Monthly Archives: July 2020

A batch of board books

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My Best Friend is a Dragon – Rachael McLean

Penguin Australia

  • August 2020
  • ISBN: 9780593093993
  • Imprint: Penguin
  • RRP: $13.99

The first of this batch of books for the tiniest reads is this delightful and gloriously vibrant lift-the-flap story.

What could be better than having a magical dragon as your best friend? This little boy romps through the pages with his dragon helping out with stuff like getting the lid off the cookie jar and when snow makes play difficult. Little ones will love lifting the flaps to see the solution to each problem.

With simple text and joyful illustrations this would be a hit for tiny humans from around 12 months upwards.

Ten Sleep Sheep – Renee Treml

Penguin Australia

  • August 2020
  • ISBN: 9781760896768
  • Imprint: Puffin
  • RRP: $14.99

Renee’s books are always beautiful with their gentle and heart-warming illustrations and this lovely counting book is no exception. Little ones can count down from ten as they visit all the sleepy animals on the farm. From ten sheep through pups and foals, chicks and ducklings even koalas until no one is left awake except the owl. What a beautiful bedtime book this is and will no doubt be requested time and again.

A gorgeously sleepy-time book perfect for babies upwards.

That’s Not My Narwhal – Fiona Watt

Harper Collins Australia

July 2020

  • ISBN: 9781474972109
  • ISBN 10: 1474972101
  • Imprint: Usborne – GB
  • List Price: 14.99 AUD

Usborne continues the popular touchy-feely series with this new one which is just as cute as the previous but just a little more unusual in choosing an animal perhaps not so well known.

Little fingers will love the textures from the squishy tummy to the rough tail and the fuzzy spots. Their eyes will sparkle just as much as the narwhal’s horn as they explore each page with tactile delight.

Little ones from 12 months upwards will think this one a real treat.

Is there anything as much fun as introducing these little ones to the joy and wonder of books and reading? I think not.

Pick up these for a tiny one in your circle or for your early learning centre or kindergarten.

The Fire Never Goes Out: a memoir in pictures – Noelle Stevenson

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Harper Collins Australia

April 2020

  • ISBN: 9780062278272
  • ISBN 10: 0062278274
  • Imprint: HarperCollins – US
  • List Price: 34.99 AUD

I have to be quite frank here. I’d never heard of Noelle nor her best-selling graphic novel Nimona which as attracted a legion fans around the world. My bad :'(.

This is an insight into Noelle’s life between teen and now with the highs and lows of her personal and professional life. Her struggle, punctuated with mental health issues, body image anxiety, sexuality, vulnerability and failed relationships over a period of eight years is both poignant and joyful.

A combination of mini-essays (mostly a short recap of each year she composed in New Year’s Eve relfections) along with mini-comics, cartoons and photographs this is a very beautiful revelation for readers into the ‘making’ of one hailed as a creative genius.

Coincidentally I have been searching out relevant, contemporary and inspirational memoirs and biographies for my library collection (to oust the dreary, dated and totally unappealing ones that took up valuable shelf real estate!) and this is going to be such a beautiful addition to that newly rejuvenated collection.

As there are some potentially contentious themes I would suggest this for your middle to senior secondary students and I highly recommend it for astute and sensitive readers from around 14 years upwards.

The Pony Question – Jackie Merchant

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Walker Books

July 2020

ISBN: 9781760651640
Imprint: Walker Books Australia

Australian RRP: $16.99
New Zealand RRP: $18.99

I’m not really a horse-y person and now that the Kid is no longer riding neither is she so horse-themed books are a little bit of uncharted territory for me. However many years ago Ruby Ferguson’s Jill’s Gymkana (#1 Jill’s Ponies) was a very enjoyable read for me and this reminded me strongly of that pleasure.

All that being said, this is not merely a horse story but a heart-warming narrative of family, friends and community with an additional bonus of being set in a location fairly familiar to me (Blue Mountains and Lithgow NSW).

Essie and her mum now live in a small community in a quirky somewhat shabby house after her father abandoned them for a younger woman and a new life in pristine perfection. Despite money being a little tight the two are very happy in their new surroundings with their warm and welcoming friends and life is moving along nicely as Francesca’s small business of restoring furniture gains traction. Essie’s antipathy towards her father and his cold and bottled-up new wife is almost tangible and she is particularly irritated by his offer to install her in an exclusive private boarding school with the promise of a new pony and more.

It was her father’s overweening attitude of control and competitiveness that ruined Essie’s promising success as a dressage rider two years previously when he, unbeknownst to anyone else, doped Essie’s pony in order to enable her to compete in a qualifier for a state team. When the ‘nobbling’ was discovered it was of course Essie who bore the brunt of the disgrace and the subsequent disqualification from competition. Her pony, Chet, was sold and though her dad promised to get her another horse, Essie just can’t bring herself to re-enter the fray.

Well all that’s about to change when Essie and her mum accidentally buy a neglected pony at a clearing sale and faced with either taking it home or re-selling to the local knacker, of course they keep the pony – at least for the time being. Poor Moxie has fallen from star pony to half-starved and half-wild beast in just a couple of years. She is in a bad way and really nobody is even expecting her to survive.

Essie’s journey of healing Moxie, along with the support of her mum and circle of friends, despite her father’s opposition is also a healing for herself as she faces difficult situations and arrives at answers providing the reader with a beautiful story of reconciliation in a very divisive and unhappy circumstance. No doubt there will be many for whom this will resonate, with or without a horse involved.

It is a testament to the engaging story that I read this in two sessions and in fact, read past my usual ‘lights off’ time, all unknowing! This is Jackie Merchant’s second novel and I know that I, for one, will look forward to more from this author.

Highly recommended not only for your horse-tragics but all your upper primary and lower/middle secondary readers who enjoy a contemporary story with real depth.

Aussie Kids series – Books #5 & #6

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Penguin Australia

July 2020

Get your little newly independent readers excited when you add these two new volumes to the Aussie Kids books! This is just a truly charming series as children take a vicarious trip around our beautiful country, learning a little about kids from other spaces, cultures and backgrounds as well as information about the particular locale.

Meet Mia by the Jetty – Janeen Brian and Danny Snell

  • ISBN: 9781760893668
  • Imprint: Puffin
  • RRP: $12.99

Visit South Australia in this episode and meet Mia, who fancies herself a tour guide especially when visitor Jim is coming to stay. Mia knows her bossy older sister, Alice, will want to take over but she is very determined to take the lead in showing Jim the local sights of Victor Harbour, like the jetty, the island and the beach.

A delightful ride on a horse-drawn tram (the only one in Australia we learn) is a real highlight but building sandcastles and exploring the beach, including fairy penguin burrows, as well as whale spotting are also huge moments in Mia’s deluxe tour.

By the end of the day even Alice has to admit that Mia has been a pretty successful tourist guide and this is only the first day of Jim’s visit!

Meet Sam at the Mangrove Creek – Paul Seden & Brenton McKenna

  • ISBN: 9781760894122
  • Imprint: Puffin
  • RRP: $12.99

This one is particularly special for me as we visit the Top End and go fishing with Sam and his cuz Peter among the mangroves. Sam has a brand new throw net and can’t wait to try it out. He’s really hoping to catch a big juicy barra but really needs a bit of tuition in using his net properly. Luckily for the boys an old-timer quietly sitting nearby knows just the right technique for success and while the barra eludes the pair, they do manage a nice little haul of good sized whiting. Pretty chuffed with their catch they plan to take them home until they notice that the old man seems to be ‘camped’ in the park with just a bag of clothes and a blanket. The boys show their gratitude by gifting their fish to the old Uncle and go home happily planning their next great fishing adventure.

This one not only allows some virtual exploration of a landscape which will be very different to that most children know but also an insight into First Australian culture. As it’s written and illustrated by two Indigenous creators, one knows that the language, actions and attitudes of the characters is completely authentic. Definitely a winner!

I’d be surprised if primary libraries haven’t yet taken up this series but if you haven’t, I’d strongly urge you to do so. I know that particularly for those units of inquiry that focus on Australia – landscapes and diversity (around Year 2 for me) would benefit hugely from the inclusion of this series with the narratives, maps and additional facts.

There are two more volumes to come so pick up the first six now if you have not yet done so. Naturally they would also make a superb addition to your own home library for children from around 5 years upwards.

Don’t forget to check out the activity pack and there is also a Teach at Home lesson.

The Wild Way Home – Sophie Kirtley

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Bloomsbury Australia

15th September 2020

ISBN:9781526616289
Imprint:Bloomsbury Children’s Books

This is one impressive debut novel with an unusual and interesting time-slip which will take readers into a rarely explored world of the past.

Charlie Merriam and his parents have been eagerly awaiting the birth of little Dara and when the baby arrives just as Charlie turns twelve it would seem that their joy is complete. But all is not well with little Dara who has been born with a heart defect and the emotional distress for Charlie is so unbearable that he runs off from the hospital to his favourite place – the ancient forest on the edge of town just near the family home. This is the place of joy for Charlie and his friends and is always full of mystery, adventure and discoveries. In fact, just the day before Dara’s birth Charlie had unearthed an ancient deer tooth with curious scratched markings.

In the midst of his anguish, stumbling without thinking in the depths of the forest, Charlie comes across an injured boy and immediately tries to help him. But this is no ordinary boy. Dressed in not much more than an animal skin and barely able to communicate with Charlie, it appears that the two boys have connected across the ages and Charlie has found himself in Stone Age Britain where dangers abound and life is hard.

This a wonderful adventure which readers will eat up with relish as Charlie and Harby help each other and in the process discover what each thought they had lost: hope, courage, family and their way home.

It is certainly different from the usual time-slip genre and while the reader needs to suspend disbelief significantly to grasp that Charlie and Harby can speak to each other with understanding it is not so much as to detract from the overall narrative.

I would recommend this for your middle school readers who enjoy both time-slip and adventure stories with a difference. Pre-order your copy now!

Don’t Read the Comments – Eric Smith

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Harper Collins Australia

January 2020

  • ISBN: 9781489295705
  • ISBN 10: 1489295704
  • Imprint: HQ Young Adult – US
  • List Price: 19.99 AUD

Ok, I admit it, I’d kind of let this one slide because really my scan of the blurb made me think – oh, gaming online – so not my kind of thing. WRONG! Because, yes it does revolve around gaming but it is far more about relationships, both family and friends (real and virtual), bullying/intimidation, identity and determination. I really enjoyed it and will be talking it up to my students with gusto.

Divya is queen of her universe – that is to say, she is a hugely popular streaming gamer and queen of her #angstarmada within the virtual world of Reclaim the Sun. With her best friend and trusty lieutenant Rebekah she has, as D1V, accrued a massive following and sponsorships from major companies which all help her and her single mum to survive financially.

Aaron’s passion for gaming is all-consuming and his ambition is to be the scriptwriter for successful games, much to the chagrin of his mother who is pushing him to become a doctor like herself. In spite of his family’s secure financial situation, Aaron has painstakingly assembled his gaming rig himself from salvaged components out of his neighbourhood’s garbage.

These two connect online although each is still dealing with their own set of problems alone but when a truly fearsome legion of trolls calling themselves Vox Populi begin threatening not only their virtual world but their real lives they join forces resolutely and refuse to go down without a fight.

It is gripping and intense, though also relieved throughout with some humour and light-heartedness as the relationship between the two gamers develops.

In my opinion this is a contemporary novel which many young adults will enjoy and find very relatable, particularly with its strong theme of following your dreams and resisting the intimidation of bullies.

Highly recommended for readers from around 13ish upwards!

What Zola did on Tuesday – Melina Marchetta

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Penguin Australia

  • August 2020
  • ISBN: 9781760895167
  • Imprint: Puffin
  • RRP: $12.99

I reviewed the first in this joyful series a little while back and now we have the delight of the second instalment which is just as gorgeous!

Zola and her cousin over the back fence, Alessandro, would love to get to meet their new neighbours – more playmates! However, Mummy and Nonna Rosa are resistant to intruding so they are feeling rather frustrated as well as curious.

Of course Zola despite all her best intentions is always finding trouble – or is that trouble finding her? Nonna Rosa is not doing so well with her knitting and Zola’s teacher is looking for someone to help with a knitting group at school, which of course Zola realises would be a disaster with Nonna’s efforts. So the solution for Zola is to help with Nonna’s knitting. As you would expect – a disaster ensues! However, even disasters can turn around to a success and so it is with the great knitting fiasco – the knitting problem is sorted and so is the making friends with the neighbours and helping the knitting group.

Such simple but sweet and wholesome stories which will engage your youngest independent readers and very likely inspire their own community-mindedness, empathy and desire to help others.

Highly recommended for little readers from around 6 years upwards! This is an absolute must-have and I for one look forward to the rest of the ‘week’ to come.

The Constant Rabbit – Jasper Fforde

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Hachette

JUN 30, 2020 | 9781444763638 | RRP $32.99

In my opinion there are simply not enough books with rabbits as main characters (as she looks down at her rabbit-patterned PJs and rabbit-y slippers – well, what did you expect with my surname?). Jasper Fforde has brought his amazing brand of satirical humour to this new stand-alone novel and it’s a gem. It’s quirky and highly imaginative, full of extremely funny puns/play on words (particularly love the Rabbit-y adaptations of books and movies), absurd fantasy, thoroughly engaging protagonists and satisfyingly nasty villains and all in all is the most enjoyable romp through a rather far-fetched but very allegorical sort of dystopian UK.

In a parallel Britain of 2020 there are 1.2 million human-sized rabbits walking (as well as leaping and gambolling), talking, driving cars, working (most of them in not very highly paid jobs) and mostly living in colonies which are pretty over-crowded – as one would expect – and not well supported with infrastructure. This strange circumstance was caused by an spontaneous Inexplicable Anthropomorphism event some fifty-five years previously. It wasn’t just rabbits to be fair. There were a few other similar occurrences elsewhere in the world – an elephant in Africa, a ram in Australia, but in the main it was the UK affected with the majority rabbits but also some foxes, weasels and a few singular animals such as guinea pigs involved.

Though the rabbits have attained some rights, their lot is mostly pretty dismal and heavily restricted. They are always the target of various law enforcement agencies, with one dedicated purely to their harassment, and some rather nasty vigilante-type groups.

Peter Knox lives in a quiet village with his daughter Pippa. His neighbours are pretty hard-nose leporiphobics politically speaking but Peter, who works as an official Spotter for RabCoTRabbit Compliance Taskforce, formerly known as Rabbit Crime Taskforce – has never had any real issue with them. But when Doc and Constance Rabbit move in next door, Peter and Pippa are left in no doubt that one can be a friend to humans or a friend to rabbits but not to both.

The litany of injustices, hatred, bigotry and oppression towards the rabbits will resonate with many currently, given recent global focus on similar actions towards disenfranchised sectors of society. Some of the action, promulgated by the PM and Cabinet as a ‘positive’, is chillingly like the Nazi regime’s treatment of the Jewish people with the proposed forced relocation to MegaWarren frighteningly similar to removal to ghettos.

What Peter is to find out is that he is not as tolerant as he’s always believed himself to be and that humanity, his own humanity, is in need of some gentle rabbit influence. This is marvelously wrought throughout with the reader completely engrossed in the fantastical plot and with much upon which to reflect, both within ourselves and within our society.

Although primarily a novel for adults, I would have no hesitation in recommending this highly for your senior students and believe that for studies of parallel real events and circumstances it would provide rich fodder for debate and discussion.

How can you go wrong? I mean to say, it’s rabbits. 🙂

Clementine Rose: Collection Five – Jacqueline Harvey

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Penguin Australia

  • August 2020
  • ISBN: 9781760897437
  • Imprint: Puffin
  • RRP: $19.99

Don’t wait around to get your hands on this fifth and final bind-up of stories about this delightful little girl!

This collection contains Clementine Rose and the Wedding WobblesClementine Rose and the Bake-Off Dilemma and Clementine Rose and the Best News Yet.

In case you have been in iso for longer than the past few months, Clementine Rose is the cutest child ever. Rather than being delivered in a hospital, she arrrived via a baker’s van and her adoptive mother, Lady Clarissa, wouldn’t be without her. Along with her teacup pig, Lavender, Digby Pertwhistle the butler and the redoubtable, and often critical, Great Aunt Violet plus Pharoah the sphynx cat, Clementine lives in a large and somewhat ramshackle house surrounded by friends in their local village, Penberthy Floss.

These three stories follow the exciting developments around Lady Clarissa’s wedding and the extension of their happy family and naturally there are adventures, problems and satisfying outcomes along the way.

These bind-ups are a super gift idea but obviously for all your dedicated CR fans also a must-have for your collection.

I know the copies in my libraries have always been on a constant turn-around so the addition of these is a great idea. Highly recommended for your readers from around Year 1 upwards.

Kitty is not a Cat – Jess Black/Bogan Entertainment Solutions

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Hachette

Lights Out

JUL 28, 2020 | 9780734419750 | RRP $9.99

Teddy’s Bear

JUL 28, 2020 | 9780734419774 | RRP $9.99

I no longer have a little person to watch such shows but by all accounts Kitty is not a Cat is a hugely successful animated series. A rather motley clowder of cats live together in a ramshackle old mansion, left to them by an eccentric benefactress. Their free-spirited antics ensure that life is always a party where anything goes but when there is an unexpected knock at the door one night and Kitty arrives, their wild ways are in for a disruption. Kitty is not a cat but she wants to be one and though the cats try very hard to re-home her it seems she is going to be a permanent fixture.

Now fans of the show can read about their favourite glaring of cats – and one non-cat – in a delightful new junior reader series written by Jess Black.

When Kitty’s night light mysteriously disappears her sleep is very much disturbed and of course, in turn, the cat’s routine TV viewing of their favourite Purr-anormal programs. Of course cats are not familiar with the concept of being afraid of the dark but they do their very best to sort Kitty’s problem with some very creative, though not necessarily, successful solutions. Finally Kitty’s night fright is sorted – and so is the mystery of the disappearing night light!

The cat gang decide that Kitty needs a new toy for the coming winter months and what could be better than a cuddly teddy bear? The problem is that the felines are really not across exactly what a teddy bear is so once more hilarity ensues as each attempts to satisfy the issue. Cheeta thinks he’s solved the problem when he brings home a real-life grizzly bear and for a while it seems that rather than being gobbled up they can all have some fun together. But when the bear starts his hibernation the original problem is still – well, a problem Luckily Mr Clean has saved the day with his ingenuity – and love.

This is just fabulous on a lot of levels – full of great humour, unconditional love and the certainty that one can be anything one wants – even a cat!!

Goes without saying that it appeals to us – being pretty much solid cat people – but I highly recommend it for your newly independent readers who will love being able to make connections between the show and the books.