The Lily in the Snow: Book #3 Miss Lily – Jackie French

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Lily3

Harper Collins

March 2019

ISBN: 9781460753842

ISBN 10: 1460753844

RRP 29.99 AUD

We devotees of Miss Lily have been waiting fairly impatiently for her return and I was thrilled when my copy arrived and immediately started immersing myself once more into the world of Sophie, Nigel and Miss Lily. However packing and moving house followed up by three weeks of the dreaded lurgy meant I was only ¾ through – until last Saturday when I binge read the remaining chapters because I just couldn’t wait any longer to find out the conclusion.

The Jazz Age has begun and Sophie and Nigel generally manage to ignore it living peacefully at Shillings watching their delightful twins growing up. There are concerns such as Sophie’s belief of an impending financial crash and her need to ensure the safe continuation of her father’s corned beef empire.  But long held secrets and intrigues threaten their idyll and the most significant of these will change their lives forever.

Responding to a request from their old colleague the pair help to uncover the identity of a badly injured veteran of the Great War which brings Sophie once again into contact with the mysterious ‘John’ from her Australian home. Questions surround the paternity of the Shillngs twins and the encounter with ‘John’ must resolve these.

A mysterious and ferocious young girl, Violette, turns up at Shillings after considerable mis-adventure and is intent on killing her mother whom she believes is Miss Lily: a circumstance which throws all kinds complications into the household.

And Sophie’s old friend Hannelore instigates what is tantamount to blackmail to enlist Miss Lily’s support of the man for whom she has developed a blind and misguided fervour, a German called Herr Hitler.

The tension and mystery of the narrative are superlative and once again Jackie’s undisputed skill in weaving fact with fiction provides the reader with a plot that unfolds with high drama and exquisite anticipation. One cannot help but become completely invested with these characters that become all but real as the series continue.

As always one is living within the story and the involvement is powerful with the conclusion thrilling and filled with twists and turns as only Jackie can achieve.

I truly hope this is not the last we see of this engaging saga and now we must wait with patience to see the next instalment.

An amazing and triumphant return of the story highly recommended for senior readers and adults.

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Detention – Tristan Bancks

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detention

Penguin Random House

Imprint: Puffin

July 2019

ISBN: 9780143799

RRP: $16.99

 

Just wow! Once again Tristan has crafted a sensational narrative with high-impact tension and thought-provoking themes which will keep readers eagerly turning pages.

Two young people are both, each in their own way, prisoners of sad circumstances. Sima, with her family, is detained in a centre for illegal immigrants and under threat of deportation after three years of trying to reach a safe haven, escaping violence and turmoil at the hands of the Taliban. Dan lives in a run-down caravan park on the edge of local society ostensibly with his mother, except she’s been absent for long periods engrossed with her new partner, leaving Dan to fend for himself. Both are desperate for escape.

When protestors help fifty detainees in a daring and dangerous flight from the centre, Sima is separated from her family and does her best to evade capture by hiding out in a toilet block at the local high school.

The school goes into lockdown as a result of the incident at the detention centre and Dan inadvertently becomes involved in Simi’s predicament. For both it is a delicate balance of trust and neither is confident of the response from adults such as Dan’s mum or his teacher but it seems that, almost unexpectedly, the morality of the issue outweighs the legality and help comes when it is least likely. After all, what price a life?

As the plot unfolds the reader becomes completely invested in the characters that are realised with a deft portraiture which is compelling and emotional without becoming cloying or stereotyped. Details which round each one out are often subtle and understated lending more weight to the overall picture. It is certainly clear that one cannot categorise people as simply one thing or another – good or bad, sympathetic or callous, that there are dichotomies in everyone. This viewpoint alone would give rise to much worthwhile and meaningful discussion with young readers.

Tristan points out that essentially he has written ‘a human story, rather than a political one’ with the ultimate goal of exploring the reactions, observations and actions of those dealing with difficult situations.  Despite this there is no doubt that for many readers there will be, like Dan’s teacher Miss Aston, opportunity to discuss and debate various aspects of current social conditions.

It’s never been difficult to ‘sell’ Tristan’s books to  my students and now the ripple effect is evident as more and more share their recommendation with peers but this one will be a block-buster I foresee. I’ll also be sharing my thoughts with our staff as I believe it will make a great read-aloud for Middle year students.

Don’t miss out – get your copy on order now!

Nullaboo Hullabaloo – Fleur Ferris

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nullaboo

Penguin

9780143787143

May 7, 2019

Puffin

 

RRP: $14.99

 

We could all use some more fairy dust in our lives. Whether it’s because of the gloom and doom of daily news reports or if (like me packing up house) because of some personal issues. I maintain that a liberal sprinkling of fairy sparkle would be very beneficial for anyone.

Fleur Ferris has demonstrated so superbly her ability to write gripping YA fiction and has now turned her hand to fiction for younger readers with the same ease and expertise.

In a little country community young Gemma isn’t having a terrific time. First there’s the worry of her family being evicted from the farm they all love. Second, the all-too-perfect Nina got butterflies for her special science project topic while Gemma bombed out with March flies – really? March Flies?

But when Gemma captures not a fly nor even a feather in her bug catcher but a real live honest-to-goodness fairy, things in Nullaboo start to go completely crazy! Janomi the fairy isn’t meant to reveal herself to humans but she’s desperate for help after her grandfather, leader of their colony, was captured by the dreadful silver spiders. There’s more than a captured fairy leader at stake though when a secret government agency gets wind of the find and lead by an absolute nutter poses a real threat of extermination to the last fairy colony on Earth.

It’s up to Gemma, her family and the solidarity of their little community to save the day – and the fairies!

This seemingly effortless and straightforward narrative has much scope for discussion with current global topics such as environmental damage, conservation, tolerance, acceptance and embracing differences all able to correlate to the unfolding of events.  And aside from that it’s a jolly fun read!

Highly recommended for anyone who loves a great fairy story – and hopes for fairies in their garden!

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Alex Rider #12 : Secret Weapon – Anthony Horowitz

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Walker Books

April 2019

ISBN: 9781406387476
Imprint: Walker

Australian RRP: $16.99
New Zealand RRP: $18.99

 

I’m pretty certain that I’m not the only one who’s so excited that Anthony has his Alex mojo back J – and with the talk of the forthcoming movie there are bound to be many more readers added to the fold of fans.

In this new volume, seven adventures are recounted – making them perfect read-alouds for book talks or encouraging reluctant readers. I’m finding at present that as many girls as boys are borrowing the series (especially since I bought the new editions with the stunning cover art!). Since this collection includes three brand new adventures it will have as much appeal to existing fans as to those new to the series.

Whether it’s playing the part of assassin unknowingly, having a routine dentist visit turn into something far more sinister or skiing down steep slopes in a frantic attempt to save himself and others, Alex the reluctant spy manages to come out on top, largely thanks to his uncle’s dedication to bringing him up with the skills he would need.

Anthony Horowitz does thrilling suspense so well – as we know not only from his books but also his plethora script writing ventures. I know I’m not alone in my addiction to Midsomer Murders and Foyle’s War!

As an introduction for the next generation of devotees or to add some excitement to your existing AR readers – this is a must have for your collection.

 

Watch the trailer here.

 

 

 

The ANZAC Billy – Claire Saxby/Mark Jackson & Heather Potter

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Walker Books

anzacbilly

ISBN: 9781925126815
Imprint: Black Dog Books

Release Date: April 1, 2019

Australian RRP: $24.99
New Zealand RRP: $27.99

As thousands of Australians and New Zealanders pay homage to those who have given to our countries in service, often with the ultimate sacrifice, this is not only a timely release for this time of year but for all time. If we as educators are to help our students to comprehend the devastation of war and to embrace a more peaceful way forward, there is no better way than to provide them with a glimpse of a child’s experience during such circumstances.

Children in the First World War were encouraged to send welcome Christmas packages to those serving in the war zones, as indeed they still are today. For one little boy, the filling of his father’s Christmas billy is an important mission and he along with his mother and grandmother make sure that every item packed lovingly into the vessel is chosen with real care.  But there are hundreds, indeed, thousands of such billies packed and sent. How will this particular one reach his Daddy? Well, perhaps it won’t – but it will reach a digger who will appreciate the true love that it contains and it this significant aspect that is arguably the most telling. Yes, this little boy misses his father and prays he is safe but if he can make one soldier’s Christmas brighter, it is the same he hopes for his own Dad.

We live in perilous times and our daily news is filled with horrendous acts of hate and violence. If we are to have any hope for a peaceful future we must – MUST – guide our children towards compassion and love for all.

The text is simple but powerful and the illustrations completely capture the sense of the period in history, particularly the colour palette echoes the pervading feel of both the times and the critical situation that was The Great War.

This is my choice for our Friday story telling session tomorrow in the library – with accompanying ANZAC biscuits of course.

Thank you to the creators for giving us another wonderful entrée for our young readers into an important understanding and potential for personal growth.

Highly recommended for sharing from Prep upwards.

 

Grace’s Mystery Seed – Juliet M Sampson/Karen Erasmus

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Graces-Mystery-Seed

Ford St Publishing

March 2019

$16.95

Have you ever had your children (or grandies) garden with you? I used to garden with my girls and now I have my beautiful granddaughter growing up here also loving planting and watching things grow. She especially loved planting radish seeds to spell her name and only having to wait a few days to see the results!

Juliet M Sampson has utterly captured the magic of that moment of watching the transformation of a seed into a thing of beauty and wonder.

Little Grace loves helping her favourite neighbour in her garden and especially feeding the pet parrot, Polly, his delicious stripy seeds. When Grace wonders aloud where these delicacies come from, Mrs Marino suggests planting one. Grace is enthralled and shares her excitement with her friends and family.

Grace’s joy when her sunflower blooms and does indeed seek the sun each day is truly super stuff to share with young readers (oh how I wish they could all experience this amazing transformation!). Of course, not only is Grace’s mystery seed the foundation of her joy in the flower, but the sunflower will keep on giving – seeds to her friends and to Polly.

I lament the fact that so many children no longer have this glorious joy and I’m personally so glad I have been able to share it with my own children and grandchildren.

Why not inspire your young readers to do likewise? I am planning now to start a seed or two in our library after the holidays and hand out some to kick off some young reader’s own nature journeys.

Highly recommended for readers from around five years upwards and check out the teaching notes here.  GROW your readers now!

Holiday Hiatus

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Normally, the school holidays are an opportunity to really power on with my reading and reviews. However, two days before the end of term I found out that my lease of six years is not being re-offered. This means I’m spending my holidays sorting, packing, house hunting and all the blah that goes with all of that. I’m hoping we’ve found a new house – which both my girl and I really like – but waiting final confirmation – and surrounded by boxes, paper, mess etc.  Will get back on track asap. Meanwhile, if you are also on your break – enjoy!!

This is Home: Essential Australian Poems for Children – Selected by Jackie French, Illustrated by Tania McCartney

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Publisher:   National Library of Australia

ISBN:   9780642279385
01 April 2019

RRP: $34.99

Why yes, some readers of this blog will already know that not only am I non-fiction nerd since childhood but also a poetry nerd. I openly admit this to the children at school who are sometimes a little (?!) resistant to poetry. Of course, I follow this up by totally blowing them away with the magic, humour and depth of poetry.

As it happens, this new anthology, selected by the amazing Jackie French (all hail!) and illustrated by the gorgeous and multi-skilled Tania McCartney will be EASY to sell to poetry-resistant kids. The contributors included roll out like a ‘Who’s Who’ of Australian children’s literature, both past and present.

From such historic luminaries as Norman Lindsay, Judith Wright and Dorothea MacKellar to contemporary stars such as Meredith Costain, Suzanne Gervay, Meg McKinlay, Andy Griffiths, Shaun Tan  – *gasp* and pause for breath, this is one of the most comprehensive and quality poetry collections I’ve ever encountered for children.

Page after glorious page of amazing verse accompanied by Tania’s iconic illustrations, it is pure joy to hold, read and savour. There have been many anthologies of Australian poetry published for children but I would have to think hard about one that presents both old and new offerings to children with such a contemporary and fresh format.  I know that poetry is, of course, still embedded in the curriculum but children so often seem to be disengaged with the way it is presented to them. I fully believe that this new collection will give children a point of connection and impart the joy of verse.

Sir Walter Scott said “Teach your children poetry; it opens the mind, lends grace to wisdom and makes the heroic virtues hereditary.”

We owe it to our children to not only show them the beauty of narrative literature but the amazing landscape of poetic creativity.

Highly recommended for children and adults from around eight years upwards. This one’s not going anywhere except my own shelves.

Thank you Jackie and Tania – love your work! x

Perks of the Hobby – R. A. Spratt

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You can well imagine how I leapt at the invitation to meet up with Rachel – aka R. A. Spratt – which came via the delightful Zoe, publicist with Penguin Random House. We had a delicious time chatting and laughing and I managed to sneak in a few questions on her professional life – as well as learning more about this very talented writer.

In case you didn’t know R. A. began as a writer for TV and had a very successful career doing so before switching to children’s books – and half a million books later, has certainly proven her outstanding ability with that venture! She told me that her first contract was offered the day after her oldest daughter was born so she was taking the phone call resting up in the maternity ward. Talk about double excitement! The only possible issue was that the offer was for two books with the second one to be delivered in three months – three months with a newborn? Easy peasy (!!) – not – but without hesitation she was into it and of course went on to deliver another six episodes in the hilarious and still so popular Nanny Piggins series.  Friday Barnes – Girl Detective was the next series to emerge from this fertile brain – and when it came to an end not so long ago – also after eight books, I had girls literally wailing with despair at their loss.

Now we have another new series rolling out with The Peski Kids and I’m told the third installment is completed.  I am reliably informed that this will also be an eight book series and workshopping for the next “high concept” venture is already underway – what a woman!! She’s a real powerhouse!

I asked Rachel about her main female protagonists – Nanny P, Friday and April – and commented how quirky, feisty and often opinionated they are, though totally endearing. It would seem that they are in many ways a reflection of their creator – well I never! *wink*.

I mentioned that I had been reading some material on Anthony Horowitz earlier in the day and his comment about the leap from writing for television and for children is not that huge a chasm as they are both about fast paced exciting events and relatable characters – Rachel agreed and went on to say that originally Nanny Piggins was to be a ‘pitch’ for a tv show so when she actually tackled it as a book she wrote it in exactly the same way  as she would have approached a sit-com – cast of six main characters, one central location and ‘floating’ cast plus the high level excitement ‘events’.

R. A. works from her home office amidst the busy-ness of raising two girls and a dog – along with her writer husband.  I knew already that she is extremely fit – and does completely ridiculous looking stunts like hanging upside down at the gym and running in potato races (am I right with that?) but didn’t know she also teaches bell-ringing at her local church in the lovely locality of the Southern Highlands (what a beautiful spot it is!).

She is currently in Brisbane cramming in a load of school visits – lucky children!- and one day I hope to see one of her very animated presentations. Within the last week Nanny Piggins’  tenth anniversary was celebrated at The Children’s Bookshop to much enjoyment from the many in attendance., both children and adults.

Thank you so very much for sharing such a pleasant time with me Rachel – all I can say now is that my kids at school are going to elevate me even further to goddess-like status by virtue of my associations!  And of course thank you to Penguin Random House for allowing me the pleasure of reading plethora new books from so many talented writers for children.

Here’s Rachel in action at the anniversary celebration…

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oh post coffee…..

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All Are Welcome – Alexandra Penfold/Suzanne Kaufman

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Bloomsbury Australia

February 2019

ISBN: 9781526604071
Imprint: Bloomsbury Children

RRP: $14.99

I deliberately saved this one to time with Harmony Day since it is a perfect expression of what we want to convey to our children as they grow up in a world where so many adults are blindly ignorant of the true meaning of one humanity. What I didn’t expect was that this review would come hard on the heels of one of the most heinous acts of butchery in the name of that hate-fuelled blindness so close to home.

 Kia Kaha, Christchurch –we stand with you.

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This delightful book follows a diverse group of children through their school day reiterating that all are welcome despite their various races, religions or backgrounds. With lilting rhymes the children embrace each other whether they are listening to stories, making art, playing or learning each spread repeating the refrain that ‘All are welcome here.’.

The brightly coloured illustrations show children from many different backgrounds and include both adults and cultures in likewise fashion.

Children will love the pure joyousness of this as a read-aloud or to savour themselves.

We’re part of a community

Our strength is our diversity

A shelter from adversity

All are welcome here

It’s my thought that perhaps we should send a copy to our governments and let them take note of what we want for our communities and our children.

Highly recommended for all from about four years upwards.

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