Friday 30 October 2015

Lulu Bell and the Magical Garden

Lulu Bell and the Magical Garden by Belinda Murrell, illustrated by Serena Geddes (Random House)
PB RRP $9.99
ISBN 9780857985644

Reviewed by Jaquelyn Muller

I must admit, I have had this book in the review pile for a while (and the pile has been high of late) but I couldn’t forget about it as I knew I would love it.

Belinda Murrell has created such a loving, whimsical character in Lulu Bell that I wish I knew her as a 10 year old. She and I would have been kindred spirits in our search of little adventures and love of animals. This sweet chapter book for younger readers aged 7-10 years truly embraces all that being a kid should be about -- friendship, animals, family, community and creativity.

This was the first of the Lulu Bell books that I had read, however I was not restricted in getting to know the characters. Younger readers will enjoy collecting the book series and identifying with many of the adventures that Lulu Bell has. As a mum of a 10 year old girl I’ve observed that the voice is very strong and could quite easily be one of my daughter’s friends.

In this story Lulu Bell and her school chums charge themselves with repairing the school vegetable garden after a wild, destructive storm. The school cannot afford to fix it immediately, so instead Lulu and her cart-wheeling cohort decipher a plan to fund and repair the garden with the help of their families and local community. It conveys in the idea that making a difference, teamwork and selflessness can actually be fun as well as rewarding.

The setting is very Australian and the mood is bright, cheerful, sunny, loving and nurturing. It wouldn’t surprise me if this story prompted its young readers to take on similar activities. The strong but simple sentences with these familiar settings and characters would also appeal to reluctant readers, particularly those who love animals and nature.

As a parent, I love that there is a lack of modern technology and materialism referenced in the book, and the soft illustrations from Serena Geddes enhance the story to give the full sense of Lulu Bell’s jolly world. It is luminous without being too sugary.  

Belinda Murrell is also the author of the Sun Sword trilogy, The Ruby Talisman, The Locket of Dreams, The Ivory Rose and The Sequin Star. Serena Geddes had previously worked in Disney animation and now illustrates the Lulu Bell series, the Totally Twins series and Why I Love series among many other titles.

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