Tag Archives: Divorce

The Magical Bookshop – Katja Frixe. Illustrated by Florentine Prechtel. Translated by Ruth Ahmedzal Kemp.

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Bloomsbury

September 2021

Imprint: OneWorld

ISBN: 9781786075666

RRP: $14.99

Such a sweet and happy book this is! Translated from the German with great dexterity while retaining just the right amount of that quirkiness of expression that European children’s books often have, this is just a delight from start to finish.

Mrs Owl’s bookshop is full of magic and it is Clara’s favourite place to be. She loves her family very much but it can get very noisy in a full house. The bookshop gives Clara a space to just be – curled up in a favourite spot with a favourite book or chatting quietly with Mrs Owl, not to mention Mr King, the mirror, and Gustav, the cat – both of whom also talk! They are the greatest comfort to Clara, especially now when her very best friend forever, Lottie, is moving away. It’s all because Lottie’s father has a new girlfriend and Lottie’s mum does not want to stay in the same town as the new couple.

How can the two girls bear to be separated? It is just not fair. And then there’s Clara’s new teacher who might be pretty but Clara is not convinced of her friendliness. New boy Leo is no substitute for Lottie in the classroom and all in all, things are feeling pretty grim. Then there’s the very worst thing about this new year, is that someone is determined to close down the bookshop with some very nasty tricks and underhanded actions.

It soon becomes apparent that even with Lottie gone, Clara still has friends and those friends need her help badly. Maybe, in doing that, things might just get a little easier to bear in the light of Lottie’s move so far away.

This has such a lovely feel of friendship and community about it and readers from around 7 years upwards will enjoy it for not only the mystery but also the humour and magic.

Highly recommend for independent readers from around Year 2 upwards.

The Year We Fell from Space – Amy Sarig King

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Text Publishing

November 2019

ISBN:9781922268853

AU Price:$16.99

NZ Price:$21.00

Divorce is difficult for many families but when coupled with the topic of depression – a mental health issue that continues to be frequently misunderstood – arguably even more so, particularly in this instance when it is parental depression.

Realistic and at times very emotional this is a novel that provides ultimately uplifting resolution and hope for children caught in this particular situation. King explores this twinned theme with finesse and empathy and it is no wonder it has been so highly acclaimed.

Liberty Johansen has dreams of changing the way people look at the sky. Her fascination with the stars and her creative interpretations of constellations have long been her passion, fuelled from an early age by her troubled father.

But when her parents split up and the family is fractured, Liberty sees her world and the stars she loves crashing down around her. Dealing with the aftermath of her mother’s sadness, her sister’s emotional distress and the growing realisation that it has not just been her father’s depression that has caused the rift, Lib also finds herself increasingly alienated from friends compounding her own anxieties.

When Liberty witnesses the rarity of a meteor crashing to earth, she retrieves the special ‘rock’ and it becomes her significant albeit virtual confidante as she struggles to find some equanimity in the increasingly sad family situation as well as her own social life.

As the reader follows Liberty’s year and her working through a mire of misery with the help of her extremely intuitive mother and with the aid of professional counselling – not to mention her conversations and self-realisations with her special ‘rock’, we come to know that while such a family break-down is very traumatic that often, and one might hope usually, the initial emotional rupture begins to heal and a different family life can emerge.

This is a fabulous read in its own right but for young tweens or teens finding themselves in such a predicament could well be a means to seeing their way forward as well.

Highly recommended for readers from around 10 years upwards.

Teaching notes available:

The Pony Question – Jackie Merchant

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Walker Books

July 2020

ISBN: 9781760651640
Imprint: Walker Books Australia

Australian RRP: $16.99
New Zealand RRP: $18.99

I’m not really a horse-y person and now that the Kid is no longer riding neither is she so horse-themed books are a little bit of uncharted territory for me. However many years ago Ruby Ferguson’s Jill’s Gymkana (#1 Jill’s Ponies) was a very enjoyable read for me and this reminded me strongly of that pleasure.

All that being said, this is not merely a horse story but a heart-warming narrative of family, friends and community with an additional bonus of being set in a location fairly familiar to me (Blue Mountains and Lithgow NSW).

Essie and her mum now live in a small community in a quirky somewhat shabby house after her father abandoned them for a younger woman and a new life in pristine perfection. Despite money being a little tight the two are very happy in their new surroundings with their warm and welcoming friends and life is moving along nicely as Francesca’s small business of restoring furniture gains traction. Essie’s antipathy towards her father and his cold and bottled-up new wife is almost tangible and she is particularly irritated by his offer to install her in an exclusive private boarding school with the promise of a new pony and more.

It was her father’s overweening attitude of control and competitiveness that ruined Essie’s promising success as a dressage rider two years previously when he, unbeknownst to anyone else, doped Essie’s pony in order to enable her to compete in a qualifier for a state team. When the ‘nobbling’ was discovered it was of course Essie who bore the brunt of the disgrace and the subsequent disqualification from competition. Her pony, Chet, was sold and though her dad promised to get her another horse, Essie just can’t bring herself to re-enter the fray.

Well all that’s about to change when Essie and her mum accidentally buy a neglected pony at a clearing sale and faced with either taking it home or re-selling to the local knacker, of course they keep the pony – at least for the time being. Poor Moxie has fallen from star pony to half-starved and half-wild beast in just a couple of years. She is in a bad way and really nobody is even expecting her to survive.

Essie’s journey of healing Moxie, along with the support of her mum and circle of friends, despite her father’s opposition is also a healing for herself as she faces difficult situations and arrives at answers providing the reader with a beautiful story of reconciliation in a very divisive and unhappy circumstance. No doubt there will be many for whom this will resonate, with or without a horse involved.

It is a testament to the engaging story that I read this in two sessions and in fact, read past my usual ‘lights off’ time, all unknowing! This is Jackie Merchant’s second novel and I know that I, for one, will look forward to more from this author.

Highly recommended not only for your horse-tragics but all your upper primary and lower/middle secondary readers who enjoy a contemporary story with real depth.

Outback Wonder – Juliet M. Sampson

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outback-wonder

Brolga Publishing

2017

ISBN: 9781925367935

RRP $19.99

Many of you will be familiar with Juliet’s recent picture book, Grace’s Mystery Seed, which has been widely praised and garnered considerable accolades – and rightly so.

However you may not be so well acquainted with her earlier novels which have also been positively received. Outback Wonder is Juliet’s third novel and eminently suitable for your readers who are embarking on their exploration of YA fiction – particularly if they prefer a novel without the overt or possibly contentious aspects of some.

Hannah is approaching her final year at school but is weighed down by the emotional upset caused by her parents’ separation. She is so depressed by this she feels she cannot even confide in her friends.  Her father who had been unable to find work for some time, causing much of the reason behind the marriage breakdown, has finally found a job he loves – out in the Flinders Ranges. The outback is so foreign a concept to Hannah that she cannot comprehend why anyone would want to go there and when her dad sends an email inviting her to visit during the holidays, she is beset with conflicting feelings. Though she misses her father terribly she has less than zero desire to visit the remote location and can only think of flies, snakes and endless desert landscapes – not to mention no friends, holiday outings, shops and cinemas.

Yet, when she arrives it doesn’t take long for her to become swept up in the unusual surroundings, the quirky characters and the unexpected delights which include opals and a certain good-looking young pilot named Sam. Along the way there is a wealth of description and vicarious observation of this stunning part of Australia.

During her stay Hannah is able to come to terms to some extent with the dilemma she has faced and with Sam’s help begins to reconcile her resentment of her personal situation, and accompanying turmoil, with the reality that her parents have parted for their own reasons.

For your girls aged from around 13 upwards who are looking for a novel that combines adventure, travel and romance this is a perfect choice. I can say only one particular point jarred with me which was within a reference to a photograph with koalas and the mention that Hannah was holding ‘the bear’ – oops!

Apart from that blip this would be a welcome addition to your shelves and a glimpse into a landscape that most likely will be unfamiliar to your readers but with a character with whom they can completely empathise.

You may also enjoy this blog post in conversation with Juliet.

Girl vs. Boy Band: The Right Track – Harmony Jones

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girlboyband

Bloomsbury Publishing Australia

Published: 01-07-2016

ISBN: 9781408868546

Imprint: Bloomsbury Childrens

RRP: $14.99

If you have girls who are pop fans and are looking for a little innocent romance along with an engaging story, this will be a very popular addition to your collection.

It’s light and frothy and a bit bubble-gummy but perfect for tweens who are looking for something between Enid Blyton and The Hunger Games.

Lark is a painfully shy but quite talented musician/songwriter who is feeling pretty aggrieved that her mother and father have split up. Her father a Nashville sessions musician has stayed in Tennessee while Lark and her mother, a budding music manager intent on building a successful business, have relocated to L.A. Needless to say this causes some friction between mother and daughter but even moreso when Donna imports a boy band from the UK with big plans for their promotion. The very last thing that Lark wants is Abbey Road living in her house; she’s already struggling with emotions and having to share her mother’s time but to do so with three cheeky English teenage boys is really the last straw.  Add to this mix Lark’s growing interest in a schoolmate with equal talent and his persuasive argument for her to join him in the school talent quest and you have all the makings for a great read for girls in Upper Primary.

Aside from the fluffiness, Lark’s growth as a more confident and assured young woman is a valuable model for other girls.

This is the first in a planned series and I can well imagine it will be a highly sought after title once the word spreads.

Recommended for girls from around 10-13 who are beginning to flex their own teenage wings.

The First Third – Will Kostakis

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firsthird

Penguin Australia

Published:24/07/2013

Format:Paperback, 248 pages

RRP:$17.99

price:AUD $17.99

ISBN-13:9780143568179

ISBN-10:0143568175

Yes, ok, I admit it. I may well be one of the last few teacher-librarians in Australia who hadn’t read The First Third – until the past couple of weeks.  I knew, from all the glowing recommendations and recognitions that it must be a brilliant read and so I knew I must put it on the Premier’s Reading Challenge list I was compiling, but I hadn’t yet read it.

And now I have. And I laughed and empathised and cringed all the way through it.  What a marvellous storyteller Kostakis is! This vibrant story of contemporary Australian family life interlaced with Greek culture is so well-written and so genuinely engaging. Throughout, I was reminded of every Greek person I have ever known from Sophie, my Community Officer at Marrickville Public Library, to my current library cleaner, Kathy, as I recognised expressions and attitudes and the warm wonderful humour.

Of course, the setting resonated with me – as a Sutherland Shire girl – suburb names like Brighton-le-Sands and Rockdale send a pang right to my heart.  But it was the people – the characters who are not really characters at all – but real people who might have been my neighbours that bring this story to life with such vivid clarity.

Billy (Bill) Tsiolkas is your pretty average 17 year old boy with a fiercely Greek yiayia (aren’t they all?) and a moderately dysfunctional family – single mum and two brothers at odds with themselves and the rest of the clan. He falls in love fairly regularly, he loves his family despite their oddities, he wants his Mum to be happy and he doesn’t want to lose his yiayia. When his grandmother gives him what is essentially her ‘bucket list’, Bill finds himself battling all the quirks of his family life to realise the list and in the process discovers much about himself, his family circle and life.

This is such a warm, funny and endearing book that it will no doubt remain on my bookshelf for re-visiting. It has such a ‘feel good’ vibe to it and as one who has often been the ‘glue’ in the family I can completely relate to it.

Of course, you already have it on your shelves but if you haven’t yet taken time to read it – YOU MUST!!!