Cato finds plenty of dancers from the local dance school but just as he seems to get close they all disappear. Finally, he is brave enough to go right inside the building and there they all are – the ballet dancers who leap, the rappers who spin and all the rest. All the dancers he has seen in his search, with their actions so like other native birds, welcome him into their class and suddenly – everyone is learning a new dance – the can can!
This is sweet and happy and full of such positive energy, and a lovely affirmation that we can always find kindred spirits if we care to look. I absolutely love Juliet’s comparisons to our various birds and Katrina’s illustrations are just spot on, with the dancing children almost bursting off the pages with their energy.
Highly recommended for your little readers from around Prep upwards – I can well imagine some lively dance sessions both during and after a shared reading. You can also find teaching notes and activities here. [I have in fact, made a similar birdy craft with my kiddos and it’s a huge hit!]
Many of you will be familiar with Juliet’s recent picture book, Grace’s Mystery Seed, which has been widely praised and garnered considerable accolades – and rightly so.
However you may not be so well acquainted with her earlier novels which have also been positively received. Outback Wonder is Juliet’s third novel and eminently suitable for your readers who are embarking on their exploration of YA fiction – particularly if they prefer a novel without the overt or possibly contentious aspects of some.
Hannah is approaching her final year at school but is weighed down by the emotional upset caused by her parents’ separation. She is so depressed by this she feels she cannot even confide in her friends. Her father who had been unable to find work for some time, causing much of the reason behind the marriage breakdown, has finally found a job he loves – out in the Flinders Ranges. The outback is so foreign a concept to Hannah that she cannot comprehend why anyone would want to go there and when her dad sends an email inviting her to visit during the holidays, she is beset with conflicting feelings. Though she misses her father terribly she has less than zero desire to visit the remote location and can only think of flies, snakes and endless desert landscapes – not to mention no friends, holiday outings, shops and cinemas.
Yet, when she arrives it doesn’t take long for her to become swept up in the unusual surroundings, the quirky characters and the unexpected delights which include opals and a certain good-looking young pilot named Sam. Along the way there is a wealth of description and vicarious observation of this stunning part of Australia.
During her stay Hannah is able to come to terms to some extent with the dilemma she has faced and with Sam’s help begins to reconcile her resentment of her personal situation, and accompanying turmoil, with the reality that her parents have parted for their own reasons.
For your girls aged from around 13 upwards who are looking for a novel that combines adventure, travel and romance this is a perfect choice. I can say only one particular point jarred with me which was within a reference to a photograph with koalas and the mention that Hannah was holding ‘the bear’ – oops!
Apart from that blip this would be a welcome addition to your shelves and a glimpse into a landscape that most likely will be unfamiliar to your readers but with a character with whom they can completely empathise.
You may also enjoy this blog post in conversation with Juliet.
Have you ever had your children (or grandies) garden with you? I used to garden with my girls and now I have my beautiful granddaughter growing up here also loving planting and watching things grow. She especially loved planting radish seeds to spell her name and only having to wait a few days to see the results!
Juliet M Sampson has utterly captured the magic of that moment of watching the transformation of a seed into a thing of beauty and wonder.
Little Grace loves helping her favourite neighbour in her garden and especially feeding the pet parrot, Polly, his delicious stripy seeds. When Grace wonders aloud where these delicacies come from, Mrs Marino suggests planting one. Grace is enthralled and shares her excitement with her friends and family.
Grace’s joy when her sunflower blooms and does indeed seek the sun each day is truly super stuff to share with young readers (oh how I wish they could all experience this amazing transformation!). Of course, not only is Grace’s mystery seed the foundation of her joy in the flower, but the sunflower will keep on giving – seeds to her friends and to Polly.
I lament the fact that so many children no longer have this glorious joy and I’m personally so glad I have been able to share it with my own children and grandchildren.
Why not inspire your young readers to do likewise? I am planning now to start a seed or two in our library after the holidays and hand out some to kick off some young reader’s own nature journeys.
Highly recommended for readers from around five years upwards and check out the teaching notes here. GROW your readers now!