The Cat Who Came in off the Roof – Annie M. G. Schmidt

Standard

catroof

Allen & Unwin

Imprint: Pushkin Children’s Books

ISBN: 9781782690368

RRP: $16.99

Have you heard of this author? No, neither had I but the title intrigued me – I do like an interesting title. Plus I’m a cat person. This charming novel held my interest fully for the return trip to the city today.

Tibbles is a journalist – but not your average one. He is painfully shy, he is an excellent writer but seems to find only stories that are not ‘newsworthy’ and he is a cat lover. When his editor threatens him with dismissal if there is ‘just one more cat story’, Tibbles is at a loss. Then Minou appears –  literally, ‘treed’ by a ferocious dog in his local park and then later in the evening by crawling through his attic window. A strangely attractive young woman, Minou exhibits cattish behaviours – well, after all, she’s been ‘treed’ by a dog and now she is in Tibbles’ kitchen gnawing on a fish skeleton from his rubbish bin!

So begins one of the most delightful and original novels I have read in a long while. Minou is in fact a cat, who has somehow become a human, though not without her erstwhile tendencies as a feline. Tibbles begins his ascendancy and redemption as a journalist when Minou starts to bring him tidbits from the ‘Cat Press Agency’. Obviously the many cats of a small town would have insight into much of the town’s real news.

This is such a happy read – easy, light, almost – dare I say it? – fluffy! I loved it! I urge you to read the love story of Tibbles and Minou – with its unfolding drama due to the obligatory villain. Having just recently revisited the ‘!01 Dalmations’ with the wonderful ‘twilight barking’ sending of information, this truly resonated.

From the publisher:

Annie M. G. Schmidt was regarded as the Queen of Dutch Children’s Literature and her books have been an essential part of of every Dutch childhood for the last fifty years. (She trained as a librarian!).

I thank her for bringing some real reading joy to my life at the moment.

Highly recommended for readers of around 12 and up!!

An update………

Standard

It’s been almost a month since I posted anything. I have a stack of books, mounting up threatening to topple over that need reviewing. My excuse is starting a new job four weeks ago and trying to get my head around not only a new school but a new ‘system’, and teaching a new English class – with more to come after the holidays – , being a full on full time working ‘mother’ caring for my little granddaughter and still dealing with my overwhelming grief for the loss of my youngest daughter. One can’t keep talking about it – I understand that others get tired of it – it’s hard enough for me to deal with it and with Small’s grief as well on a day to day basis but it’s July and in three weeks it would have been Jen’s 35th birthday and so a lot of emotion is simmering and proving difficult to deal with. All of this has meant I’ve been somewhat distanced from the mounting pile of books – halfway through something that is too confronting, 3/4 through the one I’m reading at school in our ‘reading time’ in English – but today, for a train trip to the city I picked up the first (and newest arrived) book off the pile and devoured it on the return trip. Stay posted – I will come back. For now it’s just ‘complicated’.

New Boy – Nick Earls

Standard

newboy

Penguin Australia

Puffin Imprint

Published: 25/03/2015

Format: Paperback, 176 pages

RRP: $14.99

price:AUD $14.99

ISBN-13:9780143308393

Yes, it’s true, Nick Earls is one of my very most favourite authors :-) no matter if it’s kid lit or adult fiction. Aside from that, he is such a lovely human and very funny.  When he graciously did a Q&A for my blog last year, one of the things we discussed was his arrival in Australia from Ireland as a child. Nick talked about the aspects that he found a little strange coming to a new country.

He has taken that personal experience and projected it into terms that children today can easily embrace through the story of one boy’s experiences as a newly arrived immigrant from South Africa. Herschelle is a pretty typical boy who has left mates, sport, school and a fairly frightening environment behind when his family move to Brisbane. He soon realises despite his research of Australian slang and customs, in order to fit in, that he doesn’t – at all.

With his ever present humour, Nick takes the reader on Herschelle’s journey into acceptance via his struggle with bullying and racism. It is this humour that takes the edge of some pretty intense concepts and puts this in terms with which younger readers can readily identify from their own playground observations.

Along with his designated buddy Max (of whom Herschelle initially suspects total nerdism) , Herschelle takes on the challenge of assimilating into his new surrounds and most notably his new school, One Mile State School. When the burgeoning friendship is jeopardised by Max’ apparent collusion with the school bully, Lachlan, Herschelle is all the more convinced he will never become part of the Australian fabric. After the ongoing persecution from Lachlan comes to a head and the principal steps in, Herschelle realises both that racism is not manifested in just one way and that bullying can be invisible to others, as he finds out that Max has also suffered at Lachlan’s intimidatory behaviour.  The two boys are back on track and find themselves well placed to ‘buddy’ another ‘new boy’ when Roy arrives at the school. A refugee from South Sudan, Roy’s experiences provide even more enlightening revelation to the two friends.

This is an important book to promote to your readers and with Refugee Week fast approaching, would be a perfect vehicle to convey the important messages of acceptance and unity.

‘With courage let us all combine’

One True Thing – Nicole Hayes

Standard

onetruething

Random House Australia

ISBN: 9780857986887

Published: 01/05/2015

Imprint: Random House Australia Children’s

Extent: 400 pages

RRP $19.99

With this second novel, Nicole Hayes has absolutely confirmed her talent as a quality writer for young adults.  We are all too aware of the intense scrutiny under which our politicians are placed – and often, rightly so – and the accompanying media feeding frenzy which generally accompanies this, but how often do we give thought to the effect of all this on a public figure’s family or children?

Hayes has taken this idea and crafted a stunning story revolving around Frankie (Francesca) Mulvaney-Webb, daughter of the Victorian Premier, Rowena, who has stepped up into that position and is now running for election to confirm her post.

Amid considerable antipathy from some quarters about having a female state leader, Rowena is subjected to a vilifying media campaign over her connection with an unknown young man. Woven into this fabric: Frankie’s new friend (potential boyfriend) who is a dedicated amateur photographer, who has unwittingly provided the ‘evidence’ of this questionable relationship, her young brother and father who, like the rest of the family struggle to cope with the glaring spotlight and open “slur” tactics, her rather eccentric Irish grandmother who appears to be keeping secrets, Frankie’s indie band and her relationships with her best friends, all of which combine to impact on Frankie and her life in ways which would have many of us running for cover.

Despite her life seemingly going completely pear-shaped, Frankie demonstrates strength of character which is both admirable and inspirational. Strong female characters abound in this novel which makes it a must-read for young women as they also navigate their way to sometimes fraught teenage years.

For those looking for novels which also deal with gay issues, this is a worthy addition to your ‘Rainbow’ collection as Frankie also deals with the developing gay relationship between her two best friends. Her difficulties in adapting to being a ‘third wheel’ would easily apply to many other circumstances and her struggle to bring herself to an acceptance with grace and warmth is a pattern for similar situations.

Lending itself well to philosophical debates such as: when does the political become personal, when is a secret not ours to share, how does a family demonstrate its unity in the face of overwhelmingly opposition, loyalty, love and commitment to a cause, there will be much to unravel in discussions arising from the reading.

An amazing book which demands to be consumed immediately, I know I for one will follow Hayes’ writing career with great interest.

Highly recommended for readers, particularly girls, from around 13 upwards.

Teaching notes can be found here.

You Choose series #6 & #7 – George Ivanoff

Standard

creepycarnival

#5 Night of the Creepy Carnival

ISBN: 9780857986696

Published: 01/05/2015

Imprint: Random House Australia Children’s

Extent: 160 pages

RRP $14.99

alieninvaders

#6 Alien Invaders from Beyond the Stars

ISBN: 9780857986719

Published: 01/05/2015

Imprint: Random House Australia Children’s

Extent: 160 pages

RRP $14.99

When I received my first copies of books from this series I road tested them on my grandson who is somewhat of a reluctant reader. In fact, he was staying at my place, picked them up and didn’t put them down until he’d finished each. To me that’s a pretty fair indication of how they will be received in your library.

These latest two have gone to another young man who might enjoy them and I await his response eagerly. I know I’m pretty hopeless – I couldn’t get past 3 choices until I was exterminated so I hope he does better!

George has cleverly taken all the great aspects of gaming and transformed them into book form where readers can challenge themselves to achieve the end goal.  While primarily aimed at Middle Primary to Upper Primary these can be enjoyed by readers of all ages and certainly, if you have readers who struggle these would be a superb choice as the level of engagement and the appeal of the subject matter are perfect. Readers will persist with their reading quite naturally as they attempt to navigate their way through all the pitfalls of each story.

Clowns are considered very sinister in our family so the Night of the Creepy Carnival is well named and I didn’t like being caught out by them at all! Aliens are marginally less scary but still enough to appeal to those readers who like a good safe fright.

I remember so well how my own girls used to love the Choose Your Own Adventure format (especially the Famous Five series!) and think the timing of bringing this style of fast paced interactive reading back to the attention of a new readership is perfect.

Highly recommended for readers aged around 9 and up. Do you have what it takes?

Footy Dreaming – Michael Hyde

Standard

footy

Ford St Publishing

May 2015

186 p. RRP: $17.99

ISBN: 9781925000993

Like so many other youngsters around the country, Noah and Ben live for their footy. They are both completely focussed on being the best players they can be in their provincial footy teams but also share a common goal: to be selected for the Bushrangers and go on to play the big game at the MCG. They are both prepared to put in the hard yards to achieve this by being rigorous with their training and skilling and always giving their best effort. Despite their similarities, their cautious friendship is marred by division. Noah comes from a solid and loving Aboriginal family, grounded in their kinship and supportive of each other and their culture. Noah plays for the Mavericks: a successful team who work as a team under the guidance of an experienced and wise coach. Ben, on the other hand, has only his dad and sister and plays for the Kookaburras (because he is made to follow the family tradition of doing so). The Kookaburras are a sloppy outfit with prejudices and favouritism rife in its ranks. It has not ever had a good name in the game.

Michael Hyde achieves a wonderfully realistic and utterly believable cast of characters, each with their own voice as he explores this complex small town scenario. The boys are drawn together despite their team rivalry through not only their shared goal but also their growing understanding of being in the other’s shoes – or footy boots.

With the kind of dramas one would expect in everyday Australian life such as death of a relative, teenagers struggling to find their own identity, dealing with racism and prejudices, bullying, establishing relationships with mates or girls, Hyde presents us with a view of this sport, which often verges on a fervent religion, as well as life outside the big city that gives real insight into these young players and their hurdles and their community.

If you have not yet found the right book for a young person in your readership clientele, this might well be the one that flicks the magic switch.

Both male and female characters are strong and resonant providing appeal to both boys and girls. The plot is well constructed and the important issues of racism, prejudice and bullying are handled deftly and with sensitivity.

Highly recommended for readers from around 12 up.

Watch This Space: #1 Out to Launch – Colin Thompson

Standard

watchspace

Random House Australia

ISBN: 9781742756202

Published: 01/05/2015

Imprint: Random House Australia Children’s

Extent: 256 pages

RRP: $15.99

Last year when I had the good fortune of a blog Q&A with Colin Thompson, following the publication of the final book about The Floods, he told us about his forthcoming series called Watch This Space and after watching patiently, it’s arrived!

Out To Launch is the first in this new series which will foreseeably be every bit as popular as Colin’s previous bestsellers. With his very recognisable acerbic wit and uncanny ability to pinpoint the most laughable and ridiculous aspects of popular culture, Colin’s newest comic offering puts the spotlight on reality TV shows with superb results.

Billionaire entrepreneur Radius Limpfast is the most successful creator of reality tv shows in history but is never content to rest, always seeking more spectacular attention on his programs. “Then one night, after a particularly creative bacon curry, Radius dreams up the ultimate reality show.”

He intends to send an ordinary family to the moon to live in a huge glass dome where they will be watched by the entire world.  Sounds incredible doesn’t it? Amazing even!! What a concept it is for the ultimate in reality television and all planned to the last detail. Nothing could possibly go wrong.

Except for choosing a family that is not really the ‘ideal’ for the project (The Contrasts: Stark, Laura, Primrose, Jack and Crumley the dog) with the throw in of a ‘fake’ granny, Apricot. And except for cutting corners on costs for essentials like a reliable rocket transport and a suitably protective glass dome dwelling. And except for underestimating the skills of 14 year old girls and elderly ladies. And more!

Boys and girls from around 10 up, plus those of us who relish Colin’s very particular sense of humour will be very excited about this new series. The second in the series In the Pink is already in the works and who knows how many more to come?

Highly recommended for readers from Middle Primary to Lower Secondary.

Stories for Simon – Lisa Miranda Sarzin & Lauren Briggs

Standard

storiesforsimon

Random House Australia Children’s

May 2015

RRP $24.99

ISBN 9780857987440

We all Stand on Sacred Ground: Learn, Respect and CelebrateNAIDOC theme 2015

logo_0

Kevin Rudd’s Apology to the Stolen Generations in February 2008 was momentous for all Australians – both Indigenous and non-Indigenous. And it is critically important that we teach our children the significance of this in order to nurture the healing in a meaningful way and to promote a positive future for all our people.

This beautifully written and illustrated book is destined to be a key title in this educative process for younger children as the collaborators (and long-time friends) transform the huge issues surrounding this acknowledgement of a dark time in our nation’s history into a story that even small children can readily grasp.

Simon collects many beautiful things such as shells and feathers and fossils. When he is sent a boomerang as a gift to start a new collection, he immediately takes it to school to show everyone. The old newspaper in which it is wrapped becomes the focus of many questions as the teacher spots these words “For the pain, suffering and hurt, we say SORRY”.  After the class’ discussion about this tragic history, Simon’s thoughts and dreams reflect his new knowledge. A dream of raining ‘sorry’ stones becomes a reality and the beginning of a new friendship, a new ‘collection’ of special stories and a new appreciation of First Australians’ past.

Sarzin and Briggs were mentored throughout the creative process by Indigenous Elder Vic Simms, ensuring that both text and illustrations were sensitively handled with all due respect.  He says ‘I believe this book will generate interest, understanding and reconciliation for the future, starting with the minds of children and by telling a story that is seen through their innocent eyes.’

Suzy Wilson, founder of the Indigenous Literacy Foundation, states ‘This book is a welcome and important addition to school libraries and bookshelves everywhere. It will provoke important conversations between parents and children, in classrooms and throughout the community’.

Australian of the Year, Adam Goodes, Michael O’Loughlin and the Goodes O’Loughlin (GO) Foundatio endorse the book and all royalties  will be donated to the Foundation.

Find teaching notes here.

Highly recommended for all readers, particularly younger Primary students, this is a must have for your collection to continue developing cross-cultural understandings.

 crosscultural