Monthly Archives: January 2021

The Cousins – Karen M. McManus

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Penguin Australia

  • December 2020
  • ISBN: 9780241376942
  • Imprint: Penguin
  • RRP: $17.99

Attention all of you who loved One of Us is Lying! This YA thriller will get you and your readers in from the first page. I literally ate it up over just a couple of nights. Three cousins all the same age who barely know each other, having not met since they were around five years old, are suddenly thrown together for the summer. Their respective parents plus another sibling have been disinherited and disowned by their grandmother years ago, before they were even born and yet, mysteriously they have all been invited to the old family home where the famous Gull Cove Resort, Catmint House and the Story family are held in the greatest esteem.

Envy of all, rich and privileged, the older Story children were very close despite their different personalities but following the death of their father, and their mother’s decline into a morbid grief as they all began their independent lives at college and in the adult world, there comes a great shock. A bald communication from their mother’s lawyer You know what you did signals their instant dismissal from their mother’s life. So why does the mysterious Mildred Story suddenly and unexpectedly invite her grandchildren to come and be part of the Gull Cove Resort team for the summer?

As the narrative unravels the secrets, the lies and deceptions unfold in such an extremely satisfying (for we sleuths!) way that the reader is completely engrossed in the story. The cousins’ curiosity and determination to uncover the truth reveals far more than anything expected. This is truly a thriller that will delight your astute readers.

It gets a huge recommendation from me with the rider that it does have some significant coarse language and some adult themes but for your mature readers a great big tick!!! Family first – always. Right?

The Tram to Bondi Beach [40th anniversary edition] – Libby Hathorn. Illustrated by Julie Vivas.

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Harper Collins Australia

January 2021

  • ISBN: 9781460759660
  • ISBN 10: 1460759664
  • Imprint: HarperCollins – AU
  • List Price: 24.99 AUD

The one problem with book anniversaries is just how old it makes one feel!

The amazing creative partnership of these two literary talents resulted in the CBCA Highly Commended Picture Book award for 1982 and forty years after publication it is still evident why this was considered to be outstanding.

The glimpse into a Sydney long past when trams rattle noisily down the streets of Bondi encapsulates an era of simpler times when children had very different aspirations and interests. Kieran wants nothing more than to be a paperboy just like those he sees on the busy streets selling papers to the passengers on the trams that he loves so much, but his father thinks he is just too young. On his ninth birthday his father finally agrees to speak to local newsagent, Mr Francis, who agrees that he can certainly use another helper for ‘rush hour’ (if only Sydney rush hour was still the same!). He promises that Saxon, the older and more experienced paper boy, will look after Kieran. Saxon, however, has other ideas. He’s very resentful of someone else on his turf. It takes a near disaster for the older boy to accept his younger colleague and together the two boys establish a successful arrangement, satisfying to both.

Vivas’ illustrations of the Bondi of the past: streets, beach, residents, family life, are redolent of the time and would offer a great opportunity for exploration and discovery of children’s own local history. Spreads that are jumping with action are balanced with those which make wonderful use of white space to provide a whole vista of a long-gone scene.

Together these two have crafted a narrative that is nostalgic for older people but a wondrous insight into the past for young readers. This is an anniversary to put on your library calendar for sure with endless opportunities for children to be involved – old-time dress, faux tram rides with tickets, rolling and throwing newspapers, investigating the past of their local areas and family history.

As deserving of a place on your shelves now as it was forty years ago, I thoroughly recommend it to you for readers from around 6 years upwards.

Poo! and other words that make me laugh – Felice Arena/Tom Jellett

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Harper Collins Australia

January 2020

  • ISBN: 9780733341427
  • ISBN 10: 073334142X
  • Imprint: ABC Books – AU
  • List Price: 19.99 AUD

Kids love words – there’s no doubt about that all – and they particularly love rambunctious words I have found. One time, when I taught my darling Year 1/2 class about onomatopoeia in our little school (just 100 kids), they were so delighted with being able to say it. I swore them to secrecy to not, under any circumstances, tell the Year 7s when they went out to the playground – as ‘those big kids, you know, they’re not good with difficult words’ ;-). Naturally the first thing they all did was run shrieking at any big kid they saw “We can say ‘onomatopoeia’ and you can’t!’. It was rather amusing.

Of course, ‘poo’ is a very popular word with little kiddos especially but just think how you could enrich them with words such as squeegee, dilly-dally and succotash!

That’s what this riotously funny book is all about – the magic of weird and wonderful words. Tom Jellett’s always distinctive illustrations fill each page with glorious colour and vibrancy and the children will just lap it all up. The addition of a glossary to inform the reader of meanings of the crazy words is a superb touch!

This will easily springboard into an ongoing word wall with some little word detectives sleuthing out some additional unusual, quirky or obsolete words to build into their burgeoning vocabularies. I’m pretty sure that it will also be a pretty simple step towards moving away from ‘POO!’ into something far more hilarious for common usage – ‘bumbershoot’ perhaps?

Highly recommended for fun and learning for little – or even bigger – readers from around 3 years upwards.

The Fire Wombat – Jackie French. Illustrated by Danny Snell.

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Harper Collins Australia

October 2020

  • ISBN: 9781460759332
  • ISBN 10: 1460759338
  • Imprint: HarperCollins – AU
  • List Price: 19.99 AUD

A year ago Australia was gripped by the raging fires that were sweeping through so many areas with ferocity causing so much devastation in their wake that the whole world was gasping as the scenes were broadcast. According to sources the destruction wreaked by Black Summer was unprecedented: 72 000 square miles burnt, 5 900 buildings destroyed (around half of these homes) and 34 people lost their lives. An estimated three billion land animals were impacted with some endangered species suspected to be now extinct. The Kid and I were visiting family in the Blue Mountains and the constant vigilance and state of alert around the fires that kept springing up across the ranges was both exhausting and stressful. Jackie French was just one of thousands evacuated when her home came under threat and given that the valley in which she lives is heavily populated with wildlife she was a firsthand witness to the dreadful impact on our native species.

With so many animals displaced and their food/water supplies destroyed an army of volunteers took on the role of providing fodder and clean water for thousands of creatures who otherwise would have succumbed as victims in the aftermath.

The Fire Wombat is just one of these and Jackie has crafted a beautiful testament in rhyme to illustrate the survival of our fauna, both with their own instincts and the compassionate help of so many.

One small wombat realises that bushfire is approaching and leads other animals to the shelter of her burrow, knowing that underground is the safest place to be. When the inferno has passed the creatures emerge and try to make their way out of the charred remains of their home territory, scalding their paws as they traverse the baked earth. But the fires have destroyed everything – grass, seeds, foliage, creeks and waterholes. If not for the legion of helpers dropping tons of carrots and other fodder as well as providing water, the decimation of our native wildlife would have been even greater. Jackie has captured this moving moment in our history beautifully and Danny Snell’s illustrations are a perfect accompaniment providing visual insight into the terrible destruction of the forests and mountainsides.

A truly beautiful book to both springboard discussions about supporting our fragile environment, caring for our wildlife and preparing for as well as recovering from bushfire season.

Watch Jackie’s video clip of the real Fire Wombat – now chubby and healthy after her recuperation.

You can find other images of animal rescue from Black Summer here at the Atlantic and an inspiring video of the work done by volunteers in saving animals.

I cannot recommend this highly enough – I would encourage multiple copies for your collection – and teaching notes are also available which will provide excellent scaffolding for use in your library or classroom.

Friday Barnes #9: No Escape – R. A. Spratt

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Penguin Australia

  • February 2021
  • ISBN: 9781760895761
  • Imprint: Puffin
  • RRP: $15.99

R. A. Spratt (aka Rachel) said to me ‘NO spoilers’ when I mentioned I was about to review this new Friday Barnes instalment and given she is both fit and feisty albeit small, I am not about to quibble! So here’s my rather ‘different’ review ;-).

A) Friday is now the same age as The Kid – growing up indeed!

B) The Kid will be going on her first ever school camp this year as she commences Year 10 at her new school and I will be running full checks on any accompanying teachers – just saying.

C) We live with an Italian, and know others, and I have come to the conclusion that they are ALL crazy!

D) When I reviewed #8 in the series on this blog two years ago I commented that I almost had a full-scale riot in my library when I said it would (as I had been told) be the last in the series. Like me, my kiddos just love Friday so much – so they are going to go wild when this new one appears when school goes back.

As with the others in this series there is loads of action and double doses of laugh-out-loud humour as Friday continues to awkwardly navigate her way through confronting social and emotional situations without ever losing her brilliance and genius-level powers of deduction. I loved it, your kids will love it too. I strongly suggest buying multiple copies so put it on your orders list now!!!!

Thanks so much R. A. for bringing Friday back – you know how much we all love her – horrible brown cardigan, porkpie hat, quirky but smart and, above all, the kid you’d most want to have as your friend.

Check out the blurb here at Penguin – then I can’t be blamed for any spoilers!!

Highly recommended for readers from around mid-primary upwards.

Coffee and laughs at the Shingle Inn – memorable outing!!

Timeline: Science and Technology – Peter Goes

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Gecko Press

Country of OriginBelgium
Reader Age11-14 year, 6-8 year, 8-12 year
PublishedOctober 2020
ISBN9781776573004

This is exactly the type of information book that appealed to me, the nerd-child, and still does. Big, bold and beautiful, Peter Goes’ distinctive illustrative style takes the reader through the development of technology and science through history with each double spread featuring a specific time frame.

Exploring science including information tech and medicine, music and entertainment as well as everyday living this journey begins with prehistoric man and concludes in 2020 with insights into objects and concepts as diverse as early flutes, the evolution of farm equipment, discovery of DNA, the printing press, advances in architecture and so much more. It would be a marvellous springboard for classroom discussions or project based learning on such discoveries and inventions.

Children from around seven years upwards will pore over each double spread closely examining each aspect of the period described and they will absolutely LOVE the fact that its such a gigantic book!

I foresee this will be very highly sought after by both the children who love to walk out of the library carrying a book almost as big as themselves as well as those who are genuinely interested in STEM and related topics.

Highly recommended for kiddos from around Year 3 upwards.

Peppa Pig is back !

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Penguin Australia

Peppa Pig: Peppa’s Night Before Christmas

  • ISBN: 9780241448625
  • October 2020
  • Imprint: Ladybird
  • RRP: $14.99

Unfortunately this one didn’t arrive in time for Christmas but that’s no reason to hesitate in getting a copy ready for later in the year. This is a really cute rhyming story taking its cue from Clement Moore’s famous poem. Peppa and George like all small children are very excited about Christmas but it looks like there’s more to do than decorate and wait. Santa has a problem – his sleigh lights are broken and that’s going to make it really difficult to navigate around the world. Luckily Peppa has a great idea – her toy unicorn with its magical light up horn will be just the thing! Whew!! Christmas is saved and of course there’s celebrations in store for everyone – though Daddy Pig is rather bemused to look out the window on Christmas morning to see Santa delivering back Peppa’s unicorn.

Peppa Pig: Peppa Loves Easter

  •  16 February 2021
  • ISBN: 9780241476406
  • Imprint: Ladybird
  • RRP: $14.99

On the other hand, this one has arrived in plenty of time for Easter. I don’t know about you but we have decided that our selection of Easter themed picture books is pretty tired and at times downright dreary so this will be a very popular addition. For little people in your circle – or for a gift for a first Easter – it will be just perfect!

This is truly adorable and if I were still working with little ones would definitely be inspired by the wonderful Easter egg-stravaganza Miss Rabbit organises for Peppa’s playgroup. Following a trail of clues the children decorate their own Easter cupcakes, make a card, decorate their own egg cup, walk through a field of pretty flowers and finally arrive to find lots of fluffy little chicks running around just waiting to be petted. All throughout this fun game the children are wondering where Miss Rabbit can be – after all she is the one who has organised all this for them. Among all the little chicks is a giant Easter egg – what could possibly be in it? A lovely surprise for the playgroup of course!

Both these titles have the delightful sparkly covers that are so enticing for little readers and both just beg to be read aloud.

Highly recommended for your tinies from around toddler upwards.