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Nov 19 2019

The wind in the wall by Sally Gardner

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Illus. by Rovina Cai. Hot Key Books, 2019. ISBN: 9781471404986.
(Ages: 15+) Highly recommended. Themes: Fantasy, Myth, Fairy tale, Cautionary tale, Pineapples. In this new cautionary tale reading like a fairy tale of old, Sally Gardner tells the tale of a gardener in the employ of the Duke of Northumberland. The duke is desperate to grow and raise a pineapple and employs the gardener to take charge of the hothouse and the plant.
From page one we know that this hapless gardener is imprisoned and read on to find out how and why he is thus ensconced.
Because he could not grow a pineapple, the duke demotes him to be his wife's gardener, in charge of the flower garden, a position he does not like. And a new person is employed to grow a pineapple. But Mr Amicus arouses suspicion. Just what is in the birdcage he takes into his house, and why is the hothouse filled with light at night? And just how does he manage to grow a pineapple?
The gardener creeps to the hothouse at night and spies a naked woman, surrounded by green feathers, imprisoned in the birdcage, tapping all the while on its bars. Mr Amicus wears the same sort of feather in his hat. He drunkenly returns and warns the gardener to stay away from the hothouse and his wife. Shocked, the gardener retreats, but one night after a summer storm a tree crashes onto the hothouse and the birdcage is emptied. Later a tapping on his door reveals the woman and they spend the night together, she offering the gardener one wish in return for his kindness, but warns him to choose wisely.
The next day Mr Amicus comes looking for her and chases the gardener into the walled garden, where he uses his one wish unwisely and is forever trapped.
This is a wonderfully engrossing tale, full of magic and humour, of desire, greed, infatuation, ambition . . . all those tenets that sit well in cautionary tales. Here the story warns us to be careful of what we wish for, with the gardener finding himself trapped for life behind a wall.
Stunning illustrations by Rovina Cai, a masters graduate from the School of Visual Arts in New York, who now lives in Australia, parallel the text, sweeping the eyes across every page, the turning of which offers a new delight every time.
Fran Knight




Nov 19 2019

A guinea pig nutcracker by Alex Goodwin

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Photography by Phillip Beresford. Guinea Pig Classics series. Bloomsbury, 2019. ISBN: 9781635574500.
(Age: 3-8) Recommended. Themes: The Nutcracker, Guinea pigs, Classic stories. This is part of the Guinea Pig Classics series, in which Classic stories such as Pride and prejudice and A Christmas carol are told using photographs of dressed-up and staged guinea pigs. It's a curious concept but one that will introduce a new generation of young children to some of the best-loved and enduring stories of the modern world. It is presented, fittingly, as a performance, starting with an audience address: 'Dear members of the audience, please take your seats. Tonight's performance of The Nutcracker is about to begin'. Italics cleverly alert the reader to the musical accompaniment: 'The double bass rumbles', 'Ting! Ting! Ting!' The text itself is short, fast-paced and focused on the action. We are even told of the ballet moves being performed, putting glorious images in the mind of swift-footed guinea pigs(!): 'They perform effortless pirouettes, their feet barely touching the ground.' After the story is a list of the guinea pig performers and their photographs (as you would find in a performance program) as well as a very short history of the Nutcracker ballet.
The small format of the book suits the cuteness of the concept perfectly and little animal lovers will adore the beautifully dressed up guinea pigs in their crowns and top hats, not to mention the land of sweets! This is a great introduction to the Nutcracker story, especially for little ballet dancers or for reading before seeing the play.
Nicole Nelson




Nov 19 2019

The twelve days of Christmas with Roald Dahl: Festive things to make and do by Lauren Holowaty

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Penguin, 2019. ISBN: 9780241428122.
(Age: 7+). Themes: Art, Craft, Recipes, Humour, Jokes, Games.
On the First day of Christmas my true love gave to me . . .
One Matilda in the Library
Two Smelly Twits
Three Naughty Muggle-Wumps
Four Repulsant Snozzcumbers
Five Golden tickets
Six Cunning Foxes
Seven Gigantuous insects
Eight Crafty Crocodiles
Nine Spoonfuls of Medicine
Ten Chomping Tortoises
Eleven Foulsome Witches
Twelve Twistmas Tales

From the list of the contents headings above be prepared for a humorous and entertaining addition to this year's Christmas books. This is a clever publication of activities based upon many of Roald Dahl's popular stories and will be an instant hit with his legion of fans, both young and old. Scattered throughout the book are Roald Dahl's thoughts on Christmas activities and ideas as well as a passage he wrote about December from My year.
The book is able to be written and drawn in, as well as the opportunity to colour pages and complete activities in the reader's own way. There are recipes to follow, tricks to play and presents to make. Some of the ideas include: A recipe for Chocolate and Brussel Sprout Pie, Festive Frobscottle, Giant Peach Pinata, Grandma Kranky's Guide to A Kranky Christmas, Witches Glove Wreath, Wormy Spaghetti, Matilda's Clever Christmas Spinners, to name but a few!
The twelve days of Christmas with Roald Dahl would be a great stocking filler or an excellent gift for someone who has everything!
Kathryn Beilby




Nov 19 2019

Harry Potter: Spells and charms: A movie scrapbook by Warner Brothers

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Bloomsbury Publishing Australia, 2019. ISBN: 9781526613189.
(Age: 8+). Themes: Movies, Fantasy, Spells, Charms. Fans of Harry Potter novels and movies will value this latest non-fiction book in the ever popular phenomenon that is Harry Potter. It is written and presented as a scrapbook and is full of photographs from the movies - and from behind the scenes. There are also inserts and illustrations capturing many of the key moments in the Harry Potter series. It gives detailed information about different scenes and the spells and chants used throughout the stories, such as the Duelling Club Spells, Spells taught to Dumbledore's army and Unforgivable Curses to name a few. On each page of the different spells there is information regarding the intention of the spell, who used the spells and in which book they were used. Readers are also able to closely examine photographs of significant scenes and read further information they may have missed when watching the movies or reading the novels. The book provides stickers, posters and cards to keep the Harry Potter fan entranced.
Every day a new generation of readers are discovering the world of wizardry through Harry Potter. Harry Potter: Spells and charms: A movie scrapbook would be a wonderful introduction for those just beginning their Harry Potter journey and a welcome addition to any home library.
Kathryn Beilby




Nov 19 2019

The bookish life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman

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Headline Review, 2019. ISBN: 9781472266217.
(Age: Adult) Recommended for readers who like quirky books with allusions to novels. Nina Hill is a young woman who is happy with her life. An only child with a mother who travels the world, she has a job in a bookstore, is on a winning trivia team, likes to be alone reading her books and has a cat named Phil. When the father that she has never known dies leaving her with a complete family of half brothers, sisters, nieces and nephews she has to contend with all these strangers. Then Tom, the leader of a competing trivia team starts to show interest and she finds she has to face a new world.
I expected a very light read and was rewarded with lots of laugh out loud moments as Nina prepared her lists of what to do and tried to keep her anxiety at bay, all with a great sense of humour. The descriptions of the trivia competitions were a hoot and the references to many books, including Harry Potter, were fun as well. Adding real depth and interest to the book were the descriptions of how she grew up with a Nanny looking after her as her mother roamed the world taking photos and the way she handled having both a new family and a boyfriend.
This was a feel good book with the added charm of a memorable heroine who is resistant to change but finds ways of letting new people into her life. Older teens would really enjoy it, but there are references to alcohol and sex which might make it unsuitable for younger teens.
Pat Pledger




Nov 18 2019

Sulwe by Lupita Nyong'o

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Illus. by Vashti Harrison. Puffin Books, 2019. ISBN: 9780241394328.
(Age: 9 - 12 years) Highly recommended. Sulwe was born the colour of midnight. So begins the stunning picture book Sulwe written by Academy Award winning Kenyan actress and producer Lupita Nyong'o. The book describes the feelings of a young girl whose skin is not the same colour as the other members of her family. She finds it difficult to fit in at school and is taunted by others. Sulwe compares herself to her fairer skinned and popular sister and attempts to lighten her skin but to no avail. She eventually shares her pain with her mother who supports her with love and understanding and explains that her name means star which shows brightness. When night falls, a shooting star takes Sulwe on a journey and tells the story of two sisters, Night and Day who grew apart. The star goes onto explain that both Night and Day need each other and together they make the world as we know it. The story ends with Sulwe realizing that she is unique and special and has her place in the world.
The striking illustrations and use of colour by Vashti Harrison set the mood and reflect the night and day, dark and light theme of the story. Her images of Sulwe are quite beautiful and the portrayal of the two mythical sisters, Night and Day, are stunning.
Sulwe is a wonderful story that warrants a place in any school library. It sends a powerful message to primary aged children and will prompt plenty of class discussion about how we treat others and how we feel about ourselves. It also shows us that with kindness and support, we can begin to overcome our own feelings of low self-esteem and that we are all bright and beautiful as we are. Themes: Families, Self-esteem, Racism, Belonging, Acceptance, Myths, Fantasy.
Kathryn Beilby




Nov 18 2019

The Confession by Jessie Burton

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Picador, 2019. ISBN: 9781509886159.
(Age: Adult-Adolescent)The Confession is a story of mystery, love and loss, and of the roles that family and friendship play in our lives. Essentially, this narrative delves into the ideal of motherhood, family and love, but is also about the reality of life, of self-absorption, fear, loneliness, rejection and mystery. The choice of a puzzling lack of information within the narrative is pertinent to the enigmatic events and choices that the characters make, and reflects what Burton has constructed, in an absorbing and completely captivating narrative.
In the narrative that begins in 1980, Elise falls in love with Connie when they meet unexpectedly in the park in New York, and this meeting changes Elise's life. The second narrative, interwoven and connected to the first, and told in the first person, is the story of Elise's daughter, beginning in 2017, of her quest to find her mother who disappeared one day, leaving no trace, and who has never been found. The notion of mystery pervades the text, as we are similarly eager to discover the truth when we realize that we do not know the details of the enigma of the lost mother either. Structuring the story in two different eras, Burton begins in 1980 and interweaves the years subsequent to this period with the events of 2017 and beyond.
Well-written, richly descriptive and tantalizing in its complexity, and indeed in the description of the passing of the years, this narrative is a powerful expression of the way in which human interaction can be loving and supportive, while also suggesting that life can also be ruled by an individual's choices that are hurtful, self-absorbed or unexpectedly puzzling. Jessie Burton has written an evocative story, one that is well-constructed, powerful and interestingly complex. It is appropriate for both adult and adolescent readers.
Elizabeth Bondar




Nov 18 2019

Lottie Luna and the Bloom Garden by Vivian French

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Illus. by Nathan Read. HarperCollins, 2019. ISBN: 9780008342982.
(Age: 7+). Highly recommended. Themes: Fantasy, Werewolves, Friendship, Gardens. In this very enjoyable and easy read junior fiction novel, the story begins in the crumbling Dracon Castle where a werewolf family have recently moved to. Lottie Luna, her older brother Boris and their parents have become the local royalty and Lottie Luna is about to begin at a new school in the middle of term. She decides to be ordinary and not tell her classmates she is a princess. Lottie Luna has another secret though. She was born when there was a full moon and lunar eclipse and has special powers. She is able to run and swim very quickly, is very strong and has astounding hearing. After rescuing Bernie, a werewolf cub, she is unavoidably thrust into the limelight. Lottie Luna then discovers her school Principal, Madame Grubeloff, was born on this special day and also has the same special powers. The Principal encourages Lottie Luna to use her special powers only when absolutely necessary.
On the first day at her new school, Lottie Luna wins a competition to design a school garden on a derelict plot of land behind the school which may otherwise be sold for a toll road. Her garden is called the Bloom Garden and the school students set about landscaping and planting the flowers. Sadly it is destroyed two nights in a row and Lottie Luna's suspicions fall on Aggie who is not a kind classmate and who thought she would win the competition. The new Deputy Principal and his sneaky son Bruno are unpleasant characters who also come under suspicion. With the help of Lottie Luna's new friends, Marjory and Wilf, the problem is solved and the Bloom Garden eventually survives.
The black and white illustrations by Nathan Read complement the text brilliantly and draw the reader in. They are both detailed and entertaining and help to set the visual imagery throughout the novel. Lottie Luna and the Bloom Garde is the first in a series with the second titled Lottie Luna and the Twilight party.
Kathryn Beilby




Nov 18 2019

Tim and Tigon by Tim Cope

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Pan Macmillan, 2019. ISBN: 9781760554293.
(Age: 12+) Recommended. 'Adventurer Tim Cope had a childhood dream: to travel the 10,000 kilometres from Mongolia to Hungary on horseback - a journey undertaken by the legendary leader of the Mongols, Genghis Khan. Tim made this epic journey - across the windswept wilderness and wolf-infested plateaux of Mongolia and Kazakhstan - with his dog Tigon'. (Publisher)
The YA version of the novel makes it easy to follow and digest for younger readers even aged 12. This is a recommended novel with heart. The pictures in the middle show the reality of the harsh conditions that Tim and Tigon coped with and the traditions of the people that they encountered.
Vincent Hermann




Nov 15 2019

The fate of Fausto: a painted fable by Oliver Jeffers

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HarperCollins Children's Books, 2019. ISBN: 9780008357917.
(All ages). Highly recommended. Themes: Greed, Wants and needs. Fausto wants everything to bow in acknowledgement to him. He believes that he owns everything and goes to a flower, a sheep, a tree, a field, forest and a lake to force their submission to him. He expects this, although the lake takes some time to see things his way. Next the mountain holds his ground, making the man make his fist, stomp his feet and generally put up a fight. The mountain concedes.
Children and adults alike will see parallels all around them of behaviour such as this.
But the man is still dissatisfied and takes to a boat upon the sea. Away from the shore he tells the sea that the sea belongs to him. The sea remains silent. He tells the sea again that he is its owner, and this time the sea responds, telling him that Fausto does not owns the sea. He is adamant that he does and says he will stamp his feet, and climbs out of the boat onto the sea to do so. He disappears.
None of the things that bowed to him cared. They carried on just as before. Fausto's fate did not matter to them at all.
A wonderful modern fable about possessions and self image, readers of all ages will thrill at the behaviour shown by Fausto in trying to get his own way, seeing parallels in the nightly news or history or people with whom they mix.
This story reveals all the elements of a fable, a short story in which animals have human characteristics and ends with a moral, and will be another discussion point with students. Comparing this tale with Aesop's fables, for example will widen the student's literary vocabulary and enable them to see other examples of modern fables.
Students could discuss why the author has chosen the name Fausto for his anti hero, and absorb the wonderful story retold by Kurt Vonnegut at the end of the book, seeing parallels between that story and why Jeffers wrote his fable.
The startling illustrations done using a lithographic printmaking technique, add to the dream like qualities of the story as many pages are blank,some pages have a phrase and just a line of colour, some pages are covered with colour but all expect the reader to think about what is happening, to think about the man's expectations of life and his dissatisfaction with what he has ending with his sinking into the sea and oblivion.
The endpapers reflect books from years ago with their wonderful marbling effect and intricate designs, which once more will attract the readers to look again before the book is closed.
Fran Knight




Nov 14 2019

Full disclosure by Camryn Garrett

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Penguin, 2019. ISBN: 9780241367063.
(Age: 16+) Recommended. Themes: HIV, Sexuality, Gender, LGBQT+, Prejudice. Simone is the adopted daughter of a gay couple she calls Dad and Pops. The two men chose her, an HIV positive baby, as an act of caring after seeing friends die from AIDS. Simone's condition is managed with regular drug treatment, her viral load is almost undetectable which means she is not a risk to anyone. But whilst she is informed and responsible, she knows that the ignorance of people around her can mean humiliation and rejection if anyone finds out - that was the horrible experience at her last school. She is now starting at a new school, with new friends, and has been selected as director of the school play, but just when everything seems to be going well, anonymous messages threaten her happiness once again.
Camryn Garrett wrote this book when she was only seventeen years old, and it is a refreshingly candid account of teenage worries and fears: anxiety about the first date, first sex, gender confusion, sexual attraction, masturbation and even a first visit to a sex shop! The voice is open and honest, and the values are positive throughout. Her fathers are both caring involved parents, her friends are loyal and supportive, she has an encouraging teacher, and even the blackmailer is revealed to be a troubled person in need of help rather than punishment. The book advocates for speaking up, sharing worries and getting help. And ultimately Simone learns to overcome her fears and to trust in the people who care for her.
Dealing openly with topics people generally don't like to talk about, this story will reflect many teenage concerns, and also is very enlightening and informative on the subject of human immunodeficiency virus - readers will come away having enjoyed a heartwarming story and be a little more knowledgeable as well.
Helen Eddy




Nov 13 2019

The crayons' Christmas by Drew Daywalt

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Illus. by Oliver Jeffers. HarperCollins, 2019. ISBN: 9780008180362.
(Age: 3+) Highly recommended. Themes: Crayons, Christmas, Humour, Pop up. This beautifully presented book, with flaps, letters, envelopes, lift ups and pop outs will intrigue and delight younger readers along with the older readers who helps them navigate the pages.
Eager fingers will love searching through the intricacies of the book's production. Buy two, even three! Kids will love it and shown how to use it carefully, the book will last just as long as any other popular book in the library or at home.
The humour of the The day the crayons quit (2013), followed by The day the crayons came home (2015) and Crayon's book of numbers (2016) is spread throughout this Christmas offering as the two, Red and Green crayon prepare for the celebrations with Duncan.
Letters arrive at their home, but the contents are not for Duncan, but various other crayons.
After being outdoors for a while in the snow they decide to get out the Christmas decorations and hang them up, pulling out the box of decorations that everyone has stored somewhere in their house.
Each routine of Christmas follows, putting up decorations, singing carols, making a Santa in the snow, making biscuits and a drink to leave for Santa, wrapping presents, receiving and sending cards and letters, emails and gifts, until the night before Christmas arrives and the Christmas play is over. All is in readiness. But Duncan receives a map of the world showing a world tour by his friends and hears that they won't be home for Christmas, so the crayons take the day in hand, presenting a Christmas to remember.
A wonderful play on the idea of Christmas, this book revolves around the routines of Christmas, the things done in western societies heralding the day and its customs. Children will follow the routines readily, recognising the ones done in their homes and seeing some of those replicated in the shops and streets of their towns. Children will love opening the envelopes and reading the messages, piecing together the story as it unfolds, and enjoy hanging the decorations, popping up the tree, taking out the clothing to put on the crayon.
Fran Knight




Nov 13 2019

The lonely Christmas tree by Chris Naylor-Ballesteros

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Bloomsbury, 2019. ISBN: 9781408892923.
Recommended. The lonely Christmas tree is a small picture book, based loosely upon the classic Christmas poem 'Twas the night before Christmas. This book also follows a poetic rhyme, which allows the reader to fall into a nice rhythm quite quickly. Each page of text only has 4-6 short lines and a beautiful illustration on the opposing page.
The story follows a lonely little tree who found its self far away from all the others who had already been cut and decorated.
Suddenly a jolly fellow came and chose the tree for a prime position in the town, and when the bright star was placed on top all the tree's woodland friends returned.
Of course we all know who this jolly fellow is, and although not named in the book it is easy to tell, which brings a special element to the book for those who believe.
I really liked this book, and think it would make a great addition to the Christmas Eve festivities.
The illustrations are simple, yet extremely effective in showcasing a winter theme. Each page has dark tones, movement within the snow, and just the right amount of brightness to light up the town on Christmas Eve.
My favourite page is the last one, where the scene is of St Nicholas (readers might have to explain this name to young listeners), who is lit up by the silver moon, the town is below and most importantly the once lonely tree is taking pride of place looking out over the town and snowy mountains. The silver additions add that extra element that brings some extra Christmas feeling to the page.
Loved this one, the short rhyming story and the beautiful illustrations. 4 out of 5.
Lauren Fountain




Nov 13 2019

We're going on an elf chase by Martha Mumford

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Illus. by Laura Hughes. Bloomsbury, 2019. ISBN: 9781526606303.
Recommended. We're going on an elf chase is a cute little board book that encompasses a 'life the flap' on most pages.
It is the perfect size to read on the couch/bed with your little ones but also great to pop into your bag for a day out (it has a nice and sturdy cover so I think it will hold up well with lots of use). The story follows 4 lovely little rabbits who are going on an elf chase through the snow, where they come across winter animals like penguins, birds, polar bears and even some festive reindeer!
As the reader lifts the flaps and find the elves, they can identify the number they are up to (under each flap the numbers are written- a great numeracy link!), and practice counting to 10.
The story also following a repetitive style with every second page being the same text, allowing the reader to learn and join in with the 'reading' of the book. My newly 5-year-old is just starting to be interested in actual reading and this helped her begin to identify words as she could predict what they were based on the repetition of the book. I also liked how the author used some sounds and noises associated with the animals they were creeping around. This added interest and definitely increased engagement in the story. We pretended to be reindeer who went cloppy, cloppy, clip and birds who went chirpy, chirpy, cheep!
I really liked this book, as although it is a fairly simple story, I was able to stretch that into the worlds of numeracy, literacy and even some drama. Both my daughter and I enjoyed the illustrations too, they are whimsical and free flowing and you can almost see the freezing wind blowing across the landscape behind the rabbits!
I give We're going on an elf chase by Martha Mumford 4 out 5, a great Christmas book for children aged up to 6 years.
Lauren Fountain




Nov 13 2019

Peppa's Christmas jumper day

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Penguin, 2019. ISBN: 9780241371589.
Most parents of young children know the phenomenon that is Peppa Pig, and probably can't help but sing the tune when it comes on the TV! On top of the show, kids also have the ability to read about Peppa and her friends!
This story is called Peppa's Christmas Jumper Day, and follows the story of Peppa and her brother George who need Christmas Jumpers for a special day at playgroup, but unfortunately theirs are too small. It all ends with Daddy Pig coming to the rescue . . . turning a normal jumper into a Christmas one with lots of baubles and glitter.
Peppa Pig books follow the same predictable lines as the TV show, and whilst reading it is easy to hear the characters' voices (if you have had the privilege of hearing the shows over and over again!) in your head. This will be comforting to young children who will feel familiar with not only Peppa, her family and friends but also the text.
The illustrations are exactly as they are seen on TV, bright colourful and relatively simple.
I must admit that Peppa Pig was not one of my favourite TV or book characters, however my daughter loved the show which meant that it was a regular during quiet time at our house.
For children who love the Peppa Pig franchise, this Christmas edition will be a fitting addition to their bookshelf. 3 out of 5 stars.
Lauren Fountain




Nov 12 2019

The Underhills: a tooth fairy story by Bob Graham

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Walker Books, 2019. ISBN: 9781536211122.
(Age: 3+) Highly recommended. Themes: Teeth, Tooth fairies, Fairies, Cupid, Angels, Airports, Immigration, Grandparents. With the Underhill parents called to a job, the girls and their baby brother go to their grandparents' house, a teapot by the airport, to stay. Here a splendid time awaits: fairy cakes, pancakes for breakfast, feather beds and chocolate. And the girls bring a jar of tadpoles for Grandma. But an urgent call comes in: a tooth is arriving from Ghana, and they are close to the airport. Grandpa is left reading his poetry book in the garden with baby Vincent tied to him lest his wings take him up like a balloon.
Grandma, Esme and April (seen first in April Underhill: tooth fairy, 2010) fly to the terminal, there to wait for the plane. Cupids and angels are there too, waiting to ply their skills: cupids to help loving people greet each other, and the angels to comfort those who are alone and sad, enfolding them with their wings and helping to push their trolleys.
An announcement alerts the family to the plane's arrival and the girls watch out for the Ghanan family and the young girl whose tooth has fallen out. Grandma reminds the girls about where to find the tooth and the girls fly to the young girl and climb into her pocket. They retrieve the tooth, leaving a small coin behind, whispering in Akuba's ear that she will not remember the event.
Grandma was worried about the girls doing their first extraction but had confidence in them.
That night the girls sleep in the feather bed, the tooth safely beside them, while Akuba sleeps on the other side of town with her small coin, unsure of how it got there.
This charming story full of hope and love, shows the Underhill family plying their trade. The girls are supported by their gran on their first job at the airport, searching for the Ghanan family as they come into England. They are successful and the Ghanan family is at peace in their new home.
Graham's playful illustrations reveal the lure of staying with grandparents, while the children take on a role usually done by the parents. But his delightful micro world always pays homage to what is happening around us. The endpapers have huge planes landing over the tea pot house, wire fences and bright lights surrounding the airfield, the outline of the plane overshadowing the nearby suburbs, Gran has a mobile phone. In the airport, a soldier returns from duty, older people come in alone, people arrive from other countries, some heads covered by a hijab, but all hopeful and full of anticipation. While outside the now quiet airport, some tadpoles turn into frogs and slip away into the night.
Graham's work always leaves readers with a warm glow: recognition of a familiar scene, reworked to reveal a different perspective. Children will look again at the images presented here, not only the loving family, but the background figures, those coming into the airport for a variety of reasons, but all finding a safe haven.
Fran Knight




Nov 12 2019

The wishing bones by Michelle Lovric

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Orion Children's Books, 2019. ISBN: 9781444009972.
(Ages 14+) Recommended. A magical and mysterious adventure novel that follows a young orphan named Lily who has been raised in a cruel and lonesome convent at the inhumane hands of the badessa. Upon accidentally setting the convent aflame, Lily is sent to work in the Hotel of What You Want. Here she meets Ivo Peruch, the hotel's mysterious Boy-of-All-Trades who is cold and tight-lipped and makes her an accomplice in a dark act before she realises what she is partaking in. As the dark secrets of the hotel come to her attention, Lily's desperation to leave is only exacerbated with the arrival of a new guest, Deidre 'Darling' Dearworthy, who has a direct connection to the dark act still haunting Lily. As Darling quickly becomes Lily's first and best friend, she will do anything to keep her from suffering a deadly fate at the hands of the Signorina, the manager of the hotel. After the bones of Saint Lucy are stolen, Lily, Ivo and Darling band together to save Venice; facing countless dangers and adventures and meeting some magical allies along the way.
Lovric creates a vivid and historically detailed Venice with rich characters that provide a powerful message to the reader that you are not your past and that you can still be a good person if you've done things you regret. A powerful ode to resilience and the importance of the family that you make for yourself. It should be noted that this book is very grim and dark at times, with warnings for substantial themes of death, grief, loss, murder, supernatural themes and graphic discussion of dismemberment. Recommended for children aged 14+ for these reasons.
Daniella Chiarolli




Nov 11 2019

Cursed by Thomas Wheeler

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Illus. by Frank Miller. Penguin, 2019. ISBN: 9780241376614.
(Age: 14+) As daughter of her village's chief Druid, 16 year old Nimue would always be different from the other villagers but her strangely scarred back and ability to powerfully experience hidden forces further sets her apart. Dewdenn is a 'fey' village, in touch with nature spirits and as such a target for the Red Paladins, terrorising the countryside seeking out heresy on behalf of the church, crucifying the fey folk accusing them of witchcraft. Tired of being unwanted in her village Nimue decides to leave on a ship from the nearest town but when she gets there the boat has left. Returning, Nimue finds her village destroyed by the Red Paladins and her dying mother charges her to take a sacred object to Merlin. The object is the legendary 'Sword of Power' and Nimue finds she can channel the power of the 'hidden' through the sword. Merlin is at the court of Uther Pendragon, on her way there Nimue meets and falls in love with Arthur, a mercenary son of a knight. The sword's legend says that 'whosoever wields the Sword of Power shall be the one true king' so it becomes the focus for competing powers vying for possession. As violence escalates, Nimue's world descends into chaos as the fey villages are destroyed at an ever increasing rate. She responds violently channelling the sword's destructive power against her enemies, becoming a rallying point for the fey refugees. The struggle for the sword of power becomes tied up with the annihilation of the fey villages by the Church, with the involvement of Uther, leading to confusing and ultra-violent battles, no doubt linked to the fact that the book is basically a screenplay for a Netflix series. Other than familiar names and a magical sword the story owes little to the Arthurian legends. The characters are poorly developed, sometimes with the feeling that they are placeholders for more detail in later instalments. Little effort is spent on establishing a consistent sense of time or place, this will probably be better realised in the Netflix version. The illustrations have a sense of energy, in powerful compositions with strong lines. While the wrapped and laced costumes are great, inconsistencies in outfits make it hard sometimes to identify the character. Where there is a double page spread, the focal point often disappears into the book's gutter. Middle school fans of Game of Thrones and violent fantasies might like this but be aware that the violence is quite graphic. (It has been picked up to be a Netflix original series).
Themes: Fantasy, medieval times, Arthurian Legends, magic.
Sue Speck




Nov 11 2019

The Lost Tide Warriors by Catherine Doyle

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Bloomsbury, 2019. ISBN: 9781408896907.
Recommended for lovers of fantasy, aged 10+. Fionn is the anointed 'Stormkeeper', but it seems that his magic is not like other Stormkeepers and his island is depending on him to protect them from the return of the awful Morrigan and her supporters, the Soulstalkers. The uncertainty and self-doubt that surrounds Fionn, under the pressure of a deadline, places pressure on the young man . . . but he must carry on, the island of Arronmore needs him. His Grandfather, the previous Stormkeeper, is losing his hold on his own magic and his memory, and Fionn must rely on his close friends and mother and sister to create a plan to turn back the tide of evil that is encroaching. With a long history of magical events and intra-island rivalry there is drama at every turn and the approaching 'storm' of conflict needs the outside help of the merrows - ocean-based fantasy creatures. But how will they get word to these creatures in time?
This is the sequel to The Stormkeeper's Island and although it could be read as a stand-alone book, it is best read in sequence so the understanding of the magic, the time shifts and the candles that store memories would be clear. The book is a delight as the internal self-doubt of the young Fionn drives the tension as the islanders face the threat of annihilation at the hands of the advancing evil 'army'. This series deserves to be recommended to young readers who love fantasy adventure. In no way is it like Harry Potter, but the reticent central hero is akin to Harry in being intensely likeable and supported by loyal friends. The magic is different, but the atmospheric adventure is worth following. Catherine Boyle also manages to capture the atmosphere of the small Irish island with its storms, fogs and swells. It almost takes on a personality of its own.
And there is another book in the series to come!
Themes: Magic; Fantasy; Adventure; Good vs Evil.
Carolyn Hull




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