The Luna Laboratorium by N. J. Gemmell

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Random House, 2015. ISBN 9780857985699
(Age: 8-12) Recommended. Themes: Family; Mystery; Adventure; War impacts. From the author who also wrote The Kensington Reptilarium and The Icicle Illuminarium (Nikki Gemmell) comes the whimsical and exciting conclusion to a Trilogy involving the Caddy children - four exceedingly independent children who have come from a life lived without boundaries in Central Australia in the era immediately after World War II. The Caddy children, nicknamed Kicki, Scruff, Bert and Pin, were relocated to live in the confines of the Kensington Reptilarium - the London home of their Uncle Basti, but all the time they have been searching for their missing parents whose mysterious war service has complicated their children's lives. In this latest adventure, they follow a clue that suggests that their mother is in fact still alive in Australia. Their delightfully persuasive personalities work to convince the adults in their life to accompany them to solve the mystery of the 'missing mother' which takes them to Luna Park in Sydney, then a harbourside convent and then back into the outback. Along the way they clamber, climb and explore risky places and place themselves in danger to discover more clues.
The beauty of the descriptive writing is part of the appeal of this book. Nikki Gemmell manages to evocatively conjure the Sydney environment for the reader as she brings to life the sights and sounds of the 1946 atmosphere and setting, including the eponymous Luna Park. The humourous antics of the children and their love for one another despite the difficulties they face will appeal to all readers. Gemmell also creates wonderful word portraits of the outback with its harsh realities, but also its beauty and its freedom. And through this all, there is an amazing sense of fun, despite the dramatic life and death circumstances that are encountered along the journey of this narrative. The young characters are so eccentric, but the people around them are also larger than life and distinctly odd. And underpinning the entire story we sense the deep love of family, and its power.
Very definitely worth recommending to young readers.
Carolyn Hull