When the ashes were ready, Russell put his hand in his pocket and pulled out one of his mother’s empty perfume bottles. It was porcelain and had two tiny handles.
‘How wonderful!’ laughed Miss Morphy. ‘It looks exactly like a miniature urn. Well done, Russell.’
‘This is perfect, darling,’ exclaimed his mother. ‘A real urn for our Rupertswood “Ashes”.’
When the touring English cricket team visits his family home in Rupertswood, Russell Clarke is delighted. He loves cricket and longs to be part of the fun. So when his mother and her companion decide to burn the bails from a match and present it to the English captain, Russell joins in by finding the perfect vessel for the ashes.
Burning the Bails is a fictionalised account of the true story behind the Ashes, the trophy for the cricket test series between Australia and England. While Russell’s involvement is imagined, the story is based on fact, and will give young cricket fans an insight into the origin and significance of the Ashes.
With the story supported by photographs, pages of historical facts, and the illustrative work of Ainsley Walters, and with the Ashes series currently being played in Australia, this is a wonderful offering for young cricketers.
Burning the Bails: The Story of the Ashes, by Krista Bell, illustrated by Ainsley Walters
One Day Hill, 2013
Available from good bookstores or
Zhang, Mulong and Langshi lived on a quiet stream, not far from the busy Li River. They lived with their mother, their father and their sister, Poh Poh.
For months it has been foggy, dark and cold but now the sun was shining over the mountains.
After a long winter of cold and fog, finally it seems like Spring might be coming. Sick of being restricted by the weather, three young ducklings take advantage of an early spring day to go exploring. Their parents and sister remind them to stay close, but gradually they move further and further towards the big Li River. Along the way they encounter dangers they’d not expected but are assisted by other river creatures. Sally Rippin’s endpapers show misty Chinese mountains and set the scene for the illustrations to follow. Her palette of greens and greys evokes the misty light of the Chinese mountains and the rivers that feed from it. The ducks are brilliant white, perhaps indicating that they still have something to learn about blending in. Peeking Ducks is a large portrait format hard back with lovely heavy paper.
Young children often have no context to understand danger. They don’t know what they don’t know and can put themselves in situations of risk. So it is with Zhang, Mulong and Langshi. All they know is they are sick of being cooped up and want to get out and play. They are fortunate enough that although they encounter potential danger, they also encounter other animals who help them avoid capture. Even little Poh Poh, who at first advocates caution is seduced by the pull of the ‘outdoors’ and the notion at ‘peeking’ at new sights. Krista Bell shows that some lessons can be learnt by experience, while also reminding that sometimes parents do know what they’re warning about!
Peeking Ducks, Krista Bell, ill Sally Rippin
Windy Hollow Books 2010
Reviewed by Claire Saxby Children’s book author.
This book can be purchased online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.
When Harley’s dad takes his young pigeon, Lofty, to donate for the war effort, Harley cries, sure that he’ll never see Lofty again. In Queensland, Lofty is trained by army officers to carry important messages, before being sent to New Guinea. There he flies hundreds of miles carrying messages from the field back to headquarters. When his platoon is ambushed, Lofty is injured as he carries a message, but survives. No longer able to fly, he is awarded a bravery medal and sent home to a relieved Harley.
Lofty’s Mission is a beautiful picture book telling a side of Australia’s wartime history that few children (or adults) would know about . Whilst Lofty’s tale is fictional, Australian breeders donated more than 13, 000 baby messengers to the army during 1942 and 1943, to be trained as messenger pigeons.
The text is wonderfully brought to life by the paper sculpture artwork of David Miller, an art form which will delight young readers. Released in time for ANZAC Day 2008, this superb book is suitable both for classroom use and private enjoyment.
Lofty’s Mission, by Krista Bell & David Miller
This book can be purchased online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussierveiws.
Cassie loves dancing. She goes to dance classes three times a week. The problem is, she doesn’t like dancing in front of people – in fact the thought of people watching her terrifies her. She wishes she could be like Jake, the most confident boy in the dance class.
When the dance school has an open day, Cassie tries desperately to stay home. How can she overcome her fear of performing? But when she arrives at the school, she discovers she’s not the only one who is worried – Jake has fears of his own. Together the pair conquer their fears and learn that they make a wonderful team.
If the Shoe Fits is a cute little read with a big message about self-confidence, expectations and friendship. Part of Lothian’s Start Ups series aimed at readers new to chapter books (junior novels), there is a high ratio of illustration to text and bite-sized chapters which make the book accessible to readers as young as six or seven.
If the Shoe Fits, by Krista Bell
It’s cool when a nasty smell escapes and does its best to stink out the classroom.
Homophones (also commonly known as homonyms) are those tricky pairs (or threes or even fours) of words which sound the same but are spelt differently and, of course, have different meanings. These pesky words lie in wait just looking for a chance to trip up young spellers (and adult ones, too). Award-winning author Krista Bell has compiled a book which explains the difference between each homophone set, by putting them into entertaining sentences.
Each set of homophones – arranged alphabetically – is included in a sentence which manages to demonstrate the differences between all the words in the set. It is then accompanied by a humorous cartoon (drawn by Sarah Dunk) that further demonstrates the meaning. At the back of the book is a dictionary which provides a definition of each word in each set, for further enlightenment.
This is a handy little book which has classroom and library appeal but which would also make an excellent at-home reference – as well as being simply an entertaining read.
Bell has a love of words which is obvious in this little offering.
That’s the Trick! by Krista Bell, illustrated by Sarah Dunk
Lothian Books, 2006
Rhys rode that wave like the champion he hoped to become this week, right here, where he’d been surfing all his life. He pumped it all the way to the beach, until he expertly flicked off the back of the wave. Totally satisfied, he watched as it dissolved into nothingness right next to the rocks. Brilliant, totally utterly brilliant.
This is Rhys and Toby’s second trip together to Lorne. Last time they managed to form a pretty good friendship and solve each other’s problems. This time the trip is all about surfing – they hope.
Both boys are entered into the Easter surfing competition and, in the days before, all they plan on doing is getting in some practice. But when Toby’s board bag is stolen from the beach, they are determined to track down who has taken it and other missing surf gear, even if it means time away from practice.
Before the comppetion begins, there is time for more than one mystery to be solved.
Who Dares is a mix of surfing, skateboarding and mystery, which is a blend sure to appeal especially to young male readers, but it is also a story of friendship, family and keeping an open mind. Whilst the focus is on the growing friendship between the two main characters, there is also an exploration of their developing understanding of the other characters they meet. The boys’ lessons about making judgements and valuing family are gently shared with readers without being preachy or didactic.
Who Dares? is a sequel to Who Cares? (the winner of the 17th Australian Family Therapist’s Award for Children’s Literature), but also stands alone as an entertaining read.
Who Dares?, by Krista Bell
Nobody wants to share a secret with a stranger. So when Toby and Rhys are forced to spend their holidays together, they are determined to keep their secrets to themselves. They may be from the same school, but they don’t know each other at all, and that’s how they’d like it to stay.
Toby has a secret he doesn’t want anyone at school to know. If the other boys knew what he does in his spare time, they might make life difficult for him. Rhys also has a secret, but his is far darker than Toby could imagine. In a week at the beach, both learn a lot about each other.
Who Cares is a tale of friendship, family and secrets. The beach setting will appeal to teen readers, especially those with an interest in surfing, with much of the action taking place on the beach as Rhys shares his passion for surfing with Toby.
Who Cares deals with some serious issues, including alchoholism and its effect on family, but it is not preachy or unrealistic. The teen characters have problems – some of which are solved simply by sharing them, and others which require both adult help and time. Author Krista Bell shows that even the biggest problems can be addressed with the right blend of help and understanding.
Who Cares was the 2004 winner of the Australian Family Therapists’ Award for Children’s Literature, for its postitive portrayal of family relationships.
A great read for ages 12 and up.
Who Cares? by Krista Bell
Born into a family of outstanding sniffer dogs, no one can understand why Sniffy is such a failure at sniffer dog school.
Sniffy’s problem is that his nose seems to be doing the bidding of his stomach. He can always find lollies and chocolate, but this is no help when he’s supposed to be finding seeds and fruit.
When Sniffy is thrown out of sniffer dog school, he thinks his life is over. But really it’s just begun. He finds a new home with a family, where he gets the chance to prove he really is an excellent sniffer dog.
Sniffy the Sniffer Dog is a delightful new chapter book by versatile Aussie author Krista Bell. With illustrations by the talented Craig Smith, this is a great title for six to eight year old readers.
Sniffy the Sniffer Dog, by Krista Bell and Craig Smith
A Start-Ups title from Lothian, 2003
He might be only thirteen, but Felix is a brilliant saxophonist. Attending a workshop with the best saxophonist in the world should be an inspiration for him, but it isn’t. Suddenly Felix is wondering if he really has the ability to be a world-class musician.
Felix has other worries too. Filling out a passport application has reminded him that he has two surnames – and two families. His parents divroced when he was a baby and he has two sets of parents and two sets of siblings. Now he’s wondering if he really belongs in either family. Is he really wanted?
Things seem likely to spiral out of control when Felix learns that his dad has been in a serious accident. This could be the beginning of the end, but instead it allows Felix to start building a fresh perspective. When his bullying room mate at boarding school assaults him, Felix realises that it is the bully’s regular attacks which have gradually eroded his self-confidence and allowed these other doubts to creep in. Dealing with the bully is the first step in getting his life into some sort of order. After that, the sky is the limit.
No Strings is a moving story with messages about bullying, friendship and the importance of family. Most of all, though, it is about self-belief. Felix learns to believe in himslef but also to allow those around him to offer him help and support.
Krista Bell has a lifetime of experience with children’s books as a book store owner, reviewer and author. This shows through in her skilful rendering of a tale which is compassionate, humorous and real, all in the right measure.
No Strings, by Krista Bell