Cadaver Dog, by Alan Horsfield

When Shane’s dad buys an old, long-closed bush school, he takes Shane to live there. They are going to build a house and plant grape vines.

But there is something strange about the school and its neighbours. Clarrie Johnson, who owns the neglected farm next door, seems to be watching them, turning up at unexpected times. Clarrie’s daughter, Ellie, is even stranger. She spends her time walking a doll in a pram up and down the dirt road that runs past the school.

Shane’s worries grow when the school building burns down and a body is found within. Is he safe alone there when his father is off working?

Cadaver Dog is a well told mystery which will appeal to readers aged twelve to fifteen. Part of Lothian’s Crime Waves series, it mixes supense with a solid, readable story.

Alan Horsfield has written several children’s and YA books. He lives in Fiji.

Cadaver Dog, by Alan Horsfield
Lothian, 2003

Dawn Hawk, by Ken Catran

Spending part of his holiday with his teacher is not Bryce’s idea of fun, but here he is. His friend Focus has dragged him along to stay with Mr Justinian’s Aunt Roberta, following the death of great-aunt Petronel.

Petronel was, in her time, a famous female aviator, and Focus herself is passionate about aircraft and flying. Neither she nor Bryce, though, expect to be caught up in a crime ring in the seaside town. Aunt Petronel has left some clues about a missing plane, and Focus and Bryce are determined to find it. They aren’t the only ones who are interested in the plane, though, or in whatever else may lie hidden in the disused tunnel network under the cliffs. Rescuing the plane may take a back seat to the need to rescue themselves.

Dawn Hawk is a thrilling Crime Waves title from Lothian Books. Aimed at 10 to 14 year old readers, especially those with an interest in crime fiction, Crime Waves titles are high on action and mystery, while of a length manageable to most readers.

Dawn Hawk is an intriguing story.

Dawn Hawk, by Ken Catran
Lothian, 2003

Abhorsen, by Garth Nix

Until recently Lirael has lived the secluded life of the Clayr, knowing she doesn’t truly belong, but having no idea of her true identity. Now she is the Abhorsen in Waiting, and the future of the Old Kingdom, and in fact of all life, rests with her.

Only an Abhorsen can defeat the dead and the dark necromancers. But the true Abhorsen, Lirael’s half-sister Sabriel, is missing, presumed dead. Lirael must find the strength to take on her duties and the greatest challenge ever to confront an Abhorsen.

Abhorsen, the final volume in the Old Kingdom trilogy, upholds the brilliance of author Garth Nix’s powerful prose. It is vivid, complex and enthralling. The characters are rich and endearing, yet full of surprises. The conclusion to this much-acclaimed series is both breathtaking and satisfying.

Abhorsen, by Garth Nix
Allen & Unwin, 2003

Drop Kick, by Annette Wickes

Everyone in Duncan’s family is sports mad. His brother and sister have heaps of trophies, his Nan is still doing triathlons, and his Pa was a champion footballer. His parents love sport so much they’re both sport teachers – at Duncan’s school. Duncan is the odd one out. He’s not good at any sport, and would rather spend his spare time with his mate Brad and Brad’s pets.

Duncan’s Dad says Duncan can have a pet of his own on the day he kicks the winning goal for the football team. Trouble is, Duncan can’t even get selected for the team – because he can’t kick. Luckily for him, his grandpa has a secret weapon. If Duncan can learn to use it, he just might have a chance.

Drop Kick is a fun novel for primary school children. It touches on themes of family, friendship and bullying, without being preachy.

A good read for ten to twelves.

Drop Kick, by Annette Wickes
Omnibus, 2003

Urn Burial, by Kerry Greenwood

When Phryne Fisher is invited to holiday at Cave House, she looks forward to some fine society and some quality time with her lover, Lin Chung. But she has barely arrived when she is caught up in solving a crime.

Fisher, by all appearances a lady of society,is in fact a sophisticated sleuth. Attracting danger and mystery nearly as much as she attracts members of the opposite sex, she maintains her elegance and composure whilst managing to be ruthless and canny.

In this case, her host, Tom Reynolds, has been receiving death threats from someone in the household, Phryne herself is nearly killed when her horse trips on a deliberately placed wire and the parlourmaid is strangled to death before her corpse mysteriously disappears.

Phryne finds herself in danger when she is locked in the cellar with Lin Chung, but, despite her fears, manages to solve the case and maintain her dignity.

The eight in the Phryne Fisher series, Urn Burial is stylish and sharp.

Urn Burial, by Kerry Greenwood
This edition published by Allen & Unwin, 2003, first published by Penguin, 1996

What a Goat, by Narelle Oliver

Tom has a new goat called Ernie. Ernie doesn’t seem happy until he’s allowed out of his pen to play with the dog.

Together goat and dog have lots of fun – but they also get into loads of trouble. If Tom can’t get Ernie to behave, he might have to give him away. Can Ernie prove he really is a dog-goat?

What a Goat is an easy to read Solo title, from Omnibus books. Written with beginning readers in mind, these books are perfect for the transition from picture books to novels. What a Goat is a fun read.

What a Goat, by Narelle Oliver, illustrated by David Cox
Omnibus Books, 2003

Shoo Cat, by Ian Bone

Matt is surprised when a strange cat comes to visit. He already has a cat, Pudding, and tells the strange cat he can’t come in.

Matt’s dad is also cross with the strange cat. “Shoo cat,” he says every time he sees it. But despite Dad and Matt’s efforts, the strange cat keeps coming back, looking for food, shelter and company. What can they do?

Shoo Cat, by Ian Bone is a Solo title for beginning readers, from Omnibus. In a highly illustrated novel format, these books are designed to help youngsters make the transition from picture books to first novels. Shoo Cat is a fun easy read.

Shoo Cat, by Ian Bone, illustrated by Ann James
Omnibus Books, 2003

Mardi Mak Meets the South Pole (nearly), by Courtney Lynch

Mardi Mak wakes up to find Australia transformed into a winter wonderland. Swimming pools are frozen, snow is piled high in the streets – and it’s February, supposedly the hottest month of the year! If that weren’t strange enough, furniture is sliding everywhere and people are violently seasick. Australia, it seems, is floating south. If it isn’t stopped it will hit Antarctica in a few days.

When Mardi watches her Grandpa lassoing the furniture to stop it escaping, she has an idea. She knows how to stop Australia from floating and to get it back where it belongs. The trouble is, no one will listen to her. She is, after all, only eleven. How would a kid know the solution to the biggest problem Australia has ever faced?

Mardi Mak Meets the South Pole (Nearly) is a humorous tale for primary aged children. Full of silly impossiblities and stereotypically funny characters, it will tickle the funny bones of 9 to 12 year old readers.

Good fun.

Mardi Mak Meets the South Pole (Nearly), by Courtney Lynch
Scholastic, 2003

Dangerous Waters, by Bronwyn Blake

When Joshua meets his American cousin, Zoe, for the first time, he’s not impressed. She’s loud, bossy and painful. But at least she can sail.

Josh and Zoe spend their days sailing around the lake and exploring. But when they get stuck far from home one night, they see something they shouldn’t – another boat, a ute and two men fighting. When one man shoots the other they are frightened. When they get home, no one believes their story – until police find the abandoned boat and link it with three armed robberies. Josh and Zoe work together to try to solve the mystery and to keep themselves safe.

Dangerous Waters, a Crime Waves title from Lothian, is a murder mystery for readers aged 12 to 14. With plenty of action and intrigue, coupled with an easily-digestible length, this is a great inroduction to the crime genre, while also catering for those who are already enthusiasts.

A great read.

Dangerous Waters, by Bronwyn Blake
Lothian, 2003

Buddhism for Mothers, by Sarah Napthali

Most advice for mothers is about mothering rather than about being a mother. Mothers are given loads of advice and instructions on what to do for their children, but little help with how to nurture themselves.

Buddhism for Mothers seeks to offer this help. Author Sarah Napthali, herself a mother of two, tries to show mothers how they can cope with the day to day stresses and challenges of motherhood using basic Buddhist philosophies and techniques. She explores ways out of maximising the joy of parenting, and minimising anger and stress.

With chapters on mindful parenting, finding calm and happiness, creating loving relationships and more, the book offers insights which will be fresh to many mothers, yet which offer achievable aims.

Napthali’s advice is wise, yet realistic. She does not encourage parents to set unrealistic aims for themselves or those around them, but rather acknowledges the realities of parenting and of struggling for balance. An accessible and balanced volume.

Buddhism for Mothers, by Sarah Napthali
Allen & Unwin, 2003.