Children's New Releases 

August 2018

Gleebooks Bookshop - Tuesday, July 24, 2018


Cicada by Shaun Tan ($27, HB)
This has prompted tremendous intra-shop conversation amongst Gleestaff, which is a feature of the skill and universality Tan brings to all his books: interpretations are as abundant as the people who read them. Despite comments that this latest is more for adults than for children because of the text and the overriding greyness suggesting bleak despair, there are universal experiential issues that transcend age and ethnicity.

Here are two opinions to consider, and when you buy a copy you’ll have your own comments for the inevitable discussion that ensues. Lynndy

Being a daughter of migrants, and the mother of a child that’s been bullied I feel that Cicada should be explored by those that are seeking a picture book that creates the opportunity for dialogue of unpleasant but important issues. Through beautiful simple images and sparse text readers are shown how cruel treatment towards those who may be ‘different’ can be so ugly, and so hurtful, but the ending could be viewed as how bullies are the ones who lose out in the end as they never see the beauty that resides in others and so remain trapped within their small, dark world. Unfortunately not everyone feels safe or courageous enough to speak up for themselves and so this book is like a voice for them and hopefully enough children (and adults) will be listening. Tania
This book is about a cicada who works in a city with humans. The humans treat him like he’s nothing, or like he’s invisible just because he’s different. But the cicada is a beautiful creature and in the end he leaves the ugly dark city and goes to live in a beautiful colourful forest with other creatures like him. And he’s happy because he’s not like the humans, not a bully too. Zoe (age 7)
The release of Cicada is an opportune time to mention we still have some unframed limited edition giclee prints by Shaun Tan from his earlier work. Cost is $180 each, of which $20 will be donated to the Indigenous Literacy Foundation.

Nimesh the Adventurer by Ranjit Singh (ill) Mehrdokht Amini ($30, HB)
Richly textured, vividly hued digital collages illustrate this playful depiction of a boy’s imagination through a seemingly ordinary day. ‘Hello Nimesh, is school over?’ an unseen narrator asks a boy surrounded by classmates. ‘This is not a school,”’answers the boy cheerfully. ‘It’s an ancient cave, and shhhh! Or you’ll wake... the dragon!’ The following image reveals Nimesh’s imagined scenario: an endearing dragon in party shoes snoozes peacefully at a desk. On subsequent spreads, the question-and-answer format alternates everyday scenes with his wild, creative adventures: a school hallway becomes a shark-infested sea; an elderly neighbour on a park bench is actually a princess in a garden. In a final reversal, Nimesh responds with a happy dose of reality: this door doesn’t lead to a cave full of gold; it leads to home, where he’s greeted by his mother, dressed in a sari, and his father, in kurta pajamas. Stunningly detailed, this is a picture book you can’t help but linger over, savouring the beauty of the illustrations and young Nimesh’s imagination. Greatly admired by both Tania and me. Lynndy

Backyard by Ananda Braxton-Smith (ill) Lizzy Newcomb ($25, HB)
Tawny frogmouths still as wood/ with lamp-eyes lighting/ tiny movement everywhere. Haiku-sparse evocative text describes the wildlife a child notices in her suburban back yard as night draws in, while ceramic artist Newcomb’s illustrations bring to life the lush details of every creature. Nature and picture book combine to create a landscape familiar to many Australians, encouraging us to embrace afresh our environment. Lynndy

Look Up! Numbers, Colours and Shapes in Architecture by Antonia Pesenti ($30, HB)
Alphabetical Sydney by Hilary Bell and Antonia Pesenti is an enduring bestseller in our  Glebe shop: not only for locals who recognise all the landmarks and scenes, but also for overseas readers who can gain a very real flavour of our city from this lively rhyming book. Now architect/illustrator Pesenti follows her passion in her solo volume Look Up!—’...a selection of architectural wonders that draws our attention to numbers, shapes and colours in unique and fascinating ways. Carefully curated to include a broad range of buildings from around the world and from different eras, Look Up! not only introduces young children to numbers, colours and shapes, but also provokes discussion about architecture.’ See more than the facades through this boldly coloured exploration for ages 3+. Lynndy

The Quest for the Hiss-Paniola! 1 The Adventures of Jack Scratch by Craig Phillips ($18.45, PB; $30 HB)
By request from his daughter Craig Phillips created this graphic novel of cats... pirate-cats, wit and swashbuckling adventure with hints of Treasure Island and plenty of humour. There’s also Cap’n Catnip, great sailor (and great wimp), as well as Jack’s uncle Silver and his mighty galleon. Wake up your parrot, unsheathe your sword, and be prepared to bellow along in your best pirate-speak as Jack Scratch, diminutive feline hero, launches his precarious quest for the treasure of the Hiss-Paniola. This first of Phillips’ rollicking Jack Scratch series is bound to have readers agog for the next: The Curse of the Kraken! which is in progress. Lynndy


Front Desk by Kelly Yang ($18, PB)
Deservedly acclaimed, this largely autobiographical story is illuminating, heartrending and uplifting. With her parents, 10-year-old Mia Tang migrated from China to the US where the family believed they would enjoy freedoms unknown back in China. Central to Front Desk is the relentlessly hard life Mia’s family endures managing a motel for a bitterly racist Chinese ex-patriate who exploits the newcomers ‘He said it like we were inventory—freely disposable, along with the washer and dryer.’ Mia is an indomitable resourceful child who refuses to allow prejudice, ignorance or family expectations daunt her. Instead, she initiates improvements; befriends the permanent residents of the motel; takes on the police when a guest’s car disappears, and changes the lives of her family and friends through heroic covert activism. The heartrending aspect of it is the blunt discrimination of this story set in the 1990s—even now those barriers persist. Despite all the setbacks, Mia shines: sometimes with humour, at times with determination. ‘Often during tough times, the first instinct is to exclude. But this book is about what happens when you include, when, despite all your suffering and your heartache, you still… look out at the world with fresh, curious eyes.’  Kelly Yang exhibited the same strength she attributes to Mia: she overcame poor English skills and went to college at the age of 13; became one of the youngest ever female Harvard law graduates, writer and columnist. Very highly recommended for ages 10-adult. Lynndy


The novels of E Nesbit
The novels of E Nesbit have long been my default comfort reading—there’s something so reassuring and appealing about the naughtiness of the children, even though they nearly always try to be good. The author wrote over 60 books, and was a co-founder of the Fabian society. She was also one of the first writers to write stories for children that were neither didactic nor religious, and although all the books have a moral, they are never sanctimonious. Magic is a realm much visited in contemporary children’s literature, but in the books of E Nesbit magic occurs in the everyday world—usually after the characters have found an object, or sometimes a magical creature (most famously the Psammead in Five Children and It). This overlay of magic creates awkward and amusing situations for the children involved as they endeavour to work through their normal lives. Of course their absolute freedom and near complete neglect by the parents and guardians means they are at liberty, and at large, to have extraordinary adventures. Our colleague Elissa recommended The Enchanted Castle to me, and I loved it; it’s a brilliant example of the vagaries of the magical object—when children find magic ring that makes them invisible. My favourite is still Five Children and It, and I really like The Would-Be-Goods too. If you’ve never read E Nesbit, you should—and all the books are fun to read aloud too. Louise


Klutz Circuit Games: Book & Maker Kit ($30, BX)
The Klutz brand is a guarantee of high quality crafts and activities, all exhaustively pre-tested with children of ages relevant to each. In keeping with the emphasis on STEAM topics in schools, Klutz now has a range of Maker Lab kits, the latest of which is Circuit Games, for ages 8+. Lynndy

Dragon: Build It Model & Book by Deborah Kespert ($26, PACK)
Imagine having your very own dragon in your room, wings spread in flight mode and realistic flames bursting from its jaws! The Build It Dragon Model and Book kit has everything you need to assemble your own dragon with an impressive 60cm wingspan, with the help of the simple instruction booklet that’s also filled with dragon facts. Dragons not your style? The Build It range also includes Dinosaur and Airplane: No glue or scissors needed, just press out the pieces and follow the step-by-step directions to create your enviable model. Lynndy


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