Tag Archives: Family

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.

 

What Stars Are Made Of – Sarah Allen

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9780241427965

Penguin Random House

April 2020

ISBN: 9780241427965

Imprint: Puffin

RRP: $14.99

This is just a wonderful heart-warming book on many levels and has introduced me to not only a new author but new information.

Libby Malone is 12 years old and passionate about science so much so that she wants to be a scientist when she grows up. Her favourite scientist is the over-looked Cecilia Payne – first woman Astronomy Chair at Harvard and the first person to postulate the theories on what stars are made of – work which was discounted but then appropriated by men in the field.

Libby also has Turner Syndrome – a condition of birth that has affected her physical development in many ways – but about which she is pretty pragmatic although she does sometimes wish she had a friend other than the school library.

Her older sister  Nonny, whom she adores, is now married and living away from the family but returns when her husband has to go away to work and she is pregnant and needs to have a safe haven. Libby worries over Nonny’s baby and the fact that Nonny and Thomas are struggling financially. Her mind races with ‘what ifs’ and so she inspired to take up a challenge that could change their lives and help them secure a home of their own. She determines to enter a new Women in STEM competition initiated by the Smithsonian  and of course she has the perfect subject in her much revered Cecilia.

At the same time new girl Talia arrives at the school and like Libby she also stands out from the crowd mostly because she is Samoan. The pair forms a tentative but increasingly stronger friendship which sees them both encourage and support each other through crises and challenges, and ultimately rejoice together.

This has much of the same deep ‘feels’ as books such as Wonder and will appeal to upper primary/early secondary students in just the same way. Libby encounters and triumphs over the petty meanness of both the ubiquitous school bully boy and an even more odious adult, editor of her school history textbook. She and Talia both pursue their goals with determination and singular focus and both have the measure of success they both need to affirm their chosen paths.  And of course, the arrival of baby Cecilia, though not without its dramas, is the magical icing on Libby’s cake.

The warmth and love of family and special friendship, self-pride and identity are all well teased out concepts in this novel and the reader feels immense connection with the characters.

I would recommend it highly for readers from around 10 years upwards and certainly if you have kiddos who have loved Wonder then this would be a natural to add to their ‘If you liked…’ list.

Ruby Red Shoes: My Wonderful Grandmother– Kate Knapp

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Harper Collins Australia
March 2020

ISBN: 9781460758885

ISBN 10: 1460758889

Imprint: HarperCollins – AU

List Price: 19.99 AUD

What’s wonderful about my grandmother is she is not only my grandmother but also my friend.

On the day before my Jen slipped away from us as I held her hand and stroked her hair and promised I would take care of Small (as she was known then) she looked at me and said ‘You know you are her best friend.’

So this beautiful new Ruby Red Shoes story, the little hare who lives with her grandmother, touched my heart on the most personal of levels and while Small is now fifteen and way too hip-teen for this, it’s one I’m going to treasure and keep  as it resonates so much….right down to the aquaerobics classes and the fairies in the garden!

Ruby loves her grandmother of course but all the many reasons she gives for her grandmother being so wonderful are just perfect: cooking together, daytrips, exploring rockpools, sharing music and learning new words. This book really could have been written for Small and I  and I am not the only reader who will connect with it. When Ruby invites the reader to share why their own grandmothers are wonderful what a marvellous opportunity arises whether it be with a class of children or a solo reader.

In our strange and anxiety-filled times many grandchildren and grandparents are separated by distance for a time and so what better way to keep the connection than by sharing this with both? The grandies could list why the grandparents are wonderful and vice versa – what a beautiful exchange that would make!

What’s wonderful about my grandmother is she wears x-ray spectacles. She can see deep inside me and knows just what I’m feeling. (and I can)

My highest (and slightly teary) recommendations for little ones from around three years upwards. It could have been written just for us, thank you Kate.

 

James Gong The Big Hit – Paul Collins

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Hybrid Publishers

June 2020

ISBN 9781925736441

RRP: $16.99

Fourteen year old James Gong is pretty much a fairly average teenage boy living in suburbia with a family who are also pretty average – well in most respects. His mother rescues dogs and keeps them out the back of their house, to the frequent annoyance of neighbours, and counsels her pooches with tender dedication. His father does – well, James isn’t exactly sure what it is his father does but he likes to hope that his dad is a spy since his job seems to be so well-hidden (at least it is to James). He has an older sister Caitlin who can be a real pain, like most big sisters, who is always banging on trying to save whales, trees, the environment- really whatever cause is topical.

For the most part James’ life is pretty cool. He has his besties Jay and Ethan, school is tolerable and he is just about to qualify for his black belt in taekwondo under the instruction of the exacting and ferocious Mr Choi.  When a crew from TV show My Life arrive at the hall to film a segment for the program they are mightily impressed with James’ jumping spinning side kick, so much so that they want him to star in their upcoming blockbuster movie. Wow! Hollywood fame and fortune awaits for young James – or does it?

While James is super-excited about the movie role, except for the scene that involves a KISS with a lovely young girl, there are aspects about the whole filming process that baffle him – like the lack of sophisticated equipment, or sets or indeed costumes. Little does he know that Marcie and Win the film-makers are actually pulling a tax-dodge swifty.  Added to the confusion around the movie, James is still at loggerheads with his sister, fighting his weird attraction for Caitlin’s best friend Amber who scorns him with vigour and seriously neglects his taekwondo practice resulting in a  fail in his black belt grading.

To make matters worse when the movie premieres it’s so ludicrously hilarious instead of the big action film James was expecting so that now, instead of being a Hollywood superstar,  he feels like he’s losing out big time and that he’s the biggest fool alive.

But perhaps, just perhaps there are positives in the offing. I really don’t want to give away any spoilers but let’s just say that there are a few very tricky twists in James’ story that Paul Collins has managed without the slightest hint of contrivance.

I feel there will be many readers both boys and girls who will really get into this book. They will love the action, relate to the well-developed characters, chuckle at the humour, wince at James’ ineptitude and – okay, at times ‘denseness’ – but ultimately will rejoice with him and certainly  express their emotions at the biggest ‘ah ha’ moments.

I recommend this highly for readers from around 12 years upwards who I can guarantee will thoroughly enjoy it.  If you’re looking for a great read-aloud or shared novel this will make a fabulous addition with many levels and themes to explore throughout.

Check out some teaching notes here and given the disruptions to normal services you can order your copy here right now!

Orphan Warriors: Children of the Otori #1 – Lian Hearn

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JAN 28, 2020 | 9780733641213 | RRP $32.99

Hachette

It’s been quite some time since I first read the Tales of the Otori series  but Hearn’s skill as a storyteller has certainly not diminished – witness the fact that I read this over four nights because it is so utterly compelling, just as the original saga was.

The long and bitter feuds between the Tribe and the clans have created much devastation and one significant outcome is the many children left orphans either as the result of their parents’ deaths in battles or as ‘honour’ demands.

The central character of this first in the new series is Sunaomi who along with his younger brother Chikara are the surviving children of Arai Zenko who, with his wife, was condemned as a traitor. The boys have only escaped death themselves as their aunt Kaede has interceded with the tyrant Lord Saga and promised that the boys will enter the monastery at Terayama as novice monks, never to leave it.

Sunaomi chafes against the dull routine of the monastery, though his teachers are kind, having been raised to be a warrior. But despite this he is also the grandson of Muto Shizuka and owes allegiance to the Tribe. At the monastery he begins to experience strange visions and events over which he seems to have no control. He also encounters Hisao, an angry young man, who is revealed as a ‘ghost master’.

Sunaomi is not destined to remain in obscurity within the monastic confines however and is taken from its security on the command of the Lord Mizuno and it is on this journey that he also meets Masao, the grandson of the erratic and cruel Saga, as well as many others.

As with the original tales there is a wide cast of characters and one must give full attention to the reading so as not to become confused but it is very much worth it as the riveting medieval fantasy unfolds.

Not for the faint-hearted as there is violence, intrigue and supernatural themes which all combine to make this one of the most commanding reads for young adults whether they are or are not familiar with Tales of the Otori.

It is thrilling and exciting for both genders as there are plenty of strong and vibrant characters of both sexes who demonstrate much courage, loyalty and intelligence as well as their own individual gifts.

Highly recommended for able readers from around 12 years upwards.

[and now I’m straight onto #2 Sibling Assassins!]