Tag Archives: Family relationships

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.

 

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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.

The Girl, the Dog and the Writer in Rome – Katrina Nannestad

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girldogwriter

Harper Collins

Imprint: ABC Books

October 2017

ISBN: 9780733338175

RRP: $16.99

Maybe it’s because spring is here (my favourite season) or maybe it is just the stars aligning but I have been so blessed to be sent so many absolutely delightful books to review lately. This is just gorgeous and I love it.

Young Freja is not your average child. She’s not used to people or social situations or even making conversation. It’s not because she’s an only child. It’s because for all of her ten years she has spent nine months of each year with her zoologist mother Clementine in the wildness of Arctic regions as Clem studies the wildlife. Freja revels in these annual expeditions and the beautiful discoveries her mother shares with her. It is only for three months of each year that she is forced to try to adapt to ‘civilisation’. Each Christmas period the pair returns to England where Clem lectures, raises funds and prepares for the next trip and Freja is endured by a parade of babysitters all of whom find her odd and ‘difficult’.

This year things are different. Clem tells Freja that she is ill and she must go to Switzerland alone for her treatment. There will be no trip until she is well.  Freja is devastated – not just because of the trip but the trauma of being separated from her mother, not to mention the horror of ‘babysitters’. Enter Tobias Appleby and Finnegan his large hairy dog. Clem explains to Freja that Tobias is an old and dear friend and he will take great care of her. And so he does, in a completely bewildering and eccentric way to which Freja immediately responds. Their bond develops quickly though not without hiccups.

Yes, we can make assumptions here however nothing will be revealed so early in this new series.

Of course, the most exciting thing is when Freja (in one of her confused and shy moments) expresses a desire to see Rome and of course! For Tobias that’s simple as can be and soon the three of them (Finnegan as well) are acclimatising to the Roman way of life. For Freja it is a revelation. She discovers hitherto unknown social graces in herself and finds friends – friends!

This is a wonderful story about family, friendship and identity and I look forward to the next in the series with anticipation.

Highly recommended for readers from around ten years upwards.

 

Piglettes – Clementine Beauvais

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Penguin Random House

Imprint: Pushkin Press

ISBN 9781782691204

August 2017

RRP $16.99

This superb YA novel deals with some pretty gritty issues like bullying (cyber and real life), self image, identity and family relationships and is one of the most wickedly funny books you’ll read all year.

Mireille, Astrid and Hakima are three girls at the same school and recently voted as the first three place-winners in a Facebook ‘Pig Pageant’ for the ugliest girls by their schoolmates. This event was initiated by Mireille’s erstwhile childhood friend Malo, who is one of the most odious youths ever. Since they both started high school Malo has made it his mission in life to humiliate Mireille at every turn.

While the girls are all pretty crushed by this horrible bullying, they are not going to let it get the better of them and form a friendship that will fly them forever.  Each has a particular reason for their proposed plan to cycle to Paris for the huge Bastille Day celebrations; Mireille, wants to confront her biological father, now married to the President, Astrid wants to meet her idols Indochine and Hakima wants to berate the commanding officer about to be awarded the Legion of Honour for the debacle that resulted in her brother Kader losing both his legs in battle.

Overcoming the opposition of parents, the girls set off on what must be the craziest road trip ever with Kader in his super wheel chair as their chaperone. Along the way they garner the respect and adulation of thousands via newspapers and social media and in real life.

Told through Mireille’s witty and philosophical voice, the reader is alongside the girls for the entire trip which is joyful, uplifting and totally hilarious.

Proving themselves as true Mighty Girls the trio triumph over the online bullies and even horrid Malo shows some indications of redemption, especially when the reason for his nastiness is revealed. Each girl learns valuable lessons about herself particularly when they finally attain their goals and find that something has changed about their motivations.

Definitely worthy of its achievement of winning France’s biggest award for YA/teen fiction I highly recommend this to you for your girls from around 14 years upwards.

The Build-Up Season – Megan Jacobson

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Penguin Random House

9780143573388

July 31, 2017

Penguin (AU YR)

 

RRP $19.99

What a fantastic and gripping read this is! This one had to be read over two nights but it was a wrench to leave it halfway!

Ily (Iliad) Piper is a young woman who has had to face many emotional upheavals in her life and now as a young woman is dealing with the backlash of them. Her father is in jail after years of physical and mental abuse of her mother, Eve, and indeed Ily herself. Ily is living in Darwin now with her mother and her Nan but is sullen and resentful of the past few years when she has been sent away to boarding schools.  She doesn’t realise that this was a safety precaution on the part of her mum and nan, she is just pissed off with them both.  The only thing she enjoys at her new school is her rather quirky friend Mia and her Art which she hopes to turn into a career. Then she hooks up with Jared – self-obsessed, angry and a control freak, just like her father.  Despite all advice from friends including the annoying next door neighbour, Indigenous boy Max, Ily pursues the relationship with Jared and falls into the same trap as her mother had done before her.

This is a brilliant and insightful exploration of the nature of domestic abuse of women and how behaviours become patterns. Fortunately for Ily she has ‘look outs’ on her side. Her mum, her nan, Max, Mia and more are there at exactly the right moments to protect her both from Jared and from her father, recently released from jail.

There are some sensitive aspects to this which may preclude it from your secondary collection such as sexual activity, violence and profanity but truly it is such an exceptional book that examines such a topical issue I would still urge you to consider it, even with provisos.

Highly recommended for mature readers from around sixteen years upwards.

Letters to the Lost – Brigid Kemmerer

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Allen & Unwin

ISBN:9781408883525

Publisher:

Bloomsbury UK

Imprint :Bloomsbury Child

March 2017

RRP $16.99

Juliet’s mother died in a terrible hit-and-run accident. On her way home from yet another international photography mission documenting the heartbreak of war zones and disasters, she returned early at Juliet’s request and on her way from the airport was suddenly and terribly gone forever. Like so many of us who have lost someone so dear, Juliet cannot let go, especially of rituals, like writing letters to her mother as she has done all her life. Only now she leaves them at the cemetery.

Declan Murphy is known by his ‘reputation’. He’s tough looking and constantly confrontational, he’s spent time in jail, he’s doing community service and he spends most of his time skulking around trying to be invisible. Nobody knows the truth behind his attitude, not even his best friend realises the full depths of Declan’s story.

When Declan, as part of his mowing community service at the cemetery, reads one of Juliet’s letters, he is so overcome with empathy that he responds with his own comment.  Outraged beyond belief at the invasion of her privacy, Juliet responds to him with undisguised contempt and rage. And thus a strange correspondence begins.

Along with that, a close and trusting relationship between two dreadfully despairing young people who do not know each other slowly builds. Or are they strangers?

Slowly but surely each is unravelling the real identity of the other and along with that an antipathy which belies the honesty and trust of their anonymous letter exchanges.

For both the healing process and the road to hope is their unfailing support for each other as their separate tragedies unfold and their defences are lowered.

The characterisation in this is excellent – even relatively minor characters bristle with life and emotion.  I particularly like the ‘voice’ of both Juliet and Declan – though Declan’s intellect has been shrouded by other details this as well as his inherent compassion shines through. There is, as one might expect, from seventeen year old protagonists some low level swearing but it is all totally in context and expressive in itself.

There is a real twist in the tale which avoids cliché or triteness and is exactly the kind of ‘messiness’ that might happen in families. All in all it’s a terrifically engaging read and the reader develops a real affection for these characters.

Highly recommended for readers from around 14 upwards.

 

 

Kiss It Better -Smriti Prasadam-Halls, illustrated by Sarah Massini

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Allen & Unwin

ISBN:9781408845622

Publisher:Bloomsbury

Imprint:Bloomsbury Child

Pub Date:February 2016

$22.99

 

Everybody needs kisses. In our house there are plenty to share for any reason or none at all. This charming book shares the special sweetness of family kisses for young readers with a lilting rhyming text and a gorgeous family of bears.

Little humans will relish the thought of kisses ‘speaking’ to them.

A cheer-up kiss says, “Tell me what’s wrong.”

A be-brave kiss says, “Come on, stay strong!”

A see-you-soon kiss says, “I’ll miss you, too.”

….

Everything feels better with the help of  a kiss!

I can’t wait to share this with some special little people in my life – all of whom know that kisses are indeed ways to tell each other how much we care.

Highly recommended for your readers from Prep up.