Tag Archives: Siblings

The Chime Seekers – Ross Montgomery

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Walker Books Australia

November 2021

ISBN: 9781406391190
Imprint: Walker

RRP: $18.99 Au , $21.99 NZ

Some of us of a certain vintage have enduring memories of Jareth, The Goblin King (aka the divine David Bowie) taking away baby Toby when Sarah becomes so frustrated with her little brother that she wishes him gone. Ross Montgomery has combined that idea with traditional English folklore of faerie and created a fantasy adventure that will thrill readers from the first page.

Yanni is angry. He is angry with his parents for taking him away from the little house in town where he has lived all his life, because it is too small. He is angry that their new place is not just in the country but in a horrible place called Fallow Hall, where everything is bleak and bare. He is angry because they have not gone for their usual summer holiday to visit his grandparents in Greece and he misses his Yiayia terribly. He is angry because now he has to put up with his annoying cousin, Amy. And most of all, he is angry because his parents have baby Ari and she alone is the reason for all the other calamities.

When Yanni and Amy are left to babysit Ari, all Yanni’s angry thoughts come together in a rush when the children accidentally allow an evil faerie into the house, and baby Ari is kidnapped, with a changeling left in her place. Despite his resentment of his little sister, Yanni cannot allow her to be trapped in the faerie world and together with Amy, he goes through the portal into a whole other Fallow Hall where the two cousins must use all their wits, skill and resilience to face down the trickery and cruelty of Lorde Renwin.

This is exciting and a tiny bit scary, thankfully with moment of humour to offset the tension, with so many rich characters and plot twists that able readers will thoroughly enjoy every moment of the perilous journey. Side by side with the quest are some lovely insights into family relationships, courage, sacrifice and ingenuity. It is the sort of book one just gobbles up because the unbearable urge to know what happens next is overwhelming. Sophisticated and astute readers from around ten years upwards will relish this and I thoroughly endorse it as a fabulous addition to your collection.

Piano Fingers – Caroline Magerl

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Walker Books

March 2022

ISBN: 9781760652616
Imprint: Walker Books Australia
Australian RRP: $26.99
New Zealand RRP: $28.99

I have been watching the development of this truly beautiful book for around two years; from the very first balsa wood model, that was to inform the illustrations of the piano, to endearing portraits of the original subject with her little red corduroy shoes, to work-in-progress video trailers. At last, all is revealed and what a revelation it is! Once again Caroline’s evocative artwork provides the reader with the most exquisitely sensitive, and stunningly realised insight into a little person’s emotions and dreams.

Bea’s big sister is able to make beautiful music with her violin, while Bea is not at all impressed with the ‘tink’ of a triangle. She dreams of much more imposing musical interludes. And with the help of Maestro Gus, the piano ghost cat, her leap of faith propels her into a world of swirling melodies. Big sister Isla joins her in her pursuit of perfect piano fingers, and together their refrains fill hearts and minds. Your young readers will not just appreciate Bea’s experimental exploits with the piano, but easily recognise that it’s no failure to not excel at everything, especially with the support of loving siblings to help you reach out for your dream. I would predict that there will be many would-be budding tiny pianists after sharing Bea’s story – though there may be some disappointment when no Maestro Gus (who is just adorable!) materialises.

Caroline’s undeniable creative talent has earned her accolades across the world, not only as an author/illustrator but as an exhibiting artist. Her recent sojourn in the UK as invited participant in Chris Beetles’ Gallery’ annual Illustrators Exhibition, alongside such guest luminaries as Michael Foreman, Michael Morpurgo and Joanna Lumley, is indicative of her stature as an illustrator/artist. Her work is always tenderly realised and expertly rendered, and she is always able to capture the very essence of any scene she paints. Aside from her boundless talent, those of us privileged to know her, are also aware of her gracious warmth and generous nature.

My highest recommendation for this stunning book, for readers from around 4 years upwards. I fully expect more award nominations and recognition to come Caroline’s way once Piano Fingers tinkles across the literary landscape. This is one to make my heart sing!

Truly Tan Shocked! – Jen Storer. Illustrated by Clare Robertson

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Harper Collins Australia

January 2021

  • ISBN: 9780733334146
  • ISBN 10: 0733334148
  • Imprint: ABC Books AU
  • List Price: 17.99 AUD

It has been ages since I’ve had the delight of reading a new Truly Tan book and the joy has not diminished one whit!

In this new adventure Tan and Gloria are most worried about their teacher, Miss Dragone, who has been acting most peculiarly: taking cooking classes to make delicious muffins, having her eyebrows and nails ‘done’, buying a fancy new bike – all kinds of weird stuff. Naturally, the determined spies are set on finding out exactly what is going on and confirming their suspicions that not all is well with their teacher.

Tan is also dealing with the very disquieting upcoming birth of a fifth Callahan sibling. She is not at all comfortable with losing her place as the youngest in the family, especially for yet another sister. As it is, the Lollipops (her older sisters) are all being as mental as ever and in fact, more so, as Emerald prepares for the starring role in the school production and deals with her first boyfriend break-up, Amber is seething with jealousy having only made the chorus of the show and Rose is wafting in and out of her home-made yurt reading everyone’s aura and communing with the bush fairies. And just to top it off, Tan feels that her 10th birthday – such a special occasion – will be completely overshadowed, indeed forgotten, in all the kerfuffle around her.

As usual, all is pretty chaotic really, yet Tan and Gloria press on with their investigation, with Tan’s diary entries (and the vivid description of which pen she is using) providing highlights of each stage. The explanations of unusual words at the conclusion of each chapter again provide readers with some bonus material.

Will Tan and Gloria uncover the truth about the Mystery of Miss Dragone? Will Tan get a special celebration for her birthday? And will she be able to cope with the arrival of Callahan #5?

All in all, absolutely great fun as always – these are ‘truly’ laugh-out-loud books that will appeal strongly to your independent readers.

Highly recommended for kiddos from around 8 years upwards.

Before the Beginning – Anna Morgan

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Hachette

SEP 29, 2020 | 9780734419651 | RRP $19.99

In a tweet when I mentioned I was reading this – and reading WAY past my bedtime because I was so engrossed – Anna Morgan replied “This book will disturb your sleep schedule” is an excellent review!

Well all I can say is that it definitely will!!! Right from the get-go this one will have your YA readers hooked and tuned out to all that’s going on around them as they become drawn into a schoolies week like no other.

Grace has been a very committed Christian since an early age but when it comes down to schoolies week she realises that the prejudices and intolerance of her church friends are not what she wants for a whole week away. Instead she decides to tag along (and be the chauffeur, organiser and carer) for her brother Casper and his two great friends, Noah and Elsie. Casper is procrastinating on getting his portfolio for art school put together, Noah’s anxiety over ATAR and his future, fueled by pressure from his parents, is consuming him and Elsie, who knows she’s no stellar academic, is just trying to hold their friendship group together.

On the first night of their trip at a fairly typical schoolies beach party the group encounters a beautiful but mysterious girl who seems to have some kind of persuasive power that is irresistible. Sienna convinces the friends to go camping with her on the uninhabited island not far offshore. But the camping sojourn soon unravels into increased uncertainties, negative emotions and friendship fractures for them all – worse, it becomes increasingly apparent that Sienna’s motives are far from friendly and the mystery that surrounds her past is sinister in the extreme. Soon it is not just their friendships that are in danger but their very existence. These characters are very believable and the action flows so beautifully as the plot, and the mystery, unfolds.

Drawing on legends of the sirens and the powers they held over travelers, this is a coming-of-age story that combines suspense and thrilling action with the qualms that all school-leavers have and provides a very satisfying reading experience for those students who are facing the future with their own questions.

Highly recommended for your senior readers, this is a must have for your collection. Check out Five Minutes with Anna Morgan and the teaching notes.

The Wild Way Home – Sophie Kirtley

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Bloomsbury Australia

15th September 2020

ISBN:9781526616289
Imprint:Bloomsbury Children’s Books

This is one impressive debut novel with an unusual and interesting time-slip which will take readers into a rarely explored world of the past.

Charlie Merriam and his parents have been eagerly awaiting the birth of little Dara and when the baby arrives just as Charlie turns twelve it would seem that their joy is complete. But all is not well with little Dara who has been born with a heart defect and the emotional distress for Charlie is so unbearable that he runs off from the hospital to his favourite place – the ancient forest on the edge of town just near the family home. This is the place of joy for Charlie and his friends and is always full of mystery, adventure and discoveries. In fact, just the day before Dara’s birth Charlie had unearthed an ancient deer tooth with curious scratched markings.

In the midst of his anguish, stumbling without thinking in the depths of the forest, Charlie comes across an injured boy and immediately tries to help him. But this is no ordinary boy. Dressed in not much more than an animal skin and barely able to communicate with Charlie, it appears that the two boys have connected across the ages and Charlie has found himself in Stone Age Britain where dangers abound and life is hard.

This a wonderful adventure which readers will eat up with relish as Charlie and Harby help each other and in the process discover what each thought they had lost: hope, courage, family and their way home.

It is certainly different from the usual time-slip genre and while the reader needs to suspend disbelief significantly to grasp that Charlie and Harby can speak to each other with understanding it is not so much as to detract from the overall narrative.

I would recommend this for your middle school readers who enjoy both time-slip and adventure stories with a difference. Pre-order your copy now!

The Key to Finding Jack – Ewa Jozefkowicz

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Harper Collins Australia

May 2020

  • ISBN: 9781800240421
  • ISBN 10: 1800240422
  • Imprint: Head Of Zeus – Zehpyr – GB
  • $14.99

Perfect for your middle primary to lower secondary kiddos this new adventure/mystery is just a great read with lots of excitement but also loads of great messages about the importance of connections with family and friends, self-belief, empathy and selflessness and being true to oneself.

Twelve year old Flick (Felicity) is very close to her big brother Jack and the two of them have always loved solving puzzles and being amateur sleuths together. When Jack goes off to Peru for a gap year adventure, Flick knows that she will miss him terribly and when an earthquake strikes the very location of Jack’s travels and there is no word from him, Flick and her family are devastated.

Flick is certain that Jack is still safe despite the lack of communication and begins to piece together his movements beginning with the smallest of clues – the discovery of Jack’s special tiny gold key necklace under his bed. From this tiny find Flick slowly unravels aspects of Jack’s life and personality of which she has no idea and at the same time finds herself making new friends and re-invigorating family relationships.

Parallel to the mystery of Jack’s whereabouts is Flick’s writing – the story within a story – and a strange legend of Inca gold both of which will intrigue readers who love this genre.

It’s a heart-warming story with wonderful characters throughout and readers will immediately be drawn to Flick and her friends, both new and old.

Highly recommended for readers from around 10 years upwards.

Roly Poly – Mem Fox/Jane Dyer

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9781760896348

Penguin Random House

November 2019

  • ISBN: 9781760896348
  • Imprint: Puffin
  • Format: Hardback
  • RRP: $19.99

This is just adorable! Of course Mem’s story about the arrival of a little usurper in the family is just delightful and  will resonate with so many small children but aside from that. those glorious illustrations! They remind me so much of Jeannie Baker’s Polar of many years ago (does anyone else remember that one?).  This little fuzzy bear family with all the accoutrements for a little home with tiny props is just the most wonderful thing I’ve seen for ages.

Roly Poly is a very happy young bear with his own room and his own bed, his own walrus tooth with which to play and his own fish to eat after he’s been fishing through the ice hole. You can well imagine his complete and utter disbelief when he wakes up to find a tiny brother in the bed with him. His resistance to having a younger sibling is palpable as he continually rejects little Monty time after time – until ,that is, there is an almost catastrophe when the little brother is castaway on a ice floe. Luckily Roly Poly does not take his resentment of his sibling quite that far and after a brave rescue the two finally achieve a bond.

Some children cope very easily with the arrival of a new sibling and others do struggle with it. Whichever is the case little readers will immediately connect with this and I can assure will absolutely adore those illustrations.

HIghly recommended for small humans from early childhood upwards.

James Gong The Big Hit – Paul Collins

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James-Gong-front-400x629

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!

Libby in the Middle – Gwyneth Rees

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libby

Bloomsbury Australia

Published: 01-01-2018
ISBN: 9781408852774
Imprint: Bloomsbury Children’s Books

RRP $12.99

 

As my Kim would tell you being the middle of three girls is not a piece of cake for much of the time.  Libby is finding this truer than ever. Her older sister Bella, who used to be great company, is now a snarly, rebellious teen completely rapt in her boyfriend (of whom Dad disapproves strongly). Little sister Grace is sweet but too young to be a playmate more of a chore when both Mum and Dad are working.  And to make matters worse, the whole family is moving from the city to a tiny village where Dad grew up. Aunt Thecla has offered to pay the girls’ tuition at the local posh girls’ school and there will be work for both parents, a quieter lifestyle and no unsuitable boyfriend hanging around.

However tree changes don’t always go to plan. First there is the first rental house which is more of a ramshackle disaster than a home. Then there is Bella secretively escaping to make phone calls or something else that remains unexplained. Then there is Aunt Thecla, who actually isn’t as bad as Libby had imagined but is still kind of bossy and single-minded.

Libby has to deal with scornful local girls, a family at odds with each other and a dismaying escalation of secrets each more complicated than the last.

This is a terrific tale for readers from around ten years upwards as it explores many nuances of family life and issues that often confront children such as the disruption of moving house and familiar locations.

Its conclusion proves that family relationships are never just black and white. There are always shifting guidelines, compromises, mistaken judgements and understandings of another’s perspective to be negotiated and worked through.

A highly recommended read for upper primary or lower secondary students.