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Apr 20 2018

Everless by Sara Holland

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Hachette, 2017. ISBN 9781408353622
(Age: 12+) Jules and her father are poor, not of money, but of time. In the world of Everless, payments are collected in the form of time, which is siphoned through blood. Through alchemy, this time and blood is bound to coins (the larger the coin, the more time is captured). In this world, the rich experience both the luxuries of wealth and time. The richer you are, the longer you live. To save Jules' father from spending his blood, she desperately takes a job in the city of Everless; a place of fuzzy and traumatic memories for Jules surrounding the noble Gerling family's boys, Roan and Liam.
While working as a maid, Jules learns of the arrival of the Queen (whom is known to be ancient, beautiful, and fearsome). From this point on, nothing Jules knew will ever be the same. Both her past and her future become unsteady, as she strives to understand the unravelling world around her. In a land where money, time, and blood are consumed, what more will Jules have to give to understand herself, and the truth of the realm around her.
Everless a powerful young adult novel about love, trust, mystery, fantasy, and suspense. It is a story that doesn't fade from the reader's mind after they've put it down. Sara Holland has truly created a novel that engages the reader and captures their attention as they experience the story unfold before them through the eyes and mind of Jules. Jules is a unique and complex character who is the centre of the novel and has solid historical emotions and experiences, as well as strong connections with other story characters. Holland has created a realistic character that has depth to her thinking and actions.
Jules's experiences will connect with readers (12+) and keep them engaged in a story that is full of unexpected developments. If the story and characters weren't enough to keep a reader hooked, the conclusion certainly is. Holland leaves the reader needing to know more; the next instalment will surely be strongly awaited by readers of Everless.
Sarah Filkin




Apr 20 2018

Thunder Creek Ranch by Soya Spreen Bates

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Orca Books Publishers, 2013. ISBN 9781459801127
(Age: 8+) Highly recommended. Thunder Creek Ranch is a short story full of adventure. When Jake visits the neighbouring ranch, even though he knows he shouldn't, a chain reaction of events unfolds. Jake and his younger brother Tommy are visiting their grandparents at Thunder Creek Ranch. Tommy is the annoying younger brother and Jake is expected to take Tommy wherever he goes. They are both expected to stick together and look out for each other. When Jake sees another boy at the neighbouring ranch, he can't resist heading over to see who it is. He leaves Tommy up a tree to keep watch and meets Cory, the owner's grandson. A quad bike ride, a chase, escaped cows and before the boys know it Tommy is lost and Jake is panicking. The sudden storm complicates things and the boys are about to discover why the ranch is called Thunder Creek.
Thunder Creek Ranch is an easy to read story with themes of adventure and listening to others. Jake has a great imagination and while he might forget to follow the rules sometimes he never gives up and always tries to do the right thing in the end. This short novel would be great for young readers choosing their first novels as well as for reluctant readers who prefer to avoid larger books. The boys in the story are all under 12 years of age and it is highly recommended for readers aged 8+.
Kylie Kempster




Apr 20 2018

The 1,000 year old boy by Ross Welford

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Harper Collins, 2017. ISBN 9780008256944
(Age: 10-14) Highly recommended. Themes: Youth; History-fiction; Friendship; Adventure. What if you never got old? What would you do if you were stuck as an 11 year old for 1000 years? For Alfie this is his life! The stories passed down through the ages of the people who do not age, who seem to live forever, is it possible that there is a truth behind the legends? For Alfie, surviving through history as the result of an almost impossible elixir that prevents him from aging, but not from dying, comes with a whole array of problems - not the least of which is that everyone that he might be friends with will get old and leave him where he is. The uncertainty of this kind of existence comes to the fore when disaster strikes. Two new potential friends discover his secret and the need to protect Alfie from outside influences takes them into unknown territory. What follows is a magnificent tale, with action, adventure and wonderful characters, told in an exhilarating and yet compassionate way. Friendship proves to be a powerful inspiration for change.
Ross Welford has written a book that is compelling and slightly fanciful, but in a convincing way (suspending disbelief is necessary, but plausibility is not necessary for enjoyment). This will be a book that young readers aged 10-14 will certainly enjoy and they will love the character Alfie, his quirky friends Aidan and Roxy, and the complexities of life if you are perpetually 11 years old. I could not put this book down, so expect to lose young readers while they are engrossed in the adventure of agelessness.
Carolyn Hull




Apr 20 2018

Ruby in the ruins by Shirley Hughes

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Walker Books, 2018. ISBN 9781406375893
(Age: 8+) Highly recommended. Ruby in the Ruins is a beautifully illustrated story depicting life in the ruins of London after World War Two. The war is over and Ruby and her mum are eagerly awaiting the return of Ruby's dad, a soldier. Ruby and her mum have survived the bombings of London while dad has been fighting in the war. Ruby and her mum huddled together, waiting for the bombs to finish falling and praying for their house to stay safe. When the war was declared over, many families celebrated and waited for their husbands and fathers. Ruby was excited but did not recognise the man in her home. It had been a long time without him. Ruby's family is now different and London is very different. Ruby and her friends explore the ruins around London and it is during one of these explorations that Ruby realises just how much she needs her dad.
Many of the stories published about the war are from the perspective of the soldiers or about the returning soldiers. Ruby in the Ruins is from the perspective of a child. Readers will see how London was damaged without the gruesome details of war. Each detailed picture will create a discussion and encourage the readers to ask questions about this period of time. The text is aimed at readers aged 8+ but could still be read out loud to younger children as it is descriptive but simple. It is highly recommended for readers aged 8+.
Kylie Kempster




Apr 18 2018

I have lost my way by Gayle Forman

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Simon and Schuster, 2018. ISBN 9781471173721
(Age: 15+) Highly recommended. Themes: Mental illness. Friendship. Homosexuality. Diversity. Gayle Forman the author of the bestselling If I stay and the sequel Where she went among others, has done it again. I have lost my way is a powerful, memorable and engrossing stand-alone story that delves into the lives of three young people, all who have problems. Freya, on the verge of becoming a star, has lost her voice while recording her first album, Harun is running away from his boyfriend, too afraid to come out to his family and Nathaniel has come to New York totally alone. When Freya falls on Nathaniel in the park and this is witnessed by Harun, the three unite and while taking Nathaniel to the hospital the reader finds out their stories. All have lost their way.
The book is written from different points of view and the reader gets to know each character in depth and is able to sympathise with their crises and with their backgrounds. Freya has not only lost her voice, she has lost her sister who she once sang with and her father who has returned to Ethiopia to live. Harun has been so successfully in hiding his sexuality that he is being sent off to meet his bride and Nathaniel, that brave boy, has lost his grandmother and his father, who he has cared for over many years.
This is an unforgettable story. Each character is so well described that you feel you know them very well and can relate to their problems and applaud their strengths. The power of friendship shines through this book and will be a beacon for readers who see how friends who are there for you can make a huge difference. Other themes like mental health, children who are left to be the main carers of adults, manipulation by the music industry and suicide all make it a book not to be missed.
An article from Publishers Weekly notes that Forman had lost her own way before writing this compelling story. She had started seven projects, none of which satisfied her and finally decided to face her problem by writing about it. This article also links to a recording of A little white dress, a song that resonates for Freya in the story.
This is a very satisfying and uplifting story, sure to become a firm favourite for many readers.
Pat Pledger




Apr 18 2018

Nobody real by Steven Camden

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HarperCollins, 2018. ISBN 9780008168384
(Age: Older teens and young adults) Recommended. What an unusual style for a novel, loaded with great imagery and poetry.
I found this novel difficult to understand at first as I was challenged with following who was narrating at different times. Once I started to recognize how the different fonts related to different characters and scenarios, it became easier to follow.
It has a very unique storyline of imaginary friends and growing up in a society where young people are expected to follow the usual 'future paths' - school, university, university debt, work; where imaginary friends are not only real to the creator, but real in another world. The creativity and 'make believe' of artists and authors perhaps are fueled by not only their imagination but also by the strength that they feel from someone 'not real'.
The overall story is relate-able to today's young people - full of references to up-to-date technology and the way that young people use these in their social interactions. The issue of broken families, abandonment and surviving with guilt and grief, lends this novel to perhaps help readers and others to gain perspectives and empathy for people who experience these very real issues.
The characters are realistic and I felt that I could easily depict various 'real' people that I know as the characters. Thor and the other 'non real' people, are also very realistic with their thoughts and reactions. The only 'unreal' aspect of the imaginary people are their descriptions (bear) and their super powers (flying). They suffer, feel and react just as real people would which makes them more credible as 'imaginary FRIENDS'. No friend wants to be forgotten and just fade away from the memory of someone who is dear to them.
Steven Camden as an author, has been brilliant in his ability to add poetry in a teen novel which enhances the important focal points and which (I think) promotes the power and beauty of poetry as a literary creative art form.
Maria Burford




Apr 17 2018

The story of Tantrum O'Furrily by Cressida Cowell

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Ill. by Mark Nicholas. Hodder Children's Books, 2018. ISBN 9781444933802
(Age: 4+) Highly recommended. Themes: Cats. Survival. Stories. Cautionary tales. When Tantrum pads across the roofs in search of food with her three hungry kittens in tow, they ask for a story. So she tells them a story about Smallpaw, a pampered kitten living comfortably in a house where no stories are told. She has a lovely bed but each night after her tea, she presses her nose at the window and wonders what it is like outside. Mrs Worrykin, her owner, has told her that outside is full of dangerous stray cats, bad cats that fight with each other and with dogs. Smallpaw tries hard to be a good cat, but she is bored, so one night when the cat flap is left unlatched, she creeps outside. There a fox talks to her, encouraging her to take another step and hear his story. She comes closer until he leaps upon her telling her he will eat her. Suddenly another cat comes out of the gloom and fights off the fox. The stray cat tells her that she can write her own story, all it takes is courage.
After that Smallpaw is allowed outside and a saucer of milk is left for her, but she only drinks half, leaving some for the brave cat that saved her.
With that, Tantrum climbs down and shows her kittens the saucer of milk, half full, left for them.
This delightful fable of good and bad, a cautionary tale encouraging children to see beyond the words, would be a great read a loud, children joining in with the conversations between the fox and the cat, or between the cats when the kitten is rescued, and calling out when the fox attacks.
With the wonderfully ingenious illustrations washing across each page, the brush making sweeps of colour evoking movement, children will be entranced as they see the animals that make up the story and recognsie danger when they see it. This modern fable tells us all that being aware of the dangers is good, but these fears cannot rule our lives, it takes courage to take that first step.
Fran Knight




Apr 17 2018

How to be a fashion designer by Lesley Ware

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Ill. by Tiki Papier. DK, 2018. ISBN 9781465467614
The world of fashion, with its perceived glamour and glitz, always appeals to a certain number of students who care about what they wear and have the ability to make the proverbial sack look good. Sadly though, enduring emphasis on body image continues despite all that is done to combat it and many soon realise they don't have "the look" to be a top model and turn away. But in this easy-to-read manual other avenues in fashion are explored, particularly those of the designer and the stylist. "While designers create their clothes, stylists know how to put them together."
Using themed double-spreads students are taken through the basic steps with typical DK layout pizzazz, illustrations galore, tips and challenges that encourage them to start designing now. The last 20 pages offer opportunities to design a t-shirt, trousers, skirt, hat, shoes and accessories with outlines already provided so new knowledge can be applied immediately as the reader learns about colour, texture, patterns and shape while being encouraged to be inspired by the event and the environment. Recycling and upstyling are explored so not only is waste minimised but even those with few dollars do not need to be deterred.
Ware believes that those who can "speak up with fashion" have the courage to speak up in other ways too so as teachers we should look to those who dare to be different as being more than clothes horses. A close-to-home example is a student I taught a few years ago who always made the compulsory school uniform a personal statement, who was a whizz at design puzzles like tangrams and who, at 17, starred in a local show in a country town and then six months later in 2017, had her designs on the catwalk in Vancouver and more recently, Nassau in the Bahamas! Her story alone should give students confidence to continue.
Written to support a STEAM curriculum, the suggestions in this book offer an entire term's curriculum for those with this sort of interest but even those who aren't particularly interested in fashion can learn how to step out with a bit more style to give themselves a confidence boost.
Barbara Braxton




Apr 17 2018

The walkabout orchestra by Chloe Perernau

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Quarto, 2018. ISBN 9781786030795
The orchestra have an important concert to play - but all the musicians have gone walkabout! But each has sent a postcard to the Maestro saying where they are. So the challenge for the reader is to help him and his faithful assistant find them using the clues in those postcards.
From Reykjavik to Rio young readers will enjoy this search-and-find tour of the world that introduces them to the instruments of the orchestra as they test their powers of observation using the pictures of each in the introductory pages as a starting point.
With busy pages that test the eye (although not quite as busy as Where's Wally?) this book encourages readers to examine the details in things rather than just glancing quickly at them and moving on. To add to the mix there is a little yellow bird on each double-spread with his own quest that adds a further challenge. All eventually come together in a concert hall with some interesting audience members, and for those who just can't find them, an answer key is provided.
While this ostensibly introduces children to the instruments of the orchestra, it works better as a search-and-find book which is much more fun and informative.
A great addition for those who have pored over Where's Wally and who are looking for a new challenge in that collaborative reading activity that is so important to emerging readers, particularly boys.
Barbara Braxton




Apr 16 2018

The great Shelby Holmes meets her match by Elizabeth Eulberg

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Bloomsbury, 2018. ISBN 9781408871492
(Age: 8-10) Recommended. Themes: Detective stories, School stories, Juvenile Diabetes. Feisty nine-year-old girl detective Shelby Holmes returns to solve a new mystery and confront an old enemy. With her friend and mystery-solving partner John Watson they are ready to face new challenges. Both are attending a new school - the Harlem Academy of the Arts, in the same year level because Shelby's 'brain attic', her knowledge and deductive abilities have helped her skip two grades.
John has experienced new schools and different places and as an army kid, and is confident about their fitting in, however he's concerned about Shelby's unique style, her lack of reading social cues and bluntly pointing out everyone's secrets which causes problems. Shelby delves into the background of the mysterious new teacher Mr. Crosby and his missing heirloom watch. They face problems caused by Shelby's nemesis Moira who hacks the school director's email, steals Mr. Johnson's watch and locks Shelby and John up in a basement boiler room. Here, John who has juvenile diabetes suffers a medical incident and Shelby desperately and creatively finds someone to help him.
Eulberg includes numerous references to the original Sherlock Holmes stories, which may be beyond her reading audience's background knowledge. Interestingly, she includes descriptions of the white students' skin tones as a point of reference. Matt Robertson's cartoon drawings are entertaining: there's Shelby's unique hairstyle, smoke bombs exploding and eyes appearing from the darkness.
Shelby Holmes meets her match has themes of friendship, solving mysteries and overcoming worry and anxiety, and is an enjoyable novel suited to ages 8-10.
Rhyllis Bignell




Apr 16 2018

Count with Little Fish by Lucy Cousins

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Walker Books, 2018. ISBN 9781406374193
(Ages: 0-3) Themes: Counting, Fish, Board Book, Rhyming. This is a Little Fish Book, featuring the same titular fish from Where is Little Fish and Hooray for Fish. It counts from 1 to 10 using a variety of fish (fin-fin fish, funny fish, etc.) and is tactile and visually appealing. Shiny illustrations are smooth to the touch and everything is patterned with spots and stripes of varying vibrant design. Both the colours and the tone of the book are bold and cheerful. Playful illustrations encourage discussion about shape, size, colour, pattern, and fish body parts (big, small, long, short, spotty, stripy, sharp teeth, long fins etc) and the last page encourages further discussion ("How many new fish have you found?). This final page also shows all the fish from the book so helps children with recall and reflection. Large numerals, which have the written word underneath, assist with number recognition. The numerals are eye-catching because they are patterned the same as the fish on that page. Visual appeal and a nice rhythm ("One little fish swimming in the sea, Two twin fin-fin fish, as pretty as can be") makes this a simple but effective first counting book.
Nicole Nelson




Apr 13 2018

Lightning men by Thomas Mullen

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Little, Brown, 2017. ISBN 9781408710623
(Age: Senior secondary-adult) Highly recommended. Themes: Crime, Atlanta, USA, Historical novel, Racism, Jim Crow laws. Atlanta, Georgia in the 1950's is laid bare for all to see in this stunning new crime story by Thomas Mullen.
Listening to him at the recent Adelaide Writers' Week ensured buying the book, finding another friend already had his first book, Darktown (2016), set in Atlanta just two years before, and exposing the conflicts within the police department, only just admitting eight Negro policemen. For many, this is the last straw, and those in the force who are Klansmen or who sympathise with their aims, make sure these newcomers never forget their place. They are only allowed to patrol the Negro neighbourhoods, not allowed to arrest white men, and for Boggs and Smith, coming across a drug transfer, which results in the death of a white man, the consequences prove to be dangerous.
This is an unequivocal look at 1950's USA, where Negroes returning from Europe after World War Two, enthused by the freedom and responsibility they had as soldiers, expect better treatment back home. But for many it is back to being the lowest paid workers, ineligible for GI loans to buy a house, few opportunities, living under the Jim Crow Laws and the overarching racism of the Ku Klux Klan and its offshoot, the Columbians (the Lightningmen) to deal with. For the lucky few able to buy a house in the transition areas where Negroes are buying into white areas, notices appear on the street poles, vicious letters are sent to their homes, some are beaten and neighbourhood groups mobilise to keep them out.
For Tommy Boggs his life as a policeman and as a family member come together when his girlfriend's ex lover turns up newly released form jail, stretching Bogs' belief in her. He tries to find out more about Jeremiah but attracts the attention of the federal agency.
And his investigations collide with a sympathetic white detective, Rake when his brother in law admits to doing the bidding of a klansman, resulting in a death.
In Rake's neighbourhood, his wife is happy to support a group collecting money to buy the Negro family out and one night when this money is stolen, all blame is leveled at the Negro household, where Smith's sister lives.
Rake follows the clues from afar, realising that the men who stole the money were much closer to home, but proving this means defending the Negro household, raking up the ire of his brother in law. Calling to see his sister's husband, the last chapters of the book bring all the threads together as Rake becomes involved in a shoot out in the white neighbourhood.
A gritty crime novel, the moral edges are blurred as each of the main protagonists both white and black make decisions which cause them grief and sleepless nights.
The novel gives an amazing insight into the issues of Atlanta at this time, and reflects serious research into the times through archives and newspaper accounts. It was reading one such newspaper article about Negro police being appointed in Atlanta that started Mullen on this series of books.
Not only does this book reflect the division between black and white in the USA of the time, it will impel Australian readers to think about such injustice here.
Fran Knight




Apr 13 2018

Trans mission : My quest to a beard by Alex Bertie

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Hachette, 2017. ISBN 9781526360687
(Age: Adolescent) This well written and easy to understand autobiography goes a long way to helping you understand the struggles facing transgender men and women.
Bertie's honest account of his childhood, the difficulties he faced with family, peers and professionals is eye opening and informative.
Born and raised as a girl, Alex Bertie enjoyed his childhood as a tomboy, unaware of the gender conflict that grew with him as he got older and for a long time unable to put a name to the pain it was causing within him.
A keen youtube blogger, Bertie shares his journey of self-discovery and how he had to navigate the medical system in the UK to find doctors who were at least knowledgeable and even sympathetic about his condition. Waiting until he was legally an adult to access the drugs and surgery that would help to make his body more masculine. Only in his early 20s, Bertie's advice is sound and mature as only those who have experienced personal trauma and come through with a positive outlook, can give.
Written in a pragmatic and uplifting tone, I found Bertie's story interesting and educational. He uses everyday language to explain the medical procedures available and the correct terminology that helped him name his feelings as he came to terms with being trapped in the wrong body.
Although I believe everyone would benefit by reading this autobiography, I think his writing style and the layout is targeting adolescents.
Joyce Crawford




Apr 13 2018

The lost puppy by Clara Vulliamy

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Dotty Detective series. Harper Collins Children's Books, 2017. ISBN 9780008248376
(Age: 6+) Recommended. Themes: Detectives; Pets. Dot is an amateur detective - she uses clues to join the dots to solve her cases. In fact her detective agency is called: "Join the Dots Detectives"! With the help of her friends and her very special assistant, McClusky (her pet dog), she is engaged in solving the mystery of the missing dachshund, just before the summer fair and her class's Pets Corner stall.
Written in a very simple style with cartoon style drawings, this is a cute and easy to read school-based story. It will appeal to young readers just finding their feet with chapter books.
Carolyn Hull




Apr 04 2018

The war I finally won by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

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Text, 2017. ISBN 9781925498851
Highly recommended. Sequel to the award winning The war that saved my life. "When Ada's clubfoot is surgically fixed at last, she knows for certain that she's not what her mother said she was - damaged, deranged, crippled mentally as well as physically. She's not a daughter anymore, either. What is she? World War II continues, and Ada and her brother, Jamie, are living with their loving legal guardian, Susan, in a borrowed cottage on the estate of the formidable Lady Thorton - along with Lady Thorton herself and her daughter, Maggie. Life in the crowded cottage is tense enough, and then, quite suddenly, Ruth, a Jewish girl from Germany, moves in. A German? The occupants of the house are horrified. But other impacts of the war become far more frightening. As death creeps closer to their door, life and morality during wartime grow more complex. Who is Ada now? How can she keep fighting? And who will she struggle to save?" Publisher
I absolutely loved this book. I found myself wanting to read it any spare moment I had. Although I had not read the other books about Ada I did not have any trouble following the storyline - although I will be seeking out the first book! The characters are so lifelike and it is extremely easy to make emotional connections with each and every one of them. The story touches on persistence, love, friendship and ignorance.
It would make a fantastic read aloud although it would need to be for upper primary students as there are references to the abuse and neglect Ada faced prior to being evacuated from London. It provides a fantastic insight into the hardships that affected all during the war - from the very poor to the wealthy. A must have for the library collection. Teacher's notes are available.
Kathryn Schumacher




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