ISBN: 9781760653583 Imprint: Walker Books Australia Australian RRP: $18.99 New Zealand RRP: $21.99
It is certainly no secret that I love historical fiction, and colonial Australian history is a particular favourite of mine. I loved this exciting new narrative from Claire Saxby – whose prowess with picture books is already so well established. Set just two years before my first ancestors arrived in this country, this recounts the importation of young Irish girls to become, essentially, servants and/or wives in a colony that was heavily male dominated. With Ireland in tatters after the Great Famine (also known as the Great Hunger, the Famine or the Potato Famine) and 1 million dead as a result, many young girls ( among others) faced uncertainty without family or home to shelter them. These girls were outfitted with a basic wardrobe and shipped to Australia, among them young Biddy Blackwell whose older brother has been out in the colony for some years.
When Biddy arrives and her brother Ewen is nowhere to be found, she is sent to work on a remote farm with a cruel master, an indifferent and downtrodden wife and finds she is little more than an unpaid slave. Surviving first the conditions in which she finds herself, but then even worse after her master’s first wife dies and he brings home a new one, equally as nasty as himself, Biddy manages a daring escape following the mayhem of a flood, and finds herself back in the city under the protection of the hostel. While she discovers some clues as to Ewen’s possible location, she needs to restrain herself and finds herself working for an eccentric but kind journalist as his ‘eyes and ears’ in the courtrooms of Melbourne.
The prejudices and persecution with which the Irish immigrants are faced is rising fast and when Biddy attends the court sessions and sees one well-known dissenter, Brendan Black, she is elated to find she has finally discovered her missing brother. Naturally, his situation presents some problems but with the help of new friends and supporters, the way is made smoother and Biddy can finally hope for a new start, complete with family.
Claire Saxby’s inspiration for this novel was her own family history and this little known episode in Australia’s history is important to understand as its impact on the rise of concepts such as fair pay and work conditions cannot be under-estimated.
Highly recommended for readers from upper primary to mid-secondary and for students of Australian history, this is certainly a prime candidate for ‘read around your topic’.
ISBN: 9781760653590 Imprint: Walker Books Australia Australian RRP: $15.99
This is quite simply, really good fun! For some reason, it put me very much in mind of the old Rocky & Bullwinkle cartoons (which those elderly people such as myself will recall) especially with the almost absurd characters and situations.
Pearly Woe is the epitome of anxiety-ridden child. From a long line of stealth adventurers, of The Adventurologists’ Guild, she feels she can never live up to the exploits or expectations of her parents or grandparents. Her constant worrying will certainly provide a fine opportunity to discuss mental hwell-being with children – increasing numbers of whom are becoming more and more prone to anxiety.
When her parents are kidnapped, it falls to Pearly and her trusty companion, Pig, to mount a rescue. Her ability to speak to animals is her greatest skill and Pig’s ability to literally sniff out danger, as well as truth, make them a potentially formidable pair – if only Pearly can find some self-confidence.
The nasty Emmeline Woods (every bit as despicable as Natasha Fatale ever was!) is not in pursuit of The Great Hairy Beast to film it for a documentary. She’s a big game hunter intent on the kill of the century and is completely ruthless about achieving her goal.
How on earth can one small girl and a talented pig defeat such a nemesis? Luckily, Pearly and Pig stumble across the Professor and once they do, the game plan changes, and plucky Pearly demonstrates that she is most worthy of membership of the Guild.
This really will delight your young readers from around Year 3 upwards – with its humour as well as the concepts of trust, self-belief, friendship and family.
Speaking from the point of view of the primary school girl who loved rugby league with a passion – and played before school and every break time with some equally determined girls, I absolutely loved this book. Back in my day it really was unheard of for girls to play footy, but it always surprises me to find out that in some pockets of society it’s still not considered either suitable or feasible.
Young Daniella Murphy is out to prove her family and other doubters wrong. In a family dominated by males who all play league, this feisty young girl is determined to become part of the game she loves. Her grandma is totally opposed, her Dad refuses to be drawn on the subject, younger brothers and other boys are scornful but she at least has her older brother for support and then, unexpectedly, finds more aid in places she never imagined.
This is a ripping read for girls with big dreams but especially those who have a burning ambition to make it big in sport – particularly one that has long been the domain of males. Rikki-Lee Arnold’s first novel has a real ring of authenticity as she brings her knowledge and insight as a sports journalist to an inspirational narrative for young readers. I for one, would love to see the next instalment – are we going to follow Dani’s growth as a player?
Kiddos from around Year 4 upwards to Year 7 – particularly of course girls who are as footy-obsessed as I once was – will love it. A great addition to your collection as the season starts to heat up!
I really do love a good countdown action/adventure and Fleur Ferris has brought her masterful manipulation of tension into a fantastic new narrative for middle school readers. In similar fashion to her hugely successful and popular suspenseful stories for YA kiddos, this one follows a cracking pace from the very first page.
Ben is really angry with his father, who seems to be far more interested in his high-flying corporate job crushing people and the environment, than in Ben. And now, much to his complete disgust, Ben is being packed off to the country to spend a week with his aunt, uncle and cousin – a fate too horrible to contemplate from this teen’s point of view. It’s not that he thinks his aunt and uncle are awful, it’s just that his cousin is so much more adept than him dealing with country type stuff like animals and motorbikes and physical activity. Ben is really far more citified than he cares to admit at times.
The very last thing that Ben imagines happening is to become embroiled in a generations-old family feud, a murder mystery and a treasure hunt which ends up in the enclosure of two very cranky hippos at the nearby zoo. Ben has set his watch the minute he arrives in Manibee to countdown until it’s time to go back home, but now that seven days ticking away is how long he has to solve a century-old crime, work out the location of an almost mythical cache of stolen jewelry – oh, and actually survive the dangers on all sides.
With the unexpected assistance of his cousin Josh, with whom he finally develops a far more friendly relationship, as well as the even more surprising aid from Josh’s crush, Olivia, of the very family that despises their own (a nice little Romeo & Juliet twist here), Ben manages to unearth the long lost stolen goods, prove the solution of the crime, and resolve the family feud but not without a dramatic plot twist that will make readers’ heads spin!
With lots to say about family, misleading appearances, values and beliefs, friendship and acceptance of differences, your readers from around Year 6 upwards will truly relish this fast-paced thrilling ride.
Highly recommended for middle primary/lower secondary – this is an author to whom your kiddos will love an introduction!
This is such a completely fresh take on both family stories and ghost stories. It is charming, poignant and thoroughly engaging for readers from around mid-primary to lower secondary.
Gus is tired of moving house and never belonging anywhere. It’s the reason she refuses to make friends. When her mother packs her, her older sister and younger brother, up yet again and they basically escape the ugly situation with Mum’s boyfriend, things don’t look like getting any better. They wind up in a little hick town, where they start living in an abandoned and reputedly haunted drive-in movie theatre in exchange for getting it up and running. Much to the surprise of the nasty employer (but not quite owner) and to Gus, her family actually begins to turn this enterprise into somewhat of a success. That doesn’t mean though, that she’s going to make friends. She’s choosing not to like her new teacher or the project she’s doing with her strange science partner, with whom she most certainly is not going to be friends. She really doesn’t want to love being the projectionist at the Starlight and she definitely does not want to hang out with the strange boy she sees around the drive-in.
There are all kinds of ghosts in life – the ones that are those who have passed on but also the ones who are very much alive but choose to pursue from the past. Gus learns to deal with both kinds as well as discovering new skills and depths to herself, of which she had no idea prior to coming to this quiet little town. As well, her family grows and slowly flourishes, like blooms in a freshly-dug garden bed, as they all find true acceptance in their new home.
This will definitely find an audience with your readers particularly around year 5-7, both boys and girls, as its appeal is wide.