Author Archives: Sue Warren

About Sue Warren

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

Black Cockatoo – Carl Merrison and Hakea Hustler

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Magabala Books

 

Published: Jul 2018

 

ISBN: 9781925360707

RRP: $11.99

A beautiful novella that explores a coming-of-age experience for a young Aboriginal girl in the remote Kimberley region.

Mia is distressed at the increasing distance her brother is putting between himself and family. The growing turbulence within her family is hard for a 13 year old to contend with but the day she find an injured dirran (black cockatoo), her own totem animal is the start to an acceptance of the situation for her.

As she cares for the bird she begins to comprehend the wisdom of her elders around being true to oneself and one’s culture, resilience and inner strength. When Mia finally is able to release the beautiful bird she realises that she can indeed stand up for herself and weather the storms.

A short but powerful read that I would highly recommend for readers from around 12 years upwards.

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Crossing Ebenezer Creek – Tonya Bolden

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Bloomsbury Australia

Published: 01-08-2018
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9781681196992
Imprint: Bloomsbury YA
RRP $14.99

 

The wonderful thing about well-written, well-researched historical fiction is that you don’t just learn new information but that you can immerse yourself in the period and gain a far greater understanding than dry textbooks will offer. I openly admit that I know very little about the American Civil War beyond a little reading and several movies (after all, who hasn’t watched Gone With the Wind at least a dozen times?).

Hence I had no idea about the freed slaves who were part of Sherman’s march across Georgia – nor indeed the dreadful ending so many of them had. Naturally I knew that not all the Yankees were accepting of the freed slaves but to read of such vile wickedness is quite confronting.

Mariah and her young brother Zeke are freed from their heinous slavery and are two of the hundreds in the march. Caleb, a free-born man, is an indispensable assistant to the kind and compassionate Captain Galloway and takes on the role of protector, and indeed would be family to them both.

Along the often harsh march the ex-slaves share their various dreadful histories revealing much of a truly horrendous endurance.  But it is not all history as many perish at the hands of cruel supposed liberators even in the midst of their hopes and dreams of freedom.

The terrible crime at Ebenezer Creek needs to be told and told it is in the context of real human anguish and pain. Bolden has done a remarkable job of bringing this to the attention of young readers with the dignity and empathy that its victims deserve.

The frightening aspect is that so little has changed in many ways – either in the USA or here with our own First Australians – who are often still victimised and persecuted simply on the basis of race. Hopefully, there are enough of us who are prepared to continue to stand up to this schism in our society and eventually eradicate the evil forever.

Highly recommended for discerning readers from around 12 years upwards.

 

The Great Outback Adventure

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My Jen was a proud Wiradjuri woman and always encouraged her daughter, Not-So-Small, to grow in her culture. One of her greatest dreams was to take Not-So-Small to the Outback particularly Kakadu and Uluru. When she died in 2015 many kind people put much-appreciated donations towards a fund for me to be able to fulfil that dream. At the time it wasn’t enough but over the years, by dint of adding when I could I managed to acquire more dollars. A few months ago when a certain airline announced direct flights from Brisbane to Ayers Rock at a very reasonable price I knew it was doable – so booked our flights and some accommodation for the first few nights. Last Monday we took off on our adventure. We arrived at Ayers Rock Airport and headed straight out to Uluru for our first close-up look, taking Mummy in our hearts and minds.  After a look around the wonderful Cultural Centre – the highlight of which was watching some beautiful aunties painting we drove out to Kings Canyon where we spent the first three nights.

A walk along the canyon floor admiring the beauty of the amazing feature and another a day later exploring to Kathleen Springs were our main goals. We spotted wild camels, zebra finches, a bearded dragon, a wedge-tailed eagle and hawks all the while marvelling over the seemingly barren endless expanse of the Central Desert.

On Thursday we got up early and headed back to Uluru (spotting two dingos, including one black one! along the way) for a luxurious night at Sails in the Desert – how wonderful to have a free  upgrade to a terrace room! – with it’s sumptous grounds, pool and marvellous staff.  Back to the sacred rock for some more photos, a swim for Not-So-Small in the amazing pool (all to herself at the time!), a Bush Tucker talk and some lunch, then a little rest before a brilliant sunset scenic flight over the spectacular Kata Tjuta (The Olgas) and Uluru itself in a tiny Cessna – just the two of us and the pilot. What a truly wonderful experience that was – definitely the highlight – and our pilot so knowledgeable as well. Not-So-Small loved being up front next to him!

After an easy dinner with room service we headed off to the Field of Light art installation – another fantastic experience.

One day we might get to Kakadu as well – though Not-So-Small has requested Tasmania for our next adventure – next year! In the meantime, I know Jen would have been watching over her girl as she discovered more about her First Australian heritage and smiling.

Thank you to everyone who helped the dream come true xxx

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For Tweens and Teens – a selection

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You Are Awesome: Find Your Confidence and Dare to be Brilliant at (Almost) Anything: The Number One Bestseller

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– Matthew Syed

Hachette

APR 24, 2018 | 9781526361158 | RRP $19.99

 

This positive and empowering guide, by bestselling mindset author Matthew Syed, will help boys and girls build resilience, fulfil their potential and become successful, happy, awesome adults.

I think in most classrooms and schools these days we are all doing a lot of talking about positive mindset. Just last week celebrating the anniversary of ‘The Dot’  my Year 1s could all attest to the word ‘yet’ as in “I can’t do it – yet”.

Little guys take this idea up enthusiastically but tweens and teens often seem to struggle with it – after all they have a lot of other stuff going on with which to contend as well. So I think anything that might help them to set themselves on a more confident path can only be a winner – though it’s entirely possible they may read it discreetly away from their peers.

With this in mind the author has really pulled out everything to make this really easy to read and engaging with a bright graphic layout and has included stories of some really well known inspirational people such as J. K. Rowling and Serena Williams.

There is really a lot to like about this and I will certainly be promoting it particularly to certain of my Middle school students who don’t always realise their wonderfulness.

Highly recommended for readers from around 10 years upwards.

You Are Mighty: a guide to changing the world – Caroline Paul. Illustrated by Lauren Tamaki

mighty

Bloomsbury

May 2018

9781681198224

RRP $ 24.99

Those who’ve read this blog before will most likely be aware of my committed advocacy to the Mighty Girl philosophy, empowering our girls and young women to rise up in all arenas.

This is the perfect book for any girl in your sphere to imbue them with a sense of justice, an unshakeable confidence and a compassionate heart. The author has provided many ideas for being a ‘game-changer’ with DIY tips, life stories from those well-known such as Malala or lesser known – just regular kids who have chosen to create ripples in the world in which we live.

There is much humour here to leaven the more serious aspects of activism and intelligent thoughtful ‘gutsy girls’ will find much to which aspire and adhere as they traverse their adolescence.

Fabulous book for any sassy girl in your life circle or to encourage your middle/upper schools young women.

The Short & Curly Guide to Life – Dr Matt Beard and Klya Slaven

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Penguin Random House

9780143792185

October 1, 2018

Puffin

RRP:  $24.99

 

Dive into the mind-bending world of ethics with the Short & Curly team and their Brains Trust of researchers. Based on the hit ABC podcast!

Ok, I freely admit I’m not up with the podcast however I love having philosophical discussions with kids and actively instigating conversations around ethics. Often what is highly inflammatory and difficult for adults to talk about can be eminently simple and straightforward for kids. This is rather like a ‘how to’ for kids who are interested in the sorts of discussions that consider all kinds of situations.

Each section follows the same format with a proposed situation and then an ‘agent report’, “philoso-mail’, ‘agent debrief’ and ‘thinking questions’. Also included are research updates, fun facts and report run-downs.

Some pretty cute cartoon style illustrations round off the more serious side of the entire text and all in all I think that there would be many tweens that would be quite interested in this.

Readers from around 12 years upwards would be the most engaged I think.

 

Splat the Fake Fact! Adam Frost. Illustrations by Gemma Correll.

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Bloomsbury Australia

Published: 01-07-2018
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9781408889503
Imprint: Bloomsbury Children’s Books

RRP $14.99

Well, we hear a lot of talk about fake news these days so I think most kids will enjoy a book about fake facts and guessing which is true and which is not!

Woodlice have blue blood. Dead cabbage café is the name of a band. King Edward III banned football in England. Do your best to work out which is the fake fact!

Kids who (like me) are always in search of fascinating and completely irrelevant trivia will love this as well as enjoy bugging their friends with their ‘is it true?’ moments.

Very much in the style of a graphic novel with as many illustrations as text, this will also be a hit with those who are not keen readers I anticipate.

Anyone with kids will know (and possibly groan) the feeling of being beset by endless jokes and riddles when their young reader has discovered the joy of those books. This one will be equally as popular for plaguing adults I foresee!

Highly recommended for kids from around 8 years upwards.

 

High Five to the Boys: a celebration of ace Australian men

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Penguin Random House

9780143791782

July 30, 2018

Random House Australia Children’s

$29.99
Following on from the brilliant ‘Shout Out to the Girls’ comes this celebration of Australian males from days gone by to right up to the moment.

This format is so very suitable for young readers to dip into with snapshot mini-bio’s faced by funky illustrations. While it’s entirely possible that young readers may well know Eddie Woo far better than they know Weary Dunlop this is a wonderful resource for finding out more about a wide range of significant men in the Australian fabric of society. Encompassing males from all walks of life and, dare I say, class this will enlighten many a young reader and, it is hoped, prompt some to investigate further. With so many endless English assignments which look at ‘significant achievers’ at least this provides reader with some engaging and interesting factual text.

As with its companion book this one’s royalties go to the Smith Family which is a fabulous way to encourage the development and growth of more outstanding Australians.

Highly recommended for readers from around 10 years upwards.

 

 

 

Published: 01-07-2018
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9781408889503
Imprint: Bloomsbury Children’s Books

Bloomsbury Australia

RRP $14.99

Well, we hear a lot of talk about fake news these days so I think most kids will enjoy a book about fake facts and guessing which is true and which is not!

Woodlice have blue blood. Dead cabbage café is the name of a band. King Edward III banned football in England. Do your best to work out which is the fake fact!

Kids who (like me) are always in search of fascinating and completely irrelevant trivia will love this as well as enjoy bugging their friends with their ‘is it true?’ moments.

Very much in the style of a graphic novel with as many illustrations as text, this will also be a hit with those who are not keen readers I anticipate.

Anyone with kids will know (and possibly groan) the feeling of being beset by endless jokes and riddles when their young reader has discovered the joy of those books. This one will be equally as popular for plaguing adults I foresee!

Highly recommended for kids from around 8 years upwards.

 

High Five to the Boys: a celebration of ace Australian men

Penguin Random House

9780143791782

July 30, 2018

Random House Australia Children’s

$29.99
Following on from the brilliant ‘Shout Out to the Girls’ comes this celebration of Australian males from days gone by to right up to the moment.

This format is so very suitable for young readers to dip into with snapshot mini-bio’s faced by funky illustrations. While it’s entirely possible that young readers may well know Eddie Woo far better than they know Weary Dunlop this is a wonderful resource for finding out more about a wide range of significant men in the Australian fabric of society. Encompassing males from all walks of life and, dare I say, class this will enlighten many a young reader and, it is hoped, prompt some to investigate further. With so many endless English assignments which look at ‘significant achievers’ at least this provides reader with some engaging and interesting factual text.

As with its companion book this one’s royalties go to the Smith Family which is a fabulous way to encourage the development and growth of more outstanding Australians.

Highly recommended for readers from around 10 years upwards.

Bonkers About Beetles – Owen Davey

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Walker Books

ISBN: 9781911171485
Imprint: NB – Flying Eye
Release Date: August 1, 2018
Australian RRP: $27.99
New Zealand RRP: $29.99

  • I love Flying Eye books (I may have mentioned that once or twice)
  • I love Owen Davey’s wonderful non-fiction series which brings a world of nature, science and history to kids in a remarkably attractive way.

My own girl, no-longer-Small, just loves bugs of all kinds and has kept them as pets at various times and she’s certainly not the only one who has a fascination for these marvellous creatures (though some think they have way too many legs for comfort).

With chapters such as ‘Dressed for Success’, ‘Beetle Mythology’ and ‘Conservation’ this book covers the immense scope of beetles with admirable and judicious selection of facts bound to intrigue young readers.  I particularly love the double spread on ‘By Design’ with its hugely informative labelling.

As well as writing the body of the text in an easily accessible manner suited to young readers, Davey also ensures that scientific terminology and nomenclature is included, thus providing extension for the more able reader.

 

The illustrations in their uniquely stylised manner are, as always, simply gorgeous. This is the sort of book (as are others in the series) that children will return to over and over again.

I highly recommend this for your budding entomologists from around eight years upwards.

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Collecting Sunshine – Rachel Flynn & Tamsin Ainslie

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Penguin Random House

9780143785187

September 3, 2018

Imprint: Viking

 

RRP: $22.99

Like all small children Mabel and Robert love to collect things on their walks (ahh yes, the days when I had to take snap lock bags with me for Small’s treasures) and they pick up all kinds of marvellous finds: beautiful stones, interesting sticks, seeds and berries (ours were often feathers!).

Mabel and Robert take a paper bag for their collecting but alas! when the rain comes pouring down the bag is a disaster and the collection is lost.

Undeterred, the pair determines to keep on collecting and so they find such delights as a bird song, a dog smell, the taste of a fence and the touch of a wall.  When they get home their collection is transferred to drawings and paintings which will continue to give them pleasure. The double page spreads and the divine end papers are a perfect foil for this gentle story and its themes.

This is not only a gorgeous insight into imagination and the magical world of little ones but a gentle reminder to all of us that is not ‘things’ that give us the greatest pleasures, rather the experiences and the memories we make.

Highly recommended for little ones from around Prep up.

Download an activity pack here.

Inheritance – Carole Wilkinson

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Walker Books

ISBN: 9781760650360
Imprint: Black Dog Books
Release Date: September 1, 2018
Australian RRP: $17.99
New Zealand RRP: $19.99

Carole Wilkinson has created a superbly plausible narrative which realistically weaves historic realism from Australia’s past from the perspective of both First Australians and early white settlers putting an ugly side to the beginnings of our modern nation in full view. For too long much of this history has been ignored or whitewashed (pun intended) in order to placate a national consciousness.

Fourteen year old Nic (Veronica) has been left in the care of her taciturn grandfather in the old family homestead out in the country. Her mother, whom Nic lost when she was born, grew up here and Nic longs to find out more about her. She also wonders why the once grandiose sprawling homestead has become so rundown and neglected and so finds more than one mystery to solve.  Her start at a new school is not very encouraging but she at least can assimilate into the ‘loners’ group. Most especially disturbing for her is the instant antipathy from Thor, another loner, whose grievance against her seems to be solely based upon her family name.

While Nic discovers a strange gift inherited from her Scottish female side – the ability to time travel – and begins to unravel secrets about her pioneering family, Thor is trying to find evidence of a truth he knows to be so with regards to the tragedy of his own people, the Djargurd wurrung, original occupiers of the area.

After their inauspicious start Nic and Thor end up joining forces to uncover the truth of their own family histories and a start to reconciliation though not without many disconcerting discoveries, including the real story of Nic’s mother.

For those who have not read Bruce Pascoe’s excellent book Dark Emu there will be much to learn here about largely unknown First Australian culture, settlements and agriculture. The oft-repeated stereotyping of the ‘hunter/gatherer/nomadic’ society who did nothing to entitle them keeping their land is thoroughly de-bunked – a falsehood perpetuated as some kind of justification for the dispossession of our indigenous peoples.  For those who are not aware of the heinous actions of some early settlers, there will also be disturbing revelations about the conduct of some of those often held up as examples of founders of white settlements.

Young readers may well be dismayed to find out such history but it is important to know if we, as a nation, are to move forward with the gathering momentum towards full recognition and reconciliation. It has already taken too long and many older people would prefer to ignore the truth so it is essential that our youth know the real facts.  Historical fiction such as this, based squarely on actual events, goes a long way towards this.

I highly recommend this book to readers from Upper Primary upwards and think it is a valuable addition to a ‘read around your topic’ for students of history.

 

The Princess in Black and the Science Fair Scare – Shannon Hale & Dean Hale. Illustrated by LeUyen Pham

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Penguin Random House

Hardcover | $14.99
Published by Candlewick
Sep 25, 2018

ISBN 9780763688271

Without a doubt this series is one of the most popular with our newly independent readers. There is rarely a copy left in the series box and also sold out rapidly at our recent book fair.  They are not just the right level for these readers but have some vibrant illustrations and contain some great incidental information or concepts.

As one might guess by this title this one has some very useful science embedded in the wacky story line of a volcano experiment gone wrong after having some monster hair added to its mix. Luckily Princess Magnolia forgets her nervousness about her seeds and plants poster, zips into her Princess in Black alter-ego and along with her scientifically minded princess friends is able to resolve the problem satisfactorily.

This series has shed an entirely new light on princesses (they are far removed from the Disney variety) with resourcefulness, resilience and cooperation to the fore and also embrace an inclusive slant with their depiction of the various girls.

All in all it has a lot to offer for young readers with fun as well as some great values.

Highly recommended for readers from around six years upwards.

Monster Party – The Children from Rawa with Alison Lester & Jane Godwin

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Magabala Books

September 2018

ISBN:9781925360554

RRP: $17.99

Described by the publisher as an ‘explosion of fun and pure joy’ this is a delightfully riotous and exuberant picture book full of colour and humour. The Rawa Community School is on the edge of the Great Sandy Desert and the children there helped to write the text along with Alison and Jane and provided all the cut-out illustrations. What an experience it must have been for all as these two celebrated authors worked alongside the middle school students drawing out all their creativity and their own Martu cultural knowledge.

Some very crazy looking monsters emerge from Dora Lake giving the children a little scare before going completely bonkers all around the place, even to school which completely disrupts a good day’s learning!

Loaded with rhyme, rhythm and some wonderful onomatopoeia cleverly highlighted in large colourful fonts, this will be a real hit with little ones either to read by themselves or as an enthusiastic read-aloud.

Highly recommended for little readers from around toddlers upwards!

The Adventures of Catvinkle – Elliot Perlman

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Penguin Random House

9780143786368

October 1, 2018

Puffin

RRP $19.99

 

Well regarded author of adult books Elliot Perlman has ably proven that he can turn his hand just as easily to writing for children with this first book for younger readers. It is delightfully whimsical and carries a literary flavour of its Amsterdam setting within its text with an enviable ease (very reminiscent of Annie M. G. Schmidt’s beautiful classics).

 

Catvinkle is a much pampered only pet of a charming barber in Amsterdam. She is exceedingly beautiful and certainly talented in some ways but also very definitely selfish and rather casual with the truth. When her owner Mr Sabatini brings home a rather forlorn and neglected Dalmation named Ula, Catvinkle is extremely unimpressed to say the least. An intruder into her cosy parlour and water bowl and a dog to boot is the last thing with which she wants to contend. It will completely ruin her social standing in Kittens Anonymous for one thing!

 

Ula’s sweet nature and compliant personality win Catvinkle over slowly (of course her delicious musky smell which acts intoxicatingly on the cat helps) but it also endears her to others as she breaks down barriers between not only cats and dogs but dogs and dogs!

 

The subtle themes of anti-racism, anti-bullying, acceptance, tolerance, friendship and loyalty are delivered in a wonderfully funny story where cats who baby-shoe dance, fly with tail propellers and llamas who play backgammon are quite the norm.

 

Readers from around eight years upwards will delight in this magical story of animals whose lives seem to mirror those of humans.