Long before the popular television programme Charmed was even a twinkle in a producer's eye, New Zealand author Gaelyn Gordon had written a novel about three cousins who discover that they have special powers.

First published in 1992, Tripswitch has now been chosen as the inaugural title to launch the new Collins Modern New Zealand Classics series for children. The publishers plan to publish two children's classics each year and they are selecting titles that are well-remembered and well-loved but haven't been in print for a number of years.

Each book will come with a specially written introduction by another New Zealand children's author, and Tessa Duder provides the introduction to this title.

Tripswitch begins with the arrival of English teenager Cilla Marsh in a North Island town. Her parents have both recently died and it is decided that she will come to New Zealand to live with her Aunt Lureene.


Cilla and her temporary guardian, Mrs Jones, are both immediately won over by the beautiful Lureene, who seems to be kind and understanding. They are also impressed with her tastefully decorated home and her two adorable twin baby boys. Cilla's only reservation is that her aunt is also the guardian of two other orphaned teenaged nieces, Jocasta and Flora.

However, when Mrs Jones leaves, Cilla discovers that her aunt is a mean and ugly witch who can temporarily change the way things look by waving her hands. The beautiful home turns out to be a dirty hovel and her aunt rules the household through a combination of intimidation and sorcery. Although initially suspicious of her two cousins, Cilla realises that they are as desperate as she is to escape from her aunt's clutches.

However their aunt has plans of her own and it becomes clear that she can harness the girls' own hidden powers in a bid to increase her own.

Through the help of Andrew Arnott, an unlikely pimply-faced knight in shining armour, the girls learn how to use their newly discovered gifts to protect themselves from Lureene and from the "committee" she belongs to.

Then they find out that not only was their aunt responsible for the deaths of their parents, but she is also prepared to sacrifice her own infant sons to placate the committee. The four young people must come up with a plan to defeat Lureene and save themselves.

Tripswitch is a fast-paced supernatural thriller that is sure to appeal to all teenagers who love fantasy books.

Although Gordon had a significant part to play in the development of children's literature in this country, she died in 1997 before achieving the recognition she deserved. She wrote more than 30 books, including adult novels. Her picture book, The Life-size Inflatable Whale, published after her death, won a New Zealand Post Children's Choice Award in 1999.

The Children's Literature Foundation established the Gaelyn Gordon Award for much-loved book in 1998. It honours a book by a New Zealand author that has proved to be a long-standing favourite with children, and winners have included The Runaway Settlers by Elsie Locke and Grandpa's Slippers by Joy Watson and Wendy Hodder.

Publisher: HarperCollins

Price: $16.99

Age: 12-plus

Recommended by: Dorothy Vinicombe