Tag Archives: Mystery

Spark – M.G. Leonard

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Walker Books

September 2022

Imprint:Walker Books

ISBN13:9781406389388

Australia RRP:$18.99

New Zealand RRP:$21.99

There is something quintessentially English about a group of children who are into bird-watching I think, especially when combined with all the other great things going on in this series. A diverse cast of characters, an appealing setting where the kids can roam in their own private forest at will, navigating the sometimes not clear-cut avenues of friendship, thrilling adventures and a mystery to solve, all combine to make this an irresistable read to middle school kiddos.

We know that mystery and crime stories for younger readers are booming at present but the point oif difference with the focus on children who care for nature and apply their knowledge in a positive way makes for a thoroughly charming twist.

When Jack comes across a badly hurt cat he suspects that the injury is deliberate – but who could be responsible for such a cruel act? He knows this is another opportunity for the Twitchers to do some investigating but there is soon even more to investigate when the expected arrival of one of the most rarely seen birds is threatened by a local wildlife poacher. The children rally their full force and put their minds to a well thought out plan that will, with any sort of luck, save both the local cats and the magnificent lammergeier.

This is a top notch adventure for readers from around Year 3ish upwards especially those that like their stories action-packed! It would be best read after the first so that your kiddos know the characters and backstory but this is not completely necessary.

Miss Penny Dreadful & the Midnight Kittens – Allison Rushby

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Walker Books Australia

August 2022

ISBN: 9781760654030

RRP: $15.99

Allison Rushby‘s delightful new book brings together a host of currently popular themes but presented for your lower primary readers. In the vein of Enola Holmes or Rose Ravensthorpe, this tricky mystery combines all the charm of Victorian quirkiness with strong female characters who possess both boldness and intelligence.

Young Penny Pickering is stuck in a miserable existence at Miss Strickland’s School for Girls of an Enquiring Mind while her scientist parents are who-knows-where busy with who-knows-what. Penny does not fit in at all with the school’s aims nor the other girls. She is far more interested in the type of activities frowned upon by Miss Strickland, for example, the avid reading of ‘penny dreadfuls’ such as those written by her famous Aunt Harriet.

When the celebrated authoress turns up in person and whisks Penny away – with a very evasive explanation that the girl’s parents are indisposed – Penny is only too keen to depart the much hated institution. Not so pleased is Aunt Harriet’s publisher, the rather surly Mr Crowley although there is little he can do about it. And so the first adventure begins as it has been arranged for Aunt Harriet to visit a Mr Toddington’s Museum of the Curious and Absurd where, reputedly, some taxidermied kittens come to life during the night and enjoy a tea party. The very bizarre nature of the exhibits in the museum are pure Victoriana and will fascinate, although likely repulse, young modern readers.

Penny may not have the sort of enquiring mind Miss Strickland expected from her young ladies but she certainly is canny enough to realise that stuffed kittens do not come alive on a nightly basis and begins to unravel the mystery in a very efficient manner. And not surprisingly, the unpleasant Mr Crowley is deeply involved in the whole dubious attempt at hoodwinking. Miss Penny Dreadful may have saved some helpless kittens and helped out the local Lord in doing so but she certainly hasn’t earned any brownie points from scowling Mr Crowley. Readers will very quickly realise that this odious man will continue regard Penny as his bête noire while the delightfully eccentric Aunt Harriet remains blissfully unaware of the undercurrents surrounding her.

All in all this is jolly good fun for readers from around 7 years upwards with adventure, mystery, humour and a splendid dash of history as well and I have every confidence that any reader will look forward to the next instalment with great anticipation.

Highly recommended for lower to middle primary kiddos.

Book Week is coming!

Scorpion Falls – Martin Chatterton

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Ford St Publishing

August 2022

ISBN: 978781922696090

RRP: $18.99

Honestly, my first thought as I really got underway with this new offering from Martin Chatterton was: the Stranger Things fans are going to LOVE this!  Lo and behold when I visited Martin’s website before beginning to write this review, he makes the same comment. Always good to know you’ve got the right take on a book – haha!

It’s Australian Gothic horror/dark comedy at its best and if you have those readers who seek out the somewhat bizarre or unusual plot lines, make sure you get this on your orders list now.

14-year-old Theo Sumner lives in a Queensland mining town, Scorpion Falls, where he is a bit of a loner – and often a victim of school bullying. His best friend Ari and her parents run the Iguana Motel, where Theo works after school. His mother is wheelchair-bound with MS and things are exactly a picnic for Theo either at home or elsewhere.

When a creepy stranger moves into the motel and even creepier things start happening around Theo, he begins to see a very different side to dull and boring Scorpi (start thinking Upside Down style!). Cue the samecreepy stranger finding a pair of ‘gooey’ eyeballs on his bed, and Theo’s mum admitting she put them there – and away this twisting and turning plot goes! A mysterious white van, the apparent abduction but then re-appearance of Theo’s nemesis, a student (who has apparently never existed) being dragged into a store room and vanishing without a trace – all this and more is doing Theo’s head in.

Teenagers disappearing, fake cops, robotic spiders, winding subterranean tunnels, a kid literally laughing his head off – it’s all unravelling in a completely disturbing and spooky way in Theo’s world.

Chatterton explores themes of trust, friendship, exclusion, racism, identity and mortality.  The sting in the scorpion’s tail will completely blow readers away and I’m looking forward to my first kiddos to read it to see their reactions!

Pre-order now!

Highly recommended to your secondary readers who love the quirky or weird pseudo-supernatural particularly.

Willa and Woof 1: Mimi is Missing – Jacqueline Harvey

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  • Penguin Random House
  •  5 July 2022
  • ISBN: 9781761043314
  • Imprint: Puffin
  • RRP: $12.99

Question:

What’s more exciting than a brand spanking new Jacqueline Harvey book?

Answer:

A brand-new Jacqueline Harvey series!!

That’s right folks! In case you’ve missed the excitement of last week’s release AND – can you believe it? – television ads to promote it! – Jacqueline’s super new series Willa and Woof sprang to life amid great rejoicing.

Your little readers from around Year 2 upwards will fall in love with this new cast of characters, just as they have with all the old familiar crew from this hugely successful and popular author.

Eight-year-old Willa lives with her family in a friendly cul-de-sac. Her best four-legged friend is Wilfrid, the albino wolfhound, known as Woof, her best same-age friend is Tao and her best old-age friend, Frank.  

Willa visits Frank almost every day in the next-door retirement complex and even though he’s a bit of a crusty old curmudgeon, she seems able to make him smile. She also loves to help him with his last remaining pigeon, Mimi.  So, when Willa discovers that Mimi is missing, she is very upset and certain that the disappearance is entirely her fault – she really can’t remember if she latched the aviary door securely.  Willa is determined to find Mimi as swiftly as possible, but then Frank goes missing as well! What on earth is happening?

Willa is every bit as adorable as Clementine Rose and Alice-Miranda so fans of these two will welcome her arrival with great enthusiasm. The whole story is imbued with joy and warmth which make it a pleasure to read.

Welcome Willa and Woof! Don’t miss out on picking up this completely adorable introduction – I’m already looking forward to the next instalment!

Seven Days- Fleur Ferris

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Penguin Australia

May 2022

  • ISBN: 9781761043352
  • Imprint: Puffin
  • RRP: $16.99

I really do love a good countdown action/adventure and Fleur Ferris has brought her masterful manipulation of tension into a fantastic new narrative for middle school readers. In similar fashion to her hugely successful and popular suspenseful stories for YA kiddos, this one follows a cracking pace from the very first page.

Ben is really angry with his father, who seems to be far more interested in his high-flying corporate job crushing people and the environment, than in Ben. And now, much to his complete disgust, Ben is being packed off to the country to spend a week with his aunt, uncle and cousin – a fate too horrible to contemplate from this teen’s point of view. It’s not that he thinks his aunt and uncle are awful, it’s just that his cousin is so much more adept than him dealing with country type stuff like animals and motorbikes and physical activity. Ben is really far more citified than he cares to admit at times.

The very last thing that Ben imagines happening is to become embroiled in a generations-old family feud, a murder mystery and a treasure hunt which ends up in the enclosure of two very cranky hippos at the nearby zoo. Ben has set his watch the minute he arrives in Manibee to countdown until it’s time to go back home, but now that seven days ticking away is how long he has to solve a century-old crime, work out the location of an almost mythical cache of stolen jewelry – oh, and actually survive the dangers on all sides.

With the unexpected assistance of his cousin Josh, with whom he finally develops a far more friendly relationship, as well as the even more surprising aid from Josh’s crush, Olivia, of the very family that despises their own (a nice little Romeo & Juliet twist here), Ben manages to unearth the long lost stolen goods, prove the solution of the crime, and resolve the family feud but not without a dramatic plot twist that will make readers’ heads spin!

With lots to say about family, misleading appearances, values and beliefs, friendship and acceptance of differences, your readers from around Year 6 upwards will truly relish this fast-paced thrilling ride.

Highly recommended for middle primary/lower secondary – this is an author to whom your kiddos will love an introduction!

Guest Reviewer: Jessica Finden

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Introducing the lovely Jess, currently teacher-librarian (part-time) at Carmel College, Thornlands. Jess is definitely the glue that holds together the Bayside Secondary T-L Network and works hard always, organising meetings, and our regional Readers Cup competition. In tandem with her Head of English she has transformed the set novel program at Carmel with both flair and success. Her sessions in her library including book groups are, I know, highly valued by both the student participants and her college.

Today she is sharing her thoughts about a recently published novel, gaining a real foothold in libraries.

House of Hollow by Krystal Sutherland

March 2021

ISBN: 9780143796992

Imprint: Penguin

Format: Paperback

Pages: 304

RRP: $19.99.

Recommended for Teens 15+

There are some instances when you pick up a book and you just know that you are going to thoroughly enjoy reading it.  House of Hollow by Krystal Sutherland was exactly this for me.  A dark, modern day fairytale – equal parts tantalizing and horrific, Sutherland’s ability to infuse her writing with the gothic use of the sublime and the uncanny keeps you entertained even as you squirm at the unfolding events.

As children, Iris Hollow and her two sisters disappeared.  A month later, they returned with no memory of what had befallen them.  With a change to their eye colour and hair and a small scar at their throat, their parents knew that something disturbing had happened to them.

17 year old Iris is just trying to live a normal life and finish high school but her older, famous and dazzling sisters are busy living anything but a normal life.  When Iris’ older sister Grey disappears, Iris and her sister Vivi follow a trail of peculiar clues leading them not only to where Grey is but unlocking answers from their past – answers that they may not wish to uncover.

House of Hollow entices you to fall down the rabbit hole into the lives of the Hollow sisters, knowing that you are not going to like what you find at the end.

5 stars

I do have this book on my TBR list – and aside from anything else, just check out that fab cover art! Thank you so much Jess for joining us today!

The PM’s Daughter – Meredith Costain

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Penguin Australia

March 2022

  • ISBN: 9781761046704
  • Imprint: Puffin
  • RRP: $16.99

I’m well aware that many things just pass me by – especially when it comes to TV. To be fair, though The Kid is a teen, she would be way too engrossed with her horror movies to watch a show on the ABC but it appears that this series has been quite the hit.

Inspired by the series, Meredith Costain has brought her considerable talent and experience to crafting a book that will, most certainly, engage your tween/teen readers. This storyline really has something for everyone. Cat (otherwise known as Catalina) is the daughter of Australia’s first single parent/female/foreign-born PM – which, let’s face it is hugely significant in itself (and really, let’s hope prophetic, shall we?). After a tedious and tiring FIFO scenario, Cat and her PM mum, plus great-aunt Tia (who is totes adorable) are re-locating to Canberra from Perth.

The Lodge is not the most hip place to live for sure (and yes, I have seen inside it, so can vouch for that) and Cat is well miffed at leaving behind home, friends, and pets to be faced with protocols, antique furniture, hideous clothes and boring functions. Most of all, she’s full fed up that she is expected to put aside her own values and beliefs around important issues like climate change and the voting age to ‘toe the party line’ for the sake of her mum.

And, of course, it’s not because she doesn’t love her mum but, after all, she’s a teen girl – that’s her prerogative surely? – disagree and battle over everything! (Trust me, I’m on my second time around raising The Kid so I know of which I speak!).

Canberra is, as always, a heaving mass of fomenting discord with agitators – especially the youthful ones – as well as opposition to the new PM’s proposed policies, the threat of WA seceding and the usual hoi polloi of political media circus. And Cat ends up right in the middle of it all as she navigates new situations, tries to make friends whilst dancing around the trust issues and struggles to make her own voice heard.

When her mum is in danger of losing her new post due to blatant sabotaging, it falls to Cat and her new chums to salvage a career – whilst maintaining their own values and beliefs, no easy ask.

This is a tremendously enjoyable read which I think kiddos from around 12/13 will greatly appreciate. It has action, tension, family relationships, friendships, a little romance and a good dash of suspense to keep the discerning reader interested.

I’m definitely going to talk this one up to my year 7s & 8s in particular, and already considering adding it the newly revamped lit circle program I’m creating.

Highly recommended for readers from 12 upwards – and those reluctant readers who can often be tempted by the film tie-in angle.

Shadowghast – Thomas Taylor

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Walker Books Australia

September 2021

ISBN: 9781406386301
Imprint: Walker
Australian RRP: $17.99
New Zealand RRP: $19.99

It’s back to Eerie-on-Sea for another cracking and creepy mystery. In this new adventure a seriously spooky magician arrives in town, accompanied by henchmen, and purports to be Herbie’s long-lost aunt. She seems to enthrall the boy but his friend and ally, Violet, is far from convinced of the Caliastra’s sincerity or truthfulness. As Halloween approaches and the time for the annual Ghastly Night event, strange things begin to happen.

People are either going missing altogether or somehow becoming changed – and not for the better. Poor Herbie yearns to have a real family and home and he truly wants to believe that Caliastra is both his aunt and that her intentions are wholesome but as the mystery deepens, it seems more and more unlikely.

Can a famous illusionist actually do real magic? Because once she demonstrates the power of the Shadowghast lantern, it would seem that the light it throws is indeed true sorcery. Perhaps the story of the Shadowghast is more than just legend and it’s up to Herbie and Violet to unravel the truth.

This series is so much fun and while, in our library, it has been a little slow to take off, it is definitely gaining momentum – and deservedly so. It is deliciously and thrillingly spooky, has exactly the right blend of mystery and humour, some wonderful themes of loyalty, friendship, family and courage and, for those of my ilk, fabulous frivolity and wordplay. One only has to encounter the two protagonists in the first book – Herbert Lemon and Violet Parma – to know that punnish fun is in store throughout! (fish and chips sold by Mr Seegol! hahahaha!)

This mix echoes the best of Lemony Snicket but is far superior in my opinion and Taylor’s skill in creating both his imaginary setting and engaging our suspension of disbelief is admirable.

If your kiddos haven’t got onto this series yet, I strongly recommend you adding it to your collection and book-talking it. Some read-aloud excerpts would certainly find their mark with any audience from around Year 4 upwards.

Alice-Miranda in Egypt [Alice-Miranda #20] – Jacqueline Harvey

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Penguin Australia

  •  June 2021
  • ISBN: 9781760891046
  • Imprint: Puffin
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 416
  • RRP: $16.99

Put it on your ‘new books’ display and stand well back because the danger of stampede is very real! Twenty books on and everyone’s favourite little schoolgirl is still guaranteed to excite your readers – and not just your junior readers either. I know several older girls – including one who started university this year! – who are still dedicated A-M fans!

In this new adventure Alice-Miranda and her buddies are off on the trip of a lifetime, as part of the Queen’s Colours leadership program; to Egypt, the land of hidden tombs, ancient monuments, fascinating culture and, of course, camels and palm trees. But the cultural and historical aspects of the trip are not the only exciting highlights. As always it seems, wherever Alice-Miranda goes, mysteries follow, and along with those, some other trifling life problems – such as two boys (unsuccessfully) vying for her attention.

Alice-Miranda has several threads to unravel in this sojourn among the sands; the financial problems of the school and Miss Reedy’s anguish over being the possible cause of these, the extremely odd behaviour of the supposed expert standing in for renowned Dr Hassam, Minister for Antiquities, the suspicious actions of Masud, son of the group’s very knowledgeable guide and the puzzle of how precious artefacts are being smuggled out of the country. Really, it’s all pretty much bread-and-butter to our little dynamo – even though she and bestie Millie wonder aloud if they will ever have a ‘quiet’ holiday!- and readers will enjoy the fast-paced action which is interspersed with rich historic and cultural details.

Again Alice-Miranda demonstrates the resourcefulness, intelligence and empathy that we all associate with her character and which endears her so much to her readers. There are also some really top moments in the narrative which bring strong emotions to the fore as what I would call the “Alice-Miranda effect” influences the actions of her team mates, which will really resonate with readers.

There really is never any need to ‘promote’ a new Jacqueline Harvey book and particularly this series – they simply fly off the shelves and are always in high demand – however, you will no doubt still want to book talk it with your other new titles, if only to watch the scramble afterwards to be the first to grab it!

As always, highly recommended for your readers from around Year 4 upwards.