The Butterfly in Amber (Chain of Charms #6) by Kate Forsyth

the butterfly in amber.jpgTitle: The Butterfly in Amber (Chain of Charms #6)

Author: Kate Forsyth

Genre: Historical Fiction/Children’s Fiction

Publisher: Pan MacMillan

Published:

Format: 1st July 2008

Pages: 266

Price: $9.99

Synopsis: Life is always hard for the gypsies, who live to their own rhythm and their own rules, but since Oliver Cromwell had seized control of England, life had been harder – and drabber – than ever. But now life for the Finch tribe has gone even more horribly wrong. They have been accused of vagrancy and murder, and thrown into gaol with only three weeks to live. The only members of the family to escape are 13-year-old Emilia and her cousin Luka. They have been entrusted to find the six charms and bring them together again. Then, perhaps, the gypsies could once again have some luck… And the Finch tribe could walk free. What Emilia and Luka do not realise is that there is a price to be paid for each lucky charm, and that the cost may prove too high…

28th August – 3rd September, 1658:
Luka and Emilia travel to London to find the last of the Graylings tribe, who has married a Puritan lawyer and turned her back on her past. As well as all the perils of the capital city, the children must escape the vengeful Coldham, and still get to Kingston-Upon-Thames in time to rescue their families. But then, on the anniversary of his greatest victory, the Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell is mysteriously stricken down… Will everything change? And can the children save their family in time?

The thrilling conclusion to the Chain of Charms series.

Winner of the Aurealis Award for Best Children’s Long Fiction 2007

~*~

AWW-2018-badge-roseThe Butterfly in Amber marks the finale of The Chain of Charms series, and it reaches its climax as Luka and Emilia reach London, the capital and the heart of Parliament, and where Cromwell is destined to die within days of them arriving. As they set foot in London, they are pursued by Coldham, and arrive at the home of the Countess of Dysart, whose loyalties are uncertain until she agrees to shelter the children as they make their way through London, searching for the last member of the Grayling family, who has married a Puritan lawyer, turning away from her past. Here, they will meet family they never knew they had, be reunited with a friend from the past, and have to continue to try and evade Coldham as Cromwell is struck down on the anniversary of his greatest victory – all things Emilia has seen as they travelled across the country. With the charms reunited at last, can Emilia and Luka save their family in time?Kate_Forsyth

In the final instalment, Luka and Emilia, now in London, must use all their luck and abilities to evade Coldham, the Roundheads and pickpockets – as they seek to reunite the charms, save their family and meet up with the rest of the traveller families that they have encountered on their quest for the charms. As they venture onwards, sacrifices must be made – and they are always on watch, in case they fall into the wrong hands. Fate will bring an old ally to them and set forth a series of events that culminate in the finale of their quest, and the resolution written down in history about the end of Cromwell’s reign and the return of peace to England.

Kate Forsyth’s series  finale is as exciting and engaging as the previous five books, and brings together all the threads of story, plot and characters that have been popping in and out since the beginning of the story. I read it in two nights, eager to see what happened and how it was all resolved, and was caught up in the history, adventure and magic faced by Emilia and Luka on their perilous journey to find the charms and reunite them to save their family. She combines magic and history to create a believable  and inspiring world, where there are good characters, like Emilia and Luka, the evil characters such as Coldham, and the characters who, at great risk to their own safety and lives, help Emilia and Luka such as Tom Whitehorse, Countess Dysart and the many others who sheltered Emilia and Luka, and helped them get away from Coldham and find the charms on their journey.

I had so many favourite characters, especially the crew from the previous two books that included the Royalist Duke, a highwayman, Tom Whitehorse, and a Catholic Priest, whose company kept them alive and showed that people from all walks of life wanted to end Cromwell’s rule and were willing to do whatever they could to achieve it – including the Catholic Underground helping Luka and Emilia, proving the complexity of issues in the world can be seen from many angles, and is dealt with exceptionally well in children’s books.

I have now completed my read of this series, and thoroughly enjoyed it as I have all the other Kate Forsyth books I have read. Onto the next adventures!

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Book Bingo 13 – a book with non-human characters

Book bingo take 2

Book bingo Saturday again – round two, post thirteen of the year for the challenge. To mark off the non-human characters square, I have gone to a book I wrote a quiz for as part of my quiz writer job with Scholastic that fits the category of a book with non-human characters:

A book with non-human characters: A Home for Molly by Holly Webb, Beast World by George Ivanoff

Book bingo take 2 .jpg

A Home for MollyA Home for Molly is about a young puppy called Molly – who has been left behind at a beachside town by her owners and forgotten. She befriends two girls – Anya and Rachel, ad plays with them on the beach. When it comes time to go home, each girl leaves with her family, thinking that Molly belongs to the other. Molly’s search for a home, and Anya and Rachel try and help her – before their holidays end and they have to go home. Neither wants to leave Molly alone, but who does she belong to – or will she find a new home with Anya or Rachel?Beast world

A home for Molly is a sweet story, with a sweet ending and fits this category quite well. Molly’s perspective of her world is charmingly written, and I felt as small as Molly did when trying to navigate her world. Molly is an adorable character, and though the story is also about Anya and her desire for a dog and to help Molly, it fits into the category of non-human character quite nicely.

Of the many books I have read, this was always the category I knew I wasn’t sure how I would fill. Animals – I had a few ideas here, such as Paddington, Animal Farm, and a few that had peripheral animal characters. Other options would have been aliens, cyborgs or robots – I received one by George Ivanoff called Beast World that also fits into this category – which is a steampunk London ruled by animals in a world where humans are extinct, which is accessed through a portal and is part of a series – which I have also been writing quizzes for and hope to write on the last two books in the series which came out recently.

I chose these two books because animals were front and centre, and main characters the reader sees the story through rather than a peripheral character who are often seen through the lens of the human characters. Whilst these two books are not by Australian Women Writers, there are many others that will be. I’m not sure how I will fill some squares the second time around, but by ticking off what I can first, hopefully I will manage to wokr out the trickier ones.

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Grandpa, Me and Poetry by Sally Morgan, Illustrated by Craig Smith

grandpa me poetry.jpgTitle: Grandpa, Me and Poetry

Author: Sally Morgan, illustrated by Craig Smith

Genre: Children’s Fiction

Publisher: Omnibus/Scholastic

Published: 1st May, 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 52

Price: $9.99

Synopsis: Melly likes poems that rhyme with words like frog, bog, doggedy-dog.

And when the school holds a poetry competition, Melly has her eye on the prize, with a little bit of inspiration from Grandpa.

~*~

One of Melly Wilson’s favourite things is poetry, and her favourite person is her grandfather. While Melly is at school, Grandpa is in hospital, and she is learning about poetry – which is something that connects her with Grandpa. Together, they come up with rhymes, and poems that don’t rhyme for school. When a poetry competition is announced, Melly is excited: she loves words that rhyme and wants to write a poem that will stun her teacher and win the competition, and perhaps she will – with some inspiration from Grandpa.

I was sent this book by Scholastic as part of a quiz writing program and decided to also review it here.

AWW-2018-badge-roseGrandpa, Me and Poetry is about Melly, who enjoys poetry – but only if it has sounds, beats and repeats – and if it rhymes. She doesn’t like poems that don’t rhyme, but her teacher does. Melly is a cute character, and the book is told from her perspective, as she worries about her Grandpa, who is in hospital, her Mum and writing the perfect poem to please her teacher and win a prize at Family Day at school. But will Melly have her family there?

It is a story about a family, told from the perspective of the daughter and her love of poetry, and how she uses it to express herself at an uncertain time, with a nice resolution at the end of the story that brings a smile to the face of readers.

As well as being cute, it was also funny. Melly’s rhymes were a highlight and will delight readers as they read it and enjoy the sense of rhyming and rhythm that Melly enjoys too. From her cheeky rhymes in class, to her poem that doesn’t rhyme, and her final poem about her Grandpa, Melly’s poetic journey is funny, cute, and enjoyable. and has a great main character, who is full of life but also, shows that everyone has worries and obstacles that they need to overcome.

A great book for children starting to read chapter books and novels, or for reluctant readers, and also a great book to learn to read with, this is a highly enjoyable book for all ages from one of Australia’s fabulous Indigenous authors.

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Monty the Sad Puppy by Holly Webb

monty the sad puppy.jpgTitle: Monty the Sad Puppy

Author: Holly Webb, illustrated by Sophy Williams.

Genre: Animal Stories, Children’s Fiction

Publisher: Scholastic

Published: 12th January 2017

Format: Paperback

Pages: 126

Price: $15.98

Synopsis:Is going from no dogs to two dogs as perfect as it sounds? Amelie has always wanted a dog, but she never dreamed she’d end up with TWO! First, her family adopt cuddly little puppy Monty. But almost right away, another furry friend needs their help. Grandad is going into a care home, so his beloved dachshund Daisy has to come and live with them. Amelie can’t wait – but when Daisy arrives, she’s unhappy and scared. Meanwhile, poor little Monty has no idea what’s going on. Who is this strange new arrival? Why is everyone fussing over her? Doesn’t Amelie care about him anymore?

Blurb on book: Amelie has only had her gorgeous puppy Monty for a few months when her grandad falls ill He desperately needs someone to look after his beloved dachshund Daisy so Mum and Dad agree to give her a home. Amelie promises Grandad she will look after Daisy brilliantly.

But when Daisy arrives, she is unhappy and scared. Meanwhile, Monty doesn’t understand why Amelie is making such a fuss of the new arrival. Doesn’t Amelie love him anymore?

~*~

Monty’s life as a puppy is perfect – at five months old, he’s full of bounce and energy, and a strength he is unaware of. The little black Labrador loves to play with Amelie and her brother, Josh, and go on walks. But when Grandad’s dog, Daisy, comes to live with them, Monty is confused and sad because Amelie spends a lot of time with Daisy, and seems to be cross with him all the time. Monty is left wondering if Amelie still loves him, and whether he should run away or stay at home.

This was the second book I wrote a quiz for, and that I am also reviewing here. Monty the Sad Puppy is aimed at seven to nine year olds, and is a book they can progress to reading confidently on their own. It is a cute story, that explores responsibility for pets and within a family, where Amelie and Josh are given the job of taking care of Monty and Daisy, along with school, homework and football/soccer training. I enjoyed this charming little story as it followed Monty and his owners, and how they came to have two dogs. Monty was a very  cute character and seeing the world through the eyes of a puppy was fun to do.

I fell in love with Monty when I read this, and wanted to give him lots of hugs when he was sad. Holly Webb has written a delightful story that can be enjoyed by many, either read by themselves or read to them, and I hope other readers get as much enjoyment out of it as I did.

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Spinning Tops & Gum Drops: A Portrait of Colonial Childhood

spinning tops.jpgTitle: Spinning Tops & Gum Drops: A Portrait of Colonial Childhood

Author: Edwin Barnard

Genre: Australian History

Publisher: NLA Publishing

Published: 1st March 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 192

Price: $44.99

Synopsis: Spinning Tops and Gumdrops’ takes us back to childhood in colonial Australia. The delight of children at play is universal, but the pleasure these children experience as depicted through the book’s photographs is through their ‘imagination, skill and daring’ rather than through possessions. Children play quoits and jacks, hide and seek, cricket with a kerosene tin for a wicket, dress ups and charades. They climb trees, run races, and build rafts to sail on the local waterhole. The photographs show children happily absorbed in the play of their own making.

Being a child in colonial Australia was also tough. It was a time when school yard disagreements were sorted out with fists and ‘the loss of a little claret’. A time when children could view public hangings and premature death was frequent, especially taking the very young and vulnerable though dysentery, whooping cough or diphtheria.

The lasting impression left by the contemporary accounts, photographs, etchings and paintings of colonial children in ‘Spinning Tops and Gumdrops’ is their possession of qualities of resilience, self-sufficiency and acceptance of their lot. Perhaps it was through lack of choice, or of knowing no other. Nevertheless, these were qualities that put them in good stead for the challenges many faced in their adulthood. Interestingly, these are qualities on which contemporary society still places a high value, but which today seem a little more elusive.

~*~

What was it like to be a child during colonial times? The first 212 years of Australia after colonisation was a tough time to be a child in the nation. Dangers abounded, and the presence of convicts and bushrangers was interesting and fraught with danger on the outside, should a child survive the many illnesses that have since been eradicated, or had treatments found, such as diphtheria, whooping cough and dysentery, which often robbed young children, and babies of their lives. It was also a time when children worked just as hard as adults on family farms or as domestic servants or apprentices. It was a hard life – no labour laws like we have today, and compulsory education only lasted until early teens. It would appear that they all had the chance to learn the same core subjects, but with extra emphasis on domestically geared tasks such as needlework, and home making for girls.

The pictorial history shows children at work, at play, and at home or school, interspersed with prose about the lives they led, and the disparity of class, and testimonials from children in factories illustrate the neglect, and awful working conditions they endured, and at times, the lack of education, nutrition and familial expectations of these young children – some no more than eight – to contribute financially to the family. It was a vastly different time then, compared to now where children go to school, and there are laws in place to protect them from neglect. The stark difference shows the differing attitudes towards childhood, and the different expectations for the time.

With over 260 images, many of unidentified children, this book gives an aspect of Australian history not often explored, a voice and pictures. It shows a reality that the current younger generations have never had to face and hopefully, will never have to face. It is a social history, that positions ideas of childhood within a society that differs vastly from our own, and where things we see as disagreeable today were accepted. As someone with an interest in history. this opened up the colonial Australia I learnt about at school, and put some humanity, and feeling into the facts that came in text books. A great addition to any history collection.

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The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

war saved life.jpgTitle: The War that Saved My Life

Author: Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Genre: Historical Fiction, Children’s and YA

Publisher: Text Publishing

Published: 16th May 2016

Format: Paperback

Pages: 336

Price: $16.99

Synopsis: · Winner, Newbery Honor Book, United States, 2016 

  • Winner, Schneider Family Book Award, United States, 2016 
  • Shortlisted, West Australian Young Readers’ Book Award, 2017

An exceptionally moving story of triumph against all odds, set during World War II.

Nine-year-old Ada has never left her one-room flat. Her mother is too humiliated by Ada’s twisted foot to let her outside. So when her little brother Jamie is shipped out of London to escape the war, Ada doesn’t waste a minute—she sneaks out to join him.

So begins a new adventure for Ada, and for Miss Susan Smith, the woman who is forced to take in the two children. As Ada teaches herself to ride a pony, learns to read, and watches for German spies, she begins to trust Susan—and Susan begins to love Ada and Jamie. But in the end, will their bond be enough to hold them together through wartime? Or will Ada and her brother fall back into the cruel hands of their mother?

This masterful work of historical fiction is equal parts adventure and a moving tale of family and identity—a classic in the making.

~*~

For nine years, Ada has lived in a tiny, one room flat with her mother and younger brother, Jamie, in London. For years she has been confined in this dreary place because of a birth deformity – clubfoot. She receives little care and love from her mother, and all her affection comes from her younger brother, whom she has raised. When war is announced in 1939, all the children of London are evacuated to less populous areas to save them from being bombed by the Germans. For Ada, this is her chance to leave home for good, to escape the horrors of her young life and get out of the dim home she lives in. On her bad foot, she hobbles towards the school, receiving assistance from Stephen White, a neighbour also being evacuated. Unaware of what the outside world is like, both on the journey and arrival in Kent, where they are placed with Susan Smith, and their lives begin to change. Jamie gets to go to school, Ada learns to ride, and they learn what it is to be kept safe, though throughout, Ada feels that there will always be something that will take them away, that this cannot last. The war is present, though never at the forefront of the book, just a threat that lingers as Ada fights her own war against everything her mother has told her she is and breaking down her own barriers to let people in, to learn to read and to find her place in the world. But can Ada’s sanctuary last?

The War that Saved My Life is more than a story of survival in war, it is survival of who Ada is and who she can become, survival of spirit and the land. It is a unique experience of war told through the eyes of a disabled child, who has always been the carer, and never cared for, fearful of a mother who has never loved or wanted her and struggling with a disability that she has been told can never been helped. In this story, there is a harsh reality shown of disability and the way it is seen and treated – the unwillingness of Ada’s mother to help or care for her versus Susan’s desire to keep Ada safe, wanting to help her and wanting to care for her, and the repercussions of nine years of being treated poorly, of being abused, set against the backdrop of a war that killed millions and wounded many more.

Each character has layers that need to be peeled back slowly, and they are. Even though Ada’s PTSD isn’t explained explicitly, it is shown in a way that readers can understand, and that people can relate to, giving people a character that they can see themselves in and representation of what they might have gone through or be feeling. The War that Saved My Life is told in first person format, through Ada’s eyes. The reader can feel and experience what she goes through: feeling trapped, feeling unable to articulate what she is feeling or find the right words, and the way her mind gives her conflicting messages, that she feels she cannot unravel properly.

It is more than a story about World War Two, it a story about the war that Ada fights within herself every day, trying to trust someone who cares for her after all she has been through. It is touching and shows the reality of Ada’s life with her mother. It shows the strength of love between siblings and the love that another can have for someone they aren’t related to.

In a story where the protagonist feels at war with herself and those around her constantly, she copes in the only way she knows how – detaching from a situation and letting herself go into her own world. She learns that there are many ways to love and care for people, and that sometimes, a lie to protect someone is okay, but lying to hurt and humiliate is not. With Susan, Ada learns that there are no absolutes in life, and that she can be helped, that her club foot can be fixed so she can at walk. Ada’s constant disbelief is coloured by the way Mam treated her for so long. It is a war that Ada is determined to win.

A touching story that can be read by all ages, The War that Saved My Life is deserving of the awards it has won and been nominated for. It is a book that shows a different side to the war, and will hopefully become a much-loved classic in years to come.

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Where’s Jane? – Find Jane Austen Hidden in Her Stories by Rebecca Smith and Katy Dockrill

wheres jane.jpgTitle: Where’s Jane? – Find Jane Austen Hidden in Her Stories.

Author: Rebecca Smith and Katy Dockrill

Genre: Children’s and Educational

Publisher: Allen and Unwin/Murdoch/Quarto UK

Published: 29TH January 2018

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 48

Price: $19.99

Synopsis: An introduction to the novels of Jane Austen with the main characters and elusive author hidden in ten beautifully illustrated scenes.

Can you find Jane Austen hidden in ten scenes from her beloved novels? This beautiful new book introduces young children to Austen’s intriguing Georgian and Regency-era world, filled with all the makings of the best stories – sparky humour, legendary showdowns, secrets, love and triumph. Children spot the main characters in ten major scenes from Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Emma, Persuasion, Northanger Abbey, and Mansfield Park. First read a snappy synopsis of the story, then explore key stages through a simple, illustrated narrative as you meet the main characters. Next absorb the wonderfully detailed illustrations as you search for the characters and the elusive author in the big and bustling main artworks. Katy Dockrill creates the fun and engaging scenes that house Jane’s immortal characters, from imperious Lady Catherine to timid Fanny Price, wicked Mr Wickham to sensible Elinor Dashwood, and proud Mr Darcy to feisty Elizabeth Bennet.
Getting to know them all will keep young readers enthralled for hours.

~*~

Where’s Jane? By Rebecca Smith and Katy Dockrill takes Jane Austen’s novels, and translates them into an accessible book and game for young children and readers of the novels. Including ten major scenes from each of Jane Austen’s novels – Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Emma, Persuasion and Northanger Abbey. Each summarises the book in the pages before the pictorial scenes, and gives a list of characters to look for on the page before – each scene has a different set from each book, and each scene also contains a pug, and Jane Austen – additional characters to be found amongst a host of many, in some of the best-known stories in English literature today.

The Georgian and Regency world of Jane Austen is full of traditions, and characters that are well known today. Her books are read by millions each yea, and this is a great way to introduce a younger audience to her work and these periods, inviting them to investigate literature beyond the modern stories available when they are ready. It is ideal for ages six-seven and older, as even teenagers and adults will get enjoyment out of this. Knowing some of the stories and characters helps complement this book and in turn, this book will complement a Jane Austen collection as well. A fun afternoon can be spent searching for Darcy, the Bennet family and other popular characters in a delightfully colourful way after or before reading the books by Jane Austen.

The author, Rebecca Smith, is Jane Austen’s five-times great-niece, and has also written other books linked to Jane Austen, including writing guide, The Jane Austen Writer’s Club, reviewed on this blog as well. Using her ancestor’s stories, and together with illustrator, Katy Dockrill, Rebecca has created a delightful new entry and portal into the world of Jane Austen that will delight fans, young and old. It is a nice addition to any library that includes books by and about Jane Austen.

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