Zach has a full life, what with a menagerie to look after, a father facing bankruptcy, and friend Anna, who fancies herself as a private investigator, with Zach as her assistant. Add Ruby the wrestler, and Brett, the rookie journo, and there’s not much time left for sleeping or homework.
Zach also spends every second weekend, and most of his holidays, with his mother and her partner, Mark, and in between times, he is pleading with his teachers for more time to do his homework.
No wonder he has nightmares night after night.
Then, there’s a spate of hedge burnings – old cypress hedges, that add value to properties, but the police are too busy, and too short-staffed to launch a full surveillance. Enter the A~Z PIs, led by Anna, the girl detective with attitude.
Incident piles on incident as the pace picks up, but the story still gives the characters time to grow and change. Even if he doesn’t fully understand what he sees, Zach shares with us the challenges which face single-parent families, the homeless and the elderly, and the accidents of fortune, human weaknesses and simple mistakes are shown to underpin many of the local crimes.
Goldie Alexander touches lightly on these family problems and societal glitches, but they’re there for understanding teachers or parents to take up and run with, given the appropriate time and place. They make the story a fuller, funnier and deeper experience.
The Australian setting and vernacular, the pull-no-punches descriptions of characters, and the lack of moralising, vitalise the story. The silly mistakes and selfish behaviour of the adults are visited on the children, and take the story to a deeper level, but this is tempered by the robust humour that kids love and understand, and that is, ultimately, our saving grace.
Anna is 13, and in Year 7, and so is Zach. Given that young people like to read about characters who are the same age or slightly older than them, this story could happily be read by upper primary/lower secondary students, who are also at an age to appreciate the lively illustrations.
Hedgeburners lends itself to being read aloud, by teacher or parent.
It’s a sharing sort of book.
– Eleanor Massey, Buzzwords
Goldie Alexander is an experienced writer for primary-age children as is evident here from the compelling plot, convincing characterisation and language with which her young readers will identify. Anna and her friend Zach style themselves as private eyes who are confident that they will find out who is setting fire to the hedges near their homes. All the characters are individuals whose motivation and personal quirks are well rendered - and captured perfectly in the occasional humorous line drawings. This is the first of a series featuring Anna and Zach, based on real crimes committed by children. With 23 brief chapters and set in a large, well-spaced type, this is ideal for newly independent readers. Ages 7-10
– Elizabeth Douglas, Reading Time
It is a popular theme for young readers, and it is not surprising really. Junior detective stories are filled with mystery and adventure and a couple of curious kids doing things they probably shouldn’t but for a good cause. Hedgeburners is an enjoyable story. I particularly liked that the main character Zach who is a rather reluctant participant but his partner in mystery (Anna) is very persuasive. He has the amusing quirk in which he uses people’s characteristics to compare them to animals, this helps you imagine what they would look like while also being humorous and just a bit cheeky. Filled with an array of different characters Hedgeburners certainly isn’t lacking in variety, which is a good thing when you are trying to track down a couple of trouble makers that are destroying the neighbourhoods hedges.
Anna and Zach (the A~Z) find themselves in the middle of a bigger tangle of trouble then you might expect a simple hedge burning incident may be. Everything from theft to kidnapping unfolds around them which makes Anna more determined and Zach more reluctant. One thing that is important when you are a budding detective though is a good knowledge of other people’s affairs and personal situations. A bit of snooping and eavesdropping is required and you know that often spells trouble!
Goldie Alexander has done a great job with this junior mystery novel. It should keep readers content and with their fill of curiosity and trouble for sometime. Marjory Gardner’s illustrations add to the story perfectly.
A great junior novel, I enjoyed it.
– Angela Hall, Bug in a Book