Author Archives: Sue Warren

About Sue Warren

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

Rock Pool Secrets – Narelle Oliver

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Walker Books Australia

April 1, 2017

ISBN: 9781922179357

RRP: $24.99
What a huge loss to our Australian children’s literature community Narelle Oliver is and how privileged am I to be able to review and promote her last book which, again, is a testament to her immeasurable talent.

Rock Pool Secrets takes young readers into the nooks and crannies of our seashore with beautiful illustrations and stunningly crafted lift-the-flaps to find still more. Whether it’s splodgy sea cucumbers or ubiquitous turban shells, sea anemones or the ever delightful hermit crabs – they are all here just waiting to be discovered. These are all the creatures Miss Small loves to spot when we go exploring at low tide so this has special connection for us.  Narelle’s ever elegant lino cut illustrations bring the secrets of the rock pool crevices vividly to life and children will adore poring over them finding their favourites.

The text is simple enough for young children to handle independently but dare I say it is those fabulous illustrations which will the little ones over. The book contains a glossary at the close to help young investigators learn more about their discoveries. What fun it would be to read the book and then go ‘beachwards’ for the real thing!

Needless to say I love it – and it will be staying on my bookshelf! I highly recommend this for your own shelves especially for your little people from around Prep to Year 3 or anyone who loves our sea creatures or Narelle’s brilliant work.

What a finale for this much-loved woman whose gracious presence, generous spirit and beautiful personality so many of us Queenslanders were honoured to encounter.

Find notes for classroom use here.

Harry Kruize, Born to Lose – Paul Collins

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Ford St Publishing

March 2017

ISBN 9781925272628

RRP $17.95

No doubt about it, Paul’s on a winner with this one!

Harry Kruize is an average sort of boy but has an over-abundance of woes and worries. In fact, his self-esteem could hardly be any lower nor his anxiety any less.

It’s not that he minds helping his mum out with the boarding house. After all, since his Dad went away it’s just been the two of them but so many other things are just wrong. Having to see Fitzy the school psychologist (to eliminate any residue issues over his dad’s defection), being constantly ridiculed by the gaggle of nasty girls known collectively as the Bees, having no friends at all, living in mortal dread of the biggest bully in the school, the BRICK, his mum acting all weirdo and secretive are all major problems in Harry’s teenage life. Worst of all, he so desperately wants a dog. More than anything, a dog would make him so much happier.

When Harry’s favourite teacher Mr Granger sets a whole term assignment to illustrate the power of words, Harry is unconvinced. Still he does write down his wishes and he keeps his HH (Harry Hobbit) diary to verbalise his thoughts.

Along comes a character Harry would never have dreamed existed. An old guy named Jack who looks like he stepped straight out of a painting of a bush swagman turns up and needs a place to stay – just for a bit – because he’s really the type who roams about. Suddenly Harry finds himself with a friend and more importantly a friend who knows and understands dogs. Harry’s engagement with Jack and his yarns about fantastic dogs he’s known become the highlight in his existence.

I have to tell you Paul I recognised that it was Henry from the get-go – I am my father’s daughter after all.  I just love this juxtaposition of a 21st century teenage boy’s angst and Henry Lawson’s bush philosophy.

As Harry hears more and more of Jack’s stories things begin to shift in his life. The snarled up threads of his normal days seem to untangle and begin to run more smoothly. By the time, Jack disappears ‘on the wallaby track’ again, Harry has solved the mystery of his Mum’s strangeness – and is about to have a new stepfather, gained the trust and growing friendship of the Brick, finished his sessions with Fitzy, faced down the Bees and most importantly of all has a champion dog of his own.

Henry Lawson was a man who saw the best in our collective Australian personality – the courage, the resilience, the laconic humour, the loyalty and more. He imbued his bush yarns with these qualities and I believe they still exist, exemplified in instances such as hundreds of ordinary people turning up with mops and buckets to help with floods  or those battling bushfires or putting our hands up to give a hand up to anyone who needs it and much more.  His spirit and his faith in his fellow Australians lingers, as it does for Harry, inspiring those same qualities so that we can all recognise in ourselves our best.

I would highly recommend this for your readers from around Year 6 and up – I foresee it being a novel that teachers would love to see as a class reading. Enjoyable and humorous it’s appeal will be for both boys and girls.

 

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Personal photos

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Before my aunt and cousin moved a few years ago from their place outside Mudgee – one of my great joys in visiting was knowing I was in the heart of Lawson country. Driving past the Budgee Budgee Inn where Henry wrote The Loaded Dog, visiting the site of his childhood home and Gulgong and generally soaking up his lingering presence were all fodder for my imagination.

Henry Lawson (17 June 1867 – 2 September 1922) was an Australian writer and poet. Along with his contemporary Banjo Paterson, Lawson is among the best-known Australian poets and fiction writers of the colonial period, and is often called Australia’s “greatest writer”.

Although Henry was born at the Grenfell goldfields, he was raised, from the age of six months to 15 years, in a cottage 8 km north of Mudgee at Eurunderee (then known as ‘Pipeclay’), which was established after a gold find in 1863. He briefly attended the local Catholic school.

http://monumentaustralia.org.au/themes/people/arts/display/22377-henry-lawson

 

Ruby Red Shoes Goes to London – Kate Knapp

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Harper-Collins

Angus & Robertson

November 2016

ISBN 9780732297626

RRP $19.99

 

Ruby Red Shoes is a great favourite with my junior girls so they are all going to mighty impressed when this goes onto our New Books stand.

There is something completely charming about RRS, both the writing and the illustrations.  These are just totally endearing books.

Ruby and her Baboushka love travelling and this trip to London is chockfull of everything iconic about that amazing city. Red buses and letterboxes, HM the Queen, toasted crumpets for a cosy tea, squat black taxis and beautiful shops and parks abound.

Little readers will learn much about London as Ruby explores it in the gusty windy weather.  Despite the excitement of the visit with its many iconic sights and of course HM and the corgis, Ruby knows that home is always the best place of all.

Where will she and Baboushka adventure next? I know many little girls who will be wild with wondering.

Highly recommended for readers from around 7 years upwards.

Caleb’s Cab – Sally & Sylvain Chomet

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Walker Books

November 2016

ISBN: 9781406342277

RRP $24.99

I actually read in the Christmas holidays but really I just wasn’t sure what I thought about it.

Having investigated a little, I see that the author/illustrator pair are well regarded and award-nominated creators of animated shorts.

This would explain the (to me) highly unusual illustrative style. I find it a little too dark to appeal to my own taste but do believe that there would be many children who would enjoy its difference.

The story itself is also very different. I’d probably describe as a detective story for children with serious overtones of Mad Magazine, the Child Snatcher (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang) and the Grimm Brothers.

In a place where children are basically sold off, never to be seen again, Caleb lives with his mother all alone since his father disappeared mysteriously.  Their town is grim, dingy and people live in almost abject fear. In a moment of crisis Caleb uses his father’s old-fashioned cab to undertake an emergency trip and finds himself whisked sidewise (?) into a vaguely parallel town where families are abundant, colours are everywhere and all the citizens speak with outrageous French accents.

Confused and confounded Caleb discovers his father has been trapped in this strange world since his disappearance and so he sets about rescuing him.

The abrupt ending paves the way for a second instalment at least.

While the publisher suggests children of ten upwards will enjoy this I feel that may be a little young to understand the sometimes complex plot.

Like all Walker books this is a beautiful production with pages that beg to be turned and stroked.

Smart about Sharks – Owen Davey

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Walker Books

October 2016

ISBN:  9781909263918
Imprint:  NB – Flying Eye

RRP $27.99

I’ve mentioned previously my childhood geeky obsession with factual books so when glorious new ones arrive in packages I’m always thrilled. This is the first of a few over which I shall rave.

It’s unfortunate that the image doesn’t reveal the wonderful tactile pleasure of the retro-style binding and pages but I shall try to do justice this slice of informational deliciousness.

I can’t say I’ve ever really wanted to know much about sharks, although Miss Small has considered them favourites of hers for a long time, but this beauty just begged for me to read and wonder over many quirky and interesting facts.

From the weird and wonderful to the feeding frenzy this is just a joy throughout.

Considering the high profile sharks have in this country – and for my two cents’ worth if you don’t want to face one then don’t go into their home! – I think many young readers will relish this.

Highly recommended for primary libraries and children with an interest in nature.

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The Godwits – Bruce Pickworth. Illustrations by Lorraine Robertson

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The Godwits – Bruce Pickworth. Illustrations by Lorraine Robertson

Bullawai Books, 2016.

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ISBN 9780994611802

It’s a long way from Shoalhaven NSW to the shores of the Yellow Sea but even longer to Alaska. For the godwits their annual migration is an amazing natural undertaking that of course is not without its perils.

The godwits need a new leader for their huge journey and that bird will need all the necessary qualities. Making a choice is not easy for old Danta who must protect the flock.

For thirteen year old Wei the anticipation of his favourite birds arriving as they make their way to the far North is tremendous. His special birthday present of a set of binoculars is the perfect gift. How distressing then when he realises that land development is going to threaten his beloved birds. Wei determines to ensure the protection of the godwits by saving the wetlands.

This is a chaptered narrative in picture book format and the amazing and almost unbelievable annual godwit migration is beautifully explained by Bruce within the text.

The strong themes of courage, compassion and leadership make it a perfect choice for studies of environmental issues as well as exploring these qualities in themselves.

Find out more about godwits here or here.

Highly recommended as a valuable addition to your primary library shelves. The book is $16.99 and is available through Dymocks, Children’s Bookshop or email Bullawai Books. Bruce is available for school visits free of charge so keep that in mind!

 

The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart: Stephanie Burgis. Illustrated by Freya Harris

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Bloomsbury

March 2017

ISBN 9781408880319

RRP $14.99

 

It’s often not easy being the youngest in the family particularly when your older siblings are considered by all to be brilliant and talented. Arguably it’s even harder to be the baby of a dragon family without the hardened scales or working wings that would allow you to venture outside the family mountain cave.

Aventurine is not the most compliant of youngsters though and one day when she is really fed up with what she sees as the over-protective care of her mum and grandfather as well as the annoying superiority of her older brother, she takes it upon herself to squeeze through her usual spy hole in the mountainside and escape.

Emerging from her rocky nest with scratched and damaged wings and feet she begins to doubt the wisdom of her rebelliousness but presses on regardless. She soon realises it is not so easy to catch your own food or even know where you are and when she comes across a young man brewing chocolate she thinks she has finally found an easy target. Taking each other by surprise the youth offers her chocolate instead of him and Aventurine is immediately smitten by the overwhelming deliciousness of the concoction and, too late, realises that she has been tricked. Drinking the hot chocolate of a food mage she is transformed into a human girl and now finds herself even more helpless and inexperienced.

With an undaunted fiery heart, as per her family’s heritage, Aventurine undertakes the most amazing adventure of her life and winds up in the big city where despite all obstacles she becomes an apprentice chocolatier.

Overcoming tremendous twists and turns of fate, Aventurine finds herself with a second ‘family’ and her true passion – making chocolate. Naturally, her dragon family are not going to take the disappearance of their youngest hatchling easily and the climax of the tale sees a showdown between suspicious and ignorant townsfolk and the might of the dragons. Of course, this mighty girl reveals her true nature by saving the day – and her new hoard.

This is such an original story. It was an absolute pleasure to read and Aventurine is not the only strong female character to bring the adventure to life which makes it all the more appealing. Feisty females, enchantments, nasty villains, yummy chocolate, friendship, loyalty and love – this book has it all.

This will be getting a hugely positive book talk for the girls in my library.

Highly recommended for readers from around 9 years upwards.

The Sisters Saint-Claire – Carlie Gibson/Tamsin Ainslie

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ISBN: 9781760291563

Publisher: Allen & Unwin

Imprint: A & U Children

October 2016

RRP $19.99

I have mentioned before my penchant for books with mouse characters and this is no exception. A delightful and sweet story in rhyme about a family of little mice sisters who love to bake and love to shop at the Sunday market. It’s no fun being the ‘baby’ of the family sometimes as Cecile finds out when she is always left at home because she is too young to keep up.  Determined to prove to her parents and older sisters that being little is no bar to being talented, Cecile concocts a plan and bakes batch after batch of beautiful pies.

And indeed when her delicious delicacies win over the heart of the Queen herself there is such rejoicing in her family that there is no doubt she will never be left behind again.  “Great things can come from the smallest of us.”

This book is a charmer in every aspect: from its lovely textured hardcover to the winsome illustrations in pastel palettes surrounded by effective use of white space to the easy and flowing rhyme.

It would not only make a wonderful read for those emerging readers with a little more ability and confidence but a super read-aloud particularly for girls.

Highly recommended for young readers from around 6 and up.

 

This is Banjo Paterson – Tania McCartney/Christina Booth

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NLA Publishing

February 2017

ISBN 9780642278982

RRP $24.99

 

Those of us of a certain age will most likely have grown up with the ballads of Andrew Barton Paterson. I was fortunate to share a love of the Banjo’s work with my father and would often perform his bush poetry as my ‘party piece’ for my parents’ friends.

Our younger readers may not be so familiar with the name but will most definitely know Waltzing Matilda and may even recognise The Man from Snowy River or Clancy of the Overflow. This wonderful and lively picture book will introduce the man behind the verse to a whole new generation.

Tania McCartney has a real gift for bringing the best of our Australian culture and icons to life for children and this book is further testament to her skill.  Her delightful re-tracing of Banjo’s childhood and later life is told simply but engagingly. The recurring dialogue (in an effective use of speech bubbles) underline the early beginnings of Banjo’s writing successes as the boy who loved to rhyme grows to a multi-talented man.

With a clever twist Christina Booth has provided charming illustrations which show the young Barty with his family, dogs and friends in a contemporary backyard setting to which young readers will instantly relate.

At the close of the book factual information and images are provided in a delightful newspaper facsimile brilliantly alluding to one of Banjo’s many talents – his journalistic writing. Selections of his poetry are also included and thorough teaching notes are also available from the publisher’s website.

On this, the anniversary of his birth in 1864, what better to honour the man who has become the human representation of the Australian bush and its many colourful characters, than sharing his story with the next generation of readers?

Highly recommended for primary aged children, as well as adult aficionados of the Bard from the Bush.

Happy birthday A.B – I believe you would be thrilled with this special tribute to your amazing life.

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A Monster Calls: Special Collector’s Edition (Movie Tie-in) –Patrick Ness {Siobhan Dowd}  . Illustrated by Jim Kay

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ISBN: 9781406365771
Imprint: Walker
November 1, 2016

Australian RRP: $34.99
New Zealand RRP: $37.99

I first fell in love with Patrick Ness’ writing with the much acclaimed and prize winning Chaos Walking trilogy. I had not read A Monster Calls until this gorgeous hardback edition, which marks the imminent release of the movie, arrived and I’ve fallen in love all over again.

What a master of flawless prose he is! and combined with the illustrative magic of Jim Kay (think the illustrated Harry Potter books) this is a book that a reader will return to again and again.

Author Siobhan Dowd had put forward an idea or concept for this novel but sadly succumbed to cancer before she could move forward with it. Her publishers thought it was such a valuable premise that they sought a writer who might do it justice. Patrick Ness was the perfect choice and created what is now considered a modern classic.

When young Conor realises that a nightmare has become real and there really is a monster in the garden and it has come for him, the reader is taken on an emotional journey that is moving, funny, profound and heartbreaking until the truth is revealed.

Conor’s recurring nightmare began when his mother’s treatments did and won’t end until he has accepted why the ancient and very wild monster has come for him and what he must do to send it back to its former slumber.

Along with the fully illustrated novel there are over one hundred pages of interviews, details, essays, stills and more from the movie, which promises to be every bit as powerful as the novel.

I read it in one sitting and savoured every moment. So many books arrive for review that they stack up in tottering piles and after review. I find them good homes either in our own library collection or passed on to those who could use them but this one is too beautiful to leave my shelves. It will be taken up and stroked for its aesthetic qualities and read for its marvellous writing and illustrations many times.

Highly recommended for Upper Primary and Secondary students as well as all adults who appreciate a truly remarkable read.

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