Olive and the Grey Water Affair, by Tim Levy

Now then children, I’ve called this special assembly to tell you about an important change at this school…Mt Kimberly Primary is to go into a Water Emergency, Level 8. We are to conserve water at all costs. From next Monday, we will be turning off all bubblers, hoses, fountains, the boys’ urinals and all other non-critical systems. Questions?

Olive has one, but she’s too scared to ask. The school Principal, Mrs Tote, doesn’t like to be challenged, so her pronouncement that no water is to be used at school seems final. But when Olive sees that the trees and plants are dying, and the birds have all flown away, she decides something must be done. With an unlikely ally – the Principal’s pet – she comes up with a novel scheme to bring grey water to school to keep the gardens alive.

Olive and the Grey Water Affair is a fun story with an important message about water conservation for primary school aged children. The book is, however, much more than simply a story. As well as Olive’s tale, there are games and activities to keep readers busy on their travels – whether by road, rail or air – and tips for making travelling more comfortable, including hints for avoiding travel sickness.

The humour of the story and the silliness of some of the suggestions – there is even a page to sleep on – are well complemented by the humorous illustrations by Luke Jurevicius. Kids will love the fun of this offering – parents will love it for keeping kids entertained, whilst also offering a subtle learning experience.

Olive and the Grey Water Affair, by Tim Levy
Random House, 2005

Pearlie in the Park, by Wendy Harmer

Reviewed by Kathryn Duncan

Everyone who loves fairies is going to love Pearlie. She lives in the fountain in Jubilee Park in the middle of the city. Every day, Pearlie looks after the park, making sure that animals are doing what they are supposed to do and that the park is clean and tidy.

Then one day, things don’t go as Pearlie plans. The spiders are floating on the lily pads, ducks are swinging by their wings in the trees, possums are swimming in the pond and frogs are spinning spider’s webs.

Pearlie sets out to find out who is behind this and we join her as she discovers what went wrong. We meet the culprits, Mr Flea and Scrag, two mischievous rats who also live in Jubilee Park. They enjoy causing just a little bit of trouble for Pearlie and her friends. But Pearlie soon teaches them that being mischievous may not get them exactly what they want.

Pearlie looks just like you imagine a city fairy would look like. She has long blond hair, pearls around her neck and a great big happy grin. Mr Flea and Scrag are opposites, one fat and the other thin, but they look like they are up to something. The pictures are bright and colourful and make you want to go and enjoy a day with Pearlie and her park friends.

Recommended for lower primary school aged children or those who enjoy listening to a fun story.

Pearlie in the Park, by Wendy harmer, illustrated by Mike Zarb
Random House, 2003

Shalott – The Final Journey, by Felicity Pulman

The screen shrieked and went blank. Callie felt herself falling, surfing through space, through an icy blackness that seemed to stretch forever. She knew this, had been through this before. Her plan had succeeded. She was spnining into an unknown, into the last turbulent days of Camelot along with her sister and their friends. This time deadly danger awaited them – but from whom, and from what source? For what purpose had Guinevere summoned her?

Twice before Callie, her sister El and their friends have travelled to Camelot through their father’s virtual reality machine. Each time they have been lucky to return alive and they have sworn not to return. But when Callie hears Gunievere calling her across the ages, she knows she must return, even though she doesn’t understand why she is being called by the woman who has previously tried to destroy her.

Soon the teenagers are back in Camelot and, once again, fighting for their very survival. Callie is charged with rescuing Ana, Guinevere and Lancelot’s child. In doing so she risks losing her friends and their path back to the present day.

The Final Journey is the final installment in the Shalott trilogy from the talented Felicity Pulman. The combination of the Arthurian legend and ultra-modern virtual reality makes it highly appealing to teen readers. Pulman, it seems, is as lost in Arthurian times as her young characters, enabling her to create a believable setting and richly drawn characters. Readers who have come to know Callie in the earlier books will enjoy seeing her face her biggest challenges in this one, in both the real and virtual worlds.

Of course, as with all good series, it is sad to see it end, but the reader will at least feel a sense of completeness with this one.

Shalott: The Final Journey, by Felicity Pulman
Random House, 2003

Return to Shalott, by Felicity Pulman

Spinning through infinite space, through an icy rushing darkness. Racing towards the unknown. Callie took courage from her sense of the others’ presence, but still she wished with all her heart that she might somehow reverse the process and bring them safely home once more. Yet already it was too late.

After her last visit to Camelot, Callie vowed never to return. The ramifications were just too many. Yet here she is, hurtling through space and time with her friends Stephen and Hal and her twin sister El.

From their moment of arrival, they are in trouble. First, Howell, a squire who befriended the teens on their last visit, is thrown from his horse and killed – an incident caused by his catching site of Hal, who is identical in appearance.

Soon, though, it seems Howell’s death won’t be the only one. Guinevere is not happy to see Callie back, sure that Callie is trying to steal Lancelot’s love away from her. And Guinevere is not Callie’s only enemy. The evil Morgan le Fay wants her out of the way – for good. Only courage and friendship can keep the teens alive until they can return home.

Return to Shalott is a gripping sequel to Shalott (2001) and the combination of the ultra-modern concept of virtual reality with the medieval world of Camelot is a mix which will appeal to a range of teens.

Pulman shows an ability to entwine a well-researched tale with the problems and dilemmas faced by many teens, to make the characters both real and easy to relate to.

Return to Shalott is yet another gripping read from an outstanding author.

Return to Shalott, by Felicity Pulman
Random House, 2002

Shalott, by Felicity Pulman

The scene was familiar: the stone walls of the tower, the ladies in their long dresses, the men in tunics and breeches. Callie pinched the soft flesh under her forearm. Hard. It hurt. She was one of the ladies, then. So were Meg and El. Real. Breathing. Just like the two guys with them.

Callie is fascinated by her father’s virtual reality machine. She wonders if she could use it to visit Camelot and change its history. But as she works on her program she is interrupted by her sister El and her friend Meg who want to be part of the game – they want to be characters at Camelot too. In spite of her misgivings, Callie finds herself adding the pair and, finally, two boys they barely know – Lev the street-kid and Stephen, a loud snob. It is all a game that Callie feels is getting out of hand, being spoilt by her pushy sister. But she has no idea just how out of hand this game will get when she is bumped and accidentally pushes the button that draws all five teens into the machine and back into the very real world of Camelot.

At Camelot each of the teens faces a range of challenges. Callie must overcome her timidity to stand up to El, and also wants to use her time in Camelot to win Lancelot’s heart and thus prevent the downfall of Camelot. El must learn to set aside her jealousies and insecurities, while Meg learns where her talents lie. For the two boys the challenges are greater. Lev learns to belong and to be brave while Stephen learns what it means to have friends. In the meantime all must adapt to life in Arthurian times and to the thought that they might be stuck here forever. There are no virtual reality machines in Camelot to take them back to their own time.

Shalott is an intriguing time-travel story. Combining the ultra-modern concept of virtual reality with the medieval world of King Arthur and his court provides a setting and storyline which teen readers will be drawn into. There is much here to appeal to fans of fantasy, lovers of history, and gaming devotees – in fact any teen who loves a good story. Whilst the teens all learn about themselves and their relationships, the reader doesn’t feel lectured or moralised to – this growth and self-exploration is intertwined with a gripping story, not thrust into the reader’s face as can sometimes happen with YA stories.

Shalott is an outstanding read, and readers will look forward to its two sequels eagerly.

Shalott, by Felicity Pulman
Random House, 2001 (reprinted in 2004)

Ghost Boy, by Felicity Pulman

‘I say, wake up!’ He felt a touch, light as a feather against his face. Alarmed, he opened his eyes and jerked up, fists clenched to protect himself.
He was staring at himself.
Froggy blinked and stared again. He looked just the same…but he was wearing different clothes. Had he died, or what?

Ever since Froggy has come to live in Balgowlah, he has been having dreams about drowning. But, when he does nearly drown and meets someone who looks just like him, he starts to realise that dreams are not his own – they are real events that happened to another boy over 100 years ago. Thaddeus Dearborne, this other boy, needs help – and only Froggy can give it. First though he must learn to trust Thaddeus, a ghost with a secret. Both boys must also learn to trust Cassie Gibbs, one of the most popular girls at Froggy’s school, who has plenty of ideas about how to unravel Tad’s story.

Ghost Boy is, as the name suggests, a ghost story, but it is also a story of friendship, loyalty and family. Pulman moves seamlessly between past and present as she tells both Froggy and Tad’s stories in the early chapters, with the remainder of the story set in the present as Froggy and his new friend Cassie work together to help Tad and to establish the family connection between Tad and Froggy.

This is a fast moving tale which children will be drawn into, wanting to solve the mystery. The historical accuracy of the novel is also appealing, with events set in and around the Quarantine Station in Sydney. Young readers will be fascinated by this piece of history, and those in the Sydney area will be excited to know they can visit and tour the Quarantine Station.

Ghost Boy is a finely crafted adventure tale, with suitability for classroom use, but plenty of appeal for private reading for readers aged 10 to 15.

Ghost Boy, by Felicity Pulman
Random House, 2004, first published by Scholastic, 1995

Jump Man Rule 2, by James Valentine

Jules Santorini and Geneveieve Corrigan are on their first date. It’s taken loads of planning and gallons of sweat from Jules’ palms, but at last it’s happening. Jules may even summon the courage to kiss Genevieve.

Meanwhile, in the future, Theodore Pine Four, who met Jules and Gen on a time jump once before, is the biggest celebrity in the two planets. He knows there’s only one rule for time jumping: Don’t touch anything!

When a stranger interrupts Jules and Gen’s date, a reunion with Theo seems imminent. The modern day pair have to time jump into the future, become invisible, spy on Theo and try to save the world. And they also need to be home on time.

Jumpman Rule 2 is the second JumpMan title by media man James Valentine, who writes these entertaining books in between commitments for ABC Radio and Showtime Movie News. This doesn’t make him another media-face penning a book in his spare time – Valentine is a talented story teller, and kids will love the Jumpman series.

A great read for 10 to 14 year olds.

JumpMan Rule 2, by James Valentine
Random House, 2003

The Circle: Dreamer, by Melaina Faranda

Tara knows it’s going to be a terrible day. First, she can’t find her missing science assignment. Then she breaks an angel, one of her father’s favourite possessions. She is waiting for the third piece of bad luck, but isn’t prepared for it when she hears what it is. The mysterious Troy Daniels, a boy from her class, has been critically injured in a car accident and is in hospital on life support.

Tara feels a connection with Troy, although they’ve never really spoken. As he lies in hospital, Tara is troubled by strange and terrible dreams in which she must undertake a quest to rescue an imprisoned Prince. These dreams have some relation to Troy, but Tara isn’t sure what it is.

In her waking hours, Tara is involved with her friends in the Circle, who use their combined magic to channel energy and solve problems. Can they help Tara and, in turn, Troy?

Dreamer is the first title in a new series by Melaina Faranda, The Circle. Ten very different girls make up the Circle, where the bonds of friendship combine with the possibilities of magic and the power of intuition. Parents and teachers who may have concerns should be aware that the book does deal with witchcraft and the occult, however the overiding focus of the book is on friendship and realtionships.

The Circle: Dreamer, by Melaina Faranda
Random House, 2003