Twinmakers 1, by Sean Williams.  PB from Allen and Unwin.  RRP  $18.99

Another first in what will become a series.  Claire is afraid for the safety of her friend Libby, who was not happy with her appearance, and wanted to be ‘improved’.  Claire went partying with Libby a couple of times, but then pulled out, and the next thing she knew, Libby had been teleported somewhere, and could not be found, but it appeared that someone else had stolen her persona. Libby claimed to have been improved, but it appeared to be a very dangerous move for her long-term health. Claire is afraid for Libby, but also afraid of whether to trust Jesse, who, with his father, is an abstainer, who has always disagreed with d-mats, and teleporting, and other features of modern life.  At times I found the number of switches, and people became a bit confusing, especially after Claire made contact with the mysterious Q, who then became her main confidant and advisor.  The story hangs together well, and reads well.  For teenagers of 13-16 years.

***The Lord of Opium, by Nancy Farmer.  PB from Simon and Schuster.  RRP  $14.99

Fourteen-year-old Matt becomes the Lord of Opium, and owner of a huge enterprise which -yes, grows and sells opium, on a massive estate in a world of the future.  Matt is a clone of the former Lord and Patron, who has been assassinated, and right from the start, Matt has to struggle to find his own way, when the voice of his origins occasionally disturbs his thinking, and everyone else around him either wants to see him as similar in nature to the old Patron, or as just a kid.  The estate has been run with the use of eejits, which seemed to be mostly asylum seekers from a neighbouring land, who have been dehumanised with chips in their brains, so that they are programmed to carry out the menial work of the estate, and live only for a very short time.  This is a very complicated story, and it took careful reading to follow all its intricacies, as Matt seeks to stop the treatment of the eejits, and to foster a more positive environment for everyone.  He also has to come to terms with neighbouring wealthy people, and in particular with Esperanza and her daughter, Maria, whom Matt loves.  A long and intricate story, which will reward the capable reader of 14 years and older.

The Killing Woods, by Lucy Christopher.  PB from Scholastic.  RRP  $17.99

When her father, who was a war veteran and subject to deep melancholia and flashbacks, is accused of killing Ashlee Parker, Emily is convinced of his innocence, but it takes some time to untangle the mess of relationships and events which will reveal the killer’s identity. A very readable story, with the added message about the dangers of experiments with illicit drugs because of how they can adversely affect behaviour without deliberate intent.   For mature readers of 14 plus.

The Dream Thieves, by Maggie Stiefvater.  HB from Scholastic.  RRP $24.99

Stiefvater is a skilled and successful writer of novels which deal with paranormal events and romance. This is the second of a trilogy, the Raven Cycle, but is okay as a read alone.  Set in Wales, it’s a mystery, but with the other elements as well, as Ronan and his close friends, helped sometimes by Blue, search for the long dead king Glendower. Well written, and fast action, and with considerable appeal to girls of about 13 and over who like the paranormal.

Forever More by Cindy Miles.  PB from Scholastic.  RRP  $17.99

A very readable paranormal novel. Set in Scotland when Ivy and her mother move there after the death of Ivy’s dad, and then, sometime later, her mother’s marriage to a Scottish Laird, Niall MacAllister and the move to the castle. When Ivy meets Logan, it seems as if she has found true love, but there are a few weird things about Logan, and also in the castle, and Niall’s grandmother is not only unpleasant to Ivy and her mother, but also involved in the strange events.   Ivy is a talented violinist, and when she has the opportunity to clear up the mystery at the castle, she shines in the concert, and it appears that the curse has been lifted. Fanciful, but a good story for girls of about 12-15 years who like the romance and fantasy element.

Raising Steam, by Terry Pratchett.  HB from Random House.  RRP  $45  EBook—yes.

This is, believe it or not, the fortieth Discworld story!  Dick Simnel is a curious boy, and after the death of his father, refuses to ignore the legacy of curiosity and ingenuity bequeathed to him by his father.  Dick teaches himself mathematics, and engineering, and learns to harness steam in a way that his father had only dreamed of.  Dick invents Iron girder, and then goes to Ankh-Morpork to seek financial backing for the project to build a railway to improve the extent and speed of commerce between the capital and outlying areas.  So Lord Vetinari becomes involved in what develops into a complicated and difficult development project.  Lots of tongue in cheek humour, and wry comments about how and why people make certain decisions, plus many hiccups of course before the invention is completed. A fun read for teenagers and Discworld adult fans.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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