Just then, Jack discovered a sodden parcel wedged between the plane’s ribs.
He tore off the string binding and red wax seals. Inside was a bloated leather wallet, bursting with small packages wrapped in tissue. He emptied the contents of one into his calloused hands. What he saw stole his breath away …
As a plane prepares to ferry Dutch refugees out of Java to escape war-torn Java, the captain is passed a valuable package to carry to safety. But the plane is attacked, and crash-lands, the passage temporarily forgotten in the quest for survival. When Jack Palmer, a sailor and beachcomber, comes across the abandoned wreck of the plane he can’t help but be curious about what he might find on board. What he does find is beyond anything he could imagine.
Diamond Jack, the first title in the new History Mysteries series by Mark Greenwood, is a junior novel exploring the events surrounding the crash of a Dakota aircraft and subsequent disappearance of a parcel of diamond on board. Using the known facts and people involved, interwoven with a fictionalised version of what might have happen, the story provides an intriguing glimpse into the past. Young readers will be drawn into the mystery as they also view and learn about a chapter of Australian war history.
With historical photographs, maps and notes including a timeline, this is history children can connect with.
History Mysteries: Diamond Jack, by Mark Greenwood
Penguin Random House, 2017
Kai sighed. The dragon haven had been his home since he was a dragonling, yet he showed no pleasure in returning.
“Gu Hong selected this place to be the home of the dragons,” he said. “She chose well. It is not so high that it is wintry throughout the year round. And no creatures can scale the sheer cliffs – not a goat, not a rabbit and, more importantly, not a human.”
At last Tao and Kai have arrived at the Dragon Haven. Now Kai can resume his position as leader, and Tao can take on the role of Dragonkeeper. But there is no big welcome, and Tao wonders if he and Kai will be made to leave, and once again face the murderous warlord, Jilong.
Although their welcome is luke-warm, the pair do their best to fit in, and even have moments of something nearing harmony with the dragon cluster. But when Jilong finds out where they are, it seems their peace will be shattered. Not only does Tao question his own role at the haven, but also whether dragons will ever be able to live peacefully anywhere in the world.
The sixth and final title in the Dragonkeeper series, Bronze Bird Tower is fabulous fantasy for readers of all ages. Tao and his friends are endearing, and the other dragons, with their different personalities, make for an absorbing cast. The twists and turns as the dragons find a way forward, and Tao and Kai seek to establish their roles, are both exciting and satisfying.
Bronze Bird Tower, by Carole Wilkinson
Black Dog Books, 2017
It struck Henry that perhaps he was waiting for the exact right moment to be daring and brave. The exact right moment where he felt no worry at all, not one tiny flicker. But what if that moment never came?
Henry Hoobler and his family are off on holiday – but Henry would rather stay home with his Nonna. There are lots of scray things about a camping holiday at the beach – sharks, spiders, snakes and blue-ringed octopi. But the thing he is most afraid is the new bike he got for Christmas, which is strapped to the trailer. Everybody wants him to ride it – but Henry is scared he’ll fall off.
The Grand Genius Summer of Henry Hoobler is a feel-good story about what it the meaning of bravery, friendship and family. As Henry tries to summon the courage to get on his bike, he navigates a new friendship with Cassie, who lives in the holiday park, and conquers other fears, including helping his little sister find a lost pony in the middle of the night. He also observes those around him learning new things and taking on challenges of their own.
With laughter, moments of poignancy, and lots of feel-good moments, The Grand Genius Summer of Henry Hoobler is a treat.
The Grand Genius Summer of Henry Hoobler, by Lisa Shanahan
Allen & Unwin, 2017
If you’re thinking this book is about the yummy hotdog that you eat, then you’re thinking of the wrong hotdog!
Hotdog is a long skinny dog – a sausage dog – who likes to try hard to get things right. His friend Lizzie is a lizard, who’s good at blending in, and their other friend, Kevin, is a lazy cat whose humans dress him up in all kinds of costumes. When the trip meet in the park for a ply, they are joined by a baby bird who has fallen out of his nest. The trio of friends are determined to get the bird back to his mother – but first they have to deal with obstacles including karate-chopping roosters and even dirty nappies.
Hotdog is a brand new series from comedian and best-selling author Anh Do. With simple, humorous text and cartoon-style illustrations (by Dan McGuiness), and textual embellishments to add interest, including different font sizes and speech bubbles, this first book will delight young readers transitioning to chapter books.
Hotdog, by Anh Do & Dan McGuiness
I’m in the supermarket trying to remember what groceries mum wanted me to pick up, but I can’t think. I can’t breathe. I can’t do anything. i’m busting. And I don’t mean busting. I mean BUSTING!
Andy Griffiths’ hilarious tale of mishap after mishap when a boy finds himself busting for the toilet in the middle of a shopping trip is just one of nine stories by some of Australia’s best – and funniest – authors of young people in this hard cover bind-up for children.
Laugh Your Head off Again features nine humorous stories from authors including Griffiths, Sally Rippin, Morris Gleitzman and Frances Watts, in situations including a corn chip that looks like Justin Beiber, a seagull determined to steal the perfect footy pie, and a school camp on a llama farm. Each story is short enough to be enjoyed in a single sitting and is embellished with illustrations by Andrea Innoent.
Lots of fun for primary aged readers.
Laugh Your Head off Again
Pan Macmillan, 2016
At lunchtime I sat on my own, trying not to be seen. I didn’t talk to anyone. If I climbed a tree the kids would look up and not spot me. If I was hiding among the bins no one could find me. It was almost as if I was a bin and not a boy.
horrible Gertag would say. ‘Where’s What’s His Name?’ And I would blush.
What’s His Name is shy and sad. He wants to belong, but he doesn’t, so he tries to avoid being noticed. Then, one weekend, he discovers that he can really blend in – like a chameleon. First he starts to blend in with his surroundings, then he actually starts to change into other things.
The Unforgettable What’s His Name is a hilarious tale of a boy with an unusual problem, though his worries about fitting in an belonging are universal. His funny escapades, the consequence of being able to change into other things, will delight young readers, and the comic illustrations – included several double page coloured spreads – by Craig Smith add to the fun, and will encourage readers to spot the main character.
The Unforgettable What’s His Name, by Paul Jennings, illustrated by Craig Smith
Allen & Unwin, 2016
But I did, I did! There was no way I was letting go of it. It was my scrapbook, my scrapbook about the little princesses, Elizabeth and Margaret Rose – the one I’d been named after. I’d been keeping it for years, cutting out and sticking in pictures of the little princesses and all their doings from magazines and newspapers. It was very special to me, that scrapbook, and I wasn’t letting go of it for anything.
It was the reason I was still alive.
It is 1940, and Margaret Rose lives in London, far away from her cousin Lizzie in Australia. But when Margaret Rose’s family home is destroyed in an air raid she finds herself bound for Australia on a ship. Lizzie’s family are happy to take Margaret Rose in, but Lizzie isn’t so sure. Her cousin is getting all the attention, and Lizzie’s life is changed by sharing her bedroom and her classmates.
The war takes a little longer to reach Townsville, in Australia’s far north,and Mrgaret Rose is safer there. But as the war rolls on, it also draws closer to Australia, and both girls share the realities of war time life.
Lizzie and Margaret Rose is a story of war, of family and friendship set both in London and in Townsville, as well as on the ship travelling between the two countries. Told in the alternating first person voices of the ten and eleven year old cousins, it provides an inside look at the effects of war, and particularly World War 2, on children and on day to day life.
While thoroughly researched and complemented with back of book notes, the story is front and center rather than being used to string together lots of facts,, making it really satisfying.
Lizzie and Margaret Rose, by Pamla Rushby
Omnibus Books, 2016
Yasmin screamed through the night as she was flung from the train. Eyes wide with horror, her hands desperately clutched at empty air as the stars and moon blurred overhead. But there was nothing to hold on to. Nothing to break her fall.
Then…time seemed to stand still.
Being named DARE Award winnings was always going to life-changing, but for Yasmin and her six fellow winners, it is a lot different than they could possibly imagine. Yasmin is fighting for her life on the top of a speeding train, after fleeing the chaos of catastrophic attacks in Egypt. Around teh world, the others are trying to keep safe while they puzzle their way through the clues which have been mysteriously given to them – clues which might help them stop a second terrible attack.
Carnage, the second title in the Seven Signs series picks up where the first left off, with YAsmin fighting for her life on the top of the train. as she tries to survive, readers are shown the stories of the other six characters, through chapters which alternate third person perspectives.
This fast paced series set in an unspecified future where travel and technology has advanced in believable ways. the teen characters are diverse – coming from seven different continents and with different interests and strengths, but each with strengths which have seen them chosen as winners of trillionaire Felix Scott’s DARE Awards.
Upper primary and lower secondary readers will be keen to follow the series.
Carnage, by Michael Adams
‘But I don’t know what to paaaaack,’ my friend Lucy wails down the phone.
I laugh. ‘Don’t panic. You can always borrow my stuff if you forget anything. I’m just so glad you’re coming with us!’
I switch the phone to my other ear as I look around my bedroom, making sure I haven’t forgotten anything in my own packing. ‘It will be nice and warm at Crystal Bay, so you won’t need much.’ I glance at my suitcase. ‘I’ve packed my swimmers, shorts, t-shirts, pyjamas …’
Sage Cookson is the daughter of famous TV chefs and has a wonderful life travelling around with her parents. But she misses her best friend, Lucy, so she’s excited that Lucy is joining them for this trip. They are off to a seaside town and there’s the promise of beach and great food. There’s also a mystery as an old foe reappears. It might be just coincidence, but Nancy is no more friendly than when last they met.
‘Fishy Surprise’ is episode three in this series for young independent readers. Sage’s life is much more exciting than that of many other ten-year-olds, but it also has its challenges. Not spending enough time with her friends is one of them. Not this time. With Lucy beside her, Sage has an accomplice as she works to solve this mystery. Young readers will thrill to the life Sage leads and empathise with her travails. Themes around family, friendship, loyalty round out these stories and add filling to the pastry. Recommended for independent readers.
Sage Cookson’s Fishy Surprise, Sally Murphy
New Frontier Publishing 2017
review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller
‘Where do we go?’ I asked Jack as we raced around the corner of the hall.
We had just finished assembly. All the cricket winners had been presented with their trophies and certificates when Travis Fisk had asked, with a sinister smile on his face, if we’d seen Bryce Flavel around.
Straightaway we knew something was up. And judging by the smirk on Travis’ face, it wasn’t looking good for Bryce.
Our friendly genius was big on brain, but muscle wasn’t so big on him.
Mitchell and his friends are back in round three of the Legend competition. This time it’s tennis. Previously, Mitchell has won both surfing and cricket competitions to be the individual sport legend. All points add to an overall tally, the winner of which becomes Legend of Sport for the year. Travis Fisk, who has up until now been the hero of every sport, is not happy. Neither is his sports-crazy, school sponsor father. It seems that they will stop at nothing in pursuit of their ambitions. Each instalment in the series begins with an outline of the upcoming sport and structure of the points system. Final pages offer sports stats and a quiz.
Mitchell is settling well into his new school, making both friends and an enemy. Travis Fisk seems to have it for everyone, determined as he seems to win everything. Travis is showing occasional cracks in his bully mask, though there’s still plenty of antagonism. Where Travis has two thugs who do whatever he tells them, Mitchell’s friends are more varied and each brings their own talents and skills to the friendship. There are plenty of sport stats and strategies here, but also themes around friendship and bullying. Recommended for mid-primary readers, particularly those overwhelmed by novels.
The Legends: Down the Line, Michael Panckridge
Ford Street Publishing 2017 ISBN: 9781925272635
review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller