Author Archives: Sue Warren

About Sue Warren

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

The Shelly Bay Ladies Swimming Circle – Sophie Green

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9780733641169

Hachette

JUL 23, 2019 | 9780733641169 | RRP $29.99

 

If you missed The Inaugural Meeting of the Fairvale Ladies Book Club which was a runaway success a couple of years ago you must make certain not to neglect this new novel from Sophie Green!

Once again readers become heavily invested in the lives of the main characters; Marie, Theresa, Elaine and Leanne, as they form a strong bond of supportive friendship. Each of these women are facing their own challenges and when they unexpectedly meet up on Shelly Beach for a dawn swim they gradually and tentatively begin to connect despite their differing ages and circumstances.

Marie still mourns the loss of her husband five years previously and more so since her oldest friend moved away to a retirement village. With her terrier Charlie Brown her only real companion she often finds herself falling into melancholy. But she’s swum every morning almost her whole life and is determined to keep it up.

Then there is Theresa, young mother of two lively children, married to an insensitive, lazy and philandering husband. Despite the support of her Nonna who lives with them, Theresa is struggling to keep her emotions under control as her marriage disintegrates.

Elaine has recently migrated to Shelly Beach with her Australian-born surgeon husband leaving two grown up sons behind in England, as well as her own successful business. Essentially she is grieving for her past life and is resistant to embracing the new one on offer. Her solace becomes habitual and increasing gin and tonics until she reaches a crisis point.

The youngest of the group is quiet reserved Leanne who is hiding a dark secret which has left her emotionally scarred and wary of everyone, particularly men.

Each has their own personal reason for the early morning swim but soon discovers that in numbers, especially a close circle of women friends, is strength. That strength becomes even more important when each of them face significant changes in their lives.

Again this is a marvellous reflection of the impact our own personal circles have on our mental and physical wellbeing. Like its predecessor it is an insightful exploration of the power of friendship, trust and genuine love.

I highly recommend it to you and if you should be looking for a title for a book club this would be a perfect fit.

 

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Mercy Point – Anna Snoekstra

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Harper Collins

June 2019

ISBN: 9781460709887

ISBN 10: 1460709888

RRP: $19.99

For so many the teen years are times of angst, struggling for self-identity and confidence and feeling that one ‘fits in’. For a group of five young people in the Blue Mountains it’s even more fraught as all of them suspect they may be adopted and yet no one is telling them that it’s so.

Bonding anonymously on an online chat page, the group has no idea that in real life they not only know each other but to all intents and purposes dislike individuals in the group.

When they all decide to meet up and investigate their suspicions together, there is a good deal of shock involved when they realise just in whom they have been confiding. But their need for the truth overcomes personal prejudices as each begins to uncover long held secrets and they come together to discover their true origins.

No one would suspect that their small town could hide so much deception: the terrifying truth that awaits them is something that none of them could ever have imagined.

Told turn about by each character the group gradually bond as a team and the mysterious ‘outsider’ Sam begins to reveal more and more to aid them – and shock them

For those of us who know the mountains there are many references to well known places and events which makes the reading all the more accessible. I understand there is already a plan to make this into a tele-movie or series and it really is a highly suitable vehicle for this with its surprise twists and turns.

Despite my habitual resistance to sci fi this is a great read and aside from my knowledge of the area I found it highly engaging and thoroughly engrossing.

Highly recommended for discerning readers from around 13 years upwards.

Check out teaching notes here.

To the Moon and Back – Bryan Sullivan with Jackie French

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Harper Collins

May 2019

ISBN: 9781460757741

ISBN 10: 1460757742

Imprint: HarperCollins – AU

RRP 16.99 AUD

In our library we marked the 50th anniversary of the moon landing before the holidays and I was quite taken aback to find that not only did we not have a copy of this 2005 winner of the Eve Pownall Award but that no one was even familiar with it. So I was doubly thrilled to have the opportunity to review this new revised edition which of course has been re-issued to time with the occasion.

For many Australians the movie The Dish is the extent of their acquaintance with the work of our intrepid pioneer boffins and the part they played in the Apollo 11 mission. However The Dish is fictional and Bryan’s recount of the work at Honeysuckle Creek is written from his own experience and that of his colleagues. Long before the technology tsunami swept the world up, a few dedicated geeks were paving the way for what would become the normality of today’s society.

Bryan affords us insight into his early interest in computer science from his first encounter with a computer in 1958 through the construction of the (then) advanced and ambitious station at Honeysuckle Creek and the ensuing work of all those involved.

Interspersed with Bryan’s narrative the reader will find many fascinating facts about space, the race to the moon, astronauts and of course the question that every kid asks any time this topic arises – how do you go to the toilet in space? *grin*

These were the largely unsung heroes of the Apollo mission/s and it was this that prompted Jackie and Bryan to produce the book originally. Thus it is timely at this point in time to inform another generation of readers that the space missions were not all about the USA and Russia: that a little but significant base in a dusty bush setting near Canberra played not only a valuable but an essential role in the first moon landing.

If your library is also lacking this marvellous book, you should rectify that immediately. With the impetus of the anniversary you will be sure to have many young readers who may also set their eyes, as well as their dreams, on the universe.

I’ve twice had the pleasure of visiting Jackie and Bryan at their beautiful property. Jackie’s graciousness is well known but rest assured that Bryan is equally gracious and very unassuming about the important role in history he played.

Highly recommended for readers from ten years upwards – grab your copy NOW!

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The Good Thieves – Katherine Rundell

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9781526608130

Bloomsbury

ISBN: 9781526608130
Imprint: Bloomsbury Children’s Books

RRP $14.99

I have quickly become a fan of Katherine Rundell’s writing. After The Wolf Wilder and especially The Explorer (still the most visited blog post I’ve put up!) it would be hard to ignore such magical and adventurous narratives.

Once again Katherine has put a group of children, all quite dissimilar, into a position where they forge bonds and achieve significant outcomes despite all odds.

The New York of the 1920s – speakeasies, brilliantine hair, the rise of gangsters – is not the best place for children but to Vita it is a challenge rising up to meet her. She and her mother have travelled from England to ‘rescue’ her grandfather. Jack has lost his beloved wife and also his grand family home which has been swindled from him by an unscrupulous character with certain Mafia connections.

Where her mother is more concerned with the mundane such as sorting Jack’s bank accounts and passports, Vita determines to pursue justice and restore her grandfather’s property.

Her early attempt is fraught with danger and difficulty but in the course of it she runs across Silk, a girl about her own age, who has ‘skills’ which are useful in the course of recovering property. Next she encounters two boys from a circus performing at Carnegie Hall who also have amazing attributes and so the plan begins to take shape.

It’s a narrative that is packed with tension and excitement, bravery and daring and it will completely entrance readers from around the age of around ten upwards.

Vita is not your average heroine. With a crooked foot from an early bout of polio she is not physically strong, but her mental attitude along with her unerring accuracy with throwing (marbles, stones, knives), not to mention her perfect planning skills make her a formidable team member of the ‘good thieves’ gang.

Don’t miss this one! It’s a ripping read and your kids will love it!

The Pinballs – Betsy Byars

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Harper Collins

ISBN: 9780062881786

ISBN 10: 0062881787

Imprint: HarperCollins – US

July 2019

List Price: 16.99 AUD

 

Now in her 90s award-winning American author Betsy Byars first published The Pinballs in 1977. As I re-read this new edition I wondered if she thought that perhaps the fate of some children might improve over time. It seems that the plight of so many is far worse than the children in her novel, a sad and terrible indictment of our human society.

Three foster children are placed with a warm and loving couple, the Masons, who have successfully changed the lives of 17 other children.

Carlie is the first to arrive, having been removed from the reach of a violent stepfather by children’s services. She is brash and sarcastic but hides an unbearable longing to be with her mother and siblings.

Next is Harvey who is confined to a wheelchair after his father ‘accidentally’ running him over and breaking both his legs. Since Harvey’s mother left when he was small, he has had to basically fend for himself and his greatest desire is to find his mother on the commune/farm she calls her new home.

Thomas J was a mere toddler when he wandered up the driveway of the aged Benson twins’ farm, apparently abandoned. The spinster sisters took him in and always meant to contact the authorities but somehow never did. With both of them in the hospital after bad falls there is no one else to care for the small boy who doesn’t even know his real name or birthday.

At first it seems the disparate personalities of the three kids will cause friction but as time goes by and circumstances change for all of them, their friendship deepens.  They cease to be ‘pinballs’ bouncing around from bad situation to worse and start to become a bonded family. The patience and kindness of the Masons has much to do with this and they gradually build the self-esteem of each child.

It’s not a long book, more a novella really, but it is packed with emotions: poignancy, grief, humour, self-awareness and more.

Despite its age and references to 70s contemporary pop culture such as TV shows or toys, this is a book that truly stands the test of time and is just as, if not more, relevant in these times.

If you are looking for a different read-aloud for your middle school kiddos this would be a wonderful choice and an introduction to the other great works by Byars. I know that my year 5s once upon a time also loved The Great Gilly Hopkins but there are many others from which to choose. You will also find plenty of teaching notes etc for this book which is often used in US schools.

Highly recommended for readers from around ten years upwards.

 

 

Diary of an Awesome Friendly Kid – Jeff Kinney

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Penguin Random House

9781760892517

April  2019

Puffin

RRP: $14.99

 

After 13 Wimpy Kid books the series shows no signs of losing any popularity – kids from 8 to 15 are still lapping them up voraciously.  However, if such an unlikely event were to occur, Jeff Kinney has come up with a superb new twist on his famous characters.

 

We all know Rowley, Greg’s best friend and faithful sidekick and now he’s writing his own diary. Well, that’s how it begins but as usual with Greg’s influence it becomes rather more. In fact, it morphs into a biography of Greg as told by Rowley – who is quite possibly not the best choice for a writer to immortalise one’s talented and exciting life.

 

Rowley’s rather innocent outlook on life and indeed, Greg, makes for hilarious entries in his diary and only rarely does he allow himself to be the tiniest bit critical of his life-long friend. Whether it’s recalling past pranks or troubles or dares, readers gain a whole new perspective on Greg and Rowley – well, ok that may be a bit of an exaggeration as we all know that Rowley is the nice one and Greg is really a bit of a pain as a friend.

 

No matter, fans will gobble this up as quickly as the others and no doubt re-read it as many times.

 

Probably no need to recommend it because it will fly off the shelves regardless but still – recommended for those who like a bit of silliness and a fun read from around 8 years upwards.

 

Startalk with Neil deGrasse Tyson: Young Readers Edition

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Penguin Random House

Paperback | $17.99
Published by National Geographic Children’s Books
Mar 20, 2018 Middle Grade (10 and up)| ISBN 9781426330872

Neil deGrasse Tyson, astrophysicist/author/TV and radio personality, has been a popular identity for decades and many young readers will know his special blend of pop culture, science and comedy particularly from the National Geographic.

This is a super volume for that kid who just loves random facts – sometimes seemingly unrelated – and is a veritable smorgasbord of ‘dip in, dip out’ information on a variety of fascinating topics.

What do I pack for Mars?

How do we get water?

Where does creativity come from?

Why don’t we have flying cars yet?

These are just a sample of some of the major questions covered but the book contains so much extra with fact boxes, provocations and biographical snapshots and more. This will be guaranteed to keep your reader entertained for hours – although it’s entirely possible your own peace will be interrupted with many ‘did you know…?’ moments.

Lavishly illustrated with some stunning photography this is not only a mine of information but a visual treat. My personal favourite ‘dip in’ is the section on zombies *grin*.

Whether to put on your library shelves or as a gift for your budding geek, this is a super volume and I highly recommend it for readers with inquiring minds from about ten years upwards.

My Name is Not Peaseblossom – Jackie French

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Harper Collins

June 2019

ISBN: 9781460754788

ISBN 10: 1460754786

List Price: 16.99 AUD

 

 

So as I chuckled my way through this (and truthfully at times snort-laughed) I thought to myself ‘I reckon Shakespeare would entirely approve of this retell’. After all, he did write to entertain or move people but he also wrote to subtly convey his opinions about topics and issues relevant to his age. And in what some would dismiss a mere comedy he cleverly illustrated the excesses of power and the selfishness of individuals determined only to further their own desires and goals.

Peaseblossom, who would rather be known as Pete, is not one of the most significant characters in the original play but takes front and centre in this version. He does have a pretty responsible job in the Fairy Court being a Potions Fairy and the apprentice of Puck. He is destined to marry on Midsummer’s Eve and be promoted to first assistant in the potions game but he is far from satisfied with life in the fairy realm. His real passions are his love of great pizza and the beautiful Gaela, a smart selkie, posing as a pizza chef many years into the future.

Pete is pretty fed up with Oberon and Titania giving orders and creating chaos willy nilly amongst both fairies and humans, and is just as displeased when he finds a bunch of vampires behaving in pretty much the same way in Gaela’s life. Being rather savvy and far worldlier wise than some of his fairy comrades Pete has the right antidote to both these dilemmas.

This is an elegant and timely reminder to us all that, despite the somewhat parlous times in which we live, we all have the power of free will and can make choices that will be positive for ourselves, our race and our earth. The layers underlying the light heartedness will be a springboard to much rich discussion on ethics and self-determination.

Check out the teaching notes here.

The Puffin Book of Bedtime Stories

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Penguin

9780143796732

July 2, 2019

Puffin

RRP $29.99

bedtime

If you are looking for a special gift for a little reader – and it’s never too early to think about Christmas, let’s face it! – this would be the perfect fit. Eight of Australia’s best- loved picture books from some of our best and brightest authors and illustrators are beautifully presented in this hardcover omnibus.

Bed Tails by Meredith Costain and Mitch Vane

Sophie’s Big Bed
 by Tina Burke

Baby Tawnies by Judy Paulson

It’s Bedtime, William! by Deborah Niland

One Very Tired Wombat by Renee Treml

A Bear and a Tree by Stephen Michael King

Jesse by Tim Winton and Maureen Prichard

Come Down, Cat by Sonya Hartnett and Lucia Masciullo

Take a peek inside here.

Whether as a read-aloud for snuggling up on these wintery days and nights or for the newly independent reader this will be the ideal choice to inspire imagination and a love of stories.

The special touches of the pages framed in lilac tones and the glorious endpapers along with the beautiful textured binding all combine to make this a treasured addition to the bookshelf.

Be prepared for many cries of ‘read it again!’ from your chosen audience.

Highly recommended for little ones from toddler upwards.

Malory Towers: New Class at Malory Towers: Four brand-new Malory Towers 

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Enid Blyton, Narinder Dhami, Patrice Lawrence, Lucy Mangan, Rebecca Westcott Smith

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Hachette JUN 25, 2019 | 9781444951004 | RRP $14.99

If there’s anything Enid Blyton readers love more than EB stories – it’s more of them! The prolific writer who created so many memorable characters and series has left a legacy that continues to resonate with new generations of young readers.

Now it’s time to welcome some new girls to Malory Towers with four new stories each written by a notable author. Each continues to tell the adventures and mishaps, friendships and quarrels of the well-known pupils but introduces a new character into the mix. Marietta, Evelyn, Sunita and Maggie bring new perspectives into the crowd of Malory girls and despite some hiccups at the start are of course welcomed into the fold. Naturally there are those who continue to make things trickier for all – spoiled Gwendoline, for example – but in the true spirit of Malory all is resolved without enduring hard feelings. Honesty, justice, loyalty and acceptance are all evident in the stories as they always were. This is what has made this one of Enid’s most enduring and popular series 73 years after the original First Term at Malory Towers was published.

These new writers have brought a freshness to the originals while still retaining the ‘flavour’ of Enid’s unique style which will ensure an enthusiastic reception from the intended audience.

The Blyton books on our library shelves are among the most heavily borrowed – and recommended to peers. This will be no exception and undoubtedly will cause much excitement when it appears.

Highly recommended for young readers from around mid-primary.

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