Mr Romanov’s Garden in the Sky, by Robert Newton

The red wrapping was secured with a long strap of sticky tape. I dug a nail in under a corner and as i peeled it off, the paper tore down the middle and uncovered my present inside.
‘Is Surfing Paradise, Miss Lexie.’
I lifted the snow dome up for a closer look and saw a mum and dad and a kid making sandcastles in the sand.
‘It’s perfect,’ I said. ‘It’s the best present I ever got.’

Lexie’s dad always promised her that one day they would go to Surfer’s paradise. Now that he’s gone, Lexie dreams of the day she will still get there. But living in the commission with her mostly absent mother, Surfer’s Paradise seems a long way away. Then Lexie witnesses something shocking and finds herself befriending a man everyone calls Creeper. Lexie and her friend Davey help the man they soon learn is called Mr Romanov and together the three set off on a journey that will change their lives.

Mr Romanov’s Garden in the Sky is a moving tale of an unlikely friendship. With some quite shocking scenes and a range of issues, including drug abuse, bereavement and dementia, the story could be overwhelming, but a blend of humour, action and empathy makes for a satisfying blend for younger teens.

Mr Romanov’s Garden in the Sky, by Robert Newton
Penguin Books, 2017
ISBN 9780143309307

Saturday Morning Mozart and Burnt Toast, by Robert Newton

Wolfgang is a musician. Unlike the composer, Mozart, whose first name he has borrowed, he plays the trumpet. When he meets a violinist called Sal in an internet chat room, their love of music draws them together. Their friendship is instant.

When things get uncomfortable at home – thanks to his Mum’s new boyfriend, and his blowing a chance to play the national anthem at the football grand final, Wolfgang decides he’ll go to Tasmania and meet Sal for real.

However, running away from home proves to be much more of an adventure than Wolfgang bargains for. On board the ferry, he gets involved in a strange situation involving a Russian musician with amnesia, a missing chimpanzee, hired gangsters and more. And, in Tasmania, Sal proves to be less than receptive to his arrival. Wofgang starts to wonder whether this holiday was such a good idea.

Saturday Morning Mozart and Burnt Toast is zany, fast moving and action-packed. Possibly a little far-fetched, kids aged 12-16 will love its silliness and enjoy a plot with plenty of twists.

Good reading.

Saturday Morning Mozart and Burnt Toast, by Robert Newton
UQP, 2004