Wherever You Go (Around the World Supper Club) by Monique Mulligan

Title: Wherever You Go (Around the World Supper Club)

Author: Monique Mulligan

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Pilyara Press

Published: 18th September 2020

Format: Paperback

Pages: 340

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: A life-shattering tragedy threatens to tear apart chef Amy Bennet’s marriage. Desperate to save it, she moves with her husband Matt to Blackwood, a country town where no one knows who they are.

Forced to deal with her crumbling marriage and the crippling grief that follows her wherever she goes, Amy turns to what she knows best: cooking. She opens a café showcasing regional seasonal produce, and forms the Around the World Supper Club, serving mouth-watering feasts to new friends. As her passion for food returns, she finds a place for herself in Blackwood. But when a Pandora’s Box of shame and blame is unlocked, Matt gives Amy an ultimatum that takes their marriage to the edge.

Rich with unexpected characters and extraordinary insight, Wherever You Go is a powerful and ultimately uplifting tale of heartbreaking loss, recovery, and redemption.

~*~

Amy and Matt have moved to Blackwood to escape the vicious whispers and rumours that have plagued them for the past three years. They’re hoping Blackwood will be a new start as they try to reconnect. Yet their marriage is crumbling as Amy tries to navigate her fears, her grief, and her new café, Brewed to Taste. Here, she starts to make friends: Devi, Nick, Bonnie, Irene, and Irene’s great-granddaughter, Ashlee, June, Frank and several others. They form the Around the World Supper Club, and for a while, things seem okay.

Until local gossips, Una and her daughter Sharon, unleash Pandora’s Box – and humiliate Amy, undoing all the hard work. Despite the support everyone else gives Amy, allowing her to talk about what happened when she is ready, Matt threatens to leave. Three years ago, Amy had been in a car accident in Germany, where her daughter, Pandora, died. Amy has run from the secrets and innuendo, the accusations, and finds herself facing them head on in Blackwood.

Most books revolving around a relationship are about the couple getting together, the first delightful sparks of a new romance. The ups and downs, the magic of the first kiss. Usually, these books end with a happily ever after, fading to black as readers imagine the couple together forever. Very rarely do we find out what happens after. The what happens after, and what leads to a family or friends fracturing is sometimes more interesting. A tragedy, perhaps, has created a rift.

This is the premise of Monique Mulligan’s debut novel, Wherever You Go, the first in the Around the World Supper Club series. Wherever You Go introduces the key characters, but mainly revolves around Amy and Matt settling into life in Blackwood and finding a way back to each other and their lives together. It is a touching look at friendship, family, grief and loss, and how people recover and work towards redemption, even if this redemption is insular, and something they need to do for themselves, not for society or legal reasons.

Monique has created a powerful and touching story that gives hope, makes you shed tears and sends readers on a roller coaster of emotions as they go on Amy and Matt’s journey. The book is told in three perspectives: Irene, Matt and Amy. We see the world through their eyes, experience their emotions and their reactions. It doesn’t shy away from the difficulty of depression and anxiety, or the frustrations that some people feel when faced with this. It allows for all characters to express themselves and slowly, come to terms with what is going on in a powerful, emotive and significant way that acknowledges that grief affects everyone differently.

This debut novel is beautiful in its execution, raw and powerful. It allows readers to acknowledge their own anxieties and worries, and centres female experiences, characters and autonomy whilst at the same time, allowing Irene, Bonnie and Amy to who they are within what they want in their lives and society.

August 2020 Wrap Up

In August, I read twenty-one books. Thirteen were written by Australian Women Writers, and all contributed to my challenges across the board. Several were part of series, and many were review books. Some I had been looking forward to, and one from Scholastic Australia, by comedian Rove McManus was a surprise arrival, and one that I found enthralling and engaging. Some challenges are almost finished, and I am hoping I will be able to complete them by the end of the year.

Notable posts:

Isolation Publicity with Tanya Heaslip

Isolation Publicity with Caz Goodwin

Isolation Publicity with Angela Savage

Isolation Publicity with Jacqueline Harvey

Isolation Publicity with Candice Lemon-Scott

Isolation Publicity with Zana Fraillon

Literary Tourism: Travel in the time of COVID

I read a few diverse books this month as well. It’s always hard to choose favourites, but I really loved The Wolves of Greycoat Hall by Lucinda Gifford, The Daughter of Victory Lights by Kerri Turner and The Firestar: A Maven and Reeve Mystery by A.L. Tait – these were ones that really stuck with me and that I wanted to read again immediately. Looking forward to another productive month in September!

The Modern Mrs Darcy 11/12
AWW2020 – 91/25
Book Bingo – 12/12
The Nerd Daily Challenge 48/52
Dymocks Reading Challenge 23/25
Books and Bites Bingo 19/25
STFU Reading Challenge: 10/12
General Goal –150/165

August – 21

Book Author Challenge
Lapse Sarah Thornton Reading Challenge, AWW2020
A Monstrous Heart

 

Claire McKenna Reading Challenge, AWW2020
Marshmallow Pie the Cat Superstar

 

Clara Vulliamy Reading Challenge
Marshmallow Pie the Cat Superstar on TV Clara Vulliamy Reading Challenge
The Girl, the Dog and the Writer in Provence Katrina Nannestad Reading Challenge, AWW2020
The Girl, the Dog and the Writer in Lucerne Katrina Nannestad Reading Challenge, AWW2020
Moonflower Murders Anthony Horowitz Reading Challenge, The Nerd Daily Challenge
Piranesi Susanna Clarke Reading Challenge
Billings Better Bookstore and Brasserie Fin J Ross Reading Challenge, AWW2020
Rocky Lobstar: Time Travel Tangle Rove McManus Reading Challenge,
House of Dragons Jessica Cluess Reading Challenge
The Firestar (A Maven and Reeve Mystery) A.L. Tait Reading Challenge, AWW2020
The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea Maggie Tokuda-Hall Reading Challenge
The Wolves of Greycoat Hall Lucinda Gifford Reading Challenge, AWW2020
Daughter of Victory Lights Kerri Turner Reading Challenge, AWW2020
Jinxed! The Curious Curse of Cora Bell Rebecca McRitchie Reading Challenge, AWW2020
Havoc! The Untold Magic of Cora Bell Rebecca McRitchie Reading Challenge, AWW2020
When the Ground is Hard Malla Nunn Reading Challenge, AWW2020, STFU Reading Society – Victorian Premier’s Literary Award –
Winner Best Young Adult Literature, Los Angeles Times Book Prize 2020 US; Shortlisted Best Book for Older Readers, CBCA Awards 2020 AU; Highly Commended Best Young Adult Novel, Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards 2020 AU

 

Aussie Kids: Meet Dooley on the Farm Sally Odgers and Christina Booth Reading Challenge, AWW2020
Aussie Kids: Meet Matilda at the Festival Jacqueline de Rose-Ahern and Tania McCartney Reading Challenge, AWW2020
A Girl Made of Air Nydia Hetherington Reading Challenge, The Nerd Daily Challenge

Aussie Kids: Meet Dooley on the Farm by Sally Odgers and Christina Booth

meet dooley on the farmTitle: Aussie Kids: Meet Dooley on the Farm

Author: Sally Odgers and Christina Booth

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Puffin

Published: 1st September 2020

Format: Paperback

Pages: 64

Price: $12.99

Synopsis: Aussie Kids is an exciting new series for emerging readers 6-8 years.

From a NSW Zoo to a Victorian lighthouse, or an outback sheep farm in WA to a beach in QLD, this junior fiction series celebrates stories about children living in unique places in every state and territory in Australia.8 characters, 8 stories, 8 authors and illustrators from all 8 states and territories!

Come on an adventure with Aussie Kids and meet Dooley from Tasmania.

Hi! I’m Dooley! My cousin is visiting our farm.

We’ll swim in the river, feed the calves and collect berries. But best of all, we’re going to sleep out in the barn!

~*~

Dooley is excited that his cousin, Sienna, is coming to his farm in Tasmania. He can’t wait to show her everything he loves, but when she arrives, she keeps saying the everything pongs! How will Dooley convince her that the farm isn’t as pongy as she thinks?

AWW2020

This is the seventh in the Aussie Kids series, and I’ve read six of them so far. They celebrate the diversity of Australia, from each state and territory, across gender, race and communities, as well as the environs that the characters live in. These short stories are delightful, and Dooley’s story brings farm life in Tasmania to life, and the adventures of sleeping in the barn and renegade animals from neighbouring farms.

Where the previous stories have taken place over one day this one takes place overnight, evoking a sense of fun and unease in a gentle way that kids will relate to and enjoy. The beauty of these books is in the simple way they evoke emotion and setting for younger readers who are starting to learn to read or reading independently. Whilst we only see a small portion of each state or territory, it is a relevant section to the character and what the setting means to them, which fits in with the theme of the series and what it is aiming to achieve for readers.

A great addition to this series!

Aussie Kids: Meet Matilda at the Festival by Jacqueline de Rose-Ahern, and Tania McCartney

meet matildaTitle: Aussie Kids: Meet Matilda at the Festival

Author: Jacqueline de Rose-Ahern, and Tania McCartney

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Puffin

Published: 1st September 2020

Format: Paperback

Pages: 64

Price: $12.99

Synopsis: Aussie Kids is an exciting new series for emerging readers 6-8 years.

From a NSW Zoo to a Victorian lighthouse, or an outback sheep farm in WA to a beach in QLD, this junior fiction series celebrates stories about children living in unique places in every state and territory in Australia.

8 characters, 8 stories, 8 authors and illustrators from all 8 states and territories!

Come on an adventure with Aussie Kids and meet Matilda from the ACT.

Hi! I’m Matilda!

Today there’s a festival at the Japanese Embassy. That’s where my friend Hansuke lives. We’ll have lots of fun. But Hansuke is going back to Japan soon. How will I be able to say goodbye?

~*~

The final book in this series takes us to Canberra, and the world of embassies and Parliament, seen through the eyes of a child. Matilda is friends with the son of the Japanese Ambassador. But Hansuke is about to move back to Japan, and Matilda must say goodbye to her friend at a special Japanese festival at the embassy. She will miss him forever, and wonders if she can say goodbye.

AWW2020Most of the other books in this series are told in first person, but this one is told in third person, and has a few days with relevant time jumps to make the passing of time and major plot points work well for kids, and the characters. Like many of the other books in the series, Meet Matilda at the Festival is filled with diverse characters, and celebrates different nationalities and cultures, and the power of friendship. It evokes the same emotions we all had as kids when we had to say goodbye to friends, and the realistic way Matilda reacts will give comfort to kids that they are not alone when they farewell friends or go through changes in their lives.

With this book, the breadth of Australia and its diversity has been represented, and hopefully, all kids will have found something they can relate to in these books, whether its location, culture, race, or the activities the characters enjoy, and the universal feelings we all have linked to friendship and family.

The beauty of these books is in the simple way they evoke emotion and setting for younger readers who are starting to learn to read or reading independently. Whilst we only see a small portion of each state or territory, it is a relevant section to the character and what the setting means to them, which fits in with the theme of the series and what it is aiming to achieve for readers.

A great addition to this series!

 

Isolation Publicity with Candice Lemon-Scott

 

Due to recent events, many Australian authors have had to cancel book launches and festival appearances. For some, this means new novels, series continuations and debut novels are heading into this scary, strange world without much publicity or attention. The good news is, you can still buy books – online or get your local bookstore to deliver if they’re offering that service. Buying these books, talking about them, sharing them, reading them, reviewing them – are all ways that for the next six months at least, we can ensure that these books don’t fall by the wayside.

EcoRangers1_email signature[3]

Over the next few months, a lot of us will be consuming some form of art – entertainment, movies, TV, radio, music, books – the list goes on. It is something we will be turning to take our minds off things and to occupy vast swathes of free time. One of the things I will be doing to support the arts, and specifically, Australian Authors, will be reading and reviewing as many books as possible, conducting interviews like this where possible, and participating in virtual book tours for authors.

 

In my final Isolation Publicity interview, wrapping up five months of work, I speak to Candice Lemon-Scott, author of the Eco-Rangers books, was lucky enough to release the third Eco-Rangers book pre-pandemic lockdown, but had other events and appearances cancelled or put on hold. Candice’s series focuses on eco themes for children in an accessible way. I first came to know her books through my job as a quiz writer and have planned to go back and read them all. Candice appears here to discuss her books, her writing and what she hopes Eco-Rangers teaches kids.

Hi Candice, and welcome to The Book Muse

  1. The first time I heard of your books was when I was sent one of the Eco-Rangers books – Microbat Mayhem – to write a quiz on for work with Scholastic Australia – what is the basic premise of Eco-Rangers for those who don’t know it, and where did the idea come from?

How lovely, it’s always wonderful to hear how people get to know my books.  The Eco Rangers books are about two adventurous, nature-loving friends, Ebony and Jay, who help rescue and look after sick and injured wildlife, with a little help from the local wildlife hospital vets. They also get involved in solving environmental mysteries. The idea came from my own love of nature and wildlife, and the Eco Rangers are based on my own kids who love animals too. The idea of kids who help rescue wildlife stemmed from my own experience rescuing a koala from my backyard. I’ve always loved mystery stories, so it seemed only natural to tie it in with an environmental adventure.

  1. What do you hope Eco-Rangers teaches, or inspires readers to do?

I hope the Eco Rangers books teach kids about some of our amazing animals and inspires readers to care for and love nature and wildlife, as well as enjoy the adventures.

  1. Eco-Rangers is aimed at junior to middle grade readers – what is the appeal to this age group, and do any of your other books target this readership?

I love writing for this age group because it’s the age I was most connected with my own imagination as a child. It’s also a time of discovery, curiosity and learning to become more independent, which is a wonderful base for storytelling. Most of my books fit within this readership range, from my Little Rockets titles at the junior end to Eco Rangers and Jake in Space in the middle, and Stinky Ferret & the JJs at the upper end.

  1. Have any new books in the series, another series or stand-alone books been released in recent months, and what have they been?

The third in this series, ‘Eco Rangers: Wildfire Rescue’ was released in January this year.

  1. Have you had to cancel any appearances, events or launches due to the COVID-10 pandemic, and which of these were you most looking forward to?

Thankfully, I’d already launched my third Eco Rangers book, but a lot of my other appearances and events around the promotion of the series have been either cancelled or postponed, which is sad and disappointing when books have a short shelf life. I look forward to all events where I have the opportunity to connect with my readers, but I will really miss the school visits and Romancing the Stars event, as that one is usually held here in my home city at the Gold Coast.

  1. Following on from the last question, have you adapted any of these events or workshops to an online form for the time being?

Yes, absolutely. I’ve already done one online author visit with a school and there are other upcoming workshops and presentations that will also be conducted online. It’s not the same as being there in person, but the teachers and parents have been very grateful for the technology to keep their kids connected while at home, which is so rewarding.

  1. What genres and styles do you mostly like to combine and use in your writing for children?

I write in quite a range of genres including magic, science fiction, environmental and realistic fiction, but the commonality is a mystery element. I can’t help myself – I grew up on mysteries, so I just love including elements of surprise and adventure.

  1. Do you find that writing different styles and genres, and for different age groups keeps your writing process fresh?

For sure, I’m not someone who enjoys writing the same style and genre, or age group all the time because I like change and variety. To me, it’s also about the idea first, and the rest stems from that, so naturally the type of story varies.

  1. When it comes to research, how in-depth do you go, and how much never makes it into the books?

I always start out thinking not much research will be involved, but inevitably I need to do quite a lot to make the stories authentic and plausible, which is important in even the most magical tales. For example, in my Jake in Space series I went so far as to interview an astrophysicist about living on other planets. I had to learn soccer rules for Hubert and the Magic Glasses and about skateboarding moves for Stinky Ferret & the JJs. The most in-depth research has been for the Eco Rangers though, and I did my wildlife carer course to learn more about how sick and injured wildlife are rescued, rehabilitated and released. It was very hands on – I even held a python, eek!

  1. How many Eco-Rangers books do you have planned, and does the most recent one draw on the recent bushfire crisis that Australia faced?

Wildfire Rescue is the third book in the three-book series. Ironically, I’d written the story about a year and a half before the bushfire crisis, and the book’s release coincidentally tied in with the tragedy. It was a strange time, having my book come out then, but I hope it offers additional opportunity to help younger readers dealing with their feelings associated with the bushfires by reading an educative but positive story.

  1. Eco and environmental themes seem to be big in books at the moment – how does Eco-Rangers differ, for you, from all the other options out there?

I actually wrote the first Eco Rangers book about four years ago, so there wasn’t much else out there on these themes at the time. Again, it’s coincidental that the books have come out as these themes have begun to be explored more fully. From the others out there, I guess the Eco Rangers differs in that I first wrote them purely because of my love of animals, so they were mystery/adventures first. To me, it’s more of a bonus that kids can learn a little bit about taking care of the environment while being entertained. At least, that’s my hope.

  1. Do you think the Eco-Rangers would head overseas for a safari adventure?

That would be a lot of fun to write – the books are being published in the UK and US, so I can’t see why Ebony and Jay couldn’t go on their own overseas adventure.

  1. How long have you been writing for, and when did you decide to begin your writing career?

I’ve been writing professionally for about 12 years now. I decided to begin my writing career a few years before my first book was published when I began my Diploma of Arts in Professional Writing and Editing. I then went on and completed my Bachelor of Communication and the book was published around the same time.

  1. Knowing some of your books have been chosen as Lexile readers, and working with Books in Home which empowers childhood literacy, do you feel like you’re helping children with their literacy at home and at school?

I certainly hope that I do, especially because mine are mostly chapter books, which are aimed specifically at fostering a love of reading in children, and developing independent readers.

  1. You also run the Young Authors Academy – what is that about, and where did it start?

I run a lot of in-person writing workshops but they’re usually time limited to around an hour, so there’s only so much that can be achieved in that time. My goal with the Young Authors Academy was to create a more comprehensive course for young writers where they could create an entire story in their own time, in their own space, and at their own pace because that’s how I write as an author myself.

  1. Do you find the Young Authors Academy and Books in Homes have any overlap at all in terms of reading, writing and childhood literacy?

Though they’re quite different programs I think the overlap is that both are designed to give children access to resources and support to develop literacy, which also comes from developing a love of reading and writing.

  1. Working in the arts, and in childhood literacy, what do you find the most rewarding about these industries and sectors?

Seeing children express themselves and gain confidence during their literacy journey is the greatest reward of all for me.

 

  1. Do you have a favourite local bookseller you always head back to?

There are so many wonderful booksellers who support authors and who are doing an amazing job providing a fantastic range of books for readers. I adore Under the Greenwood Tree at Mount Tamborine and a little further afield Where the Wild Things Are Bookshop, The Mad Hatters Bookshop, and Books@Stones.

  1. Do you have a favourite furry writing companion or are there many?

There have always been furry writing companions in my life, and also feathery and scaly ones. At the moment, my dog Tiny and bearded dragon Toffee (who belongs to my eldest daughter) keep me company while I write.

 

  1. Finally, what do you have planned next for your writing?

I’m currently doing my Masters, focusing on middle grade fantasy, so that’s what I’m writing at the moment. It’s heaps of fun!

Anything I may have missed?

For any teachers or librarians interested, I’m currently doing virtual author visits through Speakers Ink and ALIA.

Thanks Candice!

Thank you for the wonderful interview.

 

Billings Better Bookstore and Brasserie by Fin J Ross

Billings front coverTitle: Billings Better Bookstore and Brasserie
Author: Fin J Ross
Genre: Young Adult Historical Fiction
Publisher: Clan Destine Press
Published: 29th June 2020
Format: Paperback
Pages: 278
Price: $29.95
Synopsis: Young Fidelia Knight arrives in Melbourne in 1874, alone except for her treasured companion, Samuel Johnson; well, half of him. To escape servitude, Fidelia hides each night in Bourke-street’s renowned Coles Book Arcade. She loves words, you see, and wants to know them all.

What she overhears in Coles sets her on a path that will change the lives of everyone she meets, starting with Jasper Godwin, the hopelessly underqualified manager of the new Billings Better Bookstore.

Fidelia’s thirst for knowledge is contagious. She tutors two orphan boys and two illiterate women, inspiring them to unlock their creativity; and her exploration of colonial Melbourne takes her to some unusual places.

Nothing daunts this diminutive genius, except the mystery of what really happened to her parents on the voyage from England.

~*~

When Fidelia arrives in Melbourne, she is escorted of the SS Great Britain by a man named Mr Bartholomew and delivered to a local orphanage. She takes his warning to her about not speaking to everyone to heart, hiding away in gestures, and words when she stumbles upon Coles Book Arcade, and uses her nights to read, and learn. When she hears Jasper Godwin trying to come up with a window advertisement for Billings, she is inspired by Samuel Johnson and the words she knows, using these skills to create alliterative advertisements for each letter of the alphabet.

Once she is taken in by Jasper and his wife, and meets Secret and Joshua, two orphans taken in by Billings and his wife, her life begins to change.

This delightful story begins as a mystery, which is threaded throughout Fidelia’s journey. Small clues are dropped along the way – the missing volume of her dictionary, the lack of information about her parents, things she hears, and the whispers of some of the people around her, and the secrets they keep. These all help in building the light suspense that comes into being in the second half of the novel as Fidelia grows into a young adult.

AWW2020The novel moves slowly at first, a representation of Fidelia’s new life, and her adjustments to this new place. Yet when she overcomes a hurdle and finds a family with the Godwins, the pace picks up appropriately, and swiftly takes us through the next phase of Fidelia’s life as she makes friends, who are loyal to her and together, they explore the worlds of education, creativity and words.

The themes of family and friends – and the idea that family is what we make of it – are explored through Fidelia’s love of words and the role of creativity, literature and the power of education within our lives. It celebrates a love of words, which all books do, but on a new level and in a new way that brings the dictionary and lexicography to life for all readers who will be interested in this book, aged ten and over. It is for confident readers, and will instil a love of language, linguistics and words in all readers.

I loved this book, and would recommend it to all who love a good yarn, words and a story filled with hope, and girls and women who do not subscribe to the conventions of society, but work within them to change their circumstances and the circumstances of those they want to help. It sits well in its genre, reflects the sentiments and issues of colonial Melbourne, and allows the characters, who sit outside of societal norms, to be themselves, particularly in the second half of the novel, when Fidelia finds her voice and shares her knowledge, finding people who are willing to share this with her and encourage her.

Books that celebrate books and words like this one are favourites of mine. And I’m finding that these books are becoming popular. It is interesting to see how different authors approach this as well, and the role that words have on our daily lives, and where these words originally came from.

A powerful story about family, friends, words and books that will charm and enthral readers.

Monty’s Island: Beady Bold and the Yum-Yams by Emily Rodda

Monty's Island 2Title: Monty’s Island: Beady Bold and the Yum-Yams
Author: Emily Rodda
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Allen and Unwin
Published: 4th August 2020
Format: Paperback
Pages: 176
Price: $14.99
Synopsis: Monty lives on a perfect island in the middle of a magical sea. Sometimes the sea throws up something interesting … and Monty goes on an amazing adventure!
On a tiny island far away, in a sea that ripples with magic, Monty never knows what he might find…

Everyone loves Bring-and-Buy Day, when Trader Jolly visits the Island with all the supplies Monty and his friends need.

But this Bring-and-Buy day is different. Instead of Trader Jolly, there’s a sneaky new trader called Beady Bold. And he’s arrived with a boatload of trouble. The yum-yams are yummy, but they’re hiding a very scary secret.

All seems lost until Monty comes up with a daring plan.

A charming and exciting series from beloved author Emily Rodda.

~*~

Bring-and-Buy Day is coming! Monty and his friends are excited – they have their list, their Jinglebeads and a list ready for Trader Jolly and his crew. But when a new trader arrives, Beady Bold, everything starts to go wrong! He won’t give them what they need, won’t accept their Jinglebeads and will only offer them the mysterious yum-yams – yummy food with a danger behind it. So Monty comes up with a clever plan to save the day.

AWW2020The second book in the Monty’s Island series bring back the same characters from the first, with a few additions – the Weavers and Trader Jolly – to build the world and expand upon it in a way that is relevant to the story being told. This series allows children to go on adventure safely and face the world in a way they can access and relate to.

Much like the first book, the characters are diverse – Marigold and Monty are the only human characters, the rest are animals – and they each have their own personalities that make them fun and relatable for readers, both young and old. From Bunchy the elephant to Clink the parrot who acts like a pirate. Each character brings something unique to the story, which enriches it and shows children that it is okay to be different and need, or want, different things whilst working to the same common goal, and working together to achieve these goals.

Much like the first story, it is the little details in the story are what makes the story work, and with each story its own contained adventure, that is linked by characters and setting rather than plot, like Deltora Quest, which is aimed at readers aged nine and older, and a good step up from the new Monty’s Island books. Monty’s Island is perfect for early readers, just venturing into longer books, and it lots of fun for all readers as well of any age. There is something in it for every reader, and I hope readers will fall in love with this series by one of Australia’s best loved authors.

It is a wonderful addition to the series, and I looked forward to more.

 

A Clue for Clara by Lian Tanner

a clue for claraTitle: A Clue for Clara
Author: Lian Tanner
Genre: Mystery, Humour, Fiction
Publisher: Allen and Unwin
Published: 4th August 2020
Format: Paperback
Pages: 320
Price: $16.99
Synopsis: Can a scruffy chicken crack a crime? Perhaps, if she’s a genius like Clara. An egg-cellent novel about a small chook and a big crime by the highly acclaimed author of Ella and the Ocean
‘GREETINGS. AM LOOKING FOR A MAJOR CRIME TO SOLVE. PLEASE INFORM ME OF ANY RECENT MURDERS, KIDNAPPINGS OR JEWEL HEISTS IN THIS AREA.’

Clara wants to be a famous detective with her own TV show. She can read claw marks, find missing feathers and knows Morse code and semaphore.

There’s just one problem. She’s a small scruffy chook, and no one takes her seriously.

But when she teams up with Olive, the daughter of the local policeman, they might just be able to solve the crimes that have been troubling the town of Little Dismal.

A puzzling and hilarious mystery from bestselling author, Lian Tanner.

~*~

Scruffy-looking chook Clara loves solving mysteries and watching detectives on television. The rest of the chooks at the farm she lives on with the Boss aren’t very impressed with Clara or her eggs, so when the local police constable and his daughter stop by to talk about a rash of stock thefts, Clara hops into their car, and heads home with them, where she begins to investigate with Olive’s help, to save their town, Little Dismal. But as Clara and Olive investigate, they will discover that there is more to the case than everyone can see.

Told in alternating perspectives through diary entries by Clara – a day-by-day run down using certain times of the day, and letters from Olive to her mother, the novel is fun and engaging, and gives as much joy and story as a traditional narrative – and for these characters, it works very well to get across who they are, and how they operate in the world, with each other and with everyone around them.

Clara’s diary entries are entertaining – the human world seen through the eyes of a chicken, who needs to find a way to get the humans to believe her. But how can Clara communicate with Olive and Digby, and get them to believe her?

As the story reveals clues and ideas, Clara has her mind set on one suspect – Jubilee Crystal Simpson – and using a phone to communicate with Olive, is determined to solve the case for Olive and her father, and prove her theory correct, whilst Olive finds a way to deal with her mother’s death, and the way she is now treated around town and at school.

 

AWW2020

A Clue for Clara explores crime in an entertaining and light-hearted way for younger readers whilst still managing to communicate how serious the stock thefts are in a small country town. It is a fun read that explores friendship, death, acceptance and secrets in an accessible way through the eyes of a most unlikely hero and her human sidekick. Animals as main characters in books for younger readers is something, I have been noticing a lot of, especially in Australian middle grade and junior fiction – llamas, chickens, pigeons and many more, and others to come. I don’t know what they will be, but the opportunities are endless, and I look forward to seeing what comes up next. Animals make for fun characters, and Clara is no exception.

We mostly heard from Clara, but through her observations that take place hour to hour, and Olive’s letters, we learn about the town, and the people who live there, and what they do to get by. It is a funny, and charming book that is filled with great lines such as ‘You are not a duck,’ (read the book to understand this), and Clara’s love of Inspector Garcia and Amelia X, and many other things that make this a lot of fun, and a joy to read for all ages and readers.

 

Battle of Book Week (Yours Troolie, Alice Toolie #3) by Kate and Jol Temple, illustrated by Georgia Draws A House

Battle of Book WeekTitle: Battle of Book Week (Yours Troolie, Alice Toolie #3)

Author: Kate and Jol Temple, illustrated by Georgia Draws A House

Genre: Humour, Fiction

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: 4th August 2020

Format: Paperback

Pages: 208

Price: $14.99

Synopsis: Alice Toolie – seriously famous Youtootuber – and her best enemy Jimmy Cook are back to fight another day in a whole new chapter of adventures from the CBCA award-winning writers of the Captain Jimmy Cook Discovers series.

Book Week is always the best week of the year! But when Alice Toolie and Jimmy Cook get involved, it’s set for disaster. From kooky costume ideas to accidental author visits, nothing is safe. It’s no wonder they’ve been fired as Library Monitors! The only way they’ll get their jobs back is by winning First Prize in the book parade. And that means working together. Can these two best frenemies leave their differences behind long enough to win the Battle of Book Week?

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Alice Toolie is her school’s library monitor – but now her frenemy, Jimmy Cook, is also a library monitor, and neither seems to be happy about sharing these duties. With an author visit and Book Week approaching, the rivalry ramps up with their letters to each other in the library monitor notebook, and everything leads to something that sees them fired as library monitors – and determined to get their jobs back. What lengths will they go to so they can get their job back, and do their best to win the Book Week costume competition?

AWW2020Told in letters and notes, this is a fun and humourous read. It is the third in the series, but I found things easy to pick up, and would like to go back and read the other Alice Toolie books. Kate and Jol Temple have created a fun world, and story. With two distinct voices, it is accessible for middle grade readers of all ages and readerships and shows that sometimes the best solution is working together, and compromising, especially when things don’t go as well as you would like them to.

This Alice Toolie book is a celebration of books, in a humourous and fun way that kids will enjoy. There are many things kids will get out of this book, and I loved it – it has been years since I’ve been to a Book Week or the Scholastic Book Fair – and it felt familiar and fun, and a great joy to experience again through the eyes of these characters.

Using journal entries and letters to tell a story is something that needs to be done cleverly, and in a way that moves the story along – and Alice Toolie hits all these notes. It moves the story along and gives us enough of what has happened in between the letters to imagine what is happening. Finally, it evokes a sense of the characters – not only in the style of their handwriting, but in the way, they write and interact.     This makes the format work, as it allows the reader to get the most out of the book, and it is when these sorts of books work well in this way that I think they’re very effective and well-written.

A great book from Kate and Jol Temple.

What Zola did on Tuesday by Melina Marchetta, Illustrated by Deb Hudson

What Zola Did on TuesdayTitle: What Zola did on Tuesday
Author: Melina Marchetta, Illustrated by Deb Hudson
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Puffin Australia
Published: 4th August 2020
Format: Paperback
Pages: 96
Price: $12.99
Synopsis: From the author of Looking for Alibrandi comes this gorgeous series to engage and entertain newly independent young readers.
Zola loves living on Boomerang Street with her mum and her nonna. Every day of the week is an adventure. But Zola has a problem. No matter how much she tries, she can’t keep out of trouble! Like on Tuesday, when Zola tries to help Nonna knit a scarf . . .
Collect all seven stories in the series. One for every day of the week.

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Zola has new neighbours – she can hear them every day. She also wants to help her Nonna knit a scarf, but she doesn’t know how. When Zola meets thew new neighbours, she finds out that their Teta – their Nonna – also knits and they come up with a plan to get their grandmother’s together to start a knitting club. But will it all work out?

Zola’s world celebrates everyday families and diversity. In this story, Zola meets the Muslim family next door, and finds out what makes them different, and also, the things about their families that are similar, and what connects them. Kids will learn about people who need help, and about different cultures in an accessible and easy to understand way that is age appropriate and leaves room for further exploration and questions to be asked and investigated.

AWW2020

This series sets out to celebrate gardens and knitting, family, animals and diversity, whilst giving kids the confidence they need to read on their own. This series also teaches kids about problem solving and caring for the wider world – doing what you can for other people, taking complex themes and issues, and using simple, easy to understand language to explore them. These stories are universal – any kid can imagine themselves doing what Zola does.

I loved that it explored diversity as a part of life – which is what good literature does. It showed the differences and celebrated them – and explained things that kids might not be familiar with in a way that young readers will be able to understand and from there, find out more should they wish to, or when they are ready. Or, they’ll be able to relate other reading and experiences to these characters.

This is a really good addition to the series and it will be fun to see what else Zola gets up to.