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47 Degrees

47 Degrees

47 Degrees

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

47 Degrees

Justin D’Ath

Puffin, 2019

256pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9780143789079

Saturday, February 7, 2009 and Victoria wakes to a weather forecast of 47 degrees in Melbourne with strengthening northerly winds, part of the pattern of the previous few days as a heatwave crawls across the state. In the tiny community of Flowerdale,  Zeelie’s dad is enacting the family’s bushfire survival plan to stay and defend their home even though her mum and young brother are in the Emergency Department of a Melbourne hospital because Lachy has fallen off Zeelie’s horse Rimu.

Zeelie’s not sure her dad has made the right decision but even though there is a lot of smoke in the air her dad is convinced that his precautions are just that – precautions, and wherever the fire is, they will be safe. But when Zeelie goes next door to find Atticus, the old dog they are minding for absent neighbours who has wandered home and discovers small fires already started by embers, her fear rises particularly for the welfare of her horse Rimu. And when the generator fails and there is no longer electricity for the water pumps, it is clearly time to leave… but what about Mum and Lachy and Rimu?

Based solidly on his own experiences during those Black Saturday bushfires, Justin D’Ath has woven a tale that could be the story of any one of our students or children who has experienced the very real horror of bushfires.  At a time when adults are frantically busy trying to keep everyone and everything safe, and reassuring their children with what they want them to hear, there is not time to put themselves in their child’s shoes and see the events through their eyes.  When her dad asks her to pack suitcases, Zeelie packs her mum’s wedding dress and evening gowns rather than the more practical things;  she is angry at her mum because she has taken the vehicle with the towbar because she didn’t have enough petrol in hers so Rimu will be left to his own devices … kids focus on the details while the adults are dealing with the big picture and providing an insight into the child’s thinking and fears is what D’Ath has done so skilfully. Because he experienced many of the events that Zeelie does, the story has a unique authenticity and the reader feels the heat, smells the smoke, visualises the flames and empathises with the fear as Zeelie and her dad try all sorts of routes to get to Melbourne, only to be turned back towards the danger because even greater danger lies ahead.  D’Ath deals with the less-than-happy parts sensitively, acknowledging rather than ignoring them, and helping readers deal with the fact that not all things have a sugar-coated happy ending.  

As the 10th anniversary of one of this country’s greatest natural disasters when  173 people died and over 2000 homes were destroyed approaches, this is not only account of the an event that had an impact well beyond those who were caught up in it but also an insight into the what-did-happens and the what-ifs of those who have experienced similar events, providing us with an inkling of the trauma that many of our students might have faced and are still dealing with, critical as the milestone memory will generate a lot of media that could bring a wave of flashbacks and other psychological issues.

However, it is also a story of hope for them because 10 years on Justin is still able to write stories for them despite losing everything himself, and while the immediate future might be bleak, unknown and scary there is clear air coming and because Australians step up in an extraordinary way at these times, they will be OK. 

 

Pippa’s Island: Puppy Pandemonium

Pippa's Island: Puppy Pandemonium

Pippa’s Island: Puppy Pandemonium

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pippa’s Island: Puppy Pandemonium

Belinda Murrell

Random House, 2018

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

9780143793267

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!.

But the end of caravan life is in sight as Pippa’s mum finally has enough money to get the apartment finished – the children have even given up their pocket money to add a few more dollars to the pot. So when Pippa is overcome by a wave of unexpected jealousy because she is still wearing her daggy English school swimmers and doesn’t have a bike to go to other parts of the island with her friends, she decides to turn the negative feelings into a positive, particularly when she sees a beautiful pair of swimmers on sale.  And so Pippa’s Perfect Pooch Pampering is born.  Offering dog-walking, pampering and pooper-scoopering, what could possibly go wrong?

As this review is published, Miss Now 12 will be on her way to the Australian Scout Jamboree, on a bus for 15 hours with electronic devices banned.  But no doubt she will have her nose buried in this latest episode in her favourite series which she loves because the story “sounds just like me and my friends and the things we do.”  

For those who are new to the series, they don’t have to have read the others first (although it would be time well spent) because Murrell introduces Pippa, her family and friends and circumstances in an easy-to-read introduction meaning each episode is a stand-alone.  With its theme of just appreciating the pleasures found in friendships and simple things, and reflecting the lives of regular kids, even those who don’t live on a tropical island,  this is a glorious series for girls who are independent readers but who are not quite ready or interested in the contemporary realistic fiction that features in many stories for young adults. 

Even though she is a year older than when I first introduced her to Pippa and her friends, I know Miss 12 will be delighted to have them accompany her on that long bus trip! 

 

The Aussie ABC Christmas

The Aussie ABC Christmas

The Aussie ABC Christmas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Aussie ABC Christmas

Nancy Bevington

New Frontier, 2018

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

9781925594256

In 1788 when the first wave of immigrants from the northern hemisphere came to Australia, they brought with them the celebrations and their associated traditions as they tried to settle into what was a land that was so different from what they knew, it was beyond their imagination.  Subsequent waves of immigrants have done the same thing and so now, 230 years later, so much of what we see and do at Christmas is still rooted in those wintery northern customs and people still strive to create a winter wonderland in their homes.

Slowly though, there are some uniquely Australian twists that are becoming more widespread and artist Nancy Bevington has captured these in this beautifully illustrated alphabet book.  There are B for beach, I for icecream and P for pavlova, and for those things like gifts, reindeer and Santa which are more universal, each illustration is quirkily Australian.  I can’t decide if my favourite is the emu putting the star at the top of the tree or the kookaburras laughing with joy. 

Young readers will delight in seeing so much that is familiar while those sharing this with them will love the humour in each picture. A treat for an Aussie Christmas stocking this year, and while it might be too late for this year as school is all but over, it would be perfect to stimulate a class display (or library display with each class contributing a letter) for next year, perhaps the reveal of each letter being part of the Christmas Countdown. 

Why I Love Summer

Why I Love Summer

Why I Love Summer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why I Love Summer

Michael Wagner

Tom Jellett

Puffin, 2018

32pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

9780143783749

There are four seasons in a year, and they’re all awesome, but only one of them gets to be summer!

Summer in Australia is unique for many reasons, not the least of which is that is very much a family time and this story, as bright as the season it’s about, celebrates this.  With his family involved in all sorts of activities – so many of them familiar to the young readers who will enjoy this – it’s an opportunity to not only get excited about all the outdoor free fun that summer offers, but also for the adult reader to reminisce about happy childhood memories from their own summers. Perhaps even recreate them. 

Backyard cricket, wheelbarrow races, cooling off under the sprinkler, sharing fun with friends at the local swimming pool, ice-cream o’clock. extended bedtimes as the long summer nights laze on as the barbecue smokes in the background, holidays at the beach amidst crowds of people with the same idea  – what could be more iconic than that?

Use it to kickstart an investigation into the seasons, or spend the last week of the year creating a mural of all the activities students are planning to celebrate the upcoming summer holidays.

At a time when money is often tight because of the Christmas splurge and screens seem to soak up so much time, this is the perfect book to celebrate the season and make memories to last through both winter and adulthood!

 

 

 

Under the Southern Cross

Under the Southern Cross

Under the Southern Cross

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Under the Southern Cross

Frané Lessac

Walker Books, 2018

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

9781925381016

Nighttime in Australia and amongst the billions of stars that shine each night is the iconic Southern Cross constellation that is so symbolic of this country. With its four bright stars of Alpha Crucis, Beta Crucis, Gamma Crucis, and Delta Crucis and the not-so-bright Epsilon Crucis it hovers in the skies of the southern hemisphere all year round, providing a sort of security blanket for those who live under it.

But what do those who do live under it, do at nighttime? This superbly illustrated book by the creator of A is for Australian Animals: A factastic tour explores Australia after dark, showing what its people do once the sun has sunk in the west.  From the penguin parade at Phillip Island, to watching the Aurora Australis in Tasmania to being one of the many thousands who attend the annual Dawn Service at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, we are out and about making the most of the sunless hours, much of it provided by Mother Nature herself.

Each double-page spread focuses on a different part of the country combining a simple lyrical sentence with a few pertinent facts about the phenomenon being observed.

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

As well as being a beautiful book about our country and its lifestyle, it begs for children to discover why there is night and day, share their stories about what they do after dark, especially if there are attractions unique to their area, and, of course, investigate the Southern Cross, its features and its impact on our lives such as being on the flag. 

Frané Lessac always creates extraordinary from ordinary and this is no different. 

Australia Illustrated (2nd edition)

Australia Illustrated

Australia Illustrated

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Australia Illustrated (2nd edition)

Tania McCartney

EK Books, 2018

96pp., hbk., RRP $A32.99

9781925335880

“Australia. Big. Beautiful. Diverse. From the First People to washing lines and crocodiles, football and sunshine, koalas and akubras, skyscrapers and beaches, this is a glorious tribute to this wide brown land and its rich and varied multicultural communities. Vibrantly illustrated with watercolour, ink and mono-printing, it not only celebrates the more ‘typical’ Australian flora, fauna and landmarks, but also showcases the everyday quirks and idiosyncrasies that make Australia unique.”

This new, updated edition is just as superb as the first, and you can read my review of that here. A must-have in your school library and personal collections, and the perfect gift for someone overseas, regardles of their age..

 

Mamie

Mamie

Mamie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mamie

Tania McCartney

HarperCollins, 2018

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

9781460755860

On January 17, 1977 “in a land far away, where fairies, pixies and elves live deep in the woods,” a baby girl was born. To her parents she was Mamie, but to generations of Australians she is May Gibbs, creator of the iconic literary characters the Gumnut Babies. In this centenary year of the publication of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, Tania  McCartney has created this stunning tribute to Mamie’s life, tracing the early years of the little girl with the big imagination who could draw as soon as she could walk, staged home-made musicals and who became fascinated with the Australian bush and its creatures after her family moved to Adelaide and then Perth when she was just a few years old.

Told in a way that engages and enchants, rather than a litany of sterile facts – “she skipped and rode through shimmering bushland where smooth grey trees dipped their blossoms-heavy branches, and birds gathered to trill and chatter” –  McCartney not only brings the world of May Gibbs to life but also puts dreams in the head of any young child with an imagination. May Gibbs was just an ordinary little girl who did wonderful things as she grew up, so why not them?

Mamie also introduces young readers to the genre of biography and the concept of the stories behind the stories.  Instead of the usual  dispassionate collection of dates and milestones that are soon forgotten, we see the person and how her eventual legacy was shaped by the very ordinary days and deeds of her childhood and circumstances.  Perhaps other important people have a similar story to tell too.

Just as Gibbs had her distinctive style, so does McCartney and it is this modern interpretation that is such a big part of the appeal of this book.  This is not a stodgy piece of close-formatted text with deadpan pictures in a dull retro palette – it is as fresh and alive as Mamie herself was, full of plans and actions just like so many little girls today, finishing at what was really just the beginning.  

Aspirational and inspirational.

Noni the Pony Rescues a Joey

Noni the Pony Rescues a Joey

Noni the Pony Rescues a Joey

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Noni the Pony Rescues a Joey

Alison Lester

Allen & Unwin, 2018

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

9781760293123

Noni the Pony heads out for a wander in the hills behind Waratah Bay with her friends Coco the Cat and Dave the Dog.  They haven’t gone far when they meet a lost wallaby on the trail and so it becomes their mission to help the little joey find his family.  But none of the other creatures can help, mostly because they sleep during the day and haven’t seen anything. Will the joey find his family?

Former Australian Children’s Laureate Alison Lester first introduced us to Noni the Pony in 2011 and it was shortlisted for the CBCA Early Childhood Book of the Year.  This was followed by another adventure Noni the Pony Goes to the Beach.in 2014 so she has become a favourite of  many preschoolers over time.  This new adventure, written in rhyme and beautifully illustrated, will become a favourite too, particularly if today’s preschooler has an older sibling who remembers the earlier stories.  Apart from the joy of the rhythm and the rhyme of the language, it’s a chance to introduce our youngest readers to some of the more familiar indigenous creatures of this country and talk about why they would all be asleep during the day when surely, that’s the time to be up and about like Noni. There is also the opportunity to talk about how the joey felt being separated from its parents and what the child should do if it finds itself in a similar situation.

While it is the perfect bedtime story, it might be better shared during the day when everyone can join the cows in the celebratory dance at the end!

 

 

The Puffin Book of Summer Stories: Eight favourite Australian picture books

The Puffin Book of Summer Stories

The Puffin Book of Summer Stories

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Puffin Book of Summer Stories

Puffin, 2018

256pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9780143793540

Even though it’s only November, it feels like summer is here already so this compilation of eight of the best of Australia’s summer stories of recent years is the perfect accompaniment to the bedtime read-together ritual.

Featuring eight favourites…

Summer by June Factor and Alison Lester
Max by Marc Martin 
Grandpa and Thomas by Pamela Allen
Castles by Allan Baillie and Caroline Magerl 
My Hippopotamus is on our Caravan Roof Getting Sunburnt by Hazel Edwards and Deborah Niland
Seadog by Claire Saxby and Tom Jellett
There’s a Sea in My Bedroom by Margaret Wild and Jane Tanner, and 
Eve and Elly by Mike Dumbleton and Laura Wood

each is unabridged and complete with the original illustrations, providing a diversity of stories and artwork each linked by the common theme of summer, being outdoors and having fun. Some stories may be familiar favourites already, others will be new but each will be enjoyed as the long hot days roll on. 

One to share in those last days of term as the holidays loom and everyone is anticipating being by the beach or anywhere but in a hot classroom, or a great Christmas gift for a reasonable price –  eight books for little more than the cost of one! 

The Tales of Mr Walker

The Tales of Mr Walker

The Tales of Mr Walker

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Tales of Mr Walker

Jess Black

Sara Acton

Puffin Books, 2018 

192pp., hbk. RRP $A24.99

9780143793076

On a beautiful autumn day, Mr Walker sat in the back seat of the car feeling very excited because he was going to be the Guide Dog ambassador of a park.  Even though he didn’t know what “ambassador” meant, he loved parks, especially rolling in the dirt and playing fetch with sticks.  

So he was really confused when the car stopped outside a tall building, and when he got out his paws slipped and slid on tile floors instead of gripping the grass he was expecting.  Turns out Mr Walker was going to be the ambassador for the Park Hyatt hotel in Melbourne. Because of his larger-than-life personality it had been decided that he would be better meeting and greeting the hotel’s guests, including important people and celebrities and raising awareness of Guide Dogs Australia

Written in a chatty narrative that will appeal to all those who love stories about dogs, especially true ones, this book contains four illustrated stories about Mr Walker’s adventures at the hotel -where he still remains lounging on his custom-made Tasmanian oak bed.

  

All royalties from the sales of the book are being donated to Guide Dogs Victoria