Who Says Girls Can't Play Football,by Judi Pope

Jac (short for Jacqueline) Jones loves football. She can talk about nothing else. She eats, drinks and sleeps football. And, despite being a girl, she plays football for the under eleven team. When Jac gets the chance to be the mascot for her favourite football team, the Wolves, she thinks all her dreams have come true. She will run onto the field with the Wolves and she’ll get to meet all the players, especially her hero Steve Steen.

Then disaster strikes. Jac chases a ball onto the road and is hit by a speeding car. When she wakes up three days later with a broken leg and arm, she realises she has missed her chance to be the Wolves’ mascot. She’ll never get to meet Steve Steen and she may never play football again. Things turn around, though, when Steve Steen himself pays her a visit in hospital. The two are soon firm friends.

Who said Girls Can’t Play Football? is a fun read for 10 to 12 year olds. It is nice to see girls playing (and being good at) less traditional sports, and to see other pastimes such as chess given a look-in as well. The importance given to family and friends (new and old) is another positive dimension of the book.

Who Said Girls Can’t Play Football is a sound read for classroom or private reading.

Who Said Girls Can’t Play Football, by Judi Pope
Macmillan Education, 2004

The First Potter, by Tony Stone

Kiami is not yet a man when he realises that clay can be used to fix and to make things. Excited by the possibilities of his discovery, the elders of the tribe ask him to work on perfecting his craft to make more clay baskets for the whole tribe. But can he get it right before the time comes for him to become a hunter and join the other men?

The First Potter is a tale in the tradition of tribal legends, told through the first person narration of a storyteller of the tribe in which the story is set. As well as telling Kiami’s story it also gives one possible explanation of how man came to use clay to make containers, pots and art works.

The First Potter is part of the new Breakers series from Macmillan Education and is an example of how the series makes use of different styles and genres to provide texts which are suitable both for classroom study and private reading.

Well told.

The First Potter, by Tony Stone
Macmillan Education, 2004

Our Don Bradman, by Peter Allen

When Victor receives a diary for his twelfth birthday, his Grandma tells him he can write about anything – even Don Bradman. Although he does write about lots of other things, the Don figures prominently in his writing over the next year, especially after he gets to know the Australian cricketer personally.

Our Don Bradman is part of the My Story series from Scholastic, each using the diary format to tell a child’s story in a particular period in history. This one is based on true events and not only shares the events of Bradman’s cricket career but also of other major events in Sydney and around the world in 1932.

1932 was the year in which the infamous Bodyline cricket scandal played out during England’s visit to Australia. It was also the year that the Sydney Harbour Bridge was opened and was an Olympic year. Australia was also in the grips of the depression. All these events and many more are related in the first person account of young Victor McDonald whose family relocates to Sydney because of the depression. But it is cricket – and Don Bradman – which sits at the centre of the story, making it likely to appeal to young cricket fans who will enjoy not only learning about the great Sir Donald Bradman but also following Victor’s story of trying to be a great cricketer himself, despite owning no shoes or a proper cricket bat.

Our Don Bradman is a quality book for private reading and for school library and classroom collections.

Our Don Bradman: The Diary of Victor McDonald, by Peter Allen
Scholastic, 2004

The Sorcerer's Apprentice, by Emily Rodda

When Teen Power Inc get two new jobs, they don’t expect them to combine to solve a big mystery, but that’s exactly what happens. First, they are hired to help in a clean up of the local magic shop. Tom is the only one who is excited about this. He loves magic and hopes to learn something from the eccentric owner, Sid. Then a second job arises. The teens are asked to babysit seven year old Tarquin Anderson. The pay is great but Tarquin is more than a handful – even with two teens looking after him at a time.

Meanwhile, Raven Hill is under siege from a mysterious mugger, known widely as The Gripper. After Tom has a close brush with him it becomes personal. But the solution to the mystery – and the arrest of the mugger – is as surprising to Tom as it is to everyone.

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice is the second title in Emily Rodda’s Raven Hill Mysteries. First released in 1994, when the series was known as Teen Power Inc, the series will be popular with a new batch of pre and early teens. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice has plenty of action, a touch of humour and a smattering of clues to help would-be sleuths unravel the mystery.

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, by Emily Rodda
Scholastic, 2004. First published in 1994

Map, by Robert Moore

Fiona lives on the family farm with her parents and big brother. Up the hill, and on the same farm, is her grandparents’ house. Fiona loves to help her Gran and Grandpa with milking and churning and their other jobs, but lately she’s noticed some changes. Grandpa is having trouble breathing and is getting slower. Gran seems to be getting more and more forgetful.

Map is a story about farm life in Tasmania in the 1950s, but it is also a story of the problems associated with ageing and with keeping a family functioning. Young readers will be interested in the differences between farm life in the middle of last century and their own lifestyles in the new millennium. They will also enjoy the story of young Map, the new calf born to one of the family’s cows in the course of the novel.

Map will be a challenging read for many primary aged students, with a recommended reading age of 12 and a style which is more formal than many children’s novels. It is part of the Breakers series from Macmillan Education, suitable both for classroom and private reading.

Map, by Robert Moore
Macmillan Education, 2004

Being Bindy, by Alyssa Brugman

Bindy and Janey have been friends forever. So when Janey starts acting strangely, Bindy has no idea what she’s in for. Suddenly Janey wants to hang out with Hannah more than with Bindy. That wouldn’t be so bad if they didn’t seem to want to make Bindy look bad in front of the whole school.

Bindy can barely recognise her best friend any more. Janey is suddenly into boys, makeup, shirt skirts – even drugs. Bindy still likes to watch the cartoons and play noughts and crosses. Bindy’s dad is no help. He suggests that perhaps it is time for Bindy to broaden her horizons. Her mum is no use either – their regular weekends together are becoming more and more strained.

When Bindy’s dad starts seeing Janey’s mum things become even more complicated. What if they move in together? Bindy would have to share a room with Janey – her ex-best friend.

Being Bindy is funny, sad and moving – but most of all it is very real. The problems faced by Bindy and Janey will touch a nerve with teenage girls. Author Alyssa Brugman doesn’t preach and doesn’t provide easy answers. There is nothing as simple as happily-ever-after – but there is a feeling of hope which makes the novel uplifting but not unrealistic.

This is Brugman’s third novel for young adult readers, although this one is aimed at a slightly younger audience than the previous two. What it does have in common with her earlier offerings is Brugman’s superb blend of insight and writing skill.

Being Bindy, by Alyssa Brugman
Allen & Unwin, 2004

Secrets, by Christine Harris

Jesse Sharpe has been brought up behind the closed doors of C2, a top secret spy organisation. So when she is asked to take on an assignment on the outside protecting a girl who is about to be kidnapped, she is grateful for the chance for some freedom. She will go to school for the first time, see new sights and maybe even make some friends. She may even get a chance to find out who she really is.

Secrets is the first title in a new series called Spy Girl. Jesse, the heroine, has lived within the confines of C2 for as long as she can remember. She is a child genius and an orphan, and C2 use her for their experiments and their research. Jesse is kept a virtual prisoner by the organisation and longs to find freedom and to learn more about who she really is and where she came from. She is smart enough to know that C2 will not allow either of these things and so uses the opportunities available to her on special assignments to try to learn more.

Secrets is a fast-paced introduction to the series, which is likely to attract a following among 11 to 14 year old readers. Jesse is a feisty, strong central character.

Secrets (Spy Girl #1), by Christine Harris
Scholastic, 2004

Mysterious Eruptions, by Liz Flaherty

Tom is appalled when he discovers a big pimple on his chin. After all, he is only eleven. He grabs some cream from the bathroom cupboad and slathers it on. Not a good move. Soon his chin is covered in lumps and bumps. His Mum takes a trip to the pharmacy, but it seems each new potion cures one problem only to cause a brand new one. Tom starts to get suspicious when he realises the labels on the different treatments have a similarity. He sets out to solve the mystery.

Mysteruous Eruptions is a humorous story which takes every child’s nightmares of pimples and other bodily mishaps – and makes them ten times worse. The action is fast and far-fetched, making it a sure winner for kids aged 10 to 12.

Mysterious Eruptions is part of the Breakers series from Macmillan Education and is suitable for classroom reading and private enjoyment.

Mysterious Eruptions, by Liz Flaherty
Macmillan Education, 2004

The Fortune Seekers, by Audrey Griffin

Eva and Elliott love exploring – especially the remains of the gold diggings in Dead Man’s Gully. So when Stan Moreton applies for a mining license over the Gully, they aren’t impressed. Then Eva and Elliott make an amazing discovery – there are fossils in a rock face in Dead Man’s Gully. Will this be enough to halt mining?

The Fortune Seekers is a present tense account of Eva and Elliott’s adventures which touches on themes of history and environment as well as focussing on family relationships and peer friendships.

The Fortune Seekers is part of Macmillan Education’s new Breakers series, suitable for both classroom use and private reading. This title is aimed at students with a reading age of 12.5 but will appeal to younger readers too.

The Fortune Seekers, by Audrey Griffin
Macmillan Education, 2004

Dinosaur Dinosaur

Youngsters love dinosaurs and the bold, bright dinosaurs illustrations in Dinosaur Dinosaur are sure to appeal. Of equal appeal is the format of this offering, with a short sheet page in between each double spread not just concealing part of the text and illustration for a surprise, but also altering each double page spread so that it depicts two scenes.

At the same time as it explores the interesting subject of dinosaurs, Dinosaur Dinosuar also explores opposites – short and tall, fast and slow, smooth and rough and so on. The use of simple rhyming text encourages youngsters to guess at the text and to use the picture clues to do so.

A cute offering for both home and preschool.

Dinosaur Dinosaur, written and illustrated by Matt Cosgrove
Koala Books, 2004