Gleebooks Education 

April 2014

Gleebooks Bookshop - Wednesday, April 16, 2014


Greetings from Kate, Mandy and Suzi!

It’s been very hot here in Adelaide but after the heat we are now heading into autumn. Kate and Ron have just returned from 6 weeks holiday away in NSW, mainly in Sydney to see our two grandsons.  It was an amazingly relaxing time.

Mandy here. While Kate was on holidays over our side of the country, she popped into Gleebooks. It was great to be able to work side by side instead of over the phone or by email, and we made some plans for our presentations at the ECIS Conference later this year. Speaking of which…..

We wanted to give you some information about the ECIS (The European Council for International Schools) Conference for Librarians.  It is held every three years and this year it will be held again in Waterloo in Belgium (and yes this is where the Battle of Waterloo against Napoleon was fought back in 1815.)   Kate has very fond memories of the last time it was held there.  This was way back in 1998.  It was the first ECIS Librarians’ Conference she ever attended and so it was very special to meet so many librarians from Europe and also from International Schools round the world.  This year it will be held from 26th to 28th September.   The emphasis is on Literacy and its challenges  …  For more information visit or or Mandy and Kate are planning to exhibit and also give presentations at the Conference and so we are looking forward to meeting up again with everyone.

Are you going to the ECIS? Please do let us know so we can look out for you. It would be great to catch up in person instead of by email!

In addition, the third Celebrate Reading National Conference – Insights into Quality Australian Literature for Young Adults will be held in Fremantle, Western Australia from Friday 31st October to Saturday 1st November.  It is organised through The Literature Centre in Fremantle, Western Australia.  They run an excellent year long programme on children’s literature for children, young adults and teachers.  Guest presenters at the Conference include John Marsden, Melina Marchetta and Michael Gerard Bauer.  Details are on the website

Thanks to those librarians who wrote expressing their appreciation for the jacket images in the last newsletter.  It is always great to get feedback.  Thanks to Andrew for all his work and for the excellent setting out.  It is gradually happening more and more!

Attachments to this Book News:

• Australian Indigenous Peoples list (updated).  The quality and quantity of good books is improving all the time and this is wonderful to see.  It is especially good that increasingly new titles are written by Indigenous people themselves.
• Australian Non-fiction list (updated)

Australian Non-Fiction

It is interesting that many of the series of books on various aspects of Australian history and society have gone out of print.   Now there are more individual titles available, including:
Australians All:  A History of Growing Up From the Ice Age to the Apology by Nadia Wheatley & Ken Searle (illus) hardback 9781741146370  $50.00 
Nadia Wheatley wanted to write a history of Australia from two main perspectives: from the perspective of the original Indigenous inhabitants and also of the many people who have come and settled this country.  The emphasis is on social history for she also tells the stories of about eighty young Australian boys and girls from all walks of life who lived through this period.  (11 year olds to adults) KS.  For the full review, see the September Book News, or the shorter review in the attached Australian Non-Fiction list.

Surprisingly, another large impressive book describing Australian history for children was also published during 2013.
The Big Book of Australian History by Peter Macinnis hardback 9780642278326  $39.99 is a more traditional history endeavouring to describe events from the earliest times of geological formation, through the life of Indigenous Peoples, exploration and early settlement.  Contents include Federation, the ANZACS, the Great Depression, Defending Australia, Disasters, Sport, Controversial Issues and Multiculturalism and Science, Culture and Entertainment.  It is a mammoth task and the book forms a very helpful introduction and basic reference.  However, what makes this book so different and interesting is its very extensive use of paintings, illustrations, posters and photos from the various periods.  It has been published by the National Library of Australia and they obviously had access to an extraordinary range of illustrative materials which adds greatly to its appeal.   However, I was disappointed that more details about the illustrations weren’t included under each illustration.  (It is necessary for instance to turn to the back pages to find out the date of each painting, illustration or photo and often the name of the artist.)   In addition many of the illustrative materials are fascinating but are not necessarily an accurate depiction of what is being portrayed.  For some of these subtleties see the following review of Topsy-Turvy World:  How Australian Animals Puzzled Early Explorers.  Obviously with such a vast undertaking, space constraints are a real concern but I hope that teachers or librarians using the book would be aware of this.  It will be a very welcome addition to the elementary and secondary library.  (10 – 15 years)  KS


Topsy-Turvy World:  How Australian Animals Puzzled Early Explorers by Kirsty Murray, hardback 9780642277497  $29.95
When the early explorers drew these strange Australian animals they were unable to draw them accurately, instead they were drawn reflecting the animals that were already known to them from their familiar European world. Consequently the kangaroos look more like large rats and the koala looks a bit like a monkey. Murray describes the encounters of the first explorers with some 15 animals. As well as the very early illustrations of these animals, she also includes diary entries, descriptions of the circumstances in which the animals were seen and the reactions of the explorers to the animals and also to the way the animals tasted when cooked!  For each animal there is a beautifully and accurately drawn illustration by a later artist. Also included is a page of factual information about each animal, its habitat and distribution. There is also a detailed list of all the illustrations and artists as well as a list and description of the early explorers and a glossary and an index.  (9 – 15 years)  KS

Amazingly enough yet another book was published in 2013 about Australia and its history and this is the one that I found the most fascinating.  The book is called Let the land Speak: A history of Australia:  How the land created our nation  by Jackie French hardback 9780732296759  $45.00
Jackie is well known for her children’s fiction which is often historical.  However she also has a passion for and is very knowledgeable about gardening, farming and the particular requirements of the land of Australia.  She has lived in the Araluen Valley in the southern Tablelands of New South Wales for many years and her detailed knowledge of this land has shaped and changed her understanding of Australia’s history.  Over this time she has come to realize just how much the land itself has shaped Australia’s history.   Her interpretations are often very different from the more usual historical accounts with their greater emphasis on social forces.  I found the book fascinating, especially her reinterpretations of the role played by Indigenous women and the way they shaped and changed their environment.   She also discusses why the early sea explorers were so disappointed in their contact with New Holland and why they continued to search for a more fertile grassy Great South Land,  the role of the Great Droughts and extremes of weather, firestick farming and how this has been misunderstood more recently.  It is a very thought provoking book. At times it is repetitious though this makes it easier to take each single chapter as a separate entity.  There is a lot of humour as the book contains many anecdotes about her own life in the Araluen Valley.  Jackie French is certain that past misunderstandings of the land have had, and are continuing to have, severe consequences.  “Individuals, cultures, persistent ideologies (substantiated or no) and the innate nature of humanity are major forces too.  But the land itself is underestimated. “    (15 years up)   KS

Vietnam Diary by Mark Wilson hardback 9780734412744  $24.99
The sending of Australian soldiers to the Vietnam War brought with it many conflicts and divisions within families and friends. Many were opposed to the war and especially opposed to conscription, which called up young men and sent them off the war zone. Leigh and Jason are brothers and were extremely close when they were boys. When Leigh goes to University, he becomes vehemently opposed to the war. However when Jason is called up, Jason feels it is his duty to go and fight as his father and grandfather had done in earlier wars, and this causes stormy arguments with Leigh. Jason hears nothing at first from Leigh when he is sent to the war. Jason’s letters and diary entries describing his time in Vietnam add an immediacy and intimacy to the text, giving the background to the events. The story is very moving and interesting in its use of text, letters and illustration. When Jason fights at Long Tan, there is no text, just the shadows and explosions of the battle in an illustration covering a double page spread. The illustrations use a variety of techniques and add much vivid detail, helping the story to come alive. There is much to discuss in this picture book and it would be a very useful introduction to a study of war, and especially to the Vietnam War. (9 – 14 years)  KS

Australian Indigenous Non-Fiction

Welcome to My Country by Laklak Burarrwanga and family pb 9781743313961 $18.99

This is the story of Laklak Burarrwanga and her family and also of the Yolngu people of Arnhem Land.  It describes Laklak’s life and how her people moved back to their Country at Bawaka, a beautiful beach in Arnhem Land.  The book is divided into sections describing the seasons, how they change and what food can be collected or hunted at that time.  The story of Laklak’s life is told intermittently with this factual information about the land.  Also interspersed throughout the book are traditional stories.  All of these relate and combine to give us a much greater understanding.  The story of Laklak’s life has a very personal touch and it reads as though she is chatting to us.  However there is also a huge amount of information about kinship (which is always very complicated), bush foods and natural farming.   It is often difficult to remember as many of the words are also translated into the Yolngu language.  The many photographs, a detailed map, Yolngu word list, summary of the seasons and an Index are all helpful.  This is a detailed, lovely book.  It will be an invaluable guide for anyone wanting to have a greater understanding of the Yolngu way of life, their stories and their attachment to their Country.  It is a very valuable resource for teachers. (14 years up)  KS


Developing World series 

India and Mumbai  hardback 9781445123608  $34.00
It is so difficult to keep up to date with new books on countries in the Developing World, especially since these developing countries change so rapidly.  This new series was recently published in 2013 and some have just come out in 2014.  The books provide a good introduction to the country, people, culture, education and living standards as well as industry, environment and agriculture.  Details are given on each country as a whole and also on the particular city. The excellent photos give us a greater insight into the country.  There is an index and also a glossary.   Others in the series are:

Brazil and Rio de Janeiro  9781445123615
China and Beijing  9781445123592 
India and Mumbai  9781445123608
Indonesia and Jakarta 9781445123646
Russia and Moscow  9781445123622
Turkey and Istanbul  9781445123639 hardback $34.00 each  (9 – 15 years)  KS

All About series
All About Indonesia by Linda Hibbs  hardback 9780804840859 $19.99
The book contains stories, songs, recipes, games and craft activities such as batik and how to make a shadow puppet. These all contribute to a very helpful introduction to Indonesia. We take a brief look at life in the big city and in a village, going to school, transport, beliefs, traditional costumes, performing arts, food and language. Lots of illustrations and photos throughout. (8-11 years) MC
See also:
All About Korea by Ann Martin Bowler & Soosoonam Barg  hardback 9780804840125  $19.99
All About Japan by Willamarie Moore & Kazumi Wilds (illus) hardback 9784805310779 $19.99

From Mud Huts to Skyscrapers:  Architecture for Childrenby Christine Paxmann & Anne Ibelings (illus) hardback 9783791371139  $32.00

This large format book with its clear detailed illustrations is an excellent introduction to the way architecture has developed and changed over many thousands of years.  Beginning with the simplest of houses in caves or built of mud, it moves through the marvels of Egyptian, Greek and Roman buildings of Antiquity through the Middle Ages to Modern Times.  There are 25 examples of buildings, mainly from Europe.  Perhaps the most interesting are the most recent buildings: the shapes of some are so unusual that they depend on computers for their design and others have vertical gardens incorporated into their structures.  Each building has a double page spread, an overall introduction and then some 6 or so points describe particular features of the building.  A Timeline at the end of the book summarises the particular periods and what was happening in the world when each building was created.    (10 – 15 years)  KS

30,000 Years of Art by Thomas Craughwell pb 9781603762830  $29.99

Normally I find heavy books of over five hundred pages off-putting.  However this book is an engaging and accessible chronological survey of movements, major artists and masterworks.  Thomas Craughwell has written a beautifully succinct introduction, only one page in length, to the 250 pieces of fine art which he has chosen to include in this book.  The art works include well-known favourites and also lesser-known European, Asian, American and Islamic masterpieces.  The full-page reproductions are of very good quality and for each work of art, Craughwell has written a page of informative and interesting description.  He is not an art critic and has written a wide range of books on history, politics and religion and popular culture.  Maybe this is why I found his descriptions so interesting.  He uses no specialist art jargon but tells us how the work of art was found or excavated, gives us some information about the artist’s life or culture or the political, social or religious movements that are reflected in the painting or sculpture.   As he says in his introduction, the “objective of this book is to give viewers a way into the work of art, to help them understand not only why Giotto was such a big deal in his day, but also what Andy Warhol was thinking when he painted a giant can of Campbell’s Tomato Soup.”  This is a book which deserves to be read again and again.  (15 years up)  KS

Australian Indigenous Picture Books

When We Go Walkabout by Rhoda Lalara & Alfred Lalara (illus) & Alice Durilla (illus) hardback 9781743314562   $24.99

When we go walkabout, what do we see? A frill-necked lizard on a big rock, a wallaby hopping through the scrub, a stingray in the lagoon, a crocodile hiding in the river! The text of this strikingly illustrated book is in English and Anindilyakwa, an ancient Indigenous language that is still spoken today by the Warnindilyakwa people of Groote Eylandt, which is in the Gulf of Carpentaria about 640 kilometres from Darwin. The different animals that live on Groote Eylandt are also totems for the different clans that have cultural ties to the land. There is a double page spread of biographical information about the author and artists at the end of the book. (4-7 years)  MC

In our October Book News we talked about how pleased we were to have been shown the excellent picture books published by Budburra Books, a not-for-profit community organisation celebrating the strengths and creativity of an Indigenous school and community in southeast Queensland. Theirs is an inspiring story (see the October Book News). So far, they have produced 5 films and 12 wonderful picture books, two of which have been selected as CBCA Notable Books (Dingoes are not Dogs, 2012, and Budburra's Alphabet, 2011) and one of which has been added to the National Curriculum (Catching Blueys). Ratartat (Ballarat-based public artists Geoff Bonney and Peter Widmer) have been working with the children of Cherbourg over several years, teaching them art techniques that are used throughout the books. The books are beautifully produced, full colour, and highly recommended! We reviewed eight of the books in the October newsletter and you’ll also find them in the updated Australian Indigenous Books List attached to this newsletter. Here are the other four books we have read:

Cherbourg Seasons by Cherbourg State School pb 9780980589313  $24.00
The pictures of the seasons in this book were produced by the children of Budburra, Milbi and Gooroonu Classes at Cherbourg State School. The children discussed the seasons and different things that happen in them and then painted their ideas. Peter and Geoff from Ratartat cut out parts of each painting and built them into the pictures. On the page opposite each picture are brief comments about what each season is like and the different activities that the kids do, followed by a photo of one of the elders and what they got up to when they were young. There is a glossary at the end, information about the artwork, and a hand-drawn map of Cherbourg. This would be a great class project! (4-7 years) MC

Walking Through Cherbourg by Cherbourg State School pb 9780980589337  $24.00
Created and illustrated by the students of Budjar Class at Cherbourg State School. The repetitive, rhyming text throughout the book asks the questions “Walking through Cherbourg, what do you see? Can you hear a noise? What could it be?”, followed by a noise such as “thump crack thump crack”. Over the page there’s a painting of a wallaby accompanied by the answer. “Over there! A wallaby looking for his tea.”. Or a horse, a kookaburra, a dingo…. Finally, “It is my Nana calling me for tea!”. Colourful illustrations adorn this simple picture book. (3-5/6 years) MC

The Ration Shed by Cherbourg State School pb 9780980589368  $24.00
This picture book gives an overview of the history of Cherbourg. It was established in 1904 as the Barambah Aboriginal Settlement and many Aboriginal people were forced to live there in dormitories or camps. Every aspect of their lives was controlled by the Government, including the provision of small amounts of food called rations. People would have to queue for hours at the Ration Shed to collect their food, which was very different from the traditional bush tucker that was hunted and gathered from the land – kangaroo, wallaby, echidna, goanna, snake, fish, native fruits, plant roots, seeds and leaves.
Instead, tea, sugar, rice, salt, sago, tapioca, split peas, green peas, porridge, flour and meat were given out on certain days but would run out before the week was over, leaving people hungry. If they wanted to leave the settlement to hunt or gather bush tucker they had to get a permit; without a permit they would be jailed or sent far away from their family to another settlement. In 1960, the first Cherbourg Aboriginal Council was appointed, and in 1967 Aboriginal people were counted in the Census for the first time. It’s shocking to me that this recognition only happened so recently. The Ration Shed was closed in 1968 and is now the Ration Shed Museum in the centre of Cherbourg. As Nan Sandra says, “….now it is a place that gives food for thought”.  At the end of the book are personal stories from a few people who lived at the Settlement, a very informative Timeline, a Glossary and a hand-drawn map. Black and white drawings and photographs, all with painted borders. (7-10/11 years) MC

Mundagarra by Cherbourg State School pb 9780980589306  $24.00
Based on a story told by artist and storyteller Aunty Venus Rabbitt and illustrated by Karbul Class at Cherbourg State School. This is the story of the day Aunty Venus took the class to her favourite waterhole. She showed them many interesting things, like the best spot to catch fish, and told of how she learned to talk to the rocks and water and show them respect. She told of the day Mundagarra, the Rainbow Serpent, appeared in the waterhole before her and saved her from a teenage boy with a gun and a big King Brown snake. The children learned they should not be too afraid of creatures like Mundagarra or the spirits of the rocks and water – if you show them respect they will look after you. Black and white illustrations throughout. (5-8 years) MC

Picture Books

Mr Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown hardback 9780316200639 $29.00, pb 9781447253280 $12.99

Mr Tiger was fed up with everything always being so proper. He wanted to loosen up, have fun, go wild! And so he does, becoming a little wilder each day, he eventually sheds his stuffy suit, bow-tie and top hat. He felt magnificent. The other animals thought he’d gone too far and so he ran off into the wilderness, where he went completely wild. Then he got lonely; missed his friends, his home, the city. Upon his return he was delighted to find that things had changed, standards had relaxed, and so he felt free to be himself. And so did everyone else. An absolutely delightful, celebratory book with excellent illustrations by this Caldecott Honour illustrator. Highly recommended. (4-7 years) MC

Dia’s Story Cloth: The Hmong People’s Journey of Freedom by Dia Cha & stitched by Chue Cha & Nhia Thao Cha  pb 9781880000632  $15.00

This book was published such a long time ago, back in 1996, but for some reason we have never reviewed it and make amends here.   The story cloth tells the story of the Hmong people’s journey long ago from China to the highlands of Laos.   There they planted their crops and the women embroidered their clothes with the most intricate and colourful patterns and designs.   However in 1975 they fled the fighting in Laos to the refugee camps in Thailand, from where they were repatriated to the US.  This beautiful story cloth was made by the author’s aunt and uncle and, in intricate detail, tells their story which is also the author’s story.  The cloth is the size of a double bed and shows the Hmong people making their long journey, planting their crops and tending their animals, and also the fighting and killing during the war.   It is a remarkable account of their journey and also of their skill as embroiderers and of their ability to make a new folk art from their old needlework traditions.   (6 – 10 years)  KS

Night by Junuka Deshpande(bilingual English/Hindi) pb 9788181464484  $12.00  
The illustrations in this book are so striking, just in black and white and grey.  The text is minimal with just a few words in English and also in Hindi.  The pictures tell the story of a bus that breaks down in the forest at night.  Two children get out of the bus and they are suddenly aware of all the shadows, the sounds and creatures in the forest all around them.  There is a strong sense of wonder at the natural world conveyed by these simple but compelling illustrations.  I am sure that children would be inspired by the book to make their own black and white illustrations of the night.  (4 – 8 years)  KS

Kissed by the Moon by Alison Lester hardback 9780670076758 $19.99  (Australian title)
A new book from Alison Lester, Australia’s inaugural Children’s Laureate (jointly with Boori Pryor), is always a treat. In Kissed by the Moon, her gentle watercolour illustrations accompany text that is both a lullaby to a new baby and a wish for baby to experience the best of our beautiful world: ‘May you grow sleepy at sunset, sing to the stars, and drift into dreams. And may you, my baby, be kissed by the moon.’ Winner 2014 Indie Book Awards, Children’s category. (Early Childhood 0-4 years) MC

The House byJ Patrick Lewis & Roberto Innocenti (illus) hardback 9781568462011  $32.00

The beautifully detailed illustrations in this book tell the story of a house from 1900 to 2009. The house was originally built of stone and wood in 1656 but was abandoned and the illustrations show the house being rebuilt and the happy, industrious family planting trees and vines, growing vegetables, tending animals and being very self-sufficient. However, the years from 1900 – 2009 were momentous ones, with two world wars, and the illustrations show the disastrous effects of these events on those living in the house. Each large double page spread has exactly the same perspective of the house and its surroundings.  It shows how the activities round the house change as the seasons change and as the war affects and brings such sadness to those in the house. Finally, in 1973, the house was again abandoned, to be totally rebuilt in 1999 as a flashy modern style house with a swimming pool. The house is no longer a farm in tune with its surroundings, though there are still traces of how it used to look. The illustrations came first and then J Patrick Lewis was asked to provide the poem.  Personally I do not warm to the poem. I prefer to look at the illustrations on their own and work out my own interpretation of what is happening. There is so much detail and so much to discuss.  (7 – 11 years) KS

The Dance Teacher by Simon Milne & Chantal Stewart (illus) hardback  9781743313312  $24.99
Isabelle is just a little girl but she really wants to be a ballerina.  Luckily she finds a wonderful teacher, Miss Sylvie, and although her friends find other interests and drop out of dancing classes, Isabelle keeps on practising and loving her lessons.  Her dedication and hard work finally pays off and she becomes a famous ballerina.  But this isn’t the ending, for when Isabelle comes back home she buys the old dance studio from her former teacher and loves teaching her young students.  “Teaching” she says “is the best job in the world.”  Teachers will be delighted to find this book which pays tribute to the role inspirational teachers can play in our lives, and of course aspiring young dancers will also love the description of how a young dancer achieves her dream. Engaging, lively illustrations by Chantal Stewart add life and humour.  (5– 8 years)  KS

I am Different!  by Manjula PadmanabhanCan You Find Me?  pb 9781570916403  $13.00
This bright, lively book celebrates difference. On each double page spread there is an item that is different from all the rest.  The colour may be different or the shape or the pattern, or just asleep when the others are awake.  Added interest comes from the fact that the question Can You Find Me? is asked in a different language with a pronunciation guide which helps children to say the words. Some additional information is included about each language.  In all there are sixteen languages including Spanish, Swahili, Hindi, Navajo and Chinese. Children will enjoy searching for the item that is different in each of the engaging illustrations. The answers are highlighted at the end of the book.   (5 - 8 years)  KS

I Was Only Nineteen by John Schumann & Craig Smith (illus) hardback 9781743317235  $24.99  (Australian title)
This picture book sets out the lyrics to the famous song of that name, written by John Schumann and performed by the band Redgum in the 1980s. It doesn’t come with a CD, unfortunately, but the song can be easily accessed online. I really like the illustrations, which depict the young soldiers leaving for, and then at, war; then, to accompany the chorus each time, we see a grandfather (obviously the boy who went to war all those years ago) with his young grandson, visiting the doctor, then eating an ice cream cone together. The endpapers show the grandfather and the boy looking at photos together, and then marching in the ANZAC Day Parade. There is an afterword by John Schumann telling how he came to write the song – it’s a very personal story, inspired by his brother-in-law, Mick, who fought in Vietnam. With its alternative representation of history, through song, this would be an excellent addition to any study of war, particularly the Vietnam War. (8 or 9 years and up)  MC


The Simple Things by Bill Condon pb 9781743317242  $12.99  (Australian title)

Stephen’s great-aunt Lola sends him money for his birthday and Christmas every year, but they’ve never met. When he and his parents go to stay with Lola for three weeks in a country town, Stephen wants to go straight back home. There’s nothing to do and Lola is not only really, really old but she’s also grumpy and scary. However, forced to spend time together, Stephen and Lola form a bond, and after an emergency trip to the hospital, Lola shares a long-kept family secret with him.  Stephen learns about the simple things in life, like fishing, cricket and climbing trees, from Lola’s neighbour Norm and his granddaughter Allie, and together they celebrate Lola’s 80th birthday. A gentle, uncomplicated novel about family and friendship. (7-9 years)  MC

The Girl from Snowy River by Jackie French pb 9780732293109   $19.99  (Australian title)
I read the title and was a bit sceptical.  However, it is interesting how Jackie French has captured the spirit of the characters in the famous poems The Man from Snowy River and Clancy of the Overflow and has included them in the story, while at the same time vividly portraying a young girl who also lived in the rugged Snowy region at that time.   This is an epic tale set in 1919, after the Great War when so many men had been killed and many of those who returned were beset by their own demons and found life extremely difficult.  Felicity is only 17 but has recently lost her mother and father and a brother and is trying to run the farm on a high hill above a valley in the Snowy Mountains.   It is challenging country and a very difficult situation for Felicity as she cares for her younger brother and sister and tries to keep the farm going.   In exciting situations reminiscent of the exploits of the Man from Snowy River, she proves herself to be worthy to be called the Girl from Snowy River.   However, perhaps most interesting is the insight Jackie French gives us into this period of history when women were called on to do so much.  It was a time of great change and she describes it well and also describes the beauty of the High Country and the life of its people. This is the second book in the Matilda series.  The first was A Waltz for Matilda  (1894 – 1915) pb 9780732290214  $19.99 .  The final book, The Road to Gundagai pb 9780732297220  $19.99  has only just been published.   (10-16 years)  KS

A Song for Summer by Eva Ibbotson pb 9780330444989  $14.95
I came across this novel on someone’s shelf while I was away.  It was a nice surprise.   It is not a new book as it was first published in 1997 and this edition in 2006.  However, for those like myself who are fans of Eva Ibbotson’s work, especially Journey to the River Sea pb 9780330538817  $12.99, it will be a delight to find another of her stories.  The book has a little of the same touch of magic about the setting of the very different world in which Ellen Carr finds herself.  The book is set between the wars and Ellen has been raised in a family of very independent and intellectual women.  However, Ellen’s passion is the cooking of beautiful food.  She leaves London to start her new job as a housekeeper at an experimental school in the Austrian countryside.   Many of the teachers and the students are highly eccentric which makes for some very amusing incidents.  However these take place against a backdrop of an increasingly menacing threat from Nazi Germany.  This is also a love story as Ellen is attracted to Marek, an enigmatic man of many skills who acts as a gardener at the school.  It is a highly engaging book which also looks at a tumultuous time in Europe from very different eyes.   (12 – 17 years)  KS

Shimmer  by Jennifer McBride & Lynda Nixon (illus)pb 9781922089434  $14.99  (Australian title)  Kora is a teenage genie, daughter of the Emperor and Empress of Genesia. Their nation is at war with Vennum, who wants to ‘harness’ them and take control of their world. Kora would be his greatest prize as she is the most powerful genie to be born in centuries. Although she’d rather stay and fight, she is banished to Earth for her own protection, and she’s not happy about it! When she arrives on Earth she is accidentally harnessed to David, a teenager who has family issues of his own, and she must grant all his foolish wishes. Theirs is an antagonistic relationship and David soon discovers that having your own genie is not all sunshine and roses. As the war on Genesia intensifies and Vennum comes to Earth looking for her, Kora and David realise they need to work together if they’re going to survive. Fast-paced, witty and humourous with themes of empathy and the value of collaboration. (10-14) MC

The Middle of Nowhere by  Geraldine McCaughreanpb 9781409570349 $19.99
It is often through the eyes of others that we more clearly see ourselves, and this is certainly the case with McCaughrean’s latest novel which is heartwarming, tragic and defiantly humane. Focussing on young Comity, named so hopefully by her parents, the story illuminates the conditions and history of the Overland Telegraph in the late C19th. After the sudden death of her mother from snakebite, Comity vacillates between maintaining the values so thoroughly instilled by her mother, and questioning everything that has hitherto determined her life. Mute with grief, her father retreats into his work and Comity’s friendship with Fred, the young Aboriginal boy who shared her lessons, strengthens, becoming the mainstay of her life. The arrival of an unwanted assistant, the leering, disrespectful Quartz Hogg, upsets the entire telegraph repeater station and shatters Comity’s fragile lifestyle and the mind of her father, now a delicate bereft husk. Hogg’s racism and incendiary manipulation had me seething with impotent rage as well as aching with pity and sympathy for Comity and Fred, even while I was heartened by Comity’s resilience and defiance. Offsetting the more grim events are abundant moments of humour and stirring nobility. Likewise the contrast between life at the telegraph station and the cultures of Fred’s indigenous community and that of Punjabi lad Moosa – both boys are radiant with life and imagination, honour and understanding. The Middle of Nowhere, presenting our own history and geography through such a compassionate lens and wonderful imagery, reinforces my awe of McCaughrean’s skilful wordsmithery. (12-15 years) LB

The Hidden series by Lian Tanner
Ice Breaker: Book 1  pb 9781743314340 $18.99 (Australian title)
This is the first book in a new series by the author of The Keeper series.
Petrel lives in a rusting icebreaker called The Oyster that has been on the frozen seas for 300 years with a secret held deep within. Known only as the Nothing Girl, she has no place in the three tribes that inhabit the icebreaker. When Petrel spies a boy lying on the ice, who seems to have dropped from the sky, she makes sure he is rescued. But the boy has a secret mission which could affect her and everyone else on The Oyster. (10-14 years) MC

By the way, I also read The Son by Philipp Meyer  pb 9781742754338  $32.99.
This is truly an epic of American history.  It is absolutely fascinating in its depiction of a family over a number of generations from the early 1800s to very recent times in Texas.  It is very much an adult book and contains some quite brutal scenes but it is a real tour de force.  If you haven’t read it then do try it.   (Adult)  KS


Sculptor’s Daughter: A Childhood Memoir by Tove Jansson hardback 9781908745330 $24.99

This collection of short stories creates a childhood memoir that is both odd and engrossing. Startling in its detailed recall, but clearly based in the reality of Jansson’s bohemian family, this is more like an autobiographical document of life in Scandinavia in the early 20th century.  Tove Jansson’s mother was a Swedish designer, and her Finnish father was a sculptor, hence the title. Growing up in a household where Art was life, and life was Art, imbued the author with the sensitive resilience that informs all her work. The author’s memories of both her own inner life, and the daily life of this artistic household, are extremely vivid, capturing the fleeting emotions of the child, as all the events are told from her own point of view, and perspective as a small child. There are 19 stories in the book, and fascinating (but badly misnumbered) black and white photographs, including one of an early drawing of Tove’s. Amongst the stories, ‘Christmas’ is the best Christmas story I have ever read, and ‘The Stone’ is a completely thrilling account of a child bringing a large rock home. The artistic practices of both her parents are completely fascinating, but so are the small domestic details of their lives. Clearly the apple didn’t fall far from the tree in this family, and the author who created some of the best children’s books of all time, obviously learned her craft at her parents’ collective knee. (12 years to adults) LP

For teachers of Mandarin and those interested in learning Chinese

Chineasy : The New Way to Read Chinese by Shaolan Hsueh pb 9780500650288 $24.95

This is a fascinating book.  Shaolan devised the idea because she could see that her two children living in the UK were having so much difficulty in learning to read Chinese characters.  She thought that she could make it easier by helping them learn the most commonly occurring characters through simple illustrations around each character.  She refers to these as building blocks and intends for them to be the base for understanding many more characters.  Through the illustrations, students also gain a deeper understanding of the historical and cultural references of the vocabulary.  I think that this method would be very helpful as an aid for teachers of Mandarin or for those with a good understanding of the language.  However, for someone like myself, Chinese still appears to be a very complicated and daunting language with so many characters and variations to remember.  The book is extremely well set out and the illustrations are fascinating and short descriptions under each building block or character are clearly described and always interesting.  This would be a very helpful reference book for those schools teaching Mandarin.  (16 years up)  KS

Kate Shepherd and Mandy Clarke

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