Tag Archives: Queensland

Dragon Skin – Karen Foxlee

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Allen & Unwin

September 2021

ISBN:9781760526108

Imprint:A & U Children

RRP: $19.99

One wouldn’t normally associate the outback mining town of Mt Isa with magic or dragons but Karen Foxlee’s newest novel for middle school readers makes this eminently plausible.

How to save a dragon:
1) Assemble equipment. Water, Weet-Bix, sugar, syringe, sticky tape, scissors.
2) Believe in everything.

Pip is always reluctant to go home since her mother’s boyfriend moved in. Matt, the epitome of domestic bully, has reduced the previously happy life Pip and her mother had together to a frightened shadow where both are diminished. While her mother seems to have lost almost all her own free will, Pip’s resentment, both of Matt’s invasion, and the loss of her best friend, Mika, fuels her determination to get herself and her mum out of this ugly situation.

Pip spends a lot of time at the waterhole, where she and Mika used to sit and dream, talk and plan, even as the river dried up and the cracks in the mud widened. Since Mika’s been gone and Matt’s influence has permeated every moment of her life the waterhole has become Pip’s only refuge, even though her mum doesn’t like her spending so much time there alone.

The day she finds the almost-dead little creature is the day her whole life changes, though she doesn’t yet know it. All she does know is that she is going to save it, no matter what it takes. It’s not a lizard, it’s not a fish – it has wings and scaly skin and little nubs on the top of its little head – so it can only be a baby dragon. How and why, it has come to be almost dead, half-buried in the mud of a lonely waterhole Pip has no idea, just as she has no real idea how to save the little creature. She can hear Mika’s suggestions in her head but they come and go so she can’t depend on them. However, she’s not as alone as she thinks. As the days go by and Little Fella begins to slowly recover, Pip discovers a growing bond, born of conspiracy and curiosity, between herself and Laura and Archie, school friends she has never realised are friends.

Just as Little Fella’s strength improves and he grows to a point where he will survive, thanks to the combined efforts of the three friends, so too does Pip’s resolve and encouragement for her mother to make the move that will save them both.

Karen Foxlee’s ability to create characters with whom the reader can bond completely has become evident with the success of her earlier books and this new one does not disappoint. With its focus on a sadly, increasingly, common scenario, it will bring heart to those who may be faced with similar dilemmas – particularly as at the end of the book, the author has provided links and resources for readers with such issues.

To round off such an important and quality book, the bonus of beautiful binding makes this a joy to hold in one’s hands.

I give this my highest recommendation for your mature readers from around Year 4 upwards, with the warning that of course the domestic abuse issue may be an emotional trigger for some. In our collection, this means a disclaimer on the endpapers as an advisory comment.

Thursdays at Orange Blossom House – Sophie Green

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Hachette

JUL 28, 2021 | 9780733646126 | RRP $32.99

Sophie Green has once again crafted a beautiful and resonant narrative that will capture the hearts of readers, just as her first two books did, with its exploration of the ‘circle of women’ always so evident in her work and, to my mind, so very important to so many. Indeed, as we all face these uncertain and increasingly anxious circumstances which threaten to engulf us, there are many (and, of course, not just women) who are feeling increasingly isolated and Sophie’s books remind us that making connections, forging bonds and the solidarity of sisterhood are such vital concepts for us all.

There is so much to love about this. First for me, it’s set in Cairns. Ok, so I know that Cairns is not right next door to Redcliffe, but it is Queensland and I have at least been there several times – the first when I was six (all the way from Sydney). Secondly, it’s set in the ’90s and I love the preface to each new episodic time frame with the movie releases, top songs etc – very clever device that instantly takes all of us back to a moment in time.

So, it’s 1993 (which incidentally was the year I started teaching, mature-age graduate, in a little Queensland country town) and Grace Maud (always known by both names) has retired from cane farming and the farm established by her grandfather, having handed over the management to her son and daughter-in-law. She’s 74 and knows that it’s time to take that step back but the move into town and her feeling of isolation and creeping old age has her feeling very down. High school teacher Patricia has resigned herself to being the ‘bunny’ of her siblings, caring for her aging parents particularly her mother with dementia, having given up her dreams of travel and a more exciting life. In her early 40s and reckoned quite beautiful, Patricia has condemned herself to a solitary and resentful existence, alone and unappreciated. Youngest of the three is Dorothy, daughter of German immigrants who feels she has always taken a back seat as she has helped her parents with her profoundly deaf sister. Now she is married to a warm and loving German man and desperate to have a baby and the repeated disappointments and trauma are threatening to completely overwhelm her.

Each by some quirk of fate end up at Orange Blossom House where vivacious and exotic Sandrine teaches yoga each week. This in itself is quite the novelty for the time and place, given that most Cairns residents view yoga as the province of vegetarians and weirdos. But the quirky and lively Sandrine is far from a weirdo and her excellent teaching and, more importantly, her leading each woman to release the negativities they hold is a catalyst for the trio who over time bond with such tenderness and support that it is supremely engaging for the reader.

I have absolutely reveled in each one of Sophie’s books and this was no exception. That I read it over two nights is testament to my complete capitulation to her wonderful character driven narratives and the sense of connectedness I feel each time I read her books. I have already recommended verbally this to so many of my friends but now I’m fully endorsing it here.

Get hold of it!! And give yourself the pleasure for a few hours of an escape to the tropics and some thoroughly enjoyable company.

Aussie Kids series #3 & #4

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download (21)

Penguin Random House

March 2020

This new series for newly independent readers has already been a big hit in our junior library. Not only are the stories relatable to these young readers but they are able to explore Australia vicariously – and let’s face it, at present particularly this is a huge advantage.

 

Meet Eve in the Outback – Raewyn Caisly & Karen Blair

9781760894108

ISBN: 9781760894108

Imprint: Puffin

RRP: $12.99

Many young readers will have enjoyed the picture book Hello from Nowhere which was the first introduction to Eve who lives in the middle of the Nullarbor, remote and isolated but at the same time full of life and adventure. Now we have the opportunity to visit this amazing location again when Eve has another visit from her grandmother but this time with the added excitement of her cousin, Will, coming along.

Now readers are treated to exploring the wide expanse of country and dropping in on neighbours – a mere forty minutes away. Newborn lambs, kangaroo mobs, wild camels, spinifex, waterholes and more are just some of the discoveries of a setting that many children will likely never have the experience of exploring in real life.

Once again interesting factual snippets are sprinkled throughout and the joy that this unusual setting brings will both inform and entertain young readers.

Meet Katie at the Beach – Rebecca Johnson & Lucia Masciullo

9781760893675

ISBN: 9781760893675

Imprint: Puffin

RRP: $12.99

The very first thing that I love about this particular new addition to the series is that Katie and her family live in a high-rise apartment in the middle of the lively and busy Gold Coast and this is a setting as unusual (in fiction) as the Nullarbor.

Little readers will certainly all connect with Katie’s story and her wobbly tooth problem but will also relish the quintessential Queensland aspects of surf, beach cricket, sea creature fun and mangoes.

Little ones can find out more about crabs and tides at the same time as simply enjoying Katie’s day out down at the beach – and of course, right now when we are all restricted to such activity will be able to envisage when they too can once again go ‘out’ with family for picnics

 

This series is perfect for independent reading or incorporated into the unit of learning that incorporates finding out more about our beautiful country.

Highly recommended for your kiddos from around Year 1 upwards.

Don’t forget to check out the activity pack for this series here