Category Archives: Childrens books

Shout Out to the Girls: A Celebration of Awesome Australian Women

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shoutout

Penguin Random House

9780143789420

February 26, 2018

Random House Australia Children’s

RRP $29.99

 

What a fantastic book to add to your “Mighty Girl” collection! Covering a diverse selection of outstanding women from diverse fields of achievement and endeavor, this is a worthy addition to any primary or lower secondary collection.

The layout is particularly attractive with a palette of gorgeous colours and each subject with a ‘shout out’ to the person and the reason, a quote that relates followed by a double spread page of information and facing portrait.

There are women from our past as well as those at the forefront of their field now. Here you will find Edith Cowan and Louise Mack, Rachel Perkins and Stella Young, Jessica Watson and Vivian Bullwinkel and so many more – fifty in all.

This is a really beautiful book to savour and  conveys so much positivity to readers about the limitless potential of women to succeed.  As well all proceeds from royalties go to the Smith Family which is a terrific initiative.

Highly recommended for readers aged from around ten years up to sixteen.

 

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A Wrinkle in Time – Madeleine L’Engle [movie tie-in edition]

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Penguin Australia

9780241331163

January 29, 2018

Puffin

 

$14.99

How old were you when you first read this iconic book? I believe I was in 6th class so around 11/12. After the legion readers the novel has attracted since its first publishing in 1962 it seems hard to believe that the author had faced numerous rejections in its journey.  Since it went on to win the Newbery Medal, Seqouyah Book Award and Lewis Caroll Shelf Award, as well as being runner-up for the Hans Christian Andersen Award it would seem that those shortsighted publishers guilty of not realising its power lost out.

Although it has been adapted for screen and theatre previously, it is the forthcoming Disney production that has given this timeless novel a huge resurgence and this movie tie-in edition will be no doubt in high demand for young readers.

Just in case you’re completely in the dark the story tells of an extreme adventure undertaken by three children. Meg Murry is considered a bit of a problem child at school prone to emotional outbursts but quite bright. Not as bright however as her five year old brother Charles Wallace, generally regarded as a child genius and possibly also a little unevenly matched with their new friend Calvin. Meg and Charles Wallace come from a loving family with a brilliant and beautiful scientist mother, twin brothers who are athletic and popular and a scientist father who has been missing for over a year.  Three strange beings appear and instruct the trio of friends that they are to rescue Meg’s missing father who has been trapped on a remote planet by an evilness known as The Black Thing. The children soon learn about tessering – the ‘wrinkle in time’ of the title. That is, the ability to move through space at such a speed that time and equilibrium is not disturbed – too greatly. Though there is success in rescuing Mr Murry the children are faced with dreadful dangers as Charles Wallace is entrapped by The Dark Thing and Meg is almost destroyed.  Full of philosophy, belief, trust and loyalty and confidence this book has always been and will remain a rich source of endless debate and discussion.

Highly recommended for readers from around ten years upwards.

Movie trailer here – due for Australian release at the end of March.

Marvellous Miss May: Queen of the Circus – Stephanie Owen Reeder

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Publisher:   National Library of Australia
Edition:   1st Edition
ISBN:   9780642279156
Publication Date:   01 February 2018

RRP $24.99

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What is not to love about this wonderful Heritage Heroes series?  Stephanie Owen Reeder introduces readers to a cast of significant Australians with whom many of us are unaware (myself included).

This new volume continues the high standard set by the previous books with not only the fictionalised story of the person, May Wirth, but also the inclusion of relevant information around the circus both historical and current, the period, day to day life and more with the illustrations vividly enhancing these. These include, as in previous titles, advertisements, banners, newspaper clippings, ephemera and more which all add to the overall beauty of the presentation.

After sharing the 2016 Eve Pownall shortlist with my Year 5s, Lennie the Legend was our hot favourite as a winner and we were all very well pleased when our prediction became actualised.

I cannot help but feel that this new volume will also be shortlisted at least and stands a good chance of winning again.

For me it was a fascinating read. To start with this is a Queenslander who began life as a neglected, impoverished and abused child and was ‘given away’ at the tender age of seven. Fortunately for May she was taken in by the Wirths and became an integral part of their circus family. As she grew older little Miss May proved she was tenacious and talented and eventually reached the dizzy heights of performing with the legendary Barnum & Bailey circus in the United States as well as performing for royalty in England. With such an illustrious and long-lived career as May had it is indeed a shame her name is so little known in the common lore of our country. This book will be pivotal in changing that as it introduces the present generation to one of our first Mighty Girls – one who refused to give up, and who stood up for equal rights her whole life.

Well done to the author for this superb account of the indomitable Miss May.

Highly recommended for readers from around ten years upwards.

 

 

The Firefly Code – Megan Frazer Blakemore

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Bloomsbury Australia

Published: 01-12-2017
ISBN: 9781681195278
Imprint: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
RRP: $11.99

 

Mori and her friends have grown up a tight-knit circle in their neighbourhood in Old Harmonie.  They believe their life to be normal and regular although they know their city is ‘apart’ from others, except for similar communities around the world.  Their world is sheltered from the outside and well-ordered with state of the art scientific benefits.  Mori’s grandmother and her dearest friend Dr Varden were the founders of this Utopian settlement, with their research into genetic enhancements leading the way for a perfect world. But Baba died when Mori was just little and even before that Dr Varden had left Old Harmonie in mysterious circumstances.  Now the city like its counterparts is run by the huge corporation Krita. Still all seems to go on in the same undisturbed manner as always. Every one’s house has the same floor plan, every family eats the same food delivered weekly, every one follows the same rules.

Then Ilana arrives. The new girl in the neighbourhood is beautiful, graceful and athletic to a point of disbelief. But there is something odd about her at times. The way she speaks, the memory lapses and the lack of social mores all point to her being somehow not the usual kind of kid.

The kids of Firefly Lane are curious and not just about Ilana but also the mystery of Dr Varden and their explorations reveal something quite sinister and disturbing. Not least of all is the revelation about Ilana and eventually the planned outcome for her as a ‘failed project’.

This is a mesmerising dystopian novel for younger readers which would lead to deep and philosophical discussions in much the same way as Lowry’s The Giver.

In a 21st century world where designer babies, artificial intelligence and humanoids are becoming more and more commonplace, this narrative has many themes worth investigating and debating.

The second episode is on its way and I have no doubt it will be just as intriguing as the children strive to discover answers and solutions to their many questions.

Highly recommended for able and discerning readers from around ten years upwards.

Mr Bambuckle’s Remarkables:  Fight Back – Tim Harris

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fighback

9780143785873

January 29, 2018

Random House Australia Children’s

RRP : $14.99

The kids in 12B are pretty despondent.  Mr Bambuckle has been sent packing by Principal Sternblast and their replacement teacher Miss Frost is as icy as her name.  Every day is a complete nightmare with dreary worksheets and stony silences.  However, there is some hope when mysterious messages from Mr Bambuckle appear randomly. Scarlett discovers the wonders of PhotoCrop and the meaning of Mr B’s message about her having magic fingers becomes clear as she realises she can displace things – even people. Goodbye Miss Frost!

It’s not Scarlett alone who has brought about the good-riddance of their snarly teacher nor is it her doing that the school board reinstates Mr Bambuckle. This is a class who can, when needed, work together to achieve great things.

With Mr B back, on his unicycle with bacon and eggs and Himalayan tea, the class is ready to fire up their imaginations and their self belief.

The text is interspersed with lists and other bits and pieces which makes for some relief for those kidlets who struggle a little with large amounts of print.

Tim Harris kicks another goal with this continuation of the hilarity of Mr Bambuckle’s remarkable class. If you missed my previous review and the lunatic Q&A with Mr B and Tim look back – it’s definitely worth the giggle!

 

Highly recommended for readers from around 8 years upwards – I believe this is one series that will really grab those reluctant readers.

 

Triple Treat: Jacqueline Harvey, Belinda Murrell and R. A. Spratt

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Such fun to open parcels with books from the most popular authors in my library – and my literary circle! The titles from this trio are highly sought after among my readers and there is always much exchanging in the returns line up with ‘She had this but I want to borrow it next’.

To make it an even more interesting mix there is a beginning, a ‘middle’ and, sadly, an ending.

Kensy and Max #1: Breaking News – Jacqueline Harvey

K&M

9780143780656

February 26, 2018

Random House Australia Children’s

RRP $16.99

Without a doubt, Jacqueline Harvey has the girls from 7 to teens eating out of the palm of her hand with her Clementine Rose and Alice-Miranda series.  And if you have not had the pleasure of Jacqueline presenting at your school I suggest that you do as she is without doubt the most energetic and engaging author I’ve seen in action.

Now Jacqueline has turned her considerable talents to a series pitched at both boys and girls with a hugely popular premise – espionage! Kensy and Max are twins both alike and also very different. They are well used to living all over the globe as their parents, apparently, are first responders in both tourist resorts and in crisis/humanitarian situations. However, when the pair finds themselves in a completely strange house with only their ‘manny’ Fitz in loco parentis things being to turn very mysterious indeed with their parents missing in a civil revolt and house inhabitants who are both strange and yet oddly familiar.

The two are in turn baffled and curious and begin to piece puzzle pieces together of their own initiative. It would seem that MI6 is a ‘family’ thing!

This new series has both memorable characters and believable circumstances which will thoroughly intrigue readers from around 8 years upwards. I don’t need to use my considerable powers of ESP to predict that this will be as big a winner as Jacqueline’s other series.

Highly recommended for readers from mid-primary up – get it on your shelves ASAP!

 

Pippa’s Island #3: Kira Dreaming – Belinda Murrell

pippa3

9780143783701

January 2, 2018

Random House Australia Children’s

RRP $14.99

 

Without fail, if I put a Belinda Murrell book, whether Lulu Bell or one of the time slip series into a girl’s hands, I have her hooked from that moment. I’d like to think it’s my skill as a teacher-librarian but really its Belinda’s talent at knowing exactly what will grab her readers!

 

This is the third in her latest series and already I have girls clamouring for the next so this will be a huge hit when school goes back. There is something just purely delightful and happy about Pippa and her friends and family, even though there are serious moments e.g. Pippa’s absent dad. This doesn’t detract as I believe so many children can relate to the ambivalence about a parent who has absconded from the family. It’s difficult for them to reconcile their own love for that parent and the feeling of rejection/abandonment.

In this new episode, the Sassy Sisters are entering the school talent quest and while Pippa’s besties, Cici, Meg and Charlie are rapt about this opportunity, Pippa has real problems with her stage fright. Unexpectedly, it is this which provides a catalyst for Pippa to resume some ‘friendly’ relations with her MIA father.

These stories are fabulous narratives about real life situations to which readers can relate – despite the fact that they may not live on a tropical island!

Again, highly recommended for readers from around eight years upwards and if you’ve missed the first two, put them on your ‘to buy’ list as well!

 

Friday Barnes #8: Never Fear – R. A. Spratt

fridayfinal

9780143784203

January 2, 2018

Random House Australia Children’s

RRP $15.99

 

When I gently broke the news to my avid Friday readers that the forthcoming book would be the last in the series there was full scale caterwauling and gnashing of teeth. The only thing that saved me from literary lynching was the promise of a new series in the pipeline – whew!

 

I’ve mentioned this before. I love Friday! I love her geekiness, her gauche-ness, her daggy clothes and social ineptitude.

 

Highcrest Academy has a new principal and she is one seemingly mean and shockingly capable young woman. She promptly promotes Friday to Year 12 to ‘extend’ her and Friday is convinced that this means she’s just one step away from being ousted from what she regards as her home.

Along with this is the persistent rumour of long hidden gold somewhere in the school grounds and when implosions and explosions begin to disrupt the regular (!!) routine of Highcrest everyone is on edge.

 

Some huge questions are answered in this final volume. Will Friday ever kiss Ian? Can Melanie stay awake long enough to observe it? Who will still be a student in the academy at the end of year? Is the new principal who she says she is or an imposter? And will Friday ever kiss Ian? 😉

 

There will be some sad faces at this the final Friday chapter but reassure your readers that more great stuff is on its way from R. J. Spratt’s imaginative mind!

Highly recommended for readers from around mid-primary upwards.

 

Collins Modern Classics: Thomasina (: the Cat who Thought She was a God) – Paul Gallico

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thomasina

ISBN: 9780007395187

ISBN 10: 0007395183

Imprint: HarperCollins – GB

RRP $14.99

 

When I was little and even a bit more than little my mother often took me to the movies. Usually we saw Disney films or musicals – our favourites. I’m guessing it was around 1964 and I was eight years old when we went to see The 3 Lives of Thomasina which I adored. Some others of a certain vintage may also remember it with Patrick McGoohan, Susan Hampshire and a very young Karen Dotrice. What I didn’t realise at the time was that it was also a very well known book by a very famous author (despite being a voracious reader). When I did discover the book I fell in love with the story all over again and now have had the great pleasure of receiving this new edition in the  Collins Modern Classics series.

Seven year old Mary Ruadh is motherless but has a father who loves her beyond life. Of course she loves him as well, though others find him very cold and often crochety. Alas poor Mr McDhui is the village vet, a thwarted doctor due to family pressures and really he’s not very fond of animals. Especially he is resentful of young Mary’s pet Thomasina, a cat of wisdom for whom the child holds a fierce passion.

When Thomasina falls ill, the vet is in the depths of a crisis trying to save a blind man’s dog and callously tells his assistant to put the cat down. Mary’s grief is boundless and her antagonism towards her father is vengeful and actually cruel as a result.

Yet Thomasina is not dead. She is rescued by a strange young woman who lives in the woods as a hermit and tends to the wild creatures.  Thomasina’s second life begins in Lori’s cottage and she feels her previous life as an Egyptian deity is back.

Mary’s intensity of grief is so overwhelming and leads to her falling closer and closer to death from a broken heart. Her father is beside himself and has nowhere to turn until he too discovers the compassionate power that Lori holds.

Fey Lori is the catalyst that will provide healing for father, child and cat.

This is an iconic Gallico book full of magic reality. Love, compassion, trust and faith all play their part in this strange and compelling story.

Gallico wrote over forty books (did you know he wrote The Poseidon Adventure?) and many of them feature similar themes and animals.

This is well worth a re-visit and an introduction to a new generation.

Highly recommended for readers from around ten years upwards.

 

A Superb Surfeit of Dame Lynley Dodd

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Sometimes procrastination pays off. I have been putting off reviewing the scads of picture books I have piled up ready for the holidays. How pleased that Dame Lynley Dodd’s newest offering is one of these because this week I was thrilled to spend not one but two sessions in the presence of this living treasure – arguably New Zealand’s greatest author.

The Moreton Bay library services hosted a Dame Lynley Dodd extravaganza and I was firstly not only amazed that such a momentous occasion was to be held locally but that also there was such a minimal cost!

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First of all, Thursday afternoon was an hour’s glorious In Conversation with Dame Lynley Dodd. I am reliably informed by the lovely Zoe B from Penguin Random House that there were 400 attendees.  Interviewed by her good friend and curator of her art exhibition, Penelope Jackson (herself a well-known art historian and author) the rapt audience was treated to insights into Lynley’s early life, career and ongoing work.

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Saturday was an even greater thrill with two master classes hosted by the Redcliffe Art Gallery. First we revelled in an hour’s guided tour of the Telling a Story with Dame Lynley Dodd exhibition with Pamela Jackson describing original artworks, inspirations and works-in-progress. This was followed by a personal workshop of around twenty people all of whom were completely and utterly entranced by Lynley’s walk through of her approach to writing and illustrating. What is there to say? It was wonderful and special and truly a highlight of my year, both personal and professional.

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Taking centre stage of course (with Dame Lynley reading it to us during the Thursday session) was her newest and 34th book:

Scarface Claw, Hold Tight

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Penguin

9780143770985

October 2, 2017

Puffin

RRP $19.99

 

Using the inspiration of a local news story about a cat that was blissfully sleeping on the roof of its owner’s car (quite a common scenario) and the ensuing pandemonium when the owner takes off into town, Scarface Claw – that disreputable and ruffian-like feline – is subjected to a wild ride.

As one can imagine, the driver has no clue that he has an unintentional stowaway and is slightly bemused by all the passersby who madly wave to him in attempts to halt his progress.

Of course, after all these futile attempts the inevitable happens and the poor unknowing driver comes to a sudden stop whereupon a rather disgruntled and discombobulated Scarface unceremoniously slides to the car bonnet.

This book was referred to, as quoted in the Conversation session, as vintage Dodd and of course it is. That seemingly effortless rollicking rhyme to which every child responds recounts Scarface’s adventure with humour and spirit, while all the while we are quite sure that there will be a safe and happy outcome.

Long we may enjoy the delight of Dodd! Now that some of us are enjoying them in a third generation without them ever losing their original joy, we can only hope for many more.

Highly recommended for all little and larger readers from toddler age upwards.

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Binge Reading Jackie French

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The upside of injuring both your legs badly at the same time is that you have a very legitimate excuse to stay in bed reading a lot. And fortunately my lovely friends at Harper Collins must have had some kind of premonition because the day before my accident I had received a plethora amazing books to review including the three here. Fortunately (with hindsight) I had not yet read Miss Lily’s Lovely Ladies which meant I had the double delight of reading both the first and second in the series back to back (over the course of two days). The latest in the Matilda series Facing the Flame was consumed in one evening.  Aside from anything else I think the rate at which I devoured these speaks volumes for the sheer pleasure of them.

Miss Lily’s Lovely Ladies

ISBN: 9781460753583

ISBN 10: 1460753585

Imprint: HarperCollins – AU

 27/03/2017

RRP $29.99 AUD

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A tale of espionage, love and passionate heroism.

Inspired by true events, this is the story of how society’s ‘lovely ladies’ won a war.

Young Sophie Higgs has grown up a privileged girl being the only child of the wealthiest man in NSW, Jeremiah Higgs the king of canned corned beef. But in the rigid society of Sydney, as in England, ‘trade’ is scorned and so despite her wealth, intelligence and beauty it would seem Sophie will always be second-class by the established standards. Until that is, in order to deflect Sophie from an unsuitable love affair, she is sent to England to the home of her father’s old army friend Earl of Shillings to be coached by his cousin Miss Lily and eventually be presented at court.

In England Sophie’s world is wonderfully and gloriously opened wide as she becomes the prized ‘pupil’ of the enigmatic Miss Lily and makes new friends, is sought after by new lovers and particularly held in esteem for her wit, courage and compassion. But the glittering world of the debutante is quickly extinguished by the outbreak of war and it is here that Sophie demonstrates her real abilities and character.

As with all of Jackie’s historical novels a completely captivating and richly detailed narrative is interwoven with actual historical fact to create a mesmerising offering.  I was hooked from the very first page and would have been extremely sorry to reach the end except for the fact that I had the next volume with which to continue. How fortunate are we to have such an exceptional writer to claim as our own? The breadth of her talents seems endless.

Highly recommended for readers of around mid-teens upwards. Find teaching notes here.

The Lily and the Rose

ISBN: 9781460753590

ISBN 10: 1460753593

Imprint: HarperCollins – AU

19/03/2018

RRP 29.99 AUD

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The Great War is over but that doesn’t necessarily equate to peace. Sophie Higgs is soon to come to this realisation as she re-establishes her life in Australia, taking over her late father’s business empire as an independent confident young woman. Alongside her, the circle of women who have become her ongoing support network in a society that is no longer defined by the old norms.

It is not only politics and world affairs that are clouded for Sophie. She is still torn between her love for Nigel, Earl of Shillings, the strange attraction of Dolphie the German aristocrat and in a new twist a stranger, John, who is trying to expiate his own war by carving crosses into rocks until he feels at peace.

A call for help from her old friend Hannelore sees Sophie becoming even more daring as she goes to wartorn Germany on a rescue mission from which she returns even more confused in her emotions.

Those thoughts remain until a crisis with Nigel’s health sees her racing to England via the unheard of method of flying with female pilots around the world to reach her beloved and at last the two are married with their whole future ahead of them. Or is it?

Jackie has left this tapestry with some small waving threads that will have every reader hanging out for the next instalment.  Again a superlative storyteller takes us on a magical, romantic and adventurous journey and my recommendations remain glowing for the mid-teens upwards.

 

 

Facing the Flame – #7 The Matilda Saga

ISBN: 9781460753200

ISBN 10: 1460753208

Imprint: HarperCollins – AU

20/11/2017

$29.99 AUD

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I didn’t need to re-read the last in the series to be utterly enthralled by this latest right from the get-go. In fact, this was a complete binge, read in one night because it was just too good and too gripping to put down.

Jed Kelly is the happiest she has ever been. She’s married to Sam, and pregnant with their first child. Her hearth and home are a haven. Young Scarlett is doing well at uni and carving out a newly independent life.

Then cracks start to appear. The dry weather is worsening with many old-timers predicting the worst of fires ever. The man she fears most re-appears in Jed’s life, intent with malice and revenge. A young girl blinded in an accident is creating issues at the River View facility. But Gibbers Creek is one tough and tight community where there is immense support for each and every one of their whole.

When the tiny spark finally escalates into the worst imaginable fire, the community is galvanised into action and though Jed passes through a frightening and dangerous episode and one could say her baby almost has a baptism of fire, the loyalty, intuition and the indomitable spirit of old Matilda resonates through the township and surrounds.

This is a cracking story filled with rich characters both old and new and imbued with all that we hold dear about Australian love of country and mateship.

Highly recommended for readers of around 14 upwards.  If you don’t have the complete series yet, this is one worth investing in for your collection particularly for Middle/Upper school and wide reading of Australian spirit/identity.