Taya Bayliss – Snake Charmer
A weekend spent at the Comino farm turns out to be far more scary than Taya has expected. While planning a joint birthday party, she and her friend, Chris, find some interesting items in the attic, including a carpet python. Snakes are definitely not Taya's favourite creatures.
Taya thinks one of the items she has found could prove the innocence of Uncle George Comino who is in jail for theft. Her persistence annoys Chris, but the hint of a mystery is irresistible for Taya.
If George did't take the ruby cross, who did?
Who is Bryan?
Where is the cross now?
In the spirit of Enid Blyton's 'Famous Five', Taya and Chris use their quick wits and keen observational skills to put the clues together. Taya has to face one of her greatest fears before this mystery is solved. Could you charm a snake?
Setting the scene on a big countryside estate, owned by the grandparents of Taya’s best friend, with the announcement of a shared teenage birthday party in the nature, is enough to get the children’s joy juices flowing. Despite the gadgets and screens, children still relish at the thought of running around free, splashing from a tyre swing directly into a clear river, endlessly chatting and screaming with their pals at the top of their voices, and not worrying about upsetting their neighbours or getting dirty. And yes, they do like do get involved in preparing their own birthday parties, decorating, planning and choosing who to invite!
Sneaking into this blissful scene hints of a family mystery, which Taya simply must solve, is exactly the spice which will keep the chldren reading! I have to be careful not to let on any spoilers, but perhaps just a few hints? Children detectives, a pet python snake, a seemingly nice friend of the family and a black-sheep uncle imprisoned (wrongly?)… Got you interested? And here’s more – the teenage detectives have to think outside the box, use any and all resources available to them, and react on impulse, working as a team, or else their lives… ooops, can’t say more! You will have to read it for yourself and/or let your child read it!
Both girls and boys will love the story, because Taya and her best friend Chris work together, bouncing off ideas and balancing each other’s crazy ideas, but have complete trust in each other. There is no magic up their sleeves or wands, no superhero powers, no time travelling; only the good old friendship, brains and good team work! I am so glad Taya Bayliss is a series, because I know plenty of girls who would ove to read about her, and (why not?) even watch it as a children’s TV-series.
The writer’s style is really nice and flowing, with just enough of complexity in the vocabulary and syntax to make it an excellent read for schools, even language schools aspiring to have their students read literature in English. There is even a brief comprehension quiz at the end of the story, although the story itself lends itself to all kinds of creative reading and writing projects one could do with learners.
The story teaches children to be inquisitive and careful, to trust their feelings, to overcome their fears, to be loyal to friends and family, and not to give up. And it doesn’t preach at all! I recommend this book to children (young teenagers) and educators with all my heart!