The Ducktators, by Sally Odgers

“You’re giving me a duck?”
“You liked it, didn’t you?”
“Of course.” Who wouldn’t like a fluffy little duckling? “It’s a dear little thing,” she said. “They’re no trouble. You just feed them and so on. And they’re good things to have in the garden.”

When Flip’s friend Duncan gives her a newly hatched duckling, Flip has no idea of the trouble she’s in for. After all, who could have thought that such a small animal would be so demanding of her time? This is no ordinary duck – it seems to be able to direct her telepathically to do its bidding. When Flip finally shares her problem with Duncan, he confesses that he’s having the same problem with his own duck. Together they search for a solution to the problem.

The Ducktators is a humorous look at the impact of some out of control pets taking control of their owner’s lives. Many young pet owners will realise it isn’t too much of a stretch on reality – with lots of spoilt pets able to manipulate their owners into doing their bidding. At 50 pages in length, it is a fairly quick read and so appealing for reluctant readers.

A clever offering.

The Ducktators, by Sally Odgers
Lulu, 2007

That's Why I Wrote this Song, by Susanne Gervay

I write because I write. I’ve always done it. Private, emotions-on-the-page lyrics. Not-to-show-anyone words. Lately it’s been spilling out. Flooding me. Sometimes the music screams at me, exploding into my mind. Lyrics and music. I can’t stop them.

Pip lives for music. Sometimes it is fun, other times it’s an escape from the real world, a world where Mum is scared and her dad is angry. Pip’s three friends love music too. Irina plays drums, but her Russian parents don’t approve. They want her to play the piano and study hard. Karen’s parents are divorced, and Karen has to move between them, left with no home, no space of her own. Without music she might well have nothing. Angie has a perfect life, but she loves music, too. The four girls are very different, but music brings them together.

As they move through a tumultuous year of school, boys and family pressures, the girls form a band, Not Perfect. They will make their debut appearance at the mid-year school concert, and it will be unreal. Or will it be a failure? Pip wonders sometimes whether they’ll last until the concert.

That’s Why I Wrote This Song is an outstanding new young adult read, with the world of music and bands forming an absorbing backdrop for the dramas, big and small, of the four girls’ lives. Exploring teen issues including parent-child relationships, family roles, boyfriends, friendships and more, the story is an emotion-filled journey. The lyrics of the girls’ songs pepper the book, adding a new dimension to the story and providing an insight into the song-writing process.

That’s Why I Wrote This Song is the result of a collaboration between best-selling author Susanne Gervay and her daughter, Tory, who wrote the lyrics. In true family spirit, Susanne’s son, Jamie, also had input into the plot. For music fans, there is the added bonus that the two songs featured in the book can be downloaded from the publisher’s website, and a film clip viewed at the author’s website,

That’s Why I Wrote This Song is a brilliant book.

That’s Why I Wrote This Song, by Susanne Gervay
Harper Collins, 2007

griEVE, by Lizzie Wilcock

I pick up the lavender-scented mauve paper. It is from the stationery set I bought for her last Christmas. The scent still lingers. I inhale deeply, breathing in hope and joy, and pleasure that she has finally used my gift.
Then I open it and the sweet smell of flowers turns sour. I feel sick. I want to vomit. The paper trembles in my hands. Is this a joke? My mother loves to joke, especially when she is the only one laughing.

When Eve’s mother disappears, Eve’s dad and aunt tell her there’s no point talking about it. It’s best if we don’t, her dad tells her. Not to anybody. People don’t need to know the details. So, though Eve longs to visit her mother, she doesn’t. Instead, she tries to carry on as normal, cleaning and cooking for her dad, and going to school. She makes a new friend, Summer, who shows her how to do things she would never have done before.

When her dad brings home his new girlfriend, Eve realises things are not going to return to normal. She finds ways of controlling the chaos around her and of controlling the mess her life has become. But will anything help?

griEVE is a powerful story about coping with loss. It deals with confronting topics such as self-harm, depression, and dysfunctional families in an absorbing storyline which will draw young readers in. Eve is honest with the reader, even while she is not being honest with herself, and the reader is able to recognise the truth behind many of the events which Eve refuses to understand.

This is the kind of novel which refuses to be put down, with the reader compelled to keep reading to find out what will happen to Eve, how she will find a way through the minefield of her life. Teenage girls especially will find it compelling.

griEVE, by Lizzie Wilcox
Scholastic Press, 2007

Cool Bananas, by Christine Harris

When she goes to stay with her grandpa for the first time, Claudia expects him to use a walking stick and smell like old cabbage. Instead, he meets her at the airport dressed in a lurid shirt with wraparound sunnies and his hair gelled into spikes. How embarrassing! Claudia wonders how she will survive a holiday with this man who she doesn’t know at all.

Something else is worrying her as well. Claudia has an embarrassing secret. Nobody knows about it – but Grandpa seems to be to be on to her.

Cool Bananas is a fun junior novel suitable for readers aged 7 to 10, though reluctant readers up to the age of twelve will enjoy it. The text is accessible, the plot satisfying and the line-drawing illustrations by Bettina Guthridge a good complement.

Cool Bananas (ABC Kids Fiction)

Cool Bananas, by Christine Harris
ABC Kids, 2007

This book can be purchased online at Fishpond. Buying through this link helps to support Aussiereviews.

The Serpent Bride, by Sara Douglass

When Maximilian, King of Escator, finally finds an appropriate bride, he has some misgivings. Ishbel, his intended, hails from Serpent’s Nest, the home of the mysterious cult, The Coil. Indeed, Maximilian suspects that Ishbel is deeply involved with the Coil, though she professes merely to have been under their protection. Still, Maximilian knows he must marry Ishbel and, when he meets her, falls deeply in love with her. The marriage will not be an easy one, but it must take place.

Meanwhile, deep in the south, Isaiah, Tyrant of Isembaard, is massing an army, a massive invasion force to ride north. His generals believe that it is because he needs a victory to win their trust. But Isaiah, who is not all that he seems, knows that there is much more at stake than his rule over Isembaard.

Deep beneath Darkglass Mountain, something terrible is awakening, coming to the surface to destroy all life, all peace. Men who have been enemies and strangers must unite if the Lord of Elcho Falling is to restore any semblance of peace.

The Serpent Bride is the first in a new epic trilogy from Sara Douglass, best-selling author of previous titles including The Axis Trilogy, Threshold and Beyond the Hanging Wall. This new series brings together some of the characters of those earlier titles following a break of seven years. For those who have not read the earlier titles, The Serpent Bride does stand alone, though with so many viewpoint characters and changes in perspective it does take some concentration to keep track of who is who, especially in the case of some of the lesser characters.

This is an absorbing and intriguing fantasy read, with moments of hope and humour among some dark and challenging times. Readers will look forward to the second title in the trilogy to see where it goes next.

The Serpent Bride, by Sara Douglass
Voyager 2007