March kids ya review copies

New releases of Australian YA and children’s books received March 4 2013—and they’re all by women!

The months over the summer school holidays are usually pretty quiet in children’s publishing. After the frantic lead-up to Christmas, with new titles by big-selling authors and the plethora of Christmas-related titles and gift books hitting the shelves, things settle down pretty much almost until March, with the first trade titles starting to trickle through in late January and February. Over at the day job, where throughout the year we receive a steady number of deliveries of children’s and young adult books every week, I don’t think we had any at all in January, the odd single title in February, and then BAM! March arrived and I had two great big boxes on my desk.

So it’s no real surprise that things have also been a bit light on the review front for children’s books in the past couple of months, but what it has meant is that some bloggers/reviewers have headed back to revisit some older titles and some classics. Author Natasha Lester at her blog While the Kids Are Sleeping, revisited Seven Little Australians in a blog post fittingly titled How Not to Cry when Reading to your Children:

I knew I was in trouble as the baby waddled off into the bush and Judy raced after him.

Seven Little Australians

Seven Little Australians, Penguin hardback edition.

Now, Seven Little Australians is a life-long favourite book of mine: my blog name and online handle is Misrule (MsMisrule on Twitter), named after the nickname given to the home of the recalcitrant Woolcot children in Turner’s 1894 classic, and I’m always thrilled to see it still being read, even with its at times challenging language from a time long gone. I admit I was surprised that Lester found an avid audience for it in a 4 and a half and 6 year old, but I guess that simply only reinforces the book’s timeless—and ageless—appeal. And oh, what a gorgeous hardback Classic edition Penguin have given us!

I was very excited to discover a blog called Dinner at Caphs, where the all-but anonymous blogger has set herself a 2013 reading challenge of rather a different complexion than the AWWC—in this, Canberra’s centenary year, our blogger intends to spend the year only reading fiction set in Canberra. Fascinating! I wonder if there is indeed a year’s worth of Canberra titles for her to read? And that’s not knocking Canberra—I’m very fond of the place, having spent four very happy years there in my adolescence. I still have family and friends there and am a regular visitor and defender of our Fair Capital. And so I was thrilled to see a review of a book that was actually published in the year I was in Year 10 (1979, you do the maths!), which I have never before seen. No surprises there really—it’s a book about a horse, and I was not a horsey girl. (I’ve never even read Black Beauty!) The Gundaroo Pony, written by Libby Anderson, with illustrations by Ronald Revitt, was published by the Australian National University Press. Our blogger notes that the passage of time may not have dealt all the kindly with the book:

The Gundaroo Pony has a narrow naivety that may be a product of its time, or its childish focus, or more probably both. I don’t feel particularly qualified to review children’s books, although this one reminds me of the quaint, starchy, goody-two-shoes Milly Molly Mandy stories I loved as a kid. I wonder how many children’s authors would write like this today, (only?!) 34 years later? (Full review here.)

Not too many, probably, at least, not those that get published.

(And, as an aside, this post got me thinking about other children’s books set in Canberra. Jackie French writes about Canberra/the ACT a bit—there was an unforgettable story in her first collection, Rain Stones, about the Brindabella Ranges around Canberra actually being sleeping dinosaurs. Dr Kerry White‘s Australian Children’s Fiction: The Subject Guide only lists 6 titles under the subject heading Canberra, ACT, but that only takes us up to the mid 90s, so if anyone can think of more Canberra-based children’s novels, please post them in the comments.)

Other readers dipping back into the past (although the far more recent past than 1979 or 1894!) include:

More recent chapter books and longer fiction and poetry reviewed in February include the following:

The lovely Our Australian Girl series got a lot of love from Subversive Reader:

Picture books were also reviewed:

About Judith Ridge:

A friend once called me the Swiss Army Knife of children’s books. I’ve been a teacher, editor, critic, writer, and arts program manager, all focusing on literature for children and young adults. I am a Churchill Fellow and I wrote my MA thesis on feminist criticism, narrative theory and fairytale retellings for teenagers. I’ve just finished my 4th stint as judge on the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards. I am currently working on a novel for children, and I recently had my first poem for children published in The NSW School Magazine.  My current day job is here. You can read more about me here.