Gleebooks Education 

May 2015

Gleebooks Bookshop - Thursday, May 07, 2015

To the Librarians and Teachers

BOOK NEWS from Kate Shepherd and Mandy Clarke, Austral Ed No 49, May 2015

 Greetings from Kate and Mandy!

From Kate: Recently walking through the Belair National Park near our house we came across a group (or gaggle or mob or flock) of about twelve magpies. It looked like a party and then we heard them singing. One or two is an amazing sound. A group like that is even more astonishing. They carroll together and the sound comes in cascades. An extraordinarily beautiful sound which is so striking since some of our other birds sound very much like squeaky doors!

From Mandy: Well, over here on the east coast, we’ve come out the other side of some very dramatic weather, with heavy rain causing major floods on the Central Coast and in the Hunter Valley. Here in Sydney we had a hailstorm so heavy it shredded all but the hardiest plants in the garden and left hail piled up on roofs and roads like snowdrifts! We’ve had another change of staff at Austral Ed, with Liesel moving on to pursue other interests and Maija Thomas taking over her role. Maija has come to us from a 9 year career as a bookseller at Shearer’s, one Sydney’s most respected independent bookshops which sadly closed last year. Elissa is still with us, working 3 days a week as Maija’s assistant; I am at Gleebooks’ Dulwich Hill shop 3 days a week as the children’s buyer, helping out at Austral Ed on the other 2 days; and Kate is still working very much part-time from her home in the Adelaide Hills.

Well, it’s that time of the year again – how quickly it comes around! The shortlist for the 2015 Children’s Book Council of Australia Book Awards (CBCA) has just been announced and you’ll find it attached.
We have read most of the books in the Early Childhood, Picture Book and Information Book categories and you’ll find reviews of those books in the Shortlist attachment. We have just provided a description for each of the books we haven’t read. By the time the winners are announced in August, we will have read all of the books and so will review them in our September Book News. These Australian CBCA Awards are chosen by one judge from each of the Australian states. Each judge reads a large number of books and they all come together to discuss the shortlist and also to decide upon the winners. More information about the Awards and also on the CBCA Conference is available at their website

Some news about some upcoming Conferences:
The Celebrate Reading National Conference – The Inside Story on Quality Australian Literature for Children will be held in Fremantle, Western Australia from Friday 30th October to Saturday 31st October. 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 Alison Lester, Bruce Whatley, Catherine Bateson and Isobelle Carmody. The Conference this year has a primary school focus. Details are on the website

The Asian Festival of Children’s Content (AFCC) 30th May – 6th June in Singapore. Mandy and Kate have not yet managed to get to this Festival but it does sound very interesting, with something for everyone. It is held every year in Singapore and aims to bring together authors, illustrators, editors and publishers with parents, teachers, librarians, and anyone interested in quality Asian content for children. For more detailed information check out the


Picture Books

Aaron Blabey
Thelma the Unicorn hardback 9781743625804 $16.99

Another gem from this talented author/illustrator (creator of Pig the Pug which is deservedly on the 2015 CBCA Shortlist – see review in our Shortlist attachment). Thelma the pony wishes with all her heart that she was a unicorn, even though her best friend Otis thinks she’s perfect as she is. Following an encounter with a carrot and a truck carrying nice pink paint and glitter, Thelma is transformed and becomes a world-wide sensation. Fans chase her everywhere, chanting her name and seeking her autograph, but Thelma soon discovers that there is definitely a downside to all this fame and attention. Holed up in her hotel room one night she realizes how very lonely she feels, so she washes off all her magic sparkles, packs her bag and heads home to her lovely Otis. The hilarious rhyming text and illustrations are lots of fun and the message is loud and clear: be happy with who you are! Australian. (4 – 7 years) MC

Carson Ellis
Home hardback 9781406359428 $24.95

This lovely picture book is a celebration of places we live in – from a flat, to a boat, a wigwam, a tree, the homes range from the realistic to the deeply whimsical, with each abode given equal attention to detail. Home is where the heart is, whether you are a bee, or a raccoon, an Atlantian or a Norse God, an artist or the children who lived in a shoe. Wonderfully imaginative illustrations have a retro feel, with a limited palette, and lovely hand lettered text – all contributing to Ellis’ distinctive, naïve but intentional style. This is a picture book to treasure, and to return to many times, with something for all ages. (4 – 7 years) LP

Jackie French & Bruce Whatley (illus)
The Beach They Called Gallipoli hardback 9780732292263 $24.99

This evocative and powerful picture book opens on a beach on the Gallipoli Peninsula, Turkey, on 23rd April 1915, with fishermen going about their daily work, seagulls swooping and fish flapping silver in the nets. The next day everything has changed with the arrival of the big ships at what became known as Anzac Cove, carrying troops from Australia, New Zealand, Britain and France; the beginning of a doomed and bloody campaign that lasted until the evacuation of the last soldiers on 20th December 1915. The text on each double page spread is sparse, but the images are not. Whatley has created collages using photos, diagrams, flags, maps, postcards, letters, pen and ink drawings, watercolours and acrylics. The language and images used do not romanticize war but rather portray the senselessness and brutality. Care should be taken when sharing this book with young readers. Australian. (8 – 11 years) MC

Libby Gleeson & Leila Rudge (ill)
Mum Goes to Work hardback 9781921529825 $24.95

I love this new edition of the 90s favourite Mum Goes to Work. Rich in detail, often amusing and very well informed (both author and illustrator have clearly spent time in good day care centres), this is a very engaging look at both the busy small children in a day nursery, and their equally active mothers while they are at work. The outline drawings have browns and greys – no black – and this contributes to the contemporary palette of warm, softer colours, giving the whole book an appealing, organic feeling. A great book for the under 5s. Australian.

(3 – 5 years) LP

Katie Smith Milway & Sylvie Daigneault (illus)
The Good Garden: How the Family Went from Hunger to Having Enough hardback 9781554534883 $32.00

This is a charming story with lovely illustrations, idealised I am sure but they add to the charm of the story which is set in Honduras. Maria Luz and her family, like the other villagers, are subsistence farmers and if the rains fail then their situation is precarious. However Maria Luz loves to grow things and is very receptive to the ideas of the new teacher at the school, Don Pedro, when he starts a garden and shows the children how to make compost to feed the soil and how to terrace the land and to grow marigolds to keep away the insect pests. Don Pedro also tells the villagers to take their own produce to market and sell it themselves rather than through the middle men (coyote) and also tells them to grow cash crops like radishes and herbs to bring in additional money. The story is based on a real life Honduran teacher called Don Celias Sanchez who worked all his life advising farmers and villagers how they could improve their soil and grow better crops. It is such a positive story and beautifully illustrated. The use of some Spanish words adds to the liveliness of the text and a glossary at the end of the book helps with any Spanish words not understood. Additional information at the end of the book also suggests other ways we can help improve food security in the world. (9 – 12 years) KS
Also in the same series:
One Hen: How One Small Loan Made a Big Difference by Katie Smith Milway hardback 9781554530281 $32.00
Mimi’s Village and How Basic Health Care Transformed It by Katie Smith Milway & Eugenie Fernandes (illus.) hardback 9781554537228 $27.00 (reviewed in our Feb 2015 newsletter)

Ruth Starke & Robert Hannaford (ill)
My Gallipoli hardback 9781921504761 $29.99

This picture book for older readers tells the story of Gallipoli from the viewpoints of men and women who were there, and those affected by the aftermath. Each entry is prefaced by the place and the date, and the first entry is a young Turkish shepherd, Adil Sakin, tending his flock at Anzac Cove in November 1914. Army men came to his nearby village, talking about the great war, urging them all to be soldiers, and Adil pledges to fight to defend the land that has belonged to them for hundreds of years. The next entry is by Midshipman Peter Burch RN, at Anzac Cove on the night of 25 April 1915. His job was to row boatloads of Australian troops in to shore, but so many were killed before they made it out of the water. In the light of day “you could see the bodies lying thick on the beach. I never set foot on the Peninsula but this is my Gallipoli.” Entries follow, on various dates, from a Private in the Turkish Army; a nurse on a hospital ship; a Nepalese rifleman serving with the British Army; an Australian chaplain; a New Zealand Private; Turkish Lieutenant-Colonel Mustafa Kemal; Australia’s official war correspondent, C.E.W. Bean; and an Australian Aboriginal Trooper. One of the most confronting and moving entries is from an un-named soldier helping to bury corpses in the blazing sun in No Man’s Land. A brief armistice was arranged so both sides could bury their dead, then they traded cigarettes and biscuits with the Turks, returned to their trenches and resumed fighting. After the war, there is the heartbreak of the mother welcoming home her son, now missing a leg; an entry dated 1988 by the brother of Adil the shepherd as he pays his respects at the cemetery; and finally, a young woman visiting the grave of her great-grandfather at Lone Pine Cemetery in 1990. There is no glorification here, with the excellent charcoal and watercolour illustrations depicting the hardship, exhaustion and despair of battle. This book will be a valuable addition to the library and classroom, and the multiple viewpoints will prompt much discussion and reflection. Australian. (9 – 12 years) MC


Amnesty International UK
Dreams of Freedom in words and pictures hardback 9781847804532 $27.95

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that ‘we are all born free and equal’. These fundamental rights uphold freedom, truth, justice and fairness, and this collection looks at some of our freedoms such as freedom from fear, freedom of expression, freedom to take responsibility, to learn, to make a difference, to feel safe, to have a home. Each double page spread looks at these freedoms through the brief words of various people such as Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama, Anne Frank and Malala Yousafzai, among many others, and is illustrated by artists such as Peter Sis, Chris Riddell, Mordicai Gerstein, Jackie Morris and indigenous Australian Sally Morgan. The jacket illustration is by Oliver Jeffers. At the back of the book, underneath a small print of each of the pictures found in the book, is a brief biography of each author and illustrator. In his foreword, Michael Morpurgo hopes this book will “inspire young readers to stand up for others and to make a difference”. It will certainly be useful for sparking discussion. (6-12 years) MC

Dawn Casey & Anne Wilson (illus)
Barefoot Book of Earth Tales pb 9781846869419 $24.00

This is a useful collection of simply told folk tales from different cultures round the world, with an emphasis on the beauty, rhythms and harmony of nature. There is an introduction to each story and also a craft project related to each story. The seven stories in the collection come from Australia, Nigeria, American South West, Bali, Kazakhstan, India and Wales. I especially liked the story The Grumpy Geko from Bali in which the gecko learns that everything in nature is connected and that it is not possible for the fireflies to stop flashing and flickering just so he can sleep for they are part of a pattern and if they stopped flashing then in the end there would be no mosquitoes for him to eat. It is a humorous story simply told which would read aloud very well. (4 – 7 years) KS

Beverley Naidoo & Piet Grobler (illus)
Who Is King? Ten Magical Stories from Africa hardback 9781847805140 $29.95

These ten folktales come from all over Africa: Ethiopia, Morocco, Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, Malawi, South Africa and Zimbabwe. The animals in these stories are at times foolish or wise, jealous or generous, mischievous or kind, cowardly or brave. There is much to be learnt from their behaviour. The vibrant illustrations throughout make this a very attractive collection. (7 – 10 or 11 years) MC


Anna Branford & Sarah Davis (illus)
Violet Mackerel’s Formal Occasion: Bk 8 Violet Mackerel series hardback 9781925081091 $19.95

When Violet and her friend Rose discover a beautiful locket on one of their ‘archeological digs’ in the park, they clean it up and decide to share it. Violet is worried about the original owner and their feelings of loss, and when Rose’s grandparents take the girls out for a special morning tea, a formal occasion, they all discuss theories on things lost and found. Violet and Rose decide to write a letter and bury it where they found the locket in case the owner returns to look for it. When Violet’s Mum realizes she’s left her basket of knitted things on the train, the girls set about cheering her up with creative gifts and stories about who might have found them and what they are being used for, and they devise a special formal occasion, just for Mum. As always, Violet and Rose are thoughtful, considerate and wise beyond their years. I read somewhere that this may, sadly, be the final book in this charming, well-written series so if you haven’t already read them, get cracking! Highly recommended. Australian. (7 – 10 years)
Other books in the series:
Violet Mackerel's Brilliant Plot: Bk1 hardback 9781921529177 $19.95
Violet Mackerel's Remarkable Recovery: Bk2 hardback 9781921529184 $19.95
Violet Mackerel's Natural Habitat: Bk3 hardback 9781921529191 $19.95
Violet Mackerel's Personal Space: Bk4 hardback 9781921529207 $19.95
Violet Mackerel’s Possible Friend: Bk5 hardback 9781921977565 $19.95 (Shortlist: 2014 CBCA Awards Younger Readers)
Violet Mackerel's Pocket Protest: Bk6 hardback 9781921977572 $19.95
Violet Mackerel's Helpful Suggestion: Bk7 hardback 9781922244369 $19.95

Nick Earls
New Boy pb 9780143308393 $14.99

Herschelle and his family have moved from Cape Town, South Africa, to Brisbane, and he’s discovering that “everywhere is weird if you’re from somewhere else.” Starting at a new school is difficult enough, let alone in a strange country, with an unusual accent, a name people struggle to pronounce, and your friends across the other side of the world. And, embarrassingly, no-one understands the Aussie slang Herschelle studied up on before he arrived. With only two weeks of term left at One Mile Creek State School, Herschelle has a lot to learn from Max, who has been assigned as his buddy, and after a rocky start they find they have a lot in common. Including being bullied by Lachlan Parkes. When things escalate to a scuffle in the playground, Lachlan has to undergo a behaviour management program, and it is Max who extends the hand of friendship, inviting Lachlan to play handball with them. We witness the breaking down of stereotypes on both sides, especially after Herschelle does a fantastic class presentation about Cape Town. The book ends on the first day of the new term, when Herschelle and Max are assigned to buddy the new boy Roy, who has arrived from South Sudan via a refugee camp in Kenya. He’s in good hands! There’s a lot of humour in the telling and this story will resonate with any child who’s had to adapt to life in a new country. Australian. (10 – 13 years) MC

Gregory Mackay
Anders and the Comet: Book 1 Anders series pb 9781760111151 $12.99

Graphic novel. In a splendid start to the series of Anders’ adventures, Australian cartoonist Mackay introduces Anders and his best friends plus slightly hapless new friend Bernie, who revel in the school holidays, cramming their days with (mostly) innocent pursuits: making comics, building a fort, solving a mystery, and staving off boredom in ways familiar to many. Subtly, without drawing attention to any particular aspect of these endearing protagonists, Mackay skillfully includes diverse family structures, lack of confidence, rivalry and the success of co-operation as a leveller in friendship. The values are wholesome; the characters winsome; the situations arise from everyday interactions; and the overall result is not only funny but also sheer good fun. Australian.
(7 - 10 years) LB

Ulf Nilsson & Gitte Spee (illus)
The First Case: Book 1 Detective Gordon pb 9781927271506 $15.99

A gentle, philosophical story about Detective Gordon, an aging toad, who is trying to catch the thief who is stealing Squirrel’s nuts from his tree in the forest. But sleuthing can be a trying business, standing in the snow while keeping the tree under surveillance, and Detective Gordon takes on an assistant, Buffy, an energetic, nimble little mouse. The interaction between them is absolutely delightful, the humour dry and understated as Detective Gordon imparts his wisdom to the enthusiastic Buffy. Oh, and there are lots of cakes and cups of tea! The lovely illustrations round off this engaging tale beautifully. Highly recommended. Swedish. (8 – 10 years) MC

Yvette Poshoglian
Ready, Set, Spy: Book 1 Frankie Fox, Girl Spy series pb 9780734415684 $12.99

Eleven year old Frankie has always wanted to be a spy, and cracked her first code when she was in kindergarten. Her mother died when she was a baby, and she lives with her brilliant, famous billionaire scientist dad, Fergus Fox, and their grandmotherly housekeeper, Hanna. A week after a copy of The Spy’s Handbook, with an encoded inscription, mysteriously appears in Frankie’s room, her dad is kidnapped by the evil Alliance. She and her friend JJ are summoned to Fortress Island where Fergus runs a series of secretive labs, and startling revelations follow: Fergus is a spy and Fortress Island houses the headquarters of the top- secret spy agency Griffin; Frankie and JJ are ‘sleeper agents’ who have now been activated and will be trained up to help rescue Fergus and save Mission Icefall; Hanna works for the evil Alliance and has been spying on them for years, and Frankie’s mum is alive and well, also working for the Alliance. Exciting stuff! Australian. (9 – 11 or 12 years) MC
Also in this series:
Operation Boy Band: Book 2 pb 9780734415707 $12.99


Chris Caldicott
World Food Alphabet hardback 9781847802842 $29.95, pb 9781847806536 $16.95

Chris Caldicott is an acclaimed photographer and the founder of the World Food Café in London. This book is a photographic celebration of food from around the world, with two or three beautiful photos on each double page spread, accompanied by text about the different crops, dishes and ways of eating from every continent. Sprinkled throughout the text there is also a little information on food waste, conservation and fair trade. (6 – 9 years) MC

Vishakha Chanchani & Stephen P Huyler (photographer)
The House That Sonabai Built: Looking at Art series pb 9789350466278 $22.00.

This picture book tells the true story of Sonabai, married at a young age and living in a small village in India. Forbidden by her husband to go to the markets or socialise with neighbours, she was very lonely and started making animals, birds and people from clay for her young son. She used ground spices, leaves and vegetables to colour her creations and started decorating the walls of the house; her home became her sculpture studio and, over time, an art gallery. She cut bamboo sticks, bent them into circles and tied them together to create a lattice framework, then coated the bamboo with a thin layer of clay. She installed the lattice (or jaali) between the pillars of her verandah, then painted it and decorated it with birds and figures. The light filtering through into the house was now soft and dappled and cast mysterious shadows everywhere. Sonabai had transformed her home into a magical place, with nothing to work with except what she found around her. When four people from the centre for arts in Bhopal stumbled upon this wonderland, shy Sonabai became famous and travelled all over India exhibiting her work, conducting workshops and inspiring others to experiment and create. (9-12 years) MC

Prodeepta Das
A Day I Remember: My Uncle’s Amazing Indian Wedding hardback 9781847804464 $27.95, pb 9781847806017 $16.95

Young Swayam’s uncle is getting married and Swayam has been chosen to be markundi, the bridegroom’s special companion at the wedding. He is very excited as this is a great honour. As he takes us through the preparations, the journey from their village to the holy city of Puri where the wedding will take place, the arrival of the guests, the feast, music and then the wedding ceremony itself, we learn about the rituals surrounding this important day. The excitement, colours and atmosphere of a traditional Indian wedding are captured in the photos on every page. (6 – 9 years) MC

Peter Macinnis
The Big Book of Australian History (2nd edition) pb 9780642278722 $39.99

Reviewed in our April 2014 newsletter, the hardback became unavailable surprisingly quickly! It has now been revised and updated and republished in paperback with a much more appealing jacket.
This 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. 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. 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. However it will be a very welcome addition to the elementary and secondary library. Notable Book 2014 CBCA Eve Pownall Award for Information Books. (10 – 15 years) KS

Kate Shepherd and Mandy Clarke

KS Kate Shepherd
MC Mandy Clarke
LP Louise Pfanner
LB Lynndy Bennett

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