The Legend Series 3: Down the Line by Michael Panckridge

‘Where do we go?’ I asked Jack as we raced around the corner of the hall.
We had just finished assembly. All the cricket winners had been presented with their trophies and certificates when Travis Fisk had asked, with a sinister smile on his face, if we’d seen Bryce Flavel around.
Straightaway we knew something was up. And judging by the smirk on Travis’ face, it wasn’t looking good for Bryce.
Our friendly genius was big on brain, but muscle wasn’t so big on him.

Mitchell and his friends are back in round three of the Legend competition. This time it’s tennis. Previously, Mitchell has won both surfing and cricket competitions to be the individual sport legend. All points add to an overall tally, the winner of which becomes Legend of Sport for the year. Travis Fisk, who has up until now been the hero of every sport, is not happy. Neither is his sports-crazy, school sponsor father. It seems that they will stop at nothing in pursuit of their ambitions. Each instalment in the series begins with an outline of the upcoming sport and structure of the points system. Final pages offer sports stats and a quiz.

Mitchell is settling well into his new school, making both friends and an enemy. Travis Fisk seems to have it for everyone, determined as he seems to win everything. Travis is showing occasional cracks in his bully mask, though there’s still plenty of antagonism. Where Travis has two thugs who do whatever he tells them, Mitchell’s friends are more varied and each brings their own talents and skills to the friendship. There are plenty of sport stats and strategies here, but also themes around friendship and bullying. Recommended for mid-primary readers, particularly those overwhelmed by novels.

The Legends: Down the Line, Michael Panckridge

Ford Street Publishing 2017 ISBN: 9781925272635

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller
www.clairesaxby.com

The Legend Series 4: Clearing the Pack

We always seem to be looking for Bryce Flavel. Before the school holidays, after the Legend of Tennis presentation, we’d been looking for him when he suddenly popped out of nowhere at one end of the library.
Now we were back in the same place, again looking for our missing friend.
‘Bryce?’
‘There he is,’ said Bubba, pointing to the deepest and furthest part of the library. We raced over. Well, okay, we didn’t exactly race over, but we hustled and bumped our way across as fast as we could go with Mrs Lee, the library staff member on duty, watching us over her glasses.

Mitchell and friends (and bully Travis Fisk) are back for a fourth instalment of the Legend Series, this time featuring football (and netball for the girls, although there’s a hint that next year, girls will be playing football too). Those competing will be judged on skills and knowledge as well as performance. As usual, Mitchell and his friends are fully part of the excitement. This time though, there’s also more than one mystery to be unravelled. Each book begins with an index, an outline of the Legend of Sport rules and conditions and a prologue summarising what has come before. Final pages offer statistics and details of each element.

Mitchell and friends are competing at football (and netball) this round of the Legend competition. Although Travis and his thugs are still causing mayhem, there are glimpses behind the bullying to a more reasonable Travis – not many, but enough to give the reader a chance to wonder at what causes his behaviour. Jack’s not having a lot of fun though, and Bryce’s behaviour is even more odd. So as well as lots of details about sports, there are other clues to be deciphered, other mysteries to solve. Recommended for mid-primary readers, particularly those who would rather be outside with a ball.

The Legend Series 4: Clearing the Pack, Michael Panckridge
Ford Street Publishing 2017 ISBN: 9781925272642

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller
www.clairesaxby.com

The Legend Series 1: Chasing the Break by Michael Panckridge

Assemblies are pretty much the same everywhere, even first day of the year ones.

I should know. This was my third new school in five years. Big pack of kids.

Teachers standing round the edges. A few mums holding babies.

We were sitting in a hall. Preppies were way down at the front looking nervous and excited, and the big kids – the kids in their final year – up the back here, with me. None of the kids around me looked nervous … was I the only new kid? I took a deep breath and tried to focus on the speaker out the front.

Assemblies are pretty much the same everywhere, even first day of the year ones.

I should know. This was my third new school in five years. Big pack of kids.

Teachers standing round the edges. A few mums holding babies.

We were sitting in a hall. Preppies were way down at the front looking nervous and excited, and the big kids – the kids in their final year – up the back here, with me. None of the kids around me looked nervous … was I the only new kid? I took a deep breath and tried to focus on the speaker out the front.

Mitchell Grady is the new kid at school. At his new school, Sandhurst Primary, there’s a tradition – every year, the two upper year level students can compete in individual sports to become a ‘legend’, and if they chose they can compete in all sports to be ‘Legend of Sport’. Mitchell is good at sport, this just might be his way into this new school. But Travis Fisk is already ‘Legend of Sport’ from last year and he’s intent on repeating his win by whatever methods necessary. Chasing the Break is set at school camp by the sea, and the sport that may or may not be included in the championship is surfing.

The Legend Series has been written (according to a note at the front of the book) particularly with sports-lovers in mind. They are full of sport detail and short enough to read quickly. They are told from the perspective of new kid Mitchell and allow an outsiders look at the culture of the school he’s just joined. Mitchell’s voice is a mature one and there are nods to his beginning interest – purely platonic – in some of the female sports students. Extras include a contents page, a quiz, statistics and more. Re-jacketed and with a new publisher, Chasing the Break will find a new readership, particularly amongst the sporty kids.

The Legend Series 1: Chasing the Break, Michael Panckridge
Ford Street Publishing 2016
ISBN: 9781925272482

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com

The Legend Series 2: Against the Spin by Michael Panckridge

Mr Bronsen said cricket was a game you had to live and breathe. At first, I didn’t get that. But I was beginning to understand. It meant having a cricket ball in your hands – all the time. It meant reading about the Australian cricket team – past and present. It meant listening to the experts and watching the game whenever you get the chance. And, of course, it meant playing. It also meant lying in bed at night dreaming of walking out to play for your country.

‘Hey, kid, can you bat?’

Mr Bronsen said cricket was a game you had to live and breathe. At first, I didn’t get that. But I was beginning to understand. It meant having a cricket ball in your hands – all the time. It meant reading about the Australian cricket team – past and present. It meant listening to the experts and watching the game whenever you get the chance. And, of course, it meant playing. It also meant lying in bed at night dreaming of walking out to play for your country.

‘Hey, kid, can you bat?’

Mitchell is back in a new title in The Legend Series. This time the sport is cricket and there’s a buzz about the school as the students speculate if Mitchell has a chance of beating Travis Fisk, last year’s winner of the Cricket Legend title. After winning the Surfing Legend title, Mitchell is keen to compete in the cricket competition. Mitchell is still the ‘new kid’ but he’s making friends quickly and there are plenty of others who’d be happy to see bad boy Travis eat crow. Cricket is also new friend, Bubba’s favourite game, although his parents would prefer he never played again. By fair means or foul, this is going to be a hot competition.

The Legend Series is back, reworked, rejacketed and with a new publisher, ready for a new generation of readers. Each is designed to appeal to keen sports people, particularly those who might find sitting down for extended periods challenging. Short chapters, thrills and spills, statistics and scorecards all keep the pages turning. Mitchell tells his story and although the boys’ competition gains most of the airtime, there is a parallel girls’s cricket competition and Mitchell is full of admiration for several of the girls, and perhaps one in particular. Recommended for sports fans and reluctant readers.

The Legend Series 2: Against the Spin, Michael Panckridge
Ford Street Publishing 2016
ISBN: 9781925272499

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com

The Boy Without a Soul, by Michael Panckridge

Gabrielle (Gabby) has no memory beyond waking up in hospital not knowing who she is or where she came from. The one things she does know is a Voice that tells her she is different, and that she is destined to help people. When she meets Michael and his little brother Jack, she knows she must help them…

Gabby’s nose twitched as the faint scent of burning timber reached her. A sudden thought flitted across her consciousness, then vanished just as quickly. She closed her eyes, and, despite the warning she’d received from the Voice, tried to will the memory back. It had been the smell of fire – but what? Nothing. Gabby’s mind was blank.
Amnesia. That’s what the people at the hospital said.

Gabrielle (Gabby) has no memory beyond waking up in hospital not knowing who she is or where she came from. The one things she does know is a Voice that tells her she is different, and that she is destined to help people. When she meets Michael and his little brother Jack, she knows she must help them. Something terrible is wrong with Jack, but she sees to be the only one who can see it.

The Boy without a Soul , the second book in the Book of Gabrielle series is an exciting story of mystery and adventure, with a supernatural element. The mystery of who Gabrielle is, and where she comes from, is developed, and Jack’s story is also intriguing.

Best read by those who have read the first title, this one could also stand alone.

The Boy without a Soul (Book of Gabrielle)

The Boy without a Soul (Book of Gabrielle), by Michael Panckridge
Black Dog, 2011
ISBN 978174203183

This book can be purchased in good bookstores or online from Fishpond.

The Boy Who Wasn't There, by Michael Panckridge

‘When it’s time, you will know. You are going to help people, Gabrielle. More than that, you are going to save people. People just like you. Don’t seek them. When the time is right, they will find you. If everything proceeds as it should, order will be restored. Redemption will be yours…’

As she drifts in and out of consciousness, Gabrielle hears a vice telling her she is special, not like anyone else. She is, it tells her, on a quest to help others. When she wakes up, she is hospital, not sure how she got there or where she came from before that. With no past, and no known family, she is sent to a foster family. In her new house, though, scary things start to happen. Her room is filled with hundreds of moths, she is attacked by spiders, and lights turn themselves on an off. What – or who – is causing all this – and why are they after Gabby?

The Boy Who Wasn’t There is the first book is a new supernaturally themed series from author Michael Panckridge and Black Dog Books, The Book of Gabrielle. Whilst the story stands well alone, readers will be intrigued by the bigger mystery of who Gabrielle is, and want to keep reading the series to find out.

Suitable for upper primary and lower secondary aged readers.

The Boy Who Wasn't There (Book of Gabrielle)

The Boy Who Wasn’t There (Book of Gabrielle), by Michael Panckridge
Black Dog, 2011
ISBN 9781742031828

This book is available from good bookstores, or online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Howzat! by Brett Lee & Michael Panckridge

‘Hey!’ Georgie waved to me from across the quadrangle after school. I was heading out to the oval for our first cricket practice for the season. ‘Have you heard yet?’ she yelled.
I knew what she was talking about. The MCG cricket camp. The letters were being sent out this week. Every day I’d raced home to check the letter box but there’d been nothing. Jimbo hadn’t got anything either, which made me feel slightly better. I wondered about Scott Craven, but I wasn’t going to ask him. Besides, as long as I didn’t know the letters had arrived, there was a chance that mine was still coming.

Howzat! is two books in one: Book 4: Toby Jones and the Timeless Cricket Match and Book 5: Toby Jones and the Clash with Father Time. Each is an instalment in the Toby Jones series. Toby Jones is a mad keen cricketer. He’s also a soak for cricketing facts. But more than that, he’s discovered that he’s a time traveller and can travel to any cricket game recorded in Wisden’s Cricketers’ Almanack. Time travel is awesome, allowing Toby to travel to some of the most famous cricket games in history. But there are others who also want to travel, and not all of them are respectful of the rules of time travel. In ‘Toby Jones and the Timeless Cricket Match’ Toby travels backwards and forwards, including to a cricket game that he could never have imagined. In ‘Toby Jones and The Clash with Father Time’, Toby’s troubles only get worse. Everything he does seems to have consequences for those close to him. His mentor Jim tries to help him, but sometimes Jim’s help is not enough. Toby is on his own.

Howzat! (Toby Jones) is a wild ride. On one level there’s the adventure that every aspiring cricketer experiences as they improve in skills. New opportunities present themselves. Cricket is a cruel game, where a momentary lapse in concentration or a single ill-timed shot can see a batter fail. Bowlers have similar challenges, they are only as good as their last ball. Howzat! (Toby Jones) is full of cricketing facts and figures, terms and stories. Even as the story of Toby’s cricket progresses, a wilder adventure is evolving. The threads run parallel, both requiring Toby to grow and develop as both a player and a person. In any team there are times when there are rules to be followed and times when instinct and self-knowledge take over. Recommended for cricket-lovers and for those enjoying a wild adventure through time.

Howzat! , Brett Lee and Michael Panckridge
Angus & Robertson 2009
ISBN: 9780732288389

Howzat! (Toby Jones)

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author
www.clairesaxby.com

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

Out of the Blue, by Michael Panckridge and Pam Harvey

Sean Williams woke with a start. He sat up quickly and looked around his dark bedroom. There was nothing. The house was quiet. His clock read 1.35am. It was too early for the garbage men or a milk truck or any sort of delivery van, so what had woken him up?

Sean slid out of his bed and padded over to his window, pushing the curtain aside so he could see out. Suddenly, he saw what had made him wake up like that. The sky was lit with flashes as if a whole heap of meteors were cascading to Earth. The bright light must have come through a crack in the curtains and hit him in the face. As Sean watched, half a dozen more flashes shot through the dark and disappeared. The sky returned to normal.

Teasdale is not the sort of place where unusual things happen very often, so there is some excitement when bright lights are sighted in the night sky. The resident eccentric, who claims a previous alien abduction experience is quite excited. But for Sean, his sister and her friends, it is the beginning of a mystery. Each of the characters investigates in a slightly different way, but each piece contributes to solving the puzzle. At the same time there are other puzzles. What’s up with Gabby? Why is she so grumpy? What is the strange object Sean found, and why are the UFOSITE people acting so suspiciously. And then there’s the abandoned shooting range. These holidays are going to be like no other.

Sean is younger brother to Hannah but is also friends with her friends, Gabby, Angus and ED. They have the kind of freedom to explore that is remembered by many adults but often not available to children of today. This freedom allows them to explore and investigate while still retaining the security of their individual families. Michael Panckridge and Pam Harvey keep the families in the background, but ensure that it is clear that the children operate from a safe base. All treat the local eccentric, Byron Watts, with respect, despite some doubts regarding his claims. Sean is the nominal main character, but there are plenty of insights from the other characters. Teasdale, the setting is a small inland town in the bush and it’s easy to imagine it anywhere along the east or south coast. Recommended for mid- upper primary readers, particularly lovers of mystery.

Out of the Blue

Out of the Blue, Michael Panckridge and Pam Harvey
Angus & Robertson 2009
ISBN: 9780207200601

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

 

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author www.clairesaxby.com

Hat Trick, by Brett Lee & Michael Panckridge

‘Okay. Here’s the equation. Listen up. Six balls to go. Nine runs to win. Can they do it? Jono, check your field. Toby, are you ready?’ he said to me.
Mr Pasquali was excited. Boy, does he love his cricket. He is our cricket coach, and our class teacher too. Everyone wanted Mr Pasquali as their class teacher. Even the Year 3s were talking about him and hoping that they’d get him when they got to Year 6. And if you were mad about cricket – like I was – then his class was the place to be. Mr Pasquali had a way of bringing cricket into most of the subjects we did.

Toby Jones is cricket mad. Luckily so is his father. And his teacher. Even his little sister, Natalie likes cricket, although she mostly plays sock cricket in the hall. A trip to the MCG introduces Toby and his friends to a little library full of cricketing books, including ‘Wisden Cricketers’ Almanacks’. Toby also meets Jim, a mysterious old man who introduces Toby to the wonders – and dangers – of time travel. With the help of Wisden and an old poem, Toby can travel back to any of the cricket games detailed in the books. As Toby learns more about time travel he and his team, Riverwall, begin the season’s play. Each chapter ends with a cricketing anecdote. While these do not related directly to the chapter they end, each reveals a statistic, a record, or conditions/circumstances of a particular game.

Hat Trick combines the first three Toby Jones time travel adventures into the one book. This makes it about as thick as a Wisden Almanack. Add to that cricketing tips from Brett Lee, Toby’s interview with Andrew Symonds, scorecards from several memorable cricket matches and the Riverwall season, and this is one heck of a book! Toby and his friends are in Year 6 and play in the Under 13 competition for Riverwall. Each title within Hat Trick tells part of Toby’s adventure with time travel. Other themes explored include the changing nature of friendship, competition and sportsmanship. Cricket fans will enjoy the blow-by-blow description of some of the local games and the revisiting of some of cricket’s most famous matches. The adventure moves quickly and although Toby is clearly the main character, other characters are given important roles to play and are fully realised. The three novels included here were initially released as individual titles: Toby Jones and the Magic Cricket Almanack (2003), Toby Jones and the Secret of the Missing Scorecard (2004), and Toby Jones and the Mystery of the Time-Travel Tour’(2005). There are two further titles in the Toby Jones series: Toby Jones and the Timeless Cricket Match, and Toby Jones and the Clash with Father Time.’ Recommended for mid- to upper-primary readers, particularly cricket fans.

Hat Trick, Brett Lee & Michael Panckridge
Angus & Robertson 2008
ISBN: 9780732288372

The Vanishings, by Michael Panckridge

Her father was standing stiffly at the window and her mother was packing a small suitcase. Fran’s heart raced as her mind crashed through the possibilities of news.
‘Is it…’ Fran chewed at her thumb nail.
‘The police received a phone call from Langford,’ said her father.
‘Langford. Langford? But that’s nowhere near home…our old home,’ said Fran.
‘We just assumed she would go back there. In fact it’s 500 kays in the opposite direction. Which makes me think…’ Her father sat down heavily on a footstool.
‘So, is it Carli? Is she coming home?’

Twins Fran and Carli and their parents have moved to a town so small, the train no longer stops there. Neither girl is thrilled about the move, but Carli at least seems to settle down when she meets local girl, Mel. Mel disappears and two days later, so does Carli. They are not the only disappearances. Over the preceding year several others have also vanished. Fran’s parents leave Fran home in the care of her aunt, while they investigate a possible sighting of Carli. Fran discovers there is something strange about the old station. An old man, Bill, warns her to stay away but she is determined to find her sister. She struggles to understand what is real, what is ‘other’ and how it connects to the disappearance of Carli and the others.

Fran’s last words to her sister were ‘get a life’ and it seems that Carli has done just that. Fran’s very normal life moves into the realm of ghostly apparitions and a mystery train that roars through the station at night time. The Vanishings is like the train that features in the story. It leaves the station and accelerates until the action is so fast it’s almost a blur. It’s a wild ride. Adults are removed from the scene – her parents by their search for Carli, and her aunt by alcohol and indifference – and Fran is on her own, with only her dog, Sherpa, for company. Twin telepathy works differently here, seemingly allowing Fran to travel where she shouldn’t logically be able to, rather than being able to ‘communicate’ directly to her twin as is often the case. There is no clear indication of the age of the twins, but they seem to be on the brink of teenage. Recommended for upper primary readers.

The Vanishings, by Michael Panckridge
Black Dog Books 2008
ISBN: 978174203019