Lisette’s Paris Notebook, by Catherine Bateson

What do you wear to Paris? Ami and I discussed it for hours but I still couldn’t think of anything suitable. Ami said a trench coat with nothing underneath but your best underwear. That was only if some boy was meeting you at the airport, I said.

Lisette has just finished school and is taking a gap year. She travels to Paris to experience great works of art and brush up on her conversational French before she heads to university. Lise isn’t impressed when her clairvoyant landlady, Madame Cristophe and her mother, home in Australia, enrol her in language lessons with international students. She just wants to explore and experience Paris. But when she grudgingly attends her first class, she realises it’s not all bad – there’s a hot guy there, and she also makes some new friends. Maybe she might find more than she bargained for in Paris.

Lisette’s Paris Notebook is a quirky mix of romance and coming of age, featuring a slightly self-obsessed yet likeable main character. Lisette’s adventure is Paris is overshadowed by coming to terms with the death of the father she never got to meet, and her lack of previous romantic success. Teen readers will enjoy the Paris setting.

Lisette’s Paris Notebook, by Catherine Bateson
Allen & Unwin, 2017
ISBN 9781760293635

Star, by Catherine Bateson

‘You’re hurting me,’ she said, and her voice sounded lonely and sad. ‘This attitude you have, Star. Where does it come from? Those kids are going through a rough time. You know that. How would you feel if you suddenly weren’t living with your dad?’
I glared at her. ‘I’m not,’ I said. ‘Remember, he’s dead.’


After Dad died, it was just Star and her mum, and, together, they managed. But Mum’s old friend Charlie has come to live with them and life has changed. Sometimes Charlie can be fun – suggesting walks on the beach, or teaching Star how to write Haiku – but other times he lies on his fold up bed unmoving, or says mean things to Star and Mum. But what Star hates most is when his pesky kids come to visit. There isn’t much going right in Star’s life, but it seems Mum hasn’t got the time or patience to listen.

Star is the story of a girl struggling to be heard in a household where there’s lots going on. Not only are she and her mother still trying to cope with the loss of her dad, but Charlie is coping with the end of his marriage, and his children with the changes this has wrought. Star is ofent asked to keep an eye on the younger children, and her unhappiness with all these changes, and with her isolation at school, is overlooked by both adults, or regarded as selfishness on her part. Adult readers will find this a little confronting, but probably quite realistic. Thankfully, as the story progresses the adults redeem themselves and, even when they are at their least likable, Star is supported by Mum’s friend Cara and a wise librarian at school.

Star is an endearing first person narrator who will have the reader cheering for good things to happen to her. At times she is, as her mother accuses, self centred, but this adds to the sense of realism. She is, after all, a little girl with a lot going on and must look out for herself when it seems no one else is. She also cares about those around her.

Ultimately, Star is a feel good novel about being given a chance to shine.


Star, by Catherine Bateson
Scholastic, 2012
ISBN 9781862919815

Available from good bookstores and online.

Mimi and the Blue Slave, by Catherine Bateson

Two days before my father’s funeral I came down with such bad flu that Mum got the doctor to make a house call.
‘That’s ridiculous, Lou. It’s spring,’ Aunty Ann said. ‘As if she can’t be bundled into the car.’
‘It’s raining,’ Mum said, ‘and her temperature’s through the roof.’
‘We really don’t need this now,’ Aunty Ann said.
‘Her body is manifesting her spiritual grief,’ Aunty Marita said. ‘There’s nothing you can do, Lou. Just let it run its course. Grief has to do that.’
‘It might be manifested grief, ’Mum replied. ‘I’m not taking any chances.’

Mimi and her parents live in a small seaside town. Mimi’s dad has just died and their little family of three has become a family of two, both struggling to deal with their grief. Mum has her two sisters who provide divergent opinions on everything from Mimi’s flu, to what should be sold in the family’s bric-a-brac shop. Mimi has Ableth, a little blue pirate, who is the most disobedient slave it is possible to be. Mimi talks to Ableth when things are at their worst and he helps her through the dark days. Mum takes to her bed and life becomes bleaker. Mimi discovers allies in the most surprising places. There are many milestones in the time after Dad’s death, many stumbles as Mimi and Mum find a way to go on.

‘Mimi and the Blue Slave’ is a story about life. Mimi and her parents have been a tight little unit, although Mimi does have friends at school, and Mum does have her sisters. Mum’s sisters provide comic relief with their polar opposite suggestions. Mimi uses the ‘blue slave’ Ableth, when she needs to talk to someone objective. Indeed, Ableth is more than objective, he’s almost disinterested in some ways. He helps Mimi to see things clearly and to have the courage to move forwards. Others, like antique buyer Guy, help Mimi to keep the business going while Mum is unable to. Over time, Mimi, Mum, the auntys, Edie and Guy form a new little family. It doesn’t seek to replace Dad, but it helps them to value and celebrate life. Death is never an easy topic to discuss, yet it is one of life’s few certainties. Catherine Bateson uses beautiful language and gentle humour to show that life does go on, no matter how impossible it seems. Recommended for mid- to upper-primary readers.

Mimi and the Blue Slave Catherine Bateson
Woolshed Press 2010
ISBN: 9781864719949

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

Hanging Out, by Catherine Bateson

When Mum told me my cousin Weston was coming to stay with us for a week of the school holidays, I was totally alarmed.
‘Why here?’
‘Aunty Sharon and Uncle Jason have won seven nights on a cruise ship. Just imagine – seven nights of no cooking, no washing up, no worrying.’
‘He can’t come here!’
‘Of course he can,’ Mum said sharply. ‘We’ve stayed with them.’

Ben is worried about his Sydney cousin coming to stay. When they stayed Weston and his family they had visited everywhere from the zoo to the harbour bridge and more. Ben is worried that Weston will discover that he was exaggerating the wonderful things about Melbourne. But despite his misgivings, Weston arrives. He’s keen to do and see all the things Ben bragged about. After a slow start, Ben discovers that they can have just as much fun at his house, and that Weston is just as impressed with Ben’s Melbourne as Ben was with Weston’s Sydney. Colour illustrations on every opening extend as well as illuminate the text. Potentially challenging words are presented in different fonts.

Hanging Out is part of the Mate series from Omnibus Books. They are beginner chapter books for newly independent readers. But they also celebrate what it is to be Australian. The rivalry between Sydney and Melbourne is explored and gently rocked. Catherine Bateson points out that home is where family and friends are, that the rest is just bonus. Ben and his cousin rediscover just how much fun they can have together. Many of the offerings in this series are tall tales. Hanging Out is less tall tale, but no less iconically Australian for that. Recommended for newly independent readers.

Hanging Out (Mates)

Hanging Out , Catherine Bateson, ill Adam Carruthers
Omnibus Books 2010

ISBN: 9781862918290

Reviewed by Claire Saxby Children’s book author.

This book can be purchased online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

The Airdancer of Glass, by Catherine Bateson

In an undefined time in the future, society is divided into those who have, and those who have nothing. The privileged ones, the Fatters, live in a domed city where they live in sterile seclusion. Outside, the Tippers live in squalor, scavenging from the dumped refuse of the Fatters, dulling the pain of a meaningless existence with dope and voddy.

Into the Tippers settlement comes Lulianne, an Airdancer. She has left the Circus troupe she used to perform with, fed up with the drinking and sexual advances of the man who was once a father figure. In Tip she befriends Egan, who is also an outsider. He has come to Tip from Clan, a peaceful and secluded place where life is beautiful.

At the same time as the pair find themselves attracted to each other, they are also drawn into the struggle between the Tippers and the Fatters. With a third friend, Amos, a revolutionary who is working for a better life for all, they help to strike a new balance.

The Airdancer of Glass is a novel which challenges in its vision of the future – a future with stark divisions in society and with a landscape almost beyond recognition. Yet at the same time, the novel is about hope, showing how young people lead the way in overcoming injustice and forging a brighter outcome. It is significant that the three teens who bring about change are from three different backgrounds yet manage to find common ground and work together.

This is author Catherine Bateson’s fourth novel for young adults, but her first speculative fiction offering. Teen readers will be intrigued.

Airdancer of Glass, by Catherine Bateson
UQP, 2004