The Getaway : Diary of a Wimpy Kid #12 – Jeff Kinney

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Penguin Australia

9780143782797

November 7, 2017

Puffin

224 pages

RRP $14.99

 

Well as if there isn’t always enough going on for the Heffleys on a regular day-to-day basis their holiday plans go completely awry and full on pandemonium ensues!

 

The Heffley parentals have decided that they are going to completely avoid the stress of the approaching festive season along with the miserable weather and book a special family trip. Their choice is the same resort at which they spent their honeymoon and of which they have such fond memories. But as we know things never run smoothly for this family and from lost luggage to invasive giant spiders to sunburn this was never going to be the stuff of which dreams are made.

 

And as usual from Greg’s point of view, he is the most put upon out of the entire family. While his folks can escape and big brother Rodrick dodges any form of restriction, Greg is left holding the baby so to speak and spends more time chasing little Manny than enjoying any kind of resort action.

 

The format of this series never grows tired and this one has already been snapped up by one of my eager readers. Those who want a light read and lots of laughs will get much enjoyment from it.

Highly recommended for readers from around eight years upwards.

 

Take a peek inside here.

 

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La Belle Sauvage : The Book of Dust #1 – Phillip Pullman

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Dust

Penguin Random House

9780857561084

October 19, 2017

David Fickling Books

 

RRP $32.99

 

Dear Philip Pullman

It is magnificent! How long must I wait for volume 2?

Yours Sincerely

Me

 

I don’t think I would have been alone when, upon finding out earlier this year that Philip Pullman was publishing a new ‘prequel’ trilogy, I wondered whether it could possibly match the beauty, skill and intensity of His Dark Materials.

Why worry? This is coming from one of the most masterful storytellers of our time and is every bit as fabulous as its counterpart. I should have known.

Young Malcolm Polstead (with his daemon Asta) appears an average boy living with his innkeeper parents at The Trout. Yet he is far more than that; an enquiring mind, a sharp eye for detail, a sensitivity and an uncanny intuition all combine to raise him above his peers. Living directly across the river from the Priory Malcolm is a regular visitor to the nuns where he helps with all manner of odd jobs and enjoys talking particularly with the ancient Sister who prepares the meals.  His other chief occupation is taking his canoe, Le Belle Sauvage, out and about on the waterways round Oxford where he quietly observes much, mostly nature.

One day however he observes something quite strange.  When an unknown man appears to have lost a small object and then is rudely apprehended by some sinister looking individuals Malcolm is intrigued. Strange things have been afoot. At schools, including Malcolm’s, a fanatical sect has turned children against teachers and even parents and most suspect it is the work of the feared CCD.  The boy has also learned that his loved nuns at Godstow Priory are taking care of a small and seemingly special baby, one Lyra Belacqua. Is it possible such things could be intertwined somehow?

A new friend comes about as a result of Malcolm’s observation, and retrieval, of the lost object. A young scholar with an extensive knowledge of the strange instruments called alethiometers.  Together with Dr Hannah, Malcolm begins to seek out and deliver important tidbits of information which they both store away like squirrels hoarding nuts.

Then an unexpected weather event creates a huge flood across the whole of the countryside causing houses, bridges and the priory to collapse. Malcolm and his acquaintance Alice, a kitchen maid, take charge of the baby Lyra and an adventure like no other follows.

This is a gripping tale of courage and selflessness. Pullman’s ability to paint pictures with his words pulls the reader right into the book so that one feels one is in Le Belle Sauvage, along with the children,  battling the elements and desperately avoiding the pursuers who want baby Lyra for their own nefarious ends. The main characters become our allies and we fear for them and rejoice in their triumphs.  For those who have often wondered about Lyra’s history before the prophecy was revealed and the narrative that followed her throughout His Dark Materials this is a must read.

I’ve read some wonderful books this year but this has to be the best yet. I cannot wait for the next volume to be ready so we can continue the saga.

Find some input from the master himself here.

 

The Explorer – Katherine Rundell

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Bloomsbury

September 2017

ISBN 9781408885284

RRP $16.99

We all know some young explorers; the ones who love adventure, the ones who watch Bear Grylls for the survival tips, the ones who pore over atlases and illustrated books of exotic places.  These are the ones who will adore this new book from Katherine Rundell with its adventure, courage, resilience and spirit.

Four children are in a plane crash and find themselves stranded alone in the depths of the Amazon rainforest. Fred, Constantia along with brother and sister, Lila and Max are not the stuff of which the usual jungle survivors are made but as the plot moves along each has a different strength to bring to their joint survival. Of course being so young their chances would be slim no matter how great their competence were it not for the fact that they stumble upon evidence of another earlier person who had lived in the spot in which they find themselves.

Fred, who has always devoured the accounts of the great explorers, is wildly excited about the meagre finds which indicate an explorer has pass this way before and the children collectively are reassured when they find a map. So begins their adventure proper with the building of a raft, scrounging for food and water and setting off down the Amazon following the directions.

To their immense surprise they find themselves in a lost city of stone where indeed an old irascible explorer is in residence. His reluctance to accept them into his space or help them mellows over the ensuing days and eventually when things go terribly wrong he comes to their rescue with a self-sacrifice that is immeasurable.

All in all this was a thrilling adventure, well-paced and with echoes of earlier grand novels for children. Indeed, Rundell says she was inspired not just by her own trip to the Amazon but Eve Ibbotson’s hugely popular  Journey to the River Sea.

This is a fabulous read for both boys and girls from around eight years upwards and for those who might be looking for a class read-aloud or group reading it would be an excellent choice indeed.

Highly recommended for your middle to upper primary readers.

Download a teacher pack here.

 

Laughter, Tears & Coffee – Hélène Jermolajew

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Balboa Press

ISBN 9781504309363

RRP $14.99

helene

Yes, you already know it if you have read this blog before. I am a self-confessed nerd and was as a child as well. I didn’t just love reading as in stories, I revelled in information books and I LOVED poetry. I still have two poetry books my Mum included in birthday presents; I usurped my older brother’s poetry text books the minute he was done with them. I’ve written it, I won a prize in high school for it and I love teaching it.

So when my friend Hélène recently published her book of poetry I was dead keen to read it. As luck would have it there was an afternoon this week when I was far from feeling 100%, it was rainy and I went to bed like a diva to recover and began to read. Is there anything quite as soothing as poetry for an aching soul? Contrary to Hélène I have no aversion to free verse, indeed it is often my preference but I could certainly well appreciate the rhythm and cadence of Hélène’s verse.

She began writing as a child, has always written and has honed her craft as a member of various groups, as well as performing/presenting in various venues.  She brings the wealth of her life experience to her work. Child of immigrant parents, challenges, highs and lows, family, children, travel and more are reflected in her writing.

This volume of eclectic pieces is categorised by themes such as Nature, Inspired by Beach and Farewells & Memories. Throughout we can share Hélène’s emotions and relate these to our own experiences, although not all.

I think of all that I enjoyed in this, one particular poem stood alone for me in it’s simple poignancy but depths of ‘story’.

Buttons

War came to her door in Belgrade;

She refused

To clean snow-laden streees;

Driven away

In German trucks

Leaving her half-eaten chocolate bar

On the table;

Interned,

Slave labour,

Punching out unknown metal objects,

Moved,

Un-asked;

Another camp,

Sewing,

Buttons, buttons, buttons

On German uniform trousers,

Fifty-two buttons on each pair,

Every day,

Every night;

 

For the rest of her life my mother hated buttons.

 

Well done  Hélène and thank you for allowing me the privilege!

 

To Siri, with Love – Judith Newman

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Hachette

AUG 29, 2017 | 9781784298319 | RRP $32.99

Subtitled: A mother, her autistic son and the kindness of machines, when I first looked at this I felt confronted because of the subject matter. For those who know, my Small has various issues some of which closely align to children on the spectrum.

This was hilarious and poignant, lively and serious and above all is saturated with the immensity of a mother’s love and protection of a vulnerable child.

The author is by no means conventional. A successful New York journalist who keeps a separate apartment to her retired opera singer husband and conceived her twins late in life, Judith has two teenage boys – Henry and Gus. Gus is autistic and there are few things in his life which resonate quite so significantly as Siri, the Apple personal assistant. Siri is always ready to answer Gus’ endless questions or remind him to speak clearly or to simply respond to him with a different kind of human-ness to which his autism can relate.

Throughout, as well as the ups and downs of just one year in their lives, Judith shares valuable information about the latest research and most recent developments in supporting children and adults with autism.

There were moments I felt myself laughing with the recognition of similar incidents or conversations and then there were moments when I was teary understanding all too well Judith’s concerns for  Gus’ future.

I cannot recommend this highly enough to you particularly if you have a family relationship with a similar child or are an educator or simply would like to understand more about this very pervasive and often isolating disorder. To my mind, it is a ‘must read’.

The City of Secret Rivers – Jacob Sager Weinstein

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Walker Books Australia

August 2017

ISBN: 9781406368857

RRP $19.99

For children who are keen on fantastical adventures this first volume in a new trilogy will provide a thrilling subterranean ride through the underbelly of London.

Hyacinth Hayward and her mother have just arrived to live in the country of their forebears and Hyacinth hates it already. One of the most annoying and stupid things to her mind is the fact that there is no mixer tap on the bathroom basin so using her practical plumbing skills she fixes that up in a pet of temper. Unwittingly she unleashes a random but significant drop of water, is grabbed by an eccentric neighbour, Lady Roslyn, and whirled down into the sewers of London.

There she encounters the history of the hidden rivers and their magical properties, a vast array of odd, scary, helpful and villainous characters (gotta love a huge pig in a swimsuit who converses via notes!)  and a plot to harness the ancient powers that have long been guarded.

At times hilarious and always thrilling this is an adventure for children who not only enjoy the dash of magic but have an interest in history.  Certainly I enjoyed finding out more about what exactly lies underneath this sprawling city and the author’s end-notes and photographs are equally fascinating.

Highly recommended for readers from around eight years up.

he – John Connolly

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Hachette

AUG 29, 2017 | 9781473663633 | RRP $29.99

Growing up the brilliant comic pairing of Laurel and Hardy were among my very favourites for viewing. Their completely in-sync timing was impeccable always and it was apparent that they shared a genuine bond. I find it strange that I don’t recall hearing about Stan Laurel’s death. Although I was only nine at the time, news of other well known people who passed away certainly entered my sphere. And though I have known a little of this great comedian’s history this novel has opened my eyes to the ongoing chaos that plagued his life.

Connolly’s novel presents from the PoV of Laurel in his retirement and nearing death recalling his life, his career, his train-wrecks of marriages, love affairs, drinking and financial troubles. But throughout his enduring love for his great friend and partner, Babe Hardy, shines through. When Laurel lost Babe he lost part of himself and it is as much this as his own personal history that the novel explores.

The author uses a style which I can only describe as almost a stream of consciousness and is perfect for the rambling recollections of a man who finds himself in his old age feeling vulnerable and lost, much as he often did all throughout his life.

Although fiction it certainly contains much information about the man from his early life to the heights of his and Hardy’s fame to the quiet retirement in the Oceania Apartments.

It intrigued me from the first and it gave me such pleasure to learn more about this fine comic though not without a sense of melancholy that imbues the entire text.

I highly recommend it to you if you are interested in the lives of others – albeit fictionalised.

Enjoy yourself finding about more about this two great performers here.

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The House of Unexpected Sisters – The No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series – Alexander McCall-Smith

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Hachette

Imprint: littlebrown.co.uk

September 2017

ISBN 9781408708156

RRP: $29.99

When you’ve spent the first week of your holidays sick, trying to do much-needed spring-cleaning in short bursts between resting you tend to feel pretty dreary. So to sit in my comfy  bed with fresh clean sheets, a lovely new doona cover in soothing colours, and read the latest No 1 LDS from cover to cover was doubly a treat.

It is always a joy to revisit Botswana, Precious and her life, family and friends. In this new adventure of course there is a case to be solved. It is brought to the attention of Precious and the indefatigable Grace Makutsi by meek and mild Mr Polopetis and concerns the wrongful dismissal of a widowed young mother. Grace rather forcefully (surprise!) manages to make herself into the ‘Primary Investigating Officer’ – she does love an important sounding title – and also succeeds into reducing Mr P into even further submission.  In normal circumstances Precious might have stepped in more assertively but she has much to occupy her mind of a more personal nature and it is this that really is the main focus of this book.

First there is the revelation that her scurrilous ex-‘husband’ has been seen back in Gabarone. Precious wonders what further dramas he will manage to instigate for herself and her family.

More demanding on her emotions however is the discovery of another woman who bears the same surname as her own. Her investigations lead to the completely unexpected development that this woman is her sister (half-sister) and it is her desperate fear that her father was not the good man he always seemed. Precious suspects that Obed may have been unfaithful to her late mother before she died. Her unravelling of this complication consumes her until at last the revelation lies spread out in front of her and her newly found sister Mingie.  Then at last they can begin to build their relationship.

This was exactly what I needed to occupy an hour or so of resting while feeling poorly. Not too demanding, interesting in its plot, always fascinating in character studies – and above all invoking the images of a beautiful country, culture and people.

I don’t need to recommend this to fans of McCall-Smith – but should you be wanting to add some more mystery titles to your collection this would be a fine addition.

For readers from probably around 14 years upwards.

 

The Girl, the Dog and the Writer in Rome – Katrina Nannestad

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Harper Collins

Imprint: ABC Books

October 2017

ISBN: 9780733338175

RRP: $16.99

Maybe it’s because spring is here (my favourite season) or maybe it is just the stars aligning but I have been so blessed to be sent so many absolutely delightful books to review lately. This is just gorgeous and I love it.

Young Freja is not your average child. She’s not used to people or social situations or even making conversation. It’s not because she’s an only child. It’s because for all of her ten years she has spent nine months of each year with her zoologist mother Clementine in the wildness of Arctic regions as Clem studies the wildlife. Freja revels in these annual expeditions and the beautiful discoveries her mother shares with her. It is only for three months of each year that she is forced to try to adapt to ‘civilisation’. Each Christmas period the pair returns to England where Clem lectures, raises funds and prepares for the next trip and Freja is endured by a parade of babysitters all of whom find her odd and ‘difficult’.

This year things are different. Clem tells Freja that she is ill and she must go to Switzerland alone for her treatment. There will be no trip until she is well.  Freja is devastated – not just because of the trip but the trauma of being separated from her mother, not to mention the horror of ‘babysitters’. Enter Tobias Appleby and Finnegan his large hairy dog. Clem explains to Freja that Tobias is an old and dear friend and he will take great care of her. And so he does, in a completely bewildering and eccentric way to which Freja immediately responds. Their bond develops quickly though not without hiccups.

Yes, we can make assumptions here however nothing will be revealed so early in this new series.

Of course, the most exciting thing is when Freja (in one of her confused and shy moments) expresses a desire to see Rome and of course! For Tobias that’s simple as can be and soon the three of them (Finnegan as well) are acclimatising to the Roman way of life. For Freja it is a revelation. She discovers hitherto unknown social graces in herself and finds friends – friends!

This is a wonderful story about family, friendship and identity and I look forward to the next in the series with anticipation.

Highly recommended for readers from around ten years upwards.

 

Piglettes – Clementine Beauvais

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Penguin Random House

Imprint: Pushkin Press

ISBN 9781782691204

August 2017

RRP $16.99

This superb YA novel deals with some pretty gritty issues like bullying (cyber and real life), self image, identity and family relationships and is one of the most wickedly funny books you’ll read all year.

Mireille, Astrid and Hakima are three girls at the same school and recently voted as the first three place-winners in a Facebook ‘Pig Pageant’ for the ugliest girls by their schoolmates. This event was initiated by Mireille’s erstwhile childhood friend Malo, who is one of the most odious youths ever. Since they both started high school Malo has made it his mission in life to humiliate Mireille at every turn.

While the girls are all pretty crushed by this horrible bullying, they are not going to let it get the better of them and form a friendship that will fly them forever.  Each has a particular reason for their proposed plan to cycle to Paris for the huge Bastille Day celebrations; Mireille, wants to confront her biological father, now married to the President, Astrid wants to meet her idols Indochine and Hakima wants to berate the commanding officer about to be awarded the Legion of Honour for the debacle that resulted in her brother Kader losing both his legs in battle.

Overcoming the opposition of parents, the girls set off on what must be the craziest road trip ever with Kader in his super wheel chair as their chaperone. Along the way they garner the respect and adulation of thousands via newspapers and social media and in real life.

Told through Mireille’s witty and philosophical voice, the reader is alongside the girls for the entire trip which is joyful, uplifting and totally hilarious.

Proving themselves as true Mighty Girls the trio triumph over the online bullies and even horrid Malo shows some indications of redemption, especially when the reason for his nastiness is revealed. Each girl learns valuable lessons about herself particularly when they finally attain their goals and find that something has changed about their motivations.

Definitely worthy of its achievement of winning France’s biggest award for YA/teen fiction I highly recommend this to you for your girls from around 14 years upwards.