Shoestring: The Boy Who Walks on Air by Julie Hunt, Dale Newman

ShoestringTitle: Shoestring: The Boy Who Walks on Air
Author: Julie Hunt, Dale Newman
Genre: Fantasy, Magical Realism
Publisher: Allen and Unwin
Published: 2nd June 2020
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 368
Price: $19.99
Synopsis: A gripping illustrated adventure about a travelling circus troupe, a future-telling macaw and a cursed pair of gloves that Shoestring must conquer once and for all. A companion to the award-winning KidGlovz.
‘Shoestring loved the sudden intake of breath when he stepped onto the rope. The upturned faces of the audience made him think of coins scattered at his feet, more coins than he had ever taken when he was a pickpocket.’

Twelve-year-old Shoestring is leaving behind his life of crime and starting a new career with the Troupe of Marvels. Their lead performer, he has an invisible tightrope and an act to die for. But trouble is brewing – the magical gloves that caused so much turmoil for KidGlovz are back.

When he’s wearing the gloves, the world is at Shoestring’s fingertips. It’s so easy to help himself to whatever he likes – even other people’s hopes and dreams. But when he steals his best friend’s mind, he’s at risk of losing all he values most.

A thrilling, heart-in-the-mouth adventure of ambition, friendship and the threads that bind from the award-winning creators of KidGlovz.

~*~

In a fantastical world, there is a young thief called Shoestring, who lives with the woman who raised him. Until now, he has been a thief for most of his twelve years. When the Troupe of Marvels finds out about his talent – walking on an invisible tightrope. Yet a troublesome pair of gloves that once caused mayhem are back, and taking control of Shoestring, making him steal unthinkable things – not just items, but pieces of people – the troupe sets out to help him and destroy the gloves, and get Shoestring back to the young boy they know.

With Shoestring able to take whatever he wants – even things that someone can’t see, trouble starts to brew as the gloves start to control Shoestring and convince him to do things he’d never think about doing. Things start to go wrong when he sets out to find Metropolis, May’s old parrot who has been kidnapped, and falls into the hands of Marm – this is where the mystery begins and where we find out more about what is behind the stories of Shoestring, Marm, May, Metropolis and the gloves begins and the action picks up as the narrative moves between Metropolis telling the story – these parts are in bold, whilst the rest of the story is told in prose, as a third person perspective tells the story. And evokes a sense of everyone telling their part of the story around the campfire.

AWW2020This technique is coupled with some illustrations with speech bubbles – the same style used in graphic novels, and all the illustrations by Dale Hunt make the world Shoestring and his troupe live in really come to life as you read. It is not one that can be dipped in and out of, nor read in one sitting. This is one of those books that must be savoured and enjoyed. It is one that needs to be savoured – that needs to be read over time, and where every page has a new clue as to what might happen but is also filled with twists and turns as Shoestring fights with the gloves and the control they have over him.

Magical, transient gloves that have a mind of their own is a worrying, curious and troublesome – what do these gloves want, and why are they targeting Shoestring and the troupe. It weaves the history of the characters and the world they inhabit throughout the narrative seamlessly, telling an evocative story of ambition and friendship, and the lengths people will go to so they can help those they care about. And how will they help Shoestring fix things? This is a story of loyalty and friendship, and family – and the sacrifices we make to help those we love and care about. It is a lovely book – one that will be loved by all readers over the age of eight and will enthral and enchant readers as they enter this fantastical world and have them on the edge of their seats as they go on the journey with Shoestring and the rest of the troupe.

It does refer back to a previous book by the same author and illustrator team, but enough information is given that they can be read separately, but also, together. It is a beautiful story, and one that will be loved and treasured.

What Zola did on Monday by Melina Marchetta, illustrated by Deb Hudson

Monday ZolaTitle: What Zola did on Monday

Author: Melina Marchetta, illustrated by Deb Hudson

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Puffin

Published: 2nd June 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!
Seven stories in the series – one for every day of the week.

~*~

Zola loves to have fun, and at school, she is learning about gardens. At home, she spends time in the garden with her Nonna while her mum is at work. One day Nonna Rosa shows Zola special tomato seeds from Nonno, who is no longer with them – and Zola promises to be careful – can she keep out of trouble and save her Nonna’s special tomatoes?

Melina Marchetta, best known for her young adult books, in particular Looking for Alibrandi, and several others. Here, she has created a series for younger readers, about a little girl named Zola, with one book planned for each day of the week, to be released across the next year or so. This first book introduces readers to Zola and her family, and delightfully sets up Zola’s world on Boomerang Street. It is written in easy to understand and accessible language and looks at the inner world of Zola and children her age.

AWW2020Zola cleverly teaches children about friendship, family and problem solving through the fun and engaging story and Deb Hudson’s lovely illustrations that give an extra oomph and zing of life to Zola’s world and story. The language used is simple yet complex – early readers will be able to engage and learn how to read and grow their vocabulary and confidence with stories. It might seem simple on the surface, but it is layered in many ways, and can be read differently at each level and for each reader. Confident readers will be able to read the lines, and all readers will find something and someone in the book they identify with. As the beginning of a series, What Zola Did on Monday is filled with diversity and ideas about identity and what kids like to do.

This series would be perfect for kids in their first few years of school, and even beyond, for readers who might want something fun to read in between everything else. It is aimed at six to eight-year olds primarily, and I hope this readership enjoys these books in whichever way they read and connect with them. I look forward to seeing what other adventures Zola gets up to on the other days of the week. A charm,ing series that will enchant all who read it

On A Barbarous Coast by Craig Cormick and Harold Ludwick

barbarous coastTitle: On A Barbarous Coast
Author: Craig Cormick and Harold Ludwick
Genre: Speculative Historical Fiction
Publisher: Allen and Unwin
Published: 2nd June 2020
Format: Paperback
Pages: 320
Price: $29.99
Synopsis: On a Barbarous Coast is an alternative retelling of Captain James Cook’s story co-written by Craig Cormick and Harold Ludwick in the tradition of imagined histories.
We were becoming the wild things we most feared, but could not see it at the time.

On a night of raging winds and rain, Captain Cook’s Endeavour lies splintered on a coral reef off the coast of far north Australia. A small disparate band of survivors, fracturing already, huddle on the shore of this strange land – their pitiful salvage scant protection from the dangers of the unknown creatures and natives that live here.

Watching these mysterious white beings, the Guugu Yimidhirr people cannot decide if they are ancestor spirits to be welcomed – or hostile spirits to be speared. One headstrong young boy, Garrgiil, determines to do more than watch and to be the one to find out what exactly they are.

Fierce, intriguing and thoughtful, On a Barbarous Coast is the story of a past and future that might have been.

‘Australia’s “origin” story brilliantly re-imagined, in which Indigenous Australians rightfully assume their central place.’ Susan Johnson, author of The Broken Book

~*~

We all know the story of Captain Cook and the Endeavour, and from there, the story of the First Fleet and colonisation. We know it mostly from the perspective of those who were in power and recorded their version of events at the time – the official record. What we don’t know is how the people whose names and voices often ignored or not heard saw these events and interacted with those in power and with each other. What would have happened to our historical record if these voices had been given a chance to share their stories? Alternatively, what if Captain Cook’s story had a different ending?

This is what Craig Cormick – a non-Indigenous author, and his co-author, Harold Ludwick – an Indigenous author (Guugu Yimidhirr and Kuku Yalanji descent) have posited in their book, On A Barbarous Coast. Using historical figures and records, and oral stories, the story takes a different tack – where the Endeavour is shipwrecked, Captain Cook injured and the survivors splinter into two groups – the armed marines, and the unarmed botanist – Joseph Banks, and several other crew members. Craig tells the white man’s story through the eyes of Magra, and the struggle to survive – the fear of the unknown, and the feeling of not knowing what to do or expect from anyone – except those in his group. He’s even scared of Judge and the other marines and hopes to try and communicate to the Indigenous people these fears.

Harold tells the Indigenous perspective through the eyes of a young boy named Garrgiil, who spies on these white strangers and reports back to his clan and family. They are just as cautious of interacting as the book moves along, and both groups are curious. Yet there are layers of what one group understands as right and wrong in their contexts. This is shown through alternating chapters. Each character is given a unique voice, and authentically shows their different understandings of the world – for Garrgiil, it’s the sacred land that the newcomers are sheltered on. For Magra and his fellow crewmates, they are just glad to be on dry land, and are not sure who they will encounter or where – or indeed how.

Much of the novel revolves around their observations of each other and quest to survive and maintain the way they live. For Magra and his group, it is the hope that someone will find them and be able to take them home. What happened in the years following 1770 and 1788 could have been very different if the newcomers and the Indigenous people had been able to work together and find a way to live together peacefully – which is what this novel posits. It is an interesting thing to consider – how different might Australia as we know it have been if everyone was given the chance to contribute to how the country was run and formed, and how developments and changes might have happened differently. What would have changed and how, isn’t expanded on in this novel beyond the integration of those from the Endeavour and Garrgiil’s people – that is left up to the imagination and what we know of history. This what if type novel explores themes of history and integration and looks at how things could have been very different if attempts at communication had been made and attempts to understand each other and the first people here were made. We cannot go back and change the past – we can only change how we interact and understand each other going forward, and part of doing this is to learn about the stories that are not often heard and that were often ignored or left out of the history books used for many years in education. What this book offers is a different way of looking at our history and understanding of how our nation was formed.

In collaborating and finding two very unique and distinct voices that both stood out as individual people but also melded together to create an engaging story, Cormick and Ludwick have looked at the stories and records from both sides – oral and written, to bring this speculative historical fiction to life that explores first contact, misunderstandings and differing world views that illustrate how each character sees the world and where they realise they might be wrong – or might just need to work together towards an understanding of each other, even though each will always be different in some ways.

This was a unique story, told in a unique and collaborative way that made me wonder if our historical record would be richer if we had always had that collaboration, and if we did, and it was hidden, whether it would have made a difference to how we understand and relate to the history of Australia as we know it.

The Giant and the Sea by Trent Jamieson, Rovina Cai (Illutrator)

the giant and the seaTitle: The Giant and the Sea
Author: Trent Jamieson, Rovina Cai (Illutrator)
Genre: Fiction, Eco-themes
Publisher: Hachette/Lothian Children’s Books
Published: 26th May 2020
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 32
Price: $26.99
Synopsis: A stunningly beautiful and powerful take on climate change, standing up for what you believe in, and the power of hope. With lyrical text by acclaimed author Trent Jamieson and illustrations by CBCA Award-winner Rovina Cai that will resonate long after reading. For fans of Shaun Tan and Armin Greder.
A giant stands on the shore, watching the sea. She never moves, never speaks, until the day she turns to a little girl and says, ‘The sea is rising.’
The brave girl takes the message to the town. But when the people refuse to listen, the giant must find another way to save them.
Perfect for the children of the Climate Strike, this is a lyrical and deeply moving story about climate change, standing up for what you believe in, and the power of hope.

~*~

A giant stares out at the sea – she can see something is wrong – the sea is rising. The young girl she meets tries to pass on the message – but the townsfolk ignore it – can the giant save them before it is too late? Climate change is a big topic now and has been for many years. Over the past few years, there have been many and varied books about climate change, how to reduce waste and various strategies on how to help. One of the latest books in this genre is The Giant and the Sea – which combines the real world issues of climate change and unwillingness to listen and act with a fantasy, far off world to illustrate what climate change is to younger readers and readers of all ages.

Trent Jamieson’s story gently and quietly tells the story of a world under threat from a rising sea. It can be read on several levels – the simplicity of needing to find safety, and as readers gain confidence or deeper understanding – what the rising sea and dark machine mean and how they are connected to climate change. From there, readers can work out that action must be taken. Trent’s simple yet complex and layered cyclical narrative is combined effectively with Rovina Cai’s illustrations, which are in shades of darker colours – browns and greys, black and muddied shades to show the despondency of the giant and the characters. At times it does feel hopeless – and this reflects the reality of the climate change issue that Trent is writing about.

It is one of those books that feels like it stays with you long after you read it, and it will. It is one that can be revisited over and over, taught in class and used as an example at all levels of education to teach about climate change or how to deal with climate change in literature and make it an accessible topic for all ages. This will be ideal to teach in classes across the board, and to open up discussions about climate change as well as differences of opinion, and how to talk about these issues with people who might not be as receptive to some issues.

This story really brought the issues to life, and because it ends the way it starts, it has a cyclical feel – that this is an ongoing issue and discussion that will always be talked about, always get attention. However, this book is also a warning that we need to act – and act soon.

Ideal for children aged four and over, this is a sensitive way to teach them about climate change and open up discussions about what is going on in the world today.

 

Anzac Girl: The War Diaries of Alice Ross-King by Kate Simpson and Jess Racklyeft (illustrator)

anzac girlTitle: Anzac Girl: The War Diaries of Alice Ross-King
Author: Kate Simpson and Jess Racklyeft (illustrator)
Genre: Historical
Publisher: Allen and Unwin
Published: March 2020
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 32
Price: $24.99
Synopsis: The true story of Anzac girl Sister Alice Ross-King, who sailed to war in December 1914 and became the most decorated woman in Australia.
It was 1914 when Sister Alice Ross-King left Australia for the war. Nursing was her passion – all she had ever wanted to do. But Alice couldn’t have imagined what she would see. She served four long years and was brave, humble and endlessly compassionate.

Using extracts from Alice’s actual diaries kept in the Australian War Memorial, this true story captures the danger, the heartache and the history of the young nurse who would one day become the most decorated woman in Australia.

~*~

Anzac Girl: The War Diaries of Alice Ross-King is a picture book, based on the war diaries of the WW1 nurse, written by her great-granddaughter, author Kate Simpson, who is also the co-host of kids lit podcast, One More Page with Liz Leddon and Nat Amoore. This has been a book that has been on my shelf for a few weeks – and I thought Anzac Day was the perfect time to read it.

ANZAC Day 2020 Lest We Forget

 

Like many authors who have released or will be releasing books in the next few months, Kate had the launch of her book cancelled. I hope my review can bring some publicity for this special book alongside my other reviews and Isolation Publicity series.

When Alice Ross-King sets off for war as a nurse, she isn’t prepared for what she will see and who she will meet. Kate has used extracts from her great-grandmother’s diary to tell the story, and the illustrations by Jess are combined with photos of the actual documents from the war and Alice’s time spent as a nurse across Gallipoli and Europe. Told simply for kids aged six and older, it is still very evocative and encapsulates the sense of what the war was like for Alice. It captures what the war was like in a time of war in a way that isn’t too confronting for younger readers. Readers feel Alice’s heartache, hope and despondence throughout. It is one of the most engrossing picture books I have read recently. It is a great book to read for history lessons or ANZAC Day or both. I would have loved to have had a story like this to study during history at school, and hopefully, it finds its way into future curriculums for all levels and ages.

An excellent picture book that captures the ANZAC spirit.

Lest We Forget

Continue reading “Anzac Girl: The War Diaries of Alice Ross-King by Kate Simpson and Jess Racklyeft (illustrator)”

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.

The Lost Future of Pepperharrow by Natasha Pulley

pepperharrowTitle: The Lost Future of Pepperharrow

Author: Natasha Pulley

Genre: Magical Realism, Historical Fiction, Gothic Fiction

Publisher: Bloomsbury Circus

Published: 17th March 2020

Format: Paperback

Pages: 512

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: Step back into the enchanting world of The Watchmaker of Filigree Street. This extraordinary sequel takes readers to Japan, where time, destiny and love collide to electrifying effect

‘A Japan that never was, a future lost, ghosts that are not dead, random numbers, clairvoyant samurai … not even a partial list of ingredients can do justice to this wonderful cake of a book. A lovely blending of steam punk ether science, Japanese historical figures, and a time-defying thriller’ ROBIN HOBB

For Thaniel Steepleton, an unexpected posting to Tokyo can’t come at a better moment. The London fog has made him ill and doctor’s orders are to get out.

His brief is strange: the staff at the British Legation have been seeing ghosts, and his first task is to find out what’s going on. But staying with his closest friend Keita Mori in Yokohama, Thaniel starts to experience ghostly happenings himself. For reasons he won’t say, Mori is frightened. Then he vanishes.

Meanwhile, something strange is happening in a frozen labour camp in northern Japan. Takiko Pepperharrow, an old friend of Mori’s, must investigate.

As ghosts appear across Tokyo and the weather turns bizarrely electrical, Thaniel grows convinced that it all has something to do with Mori’s disappearance – and that Mori might be in far more trouble than any of them first thought.

~*~

In 2015, readers were introduced to Natasha Pulley, Mori and Thaniel Steepleton in The Watchmaker of Filigree Street. Five years later, they’re returning in the Lost Future of Pepperharrow which sees Thaniel and Mori headed to Japan with their daughter, Six, as they seek to improve Thaniel’s health during a new posting for the British Legation in Tokyo to investigate ghosts, and strange goings on at a labour camp that bring them into contact with someone from Mori’s past – Takiko Pepperharrow.

The story moves between the past – up to ten years – particularly when dealing with Takiko, and 1888/1889 – the present in the novel, and how Mori and Thaniel navigate the mysteries and ghosts of Tokyo. In doing so, Thaniel finds himself falling into an unknown world, and when Mori disappears, and nobody knows where he is nor if he is still alive. It is an intricate plot that moves back and forth over a decade in Tokyo and Japan, highlighting issues of religion, the place of foreigners in Japan and the role of ghosts and clockwork as a common thread across both books. Denser than the first book, The Lost Future of Pepperharrow continues the story in surprising and eloquent ways.

Some aspects are most definitely historical – the Japanese Education Minister, Arinori Mori’s assassination and at least one of the prisons, whilst the rest might be based on history but has become a fantastical thing of its own, and borrows from history in order to create the world these characters populate and live in. The story is complex, immense and exceptionally told with rich detail where needed, and is immersive for time and place – making each aspect feel as though you were really there in the book with Thaniel – both when he was with Mori and whilst he was searching for him through Japan.

Each setting evoked a sense of being there – from the foggy streets of London, to the ships that sail across oceans and all the sights, sounds and sensations of Tokyo – both confronting and intriguing as seen through the eyes of Thaniel and his uncertainty as he investigates the ghosts, come together to create a story filled with so many different elements, some seem so small, it can be hard to define them easily, and with hints of magical realism, this is not a straight-forward historical fiction. It is much more layered and multi-faceted than that. It has so many layers that there were times I re-read a section – just to see if I had picked everything up, only to discover that some things had merely been hinted at in a very clever way that made sense towards the end. It maintained the balance of revealing things in the right place, and dropping little hints, and also, maintained the balance of good description and storytelling – neither was overdone. For each of these aspects – all books are going to be different in what they do and why – and when these elements as well as character, plot and setting combine, they create a story like this one that is clever and unique.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and hope that fans of Natasha’s first two books will as well.