'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Sunday 30 June 2013

KBR Recommends: New Middle Fiction, June & July 2013

Julius and the Watchmaker by Tom Hehir, Text, $19.99, 9781922079732, age 10+

A lost diary. A spinning pocket watch. A gentleman wielding a deadly walking cane. And a boy who's about to embark on the adventure of a lifetime.

When Julius Higgins isn't running from Crimper McCready and his gang of bullies he's working in his grandfather's bookshop in Ironmonger Lane.

Until Jack Springheel, a mysterious clock collector, turns up looking for the fabled diary of John Harrison—the greatest watchmaker of all time.

Before he knows it, Julius becomes a thief and a runaway and makes a deal with Springheel that he will live to regret. And all before he finds out that Harrison's diary is really an instruction manual for making a time machine.

A Very Peculiar Plague (City of Orphans #2) by Catherine Jinks, Allen & Unwin, $14.99, 9781743313053, age 8-12

The thrilling follow-up to A Very Unusual Pursuit. What will happen when science clashes with superstition and Jem takes over from Birdie as bogler's apprentice?

Eleven year old Jem Barbary spent his early life picking pockets for a canny old crook named Sarah Pickles. Now she's betrayed him, and Jem wants revenge. He also wants to work for Alfred Bunce the boggler, who kills the child-eating monsters that lurk in the city's cellars and sewers. But Alfred is keen to give up bogling, since he almost lost his last apprentice, Birdie.

When numerous children start disappearing around Newgate Prison, Alfred and Jem do join forces, waging an underground war. They even seek help from Birdie, dragging heraway from the safe and comfortable home she'd found with miss Edith Eames. Together they learn that  there's only one thing more terrifying than facing a whole plague of bogles - and that's facing some of the sinister people from Jem's past...

The Last Spirit Warrior (Jamie Reign) by PJ Tierney, A&R, $16.99, 9780732295196, ages 9 - 12

Jamie Reign was born twelve years ago, on the first day of the Chinese Year of the Dragon. This supposedly auspicious start in life hasn′t been much use to him, living a loveless existence with his abusive father, Hector, on a salvage boat. Jamie′s mother Mayling died on the day he was born.

When Jamie inadvertently summons some fiery orbs from the air to tackle some local bullies, he doesn′t understand that he has tapped into The Way, the universal energy source, and in doing so he sets off a chain of events with unforeseen consequences.

Whisked away by the mysterious Mr Fan to the Chia Wu, a school for students with special abilities, Jamie is taken under the wing of the legendary Kung Fu Master Wu. It is believed by Master Wu and his staff that Jamie is the Last Spirit Warrior, and as such his life′s purpose is to right the dreadful wrongs (climatic and political) taking place in the world. But not everyone believes so - and Jamie himself has doubts. What use is a Spirit Warrior who is hopeless at Kung Fu?

Chasing the Valley by Skye Melki-Wegner, Random House, $17.95, 9781742759548, ages 12+
Set in a land where magic can be terrifying, Chasing the Valley combines the friendship and camaraderie of Ranger's Apprentice with the hardship and survival of The Hunger Games – with spectacular results.

Danika is used to struggling for survival. But when the tyrannous king launches an attack to punish her city – echoing the alchemy bombs that killed Danika's family – she risks her life in a daring escape over the city's walls.

Danika joins a crew of desperate refugees who seek the Magnetic Valley, a legendary safe haven. But when she accidentally destroys a palace biplane, Danika Glynn becomes the most wanted fugitive in Taladia.

Pursued by the king's vicious hunters and betrayed by false allies, Danika also grapples with her burgeoning magical abilities. And when she meets the mysterious Lukas, she must balance her feelings against her crew's safety. 

The Big Dry by Tony Davis, A&R, $7.99, 9781460700129, ages 11+

Heat. Drought. Dust storms.

More people missing every day.

The city turning into a ghost town.

These are not the only dangers for George and his little brother, Beeper. There′s also Emily, a girl who moves like a shadow, slides through locked doors, and seems determined to push two stranded boys ever closer to disaster.

The Big Dry is a haunting and exquisitely-written story that will leave readers wondering if this could be our future.

Monster Odyssey by John Mayhew, Bloomsbury, $15.99, 9781408826300, age 10+

Prince Dakkar, son of an Indian rajah, has issues with authority. Expelled from the world's finest schools, he is sent to an unconventional educator, Count Oginski. Dakkar plans his escape immediately, but something about the Count intrigues him, including a top-secret project which he shares with Dakkar - a submarine.

Others are interested in the Count's invention and what it might achieve and, when masked men kidnap the Count, leaving Dakkar for dead, he doesn't know who was responsible. It could have been British Intelligence, or perhaps a sinister figure known only as Cryptos. From his undersea refuge, Dakkar plans to take them all on . . . with a bit of help from a Girl.