Monthly Archives: October 2022

Happy….Everything….

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Happy Dio de los Muertos (my favourite), All Hallows Eve, Halloween 🎃, Samhain, O- Bon Festival and, of course Reformation/Martin Luther Day… Plus a few others 🤣

Check this out for a selection of celebrations around the world!!

The Kid feels too grown up for it now – and as where we are living is very light on with kiddos, not much point even preparing for TrickORTreaters but fun to see all the decorations around town.

I am missing doing my usual Day of the Dead library display 😦

I hope your celebrations, whatever they may be, are total fun!! Tomorrow I’ll be kicking off a month long celebrations of picture books for Picture Book Month – a fresh post every day (because I really love a challenge haha!)

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – J. K. Rowling. Jim Kay (Illustrator)Neil Packer (Illustrator)

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Bloomsbury Publishing

October 2022

ISBN9781408845684
ImprintBloomsbury Children’s Books

RRP: $75.00

Readers of this blog will know of my passion for all things Harry and I have often shared the magnificence that comes my way via Bloomsbury Publishing (long may the prosper!). The fact that this is my favourite of all the original books, and that it was released the day before my birthday was like the universe bringing it to me as a special gift (and of course, the marvellous Sonia who knows my weakness well by now!).

What is there to say? We have all seen the sumptous illustrated versions of the first four – we have all ooh-ed and aah-ed over them and believe me, so have the children. In my libraries, they are highly sought after – whether to take home and pore over, or sit and gaze lovingly at each glorious page in their quiet times at break.

This dazzling new addition to any fan’s collection will be a shining jewel in the bookshelf and, trust me, though it’s been in my possession for a week now, I have not even come close to exploring all it’s wonderful details. I do wish I was still in my library having my Potterheads meetings!

I certainly can’t say it any better than this:

This is a stunning visual feast of a book, filled with dark magical delights for both fans and new readers alike. Breathtaking scenes, iconic locations and unforgettable characters await inside – Luna Lovegood, Professor Umbridge, Grawp the giant, and many more – as Harry Potter and Dumbledore’s Army prepare for the coming battle against Lord Voldemort. Perfect for Potterheads of all ages!

Christmas is coming, they are already telling us. Can I just say if you have a Potterhead in your circle you will become their greatest benefactor if this is your gift to them. Pop it into a Santa sack in your house and watch the delight – of course, don’t expect to see the recipient for a few days (maybe for the food but that’d be it). Or, better still, just buy it for yourself – Merry Xmas to you!

I don’t need to ‘sell’ this – but I will of course give it my utmost recommendation – now, don’t bother me – I have more to explore! 😉

Time of My Life – Myf Warhurst

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Hachette

September 2022

ISBN: 9780733649189

RRP $34.99

I have no doubt that anyone in my personal orbit will confirm that I am a dyed-in-the-wool, fully card-carrying aficionado – nay, devotee! – of Spicks and Specks. Not only would I not miss an episode when is was screening but I regularly watch repeats, specials, have the DVD of the play-at-home game – you get the picture. And by virtue of that, I am also a deadset fan of Myf – the little pocket rocket who might always look teeny next to Adam and Alan but is huge in her knowledge and chutzpah. Myf has always struck me as a kindred spirit (not least of all due to our propensity to a love of the more – let’s say – not so esoteric ‘hits’ in the music world. I can’t honestly say I see her ‘thing’ for Kenny Rogers but we definitely converge on certain points :-).

This absolutely delightful joy of a memoir has been my read over the past four nights. I love that each chapter is headed up by a particular ‘hit’ complete with record reference image. I do think Myf could have shared a few more photos – as there were so many moments in her recounts where I thought – Oh, I’d love to see that!

The anecdotes from Myf’s childhood and early career were so interesting and fun but I actually think, above all, it is her reflections since Covid – the never-ending Melbourne lockdown and more – that resonated most with me. I love that she sees herself as complete without a partner and that she’s got the gumption to get in and do stuff (read, renovations and so on) off her own bat. It took me a long time to get to that sort of point and nowhere near as young as Myf, so I totally admire her.

If you are a fan of bios/memoirs and enjoy reading those that are not full of doom and gloom (like I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that per se, and I’m certainly not making light of tough times in Myf’s life), do yourself a favour and pick this one up. I promise you, you won’t regret it.

The Light in Everything – Katya Balen

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Bloomsbury Australia

Bloomsbury Publishing

Imprint: Bloomsbury Children’s Books

July 2022

ISBN 9781526647405

RRP: $14.99

This is the third of Katya’s books I have read and honestly, I love her writing more each time. She has such skill in creating believable characters with whom the reader can easily connect and her deft hand in giving them such natural and authentic voices is wonderful.

Two very different children, each with a single parents, find themselves forced together and totally at odds. Their conflict is epic really and their complete disparity would seem an insurmountable obstacle to any kind of peaceful resolution.

Zofia lives with her dad by the sea in a small village where everyone knows everyone and Zofia’s classmates number not much more than a handful. Her mother died when she was just a baby, so she’s never known anything different to just being part of a pair with her doctor dad, Marek. Their life is busy and fun and sometimes wild, with Zofia being like a shaken bottle of fizzy drink – always effervescent and often messy and noisy.

Tom is quiet and fearful, and only just regaining some feeling of safety. He and his mum, Fiona, endured some cruel domestic violence but now his father is in prison and though he has been for two years, Tom is still frequently anxious and there are some things that he just cannot stand – like being shut in the dark.

When Marek and Fiona become not only a couple but a baby is expected, both children must face enormous upheavals in their lives. Fiona and Tom move into the little cottage, where the box room becomes a nursery and the spare room is turned into Tom’s bedroom. While both children fervently wish there was no baby and that things would go back to the way they were, they each have very different ways of responding. It will take a lot of time and learning to trust and, most of all, understanding for this family to consolidate.

While the specific circumstances may vary, there would be many children who find themselves in this same kind of predicament with a blended family situation and a new half-sibling arriving and each child will react differently but there is no doubt that this narrative will resonate with many.

It is a thoroughly splendid read and I highly recommend it for readers from around ten years upwards.

Ellie Pillai is Brown – Christine Pillainayagam

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Faber & Faber

July 2022

ISBN: 9780571366910
ISBN-10: 0571366910
RRP: $17.99

This is a debut novel of true exceptional talent IMO. I love a good romance and when it’s interwoven with self-discovery, diversity, cultural differences, regular teen relationships and issues, and music – all the better! Also, this is definitely the first YA (or indeed any book) I have read that features Sri Lankan culture/family life.

Ellie knows she is weird. Her taste for old movies, classic rock (think Beatles and the Stones) are just the tip of the iceberg. She always feels slightly left out but thank goodness for her best friend, although there are times when Ellie feels her mum takes more notice of, and spends more time with Jessica, than with her own daughter. Their family has been out of kilter since they lost Ellie’s little brother, Amis, and both parents as well as Ellie are still often raw and hurting from his death. At school, Ellie is on the periphery always but her great joy – and secret- is Drama class. Her parents would flip out if they knew that despite their objections, she has taken the subject for her GCSEs – not only do they think it a frivolous waste of time but believe that Ellie has zero talent.

All that is about to change with the arrival of a new Drama teacher who, as it happens, is also brown. At the same time, twins, Ash and Elina, start at the new school and Ellie ends up with a real dilemma. Her growing interest in Ash, is going to drive the biggest wedge ever in the history of friendship between herself and Jess.

This has got it all – humour, romance, serious reflection on topics such as grief, sexuality, cultural differences, neglect and family relationships and, along the way, Ellie inserts her own playlist into the narrative which readers can access via QR codes. The whole is cleverly and deftly done. For once, I am not rolling my eyes at another cliche ridden YA novel full of angst and moaning. Even the serious issues are gently handled in a way that would make hugely relatable to teen readers.

Highly recommended for your readers from Year 7 upwards.

House Arrest: Pandemic Diaries – Alan Bennett

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Profile Books

July 2022

ISBN: 9781800811928
ISBN-10: 1800811926

RRP: $14.99

It’s a perfect little gem of a book – a mere fifty pages – but they are just packed with Bennett’s trademark ascerbic wit, pithy obervations on social circumstances made all the more absurd at times by the whole Covid complication.

Now in his 80s, in fact almost 90, Bennett is physically impaired with his arthritis (I’m beginning to know exactly how he feels, poor bugger) but together with his partner, Rupert, maintained a routine of gentle exercise when possible as well as working. At the time of writing the filming of the BBC’s new version of his Talking Heads monologues was about to happen, involving much to-and-fro social distanced collaboration.

Mixed in with the commentary on contemporary incidents are reminiscences from his childhood and other stand out events which are both fascinating and fun.

Definitely worth picking up and spending half an hour of your time – read this great article from The Guardian who are of the same opinion. What a splendid literary treasure he is – read more about his marvellous canon of work here.

Which Way to Anywhere – Cressida Cowell

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Hachette Australia

September 2022

ISBN 9781444969047 | RRP $22.99

Well, if there’s anything more exciting in MG fiction than a new Cressida Cowell title, it’s a new Cressida Cowell series and this one is going to skyrocket I can assure you.

K2 O’Hero (yes, he is named after the mountain) would appear, to all intents and purposes, a very ordinary little boy. He and his twin, Izzabird, are from a very extraordinary family it’s true, but that’s a deep secret which is not revealed outside said family – and especially not, to the Stepfather and the world’s most irritating stepsiblings, Theo and Mablel. But not even Izzabird knows that K2 has an incredibly rare and powerful gift. In fact, K2 doesn’t know he has this particular gift but that’s all going to change.

K2 knows he can draw amazing maps of strange, marvellous and, at times, frightening places but he has no idea that he can in fact create these maps as portals to the worlds he believes are just his own imagination.

When bizarre happenings start to accelerate around them: a weirdly creepy faux Geography teacher, a robot assassin, a very odd and seemingly magical person named Horizabel, and their mother and great- aunts (all witches) taking off into the night on a secret mission – and that’s all before baby Annipeck is abducted! – the four children must somehow work together to figure out the Alternative Atlas and conquer the obstacles they face including the vile and ravenous beast, the Abhorrorghast.

I loved this from start to finish. It has all of Cressida’s fantastic creativity: her wonderful skill with humorous secondary characters (the ones that almost steal the show) and an ability to weave a spellbinding adventure with heart-stopping moments, truly horrible villains and children who, in spite of any talents or gifts, are very normal in their ferocious loyalties, their unswerving determination, their sniping and bickering and their persistence.

Your readers from around Year 4 will adore this – particularly those who loved The Wizards of Once – and my suggestions is that you order more than one copy!

Highly recommended for boys and girls who are able readers from mid-primary upwards.

Agatha Christie: a Very Elusive Woman – Lucy Worsley

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Hachette Australia

September 2022

ISBN: 9781529303889 | RRP $34.99

If, as I am, you are are a fan of historian Lucy Worsley, either in her role as Chief Curator of Royal Historical Palaces and her numerous TV appearances, or in her other guise as a skilled writer of best-selling history books AND you are also an Agatha Christie devotee, you will be one of the many readers who will eagerly take up this newest of Lucy’s books.

I have read quite a bit about Dame Agatha over the years, though admittedly not for some time, but it seemed to me that this volume was in many ways a complete revelation as it peeled the quite complex layers of the woman and celebrity author.

There are clearly many well-known facts about Christie’s life: her mystery disappearance in 1926, her highly publicised marriage to archaeologist Max Mallowan, her own experience working in a dispensary during the Great war which informed her writing of her first successful mystery novel and her record-breaking book sales and stage plays. However, there is so much more to discover about this truly remarkable woman and with her access to many personal letters and papers, Lucy Worsley has provided us with this depth of detail. In many ways an enigma, there is also an element of understanding to be had as one unravels the significant episodes in her life from her quite privileged childhood which subsequently disintegrated into near poverty, to her embrace of the modern world in the early 20th century including fast cars, surfing, and pyschology. Throughout her increasingly successful and high profile career, Agatha protested that she was simply a very ordinary ‘housewife’ – nothing could be further from the truth. Long before the celebrity mania modern society seems to indiscriminately bestow on people notorious for five minutes (and the plethora social media exposure etc) this was a woman whose face and work was not only known but highly respected. Despite her Victorian/Edwardian start to life, she became a beacon for women who aspired to a working career in the contemporary setting.

I read this at night over about two weeks, and was so completely entranced with it that I didn’t even ‘book cheat’ during that time *grin*!

I can highly recommend it to you, especially those of you with an interest in well-researched biographies and literary history. Definitely a 10/10 for this one!

The Dangerous Business of Being Trilby Moffat – Kate Temple

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Hachette

September 2022

ISBN: 9780734420909 

RRP: $16.99

Look inside

This is just utterly fantastic from first page to last. So good that I gobbled it up in just two sittings in fact. Why is it so dangerous being Trilby Misso you may wonder? Well, because she finds herself in a unique position – inheriting the singular role of Time Keeper.

A truly strange illness has befallen much of the general population, causing people to do some very bizaare things such as bake ancient cakes or speak dead languages, but it is when these give way to just continued and unceasing sleep that situations become dire. When Trilby’s mother becomes ill she knows it won’t be long before she will also become one of the never-ending sleepers so she decides that she and Trilby must seek out their only living relative, an elderly great-aunt of some kind. Whatever Trilby expected, it was not the incredibly ancient and eccentric Thumbelina, who lives in an intriguing antique shop, full of curiosities, at the edge of a lake which appears to more of an inland sea. And she certainly didn’t expect her lively aunt to just drop down dead and leave her in what turns out to be, a hugely overwhelming and dangerous role – that of Time Keeper on the very edge of Time.

As Trilby tries desperately to make sense of who, what and where she is, the situation becomes even more fraught and definitely more dangerous when the villain of the piece, the Night Manager, Mr Colin. Evil personified, and the relentless pursuer of Trilby, Mr Colin, has been thwarting the members of the Time Guild at every turn. Now that Thumbelina has passed the Time Keeper’s responsbilities to Trilby, he is determined to rid himself of what he thinks is merely an annoying young girl. Little does he know that Trilby is both resourceful and courageous.

The entire lively adventure is peppered with the author’s trademark humour and the completely off-the-wall interjections and asides are hilarious. Middle school readers are going to love it – for both the suspenseful adventure and the wacky wit – as well as the extremely nasty baddies.

Highly recommended for your kiddos from around Year 4 upwards.

Plume [#3]: Festival Seeker -Tania McCartney

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Hardie Grant

October 2022

ISBN: 9781741177909

Publisher: Hardie Grant Explore

RRP: $26.99

My apologies for that delay between the fabulous interview with the lovely Tania and my promised review of the newest Plume title – released yesterday – but there was a rather inconvenient technical hitch.

Welcome back Plume! Our intrepid Antarctic traveller extraordinaire is taking readers on another worldwide adventure, this time exploring some of the world’s most colourful festivals, proving that life is not just black-and-white for all penguins!

Little Plume has many friends from many different countries – as one would expect for such a gregarious little fellow, and when he receives an invitation from his Scottish friend to join in a special event, he tries to tempt his penguin comrades to join him. Alas, they are still very set in their penguin ways but that doesn’t deter Plume. He and Ava, of the Albatross Express, spend a year travelling to various countries each month to celebrate with the locals and enjoy the colourful culture of each.

As with the previous Plume exploits there will be some names with which children connect. There will very likely be children who know of, or indeed celebrate, Diwali, Holi or even the Rio Carnival, but I daresay none (nor adults) who have heard of the Up Helly Aa festival from the Shetland Isles or the Boryeong Mud Festival in South Korea. The inclusion of Easter and Christmas helps even the youngest of readers to relate these lesser known celebrations to those they might encounter in their own lives as a matter of course.

Needless to say Plume’s penguin buddies remain quite obstinate in their reluctance to try anything new – well at least, until it comes to one particular festival that caters exactly to their tastes!

Once again, Tania’s exquisite rendering of sympathetic and engaging text matched with her superlative illustrations will not fail to engage your readers and, as with the earlier Plume books, this is one that sits perfectly not only on personal bookshelves but in classrooms to accompany curriculum units such as those which look at cultural events and festivals (Year 3 HASS) and diversity.

As always, Tania’s work really needs no recommendation, as its superiority speaks volumes for itself, but in any case, I give you my heartiest recommendation for children from Prep upwards (I recently shared Plume: Global Nibbler with a Year 6 and, rather as Plume would with lovely food, they gobbled it up with delight!).

Congratulations Tania on another beautiful creation, and I know I eagerly await Plume’s next outing.

Check out Tania’s Plume Book Birthday post over at Insta – it’s just the cutest!!!

Download Tania’s Plume Festival Seeker colouring page here