Dragonkeeper, by Carole Wilkinson

In ancient China a slave girl who is told she is not worthy of a name witnesses the brutal carving up and pickling of a dragon. When the remaining dragon is threatened, the girl takes a chance and rescues him, fleeing her brutal master.

The pair are free, but a long way from safety. They must travel across China, evading a ruthless dragon hunter and protecting a mystic stone, the dragon stone.

This is a story of incredible beauty, with a delightful mix of fantasy and history. The dragon and his young keeper are created with such intricacy that it is hard to believe author Carole Wilkinson was not a first-hand witness to the events she describes.

Wilkinson’s earlier books were good – but this one, her longest yet, is simply brilliant.

Dragonkeeper, by Carole Wilkinson
Black Dog Books, 2003

Big Al, by Phil Cummings

There are two things Big Al loves to do. One is to drive his delivery truck. The other is bake his own bread. When his little truck breaks down in a storm, Big Al has a big problem. But maybe, juts maybe, baking may hold the key to fixing it.

Big Al is a humorous and entertaining offering, a Solo book from Omnibus, aimed at beginning readers making the transition from picture books and readers to first novels.With delightful illustrations by Don Hatcher on every page, there is plenty of support for learners to make a success of their first chapter book.

Big Al is loads of fun.

Big Al, by Phil Cummings, illustrated by Don Hatcher
Omnibus, 2003

Edward Britton, by Gary Crew and Philip Neilsen

Most Australians know something of the history of Port Arthur, the notorious convict prison in Tasmania. Not many are aware, however, of the boys’ prison across the bay from Port Arthur. Point Puer was built as a special prison for boys as young as ten who were brought to Australia to be reformed.

Edward Britton tells the story of two teenage residents – Edward Britton and Izod Wolfe. Although the pair are fictional characters, the book tells the very real story of Point Puer.

Authors Gary Crew and Philip Neilsen combine to offer insights into the two boys and the way their stories become one.

This is a haunting story which draws the reader in, fascinating in its presentation both of the boys’ story and of this absorbing part of Australian history.

Excellent.

Edward Britton, by Gary Crew and Philip Neilsen
Lothian, 2000

Life's Little Toolbox, by Nils Vesk

Do you ever feel like life should come with its own personalised repair kit? A set of tools specially designed for mending the bumps and scrapes we all pick up along the way? Nils Vesk, yoga teacher, personal trainer and host of Yoga TV has put one together just for you.

Full of tips and ideas for stress reduction, yoga, meditation, exercise and diet, this handy little book shows you how to get the most out of every minute of your life.. Divided into three sections – focussing on mind, body and spirit – Life’s Little Toolbox aims to provide all the tools needed to manage your life, bring you health and happiness and get connected with the real you.

This is a book which offers choices – you can read it cover to cover, or simply flick through to find something of interest, or you can use the tool finder which will direct you to the pages and chapters for your particular malady. However you use it, you are sure to find something to inspire, motivate or simply cheer you.

A handy volume.

Life’s Little Tool Box, by Nis Vesk
Allen & Unwin, 2003

Jump Man Rule 2, by James Valentine

Jules Santorini and Geneveieve Corrigan are on their first date. It’s taken loads of planning and gallons of sweat from Jules’ palms, but at last it’s happening. Jules may even summon the courage to kiss Genevieve.

Meanwhile, in the future, Theodore Pine Four, who met Jules and Gen on a time jump once before, is the biggest celebrity in the two planets. He knows there’s only one rule for time jumping: Don’t touch anything!

When a stranger interrupts Jules and Gen’s date, a reunion with Theo seems imminent. The modern day pair have to time jump into the future, become invisible, spy on Theo and try to save the world. And they also need to be home on time.

Jumpman Rule 2 is the second JumpMan title by media man James Valentine, who writes these entertaining books in between commitments for ABC Radio and Showtime Movie News. This doesn’t make him another media-face penning a book in his spare time – Valentine is a talented story teller, and kids will love the Jumpman series.

A great read for 10 to 14 year olds.

JumpMan Rule 2, by James Valentine
Random House, 2003

Seriously Alex, by Jill McDougall

Alex isn’t impressed when he’s invited to stay with his cousin Erin for a week. Not only is Erin better at everything than Alex, she also happens to live on a crocodile farm. A whole week surrounded by crocodiles is not Alex’s idea of fun.

Still, when one of the crocodiles is stolen, Alex and Erin are soon on the trail, working together to get it back.

Seriously Snappy is a funny tale that kids ages 7 to 12 will love. What they’ll love even more is that when they’re finished it they can turn the book over for another story – Seriously Creepy – in which Alex and Erin go camping at a campsite visited by a cave monster.

Seriously Alex is a Banana Split title from innovative young publisher Banana Books. Jill McDougall’s humorous stories are well complemented by the illustrations of Deborah Baldassi.

A fun read.

Seriously Alex, by Jill McDougall
Banana Books, 2003

Captain Cat and the Umbrella Kid – Revenge of the Refrigerators

It’s summer in the Massive Metropolis of Maxburg – but not for long. The evil Super Villain Snowman has a plan to turn summer into winter.

Soon, Maxburg is in the grip of a big freeze – with snow piling up, buildings frozen and residents unable to keep warm. Captain Cat and his trusty sidekick the Umbrella Kid must pit their wits against Snowman, his vampire penguins, robotic polar bears and runaway fridges.

Revenge of the Refrigerators, the second Captain Cat book, is likely to appeal to primary aged kids who enjoy a mix of adventure and comedy.

Good fun.

Captain Cat and the Umbrella Kid – Revenge of the Refrigerators, by Paul Shaw
Scholastic, 2003

The Other Madonna, by Scot Gardener

Madonna O’Dwyer is not the mother of Jesus and not a sex-powered pop diva. She’s a pretty ordinary girl, who works hard in a pizza shop and lives with her drama queen sister and her acoholic father.

Madonna’s mother died not long after she gave her the name she struggles with. The loss of a mother she never knew is a raw, black hole inside Madonna.

Now, at seventeen, Madonna’s friends are convinced she has an extraordinary gift – a gift of healing. Madonna isn’t convinced – she isn’t extraoordinary. She makes pizzas and washes dishes. Why would her hands have the gift of healing others, when she herself is so badly in need of healing?

The Other Madonna is an outstanding young adult read, combining humour and initimacy in a delightful blend. It is most suited to teens aged 14 and up.

The Other Madonna, by Scot Gardner
Pan Macmillan, 2003

Bartlett and the Island of Kings, by Odo Hirsch

Bartlett and his companions, Jaques le Grand and Gozo, set out to explore a chain of volcanic islands and to find the last in the chain.

When they arrive at the last island they are treated as gods by the island’s inhabitants, yet kept prisoner by the Machan, a shaman-like figure who seems to rule the island’s kings.

Bartlett and his friends have five days to solve the riddle of the Island of Kings, to find their canoe and leave the island.

Bartlett and the Island of Kings is a great adventure story with a good blend of mystery and humour. It will especially appeal to boy readers aged 10-13.

Bartlett and the Island of Kings, by Odo Hirsch
Allen & Unwin, 2003

Zero Hour for Zenobia, by Annette Kelleher

When Aunt Erica goes on holiday, Zenobia stays home. But when she gets a strange letter from Aunt Erica, Zenobia starts to worry. Why would her aunt want Zenobia to post her expensive jewellery to a post-office box? And why is the postcard postmarked in Sydney, when her aunt is supposed to be in Melbourne?

Although she doesn’t know what is going on, Zenobia’s instincts are that it’s not something good. She is going to Sydney to find her aunt and figure out what’s going on.

Zero Hour for Zenobia is a fun mystery, full of comic characters and action. It will appeal particularly to girls aged 10-13.

Fun.

Zero Hour for Zenobia, by Annette Kelleher
Scholastic, 2003