Penguin Random House
October 1, 2018
Well regarded author of adult books Elliot Perlman has ably proven that he can turn his hand just as easily to writing for children with this first book for younger readers. It is delightfully whimsical and carries a literary flavour of its Amsterdam setting within its text with an enviable ease (very reminiscent of Annie M. G. Schmidt’s beautiful classics).
Catvinkle is a much pampered only pet of a charming barber in Amsterdam. She is exceedingly beautiful and certainly talented in some ways but also very definitely selfish and rather casual with the truth. When her owner Mr Sabatini brings home a rather forlorn and neglected Dalmation named Ula, Catvinkle is extremely unimpressed to say the least. An intruder into her cosy parlour and water bowl and a dog to boot is the last thing with which she wants to contend. It will completely ruin her social standing in Kittens Anonymous for one thing!
Ula’s sweet nature and compliant personality win Catvinkle over slowly (of course her delicious musky smell which acts intoxicatingly on the cat helps) but it also endears her to others as she breaks down barriers between not only cats and dogs but dogs and dogs!
The subtle themes of anti-racism, anti-bullying, acceptance, tolerance, friendship and loyalty are delivered in a wonderfully funny story where cats who baby-shoe dance, fly with tail propellers and llamas who play backgammon are quite the norm.
Readers from around eight years upwards will delight in this magical story of animals whose lives seem to mirror those of humans.
Penguin Random House
July 30, 2018
I just have to say straight up – it was really great to read a truly ‘feel good’ book. This is a perfect read-aloud for kids in around Year 3-6 to generate some inspiration and discussion on school cultures in a humorous but meaningful way.
Raymond is, in his own mind, a bit of a loser. He’s a follower not a leader, he’s not the smartest in his class, he can’t even score a goal in soccer but he does care about his school. He cares that the school his mum also went to has degenerated into a dodgy ‘joke’ that everyone including his almost perfect cousin speak of with scorn. When the school gets a new principal (after several who left in despair in rapid succession) there might be some hope. Mr Humble wants to reinstate prefects – not captains but a team who will work together for the school. Raymond has no confidence in his own chances but goes along with his friend Zain, super soccer star, for an interview with the principal and his simple comment that he wants the school to be better and like it was when his mum went there impresses Mr Humble enough to include him in the team.
A team of four with very divergent personalities and skills has a rocky start but it is Raymond’s good sense and ability to communicate honestly that begins to make a difference. Of course, his bold statement that air conditioning for the lower classrooms (which will cost $20 000!) at the first prefects’ assembly could possibly have been his ruin. However, Raymond’s hitherto unsuspected ability to rally people together even the die-hard bullies of the school proves that he is really a leader not a loser.
The themes of friendship, teamwork, compassion, understanding and loyalty run through this narrative which happily has a great outcome. If you are looking to give your kids a bit of a pep up for this second half of the year this would be the perfect choice.
Highly recommended for readers from around ten years upwards.
Penguin Random House
Imprint: Pushkin Press
This superb YA novel deals with some pretty gritty issues like bullying (cyber and real life), self image, identity and family relationships and is one of the most wickedly funny books you’ll read all year.
Mireille, Astrid and Hakima are three girls at the same school and recently voted as the first three place-winners in a Facebook ‘Pig Pageant’ for the ugliest girls by their schoolmates. This event was initiated by Mireille’s erstwhile childhood friend Malo, who is one of the most odious youths ever. Since they both started high school Malo has made it his mission in life to humiliate Mireille at every turn.
While the girls are all pretty crushed by this horrible bullying, they are not going to let it get the better of them and form a friendship that will fly them forever. Each has a particular reason for their proposed plan to cycle to Paris for the huge Bastille Day celebrations; Mireille, wants to confront her biological father, now married to the President, Astrid wants to meet her idols Indochine and Hakima wants to berate the commanding officer about to be awarded the Legion of Honour for the debacle that resulted in her brother Kader losing both his legs in battle.
Overcoming the opposition of parents, the girls set off on what must be the craziest road trip ever with Kader in his super wheel chair as their chaperone. Along the way they garner the respect and adulation of thousands via newspapers and social media and in real life.
Told through Mireille’s witty and philosophical voice, the reader is alongside the girls for the entire trip which is joyful, uplifting and totally hilarious.
Proving themselves as true Mighty Girls the trio triumph over the online bullies and even horrid Malo shows some indications of redemption, especially when the reason for his nastiness is revealed. Each girl learns valuable lessons about herself particularly when they finally attain their goals and find that something has changed about their motivations.
Definitely worthy of its achievement of winning France’s biggest award for YA/teen fiction I highly recommend this to you for your girls from around 14 years upwards.
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Imprint: A & U Children
Ok so Richard Roxburgh is a talented actor and director in both theatre and screen and of course the star of Rake. Now he’s added writing and illustrating to his portfolio in a very successful way. I mean to say, he’s good looking as well? Talk about take out a jackpot! Anyway, I digress so on with the review.
For your kids who love the rambunctious humour of the likes of Andy Griffith, Tristan Bancks, or Aaron Blabey and get the hysterical giggles over a few fart mentions this is perfect.
Artie and his friend Bumshoe are not the most popular kids in town. One is skinny, has lost his dad which has sent his mum into a deep depression and the other is a chubby one-of-many in a pretty ‘relaxed’ family.
When these two discover a Cave-of-Possibly-Stolen-Stuff they realise that the dodgy Mayor Grime is somehow involved with this gang of thugs. There have been so many thefts around town that everyone is on high alert yet no one wants to believe the two boys. Artie in particular is determined to rescue his lovely neighbour Gladys’ pet tortoise which has apparently been pet-napped with many other creatures. But the two boys lack a serious amount of luck when it comes to finding a solution to the problem and end up in all sorts of trouble – including being almost eaten! An eccentric old lady who dabbles in high-tec inventions although continually coated in talc, a mum who rouses herself into tigress mode at exactly the right time and the stalwart support of good friends and neighbours saves the day.
Artie is no hulking hero but he stands up for what he believes and stands up to the bullies – and that’s an important message for any reader.
Any kid will love the part when one of the thugs has his bum bitten by the gang’s savage guard dog while enduring the world’s worst wedgie and will certainly love Aunty-boy’s invention the Fartex 120Y.
Highly recommended for readers who like to laugh out loud – from around 9 years old upwards.
Format: Paperback, 176 pages
Yes, it’s true, Nick Earls is one of my very most favourite authors 🙂 no matter if it’s kid lit or adult fiction. Aside from that, he is such a lovely human and very funny. When he graciously did a Q&A for my blog last year, one of the things we discussed was his arrival in Australia from Ireland as a child. Nick talked about the aspects that he found a little strange coming to a new country.
He has taken that personal experience and projected it into terms that children today can easily embrace through the story of one boy’s experiences as a newly arrived immigrant from South Africa. Herschelle is a pretty typical boy who has left mates, sport, school and a fairly frightening environment behind when his family move to Brisbane. He soon realises despite his research of Australian slang and customs, in order to fit in, that he doesn’t – at all.
With his ever present humour, Nick takes the reader on Herschelle’s journey into acceptance via his struggle with bullying and racism. It is this humour that takes the edge of some pretty intense concepts and puts this in terms with which younger readers can readily identify from their own playground observations.
Along with his designated buddy Max (of whom Herschelle initially suspects total nerdism) , Herschelle takes on the challenge of assimilating into his new surrounds and most notably his new school, One Mile State School. When the burgeoning friendship is jeopardised by Max’ apparent collusion with the school bully, Lachlan, Herschelle is all the more convinced he will never become part of the Australian fabric. After the ongoing persecution from Lachlan comes to a head and the principal steps in, Herschelle realises both that racism is not manifested in just one way and that bullying can be invisible to others, as he finds out that Max has also suffered at Lachlan’s intimidatory behaviour. The two boys are back on track and find themselves well placed to ‘buddy’ another ‘new boy’ when Roy arrives at the school. A refugee from South Sudan, Roy’s experiences provide even more enlightening revelation to the two friends.
This is an important book to promote to your readers and with Refugee Week fast approaching, would be a perfect vehicle to convey the important messages of acceptance and unity.
‘With courage let us all combine’
Ford St Publishing
May 1, 2014
Extent: 186 pages
Format: B format paperback
Age guide: 6 – 10
Kids who love humorous books of the ilk – Diary of a Wimpy Kid, My Life….(Tristan Bancks), Tom Gates and so on – will love meeting Jamie Brown and his family and friends.
Jamie and his family are poor – really poor – but his life is rich in other ways. Living alongside equally impoverished families in the old Grand Hotel on Hovel St, Jamie has quirky friends and loving family to compensate for the lack of dollars.
Then one day the Browns’ lives change dramatically when a distant relative gives them a squillion dollars and the family is moved to a huge mansion in Snootyville and Jamie is enrolled at a very posh school. How will the Browns, and Jamie, cope with this unexpected turnaround in their lives?
Examining themes such as bullying and being accepted, whether money buys happiness and persistence, the book comedically charts the progress of the Browns’ rags-to-riches story.
Interspersed with the text which includes some very funky fonts are numerous, very expressive, cartoon-style illustrations – which successfully break up the story into very accessible ‘chunks’ for readers who can be easily daunted by loads of writing.
No doubt you have many readers already familiar with Adam’s style and this novel, which apparently was inspired by Happy Gilmore (certainly one of my favourite movies!) will be sure to hit the right spot for both boys and girls from around 8 upwards. You won’t go wrong adding this one to your shelves!
Find teaching notes here at Ford St Publishing.
Imprint: Corgi Childrens
Extent: 432 pages
For the many fans of Wonder – my ‘tiramisu’ book! – comes this delightful companion volume. You will no doubt remember Mr Browne’s technique of using precepts with his classes and in the introduction to the book ‘Mr Browne’ explains his reasons behind this approach.
Divided into months, each ‘chapter’ has some words of wisdom, anecdotes, stories or email exchanges from Mr Browne and then a precept or quote for each day of the month.
I have only read about half of the book – why you might ask? Because I want to savour the surprise of each new day next year, when I intend to have this book on my desk and invite students and teachers to share in the joy.
It includes thoughts from authors and other personalities including John Lennon, Roald Dahl, Popeye, Anne Frank, Louisa May Alcott, Martin Luther King Jr and many many others. The Popeye one is a quote I have used time and time again on personal profiles etc – ‘I y’am what I y’am’ – which delighted me!
This will be a book to treasure and keep for many – and will be enjoyed by not only those who love ‘Wonder’ but those who are as yet unfamiliar with that amazing novel.
Forget the ‘chicken soup’ stuff – this one is truly inspirational for both young readers and adults alike.
We carry within us the wonders we seek around us
Sir Thomas Browne