Hello, and a warm welcome to the Children’s Round-Up, featuring book reviews linked to the AWW database during September 2019.
It’s been a quiet month in the children’s area, with seven books reviewed. Still, there are great reads here for all ages and interests, so on to this month’s reviews:
Introducing Mr Walker – a hotel dog with a nose for adventure!
On a brilliant autumn’s day, Mr Walker arrives at the grandest hotel in town. While things get off to a wobbly start, this charming Labrador is determined to put his best paw forward. And it’s just as well because the most unexpected adventures await…
The four tales in this omnibus are based on the real Mr Walker (an ex-guide dog) who has been living and working at the Park Hyatt in Melbourne since 2017.
There are wonderful dog moments, like seeing Mr Walker manoeuvre on marble floors, playing in the park with his dog friends, as well as a great representation of how he uses his nose and tracking to understand the world around him and using that to find things.
Acton’s illustrations are adorable. The simple water colour drawings are scattered throughout and depict Mr Walker in many delightful and humorous ways. They are mini inclusions amongst the text and they give off a great storybook feel.
(Royalties from sales of this book go to Guide Dogs Victoria.)
The Quite Nice Wolf doesn’t fit in with the local wolf pack. He commences training to become a proper wolf – one that’s BIG and BAD. Can he help the wolf pack with their master plan?
Amy writes: I don’t know about you, but my kids have had mountains of children’s books in their time and plenty of them were less-than-memorable, designed to encourage word recognition or colours rather than to subtly encourage them to think about the world they’re living in.
Books like that have their place, sure, but I’d much rather read them books that encourage them to think outside the square, that will make them giggle and cement the idea that they are free to be themselves.
Who’s Afraid of the Quite Nice Wolf? does just that, introducing kids to the concept of stereotypes. Why should a wolf, who is actually Quite Nice, try to change to become Big and Bad? Everyone expects him to, that’s why!
This is a story for everyone. For kids who feel they’re a little bit different in some way, it’s a gentle, age-appropriate exploration of why it’s important to accept and be themselves. For other kids who don’t necessarily struggle with feeling like they fit in, it’s a timely and gentle reminder to be kind, supportive and accepting of all of their peers.
It’s a fun read, with giggles for grown ups as well as kids, that follows our Wolf as he learns that not only is it okay to let go of what others might expect from us, it’s positively joyful.
Alex visits her grandfather’s farm in Tasmania for the summer and is quickly thrown into shenanigans when she realises she can understand the alpacas. The madness does not end here for poor Alex. Instead, like many heroines before her, Alex’s destiny as a saviour is thrust upon her and she is tasked to defeat a sinister-being who is a threat to the entire universe.
Alex and the Alpacas Save the World is a fantastic stepping-stone for kids transitioning into large books; larger not only in size but in complexity of plot and development of characters. As the novel progresses, Lefroy looks beyond the divisive line of good and evil to reveal the grey area where many characters lurk. Lefroy tackled this complex issue subtly throughout the book by first introducing the characters as either good or evil but then allows her reader to discover that these characters are not either one or the other by the narrative’s conclusion.
A fantastic book for children looking to read a story with an intense plot and complex characters, but also a great book for adults and parents alike who can read ahead once the kids are fast asleep!
Finn’s life in the village of Wichant is hard. Only his drawings of the wild coastline, with its dragon-shaped clouds and headlands that look like giants, make him happy. Then the strange housekeeper from a mysterious clifftop mansion sees his talent, buys him for a handful of gold and then reveals to him seven extraordinary paintings. Finn thinks the paintings must be pure fantasy – such amazing scenes and paintings can’t be real!
He’s wrong. Soon he is going to slip through the veil between worlds and plunge into the wonders and perils of the Glimme.
Ashleigh says this book evoked the wonder and magic of Rodda’s Deltora Quest, and devoured it within two days.
The illustrations tell the story as much as the written word – giving life to Emily Rodda’s words and evoking a sense of being there, along with Lori, Finn, Teller and everyone else trying to stop the dragons destroying their home and bleeding into the world Finn has come from.
It is engaging and exciting, and perfect to read after, or even before, Deltora Quest. The books are unrelated, but still lots of fun and could easily fit into that world as a side story or as part of the narrative itself. This is a fabulous book and a work of art to be treasured and enjoyed for years to come.
A fabulous Alison Lester book. It belongs to the genre where a main character wanders about a farm greeting all the other animals, and does it very well. The images have interestingly textured backgrounds, which is something I haven’t seen in Alison Lester’s work before. As I’m reading so many books where farm animals are introduced to the young reader, I realise how different my granddaughter’s start to life is from mine – I spent my first 12 years living on a farm. I loved the exoticism of books where children lived in villages and could talk to someone in the house next door. She walks out the front door to cars, neighbours and the sounds of urban life – nature is at a premium, and books are a way of learning its importance.
It was a joy to rediscover this on ruby’s shelves – a library book I think. It was Pamela Allen’s first book, and is a kind of early version of the sublime Who Sank the Boat?, with added nakedness to compensate for the slightly less elegant narrative line. Mr Archimedes and his animal friends have their baths together and want to figure out who is responsible for the water spilling. It’s fun, and possibly lays the groundwork for later learning about displacement of liquids and the actual Archimedes’ Eureka moment.
(Although technically, Pamela Allen is a New Zealander, she did live in Australia for over 30 years.)
Whilst this book featured in a recent RoundUp (click here), Emily’s praise for the book and it’s timely themes was so positive, I thought I’d share a few of her comments.
This was such a sweet, uplifting book! Jamila, her mother and younger brother are refugees newly arrived in Melbourne from Iraq. Jamila is struggling to balance her new school life where she is the odd one out. But when Jamila joins the school choir and begins to make friends, she starts to fit in there. If only her father could make it to Australia, too…
I really felt for Jamila. I could feel her distress and not being able to talk to her classmates and being nervous due to her less-than-perfect English. I felt her frustration when her mother called her home from school to help with things like groceries.
The book deals with refugee issues, racism, death and terrorism in a way that I think would be accessible to readers in the target age group. I think it would be a great introduction to the topic, with room for discussion afterwards, and without feeling too overwhelming.
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 19 November 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.