Tag Archives: Family Life

Surf Riders Club 2: Bronte’s Big Sister Problem – Mary Van Reyk

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surf

Hachette Australia

FEB 27, 2018 | 9780734417923 | RRP $12.99

 

As I predicted the first in this series has been very popular in our library – after all we are in the beautiful Sunshine Coast and surfing is a prime pastime! So I have no doubt at all that this second in the series will be just as eagerly pounced upon by our girls.

While the first book centred on Ava’s move to her new community this one moves focus to another member of the Surf Riders Club, Bronte. The club is going strongly with the girls all continuing to help each other improve their surfing skills and encouraging one another in all efforts. They are very excited about their upcoming first competition but Bronte is having some difficulties. Ever since her older brother Oscar went away to uni the dynamic between Bronte and her older sister Carrie has changed – and not for the better.

Carrie no longer wants to share in Bronte’s interests but instead wants, even insists that Bronte should tag along with her and ignore the ‘stupid’ Surf Riders Club. Bronte faces real dilemmas as Carrie urges her to ‘cover up’ to their parents – because ‘sisters stick together’.  Bronte has to really wrestle with her conscience as well have the confidence to stand up for herself and her friends and risk losing her sister’s trust.

The surf competition is pretty intense and the girls do themselves proud.  Even more importantly as Carrie’s importunate and deceitful behaviour unravels in front of everybody including their parents the sisterly relationship begins to heal and Bronte gains a deeper understanding of both her sister and her own need to be true to herself.

Another great read for young girls from around ten years upwards. This is exciting and dramatic and touches on many issues with which tweens can easily relate.

Highly recommended for girls – around Year 4 to Year 7.

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The Storm Keeper’s Island – Catherine Doyle

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storm

Bloomsbury Australia

August 2018

ISBN: 9781408896884

Imprint: Bloomsbury Children’s Books

RRP :$14.99

What a simply sparkling debut novel! It did take me two nights rather than my usual one (but I confess a little tiredness even after a week of holidays) but it was simply page-turning and thoroughly engrossing.

Fionn Boyle and his older sister Tara are going to Arranmore Island for the summer to stay with their paternal grandfather.  Tara, who is thirteen and has turned into a right little cow since her birthday, has been for a visit the previous summer but for Fionn it is his first experience of his ancestral home and his first encounter with his rather odd grandfather.  Fionn has plenty of time to become acquainted with his grandpa though as Tara has cut him right out while she aids and abets her ‘boyfriend’ Bartley (a thoroughly poisonous toad) in his quest to discover a long hidden secret.

That secret is to be a huge part of Fionn’s initiation into true island acceptance, and in fact his true inheritance, and that doesn’t just refer to the inhabitants. From the first day Fionn is bemused and intrigued by the overwhelming and obvious existence of magic running throughout almost every aspect of the island. He cannot ignore it as it keeps appearing in one form or another often when he least expects it.

Doyle’s plot has twists and turns a-plenty keeping the reader fully engaged with the very believable characters as they intertwine in past and present. In style and concept it reminds me of the masterful work of Alan Garner, blending mystical legend, magic and contemporary reality and, much like Garner, Doyle has taken a locale and its history well-known to her and woven a narrative that could well become a modern classic.

 

I really relished every word of this and look forward to reading her future work.

Very highly recommended for readers from around ten years upwards.

 

Finch – Penny Matthews

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finch

Walker Books

ISBN: 9781760650759
Release Date: August 1, 2018
Australian RRP: $16.99

Even in holiday mode it’s a big ask for me to read a book in one sitting but this one is a corker!

At once a coming-of-age story and a beautiful reflection on accepting differences its country setting along with an environmental theme provides a strong contrast for city dwelling readers and a point of real engagement for those in rural areas.

Audrey knows she doesn’t fit in; even her little sister calls her ‘Nerd Girl’. Her passion for birds including knowing so many of their scientific names is just one aspect that sets her apart. Even so, leaving her old city school when her parents relocate to a country vineyard is fraught with misgivings about how she will even attempt to blend in with new school friends and country ways.  Her father is filled with optimism about the new venture having spent a long time unemployed. Her mother has left her legal secretary job which has kept the family and is far less enthralled with their new prospects. Little sister Chloe is excited and happy and has no trouble at all being accepted into a crowd of new friends.

Then Audrey makes a secret friend, a boy hiding out in a nearby cave with his little dog. Finch and Snowy connect with Audrey in a way no one else has done before. Although rather surprisingly her elderly neighbour Mavis becomes more and more like a friend as well. And somehow there appears to be a ‘bird’ connection between all three. The mystery surrounding Finch takes Audrey into a new awareness of herself and ultimately also into an inner resilience she didn’t know she possessed.

This is just delightfully written with excellent and resonant characterisations and a truly great theme of adapting to new circumstances and embracing one’s own differences.

Highly recommended for readers from around Year 5 to Lower Secondary.

The Mulberry Tree – Allison Rushby

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Walker Booksmulberry

ISBN: 9781760650292
Imprint: Walker Books Australia
Release Date: July 1, 2018
Australian RRP: $17.99
New Zealand RRP: $19.99

 

Immy is not well pleased at moving to England from Sydney. Her mother has a new job which carries some prestige, but her father is floundering – his previous career as a GP slaughtered by a tragedy. Their transition to Cambridgeshire is hindered by a narrow choice of rental properties but Immy decides on a thatched cottage that has a rather dark history and her parents are happy to go along with her choice in deference to her resistance to the entire move.

According to village legend, the huge mulberry tree in the garden of their cottage has already ‘stolen’ two girls on the eve of their eleventh birthday – and as Immy is about to turn eleven there is a hushed fear that the same will happen to her. But Immy is made of stern stuff and even while railing at her parents over the move – and her father’s depression – she refuses to give into fear over the tree’s influence.  Although, the strange ‘chant/song’ she keeps hearing is rather unnerving. Along the way, unexpectedly Immy makes friends of varying ages and discovers special bonuses in living in a new environment.

This is a fabulously ‘spooky’ story – not confronting to the extent that it would totally freak young readers out, but in that deliciously creepy way that demands the reading is page-turning.

It appears this is quite a skill for Allison Rushby. This telling of a story that is somewhat dark and certainly weird but not enough to scare the pants of kids – which is of course a real drawcard.

Boys and girls of around ten years upwards will love this story with its beautifully drawn characters – and in this I include the mulberry tree.

I highly recommend this for upper primary/lower secondary readers and look forward to Allison’s further writing.

Who Hid the Socks?  – Rosemary Coombs/ Lorraine Robertson & Warren Brown

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Bullawai Books

April 2018

  • 9780994611819
  • 9780994611826

RRP: $16.99

We all know the problem of disappearing socks. Miss Small favours odd socks but even with that un-complication we still seem to be scratching around for the little blighters often.

So many children will get the giggles as they help search for the missing socks in the illustrations in this new book. Part rhyme and part prose it has a joyful rhythm and lots of interaction along the way.

In all this time I’ve never expected that the family cat (or cats in our case) might be responsible for sock thievery! But then neither of ours is called Socks so perhaps we will have to search out another thief!

As well as the missing socks children have the opportunity to re-examine the colourful illustrations to find other objects via checklists at the end of the book.

This is a fun and simple book for little readers from around 4 years upwards. It would make a super bedtime read to explore and find all the items.

Recommended for kindy & child care groups as well as Junior Primary classes.

Available on request from Bullawai Books, (Specialist Publication and Editing Services ABN 14790495731)
through email

Oma’s Buttons – Tania Ingram/Jennifer Harrison

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Penguin Australia

9780143786573

April 2, 2018

Viking Imprint

RRP$24.99

 

We grandmothers know there is a special bond between us and our grandchildren – some of us even more so than others.  Tania and Jennifer have produced a beautiful book which encapsulates just one aspect of this relationship.

 

So many of us would have experienced the joy of rummaging through the ‘button tin’ – my mother had one and I had one (and still have some of those buttons squirreled away). And it’s quite true that these humble little artefacts can evoke such powerful memories. To share those memories with a special child is one of the greatest gifts an older person can impart particularly when those we love are no longer with us.

 

Essentially a simple narrative about Ruthie spending time with her Oma and the discovery of the button tin of memories, this demonstrates so beautifully the importance of reminiscing and remembering especially in families. More importantly in my opinion it reminds us that sharing our time with our little ones is not always about outings and treats, that often it is the simplest of pastimes that have the most impact.

 

This is a delightful book to share and would be perfect for discussing special family traditions, memories and histories. The stunning realistic illustrations are just a perfect match for the story.

Highly recommended for readers from little ones as a read aloud to older newly independent readers.

Libby in the Middle – Gwyneth Rees

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Bloomsbury Australia

Published: 01-01-2018
ISBN: 9781408852774
Imprint: Bloomsbury Children’s Books

RRP $12.99

 

As my Kim would tell you being the middle of three girls is not a piece of cake for much of the time.  Libby is finding this truer than ever. Her older sister Bella, who used to be great company, is now a snarly, rebellious teen completely rapt in her boyfriend (of whom Dad disapproves strongly). Little sister Grace is sweet but too young to be a playmate more of a chore when both Mum and Dad are working.  And to make matters worse, the whole family is moving from the city to a tiny village where Dad grew up. Aunt Thecla has offered to pay the girls’ tuition at the local posh girls’ school and there will be work for both parents, a quieter lifestyle and no unsuitable boyfriend hanging around.

However tree changes don’t always go to plan. First there is the first rental house which is more of a ramshackle disaster than a home. Then there is Bella secretively escaping to make phone calls or something else that remains unexplained. Then there is Aunt Thecla, who actually isn’t as bad as Libby had imagined but is still kind of bossy and single-minded.

Libby has to deal with scornful local girls, a family at odds with each other and a dismaying escalation of secrets each more complicated than the last.

This is a terrific tale for readers from around ten years upwards as it explores many nuances of family life and issues that often confront children such as the disruption of moving house and familiar locations.

Its conclusion proves that family relationships are never just black and white. There are always shifting guidelines, compromises, mistaken judgements and understandings of another’s perspective to be negotiated and worked through.

A highly recommended read for upper primary or lower secondary students.

Triple Treat: Jacqueline Harvey, Belinda Murrell and R. A. Spratt

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Such fun to open parcels with books from the most popular authors in my library – and my literary circle! The titles from this trio are highly sought after among my readers and there is always much exchanging in the returns line up with ‘She had this but I want to borrow it next’.

To make it an even more interesting mix there is a beginning, a ‘middle’ and, sadly, an ending.

Kensy and Max #1: Breaking News – Jacqueline Harvey

K&M

9780143780656

February 26, 2018

Random House Australia Children’s

RRP $16.99

Without a doubt, Jacqueline Harvey has the girls from 7 to teens eating out of the palm of her hand with her Clementine Rose and Alice-Miranda series.  And if you have not had the pleasure of Jacqueline presenting at your school I suggest that you do as she is without doubt the most energetic and engaging author I’ve seen in action.

Now Jacqueline has turned her considerable talents to a series pitched at both boys and girls with a hugely popular premise – espionage! Kensy and Max are twins both alike and also very different. They are well used to living all over the globe as their parents, apparently, are first responders in both tourist resorts and in crisis/humanitarian situations. However, when the pair finds themselves in a completely strange house with only their ‘manny’ Fitz in loco parentis things being to turn very mysterious indeed with their parents missing in a civil revolt and house inhabitants who are both strange and yet oddly familiar.

The two are in turn baffled and curious and begin to piece puzzle pieces together of their own initiative. It would seem that MI6 is a ‘family’ thing!

This new series has both memorable characters and believable circumstances which will thoroughly intrigue readers from around 8 years upwards. I don’t need to use my considerable powers of ESP to predict that this will be as big a winner as Jacqueline’s other series.

Highly recommended for readers from mid-primary up – get it on your shelves ASAP!

 

Pippa’s Island #3: Kira Dreaming – Belinda Murrell

pippa3

9780143783701

January 2, 2018

Random House Australia Children’s

RRP $14.99

 

Without fail, if I put a Belinda Murrell book, whether Lulu Bell or one of the time slip series into a girl’s hands, I have her hooked from that moment. I’d like to think it’s my skill as a teacher-librarian but really its Belinda’s talent at knowing exactly what will grab her readers!

 

This is the third in her latest series and already I have girls clamouring for the next so this will be a huge hit when school goes back. There is something just purely delightful and happy about Pippa and her friends and family, even though there are serious moments e.g. Pippa’s absent dad. This doesn’t detract as I believe so many children can relate to the ambivalence about a parent who has absconded from the family. It’s difficult for them to reconcile their own love for that parent and the feeling of rejection/abandonment.

In this new episode, the Sassy Sisters are entering the school talent quest and while Pippa’s besties, Cici, Meg and Charlie are rapt about this opportunity, Pippa has real problems with her stage fright. Unexpectedly, it is this which provides a catalyst for Pippa to resume some ‘friendly’ relations with her MIA father.

These stories are fabulous narratives about real life situations to which readers can relate – despite the fact that they may not live on a tropical island!

Again, highly recommended for readers from around eight years upwards and if you’ve missed the first two, put them on your ‘to buy’ list as well!

 

Friday Barnes #8: Never Fear – R. A. Spratt

fridayfinal

9780143784203

January 2, 2018

Random House Australia Children’s

RRP $15.99

 

When I gently broke the news to my avid Friday readers that the forthcoming book would be the last in the series there was full scale caterwauling and gnashing of teeth. The only thing that saved me from literary lynching was the promise of a new series in the pipeline – whew!

 

I’ve mentioned this before. I love Friday! I love her geekiness, her gauche-ness, her daggy clothes and social ineptitude.

 

Highcrest Academy has a new principal and she is one seemingly mean and shockingly capable young woman. She promptly promotes Friday to Year 12 to ‘extend’ her and Friday is convinced that this means she’s just one step away from being ousted from what she regards as her home.

Along with this is the persistent rumour of long hidden gold somewhere in the school grounds and when implosions and explosions begin to disrupt the regular (!!) routine of Highcrest everyone is on edge.

 

Some huge questions are answered in this final volume. Will Friday ever kiss Ian? Can Melanie stay awake long enough to observe it? Who will still be a student in the academy at the end of year? Is the new principal who she says she is or an imposter? And will Friday ever kiss Ian? 😉

 

There will be some sad faces at this the final Friday chapter but reassure your readers that more great stuff is on its way from R. J. Spratt’s imaginative mind!

Highly recommended for readers from around mid-primary upwards.

 

To Siri, with Love – Judith Newman

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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’.

Raymond – Yann & Gwendal Le Bec

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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.