Love Notes from Vinegar House, by Karen Tayleur

There are three things you should know about me if we’re ever going to be friends. The first thing is my name – Freya Jackson Kramer…The second things is that I don’t believe in ghosts – not the scary white sheet, boogie-woogie type of ghost anyway…And the third thing is that I believe in karma.

Freya does not want to spend her school holidays staying with her grandmother at Vinegar House, but her parents need to race off to visit her other grandmother (Nanna) overseas, and they don’t trust her to stay home alone, so Grandma Vinegar’s house it is. At least it will give her a chance to escape the chaos which a compromising photo of her on Facebook has caused. Vinegar House is filled with secrets – and the presence of her annoying cousin Freya, who is also holidaying there. There’s also the presence of Luke Hart, who Freya used to have a huge crush on, until he had a fling with Rumer. But is there another presence? One that might explain the light in the attic and the taps that run late at night?

Love Notes from Vinegar House is part ghost story, part coming of age tale, managing to be funny, touching and scary. Freya is a likable first person narrator, who shares her experiences in a sometimes self-deprecating, chatty manner, so that we are taken on her journey of discovery where she learns more about herself, her cousin and her extended family. The setting, too, will delight – a Gothic-style house perched on cliffs overlooking an Australian beach, with a mix of characters from contemporary teens to a grumpy, mysterious housekeeper.

A compelling young adult novel.

Love Notes from Vinegar House

Love Notes from Vinegar House, by Karen Tayleur
Black Dog Books, 2012
ISBN 9781742032191

This book is available from good bookstores or online from Fispond.

Six, by Karen Tayleur

It is a small car. A light-coloured car. Hard to determine exactly what colour it is in the grey of the pre-dawn – maybe white or silver or pale blue. All is quiet save for the ticking of the cooling engine and the bark of a neighbourhood dog.
Soon this will change.

One car. Six teenagers. Five seatbelts. Not a good combination – especially when mixed with an afters party, a hint of alcohol and a wet road. The Prologue of this gripping novel shows the reader a glimpse of the aftermath of a terrible accident, leaving the reader in no doubt how the action which follows will culminate, but what keeps the pages turning is the desire to learn which of the six viewpoint characters – if any – is killed in the accident and which survives, as well as exactly what it is that leads them to be together in the car.

The six characters – three girls and three points – are from a variety of backgrounds. Some are friends, some not. Their respective journeys through year 12 are quite different, but what they do have in common is a seemingly coincidental meeting the previous summer, where they make a shocking discovery which overshadows the months which follow.

Six is a delicious blend of thriller and coming of age story which is sure tot ickle the palate of teen readers who will enjoy unravelling the connections between the six characters and trying to work out what has happened and what will happen. Told chiefly from the first person perspective of one girl, Sarah, there are also chapters from either first or third person perspective of each of the others, to make a satisfying whole.


Six, by Karen Tayleur
Black Dog, 2010

9781742031552 This book is available in good bookstores, or online from Fishpond.

Halloween in Christmas Hills, by Karen Tayleur

Whenever Miles Cameron looked at Mr Jack’s house he couldn’t help but think of all his lost favourite balls. When the kids’ balls went over Mr Jack’s fence they didn’t even bother asking to get them back. Mr Jack kept the balls. That’s why the kids called him Stingy Jack.

The Johnson family love holidays – Australia Day, Christmas, St Patrick’s Day and Halloween. They like to dress up and celebrate with their neighbours. But one neighbour – Stingy Jack – never joins in. When Miles is allowed to go trick or treating for the first time, his siblings dare him to ring Stingy Jack’s doorbell. Soon, Miles is wondering whether that action will be his downfall. But Mr Jack has a surprise of his own.

Halloween in Christmas Hills is a humorous picture book story about Halloween and about appearances and friendship. The text also offers some insight into the Halloween tradition which is often perceived as being an American custom.

With the humorous illustrative style of Heath McKenzie, who manages to make the illustrations comic and creepy at the same time, this is a fun offering.

Halloween in Christmas Hills: The Legend of Stingy Jack

Halloween in Christmas Hills: The Legend of Stingy Jack, by Karen Tayleur & Heath McKenzie
black dog, 2009

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

Chasing Boys, by Karen Tayleur

He gave me a smile that warmed me down to my feet and then he was gone. The entire female population of the class sighed. Possibly not only the females.
And that’s when I knew – you know – that it was him. He was the reason I was going to get out of bed each morning.

Ariel (El) Marini is not happy when she has to change schools, but on her first day she meets Eric Callahan and decides life is worth living. Next she meets Margot and Desi and they become her best friends. So with a boy to love and friend to hang out with, why is El still not happy?

When a new boy starts at the school, El is not impressed. Gaston is different and draws incredible pictures for El, but he’s really not her type. But Gaston’s arrival signals changes for El and her friends. Suddenly everyone around her seems to be moving on, while EL is standing still.

Chasing Boys is a poignant yet funny story about teenage angst, friendship and family. El is dealing with normal teen problems of crushes and friendships, whilst also up against much bigger issues, including a mysteriously absent father, and the financial problems which have led to the family downsizing their house and El having to leave her last school. Told in a fresh first person voice, Chasing Boys is fun but definitely not light and fluffy.

Chasing Boys, by Karen Tayleur
Black Dog Books, 2007

Manners! by Karen Tayleur

My mum always calls them the ‘unwritten laws’ – the unwritten laws of good manners. You could probably break these laws and never end up in jail. But if you do break them you might find yourself without any friends.

First, David Mortimore Baxter learnt the importance of always telling the truth. Then he learnt about using excuses to get out of, and keep out of, trouble. Now, it seems, he’s intent on spreading the message about manners.

In Manners! David (the first person creation of author Karen Tayleur) explains good manners in all sorts of situations – from mealtime to movie time, both at home and away.

As with earlier titles in this series, this one is full of humour and will appeal to readers in a wide age group – from 7 to 12 and possibly beyond. David Baxter is a quirky, blunt character who tells it as he sees it with hilarious impact.


Manners! Staying Out Of Trouble With David Mortimore Baxter
Black Dog Books, 2005

Promises! by Karen Tayleur

When our class captain announced he was leaving, you couldn’t wipe the smile off Rose Thornton’s face.
“Things are sure going to change around here when I’m class captain,” she threatened.

When no one else will run against Rose Thornton in the election of a new class captain, David finds himself up for election. But Rose is desperate to win and is using every trick she can think of. If David wants to beat her he’s going to have to make some promises, even ones that he probably won’t keep.

Promises! is the sixth title in the David Mortimore Baxter series, and, like its predecessors, is sure to appeal to readers aged 8 to 12. David’s first person narration is honest (even about lying) and funny and the stories are ones which kids will relate to, even while exaggerated for humorous effect.

Whilst each book in the series builds on the others, they are also self contained and so accessible to readers who haven’t read the whole series.

Lots of fun.

Promises! Vote 1 David Mortimore Baxter, by Karen Tayleur
Black Dog Books, 2005

Secrets! by Karen Tayleur

Okay, I didn’t ask Smashing Smorgan to tell me his secret. But he did anyway. Then he blabbed to the whole world that I could keep a secret. Suddenly everyone wanted to offload their secrets on me. But there was one secret that might just blow my family apart. And time was running out…

When Smashing Smorgan tells the world that David Baxter is good at keeping secrets, it seems they all believe it. Soon, David is being asked to keep more secrets than he can handle. Everyone from his next door neighbour to the school bully is offloading their secrets on David – and if he blabs, he’ll be in big trouble.

With his teacher on stress leave and the town fair coming up, David is struggling to keep his mouth shut – but when he finds out a secret so big it could blow his family apart, he doesn’t know what to do. When is it okay to share a secret?

Secrets! is the fifth offering in the David Mortimore Baxter series from author Karen Tayleur and Black Dog Books. With plenty of laughs and a sassy first person narrator, kids aged 8 to 12 will love this title, and the rest of the series.

Secrets! The Secret Life of David Mortimore Baxter, by Karen Tayleur
Black Dog Books, 2005

The Truth! by Karen Tayleur

So here’s the thing. I didn’t want to go to Rose Thornton’s house for dinner so I pretended to be sick. But I wasn’t sick. And Mum found out. Now Mum’s so mad with me that she’s thought up the worst punishment ever. One more lie and Boris is going to the pet shelter. So that’s it. I’m turning over a new leaf.

David’s lies have landed him in trouble plenty of times – but never as much trouble as he’s in now. When his Mum discovers his latest lies, she threatens to take his dog away the next time he lies. David has to change his lying ways – quickly.

Soon, however, David realises that telling the truth can land him in as much trouble as telling lies. Sometimes, it seems, people don’t want to hear the truth.

The Truth! is the funny third instalment in the David Mortimore Baxter series. As with the first two books – Liar! and Excuses!, David finds himself in and out of trouble as he navigates the art of story telling and the world of friendships and family. Kids will love this very real character.

The Truth! David Mortimore Baxter Comes Clean, by Karen Tayleur
Black Dog Books, 2004

Liar! by Karen Tayleur

You’ve probably guessed by now that I’ve bent the truth before. I have. But it’s not like I get up in the morning and think, ‘Let’s churn out a few today!’ Things just happen to me. It’s not my fault. Like that time I invented a whole new breed of dog just before the Hampton Animal Show.

David Mortimer Baxter has a terrible problem. He can’t stop lying. And now his lying has landed him in trouble. He’s told his class that famous wrestler Smashing Smorgan is coming to his house for Sunday lunch. When the whole class all turn up at his house on Sunday to see the wrestler, David has to think fast.

Liar! (subtitled The True Story of David Mortimore Baxter) is a funny tale about the lies kids tell and the trouble they can find themselves in. Told in first person through the eyes of the likeable rogue, David, the story is fast moving and funny. Whilst the story is chronological, each chapter has a self-contained smaller plot, focussing on a different lie that David tells and its consequence.

Suitable for children aged 8 to 12, this is sure to be a hit, especially with boys in this age group.

Liar! The True Story of David Mortimore Baxter, by Karen Tayleur
Black Dog Books, 2004