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Barney and the Secret of the French Spies

Barney and the Secret of the French Spies

Barney and the Secret of the French Spies

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Barney and the Secret of the French Spies

Jackie French

HarperCollins, 2018 

128pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

 9781460751305

Barney first met the mysterious Elsie hiding under a rock and, like him, eking out an existence on the shores of Port Jackson in 1791 where he was an orphaned child, son of a convict and with no one and nowhere to call home.  Like Barney, she was eventually taken under the wing of the Reverend and Mrs Johnson but she remained an enigma for she never spoke.  On one or two very rare occasions, Barney did hear her utter something but it was so fleeting he thought he was hearing things. 

Now, in this 4th in this series that features Barney telling of his life while uncovering some of the secrets of this country’s early beginnings, Elsie’s story is told at last.  While Barney is beginning to prosper on his farm on the Parramatta River, Elsie has stayed in Sydney Town with the Johnsons and become a sought-after cook by the colony’s elite like Mrs Macarthur. But when word comes that she is desperately ill, perhaps with typhus, Barney hastens to her side in the isolation hut at the hospital and while she doesn’t have typhus it soon becomes clear why she has been put in isolation.  For in her delirium she cries out and while to Barney’s ear she is speaking gobbledygook, both Mrs Johnson and Mrs Macarthur recognise it as French!  They also recognise the dire consequences if Elsie’s nationality is discovered for once again, England and France are at war.

Acknowledging his  enduring love for Elsie and his intention to marry her, Barney stays by her side as she recuperates, encouraged by both women for they believe that he is the only one one that Elsie is likely to divulge her secrets to.  And what a secret it is….

The very best historical fiction weaves fact and fiction so closely together that the reader is left not only wondering what is true and what is imagined, but also wanting to discover more.  And so it is again with Jackie French’s masterful storytelling only this time the secret that Elsie discloses opens up so many pathways to wander down and explore that it is almost overwhelming.  Traditionally history has been told by men because only men were listened to and only the things men did were deemed important and so women and their achievements have been all but invisible. 

But they were there – often in disguise as Elsie’s great-aunt was – and making their mark in life if not in the history books! In the prologue the reader is warned that there are two secrets in this book – not just the story of Elsie but another one “every person needs to yell out loud” – the stories of the women in history that have been kept secret for centuries and generations; secrets that are slowly being uncovered and secrets that will never be discovered.   For it is only in this generation of women alive now that so many barriers have been battered down – even my own mother was expected to give up her hard-fought for job in journalism so a man returning from war could have employment –  that we can learn about the role of the women in our past and acknowledge and celebrate it. Through Elsie’s story and her author’s notes, Jackie not only builds awareness that the role of women goes far beyond anything we can imagine but also challenges us to expose it!

Whose secret will you share?

Bobby the Plain-Faced Cattle Dog

Bobby the Plain-Faced Cattle Dog

Bobby the Plain-Faced Cattle Dog

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bobby the Plain-Faced Cattle Dog

Amy Curran

Pink Coffee Publishing, 2018

48pp., pbk., RRP $A14.95

9780646239307

Bobby was the last of Peggy’s litter of Australian cattle dogs to find a new home – some of his brothers and sisters had  already moved to new homes – but he was OK with that because he was just a puppy.  His mother consoled him and told him not to worry because he would find friends and “be accepted by others.”  Because Booby was different.  Instead of having the regular markings and patches of his breed, his face was plain.

He didn’t know he was a bit different until the other cattle dogs at his new home, when a farmer finally came to claim him, wouldn’t play with him and this saddened him  In fact it wasn’t until he befriended Mother Duck and she had him look in a pool of still water that he noticed the difference.  Was he going to spend his life being different and alone? It would seem so until something happens that makes Bobby a hero and finally he is accepted for who he is inside rather than what he looks like.

Based on a real dog and his experiences with other dogs, this story has a strong message of being accepted for who we are rather than what we look like.

Bullying, in all its facets, is certainly at the top of the agenda in these weeks following the suicide of Amy “Dolly’ Everett and there are calls from all quarters for it to be addressed, with the brunt of the expectations falling squarely on the shoulders of schools.  While the other dogs don’t nip or bite or otherwise abuse Bobby in what is the overt form of bullying, excluding him because of his looks is just as damaging and it makes a good discussion starter to raise the issue with young children so they can understand that bullying can take many forms and each can have unforeseen and unseen consequences.

Written for young, almost independent readers, this is the first in a proposed series that is designed to teach young children to look beyond exteriors because “It’s what on the inside that counts.”  There are teachers’ notes available as well as a plush toy that will give the story extra meaning.

 

 

 

 

Marvellous Miss May: Queen of the Circus

Marvellous Miss May: Queen of the Circus

Marvellous Miss May: Queen of the Circus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marvellous Miss May: Queen of the Circus

Stephanie Owen Reeder

NLA Publishing

136pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9780642279156

What better way to share Australia Day than a look back to a significant part of our past when travelling circuses were a major source of entertainment, particularly in rural areas, and that of the Wirth Brothers was one of the most well known.  

Focusing on May Wirth, who as a seven-year-old growing up in poverty in Bundaberg in 1901, was given away to Marizles  Martin an equestrienne and a sister of the Wirth brothers. With big dreams and a desire to become the greatest bareback rider in the world, she transformed her ability for acrobatics into being able to perform them on horseback, even able to perform a Charleston as her horse moved around the ring!  Determined, resilient and tenacious she worked hard for perfection eventually performing for King George V and Queen Mary.  The Queen of the Circus was performing for the Kings and Queen of England.  Her dreams had come true!

Laced with photos and posters from the collection of the National Library of Australia, this new addition to the author’s Heritage Heroes series follows Miss May’s journey and introduces the reader to characters and times gone by which were so important to the shaping of this nation.  At a time when most young women were not encouraged to be more than a decorative appendage to men, May was a role model for an alternative lifestyle and she was a champion of women’s rights and suffrage and in 1964 she was one of just three Australians to ever be inducted into the American Circus Hall of Fame.

In 2016 Lennie the Legend: Solo to Sydney by Pony  won the CBCA Eve Pownall Award for Information Books, and my prediction is that Marvellous Miss May: Queen of the Circus will be amongst the awards this year.  But whether it is or not, this is an inspirational read that celebrates an Australian of the past, a heroine unknown to many in an entertainment unfamiliar to many in this age of screens, that adds yet another layer to this country’s history. 

For those wanting more…Wirth’s Circus Home Movies , Wirth’s Circus Archive, May Wirth  and of course, the collection at the National Library of Australia detailed in the acknowledgements.

Pippa’s Island: Kira Dreaming

Pippa's Island: Kira Dreaming

Pippa’s Island: Kira Dreaming

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pippa’s Island: Kira Dreaming

Belinda Murrell

Random House, 2018

240pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9780143783701

Life could hardly be more different for Pippa.  From a seemingly happy family living in a Victorian terrace house in London to a caravan in her grandparents’ backyard on a tropical island off the Australian coast.  Forced to make changes when her husband decided to work in Switzerland without them, Pippa’s mother has uprooted the family to a totally new environment where she is now running the increasingly popular Beach Shack Cafe created from an old, abandoned boat shed – a huge contrast to being a stockbroker in London!.

Pippa has a new puppy called Summer, is learning to surf, has settled into school and now has a group of friends – Meg, Cici and Charlie- and they call themselves the Sassy Sisters. 

This, the third in this series for independent readers, focuses on Kira Cove Public School’s talent quest.and while her friends are excited about performing, Pippa is very nervous. Singing to an audience is not what she likes.  After a disastrous audition the girls get a second chance, but can Pippa find a way to smash her stage fright before the VIP concert?

Meanwhile, at the Beach Shack Cafe a mysterious visitor is causing havoc when backs are turned. When Pippa finds a clue, she is determined to track down the mischievous cafe thief.

This series was going to be in Miss 11’s Santa’s Sack but when that got too full, I decided to hold it back till that time in the holidays when there is a lull in the excitement – in her case, wedged between Christmas and a new bike and going on Scout camp.  And it was a great decision because as soon as I gave it to her she was off to read it and has now read all three books in 48 hours and demanding to know when the next one is coming out.  She tells me she loves them because the story “sounds just like me and my friends and the things we do.”  I could rave on about the quality of Murrell’s writing and the way she portrays the characters, but surely there is no better review than a big thumbs up and huge anticipation from one for whom the story was written!

If you don’t have this series in your collection, then put it at the top of your to-buy list and let your girls have at it. 

Bush Birthday

Bush Birthday

Bush Birthday

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bush Birthday

Lorette Broekstra

Allen & Unwin, 2018

24pp., hbk.,  RRP $A14.99

9781925267051

One climbs up a tree with an intriguing gift-wrapped package and Two climbs down to receive it.  Then they pass it to Three, and together  they creep through the hollow log to the burrow of Four.  And so it goes on, the group getting larger and larger until they finally reach the home of the recipient.  Whose birthday is it?  And what could be in the package? 

Using iconic but stylised Australian creatures in their natural habitats, this is a delightful story for little ones that uses a minimum of text to tell it, but that text is carefully chosen to explore both numbers and position so that the reader has a better understanding of both.  Little ones will have fun identifying each of the animals as well as working out which one has not yet been featured as  they try to identify whose birthday it is.   And what sort of gift could come in a parcel of that shape and size?

More to this one than it appears at first glance and something new to explore with each reading.  

An Aussie Day Before Christmas

 

 

 

An Aussie Day Before Christmas

An Aussie Day Before Christmas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Aussie Day Before Christmas

Kilmeny Niland

Scholastic, 2008

32pp., hbk., RRP $A15.99

9781741690972

‘Twas the day before Christmas
And in his beach shack,
Santa was snoozing,
Flat out on his back.

‘Shake a leg, love,’
Sheila Claus said.
‘Time to get ready
For the big night ahead.’

There is much to do before Santa makes his once-a-year flight…chooks to feed, breakfast to have, a walk with his missus, the news to read, pressies to wrap and the ‘roos to sort out. “The koalas won’t help me, they’re too flamin’ slow.” 

Putting iconic Australian sayings and slang to the familiar rhythm of the Clement C. Moore poem, Kilmeny Niland uses her artistic talent to portray a DownUnder day before Christmas through stunning illustrations that capture a very different picture of Santa than the traditional one our children are so familiar with.  

Before sharing it, children might like to speculate on what it is that Aussie Santa does in preparation – perhaps a surf, perhaps a nap, perhaps prawns and a beer – whatever they predict they will delight in Niland’s interpretation that might dispel their snowy North Pole images forever. And a must for any collection of Australian Christmas stories you might be sending to children overseas.

One Christmas Eve

 

 

 

One Christmas Eve

One Christmas Eve

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One Christmas Eve

Corinne Fenton

Marjorie Crosby-Fairall

Black Dog, 2016

32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781925381252

“One Christmas Eve, Grandpa puts on his best shirt, Bella passes him his favourite hat, and they wave goodbye to Gran. Together they walk along the tape measure streets and roundabout corners until there, before them, is Luna Park.

When Bella visits Luna Park on Christmas Eve with Grandpa, he hands her a single silver coin to use on a ride. Bella enjoys the excitement of the roller-coaster, the squeals from the ghost train ride and the laughter from the giggle palace, but she is drawn to the sparkling carousel and it’s here she spends her precious coin.

When Bella climbs onto her dashing carousel horse, something magical happens when they launch into the velvety night sky where they encounter a jolly man in a red suit and his prancing reindeer. But the magic doesn’t end there…”  

This is a nostalgic, charming story of Christmas in the less-hectic times of 1968 that will arouse memories with many as they share it with their children and grandchildren in this Christmas Countdown. Reminiscing about Christmas in a time that wasn’t so dominated by big,  bold, bright and brassy -spent my 1968 Christmas coming to terms with the heat of Port Moresby – and just taking the time to enjoy the simple things.  And regardless of the season, who hasn’t dreamed of a magical, mystical ride on one of the beautiful carousel horses and Fenton’s beautiful text and Crosby-Fairall’s stunning illustrations are a perfect match as we soar high above the clouds and discover the magic that is there.  The power of imagination and dreams transcends all timeframes and generations. 

One Christmas Eve was the focus of the Melbourne and Brisbane Myer Christmas windows for 2016 and these are now in Ballarat for 2017.   Lucky are those in a position to go to see them!

Sage Cookson’s Christmas Ghost

 

 

 

Sage Cookson's Christmas Ghost

Sage Cookson’s Christmas Ghost

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sage Cookson’s Christmas Ghost

Sally Murphy

New Frontier, 2017

65pp., pbk., RRP $A9.99

9781925594058

Sage Cookson, daughter of globe-trotting celebrity chefs Ginger and Basil, is on the move again.  Sad about leaving her best friend Lucy behind for Christmas, nevertheless she is excited about going to Western Australia where her parents are going to be supervising the creation of the world’s largest pavlova in an attempt to break the record for this dessert, currently held by its country of origin, New Zealand.  

Too large to be baked in conventional ovens, the action takes place in a disused brickworks where the kilns are large enough to accommodate it, and there will be live crosses to its creation and success (or otherwise) during the annual carols by Candlelight program broadcast on television in the eastern states.  Despite a definitive ruling,  this concoction of sugar and egg whites has been the subject of dispute since it was first created and served in 1927 in honour of ballerina Anna Pavlova’s visit to the two countries in the 1920s and this becomes the centre of the conflict.  Are all the little things going wrong or going missing the work of a malevolent Christmas ghost or a saboteur…

This series for newly independent younger readers combines the author’s love of television cooking shows and mysteries, so that in each new addition something goes wrong and Sage has to solve the problem. Will she get to the bottom of this mystery and enable Australia to claim the record or will it stay where it belongs, in New Zealand?  Sage is going to appeal to a range of young readers who will be able to follow her adventures and then visit her website for more fun. Learning to make proper pavlova is something we Kiwi kids learned at our mother’s elbow, but there is a recipe included (very similar to the original, proper one) that more adventurous young cooks might like to try.

Lullabies for Bed Time

Lullabies for Bed Time

Lullabies for Bed Time

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lullabies for Bed Time

Susan Betts, Kerry Brown, Phil Cummings, Mike Dumbleton, Katrina Germein and Louise Pike

Doris Chang

Little Book Press, 2017

28pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9780994385383

With illustrations and a palette as gentle as the rhymes within, this collection of bedtime poems by some of Australia’s leading authors is the perfect pull-the-curtains finale to the day.

There is so much research about the need for babies to hear the rhythm, rhymes and nuances of their natural language from their very earliest days that this would be the perfect gift to any new parents wanting to start their child on their reading journey from the get-go while establishing a bedtime story routine that should extend for many years.  And, with its uniquely Australian flavour it is one that will reach beyond those first few months well into preschool years.  

The term ‘lullaby” conjures up a feeling of being warm, cosy, safe and loved – and these do just that.

Big Bash League (series)

Big Bash League

Big Bash League

 

 

 

 

 

Big Bash League

Michael Panckridge

Random House Australia, 2017

144pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

Academy Smash

9780143782278

Championship Dash

9780143782292

Representative Clash

9780143782315

Carnival Clash

9780143782339

Just in time for the new cricket season come four additions to this popular series which focuses on the Big Bash League. the professional  Twenty20 domestic cricket competition in Australia. With the Australian women’s team retaining The Ashes  this will be a competition eagerly followed by both boys and girls and, so, to have new episodes in print will be eagerly sought.  

In Academy Smash Billy loves to bowl – fast! He’s also a massive Melbourne Stars fan and when his friend Wen-Lee lets him know about a cricket academy camp, run by none other than the Stars, Billy is desperate to go! So is Wen-Lee, even if she does barrack for the Brisbane Heat. Trouble is, the applications are about to close and Billy needs to find a way to raise money for the entry fee. Perhaps a speed-bowling competition is in order!

Championship Dash  features The Kangaroo Flat Galahs who are preparing for their annual match against the Edenhope Eagles. The stakes are high with the winner qualifying for the State T20 Championships in Perth. They’ll also receive tickets to the Perth Scorchers versus Melbourne Renegades double-header! The Galahs haven’t beaten the Eagles in 30 years, but that was before they had the mysterious and brilliant Allunga on their team. Can they finally turn the tables?

Representative Clash , the 7th in the series focuses on Tommy who is a huge hitter and loves nothing more than smashing balls out of the park with his impressive handmade bat. He’s a diehard Hobart Hurricanes fan and has his fingers crossed that he will be selected for the Hobart representative team that will take on Adelaide in the upcoming Adelbart Clash. But when Tommy’s bat goes missing he can feel his chances slipping away. It’s up to his friends to help him find his bat so he can chase his place on the rep team!

The final story in this collection Carnival Clash culminates in the first T20 Crickomania Carnival and two teams of kids have been selected to represent the Sydney Sixers and Sydney Thunder. Maddie, Chase and Jye are a few of the lucky ones and they can’t wait to test out their cricket skills and meet some BBL and WBBL players. The event begins with lots of excitement but also some strange occurrences. There’s a mix up with the coaches, unexplained rules and an opposing team who really wants to win. Can everyone pull together to make the carnival a success?

Definitely a series for the cricket lovers and one to recommend to parents to keep reading going over the long summer holidays!