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

Apr 18 2019

The oceans between us by Gill Thompson

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Headline Publishing, 2019. ISBN: 9781472257956.
(Age: 16+) Highly recommended. It was 1941. Jack has happy memories of his mother holding him, as a 5 year old, in her arms, singing and dancing with him, then hiding with him under the table at the sound of sirens and German bombers flying over London. But one day whilst he is at school, there is an explosion, and his whole world is changed forever. His mother disappears, and Jack ends up in the dormitories of Melchet House run by the Catholic nuns, a life of chores and punishments.
Unbeknown to Jack, his mother survived the explosion but was left with amnesia. She passes her time in a hospital ward desperately looking for something she is missing, but she doesn't know what it is.
Life becomes worse for Jack as he becomes one of the thousands of children shipped to Australia to a promised land of sunshine and oranges. However, far from being a paradise, Bindoon, the Boys Town, is a place of hard labour, beatings and abuse. Jack eventually has an escape, taken to be adopted by Kathleen and John, an Australian couple unable to have children. But he can't forget the suffering of the other boys and when his friend Sam dies there, Jack is determined to one day seek justice.
Thompson's novel brings together many themes: the suffering and abuse of child migrants brought to Australia and placed in harsh institutions; Aboriginal children taken from their parents to live a life of servitude; the racism in Britain towards the Jamaican immigrants who came on the Windshuttle; the threat of the childhood disease of polio; and the crude treatment of mental health patients. The novel paints an authentic picture of the times, and would be of interest to students studying the history of the period. It concludes with the apologies of both the British and Australian prime ministers to the children shipped to Australia as child migrants, told they were orphans and brought to Australia without their parents' knowledge or consent.
This book would make an interesting comparison with Jae-Dee Collier's Jae-Dee survives the home of many mothers (2019), a fictionalised account drawn from the author's memories of her life as one of the forgotten children in Australian orphanages, more of a memoir than a novel. Thompson's story builds a wider context to the experience of the institutionalised child, yet both share the loneliness and fear the children suffered, and their longing for kindness and love. Both stories reveal the long-standing aftereffects of abuse.
That is not to say that The oceans between us is difficult to read. On the contrary, we are drawn into the lives of the characters; there is romance, and there are happy as well as sad moments. I thoroughly recommend it - it keeps the reader engaged until the very last page.
Helen Eddy



More Reviews

Apr 18 2019

The wall in the middle of the book by Jon Agee

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Scholastic, 2019. ISBN 9781760663490.
(Age: 4+) Highly recommended. Themes: Walls, Barriers, Prejudice, Isolationism. A solid brick wall appears in the centre of each double page. A child in armour appears with a ladder, and tells the reader that his side of the book is safe because the...
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Apr 18 2019

And then there were four by Nancy Werlin

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Speak, 2018. ISBN: 9780147510266.
(Age: 14+) Recommended. A book for mystery lovers, Werlin has written an easy to read and engrossing story about five teenagers who escape death when a building collapses on them. It is not an accident, someone is trying to murder them. Gradually the...
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Apr 18 2019

Fart Monster and me: The class excursion by Tim Miller and Matt Stanton

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ABC Books. 2019. ISBN: 9780733340215. 57p
(Age: 8+) Recommended. Themes: Humour, Speculative/Sci fi. Ben Dugan takes his Fart Monster to school. His teacher, Mr Bendentoot has organized an excursion to the Space exhibit at the local museum. On the bus, various children deny causing the...
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Apr 18 2019

Find Spot at the library by Eric Hill

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Penguin Random House Children's, 2019. ISBN: 9780241365694.
(Ages: 1-4) Themes: Libraries, Board book, Lift the flaps book. Lift-the-flap books are usually instant winners with little ones, especially when there is a cheeky animal or two hiding behind and this third title in a new Spot...
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Apr 17 2019

When the war is over by Jackie French

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Illus. by Anne Spudvilas. Angus and Robertson, 2019. ISBN: 9781460753026.
(Age: 10+) Highly recommended. A powerful book written in poetry by the word master, Jackie French, depicts the return of those who have fought in the wars from WW1 to the present day. The book does not try to...
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Apr 17 2019

Catch a falling star by Meg McKinlay

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Walker Books, 2019. ISBN: 9781925381207.
(Age: 10-14) Highly recommended. Themes: Family, Skylab, Death, Grief, Coming of age, Friendship, Astronomy. McKinlay is an Award winning author (Prime Minister's Literary Award-winning...
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Apr 17 2019

52 Mondays by Anna Ciddor

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Allen and Unwin, 2019. ISBN: 9781760523480.
(Age: 8-12) Recommended. It's 1960's Australia and Anna is a young girl with a strong wish. She desires a doll similar to Hitty, the doll in her favourite story.
Anna's family try to help her find the doll of her dreams and they decide...
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Apr 17 2019

Encyclopedia of Grannies by Eric Veille

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Translated by Daniel Hahn. Gecko Press, 2019. ISBN: 9781776572434.
(Age: 7+) This colourful and busy book gives lots of humorous information you may have been wondering about grandmothers. It is an entertaining and light-hearted look at all the different thoughts a child may have had...
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Apr 17 2019

There's only one mum like you by Jess Racklyeft

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Affirm Press, 2019. ISBN: 9781925712902.
I love your quiet stories,
songs sung loud in the rain.
No one can hug like you, Mum
or makes me feel the same.

Brave mums, playful mums, cuddly mums, quiet mums - every mum is special in her own way and author/illustrator...
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Apr 16 2019

War and resistance by Sophie Masson

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Scholastic, 2019. ISBN: 9781742769219.
Highly recommended for readers aged 13+. Themes: World War II, Resistance, Spies, Trust. Sophie Masson has created a wonderful story weaving the circumstances of the young girl, Sasha and her family, with the German boy, Dieter, at a time when the...
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Apr 16 2019

The Royal Show by Yvette Poshoglian

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Illus. by Danielle McDonald. Ella and Olivia book 23, Scholastic, 2019. ISBN: 9781742999784.
(Ages 5-7) Recommended. Themes: The Royal Show, Families. Yvette Poshoglian captures the special moments in Ella and Olivia's family life. It's time for The Royal Show and both sisters are...
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Apr 16 2019

Hopping weird by Ahn Do

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Illus. by Jules Faber. Weirdo book 13. Scholastic, 2019. ISBN: 9781742997926.
(Ages: 7-9) Themes: Kangaroos, Animals - care and health. Step straight into the crazy world of Weir Do and his family as Mum's new job impacts on their home life. She's working as a nurse at the animal...
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Apr 16 2019

The book that never ends by Beck and Matt Stanton

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HarperCollins Children's Books, 2018. ISBN: 9780733337994.
(Age: 4+) Themes: Humour, Choose your own adventure. This is the final book in the unique Books that drive kids crazy series. It is a choose-your-own type adventure for younger children to be navigated through either with...
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Apr 16 2019

Dress like a girl by Patricia Toht

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Illus. by Lorian Tu-Dean. HarperCollins, 2019. ISBN: 9780062798923. 32pp., hbk.
Time for a sleepover and the guests have been instructed to 'dress like a girl'. But what does that mean?
Does it really mean dresses and high heels, buttons and bows? Or could it mean a space suit, a...
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Apr 15 2019

This is home: essential Australian poems for children selected by Jackie French

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Illus. by Tania McCartney. NLA, 2019. ISBN: 9780642279385.
(Age: 8+) Recommended. Themes: Poetry. In her introduction, French tells us that she has selected a group of poems that tell of our country for readers from eight years old. In selecting she has included some old favourites, some...
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Apr 15 2019

Dreaming Soldiers by Catherine Bauer

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Illus. by Shane McGrath. Big Sky Publishing, 2018. ISBN: 9781925675528.
(Age: 7-13 years) Highly recommended. Themes: World War 1, ANZAC Day, Indigenous soldiers, War Veterans, Dreaming, Friendship, Australian History, Outback South Australia. Jimmy and Johno have shared everything...
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Apr 15 2019

A dog's journey by W. Bruce Cameron

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Pan Macmillan, 2019. ISBN: 9781760786052.
Some of us are look after dogs and see to their welfare. What we don't know is that dogs are born with a dedication to look after humans and, having relatively short lives in comparison, are re-born periodically to reengage with their...
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Apr 15 2019

I love my Mum because by Petra James

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Illus. by Alissa Dinallo. Macmillan Australia, 2019. ISBN: 9781760784386.
(Age: 3-8 years) Themes: Mothers, Mother's Day, Family, Interactive, Shared reading. This is a simple book that a child could give to their mum for a special occasion such as Mother's Day or a birthday . . . or...
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Apr 15 2019

You must be Layla by Yassmin Abdel-Magied

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Penguin Books, 2019. ISBN: 9780143788515.
(Age: 13+) Highly recommended. Themes: Diversity, Multicultural Australia, Muslims, Migrants, Humour, Schools. How refreshing to hear an authentic voice telling of her experiences as part of a group in today's Australia. The whole point of the...
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Apr 15 2019

Bushfire by Sally Murphy

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My Australian Story. Scholastic, 2019. ISBN: 9781742994307.
(Age: 9-12) Themes: Bushfires, Climate Change. The My Australian Story series focuses on different historical events that have impacted and shaped our nation. Sally Murphy's fictional account of the 2009 Black...
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Apr 12 2019

The Anzac Billy by Claire Saxby, Mark Jackson and Heather Potter

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Black Dog Books, 2019. ISBN: 9781925126815.
(Age: 5+) Highly recommended. Themes: Anzac Day, World War, 1914-1918. During World War 1, soldiers From Australia and New Zealand were sent carefully wrapped gifts in a tin billy for Christmas. Even though the care package could not be sent to...
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Apr 12 2019

The boy who steals houses by C.G. Drews

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Hachette Books Australia, 2019. ISBN: 9781408349922. 346p
(Age: 14+) Highly recommended. Themes: Family/Bildungsroman. Sam and Avery have been fending for themselves for nearly two years. Gradually, we establish that their emotionally distant aunt cared for the two teenage brothers after...
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Apr 12 2019

Me and my sister by Rose Robbins

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Allen and Unwin, 2019. ISBN: 9781760524456.
(Age: all) Highly recommended. Themes: Autism, Difference, Disability, Family, Siblings. What an amazing book. The narrator explains that he and his sister like doing the same things, although sometimes at different times, they like different...
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Apr 12 2019

Once by Kate Forsyth

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Illus. by Krista Brennan. Wombat Books, 2019. ISBN: 9781925563566.
(Age: 5+) Recommended. Themes: Australia - History, Storytelling, Women. On the cover are the words 'A long time ago, Our ancestors shaped our stories . . . ' and in this evocative picture book, Kate Forsyth traces the...
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Apr 11 2019

A cat called Trim by Corinne Fenton

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Ill. by Craig Smith. Allen and Unwin, 2019. ISBN: 9781760631840.
(Age: 4 - Adult) Highly recommended. Themes: Matthew Flinders, Exploration, Life at sea, Sailing, Companion animals, Australian history. Matthew Flinders' cat, Trim takes centre stage in this appealing book of his life...
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Apr 11 2019

The French photographer by Natasha Lester

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Hachette, 2019. ISBN: 9780733640025.
(Age: 16+) Recommended. Historical fiction. In 1942, Jessica May, a beautiful and much sought after model for Vogue magazine, has her career cut short when her ex-boyfriend sells her image for a Kotex advertisement. She finds herself blacklisted...
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Apr 11 2019

Squish Rabbit's pet by Katherine Battersby

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University of Queensland Press, 2019. ISBN: 9780702260469.
(Age: 3-5) Recommended. Themes: Friendship, Responsibility, Love, Pets, Eggs, Dreams. This is the third book featuring the cute little rabbit Squish and once again children will delight in the soft cover and the appealing...
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Apr 11 2019

Peppa's muddy festival: a lift-the-flap book

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Peppa Pig series. Ladybird Books, 2019. ISBN 9780241375884.
(Age: 1-4) Recommended for fans of Peppa Pig. Any parent who has a child obsessed with Peppa Pig will welcome this sturdy board book with lift the flaps, just right for small fingers. In Peppa's muddy festival, the...
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Apr 10 2019

Joe Quinn's poltergeist by David Almond

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Illus. by Dave McKean. Walker Books, 2019. ISBN: 9781406363197. 80 pgs.
(Age: 12+) Highly recommended. Themes: Ghosts, Death, Grief, Beliefs, Coming of age. This dark, atmospheric graphic novel will grab the reader's attention right from the time the first the strange face with its...
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Apr 10 2019

The go-away bird by Julia Donaldson

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Illus. by Catherine Rayner. Macmillan Children's Books, 2019. ISBN: 9781509843589.
(Age: 4+) Highly recommended. Themes: Friendship, Birds. A bird in South African has a call that sounds like 'go away' and is so named the go-away bird. In this story of friendship, of people...
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Apr 10 2019

What a waste - rubbish, recycling and protecting our planet by Jess French

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Dorling Kindersley, 2019. ISBN: 9780241366912.
(Age: 8-12) Recommended. Subjects: Recycling, Pollution, Conservation. Vet and author Jess French introduces this thought-provoking information book What a Waste with 'humans are now producing more waste than ever before and our...
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Apr 10 2019

Kingfisher by Patricia A. McKillip

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Ace Books, 2016. ISBN: 9780425271766.
(Age: 16+) Recommended. Themes: Fantasy, Coming of age. Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature (2017. In an unusual blend of Arthurian legends and those of the Fisher King, McKillip has given readers a unique tale that contrasts with many of...
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