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

The Cursed, by Michael Panckridge

Lewis stood rigid, frozen in fear. Lightning flashed for several seconds. Lewis could see his surroundings reflected in the mirror above his bed. Strangely, though, he could not see himself.

Lewis Watt is an ordinary schoolboy, living at the boarding school where his mother works as school nurse. But when his mother disappears, she leaves Lewis a letter which changes his life forever. Both Lewis and his mother, it seems, are connected with a mysterious African Tribe which has the secret of invisibility. Could it be that Lewis will develop the power to vanish?

Meanwhile the secret order known as the Light Crusaders wants to uncover the secret of invisibility. Dedicated to freeing the world of evil – by whatever means possible – the Crusaders believe that the power of invisibility will allow them to infiltrate crime gangs and stop all sorts of crimes. If Lewis and his friends are sacrificed in the quest for the secret, it is a price the Crusaders are willing to pay.

The Cursed is a high-action thriller for 10 to 14 year old readers with a touch of fantasy, plenty of intrigue and lots of twists and turns. With letters, historical documents, emails and newspaper articles sprinkled throughout, the novel has a feel of old meets new, and even a sense of timelessness.

An absorbing adventure.

The Cursed, by Michael Pankridge
Black Dog Books, 2007

Toby Jones and the Mystery of the Time-Travel Tour, by Michael Panckridge, with Brett Lee

Toby Jones is a young cricketer with a lot on his mind. His team is playing in the finals against the Scorpions, and it’s up to him to spearhead the bowling attack. But that’s not the biggest thing in his life. Toby is a time traveller. He has a special gift which enables him to travel back to old games of cricket and enjoy seeing them live. But sometimes this is isn’t such a good thing. Toby’s friend Jim Oldfield has been left behind watching Bradman play in Leeds in 1930 and Toby is the only one who can find him and bring him back.

In the meantime, Phillip Smales, the manager of the Scorpions, is up to his old tricks. He has stolen the scorecard that enables anyone to become a time traveller and is planning to use it for a new business enterprise. The problem is, he doesn’t care if anyone gets left behind. It is up to Toby and his friends to try to stop him.

Toby Jones and the Mystery of the Time-Travel Tour is the third book in the series, and readers who have read the first two will be at an advantage. The plot is clear enough, however, for those new to the series to be able to follow. As well as plenty of cricket and action, there are cricket facts scattered throughout the book and cricket tips from Australian bowler Brett Lee.

An absorbing read for cricket lovers aged 10-12.

Toby Jones and the Mystery of the Time-Travel Tour, by Michael Panckridge with Brett Lee
Harper Collins, 2005

Raising the Bar, by Michael Panckridge

We were well in front of the others, but did have the inside running. Fisk was getting closer as we turned into the final straight. As I looked up at 90 metres of straight, I felt a sharp sting near my right ankle. The next second I was flying through the air, blue sky and green grass spinning around me.

The team sports are over and the last two sports of the Legends series are here. First there’s athletics, and Mitchell needs to do well here for a chance at the over all Legend of Sport title. Only one person stands in his way – Travis Fisk, the school bully. Fisk will do anything to beat Mitchell, but is it possible he could go too far?

Raising the Bar is the seventh title in The Legends series, set at Sandhurst School, where the annual sporting competition seems to dominate everyone’s attention. These are absorbing books for sports-mad kids, with a good combination of sporting action and adventure.

Another great read.

Raising the Bar, by Michael Panckridge
Black Dog, 2003

Clearing the Pack, by Michael Panckridge

As soon as I started to jog in for the kick, I knew I was struggling. I hobbled and wobbled and had no sense of timing or coordination as I dropped the ball onto my foot.
It was the worst kick of my life. It floated for about 15 metres then hit the ground. I couldn’t believe what I’d done.
The ball bounced. And bounced again. It rolled forward.

Surfing, cricket and tennis are all over. Now it is football season at Sandhurst School, and with it, the Legend of Football competition. Mitchell Grady is leading the overall Legend competition, but school bully Travis Fisk is determined to change that.

The difference this time around is that football is a team sport, so Fisk and Mitchell, and the other contenders, are all on the same team. Is there a way Fisk can stop Mitchell from even competing? And will it make a difference?

Clearing the Pack is the fourth title in The Legends series and whilst self-contained, continues the ongoing struggle between Mitchell and Fisk, as well as the story of friendship between Mitchell, Jack, Bryce and Bubba and the mystery of the school library.

This is a good solid offering for upper primary aged readers.

Clearing the Pack, by Michael Panckridge
Black Dog Books, 2003

Down the Line, by Michael Panckridge

Bryce served a swinging serve that Fisk did well to get back into play. Bryce rushed forward and tapped the ball delicately over the net. Fisk rushed and lunged at it, but only managed to reach it after the ball had bounced a second time. He fell into the net. Bryce stood there, not a metre away from Fisk and did the most amazing thing. He reached out his arm to help Fisk to his feet.

This is the third title in The Legends series, and this time the students at Sandhurst are competing to be the Legend of Tennis. Mitchell Grady, who has already been named Legend of Surf and Legend of Cricket, is keen for a third title, but this time his mates Jack and Bryce are in with a chance too, as is the school bully, Travis Fisk

This series is a boon for sports-mad kids and for parents and teachers looking to engage reluctant readers. Each title focuses on a different sport and is self contained, but the story of friendship and overcoming bullying does stretch over the series.

Down the Line, by Michael Panckridge
Black Dog Books, 2003

Against the Spin, by Michael Panckridge

The ball came fast and swinging. Aimed at off stump and gently moving away. It was a beauty. It would have troubled most good batters. But not Bubba. He took half a step back, then lurched forward and swung with all his might straight through the line. He heaved the ball up and over mid-off.

Mitchell Grady is already the Legend of the Surf, the first in Sandhurst School’s annual sporting competitions. Now it’s cricket season and Mitch wants to be Legend of Cricket as well. But the competition is pretty fierce. His friend Bubba is an outstanding batsman and his other mate, Jack, is a good all-rounder. Then of course there’s Travis Fisk, the school bully. Not happy that he’s been beaten in the surf competition, Fisk will do anything to make sure he wins the cricket title.

Against the Spin is the second title in The Legends series and continues the story of Mitchell’s year at Sandhurst, a school where too much sport is barely enough. For young sports fans there are plenty of cricket scenes as well as the ongoing story of friendship, bullying and competition.

Aimed squarely at 10-12 year old boys, this series is sure to please.

Against the Spin, by Michael Panckridge
Black Dog Books, 2003

Chasing the Break, by Michael Panckridge

I focused on the wave. I felt the force of it coming fast and picked up my speed. As I felt it come through, I jumped to my feet, pushing my right foot back for better balance. For a moment I was up near the curl and I had plenty of speed. I got down to the bottom of the wave and turned left. I cut back and settled on the white water, letting it take me all the way in. It was an excellent ride to get in so early.

When Mitchell Grady starts at his new school, Sandhurst, he figures every school is pretty much the same – this is, after all, his third new school in five years. But Sandhurst is a school with a difference – one that is right up Mitchell’s alley. Every year Sandhurst has a Sporting Legend competition to find the student who is best across eight sports. And Mitchell wants to be that student.

The first competition is in surfing, and Mitchell knows he has a good chance, but is he good enough? The school bully, Travis Fisk, doesn’t think Mitchell is good enough – but he doesn’t want to take a chance, and will do anything to get Mitchell out of the competition.

Chasing the Break is the first title in The Legends series, which traces Mitchell’s progress through the eight sports which make up the Sandhurst School’s Sporting Legend contest. With plenty of realistic surfing scenes and a plot which ties them together, this will appeal especially to sports-mad boys, including those who may be reluctant readers.

Chasing the Break, by Michael Panckridge
Black Dog Books, 2003