Author Archives: Sue Warren

About Sue Warren

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The Wearing of the Green – Claire Saxby

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Walker Books

April 2022

ISBN: 9781760653583
Imprint: Walker Books Australia
Australian RRP: $18.99
New Zealand RRP: $21.99

It is certainly no secret that I love historical fiction, and colonial Australian history is a particular favourite of mine. I loved this exciting new narrative from Claire Saxby – whose prowess with picture books is already so well established. Set just two years before my first ancestors arrived in this country, this recounts the importation of young Irish girls to become, essentially, servants and/or wives in a colony that was heavily male dominated. With Ireland in tatters after the Great Famine (also known as the Great Hunger, the Famine or the Potato Famine) and 1 million dead as a result, many young girls ( among others) faced uncertainty without family or home to shelter them. These girls were outfitted with a basic wardrobe and shipped to Australia, among them young Biddy Blackwell whose older brother has been out in the colony for some years.

When Biddy arrives and her brother Ewen is nowhere to be found, she is sent to work on a remote farm with a cruel master, an indifferent and downtrodden wife and finds she is little more than an unpaid slave. Surviving first the conditions in which she finds herself, but then even worse after her master’s first wife dies and he brings home a new one, equally as nasty as himself, Biddy manages a daring escape following the mayhem of a flood, and finds herself back in the city under the protection of the hostel. While she discovers some clues as to Ewen’s possible location, she needs to restrain herself and finds herself working for an eccentric but kind journalist as his ‘eyes and ears’ in the courtrooms of Melbourne.

The prejudices and persecution with which the Irish immigrants are faced is rising fast and when Biddy attends the court sessions and sees one well-known dissenter, Brendan Black, she is elated to find she has finally discovered her missing brother. Naturally, his situation presents some problems but with the help of new friends and supporters, the way is made smoother and Biddy can finally hope for a new start, complete with family.

Claire Saxby’s inspiration for this novel was her own family history and this little known episode in Australia’s history is important to understand as its impact on the rise of concepts such as fair pay and work conditions cannot be under-estimated.

Highly recommended for readers from upper primary to mid-secondary and for students of Australian history, this is certainly a prime candidate for ‘read around your topic’.

Pearly and Pig and the Great Hairy Beast – Sue Whiting

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Walker Books Australia

March 2022

ISBN: 9781760653590
Imprint: Walker Books Australia
Australian RRP: $15.99

This is quite simply, really good fun! For some reason, it put me very much in mind of the old Rocky & Bullwinkle cartoons (which those elderly people such as myself will recall) especially with the almost absurd characters and situations.

Pearly Woe is the epitome of anxiety-ridden child. From a long line of stealth adventurers, of The Adventurologists’ Guild, she feels she can never live up to the exploits or expectations of her parents or grandparents. Her constant worrying will certainly provide a fine opportunity to discuss mental hwell-being with children – increasing numbers of whom are becoming more and more prone to anxiety.

When her parents are kidnapped, it falls to Pearly and her trusty companion, Pig, to mount a rescue. Her ability to speak to animals is her greatest skill and Pig’s ability to literally sniff out danger, as well as truth, make them a potentially formidable pair – if only Pearly can find some self-confidence.

The nasty Emmeline Woods (every bit as despicable as Natasha Fatale ever was!) is not in pursuit of The Great Hairy Beast to film it for a documentary. She’s a big game hunter intent on the kill of the century and is completely ruthless about achieving her goal.

How on earth can one small girl and a talented pig defeat such a nemesis? Luckily, Pearly and Pig stumble across the Professor and once they do, the game plan changes, and plucky Pearly demonstrates that she is most worthy of membership of the Guild.

This really will delight your young readers from around Year 3 upwards – with its humour as well as the concepts of trust, self-belief, friendship and family.

The First Tackle: Girls with Game – Rikki-Lee Arnold

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Wombat Books

March 2022

SKU: 9781761110818

RRP $14.99

Speaking from the point of view of the primary school girl who loved rugby league with a passion – and played before school and every break time with some equally determined girls, I absolutely loved this book. Back in my day it really was unheard of for girls to play footy, but it always surprises me to find out that in some pockets of society it’s still not considered either suitable or feasible.

Young Daniella Murphy is out to prove her family and other doubters wrong. In a family dominated by males who all play league, this feisty young girl is determined to become part of the game she loves. Her grandma is totally opposed, her Dad refuses to be drawn on the subject, younger brothers and other boys are scornful but she at least has her older brother for support and then, unexpectedly, finds more aid in places she never imagined.

This is a ripping read for girls with big dreams but especially those who have a burning ambition to make it big in sport – particularly one that has long been the domain of males. Rikki-Lee Arnold’s first novel has a real ring of authenticity as she brings her knowledge and insight as a sports journalist to an inspirational narrative for young readers. I for one, would love to see the next instalment – are we going to follow Dani’s growth as a player?

Kiddos from around Year 4 upwards to Year 7 – particularly of course girls who are as footy-obsessed as I once was – will love it. A great addition to your collection as the season starts to heat up!

From the very start to the very end – #goDragons #RedV

Seven Days- Fleur Ferris

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Penguin Australia

May 2022

  • ISBN: 9781761043352
  • Imprint: Puffin
  • RRP: $16.99

I really do love a good countdown action/adventure and Fleur Ferris has brought her masterful manipulation of tension into a fantastic new narrative for middle school readers. In similar fashion to her hugely successful and popular suspenseful stories for YA kiddos, this one follows a cracking pace from the very first page.

Ben is really angry with his father, who seems to be far more interested in his high-flying corporate job crushing people and the environment, than in Ben. And now, much to his complete disgust, Ben is being packed off to the country to spend a week with his aunt, uncle and cousin – a fate too horrible to contemplate from this teen’s point of view. It’s not that he thinks his aunt and uncle are awful, it’s just that his cousin is so much more adept than him dealing with country type stuff like animals and motorbikes and physical activity. Ben is really far more citified than he cares to admit at times.

The very last thing that Ben imagines happening is to become embroiled in a generations-old family feud, a murder mystery and a treasure hunt which ends up in the enclosure of two very cranky hippos at the nearby zoo. Ben has set his watch the minute he arrives in Manibee to countdown until it’s time to go back home, but now that seven days ticking away is how long he has to solve a century-old crime, work out the location of an almost mythical cache of stolen jewelry – oh, and actually survive the dangers on all sides.

With the unexpected assistance of his cousin Josh, with whom he finally develops a far more friendly relationship, as well as the even more surprising aid from Josh’s crush, Olivia, of the very family that despises their own (a nice little Romeo & Juliet twist here), Ben manages to unearth the long lost stolen goods, prove the solution of the crime, and resolve the family feud but not without a dramatic plot twist that will make readers’ heads spin!

With lots to say about family, misleading appearances, values and beliefs, friendship and acceptance of differences, your readers from around Year 6 upwards will truly relish this fast-paced thrilling ride.

Highly recommended for middle primary/lower secondary – this is an author to whom your kiddos will love an introduction!

Gus and the Starlight – Victoria Carless

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Harper Collins

May 2022

  • ISBN: 9781460760642
  • ISBN 10: 1460760646
  • Imprint: HarperCollins AU
  • List Price: 16.99 AUD

This is such a completely fresh take on both family stories and ghost stories. It is charming, poignant and thoroughly engaging for readers from around mid-primary to lower secondary.

Gus is tired of moving house and never belonging anywhere. It’s the reason she refuses to make friends. When her mother packs her, her older sister and younger brother, up yet again and they basically escape the ugly situation with Mum’s boyfriend, things don’t look like getting any better. They wind up in a little hick town, where they start living in an abandoned and reputedly haunted drive-in movie theatre in exchange for getting it up and running. Much to the surprise of the nasty employer (but not quite owner) and to Gus, her family actually begins to turn this enterprise into somewhat of a success. That doesn’t mean though, that she’s going to make friends. She’s choosing not to like her new teacher or the project she’s doing with her strange science partner, with whom she most certainly is not going to be friends. She really doesn’t want to love being the projectionist at the Starlight and she definitely does not want to hang out with the strange boy she sees around the drive-in.

There are all kinds of ghosts in life – the ones that are those who have passed on but also the ones who are very much alive but choose to pursue from the past. Gus learns to deal with both kinds as well as discovering new skills and depths to herself, of which she had no idea prior to coming to this quiet little town. As well, her family grows and slowly flourishes, like blooms in a freshly-dug garden bed, as they all find true acceptance in their new home.

This will definitely find an audience with your readers particularly around year 5-7, both boys and girls, as its appeal is wide.

The Boy Who Hatched Monsters- T. C. Shelley

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Bloomsbury Publishing

March 2022

ISBN9781526600790
ImprintBloomsbury Children’s Books

RRP: $14.99

This is just an absolutely marvellous conclusion to T. C. Shelley’s trilogy and Sam’s struggle for both acceptance and a real family. Readers who love such stories as How to Train Your Dragon and The House with Chicken Legs (with rather more darkness) or Neil Gaiman’s magical fantasies (but with rather more light) will love this series. Don’t let your older readers be misled by the covers – which are gorgeous in themselves but lend themself to a more primary audience – because I’ve had a lot of Year 7s and 8s reading these and just loving them. I think they will be happy/sad that Sam’s epic journey has come to a beautiful end.

Sam, half monster/half fairy, has not only that secret to keep but many others. For example, there’s the one about his pack – the gargoyles who protect him, and the one about his school friends, the shape shifters who can change into dogs at will. There’s also the one about the rumour that he is the new King of Ogres and that Queen Maggie, the very nasty faerie who purports to be his mother, is delighted to find out that has more powers than she had imagined. Not to mention that he’s hatched a tiny gargoyle just by sneezing – and that the Kavanagh family, with whom he is fostered, are, in fact, his real family, from whom he was stolen many years before. Sam is not one to bow down and do evil, no matter how high the stakes, so he must find a way forward to defeat Maggie and create a new world for monsterkind. With the aid of his pack and his own innate goodness and ability to express kindness to all, he is well on his way to a fitting climax to his arduous battle.

There is high drama, and much humour. There is unswerving belief in acting with integrity, and there is unshakeable loyalty. There is a wonderful lesson in diversity and accepting differences, and, above all, the importance of love, especially that for family and friends.

I have loved this series so much – and I am also happy/sad that it has come to an end but I do look forward very much to T. C. Shelley’s next foray into writing – particularly if it is for upper primary/lower secondary.

Highly recommended for your lovers of magical fantasy from around 9 years upwards.

Teaching notes from the author

The Very Hungry Caterpillar’s Bug Hunt: a lift-and-learn book

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Penguin Australia

  • April 2022
  • ISBN: 9780241553503
  • Imprint: Puffin
  • Format: Board Book
  • RRP: $14.99
You know when you put together the art and charm of Eric Carle and lift-the-flap fun, you have a winning combination. When that fun becomes learning as well, it’s a beautiful bonus.

Your littlest readers are going to love this. Every page is pure classic Carle and the fact that there are several flaps on each spread will just send them into paroxysms of squealing joy. Aside from finding the mini-critters, you can focus on some prepositions and rhyme – what more could you want? Well of course, just delight in reading :-).

I anticipate this will be a read-aloud on high rotation in many homes and libraries too. Whether you have a little one to buy for, or a creche, playgroup or kinder – or your Preppies – this will make a super addition and a terrific springboard to some nature observations.

More Celebrating Harry’s Anniversary!!

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COMPETITION:

As we get ready to celebrate 25 years of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Bloomsbury Publishing wants to hear YOUR memories of your first reading experiences of Harry Potter. On 26th June 2022 (the anniversary itself) Bloomsbury will release a video of fans’ first memories of reading Harry Potter.

Get your entries to Bloomsbury for a chance to be featured in the video AND for a chance to win a signed copy by J.K. Rowling of the anniversary edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (publishing 9th June).

Competition closes 10 April. Enter here: bit.ly/3qvPBiv

Ceremony: Welcome to Our Country – Adam Goodes & Ellie Laing. Illustrated by David Hardy.

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Allen & Unwin

April 2022

ISBN: 9781761065064

RRP: $24.99

Oh David Hardy, you have excelled yourself!

I think we have all been eagerly anticipating the next title in this Welcome to Our Country series, the joyful introduction to First Nations history for younger readers, especially given the triumph of the first title Somebody’s Land. For me, this new addition surpasses that first, with not only another superb text which perfectly expresses the meaning and importance of Ceremony for our Aboriginal people but with David’s illustrations which just completely win me over. Frankly, they always do but the utter expressiveness and joyous delight in the faces of the book’s characters is just sensational!  The gorgeous artwork also depicts traditional landscapes and the native wildlife which would have surrounded those living on Country and little readers will love spotting and naming these.

Welcome, children!
Nangga! Nangga! Yakarti!
Tonight will be our Ceremony.

This is about family, tradition, Country and culture and for non-Aboriginal children provides a deceptively simple and vivid insight into the history of the world’s oldest continuous culture. I particularly love those words from Adam’s language group, the Adnyamthanha, featured throughout, with the bonus of a visual glossary via the glorious endpapers (yes, that’s me – always obsessed with endpapers!). Additionally, a QR code allows readers to listen to the story and hear the words for themselves – what an absolutely fabulous idea! 

Once again, a rhythmic rhyming text will have your little ones chanting along with you at every reading and, no doubt, they will be up on their feet ready to ‘shake a leg’ themselves.  In my opinion, these are simply a must for your collection – home, library or classroom – as we are all ready to move our great country closer towards a true conciliation between all our people. This year with the upcoming CBCA Book Week theme along with a terrifically powerful NAIDOC theme, is the prime time to be curating your collection of First Nations kid lit.  I not only highly recommend them for your readers from early childhood upwards but strongly urge you to rush out and add them to your catalogue.