Aussie Kids: Meet Eve in the Outback by Raewyn Caisley and Karen Blair

meet eveTitle: Aussie Kids: Meet Eve in the Outback

Author: Raewyn Caisley and Karen Blair

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Puffin

Published: 31st March 2020

Format: Paperback

Pages: 64

Price: $12.99

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

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

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

Come on an adventure with Aussie Kids and meet Eve from Western Australia.

Hi! I’m Eve.
I live at a roadhouse in the Nullarbor. We don’t get many visitors. But today my cousin Will is coming. We’ll have so much fun!

~*~

The Aussie Kids series is a new and continuing series for this year, where each state and territory will be represented in a story about where they live. In Meet Eve in the Outback, readers take a journey to the Nullarbor in Western Australia, where they will meet Eve and her cousin Will for a day in the vast outback that covers much of our continent. Eve is excited to show Will and Nan around her outback home – to see the kangaroos, and the wildlife that calls the vast expanse home, to introduce them to the people she knows and to share her world with him.

Taking place over a single day, this story shows one of the ways  life is different for children, and compares it with cousin Will – who lives where dolphins play in the river.

Along the journey, Eve, Dad and Doug show Will how their farm works, what they do every day and tell him stories about their land and what is around it.

AWW2020

Each of these stories can be read alone, as each is its own contained story and is aimed at early readers aged five to eight years old, with simple, two-colour illustrations, short sentences and simple vocabulary that will make this series the ideal place to start growing confident readers, whilst teaching them language, and help them learn about Australia and diversity so they can go further and explore these themes in more challenging books as the years go on.

With thanks to Pengiun for sending me this and another in the series to review.

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.

CBCA Notables 2020

CBCA200205_NOTABLEBOOKS-WEBSITEBANNER

Every year, the Children’s Book Council of Australia chooses to award children’s books in the category a variety of honours and awards, including the Notable Books, Honour Books, and Book of the Year. Celebrating children’s books in Australia since 1946, the CBCA is a good award that gives attention to books for younger readers that might not always get the coverage that adult books do or highlight authors who may not be as well known. There are several past CBCA books I have read – I’d have to dig through all my books and reviews to find them all, but no doubt they have all won or been honoured because they are wonderful books and the Notables this year seem to have a diverse range of plots and authors for readers to explore. This post outlines the award, the categories and the Notable books that the judges will be choosing from this year. Having read some of them, I know it will be a tough call with so many good books out there.

Below are the key dates in the award announcements for 2020:

Announcement Dates:
Notables – announced the last Tuesday in February at 7pm AEDT
Short List – announced the last Tuesday in March at 12 noon AEDT
Winners and Honours – announced the third Friday in August at 12 noon AEST
The advocacy role played by the CBCA promotes the literary experience for children and assures the scope and vitality of Australian children’s books. The annual CBCA Book of the Year Awards affirm the quality of some of Australia’s most creative people and provide a boost to their capacity to devote time to their craft.
Established with the first awards in 1946, the annual CBCA Book of the Year Awards aim to:
• promote quality literature for young Australians;
• support and encourage a wide range of Australian writers and illustrators of children’s books and;
• celebrate contributions to Australian children’s literature.
Here are the award categories:
CATEGORIES
There are six categories in the CBCA Book of the Year Awards.
• CBCA Book of the Year: Older Readers
• CBCA Book of the Year: Younger Readers
• CBCA Book of the Year: Early Childhood
• CBCA Picture Book of the Year
• Eve Pownall Award
• CBCA Award for New Illustrator (previously the Crichton Award for New Illustrators administered by the CBCA Victorian Branch)

View the complete list of notables here: https://www.cbca.org.au/notables-2020

The Notable Books I have read are:

 

The Honeyman and The Hunter by Neil Grant
Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte
As Happy As Here by Jane Goodwin
Hapless Hero Henrie by Petra James
The Dog Runner by Bren MacDibble
The Glimme by Emily Rodda

The Notables I hope to read are:

Angel Mage by Garth Nix
Pirate Boy of Sydney Town by Jackie French
The Girl, the Dog and the Writer in Lucerne by Katrina Nannestad
The Secrets of Magnolia Moon by Edwina Wyatt, Illustrated by Katherine Quinn
Sick Bay by Nova Weetman

I’m sure there are others on the list that will interest me, but I shall have to do some investigations into the books to make my final decision. Some I already have and will be working my way through them. Bren MacDibble’s book is also on the Readings Children’s books short prize, and I am hoping to read each book on there and review it, and write about the prize in another post.

 

Withering-by-Sea (A Stella Montgomery Intrigue #1) by Judith Rossell

withering by seaTitle: Withering-by-Sea (A Stella Montgomery Intrigue #1)
Author: Judith Rossell
Genre: Fantasy, Historical Fiction
Publisher: ABC Books/HarperCollins Australia
Published: 19th August 2019 (First published 2014)
Format: Paperback
Pages: 272
Price: $16.99
Synopsis: WINNER ABIA BOOK OF THE YEAR FOR YOUNGER READERS
‘Fans of Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events will eat up Withering-by-Sea’
— Shelf Awareness
High on a cliff above the gloomy coastal town of Withering-by-Sea stands the Hotel Majestic. Inside the walls of the damp, dull hotel, eleven-year-old orphan Stella Montgomery leads a miserable life with her three dreadful Aunts.
But one night, Stella sees something she shouldn’t have … Something that will set in motion an adventure more terrifying and more wonderful than she could ever have hoped for …
Discover the gorgeously illustrated series that’s loved by tens of thousands of readers!

SERIES AWARDS
Withering-by-Sea (Book 1)
Winner — 2015 Indie Awards, Book of the Year: Children’s & YA
Winner — 2015 Australian Book Industry Awards, Book of the Year: Older Children
Winner — 2015 Davitt Awards
Honour Book — 2015 Children’s Book Council of Australia Awards
Shortlisted — 2015 Prime Minister’s Literary Awards
Shortlisted — 2014 Aurealis Awards
Shortlisted — 2017 Australian Book Design Awards
~*~

Orphan Stella Montgomery lives with her three aunts – Aunt Condolence, Aunt Deliverance and Aunt Temperance in an old hotel in Withering-by-Sea. She’s never known anything else but being expected to live up to what feels like their impossible standards. The novel starts with Stella exploring the conservatory of the hotel as the Amazon, when she meets Mr Filbert, a guest, who later passes something onto her to take care of, and from here, Stella’s adventure begins as she tries to discover what she has been given, and why someone is trying to take it away. Why did someone want Mr Filbert dead, and who did it? What is the secret that her aunts are keeping from her about her mother? Stella is encouraged to remain quiet, never ask questions and above all, become a polite young lady who will be an exemplary member of society.

But no matter how hard Stella tries, she cannot make the aunts happy – but why would she want to, when they’re always being horrid to her, and punishing her whenever they get a chance? It is when Stella meets Ben and Shadow that things start to change, and she is suddenly on the run, and trying to uncover a mystery. I love mysteries – all kinds of mysteries and there are many ways to write them for all age groups and readerships. With its fantasy setting, and magic infused mystery, it is a great way to introduce middle grade readers who enjoy mysteries to younger readers, and even as an adult reader, I found myself swept up by it and loved reading it. I cannot wait to get the next two books and find out what happens next with Stella and hope that we get to see Ben and Gert again, as well as several other characters who had an awesome role in the story. I’d love to see them appear again to help Stella or for Stella to help them. Also, it has an abundance of singing cats, and who doesn’t like singing cats?

AWW2020Stella’s adventure is filled with magic and danger – but not too much danger and is set in a time that evokes a Victorian sense of time and place, which contributes to the magical sense of this book and the characters that populate this novel. In a world where girls are trained to do certain things, and where they are expected to fall in line, characters like Stella and Gert flout the rules and turn the whole world upside down, proving that they are just as capable of the boys. There is a delightful twist at the end that has a fairytale feel to it, as does the whole novel, which makes it very exciting and interesting to see how various fairy tale tropes and characteristics have found their way into children’s literature today. Having won many awards, I can see why this book won them – and as it begins a series, it answers enough questions to wrap the first book up but at the same time, leaves enough unanswered that readers will want to read the next book to find out what happens and get those answers. There is at least one that I wonder if is going to be a thread throughout the series and will be revealed at the end.

Overall, I loved this book. It is probably one that I would have loved to have read as a kid, and it seems like many of the books and series I am discovering these days for middle grade are what I would have enjoyed. Australian authors are bringing out some brilliant middle grade books at the moment and I’m working on reading any that grab my attention. Looking forward to more about Stella!

Mermaid Holidays: The Reef Rescue by Delphine Davis and Adele K Thomas (Illustrator)

mermaid holidays 4.jpgTitle: Mermaid Holidays: The Reef Rescue

Author: Delphine Davis and Adele K Thomas (Illustrator)

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Penguin Random House

Published: 3rd December 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 128

Price: $9.99

Synopsis: Sign up for Sea Star Reef Summer Camp and join Olivia Ocean, Chloe Coral, Sophia Seashell and Willow Wave for another splashing adventure in MERMAID HOLIDAYS . . .

The mermaids are off on a summer camp adventure. Olivia can’t wait! She loves camping under the waves, eating sea cucumber sizzles and EXPLORING. But when the besties find themselves on the wrong side of the reef things start to go very, very wrong.

Buckle up for a rip-roaring reef rescue!

~*~

In the fourth Mermaid Holidays book, focused on Olivia Ocean, the four friends – Willow, Chloe, Sophia and Olivia are back for the summer holidays, and this time they’re off on a summer camp adventure under the sea, next to a reef. They are determined to have fun and adventures, and to look for a creature called the Dumbo octopus!

2019 Badge

But with an angry camp director leading the explorer activities, Olivia and her friends decide to head off on their own, to explore the reef. When they find themselves in the out of bounds area of the reef, lost, and not sure how to get back to camp, they must work together to get back to camp before anyone can notice they are gone!

This was the fourth, and I believe, final book in this series, and it is just as charming as its predecessors. Each mermaid is unique and the activities they choose at camp reflect what they all enjoy and have enjoyed individually and as a group in the previous three books.

This series celebrates friendship and girls doing what they like and enjoy without relying heavily on gender stereotypes, and can be enjoyed by all ages. It allows each character to be herself but also shows that not everything will always work out  – and working together is sometimes the best outcome for everyone.

A great series for younger readers who are starting to gain confidence reading alone, or to read with children learning to read, and enjoy the stories together.

 

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll, MinaLima Design (Illustrator)

alice in wonderlandTitle: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass

Author: Lewis Carroll, MinaLima Design (Illustrator)

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: HarperCollins Australia

Published: 21/10/2019

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 320

Price: $39.99

Synopsis: Lewis Carroll’s beloved classic stories are reimagined in this deluxe illustrated gift edition from the award-winning design studio behind the graphics for the Harry Potter film franchise, MinaLima-designed with stunning full colour artwork and several interactive features.

Originally published in 1865, Lewis Carroll’s exquisite Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass have remained revered classics for generations. The story of Alice, an inquisitive heroine who falls through a rabbit hole and into a whimsical world, has captured the hearts of readers of all ages. Perhaps the most popular female character in English literature, Alice is accompanied on her journey of trials and tribulations by the frantic White Rabbit, the demented and terrifying Queen of Hearts, the intriguing Mad Hatter, and many other eccentric characters.

Lewis Carroll’s beloved companion stories Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass are reinvented on one volume by the talented design firm MinaLima, whose fey drawings of some of Western literature’s most famous characters will delight and enthrall, In addition, they have created interactive features exclusive to this edition, including:

  • Alice with extendable legs and arms
  • The rabbit’s house which opens to reveal a giant Alice
  • The Cheshire cat with a pull tab that removes the cat and leaves the cat’s grin
  • A flamingo croquet club that swings to hit the hedgehog
  • A removable map of the Looking Glass world

This keepsake illustrated edition-the sixth book in Harper Design’s series of illustrated children’s classics-will be treasured by for years to come.

~*~

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass have been enjoyed by readers all over the world since their publication in 1865 and 1871 respectively, and began what is now known as the Golden Age of Children’s Literature, where books for children moved away from didactic religious and educational tracts, and into a world of fantasy and imagination, of nonsense and fairies, and characters who did the most unimaginable things as they moved between the real world and worlds of fantasy and imagination, doing things they’d never have done prior to Alice entering the world.

Originally, the first time Alice was published, Sir John Tenniel illustrated the books, and these will always be my favourite illustrations for this book – so far, no others have come close. These are the ones cemented in my imagination. However, the MinaLima Design book is exquisite and fun – its interactivity and bright colours make the story just as engaging as the Tenniel illustrations and for me, come a very close second in my favourite depictions of Alice. Whilst there is a whimsy in the Tenniel ones, these ones have a bigger sense of the nonsensical aspect of Wonderland, and what it brings to the world of children’s literature.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass are two books that have been loved for over a hundred years, never out of publication, and loved for many reasons. It is their nonsensical nature that is appealing, as it draws the reader into a world where anything can happen, and where nothing makes sense, even as Alice tries to make sense of it. Things get more and more ridiculous as time passes, and as she meets each character from the Cheshire Cat to the Mad Hatter and the chess game in Through the Looking Glass.

Where most editions have standard illustrations – either in black and white or colour, depending on who the illustrator or illustrators are – this edition has colourful illustrations on each page, as well as interactive elements – a growing Alice, maps, a Humpty Dumpty that can be revealed by sliding a tab, and many more that make reading this edition a bigger adventure than reading any other edition. It makes it fun, and I admit that I did savour this edition for this reason – so I could enjoy every aspect of it, whereas reading my original Tenniel illustrated one would be devoured within a couple of days.

This is perfect for all ages – to be read to, or read alone, and to share with people of all ages this Christmas and beyond. This is a story that has a special place in the history and creation of the world of Children’s Literature, and is one I could probably write an essay on. I loved this edition and these MinaLima editions are beautiful.

 

The Christmasaurus and the Winter Witch by Tom Fletcher

christmasaurus winter witch.jpgTitle: The Christmasaurus and the Winter Witch

Author: Tom Fletcher

Genre: Fantasy/Christmas

Publisher: Puffin

Published: 15th October 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 368

Price: $24.99

Synopsis: The magical new story from bestselling author of The Christmasaurus and The Creakers, Tom Fletcher.

‘She is the best-kept Christmas secret of all,’ whispered Santa Claus. ‘Which is surprising, because Christmas itself would not exist without her. She is older than time itself, yet still as young as tomorrow. She is known only as the Winter Witch.’

One year has passed since William Trundle’s incredible adventure with the most extraordinary dinosaur: the Christmasaurus. Now, William is swept back to the magical North Pole, where he meets the mysterious, icy Winter Witch – whose power to control time allows Santa Claus to make the long journey all around the world every Christmas Eve. And when they learn that the fate of Christmas itself hangs in the balance, William and the Christmasaurus must work with the Winter Witch to protect it . . .

Full of magic and music, humour and heart, and a friendship like no other, The Christmasaurus and the Winter Witch is the most enchanting Christmas read for the whole family.

~*~

Christmas stories are always fun, and I love discovering new ones, and reading them, as well as the classics like A Christmas Carol and The Nutcracker during December if I can to get in the mood for Christmas as we decorate and bake for Christmas, and listen to the music and watch the movies and sometimes, the Christmas episodes of my favourite shows. I’ve not yet read the book that introduces the Christmasaurus, but I have added it to my list, as I feel it would be interesting and fun to read.

This is the second book, and starts when William, his father, Bob, stepmother, Pamela and stepsister, Brenda, are starting their Christmas break, and getting into the Christmas spirit completely – from what they wear, to what they bake and many traditions that Bob and William have enjoyed over the years. What is different this year, is that they are taken up to the North Pole to see Santa and the Christmasaurus.

Here, William is given a special bean and a wish as gifts – and he decides to save them for something special, until he notices the bean has disappeared when they arrive home, after Brenda has to go to her father. What happens next threatens Christmas’ very existence – and it is up to William and Christmasaurus to find a way to save Christmas, with the help of the Winter Witch, and ensure everyone goes on believing.

There are many things I love about this book. First, CHRISTMAS! Christmas stories are delightful, cheery and make readers feel good and bring joy to the holiday and show that there is more to it than what we are led to believe. Each story has its own magic and mythology that imbibes Christmas with its very magic and joy that we should all be able to experience with those we love. Second, the main character is disabled! This may not seem important to some readers, but for wheelchair users or who use mobility devices or are limited in some way due to a disability, this is fantastic! William is able to do things in his wheelchair, his family and Christmasaurus adapt for him so he isn’t left out and most importantly, he’s just disabled. I haven’t read the first book, but I want to so I can see how Will does things in that book as a wheelchair user, and the other challenges he faces, which are not shied away from here, but also, I felt, not dealt with as impossible. Nothing big is made of it, he just is. He’s his own person, not an object of pity, or passively treated character as some disabled characters are. And he is allowed to be disabled. This is fabulous – it shows that disabled kids and adults can be and do things like everyone else. We just have to find a different way to do it.

Third – a new take on Christmas with Christmasaurus. Combining dinosaurs and Christmas is a wonderful idea, and very creative. I loved that William and his father were so welcoming to Brenda and her mother, and that they wanted Brenda to stay for their family Christmas. Mostly, I just like a good story and this one had so many elements that worked for me and was so funny that I just gobbled it up and loved the way it incorporated lines and references from songs sung or played around Christmastime. And the Winter Witch’s role in Christmas – that was a new, and unique take on it and seeing how it all worked was a lot of fun in the end, and I hope kids and other readers find this book entertaining and wonderful as well.

A good book to read in the lead up to Christmas or at Christmas, or even as a Christmas gift from Christmasaurus himself. I recommend this for all ages!