Ferris by Kate DiCamillo

Ferris Wilkey lives with her mum, dad and her little sister, Pinky. Her Uncle Ted lives in the basement after having separated from her Aunt Shirley.  Her grandmother lives upstairs and feels poorly but has started seeing a ghost recently in her room. Then there is the wonderful loyal dog, Boomer, and Ferris’s friend, Billy. 

Ferris, who got her name from being born under a Ferris Wheel, has a lot going on in this busy household. There are many problems that Ferris wants to help solve. 

Wild child Pinky has decided she wants to be an outlaw and is constantly devising outrageous ways and means to achieve that goal. Uncle Ted is having somewhat of a crisis being separated from his hairdressing wife, Shirley, and dealing with it by creating a painting of a foot. Her dad is in a tizz over raccoons in the attic. But are they actually racoons? And how will Ferris help her grandmother with the ghost, who she says lived in the house a long time ago. They need a find a way to help the ghost let go. Then there’s Ferris’s teacher, Mrs Mielk, who has lost her husband and is so sad. With her Billy and Boomer in tow Ferris sets out to set the world right. 

It’s the love in this family and the fabulous quirky characters who are the basis of Ferris and they come alive under Kate DiCamillo’s skilful hand. Her writing, as always, is so light, yet meaningful. The ending is filmic and heartwarming, reiterating one of the characters who always says, ‘Every story is a love story’.

Reviewed by Jane Stephens
Age Guide 9+

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kate Di Camillo, author for childrenKate DiCamillo is one of America’s most beloved storytellers, author of The Tale of Despereaux and Flora and Ulysses, both of which have been awarded the prestigious Newbery Medal; Because of Winn-Dixie, which received a Newbery Honor. The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane won a Boston Globe-Horn Book Award; and the hugely popular trilogy of stories about the Three Rancheros: Raymie Nightingale, Louisiana’s Way Home and Beverly, Right Here.

Born in Philadelphia, she grew up in Florida and now lives in Minneapolis, USA, where she faithfully writes two pages a day, five days a week.

Visit Kate Di Camillo’s website

The Clockwork Conspiracy by Sam Sedgman 

Isaac Turner’s father, Diggory, works on the Great Clock in London’s Big Ben. Isaac works beside his father when he’s not at school. On the night this story begins, they need to stop the clock to adjust the time. Diggory goes to investigate a strange noise, and soon Isaac realises his father has disappeared. The only thing that remains behind is his dad’s pocket watch.

Isaac is taken to his father’s friend, the Speaker of the House of Commons at Westminster, Solomon Bassala. Solomon’s daughter, Hattie, is a bit older than Isaac, but much more adventurous. When she was on the roof of their apartment, she saw a figure moving about in Big Ben’s tower: could he have kidnapped Diggory? Parliament is about to debate changing to digital time, with 100 hours in a day, so Solomon is very busy with that. As there’s no-one else to help, Hattie convinces Isaac that they should investigate his father’s disappearance themselves. 

What they uncover is a conspiracy to make digital time essential. There are people who will make a lot of money out of the changes. The man Hattie saw in the tower when Isaac’s dad disappeared is part of that plot. Hattie’s adventurous spirit and Isaac’s science skills make them a formidable team. They solve cryptic clues and are kidnapped themselves. They race across London to try to find Diggory. 

An added bonus to the narrative in The Clockwork Conspiracy is an insider’s guide to famous London landmarks. Sedgman is in total control of this excellent, fast-paced story.

Reviewed by Bob Moore
Age Guide 9+

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sam Sedgman, author children's Sam Sedgman is a bestselling author, confirmed nerd and enthusiastic ferroequinologist.

His first novel for young readers, The Highland Falcon Thief, was published in January 2020, winning Children’s Fiction Book of the Year at the British Book Awards. Co-written with his friend M G Leonard, the book was the first instalment of the bestselling middle grade series ‘Adventures On Trains’.

Before writing stories for children, Sam worked as a digital consultant for the National Theatre, which meant nosing around backstage with a camera and a microphone, cajoling theatre makers into explaining how stories are built. Forever interested in piecing things together, Sam is a lifelong fan of puzzles, games and detective fiction, and once founded a company making murder mystery treasure hunts for adventurous Londoners.

When he isn’t writing, Sam can usually be found admiring a handsome timepiece, watching Alfred Hitchcock movies, or explaining some weird fact to you. He lives in London, on top of a railway station.

Visit Sam Sedgman’s website

The Secret Wild by Alex Evelyn

Fern Featherstone is 10 years old. Her parents – mum, Defina, and dad, Darwin – are both scientists hunting for unique plants in the Amazon. Fern tries to communicate with the plants around her. Her father thinks they couldn’t possibly understand her, and would prefer her to concentrate on her studies, particularly Latin, so that she knows each plant’s scientific name. After she falls into the river, her parents decide it’s too dangerous for her there and send her to London to live with her uncle, Ned.

There’s a botanist on the same flight to England. One of the boxes of her plants falls open and Fern finds a small plant in her lap which responds to her voice. Fern decides to look after it. But since she’s actually stolen it, it must be kept a secret. When they arrive in London, huge plants have appeared overnight, growing over all the buildings causing lots of damage.

Uncle Ned’s neighbour is a boy, Woody, who’s scared of plants, but when her plant (named ‘Special’) droops, Fern convinces Woody to go with her to the botanist’s house to find the right nutrients for it. That adventure ends badly.

Fern discovers that the botanist, Professor Silk, is responsible for the plants taking over London. She has bigger, madder plans – her plants are bred to eat people. Fern is captured. Special is fed a superfood and is now very large. Fern is put into a cell with Special and the professor expects Special to devour Fern.

Will Special remember her? Will Fern, Woody and Uncle Ned be able to stop Professor Silk? Find out in The Secret Wild!

Reviewed by Bob Moore

Age Guide 9+

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alex Evelyn, children's authorAlex has a degree in Journalism from Cardiff University and a post graduate diploma in Media Relations. She has worked in public relations and as corporate writer, as well as a food writer and photographer for blogs, local newspapers and The Times. She did the Golden Egg Foundation Course and is a member of SCWBI, where she has recently taken part in the Debut Bootcamp and the OMG conference.

Visit Alex Evelyn’s website

 

Jack’s Island by Norman Jorgensen

Jorgensen

After Darwin and Broome are bombed by the Japanese, Jack’s family relocates to Rottnest Island. Food is scarce and everyone fears invasion, but love is plentiful.

Naughtiness abounds: Jack and his mates Banjo and Dafty are always getting into trouble – the war hasn’t dulled their spirits one bit. Dances, gatherings and cricket games are still held, and everybody looks out for one another. But amid this acceptance, there are darker things to contend with. Prejudices refuse to die and misjudgements prevail. This is a different time to today and what was accepted then may not be now.

This accomplished writer tells a good tale in Jack’s Island. The cheeky but lovable characters are woven well into the storyline with an Australian setting. All blend beautifully together within the simple prose to form an exciting and entertaining story.Fremantle Press $17.99

Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

Age Guide 9+

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Norman Jorgensen author children'sNorman Jorgensen began writing stories when in primary school and had a story about his school read on the ABC Radio Argonaut’s Club, but it took many years for his first picture book, In Flanders Fields, to be published. Beautifully illustrated by Brian Harrison-Lever, this is the story set in World War One and tells of a homesick young soldier who risks his life to rescue a robin caught in the barbed wire of no man’s land. In Flanders Fields won the CBCA Picture Book of the Year Award in 2003, the first of many awards, and the first of a dozen books he has created for children and young people.

Norman fell in love with books at an early age and has spent nearly all his life working in the book trade surrounded by the works of authors and illustrators he admires. He developed a love of history from reading historical novels, as well as from watching old Hollywood movies, and these influences are often reflected in his own work.

He was born in Broome, in the tropical north of Western Australia, the eldest of four brothers, and lived in several country towns throughout the state until his family moved to Kalamunda, in the hills above Perth,He now lives in a 100-year-old house near Perth with his wife, also a children’s book devotee, and his collection of books and old movies. In his spare time, he loves to read, travel and take photographs, especially of castles, cathedrals, villages, battlefields, sailing ships and all the things that make history so exciting!

In 2011 Norman teamed with talented debut illustrator, James Foley, to produce his latest picture books, The Last Viking, and The Last Viking Returns. These fabulously illustrated books, about a boy who outwits local bullies by channelling his inner Viking, are a lovely blend of gentle wisdom, fun, courage and imagination as well as a glimpse into Norse history and mythology.

The Smugglers’ Curse is an exciting, action-packed adventure set in Broome, Fremantle, Albany and South-East Asia in the final years of the nineteenth century, written in classic piratical style.

Visit Norman Jorgensen’s website

Dirrarn by Carl Merrison & Hakea Hustler

We first met Mia in the authors’ award-winning book Black Cockatoo as she struggled with family relationships. Dirrarn is the sequel to that important book.

This story kicks off a few months later and Mia is now on a scholarship in a big boarding school in the city, thousands of kilometres away from her remote Kimberley home.

Mia has Naya, her best friend, by her side. They support each other as they navigate this different world. There are no rows of photos of Indigenous kids on the walls. This place and all that is in it is foreign and she yearns for family and Country. But her appreciation for the city is growing with each outing as she visits places including the Perth zoo.

Unfortunately at school Mia has a nemesis. Her name is Charlotte. She is a bully with Mia in her sights. Mia is trying to not let Charlotte get under her skin but it is hard. Finding belonging when you are away is hard too. The teachers know that sometimes when Indigenous kids go home during the holidays they decide not to come back. They are worried for Mia and all the other Indigenous kids on scholarships.

This is another important book. It exposes the challenges these young kids have. The straddling of the two worlds to get a good education. Acceptance by others. The importance of education to make change. Simply written but so much to understand and learn from.

Reviewed by Merle Morcom
Age Guide 9+

 

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

Hakea and Carl are friends who write deadly stories for children, middle readers and teens.They shared passion for improving literacy outcomes for remote outback kids by writing books with First Nations protagonists in First Nations communities.

Hakea is an avid reader, nature lover, vege eater, writer, artist and adventurer. She loves to spend time imagining and daydreaming on long drives, in baths and around the garden.  Hakea holds her Bachelor of Education (P-12 English and Humanities), Graduate Certificate of Special Needs and is a facilitator of Trauma Informed Teaching and Classroom Management Skills (CMS).

Carl is a Jaru/Kija man from Halls Creek in the Kimberleys in Western Australia. Carl loves spending time out bush with his family; fishing, hunting and swimming in waterholes. He loves AFL- he is a Level 3 coach!

Carl was awarded State Finalist of the Australian of the Year Award- Local Hero for Western Australia in 2016 for his work as lifeguard, football coach, Clontarf worker and youth mentor. Carl was the 2020 Black&Write Fellowship recipient for his series of picture books: Backyard Sports. He was a shortlisted author for the Western Australian Writing Fellowship.

Visit Carl Merrison’s & Hakea Hustler’s website

‘Loki’ Series by Lous Stowell

If you haven’t discovered this series yet, then go straight to your local library or bookshop and pick them up.

The series starts with Loki: A Bad God’s Guide to Being Good when the naughty god, Loki, has been banished to Earth where he is to live as kid. He cut off the goddess Sif’s hair. Tsk! King Odin (a bossy poo-poo head) gives Loki a magical diary. Every time Loki records his actions inside the diary the diary calculates his so-called virtual score. It also corrects him if he strays from the truth.

Unfortunately for Loki he also has to put up with an 11-year-old Thor tagging along who causes him all sorts of grief and cramps his style.

The second book in the series is Loki: A Bad God’s Guide to Taking the Blame and is as much fun as the first book. This latest and third book, Loki: A Bad God’s Guide to Ruling the World doesn’t let the side down either as Stowell seems to be enjoying creating these books as much as readers have devouring them.

This is a fabulous series. It’s packed full of doodly-like illustrations that make every page a bonanza to look at.

These books are just simply a hoot so be prepared to have a good belly laugh with a good story to boot.

Reviewed by Jane Stephens
Age Guide 9+