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Sep 25 2020

The Goody by Lauren Child

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Orchard, 2020. ISBN: 9781408347584.
(Age: 4+) Highly recommended. A new book by Lauren Child always creates interest as the expectation of a challenging read is ever present. She draws the reader into a false sense of security, lulls them into thinking this is a story of sibling rivalry, but she challenges us to see more than this, as it becomes an expose of expectations, of labelling, of not seeing difference. And as with many of her books, we are impelled to consider the wider issue where children behave as they are expected to, labelled and boxed in by that expectation.
Siblings, Chirton and Myrtle behave in the way they are expected to behave. Chirton is good, reliable, dependable while Myrtle is forgetful, naughty and a refuser.
Chirton eats up his broccoli, Myrtle isn't even given any as she won't eat it, Chirton cleans the rabbit hutch every week because Myrtle forgets, and Myrtle stays up late at night because she doesn't want to sleep. All of the things Myrtle does, Chirton would like to do, but he is seen as the goody in the family and so expected to behave well without exception.
One night Chirton gets up to have a glass of water and finds his sister eating choco puffs and watching TV. He would love to do this too, and wonders why he is not allowed. The next day he decides that he is a goody no longer and changes his behaviour, so much so that he is not allowed to go to a birthday party. When Myrtle goes instead, the birthday girl does not know of Myrtle's reputation and treats her like anyone else, and Myrtle decides she likes being treated thus. So the two come to see the advantages and disadvantages of being labelled, deciding that there is a middle road, and their parents are encouraged to see them as different people with their own traits.
Child's illustrations are always a treat and these with their blocks of patterns make a wonderful talking point for readers already most amused by the story.
Themes: Siblings, Humour, Difference, Expectations, Image, Behaviour, Family.
Fran Knight


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Sep 25 2020

Brain Freeze by Oliver Phommavanh

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Penguin Random House, 2020. ISBN: 9781760897147.
(Age: 10-14 years)Highly Recommended. Brain Freeze contains twelve entertaining stories written by the comedian and well know author Oliver Phommavanh. Each story holds the reader's interest with a clever use of humour, drama and a realistic solution. All of the stories feature an aspect of tween to teen family or school life that may be a source of angst for those students in that particular age bracket. These include acceptance of family values, parents supporting children and vice versa, friendship, cultural differences, school events, competition, embarrassing moments; just to name a few. In Quaranteen the author focuses on the pandemic and the momentous first lockdown Australia endured. This time at home created a new world of online learning and bloopers especially if you leave your microphone on during virtual class time or you have your embarrassing mother taking photos all day - just ask Vee.
It was an ingenious idea for the author to include characters out of his well-known novels to create a thoughtful connection for the reader. Sweet and Sour reintroduces Lengy from Thai-riffic! and he features in Super-Essential Thai-riffic! another story which looks at the implications of the pandemic on families. First Dog on Mars tells the story of Rover who inadvertently ends up being in a capsule on his way to Mars. He is terrified but discovers two fleas, Antoine and Zappo, have hitched a ride and support him with his anxieties about visiting Mars.
Brain Freeze is a perfect read aloud for a classroom teacher at the end of a long school day as the stories are reasonably short, the humour is appealing and students will be able to identify with familiar situations. Themes: Humour, Imagination.
Kathryn Beilby


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Sep 25 2020

Guinness World records 2021

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Guinness World Records Limited, 2020. ISBN: 9781913484071.
(Age: 8+) Highly recommended. Readers will not need an introduction to the fabulous Guinness World Records books and will find much to amaze and interest in the latest edition for 2021. The book is one that can be flicked through, with lots of great photos and captivating captions to grab attention, but it is also one that has a good Contents page that will direct the reader off to the right section. It features the following: Solar system, Natural world, Animals, Humans against the clock, Recordmania, Culture & society, Adventurers, Technology, Gaming, Pop Culture and Sports. All contain sub contents and page numbers and each one features one person in the hall of fame, for example Greta Thunberg in Culture and Society and Jane Goodall in Animals. There is also an Index and acknowledgments at the back of the book.
Beginning with the enticing cover, which features lots of small figures and intricate details, similar to Where's Wally?, the reader will be grabbed by the great photos and easy to read information. And they will find when they get to the end of the book, information on the illustrator Rod Hunt and instructions to find the 20 record holders that feature in his front and back covers. A humorous photo on the title page of the fastest electric ice-cream van (exuberant inventor Edd China, UK, reached 118.964 kmph in it) will grab attention and from then on the reader is sure to be fascinated by the interesting, well laid out records. In Pop Culture, one can find out who has the most followers on Instagram, by using the contents page, with the section on Social Media pg. 204 (Ariana Grande has 182, 260, 250 followers). Another flick through will show young achievers, with Jackson Oswalt became the youngest person to achieve nuclear fusion before his 13th birthday.
The Guinness World Records was founded in 1955 and has proved to be popular ever since. Visit https://guinnessworldrecords.com/ for more information about how to become part of the record-breaking community and an answer to the original question (What's the fastest game bird in Europe?) that sparked its origin.
Pat Pledger


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Sep 25 2020

Unravel the Dusk by Elizabeth Lim

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The Blood of Stars duology. Random House, 2020. ISBN: 9780525647027.
(Young Adult). Recommended. Much has changed for Maia Tamarin since the conclusion of the first novel in The Blood of Stars duology. In Spin the Dawn, we watched Maia, a young woman living in a patriarchal Chinese society, impersonate her brother in order to enter a competition to become imperial tailor. Talented but overlooked because of her gender, Maia manages to fulfil the seemingly impossible task of weaving three magical dresses from the sun, moon and stars. In Unravel the Dusk Maia returns from her perilous journey to make the garments to find her kingdom readying for war and that Edan, the boy that she loves, has disappeared. If this is not enough for one character to deal with, Maia is also forced to pretend to be the emperor's future bride in an effort to stave off the coming conflict and also wrestle with the demon Bandur, who is determined to take over her body.
Unsurprisingly, there are many plot lines, characters and conflicting motivations woven into this book. Set at a much more urgent pace than the first novel, Unravel the Dusk charts Maia's rapid growth as both a woman and a protagonist. As in the first novel, she is an enjoyable and worthy main character and is supported by a well-fleshed out cast.
Unravel the Dusk is darker in tone than its predecessor but it provides a strong and entertaining end to the series. Readers also interested in fiction influenced Ancient Chinese culture will enjoy this book. Themes: Identity, Love, War, Magic, Demons, Royalty.
Rose Tabeni


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Sep 24 2020

Migrants by Issa Watanabe

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Gecko Press, 2020. ISBN: 9781776573134.
(Age: All) Highly recommended. With predecessors from Japan, Switzerland and Spain, Peruvian born Watanabe is well placed to know what it means to be an immigrant. And living in Mallorca in the early 2000's, she became accustomed to the sight of refugees coming across the Mediterranean looking for a better life, while having a migrant living in her house gave her insight into his journey.
Thus the wordless picture book, Migrants was developed. With a stream of animals in various guises making for the next page, readers will follow their journey through the book, along with the figure of death, always behind them, as they battle uncertainty, privation, hope and despair.
Many are covered with an array of blankets given them along the way, some have bags they hang on to, only to be abandoned, some are accompanied by families, including children, but few are left at the end of their trials.
The lack of words underlines the fact that these people do not need words to tell us of their plight, it is obvious and our compassion should be bubbling over with support.
Readers will empathise with the plight of these migrants, wanting to leave their forest for whatever reason, coming to another place to start anew. But the journey is horrific, arduous and taxing, death is ever present, nibbling at their heals.
The illustrations are stunning, portraying a group of people as animals, finding their way in the dark, unsignposted, sheltering where they can in the trees and on the beach. The black colour is continued throughout the book, giving an ominous, portentous and foreboding overlay to the outcome of these migrants. Readers cannot help but reflect on the images they have seen on the nightly news, seeing parallels in Watanabe's images, so powerfully portrayed.
This is not an easy book to read, throwing up images of people like you and me finding themselves in situations where they must flee. We follow their journey with wet eyes.
To find out more about Issa Watanabe and how she came to write this book, read this interview with the author. Teacher's notes are available.
Fran Knight


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Sep 24 2020

Metal fish, falling snow by Cath Moore

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Text Publishing, 2020. ISBN: 9781922330079.
(Age: YA) Recommended. Dylan's French Mum is dead and now they will never go to Paris together, instead she is left with Pat O'Brien, her Mum's boyfriend who has his own issues. The outback Australian town of Beyen is far from the sea where Dylan could find a ship to take her Mum back to France, instead she is buried in the cemetery and Dylan wonders "How can I be real without Mum?" p21. 14 year old Dylan doesn't fit in, both for her brown skin and fuzzy hair and the way she sees the world so acutely, she has been called "dumb as a stump, or smart as a stick" or "a teabag: takes a while for things to filter through" p7; we would put her on the autism spectrum but she has the ability to see inside some people's lives. Pat and Dylan set out on a road trip away from the town heading towards her father's family she has never met. They travel from pub to pub, Pat distributing promotional material for a brewery and gambling away his money on the pokies. Dylan takes with her a tiny metal fish she found while running away from one of her Dad's angry outbursts before he left them forever, and a snow dome containing the Eiffel Tower her Mum gave her, along with a photo of Dylan and her Mum in happier times. Dylan blames herself for her Mum's death, and she is travelling towards the Guyanan family associated with her violent father but she courageously tries to make sense of her shifting world and create a new story for herself. "Your heart can't grow when it's hurting like that. I keep thinking of Mum, where the boat is, who I can be without her" p86.
Told in the first person, from Dylan's very idiosyncratic perspective, it took a while to adjust and let the story swirl through the text. A second reading would be very rewarding because the voice is consistent with an authentic edge suggesting the author's own Irish/Afro-Caribbean heritage has informed the writing. Viewed through her unique perspective Dylan struggles with grief, identity and the prejudices she encounters growing up with a coloured skin in Australia. In losing the mother she needed, Dylan lost the only family she knew; in reconnecting with lost relatives she finds someone who needs her. A sometimes funny, often profound story that will reward the effort of reading Dylan's own voice narrative, seeing the world through different eyes. "No point running from yourself 'cause wherever you go, there you are" p244.
Recommended for young adult readers with Australian curriculum detailed teaching notes available from the publisher. Themes: Grief, Identity, Mixed race heritage, Family.
Sue Speck


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Sep 24 2020

The funny life of sharks by James Campbell

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Illus. by Rob Jones. Bloomsbury Children's Books, 2020. ISBN: 9781526615497.
(Age: 8+ years) Recommended. The funny life of sharks is the third book in The funny life of . . . series by author James Campbell and illustrator Rob Jones. Before reading, a warning is given that this is not a fact book and it is a book for four different types of people: People who love sharks; People who do not like sharks; People who are sharks; People who have no interest in sharks. The reader learns that this is not an ordinary read where you read from front to back but a book where you can begin or end where you want or follow the signposts throughout the book. Finally, on Page 14 the book begins with signposts to other pages. There are interesting shark facts spread throughout the book and clever use of humour e.g. Nurse sharks have been given that name as they are used in hospitals as a way of keeping patients quiet and you are more likely to be killed by your toaster than a shark.
While this book claims that it is not a fact book, the author has a strong environmental message regarding plastics in the oceans and endangered animals. There are also other interesting facets of information about things related to sharks or not related at all. Adelaide, S.A., even has its own page of information based on great white shark attacks. The clever illustrations by Rob Jones complement the text perfectly.
This is both a humorous and enjoyable read that will entertain readers both young and old. Themes: Sharks, Environmental facts, Humour.
Kathryn Beilby


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Sep 24 2020

Four on the run by Sophie Masson

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Illus. by Cheryl Orsini. Christmas Press, 2020. ISBN: 9780648194576.
(Age: 5-8 years) Four on the run is a simple and entertaining story about four old and rusty friends living in a barn on a farm after their owner Mrs Brown has saved them from the scrap heap. Maxie is shaped like a beetle, Lady is long with fins, Flash is a motorbike and Fergie a tractor. All have their own special personalities. They are worried that Mrs Brown is having money troubles and think she is going to sell them. The four decide to escape from the barn and travel to the nearest town and find a job. Their first attempt at being musicians does not go well and the police car is after them. They are rounded up by a pack of dogs and taken to the Monster Truck Show where Crusher befriends them for his own dangerous purpose. Fortunately, the four friends cleverly outwit the monster trucks and Mrs Brown comes to their rescue. A surprise offer comes their way and the story ends happily.
This is a perfect read aloud for Junior Primary students as it is short and will appeal to children who could easily imagine that vehicles may be able to talk. Those younger readers who are progressing to independently reading novels will find the larger text and repetition of key words an asset to reading fluently. The clever illustrations by Cheryl Orsini provide extra interest and support to the reader. An activity pack is available. Themes: Friendship, Humour, Adventure, Farms.
Kathryn Beilby


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Sep 24 2020

Ruby Tuesday by Hayley Lawrence

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Penguin Random House, 2020. ISBN: 9781760894894.
(Ages: 14+) Ruby Tuesday describes the life of an Australian teenager, living in semi-rural Australia with her paraplegic mother, with the story starting up at the funeral of her grandmother. Ruby and her mother's lives revolve around music - for Ruby it's singing and creating music, for her mother it's precision piano playing. Given the start of the book (family funeral), Ruby is going through a hard time, which is not made any easier by attending a party a few weeks after the funeral. It was not a good party. All aspects of her trust have been shattered. Ruby is faced with moving on, while everyone around her insists on reminding her of that night.
This is a contemporary novel, covering issues that are still impacting teenagers today: peer pressure, underage drinking, rape, estranged friends, dealing with loss and dealing with unwanted attention. While I understand that the author wanted to highlight these issues, I find myself frustrated that women are continually at a disadvantage in society, and while Ruby and her situation are relatable, there are aspects of the story that some readers will find frustrating. The story is evenly-paced but lacking any real drive - it is simple enough to read though. Throughout the book Ruby deals with anxiety, loss, love, trust, fear and the aftermath of a sexual assault.
The author has written a contemporary novel which utilises social media and YouTube, as well as deals with relevant issues.
Themes: Music, Relationships, Disability, Anxiety, Human relationships, Facing fears, Trust.
Melanie Phillips


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Sep 23 2020

Alice, curiouser and curiouser edited by Kate Bailey and Simon Sladen

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V and A Publishing, 2020. ISBN: 9781838510046.
(Age: All) Highly recommended. Described as 'a mind-bending journey into the story of Wonderland', this sumptuous hard cover book has been published to accompany the exhibition of the same name at the Victoria and Albert Museum, an exhibition exploring the origins, adaptations and reinventions over the years of Lewis Carroll's original stories of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass.
The first section of the book is a collection of beautiful and intricately detailed illustrations by  Kristjana S. Williams that children and adults alike will enjoy exploring. They are colourful scenes from the Alice stories decorated with plants and flowers, strange creatures, timepieces and hidden mirrors to search out.
Then follows the story of Lewis Carroll (Charles Dodgson) and his creation of the fantasy stories for his young friend, Alice, daughter of Henry Liddell, dean of Christ Church, Oxford, while passing the time on rowing expeditions with her and her sisters. Those stories of strange other worlds with nonsense verse and absurd dialogue questioning reality and perception were to become a source of delight for both adults and children, and an inspiration for many later adaptations and interpretations in literature, art, film, theatre, science and popular culture.
This book collects together iconic images from the early illustrations by John Tenniel to surrealist art, to the fashion statements of Vivenne Westwood, Viktor and Rolf, and Galliano for Dior. An allegory of Alice's adventures has been used as an introduction to the quantum world, and in a reference to her quest to discover more about our universe, her name was given to the 'Large Ion Collider Experiment' at CERN, the European Organisaton for Nuclear Research.
The legacy of Alice in Wonderland lives on in so many ways; this book provides a wonderful insight into the amazing impact those early stories have had, and is a volume that many will find much pleasure in perusing.
Helen Eddy


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Sep 23 2020

You were made for me by Jenna Guillaume

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Pan Macmillan, 2020. ISBN: 9781760559137.
(Age: 13+) Sixteen year old Katie wants to be a writer; she is also good at art. Her best friend, Libby, wants to be a scientist or an editor and together they tell a story of how they made the perfect boy. Neither is in the "cool" group at school who call them mean names; pretty girls who have real boyfriends, led by Mikayla Fitzsimmons. For Katie, the perfect guy is Declan Bell Jones, the gorgeous, sporty boy in her geography class but he happens to be Mikayla's boyfriend. When Katie is hit in the head with a soccer ball kicked by Declan she doesn't care about the concussion or her broken glasses, just that he spoke to her and helped her up. Back home the girls play a game called Silly orSerious with Katie's neighbour and good friend, Theo and she admits that the most embarrassing thing is that she has never been kissed. Katie wants her first kiss to be perfect but her friends assert that nobody is perfect. When Libby asks her what the perfect guy would look like she produces a sculpture of him. As they finish the sculpture and coat it with a mixture concocted by Libby, the girls discuss exactly what the perfect boy would be like. What follows explores what it is like to get what you wish for.
This light, teen romantic comedy is predictable in its premise but the author uses it to explore issues of friendship, sexuality, loyalty, bullying, grief, diversity and peer pressure with a light touch and an Australian flavour. As Katie gets swept up in the thrill of owning her own perfect boyfriend she forgets her friends who she relies on for practical support. But real friends fight, make up and accept each other. This is a journey of self-discovery by characters still finding out who they are and what matters most to them. A fun book suitable for younger YA audiences. There is some adult content but nothing explicit. Teaching notes are available.
Themes: Romantic comedy, friendship.
Sue Speck


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Sep 23 2020

Rowley Jefferson's awesome friendly adventure by Jeff Kinney

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Puffin Books, 2020. ISBN: 9781760897888. 218pp.
(Ages: 8-12) Recommended. This is the second in a new series by Jeff Kinney. It is written from the perspective of Rowley Jefferson, Greg Heffley's more virtuous friend (Diary of a Wimpy Kid series). Rowley has decided to write a fantasy adventure about flute-playing Roland, who embarks on a mission to save his mother. She has been kidnapped by the White Warlock and taken to the Ice Fortress. Rowley is accompanied by his best friend Garg the barbarian. They meet many characters from classic books along the way such as Sherlock Holmes, Medusa and trolls and pixies. Many of the characters join them on the journey. At the end of each chapter Greg advises Rowley to make the story more "bad-ass" and appealing to a modern audience. Greg thinks the book needs to be made into a movie with lucrative spin offs like video games, action dolls and toys in fast food meals. Rowley, always a stickler for doing the right thing, increasingly doesn't agree with Greg's sexist, violent and wasteful suggestions.
This is pretty funny, clever material. I recognised semi-subtle references to the highly popular blockbusters Game of Thrones and the Twilight series, amongst others. There is a lot of fun in the contrast between sweet nerdy Rowley and more worldly Greg. The satirical look at the commercialisation of books and films is bound to get readers thinking. I laughed out loud at Stephen the half-man, half-cow, with an udder and Greg saying "Librarians will go nuts for all the classic book characters." Cartoon-like illustrations are integral to the humour of the Jeff Kinney brand.
This is enjoyable reading for reluctant through to well-seasoned readers. Kinney's books play an important role in getting kids reading.
Jo Marshall


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Sep 23 2020

Whine guide by Beck & Matt Stanton

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Self-Help for Babies book 2. ABC Books, 2020. ISBN: 9780733341168.
(Age: All) Recommended. Another great addition to the series, Whine guide will have adults grinning at the descriptions of all the whines that a baby can make as well as the allusions to all the wine that an adult could drink. The following passage on the back cover gives the flavour of the book:
Dear Baby
Do you feel like you're speaking a million words a minute, but no one truly understands you?
Don't worry. A lot of babies feel this way.
We're here to help you get your message across, when it matters most.
Chat soon!
The book starts with the instructions of how to match the right whine to each occasion and follows with guides to the thirst quencher, the bubbly, the glass half empty, the surprise party, the nightcap, the fragrant drop, the bottom of the barrel and the sweet whine all paired well with appropriate actions. Every parent will recognise these familiar situations and will have fun identifying the various whines that their infant makes.
Each double page spread contains simple black and white illustrations on a coloured background, with the expressions on the face of the baby an absolute delight to look at.
It is obvious that the authors are very familiar with small babies and bring their expertise in illustration and humour to reassure parents about their baby's behaviour while giving them something to laugh about. A great series that would be a wonderful gift to new parents.
Pat Pledger


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Sep 23 2020

Paul Kelly, the man, the music and the life in between by Stuart Coupe

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Hachette, 2004, reprinted 2020. ISBN: 9780733642340.
(Age: Adult) Stuart Coupe, former manager of Paul Kelly, says he was motivated to write this biography of the musician because there was so much missed out of Kelly's autobiography How to make gravy, published in 2010. Coupe's book fills in the early career, and portrays a driven and ambitious artist who was totally focussed on himself. "He had this philosophy of being true to yourself, which basically meant ignoring everyone else". Kelly's years of heroin addiction are also given plenty of attention, along with the whole world of drugs and the music scene at that time.
In writing the book Coupe obviously had access to the confidence of many fellow musicians and friends, including Kelly himself, though the women in Kelly's life have been more reticent. It makes for a long and detailed collection of snippets about the singer songwriter's journey to success.
Interestingly the book does reveal the full circle of his life, describing how Kelly came to seek out collaboration with new talent, particularly Indigenous musicians; he helped to highlight the work of people like Vika and Linda Bull, Archie Roach, and Kev Carmody. Recognition of this led to Kelly being awarded the Order of Australia in 2017 for his service to the performing arts and the promotion of the national identity through contributions as a singer, songwriter and musician. However Coupe's book neglects to include Kelly's more recent encouragement of Dan Sultan.
If you are a serious fan of Paul Kelly and you want to look back at every step along his career, or if you are interested in the rough side of the music scene, this book has it all. However if you are more interested in the inspiration and thoughts of the artist, How to make gravy might be a better read.
Helen Eddy


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Sep 22 2020

Punching the air by Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam

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HarperCollins, 2020. ISBN: 9780008422141.
(Age: 14+) Highly recommended. Amal's name means hope, but it is hard to feel hope when you are a black kid that has been hauled in for street fighting, and there is white kid in a coma in hospital. Amal knows that he has already been shaped into a monster in people's minds, and it doesn't matter what he says. He is innocent, but everything is stacked against him.
The story is fictional but draws on the lived experience of co-author Yusef Salaam, one of the 'Exonerated Five', the group of black boys falsely convicted of assaulting and raping a young white woman jogging in Manhattan's Central Park in 1989. The five boys were victims of racial profiling by the police determined to find their culprit and were all given lengthy prison sentences. Only years later were they exonerated when the real offender admitted to his crime, corroborated by DNA evidence. With their book, Punching the air, authors Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam have collaborated together to highlight ongoing issues of racial discrimination, police violence and injustice still happening today.
The story is written in verse, similar to Manjeet Mann's Run, rebel, with the same heart-felt rawness and honesty. We feel Amal's fear, his retreat behind a stony-faced silence, his confusion and desperation. His only relief is his art and his poetry. The pages are illustrated with lines and smudges of black; it is only when there a human connection with someone outside of the prison, that his drawings become butterflies, because the flutter of a butterfly's wings can have an impact around the world.
The story is bold and confronting with themes similar to the work of Angie Thomas, The hate U give, and On the come up, but the book is easy to read; the verse pages carry you along from the despair of the courtroom to the harshness of prison and then finally the rediscovery of hope through art, and the love of caring people.
Themes: Racism, Police brutality, Prison, Black Lives Matter, Social justice.
Helen Eddy


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Sep 22 2020

Rocky Lobstar: Time travel tangle! by Rove McManus

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Scholastic Australia, 2020. ISBN: 9781760665067.
Recommended for primary students. This is the second enjoyable and 'krilliant' book in the Rocky Lobstar series by comedian Rove McManus. It is an ideal stepping stone for younger readers moving up from early fiction - it has similar humour to the Treehouse books but comes in at around 100 pages shorter.
Rocky Lobstar is part-boy, part-lobster. He is the star of Felidi's Fabulous Sideshow Carnival which also boasts a bearded strong lady, an alligator magician, a contortionist, a sword swallower and others.
Rocky might burp too loud and use an array of silly lobster-themed exclamations, but he is overall a likeable character with many positive qualities. He is energetic, quick thinking, cheerful, a responsible owner of his pet sea-pig, Bubbles, and is always polite (even to machines). He has a great sense of daring and humour, is a loyal friend and never gives up.
In this adventure Rocky and his best mate Goober accidentally break a prized tea set belonging to Carnival boss, Mr Felidi. Luckily a visiting celebrity professor happens to have left her new time machine at the carnival. What follows is a journey that stretches the imagination, tangles time and includes some great rhymes along the way.
McManus holds a fine art qualification along with a lifelong passion for drawing and animation, and he has packed humour and liveliness into every page and drawing in this book. The story leads to a wonderful double page illustration bursting with amusing characters, where you find more fun details the longer you look. Themes: Creatures, Travel, Friends.
Kylie Grant


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Sep 22 2020

Marshmallow Pie the cat superstar on TV by Clara Vulliamy

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Harper Collins, 2020. ISBN: 9780008355890.
(Age: 6+) Recommended. Marshmallow Pie the cat superstar on TV is the third book in the popular series by Clara Vulliamy. The books are narrated by Marshmallow Marmaduke Vanilla-Bean Sugar-Pie Fluffington Fitz-Noodle himself, and tell the story of one incredibly arrogant cat and his acting life helped along by his human owner, Amelia. In this story Marshmallow Pie has been chosen to appear on a TV commercial with Gingernut, a kitten. However Pie dislikes kittens intensely and does everything in his power to outshine the kitten on the first day. On the second day of shooting, a series of mishaps causes Brad, the unpleasant Director, to completely chastise the young kitten. Pie begins to feel very guilty as he realises that it was his actions that set in motion the events leading to Gingernut's fall from grace. In order to shift the blame off Gingernut, Pie completely destroys the set and both cats are fired. But there is always a silver lining! By the power of mobile phones the chaos Pie caused on the set appears on Youtube and he becomes an instant overnight sensation. The next book will continue with the acting career of one Marshmallow Pie.
This book will appeal to younger readers who love humour and animals outwitting the humans. The illustrations by the author are both clever and entertaining. This would be a great read aloud in a Junior Primary classroom or at home to a younger child. Themes: Cats, Friendship, Humour, Acting.
Kathryn Beilby


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Sep 22 2020

Marshmallow Pie the cat superstar by Clara Vulliamy

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Marshmallow Pie. HarperCollins, 2020. ISBN: 9780008355852. 128pp.
This is a lovely short story about Marshmallow Vanilla-Bean Sugar-Pie Fluffington-Fitz-Noodle (or Pie for short) becoming an acting star. The story follows Pie and her human Amelia as they navigate the ups and downs of the audition process. The book is reasonably easy to read and would be good for students who are independent readers.
The story is written from Pie's point of view and I really like this aspect! Pie comes from a very posh background and you can tell by the way she narrates the story. The author Clara Vulliamy puts just the right amount of 'fancy' into the text which is great fun when you're reading this book out loud. I read this book to my 6-year-old and we had lots of fun putting on posh voices for both Pie and then changing it up for her owner Amelia.
The illustrations are also a great addition to this book, as they help engage the reader and add an extra element to the text. My favourite illustrations are those of Marshmallow Pie as Clara gives her such wonderful facial illustrations, you can really imagine what type of a cat she would be like! I like how she has formatted the pictures too, some are placed within frames, at the top of the page or within the text - each one adding interest.
Overall, this is a funny book, with excellent illustrations that add to the story. Clara Vulliamy is a great author/illustrator who has really hit the target market of beginning independent readers. The text is clear, concise and uses an excellent amount of words that readers at this level would know/be able to decode. I think this is a great start to a series, bring on book 2!
Lauren Fountain


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Sep 22 2020

Bluey: Grannies

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Penguin Random House Australia, 2020. ISBN: 9781760899363.
(Ages: 2-5) Recommended. This new instalment in the Bluey board book series is based on the incredibly popular Grannies episode, which sees Bluey and Bingo trying to work out whether Grannies can dance. Children who are familiar with the episode will find all their favourite bits and quotes of the episode accounted for: 'I slipped on ma beans!', Dad unblocking the stinky toilet, Nana's ineptitude with FaceTime and the car crash into the sandpit. There is even a holographic page at the end that children can use to make the Bluey and Bingo grannies floss.
A nice message about getting along is also instilled in the book when it is established that Bluey is right: their granny can't floss. Bingo feels sad that she is wrong and doesn't want to play anymore but Mum explains that sometimes you can't keep the game going AND be right. Which is more important? Bluey's solution is to teach Nana how to floss - that way both Bluey and Bingo were right. As a television series, Bluey is a lovely celebration of play, family relationships and imagination and the accompanying books help to reinforce these strong messages of positive family interaction and self-awareness. Themes: Grandparents, Board book, Dancing.
Nicole Nelson


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Sep 21 2020

The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

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The Inheritance Games, book 1. Penguin, 2020. ISBN: 9780241476178.
(Age: 14+) Recommended. Wow! This is one for fans of twisty plots and games that keep the reader guessing right until the end. Avery is a girl who is struggling to keep her head above water, hoping for a better future. She lives with her half-sister, Libby, works as a waitress and has one good friend, Max. Then out of the blue, gorgeous Grayson Hawthorne turns up at her school, saying that she has been named in his billionaire grandfather's will. Avery has inherited most of his wealth and the family is not happy about this. She finds herself playing a deadly game with the four grandsons, Grayson, Jameson, Nash and Zander as they race to work out the clues that Tobias Hawthorne has left in his final letters to them.
Avery has no idea why she has been left with a fortune. A strong-willed character, she finds herself the owner of an amazing mansion and a huge amount of money. With her sister Libby, she must fit into a lifestyle that is completely different to what she has been used to while maintaining her own values and beliefs. Then there is that mystery to solve. Why was she left a fortune by an unknown benefactor? Who can she trust from the Hawthorne family as the four brothers try to solve the game their grandfather left them? Who is trying to kill her? And which brother is she most attracted to?
The pace is fast, and the book was one that I had trouble putting down. It is gripping and the characters are so well drawn that it is easy to feel familiar with them. A sub-plot of domestic violence was also well depicted and fitted in with the main story.
The first in a series, the conclusion was satisfying, but left open hints to where the next book might go, enough to keep readers eagerly waiting for it. Readers who enjoyed this might like One of Us is Lying by Karen McManus and We were liars by E. Lockhart
Pat Pledger


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Sep 21 2020

Gold! by Jackie Kerin and Annie White

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Ford Street Publishing, 2020. ISBN: 9781925804539.
(Ages: 6-10) Recommended. Gold! is an amusing true story about two pairs of brothers, one English and the other Canadian, and how they found a large nugget of gold on the Victorian goldfields. The story begins with the news of gold in Australia travelling around the world and people arriving in masses to search, dreaming of riches. The realities hit home for the four boys when they find the tiniest speck of gold and realise that the chances of striking their fortune are slim. While the book paints a fairly happy picture of the goldfields some of the hardships are gently portrayed: thieves, lack of food, lack of adequate sanitation, exposure to harsh weather conditions. But then one day, their luck changes . . . a huge nugget, as big as a leg of lamb. When they eventually leave the goldfields, a sequence of events leads them straight to England and to Queen Victoria, who exhibits their gold nugget at the Crystal Palace.
This is a fun, lively introduction for young readers to the gold rush and its impact. There are two pages of extra factual information at the end of the story that help to give differing perspectives and contextual information. The small paragraph about how the Dja Dja Wurrung people and land were affected by the gold rush is particularly important, as is the paragraph about how the Chinese miners were treated. Other information includes more about the digging for gold process, about the nugget of gold itself and about the historical people within the story (Governor Barkly, Prince Albert, Queen Victoria).
The watercolour illustrations were inspired by the goldfield artists of the mid-nineteenth century and paint a vivid picture of the landscape and the living conditions of the miners. Teacher's notes are available. Themes: Victorian gold rush.
Nicole Nelson


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Sep 21 2020

Dare to be you by Matthew Syed

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Wren & Rook, 2020. ISBN: 9781526362377.
(Ages: 11+) In this empowering non-fiction book, Dare to be you: Defy self-doubt, fearlessly follow your own path and be confidently you!' readers are encouraged to be themselves, be different, pursue their dreams and to not be defined by what is considered 'normal'. Aimed at students entering high school, the book covers self-doubt, friendships, individualism, kindness and more. Filled with research and examples, including real-life examples from the author, well known successful people and a few celebrities, the book relates to young teenagers through these examples.
I found the book easy to read, due to layout and content, and I believe it will be beneficial to teenagers who are confused and searching for where they fit in the world. Throughout the book there are activities that the reader can undertake to further explore their own strengths, ideals and future pathways. Using a variety of imagery and text styles (as well as colour), the book will appeal to many readers. There are some really good suggestions to assist with empowering the reader to own being themselves. Well suited for readers between 11 and 15 years of age.
Themes: Self-empowerment, self-improvement, courage, self-doubt, questioning.
Melanie Phillips


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Sep 21 2020

Going for Gold by Matthew 'Delly' Dellavedova and Zanni Louise

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Illus. by Nathalie Ortega. Daring Delly book 3. Scholastic Australia, 2020. ISBN: 9781743832028.
Recommended for primary students (ages 7-11). This is the 3rd book in the Daring Delly series by Australian basketball champion, Matthew Dellavedova. A section at the back of the book includes a Q & A with the author, a biography page and a world map showing all the locations of Dellavedova's career highlights, from his beginnings in country Victoria to playing in the Olympics and the USA.
The title character in this series, Delly, is crazy about basketball and is a talented player. In this book his school is hosting the Junior Basketball Tri-Nation Tournament, with teams arriving from Japan and the USA. The visiting players are embraced by the community during the tournament-they all attend the local school for the week and most of them are housed by local families.
Dellavedova compassionately explores the highs and lows that come when children from three different countries are thrown together under pressure. The players navigate existing and new friendships and work in pairs on a basketball assignment for school, all while vying for tournament wins. They support each other through various struggles, show good sportsmanship and learn about cultural differences.
Throughout the story there are several play-by-play descriptions of basketball games which include just the right level of detail. This is enough for an enthusiastic fan to enjoy and be able to picture exactly what's happening, while not being so technical as to become boring to a non-basketball fan.
Whenever a new basketball term is introduced there is a diagram to show what that term means, and there are multiple little trivia notes scattered throughout which will interest readers who love facts.
Dellavedova's books are based on his own childhood experiences and he can proudly join other Australian sporting stars, such as Glenn Maxwell, David Warner, Shane Crawford and the Selwood brothers, in having created an entertaining book for young sports enthusiasts. Themes: sport, friends.
Kylie Grant


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Sep 18 2020

Mama Ocean by Jane Jolly

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Illus. by Sally Heinrich. Midnight Sun Publishing, 2020. ISBN: 9781925227659.
(Ages: 4-9) Highly recommended. Beautifully textured and flowing illustrations by Sally Heinrich breath life into this whimsical tale that carries a crucially important environmental message. As with 2017's Papa Sky this story feels almost like an ancient legend, both due to the grandeur of its illustrations and the sweeping simplicity of its language. Mama Ocean is depicted as a wise, elderly mermaid with long, flowing locks and a dedicated following of ocean creatures. She rises supremely out of the waves; 'My children . . . Gather near. And so they came'. But there is no happiness on her weary face. She is distressed. In an effort to cheer her the sea creatures bring her gifts that they find swirling around the ocean currents: bottle tops, buckets and toothbrushes. 'But Mama Ocean was sick. She was becoming bleached and frail. Her eyes were dulling and her spirit was breaking'. As she is slowly becoming smothered with these items the emerald water starts to grow murky and dark. Before long the animals are also being strangled by these foreign materials. The fish have cans stuck on their noses, the turtles have plastic can holders tangled around their middles, the seals have ropes twisted around their bodies and the seabed is littered with plastic cups, corks and old shoes. Finally they see, 'Oh Mama! This finery is fake. We must send it back from whence it came'. And so they throw back the gifts and the ocean carries them away and dumps them back onto the solid ground. Mama Ocean rises again: 'We need no gifts', she says.
There is a fantastic page without any text that shows a gigantic pile of waste on the edge of the ocean, that will provide a fantastic starting point for conversations about waste and how to solve the problem, not just of ocean litter but also litter in general. Descriptive and rich language choices make for an emotive and evocative read and the breathtaking illustrations are filled with details that will help the reader connect their own lifestyle with the devastation taking place in our oceans. The line 'we need no gifts' is also worth exploring with children. Children will no doubt feel empowered in their own ability to create change through some simple changes to their everyday practices. Teacher's notes are available. Themes: Oceans, Littering.
Nicole Nelson


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Sep 18 2020

Tribal Lores by Archimede Fusillo

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Walker Books, 2020. ISBN: 9781760651954.
(Age: 14+) Recommended. This story is set in Australia, with a family of Italian immigrants living in the suburbs of the city, the father a butcher and the mother running the home, while helping her husband and caring for family. Archimede Fusillo has constructed a riveting tale of the challenges that face migrants in their new country, from the social mores, to the changing of the old rules to those of the new country, focusing on those that challenge the parents in this new country. The novel feels so real, Fusillo having constructed this evocative narrative with an authenticity that is rivetting.
We read how the children of migrants must learn to cope with school, socializing and learning the ways of the new country while living very much by the rules of the old at home. This nexus of worlds is at the heart of the divide that they face daily, as the new world intrudes on the old ways, and the parents and children have to adjust to their roles in this new place. Told with heart, this narrative brings to light both the extreme challenges and the daily adjustments, exploring how these differ for parents and children.
The old ways, however, dominate at home for the young people, and Fusillo focuses on how they face the challenge of fitting in to the new world while following the norms of their families. In fact, this seems an impossible challenge. We feel every emotion with the characters, so vivid is this tale, and we are torn by their emotional responses, as Fusillo's beautiful and powerful tale unfolds. This is a story appropriate for both adults and younger adolescents. Book Club notes are available.
Elizabeth Bondar


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Sep 18 2020

The bushfire book by Polly Marsden

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Illus. by Chris Nixon. Lothian, 2020. ISBN: 9780734420077.
(Age: 6+) Recommended. Subtitled, How to be aware and prepare, this book comes with a poster which summarises the thrust of the book and usable in a classroom or at home to remind families of the need to be ready.
In line with RFS regulations and in child friendly language, Marsden approaches the fears that children may have when talking about bushfire, an annual event caused by extreme weather in our country and overseas. Everyone in Australia needs to be aware and have a plan in case bushfire is part of their lives one day, but many chose not to do so.
So it is apposite that such a book is available to initiate discussion around awareness. After a few pages in which our fear of bushfires is discussed, several pages of facts are given under the headings fuel, heat and oxygen. Without these a fire cannot exist, and there are some clever people keeping watch. These include, emergency professionals, weather watchers, indigenous rangers and so on. In the past indigenous people used fire as part of their agricultural methods, but today with so many people living close together bushfires are a major issue.
The three steps on the poster are then reiterated, be aware, prepare and share, developing the steps each child can take to allay their fears. It is hoped that with the three steps known and discussed, the readers will have a better knowledge of how fires start, who is there to help and how they should react. At the end of the book is given the Fire Danger Ratings chart and the meaning of the words, Total Fire Ban. If the reader is still feeling anxious then the best thing to do is share their fears with a friend or relative.
The last page is a practical outline of the websites to go to for more information, Red Cross, from which can be downloaded a Bushfire Plan for the family to fill in and refer to, the Bureau of Meteorology for information about the weather and any warnings that might be in place, and WIRES which helps wildlife affected by fire.
A charmingly illustrated book which encourages discussion at home or in the classroom, this book includes lines about mental health and keeping yourself safe from anxiety and fear. Teacher's notes are available.
Themes: Fire, Emergency workers, Volunteers, Indigenous farming, Australia, Climate change.
Fran Knight


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Sep 18 2020

The polar bear in Sydney Harbour by Beck Feiner and Robin Feiner

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ABC Books, 2020. ISBN: 9780733339400.
(Age: 4+) Recommended. On her way home from the zoo, across Sydney Harbour on the ferry, Hannah notices a polar bear. She befriends him and calls him Rodney, wanting to keep him as a pet. But Rodney is too hot in the Sydney weather and so she does a few things to cool him down, eventually realising that he has not come to Sydney for an adventure, but by accident. She is also puzzled by the fact that no one else can see him. She takes him to Bondi Beach, there hoping to find someone to help Rodney get back home. But they are all too interested in having fun on the beach to notice Rodney. She takes him on the underground and the same thing happens, and so she take him Christmas shopping. Surely someone amongst the huge crowds will notice him, but they are all too preoccupied with their shopping to notice a polar bear. Dispirited they return home, but Hannah notices the lighthouse and has an idea. They climb the building and Rodney basks in the light, his fur reflecting the light all over Sydney, making everyone sit up and take notice. They work with Hannah to get the polar bear back home and he leaves on a ferry to return with a snow dome of Sydney Harbour as a parting gift.
Hannah's persistence has paid off and now everyone is aware that a polar bear does not belong in Sydney Harbour, awakening them to the perils of climate change and its consequences.
This will be an interesting and questioning book to read and discuss with classes. As I write this review, two humpback whales have been found in East Alligator River in Kakadu National Park, veered off their course through the Timor Sea. So animals out of their usual spaces are now not uncommon. And all begs the question of why and what can we do about it.
I love the illustrations with blocks of colour, each page having a host of details to absorb and explore. Views of Sydney are very recognisable, even to those who live elsewhere, and I love the maps in the endpapers, giving younger readers an idea of where the animal lives and what his journey back will look like, hopefully tempting them to look at a larger map to see just where polar bears do live, and how far they are from Australia. Teacher's notes are available.
Themes: Animals, Climate change, Polar bears, Persistence, Sydney.
Fran Knight


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Sep 18 2020

They wish they were us by Jessica Goodman

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Razorbill/Penguin Random House, 2020. ISBN: 9780593114292.
(Ages: 14+) A YA murder mystery revolving around a prestigious high school with a not so secret society - the school's elite, called 'The Players'. The story follows Jill Newman in her final year of high school, three years after her best friend, Shaila, was murdered. Shaila's boyfriend, Graham, was convicted of the murder, and Jill and her friends have tried to put that horrid night behind them. This is their last year of high school, they run the school as The Players, everything should be perfect. But Graham's sister contacts Jill making a case for Graham's innocence and Jill starts questioning everything - her friends, her family, her boyfriend and her 'perfect' school life.
Packed with underage drinking and drug use (hence the suggested age of 14 years and up), They Wish They Were Us explores the pressures of fitting in, parental expectations, the complexities of friendships and how secrets can be kept by anyone. Similar in style to People Like Us by Dana Mele, They Wish They Were Us is a good introduction to the teen murder mystery genre. Many teen murder mysteries are well paced with plenty of action, however this book has a moderate pace with numerous flash backs. Readers may find it hard to keep track of the story, though I did read a proof edition and perhaps the published edition distinguished the past and present in a more obvious way.
Themes: Popularity, murder mystery, secrets, ambition, friendships.
Melanie Phillips


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Sep 17 2020

A climate in chaos by Neal Layton

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Hachette, 2020. ISBN: 9781526362315.
(Age: 6+) Highly recommended. In young reader friendly language, Neal Layton explains how the world got to be in the mess it is in.
We rely on breathing out carbon dioxide after taking in oxygen, and plants take in carbon dioxide, breathing out oxygen. The greenhouse gas layer kept us warm. So it has been for millions of years, but two hundred years ago we started burning fossil fuel to create energy to power machines and the balance became uneven. More carbon dioxide is created, making the greenhouse gas layer too thick and changing the climate around the world. Added to this the animals that breathe out carbon dioxide have been farmed, increasing their number, so creating more carbon dioxide, and human population has increased rapidly, adding to the amount as well. Trees and forests which soak up the extra carbon dioxide are being pulled down and the warmer temperatures are changing our climate.
Animal habitats are being changed as well, making it difficult for them to survive.
So what can we do about it?
Layton lists his suggestions with regard to transport, consumerism, waste, food, energy and forests. Each suggestion has a paragraph of information about how these should be changed for the better. Food, for example, tells us that eating more plants reduces the impact of livestock farming, eating food that is grown locally reduces the need for it to be transported while growing our own is even more beneficial.
The biggest issue of them all is burning of fossil fuels, and Layton advocates a change to renewable energy sources, wind, tidal, geothermal and solar power.
Layton explains what a sustainable house looks like with a drawing and information around it to show where savings can be made. Many children will have heard of several suggestions here and some will be practising some at home, while your school may have solar panels and a garden, but all put together this makes a fascinating reference for a classroom to read about and research to find out more information. Questions will spring up: where do we get recycled loo paper, what is a composting toilet, does it smell, how can we have a garden on the roof? And so on. The double page with the sustainable house will create a great deal of imaginative discussion, and kids will want to know what their school and council is doing to create a sustainable pathway for the area. At the end of the book Layton acknowledges the work being done around the world, and finishes with a list of things we can all do in the home to create a better environment.
A book well worth reading and sharing.
Themes: Sustainability, Climate change, Greenhouse gas, Fossil fuels, Future, Renewable energy.
Fran Knight


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Sep 17 2020

The mountains sing by Nguyen Phan Que Mai

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Oneworld, 2020. ISBN: 9781786079503.
(Age: 14+) Highly recommended. As a young girl in the school taught by her grandmother Dieu Lan, Huong wonders why foreign armies keep invading her country, Vietnam: first the Chinese, the Mongolians, the French, the Japanese and then the American imperialists. As the Vietnam (or American) war continues, it is her grandmother's stories that keep her hope alive. Learning that her grandmother has survived the French occupation, the Japanese invasion, the Great Hunger, and the Land Reform, Huong is determined that she will find safety once again with her parents Ngoc and Hoang, both soldiers in the war against the American enemy and the South Vietnamese.
Readers of this novel will learn through Dieu Lan's stories of the horrific ordeals the people of Vietnam have endured. The chapters alternate between the struggles of Huong and her grandmother during the Vietnam war, and the past stories of Dieu Lan's suffering of mass famine in 1945, the brutality of land dispossession and massacres during the Land Reform movement in the 1950s and then the conflict of the Vietnam War. Dieu Lan was the mother of six children, each of whom she had to find some way of protecting, even if it meant actually abandoning them to ensure their survival away from her. It is a heartrending story. When Dieu Lan retraces her steps to find her children again their outcomes are not always what she would have hoped for.
Each of Huong's relatives is affected by the Vietnam War, through separation from family, to beatings and rape, to Agent Orange poisoning, to traumatic amputation. But somehow, the spirit of Dieu Lan survives and even forges a way towards Buddhist forgiveness, peace and calm. It is a harrowing story, but one of the delights of this novel are the Vietnamese proverbs that Dieu Lan passes on to Huong, "fire proves gold, adversity proves men", "soft and persistent rain penetrates the earth better than a storm", and "only through love can we drive away the darkness of evil from this earth".
Millions of people lost their lives during the Vietnam War. This novel tells the stories of some of them, in the hope to learn from the past and prevent future armed conflict.
Themes: Vietnam War, Famine, Endurance, Survival.
Helen Eddy


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Sep 17 2020

Pea and Nut go for gold! by Matt Stanton

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Harper Collins, 2020. ISBN: 9780733340680.
(Ages: 4-7) Recommended. Matt Staton, author of There is a monster under my bed who farts and the Funny Kid series of books, knows how to make kids laugh. This newest picture book, featuring a chilled-out panda and a hyperactive flamingo is heavy on visual humour and full of silly fun. Pea the Panda is just chilling by the pool when she is cajoled and tricked into having a swimming race with her friend Nut the flamingo. Nut uses Pea's competitive nature to get her riled up for the race: 'Hurry up Fuzzball! You won't defeat me!' Children will laugh at Pea as she gears up for the race in her yellow bikini and settles into her blow-up flamingo: 'I may look like a sinker but under this fluff . . . is a swimmer's phy-sique made of lightning-fast stuff.'
The humour continues as the race gets wackier and wackier, with the friends upping the game each time. Nut is not swimming, he's walking! Pea uses her inflated flamingo as a blaster. Nut puts his flippers on. Pea fashions a windsurfer. But it is Nut who gets the last laugh; his pool noodles are now water skis and he flies over Pea's head to win the race.
This is a fast-paced, rollicking read that will have kids of all ages smiling and giggling with joy. A celebration of friendship and a reminder of the fun of friendly competition. Themes: Friendship, Swimming, Rhyming story.
Nicole Nelson


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Sep 17 2020

House of Dragons by Jessica Cluess

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Random House, 2020. ISBN: 9780593305447.
(Young Adult). Recommended. Any reader who likes dragons, misfits, intrigue and Game of Thrones will enjoy Jessica Cluess' new novel, House of Dragons. Pivoting away from her previous Victorian-era London fantasy books, Cluess introduces us to the kingdom of Etrusia, a world where humans and dragons coexist. Etrusia's emperor has died and a representative of each of the five royal houses will compete for the throne. However, instead of sending the house heirs who have spent their lives training for this competition, five mistfits and outcasts are called to battle. Emilia, a scholar hiding her dangerous magic, Lucian, a reluctant soldier, Vespir, a servant and dragon trainer, Ajax the thief, and Hyperia, a noblewoman who will stop at nothing - even murder - to claim the throne.
The teenagers and their dragons compete in a series of challenges set to test their skills and knowledge, knowing that one of them will be crowned and the other four will be killed. Despite their initial animosity however, the five eventually begin to work together to try and expose a dangerous plot that threatens Etrusia and all of its people.
While Cluess has clearly been influenced by George R.R. Martin's Game of Thrones for the premise of the novel, the story is appropriate for an older teen audience - with a content warning for violence and assault. Each of the five protagonists is given a character arc so chapters are short and the novel's point of view switches constantly. This may be an issue for some readers but extensive world-building and a fast-paced, interesting story will more than make up for it. Themes: Dragons, Magic, Conflict, Royalty, Danger, Friendship.
Rose Tabeni


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