The Secret Commonwealth – Philip Pullman

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9780241373347

The Book of Dust Volume Two

Published: 3 October 2019

ISBN: 9780241373347

Imprint: Penguin and David Fickling Books

Format: Trade Paperback

Pages: 784

RRP: $32.99

Surely one of the most highly anticipated sequels ever – or was that just me? (I don’t think so!)

I wasn’t sure what to expect but it wasn’t this – and I mean that in a very positive way. Where La Belle Sauvage was set ten years prior to His Dark Materials this continuation is set ten years after those events. Where La Belle Sauvage’s plot raced as furiously as the flood waters, this moves at a far slower pace which serves to build the intensity of the narrative in a completely compelling manner.  It is mammoth and complex and there are myriad intricacies to the plot which are far too numerous on which to expound in a review – nor would I want to.

Lyra is now a young woman and a college student, and like so many others of her own period and place as well as others, full of new ideas, questioning old beliefs and eager to make her mark. She and Pan not only have the ability to separate physically but have developed an ever widening gulf between their ways of thinking and their previously sympatico and loving connection to each other.

Strange and dangerous forces are threatening Lyra’s very existence beginning with inexplicable incidents such as the new Master of Jordan forcing her to relinquish her room and relegating her to the servants’ quarters, she and Pan witnessing a murder and the pursuit of the two by unknown malefactors. Of course, the CCD is no stranger in all of this but it appears that there is more afoot than just this body and the existing Magisterium. Almost it seems that ghosts from the past are returning to haunt her and her faithful companions. For Alice and Malcolm now reveal to her the history of the connection between all three of them and Lyra has much to contemplate.

But the story is not just the recount of events that are impacting on Lyra in a personal way. There are other sinister happenings which seem to have no connection such as the increasing scarcity of certain roses and the oil distilled from these, the significance of Dust in all of this and the ruthless uprisings of certain factions and persons.

When Pan decides to leave Lyra in his extreme unhappiness she realizes what is at stake and leaving aside all thoughts of her own safety she determines to find him again and along the way to discover the truth about the threats that are crowding in on her. The journey is fraught but Lyra discovers that there are supporters to be found in the most unlikely of places and it is with hope that she continues her mission, all the time growing more and more attached to Malcolm, who has undertaken his own part in the unravelling of mysteries.

Pullman concludes with such a mighty cliffhanger that it made me swear (I know! How unusual for me!) and once again I will have to curb my impatience to wait for the conclusion – sigh.

The master has done it again – and needs no recommendation from me – but if you are looking for your holiday read I would urge to take it up, you won’t be disappointed.

A postscript to my review of Beverly, Right Here

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If you read my review of Kate diCamillo’s latest novel Beverly, Right Here you will know how excited it made me that my girl was reading it. She has kept on going all these past weeks and today I came home from school to this. My heart is full!

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Christmas fun for littlies

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As the weeks go rushing past and in no time it will be time to hang the stockings we all seem to go into a kind of frenzy of ‘what to get for..?’.

There are some very cute new books for little people which would make great stocking stuffers:

Peppa’s Christmas Jumper Day

9780241371589

Penguin

Imprint: Ladybird

November 2019

ISBN: 9780241371589

RRP: $9.99

Yep, we’ve all been there – when the kid says ‘I need this (outfit) for tomorrow.’ I’ve had to make rush Virgin Mary costumes and Captain Cook complete with tricorn so I feel the pain.

When Peppa announces that the next day is Christmas jumper day at playgroup there’s a scramble for the box in the attic to retrieve last year’s jumpers. The problem is that Peppa and George have grown through the year and their jumpers no longer fit them. George can wear Peppa’s but what will Peppa wear?

Luckily Daddy Pig is one inventive and creative papa and saves the day with flair…and glitter!

Tiny tots would love this colourful board book with its familiar characters and not only does it make it a great gift for your child but 10% of the RRP will be donated to Save the Children – win win! Highly recommended for babies to preschool age.

 

The Lonely Christmas Tree – Chris Naylor-Ballesteros

9781408892923

Bloomsbury

November 2019-11-16

Imprint: Bloomsbury Children’s Books

ISBN: 9781408892923

RRP: $16.99

What an exquisite little jewel of a book! Inspired by ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas children will love the story of the last lonely tree on the hillside who finds happiness at Christmas and finally is surrounded by love.

The illustrations are just truly beautiful and many children will recognise the ‘rhythm’ of this text if they have heard the original inspiration.

The underlying message about loneliness and the joy of being together with friends is very timely for the festive season and I believe that young readers will rejoice that the little tree is no longer alone.

Highly recommended for reader from around 5 years upwards.

I’m Ready for Christmas – Jedda Robaard

9781760891619

Penguin

Imprint: Puffin

ISBN: 9781760891619

October 2019

This is the introduction to a gorgeous new series of colourful board books especially for Australian children and celebrating the special events in a little person’s life.  I love the idea behind this series which is to bridge the gap between early concept books (ABC, numbers etc) and standard picture books. What is even more attractive is the truly Australian flavour throughout.

The days are getting warmer and longer.

Cicadas are buzzing in the trees.

Like all of us little Miss Wombat knows that this means that Christmas is close and the preparations including making 3 x great-grandmother’s pudding and wrapping gifts combine with reflection on all that has happened throughout the year.

Naturally the book concludes with a beautiful family feast.

Just delightful!

I’m Ready for Preschool – Jedda Robaard

9781760891602

Penguin

Imprint: Puffin

October 2019-11-16

RRP: $12.99

And following hard on the heels of Christmas hundreds of little ones will be getting ready for preschool/prep/kindy which is both exciting and a little anxiety-making at the same time.

I’m trying something new soon. Something new and exciting . . .

Little Koala is a little bit nervous about starting preschool but like so many others is having quite a bit of fun testing out his backpack, water bottle and hat. And once he’s taken that first big step into the room and starts playing with new friends all his worries disappear.

Once again so many littlies will readily identify with this simple but effective story and they will see themselves as they too prepare for their first big leap into the wider world.

Stay posted for the next two in the series, coming in March 2020 – Easter and New Baby.

The perfect double for a little pre-preschooler of your acquaintance or if your school has an early childhood centre attached – a great addition to the shelves.

Highly recommended for 2-5 year olds.

Alice-Miranda Movie Madness

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Fans across the country are champing at the bit as the debut of everyone’s favourite schoolgirl on screen approaches. To celebrate the long-awaited and much-anticipated film version Penguin Australia has some super new goodies for all those A-M devotees.

Keep the A-M magic flowing for your readers with these fabulous new additions to the series – what a super Christmas treat these would make!

Special screenings of the tele-movie will begin on 14th November so don’t miss out!

Congratulations to the gorgeous Jacqueline Harvey and Puffin on such a wonderful achievement.

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Thank you so much Puffin for the scrumptious parcel!

Alice-Miranda Friends Forever

The Official Movie Script

9781760896867

 

  • ISBN:9781760896867
  • Imprint:Puffin
  • RRP:$16.99

 

Alice-Miranda Friends Forever Journal

9781760896874

 

  • ISBN:9781760896874
  • Imprint:Puffin
  • RRP:$16.99

Alice-Miranda 3 in 1

Movie Tie-in: The First Three Books in the Bestselling Series

9781760894962

  • ISBN:9781760894962
  • Imprint:Puffin
  • RRP:$24.99

Alice-Miranda Friends Forever Activity Book

9781760896881

  • ISBN:9781760896881
  • Imprint:Puffin
  • RRP:$6.99

Don’t miss out! Get thee to your local Event cinema for the big release!

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Fauna: Australia’s Most Curious Creatures – Tania McCartney

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9780642279545

National Library of Australia

November 2019

ISBN:

9780642279545

RRP: $24.99

Where to begin with this absolutely glorious book? Once again Tania has created a jewel of colour and style with her distinctive stylised illustrations and combined with information both fascinating and amazing this is a treasure for readers of all ages.

The wealth of facts about a wide variety of our unique animals is presented in bite-sized segments perfect for easy digestion by avid little naturalists from as young as seven. Each beautiful double spread is crammed with such detail yet easy to absorb with life-sized art of such things as teeth or eggs , annotated portrayals of the animal, scientific names, habitats, diet, appearance, distribution and much, much more all of which will delight and intrigue the reader.

The important issue of conservation is not neglected. Several pages conclude the book with vital information about endangered or extinct animals encouraging children to take action to prevent the loss of more of our natural wonders.

The lineage of animal life is included as is a beautiful spread describing the astonishment of European arrivals with reproductions of early representations of these curious creatures.

An extensive glossary and index complete the volume making this the complete package for young investigators and researchers.

Tania knows well that her books normally do not leave my own personal shelves. However I am going to make a supreme sacrifice with this particular title. This year I have had the pleasure of a little American girl who has been one of my keenest participants in library activities of all kinds. Sadly for us, her university lecturer dad has completed his exchange and she and her equally delightful family will be returning to the States. I can think of no better gift to give her as a keepsake of our shared year and know that she will truly love it.

My prediction is that this should definitely be a given for any award short-list and in my opinion a winner. I highly recommend it to you as a valuable addition to your shelves or a special gift for a child of your acquaintance. With Christmas fast approaching it would make a truly prized present in someone’s stocking!

Check out this sneak peek on Tania’s FB page!

The Australia Survival Guide – George Ivanoff

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9780143796572

 

Penguin Australia

October 2019

ISBN: 9780143796572

Imprint: Puffin

RRP: $24.99

George Ivanoff is not just a pretty face. Under that luxuriant  mop of ever-changing hair there’s an inventive and clever brain which can produce not only awesome adventures of the fictional kind for readers but now the ultimate field guide to surviving in the harsh reality of the Australian landscape.

Naturally, George being George, this is not just a dry and dull book of sensible information but is crammed with quirky facts, funny interjections, news articles, and scientific information about creatures of all kinds, first aid tips and much much more. I love the way the book finishes off with the wacky aspects of Australia – the ‘big’ things, weird slang, Vegemite and neatly a glossary to explain any difficulties (which might be very useful for foreign readers!).

From Swimming Death to Totally Fake Death, Wibbly-Wobbly Death to Death from Above every conceivable aspect of our country’s multiple potential hazards is covered but always partnered with practical suggestions for avoiding the ghastliness of being dead in the landscape.

A particularly favourite chapter for me is the one on Not Death (Bush Tucker and Bush Medicine) and I think readers who are as yet unfamiliar with the native bounty of our bush will be intrigued by this cultural inclusion.

All in all I must agree with George….”I’m beginning to think that even though Australia is DANGEROUS…maybe the good things outweigh the bad? Apart from the occasional natural disaster, staying alive seems to be a matter of commons sense. It’s about avoiding the dangerous things…”

Thanks George for an entertaining and informative read which I know many young people will thoroughly enjoy, particularly those from around mid-primary to mid-secondary.

Highly recommended for your collection or any avid adventurer of your acquaintance.

Racing in the Rain – Garth Stein [Young Readers Adaptation]

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Harper Collins Australia

August 2019

ISBN: 9780062935076

ISBN 10: 0062935070

Imprint: HarperCollins – US

List Price: 14.99 AUD

For everyone who has loved the series of A Dog’s Purpose (which definitely includes me and K) this book will bring much joy though at times it is both poignant and tense.

It is the story of a family in essence. Beginning with the adoption of the smart and funny Enzo by Denny, amateur (but yearning to be professional) racing car enthusiast and following the often difficult trials that ensue after Denny’s marriage to Eve and the subsequent birth of Zoe, their daughter. At first Eve and Enzo are rather in a stalemate situation, neither thinking very highly of the other but after Zoe’s arrival and Enzo’s slavish devotion to and unfailing protection of her their relationship changes.

However family life can often be fraught, indeed heartbreaking, and at times can be under serious threat of falling apart and so it is in this instance. But throughout all it is Enzo who is ever present and faithful to the preservation of the fragility of his humans. He may be a canine but he is intelligent and understands everything that is happening around him and is determined to do anything he can to support Denny and Zoe.

Funny and tender, insightful and courageous, mute but definitely expressive Enzo’s observations, humour and loyalty will make you laugh and cry. It is truly delightful.

This special edition of the best-selling novel The Art of Racing in the Rain is timed to tie-in with the upcoming movie version. I can highly recommend it for readers from around 12 years upwards.

Pages & Co [Book 2]: Tilly and the Lost Fairy Tales – Anna James

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Harper Collins

September 2019

ISBN: 9780008229900

ISBN 10: 0008229902

Imprint: HarperCollins – GB

List Price: 19.99 AUD

Once more Tilly and Oskar are plunged into a whirl of adventure and mystery as their book-wandering travels continue. Their world and their families are in a state of flux as the British Underlibrary becomes embroiled in turmoil. The new Librarian Melville Underwood is decidedly sinister and unscrupulous and there is a veil of mystery about his long absence in the fairy tale world and the continued unknown whereabouts of his sister Decima.

When Tilly and Oskar visit Paris (and discover that Oskar is also a book-wanderer) they bravely venture into the fairy tale world and are dismayed by the instability of the stories there – large black abysses appearing in plots, various versions of the same story overlapping randomly and characters becoming lost. All this appears to be the work of some dark force and it seems that Tilly and Oskar are the ones to solve the problem and restore order.

This series is proving to be quite a delight with its fresh approach to plot and characters. Book lovers both young and old will relish the concept of becoming truly ‘present’ in the stories they read and will readily identify with Tilly’s favourites as well as being very cognizant of the ever-present dangers and villainous characters lurking in odd places. There are tense moments when ‘happy ever after’ seems elusive and there is no doubt that the evil characters are ruthless but Tilly and Oskar have proven their mettle already and will not rest until the fairy tale world is safe again.

My first readers to try out this series have been completely taken with it and I know they will be enthusiastically lining up for this second instalment. I highly recommend it for your kiddos from around Year 4 upwards.

Beverly, Right Here – Kate diCamillo

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1560726444168

Walker Books

ISBN: 9781406391633
Imprint: Walker
September 2019
Australian RRP: $19.99
New Zealand RRP: $22.99

Without a doubt this is the happiest review I’ve ever written. Not just because it’s another fabulous book from this much-loved author, nor just that it continues the story of Raymie, Louisiana and Beverly but for a far more personal reason.

My review copy arrived just a few days before my girl and I were going on our holiday to Tasmania so it was one of my first choices to take along with me. I read most of it in the Brisbane airport terminal then finished it off during the flight. The Kid was quite taken with the cover and then curious about the story so I handed it to her and before we landed in Melbourne for the first leg of our trip she had read the first chapter. Now for a 14 year old you may not think this a significant moment but for a child who was first assessed with an intellectual impairment at six and who has struggled for years with both spoken and written language it was a true milestone moment. In that first chapter there were just five words of which she was unsure – and after checking with me, three of them she had correct and the other two she had worked out but couldn’t quite get the context or meaning. TRIUMPH!

She is now halfway through the book and is really enjoying the story – and the effect of her success has been electrifying to say the least. Her ‘reading level’ (GRRRR) at school has escalated over eight levels at least since her last literacy group before the holidays. My heart is singing! It is such a breakthrough for her and her confidence is soaring.

So with that out of the way, let me tell you about the story itself. We know from the two previous books that Beverly’s life is far from easy and when her beloved Buddy dies she’s finally had enough and takes off. At 14 with no money and only the clothes she’s wearing she lands in a new town where she manages to find some work and is taken in by a quirky but kindly old lady who becomes Beverly’s entrée into an atmosphere of caring. As some time goes by Beverly begins to establish positive relationships and meaningful friendships and eventually is able to rationalize her old life and how she might overcome the obstacles she faces.  Her newfound insight into herself enables her to move forward with confidence and determination.

Once again Kate has given us a memorable book. For me it will always be the book that turned my girl into a ‘reader’. Thank you from the bottom of my heart Kate diCamillo.

MoonFish  [Poems to make you & Think] – Harry Laing. Various Illustrators

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moon-fish

Ford St Publishing

May 2019

9781925804256

RRP: $16.95

Sharing poetry with kiddos is one of my favourite things to do – and even the ones who kind of screw their noses up at first really get into it with the right selection. This will definitely be one of those and I know that many teachers will want to get their hands on it to add some pep to their poetry units.

Harry Laing has compiled a fabulous collection that is fun-filled with catchy rhythm and rhymes, chants, raps, word play, shape poems and more. The illustrators are a stellar cast of our best and brightest in the business, eighteen in all, making this a feast for the eye as well as the ear.

Whether it’s a yummy food poem about cheese or pizza or a city of chocolate or an introduction to some insect life like ants or termites or even a flea this has something to appeal to all children.

There will be many opportunities for kids to get up and use their hands or feet to clap to the beat and no doubt will quickly decide on their personal favourites.

If you are looking to give your poetry collection some updating or purely for the joy of it, this will make a valuable addition and is highly recommended for children from around 7 years upwards.

 

Shortlisted 2019 – Speech Pathology Australia Book of the Year