Ella at Eden #1: New Girl, Laura Sieveking (author), Danielle McDonald (illus.), Scholastic Australia, February 2020.
Ella has started at her new high school, and Eden College is everything she hoped it would be. She is getting to know her new friends and enjoying everything Eden has to offer.
Until things start to get complicated. She accidentally insults Saskia, the school diva, there could be a ghost in the dorm and items have started to mysteriously disappear.
Can Ella catch the Eden thief?
Such a smart idea to follow all-rounder, Ella, through her schooling years! Laura Sieveking, together with illustrator, Danielle McDonald, began with the ever-popular series for early readers; Ella and Olivia, progressing to the junior chapter books of the Ella Diaries fame, and now developing some new titles for middle-graders; Ella at Eden. As Ella has grown in age, height and maturity, so too have her readers, and she has become like the best friend you’ve known all your life. We feel as if we ‘know’ Ella because Sieveking has been clever to maintain that same ambitious, confident and unique first-person voice that we all love.
In New Girl, Ella is now in Year 7 and has just begun a new chapter on an impressive scholarship at the prestigious boarding school, Eden College. Nerves are aflutter, but Ella quickly settles into the school life, along with her best friend Zoe and some other new dorm mates. Ella is met with some challenges, though, making a few not-so-impressionable first impressions with a fellow ‘high-achieving’ student, and the Year 7 Coordinator / Vice Headmistress! She also feels the pressure to make good grades, and is missing home. Adventures and mysteries abound, much to the delight of the reader, of what sounds like glamourous night-time escapades and secrets to uncover, like solving the clues to the treasure-thief in the Year 7 dorms. Her sleuthing skills help Ella win the spot of Junior Journalist for the Eden Press, which beautifully links young readers (and writers) with tips and inspirations for practising their own literacy and language skills. Further to this, Sieveking utilises Ella’s voice to reinforce a range of more sophisticated vocabulary and their definitions neatly into the narrative. There is also the element of digital literacy to take on board, with Ella’s regular emails to her younger sister, Olivia – perhaps it may have been nice to have had access to some of Olivia’s replies, although we get an idea of her responses as they are weaved in to the storyline.
Ella at Eden: New Girl addresses some valuable concepts, including challenging gender stereotypes and the impact of pre-judging others. With its fantasy-fiction element of a typically-tame place like boarding school, this book is fun, engaging and unputdownable. Definitely an exciting new adventure for fans of the Ella series from age nine.
Review by Romi Sharp.
*Special thanks to Scholastic Australia for providing a complementary copy of Ella at Eden in exchange for an honest review.