Book Review: 4 Books for Older Readers

Although romance is the most popular genre of books for adults, the mystery comes second and it starts with the young reader. Reviewing books for older young readers often takes more time as they have many more pages than picture books! These books reviewed (with up to over 380 pages) all have an element of mystery about them.

Eco-Rangers1440Eco Rangers: Pelican in Peril

by Candice Lemon-Scott and illustration by Aska (New Frontier Publishing, paperback, $14.99) Age Group 7+ years

Two young neighbours Ebony and Jay, find a pelican covered in oil at their local beach and as they take the bird, named by them Poseidon, to the local conservation area to see the vet they stumble upon something quite sinister!

Both kids love looking after the environment, it is wildlife and having exciting adventures, so this first in the series by Candice Lemon-Scott will appeal to emerging readers who can easily relate to Ebony and Jay. The author herself is a trained wildlife carer so the information in the book is factual plus teacher’s notes are available. (Eco Ranges Microbat Mayhem will be next in this series)

StarfellStarfell: Willow Moss and the Lost Day

by Dominique Valente and illustration by Sarah Warburton (HarperCollins Children’s, paperback, $24.99) Age Group 8-12 years

“In the world of Starfell, Willow Moss has the worst magical ability of her family. As a result, no one expects very much of her.” Says author Dominique Valente.

Willow is a true heroine to her powerful family of witches even if her power seems mundane compared to them. When Willow is called upon to find the missing day (Tuesday) she heads off to ‘save the day’. Full of witches, dragons, trolls, wizards and magicians (amongst others) this is a riveting book for emerging readers. Beautifully illustrated with fine black-and-white drawings throughout the text to give depth to the characters, the adorable dragon Feathering will be the favourite!

Kid NormalKid Normal and the Shadow Machine

by Greg James and Chris Smith and illustrations by Erica Salcedo (Allen&Unwin Children’s, hardback, $12.99) Age Group 9-11 years

Kid Normal was the first book in this series by Greg James and Chris Smith followed by Rogue Heroes and now the Shadow Machine. There’s one more to come in 2020.

Our hero, Murph Cooper started the series as a ‘normal’ kid in a new (top secret) school of super weird kids who all seemed to have superpowers – but he didn’t! Fighting the crazily zany villains as the guy with NO superpowers, Murph made up for this in many surprising ways!

Books for this age group seem to be developing into a mix of typeface and type size, interspersed with little illustrations on every few pages which I suspect is to keep the older Primary school reader interested. Very funny in a mad cap way, it certainly makes for a busy, engaging novel for reluctant older readers!

The Nancys

by R.W.R McDonald (Allen&Unwin Children’s, hardback, $12.99) Age Group Young Adult  (out soon)

The title is taken from the original 1930’s Nancy Drew books about a 16-year-old sleuth whom our eleven-year-old star, Tippy, dreams about.

Firstly, I need to mention that this book is not for 11-year-olds and should have a rating on it (definitely PG)!

Tippy Chan, growing up in a small New Zealand town, seems quite comfortable with her alternate Uncle Pike and his boyfriend, Devon, (who does her hair and paints her nails) and the drinking/smoking/fast driving/swearing family surrounding her. Her uncle flies from Australia to Riverstone, NZ, population 3687, to look after her whilst her mother goes on holidays. Her father seems to be mysteriously not in her life anymore. Anything could happen and it certainly does!

What follows is a bonding adventure with a murder to solve in an amusing black humoured way. “… there were only three things we knew for sure: Ms Everson had been murdered, her head was still missing and Sally Homer was the prime suspect”.

This is a well-written adult-themed book of 386 pages, about an unusual family–however different they might be– wrapped in a clever way around a murder with three amateur sleuths called The Nancys searching for the answers.