Gleebooks Education 

September 2009

Gleebooks Bookshop - Tuesday, September 01, 2009

No 34,  September  2009

Greeting from a wet and very green Adelaide hills.  How wonderful to be able to write and say that we have had a wet winter (above the average) after so many years of below average rainfall.  Everything is green and lush and there is water in the dams (though unfortunately very little still in the River Murray system).  But my garden is lovely with bluebells, freesias and wattles and of course many flourishing weeds!

We are off to Sydney for about 11 days from 9th September to help look after our small grandson while his mother is away at a Conference.  We are so looking forward to it.  Ruth will be here looking after everything but if there is a slight delay you will know why.

The winners for the Children’s Book Council of Australia Awards for 2008 have just been announced and so these are listed in this newsletter and I have also reviewed all the books shortlisted for the Awards.  There are also many other book reviews of at all levels, from early childhood to middle years.

For those of you who have been following our son Joel’s fantasy series, the next book in the series Tracato came out in August.  The setting has now shifted further west where two great armies are massing for battle, and this war has split families making for tragic consequences.    This book builds to a very strong climax and it is not easy waiting till next August for the last book in the series.   The US edition of the first volume Sasha is due in October.   Books so far are:
Sasha the first in A Trial of Blood and Steel series by Joel Shepherd paperback pb $20.00
Petrodor pb $20.00
Tracato trade paperback $33.00


Picture Books

Roadworks Sally Sutton  illustrated by Brian Lovelock  hardback 27.95
I do enjoy this book and possibly because our grandson loves trucks and graders so much.  The illustrations are bold and the text is noisy and full of action showing how the trucks and loaders and bulldozers and graders make the road.  This is an exuberant story and it shows how the signs, lights and trees are added till finally the cars and buses and trucks can drive along the road.     (2 – 5 years)

The Firefighters by Sue Whiting illustrations by Donna Rawlins  hardback $$27.95
The children at kindergarten pretend to be real firefighters getting into their truck and racing along to get to the fire and squirt it with their hoses.  Later the real fire engine arrives and two firefighters arrive to show them their truck and tell the children stories about fires.  Bright illustrations and the lively text will make this book very popular with preschoolers.    (3 – 6 years)

Our Daft Dog Danny by Pamela Allen hardback $24.95
Pamela Allen is such a popular New Zealand author and seems to bring out a new picture book every year.  Perhaps because she has done so many that we get a little blasé about her books but every now and then there is an exceptional book, abounding with energy and vitality.  Going to the beach with Uncle Peter and his dog Millie should be such fun for the two children but their dog Danny gets overexcited and just wants to bite and hang on to Millie’s tail. And that is no fun for anyone.  They try hot chilli sauce on Millie’s tail but that just makes Danny miserable.  At last Toby has the brilliant idea of getting a long rope which Danny can bite and tug and soon everyone joins in this new game and they all have fun again at the beach.  A very entertaining book with a lively text and exuberant illustrations.      (4 – 9 years)

The Were-Nana (Not a Bedtime story) by Melinda Szymanik & Sarah Nelisiwe Anderson  pb $16.00
Simon loves to scare his little sister Stella Rosa with spooky stories.  He manages to convince Stella Rosa that their Nana Lupin who is coming to visit them for the very first time is a were-nana.  As Simon describes Nana Lupin his sister conjures up terrifying images of her nana, not so difficult to do since their only photos show her Nana Lupin wearing a dark coat and scarf.  The illustrations and text manage to combine the true spookiness of the images in Stella Rosa’s imagination but at the same time there is also humour at Simon’s lurid descriptions.  When Nana Lupin arrives at the airport, poor Stella Rosa is terrified but there is a satisfying denouement as Nana Lupin takes off her coat and scarf to reveal an attractive smiling grandmother.  Kids will understand how mean Simon is but at the same time will delight in the spookiness of the tale and the way in which Simon looks distinctly apprehensive at the end of the story as Nana Lupin whispers in his ear that she may not be a witch but many of her friends are “and they save their most horrible spells to use on bad brothers!   (5 – 9 years)

Joy Cowley is another renowned, much loved author from New Zealand with a long list of picture books and fiction to her name.  She has a way with words and her stories are funny and very appealing to kids.   Many of her well known Big Books have not been easily available for some years and so it is marvelous that they are again available since we have so many requests. I have included the reading level since some schools find this helpful.  
Dan, the Flying Man  Level 6
The Monsters’ Party  Level 7
The Jigaroo  Level 7
Mrs Wishy-Washy  Level 8
Smartie Pants  Level 8
Meanies  Level 8
To Town  Level 9
Grandpa, Grandpa  Level 12
The Hungry Giant  Level 13
Hairy Bear Level 14                                                 $39.95 each title
This is the first set of books for those who are interested there are two more sets, 25 more titles, please contact me if you would like a list of these.


Fiction and Autobiography

Rascal Plays Up by Paul Jennings  illustrated by Bob Lea pb $9.95
These Rascal stories have a special charm and children love the very simple stories abou the mischievous young dragon, Rascal.   Rascal the Dragon is an engaging young stray dragon who has been adopted by a young boy and his father in much the same way that a family would take in a stray puppy.  The stories are enjoyable, humorous and very simply written for children just beginning to read.  The computer generated illustrations also have a special appeal and are often very amusing.  The books would also be good for ESL.
Rascal Stories   by Paul Jennings  illustrated by Bob Lea  pb $9.95 each 
Rascal the Dragon,            Rascal’s Trick, Rascal in Trouble, Rascal Takes Off, Rascal at the Show, Rascal and the Cheese, Rascal and Little Flora, Rascal and the Hot Air Balloon, Little Rascal to the Rescue, Rascal and the Dragon Droppings, Rascal and the Monster, Rascal goes Fishing and the latest story •  Rascal Plays Up 
Rascal the DragonRascal in Trouble, Rascal Takes Off, Rascal and the Cheese, Rascal at the Show, Rascal and Little Flora, Rascal and the Hot Air balloon and Rascal’s Trick are also available in larger picture book format.   pb  $14.95 
Rascal Takes Off is also available as a Big Book   $45.00 (5 – 7 years)

A Chook Called Harry by Phillip Gwynne  pb $12.95
This is such an appealing story, told from the point of view of a boy called Chris.  Chris’ family decides to buy ten chooks and the father thinks it is only sensible to eat any chook that doesn’t pull its weight by laying eggs.  But the chook that isn’t laying is Chris’ favourite chook, Harry.  There are lots of rivalries between Chris and his older brother Max and his younger sister Rebecca but they both come to his assistance with ideas to save Harry’s life.  Gwynne describes so effectively the various members of this family and their relationships.  It is clear that Chris is a much loved but unusual boy who can act like a clown but also has difficulties (perhaps he has some degree of autism.)  The family lives in the country and always in the background is the omnipresent effect of the drought especially on the father but also on the whole family.  This can be read as a funny warm and entertaining story about a boy and his chook but there is also so much more to it. One of the very popular Aussie Bites.   (7 – 10 years)

Sarindi and the Lucky Buddha by Janine Fraser pb $13.00
I was pleased to see that Sarindi and the Lucky Bird pb $13.00 has come back into print and that there is now a sequel and perhaps another title in the series to come later.  Both books are exceptional.  They are written so simply but conjure up vividly the atmosphere of a busy city like Jogjakarta.  They can be read with enjoyment by students in Grade 2, 3 or 4.  Sarindi is an engaging character but the books also deal with themes such as what is the nature of luck?  Is it a lucky marble or a bird or do we, as Sarindi’s mother believed, make our own luck through our own efforts and hard work?  In this latest book, Sarindi’s mother is very sick and Sarindi and his father try all sorts of things to make her better but nothing seems to work.  Sarindi remembers that his grandmother goes to the local Hindu temple to pray when she comes to visit and so he goes and then he decides that maybe he should visit the other sacred places as well.   Finally he goes with his father to the Buddhist temple at Borobudur.  He prays there but he also meets a western doctor who comes back and gives his mother some medicine and she does get better.  Why does she improve?  Is it the medicine or the prayers or perhaps, as the western doctor suggests, it is the love of a small boy for his mother and his determination to help her get better.  Humour. appealing characters and a very interesting setting help make this a most successful book which is great for discussion.    (7 – 10 years) 

Star of the Circus by Nette Hilton  pb $16.95
This has been around for a little while (since 2007) and I meant to review it earlier but I keep coming back to it as it is such an engaging story.   Poor Bonnie Belinda Bennett just wants to come first in something.  Just once, she wants to win something instead of coming last, though as she explains to the animals on her farm it is probably all for the best, as it makes all the others feel better that they don’t come last.  However Bonnie has a very special gift which she thinks is nothing special; she has taught the animals on the farm to do the most amazing tricks.   When the circus comes to town and all the animals are sick then her farm animals are called upon to show all their skills.  There are some tense moments as Oscar the Guinea Pig struggles to overcome his shyness.  But in the end the sheep, the chooks, Maeve the cow and Maurice the pig are all brilliant and due credit is given to their extraordinary trainer.  This is a very amusing and engaging story which would read aloud very well.  Chantal Stewart’s funny whimsical drawings give additional charm to this story about a child who thinks she is ordinary but who really is quite extraordinary.    (6 – 10 years)

Samurai Kids 1: White Crane by Sandy Fussell  pb $14.95   
When I read the description of this new series, I was very sceptical.  A story about kids training to be samurai but one has only one arm, one only one leg, one is blind, one is very big and strong but refuses to fight and there is a girl who has white hair and six fingers and toes.  How would this work?  Amazingly the characters come to life.   Their sensei or teacher is old and skinny but very wise in the way of Zen and Zen sayings provide much of the humour of the book.  The story is exciting, lively and often very funny.  We learn a lot about the way of Zen as well as Chi, Jin and Yu or Wisdom, Benevolence and Courage.   Other titles in the series are:  Book 2:  Owl NinjaBook 3:  Shaolin Tiger and Book 4:  Monkey Fist   (9 – 13 years)   

The Lottie Project by Jacqueline Wilson pb $17.95
Charlie is doing a project on the Victorians and is sure that it will be deadly dull.  However when she starts writing the diary of Lottie, a girl about her own age who works as a nursery maid for a family in Victorian times, Lottie and the family come to life and Charlie becomes fascinated.  The book is written in alternate chapters.  We learn about Charlie and her life with her mum and her friends and this alternates with the chapters that Charlie writes for her project about Lottie and her very difficult life.  Charlie and Lottie are both called Charlotte and there are many fascinating parallels.  The book is extremely revealing about our own times and about life for young girls working as servants in the Victorian period and the contrast between the working class and their employers.  This is a marvelous book to use as an introduction to the Victorian period or as a way of thinking about history.  (10 – 14 years)       

Jacky Daydream: The Story of her Childhood  by Jacqueline Wilson illustrated by Nick Sharratt  pb $200717/95
This book will be very popular with fans of Jacqueline Wilson.  It was originally published in 2007 but this edition includes a new chapter and also photos and school reports.  In this autobiography she describes her life up to the age of about 12 years old.  Jacky was born in 1945, and at first her family had very little money and her parents were always bickering.  Perhaps surprisingly she was very anxious as a young child.  However not surprisingly, she loved reading and writing stories.  Fans of her books will be delighted to see extracts of some of her books and also descriptions of how she got ideas for the characters.   (9 - 12 years) 

Three Cups of Tea (Young Readers’ Edition)  by Greg Mortenson  & David Oliver Relin adapted by Sarah Thompson  pb $16.95
The adult version of this book Three Cups of Tea pb $26.95 has been extremely popular and well known since it was first published some years ago.  It is the remarkable story of a mountaineer who in 1993 after a disastrous attempt to climb K2, wandered exhausted and dehydrated into an impoverished village in Pakistan.  There the villagers nursed Greg back to health and he was so moved by their kindness that he vowed to return and build a school for their children.  That happened in 1993 and since then he has set up a fund and built over 60 schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan.  There is now a Young Readers’ Edition also called Three Cups of Tea  pb $16.95.    This edition has many photographs of children from the villages and also of his own family who have also become very involved with this endeavour.  There are also maps and a question and answer section with Greg’s daughter Amira and a Timeline and a Glossary.  Children will find it an inspiring story.       (9 – 14 years) 

Free?  Stories Celebrating Human Rights   Anmesty International  pb $17.95
I was pleased and surprised that I found this collection of stories so enjoyable.  I guess I was surprised at the number of stories which were humorous.  The stories are all very different; a couple are written in verse, one has a dialogue like a play, some emphasise clever word play while others are more heartfelt and they are set in many different countries.  There are fifteen authors and they include Eoin Colfer, Roddy Doyle, Theresa Breslin, Michael Morpurgo and Margaret Mahy but the stories I like best were written by authors I didn’t know at all, authors such as Sarah Mussi and Meja Mwangi.  There is a brief biography of all the authors  at the end of the book as well as a simplified version of the 30 Articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  All royalties of the sale of this book go to Amnesty International.  (11 years up)

The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathon Stroud  pb $19.95
I know I am way behind with my reading and checking the copyright of this book I can see that it was originally published in 2003.  So it has taken a while to get to it…  Oh well….  I found it such an innovative fantasy and it gradually becomes more and more engrossing.  It is the first of the Bartimaeus Triology and is set in a modern day London controlled by magicians whose desire for power and secrecy often bear strong resemblance to the behaviour of politicians.  It is exciting, complex and has many dramatic surprises.  At times it is hilarious.  Nathaniel is a young apprentice to a magician and he secretly summons the irascible 5,000 year old djinni, Bartimaeus to do his bidding.  It is their relationship which is so intriguing and there is also the magical mysteries involved in Bartimaeus’ task of stealing the Amulet of Samarkand.  (12 years up)



The Little One: The Story of a Red-tailed Monkey by Kaitie Afrika Litchfield  pb $17/00
When Kaitie was only four years old she lived in Uganda with her mother who was a scientist and was working at a sanctuary for orphaned chimpanzees.  When a baby orphaned Red-tailed monkey was brought to the sanctuary, Katie became the tiny monkey’s mum.  She describes how she looked after him and how they and the dog and the cat all played together.  There is a delightful photo of the tiny monkey clinging to the cat’s back.  The text is written by Kaitie herself and is simply written and very engaging.  There is an additional page of information on Red-tailed monkeys and how their habitat is being threatened.  This is an appealing story with excellent photos that young children will really enjoy.   (5 – 8 years)    

Similar titles in the same format
The Gorilla Book: Born to be Wild by Dr Carla Litchfield  pb $17.00 
The Crocodile Book: Armoured and Dangerous by Malcolm Douglas  pb $17.00
The Dolphin Book: Good Vibrations by Jeff Weir pb $17.00
The Great Barrier Reef Book: Solar Powered by Dr Mark Norman  pb $17.00
They all contain great photographs and informative interesting text.   (7 – 11 years)

Something about Water by Penny Matthews, illustrated by Tom Jellett hardback $28.00
Poor Robbie.  Everyone around him is recycling everything and they enjoy it while Robbie doesn’t like brown loo paper and can’t see the point to this recycling fervor.  His mum even puts the washing up water on her garden.  But he gradually  comes to understand how water is continually recycled round the planet and is amazed and as he is involved in a few projects then he even becomes an enthusiast.  The text is engaging and informative and the cartoon style illustrations succeed in making Robbie a believable and entertaining character.  This is a most successful book giving us a lot of information about water in an entertaining and memorable way.  (8 – 12 years) 

Smart Young Consumers series
*  Consumer Choices by Garry Chapman and Gary Hodges  hardback $31.95
I have been asked a number of times for books on shopping or consumerism and there is very little for children.  This series could be a helpful introduction since it deals with the ways young people are targeted by advertisers.  It discusses disposal income and ways to work out how to spend money responsibly.   There is also discussion of smart shopping and recent trends in technology and communication and suggestions of how scams and exploitations can be avoided.  Published in 2008.  The level of text is set at a young age for the topics discussed.  Titles in the series are:
Consumer Choices
Getting a Job
Managing Money
Consumer Rights and Responsibilities                        hardback $31.95 each    (10 – 13 years)
Global Village
Trade by Rob Bowden  hardback $39.95
I was attracted to this series because there is so little available for middle years students on Trade and Travel and Tourism in particular.  This book attempts to give some idea of the complexities of the issues behind the globalization of trade and any attempts to make trade more equitable.  There are comments from a variety of people involved, and an attempt to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of worldwide trade.  Many charts and graphs and included.   Overall the series attempts to discuss whether a balance can be achieved between the expansion of global activities and preserving the interests of individual countries.  Published in 2008.   Titles in the series are:
Aid and development
Food and farming
Migration and Refugees
Natural Resources
Travel and Tourism                                    hardback $39.95 each      (11 – 16 years)

*  Global Citizenship by Susan Watson (Macmillan World Library)  hardback $49.95 nett  This was originally published as seven individual titles:  Global Citizens, Making Global Connections, Improving the Quality of Life, Protecting Global Environments, Respecting Cultural Differences, Understanding Human Values and Valuing World Heritage.  This 2009 edition has been revised and updated from the original 2003 titles.  The book focuses on the roles, rights, responsibilities and relationships of citizens living in a global world.  Each book is well set out and information is presented in an accessible way making good use of charts, maps, photos, and examples are given of particular children or adults.  The books also emphasise what action children can take themselves. (9 – 14 years)    

History of Democracy  by Carmel Reilly  hardback $29.95
This is one of the titles in the new series called Democracy, published in 2009.   It provides an interesting introduction to the beginnings of democracy in Greece and how democracy slowly developed again in the UK and then how it was shaped by the Revolutions in the US and also in France in the 1700s.   
Democracy Around the World looks at Democracy and how it works in the UK, the USA, France, Argentina and South Africa.   Each book contains a timeline, glossary and index and is clearly set out with diagrams, illustrations, photos and maps.  A very informative and interesting series for upper primary to lower secondary.  
All the titles in this series Democracy:
History of Democracy
Democracy Around the World
The Australian Democracy     hardback $29.95 each

Slavery: Real People and their stories of Enslavement  by Reg Grant  hardback $45.00
This is a fascinating history.  There is a huge amount of information but the text is interesting and there is an absolute wealth of photos, paintings. illustrations, maps, graphs, timelines and graphic materials which helps make the information come to life.  There is also a detailed Glossary and Index.   This is the history of slavery and its role in the making of the modern world, from Ancient Times to the present day.  It describes how thinkers in Ancient Greece believed that a free life for some was only possible through the enslavement of others.  Slaves either captured by war or traded were used extensively.  Aristotle compared them to tame animals “some men are by nature slaves and that to keep them as slaves is not just advantageous but right.”  There are detailed descriptions of the slave trade from Africa to various parts of the Americas and also elsewhere in the world.  The many extracts from letters and accounts from slaves, trader, owners and abolitionists make the descriptions of events vivid.  The role of slavery in the American Civil War is also discussed and the work of the Abolitionists especially in the UK.  It is a vast subject and it takes into account the history, economics, trade and also politics.  However it looks at the topic especially from the point of view of those enslaved and their suffering and the fight for justice.   (12  years up)


Professional Resources

Teaching about Other Countries: A teaching model for primary and middle school teachers  by Mark Wildy and Francine Smith  pb and CD ROM $32.95  
I recently heard Mark Wildy give a talk on this topic and found it extremely interesting.   His ideas are demonstrated very clearly through the many examples in this book.   I was especially taken with the way he got children to create an imaginary country and then had to work to make sure that the physical features of this country were feasible.  And of course to make them feasible they had to understand how the physical features of a country work.  Students could then go on to create cities, languages, foods, ceremonies and celebrations for their countries and all would have to fit in with the type of country they had created.  Naturally while discussing these features there would also be much discussion of actual countries and how they work.  (It makes me want to go into a classroom and try it out!)   I think teachers will find the book an extremely useful resource.  As the Introduction explains:  “It involves designing and interpreting maps, looking at physical and built features, climate, land use, exploitation of resources, human and economic activity, culture, language, customs and traditions, tourism and symbols of nationalism.  The model adopts an integrated approach and gives teachers scope for incorporating literacy, art, drama, music, technology, health and mathematical activities.“  Asian countries are included in many of the examples given.  This is an excellent resource.          

Focus on Inquiry: A practical approach to integrated curriculum planning  by Jeni Wilson and Lesley Wing Jan  pb $42.00
This is a new updated edition of this very helpful resource, just published in August 2009.  
The new edition builds on current research into learning and pedagogy, the authors’ continued experience and also the renewed interest in inquiry as a way to facilitate student learning.   I have had positive feedback from teachers regarding the older edition of this title.  It assists teachers to plan, implement and assess inquiry-based integrated curriculum units.  The first three chapters deal with these aspects.  The fourth chapter deals with assessment and record keeping and the fifth with planning and selecting and activities.  The sixth chapter has examples of sample units.  



There is always controversy over Awards and this year there has been as much as usual.  These Australian CBC 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 CBC Conferences is available at their website   Following is my short review of each title.  As you can see I don’t always agree with the judges.

And this year I would like to mention one exceptional book which I think really deserves to be on the Award list.  A shame that it wasn’t included (though everyone has their favourites).  But here again is the review I wrote back in October last year. 

Noodle Pie by Ruth Starke  pb $17.00
This is an exceptional book.  Ruth Starke has an ability to write so convincingly, to create such lively and believable characters.  Andy and his father are making a trip to Vietnam to visit relatives.  For Andy’s father it is his first trip back since he escaped from the country in a rusty fishing boat when he was just 15 years old.  For Andy who is 11 years old and was born in Australia, it is his first visit to Hanoi and the first time he has met any of his many relatives in Vietnam.  The book is written mainly from Andy’s point of view and so much seems strange to him.  He struggles to understand why people are behaving as they do; why his father is taking care to appear wealthier than he really is, why his family appears greedy and selfish as they grab to take whatever the visitors have brought with them.  Ruth Starke succeeds in giving us a sense of the chaos of Hanoi traffic and of daily life in Old Hanoi and the struggle to make ends meet.  Gradually as Andy understands more about this family and why they and his father are behaving as they do, we also understand so much more about Vietnam, its recent history and its people.  What is exceptional is that this information never seems forced but we gradually understand more very naturally through conversation and actions.  There is also much humour as Andy and his cousin decide that the family restaurant could be made more attractive to tourists and that this would be profitable for the whole family.  After initial reluctance the family gradually see there are advantages and the melding of two ways (the old and the new) is seen to be a very positive thing.    (9 – 12 years)

Book of the Year: Older Readers  (NB Some of these books are for mature readers)

Tales from Outer Suburbia              by Shaun Tan            hardback $35.00
This is a very different book from the author of such wonderful picture books as The Arrival hardback $40.00, The Red Tree hardback $29.00 pb $18.00 and The Rabbits hardback $28.00 and pb $18.00. It contains fifteen very short stories in which Shaun Tan explores the experience of growing up in the Australian suburbs.  Through these imaginative, quirky stories and unusual illustrations, he explores the mysteries which lurk just below the surface of suburban life.  (14 years up) 

Honour Books 
Into the White Silence by Anthony Eaton  pb $24.95
This is a fictional account of an exploratory expedition for fame and glory undertaken in secret to Antarctica in 1921.  The fiction of this account is contrasted and alternated with comments and description of Anthony Eaton’s own voyage to Antarctica which he made a few years ago in real life while he was on a writer’s grant.  The story of the disastrous expedition is told through a diary which has been found by chance by Anthony Eaton on his own journey to Antarctica.  The account of his actual experiences juxtaposes and often clarifies and adds extra explanatory detail to the diary entries.  The expedition was extremely harrowing in the freezing Antarctic conditions when their ship became trapped in the icepack.  It was also an expedition under the leadership of someone who should never have been in command of other men.  However I felt that at times the story becomes forced as the lines between reality and fiction become blurred.     (12 years up)        

A Rose for the ANZAC Boys  by Jackie French  pb $16.00
Once again I am full of admiration for Jackie French.  This book is set at the beginning of the First World War, and describes three young girls who are about 16 years old and who desperately want to do something to make a contribution.  Enthusiastic patriotism was high and people were fearful that the war would end before Christmas.  The girls decide to set up a canteen at a railway stop in France to serve cocoa and sandwiches to troops going to the front.  It’s amazing to realise how little infrastructure there was to support the enormous waves of soldiers going to the front to fight against the Germans.  So much in the way of support of food, clothing, medicine and transport was given by volunteers and most of these were women.  This is a remarkable portrait of the huge effort put in by these young women.  However their support becomes even more crucial as more and more waves of wounded and sick soldiers travel away from the front.  The story is often told in the form of letters by Midge McPherson, who later helps out by driving an ambulance and later still at a casualty station very close to the frontline.  There are painful, haunting descriptions of the shockingly injured men.  Midge did meet a number of soldiers and through the letters they exchange, we gain additional insight into life on the front line and their thoughts of this horrific war.  It is remarkable that Jackie French, through this story about three young girls has succeeded in giving such a graphic and terribly moving account of the suffering of the soldiers at the front and also of the amazing efforts of so many women working without stop as nurses.  The story is at times heartbreaking and I found it totally convincing.  Jackie did a huge amount of research for the book and at the end of the book includes some historical notes in which she describes the many letters from soldiers and others working at the front that she read and how at times she didn’t think that she would be able to continue writing.  We feel vividly the sheer stupidity of this war that wasted so many vibrant young lives.    (12 years up)

Shortlisted Books 
Monster Blood Tattoo Book Two: Lamplighter   by D M Cornish            pb $25.00
I have recently had feedback that this is proving very popular with students.  I must say I find the very detailed world created just too much but I know some kids love the incredible detail and all the drawings.  It is the sequel to Foundling.    (12 years up)   

Finnikin of the Rock            by Melina Marchetta trade pb $24.95  pb $19.95
This is Melina Marchetta’s first fantasy novel.   She has created a world where there is great suffering, however the characters are engaging and believable and the plot is exciting, complex and well constructed.  Fantasy enthusiasts will be sad to leave the world of Lumatere and Finnikin, Sir Topher and the mysterious Evanjalin on their quest to free the land of Lumatere from its curse.     (13 years up)     

Kill the Possum by James Moloney            pb $19.95
This is a confronting story about a bullying and abusive father and how this pushes his family almost to breaking point.   (13 years up)

Book of the Year: Younger Readers

Perry Angel’s Suitcase  by Glenda Millard illus by Stephen Michael King  pb $14.95
This is the third book in the Kingdom of Silk series about the Silk family.  Earlier books were The Naming of Tishkin Silk and Layla Queen of Hearts (pb $14.95 each).  It is a moving story about a foster child called Perry who finds love and acceptance with the Silks.  He also gains the confidence to be himself.  The books have an idiosyncratic gentle charm which is beautifully conveyed by Stephen Michael King’s whimsical illustrations.       (7 – 9 years)

Honour Books
The Wish Pony  by Catherine Bateson            pb $15.95
Ruby has just quarrelled with her best friend and now she has no one.  Her mum always seems to be sick as she is expecting another baby and so it seems that both parents have no time for her.  It is altogether an upsetting time for Ruby and she finds herself behaving in hateful ways that normally she wouldn’t ever do.  However with the help of Magda, who is a bit like a fairy godmother with brilliant henna coloured hair and purple boots and a glass wish pony, things change and on the way Ruby grows up a lot, finds other friends and learns a lot about herself and other people.  A charming book with a hint of magic.   (9 – 11 years)

Then  by Morris Gleitzman            pb $19.95
Then pb $19.95  is the sequel to Once pb $16.95 in which a Jewish boy finally comes to understand that the Nazis really are trying to kill him and thousands of other men, women and children, and especially the Jews.  It is a very difficult topic and Gleitzman treats it with a humour which is at the same time tragic.   In Once, the two children escape from a train bound for a Nazi death camp in Poland.  They are sheltered for a time on a farm but the threat of discovery is ever present.  This is a very moving book.   Once and Then combines the two books in one volume  pb $24.95.  (11 – 14 years)

Shortlisted Books 
Polar Boy  by Sandy Fussell  pb $14.95
I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this book and how convincing the characters and events seemed to me.  Sandy Fussell is an Australian author and the icy cold of what is now north east Canada is not a common topic for Australian authors.   Iluak is a young Inuit boy and is apprehensive about a prediction that he will meet with a polar bear.   Iluak meets with several bears but it is the meeting with a fierce Viking leader which is the most terrifying.  The story is set in the time when the indigenous peoples of that region followed the seasons and the paths of migratory animals.  It is an absorbing and at times exciting story.  (9 – 13 years)  

Audrey of the Outback            by Christine Harris illus Ann James            pb $15.00
Audrey is a memorable character.  She lives out bush.  Her father is away for long periods working and so there is just her older brother, her younger brother, her mum and an imaginary friend (as well as the odd swaggie) for company.  Life was tough in the bush for in the 1930s there were no phones, no electricity, and no nearby school.  However Audrey is full of life.  She is attracted by the life of the swaggie and decides she will run away.     (8 - 10 years)

The Wizard of Rondo   by Emily Rodda   hardback  $35.00  pb $23.00
I have found it hard to get into this new fantasy series of Rondo.  However I have had reliable feedback from librarians and teachers that the series is very popular with children.  It is the sequel to The Key to Rondo hardback $35.00 pb $23.00  in which an old music box is the key to the world of Rondo.  Rondo is a world in which many characters seem familiar and children will soon recognise that many are taken from nursery rhymes and from fairy tales.  (9 – 14 years) 


Book of the Year: Early Childhood (Picture Books)

How to Heal a Broken Wing  by Bob Graham   hardback $27.95
This is vintage Bog Graham.  The text is minimal and the illustrations are so full of contrast and emotion.   The city is full of skyscrapers and high up a small bird flies into the glass and falls to the ground.   The young boy Will is the only one who notices the injured bird lying on the crowded pavement; everyone else walks past.  With great care he and his mother carry it home and Will also brings a loose feather which his father explains can’t be put back but perhaps the broken wing will heal.  Gentle irony.  The wing does heal and the bird is taken back to the square, with its busy crowded pavements, surrounded by skyscrapers and it flies away.  My only concern with the book is that the injured bird is a pigeon (sometimes known as “ a flying rat” but perhaps that is a deliberate choice for maybe Bob Graham thinks that even “flying rats” merit compassion.  The book is endorsed by Amnesty International as contributing to a better understanding of Human Rights.    (4 – 8 years)

Honour Books
Leaf  by Stephen Michael King  hardback $20.95
This is a charming rather quirky story about a boy and a seed that shoots and begins growing in the hair on his head.  It is a story without words but is quite lively and engaging.     (4 – 6 years)

Tom Tom  by Rosemary Sullivan illus Dee Huxley hardback $24.95
Tom Tom is a small Aboriginal boy living with his many brothers and sisters and cousins and uncles and aunts in the Top End of the Northern Territory.  He goes to kindergarten and loves to swim in the waterhole with his many cousins and brothers and sisters.  The text is very simply written but succeeds through the evocative illustrations in giving a vivid picture of his busy and happy life in his Aboriginal community.    (4 – 6 years)

Shortlisted Books
Special Kev  by Chris McKimmie  hardback  $29.95 
This book is written so that it looks as though it is the work of a young nine year old child.  The writing is covered with ink blobs and the drawings are rough and sketchy.  It has been reviewed as an original and striking picture book.  Maybe it is.  It shows how each individual child is special and different.  It is not one of my favourites but maybe I am old fashioned.    (7 – 9 years)

Applesauce and the Christmas Miracle by Glenda Millard illus by Stephen Michael King hardback  $24.95  
After the recent shocking bushfires in Victoria, this story has a particular resonance.  Joe and Marigold are living in a shed on their land since they have lost everything in the bushfires.  Applesauce the pig feels so sorry for them but the day before Christmas day friends and relatives arrive with food and presents and overnight a baby is born.  Full of symbolism as the baby is put in a wooden box filled with straw.   Quaint very appealing illustrations add to the nostalgia of the story.         (5 – 9 years)
Puffling by Margaret Wild illus by Julie Vivas  hardback $28.00
The drawings of Puffling show an adorable baby puffin cared for lovingly by Big Stripy Beak and Long Black feather.  Puffling can’t wait to be big enough to leave the burrow and jump into the water and paddle away.  The book is beautifully illustrated in pastel and watercolour pastels in Julie Vivas’ distinctive style.  Each double page spread highlights the beautiful dull orange of the sandy burrow or the deep blue of the night sky or the beautiful clear blue colour of the sea.


Picture Book of the Year Award (These picture books may be for mature readers)

Collecting Colour by Kylie Dunstan            hardback $29.00  pb
This is a wonderfully vibrant book.  Rose lives in the Top End in the Northern Territory.  One day she goes with her best friend Olive and Olive’s mother Karrang and Olive’s aunty to collect pandanus leaves and stringy bark and colour for dyeing to make beautiful coloured baskets, mats and bags from the leaves in the traditional way of the Indigenous peoples.  It’s a day when the girls learn so much about the intricacies of collecting the right pandanus leaves and how to find the pink berries and the yellow roots for the colour.  It is a complicated and skilled process but there is so much sharing and warmth as they do their collecting and this continues as they sit for days under the banyan tree making their colourful baskets and weavings.  The illustrations are strongly influenced by Aboriginal art but they are also strikingly original especially in the design of the colourful pages and the use of collage.  The text is simple but also very informative.  Kylie Dunstan spent about 12 months working in Arnhem Land as an arts adviser and it was there that she gained inspiration for this book.      (6 – 13 years)

Honour Books
Home and Away by John Marsden and Matt Ottley hardback $29.00
In this picture book for older readers, John Marsden and Matt Ottley challenge us to imagine that we are refugees, sailing the world in search of refuge.  An ordinary family living in the suburbs of Sydney is described.  There is Mum, Dad, the fifteen year old narrator, his sister Claire and Toby who is just five.  Their lives are devastated by a sudden disastrous war.  Homes are destroyed, there are no jobs and food is hard to come by.  In desperation they find a boat willing to take them to another land, Hollandia.  The journey is harrowing and both parents die. Eventually the boat is met by unwelcoming naval boats and the children are taken to a detention camp.  Here the children are desolate and lose all hope as they live in stark very unhappy surroundings.  This is a bleak depiction but well worth discussing in the light of the plight of refugees throughout the world.  (9 – 15 years)

The Big Little Book of Happy Sadness by Colin Thompson   pb $14.95
George lives with his granny but is very lonely and misses his mother and father dreadfully.  One day he calls in at the animal shelter on the way home from school and discovers a small very sad dog with only three legs.  When Jeremy comes to live with George and granny their whole lives change and they work on devising a prosthetic leg for George.   All ends happily.  It is a bit sentimental but has a quirky appeal.  (4 – 8 years)

Shortlisted Books
Sunday Chutney by Aaron Blabey hardback $24.95
I found the strong cartoon style illustrations a little confronting at first but any reservations quickly fell away on reading this lively, engaging and exuberant story.  Sunday Chutney is always starting new schools because her family shifts frequently to different places round the world.  This has many advantages which Sunday lists, but she can’t help hating her first days at a new school even though she has developed her own idiosyncratic ways of coping with this.  I think that kids would love to give their own thoughts about Chutney’s life and her quirky views on life.      (7 – 10 years)

Nobody Owns the Moon by Tohby Riddle  hardback $24.95
Tohby Riddle’s picture books all have a similar distinctive style.  This one is set in New York and uses gentle satire to tell its story of a fox which can adapt well to city life because it is quick-witted and can eat a wide variety of foods whereas his friend Humphrey is a donkey and finds city life difficult, and often he ends up homeless.  On finding two invitations to the opening night of a play, called Nobody Owns the Moon, the two friends have a wonderful time and end up feeling they belong to the town.  However the ending is enigmatic as their feeling of belonging seems very transitory and has come about purely by chance.  Difficult to know the age group for this deliberately enigmatic picture book which has received very enthusiastic reviews.    (10 years up)  

Captain and the Crocodile King by Ruth Starke illus Greg Holfeld  hardback $24.95
I normally love all of Ruth Starke’s work but found it difficult to get into this cartoon style adventure story.  When I heard one of the judges for the CBC Awards talking about the book with great affection and admiration, I tried it again.  And it does have a lot of humour, great illustrations and a story which happily sends up the old adventure cartoons.  Kids will enjoy it I am sure -  perhaps even with as much enthusiasm as the SA judge!  (8 – 12 years)


Eve Pownall Award for Information Books

Alive in the Death Zone  by Lincoln Hall  hardback  $29.95
Lincoln Hall was the climber who on descending from the peak of Mount Everest, collapsed on the mountain and was left for dead by his climbing team.  Amazingly he survived the night and was discovered by two other climbers and was helped down the mountain the next day.  This is the gripping description of that amazing event.  However it also gives a detailed description of how Hall grew to love mountains and how he spent so much time working and living in the Himalayas.  There are many wonderful photographs of these extraordinarily beautiful mountains and also much fascinating information about the world of mountaineering and its hazards.    (12 years up)    

Honour Books
The Word Spy  by Ursula Dubosarsky   hardback   $24.95
Urusula Dubosarsky describes herself as a word spy because she gains such pleasure from spying out all the secrets of language.  In this book she invites young readers to join her on this very entertaining journey as she shares all that she has learned about words.  Ursula Dubosarsky writes in a very entertaining and enthusiastic way and gives many amusing and intriguing examples, puzzles, riddles and a code for students to work out themselves.  The book is divided into sections and it reads almost like a story as it discusses various alphabets from round the world and how the English alphabet came about.  Another section looks at the reasons why English is so strange and has such peculiar spelling.  She even makes her discussion of how punctuation came about very interesting and there are lots of examples of language games including puns and tongue twisters, not to mention the examples of anagrams, pangrams, lipograms and acronyms and palindromes.  She finishes up with a discussion of the language of telegrams and of texting.   She obviously loves words and this book is written in such a lively, interesting and enthusiastic way that the descriptions stay in the mind.  Amusing illustrations and clever and engaging presentation add to the appeal of the book.   (9 - 15 years)    

Simpson and His Donkey  by Mark Greenwood, illus Frane Lessac   hardback $27.95
This is a different telling of the well known story of Simpson and his donkey.  This story goes back to Jack Simpson’s childhood by the River Tyne in north east England and then to his time in Australia.  The naive art of Frane Lessac gives an unusual perspective to the campsites and scenes of Simpson and his donkey bringing back the wounded soldiers to the base camp at Gallipoli.  It is interesting to see the group of Sikh gunners and also to see fields of poppies - I was unaware that there were Sikhs or poppies at Gallipoli but obviously there were.  (7 – 11 years)      

Shortlisted Books
The Workboot series – The Story of Chicken in Australia  by Catriona Nicholls and Janet 
Paterson hardback  $26.50
This book contains an enormous amount of detailed information on the different types of
chickens that can be produced for meat, on their reproduction, production methods, processing of 
chickens, marketing and finally about the consumer and the environment. The information is well 
set out and illustrated with photos, graphs and statistics.  However it does read at times like an 
advertisement for the wonderful Australian chicken industry.   (9 – 11 years)

Tuart Dwellers by Jan Ramage illus Ellen Hickman hardback $26.95
The book describes vividly the insect, bird and animal life supported by the Tuart forests of southern Western Australia.  The illustrations are exceptional showing in great detail the large number of creatures living in the forest.  At the end of the book there are additional factual descriptions and illustrations of all the myriad creatures mentioned in the more lyrical first section of the book.     (8 – 11 years)

Every Picture Tells a Story: Adventures in Australian Art by John Ross and Anna Booth    pb $29.95
This is such an interesting book.  Surprisingly enough, it is great for browsing through the artworks but could also be used as a text.  The authors have chosen a marvellous collection of Australian art, including paintings, photographs, lithographs, linocuts and etchings.  Each work of art and its artist is discussed and there is also an historical account of the event or place depicted.  This means that for the Aboriginal ochre painting on bark by Indigenous artist Wandjuk Marika, the meaning of the painting is described and also some background on the artist and there is also a description of the art of Indigenous Australians and background to their history.  In this way we learn about early and later immigration into Australia, about Ned Kelly and also the environmental scourge of rabbits in Australia and the dread of bushfires as well as War, and the Depression.  The art works are fascinating in their own right but the background information makes them even more interesting while giving at the same time some information on Australian art and its history and also on general Australian history.  All the art comes from the collection at the National Gallery of Australia.  The book was published in 2008.  It is a meandering journey made all the more interesting by some additional intriguing anecdotes.    (12 years up)   

Trackback Link
Post has no trackbacks.