Eloise and the Bucket of Stars (Janeen Brian, Walker Books)
For nearly 13 years Eloise Pail has dreamed of a family and life outside the orphanage. But year after year Eloise is left under the watchful gaze of Sister Hortense, who treats her more like a servant than a child. The only kindness comes from Sister Genevieve and the town blacksmith. When the blacksmith discovers a mysterious message written on an ancient piece of paper, he entrusts Eloise to uncover its meaning, opening up a world of magic to her. However, the sudden arrival of new girl Janie complicates things and Eloise finds herself unsure of who to trust as she races to solve the mystery before she runs out of time. Janeen Brian takes us back into the 19th century, using magic realism to tell a story that explores friendship and family. The novel reads like it could be the first in a series, as it takes time to build the characters and setting before reaching the main action and resolution, and Eloise is a strong heroine that readers will relate to and want to see more of. Perfect for a 9+ readership, this novel will appeal to those with an appetite for the work of Jessica Townsend and Patricia Forde.
M H Alessandrino is a Perth-based freelance writer and reviewer