ReadPlus is a collection of selected books and films arranged under themes. This web site provides lists, reviews and resources for librarians, teachers and parents about books for young people aged 5 to 18.
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Latest Review

May 06 2016

One life. My mother's story by Kate Grenville

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Text, 2015. ISBN 9781925240962
Highly recommended. Kate Grenville, the author of The Secret river and Sarah Thornhill amongst other novels, explains this biography of her mother as an attempt to describe the life of an individual who was part of a social class that is largely ignored in historical writing. However, Grenville needs no excuse or rationale; the story is beautifully told and gives her mother, Nance Gee nee Russell, 1912-2002, the dignity she deserves. It is also a very enjoyable read. There is no authorial voiceover or explanatory commentary, but this is clearly the story of women whose aspirations were stifled by societal expectations. Nance was born to Dolly and Albert Russell, an unhappily married couple who made a career from hotel keeping until the Depression hit in the early 1930s. Nance and her older brother were boarded out for a number of years, Nance at first with a very rigid and unloving Catholic spinster and then in a convent, despite not being Catholic. She was fortunate to have several years of excellent schooling in Sydney before being forced back to a country school where few boys and even fewer girls stayed past leaving age, and standards were low. Nance wanted to be a teacher but this was emphatically rejected by her mother, and instead was sent to Sydney to train as a pharmacist. She was apprenticed to a martinet and struggled to understand the university lectures. No-one had money, because of the Depression, and Nance, lonely and poor, at times thought life too hard to be worth living. There were very few girls studying and the attitude to them was disparaging. When Nance qualified she was paid less than male graduates and she missed the bonds of family life. However, she had met inspiring young women and had learnt that she could have some control over what happened to her. She ran a pharmacy and had a love affair with its owner. She could have married any one of several young men but eventually chose an inspiring young communist lawyer. When war broke out she was disillusioned by his attempts to evade service and she realized that secrecy and subversion were essential parts of his character. She saw too that while despite his evasions she loved him he admired her rather than loved her. They had two children and Nance daringly planned to run a pharmacy again. The business was a success but in the early fifties there was no child care available; her mother failed her despite offering support and her husband could not imagine doing more than he did about the house. Nance sold the pharmacy, built a house with the money and had another child, Kate. Nance tried again later to have a business but even in the late fifties child care was not available.
Love of family was a dominant theme of her life, despite a difficult relationship with her mother, and her children were a constant delight to her. Another theme is the necessity to make the most of one's talents. She believed that the unexamined life is not worth living and this is a theme of her later life in particular. The writing is engaging and the character of Nance believably established. The social history of the times is accurately reflected. This book is highly recommended.
Jenny Hamilton

More Reviews

May 06 2016

Supermum by Leanne Russack

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Ill. by Anil Tortop. Scholastic Australia, 2016. ISBN 9781760158545
(Age: 3-5) Highly recommended. Themes: Mothers, Family Life. Supermum is a celebration of a mother's special powers, her amazing abilities that help her cope with the daily challenges and delights of motherhood....
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May 06 2016

Percy and his amazing box of disguises by Sally Anne Garland

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The Five Mile Press, 2016. ISBN 9781760400682
(Ages: 3-7) Recommended. Homes, disguises, pets, perspectives. This book sets itself apart with wonderfully unique vintage illustrations. Even the font and the rich colour scheme of greens, browns and reds have a Little Golden Book quality,...
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May 06 2016

My cool plastics cupboard by Maggie Dent

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Ill. by Linda True-Arrow. Pennington Publications, 2015. ISBN 9780975845684
(Ages: 1-3) Maggie Dent is a parenting writer and speaker so it is no great surprise that this seems to target parents more so than young children. It is written from the perspective of a two-year-old boy who...
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May 06 2016

Blue and Bertie by Kristyna Litten

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Scholastic Australia, 2016. ISBN 9781742761800
(Ages: 3-7) Recommended. Differences and similarities, belonging, trying new things. Colour is used to tell the story of these two giraffes who are both similar and different. It is also a main illustrative feature. Bertie is an average...
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May 06 2016

The first third by Will Kostakis

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Penguin, 2013. ISBN 9780143568179
(Age: 13+) Highly recommended. Greek Australia, Immigrants, Humour, Relationships, Food, Homosexuality. Bill's Greek grandmother is a larger than life figure, prominent in the day to day routines of their lives, and he recounts her entanglement with an...
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May 05 2016

Freddie Mole: Lion tamer by Alexander McCall-Smith

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Bloomsbury, 2016. ISBN 9781408865859
(Age: 8+) Highly recommended. Humour. Circuses. Adventure. Lions. Freddie wants to help out his parents. His mum works on ships and is often away months at a time, and dad works hard but it never makes quite enough to cover the needs of his family and...
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May 05 2016

Tricky twenty-two by Janet Evanovich

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Headline, 2015. ISBN 9781472201652
(Age: 14+) Recommended. Crime fiction. Humour. Biological warfare. Stephanie Plum is back for the umpteenth time, solving crime while looking for bail absconders in Trenton, New Jersey, the home of her birth. She is an amazing character, seriously...
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May 05 2016

The midnight possum by Sally Morgan

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Ill. by Jess Racklyeft. Omnibus Books, 2016. ISBN 9781742991047
(Age: 4+) Recommended. Possums. Adventures. Suspense. When possum climbs across the tree tops, and into the forest red gum tree covered with blossom, he eagerly anticipates his meal. It is dark, midnight dark, his favourite...
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May 05 2016

My dog Dash by Nicki Greenberg

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Allen and Unwin, 2016. ISBN 9781760110673
(Age: 3+) Highly recommended. Pets. Dogs. Snails. Ownership. Responsibility. Humour. The irony of the name, Dash, for her pet, becomes obvious when the first double page is turned to reveal a snail. Kids will laugh uproariously at the young girl...
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May 04 2016

Anyone but Ivy Pocket by Caleb Krisp

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Ill. by John Kelly. Bloomsbury, 2016. ISBN 9781408858639
(Age: 9+) Highly recommended. Themes: Orphans and orphanages; Jewellery; Ghosts; Supernatural stories; Mystery and suspense stories; Ghosts; England - Social life and customs - 19th century.
Calvin Krisp's debut novel,...
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May 04 2016

Theophilus Grey and the traitor's mask by Catherine Jinks

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Theophilius Grey series. Allen and Unwin, 2016. ISBN 9781760113612
(Age: 10+) Highly recommended. London, Eighteenth Century, George 11, Espionage. We first met Theophilus Grey in Theophilus Grey and the demon thief, a book set in eighteenth century London at the time of...
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May 04 2016

Blockbusters Guinness World Records 2016 - The Records behind the year's Smash Hits!

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Guinness, 2016. ISBN 9781910561461
(Age: 8+) Highly recommended. Subjects: Reference; Encyclopaedias; General Knowledge. Blockbusters is another amazing reference book from the Guinness World Records team, the authority on all things trivia. Seven fact-filled sections - Movies,...
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May 04 2016

Beyond magenta: transgender kids speak out by Susan Kuklin

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Candlewick Press, 2014. ISBN 9780763673680
(Age: 12+) Recommended. LGBT, Transgender, Bullying, Coming out, Families. Interviews with six transgender and gender neutral teens are presented in this handsomely produced, well illustrated book. I found it most enlightening about some kids in...
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May 04 2016

Iris and the tiger by Leanne Hall

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Text, 2016. ISBN 97819252240795
(Age: 12+) Highly recommended. Mystery, Spain, Surrealism, Art. Arriving in Spain to stay with her great aunt, a person she has never seen before, Iris is surprised when a man in uniform picks her up from the airport. She tries to question him on the long...
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May 03 2016

Teresa: A new Australian by Deborah Abela

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New Australian series. Scholastic, 2016. ISBN 9781742990941
(Age: 9+) Highly recommended. Teresa is part of the New Australian series, a collection of books about immigrants to Australia and the issues they face. In this novel, we meet Teresa, a young girl from...
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May 03 2016

Inherit midnight by Kate Kae Myers

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Bloomsbury, 2015. ISBN 9781619639362
(Age: 12+) Highly recommended. Myers brings to life a wonderful lesson in the importance of family history. Describing a set of challenges created to find the most worthy heir to the VanDemere fortune, Avery's grandmother shows her cunning as her...
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May 03 2016

Are you sitting comfortably? by Leigh Hodgkinson

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Bloomsbury, 2016. ISBN 9781408864821
(Ages: 3-6) Reading. Books. Leigh Hogkinson's distinctive patterned illustrations take centre stage in this story about a young book lover searching for the perfect place to sit and read. On each page he is sitting on a chair, but the chair itself...
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May 03 2016

There is a tribe of kids by Lane Smith

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Two Hoots (Pan Macmillan), 2016. ISBN 9781509812882
(Age: 4+) Recommended. Wordplay. Curiosity. Belonging. Adventure. Readers will be introduced to the words which signify a group of things through this imaginative and joyous book about finding where you belong. From the title page,...
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May 02 2016

The Special Ones by Em Bailey

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Hardie Grant Egmont, 2016. ISBN 9781742976280
(Age: 13+) Highly recommended. Cults. Abduction. Coming of age. Thriller. Esther is one of the Special Ones, four teens who live in an isolated farmhouse and who aren't allowed to leave. They are watched by an unseen man, who knows their...
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May 02 2016

My mum's special secret by Sally Morgan

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Ill. by Ambelin Kwaymullina. Omnibus Books, 2016. ISBN 9781742991368
(Age: 4+) Highly recommended, Australian animals, Aboriginal themes, Parents, and parenting, Kookaburra
An absolutely delightful rhythmical story of the love between a baby bird and its mother is told with bright...
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May 02 2016

Beetle Boy by M.G. Leonard

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Chicken House, 2016. ISBN 9781910002704
(Age: 10+) Highly recommended. Darkus Cuttle's dad is missing. He has to live with his uncle, change schools, make new friends and work out why he can understand a huge rhinoceros beetle who has become his friend by chance. Thanks to this beetle...
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May 02 2016

Australian Bushrangers series by Jane Smith

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Big Sky Publishing, 2014
Captain Thunderbolt. ISBN 9781922132574
Ben Hall. ISBN 9781922132697
Captain Starlight. ISBN 9781922132710
Frank Gardiner. ISBN 9781922132673
Captain Moonlite. ISBN 9781922132581
Themes: Bushrangers;...
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Apr 28 2016

Where's the starfish? by Barroux

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Egmont, 2016. ISBN 9781405280082
(Age: 3+) Highly recommended. Hide and seek. Oceans. Fish. Pollution. A seemingly simple game of find the starfish, the clownfish and the jellyfish amongst the double pages bright with different colours, shapes and varieties of fish, soon turns into...
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Apr 28 2016

Nathalia Buttface and the totally embarrassing bridesmaid disaster by Nigel Smith

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HarperCollins, 2016. ISBN 9780008167097
(Age: 9+) Highly recommended. If the title Nathalia Buttface and the totally embarrassing bridesmaid disaster doesn't make you laugh then the hilarious events in the first 50 pages will! Nathalia doesn't want to be a bridesmaid in her stupid...
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Apr 28 2016

The butcher's hook by Janet Ellis

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Two Roads Books, 2016. ISBN 9781473625129
(Age: Adult - Mature readers) Georgian England. Gender roles. Sexual maturation. Violence. Murder. Grief.
This is not a Jane Austen-style gentle and romantic exploration of life in Georgian England, but the voice of the central...
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Apr 28 2016

Grandma wombat by Jackie French and Bruce Whatley

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Wombat series. Angus and Robertson, 2016. ISBN 9780732299590
(Age: 3+) Highly recommended. Wombats. Grandparents. Each day sees similar things happening in the lives of grandma and her grandson wombat. Sleeping makes up much of each day, but some days there are carrots to be had,...
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Apr 27 2016

Granny's Place by Allison Paterson

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Ill. by Shane McGrath. Big Sky Publishing. ISBN 9781925275636
(Age: 4-6) Highly recommended. Themes: Grandparents; Family Life; Australia - Social Life and Customs - Twentieth Century. Granny's Place is a nostalgic story that celebrates the loving relationship between a young girl and...
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Apr 27 2016

A very normal man by Vincenzo Cerami

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Translated by Isobel Grave. Wakefield Press, 2015. This is an English translation of Un Borghese piccolo piccolo, 1976. ISBN 9781743053713
(Age: 17+) Highly recommended. Themes: Revenge; Italian Society; Purpose; Hope and hopelessness.
A Very Normal Man is a...
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Apr 27 2016

Choosing Xaverique by Karyn Sepulveda

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Vivid, 2016. ISBN 9781925442281
(Ages: 11+) Fifteen year old Gabby Valis has an ordinary life, just like any other. Until she is catastrophically hit by a swerving van, and her heart stops beating . . . at least, it does for several minutes. Gabby is a Xaverique, a non-human species who...
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Apr 27 2016

Princess of the Sands by Karen Wood

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TrickStars series, bk 6. Allen and Unwin, 2015. ISBN 9781743319093
(Age: 7+) Highly recommended. Themes: Courage; Overcoming difficulties; Horse-riding; Television acting.
In this next instalment in the life of the TrickStar triplets - Ruby, Lexie and Kit, the girls become...
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Feb 22 2016

Fiction gems: Recommended fiction lists for Upper Primary and Lower Secondary students by Fran Knight and Pat Pledger

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Pledger Consulting, 2016. ISBN 9781876678456
Teacher reference. What a great resource for those charged with purchasing or recommending reading material for Upper Primary and Lower Secondary students. The Middle School aged reader can have specific interests or reading demands and keeping...
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