Tag Archives: Friendship

Nullaboo Hullabaloo – Fleur Ferris

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nullaboo

Penguin

9780143787143

May 7, 2019

Puffin

 

RRP: $14.99

 

We could all use some more fairy dust in our lives. Whether it’s because of the gloom and doom of daily news reports or if (like me packing up house) because of some personal issues. I maintain that a liberal sprinkling of fairy sparkle would be very beneficial for anyone.

Fleur Ferris has demonstrated so superbly her ability to write gripping YA fiction and has now turned her hand to fiction for younger readers with the same ease and expertise.

In a little country community young Gemma isn’t having a terrific time. First there’s the worry of her family being evicted from the farm they all love. Second, the all-too-perfect Nina got butterflies for her special science project topic while Gemma bombed out with March flies – really? March Flies?

But when Gemma captures not a fly nor even a feather in her bug catcher but a real live honest-to-goodness fairy, things in Nullaboo start to go completely crazy! Janomi the fairy isn’t meant to reveal herself to humans but she’s desperate for help after her grandfather, leader of their colony, was captured by the dreadful silver spiders. There’s more than a captured fairy leader at stake though when a secret government agency gets wind of the find and lead by an absolute nutter poses a real threat of extermination to the last fairy colony on Earth.

It’s up to Gemma, her family and the solidarity of their little community to save the day – and the fairies!

This seemingly effortless and straightforward narrative has much scope for discussion with current global topics such as environmental damage, conservation, tolerance, acceptance and embracing differences all able to correlate to the unfolding of events.  And aside from that it’s a jolly fun read!

Highly recommended for anyone who loves a great fairy story – and hopes for fairies in their garden!

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Animal Crackers

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Now that the pile of review novels is finally getting to a stage that could be described as semi-tamed, it’s time to get stuck into plethora picture books. So here are some animal-focused ones to get into – because we all know that our little readers just love a great animal story and we love them because so often they send such positive messages.

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Flat Cat – Hiawyn Oram/Gwen Millard

Walker Books Australia

January 2019

ISBN: 9781406371543
Australian RRP: $24.99
New Zealand RRP: $27.99

“If you love something, set it free” – that was my first thought on reading this book. My second thought was the memory of buying my beloved Burmese cat, Possum, many years ago. I was determined that he would be an ‘inside’ cat but after two weeks of completely shredded flyscreens, I realised that was not in his nature and so he became an inside/outside cat and was my best friend for the eight years of his life.

Sophie loves Jimi-My-Jim and gives him everything you might think a cat could desire – toys, special food, sparkly collars, beds and even clothes. The one thing that Jimi-My-Jim is missing is freedom. He is never allowed outside and gradually he becomes ‘Flat Cat’ because he so morose at seeing the outside world only through a window. When one day by accident, Flat Cat manages to get hold of the front door keys, he is off and away and discovers a world full of other cats, life, excitement, joy and another very special cat – Blanche.  While at first the consequences prove to be difficult for both Flat Cat and Sophie, they are overcome and Flat Cat is able to pursue his new life – with the joy of the freedom plus the joy of being Sophie’s special friend.

This offers a serious point of discussion about when, if ever, it’s acceptable to reject the rules in place and certainly gives ‘helicopter’ parents an opportunity to examine their practices.

I certainly recommend it for young readers from around six years upwards – but would suggest that it could also be a valuable addition to parent information nights!

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Good Rosie! – Kate de Camillo. Pictures by Harry Bliss

Walker Books Australia

October 2018

ISBN: 9781406383577
Australian RRP: $24.99
New Zealand RRP: $27.99

 

I really meant to get to this one sooner rather than later because I truly adore Kate di Camillo’s work. This is such a departure from her novels but is truly enchanting and endearing.

We all need friends and Rosie is no exception. She has a good life with her human, George, but is lonely without doggy companions. Sometimes it seems that she and George don’t have much in common, for example, an intense interest in squirrels. When George takes Rosie to the dog park for the first time, she is somewhat overwhelmed. She has never seen so many dogs before and she feels confronted and scared. She is even more so when Maurice, a very large St Bernard approaches shaking his toy bunny with such vigour it’s a wonder the toy’s extremities still exist. But then the tiny Fifi with her sparkly collar doesn’t seem a kindred spirit either.

It takes an unfortunate incident between Maurice and Fifi to help Rosie realise that sometimes friends come in different shapes and sizes and that we don’t all ‘click’ at first sight.

Formatted in a graphic novel style, this is a lovely reminder about unlikely friendships but moreover about overcoming prejudices and feeling anxious.

A fabulous book for sharing with young readers to kick-start conversations about acceptance and building relationships.

 

Saying Goodbye to Barkley – Devon Sillett/Nicky Johnston

barkley

EK Books

978-1-925335-96-5

$24.99

Losing our furbabies is difficult. For children who have grown up with a special pet it is arguably even moreso. Super Olivia and her trusty sidekick, Barkley, have always been a team. As Olivia carries out her amazing super-hero deeds, Barkley is always right by her giving his all. When Barkley is no longer there, Olivia feels her zest for super-sleuthing and action-heroism has also gone. But after her grieving she realises that Barkley would not want her to give up her passion in life, nor forget his extraordinary assistance. Olivia knows what she must do as a true super-hero for whom rescues are a daily event. She must rescue a new sidekick.

Spud is white, fluffy and adorable – and absolutely useless at fighting crime and uncovering dastardly plots but Olivia loves her anyway.

This is not a story about replacing one pet for another but a beautiful way of describing that eventually we can heal from our losses and find joy in other ways, events and companions.

Highly recommended for readers from around six years upwards.

 

 

Catch a Falling Star – Meg McKinlay

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Walker Books

March 2019

fallingstar

ISBN: 9781925381207
Imprint: Walker Books Australia

Australian RRP: $17.99
New Zealand RRP: $19.99

It’s 1979 and Frankie is just finishing primary school. Her dad has been dead, after a light plane crash over the ocean, for six years  and Frankie, her little brother Newt and her mum have been struggling along ever since. With their Mum working long hours as a nurse in the local hospital, Frankie and Newt have had to become very self-reliant which can be difficult as Newt, only seven years old, is very Newtish – a serious little boy with definite indications of being on the spectrum.

Frankie has been coping but only just with looking after Newt, has mastered baked beans or spaghetti on toast and even fish fingers, makes lunches, cleans out school bags and tries to get on with her homework projects. But when the news about the re-entry of Skylab, the first space station, pushes even Sunday night’s Disneyland off the TV, her grief resurfaces with intensity. The last time she saw her amateur astronomer father alive they had been sitting with two year old Newt watching Skylab launch and it seems to Frankie that those memories which have been pushed to one side are becoming just too much with which to deal, on top of everything else.

Most worrying is Newt’s increasingly strange and obsessive infatuation with the whole Skylab event and it seems that his normally purely scientific interests are becoming clouded by something else.

As Frankie tries her hardest not to feel neglected by her mother, watch out for Newt and salvage her increasingly fragile friendship with her best friend, it is her school project on Storm Boy that helps her to realise and face much of her distress and additionally enables her to see Newt’s dilemma with more clarity.

This is a beautiful, sometimes humorous and often poignant tale about grief and loss, love and family, bravery and self-belief.

I would highly recommend it for readers from around ten years upwards.

Check out the teaching notes here.

Love Lie Repeat – Catherine Greer

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loveliverepeat

Penguin

9780143791225

March 5, 2019

$19.99

I’ve mentioned before that I have in recent times been somewhat disenchanted with many of the YA novels that have come my way. There have been a few exceptions. This one, debut novel and all, is an absolute corker!

Annie and her ‘island girls’ (the kind you take with you to a desert island), Ashlin and Ruby have been a threesome forever. They are bonded so closely that nothing could ever tear them apart. While their family lives may be complex in one sense with divorces, absent fathers, family secrets they lead privileged lives with money, fashion and solid support.

When Ashlin’s hitherto unknown half-brother, Trip, arrives from Canada, asked to leave his school due to some unexplained arson attacks, the girls’ previously tight bonds of friendship begin to fray in varying degrees. Annie’s burgeoning relationship with Trip seems destined to follow some kind of roller-coaster experience as she repeatedly trusts him, rejects him, reconciles with him. Ashlin’s secret sexual identity begins to reveal itself while Ruby, ignoring Annie’s obvious interest in Trip, starts throwing herself at the boy with little regard for her friend.

Into this mix of emotional angst are the girls’ usual activities of sport, singing, holidays and fashion but all of these seem to be overcast by some sinister atmosphere and more frighteningly, inexplicable random fires.

Greer has put together an intense and gripping narrative with many twists and turns and the ending is not to be missed.

Given its fairly adult themes this is not a book I would recommend for your younger teens but I have no hesitation in promoting it to senior secondary students.

47 Degrees – Justin D’Ath

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47

Penguin Australia

9780143789079

January 8, 2019

Puffin

RRP:  $16.99

Australia has more than its fair share of natural disasters. One only has to think about the events of the last week or so with the terrible floods in North Queensland and the raging fires in Tasmania. Arguably one of the very worst of these was the Black Saturday fires in Victoria. Ten years ago the country, and indeed the world, was rocked by the news of the ferociously devastating fires in Victoria which claimed 173 lives, cost millions in damage and untold mental anguish for so many.

Justin D’Ath has drawn on his own experience (losing his home for a start) to create a narrative in which readers can immerse themselves safely while relating and empathising with those caught up in the horror. Homes, possessions, pets….family…..so much at risk and so much loss by so many.

Keelie has not lived in the district long. She and her family re-located from New Zealand and are really still finding their way in their new community and environs. Her dad has done all the right things to safeguard their home but when Mum and little brother have to go to Melbourne on a medical emergency, Keelie is not feeling confident with Dad’s plans. She is quite naturally worried about their home and their safety but her horse is her biggest concern immediately.

When the worst happens and the winds change and the roaring dragon of fire encroaches, Keelie and her dad plus dogs must quickly abandon their home for safety.

This is a gripping tale of courage, friendship, compassion and loss to which young readers will readily connect. We all hope and pray to avoid such terrible and ravaging events but the knowledge that so many are ready to step up and take care of those who are at risk is a reassuring prospect. As Australians I believe we are particularly good at this. We may be offhand and blasé about much but when the worst happens, we rally and support and fight back.

What a fantastic read this is! I highly recommend it to you for readers from around ten years upwards.

 

*In memory of those who lost their lives and those who fought on to save those they could*

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The Whispers – Greg Howard

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Penguin

9780241367087

January 22, 2019

Puffin

$14.99

 

Riley has not been coping so well since his mother disappeared. Neither his father nor his brother seems as concerned as he is. Even his much loved grandparents appear to be disengaged from his urgency to solve the mystery. His seemingly never-ending meetings with the police going over and over the events of the last day he saw his mother are frustrating and useless.

When Riley recalls the legend of the Whispers, mysterious creatures who inhabit the woods near his house and rumoured to grant wishes, he determines to make the necessary sacrifices to achieve his dearest desire.

He engages assistance both intentionally and inadvertently from his best friend and his ‘crush’ and the resulting events are both filled with humour and poignancy.

Howard has produced a narrative which is in turn gripping, powerful, sorrowful and joyous. At times I found it difficult to continue as the clues unravelled to the conclusion – too close for comfort really – so I would be cautious about to whom I would give this book to read. That being said, it is masterfully and sensitively written and perfectly suited to able middle school readers from around 12 years upwards.

The Girl, the Dog and the Writer in Provence (The Girl, the Dog and the Writer, Book 2) – Katrina Nannestad

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provence

Harper Collins Australia

ISBN: 9780733338182

ISBN 10: 0733338186

Imprint: ABC Books – AU

October 2018

RRP: 16.99 AUD

Young Freja, sensitive and intelligent, along with the hairy hound Finnegan and eccentric crime writer Tobby have left Rome to go to the picturesque village of Claviers in Provence, where it just happens their beautiful friend Vivi has also moved to further her pastry-making career.

Freja discovers that not only can she make friends of the grown-up variety but that she can also have the happy companionship of other children – precocious little Pippin, the twins Cossette and Edith and Christophe, the perpetually hungry would-be priest.  Altogether it is an idyllic time, although Freja still misses her mother Clementine so much, until that is a spate of nasty crimes begins to cause grief for many of the villagers.  As Freja determines to uncover the villain of the piece, she not only longs to see her mother but also begins to seriously wonder about her relationship to Tobby. Is her uncle? Could he be her father? It is all quite a muddle and though there are some clues (as Freja perceives them) not quite enough to draw a conclusion.

I just love this series. It is so fresh and original and feel-good. Of course visiting such beautiful places vicariously is also a plus! But reading these reminds me of my favourite chai from my lovely coffee shop. First there is the delicious light froth, both sweet and spicy simultaneously followed by the warmth of the milk, satisfying and leaving one with a feeling of well-being. The stories are funny and often ridiculous with Tobby’s antics but permeating them is the wonder of love, friendship, trust, discovery and happiness.

No wonder the first was a best-seller! Readers will eagerly pounce on this one as well and will all, as I will, be waiting for the next episode in Lucerne, where we will learn more about Clementine’s illness and perhaps the kinship between Freja, her mother and Tobby.

In the meantime I highly recommend a sojourn in beautiful Provence for readers from around eight years upwards.

Pippa’s Island #5: Puppy Pandemonium – Belinda Murrell

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pippa

Penguin Random House

9780143793267

December 3, 2018

Random House Australia Children’s

 

RRP: $14.99

The many young fans who have embraced this series with much enthusiasm will be delighted with the latest – and it’s just in time for Christmas too!

It’s been almost a year since Pippa and her mum, Jenna, and brother and sister – Harry and Bella – relocated from London to Kirra Island and their Beach Shack Café has become an established meeting place for many island regulars. Slowly their apartment above the café has been taking shape and they will be able to move out of their cramped caravan, unpack forgotten treasures from their old life and really begin their new one.

Not surprisingly money has been tight with every spare cent going to the apartment’s refurbishment and Pippa has been feeling some twinges of envy as she observes her Sassy Sister friends with their pretty swimsuits, bikes and lovely homes. When the local surf shop puts some super cute bikinis on sale Pippa is determined to buy one and comes up with her best plan ever. Pippa’s Perfect Pooch Pampering is born and soon Pippa has as many dog walking/caring jobs as she can handle – and more! Lucky she has such a great group of friends to help out and a lot of kind customers.

There is something completely joyous about these stories. Each resonates with themes of friendship, kindness, positivity and simple pleasures. No wonder they have been such a hit with readers. Let’s hope we see many more in the series!

Highly recommended for readers from around eight years upwards.

The Adventures of Catvinkle – Elliot Perlman

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catvinkle

Penguin Random House

9780143786368

October 1, 2018

Puffin

RRP $19.99

 

Well regarded author of adult books Elliot Perlman has ably proven that he can turn his hand just as easily to writing for children with this first book for younger readers. It is delightfully whimsical and carries a literary flavour of its Amsterdam setting within its text with an enviable ease (very reminiscent of Annie M. G. Schmidt’s beautiful classics).

 

Catvinkle is a much pampered only pet of a charming barber in Amsterdam. She is exceedingly beautiful and certainly talented in some ways but also very definitely selfish and rather casual with the truth. When her owner Mr Sabatini brings home a rather forlorn and neglected Dalmation named Ula, Catvinkle is extremely unimpressed to say the least. An intruder into her cosy parlour and water bowl and a dog to boot is the last thing with which she wants to contend. It will completely ruin her social standing in Kittens Anonymous for one thing!

 

Ula’s sweet nature and compliant personality win Catvinkle over slowly (of course her delicious musky smell which acts intoxicatingly on the cat helps) but it also endears her to others as she breaks down barriers between not only cats and dogs but dogs and dogs!

 

The subtle themes of anti-racism, anti-bullying, acceptance, tolerance, friendship and loyalty are delivered in a wonderfully funny story where cats who baby-shoe dance, fly with tail propellers and llamas who play backgammon are quite the norm.

 

Readers from around eight years upwards will delight in this magical story of animals whose lives seem to mirror those of humans.

 

 

 

Maya & Cat – Caroline Magerl

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Walker Books Australia

ISBN: 9781921977282
Release Date: August 1, 2018
Australian RRP: $24.99
New Zealand RRP: $27.99
Throughout our college and certainly in my library at present we are having a great focus on kindness and empathy. With my little people I am using a range of picture books which offer this theme that also feature animals as this meshes with their classroom unit.

Author/illustrator Caroline Magerl’s new picture book, launched this week, is a perfect fit for this very unit with its themes of resilience and friendship along with the very essence of kindness.

Maya follows her empathic instincts to coax Cat down from on high and thereafter tries to find her rightful home. When she does so, her sadness at leaving Cat with her own family is assuaged by an unexpected surprise, one which fills her with absolute delight.

This text features some absolutely scrumptious figurative language which would be inspirational for encouraging children to attempt their own evocative writing.

“On a roof, wet as a seal, grey as a puddle, Cat was rumbling a rumbly purr.” 

The stunning artwork perfectly captures the mood of the text and the endpapers are just sensational! (My kidlets all know about my predilection for gorgeous endpapers!)

If you are searching for more wonderful books that will assist with growing empathy in children, this will make a super addition to your collection.

I highly recommend it to you for readers from around Prep upwards.