Monthly Archives: April 2014

This Star Won’t Go Out: The Life and Words of Esther Grace Earl – Esther Earl (with Wayne & Lori Earl)



Penguin Australia


Format:Paperback, 448 pages





‘Just be happy, and if you can’t be happy, do things that make you happy.  Or do nothing with the people that make you happy.’  Esther Earl

Sometimes reading an autobiography or memoir is so intensely personal that one develops an emotional connection to the hitherto unknown writer that is quite profound.  Esther Earl’s short life has been encapsulated in this collection of her sketches, letters, journals, photographs and fiction in a way that presents this remarkable teenage girl in the true essence of her sparky and bright personality.  It is little wonder that her online presence in the last few years of her life generated such a following and influenced so many others.

At age twelve, Esther was diagnosed with thyroid cancer which threw her own life and that of her family into complete disarray but inspiringly, never despair. In 2010, shortly after turning 16, Esther died leaving a legacy of grace, hope and love that continues to provide inspiration to thousands.

Celebrated author John Green, a personal friend and fellow nerdfighter, dedicated the best selling The Fault in Our Stars to Esther, naming her as his inspiration for the novel.  He also writes a moving introduction to this memoir.

Through Esther’s creative journaling we are privy to not only her thoughts, aspirations and dreams but her warm and loving family, friends and support network.  This is a remarkable book and destined to become one of those that will serve to feed the souls of many who are in similar circumstances as well as inspire others to strive for the stars.

Learn more about Esther, and her memorial foundation:


Crooked Leg Road -Jennifer Walsh





Australian Pub.:

May 2014


Allen & Unwin


A & U Children

Suitable for ages:


RRP:  $14.99

Both boys and girls who enjoy mystery/adventure stories will love this new book from Jennifer Walsh. Somewhat like a contemporary, fast-paced Famous Five but much edgier – a group of friends from Balmain become embroiled in a dangerous game of political intrigue and financial misappropriations. David, Martin, Kitty and Andrea are both friends and schoolmates, each with their own interests and strengths, who combine well as a group hanging together in the regular sense. When David mysteriously disappears, feared kidnapped, his friends pool their combined observations and knowledge with some startling results.

 Parallel to this plot are timely ideas such as multiculturalism, ethics in positions of power, judgemental behaviour, tolerance and acceptance and friendships.  New girl Samantha, who is despised in general, because of her ‘posh’ background and ineffectual attempts to impress, and mysterious new boy, Skender, technically a ‘boat person’ and whose family comes under suspicion by the sleuthing teens, add a depth to the plot that leads the reader to examine initial perceptions of ‘outsiders’.

Thoroughly engaging and completely compulsive reading (I read it in one sitting) – this is a real page turner with very plausible plot, characterisations and complications/resolutions.

Highly recommended for readers 10 and up, put this one on the shopping list for any of those readers who are looking for an exciting read.

Watch the trailer

Visit the author’s website

Jennifer Walsh writes children’s books under this name and adult books under Jennifer Spence (she is married to Bruce Spence, the actor) and lives in Balmain, Sydney. Her previous book The Tunnels of Tarcoola featured the abandoned coal mines under that suburb and her new book Crooked Leg Road is also set in this lively and historic area.  Stay tuned for a Q&A coming up soon on this blog!

Dummie the Mummy and the Golden Scarab – Tosca Menten



Published: 23/04/2014

Format:Paperback, 248 pages

RRP: $14.99



Publisher:Penguin Aus.



This may well be the Dutch answer to Roald Dahl! Tosca Menten has so far produced five books about Dummie the Mummy and they have gained a huge following in her homeland. They are now being published in several other countries and a movie version in the early stages of production.

The silly ridiculousness of the whole premise and plot combined with some strange (and Dahl-esque) characters will have children from 8 years up in fits of laughter.

Darwishi Ur-atum Msamaki Minkabh Ishaq Eboni or DUMMIE for short, was the small son of an ancient Egyptian Pharoah thousands of years ago. After his brief illness and death, he was mummified as was the custom and his royal father insisted on placing the sacred scarab of royalty with the boy.  The grieving parents sent their son into the afterlife with special spells and powerful charms.

Cut to a small town in modern day Holland and a truck transporting three mummies to a museum for a special exhibit. A sudden storm erupts and the truck is struck by lightning, the driver luckily escaping unharmed, but the mummies destroyed. Or are they? The unfortunate driver thinks he saw a small childsized mummy climbing out of the roadside ditch and running off.

Angus is an ordinary boy living with a rather unusual artist father, on their own since Gus’ mum died but happy with their lives. Until, that is, Angus discovers a ‘living’ mummy in his bedroom and the mayhem begins!

Aside from the hilarity of the antics, this is a great book for exploring accepting differences, not judging on face value and friendship with some very funny adventures thrown in.

Very suitable for less able readers who could use something engaging and humorous to keep them wanting more and also very well suited to read-aloud episodes.


Read more about Dummie the Mummy and Tosca Menten here:

Tosca’s trailer for this book is here:


Clementine Rose and the Seaside Escape – Jacqueline Harvey


ISBN: 9781742757513

Published: 01/04/2014

Imprint: Random House Australia Children’s

Extent: 160 pages

RRP: $12.95


Love her or loathe her (and I loved her) Enid Blyton was very savvy about what children liked to read and do and turned that into a hugely successful career.


The Clementine Rose books put me in mind of EB’s foresight, so much of which is common practice today – children like to collect ‘sets’, the covers and spines of a series should be instantly identifiable and look complete on a shelf, children like to read about, and identify with, ordinary characters and settings with a pinch of adventure or mischief thrown in, naughtiness is not acceptable nor rewarded and vocabulary should not be so challenging as to put off readers.


This is the 5th in the Clementine Rose series and in this story, CR is on a holiday at the beach with her family, while their own hotel is being renovated. Lady Clarissa, (Clementine’s adopted mother – see previous books!), Uncle Digby, Aunt Violet and Lavender the teacup pig are very pleased to be at Endersely-on-Sea and find their landlady, Mrs Dent, very welcoming. Mrs Dent’s grandchildren are also staying and while Freddy is also very friendly, Della is a nasty little girl who needs putting in her place.


Playing on the beach, exploring caves holding secrets and a tiny pig escaping during a wild storm are all part of Clementine Rose’s holiday – and all guaranteed to hold the interest of small girls of six and up – either reading independently or as a read-aloud.


Find out more about Clementine Rose here

Vale Sue Townsend



So sad to read of the death of Sue Townsend, who suffered a stroke this week. Who can ever forget the indelible imprint left by Adrian Mole?

Without doubt my personal favourite is The Queen and I (which was followed up by Queen Camilla) – a book that made me laugh out loud.


The UK’s best selling author (and playwright) in the 80s, her wit and humour will be missed by many.:-(.

One Sunday – Pamela Allen

Format:Hardback, 32 pages
price:AUD $24.99

Coming soon from the indefatigable Pamela Allen is a new picture book to delight young readers of any age, focusing on the simple pleasures of the warmth of home and the ritual of family hospitality.

A little old man and a little old woman live in a little old cottage on the edge of the woods.  Every week they look forward eagerly to their regular visitors (grandchildren) coming for a special Sunday lunch. One Sunday the terrible weather buffets the little cottage until it shudders and creaks. The little old man confidently begins the usual preparations – fetching the baking dish, peeling the potatoes, while the little old woman is equally sure that no visitors will come on such a dreadful day.

Inside the cottage it is cosy and warm and the roast lunch fills the house with the quiet joy of love and welcomes.

No grandchildren arrive in the awful storm but there is a surprise visitor who comes knocking on the door and proves a delightful and appreciative guest.

As usual, Pamela makes splendid use of white space with her distinctive illustrations – the double page spreads of the wild wind howling outside are particularly striking.

For almost thirty years we have had the joy of Pamela’s wonderful books and this latest one will not fall short with her young readers.

Recommended for young readers 3 and up.

Our Australian Girl: Pearlie’s Pet Rescue (Book 2) – Gabrielle Wang


Our Australian Girl: Pearlie’s Pet Rescue (Book 2) – Gabrielle Wang

Penguin Australia

Published: 23/04/2014

Format: Paperback, 136 pages


price: AUD $14.99




Pearlie is the 1940s girl and the second of the new OAG characters for 2014.  An Australian-Chinese daughter of hardworking parents in Darwin, Pearlie’s life is being turned upside down by the threat of the war in the Pacific close at hand. Her best friend Naoko and her family have been interned, simply for being Japanese and Pearlie is devastated. She and Nao had suspected one of their neighbours, Mr Beake, of being a spy and had been almost caught out – Pearlie is still worried that he may found her bracelet in his house.  Now Nao is gone, Pearlie is left on her own with her anxiety and she wonders what will happen next. Her only consolation is that she now has Nao’s tiny monkey Tinto to look after and keep her company.

The school year finishes, not just for the year, but for good as women and children begin to be evacuated compulsorily from the city. While this is traumatic in its own right, Pearlie discovers that residents have been ordered to destroy their pets before they leave and she is heartbroken thinking of these poor animals. She comes up with a plan – Pearlie’s Pet Rescue – which she thinks is brilliant. She knows her own father will never leave his shop so she is the perfect person to take care of evacuees’ loved pets. They can leave their pets, with enough money to feed them, with Pearlie and she will look after them as if her own.  Soon, as well as her own Tinto, Pearlie is looking after Rusty the dog and Santa the cockatiel.

But what will Pearlie do when the worst happens and her own family must leave the city under orders as well?

Full of appeal for the OAG set, girls from 8 and up – especially those who love to follow a series through each of its episodes.

Little Bug Books: Cows Say Moo/Pigs Have Piglets – Graeme Base


Little Bug Books

Penguin Australia

Puffin Imprint

Cows Say Moo – Graeme Base


Format:Hardback, 32 pages


price:AUD $9.99





Pigs Have Piglets – Graeme Base


Format:Hardback, 32 pages


price:AUD $9.99





Absolutely adorable! Graeme Base has brought his outstanding talent to books for the Very Tiny ones.  This series of oh-so-cute fold out books now has two new titles which will enchant the littlies in any home (or library).  With simple concepts and texts perfect for the smallest of humans to explore and recite, these are just gorgeous.

I’m pretty sure the titles of each will give a huge clue as to the contents but bear with me while I explain. Cows Say Moo goes through a range of animals and their sounds. Pigs have Piglets goes through a range of animals and their young. Each sturdy book has the most delightful accordion style folds so at first look there is one single animal and then the fold out reveals a bigger picture with a family.

I really cannot wait to show these to my tiniest grandie as I am sure she is going to love them, although she is slightly past the toddler age. Each book is a sturdy, almost board book, construction with heavy duty card weight pages, perfect for grotty little fingers to turn eagerly.  As one would expect the illustrations are most beautifully done and very realistic – a perfect learning experience while experiencing the joy of reading. I envisage that small people would be very quickly ‘reading’ along the simple three word sentences with each successive title. Apart from the delightful pictures the simplicity of them reminds me of the old original PM readers we used to start our beginning readers on in Year 1.ImageImage

Dead Dog in the Still of the Night – Archimede Fusillo


Dead Dog in the Still of the Night – Archimede Fusillo

Ford St Publishing

May 2014

Paperback 224 pages

ISBN 9781925000344

RRP $18.95


As the son of Italian immigrants growing up in Melbourne, it is no surprise that Archimede Fusillo’s work often features an Italian flavour and with more than a nod to his own adolescence.

About his first book ‘Sparring with Shadows’ Archie wrote “I have tried to show that boys do have emotions, are vulnerable, and that it is acceptable to express their feelings.  There is a constant duality of feeling one way and having to appear another.”

His new book with the eerie title continues this theme and once again focuses on a character struggling to come to terms with many conflicting feelings.  Primo is the youngest son of a family with strong personalities, long held resentments and simmering sibling rivalry. His domineering and womanising father is reduced to an old man suffering dementia and in a nursing home, though still exerting his influence on thefamily.  Primo’s mother is trying to come to terms with her long –suffering of her husband’s many infidelities, his middle brother has become embroiled himself in an ugly separation due to his own indiscretion and also facing the wrath of his mistress and her drug dealing brother, his older brother wants to sell off the old man’s mechanical workshop and take possession of his prized classic Fiat 500 and Primo is dealing with his final year at school and a disintegrating relationship with his girlfriend, Maddie.

The immaculately preserved scarlet Fiat becomes a focal point of the story. “I want to buy a car. A special one. A Bambino. Red. Red for speed. Red for the sex.’ While Primo’s family might think this statement of their father reflects upon his philandering, it becomes apparent that this one thought had sustained him from his peasant childhood until its fulfilment.  For Primo the car represents adulthood and independence as well as being his father’s prized possession. For older brother Santo, it is a classic cash cow – ripe for the picking.

When Primo ‘borrows’ the car to impress his girlfriend and then prangs it, he is desperate for money to repair it before anyone finds out. Brother Adrian’s peccadillo with his adultery provides an opportunity for Primo to warn off the scorned lover, Crystal, with the promise of payment for services rendered albeit not in the way Adrian had envisaged.

Tangled and intricate, the plot unravels with miscommunications, wrong perceptions, hidden emotions and gritty realistic episodes.

While the media release suggest this book is suitable for readers 10 and up, my own recommendation would be for older boys – perhaps 14 and on. There are numerous references to drugs, sex, violence,  strong language and adult concepts. Heaven sent for some of my own reluctant Year 10 readers.


Our Australian Girl: Daisy All Alone (Book 2) – Michelle Hamer


Our Australian Girl: Daisy All Alone (Book 2) – Michelle Hamer

Penguin Australia

Published: 23/04/2014

Format:Paperback, 136 pages

RRP: $14.99





The Our Australian Girl series and characters have been extremely popular with girls 8 and up who are looking for an exciting and adventurous read. The concept was originally Jane Godwin’s when she was dismayed that girls in the 8-12 age bracket lacked worthy books that would engage them without the ‘tween’ fluff so common in most of their reading.


In 2014 two new characters have been introduced – Daisy and Pearlie.  Each series is set in a different period of Australian history and Daisy is the 1930s girl – and not one of the fortunate ones.


Separated from her dad, and then extended family, Daisy finds herself homeless and alone in a grimy and dangerous Melbourne far removed from her original country home.  Despite the efforts of her two friends to find her some temporary shelter, Daisy is snatched off to the Melbourne Orphanage (although she is not a ‘real’ orphan) with dozens of other homeless Depression children.  Following a daring escape along with two other unfortunate inmates, Daisy is returned to the grim orphanage and is left without hope of ever being reunited with her father and sister.  With two more to come in Daisy’s story and the teaser of her being adopted in the next book, readers will want to continue with the unravelling of Daisy’s dilemma.


These books are perfect for the age of the intended audience and whilst not sanitising the troubles of the relevant history of their setting, keep the more graphic details out of the storytelling. Readers will gain an understanding, in this case, of the effects of the Great Depression as well as the population’s obsession with the mighty Phar Lap and the Melbourne Cup.  Factual information at the end of the book provides even more for the reader who wishes to have a greater understanding.


A highly successful project which has kept many young readers fully engaged, this and others in the OAG are highly recommended for your girls 8 plus.