Tag Archives: Family

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!

When Rain Turns to Snow – Jane Godwin

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Hachette Australia

JUN 30, 2020 | 9780734420053 | RRP $16.99

If you are looking for something new in your ‘identity’ collection this beautiful coming-of-age narrative will be a perfect fit.

The recent months have been a revelation in how some humans handle a crisis situation and for teens this can be a real challenge. Lissa is no different. Home alone one afternoon a strange boy turns up on her doorstep with a small baby in his arms. Reed has recently found out that he’s adopted and believes that Lissa’s mother might also be his but more than that, his older and troubled brother has handed over the baby, his tiny daughter, for safekeeping. Being on the run is hard enough but having a tiny human to care for makes it almost impossible. Lissa finds herself caught up in Reed’s dilemma while, at the same time, trying to help her older brother who has been blamed for a social media debacle with huge ramifications.

In the process of trying to unravel Reed’s history as well as helping him care for tiny Mercy, Lissa uncovers a secret about her own birth which causes her real anguish and questioning around her own identity.

Jane Godwin has written a beautiful story with compelling characters for whom the reader really feels as they navigate their various ways through their complex predicaments. This is a story of inner strength, family solidarity and an expression of the true meaning of family – it’s not about blood, it is in fact about love.

I highly recommend this for your readers from around 12 years upwards. I can’t wait to ‘book talk’ it tomorrow to my student book group.

What Zola did on Monday – Melina Marchetta. Illustrated by Deb Hudson

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Penguin Australia

June 2020

ISBN: 9781760895150

Imprint: Puffin

RRP: $12.99

This is certainly a departure from Looking for Alibrandi and Melina’s other novels for YA but what an absolute joy it is! From start to finish it ticks every box I love!

Zola lives with her mum and Nonna Rosa in a little house in the suburbs, with her cousin and bestie, Alessandro, living directly behind. Before the two lost their Nonno Nino, he cut a gate into the back fence so they could spend as much time together as possible – whenever Alessandro is not at his dad’s place.

Everyone in the neighbourhood loves their beautiful front garden filled with flowers and Nonna Rosa loves the backyard with its vegetable garden even more. But although Zola loves flowers she certainly does not like gardening!

At school her Year 2 class are temporarily housed across the road from the school, which is being renovated, within the grounds of the much-neglected community garden. Zola’s teacher Ms Divis is keen on gardens, community and sustainability – the perfect combination to inspire her little charges to take on the project of rejuvenating the community garden as well as investigating their neighbourhood’s local history.

Zola does have a knack for finding herself in sticky situations like leaving the back-fence gate open so that Alessandro’s naughty dog causes destruction in the backyard and even worse, ruining the newly planted special seeds Nonna Rosa had saved, given to her by Nonno Nino. But luckily she is also a smart little cookie who can come up with a solution to her various little problems.

This is about so much more than the very important theme of growing our own food (itself so timely at present) and being attuned with nature, it’s about re-connecting with community and sharing care, compassion and concern. There is a rich diversity in families with single parents, same-sex parents, multi-generational families and different cultures.

Thankfully it’s the first in a series – one for each day of the week – so there is more joy to come. Perfect for newly independent readers or for class or home read-alouds, I highly recommend this for little humans from around 6 years upwards.

Alice-Miranda in the Outback – Jacqueline Harvey

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9781760891039

 

Penguin Australia

June 2020

  • ISBN: 9781760891039
  • Imprint: Puffin
  • RRP: $16.99

Once again Jacqueline Harvey has produced an adventure for Alice-Miranda which will both excite and fascinate her legion devoted fans. I love that each new book in this series continues to grab these readers some of whom might be considered to have ‘out-grown’ the diminutive main character!
This time Alice-Miranda along with her father, friends and cousins are off on a huge holiday/mercy mission to the outback station of Barnaby Lewis, who needs some serious hands-on help as he tries to juggle a mysterious lack of water for his stock and mustering. Normally these activities could be managed but with his wife away in the city settling her mother who has dementia and his live-in helpers absent on Sorry Business it’s not only a challenging time for the station work but also in caring for his two children.
There’s a long road trip to reach the station way out near Coober Pedy and along the way the children are fascinated by wildlife and scenery not to mention meeting an eccentric character who is an old friend of Hugh, Alice-Miranda’s dad. Their encounter with a very unpleasant couple who run the roadhouse near Coober Pedy is not a highlight, but the party does not for a moment suspect how these two will factor into a very nasty and dangerous episode.
A missing fossicker, apparent theft of water, a missing small child, long-held family secrets and an obsessive greed combine to give the visitors an adventure far more action-packed than they had anticipated. Along the way readers will discover more about the outback and its wildlife, Aboriginal culture and the cruel history of mixed race children, opal mining, station life and more without even realising how much knowledge they are absorbing about these topics.
For children, many of whom may never experience the unique nature of the outback, this will be a marvellous virtual trip and naturally the ever-present themes that permeate this wonderful series: friendship, teamwork, loyalty, resourcefulness, compassion and kindness, will offer readers great benefit.
Jacqueline always combines humour and drama to such great effect – watch out for the scene when the children are watching movies, such a hoot! – and the success of her writing is evident in the ‘million-copy bestselling’ nature of this series.
Over the past decade this series has effectively ‘hooked’ thousands of keen followers and you will have many of your readers clamouring to be the first to get their hands on this latest. There really is never any need for my humble but heartfelt endorsement but again I say – highly recommended for readers of any age – just be sure to stand well back when you first put it on display!

 

Evie and Pog: Party Perfect! [#3] – Tania McCartney

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Harper Collins Australia

April 2020

  • ISBN: 9781460757956
  • ISBN 10: 1460757955
  • Imprint: HarperCollins – AU
  • List Price: 12.99 AUD

The absolutely cute-as-buttons Evie and Pog are back in their third set of adventures ready to delight all those newly independent readers who are already in love with them.

Once again your little readers will love the familiar pattern which starts off each new adventure and in this book there are another three fun stories: Book Parade, Art Show Muddle and Party Time!

As we already know from their previous escapades Evie, Pog, Granny along with Noah, Mr Pooch and Miss Footlights often have extravagant plans which usually go somewhat awry but are always salvaged by the quick resourcefulness of the team, knitting and creative thinking.

First of all there’s the annual Book Parade, always such an exciting event, but Pog is not at all happy. He ALWAYS wins the Best Dressed Dog for his costumes but how can he possibly compete with all the new competitors from the Puppy School? Luckily Evie, Noah & co come up with the perfect costume and though, to Granny’s distress, it involves lots of messy making including GLITTER the competition is a triumph for Pog.

Next up is the Art Show and Evie is creating a huge artwork that represents their daisy-spot grass while Pog busies himself making a plan of the art show. It’s all going to be a huge success – well, that is until seven tiny kittens turn up unexpectedly and mayhem results with a tangle of wool, colour, fluffiness and little beady eyes. When Mr Arty Farty (don’t you just love it?!) arrives to judge the entries, Evie is so upset because her grand design looks completely and utterly ruined after a kitten-attack. You can imagine her surprise then when the snooty judge decides on a winner – and yes! Daisy-Spot Grass is the best of the show!

Finally the Puppy School is one year old and has been such a huge success for all that a party is definitely in order. But it’s not just a celebration for the puppies, it’s also Granny’s birthday so there is much excited preparation to be done. Pink lamingtons, gift baskets, a special trophy for the star doggy pupil and the return visit of Mr Arty Farty accompanied by the seven little kittens all make for a hilarious and rather chaotic village party.

Your little readers will laugh so much at the antics of this quirky crew of characters but there is also much to be gained in other ways such as thinking about solving problems, getting along with others, self-confidence and diverse friendships.

We just love Evie and Pog in our junior library and can’t wait to have the children back at school to see the great display that’s in the making. Tania McCartney’s talents as both writer and illustrator are always such a joy in any of her works and this new series is no exception.

Highly recommended for little humans from around six years upwards.

 

Click to access Evie-and-Pog-Teachers-Notes.pdf

Magabala Magic

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As you know any books from Magabala make my heart sing because a) they are always so beautiful b) they enable me to promote the First Australian culture which is so important to my family. Here are three of the newest titles:

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Brother Moon – Maree McCarthy Yoelu & Samantha Fry

March 2020

ISBN 9781925936827

RRP: $24.99

This is a beautiful and powerful story that has been inspired by the author’s great-grandfather sharing it with her in her childhood.

Beneath a dark night sky in the Northern Territory, beautifully captured in the atmospheric illustrations, a great-grandfather shares with his great-grandson his deep connection with his brother the moon which guides him his connection to country. He details how the phases of the moon let him know the proper time for hunting and fishing providing sustenance and underlines the importance of our relationship with the natural world.

Great-grandpa Liman is a masterful storyteller and as an elder has the privilege of teaching his young descendant about this important aspect of culture and living in harmony with country.

This provides not only a significant topic for use with Indigenous children but is a valuable resource for cross-cultural studies in the classroom when investigating the moon and night sky topic. [ACARA: researching knowledges held by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples regarding the phases of the moon and the connection between the lunar cycle and ocean tides (OI.3OI.5)]

Liman (Harry Morgan), the author’s grandfather, was a respected Wadjigany man — a leader amongst his people and the community. Liman was born at Manjimamany in the Northern Territory in 1916. He was a canoe maker, hunter, community mediator, and a family man who lived off the land and travelled the seas. Liman spoke Batjamalh, his first language, and other languages from the Daly River area.

Find teaching notes here

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Mum’s Elephant – Maureen Jipiyiliya Nampijinpa O’Keefe/Christina Booth

April 2020

ISBN 9781925936728

RRP: $17.99

This was a joy to read and has already been shared to great success. O’Keefe has created a very special narrative from a childhood memory of her mother’s prized ‘elephant’. Growing up in a remote community the family did not have many possessions but the ‘elephant’ was a particular focus in the sense of community and connection. Her mother would lovingly tend to the ‘elephant’ and often slept with it beside her bed.

Throughout Booth’s illustrations carefully deepen the wondering about the ‘elephant’ and how it could possibly be so important – or indeed even exist. Readers will love to conjecture as to it’s true purpose as gradually more clues indicate it’s actual identity.

The ultimate revelation will lead to some wonderful discussions on similarly important items in children’s own homes and the significance of special objects in creating strong bonds in our personal circles.

Respect

Respect – Aunty Fay Muir, Sue Lawson. Illustrated by Lisa Kennedy

May 2020

ISBN 9781925936315

$24.99

This the first in a new four-part series which will be of primary importance in any teaching program or for sharing with young readers.  This creative team, who need no introduction, have once again produced a book which will become a staple in any cross-cultural discussions or units of work.

Through lyrical text and absolutely stunning illustrations readers are shown the importance of family, particularly with regard to the need to listen, learn and share. While this is of paramount regard within First Australian culture, there can be no argument that it is also a vital lesson for any of our young people.

This gentle literary walk through a way of life and society that is the oldest in existence in the world, the significance of country and nature and the sharing of stories will delight and engage any young readers whilst also informing adults.

Find teaching notes here.

As always my highest recommendations go with these fabulous new titles from our leading Indigenous publishing company.

My copies are already in use in my daughter’s classroom as she guides the Indigenous children at her school in their culture and have been very well-received.

Big Hug Little Mouse – Lisa Kerr

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Walker Books Australia

March 2020

ISBN: 9781760651107
Imprint: Walker Books Australia
Australian RRP: $24.99
New Zealand RRP: $26.99

It is certainly not an ideal time to launch new books but it is the perfect time to share a book about hugs especially for little people who are missing out on those special cuddles from grandparents, other family and friends.

Millie loves all the things that most little people do like jumping mud puddles, chasing butterflies and eating Grandma’s cookies but most of all she loves hugs. So when she wakes up one day feeling rather flat and sad (and how many of our kiddos would be feeling likewise right now?) she thinks she must have lost her hug.  So with her friend Harry she goes off to find it and of course, has many of her special friends are more than happy to share their love.

Lisa Kerr has done a spectacular job of creating such a simple but very touching story about the beauty of connection and in these parlous times this is such an important message to convey. So many kinds of hugs to share – whether for hello or goodbye, with one arm or when you are sleepy – all of these will delight the little people who have the pleasure of reading this.

What is your favourite type of hug? Naturally mine are the special ones from my girl – who even though she’s the too-cool teen still has that loving aspect to her nature.

HIghly recommended for little readers from around 3 years upwards.