Evie and Pog: Party Perfect by Tania McCartney

Evie and Pog Party PerfectTitle: Evie and Pog: Party Perfect
Author: Tania McCartney
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: HarperCollins Australia
Published: 20th April 2020
Format: Paperback
Pages: 144
Price: $12.99
Synopsis:
In the bestselling tradition of Ella and Olivia, comes a further book in a new series for early readers about best friends, Evie and Pog.
High in a tree house live two very best friends. Evie and Pog. A girl and a dog.
Evie is six years old. She likes reading and baking and rolling on the daisy-spot grass.
Pog is a pug. He is two and likes to drink tea and read the newspaper. He also likes fixing things.
But most of all, Evie and Pog love to have fun – especially at parties! Join them for three further adventures – Book Parade, Art Show Muddle and Party Time!

~*~

Each Evie and Pog story begins with the same six lines with some rhyming, that introduces us to Evie and Pog, the pug. It then launches into the story – the book parade, where Evie and Granny work hard to create a celebrations costume – but they have to keep it a secret from Pog! In Art Show Muddle, Evie and her friend, Noah, are painting a picture when a litter of kittens wreaks havoc, and in Parry Time, Evie feels like her plans for her grandmother’s birthday are going to be overshadowed by what everyone else wants a party for.

The stories are filled with fun and love, and memorable characters: Mr Arty-Farty, Miss Footlights, Noah, Granny, and of course, Evie and Pog, all of whom come together to create a wonderful community and series of stories for readers aged six and older, who have enjoyed and do enjoy the Ella and Olivia books by Yvette Poshoglian.

AWW2020Like Ella and Olivia, Evie and Pog is aimed at the stage of readership that is just starting to read alone, but who still like to be read to or read with someone. The three short novels in each book are interlinked – through the characters and references to what has come in the previous story. This made it delightful to read, and ensured that readers will remain engaged with both the words and the illustrations created by Tania McCartney, which work together to tell the stories within this new Evie and Pog book.

This was my first adventure with Evie and Pog, after hearing about it on various podcasts and in my reading groups. I found it very easy to slip into this world, and it was filled with fun and art, books and humour – Evie is a fabulous character who brings words and crafting together in a fun and delightful way for readers to engage with Evie and the stories, and see a variety of interests celebrated – knitting and reading are celebrated a lot in the stories, showing how fun and awesome these hobbies are.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and would recommend it to readers aged six and older looking to expand their vocabulary as they learn to read.

Finding Eadie by Caroline Beecham

Finding EadieTitle: Finding Eadie

Author: Caroline Beecham

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: 2nd July 2020

Format: Paperback

Pages: 368

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: The author of Maggie’s Kitchen and Eleanor’s Secret delivers another compelling story of love and mystery during wartime.

London 1943: War and dwindling resources are taking their toll on the staff of Partridge Press. The pressure is on to create new books to distract readers from the grim realities of the war, but Partridge’s rising star, Alice Cotton, leaves abruptly and cannot be found.

Alice’s secret absence is to birth her child, and although her baby’s father remains unnamed, Alice’s mother promises to help her raise her tiny granddaughter, Eadie. Instead, she takes a shocking action.

Theo Bloom is employed by the American office of Partridge. When he is tasked with helping the British publisher overcome their challenges, Theo has his own trials to face before he can return to New York to marry his fiancee.

Inspired by real events during the Second World War, Finding Eadie is a story about the triumph of three friendships bound by hope, love, secrets and the belief that books have the power to change lives.

~*~

AWW2020

Caroline Beecham’s stories about women in World War Two are mainly set on the home front, and look at lesser known stories about what women did in the war, and the various industries that contributed to the war effort on the home front. In Finding Eadie the publishing industry and books play a large role, alongside the mystery of Alice Cotton, her absence, and the three friendships – Alice and Ursula, Alice and Theo and Alice and Penny – that drive the novel. The truth of Alice’s absence is known to very few  people – she is pregnant and must go away to have her child, before returning with a story that explains why she has one. Yet soon after the birth, Alice awakens to discover her daughter, Eadie missing, and a note from her mother that sets in motion a search for Eadie that takes many weeks and months. At the same time, Theo Bloom, from New York, has come to save Partridge Press in London – and in time, Alice is helped by three friends in her search for Eadie, combining her research with an idea for books that will save the publishing house. But Theo will find he saves much more, and the power of love and friendship will change everything.

Finding Eadie is a story of family, love, and friendship – love of one’s child, love of books and reading, and love of all kinds – it does not shy away from the harsh realities of the war and what Eadie and Ursula face either. Caroline has confronted these issues head on and allowed the reader to see them for what they were – even when using a simple scene or a few simple words – it works to evoke a sense of the times and place, and what these characters faced or had to hide to appear acceptable to society. It was perhaps this that made Ursula and Alice’s friendship the strongest for me and the most meaningful. They both faced being shunned by society for who they were, and to me, they found comfort and solidarity in each other – they did not reject the other based on these circumstances, for they knew what it was to be rejected for who they were.

This beautiful friendship, the support from the beginning of the book, and Ursula’s care for, and faith in Alice was one of the most powerful and most enduring aspects of the novel- from the publishing house to the events towards the end of the book, it was clear that Ursula was truly there for Alice, as were Penny and Theo – and everything they helped her with led to the climatic final chapters, and an acceptance of everything that had happened to lead to those events. It is a touching story that proves family is what we make it and sometimes our friends become our family. It also shows that friendship is powerful, and the damage, or near damage that secrets can do.

My other favourite thing about this book was the focus on publishing and books during the war, and what they meant to people during this time – both on the home front and soldiers in the battlefields. They were a comfort – like they are during the pandemic – they gave people some place else to be during those hard times. This book is as much an ode to books and publishing as it is to friendship and justice. This is done in an exquisite and sensitive way, that reveals a dark underbelly of wartime London, with a touch of hope even in the midst of secrets, all bound together by the power of books and some determination and grit from all the characters to bring about real change – and that is based on real events of the 1940s.

 

Kid Normal and the Final Five by Greg James and Chris Smith

Kid NornalTitle: Kid Normal and the Final Five

Author: Greg James and Chris Smith

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Published: 2nd June 2020

Format: Paperback

Pages: 432

Price: $12.99
Synopsis: The epic conclusion to the awesome, award-winning, bestselling, super-charged KID NORMAL series by Greg James and Chris Smith.

Praise for Kid Normal:

‘So funny, it’s almost criminal’ INDEPENDENT
‘Outrageous capers’ GUARDIAN

Murph Cooper is famous … and he’s not happy about it.

Kid Normal and the Super Zeroes used to save the day in secret. But suddenly everyone knows who they are.

Oily villain Nicholas Knox has told the public that superheroes are dangerous. He wants to lock them all up and take over the world! *Cue evil cackling*

Murph must expose Knox’s evil plan, or the world of heroes is doomed forever!

~*~

Kid Normal is one of the Super Zeroes at a school for superheroes, referred to as The School. But when the villainous Nicholas Knox and his cronies, including Kopy Kat, start to tell the public the superheroes are dangerous, his plan to take over the world begins. He manages to make everyone believe the dangers of the superheroes so he can move forward in his plans – but Murph and his friends must band together – the final five – to expose the evil plan – and save the world of heroes.

The first I heard about Kid Normal was when it appeared in a publicity catalogue, and I requested it for review. It was the final book in the series, so I wasn’t sure how I’d go as someone who prefers to start a series at the beginning. However, there have been times as a reviewer and as a quiz writer when I have reads books at various points throughout a series, so this was something I saw as a challenge – could I understand the world and jokes that cropped up without having read the first three books?

The answer is yes, of course I could.

This series is written by Greg and Chris in a way that necessary information is repeated, to refresh readers and capture the attention of new readers. Each character is cleverly formed and named in unique stylings that hint at superhero and villain tropes, and at times, what the character’s Capability is. This is a lot of fun for kids, and language nerds like me who enjoy seeing play on words in novels and books for all ages.

Illustrations and little authorial intrusions are interspersed throughout the novel and series, where the authors talk to the audience, a device known as breaking the fourth wall, and when used effectively, as it has been here, it flow seamlessly with the story and adds to the fun, humour created by the writing team. You can hear the voices and chuckles of the authors – they must have had grand un writing this series!

As this is the last book, we know there is some kind of ending to the world of superheroes coming – but what will it be? How will Murph and his friends save the world? The authors will definitely have you on the edge of your seat as they poke fun at politician-style characters using well-written satire and amusing names, giving kids an insight into the complexities of how the outside world works at a level that they can access and find amusing. Some of the humour is slapstick – though not violent and would be appealing to readers who enjoy that kind of humour. As a whole, humour is used in a way that there is something for all readers within this book.

More than humour though, it has heart. It shows that not all heroes wear capes, that friends and family can stick together and what it means to stand by someone who needs it. The characters are diverse in many ways, and this adds to the richness of the novel and series.

This is a humorous and delightful conclusion to what must have been a very fun series to write and read.

 

Books and Bites Book Bingo Travel Memoir: The Strangeworlds Travel Agency by L.D. Lapinski

books and bites game card

 

A travel memoir is one area I wasn’t sure what I would find – but as with all my challenges, I have been finding fun and inventive ways to interpret the categories I thought I might struggle with. This time I am marking off my thirteenth square and gaining a BINGO for the first row. I have checked off travel memoir but done something a little different and bent a fictional book with travel in it to work here.

 

books and bites game card

I used The Strangeworlds Travel Agency by LD Lapinski – the review went live on the 28th of April. When Flick discovers a travel agency unlike any other and is invited to join the Strangeworlds Society. With all the travelling Flick and Jonathon Mercator do, it feels and reads like it could be a travel memoir – as we experience the journeys as they do. In this way, it has a sense of travel memoir, even if told in third person and the action takes place as we’re reading and isn’t described after the facts as one typically finds with a travel memoir.

strangeworlds

 

It might seem like a bit of a stretch, but in the current isolation climate, I’m finding I could be doing that a lot over the next few months – and I’m trying to use new reads as much as possible, and will slot re-reads in where I need to.

 

Books and Bites Bingo Progress Report One – First Bingo

I should be doing this for each bingo line I hit – with the regular book bingo, it is being included in the relevant post. For this one with Monique, I am trying to update as I complete a line.

books and bites game card

 

My first BINGO of the sheet is the top lime – which I actually completed last month but have only just managed to find time to write this brief post. This was possibly the easiest line – some squares I am still finding books, or waiting for a release, or am, not sure what I will use. Luckily, these are fairly broad categories and I can go with anything for many of them, so when I find something that fits, that is what I will use. This is my overall challenge strategy and I am finding it less stressful as it allows me to read what I have and if it fits, that’s a good thing.

This was a challenge I signed up for later than the others, but am having fun with it nonetheless. Of the books I used in this challenge, I loved them all and there were so many others that could have worked here. I admit to stretching the travel memoir category – using a fictional book with travel that felt like it could be a travel memoir – I expand on this more in the post, however.

I look forward to filling the rest of the squares and reporting on them in the coming months.

Books and Bites Bingo
Set in Europe:Josephine’s Garden by Stephanie Parkyn

Debut Novel: The Soldier’s Curse by Meg and Tom Keneally (Monsarrat Series Book One)

Travel Memoir: The Strangeworlds Travel Agency by L.D. Lapinski

Published More than 100 Years Ago: The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Written in the First Person: Pippa’s Island: Puppy Pandemonium by Belinda Murrell

Isolation Publicity with Middle Grade Mavens

 

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.
Some of my first interviews were with authors who have had events cancelled – and if there is more interest, I will be including as many as I can over the next few months, because books are what will get us through. Another artform and piece of media that will get us through is podcasts, and whilst I have written about the ones I listen to before, I’ve never interviewed a podcaster. So, the first podcast I will be interviewing is Middle Grade Mavens. Pamela has answered most of the questions where it doesn’t specify a name with two answers. It’s interesting to see how the book community is adapting and promoting the literary world, and in the midst of this pandemic, are promoting kids’ books for all ages across their social media platforms.

 

It was interesting to see that we enjoy some of the same books and podcasts as well.

middle grade mavens

Hi Julie and Pamela, and welcome to The Book Muse!

1. I started listening to your podcast late last year in 2019 and binged it to catch up. First of all, can you tell my readers what the podcast is about?
Middle Grade Mavens is an Australian book review podcast by myself, Julie Anne Grasso and Pamela Ueckerman. It’s aimed at anyone who loves middle grade books; that is, books aimed for ages 8-12. We provide detailed book reviews on new and not-so-new releases and author interviews. We sometimes create bonus episodes for aspiring authors such as a series we ran over the summer interviewing of children’s book editors.
2. When you began the podcast, as a team and as individuals, what did you hope to achieve with each episode?
Julie: Pamela and I both have an intense love for middle grade books. Sometimes we have intense views about how they should or should not be written, but regardless of our views, we knew we wanted to get the word out about great middle grade books we’ve encountered. To do that, we decided we would just start talking about middle grade books. From there it morphed into interviewing authors, illustrators, editors, publicists, booksellers, and anyone who wants to join us on the journey of promoting and discovering wonderful middle grade books. The world is our oyster really.

3. The connection you have as podcasters is great to listen to – did that develop as you planned out the podcast, through a working relationship, or another relationship, and how long have you been friends for?
Julie: It’s funny, Pamela and I met at Kidlitvic (industry conference) a few years ago and hit it off immediately. We talked about books, our views on the industry and how we hope to be a part of it. When I bounced the idea off Pamela of a podcast about middle-grade books, she jumped at the chance. We didn’t really have any idea how to go about it, so we just wrote up some questions we’d like to ask each other about the books we were reading, and went from there. We use a simple platform called Anchor, which is a mobile phone app. We record on Skype and upload our segments and interviews to the Anchor app, which then distributes our show to 10 platforms, like Apple Podcasts. Pamela is also whizz at websites, so she built one for us. The rest is history!

Pamela: It’s always great to hear that people enjoy our connection. We had already been part of a writing mastermind group for a year or so when Julie suggested a podcast, we knew each other fairly well but it has grown from there with working so closely. We spent a few months planning and preparing before we started recording so I think that also helped. We’re quite different in many ways but similar in our approach to our careers. We take things seriously, but not too seriously, and while we’d love to be perfectionists, we know with children and the limited time we have that perfection is unattainable so we don’t let that stop us.

4. What was the book that made you fall in love with reading, and was it a middle grade book?
Pamela: I’ve always read, I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love books. One of my fond childhood memories is on my 7th birthday, my dad waking me up to give me a beautiful book of nursery rhymes and fairy tales from our next-door neighbour. I still have that book, although it’s not very PC any more. I also have an annual that was my mother’s when she was a girl. One of my favourite books as a child was Roald Dahl’s The Twits and another was The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I loved escaping to other worlds, or other versions of our world. I still do!

Julie: I am going to surprise you, but I was not a reader at all as a child. I didn’t get the reading bug until I was well into my late teens when I read, Anne McCaffrey’s The Rowan Series. Those books made me a reader and I still read them today and love them. Plus, I was always a sci-fi nerd, watching Dr Who as a child, so a sci-fi book series is what it took to get me reading.

5. I’ve been studying, reading and following literary circles and trends for a while – and the last few years have been the first time I have heard the term middle grade, at least in Australia. How do you feel the trend in using this term has grown for readers aged around eight to twelve?

Pamela: Middle-grade was a new term for me when I started writing for kids. Until I had my own children, I hadn’t read children’s books in many years and while they were little, I was mostly immersed in picture books. As a kid, I would jump between reading younger books like Enid Blyton’s Magic Faraway Tree, maybe a Babysitter’s Club, classics like Little Women and then adult books like Mills and Boon and a French detective series I discovered at the library. There were books in between, of course, but not like they are today. I love that the focus has grown in this area because it’s such an important developmental growth period for children, especially as they no longer have the freedom to explore the world as they once did. But also, a great middle-grade book can be enjoyed by teenagers and adults as well, without darker themes, violence or heavy language that they might want to avoid. It’s hard for me to tell if the term has trended recently because I’m so immersed in it, but I like to think we are champions for middle-grade books and helping that readership to stand on its own.

6. When we were younger and in the nineties, the terms middle grade and young adult didn’t seem to be around or as visible – the bookshops and libraries were broadly divided into kids, adult and sometimes teen sections – do you think the addition of young adult, and middle grade has helped to address how we present books to readers of all ages?

Pamela: Yes, I think the terms really help the gatekeepers and the readers home in on books that are appropriate for their age level and also help booksellers and publishers to target their marketing. Which isn’t only great for sales but it’s also great for attracting kids to read. If they pick up a book that looks interesting but is too advanced or to dark, they might be put off. Likewise, they might be put off if a book seems too easy or babyish. Having these loose categories really helps everyone involved to know what to expect.

Many years ago, children’s books were seen purely as educational opportunities, very moralistic, so I think a part of carving out this niche is that the books are written with an understanding of the age group, writing from a child’s point-of-view rather than the perspective of an adult trying to teach a child. Story is much more important than moral now, which gives authors more scope and allows them to have more fun.

7. Maven Julie is a librarian (if I have this wrong, I apologise, and please correct when you send this back). In this sphere, have you noticed a change in the way middle grade books are presented and recommended in your library? Has this helped kids and parents find the right books?

Julie: So, I better clarify I am a customer service librarian, not a catalogue Librarian. My focus is to help readers discover, find, and access books, as well as essential services that the library offers. I have definitely seen some great changes in the kind of books coming into the collection, as well as how they are presented on the shelf. Through the podcast, and having access to re-release books, I am also able to make some great recommendation of new release books that have only just hit the shelves, as well as some golden oldies.

8. Maven Pamela – how do you incorporate the many, many middle grade books into your home-schooling?

Pamela: Many, many, yes indeed! We start every home-school day with me reading aloud from a novel to both my boys, who are only two years apart so close enough that I don’t feel the need to do separate books. I try to choose more challenging, literary books than what they choose for themselves – a mixture of classics and newer books. How I select those is fairly random, depending on what we already have and what I think they’re ready for. I have collected quite a few books from second-hand book sales and little free libraries over time so we always have options. Other times I use the library. After the novel read-aloud, I usually read from a non-fiction book or maybe a narrative non-fiction picture book and do this for both world and Australian history and sometimes to tie in with our science nature study. We also have bedtime reading, which is the boys’ choice – they usually each have a novel going as a bedtime read-aloud. And then throughout the day they dip in and out of other books for their own reading – these are usually more light-hearted books, manga, or Pokémon or Minecraft guides.

9. Do you have a current favourite middle grade book or series, and why?

Pamela: My current favourite is Jessica Townsend’s Nevermoor series, it has so much depth to the world, the characters, the setting. You can really lose yourself in Nevermoor, which is what you want from a series.

Julie: My current favourite is Malamander by Thomas Taylor and I am reading Gargantis, soon to be released, which is the second book in the series. It is everything I’ve ever wanted in a book. A middle grade magical realism set in eerie-by the sea, a shanty town with a crumbling hotel and a protagonist with a fruit as a surname. My criteria are eclectic I realise, but I’m owning it 100%!
10. When not reading middle grade books, what is your go to genre?
Pamela: Historical fiction is my go-to but I like good writing in any genre, including non-fiction, which I read quite a bit of.
Julie: I used to love forensic crime, but that was before I adopted sleep deprivation as my eternal friend. Now I like to read all things Mystery and or Who Dunnit!

11. Best reading companion: dogs, cats, or both?
Pamela: I’m a dog person but we don’t have any pets right now. At the moment, I’m lucky to get any peace at all so I’m happy when I do!
Julie: Achoo! Neither, allergies. Can I go with the actual book being the companion?
12. Which Hogwarts house do you think you’d be in, if you’ve read the books?
Pamela: Hmmm, I want to say Gryffindor but probably Ravenclaw.
Julie: Gryffindor, although, if I did one of those tests it would probably be Hufflepuff.
13. Are there any 2020 middle grade releases that you and your munchkins are looking forward too?
Pamela: Hollowpox, the next Nevermoor book, and Remy Lai’s new release, Fly on the Wall, both of which have been postponed, which is disappointing! Mr Nine is looking forward to Allison Tait’s new series, The Fire Star in September; and Mr Seven has a few sequels he’s looking forward including Squidge Dibley Destroys Everything (by Mick Elliot), Real Pigeons Peck Punches (Andrew McDonald and Ben Wood) and Aleesah Darlison’s League of Llamas books.
Julie: Gargantis, by Thomas Taylor, The Mummies Smugglers of Crumblin Castle by Pamela Rushby, Illustrated by Nelle May Pierce.
14. When not borrowing from the library, do you have a favourite bookseller you frequent, and why?
Pamela: I try to spread the love around but in particular I like to support my local indie bookstore, Benn’s Books (Centre Rd, Bentleigh). They have a beautifully curated children’s book section.

Julie: The Younger Sun in Yarraville Vic They have an incredible selection and I have to limit my attendance so not to break the bank.

15. Book podcasts are gaining traction – and what I love about them is I can listen to them whilst doing something else, which is how I binged on your podcast and One More Page. What is it about podcasts that discuss books in particular that you think is something people are seeking out?

Pamela: That’s an interesting question. I guess for each person it depends on what they’re trying to get out of it. Some of our listeners are writers and looking to learn more about the industry and pick up writing tips. Others are teachers or librarians looking for book recommendations. The industry is quite strong (or at least was before COVID-19) and there are so many books, it’s nice to be able to cut right through the noise. I think it’s also a form of connection – when you get to know a podcast and if you enjoy the show’s format or the presenter’s voices, you feel a connection to them and want to hear what they have to say. And if the hosts are reading and discussing the same books as you are, there’s a connection there, a shared experience. As we are finding out the hard way with the pandemic, connection is a hugely important part of life. If you can get that connection on your terms – when, where and how is convenient for you – even better.

16. What book or podcast recommendations can you give readers?
Pamela: As a writer, I love So You Want to Be a Writer, particularly the interviews, they’re fascinating. For kids, my boys love Wow in the World, which is an hilarious science-themed podcast. As for books on writing, I’m currently reading Wired for Story by Lisa Cron, I highly recommend it.

Julie: Same as Pamela, above, as well as our friends at One More Page. I also love The First Time podcast, and another great one for more readers of adult mystery and crime fiction, SheDunnitShow Last but not least, another great one for adult and kids book lovers, Words and Nerds…

March 2020 Round Up

March was a strange month – it started out as normal as could be, though we knew about the coronavirus, and then a few weeks into March, everything changed, and by the end of it, they had changed again with strict social distancing rules. Despite this, I got a lot of reading done. My stats are:

20 books read overall
11 read for the Australian Women Writers Challenge
8 for the Nerd Daily Challenge
1 for the Dymocks Reading Challenge
1 for the STFU Reading Challenge
1 for Book Bingo
1 for Books and Bites Bingo

Overall stats so far:

The Modern Mrs Darcy 9/12
AWW2020 -26/25
Book Bingo – 10/12
The Nerd Daily Challenge 40/52
Dymocks Reading Challenge 12/25
STFU Reading Society 5/12
Books and Bites Bingo 11/25
General Goal – 51/165

Most of these books have been reviewed on my blog.

 

March – 20

Book Author Challenge
Esme’s Gift Elizabeth Foster AWW2020, Reading Challenge, The Nerd Daily, Dymocks Reading Challenge
Friday Barnes: Girl Detective R.A. Spratt AWW2020, Dymocks Reading Challenge, The Nerd Daily, Reading Challenge
The Last Firehawk: The Cloud Kingdom

 

Katrina Charman The Nerd Daily, Reading Challenge
Christmas in Paris (Miss Lily 3.5)

 

Jackie French Reading Challenge, AWW2020
The Lost Future of Pepperharrow Natasha Pulley The Nerd Daily, Reading Challenge
The Paris Secret Natasha Lester The Nerd Daily, Reading Challenge, Book Bingo, AWW2020
Museum Kittens: The Midnight Visitor Holly Webb The Nerd Daily, Reading Challenge
Firewatcher Chronicles: Phoenix Kelly Gardiner Reading Challenge, AWW2020, STFU Reading Challenge
The Lost Jewels Kirsty Manning The Nerd Daily, Reading Challenge, AWW2020
The Girl She Was Rebecca Freeborn Reading Challenge, AWW2020, Books and Bites Bingo
Ninjago: Back in Action Tracey West Reading Challenge,
Layla and the Bots: Happy Paws Vicky Fang Reading Challenge
Friday Barnes: Under Suspicion R.A. Spratt Reading Challenge, AWW2020
Daring Delly: Going for Gold

 

Matthew Dellavedova and Zanni Louise Reading Challenge,
Aussie Kids: Meet Katie at the Beach 

 

Rebecca Johnson and Lucia Masciullo Reading Challenge, AWW2020
Aussie Kids: Meet Eve in the Outback 

 

Raewyn Caisley and Karen Blair  Reading Challenge, AWW2020
The Besties Make A Splash Felice Arena and Tom Jellett Reading Challenge
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them JK Rowling/Newt Scamander Reading Challenge
Liberation 

 

Imogen Kealey The Nerd Daily, Reading Challenge
The Year the Maps Changed

 

 Danielle Binks Reading Challenge, AWW2020

 

Onto April and hopefully lots of reading during these trying times.

Willow Moss and the Lost Day (Starfell #1) by Dominique Valente

Starfell 1Title: Willow Moss and the Lost Day (Starfell #1)

Author: Dominique Valente

Genre: Fantasu

Publisher: HarperCollins

Published: 2nd May 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 304

Price: $16.99

Synopsis: The first book in the most spellbinding children’s fantasy series of the year, now in paperback, with beautiful black-and-white inside illustrations by Sarah Warburton. Perfect for fans of Cressida Cowell and Nevermoor.

Willow Moss, the youngest and least powerful sister in a family of witches, has a magical ability for finding lost things – like keys, or socks, or spectacles. Useful, but not exactly exciting…

Then the most powerful witch in the world of Starfell turns up at Willow’s door and asks for her help. A whole day – last Tuesday to be precise – has gone missing. Completely. And without it the whole universe could unravel.

Now Willow holds the fate of Starfell in her rather unremarkable hands… Can she save the day – by finding the lost one?

Step into Starfell, a world crackling with warmth, wit and magic, perfect for readers aged 8–12. Book 2 coming in April 2020!

~*~

Willow Moss is supposed to have magic like her sisters, but she’s not as powerful as the rest of her family. However, she does have a magical talent that is probably more precious than any other gift. She can find things.

One day Moreg Vaine, Starfell’s most powerful witch asks for Willow’s help to find Tuesday – an entire day from the preceding week has disappeared and without it, Starfell could meet a very dark fate that nobody wants to experience.

Willow’s journey takes her across the land of Starfell, accompanied by a rather irate kobold named Oswin, who berates her and offers advice throughout the novel. Willow’s journey is not easy though, and she must face many dangers, including the Brothers of Wol who do not like witches or anything that goes against what they believe in – reminiscent of the witch hunts of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. It is this conflict that drives the novel, and Willow is a character who will grow and learn across the series. At the same time, she will prove that she can do the things that everyone says she can’t do or shouldn’t do. Yet only Willow can find the missing Tuesday and set the world right and ensure that she still has a family and place to live at the end of her journey.

Girls being front and centre in books is taking off, and these days, they are occupying a myriad of role and personalities to appeal to all readers – they’re not just stereotypes or strong female characters who occupy a specific time and place in their story. Here, we have characters like Willow who are reluctant and unsure of what to do, they’ve been told things that are not true and are forced to confront these memories  and through doing this, they grow and learn that they are more than what everyone has been telling them they are.

Middle grade is an age group that is gaining a lot of traction, and this book is aimed at readers aged eight and older – and I think will appeal to readers of all genders. It is a wonderful book, and a really good start to a series that I am very keen to follow as each book is released. This is one of those books I picked up on a whim, because the story looked interesting, and I think it is one that many will enjoy regardless of age, and one that will be fun to read out loud as well.

2020 ABIAs

Every year, the Australian Book Industry Awards are presented to various books published the year before. In the past week, the long list has gone up, and I have taken the following list from the Readings blog. Some of these I have read, and some I am hoping to read. I will not be able to get to them all, but it is nice to see a bit more diversity in titles this year, allowing more books to get some well-deserved attention on this list.

Of the books on this list, some I reviewed – and most I enjoyed, and some didn’t catch my interest, or I ran out of time last year to get to them. A panel of judges has decided on this longlist, and will from here, decide on a shortlist, which will be released on the 9th of April, with the winners in each category announced on the 29th of April. A couple of books are nominated in more than one category, which often happens, yet being able to see that there’s much more diversity in the titles chosen gives a better view of Australian literature, rather than what is just the “it” book of the year. This isn’t always a bad thing, but often there are other books in the category that are just as deserving and when they have more of a chance to win, that makes it more exciting.

The titles in each category are…
General fiction book of the year

 

Wide-General-Fiction-Book-of-the-Year
• Bruny by Heather Rose
• Call Me Evie by J.P. Pomare
• Cilka’s Journey by Heather Morris
• Good Girl, Bad Girl by Michael Robotham
• Peace by Garry Disher
• Silver by Chris Hammer
• The Scholar by Dervla McTiernan
• The Wife and the Widow by Christian White
Literary fiction book of the year

Wide-Literary-Fiction
• Damascus by Christos Tsiolkas
• Exploded View by Carrie Tiffany
• Room for a Stranger by Melanie Cheng
• The Drover’s Wife by Leah Purcell
• The Weekend by Charlotte Wood
• The Yield by Tara June Winch
There Was Still Love by Favel Parrett
• Wolfe Island by Lucy Treloar
General nonfiction book of the year

Wide-General-Non-fiction-Book-of-the-Year• Accidental Feminists by Jane Caro
• Against All Odds by Craig Challen & Richard Harris with Ellis Henican
• Banking Bad by Adele Ferguson
• Fake by Stephanie Wood
Kitty Flanagan’s 488 Rules for Life by Kitty Flanagan
• See What You Made Me Do by Jess Hill
• The Yellow Notebook by Helen Garner
• Troll Hunting by Ginger Gorman
Biography book of the year

BiographyBookWide
• Australia Day by Stan Grant
• Jack Charles: Born-again Blakfella by Jack Charles
• Gulpilil by Derek Rielly
• Penny Wong: Passion and Principle by Margaret Simons
• Tell Me Why by Archie Roach
• The Prettiest Horse In The Glue Factory by Corey White
• When All is Said & Done by Neale Daniher with Warwick Green
• Your Own Kind of Girl by Clare Bowditch

Book of the year for older children (ages 13+)

Wide-Book-of-the-Year-for-Older-Children-(ages-13+)
• Detention by Tristan Bancks
• How It Feels to Float by Helena Fox
• It Sounded Better in My Head by Nina Kenwood
• Kindred edited by Michael Earp
• The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling by Wai Chim
• This Is How We Change the Ending by Vikki Wakefield
• Welcome to Country: Youth Edition by Marcia Langton
• Welcome To Your Period by Yumi Stynes & Dr Melissa Kang
Book of the year for younger children (ages 7-13)

Wide-Book-of-the-Year-for-Younger-Children-(ages-7-12)
• Explore Your World: Weird, Wild, Amazing! by Tim Flannery
• Funny Bones edited by Kate Temple, Jol Temple & Oliver Phommavanh
• How to Make a Movie in 12 Days by Fiona Hardy
• Real Pigeons Nest Hard by Andrew McDonald & Ben Wood
• The 117-Storey Treehouse by Andy Griffiths & Terry Denton
• The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Ugly Animals Sami Bayly
• Under the Stars by Lisa Harvey-Smith & Mel Matthews
• Young Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe
Children’s picture book of the year (ages 0-6)

Wide-Children_s-Picture-Book-of-the-Year-(ages-0-6)
• All of the Factors of Why I Love Tractors by Davina Bell & Jenny Løvlie
• Bluey: The Beach
• Kindness Makes Us Strong by Sophie Beer
• Lottie and Walter by Anna Walker
• Mr Chicken All Over Australia by Leigh Hobbs
• The Painted Ponies by Alison Lester
• The Tiny Star by Mem Fox & Freya Blackwood
• Tilly by Jane Godwin & Anna Walker
• Wilam by Andrew Kelly, Aunty Joy Murphy & Lisa Kennedy
Illustrated book of the year

wide-Illustrated-Book-of-the-Year
• Australia Modern: Architecture, Landscape & Design 1925–1975 by Hannah Lewi & Philip Goad
• Ben Quilty by Ben Quilty
• Finding the Heart of the Nation by Thomas Mayor
• Macquarie Atlas of Indigenous Australia: Second Edition Bill Arthur by Frances Morphy (eds.)
• Olive Cotton by Helen Ennis
• Step into Paradise by Jenny Kee & Linda Jackson
• The Lost Boys: The untold stories of the under-age soldiers who fought in the First World War by Paul Byrnes
• The Whole Fish Cookbook by Josh Niland
• Three Birds Renovations by Erin Cayless, Bonnie Hindmarsh & Lana Taylor
International book of the year

Wide-International-Book-International-Book-of-the-Year
• Catch and Kill by Ronan Farrow
• Fleishman is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner
• Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo
• Lanny by Max Porter
• The Dutch House by Ann Patchett
• The Testaments by Margaret Atwood
• Three Women by Lisa Taddeo
• Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
Small publishers’ adult book of the year

wide-Small-Publishers’-Adult-Book-of-the-Year_01
• Cosmic Chronicles by Fred Watson
• Feeding the Birds at Your Table: A guide for Australia by Darryl Jones
• Invented Lives by Andrea Goldsmith
• Kindred by Kirli Saunders
• Paris Savages by Katherine Johnson
• Sand Talk by Tyson Yunkaporta
• Split by Lee Kofman
• The White Girl by Tony Birch
Small publishers’ children’s book of the year

wide-Small-Publishers_-Children_s-Book-of-the-Year
• Baby Business by Jasmine Seymour
• Cooee Mittigar by Jasmine Seymour & Leanne Mulgo Watson
• Little Bird’s Day by Sally Morgan & Johnny Warrkatja Malibirr
• Love Your Body by Jessica Sanders & Carol Rossetti
• Lunch at 10 Pomegranate Street by Felicita Sala
• Sick Bay by Nova Weetman
• Summer Time by Hilary Bell & Antonia Pesenti
• You Can Change the World: The Kids’ Guide to a Better Planet by Lucy Bell
The Matt Richell award for new writer of the year

Wide-The-Matt-Richell-Award-for-New-Writer-of-the-Year
• Being Black ‘n Chicken, and Chips by Matt Okine
• Call Me Evie by J.P. Pomare
• It Sounded Better in My Head by Nina Kenwood
• Sand Talk by Tyson Yunkaporta
• The Prettiest Horse In The Glue Factory by Corey White
• The Whole Fish Cookbook by Josh Niland
• Troll Hunting by Ginger Gorman
• Your Own Kind of Girl by Clare Bowditch

Good luck to all the nominees – looks like an interesting list this year!

Books and Bites Book Bingo Published More than 100 Years Ago: The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

books and bites game card

The Secret Garden (synopsis below taken from the Penguin Random House website) was published in 1911, 109 years ago, so it works out well for the published more than 100 years ago square. The edition I have also has a door on the cover, so it could equally have fitted into that square – but I am hoping I will find something else to fill this square. I may even have stuff one my shelves.

the secret garden

What I liked about this one is that it was one of the first books I read alone – one of the first middle grade novels at least, and whilst there are phrases and ideas that people may not like these days – these sorts of scenes can open up discussions about the attitudes reflected a century ago rather than changing it or ignoring it, and hopefully, this is how we can start to talk about issues of racism, for example in the world today.

It has managed to slot in here by nine years, and into several other challenge categories about re-reads and one about a classic I didn’t read at school – which I interpreted as one I didn’t read to study at high school, so this one fits in nicely there as well. The friendship between Mary, Dickon and Colin was my favourite thing about this book – showing three children and celebrated friendship is refreshing when so many books focus on romantic love. It is fairly old, but the idea of a secret garden is something that will always spark imaginations of readers in years to come.

Below is the synopsis:

Synopsis: What little girl can turn a whole household upside down and breathe new life back into a strange, old manor? The wonderfully contrary, strong-willed, angry, misunderstood Mary Lennox.

Discover the favourite childhood classic
“People never like me and I never like people,” Mary thought.

When Mary Lennox is sent to Misselthwaite Manor to live with her uncle, everybody says she is the most disagreeable-looking child ever seen. It is true, too. Mary is pale, spoilt and quite contrary. But she is also horribly lonely. Then one day she hears about a garden in the grounds of the Manor that has been kept locked and hidden for years. And when a friendly robin helps Mary find the key, she discovers the most magical place anyone could imagine…