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Ariel, Zed and the Secret of Life

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Winner of the Alan Marshall Award for Children's Literature in the 1993 Victorian Premier's Literary Awards.

Table of Contents

1 The monster from out of town 2 Live-in friends 3 The arrival of Zed 4 The voyage 5 Island secrets 6 On being a whuffler 7 Exploring 8 The Elixir of Life 9 The rewrite 10 Goodshot at your service 11 A nasty surprise for Clara Krantzbur 12 Formula for living, by Goodshoot 13 Lies and weak spots 14 Surprising encounters 15 Let's do lunch 16 Revelations 17 Dreams and shadows 18 Jigsaw pieces 19 The new Zed 20 Memories 21 The fourth dimension 22 Happily ever after?

About the Author

Anna Fienberg gets her ideas from her own dreams, people she meets, snatches of overheard conversation. She always carries a notebook with her in case she hears something interesting. Anna likes to live in books as well as real life. She was once Editor of School Magazine, where she read over a thousand books a year. She wrote plays and stories for the magazine and then began writing her own books. She has written picture books, short stories, junior novels and fiction for teenagers and young adults. Anna's first novel, Pirate Trouble for Wiggy and Boa, was shortlisted for the 1989 Australian Children's Book of the Year awards, The Magnificent Nose and Other Marvels was the winner of the 1992 Australian Children's Book of the Year Award for younger readers, and Tashi was shortlisted for the same award in 1996. Power to Burn was shortlisted for the 1996 NSW Premier's Literary Award, and Borrowed Light was given the ACT Top YA Read Award in 1999.


Ariel Windwood, aka ``Windy Weirdo,'' is used to living with the characters dreamed up by her author mother, even after they--literally--take on a life of their own. She is less prepared to share her home with the flesh-and-blood Zed, the sulky, withdrawn son of a family friend. Sensing the need for a change, Ariel's mother sends the two off to an island boasting a ``School for Rebellious Characters'' where ``characters are taught to behave as their authors decree.'' Ariel and Zed meet up with a host of notables including Sinbad, Electra and Ali Baba as well as the native inhabitants. The story picks up speed and gains focus with the introduction of Mr. Goodshot, an evil character who plots the demise of the island by exploiting its most precious resource, an elixir concocted by Merlin himself. Though the basic premise of this Australian import is clever, the feyness of the writing often pushes the limits. A surfeit of coy details (e.g., Ariel measures her front teeth, which are 1.3 centimeters long) destroys any pretense of spontaneity, so that the playfulness of the story seems forced. Ages 9-14. (Apr.)

Gr 5-8-In this charming Australian fantasy, Ariel is a social misfit, for her imagination and sense of humor are out of step with the other girls in her class. Zed's mother, a journalist on assignment in Africa, has sent him to live with the girl and her mother, Concetta, a writer. Zed is a miserable child and Ariel is grumpy, so Concetta decides to send them both on a holiday to the Island, a tropical haven for characters who refuse to act as their authors wish them to. Soon they are living with the old woman who lives in the shoe (and dislikes children) and attending school with an insomniac Sleeping Beauty; a huge, generous Leprechaun; an honest Used Car Salesman; and a good witch, among others. The magic of the Island, they discover, is an Elixir, hidden in a cave and guarded by a giant bat. Zed actually begins to have fun, befriends Ariel, and inadvertently betrays the Island's secret, but his new and improved self then helps to save it. Fienberg's gentle humor and vivid imagination bring this adventure to life. The odd residents of the Island help the young protagonists learn to value and enjoy themselves. Good readers will find this unusual book entertaining.-Anne Connor, Los Angeles Public Library

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