Author Archives: Sue Warren

About Sue Warren

Teacher-librarian https://www.pinterest.com/losangz/

Bring the book to life…

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So last week I finished reading Nick Earls’ New Boy with Year 6 – and I thought we should mark the occasion by ‘taste testing’ some South African food (about which they are pretty excited!)- so a trip over to Kallangur this morning to buy some traditional items.

Temporarily MiA

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Yes it’s been a few weeks since I’ve put up any reviews – though I’ve still been reading. I have some family/personal issues complicating life at present and my mental acuity is stretched to its utmost accommodating those.

I hope to be back on deck in the next week or so – have read some great books, so hopefully you will pop back in!

How Stella Learned to Talk – Christina Hunger

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Allen & Unwin

May 2021

ISBN: 9781760878764

RRP: $32.99

Put your hand up if you’ve ever said, ‘My dog understands every word I say.’ Now put your hand up again if you have ever wished that your dog would not only understand you but be able to ‘speak’ to you. That’s where this amazing and completely incredible story will utterly blow you away – and believe me, you won’t want to miss it.

Of course, we have known for years that animals can understand us and some have even been able to communicate with us in simple ways – think Koko and signing. It would be truly presumptuous for humans to imagine that we are the only species capable of communication, however ‘speaking’ words has been somewhat more problematic, and for many, implausible.

When newly qualified speech therapist, Christina Hunger, and her partner, Jake, adopted their puppy, Stella, this highly skilled and intuitive young woman quickly noticed that the puppy displayed many similarities to the toddlers with whom she works, in what appeared to be attempts to communicate. Christina is a big advocate of AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication) devices to help her child clients become vocal and posited to friends and family that such a device might enable her puppy to ‘speak’ as well.

Stella’s journey from inquisitive and intelligent puppy with a load of personality is punctuated with one breakthrough after another as Christina introduces a purpose-devised method for Stella to know, understand, and contextualise not just single words but phrases. In addition to this being a memoir of the pair’s incredible narrative and an expansion of Christina’s sharing via her blog Hunger for Words, this volume provides a ‘how to’ guide for other dog owners who might want to explore their own pet’s potential for interactive speech.

This is a memoir filled with joy and love as well as its revolutionary and innovative premise and will have enormous appeal to every pooch owner who has ever talked to their fur-child with as much respect and affection as they would to their human family.

Highly recommended for all dog-lovers but also those who are interested in the whole process of acquisition of language.

Truly Tan Shocked! – Jen Storer. Illustrated by Clare Robertson

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Harper Collins Australia

January 2021

  • ISBN: 9780733334146
  • ISBN 10: 0733334148
  • Imprint: ABC Books AU
  • List Price: 17.99 AUD

It has been ages since I’ve had the delight of reading a new Truly Tan book and the joy has not diminished one whit!

In this new adventure Tan and Gloria are most worried about their teacher, Miss Dragone, who has been acting most peculiarly: taking cooking classes to make delicious muffins, having her eyebrows and nails ‘done’, buying a fancy new bike – all kinds of weird stuff. Naturally, the determined spies are set on finding out exactly what is going on and confirming their suspicions that not all is well with their teacher.

Tan is also dealing with the very disquieting upcoming birth of a fifth Callahan sibling. She is not at all comfortable with losing her place as the youngest in the family, especially for yet another sister. As it is, the Lollipops (her older sisters) are all being as mental as ever and in fact, more so, as Emerald prepares for the starring role in the school production and deals with her first boyfriend break-up, Amber is seething with jealousy having only made the chorus of the show and Rose is wafting in and out of her home-made yurt reading everyone’s aura and communing with the bush fairies. And just to top it off, Tan feels that her 10th birthday – such a special occasion – will be completely overshadowed, indeed forgotten, in all the kerfuffle around her.

As usual, all is pretty chaotic really, yet Tan and Gloria press on with their investigation, with Tan’s diary entries (and the vivid description of which pen she is using) providing highlights of each stage. The explanations of unusual words at the conclusion of each chapter again provide readers with some bonus material.

Will Tan and Gloria uncover the truth about the Mystery of Miss Dragone? Will Tan get a special celebration for her birthday? And will she be able to cope with the arrival of Callahan #5?

All in all, absolutely great fun as always – these are ‘truly’ laugh-out-loud books that will appeal strongly to your independent readers.

Highly recommended for kiddos from around 8 years upwards.

The Prison Healer – Lynette Noni

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Penguin Australia

  • Published: 30 March 2021
  • ISBN: 9781760897512
  • Imprint: Penguin
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 416
  • RRP: $24.99

I’m going to have a lot of my secondary students clamoring for this one. They are huge fans of Noni’s previous books, both boys and girls and this is another intriguing dark fantasy (with some dystopian touches) thriller for them to enjoy.

Set in an infamous death prison, Zalindov, seventeen year old Kiva has survived ten years of imprisonment – not for any wrong-doing as such but because she was captured along with her father who was charged with consorting with rebels.

After her father’s death Kiva took up his role as healer, then only aged 12, and has become an indispensable but hated prisoner. Seen as the Warden’s pet and the first to deal with incoming criminals by treating them and carving the ‘Z’ into the back of their hand, Kiva is reviled by the other inmates and it is only the orders of Warden Rooke that keep her relatively safe and whole.

The warring factions in Kiva’s world, the royal family and the rebels, are intent on creating division and this extends to the prisoners as well. The rising tensions within and without the prison are causing increased pressure on Kiva’s work in the infirmary and her emotional balance, held in check for so long. When the Rebel Queen is captured, gravely ill, Kiva must try to save her for two different reasons. One is that the authorities have ordered the rebel leader to be well enough to undergo the Trials by Ordeal and the other is that coded messages from her siblings on the outside have begged her to keep the queen safe, that they are coming to rescue them both. The arrival of a strangely mysterious prisoner, Jaren, threatens to upset Kiva’s balance even more and when she, in desperation, volunteers to submit to the Trials in place of the still sick queen, she must lean on the young man for help to endure and survive. At the same time, she is trying to uncover the reason for the mystery illness that is wreaking havoc with the prisoners, who are dying in droves.

This is complex and exciting with many twists and turns. Astute readers will very easily be able to piece together the various pieces of the puzzle from the cleverly inserted clues within the narrative but this will in no way detract from a satisfying read. It is quite dark and there are concepts best suited to older and mature readers: drug use/addiction, torture and violence and sexual references but that being said, I don’t feel it would be necessary to restrict this to our senior students (we put a disclaimer inside the cover for books with more mature issues/concepts).

I have every confidence that this new trilogy will prove every bit as popular as The Medoran Chronicles and with the second volume due for release in September, fans will not have to wait too long.

Highly recommended for readers from around 14 years upwards.

The Valley of Lost Secrets – Lesley Parr

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Bloomsbury Australia

February 2021

ISBN:9781526620521
Imprint:Bloomsbury Children’s Books

RRP: $14.99

Omg, I can’t tell you how much I loved this read during the week!! It completely reminds me of two much-loved favourites, Carrie’s War by Nina Bawden and Goodnight Mister Tom by Michelle Magorian (both of which I own and have re-read many times), but with its whole new take on the situation of evacuee children in WWII.

Jimmy and his little brother have been evacuated from London to a Welsh valley – traditional, coal-mining families and either open welcomes or suspicion of ‘foreigners’. Mr and Mrs Thomas are warm and caring, and little Ronnie is quickly comfortable with both, but Jimmy is both distrustful and resentful. He’s already lost his mum, who took off leaving the brothers with their dad and grandmother, and he’s certainly not ready to treat this temporary stay as ‘home’. The entire London contingent seem different here. Jimmy’s best friend, now lodged with the local minister’s family, has turned into a nasty bully like the Reverend’s son and Florence, uncared for and abused at home, blossoms into a true friend.

Jimmy is to realise that even a temporary family can be a solace but first there are difficulties to overcome and these are complicated when the boy discovers a human skull hidden in the hollow of an old tree. Enough to scare even an adult, this find has Jimmy scrambling for someone to trust and sometimes an ally can be found in the most unlikely quarter. The secrets of the valley are gradually revealed as Jimmy and his little tribe work together to solve a decades old mystery, and bring much needed comfort to a long-held grief.

We do know, of course, that not all the evacuated children had happy experiences and we cannot begin to comprehend how overwhelming or unnerving the whole exercise would have been even for those who did. In those times, many city children had never had any experience of wide open spaces, nature and the reality of rural living – some didn’t even know that milk came from cows!

Young readers, particularly those who are fond of such stories set in wartime, will find much to love about this narrative. The strong themes of family, friendship and bravery are very inspirational and will give many children finding our current circumstances difficult some insight in dealing with similar events.

Highly recommended for your readers from around ten years upwards.

Ginger Meggs – Tristan Bancks and Jason Chatfield

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Penguin Australia

May 2021

  • ISBN: 9781760894818
  • Imprint: Puffin
  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 192
  • RRP: $24.99

When I was a kid, growing up in Sydney, my favourite part of the weekend was reading the Sunday comics. I started about four years old, when my Dad opened his Telegraph, and handed me the colourful insert and I was pretty much still reading them even when I was a teenager. Ginger Meggs was always a great favourite of mine. For my 5th birthday my parents took me to Taronga Zoo where the sweetest little monkey grasped my hand through its cage. On the way home I asked for a pet monkey (as you do) and my father replied that it was illegal to have monkeys as pets in Australia. Naturally I retorted ‘That can’t be true. Ginger Meggs has one!’. My father laughed rather a lot and said he knew Jimmy Bancks, the creator of Ginger (how I don’t know – but he did know an awful lot of people!) so I told him he should ask Mr Bancks where Ginger got his monkey from and then I could get one too. Needless to say, no monkey eventuated but I did acquire, soon after, a ginger kitten which I named Meggsie.

When Tristan announced he was writing this book to commemorate the centenary of Ginger Meggs, all those memories came flooding back to me as if they were just yesterday and so, of course, it gives me great pleasure to hold this very special book in my hands.

Tristan’s great-great uncle Jimmy was, without doubt, the best-known cartoonist in Australia and his legacy still lives on today, with Jason Chatfield now creating Ginger’s adventures which are published daily in 34 countries.

Naturally as times have changed, so have Ginger’s stories to give them a contemporary feel whilst retaining the irascible charm of the red-headed kid loved by young and old. When Ginger and his mate, Benny, build their new billy-cart, they ‘borrow’ wheels from the wheelie bin and when Ginger runs for class captain his opponent puts up a poster proclaiming, ‘Make our Class Great Again!’…….frankly, a tad more impressive than GM’s ‘Vote 1 for the Ginger Ninja’ (although to be honest, I think Ginger could do a far better job than our current PM).

Kids and adults alike will thoroughly enjoy these fresh new stories: Dead Man’s Hill, Lamington Billionaire, Ginger Meggs for PM and Father’s Day and, most certainly, will find the illustrated comic strip style timeline of Ginger’s history that follows absolutely fascinating. I have definitely enjoyed the laughs these new stories have provided over this very wet Easter weekend and have been plotting a celebration in our library for Meggsie’s centenary as well as offering our students the opportunity to showcase their comic creation skills.

You definitely won’t want to miss out on this superbly presented commemoration of an Australian icon – pre-order from any of the suppliers below:

BooktopiaAmazonDymocksQBDReadingsAngus & RobertsonAbbeysBoomerangCollinsFishpondHarry HartogKinokuniyaRobinsonsThe NileFind local retailersFind local retailers

Thanks Jimmy – for such a wonderful childhood memory that lingers today and thanks Tristan for bringing Meggsie to a whole new audience!

The StrangeWorlds Travel Agency : The Edge of the Ocean Book #2 – L. D. Lapinski

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Hachette Australia

APR 13, 2021 | 9781510105959 | RRP $16.99

Now that Flick is officially a member of the StrangeWorlds Travel Agency, and with one exciting adventure already under her belt, in which she demonstrated some unexpected and remarkable powers, she and Jonathan Mercator are summoned to help another world. This time they are joined by Jonathan’s distant cousin, Avery, to whom Flick takes a strange instant dislike.

The urgent request for help has come from Queen Nyfe, who rules as a pirate chief over a motley crew of almost skeletal ships, in a world called The Break. This strange watery flat world is used to ships disappearing over the edge but in recent times, it’s become apparent that the world is breaking up and so the dangers have increased exponentially for Nyfe, her crew as well as the other mariners and the mer-people who also inhabit the once vast ocean.

Flick, Jonathan and Avery face more than just the pressure of saving The Break’s peoples. The various inhabitants are fighting amongst themselves and navigating the subterfuge on all sides is tricky indeed. Added to this is the shocking realisation that Jonathan’s lost father appears to be indeed dead and his grief renders him almost helpless in the struggle to work out how to transport ships, gigantic mer-people and pirates through a suitcase to a new and suitable world – even if they can actually find one that will fit the bill. And then there is the (to Flick’s mind, weird) way her feelings towards Avery and what seems to be a reciprocal feeling change as the quest unfolds.

Once again, this series delivers amazingly rich narrative with characters with whom readers will fall in love. I, for one, will eagerly anticipate the next instalment and your readers from around middle primary upwards will adore this new instalment.

The Storm Keepers’ Battle: Storm Keeper Trilogy 3 – Catherine Doyle

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Bloomsbury Australia

March 2021

ISBN:9781526607966
Imprint:Bloomsbury Children’s Books

RRP: $14.99

I have loved this series from the very start! The premise is so fresh and different, and full of so many wonderful themes, characters and fabulous magic.

Fionn and the Arranmore islanders are under siege from the evil Morrigan, her heinous brothers and her army of SoulStalkers. Black Mountain looms ever more menacingly over the island, threatening all with total annihilation. As the new Stormkeeper, Fionn knows that it is up to him to find some solution but how to do it? His best plan is to find the ancient sorcerer of old, Dagda, but that seems like an impossible ask.

To his aid comes old Rose, who it seems has been hiding her true identity for long ages. She is Róisín, First and Fearless, who fought alongside the mighty Dagda in the battle against Morrigan years and years ago. She tells Fionn how to find the Whispering Tree and thus be led to Dagda, an adventure fraught with tension and danger in itself. To Fionn’s utter astonishment, though he finds Dagda in one sense, it is not so that the ancient sorcerer can come to the island’s aid once again. That it would seem is entirely up to Fionn, as he is pronounced the new sorcerer and the islanders’ sole hope for salvation.

Fionn must learn to control his magic (which is, to his immense surprise, powerful indeed), empower the islanders as Stormkeepers themselves, each to their own clan and wield this combined force to defeat the darkness that is so near to engulfing them. Losing both his friend, Shelby, and his sister, Tara, to Morrigan almost proves his undoing but he digs deep into his newly found magical strength and with the aid of the clans and Róisín, the overwhelming odds are reduced and Fionn is revealed as the great sorcerer Dagda predicted.

The ongoing themes of family, loyalty, tradition, self-belief and selflessness, with references to Irish legends woven throughout, make for a thrilling and marvelous narrative and I am only sorry that we have reached the end of this trilogy.

Readers with a love of high fantasy and thrilling action, both boys and girls, from around 10 years upwards will absolutely love this series and I highly recommend it to you as a remarkable addition to your collection.