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

Dec 03 2020

Aster's good, right things by Kate Gordon

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Riveted Press, 2020. 189pp. ISBN: 9780648492573.
(Ages 11+) Highly recommended. Aster is an 11-year-old girl who attends an alternative style school in Tasmania. We soon learn, through her first-person journal, that she is troubled and on the outer and more importantly we know what she is thinking in contrast to how she is acting. She also has an interest and passion for flowers and their symbolism. Aster is convinced that the only way she can survive is by doing good, right things for others but she rarely feels accomplishment or joy for herself.
She volunteers most of her school breaks in the library but one day she finds refuge in the school yard and meets Xavier and his rabbit Hollyhock. Their friendship grows through their openness about their mental health and Xavier's quirky dress and behaviour. Another important character at the school is Indigo who thwarts her need of love and rescuing behind aggressive behaviour. On the home front Aster's mother has left her and Aster's loving father. This has a huge impact on them both and Aster blames herself. Fortunately, her Aunt Noni supports them and then Indigo as well. Gradually Aster develops a group of like-minded friends around her and we have hope for their futures. Ultimately intelligent communication and love heals all their lives.
There are certainly other stories with characters experiencing anxiety and depression, family breakup and friendship issues. However, this story is deeply perceptive and true. It is right to acknowledge that all mothers don't love their children and that adults can be selfish and unwise. Kate Gordon captures the physicality of anxiety and the need to hide away. Gordon really gets into the mind of an 11-year-old and short unflowery sentences convey Aster's astute thoughts well. Sometimes these strings of thoughts are quite poetic.
Stories like these are so important for developing empathy for others. It suits a middle years audience well because it is not too graphic and shocking. Although it is a serious book it does have a whimsical quality which matches Aster's personality.
Teacher's notes are available.
Jo Marshall



More Reviews

Dec 03 2020

Kitty is not a cat: Bath time by Jess Black

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Hachette, 2020. ISBN: 9780734419798
(Age: 5-7) Highly recommended. Bath time is one of a series of junior fiction books based on the popular animated television series Kitty is not a cat produced by BES Animation based in Melbourne. The TV series has screened in over 85 countries...
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Dec 03 2020

The naked farmer by Ben Brooksby

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Pan Macmillan, 2020. ISBN: 9781760981068.
(Age: 17+) In 2017, Ben Brooksby posted a photograph of himself on social media. The photograph showed him lying naked on lentils in a truck. At first, he thought that his followers might learn about the importance of agriculture, but his own...
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Dec 02 2020

Dash and Lily's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

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Allen & Unwin, 2020. ISBN: 9781760878283.
(Age: 15+) Recommended. A reprint tying in with the Netflix series, readers will be sure to enjoy the original book first printed in 2010. Rachel Cohn and David Levithan have again produced a sparkling collaboration, with two main characters,...
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Dec 02 2020

Slinky Malinki's Christmas 123 by Lynley Dodd

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Puffin, 2020. ISBN: 9780143775355.
(Age 1+) Highly recommended. Right from the front cover, with its cheeky little black cat, clutching a toy Santa and surrounded by Christmas decorations, any young reader will be enticed to open the book and see what Slinky Malinki is up to. Turning the...
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Dec 02 2020

The wizard in my shed: the misadventures of Merdyn the Wild by Simon Farnaby

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Hodder & Stroughton, 2020. ISBN: 9781444954388. 323p.
(Age: 10+) Recommended. Merdyn the Wild was the world's greatest Warlock in the 6th Century before the showdown of Chapter One wherein his nemesis Jerabo discredits Merdyn in King Paul's eyes, before casting Merdyn into the rivers of...
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Dec 02 2020

The Carbon-Neutral Adventures of the Indefatigable Enviroteens by Andrew Martlew

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Allen & Unwin, 2020. ISBN: 9781760526122.
(Age: 10-13) Cover indicates the author as: First Dog on the Moon. This is a nonsensical adventure that is a cross between a cartoon spoof adventure and a 'wimpy kid' exploration of climate change. At no stage is it a serious attempt to address...
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Dec 01 2020

Bindi by Kirli Saunders

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Illus. by Dub Leffler. Magabala Books, 2020. ISBN: 9781925936667.
(Age: 10+) Highly recommended. Seedlings. Cinders. Sprouts. These are the three sections of this beautifully written heartwarming story of Bindi, a young girl living on Gundungurra country, learning from her Elders,...
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Dec 01 2020

Harry Potter: Christmas at Hogwarts: a movie scrapbook

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Bloomsbury Children's Books, 2020. ISBN: 9781526628244.
(Age: 8+). Highly recommended. Fans of the Harry Potter phenomena will be thrilled to receive this latest offering to add to their collection. Christmas at Hogwarts takes the reader on an intimate and fascinating journey...
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Dec 01 2020

Tashi and the stolen forest by Anna and Barbara Fienberg

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Australia Reads. Illus. by Kim Gamble. Allen and Unwin, 2020. ISBN: 9781760878566.
(Age: 5-8) Highly recommended. Tashi has become a classic character whose stories have been around since 1995 and have won a place in the hearts of many children around the world. This book was part...
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Dec 01 2020

Instant karma by Marissa Meyer

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Macmillan, 2020. ISBN: 9781760983468.
(Age: 12+) Recommended. Prudence Daniels is the eldest in a family of five children named after Beatles songs. The family own a shop that sells vinyl records, and music features throughout the story through references, Karaoke sessions and the title...
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Nov 30 2020

The boy, the wolf and the stars by Shivaun Plozza

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Penguin Random House Australia, 2020. ISBN: 9781760893453.
(Age: 9-12) Highly recommended. Bo is a young boy, abandoned by his mother at an early age and taken in by an old woodcutter. But to the nearby villagers Bo is looked upon as cursed because he survived a night in the dark without...
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Nov 30 2020

The book collectors of Daraya by Delphine Minoui, translated by Lara Vergnaud

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PanMacmillan, 2020. ISBN: 9781529012323.
(Age: Adult) Highly recommended. How do you even begin to describe this book? For most people, Syria is a far-off place in the midst of a war that not many could say what it is about. We just know that cities are being destroyed and its people are...
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Nov 30 2020

Little Jiang by Shirley Marr

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Illus. by Katy Jiang. Freemantle Press, 2020 ISBN: 9781925816471.
(Age: 8-10) Recommended. After moving from China to the small town of Honeywood, in Australia, Mei Ling Pang and her parents are struggling to fit in. Her father's sight is failing, and her mother's health also seems to be...
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Nov 30 2020

A Guinea Pig Night before Christmas

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Guinea Pig classics, photographed by Phillip Beresford, sets made and designed by Tess Newall. Bloomsbury Publishing, 2020 ISBN: 9781526613561.
(Age: All) Recommended. Guinea pigs photographed in cute costumes are the feature of this rendering of the classic Christmas story...
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Nov 30 2020

The werewolves who weren't by T.C. Shelley

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Bloomsbury Children's Books, 2020. ISBN: 9781526600806.
(Age: 10-12). Recommended for mature readers who have read the first book. Follow up to 2019's The monster who wasn't, which is a must-read before picking up...
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Nov 27 2020

How to make a bird by Meg McKinlay

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Illus. by Matt Ottley. Walker Books, 2020. ISBN: 9781925381894.
(Age: children to adults). Highly recommended. How to Make a Bird written by Meg McKinlay is a poignant and striking picture book that would be suitable for readers of any age. The story is of a young girl who...
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Nov 27 2020

The Greatest Inventor by Ben Brooks

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Hachette Children's Books, 2020. ISBN: 9781786541123.
(Age: primary) Recommended. This is a quirky story, full of whimsy. Many children already know Ben Brook's books through the very popular Boys who Dare to be Different 1 and 2 and Kids who Dare to be Different....
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Nov 27 2020

Rise of the Mythix: Mighty minotaur by Anh Do

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Illus. by Chris Wahl. Allen & Unwin, 2020. ISBN: 9781760876401.
(Age:10+) Recommended. The second in the series which began with Golden Unicorn, has a heady mix of legends and myths; the unicorn, griffin and...
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Nov 26 2020

October, October by Katya Balen

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Ill. by Angela Harding. Bloomsbury Children's Books, 2020. ISBN: 9781526620491
(Age: 10+ ) Highly recommended. October is a girl who thinks of herself as a wild wolf living in the woods with her equally wild father. In the woods she is confident and self-sufficient. She spends her days...
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Nov 26 2020

Heroes next door by Samuel Johnson and Hilde Hinton

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Hachette Australia, 2020. 213pp. ISBN: 9780733646362.
(Age: 13+) Recommended. Heroes next door is a collection of 40 true human stories ranging from a short three pages up to ten. The book was written by Samuel Johnson, a high profile actor, who has worked to raise money for a...
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Nov 26 2020

The dressmaker's secret by Rosalie Ham

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Picador, 2020. ISBN: 9781760982027.
(Age: Adult) Tilly, the dressmaker is back! She is in hiding in Melbourne slaving away for the demanding Mrs Flock at the Salon Mystique, her talents in dress design gaining favour as everyone prepares for the grand social occasion of the 1953...
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Nov 25 2020

A dog's perfect Christmas by W Bruce Cameron

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Pan Macmillan, 2020. ISBN: 9781529010114.
(Age: Secondary/Adult) Highly recommended. Winstead, a nine year wolf hound becomes aware one day that his Daddy is sad. His owner gets up in the morning with aching bones and crooked fingers, and turns to the pillow next to his where his wife...
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Nov 24 2020

Christmas is murder: a chilling short story collection by Val McDermid

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Sphere, 2020. ISBN: 9780751581775.
(Age: Secondary/Adult) Highly recommended. In a few pages, award winning crime writer McDermid is able to create a scenario, characters and a crime, enticing an already enthralled reader to keep going, wanting to see where the story heads. Twelve...
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Nov 04 2020

Santa Jaws by Mark Sperring

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Illus. by Sophie Corrigan. Bloomsbury, 2020. ISBN: 9781408897812.
(Age: 2+) Highly recommended. Shelly the shark is all set to make this Christmas a very festive one. She turns her cave into a Santa grotto and invites the little fishes to come in, but they are very wary and swim away....
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Nov 04 2020

Tinsel: The girls who invented Christmas by Sibeal Pounder

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Bloomsbury, 2020. ISBN: 9781526619273.
(Age: 8+) Highly Recommended. Tinsel: The Girls who Invented Christmas is a cleverly written book by Sibeal Pounder, author of the popular Witch Wars and Bad Mermaids series. What if history had it all wrong and Christmas and...
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Nov 02 2020

Rudie nudie Christmas by Emma Quay

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ABC Books, 2020. ISBN: 9780733338342.
(Age: 3+) Recommended. Following Rudie Nudie (2012) which was shortlisted for the CBCA picture book award, comes another look at that time between bath time and bed time, when many kids allow their bodies to be left uncovered. The fun of...
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