Tag Archives: Allen & Unwin

It’s Not You, It’s Me – Gabrielle Williams

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Allen & Unwin

August 2021

ISBN: 9781760526078P

Imprint: A & U Children

RRP: $19.99

Yes, that tag line – Freaky Friday meets Pretty Little Liars – really hits the mark. This is one helluva time-travel that not just the life-swap but the cities/continents/decades swap as well! And what a ride it is, especially when there’s a serial killer thrown into the mix.

Holly Fitzgerald, of Melbourne, has just finished celebrating her 40th birthday lunch with friends when she wakes up on a footpath – make that, sidewalk – in LA in the body of a 16-year-old girl named Trinity. Literally, what the……? Holly stumbles her way through meeting a neighbour (cute boy – Australian, coincidentally), going to her ‘home’ and then adjusting to a ‘family’ whilst feverishly trying to piece together what on earth has happened to her, and how – and most of all, where then is Trinity?

The one resonant fact shared between her actual life and this strange 1980s faux life in LA is an orange Brother typewriter – second-hand and vintage in Melbourne but shiny and new here in Los Angeles. Of course, the odd synchronicity of a Holly Hobbie doll, identical to one she was given as a newborn, being on Trinity’s bed does strike her as a little strange as well.

When Brother Orange, the typewriter, starts delivering furious messages from Trinity, trapped in what she scornfully refers to as Holly’s boring, middle-aged existence and demanding the situation be fixed, Holly needs to work through a lot of unanswered questions about her past, her life and the connections between herself and Trinity’s family. – and at the same time, save both their lives from the Mariposa Murderer.

This is, by turns, hilarious and clever, fascinating and frightening, but above all a real page-turner as the reader demands to know what on earth is going on and why. There is a smattering of swearing which may bother you for your younger secondary readers but mature readers from 13 or 14 upwards who enjoy a thrilling narrative will relish this one as it explores the eternal questions of ‘what if’ in a very original and engaging manner. Oh, and absolutely stunning cover art!

Highly recommended for Year 8 upwards – it will be on my list for my next ChocLit meeting for sure!

Who Fed Zed? – Amelia McInerney. Illustrated by Adam Nickel

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Allen & Unwin

July 2021

ISBN: 9781760524432

Publisher: A&U Children’s

Imprint: A & U Children

RRP: $24.99

For my library event of last week, I was required, of course, to complete the paperwork to tick all the boxes and of the 50 children attending, ten had dietary requirements – with nine of those being medical conditions not just a choice. Of those nine, four had anaphylaxis alerts and so we needed to have EpiPens at the ready. Those of us in schools have long realised that the growing numbers of children with food or other allergies, many of them severe, are reaching unprecedented figures.

So, this lively and highly amusing picture book, which very cleverly and subtly reinforces the message that food allergy/intolerance is a real issue for many children, and that reading food labels carefully is important for everyone.

The narrator explains through rhyme that friends Ted, Ned and Fred normally play with Fred’s dog, Jed, but sadly Jed has a very bad case of fleas, and for some reason, the flea power treatment has not worked. So instead of Jed, they watch Zed, the fish. Now Zed has already had a narrow escape after being fed bread at one point, so everyone knows not to make that same mistake but what happens when you don’t read packaging carefully? Oh oh – well it is quite a calamitous chain of events but very fortunately all turns out and once again Zed escapes unscathed, and Jed is finally freed of fleas.

Your little ones will absolutely love the rhyming thread throughout and this is a story that begs to be read aloud – with, I have no doubt, many requests for repeat performances.  Amelia McInerney has taken the situation of her own child as inspiration for this extremely important book which will promote healthy discussion about food allergies and intolerances but also, I would hope, lead to a general understanding of food choices for some – all of which leads children to a more considered acceptance of differences.

Naturally, it would work particularly well within a unit of work focused on nutrition or health but as a stand-alone, particularly if your class or group is welcoming a child with food allergies, it is also highly valuable.

I recommend this highly for little ones from Prep upwards – and even your tiniest humans in childcare/kindergarten settings will benefit from its message that for some children, certain food/s can be dangerous.

Story Doctors – Boori Monty Pryor. Illustrated by Rita Sinclair.

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Allen & Unwin

July 2021

ISBN:9781760526559

Publishers; A & U Children’s

Imprint: A & U Children

RRP: $24.99

Timely in more ways than one, as once again so many parts of Australia and our people are anxious and fearful with the Covid pandemic again causing distress, and as we approach NAIDOC 2021 with its significant and meaningful theme of “Heal Country”, Boori’s new book is a song from his heart.

Prior to the initial outbreak of Covid in 2020, Boori had predicted that Australia was going to become sick, as a result of our country’s painful and, as yet, unresolved shared history, this litany of injustices, cruelty and wilful misunderstandings. And while the 2020 Covid lockdown in Melbourne raged around him, Boori took to words to write a prescription for healing our country so that we can move forward with true understanding and respect in our hearts.

Described as both a story and a history this is, to my mind, a richly empowering epic poem which resonates with such heartfelt emotion that it cannot fail to move the reader with its carefully chosen words and imagery. The superb illustrations by Rita Sinclair lend both vibrancy and animation to the text and there are many pages at which the reader will gasp at the beauty of them.

As cathedrals echo time,

and footprints’ rhythm steps the rhyme,

prescriptions so sublime.

Boori has given us all a true treasure with this remarkable and deeply personal offering to the nation and it is one which very rightly deserves to be shared with readers over and over again. Many schools will be celebrating NAIDOC after the holidays and this would be the ideal choice for a shared reading at any assembly or within classrooms and libraries to prompt thoughtful discussion and unpack the meaning of NAIDOC’s 2021 theme. 

Green shoots so small,

to trees so tall.

Breathe,

believe.

It’s in the song…

…if we listen, we all belong.

What greater gift can we give our children – those ‘green shoots so small’ – than to help them grow in understanding, respect and true equality?  I urge you to get hold of this book as soon as you can and start the ripples by sharing it with your own children and classes, even your littler kiddos will be able to grasp the meaning if you help them navigate the beautiful text. Contact publicity@allenandunwin.com for more information

Highly recommended for all readers – young and old.  #Healcountry 

https://www.naidoc.org.au/resources/teaching-guides

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.

Untwisted: the story of my life – Paul Jennings

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Allen & Unwin

September 2020

Imprint:A & U Children

RRP: $34.99

When I took over the reins of my first school library Paul Jennings was the undisputed king of children’s books and those on our shelves were, in fact, not there very often! To say they were on high rotation through circulation is an understatement and there was a constant need to buy new copies as they became shabbier and shabbier. This wasn’t my first encounter with Paul’s genius though as I had been reading his stories aloud to my various classes for years and without fail, there would be paroxysms of laughter, sharp intakes of breath and gasping groans depending on the particular story.

And now this – a memoir which is achingly honest, often very moving while at other times extremely funny, as Paul peels back the layers of his multi-faceted life and reflects on his careers as teacher, lecturer, speech therapist, author, script writer as well as complex relationships with others and his struggle with depression. So deeply involved with his reflections was I that I read way past my regular ‘bedtime’ over several nights until I finished.

I love the way this is structured. With his typical skill Paul chooses not to tell his story in a linear chronological way but roams across various periods of time and even within these intersperses with additional anecdotes. Far from being disjointed this is almost like enjoying a conversation with him which makes for a truly engaging reading experience.

If you want to know more about the craft of writing, read this. If you want to know more about compassionate and empathetic teaching, read this. If you want to know more about living with mental health issues, read this. If you want to know more about making children laugh, cry and love books, read this. And most especially, if you want insight into this giant of children’s literature in Australia, read this.

What can I say? This is without doubt the best biographical book I’ve read in a long time about a person for whom I have the greatest admiration. I’ve never been in the right place at the right time to meet Paul but oh! how I would love to!

Highly recommended for all lovers of great Australian children’s literature and this acclaimed author.