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Nov 15 2019

The fate of Fausto: a painted fable by Oliver Jeffers

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HarperCollins Children's Books, 2019. ISBN: 9780008357917.
(All ages). Highly recommended. Themes: Greed, Wants and needs. Fausto wants everything to bow in acknowledgement to him. He believes that he owns everything and goes to a flower, a sheep, a tree, a field, forest and a lake to force their submission to him. He expects this, although the lake takes some time to see things his way. Next the mountain holds his ground, making the man make his fist, stomp his feet and generally put up a fight. The mountain concedes.
Children and adults alike will see parallels all around them of behaviour such as this.
But the man is still dissatisfied and takes to a boat upon the sea. Away from the shore he tells the sea that the sea belongs to him. The sea remains silent. He tells the sea again that he is its owner, and this time the sea responds, telling him that Fausto does not owns the sea. He is adamant that he does and says he will stamp his feet, and climbs out of the boat onto the sea to do so. He disappears.
None of the things that bowed to him cared. They carried on just as before. Fausto's fate did not matter to them at all.
A wonderful modern fable about possessions and self image, readers of all ages will thrill at the behaviour shown by Fausto in trying to get his own way, seeing parallels in the nightly news or history or people with whom they mix.
This story reveals all the elements of a fable, a short story in which animals have human characteristics and ends with a moral, and will be another discussion point with students. Comparing this tale with Aesop's fables, for example will widen the student's literary vocabulary and enable them to see other examples of modern fables.
Students could discuss why the author has chosen the name Fausto for his anti hero, and absorb the wonderful story retold by Kurt Vonnegut at the end of the book, seeing parallels between that story and why Jeffers wrote his fable.
The startling illustrations done using a lithographic printmaking technique, add to the dream like qualities of the story as many pages are blank,some pages have a phrase and just a line of colour, some pages are covered with colour but all expect the reader to think about what is happening, to think about the man's expectations of life and his dissatisfaction with what he has ending with his sinking into the sea and oblivion.
The endpapers reflect books from years ago with their wonderful marbling effect and intricate designs, which once more will attract the readers to look again before the book is closed.
Fran Knight


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Nov 15 2019

Antarctica by Moira Court

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Fremantle Press, 2019. ISBN: 9781925815757.
(Age: 3+) Highly recommended. Themes: Antarctica, Animals, Survival, Counting book. From one to ten, the unusual animals of the Antarctic are presented to the reader. For a younger child the book is a great read aloud, reinforcing the numbers one to ten, while older readers will be intrigued with the animals presented, asking questions about how each survives in such an inhospitable place, reading the four pages of information given at the back of the book to find some answers.
Each double page presents a group of animals: one is for the leopard seal, two has two emperor penguins, three is for the elephant seals, and four reveals four right whales while ten is for ten sea stars. Each double page has a line about the animal, using rhythmic descriptive words, begging the listener or reader to repeat the words, allowing them to roll about the mouth, enjoying the freshness of the descriptions.
Moira Court's illustrative technique ensures the eye will pour over every page, pondering how each image is produced, marvelling at how the remote, cold and isolated place can be revealed with scraps of paper.
Court uses a range of print making and collage techniques to produce her work, and younger children will be introduced to this form of art reading this book. It will excite their interest working out how each image is produced, encouraging them to try their skills to make one of the animals. Court's website gives some clues about her techniques and is worth a look.
This book is a wonderful introduction to Antarctica and its animals and landscape, giving quirky facts in the information for older readers and encouraging all readers to look, question and ponder. Antarctica is again in the news with pressure mounting for oil exploration to occur. This is a timely addition to the field and will enable readers to know just what does live in the Antarctic.
Fran Knight


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Nov 15 2019

Every day resilience by Michelle Mitchell

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Big Sky, 2019. ISBN: 9781922265029.
(Age: Adult -16) Highly recommended. Subtitled Helping Kids Handle Friendship Drama, Academic Pressure and the Self-Doubt of Growing Up. 'In this book Michelle shows every family how they can cultivate resilience in their children or adolescents by focussing on 7 key traits - courage, gratitude, empathy, self-awareness, responsibility, self-care and contribution. She answers questions like: How can I help my child be more confident? What do I say when my child is rejected by friends? How do I help a child who is struggling academically? What do I say when my child says, "I can't"? How do I help an anxious or shy child find their voice? What can I do to help them discover their potential?'
Every day resilience is a book for all parents, teachers, counsellors and older teenage readers (perhaps 16 plus). It tackles the harder issues and shows how to overcome them. It is a self help book that is recommended for those struggling times.
The author's website also has helpful hints about parenting, eg an article and video entitled, Bringing the Calm: How to Interrupt the Anxiety Loop, and the book is accompanied by The Everyday Resilience Journal and Video Series for Tweens.
Vincent Hermann


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Nov 15 2019

Liars: Lockdown by Jack Heath

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Liars book 4. Scholastic, 2019. ISBN: 9781742993423.
(Age: 10-15). Recommended. Jarli, creator of the Truth app, is one of the students trapped in a hospital by mercenaries taking hostages. 'All the phones are jammed. The building is locked down. No help is coming. The mercenaries work for Viper, a ruthless and deadly criminal. Jarli and his friends have outwitted Viper before. Can they do it again?' (Publisher)
This is a very intense YA novel, part of the recommended Liars series, highly engaging and up-to-date for young readers. The series of novels follows on well and is quite suitable for the youth of today.
Vincent Hermann


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Nov 14 2019

Home by Charles Hope

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Wild Dog Books, 2019. ISBN: 9781742034249.
(Age: 7+) Highly recommended. Themes: Information book, Animal homes and habitats. The ingenious dwellings of the animal kingdom are portrayed here through beautiful and insightful photography (as with Hope's very successful Close up series and the CBCA shortlisted The big book of Antarctica). The book first explains why homes are important for animals before giving brief information about animal habitats. It then separates animals into two categories: the builders and the squatters. The builders section shows and discusses webs, hives lodges, burrows, bird nests and non-bird nests (such as termite mounds and alligator nests). The squatters section deals with those who dwell in caves (entrance, twilight and dark zones), hollows, shells and exoskeletons. There is no great detail about any one animal but a focus on the types of homes and why and how they are built or chosen. There is a great diversity of animals mentioned, including many that children may be unfamiliar with or not know much about. There is then a double page each on animal homes in zoos, pet life and farm life (with each discussing the purpose and associated problems of these unnatural animal homes). There is also some information about baby animals' first homes (eggs, chrysalis, pouch, frogspawn, womb) and those who are carried by their parents as young. The book then succinctly answers the question of why not all animals need homes and explains migration and its purpose.
Overall, this is a fantastic text that explains why things are the way they are rather than just stating what happens. It provides fascinating information about this Australian Curriculum topic in an interesting and engaging way. It is very reader friendly with plain language, an unfussy layout that contains lots of white space and some full-page photographs that provide a break from the pages with longer text sections. The photographs are spectacular and provide a detailed and insightful look at many new and unusual animal homes. There is also a detailed glossary and index to assist readers in developing research skills.
Nicole Nelson


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Nov 14 2019

Full disclosure by Camryn Garrett

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Penguin, 2019. ISBN: 9780241367063.
(Age: 16+) Recommended. Themes: HIV, Sexuality, Gender, LGBQT+, Prejudice. Simone is the adopted daughter of a gay couple she calls Dad and Pops. The two men chose her, an HIV positive baby, as an act of caring after seeing friends die from AIDS. Simone's condition is managed with regular drug treatment, her viral load is almost undetectable which means she is not a risk to anyone. But whilst she is informed and responsible, she knows that the ignorance of people around her can mean humiliation and rejection if anyone finds out - that was the horrible experience at her last school. She is now starting at a new school, with new friends, and has been selected as director of the school play, but just when everything seems to be going well, anonymous messages threaten her happiness once again.
Camryn Garrett wrote this book when she was only seventeen years old, and it is a refreshingly candid account of teenage worries and fears: anxiety about the first date, first sex, gender confusion, sexual attraction, masturbation and even a first visit to a sex shop! The voice is open and honest, and the values are positive throughout. Her fathers are both caring involved parents, her friends are loyal and supportive, she has an encouraging teacher, and even the blackmailer is revealed to be a troubled person in need of help rather than punishment. The book advocates for speaking up, sharing worries and getting help. And ultimately Simone learns to overcome her fears and to trust in the people who care for her.
Dealing openly with topics people generally don't like to talk about, this story will reflect many teenage concerns, and also is very enlightening and informative on the subject of human immunodeficiency virus - readers will come away having enjoyed a heartwarming story and be a little more knowledgeable as well.
Helen Eddy


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Nov 14 2019

A banana is a banana by Justine Clarke and Josh Pyke

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Illus. by Heath McKenzie. Penguin, 2019. ISBN: 9781760891664.
(Age: 3-6) Themes: Names, Humourous stories. Based on the authors' song by the same name, A banana is a banana looks at the humour in some of the names given to things ('If an eggplant really grew eggs, chickens would be out of a job. If a catfish was really made of cats, then it might get chased by a dog . . . And a banana is a banana. That's what it's called. I don't know why'). This definitely sounds better when sung, but it reads rather well and unlike the song it allows time for discussion about what it means.
Kids will love 'getting the joke' ('It would be just like a bad dream, if they serve you up jellyfish and ice cream') but they may need some help understanding it. This will be enjoyed by those who are already familiar with the song but will also encourage those who don't know it to have a listen. As always, Heath McKenzie's illustrations are bright and fun and use mini-versions of the three creators.
This is a fun nonsense book that isn't complete nonsense, because it does make you think!
Nicole Nelson


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Nov 14 2019

A dog's promise by W. Bruce Cameron

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Pan Books, 2019. ISBN: 9781529010084.
A dog's promise reminds me of the literary tradition of family sagas, in which the personal travails of families are set in the context of societal upheavals. The story follows Burke, brother Grant, father Chase and Chase's mother. Other significant characters include Wenling and her Chinese father and American mother.
The book is third in the A dog's purpose series, but it does stand alone.
Its narrator is the dog Bailey, who becomes Cooper, then Riley, then Oscar. We meet Bailey when he is born as Cooper, visualising him becoming Burke's assist dog, whom we first meet as a child in a wheelchair. Together they confront prejudices about disability.
Burke's small farm family faces the environmental and economic impacts of agribusiness. Children strive to break away from parental expectations and brothers fight because they are jealous. Anger leads to lasting grudges. Illness and death feature, too.
Dialogue is crucial in expressing ideas. After one dispute between the brothers, Grandma tells Grant not to hurt Burke because, 'You shouldn't take your frustrations out on others.' Racial prejudice is flagged in the following exchange when we find out that Wenling's father is a janitor, not a leader in agribusiness:
'I guess I assumed he was an engineer', said Chase.
Why, because he's Asian? Wenling asked.
'Yeah . . . you got me. I'm sorry'. (p. 192)
Bruce Cameron writes fluently and preaches that we can choose the thoughts we carry through our lifetime(s). Happiness or anger. Forgiveness or resentment. He also comforts readers with the idea that what goes wrong can be righted by love.
Sometimes there is humour to relieve the tension of sober themes, for example, when Cooper hopes that his people will stop trying to get him excited about a nylon bone.
A dog's promise is long. I'd suggest it to Year 10s and 11s who like stories about families and about dogs. Some may read avidly about the love triangle between brothers. But I find myself wondering. What the dog knows and understands is not always congruous and though the thought that the animals we love may be reincarnated is appealing, I can't suspend my disbelief.
Chris Bourlioufas


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Nov 14 2019

Max Booth future sleuth: Film flip

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Illus. by Dave Atze. Max Booth future sleuth series. Big Sky, 2019. ISBN: 9781922265104.
Recommended for readers aged 7-11. Themes: Future, Photographic history. Max and his robo-dog, Oscar, find a 400 year-old film canister and try to discover its contents. Unfortunately their understanding of the photographic process is limited . . . the old Internet ceased to function in 2037 and it is now 2424! Unfortunately their exploration of this 'old historical item' causes others to be interested too, and they encounter some risky moments as they race to keep the film safe. This is a fun exploration of a piece of 'lost' history that children from the digital era will also be baffled by.
Cameron Macintosh has written a short, but appealing story set far into the future with a quirky mix of travel, technology, robotics and history as backdrops to the storyline. It is a fun and comedic adventure with some variations in pace and characterisation. Illustrated with engaging cartoons, this is a book for readers aged 7-11, and they will enjoy learning about other 'old' items discovered by Max Booth in the other books in the series.
Carolyn Hull


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Nov 13 2019

The crayons' Christmas by Drew Daywalt

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Illus. by Oliver Jeffers. HarperCollins, 2019. ISBN: 9780008180362.
(Age: 3+) Highly recommended. Themes: Crayons, Christmas, Humour, Pop up. This beautifully presented book, with flaps, letters, envelopes, lift ups and pop outs will intrigue and delight younger readers along with the older readers who helps them navigate the pages.
Eager fingers will love searching through the intricacies of the book's production. Buy two, even three! Kids will love it and shown how to use it carefully, the book will last just as long as any other popular book in the library or at home.
The humour of the The day the crayons quit (2013), followed by The day the crayons came home (2015) and Crayon's book of numbers (2016) is spread throughout this Christmas offering as the two, Red and Green crayon prepare for the celebrations with Duncan.
Letters arrive at their home, but the contents are not for Duncan, but various other crayons.
After being outdoors for a while in the snow they decide to get out the Christmas decorations and hang them up, pulling out the box of decorations that everyone has stored somewhere in their house.
Each routine of Christmas follows, putting up decorations, singing carols, making a Santa in the snow, making biscuits and a drink to leave for Santa, wrapping presents, receiving and sending cards and letters, emails and gifts, until the night before Christmas arrives and the Christmas play is over. All is in readiness. But Duncan receives a map of the world showing a world tour by his friends and hears that they won't be home for Christmas, so the crayons take the day in hand, presenting a Christmas to remember.
A wonderful play on the idea of Christmas, this book revolves around the routines of Christmas, the things done in western societies heralding the day and its customs. Children will follow the routines readily, recognising the ones done in their homes and seeing some of those replicated in the shops and streets of their towns. Children will love opening the envelopes and reading the messages, piecing together the story as it unfolds, and enjoy hanging the decorations, popping up the tree, taking out the clothing to put on the crayon.
Fran Knight


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Nov 13 2019

The lonely Christmas tree by Chris Naylor-Ballesteros

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Bloomsbury, 2019. ISBN: 9781408892923.
Recommended. The lonely Christmas tree is a small picture book, based loosely upon the classic Christmas poem 'Twas the night before Christmas. This book also follows a poetic rhyme, which allows the reader to fall into a nice rhythm quite quickly. Each page of text only has 4-6 short lines and a beautiful illustration on the opposing page.
The story follows a lonely little tree who found its self far away from all the others who had already been cut and decorated.
Suddenly a jolly fellow came and chose the tree for a prime position in the town, and when the bright star was placed on top all the tree's woodland friends returned.
Of course we all know who this jolly fellow is, and although not named in the book it is easy to tell, which brings a special element to the book for those who believe.
I really liked this book, and think it would make a great addition to the Christmas Eve festivities.
The illustrations are simple, yet extremely effective in showcasing a winter theme. Each page has dark tones, movement within the snow, and just the right amount of brightness to light up the town on Christmas Eve.
My favourite page is the last one, where the scene is of St Nicholas (readers might have to explain this name to young listeners), who is lit up by the silver moon, the town is below and most importantly the once lonely tree is taking pride of place looking out over the town and snowy mountains. The silver additions add that extra element that brings some extra Christmas feeling to the page.
Loved this one, the short rhyming story and the beautiful illustrations. 4 out of 5.
Lauren Fountain


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Nov 13 2019

We're going on an elf chase by Martha Mumford

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Illus. by Laura Hughes. Bloomsbury, 2019. ISBN: 9781526606303.
Recommended. We're going on an elf chase is a cute little board book that encompasses a 'life the flap' on most pages.
It is the perfect size to read on the couch/bed with your little ones but also great to pop into your bag for a day out (it has a nice and sturdy cover so I think it will hold up well with lots of use). The story follows 4 lovely little rabbits who are going on an elf chase through the snow, where they come across winter animals like penguins, birds, polar bears and even some festive reindeer!
As the reader lifts the flaps and find the elves, they can identify the number they are up to (under each flap the numbers are written- a great numeracy link!), and practice counting to 10.
The story also following a repetitive style with every second page being the same text, allowing the reader to learn and join in with the 'reading' of the book. My newly 5-year-old is just starting to be interested in actual reading and this helped her begin to identify words as she could predict what they were based on the repetition of the book. I also liked how the author used some sounds and noises associated with the animals they were creeping around. This added interest and definitely increased engagement in the story. We pretended to be reindeer who went cloppy, cloppy, clip and birds who went chirpy, chirpy, cheep!
I really liked this book, as although it is a fairly simple story, I was able to stretch that into the worlds of numeracy, literacy and even some drama. Both my daughter and I enjoyed the illustrations too, they are whimsical and free flowing and you can almost see the freezing wind blowing across the landscape behind the rabbits!
I give We're going on an elf chase by Martha Mumford 4 out 5, a great Christmas book for children aged up to 6 years.
Lauren Fountain


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Nov 13 2019

The first Christmas illus. by Jess Racklyeft

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Penguin, 2019. ISBN: 9780143796909.
The First Christmas is a beautifully illustrated book, that tells a children's version of the story of the Nativity.
The story is told in a simple way that will allow children of many ages to understand and engage with the text. It provided the reader and listener with the key points, however does not make it out to be a religious story, allowing families of all faiths and beliefs to read and enjoy this story.
Jess Racklyeft has done the most beautiful job of illustrating this book, using water colour and acrylic to provide texture and shade to her images.
The characters have nice expressions and the animals are very cute too! The bright new star to signify the birth radiates on many pages, with Jess Racklyeft giving it a prominent place when necessary.
This is a story that I hadn't really told my children for a long time, and both of them were interested and engaged with this book. They loved the illustrations and asked lots of questions throughout the story. Miss 5 particularly loved the animals that are throughout the pages, naming each one she saw and then counted them on the second read. Master 9 remembered hearing the story of the Nativity when he was younger - he said that this story filled in the gaps from what he had forgotten. Overall this book is illustrated well, the story is nicely written and was easy to understand. This would be a good book to add to any collection of Christmas themed stories.
Lauren Fountain


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Nov 13 2019

Peppa's Christmas jumper day

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Penguin, 2019. ISBN: 9780241371589.
Most parents of young children know the phenomenon that is Peppa Pig, and probably can't help but sing the tune when it comes on the TV! On top of the show, kids also have the ability to read about Peppa and her friends!
This story is called Peppa's Christmas Jumper Day, and follows the story of Peppa and her brother George who need Christmas Jumpers for a special day at playgroup, but unfortunately theirs are too small. It all ends with Daddy Pig coming to the rescue . . . turning a normal jumper into a Christmas one with lots of baubles and glitter.
Peppa Pig books follow the same predictable lines as the TV show, and whilst reading it is easy to hear the characters' voices (if you have had the privilege of hearing the shows over and over again!) in your head. This will be comforting to young children who will feel familiar with not only Peppa, her family and friends but also the text.
The illustrations are exactly as they are seen on TV, bright colourful and relatively simple.
I must admit that Peppa Pig was not one of my favourite TV or book characters, however my daughter loved the show which meant that it was a regular during quiet time at our house.
For children who love the Peppa Pig franchise, this Christmas edition will be a fitting addition to their bookshelf. 3 out of 5 stars.
Lauren Fountain


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Nov 12 2019

The Underhills: a tooth fairy story by Bob Graham

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Walker Books, 2019. ISBN: 9781536211122.
(Age: 3+) Highly recommended. Themes: Teeth, Tooth fairies, Fairies, Cupid, Angels, Airports, Immigration, Grandparents. With the Underhill parents called to a job, the girls and their baby brother go to their grandparents' house, a teapot by the airport, to stay. Here a splendid time awaits: fairy cakes, pancakes for breakfast, feather beds and chocolate. And the girls bring a jar of tadpoles for Grandma. But an urgent call comes in: a tooth is arriving from Ghana, and they are close to the airport. Grandpa is left reading his poetry book in the garden with baby Vincent tied to him lest his wings take him up like a balloon.
Grandma, Esme and April (seen first in April Underhill: tooth fairy, 2010) fly to the terminal, there to wait for the plane. Cupids and angels are there too, waiting to ply their skills: cupids to help loving people greet each other, and the angels to comfort those who are alone and sad, enfolding them with their wings and helping to push their trolleys.
An announcement alerts the family to the plane's arrival and the girls watch out for the Ghanan family and the young girl whose tooth has fallen out. Grandma reminds the girls about where to find the tooth and the girls fly to the young girl and climb into her pocket. They retrieve the tooth, leaving a small coin behind, whispering in Akuba's ear that she will not remember the event.
Grandma was worried about the girls doing their first extraction but had confidence in them.
That night the girls sleep in the feather bed, the tooth safely beside them, while Akuba sleeps on the other side of town with her small coin, unsure of how it got there.
This charming story full of hope and love, shows the Underhill family plying their trade. The girls are supported by their gran on their first job at the airport, searching for the Ghanan family as they come into England. They are successful and the Ghanan family is at peace in their new home.
Graham's playful illustrations reveal the lure of staying with grandparents, while the children take on a role usually done by the parents. But his delightful micro world always pays homage to what is happening around us. The endpapers have huge planes landing over the tea pot house, wire fences and bright lights surrounding the airfield, the outline of the plane overshadowing the nearby suburbs, Gran has a mobile phone. In the airport, a soldier returns from duty, older people come in alone, people arrive from other countries, some heads covered by a hijab, but all hopeful and full of anticipation. While outside the now quiet airport, some tadpoles turn into frogs and slip away into the night.
Graham's work always leaves readers with a warm glow: recognition of a familiar scene, reworked to reveal a different perspective. Children will look again at the images presented here, not only the loving family, but the background figures, those coming into the airport for a variety of reasons, but all finding a safe haven.
Fran Knight


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Nov 12 2019

Have you seen Mr Robinson? by Arwen Huang

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Starfish Bay Children's Books, 2019. ISBN: 9781760360818.
(Age: 4+) Themes: Loss, Shyness, Isolation, Friendship. Anna makes friends easily with the characters in her beloved books. The pages are illustrated with the many characters that she likes: a unicorn, Red Riding Hood and William Shakespeare to name a few. Her love of books sees her going to the library with her grandfather to get even more books and he suggests she might to go outside to play. She watches the other children at play but cannot join them. Looking into the pond a small boy appears asking if she has seen his cat, Mr Robinson. He describes the animal to her and together they go off looking for the cat. They hunt high and low in the streets, even asking a police officer who suggests that they need to get a higher view over the town. They climb the tower and using binoculars, spy the cat high in a tree.
The boy climbs the tree to retrieve his cat and together they wander off to look for the next adventure together.
A sweet tale of two children finding friends, this book will be loved by many children who pick it up. The clear illustrations will delight the readers as they spot the characters Anna so loves, at the same time noting the activities undertaken by the children in the park.
A charming tale, well told.
Born in Taiwan, author illustrator Arwen Huang studied at Taipei National University of Arts before studying for a masters in the UK.
Fran Knight


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Nov 12 2019

The wishing bones by Michelle Lovric

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Orion Children's Books, 2019. ISBN: 9781444009972.
(Ages 14+) Recommended. A magical and mysterious adventure novel that follows a young orphan named Lily who has been raised in a cruel and lonesome convent at the inhumane hands of the badessa. Upon accidentally setting the convent aflame, Lily is sent to work in the Hotel of What You Want. Here she meets Ivo Peruch, the hotel's mysterious Boy-of-All-Trades who is cold and tight-lipped and makes her an accomplice in a dark act before she realises what she is partaking in. As the dark secrets of the hotel come to her attention, Lily's desperation to leave is only exacerbated with the arrival of a new guest, Deidre 'Darling' Dearworthy, who has a direct connection to the dark act still haunting Lily. As Darling quickly becomes Lily's first and best friend, she will do anything to keep her from suffering a deadly fate at the hands of the Signorina, the manager of the hotel. After the bones of Saint Lucy are stolen, Lily, Ivo and Darling band together to save Venice; facing countless dangers and adventures and meeting some magical allies along the way.
Lovric creates a vivid and historically detailed Venice with rich characters that provide a powerful message to the reader that you are not your past and that you can still be a good person if you've done things you regret. A powerful ode to resilience and the importance of the family that you make for yourself. It should be noted that this book is very grim and dark at times, with warnings for substantial themes of death, grief, loss, murder, supernatural themes and graphic discussion of dismemberment. Recommended for children aged 14+ for these reasons.
Daniella Chiarolli


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Nov 12 2019

Footprints in the clouds by Zhiwei Xing

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Starfish Bay Children's Books, 2019. ISBN 9781760360559.
(Age: 4+) Themes: Fantasy, Imagination, Adventure. Tom is an adventurous young boy, donning his red socks which take him to places he wants to go. His magical socks allow him to climb onto rooftops and high mountains, swim in the deep rivers, play hide and seek in the clouds. But one day an animal tells him that his socks are not on his feet. Bereft, Tom then retraces his steps, swimming the deep rivers, climbing the high mountains, sitting on rooftops and talking to the animals, asking the same question, 'Have you see my magical red socks?'
But one animal takes him to see Zebra, the clever animal who points out that Tom has no need of his red socks as he has done all the work himself.
This is a witty look at imagination and how it comes from inside, reinforcing the idea that everyone has an imagination to be nourished and used.
Starfish Bay Children's Books is an independent publishing house located in Adelaide, South Australia. It aims to publish quality picture books for children primarily aged 3 to 8, from international and national sources, with first-rate literary and artistic content. Established in 2014, by Luke Hau, this philosophy continues as his company breaks into the USA market.
While some of the publications offer an imaginative exploration of the world, some of the Starfish Bay books need to be looked at more closely to see what the book offers your school.
With Footsteps in the clouds, although I liked the idea of the book, the layout left the boy half hidden in the fold in the centre of the book several times, and I found the busy-ness of the pages somewhat overwhelming.
Fran Knight


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Nov 12 2019

The surprising power of a good dumpling by Wai Chim

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Allen and Unwin, 2019. ISBN: 9781760631581. 400p; p/b.
Anna Chiu tries to support her younger siblings as her parents fail the family. For a story as personal as this, the writing of the characters is absolutely crucial, and Chim gets it spot on. It's immediately clear what kind of person each character is, largely without relying on shallow archetypes. The plot is one of personal dramas, about how characters react in different situations in their lives. The pacing is somewhat uneven, with quite an extended period of setting things up before the major incident that changes the characters' lives, followed by the consequences feeling rather rushed and abridged.
The novel has a bit of a complicated relationship with its themes. Initially, Anna is dealing with her erratic, neglectful and abusive mother, and her passive acceptance and normalisation of that puts her younger siblings and her own mental health at risk. The novel seems to be building up to the point that she can't accept it and needs to change the situation, when suddenly her mother has a psychotic episode and the focus shifts entirely on the mother's mental health. Now the message has suddenly changed to one of duty, saying that, yes, Anna does need to look after her poor mother, and any condemnation of the abuse is forgotten. This mixed messaging is extremely strange and undermines both points presented.
The setting is well established in modern day Sydney, with characters communicating by online messaging apps regularly. The novel is full of Romanised Cantonese, which as an English-speaking reader, increases the sense of being an outsider, causing sympathy with Anna as she feels further alienated from her family. Teacher's tips and author's discussion notes are available from the publisher's website.
Vincent Hermann


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Nov 11 2019

The good, the bad and the silly : Stories of our past by John Dickson

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Illus. by Bern Emmerichs. Berbay Publishing, 2019. ISBN: 9780648397373.
(Age: 5+) Recommended. Themes: History, Australian history, Humour. Especially for those kids who love tidbits of information, facts and unusual stories, this volume of tales of people and events of Australia's colonial past, half hidden by more mundane historical accounts of early settlement, will intrigue and entertain as they delve into the more shadowy aspects of our past.
Kids will thrill with the story of the amazing Mary Wade, the youngest convict sent to Norfolk Island, who had two babies while residing there. Returning to New South Wales in 1806, she proceeded to have sixteen more, making her truly the 'mother of Australia'. And the accompanying very funny illustration shows her descendants - all of them. And they will love the tale of the hulks, not only jails in England, housing convicts on the River Thames but also moored off the coast of Victoria and South Australia to house inmates, first of a jail in Melbourne, and of a reform school in Adelaide, the illustrations allowing no doubt about the quality of the accommodation in both cases.
Quirky stories are given to entice the readers: 1932 saw the government of Western Australia declare war upon the bands of emu destroying crops to no avail, while in 1840, explorer John Horrocks atop his camel after expeditions into the north of South Australia, was shot by his own gun when the animal lurched. And in 1860, another explorer, equally ill fated, set off from Melbourne with so much luggage that it took hours to get the pack horses moving. The story of Robert O'Hara Burke is as funny as it is cautionary, and will intrigue younger readers.
The tale of early sightings of the platypus, a brief look at child labour in Britain at the time, the story the convict belief that China was a short walk north of the convict settlement, or the tale of the early Chinese immigrants to Australia, seeking their fortunes in the gold fields in the 1850's, each is fascinating and supported with illuminating illustrations designed to entice and entertain. I loved rereading stories read long ago, but also new stories added to interest me gave me new slant on the history of the past and especially the way it is presented.
This is another in a series of books using the same format, telling of our past: books about Bennelong, Lachlan Macquarie and William Bligh were followed by M is for Mutiny in 2018.
Fran Knight


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Nov 11 2019

The days of in between by Peter Valentine Fenton

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Omnibus, 2019. ISBN: 9781760662523.
(Age: 10-13) Recommended. Toby decides to leave the family home, his Mum, brother and sister to live with his father and new stepmother Judy. He does this out of a strong feeling of loyalty to his Dad but is sad to leave his family behind. He is to have a holiday with his Dad and Judy in the family caravan in that gap summer in between leaving primary school and starting high school. Although he has looked forward to time at the beach with his Dad, nothing goes right from the moment they arrive at the caravan site. Judy and his Dad argue and leave, so Toby is left alone to find something to eat and to fend for himself.
He meets Tara who lives nearby and a new friendship develops.
Tara has issues with her own family, having lost her mother in an accident and she has to deal with her overprotective father.
Tara's father is a shark fisherman and a pivotal part of the novel is the incident on the wharf with a newly captured shark, which starts a series of events that have repercussions for everyone involved.
This novel is set in the late 1970's and for all of us who remember that time, Peter Fenton has captured many aspects of the era. The 'slip and slides', plastic strip curtaining and the latest game Space Invaders are all reminders of the time.
This is Peter Fenton's first novel and is an insightful look into growing up, family relationships and dealing with past 'ghosts'. Toby's Dad carries a huge burden from his time in the Vietnam War and Tara's Dad has to deal with the death of his wife.
Peter Fenton is best known for his past as a member of the band Crow and as an actor.
The cover painting of Toby and Tara looking out towards the sea is instantly recognisable as David Bromley's work.
I recommend this novel to 10 to 13-year-old readers.
Jane Moore


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Nov 11 2019

All of us: A History of Southeast Asia by Jackie French and Virginia Hooker

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Illus. by Mark Wilson. Angus and Robertson, 2019. ISBN: 9781460750025.
Recommended for Library collections. Themes: Southeast Asian History; Poetry. Combining historical timelines, poetry and interesting illustrations, this is an overview of the changes in Southeast Asia from 200,000BCE to the present. With geo-political changes, human exploration and movements, conflicts and some geological and environmental events described with one sentence explanations in the timeline, this is a very brief overview of the significant changes in the region. The poetry creates a lyrical response to the changes, and the illustrations include an evocative conglomeration of images relevant to the particular era of history.
This is a book that is a worthy inclusion in a library collection for the summary detail of the history of Southeast Asia. The scholarship of Emeritus Professor Virginia Hooker is evident. This book is unlikely to be read from cover to cover and were it not for the names of Jackie French and Mark Wilson it may not have made as much of a splash, however the information is valuable to those who are interested in the history of our near neighbours.
Carolyn Hull


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Nov 11 2019

Cursed by Thomas Wheeler

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Illus. by Frank Miller. Penguin, 2019. ISBN: 9780241376614.
(Age: 14+) As daughter of her village's chief Druid, 16 year old Nimue would always be different from the other villagers but her strangely scarred back and ability to powerfully experience hidden forces further sets her apart. Dewdenn is a 'fey' village, in touch with nature spirits and as such a target for the Red Paladins, terrorising the countryside seeking out heresy on behalf of the church, crucifying the fey folk accusing them of witchcraft. Tired of being unwanted in her village Nimue decides to leave on a ship from the nearest town but when she gets there the boat has left. Returning, Nimue finds her village destroyed by the Red Paladins and her dying mother charges her to take a sacred object to Merlin. The object is the legendary 'Sword of Power' and Nimue finds she can channel the power of the 'hidden' through the sword. Merlin is at the court of Uther Pendragon, on her way there Nimue meets and falls in love with Arthur, a mercenary son of a knight. The sword's legend says that 'whosoever wields the Sword of Power shall be the one true king' so it becomes the focus for competing powers vying for possession. As violence escalates, Nimue's world descends into chaos as the fey villages are destroyed at an ever increasing rate. She responds violently channelling the sword's destructive power against her enemies, becoming a rallying point for the fey refugees. The struggle for the sword of power becomes tied up with the annihilation of the fey villages by the Church, with the involvement of Uther, leading to confusing and ultra-violent battles, no doubt linked to the fact that the book is basically a screenplay for a Netflix series. Other than familiar names and a magical sword the story owes little to the Arthurian legends. The characters are poorly developed, sometimes with the feeling that they are placeholders for more detail in later instalments. Little effort is spent on establishing a consistent sense of time or place, this will probably be better realised in the Netflix version. The illustrations have a sense of energy, in powerful compositions with strong lines. While the wrapped and laced costumes are great, inconsistencies in outfits make it hard sometimes to identify the character. Where there is a double page spread, the focal point often disappears into the book's gutter. Middle school fans of Game of Thrones and violent fantasies might like this but be aware that the violence is quite graphic. (It has been picked up to be a Netflix original series).
Themes: Fantasy, medieval times, Arthurian Legends, magic.
Sue Speck


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Nov 11 2019

The Lost Tide Warriors by Catherine Doyle

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Bloomsbury, 2019. ISBN: 9781408896907.
Recommended for lovers of fantasy, aged 10+. Fionn is the anointed 'Stormkeeper', but it seems that his magic is not like other Stormkeepers and his island is depending on him to protect them from the return of the awful Morrigan and her supporters, the Soulstalkers. The uncertainty and self-doubt that surrounds Fionn, under the pressure of a deadline, places pressure on the young man . . . but he must carry on, the island of Arronmore needs him. His Grandfather, the previous Stormkeeper, is losing his hold on his own magic and his memory, and Fionn must rely on his close friends and mother and sister to create a plan to turn back the tide of evil that is encroaching. With a long history of magical events and intra-island rivalry there is drama at every turn and the approaching 'storm' of conflict needs the outside help of the merrows - ocean-based fantasy creatures. But how will they get word to these creatures in time?
This is the sequel to The Stormkeeper's Island and although it could be read as a stand-alone book, it is best read in sequence so the understanding of the magic, the time shifts and the candles that store memories would be clear. The book is a delight as the internal self-doubt of the young Fionn drives the tension as the islanders face the threat of annihilation at the hands of the advancing evil 'army'. This series deserves to be recommended to young readers who love fantasy adventure. In no way is it like Harry Potter, but the reticent central hero is akin to Harry in being intensely likeable and supported by loyal friends. The magic is different, but the atmospheric adventure is worth following. Catherine Boyle also manages to capture the atmosphere of the small Irish island with its storms, fogs and swells. It almost takes on a personality of its own.
And there is another book in the series to come!
Themes: Magic; Fantasy; Adventure; Good vs Evil.
Carolyn Hull


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Nov 11 2019

Hasina by Michelle Aung Thin

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Through My Eyes series. Allen and Unwin, 2019. ISBN: 9781760637286. pbk., 215pgs.
(Age: Upper pimary) Oh wow, what a gripping a story of one child's experience of persecution in Myanmar (Burma). Hasina is the latest book out in the Through My Eyes series. Each book in the series is written by a different author writing to help us understand about the courage and plight of forced migration and refugee situations seen through the eyes of a child.
As a teacher who works with children from Myanmar, I was hooked from the start and could not put the book Hasina down. My eyes were opened to the innocence of children living in Myanmar and how their families and world was torn apart. My heart goes out to everyone over there and other places around the world. Hasina is one book that I would share with my students. You can also find teachers notes on the Through My Eyes books' website.
Hasina was a happy teenager when overnight everything changed. Her father and aunt yell to her to get up and run and not to stop. Hasina, her little brother Araf and her cousin Ghadiya run into the Rakine forest. When they emerge from the forest their world has changed. With no food, no family, their fight for survival starts. Their lives are under constant threat from the natural elements, people they know and meet and of cause the soldiers.
I did like how the author described how Hasina's numal, her head scarf did not make her feel dignified or modest anymore and it felt like it was making her a target that drew attention to her for being Muslim. This is also something that happens in Australia.
Hasina is another story in the Through My Eyes series for upper primary. It shows, once again, that although we may live in different parts of the world and face different struggles some things remain the same. Family, survival and belief in peace are strong themes in this book. The main characters are believable and their various responses to their situation authentically written.
A great addition to a bookshelf that includes stories about children from around the world that tell stories of young people living in conflict zones around the world.
Maria Komninos


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Nov 08 2019

Wearing paper dresses by Anne Brinsden

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Macmillan, 2019. ISBN: 9781760784850.
(Age: Adult - Adolescent) Highly recommended. This stunning work, a story of love and terrible loss, and of the struggle to survive, tells the story of a family who live in on a farm in the Mallee in the 1950s. The narrative is set in this dry, hard country of northern Victoria, an area that is so often starved for rain, where people, Brinsden writes, found survival 'precarious'. When his wife dies, Pa asks his son and family to move back to the family farm. While this region of Australia experiences frequent droughts, and the earth is difficult to farm, Bill is determined to help his father. It is clear from the start of the story that his wife, Elise, is not at ease, and her mental state fluctuates wildly, yet she loves her family and tries to understand the culture of the countryside. She is angry with the girls, Marjorie and Ruby, whom she sees as becoming rough and unladylike. Yet we are positioned to see that her struggle to fit in, to understand the alien culture, is clearly weakening her mind.
Told from the point of view of Marjorie, one of the daughters, the narrative creates a world of growing stress, as the family struggle with the climate, the terrible lack of water, and the tempestuous nature of the mother's illness. Yet creating and wearing paper dresses (albeit extraordinarily beautiful ones), even planting plastic flowers and fake greenery so that at least there is some colour in the garden, only places her in the 'odd' basket where the locals are concerned.
We cannot help but be completely drawn into the tragic world of this family and its heart-rending times, the disasters and the recovery. When Brinsden writes of the wind, the 'willy-willy feeding on itself', lurching and swaying in the dust and the heat, crazy and wild and ruinous and beautiful', her words so reflect so aptly both the weather and Elise. Her word choice elicits our empathy and indeed a sense of deep sadness for this family and the world of the text. She stirs the soul, lifts the emotions and the spirit, yet enables us to empathise, to feel a deep sense of the heartbreak of the place and people, and of the triumph of surviving.
Utterly captivating, lyrical and tender, this is storytelling at its best, and this book is an exciting new narrative that depicts Australia and its changing culture. Suitable for adolescent and adult reading.
Elizabeth Bondar


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Nov 08 2019

Alice-Miranda friends forever movie tie in books by Jacqueline Harvey

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Penguin, 2019.
Alice-Miranda friends forever official movie script. ISBN: 9781760896867.
Alice-Miranda friends forever : The most positively perfect journal! ISBN: 9781760896874.
Alice-Miranda friends forever activity book. ISBN: 9781760896881.
Alice-Miranda 3 in 1. ISBN: 9781760894962.
(Age: 7-10) Highly recommended. Fans of the highly popular Alice-Miranda series will be thrilled to hear that Alice-Miranda is coming to the big screen as 'an 80-minute animated movie with a treasure trove of marvellous mysteries, midnight feasts, ponies and pyjama parties'. Penguin Books has released a group of fabulous books to coincide with the movie's release. Alice-Miranda friends forever official movie script will be a boon for children as they get the opportunity to actually read a real movie script with their favourite characters. The book also contains colour pictures of the characters, Alice-Miranda and Millie's bedroom, horse-riding, The Winchesterfield-Downsfordvale grounds and inside Fayle School for Boys.
The Alice-Miranda friends forever activity book will provide hours of fun with quizzes, colouring, drawing faces and word searches, while the Alice-Miranda friends forever : The most positively perfect journal! is a beautifully bound, hard-back journal, with illustrations of the friends on each page just waiting for eager young authors to write their thoughts, poems, stories and draw their own illustrations.
Alice-Miranda 3 in 1 combines three of the favourite books, Alice-Miranda at school,  Alice-Miranda on Holiday  and Alice-Miranda Takes the Lead.  All three books have been recommended by ReadPlus reviewers in the past. As one reviewer writes, 'As much as this little girl is too good to be true, she is an utterly loveable character, able to endear herself to all with whom she comes in contact. She proves to be totally unselfish, thoughtful and equally as engaging a character as was Pollyanna in my childhood reading.'
This group of books will be a wonderful gift to young children, while the movie script and Alice-Miranda 3 in 1 should prove to be very popular in libraries. And the movie is sure to delight kids as well.
Pat Pledger


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Nov 08 2019

The iron man by Ted Hughes

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Illus. by Chris Mould. Faber and Faber, 2019 (c1968) ISBN: 9780571348862.
(age: 6+) Highly recommended. Themes: Cautionary tale, Modern fable, STEM, Recycling. This outstanding new publication of The Iron Man will thrill new readers as well as ones who already know the tale, reminding them of not judging a book by its cover, as they hear the tale of an outsider at first derided by the village but then proving his worth beyond comprehension.
In this beautiful edition, Faber presents a book aching to be picked up and held, its tactile cover enticing all readers to open the first page.
In the first of five chapters, the Iron Man finds himself in the sea, bits of him spread over the sea floor. He puts himself together again, piece by piece and walks to the village, eating the barbed wire fences along the way, scaring the residents. They build a pit to trap him and when he falls in, cover him with soil, making a small hill. But a family sitting to have a picnic finds their family outing disrupted as the Iron Man rises from below, forcing them to flee. He has returned. The village calls out the army to rid themselves of the monster, but Hogarth has a different idea, and chapter three ends with the monster happily residing at the scrap metal dump in the village.
But an alien in the form of a space-bat-angel-dragon drops onto Australia, covering the whole continent. Here it demands food and military from over the world try to deal with it, without success.
Prompted by Hogarth, the Iron Man has an idea and chapter five brings the whole to a satisfying conclusion, promoting world peace, demilitarisation and harmony through music.
Ted Hughes' classic tale, first released in 1968 and rarely out of print, is presented here with stunning new illustrations. Mould invests the Iron Man with human characteristics, his mouth and eyes revealing a host of emotions all children will recognise and love. I love the intricacies of the Iron Man's body with its cogs and wheels, nuts and bolts, derricks and winches, steel plate of all shapes and sizes. Readers will love zeroing in on the make up of the Iron Man marvelling its duplication on the end papers.
Cautionary in warning readers not to judge people by their appearance, the story resonates with humour as it is the child in the village who shows his elders the usefulness of their visitor.
And our audience will thrill at the alien landing in Australia, its body covering our whole island.
Readers will love the way the story is resolved, the Iron Man pitting himself against the alien, taken apart and reassembled bit by bit on the northern beaches of Australia, bringing the world together with a peaceful conclusion, a modern fable about working together to promote enduring peace.
Fran Knight


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Nov 08 2019

On a wing and a prayer: The race that stopped the world by Di Websdale-Morrissey

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Text, 2019. ISBN: 9781925773989. pbk., 320 pages.
(Age: 12+) A must read for anyone interested in aviation history. Di Websdale-Morrissey's extensive research on the great London to Melbourne race has truly made On a Wing and A Prayer a true factual page turning adventure that I had to keep reading. I had to know what was going to happen next.
On A Wing and A Prayer is the story of the 1934 air race from London to Melbourne which was conceived by Melbourne's Lord Mayor to celebrate the centenary of the city and also to put Melbourne on the map of the world, which it did very well. The race had all types of media focused on the race.
We read the highs and lows of flying, and all about the men and women who completed in the race, while also hearing about those who helped along the way on the ground as well. The townsfolk in Albury must get a big mention, what they did towards the end of the race was truly amazing.
Not only did the race encounter storms, lightning, mountains, submarines, lions, dodgy fuel, monkeys there was jail time for some competitors. We also learnt about the origins of the black box flight recorder and the unfairness of women pilots and downfall of Ansett Airlines.
On A Wing and A Prayer is a great aviation history book that any plane buff would love to read.
Maria Komninos


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Nov 08 2019

My parents cancelled my birthday by Jo Simmons

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Illus. by Nathan Reed. Bloomsbury, 2019. ISBN: 9781526606587.
(Age: 9 - 12) Recommended.  Themes: Birthdays; Family; Humorous stories. Tom is looking forward to his birthday but several dilemmas, including the pet pig falling off the roof and squashing his Grandmother's chihuahua, leads to the decision to cancel his 'special' birthday acknowledgement. Tom's father is unsuccessfully attempting to finish his book, his mother is stressed and working too hard, his Grandmother decides to hold a seance to 'speak' to the now dead pet and his sister's missing tooth and the curse of the tooth fairy all work against Tom and his attempts to restore the birthday celebration. Fortunately, he finds that friends can help him, and even chickens listen to him to enable him to plan his own festivity to acknowledge his birthday.
Jo Simmons has written a silly litany of disasters that young readers will find amusing. At every turn everything goes wrong, and there are some impossible moments that are extremely eccentric. Young readers will be entertained, and the suspension of disbelief required to accept some of the quirks in the plot will not cause them distress.
Carolyn Hull


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Nov 08 2019

The Mitford scandal by Jessica Fellowes

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Sphere, London, 2019. ISBN: 9780751573930.
(Age: Secondary) Themes: Set in the late 1920s and early 1930s London, this historically correct mystery is narrated from Louisa's (lady's maid to Diana Mitford) perspective.
The book denotes the author's deep knowledge of the historical figures and events of the period (she has written for the Downton Abbey TV series).
The actual mystery is woven around the life and events of aristocratic Diana Mitford's life as a young married mother and society woman.
The mystery incorporates drugs, homosexuality, poisoning and a surprise ending with religious mania. I found the pace slow until the last chapter since the life of the Mitfords and friends is prominent with a love interest for Louisa also woven into the story.
While I enjoyed reading the book, readers who do not have much knowledge of (or interest in) the Mitfords may not find the book as interesting.
The book has a Historical Note and Bibliography sections at the end.
The Mitford scandal is the third of the Mitford Murder series by Jessica Fellowes but can be read as a stand alone mystery.
Ann Griffin


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Nov 07 2019

Boy giant by Michael Morpurgo

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Illus. by Michael Foreman. HarperCollins, 2019. ISBN: 9780008347925
(Age 10+). Highly recommended. Themes: Refugees, Gulliver's travels, Hope, Afghanistan. When Omar and his mother flee for their lives after their village has been bombed and Omar's father killed, they tramp over vast regions until they get to the sea, suffering privation, hunger and thirst. Here Omar's mother makes a heartbreaking sacrifice pushing her son onto the boat while she stays behind, promising that they will meet again in England, reminding him of the address he must repeat to himself. This address becomes a mantra to Omar, as he sits alone in the bottom of the boat, watching others as they are washed overboard, waiting for the rising water to claim him.
But he wakes on an island, surrounded by little people dressed in costumes from two hundred years before. With the few English words he knows from playing cricket, he makes connections with the Lilliputians, who call him Son of Gulliver, when they recall the stories of the giant who visited their shores generations before.
Omar learns English, helping the people with their problem with the next door island, just as his predecessor did, eventually building a boat to leave.
Packed into its 280 pages, Morpurgo gives readers a modern look at the classic Gulliver's travels. Enough of the story is told within Omar's story for readers to gain a solid grasp of the tale. Morpurgo's telling, a story within a story within a story weaves together the tale of Omar and his mother fleeing from war, the classic Gulliver's travels, Omar working with the Lilliputians to stop the war with their neighbouring island, and then leaving Lilliput.
Omar is found by a passing rower and in telling her his story while the two little people he has with him tell theirs, we have a multi-layered feast. With Foreman's wonderful illustrations and different fonts used to indicate each story teller, the book will have wide appeal. An adventure with a strong anti-war theme, the plight of all refugees is told through the tale of Omar and his mother, two people caught in a circle of violence outside their own making, as news breaks of a truck containing 39 dead refugees has been discovered in England (October 2019). Morpurgo's book resonates with meaning as the plight of refugees the world over makes front page news. The generation reading this book will gain some understanding and sympathy with those seeking refuge.
Fran Knight


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Nov 07 2019

The tiny star by Mem Fox

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Illus. by Freya Blackwood. Puffin, 2019. ISBN: 9780670078127.
(Age: 6-13 years). Highly Recommended. Themes: Family, Death, Grieving, Cycle of life, Community. The tiny star written by celebrated Adelaide author Mem Fox is a unique and touching story that describes the cycle of life in a beautifully illustrated picture book. The analogy of the star falling to earth and over the course of the story moving through life stages until its passing, provides a gentle and heart-warming look at life and death. Many families explain the passing of loved ones to children by telling them that they are always with us as a star above in the heavens.
At each stage of life, family is always present and the love and joy shines through. The clever muted tones of the illustrations by renowned Australian illustrator Freya Blackwood add to the flickering memories of the story as the cycle of life progresses. The use of the star end papers image throughout the story as a baby wrap, a cape, a shawl, a scarf and a blanket connects the journey from beginning to end. The subdued yet detailed illustrations on each page entice you to explore them again and again as you are drawn to reread the text.
Mem Fox and Freya Blackwood have sensitively shared the story of the passing of time and the memories created through simple text and illustrations that will capture the interest of readers time and time again.
Kathryn Beilby


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Nov 07 2019

Five dark fates by Kendare Blake

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Macmillan Children's Press 2019. ISBN: 9781509899135.
(Age: YA) Recommended. Five dark fates is the long-awaited conclusion to the Three dark crowns series. Following the triplet queens Mirabella, Katherine, and Arsinoe, and the revolution of the Legion Queen, Jules - a war gifted naturalist - the girls must face off in an epic battle against supernatural forces and each other for the crown and island.
With Jules's legion curse out of control Arsinoe has no choice but to bind and drug her friend while hoping to find a cure. Meanwhile in the capital Katherine is at a loss. With Pieter unconscious she has no one but Genevieve to advise her - a poisoner she has never had any love for. The dead queens are growing restless inside of her, they want more freedom. With the Mist rising Katherine must find a way to counter it. She sends for Mirabella, her sister and the most powerful elemental the island has. At Katherine's request Mirabella travels to the capital to join her little sister, her mind filled with the girl she once was rather than the terror who is now the queen crowned. But Mirabella isn't there just to banish the mist, she wants to know what Madrigal Malone meant when she said Katherine was filled with the dead. With conflict at every side, the sisters must decide what is right not only for the people of Fennbirn but for the island itself. Is it time to do away with the tradition of the triplet queens?
Dealing with familial conflict, the struggle for the greater good, and the ultimate importance of friendship, I would recommend Five dark fates for fans of the series, and the series to those interested in YA fantasy.
Kayla Gaskell


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Nov 07 2019

Under the stars: astrophysics for bedtime by Lisa Harvey-Smith

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Illus. by Mel Mathews. Melbourne University Press, 2019. ISBN: 9780522876086.
(Age: Children/Teenage) Recommended. Professor Lisa Harvey-Smith was appointed in 2018 as the Australian Government's Ambassador for Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). She has written a book that demonstrates both her expertise in STEM and her ability to communicate with children and teens in a fun way. Mel Matthews' fun and colorful illustrations complement the text beautifully.
Under the stars invites us to explore the night sky, especially our solar system and includes interesting and unusual facts about life on earth. It poses questions that will intrigue and captivate readers, e.g. did you know that a day on Venus is longer than a year on Venus? Questions are posed and sometimes answered in every chapter, involving the reader in some lateral thinking. I love the chapter headings that are sure to draw readers into the book, e.g.'Comets - the hairy stars of doom'; 'The wonky reasons for seasons'; 'How your eyes make stargazing extraordinary', etc.
Whilst the book is great to read aloud some children will be absorbed and read straight through by themselves and others will browse and just take the information they need. An index would have been useful but the chapter headings will take readers where they need to go.
Under the stars abounds with knowledge but also engenders feelings of wonder at the amazing universe in which we live. A good book on so many levels.
Jan Barwick


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Nov 07 2019

The deathless girls by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

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Orion Children's Books, 2019. ISBN: 9781510106918.
(Age: Senior secondary) This novel is about Bram Stoker's 'dark sisters.' First person narrator Lillai tells a linear, past tense story. She journeys through medieval settings filled with challenges. Soldiers and marauders pillage and people fight with stakes and knives. There is a Gothic sense of hidden menaces and forbidding castles. Millwood Hargrave's style is descriptive, sometimes florid. Rapid fire similes and metaphors are initially distracting, but many students listening to me read liked the style and the author's tricks of foreshadowing.
This novel is suitable for independent study in senior school and for intertextual analysis. Millwood Hargrave raises several ideas and affirms that women can take control in harsh situations. In the beginning, demonic men kill adult Travellers, burn their homes and capture young Travellers out foraging. We are alerted to women's agency when Lillai says of her twin, 'I was especially proud of the injuries Kizzy inflicted'. The sisters are sold and appraised by a Mistess Malovski, who takes them to a castle owned by Boyar Valcar. His Cook tells their futures, keeping us interested to see if her prophesy, 'I can find no death for you', comes true.
Defiant, the twins are confined in solitary cells for a time, fulfilling our sense of Gothic entrapment. 'I didn't know these places were real', says Lillai. Preparing them for their meeting with Valcar, Malovski shows the sisters how to make bite wine - wine infused with snake venom to improve men's virility. We meet many grotesque men and wonder who Dracula might be.
Cook helps Lillia escape with Mira, whom she starts to love. Lillia and Mira are reunited with other young people, and they try to rescue Kizzy.
As the melodrama unfolds, it's hard to stop reading. While the imperative is to read, not to reflect, there is plenty to say about the ways in which the author presents the strength of female characters and the choices they make at the end.
Chris Bourlioufas


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