Two Matilda Mudpuddle Titles, by Gordon Winch

Matilda Mudpuddle looked in the mirror and had a big shock. “I’ve gone!” she exclaimed in alarm. “I’ve disappeared. I’ve left the face of the earth!”

Matilda is very special. Whenever she eats one of the delicacies her grandfather brings back from his trips overseas, she develops a new special ability. When he brings back bright blue jelly babies from the Bahamas, Matilda discovers that eating one turns her invisible for three hours. She decides to use the new power to get up to all sorts of mischief – from tricking people in the supermarket, to tickling the school principal during a long, boring speech. But her grandfather wants her to also use her special powers to help people and, when she and her mother are caught up in a bank robbery, she sees her opportunity.

The Invisible Matilda Mudpuddle and Matilda Mudpuddle and the X-ray Eyes are two new titles in the Matilda Mudpuddle series. Each book features Matilda having adventures with a new special ability, each of which is limited in time – the invisibility only lasts till she’s eaten the last jelly baby, whilst her x-ray vision lasts for a month. Each chapter features a new adventure with the relevant ability, so that each can be read as a self-contained adventure, making them accessible to slow readers.

This is a fun series which will appeal to kids aged 7 to 9.

Matilda Mudpuddle and the X-ray Eyes and The Invisible Matilda Mudpuddle, by Gordon Winch, illustrated by Dee Texidor
New Frontier Publishing, 2006

Lilies for Love, by Felicity Pulman

‘I can’t breathe properly, Mus,’ she protested, and pulled away from him. Not giving him a chance to respond, she forked two fingers and jabbed forward, throwing all her weight into the action and aiming straight for his eyes. As he howled in protest, she jerked up her knee and rammed him straight in the groin. For good measure, she then stamped down hard on his toes.

With her life under threat from lord Robert, Janna seeks refuge at Wiltune Abbey, where she must live the life of a nun. Janna is surprised to be accepted there by most of the other sisters, and makes friends with another lay sister, Agnes. She is assigned to work in the infirmary where she expands on the skills she has already learnt from her mother, and helps Sister Anne, the infirmarian, in caring for the sick and injured.

But nothing must distract Janna from her true mission – she wants to learn to read while she’s in the abbey, so that she continue her search for her father and seek justice for her mother, who was murdered by the lord Robert..

Lilies for Love is the third book in the Janna Mysteries series, and sees the feisty Janna solve more mysteries, some related to her ongoing quest and others – such as the disappearance of pages of precious manuscript – side issues, yet intriguing. Set against the backdrop of civil war between King Stephen and the Empress Matilda over the mediaeval English throne, Lilies for love is an intriguing read.

Janna Mysteries 3: Lilies for Love

Lilies for Love, by Felicity Pulman
Random House, 2006

This book can be purchased online at Fishpond.

Peeling the Onion, by Wendy Orr

Jenny rushes in; stops and turns pale at the sight of my scaffolded neck. This isn’t what she expected to see – and for a moment Jenny, sunny, effervescent, ever-optimistic Jenny, stares at me and can’t speak.
‘They made a mistake – I broke my neck after all.’

Anna is on the way to the top. She’s won another karate competition, and this year she’ll go for her back belt. And she’s just shared her first kiss with Hayden, who could well be the love of her life. But Anna’s life is shattered when she and Hayden are in a car accident. He’s fine, but she’s in hospital with multiple injuries, including a broken neck, and a long road to recovery ahead of her.

As Anna deals with the pain of her injuries and the reality that her life will never be the same again, she discovers that there is no such thing as ‘normal’. Things that once seemed so normal no longer matter to her; things which never concerned her now matter a lot. And her friendships and relationship are changing, too. Anna wonders if she’ll ever put herself back together again.

Peeling the Onion is an absorbing first-person account of Anna’s journey through the healing process – both physical and emotional. Anna is a likeable character and the use of first person narration allows the reader to see her strengths, her weaknesses and her insecurities in an intimate way.

This is the fifteenth time this book has been reprinted since its first release in 1996, a testament to its appeal.

Peeling the Onion

Peeling the Onion, by Wendy Orr
Allen & Unwin, 1996, this edition 2006

You can buy this book online at Fishpond.

Rue for Repentance, by Felicity Pulman

Almost everyone thought she had died. Only two people knew she was still alive, but Janna trusted them not to betray her. It was better for her to be gone from sight. Safer. Meanwhile these clothes, these filthy garments, were part of her disguise, and she would have to endure them.

When her home is brunt to the ground by angry villagers, Janna realises she must flee if she is to stay alive. Lord Robert knows that Janna knows his secrets, and is among those who wanted Janna dead. With no proof of his actions, Janna must keep her suspicions to herself until such time as she can prove them.

When she takes shelter on a manor farm , disguised as a boy, Janna hopes she can start a new life and begin her search for a father she didn’t even know existed until recently. But Janna’s disguise is tenuous and, when she discovers that the owner of the manor is someone she knows, Janna is once again in danger. When the boy Hamo disappears, Janna must find him before time runs out for both of them.

Rue for Repentance is the second title in the Janna Mysteries series, set in medieval times and featuring the feisty Janna, whose knowledge of herbs and healing and keen eye for detail, stand her in good stead as a sleuth. Whilst the book does stand alone, readers will enjoy it more if they have previously read the first title in the series, Rosemary for Remembrance and will look forward to reading the third instalment, Lilies for Love.

Janna Mysteries 2: Rue for Repentance

Rue for Repentance, by Felicity Pulman
Random House, 2006

You can buy this book online at Fishpond.

Audiobook Review: Don't Pat the Wombat! by Elizabeth Honey

When grade six gets to go on a camp to a pioneering village, Mark and his mates are rapt. No school and no parents for a whole week. But, best of all, they get to escape from the teacher they call the Bomb, who has it in for Jonah, one of Mark’s mates. But when one of the teachers on camp falls ill, guess who they send as replacement? With the Bomb there, the whole camp could be ruined.

Don’t Pat the Wombat is a fun story which deals with serious issues of friendship, victimisation and adult alcoholism, but in author Elizabeth Honey’s hands, these serious issues are dealt with using humour and loads of interest, to engage readers without trivialising the issues.

This audio book version is read by Damon Herriman, whose reading brings the first person narration of Mark to life, and gives life to the character and his tale.

Good stuff.

Don’t Pat the Wombat!, text by Elizabeth Honey, reading by Damon Herriman
ABC Audio, 2006

Go to Sleep, Jeff!

Oh no! Jeff is having a very unusual problem. He can’t seem to fall asleep! Night after night, the other Wiggles give Jeff ideas to help him catch some ZZZs, but nothing works.

Jeff Wiggle is known for his regular naps – he even falls asleep during concerts – so when he can’t sleep, everyone is concerned. The other Wiggles make some suggestions – Jeff should count sheep, or do star jumps, or drink warm milk before he goes to bed. But none of these ideas work. Then Captain Feathersword has a suggestion. The other Wiggles should write a special lullaby for Jeff. When they do this, and sing to Jeff when he goes to bed, he sleeps through the night.

Go To Sleep Jeff is a bedtime story for young Wiggles fans and comes complete with a CD recording of Jeff reading the story, and two original lullabies sung by the Wiggles. Youngsters seem to love anything and everything Wiggles, and this one should be no less popular.

The Wiggles: Go to Sleep, Jeff
ABC Books, 2007

You can buy this book online at Fishpond

The Undertow, by Peter Corris

Cliff Hardy, private investigator, has been asked for help by his long time friend, Frank Parker. Parker’s former lover, Catherine Castiglione, has made contact, claiming that Parker is the father of her missing son. Hardy is asked to locate the son and see if he can prove the innocence of the man who believed he was the boy’s father – a long-dead doctor who died while serving time for a murder he may not have committed.

While Hardy investigates, he meets a cast of players in a mystery bigger than he envisions, including policemen past and current, prostitutes, dodgy plastic surgeons and more. He also faces more than one threat on his life, and risks losing his investigator’s licence yet again.

Undertow is the thirtieth book in the Cliff Hardy series. Author Peter Corris continues to use the formula which has give the series its longevity, including a likeable main character, plenty of twists and turns and a first person narration which gives the story immediacy and accessibility.

Good stuff.

The Undertow: A Cliff Hardy Novel (Cliff Hardy)

The Undertow, by Peter Corris
Allen & Unwin, 2006

You can purchase this book online at Fishpond.

Avoid Being a Convict Sent to Australia, by Meredith Costain

It’s 1875 and you’re the son of a farm labourer in England…You hear there is plenty of work available in the new factories opening up in London, so you move there in search of a better life. You have no idea that in a few months’ time, this move will eventually take you to the other end of the earth.

Avoid Being a Convict Sent to Australia is a wonderful nonfiction offering which will appeal to primary aged children. What sets it apart from other books about convicts is that it speaks directly to the child, using the second person ‘you’. As you read the book, the things that happened to the convicts are now happening to you. You are arrested, imprisoned and sent to Australia, where your new life as a convict is pretty hard. The reader is subjected to all sorts of hardships, with the second person narration making it personal.

The use of bright cartoon-style drawings and other humorous elements such as handy hints (for example, convicts are told to hope that the King is in a good mood on the day of your trial!) make the book fun to read at the same time as being informative, with plenty of facts and examples, a back of book glossary and more.

This is an excellent educational offering, suitable for home or school.

Avoid Being a Convict Sent to Australia! (Danger Zone S.)

The Danger Zone: Avoid Being a Convict Sent to Australia, by Meredith Costain, illustrated by David Antram
Koala Books, 2005

This book is available online at Fishpond.

Take 2, by Philip Blythe

The detective-thriller movie, Quest for the Golden Ibis, has just finished filming. For every scene, the director has filmed two different versions, each from a different angle. But there are a number of errors in every take, because a saboteur has been trying to ruin the film…

This is a puzzle or spot-the difference book with a special difference. Instead of presenting two identical pictures and asking youngsters to search for changes, Take 2 presents two shots of each scene, taken from different angles. The differences then are in details – clothing, props, the set and so on.

Readers are asked to act as an Assistant Editor and search for the differences between each pair of takes, then choose which shot will actually work in the final film. They are also asked to act as detective and figure out the identity of the saboteur.

As well as being a mind-bending and fun puzzle book, Take 2 also serves as a good introduction to film making and film language. Children are introduced to words such as cast, take, director and scene, as well as concepts such as continuity.

Suitable for primary school aged children.

Take 2, by Philip Blythe
Little Hare, 2006

Rosemary for Remembrance, by Felicity Pulman

The wolf’s howl shattered the dark, secretive forest. Startled, Janna spun around, straining to pinpoint the direction of the sound. At the sudden movement, the flame of her torch flickered and almost died. Fighting panic, she cupped her fingers around the flame to protect and steady it.

Janna lives with her mother on the edge of the village and close to the forest. Her mother is a healer and villagers come to her with their ailments, even against the wishes of the local priest. Janna longs to leave the village and have the freedom to see the world, but when her mother dies suddenly, Janna realises how very frightening being alone can be.

Janna is convinced her mother’s death was no accident, but proving this is very difficult – Janna has no power and few friends. Yet she seems to be rapidly accumulating enemies – a posturing apothecary, the priest who denies her mother a churchyard burial, and even the husband of the woman Janna’s mother was treating when she died. It seems Janna’s own life might be taken before she has time to figure out who killed her mother.

Rosemary for Remembrance is an exciting mystery story set in medieval England. Janna is a strong teenager, fighting against the odds in her quest for truth and justice. Teen readers will find her strength and perseverance appealing, and will enjoy the novelty of the setting.

Rosemary for Remembrance is the first of The Janna Mysteries and readers will soon be looking out for the next title.

Rosemary for Remembrance (Janna Mysteries S.)

Rosemary for Remembrance, by Felicity Pulman
Random House, 2005

This book is available online at Fishpond.