Gleebooks Education 

December 2014

Gleebooks Bookshop - Monday, December 01, 2014

 No 47, December 2014

Greetings from Kate Shepherd and Mandy Clarke, Austral Ed

We realize that this newsletter is very late in the year for Australian schools, however it is only the end of the first term for overseas schools.  (Maybe Australian schools could make a wish list and save it for ordering next year.) Mandy and Kate have recently returned from the wonderful ECIS Librarians’ Conference in Waterloo in Belgium and wanted to share some experiences.

The Conference was excellent.  It was so good to meet up with old friends (Kate has known some of these librarians since the first Librarians’ Conference she attended in 1998) and for Mandy it was great to meet with librarians with whom she has been in touch over the past four years.  And of course it was an added bonus to meet so many new librarians and teachers.   Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the Conference was the feedback we received from teachers.  It was great to see their reactions to the books on the display, and to the books we discussed in our presentations.  In one of our presentations on Australian fiction and picture books quite a few librarians commented on the popularity of a number of Australian series for young readers, especially girls. And they wanted to know if there were more.  As a result of their feedback, we thought it would be useful if we compiled a new list of Australian series fiction for Primary aged readers and this is attached.   We have also attached a list of the Australian fiction and picture books that we took for display and also for our presentation.  The list shows some of our favourite recent fiction and also a few old favourites that we just had to take.

The book that attracted the most attention was One Minute’s Silenceby David Metzenthen and illustrated by David Camilleri.  It is such a striking book and it became quite a talking point since it was so unusual.   Picture books for middle or senior students aren’t used as often in overseas schools as in Australia, and so people were intrigued.  One American teacher was moved to tears and when Kate asked her if she knew anything about the Gallipoli campaign of World War 1 she said no but that it made no difference since the book was so moving and its message was universal.  It is a very important book, published 100 years since the beginning of World War 1.  It would be an excellent book to use as an introduction to any discussion of war and its consequences for the middle or senior years.  The book was previously reviewed in the August newsletter but the review has been included again below.
Thanks so much to everyone at the Conference for your comments and your warmth. We do appreciate your feedback and it gives us a better understanding of your interests and needs.  It makes our job of choosing and reviewing books so much easier and more rewarding.

And finally Mandy and Kate want to thank everyone for their support.  It is very much appreciated.  We do enjoy sharing our recommendations for books that we love and we are so pleased to see these books become part of big or small libraries in International schools throughout the world.  It is very good to be reminded that our service is valued and we are even more pleased when teachers and librarians from Australia and round the world show their support by ordering books through Austral Ed.  Of course, without your continued support, Austral Ed could not function and would sadly go the way of a growing number of independent bookshops.

We wish you all the best for the Christmas season and the New Year.
The following book was previously reviewed in the August Newsletter.

One Minute’s Silence by David Metzenthen illustrated by Michael Camilleri hardback  9781743316245  $29.99
I was so surprised when I read this book.  The text is simply written and full of humanity.  A class of Year 11 or 12 students is asked to imagine, in one minute’s silence, the ANZAC soldiers landing at Gallipoli and struggling to advance under very heavy fire.  However, the students are also asked to imagine the Turkish soldiers, looking down on the invading soldiers, and to imagine the Turks’ determination to defend their villages and their country.  To imagine both sides of this conflict is in itself very moving.  However, Camilleri has added another dimension by taking the young students in the Year 11 or 12 class and embedding them in the scenes of fighting among both ANZAC and Turkish soldiers.  It is very effective and gives the illustrations a relevance and immediacy while making us really imagine what it would have been like to be there.   Camilleri also uses strikingly different and imaginative devices such as the close-up of the mechanism of guns, of a moving bullet and of an enormous fly evoking the fly blown and rotting corpses on the battlefield.  The illustrations are beautifully drawn with a black ink pen and contain many other fascinating details.  For those interested in understanding more about Camilleri’s thoughts and the background to the illustrations, there is an excellent commentary on his thought processes on this website.

I found this an exceptional book, bringing vividly to mind as it does the horror of the loss of so many young men sacrificed, on both sides, in this devastating war.  Text, illustrations and the design of the book are perfectly integrated to give the book its powerful narrative.  The book ends with the extraordinary quotation from Ataturk when he says that “there is no difference between the johnnies and the mehmets” and that the fallen “having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well”.    (10 years upwards)  KS

Picture Books

The Last King of Angkor Wat by Graeme Base  hardback 9780670077151   $26.99
Tiger, Gibbon, Water Buffalo and Gecko are lounging in the ruins of one of the ancient temples of Angkor Wat. Inspired by the stone carvings of kings, parades, feasts and battles, each argues that they would have been a great ruler. An old statue of the Elephant King comes to life and sets them a challenge: they must journey to the temple on the top of the hill, proving along the way that they have the essential qualities – strength, compassion, resilience and courage. Off they race, each encountering a different challenge along the way. After praising them the Elephant King proceeds to point out that none of them has all of the qualities of a great king; Tiger has strength but lacks compassion, Water Buffalo has resilience but lacks courage, and so on. They are humbled by their experience and become great friends over the years, each striving for self-improvement. Gorgeous illustrations. (5/6 – 8 year olds).  MC

The Brothers Quibble by Aaron Blabey  hardback 9780670076000  $24.99
Spalding Quibble ruled the roost until his parents brought home his brand new baby brother, Bunny. Spalding was most upset by all the affection and attention being lavished on the new babe, and so he declares war! Traumatising the family with his bad behaviour, he is sent to his room on many occasions. As Bunny learns to sit, crawl, walk and talk, he grows into a kid who really looks up to his older brother and shows him love even when Spalding is being really mean to him. Over time, Spalding’s heart is thawed and although they fight like all brothers do, they actually really like each other. Told in very funny, rhyming text, this story of sibling rivalry is great fun to read aloud and the illustrations are excellent. (4-6 year olds). Australian. MC

Celia and Nonna by Victoria Land & Kayleen West (illus)  hardback 9781925000603 $24.95
Celia loves sleeping over at her Nonna’s house. She has a special cupboard full of all her favourite things, like jigsaw puzzles and colouring books, and Nonna roasts and bakes, filling the house with delicious smells,  and reads to her at bedtime. They have a special bond. Then Nonna starts to forget things, locks herself out of the house and eventually has to move to a home so she can be taken care of. Celia can’t sleep over anymore and she doesn’t like Nonna’s new room with its funny smells and bare walls. So every week she draws a picture, creating memories of the old house, the garden and the things they used to do together, and soon the walls of Nonna’s room are filled with happy memories. This is a positive portrayal of how one little girl copes with the changes that can be so confusing for young children as their grandparents age.  (5-7 year olds). Australian. MC

Gus & Me: The Story of My Grandad and My First Guitar by Keith Richards & Theodora Richards (illus) hardback + CD 9781444011760 $28.99
Keith Richards loved visiting his grandad, Gus, who lived in a house “filled with instruments and cake”. Gus could play piano, violin, saxophone and guitar, with varying degrees of expertise, and he’d also been the leader of a dance band. They would walk miles together, with Gus humming all the way – he’d hum marching songs, funny little tunes, even whole symphonies, and young Keith loved their adventures, never knowing where they’d end up. One day they walked all the way to London, into an instrument-making workshop. Fascinated, it was there that Keith fell in love with instruments. One day, Gus handed Keith the guitar that always sat on top of the piano, and told him that when he learnt how to play “Malaguena” he’d be able to play anything, so he practiced and practiced, taking the guitar everywhere with him, even sleeping with it! This is a gentle, loving reminiscence of the special bond between a young boy and the grandfather who inspired him, leading to a career as a musician, songwriter and founding member of the Rolling Stones, one of the greatest bands in the world. The lovely pen, coloured ink and collage illustrations are by Keith’s daughter, an artist, and the accompanying CD includes a brief excerpt of “Malaguena” by Cuban musician Ernesto Lecuona – Gus thought this song was the perfect foundation for learning the guitar. (6 – 10 years, and budding musicians generally!) MC

I Wish I Had a Pet by Maggie Rudy  hardback 9781442453326   $18.99
An absolutely delightful, somewhat offbeat picture book full of wise advice about choosing the right pet and taking good care of it. Before you take one home, there are a lot of things to consider. Pick a pet that suits your style and is not too big to manage; one that’s fun to look after as you’ll have to keep it clean, comfy, fed and watered and when it makes a mess you’ll have to clean up after it every time. Choosing the right pet, exercising it and patiently teaching it new tricks can be lots of fun and really rewarding. The text is very simple and the detailed pictures are a real treat – carefully composed dioramas featuring mice made of felt, everyday household objects, buttons, torn paper and things found in the natural world. Essential reading for anyone thinking about getting a pet! (4-7 year olds). MC


Tashi and the Wicked Magician and other stories by Anna Fienberg & Barbara Feinberg, illustrated by Kim Gamble & Geoff Kelly  hardback  9781743315088  $19.99
A new Tashi book is always a joy, and here are four new stories featuring the much-loved characters of Tashi, Lotus Blossom and Ah Chu, with Tashi’s friend Jack encouraging the stories along, and the usual over-excited interjections from Dad. As always, there is a generous helping of baddies whose plans are thwarted by Tashi’s thoughtful, intelligent problem-solving and the help of his friends. This hardback is slightly larger in format than the Tashi paperbacks and the illustrations are in colour. There are only five illustrations (as well as decorations at the beginning of each story), so there is more text than in the previous books. (7-9 year olds) Australian.  MC

The Cleo Stories: The Necklace and The Present by Libby Gleeson & Freya Blackwood (illus) hardback 9781743315279  $16.99
Libby Gleeson and Freya Blackwood have collaborated on some lovely, award-winning picture books over the years, including Banjo and Ruby Red (hardback 9781921541087  $24.95) which was an Honour Book in the Early Childhood category in the CBCA 2014 awards, and Clancy and Millie and the Very Fine House (hardback (at paperback price) 9781921541193  $14.95). They’re a great team. This is their first book in the Cleo series for early fiction readers. In the first story, 6 year old Cleo desperately wants a necklace as all of her friends have one. Mum and Dad say she must wait until her birthday for such a special gift and although Cleo is disappointed she comes up with a very unique idea. In the second story Cleo’s imagination and creativity once again come to the fore as she tries to find the perfect present for her Mum’s birthday. There are lots of colour illustrations throughout and on the gorgeous endpapers. (6-8 year olds). Australian. MC

Plenty by Ananda Braxton-Smith  pb 9781742032429 $14.95
When 10-year-old Maddy Frank’s family moves from Melbourne to the country town of Plenty to be near to her aging grandmother, Maddy is angry and unhappy about leaving behind everything that is familiar, especially her friends.  At her new school she makes friends with Grace Wek, born in a refugee camp in Kenya after her family were forced to flee Sudan. It is through this friendship and the bond that she forms with her Nana that Maddy eventually comes to terms with her new home. Themes of friendship, homesickness, belonging, community, family and connection with the environment run strongly through this nicely told story. Australian. (10-13 years) MC

The Diaries of Bluebell Gadsby series by Natasha Farrant
Book 1: After Iris  pb 9780571278213  $14.99
Book 2: Flora in Love  pb 9780571297979  $14.99

Nascent film maker Bluebell Gadsby is 13 years old when these stories start, and it is three years since her twin sister, Iris, died in an accident. While this tragic event has created much sadness in the family – Blue has three other siblings – it does not cast a pall over the whole narrative. Written like a film script in some parts, and in standard narrative mostly, Blue captures the external, fairly hectic, events of her family, while exploring her own feelings. In the second book, the family is reconciled to the loss of Iris, and they are more stable. The male nanny, who was their anchor in the first book, has moved out, and this creates interesting dynamics within and outside the family. Blue also starts noticing her old friends in a more romantic light, with mixed results. Blue Gadsby is an admirable and believable character, and the reader feels genuine interest in her. The secondary characters are all well-drawn, especially the female ones. Natasha Farrant has created a very likeable family, and one that definitely warrants another book. The third book in the series is due out in 2015. (13-16 year olds) LP

Laurinda by Alice Pung  pb 9781863956925  $19.99
This is my favourite (non-adult) book this year. Lucy Lam has been awarded the inaugural Equal Access Scholarship (translate as ‘token minority student’) at Laurinda, an exclusive girls’ school, which means leaving her ethnically diverse friends and public school to embark on her senior school life as an exceptional achiever. Acutely observant, Lucy soon realizes that the apex of power at Laurinda is held by the Cabinet, three merciless girls steeped in entitlement, vicious ‘slutty virgins who knew how to aim prurience like a poisoned arrow directly where it hurt most’.  Her curiosity about their machinations lets her seem to be drawn into their circle, where she observes each of their frailties and pretences, yet is unable to assert her own identity as strongly as she’d like. The school year at Laurinda is revealed in Lucy’s letters to Linh, from her old life – all Lucy’s uncertainties, struggles and triumphs are disclosed in poignant detail and razor-sharp wit. Corruption, identity, family and personal interactions are flayed open, exposed to the reader in thought-provoking detail. ‘You could be anyone you wanted, Linh – until you were judged and held captive by everyone else’s thoughts’. Masterfully written, insightful and brilliantly funny, this memorable YA debut by Pung deserves applause, awards, and unlimited readership. Very highly recommended! (14+ year olds) LB


Meet Nancy Bird Walton by Grace Atwood & Harry Slaghekke (illus)
hardback 9780857983879  $24.99

This is a simple, straightforward introduction in picture book format to the story of Nancy Bird Walton, born in 1915. She became Australia’s first female commercial pilot, and also the youngest woman in the British Empire to gain her pilot’s licence. She had her first flying lesson at Mascot in Sydney when she was 17 years old, instructed by the famous aviator Charles Kingsford Smith, and spent long days at the flying school learning all she could from the engineers. After buying a Gipsy Moth she travelled to country fairs and race meetings in rural NSW towns, selling tickets for short flights to excited, eager passengers. Navigation was fairly basic in the 1930s, relying on road maps, a compass, and landmarks such as power lines and dams – very different to the highly sophisticated machines today! In 1935 Nancy was hired by the Far West Children’s Health Scheme to fly nurses to children in rural NSW, becoming known as the ‘Angel of the Outback’. During her long life she also founded the Australian Women Pilots’ Association and helped to establish the NSW Air Ambulance Service. Another great addition to this excellent series of picture books introducing young readers to some of the men and women who have shaped Australia’s history. Australian. (7-9 years) MC

Other books in the Meet……. Series:
Meet Ned Kelly by Janeen Brian & Matt Adams (illus) hardback 9781742757186 $19.99, pb 9781742757193  $16.99
Meet Mary MacKillop by Sally Murphy & Sonia Martinez (illus) hardback 9781742757216  $19.99, pb 9781742757223  $16.99
Meet Captain Cook by Rae Murdie & Chris Nixon (illus) hardback 9780857980175  $19.99, pb 9780857980182  $16.99
Meet the ANZACs by Claire Saxby & Max Berry (illus) hardback 9780857981929  $24.99
Meet Douglas Mawson by Mike Dumbleton & Snip Green (illus) hardback 9780857981950  $24.99

Emu (Nature Storybooks) by Claire Saxby & Graham Byrne (illus) hardback 9781922179708  $27.95
In this latest addition to the excellent Nature Storybooks narrative non-fiction series, we learn about one of Australia’s most unusual birds, the emu. Unlike most birds, emus cannot fly so they build their nests on the ground. Once the eggs are laid, female emus have nothing more to do with hatching or raising the fledglings. It is the male who sits on the granite-green eggs for about eight weeks, slowing his metabolism so that he seldom has to leave the nest for food or drink. Once hatched, Emu teaches the lovely striped chicks to forage for fruit, seeds and insects, protecting them from predators such as dingoes and eagles until they become independent at about 6 months old. The story is accompanied by information in a different text style, and the illustrations are excellent. (5-8 year olds) MC

Other titles in the Nature Storybooks series:
Big Red Kangaroo by Claire Saxby & Graham Byrne (illus) hardback 9781921720420  $27.95 (Shortlist: 2014 CBCA Awards, Crichton Award)
Python by Christopher Cheng & Mark Jackson (illus) hardback 9781921529603  $29.95 (Shortlist: 2013 CBCA Awards, Information Books)
Bilby Secrets by Edel Wignell & Mark Jackson (illus) hardback 9781921529320 $29.95  pb 9781922077042  $16.95 (Shortlist: 2012 CBCA Awards, Information)
Just Ducks! by Nicola Davies & Salvatore Rubbino (illus) hardback 9781406327397  $27.95  pb 9781406344776  $16.95
Flight of the Honey Bee by Raymond Huber & Brian Lovelock (illus) hardback 9781921529665 $27.95  pb 9781925126266  $16.95 (due Feb 2015) (NZ author and illustrator)

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