Tag Archives: Family relationships

Black Cockatoo – Carl Merrison and Hakea Hustler

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Magabala Books

 

Published: Jul 2018

 

ISBN: 9781925360707

RRP: $11.99

A beautiful novella that explores a coming-of-age experience for a young Aboriginal girl in the remote Kimberley region.

Mia is distressed at the increasing distance her brother is putting between himself and family. The growing turbulence within her family is hard for a 13 year old to contend with but the day she find an injured dirran (black cockatoo), her own totem animal is the start to an acceptance of the situation for her.

As she cares for the bird she begins to comprehend the wisdom of her elders around being true to oneself and one’s culture, resilience and inner strength. When Mia finally is able to release the beautiful bird she realises that she can indeed stand up for herself and weather the storms.

A short but powerful read that I would highly recommend for readers from around 12 years upwards.

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Kensy and Max #2: Disappearing Act – Jacqueline Harvey

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Penguin Random House

9780143780632

September 3, 2018

Random House Australia Children’s

RRP: $16.99

 

Twins Kensy and Max are back in another absolutely cracking adventure, which will delight the readers of this new series. The pair has had some time to adjust themselves to their new life as part of the important Pharos organisation, headed up by their impressive grandmother and is now agents-in-training along with some of their school friends.

Although their parents are still missing they at least now know they are still alive, so the Christmas celebrations at Alexandria, their grandmother’s home and Pharos training centre, are quite something. Their training program has been exciting and both have added many new skills to their already natural talents.

With their manny Fitz also absent and the unexpected arrival of Uncle Rupert, a somewhat dubious character, the twins have much to occupy themselves but their school trip to Italy promises to be a welcome distraction.

But of course, this turns out to be no normal school trip with a missing boy, a den of thieves and Mafioso-like goons threatening all-round chaos. It would seem that the twins will be on their first mission much earlier than could be expected.

Jacqueline Harvey has a real talent for creating very believable characters and scenarios which immediately engage her readership and leaves them begging for more.

While her two hugely popular series are eaten up ferociously by girls for the main part, this new series has equal appeal for both genders and will be, I predict, creating another huge following from the pre-teen crowd.

With neat touches like the coded chapter headings, this will have the problem-solvers competing for first place in deciphering!

 

Highly recommended for your readers from around Year 3 upwards who enjoy everyday stories with a hefty twist of wild adventure, sleuthing and drama.

 

Brontide – Sue McPherson

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Magabala Books

June 2018

ISBN:9781925360929

RRP: $14.99

 

I often think that if a book leaves you feeling slightly unsettled it must have achieved its goal.  This was a quick read so it was done and dusted in one sitting but the reflection afterwards probably took equally as long as the actual reading.

This is the story of some stories. The stories are shared in a recount of interviews of four teenage boys from the same town on the Sunshine Coast. To me it blends bogan and Aboriginal and mainstream culture in ways that are quite complex although simple on the surface. The boys are often rude and disrespectful, prejudiced and intolerant yet they speak with the only honesty they know. Their histories are not pretty and their current lifestyles often not so as well. However, like most teens they think they are invincible and it is this that creates the biggest shock in the climax of the narrative.

Obviously in my work I encounter teenagers on a daily basis and at times I see this disregard for almost everything continually and I find that depressing. Yet at the same time I know there is good in many of them and see them rally to causes, to mates and to their passions in positive ways.

To my mind this will be a powerful book if we can get it into the right hands at the right time. Be aware there is considerable use of offensive language so you would be cautious about where you place it in a collection but that being said it is worth sharing and promoting.

Recommended for mature readers from around fourteen upwards

Found – Fleur Ferris

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Random House Australia Children’s

9780143784326

July 2, 2018

RRP $19.99

With her customary skill Fleur’s new novel launches into full-speed adrenaline-rushing action from the outset.  Had it not been the end of term and my exhaustion levels peaking I would have binge-read it in one sitting!

Seventeen year old Beth Williams has lived all her life in the quiet rural town of Deni. She and her parents have a farm not far from the town and are an integral part of the community. While Beth often wishes her mum and dad were not so over-protective and even strict, she knows that they only want the best for her. She’s aware that a lot of her friends are pretty intimidated by her martial arts instructor father – ‘Bear’ by nickname and  pretty much bear by nature but all in all the biggest worry she has is telling her folks that she has a boyfriend. Jonah is a fellow karate student in her dad’s gym and they are a perfect match.

Just as she is about to broach this delicate topic with her father he literally disappears before her eyes – abducted by some unknown people in a plain white van – and then all hell breaks loose. Beth and her mum Lucy are thrown into frightening but controlled response mode and Beth begins the discovery of her parents’ true identity – as well as her own. Now she realises the real purpose behind the family living on a farm with Beth learning many skills not usual for a teen – driving any kind of vehicle, handling weapons, survival tactics and strategy.

It’s a nightmare from which she is unsure they will emerge unscathed and indeed, it seems they will not – that is, not all.  But if nothing else, she is her father’s daughter – in more ways than one – and she will not cower in the face of danger and threat.

The tension of the narrative is held superbly throughout with the characters well-drawn and arousing empathy despite some deadly past mistakes.

Highly recommended for readers from around 15 years upwards – some language may offend some institutions but is always completely in context in my opinion.

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.

Missing – Sue Whiting

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Walker Books Australia

ISBN: 9781760650032
Imprint: Walker Books Australia

March 1, 2018
Australian RRP: $17.99
New Zealand RRP: $19.99
Right from the get-go this novel is full on with its action, mystery and poignancy. Thirteen year old Mackenzie is at a difficult time in her life leaving primary school and off to a private girls’ high school away from friends. A tough time for any young girl but all the more when your mother has gone missing on a scientific expedition and has not been heard of for months.

 

Kenzie’s father has been an absolute mess since the disappearance, her grandmother sad but resigned and Kenzie herself has managed to convince herself that the only explanation that fits is that her mother has been placed in a witness protection programme.

 

Now 116 days after her mother’s disappearance her father has taken Kenzie to Panama in a desperate attempt to find his wife.  Kenzie is just as desperate not to solve the mystery in her conviction that it will bring about a dire result for her mum.

 

Jungles, bats, strange food and customs, dead ends, unhelpful police and a father who behaves like a crazed person – it’s all too much to bear. But circumstances have a way of unfolding at their own pace and when Kenzie’s dad ends up in hospital with typhus she and her new acquaintance Carlo take matters into their own hands following an unexpected lead.

 

This is a completely gripping read – a real page turner with believable characters and emotions. On a personal note, as a Shire girl, it was somehow intriguing to read of Kenzie catching a train from Kogarah or shopping at Westfield Hurstville – my old stomping grounds but it is the fast-paced plot and the slowly unfurling chain of events that keep the reader intrigued right to the very end.

Highly recommended for readers in  Upper Primary/Lower Secondary.

 

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.

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

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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

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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.

 

Collins Modern Classics: Thomasina (: the Cat who Thought She was a God) – Paul Gallico

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ISBN: 9780007395187

ISBN 10: 0007395183

Imprint: HarperCollins – GB

RRP $14.99

 

When I was little and even a bit more than little my mother often took me to the movies. Usually we saw Disney films or musicals – our favourites. I’m guessing it was around 1964 and I was eight years old when we went to see The 3 Lives of Thomasina which I adored. Some others of a certain vintage may also remember it with Patrick McGoohan, Susan Hampshire and a very young Karen Dotrice. What I didn’t realise at the time was that it was also a very well known book by a very famous author (despite being a voracious reader). When I did discover the book I fell in love with the story all over again and now have had the great pleasure of receiving this new edition in the  Collins Modern Classics series.

Seven year old Mary Ruadh is motherless but has a father who loves her beyond life. Of course she loves him as well, though others find him very cold and often crochety. Alas poor Mr McDhui is the village vet, a thwarted doctor due to family pressures and really he’s not very fond of animals. Especially he is resentful of young Mary’s pet Thomasina, a cat of wisdom for whom the child holds a fierce passion.

When Thomasina falls ill, the vet is in the depths of a crisis trying to save a blind man’s dog and callously tells his assistant to put the cat down. Mary’s grief is boundless and her antagonism towards her father is vengeful and actually cruel as a result.

Yet Thomasina is not dead. She is rescued by a strange young woman who lives in the woods as a hermit and tends to the wild creatures.  Thomasina’s second life begins in Lori’s cottage and she feels her previous life as an Egyptian deity is back.

Mary’s intensity of grief is so overwhelming and leads to her falling closer and closer to death from a broken heart. Her father is beside himself and has nowhere to turn until he too discovers the compassionate power that Lori holds.

Fey Lori is the catalyst that will provide healing for father, child and cat.

This is an iconic Gallico book full of magic reality. Love, compassion, trust and faith all play their part in this strange and compelling story.

Gallico wrote over forty books (did you know he wrote The Poseidon Adventure?) and many of them feature similar themes and animals.

This is well worth a re-visit and an introduction to a new generation.

Highly recommended for readers from around ten years upwards.

 

The City of Secret Rivers – Jacob Sager Weinstein

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Walker Books Australia

August 2017

ISBN: 9781406368857

RRP $19.99

For children who are keen on fantastical adventures this first volume in a new trilogy will provide a thrilling subterranean ride through the underbelly of London.

Hyacinth Hayward and her mother have just arrived to live in the country of their forebears and Hyacinth hates it already. One of the most annoying and stupid things to her mind is the fact that there is no mixer tap on the bathroom basin so using her practical plumbing skills she fixes that up in a pet of temper. Unwittingly she unleashes a random but significant drop of water, is grabbed by an eccentric neighbour, Lady Roslyn, and whirled down into the sewers of London.

There she encounters the history of the hidden rivers and their magical properties, a vast array of odd, scary, helpful and villainous characters (gotta love a huge pig in a swimsuit who converses via notes!)  and a plot to harness the ancient powers that have long been guarded.

At times hilarious and always thrilling this is an adventure for children who not only enjoy the dash of magic but have an interest in history.  Certainly I enjoyed finding out more about what exactly lies underneath this sprawling city and the author’s end-notes and photographs are equally fascinating.

Highly recommended for readers from around eight years up.