Hello, and a warm welcome to the November Children’s Round-Up. It’s been a bumper month, with 21 children’s books reviewed.
Our star reviewer was Ashleigh Meikle @ The Book Muse, who reviewed seven books.
Ashleigh says Total Quack Up Again by Sally Rippin and Adrian Beck, Illustrated by Jules Faber, is a hilarious new collection of stories from some of Australia’s funniest children’s authors, as well as a story written by a child. (Ages 6+)
The stories are filled with lots of things kids love – animals, friends and many, many jokes that kids enjoy. From dads who turn into dogs, to sibling rivalry, aliens and a dog who is naughty for the kids but an angel for a father who would rather not have one, these stories are full of fun for all ages, and can be read alone, out loud or with other people.
Royalties from sales of the book go to Dymocks Children’s Charities.
Pippa’s Island: The Beach Shack Cafe by Belinda Murrell. (Ages 8+) Starting a new school is always scary – but Pippa Hamilton has had her entire life uprooted, moving from all she has known in England, to a small island in Australia called Kira Island. In between school, she is helping her mum get the beach café/bookstore ready, while living in a caravan behind their grandparents’ house with her mum, brother Harry, and sister Bella. Yet it is school that poses the real challenge: though she meets four really cool girls who will become her best friends, Pippa still feels isolated by popular girl, Olivia who seems nice enough, but when Pippa starts doing better than her, tensions arise.
Pippa is also trying to deal with what has happened between her parents, keeping things close until she learns she can really trust her new friends. Pippa is relatable, fun, and filled with such joy that she shines off the page and dances around.
Ashleigh says that in these short books, there are fairytale themes of towers and quests – two things that are common across all Kate’s novels for both adults and children, and her love of fairy tales is clear throughout. This magical series is perfect for all ages and lovers of adventure, magic and fairy tales.
What Ashleigh loves about this series, and Kate’s work overall, is the feeling of tumbling through a rabbit hole into a world of danger and delight in equal parts.
Another series reviewed by Ashleigh is Emily Rodda’s Deltora Quest 2 – specifically, book #1, Cavern of The Fear. (Ages 8+) A second Deltora quest begins in this fantasy trilogy that’s sure to engage Deltora fans and bring in all new readers.
This series is a wonderful follow-up to the first, and continues the story seamlessly, by referring back to the first series, yet at the same time, identifying a unique threat that continues to grow and threaten the peace. It is exciting, engaging and quite a quick read – and heads straight into the action, with just the right amount of setup to prepare the reader for what is to come. This is a series that is a continuation, and is recommended to be read once you have completed the first series.
The team at Underground Writers provided a beautiful selection of 7 children’s books. Please click on the titles below for further information about each book.
Monster Party by Alison Lester, illustrated by Jane Godwin. (Ages 3+) A collaboration with the children from the Rawa Community School in Punma (one of the most remote communities in Western Australia). The story centres on desert monsters that amalgamate at Dora Lake to have a party, and cause quite a bit of bother for the school children! The writing has a wit and rhythm that rivals Dr Seuss—but with an Aussie twist—and had Kate cackling from start to finish!
In the Bush I See by Kiara Honeychurch. (Ages 3+) Magabala Press’s latest addition to their board book series by young Indigenous Australian artists. Bold illustrations are set against crisp white space with minimal writing. Each page is beautifully illustrated with an Australian creature and accompanied by a small amount of text stating the animal illustrated, but also including a descriptive verb.
Clever Crow by Nina Lawrence, illustrated by Bronwyn Bancroft. (Ages 3+) A stunning union of English and Djambarrpuynu – the language of the Indigenous people of North East Arnhem Land. Clever Crow follows a very cunning and sneaky crow that steals a big turtle egg from people, right under their noses! Children will love the wit of the story and admire Bancroft’s beautiful illustrations of the crow’s exploits.
Rodney by Kelly Canby (Ages 3+) Rodney, a small tortoise, dreams to know a life among the treetops. The book illustrates a beautiful message for children and adults—both literally and figuratively—that tackling a problem is about gaining perspective.
Benny Bungarra’s Big Bush Clean-Up by Sally Morgan, illustrated by Ambelin Kwaymullina. (Ages 4+) Lizard, Benny Bungarra, helps his animal friends who are injured by litter in the bush. This book celebrates contemporary Aboriginal artwork through its colourful illustrations by artist Ambelin Kwaymullina, aiding Sally Morgan’s story of how littering can not only destroy the environment, but the land’s inhabitants as well. It carries a strong message for children to be considerate of the environment.
Alfred’s War by Rachel Bin Salleh, illustrated by Samantha Fry. (Ages 7+) Alfred, an Indigenous veteran who served in The Great War, must now, as an old man, find work where he can. Alfred represents numerous Indigenous servicemen who were not recognised for their service during the war: they are the forgotten soldiers. At the end of the book, a brief account is included of what happened to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Veterans after the war. This is a striking book that leaves a haunting impression, and would be an engrossing read for children learning about Australian veterans.
Our Last Trip to the Market by Lorin Clarke, illustrated by Mitch Vane. (Ages 2+) A mother and her six unruly children make a trip to the Fresh Food Market. On the surface this is a bright colourful tale, with beautiful watercolour pictures about a group of kids causing mischief. Underneath though, is a tale of resilience as Mum puts a positive spin on every experience, tries to get her shopping done, and allows the kids the chance to explore.
Snowy alps, chocolate, adventure, mystery and love awaits when you leap into the pages of The Girl, the Dog and the Writer in Lucerne. This is the third instalment in Katrina Nannestad’s series and it closes off the collection in a spectacular fashion.
We see Freja reunited with her mother, while love is in the air for Tobias and Vivi. Together, they take in the best this picturesque locale has to offer, from the crystal clear lakes, the snowy mountains, endless rolling green hills, and the most important part, the yummy Swiss chocolate. Everything is splendid, until a series of crimes spark across the beautiful Swiss city, with one thing in common – chocolate. This novel is filled with exploration, mystery and a crime to solve. It is a full and entertaining read, which is supported by endearing characters and a rich setting.
Early one morning, Blossom Possum gets such a fright she thinks the sky is falling down! She has to tell someone, so she sets off with her news. On the way she meets her bush mates. But she also runs into trouble. This retelling of a favourite folktale has a delightful Aussie twist and a refreshingly positive ending.
There is great pacing and use of repetition – you fall into a natural rhythm as the story progresses. The story is filled with fun characters with great tongue twisters and rhymes for characters like Rocky Cocky and Toey Joey. It works well for most of them, some are a slight stretch but are in the spirit of the fun tone of the story. With the repetition the kids know what to expect and each page is left hanging as to who Blossom will find next which allows anticipation and gives them a chance to guess who will be on the next page.
There are some familiar Aussie phrases like beyond the black stump and round the back of beyond and it was the little details that made Amy smile.
The illustrations are both adorable and admittedly strange, but Amy says she enjoyed how Niland has portrayed the Australian animals and incorporated their environment in beautiful scenery.
There are surprises and it’s a cute tale that brings the well-known story to a new audience with a wonderful Australian twist.
Sunaya’s peaceful village life is turned upside down when a simple mountain mission turns into a death-defying quest for survival. Winter treks to summer pastures, mythical Ice-People that are scarily real, avalanches, ice falls, power plays, mysterious magic and surprising friendships – it seems not everything in life is set in stone.
Nadia says this is a warm-hearted, middle-grade adventure story set in an imaginary icy world with a likeable, strong female protagonist. Beautifully written, Waugh’s love of wild places and the natural world stand out. The challenges of the final quest in the book are related to character attributes, including strength, courage, resilience, compassion, and fortitude. Waugh has researched the psychological traits which help kids to build resilience and be happy, and it is wonderful to see them reflected throughout the story.
Thank you for continuing to link your reviews to the AWW database.
I look forward to bringing you the last children’s round-up for 2019 on 17 December. 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.