Tag Archives: Family

The Valley of Lost Secrets – Lesley Parr

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Bloomsbury Australia

February 2021

ISBN:9781526620521
Imprint:Bloomsbury Children’s Books

RRP: $14.99

Omg, I can’t tell you how much I loved this read during the week!! It completely reminds me of two much-loved favourites, Carrie’s War by Nina Bawden and Goodnight Mister Tom by Michelle Magorian (both of which I own and have re-read many times), but with its whole new take on the situation of evacuee children in WWII.

Jimmy and his little brother have been evacuated from London to a Welsh valley – traditional, coal-mining families and either open welcomes or suspicion of ‘foreigners’. Mr and Mrs Thomas are warm and caring, and little Ronnie is quickly comfortable with both, but Jimmy is both distrustful and resentful. He’s already lost his mum, who took off leaving the brothers with their dad and grandmother, and he’s certainly not ready to treat this temporary stay as ‘home’. The entire London contingent seem different here. Jimmy’s best friend, now lodged with the local minister’s family, has turned into a nasty bully like the Reverend’s son and Florence, uncared for and abused at home, blossoms into a true friend.

Jimmy is to realise that even a temporary family can be a solace but first there are difficulties to overcome and these are complicated when the boy discovers a human skull hidden in the hollow of an old tree. Enough to scare even an adult, this find has Jimmy scrambling for someone to trust and sometimes an ally can be found in the most unlikely quarter. The secrets of the valley are gradually revealed as Jimmy and his little tribe work together to solve a decades old mystery, and bring much needed comfort to a long-held grief.

We do know, of course, that not all the evacuated children had happy experiences and we cannot begin to comprehend how overwhelming or unnerving the whole exercise would have been even for those who did. In those times, many city children had never had any experience of wide open spaces, nature and the reality of rural living – some didn’t even know that milk came from cows!

Young readers, particularly those who are fond of such stories set in wartime, will find much to love about this narrative. The strong themes of family, friendship and bravery are very inspirational and will give many children finding our current circumstances difficult some insight in dealing with similar events.

Highly recommended for your readers from around ten years upwards.

The StrangeWorlds Travel Agency : The Edge of the Ocean Book #2 – L. D. Lapinski

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Hachette Australia

APR 13, 2021 | 9781510105959 | RRP $16.99

Now that Flick is officially a member of the StrangeWorlds Travel Agency, and with one exciting adventure already under her belt, in which she demonstrated some unexpected and remarkable powers, she and Jonathan Mercator are summoned to help another world. This time they are joined by Jonathan’s distant cousin, Avery, to whom Flick takes a strange instant dislike.

The urgent request for help has come from Queen Nyfe, who rules as a pirate chief over a motley crew of almost skeletal ships, in a world called The Break. This strange watery flat world is used to ships disappearing over the edge but in recent times, it’s become apparent that the world is breaking up and so the dangers have increased exponentially for Nyfe, her crew as well as the other mariners and the mer-people who also inhabit the once vast ocean.

Flick, Jonathan and Avery face more than just the pressure of saving The Break’s peoples. The various inhabitants are fighting amongst themselves and navigating the subterfuge on all sides is tricky indeed. Added to this is the shocking realisation that Jonathan’s lost father appears to be indeed dead and his grief renders him almost helpless in the struggle to work out how to transport ships, gigantic mer-people and pirates through a suitcase to a new and suitable world – even if they can actually find one that will fit the bill. And then there is the (to Flick’s mind, weird) way her feelings towards Avery and what seems to be a reciprocal feeling change as the quest unfolds.

Once again, this series delivers amazingly rich narrative with characters with whom readers will fall in love. I, for one, will eagerly anticipate the next instalment and your readers from around middle primary upwards will adore this new instalment.

The Storm Keepers’ Battle: Storm Keeper Trilogy 3 – Catherine Doyle

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Bloomsbury Australia

March 2021

ISBN:9781526607966
Imprint:Bloomsbury Children’s Books

RRP: $14.99

I have loved this series from the very start! The premise is so fresh and different, and full of so many wonderful themes, characters and fabulous magic.

Fionn and the Arranmore islanders are under siege from the evil Morrigan, her heinous brothers and her army of SoulStalkers. Black Mountain looms ever more menacingly over the island, threatening all with total annihilation. As the new Stormkeeper, Fionn knows that it is up to him to find some solution but how to do it? His best plan is to find the ancient sorcerer of old, Dagda, but that seems like an impossible ask.

To his aid comes old Rose, who it seems has been hiding her true identity for long ages. She is Róisín, First and Fearless, who fought alongside the mighty Dagda in the battle against Morrigan years and years ago. She tells Fionn how to find the Whispering Tree and thus be led to Dagda, an adventure fraught with tension and danger in itself. To Fionn’s utter astonishment, though he finds Dagda in one sense, it is not so that the ancient sorcerer can come to the island’s aid once again. That it would seem is entirely up to Fionn, as he is pronounced the new sorcerer and the islanders’ sole hope for salvation.

Fionn must learn to control his magic (which is, to his immense surprise, powerful indeed), empower the islanders as Stormkeepers themselves, each to their own clan and wield this combined force to defeat the darkness that is so near to engulfing them. Losing both his friend, Shelby, and his sister, Tara, to Morrigan almost proves his undoing but he digs deep into his newly found magical strength and with the aid of the clans and Róisín, the overwhelming odds are reduced and Fionn is revealed as the great sorcerer Dagda predicted.

The ongoing themes of family, loyalty, tradition, self-belief and selflessness, with references to Irish legends woven throughout, make for a thrilling and marvelous narrative and I am only sorry that we have reached the end of this trilogy.

Readers with a love of high fantasy and thrilling action, both boys and girls, from around 10 years upwards will absolutely love this series and I highly recommend it to you as a remarkable addition to your collection.

The Golden Tower – Belinda Murrell

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Penguin Australia

  • March 2021
  • ISBN: 9781760897093
  • Imprint: Puffin
  • RRP: $16.99

 

Belinda Murrell’s time-slip adventures have always been thrilling and captivating and this new one does not fail to do the same.

Sophie is feeling a little down. Though she loves her English grandmother dearly, she’s a little bored with her extended stay while her mum and younger brother are in Oxford at Archie’s camp for super-smart kids. Sophie has far too much time to think about her problems with bullying Indigo, back at her Sydney school, and her struggles with dyslexia, always feeling a failure, and aside
from all that the English summer is very wet – as is usual – and so pretty dull in all senses. Dull that is, until she’s out walking in the muddy fields and follows a very disreputable looking cat into a mysterious cave, which turns out to be an old Roman ruin. In less time than a cat takes for a quick groom of its whiskers, Sophie has stumbled into a strange but beautiful land and finds herself almost accidentally saving the life of a little girl from a rampaging wild boar. And so, Sophie finds herself caught up in the Tuscian world and embroiled in a complicated family situation, where she is the only one who can help siblings Isabella and little Bia escape the horrible plans of their stepmother – a truly wicked stepmother, in the very best fairy tale tradition.
In this mysterious world full of beauty and magic such as talking cats, flying horses and funny little mischief-makers, the muzzamurelli, Sophie discovers within herself a strength and resilience she had no idea she possessed as well discovering a very special secret.

Drawing on Italian folktales and motifs of traditional stories, Belinda Murrell has also been inspired by the history of Renaissance noble families and the daughters who were raised to be skilled, intelligent, well-educated, and influential as well as by music, art, architecture, and culture. Thus, this beautifully exciting narrative becomes more than just a fantasy-adventure but a delightful excursion into a fascinating, though often cruel, historical period.

When I say I had to force myself to stop reading over the past few nights because the story was so completely engrossing, I guess you can safely assume that I give this my highest recommendation for your readers from around 10 years upwards. I know I will have many young readers in my own library who will be leaping for this first-rate magical adventure. 

Oh and just look at that stunning cover design! It’s a triumph! click here for links to pre-order

 

Kensy and Max #7: Take Down – Jacqueline Harvey

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Penguin Australia

March 2 2021

  • ISBN: 9781760898533
  • Imprint: Puffin
  • RRP: $16.99

The countdown to Take Down is on! The kiddos are going to be wild with excitement to read this new adventure with the spies-in-training, as they set off for the World STEM championships in exotic Singapore. The team from the Central London Free School are thrilled to be in the finals for the world’s most prestigious STEM competition but when their grandmother, Dame Cordelia Spencer, falls victim to a poison attack, Kensy and Max are not so keen on going ahead with the trip. However, they are persuaded by their parents and friends that not only will they be safer in Singapore but that their obligation to the team is more important than sitting around in a hospital waiting room. Naturally, that proves dead wrong as the twins and their friends become embroiled with an illegal animal smuggling operation, the very dangerous villain who has been pursuing their family and the mystery surrounding their friend Autumn’s missing parents.

Once again Jacqueline Harvey has hit on a winning combination, combining the growing concerns around the illegal trade in exotic species and STEM, which is arguably the hottest topic in education at present, not to mention the reference to the dangerous nerve drug which was the subject of a recent (and huge) political attack. Kensy and Max prove themselves to be increasingly resourceful and creative and the growing emphasis on their friends’ skills and aptitudes, and their developing teamwork, will provide fans with more rich fodder for discussion and engagement. This underlining of family and friends being vital to our overall safety, success and achievements (no matter how talented we may be as individuals) is a valuable point of reflection for readers.

For those who have not had the pleasure of visiting Singapore it is a thoroughly delightful vicarious tourist experience, highlighting the best of the iconic sights and experiences to be found in this amazing city/country. Though the Kid has spent a week there, I’ve only had the brief encounter with a stop-over in the airport, sadly, and would love to see more of this vibrant and beautiful place – maybe one day!

There is never any need to ‘sell’ Jacqueline’s books, but this comes with my highest recommendation for your readers from around Year 4 upwards as the series gets edgier, more exciting and more in-depth with each new volume. Available for pre-order now, so don’t miss out – your kids will be waiting very impatiently for it to hit your shelves!!

We Are Wolves – Katrina Nannestad

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Harper Collins Australia

October 2020

  • ISBN: 9780733340888
  • ISBN 10: 0733340881
  • Imprint: ABC Books – AU
  • List Price: 19.99 AUD

One book about children surviving in the conflict of war that has always remained with me was Journey into War by Margaret Donaldson. It was one I used often with upper primary children and it offered so much scope for discussion and reflection. I have long lamented that I don’t have a copy of my own as it is out-of-print. Now at last I have a truly worthy alternative.

The Wolf family must leave their home and everything they know as the Russian army swarms into East Prussia. Carrying as much as they can Mother, Liesel, Otto, baby Mia and their grandparents join a long procession of refugees in an arduous trek in search of safety. But such escapes are rarely easy and when the children find themselves completely alone and lost, they must do whatever they can to survive and for Liesel, protecting her little brother and sister is her primary concern. Surviving in the depths of winter is a nigh-impossible task for any children but to do so with the last violence of a war raging around is another entirely.

So the Wolf children become indeed wolves. Living like wild creatures, often without shelter, stealing food and clothes, raiding where ever they are able just to stay alive. They are not the only child casualties of the terrible war that has ravaged their country and, at times, they join forces with other wildlings. When they are caught up by Russians things look very grim for them but fortunately one of the soldiers becomes their friend and helps them along their way.

Eventually the children find themselves in Lithuania where they are taken in by a kindly elderly couple and finally have some respite and safety. They grieve desperately for their family – parents and grandparents – but are at least able to feel secure and cared for. Even in the darkest times miracles can happen and the outcome for the Wolf children proves that hope, warmth and kindness can exist in the worst of circumstances.

Young readers will be mesmerized by the gripping adventure and the challenges faced by the children and will be uplifted by their grit and resilience. Katrina Nannestad has wrought a novel that will hold its place for many years.

Highly recommended for your collection and if your teachers are searching for a fresh and engaging class read this would make a perfect suggestion.

What Zola did on Wednesday – Melina Marchetta

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Penguin Australia

  • September 2020
  • ISBN: 9781760895174
  • Imprint: Puffin
  • RRP: $12.99

I don’t know about you but I am getting incredibly fond of Zola and her neighbourhood. This little series is just truly delightful and I know that little readers must love being able to make connections with their own family, friends, schools and communities.

Boomerang St has been very busy with the gardening, knitting, new neighbours and playmates and now there is a new adventure for Zola, Alessandro and their new friends when Sophia’s turtle goes missing. It’s a real mystery but also lucky that one of Leo’s mums is a police officer and introduces them to her police dog, Vesper. Of course, as we know, Zola loves to help others but has an uncanny knack of finding trouble when she does and her plan, inspired by meeting PD Vesper, is to put Alessandro’s dog, Gigi, on the case of finding the lost turtle. Big mistake! Gigi takes off and a mad chase ensues until she is re-captured. Despite the problems, Turtle is found but the children all re-learn a very valuable lesson about crossing streets and running off unsupervised.

Naturally there is a happy outcome for all and especially so when one more community activity begins – the children and their various dogs are all invited to do some dog training with PD Vesper and Leo’s mum at the neighbourhood park.

Another super instalment in Marchetta’s new series – it’s almost sad already thinking about the end of the week!! Your newly independent readers both boys and girls will just adore these stories and they would make fabulous read-alouds for either classroom teachers or teacher-librarians paired with some activities and action plans.

Highly recommended for little readers from around six years upwards.

The Wild Way Home – Sophie Kirtley

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Bloomsbury Australia

15th September 2020

ISBN:9781526616289
Imprint:Bloomsbury Children’s Books

This is one impressive debut novel with an unusual and interesting time-slip which will take readers into a rarely explored world of the past.

Charlie Merriam and his parents have been eagerly awaiting the birth of little Dara and when the baby arrives just as Charlie turns twelve it would seem that their joy is complete. But all is not well with little Dara who has been born with a heart defect and the emotional distress for Charlie is so unbearable that he runs off from the hospital to his favourite place – the ancient forest on the edge of town just near the family home. This is the place of joy for Charlie and his friends and is always full of mystery, adventure and discoveries. In fact, just the day before Dara’s birth Charlie had unearthed an ancient deer tooth with curious scratched markings.

In the midst of his anguish, stumbling without thinking in the depths of the forest, Charlie comes across an injured boy and immediately tries to help him. But this is no ordinary boy. Dressed in not much more than an animal skin and barely able to communicate with Charlie, it appears that the two boys have connected across the ages and Charlie has found himself in Stone Age Britain where dangers abound and life is hard.

This a wonderful adventure which readers will eat up with relish as Charlie and Harby help each other and in the process discover what each thought they had lost: hope, courage, family and their way home.

It is certainly different from the usual time-slip genre and while the reader needs to suspend disbelief significantly to grasp that Charlie and Harby can speak to each other with understanding it is not so much as to detract from the overall narrative.

I would recommend this for your middle school readers who enjoy both time-slip and adventure stories with a difference. Pre-order your copy now!