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The Odds: Run, Odds, Run

Run, Odds, Run

Run, Odds, Run

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Run, Odds, Run

Matt Stanton

ABC Books, 2021

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

 9780733340642

Kip is a quiet kid in a loud city. Living with her father after her mum died, she prefers to keep a low profile and her home is her sanctuary. She’s easy to miss and that’s the way she likes it. School, with its hustle and bustle and noise is overwhelming and she is dreading the day the spotlight falls on her and she has to tell the rest of the class why she is special.

Then, one day, Kip’s quiet life is suddenly interrupted. Ten of her favourite characters have stepped out of their worlds of her imagination and memories and into hers as real-life beings.

But what happens when a dragon-hunting rabbit leaves his comic strip? When an old man leaves his picture book? When a ninja leaves her TV show, a race-car driver leaves their video game, and a dinosaur turns up from Kip’s nightmares? But while Kip just wants the creatures to hide and be invisible as she wishes to be, her father tells her , “If you start running away from hard things you never stop running” and Kip (and the reader) learn a significant life lesson.

In this addition to this series, The Woman in the Suit is here. She wants to know about the ten odd characters who escaped Kip’s imagination and now live with Kip and her dad in their two-bedroom apartment and she’s asking questions Kip doesn’t want to answer.

NOW THE ODDS ARE ON THE RUN!

The problem is … Lance the rabbit and Ninja-Nina are duelling, Racer’s trying to drive, Booster the rooster wants to leave and Unicorn and the family cat are not getting along. Kip is hiding secrets from her dad, Diana the dinosaur keeps giving her a fright and the Woman in the Suit seems to know their every move.

Fans will be delighted that this is a series that is going to continue and even moreso with the news that Stanton has signed a new 13-book deal with his publisher – his popularity with his audience proven by becoming one of just a handful of Australian authors to reach the million book-sale mark – and that there is a new series coming in March. Much fun and laughter (with serious, solid undertones) to look forward to. 

Marcie Gill and the Caravan Park Cat

Marcie Gill and the Caravan Park Cat

Marcie Gill and the Caravan Park Cat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marcie Gill and the Caravan Park Cat

Monica McInerney

Danny Snell

Puffin, 2021

256pp.,  hbk., RRP $A19.99

 9781760894139

The Christmas break is not working out for Marcie Gill the way she expected or intended.  Her family own the caravan park at Snorkel Bay, SA but rather than being the idyllic time of past summers, this time her mum and dad have had a big argument and her dad is living in one of the empty caravans, her beloved Gran has had a fall, broken her hip and is slowly recovering in hospital and there are big financial worries as well.

Marcie, like most 10-year-olds, prefers things to be predictable but they’re not helped by Fred, her younger brother that we all know and may even be, or Jemima, her tennis-mad older sister who has all the wisdom and arrogance of a new teen but is still just a kid.  It seems Marcie’s only peace comes when she is visiting George, Gran’s beloved cat who has stayed on in Gran’s caravan. However, after a visit to her Gran who gives her a ‘wishing stone”, a treasured family heirloom, things begin to change, starting with George the cat being able to answer Marcie’s questions…

McInerney has turned all her skill and experience in writing for adults in crafting this charming story for children combining a relatable family with all its foibles and flaws with just a teensy bit of magic so it straddles the real-life/fantasy fence just as its intended audience does.  Even the sceptics can suspend their belief to accept the wisdom of George but can argue that the wishing stone is perhaps what Marcie believes rather than having special powers. Because George can only speak if Marcie asks him a question, McInerney has used a smart technique that enables the reader to get inside Marcie’s head as she ponders some questions and articulates others, demonstrating that sometimes adults underestimate not only just how much this age observes of the relationships and events around them but how much they deserve an explanation so they don’t continue to blame themselves or fix what can’t be fixed. While the wishing stone plays its part in the narrative, it also helps us realise that wishes don’t necessarily come true through magic – we can make them come true with some thought, logic, and application. 

Deep thoughts for a book that is, above all, a delightful, well-written read that will resonate with so many, particularly those who have spent time in a caravan park and who will be able to visualise Marcie’s life. The addition of Claude and Helen to the cast adds even more reality, especially Claude’s shyness being overcome by the “public” life of the typical park.

A great read-aloud to start the new school year and to encourage students to set some goals and then develop some plans to achieve them.  

 

 

Scaredy Bath

Scaredy Bath

Scaredy Bath

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scaredy Bath

Zoë Foster-Blake

Daniel Gray-Barnett

Puffin, 2021

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

 9781761043475

For most of the day, Bath spends it times worrying about the coming evening when it hears the sound of feet thumping up the stairs it knows that time of the day is approaching and there is going to be piping hot water, gooey much, toys and then children covered in spaghetti and dirt and smells.  They would  yank the plug, whack the tap, thrash and slide and even wee in the water!!! 

And if that wasn’t enough, then the dog would jump in. But when Bath decided enough was enough and tried to leave, it discovered it was anchored to the floor and couldn’t.  As Sink observed, bath time was here to stay and so Bath might as well try to enjoy it while Toilet pointed put things could be worse… And then, when there is no bath time for a few days, Bath discovers something strange…

As well as being an action-packed story with hilarious illustrations that bring usually taken-for-granted inanimate objects to life,  it is also a story about some things being as they are and unable to be changed so we just have to learn to make the most of them. We can choose to let them overshadow our entire day so we miss being in the moment or we can take a different perspective. Our young students have faced some tricky challenges this year, as have we all, so sharing this story could be an opportunity to take some time out to reflect on what being stuck at home allowed us to achieve, rather than bemoaning what we missed or may still be missing.  While we will have missed some important occasions what do we have to look forward to?  Helping our younger ones understand that some things are what they are and to try to view them from a different perspective helps build resilience and like Bath, they can learn to cope with, if not appreciate, what they have.  After all, does anyone really want to be Toilet?  

 

 

Gustavo, the Shy Ghost

Gustavo, the Shy Ghost

Gustavo, the Shy Ghost

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gustavo, the Shy Ghost

Flavia Z. Drago

Walker Books, 2021

40pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9781406398502

 Gustavo is a ghost. He is good at doing all sorts of paranormal things, like walking through walls, making objects fly and glowing in the dark. And he loves playing beautiful music on his violin. But Gustavo also has a problem. He is SHY. Which means some things are harder for him to do, like getting in a line to buy eye-scream or talking to the other monsters. But Gustavo longs to be a part of something, he longs to be seen. More than anything, he wants to make a friend. So, plucking up all his courage, he sends a very special letter: “Dear Monsters, I would like to invite you to my violin concert at the Day of the Dead party…”

But will anybody come?

This is a most delightful, award-winning story that will resonate with so many who find their shyness crippling, to the point that it really impacts their life and stifles their dreams.  Based on the creator’s own childhood, it offers hope to those who would really like to make a friend by encouraging them to discover their strengths and passions, play to them and share them. Even for those who are not as shy as Gustavo, a lack of confidence in who we are can prevent us from making the most of the situations that present themselves, and this has been quite noticeable after months of having to be t  home without the physical contact of our friends,  So sharing Gustavo’s story, considering the worst that might happen in a situation and then suggesting strategies that could be used if it does can be a starting point to taking that first step.  If Gustavo can find a way, our children can.  

One to share with all our students as the social season really starts to take off, and even if it’s making the first move to make a new friend in the caravan park at the beach, it will open up new horizons. 

Pax, Journey Home

Pax, Journey Home

Pax, Journey Home

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pax, Journey Home

Sara Pennypacker

Jon Klassen

HarperCollins, 2021

256pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

9780008470289

A year has passed since Peter and Pax have seen each other, since the separation of a once inseparable pair.

The war is over but the land has been left desecrated and deserted as the water supplies have been poisoned by heavy metals. Peter’s father has died in questionable circumstances and although Peter is back living with Vola, and his grandfather visits regularly, he believes that everything he loves he hurts and they leave him so he is determined to shut the world out and live alone.  After all, he is nearly 14.  

And so, the boy-man sets out on a journey to reclaim his old home; to join the Water Warriors, a band of people painstakingly cleaning up the polluted waterways to restore life -flora, fauna and human – to it;  and to keep the world at arm’s length and out of his heart forever. That way he can keep those he might love, safe. But is that possible?  He certainly didn’t count on meeting Jade, let alone her insight and wisdom. 

Meanwhile, Pax has adapted to the wild he did not seek; and has become father to a litter of kits, one of whom is an inquisitive, feisty female whom he must protect at all costs, particularly after she drinks deeply of the contaminated water. And as they continue their long journey home, Pax continually picks up the scent of the boy who abandoned him…

This is one of those stories that stays with you long after you reluctantly turn the final page, not just because of the power of the surface story but because the layers and  currents that run through it,just like those of the river that is at its heart – the river that put Peter back into old territory and provides Pax with safe passage from humans and predators. Although Pennypacker believed that she would not write another novel after Pax, clearly deep within her she knew there was more of this story to be told and this is the compelling sequel, one that kept me up well past my bedtime as I immersed myself in it, wanting to finish but knowing that when I did I would be left with that feeling that comes when an absorbing plot and great writing come together.

If you have mature, independent readers who can appreciate the nuances and parallels of what is between and beyond the words  then this is the duo for them.  Less sophisticated readers will enjoy the story for what it is, but it is those who are able to reach down to the deeper waters below the surface who will most appreciate it. 

Outstanding. 

 

Born to Run

Born to Run

Born to Run

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Born to Run

Cathy Freeman

Charmaine Ledden-Lewis

Puffin, 2021

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

9781761043802

There would be few who were able to witness the lighting of the cauldron at the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000 who will have forgotten the image of Cathy Freeman standing with the torch.

 

Now, in this picture book version of her autobiography, we can learn of all that it took to get there. and then to the finish line of the 400m in the gold medal position just a few days later. We learn about her older sister Anne-Marie who, crippled by cerebral palsy, inspired her to keep training; how even when she won it was the second-place getters who were awarded the medals because they were white; of having to leave her beloved family and go to boarding school where she was the only Aboriginal girl…

This is an inspirational story of someone who is a household name in Australian sport, one of the best of the best who overcame so much, not the least of which was the colour of her skin.  But more than that it demonstrates that champions and heroes start life as ordinary people, just like the book’s readers, that they face all the setbacks, doubts and other obstacles as “regular people” but they dig deep because their passion to achieve is so strong. It demonstrates the power of self-belief, and particularly the support of family, and shows that there are many others standing on the dais even if they’re not seen by the public. 

Written openly and honestly, the picture book format is perfect for its intended audience because they are at the age when dreams start to take shape, the passion starts to build and the foundations for becoming a champion are being put in place. Perhaps it will help consolidate their own dreams. 

Biographies and autobiographies in a format and language accessible to younger readers are an important part of the development of the age group for a lot more reasons than just a lot of facts about someone famous.  And for this to be about someone so familiar yet so ordinary in many ways, may just be the catalyst a future star might need. If she could, I can… She persisted.

 

Tiny Possum and the Migrating Moths

Tiny Possum and the Migrating Moths

Tiny Possum and the Migrating Moths

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tiny Possum and the Migrating Moths

Julie Murphy

Ben Clifford

CSIRO Publishing, 2021

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

9781486314621

High in the snowy mountains of the Australian Alps an amazing story of life plays out each year, one that was thought to have long since ended but a chance discovery at Mt Hotham in 1966 gave hope.

The story of the  mountain pygmy possum and its relationship with the migration of the bogong moth is told in this beautifully illustrated book, bringing to life the tiny creature’s dependence on them for food.  In the warmer months, the moths migrate to the mountains where the pygmy possum gorges on them to build up the fat reserves it needs to survive in its little nest deep beneath the winter snows.  But as urbanisation expands, climate changes and droughts hit. many moths do not make it to their mountain homes (there has been a 99.5% decline in populations in five years and it is now on the IUCN red List) meaning there is less food for the possum.  With only 2500 left in three isolated populations in the alps, this could lead to those earlier fears coming true.

As with One Potoroo, once again CSIRO Publishing have brought the plight of one of our lesser-known endangered species to light in a picture book that will have broad appeal.  Apart from the information embedded in the story, there are extra pages that give much more insight into the possum’s life and habitat and how we can help.. Something as simple as turning off excess lights or drawing the curtains if your home is part of the moths’ migratory path can mean they won’t get distracted and can fly on.  

Clifford’s illustrations are works of art in themselves – their detail is exquisite offering much to explore – and the whole really offers food for thought, not just for those who live in this region but also those who enjoys its winter snows.  If there is a tiny pygmy possum surviving the winter beneath their feet, what else might there be? And what else might be living in other habitats that we take for granted? As usual. there re comprehensive teachers’ notes directly linked to the Australian Curriculum to support its use in the classroom.

Superb!

 

Pax

Pax

Pax

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pax

Sara Pennepacker

Jon Klassen

HarperCollins, 2017

298pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9780008158286

War is coming and Peter’s father is answering the call to arms. But first he must deliver Peter to his grandfather’s care 300 miles away and before that, they must return the fox that has been Peter’s pet since it was a kit to the wild.

Pax and Peter have been inseparable since Peter found him, his mother killed by a car (as was Peter’s and their friendship has helped him come to terms with his anger and grief as his father dealt with his) and  his siblings having starved to death, so to abandon Pax to the wild  is heart-breaking.  But while Peter sort of understands why, Pax is bewildered when the car roars off while he is searching for a beloved toy Peter has thrown…

And so begins one of the most heart-warming, heart-wrenching stories of the love between human and animal that I’ve read for a long time. Told in alternating chapters between them, we follow Pax’s gradual adaptation to his new surroundings as he slowly comes to accept that Peter is not coming back, at the same time as we follow Peter’s journey back from his grandfather’s home determined to find him and reunite.  Neither feels whole without the other.  The author worked closely with an expert in fox behaviour, and as well as celebrating that limitless affinity that a child can have with an animal, tame or wild, she uses the two-voice perspective to explore and explain the issues in the story.

This is one for independent readers, or even a class read-aloud, with much to consider and discuss.  At the end of it, Pennepacker was not going to write another novel but eventually she did.  That book is  a sequel to this one – Pax: the Journey Home  – and it was receiving that to review that had me requesting Pax.  I am so glad I did. 

 

Rosie the Rhinoceros

Rosie the Rhinoceros

Rosie the Rhinoceros

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rosie the Rhinoceros

Jimmy Barnes

Matt Shanks

Angus & Robertson, 2021

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

9781460758854

Rosie is a rhinoceros But she’s not one of those fierce, scary, armour-plated monsters that amble across the African plains always ready to charge unwary travellers.  She’s charming and pleasant and always sees the beauty in her surroundings, including her reflection in the river’s water which tells her she is a unicorn.  She has a pretty horn and dainty hooves, beautiful, sleek skin and most of all she was magical.

But as she greets all the other animals each morning, her favourite time of the day, they all return her greeting by calling her Little Rhinoceros.  And she can’t understand it.  So how was she going to let them know the truth?

It is hard to reconcile that the gravel-voiced rocker who belted out Khe Sanh is the same person who has crafted this beautiful, delicate story about believing in who you are and spreading your joy in that. No one who reads it would ever doubt that Rosie is anything but a unicorn. Unicorns spread joy and happiness and that’s what she does every morning, and the shape of her body has nothing to do with it.  What a powerful message conveyed in such an enchanting way, and all wrapped up with delightful illustrations, that we will never view rhinoceroses in the same way again.  Because we know that inside every one of them, there is a unicorn trying to come out.  

Drover

Drover

Drover

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Drover

Neridah McMullin

Sarah Anthony

Walker Books, 2021

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

9781760652081

In 1889, A.B. ‘Banjo’ Paterson in his tribute to the iconic Clancy of the Overflow, wrote…

In my wild erratic fancy, visions come to me of Clancy
Gone a-droving “down the Cooper” where the Western drovers go;
As the stock are slowly stringing, Clancy rides behind them singing,
For the drover’s life has pleasures that the townsfolk never know.

And in this stunning book those pleasures are brought to life by the lyrical text and the evocative illustrations as the reader joins Drover on the trail as the herd of bullocks are moved over the vast interior of this country.  Even though each day seems to be a repeat of the routine of the one before it, the ever-changing land and sky scapes make each unique and enjoyable, even though they are bone-weary and saddle-sore and a tiny bandicoot spooks the flighty Shifty so the whole herd stampedes. 

But there is a twist in this tale – for it is only once they have wheeled the bullocks into Dajarra to the thrill of the gathered crowd, after thousands of kilometres and six months on the trail that the identity of “Drover” is revealed to be Edna Jessop, a real-life character and Australia’s first female boss drover who took this herd from WA to Queensland in 1950 after her father fell ill.  

Droving cattle is not just a part of this country’s history, but also its present as during recent droughts many farmers have been forced to send their stock out onto the long paddock,  the term given to the travelling stock routes that traverse outback Australia. Many has been the time when we have slowed to pass the herds as they graze the verges of the highway, drovers and dogs on high alert as the traffic passes within metres.  So as well as celebrating the remarkable story of Edna Jessop, it also opens up another avenue of exploration to explain where we have come from, perhaps even inspiring them to plan a family journey to discover those pleasures that Paterson, Clancy and Edna all experienced.