Not Like Georgie, by Scott Hatcher

Jimmy isn’t coming to my birthday party.
He’s working at his family’s restaurant.
And Matt isn’t coming.
His Dad is having an operation.
And Rosa isn’t coming either.
She’s going to her Uncle Nick’s
third or fourth wedding.
She can’t remember which.

A small boy is having a birthday party. Invitations have been given to many children, but one by one, the invitees decline. Some of the responses seem genuine, others have the sound of excuses. But the boy doesn’t mind. Each page shows a child doing what they’ve said they’ll be doing rather than attending the boy’s party. But of course the illustrations show so much more. Jimmy, who has to work in his family’s restaurant may be carrying crockery, but there’s a cake missing and his cheeks are bulging. But no matter, the main character is unfazed by their inability to attend. None of these children, singly or as a group can do the things that he can do with his best friend Georgie.

Not Like Georgie is less a story about a birthday party and excuses and more about friendship. Not the ‘everybody is your friend’ kind of friendship, but the special best-friendship that can make the simplest things seem wonderful. It is the triumph of quality over quantity. Anticipation about whether Georgie too will offer an excuse and not come to the party, keeps the pages turning, lest the boy have no one at his party at all. Children will also enjoy the humour and detail in each image. The illustrators have captured so much emotion, personality and more in each character – even the sun-shading seagulls have personality! Recommended for 4-7 year olds.

Not Like Georgie, Scott Hatcher ill Heather Potter & Mark Jackson
Walker Books 2008
ISBN: 9781921150364

Egghead, by Claire Scott

The school bus screeched to a shuddering halt in a cloud of exhaust fumes. Jackal jumped off as I mooched past, and punched me on the arm.
‘Mate.’ We have the best conversations, Jackal and me. We were swept through the school gates in a swarm of loud stinky bodies, and shuffled reluctantly into the classroom just as the bell rang.

It’s not quite clear what subject Mr Farnham teaches, but it is clear that he has the measure of his class. They report boredom with homework and declare their maturity. He devises an experiment to test them. For a week, they will be caretaker/parent/protector of a raw egg. The egg will go everywhere with them. Failure to protect the egg means a fail for the experiment. Paddy, ably (well, sometimes) assisted by his friend Jackal, navigates his way through the week. Others are not so lucky, with mishaps and carelessness leading to the early ‘demise’ of some eggs. Paddy cooks up some money-making schemes, repeatedly encounters the school bully, protects his egg from his baby brother and unexpectedly bonds with his charge.

Egghead is a new title in Walker Books ‘Lightning Strikes’ series, short texts for reluctant 11-13 yo readers. Chapters are short, plots move (excuse the pun) lightning fast. Subject matter is relevant and interesting to the age group and beyond. ‘Egghead’ is told in first person, and includes about as many egg-related puns as possible (eggstermination, eggcitement), although no doubt readers will be inspired to create more. Paddy is a larrikin main character with a likeable, somewhat goofy sidekick in Jackal. But there’s more to Egghead than just fun. The adults, although shown from a teenager’s point of view, are portrayed sympathetically. Paddy learns about responsibility and in the end this helps him find a way to face down a bully. Recommended for upper-primary to lower-secondary readers, particularly those finding longer texts too daunting.

Egghead, Clare Scott
Walker Books 2008
ISBN: 9781921150814

Oddball, by Janeen Brian

“You think you’re so funny,” I yelled, “but I’ll beat you.”
I saw his eyes shrink to the size of peas. Just like what was happening to my insides.
“Next Monday,” I went on. “Best of three.” Who was talking? Who’d taken control of my mouth and was saying those killer words?
“You’re on, Tranter.”
It was me. I was saying them, and everyone was listening. I’d just stepped into a big pile of poo.

Sol can’t believe what he’s hearing. His own voice challenging the school bully, Aggo, to a game of handball – and promising to beat him. Now Sol has a week to figure out just how to go about it. He’s doomed

Oddball is a humorous story, part of Walker Books’ new Lighting Strikes series. Whilst there is plenty of humour and action, there is also exploration of some serious issues, including the loss of a pet, friendship, bullying and family relationships, as well as self-confidence. Sol is a likeable main character and the story moves quickly so that readers of any ability will be engaged.

A fun and engaging read.

Oddball, by Janeen Brian
Walker Books, 2008

Open for Business, by Moya Simons

‘Hey, what are you writing?’ Bernice asked. ‘That’s your detective notebook. You’re only supposed to take notes when we’re working.’
‘Waiting for a client is the hardest work I’ve ever done,’ I said. ‘We’ve been open for four days and all we’ve done is sit here after school doing our homework and getting gassy on cola.’
‘I told you, it takes time for word to get around,’ said Bernice. She snorted and stamped her foot.
‘I’ve put in nearly twelve years getting ready to be a detective,’ I told her. ‘I’ve read every crime book. I’ve been on a tour of the police station and I’m heavily into dead bodies. this is kid stuff. I’m only helping you out as practice for my future.’

David and Bernice have set up a detective agency in their home town of Milk Bay. Their office is a shed in Bernice’s front yard. They’ve distributed flyers detailing their services and charges. Now all they have to do is wait for the work to come. And it does. David takes notes, because as he says ‘I need to record everything’ because you never know when you might need witnesses. Bernice thinks David writes down unnecessary things, David thinks Bernice is bossy. But each also admires the skill of the other and together they make a successful team. Some of their cases seem quite straightforward, but their biggest case has more twists and turns than a rollercoaster.

Open For Business is a corker of a detective story. David has read so much about being a detective and he’s channelling the mannerisms of almost all of them. Simultaneously. Bernice is much more pragmatic. David says he’s only doing her a favour by being involved, but together they make a balanced team. Open for Business begins with extracts from David’s detective note book and set the humorous tone with descriptions of everything from Bernice’s ‘straight fringe slicing forehead’ to the air freshener required because of all the cola they’re drinking. The narrative is first person, through David’s eyes, his observations and descriptions are sprinkled throughout the text. The pair do tackle small cases like disappearing underwear, but there is a serious case to be solved too. Having established David and Bernice and ‘The Walk Right In Detective Agency’ in Open For Business, it was no surprise to find the cover of the second title pictured on the final page. I’m sure there’ll be more too. Recommended for mid-primary readers.

Open for Business, Moya Simons
Walker Books 2008
ISBN 9781921150302

Sucked In, by John Parker

I took the eye out of my pocket and stared at it.
It wasn’t made out of glass, like a normal doll’s eye. But it wasn’t plastic either. And it wasn’t rubber.
I sniffed it. My hooter came up with the smell you get when you sit in the front seat of a brand-new car. But there was something else, too – something down, like the smell of rotten grass.
Whatever it was made of, I didn’t like the way the eye gazed at me.

When Dan finds out that his friend Zainey has sold his much-prized mountain bike to buy an eye, Dan thinks Zainey is crazy. After all, two hundred and twenty dollars for a fake eye HAS to be a rip off. But when the eye arrives in the mail, Dan soon realises it is no joke. There is something about the eye that unnerves him, and when the eye tries to attach itself to Dan, he realises that the eye is no joke. This eye is after blood.

Sucked In is a funny, slightly spooky tale of an out of control eye and a boy who will do whatever it takes to feel he belongs. Zainey is a short boy who suffers from low self-esteem, and is thus willing to try anything to feel a part of things – even if he has to resort to adding an extra eye so he can see what’s going on around him. Whilst the story is humorous, its messages about friendship and self-belief are important ones.

Part of Walker Books’ new Lightning Strikes series, Sucked In is attractively packaged and the shorter length and accessible text size and presentation will make it appealing to readers of all abilities.

Sucked In, by John Parker
Walker Books, 2008

Jinxed, by Jill McDougall

Thelma and Louise aren’t anything like I imagined. What do you think of when I say the words Siamese mice? Be honest now. Do you think of long slinky coats and almond-shaped eyes and exotic whiskers?
Wrong, wrong and wrong.
Thelma and Louise have brown fur, long tails and bat ears. They aren’t a bit interested in learning tricks. And they have a major problem with sleeping. For the past week, they’ve spent every entire night scratching and chewing and running on their plastic wheel. Like, haven’t they heard of coffee breaks.

Jinx loves jokes, but sometimes her efforts are unappreciated – and sometimes they land her in trouble. When she accidentally breaks a pet python’s glass box, she has to pay for it –which means she needs money fast.
Dad wants Jinx to come and work in his bakery, but Jinx can’t think of anything worse. She tries everything to make some quick cash. Then when she sees two mice being offered a free home, she sees a money-making opportunity. Can she teach the mice some tricks – or is the joke on her?

Jinxed is a humorous novel for upper primary aged readers, with interest enough to carry through to lower secondary readers. The short length and fast paced action will keep even reluctant readers engaged, and the mix of mice, pythons, jokes and multi-text types including lists, emails and jokes means there is plenty happening.

An excellent read and an attractively packaged book.

Jinxed, by Jill McDougall
Walker Books, 2008

Black Baron, by Robyn Opie

Turning around, Dad glared at me and held up his hand like a policeman stopping traffic. “I’m not sharing my house with a cockroach as if…as if…” He flung his hands in the air, turned around and stormed off.
Black Baron didn’t take up much room, I thought. Besides, no one was using the space under my bed. “He’s not hurting anyone,” I tried again.
“It isn’t natural,” Dad said. “People don’t keep cockroaches as pets.”

Jake’s cockroach, Black Baron, is on a winning streak. In Fact, he’s probably the best racing cockroach ever. But Jake knows that Black Baron wouldn’t be welcome in the house if Mum knew he was there. That’s why Black Baron is kept under the bed, which is a great place until Mum tidies Jake’s bedroom and not only discovers the cockroach but also inadvertently releases it. When Dad calls in the exterminator, Jake thinks he’ll never see Black Baron again.

Black Baron is one title in the new Lightning Strikes series from Walker Books, a series aimed at 9 to 14 year old readers, and likely to engage reluctant readers with its contemporary look and non-threatening length.

Black Baron is humorous, with chaos ensuing as Jake searches for his cockroach and tries to prevent it being exterminated, but also touches on serious issues such as family conflict and financial stress. The friendship Jake shares with his mates is also a very positive element of this story.

A great read for upper primary aged readers.

Black Baron, by Robyn Opie
Walker Books, 2008

The Great Shave, by Clare Scott

It’s the first day back at school and I’m so going to get it from everyone. That means teachers too. Why? Because of my still-green hair, that’s why.
The colour’s maybe gone down a shade or three, but it’s still green as green. The powers-that-be at school will be as understanding as the powers-to-be at home.

Stix and his mates think it’s a great idea to temporarily dye their hair green when they go to watch their favourite band, the Screaming Greenie Meanies. But when Stix tries to wash the green out after the concert, he is in for a shock. The green will just not wash out. When school goes back, Stix knows he is in for a hard time, but when the Principal insists the green hair go, Stix discovers there is something worse than green hair – a green, hairless scalp.

The Great Shave is a humorous story for upper primary aged readers, part of the Lightning Strikes series from Walker Books. With action, laughs and an appealing length, it is accessible for reluctant readers, but high enough in interest for readers of all abilities.

As Stix discovers the highs and lows of having a green head, readers will be engaged and entertained.

The Great Shave, by Clare Scott
Walker Books, 2008

The Stone Crown, by Malcolm Walker

Emlyn’s phone rang. The screen displayed his sister’s number. Pocketing it, he moved on. His only thought now was running and evasion, but there was nowhere to go. Ahead, the bridge was a dark throat in the snow. He was being swallowed. Something terrible was about to happen.

When Emlyn’s mother moves him to a small Scottish village, Emlyn finds himself drawn to Sleeper’s Spinney, an ancient site connected to the time of Arthur. Beneath the ground twenty wooden horseman are entombed, hidden from the world. When Emlyn discovers the figures, he unleashes a chain of events which sees his life threatened. Together with his friend Max (Maxine) he is threatened by the keepers of site who will stop at nothing to get back the figure which Emlyn has in his possession.

This figure is no child’s toy or statue. The spirits of Arthur and his loyal guard have been trapped in the figures for centuries, imprisoned by the magic of the lady of the lake. As Emlyn and Max uncover the truth, they are also challenged with the decision of whether or not to free the men’s spirits.

This is a revision of the Arthurian legend in a unique setting, and with the multiple perspectives of two modern day teens and one of the trapped warriors. Both of the teens have problems of their own to deal with, and as the story unravels they must question the legend of Arthur as much as the reader will. This is no noble King putting his life on the line for his people – rather this Arthur is both the victim of a lost childhood manipulated by Merlin, and a power-mad adult unaware of the machinations of those around him.

The Stone Crown is a fantasy which will intrigue teen and adult readers.

The Stone Crown, by Malcolm Walker
Walker Books, 2008

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