Omg, I can’t tell you how much I loved this read during the week!! It completely reminds me of two much-loved favourites, Carrie’s War by Nina Bawden and Goodnight Mister Tom by Michelle Magorian (both of which I own and have re-read many times), but with its whole new take on the situation of evacuee children in WWII.
Jimmy and his little brother have been evacuated from London to a Welsh valley – traditional, coal-mining families and either open welcomes or suspicion of ‘foreigners’. Mr and Mrs Thomas are warm and caring, and little Ronnie is quickly comfortable with both, but Jimmy is both distrustful and resentful. He’s already lost his mum, who took off leaving the brothers with their dad and grandmother, and he’s certainly not ready to treat this temporary stay as ‘home’. The entire London contingent seem different here. Jimmy’s best friend, now lodged with the local minister’s family, has turned into a nasty bully like the Reverend’s son and Florence, uncared for and abused at home, blossoms into a true friend.
Jimmy is to realise that even a temporary family can be a solace but first there are difficulties to overcome and these are complicated when the boy discovers a human skull hidden in the hollow of an old tree. Enough to scare even an adult, this find has Jimmy scrambling for someone to trust and sometimes an ally can be found in the most unlikely quarter. The secrets of the valley are gradually revealed as Jimmy and his little tribe work together to solve a decades old mystery, and bring much needed comfort to a long-held grief.
We do know, of course, that not all the evacuated children had happy experiences and we cannot begin to comprehend how overwhelming or unnerving the whole exercise would have been even for those who did. In those times, many city children had never had any experience of wide open spaces, nature and the reality of rural living – some didn’t even know that milk came from cows!
Young readers, particularly those who are fond of such stories set in wartime, will find much to love about this narrative. The strong themes of family, friendship and bravery are very inspirational and will give many children finding our current circumstances difficult some insight in dealing with similar events.
Highly recommended for your readers from around ten years upwards.
Ok, I admit it, I’d kind of let this one slide because really my scan of the blurb made me think – oh, gaming online – so not my kind of thing. WRONG! Because, yes it does revolve around gaming but it is far more about relationships, both family and friends (real and virtual), bullying/intimidation, identity and determination. I really enjoyed it and will be talking it up to my students with gusto.
Divya is queen of her universe – that is to say, she is a hugely popular streaming gamer and queen of her #angstarmada within the virtual world of Reclaim the Sun. With her best friend and trusty lieutenant Rebekah she has, as D1V, accrued a massive following and sponsorships from major companies which all help her and her single mum to survive financially.
Aaron’s passion for gaming is all-consuming and his ambition is to be the scriptwriter for successful games, much to the chagrin of his mother who is pushing him to become a doctor like herself. In spite of his family’s secure financial situation, Aaron has painstakingly assembled his gaming rig himself from salvaged components out of his neighbourhood’s garbage.
These two connect online although each is still dealing with their own set of problems alone but when a truly fearsome legion of trolls calling themselves Vox Populi begin threatening not only their virtual world but their real lives they join forces resolutely and refuse to go down without a fight.
It is gripping and intense, though also relieved throughout with some humour and light-heartedness as the relationship between the two gamers develops.
In my opinion this is a contemporary novel which many young adults will enjoy and find very relatable, particularly with its strong theme of following your dreams and resisting the intimidation of bullies.
Highly recommended for readers from around 13ish upwards!
Serena Patel wants to do more than entertain with her stories. She is determined to offer her readers insight into the experience of being ‘different’ and in her case that means growing up as a culturally different child in her school and neighbourhood, being isolated and bullied, and adrift as a homeless teenager and the feeling of hopelessness that comes with such negativity.
Anisha Mistry is clever and logical, loves science and her best friend Milo as well as of course her family, even though they are loud, chaotic and just a little crazy. Her Aunty Bindi’s upcoming wedding is threatening to throw the family into even wilder than normal mayhem and her own involvement as a very reluctant bridesmaid is certainly not making her feel any happier.
All that being said, when the groom is kidnapped and Anisha receives a ransom note, she is determined to spare her family any more agitation and together with her bestie Milo sets out to solve the crime and save the wedding.
It’s hilariously funny and at the same time shares some very acute observation and insight into life within a British-Indian extended family circle – many relatives, loud conversations, exuberant emotions and lavish occasions.
Of course we also have many families in Australia of Indian heritage and there is no doubt in my mind that many will relate to Anisha’s relationship with her relatives as well as their customs, but for Anglo children, or those of other cultures, this is just as much fun and interesting with its peep into life in such a vibrant and loving family.
A fantastic addition to your collection for a whole bunch of reasons I highly recommend this for your shelves, best suited for kiddos from around 8 years upwards.
Andrew’s books are always such a joy and this one is no exception. For everyone who has felt as though they didn’t ‘quite fit’ in with everyone else here is the entree to embracing that difference.
Stumpy is not like the other Quigs. While they are all adept at jumping, Stumpy just can’t manage it – no matter how hard he tries. He is particularly afraid of the wide open spaces. Naturally his peers take great delight in pointing out his perceived shortcomings and continually mock him for those.
But Stumpy’s determination to succeed is his saving because his attempts to jump lead him to a marvellous discovery about himself. Having raised a child who is ‘different’ and my own personal joy and pride in her struggle to capitalise on her strengths whilst overcoming her difficulties, this book resonates with me largely. And for many of us in a teaching situation we will have children like these in our care who are likewise – and this provides them with a validation that their individual differences are more than just okay – they are to be embraced.
If you have little readers with the usual differences in abilities this is a perfect book to share and from which many rich and valuable discussions will evolve. Both text and illustrations are superb – as one has come to expect from this talented creator.
Highly recommended for readers from around Prep upwards.
You will find the teaching notes particularly useful.
This is the fourth in this hugely funny series for newly independent readers and just as hilarious as the earlier ones. Pug and his owner, Lady Miranda, seem to encounter all kinds of mischief and mishaps whenever and wherever they venture out. So a holiday at the seaside would be no different of course. Pug is none too fond of the water and quite frankly is absolutely terrified of the thought of getting on a boat but when the Lady Mayor’s chain is whisked away by a piratical parrot it seems there is no choice but to become a sea-going pug.
Local bully boys seem determined to beat Lady Miranda and her friends at rescuing the stolen treasure and even dare to scupper their ship but they don’t reckon on Pug’s resilience and his ability to turn the worse situation into an advantage.
Loads of laughs with some very entertaining illustrations abound and this is perfect fodder for readers from around six years upwards. I have a couple of the previous books tucked into my ‘relief teacher’ bag of supplies and they never fail to engage as a read-aloud for kids as old as ten. However, I know a little girl who is an enthusiastic reader who might really like this particular one so it’s off to her it goes!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.