Category Archives: Childrens books

The Girl, the Dog and the Writer in Provence (The Girl, the Dog and the Writer, Book 2) – Katrina Nannestad

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provence

Harper Collins Australia

ISBN: 9780733338182

ISBN 10: 0733338186

Imprint: ABC Books – AU

October 2018

RRP: 16.99 AUD

Young Freja, sensitive and intelligent, along with the hairy hound Finnegan and eccentric crime writer Tobby have left Rome to go to the picturesque village of Claviers in Provence, where it just happens their beautiful friend Vivi has also moved to further her pastry-making career.

Freja discovers that not only can she make friends of the grown-up variety but that she can also have the happy companionship of other children – precocious little Pippin, the twins Cossette and Edith and Christophe, the perpetually hungry would-be priest.  Altogether it is an idyllic time, although Freja still misses her mother Clementine so much, until that is a spate of nasty crimes begins to cause grief for many of the villagers.  As Freja determines to uncover the villain of the piece, she not only longs to see her mother but also begins to seriously wonder about her relationship to Tobby. Is her uncle? Could he be her father? It is all quite a muddle and though there are some clues (as Freja perceives them) not quite enough to draw a conclusion.

I just love this series. It is so fresh and original and feel-good. Of course visiting such beautiful places vicariously is also a plus! But reading these reminds me of my favourite chai from my lovely coffee shop. First there is the delicious light froth, both sweet and spicy simultaneously followed by the warmth of the milk, satisfying and leaving one with a feeling of well-being. The stories are funny and often ridiculous with Tobby’s antics but permeating them is the wonder of love, friendship, trust, discovery and happiness.

No wonder the first was a best-seller! Readers will eagerly pounce on this one as well and will all, as I will, be waiting for the next episode in Lucerne, where we will learn more about Clementine’s illness and perhaps the kinship between Freja, her mother and Tobby.

In the meantime I highly recommend a sojourn in beautiful Provence for readers from around eight years upwards.

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Mary Poppins –  P. L. Travers. Illustrated by Lauren Child

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marypoppins

Harper Collins Australia

ISBN: 9780008289362

ISBN 10: 0008289360

November 2018

List Price: 39.99 AUD

On a similar note to the previous post about re-invigorating classics for today’s children, what about this absolutely stunning edition of Mary Poppins which will tie in beautifully with the upcoming movie.

 

Lauren Child’s instantly recognisable style gives this glorious and magical story exactly the right lift needed to engage today’s readers. The story endures of course, as is witnessed by the large number of children who love the original movie, but to read it themselves with the joy of these lively drawings will make it practically perfect in every way. And it is astonishing to realise just how long ago the first book was published – 1934!! – with the last in the series released in 1988.

 

It is one of those glamorous quarto sized books which seem even more special as a gift and naturally with Christmas coming up it would delight any child receiving it as a present.

 

For us Queenslanders, who can claim Pamela Travers (born Helen Lyndon Goff) as our very own, this is even more special and with both the new movie plus the recent Saving Mr Banks interest in this extraordinary woman has been renewed.

 

What more is there to say about such a superb book? My copy has gone to a very special little girl whom I hope will treasure it and love its world of magic.

 

Highly recommended for all who want their children to grow up with a sense of true magic.

 

Just So Stories for Little Children: Rudyard Kipling’s stories retold. Illustrated by John Joven.

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justso

Harper Collins Australia

ISBN: 9781474938051

ISBN 10: 1474938051

Imprint: Usborne – GB

October 2019

RRP $24.99

Astute readers of this blog may have suspected that I have affection for the writing of Rudyard Kipling – yes, very old-fashioned I know – but it is what it is.

Therefore I was rather delighted to have this lovely new revamp of his stories arrive and to note that they are intended for younger children. The simplified narrative and colourful illustrations will be well-received by little people, who are invariably very engaged with animal stories.

This collection presents six of Kipling’s best: How the Camel got his HumpHow the Whale got his ThroatHow the Elephant got his TrunkHow the Rhino got his SkinHow the Leopard got his Spots and Why the Kangaroo Jumps.

The pages are alive with the simplistically styled illustrations with minimal text on each, allowing for plenty of perusal time for little ones as each story unfolds. With loads of onomatopoeia there will also be much fun to be had with joining in a read-aloud. I love that the various writers have retained Kipling’s device of authorial intrusion speaking directly to the ‘dear reader’ (albeit in different terminology to those he used himself).

All in all, it is always wonderful to see timeless classic stories being introduced to contemporary children with modifications that appeal to today’s child without losing any of the flavour of the originals.

I can highly recommend this to you for either your Junior shelves or your own.

 

Wakestone Hall (Stella Montgomery #3) – Judith Rossell

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Harper Collins Australia

ISBN: 9780733338205

ISBN 10: 0733338208

Imprint: ABC Books – AU

On Sale: 22/10/2018

List Price: 24.99 AUD

 

I’m so very sad – not because the book was disappointing you understand but because I am going to miss Stella a lot *sad face*. I suspect I won’t be the only one. I know many young, and not so young, readers who have followed Stella’s journey avidly.

From book one we’ve watched as Stella has grown from a sad and beleaguered young orphan rigidly ruled over by the ‘aunts’ to a brave girl discovering her own story – one that is filled with love and magic and the support of friends.

Now the aunts have packed her off to Wakestone Hall, their old school (and her mother’s) which is cheerless and inhospitable and where it is expected her wilful disobedience will be curtailed. Little do they know that Stella will bond with two other abandoned girls and, ignoring such stupidity as cruel rules, together they will squash a nasty plot and thwart some dark magical forces. For Stella, it will lead to so much more but that would be telling.

More than anything, Stella – like everyone else – wants to belong, to a family, to ones who love her for herself and it is through her own daring that she finds her heart’s desire.

Thank you Judith Rossell for the pleasure of Stella. It has been a little harrowing at times but all is well with her world – and that’s what we wanted.

Highly recommended for readers from around ten years upwards.

Clementine Rose and the Bake-Off Dilemma [#14] – Jacqueline Harvey

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Penguin Random House

9780143780595

December 3, 2018

Random House Australia Children’s

RRP: $14.99

Clemmie is back with not only a new adventure but also some new and exciting family news!

Penberthy House is busier than ever now that Lady Clarissa and Drew are married, which means that Clemmie has a new step-brother in Will. Also of course, there’s been the revelation of Clemmie’s biological mother, Clarissa’s cousin Eliza – daughter of Great-Aunt Violet- and Clementine is still adjusting to calling the old lady Granny.  There’s also the weirdness of Granny and Uncle Digby being so ‘nice’ to each other – what’s that about? Even more so Mummy is not well. She keeps feeling sick and needing to rest – what on earth can be wrong with her? Just as the most exciting event is about to happen as well – The Great Village Bake-Off is about to staged right in Penberthy Floss!

There is keen competition for the title of winner and Clementine is super happy that there is to be a kid’s competition as well. She is spending lots of time practising some very interesting cake ideas. When the actual competition begins though there are numerous inexplicable disasters from flopped cakes to broken ovens. Someone is sabotaging the bake-off! Nobby and Florence Loveberry, the show’s hosts seem to think this is quite normal but Clementine and Will are quite sure that someone is up to mischief and of course, are determined to solve the mystery.

Fortunately there is a happy outcome (of course) and not only is the bake-off puzzle resolved but also the problem of Mummy’s sickness. She’s not sick at all – she’s pregnant! Wow! Clemmie and Will are going to have a little brother or sister to play with.

Clementine Rose has established herself as a huge favourite with the younger readers and this delicious episode will, no doubt, take the cake with them all! I foresee an upswing in my usual Book Week cooking competition as a result once my girls get their hands on it!

This is such a happy series with delightful characters and a great sense of family solidity. It’s no wonder these books are never on the shelves of the library and are so highly sought after in the returns line!

Highly recommended for readers from around seven years upwards.

Pippa’s Island #5: Puppy Pandemonium – Belinda Murrell

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Penguin Random House

9780143793267

December 3, 2018

Random House Australia Children’s

 

RRP: $14.99

The many young fans who have embraced this series with much enthusiasm will be delighted with the latest – and it’s just in time for Christmas too!

It’s been almost a year since Pippa and her mum, Jenna, and brother and sister – Harry and Bella – relocated from London to Kirra Island and their Beach Shack Café has become an established meeting place for many island regulars. Slowly their apartment above the café has been taking shape and they will be able to move out of their cramped caravan, unpack forgotten treasures from their old life and really begin their new one.

Not surprisingly money has been tight with every spare cent going to the apartment’s refurbishment and Pippa has been feeling some twinges of envy as she observes her Sassy Sister friends with their pretty swimsuits, bikes and lovely homes. When the local surf shop puts some super cute bikinis on sale Pippa is determined to buy one and comes up with her best plan ever. Pippa’s Perfect Pooch Pampering is born and soon Pippa has as many dog walking/caring jobs as she can handle – and more! Lucky she has such a great group of friends to help out and a lot of kind customers.

There is something completely joyous about these stories. Each resonates with themes of friendship, kindness, positivity and simple pleasures. No wonder they have been such a hit with readers. Let’s hope we see many more in the series!

Highly recommended for readers from around eight years upwards.

Just Breathe – Andrew Daddo

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Penguin Australia

9780143573623

July 30, 2018

RRP: $17.99

It must be hard to be so multi-talented *wry face*.  Andrew Daddo has certainly proven his ability as not only a media figure but a very able and engaging writer.

I’ve not been enthralled in recent times by a lot of the YA coming my way – it’s been too much ‘same oh’ for my taste but this is fresh and sparky and real in a way that will grab readers from the very start.

Emily needs to leave her country town for a while. She has a mysterious growth near her brain which requires specialist attention in Melbourne. She and her mum put on a positive and brave face as they leave home, Dad and Siss to go stay with Aunty Astrid. Emily is not only nervous about her condition but also the prospect of a new school, no friends and the unknown in general.

Hendrix is a very recognisable character. He is a boy whose father drives his own failed athletic ambitions and his hidden guilt through his son, pushing him harder and harder to achieve an Olympic dream with his running.

These two could not be very much different and yet in many ways are similar. Both face difficult challenges, both feel isolated from the normal teenage social existence and both are essentially lonely.

When they meet in the park – Hendrix running and Emily walking her new puppy – it is not a situation that seems likely to fire a romance. Yet both find themselves continually thinking about the other. Their romance develops in spite of their respective difficulties. Daddo has beautifully created the respective parents alongside the young people’s story. Emily’s mum, loving and supportive, understanding and compassionate, firm but realistic and Hendrix’ father, immovable, almost unbelievably strict and controlling, and it would seem without a shred of real paternal care and concern.

As the narrative develops and reaches its denouement the characters become fully rounded and grow to the point where the reader is totally embroiled in their lives.

I highly recommend this for both boys and girls from around 13 years upwards. There is some sexual activity and some ‘bad’ language which some find disturbing so err on the side of caution if this would not fit your collection’s ethos. However that being said it is absolutely believable and realistic and many teens would relate to its themes.

Everest Adventures (Usborne True Stories series}

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Harper Collins

October 2018

Imprint: Usborne

ISBN 9781474948142

RRP: $12.99

 

Here’s a great book for your readers of non-fiction, whether boy or girl. Eleven accounts of attempts to conquer Everest are related in simple but dramatic style with all the accompanying disappointments, tragedies and triumphs. From the early 20th century following the successful explorations of the Poles, adventurers turned their energies towards mastering the world’s highest mountain. At that time mountaineering, particularly high altitude attempts, was not well resourced and there were many sceptics about new ideas such as the use of proper thermal clothing or bottled oxygen.

George_Mallory_1915  George Mallory

Identities such as George Mallory, a young and promising mountaineer was lost on his third participation of an expedition. Last seen with his climbing partner about 245 metres short of the summit, Mallory and Irvine disappeared without a trace. It was not until seventy-five years later when a mission was mounted to discover the fate of the two that Mallory’s body was found and indisputably identified. What a thrilling, though tragic, story for young readers! The courage and tenacity of these early explorers paved the way for the successful summit attempt by Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay in 1953. It is possible that George Mallory actually made it first but no one will ever know.

Hillary_and_tenzing

Edmund Hillary & Tenzing Norgay

The book concludes with some up-to-date information about the most recent of expeditions – climbing different faces, the first woman to make the ascent etc.

All in all, it’s a super book for just general recreational reading or for those interested in a snapshot of inspirational figures to begin some research.

Recommended for readers from around middle primary to lower secondary.

Mamie – Tania McCartney

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Harper Collins

November 2018

ISBN: 9781460755860

ISBN 10: 1460755863

RRP $24.99

mamie

In this the centenary celebration year of May Gibbs’ iconic Australian children’s book, Tales of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie , how perfectly timely it is to have a new book which brings the creator to life for younger readers.

When May first wrote her stories she probably had little idea how much they would become ingrained in her adopted country’s cultural psyche nor how beloved her characters would become.

The woman who imagined the little bush folk is the subject of Tania McCartney’s new book as it details the early life of May – known as Mamie to her family. As a little girl in England this little girl was typical of her era relishing fairy tales and woodland creatures, drawing and painting and allowing her imagination to run wild with the inhabitants of the local woods and meadows.

When her family immigrated to Australia Mamie could not fathom this very different country. Where would her beloved fairies live in this often harsh climate and untamed bush?

But gradually Mamie realised that fairy folk live everywhere, that perhaps they just look rather different and have different adventures and thus the Gumnut Babies, the flower fairies, the wicked Banksia men and all the population of the wild Australian landscape came to life under her magical touch.

And in similar fashion Tania has breathed life and energy in Mamie’s story and very cleverly illustrated it in a contemporary style to which children will easily relate. Each page contains glorious tiny details for readers to pore over excitedly, the whole retaining the original freshness, quality and magic of May’s own work.

When I decided to celebrate the centenary with little people at school, there were some who were dubious about the children of today even knowing the books or being interested but I am happy to say that the past term sharing the adventures with Year 1 and culminating in making their own little gumnut babies to take home was a resounding success.  It thrills me to know that another generation loves the stories and will take them on into their lives. Postcard_gumnut_babies

We only have a couple of days left with our kids but I am desperate to share Mamie’s story with them so they can also take with them some knowledge about a woman who brought so much joy to so many people.

Thank you Tania for turning the spotlight so successfully on one of our national treasures in this the special year of their long lives! As usual your own work will stand the test of time alongside the originals with its dainty and sweet words and illustrations.

Highly recommended for readers from around four years upwards – and a perfect Christmas present for this year.

I still have my original copy (from around my 5th birthday) – do you have yours?

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Slowhand: The Life and Music of Eric Clapton – Philip Norman

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slowhand

Hachette

NOV 6, 2018 | 9781474606561 | RRP $32.99

Over the past week or so I’ve had the pleasure, despite my almost complete exhaustion at the end of year with long commutes etc) to read each night some of this new biography of the legend who is Eric Clapton.

For many of us fans, a great deal of his history is known even if only in sketchy detail. Philip Norman, with his long experience of writing biographies of numerous musicians coupled with his own experience within the music industry, has created a detailed warts-and-all insight into the Master.

From his early childhood which was in part tragic due to the callous abandonment by his mother but also blessed as his beloved grandmother and step-grandfather raised him as their own to the most recent of his achievements, Norman traces it all via in-depth conversations with friends, family and ex-partners.

This is a man who has triumphed over his demons his whole life and in one way or another is, actually, pretty lucky to have survived. But survivor he is and has risen above all the adversities, deadly habits and tragedies including the death of his much-loved little son to become arguably the most well-known and able guitarist in the world.

The boy who yearned for his own guitar and went through many ‘bangers’ until he could afford the best of the best, and listened relentlessly to his heroes of the great blues tradition has become a lodestone for those who not only aspire to carry on the blues tradition but also those who seek to rise above their addictions and self-harm.

Altogether an inspiring read, filled with drama, humour, pathos and resilience, if you are a fan you will love it and if you’re not you just might be after reading it – and even if not, you will not be able to help coming away with a sense of admiration for this man.