The Girl in the Basement, by Dianne Bates

‘Karl!’
Before Karl can react to the urgency in my voice, the man pushed him to the ground from behind.
I’m frozen with fear as Karl drops. The man then turns and walks towards me.
‘Serena?’ His voice is soft and husky.
‘No, no. That’s not my name. I’m -‘
He grabs me. An arm jerks around my throat. I’m gasping for air.
This can’t be happening!
‘Serena!’
‘I’m Libby. Don’t do this. Not Serena. Libby. Libby!’

Bored with her sixteenth birthday party, which she has to share with her parents’ wedding anniversary, Libby sneaks out to party with a guy she’s just met. She knows it’s wrong, but she can have no idea just where her decision will lead her. Her date is not a success, but it’s what happens afterwards that changes her life for ever. Grabbed off the street by a man who wants her as his daughter, she finds herself held captive in his basement. The stranger wants her to be Serena, his daughter, and he tries to complete the family by finding her a brother as well. Libby has no idea if anyone is looking for her and the boy, and no way of escape.

The Girl in the Basement is a suspenseful psychological thriller examining the roles of both the psychopathic kidnapper and his teenage victim. Told chiefly from the first person voice of Libby, there are also glimpses into the workings of the man, allowing some understanding of his intentions.

Not a fun read, but one which is gripping and will appeal to teen readers.

 

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The Girl in the Basement, by Dianne Bates
Morris Publishing, 2013
ISBN 9780987543417

Available from good bookstores and online.

Stories for 5 Year Olds, edited by Linsay Knight

Some of the best-known names in Australian children’s literature, with offerings new and old, combine in this wonderful new anthology targeted at, as the name suggests, five year old readers. Contributors include Ursula Dubosarsky, Janeen Brian , Mark Macleod and more, and Tom Jellett  provides grey scale illustrations

A couple of the stories (The Two Gorillas, by Dubosarsky and The Gorilla Suit by Victor Kelleher) were previously published as part of  Penguin’s Aussie Nibble’s series, and others have been published in School Magazine or by other publishers. Two stories (Charlotte the Explorer, by Dianne Bates and Look! by Lizzie Horne) appear here for the first time.

Good stuff.

Stories for Five Year Olds

Stories for Five Year Olds, edited by Linsay Knight
Random House, 2012
ISBN 9781742756660

Available from good bookstores or online from Fishpond.

All are well targeted for five year old readers, each suitable for reading aloud in a single sitting. Early independent readers would also find the stories accessible.

Stories for 6 Year Olds, edited by Linsay Knight

Kids love stories that are silly, accessible and quick to read – and Stories for Six Year Olds addresses all of these criteria, with eleven stories in the one volume, targeted for solo reading (or read-aloud with an adult) by readers of around six years of age.

Some of the stories appear here for the first time, with others being brought back to life for a new generation of readers. Parker=Hamilton, for example, was written by Robin Klein in 1984 whilst The Stuck-Tight Tooth is new from Dianne Bates. Other authors include Sophie Masson and Victor Kelleher. Illustrations, in black and white, are by Tom Jellett.

The stories can be read individually or read cover to cover and will stand repeated readings, either aloud or individually.

Stories for Six Year Olds

Stories for Six Year Olds, edited by Linsay knight, illustrated by Tom Jellett
Random Hosue
2012
ISBN 9781742756646

Available from good bookstores or online.

Nobody's Boy, by Dianne Bates

there were phone calls that night
welfare people whispering
I was in the next room
scoffing down the pie and drink they gave me
the walls were thin
can you take him?
can you help us out?

I knew what was happening
does anyone want this kid?
that’s what they were saying
does anyone care?

Not many seven year olds know how to ring for an ambulance, but Ron Green does, because he’s been looking out for his mum for quite some time. Now she’s in hospital, and Ron is in foster care, being passed around from place to place. H’es nobody’s boy. His aunt Maree takes him in, but she doesn’t want him – she’s got her hands full with three kids of her own. Dad’s new wife Anna won’t have Ron in the house. And the people who sometimes care for Ron, Pearl and Brian, are off travelling Australia in a caravan. Eventually, Ron is taken in by new foster carers, happy to have a boy of their own. It’s the sort of home he’s always wanted – with a mum and a dad, a room of his own, even trips on aeroplanes. But all Ron really wants is to be with his dad.

Nobody’s Boy is a moving verse novel about the difficulties faced by children who have no stable family life. Ron is a confused,sometimes angry child, who just wants to feel loved. Whilst there are people in his life who do care for him, his sense of abandonment by his parents is strong. Neglected by his mother whilst in her care, he particularly wants to connect with his more stable father, but this is difficult because of his stepmother. The challenges faced by foster families are also highlighted. Ron’s foster parents are caring people who try hard to provide him with the stability he needs, but find it hard to take the place of his absent parents and to undo the damage done in his past.

The subject matter is confronting and sad, but well handled. Readers are given an insight into Ron’s life made clsoer by the use of the verse novel format, allowing key moments and personal feelings to be shared with heartbreaking intimacy.

Whilst the cover image suggests an older boy, Ron turns 10 during the story, making this suitable for primary aged readers, though older readers will also connect.

Nobodys Boy

Nobody’s Boy, by Dianne Bates
Celapene Press, 2012
ISBN 9780987255600

Available from good bookstores or online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Crossing the Line, by Dianne Bates

Reviewed by Kathryn Duncan

Sophie is embarking on a new part of her life, one that sets her challenges she has never previously faced. Abandoned as a child, her early life is spent with her aunt and uncle before they too leave her alone and she eventually falls into the cycle of foster families. As a young adult, she is given the opportunity to live in a share house with Amy and Matt and her life looks to be on track.

Like many teenagers, Sophie has her own secrets; self-harming being one of them and one she is able to hide. Concerned about the depression Sophie suffers from, her counsellor arranges for her to be hospitalised. Sophie finds reassurance in developing a friendship with her new counsellor. The counsellor, however, does not view the relationship in the same way and before long Sophie is struggling with what she perceives as another rejection.

Crossing the Line is a compassionate story of teenage struggles and one that is willing to look at the harder issues faced by teenagers today. Sophie’s character develops from a confident young girl trying to make a new start, to a distressed teen in a situation she cannot control. The only person she believes she can trust rejects her, and the one person she can trust, she rejects. It is an emotional roller coaster not only for Sophie, but also for the reader.

Crossing the Line is a story that could have more than one outcome and as a reader you hope that the final pages offer a positive one. Rather than provide endings, Crossing the Line offers new beginnings and encourages readers to believe that there is a brighter side to life, once you have made it through the darkness.

Crossing the Line is a well written and sensitive look at a difficult and emotional topic, and a book you will have finished before you realise you have even started.

Crossing the Line, by Dianne Bates
Ford Street Publishing, 2008
PB rrp $16.95

The Hold-up Heroes, by Dianne Bates

In a soft voice – and no doubt with a smile on his face – Captain Scarlet replied, ‘The Governor. We will kidnap the Governor and hold him for ransom.’
There was silence as the men grappled to understand, and then we heard:
‘Surely you don’t mean the Governor of New South Wales, Captain?’
‘That’s the one, all right.’

When Polly and James overhear bushrangers plotting to kidnap the Governor, they know they must stop it from happening. But when they race home to tell their parents, they realise their father might be helping the bushrangers. They need to stop him from turning to crime, and foil the plans to kidnap the Governor. But how?

The Hold-up Heroes is a historical fiction offering for junior primary aged readers. Set in the times of bushrangers, it offers a glimpse at this fascinating period of history. Part of the Making Tracks series from the National Museum of Australia Press, this illustrated chapter book is perfect for classroom reading, but just as appealing for private perusal.

Excellent.

The Hold-up Heroes, by Dianne Bates, illustrated by Kathryn Wright
National Museum of Australia Press, 2006

Money Smart Kids, by Dianne Bates

Kids, like adults, love money and, like adults, most kids want more money than they have at any given time. One of the problems for children is coming up with ways of getting more money that don’t involve nagging Mum or Dad.

Money Smart Kids will help solve this problem. Packed with hundreds of money-making ideas for kids to try, this handy little volume also gives lots of practical information such as budgeting advice, how to get and keep customers and how to work with a partner or team. There are also case studies of real-life children who have managed to make money for themselves or for charity.

The book’s design is also appealing, with plenty of headings and subheadings for easy reference and with case studies easily identified by their text boxes. A glossary, index of jobs, suggested further reading and lists of useful websites and phone numbers, round out the book nicely, making it both entertaining and useful.

Children aged 8 to 14 will enjoy this book. Parents will appreciate it too, for its honest and helpful advice for young people.

Money Smart Kids, by Dianne Bates
Ibis Publishing, 2005

Wacky Tales, by Dianne Bates

Alex has girl problems. As if it’s not enough having three sisters to contend with, the new girl at school, Simone Temby, has a crush on him. She keeps telling him how cute he is. Bleh!

Alex and his mates do all they can to get girls to stay away, but when a camping trip goes wrong they discover that sometimes girls do have some uses.

Boys Only (No Girls) is a fun story from popular children’s author Dianne Bates. But one of the best parts about this story is that when you’ve finished the story you can turn the book over and read a second story by the same author. Two books for the price of one.

In the second story, The Megabucks Kid, Byron Spender the third enrols in Cragley Public School after his personal tutor resigns. He has to learn how to mix with the common people at a normal school. The other kids hope he’ll buy some cool things for the school – perhaps a swimming pool or a whole stack of new computers.

These two stories come together to form Wacky Tales, a Banana Split title from Banana Books. This fun series, with its novel format, is proving popular with young readers Australia-wide. Wacky Tales will do the same.

Wacky Tales, by Dianne Bates
Banana Books, 2002

Grandma Cadbury's Bikie Gang, by Dianne Bates

Cadbury tells all his mates his Grandma’s getting a Harley – and loves their jealous reaction. Soon he’s off cruising the highways on the back of Grandma’s Custom Softail. It’s just one of the wild things his Grandma has done – she used to drive a big rig, and after that a mini bus to take tourists around Australia. Now she’s staying nearer to home to be with Cadbury when his mother is away. And Cadbury couldn’t be happier.

Well, he could be happier – if all the pesky girls in his class would just leave him alone. They seem to think he’s cute and they want to kiss him – yuck.

Outside of school, Cadbury and his Grandma and her biker friends have loads of fun and exciting adventures. Some are more scary than exciting. Perhaps the scariest of all is when a new girl comes to school – and turns out to be part of the gang.

Grandma Cadbury’s Bikie Gang is the third book about Grandma Cadbury and her hilarious adventures. Author Dianne Bates has a special talent for stories which are silly, adventurous and educational all at the same time. Good fun.

Grandma Cadbury’s Bikie Gang, by Dianne Bates
Angus & Robertson, 1993

The Boy Who Loved Chocolate and Other Stories, by Dianne Bates

What would happen if you loved chocolate so much that you stole some from your auntie’s sweet shop? What if she was able to turn you into a statue?And what would happen if your Mum’s new boyfriend was a vampire and crept into your room at night?

Author Dianne Bates knows the answers to these questions – because these and other questions are at the heart of the short stories in The Boy Who Loved Chocolate and Other Stories.

The eight stories in the book are as entertaining as they are different – as well as the chocolate thief and the vampire boyfriend, there are female bushrangers, magician uncles, a dog called Custard and more.

Ideal for classroom use, the stories are also great for readers who like to read just a little at a time – a complete story can be devoured in one sitting.

Published in 1990 and followed by several reprints, The Boy Who Loved Chocolate remains a great collection of short stories for 8 to 12 year olds.

The Boy Who Loved Chocolate and Other Stories
, by Dianne Bates
Omnibus Books, 1990