Lulu Bell and the Magical Garden by Belinda Murrell, illustrated by Serena Geddes (Random House)
PB RRP $9.99
Reviewed by Jaquelyn Muller
Reproduced with the permission of Buzz Words
I must admit, I have had this one 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 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. 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 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 cartwheeling 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 be appealing to reluctant readers, particularly those that love animals and nature.
As a parent, I love that there is a lack of modern technology and materialism referenced in this 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.