The Boy Without a Soul, by Michael Panckridge

Gabrielle (Gabby) has no memory beyond waking up in hospital not knowing who she is or where she came from. The one things she does know is a Voice that tells her she is different, and that she is destined to help people. When she meets Michael and his little brother Jack, she knows she must help them…

Gabby’s nose twitched as the faint scent of burning timber reached her. A sudden thought flitted across her consciousness, then vanished just as quickly. She closed her eyes, and, despite the warning she’d received from the Voice, tried to will the memory back. It had been the smell of fire – but what? Nothing. Gabby’s mind was blank.
Amnesia. That’s what the people at the hospital said.

Gabrielle (Gabby) has no memory beyond waking up in hospital not knowing who she is or where she came from. The one things she does know is a Voice that tells her she is different, and that she is destined to help people. When she meets Michael and his little brother Jack, she knows she must help them. Something terrible is wrong with Jack, but she sees to be the only one who can see it.

The Boy without a Soul , the second book in the Book of Gabrielle series is an exciting story of mystery and adventure, with a supernatural element. The mystery of who Gabrielle is, and where she comes from, is developed, and Jack’s story is also intriguing.

Best read by those who have read the first title, this one could also stand alone.

The Boy without a Soul (Book of Gabrielle)

The Boy without a Soul (Book of Gabrielle), by Michael Panckridge
Black Dog, 2011
ISBN 978174203183

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

Scatterbungle, by Edrei Cullen

Ella sat up with a start, catapulting the snoring pixie tucked under her chin across the bed. Her shoulders tingled and her hair flared in the dark, its honey colours shining strangely in the light of the moon. She grabbed the tips of her terribly pointy ears. They were burning up!
‘Gracious, blimey!’ yelled the pixie, as he landed upside down on the mattress, his striped stockings kicking up in the air. He slapped a tiny green hand across his mouth, suddenly mindful of all the other sleeping bodies in the quiet dormitory. Even though he was only the size of a pepper pot, he had a big voice!

Scatterbungle is the third adventure featuring Ella, the Clearheart. She’s at Hedgeberry, the magical school, but she knows there is something very wrong. For one thing, she keeps having dreadful nightmares that show her school in flames. And two of her giant friends have disappeared, and there’s been a prison breakout. Then there’s the Scatterbungle. It’s clearly going to be up to Ella to sort out what’s going on. But this is much bigger than just one person. Ella needs the help of friends if she is going to intervene in the battle between this world and the magical one. Her friends are willing, but in many cases don’t seem able to help. Ella must help them realise their abilities if together they are to have any chance of finally, once and for all, overcoming the dastardly Duke.

Scatterbungle, like early books in this series, is magical. Imagine going to school to learn how to catch dreams and extract memories. And taking a trip to somewhere on the other side of the world, by diving into the local stream. Some of Ella’s classmates can conjure fire, others can talk to animals, yet others care for and communicate with the trees. Most can fly. I want to go to this school! But as well as being a grand adventure, Scatterbungle reinforces the power of friendship. It also reminds that ability is one thing, but without confidence and self-belief, ability will never be enough. This is a classic good vs evil struggle and will be Ella’s most challenging adventure. There’s also themes around rites of passage, where Ella begins to challenge her father’s silence and to ask more questions about the death of her mother and brothers. Recommended for upper primary.

Scatterbungle (Flitterwig)

Scatterbungle, Edrei Cullen & Gregory Rogers
Scholastic Australia 2011

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

This book is available from good bookstores or online from Fishpond.

Mr Badger and the Difficult Duchess, by Leigh Hobbs

Mr Badger had excellent manners plus a great deal of patience. But you probably knew that already.
This is why he didn’t just manage special events at the Boubles Grand Hotel (pronounced Boublay). Mr Badger was also the Manager of Special Guests – and sometimes very special guests.
Special guests weren’t treated all that differently to anyone else. It was just that film stars and princesses, kings queens and famous orchestra conductors often caused a fuss because people wanted to stare at them and point.

Mr Badger never knows quite what his day might bring. When you are Manager of Special Events, AND of Special Guests, it could be anything. So when the Duchess de la Dodo arrives unexpectedly, demanding the Royal Suite, he deals with it with his trademark patience and goodwill. But it seems nothing is quite enough for the Duchess. Meanwhile tonight is the Annual Dinner for the Philatelic Society, and there’s the Grand Ballroom to be preparing. You know, chandeliers to be polished, parquetry to be buffed, place names to be placed and shy philatelists to be put at their ease. Of course there is drama unforeseen…

Leigh Hobbs both writes and illustrates and here his trademark quirky characters are combined with deadpan humour. The action is set in an old-style London hotel, where the guests are treated like royalty, no matter their eccentric or demanding behaviour. The reader will cheer for Mr Badger and boo the baddies in these almost-vaudeville tales. And it’s lovely to then see the unflappable Mr Badger at home with his own family doing normal things and entertaining his wife with the antics at Boubles Grand Hotel. There are illustrations on each page, breaking up the text and enriching the narrative. Ideal for newly independent readers, reluctant readers and fans of Leigh Hobbs’ stories.

Mr Badger and the Difficult Duchess

Mr Badger and the Difficult Duchess, Leigh Hobbs
Allen&Unwin 2011
ISBN: 9781742374192

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

This book is available from good bookstores or online from Fishpond.

Tropical Trouble, by Aleesah Darlison

Monday 19 April. 1:15 pm.
Ah, I love the smell of blank paper in the afternoon! This is my third fabulous diary and it’s totally brand new. I started keeping a diary a few months back so I could have something for myself.
I have an identical twin sister, Portia, who is only two minutes older than me – although she thinks she’s so much cooler and more mature. She and I usually share EVERYTHING. Sometimes we even get mistaken for each other because we look so similar.
But I got this idea that keeping a diary would be one thing I could do on my own.

Persephone has begun a new diary, this time a travel diary. She and twin sister Portia are going to Fiji with their travel-writer grandmother. The only downside to this holiday is that they also have to take Dillon, seven-year old pest from next door. But it’s hard to stay too grumpy about that, when you are on a tropical island. As usual Portia makes friends really easily, which leaves Persephone on her own. Well, almost on her own. While Portia is off with her friends, and Gran is writing for her book, Persephone is stuck with Dillon. All the activities at Kids Club seem to be geared towards Portia’s interests and even Ash, the son of the resort owner seems to prefer Portia. Persephone records it all, ups and downs, adventures and dramas in her diary.

This is the third instalment in the Totally Twins series. This time the girls get to go on holiday, but although they are in a different place, their respective personalities mean that it’s business as usual. The twins are alike to look at but have quite different natures. While Portia is the more assertive, Persephone is the more observant and more aware of the feelings of others. But they are both excited to be on holidays, experiencing new things, even if some of those new things are a little frightening at first. This time, Persephone gets to know Dillon a bit better. She discovers that despite the petty squabbles with her sister, she wouldn’t have it any other way. She also realises that Dillon isn’t quite the pest she always thought he was. Recommended for mid-primary readers.

Totally Twins 3: Tropical Trouble, Aleesah Darlison, Serena Geddes
New Frontier Publishing 2011
ISBN: 9871921042690

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

Paws, Claws and Frilly Drawers, by Sarah Horne

Pencil. Check. Ruler. Check. Calculator…Check.’ Molly Potsome finished packing her bag for her first day at her new school and sat on the end of her bed.
Her eye fell on her neat school uniform hanging from the wardrobe. For the first time she felt a little nervous. What will school be like tomorrow? Will my teacher be strict? Will I make any new friends?


Molly looked after her neighbours’ cat, Mimi, while the family were on holiday. She was amazed to discover that Mimi talks, and loves dressing up. What a cat! But now the very rich Von Volavons are home and Mimi has gone home too. Now there’s school to worry about. Molly is new to this school and knows no one, not even Saffron Von Volavon. And it seems that Saffron is keen to keep it that way. Not a good start. Things become worse when Molly is paired with Saffron to do the costumes for ‘Bring a Pet’ day. Saffron has no intention of working with Molly. Things are looking miserable for Molly who doesn’t even have a pet, until Mimi becomes her pet for the day. Mayhem and madness ensue as Mimi and her costumes threaten to steal the show.

The best way to deal with a bully is to ignore them. But that’s hard to do when they live next door, they’re in your classroom and you have to sit next to them. Then it helps to have a really thick skin and some diversions. Oh, and the affection of a really unusual cat. Then you are so busy wondering what that cat is going to get up to, that the bully’s antics almost pass you by. Wrapped up in a fun and fantastical adventure, Molly is shown how to manage a bully, the bully gets her comeuppance and Molly learns how to make friends. Recommended for newly independent readers to mid-primary.

Paws, Claws and Frilly Drawers (Molly & Mimi)

Paws, Claws and Frilly Drawers , Sarah Horne
Scholastic Australia 2011
ISBN: 9781741698817

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

This book is available from good bookstores or online from Fishpond.

Mr Badger and the Magic Mirror, by Leigh Hobbs

Whenever Mr Badger came home tired after a hard day’s work at the Boubles Grand Hotel, Mrs Badger understood why – for every day brought with it new adventures. Mrs Badger looked forward to hearing all about them at dinnertime.
No matter how exhausted Mr Badger might be, he always made sure he read a bedtime story to his darling daughter Berenice, and baby Badger, too.

Mr Badger’s work day started as it usually did. He breakfasted with his family then set off for Boubles Grand Hotel, wondering what the day would bring. For it always brought surprises, but none that were beyond Mr Badger’s capacity to handle. Today was particularly surprising. Sir Cecil, owner of the hotel, has organised for a mirror from his private quarters to be installed at the top of the stairs. Mr Badger goes to check that everything is fine and discovers the mirror is like no mirror he’s ever seen. It’s magic! He also discovers just why Sir Cecil treasures the mirror. Meanwhile, Lady Celia has arrived at the hotel for morning tea with granddaughter Sylvia. Sylvia also notices the mirror, while Lady Celia is far more interested to discover whether the Australians have eaten all the scones.

This is a delightful series for newly independent readers, and will also be enjoyed by younger readers. The stories are as much about what ISN’T said as about what is. Mr Badger is the epitome of patience and forbearance, when there is much to tax him. In this installment, the reader discovers an escape free from the challenges of demanding owners and their even more demanding granddaughter. There is no attempt to address challenging behaviours. It is enough to present those behaviours and to let the reader decide which characters deserve their support. The humour is wry and the illustrations droll. Recommended for newly independent readers and fans of Old Tom, Mr Chicken and his friends.

Mr Badger and the Forgotten Room

Mr Badger and the Forgotten Room, Leigh Hobbs
Allen&Unwin 2011
ISBN: 9781742374208

Available from good bookstores, or online from Fishpond.

First Kids in Space, by Tristan Bancks

‘Dash Campbell. You ready?’
I nod.
‘3, 2, 1…Engage.’
I feel the pod move under me. My head and shoulders are thrust back into the red leather seat.
The washed-out monitor in front of me shows a live video image of my face. Numbers jitter across the top of the screen. The number on top right flips quickly from 1G to 1.5G, up to 2G. Then 2.5G to 3G. 3G means that the pressure I’m feeling on my body is three times my regularly body weight. My arms are pinned to the armrests. I feel like I’m being fired from a cannon directly into the air, but I haven’t even left the ground.

Dash, and four other young teenagers have been given the opportunity to see if they have what it takes to go into space. What an adventure! Dash has wanted this as long as he can remember. Even before his Mum left, leaving him with his perpetually worn down stepfather, he’s wanted to go into space. He’s made rockets in his house, but nothing could prepare him for this. And there’s not much time. Dash, Yada, Scott, Rafaela and Zarif have their work cut out for them. They will have a month to train. In that time, they need to learn about all the different elements of space travel. Their teacher, Chuck Palatnik, has worked with both Russian and American space programs. The only thing is, Palatnik doesn’t seem to like any of them much, but he seems to save his worst for Dash. He says they only need one of them to go on the rocket, and it seems he’d be quite happy if they all fail.

How many kids dream about travelling into space? Only a very small proportion maintain the dream and make it reality. But winning a prize that gives you that chance, how good would that be? But what could prepare you for the danger, the physical challenges that you need to master if you are to take that final step and leave earth bound for a space station. Tristan Bancks holds on to the excitement while detailing some of the obstacles to be overcome. For Dash, it’s not only a dream come true, but a chance to break free of the relentless drudgery that is life with his stepfather since the disappearance of his mother. If you’ve ever wanted to know what goes on in an astronaut training program, or wanted to prepare for space travel, without abandoning your teenage sense of humour or bravado, this is the novel for you. Recommended for upper-primary and early-secondary readers.

Galactic Adventures: First Kids in Space

Galactic Adventures: First Kids in Space, Tristan Bancks
UQP 2011
ISBN: 9780702238697

Available from good bookstores, or online from Fishpond.

Bungawitta, by Emily Rodda

It was very dry in Bungawitta. It had been dry so long that Glory-Alice, the youngest person in town, had only seen rain on TV. It had been dry so long that old Maisie Macduff, nodding and dreaming on her front verandah, sometimes thought she had made rain up.

Bungawitta is shrinking. As the land dries up, so does the town. Nearly all of the animals are gone. The paddocks are dry. The plants are dying. And most of the people are gone, too. Now there are only twelve people left. If they don’t do something the town will die.

Jay might be young but he has a big idea. Bungawtta needs to hold a festival. People will come and see how good the town is – and they’ll spend money, too, which will keep the town going. But the day of the Earth Sculpture Festival is full of surprises.

Bungawitta is a heart-filled humorous tale of community and friendship, as the twelve different residents of Bungawitta each do their bit to ensure Bungawitta’s survival.

From one of Australia’s best-loved children’s authors, and illustrated by equally well loved illustrator Craig Smith, this is an outstanding offering for primary aged readers.


Bungawitta , by Emily Rodda
Omnibus, 2011
ISBN 9781862918337

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

Meet Letty, by Alison Lloyd

‘Excuse me. I have to find my family,’ Letty said.
Letty ducked beneath the woman’s elbow. Through a gap in the railing she saw Papa standing on the jetty, by himself. Then she saw that the gangplank was being pulled in. The ship was getting ready to sail, Letty realised. And she was still on it!

When Letty is left to watch her big sister’s trunk, she takes her job seriously – so seriously that she follows it onto the ship. Before she knows it, she is trapped on the ship as it sets sail for New South Wales. There is no way to get off, so, even though Lavinia doesn’t want her there, she is bound for a new life. First, though, there’s the gruelling journey to survive.

Meet Letty is the first of four stories featuring Letty, set in 1841. Part of the My Australian Girl series, this first instalment focuses on the hardships of Letty’s journey to and arrival in Sydney , with subsequent volumes to follow her adventures in the new land. Young readers will be drawn into the series , keen to know what happens to the likeable Letty.

Meet Letty (Our Australian Girl)

Meet Letty (Our Australian Girl), by Alison Lloyd
Puffin, 2011
ISBN 978014330540

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

The Boy Who Wasn't There, by Michael Panckridge

‘When it’s time, you will know. You are going to help people, Gabrielle. More than that, you are going to save people. People just like you. Don’t seek them. When the time is right, they will find you. If everything proceeds as it should, order will be restored. Redemption will be yours…’

As she drifts in and out of consciousness, Gabrielle hears a vice telling her she is special, not like anyone else. She is, it tells her, on a quest to help others. When she wakes up, she is hospital, not sure how she got there or where she came from before that. With no past, and no known family, she is sent to a foster family. In her new house, though, scary things start to happen. Her room is filled with hundreds of moths, she is attacked by spiders, and lights turn themselves on an off. What – or who – is causing all this – and why are they after Gabby?

The Boy Who Wasn’t There is the first book is a new supernaturally themed series from author Michael Panckridge and Black Dog Books, The Book of Gabrielle. Whilst the story stands well alone, readers will be intrigued by the bigger mystery of who Gabrielle is, and want to keep reading the series to find out.

Suitable for upper primary and lower secondary aged readers.

The Boy Who Wasn't There (Book of Gabrielle)

The Boy Who Wasn’t There (Book of Gabrielle), by Michael Panckridge
Black Dog, 2011
ISBN 9781742031828

This book is available from good bookstores, or online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.