The Schoolmaster’s Daughter by Jackie French

schoolmaster's daughterTitle: The Schoolmaster’s Daughter
Author: Jackie French
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: HarperCollins Australia
Published: 18th May 2020
Format: Paperback
Pages: 384
Price: $17.99
Synopsis: Drawing on her own family history, this is a story from Jackie French about education in Colonial Australia – and how women once had to fight for their right to it.
January 1901
Sharks circle a stranded ship as a young girl and her family stagger from the waves …
Rescued by a Pacific Islander boy named Jamie, Hannah’s family begin a new life in Port Harris, which at first seems a paradise for the schoolmaster’s daughter. But local fortunes are built on slavery and the whip.
As the new Federal Parliament passes the law that will force Pacific Islanders from their homes, Hannah and her mother risk everything to run a secret school, while Hannah and Jamie must fight for their rights to education and equality. Can friendship and love win against prejudice and power?
Inspired by real events, this powerful new novel brings to life the bravery and battles of the past and gives us courage for the challenges of today.

~*~

As Australia becomes a nation, Hannah Ferndale and her family move to northern NSW town, Port Harris, where sugar cane farms are run using labour from Pacific Islanders, who are kept in slavery-like conditions. Hannah and her family are shipwrecked as they arrive at Port Harris, and are rescued Jamie, a young Pacific Islander boy, before they begin their new life, with Papa as the new schoolmaster.

Hannah longs to learn more than what she has been taught – and is ready for the next stage of her schooling. Yet as she attends school, she discovers that she is only there to help him teach the Infants kids to read and count, and write, and assist with her mother’s role in teaching music and sewing. When her mother starts teaching Hannah and Jamie secretly after he’s denied a place at the school, Hannah starts to learn more about the world than what she has experienced, as Jamie and his mother tell Hannah and her mother about their lives and the lives of the Islanders on the plantations. Their secret school is interrupted by a family emergency, and Hannah and Jamie try to continue, but she soon must return to her life teaching small children with no hope of moving forward beyond marriage.

As new laws are debated, and as Hannah has to attend to her duties as a good girl and live in a world she longs to change for the good for everyone. The country has been federated, and new laws about women’s suffrage and the status of Pacific Islanders on the farms up north. The Schoolmaster’s Daughter is based on Jackie’s own family history, which she explains in her author’s notes at the back. This makes the story so powerful – it is from the heart, and from a family, whose history and people have inspired many stories, and many novels, all of which are compelling in so many ways, and have a genuine, unique, and authentic voice that sings and shines through the words, characters and narrative.

AWW2020It is an ode to a new country, grappling with their identity and their people in 1901, themes that are still relevant today in 2020, as some issues still need to be resolved – such as racism. At the same time, it is a celebration of reading, words, education and poetry – something that unites Jamie and Hannah in Eliza’s absence, and they connect them in a way that society cannot understand or fathom. The words that they shared created a world beyond what they knew and showed how they each saw exploring the world – for Jamie, it was the ability to physically explore. Hannah was happy to explore via the page – both are valid – exploring the world and travelling the world can be done in both ways. During these times of the pandemic, most of us are travelling across the world, through time and into other worlds via the page. Reading in Hannah and Jamie’s world opens this door, and the door to better lives, to lives they long for and have so far only dreamed about.

I read this book in about two days – it was one where I just had to find out what was going to happen next, and how Hannah was going to achieve her goals. Jackie French books always teach me something new, and this book was no exception. It presented a world that we may not be familiar with and issues that feel distant but are not. It is a fantastic piece of historical fiction that I will

The Silk House by Kayte Nunn

the silk houseTitle: The Silk House
Author: Kayte Nunn
Genre: Historical Fiction/Gothic Fiction
Publisher: Hachette Australia
Published: 30th June 2020
Format: Paperback
Pages: 380
Price: $32.99
Synopsis: Weaving. Healing. Haunting. The spellbinding story of a mysterious boarding school sheltering a centuries-old secret by the bestselling author of THE BOTANIST’S DAUGHTER
Weaving. Healing. Haunting. The spellbinding story of a mysterious boarding school sheltering a centuries-old secret…
Australian history teacher Thea Rust arrives at an exclusive boarding school in the British countryside only to find that she is to look after the first intake of girls in its 150-year history. She is to stay with them in Silk House, a building with a long and troubled past.
In the late 1700s, Rowan Caswell leaves her village to work in the home of an English silk merchant. She is thrust into a new and dangerous world where her talent for herbs and healing soon attracts attention.

In London, Mary-Louise Stephenson lives amid the clatter of the weaving trade and dreams of becoming a silk designer, a job that is the domain of men. A length of fabric she weaves with a pattern of deadly flowers will have far-reaching consequences for all who dwell in the silk house.
Intoxicating, haunting and inspired by the author’s background, THE SILK HOUSE is an exceptional gothic mystery.

~*~

Thea Rust has arrived in the British countryside to begin a new job – in the same year as the school’s first intake of girls occurs. Once there, Thea is faced with challenges from some of the staff as she beings her teaching and pastoral care for the girls, all of whom are fascinating and individual characters whose presence enriches the story and Thea’s experience. They are housed in The Silk House, exclusively for girls and separate from the main school.

The history of the house goes back to the 1760s, specifically, 1768-1769, when a new maid, Rowan Caswell arrives. Separate yet also intertwined with her story is that of weaver and silk designer, Mary-Louise Stephenson. It will be one of her designs, and another maid’s designs on the master of the house and determination to undermine her mistress and Rowan that form the tragic chain of events that form this part of the story and seep through the shadows of time into 2019, when Thea feels the ghosts and stories of the past needing to be told.

As the story weaves in and out of the late 1760s and 2019, the threads of the past find their echoes in the present in an evocative and hair raising way – like a gothic mystery from the past as ghosts and whispers ooze into the lives of the present, through The Dame and the stories that Thea reads in the archives and library. It is filled with mystery and the way it weaves history and witchcraft and the world of embroidery into the story through Rowan and Thea.

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It is tinged with ideas of harmful and helpful herbs, of deception and at times, beauty. Rowan and Thea were my favourite characters, and I quote enjoyed that the majority of characters named and given agency were women – there were a handful of male characters named such as some of the teachers and Patrick Hollander – in a way, it turns some of the usual things we see in literature around, and the women have more agency than the men – despite the late 1760s being a time of witch hunts and when men had more agency. Characters like Tommy Dean in 1768 and Gareth in 2019, Theas fellow hockey coach, are stark differences to some of the other male characters with certain prejudices. They bolster the women and help them, which makes this a very rich story as well. It evokes a sense of the fight for equality and inclusion in exclusively male worlds that have never had to, and have resisted the inclusion of women and girls, and the empowerment of women and girls.

Kayte Nunn uses these themes extremely well and communicates them in sensitive and intriguing ways as she explores witchcraft, herbalism and the role of plants in embroidery and the tinctures Rowan makes and the implications of this for those in the Hollander household. It is a story of mystery tinged with gothic themes and ghosts, where some questions might be left unanswered or left up to the imagination of the reader – which I like to do with these sorts of novels. It gives the novel a sense of intrigue and mystery to the characters and delves deep into the idea of stories and identity, and equality.

A wonderfully gothic and transfixing read.

 

Edie’s Experiments: How to Make Friends by Charlotte Barkla

Edies Experiments 1Title: Edie’s Experiments: How to Make Friends
Author: Charlotte Barkla
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Puffin Australia
Published: 4th February 2020
Format: Paperback
Pages: 240
Price: $14.99
Synopsis: A new school, a classroom full of potential new friends and a science kit. What could possibly go wrong?
I’m Edie and I love science. So when I started at a new school, I decided it could be one giant experiment.

Can I give you some advice? Avoid sliming your entire classroom. You could end up in trouble with your teacher, your new classmates and the principal.

Between the great slime fiasco, the apology cookie surprise and the wrinkle cream mix-up, I’ve discovered making friends isn’t an exact science!

~*~

Edie is about to start a new school – and she is uncertain about her new school and making friends. Yet she’s not sure how – until she decides to run a series of experiments to impress her new classmates and teacher – they all start well, but end in utter disaster, and start causing trouble for her at school with her teacher, her classmates and her principal. All Edie wants to do is make new friends – and her heart is in the right place, even though her execution might not be. She hopes she can fix things for everyone – but as she discovers during her experiments, there doesn’t seem to be a science or formula to making friends.

Edie’s story will be familiar to kids who have started a new school or moved somewhere new – and it explores the struggles of fitting in with new people and what is expected in the classroom, at school and with everyone. The rules of how to behave in order to fit in and make sure you’re doing the right thing are explored through Edie’s eyes as she tries to do whatever she can to make friends and get to know people.

AWW2020She has other obstacles – Annie B seems to like her, but Emily James who seems nice at first, starts to turn on Edie, and Edie misses her friend, Winnie. Edie is a delightful character, who is passionate about science and fun, and really, really wants to make friends and fit in. I loved that her parents were so supportive and talked her through things and made an effort to understand her – this showed a positive relationship that made the book even more powerful.

Even though Edie’s main love is science – kids who might have different interests will be able to relate to her, and it is also nice to see young girls represented in a variety of different ways in today’s children’s literature, especially books written by Australian authors. This is a really cool trend to be following as a blogger and reader, and the familiar spaces of school bring children into the story naturally with the setting, and then bring in different interests, diverse characters, and many other aspects that are growing and evolving in books. It is an interesting time to be reader and reviewer – across the board, as we see stories told from perspectives that ten years ago even, might not have been done. Books like this, whilst possibly aimed at girls interested in science – can be read and enjoyed by anyone because it also explores universal themes of school, fitting in, family, friends and fun, and being yourself – messages and themes that stick with us throughout our lives and that are not limited to being a kid. This is why I enjoy reading books for younger readers as well – the universal themes that we all grapple with.

A great read for all ages, all genders – anyone really, who loves a good yarn.

Friday Barnes: Big Trouble by R.A. Spratt

friday barnes 3Title: Friday Barnes: Big Trouble
Author: R.A. Spratt
Genre: Crime
Publisher: Penguin Random House/Puffin
Published: 7th May 2019/3rd August 2015
Format: Paperback
Pages: 272
Price: $15.99
Synopsis: Friday Barnes has a new case, and this time it’s personal!
When Friday’s father turns up out of the blue, he brings his daughter some distressing news – Friday’s mother has been kidnapped! But who would want to kidnap a theoretical physicist? The Headmaster needs Friday’s help too, when Highcrest Academy is thrown into chaos by the arrival of a beautiful new student – Princess Ingrid of Norway. She’s rich, she’s royal and she’s got her eye on Ian Wainscott. Despite heightened security at the school, things start to go missing. It appears Highcrest Academy has been infiltrated by a master thief, The Pimpernel.
Can Friday crack the case of her missing mother, reign in a royal brat and unmask the elusive Pimpernel? If it means she gets to ditch PE, then of course she can!

~*~

Friday’s father has appeared at Highcrest, and has taken over science class – that is, until he tells Friday her mother is missing. So Friday heads home with her father, her uncle, and Melanie to investigate and find out where her mother is. Upon her return, Friday is swept up into the mystery of the Pimpernel, and a Norwegian Princess who is attending the school for six weeks and has moved into the room next door to Friday and Melanie. When the Pimpernel steals from staff and students, the Headmaster enlists Friday, and she uncovers more than just who the Pimpernel is!

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The third book in the Friday Barnes series picks up where book two ended and leaves us with another thrilling mystery to dive into at the end. What I love about this series is each book flows into the next one, so there is always something to look forward to. In this novel, Friday’s most loathed subject – PE plays a large part, with a race towards the end that helps Friday solve many od the cases that have been plaguing the school over the past few weeks. The humour is still there – it is a school unlike any other where simply being a certain student can earn you a trip to the Headmaster’s office before you’ve even tried to start the day.
And dealing with a princess is another matter – but what is the princess hiding, and is her attraction to Ian just a way to make people ignore what is really going on? Friday takes this all in her stride – even at twelve years old – and solves cases, deals with her family and friends and manages to study as much as possible, though at times, it seems a wonder that any schoolwork actually gets done at Highcrest, which is all part of the fun. It’s a school where you never know what will happen, and that is all part of the charm with Friday Barnes.

Ella at Eden: New Girl by Laura Sieveking

ella at edenTitle: Ella at Eden: New Girl

Author: Laura Sieveking

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Scholastic Australia

Published: 1st February 2020

Format: Paperback

Pages: 192

Price: $15.99

Synopsis: Ella has started at her new high school, and Eden College is everything she hoped it would be. She is getting to know her new friends and enjoying everything Eden has to offer. Until things start to get complicated. She accidentally insults Saskia, the school diva, there could be a ghost in the dorm and items have started to mysteriously disappear.

Can Ella catch the Eden thief?

Join Ella in the first book of this exciting new adventure.

 

~*~

Ella is about to start a new school – a boarding school, which means being away from her sister Olivia, brother Max, and the rest of her family. Going to Eden College means being with her best friend though, and Ella can’t wait to spend time with Zoe and her new friends. Yet there are other girls like Saskia who don’t seem to like Ella. And soon, things start to go missing – around the time Saskia tells her about the school ghost. Determined to find out what happened and write a stellar story for the school newspaper, Ella decides to investigate what is happening.

Scholastic contacted me to review this – which is always exciting and having worked on some of the Ella and Olivia books by Yvette Poshoglian, one of the authors who works with Ella and Olivia for Scholastic, I knew it would be a lovely and interesting read. I knew the characters – so it was interesting to see Ella at another stage of her life, and it is always fun to start a new series. However, as a quiz writer, whenever I read a review book from Scholastic, I start thinking about quiz questions – which is quite fun but not necessary for a review book.

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I really enjoyed this book. It starts a new series that will allow those who have read the earlier books with Ella and Olivia to grow with Ella and her sister, and also, gives enough information for new readers to Ella’s world to enjoy it and engage with it and the other characters.  Told in the first person, we see the world through Ella’s eyes and experiences, which are fun to read about and experience with her in this new and adventurous world she has been thrust into, the same world she is keen to explore.

Ella’s friendships grow throughout the novel, and I love the way she works to make friends with Violet throughout the book, whose story is also very interesting and finding out what about Violet’s secrets strengthens their bond and Ella discovers she has a new friend. This book is filled with ideas and themes of friendship, coming of age and growing up, as well as finding out who you are separate from what you have known up until when something changes dramatically, and for Ella, that is heading off to Eden College.

This looks to be a promising series, and I look forward to more about Ella at Eden and what she gets up to with her new friends in her new school.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Ravenclaw Edition) by J.K. Rowling

ravenclaw goblet of fireTitle: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Ravenclaw Edition)
Author: J.K. Rowling
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Published: 23rd January 2020
Format: Hardcover, Paperback
Pages: 640
Price: Hardcover: $32.99, Paperback: $21.99
Synopsis: Let the magic of J.K. Rowling’s classic Harry Potter series take you back to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. This Ravenclaw House Edition of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire celebrates the noble character of the Hogwarts house famed for its wit, learning and wisdom. Harry’s fourth year at Hogwarts is packed with more great Ravenclaw moments and characters, including the return of Moaning Myrtle, who – with typical Ravenclaw intelligence – helps Harry solve a crucial clue in the Triwizard Tournament.

Each Ravenclaw House Edition features vibrant sprayed edges and intricate bronze foiling. The Goblet of Fire blazes at the very centre of the front cover, framed by stunning iconography that draws on themes and moments from J.K. Rowling’s much-loved story. In addition to a bespoke introduction and exclusive insights into the magical paintings of Hogwarts, the book also boasts new illustrations by Kate Greenaway winner Levi Pinfold, including a spectacular portrait of master wand-maker, Ollivander. All seven books in the series will be issued in these highly collectable, beautifully crafted House Editions, designed to be treasured and read for years to come.

A must-have for anyone who has ever imagined sitting under the Sorting Hat in the Great Hall at Hogwarts waiting to hear the words, ‘Better be RAVENCLAW!’

When the Quidditch World Cup is disrupted by Voldemort’s rampaging supporters alongside the resurrection of the terrifying Dark Mark, it is obvious to Harry Potter that, far from weakening, Voldemort is getting stronger. Back at Hogwarts for his fourth year, Harry is astonished to be chosen by the Goblet of Fire to represent the school in the Triwizard Tournament. The competition is dangerous, the tasks terrifying, and true courage is no guarantee of survival – especially when the darkest forces are on the rise. It is the summer holidays and soon Harry Potter will be starting his fourth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Harry is counting the days: there are new spells to be learnt, more Quidditch to be played, and Hogwarts castle to continue exploring. But Harry needs to be careful – there are unexpected dangers lurking.
~*~

The 20th anniversary editions of the Harry Potter books are being released in house colours – red for Gryffindor, yellow for Hufflepuff, blue for Ravenclaw and green for Slytherin, often with additional house information and information about characters in that house who are side characters, such as Garrick Ollivander in the Ravenclaw edition, Rubeus Hagrid in the Gryffindor edition, Cedric Diggory in the Hufflepuff edition and Voldemort in the Slytherin edition. I received a hardcover Ravenclaw edition to review from Bloomsbury, and it’s beautifully put together – the story is there, but it is the additional information that is interesting, as well as revisiting the story.

The additional information also gives insights into Moaning Myrtle and indicates that she was in Ravenclaw when she was alive. Moaning Myrtle has a key part in one area of The Goblet of Fire, and it is always fun to see characters we have met before return, like Dobby. I love reading the books because I think the movies miss out on so much and presume a lot of their viewers – that they’ve read the books, and can they fill in the gaps. Perhaps this is where knowing the books helps fill in those gaps, and why I prefer the books. I remember the time this book came out – it was the year I met my best friend, Laura, and it was Laura and her mother who got me into the books, and for that, I am grateful and that is what makes them special to me – Laura and Liz are in those pages for me.

In the Goblet of Fire, we are at the midway point of the series – where everything changes. Up until now, there have been hints at Voldemort coming back, but not quite, and now, the threats are real, and slowly, across the novel, build up to the darkest ending so far, and starts a new death count of significant characters in the series. It is a turning point for everything and hurtles our once innocent characters into a stage of their lives where they are in more danger than ever before, and nobody knows who will survive what is to come, and who won’t.

A nice addition to a collector’s series of the Harry Potter books.

 

Book Bingo Seven: Written by an Australian Woman

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And thus ends March, and my seventh book bingo of the year with Theresa Smith and Amanda Barrett. I’ve just got one book to present this week, and this book fills the square “written by an Australian Woman” – which I intended to write weeks ago, but got caught up in all the other squares, and will hopefully be able to fill some of the tricker ones soon.

48987121_1508329715968294_4870693570241101824_n

zelda stitch 2So this week, to check off a book by an Australian woman, I’m using Zelda Stitch Term Two: Too Much Witch by Nicki Greenberg. Following on from the first book, Zelda’s mishaps as a witch continue to plague her, but she’s still trying to protect someone on her class, and make sure that more people don’t find out she is a witch. Her snarky cat, Barnaby is back, and causing even more mischief as Zelda tries to navigate her life as a teacher and life as a witch.

A fun book for kids, my full review is here.

Come back next fortnight for Book Bingo Eight, which might just be a double bingo!

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Booktopia

Challenge Check-In: February

In February, I didn’t read or review as many books as I did in January. I managed to read twelve books this month, bringing my yearly total to twenty-six, and have made some progress on my challenges. Some reviews are yet to go up, but this will wrap up what I have done:

#Dymocks52Challenge

General and #Dymocks52Challenge

  1. Beauty in Thorns by Kate Forsyth
  2. What Lies Beneath Us by Kirsty Ferguson
  3. The Dog Runner by Bren MacDibble
  4. The House of Second Chances by Esther Campion
  5. The Familiars by Stacey Halls
  6. The Orchardist’s Daughter by Karen Viggers
  7. The French Photographer by Natasha Lester
  8. Harry Potter: A History of Magic, The Exhibition Guide by British Library, JK Rowling
  9. D-Bot #8: Dino Corp by Mac Park
  10. Kensy and Max: Undercover by Jacqueline Harvey
  11. The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer
  12. 52 Mondays by Anna Ciddor

pb history of magic

2019 Badge

#AWW2019 Challenge

  1. Beauty in Thorns by Kate Forsyth – Reviewed/Revisited post
  2. What Lies Beneath Us by Kirsty Ferguson – Reviewed
  3. The Dog Runner by Bren MacDibble – Reviewed
  4. The House of Second Chances by Esther Campion – Reviewed
  5. The Orchardist’s Daughter by Karen Viggers – Reviewed
  6. The French Photographer by Natasha Lester – Reviewed and Q&A
  7. Kensy and Max: Undercover by Jacqueline Harvey – Reviewed
  8. The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer – Reviewed
  9. 52 Mondays by Anna Ciddor – Reviewed

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Book bingo:

Themes of Justice: What Lies Beneath Us by Kirsty Ferguson – AWW2019

Themes of Inequality: The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer – AWW2019

Book with a place in the title: The French Photographer by Natasha Lester -AWW2019

Book set on the Australian Coast: The House of Second Chances by Esther Campion – AWW2019

Book set in the Australian Mountains: The Orchardist’s Daughter by Karen Viggers – AWW2019

Written by an author you’ve never read: The Dog Runner by Bren MacDibble – #AWW2019

Historical: The Familiars by Stacey Halls

Some of these have posts up, and some don’t – this is based on my reading log.

February Round Up

 

Book Author Challenges
Beauty in Thorns Kate Forsyth AWW2019, #Dymocks52Challenge, PopSugar, General
What Lies Beneath Us Kirsty Ferguson #AWW2019, #Dymocks52Challenge, PopSugar, General, Book Bingo
The Dog Runner Bren MacDibble #AWW2019, #Dymocks52Challenge, PopSugar, General, Book Bingo
The House of Second Chances Esther Campion #AWW2019 #Dymocks52Challenge, PopSugar, General, Book Bingo
The Familiars Stacey Halls #Dymocks52Challenge, PopSugar, General
The Orchardist’s Daughter Karen Viggers #AWW2019 #Dymocks52Challenge, General, Book Bingo
The French Photographer Natasha Lester #AWW2019 #Dymocks52Challenge, General, Book Bingo
Harry Potter: A History of Magic, The Exhibition Guide (paperback) British Library, JK Rowling #Dymocks52Challenge, General
D-Bot #8: Dino Corp Mac Park #Dymocks52Challenge, General
Kensy and Max: Undercover  Jacqueline Harvey #AWW2019, #Dymocks52Challenge, PopSugar, General,
The Things We Cannot Say Kelly Rimmer general, #AWW2019, #Dymcoks52Challenge, PopSugar
52 Mondays Anna Ciddor general, #AWW2019, #Dymcoks52Challenge

 

Booktopia

Total Quack Up by Sally Rippin, Deborah Abela, Jacqueline Harvey, Oliver Phommavanh, R.A. Spratt, Paul Jennings, Alex Miles, Adrian Beck, Tristan  Bancks and Matt Stanton

total quack up.jpgTitle: Total Quack Up

Author: Sally Rippin, Deborah Abela, Jacqueline Harvey, Oliver Phommavanh, R.A. Spratt, Paul Jennings, Alex Miles, Adrian Beck, Tristan  Bancks and Matt Stanton

Genre: Children’s fiction/humour

Publisher:  Penguin Random House/Puffin

Published: 15th October, 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 288

Price: 14.99

Synopsis: Authors Sally Rippin and Adrian Beck have gathered together an awesome line-up of writers and their funniest stories. Not only will the stories make you laugh out loud and feel good, royalties from sales of the book go to Dymocks Children’s Charities – so you can feel extra good!

Total Quack Up! features stories from Deborah Abela, Tristan Bancks, Adrian Beck, Jacqueline Harvey, Paul Jennings, Alex Miles, Oliver Phommavanh, Sally Rippin, R.A. Spratt and Matt Stanton, plus a prize-winning story from a child!

~*~

Total Quack Up is a new anthology of short stories aimed at children, and published by Puffin for the Dymocks Children’s Charities, with royalties going towards these charities to help children learn to read and engage with reading. In these stories, there are superheroes, animals and magic, as well as robots and siblings, and practical jokes – all the things that kids find enjoyable and funny, in stories that they will enjoy and engage with, at all levels.

Each story is a quick read, starting with How to Be A Superhero by Deborah Abela – and ending with a story from a schoolkid, Ella Wallace, who won a competition to be included in the anthology. Each story stars a child as the protagonist, navigating life at school, at sport, or as a superhero, and with family, friends and siblings. Written by some of Australia’s most popular male and female authors, this makes my count for the Australian Women Writers Challenge seventy – with another review to write for a quiz book, and many more reviews to come – I hope. This will be included in my next challenge catch up post.

AWW-2018-badge-roseWith a uniqueness to each story, every reader who picks up this book will find a story and character they will enjoy, love and laugh with. From Arabella von Champion, a superhero who sees herself as extraordinary and is quite daring, to the little brother at the end who blocks up the dunny with everything imaginable, and the soccer team with the pig as a mascot – all other animals are banned from the sports field, to everything in between from some of the best-loved Australian authors, and some new voices to discover between these red covers, all aimed at raising money to help with children’s charities in Australia.

The variety of stories shows just how diverse and eclectic Australian authors are, and how different stories and characters will appeal to different children, and what will hook them into reading. This book offers bite-sized pieces of Australian talent for new readers to discover, and for old readers of these authors who have enjoyed their previous works and books over the years, and for the adults who would have read some as children, now able to pass these authors down.

Another great book aimed at kids, and with stories to enjoy and laugh with, I hope all those who get to read this enjoy it.

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The Distance Between Me and the Cherry Tree by Paola Peretti, translated by Denise Muir

cherry tree.jpgTitle: The Distance Between Me and the Cherry Tree

Author: Paola Peretti, translated by Denise Muir

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Bonnier/Allen and Unwin

Published: 29th August 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 208

Price: $16.99

Synopsis: A novel for all ages about a young girl losing her sight, inspired by the author’s own life story. For fans of Wonder, The Little Prince and The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly

A novel for all ages about a young girl losing her sight, inspired by the author’s own life story. For fans of Wonder, The Little Prince and The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly

Mafalda is a nine-year-old girl who knows one thing: some time in the next six months her sight will fail completely. Can Mafalda find a way through a seemingly dark future and still go to school, play football and look after her beloved cat? With the help of her family, and her friends, Mafalda needs to discover the things that will be important to her when her sight has failed. A moving, empowering tale of courage and determination that will inspire young and old.

~*~

Mafalda is going blind – she knows, at nine years old, that she has six months left until her world changes forever – her house, what she can do now and what she will have to give up when she loses her sight, and the changes she will have to make. At home, she has her cat, Ottimo Turcaret, and her parents. At school, a counsellor called Estella, who is hiding a dark battle of her own, and her new friend, Filippo, who helps her navigate a world that is slowly descending into darkness. As she ventures towards her new reality, each part measuring the distance she can see until her whole world is taken by the darkness, Mafalda crosses off everything she can no longer do on her list and prepares to live a new life. However, Mafalda doesn’t really want things to change, and as her sight diminishes, the other changes in her world become more apparent as well.

Translated from Italian, and inspired by the life story of the author, who has Stargardt disease like Mafalda, the novel explores what it is like to live with a disability that is constantly getting worse, that has no cure, and impacts on everything Paola and Mafalda are able to do. It a story about friendship, family and hope, but also about how disability can affect the life of the disabled person and those around them, and how family and friends choose to act, the roles the must take on and what they do when the disability becomes more apparent or perhaps difficult for them to understand.

Through her experience of an encroaching disability, Mafalda finds friendship in an unlikely place with Filippo – someone she never thought would be her friend, but it is Filippo and Estella, the school counsellor, who help her through the encroaching darkness and whose loyalty proves she can still be who she is, just a little bit different to before. Having a friend like Filippo helps her through the changes she is going through.

The disabled experience is not often explored in books – and if it is, not always allowing the disabled character to be disabled -they must be healed or freed somehow. So what I liked about this book was the reality of Mafalda’s disability and how it will change her life, how illness can affect people and take them away. It is all seen through the eyes and feelings of a child, Mafalda, but is still very powerful. It allows people of all ages who are disabled to see themselves reflected in literature – to see how a disabled person navigates and must learn to adjust the way they navigate the world they live in are real experiences for disabled people that differ from person to person, and through Mafalda, some of these struggles can be seen.

A very powerful book about family, friendship and identity that will stay with you long after you finish.