Reviews

Harmony by Richard Yaxley

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I could not put down this enthralling intergenerational story that starts in 1914 and spans the years to the end of the 20th century. In 1914 Tom Stott falls in love with Gracie O'Donnell, but she has been contracted to another man and he decides to enlist, first going to Egypt and then to the shores of Gallipoli. Gracie has a baby, Ben, who growing up, also seeks freedom from the constricted life in a small country town and moves to London where he meets Aisling. They have two daughters, Maoliosa and Debbie who too seek freedom in very different ways, Maoliosa as a nun and Debbie going to America. It is not until Debbie's son Noah arrives in Australia that the past will be revealed as he meets his great-grandmother Gracie, his grandfather Will, and other relatives.

Yaxley's narrative is very clever. Divided into six parts, he describes succeeding generations with care. The pre-war life on a farm and narrow thinking of some people in Tom and Gracie's time and the excitement of Kingsford Smith's flights and conquering of the skies in Ben's are vividly portrayed. Religion plays a very important role not only for Tom, but for Maoliosa who decides that the orderliness of a convent is the life for her. However, her sister Debbie finds the music of the 1960's gripping and follows her love to the US, leading a nomadic life, carting her young son Noah from place to place. Finally, when Noah comes to Australia, the truth about his place in the world begins to emerge.

There are hints about what has happened, and the astute reader will realise that the secret that Gracie has harboured all these years is the one that glues the story together and will be happy when it is finally revealed in an age when such things are no longer deemed scandalous. As well as secrets, the quest for love is an overarching theme along with the realisation that a love match may not always live up to one's expectations.

As one would expect from the winner of the Prime Minister's Literary Award in 2018 for This is my song, this is a powerful and touching story of one family’s voyage of discovery.

Themes Family, Relationships, Secrecy, Intergenerational fiction, Grief, Loss, Historical fiction.

Pat Pledger

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Evie and the bushfire by Becky Westbrook. Art by Jet James

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Evie and the Bushfire is a thoughtfully written picture book about the devastating bushfire that took place on Kangaroo Island, South Australia, in the summer of 2019/2020. The main character Evie is a spirit girl who lives simply as one with Mother Nature. She wakes one day feeling the sense of fire in her bones and seeks refuge in a cave as the land burns around her. She attempts to comfort people through their grief as she is known to have the gift of hope but only a young child Tom can see her. As even he begins to lose hope, Evie talks to him about strength and courage and takes him on a journey to see these in action: the volunteer firefighters, the farmers rebuilding fencing, the glossy black cockatoos spitting out seeds to regerminate the land, home cooked meals from strangers and the green shoots reappearing on the blackened tree. They discover fire again but it is not danger, it is the Ramindjeri men connecting with the land and preventing fire by using fire to protect their ruwe, our country. The community is angry with the fire but Tom talks to them about learning to listen to the land and live in harmony with it.

This story is truly one about hope, resilience, courage and community. It is also about looking to our Indigenous people for understanding and knowledge of sharing the land with nature. The illustrations in mainly black and tones of brown by Jet James are beautifully drawn and mirror the careful and gentle text. Throughout the story elements of colour are introduced to enable the reader to focus on important aspects of the text or changes taking place in the blackened landscape.

This book was written and published on the island of Karta of the Ngarrindjeri Nations with support from the Government of South Australia the Kangaroo Island Wildlife Network.

Themes Bushfires, Kangaroo Island South Australia, Friendship, Grief, Natural Disasters, Indigenous Beliefs & Story, Ramindjeri People, Hope, Courage, Strength, Community.

Kathryn Beilby

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Hello and welcome by Gregg Deise

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Two young boys welcome the readers to their gathering. On the first double page we are welcomed in both English and Gamilaraay the language of the Kamilaroi people of the south east corner of Queensland and northern New South Wales.

The first double pages thank the elders of the community for their past struggle, for keeping alive stories, for caring for Mother Earth, for looking into the night sky and sharing the tales found there, for listening.

Everyone is welcome: 'different colours, different people, together in harmony'.

Later Dreise thanks the environment for what it offers its people: Father Sky for the air we breathe, the sun on our faces, Mother Earth for the plants and the animals, even the ants. Then the visitors are thanked: for sharing, celebrating and being respectful of the culture. And finally the reader is thanked for being there, for sharing in the culture being presented at the corroboree, for growing with the presenters, knowing that they too will be filled with pride.

A celebration of Indigenous culture, this lively book invites everyone to the gathering, to share in the culture presented, to learn the language being offered, to share in the stories of the Kamilaroi people.

The vivid illustrations showcasing traditional Aboriginal motifs and styles, are full of colour and detail, with children on every page inviting the reader to share their experiences.

A companion to Gregg Dreise's My Culture and Me, this joyful picture book celebrates Australia's Indigenous heritage and the diversity we enjoy today.

And I love the endpapers, with the Dark Emu filling the night sky from the Southern Cross, across the Milky Way, reflecting not only the story of the Dark Emu one of the creators, headed into the night sky after he died, but also a nod to Bruce Pascoe's recent books, Dark Emu, and Young dark emu which present a new perspective on the way we see Aboriginal life in Australia before Europeans arrived. 

Themes Aboriginal life, Aboriginal language, Indigenous culture, Corroboree, Reconciliation, Dark Emu.

Fran Knight

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Big lies in a small town by Diane Chamberlain

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St Martin's Press, 2020. ISBN: 9781509808625.
(Age: Adult - Mature YA) Recommended for adult readers. The young woman, Morgan Christopher is unexpectedly rescued from jail through a bequest and request from a benefactor known for his incredible artistic talents. Morgan's own incomplete art skills are needed as she is thrust into the task of restoring a mural created in 1940. This restoration project comes with time pressures and emotional pressures from the artist's daughter as she unearths the history of the original artist, Anna Dale. Anna was the winner of a National Town Mural competition to paint the mural for the town of Edenton. As an outsider, she ruffles a few locals and her Northerner ways and opinions are sometimes at odds with the local North Carolina residents. The social milieu of the 1940's town reveals the inter-racial conflicts of Southern USA in the 1940s as well as the joys and challenges of the small town. What should she include in her artistic representation of the town? When the contemporary parolee, Morgan, investigates the history of the mural that was never displayed, she uncovers a history that has many twists - and some of them are not pleasant. In her own story she must unravel her own insecurities related to the event that caused her imprisonment, and needs to decide whether she is worthy of love and the incredible honour of becoming an art restorer for the late renowned artist.
This is an impressive adult dramatic saga incorporating the two separate stories of the original artist - Anna Dale, and the contemporary restorer - Morgan Christopher. Told with time shifts back and forth between the two stories, there is a slowly unfolding revelation of the drama that led to the mural's disappearance. The process of art restoration is overseen by the interesting gallery administrator and there are stories of family disharmony and restoration woven through the saga. Diane Chamberlain is a master of the romantic and historical narrative, and this is the kind of book that would be enjoyed as a 'holiday' selection because of the revelation of the mystery and social drama across the generations within the 385 page narrative. Although this is an adult story, it could be read by mature YA readers.
Recommended for adult readers. Themes: Historical drama; Art restoration; Racial discrimination - USA; Romance; Murder mystery; Sexual Assault
Carolyn Hull

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Little Nic's big day by Nic Naitanui

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Illus. by Fatima Anaya. Allen and Unwin, 2019. ISBN: 9781760876876.
(Age: 5+). Highly recommended. Themes: Rhyming stories, Diversity, Multi-culturalism, Differences, New Beginnings, Schools. Little Nic's Big Day is written by well-known Australian AFL West Coast Eagles footballer, Nic Naitanui. This entertaining picture book begins with young Nic's apprehension about his first day at a new school and whether he will fit in. The clever rhyming text begins with conversations with Nic and his mother on what might happen at school. His mother reassures him as does his teacher when he is introduced in the classroom. Throughout the day Nic finds companions and settles into his new school. The story strongly promotes the theme of diversity and that being different is easily embraced in the school setting. The author sensitively reflects on what languages the classmates speak, the foods they eat and how different things make them happy.
The illustrations by Fatima Anaya are bold and brightly coloured. They beautifully complement the contemporary rhyming text where emphasis is placed on significant words on each page.
This picture book is a welcome addition to any school library especially at the start of the school year where children are entering new schools and new classes. Children often worry about being accepted in new situations. This book is an easy and entertaining read that may allay a little of that worry and will appeal to students of all ages. Little Nic's Big Day would also be a wonderful read celebrating Harmony Day.
Kathryn Beilby

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The iron man by Ted Hughes

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

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Africa Day by Chi Mary Kalu

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Illus. by Jelena Jordanovic-Lewis. Little Steps Publishing, 2019. ISBN: 9781925839197.
(Age: 5+) Highly recommended. Themes: Africa, African food and culture, Community, Family. Brisbane based lawyer, Chi Mary Jalu has written a book about a special market day focussing on African food, music and dance which will make readers' mouths water and feet beg to move. A boy and his mother leave home early with baskets ready for the special market day. Walking along some of the market stalls they breathe in the smells and tastes of African food: fried buns, jollof rice, bean pudding and Ethiopian coffee. They move on to a jewelry stall where Mum buys some wooden beads and a bracelet. Next is bag stall, full of cane and rattan baskets and bags. Then a material stall where mum buys some shirts and lengths of fabric. They watch some dancers, jugglers and fire breathers, and they move on to the singers and musicians engaging the crowd with their lively music, dressed in traditional costume. The music captivates Mum and her son who dance until the stalls are taken down and packed away and it is time for home.
A fabulous time has been spent at Africa Day at the market, and readers will have joined in the fun of the day, learnt some things about African culture, had their tastes tingled by the food offered, and learnt a few African words. A book to encourage diversity and harmony, Africa Day is full of verve and vigour, wonderfully evocative illustrations cover every page, full of life, colour and movement, encompassing the splendour of this continent across the Indian Ocean. I love the endpapers with the range of African fabric designs, repeated on the title page, and the happy, laughing faces on all the participants at the market.
Fran Knight

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Young dark emu, a truer history by Bruce Pascoe

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Magabala books, 2019. ISBN: 9781925360844.
(Age: 10+) Highly recommended. Non-fiction. Pascoe's revelatory book Dark emu, black seeds has now been made into a simplified illustrated hardback version for younger readers - allowing a younger audience to also learn of Pascoe's research into the agricultural practices of Australian Aboriginal people. Pascoe draws on historical records and artefacts to piece together a picture of Aboriginal settlement before the arrival of Europeans, and contrary to the long held view of the 'hunter-gatherer' existence that suited the colonialists' idea of an 'empty' land, he reveals the existence of Aboriginal farming and land care, permanent settlements with houses and storage buildings, and complex aquaculture management systems.
Teachers will welcome this book as an excellent example to show students learning how to research primary sources for their projects. Pascoe includes extracts from many original nineteenth century colonial diaries and reports, and he revaluates the artwork of colonial artists who showed cultivated fields in their paintings, once dismissed as an English romanticising of the Australian landscape. He urges the putting aside of preconceptions and interpreting with a new eye the original materials. 'It is a different way of looking'. Thus the so-called 'humpy' was actually a substantial construction that could accommodate many families, the 'lazy' fisherman had actually engineered an ingenious fishing machine, and fire was not a threat but a useful tool for tilling and cultivating pastures.
Pascoe has collected the evidence to present the case that the Aboriginal way of life actually met all the criteria of an established agricultural society that lived in harmony with their environment. This is not what the colonialists wanted to see, in their quest to occupy new land. And it is evidence that was destroyed as they took possession, and introduced their livestock.
This is an important book in the study of Australian history - it provides a new perspective to be read and discussed. It needs to be on every teacher's reading list and in every school library.
Helen Eddy

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Secret in stone by Kamilla Benko

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The Unicorn Quest bk. 2. Bloomsbury, 2019. ISBN: 9781408898512.
(Age: 10+) Recommended. Themes: Fantasy; Unicorns; Magic; Bravery. This is the second book in The Unicorn Quest series, and I wish I had read the first, The unicorn quest. Two young sisters Claire and Sophie have found themselves in the fantasy kingdom of Arden, and although in this book we know that Claire has been revealed as a wielder of magic, and a Princess of the realm with power to call back the Unicorn from extinction, it seems that there is more to do to rescue Arden from the power of those who seem to be working against the kingdom's harmony and who perhaps have deliberately set their mind and magic to destructive ends. Claire's gentle and apprehensive spirit must work hard to rescue her sister, and perhaps even rescue the unicorn. In a fantasy world not unlike Narnia, there is magic of different qualities and properties linked to different groups within the kingdom. These distinctions and the intriguing way that magical skills are expressed is a delight and the author has created a wonderful fantasy world and adventure. Claire is a wonderful young heroine - flawed and reticent, but her insights reveal a wonderful strength and quality. Her friends, all with different magical skills, are also intriguing.
This book can be recommended to those who love magical fantasy stories, but it appears the series will continue and so it is recommended that readers begin with the first book in the series.
Recommended for lovers of magical fantasy adventure, aged 10 +
Carolyn Hull

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Colouroos by Anna McGregor

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Lothian Children's, 2019. ISBN: 9780734418821.
In the Red Centre of Australia live the red kangaroos; in the Blue Mountains live the blue kangaroos; and on the Gold Coast live the yellow kangaroos. When the drought drives each group from their traditional homes and they go in search of water and end up gathered around the same waterhole, they look at each other and think they are strange. But they all enjoy the cool water, are afraid of dingoes, leap on their long legs and eat the juicy grass and when, at night. 'the colour left to dance in the sky above', they all looked the same. And strange things began to happen . . .
On the surface this is a delightful Australian story for our youngest readers about the mixing of colours to create new ones, and it does this very effectively, although the adult sharing it might have to explain how joeys arrive. Full of colour, rhythm and repetitive text it engages and perhaps inspires the young child to do some experimenting with their own paints and ask What happens when . . .? It could give rise to a host of science and art activities about colour and light.
But a deeper look could also lead the older reader into considering how humans also mix and match, mingle and marry and give birth to the continuing story of multiculturalism and diversity that makes each community so special. Not just colours interacting but also cultures, foods, sports . . .
If there is one book to put on your to-buy list in preparation for the next Harmony Day, this is it. The best picture books span the age groups seamlessly and this debut by this author/illustrator has nailed it.
Barbara Braxton

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The island of sea women by Lisa See

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Simon and Schuster, 2019. ISBN: 9781471183850.
(Age: 16+) Highly recommended. 'A woman is not meant for the household!' Did you know that on the island of Jeju in Korea, it was the tradition in the 1930s for women to go to work, diving for abalone, octopus, sea urchins, crabs and sea slugs, bringing in their sea harvest to support their families? It was the men who stayed home, cooked the meals and tended to the children. The haenyeo, women divers, were expert at capturing their breath and diving deep, taking what they needed and living in harmony with their environment.
Young-sook and Mi-ja are two haenyeo friends, diving together. Young-sook is continuing her family tradition, diving with her mother, whilst Mi-ja is the daughter of a despised Japanese collaborator living with an abusive uncle and aunt, never knowing the love of a mother. Young-sook's mother takes Mi-ja into the diving collective, and trains her along with her daughter. The two girls become the closest of friends.
From the first chapter, we know that something has happened between the two girls. It is 2008 and Young-sook, as an old woman, is collecting algae along the shore when she is approached by an American tourist asking about her grandmother Mi-ja. Young-sook denies ever knowing her. Why does Young-sook lie, and why does she refuse to have anything to do with the visitors?
Whilst telling the story of Japanese and American conflict in Korea, during the 1930s, 1940s, World War II and the Korean War, Lisa See explores what it means to be close friends, the shared secrets, the jealousies, and the heart-breaking betrayals - for only a loved friend knows how to inflict the deepest wound. I think most readers would identify with that situation - when someone they cared about lets them down or hurts them in some way. But the mystery of what it was that divided the two young women carries the reader breathlessly to the very last chapter.
This is a really interesting book, combining a well-researched history of the period, with a thought-provoking exploration of friendship, and the bitter after-effects of being unable to forgive.
Helen Eddy

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Calm mindfulness for kids: Activities to help you learn to live in the moment by Wynne Kinder

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Dorling Kindersley, 2019. ISBN 9780241342299.
(Age: 8-12) Highly recommended. Themes: Mindfulness. Kindness. Emotional wellbeing. Wynne Kinder brings her comprehensive experience in mindfulness education and creating digital content for the brain breaks program GoNoodle to this Dorling Kindersley information book. Calm mindfulness for kids is beautifully presented with photographs of children engaged in calming and distressing activities. Presented in six chapters, educators and children can delve in to the sections - Focus, Calm, Move, Change, Care, and Reflect. They are guided through each chapter, through the distressing, learning calm breath, sensory experiences, caring for themselves and collaborating with others.
Mindfulness is a key tool which underpins classroom harmony, promotes positive energy and helps support children developing positive emotional health. There are colourful circles placed throughout to help grownups support and explain the activities. In 'Bubbles of kindness' there is an easy-to-follow exercise with the ingredients listed, bubble mix and twisted pipe-cleaners. Adults can help the child focus on sending kind bubble thoughts to their friends and those they find difficult to relate with.
'Reflecting is a way to turn an experience into wisdom.' By making a gratitude paper chain, siblings, families, classes and teams can write something they are grateful for on individual strips of coloured paper, then build a chain to decorate their home or classroom. A mindful body begins with eyes closed focussing on breathing and quietly stilling the body. Each activity boosts self-confidence and builds esteem. They are malleable enough to suit the individual child's flexibility and levels of understanding.
Calm mindfulness for kids is an excellent resource for teachers supporting students developing their personal and social capabilities. Kinder illustrates that promoting children's positive wellbeing can be achieved in short sessions, without expensive tools and is inclusive for all. For families, this is a wonderful tool to promote a well-grounded sense of self-knowledge and self-confidence, great for parents and children
Rhyllis Bignell

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Wrestle! by Charlotte Mars, Maya Newell and Gus Skatterbol-James

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Ill. by Tom Jellett. Allen and Unwin, 2019. ISBN 9781760296810
(Age: 4+) Highly recommended. Themes: Families. LGBT. Toys. Mardi Gras. Sydney. What does a parent do when their child takes up a hobby or interest they dislike? In this funny take on a well known family situation, the three authors and the illustrator are able to show a resolution for this perennial source of disharmony, one that involves all members of their family resolving the issue to everyone's satisfaction.
Gus can't wait for Mardi Gras when he and his sister, Rory, get to dress up. This year, Gus wants to dress up as a wrestler. His mums are a little taken aback; they worry that he thinks that this is what it is to be a man, a popular man, a smart man. They offer alternatives but Gus is determined, clutching his wrestling hero dolls. He play wrestles with Rory which ends in tears, his mums again concerned that he is developing some thoughts that they do not like. But that night, Gus dreams of wrestlers wrestling each other to the ground and hurting each other. This is not what he wants to do at all! So he comes up with a resolution, discussing it with his mums and sister, Rory, so that by Mardi Gras they have developed an altogether different style of wrestling and march together at the Mardi Gras with the crowds.
A delightful tale of a boy developing his image of what it is to be male, supported by his parents, to see that there is another side to the idea of wrestling, that it can be done with love and humour, with all the family involved.
Jellett's wonderful illustrations show a warm involved family, full of love and care, discussing and resolving issues, being together. Children will love looking at the details he includes in his pictures, picking out the nods to Sydney, all the people at the Mardi Gras, and the array of toys in the back garden.
Fran Knight

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Me and my fear by Francesca Sanna

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Flying Eye Books, 2018. ISBN 9781911171539
(Age: 6+) Highly recommended. Themes: Anxiety; Living with fear; Overcoming fear; Migrants. Me and My Fear is a delightful picture book, particularly for children who struggle with anxiety. The central character is a small girl who has a small companion called Fear, who stays close to her. This is normally a comfortable relationship, almost a friendship, when Fear is small. However, when she moves to a new country and a new school where she understands very little, Fear grows enormously and really disrupts her life. A small boy's overtures of friendship arrests the disharmony in her life and sets her on a more normal companionship with Fear again. She also discovers that the boy has his own 'Fear' companion, as do all her classmates.
With a simple colour palette and naive illustrations, with Fear represented as a white blob-like creature, the overall presentation is immediately accessible for all children. Fear is not conveyed with any fear-inducing qualities, a clever representation considering the topic. The power of the story is in the representation of the psychological struggle with fear and how its influence can grow and overtake a life. The author confesses to her own struggles with anxiety in the Author's Note at the end of the book. The great feature of this book is its reassurance that most people carry fears, and they can even be a recognised and comfortable companion, but also that there is hope for those who need to deal with this sometimes-disruptive and intrusive influence. This would make a good book to keep in a Counsellor's office.
Highly recommended, to begin a discussion about coping with Anxiety.
Carolyn Hull

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A first book of the sea by Nicola Davies

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Ill. by Emily Sutton. Walker Books, 2018. ISBN 9781406368956
(Ages: 3-7) Highly Recommended. Themes: Poetry. Oceans. Emily Sutton is a whimsical, traditional illustrator, whose work is perfectly suited to this earthy, old-fashioned and hearty collection of poems. The author and illustrator have collaborated successfully in the past on Tiny and Lots, and have now put together a hardcover book with over fifty short poems, perfect as a first book of poems for young ones but will also interest junior primary children. The poems are about oceans and ocean life and celebrate the vastness, mystique and intrigue of the great blue world that surrounds us. The book is separated into four categories, as shown within a contents page: down by the shore (Catching a wave, Paddling, Shore crab), journeys (Limpets, Sailor's jig, Blue whale's map), under the sea (Longline fishing, Seaweed jungle, Shipwreck) and wonders (Rockpool, Albatross, Sea people). The poems are helpfully titled so you know what each is going to be about and can pick based on children's interests. They also seem carefully curated to include favourite aspects of young readers (shipwrecks, deadly sea animals, sharks, giant squid, etc.).
The illustrations, beautifully textured and intricately detailed, are perfect and because of the large format and the brevity of the poems, are full partners rather than just an afterthought. While the author and illustrator are English the book isn't identifiably so (except for the poem about big shopping and entertainment piers that are not a feature of Australian beaches). The poems evoke the feelings of being in and around the sea, such as the thrill of catching a wave or searching for shells, but they also provide fascinating information that reminds us of the power and long history of the world's oceans ("The sea has shaped them, rubbing and rolling, rolling and rubbing, for a thousand, thousand years"). They remind us of how to take care of our oceans ("Deadliest of all is the plastic we throw away that strangles, suffocates and poisons"). They inform us of the wisdom of those who live in harmony with the sea ("the old man draws the night sky out in pebbles to teach his grandson the pattern of the stars") and about how man has learned to deal with the wildness of the sea ("From one to twelve runs Beaufort's Scale, to tell ships when it's safe to sail"). There are a wide variety of poem styles, some rhyming but most not.
There are many conversation points within the book and some poems openly encourage children to engage with the book (in "Favourite dolphin" the only text asks "Choose just one? It's impossible to pick!" and shows a plethora of dolphins of different varieties). The big fold-out page for the large humpback whale tells the reader how to sing like a humpback. The last poem, "Happiness", is a reminder of the simple pleasures of the sea ("Sand in my shoes. Salt in my hair. A pebble in my pocket. The horizon in my eyes"). Simple, evocative, glorious.
Nicole Nelson

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