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The Travelling Bookshop: Mim and the Woeful Wedding

The Travelling Bookshop: Mim and the Woeful Wedding

The Travelling Bookshop: Mim and the Woeful Wedding

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Travelling Bookshop: Mim and the Woeful Wedding

Katrina Nannestad

Cheryl Orsini

ABC Books, 2022 

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

9780733341663

Imagine being a young girl travelling the world in an old wooden caravan pulled by a horse that decides where they will go and which seems to have magical powers that mean borders and mountains and oceans are no barriers.  And that caravan is full of books, because it, too, has a magic that means that it is like a Tardis with so much more on the inside than appears on the outside. 

That is the life of 10-year-old Miriam-Rose Cohen (who prefers Mim), her father and little brother Nat, Coco the cockatoo and Flossy the horse.  They travel to wherever they are needed, wherever there is a child in need of a book to make their world right again because “the line between books and real life is not as clear as people suppose.”

This time, in the second in this series,  Mim has arrived on a charming Greek Island, where a wedding is about to take place. Everyone is excited – everyone, that is, except the bride and groom. Mim knows they’re here to help Anjelica, the bride. To stop the wedding. To set her free to follow her dreams. If only Anjelica would read the right book, the one Mim gave her. If only she would stop reading the wrong book…

The first book in this series captivated me from the get-go and this one was no different.  Young readers will delight in meeting Mim and Nat and their dad again as well as travelling to a completely different country and they have the third, due in early August, to look forward to.  Could there be a better life?

Cat Spies Mouse

Cat Spies Mouse

Cat Spies Mouse

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cat Spies Mouse

Rina A. Foti

Dave Atze

Big Sky, 2022

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

9781922615213

When Cat spies mouse, he grabs him and tells him he is going to gobble her up.  But being a feisty mouse, she disagrees and asks, “Why would you do that?” And so begins a back-and-forth conversation about the fairness of bigger being allowed to eat smaller because “that’s the way it is”. Mouse, who must be terrified, nevertheless has courage and tries to convince Cat that it would be better to be friends, but Cat is not interested until along comes D-O-G!

Told entirely in conversation with different coloured text identifying each speaker, this is a charming story about assumed power invested by size – just because you’re bigger doesn’t make you in charge – and it will promote discussion about whether being little means giving in or having rights. Is Cat (or Dog) a bully? Mouse’s arguing against the status quo is very reminiscent of little ones who feel injustice keenly but who don’t quite know how to get something sorted, although they are determined to win and make their own world fairer. Having the courage to speak up for change is a big lesson in assertiveness, and while parents might end the conversation with “Because I said so!” it is nevertheless a sign that their little one is maturing and gaining independence.

The illustrations are divine – set on a white background, all the emotions and feelings are contained in the animals’ body language and facial expressions that even without being able to read the words for themselves, very young readers will still be able to work out the story and participate in that crucial pre-reading behaviour.

Don’t be fooled by its apparent simplicity – this is a thought-provoking read that we can all take heed of, regardless of our age!

Marmalade – the Orange Panda

Marmalade - the Orange Panda

Marmalade – the Orange Panda

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marmalade – the Orange Panda

David Walliams

Adam Stower

HarperCollins, 2022

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

 9780008305758

One morning, deep in the forest, a beautiful baby panda was born. The panda was different to all the others, as he had dazzling orange fur.

“I will call you Marmalade,” his mummy whispered. . .

But when the other pandas see him they are not impressed – rather this embarrassment of pandas is embarrassed.  And so, Marmalade sets out on a perilous adventure through the jungle to find out  just where he belongs….

Setting aside the fact that pandas are solitary animals and that the creatures Marmalade meets would not be found anywhere near his natural home, this is a story about family love, being yourself and finding your place in the world – a message our youngest readers need to hear often as they begin to develop their own identity and be comfortable with it.  And while they would have or will hear the theme in many stories, it is the ending that makes this one different.  For it doesn’t come to a cosy conclusion with Marmalade snuggling in close to his Mama again – they get up to some hilarious mischief that lightens the message and leaves the reader with a smile.  

Using a series of framed illustrations, Walliams and Stower have packed a lot into this story as Marmalade discovers that he is not the only orange creature in the jungle and that not everyone is as friendly as they look, making it seem much longer than the traditional 32-page read. The humour, vocabulary and layout carry it along at a fast pace with much to discover on every page and every read. 

 

The calling of Jackdaw Hollow

The calling of Jackdaw Hollow

The Calling of Jackdaw Hollow

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Calling of Jackdaw Hollow

Kate Gordon

UQP, 2022

208pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9780702263484

When Jackdaw Crow is found underneath an apple tree, orphaned as a tiny baby by a lightning strike, he is taken to Direleafe Hall, where its principal Mrs Beekman, raises him as her own son.  But for all that he is loved and cherished, Jackdaw, as the only boy in that school for girls,  never feels quite content as he feels there is something missing in his life, comfortable though it is.  

Then he overhears a conversation between two of the kitchen girls, one saying that he was responsible for the death of his parents for if he hadn’t been such a crier, they would never have taken him outside to see the storm that killed them; but it is the words of Angharad that ‘clung to his soul’ – “How can a baby, brand new and pure, be blamed for anything? A baby ain’t done nothing yet. A baby has no dreams or calling…” 

And so he sets out to find his calling, the reason he was spared when his parents weren’t.  But when he befriends Angeline, a wildling girl who knows her destiny lies with the circus, he ignores the wisdom of the ghosts of Nell, Florence and Lucy and tries to save her from the brutal Mrs Bristleroad, even though Angeline is determined to save herself – that is her calling- he goes too far and loses sight of what’s most important.

This is the third  in this intriguing trilogy which includes The Heartsong of Wonder Quinn and The Ballad of Melodie Rose both of which also incorporate the themes of lost, lonely souls seeking friendships, struggling with who they are and their reason for being but learning to remain true to themselves regardless, (familiar themes for the readers who face the same issues), but whether it is the beginning or the end of the sequence depends on how you interpret the powerful epilogue which draws the circle together. 

As with its companions, Gordon’s evocative language and phrasing draws the reader in to this other-worldly experience, even those like me who are not particular fans of this genre, and there is much wisdom and food for thought between and beyond the lines, as well as along them.  I loved Wonder Quinn so much that I kept it and now I have all three to pass on to both Miss Almost 16 and Miss Just 11 because I think that each of them, despite being different in both age and taste, will thoroughly enjoy them.  Just as it is a timeless piece of writing, so it is a timeless read.  

Freddy the Not -Teddy

Freddy the Not -Teddy

Freddy the Not -Teddy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Freddy the Not -Teddy

Kristen Schroder

Hilary Jean Tapper

EK Books, 2022

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

9781922539090 

Jonah’s favourite toy is Freddy, but Freddy is not a teddy – he might have been a funky duck, a peculiar platypus or even a punk rock penguin – and that causes a problem when there is to be a Teddy Bears’ Picnic at school.  Does Jonah take Freddy who means so much to him, or a teddy that he finds hiding, forgotten, under his bed?

This is a heart-warming story that will appeal to all our young readers who have a favourite stuffed toy that is not a teddy, especially if they have had to make a decision about whether it “fits the brief” for an occasion like a Teddy Bears’ Picnic.  Jonah’s solutions to both his own problem and that of Cassie will inspire them to be brave enough to be themselves despite peer pressure. 

 

Alfie the Brave

Alfie the Brave

Alfie the Brave

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alfie the Brave

Richard Harris

Simon Howe

Puffin, 2022

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

9781761041358

Alfie was a fine-looking dog. His coat was sleek and shiny like an otter. He was the son of champions.
But Alfie didn’t feel like a champion. While he watched other dogs do things like catching frisbees, swimming, herding cattle, Alfie was scared of . . . everything! He didn’t like loud noises, mice terrified him and even a cat met on a walk would send him scurrying home.
Could Alfie ever be bold and brave like other dogs?

Written by Australian anaesthetist Dr Richard ‘Harry’ Harris, a key member of the international cave-diving group who rescued the Wild Boar soccer team in Thailand, this is a charming story about how we all wish we could find our brave, and doubt its existence until we need it.  Even though Alfie is not the bravest dog, he is still willing to face the world rather than hide away paralysed by “what-ifs” and he does have other endearing characteristics that make him precious to his family, like snuggling in for family cuddles and just being there. Not everyone is, or has to be, a superhero in a cape.  

Tempered with exquisite illustrations that portray Alfie’s feelings perfectly, this is ideal for sharing with little ones who are facing the unfamiliar or a new challenge like starting school to show them that they all have an inner strength they can draw on when they need to, and  that facing your fears head-on is better than letting your imagination make them bigger and scarier than they already are.  

The story behind the story is available here

 

Great Big Softie

Great Big Softie

Great Big Softie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Great Big Softie

Kaye Baillie

Shane McG

New Frontier, 2022

32pp., hbk., RRP $A26.99

 9781922326485

Elliot is a GREAT BIG SOFTIE. But to fit in with the other monsters he decides to perform some MONSTROUS deeds. After scaring a little girl on her bike, he must decide whether to continue being MONSTROUS or follow his heart.

This is a charming story for young readers that focuses on being true to who you are on the inside and having the courage to be that person, rather than what others expect of you.  It can be hard to resist the pull of peers but Elliot shows it can be done.  

But it could also be used with older children to explore the concept of stereotypes and how people assume what others are like just based on their physical appearance. Start by getting them to draw a monster and note the similarities in the results.  And perhaps, from there, investigate how advertisers perpetuate those stereotypes such as always making librarians middle-aged, hair-in-a-bun, sensible-shoes-and cardy-wearing, saying “shoosh” or putting a white coat on someone to portray a “scientific truth”.  Or perhaps delve into the origins of racism…Or discrimination in general… And how it feels when you’re the one who is discriminated against.  

Sometimes it is the books that seem to have the most simple, almost superficial storylines that can become the best for exploring tricky concepts. 

 

 

Seal Child

Seal Child

Seal Child

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seal Child

Robert Vescio

Anna Pignataro

New Frontier, 2021

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

9781922326294

Life was both predictable and peaceful on the island and the little girl played happily, safely on the sand as all around her life went on.  But then, the storm hit. And there was nothing and nobody left – except for an abandoned boat and a lost baby seal.  Together they huddled in the boat sailing over the ocean with its perils lurking, giving and seeking comfort and confidence from each other as they sought sanctuary.  But when the pup’s mother eventually finds it, the little girl is left alone once more… will her story have a happy ending too?

Superbly illustrated by Anna Pignataro who captures the many moods of the ocean in an amazing mix of watercolour hues, moods which reflect those of the little girl as she moves through fear, comfort, hope, resignation, loneliness, anticipation and a host of other emotions as the days drift by, there is nevertheless an underlying sense that there will be that happy ending as the  image of the polka dot cloth from the beach illustration appears as a blanket, a scarf and a sail like a symbol of hope and a connection between then and the future.   She describes the processes involved in her illustrations here.

Nearly all the reviews I discovered for this book just offered the publisher’s blurb, accepting the recommendation for “3-6 years” at face value, but anyone who is familiar with Vescio’s writing knows that this is more than a story about a little girl and a seal pup finding solace in each other while lost at sea – the storm in the child’s life could be a real wind-and-rain, lightning-and-thunder storm, but it could also be any number of events that disrupt the routine of what our children expect – fire, floods, pandemic, death, divorce; the seal could be a favourite toy, a pet, an imaginary friend… And while there is an underlying message for the child to ride the waves to a safe haven, and that fear and uncertainty are a natural part of the voyage,  and it’s OK to seek comfort wherever we may find it, there is also a message to parents to be patient while the child navigates the trip and to have faith that they will emerge into their arms safely again.

So, as usual, much to think about and consider, and definitely for a broader audience than our youngest readers.

 

We Are Australians

We Are Australians

We Are Australians

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We Are Australians

Duncan Smith & Nicole Godwin

Jandamarra Cadd

Wild Dog Books, 2022

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

9781742036328

“We are Australians.  We are citizens of our family, classroom, school, community, church, street, suburb, team, town, state, country, world.”

“As citizens of Australia, we have rights, And we have responsibilities.”

There, in those few stark words alone, is so much food for thought and discussion with our students, particularly as we head into another federal election. What does it mean to be a ‘citizen’?  And what are the “rights” and “responsibilities”? But team those words with the illustrations which accompany them and there is a whole new dimension to consider. 

Rather than the focus being on individual rights and responsibilities, what do those words mean when it comes to the bigger picture – the looking after each other, the caring for the land? And not just for those who have gone through the formal citizenship ceremony, but also for those born here? And not just for now, but also into the future?

Over the last two years, our students would have heard the phrase “for the greater good” often, particularly in relation to the safety procedures related to COVID-19, but what do they mean when it comes to living with each other despite our diverse heritages and histories, so that the present does have a future? What do we, as individuals, need to know, understand, do, appreciate and value about our own culture and that of others so that we can contribute to move forward positively, collectively? In particular, what do we need to know, acknowledge and embrace about those who have gone before, who have lived here for thousands of generations so we can connect and continue their legacy so we leave our children a deep attachment to the country they walk on that is more than the comings and goings of political parties, politicians and policies? For all that we have heard the voices of those with the power to access the microphone, whose voices have been silenced? And now that those who were once silent are now being heard, what are they saying that we must listen to?  What do they know that we must learn if we are to survive as a cohesive whole? 

From the vivid cover illustration of a young face vibrantly sporting a rainbow of colours to the more grizzled, aged face in its traditional hues, Jandamarra Cadd’s illustrations add a depth to the text that goes beyond his blending of contemporary portraiture with traditional techniques, suggesting that ultimately the way forward has to become a blend of the two – those First Nations peoples who have been here for 50 000  years and those “who’ve come across the seas”. The timeline at the end of the book suggests that there is a merging of the journeys but what more can be done to make them fully intertwined in the future?

This is a stunning and provocative book that has a place in every classroom to promote and grow that concept of “the greater good’ – from Kinder Kids making new friends and learning what it means to be a citizen “of the classroom” to those facing voting and having to consider the national, and even global aspects of both their rights and responsibilities.  

 

What’s New, Harper Drew?

What's New, Harper Drew?

What’s New, Harper Drew?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s New, Harper Drew?

Kathy Weeks

Aleksei Bitskoff

Hachette, 2022

214pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9781444961775

“My name is Harper Drew. I’m using my new journal to take note of all the totally ridiculous things that seem to go on around me with my family and friends. I seem to be the ONLY ONE who sees this all of this stuff for what it is. Completely BEYOND normal.

Recently I’ve been logging Drew Dial Ratings for all the mayhem. On a scale of 0 to 10, how likely is someone to SAY or DO something that would be less sensible than (for example) … a demented camel?

First up is the annual Drew trip to France… and while there might not be camels, there are BATS and Llamas – and my brother Troy who is so obsessed with his hairstyle, he won’t even go swimming… that’s a whole lot of ratings. I’m just hoping I land an invite to Maisie Felix’s party when I’m back to distract me from the Drews… for one whole evening!”

Promoted as  being “perfect for fans of Dork Diaries”, this is the first of a new illustrated series, all about embracing family, and finding unique ways to deal with life’s dramas that is most likely to appeal to girls who are independent readers, who are moving into that tween age and wanting something more sophisticated in the stories they read. The diary format, the first person in a stream of consciousness conversation make it a relatively easy read that is somewhat of a bridge between the novels they are used to and the edgier contemporary realistic fiction they will encounter in a couple of years.  While it is still about family and their relationships so it will resonate with the reader, the more objective perspective of examining what is being said and done gives it some punch and given diary-writing is a popular pastime with its age-intended audience, it will have broad appeal. Harper herself is  sensible, logical, considerate, and very resourceful in solving the problems and so she could become a role model. Even though Harper develops the “Drew Dial Rating” assigning a rating to each individual in terms of their “bizarre, odd, weird, and totally ridiculous” behaviour” her assessments are always done kindly as she accepts each for who they are and understands that who they are is what makes her who she is. There is a strong message about accepting people for who they are, while who you are is enough. 

Readers will find themselves fitting themselves into the story easily, if not as Harper then an engaged observer, and that, in itself, is a recipe for success.