Author: Lizzie Wilcock
About the book: Fourteen-year-old Karanda Hooke is on her way to her sixth foster home when a crash leaves her stranded in the Central Australian desert with a backpack, a bottle of water and an old picture of her mother.
She realises that this could be her escape from the foster system, but there is one slight problem. Eight-year-old Solomon wants to tag along.
What I thought: I thought this book was really well-written, because it kept me interested, unlike most ‘wandering through the desert’ books. I hesitated before picking it up, because I thought it might be long and boring. But I was hooked before I knew it because the writing was so good.
I particularly liked the character of Solomon, with his knack for survival and vast knowledge of plants and animals.
I would recommend this book for ages 10+ as some themes in it might upset younger children.
Title: The Mysterious Benedict Society
Author: Trenton Lee Stewart
Publisher: The Chicken House
About the book: Four children with unusual gifts and talents are called in to do a top-secret mission after completing an elaborate and difficult test, set by the mysterious Mr Benedict.
They must infiltrate a prestigious and secluded school to find out why secret messages are being sent out.
What I thought: This book was full of twists and turns and had me engaged right from the start. It kept me interested throughout the whole book and there were no dull bits – I couldn’t wait to get home from school and read it in bed.
I liked all of the characters, even though they are very different. The book was easy to read, but had sublte undertones of more serious themes. It’s shelved under junior fiction, but it feels more grown up than that.
I would recommend this book for ages 11+ because I feel that younger readers may not stick with the long book of nearly 500 pages.
Buy The Mysterious Benedict Society.
Title: The Amateurs
Author: Sara Shepherd
Publisher: Hot Key Books (Allen & Unwin)
About the book: It’s been five years since Aerin’s sister disappeared, and a year since she was found dead in the forest near her house. Police have long-since closed the case but her murderer was never caught. Then she meets, via an amateur sleuth website, Seneca and Maddy, amateur crime solvers, who turn up and put the case on its head.
What I thought: This book was full of so many secrets and twists, it was impossible to know who the murderer was until the end. I really enjoyed having that element of trying to match your wits against the characters to see who could solve the crime first, but I admit I didn’t see the twist coming!
I really liked how all the voices sounded very real and contemporary, and how the point of view changed, so you could see every character’s perspective on the case.
This book contains very strong themes, coarse language, references to drug use and strong violence. It’s definitely not for readers under 14.
Buy The Amateurs.
Title: Friday Barnes: Girl Detective
Author: R. A. Spratt
Publisher: Random House Australia
About the book: When 11-year-old Friday Barnes solves a bank robbery, she uses the reward money to send herself to the most exclusive boarding school in the country.
Friday is shocked to discover that the school is full of crime. Soon students are paying her to investigate everything from missing memorial clocks to a Yeti running around the school.
What I thought: I thought that this book was a very interesting, easy read. I could relate to the character of Friday because I, too, love detective novels. The story seemed to move along and there were no boring bits.
This is an entertaining, enjoyable read for both boys and girls of 9+ and fans of Encylopedia Brown will like it. There are six books in the series, with book 7 due out later this year.
Buy Friday Barnes Girl Detective.
Title: Escape From Mr Lemoncello’s Library
Author: Chris Grabenstein
Publisher: Yearling (Random House)
About the book: Kyle has never loved libraries, but he has always loved boardgames. When he discovers that the world’s most famous game maker has designed the town’s new library, and the winners of an essay contest will get to stay overnight in the library on opening night, he is determined to win.
During the lock-in, he will need all of his smarts, courage and determination to escape from Mr Lemoncello’s library.
What I thought: This book had me on the edge of my seat, wanting to know what would happen next and how the clues fit together. It’s a mystery and an adventure all wrapped up together. I particularly liked the character of Mr Lemoncello because he reminded me a bit of Willy Wonka.
I also liked the literary references scattered throughout the book. Let’s just say, the book was so interesting that I struggled to put it down and read it very quickly.
I would recommend this book for ages 11+. If you like mystery stories, adventure stories and puzzles, you will love this book.
Buy Escape From Mr Lemoncello’s Library.