Isolation Publicity with Oliver Phommavanh 

Due to recent events, many Australian authors have had to cancel book launches and festival appearances. For some, this means new novels, series continuations and debut novels are heading into this scary, strange world without much publicity or attention. The good news is, you can still buy books – online or get your local bookstore to deliver if they’re offering that service. Buying these books, talking about them, sharing them, reading them, reviewing them – are all ways that for the next six months at least, we can ensure that these books don’t fall by the wayside.

Over the next few months, a lot of us will be consuming some form of art – entertainment, movies, TV, radio, music, books – the list goes on. It is something we will be turning to to take our minds off things and to occupy vast swathes of free time. One of the things I will be doing to support the arts, and specifically, Australian Authors, will be reading and reviewing as many books as possible, conducting interviews like this where possible, and participating in virtual book tours for authors.

brain freeze

Oliver writes funny books for middle grade readers, drawing on his comedic and Thai background. Like many authors, he has had many launches and events cancelled in the wake of the pandemic, and his new book – Brain Freeze – is a collection of short stories and is out in September with Penguin. Many of the events surrounding this book have been cancelled, so Oliver agreed to answer my questions, and hopefully, people will pick up this book and enjoy it and his other work.

Hi Oliver, and welcome to The Book Muse! Thanks!

  1. Your website says you’re both and author and a comedian – which career came first, and do you find that they complement each other?

I was a comedian first! I started doing stand-up comedy during my uni and teacher days. As a funny writer, the two jobs go hand-in-hand. I only became a comedian to test out my comedy writing, and there’s no better feedback than a live audience. Even when I do school visits, a few of my ‘routines’ have become stories.

  1. Your books feature multicultural Australia and many Thai characters – which is awesome – how much of your own experiences, your family, your friends and yourself do you find seep into these stories and characters?

I would say about 80.6 percent of my stories are based on my life haha. Especially in my first few titles, Thai-riffic! covered my Thai heritage, Con-nerd was a reflection on my parents’ pressure to succeed academically and Punchlines was a snapshot of me in high school, cracking jokes and trying to be a comedian.

  1. You call your fans Chewy Gum Gums – which sounds like fun – where did this originate?

Before Thai-riffic! came out, I was already hand-writing books, cards and stories, giving them to my friends as presents. I had a fake publishing company called cHEwY creations, which was a logo that I put on all my things.

cHEwY gum gums comes from the thought that imagination is like bubble gum, which you chew and chew on, and when you blow out a bubble, a story pops out!

  1. Your first book in 2010 was Thai-riffic, and it was shortlisted for a YABBA and a KOALA – what was it like hearing about these shortlists that your novel appeared on?

It was surreal, not only because it was my first book, but also because YABBA/KOALAs are kid-choice awards. I felt validated knowing that kids were enjoying my stories.

  1. Your next release – The Odd Bunch – is out in September – what will that be about?

OOPS I DIDN’T UPDATE MY WEBPAGE HAHA

The new title is called Brain Freeze! It’s my first collection of short stories where I get to delve into all kind of weird and what-if scenarios such as a kid with a 1000 names, two kids daring each other to drink slurpees until someone gets a brain freeze and more!

  1. Following on, have you had to cancel or postpone any events, appearances or launches of any kind – general or book related – due to the pandemic?

Yes, every school visit and festival since mid-March has been cancelled or postponed until October onwards. Fingers crossed for Term 4 (or even Term 3)

  1. What is the one thing you would absolutely love to write about that you haven’t written about yet?

I’ve been toying around with fantasy for the last few years, but just haven’t nailed the idea yet. Watch this space!

  1. Where did your interest in dinosaurs come from, and have you written a story about the Oliversaurus yet?

 

When I was a kid, Jurassic Park came out and it took a plate-size bite out of me. I became a walking dinopedia. I wrote plenty of Oliversaurus stories as a kid but haven’t published a story about Oliversaurus…you never know, someday one day.

  1. What kind of dinosaur would the Oliversaurus be?

A T-Rex for sure, King of all the Dinosaurs!

  1. You love burgers – have burgers featured in any of your books in a significant way, and where did your love of burgers come from?

As a kid, I remember going to McDonalds and getting a Happy Meal. I was more excited for the cheeseburger than the toy haha. I guess you always want what you don’t have, and after a daily diet of Thai-food, burgers and fries always stood out for me hehe.

So since then, I always try burgers wherever I go, and then Instagram came along and I haven’t looked back as a part time Burger Grammer.

 

  1. Favourite burger (other than Maccas)?

Best burger in the world is Fergburgers in Queenstown, New Zealand.

Closer to home, BL Burgers in Parramatta (and there’s also stores in Newtown and City too) are pretty awesome.

  1. You say you loved Paul Jennings, Morris Gleitzman and Roald Dahl – if you could choose any of their books to turn into a movie, which ones would they be and why?

I think Blabber Mouth and Sticky Beak combined would be an excellent movie, they were my favourite Gleitzman books and showed his skills as a masterful situation comedy writer. The backdrop of the country town, and all the social issues that it could touch upon, it would be a well-rounded Aussie story.

  1. Do you have any other favourite books and authors, either current or from your childhood, and what drew you to these books and authors?

R.A Spratt’s Nanny Piggins is my favourite modern comedy series. There is so much satire and tongue-in-cheek humour in those irrelevant books, and I wish I would have written them haha.

I am also a huge fan of Nova Weetman, from the Secrets We Share/Keep and more recently with Sick Bay, she nails Grade 6/7 girls and their friendships. A huge inspiration for Don’t Follow Vee’s voice.

  1. You’ve been writing in the arts industry since Growing Up Asian in Australia appeared in 2008 – what do you enjoy about working in the arts industry?

 

A humble and helpful community. You get a sense that nobody is in it for the fame or money, but for a genuine desire for voices and stories to be heard.

  1. The arts are becoming more important in these times, and always will be – what would you like to see done to support local Australian artists in all areas of the arts?

A more sustainable income-stream and support for artists. While artists and the arts get recognition during festivals and awards, outside of those, it can be an everyday struggle to make ends meet. Artists’ livelihood is so fragile, and the pandemic has exposed this.

 

  1. What kind of research have you done for your books in the past?

Most of it is through Google and own life experiences like holidays. For example, when I was writing The Other Christy, I went to Cambodia to the war memorial and various muesums to gain a deeper understanding for Christy’s Grandpa who survived the Pol Pot regime.

  1. Diversity is becoming big in literature – in terms of authors, stories and characters. What do you think is still missing in terms of diversity in literature, especially literature for children?

I’d like to read more about characters with disabilities of all kinds. YA has come a long way in addressing this, but I’d like the other genres to follow suit.

  1. If you weren’t an author, what do you think you would be doing?

I would have been content being a teacher or stand-up comedian, but I’d love to give YouTube a go, with a slant on gaming and plush toys 😊

  1. Do you have any pets or writing companions, and do they make the job harder or easier?

Speaking of plush toys, I have my favourite teddies and toys around me when I write in my writers studio. I’m staring at Grumpy Bear on my desk as I write this haha.

  1. Finally, what is your next project that is in the works?

I’m working on my next novel, What About Thao, which is about an Asian kid moving a country town. I’ve also been inspired by recent events and have started to write some ideas down for a short-story collection about kids during this pandemic.

Anything I may have missed?

Not that I can think of haha

Thanks for participating Oliver!

No probs, thanks for invite, as well as spreading the joy of books and reading across the social waves

 

Elementals: Battle Born by Amie Kaufman

Battle BornTitle: Elementals: Battle Born
Author: Amie Kaufman
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: HarperCollins Australia
Published: 1st June 2020
Format: Paperback
Pages: 320
Price: $17.99
Synopsis: The much-anticipated finale to Amie Kaufman’s epic middle-grade trilogy
Though Anders and his friends have delayed a war between the ice wolves and scorch dragons, their mission isn’t over. With adults on both sides looking for them, they’ve sought refuge in Cloudhaven, a forbidden stronghold created by the first dragonsmiths. The ancient text covering Cloudhaven’s walls could be the key to saving their home – if only the young elementals could decipher it.
To make matters worse, Holbard is in ruins and its citizens are reeling. Many have been forced into bleak camps outside the city, and food is running short.
To rebuild Vallen, Anders, Rayna, and their allies must find a way to unite humans, ice wolves, and scorch dragons before they lose their last chance.
In the final book of international bestselling author Amie Kaufman’s sensational adventure series, Anders and Rayna must put everything on the line – and the price of peace may hit closer to home than they could’ve ever imagined.

~*~

Anders and Rayna – twins with ice wolf and dragon blood, and raised with humans – and their friends have thus far delayed a war between the elementals and humans. But they are all hunted, and seek refuge in Cloudhaven, where they hope they can convince each faction, each side, to prevent a war, and rebuild their home, Vallen after uniting wolves, dragons and humans.

This is their last chance – can it be done?

I was sent this to review by HarperCollins – and was worried I wouldn’t be able to engage without having read the first two, but enough was hinted at and revealed that I could follow the story – but perhaps reading it in order is a better way to do so, and that is something I might go back and do eventually.

What I did read, though, was thoroughly enjoyable for readers – it captures the sense of war and rebellion and diversity – from appearance to hidden characteristics. This shows that diversity comes in all forms – and all of it – what we see, what we don’t, and everything in between – is what makes our worlds – real and imagined – richer and more enjoyable and relatable for a wide variety of readers. It shows that the world is diverse – much more diverse than some literature shows. Anyone can relate to these characters – there are aspects about each character that someone might see themselves in and I think Amie did it very well and set it in a world that is both fantastical and has echoes of what has happened and what is going on in our world today. Themes of racism and discrimination are woven throughout how people treat the wolves and dragons, and how they treat each other. A message like this, especially in these trying times when the world has been turned upside down in so many ways.

 

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It is a story about prejudice – what it is, rethinking it and facing it – and forcing change to make a better world for everyone. When the characters in the Elementals series find out what they believed is not true, they must face up to these and change their way of thinking. It is a powerful book and conclusion to the series that can be read by all those who enjoy the series, middle grade fiction and who want a good read as well. It is aimed at ages eight and over, but teenage and adult readers will still fund messages in this book that they can take on board.

The story is engaging and has a good pace – not too fast, and not too slow, allowing the plot and characters to evolve and develop as it heads towards its conclusion. I thought this book was well-written as well. It draws the reader into the story, and as you head along the journey with Anders, Rayna and their friends, you feel the tension, worry and fear, as well as the hope and all the emotions in between. There is a sense that things might not work out, and hints at what has come before that has led to where the characters are now.

Overall, it is a great conclusion to the trilogy, and one that I hope many readers will enjoy.

May 2020 Round Up

In May, we seemed to settle into a lockdown routine, so I got a bit more reading done. This month, I read 20 books – the vast majority of those – seventeen – were by Australian women writers – some for review, some my own reads and one or two that I read alongside Isolation Publicity interviews. Below is a breakdown of my current numbers, and a table with each read and the challenge they worked for. Some categories are easier to fill, as always, and some have multiple entries. I’ve got plenty to read – the books keep coming so I’m trying to keep on top of everything as best I can.

The Modern Mrs Darcy 11/12
AWW2020 -53/25
Book Bingo – 11/12
The Nerd Daily Challenge 45/52
Dymocks Reading Challenge 22/25
Books and Bites Bingo 15/25
STFU Reading Challenge: 10/12
General Goal –89/165

May – 20

Book Author Challenge
The Monstrous Devices Damien Love Reading Challenge, STFU Reading Challenge, AWW2020
An Alice Girl Tanya Heaslip Reading Challenge, AWW2020
Daisy Runs Wild Caz Goodwin and Ashley King Reading Challenge, AWW2020
Peta Lyre’s Rating Normal Anna Whateley Reading Challenge, AWW2020
Her Perilous Mansion Sean Williams Reading Challenge
What Zola did on Monday

 

Melina Marchetta and illustrated by Deb Hudson Reading Challenge, AWW2020, The Nerd Daily Challenge
Henrie’s Hero Hunt (House of Heroes)

 

Petra Hunt Reading Challenge, AWW2020,
The Power of Positive Pranking Nat Amoore Reading Challenge, Dymocks Reading Challenge, AWW2020
Edie’s Experiments: How to Make Friends Charlotte Barkla Reading Challenge, AWW2020
Alice-Miranda at School Jacqueline Harvey Reading Challenge, The Nerd Daily, AWW2020
Alice-Miranda in the Outback Jacqueline Harvey Reading Challenge, AWW2020
The Giant and the Sea Trent Jamieson, Rovina Cai Reading Challenge, Book Bingo, STFU Reading Challenge
Shoestring: The Boy Who Walks on Air by

 

Julie Hunt and Dale Newman Reading Challenge, AWW2020
Orla and the Serpent’s Curse C.J. Halsam Reading Challenge
Elephant Me Giles Andreae and Guy Parker-Rees Reading Challenge, Dymocks Reading Challenge, The Nerd Daily Challenge
A Treacherous Country K.M. Kruimink Reading Challenge, AWW2020
Eloise and the Bucket of Stars Janine Brian Reading Challenge, AWW2020
Snow White and Rose Red: And Other Tales of Kind Young Women  Kate Forsyth and Lorena Carrington Reading Challenge, Dymocks Reading Challenge, AWW2020, Books and Bites Book Bingo
Tashi: 25th Anniversary Edition

 

Anna Fienberg, Barbara Fienberg and Kim Gamble Reading Challenge, AWW2020
On A Barbarous Coast Craig Cormick and Harold Ludwick Reading Challenge, STFU Reading Challenge, Dymocks Reading Challenge

 

In June I am hoping to read more and get further on top of all my reviews – look for more great books by Australians and especially kids and young adult books to come in the next few weeks.

Peta Lyre

The Power of Positive Pranking by Nat Amoore

positive prankingTitle: The Power of Positive Pranking

Author: Nat Amoore

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Puffin

Published: 2nd June 2020

Format: Paperback

Pages: 368

Price: $14.99

Synopsis: Green Peas is our name and pranking’s our game!

A symphony of alarm clocks at assembly? Yep, that was us. A stampede of fluffy guinea pigs? That’s next on our agenda.

But for me, Cookie and Zeke, it’s about more than just fun. We’re determined to make a difference. And when the adults won’t listen, us kids will find a way to be heard – as long as we can stay out of detention!
No activist is too small, no prank too big… and things are about to get personal.

Unknown

~*~

Casey, Cookie and Zeke are Watterson Primary School’s best prankers. And so far, they haven’t been caught. Yet they only use their pranks for good – to help people and alert everyone to important issues that the adults in their lives don’t seem to be worried about. It’s all about making sure everyone knows what’s really going on in the world and sometimes, a good prank is what works.

When Casey and her friends find out what Mayor Lupholl has planned for their town at a school assembly, they are catapulted into action to save the park, a beloved tree and the Lego house built in Nat’s previous book, Secrets of a Schoolyard Millionaire. Yep, Nat has cleverly tied the events and characters, and location of her first book into this one, and both are filled with the same humour and wonderful diversity. Whether it is disability, race, interests, ethics or family make up – Nat has managed to show a diverse world, and one that everyone can relate to in some way. In each book she has had a character or two with an invisible disability – and this is exciting for people who never see themselves represented. In acknowledging invisible disabilities and that disabled people are not to be pitied, Nat has opened the door for more of this representation to follow.

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Similarly, with her relationships and the characters races – they just are who they are and this is beautiful to see in a novel for kids so they can see just how diverse the world is.

And we finally learn what positive pranking is and how it works – it mustn’t hurt anyone, but it must send a message – and when Casey needs to pull off the biggest positive prank ever, she has to find a way to get the entire school and her family onside so they can make sure that they don’t lose their beloved town to corrupt forces.

Nat takes issues that might seem complex – politics, the environment, activism – and makes them easy to understand, accessible and of course, fun and humorous. These are issues that affect everyone, as does good representation and it is something that we should all be caring about – which is the message of Nat’s book – to take action where you can and diversity is a good thing! I loved Tess and Toby coming back in – it really tied the two books together nicely, and this is a great way to do so. It’s not really a series based around a concept, plot or characters, as each book can be read on its own, or together. But it could work as a potential series set in the same town and primary school, where you can read any or all of the books – it just makes it more fun to read them together to appreciate all the little nods and hints.

I loved this book, and its predecessor. It took a serious topic, made it fun as well as serious at the same time, and was a nice, engaging read – which also made it a quick read for me. Sometimes there are engaging books like this that can be gobbled up and enjoyed, and then revisited. This is one of those books, and it is one that I think lots of kids will enjoy, and hopefully, relate to and learn something from.

You can read my accompanying interview with Nat here – we agreed to publish the interview and review side by side for publication day.

Shoestring: The Boy Who Walks on Air by Julie Hunt, Dale Newman

ShoestringTitle: Shoestring: The Boy Who Walks on Air
Author: Julie Hunt, Dale Newman
Genre: Fantasy, Magical Realism
Publisher: Allen and Unwin
Published: 2nd June 2020
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 368
Price: $19.99
Synopsis: A gripping illustrated adventure about a travelling circus troupe, a future-telling macaw and a cursed pair of gloves that Shoestring must conquer once and for all. A companion to the award-winning KidGlovz.
‘Shoestring loved the sudden intake of breath when he stepped onto the rope. The upturned faces of the audience made him think of coins scattered at his feet, more coins than he had ever taken when he was a pickpocket.’

Twelve-year-old Shoestring is leaving behind his life of crime and starting a new career with the Troupe of Marvels. Their lead performer, he has an invisible tightrope and an act to die for. But trouble is brewing – the magical gloves that caused so much turmoil for KidGlovz are back.

When he’s wearing the gloves, the world is at Shoestring’s fingertips. It’s so easy to help himself to whatever he likes – even other people’s hopes and dreams. But when he steals his best friend’s mind, he’s at risk of losing all he values most.

A thrilling, heart-in-the-mouth adventure of ambition, friendship and the threads that bind from the award-winning creators of KidGlovz.

~*~

In a fantastical world, there is a young thief called Shoestring, who lives with the woman who raised him. Until now, he has been a thief for most of his twelve years. When the Troupe of Marvels finds out about his talent – walking on an invisible tightrope. Yet a troublesome pair of gloves that once caused mayhem are back, and taking control of Shoestring, making him steal unthinkable things – not just items, but pieces of people – the troupe sets out to help him and destroy the gloves, and get Shoestring back to the young boy they know.

With Shoestring able to take whatever he wants – even things that someone can’t see, trouble starts to brew as the gloves start to control Shoestring and convince him to do things he’d never think about doing. Things start to go wrong when he sets out to find Metropolis, May’s old parrot who has been kidnapped, and falls into the hands of Marm – this is where the mystery begins and where we find out more about what is behind the stories of Shoestring, Marm, May, Metropolis and the gloves begins and the action picks up as the narrative moves between Metropolis telling the story – these parts are in bold, whilst the rest of the story is told in prose, as a third person perspective tells the story. And evokes a sense of everyone telling their part of the story around the campfire.

AWW2020This technique is coupled with some illustrations with speech bubbles – the same style used in graphic novels, and all the illustrations by Dale Hunt make the world Shoestring and his troupe live in really come to life as you read. It is not one that can be dipped in and out of, nor read in one sitting. This is one of those books that must be savoured and enjoyed. It is one that needs to be savoured – that needs to be read over time, and where every page has a new clue as to what might happen but is also filled with twists and turns as Shoestring fights with the gloves and the control they have over him.

Magical, transient gloves that have a mind of their own is a worrying, curious and troublesome – what do these gloves want, and why are they targeting Shoestring and the troupe. It weaves the history of the characters and the world they inhabit throughout the narrative seamlessly, telling an evocative story of ambition and friendship, and the lengths people will go to so they can help those they care about. And how will they help Shoestring fix things? This is a story of loyalty and friendship, and family – and the sacrifices we make to help those we love and care about. It is a lovely book – one that will be loved by all readers over the age of eight and will enthral and enchant readers as they enter this fantastical world and have them on the edge of their seats as they go on the journey with Shoestring and the rest of the troupe.

It does refer back to a previous book by the same author and illustrator team, but enough information is given that they can be read separately, but also, together. It is a beautiful story, and one that will be loved and treasured.

What Zola did on Monday by Melina Marchetta, illustrated by Deb Hudson

Monday ZolaTitle: What Zola did on Monday

Author: Melina Marchetta, illustrated by Deb Hudson

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Puffin

Published: 2nd June 2020

Format: Paperback

Pages: 96

Price: $12.99

Synopsis: From the author of Looking for Alibrandi comes this gorgeous series to engage and entertain newly independent young readers.

Zola loves living on Boomerang Street with her mum and her Nonna. Every day of the week is an adventure. But Zola has a problem. No matter how much she tries, she can’t keep out of trouble!
Seven stories in the series – one for every day of the week.

~*~

Zola loves to have fun, and at school, she is learning about gardens. At home, she spends time in the garden with her Nonna while her mum is at work. One day Nonna Rosa shows Zola special tomato seeds from Nonno, who is no longer with them – and Zola promises to be careful – can she keep out of trouble and save her Nonna’s special tomatoes?

Melina Marchetta, best known for her young adult books, in particular Looking for Alibrandi, and several others. Here, she has created a series for younger readers, about a little girl named Zola, with one book planned for each day of the week, to be released across the next year or so. This first book introduces readers to Zola and her family, and delightfully sets up Zola’s world on Boomerang Street. It is written in easy to understand and accessible language and looks at the inner world of Zola and children her age.

AWW2020Zola cleverly teaches children about friendship, family and problem solving through the fun and engaging story and Deb Hudson’s lovely illustrations that give an extra oomph and zing of life to Zola’s world and story. The language used is simple yet complex – early readers will be able to engage and learn how to read and grow their vocabulary and confidence with stories. It might seem simple on the surface, but it is layered in many ways, and can be read differently at each level and for each reader. Confident readers will be able to read the lines, and all readers will find something and someone in the book they identify with. As the beginning of a series, What Zola Did on Monday is filled with diversity and ideas about identity and what kids like to do.

This series would be perfect for kids in their first few years of school, and even beyond, for readers who might want something fun to read in between everything else. It is aimed at six to eight-year olds primarily, and I hope this readership enjoys these books in whichever way they read and connect with them. I look forward to seeing what other adventures Zola gets up to on the other days of the week. A charm,ing series that will enchant all who read it

Alice-Miranda in the Outback by Jacqueline Harvey

Alice Miranda OutbackTitle: Alice-Miranda in the Outback

Author: Jacqueline Harvey

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Puffin

Published: 2nd June 2020

Format: Paperback

Pages: 384

Price: $16.99

Synopsis: A dusty desert adventure beckons!

Alice-Miranda and her friends are off to the Australian Outback! They’re going to help an old family friend who’s found himself short staffed during cattle mustering season. The landscape is like nothing else – wide open and dusty red as far as the eye can see. It’s also full of quirky characters, like eccentric opal miner Sprocket McGinty and the enigmatic Taipan Dan.

As the gang settles in at Hope Springs Station, mysteries start piling up. A strange map is discovered indicating treasure beneath the paddocks, a young girl is missing and there are unexplained water shortages. Can Alice-Miranda get to the bottom of this desert dilemma?

~*~

Alice-Miranda is back! Across the series, Alice-Miranda has grown up whilst at boarding school at Winchesterfield-Downsfordvale, and in the most recent books, is now ten, almost eleven. In her latest adventure, she is off to the outback with her father, her uncle, her cousins, and her friends, Millie and Jacinta to visit Hope Springs. It’s a new adventure for everyone, and along the way, they’ll meet characters like Sprocket McGinty and Taipan Dan, and uncover secrets and mysteries that have been buried for years, search for a missing child and follow a treasure map to something fantastic. In true Alice-Miranda style, she takes the lead, and works with her friends and cousins to find out what is going on around them.

I’m fairly new to Alice-Miranda – but the beauty of this series is that I can read them in order or out of order and still know what is going on, and who is who – having read the first book helped with this and Jacqueline puts a cast of characters for each book in the back as well, which readers can refer to every now and then whilst reading. Having read the first and most recent books – where Alice-Miranda is seven and one quarter and ten respectively, I am keen to see how she grows up.

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Her latest adventure, in the outback, is uniquely Australian with the characters, setting and Australian slang peppered throughout. Some of the characters are Indigenous, and Jacqueline explains why they’re away at the start of the book in a respectful and simple way that readers who might not know much about Indigenous culture can understand, and then from there, go and research it for themselves and does so without speaking for the Indigenous characters. Hugh, Alice-Miranda’s father, explains things using his knowledge from the past. This forms one small part of the story – but seeing it acknowledged is important.

Characters and events that seem unrelated are – and Jacqueline knows when to drop hints, when to hold back and when to bring things to light in a way that is engaging, plot driven and makes the whole book work as a whole – and combined with her clever characters like Alice-Miranda, no fact is too small or insignificant to exclude. Everything piece of the puzzle eventually comes together, and astute readers will pick up on the clues. Whether you are able to do this, or everything comes together as a surprise for you at the end, it doesn’t matter – whichever way you read and pick these things up, you follow the same clues and path to the same conclusion, making this a fun read for all fans of Jacqueline Harvey and her books.

I loved the moment the kids had to choose a movie to watch – and the two choices referenced the Alice-Miranda series and Kensy and Max – this was lovely for readers of both series, as it shows that it is possible for each of these characters to exist in the other’s world, and from there, I wondered what would happen if Alice-Miranda were to meet Kensy and Max.

This book perfectly balanced the kids being alone and having adult supervision across the story. The kids were allowed to do their thing yet were responsible enough to follow instructions and keep adults informed. It shows that these kids are resourceful and responsible – but still kids and at times, they still need help from the adults in their lives. Jacqueline gets the balance for this right too.

I loved this one – and I’m planning to read the rest and see what else Alice-Miranda has been up to over the past ten years. This is a delightful series for middle grade readers of all ages and genders and I hope people love Alice-Miranda as much as I do.