Tag Archives: Family Life

To Siri, with Love – Judith Newman

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siri

Hachette

AUG 29, 2017 | 9781784298319 | RRP $32.99

Subtitled: A mother, her autistic son and the kindness of machines, when I first looked at this I felt confronted because of the subject matter. For those who know, my Small has various issues some of which closely align to children on the spectrum.

This was hilarious and poignant, lively and serious and above all is saturated with the immensity of a mother’s love and protection of a vulnerable child.

The author is by no means conventional. A successful New York journalist who keeps a separate apartment to her retired opera singer husband and conceived her twins late in life, Judith has two teenage boys – Henry and Gus. Gus is autistic and there are few things in his life which resonate quite so significantly as Siri, the Apple personal assistant. Siri is always ready to answer Gus’ endless questions or remind him to speak clearly or to simply respond to him with a different kind of human-ness to which his autism can relate.

Throughout, as well as the ups and downs of just one year in their lives, Judith shares valuable information about the latest research and most recent developments in supporting children and adults with autism.

There were moments I felt myself laughing with the recognition of similar incidents or conversations and then there were moments when I was teary understanding all too well Judith’s concerns for  Gus’ future.

I cannot recommend this highly enough to you particularly if you have a family relationship with a similar child or are an educator or simply would like to understand more about this very pervasive and often isolating disorder. To my mind, it is a ‘must read’.

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Raymond – Yann & Gwendal Le Bec

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raymond

Walker Books

ISBN: 9781406362428
May 1, 2017
Australian RRP: $24.99
New Zealand RRP: $27.99

What an utterly charming debut to Walker Books from brothers Yann and Gwendal Le Bec!  The plethora dog lovers both young and old who have often wondered what their dog might be like as a ‘human’ will enjoy the gentle humour, others will ruminate on the all-too-often seen acceleration to celebrity status with which our media bombards us. Still others will see this as a perfect lead in to a philosophical discussion on what defines our happiness especially within a family circle.

Raymond is pretty much an ordinary dog – well loved by his family and quite content.  Then one day he wonders what it would be like to sit at the table with his people and eat his dinner there. Thus starts a path to becoming more and more human – and along the way becoming a high profile ‘dog star’. His family becomes more distanced from him as his celebrity status explodes. Finally his family persuade him to join them on a holiday and Raymond remembers the simple joys of being a dog – and being true to oneself.

So much rich conversation will be had from this seemingly simple story with its cunning word play and vibrant illustrations.

Highly recommended for readers from around six years upwards and for use with older children in philosophy circles.

Nanna’s Button Tin – Dianne Wolfer & Heather Potter

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buttons

Walker Books

ISBN: 9781922077677

June 1, 2017

Australian RRP: $24.99
New Zealand RRP: $27.99
This is an absolutely charming story for young readers and a beautiful gentle lead in to the idea of memories, keepsakes and family story telling.  When a special little girl needs a very specific button to repair a much loved teddy, Nanna’s button tin is the perfect place in which to search.  As Nanna and the little one spread out the buttons and examine each carefully, they share the stories of the origin of each.

Such seemingly prosaic objects become a focus of special remembrances and happy loving thoughts. Finally exactly the right button is found and Teddy has a special operation to restore him to perfect health.

The illustrations in soft pastels with fabulous use of white space provide a soothing and peaceful feel to the story which will be felt by those who read it.

I wonder how many children have the joy of this special activity these days. I do hope some have grannies and great-grannies that keep those special buttons and are able to tell the old stories about them.

Highly recommended for little readers from around five years upwards.

Ava’s Big Move – Surf Riders Club #1 – Mary Van Reyk

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Hachette Children’s Books

Imprint: Lothian Children’s Books

September 2017

9780734417909

RRP $12.99

ava

First in a new series designed to encourage more girls into the sport of surfing this kicks off in a very promising manner. Ava’s parents have decided on a sea change which means that Ava is leaving behind her big city life, school, friends and her usual holiday sport of snow- boarding. She is definitely not a happy camper when she starts at her new high school but her interest is piqued when a new sport is added to the students’ choices. Though the other students are used to beach life learning from scratch basically puts Ava on a reasonably level par with many and perhaps her snow-boarding experience might just be helpful.

Along the way during their first term of surfing Ava and four other girls form some friendship bonds and create the Surf Riders Club to support each other in their progress.  Essentially this is not just a series for Mighty Girls to try out something new but also one that demonstrates how a circle of friendship can be something of critical importance for young girls (indeed any age girls!).

Endorsed by Surfing Australia and with a special message from Tyler Wright 2016 Women’s World Surfing Champion, this should prove to be a very popular read for your girls from around ten-fourteen years.

Highly recommended for upper primary/early secondary readers.

The Snow Angel – Lauren St John

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snowangel

Harper Collins

Zephyr Books/Head of Zeus

ISBN  9781786695895

October 2017

RRP $19.99

 

It’s a long way from the wide blue skies and shimmering heat haze of Kenya to the bleak snow covered moors of Inverness and for 12 year old Makena the journey is not just a geographical one.

Much loved only child of a science teacher mother and a mountain guide father, Makena burns with passion for the mountains and climbing reckoning them her friends. When her parents are caught up in the Ebola outbreak on a mercy mission to Sierra Leone and die there, Makena’s world implodes into grief, loss of identity and homelessness. A spectacularly unsuccessful relocation to her paternal uncle’s poor home where his wife treats Makena as an unpaid servant ends abruptly and Makena finds herself fending for herself in the slums of Nairobi. Surviving like a gutter rat for a month or more, she is then swept up in a redevelopment which ruthlessly bulldozes the slums and she then finds herself rescued by a charitable organisation for girls and meets Helen. Just as Makena is recuperating from her trauma and a case of cholera, Helen has disappeared back to her parents’ home in Scotland and once again Makena feels herself abandoned.  But unexpectedly, arrangements are made for the young girl to spend a month over Christmas in the wilds of Scotland.  No spoilers here but suffice to say there is a happy ending for all.

This is just beautiful. It is warm and moving and oozes love despite the sadness threading throughout it. It is also somewhat mystical with the recurring motif of a special fox that seems to be akin to a guardian angel. There are lots of points of discussion; forgotten/orphaned children, civil war, rich vs poor, healing and the power of nature and love.

I read this in one sitting (well, lying down last night in bed) as I couldn’t put it down.  Lauren St John’s books about Africa have been wildly popular in my library for the past year or so and my prediction is that this will be just as enthusiastically received.

Check out Lauren’s website here and the book trailer here.

Highly recommended for readers from around ten years upwards.

Dotty Detective #1 Super Secret Agent – Clara Vulliamy

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dotty

Harper Collins Australia

ISBN 9780008132491

ISBN 10: 0008132496

Imprint: HarperCollins – GB

01/06/2017

List Price: 4.99 AUD

Girl detectives seem to be quite the popular trend of late and you will perhaps have some younger readers who want to get in on this but are not quite ready for some of the books on offer.

This new series will be just perfect for them as Dorothy Constance Mae Louise, known as Dot, is a younger girl as well. Written in diary style Dot gives the reader the low down on her situation. She’s just moved to a new house with her mum and little twins, Alf and Maisie, and of course is starting a new school. She’s pretty excited about all this but also a wee bit nervous. Not to worry, she makes two great new friends, Beans and Amy.  As it happens Beans is also a fan of TV super sleuth Fred Fantastic – Ace Detective.  Dot is very good at puzzles and codes and Beans is a good foil for her investigating as he is good at making gadgets.

When the teacher announces a school talent quest Amy, who is rather shy but a really good singer, is keen to perform but classmate Laura who thinks she is the superstar plans to sabotage her. Will Dot and Beans be able to help Amy overcome her nerves and thwart Laura’s sneaky plan?

This is a really cute story and already three more to come so a great little series to start off some independent readers. Girls will enjoy seeing Dot’s new bedroom become her own special place and also getting to know her family.

Lots to explore around friendship, adjusting to new situations and of course, codes, puzzles and mysteries!

Highly recommended for readers from around 7 upwards.

By the way, the author Clara Vulliamy is the daughter of Shirley Hughes!

Collins Modern Classics: The Bagthorpe Saga – Ordinary Jack – Helen Cresswell

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9780008211677

Harper Collins Australia

            ISBN: 9780008211677

           ISBN 10: 0008211671

           Imprint: HarperCollins – GB

           On Sale: 01/05/2017

           List Price: 14.99 AUD

First published in 1977 this is the introductory volume in a new modern classics series from Harper Collins. The Bagthorpes are, to say the least, one of the most eccentric families you will encounter in a book.  It’s very English and very funny with overtones of the even older Nancy Mitford books with a very middle to upper class family who are all pretty much bonkers.

Father, mother, grandparents, aunt and uncle, and a swag of children who are all pretty much above average – and then there’s Jack who is quite ordinary and in his own mind, inferior.

With the help of his Uncle Parker, who is easily one of the maddest in the family, Jack sets about to impress his family by becoming a prophet, seeing visions and making predictions.  As you can imagine this is quite disconcerting for the family and is not the easiest of deceptions to pull off successfully.

With a pyromaniac four year old cousin, an attractive but non-English speaking Danish au pair, a crusty old daily who is as useful as ‘a hedgehog’ according to Mr Bagthorpe and some crazy antics, this is a laugh a minute.

Suffice to say that in spite of its age, it is every bit as funny as any contemporary family story and will no doubt appeal to many readers who are looking for a simple humorous read.

Highly recommended for readers both boys and girls from around 8 years upwards.

The Family with Two Front Doors – Anna Ciddor

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ISBN:9781925266641

Publisher:Allen & Unwin

Imprint:A & U Children

Pub Date:March 2016

RRP $14.99

 

To take one’s own family history and turn it into a delightful, amusing and engaging story takes a real talent.

Anna Ciddor has done so with this wonderful tale of family warmth, traditions and insight. Inspired by her grandmother’s stories Anna has painted a beautiful picture of a Jewish family’s life in Poland before the horror of World War 2.

The Rabinovitches (the family name struck such a chord with me as it was also my great-grandfather’s name!) are a lively and close family who occupy two houses as there are quite a few of them. Yakov the mischief maker, Nomi, Miriam and serious Shlomo and more lead the reader into a fascinating glimpse of life in the 1920s in Lublin, Poland.

The details of daily life, celebrations and rituals, the excitement of older sister Adina’s wedding and adventures in the streets of their town bring this charming family to life before our eyes offering us a superb chance to develop more cultural understandings.

This is a book which holds up the ordinary life of a family and shows us the joy and love that abounds between all its members while at the same time commemorating the author’s lost family.

A marvellous addition to your collection especially suited to readers from around 12 up, I highly recommend it to you. Teaching notes are available here.

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!!!