Tag Archives: Friendship

Pages & Co #3: Tilly and the Map of Stories – Anna James

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Harper Collins Australia

October 2020

  • ISBN: 9780008229948
  • ISBN 10: 0008229945
  • Imprint: HarperCollins – GB
  • List Price: 19.99 AUD

This series is so utterly charming and original that it has been such pleasure to read and review each of them. Tilly and Oskar continue their adventures with the ongoing quest to thwart the horrible Underwoods who have usurped the British Underlibrary. Book wandering has been prohibited and stories at large are under very real threat of being lost for all time.

Tilly has some clues gathered from story friends and others which she strongly believes might provide a sort of map to the Archivists – the legendary protectors of all stories and imagination. With her mother’s help Tilly and Oskar are off to America to meet up with Orlando and Jorge, her mum’s old friends and the best lead for the first signpost in Tilly’s possession. But the plan goes quickly awry when the pair find that even in America the Underwoods’ influence is infiltrating every layer of story.

It takes all their resourcefulness and courage to navigate their way through the intricate maze that their clues reveal but Tilly and Oskar are determined to not only save the world of stories but their very dear fictional friends. They are not unused to danger but this adventure, with its meandering journey, ultimately presents them with their biggest challenge yet. Can these two intrepid bookwanderers save story and imagination from complete annilhilation?

As with the first two books there are moments of real humour woven into the tension of the plot and readers will particularly find the appearance and help of William Shakespeare himself to be highly amusing.

I absolutely adore this series and have recommended it to many young readers who have all enjoyed it equally. If you’re late to the party I’d suggest you put all three on your orders list for the new year.

Highly recommended for readers from around 8 years upwards.

The Great Escape from Woodlands Nursing Home – Joanna Nell

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Hachette

Trade Paperback: OCT 27, 2020 | 9780733642869 | RRP $32.99

While the wind howls wildly and the rain is falling constantly this is the perfect read to take a break from the busyness of Christmas preparations and just relax. Light-hearted and witty the antics of this group of senior citizens will entertain you and demonstrate that old age does not equal abandonment of living life to it’s fullest.

Retired nature writer, Hattie Bloom, has lived her entire life in the home she and her parents shared with her wild garden full of birds for the only company she wanted. A nasty fall puts her into the Woodlands Nursing Home and as she has no family to care for her it is there she must stay – very reluctantly. She is determined to ‘escape’ the confines of this annoyingly noisy and peopled place as she chafes against the loss of her solitary independence.

She’s not the only one to be determined to resume her own self-sufficient existence. Walter Clements, widower and retired driving instructor, who fancies himself as not only an excellent comedian but also a ‘ladies’ man’ is set on returning to his home and life once he has been assessed as capable and fit to manage his brand-new mobility scooter. These two not only clash in temperament but in the physical sense when Walter barrels his scooter into Hattie badly injuring her and further delaying her rehabilitation process.

At the clandestine meeting of The Night Owls, a very unofficial group run by the innovative and unconventional Sister Bronwyn, the pair have their official meeting but remain at odds. That is, until the late-night hijinks are uncovered and Sister Bronwyn is dismissed summarily with a very dodgy replacement installed. Hattie and Walter join forces to rescue both Sister Bronwyn and the Night Owls along with the only joys and pleasures their group of fellow oldies have.

This is hilarious, poignant and often surprising but there are also some serious undertones that give pause for thought around how our older citizens are treated in some facilities as well as some inspiration on how things could be changed for the better in such places.

While essentially a light and hugely enjoyable read of the laugh-out-loud kind the reader cannot help but reflect on aging, love, community and friendship but it is thoroughly heartening and it would be a hard to please reader who could not find it a worthwhile read.

Highly recommended for your holiday pleasure!

The Tree – Graeme Base

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Penguin Australia

  • November 2020
  • ISBN: 9781760897048
  • Imprint: Puffin
  • RRP: $24.99

Yet again Graeme Base gives us the most beautiful picture book with a charming story that cloaks a hugely important message for all.

This is the story of a cow, a duck and a very big tree.

When two friends discover an enormous tree both are thrilled especially with the mooberries and mushquacks it provides. They become so absorbed in their new-found goodies each forgets the other is there. The situation becomes even worse when a big storm comes along and although the tree bends and survives, both Cow and Duck become jealous of each other and determine to protect their own part of the tree. Their fortifications of above and below become so extreme and so stressful for the tree that when the next storm comes along, the tree does not bend – instead it is smashed apart and neither of the friends has their guarded space.

It takes a long time but eventually a new young sapling begins to grow amidst the ruin of the old tree and this time Cow and Duck work together to protect it and share the good things it provides with all who come. A timely lesson indeed for the imperative facing each and every one of us – to protect and share our natural abundance, without selfishness and greed.

Children as young as Prep will enjoy the humour of the story and delight in finding the other creatures tucked away in each illustration, in typical Base style, but will also be able to comprehend the message. I foresee many rich and deep discussions arising from sharing of this outstanding new offering from one of Australia’s most celebrated creators.

Highly recommended for children from around 4 years upwards .

Bear in Space – Deborah Abela. Illustrated by Marjorie Crosby-Fairall

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Walker Books Australia

August 2020

ISBN: 9781760651510
Imprint: Walker Books Australia

Australian RRP: $25.99
New Zealand RRP: $28.99

Encouraging our little readers to be not just accepting of differences but to embrace them is arguably one of the greatest gifts we can offer. And to be able to do this through the enjoyment of a wonderful and vibrant story is a real bonus.

Bear is different. He’s not like the other little bears who are noisy and play lots of games. Bear prefers the quiet, learning about space and planning his trip in his own rocket ship. The other bears laugh at his dream of space travel and though Bear feels lonely, he is undeterred. He takes off and begin his exploration and finds not only the amazing vastness of his dream but a most amazing surprise – a like-minded friend! Together Bear and Panda conquer space and upon their return find that the acceptance from their peers opens up even more richness.

This is just a beautiful and thoughtful story which will enchant children and adults alike spring-boarding many deep discussions around our perceptions of others. Children will also love the interspersed space facts – this being truly a fascinating topic for them in my experience.

The perfect combination of text and illustrations is just superb and clearly the two creators are completely in sync.

Celebrating differences, acceptance, self-belief and friendship this is a must-have for your collection.

Highly recommended for little readers from around five years upwards.

Go for Gold! (Pea and Nut #2) – Matt Stanton

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Harper Collins Australia

August 2020

  • ISBN: 9780733340680
  • ISBN 10: 0733340687
  • Imprint: ABC Books – AU
  • List Price: 17.99 AUD

The second in the Pea + Nut series is another rowdy rambunctious read that will have your kiddos in fits of laughter and with swimming season upon us there will no doubt be many connections made.

Pea the panda really just wants to relax by the pool, in her own inimitable way but Nut the wacky flamingo is determined to have a race.

With the hilarious elastic rules with which so many children will relate the pair are off with fiercely competitive attitude. These two are complete oddballs and their antics will surely delight any of your younger readers.

If you haven’t got onto these yet you should, your tinies from around four years upwards will just love them…..

And congratulations Matt & Bec, you talented pair, on the arrival of the new little princess!

Hollowpox: The Trials of Morrigan Crow. Nevermoor #3 – Jessica Townsend

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Hachette

SEP 29, 2020 | 9780734418241 | RRP $17.99

Huzzah! It has finally arrived! We’ve all been waiting with great impatience but at last the next instalment is here. And what a corker it is! Not only is it gripping and full of new revelations but has most uncanny parallels to our current parlous circumstances.

Morrigan is looking forward to her new studies at Wunsoc and the delicious anticipation of her second Christmas in Nevermoor as well as many other delights but there is a dread development overtaking her adopted home.

As Morrigan is introduced to deeper studies as part of her Wondersmith training by virtue of insights into long-gone but carefully preserved lessons, a bizarre and deadly illness is infecting Nevermoor’s Wunimals. Normally peaceable and productive members of society, the affected Wunimals are becoming wild and vicious unnimals attacking without reason anything and anyone in their path and eventually succumbing into a sort of ‘hollow’ torpor losing all traces of their unique ‘wunimal-ness’.

As the mystery virus takes hold with more and more Wunimals becoming infected and causing grievous bodily harm and even deaths, the residents of Nevermoor become violently divided in their reactions. Some vociferous in their protests that the Wunimals one and all are a menace to society, some in complete denial that the illness exists while others work as hard as possible to find a cure and save all lives – sound familiar?

Morrigan begins to see that it is going to be up to her to find a cure for the Hollowpox but doesn’t quite bargain on her arch-enemy Ezra, the disgraced and feared Wondersmith, being the one who will lead her to it – though by very convoluted and mysterious ways.

As the young Wondersmith grows in her mastery of the Wretched Arts she is able to see more, do more, achieve more and manipulate the world around her more and while she still faces dire challenges and dangers, as she weaves her wundrous way through each new obstacle until she attains success, she is able to attain success, despite all odds.

This is not simply a new adventure filled with thrilling and and tense episodes but a very revealing insight into human nature and an ‘en pointe’ comparison to much of the disparate, and often extreme, responses we have all witnessed in recent times.

Fans, young and old, will relish this latest in the lives and events of Nevermoor and Morrigan and, like me, will be unable to put it down until they are done. And immediately, we will all be waiting with bated breath until we are able to re-visit Nevermoor, Morrigan, Jupiter and Fen – along with all the other marvellous and rich characters we have all grown to love so much.

Naturally it needs no recommendation – most of those I know have had their copy on pre-order forever!!

In the Key of Code – Aimee Lucido

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Walker Books Australia

ISBN: 9781406389333
Imprint: Walker
Australian RRP: $16.99
New Zealand RRP: $18.99

It speaks volumes that this was read in just one night in the past week and that I was immediately talking it up the next day to my ChocLit group.

A verse novel that combines music and coding is not something I’d ever encountered before but this is a combination that works superbly and will undoubtedly engage many readers from around 12 years upwards.

Emmy has moved to a new state, to a new school and to a completely unfamiliar environment, when her parents take up new jobs in San Francisco, leaving Wisconsin behind.

While Emmy loves music she is not the least bit musical despite all efforts, unlike her parents – one a concert pianist and one an opera singer – and struggles to even initiate a conversation at the new school. But when she finds herself in the Computer Programming elective, a shift begins and the first tentative beginning of a new friendship develops. Of course, it’s not without hiccups as one boy in the group is openly resentful not only of Emmy and her new friend, Abigail, but also Ms Delaney, their passionate and expert tutor in coding. Misogynism starts early sometimes and the perception that some occupations or interests are suited to one gender or the other, still pervades.

Emmy’s immediate and intense immersion in the world of Java will be fascinating even to those readers who are unfamiliar with coding language, and could well be the prompt for some to explore this fascinating subject. her journey towards acceptance and real friendship is at times painful but ultimately a beautiful testament to faith in one self and building relationships with care.

It will come as no surprise that this outstanding debut novel is a direct result of the author’s passion for all three aspects – poetry, music and coding.

Highly recommended for your readers from around mid-primary upwards to at least Year 9 – I already have kids in my group waiting to read it too.

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.

Finding Francois – Gus Gordon

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Penguin Australia

July 2020

ISBN: 9780143794141

Imprint: Puffin

RRP: $24.99

In over eighty books Gus Gordon has demonstrated time and again his talent at producing the type of quality books we love to share with our young readers.

This beautiful picture book is heart-warming and endearing as two little characters, both lonely and longing for real friendship, discover each other through the whimsical method of sending messages in a bottle.

Alice lives with her grandmother, who is the best creme brulee maker in the world, and while she loves her dearly is often lonely and wishes she had someone of her own age to play with and for a friend. Her message in a bottle washes up and is found by Francois, who lives with his father in an isolated lighthouse, also lonely and longing for companionship.

Their unusual friendship develops with the exchange of the bottled notes but when Alice’s grandmother dies, her heart feels too full to continue with the letters. When her new guardian comes across the message bottle, she encourages Alice to renew contact with Francois and the previously sea-borne friendship becomes a real one.

This is just a lovely and gentle look at friendship, loneliness and the pain of saying goodbye to someone well-loved and special which young readers will love.

I predict that like so many of Gus’ books this will be recognised as being an award-nominee, if not winner in the next short-list. In the meantime, I highly recommend it for young readers from around six years upwards.

What Zola did on Tuesday – Melina Marchetta

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Penguin Australia

  • August 2020
  • ISBN: 9781760895167
  • Imprint: Puffin
  • RRP: $12.99

I reviewed the first in this joyful series a little while back and now we have the delight of the second instalment which is just as gorgeous!

Zola and her cousin over the back fence, Alessandro, would love to get to meet their new neighbours – more playmates! However, Mummy and Nonna Rosa are resistant to intruding so they are feeling rather frustrated as well as curious.

Of course Zola despite all her best intentions is always finding trouble – or is that trouble finding her? Nonna Rosa is not doing so well with her knitting and Zola’s teacher is looking for someone to help with a knitting group at school, which of course Zola realises would be a disaster with Nonna’s efforts. So the solution for Zola is to help with Nonna’s knitting. As you would expect – a disaster ensues! However, even disasters can turn around to a success and so it is with the great knitting fiasco – the knitting problem is sorted and so is the making friends with the neighbours and helping the knitting group.

Such simple but sweet and wholesome stories which will engage your youngest independent readers and very likely inspire their own community-mindedness, empathy and desire to help others.

Highly recommended for little readers from around 6 years upwards! This is an absolute must-have and I for one look forward to the rest of the ‘week’ to come.