Reviewed by Dianne Bates
The Mystery of Nida Valley
by EJ Ouston
Morris Publishing Australia
228 pages, January 30, 2012
As a child my imagination was so fired by reading Enid Blyton’s The Magic Faraway Tree that I spent many hours wandering the bush looking for the enchanted tree that promised to lead me into a magical world. It is likely that today’s young reader, engaging with Elaine Ouston’s fast-paced adventure set in the mysterious and mystical Nida Valley, might very well also go looking for a land filled with extraordinary fauna and flora.
The first of a series set in Queensland, The Mystery of Nida Valley starts with 15 year old Meg Sealy in search of her missing best friend. Accompanied by her older cousin Jaiden, Meg enters a cavern in the grounds of Millson Manor where they find Amanda. There they discover a natural pool from which all three children drink, an act which is later to give them mystical powers. Facing off a savage dog, they proceed to a homestead where they are made welcome and where they learn that the valley in which they find themselves is the home of Meg’s Aunt Charlotte, the Grand Leader of the Guardians of Nida. All Guardians have amazing powers, such as the ability to heal or read minds. And Meg is to assume her aunt’s role when she comes of age.
This story is the stuff of action and fantasy with children on a learning curve as they traverse a hidden land where dangerous creatures abound and where they must undertake perilous challenges that test their ingenuity, resourcefulness, and physical prowess.
At the heart of the valley is amazing megafauna — creatures such as archaepteryx, muttaburrasaurus, ichthyosaurs and zygopmaturas that are ‘extinct’. Some are threatening, but the two-metre high winged featherless pterosauradon allow the children to move about the valley freely and joyfully. It is up to Meg and her friends to protect the existence of the Valley’s creatures. In doing this, they search for a special moss to keep alive the last of an animal species and try to determine who are the ‘moles’ trying to undermine the efforts of the Guardians.
There is so much in this book – romance, political intrigue, stun guns, magical potions, mind control, not to mention non-stop action. In undertaking a series of quests, the teenagers display teamwork, co-operation, inventiveness, bravery, and loyalty. Nida Valley and all it contains has what many children want from a book – thrills, action, adventure, friendship, mythical and mystical animals, fantastical sights, and praise from adults who appreciate the teenagers’ roles in maintaining the status quo.
Dianne (Di) Bates is an Australian author of 120+ books, mostly for children. Her latest are Nobody’s Boy (CBCA Notable) and The Girl in the Basement (out in July 2013). Di’s blog is Writing for children
http://diannedibates.blogspot.com.au/. She is married to award-winning YA novelist Bill Condon. Their website is www.enterprisingwords.com