The Boy/friend, by RM Corbet

Lou and I were out feeding the strays. All the tabbies and flabbies and scrawnies and toms that came by his house in the late afternoon. We were sitting side by side on his front step, watching their little pink tongues lap at the saucers of milk we’d laid out among the mountains of junk on his lawn, listening to their chorus of contented purrs. ‘Can you hear that, Maude? I think it’s an augmented fourth.’
‘Does that mean it sounds like a jazz chord?’
‘For jazz it would be an augmented eleventh.’
‘Okay then.’
Talking to Lou could be like that. He was a musician. Musicians never make any sense when they talk about music. Most times, though, I’d know what Lou was thinking almost before he did; and augmented, diminished, demented or cemented, that flock of lost cats made me smile.

Maude and Lou have been friends forever. They live in the same street and until recently, went to the same school. Now Maude is going to a posh school and has to catch the bus every day. She and Lou might be different, but they are best mates. Well, they were, until Lou asks Maude to the movies and suddenly it’s like the goalposts have been moved. Where Maude was always able to completely relax and be herself around Lou, suddenly she’s over-thinking every word, every sentence, every move. Lou can’t work out what she’s on about and suddenly it’s as if they have no more common language. Then the girls at school, the magnets, suddenly want to be friends. Maude is in, then she’s out, she’s all over the place. Thank goodness for another new friend, Phoebe. Then Maude discovers Phoebe has secrets of her own. Life will never be the same.

Friendships change. That’s a given. But no one gives you the rule book on how these things will pan out. Maude, who has been accustomed to walking a very stable path, is suddenly beset by change. Even the trees at the creek are changing. Cut down. Replaced. And that’s how she’s feeling, without the words to describe it. Maude is lucky though, she has friends both old and new to help (and hinder) her move through this period of change. Through the changes, Maude begins to reassess her relationships and her ability to take some charge. Friendship, family and change are big themes here, all wrapped in a pacy, realistic read. An entertaining new offering in the Girlfriend series from Allen & Unwin. Recommended for early- to mid-secondary readers.

The Boy/friend (Girlfriend Fiction)

The Boy/friend (Girlfriend Fiction), R. M. Corbet
Allen & Unwin 2010
ISBN: 9781742372860

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

This book can be purchased in good bookstores, or online from Fishpond.

The Secret Garden, illustrated by Robert Ingpen

The Secret Garden was what Mary called it when she was thinking of it. She liked the name, and she liked still more the feeling that when its beautiful old walls shut her in, no one knew where she was. It seemed almost like being shut out of the world in some fairy place.

This story of an orphan girl sent to live with her gruff uncle in England has been loved by children for a hundred years. To mark the centenary of its release, it has been brought to life in a new edition illustrated by wonderful Australian artist Robert Ingpen.

The original text is unabridged and bound in hardback with a slip cover. Illustrations include full page character studies, landscapes and botanical studies of the garden’s flowers, which appear at the start of each chapter.

This is a beautiful collector’s edition which will be loved by adult fans of the work, as well as new generation of readers.


The Secret Garden

The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett, illustrated by Robert Ingpen
Walker Books, 2010

This book can be purchased in good bookstores or online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

The Important Things, by Peter Carnavas

Christopher’s mother had to do everything,
for his father had faded from their lives.

With his father gone, Christopher’s mother tries hard to fill the gaps. But when she decides it is time to give away the things which belonged to his father, Christopher finds it hard to remember. Together, mother and son find ways to remember.

The Important Things is a beautiful picture book tale of loss and of celebrating the important things of life. With the father’s absence left unexplained, it is a book which could be used to explore the theme of death, but also family break up or simply ways of remembering people who are important to us for a variety of reasons.

From author/illustrator Peter Carnavas, The Important Things is delightful.

The Important Things

The Important Things, by Peter Carnavas
New Frontier, 2010
ISBN 9781921042287

This book can be purchased in good bookstores, or online from Fishpond.

Arnie Avery, by Sue Walker

I swear Jacko was pulsing. Veins throbbed in his neck and at his temples, and his finger stabbed the air in front of me.
“You’re not getting away with this, Avery. I’m gonna show you. Right here. Next Saturday.” His voice dropped. “You’d better be here.”
Then he snapped at Belly. “Gimme your towel,” and he ripped it from Belly’s hands and rubbed it over his face. He grabbed his clothes and swaggered off, Franco and Sam scuttling after him…
And that was it.
I was on my own.

Arnie Avery has accidentally got himself in trouble. In a moment of madness he’s made Jacko look like a fool and, while other people laughed, Jacko didn’t. Now Jacko wants to fight Arnie, and is making his life hell.

If that isn’t enough, at home, Arnie’s life is crazy. His Mum has turned hippy and is feeding him vegetarian food, and organising family meditation sessions. His big brother Callum isn’t around any more, his sister Nicola seems to have given up, and his Dad does anything to ensure Mum isn’t upset. As his date with Jacko looms, things go from bad to worse as Arnie finds himself in more and more trouble.

Arnie Avery is a funny-serious tale of one boy’s battle with a boy, set against the aftermath of a family tragedy. Arnie’s older brother has died, and as the story progresses the reader learns more about that death and about its impact on the family. Arnie is lucky to have his good mate, Belly, and good intentions, because it is a combination of these which gets him through.

Arnie Avery is suitable for male and female readers in upper primary and lower secondary.

Arnie Avery

Arnie Avery, by Sue Walker
Walker Books, 2010
ISBN 9781921529726

This bookc an be purchased online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Boy vs Beast Series

Kai Masters is a Border Guard in training. His work is top secret. He must protect Earth. The BMC watch Kai closely. Kai must not fail.
Let the battles commence.

12 year old Kai Masters is a high-tech border guard and beast battler. Helping to protect the wall between Earth and the world of the beasts, Beastium. With his robotic dog, BC, Kai tackles a variety of beasts, saving the world from new threats, using a range of tools and his own initiative in the process.

Boy Vs Beast is a new easy to read junior fictions series which will appeal both to beginning readers transitioning from reading books to chapter books and slightly older struggling readers. Using simple language and sentence structure, and with many elements of computer gaming, including movement between worlds and collecting points and powers, as well as the use of graphic novel format for a section of each book, tehse are likely to appeal to game and fantasy-mad boy readers.

Each new book sees Kai face a different beast using different tools, and, with the inclusion of plenty of front of book information, each tale can stand alone.

Aquatan (Boy Vs Beast)

Boy vs Beast, volumes 1-8

Lemon Fizz Media for Scholastic Australia, 2010

Just a Dog, by Michael Gerard Bauer

The day my dad said Mister Mosely was ‘just a dog’, my mum punched him.
Not a punch like the one Dad gave Uncle Gavin that that time when Uncle Gavin’s tooth came out and there was all the blood and everything. But not a girl punch or a mucking-around punch either/ Mum really meant it. You could tell by the way she scrunched her face right up and made her eyes go small.
‘Don’t you say that! Don’t you dare say that!’

Misster Mosely is special. He doesn’t have a pedigree, but he is just the right dog for Corey and his family and, from the time Corey chooses him from a litter of his Uncle Gavin’s dog’s puppies, he becomes part of the family. He is loyal and funny and, from time to time, downright silly. Every member of the family – Mum, Dad, Corey, his little sister Amelia and even new baby Grace – has a special bond with Mister Mosely. And sometimes it seems that it is Mister Mosely who holds the whole family together.

Just a Dog is a delightful tale of one dog and his family. On the surface it is a collection of stories from different phases of his life, but it is also the story of a family going through the highs and lows of family life. As Corey watches his parents’ struggle, and wonders whether life will ever be the same again, he has the constant presence of Mister Mosely as a comforting force.

From award-winning author Michael Gerard Bauer, Just a Dog is suitable for middle and upper primary aged readers.


Just a Dog

Just a Dog, by Michael Gerard Bauer
Omnibus, 2010
ISBN 9781862918870

This book can be purchased from any good book store, or online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Fortune Cookie, by Bryce Courtenay

Now I prepared a life-size canvas and began to outline in paint her shape, and the slight tilt of her head…It was a winsome look that never failed to touch my heart. I’d felt it perhaps most powerfully the night I walked into the reception area at Raffles and seen her in the black cheongsam seated in a peacock-tail wicker chair…It had been one of the defining moments of my life, a glorious vision I would never forget.

Simon Koo, an Australian-born Chinese, doesn’t need a career. He comes from a wealthy family, and is heir to a business empire founded by his grandfather, who came to Australia during the gold rush. But, heir or not, Simon works in advertising, and when he’s offered a job in Singapore setting up the creative department for an advertising agency. But in mid-sixties Singapore Simon finds life complicated.

Fortune Cookie is the newest offering from great Australian novelist Bryce Courtney. As with earlier books, the research and sense of place is masterful, with the fictional events heavily influenced by the times in which they are set – with the backdrop of Singapore in the sixties proving a fascinating stage. The characters too are intriguing, with Simon supported by a strong cast including the beautiful Mercy B. Lord, the rogue Wing brothers who run the advertising company, and Simon’s mother, Chairman Meow.

Part love story, part mystery and, at times, part comedy, this is an absorbing read.

Fortune Cookie

Fortune Cookie, by Bryce Courtenay
Penguin, 2010
ISBN 9780670074082

This book can be purchased from good bookstores or online through Fishpond .

June, by Gabrielle Lord

Everything fizzed and flickered out.
Then the force of the crash-landing had shaken up every cell in my body. I was trembling all over, but my arms and legs felt numb and helpless. I couldn’t see a thing—I was surrounded by darkness…
Darkness and smoke!

Lurching from one drama to another, Cal Ormond survives a plane crash only to be chased through the bush by armed thugs. Cal can’t be caught – his life depends on staying free for long enough to find the Ormond Jewel and solve the mystery of the Ormond Singularity.

June is the sixth instalment in the Conspiracy 365 series from crime master Gabrielle Lord. With a new title released each month and the action taking place over a year, the books (and the whole series) is fast paced, with Cal repeatedly confronting perilous situations and making unlikely friends – and enemies – in the process.

Suitable for readers aged 10 and over, the series is best read sequentially, though there is a brief recap at the beginning of each.

June (Conspiracy 365), by Gabrielle Lord
Scholastic, 2010
ISBN 9781741690385

This book can be purchased in any good bookstore, or online from Fishpond.

Kickstart My heart, by Lana Penrose

The night continued. The place filled with rockers and smoke. Club patrons who I suddenly regarded as close personal friends played air guitar to KISS, Warrant, Poison, Motley cure and Ratt. We moved in the most primordial of ways. Stella, Declan and I thrashed about, growling lyrics in each other’s faces. Electrifying rock thrashed through our veins like Class B amphetamines. I was very, very happy and very, very drunk indeed.

After the breakup of her marriage, Lana Penrose flees Greece to go and live with friends in London, working in the music industry. Finding herself suddenly single in her late thirties, she takes to the bars and clubs of London in a quest to kickstart her heart. What follows is a heartbreaking, yet often funny, trip through a series of bad matches and wrong turns before she finds what she’s looking for in an unlikely place.

Kickstart My Heart is a poignant look at the world of a post-divorce single. Penrose’s honesty makes for humour amidst some shocking, confusing and just plain sad times in her life. Her encounters with rockstars, crack heads, vampires and toy boys,a long with her honest admissions about her state of mind and her broken heart make for an absorbing read.

Kickstart My Heart: A Carnival of Dating Disasters

Kickstart My Heart: A Carnival of Dating Disasters, by Lana Penrose
Viking Penguin, 2009

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

Five Parts Dead, by Tim Pegler

Knowing Mel, she and Pip will stumble across a Swedish boys’ school doing massage classes and an extended chocolate-tasting tour of the island. Which leaves me. Alone at the end of the Erath with a smashed-up foot, in virtual solitary confinement. Seriously, it’s a custodial sentence, not a summer break. But after recent events, maybe that’s exactly what Mum and Dad had in mind.

Dan’s summer is one long nightmare. Nursing a broken leg, a constant reminder of the accident which killed three of his mates, he has been dragged off on a family holiday. At the remote settlement his parents have chosen, Dan feels even more out of sorts. His sister and her best friend seem to have plenty to do, and his parents are off exploring, but Dan’s injury, and his grief, haunt him.

When he starts to feel the presence of a mysterious girl in the lighthouse keeper’s cottage where they are staying, Dan wonders if he is hallucinating because of the painkillers he takes. But as he reads the lighthouse logbook he realises that this girl has something to tell him.

Five Parts Dead is an engrossing read which is part mystery, part ghost story and part contemporary issue-based. Dan must deal with the consequences of the accident he has before the novel starts, and with the effect it has had on his whole family, as well as his growing feelings for Pip, his sister’s friend. At the same time the story of Lily, the daughter of one of the original lighthouse keepers, is gradually revealed., through Dan’s reading of the journal, and further investigations.

Five Parts Dead will appeal to both male and female teen readers.

Five Parts Dead

Five Parts Dead, by Tim Pegler
Text, 2010
ISBN 9781921656286

This book can be purchased in good bookstores or online from Fishpond.