Silver Shoes 4: Dance Till You Drop by Samantha-Ellen Bound

‘You can’t what?’ Ellie crossed her arms and narrowed her big green eyes at me.

Uh-oh. I knew I was in trouble.

I looked at Ellie’s fluoro-pink jazz boots. Then at Ashley’s bag with the ripped handle. Then at a picture of a young Miss Caroline dancing on a cruise ship above the bluest water I’d ever seen.

But I couldn’t look at Ellie.

‘I can’t come to your birthday party,’ I whispered. ‘I’m sorry.’

‘Why not?’ said Ellie.

I picked at my leotard. Then I gave a little cough. Wow. Sometimes Ellie can be scary when she’s excited or passionate about something and can’t stop talking. But when she’s silent? That’s terrifying.

‘You can’t what?’ Ellie crossed her arms and narrowed her big green eyes at me. Silver Shoes 4: Dance Till you Drop, Samantha-Ellen Bound

Uh-oh. I knew I was in trouble.

I looked at Ellie’s fluoro-pink jazz boots. Then at Ashley’s bag with the ripped handle. Then at a picture of a young Miss Caroline dancing on a cruise ship above the bluest water I’d ever seen.

But I couldn’t look at Ellie.

‘I can’t come to your birthday party,’ I whispered. ‘I’m sorry.’

‘Why not?’ said Ellie.

I picked at my leotard. Then I gave a little cough. Wow. Sometimes Ellie can be scary when she’s excited or passionate about something and can’t stop talking. But when she’s silent? That’s terrifying.

Paige has been dancing forever. She takes almost every dance class on offer at Silver Shoes dance school, as well as others. But she’s exhausted and starting to lose her passion. An extra dance commitment means she’s going to miss her best friend’s birthday and now her best friend Ellie is not talking to her. Paige is sure all of her friends are better dancers than she is and now she’s starting to wonder if Benji, her ballroom dancing partner is sick of dancing with her too. Paige’s mother was once a dancer and is keen for Paige to take as many opportunities as she can. Her mother also manages the costumes, but Paige is so tired, she’s struggling to be enthusiastic about the costume her mother is making for the ballroom competition. Black and white illustrations are scattered throughout. Added extras include a bio for Paige, a glossary and some dance step instructions.

Dance Till You Drop is a fourth title in the Silver Shoes series from Random House. Each features one of four friends who dance together at Silver Shoes dance school. Paige is feeling the pressure to dance in every class, so much so that’s she’s not sure what she wants to do. All she knows is that she’s not doing anything as well as she’d like to. Her friends have their own challenges, and it’s up to Paige to take control and tell her former-dancer mother how she feels. Her fatigue is feeding her anxiety, but she eventually does make her own decisions. Recommended for mid-primary lovers of all styles of dance.

Silver Shoes 4: Dance Till You Drop by Samantha-Ellen Bound
Random House Australia 2015 ISBN: 9780857983725

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com

Samurai vs Ninja 2: The Race for the Shogun’s Treasure by Nick Falk and Tony Flowers

On Honshu, the largest island in Japan, is a city called Tokyo. Three hundred years ago, Tokyo was called Edo. The streets were dark and dusty. The houses were made of paper.

It was a city of mystery and magic.

It was midnight. Somewhere in the darkness a pig snuffled. Nearby an old man picked his nose. But nobody noticed. There were not lightbulbs in Edo Period Japan.

A thief, dressed in black, raced through the city streets.

On Honshu, the largest island in Japan, is a city called Tokyo. Three hundred years ago, Tokyo was called Edo. The streets were dark and dusty. The houses were made of paper.

It was a city of mystery and magic.

It was midnight. Somewhere in the darkness a pig snuffled. Nearby an old man picked his nose. But nobody noticed. There were not lightbulbs in Edo Period Japan.

A thief, dressed in black, raced through the city streets.

The Great Bear has been stolen from Edo Castle and the shogun has promised a wonderful reward for the return of his most prized possession. Whoever brings back the Bear will become ruler of the Hidden Valley. Kingyo-Sama, head of the samurai, and Buta-Sama, head of the ninja have woken to a normal day which includes flying ninja poo and other treats. But before their battle can escalate, both are called to Edo Castle to participate in the quest to find the Great Bear. How hard can it be? The brothers are both sure of victory and equally sure that victory will allow them to finally outwit and oust the other. There are black and white illustrations on every opening and text sometimes wanders around, up and down the page.

The Race for the Shogun’s Treasure is the second adventure in this silly and ridiculous new series from Random House. Kingyo-Sama and Buta-Sama are very different characters. And they are brothers. Their rivalry is as fierce as it is relentless. And it’s hilarious. The insults are inventive, the action fast-paced and outrageous. Newly independent readers will revel in the silliness.

Samurai vs Ninja 2: The Race for the Shogun’s Treasure , Nick Falk & Tony Flowers
Random House Australia 2015
ISBN: 9780857986368

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com

Samurai vs Ninja 1: The Battle for the Golden Egg by Nick Falk & Tony Flowers

In the deepest depths of Japan, high in the hills of Hokkaido, were two mighty mountains. The Mountain of the Tiger’s Claw was steep and stony, covered in rocky ridges and crumbling cliffs.

The Mountain of the Dragon’s Tooth was tall and twisty, filled with tangled trees and craggy caves.

In the Edo Period, when the shogun ruled Japan, these were the mountains of Bushido, home of the ninja and the samurai.

In the deepest depths of Japan, high in the hills of Hokkaido, were two mighty mountains. The Mountain of the Tiger’s Claw was steep and stony, covered in rocky ridges and crumbling cliffs.

The Mountain of the Dragon’s Tooth was tall and twisty, filled with tangled trees and craggy caves.

In the Edo Period, when the shogun ruled Japan, these were the mountains of Bushido, home of the ninja and the samurai.

The serious samurai and the scheming ninja both claim to be the best. They cannot agree so a contest is held, a contest to win the ultimate prize: the Golden Egg. There are rules to be followed, but both sides are determined to win, and rules are not going to get in their way. What follows is a wild battle full of hot custard and exploding puffer fish. And insults and outrage. Black and white illustrations appear on every opening. Added extras include a glossary, samurai battle dress and more.

Never was there such a battle between brothers! ‘Samurai vs Ninja’ offers a feast of ridiculousness, at full volume, as they battle for the Golden Egg. The brothers may be opposites but they both are sure they are superior. The neat and tidy samurai cannot believe the scruffy, silly ninja are a real threat, but the latter make up for their scruffiness with excessive cunning. Newly independent readers will revel in this silliness.

Samurai vs Ninja: The Battle for the Golden Egg by Nick Falk & Tony Flowers Random House 2015 ISBN: 9780857986054

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com

Silver Shoes 3: Breaking Pointe by Samantha-Ellen Bound

There were thirty seconds to spare when I ran into jazz class on Wednesday. I passed my best friends, Eleanor, Ashley and Paige, coming out of the dressing room just as I dashed in.

‘What a surprise,’ said Jasmine, Silver Shoes’ resident ballerdiva.

‘Get a life,’ I called out, as I tore off my school sweatshirt.’

‘Or find the one you lost,’ I heard Ellie add.

I didn’t catch Jasmine’s reply. But I’m sure it wasn’t any good.

Today was hot and I was already sweating a bit, so my jazz gear was extra hard to get on. After some harsh words with my leggings, I was finally ready. I pushed my school clothes under the bench, took a deep breath and walked out.

There were thirty seconds to spare when I ran into jazz class on Wednesday. I passed my best friends, Eleanor, Ashley and Paige, coming out of the dressing room just as I dashed in.

‘What a surprise,’ said Jasmine, Silver Shoes’ resident ballerdiva.

‘Get a life,’ I called out, as I tore off my school sweatshirt.’

‘Or find the one you lost,’ I heard Ellie add.

I didn’t catch Jasmine’s reply. But I’m sure it wasn’t any good.

Today was hot and I was already sweating a bit, so my jazz gear was extra hard to get on. After some harsh words with my leggings, I was finally ready. I pushed my school clothes under the bench, took a deep breath and walked out.

Riley loves ballet, and she’s good at it. She loves the Silver Shoes dance school. She also loves athletics and basketball. She’s good at them too. But as each of them demands more of her time, she finds herself running to be able to manage them all. And it’s more than a little exhausting. But Riley is determined not to give up anything. No matter the cost. But it’s harder than she can imagine, and no one seems to quite understand the effort she’s putting in. They all want her to focus more, to work harder. Or to make a choice. Riley is determined to prove them wrong, to show that she can do it all. On her own. Added extras include a Riley biography, a dance tutorial, a glossary and a chapter from another ‘Silver Shoes’ title.

‘Silver Shoes 3: Breaking Pointe’ is the third ‘Silver Shoes’ title in this dance series from Random House. Each features a different main character who attends Silver Shoes dance school and tells their own story. Riley is talented and determined but stretched too thin. Even so, she refuses to seek help until it’s almost too late. Breaking Pointe offers young dancers a chance to read about the sport they love, while gently pointing out that it’s okay to ask for help. It also suggests that sometimes it’s not possible to be the best at everything and that is okay. Recommended for mid-primary, particularly lovers of dance.

Silver Shoes 3: Breaking Pointe, Samantha-Ellen Bound Random House Australia 2015 ISBN: 9780857983749

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com

Tank Boys by Stephen Dando-Collins

‘Where the heck are we?’ Frankie’s voice was muffled by the walls of earth on either side of them.

‘Flanders,’ answered Private Nash, the young soldier trudging along the narrow communication trench in front of Frankie, as the Australian troops moved in single fileup to the front line in darkness.

‘I know we’re in Flanders! Where in Flanders?’

‘Near Messines.’

‘Yeah, but where near Messines?’

‘How should I know? Do I look like an officer or something? Only officers know where they are in this war. Anyway, what’s it matter, Pickles?’

Frankie shrugged. ‘I was just curious, that’s all. I’d like to know where I’m about to die.’

‘Where the heck are we?’ Frankie’s voice was muffled by the walls of earth on either side of them.

‘Flanders,’ answered Private Nash, the young soldier trudging along the narrow communication trench in front of Frankie, as the Australian troops moved in single fileup to the front line in darkness.

‘I know we’re in Flanders! Where in Flanders?’

‘Near Messines.’

‘Yeah, but where near Messines?’

‘How should I know? Do I look like an officer or something? Only officers know where they are in this war. Anyway, what’s it matter, Pickles?’

Frankie shrugged. ‘I was just curious, that’s all. I’d like to know where I’m about to die.’

Frankie and Taz are both sixteen-years-old Australians who lie about their age to be accepted into the Australian Army. Their reasons for enlisting are different but the two are united by their youth. Richard is also sixteen-years-old and in the army, but he’s on the opposite side. War is nothing like the adventure the Australian boys imagined when they signed up and nothing has prepared Richard either. The three boys are destined to meet on the battlefields in France, around Villers-Bretoneux, amid the horror and destruction of war. Tank Boys is the story of one of the most well-known battles of WWII from the perspective of three youth and explores the personalities and the politics of both sides of the battle. Although fiction, Tank Boys is based on real tanks, and real battles.

Tank Boys explores the realities of war. It is not gratuitously graphic but neither does it shy away from the deaths and injuries suffered by soldiers of both sides. It offers a range of different personalities and explores the myriad reasons men fight wars. On one level ‘Tank Boys’ is a ‘Boys Own’-type adventure full of action and adventure, but it also provides many opportunities for discussion about war. There are enough details for readers to be able to ‘walk the trenches’ with the characters, and to learn about the different hardware each side used. As the centenary of the beginning of WWI draws closer, it’s not surprising that there are stories about war being published for young people. From our vantage point, stories that have long been locked up are finding their way into the public consciousness and providing perspectives that were not always evident in earlier times (for many reasons). These stories help us to understand our past and shape our future. Recommended for upper-primary readers.

Tank Boys, Stephen Dando-Collins Random House Australia 2014 ISBN:9780857981301

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com

Saurus Street 5: A Plesiosaur Broke My Bathtub by Nick Falk ill Tony Flowers

There are three reasons I’m scared of Granny and Grandad’s outdoor loo.

The door might close and leave me locked inside forever.
Every creepy-crawly in the whole wide world lives in there.
(and the big reason) The toilet has no bottom.

There are three reasons I’m scared of Granny and Grandad’s outdoor loo.

  1. The door might close and leave me locked inside forever.
  2. Every creepy-crawly in the whole wide world lives in there.
  3. (and the big reason) The toilet has no bottom.

It’s not like a normal toilet, with water and a U-tube. Granny and Grandad’s toilet is just a hole over a big black pit. Anything could be hiding down there. Like a witch or a werewolf. Or a hideous green water monster with gigantic teeth.

I don’t consider myself a scaredy-cat. I’m nine years old and I wear size 7 shoes. And that’s big for my age. But only a fool wouldn’t be scared of that toilet.

Thomas loves everything about his once-a-month weekends at his grandparents’ house. Everything, that is, except their scary outside loo. Anything could live in that bottomless pit. But even Thomas hadn’t fully realised just what was down there. But he has a chance to find out, when he falls in. He encounters a plesiosaur, a man wearing a skirt, some avaricious neighbours and a fellow-adventurer, Ellie. When everything begins to spin, Thomas and Ellie need all their smarts to keep Saurus Street safe. There are black and white illustrations on every opening. Potentially challenging words are in a range of different fonts and styled to help support their meaning.

‘Saurus Street 5: A Plesiosaur Broke My Bathtub’ is a whirlwind of an adventure, built around that familiar scary place – the outside loo. Spiders and bugs and webs are one thing, but it’s the unknown at the bottom of that hole that generates the most fear. Nick Falk takes the reader to the bottom and beyond, in an explosive tidal wave of an adventure, all the way to the sea. Along the way, people behave badly, and it’s up to the intrepid young main characters to save the day. And they do, using all the ingenuity and imagination that they are capable of. Saurus Street survives to adventure on. Ideal for independent readers in transition to full-length novels. A rip-roaring read.

 

Saurus Street 5: A Plesiosaur Broke My Bathtub, Nick Falk ill Tony Flowers Random House Australia 2013 ISBN: 9780857981820

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com

Available from good bookstores or online.

Saurus Street 6: A Diplodocus Trampled My Teepee by Nick Falk ill Tony Flowers

‘Wake up, Toby. It’s time to inspect our treasure.’

I open my eyes and sit up. Jack’s already awake. His dad and his scary sister, Saffi, are asleep in their sleeping bags. The coast is clear.

Jack unzips his stegosaurus schoolbag. That’s where we put all the treasures we found on the beach today.

He empties it onto the floor of the tepee. That’s what we’re camping in. A great big family-sized tepee. Jack’s dad made it out of branches, ropes and plastic sheets.

This is the first time I’ve ever been camping.

‘Wake up, Toby. It’s time to inspect our treasure.’

I open my eyes and sit up. Jack’s already awake. His dad and his scary sister, Saffi, are asleep in their sleeping bags. The coast is clear.

Jack unzips his stegosaurus schoolbag. That’s where we put all the treasures we found on the beach today.

He empties it onto the floor of the tepee. That’s what we’re camping in. A great big family-sized tepee. Jack’s dad made it out of branches, ropes and plastic sheets.

This is the first time I’ve ever been camping.

Jack and his friend Toby had no idea just what treasures they had collected on the beach during their beach camping trip. But by the time they do realise the importance of one of their finds, they are on the path to the biggest dinosaur adventure of all. Suddenly their little corner Saurus seems to be host to all manner of supposedly extinct creatures, from the smallest ammonite to the most dangerous dinosaur to the VERY big diplodocus. It seems the boys and Saffi have activated the curse of the legendary dinosaur pirate, Captain Saurus. Now the race is on, to solve the clues left behind by Captain Saurus and lift the curse before it is too late. Black and white illustrations appear on most openings and potentially challenging words are presented in different, larger fonts.

The Saurus Street series offers wild adventures in not-quite-your-average suburb. There are always dinosaurs. Small ones, big ones, and just about every size in between. And Saurus Street and surrounds is just not designed for these visitors. Adults are present in each adventure but manage to stay well in the background, allowing the main characters the freedom to solve their (considerable) challenges. In ‘Saurus Street 6’ Jack’s scary older sister, Saffi, assists in between bouts of ‘teenage-ness’ but it is Jack and Toby who are the heroes. A Diplodocus Trampled My Teepee offers a rip-tearing, heart-thumping read for young independent readers.

 

Saurus Street 6:A Diplodocus Trampled My Teepee , Nick Falk ill Tony Flowers Random House Australia 2013 ISBN: 9780857981844

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com

Availabil from good bookstores or online .

The Kensington Reptilarium by N J Gemmell

‘How long do you reckon it’d take to fry an egg on Matilda’s bonnet?’

Scruff is looking longingly at our car, which is already boiling hot in the 44-degree heat – and it’s only nine a.m.

‘Fifty-two seconds!’ Bert rises to the challenge. ‘Do it, Scruffy boy, come on. Anything would be better than Kick’s cooking.’ She shoots a glance at me, knowing I’ll take the bait. Which I most certainly do.

‘Just you try being a mum plus a dad around here, young lady.’ I poke out my tongue. Everyone knows that any experiment at being a grown-up ended months ago. ‘Twenty-nine seconds,’ I exclaim, ‘and not a fly’s fart more!’

My attempts at breakfast – a frypan with a rug of eggs tastefully congealed on its bottom – is grabbed and said eggs are flung wid into the yard. They spin like a dinner plate. Land – plop! – in the red dust.

Cooking. Pah. I give up. I’ve had enough of it.

‘How long do you reckon it’d take to fry an egg on Matilda’s bonnet?’

Scruff is looking longingly at our car, which is already boiling hot in the 44-degree heat – and it’s only nine a.m.

‘Fifty-two seconds!’ Bert rises to the challenge. ‘Do it, Scruffy boy, come on. Anything would be better than Kick’s cooking.’ She shoots a glance at me, knowing I’ll take the bait. Which I most certainly do.

‘Just you try being a mum plus a dad around here, young lady.’ I poke out my tongue. Everyone knows that any experiment at being a grown-up ended months ago. ‘Twenty-nine seconds,’ I exclaim, ‘and not a fly’s fart more!’

My attempts at breakfast – a frypan with a rug of eggs tastefully congealed on its bottom – is grabbed and said eggs are flung wid into the yard. They spin like a dinner plate. Land – plop! – in the red dust.

Cooking. Pah. I give up. I’ve had enough of it.

Kick (13) and her three siblings, Scruff (11), Bert (9) and Pin (4), live in the middle of Australia. Their mother died some years ago, and their father is on an expedition somewhere and the children look after themselves. WWII is over and the world is gearing up for the first post-war Christmas. When it appears that their father may be lost forever, a solicitor arrives to take this wild foursome to London to stay with their father’s brother, Uncle Basti. They have not met their new guardian before, and he seems to much prefer the company of his extensive collection of reptiles. And as if that is not enough, it seems that the local neighbourhood is less than happy about the goings-on at the Kensington Reptilarium and would be happy to see them all gone.

It’s hard to imagine two worlds more different than outback Australia and inner-city, post-war London. But despite their dislocation, the four Australian children in ‘The Kensington Reptilarium’ stick together and determine to find a way to adjust to their new circumstances. They have to face the possibility they may never see their father again, and in that case, it’s important to convince their reluctant uncle that family stick together, no matter what. The Kensington Reptilarium is full of hilarity and innocence, role-reversals and secrets. It speeds towards Christmas with the joy and trepidation of riding a wave all the way to shore. The characters are rapscallions one and all, and this is a wonderful wild ride. Recommended for mid- to upper-primary readers.

The Kensington Reptilarium

The Kensington Reptilarium, N J Gemmell, Random House Australia 2013 ISBN: 9780857980502

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com

Available from good bookstores or online.

Caesar The War Dog: Operation Blue Dragon by Stephen Dando-Collins

In the golden glow of dawn, an Australian Army Black Hawk helicopter swept in low over Sydney Harbour. Below, ferries, water taxis, speedboats and yachts were already out on the water, leaving foaming white trails behind them. Inside the helicopter’s passenger compartment, Sergeant Ben Fulton of the Special Operations Engineer Regiment (SOER) sat in full combat rig of bulletproof vest, camouflage jacket and trousers. A holstered Browning Hi Power 9 mm automatic pistol was strapped low on his right thigh, and a rappelling harness covered his torso. Leather combat gloves moulded to his hands so precisely they were like a second skin. On the belt around his waist were a full water canteen, a sheathed combat knife, spare Browning magazines and two pouches – the larger one empty, the smaller one containing dog biscuits.

In the golden glow of dawn, an Australian Army Black Hawk helicopter swept in low over Sydney Harbour. Below, ferries, water taxis, speedboats and yachts were already out on the water, leaving foaming white trails behind them. Inside the helicopter’s passenger compartment, Sergeant Ben Fulton of the Special Operations Engineer Regiment (SOER) sat in full combat rig of bulletproof vest, camouflage jacket and trousers. A holstered Browning Hi Power 9 mm automatic pistol was strapped low on his right thigh, and a rappelling harness covered his torso. Leather combat gloves moulded to his hands so precisely they were like a second skin. On the belt around his waist were a full water canteen, a sheathed combat knife, spare Browning magazines and two pouches – the larger one empty, the smaller one containing dog biscuits.

Ben Fulton and his EDD (explosives detection dog) Caesar are back in a new adventure. Operation Blue Dragon opens with a sweep of the Sydney Opera House in preparation for the arrival of the United Nations (UN) Secretary General. Ben and Caesar discover a bomb and afterwards enjoy an event at Government House. There they meet the UN Secretary General who two weeks later is taken hostage by the Taliban. Ben and Caesar are part of a team assembled to rescue the UN Secretary General and his staff. Time is of the essence as is secrecy. Back in Sydney Ben’s son Josh is experiencing challenges of his own at school, where a bully seems to have fixed on him. Josh doesn’t want to worry his father at his work, but he’s at a loss to know just what to do.

Operation Blue Dragon: 2 combines the action and high drama of elite forces in Afghanistan with the real life dramas faced by families of soldiers. There are multiple storylines for readers to follow. There’s Josh’s bully dramas; Sergeant Ben Fulton’s work; friend Charlie’s recuperation from double amputation and return to the job he loves and the family’s adjustment to the loss of Josh’s mother to cancer. There are detailed explanations of equipment, manoeuvres and acronyms. Dog-lovers will appreciate the intelligence and judgement displayed by Caesar. Along the way, readers discover both the people and the landscape of Afghanistan and about the ongoing challenges of that war. There are also explanations of the role of the UN and the structure of some of the organisations that link with the UN. Violence is acknowledged but the details are not dwelt on. This is an ideal story for action-loving boys who want to know all about the army and special forces.

 

Caesar the War Dog: Operation Blue Dragon, Stephen Dando-Collins

Random House Australia 2013 ISBN: 9780857980533

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com

Available from good bookshops or online.

The Jade Widow by Deborah O’Brien

All afternoon the fierce February heat had kept the two young women indoors, sipping lemonade and wafting silk fans in a vain attempt to cool themselves. Even the children had abandoned their outdoor pursuits and disappeared into the depths of the cellar where they were busy building a fort from fruit boxes.

‘I fear I will succumb to the vapours if this heat continues,’ sighed Eliza Miller, waving her fan theatrically.

‘I didn’t know ou could catch the vapours from the heat,’ said Amy Chen, her voice full of anxiety.

Eliza began to laugh. ‘Of course you can’t. I was speaking in jest. There is no such thing as the vapours.’

All afternoon the fierce February heat had kept the two young women indoors, sipping lemonade and wafting silk fans in a vain attempt to cool themselves. Even the children had abandoned their outdoor pursuits and disappeared into the depths of the cellar where they were busy building a fort from fruit boxes.

‘I fear I will succumb to the vapours if this heat continues,’ sighed Eliza Miller, waving her fan theatrically.

‘I didn’t know ou could catch the vapours from the heat,’ said Amy Chen, her voice full of anxiety.

Eliza began to laugh. ‘Of course you can’t. I was speaking in jest. There is no such thing as the vapours.’

‘The Jade Widow’ is the sequel to ‘Mr Chen’s Emporium’ and picks up the story of Amy and Eliza in a hot summer in Millbrooke. Amy is widowed and has a young son, Charles. Eliza has been studying at the Sorbonne in Paris because no Australian university will accept females into their medical faculties. Eliza would be finished now except that she has delayed and then interrupted her studies to support her family. Both are single: Amy because she continues to grieve her husband; and Eliza because she is sure it’s not possible to completely dedicate herself to a family AND a career. But it is the late 1880s and there are signs that things are changing for women in general and these two women in particular. Amy wants to build a fine hotel, and Eliza wants to be part of the women’s movement. But of course life is seldom straightforward and there are many hurdles if these determined pair are to achieve their goals. Sections are headed with quotes from the work of Lewis Carroll.

‘Mr Chen’s Emporium’ introduced the reader to Amy and to Eliza and their family, as well as to a contemporary character, Angie. The women were linked via the town they lived in – Millbrooke – and their stories alternated. In ‘The Jade Widow’ the action stays firmly in the 1880s and alternates viewpoint between the two main characters, Amy and Eliza. Amy, while holding fast to the past, has plans for the future. These competing emotions are embodied in her struggle to keep her child close, but do the best for him, while establishing her credentials as an influential businesswoman. For Eliza, the frustrations are with a world that won’t let her do what she knows she is meant to do. Themes in ‘The Jade Widow’ include racism and women’s rights. Millbrooke, a small country town west of Sydney, struggles to adapt to life after a gold rush, changing rights for women, and to seeing their sons go off to war. Rich material, lightly handled. Recommended for readers who prefer their history woven into an engaging narrative.

The Jade Widow, Deborah O’Brien Random House 2013 ISBN: 978174275571

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

www.clairesaxby.com