Clementine Rose and the Suprise Visitor, by Jacqueline Harvey

‘Mummy’s been running around taking care of some of the other guests. She’s been upset ever since we were in the village this morning and she found out that her Aunt Violet is coming tomorrow. I’ve never met her, She has a beautiful portrait on the stairs and I talk to her quite a bit, except that I call her Grace because I didn’t know her real name. But Mummy says that she’s horrid and she’s like a barnacle. She must be very old too, I think,’ Clementine gabbled.
The woman’s eyes seemed to change colour from blue to black right in front of Clementine.

Clementine Rose is a lovely girl who was mysteriously delivered to her mother in a basket of dinner rolls. Now she lives her with her mother, Lady Clarissa, in a big house with lots of bedrooms, and lots of problems. Her mother can’t afford the upkeep on the house so has turned it into a bed and breakfast which she runs with the help of her butler Digby. Clementine is perfectly happy, and so is her mother, until the day Clarissa hears that her Aunt Violet is coming for a visit. Will Clementine Rose be able to win this dour old lady over? Or is Aunt Violet here for sinister purposes?

Clementine-Rose and the Surprise Visitor is the first in a new series which will appeal to junior primary readers, espeically girls. Clementine is a loveable character with good intentions, even though she doesn’t always get it right. Her pet teacup pig, Lavender, is also appealing.

Very cute.

Clementine-Rose and the Surprise Visitor

Clementine-Rose and the Surprise Visitor, by Jacqueline Harvey
Random House, 2012
ISBN 9781742755410

Available from good bookstores and online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

The Beginner's Guide to Revenge, by Marianne Musgrove

I’m still not entirely sure what happened. One minute I was telling my friends how nervous I was about reading a poem on ANZAC Day, how they were expecting twenty or thirty thousand people to show up to the Dawn Service, how it was going to be broadcast on national TV. The Next minute Riley announces she doesn’t believe in glorifying war and she’s not attending on principle.

Romola should be used to changing schools – this is the fifth time she’s done it. But it isn’t easy, and this time she’s determined not to mess it up. She is going to make friends, and keep them whatever it takes. All she has to do is keep her mouth shut and not do anything outlandish. But Riley, one of the ‘in’ girls and supposedly Romola’s new friend, doesn’t make it easy. Whenever Romola likes something, it seems Riley doesn’t.

Sebastian has problems, too. His mum has hooked up with a new guy, and now they’re talking about getting married. If that happens, Sebastian’s mum and dad can never get back together.

Sebastian and Romola don’t know each other, but fate throws them together, and soon the pair are friends, helping each other through some tough times, and exchanging tips for getting through. Both are out for revenge – but as they get to know each other, and themselves, a bit better, they realise that revenge isn’t always sweet.

The Beginner’s Guide to Revenge is a fabulous dual perspective tale of friendship and family – and revenge. Told with humour, it is nonetheless a book which addresses serious issues, including family dynamics, the impact of war, peer pressure and belonging.

The Beginner's Guide to Revenge

Suitable for readers aged ten and over.
The Beginner’s Guide to Revenge, by Marianne Musgrove
Woolshed Press, 2012
ISBN 978174275086

Available from good bookstores or online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Nobody's Boy, by Dianne Bates

there were phone calls that night
welfare people whispering
I was in the next room
scoffing down the pie and drink they gave me
the walls were thin
can you take him?
can you help us out?

I knew what was happening
does anyone want this kid?
that’s what they were saying
does anyone care?

Not many seven year olds know how to ring for an ambulance, but Ron Green does, because he’s been looking out for his mum for quite some time. Now she’s in hospital, and Ron is in foster care, being passed around from place to place. H’es nobody’s boy. His aunt Maree takes him in, but she doesn’t want him – she’s got her hands full with three kids of her own. Dad’s new wife Anna won’t have Ron in the house. And the people who sometimes care for Ron, Pearl and Brian, are off travelling Australia in a caravan. Eventually, Ron is taken in by new foster carers, happy to have a boy of their own. It’s the sort of home he’s always wanted – with a mum and a dad, a room of his own, even trips on aeroplanes. But all Ron really wants is to be with his dad.

Nobody’s Boy is a moving verse novel about the difficulties faced by children who have no stable family life. Ron is a confused,sometimes angry child, who just wants to feel loved. Whilst there are people in his life who do care for him, his sense of abandonment by his parents is strong. Neglected by his mother whilst in her care, he particularly wants to connect with his more stable father, but this is difficult because of his stepmother. The challenges faced by foster families are also highlighted. Ron’s foster parents are caring people who try hard to provide him with the stability he needs, but find it hard to take the place of his absent parents and to undo the damage done in his past.

The subject matter is confronting and sad, but well handled. Readers are given an insight into Ron’s life made clsoer by the use of the verse novel format, allowing key moments and personal feelings to be shared with heartbreaking intimacy.

Whilst the cover image suggests an older boy, Ron turns 10 during the story, making this suitable for primary aged readers, though older readers will also connect.

Nobodys Boy

Nobody’s Boy, by Dianne Bates
Celapene Press, 2012
ISBN 9780987255600

Available from good bookstores or online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Eric Vale Epic Fail, by Michael Gerard Bauer

Then Martin turned to the kids around him.
‘Don’t you get it? Eric Vale – Epic Fail. Ahahahahahah!’
Meredith Murdoch and Bobby Quan got it first. And then it started to spread like it was contagious. All around the room kids with big grins were turning to kids with big frowns and saying, ‘Eric Vale – Epic Fial. See? Hahahahahahahaha!’
It was like I was one of those YouTube clips and I was going mega-viral!

Eric Vale is a bit of a daydreamer, and sometimes that daydreaming gets him into trouble. But when it leads to him hearing his teacher say ‘Eric Vale’ when what he actually said was ‘epic fail’, his life becomes almost unbearable. Soon everyone is calling him Epic Fail, and it seems he just can’t stop doing silly things that remind him – and everyone else- of the nickname. It’s a seemingly endless cycle of epic fails.

Eric Vale – Epic Fail is the hilarious first installment in a new series from Michael Gerard Bauer. Eric is a likable, funny protagonist, whose heart is in the right place, in spite of his propensity to muck things up. His classmates too are lots of fun, especially his best mate Chewy, who looks on the bright side of everything, but inadvertently contributes to some of Eric’s woes.

The text is well supported by the grey scale illustrations by Bauer’s talented son Joe with a mix of comic-style cells, single illustrations and humorous embellishments. Readers will also enjoy Eric’s own stories, which he enjoys writing but which also contribute to his landing in trouble.

Laugh out loud funny, but with nice messages about difference, and friendship, and even bullying, this is another sure-fire hit from one of Australia’s best.

Eric Vale - Epic Fail

Eric Vale – Epic Fail, by Michael Gerard Bauer, illustrated by Joe Bauer
Omnibus, 2012
ISBN 9781862919921

Available from good bookstores or online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Whisky Charlie Foxtrot, by Annabel Smith

It is less than twenty-four hours since Charlie received the phone call from his mother and in those hours his only thought has been that Whisky must not die. He must not die becuse he, Charlie, needs more time. He and Whisky have not been friends, have not talked or laughed together for months, years. But he has never thought it will end like this. He has always thought there will be time.

Whisky and Charlie might be identical twins, but that doesn’t mean they like each other. In fact, Charlie can’t even bear to talk to Whisky. But now Whisky lies shattered in a hospital bed, in a coma from which he may not wake, and Charlie gradually comes to realise that there are things he should have said, which may be now left unsaid.

Whisky Charlie Foxtrot is a moving tale of sibling rivalry, of the complexity of family relationships and of identity. Charlie is likable though flawed protagonist, who has long seen himself as living in his brother’s shadow. As his brother lies in hospital he must confront his own flaws as well as setting aside those he has long perceived in his brother.

Told in third person with shifts between the present and various past events, the reader is privileged to gradually learn more about Charlie, Whisky and their troubled relationship in a story that is heartwarming, funny and very moving. Aimed at an adult readership, it will also be enjoyed by older teens, with focus on the brothers’ childhood and teen years.

Whisky Charlie Foxtrot, by Annabel Smith
Fremantle Press, 2012
ISBN 9781922089144

This book is available in good bookstores or online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.