Anonymity Jones, by James Roy

Once, in a street not very far from yours, there lived a girl called Anonymity Jones.

Anonymity’s life is not going so well. Actually, that’s an understatement. Her parents’ marriage has just broken up, her sister has changed her name and is heading for Europe, and her three close friends are all busy being girlfriends. When her mother brings home a creepy new boyfriend, and Anonymity realises she has crush on her art teacher, things really start to get messy.

Anonymity Jones is a compelling new young adult read exploring issues of family, friendship and trust. Anonymity is a likeable protagonist who manages to sort out some really confronting dilemmas, in spite of a range of betrayals – both perceived and actual – from those around her.

While there are some fairly weighty issues explored here, author Roy manages to blend wit and edginess in a way which prevents the book from being either bogged down or too light for such issues.

Recommended for upper secondary readers.

Anonymity Jones

Anonymity Jones, by James Roy
Woolshed Press, 2010

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

Edzel Grizzler, by James Roy

He wasn’t aware yet, but through the Egg, he was being called to another place. And that yearning call, combined with a subtle push from the dreariness of West Malaise, was all it really took to make Edsel reach out his right index finger and press the green button, all the way in.

Living with boring – but embarrassing – parents in Bland Street, West Malaise, Edsel Grizzler is unhappy. He dreams of having friends, and different parents and doing exciting things. So, when Edsel finds his way into another dimension, it seems all his dreams have come true. In Verdada there are no rules. Everyone stays forever young and everyone has fun. Want Pizza for breakfast? Want to skateboard? Ride a bike? No problems. But the longer he stays there, the more Edsel realises that not everything is as it seems in Verdada.

Edsel Grizzler is the first in a new adventure trilogy from master storyteller James Roy. Young readers will enjoy the excitement and interest of travelling to a strange world, but should also relate to Edsel’s desire to fit in and belong – feelings all children (and adults, too) experience. There is a message in this tale – about enjoying what you have, and the dangers of always searching for something better – but the message is there to make kids think, as a consequence of the story, rather than being preachy and didactic.

The second instalment in this trilogy will be eagerly awaited.

Edsel Grizzler (Voyage to Verdada)

Edsel Grizzler , by James Roy
UQP, 2009

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

The Gimlet Eye, by James Roy

‘If your uncle dies now – if he simply stops breathing – you will assume great power. You’ll be the leader of Quentaris…’
‘I get the feeling that you haven’t finished that sentence,’ Florian said.
‘Indeed. But if you take that power, your grip will be that much stronger. The prophecies are very clear, my friend. If he dies, you simply oversee. But if you act now, you rule!’

When the Archon dies – helped along by his nephew – and the horrid Florian claims the throne, things look grim for Quentaris. The Magicians Guild is broken up and Tab finds herself working at the City Farm – until Quentaris slips through yet another vortex and she and her friends suddenly realise they are the city’s only hope.

The Gimlet Eye is the third story in the second Quentaris series, Quest of the Lost City. Like every story in the series, it is full of intrigue, mystery, plots and betrayals – with a familiar cast of characters (both goodies and baddies). Each instalment in the series is the work of a different Australian author, with this one authored by the award-winning James Roy.

An outstanding addition to an already outstanding series.

The Gimlet Eye (Quentaris - Quest of the Lost City)

The Gimlet Eye, by James Roy
Ford Street, 2009

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

Hunting Elephants, by James Roy

He was my favourite uncle when I was a little girl. He always had motorbikes, and I’d sit on the tank in front of him, and he’d drive me around the back streets of Toowoomba, where we were all living at the time. I mean, he seemed lovely to me back then, but my parents used to talk about how much he’d changed after he came back from Vietnam War…I don’t know if it’s that exactly that makes him the way he is – I don’t remember what he was like before he went off to fight – but I do know that he can be a bit hard to get along with sometimes…’

Harry has never met his great uncle Frank, and he’s less than impressed about having to go to Frank’s wedding. He won’t know anyone there and going to the wedding means missing out on his best mate’s birthday party. All he knows about Frank is that he’s a Vietnam vet, so Harry decides he’d better brush up on his war history so that he doesn’t put his foot in it when the subject comes up. But at Frank’s house, Harry finds his knowledge might not be enough to deal with Frank. In the meantime, Harry and his parents have problems of their own to deal with.

Hunting Elephants is a brave novel, exploring the differences between appearance and reality, and the dangers of making assumptions about people and situations. Frank has secrets and insecurities, but so does Harry and, it turns out, several of the other characters in the novel.

This is a challenging tale, with complex issues and twists which ask readers to question their own propensity to make wrong assumptions. It is, however, a superbly satisfying book.

Hunting Elephants

Hunting Elephants, by James Roy
Woolshed Press, 2008

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

Queasy Rider, by James Roy

Pushing our good bikes with one hand and half-wheeling, half-carrying the old junky bike between us with the other, we headed off to my place, which was only a couple of streets away. The whole way Thicky did nothing but talk about the wonderful new thing we’d found. We could do it up and sell it, we could use the bits as spares to make a tandem bike or a fancy trike or a pedal-powered helicopter, and on and on…

When Nobby and Thicky find an old, busted-up bike, Nobby thinks its just rubbish, but Thicky is sure it can be used for something useful. When Shirley sees it, she has an idea – an idea that could make money for the three of them. It’s a plan so crazy it just might work. But then again, it might not.

Queasy Rider is a fast-moving tale of a silly plan to make money using an old bike and a steep hill. Nobby and Thicky’s ingenuity and Shirley’s schemes soon have them setting up business daring people to ride the old bike down the hill without falling off. Any kid who has ever dreamt of making easy money will relate, and the short length of the text will allow even a reluctant reader to finish the story quickly.

Part of the new Lightning Strikes series from Walker Books, Queasy Rider is suited to upper primary aged readers of all abilities.

Queasy Rider, by James Roy
Walker Books, 2008

Problem Child, by James Roy

‘There was another reason that we thought this would be a good idea. You might have noticed that Triffin is very shy. Painfully shy.’
I’d noticed this of course, so I just nodded.
‘You see Max, you’re very different. You’re a very confident young man, and I was hoping that you could help him find himself.’
If he goes and lsoes himself, there’s not a lot I can do, I thought. But what I actually said was, ‘What do you mean, exactly?’

Max Quigley isn’t a bully. He just notices the inadequacies of others and points them out to them. A lot. One of the people he likes to point such things out to is Triffin Nordstrom, a nerd who loves fat books and Lego. But when Max and his friend Jarrod shut Triffin in a fire escape on a school excursion, they go too far. Triffin is left behind and Max is in a whole lot of trouble.

Grounded with no pocket money and forced to apologise, Max thinks the worst is over, but when Triffin and his mother visit, he knows there’s more to come. Triffin is going to help Max with his maths. In return, Max is going to spend time with Triffin on weekends, getting to know him. He can’t think of anything worse; neither can Triffin. But, as their forced togetherness progresses, the pair find they actually do have things in common.

Problem Child is a hilarious book which deals with childhood bullying. This isn’t a new subject for a kids’ book – but author James Roy offers a different perspective on the topic, by writing from the first person point of view of the bully, Max. Readers get to see Max’s take on his actions. This isn’t to say we are invited to sympathise with Max – but we do empathise with him, as he becomes increasingly aware of the consequences of his actions. He doesn’t become an angel, but his character does develop and become more likeable in the course of the story.

This is not just a funny read – it is also an important one, for kids and for teachers and parents.

Problem Child, by James Roy
UQP, 2007

Wrestlefest Fever, by James Roy

Tom, his brother Harry, and his friend, Ben, love to watch the wrestling on television. They know all the moves and all the wrestlers – like Clawhammer and Beefsteak Billy. Now Wrestlefest is coming to town. Tom’s dad has promised to get tickets on his way home from work.

But all the tickets are gone – Wrestlefest is sold out! To make things worse, the school bully, Ricky Jones, bought the last tickets and he keeps taunting Tom and Ben. Ricky Jones – who thinks wrestling is dumb and all wrestlers are wusses! Will they get to see their heroes in action? Will Ricky Jones get what he deserves?

Wrestlefest is a Quick Reads title from Queensland publisher, Word Weaver Press. Quick Reads are short, fast-moving fiction titles pitched at upper-primary aged boys. Boys will enjoy the action, recognise characters like Ricky Jones, and cheer as Ricky gets what he deserves!

James Roy is a NSW writer of fiction for both younger readers and young adults. Other titles include A Boat for Bridget, Full Moon Racing and Captain Mack.

Wrestlefest, by James Roy
Word Weavers Press 2002