The Circle: Dreamer, by Melaina Faranda

Tara knows it’s going to be a terrible day. First, she can’t find her missing science assignment. Then she breaks an angel, one of her father’s favourite possessions. She is waiting for the third piece of bad luck, but isn’t prepared for it when she hears what it is. The mysterious Troy Daniels, a boy from her class, has been critically injured in a car accident and is in hospital on life support.

Tara feels a connection with Troy, although they’ve never really spoken. As he lies in hospital, Tara is troubled by strange and terrible dreams in which she must undertake a quest to rescue an imprisoned Prince. These dreams have some relation to Troy, but Tara isn’t sure what it is.

In her waking hours, Tara is involved with her friends in the Circle, who use their combined magic to channel energy and solve problems. Can they help Tara and, in turn, Troy?

Dreamer is the first title in a new series by Melaina Faranda, The Circle. Ten very different girls make up the Circle, where the bonds of friendship combine with the possibilities of magic and the power of intuition. Parents and teachers who may have concerns should be aware that the book does deal with witchcraft and the occult, however the overiding focus of the book is on friendship and realtionships.

The Circle: Dreamer, by Melaina Faranda
Random House, 2003

Written in Blood, by Beverley MacDonald

Tell the average teenager that they should read a history book, and you shouldn’t expect a polite reaction. Most kids think history is dull – after all you’re studying the past, old people, times when there were no computers, no cool music, and people wore daggy clothes. But share Written in Bloodwith these same teenagers, and you can hope for a change of heart.

This is a history book with a difference. Author Beverly MacDonald has worked hard to share only the interesting , the gory and the truly amazing parts of history, and to write about them in a lively and entertaining manner. Readers are encouraged to look at the events and influences which have shaped our lives and beliefs and to examine the environment in which events considered as shocking took place.

As well as being an interesting read for entertainment purposes, Written in Blood provides parents and teachers with an springboard to discussions of history, morals, politics and philosophy.

Including fun cartoons by Andrew Weldon, the book includes loads of provocative facts and true stories of courage, rebellion and survival. It is likely to appeal to children aged 13 and over.

Written in Blood, by Beverley MacDonald
Allen & Unwin, 2003

Jessie, by Mike Carter

Jessie’s not so sure about moving to an Outback Australian town, but her Dad and her therapist think it might be good for her. She’s leaving her life as Ginny Ford, famous pianist and all-round smart kid, and starting again as Jessica Rutherford. It’s supposed to help her get over her breakdown.

In small town Nagoorin, Jessie finds friendship with three boys – local ratbags Martin, Grant and Oomu. Always in trouble, the three accept Jessie into their group and show her all about friendship and fun. They form a band, teach her to swim and ride a motorbike. Jessie, in return, shares her talents to get the boys out of some of their scrapes, as well as landing herself in a few of her own.

Jessie is a story about depression and recovery, and about mateship. Likely to appeal to 12 to 15 year old readers, it is both humorous and uplifting.

Jessie, by Mike Carter
Lothian 2003

Monstered, by Bernie Monagle

Pat is battered and bruised. He has a spirit to match. For years Bugge and Kosta have been making his life hell, and he’s been unable to stop them. Now, though, a chance encounter with a girl on the train has left him with the courage to stand up to the bullies.

For Pat, who has always been alone and is not used to relying on anyone, one of the biggest challenges is accepting help from his friends. It is only by working together that they can make sure Bugge and Kosta get what they deserve.

Monstered is a novel which shows the awful depths bullying can plunge to, but it is also a novel about self-discovery, survival and, importantly, friendship. Pat finds that he is battling the bullies not just for himself, but for the whole town, and that the townspeople are right behind him.

A touchingly real, gently humorous and uplifting novel for ages 12 and up.

Monstered, by Bernie Monagle
Lothian, 2001

Fake ID, by Hazel Edwards

When Zoe starts researching her family history for a school project, her Gran is strangely evasive. Then Gran dies, leaving Zoe with a pile of unanswered questions.

Zoe’s Mum (Gran’s only child) is wintering in Antarctica, leaving Zoe to attend the funeral and meet the executor of Gran’s will, as well as trying to solve the mystery of just who her Gran was – if she was even her Gran.

Zoe struggles to come to terms with the fact that her Gran had another name and another life before she came to Australia – and that she had taken over someone else’s life on her arrival. With the help of her friend Luke, Zoe finds answers to some of her questions via www.finalthoughts.com, the Dead Person’s Society and the executor of Gran’s will, who hosts a television show called Missing Millions.

But there are some questions, Zoe finds, that don’t have answers. What she has to learn is how to deal with that realisation.

Fake ID is an intriguing tale for teen readers. Part mystery, part personal exploration, and with themes of family and identity, this is a great read for twelve to fifteen year olds, and would also be suitable for class reading.

Fake ID, by Hazel Edwards
Lothian, 2002

Lirael, by Garth Nix

Lirael, a daughter of the Clayr, lives with her people, yet apart from them. She is a loner and an orphan who feels she does not belong. This feeling is magnified by the fact that she does not yet have the Sight – a gift which most of the Clayr get at a far younger age than hers.

In another part of the Old Kingdom, Sameth, the Abhorsen in Waiting, and son of Touchstone and Sabriel, is similarly unhappy. He does not want to be the Abhorsen and doesn’t know which is worse – continuing his training, or telling his parents.

When the two embark on separate but common quests, the strange secret that links them is revealed.

Lirael, the second in the Old Kingdom Trilogy by Garth Nix continues the high standard established in the first book, Sabriel. The Old Kingdom is richly drawn and the characters deep and authentic. A rivetting read.

Lirael, by Garth Nix
Allen & Unwin 2003 (originally published in 2001)

Burning Eddy by Scot Gardner

Some people call Daniel Fairbrother Dan. Most just call him Fairy. It’s not a name that he likes.

Daniel is searching for meaning in his life. His family life is dominated by his moody and unloving father. Away from home, he has no friends and little to be happy about.

When Daniel meets a Dutch woman, Eddy, he starts to slowly see changes in his life. Eddy is eight-six. She has a tattoo, a history and can make music with her farts. She pays Dan well for the work he does in her garden, and seems to read his mind. She offers him more than work and pay – she offers him friendship. Eddy’s friendship does not prove to be an instant fix to all of Daniel’s problems – his father’s moodiness seems to escalate, the other boys pick on him and he is haunted by memories. But Eddy shows Daniel hope. Maybe there is a point to life – and maybe, just maybe, things will get better.

Burning Eddy is a poignant story about growing up, about family and about friendship. Author Scot Gardner weaves a tale which draws the reader in, caring deeply about these characters. Along the way he continues to drop bombshells that reshape the reader’s perceptions of the characters, so that the story is an ongoing surprise.

Absorbing.

Burning Eddy, by Scot Gardner
Pan Macmillan, 2003

Gracie and the Emperor, by Errol Broome

When Gracie hears that Napoleon is coming to live on the island of St Helena, she is terrified. She has heard tales of this man, painting him as a monster. She wants nothing to do with him, refusing even to make his bed in the boarding house where she works.

Forced to find new employment, circumstances take a strange turn when she ends up working at the house where Napoleon is guest while his own house is prepared. Still scared, she avoids him at all costs as she goes about her work. Gradually, however she becomes aware that he is just a man, with emotions like any other person, and that he has been broken by the events which brought him to the island.

It seems, too, that Napoleon is aware of Gracie. Although they have never met, they cross paths regularly, and Napoleon takes an interest in her circumstances, managing along the way to make her life a little easier.

Gracie and the Emperor makes use of an interesting combination of fact and fiction. Gracie and her story are products of the author’s imagination, but of course Napoleon Bonaparte is not. Author Errol Broome tells a story of what life may have been like for Napoleon after his defeat, entwining it with the imaginary life a young island resident.

Suitable for children aged 10 to 14, this is a special book.

Gracie and the Emperor, by Errol Broome
Allen & Unwin, 2003

Sabriel, by Garth Nix

Born in the Old Kingdom, Sabriel has not been within its walls for many years. She has lived in the safety of her school, away from the power of free magic. But something has happened – her father, Abhorsen, has vanished and she is the only one who can find him.

Back in the Old Kingdom, Sabriel discovers that she is much more than she ever thought she was, or could be. Others are know calling her Abhorsen, and looking to her to save the Old Kingdom from the terrible evil that lurks beyond the grave. All Sabriel wants is to find her father and return his title to him. The two quests – finding her father and saving the Kingdom – become one, and Sabriel must draw on all she has learnt and much that she learns along the way, as well as the strength of her friends, old and new.

Sabriel is an absorbing fantasy- rich in depth, in originality and excitment, yet accessible even to those new to the genre. It is little wonder the book was a winner of the Aurealis Award for Australian Speculative Fiction, and that the remaining titles of the trilogy have been eagerly awaited.

Sabriel, by Garth Nix
First Published by Harper Collins, 1995, newly published by Allen & Unwin (2003)

Children of Morwena, by Helene Smith

In a world of the future, vastly different from our own, teenagers Leila and Andre live with their parents and their much-loved baby sister Bonnie. Their world has been shaped by the destructive forces of wars years before. Those who have survived have built new lives based on peace.

But sometimes peace is only an illusion. When Morwena is wiped out by a violent strike, only the children survive,saved from death only to have to confront new terrors. Chaos reigns as survivors try to find loved ones, food and water are short, and no one is able to trust anyone else.

Alone in this grim world, Leila tries to find her brother and sister. First though she has to contend with her own fears and dreadful evil forces – Alrica, the wolf woman, Rattus, the ferl and the Grim organisation.Can she survive and be reunited with her loved ones? Is there life for these scattered chidlren from Morwena?

Children of Morwena is Helene Smith’s third novel for young people. Her earlier titles are Operation Clancy and Leaping the Tingles. She lives in Australind, just outside of the Western Australian city of Bunbury.

Children of Morwena is a inspirational story of how love can survive the toughness of life.

Children of Morwena, by Helene Smith

Fremantle Arts Centre Press, 2002