Tag Archives: Courage

The StrangeWorlds Travel Agency : The Edge of the Ocean Book #2 – L. D. Lapinski

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Hachette Australia

APR 13, 2021 | 9781510105959 | RRP $16.99

Now that Flick is officially a member of the StrangeWorlds Travel Agency, and with one exciting adventure already under her belt, in which she demonstrated some unexpected and remarkable powers, she and Jonathan Mercator are summoned to help another world. This time they are joined by Jonathan’s distant cousin, Avery, to whom Flick takes a strange instant dislike.

The urgent request for help has come from Queen Nyfe, who rules as a pirate chief over a motley crew of almost skeletal ships, in a world called The Break. This strange watery flat world is used to ships disappearing over the edge but in recent times, it’s become apparent that the world is breaking up and so the dangers have increased exponentially for Nyfe, her crew as well as the other mariners and the mer-people who also inhabit the once vast ocean.

Flick, Jonathan and Avery face more than just the pressure of saving The Break’s peoples. The various inhabitants are fighting amongst themselves and navigating the subterfuge on all sides is tricky indeed. Added to this is the shocking realisation that Jonathan’s lost father appears to be indeed dead and his grief renders him almost helpless in the struggle to work out how to transport ships, gigantic mer-people and pirates through a suitcase to a new and suitable world – even if they can actually find one that will fit the bill. And then there is the (to Flick’s mind, weird) way her feelings towards Avery and what seems to be a reciprocal feeling change as the quest unfolds.

Once again, this series delivers amazingly rich narrative with characters with whom readers will fall in love. I, for one, will eagerly anticipate the next instalment and your readers from around middle primary upwards will adore this new instalment.

Hollowpox: The Trials of Morrigan Crow. Nevermoor #3 – Jessica Townsend

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Hachette

SEP 29, 2020 | 9780734418241 | RRP $17.99

Huzzah! It has finally arrived! We’ve all been waiting with great impatience but at last the next instalment is here. And what a corker it is! Not only is it gripping and full of new revelations but has most uncanny parallels to our current parlous circumstances.

Morrigan is looking forward to her new studies at Wunsoc and the delicious anticipation of her second Christmas in Nevermoor as well as many other delights but there is a dread development overtaking her adopted home.

As Morrigan is introduced to deeper studies as part of her Wondersmith training by virtue of insights into long-gone but carefully preserved lessons, a bizarre and deadly illness is infecting Nevermoor’s Wunimals. Normally peaceable and productive members of society, the affected Wunimals are becoming wild and vicious unnimals attacking without reason anything and anyone in their path and eventually succumbing into a sort of ‘hollow’ torpor losing all traces of their unique ‘wunimal-ness’.

As the mystery virus takes hold with more and more Wunimals becoming infected and causing grievous bodily harm and even deaths, the residents of Nevermoor become violently divided in their reactions. Some vociferous in their protests that the Wunimals one and all are a menace to society, some in complete denial that the illness exists while others work as hard as possible to find a cure and save all lives – sound familiar?

Morrigan begins to see that it is going to be up to her to find a cure for the Hollowpox but doesn’t quite bargain on her arch-enemy Ezra, the disgraced and feared Wondersmith, being the one who will lead her to it – though by very convoluted and mysterious ways.

As the young Wondersmith grows in her mastery of the Wretched Arts she is able to see more, do more, achieve more and manipulate the world around her more and while she still faces dire challenges and dangers, as she weaves her wundrous way through each new obstacle until she attains success, she is able to attain success, despite all odds.

This is not simply a new adventure filled with thrilling and and tense episodes but a very revealing insight into human nature and an ‘en pointe’ comparison to much of the disparate, and often extreme, responses we have all witnessed in recent times.

Fans, young and old, will relish this latest in the lives and events of Nevermoor and Morrigan and, like me, will be unable to put it down until they are done. And immediately, we will all be waiting with bated breath until we are able to re-visit Nevermoor, Morrigan, Jupiter and Fen – along with all the other marvellous and rich characters we have all grown to love so much.

Naturally it needs no recommendation – most of those I know have had their copy on pre-order forever!!

Starfell: Willow Moss and the Forgotten Tale [Starfell #2]- Dominique Valente

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Harper Collins Australia

April 2020

  • ISBN: 9780008308445
  • ISBN 10: 0008308446
  • Imprint: HarperCollins – GB
  • List Price: 16.99 AUD

Being the youngest in the family is often a reason for feeling overlooked and somehow lesser and for Willow Moss this is especially true. She is both the youngest and the least magical in her family of witches. Even though in her most recent (first) adventure she actually saved the entire world which no one remembers at all, it seems her magic has gone rather skewiff and instead of her usual magical ability of being able to find missing things, she is inadvertently making things disappear. Obviously this is causing some disquiet not only with her family but the entire village.

This is particularly upsetting when her friend Sometimes is kidnapped. At least Sometimes, who can see ten minutes into the future, had time to send Willow a note asking for help before he disappeared. Not that it has helped that much as Willow has really no idea where to look for him. Still she sets out along with her faithful kobold Oswin and thus embarks on one of the strangest and most dangerous missions ever, one that will take her right to the very edges of Starfell and into the most terrifying of situations. Fortunately along the way through a series of misadventures and weird circumstances Willow acquires some friends who prove to be staunch in the face of danger.

Your young readers who love exciting magical stories mixed with some nasty villains, just enough creepy danger and loads of humour will lap this series up without doubt.  As well as that, they will gain much from the themes of loyalty, friendship, courage and self-belief.

Highly recommended for readers from around 8 years upwards.

What Stars Are Made Of – Sarah Allen

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9780241427965

Penguin Random House

April 2020

ISBN: 9780241427965

Imprint: Puffin

RRP: $14.99

This is just a wonderful heart-warming book on many levels and has introduced me to not only a new author but new information.

Libby Malone is 12 years old and passionate about science so much so that she wants to be a scientist when she grows up. Her favourite scientist is the over-looked Cecilia Payne – first woman Astronomy Chair at Harvard and the first person to postulate the theories on what stars are made of – work which was discounted but then appropriated by men in the field.

Libby also has Turner Syndrome – a condition of birth that has affected her physical development in many ways – but about which she is pretty pragmatic although she does sometimes wish she had a friend other than the school library.

Her older sister  Nonny, whom she adores, is now married and living away from the family but returns when her husband has to go away to work and she is pregnant and needs to have a safe haven. Libby worries over Nonny’s baby and the fact that Nonny and Thomas are struggling financially. Her mind races with ‘what ifs’ and so she inspired to take up a challenge that could change their lives and help them secure a home of their own. She determines to enter a new Women in STEM competition initiated by the Smithsonian  and of course she has the perfect subject in her much revered Cecilia.

At the same time new girl Talia arrives at the school and like Libby she also stands out from the crowd mostly because she is Samoan. The pair forms a tentative but increasingly stronger friendship which sees them both encourage and support each other through crises and challenges, and ultimately rejoice together.

This has much of the same deep ‘feels’ as books such as Wonder and will appeal to upper primary/early secondary students in just the same way. Libby encounters and triumphs over the petty meanness of both the ubiquitous school bully boy and an even more odious adult, editor of her school history textbook. She and Talia both pursue their goals with determination and singular focus and both have the measure of success they both need to affirm their chosen paths.  And of course, the arrival of baby Cecilia, though not without its dramas, is the magical icing on Libby’s cake.

The warmth and love of family and special friendship, self-pride and identity are all well teased out concepts in this novel and the reader feels immense connection with the characters.

I would recommend it highly for readers from around 10 years upwards and certainly if you have kiddos who have loved Wonder then this would be a natural to add to their ‘If you liked…’ list.

Stormbreaker – Anthony Horowitz

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Walker Books Australia

March 2020

ISBN: 9781406388589
Imprint: Walker
Australian RRP: $16.99

By chance, when I found out that the new 20th anniversary edition of Stormbreaker was being released I was ‘re-reading’ it on audio during my commute and relishing the pure adrenalin rush that is the hallmark of the series.

Frankly I’d be happy to read Anthony’s shopping list – the man just oozes talent in whichever field he pursues but let’s face it there is something super special about young Alex. It remains one of those series which I can inveigle a reader to pick up for a first read and have that reader come back for a bulk borrow of the rest of the series.

And how extra exciting is it that this anniversary edition heralds another new episode in Alex’ thrilling adventures – Nightshade is coming!

If for some reason you’ve never accompanied Alex on any of his adventures (seriously??) you should know he is a 14 year old schoolboy who is recruited unwillingly by the powers that be following the suspicious death of his guardian Ian Rider to undertake dangerous and potentially deadly missions. In reality the man he always knew as an international banker was in fact a highly skilled secret agent and has trained Alex all his life to be as competent an operative as himself. Now Alex is sent to investigate one Herod Sayle, to all appearances a wealthy and generous benefactor, but in fact one with not only a streak of insanity but a vindictive killer.

Sayle’s plot to unleash a deadly virus on every single one of Britain’s schools via the gift of his new and technologically unsurpassed computer, the Stormbreaker, is what Alex must put a stop to – succeeding in fact where his uncle had failed.

The action doesn’t stop for a second in this roller-coaster introduction to a world into which Alex finds himself so reluctantly dragged but due to the management of his many ‘hobbies’ instigated by his guardian he actually finds himself surprisingly well-prepared.

This is  a series that both boys and girls will grab hold of with gusto, fully immersing them in the non-stop action. Thank you Anthony for 20 years of thrilling adventures with the boy-spy who beats them all!

Highly recommended for readers from around ten years upwards and why not pre-order the newest volume now!

Beyond Belief (Heroes of the Holocaust) – Dee White

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beyond-belief

Scholastic

March 2020

Publisher: Scholastic/Omnibus Books

ISBN: 9781760662516

RRP $17.99

It may be the holidays and I don’t need to be up at the crack of dawn to get to school but even so for me to read a book cover to cover in one night when I go to bed is pretty much indicative of a great read.

Dee White I thank you for introducing me firstly to a history of which I had no idea and secondly for transforming that into a narrative that is at once fraught with tension and filled with hope.

Based on true events of the Muslims in Paris who rescued Jewish children at the risk of their own safety, this is the story of eleven year old Ruben and his perilous journey to evade the evils perpetrated by the Nazi occupiers of France. Left by his parents at the Grand Mosque in Paris so that he will be safe while they go in search of Ruben’s older sister and her husband, Ruben has been promised that a saviour known as ‘The Fox’ will come for him before long. In the meantime, he must become as ‘Muslim’ as is possible for a Jewish boy in order to protect his identity – as well as the mosque inhabitants.

However when the mosque and its faithful protectors are targeted by the Nazi regime a flight into danger ensues and Ruben plus other at-risk friends Hana and her little brother Momo are in the hands of the network of resistance fighters/rescuers.

Their escape is dangerous for all concerned but there is light at the end of the tunnel and when they finally reach a safe haven there is an astonishing revelation in store for young Ruben.

The pace and intensity of this narrative leaves the reader almost breathless as we feel ourselves to be right in the danger with the children. Such histories of the Holocaust – and the story of both survivors and those who so selflessly helped them – are testaments to the enduring and inherent goodness and courage of so many. How truly wonderful that Dee White has shed light on this chapter in this narrative to inform readers – and incidentally proven the true character of Islam to a wider public. These are the books that will empower our young people to grow in acceptance, compassion and empathy.

I cannot recommend this highly enough particularly for readers from around 12 years upwards and as a ‘read-around-your-topic’ for students of the Holocaust and World War II.

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Click here to read more about Dee’s journey to bring this story to life.

The Kid Who Came From Space – Ross Welford

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Harper Collins Australia

January 2020

ISBN: 9780008333782

ISBN 10: 0008333785

Imprint: HarperCollins – GB

List Price: 14.99 AUD

This is the second Ross Welford book I have read and reviewed [The 1, 000 Year Old Boy] and once again I am tremendously impressed in his story-telling which takes something unbelievable and makes it completely feasible.

A small village in Northumberland is shocked and in turmoil after the mysterious disappearance of 12 year old Tammy especially of course her parents and her twin brother Ethan. Despite vigorous and thorough searching there seem to be no clues. That is until Ethan reluctantly accompanies relative newcomer and definitely odd Iggy for a spot of fishing to ‘take his mind off’ the situation. The boys don’t have any luck with the fishing but they do ‘catch’ something – the realisation of an invisible spacecraft and the appearance of a definitely visible fur-covered tailed humanoid called Hellyann – who indicates that she not only knows where Tammy is but how to rescue her.

Imagine a civilisation that keeps animals in a zoo for the edification of its own species – oh that’s right – but imagine if that civilisation is located on a remote planet in another galaxy and the animals kept are actually humans. That’s where Tammy has been taken by one of the ‘Hunters’ of the planet Anthalla. This race has become so uniform and so controlled in its past 500 years of history that no member of it dares to disagree with any of the strict protocols in place. There may be order and peace but it’s at a price – with no individuality or emotions allowed. The flaw in that is that there are just a few Anthallans whose ancestors were of ‘mixed’ DNA so that their descendants retain some human traits – such as emotional responses. And Hellyann is one of these ‘Hearters’ and knows that there is something inherently wrong with abducting a human, removing it from its family and keeping it sedated and contained. Hence she sets out on a mission to rescue Tammy but enlisting Ethan and Iggy.

There is much humour to be had in this narrative but also a great deal of thought-provoking concepts to consider. Once again Welford has crafted a story which demonstrates the unerring ability of children to bridge the sometimes vast gap between others and forge unlikely friendships as well as rising to challenges which reveal their inner reserves of determination, resilience, courage and compassion.

Another truly worthwhile book to share with your readers from around 8ish upwards, I highly recommend it for Middle Primary to Lower Secondary students.

Eight Princesses and a Magic Mirror – Natasha Farrant/Lydia Corry

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Harper Collins

November 2019

ISBN: 9781788541152

ISBN 10: 1788541154

Imprint: Head Of Zeus – Zehpyr – GB

List Price: 29.99 AUD

Whether you are looking for alternative princesses or fairy tales or just looking for a beautiful book for the Mighty Girls in your readership this stunning gift book ticks all the boxes.

When an enchantress prepares for a new princess’ naming day saying she promises to ensure that the new little girl will become an ‘excellent’ princess, she needs to determine what in fact that means.

According to some it’s clean fingernails, manners, being pretty and kind to animals but the enchantress feels it’s so much more than just that. Her magic mirror is really not that much help but she knows a way to solve that problem and shrinks the large mirror to a pocket-sized compact and so its adventures begin.

Picked up by the first princess and travelling through time, place and misadventure over centuries the mirror becomes an important talisman for a eight different girls, each with their own strengths and energetic personalities who demonstrate courage, intelligence, compassion and love with big hearts and a burning desire to live life to its very best whatever that may be.

When the mirror returns finally to the old enchantress both have learned something valuable and lasting and the new princess will undoubtedly benefit from their wisdom.

This is truly a beautiful book both to read and behold – the colourful illustrations lend a real insight into each different princess and the absolutely glorious binding will make it a treasure for any recipient.

Mirror, mirror on the wall… what makes a princess excellent?’ The enchantress’s mirror travels through time, from east to west, to find the answer. Reflected in it are princesses who refuse to be pretty, polite or obedient. These are girls determined to do the rescuing themselves. The Arabian princess of the desert protects her people from the king with the black and gold banner; Latin American Princess, Tica, takes a crocodile for a pet; a Scottish princess explores the high seas; African Princess, Abayome, puts empathy and kindness above being royal; and in a tower-block, Princess saves her precious community garden from the hands of greedy urban developers. {Publisiher}

Highly recommended for readers from 8 years upwards.

White Bird: a Wonder Story – R. J. Palacio

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9780241397244

Penguin Australia

October 2019

ISBN: 9780241397244

Imprint: Puffin

RRP: $39.99

Millions of readers have fallen in love with Wonder and its subsequent books and will most likely think of Julian as Auggie’s tormentor but in this first foray into graphic novels Palacio presents a completely different side to the erstwhile bully. Those who have also read Auggie & Me will have had a brief introduction to Julian’s French grandmother but it is of no consequence if readers have not as this narrative is completely self-contained.

Julian has a humanities project to do and he decides that his much-loved grandmother will be the interviewee for his assignment. He knows a little of her story but now she tells it fully via their Facetime conversation.

Sara relates her own personal history as a young Jewish girl evading capture by the Nazis and her fugitive existence being cared for indomitable French friends and also reveals a great deal about life for others during this most terrible and frightening of times. It is powerful and moving and tragic but ultimately heart-warming and an affirmation of the goodness of many people – those who are willing to risk all in order to do the right thing especially.  The courage and kindness of those who helped young Sara to survive is echoed in the accounts of many Holocaust survivors and Palacio herself has personal connections to these through her husband’s family.

 

While entirely fictional it does of course draw on much factual information which is thoroughly explained at the end of the book along with other entries, links and references for readers to explore at leisure.

The survivors of the Holocaust are adamant, and rightly so, that the immensity of the wholesale slaughter of not only Jews but the other minorities targeted by the Nazi regime should never be forgotten – or repeated.

Sharing stories such as this along with non-fiction accounts with our young people is vital and in my experience the outrage of the injustice and inhumanity of these develops a solid and strong sense of empathy and understanding in students. It goes without saying that in our own parlous times this is something which we must strive to engender in all.

I cannot recommend this highly enough. I am not, as some know, a great aficionado of graphic novels but found this a compelling (one session) read and one that will help children to understand the enormity of this heinous episode in human history in a manner that is calm and honest.

Listen to a grab here.

Maple the Brave – Chloe Jasmine Harris

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Walker Books

May 2019

ISBN: 9781925381924
Imprint: Walker Books Australia
Australian RRP: $24.99

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I feel terrible for taking so long to get to this beautiful book on my vast review pile because it really is a joy (what can I say, it was the term from hell!)

Chloe’s debut picture book as both author and illustrator clearly indicates that she will be force with which to be reckoned.

The premise of the book about facing fears and developing resilience is so timely and the detailed illustrations will have children poring over them to gain every beautiful aspect.

Maple is very solitary in her tree house in the woods because she’s scared of everything, particularly the animal noises from below but when she finally steps out of her comfort zone she finds that rather than terrifying her animal neighbours are both kind and friendly.

She finds her courage and returns to her tree house with a new sense of bravery and confidence.  If you are looking for books that will empower children, particularly girls, this is ideal.

It will seem strange to say because the illustrations are quite contemporary in style but they do remind me of artists such as Pixie O’Harris with portrayals of imaginary forest friends and scenes.

I love this and it will definitely be a ‘go to’ and shared with my colleagues in the Junior school enthusiastically.

Highly recommended for readers from around 3 years upwards.