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Nine Worlds in Nine Nights: A Journey Through Imaginary Lands

Nine Worlds in Nine Nights: A Journey Through Imaginary Lands

Nine Worlds in Nine Nights: A Journey Through Imaginary Lands

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nine Worlds in Nine Nights: A Journey Through Imaginary Lands

Hiawyn Oram

David Wyatt

Walker Studio, 2019

48pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9781406377705

Theoretical physicist, Professor Dawn D. Gable Ph.D., MRI, MInsiP, deals only in facts and shuns the world of stories and imagination.  So when she is interrupted on her birthday by her niece and nephew whom she hasn’t seen for years and doesn’t even recognise, she is not pleased. Even moreso when they present her with a gift from her brother, and she tosses the unwanted present aside. But as midnight draws close, she finds herself being drawn to it as if by an unseen force, and tearing off the wrapping she discovers a book, a childhood favourite called Lost in the Imagination, written and illustrated by “dreamers, fantasists and folklorists”, and which took her and her brother to amazing worlds when they were young, but which she has no time for now.

Tossing the book on the fire, she is surprised that it does not burn – and the strange magic begins. 

This is the journal of that magic, as led by the strange creature Hyllvar, descendant of Nidhogg, the ancient Norse dragon, who emerges from the flames, Prof Gable realises she is alone, bereft of new ideas and inspiration and in need of a challenge…

Superbly crafted and beautifully illustrated, both the professor and the reader are taken on a journey to explore a city of robots, the ancient city of Kor, the miniature world of Lilliput and flying island of Laputa, a mountainous home of mythical beasts, the primeval island of Buyan, Atlantis, Valhalla and more. From cover to cover this is a mystical and magical book that even non-fantasists like me are drawn into in a way that I was drawn into both Middle earth and Hogwarts. It is captivating and a must for all those whose imaginations know no bounds and who delight in exploring the mythical places of the ancients, the literary creations of minds long gone but whose fantasies linger.  Miss 8 and Miss 13 are going to love this and perhaps venture into more classical tales of fantasy as their imaginations will be piqued to read more. In fact, Grandma might make up a package of the stories that go with the worlds just to entice them!

My Parents Cancelled My Birthday

My Parents Cancelled My Birthday

My Parents Cancelled My Birthday

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Parents Cancelled My Birthday

Jo Simmons

Nathan Reed

Bloomsbury, 2019

256pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

9781526606587

Tom is really looking forward to his birthday- he has had to wait a whole year while all the others in his class have had theirs and he is the last to do so. It is also his Lucky Birthday – 11 on the 11th – and so it is sure to be extra special with amazing activities and lots of presents.  But then disasters begin to befall the family – the Curse of the Tooth Fairy according to his little sister Meg – and his parents are so swamped they cancel his birthday.  How can this be?  And with the invitations designed and delivered already!!  

But then Tom draws on his resistingance, and with the help of his friends decides to throw himself the best party ever!  What could go wrong?

Written in the first person so the reader is constantly viewing the circumstances through Tom’s eyes and empathising, this is an engaging read for the newly-independent reader. Peppered with cartoon-like illustrations and Dad’s peculiar expressions, it is funny without resorting to toilet humour and a seriously hilarious but concerning twist at the end, this is one to promote to the boys who are looking for something quirky and fun.

The Voyage

The Voyage

The Voyage

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Voyage

Robert Vescio

Amanda Edmonds

EK Books, 2019

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

9781925820034

Fourteen words. If books were priced based on the number of words the story had, then you would probably ask for your money back with this one, but those 14 words document a life-changing episode in one family – a family that could be any one of a number of those whose children we teach and will teach as conflict continues to circle the world. Just fourteen words to tell such a story that are more powerful than if there were 10 or 100 times that many. 

War displaces the family and their pet duck and so they must escape on a boat into the unknown. At first there is the CHAOS of the conflict; then there is the WILD ocean as a storm tosses the boat and overturns it;but BEAUTY awaits as they finally sight land ahead and at last they are SAFE.

But words alone are not enough and it is the remarkable and powerful watercolour illustrations that meld with those 14 words to tell an all-too familiar story of despair, hope, courage, resilience and joy. In fact, more mature readers might be able to empathise with the family and retell the story using an emotion for each page, perhaps sparking greater understanding and compassion  for their peers who have lived the nightmare.  But while those illustrations have strong words to convey, they have soft lines and gentle colours so the humanity and reality of the people is maintained and the reader is not turned off by page after page of darkness.. Again, older students could compare the illustrations and mood of this book with those of the 2019 CBCA Honours Book The Mediterranean

Accompanying notes tell us that both author and illustrator were driven by the need to tell what is becoming a common story so that there is greater understanding and compassion amongst those whose lives are less traumatic and through that, build stronger, more cohesive communities so that life is better, enriched and enhanced for everyone. Edmonds deliberately chose a Middle Eastern family as her centrepiece because of the richness of the culture so that the reader can appreciate the depth and meaning of what is being left behind – the dilemma  of leaving  all that is known and loved for the uncertainty of the unknown and the heartache and danger that either choice will bring.

Beyond the storyline itself, this is a book that so clearly demonstrates the critical, integral relationship between text and illustration, that a picture really is “worth a thousand words” , and often the picture book format is the most powerful way to tell a story.

Look for this one in the 2020 awards lists.

 

Roald Dahl’s Beastly Brutes & Heroic Human Beans

Roald Dahl’s Beastly Brutes & Heroic Human Beans

Roald Dahl’s Beastly Brutes & Heroic Human Beans

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Roald Dahl’s Beastly Brutes & Heroic Human Beans

Stella Caldwell & Roald Dahl

Quentin Blake

Puffin, 2019

64pp., hbk., RRP $A39.99

9781760891589

Whether your child’s favourite Dahl book is Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Twits, Matilda or The BFG, they will find their favourite characters brought to life in this unique book as they meet them face-to-face and learn more about what makes them tick.  From Grandpa Joe and Mike Teavee, to Mr and Mrs Twit and Muggle-Wump, to Sophie and the Fleshlumpeater. Miss Trunchbull and Bruce Bogtrotter, each has a special place in this collection that, as the title suggests. looks at Dahl’s most heroic human beans and beastly brutes, each created by Dahl to engage children and show them that children can have power over the adults. The main character from each book guides the reader around the story and introduces the rest of the cast. 

But, as the introduction states, “this is no ordinary book…it’s a press-out paper adventure” because there are lots of card press-outs of the characters and places that help the child describe the roles and personalities of the players and recreate and retell the story in their own words.  Making new from old. (And there’s a convenient envelope at the back to keep them in too.) Clever design means parts of the pages can be pressed out to reveal a glorious parade of characters, interacting with each other in quirky and mischievous ways. 

This is probably not one for the general circulation shelves but it would be the most wonderful prop for any study of Dahl, who has been and will be a children’s favourite for generations, or the ideal gift for a Dahl fan.  Like Dahl’s writing which offers something new with every reading (wouldn’t mind a dollar for every time I’ve read or gifted The BFG), this is a gift that will keep on giving, especially it if it’s teamed with the featured books!. 

Space on Earth

Space on Earth

Space on Earth

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Space on Earth

Dr Sheila Kanani

Alma Books 2019

1287pp., pbk., RRP $19.99

9781846884559

The 50th anniversary of man stepping on the moon and the declaration by President Trump that they will be back there by 2024 with NASA’s Project Artemis has again ignited the debate about the cost of space exploration and whether the money could be better spent back here on this planet. 

So the publication of this new book from Dr Sheila Kanani, a British astronomer with a particular interest in Saturn, is very timely because it examines how the discoveries in space have been translated back into everyday objects on Earth.  It is full of amazing facts about everyday innovations, from drills and dustbusters to bike helmets,  that have been inspired by space travel and includes sections on the people who brought them to us,

Divided into three sections – technology, health and fashion – it examines objects as diverse as baby blankets, artificial limbs and skiwear, examining how their development is related to space exploration as well as a short piece about the scientist who imagineered the development.

Intriguing and offering much food for thought that could spark further investigations. 

Everest: The Remarkable Story of Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay

Everest

Everest: The Remarkable Story of Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Everest: The Remarkable Story of Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay

Alexandra Stewart

Joe Todd-Stanton

Bloomsbury, 2019

64pp., hbk. RRP $A24.99

9781526600769

Prior to the lunar landing 50 years ago, climbing to the top of Everest was seen as perhaps the greatest physical feat that had been achieved.

In the late morning of May 29th 1953, the sun was shining brightly on the roof of the world, a gentle breeze was blowing and two men were there to witness it for the first time ever … Their names were Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay and the roof of the world was Everest.

This is the breathtaking story of how two very different yet equally determined men battled frost-biting temperatures, tumbling ice rocks, powerful winds and death-defying ridges to climb the world’s highest mountain. Join these two unlikely heroes on the most amazing of adventures and discover the impact of hundreds of men and women that helped Hillary and Tenzing achieve their goal. But triumphs can be marred with tragedy as not everyone who climbs Everest survives …

With a  foreword by Sir Ranulph Fiennes, this  book combines fresh and contemporary illustrations by Joe Todd-Stanton with Alexandra Stewart’s captivating writing and has been published to concide with the celebrations of f Edmund Hillary‘s birth in New Zealand on January 20, 1919. This unique narrative tells the story of how Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay made their mark on the world from birth right up to their final days and the impact they’ve had on Nepal today.

Perhaps because Sir Edmund became a friend of my mother’s and once took her down Aoraki (Mt Cook in New Zealand) on the back of a skidoo so she could be home in time for my birthday, Everest has always held a fascination for me. So to learn about the story behind the climb that made him a household name at a time when New Zealand was not, has been a most fascinating read.

Something to capture the imagination of those who like their superheroes to be real.

The Good Son: A Story from the First World War, Told in Miniature

The Good Son: A Story from the First World War, Told in Miniature

The Good Son: A Story from the First World War, Told in Miniature

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Good Son: A Story from the First World War, Told in Miniature

Pierre-Jacques Ober

Jules Ober, Felicity Coonan

Candlewick Studio, 2019

104pp., hbk., RRP $A34.99

9781536204827

From the publisher… “About one hundred years ago, the whole world went to war. The war was supposed to last months. It lasted years. It is Christmastime, 1914, and World War I rages. A young French soldier named Pierre had quietly left his regiment to visit his family for two days, and when he returned, he was imprisoned. Now he faces execution for desertion, and as he waits in isolation, he meditates on big questions: the nature of patriotism, the horrors of war, the joys of friendship, the love of family, and how even in times of danger, there is a whole world inside every one of us. And how sometimes that world is the only refuge. “

Published to coincide with the centenary of the Treaty of Versailles, one of five treaties formulated at the Paris Peace Conference as part of the peace negotiations at the end of the First World War, the readership of this book is older than what is normally reviewed for this site, despite its sparse text.  However, it is a new and important addition to any collection about World War I  and there will be primary school students who will appreciate the conceptual issues it raises as they become more aware of “the difficult truths of humanity”.

Written by a Frenchman now living in Australia, and illustrated by miniature reenactments of the scenes that have then been photographed, the book is the winner of 1st Prize at the Prix Sorcières 2019, France’s most prestigious award for children’s books.   The story is based on true facts and its connection to the author and the illustrators and their processes have been detailed in the final pages. 

Different, intriguing and utterly absorbing,

 

 

Detention

Detention

Detention

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Detention

Tristan Bancks

Puffin, 2019

240pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9780143791799

Sima and her family are pressed to the rough, cold ground among fifty others. They lie next to the tall fence designed to keep them in. The wires are cut one by one. 

When they make their escape, a guard raises the alarm. Shouting, smoke bombs, people tackled to the ground. In the chaos Sima loses her parents. 

Dad told her to run, so she does, hiding in a school and triggering a lockdown. A boy, Dan, finds her hiding in the toilet block. 

What should he do? Help her? Dob her in? She’s breaking the law, but is it right to lock kids up? And if he helps, should Sima trust him? Or run?

Whatever decisions are made will change their lives forever.

With the rise and spread of nationalist, right-wing conservative governments around the globe, xenophobia is alive and well in communities and countries around the world. In Australia it is always a hot topic particularly around election time and especially since former prime minister John Howard declared, “It’s about this nation saying to the world we are a generous open hearted people, taking more refugees on a per capita basis than any nation except Canada, we have a proud record of welcoming people from 140 different nations. But we will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come” in an election speech just weeks after the attacks on the World Trade Centre buildings in 2001.

Having just had another federal election with the rhetoric of asylum seekers, detention centres and people’s rights claiming a lot of media space and votes, this new book from Tristan Bancks is very timely. In it, through the students in the Reading Superstars class and their teacher Miss Aston, he asks the questions that need to be considered about the plight of refugees, particularly as much of what the children say is the echo of their parents’ perspectives. Bancks says he has tried to tell the story as “a human one, rather than a political one” and he has achieved this as the reader becomes very invested in the plights of Simi and Dan and constantly wonders what would they do if they were either of those characters.

In my opinion, the greatest power of this book is in the hands of a class teacher reading it aloud and discussing the issues as Miss Aston does while she and her charges are in lockdown. That way, a range of points of view can be explored and explained, taking the story to a whole new level, rather than being an individual read that throws up questions but for which the reader doesn’t seek answers. And that teacher should be prepared to answer the inevitable, “What would you do if you were Miss Aston?”

Books for this age group are rarely the focus of reviews on this blog, but I believe that this is such an essential read as part of any study about migration and refugees, it deserves all the publicity it can get. Superb.

 

 

Diary of an Awesome Friendly Kid: Rowley Jefferson’s Journal

Diary of an Awesome Friendly Kid: Rowley Jefferson's Journal

Diary of an Awesome Friendly Kid: Rowley Jefferson’s Journal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Diary of an Awesome Friendly Kid: Rowley Jefferson’s Journal

Jeff Kinney

Puffin, 2019

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

9781760892517

“Rowley’s best friend Greg Heffley has been chronicling his middle-school years in thirteen Diary of a Wimpy Kid journals . . . and counting. But it’s finally time for readers to hear directly from Rowley in a journal of his own. In Diary of an Awesome Friendly Kid, Rowley writes about his experiences and agrees to play the role of biographer for Greg along the way. (After all, one day Greg will be rich and famous, and everyone will want to know his life’s story.) But Rowley is a poor choice for the job, and his “biography” of Greg is a hilarious mess.”

There would be few primary school readers (and even those a little older) who do not know the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , one of the pivotal series to get boys reading that I’ve encountered throughout my teaching career. So this new addition to the collection, in which Greg’s life is viewed through the lens of his best friend, is a welcome new chapter with a twist.

But as well as just being a fun read, one that so many can relate to, it’s also a chance to explore the concept of perspective.  Do others see us as we see ourselves? It reminds me of an advertisement on television where a fellow is called to a meeting and is giving himself negative self-talk  – this one…

But the reality is significantly different. So this book could be an opening into examining how others perceive us and perhaps tapping into someone’s mental health by having friends write about their friends. A skilled teacher who knows the students really well might have them write about themselves first and if necessary have conversations with the school counsellor.  Food for thought that might get someone who is struggling to open up.

But for those who just adore Greg and Rowley and their adventures, they can find out more about their creation here.

 

 

The Race to Space

The Race to Space

The Race to Space

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Race to Space

Clive Gifford

Paul Daviz

Words & Pictures, 2019

64pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781786038890

It is hard to believe that it is only a little over a century since the Wright Brothers made the first powered flight, achieving  a distance of 37 metres at an altitude of just three metres with the flight lasting just 12 seconds at the amazing speed of nearly 11km per hour, and now we take flight for granted with humans spending months in space in the International Space Station, vehicles landing on Mars and probes travelling to the deepest corners of the solar system.

Even though the earliest rockets were invented by China over 600 years ago, it wasn’t till the mid-20th century when the USSR launched Sputnik, the first manmade device to orbit the Earth, in 1957 and the US, the other world power to have emerged from World War II, were concerned that this would lead to the USSR having military control of space, that the race for the exploration of space really got going.

As the 50th anniversary of man first’s landing on the moon approaches, this new book traces the history of the space race from the launch of Sputnik to the moon landing with its early focus on the tensions between the US and the USSR, and concluding with the “handshake across space” in the joint Apollo-Soyuz mission in 1975 marking a new collaboration rather than competition.  Illustrated in full colour and spattered with quotes from significant participants of the times, this is a book for independent readers who want to know the stories behind the milestones and understand why it became a “race” with that word’s connotation of winners and losers. 

Another opportunity to revitalise your collection about this period of history that is really so recent that many staff and parents will remember it vividly.