Showing posts with label mystery. Show all posts
Showing posts with label mystery. Show all posts

Sunday, 21 October 2018

His Name was Walter


His Name was Walter by Emily Rodda (Angus and Robertson/Harper Collins) PB RRP $22.99 ISBN 978146071203

Reviewed by Nean McKenzie

This middle grade fiction book is about a group of kids in a haunted house — what could be better? The reader is led from a story into another story, which at first seems like a fairy tale, but as it goes on, seems more and more real. Emily Rodda, writer of more than fifty books, expertly crafts a tale that moves between the past and the future, and fantasy and reality. His Name was Walter is an adventure, a mystery and a coming of age story, all in one.

The story is from the point of view of Colin, who is new at his school and on an excursion. The bus breaks down in bad weather and four students (and their teacher Mrs Fiori) take shelter in an old mansion nearby. There are creepy stories about the house, but there's nowhere else to go. Colin discovers a book called His Name was Walter and Mrs Fiori encourages the children to read it.
The story of Walter describes an orphan boy who grows up in a beehive and his journey to a town far away where he meets a girl called Sparrow. Colin and the quiet Tara, who is aware of unseen things, are completely drawn in. Grace, a pretty, impatient girl, feels scared for unexplained reasons in certain rooms in the house. Cynical Lucas seems oblivious to it all. But as Walter's tale goes on, the spirits in the house seem to be trying to prevent it from being told.

There are moments of genuine scariness in this story. The power goes off. There's a mysterious locked room. But the scariest is the idea of a 'story' being real. The children realise there was a real town, a real mansion, and that is where they are this night. They must draw on the courage and work together to get through the story, right to the end.

This book is structured so well. I was initially confused as to why Walter would be surrounded by animals who act like people, but this is explained. The characters of the school children are believable without stereotypes and all develop in their own way.

My Name is Walter is a fast-paced and entertaining read for upper primary children.







Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Spy within a Ruby


Spy within a Ruby by Stefan A. Nicholson (Envirosupport) PB RRP $18
ISBN 978-0-9804604-9-0

Reviewed by Stacey Gladman

Spy within a Ruby is the perfect book for those who love a little crime and mystery in their life.

The story centres around the Mayfair Mews hotel, where 16 year-old Eric lives with his parents who run the hotel. Eric and his childhood sweetheart Ruby - who unfortunately for him, hates him, as she hates life in general - get recruited by MI6 operative James Batholomew Watt, AKA Roger Davis, to perform a secret mission.

Living within the Mayfair Mews Hotel, Eric is a prime candidate to gain access to hotel guests - specifically two - who happen to be Russian and Chinese spies who are negotiating to buy classified defence from the Cigar Club.

He decides to enlist Eric to help keep an eye on the guests after deciding any of his fellow operatives would be uncovered in their espionage attempts. The agreement starts of well, with Davis questioning his decision to ask two teenagers for help in a situation of national intelligence. “All I am asking is that you note the time of day these people come and go…but only if you happen to notice…note no deliberate spying on them…and maybe if you can tell me who picked them up…or a car registration. Absolutely no more than that! Do I make myself clear?”

Unfortunately, the warning could have been too late for Ruby, who is shortly after abducted as a bargaining chip of sorts against Davis. Surprisingly, it’s the very people that the pair are spying on in the first place who attempt to come to Ruby’s rescue, but the questions is, will they make it in time to save Ruby?

From exploding boats, to suspense and international secrets, Spy within a Ruby has it all. I would recommend for those who like to think about their stories and try and predict the plot.


Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Cinnamon Stevens Ghost Light


Cinnamon Stevens Ghost Light by Pauline Hosking illustrated by Kat Chadwick
(Lilly Pilly Publishing) PB RRP $16.95
ISBN 978-0-646-98111-6

Reviewed by Stacey Gladman

Cinnamon Stevens Ghost Light is the second book by Pauline Hosking introducing young detective Cinnamon and her two best friends Cossy and Meera.

The three young girls attend school together in Mount Dandenong. The story follows a number of directions which all end in a ghostly connection with a once great actress Adelaide Glendenning from Walhalla.

Cossy, a young actress gains a role in a performance of Macbeth which begins the story and the links with Adelaide, when she thinks she sees the ghostly apparition of Adelaide in the theatre.

A change of school excursion to the home and resting place of Adelaide sees Cinnamon’s thirst for figuring out crime surface when classmate Snowy is attacked while on a nighttime - walk through the cemetery.

A second mystery emerges as ghosts continue to be seen at the theatre where Cossy’s play will be performed and then things take a turn for the more dramatic when damage to sets and costumes. The girls attempt to get to the bottom of the situation, but it appears both mysteries could be linked.

Will Cinnamon find out who attacked Snowy, or will the mystery go unsolved? Will Cossy get her big break on the stage? They were questions which kept me reading, I guess you will have to read the book to find out for yourself.

I loved the themes of friendship and determination to find the truth from the three protagonists that really shone through in this story. Faced with a mystery, they showed strength and courage - traits to be admired by young readers.

There were also more serious themes to the book which I felt were introduced and dealt with quite well - including racism against Meera who is half Indian descent and bullying. The girls stuck together as friends and found a way to help Meera overcome the difficulties she faced at school.

The writing style through out is relatable to the intended reader age of nine and above and was an easy read that draws in the reader. The pictures, which were drawn in a  style which made you feel like you were reading a young girls diary really helped add to the scene and I think would add to the appeal for the intended age group as well.




Thursday, 26 October 2017

Max Booth: Tape Escape Book 1

Max Booth: Tape Escape by Cameron MacIntosh, illustrated by Dave Atze
(Big Sky Publishing) PB RRP $12.99
ISBN 978-1-925520-60-6

Reviewed by Ann Harth

Tape Escape is Book 1 of the Max Booth Future Sleuth series and introduces 11-year-old Max and Oscar, his robotic dog, in the year 2424. After escaping from the Home for Unclaimed Urchins, Max is constantly on the run from the Unclaimed Urchin Capture Squad. He and Oscar now live in a cosy box in a museum storeroom after being befriended by Jessie, the storeroom supervisor. Jessie often enlists Max to help her solve the mysteries surrounding some of the artefacts she must identify from the 20th century.

In Tape Escape, Max is mystified when presented with a cassette tape from the 1980s. After sneaking into the library and conducting dangerous research, Max devises an ingenious technique of playing the tape and discovers that it contains recorded music from the legendary David Snowie. The tape is worth millions. When it’s stolen by an evil forensic musicologist, Max and Oscar must recover the tape and return it to Jessie and the museum.

Max’s world feels real from the very first page. Readers 8-10 will enjoy the blistering pace, the humour and also the clever, futuristic contraptions that are integrated into the action. The black and white drawings scattered throughout add visual cues that enhance the story and characters.

I highly recommend this book to young readers, as they will be taken on an enjoyable journey into the recent past as well as into the future. They don’t need to have lived in the 80s to enjoy the humour in this book, but it will touch some funny bones in parents and teachers as well. I will definitely look forward to Book 2: Selfie Search.

Cameron MacIntosh  has written more than 80 books for children and edited hundreds more for educational publishers. He has studied Psychology, Italian and Professional Writing. When he’s not wrapped up in the world of books, he sings and plays guitar in his Melbourne home.

Reviewer’s blurb:
Ann Harth is an author, ghostwriter, writing mentor and manuscript assessor. She loves to read and is committed to creating and helping to create children's literature that inspires, entertains and triggers a tiny twist in the mind.



Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Squishy Taylor in Zero Gravity

Squishy Taylor in Zero Gravity written by Ailsa Wild, illustrated by Ben Wood (Hardie Grant Egmont) PB RRP $12.99
ISBN 9781760127725

Reviewed by Liz Ledden

The fifth Squishy Taylor book opens with Squishy playing space-stations with her half-sisters Jessie and Vee (whom she refers to as her ‘Bonus Sisters’ throughout the series). This sets the scene for the book’s space-themed antics. While peering through their telescope to view a meteor shower, the girls notice something else intriguing. Someone resembling an astronaut is on a nearby rooftop, with what looks to be a rocket with visible sparks flying out.

The plot centres on Squishy’s determination to get to the bottom of the mystery, even if it means doing the wrong thing. Squishy, along with Jessie and Vee, hatch plans to sneak into the apartment building and make their way to the rooftop, deceiving their parents in the process and lying to the pyjama-clad man they find once they reach their destination.

Throughout, Squishy’s relationship with her stepmother Alice deteriorates. Squishy’s feelings towards Alice appear more hostile than in the previous Squishy Taylor books I’ve read (books one and four), and she yearns for her Geneva-dwelling birth mother for comfort more than ever.

The story’s conclusion sees a physically painful consequence for Squishy, yet her stepmother Alice’s reaction to the mayhem is inexplicably calm. While the Squishy Taylor books cleverly infuse action, mystery, fun and a touch of daredevil with real-life family issues, it felt as though this ending was a little too ‘nice’, considering Alice’s earlier impatience with Squishy. Regardless, the book’s page-turning hooks will keep young readers engaged, eager to discover who or what the strange astronaut and rocket may be.


Sunday, 25 October 2015

Frankie DuPont and the High Seas Heist

Frankie DuPont and the High Seas Heist by Julie Anne Grasso, illustrated by Alexander Avellino (Julieannegrassobooks)
PB RRP $14.95
ISBN 9780994321602

Reviewed by Ashling Kwok

This exciting new chapter book is the latest in the Frankie Dupont series. The book follows the adventures of Frankie as he sets out to solve another crime, even before it is committed. This time the story takes place on a luxury cruise liner filled with chocolate sculptures, devious chocolatiers and more twists and turns than you can imagine.

The lively adventure sees Frankie and his friends set out to solve a mystery on board the ship by following a trail of clues and investigating suspects using DNA tracking machines, famous chocolate recipes and a trusty dogs nose.

Frankie DuPont and the High Seas Heist is perfect for middle grade readers aged 7-10 or anyone who enjoys a well-written book filled with fun, laughter and intrigue. Readers will learn the value of friendship, teamwork and perseverance and how anything can be achieved if they don’t give up.

Julie’s writing is fast-paced, animated and creative. And although this is another installment in the Frankie DuPont series, it is an original and entertaining story that will have readers dying to turn the page.

The cover of the book is enticing as it is brightly coloured and features cool images to hook young readers. The text is easy to read and the sentence structure clear and concise. The illustrations add a nice touch and break up the text.

Frankie DuPont and the High Seas Heist is an excellent book that starts strong and manages to maintain the readers interest throughout. It is a smart, well-written adventure and the perfect book to encourage kids who dont love reading to give it a go.


Thursday, 17 September 2015

Verity Sparks and the Scarlet Hand

Verity Sparks and the Scarlet Hand by Susan Green (Walker Books)
PB RRP $16.95
ISBN 9781922244895

Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

Here’s another sparkling and riveting Verity Sparks’ mystery. She’s my favourite heroine; a girl who is clever, optimistic, fearless, logical and compassionate.  She has a sharp mind and several secret gifts.  The Scarlet Hand is set in Castlemaine, Victoria, in the 1880s. Verity is now fifteen years old.

SP proposes to Drucilla, Verity’s governess in front of everyone and she is so embarrassed that she goes to stay with the Leviny family in Castlemaine for a while. Verity and family are also invited to stay with Papa’s dear friend Nicky Petrov in Castlemaine. Secrets are revealed and strange and unusual events awaken Verity’s curiosity, and her gifts once again come into play.

During her stay, Verity sees a woman that looks identical to the photo of her mother. Who is Della Parker and why is she following Verity around? Della gives Verity a fan that belonged to her mother. This starts a series of mysterious visions that Verity must examine, and a new investigation begins.

Drucilla and Nicky’s wife Helen are abducted and held for ransom. Who are the abductors and what significance does the scarlet glove have? Verity’s gift is creating too many questions. Will she be able to draw on her courage and gifts and shuffle the pieces into place; to sort out the puzzle and save her friends?

As always, delightful morsels of information are left to tantalise the reader. There is more than one story happening in each of Verity’s books, which are joined together by some common thread. As Verity is trying to solve her mystery, the reader is simultaneously trying to piece together their own little puzzles.

Susan Green’s writing is crisp and sharp. Nothing superfluous can be found. It’s fast-paced, with a strong narrative voice that keeps the reader on their seat, turning pages. I can never put a Verity Sparks book down unfinished. I’m always hooked from the first page. This thrilling mystery adventure is ideal for the 10+ age group.


Friday, 2 January 2015

Corn Field

Corn Field by Gary Crew, illustrated by Aaron Hill (Windy Hollow Books)
HB RRP $25.95
ISBN: 9781922081377
Reviewed by Anne Hamilton

Slotting deftly into a niche for reluctant male readers with a taste for just a shivery suggestion of horror, this is a picture book for a teen audience.

This is a tricky proposition, because that age group is happy to be seen with a graphic novel but it’s uber-uncool to be spotted reading a picture book. However the macabre aspect has just what it takes to overcome the format and woo the boys in.

Take a spoonful of mystery, a cup of morbid, season with well-paced tension and layer with eerie, almost grungy illustrations. Crew and Hill have teamed up for this unusual offering, aimed mainly at early adolescent males.

One hot sticky day, two boys—fuelled by boredom, bravado and possibly a need to prove their parents and grandparents are ‘fraidy cats—dare to cross THE Cornfield.

Yeah, that cornfield. The one the Pinchy kid went in generations back and never came out. Festering rumours suggest the kid might still be in there. But he can’t be, can he?

So the boys go in.

Short, scary and moody. If you like your horror subtle and suggestive, rather than graphic, this is top stuff.

Friday, 5 December 2014

All the Wrong Questions — Shouldn't You Be In School?

All the Wrong Questions — Shouldn't You Be In School? Written by Lemony Snicket, Art by Seth (Hardie Grant Egmont)
ISBN 978-107429-7298-5
HB $16.95 RRP
Reviewed by Nean McKenzie

This is the third installment in the All the Wrong Questions series by Lemony Snicket. Sporting a striking fluorescent orange cover, Shouldn't You Be In School? gets straight into the action with the opening sentence: 'There was a town, and there was a librarian and there was a fire.' The distinctive voice of the main protagonist (also Lemony Snicket) carries the reader through a mystery that twists and turns. Although it doesn't quite get solved at the end, in this book there are a couple of answers along the way.

In the town of Stain'd-by-the-Sea, there's a problem with arson, a crime which Lemony Snicket's chaperone, S Theodora Markson, attempts to solve. Starting at the very suspect Department of Education, an equally suspect Sharon Haines, directs them to a house that burns down. The innocent local librarian, Dashiel Querty, (the best name in the series so far) is accused and arrested. When the school goes up in flames as well, all the kids are transferred to the Wade Academy for a so-called 'top shelf education.' Lemony and his gang are found truanting and transferred to the school where they find out what is really going on. The old villain Hangfire is behind the whole thing.

The gang consists of friends from previous books -- Moxie Mallahan (journalist), Jake Hix (chef), Cleo Knight (brilliant scientist), and Pip and Squeak, two kids who between them, drive a taxi. A newcomer is Kellar Haines, son of the misguided Sharon. Lemony Snicket is a character with secrets but so is Ellington Feint, a girl Snicket is equally fascinated with and distrustful of. It is Ellington who gives the friends strong coffee to overcome the laudanum they are drugged with at the school. But then she is an accomplice to the attempted arson of the library, part of Hangfire's dastardly plan.

This return to the town with the Clusterous Forrest and Hungry's Diner is a slightly confusing but thoroughly enjoyable book for middle readers. Illustrations, complete with shadows, add beautifully to the quirky, fast-paced and clever story. The question is, whether the next book will have any answers, but maybe that is the wrong question!

 

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Found


Found by Harlan Coben (Orient/Hachette)
PB RRP $29.99
ISBN 978 1 4091 2452 8
Reviewed by Hilary Smillie
Following on from Shelter and Seconds Away, this new Mickey Bolitar novel continues Mickey's search to find out the truth about his dead father, and sets out to unravel other mysterious secrets including the identity of the Butcher of Lodz. Mickey and his high school friends, Spoon, Ema and Rachel are following in the footsteps of the secret society, Abeona Shelter, which rescues children from bad circumstances. But now Spoon is in hospital without the use of his legs having been shot, and the para-medic who told Mickey his father had died has tried to kill him in a house fire. Mickey now lives with his dad's brother, Uncle Myron because his mother in her grief turned to drugs and is in rehabilitation.
Mickey has further problems: As a talented basketballer, he is being given a hard time by the other players who have been team members for years. They are afraid Mickey will be chosen over one of them for the big competition, so resentment is high. Also, Spoon's mother has blamed him for her son's condition, and Rachel who he admires is ignoring him. Meanwhile Ema, his goth friend, is worried about her online boyfriend. He's suddenly stopped all contact. Mickey offers to help find him.
Mickey receives another request for help, this time from one of his chief tormentors in the basketball team, Troy Taylor. Ema is suspicious of his motives but Mickey is convinced that his change of attitude towards him is genuine.
The author is adept at building up tension in this thriller, but I question whether a morbid mix of murder, deceit, drugs, revenge and grief with very little positive input produces a balanced teenage read. However, a few highly improbable situations takes the story out of the realm of reality, thus somewhat reducing its negative impact. To Coben's credit, he has shown skill in portraying the emotions in play in relationships and his main characters are well rounded. There are also a lot of twists and turns to engage the reader. Perhaps the most impressive point made is Mickey's realisation that achieving a dream is not always as important as it first seems.
I found the conclusion somewhat abrupt but nevertheless satisfying with the resolution of one important issue in particular. A ray of hope at last glints through. Fans will be anxious for the Mickey Bolitar series to continue. 
 
 
 

 

 

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

All the Wrong Questions — Shouldn't You Be In School?

All the Wrong Questions — Shouldn't You Be In School? Written by Lemony Snicket, Art by Seth (Hardie Grant Egmont)
ISBN 978-107429-7298-5
HB $16.95 RRP
Reviewed by Nean McKenzie

This is the third installment in the All the Wrong Questions series by Lemony Snicket. Sporting a striking fluorescent orange cover, Shouldn't You Be In School? gets straight into the action with the opening sentence: 'There was a town, and there was a librarian and there was a fire.' The distinctive voice of the main protagonist (also Lemony Snicket) carries the reader through a mystery that twists and turns. Although it doesn't quite get solved at the end, in this book there are a couple of answers along the way.

In the town of Stain'd-by-the-Sea, there's a problem with arson, a crime which Lemony Snicket's chaperone, S Theodora Markson, attempts to solve. Starting at the very suspect Department of Education, an equally suspect Sharon Haines, directs them to a house that burns down. The innocent local librarian, Dashiel Querty, (the best name in the series so far) is accused and arrested. When the school goes up in flames as well, all the kids are transferred to the Wade Academy for a so-called 'top shelf education.' Lemony and his gang are found truanting and transferred to the school where they find out what is really going on. The old villain Hangfire is behind the whole thing.

The gang consists of friends from previous books -- Moxie Mallahan (journalist), Jake Hix (chef), Cleo Knight (brilliant scientist), and Pip and Squeak, two kids who between them, drive a taxi. A newcomer is Kellar Haines, son of the misguided Sharon. Lemony Snicket is a character with secrets but so is Ellington Feint, a girl Snicket is equally fascinated with and distrustful of. It is Ellington who gives the friends strong coffee to overcome the laudanum they are drugged with at the school. But then she is an accomplice to the attempted arson of the library, part of Hangfire's dastardly plan.

This return to the town with the Clusterous Forrest and Hungry's Diner is a slightly confusing but thoroughly enjoyable book for middle readers. Illustrations, complete with shadows, add beautifully to the quirky, fast-paced and clever story. The question is, whether the next book will have any answers, but maybe that is the wrong question!

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

The House of Puzzles

The House of Puzzles by Richard Newsome (Text Publishing)
PB RRP   $16.99
ISBN   9781922147301
Reviewed by Wendy Fitzgerald www.wendyfitzgerald.com.au


What would you do if your great aunt suddenly died in London and left her 30 billion dollars to you? Just imagine – it all was to go to you. Surely that much money would shield you from any world problems: right? Wrong.  


But this is exactly what happened to Newsome’s main character, twelve year old Gerald Wilkins in The Billionaire’s Curse. Gerald should not have had any worries for the rest of his life.  However there is a catch- Gerald’s Aunt Gertrude also left a secret letter that instructed Gerald to find her killer and see to it they were punished. One other problem- whoever killed Aunt Gertrude is now chasing Gerald.


The Billionaire’s Curse is the first book in Newsome’s Billionaire Series. It won the inaugural Text Prize for YA and children’s writing in 2008. I very much enjoyed the quirky characters and the action-packed plot.  


 In August 2014 The House of Puzzles was launched. This is the fifth book in Newsome’s very popular Billionaire series. Once again I was swept up in the twists and turns of this fast mystery thriller.  


In The House of Puzzles we are led from the Louvre in Paris to a school camp in the frosty Scottish Highlands and finally on to the Billionaire’s Club ‘House of Puzzles’ in New York. At the school camp in Scotland we reunite with Gerald and his friends Ruby Valentine, Sam Valentine and Felicity Upham.  Straight away they are thrown into an intriguing string of dangerous situations and mysterious puzzles. 


Will these four friends be able to complete the challenges of the Triple Crown? Can Alex Baranov charm Ruby? Will Sam crack the bizarre code of the Voynich manuscript? Who can save Professor McElderry from the evil Sir Mason Green? Will Gerald and Alex survive a night together inside the Billionaire’s Club House of Puzzles in New York? Will anyone find the infamous perpetual motion machine? Why do so many people want it? And exactly what does the stolen painting- Eugène Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People have to do with any of this? These are some of the questions that kept me reading this book to the end.


I recommend The House of Puzzles to kids 10+ who like thrilling fast-paced plot-driven stories packed with adventure, intrigue and mystery. The other books in this series are The Billionaire’s Curse, The Emerald Casket, The Mask of Destiny and the Crystal Code.   

Saturday, 27 April 2013

The Watcher In The Shadows


The Watcher In The Shadows by Carlos Ruiz Zafón (Text Publishing)
HB RRP $16.99
ISBN 978-192192252-7
ISBN for eBook 9781921961670
Reviewed by Wendy Fitzgerald

If you are over 13 years old and you like reading ghost stories laced with horror, mystery, romance and suspense I think you will like The Watcher in the Shadows by Spanish writer Carlos Ruiz Zafón.

In the beginning of this story Simone Sauvelle’s husband dies and she soon discovers her family has been left in major debt. It is winter in Paris in 1937. Simone needs to find a way to support her daughter Irene (age 14) and her younger son, Dorian.

Good fortune comes to them when Simone is offered a job in Blue Bay, a small village on the coast of Normandy in France.  A wealthy inventor and toy manufacturer named Lazarus Jann needs a housekeeper to help take care of his run-down mansion set in the eerie forest of Cravenmoore.

Using descriptive language Zafón cleverly introduces Blue Bay as a tranquil idyllic setting. We see the family settle into their new home called Seaview which is a modest house perched on the tip of a cliff overlooking the ocean.

Happily they have left their problems behind in cold old Paris. In Blue Bay we meet a friendly, chatty young girl called Hannah. We watch Irene fall in love with Hannah’s cousin, Ismael.  Dorian is happy sketching maps. Simone enjoys the work and is gets on well with her new boss, Lazarus.

But, as Lazarus warns, ‘The image of reality we perceive with our eyes is only an illusion, an optical effect.’  The mood of the story soon changes as we begin to discover the murky secrets that surround Lazarus and Cravenmoore.

Zafón takes us on a romp through dark shadows with sinister mechanical automatons, strange lights, deep secrets and fierce battles against dangerous creatures.

I was swept along, left trembling and totally hooked by this fantastical, magical adventure.

Carlos Ruiz Zafón draws on the tradition of suspense and gothic fiction. You might like to read more of his books- The Shadow of the Wind, The Angel’s Game, The Prisoner of Heaven, The Midnight Palace or The Prince of Mist.  

Friday, 3 August 2012

Mystery Horse


Mystery Horse Mystery Horse by Jane Smiley (Allen&Unwin)
PB RRP $16.99
ISBN 978-0-571-27936-4
Reviewed by Ann Harth (www.annharth.com )

When Abby hands over a five dollar note and a handful of change and becomes the owner of a pretty, dappled grey horse, she gets more than she bargained for. True Blue is smart, sensitive and well-behaved. He’s also haunted.

Abby is convinced that True Blue’s former owner, who was killed in a car accident, is refusing to give up her beloved horse. She feels an eerie presence surrounding True Blue who strengthens her fears with his odd behaviour. Abby struggles with her dread, avoiding the truth until the end of the book when she no longer has a choice.

Mystery Horse is a novel that will appeal to horse lovers aged 9+. The gentle pace and thorough characterisation offers the reader a chance to relax, settle in and become involved in Abby’s life, following her through her troubles with a family at church, a broken wrist and her new employment teaching riding to kids.

Detailed facts and information are scattered liberally throughout this book, increasing the reader’s knowledge of riding, training and caring for horses. The author’s love for these animals is evident in her descriptions and understanding of the workings of a horse’s mind.

Jane Smiley is the author of eleven novels. Among other awards, she received the 1992 Pulitzer Prize for fiction for A Thousand Acres. Her interests are many and varied and she has written for numerous magazines. Mystery Horse is her third book for young readers and continues Abby’s adventures from Nobody's Horse and Secret Horse.

Horse lovers will adore True Blue and mystery lovers will relish the thrill of suspense that is woven through the pages.

Ann Harth is a published children's author and writing tutor at Australian College of Journalism. She loves to read and is committed to creating children's literature that inspires, entertains and triggers a tiny twist in the mind. Her latest middle-grade novel, The Art of Magic, is now available from Amazon and Barnes and Noble. 

Friday, 4 May 2012

Mystery at Riddle Gully


Mystery at Riddle Gully by Jen Banyard (Fremantle Press)
PB RRP $14.95
ISBN 9781 921 888 748
Reviewed by Neridah McMullin

Pollo di Nozi is a reporter-in-training and the local super sleuth. She definitely has a nose for news but occasionally she does get things a little bit muddled up. Just as well her heart is in the right place.
Pollo can smell a major scoop from a mile away and when strange things start happening in Riddle Gully, Pollo can’t resist the challenge to solve it. With Shorn Connery, her sheepish sidekick pet by her side, Pollo is determined to track down the Graffiti Kid.
Pollo di Nozi crouched behind a tombstone, watching the stranger swish through the grass. She reached out, twisted off a stalk of wild lupin and held it to the snout of the stout grey sheep clamped under her arm. She prayed it would keep him happy. Now wasn’t the time for Shorn Connery to start bleating. Pollo — supersleuth and editor of the Riddle Gully Gazette — was onto something.”
Mystery at Riddle Gully is not just another mystery story. It’s fast-paced and funny, packed with action, false leads, adventure, mystery, and the fight for an endangered animal species. It was quite spooky at times but Pollo is brave and charming.

Jen Banyard has extensive Teaching Resources that support this novel engaging learning about English Language, Literature and Literacy. The notes also suggest that the book can be used as a springboard for discussion about family relationships, endangered animals, journalism, vampires, local government, and the understanding that people are not always as they might at first appear.

This is Jen Banyard’s second book and it’s a well-written, humorous and suspenseful read for young fiction readers (10 – 14 years). I thoroughly recommend this book!

Neridah McMullin is the author of three books for children. Her latest book is an Indigenous folklore story called 'Kick it to Me'. It’s an ‘aussie rules’ story that’s being endorsed by the Australian Football League. Neridah loves family, footy, and doing yoga with her cat Carlos (who also just happens to love footy).

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Taken Away


Taken Away by Celine Kiernan (Allen & Unwin)
PB RRP $16.99
ISBN 978-1-74237-772-0
Reviewed by Thalia Kalkipsakis
  
Not since childhood have I felt the need to hide a book under my bed, face down and beneath a pillow, in case the terrors lurking within somehow made their way out as I slept...

That is, until I read Celine Kiernan’s gripping ghost tale, Taken Away.

A small, pale hand grabbed the edge of Dom’s bunk. Little fingers curled around the mattress. I could see the indents of the fabric where they gripped tight. There was a pause, as thought it was frightened to look, and then a small, pale, dark-eyed face cleared the edge.

Taken Away tells the story of twin Irish boys, Dom and Pat, whose family has been displaced after their home burnt down. The effect of the fire is not only displacement; somehow, it also means that the ghost is able to see the twins. And when he does, he thinks he’s ‘found a home’.

Through Pat’s eyes we feel his horror and sense of helplessness as his twin, his partner in life, is possessed. Dom disappears, becomes a ‘whistling void’, and in his place is something that no longer belongs in this world. The situation is made all the more compelling because Pat is the only one who realises that something is wrong.

As with other truly terrifying ghosts, this one is not all that he seems. To save his brother, Pat realises that he must also help the ghost. And so, the twin’s plight becomes entwined with a tragic World War I mystery.

Recommended for readers from 13 to 16 years, Taken Away is much more than just a haunting. The mystery and suspense keep the pages turning, but it is the relationships that take this story to a higher level, not the least of which is the connection between twins and the resulting anguish when events cause their separation.

Thalia’s latest book is called Head Spinners: six stories to twist your brain (www.thaliakalkipsakis.com). 

Friday, 22 April 2011

The Boy Who Wasn't There

The Boy Who Wasn't There by Michael Panckridge (black dog books)
PB RRP $16.99
ISBN 9781742031835
Reviewed by Vicki Stanton

The Boy Who Wasn't There is the first book in a new series, The Book of Gabrielle. Gabrielle, or Gaby, has woken in a hospital and has no memory of her previous life and no connection to anyone or anything from her past. A voice speaks to her and says she will receive redemption by helping others. She arrives at her foster home and strange and terrifying occurrences happen. Swarms of moths, spiders and birds attack, frightening visions appear and she feels as though she is being suffocated in the night.

A mysterious boy also lives in the house and Gaby is unsure of her foster parents. Gaby's story is also interspersed with notes from another inhabitant of the house. The story moves along quickly and Panckridge writes simply but in a compelling fashion. The Boy Who Wasn't There is a real page-turner. Twists are around every corner and I loved how during the bird attack Gaby makes a connection with the birds and eventually has some control over them.

The Book of Gabrielle series is bound to be a winner and will attract both girl and boy readers keen to discover Gaby's story as well as solve the mystery within each title.