The Smuggler's Curse, by Norman Jorgensen

The Smuggler's Curse - Norman Jorgensen‘You, boy, commands the Captain, seeing me listening. ‘You can handle an oar tonight. We’ll get you toughened up even if we have to kill you doing so, eh men?’
The men laugh, happy at the thought of me getting killed, I suspect. I nod slowly, embarrassed and unsure. Is this how the new ship’s boy is to meet his fate? Ambushed on a deserted Malayan beach by a regiment of government troops or skinned alive and sold for a satchel?

Red is quite happy with his life in Broome, where his mother runs a hotel. Red spends his days reading, or avoiding errands. So he isn’t impressed when his ma sells him to be ship’s boy to an infamous smuggler. Suddenly, instead of avoiding chores, he’s avoiding pirates, headhunters and drowning, as travels the world with the infamous Black Bowen.

The Smuggler’s Curse is a rollicking tale of shipboard life. Set in the 19th century in Western Australia and Southern Asia, there is action aplenty, and Jorgensen doesn’t hold back. While there’s humour, there are also scenes of fear and violence as befits the setting, and which young adventure lovers will relish.

Adult readers will recognise the nod to novels such as Treasure Island.

A gripping read.

The Smuggler’s Curse, by Norman Jorgensen
Fremantle Press, 2016
ISBN 9781925164190

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

The Last Viking Returns, by Norman Jorgensen & James Foley

The two littlest Vikings are getting bigger and stronger and wilder every day. Nothing scares them at all and that worries Knut no end.

Josh loves all things Viking – so much so that he prefers to be called Knut, Prince of the Vikings. Hardly anything scares him, except perhaps his little twin siblings, who get into everything and don’t seem to be scared of anything. When Nan and Pop take the family to Viking World, a theme park, the twins’ adventurous antics will land them in a whole lot of trouble, which only Josh can save them from.

In the meantime, up in Asgard, the Norse Gods have their eye on Knut and the twns. When Thor decides to head down to Viking World, he leaves his friends unprotected. Josh’s actions down below could unwittingly help out his unearthly friends.

The Last Viking Returns is a sequel to the popular The Last Viking,though it stands comfortably on its own. There’s plenty of humour and action, and the twin plot lines mean this will appeal to readers well into the school years. The illustrations, using pencil and digital watercolour, are rich and detailed, and the endpapers include a map of the theme park, and a code in runes.

Great fun!

The Last Viking Returns, by Norman Jorgensen & James Foley
Fremantle Press, 2014
ISBN 9781925161151

Available from good bookstores or online.

The Last Viking, by Norman Jorgensen & James Foley

Young Josh is very brave.
He’s not afraid of anyone or anything – except maybe the dark and the sound of ghosts whistling in the trees at night.
Pirates worry him a bit, of course, and so do boy-eating dinosaurs, and monsters under the bed. He’s also just a little afraid of dragons and vampires.
But other than those few things, Josh is as brave as a lion.
Sort of.

Josh is scared of a lot of things – including going to stay at Nan and Pop’s house by himself. But once there, his Pop gives him a book about the wonderful world of Vikings and, as Josh reads, he decides that he, too will become a Viking. No longer is he timid Josh – now he is bold, brave Knut, Prince of the Vikings. Now he’s ready to face anything.

But when he encounters a bunch of bullies in the local park, Josh/Knut isn’t so sure he has what it takes to be a Viking. Only by digging deep – and perhaps with a little intervention from some Viking Gods – will he find his inner strength.

The Last Viking is a beautiful new picture book offering from the pairing of award winning author Norman Jorgensen and talented debut illustrator James Foley. The story is a lovely blend of gentle wisdom and fun, and the illustrations (a blend of pencil, ink and digital watercolour) are full of detail and layering that reveal more on each reading. The darkness of some of the Viking illustrations is cleverly offset by bright colours and humour in other illustrations, proving a satisfying blend.

A wonderful offering for pre and lower primary aged readers – and their adults.

The Last Viking

The Last Viking, by Norman Jorgensen & James Foley
Fremantle Press, 2011
ISBN 9781921888106

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

Jack's Island, by Norman Jorgensen

Banjo had pulled the pin from the grenade with his teeth like he’d seen the heroes do a thousand times at the pictures. Then he spat it out. ‘We don’t want any other kids finding a live grenade at the bottom of the cliffs and setting it off. They might not be as sensible as us.’ He flung the deadly weapon over the cliff and into the bay below. It didn’t go very far.

Jack and Banjo live on a small island off Western Australia’s coast. It’s a great life for two twelve year old boys – riding their bikes, swimming, and getting into all sorts of mischief. But in between the fun, there are some hardships, too. Australia is involved in World War II, and no one has much of anything. Then there are the prejudices of the times, which affect the boys more than they could imagine.

Jack’s Island is historical fiction in a form easily digestible for children. There is a wonderful blend of humour, facts and insight into the time period. Young readers will enjoy the novelty of the adventures that Jack and Banjo have, which include building hill trolleys, sailing in shark-infested waters and being nearly killed by test firing of naval guns. West Australian readers will enjoy the familiarity of the island location, which is based on Rottnest Island. The stories themselves are based on the adventures of author Norman Jorgensen’s father, who lived on Rottnest in the 1940s.

Recommended for ages 10 and up.

Jack’s Island, by Norman Jorgensen
Fremantle Press, 2008

Another Fine Mess 002, by Norman Jorgensen

The bathroom was in complete darkness. Where was the light switch? Not on the doorframe. Where could it be? He fumbled about. Not on the wall either. He stumbled into the room and groped in the darkness. Where was the bloody toilet? He found the basin. By now his bladder was due to explode, literally. I need to pee, it screamed to his brain. He found the basin but still no loo. Suddenly he felt the edge of the bathtub. No choice. The bath would have to do.

Michael Hardy has a knack of landing himself in trouble. From watching the town fire truck sink in the sewage pond, to kidnapping garden gnomes and suffering the indignity of a wardrobe malfunction in front of the whole school, Michael and his friend Woody go from one misadventure to another. But suddenly Michael finds himself labelled a hero. How will he cope with his newfound status?

In the meantime, Michael has made a start on his future career – as a novelist. Chapters of his high-action spy novel are sprinkled throughout this tale, adding to the humour of the whole. Michael’s alter-ego, Dirk Fleming, Junior M16 Agent, lands himself in far bigger scrapes than Michael does – including being captured by the Russians after an air-fight – but he always saves the day.

Another Fine Mess 002 is a sequel to A Fine Mess, but can be read independently. Both are ideal for readers aged 10 to 14, and will appeal equally to boys and girls.

Great stuff.

Another Fine Mess 002, by Norman Jorgensen
FACP, 2007

The Call of the Osprey, by Norman Jorgensen and Brian Harrison-Lever

When the Captain finds the derelict Osprey, he sees beyond the neglect to the fine workmanship beneath, and decides to restore her. At work in the boatshed he is visted by young Thomas Stevenson, who wants to help him in the restoration. When the Captain sees the boy’s dedication and willingness to work, he agrees to let him help.

The restoration is slow and meticulous. First months, then years pass as the pair work to restore the boat to its former glory. At the same time the pair develop a close friendship, and the Captain teaches the boy all he knows about the sea – how to navigate, how to guide a boat and how to live at sea.

Finally the boat is finished. The Captain and Thomas – who is now a young man – launch it, to the cheers of well-wishers. Out on the water the Captian has a surprise for his young friend – he has registered Thomas as the Master of the Osprey. The Captain tells him he has earned the honour, and entrusts the boat to him. His own time is drawing to a close.

The Call of the Osprey is a poignant and beautiful story about dedication, loyalty and firendship. Author Norman Jorgensen is a master storyteller – spinning a tale which touches and educates as it entertains. His pairing with illustrator Brian Harrison-Lever is ideal. Harrison-Lever’s depictions of the characters, the boat and the sea, echo the mood of the story perfectly. From the seascapes on the endpapers to the character studies of his close ups, the tone and detail of his art complements the story.

Jorgensen and Harrison-Lever’s previous picture book In Flanders Field won the CBCA Picture Book of the Year in 2003, the country’s highest honour for a picture book. This new offering is similarly exciting.

The Call of the Osprey, by Norman Jorgensen and Brian Harrison-Lever
Fremantle Arts Centre Press, 2004

A Fine Mess! by Norman Jorgensen

Michael Hardy is a normal boy, really. Just wants to have fun, snag the girl of his dreams and stay out of trouble. But his chances of staying out of trouble seem pretty remote when he gets together with his mate, Woody Decker. In just a few short weeks the school library catches fire, the principal is knocked unconcious, the school play turns from tragedy into a tragic comedy and a replica catapult puts a brick through a church window and wrecks a wedding.

A Fine Mess is a story which truly lives up to its title – it is superbly chaotic. There is plenty of action and loads of laugh out loud moments.

Norman Jorgensen is best known for his two recent picture books – In Flanders Fields which won the CBCA Picturebook of the Year Award in 2003 and The Call of the Ospery (2004). A Fine Mess is vastly different from these two, but what shows through in all three is Jorgensen’s passion for the written word.

A Fine Mess is a great read, recommended for kids aged 11 and up.

A Fine Mess, by Norman Jorgensen
Fremantle Arts Centre Press, 2004

Two for Older Readers

Two newly released picture books are challenging the perception that picture books are just for preschoolers. Both books will appeal to older children and would be useful in the school setting.

In Kaffy Meets the Doomie, by Brendan Doyle (Banana Books), a dog named Kaffy explores an abandoned brickworks, where he meets an old man who once worked in the brickworks. The man speaks to Kaffy of his loneliness and loss of purpose. The magical events which follow, lead to Kaffy helping to get the brickworks reopened in a different guise, and the Doomie to find a sense of purpose.

Told in a simple rhyming structure and complemented by simple sketches and colour illustrations by Harold Tiefel, the story combines a sense of history with a feeling of fantasy and fun. This would be an excellent book for exploring subjects of aging, redundancy, and valuing our past.

From Fremantle Arts Centre Press comes In Flanders Fields by Norman Jorgensen, another book with a historical focus. This story provides a compelling counterpoint to images often seen of war, depicting its senselessness and inhumanity. The book tells the story of a homesick soldier who , in the temporary ceasefire which comes with Christmas day, spies a robin caught on some wire in no man’s land. One wing flaps helplessly as the robin tries to escape.

Rather than enjoy the lull in fighting and remain in safety, the soldier risks walking towards German trenches to rescue the robin, which would die without help. Soldiers from both sides watch in disbelief as he risks his own life to save that of the robin.

The story is presented in picture book format, with beautiful illustrations from Brian-Harrison-Lever, perfectly complementing the text . Again, this book would be an excellent classroom tool, especially when dealing with topics relating to war.

Kaffy Meets the Doomie, by Brendan Doyle, Illustrated by Harold Tiefel
Banana Books, 2002.

In Flanders Fields, by Norman Jorgensen, illustrated by Brian Harrison-Lever
Fremantle Arts Centre Press, 2002.