Hello, and a warm welcome to the Children’s Round-Up for June 2019.
As I write this, Naidoc week celebrations are drawing to a close (7 – 14 July). It was pleasing to see Indigenous children’s books featured across different age brackets this month.
In total, fifteen books were reviewed, eight of them by our star reviewer this month – Bronwyn @ Brona’s Books.
I am impressed with the depth of issues which continue to be addressed in Australian children’s literature, and this month is not exception! I hope you enjoy reading the reviews as much as I did.
On to this month’s reviews:
Theresa Smith @ Theresa Smith Writes reviewed Claire Malone Changes the World, by Nadia. L. King, illustrated by Alisa Knatko. (Ages 3 – 8)
Theresa says this is a quaint story about a little girl with the world at her fingertips and a big social conscience in the making.
She liked how Nadia shows both the negative and positive aspects of children having access to the internet. But what does all this online news and endless galleries of images from around the world do to children? Is it worrying them? Are they becoming fearful of this world they live in? Are they viewing life without hope or are they developing a social conscience? I feel that all of these questions are explored with depth in this children’s story. Through the character of Claire Malone, Nadia puts a new spin on children’s understanding of global issues and their online access, applying her trademark insight and understanding on what makes young people tick.
Theresa loved the illustrations in this book, not only the style and proliferation of colour, but the way in which they told the story. This is a great match between author and illustrator and it would be lovely to see Claire Malone go on some more adventures of childhood empowerment.
Claire Malone Changes the World is a lovely picture book and would make an ideal addition to many a children’s book case.
It was difficult to choose between the eight children’s titles reviewed by Bronwyn @ Brona’s Books Reviews, so I’ve narrowed down the choice by selected something from each age range.
Baby Business, by Jasmine Seymour. (Ages 3+)
Bronwyn loved this a lot. A lot! It is a book celebrating new babies, diversity and belonging. A book that reminds us that we belong to Country; that it doesn’t belong to us. That we should only ‘take what we need and no more’ then ‘give back what you can, and help your Mudgin (family) and Nura (country) when they need it.’
Respect, love and tradition imbues every page as we follow the rituals of a smoking ceremony to welcome a new baby to Country. Beautiful warm earthy illustrations create tender scenes of family, women and children.
Jasmine Seymour is a member of the Durag Custodian Aboriginal Corporation.
So She Did – The Story of May Wirth, by Simi Genzuik, illustrated by Renee Treml. (Ages 4 -6)
Bronwyn believes the picture book market is now saturated with ‘go girl’ style stories, and while it’s wonderful to have so many inspiring, encouraging stories for young readers, it can be hard to stand out from the crowd.
Genziuk’s book is based on the true story of a young Australian girl, born into an acrobatic family and taken up by Wirth’s Circus at the age of 7 to perform.
Bronwyn says she’s sure that May’s real life story was not as rosy as the one presented here, but with every challenge she was presented with, the picture book tells us that she responded with a resounding ‘so she did!’ From saying goodbye to her parents, to learning new, dangerous tricks, to moving to America and recovering from a serious accident, May is a role model of daring-do, determination and courage.
The illustrations are a different style from the ones that Treml normally uses in her own picture books. The colourful, almost cartoon-style pictures here suit the memoir format of the book. Included on the front and back inside covers are a handful of photos of the real May Wirth, with quotes.
For adventurous, horse loving performers everywhere, or for those who just dream!
Waves by Donna Rawlins, illustrated by Heather Potter and Mark Jackson. (Ages 7+)
Bronwyn says she can usually predict which books will get a CBCA nomination, especially the Eve Pownall award for non-fiction. Refugees, belonging and journey themes are usually a sure thing, so as soon as she saw this book, she knew it would be a shoe-in!
Each double page spread features a child who has come across the sea to Australia, starting over 50,000 years ago to the present day. Families on rafts, a young sailor, a convict girl, a Chinese grandson determined to find gold to help his family, an Afghan cameleer, war refugees, orphans and asylum seekers all feature here with extra information about the particular time period included in the back pages.
They all share a common and universal experience. They fear leaving what they know and feel sad about leaving those they love behind. They fear the unknown and they all desire acceptance, belonging, safety and a purposeful life in their new home. Not that big an ask really.
Songbird by Ingrid Laguna. (Ages 8+)
This is a lovely, heart-warming story for mature 8+ readers. Refugee issues of fear, belonging and fitting in are discussed tenderly and thoughtfully via Jamila’s story.
The power of song and music to be inclusive shines through every page.
The book touches on how to make friends, to stand up for yourself, to embrace diversity and still honour your family and traditions.
Highly recommended by Bronwyn!
To see Bronwyn’s other children’s book reviews this month, please click on the highlighted links:
The Tales of Mr Walker by Jess Black, illustrated by Sara Acton. (Ages 6+)
Horation Squeak by Karen Foxlee, illustrated by Evie Barrow. (Ages 3+)
Tricky’s Bad Day by Alison Lester. (Ages 2+)
When Billy Was a Dog by Kirsty Murray, illustrated by Karen Blair. (Ages 3+)
Denise Newton Writes reviewed Nanberry: Black Brother White by Jackie French. (Ages 12+)
This well researched historical fiction for young adults tells the story of Nanberry, a young Cadigal boy who was ‘adopted’ by John White, the Surgeon at the early colony of Sydney. Nanberry’s story is a remarkable one, as so many of the stories to be found in Australia’s history are. Orphaned when his parents and most of his clan died from the smallpox that devastated so much of the First Peoples communities of the Sydney region, Nanberry lived in Surgeon White’s house and learned to speak English, use English clothes and manners, yet maintained strong links with the remaining survivors of the Eora nation.
As Jackie French tells it, in adulthood Nanberry gravitated between life as a sailor, travelling the seas on board English ships, and returning at times to the Cadigal people.
The novel is told from multiple viewpoints, which Denise appreciated because it’s an effective way to weave in other stories we don’t always hear about. We also see the colony, with all it’s vice, filth, disease and despair, through the eyes of the Surgeon whose unenviable job it was to treat injury and illness with few medicines and fewer facilities.
Of particular note, of course, are the parts told from the viewpoint of Nanberry. Governor Phillip used the boy to interpret for him with Eora people he came across, because of the youngster’s facility with English. Through Nanberry we meet other Eora figures including Coleby, Bennelong and Balloonderry. Writing from an indigenous viewpoint when you are not yourself indigenous is a contested thing nowadays. However, I do think that this book manages to convey multiple viewpoints with skill and sensitivity.
Jess @ The Never Ending Bookshelf reviewed Meerkat Splash by Aura Parker. (Ages 3+)
Jess says this is an adorable picture book celebrating family, acceptance, individuality, uniqueness, and of course … Meerkats! Deep within the Meerkat burrows, a family of energetic Meerkats are celebrating the end of the day with a bath that gets quite out of hand. With twelve Meerkats in one admittedly large bathtub, mischief and mayhem is sure to ensue.
Aura Parker is an Australian author and illustrator. Her illustrations are bright, quirky and vibrant as they breathe the very essence of life on to every page. With double-page illustrations, featuring mostly white backgrounds and bold colour-themed illustrations (each Meerkat is given a colour description), the images really speak for themselves as they lift off the stark white page. Accompanied by simple, rhyming text, the overall presentation is clean and inviting, allowing the cheeky story to take centre stage.
Despite having read this book multiple times now, Jess says that each time she goes back to read it, she notices something new, so the story feels fresh and invigorating every single time. A point she thinks parents of young children are going to particularly love.
Ashleigh Meikle @ The Book Muse reviewed a further three books in Emily Rodda’s Deltora Quest Series: The Maze of the Beast (#6), Return to Del (#8) and the Deltora Quest Omnibus / Wrap Up.
Ashleigh says that reading this series through to its end was a joy, and a wonderful example of Australian fantasy for kids. Following Lief’s journey has been fun, and enjoyable, and one that she hopes to revisit, and also to read further books in the subsequent series.
The series concludes nicely and neatly, with a good lead-in to the next set of books, that will continue the adventures of Lief, Jasmine and Barda. In pulling together the series of books, Emily Rodda has connected each element in a really good and intriguing way for readers of all ages.
Thank you for continuing to link your reviews to the AWW database (please click on this link if you haven’t already signed up to our 2019 challenge.)
I look forward to bringing you the next children’s round-up on 20 August 2019. Until then – happy reading!
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.
I blog about books and my own fledgling writing journey at mariemclean.com. You can also find me on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Goodreads