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

A Tank of Trouble, by Sonya Bates

‘It’s so nice of you to take Fluffy for the school holidays,’ said Mrs Amesbury as Jessica’s Mum got out of the car. Mum bent down and looked through the glass front of the large wooden box Jesica and her teacher were carrying between them. She caught her breath and straightened up quickly.
“Not many of the parents are willing to have a full-grown bluey in their home,” continued Mrs Amesbury.

Jessica thinks that taking the school’s blue-tongue lizard – called Fluffy – home for the holidays will be exciting. But she doesn’t expect the sort of excitemnt that she gets.

Jessica’s mum insists that Fluffy must stay in her box, but her friends convince her to let her out, just for a little while. When Jessica’s pesky big brother Brett’s catches sight of Fluffy, chaos ensues. First Fluffy escapes Jessica’s bedroom, then she escapes the house. When Jessica finally gets Fluffy back, she has been injured. What will Mrs Amesbury say?

A Tank of Trouble is part of Macmillan Education’s new Breakers series. A yellow level title, it is aimed at readers with a reading age of around 10.5, and will appeal to competent readers from the age of about 8.

A Tank of Trouble is a story of responsibility, freindship and family. It is suitable for private or classroom reading.

A Tank of Trouble, by Sonya Bates
Macmillan Education, 2003

Hang Loose, Mother Goose, by V Sterling

Mother Goose directed a challenging look at Miss Muffet.
“I suppose you expect me to kill the spider?”
“Of course not!” said Miss Muffet. “I love my spider. It’s the curds and whey.” She shuddered at the thought of it. “Can I have a bowl of custard instead?”

Mother Goose has trouble on her hands. A whole busload of characters from her nursery rhymes have just turned up on her doorstep – and they are demanding changes. Humpty Dumpty wants a lower wall, Jill wants a turn of Jack’s crown and Mrs Ladybird wants smoke detectors insalled in her home. If Mother Goose can’t make them happy, they might decide not to appear in her rhymes any more.

Hang Loose, Mother Goose is a funny title from the yellow level of the new Breakers series from Macmillan Education. Aimed at children aged between 8 and ten, and at a reading age of around 8.5, it is a title sure to create some laughs.

Suitable both for classroom use and for private reading.

Hang loose, Mother Goose, by V Sterling
Macmillan Education, 2003

Something Fishy, by Liz Flaherty

Lizzie hesitated – she didn’t know whether to go forwards or backwards. Should she get Mum and Dad? Tears sprang to her eyes as she thought of their parents sleeping peacefully in the beach shack, only a few minutes away. They’d know what to do.

Lizzie and her brother Nick are unimpressed about the poachers stripping the fish stocks in the area. When Lizzie sees two strange men hanging around the beach at night, she is determined to do something about it. With Nick, she tracks down the suspicious characters and sets about proving their guilt.

It is not easy keeping track of the poachers and collecting evidence against them, especially when you are keeping what you are doing a secret from your parents. Tracking smugglers can be very dangerous – as Lizzie and Nick find out.

Something Fishy is a fast moving title in the Breakers series from Macmillan Education. While parents (and teachers) might shudder at the thought of two young children chasing criminals – including a boat trip at night – kids will enjoy the excitement of the plot and the fact that Lizzie and Nick triumph over the bad guys.

A gripping read for 8 to 10 year old readers.

Something Fishy, by Liz Flaherty
Macmillan Education, 2003

Lost in the Last Frontier, by Tracey L. R. Hawkins

Sam stirred slightly; he rubbed his nose. Something was snarling and breathing on him. He half opened his eyes and glimpsed a big dark animal with enormous white teeth. He yelled, his arms flailing wildly as the animal leapt in through the window. It landed heavily upon him, pushing all the air from his lungs.

Sam is excited about the family trip to Alaska. The brochures call it “the last frontier” and he likes the sound of that – he is eager for some adventure. He wants some cool stories to be able to tell his friends back at school. But on the very first day of his holiday Sam gets more adventure than he bargained for, when he and his family meet a bear in the forest.

Following his Dad’s orders Sam flees with his sister Emma. Soon though, they face a new peril. They are lost and alone in the forest, with no idea how to get back to the lodge where they are staying. Sam decides that some adventures are a bit too exciting.

Lost in the Last Frontier is a green level title in the Breakers series from Macmillan Education. The unusual setting and fast-paced action will appeal to readers in upper primary, with the book’s graded reading level being 10.5 years.

The Breakers series presents a range of story types from a range of authors. They are suitable for classroom reading and for private enjoyment.

Lost in the Last frontier, by Tracey L.R. Hawkins
Macmillan Education, 2004

Needles and Patch, by Jane C. Scott

When the boards were scattered around us, a dark hole was revealed in the storeroom floor. Patch and I were amazed. We never suspected this.
‘Is it a drain, or a collapsed bit of earth?’ I thought out loud. Then Patch finished my thought for me.
‘Or a secret tunnel deliberately dug out?’

When the school is evacuated because of a fire near the library, Needles thinks its pretty exciting, but she doesn’t realise just how exciting the events which follow will be.

Needles (her real name is Nadine) and her best friend Patch (Paul) volunteer to help clean out the storeroom where the fire started. Soon they realise something very strange is going on. They find a box of money hidden in the storeroom and, later, a box of jewellery, which disappears as fast as they find it. When they discover a tunnel disappearing benath the floor of the storeroom, they start to work out what is going on – but before they can tell the dults Patch disappears and Needles must get the help of the other kids in her class to save him.

Needles and Patch is a humorous and action-packed novel for 10 to 12 year old readers, with a recommended reading age of 12.5. Part of the Macmillan Education Breakers series, it is suitable for classroom or private reading.

It is nice to see a story where boy and girl main characters appear alongside each other as equals and friends, which makes the book likely to appeal to both genders. Needles and Patch is an entertaining read for upper primary students.

Needles and Patch, by Jane C. Scott
Macmillan Education, 2004

Silence the Dragon, by Pamela Graham

The boys glanced from side to side as they stole slowly through the straggly shrubs and weeds into the backyard. The house gave out strange vibes. Even though it looked dead, it seemed to send out messages that it might reach out and grab you. A creepy feeling spread over the boys’ skin the entire time they were in Mr Cooper’s yard.

Mr Cooper’s house has stood empty ever since he died – covered in vines and gradually falling apart. Fozzy and Josh are scared of the house, but can’t resist the mangoes which grow on a tree in the back yard. On one of their visits, however, they discover that the house is no longer empty. A teenage boy has moved in.

The boys soon become friends with Zen, a runaway who is making the house his new home. Zen helps them work on an entry for a school science competition and the boys provide Zen with companionship and, occasionally, a fresh sandwich. At first Fozzy and Josh think that Zen is lucky to live by himself, but gradually they come to realise that not everything is as good as it seems.

Silence the Dragon is fun novel for 10 to 12 year olds, with a recommended reading age of about 11. The story focusses on friendship and loyalty, as well as family and responsibilty, in a way which is fun and non-preachy.

Silence the Dragon is a green level title in the new Breakers series from Macmillan Education. It is suitable as a classroom reader or for private enjoyment.

Silence the Dragon, by Pamela Graham
Macmillan education, 2004