Tommy Bell Bushranger Boy: The Gold Escort Gang by Jane Smith

‘So are you in?’ Francis demanded.
Tommy looked at his feet and shrugged. He didn’t have a good feeling about this.
‘It’s sort of stealing,’ he said.
Francis rolled his eyes. ‘It’s not stealing … it’s only borrowing.’
Martin had a brand new mountain bike and he was bragging about bringing it to school on Monday. Francis was planning to take the bike home to his own place on Monday afternoon.
Without telling Martin.
‘We’ll give it back,’ Francis went on.

Tommy Bell is facing a dilemma. If he wants to be part of Francis’ gang, he needs to do what Francis wants. But some of the things Francis wants to do make Tommy feel very uncomfortable. So far, Tommy has been able to reason his misgivings away, but this feels different. When he gets home from school, Tommy saddles up his horse, Combo. Then he puts on his hat, the one that takes him back in time. And with a dizzy, wobbly feeling, Tommy is back in the nineteenth century, and taking a swim in the lake are Frank Gardiner and a friend. Behind him, is a policeman. The policeman fills him in on what Frank and Co have been up to. But nothing could have prepared Tommy for what would happen next. Notes at the back sort the fact from fiction and a Q&A with a bushranger offers the reader a chance to learn more about individual bushrangers.

Tommy Bell Bushranger Boy: The Gold Escort Gang is a Book 3 in this series for younger readers from Jane Smith and Big Sky Publishing. Each tells a fictional tale set both in the present and in the time of the goldrush. Each takes Tommy back in time where he meets up with bushrangers and others. There he finds himself caught up in their exploits and getting to know these men he only knows from stories. Slipping back in time also allows him time to think about his modern day worries. Young readers are offered a more three-dimensional picture of the times and the people of the times. Recommended for independent readers in lower- to middle-primary years.

Tommy Bell Bushranger Boy: The Gold Escort Gang, Jane Smith
Big Sky Publishing 2017
ISBN: 9781925520217

Lifespan of Starlight, by Thalia Kalkipsakis

Every gram of courage that I possess is going to be barely enough to make me step off the curb. An intake of air and I bail out, my toes gripping the soles of my boots for all I’m worth and the rest of me teetering over the edge. A car flashes past and I jump back. That was close.

Scout has to live her life unseen. She is an illegal, with no chip, hidden by her mother since birth. But neither her nor her mum want it to stay this way, so when she has a chance to take a chip, she does. Little does she know that the owner of the chip had a skill like no other: the ability to time travel. She finds herself sought out by two other teens to want to know how to time travel. Soon the three are experimenting with something both exhilarating and dangerous.

Lifespan of Starlight is a gripping dystopian novel for young adult readers, set in a future where identity and activities are closely monitored and controlled. Scout is smart and resourceful, but she isn’t perfect, which makes her all the more believable. Kalkipsakis’ version of time travel is very different from other time-travel stories, an originality which young readers will enjoy.

The first in a trilogy Lifespan of Starlight will appeal to young teen readers.

Lifespan of Starlight, by Thalia Kalkipsakis
Hardie Grant Egmont, 2015
ISBN 9781742978710

Available from good bookstores and online.

The Sequin Star, by Belinda Murrell

‘What are you doing?’ cried a voice. It was high=pitched with fright. ‘You shouldn’t be here. You could get killed.’
Claire tried to open her eyes. Blinding light. Pain shot through her temple. She touched her head with her fingertips. It felt warm and sticky.
‘I say, are you all right?’ came the voice again, a bit softer this time. It was a girl’s voice. ‘You’re bleeding. Can you hear me?’

When her much loved grandmother is ill in hospital, Claire finds a old brooch among her things. It isn’t like her other, expensive jewellery – instead it is a cheap sequin star. Intrigued, Claire puts the brooch in her pocket and when she is in an accident soon afterwards, finds herself swept back in time to 1932. Claire is stranded in a circus camp, working hard and befriending circus performers Rosina and Jem, as well as a boy called Kit who, Claire realises, is her grandfather as a young man. Rosina and Kit are soon quite taken by each other, but Claire wonders whether a rich boy and a circus girl belong together – and what of her grandmother?

The Sequin Star is an exciting time-slip adventure set amidst the back drop of the Great Depression in the weeks around the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Claire’s adventures allow young readers to get a first-hand, modern perspective on both the events and on the contrasts between that time period and the contemporary world.

Likely to appeal to middle and upper primary aged readers.


The Sequin Star

The Sequin Star, by Belinda Murrell
Random House, 2014
ISBN 9780857982056

Available from good bookstores or online.

The Ruby Talisman, by Belinda Murrell

Tilly pulled the mesh faceguard down and limbered up her right wrist, circling it nervously, her long, thin fencing foil drawing through the air. She was dressed all in white, with padding to protect her chest and padded gloves on her hands. She jigged up and down, adrenaline surging through her body.
Tilly lifted the foil in front of her face in a formal salute to her opponent on the other side of the narrow mat.
‘En garde.’
The foils flashed forward into the defensive position.’
‘Allez!’ The two fencers leapt forward, foils slashing. Tilly felt her hot, seething thoughts turn cold and hard as steel.

Tilly is struggling to cope with her parents marriage breakdown. She’s angry and bitter and not particularly nice to be near. When her mother takes a weekend break, Tilly stays with her aunt, Kara. Although Tilly loves her aunt, she’s not happy she’s being dumped with her for the weekend. Then Kara shows her a fabulous ruby necklace, first worn by one of their ancestors, Amelie-Mathilde, a young French aristocrat. Kara relates Amelie’s almost miraculous escape from the French court as the French revolution begins. Tilly’s dreams about her ancestor then wakes up next to her. Amelie is wearing the ruby necklace too. In a world very different to her own, with civil war erupting all around them, Tilly must think clearly and quickly if she is to help Amelie and her cousin to survive.

Tilly’s having a tough time and she has no room for the feelings of others around her. Even her friends are finding her too prickly to be any fun. She’s locked in her own world, her own suffering, and blind to the suffering of anyone else. When she is transported to the 18th century, she slowly begins to realise that others have their own problems. Her experience in the past allows her to understand her present and to look forward to the future. The ruby necklace connects past and present allowing two teenage girls to connect and understand their similarities and differences. The Ruby Talisman gently points out that the world is bigger than any one person and it’s helpful to look beyond your own experience if you are to take your place in it. Recommended for mid- secondary readers.

The Ruby Talisman

The Ruby Talisman, Belinda Murrell
Random House Australia 2010
ISBN: 9781864719871

Reviewed by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

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