Jack Pollock has a problem. A few years ago he and his best friend Gilbert Oates had solemnly promised each other that one day they would follow their fathers and work in the copper mine at Moonta, South Australia. In 1874 mining was a dirty and dangerous job, but there were precious few options open to poor families struggling to make a living.
All too infrequently readers, if they are lucky, come across a little gem of a book that engages them and virtually forces them to finish it at a sitting.
Writers of historical fiction, whatever their target age group, have to work hard to get in enough background to give the story authenticity - but not so much that the plot is bogged down. Succeeding admirably in this balancing act is Tauranga writer Sherryl Jordan with The Freedom Merchants, which takes place in the early years of the 17th century.
Boys especially will enjoy this story of a power-crazed school boy named Rory who decides he wants to be Prime Minister of his school so that he can do whatever he wants.
Richard Westlake is an 11-year-old whose beloved grandfather died nearly a year earlier while walking Richard home from school. As the story begins, Richard wakes one morning complaining of a lump in his throat and has difficulty breathing. His doctor examines him and sends him to hospital to have the growth checked, but the doctors there don't know what it is ...
Girls can have adventures, too, as The Apprentices by Maile Meloy demonstrates. Although this is a sequel to Meloy's prizewinning tale, The Apothecary, The Apprentices stands alone with enough from the earlier story to put the reader in the picture.