Darius Bell and the Crystal Bees, by Odo Hirsch

When the bees start to disappear from the Belle state, Darius worries that his favourite honey will run out. It takes him a while to realise that much more than the honey supply is at stake.

Darius frowned. ‘Is it really so bad, Mr Fisher? Will there really be nothing?’
‘No bees – no fruit, no vegetables,’ murmured the gardener, as he had said before. ‘Nothing.’
Mr Beale had been right, thought Darius. For a moment he tried to imagine what the world would be like if there were no bees anywhere….Humans depended on bees to an extent he hadn’t understood.

When the bees start to disappear from the Belle state, Darius worries that his favourite honey will run out. It takes him a while to realise that much more than the honey supply is at stake. Without bees there will be no fruit or vegetables, and his friends the Fishers, who run the estate’s gardens, will have to leave the estate. Darius is determined this won’t happen.

Darius tries to investigate why the bees have gone and how he can save the food crops – but he’ll have to outsmart his old adversary, the Mayor, who loves it when things go wrong for the Bells. He’ll also need to keep the school principal, Mrs Lightman, off his case.

Darius Bell and the Crystal Bees is the wonderful sequel to the award-winning. Darius manages to once again save the day,with the help of his friends and in spite of his family’s seeming dysfunction. His father, a writer who is never published, has some lessons for Darius this time, and while there are similarities with the first title, there is also enough difference to avoid being reptitive or overly predictable.

Darius’ world if full of whimsy and a bit larger than life, but this is what makes it so very appealing.

Darius Bell and the Crystal Bees

Darius Bell and the Crystal Bees, by Odo Hirsch
Allen & Unwin, 2011
ISBN 9781742376837

This book can be purchased in good bookstores or online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Three Favourites, by Odo Hirsch

Time was passing but Antonio continued to peer through the crack. He couldn’t drag himself away. there was something fascinating and inviting, something spectacular about those gold words and their bold red background, as if an amazing story stood behind them. Antonio stared and stared. the words made him think of light and noise, music, laughter and applause. And yet here, in the secret passage where he stood, everything was so dark and quiet.

Antonio lives in a grand old house now broken into apartments with lots of interesting rooms and passages – and just as many interesting residents. But when he accidentally spies on one resident, Mr Guzman, Antonio finds himself wanting to know more. Just who is Theodore Guzman and why does he keep to himself so much?

Antonio S and the Mystery of Theodore Guzman is one of three Odo Hirsch favourites bundled together into one volume. With Hazel Green and Amelia Dee and the Peacock Lamp, Odo Hirsch: Three Favouritesis an excellent offering for children who enjoy Hirsch’s blend of whimsy, adventure and enchantment.

There is nothing quite like an Odo Hirsch story – and to have three in one volume is sheer bliss.

Odo Hirsch: Three Favourites

Odo Hirsch: Three Favourites
Allen and Unwin, 2010
ISBN 9781742374727

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

Darius Bell and the Glitter Pool, by Odo Hirsch

The water lit up. It danced, it glinted, it gleamed. There were flashes of light everywhere, as if the expanse in front of him wasn’t water, but a carpet of jewels. Darius looked questioningly at the torch in his hand. It was just a torch. He looked back at the glittering surface of the water. Then, for the first time, he glanced up.

The Bell family is in trouble. Every generation the family must bestow a gift on the residents of the city, in gratitude for the land on which they live. But there is no money for a gift, and if there is no gift, then the family will be forced to move. When Darius discovers a wonderful pool in a cavern beneath the estate, he thinks he has found the answer to all their problems. But using the pool for the gift proves to be more difficult than Darius imagined.

Darius Bell and the Glitter Pool is a beautiful story of friendship, family and justice, and a lovely demonstration of the way that determination and goodness of heart can help find a way through difficulty. Darius faces repeated obstacles but is determined to overcome them, which he does with a mixture of wisdom and the help of those around him.

Author Odo Hirsch is a master at creating whimsical tales which leave the reader (whatever age) thinking. Darius Bell and the Glitter Pool is a delight.

Darius Bell and the Glitter Pool

Darius Bell and the Glitter Pool, by Odo Hirsch
Allen & Unwin, 2009

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

Amelia Dee and the Peacock Lamp, by Odo Hirsch

Amelia had been fascinated by the lamp at the top of the stairs from the moment she had been old enough to be fascinated by anything. From the bottom of the stairwell, four storeys below, the lamp didn’t look so big, and it was only when you were at the top that you realised how large it really was. ..The metalwork flowed with intricate patterns and there were hundreds of tiny spaces out of which the light filtered in a wonderful, stippled, hazy glow.

Amelia lives in an unusual house, standing four stories high and filled with her mother’s artworks and her father’s inventions. For Amelia, though, the most special part of the house is the beautiful lamp that hangs outside her bedroom. Amelia thinks that she is the only one who knows the secret of the lamp, but then she meets the Princess Parvin Kha-Douri and realises there are some things she doesn’t know about the lamp – and about people in general.

Amelia Dee and the Peacock Lamp is a whimsical tale with an enchanting cast and intriguing setting. While the characters, setting and events are all fantastical, the message is very real. Author Odo Hirsch has a knack of creating a world which is at once beyond belief yet resonant and absorbing. You want the people to be real, and you want to see the places they can see.

Likely to appeal to readers aged 9 and up.

Amelia Dee and the Peacock Lamp

Amelia Dee and the Peacocks Lamp, by Odo Hirsch
Allen & Unwin, 2007

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

The Book of Changing Things, by Odo Hirsch

Nathan is always in trouble for being a dreamy boy, so when he wishes he could judge the annual Performance Day, his friends laugh. Soon, though, he is off on a magical adventure with the mysterious Count Marvy and an unreliable squirrel called Pogue, who take him on a journey through their world. Nathan meets all sorts of characters and sees sights he never believed possible – including a singing pig, a very small monster with very large teeth, and a tower where words are endlessly weighed In this mystical world Nathan discovers that maybe, in spite of his dreaminess – or even, perhaps, because of it – he can be a judge.

This is, as the blurb claims, a most unlikely story, full of marvelosities. In the tradition of Lewis Carroll, Nathan is transported to a world where characters change at will, disappearing and reappearing randomly. Doors which seem to do nothing stand in the middle of roads, and animal characters both familiar and unrecognisable abound.

Suitable for private reading for children aged about 9 and up, this would also suit as a read aloud for sharing between parent and child, or teacher and class. The hard cover format and whimsical illustrations are added bonuses.

The Book of Changing Things and Other Odibosities, by Odo Hirsch
Allen & Unwin, 2005

This review was first published in Reading Time, the Journal of the CBCA.

Slaughterboy, by Odo Hirsch

Conrad ran. He didn’t understand exactly what he had done, except that he had run away, and therefore felt he had done something wrong. But the man in the black coat, who seemed to have taken possession of him over the last day, kept saying he would take him somewhere to die. And Conrad didn’t want to die, even though the man in the black coat said he must.

Conrad doesn’t remember his parents or even when he came to this town. The woman who looked after him is dead, and now he is alone, living on the streets. Befriended by other urchins, who live in a tomb beneath a rich man’s house, he learns to scavenge and to fend for himself.

In time, he is taken in by a slaughterman, who begins to teach him his trade, but when hard times hit the town, Conrad finds himself once more alone and fighting for survival. Through a series of fortunes and misfortunes he manages to survive and grow into a young man, who must trust no one but himself if he is to satisfy his almost insatiable hunger.

Slaughterboy is a dark book. Conrad lives in a world of beggars and thieves, and as a young boy trying to survive, is befriended by dishonest people who will use him to meet their own needs. Conrad, in turn, is a survivor, who loves no one and nothing. His driving force is to satisfy his hunger. Having nearly starved to death more than once, he is determined never to know such privation again. His desperate appetite leads to him being labelled as a Hungerboy – a child who will eat his way through everything in a household, bringing destruction.

Whilst it may be a dark tale, however, it is deeply compelling. Hirsch is a master story teller, able to create empathy for a character who, on close examination, has few redeeming qualities. The setting of the unnamed medieval town is painted to well that the reader can see and even smell the fetid streets and the desperate characters who roam them.

Suitable for teen and adult readers, Slaughterboy is a challenging, gripping read.

Slaughterboy, by Odo Hirsch
Allen & Unwin, 2005

Think Smart, Hazel Green, by Odo Hirsch

Hazel Green is back, ready for another adventure and another problem to solve. This time, Hazels’ favourite baker, Mr Volio, is told that he has to leave his shop. Someone had brought the premises and the new landlord is not renewing his lease. If Mr Volio goes, so too do Chocolate Dippers, Strawberry Combers and Caramel Crunchers. Worst of all though, there would be no Mr Volio.

Hazel Green and her friends must figure out why Mr Volio is being asked to leave and then what can be done to keep him in his bakery. To do that, Hazel must think smart.

This is the fourth story about Hazel Green and her friends by award winning author, Odo Hirsch. Hirsch uses a delightful mix of humour, narrative and feeling to create stories that kids love. Another winner.

Think Smart, Hazel Green, by Odo Hirsch
Allen & Unwin, 2003

Bartlett and the Island of Kings, by Odo Hirsch

Bartlett and his companions, Jaques le Grand and Gozo, set out to explore a chain of volcanic islands and to find the last in the chain.

When they arrive at the last island they are treated as gods by the island’s inhabitants, yet kept prisoner by the Machan, a shaman-like figure who seems to rule the island’s kings.

Bartlett and his friends have five days to solve the riddle of the Island of Kings, to find their canoe and leave the island.

Bartlett and the Island of Kings is a great adventure story with a good blend of mystery and humour. It will especially appeal to boy readers aged 10-13.

Bartlett and the Island of Kings, by Odo Hirsch
Allen & Unwin, 2003

Pincus Corbett's Strange Adventure, by Odo Hirsch

Pincus Corbett works hard in his tailor shop, attending to every detail, working late when customers have special orders. His is a hard-working, very regular life. But one night, as he works late, a mysterious customer puts in a very strange order. He wants a multicoloured suit with matching cape, made to order from an old sketch. Pincus obliges, but doesn’t know why anyone would want to wear such a suit.

When the man doesn’t come to claim the special suit, Pincus decides to try it on for himself. When his wife finds him gone the next morning she is mystified – where has he gone and why?

The media aren’t much interested in Pincus’ disappearance. They are far more interested in a strange hypnotist who appears at Sir Malcom Hersey’s party, and in the Prime Minister’s sudden unplanned holiday.

Meanwhile, Pincus finds himself caught up into a secret mission the likes of which he could never have anticipated.Is he really a hypnotist? And will he evr get back to his wife?

Pincus Corbett’s Strange Adventure is a fun book from acclaimed story teller Odo Hirsch. In his regular brilliant fashion, Hirsch weaves a fantasy full of humour and adventure, yet manages to touch on themes of loyalty and guilt.


Pincus Corbett’s Strange Adventure
, by Odo Hirsch
Allen & Unwin, 2002