The Society Murders, by Hilary Bonney

When wealthy Melbourne socialite Margaret Wales-King and her husband Paul King went missing in April 2002, the media – and the whole of Australia – were intrigued. Here was a story whcih provided a glimpse into the workings of a welathy family, with all the makings of a Dallas-style soap opera. The finding of the couple’s bodies in a bush grave twenty-five days later added to the drama.

The couple had been murdered, and the only motive apparent to most onlookers was money. Suspicion fell on the couple’s family and, very quickly, on their youngest son.

When Mrs Wales-King’s son Matthew was arrested for their murder and his wife was charged with attempting to pervert the course of justice, the full facts of the case began to emerge. Matthew Wales was adamant that he had killed his mother and step-father not for their money but for their attitudes and actions towards him. He felt disempowered and felt killing the couple would free him.

The Society Murders presents the story of the murders and their aftermath in well-researched detail exploring the family history, the investigation and arrests, and the pschology of the killer and impact on his extended family.

Author Hilary Bonney is a Melbourne-based barrister with extensive experience in the criminal jurisdiction and a forensic medicine consultant.

An intriguing story.

The Society Murders, by Hilary Bonney
Allen & Unwin, 2003

My Sister's Series, by Gretel Killeen

Since 1997 kids have been enjoying the My Sister’s series by the well-known Gretel Killeen. My Sister’s a Yoyo was folloed by My Sister’s an Alien and My Sister’s a Sea Slug, with three more titles following close behind.

Now Random House has released the first three titles a bind-up edition – that is, all three books bound into one volume.

In the ongoing story which crosses the three books, Eppie is squished to the size of strawberry, is used as a yo-yo by her brother Zeke, flies around the world, is kidnapped by an alien and eventually rescued by Zeke. Then the pair are sucked down the bathroom plughole where they find themselves in a brand new underwater adventure. Of course, this is all very far-fetched, but with a storyteller like Killeen, that’s the whole point.

Kids love the silliness of Eppie and Zeke’s adventures and young readers will soon be clamouring for the other three My Sister’s stories.

Fun reading.

My Sister’s Series, by Gretel Killeen
Random House, 2002

Wolfchild, by Roseanne Hawk

Morwenna is not frightened of the wolf she sees in the woods across the stream. But she is not so certain of the Wolfchild who hides in the high places. The child, Raw, is a vagrant who must stay hidden for a year and a day to get his freedom.

Set in the year 1099 in the lost land of Lyonesse, this is the tale of Raw’s struggle to accept himself and his past, and of Morwenna, who helps him in secret, knowing the villagers will not accept him. When calamity strikes, Morwenna has to choose betwwen their new-found friendship and the ancient rules.

Inspired by the Cornish legend of Lyonesse, Wolfchild is vividly portrayed and a delight to read.

Wolfchild, by Roseanne Hawke
Lothian, 2003

Eloise – A Ghost Story, by Catherine Jinks

When Ally’s friends Michelle and Peter suggest they start up an Exorcists’ Club, Ally isn’t too keen. After all, playing about with ghosts can be dangerous – as Ally knows from experience. But when Bettina, a lonely girl from school, begs for help in contacting a dead relative, Ally gives in.

The four children try to contact Bettina’s cousin Michael through a seance and, when that doesn’t work, Ally calls in her old friend Delora, to see if she has any better luck. On the night of Delora’s seance, though, she recognizes another presence in Bettina’s house. Not only can she not help to remove it, but it frightens her so badly she wants nothing more to do with it.

It is up to the members of the Exorcists’ Club to figure out what the presence in Bettina’s room is and how they can send it on its way.

Eloise is the third ghost story featuring Ally and her friends. Author Catherine Jinks draws young readers in with an excellent blend of spine-tingling mystery and an exploration of the regular challenges of kids’ lives – friendships, family problems and more.

An eerie read.

Eloise: A Ghost Story, by Catherine Jinks
Allen & Unwin, 2003

I'm Not That Kind of Girl – Carlotta, as told to Prue MacSween

Born Richard Byron and growing up to become one of Australia’s best-known entertainers, Carlotta is a person who has attracted a great deal of interest over the sixty years she has been alive.

Tracing Carlotta’s evolution from the little boy who had to fight to be loved to the transexual showgirl who earned a place in Australian folklore, I’m Not That Kind of Girl is also the story of Les Girls, the famous drag cabaret in Sydney’s Kings Cross.

A story of courage, of love and laughter, and also of tears and struggle, I’m Not That Kind of girl is both entertaining and enlightening.

Carlotta: I’m Not That Kind of Girl, as told to Prue MacSween
Pan Macmillan, 2003

Think Smart, Hazel Green, by Odo Hirsch

Hazel Green is back, ready for another adventure and another problem to solve. This time, Hazels’ favourite baker, Mr Volio, is told that he has to leave his shop. Someone had brought the premises and the new landlord is not renewing his lease. If Mr Volio goes, so too do Chocolate Dippers, Strawberry Combers and Caramel Crunchers. Worst of all though, there would be no Mr Volio.

Hazel Green and her friends must figure out why Mr Volio is being asked to leave and then what can be done to keep him in his bakery. To do that, Hazel must think smart.

This is the fourth story about Hazel Green and her friends by award winning author, Odo Hirsch. Hirsch uses a delightful mix of humour, narrative and feeling to create stories that kids love. Another winner.

Think Smart, Hazel Green, by Odo Hirsch
Allen & Unwin, 2003

Fords and Flying Machines – The Diary of Jack McLaren

At 14, Jack McLaren leaves his parents and twin sister behind in Sydney as he heads north to Longreach in Queensland where he is apprenticed as a motor mechanic to his uncle George.

Not only does Jack get to spend his days working on engines, fulfilling his life’s dreams, but he soon has adventures he could never have dreamt of. Jack and George travel on the first automobile to drive the Gulf Track from Longreach to Katherine, accompanying two pilots who are surveying suitable airstrip sites for the great air race from England to Australia.

Snaking their way across the outback, encountering crocodiles and snakes, and contending with punctures, broken axles and breakdowns, Jack and his fellow travellers are sure there is a better way to travel these vast distances. The Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Service is about to be born, and Jack has a front row seat.

Told in diary format, Fords and Flying Machines is part of the outstanding My Story series, from Scholastic. Author Patricia Bernard manages to explore not just the history of the period (1919-1921), but also the social issues of the time – class, unemployment, gender equality and more.

AN outstanding read for 10 to 14 year olds.

My Story: Fords and Flying Machines – The Diary of Jack McLaren, by Patricia Bernard
Scholastic, 2003

The Spirit of the Digger-Then and Now, by Patrick Lindsay

Much has been said and written about ‘The Digger’ – the soldier who has fought for Australia in numerous conflicts and who, to many, represents the spirit of Australia. But who exactly is the digger and what elements have gone into the forging of his spirit?

In The Spirit of the Digger author Patrick Lindsay explores just what it is that sets Australian soldiers apart from those of other nations. Using the words and recounted actions of Australian soldiers, he reveals the human aspect of the campaigns they have been involved in and provides insight into their lives, their thoughts and their spirit, to give the reader a deeper understanding of the character of the digger and the heritage they have forged for all Australians.

Lindsay looks at diggers both past and present – from the campaigns of Gallipoli, the Somme, North Africa, New Guinea, Vietnam, East Timor, Afghanistan and more. He prefaces the book with an example of how the spirit of the digger plays out away from the battlefield, describing Australian spirit and actions in the terrorist bombings of Bali in 2001.

This is not an easy read but it is inspirational, exploring an aspect of Australia’s history of which all Australians can be proud.

The Spirit of the Digger: Then and Now, by Patrick Lindsay
Pan Macmillan, 2003

Super Jack, by Susanne Gervay

In I am Jack, Jack faced bullies at their worst, and learnt a lot about himself and his family. Now, in SuperJack, he is a year older and has to deal with a changing family.

Jack’s family are great, but a little crazy. His mum loves doing star jumps, his step-Dad, Rob, is obsessed with tidiness, and his grandmother loves buying bargains – especially cheap underpants. Jack’s best friend, Anna, is almost part of the family too. She’s . . . nice. Jack feels strange tingles when he looks at her sometimes. But when his family gets ready to go on holiday, Jack isn’t sure he likes the changes that are happening. Nana is getting old and can’t do the things she used to. Rob is bringing his son Leo, and Jack has to let Leo share his room. Jack is sure Leo is going to ruin everything.

SuperJack is both poignant and funny, focussing on the highs and lows of family life. Author Susanne Gervay has a unique style and empathy for her characters which draws readers in to the story.

SuperJack is an outstanding offering from an outstanding author.

SuperJack, by Susanne Gervay
Angus & Robertson (an imprint of Harper Collins), 2003

Watch Out for Jamie Joel, by Mike Dumbleton

Craig Elliott is the new deputy principal. Jamie Joel isn’t new. She’s been at the school long enough to have a reputation. What the pair have to work out is how to get to know each other, and how to work together to get Jamie through school and allow Craig to do his job.

Watch Out for Jamie Joel tells the powerful story of Jamie Joel, a teen with an unpalatable home life and a chip on her shoulder and the teacher who wants to help her.

Author Mike Dumbleton writes from dual perspectives – using the first person narrative of the deputy principal, entwined with the third person perspective of Jamie Joel.

A gritty and engrossing novel.

Watch Out for Jamie Joel, by Mike Dumbleton
Allen & Unwin, 2003