Welcome to the Children’s Round-Up for September, 2018.
With spring finally here – and school holidays just around the corner – it’s the perfect time to encourage younger readers out into the fresh air with a book tucked under their arm. I know I’ll be putting a dent in my ‘to be read’ pile during the two-week break from routine!
Be sure to link any of your favourite holiday reads (children’s or adult) to the AWW blog.
Middle Grade fiction dominated children’s reviews this month. I particularly enjoy this age bracket, and will be seeking out some of the recommended titles over the holidays.
Please click on highlighted links for further information about a particular book or author.
Ashleigh @ The Book Muse reviewed Amazing Australian Women: Twelve Women Who Shaped History by Pamela Freeman and Sophie Beer. Aimed at readers 6+, it is a book that will appeal to all ages. It invites the reader to meet twelve amazing Australian women who have changed the world, in small ways and large. The women come from each state and territory in Australia, and from various backgrounds and occupations, covering recorded Australian history from 1788 onwards.
Ashleigh says knowing about these women earlier would have made for excellent research projects in history courses and classes, and that these stories need to be told alongside what we are already taught about the ANZACs, the world wars, Federation and other aspects of Australia’s history.
The author, Pamela Freeman, writes historical fiction for adults as Pamela Hart, with strong female characters who do not let the confines of what is expected of them define who they are – they forge their own paths. Exposing children early – whatever their gender – to these stories about people not behaving as society expected of them, not only shows that stereotypes are not real, but that history is actually diverse and interesting. It’s a great picture book and introduction to significant women who contributed to Australian history and society.
Ashleigh @ The Book Muse also reviewed Fairytales for Feisty Girls by Susannah McFarlane, for ages: 6+. Four well-known fairytales (Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella and Thumbelina) have been turned on their heads, giving the female characters an agency and gusto that often don’t appear in older or sanitised versions.
These girls do not let anyone stop them. They’re bold and brave, and allowed to explore their own identities beyond their name, and beyond what people think of them. Each story is illustrated by a different artist – and yet, they flow seamlessly from one story to the next in a wonderfully cohesive style. It is an excellent book that defies stereotypes and empowers girls of all ages and backgrounds to be and do what they wish.
Amanda @ Mrs B’s Book Reviews reviewed Reece Give Me Some Peace by Sonia Bestulic; a picture book for readers up to 8 years. Reece’s bedroom has been turned into a musical stage, as he explores the different noises and sounds various instruments make. But all Reece’s mother wants is some peace. It is a magical mystery tour of musical instruments, and one young boy’s passion for making noise.
Amanda says the book uses an appealing character (Reece) to demonstrate how special it is to provide opportunities for children to engage in free musical play. The book is the perfect medium for introducing children to the vocabulary around musical instruments. There is a good sense of anticipation in this text, as we question and wonder what new instrument will appear next, and Amanda believes Reece Give Me Some Peace would make the ideal teaching tool and side accompaniment for early musical experiences, and subtly tunes children in to the infectious combination of alliteration, language play, rhyme and rhythm.
Nadia King reviewed Off The Track by Cristy Burne; illustrated by Amanda Burnett. Aimed at ages: 7+, Nadia says although she doesn’t often read in this age group, she was both charmed and delighted with Off The Track. It tells the story of Harry, who has moved to Perth from Sydney with his mum. He spends a weekend hiking with his mum and some friends, which he isn’t thrilled about, but which turns into a fun adventure. Nadia says the author’s genuine interest and passion for nature and the outdoors shines through every page. (You can read Nadia’s interview with the author here). Messages about courage, respect for nature and not letting technology get in the way of life are beautifully peppered throughout the story.
Ashleigh @ The Book Muse reviewed Kensy and Max: Disappearing Act by Jacqueline Harvey. For Ages: 8+. The second instalment of the Kensy and Max series sees the twins with fellow Pharos Agents in training (who are also their school friends from the Central London School), and their teachers. After rigorous training and a spectacular Christmas, Kensy and Max head off on a school trip to Rome. Whilst there, they become embroiled in a mission to save the Prime Minister’s son, and stop a plot to undermine the Prime Minister.
Ashleigh says the book is exciting and engaging, and the loyalty that Kensy and Max display towards each other and their friends is one of her favourite things about the series.
Heather Waugh recommended three series by Australian women writers in her post: Awesome Series for Kids Who Thrive on Learning.
First up is Ursula Dubosarsky’s series, The Cryptic Casebook of Coco Carlomagno and Alberta. For Ages: 6+, it is illustrated by Terry Denton (of the Storey Treehouse fame). Heather says this series is a hoot, filled with humour and suspense, codes and clues. ‘No other guinea pigs rock detective work quite like Coco and Alberta.’ All the puzzles have help pages at the back, except… the only one we can never solve. She asks, ‘if anyone knows the secret behind the spelling of Coco’s name on the medals at the end, please put us out of our misery and tell us what it is!’
Juliet Nearly A Vet series by Rebecca Johnson, illustrated by Kyla May, is for readers aged: 7+. Each of these books is chock-a-block full of fab knowledge about animals. They’re funny too, causing Heather to wake to giggling coming from her early-morning reader’s room (what a nice way to wake up, too!).
This series is science and ethics and friendship and fun. Heather says to be sure to read each book first, in case your child tests you with the Quiz at the end!
Third in Heather’s recommendation is the Sage Cookson’s series by Sally Murphy, and illustrated by Celeste Hulme. For Ages: 7+. Heather advises (tongue-in-cheek), ‘not to read these books when you’re hungry.’ Sage’s parents are TV chefs, and the books follow her as she explores the world and its food. There’s sleuthing and texting and friendship and lots of eating.
But that’s okay, because there are also recipes to inspire your junior reader into the kitchen!
The opening sentence, Our mother had a dark heart feeling, gave Brona that ‘lovely goosebumpy shiver of anticipation that happens oh-so rarely these days.’ She knew the book was going to break her heart, yet couldn’t stop herself from reading it. She says, ‘Foxlee breaks your heart so tenderly, so hopefully, so sweetly that you can’t not go along for the ride.’
The complexities and nuances within this story have been woven in seamlessly and effortlessly. The characters are fully realised with whole back stories just sitting out of sight, influencing all their actions and reactions.
Brona adds, ‘Not many books make me cry out loud – I can count the contenders on one hand – but Lenny’s Book of Everything made me blubber. Yes, my heart was broken, but it wasn’t unbearable. My heart was full of love, wonder and hope too and my heart was mended, again.’
Thank you for taking the time to link your reviews. The next Children’s Round Up is due out on 16 October 2018. I look forward to seeing what you’ve been reading over the September holidays.
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In awe of words from an early age, reading, writing and banter have become an obsession of mine. As a mother of two (who are growing up faster than I’d like), I am passionate about instilling a long-lasting love of reading in children. I am excited about joining the AWW team and sharing my love of children’s literature with you.