Caravan Park Kids, by Jane C. Scott

‘Now look what you’ve done,’ yelled the boy. ‘You’ve made me lose the biggest fish I’ve ever caught, and my Grandpa’s rod.’
I was amazed by his anger and tried to say ‘I’m sorry’ but the boy was already storming off up the beach.

Vicki loves her holidays at the caravan park on the beach. One of the best things is meeting up with her four friends, who she only sees during their annual holidays. But this year, as well as the usual fun, there’s a new boy around. He’s grumpy, mean about the games Vicki and her friends play and he’s up to something strange. Things have been going missing around the caravan park and the new boy is always around when it happens. Is he stealing the things? Vicki and her friends don’t know what to do about it.

Caravan Park Kids is a fast moving mystery for kids aged 8 to 12. With a touch of humour and a message about judging others and about friendship, it is a fun read. Part of the Breakers series from Macmillan Education and with comic illustrations by Dave Deakin, it is suitable both as a classroom reader and for private enjoyment.

Caravan Park Kids, by Jane C. Scott
Macmillan Education, 2004

No Strings, by Krista Bell

He might be only thirteen, but Felix is a brilliant saxophonist. Attending a workshop with the best saxophonist in the world should be an inspiration for him, but it isn’t. Suddenly Felix is wondering if he really has the ability to be a world-class musician.

Felix has other worries too. Filling out a passport application has reminded him that he has two surnames – and two families. His parents divroced when he was a baby and he has two sets of parents and two sets of siblings. Now he’s wondering if he really belongs in either family. Is he really wanted?

Things seem likely to spiral out of control when Felix learns that his dad has been in a serious accident. This could be the beginning of the end, but instead it allows Felix to start building a fresh perspective. When his bullying room mate at boarding school assaults him, Felix realises that it is the bully’s regular attacks which have gradually eroded his self-confidence and allowed these other doubts to creep in. Dealing with the bully is the first step in getting his life into some sort of order. After that, the sky is the limit.

No Strings is a moving story with messages about bullying, friendship and the importance of family. Most of all, though, it is about self-belief. Felix learns to believe in himslef but also to allow those around him to offer him help and support.

Krista Bell has a lifetime of experience with children’s books as a book store owner, reviewer and author. This shows through in her skilful rendering of a tale which is compassionate, humorous and real, all in the right measure.


No Strings, by Krista Bell
Lothian, 2004

The Call of the Osprey, by Norman Jorgensen and Brian Harrison-Lever

When the Captain finds the derelict Osprey, he sees beyond the neglect to the fine workmanship beneath, and decides to restore her. At work in the boatshed he is visted by young Thomas Stevenson, who wants to help him in the restoration. When the Captain sees the boy’s dedication and willingness to work, he agrees to let him help.

The restoration is slow and meticulous. First months, then years pass as the pair work to restore the boat to its former glory. At the same time the pair develop a close friendship, and the Captain teaches the boy all he knows about the sea – how to navigate, how to guide a boat and how to live at sea.

Finally the boat is finished. The Captain and Thomas – who is now a young man – launch it, to the cheers of well-wishers. Out on the water the Captian has a surprise for his young friend – he has registered Thomas as the Master of the Osprey. The Captain tells him he has earned the honour, and entrusts the boat to him. His own time is drawing to a close.

The Call of the Osprey is a poignant and beautiful story about dedication, loyalty and firendship. Author Norman Jorgensen is a master storyteller – spinning a tale which touches and educates as it entertains. His pairing with illustrator Brian Harrison-Lever is ideal. Harrison-Lever’s depictions of the characters, the boat and the sea, echo the mood of the story perfectly. From the seascapes on the endpapers to the character studies of his close ups, the tone and detail of his art complements the story.

Jorgensen and Harrison-Lever’s previous picture book In Flanders Field won the CBCA Picture Book of the Year in 2003, the country’s highest honour for a picture book. This new offering is similarly exciting.

The Call of the Osprey, by Norman Jorgensen and Brian Harrison-Lever
Fremantle Arts Centre Press, 2004

Rats! by Lian Tanner

Nicky (Nicola) Bell has had too many changes in her life lately – her dad has left, her mum has sold their house and now Dad is moving in his with his new girlfriend. So Nicky has declared her world a ‘Change-Free Zone’ – no exceptions – and when a new girl called Megan arrives at school Nicky is determined to get rid of her.

Soon, though, Nicky is in trouble. She and her friends play a trick on Megan that sees Megan bitten by Nicky’s pet rat, Monty. Megan’s step-mother threatens to kill Monty if Nicky doesn’t leave Megan alone. Megan’s step-mother is a scary woman and Nicky becomes increasingly convinced that she is up to something bigger than just threatening Monty. The trouble is, not even Nicky’s best friends believe her. It is up to Nicky to catch Mrs Stoat out at whatever she’s up to – and at the same time, to try and restore her friendship and her family.

Rats! is funny, exciting and moving all at once. Kids will enjoy the combination of mystery and humour and the prevalence of rats.

Lian Tanner is a playwright and children’s author. This is her first novel.

Rats is likely to grip readers aged 10 to 12.

Rats!, by Lian Tanner
Lothian, 2004

Alex Jackson Dropping In, by Pat Flynn

Alex decided to milk the occasion for everything it was worth. How many times in life do you get to play the hero? He could have kicked it straight into the back of the net, but he thought he’d do a bit of dribbling practice – with one hand in the air, waving to the crowd. Alex ran casually toward the goal and was just about to toe poke it in when he heard an urgent call from Jimmy: “Man on!”

Alex Jackson has problems. First, he misses the goal that would have won the soccer final. Then he loses his first boxing fight. If that’s not enough, he’s being pursued by Sarah Sceney, the class nerd, who has had a crush on him since grade 3. But Alex’s biggest problem is his worry that he’s being put in a box. He’s been labelled as a nice bloke who plays soccer and boxes. No one expects much more of him than that, and it bugs him.

As he bumbles his way through these highs and lows, Alex starts to find some of the things that might help him to make sense of his life.

Alex Jackson: Dropping In is a combination of humour, soul-searching and action. The fourth book about this likeable hero by author Pat Flynn, what is different is that this one is set before the other three – when Alex is still in primary. It acts both as a prequel, introducing Alex and his mates, and as a stand-alone read for perhaps a slightly younger audience.

A great read for ages 10 and up.

Alex Jackson: Dropping In, by Pat Flynn
UQP, 2004

Cow-Pats, by Goldie Alexander

Red’s best friend is his cow, Daisy. He likes her because he knows he can tell her everything and, although she’ll listen, she won’t tell a soul. But the last thing Red expects is that Daisy will help solve the family’s money problems.

Not only is there a drought, but Red’s dad is also sick. He needs an operation. Red’s big brother, Luke, and his sister Tara are both out of work. The family farm is going to be taken over by the bank. And Red has no money for art supplies. Then, unexpectedly, a stranger comes to visit. Red doesn’t understand a word he says, but he eventually translates his sign language enough to understand that the Stranger wants to buy Daisy’s cow-pats. Red does not understand why anyone would pay hundreds of dollars for cow-pats, but he does know that all this money could be the answer to the family’s problems.

Cow-Pats is a humorous novel for 8 to 12 year old readers (the targeted reading age is 11). As well as being a fun read, it also has subtle messages about family, friendship and even about what makes art works ‘great’.

Part of Macmillan Education’s new Breakers series, Cow-Pats is suitable for classroom use or private reading.

Good fun.

Cow-Pats, by Goldie Alexander
Macmillan Education, 2004

The Magician and the Fairy, by Grace Oakley

Along with the wierd trousers, Isabella was wearing a gold nose-ring the size of a full stop, at least six microscopic earrings and a pair of spiky-heeled pink sandals. In her belly button was a teeny weeny green gemstone – some sort of fake emerald. Not a good look on a tooth fairy!

Tim isn’t sure what is going on. His tooth fairy, Isabella, has decided to change her wardrobe – and her career. Next he’s visited not just by Isabella’s mother, trying to get her back on the straight and narrow, but also by Isabella’s brothers – all sixteen of them.

If having seventeen fairies in the house isn’t enough, Tim has other dramas. His Nana has come to stay and wants Tim to spend all his time entertaining her. Meanwhile, Tim is trying to get through rehearsals for the drama production he is in. Then there is his friend Ryan and the mysterious trapdoor they’ve found in Mrs Trimble’s back yard. Is it really possible that a magician is living down there?

The Magician and the Tooth Fairy is part of the new Breakers series from Macmillan Education. With magic, secret rooms and a plethora of fairies, it will appeal to children aged 9 to 12, with the levelled reading age identified as 12.

As well as being fun, the story touches on issues of family, friendship and old age, in a subtle manner making it suitable for either in class or private reading.

The Magician and the Fairy, by Grace Oakley
Macmillan Education, 2004

Code Name Unwanted, by Jacqueline Harvey

Penelope Scott (she prefers her friends to call her Snot) is happy. Her secret operation to find a new man for her mother has been so successful that they are getting married. The wedding goes off without a hitch – unless you can count a dog that is covered in cow poo, but when the wedding is over there are some surprises in store for Snot.

Some parts of the new marriage are perfect. Her new step father, Frank, is a builder, and he’s building them an unreal new home. It’s also great to see her mum so happy. But what Snot hasn’t predicted are some of the surprises Mum and Frank are about to spring on her. Could it be that she is unwanted?

Code Name Unwanted is a funny yet moving story of blended families, friendship and growing up. It is a sequel to author Jacqueline Harvey’s earlier title Code Name Mr Right, but can be comfo rtably read as a stand-alone title.

Suitable for readers aged 10 to 14, Code Name Unwanted is full of laughs. Kids will love it.

Code Name Unwanted, by Jacqueline Harvey
Lothian, 2004

Farmer Fred's Cow, by Margaret Wild

Four old animals live on Farmer Fred’s farm – Pig, Horse, Donkey and Cow. None of the animals is very productive, but Farmer Brown, who is no longer very productive himself, doesn’t mind. None of the five friends has seen much of life beyond the farm and, as they near the end of their lives, they wonder what life might be like further away. Cow’s friends tell her that when she dies she will go everywhere, see everything.

Then, on the night Cow dies, a strange thing happens. As the remaining animals settle down for the night, they hear a strange noise and see Cow, in the sky, flying. She has come back to show them the beautiful new life she now has. The animals wake Farmer Fred and together they watch Cow.

Afterwards, Farmer Fred is never quite sure if he really saw Cow, or if it was a dream. But every now and then he feels a tickle on his back where wings might sprout and, with the remaining animals, quietly looks forward to what is to come.

Farmer Fred’s Cow is a beautiful, evocative picture book, which looks at the themes of life and death in a gentle, even fun way. The book is more than tasteful – it is enjoyable, despite subject matter which in other stories could be gloomy. Wild, a master of the picture book form, has produced a story which touches the heart.

The illustrations of David Waller, in acrylic and pencil, are a perfect complement to the tale. O\Particularly beautiful are the scenes of Cow and other ghostly animals, flying in the night-time sky with angel-like wings, before a huge full moon.

A masterpiece.

Farmer Fred’s Cow, by Margaret Wild and David Waller
ABC Books, 2004

Lefty, by Meryl Brown Tobin

Tommy wants to cut out the pictures he sees in magazines, but whenever he tries, the scissors won’t work and the pictures get ripped. Tommy and his mother don’t know how to solve the problem, but when Tommy visits Doctor Jane, she tells him that left-handers need left-handed scissors.Soon, Tommy has a special pair of scissors and can cut out just like any child.

Lefty is a story that will especially appeal to left-handed children and adults, but also has a message about working together to solve problems and about self confidence. The illustrations of Christine Lott are bold and bright and clearly support the story, whilst the A5 soft back format makes the book easy to hold for beginning readers.

A great learning tool and an interesting story.

Lefty is available in book stores or directly from the publisher, Ningan Publishing, c/- PO Grantville, Vic, 3984, at the rrp of $12.95, with free postage.

Lefty, by Meryl Brown Tobin, illustrated by Christine Lott
Ningan Publishing, 2000