Memories of school holidays for me involved curling up in a cool corner somewhere in the backyard with my friends. I was pretty tight with Trixie Beldon in those days but always had more of an affiliation with animals than solving mysteries. If Lulu Bell had been around some 38 years ago, she would have definitely been in my inner circle of companions.
She’s extremely likeable, has long plaitable hair, a smile wider than a banana and best of all adores animals. She’s also the central character in the enchanting Lulu Bell series by Belinda Murrell and Serena Geddes. And now, finally, my seven year old past-self is able to befriend her.
Lulu Bell and the Cubby Fort and Lulu Bell and the Moon Dragon are the third and fourth books in this series about the Bell family and their menagerie of friends, many of them of the furred or feathered kind. Each generously illustrated book centres on a new adventure or incident young Lulu encounters, often arising from her experiences at home and around her father’s work as a vet.
These books are ideal to read in succession or as stand-alone chapter books and are perfect fodder for the insatiable new reader.
The Cubby Fort invites us to spend the Easter holidays with Lulu on her Uncle’s farm. The Bell family load up kids, dogs and tents and experience an eventful weekend surrounded by country, cows, cousins and mud. Lots and lots of mud. But when baby brother, Gus, goes missing, fun turns to fear and Lulu is forced to assume the role of Trixie Beldon to solve his disappearance.
The Moon Dragon is an illuminating look at friendships and celebrating shared passions and different cultures. Lulu’s best friend, Molly, welcomes her to help with preparations for the Moon Festival. Together, they make dragon costumes, paper lanterns and mouth-watering moon cakes. Excitement grows faster than a full moon, swelling into a colourful parade involving the whole community and the two girls of course.
The language used throughout these books is bouncy and basic enough for young readers to digest whilst cleverly touching on gentle, non-invasive sub-themes such as Molly overcoming her social shyness. I also appreciated Murrell’s lovely sensitivity regarding ‘alternative’ views and thinking depicted by Molly’s mum who fills this year’s moon cakes with jam instead of the traditional red bean paste and salty eggs.
Belinda Murrell is a respected author for children with an impressive and solid stable of books including the Sun Sword fantasies and her fascinating historic time-slip tales, like The River Charm. Her convincing narratives draw discerning readers in from the start and in the case of Lulu Bell, have upbeat satisfying conclusions.
The Lulu Bell series draws on Murrell’s own experiences from growing up in a vet hospital and is wickedly good, old-fashioned fun for younger kids, whilst also tapping directly into one of the most keenly pursued topics of vocational interest for girls aged between 6 and 9.
Serena Geddes’s lively black and white line drawings reflect each adventure perfectly, prompting readers as young as 5 and 6 to keep page flicking.
So I may not have fulfilled my dream of becoming a vet. At least I have made a new friend in Lulu Bell and am happy to see how her dreams pan out.
Fill up your child’s memories these school holidays with Lulu too. Two new enticing titles are due out early January 2014: Lulu Bell and the Circus Pup and Lulu Bell and the Sea Turtle, both available here.
Random House for Children 2013