George and Ghost, by Catriona Hoy & Cassia Thomas

George and Ghost were friends,
but George wasn’t sure he
believed in Ghost any more.

George and Ghost have always been friends, but now George is having doubts about whether or not Ghost is real. And if he’s not real, he will have to go away. Ghost wants him to prove it. So George sets about thinking of ways to discover if his friend is real or not. And by every scientific measure he uses, Ghost is not real. Now it’s up to Ghost to find a way to convince his friend that he is real. Illustrations are full page and warm colour and include many textural elements. George is very expressive and Ghost has delightful rosy cheeks, a little like George’s.

On the surface, George and Ghost is a story about friendship and the important things in life. But there’s another layer, that explores scientific principles and philosophy in a practical child-comprehensible way. In science, hypotheses are tested by experimenting and recording the outcomes. In the same way George tries to prove his friend real by displacing water and capturing images. In philosophy, notions of existence are also tested, if differently. Young children may well not be able to name the principles explored here, but they’ll have fun trying out the experiments that suggest themselves. And the principles may well feed their curiosity about, and enrich their understanding of, their world and just what constitutes ‘real’ and ‘not real’. Recommended for pre-school and early primary children.

George and Ghost

George and Ghost, Catriona Hoy, ill Cassia Thomas
Hodder 2010
ISBN: 9780340988862

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author

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

Thomas Trew and the Klint-King's Gold

‘Did you hear what the Professor said?’ whispered Patch, her eyes starting nearly out of her head.
‘About hiding something big in plain sight? Yes!’ said Pinch.
‘I think that –’ Thomas began. But he never finished his sentence, for at that very moment, something hard came down on the back of his neck, and he fell into a roaring blackness, shot through with whizzing red stars.

Thomas is a human child whose destiny has taken him to live in the hidden world, in the marvellous village of Owlchurch. In this, his third adventure, Owlchurch is hosting the Magicians’ and Enchanters’ Convention, and Thomas is thrilled to be witnessing different kinds of magic. But when the valuable prizes for a special competition are stolen, Thomas and his friends Pinch and Patch decide to investigate.

Thomas Trew and the Klint-King’s Gold is an exciting fantasy for middle and upper primary aged readers. It stands alone, though readers will probably enjoy it more if they have read the earlier titles in the series.

Author Sophie Masson weaves a fantasy world which is both intriguing and humorous, with an impressive cast of characters painted in enough depth to satisfy young readers, who will be egaer to read the rest of the series.

Thomas Trew and the Klint-kings Gold

Thomas Trew and the Klint-King’s Gold, by Sophie Masson
Hodder, 2007

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

Thomas Trew and the Horns of Pan, by Sophie Masson

At that moment, the woman turned her eyes to them. She ignored the Gulls and focused her dazzling smile on Thomas, ‘Oh, Mr Trew,’ she said, ‘this must be your son, the Rymer.’ Her voice was sweet, silvery, beautiful. Her eyes looked deep into Thomas’s and he felt warmth flowing into him. She smiled. ‘How handsome he is! But that is not surprising, of course.’

Thomas Trew is happy living in Owlchurch, a town in the Hidden World. He especially loves his new friends, Pinch and Patch, who are teaching him magic. But the peace of the village is disrupted by the arrival of a mysterious visitor. Frodite Peree has been awarded the Horns of Pan, a very high honour indeed, and now she wants to so set up home in Owlchurch. Most of the villagers are delighted. Having such an esteemed resident will bring fame to the town. But Frodite wants to usurp Old Gal, who is Pinch and Patch’s mother, and Thomas is not so convinced that she is all she says she is.

Thomas and the twins set out to seek help, but their journey takes them far from home, and with time running out, they may not be back in time to stop the stranger taking over Owlchurch.

Thomas Trew and the Horns of Pan is the second title in the Thomas Trew series, but stands alone so that readers new to the series are not disadvantage. Thomas is a human child who has come to live in the magical Hidden World, where he has a special role to play as a Rymer. This role sees him respected and loved in the village, and playing an integral role in solving problems, which child readers will appreciate.

With unicorns, dwarves, witches and more mythical creatures, this is sure to enchant children aged 8 to 12.

Thomas Trew and the Horns of Pan

Thomas Trew and the Horns of Pan, by Sophie Masson
Hodder, 2007

You can purchase this title online at Fishpond. Purchasing through this link supports Aussiereviews

Harry and Luke, by Glynn Parry

One night, Harry’s bed grows feet and takes him out for a walk in the city. He meets a boy called Luke, riding on an elephant. Together the pair have wild and wierd adventures.

Harry likes being friends with Luke, but maybe Luke needs more than a friend – perhaps what he needs is a family, especially now that his Auntie Kate has flown off to live in the outback.

Can Harry and his family make evryone’s dreams come true?

Harry and Luke is a fun novel for 7 to 9 year old children. Part of the new Hotshots series from Hodder, this simple fantasy is suitable for kids making the transition into novel format books.

Glynn Parry is better known for his young adult novels, including Scooterboy and Monster Man. He lives in Western Australia with his wife and three children.

Harry and Luke, by Glynn Parry
Hodder Headline Australia, 2002

The Floating Brothel

Many stories of convict life present romanticised tales of poor innocents wrongly accused of trivial crimes and sent on ships with billowing sails to ultimately lead a wonderful new life in the bountiful southern land.

In The Floating Brothel, Sian Rees presents a vividly different view. This is the previously untold story of life aboard the Lady Julian which sailed from England in 1789 bearing a cargo of convicts destined for Botany Bay.

This is an historical account, not a piece of fiction, so do not expect a light romance or tales of happily ever after, though this does not mean that The Floating Brothel is overly pessimistic or negative. Rees has carefully researched this history and provides a detailed exploration of life on board the Lady Julian, and of the history of those who came to sail on her. Details of life in and beyond the new colony for the key figures round off the book.

For those who enjoy historical fiction, the opening chapters of The Floating Brothel may prove to be a little hard-going. Rees details the social circumstances which led to the use of deportation as a means of relieving pressure on English prisons and, more broadly, English society, as well as the crimes and circumstances of the women who sailed on the Lady Julian. Perseverance with this opening will find the reader drawn in to the tale and to the individual stories of some of those on board, especially that of the ship’s steward, John Nicol, and 19 year old Sarah Whitelam.

Despite its title, The Floating Brothel is not a tale of moral depravity – Rees delves deep into the realities of the relationships and activities on board the ship. This is an absorbing read for anyone with an interest in this era of Australia’s history.

The Floating Brothel
, by Sian Reees
Published by Hodder, 2001.