'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Sunday, 18 November 2018

Review: Stone Girl - Connie's YA Book of the Month

Inspired by true events, Eleni Hale's debut YA novel is a heartbreaking account of how 12-year-old Sophie's world disintegrates after she is left alone in the world and a ward of the state.

Following the trauma she witnessed with her mum, and unwanted by her father, she is made a ward of the state with the assurance of a 'nice' permanent foster home. Slowly, this reality seems unlikely as Sophie is shuffled from one unstable group home of 'homes kids' to another. In these homes, most of the kids have histories of abuse, neglect and are regularly assigned a new social worker.

Sophie follows the paths of the older kids in the homes and finds relief in drugs, alcohol, cigarettes. She keeps her emotions locked away where no one can hurt her anymore. Any aspirations of attending school again are dashed as is her abandoned love of reading and learning.

Review: Wisp: A Story of Hope

Idris has lived his entire life in a tent city where nothing but emptiness and darkness surrounds the people that occupy that space. Memories of their past life have been replaced by the vastness of nothing but dirt. 

One day a wisp of light appears. It whispers a word and that word brings a smile and a memory with it as it floats from one adult person to the other. But not to Idris.

His memories are formed by the blankness and shapelessness of his life. So it is a whispered promise that Idris catches and holds; a Wisp of a promise that lights up his world as it flies higher and brighter, and increases until the darkness is replaced by light.

Saturday, 17 November 2018

Junior Review: Wyrd

The title of this book is a little strange….. but it has a certain ring to it. This book attracted me because of the blurb. It reads, Emma and Pip cannot seem to get along. This shouldn’t be a problem, if it weren’t for the fact that Emma’s dad is getting married to Pip’s mum!  
This got me wondering about how the story might end. The narrative had a thread of mystery and adventure throughout it. It was intriguing and made me want more and more.

Emma is the main character and the whole story revolves around her. Her mother died when she was young and Emma secretly wishes her Mum could come back.

Review: Tiggy and the Magic Paintbrush: A Birthday Party Trick (Book #3) and A Musical Show (Book #4)

Tiggy is a cool and creative little girl. She has a huge imagination, she’s curious and she’s friendly.

But like all kids, sometimes Tiggy feels nervous. Sometimes she worries about things.

Luckily, Tiggy has a super special sidekick! She owns a very magical paintbrush that allows her to paint things to life. 

If she needs a hat, she can paint one into existence. If she needs a parrot, it’s a paint stroke away.

A Birthday Party Trick and A Musical Show are books three and four in this great junior fiction series.

Friday, 16 November 2018

Review: Under the Canopy: Trees Around the World

Trees are the lungs of the world. They are the most beautiful things in creation. 

We make reference to them when we speak of life, and branches of our family. We depend on them for sustenance, shelter and shade; warmth and healing. Their flowers herald new life and the passing of the old one.

The olive branch has been used as a symbol of peace; the laurel as one of victory and honour. 

Trees have always played a significant role in legends and myths, real life stories, fairytales, and have cultural significance, spiritual or religious value in many countries. 

Review: The Fates Divide

If you thought Book one of Carve the Mark was a rollercoaster, you're in for a treat. The Fates Divide ups the ante then turns everything upside down.

A barbaric war about to consume every planet when Cyra's murderous father, the Shotet leader who was thought to be long dead, escapes from exile to wreak even greater havoc.

All that seemed sure in Carve the Mark crumbles, piece by piece.

Is it possible to escape your fate? What would be the consequences for the universe if you did? Can anyone overcome Lazmet's unconquerable current gift or is the universe doomed?

Where does all of this leave Akos and Cyra?

Thursday, 15 November 2018

Review: Giraffe Problems

What kind of problems might a giraffe have to deal with?

In Jory John's Giraffe Problems, we hear from a giraffe who has lots of problems, or so he feels.

Giraffe thinks his neck is all wrong and it makes him self conscious. He thinks everyone looks at his neck, and he tries to camouflage it, hide it.

Lane Smith's illustrations show the poor giraffe trying everything he can to manage his neck, including covering it with many different ties.

One day, giraffe meets an animal friend whose neck he admires. The odd thing is, the new friend -- a turtle -- wishes he had a neck like giraffe.

The giraffe and turtle compare necks and in the course of their conversation turtle asks giraffe for help.

Meet the Illustrator: Patricia Ward

Describe your illustration style in ten words or less.
Whimsical, contrasting, equal parts darkness and light, reflective, loose, detailed.

What items are an essential part of your creative space?
My glass desk. My ink wells. My numbered drawers, my trolley on wheels and my stereo.

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Review: What Will I Do When I Grow Up?

What will I do when I grow up? It's a question children love to ponder — and the answer can change by the week. This week, my five-year-old is dreaming of becoming a duck farmer and a botanist.

In this vibrant and contemporary book, Italian artist Margherita Borin takes a walk down the High Street of a town (or Main Street, as we call it in Australia) to visit five different people doing five very different jobs. There's a chef, a builder, a scientist, a teacher and an artist.

Review: Midnight at the Library

Oh my. This book took my breath away. It is so special and so stunning that I welled up with emotion. I collect old books and I love to imagine the journeys some of my books have undertaken, through history and across the world, to land in my possession in this day and time.

This is a picture book that not only sparks imagination, but makes you consider the path a book might take through history, from humble beginnings, across time, across countries, through wars and conflicts, hidden and protected, as a sacred and special artefact.

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Review: Amal Unbound

Despite being a girl in a small Pakistani village, Amal dreams of becoming a teacher.

But she finds out the hard way that the smallest of incidents can derail dreams. And that life isn't fair. Especially when the local landlord uses his money and power to suffocate hope.

Amal understands there are rules in her world, but she doesn't always realise the cost she might face if she breaks them. Her belief in her rights leads to misfortune after misfortune.

Even when she recognises the dangers, her wish for freedom and justice push her to act, regardless of the consequences.

Aisha Saeed has created an authentic story about what could still be happening in remote Pakistani villages today.

By doing so, she let me feel the chill of absolute dread when Amal's landlord unleashed.

10 Quirky Questions with author Susannah McFarlane

1.What's your hidden talent? 
 I’m not sure. I fear it’s hidden from me as well …

2.Who is your favourite literary villain and why? 
The Cat in the Hat – came in uninvited, completely trashed the house, traumatised the kids (not to mention the fish) – but with what exuberance and joy! And, to give him his due, he did redeem himself with Thing 1 and Thing 2.