Welcome to the Children’s Round-Up for October, 2018.
It’s been another bumper month for children’s reviews – maybe that’s due to all that additional reading time over the recent school holidays! The topics covered are diverse, and both older and younger readers have been well catered for.
Please click on the highlighted links for further information about a particular book or author.
It’s well worth reading Cass Moriarty’s entire Goodreads Review of Samantha Wheeler’s book, Everything I’ve Never Said (ages: 9 or 10+). This extract doesn’t do Cass’s review justice. Cass writes: Every so often, a book comes along that touches your heart in places so tender it hurts. A book that makes you cry because of the frustration and sadness in the world, but also makes you laugh out loud with joy because of small kindnesses and the many sources of happiness that are to be found despite the pain.
Samantha writes from lived experience – one of her own daughters has Rett syndrome, a rare genetic condition which means she has little or no control over the muscles in her body. The girl at the centre of this story, Ava, understands everyone and everything around her – there is nothing wrong with her intelligence – but she needs assistance to eat, to swallow, to walk, to even move her hands the way she wants to. But most importantly of all, she cannot communicate. Her head is full of words and wants and opinions, but she can’t express them. She is locked into her body. Her only way to get attention is to scream or bite or pinch, actions that come involuntarily when she is distressed, not because she does them on purpose (or, not always, anyway!)
The author has taken the character of Ava and given her a voice. Ava speaks to us throughout the book – the story is told by her, in first person. We are privy to her frustration with her own body and its limitations. She shares with us all of the things she has thought, but never said.
Samantha Wheeler is well-known for her children’s books that champion environmental action and Australian animals. This book feels like something different, something special and very personal. This story comes from the heart, and it has a lot of heart.
Just a Girl, by Jackie French (ages: 10+) was reviewed by Amanda @ Mrs B’s Book Reviews. Prolific Australian storyteller, Jackie French, explores the hidden history of Mary, or Maryiam, mother of Jesus. In this process, Jackie French presents the compelling story of Judith, a young girl finding her feet at a time of great change. Just a Girl is perfect for upper primary school readers, but adult readers will also appreciate this finely researched tale.
Along with figures such as Joan of Arc, Mary of Nazareth is perhaps one of the most famous women in history. Respected author Jackie French has delved into the history books to produce a tale that intertwines the life of Maryiam, mother of Jesus, with a young fourteen year old Judea girl. This inspiring tale is a welcome source of encouragement to young females, to help them see that no matter where you are situated – the time, place, or religious creed – you are never ‘just a girl’, you can be so much more!
Kate Forsyth reviewed Jaclyn Moriarty’s book, The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte (ages: 10+) – illustrated by Kelly Canby. The story begins: ‘I was ten years old when my parents were killed by pirates. This did not bother me as much as you might think – I hardly knew my parents.’
Bronte’s parents had run away to have adventures when she was just a baby, leaving her to be raised by her Aunt Isabelle and the Butler. But their last will and testament says she must set out alone, on a solitary quest, to take a farewell gift to each of her ten other aunts. Before long she is grappling with dragons, Chief Detectives, spell whisperers and pirates. Luckily, Bronte is very resourceful and determined as well as kind-hearted and clever, and so she deals with one troublesome aunt after another with aplomb.
The world-building in this book is so rich and inventive it could easily support a dozen other books. This is the perfect book for a sensitive, imaginative bookworm who is not yet ready for Harry Potter, but wants a story filled with magic, adventure, humour and whimsy.
Ashleigh Meikle @ The Book Muse reviewed The Cat With the Coloured Tail by Gillian Mears, illustrated by Dinalie Dabarera (ages: 9 – 12). In this charming tale, Mr Hunter travels the countryside with his beloved cat, whose tail changes colour, and who can see hearts in the world.
Told in a fairy-tale, or fable-like manner, this heart-warming story touches on the goodness of humanity, and the little things people can do to help those having a bad time, or in need of a bit of fun or a smile. Alongside this is a message about the world and its destruction, and the healing power of selfless sacrifice to help heal the wounds that have been inflicted upon the world by cruelty.
Ashleigh Meikle @ The Book Muse also reviewed Secrets Hidden Below (The Adamson Adventures #1) by Sandra Bennett (ages: 7 – 10). The Adamson family are set for a surfing holiday in Bali they’ll never forget. While dad’s surfing and mum’s shopping, Zac, Luke and Clare are left to play on the sand – discovering a map that leads to a hunt for secret treasure near a volcano, and a mystery that has been buried for hundreds of years.
Ashleigh says it is a fast-paced story that will engage younger readers. The first in a new series, it uses Indonesian phrases, and is a great way for beginner students to see the language used in a practical setting, as well as introducing children to adventure and culture in a fun and inviting way.
P.I. is a gorgeous little penguin, but he is also a private investigator. If you have a problem to solve PI is the one to call. He looks the part in his shirt, tie, black jacket and fedora hat. The books are written to help and encourage children with dyslexia to embrace reading, however they are fun reads for all ages and abilities. The stories are short, around 32 pages, and easy to read in rhyming prose. It’s good to read them in order, because of the continuing plot of P.I.’s missing family.
Veronica reviewed books 1 – 4 in the series, and a stand-alone 5th book. Click this link to read more about each book.
The Forever Kid by Elizabeth Mary Cummings, illustrated by Cheri Hughes (ages: 4 – 8) was reviewed by Amanda @ Mrs B’s Book Reviews. The Forever Kid is a touching and gentle picture book about the all-encompassing love one very special family has for Johnny, their beloved son. Johnny’s birthday is an important occasion; it is a time to reflect and celebrate the life of a boy who is no longer able to join in with his birthday celebrations. This book explores the grief and loss of a loved one. Through the expert eyes of experienced children’s book author and primary school teacher, Elizabeth Mary Cummings, the reader is taken on an all-important journey that legitimises and puts a public face on the process of grief, especially for a child dealing with the loss of a sibling. Emotional and expressive, The Forever Kid is a book that will unite readers of all ages and backgrounds, due to the accessible presentation format of the principal subject matter, loss.
Amanda @ Mrs B’s Book Reviews also reviewed Charlie’s Adventures in South Africa by Jacqueline de Rose-Ahern, illustrated by Sophie Norsa (Ages: 3 – 6). It’s time to pack your suitcase, collect your boarding ticket and dig out your passport as you join young Charlie, an adventurous young boy, on his latest sojourn to South Africa. Charlie’s Adventures in South Africa is another fun-filled instalment in a series featuring the intrepid Charlie, a wide-eyed boy with a passion for exploring the world. This picture book can also be read as a standalone. Amanda says this is one infectious read! Expect to be dazzled by local sights, learn common greetings, listen to African drumming and watch on in awe as gumboots are adorned with bells. Readers can almost smell the yummy delights offered by the braai and bask in the glory of the magnificent sunsets that colour this embracing nation.
Treasure Hunt at Pirate’s Paradise by Mahima Kalla, illustrated by Maria Titova (ages: ages 3+ if read to, or 5+ if reading alone) was reviewed by Veronica @The Burgeoning Bookshelf. Pirate’s Paradise is a tiny, deceivingly beautiful island, tucked away in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Amid the stunning forests and colourful birds, lay many grave dangers. Legend has it, that hidden in the hinterland of Pirate’s Paradise, is ancient pirate treasure. Leia, a history teacher, and her 12-year old nephew, Krish, must navigate the many dangers of Pirate’s Paradise to find the treasure.
Treasure Hunt at Pirate’s Paradise is the first in the Audacious Adventure series and an excellent first chapter book. Veronica says the print is large and well spaced, and the illustrations are bright and captivating. It has themes of patience, working together and problem solving, as well as dealing with feelings of frustration and learning not to give up.
The magical elements are easy to visualise and the story is both atmospheric and suspense filled. It is filled with adventure and sparks a child’s imagination.
Ashleigh Meikle @ The Book Muse reviewed Archibald, the Naughtiest Elf in the World Goes to the Zoo, by Skye Davidson and illustrated by Agnes Rokiczky (ages: 0 – 8).
Archibald, a very naughty elf (he wants to be good, but he can’t quite help being naughty), is off to the zoo. He promises the zoo keeper that he will be very good, and not let the animals out of their cages. But Archibald doesn’t like that the animals can’t play together like they did in Africa, and when he releases the animals from their cages, chaos reigns and the zoo will never be the same again.
This is the first book in a new picture book series, and Ashleigh thinks it will be exciting to see where Archibald takes us in his next adventures, as with his exquisite charm and brand of magic, he creates turmoil and laughter wherever he goes.
Wow, that was quite an interesting mix of reviews this month. Thank you for taking the time to link them – I always enjoy finding out about new and old children’s books. The next Children’s Round Up is due out on Tuesday, 20 November 2018. Be sure to continue linking your reviews!
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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.