Three Favourites, by Odo Hirsch

Time was passing but Antonio continued to peer through the crack. He couldn’t drag himself away. there was something fascinating and inviting, something spectacular about those gold words and their bold red background, as if an amazing story stood behind them. Antonio stared and stared. the words made him think of light and noise, music, laughter and applause. And yet here, in the secret passage where he stood, everything was so dark and quiet.

Antonio lives in a grand old house now broken into apartments with lots of interesting rooms and passages – and just as many interesting residents. But when he accidentally spies on one resident, Mr Guzman, Antonio finds himself wanting to know more. Just who is Theodore Guzman and why does he keep to himself so much?

Antonio S and the Mystery of Theodore Guzman is one of three Odo Hirsch favourites bundled together into one volume. With Hazel Green and Amelia Dee and the Peacock Lamp, Odo Hirsch: Three Favouritesis an excellent offering for children who enjoy Hirsch’s blend of whimsy, adventure and enchantment.

There is nothing quite like an Odo Hirsch story – and to have three in one volume is sheer bliss.

Odo Hirsch: Three Favourites

Odo Hirsch: Three Favourites
Allen and Unwin, 2010
ISBN 9781742374727

This book is available from good bookstores, or online from Fishpond.

Mr Tripp Smells a Rat, by Sandy McKay

Some people have more than one thing they are good at. Mr Tripp tells good jokes and has a clever nose. His nose can tell you what’s in your sandwich without even looking.

Lily’s teacher, Mr Tripp, says everyone is good at something. Mr Tripp himself is good at tow things – he can tell good jokes and he has a clever nose. When Ricky Rider’s pet rat escapes in the classroom next door, Mr Tripp must use his nose to sniff out the rat’s hiding spot. But is he brave enough?

Mr Tripp Smells a Rat is a cute collection of three short stories set in a junior primary classroom with Lily, her classmates and the funny Mr Tripp. Each story is self contained, but the three together build a picture of a happy, nurturing classroom that every child will wish was theirs.

Part of the Walker Stories series for emergiing readers, Mr Tripp Smells a Rat uses simple text and lots of illustrative support to help readers succeed.

Mr Tripp Smells a Rat

Mr Tripp Smells a Rat, by Sandy McKay, illustrated by Ruth PaulISBN 9781921529061

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

Violet Mackerel's Brilliant Plot, by Anna Branford

If what you want is something really, really important, and if the importance has been proven by your own personal theory, then ordinary plans are no good.
What you need is a plot. A brilliant plot.

When Violet Mackerel sees a blue china bird at the Saturday markets she realises that owning it is a very important idea, not just a silly wish. But the bird costs ten dollars and Violet doesn’t have ten dollars. What she needs, if the bird is to be hers, is a plot – a brilliant plot.

Violet Mackerel’s Brilliant Plot is a delightful chapter book offering which will be loved by little girls and by adult readers too. And what’s not to love? The hardcover format featuring a cheeky violet and pink spotty background, endpapers dancing with pigeons and buttons, and black and white illustrations on every spread combine with the heartwarming story of how Violet plots and plans her way to achieving her own goals – and helping others with theirs at the same time.

The first in a series, Violet Mackerel’s Brilliant Plot is, as its title suggests, brilliant.

Violet Mackerel's Brilliant Plot

Violet Mackerel’s Brilliant Plot, by Anna Branford, illustrated by Sarah Davis
Walker Books, 2010
ISBN 97819215291

Always Jack, by Susanne Gervay

Leo’s staying this weekend. Mum has ordered me to clean my room. I don’t see why I have to. Mum told Samantha that she has to help me. I don’t want her to. My head is thumping and she’s humming. I grit my teeth. ‘Stop humming.’ She doesn’t. I ignore her.

In I am Jack Jack had to confront a bully. In Super Jack he dealt with the changes force on him when his family blends with that of his new stepdad. Now, in Always Jack Jack is back – and, as always, his life is complicated. His family might be lots of fun, and very supportive, but Nanna is getting older and wobblier, his stepfather Rob needs to spend more time with his own son, Leo, and Rob and Mum’s wedding seems to be the main topic of conversation. Then Mum comes home with news that is so bad all those other things seem trivial. Jack will need all off his courage to survive this one.

Always Jack is a wonderful complement to the earlier two books about young Jack and his slightly crazy, very loving family. Jack is a delightful first person narrator who is honest, funny and full of life. We experience wonderful highs and terrible lows with him, knowing that somehow, his strength and the support of the wonderful people around him, will get him through.

There are a lot of issues explored in this little offering – blended families, the impact of cancer, friendship, the migrant experience, war, ageing and more – but it works because author Susanne Gervay weaves the story tightly, carrying the reader along on Jack’s journey.

Wonderful stuff.

Always Jack, by Susanne Gervay
Angus & Robertson, 2010
ISBN This book is available in good bookstores, or online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Streets on a Map, by Dale Harcombe

Reviewed by Dee White

Having lived for many years in a small country town, there was so much about Dale Harcombe’s new novel, Streets on a Map, that I could relate to.

Newly married Abby moves to Astley when her husband gets a transfer with work, but it’s not exactly what she expected and she wonders if she will ever fit into this close knit community. Abby’s husband, Joel doesn’t seem to understand her difficulties and Abby starts to think that this the whole marriage/moving thing might have been a mistake.

She finds a friend, Laila and ends up opening a restaurant with her. Soon Abby is back doing what she loves, singing and running a very successful business. As she becomes more content, things seem to settle down in her marriage too.

But harmony doesn’t reign for long. A deadly house fire and an unplanned pregnancy.

Then there’s the arrival of Laila’s sister Margot and the teenage tearaway, Zoe to add further complications.

The action just keeps coming in Streets on a Map and keeps the reader turning the pages, wondering what’s going to happen next to the characters they have come to know. In the final climactic stages of the book, one of the most well loved characters is stabbed and the reader is left biting their nails, hoping and praying that the victim will survive.

The main characters in Streets on a Map have been well developed so that they become real to the reader – so the reader cares what happens to them and those they love.

It was easy to engage with the likeable and talented heroine, Abby although she had plenty of flaws too that kept her from being perfect and made her authentic for the reader.

Every one of the characters in Streets on a Map has their own fascinating story to tell and Dale Harcombe weaves them cleverly together to create dilemmas for Abby and help her discover strengths she didn’t knew she had.

Streets on a Map is full of vivid description that places the reader right in the story, feeling as if Astley is a place they have visited themselves. The dialogue is authentic and there are strong themes of trust, friendship, forgiveness and self-discovery throughout the book. It’s also about the choices we make and the fact that choices have consequences.

Streets on a Map will be enjoyed by readers who enjoy a fast-paced story with engaging, memorable characters.

Streets on a Map, by Dale Harcombe
Ark House Press or available signed from Dale Harcombe
Paperback $19.95