Count with Little  Fish – Lucy Cousins

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littlefish

Walker Books Australia

ISBN: 9781406374193
Imprint: Walker
April 1, 2018
Australian RRP: $11.99
New Zealand RRP: $13.99
This has to be one of the cutest board books I’ve seen in a long time! We all know Lucy Cousins vibrant and expressive illustrative style and this underwater journey with some very funky fish is just a delight.

Babies and toddlers alike will be entranced with the rhythmic text, alliteration, and onomatopoeia following the antics of Little Fish and his finned friends. Count from 1 to 10 with some very cute and colourful fishies with your favourite tiny person!

Perfect as a gift or for your kindy shelves this is a great little fun book!

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Missing – Sue Whiting

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Walker Books Australia

ISBN: 9781760650032
Imprint: Walker Books Australia

March 1, 2018
Australian RRP: $17.99
New Zealand RRP: $19.99
Right from the get-go this novel is full on with its action, mystery and poignancy. Thirteen year old Mackenzie is at a difficult time in her life leaving primary school and off to a private girls’ high school away from friends. A tough time for any young girl but all the more when your mother has gone missing on a scientific expedition and has not been heard of for months.

 

Kenzie’s father has been an absolute mess since the disappearance, her grandmother sad but resigned and Kenzie herself has managed to convince herself that the only explanation that fits is that her mother has been placed in a witness protection programme.

 

Now 116 days after her mother’s disappearance her father has taken Kenzie to Panama in a desperate attempt to find his wife.  Kenzie is just as desperate not to solve the mystery in her conviction that it will bring about a dire result for her mum.

 

Jungles, bats, strange food and customs, dead ends, unhelpful police and a father who behaves like a crazed person – it’s all too much to bear. But circumstances have a way of unfolding at their own pace and when Kenzie’s dad ends up in hospital with typhus she and her new acquaintance Carlo take matters into their own hands following an unexpected lead.

 

This is a completely gripping read – a real page turner with believable characters and emotions. On a personal note, as a Shire girl, it was somehow intriguing to read of Kenzie catching a train from Kogarah or shopping at Westfield Hurstville – my old stomping grounds but it is the fast-paced plot and the slowly unfurling chain of events that keep the reader intrigued right to the very end.

Highly recommended for readers in  Upper Primary/Lower Secondary.

 

Oma’s Buttons – Tania Ingram/Jennifer Harrison

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Penguin Australia

9780143786573

April 2, 2018

Viking Imprint

RRP$24.99

 

We grandmothers know there is a special bond between us and our grandchildren – some of us even more so than others.  Tania and Jennifer have produced a beautiful book which encapsulates just one aspect of this relationship.

 

So many of us would have experienced the joy of rummaging through the ‘button tin’ – my mother had one and I had one (and still have some of those buttons squirreled away). And it’s quite true that these humble little artefacts can evoke such powerful memories. To share those memories with a special child is one of the greatest gifts an older person can impart particularly when those we love are no longer with us.

 

Essentially a simple narrative about Ruthie spending time with her Oma and the discovery of the button tin of memories, this demonstrates so beautifully the importance of reminiscing and remembering especially in families. More importantly in my opinion it reminds us that sharing our time with our little ones is not always about outings and treats, that often it is the simplest of pastimes that have the most impact.

 

This is a delightful book to share and would be perfect for discussing special family traditions, memories and histories. The stunning realistic illustrations are just a perfect match for the story.

Highly recommended for readers from little ones as a read aloud to older newly independent readers.

The Book of Answers: an Ateban Cipher novel (Book #2) – A. L. Tait

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Hachette

Mar 27, 2018 | 9780734417695 | Rrp $14.99

The intrepid outlaw girls and boys are back in the next exciting instalment of the Ateban Cipher – Gwyn, Merry, Scarlett along with Gabe and now Eddie (aka Prince Edward) are on a quest to deliver the Book of Secrets to the rightful recipient.  When Gabe first took charge of the mysterious book he knew nothing about it except that it was dangerous in more ways than one. Now with the help of his new comrades some progress has been made and the group are on their way to the isolated Hayden’s Mont and Lord Lucien where they hope to rid themselves of the book (and their deadly pursuers) and be able to get on with other business.  But more than answers about the book are in store at Hayden’s Mont – Gabe receives a shock regarding his birth origins, they are all in a quandary about what to do next when Lucien says he cannot take charge of the book and Eddie still needs to reach his father the King with the proof of his identity – not to mention Gwyn’s determination to save her own father from his unjust and false imprisonment.  While some threads appear to be tied up, others are just unravelling – what is in store next time for this brave band?

This is the kind of thrilling adventure that has readers turning the pages as fast as they can devour the story along the way discerning many important themes about trust, loyalty, ingenuity and courage.

A .L. Tait’s knack for creating these gripping and often tense exploits has been well demonstrated in her Mapmaker Chronicles series (as a reader said to me in the last week of school – “I just LOVE this series – it keeps you on the edge of your seat!”) and now continues the success with this new series.

Hear A. L. Tait talk about the inspiration for this new series here.

Highly recommended for Upper Primary/Lower Secondary readers both boys and girls.

Flamingo Boy – Michael Morpurgo

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Harper Collins Australia

ISBN: 9780008134648

ISBN 10: 0008134642

Imprint: HarperCollins – GB

On Sale: 26/02/2018

RRP $19.99

With his expected flair Michael Morpurgo takes some history and transforms it into a fascinating and poignant narrative blending modern day and World War II.

Young Vincent is about to take his final exams and is finding it difficult to focus and be motivated. In an effort to do so he promises himself he will visit the location of his favourite picture given to him by his grandparents. It is one of another Vincent’s works – boats on a beach in the Camargue, in the south of France. Duly with exams behind him Vincent takes himself camping but becomes seriously ill. Taken in by a kindly though odd older couple from a farm he recuperates slowly and is the audience for their combined story. Autistic Lorenzo and Romany Kezia first became friends at age eight when Kezia’s parents set up their carousel in the marketplace of Aigues-Mortes. There the two met; the boy who could not communicate well and the girl despised as a filthy gypsy – neither of them fitting the ‘normal’ social mode.

When the war came to Vichy France and the Nazis swarmed there was danger for both of them so Lorenzo’s family farm became a refuge for both. War breaks many things as does nature and when the carousel, the last remnant of joyful times, in the little marketsquare is destroyed, life seems very bleak indeed. But dark times bring out the good in many – families, communities and even some soldiers. A kind sergeant with a knack for carpentry becomes an unlikely ally as the children and the families heal.

Morpurgo’s beautiful descriptive writing and the almost lyrical nature of his narratives do not fail readers yet and this is another of his novels destined to become a classic read.  Rather than focusing on the evils of the war he chooses to highlight the humanity and hope that prevails in difficult circumstances.

Highly recommended for readers from around eight years upwards.

A Garden of Lilies: Improving Tales for Young Minds (From the World of Stella Montgomery) – Prudence a. Goodchild

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Harper Collins Australia

  • ISBN:9780733338229
  • ISBN 10: 0733338224
  • Imprint: ABC Books – AU
  • On Sale: 14/11/2017

 

Children,listen and take heed,
As this little book you read.
All your evil ways amend,
Or you will meet a dreadful end.

 

For lovers of Stella Montgomery and her two highly successful narratives to date, comes a delightful little book which will give readers many giggles and perhaps even some possibly useful tips on everyday life. I’m not entirely sure how many readers will have a need to know the ins and outs of Victorian cutlery service nor semaphore (though we still taught it to Brownies when I was a leader!) but it is a great fun read.

It is also beautifully presented – a gorgeous little hardback with gilt lettering and a ribbon place marker to add to the authenticity of it’s supposed era. The marbled endpapers add even more effect to this.

Throughout there are some short moral stories to educate young minds but it is arguably the ‘useful tips’ that are the most amusing.

Growing a giant marrow, the language of flowers and improvising a compass are just some of these.

An astute reader from around ten years upwards with a good sense of humour will find this delightful!

The Dollmaker of Krakow – R. M. Romero

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Penguin Random House

Sep  2017 | 336 Pages | Middle Grade (8-12)

ISBN: 9781406375633
ISBN-10: 1406375632
RRP $24.99

krakow

 There is war.

There is pain.

But there is magic and there is hope.

I’ve read many books both fictional and non-fiction concerning World War II and particularly the horror of the Holocaust but never have I read one that blends historical fiction with fairytale and folklore. Think a mixture of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas and Hans Christian Andersen and ancient Polish folktales for this unusual and intriguing book.

Basically two narratives run together, sometimes parallel and sometimes interwoven. Karolina is a little wooden seamstress who lives in The Land of Dolls. Her homeland is beautiful and filled with joy, sweetness and all good things. Until that is, the Rats from across the sea invade (perfect allegory!). The filthy contemptuous rats bring every bit of their cruel, mean-spirited and arrogant ways to bear on the inhabitants of The Land of Dolls, terrorising all from the highest to lowest with equal dispassion. Eventually forced to escape her little cottage, Karolina finds refuge in the woods and also a wooden soldier called Fritz, formerly of the Royal Guard. The two make their way to find the gentle warm wind called Dogoda which reputedly can transport toys to the human world.

Karolina fetches up in the shop of the Dollmaker of Krakow, a kindly but troubled man who unknowingly possesses a special magical gift which has brought Karolina to life in the human world, as she was in her own land.  There she and the Dollmaker find solace in each other’s company and after some time also find true friendship with Jozef, a widowed Jewish symphony violinist and his little girl, Rena. When the Nazi rats invade Poland just as they did The Land of Dolls, the cruelty begins and death, destruction and despair envelop beautiful Krakow. By some mystical fate, a young and arrogant SS officer who begins a remorseless campaign of persecution against the four, who now consider themselves family, has a frightening connection with Karolina and the Dollmaker.

The poignancy of this tale tinged with its mystic reality is every bit as heartbreaking as any piece of ‘straight’ historical fiction. With beautiful illustrations reflecting the folkloric nature of the piece and similar borders which define the Land of Dolls narrative this is a work of art in more ways than one.

The fact that it took me only two sittings to consume this at the end of a long and tiring term is a testament to its power to enthral.  This is a powerful debut novel which resonates with the themes of hope, compassion and the strength of the human spirit and love.

 

I would highly recommend it for readers from around 12 years upwards.

Bill Baillie: The Life and Adventures of a Pet Bilby – Ellis Rowan

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Publisher:   National Library of Australia
Edition:   1st Edition
ISBN:   9780642279200
Publication Date:   01 March 2018

RRP: $24.99

 

Aptly in time for Easter (Bilbies not Bunnies!!) this is a beautiful abridged adaptation of Ellis Rowan’s fictionalised account of the little orphan bilby she raised and kept as a pet. The original was published in 1908 as simply Bill Baillie and included beautiful colour plates of some of Rowan’s wildflower paintings. Her extraordinary travels around Australia and to Papua New Guinea marked her as an unusual woman of her times and her prowess as a painter of wildlife, though she had no formal training was remarkable.

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During an extended stay in tiny Goongarra on the Western Australia goldfields in 1906, wildflower painter Tabitha is given an orphaned bilby, blind and hairless, rescued from its dead mother’s pouch. With painstaking patience she raises the little creature and takes it on many travels with her. With so little known about these tiny animals at the time, Bill Baillie became a fascination for all who came into contact with him, earning him the soubriquet of His Highness Master Bill Baillie. His quirky antics and endearing personality make for engaging reading.

This lovely edition also features some of Rowan’s wildflower plates in colour, comprehensive information about bilbies and advice for wildlife rescue. A glossary is also included to assist young readers in an understanding of language of the period.

A delightful hardback of almost pocketsize, this is just a truly beautiful book which would make a lovely gift as well as a fine addition to a primary collection.

Highly recommended for readers from around 8 years upwards.

Click here for more information about the Easter triplet bilbies and the work of the Save the Bilby Fund.

 

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Libby in the Middle – Gwyneth Rees

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Bloomsbury Australia

Published: 01-01-2018
ISBN: 9781408852774
Imprint: Bloomsbury Children’s Books

RRP $12.99

 

As my Kim would tell you being the middle of three girls is not a piece of cake for much of the time.  Libby is finding this truer than ever. Her older sister Bella, who used to be great company, is now a snarly, rebellious teen completely rapt in her boyfriend (of whom Dad disapproves strongly). Little sister Grace is sweet but too young to be a playmate more of a chore when both Mum and Dad are working.  And to make matters worse, the whole family is moving from the city to a tiny village where Dad grew up. Aunt Thecla has offered to pay the girls’ tuition at the local posh girls’ school and there will be work for both parents, a quieter lifestyle and no unsuitable boyfriend hanging around.

However tree changes don’t always go to plan. First there is the first rental house which is more of a ramshackle disaster than a home. Then there is Bella secretively escaping to make phone calls or something else that remains unexplained. Then there is Aunt Thecla, who actually isn’t as bad as Libby had imagined but is still kind of bossy and single-minded.

Libby has to deal with scornful local girls, a family at odds with each other and a dismaying escalation of secrets each more complicated than the last.

This is a terrific tale for readers from around ten years upwards as it explores many nuances of family life and issues that often confront children such as the disruption of moving house and familiar locations.

Its conclusion proves that family relationships are never just black and white. There are always shifting guidelines, compromises, mistaken judgements and understandings of another’s perspective to be negotiated and worked through.

A highly recommended read for upper primary or lower secondary students.

The Thunderbolt Pony –Stacey Gregg

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Harper Collins Australia

  • ISBN:9780008257019
  • ISBN 10: 0008257019
  • Imprint: HarperCollins – GB

September 2017

RRP $26.99

 

Stacey Gregg’s series of which this is the fifth has been a stellar hit with my ‘horsey girls’. And though I’m not particularly horsey myself (aside from paying for Miss Small’s passion) I have thoroughly enjoyed them as well as each weaves some excellent factual and historical information into the narratives.

In this newest book it is not only the devastating impact of the Christchurch earthquakes which form a dramatic part of the plot but the little-explored incidence of mental illness in children. Although society is becoming more open about such illnesses, rarely I have seen references or certainly novels which take on such concepts.

Evie is 12, her father is gravely ill with cancer and she and her mother are dealing with this trauma as best they can. For Evie, her anxiety over her father has manifested into OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) which is having significant impact on her everyday life. When her tiny town of Parnassus is evacuated due to the severity of earthquakes, Evie refuses to leave without her beloved pony. Her mother has been injured so does not know that Evie has rejected the evacuation plan and has, instead, set out cross country with Gus, her pony, plus Moxy the cat and Jack the dog. Facing many situations which require initiative and daring, Evie’s mental health is tested to its limits.

This is a thrilling adventure for girls and one which will offer them real insight into the acuity that mental pressures/ill-health can impose on children just like themselves.

Highly recommended for readers from around ten years upwards.

 

Teaching Guide here