Paul Stafford, Ned Kelly’s Helmet, New Holland Publishers, 1 April 2016, 183pp., $14.99 (pbk), ISBN 9781742578651
Paul Stafford, Captain Flinders’ Map, new Holland Publishers, 1 May 2016, 256pp., $14.99 (pbk), ISBN 9781742578668
Both of these books for readers in years 6 to 9 feature the McGoogly Gang: three brothers, and two girls, the latter drafted into the gang for their ancestral connections. Frances’s great great great grandfather was involved in Kelly’s capture, and Leona’s was a slave on Mauritius. The gang is able to time travel back to the past through a crystal ball owned by an elderly neighbour, Mrs Fezzle, and are spurred on to engage in such a dangerous activity by the ideas and promised rewards of their history teacher, Ms Bracker.
The books provide a painless way of learning about Kelly and Flinders, and Stafford keeps the action going through near disasters and frequent mistakes. The boys and girls are brought alive with witty speech and sibling rivalries, including the recognition that families are not always polite to each other, and the scatalogical always makes kids laugh. If some of your boys are reluctant readers, try them with these. Before you buy, check your shelves, as you may have earlier editions.
Reviewed by Stella Lees