Author Archives: Sue Warren

About Sue Warren

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

Tell ’em – written by Katrina Germein & Rosemary Sullivan [with the Children of Manyallaluk School] Illustrated by Karen Briggs.

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Harper Collins Australia

May 2020

  • ISBN: 9781921504921
  • ISBN 10: 1921504927
  • Imprint: Working Title Press – AU
  • List Price: 24.99 AUD

What an absolute joy this book is! I’ve had some absolutely cracking books of late featuring Indigenous/First Australian themes but this one, which gives readers an insight into the everyday life of contemporary First Australian kids living in their remote community, is just superb.

Not only will it give children of either European or other cultural backgrounds quite an eye-opener but it will also be so much fun for jarjums in urban settings whose own lives will be very much different to these kids from Manyallaluk.

Follow this bunch of exuberant youngsters as they respond to the question of ‘What else?’ (to tell kids in other places) with a real exploration of their community and country.

Tell ’em how us kids like to play.
We got bikes and give each other rides.
Tell ’em about the dancing and singing,
And all the stories the old people know.

Every page is alive with colour and joy as we join the Roper River kids at their school with the pond and the banana trees, as they do handstands and disco dancing, practise for ceremony , hunt for bush turkey, goanna and kangaroo, fish and sleep in the bush making campfires for damper and tea. Just truly smashing – I love it!

Highly recommended for your kiddos of every persuasion from around four years upwards!

Embrace Your Body – Taryn Brumfitt. Illustrated by Sinead Hanley.

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Penguin Random House Australia

  • Published: 2 June 2020
  • ISBN: 9781760895983
  • Imprint: Puffin
  • RRP: $19.99

In another break-through move in her mission to change the global body-hating plague that is such a curse of modern life, Taryn Brumfitt has turned her sights to empowering children to be happy and confident in themselves – inside and out.

The Embrace Kids documentary, follow up to the hugely successful Embrace film, is underway with its aim to educate our youngsters to be positive, self-confident and resistant to the insidious pressures of the media and screens.

Brumfitt’s work in this ground-breaking crusade has garnered her accolades around the world as she continues to campaign vigorously for a shift in the body image mentality that besets so many with self-loathing, doubt and dissatisfaction.

A cast of lively children of all shapes and sizes, colour and culture happily charge through the book accompanied by the positive messages that embody this movement: my body is unique, everybody’s different…listen to your strong heartbeat… my beauty is inside me, my body is my kindness…embrace your body.

Taryn’s determination to ‘inspire everyBODY to celebrate their body, regardless of size, colour, ethnicity, gender or ability’ is something to which we should all aspire as we grow our children to become happy and confident adults.

Current studies suggest that body image is the #1 issue affecting our children and while many of us have recognised this in our tweens and teens for a long time, the age at which this begins is creeping lower and lower. Many of us will know even little Prep children who are already stressed out in this regard.

With no hesitation I highly recommend this book to you – be it for your library, classroom or home – as its powerful message is badly needed. Check out the Embrace Kids site to learn more.

The Proudest Blue – Ibtihaj Muhammad, with S. K. Ali. Art by Hatem Aly

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Walker Books Australia

February 2020

ISBN: 9781783449712
Imprint: Andersen Press
Australian RRP: $24.99
New Zealand RRP: $26.99

This is a beautiful expression of a strong bond between sisters as well as an empowering story to encourage children to be proud of their culture and to better understand the cultural differences of their classmates. The strong anti-bullying message is one that is of the utmost importance particularly given recent events which have shocked the world.

Ibtihaj Muhammad is an Olympic medallist in fencing and the first Muslim American woman in hijab to compete for the USA in the Games. She is well placed then to share the love between Faizah and Asiya and their strength and pride in their culture, drawing on her own experiences especially at school when she began to wear the hijab. Carrying the wise words of their mother the girls face down the taunts and jeers of ignorant bullies and express the joy they find in their faith and love of Allah.

Little Faizah sees her big sister as a beautiful princess and her new ‘first day’ hijab in deep beautiful blue fills her with happiness. She looks forward to the day when she too can wear the hijab with the same pride and elegance as Asiyah and knows that she too will choose the gorgeous blue – colour of the sky and the ocean.

This is a truly lovely book and one that will become an important and integral staple in your collection.

Highly recommended for young readers from around six years upwards.

Peanut Goes for Gold – Jonathan Van Ness. Pictures by Gillian Reid

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Harper Collins Australia

May 2020

  • ISBN: 9780062941008
  • ISBN 10: 0062941003
  • Imprint: HarperCollins – US
  • List Price: 24.99 AUD

It has been very reassuring in recent years to be able to review a number of picture books which embrace diversity in children but particularly those who may be struggling or feeling isolated due to their gender/sexual self-identity.

There would be few educators who have not had students in this position and while other children seem to be able to embrace these differences with great equanimity, it seems that adults have been slow to catch up.

This is the first picture book I can recall that has a character of non-binary gender (though not the first book for young people) – so kudos to Jonathan for this empowering book for little people.


Peanut is a charming and exuberant gender non-binary guinea pig who loves to twirl, leap, cartwheel and bounce. Peanut has their own way of doing things and even though sometimes their friends think having a pancake stack for a birthday cake or cutting their own hair while hula-hooping is a little weird all the chums love their friend.

When Peanut decides their dream is to aim high and enter the National Junior Gymnastics Championship in the rhythmic gymnast category, family and friends all pitch in to help young Peanut achieve their goal – with music, costume, choreography and support. Will Peanut be able to reach the pinnacle of their desire? All depends on whether one tiny oversight becomes a catastrophe or merely a hiccup.

Peanut’s enthusiastic and engaging character is perfectly captured in the vibrant illustrations which are so full of life and joy.

Jonathan van Ness has brought his on-screen style of humour and positivity to this charming book which will readily find an audience with all children, no matter their self-identity. What a wonderful step forward to encouraging all our kiddos to ‘to not just be themselves – but to boldly and unapologetically love being themselves’.

Highly recommended for young readers from around four years upwards.

Let’s Go Under the Sea – Petr Horacek

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Walker Books Australia

April 2020

ISBN: 9781406388800
Imprint: Walker
Australian RRP: $12.99
New Zealand RRP: $14.99

I’ve had the joy of some truly lovely board books recently and this one is another that will prove a favourite with any tiny human with whom you share it.

While very simple in its text the vibrant illustrations accompanied by the ‘peep through’ interaction will delight any little reader as they begin to explore the wonderful underwater world with colourful fish including a little clown fish just like Nemo and a gorgeous aquamarine dolphin.

This is one of the Baby Walker range which is specifically designed to engage the tiniest of little ones from an early age and inspire their love of books and reading as they grow.

It would make a beautiful gift for a newborn or any little person up to around 3 years old particularly, not to mention a super addition for any early learning centre.

Highly recommended for 0 – 3 years old.

The One and Only Bob – Katherine Applegate

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Harper Collins Australia

  • ISBN: 9780008390662
  • ISBN 10: 0008390665
  • Imprint: HarperCollins – GB
  • List Price: 14.99 AUD

For all of us who fell in love with the story of Ivan and his friends, this is such an exciting new release – and all I can say is if you haven’t read The One and Only Ivan – what are you thinking?! Get to it now before the long-awaited movie adaptation comes out!

Ivan and baby Ruby are happily living in the zoo that is their new home. Ruby is the darling of her adopted elephant herd and Ivan even has a girlfriend while Bob, the indomitable little dog who is their best friend, is living with Julia and her parents. NOT that he is a pet you understand – but he does accept the regular feeding, cuddles and being looked after without too much complaint. Luckily, Julia’s dad now works at the zoo and Bob is able to visit his friends regularly – with the keepers all turning a blind eye to the general rule that dogs are not allowed in.

It would seem that all is smooth in the lives of this strange but tight animal trio but when their town is hit by a hurricane that becomes a tornado all is chaos. The zoo suffers much damage and they are caught up in the destruction and the subsequent consequences. Added to this drama is Bob’s discovery of his long-lost sister whose life has been both scary and traumatic, though she brushes it all off with seeming carelessness.

Bob may be small but his spirit is huge – something already demonstrated in the earlier book – and again, this canny canine proves his worth as a hero of epic proportions.

Once again Katherine Applegate has written a tale that epitomises the true meaning of friendship, loyalty, family and home. Readers, young and old alike, will revel in the continuation of the story of this extraordinary animal and human family.

My highest recommendation for this new sequel to a truly amazing story, which was inspired by the true story of Ivan, the magnificent silverback, who became the most famous resident of the Atlanta Zoo.

Top End Girl – Miranda Tapsell

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Hachette Australia

APR 28, 2020 | 9780733642432 | RRP $32.99

A deadly memoir about being bold, black and brave in work, life and love

As Reconciliation Week closes for another year how timely is it that I can share this impressive and inspirational memoir from the pint-sized dynamo Miranda Tapsell.

Many will know her from The Sapphires and more still from the recent movie which she co-wrote and starred in, Top End Wedding.

This memoir recounts her growing up in the Territory mostly focusing on Darwin, her determination to make it as a creative in such a tough industry and her passionate advocacy for her people, culture and country. Readers will follow Miranda’s journey from stage-struck Larrakia Tiwi kid to lauded actress and writer with delight while, at the same time, applauding her resilience, tenacity and self-belief. What a fabulous example to other young Indigenous kids aspiring to follow their own dreams!

It’s a testament to the readability of this book that I read it over just three (week) nights. Miranda infuses her writing with the same vivacity and joy she demonstrates on-screen along with much humour and a very down-to-earth attitude. She doesn’t hold back on her views about the ongoing struggle of our First Australian peoples and I would encourage anyone who wants to know more about both the past and the current state of play in this regard to pick this up and read it, reflect and, hopefully, act.

Sadly it is not just in our country that the racial issue continues to raise its ugly head as this week’s news unfortunately shows. It would seem that though the years roll on there are still so many who choose to remain ignorant and inhuman simply from their innate prejudices.

Miranda has added another string to her creative bow with this debut book. I for one hope that she will continue to produce more writing particularly with reference to opening the minds and hearts of fellow Australians.

I hardly need to say I recommend this highly for any reader from teen upwards – an important and deadly addition to any reading list.

The Jane Austen Society – Natalie Jenner

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Hachette Australia

MAY 26, 2020 | 9781409194118 | RRP $32.99

Wow! This is certainly one impressive debut novel and well worth putting on your TBR list, particularly if you love books like The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and others of its ilk.

Beautifully articulated characters who drive this narrative, which has some basis in historical fact but is purely fictional, will absolutely enthrall you from the first chapter.

In the small village of Chawton, where Jane Austen made her home for some years, a collection of village residents are all dealing with the post-war years and their troubles in their various ways.

Local GP Dr Bray is still struggling with his grief after the accidental death of his wife ten years previously and dangerously self-medicating, even though he is arguably the most well-respected member of the community.

Young and vivacious Adeline has become the newest teacher at the village school but is constantly falling foul of the trustees for her innovative methods.

Miss Knight, last direct descendant of Jane Austen’s brother, still lives in the Knight family home and is dominated by her mean-spirited and cruel ailing father, while at the time anxious about the dwindling finances of the estate.

Adam Berwick, trusted local farmer by day, romantic reader and Jane Austen devotee by night, feels lost and despondent over the death of his father and both his brothers during the war.

Young Evie Stone, bright star pupil, has been forced by her father’s incapacitating accident to leave school and enter service at the big house, where she secretly revels in the vast library which she is assiduously cataloguing.

Solicitor Andrew Forrester who has proven his astute knowledge of the law time and time again, is conflicted over his legal duty to old Mr Knight whilst still holding his youthful flame for Miss Knight.

Together this core group decide to form The Jane Austen Society and establish a museum and trust in honour of their famous local author, before all evidence and tokens of her existence are obliterated. They are, in due course, joined by Hollywood star Mimi Harrison (or Mary Anne really) and Sotheby’s agent Yardley Sinclair, both passionate Austen fans as well.

There are twists and turns a-plenty as the interactions and relationships of all involved come into play, while all the time none deviate from their shared purpose. Emotions run high at times as old histories and long-held secrets are brought to light, their fledgling trust and society is threatened from more than one quarter and relationships become as complicated as anything the celebrated author might have written.

This is just a beautiful read and the reader becomes completely involved with these characters, their foibles and their strengths. The gathering up of all the disparate threads and their subsequent weaving into one delicious narrative cloth has been achieved skillfully and it would be a hard-to-please reader who will not enjoy this gentle but thoughtful excursion into another time and place.

Highly recommended for readers from YA to adult – I have already been talking it up in my bookish circles.

What Zola did on Monday – Melina Marchetta. Illustrated by Deb Hudson

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Penguin Australia

June 2020

ISBN: 9781760895150

Imprint: Puffin

RRP: $12.99

This is certainly a departure from Looking for Alibrandi and Melina’s other novels for YA but what an absolute joy it is! From start to finish it ticks every box I love!

Zola lives with her mum and Nonna Rosa in a little house in the suburbs, with her cousin and bestie, Alessandro, living directly behind. Before the two lost their Nonno Nino, he cut a gate into the back fence so they could spend as much time together as possible – whenever Alessandro is not at his dad’s place.

Everyone in the neighbourhood loves their beautiful front garden filled with flowers and Nonna Rosa loves the backyard with its vegetable garden even more. But although Zola loves flowers she certainly does not like gardening!

At school her Year 2 class are temporarily housed across the road from the school, which is being renovated, within the grounds of the much-neglected community garden. Zola’s teacher Ms Divis is keen on gardens, community and sustainability – the perfect combination to inspire her little charges to take on the project of rejuvenating the community garden as well as investigating their neighbourhood’s local history.

Zola does have a knack for finding herself in sticky situations like leaving the back-fence gate open so that Alessandro’s naughty dog causes destruction in the backyard and even worse, ruining the newly planted special seeds Nonna Rosa had saved, given to her by Nonno Nino. But luckily she is also a smart little cookie who can come up with a solution to her various little problems.

This is about so much more than the very important theme of growing our own food (itself so timely at present) and being attuned with nature, it’s about re-connecting with community and sharing care, compassion and concern. There is a rich diversity in families with single parents, same-sex parents, multi-generational families and different cultures.

Thankfully it’s the first in a series – one for each day of the week – so there is more joy to come. Perfect for newly independent readers or for class or home read-alouds, I highly recommend this for little humans from around 6 years upwards.

#In This Together Reconciliation Week 2020 & Rocky and Louie

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Rocky & Louie – Phil Walleystack, Raewyn Caisley and Dub Leffler

Penguin Australia

  • Published: 28 April 2020
  • ISBN: 9780143786528
  • Imprint: Puffin
  • RRP: $24.99

I’ve saved this one for this week to time with Reconciliation Week 2020 as we take up this year’s theme, which as it turns out has proven apt in even more ways than originally intended. Despite many years of activism and advocacy there are still so many who fail to either realise or acknowledge the terrible wrongs done to our First Australian peoples. Regular readers of this blog will know how strongly this cause resonates with me given my children and grandchildren are proud Wiradjuri people.

Naturally then I never miss the opportunity to share cultural awareness with my students and others which is why reviewing books of Indigenous authors or themes is always so important to me.

Rocky and Louie takes a topic dear to the hearts of many young Australians, namely football, and weaves this into a narrative that underlines the sacred connection to country and culture for First Australians.

Rocky has a big dream and is determined to pursue it but when the time comes for him to leave country and go to the city, little brother Louie is fearful and anxious. Louie has learned all about football from his big brother but also about the importance of their culture, people and country and he’s worried that Rocky will lose his connection to all this and his family while he’s gone.

So he comes up with the idea of making Rocky a very special boomerang to remind him that he will always return to the place of his true belonging. The reader goes with Louie to find just the right branch and sits with him while Uncle Phil shows him how to shape it perfectly. And of course it makes the parting gift not only fitting but intensely meaningful as these two brothers demonstrate the closeness of their bond.

The text co-written by Raewyn Caisley, whose ability to transform her words about families into such seemingly simple but powerful layered meanings, and Phil Walleystack, Noongar man and internationally renowned singer-songwriter and storyteller, transcends a mere story of two footy-loving brothers and transforms this into a heartfelt testament to the strength, resilience and dignity of Aboriginal family life and culture.

The illustrations by Dub Leffler (so talented!) utterly capture the boys’ country, native animals, family and their smiling faces with such a divine skill that it will immediately transport readers to the setting.

Raewyn writes about this as her ‘most significant project’: ..’Rocky and Louie is about belonging to country and it is our gift, not only to Aboriginal children, but to all of Australia…….inside is a story that Phil, Dub and I believe has the power to change our nation.’

It goes without saying that I cannot recommend this highly enough and believe it is another essential addition to your collection. My copy will be shared with young Wiradjuri children whom my daughter is guiding in their cultural growth and education and I know it will be well received.

#In This Together