The Extremely Inconvenient Adventure of Bronte Mettlestone, by Jaclyn Moriarty

I was ten years old when my parents were killed by pirates.
This did not bother me as much as you might think – I hardly knew my parents. They were a whirling pair of dancers in a photograph my aunt kept on her mantelpiece. There was a jazz band in the corner of that photo, and I’d always been more taken by the man playing the trumpet than my mother’s gauzy scarf or my father’s goofy grin.

When news comes that her parents have been killed by pirates, Bronte Mettlestone isn’t particularly moved. She doesn’t remember her parents, who abandoned her in her the lobby of her Aunt’s apartment building when she was just a baby. But when she is summonsed to the reading of her parents’ will, Bronte’s life changes dramatically. Her parents have left special gifts for each of her other ten aunts – and instructions for Bronte to deliver them. She must do this alone, following the very detailed instructions her parents have left, or something terrible will happen.

Armed only with her parents’ instructions, a chest full of strange gifts and her own wits, Bronte is soon travelling to visit her various aunts who are scattered far and wide and include one who is a veterinarian, another who is monarch of a small kingdom and two others who captain their own cruise ship. As she delivers gifts and follows instructions, Bronte finds herself having unexpected adventures, including rescuing a baby from drowning, inadvertently getting caught in an avalanche, and facing pirates and dragons. Before she reaches her final destination, Bronte begins to suspect that there is more to this quest than a simple delivery of gifts.

The Extremely Inconvenient Adventure of Bronte Mettlestone is a whimsical, adventure-filled novel which young readers will be swept away by. Bronte’s adventure is filled with twists and turns, and characters both odd and captivating. The illustrations (the work of Kelly Canby) scattered throughout the book and the sumptuous gold-embellished hard cover complete the experience, making the book a delight to own.

The Extremely Inconvenient Adventure of Bronte Mettlestone, by Jaclyn Moriarty, illustrations by Kelly Canby
Allen & Unwin, 2017
ISBN 9781760297176

Missing, by Sue Whiting

In the dead of night we run away.
Dad hoists the new pack over my shoulders. I rub at my eyes, drag sleep-flattened hair into a rough ponytail, then trail him out the door. It clicks softly behind us. Dad’s twitchy. I’m twisted in knots.

Mackenzie’s mum is missing. It’s been 114 days since she was last scene in remote Panama. Most people think she must be dead, but Mackenzie’s dad is convinced she is still alive. Without telling Nan, or anyone else, he wakes Mackenzie in the dead of night and takes her to Panama where, he is sure, they will uncover the truth. But, while Mackenzie’s Dad is desperate to find Mum, Mackenzie is desperate to make sure he doesn’t, and that they don’t uncover too much information.

Missing is an emotional, absorbing read. The blend of mystery, adventure and emotion make for an enticing combination which won’t let readers put it down. With chapters set ‘now’ , as Mackenzie deals with her Dad’s desperation and unbalanced approach to solving the mystery, interspersed with chapters set ‘then’, in the days surrounding Mum’s disappearance, and in the months since, as Mackenzie and her father and grandmother struggle to deal with the situation, the format allows readers to gradually piece together what has happened, and to travel with Mackenzie as she moves closer to the truth.

The balance between action and emotion is done well, making for a satisfying, if heart-churning read.

Missing, by Sue Whiting
Walker Books, 2018
ISBN 9781760650032

Pepsi the Problem Puppy, by Sandi Parsons, illustrations by Aska

Pepsi backed up slowly, away from Mum. She turned and darted behind Granny’s recliner chair. One sausage caught on the carpet and was left behind. Mum stood still, her hands on her hips.
Pepsi poked her head out. She looked at the last sausage still sitting on the carpet, and licked her lips. In a flash, Pepsi bounced out, grabbed the sausage and hurried backwards into her hidey-hole.
There was a loud slurp.
Then a burp.

Rosie has always wanted a dog, so when her dad brings home Pepsi, a rescue dog,  she is really excited. the problem is – Pepsi is excited too. She is a young blue heeler, with lots of energy and not much training. From the moment Dad brings her home, she causes trouble – running around, knocking things over and eating whatever she can. But Rosie loves her. The trouble is, Mum isn’t very keen. Pepsi makes lots of mess, digs holes int eh garden, and is much bigger than Mum expected. Rosie needs to figure out how to train Pepsi, and fast, or Pepsi might be sent away.

Pepsi the Problem Puppy  is a junior novel about pets and families. Rosie is a dog-loving girl and part of a loving but busy family which includes her younger brother, parents and an elderly great-grandmother.  Pepsi is recognisable to anyone who has ever met a young blue heeler – excitable, enthusiastic, but also very loyal.  The story moves at a good pace, supported by humorous, warm grey-scale illustrations from the artist Aska.

Kids will love Pepsi and her adventures.

Pepsi the Problem Puppy, by Sandi Parsons, illustrated by Aska
Faraway Nearby Ink, 2017
ISBN 9780987615701


Legend Series Book 6: On the Buzzer by Michael Panckridge

The day after the Legend of Soccer presentations, a Friday, was cold and wet. I slept in. Mum had gone to work, but she and Dad must have decided that a day away from school would be good for me. He had a rostered day off so that worked too.
I kept looking at my watch and wondering what all the kids at Sandhurst were up to.

At lunchtime I grabbed Dad’s phone and sent a text message to Bryce. I wanted him to know that I could still come around to his place for the Legends party.

The Legend Series has moved on from soccer. This competition is about basketball. Mitchell and his mates are keen, as is a new student, Rat. The mystery in the library seems to become more complex as they discover more. The focus is on basketball, a trophy that seems a permanent fixture at Wetherwood School, one of the other competitor schools. The stakes are getting higher and not everyone is playing by the rules. The final game is so close, nobody is game to predict the outcome. Extras include a quiz and school scoresheets.

The Legend Series measures achievement across a range of different sports, with elements of knowledge as well as skills, at Sandhurst Primary School. It encourages fair play and rewards teamwork. Mitchell, newcomer to the school, loves his sport, but he’s also keen to establish and maintain friendships. Travis Fisk is also a keen and skilled sportsman, but seems to have a philosophy of winning at all costs. Their friendship group also includes several of the best sportsgirls at the school, as well as members with other skills that are valued as much as sporting prowess. An exploration of school and student dynamics and the role of competition and sports. Recommended for mid- to upper-primary readers.

Legends Series Book 6: On the Buzzer, Michael Panckridge
Ford St Publishing 2018
ISBN: 9781925272932

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

Legend Series Book 5: Over the Wall, by Michael Panckridge

I still couldn’t quite believe what had happened last week after the Legend of Football presentations.
A group of us had raced off to the library straight after the presentation assembly. We hadn’t heard a thing from Bryce, who had shoved his mobile phone into our hands moments before the end of lunch that day. Then he’d headed off to, we assumed, the library. Outside the hall there were parents, students and teachers milling about everywhere. There was a great-looking afternoon tea for everyone, with visitors and kids alike tucking in.

‘Over the Wall’ is Book Five in the Legend series that sees Mitchell and friends competing at different sports. There’s a girls’ comp that runs simultaneously and there’s overlap in some sports. This time, soccer is the contested sport. Mitchell and his arch-rival Travis Fisk are neck and neck in the overall competition. As they and others duel for points, there’s a mystery beyond the library that is occupying time and mind. There are also extras, including score sheets for the Legend Series, and a quiz.

Mitchell has only arrived at Sandhurst school for this final year of primary school. So there’s plenty he doesn’t know about the school, the students and the sports competition. As the series progresses, he builds a friendship group, becomes familiar with the cultures of his new school and of the other schools involved in the sports competition. He’s competitive and skilled, but also knows how to play fair. This provides a point of contrast with Travis Fisk who seems to come from a family where winning is the only option, no matter the cost. Recommended for readers in mid- and upper-primary, particularly those who would rather be out playing sport.

Legend Series Book 5: Over the Wall, Michael Panckridge
Ford St Publishing 2018
ISBN: 9781925272925

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

Stephanie Chiocci and the Cooper’s Hill Cheese Chase, by Matt Porter

‘Good old Collingwood forever, they know how to play the game!’ my ringtone proudly sings.
Eddie McGuire is calling me. It’s the third time today. He may be president of the Collingwood Football Club, and I the captain of the women’s team, but this is getting ridiculous.
‘Hey, Ed,’ I say … again.

Steph Chiocci is on a post-season break from her duties as captain and player in the AFLW league. She’s supposed to be resting, but instead she’s in England after receiving a letter from a fan. Emily’s grandmother is a cheesemaker but is under attack from a rival trying to push her out of business. Emily wants Steph to compete on her grandmother’s behalf in the Cooper’s Hill Cheese-Rolling Race. Steph is up for the challenge, but rolling a cheese is not the same as bouncing a football. Steph needs to work on her game plan. Added extras at the end include Steph Facts, Q&A and some football tips for aspiring players.

What do football players do in the off-season? Chase cheese of course! ‘Stephanie Chiocci and the Cooper’s Hill Cheese Chase’ is the first in a new series of chapter books, called Footy Stars, featuring stars of AFLW. Steph not only takes on a challenge, but also outwits a bully and saves a cheese business. There are plenty of laughs here as well as a footy tip or two. Recommended for mid-primary readers and fans of football. Extra interest if reader is a Collingwood fan!

Stephanie Chiocci and the Cooper’s Hill Cheese Chase, Matt Porter
Ford St Publishing 2018
ISBN: 9781925272888

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

Australia’s Great War: 1918, by Libby Gleeson

The barrage was on.
Crashing artillery.
Smashing shells.
Buildings, bricks, rocks and debris, in the air.
Deafening. Deafening.

It is 1918, and the War is still going. While the Russians have withdrawn, it seems Germany remains strong, holding out against the allies across the Western Front. Ned and his tired soldier mates are sent into battle at the small village of Villers-Bretonneux. A win here, they are told, could help to turn the war around. But promises about the end of the war have been heard so many times, it is hard to know what to believe. All Ned wants is for the fighting to be over, and to be back home with his family. First he just needs to survive.

1918 is the gripping last installment in the Australia’s Great War series from Scholastic. Each book has seen a different author (disclosure: this reviewer wrote one of the earlier titles, 1915) tell a story set amidst key events of that year of World War One. 1918 brings the final year of the war to life through the eyes of Ned, who struggles with the horror of the war and with his concept of bravery. The role of nurses, and the behind the front treatment of wounded and sick soldiers is also explored, as well as the aftermath of the conscription referendum of 1917, providing lots of insight into the events and impact of the war on those who were there as well as on Australia as a whole.

1918 can be read a stand alone, but young history buffs might be inspred to read the rest of the series.

Australia’s Great War: 1918, by Libby Gleeson
Scholastic, 2018
ISBN 9781743622513

Clan of Wolves, by Jo Sandhu

Tarin pushed his dark and troubled thoughts aside. Luuka was right. They were bruised and battered, they had lost much of the Offering, but they were alive. He touched the owl pendant at his throat.
Thank you Spirit of Owl for protecting us. Thank you, Spirit of Wolf, for defending us.
Then he focused once more on the churning water ahead.

With winter rapidly drawing in, Tarin’s quest to save Mammoth Clan by finding the Mother and presenting her with the Offering, is seeming increasingly unachievable. One of his travelling companions, Kaija, is badly wounded, and they are without medicine, food and shelter. When help comes, it is from an unlikely source, but even with safety and friendship, Tarin must figure out a way to overcome his own doubts and continue on his perilous journey.

Clan of Wolves is the second title in the Tarin of the mammoths series. Set in the stone age, with mystical elements including Tarin’s ability to connect with animal guides, the plot is strong and the world in which Tarin and his friends move is as intriguing as it is well-defined. In this book we see Tarin, who has been seen in his own clan as a weakling, becoming ever stronger as he uncovers his own strengths and learns to accept help and guidance.

Perfect for readers for middle primary and up, this is an outstanding series.

Clan of Wolves, by Jo Sanhu
Penguin Books, 2017
ISBN 978014330938

Jehan and the Quest of the Lost Dog, by Rosanne Hawke

That was when he noticed the water. It was all around him as big and deep as the sea Mr Nadeem spoke about. It splashed at the trunk of the tree just below his charpai.
‘Hei! I’m going to drown.’
Jehan closed his eyes to pray, then opened them again.
It wasn’t a dream.

Jehan’s life is uncomplicated. he goes to school, plays cricket with his friends, and helps with the chores his parents give him. His little brother might annoy him sometimes, and others he wishes someone else could fetch the water, but really he is happy with his close knit family. But when the monsoon comes early and causes a massive flood, Jehan is swept away on his bed – his charpai – and finds himself stranded in a tress, with the waters all around him.

As the days stretch by, with no rescue, Jehan has to use all his resources to figure out how to stay alive. Then he rescues a dog who has also lost her family and the pair offer each other hope as they struggle for survival.

Jehan and the Quest of the Lost Dog is a charming story of survival, set in flood-torn Pakistan. Hawke gives an insight into life in rural Pakistan and to the impact of natural disasters, with the events based on the real-life floods which ravaged the country in 2010.

As well as being an intriguing read on its own, Jehan and the Quest of the Lost Dog is also a companion book to Kelsey and the Quest of the Porcelain Doll.

Jehan and the Quest of the Lost Dog, by Rosanne Hawke
UQP, 2017
ISBN 9780702259609

The Cursed First Term of Zelda Stitch, by Nicki Greenberg

This time there’ll be no hiding at the back of the classroom, hoping no one notices me. No pretending to have a stomach ache or locking myself in the toilets to cry. In just nine hours I’ll be standing in front of a while class of the little monsters, trying not to make some kind of terrible mistake. Although I think I’ve already made one, taking this job in the first place.

Every teacher is nervous when they start their first job. But Zelda Stitch has an extra thing to worry about: how to keep the fact that she’s a witch secret from her students. especially when she isn’t even good at being a witch. When term starts she soon realises that it isn’t going to be easy. When the children play tricks on her, she struggles to keep her magic hidden. And it seems she isn’t the only witch in the room. One of her students seems to developing witch skills. And someone in the school has put a hex on the principal.

The Cursed First Term of Zelda Stitch is a humorous diary-format novel, complemented by equally humorous illustrations by the author. Zelda is bumbling but likeable, and supported by an interesting cast including her seemingly objectionable cat, Barnaby.

An easy read, with plenty to keep readers turning pages.

The Cursed First Term of Zelda Stitch, by Nicki Greenberg
Allen & Unwin, 2017
ISBN 9781760294908