Worms! by Lyn Uhlman

Jason loves growing things. He works hard in his greenhouse to produce beautiful flowers. His Dad and his brother aren’t so interested in plants. They are into astronomy and spend hours trying to tune into alien signals on the airwaves. But when a new family moves in next door, Jason thinks he may be the first in the family to meet a real life alien.

Jason’s suspicions start when the neighbours arrive in a strange glowing vehicle in the middle of the night. Then when he peeps through the fence and sees one of the neighbours putting a human head on over a worm body, he is convinced. The neighbours are really giant worms. But why are they are here on Earth and what do they want from Jason? Jason’s biggest problem could be convincing his Dad and his brother that their neighbours are aliens. Until his Dad figures out the truth and Jason embarks on the journey of a lifetime.

This fun, action packed novel will have 8 to 12 year old readers turning the pages. There is plenty of humour and adventure as well as the fun of an alien code. At the end of the novel there is a message for readers to translate – a bonus which young sleuths will love.

Worms! is an outstanding offering from Queensland based author Lyn Uhlman. It is part of the Breakers series from Macmillan Education.

Worms!, by Lyn Uhlman, illustrated by Tom Kurema
Macmillan Education, 2004

The Pontiac and the Fairy, by Grace Oakley


‘Hey, mate, you can’t marry a tooth fairy!’ Uncle John spoke up, astounded. “You’re way taller than her, she’s got wings and you haven’t, and she would be out all night picking up kid’s teeth!’
‘I’ll get a night job,’ Pete said defiantly, ‘and through the day I’ll shrink myself, so I’ll be the same size as Isabella. The wings are neither here nor there. She’s got wings; I’ve got a beard. So what? We’re all different aren’t we?’

Tim loves having his very own tooth fairy, but his dad isn’t so sure. So when the family goes to Kalgoorlie for a holiday, Tim smuggles her along in his bag. Which seems okay until his bag gets accidentally mixed up. When he reclaims his bag from Pete Poupa, the bikie, Isabella is missing. Pete says he hasn’t seen her, but Tim isn’t convinced. He is sure Pete knows where Isabella is. What he doesn’t know is what to do about it.

The Pontiac and the Fairy is a yellow level title in Macmillan Education’s Breakers series. Kids will enjoy the combination of the bikie and the fairy and it’s a pity that this plot couldn’t be further developed. Still, it is a fun tale and is suitable for classroom or private reading, aimed at children with a reading age around 10.5 years.

The Pontiac and the Fairy, by Grace Oakley
Macmillan Education, 2004

Madoop and the Mountain Mower, by Jonathan Gould

The King couldn’t believe it. He’d never seen anything like these magnificently majestic mountains in his life. They were so incredibly huge, with their snow-covered tips soaring into the heavens. The King felt awed. He felt humbled. Then he felt angry. He knew now there was only one thing he could do.
“I have to get rid of those mountains,” the King raged.

The mythical kingdom of Oopsalonia is ruled by a very tiny King. King Oppsbert does not like being tiny. So, when he notices that the kingdom is surrounded by giant mountains, he orders that they be destroyed.

Madoop, one of the King’s loyal subjects, loves the mountains surrounding Oopsalonia, and is appalled that the King wants them destroyed. He tries to convince the King that the mountains should stay. But the King is not easily convinced.

Madoop and the Mountain Mower is a funny, cleverly crafted tale of wisdom and of self-esteem. Madoop, a young, insignificant boy, is able to help the King overcome not just his hatred of the mountains, but his insecurities relating to his size.

Madoop is a yellow level title in Macmillan Education’s Breakers series. Aimed at readers with a reading age of around 10 years, it is suitable both for classroom and private reading.

A clever book.

Madoop and the Mountain Mower, by Jonathan Gould
Macmillan education, 2003

The Cockies of Manatu Island, by Judi Pope

‘What on earth…?’ Mum gasped as she walked into the room.
‘We’ve been robbed,’ Corey gazed wide-eyed around the room. ‘Wow! I’ve never been robbed before. Do you think the robbers are still here?’

Corey and Mikaela are rapt to be going on a family holiday to Manatu Island. But on their first day someone breaks into their apartment. The resort managers tell them that it is probably cockatoos doing the damage – but until they see it for themselves, the family doesn’t believe it is possible. Once they are convinced, they set up a video camera to see for themselves what is going on.

The Cockies of Manatu Island is a yellow level reader from the new Breakers series from Macmillan. Aided by the comic-style illustrations of Tom Kurema, the story is a fun holiday tale, suitable both for classroom use and for private reading. Animal tales are always popular with kids, and the unusual nature and setting of this one will appeal.

The Cockatoos of Manatu Island, by Judi Pope
Macmillan Education, 2003

The Golden Luge, by Gary Underwood

This track starts with a very steep slope. I get up to top speed very quickly. At least I think it is top speed. The luge just seems to get faster and faster. The two boys in front slow up coming in the first corner and I gain on them. We all hit the corner at once with Jack and I pushing into the back of their luges.
‘Get out the way slugs!’ I call out.

When Bevan and his friends go on a school trip to New Zealand, they are hoping for some excitement and can’t wait to go skiing. But when the weather changes and skiing is cancelled, they aren’t impressed at the idea of trying out the luge instead. Isn’t the luge just like a billy cart? They are too old for that sort of thing.

When they get there, however, they learn that the luge can be pretty exciting. Flying downhill on a slippery track is a little different than riding in a billy cart. When they are challenegd to a race by the students from another school, the excitement increases.

The Golden Luge is one of 20 yellow level titles in the new Breakers series from Macmillan. With a combination of action, adventure and learning, it is a good title for classroom use, but will also appeal for private reading.

Many readers will be unfamilair with the luge and will enjoy learning about it, and teachers will appreciate that the children learn about competitiveness and fairness as they enjoy the story.

The Golden Luge is targeted at children with a reading age of approximately ten years. Its subject matter makes it suitable for older students with reading difficulties.

The Golden Luge, by Gary Underwood, illustrated by Dave Deakin
Macmillan Education, 2003

Raspberry Rat, by Robert Moore

The orphan joey nuzzled my pullover and curled into a soft ball. It felt like his mother’s pouch. But the smoke from the burning canes drifted close and the joey tried to jump out of my arms. Smoke frightened him.

Brendon is working with his dad on their raspberry farm when they find an orphaned rat-kangaroo. Brendon takes it home and cares for it. Soon Ras (as he comes to be known) is part of the family, but Brendon and his sister Fiona both know that eventually they will have to return Ras to the wild, where he belongs.

Looking after Ras isn’t always easy, but it is very rewarding. Letting him go isn’t easy either. Brendon isn’t sure he’ll ever get over missing Ras.

Raspberry Rat is a chapter book for 8 to 10 year old readers. Part of the Breakers series from Macmillan Education, it is suitable both for classroom use and for private reading. Many children will be unfamiliar with rat-kangaroos and will enjoy learning about them as they read the book.

A good read.

Raspberry Rat, by Robert Moore
Macmillan Education, 2003

Jo Berludi, by Liz Flaherty

While Sal drinks her lemonade and mine, I scout around the backyard looking for clues. I take photos of the clothesline and the garden path. I pace out the distance between the side gate and the clothesline. Mmmm, tricky. To get down the side of the house the thief would have to pass the kitchen.

Jo (Jonah) Berludi is a private inevstigator. He may be only eight, but when he’s dressed in his detective kit people think he’s older – especially when they see his business card.

When Jo’s neighbour, Mrs Pickwick, has a problem with underwear disappearing from her washing line, she calls Jo in to solve the case. It isn’t easy to figure out – especially when the mystery keeps getting bigger. Who would want size 26 underwear? And why is fresh fruit going missing from the fruit store around the corner? Still, with Jo on the case it isn’t long before it is solved.

Jo Berludi is a cute chapter book title, part of the Breakers series from Macmillan Education. Aimed at children with a reading age of around nine years, it has plenty of action and mystery to appeal to young readers. The line drawings of Jeff Gilmour are a nice addition.

A fun read.

Jo Berludi, by Liz Flaherty
Macmillan Education, 2003

The Fox on the Clifftop, by Linda Massola

Barney settled back in his chair to look at the boy. He was badly in need of a proper haircut and his knees were showing through his jeans. Still, they like to wear them that way these days, he reminded himself. He didn’t look too well fed either. Too many bones showing. The boy stood his ground. Something about him reminded Barney of the fox.

Old Barney lives by himself in a tumble-down cottage at the edge of a cliff. When three boys pay him a visit and graffiti his house, he is powerless to stop them. One of the boys, however, feels bad about what they have done and comes back to see Barney. The pair establish an unlikely, and at times uneasy, friendship. Perhaps Barney is not too old to make a difference to young Steve’s life.

The Fox on the Clifftop is a title in the chapter book series, Breakers, from Macmillan Education. This title is aimed at students with a reading age of around 9 years, but some primary aged students may find the issues of both the street kids and the war veteran a little hard to grasp. Despite that, the story does have a nice combination of action and issue and young readers will enjoy the role of the wild fox that interracts with both characters.

The Fox on the Clifftop could be a good offering for older students with reading difficulties.

The Fox on the Clifftop, by Linda Massola
Macmillan Education, 2003

Mr Chelsea's Greenhouse, by Audrey Griffin

At last she raises her head to look at Mr Chelsea. He is wearing his gardening clothes and a battered straw hat lies in his lap. Eva is secretly pleased to see that his tattered clothes and thick-soled shoes are as out of place in her father’s study as her pyjamas. Mr Chelsea’s expression, however, is fiercer than ever. Eva can see that he would rather not have her help him.

When Eva accidentally breaks a pane of glass in Mr Chelsea’s greenhouse, her father insists that she must help Mr Chelsea in his garden for the rest of the summer. Eva is not impressed. Everyone in town knows that Mr Chelsea is crazy. She doesn’t want to spend her spare time with him.

But as the weeks pass, Eva discovers that Mr Chelsea isn’t as crazy as people think. He is actually a famous rose breeder, and he is working hard to develop a perfect yellow rose. Eva finds herself fascinated by Mr Chelsea’s work, and the pair are soon friends. Together they keep the roses alive during the crippling drought that the area is suffering.

Mr Chelsea’s Greenhouse is a story about tolerance and about friendship. As well as giving an insight into the process of propagating roses, it explores issues of ageing and drought as well as the problem of judging people based on gossip and hearsay.

Mr Chelsea’s Greenhouse is a yellow level reader in the Breakers series from Macmillan Education, aimed at children with a reading level of around 10 years.

It is suitable both for classroom and private reading.

Mr Chelsea’s Greenhouse, by Audrey Griffin
Macmillan Education, 2003

The Magic Telescope, edited by Barrie Carozzi

‘Look!” he said. ‘Look!’ and pointed. A huge boot magically appeared on the horizon. After a few seconds it was big enough to house the old woman who lived in the shoe as well as all her children, their cousins and a streetful of neighbours.

Barney and Simon are trying to entertain Simon’s pesky little sister Natalie when they make an amazing find. Buried in a chest at the beach they find an old telescope and are amazed to discover it has magical powers. Anything they look at through the telescope becomes bigger, shrinking only if they turn the telescope around. They have lots of fun making things bigger and smaller.

But when the local bullies, Spitwad and his gang, find out about the telescope, Simon, Barney and Natalie could be in for trouble. The bullies are desperate to get their hands on the magical telescope and they are not going to let anything – or anyone – stand in their way.

One of the interesting aspects of The Magic Telescope is that it is written by five different authors. Each of the authors – Katrina Williams, Erica Brodie, Sheila Burnell, Dianne McMillan and Dolores Anderson – has contributed two chapters of the story. It is a pity the process used to thus produce the story is not explained, as children will be curious (as this reviewer is) whether there was a combined planning process or whether each writer worked independently to take the story where she wished. In one place the change of author makes for a little awkwardness in the text – the characters, who have accepted the magic nature of the telescope almost without question, suddenly wonder whether they are dreaming – but overall the transitions are smooth.

The Magic Telescope is part of the new Breakers series from Macmillan Education, and is aimed at children with a reading age of around 10 years.

A fun read.

The Magic Telescope, edited by Barrie Carozzi
Macmillan Education, 2004