Tag Archives: Australian stories

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.

 

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Mrs Whitlam – Bruce Pascoe

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Magabala Books

Author: Bruce Pascoe

Published: Jun 2016

ISBN: 9781925360240

Ages: Middle primary, Upper primary, Young Adult

 

I am very quickly becoming very enamoured of Bruce Pascoe’s writing for young people (not to mention for adults). He is really deft at making his young adult characters believable and contemporary without relying on current vernacular or props to make them so.

 

Marnie is horse mad but from a family that precludes her from owning one of her own. But a woman in her town who has sadly lost her daughter gives Marnie not only the horse but all its tack. Unfortunately, even owning her own horse and being a competent rider doesn’t quite cut it with the other teens at pony club. Their attitude towards an Aboriginal girl in their midst is far from welcoming particularly when she is riding a Clydesdale called Mrs Whitlam.

 

However Marnie has a strong family and her own inner strength. When she and Maggie (aka Mrs Whitlam) rescue a child from the surf and seals a growing friendship with George Costa, the Golden Boy of the school, she becomes a heroine and her acceptance in a worthy circle of friends is confirmed.

 

This is an evocative text which illustrates the sometimes sly racist attitudes in Australian towns but is never ‘preachy’ which makes it all the more powerful.

Marnie and Maggie make a formidable duo and not least of all because of their individual strengths and loyalty.
Highly recommended for readers in Upper  Primary to Lower Secondary.

Lulu Bell collections – Belinda Murrell

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Lulu Bell’s Amazing Animal Adventures – Belinda Murrell – illustrated by Serena Geddes

ISBN: 9781925324358

Published: 01/02/2016

Imprint: Random House Australia Children’s

RRP $19.99

 

Lulu Bell and the Birthday Unicorn
Lulu Bell and the Cubby Fort
Lulu Bell and the Tiger Cub
Lulu Bell and the Pyjama Party

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Lulu Bell’s Fantastic Holiday Fun – Belinda Murrell – illustrated by Serena Geddes

 

 

ISBN: 9781925324372

Published: 01/02/2016

Imprint: Random House Australia Children’s

RRP $19.99

 

 

Lulu Bell and the Koala Joey
Lulu Bell and the Sea Turtle
Lulu Bell and the Pirate Fun
Lulu Bell and the Circus Pup

 

 

Regular readers of this blog will already know how well loved the Lulu Bell books are in this house. They are far and away Small’s favourites. David Attenborough may reign supreme for her viewing but it is Lulu Bell who wins outright when it comes to our nightly reading time.

 

In fact as I did not have the complete collection, having not reviewed earlier ones, the missing titles were one of the gifts in her Santa sack. She just adores them. And why wouldn’t she? She and Lulu Bell are about the same age and they both just are passionate about animals. In fact Small wishes she too lived in an animal hospital! (Mind you our growing menagerie must come close to having as many occupants!)

 

Each bind-up comprises four favourite titles from this successful series and whether you are introducing these to newly independent readers or ‘topping up’ your series collection they will be highly prized additions to your shelves.

 

Lulu Bell lives with her parents and younger brother and sister in a beachside town where normal daily life with family and friends becomes an adventure. With a dad who is the local vet and living next door to the surgery, animals abound both at home and also on holidays.  Lulu and her friends are just regular kids and their exploits, problems and solutions all resonate easily with young readers.

 

I was very surprised to find that in my new library there was only one title on our shelves – soon fixed that problem! I know they will be a huge hit with our little girls.

 

For more information on this series as well as Belinda’s other outstanding titles check out her website.

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Lucky visitors to the Newcastle literary festival were blessed to be able meet both Belinda and Serena there. I was positively peeved that we missed out!  Hope they bring this to Bris Vegas sometime!

Ugly – Robert Hoge

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 Ugly-Jr

ISBN: 9780733634338

Publication date: 11 Aug 2015

Page count: 160

Imprint: Hachette Australia

RRP $16.99

It has taken me a while to get to review this Younger Readers’ version of Robert Hoge’s successful memoir. My Year 8 students have been working on an English task which was to research and write a feature article about an inspirational hero and one of my young ladies had chosen Robert because she had started reading his memoir. I had just received this review copy so handed it to her in case she might find it helpful as well.  Not only does the book come with her recommendation, she was so delighted that Robert responded to her email to him and she has been able to ask him questions directly. What a generous human! Thank you Robert – you provided this wonderful young girl with an amazing learning experience!

Today I spent a very pleasant hour or so reading this funny and moving, honest and courageous recollection of growing up as the ‘ugly’ kid

Robert’s story is by now pretty well known to many adults who have either learned about his life via the book or the media but this new edition will bring his inspirational story to a whole new readership.

When Robert was born with severe physical problems including a large facial tumour, his family’s life changed in many respects but not in the most important aspect. They were still a loving, supportive unit who when faced with a challenge rose to it with an admirable and enviable ease.

But let’s not make light of this. This is an incredible story – of not only a wonderful human being but an exceptional family.

Do yourself a favour and read it. Better still put this on your shelves! The Younger Reader version is eminently suitable for readers of around 10 and up.

Check out Robert’s website here and teaching notes here