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Oct 19 2018

Catching Teller Crow by Ambelin Kwaymullina and Ezekiel Kwaymullina

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Allen and Unwin, 2018. ISBN 9781760631628
(Age: Older teens and young adults) Highly recommended. 9/10. Themes: Crime, thriller, spiritual story. This is a book for those who enjoy exciting fiction with twists and turns and those who have an open mind. Nothing is quite as you start to think when working through the novel through the minds, thoughts and experiences of Beth Teller and Isobel Catching. Both young girls are Aboriginal and they both have and share a spirituality which is beautifully depicted. Their spirituality and those of the tribal women of the past is very credible, strong and serene. It brings a sense of another dimension which exists and can possibly be accepted by even the most skeptical non-believer of anything that cannot be explained by logic and science.
Beth struggles to stay in "the world of now" in order to support her grieving father. She is a lost soul who is tied to the physical dimension but realizes that she needs to move on to the world that she belongs to. Her father is a detective who is in the midst of solving a murder and the circumstances of a tragic fire in a children's home. Only he can see and hear Beth (or is he??), but he knows that this ghost and his need for the ghost is tormenting him from accepting what cannot be changed and hence making the most of his life and his instinct to reach out to his wonderful extended family.
Isobel Catching has suffered more than most people can endure. Throughout the novel she remains tough, elusive and a mystery, yet it is Isobel who helps Beth's father find clues, seek answers about the terrible and shocking circumstances that have been perpetuated in the small rural country town. In the colonial past, recent past and present time, the aboriginal community lack a voice to defend themselves and seek justice, hence Isobel is the protagonist who speaks out, who struggles to make the injustices experienced by present and past aboriginal women heard, understood and fought for. Isobel has paid a heavy price but she is strong - a strong young woman who is descended from strong women who transfer their gentle power and wisdom through spiritual connections and well-remembered stories.
About the Author - Ambelin Kwaymullina and Ezekiel Kwaymullina. Brother and sister authors who are Aboriginal Palyku from the Pilbara region, North Western Australia. This novel is their first joint effort writing a young adult fiction. They have magically woven fiction prose with story-telling in simple language and artistically elegant poetry.
Maria Burford


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Oct 19 2018

Jacaranda Magic by Dannika Patterson

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Ill. by Megan Forward. Ford St Publishing, 2018. ISBN 9781925804003
(Age: 4+) Highly recommended. Themes: Jacaranda, Playing, Imagination, Friendship. When five friends loll about on a hot, sticky summer's day beneath the Jacaranda tree, wishing for something to do, the flowers from the tree fall around them, offering a lifeline to their imaginations. They clamber up the tree, imagining it to be a boat, one of them the captain, looking out for mermaids, then the branch becomes a rocket taking them off into space, the flowers become fairies for them to chase, butterflies to set free.
The worlds created by the children using the tree as the stepping off point to imagined possibilities will delight young readers as they too see what can be made of the tree and its branches, leaves and flowers. I can imagine them seeing the trees in their backyards, schools and neighbourhoods with fresh eyes, willing the flowers to fall upon them, initiating their imaginations just like the children in the story. And then climbing the trees, practising their physical prowess, encouraging outdoor activities.
With simple rhyming pairs of lines, Patterson has created a charming storyline, one which will entice readers to predict the rhyme as they listen to the story.
The watercolour illustrations, extol the colour purple, so well known in Australian gardens, common to many suburbs with long streets of these beautiful trees, people sharing photos in facebook when they are in bloom. Using the purple flowers as a trigger for the children's imaginations is sure to focus younger readers on the beauty that surrounds them, encouraging them to take a moment to look at things more closely.
Fran Knight


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Oct 19 2018

Digby and the Duck by Max Landrak

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Hachette Australia, 2018. ISBN 9780734417770
(Age: 6+) Highly recommended. Have you ever had the feeling of someone watching you but when you look no one is there? Digby feels like that. He is sure someone or something is watching him when he brushes his teeth and in his dreams. It is time to investigate. Digby finds a clue and then another but he doesn't make assumptions. Digby researches and investigates books. Upon the discovery of a duck, Digby no longer feels like someone or something is watching him.
Digby and the Duck is an excellent story for making predictions as well as using the skill of inference. Readers will not find out why the duck might have been watching Digby or even if it was the duck. This mystery will create discussions and assumptions. Have children create lists of reasons for a duck to watch someone or even rewrite the ending.
Digby and the Duck is easy to read and is beautifully illustrated. it is highly recommended for readers aged 6+.
Kylie Kempster


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Oct 19 2018

Gastronauts by James Foley

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S. Tinker Inc. book 3. Fremantle Press, 2018. ISBN 9781925591682
(Age: 7-9) Themes: Brothers and Sisters, Robots, Inventions. Sally Tinker "the world's foremost inventor under the age of twelve" returns for another improbable venture in Gastronauts. James Foley's graphic novel takes us into uncharted territory, and this is perhaps Sally and her friend Charli's most disgusting journey to date.
Sally's previous inventions include the Resizenator which unfortunately "embiggenated" Dougie the dung beetle. Sally's newest invention is the smartCHIP which Charli suggests could minimise carbon dioxide emissions and reduce global warming, or shrink the world's rubbish to minimise pollution. She's also created the SMARTBOT designed to install, maintain and protect the chips. When her baby brother Joe accidentally swallows a test-tube filled with the tiny brain-enhancing little nanobots, Sally and Charlie must save the day. Imagine a superbaby with super powers wreaking havoc!
Sally and Charlie travel in the Sub with its onboard Resizenator inside Joe's body to stop him becoming a superbaby. Straight into Joe's stomach where undigested strawberries and a shrunken rubber ducky and boat float by. Unfortunately, Sally's super-tight security means there is no remote control to stop the smartbots installing the smartCHIP in the baby's brain.
While Ms Tinker Sally's Nan looks after Joe, the girls travel in the Sub through his intestines and finally up to his brain. Joe's superpowers become evident after he's eaten his Nan's prunes, he's jet-propelled around the neighbourhood by his farts. How do Sally and Charlie save the day?
James Foley's unique characters, crazy situations and unusual adventures engage the young reader. His cartoons capture the grossness of the girl's journey and of course their special re-entry into the real world. Scientific experiments and inventions underpin this humourous story and the key themes of family, being responsible and supportive friendships are included.
Rhyllis Bignell


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Oct 19 2018

Yesterday you were here by Melissa Little

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Wakefield Press, 2018. ISBN 9781743055205
Highly recommended. Themes: Bereavement, Grief. Loss is never easy and this is a thought provoking book, written in a simple way that makes it easy to read with children to help them understand loss. 
The illustrations in this book are bold and support the narrative. They are done in a way that anyone could see themselves in the story.
There is a page at the end of the story that talks about sharing this book with your child and the importance of talking about feelings and answering their questions, and letting children talk about it in their own time. There are also some pages at the back of the book where children can write or draw some memories of the person lost to help them with the grieving process.
I highly recommend this book to anyone trying to explain loss to their child.
Karen Colliver


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Oct 19 2018

The Prince and the witch and the thief and the bears by Alistair Chisolm

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Ill. by Jez Tuya. Walker, 2018. ISBN 9781406365139
(Age: 4-7) Highly recommended. Themes: Storytelling, Fairy tales, Bedtime.
"What kind of story shall we have tonight? asked Dad . . . "A made up one! said Jamie.
As Dad tuck his son into bed, they are ready to share a bedtime story, a creative one filled with a cast of fairy tale characters. Jamie's level of excitement increases as he constantly adds another person and creature, changes the plot and questions then redirects the actions. Dad's enthusiasm and his willingness to accommodate his son adds to the delight of this story. The youngster even questions his father's choice of the prince riding off to rescue the princess trapped in the dark tower. They decide that the prince can do it, this time. They often digress:  How evil is the witch?  Can she turn you into stone or even jelly? When the villain falls to her death, Jamie's a little hesitant. Dad's imagination changes the fairy tale again because the former princess really a jewel thief uses her grappling hook to catch the falling evil witch-ninja.
Jez Tuya's vibrant digital illustrations imbue each character with attitude and make Alistair Chisolm's cumulative fairy tale comical. Inside a star-filled border, a handsome prince rides his dappled grey stallion whilst an ugly witch, a beautiful princess and a flying fire breathing dragon wait ready for the story to begin. Atop the tall mountain is a lofty castle and there's a large brown bear lurking at the edge of the forest. The stallion sits back on his hind legs, helps with the map and waits for the prince to work out how far away is his kingdom. When Dad mentions the fierce bears and dragons, Jamie needs a clear definition on their ferocity, so the illustrator adds enormous shaggy coats and vicious claws. Each double-page spread is filled with big, bold pictures that delightfully express Jamie and Dad's dramatic fairy tale.
Alistair Chisolm's fast-paced story is a perfect read aloud with many twists and turns. Jez Tuya completely captures the humour and builds the drama through his energetic and colourful visual storytelling.
The Prince and the Witch and the Thief and the Bears is an enchanting narrative for Junior Primary classes to engage with plot, setting and characterisation, stereotypes and the structure of fairy tales.
Rhyllis Bignell


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Oct 18 2018

Just a girl by Jackie French

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Angus and Robertson, 2018. ISBN 9781460753095
(Age: 12 - 16) Highly recommended. Themes: Historical fiction. Roman history. Survival. Persecution. Courage. Siblings. Jewish people. Mary (mother of Jesus). Jackie French is a master of storytelling and in this book she immerses us in the daily life of a Jewish girl in Judea in 71AD. Judith's daily life has changed since the men from her village have gone to fight in Jerusalem and she must take up tasks normally not allowed by girls - minding sheep and using a sling-shot to kill small animals for her family. Little does she realise how much different it will become when two Roman chariots pass her small village.
As predicted by Rabba, (Judith's great, great grandmother) the village is looted and destroyed by the Romans the following day. Judith is saved when Rabba tells Judith to take her, her little sister and the goat away from the village during the night to a very well-stocked cave nearby. When a Roman slave comes close to the cave Judith uses her sling-shot to protect them and he falls over a cliff. He is left for dead by his Roman masters and is rescued by Judith and joins the others in the cave for the long winter. The slave is a Christian and is curious to find out about a special woman Rabba mentions as she tells them stories of her life. The girl is Maryiam from Nazareth (the mother of Jesus) but Rabba is reluctant to talk too freely about the relationship she may have had with Mary who she describes as "just a girl" from her village. Mary's story is slowly revealed as a life of someone with the courage to overcome the humiliation of her unexplained pregnancy and the loss of her son in such violent circumstances. This account from the Jewish point of view makes it a very interesting novel.
At the end of the book there are comprehensive author's notes about the history behind this story. It also explains some of the language, food and other customs.
Gabrielle Anderson


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Oct 18 2018

The Bulldog Track by Peter Phelps

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Hachette, 2018. ISBN 9780733639777
(Age: 14+) Recommended. When the Japanese Army invaded New Guinea in 1942, Australian civilians working as gold miners in the Highland region of Bulolo fled on foot after the company's aircraft were strafed and destroyed. Not to be confused with the more legendary Kokoda track to the East, the Bulldog offered their only means of escape. However its terrain was more extreme and weather more appalling than even the almost insufferable conditions endured by the Australian and Japanese soldiers as they later fought each other and the landscape.
Peter Phelps' Grandfather Tom was one of the miners who survived. The author conveys evident and justifiable pride telling this remarkable story, not just for the man's superhuman effort to endure the ordeal but equally for his mettle and decency as a human being throughout his life. Considered unfit for military service due to age and a massive leg injury, Tom Phelps made the difficult decision to take work as a carpenter and miner in New Guinea to provide for his family after financial hardship caused by the Great Depression. Peter Phelps presents the perspective of his father George, his sisters and their mother as they are tormented by the absence of their father and husband for years on end. Whilst Tom missed his family dearly, living in extreme isolation, complex and lasting suffering was felt at home, including resentment felt by George.
The family had no knowledge of Tom's welfare or progress beyond the fact that miners deemed too sick or old to join the New Guinea Volunteer Rifles had abandoned Bulolo to make their way to New Guinea's Southern coast. They were however only too aware of the extreme brutality of the invaders and naturally feared the worst whilst waiting for any scraps of information.
The trekkers were unsupplied and faced gruelling hardship including starvation and countless medical problems caused by disease and mishap. These men would not have survived without the guidance and physical aid of local New Guinea villagers who had formerly been employed by the mine but who assumed responsibility for ensuring the welfare of the escaping miners of Australian and sundry nationality. It must be emphasised that their own villages and families faced great danger from the advancing Japanese. Una Beel was a local highlander assigned as assistant to Tom Phelps in his role as carpenter and the two developed a close relationship which must have been pivotal to Tom's survival. I found the description of the pair's parting after they had been delivered to European missionaries on the coast to be curiously understated. These villagers risked their lives sharing the arduous journey and as the author notes, they were essentially in foreign lands themselves, having left their own territory. The journey demanded that they communicate with fearsome, potentially lethal villagers along the way and it is difficult to imagine the miners' survival without their efforts.
The author has undertaken tremendously detailed research to give voice and description to both the plight of his grandfather and the daily trials of his family waiting at home. The amazing feat of his indomitable grandfather and his ragged but resilient companions has been presented in an exciting story demonstrating great family pride and affection. There is no doubt that Tom Phelps earned this respect but I was disappointed that Una Beel and his companions were not acknowledged in the conclusion and epilogue.
Recommended for 14 years +
Rob Welsh


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Oct 18 2018

Twinkle twinkle, little bat: Beastly bedtime stories for all kinds of kids

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Pan Macmillan, 2018. ISBN 9781760557263
(Age: 7+) Recommended. Short stories. Once upon a time, there were 9 beastly bedtime stories. Stories with vampires and bats, and a sleepover of doom: of a pirate dance party and a zoo in a room. There were bears who were scared, and three bags of wool. Kids who ate pasta till their tummies were full. And if things go splat in the night... hold tight. The dreamo-machino will help you sleep deep.
We are frequently asked for scary stories in the library and I am not sure this will fit the bill. Featuring short stories from some of Australia's most successful authors including Andy Griffiths, Morris Gleitzman, R. A. Spratt and Judith Rossell - there are 9 included in the anthology, this book is filled to the brim with stories bursting with humour and terrifying twists. These stories are sure to have the children shaking in their beds - with laughter not fear!
Each story is beautifully written which you would expect from these successful writers. I particularly enjoyed Andy Griffith's choose your own adventure - this genre of books is becoming more and more popular with our children. At the end of the book each author is featured with a short biography and all are asked the question "What are your favourite beastly bedtime stories?" I always love these insights into an author.
This book will be great to hand to teachers when they ask for something short to read to their students.
Suitable for children aged 7 and up. A welcome addition to the short story collection.
Kathryn Schumacher


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Oct 18 2018

The brave knight by Sally Gould and Celeste Hulme

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New Frontier, 2018. ISBN 9781925594119
(Age: 2-5) Themes: Imagination. Play. Knights and Castles. The brave knight is a charming story, a celebration of imaginative play. With simple craft items the young boy arms himself with a cardboard sword and shield and wears a painted silver tunic. He's ready to be brave and bold, standing in front of his castle treehouse surveying the surrounding countryside - his backyard. He proudly declares "I guard the castle. Enemies BEWARE!"
From the castle turret, he spies three enemy knights dressed in helmets, one holding a sword. Using trickery, he disguises himself as a peasant and lures his monkey, teddy bear and dog into the fortress with promises of gold. He is a brave knight who uses his imagination to protect the castle and help his baby brother escape from his playpen enclosure. Thankfully, all is well in the kingdom and his creativity has saved the day!
Celeste Hulme's whimsical paintings enliven Sally Gould's simple story. From the end covers detailing the creation of the knight's armour and sword through to the fun of the castle treehouse there is much to explore with a toddler or preschooler. They will be captivated by the details of the castle and the actions of the young boy as he leads his toys joined together up the stairs and into his fortress.
The brave knight is a wonderful example of imaginative play and graphic storytelling.
Rhyllis Bignell


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Oct 18 2018

Eve and the rebel fairies by Jess Black

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Keeper of the Crystals series, book 7, New Frontier, 2018 ISBN 9781925594218
(Age: 6-8) Themes: Fairies. Fantasy. Jess Black's Eve and the rebel fairies is a magical adventure written for young readers just starting junior novels. Friends Eve and Oscar have uncovered the special secret power of crystals and in each story, they travel into a different and dangerous world to help save the community.
Eve and Oscar are enjoying their school holidays, playing with Ingvar Eve's dragon and sleeping over at Eve's grandma's house. The discovery of a tiny pink fairy-sized door leads them into a new adventure. With a miniature fairy crystal in her hand, Eve with Oscar and Ingvar holding on, they shrink down to fairy size and enter a new kingdom. Summoned by Orla the Golden Queen of the Fairies, Eve and her friends are needed to stop two rebel fairies. They have stolen pixie dust from the Tree of life and are using it to upset the balance of nature. Creating a hot pink river that poisoned the fish, causing rockfalls and floods, they are troublemakers.
Lilith and Azura wreak havoc in the human world too turning sharks vegetarian, melting a glacier and turning a flock of sheep green! Eve must use her special skills to cross the troll bridge and stop the rebel fairies.
Jess Black's environmental messages are woven throughout her series, making the young reader thinks about the consequences of climate change and upsetting the natural balance. Her fairy fantasy world and the characters are beautifully described. Celeste Homes' sketches are delightful chapter headings.
Eve and the rebel fairies is a charming novel for young chapter book readers.
Rhyllis Bignell


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Oct 17 2018

Tales from the inner city by Shaun Tan

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Allen and Unwin, 2018. ISBN 9781760523534
(Age: middle school to adult) Highly recommended. Themes: Design, Cities, Animals. Twenty five stories about the relationship between humans and animals is explored in this richly illustrated book from Tan, a companion volume to Tales from Outer Suburbia (2008) and one Tan has been working on ever since. Every page has something startlingly new, making the reader pause and read again, then pore over the illustrations, making sure they have absorbed every nuance, before starting again.
His last chapter begins, "We tell each other the same story" but the details of Shaun Tan's stories are entrancing. His sometimes dystopian view of the city and its relationship with animals is highly individual, placing animals in the oddest of settings: crocodiles living on the eighty seventh floor, an eagle in an airport, deer peering out of an office window, making us question. One of the first sequences in the book, "Once we were strangers", devotes forty pages to a dog, at first wary of the human with a spear in one hand, but over time becoming a companion, ending as a dog on a lead walking with its human. The illustrations reflect the passage of time. The broad strip between the human and the dog begins as a wide black expanse, the void of the early cosmos perhaps, then it becomes a track, changing to a bridge, a railway line, a road, and finally the double page is fully paved. Time has passed, reflecting the changes in our environment as well as the changed relationship between humans and animals.
Shaun Tan talks about his work providing insight into his book as he provokes, prods and perplexes his readers.
Each of his works in this volume initiates a response, the richly illuminated and detailed images giving more as the reader looks, ponders and talks about what they see. The almost poetic text forces the reader to read it again, viewing the illustration with new ideas, evaluating the links between the two.
People and animals may live in each other's shadow, but they are still very visible in Tan's work, from the tiger strolling by the similarly coloured wall on the last endpaper, or the rhino watching over the traffic or the killer whale in the night sky.
Light in various forms is shown to advantage: city lights on the front cover, the coloured light of the crowds of butterflies, the light behind the snails on the bridge, the light pouring in through the classroom windows, the light coming out of the high rise flats, contrasting with the many dark and gloomy images redolent of a dystopian landscape, stressing the tension within the city, leading to the last page of the book with its apocalyptic image.
The inner city is shown in images of crumbling high rise buildings, homeless people, train tracks, telegraph poles and animals, all giving a different perspective than the one expected. The teacher in the classroom is hugging a sheep, the boy on the cover holding a glass fish, owl's eyes peer out at the reader from the hospital ceiling, a bear is led up the steps, a shark rises up out of the landscape, but unlike the lonely vistas of Jeffrey Smart's cities, Tan's images of the concrete structures force the reader to reevaluate the connection between human and beast.
I found this book totally captivating, sometimes unsure that I had missed something, but always satisfied at the myriad of references, allusions and journeys down unexpected pathways that Tan takes his readers.
Teacher notes can be found on the Allen and Unwin site.
Fran Knight


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Oct 17 2018

Just flesh and blood by Jane Caro

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University of Queensland Press, 2018. ISBN 9780702260018
(Age: Children - Young adult) Recommended. Themes: Historical Fiction (1500-1600 England Royalty). Just Flesh and Blood is the last novel in the Trilogy which include Just A Girl and Just a Queen which depicts the life of the very famous and long reigning Queen Elizabeth 1, Protestant Queen of England and Ireland. The story is told from the perspective of the Queen as a flesh and blood person with emotions, love, intellect and daily personal and political struggles.
Queen Elizabeth 1 is a woman in a man's world who had accomplished much more than was ever expected for any Royal during an extremely long period of 44 years of reign. Her main concern was always for the welfare of her people and country and as such she became as a mother to them all. But, she still craved loving attention and acknowledgment from her father (Henry VIII) and although she was a young child when her beautiful mother Anne Boleyn died, Elizabeth never resolved her grief and guilt. Her loving mother was beheaded, sentenced to death by a husband King. Elizabeth was always well aware that if she had been born a boy, a successor to the Tudor throne, her mother would have been in the King's favor and she would not have met such a terrible fate. Elizabeth was born a princess and through political motives she was declared as 'illegitimate', hence unimportant and mostly unseen by those in the majesty's court.
As Queen Elizabeth 1, lies on the floor and then on her death bed, she drifts in and out of sleep. She is reflecting on her life and she is assessing herself and her path of destiny which she diligently worked hard throughout. Has she done enough? Would her father and mother be proud of her? Has she failed them, made a mistake, by remaining a maiden Queen and not marrying or bearing children to carry on the Tudor family reign? Who would be the first person that she meets in the afterlife?
Although I came across this last book in the trilogy and have not read the previous two, Jane Caro does a marvelous job in summarizing the Queen's life during her final days, hence, the storyline flows well and the reader is not left feeling confused or as though parts of the story are missing. In fact, it leaves the reader wanting to read/re-read the trilogy set without pause and the writing skill of Jane Caro is such that the reader will find it difficult to put down the books.
This book is a marvelous way to learn some history of the Royals of England. It motivates the reader to delve into further research about the era and come to know Queen Elizabeth 1 not only as a great ruler, stern and at times merciless Queen - but as a child, young girl and woman living an exceptional life in a difficult time.
About the Author - Jane Caro Jane Caro is often a guest on the Channel 9's Weekend Sunrise and Gruen Planet. A busy 60 something year old who keeps herself busy as a novelist, columnist and novelist. Jane has won awards for her ability to write outstanding, "to the point" and relatable advertising material.
Maria Burford


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Oct 17 2018

How did I get here? by Philip Bunting

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Omnibus, 2018. ISBN 9781742769684
(Age: 5+) Highly recommended. Themes; Life, Evolution, Big bang, Universe, Solar system, STEM. Young readers will find this straightforward presentation of life on earth enlightening and informative, as Bunting explains how life began, encouraging them to question as they read of these big issues. I found it riveting, from the Big Bang to the development of sea creatures and then animals as a fish came up on the land, leading to humans. It is told in such a matter of fact way that young readers will be able to understand the basics of how life life began, making it more personal with the story leading to their birth and life on earth.
Questions bigger than our solar system are presented in a way that is very readable, while at the same time, posing questions that require further research.
The Big Bang and other evolutionary ideas are so big they can overwhelm, but this seemingly simplistic explanation will satisfy those looking for the words to explain the idea but intrigue them enough to ask questions and seek out more answers.
Bunting is an avid believer in dialogic reading, which means that reading should be interactive. The more interactive, playful and entertaining the better the book is for young readers. An explanation of his ideas behind what he writes can be found here and is well worth a read.
He goes on to say that good books, those that encourage interaction, particularly within a family setting, will increase a child's love of books and reading and so a love of learning. Good picture books will do this, and so he aims to write picture books that will be read with carers and parents, an interaction with positive outcomes. Consequently How did I get here? is produced to encourage interaction between the carer and the child, begging them to ask questions, to discuss, to talk about what they are reading.
Fran Knight


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Oct 17 2018

Whimsy and Woe: The Final Act by Rebecca McRitchie

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Angus and Robertson, 2018. ISBN 9781460754672
(Age: 10+) Recommended. "As a blazing inferno rages through Whitby City. Whimsy and Woe Mordaunt see their last clue go up on flames and their journey to find their parents has seemingly come to a fiery end. That is until the siblings spot a very familiar man in the crowd . . . .
In the final act of this dramatic tale, Whimsy and Woe must escape villainous thieves, travel beneath a desert, climb the Mountainous Mountains and perform a death-defying trapeze act in the Benton Brothers Circus . . . all before going undercover at the annual Thespian Society Masquerade Ball.
Can they stop the Purple Puppeteer's evil plans in time and rescue their parents? Or will the Purple Puppeteer pull their family's strings forever?" (Publisher)
We had a number of excited students who were eagerly awaiting the release of this book. And I am sure they will not be disappointed with the result. McRitchie has managed to continue the gripping story line from the first book, Whimsy and Woe. Whimsy and Woe continue to be enthralling characters who rise to the many twists and turns that are presented to them. Although the book is quite thick, the text is fairly large and interspersed with illustrations.
A must to fit on the shelf along side the first book. Suitable for ages 10 and up.
Kathryn Schumacher


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Oct 17 2018

The 13th reality: Hunt for Dark Infinity by James Dashner

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The 13th Reality series. Scholastic, 2018 ( First published by Simon and Schuster in 2008). ISBN 9781742998190
(Age: 11+) Recommended. Themes: Fantasy; Alternate realities; Adventure; Heroism. Atticus Higginbottom (best known as Tick to his friends) has again been needed to restore some order to the world (and worlds of alternate realities). With his friends Sofia and Paul, and the other odd assistant Master George Deems they needed to solve the incredible tweaks of strangeness that have entered the world and Tick is the one who seems destined to be the solution. Unleashing the most incredible bravery, intelligence and uncontrolled capacity for power, Tick is again required to be a hero. In the first book in this series, Tick was revealed as having extraordinary capabilities with Chi'karda - part of the wisdom and magical power of the unconventional world where quantum physics seem to explain alternate realities. In Hunt for Dark Infinity Tick is needed to respond to a challenge that seems to send him on a course of potential destruction in opposition to Mr Chu - the evil 'alternate' to his favourite science teacher. The forces surrounding the Dark Infinity seem to be both evil and insane and Tick is needed again to solve puzzles and make things right. But his powers seem to be operating messily without rules. Where will it all end, and what was the message that his mother nearly 'spilled' before the adventure spun out of control?
Yet again James Dashner has unveiled a tense and riveting adventure tale of fantasy, with more than a dash of science fiction, involving young teen protagonists. This is best read as soon as possible after the first book, Journal of Curious letters, in order to maintain the flow. Young readers will probably want to binge read this series in the same way they devour a Harry Potter fantasy. It has a similar good vs evil atmosphere and the pace is charged with the same serious intensity. It is not quite as long as J K Rowling's books and more science fiction fantasy than magical fantasy, although there are points of similarity. And yes, there are more books in the series.
Recommended for fantasy lovers, aged 11+
Carolyn Hull


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Oct 17 2018

Lemonade Jones by Davina Bell and Karen Blair

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Allen and Unwin, 2018. ISBN 9781925266733
(Age: 6+) "There are a lot of rules that don't interest Lemonade Jones.
No running in the classroom, not even in an emergency.
Dangerous animals should be in cages. No biting. (Not even your worst enemy)
It's especially hard to stick to rules when you're trying to make life loud and exciting.
And Lemonade Jones likes it when loud and exciting things happen. Two delightful stories about Lemonade Jones, a feisty girl with a lot of fizz." (Publisher)
I love the fact that the lead character is a quirky girl who likes to bend the rules or at least push the boundaries. The first story, The First Day Backis a great starting point for children with worries about beginning school. I like the idea that it is not a picture book and would be a great read aloud for those starting at a new school. Parts of the book are quite funny - and raises some great conversation starters including it's ok to make mistakes and how we can learn from them.
This book is a light hearted book presented with a mix of pictures and text. The latter being a reasonable size - while at the same time making the reader feel as if they are reading a chapter book (although there are not any chapters in the book!). I can see this book fitting into a 'quick read' section of a school library and I am sure with the bright cover it will not spend a great deal of time on the shelf.
Suitable for children 6 and up.
Kathryn Schumacher


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Oct 17 2018

Dinosaur day out by Sara Acton

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Walker Books, 2018. ISBN 9781760650049
(Age: 2-6) Recommended. Themes: Dinosaurs, Museums. Dinosaur Day Out by author/illustrator Sara Action will entertain and excite its young audience with a multi-layered approach. While we read the story of Sally and Max's day out with Dad and their visit to the museum, there is so much more happening in the visual storytelling.
Sally and Max love dinosaurs and are keen to see the dinosaur exhibition. Unfortunately, the area is closed with a large sign stating "Dinosaurs Unleashed . . . dino's day off!" The children are upset and their father buys them a book all about their favourite animals. Off to the park they head, with "paths to explore and trees to climb." Dad keeps up their spirits by reading dinosaur facts aloud, "did you know about the diplodocus, the pterodactyl or the stegosaurus?" While their father is busy reading and eating Sally and Max are thoroughly enjoying the dinosaurs' day out! Hanging upside down on a branch with the pterodactyl, feeding the diplodocus leaves and watching it drink from the fountain. Even the t-rex enjoys a triple scoop ice-cream when they stop for a treat. Their day ends with Dad piggy-backing Sally as they walk back through the park observed by a pack of dinosaurs.
Sally Acton's wonderful pictures seamlessly blend the dinosaurs into the familiar park and city settings, natural tones of green and brown sweep across the spreads. She shows Max and Sally's enjoyment, their liveliness and interaction with the dinosaurs, a story within a story that will enchant the reading audience. Dinosaur Day Out is both an imaginative and informative picture book just right for sharing with pre-schoolers and junior primary students.
Rhyllis Bignell


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Oct 16 2018

Inheritance by Carole Wilkinson

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Black Dog Books, 2018. ISBN 9781760650360.
(Age: 12-14) Highly recommended. Themes: Australian history. Aboriginal peoples. Time travel. Family histories.
"Generations of women in my family have been able to time travel... " Nic (Veronica) tries to explain to her only friend in her new town, Strathmartin. Keeping a secret like this is proving difficult for a lonely girl who has been left to live with her Grandfather on a very remote farm. She is at a new school, a situation with which she is very familiar having been to numerous schools over her childhood after losing her mother at birth and having a father whose music career has taken precedence over raising his daughter. To her dismay the townspeople seem to be holding a grudge because of the actions of her wealthy ancestors who grew up in the area. Thinking her mother is dead and wanting to find out more about her family she stumbles onto the "isching", as one relative calls it, which enables her to travel back in time. Her grandfather objects to her "travelling" but this does not deter her as she searches desperately for the answers to the many questions about her family.
Written mostly in the first person this novel also has several chapters written by her relatives and other characters, which allows the author to round out this extraordinary story. The theme of conflict between Aboriginal people and early settlers runs through the story. Nic's journeys into the past lead her to believe her mission is to prevent the slaughter of a local Aboriginal tribe and this theme will provide valuable discussions in History classes.
A very enjoyable book has lots of opportunities to study Australia's early history. The detail included by the author about sourcing evidence and primary sources for historical study will also prove valuable in schools.
Gabrielle Anderson


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Oct 16 2018

His name was Walter by Emily Rodda

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HarperCollins, 2018. ISBN 9781460710203
(Age: 10-14) Highly recommended. Themes: Storytelling. Books and reading. Mystery and suspense stories. Folk tales. Supernatural phenomena.
The idea was to do some research for an authentic History lesson in an historic outback town, but what the four students and their teacher encounter that night is much more powerful than anything they had ever imagined. After they are stranded when their bus breaks down they rush to take refuge in an old house nearby as a wild storm brews around them.
This book is suspenseful, eerie and enjoyable from start to finish. It gives a story within a story as the students decide to fill in the time by reading aloud a hand-made book they find in the house. The story is written and illustrated in a fairytale/folktale way using animals as characters and while some of them dismiss it as just a story a few feel an unearthly power that draws them into believing they need to finish the book and release some supernatural phenomena that seems to be lurking in the house. The theme of true love conquering all is also a strong influence in the story.
The students' characters are also used to develop the story - the shy new boy who is grieving the loss of his grandad and their country home, the computer nerd who doesn't believe in anything he can't see, the popular girl who always gets what she wants, the shy sensitive girl who feels the supernatural power of the book first. A large range of readers will find someone to relate to in this book and I think it could be successfully read aloud to a class. Walter, the character in the Folktale is also worth a mention as he develops from a meek boy to an assertive character who accepts his fate but always tries to do the right thing.
A mystery from the town's past is solved, and the book has a fantastic way of showing how history can be uncovered in the most unexpected places and corrected by uncovering the truth. Teacher's notes are available.
Gabrielle Anderson


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Oct 16 2018

The amazing world of Olobob Top by Leigh Hodgkinson and Steve Smith

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Bloomsbury, 2018. ISBN 9781408897652
(Age: 3-5) The amazing world of Olobob Top is an activity book created by Leigh Hodgkinson and Steve Smith based on the ABC and BBC Children's show Olobob Top (If you have young children there is a good chance you will have seen this show before!).
The blurb states "Have fun in the wonderful world of Olobob Top... weave your way through mazes to explore forests, climb mountains and soar up into the sky! With lots of exciting mazes and over 250 stickers, there are so many adventures to be had with the Olobobs" and I think it sums it up pretty well. Each page surrounds a different character or activity and asks the reader to complete tasks and decorate with the supplied stickers. You may have to follow the lines through the sky, find your way out of a maze or get the Olobobs home safe. This part was probably the only downfall of the book, there were just too many follow the line/maze pages (actually all of them) and were a touch repetitive for Miss 4.
We did however love all the stickers and it kept her amused for an hour which was a win for me!
It was also a good vehicle for directing learning towards shapes, colours, sizes, counting and following directions - all of which are key skills for young children.
I think this book is probably best suited for 3-5year olds who are familiar with the show and its characters. There is another activity book available (Make your own Olobob Top home), plus two board books which would be fun activities for any young fan. We give it 3 out of 5.
Lauren Fountain


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Oct 16 2018

Crowboy by Ricky Gibson

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Serenity Press, 2018. ISBN 9780648230427
(Age: 6-9) Recommended. Themes: Differences. Acceptance. Need a book for Halloween? Here is one that might work, that is neither too dark, nor too grim!
Crowboy is not like the other children. He has tried to fit in and be like them... but he just doesn't like what they like. He likes haunted houses and other macabre things, and gets driven home from school in the undertaker's hearse (with the coffin on top). When the teacher sets a creative writing task, Crowboy has the opportunity to share his imaginative side and he discovers a new accepting audience for his dark and spooky tale. This is a book that shows that we don't have to all be alike to find points of connection.
With a dark and slightly macabre illustrative style, with a touch of whimsy, this picture book may not be suited for all in the under-9 age group, but there will be some who recognise the character hiding behind the dark disguise - the one who is keen to be known, despite his differences.
Recommended for the edgy children who 'do not fit' in the Under-9 age group.
Carolyn Hull


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Oct 16 2018

What should a horse say? by Fleur McDonald and Annie White

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New Frontier, 2018. ISBN 9781925594201
(Age: 2-5) Themes: Farm animals. Horses. Farmer Rochelle's farm is filled with noisy animals, all mooing, baaing and even clucking "chick chick". However, she has one big problem, her horse also says "chick chick"! She asks her friend Farmer Hayden for help, even his tractor, quad bike and truck make the right noises. He's just not sure about "what a horse should say". Farmer Rochelle continues her quest to find the answer ringing her friend Susan who can't help either. Her cocky just wants more chocolate and everyone she meets still can't provide her with the appropriate solution. Dr Swan the vet drives up in his red ute, ready to investigate what is wrong with the horse. After a thorough check-up, he gives him some funny tasting medicine and rubs yellow cream on to his throat. Has the vet saved the day?
Annie White's sweeping vistas, close up farm scenes and lively farm animals are delightful. Her large brown horse is the one to watch, especially when Dr Swan checks his temperature. Find the little happy chickens jumping and dancing throughout.
Fleur McDonald's noisy story What should a horse say is an entertaining read aloud. Young children will love joining in with all the farm animal noises. They will love the question and response, knowing that all the way through the horse should be neighing.
Rhyllis Bignell


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Oct 15 2018

From Elizabeth Mary Cummings, author of The Forever Kid

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A lifelong bookworm, English was my favourite subject at school. I studied Psychology and Business Studies at University before doing a postgraduate in Primary School teaching. I discovered my passion for teaching and my love of working with young people.
Recently I have focused on developing and publishing my writing with a special focus on mental health, writing about real life situations in narrative form. This narrative therapy approach to discussing mental health issues with children is something that I think is a very strong tool for helping heal and develop positive communication strategies especially when talking about difficult subject matter with young people.
I got the idea for The Forever Kid when I was thinking about my uncle who I never met. He died when he was a teenager before I was born. My father often spoke about him and described how sad the family was that he had died, even though he had been ill for a long time before then. I had been talking to my parents about life and family and so I think that my mind was focused on family matters. I woke up in the middle of the night and the whole story was there in my head. I got up and write down my thoughts straight away and then spent three years honing the narrative as well as seeking community engagement and feedback before pitching it to publishers. It was so vital to ensure that the story's message rang true and that the integrity of the message remained intact throughout the creation.
My hope is to not only share this story but to facilitate a greater awareness in society of grief from a child's perspective and to start a dialogue with families and their support networks on the matter of death and grief


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Oct 15 2018

The Forever Kid by Elizabeth Mary Cummings

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Ill. by Cheri Hughes. Big Sky Publishing, 2018. ISBN 9781925675399
(Age: 4+) Highly recommended. Themes: Grief, Remembrance, Loss. The Forever Kid is about remembering a child who will never grow up. The family in the story celebrate the memory of the child who is no longer with them by celebrating their birthday with the food and games that that child loved.
This is a lovely book written from a child's perspective which means it is easier for children to relate to the story. It encourages the sharing of feelings in a safe supportive way.
The illustrations in this book are simple and they support the story beautifully.
It can be used as a starting point for discussions on the topic of grief both by parents and teachers, as this is a sympathetic way to discuss the topic of loss. Some activities are available from Just Write for Kids blog.
I highly recommend this book for 4+
Karen Colliver


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Oct 15 2018

The Botanist's Daughter by Kayte Nunn

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Hachette, 2018. ISBN 9780733639388
(Age: Senior secondary - Adult) Starting a little slowly, yet creating two worlds that have no defining link, this novel is captivating, rich in depiction of the past, and cleverly interspersing the two stories. The title suggests a story of a family and an interest in botany, and it is that, yet this book offers much more than a simple family history. One story is set firmly in the present, where a young woman can take herself off to England to seek an understanding of the book's provenance, while the other plunges us into the past, particularly referring to the place of women at the time of the story, telling a story set in the 1880s. Both narratives delve into the lives of women in their era, especially elucidating the differences between the possibilities for the two: between education, freedom to travel, learn, work or interact outside the family, and to create a life for one's self.
Placing her narrative in these two distinct eras, beginning the story in the 1886, in England, and Sydney in 2017, Kayte Nunn takes us into the lives, and indeed the minds, of two characters, exploring their worlds and considering the wider world and time in which each lived. Each story is lightly told while both are revelatory of the particular differences for women in their times.
The modern story begins when an old book of beautiful botanical illustration is discovered hidden within the wall cavity of an old Sydney house, the owner, a young woman, is stunned. Captivated by the beauty and artistry of the illustrations, the owner, Anna, realizes that she is keen to unravel the mystery of the origin of this book, and her determination to do so takes her to England. Back in Australia, while Anna is redecorating the house, relishing her discoveries and enjoying the search for what kind of person was this ancestor of hers, she comes to believe that perhaps it was an inherited interest that drew her into botany and the kind of life had she has lived.
The story is told in two parts, that of the historical search by an English woman and her servant, and that of the modern woman who has found the intriguing diary. Moving back and forth between the narratives, Nunn reveals that the original botanist was Anna's grandmother, yet we are eager to unravel the mystery of why the book was hidden and what is the accompanying history of this grandmother.
Beautifully written, clearly and simply narrated from the perspective of both grandmother and granddaughter, who had not known one another, this captivating novel creates a link between two distinct eras. Nunn deftly creates an enigmatic story-line, while subtly revealing the differences in the freedom and choices of women in the modern era and that of the past in England in 1886, and indeed of the violence that took place in defence of what one believed to be the right to ownership.
This book is intriguing and would be appropriate for older adolescent readers and indeed most interesting for adult readers, particularly those who love a good historical novel that has an added twist.
Elizabeth Bondar


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Oct 15 2018

The A-Z of Wonder Women by Yvonne Lin

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Hachette, 2018. ISBN 9781526361547
(Age: 8+) Recommended. Subjects: Women - Biography. Award-winning industrial designer Yvonne Lin is a leader in creating innovative products for women. She designed The A-Z of Wonder Woman for her young daughter Roni introducing her and other girls and boys around the world to positive female role models. She has drawn inspiration from leaders in various fields of endeavour, from ancient times to the current day. Women of different ethnicities, different ages and stages in their careers are presented in alphabetical order by their first names. She has included popular figures and those that are less well-known.
The book begins with English mathematician Ada Lovelace who invented the first punch card algorithms in the mid-1800s. Cathy Freeman runs across the page in her Australian Olympics uniform proud to be the winner of the gold medal in the 400-metre race. Florence Nightingale is celebrated as an English statistician who championed proper sanitary procedures in hospitals and founded modern methods of nursing. J K Rowling started a literary revolution when she wrote her Harry Potter series, encouraging reluctant readers around the world to read all 3407 pages.
Yvonne Lin commends Italian educator Maria Montessori, suffragette Kate Sheppard from New Zealand and Oprah Winfrey one of the most influential African-American women globally. The author has recognised comedian and producer Tina Fey as a "titillating tickler" and Yayoi Kusama the eccentric Japanese artist whose installations, sculptures and paintings have influenced Hockney and Warhol's styles.
The amazing layout of this book includes colourful backgrounds, portraits of each women, a concise account of their achievements and an encouraging quote. As a bonus thirty more influential women are mentioned at the conclusion of this informative book. The A-Z of Wonder Women is ideal for History and Social Sciences students as a stepping stone for researching women who have influenced changes across the globe.
Rhyllis Bignell


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Oct 15 2018

The Orphan Band of Springdale by Anne Nesbet

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Candlewick Press, 2018. ISBN 9780763688042
(Age: 10+) Highly recommended. Gusta loved the golden sound of her horn, the way the notes could make you ring like a bell, from your hair bow to your toes. Its music was so large and grand. She was quiet by nature, but the horn was the bravest part of her her sweet, large, secret, brassy voice.
Throughout the book Gusta (Augusta) develops as a strong leading female character. She lives in New York with her mother. Her German father is wanted by the law with the threat of World War 2 looming on the horizon. Gusta finds herself being uprooted and sent to live with her grandmother and aunt who own an orphanage. She is continually trying to make everyone around her happy and only truly feels at ease when she is playing her horn. Gusta is surrounded by children of varying ages from all different walks of lives and develops a special bond with her cousin Bess. Throughout the story, she has to make some incredibly hard decisions that even an adult would find challenging. Gusta is determined to find the wish that her great grandfather who was a sailor left behind. This allows for a thread of magic to be interlaced throughout the story.
Themes such as justice, fairness, loyalty and friendship are discussed. It was interesting to read the author's notes at the end of the book that this was based on Nesbet's own mother's life.
This book is suitable for children 10 and up. A must have for the collection.
Kathryn Schumacher


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Oct 15 2018

Collecting sunshine by Rachel Flynn

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Ill. by Tamsin Ainslie. Penguin 2018. ISBN 9780143785187
(Age: 1-4) Recommended. Themes: Childhood; Play; Memories. An early childhood book with two central characters who go to a park with a paper bag ready to gather their own collection of treasures. When it rains the bag breaks, but the children continue collecting, only this time they collect memories which they later record in their own art gallery. This is a simple picture book, with limited text and appealing naive illustrations. The illustrations appealed to the nearly-two-year-old that I shared this book with. She loved searching for the dogs, the cat, and the bike in the illustrations, but more particularly she loved identifying the blue budgie hidden on every page. It wasn't until I was ready to review the book, that I also discovered the illustrator had deliberately hidden a mouse on every page as well as the blue budgie. The idea that you can collect memories is the essential feature of the book.
This is a book that would appeal in a child-care context, prior to a walk in the park, collecting sunshine and memories along the way.
Recommended aged 1-4 years.
Carolyn Hull


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Oct 12 2018

Inside the tiger by Hayley Lawrence

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Penguin Books, 2018. ISBN 9780143788959
(Age: Senior secondary) Recommended. Themes: Justice system, capital punishment, social action, friendship, family, grief, loss. Bel Anderson is the 17 year old daughter of the Minister for Justice and has attended an exclusive girls' boarding school in Sydney for the last seven years. Her mother was murdered when she was a baby and her father has made it his mission in life to get justice for victims of crime; he is now campaigning for mandatory sentencing laws. Bel's Legal Studies class is given an assignment to "align yourself with a movement for the betterment of society, the world, yourselves or each other" p 3. She is sick of causes, having been dragged into her father's campaigns all her life so she chooses to write a letter to a prisoner, seemingly the easiest way to fulfil the assignment's requirements. When the prisoner, Micah, on Death Row in a notorious Thai prison writes back Bel finds herself drawn into caring about the 18 year old Australian and his situation, and travels to Thailand to visit him. Knowing she will be opposing her father's position on justice and punishment Bel draws support from her friends, even though they are concerned and caution her about the emotional cost. As she takes Micah's cause to social media and a public rally she widens the debate "We don't allow our own government to execute our prisoners so why should we be silent when it happens to our people overseas." P223. But her actions have some unforeseen consequences.
This first novel is remarkable in successfully weaving together a rarely explored and controversial topic with a complex and challenging coming of age story. Bel leads a life of privilege but the loss of her mother and the preoccupation of her father leave her emotionally vulnerable. Finding a "soul mate" in a Thai gaol helps her find perspective and she grows in maturity as she faces some hard truths.
Recommended for senior students and particularly those interested in social action this novel could be used as a discussion starter on social activism or capital punishment. The "From the Author" section at the end of the book quotes the Foreign Prisoner Support Service "Write to a prisoner. It will make your day, but it will make their life". The story comes from what she learnt from five years of writing to a prisoner on death row in Thailand.
Sue Speck


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Oct 12 2018

Ting Ting the Ghost Hunter by Gabrielle Wang

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Penguin, 2018. ISBN 9780143787334
(Age: 9-12) Recommended. Themes: Ghosts, Chinese mythology, Sorcery. Ting Ting the Ghost Hunter is the much awaited sequel to Gabrielle Wang's Ghost in My Suitcase. These wonderful stories bring to life Chinese culture, ancient mythology and traditions, focusing on the belief in the supernatural and the art of ghost hunting.
Three years ago, a small Chinese lady Bao Min rescued a young girl from an orphanage, taking Ting Ting home to a place filled with kindness and love. Now trained in the special skills of ghost hunting, she travels with her grandma Por around Shanghai capturing problem ghosts. Snake whips, mingshen mirrors, a coin sword and brass bells are used to lure the spirits from their hiding spots.
Ting Ting is unhappy with her role just banishing "harmless fat-belly ghosts" and wants to step up to her grandma's ghost hunting level. When her Por is summoned to Black Band Village for a special job, Ting Ting is left behind trusted to continue her home-schooling and to seal Bao Mansion protecting the house from spirits. She is very fearful of returning here because six weeks ago she was hurt while fighting her grandfather's ghost.
When her Por disappears and doesn't keep in touch, Ting Ting decides to travel to their Shanghai home and then on to the mysterious Black Band Village. Her journey high into the mountains demands courage, self-reliance, and use of her special skills and trust in the villagers who have been exiled by a den of ghosts.
Gabrielle Wang's charming story opens up the world of Chinese culture and beliefs, magic, festivals, fantastic food and an insight into daily life. The characters are heartfelt and Ting Ting's growth is encouraging to see. The author's charming sketches throughout add to the excitement and understanding of their way of life. Ting Ting the Ghost Hunter is an evocative junior novel, filled with magical realism just right for readers from 9-12.
Rhyllis Bignell


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Oct 12 2018

I went trick-or-treating by Paul Howard

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Bloomsbury, 2018. ISBN 9781408892886
(Age: All) Recommended. I went trick-or-treating by Paul Howard is a wonderful holiday specific story that will appeal to readers of all ages. It adds to the popular I went . . . series which includes a Christmas special with Santa and also a trip to the supermarket.
The story follows a brother and sister who are trying to out-do each other in a scare competition at Halloween! They come across ghosts, toads, bats, cats and even pirates along their journey, with each page building in a "test-your-memory" style story. This aspect of the story was a great addition to our reading time. Both Miss 4 and Master 8 were able to interact with the story (at their own levels) by recalling creatures and characters and also trying to get them in the correct order. The repetitive nature is beneficial to the younger listeners, and helps to encourage and involve them in the text.
The illustrations by the clever Paul Howard are very cute, colourful and add humour through the facial expressions of all the characters. My personal favourites are the Monster Boogie King, Naughty Warty Toad and the Super Silly Skeletons.
According to my 4 year old daughter this book is "very funny". She enjoyed counting the bats, thought the ghost was funny and liked the animals the best.
Master 8 stated that it is a good book to read at Halloween and thought that people from 4 to 99 years of age could enjoy this book.
I agree with both of them and think this book (and the other 2 in the series) would be a great addition to any bookshelf or library.
4.5 out of 5
Lauren Fountain


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Oct 12 2018

The Christmas tale of Peter Rabbit by Emma Thompson

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Ill. by Eleanor Taylor. Frederick Warne, 2018. ISBN 9780241352885
(Age: 4+) Recommended. Themes: Christmas, Poultry. Emma Thompson, the renowned actress, has written another tale about Peter Rabbit in this board book, beautifully illustrated by Eleanor Taylor. Peter is very excited about Christmas and can't contain himself in the kitchen, upsetting three bowls of mincemeat. Mrs Rabbit sends him off on an errand to get him out of the way, and then he bumps into Benjamin Bunny and William the turkey, who confides in the pair that the McGregors "say that on Christmas Day they are to have me for dinner!"
Peter and Benjamin are determined to save their friend and come up with many ingenious ways to hide him from the McGregors, including under a rhubarb-forcer by the compost-heap and in the coal shuttle, but his magnificent tail-feathers always gave him away. Finally they came up with a solution - and children will have fun suggesting ways of hiding a turkey with a very full set of tail-feathers.
Thompson has succeeded in writing a narrative that reads aloud very well and will be enjoyed by children, as they follow the dilemma of William and his two friends. Parents and teachers should be aware that younger children may need to be introduced gently to the idea that turkeys are killed and then roasted for Christmas dinner.
The illustrations are done in the vein of the original Peter Rabbit drawings, and are charming and often humorous.
Overall, a delightful addition to the Peter Rabbit tales.
Pat Pledger


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Oct 11 2018

The girl with the dragon heart by Stephanie Burgis

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Bloomsbury, 2018. ISBN 9781408880777
(Age: 8-12) Recommended. Themes: Fantasy, Dragons, Fairies, Good and Evil.
"Once upon a time in a beautiful, dirty, exciting city full of people and chocolate and possibilities, there was a girl so fearless and so daring that. . "
Stephanie Burgis weaves another magical fantasy in The Girl with the Dragon Heart. Following The dragon with the chocolate heart, thirteen-year-old Silke, storyteller and worldly-wise orphan is the focus of this second story, that is filled with castle intrigue and an evil plot. The royal court of Elfenwald, the feared fairy kingdom, is coming to visit the royal family at the Drachenberg palace. Princess Katrin asks Silke to become a palace spy, disguised as a lady-in-waiting to find out their real motives.
We learn more Silke's past and discover why she loves to spin tall tales, why she is quick-witted and has developed excellent survival skills. She is an orphan: her parents disappeared in the evil fairy kingdom of Elfenwald and with her older brother Dieter, live a simple existence in Drachenburg, selling second-hand clothes on the riverbank. Her handbills advertising the chocolate shop are fabricated with stories of royal patronage, and this captures the princess's attention.
Silke's initiation into palace life is humorous, as she wears corsets and fancy dresses, learning to curtsy and following all the rules. Young Princess Sofia's jealousy of Silke's special assignment also causes problems. Night time forays into the secret tunnels and passageways, listening to secret conversations add to the excitement and danger. Silke finds comfort with her friends the chocolate makers as they prepare delicious confections in the palace.
Stephanie Burgis understands the fantasy realm; she builds an exciting world filled with relatable characters, adding magic, a fight of good and evil, exciting fairy characters, goblins and of course dragons. The Girl with the Dragon Heart champions girls taking charge of their own destiny and surviving in difficult circumstances by using their skills and wits. A fantastic adventure novel to share with Middle Primary students.
Rhyllis Bignell


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Oct 11 2018

There's a baddie running through this book by Shelly Unwin and Vivienne To

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Allen and Unwin, 2018. ISBN 9781760630614
(Age: Preschool+) Recommended. Themes: Humour, Books, Robbers and outlaws, Theft.
There's a baddie running through this book,
Turn the pages; have a look.
There he goes, did you see?
Sound your siren, chase with me.
(Publisher)
There's a baddie running through this book is a fun story: you can follow the path of destruction left by the baddie in the book, as he makes his way through the book stealing different items. He left a trail of nuts behind him as he made his way through the book, and in the end this was his undoing. He ends up caught and everyone gets their things back. He is locked up, but will he stay that way?
The illustrations are lots of fun and children will enjoy picking out the baddie in his mask and carrying a sack over his shoulder, while enjoying the havoc that he leaves behind.
It uses language that can be used to support concept development such as "up and down", "left or right".
I recommend this book especially for preschool age children to support the development of the concepts used in the book.
Karen Colliver


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Oct 11 2018

Saffy and the sneaky secret summoning by Annabel Cutler

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Little Steps, 2018. ISBN 9781925545029
(Age: 3+) "Join Little Saffy as she goes about her sneaky secret mission. She is determined to summon the almighty dragon and she will most certainly not let anything stand in her way." (Publisher)
This is a delightful story about Saffy, who tries every night to summon a dragon. She persistently tries again and again but instead finds herself face to face with creatures including a chook, dog and a skunk. Despite no initial success Saffy is determined.
I loved the bright illustrations throughout the book and found it easy to identify themes such as persistence and self belief. Dotted throughout is Saffy's vivid imagination. Without giving the ending away, it is fair to say that she goes on an incredible adventure and it has a happy ending.
Suitable for children aged 3 and up.
Kathryn Schumacher


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Oct 11 2018

The Complete Adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie: 100th Anniversary Edition by May Gibbs

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HarperCollins, 2018. ISBN 9781460756218
A century ago, as the war that had shaken the world and shattered so many families was finally drawing to a close, an Australian artist who specialised in satirical cartoons and social commentary gave the world her now-iconic work about Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, the two little gumnut brothers who set off on an adventure to see a human.
May Gibbs had completely changed her focus from her earlier work and because of ill-health moved to Sydney where she fell in love with the natural bushland of the Blue Mountains. In 1914 the Gumnut Babies made their first appearance and quickly became popular with Australians at home and in the trenches as her range of works were included in Red Cross parcels, bringing sentimental reminders of home to the troops.
Now a committed conservationist, Gibbs brought the world of the Australian bush alive for those who were far from it as she tells the tale of how Cuddlepie is rescued by Nut from the spiderweb and taken home to meet Snugglepot and they became foster brothers and lived together side by side until they became "strong and fat as you see them in the pictures." Enthralled by the stories of Mr Kookaburra about humans and their ways, Snugglepot and Cuddlepie determine that these strange creatures are something they want to see and so one very hot night, "when the Cicadas were singing so loudly that Snugglepot couldn't hear his father's snoring, he and Cuddlepie crept out of bed and out of the house." Decking themselves in in feathers from an old nest to look like birds and fly, by sunrise they were far from home. And so the adventures began . . .
And a century later, little ones are still captivated by the stories and the characters who helped them on their way like Mr Lizard, Mrs Fantail, Little Ragged blossom, Little Obelia, the evil Mrs Snake and, of course, the big bad Banksia Men.
The Complete Adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie has never been out of print since it was first published and this new centenary edition is an heirloom to be treasured, and certainly the perfect gift for any baby born this year. All of her original artwork has been sourced and re-scanned and it features a fresh new design in full colour that is true to the original editions of these stories.
Included is a biography of May Gibbs that reveals her remarkable life and talent and how deserving she is to be regarded as one of Australia's most treasured illustrators, artists and children's authors.
In her will, May Gibbs left the copyright of her works jointly to The NSW Society for Crippled Children (now known as Northcott) and the Spastic Centre of NSW (now known as Cerebral Palsy Alliance) with payments for the rights to use her designs going to these charities and so her legacy continues in a practical way. Nutcote, her harbourside home in Neutral Bay, Sydney is now a house museum that can be visited by the general public. There is also a travelling exhibition celebrating her life and work with a selection of original and reproduction artwork from her children's books and other works from the State Library of NSW that is currently on tour.
As teacher librarians we talk about finding THAT book for each child that will transform them into a lifelong reader - THAT book for me was Snugglepot and Cuddlepie shared with me as a little one recovering from the mumps by a loving grandmother. Over 60 years on and the magic has not faded! Who would ever have imagined I'd be reviewing the centenary edition!!! #fanforlife
Barbara Braxton


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Oct 11 2018

At the end of Holyrood Lane by Dimity Powell

cover image

Ill. by Nicky Johnston. EK Books, 2018. ISBN 9781925335767
Flick lives at the End of Holyrood Lane in a little house beneath the beech woods, spending most of her days in the sunshine dancing with the butterflies and playing with her unicorn toy and long, rainbow ribbon. But sometimes a storm hits - storms so violent and loud and scary that she has to hide because even her rainbow ribbon and her unicorn cannot give her comfort. She is very good at hiding but the storms make her feel very small and they are so loud her ears hurt and her heart throbs.
; One day, the storm is so fearsome and last so long that there is nowhere for Flick to hide and so she flees. But it follows her, almost swallowing her in its fury, until "sodden and shaken" she stops, gathers all her courage and asks for help. She is gathered into the arms of someone with a large umbrella and even though it rumbles and grumbles for a while, finally the storm leaves. And the sun comes out.
Flick is still scared of storms and flinches if the rumbling starts, but while it might rain a bit the storms have gone for good.
While a fear of thunderstorms is common for many children, and even telling them it's just the clouds bashing together doesn't soothe, in this case the thunderstorm is a clever metaphor for what is happening in the house under the beech trees. Dimity Powell and Nicky Johnson, the couple behind the poignant story of The Fix-It Man, have teamed up again to bring us a book that uses the analogy of weather to explore the issue of domestic violence and its impact on the children in the family who are so often invisible as the storm's fury strikes, often without warning. Sadly, this is an all-too common happening in the lives of those in our care but so rarely touched on in children's literature, particularly picture books for the young. While we often hear the phrase that school is a "safe haven" for many children, there is much that goes on beyond school hours that we are not privy to, and unless a situation directly impacts a child in the class such as being removed into foster care, we really do not know the extent of the problem or the damage it causes.
Sharing At the End of Holyrood Lane as a class story may offer an opportunity to allow children to discuss those things they are scared of, their own personal "storms" and perhaps Flick's courage in asking for help might inspire another little one to disclose something that will bring them respite too. Children need to know they are not alone and it's OK to ask for help - that there is hope for the sun to shine again and there will be a chance to dance with the butterflies.
With its soft, supportive illustrations that encapsulate and extend the sensitive, subtle text superbly, and endorsed by a number of agencies concerned about the children caught in the middle of domestic violence such as Act for Kids, RizeUp, Paradise Kids, and Think Equal, this is a conversation starter that may bring a lot of comfort, help and hope to the children in our care.
Barbara Braxton


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