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My Deadly Boots

My Deadly Boots

My Deadly Boots

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Deadly Boots

Carl Merrison & Hakea Hustler

Samantha Campbell

Lothian, 2022

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

9780734421456

He has worked and saved for the money to buy a special pair of football boots, and, at last, they have arrived. His 

Spikes on the bottom boots,
my favourite colour boots,
making me too deadly.

Suddenly, he has all sorts of dreams and powers that give him joy, confidence, competence, inspiration and energy that he didn’t have before – or do they?  Despite his family members and friends telling him that he is who he is with or without the boots, he is convinced they are the secret to his success, to his being too deadly. They are his  ‘walking in two worlds boots’, “blackfella don’t need to be labelled boots’ ‘his ‘run faster than my cousin-brother boots’, his “find a partner and walk in twos’ boots, ‘his ‘dream big boots’, his ‘give me confidence’ boots, his ” I’m somebody’ boots, his very own boots- until he loses them and there is an important lesson to be learned.  

Written in rhythmical  language that carries the reader along at the same pace as the boots, this is an empowering story of affirmation that no matter who we are, we can all be deadly with or without flash footy boots. Author Carl Merrison is a respected Jaru/Kija man from the Halls Creek area who came WA runner up Australian of the Year – Local Hero in 2016. He has worked for over ten years alongside Aboriginal youth as a mentor and AFL coach and he has drawn on this experience of seeing the confidence boost that having new shoes gives his young charges to create this book while trying to show them that the power was within all the time.  While it is specifically aimed at young First Nations readers to inspire them to read, its message is one for all children everywhere.  

 

Remarkably Ruby

Remarkably Ruby

Remarkably Ruby

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Remarkably Ruby

Terri Libenson

HarperCollins, 2022

384pp., pbk., RRP $A17.99

 9780063139183

Ruby is moving to middle school, a whole new environment with a whole lot of new people to meet.  Which for some, will be an exciting opportunity, but very daunting for one who doesn’t have “the greatest social skills” , whose not into dances, social media or sports, and who is as tall as their money tree. 

More for the upper end of this readership, nevertheless it is a story that will resonate with many who find themselves having to change schools, and its first-person voice, diary-like entries and a format resembling a graphic novel make it accessible to any independent reader.

It is the 6th in the Emmie and Friends series, written to help young girls navigate those tricky tween years by showing them that the problems and issues they face are common and there are ways to work their way through them.  So while some may not resonate so much with Ruby (although many will),  there are others in the series that will definitely speak to them, making it a series that needs to be in the library’s collection as our young girls seek books about those just like themselves, with the same insecurities, confusion and peer pressure.

 

 

 

You Are 25% Banana

You Are 25% Banana

You Are 25% Banana

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You Are 25% Banana

Susie Brooks

Josy Bloggs

Farshore, 2022

32pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781405299084

With an intriguing title that is as eye-catching as the cover, this will capture the imagination of any casual browser, and once opened, so will the contents. 

Using both bold fonts and illustrations, this is a fascinating early introduction to genetics that explains how humans are related to every other living thing on the planet, including bananas; that our closest relatives are chimpanzees with a 99% match; yet while our “recipe” is the same as 99.9% of everyone else on the planet now or ever, it is the 0.1% that makes us unique.  Only identical twins have the same recipe!

One of the most common activities in early childhood classes is to graph hair and eye colour, or map heights and so this book goes a long way to helping children understand why they have the colouring or the build that they do.  Learning this at an early age might help alleviate the body image issues that still plague our kids, particularly as they get older, helping them accept their red hair and freckles more readily and even celebrate their differences rather than their lack of conformity to some media-driven, arbitrary, preferred look.  

For older students, it could help them understand the stupidity and futility of racism, particularly if they also watch the pioneering documentary Blue Eyes, Brown Eyes,  Whether our beliefs about human development are based on Glasser’s Basic Needs theory, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs or any other theory, the need for love and belonging is common, and physical acceptance is high – so the more we can understand the importance and influence of our genetic makeup from an early age, the more likely we are to value ourselves and others.  Therefore, this is an important book to start the conversation, even if we don’t like bananas! 

 

 

August & Jones

August & Jones

August & Jones

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

August & Jones

Pip Harry

Lothian Children’s, 2022

280pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9780734420350 

There is an old saying that every cloud has a silver lining but who knew the extent of it as Jones and her mother and father packed the last of their belongings into their old red ute, and said goodbye to their farm in Cotton forever, driven off by drought and forced to head for life in a tiny apartment in the city where her dad had a job with his brother.  

How could such a move, one made by many in recent years, have such a widespread impact as this story, inspired by the true story of two children in Victoria, unfolds.

Because, as much as 11 year-old Jones misses her rural life, she also has a prosthetic eye because of early childhood cancer, and now the vision in her other eye is getting blurry. Tough and scary at any time but when your passions are running and rock-climbing, it can seem like life is over,  But at her new school, she is paired with August, a somewhat introverted little lad whose dad makes him play footy and even though August hates it, he persists because otherwise he fears being invisible. A friendship blooms and blossoms as together they take on all the challenges facing them, and as the news about Jones’s eye is the worst, make a Must-See bucket list of the things she wants to see before she loses her sight completely – a list that has tentacles that reach out to embrace many and change those lives as well as both Jones and August.

Told by the two children in alternating chapters, this is a moving, heart-warming, tear-jerking story about family and friendship overcoming heartbreak and hardship that will appeal to independent readers who like real-life stories that are both inspirational and aspirational.  And as both Jones and August reach the summit of Mt Kosciuszko, signaling not the end but the beginning of new adventures, you just want to cheer!!  

It wouldn’t surprise me to see this one among the CBCA Book of the Year nominees in 2023,  following the success of The Little Wave.

Worth reading past your bedtime just to find out what happens…

Stardiving

Stardiving

Stardiving

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stardiving

Andrew Plant

Ford Street, 2022

32pp., pbk., RRP $A16.95

9781922696021

In the sunlit waters, baby Fluke is content to swim languidly among the rest of the sperm whale pod, occasionally rising to the surface to breathe. But as he does so, he is joined by a pod of dolphins who leap and cavort far above the surface, teasing him to join them.

“Come up and see the sky”, they say to which Fluke says he can see the sun.  “The sun’s great, but have you seen the stars?” 

And Fluke begins to wonder and daydream…until he is given some advice from Cachalot, the great bull whale, that sends him on a journey of discovery that teaches him more than he can have imagined.

Put Andrew Plant’s name on the cover of a book and I’m there! Whether it’s The Poppy, Sparkor any of the others that I’ve read and reviewed over the years, I know I will be in for a beautifully illustrated, lyrically written story that will reach deep. Of them all, Stardiving  has gone the deepest as Fluke learns as much about himself as he does about the stars that are in his own environment, without even having to learn to leap and leave his natural habitat.  As Fluke discovers the stars that twinkle and shine far below in the ocean’s depths, a place where the dolphins can’t ever go, he begins to understand what Cachalot means when he says, “You are not even yourself yet. Why do you want to be something else?”  That, like the ocean, he has hidden depths yet to explore…

Plant’s stunning illustrations take the reader into an unknown world, one inaccessible to most humans. one that even television images from deep-diving submersibles can’t portray accurately as the calm and serenity and the being-in-the-moment-ness has to be experienced; yet one that, for all its mystery, is as deserving and needy of preservation as the shallower waters above because what happens on top impacts what happens beneath.  Just as our personal experiences shape who we are, as they did for Fluke – a theme to explore in itself – so too is the ocean an integrated, holistic environment.  And while Plant doesn’t touch on pollution, habitat destruction and so forth, it is there in his dedication, reminding the reader that this story has as many layers as the ocean itself.

To all the eco-warriors who faced down the whalers; to the scientists who study and advocate for our oceans; to the kids who fight the scourge of plastic…

Extensive teachers’ notes which include an introduction to the creatures that Fluke sees, enable this book to become a journey of discovery for the reader as much as it was for the baby whale. 

 

Where?

Where?

Where?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where?

Jordan Collins

Phil Lesnie

A & U Children’s, 2022

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

9781760526382

‘Where are you from?’ they say.
What they mean is,
‘Why is your skin that colour?’
‘Why does your hair look like that?’

I am from the mountains,
The seas and the sky.
I am from children of millions of years,
A timeline of humanity.
I am from this planet
And all others.

Being  African-American-Greek-Australian with  dark skin and curly hair, the author wrote this poem in response to a lifetime of being asked questions like, ‘where are you from?’ in an attempt to show, that, ultimately, we are all from the same place … “the primate who decided to walk upon two legs for the first time” and all those who have followed through time and generations. 

Powerfully illustrated by another who has also experienced that constant questioning, this is a book to challenge the reader’s thinking to look beyond the immediate physical appearance that makes us unique and consider all that has gone before to make us the same.  It is an opportunity for more mature readers to step beyond the multitude of stories that focus on who they are as individuals and the importance of being true to oneself, and look at a bigger philosophical picture of humanity as a whole with a shared heritage and history.

 

Dragon Storm

Dragon Storm

Dragon Storm

Dragon Storm

Tomas and Ironskin

9781839940026

Cara and Silverthief

9781839940064

Ellis and Pathseeker

9781839940088

Mira and Flameteller

9781839940040

Alastair Chisholm

Nosy Crow, 2022

160pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

In the land of Draconis, there are no dragons. Once, there were. Once, humans and dragons were friends, and created the great city of Rivven together. But then came the Dragon Storm, and the dragons retreated from the world of humans. To the men and women of Draconis, they became legends and myth.

But in this new series for newly independent readers, the dragons show that it is their extinction that is the myth! But only a few special selected children can see them, befriend them and work with them.

Tomas has always been told that now, dragons are extinct, and so he can’t believe it when a mysterious stranger invites him to join a secret society, the Dragonseer Guild – and tells him that not only do dragons still exist, but also that Tomas has a very special power… he can summon his very own dragon! But Tomas faces a difficult choice, and he and his dragon, Ironskin, must learn to trust each other – and together, they have to save their home from a deadly threat.

Meanwhile, Cara has spent her life on the streets, relying on her wits – and a mysterious voice that seemed to live inside her head – for survival. She’s amazed when she learns that the voice actually belongs to a dragon – her dragon – and she’s also invited to join, the Dragonseer Guild, for those who can summon their own dragon. But Cara isn’t used to having friends, and so when she and her dragon Silverthief uncover a dangerous secret, they must decide who they can trust… and their lives will depend on it.

Adding to these already published episodes are two more coming soon…

It’s the Maze Festival in the city of Rivven, and young dragonseer Ellis and his dragon Pathseeker are determined to be the first to complete the three mazes in the grounds of the king’s palace and win this year’s tournament. But after they discover someone secretly using dangerous dragon magic, Ellis and Pathseeker face a far greater challenge – and it will take all of their skills and courage to find their way back home, and keep the existence of the dragons a secret from the king.

The fourth story tells the tale of young dragonseer Mira and her dragon Flameteller love finding out how things work and fixing them, and so they’re excited to learn about the ancient magic that powers the home of the Dragonseer Guild – and helps keep its existence a secret. But when the King of Draconis announces a plan to hunt down and destroy all dragons, and the magic that powers the Dragonseer Guild begins to fail, threatening to expose it to the world, Mira and Flameteller must find a way to fix it – before the Guild, and the dragons, are found by King Godfic’s soldiers.

And to top it off there are two more scheduled for 2023 –  Kai and Boneshaow and Erin and Rockhammer. 

The long, cold days of winter are always a good time to introduce newly independent readers to new series, as they have the time and inclination to snuggle down and read.  And if the episodes in the series are published close together so they don’t have to wait too long to meet their new-found friends again, even better. As a read-alone, it is aimed at the 7-9 year olds who still need the support of a  larger font, short chapters and illustrations but who want an absorbing plot that has characters to whom they can relate as well as a touch of the extraordinary.  But it would also work as a read-aloud to younger readers, offering a gentle, safe introduction to not only the world of dragons but also to fantasy in general.  While the first, Tomas and Ironskin is more of a world-building, scene -setting story it is the perfect foundation for young readers who still need to orientate themselves in the world of fantasy and its particular characteristics while building a platform for the stories in the rest of the series.  Using it as a taster -read-aloud to build desire and anticipation to know what happens to the rest of the children is a great way to keep young readers reading.

I think your collection will need more than one copy of each of these to satisfy demand. 

The Lost Whale

The Lost Whale

The Lost Whale

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Lost Whale

Hannah Gold

Levi Pinfold

HarperCollins, 2022

320pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

9780008412944

Rio is lost – both physically and emotionally.  

He has been sent from London to Los Angeles to stay with his grandmother while his mother is in hospital trying to recover from her chronic mental illness. But the tiny, quiet seaside town of Ocean Grove is so different from busy London; and so is his grandmother’s house – so much bigger than their tiny city flat, especially when he is to sleep in his mother’s childhood bedroom.

As if that weren’t enough, not only does he scarcely know his grandmother who is all shiny jumpsuits, sharp elbows and hard angles and whose hugs are not the deep, warm snuggly type he is used to, but he believes that if he had just tried harder and done more he could have prevented his mother’s downward slide into the psychiatric hospital.  At first,  Rio shuts everyone and everything out, unable to do anything but think about his mother and fears for her safety if he is not there.  After all, he’s been her carer for most of his 11 years. He is consumed by guilt if he relaxes or has fun, or even feels at peace. He is fixated of fixing here, despite being so far away, and when he discovers her childhood sketches of a grey whale named White Beak he hatches a plan that will surely save her, one made even more possible when he at last makes a friend in Marina who is passionate about the whales that migrate past Ocean Beach each year and whose dad happens to own a whale-watching business.  

After his own incredible encounter with White Beak, Rio is even more determined but then the reports of her being sighted as she journey s south to the lagoons of Mexico stop. Rio is determined to find her  because White Beak and his mother become one and the same person in his mind, and he and Marina hatch an audacious plan…

As with Gold’s debut novel, The Last Bear  this is a story  that stays in the mind long after the final page has been turned, and as with that story, it is a journey of discovery for the child as much as the focus animal. Rio is so used to being the grown-up, the responsible one, that he has to learn to forge relationships with his grandmother, Marina and her father and to be able to trust others to have his mother’s interests at heart, accepting that he can’t fix everything by himself. But the parallel story about the life and times of the world’s whales, whatever species, and the perils they face as their habitat is threatened is equally important.  It could easily have been set in coastal New South Wales about the humpback highway.  

This is one for independent readers who are seeking a well-written story that has substance and authenticity, but it would also make an excellent class read-aloud.  

 

The Bravest Word

The Bravest Word

The Bravest Word

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Bravest Word

Kate Foster

Walker Books, 2022

240pp., pbk., RRP $A17.99

9781760654719

Last year Matt did really well at school, loved being a star football player, hanging out with his friends Kai and Ted and playing jungle Warfare, while avoiding bully-boy Joseph. But this year things are very different – and it’s much more than the changes that being at high school bring. 

Instead of enjoying football, he has a panic attack when he steps on the field; he avoids Kai and Ted; he’s not paying attention in class or doing his homework – in fact, he feels like he is so worthless that he is ruining the lives of those around him, including his loving parents and is beginning to wonder whether he should really be here at all. He is always tired and wanting to sleep and the tears come all the time, especially when he doesn’t want them…

While his mother dismisses his issues as “growing pains”, his father has a suspicion that there is something deeper going on and he takes Matt on a walk to see if Matt will open up.  But before he gets the chance, they hear a whimper in the bushes and discover a severely neglected and abused dog tied to a tree.  Together they release it and take it to a vet where Matt promises Cliff, whom he has named after his recently passed, dearly loved grandfather, that life will get better. But is that a promise he can keep when he is in such a dark place and his mother has said no to having a dog so many times before… And when it all boils down, who helps whom the most?

While this is a story probably more suited to the upper end of the target audience of this blog, nevertheless it is a poignant, compelling story for both teachers and parents as it gives such an insight into childhood anxiety and depression demonstrating that these are real illnesses for our kids, and also for the students themselves, because there will be some who will see themselves in Matt and who may, through him, build the courage to utter that bravest word.  Although the story is written very positively, the characters are very real and there were times when I was close to tears as I read. Why is there still such a stigma attached to having a mental illness but not-so when it’s a physical illness?  Why is it OK to take medication long-term to have a healthy heart but not to have a healthy brain?

However, shared as a classroom read-aloud in conjunction with the teachers’ notes  and other authoritative resources,  this could have a positive outcome for someone, especially when suicide is the leading cause of death in Australians aged 15-24 and “for every youth suicide, there are 100 to 200 more attempts.”  At the very least it will raise awareness and understanding and even if the sick child doesn’t or can’t open up, one of their classmates might trigger a conversation.

Kate Foster is also the author of Pawsin which she drew on her own son’s experience to give us a look into the world of the autistic child and this book is every bit as eye-opening as that.  If we are to acknowledge and recognise the struggles that some of those we know are experiencing, then this is a must-read in my opinion.  

 

 

Bored: Milo Finds $105

Bored

Bored

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bored: Milo Finds $105

Matt Stanton

ABC Books, 2022

224pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9780733342035

Milo is so bored that he is having a conversation with an ant, when suddenly he spies money lying in the middle of jis cul-de-sac.  There’s $105 to be exact and he ha s no idea who it belongs to or what he should do about it.  His stepmum, Liz, tells him it is “finders keepers” but his mum, a law student, says he must try to find the owner.

Being somewhat shy, introverted  and anxious, this causes issues for Milo who is afraid of Rocco the bully; would love to know Evie better but she’s always got her headphones on, and is somewhat overawed by the confidence of Frog; the new kid who has invented his own brand of martial arts.  Suddenly, having so much money becomes a nightmare, particularly when Frog and Rocco look like they’re going to get into a fight about it t the bus stop. “Some kids just have power and other kids don’t, and I don’t understand it. Where do you get power from? Because if I knew, I’d happily spend a hundred and five dollars to buy some.

But then Frog hatches a plan…

Told by 11 year old Milo, this is a new series from the author of Funny Kids and The Odds in which Stanton again demonstrates his ability to turn everyday situations and authentic characters that readers will recognise into stories that engage even the most reluctant readers.  While there is a strong sense of family because Milo misses his older brother Henry who has joined the army, rather than his having two mums, (which is just accepted by kids if not by adults) it is the evolving and changing friendships between the children that carry the story along, just as they do in real life.

When Milo muses, “Some kids just have power and other kids don’t, and I don’t understand it. Where do you get power from? Because if I knew, I’d happily spend a hundred and five dollars to buy some, ” some readers will be urging him to find his voice while others will be feeling just as concerned as he is.  Being able to evoke such opposite emotions is the sign of a writer who knows kids well and how to relate to them through story, and achieves his goal of creating stories with “emotional guts”, with “truth and understanding” and allow the reader “to feel a little less alone.”

The second in the series, due in September, is told from Frog’s perspective as he tries to fit into this new neighbourhood and one suspects that the other children in the street will also get their say in the future.