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?

~*~

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.

~*~

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.

Isolation Publicity with Jacqueline Harvey

 

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.
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.

 

image002

Jacqueline Harvey is the best-selling author of three wonderful series of books for children and readers of all ages – Clementine-Rose, Alice-Miranda and Kensy and Max. Jacqueline also has a background in teaching and works with several reading charities and is an Australia Reads ambassador for 2020, which has had its major events moved to November. Much like other authors, Jacqueline has had events and launches cancelled – and below, she discusses Clemmie, Alice-Miranda and the wonderful spy twins, Kensy and Max, as well as the reading and writing industry and how her educational career has complemented her writing career.

 

Hi Jacqueline and welcome to The Book Muse

 

  1. I first came to your books through Kensy and Max two years ago – but you got started in the writing industry elsewhere – what was the very first thing that you had published?

 

I’ve been writing for quite a while now. The first book I had published was Code Name Mr Right with Lothian Books in Melbourne. There were three books in that series and I also had a picture book called The Sound of the Sea. They were all published between 2003 and 2005 then nothing for five years until the first Alice-Miranda book was released in 2010.

 

  1. Where did the idea for Clemmie (Clementine -Rose) come from, and how many books do you have planned for that series?

 

I wanted to write a shorter book than Alice-Miranda and loved the idea of a little girl who lives in a rather ramshackle country house hotel. The first line came to me quite out of the blue and was the start of the Clemmie back story (she was a foundling delivered to her adoptive mother in the back of the local baker’s van). Her full story is revealed throughout the series. She also had to have an interesting pet and Lavender the teacup pig was perfect. I’ve written 15 books in the series with the final book, Clementine Rose and the Best News Yet published in November 2019 (I think the title is a tad ironic given it’s the last book so it’s not the best news in some ways but it is for Clemmie).

 

  1. Similarly, where did the idea for Alice-Miranda come from – and after she heads to the outback later this year – where will she head next?

 

I originally thought Alice-Miranda would be a picture book – how wrong I was about that! In the beginning she was based on three little girls I used to teach but over time she grew to have the best characteristics of many children I’ve worked with over the years (boys and girls). Having worked in schools for a long time it just seemed natural that I would write a school story. I love the outback adventure – there are some really funny new characters and lots of challenges for Alice-Miranda and her friends. At this point I’m not sure where I’ll take her next but the second animated film is currently in production so I’m excited to see that towards the end of the year. It’s called Alice-Miranda: A Royal Christmas Ball and follows on from last year’s film, Alice-Miranda Friends Forever, which is now airing on STAN and Nine Now. You can also download it from iTunes.

  1. Onto my absolute favourite of your series – Kensy and Max – where did this idea come from, and how many other places do you think you’ll take the twins?

 

Kensy and Max grew out of my curiosity about all things spies. I also wanted to create a series to make the reader think – hence the chapter headings are written in code and the whole name of the spy organisation, Pharos is linked to the ancient lighthouse of Alexandria (also the name of Granny Cordelia’s country estate). A beacon is a light in a lighthouse and also the name of the newspaper which provides the ‘front’ for the spies. We had been doing a lot of travelling in the UK and on several occasions visited a pub called The Morpeth Arms which is right on The Thames opposite the Mi6 building. Upstairs the pub had a restaurant called The Spying Room and when you sat at the tables with a view, there were binoculars available and a sign that said, ‘Can you spy on the spies?’ I had a conversation with the publican about whether he’d seen anything interesting over there and he told me (and he could have been pulling my leg but that didn’t matter) that he’d worked in the pub for 16 years and in that time he’d seen the lights go on and off, computer screens flicker and occasionally someone on the balcony but that he’d never seen a person in the building. True or not it got me thinking – what if Mi6 was more like a publicity company and the real spies were somewhere close by that you’d never think to find them. Hence Kensy and Max was born. We have also visited some interesting places like Scotland’s Secret Bunker – a war time hideout just south of St Andrew’s and another hotel north of London which had been used for spy activities during the war.

I’m currently signed to write 8 books in the series though hopefully if children love them I’ll be able to write more. Kensy and Max have been on adventures in London, Rome, Sydney, Paris, New York and I’m in the middle of writing Kensy and Max: Full Speed which begins in London but will head to the Swiss Alps. I have plenty of ideas for more stories and had actually been planning a trip to Russia later this year – that’s currently off the agenda for me but definitely not for them!

 

  1. What 2020 releases, launches and author events have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?

 

I had a huge tour planned for March and April but we only managed to get three days of bookshop and school visits and our Sydney High Tea Celebration for 10 years of Alice-Miranda before everything went pear shaped. My Melbourne and Perth tours were cancelled and I’ve had lots of festivals cancelled too including one in Tasmania in September and touring in New Zealand in June. So far pretty much all of my school events have been postponed or are in state of flux although I do have some online bookings that are set to go ahead. I’m still writing and none of my release dates have been impacted as yet.

 

  1. When it comes to Kensy and Max, what sort of research have you had to do into spies, ciphers and codes, and all the locations they visit across the world?

 

Kensy and Max requires a considerable amount of research from all angles. Just this week I’ve been taking virtual tours of the Palace of Westminster and the British Houses of Parliament and I also wrote to the London Fire Brigade to ask them some specific questions on their uniforms. It was lovely to receive a very comprehensive reply on Friday morning. I have to research all the codes and ciphers and my husband loves that sort of thing (and is something of a maths genius) so his help has been invaluable. Location wise, I’ve been to all of the places they’ve been so far but some, not for a while, so Google Maps, Google Earth and Google Street View are always on my other screen when I’m in a city that I need extra reminders of. For example in Italy I took myself on loads of walking tours of Rome on Street View and it jogged my memory for the small details like the fabulous door knockers and the cobbled streets.

 

  1. Is there a favourite place in the world you haven’t taken any of your characters in any series yet, but that you would love to send them to?

 

Well I’m not sure if it’s going to be a favourite place as I haven’t been there yet but I am desperate to send them to Russia and I am very keen to go there. I could also set a full story in New Zealand as we spend a lot of time in Queenstown.

 

  1. Does Ballypuss help with your writing, or hinder it?

 

He’s a great help most of the time because he’s the world’s best sleeper. Although when he’s out roaming in the garden he often demands that I let him back inside (he sits on the wall outside my office and meows to tell me he’s ready to come home). Lately that has turned into a game of ‘follow me around the garden’ and he has this bizarre habit of needing someone to watch him while he eats.

 

  1. Did your teaching career help you when it came to writing?

 

Absolutely as I spent a lot of time testing early material on a captive audience. I have always loved visiting schools and talking to children and teachers. It also helps when it comes to classroom management and being able to speak to groups of all sizes. My raised left eyebrow has an excellent effect on a rowdy audience 😊.

 

  1. You are one of Australia’s most popular authors – what kind of reception do you get from readers – and do you find that some of your books might be read more by a certain readership than another?

 

I am so grateful to my readers. I get lots of beautiful messages from children and adults about my books. I think it’s tricky when you write books with girls as the central characters to convince some boys that they too, can read the stories – they seem to cop a bit of pressure at times not to. Both Alice-Miranda and Clementine Rose have plenty of boys in the stories and I am a strong proponent of the idea that there are no books for girls or books for boys – just books. Kensy and Max has definitely opened the market to a lot more boys (though thankfully I get plenty of parents telling me their boys love Alice-Miranda and Clementine Rose too).

 

  1. Your books are not aimed at boys or girls specifically – how have you managed to capture readers across the board with all your series?

 

I have a lot of loyal boy readers who have loved Alice-Miranda and Clementine Rose but I still struggle with adults who will sometimes steer boys away from those stories. I’ve heard horrible comments at times – one story that was heartbreaking when a boy whose school I had visited that week saw me signing books outside a shop and he ran up and was very enthusiastically telling his dad, ‘That’s her – the lady who came to our school. I really want that book.’ He pointed at Alice-Miranda to the Rescue – which has a green cover and a picture of Alice-Miranda holding a puppy. It’s not especially feminine or overly ‘girly’. The father growled at the boy, ‘Maaaate, you don’t want that book – it’s got a girl on the cover.’ I was mortified and asked the fellow if he’d heard what had just come out of his mouth. He muttered some choice words and quickly ushered his son away. The little boy was upset and I was too. I find it hard to believe that in 2020 attitudes are still quite archaic at times. Only last year I visited a school where the librarian told me I was talking to the Year 3 and 4 girls. I asked what the boys were doing because unless it was flying on a rocket to the moon I didn’t imagine it was anything more exciting than listening to my talk. She told me that the ‘powers that be’ had decided ‘you only write books for girls.’ I was aghast and said (politely) that if the powers that be didn’t let the boys come I was not planning to stay. Suffice to say the boys arrived and that afternoon I had an email from a mum whose son had begged to go into town and get some of my books. She said that he never read but he couldn’t stop talking about all the stories I had told them. She was so grateful and I was really pleased that I made a fuss and the boys were allowed to come to the talk.

 

  1. You’ve worked in the arts and teaching – like a few other participants – how do you think these two roles complement each other?

 

Quite a few authors and illustrators have backgrounds in education – and I think the two occupations are very complementary. I spent year’s trialling stories on my captive audiences and I also read so many books to the children – it was wonderful training to see what worked well. I’ve had quite a diverse school career from classroom teacher to deputy head to director of development and find that many of the skills I needed back then have stood me in good stead now – presenting, organising events, communicating with children and adults, writing – both creatively and non-fiction.

 

  1. As a writer with an education background, how do you think both industries will be affected by the pandemic?

 

Education has been turned on its head. Teaching remotely has created a huge additional workload for teachers, many of whom are just getting to grips with the technology they are required to use. One of my sisters is a high school teacher and she has been overwhelmed with extra work as well as trying to monitor her own four children who are studying from home. I guess the one good thing is that most teachers have secure incomes (casuals aside) and that’s an area where the arts have been hugely impacted. For me personally almost all of my festival gigs have been cancelled for the year and while schools are beginning to book authors for online events, it’s very different to being there in person and interacting with the students. Obviously the rates of pay are much lower too. Royalties for book sales are paid twice a year so it’s difficult to know how they will be impacted in the long term. Some of my author friends have been tutoring to help make up the shortfall in income while others have been creating online content – though there is some concern about ongoing intellectual property issues particularly ensuring that once we do come out of lockdown schools will once again book authors and illustrators to do ‘in person’ gigs.

 

  1. You’re also an ambassador for Dymocks Children’s Charities – what sort of programs does the charity support, and what work do you do for them?

 

Dymocks Children’s Charities have wonderful programs including Book Bank and Library Regeneration, and have recently run a fantastic fundraiser for bushfire affected schools. They have introduced ‘Books for Homes’ to ensure that disadvantaged children who have been isolated by the pandemic are still getting books to read. I’ve recorded some short videos for their new You Tube channel which we hope will be viewed and used by schools and in homes. Under normal circumstances I would do a couple of Library Regen or Book Bank presentations a year and I also promote their campaigns via social media and an awareness page in all of my books. The past couple of years, Ambassadors Sally Rippin and Adrian Beck have edited a fabulous book called Total Quack Up and Total Quack Up Again and I’ve contributed to both of those as well.

 

  1. Has any of this work been affected by the pandemic or can you do it remotely?

 

Unfortunately a lot of the charity’s work has been impacted by Covid 19. The first thing to go was the annual Great Debate which is a huge charity fundraising event – and their largest source of income. Initially it was postponed until later in the year but with things so up in the air they have decided to move it to 2021. Obviously they have had to adapt so the Books for Homes program was born and the You Tube channel was developed to help spread awareness.

 

  1. Favourite writing snack?

 

A cup of white tea and a handful of raw cashews.

 

  1. Do you have a favourite place to write?

 

Anywhere with a view – especially of water or mountains.

 

  1. What would you like to see in terms of support for the arts, and how can people support the arts and authors in these difficult times?

 

I wrote an article for Reading Time –  http://readingtime.com.au/supporting-childrens-authors-during-the-corona-crisis/ about ways people can support authors and illustrators during this time. Certainly buying books (if you can afford to) but also giving recommendations – there are some wonderful sites like Your Kids’ Next Read on Facebook where parents can comment and support authors. It has been good to see some additional grants offered by organisations like the Copyright Agency and the City of Sydney, though I know not everyone is able to access these.

 

  1. Do you have a favourite local bookseller you’ll be trying to support during the pandemic?

 

So far I have ordered books online from Dymocks and when I get through that reading pile I will definitely be supporting my local shops including Novella at Wahroonga and Book Review St Ives. My second last public event before we went into lockdown was at Book Review and I can’t wait to get back out and do more events once it’s safe to do so.

 

  1. Finally, what are you working on at the moment?

 

I’m writing the sixth book in the Kensy and Max series. It’s called Kensy and Max: Full Speed and will be out in October. I’ve just finished writing a short book, Kensy and Max: Spy Games for the Australia Reads Campaign which will be out in November and I’m also working on some other exciting secret projects.

 

Anything further?

 

 

I think that just about covers everything – well except I’d love to give a big shoutout to all of the school and municipal librarians across Australia who have been working hard to keep kids supplied with books and resources. They’ve had to adapt in record time and I know they’re doing a brilliant job. So a huge thanks from me!

 

Thank you Jacqueline!

 

 

Lapse by Sarah Thornton

LapseTitle: Lapse

Author: Sarah Thornton

Genre: Mystery, Thriller

Publisher: Text Publishing

Published: 6th August 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 304

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: All it took was a lapse…a momentary lapse…to bring Clementine Jones’ world crashing down. Now she’s living like a hermit in small-town Katinga, coaching the local footy club. She’s supposed to be lying low, but here she is, with her team on the cusp of their first premiership in fifty years—and the whole bloody town counting on her, cheering her on.

So why the hell would her star player quit on the eve of the finals?

It’s a question she wishes she’d left alone. Others are starting to ask questions too—questions about her. Clem’s not the only one with a secret, and as tension builds, the dark violence just below the town’s surface threatens to erupt. Pretty soon there’ll be nowhere left for Clem to hide.

~*~

Clementine Jones watched her world crash down months ago, and is now hiding in Katinga, coaching their football team while she grapples with her past, the secrets and the events that led her to this place. As she prepares the team for their biggest win in fifty years, and the finals, her star player quits – and this begins a mystery to find out why, and what the town is hiding. At the same time, Clem must do her best to keep her secrets, and convince people she wants to help. As doubt grows in all minds about everyone in the town, Clementine will soon uncover something that could endanger too many people and feed into a desire to cover something up and let an innocent party take the blame.

I won this book in a Facebook giveaway, in a book lover’s event group I’m part of. It was started by L.J.M Owen, an author I follow, and read, at the start of the pandemic when the literary community realised they’d have to cancel many, many, author events. Australia’s literary community has, since March, found ways to move events online – blog tours, interviews, online launches, and many more, with a few socially distant author appearances in bookstores during the past few weeks in some places as restrictions eased. Yet with some restrictions being tightened, we’re still doing these things online. Not only does it allow those who read and write books to connect, it makes these events accessible to those who might not be able to get to a physical event. It is a trend that I hope continues.

AWW2020In this story, we have a mystery with a difference. The investigator isn’t a cop, but a shamed lawyer, running from her past, and hoping to find solace and safety in this new place. Every detailed is revealed when necessary, and some are cleverly held back to set up for a series – yet as readers we are given enough to get to know the characters and why Clementine is in Katinga and where she has been.

Each character and suspect is cleverly set up too. It got to the point where the only characters I found could trust were Clementine, Rowan, Clancy and Melissa (in terms of named characters who were involved in the major plot). Everyone else had elements of suspicion that follow them around, giving the novel its suspenseful, thriller aspect that drives it along at a good pace, with peaks and troughs. It is slow where it needs to be, fast where it needs to be and a medium pace where it needs to be to create the tension and intrigue that drive the novel.

Overall, it was an intriguing and well-written novel, with many elements of justice and truth, that slowly come out across the story. You must work for these aspects, but you know from the outset where you are, who is who, and what you will need to know to proceed. And the world, the town has been strongly created – the author has given us what we need to make sure we can use what is slowly revealed to fill in the gaps and uncover secrets. This is done in a strong and elegant way. It makes sense, and fits with the genre. It’s not overdone either, nor does it expect too much of the reader. At the same time, the reader is not spoon-fed – the balance in this book between asking the reader to solve the mystery and giving them what they need to know is presented eloquently and accessibly.

This is the first in a series, so I am sure that there are things that will be answered throughout the series as we uncover more about Clementine and what we already know.

 

The Adventures of Princess Peony by Nette Hilton, illustrated by Lucinda Gifford

the-adventures-of-princess-peonyTitle: The Adventures of Princess Peony
Author: Nette Hilton, illustrated by Lucinda Gifford
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Walker Books
Published: 1st August 2020
Format: Paperback
Pages:144
Price: $16.99
Synopsis: Princess Peony stars here in her first two adventures, reminding young readers why her princess credentials are as strong as they ever were.
The Adventures of Princess Peony features the plucky little princess’s first two adventures, reminding readers just how useful a quick wit, a strong imagination and a dog who thinks he’s a dragon can be. Especially when some TROLLS do not fully appreciate her greatness. Princess Peony must keep an eye on the evil troll (her brother) as he tries to steal her dragon (dog), all the while avoiding being eaten by a bear, restoring order to the kingdom and proving that she is, in fact, a princess.
• This paperback compilation of the much-loved, first two Princess Peony books, is the perfect gift to share with newly-independent readers, and the text begs to be read aloud, dramatically, of course.
• This is a series that encourages imaginative play. Peony is an ordinary girl who sees herself as a princess. This isn’t a game to her; it’s real. And readers can imagine their own royal worlds, especially with the tips and quizzes on princess-y sorts of things in the back of each book.
• Nette Hilton’s A Proper Little Lady picture book is an Australian Classic, and this series has that same sort of sensibility. It’s for creative girls with big ideas and strong opinions.

~*~
Princess Peony is the story of a young girl with a wild imagination. Her home and garden is her kingdom, her brother is a prince who is also a troll, and her dog is a dragon. She has a big imagination and big ideas about what being a princess is all about – and giving into a troll is not something she wants to do at all! From running away from bears to having to kiss a frog to find a prince, Princess Peony uses her creativity and smarts to outsmart her brother and create her own fun.

Princess Peony is a fun and imaginative series that teaches children of all ages and readership demographics, aimed at junior readers. Using imaginative play, it explores sibling rivalry, family and fun, and creativity, the story is fun and accessible. It teaches kids that using your imagination and what you have available to you can bring out some of the best games, which is perhaps a timely and good book for kids to read in these days of isolation, lockdowns and the pandemic – finding ways to make your own fun with what you have, just as Princess Peony does.

It also shows the power of imaginative play through the delightful black and white illustrations highlighted with purple. These simple illustrations, whilst giving us an idea of the world Princess Peony occupies, also allows kids to imagine themselves in the story and in their own story that might be like this or have its own differences. It promotes this kind of play too and shows kids that you don’t need the latest toys – that the people around you, and your environment can be enough to create a fun world you want to go back to.

 

AWW2020

Princess Peony is a confident character – she might come across as bossy but rather, she’s engaged in her play and idea of what a Princess should be – showing that girls can be confident in their play, and by extension, they can be confident in everything else they do – in their stories and their experiences. Both characters are interesting – and seen through a child’s eyes – their understanding of gender and their place in the family and in their games. Nette and Lucinda collectively execute this wonderfully through their words and images, which might provoke questions about gender and play, family and siblings. It allows children to understand how they see the world, and what happens when they are challenged, and equips them to come up with solutions to solve their problems – though I would not recommend making your brother kiss a frog’s bottom as Princess Peony does to her brother!

First published as two separate books, Walker Books has bound them together for release today, the first of August. The beginning of each story repeats the first few introductory sentences, providing three things: a refresher for readers, a way for new readers to come in at any stage in the series, and a familiarity and sense of sameness for children that appears in many children’s series in some form – a way to pull them back into the series and reassure them that not much has changed since the last book. It also connects the two together seamlessly and allows them to stand out as a series as well.

Each story is its own entity within this series, and can be read in order, or individually and the same essence of story, imagination, play and individuality is there. It is a series that will hopefully entertain and empower, and above all, be enjoyed by all readers, aged six and older.

The Girl, the Dog and the Writer in Rome by Katrina Nannestad

the girl the dog and the writer in romeTitle: The Girl, the Dog and the Writer in Rome
Author: Katrina Nannestad
Genre: Fiction/Travel
Publisher: HarperCollins Australia
Published: 23rd October 2017
Format: Paperback
Pages: 352
Price: $16.99
Synopsis: For the first ten years of Freja’s life, she and her mother Clementine have roamed the Arctic in search of zoological wonders. Happy, content, together. Freja and Clem. Clem and Freja.
But now, everything is changing, and Clementine must send Freja away to live with her old friend Tobias, a bestselling crime writer and, quite possibly, the most absent-minded man on earth.
Tobias isn’t used to life with a child, and Freja isn’t used to people at all, but together they’ll stumble into an Italian adventure so big that it will change things forever …
Award-winning Australian author Katrina Nannestad returns with a delicious new series about family, friendship and finding yourself.

AWARDS
Notable Book – CBCA Book of the Year Awards
Shortlisted – 2018 Speech Pathology Book of the Year Awards
~*~

When Freja’s mother, Clementine, must go away to Switzerland, she asks her old friend, Tobias to look after Freja. Freja isn’t very good with people or making friends – she wears a tag that says ‘This Child Bites’ when she meets Tobias, Tobias is absent-minded – neither are used to people in their lives. Yet as they stumble into an Italian adventure, they’ll find that everything changes and that making friends and having people you can rely on isn’t that bad after all.

AWW2020An adventure to Rome, or anywhere for that matter, is something that many of us can only dream about in these hard lockdown, isolation and pandemic times. Perhaps that’s why everyone is getting a lot of reading done, and why bookstores seem to be doing well, even if they’ve had to adjust operations to get books to people over the past few months. Books can take us on adventures when we have to stay at home, and this is exactly what The Girl, the Dog and the Writer in Rome does.

From eating raspberry gelato, to cooking lessons with Nonna Rosa, and eating at Café Vivi whilst making friends with the locals and evading three mysterious priests who seem to have taken to following Freja and Tobias, opening a mystery that follows them around Rome. While they travel, Freja and Tobias find that family and friends are found in the least likely places, and she beings to investigate the secret that Tobias and Clementine are keeping – who is Tobias, really, and what does he mean to Clementine?

This is a charming story that pulls the reader in and makes you feel like you are in Rome with the characters. The gelato is tasty and smooth, and the world they inhabit is rich, vibrant. You feel like you are there with them, watching as Finnegan eats everything in sight. These characters came to life on the page, and made the story into something special that readers of all ages will love. There is a bit of Freja and Tobias in all of us, and together, they are family and friends, and I’m looking forward to the next two books in the series.

Kitty is Not a Cat: Light’s Out by Jess Black

Kitty is not a cat lights outTitle: Kitty is Not a Cat: Light’s Out

Author: Jess Black

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Hachette Australia/Lothian

Published: 28th July 2020

Format: Paperback

Pages: 60

Price: $9.99

Synopsis: When Kitty arrives on the doorstep of a house full of music-mad felines, their lives are turned upside down as they attempt to teach her how to be human. A warmly funny junior-fiction series about Kitty, a little girl who believes she can be anything she dreams – even a cat.

A warmly funny junior-fiction series about Kitty, a little girl who believes she can be anything she dreams – even a cat. When Kitty arrives on the doorstep of a house full of music-mad felines, their lives are turned upside down as they attempt to teach her how to be human.

Some children hate going to bed. Not Kitty! Kitty falls asleep every night curled up snug as a bug in a bed box. That is, until one spooky night when Kitty’s night-light goes missing and her fear of the dark comes creeping out. The cats, unfamiliar with the concept, try to settle her down but to no avail. In the end, it won’t be a night-light that saves the day.

Based on the Australian TV series that is enjoyed by kids the whole world over.

~*~

In another Kitty is Not a Cat story, the family of cats are kept awake one night by Kitty, who is having trouble sleeping. Just as they all get settled, Kitty starts crying out – and the cats spend their evening trying to find out what is keeping Kitty from sleeping – uncovering a fear of the dark – which the cats do not understand. Yet they all come together to help Kitty.

AWW2020

In a house filled with music-loving cats, Kitty finds herself quite at home. Before it became a series of books, Kitty started life as an Australian television series for children. The series of books is a companion to the series, that fans of the series and new readers can enjoy, as a summary of the basic premise is given at the front of each  book, accompanied by a list of characters at the front to introduce new readers who have not seen the show to them, and to refresh the memories of those who have watched the show. Each medium will bring something different to the audience and readers and will hopefully make these stories accessible to as many readers and viewers as possible.

Light’s Out is about confronting your fears and overcoming them. It is about learning to share, and trust in yourself, and understand that other people might need to borrow your night-light. Kitty learns that sometimes helping others is the best thing to do, and that she can sleep on spooky nights. And that sometimes, you just need to try and you’ll achieve your goals.

Great for early readers, and readers of all ages to explore its themes and characters, to build confidence in themselves and with their reading and vocabulary. A great series for all ages and readers.

 

Kitty is Not a Cat: Teddy’s Bear by Jess Black

Kitty is not a cat teddys bearTitle: Kitty is Not a Cat: Teddy’s Bear
Author: Jess Black
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Lothian/Hachette Australia
Published: 28th June 2020
Format: Paperback
Pages: 60
Price: $9.99
Synopsis: What could be better than a cuddly teddy bear? How about a real-life grizzly bear! A warmly funny junior-fiction series about Kitty, a little girl who believes she can be anything she dreams – even a cat.
What could be better that a cuddly teddy bear? How about a real-life grizzly bear! Kitty and the bear spend a fun-filled afternoon together, but it doesn’t take long for Kitty to realise that having a grizzly bear for a playmate may be a little more trouble that she thought.
Kitty is Not a Cat is a warmly funny junior-fiction series about Kitty, a little girl who believes she can be anything she dreams – even a cat. When Kitty arrives on the doorstep of a house full of music-mad felines, their lives are turned upside down as they attempt to teach her how to be human.
Based on the Australian TV series that is enjoyed by kids the whole world over.

~*~

Kitty lives with a family of cats, who are trying to convince her that she is human. Kitty believes she is a cat, however, and will only communicate in meows. As winter sets in, the cats – The Nazz, Petal, Timmy Tom, Last Chance, King Tubby, Mr Clean and Cheeta – decide Kitty needs something to play with over winter. They hatch a plan to find a teddy bear for Kitty, and the results are surprising, amusing and when Cheeta brings a real grizzly bear into the house for Kitty, but will one of the other cats have an even better solution for Kitty?

AWW2020

In a house filled with music-loving cats, Kitty finds herself quite at home. Before it became a series of books, Kitty started life as an Australian television series for children. The series of books is a companion to the series, that fans of the series and new readers can enjoy, as a summary of the basic premise is given at the front of each book, accompanied by a list of characters at the front to introduce new readers who have not seen the show to them, and to refresh the memories of those who have watched the show.

Teddy’s Bear is one of four adorable stories about Kitty and her cat family, and is a great book for early readers, with themes of family, friendship and kindness at its heart, as well as acceptance and discovering who you are and what you like.

These short stories are ideal for growing the confidence of early readers in a fun and engaging way, and the illustrations in black, white and orange are also engaging, and add to the joy and fun of the story. Early readers will love these books as they build on their vocabulary and engaging with the way a story works.

This fabulous new series will charm readers of all ages.