Author Archives: Sue Warren

About Sue Warren

Teacher-librarian http://about.me/suewarren https://www.pinterest.com/losangz/

The Build-Up Season – Megan Jacobson

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Penguin Random House

9780143573388

July 31, 2017

Penguin (AU YR)

 

RRP $19.99

What a fantastic and gripping read this is! This one had to be read over two nights but it was a wrench to leave it halfway!

Ily (Iliad) Piper is a young woman who has had to face many emotional upheavals in her life and now as a young woman is dealing with the backlash of them. Her father is in jail after years of physical and mental abuse of her mother, Eve, and indeed Ily herself. Ily is living in Darwin now with her mother and her Nan but is sullen and resentful of the past few years when she has been sent away to boarding schools.  She doesn’t realise that this was a safety precaution on the part of her mum and nan, she is just pissed off with them both.  The only thing she enjoys at her new school is her rather quirky friend Mia and her Art which she hopes to turn into a career. Then she hooks up with Jared – self-obsessed, angry and a control freak, just like her father.  Despite all advice from friends including the annoying next door neighbour, Indigenous boy Max, Ily pursues the relationship with Jared and falls into the same trap as her mother had done before her.

This is a brilliant and insightful exploration of the nature of domestic abuse of women and how behaviours become patterns. Fortunately for Ily she has ‘look outs’ on her side. Her mum, her nan, Max, Mia and more are there at exactly the right moments to protect her both from Jared and from her father, recently released from jail.

There are some sensitive aspects to this which may preclude it from your secondary collection such as sexual activity, violence and profanity but truly it is such an exceptional book that examines such a topical issue I would still urge you to consider it, even with provisos.

Highly recommended for mature readers from around sixteen years upwards.

The Snow Angel – Lauren St John

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Harper Collins

Zephyr Books/Head of Zeus

ISBN  9781786695895

October 2017

RRP $19.99

 

It’s a long way from the wide blue skies and shimmering heat haze of Kenya to the bleak snow covered moors of Inverness and for 12 year old Makena the journey is not just a geographical one.

Much loved only child of a science teacher mother and a mountain guide father, Makena burns with passion for the mountains and climbing reckoning them her friends. When her parents are caught up in the Ebola outbreak on a mercy mission to Sierra Leone and die there, Makena’s world implodes into grief, loss of identity and homelessness. A spectacularly unsuccessful relocation to her paternal uncle’s poor home where his wife treats Makena as an unpaid servant ends abruptly and Makena finds herself fending for herself in the slums of Nairobi. Surviving like a gutter rat for a month or more, she is then swept up in a redevelopment which ruthlessly bulldozes the slums and she then finds herself rescued by a charitable organisation for girls and meets Helen. Just as Makena is recuperating from her trauma and a case of cholera, Helen has disappeared back to her parents’ home in Scotland and once again Makena feels herself abandoned.  But unexpectedly, arrangements are made for the young girl to spend a month over Christmas in the wilds of Scotland.  No spoilers here but suffice to say there is a happy ending for all.

This is just beautiful. It is warm and moving and oozes love despite the sadness threading throughout it. It is also somewhat mystical with the recurring motif of a special fox that seems to be akin to a guardian angel. There are lots of points of discussion; forgotten/orphaned children, civil war, rich vs poor, healing and the power of nature and love.

I read this in one sitting (well, lying down last night in bed) as I couldn’t put it down.  Lauren St John’s books about Africa have been wildly popular in my library for the past year or so and my prediction is that this will be just as enthusiastically received.

Check out Lauren’s website here and the book trailer here.

Highly recommended for readers from around ten years upwards.

Magic Faraway Tree

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The upcoming anniversary of Enid Blyton’s birth prompted me to start preparing a display for the occasion – particularly as I thought the Faraway Tree also fitted so well with this year’s Book Week theme of Escape to Everywhere.  The tree is pretty much ready as well as some Enid Blyton bunting, some vintage and new books, a vintage Famous Five card game (as it’s also the 70th anniversary of the FF) and even some Enid Blyton earrings 🙂 as well as my ‘dress up’. Pretty excited that after arriving at my new school I discover that this will be the theme for a very special Year 2 morning tea this term! Huzzah!!!!

Would love to hear what other people might be doing as well!

 

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Ruby Redfort: Pick Your Poison [#5] – Lauren Child

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9780007334278

Harper Collins

May 2017

ISBN10 0007334273

RRP $14.99

So about a week or so before I finished my last job (a month ago now) one of my favourite girls, Miss Georgia from Year 6, followed me into the library one morning, her face aglow. “Oh Ms Warren – I just finished reading the BEST book!”  Yes, it was this one.  I freely admitted I had not yet read a Ruby Redfort book – probably because due to Year 4/5/6 girls they were NEVER on the shelves! I did tell her however I was expecting this one in my next review parcel so have finally finished it. Being quite a bit longer than some I undertake and only reading at night the last week or so I had to just restrain myself to a few chapters each session.

All that being said once I got into the swing of it I did enjoy it. Ruby is kind of the girl equivalent of Alex Rider (in fact, I suggested AR to Georgia and she was onto the last couple for the holidays, having eaten them up!).  Ruby is a bit mouthy and a bit of a loose cannon but has found herself due to her uncanny ability to solve puzzles and codes working for Spectrum as an undercover agent. This is gumshoe detective genre updated and uses quite a lot of the terminology, especially given Ruby’s and her friends’ propensity for crime shows. The villains are almost as comic book as those in Batman with perhaps a touch more evil added.

I think what I particularly like about this book is the absolutely stunning code. I’m no mathematician, as many can attest, but I can appreciate the ‘neatness’ of this particular cryptic puzzle.

Not really much need to ‘sell’ this one because I know it will be a hot favourite in any library. If you have already bought the hardback, I suggest you double up with this paperback – apparently there is no such thing as TOO much Ruby Redfort!  Georgia, you were quite correct – it’s a great read!

Goodly and Grave in a Bad Case of Kidnap – Justine Windsor

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Harper Collins

ISBN: 9780008183530

Imprint: HarperCollinsChildren’sBooks

May 2017

Lucy Goodly has been won in a game of cards against the strange Lord Grave, despite the fact that she has a  magical card to help her win. Her parents are inveterate gamblers – unsuccessful ones at that – and this time they have lost their only child who is now to be the new boot girl at Grave Hall.

Lucy finds some weird characters at the Hall including the bearded cook Mrs Crawley and Vonk the butler but also discovers a new friend in Violet the little scullery maid. However, there are strange things happening at this grand estate with its grounds filled with exotic animals.

As Lucy tries her best to figure out a way to escape her circumstances, news reports of missing children are increasing and when Violet too goes missing, Lucy decides it’s time to act. Little does she know she’s about to become embroiled in a war of magic – good against evil – and she has a hard time figuring out which side is which.

Why is the Red Lady from whom Lucy ‘acquired’ her magic card locked away in a remote tower with a little boy and two of the missing children? And what has the odious Havoc, once an enchanted raven, have to do with it all?

This is number one in a new series which children from around ten years up will enjoy both for its mystery and its humour. Illustrated throughout by Becka Moor the reader will get a very clear idea of just how strange Grave Hall and its occupants are as well as satisfaction with justice well served.

Recommended for middle primary to early secondary readers.

Nursery Rhymes

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In the times when I was in the classroom I was for the most part an ‘Infants’ teacher as we were known then. I mostly taught Year 1 or 1/2. We knew the importance of nursery rhymes and they were always our entree into the world of language. From my observations it seems that less children are coming to school with a familiarity with these so this article is useful and revealing.

 

Penguin Random House Teachers’ Catalogue

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The amazing and oh so knowledgeable folk at PRH have produced this super catalogue for teachers and teacher-librarians. Stuffed to the gills with the most marvellous information, books, teaching ideas, activities, author insights and more.

This is like poring over the best book porn ever really. Divided into sections for ease of reference it includes feature articles, suggestions for Stages, DK books and curriculum resources. Of course, because these are BOOK people there is an index to help easily locate the desired item.

The very best thing you ask? It’s free!! Simply sign up to the Penguin Random House newsletter at penguin.com.au/teachers and get your copy! You won’t regret it because there is a wealth of sharing here.  Get yours now – meanwhile, I’m off to peruse and sticky note pages or circle book covers or even – OH NO! – dog ear pages!

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Paper Cranes Don’t Fly – Peter Vu

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Ford St

August 2017

ISBN 9781925272765

RRP $19.95

Exquisitely poignant and so beautifully written this is a young adult book which will touch the hearts of every reader. There have been other books that look at the lives of young people with life-threatening or terminal illnesses but this is the first I’ve read that really offers the reader true insight from the point of view of the patient.

Three young adults have grown up together as the closest of friends. From their first meeting in Prep they have been inseparable.  Adam, Ambrose (AJ) and Tess are the trio who form the centre of this novel. Their love for each other is deep and without reservation.  They are more bonded than some siblings and even in high school when they are at different locations they still are as close as ever. Except for the all times that Adam is in hospital but even then AJ and Tess are by his side as often as they can be either in person or via technology.

Adam has grown up with a small benign brain tumour but over the years the tumour has started to become more troublesome often causing extensive hospital visits. He is quite the favourite there as he has developed close relationships with staff. Just as these young people are about to step over the threshold into their adult lives, Adam’s tumour becomes even more aggressive and ultimately serves him a life sentence.

In the final long months of his life, Adam has started to write down his story from the first beginnings of friendship with his two closest companions to his daily life in the hospital. It is this which we read giving us an intimate and warming insight into the care of patients for whom hospital is a second home.  This is not only another ‘young cancer victim’ narrative but a deeply personal look at how unconditional love, support, patience and compassion can transform the unspeakable into something beautiful.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough. As we seek to model to our students the transformational effects of love and empathy, this is exactly the sort of book which can demonstrate this without preaching.

Highly recommended for readers from around 13 upwards.

Opposite Land – Charlotte Rose Hamlyn

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Penguin Random House

ISBN 9780143780816

July 31, 2017

Random House Australia Children’s

$14.99

Having a really bad first day at a new school and mother/daughter conflicts are nothing new but this new graphic novel for younger readers presents these in a completely fresh style.

Readers who enjoy cartoons of the Adventure Time ilk will really get into the comic style of the graphics as well as the strangeness of Opposite Land.  Steve has a terrible argument with her mum and storms off into her room with some stupid book that was her grandfather’s. It’s so ridiculous you can’t even read the writing in it. That is, until she happens to let it fall in front of the mirror and realises that the writing is all reversed.

As soon as she starts to read the words aloud Stevie is weirdly transported to Opposite Land where indeed everything is opposite!

Where socks wear feet,

Broccoli is meat,

Behind is ahead, and people

Poop from their head!

But that’s not the real problem with this crazy place. The country and its people are all in real danger from Emperor Never who took over when the last of the princesses disappeared. Now the Opposites believe that Stevie is that princess and she needs to save them.  Will Stevie be able to help and get back to her own land?

And more importantly, will her experience help her to sort things out with her mum and the new school?

Recommended for readers from around eight years upwards.