Phryne (she tells us it rhymes with briny) Fisher is a detective with a difference. Living in 1920s Melbourne she is rich, sassy and classy. She’s not in the business to make money or earn fame, but seems instead to be motivated by a fascination for a good mystery and a desire to help those who are worthy of such assistance. She is not above bending the law when it suits her ends and has friends on both sides of the law, who come together to help out when needed.
In Queen of the Flowers Phryne chases a mystery which becomes increasingly personal. She has been chosen as Queen of the Flowers for the 1928 Flower Parade. When one of her four flower maidens disappears, she is called in to investigate. Has the girl run away or has she been kidnapped?
Phryne has no sooner located the missing girl than one of her own adopted daughters, Ruth, disappears. Ruth has been searching for her birth father and, it seems, has run off for a reunion. In the midst of the Flower Festival festivities Phryne must struggle to reunite her family. She might also be struggling to make it to the festival alive.
This is the fourteenth Phryne Fisher novel and shows all the careful research and excellent story-spinning qualitites of the previous installments. Greenwood’s passion for history and mystery combine in a seductive tale which draws readers in to the life of this saucy detective.
Queen of the Flowers, by Kerry Greenwood
Allen & Unwin, 2004
On the first day of school Prince Roderick pulls the ribbon from Eleanor True’s long hair and tells her she has to do what he says. On the second day he throws her precious ball into the forest of thorns. Each day after that he has some new torture – throwing her tiara into the mud, locking her in the Dark Tower and more. As the list of insults and taunts grows, Eleanor True can do nothing but glare at the Prince and warn “Just you wait!” On the sixth day of school, however, things change. Prince Roderick chases Eleanor through the castle and finally lassoes her. But this time, Eleanor has a chance to put her threats into action. She kisses the unsuspecting Prince and he turns into a frog!
Just You Wait is a comical picture book which will appeal to children of all ages – from toddlers through to upper primary. Younger kids will love ths story and the surprise, humorous ending, while older children will love the cartoon-like illustrations of the talented Craig Smith and will have fun identifying the elements of familiar fairy tales, both in the text and the illustrations.
This is a hilarious read, great for home, but also wonderful for the classroom.
Just You Wait! by Megan de Kantzow and Craig Smith
Life is great on Peachberry Farm until a greedy fox starts paying regular visits. He keeps stealing Harriet’s eggs. Harriet knows he is scary, but she is also determined to stop his raids. None of the other animals want to help – they are too scared. So it is up to Harriet.
When the fox makes his next visit, Harriet is ready for him with some special eggs which she has prepared just for him – with a dash of chilli. The unsuspecting fox gets more than he bargained for when he gobbles up the special eggs. Harriet watches in glee as he flees the farm, never to be seen again.
Harriet and the Fox is a bright and humorous picture book offering from author Rina A. Foti and illustrator Judith Rossell. The text is simple and youngsters will love seeing the mean old fox outwitted by the clever hen. They will also adore the illustrations with big, bold animals and loads of colour.
Harriet and the Fox, by Rina A. Foti, illustrated by Judith Rossell
Koala Books, 2004
While watching television, Berry and Aidan are struck by the claims of the advertisements they see. Who decides what is “hot”, what is “hip”? Berry is keen to investigate these questions and drags Aidan along as an unwilling accomplice.
What Berry wants to know is how a song can be called a number one before it has even hit the stores, and how “everyone” can be wearing a fashion “this Autumn” when it’s still summer. Do consumer tastes and spending habits dictate what is “hot” or is it a plot by the advertising companies? As they move closer to finding the truth, Aidan and Berry must decide whether they are prepared to accept it.
Hitmakers is a fun children’s novel which explores consumerism, advertising and marketing through a fun story. Author Sally Odgers has a reputation for producing well-rounded stories and this is one of them – educational, yet fun to read too.
Part of the Breakers series from Macmillan Education, Hitmakers is just as suitable for private reading as it is for classroom sharing.
Hitmakers, by Sally Odgers
Macmillan Education, 2004
Can a human being really burst spontaneously into flames?
Just how deadly is the Bermuda Triangle?
And what is the real story behind all those alien abductions?
For all those who have ever wanted to get to the bottom of mysteries such as these, and for those who have refused to believe but haven’t had the means to disprove the myths, The Skeptics Guide to the Paranormal is a boon. Through case studies and detailed explanation, Lynne Kelly explores the scientfic explanations for more than twenty areas of common paranormal belief.
Ms Kelly does not scoff or ridicule genuine believers – rather she explores in matter of fact language what is commonly believed, the various theories that have been put forward to explain the phenomenon and, finally, the scientific explanation. What is obvious in every chapter is that Ms Kelly has not jumped to any conclusions, but has instead kept an open mind and approached the issues scientifically. From firewalking, to spoon bending, ghostly apparitions and Yetis, she explores all the avaiable evidence in detail.
This is enlightening reading, but it is also very entertaining. Readers will be fascinated by the various beliefs, the evidence and case studies, as well as by the explanations of the various phemonena.
Lynne Kelly is a science writer and teacher. She was a founding member of The Australian skeptics.
An outstanding read.
The Skeptics Guide to the Paranormal, by Lynne Kelly
Allen & Unwin, 2004
In the mid 1940s, when Elaine Russell was five, she moved with her family to La Perouse, just outside of Sydney. There her father, Clem built a shack from old tin and other salvaged materials. The Shack That Dad Built is author/illustrator Russell’s recollection of the time she and her family spent in the shack where they lived for the next five years.
The author recounts memories of her everyday life – sweeping and dampening the dirt floor, playing in the sand dunes, going fishing with her mother, as well as of more specific events like being visited by gypsies and missing out on a Christmas gift at a charity function. The memories are also portrayed in Russell’s bold yet simple illustrations which use bright blues, oranges, greens and yellows to recreate the scenes.
The story is further supported by a fact sheet at the back of the book outlining the history of the La Perouse area and its significance to the Aboriginal people, who have camped there for at least 7 500 years.
This is an informative tale which will interest children as private reading but which would also be an excellent classroom resource.
The Shack That Dad Built, by Elaine Russell
Little Hare, 2004
Ned loves to swim, but when his friend Jori takes him for a holiday on an island with the deepest waters in the world, Ned is scared. He likes to know where the bottom is when he swims. What if something pulls him down? What if something is hidden in the depths? He wonders if he can enjoy the holiday without swimming out where the water looks black.
Deepwater Blues is a great junior novel which explores how one kid deals with his fears and discovers that overcoming them can open up a whole new world of experiences. Author Claire Saxby manages to achieve this without being preachy or obvious – kids can enjoy the story for its own sake.
Deepwater Blues is part of the new Breakers series from Macmillan Education, suitable for children with a reading age between 8.5 and 10.5.
Deepwater Blues, by Claire Saxby, illustrated by Dave Deakin
Macmillan Education, 2003
Jack is scared of the dark. So when his friend Nathan invites him along on a camping trip, he is horrified. No street lights, no house lights, and no nightlight. He is going to be in the pitch black in the bush. But Jack doesn’t want Nathan to know he is scared and he doesn’t want to let him down either, so he tries to brave it out.
When Nathan’s dad asks the boys to collect some more wood for the fire, Nathan heads off into the dark. Jack has little choice but to follow him. Then something terrible happens – the batteries in Nathan’s torch start to run out, just as the boys start to hear strange noises. When they see three pairs of eyes looking at them in the dark, both boys are terrified.
Eyes in the Dark is a cute chapter book from the talented Sue Whiting, exploring fears and friendship in a humorous tale. Part of the Breakers series from Macmillan Education, it is suitable for classroom or private reading and will appeal especially to 7 to 10 year old readers.
Eyes in the Dark, by Sue Whiting, illustrated by Tom Kurema
Macmillan Education, 2003
Desi Detective is at home eating a ham and salad roll when her phone rings. Sharif Shopkeeper has a very important mystery for her to solve. Someone has stolen all the free jellybeans from Sharif’s jar! Desi is straight on the case and, in no time at all, has followed the clues and located the greedy thief.
Desi Detective Solves a Mystery is one of four titles in the Buzz Town series from brand new publisher Ibis. This one has the feel of a retro comic book, with its slapstick humour and narrative style. Desi carries a Catch-a-Burglar magnifying glass as she heads off to catch Lickface Larry, the bad-guy who quickly sees the error of his ways.
These simple stories are accompanied by suggestions for parents to help get children involved before, during and after reading and supported by online activities and printables at the Ibis website.
Desi Detective Solves a Mystery, by John Parker, illustrated by Russell Tate