Sage Cookson 4: Singapore Sensation by Sally Murphy

‘Come on Sage! We’ll miss the plane.’
As if! My parents are used to travelling. So am I, because I always go with them. They knew exactly what they need to do to get to the airport, check in and be on board in time.
Çoming!’I call, quickly finishing the text message to my best friend.
Off to the airport now. See you next week.
I press send, put my phone in my pocket, and grab my backpack and suitcase.

Sage and her parents are off to Singapore, now their work on the new cookbook is just about done. They have just one tiny segment to film, but the rest of their week is pure holiday. They are thrilled to see an article in the inflight magazine about the new book. Everything is going well. Things start going wrong as soon as they land. And it must have something to do with the pink-haired lady who seems to turn up everywhere they go.

Ten-year-old Sage has a life many would envy: she travels around Australia and beyond with her television chef parents. Somehow, wherever they are, there are mysteries. Luckily Sage is observant and quick-thinking and is good at solving them. Sage stays in touch with her friend, Lucy, by text and that means that her friend sometimes becomes part of the mystery-solving. Sage’s parents try to make her life as normal as possible, including giving her a phone to keep in touch with her best friend. This is a fun, realistic adventure mystery series sure to make many newly independent readers wish they were Sage!

Sage Cookson 4: Singapore Sensation, Sally Murphy
New Frontier Publishing 2017
ISBN: 9781925059960

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller
www.clairesaxby.com

Sage Cookson’s Fishy Surprise (Bk3) by Sally Murphy

‘But I don’t know what to paaaaack,’ my friend Lucy wails down the phone.
I laugh. ‘Don’t panic. You can always borrow my stuff if you forget anything. I’m just so glad you’re coming with us!’
I switch the phone to my other ear as I look around my bedroom, making sure I haven’t forgotten anything in my own packing. ‘It will be nice and warm at Crystal Bay, so you won’t need much.’ I glance at my suitcase. ‘I’ve packed my swimmers, shorts, t-shirts, pyjamas …’

Sage Cookson is the daughter of famous TV chefs and has a wonderful life travelling around with her parents. But she misses her best friend, Lucy, so she’s excited that Lucy is joining them for this trip. They are off to a seaside town and there’s the promise of beach and great food. There’s also a mystery as an old foe reappears. It might be just coincidence, but Nancy is no more friendly than when last they met.

‘Fishy Surprise’ is episode three in this series for young independent readers. Sage’s life is much more exciting than that of many other ten-year-olds, but it also has its challenges. Not spending enough time with her friends is one of them. Not this time. With Lucy beside her, Sage has an accomplice as she works to solve this mystery. Young readers will thrill to the life Sage leads and empathise with her travails. Themes around family, friendship, loyalty round out these stories and add filling to the pastry. Recommended for independent readers.

Sage Cookson’s Fishy Surprise, Sally Murphy
New Frontier Publishing 2017
ISBN: 9781925059755

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller
www.clairesaxby.com

Sage Cookson’s Ring of Truth by Sally Murphy

‘Lucy! Your mum’s here,’ my mum calls up the stairs.

‘Already?’ Lucy pulls a face. ‘I was hoping she’d be late.’

I glance at the clock and smile. ‘She is!’

We’d been having so much fun together that we didn’t notice how late it was. We’d been talking, and listening to music and surfing the net, and laughing and doing all the things we don’t get to do together when I’m away.

‘Lucy! Your mum’s here,’ my mum calls up the stairs.

‘Already?’ Lucy pulls a face. ‘I was hoping she’d be late.’

I glance at the clock and smile. ‘She is!’

We’d been having so much fun together that we didn’t notice how late it was. We’d been talking, and listening to music and surfing the net, and laughing and doing all the things we don’t get to do together when I’m away.

Sage Cookson travels a lot. Her parents are television cooks and she goes where they go. She loves the adventure and the travel but sometimes misses her friend Lucy. In this second Sage Cookson adventure, Sage travels with her parents to Harmon Island, an island off the coast of Tasmania. There, they will film an episode about the bakery and their amazing pies. But Bettina, one of the bakery’s owners loses a ring and thinks Sage has something to do with it. Sage has to work quickly to solve the mystery before others also begin to believe she is responsible.

‘Ring of Truth’ is the second instalment in this new series from New Frontier for independent readers. Sage is a normal, sometimes messy, child who would rather be solving mysteries than doing her homework. She enjoys her travels with her family and their tv crew, but also misses time with her friends, especially Lucy. In each book, there is a mystery to be solved, and Sage is the girl for the job. She is observant, quick-thinking, caring. And there is food. Good food. Great fun: interesting settings and some sleuthing. Recommended for independent readers.

Sage Cookson’s Ring of Truth, Sally Murphy New Frontier Publishing 2016 ISBN: 9781925059748

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com

Gary, by Leila Rudge

Most of the time,
Gary was just like
the other racing pigeons.

He ate the same seeds.
Slept in the same loft.
And dreamt of adventure.

Gary is just like the other racing pigeons – except that he can’t fly. So, on race days, when the other pigeons head off on adventures, Gary stays home and dreams. And, when they come home, he collects souvenirs and information which he records in his scrapbook. When Gary accidentally finds himself in the travel basket one raceday, he wonders if he’ll ever find his way home. But his scrapbook provides the clues he needs to plot a route home.

Gary is a gently whimsical picture book about daring to take risks and follow dreams, no matter the obstacle. Readers will love the idea of a flightless bird using ingenuity – and public transport – to overcome his perceived handicap, and the way the other birds try Gary’s way, too. They will also adore the mixed media illustrations, with pastel hues and lots of detail to explore, especially in the maps and souvenirs which Gary collects for his scrapbook.

A beautiful picture book, Gary is suitable for all ages.

Gary, by Leila Rudge
Walker Books, 2016
ISBN 9781925081695

Flying High, by Sally Morgan & Ezekiel Kwaymullina, illustrated by Craig Smith

Flying HighIf a set of wings suddenly grew out of my back, I’d be over the moon! I haven’t told any of my friends about my dream of flying. They’d just laugh at me. Every kid knows there are good laughs and bad laughs. I’m sick of the bad laughs.

Larni struggles at school. Words and letters don’t keep still on the page, and the other kids laugh at her – even her friends. So she can’t wait for the school holidays, when she is going on a plane to visit her Gran up north.
Gran is delighted to see Larni, but sad when Larni says she isn’t good at anything. Gran assures her that she will find the thing she is good at. Sure enough, when Gran sits down to her sculpture proejct, Larni finds that she has a special talent for making things.

Flying High is a short chapter book about self-confidence, and family ties, especially between grandparents and grandchildren.

This is the latest of several books by Morgan and Kwaymullina, a mother-son team, and illustrated by Craig Smith. Each story is a stand alone tale, but all feature indigenous chidlren and their families doing things which all children will relate to – family outings, holdiays, spending time with extended family and so on. As such, these books are not only a wonderful opportunity to engage indigenous children, but also for children of all backgrounds, who are offered so many books with anglo-saxon characters, or where non-anglo characters confront issues of difference. The issues here – learning difficulties, self-belief and family closensess – are universal.

With lots of illustrative support and accessible text Flying High is suitable for junior primary or for older readers who require extra support.

Flying High, by Sally Mprgan & Ezekiel Kwaymullina, illustrated by Craig Smith
Omnibus Books, 2015
ISBN 978174299070

Available from good bookstores and online.

To See The World, by Elaine Forrestal

This was not the great adventure I had anticipated. I wanted to swim back to my mother, to feel her arms around me, to smell the delicious spicy fish she would be cooking instead of this disgusting mixture of stale milk and filthy toilets. The wind roared in the rigging. The waves slapped the hull so hard that I knew I would be battered to death immediately if I jumped into the sea. My mother always complained that I would drive her crazy; I was so careless and afraid of nothing. But I am not stupid. Although my heart was aching and I desperately wanted to go home, I would never let the sea take me.

Jose has lived all of his life on the island of Mauritius, but his father has arranged for him to travel and work on board the ship Uranie. Jose anticipates a life of seeing interesting places and having adventures. He doesn’t expect to meet a woman on the ship. It is 1818 and women are not allowed to join naval expeditions, but Rose de Freycinet has decided she cannot bear to be apart from her husband, and besides, she wants an adventure of her own. Jose is not impressed. Rose wants to teach him to read and write and her very presence makes ship life more dangerous. But as their journey continues, a friendship develops between the two, and Jose becomes as loyal as most of the other sailors.

To See the World is the fictionalised account of the journey of French ship Uranie which attempted to circumnavigate the world and conduct scientific research. Rose de Freycinet, the wife of the expedition leader, Louis, became the first woman to write an account of such a circumnavigation, including their encounters with pirates, and cannibals, and their shipwrecking on the Falkland Islands. While this is a work of fiction, the character of Jose is based on a real boy, and the events of the story use real events, drawing on journals and other documents. Each chapter of the book opens with an image or painting from the time, from the National Library of Australia’s collection.

Suitable for middle and upper primary aged readers, To See the World is an intriguing tale of history, travel and an adventurous woman.

 

To See the World, by Elaine Forrestal
NLA Publishing, 2014
ISBN 9780642278494

Available from good bookstores and online .

Holiday of a Lifetime: Disaster Diary by Megan de Kantzow

31 October: Sydney, Australia. Halloween: the worst possible day to travel

3.03 pm

In thirty-two minutes we’re leaving. Supposedly.

I’ve already told Mum and Dad that this whole trip is a so-called Disaster Waiting to Happen, like other Anderson family holidays I could mention. For example, the time Dad made us go camping in the Warrumbungles and it rained the whole time, or the time we got stuck in holiday traffic for five hours on my birthday and I got a stinking McMuffin without even one measly candle for my so-called birthday cake.

Anyway, if Dad doesn’t get off the phone right now and Mum doesn’t get through her list of last-minute jobs, we’ll be last and then this holiday will be a disaster before it’s even started. Because planes don’t wait for you, you know.

I’d better tell them to hurry up.

31 October: Sydney, Australia. Halloween: the worst possible day to travel

3.03 pm

In thirty-two minutes we’re leaving. Supposedly.

I’ve already told Mum and Dad that this whole trip is a so-called Disaster Waiting to Happen, like other Anderson family holidays I could mention. For example, the time Dad made us go camping in the Warrumbungles and it rained the whole time, or the time we got stuck in holiday traffic for five hours on my birthday and I got a stinking McMuffin without even one measly candle for my so-called birthday cake.

Anyway, if Dad doesn’t get off the phone right now and Mum doesn’t get through her list of last-minute jobs, we’ll be last and then this holiday will be a disaster before it’s even started. Because planes don’t wait for you, you know.

I’d better tell them to hurry up.

Anna’s family are off on a trip to Europe, even though the funds had originally been earmarked for house extensions. A mistake on many levels as far as Anna is concerned. Having her own bedroom would have meant peace and no dancing for Anna, and a dance-zone bedroom for her sister Francine. But despite her dire warnings, off to Europe they go. Dad, Mum, Francine and little brother Timmy are all excited and unhearing of her warnings. Anna realises she’s the one who will have to be prepared for the inevitable disasters. She is helped in her quest to keep the family safe by a good-luck charm from Gran. This little seahorse will provide the luck, her backpack full of just-in-case supplies. There are disasters aplenty, some of which Anna is prepared for, others less so.

Holiday of a Lifetime: Disaster Diary is a contemporary tragi-comedy, full of high drama and humour, written in diary form. Anna is a worry wort and the reader is privy to her worst worries, her first person reportage via her diary entries. They also can read between the lines and interpret the responses of her family and others around her more clearly than she can. The dramas and excitements are almost slapstick in their intensity, and will have readers giggling and rolling their eyes. But there is redemption for Anna too, as she discovers that some things she can worry less about, and for others – well her preparation pays off. ‘Holiday of a Lifetime’ allows a peek into a family, showing their individual and collective growth, filtered through the eyes of an almost-adolescent. Recommended for upper-mid-primary readers.

 

Holiday of a Lifetime: Disaster Diary!, Megan de Kantzow Omnibus Books 2013 ISBN: 9781862919983

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

www.clairesaxby.com

Seven Gateways, by Tony Grey

While different peoples and cultures have differing belief systems, there are certain sites around the world which are both held sacred and from which a sacredness emanates, places which resonate with people of diverse backgrounds. In this unique travel book, author Tony Grey visits and explores seven such places: the east Alligator river at Kakadu, an ancient Egyptian temple, Delphi in Greece, Jerusalem’s Western Wall, Assisi, birthplace of Saint Francis, the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus and the mountains of Bhutan.

For each of the seven places, Grey explores its history, its meaning to the local people and to those who continue to visit, as well as detailing his own visit to each place. There is a careful selection of just a few photographs of each place – kept minimal, it seems, to emphasise the spiritual aspects rather than the visual.

This is not a light read, with detailed explanations of the differing aspects of each of the seven sites spanning several chapters each, as well as an introduction and several pages of reflections at the end. But for those with an interest in the spiritual nature of humans, this is an interesting read.

Seven Gateways, by Tony Grey
Halstead Press, 2008

Rhythms of the Kimberley, by Russell Gueho

The Kimberley region – the area of the far north of Western Australia – is one of the most undisturbed parts of Australia’s landscape. With beauty and diversity, this seemingly rugged landscape is also both delicate and vulnerable. Whilst many are familiar with parts of the Kimberley, few know it as intimately as Russell Gueho.

In Rhythms of the Kimberley Gueho takes readers on a journey through the Kimberley exploring the landscape and its inhabitants, both flora and fauna. Importantly, he also examines the forces and relationships which impact on these inhabitants, from natural events such as cyclones and massive tides, to the impacts of man and introduced species.

This is not a light read, but a detailed examination of a place which the author is passionate about. It is also a beautiful book to browse, filled with stunning photographs of animals, plants, landscapes and seascapes, bringing to life the beauty of the region Gueho explores with his words.

Russell Gueho is well qualified to write about the Kimberley, and this is his second book about this part of Australia. He has lived in the region for more than eighteen years and ran a nature-based tourism business in the region. He lectures in Tourism at Kimberley TAFE and is a passionate advocate for responsible tourism.

Rhythms of the Kimberley is a beautiful and important book.

Rhythms of the Kimberley: A Seasonal Journey Through Australia's North

Rhythms of the Kimberley, by Russell Gueho
Fremantle Press, 2007

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

Sicilian Summer, by Brian Johnston

When travel writer Brian Johnston accepted an invitation to travel to Italy with a friend, for her god-daughter’s confirmation, he imagined an opportunity to savour Italian culture and cooking, and perhaps the chance to eat a real cassata. What he didn’t expect was to be caught up in the flamboyant dramas of a Sicilian family and the village in which it resided.

Sicilian Summer is a memoir of Johnston’s summer spent staying with his friend’s family. It recounts the places they visited and the food they ate, as well as the dramas they witnessed. There are also the characters he met: the parish priest enjoying his power and refusing to confirm the goddaughter; the reclusive lady who, because of a promise she made her father, doesn’t leave the house except to go to mass; and his friend’s parents, who offer generous hospitality.

This is an interesting read with a blend of travelogue and memoir. At times it feels like watching a cooking show (Johnston, it quickly becomes apparent, loves food), at others a soap opera. There is no time for the reader to get bored.

A very readable tale.

Sicilian Summer, by Brian Johnston
Allen & Unwin, 2005