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Trapeze

REVIEW BY SALLY MURPHY  AUSSIE REVIEWS

Bump! Bump! CRASH!
Ritchie started up in bed. He switched on his reading lamp.
That noise! He was sure that noise came from straight above his head. He sat up and gazed at the ceiling. To his astonishment, he saw a small lump like a blister bulge out of the plaster.
He must be asleep.
This must be a dream.

Ritchie’s life isn’t going well. First his parents separated. Then his dad went to work in Darwin and he and his mum moved into a flat. The only good thing in his life is his new friend Lilla, who used to be an acrobat in a circus.

When strange things seem to be happening on his bedroom ceiling every night, Ritchie thinks he must be dreaming. Could these strange happenings be a turning point amidst all this gloom?

Trapeze is a new title in the Trekkers series from Macmillan Education. Aimed at children with a reading age of around 11 and a half years, it is suitable both for classroom reading and private enjoyment.

Story Inspiration

This story was inspired by a very noisy neighbour who lived directly above me. Her intermittent thumps and bumps were intensely annoying. I spent many nights wondering what could create such a terrible racket? Was she running a printing press? Printing counterfeit money? Or illegal documents? Maybe she was renovating, pulling down walls? More importantly, how could I prevent those thumps and bumps from waking me?

In the middle of the night I would wake and ponder what might happen if something unusual appeared on my ceiling. When I tried to imagine what it could be, a circus came to mind. After many inquiries, I heard that some hard to close windows and balcony doors were responsible for all that noise. Unfortunately, though I love circuses, not a single one ever appeared on my ceiling.

Ritchie’s situation of trying to cope with his parents’ separation is only too common. In some districts more children live in single parent homes than with two parents. I hope that they can receive some inspiration from reading fictional accounts of their own situations.

 

Cow-pat$

Review:  Posted by Sally Murphy, 2004.

Red’s best friend is his cow, Daisy. He likes her because he knows he can tell her everything and, although she’ll listen, she won’t tell a soul. But the last thing Red expects is that Daisy will help solve the family’s money problems. Not only is there a drought, but Red’s dad is also sick. He needs an operation. Red’s big brother, Luke, and his sister Tara are both out of work. The family farm is going to be taken over by the bank. And Red has no money for art supplies. Then, unexpectedly, a stranger comes to visit. Red doesn’t understand a word he says, but he eventually translates his sign language enough to understand that the Stranger wants to buy Daisy’s cow-pats. Red does not understand why anyone would pay hundreds of dollars for cow-pats, but he does know that all this money could be the answer to the family’s problems.

Cow-Pats is a humorous novel for 8 to 12 year old readers (the targeted reading age is 11). As well as being a fun read, it also has subtle messages about family, friendship and even about what makes art works ‘great’.

 Extract from Chapter 1.

“I suppose you want to know what the Stranger looks like.  Well, all I can tell you is that he’s short. Even shorter than me. A floppy hat hides most of his face. His coat seems three sizes too big.

Then there’s his feet. HUMUNGUS.  Picture a penguin with elephant feet.  Or a chook in size twenty boots.

            First time he comes to Geribilt Farm, it’s afternoon milking. Daisy and me, we’re in the cowshed.            Daisy’s my best friend. Now maybe you’re asking – how come a milk-cow is my best friend? You see, Daisy’s never, ever mean to me. Least, never on purpose. Not even last summer when the blow-flies were bothering her so much, she kicked out and nearly broke my leg. No, Daisy’s my best friend because I can tell her just about anything, and I know she’ll never repeat it….”

 

STORY INSPIRATIONS:

The situation Red’s family is in happens too often to those trying to run small farms in a country ravaged by weather extremes. However, this story has always been one of my favourites because of the snide comments I was able to make about art. I suppose the question is… what makes great art? How do we differentiate between sculpture, painting, media, and all those other forms that now go under that label? What will survive and what will just fade away? Perhaps in the end our judgements just come back to ‘gut feelings.’

 

Starship Q

Review from Aussie reviews. Sally Murphy.

Iyaki and Aari know they aren’t supposed to be in the starship hangar, but it’s the best place for them to kick a ball. Then their ball accidentally goes into the open hull of a starship and, when the boys try to retrieve it they find themselves in trouble.

The ship has been taken over by a mutineer and when he finds the boys he locks them up with one of his prisoners, a human boy called Jackson. At first Iyaki and Aari, both Igs, think they have nothing in common with Jackson, but as they all struggle to figure out how to escape and how to prevent the mutineer achieving his objectives, they realise they can be friends. Together they just might have a chance of stopping the mutiny.

Starship Q is a fast moving science fiction title for children aged 9 to 12. The characters may be alien, but the dilemmas they face will be familiar to many children – making friends, facing consequences, and believing in one’s own abilities.

Part of the Breakers series from Macmillan Education, Starship Q is suitable both for home reading and classroom use.

Astronet

STORY INSPIRATION

Because this story is now several decades old, the technology is dated. However the theme of lonely children coming together for an adventure is age old. One of my private amusements was to have all the adults with shaved heads wearing wigs, much like the pharaohs back in Ancient Egypt. No sooner had the book been published when shaving heads became a fashion. Did this little book influence this? I will never know.  The other is having the computer develop a lisp. Computers, just like we humans, are also fallible.

Opening:

            “Nathaniel, my tutor comp, wakes me each day with the time, the date and the weather.

On this particular morning I hear,’Ping… ping… ping… Thurthday, May21tht. Today the temperature will reach a mathimum of twelve. Occathional hails and thquals.”

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