Zombierella by Joseph Coelho and illustrated by Freya Hartas

Cover of Zombierella. Green cover with gold leaves and bigs, a black girl with curly hair in a leaf dress. She is standing between a ghost cat and ghost dog, and two headstones. One headstone reads Joseph Coelho and the other reads illustrated by Freya Hartas.

Title: Fairy Tales Gone Bad: Zombierella

Author: Joseph Coelho, illustrated by Freya Hartas

Genre: Fantasy, Humour

Publisher: Walker Books

Published: 2nd September 2020

Format: Paperback

Pages: 192

Price: $18.99

Synopsis: The first in a funny, deliciously dark, three-part series of twisted classics, written in verse by award-winning poet Joseph Coelho and illustrated by Freya Hartas.

A yellow moon hangs in a satin sky the night Cinderella, barefoot and in hand-me-downs, slips at the top of the stairs … and dies. But not for long. The Shadow of Death arrives to breathe life back into her bones and, for three nights only, Cinderella goes forth as ZOMBIERELLA. With her skin as cold as ice and her faithful horse Lumpkin back by her side, can she seek revenge on her three cruel, fake sisters, once and for all? Crawl out of the grave and step into your mushroom carriage for this haunting and humorous adventure of the undead girl searching for her happily ever after.

  • This is Joseph Coelho’s debut middle-grade novel.
  • Joseph Coelho won the 2015 CLPE Children’s Poetry Award, is the presenter of BBC’s Teach Poetry and features in Discovery Education’s Poetry Curriculum.
  • Freya Hartas illustrated the 2012 Roald Dahl Funny Prize-winning book, Dark Lord: Teenage Years.

~*~

Fairy tales have always been retold, from the days they were oral tales, to when they were first recorded by collectors such as Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, to contemporary retellings in literature – Kate Forsyth, Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes, and many others, or in television and film, such as the television show Once Upon A Time. Each retelling brings something new to the stories that we have all grown up with in some way.

Cinderella is one of the most well-known fairy tales, that has many traditional iterations, and is also the subject of manty retellings over the years. The most recent one that I have come across is Zombierella, the first in a three-part series by Joseph Coelho, turning fairy tales on their heads completely, and calling the series Fairy Tales Gone Bad.

The essence of the Cinderella tale, a young girl living with her evil stepfamily, is here, but with a difference: Cindrella does not meet her fairy godmother, she meets the Shadow of Death. In the traditional tale, Cinderella has three nights as a zombie to charm the visiting prince, who is hiding a secret of his own, and get revenge on her fake family? Will she find a happily ever after?

This hilarious book is told in verses, some that rhyme, and some that don’t. It uses the traditions of fairy tales and the grotesque of children’s literature by authors like Roald Dahl (though not quite as over the top as Dahl), and creates a fun adventure that is diverse, unique and traditional at the same time. Joseph and Freya have created a beautifully diverse tale, marrying their prose and illustrations seamlessly. Freya’s illustrations enhance Joseph’s story and give new life to the Cinderella fairy tale.

Bringing in zombies gives a new angle to this old story, and the execution is exquisitely done, ensuring that all readers, no matter their age, will be wholly engaged and entertained as they read. It is also the kind of book that can be savoured, or devoured. I read it in one sitting and found it a wonderful example of reception studies and the act of retelling traditional or classic tales and stories. The beauty of these tales is that they can be interpreted in a variety of ways, and for a myriad of audiences. This new series is one of those examples of how well it works, and the power of illustrating diversity and its role in literature and popular culture.

I’m looking forward to what comes next – there are so many fairy tales to play with, and so many avenues to go down – so many possibilities! I love fairy tales and the retellings – each retelling brings something new to the tale and tradition of fairy tales. Will there be a happy ending for Zombierella? You’ll just have to read and find out!

An excellent middle grade book that all ages can enjoy.

Wizards of Once by Cressida Cowell

wizards of onceTitle: Wizards of Once

Author: Cressida Cowell

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Hachette/Hodder Children’s Books

Published: 8th May 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 455

Price: $15.99

Synopsis: From the bestselling author of HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON comes an exciting high-adventure series – set in an ancient, magical time, full of Wizards, Warriors, Giants and Sprites.

#1 Sunday Times Bestseller Winner of the Blue Peter Book Award

This is the story of a young boy Wizard and a young girl Warrior who have been taught since birth to hate each other like poison; and the thrilling tale of what happens when their two worlds collide.

Perfect for boys and girls who love fantasy adventure…

Once there was Magic, and the Magic lived in the dark forests. Until the Warriors came…

Xar is a Wizard boy who has no Magic and will do anything to get it. Wish is a Warrior girl, but she owns a banned Magical Object, and she will do anything to conceal it.

In this whirlwind adventure, Xar and Wish must forget their differences if they’re going to make it to the dungeons at Warrior Fort.

Where something that has been sleeping for hundreds of years is stirring…

~*~

Wish is a Warrior, and she owns a banned Magical Object. She’s out riding with her bodyguard, Bodkin, when she meets Xar, a Wizard boy without magic, beyond the age when magic usually comes in. Xar and Wish clash as they argue about who is superior in a fantasy land that mirrors the British Isles before they were known as such, according to the Unknown Narrator, who intrudes into the story with commentary every now and then, breaking the fourth wall in a very clever and entertaining way.

Xar and Wish forget their differences quickly when one of Xar’s sprites, Squeezjoos, is infected with Witch-blood. But saving Squeezjoos will be a challenge. Should they succeed in their quest to get into the dungeons of the Warrior fort, they could unlock a dangerous enemy that nobody wants to face.

I picked up this series because Hachette sent me the fourth and final book to review. That book is out at the end of the month, and I decided to read the whole series and have fun with it. I was absolutely hooked from the first page and devoured the first book within two days. I loved the alternating chapters that moved seamlessly back and forth when necessary, so we understood everything that was happening and how it fitted together.

This is one of those unique novels and series that is funny, serious and magical at the same time. It draws you into its world and invites you to experience every aspect through Xar and Wish, Cressida’s fabulous and evocative prose and her delightful, fun and joyful illustrations that contribute wonderfully to the story. I am setting out to read all four back-to-back during the next few weeks.

As the Unknown Narrator says, this is a world set in the British Isles, long before this name was used, feeding into the delicious fantasy world that Cressida Cowell has built, and that cleverly leads into the second book, which I am about to start reading. This looks to be a promising and clever series, drawing on tropes and common themes within fantasy, and giving them a twist that will entertain and capture the imaginations of readers of all ages.

The Wolves of Greycoat Hall by Lucinda Gifford

the-wolves-of-greycoat-hallTitle: The Wolves of Greycoat Hall

Author: Lucinda Gifford

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Walker Books Australia

Published: 2nd September 2020

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 224

Price: $19.99

Synopsis: A deliciously funny tale, with equally amusing illustrations, about being judged for what, rather than who, you are.

When Boris and his parents learn that Scotland is re-introducing wolves, they leave their mansion in Morovia for their Scottish homeland. But these wolves aren’t planning to settle in the wild, oh no! Instead, they book into the exclusive Highland Hotel, from where they plan to enjoy Scotland’s best tourist spots and cuisine. But is Scotland ready for holidaying wolves? Especially such hungry ones? And why are certain people so unhappy to see them? From spooky dungeons to scheming developers, the Greycoats’ new adventure is full of surprising discoveries.

  • A deliciously funny tale, packed with amusing illustrations, about being judged for what, rather than who you are.
  • The lively, heavily-illustrated text will appeal to fans of Alex T. Smith (Claude series) and Chris Riddell – making this a must-read junior fiction novel, with engaging pictures and jokes for all ages.
  • Important theme: At its heart, this is a story about our very refined wolves being judged for what they are, rather than who they are.

~*~

What happens when Scotland decides they want to reintroduce wolves? The Greycoats of Morovia find out and they plan to head off on a new adventure, where they will make new friends and where the humans of Portlessie  welcome the wolves amidst a fight against a developer, who wants to turn a local castle into an exclusive resort, cutting the residents off from their beloved beach.

AWW2020

Boris and his parents, Leonora and Randall, soon find themselves embroiled in a fight for Drommuir Castle, and a fight to be accepted. Some people in Scotland barely bat an eyelid at the presence of the Greycoat family, in a delightful reminiscence of Paddington Bear, whose presence as a bear in London is delightfully accepted and never questioned as well. There are those determined though, to see the wolves driven from Portlessie, especially when Boris starts digging around in the history of the town and castle, both of which are linked to his family.

The story is lavishly illustrated by Lucinda, whose words and images work together in an energetic and immersive way, pulling readers into the story and into Scotland, a world of thistle and tartan, bannocks and Scottish tablet.

Boris and his family face discrimination on their trip to Scotland, and this forms the crux of the novel. It is a story about acceptance, and not judging based on one’s appearance, but the content of character, and accepting people for who they are and how they identify, especially geared towards readers aged seven and older.  It is a powerful story about community, and pulling together to resolve conflict, and find a way to defeat the big wigs who are always trying to take advantage of the society and destroy what is most precious to them.

This story appealed to me because of its setting first, and the idea of wolves s the characters, which made it unique. History-loving Boris shows children that being true to yourself, being a good person and standing up for what you believe in are all very powerful characteristics to have. He also makes history cool, and I am currently loving this wave of characters who are promoting a love of words, books and history, rather than making these characters seem like they must change to suit popular ideas.

The Wolves of Greycoat Hall is a delightful novel that works exquisitely as a stand-alone novel and brings wolves and Scotland to life in an imaginative and beautiful way that allows readers to immerse themselves in a world that is real and fantastical at the same time. Confident readers will enjoy this book, and the ending will leave you wanting more from the Greycoats and their adventures.

 

The Mermaid, the Witch and the Sea by Maggie Tokuda-Hall

mermaid witch seaTitle: The Mermaid, the Witch and the Sea

Author: Maggie Tokuda-Hall

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Walker Books

Published:    2nd September 2020

Format: Paperback

Pages: 416

Price: $18.99

Synopsis: In a world divided by colonialism and threaded with magic, a desperate orphan turned pirate and a rebellious imperial lady find a connection on the high seas.

Aboard the pirate ship Dove, Flora the girl takes on the identity of Florian the man to earn the respect and protection of the crew. For Flora, former starving urchin, the brutal life of a pirate is about survival: don’t trust, don’t stick out, and don’t feel. But on this voyage, Flora is drawn to the Lady Evelyn Hasegawa, who is headed to an arranged marriage she dreads. Flora doesn’t expect to be taken under Evelyn’s wing, and Evelyn doesn’t expect to find such a deep bond with the pirate Florian. Neither expects to fall in love. Soon the unlikely pair set in motion a wild escape that will free a captured mermaid (coveted for her blood) and involve the mysterious Pirate Supreme, an opportunistic witch, double agents, and the all-encompassing Sea herself. Deftly entwining swashbuckling action and quiet magic, Maggie Tokuda-Hall’s inventive debut novel conjures a diverse cast of characters seeking mastery over their fates while searching for answers to big questions about identity, power, and love.

  • Former bookseller Maggie Tokuda-Hall’s first full-length novel, an adventure-packed fantasy which we won rights to in a pre-empt
  • Gender identity is also a theme throughout the novel, which features a romance between nobility-born Evelyn and trans orphan Flora/Florian, two strong queer protagonists
  • Gender identity and gender roles/sexual mores in society are major themes throughout the novel, which features notes of Asian folklore and culture threaded through and alongside the fantastical, adventurous, action-packed plot line

~*~

An adventure set on the high seas of a fantasy world that melds Japanese stories and culture with the traditional British fantasy, paying homage to both and the tropes, characters and creatures that inform a fantasy world. The Mermaid, the Witch and the Sea pulls cultures together to create an imagined world filled with diversity.

Lady Evelyn Hasegawa, an Imperial, is travelling on the Dove to an arranged marriage. She is attended by Flora, whom she knows as Florian, during the voyage. All seems well. Until the crew reveals their true nature, and takes the passengers hostages, and the true nature of the Dove as a pirate ship is revealed.

Told in alternating chapters between Evelyn and Florian, through their eyes, The Mermaid, the Witch and the Sea also tells a story of magic and the vibrancy of the sea and her children, the mermaids. When Evelyn and Flora/Florian discover what the pirates are doing with the mermaids they catch, the two are determined to help, and prevent the mermaid from meeting the same fate as so many others.

In this story, the sea and the mermaids are as much characters as Evelyn and Flora/Florian, whose lives intersect and become separate to move the story along, as each grows into their own identity together, and apart. There is romance, but the heart of the book is about identity and the breaking free of stereotypes to be true to yourself. Before Flora/Florian and Evelyn can embark on any kind of relationship, they must find out who they are apart, and this is where the power of this story was for me. It spoke to the need to be true to yourself, your culture, your identity–whatever it is that makes you, well, you and find a way to pull all these things together if you can. It is a book that celebrates being unique, and that celebrates not allowing expectations to rule your life.

Women and their lives and identities are at the heart of this novel. Their femininity, their individuality, their strength and ultimately, who they are and their place in the world. This powerful novel will have something for everyone, from exploration of gender identity, to a rollicking adventure filled with diverse characters, to some clever intrigue when it comes to the women characters, and the way the men seem to underestimate them and the surreptitious and subversive ways Evelyn, Flora and other characters show their true colours and abilities.

Aimed at teens aged fourteen and older, this book centres gender identity and gives people and the characters who might not have a voice one, and a chance to see themselves reflected in literature. This powerful story also shows the diversity of the world, and how a class system can determine your role in life, but also, people’s ability to go against this and determine their own fate.

August 2020 Wrap Up

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

Notable posts:

Isolation Publicity with Tanya Heaslip

Isolation Publicity with Caz Goodwin

Isolation Publicity with Angela Savage

Isolation Publicity with Jacqueline Harvey

Isolation Publicity with Candice Lemon-Scott

Isolation Publicity with Zana Fraillon

Literary Tourism: Travel in the time of COVID

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

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

August – 21

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

 

Claire McKenna Reading Challenge, AWW2020
Marshmallow Pie the Cat Superstar

 

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

 

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

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

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

Author: Sally Odgers and Christina Booth

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Puffin

Published: 1st September 2020

Format: Paperback

Pages: 64

Price: $12.99

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

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

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

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

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

~*~

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

AWW2020

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

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

A great addition to this series!

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

meet matildaTitle: Aussie Kids: Meet Matilda at the Festival

Author: Jacqueline de Rose-Ahern, and Tania McCartney

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Puffin

Published: 1st September 2020

Format: Paperback

Pages: 64

Price: $12.99

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

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

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

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

Hi! I’m Matilda!

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

~*~

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

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

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

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

A great addition to this series!

 

When the Ground is Hard by Malla Nunn

When the ground is hardTitle: When the Ground is Hard
Author: Malla Nunn
Genre: Crime/Mystery, Historical Fiction
Publisher: Allen and Unwin
Published: June 2019
Format: Paperback
Pages: 272
Price: $19.99
Synopsis: This CBCA short-listed book is a stunning and heartrending mystery set in a Swaziland boarding school about two girls of different castes who bond over a shared copy of Jane Eyre.
SHORTLISTED: CBCA 2020 Awards, Book of the Year, Older Readers

Adele loves being one of the popular girls at Keziah Christian Academy. She knows the upcoming semester at school will be great with her best friend Delia at her side. Then Delia dumps her for a new girl with more money, and Adele is forced to share a room with Lottie, the school pariah, who doesn’t pray and defies teachers’ orders.

As they share a copy of Jane Eyre, Lottie’s gruff exterior and honesty grow on Adele, and together they take on bullies and protect each other from the vindictive and prejudiced teachers. When a boy goes missing on campus, Adele and Lottie must work together to solve the mystery, in the process learning the true meaning of friendship.

A Children’s Book Council of Australia’s 2020 Notable Book, Highly Commended in the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards, winner of the 2019 Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection, winner of the Children’s Book Committee’s 2020 Josette Frank Award and shortlisted for the 2020 LA Times Book Prize for Young Adults.

~*~

In apartheid-era Swaziland, Adele Joubert and Lottie Diamond attend Keziah Christian Academy – a boarding school for mixed race students. These are the students who are somewhere in the middle of the racial and social rankings based on the apartheid system but are still separated from white and black communities based on the laws of the time. Adele has been part of the popular crowd. That is, until her slot in the pretties is taken by a richer girl. Adele is relegated to sharing a room with the poor student, Lottie Diamond, and Dead Lorraine’s room.

At first, Adele and Lottie struggle to get along, but find connection in books, specifically Jane Eyre, and a time when you can be cast out and bullied for the slightest difference. As Lottie and Adele’s friendship with each other, and fellow student, Darnell, grows, the two girls face bullies and tragedy together. They fight for their place to belong, and stand up against vindictive and at times, racist teachers.

AWW2020The disappearance of a fellow student brings them closer together, and they learn more about themselves, each other and their heritage than they ever knew, and Adele finds that she can be herself with Lottie. She doesn’t have to pretend like she had to with her former friends. Lottie is a true friend, and she guides Adele through a tricky few weeks as the two girls form a bond that ensures they will always have each other when they face the cruelties of their school, society and the Bosman family.

Set in the 1960s, this book is threaded with the undercurrents and impacts of
racism, oppression and apartheid in a world that isn’t accepting of difference, illustrated through the treatment of students based on wealth, how the Bosman family treats Keziah students through racism, and the power he thinks he should have over them. It is also shown through the teachers – the assumption that the American missionary teachers are better than those they work with, and how Adele is also treated differently to Lottie at times, based on wealth and preconceived ideas.

This book speaks to the heart and difficulties of South Africa and Swaziland under the rule of apartheid. The rules and laws are threaded throughout as Adele tells her story of the first few weeks of the new school year, and her experiences. Some are universal, and some are unique to her and her society. This is what makes the book powerful. The thrum of an African heart beats throughout this novel, and evokes a sense of time, place and character. The land is a strong aspect a strong character. It is perhaps stronger than the Christian religion Adele tries to uphold. It is Lottie who unlocks this power within Adele, the shared Swazi and Zulu identity, and shows her that she can accept all parts of her identity.

I can see why this book has received so many awards, commendations and nominations. It is diverse yet seen through eyes that not many of us have. It is an experience that some readers won’t know much about, but there are universal themes of friendship, class, race, and gender that everyone will find something they can relate to. Adele and Lottie were powerful, diverse and complicated characters, who helped each other grow throughout the novel and found something that connected them more than anything that had ever connected Adele to the popular girls.

As I read this book, I could smell and hear Africa, I could feel Africa. The animals, the grass, the voices and the music. It is woven delicately and subliminally through the narrative, and presents a backdrop that gives When the Ground is Hard a true sense of place and transports the reader to a time and place when things were grim, but where the power of friendship could bring light to people’s lives.

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

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

~*~

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

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

AWW2020

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

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

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

Lapse by Sarah Thornton

LapseTitle: Lapse

Author: Sarah Thornton

Genre: Mystery, Thriller

Publisher: Text Publishing

Published: 6th August 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 304

Price: $29.99

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

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

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

~*~

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

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

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

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

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

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