Chronologica: the Incredible Years that Defined History – compiled by the Whitaker’s Almanack team

Standard

chronologica

Allen & Unwin Australia

Imprint; Bloomsbury

ISBN
9781472932945

December 2016

RRP $ 34.99

This is exactly the kind of book I would have loved as a rather nerdy child. I had quite the obsession with books of ‘general knowledge’ and random facts and perused them for hours.  Clearly, why I love trivia competitions so much now!

Since December 1868, the famous Whitaker’s Almanack has been published in the UK chockfull of all the year’s happenings. As an iconic publication, the work has been referenced in other literary texts from Stoker’s Dracula to Fleming’s Moonraker.

This volume spans 100 years and devotes three pages to each year featured covering several topics.

For example, 1789 – why was this year important? George Washington was elected as the first American president, sailors mutinied on HMS Bounty and the Storming of the Bastille initiated the French Revolution.

I have had such fun ‘dipping’ into it over the past few days and I know that kids with similar tastes will love doing so as well.  There is something to fascinate all types of tastes from popular culture (when was Nintendo founded, the creation of the first pizza) to more serious historical events.

For your non-fiction reader, this would be a terrific addition to Christmas shopping and would certainly keep him/her absorbed for quite some time over the holidays!

Highly recommended for children from around ten upwards.

Christmas is Coming…

Standard

And it would always be incomplete without The Nutcracker.

Two beautiful new books celebrate 200 years since the first publication of Hoffman’s story and the exquisite 1954 rendition of the ballet from George Balanchine for the New York City Ballet.

The Nutcracker – Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann
Illustrated by Robert Ingpen

nutcracker

Walker Books

ISBN: 9781922244550
Imprint: Walker Books Australia

Australian RRP: $39.99
New Zealand RRP: $44.99

Hoffman’s original German publication has rarely been translated in full to English but this new bicentennial edition celebrates that first publication ably translated by Anthea Bell.

Of course Hoffman’s story remains timeless and is arguably most famous for being the inspiration for Tchaikovsky’s much-loved ballet, performed all over the world and especially as part of the traditional Christmas festivities.

For me the real highlight of this volume is it’s continuation of the Illustrated Children’s Classics series, with the absolutely superb illustrations of [Australian] Robert Ingpen.

I know that many have their favourites in this series – mine: Treasure Island and The Jungle Book – but the exquisitely detailed artwork ensure this will be a sought after volume for those who both love the story, Ingpen’s magnificent work and of course the ballet.

If you are looking for a special gift for a lover of any of these, this is the book for you.

If you are especially seeking the perfect present for a ballet lover then make sure you also buy the next book in this review.

The Nutcracker – The New York City Ballet: Illustrated by Valeria Docampo

the-nutcracker-9781471161162_lg

Simon & Schuster Children’s UK |

ISBN 9781471161162 |

November 2016

List Price

AU$ 24.99

NZ$ 28.99

The NYC Ballet is well known both for bringing the story of ballet to young readers and for its outstanding production of The Nutcracker. The company’s performance of this ballet is considered the penultimate around the world. In 1948 George Balanchine and Lincoln Kirsten founded the company and Balanchine’s ‘quintessential’ production of The Nutcracker remains the benchmark for all others.

The storyline follows the choreography of the ballet and the illustrations are based on the actual sets and costumes of the production. For young (or old) readers this will be a virtual attendance at the performance so loved by so many.

For all the ballet dancers or those who love the ballet, this would make a beautiful Christmas present.

Now that school holidays have arrived, I will be spending time catching up with piles and piles of review books. Some will be posted during the holidays, others scheduled for the new school year.

In the meantime, I wish you all and your families a safe and super festive season, from me and mine.

happy-xmas

Peggy and Me – Miranda Hart

Standard

peggy

Hachette Australia
ISBN:
 9781444769135

Publication date: 11 Oct 2016

Page count:

Imprint: Hodder & Stoughton

 

Many readers will be familiar with Miranda Hart’s work as a comedic actress; appearances in Absolutely Fabulous, Smack the Pony and of course, Call the Midwife and her own self-titled sitcom Miranda.

She had long been more a cat person than a dog person and relates some hilarious observations about dog owners. And then nine years ago Miranda met and fell in love with a tiny shih tzu/bichon frise cross puppy she named Peggy.  The two became inseperable and Miranda’s recount of her life shared with Peggy is both funny, poignant and wise.

Throughout the ups and downs, insecurities, sadness, elation and day-to-day life of their time together, Miranda noted that her best life lessons were in fact taught to her by Peggy.

In this delightful memoir, the reader is introduced to Peggy who always has her own take on the situation and is pleased to share it with us.

This is a laugh-out-loud read so just be aware that fellow commuters may look askance at your snorts as you follow the travails of Miranda and her best friend Peggy.

This would make a fabulous Christmas present for someone who appreciates both the joy of dog-owning and the virtues of humour as an antidote for drab and uninspiring daily grinds.

One Woman’s War and Peace: a nurse’s journey in the Royal Australian Air Force – Wing Commander Sharon Bown (Ret’d)

Standard

warpeace

Exisle Publishing

Hourglass Imprint

September 2016

ISBN 9781925335316

RRP $29.99

 

Many of you will already know that I’m an advocate for Mighty Girls, particularly now that I’m raising Miss Small after the untimely death of her mum, my Jennifer.

This is the memoir of a true Australian Mighty Girl and is riveting reading. My only small gripe is that the print was a little small for my night reading but that didn’t stop me pursuing Sharon’s journey over the past week or so – a little each night.

Born in Tasmania and training as a nurse, Sharon sought a new adventure after some years of achieving excellence in her chosen field and joined the RAAF. Again she proved her worth as a more than competent medical saviour.

However, the highs of her career path have been dogged by extreme lows. Her mother’s diagnosis and consequent lost battle with cancer was a tremendous blow to her and her family. But greater still was the horrific helicopter crash while deployed to Timor Leste which resulted in a long and painful rehabilitation and her determination to resume her military career.

With the loving support of family and friends, and particularly her (now) husband Conway, Sharon fought back to medically fit status and did indeed resume her career and worked her way up the promotional ladder, albeit with a few detours such as being ADC to Brendan Nelson, as Minister for Defence, for twelve months. Along the way throughout all her troubles (including the near fatal shooting of her police officer father) she doggedly continued with her dream and her commitment to serving her country.

Resuming deployment capability was a huge positive for Sharon and her stint in Afghanistan was both satisfying and sobering.

When Sharon finally realised that PTSD and her physical condition, which followed the helicopter crash which shattered her body, signalled the end of her active career it was with a certainty that her life would never quite be the same.

There have been many memoirs published by males who have been on active service and their often terrible histories, but this is the first I have read by one of our female officers. It has been a privilege to share Sharon’s journey and her easy style of writing made that journey an engaging one to follow.

I urge you strongly to add this to your secondary collection or to put it on your ‘to read’ list for your personal edification.

Listen to Sharon here.

Highly recommended for readers from around 15 upwards.

 

 

 

 

Jinny & Cooper – Tania Ingram

Standard

jinny

Penguin Random House

9780143308751

February 1, 2016

 

$14.99

This is my first taste of the Jinny & Cooper series but it certainly won’t be my last! And it’s already on my ‘read aloud’ list for Miss Small, my library and relief teaching days!

When Tania’s young daughter first asked her to write about a magical guinea pig, I suspect she had no idea that what would evolve would be a very successful series with appeal to a wide audience.

A question asked of me recently by a couple of parents was regarding fun reads for younger children who have moved on from the beginning chapter books but not yet ready for something beyond their capabilities. This is a series that will fit that bill perfectly and on my notes to buy all for next year’s budget.

Jinny has always wanted a guinea pig but she imagined something golden brown, soft and cuddly and above all, sweet. Little did she expect to end up with something that looks like an unkempt doormat with a real attitude and the power of speech amongst other things.

In this adventure, Cooper fingers Jinny’s seemingly kind teacher Miss Bunney as a nasty witch. Of course, this just seems ridiculous – but is it? Armed with salt and potato charms Jinny, her brother Tyrone and Cooper go into battle with one very unpleasant elderly teacher.

Boys and girls alike will delight in this series and no doubt will be scouring petshops for talking guinea pigs who eat a lot of junk food!

Recommended for readers from around 8 years upwards.

Read more about Tania and the series here.

Australia Illustrated – Tania McCartney

Standard

ausillustrated

Exisle Publishing

November 2016

ISBN 9781925335217

RRP $29.99

 

Five years ago while the teacher-librarian at Red Hill Primary, Canberra, I invited a local author about whom I had heard good things to come on an author visit to talk about her popular ‘Riley’ picture books.  Elegant Tania McCartney walked into my library and we were instantly friends. The children were entranced by her presentation (one little boy wrote and illustrated his own Riley book the next day) and all of us looked forward to seeing more from this talented woman.

In the last few years I have watched with great pleasure as Tania’s work has grown and blossomed into books in which her creativity has gone to greater and greater heights.

During the process of this latest (and greatest) of her books it has been such a pleasure for so many of us to feel as though we had something to contribute as Tania sought opinions and feedback on ideas she was developing. Little did I know that my own granddaughters were going to provide inspiration for some of her illustrations!

Australia Illustrated takes readers – both children and adults – on a virtual trip around Australia to examine the beauties, nature, culture, icons and quirks of each of our states.

With a glorious binding to complete it, the book begins with some pages of general information about Australia as a whole. The double page spread underlining our diversity is marvellous but each page is a revelation and a delight. Tania’s sense of fun comes through in each new vista. The double page ‘café style blackboard menu’ that details so many of our iconic favourite foods is just one example and one of my personal favourites.

After this overview of our country we move from state to state seeing children from all over with their own unique local flavours and settings. Each new state’s pages is heralded with a detailed and stylistically fun map and already I have had children (and grown ups) delightedly pointing out places they have been or know.

The virtual trip takes in all that is special, unique or iconic of the individual states illustrated in such a glorious fashion that this will prove a book to which to return over and over to continually discover new details.

The overriding emotion evoked by this armchair travelogue of our great country is one of joy in all that we, as Australians one and all, and our beautiful land have to offer. I have already sent off two copies to my Welsh friends, who recently visited and were entranced by the very small snippet they saw, for their grandchildren to savour. The appeal to adults is validated by the fact that Tim, Welsh grandad, had to have it prised out of his hands to be put away for the children!

In a social climate when we are eager to encourage our young readers to embrace all that is good about our nation – the people, the diversity, the beauty and the traditions – this is a book which resonates with a patriotic pride in its purest sense.

This is a definite ‘must have’ for your library collection indeed but also for your personal bookshelves and for you to share with your friends overseas. I know ours will be treasured and enjoyed for years to come.

Australians all, let us rejoice! That we have author/illustrators of Tania’s calibre is indicative of what we have to offer to a world too often troubled with negative and destructive images.

Congratulations Tania on a simply superb creation. Roll on the lavish praise and recognition for a truly remarkable book!

taniamccartney

 Riley’s red planes flying over Red Hill library!

 

Postscript from Tim: As the Welsh grandad referred to, but not because I’m he, I would endorse the review wholeheartedly. As a visitor, it gives a bite-sized introduction to Australia that informs but doesn’t overwhelm. I loved it and look forward eagerly to being able to share with my grandies!

 

 

Los’ Literary and Librarianly Birthday Bash

Standard

So things have been a little quiet on the blogging front but that was because I had a special and significant birthday to celebrate – lots of planning, lots of visitors from all over the place – overseas even! – and lots of FUN!

Naturally I would have to have a theme – and there were many references to children’s literature.

I felt the most appropriate choice of character and costume for me was Mme Irma Pince the Head Librarian from Hogwarts. Planned the costume for months and had lots of special details organised, including library card earrings!!!

Next week it will be back to reviews – in the meantime I will keep enjoying my visitors!14691099_10154493604995281_7957034982278079395_n

The Crayons’ Book of Numbers – Drew Daywalt/Oliver Jeffers Harper Collins

Standard

y648

Harper Collins

  • ISBN:9780008212865
  • ISBN 10: 0008212864
  • Imprint: HarperCollins – GB
  • On Sale: 24/10/2016

RRp $14.99

 

Since the first appearance of the ‘Crayons’ they have been very firm favourites with readers of all ages but of course, especially little people.

This delightful board book is a great introduction to these colourful personalities particularly for the tiniest of book-lovers.

Duncan has lost his crayons! The reader is invited to help find them and count all ten. Each page of course features its own colour with a typically quirky comment from the featured crayon – and naturally an illustration which highlights its character.

Little ones will love this and counting books are always so popular! This one does double duty helping toddlers and upwards learn both numbers and colours.

Highly recommended as a terrific addition to a Santa sack for a special little person in your life.

Watch Out for Muddy Puddles – Ben Faulks/Ben Cort

Standard

muddy

Allen & Unwin

ISBN :9781408867204

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Imprint: Bloomsbury Child

Pub Date: October 2016

RRP $14.99

Being Aussie I was not familiar with Ben Faulks’ name but UK readers will recognise it from his very popular television presence. This is his first picture book and is colourfully illustrated by Ben Cort, who also did the illustrations for Aliens Love Underpants and Shark in the Dark.

This is simply a very fun look at the eternal joy of splashing in  puddles but with a twist of imagination that invites young readers to picture what might be hiding in some of those tempting pools.

Watch out for muddy puddles!

Because you never really know…

What there might be lurking

down in the depths below.

Pirates, fossils deep in the earth, kissing frogs or a gigantic rubber duck all just might give you a surprise but really splishing, sploshing, splashing in  puddles is always just great fun.

Lots of onomatoepia and interesting vocabulary, rhythm and vibrancy will engage young readers from Prep-3.

Watch a trailer here and download activities here.

 

Beck – Mal Peet, with Meg Rossoff

Standard

beck

Walker Books

ISBN: 9781406331127

18 Aug 2016

$24.99

 

Vale Mal Peet.  What a privilege to review this novel from Carnegie Medal winner, Mal Peet post-humously.  It is powerful, it is harrowing, it is positive and you would need to have a heart of stone to not be moved by the narrative.

Ignatious Beck (hereafter known simply as Beck) is the illegitimate child of a mixed encounter. His early life in a Catholic orphanage is mean and cold particularly because of his colour. Then apparently remarkably he is plucked from this horrid existence and put on a boat with a load of other children – all bound for Canada.  On arrival Beck is installed with others in what appears to be a fabulous residence with caring Brothers of a certain Catholic order until their ‘happy resettlement’ with some God-fearing families establishing farms.  The kindly faces and personas of the Brothers are not what they seem. Beck is warned but still uncertain, until he is put into an untenable position and realises the perverted paedophilic intentions of the saviours. Retaliating against the pressure being put upon him Beck is sadistically and ignominiously punished with beatings and rape and then subsequently sent off to an isolated farm.  The uneducated incumbents are shocked to find they have been sent a ‘coloured’boy and promptly relegate him to the barn – and feed him the most meagre rations possible. Not surprisingly Beck takes the first opportunity to escape.

 

And so begins an arduous trek across Canada, running, hiding, struggling, starving. Freezing in a cold lonely stop, Beck hides out in the back of a truck, which turns out to be a runner for illegal alcohol from Canada to the US and suddenly finds himself embraced by the first adult Negro people he has ever seen. When the rival gangs scuttle the operation Beck again finds himself on the road and penniless – set upon by thieves and shysters until finally he hits upon a safe place. Owned by a similarly half-caste person although her other half is North American Indian, Beck finds himself in a place of security.  But the emotional and sexual tension between him and Grace seem to be too much to bear.  No more story now.

This is a powerful novel with echoes from the past resonating with current issues; systematic abuse of children from the Church, forced immigration of orphan children to the colonies (cheap labour often), racial discrimination, poverty and homelessness.

Apparently, as Mal became more and more ill, he asked Meg Rossoff to finish the book if need be  – and that she has with such sensitivity that it is impossible to know where one begins and the other finishes.

I am highly recommending this for your own reading but certainly for your Senior Secondary students – so much to debate and reflect upon and an astounding read as well.