Author Archives: Sue Warren

About Sue Warren

Teacher-librarian https://www.pinterest.com/losangz/

End of the holidays

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Well funsters, normally round about now, at the tail end of the second week of spring break, I’d be gnashing my teeth about the holidays coming to an end. But – oh my lordy! – the complete and utter bliss of NOT being fully employed (without the usual stress of that situation). The Kid and I have had a lovely two weeks with about half of that time spent up the coast with her surfing and skating, and me enjoying watching her, and both of us sharing some lovely time with our friend, her coach, and other friends.

I have actually done some ‘other’ work in that time – having had a couple of paid writing commissions – jobs which I hope will parlay into more of the same. I have read LOTS and now have at least ten books piled up – from PBs to adult bios – for which to write reviews. That’s on the agenda for the next few days. I’m already booked for one day’s relief work (in a close-by library at a tasty school – yayy!) when term starts next week, and have to also write up The Kid’s home school program but I’m sure it will all work out just fine.

So stay tuned for some upcoming reviews of some fabulous reads and if you are just starting out your new school year in the northern hemisphere, all good fortune to you – and for my Aussie colleagues happy 4th term!

Plume [#2]: Global Nibbler – Tania McCartney

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May 2022

Hardie Grant, Hardie Grant Explore, RRP $26.99

ISBN: 9781741177671

My friends are all very aware of my penchant for penguins. Surely, they are one of the cutest creatures in the world? Although, if you have ever participated in the penguin spotting research via live stream, you will appreciate that the little darlings are very hard to distinguish one from another…but now there’s Plume.  And there can be absolutely no doubt at all that Plume is most charming and delightful penguin ever to waddle the pages of a book.

Tania McCartney has a genius for creating picture books that not only engage young readers with their narrative and exquisite illustrations but which also teach, whether about geography or history, people, or places. To my mind she has an absolute gift for her unique style of ‘travelogue’ books and children of my acquaintance return to these over and over, and with Plume she takes this virtual travelling experience to a whole new fun and entertaining level.

Plume made his first appearance as a global traveller in the first book World Explorer and readers fell in love with this quirky little citizen of Antarctica, who is just a bit different to all the other penguins with his love of very non-PC (Penguin Culture) activities such as sky-diving, knitting and cooking. It is Plume’s great interest in cooking that sparks his newest adventure.

The little gourmet with the distinctive yellow feather has tried in vain to interest his fellow penguins in trying out new taste sensations as he savours his latest online purchases gathered from around the globe. Seemingly, his mates are far too set in their plain fishy ways so Plume conceives of an idea to tempt them.

Enlisting the assistance of the lovely Ava, from Albatross Express, after her super suggestion that he should host cooking lessons, Plume takes off for a round-the-world gastronomic experience that is bound to set your tastebuds tingling. From Japan to Italy, Iran to Mexico, Morocco to Sweden, Plume and Ava sample and savour tastes and treats. Some of these your little readers will know such as tacos or kebabs but others will be new words and dishes to roll around their tongues: torshi, kanelbulle, fika, meskouta or flautas are just a few.

As always, Tania’s illustrations are simply divine, and her characters completely charming, especially their facial expressions. Throughout her fun with wordplay, onomatopoeia and descriptive language will provide much rich and fruitful discussion. And – oh my goodness! – the gorgeous endpapers, frontispiece and the scrumptious textured cover elevate this to a work of real art.

I cannot wait to share this with some hungry little readers and would love to follow it up with a virtual trip around the world, concluding with a feast – of course!

This will easily be incorporated into a teaching program focused on geography or cultural awareness but makes for such a superb personal reading time share as well. I would highly recommend anyone to add Plume to their collection for readers as young as Prep right up to later primary, and I am definitely looking forward to Plume’s next adventure.

Bon appetit!

Stay tuned for Plume: Festival Seeker, out 5 October 2022 in Australia/New Zealand.

The Colourful World of Poppy Starr Olsen: A novel inspired by the life of the Australian Olympic skateboarder – Poppy Starr Olsen & Jess Black

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Penguin Australia

  • August 2022
  • ISBN: 9780143778837
  • Imprint: Puffin
  • RRP: $16.99

From the opening pages this is just a joyful experience and one that I binged in just two sessions. I’ll be honest here. I didn’t know of Poppy (I don’t watch or follow the Olympics) and I know – well knew – zilch about skateboarding so I didn’t really know what to expect. What I got is a delightful narrative (based on fact, presumably) that revolves around family and friends, following one’s dream, being adventurous, having self-belief and standing up for one’s rights and expectations.

Not only did I thoroughly enjoy Poppy’s story but I really did learn so much – as will readers – and not just via the interspersed facts, but also from the lively descriptions of skating and surfing. Of course, with The Kid now pursuing surfing, it was this connection between the two sports that really grabbed my full attention. Now Grom is the proud owner of a surf-skate carver skateboard and learning to use it is a priority in the agenda! And really it’s pretty fun when your surf coach demonstrates his own skateboard skills (notwithstanding the age he was turning the next day!)

sorry John, and you know you are the coolest guy we know! 😘😍

Poppy lives with her lively and adventurous family in beautiful Bondi and her passion is skateboarding, closely followed by surfing, along with art and craft, family adventures and hanging out with friends. She loves to skate and while she has entered competitions, they have been more about a fun one-off rather than serious events. But when her local skatepark is about to host an awesome comp, Poppy knows she wants to definitely be part of it and give it her best shot. Except it looks like she’s not allowed to compete! Feisty young Poppy is not going to let discrimination stand in her way and just as she wins that battle, another one looms when a local councillor tries to thwart the competition taking place.

It is totally engaging and exciting and the proof of that is that I did a first chapter read-aloud with my Year 6 relief class last week and even the ‘difficult’ boys were totally absorbed!!! WINNING!

I guarantee you will have just as much success promoting to your readers – from middle school right up to year 7 and as much fun doing so!

Highly recommended for kiddos from around ten years on.

Just watch this winning performance!

Guardians: Wylah the Koorie Warrior 1- Jordan Gould/Richard Pritchard

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Allen & Unwin

May 2022

ISBN:9781761180033

Imprint: Albert Street Books

RRP: $15.99

This is definitely something different and a series to be watched. These two creators have drawn their narrative from all quarters: speculative fiction in its broadest sense – fantasy, sci fi, larger than life events, incorporating adventure, humour, and drawing on First Australians culture, history and spiritual beliefs.

Wylah has many fine qualities. She is helping to teach the children of her tribe, she not only loves but tends the mega-fauna creatures of her world, she is kind, determined and brave but she knows well she is no warrior yet, not like her beautiful Grandmother.

When her entire family and people are captured by a frightening dragon army, Wylah must gather her courage, and use all her wits and skills to rescue them. As she undertakes this perilous quest, her culture and her people underlie the help she is given as she takes on the role of Guardian.

There is no doubt that it will take some getting used to. Realistically, none of us are used to reading stories where anyone keeps mega-fauna as pets! But I love that this bold new series is taking Aboriginal culture and story-telling to a new audience with new ideas, whilst incorporating traditional beliefs.

I, for one, am looking forward to the next instalment. Highly recommended for readers from around Year 5 upwards.

Astonishingly Good Stories – R. A. Spratt

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Penguin Australia

August 2022

  • ISBN: 9780143779261
  • Imprint: Puffin
  • RRP: $19.99
The freakishly fantastic, amazingly awesome, insanelycompletelybonkerscrazyasafox terrifically talented R. A. Spratt is one of my favouritest authors and purveyors of outrageous snortles*, and well she knows it. She has perhaps been wondering why it has taken me so long to write this review of her latest blisteringly brilliant collection but in my defence I have this to say. I read the entire book cover to cover quite swiftly after it’s arrival but since then I have had it in my ‘relief teaching’ bag whereupon it has made an appearance on several occasions to entertain, amuse and, more importantly, educate some of the finest young minds in Queensland (if not the country).

Now with a day off at my disposal, due to having no voice left with which to teach, I am trying to catch up with reviews, and really it is dead lucky I had already read this latest volume, because there is no doubt that strenuous laughing of the Spratt-induced kind would further reduce my vocal capabilities, so that it would be unlikely to recover them at all within the next week – – and really, where would that leave my adoring fans? (ok, I’m starting to sound like Nanny Piggins now – possibly overdoing the cold&flu meds).

This is a gorgeously galumptious smorgasbord which I can verify will appeal to a wide range of readers of discerning tastes (and as it happens, some who claim to be non-readers). Whether some Nanny Piggins (gosh, how I admire that porcine legend!) providing great insights into famous myths, legends and other historical tales, a mini Friday Barnes mystery or a completely bogus story about big sisters (which reeks heavily of the author’s own household), kiddos from around Year 4 will roll about on the floor with delight with the completely over-the-top antics and adventures herein. I am truly devastated that I no longer have my Year 9 terrorists -I mean, English classes – because after their unit of work on Romeo & Juliet, (their introduction to Shakespeare – now I could definitely write a book on that experience!) I would have loved to share with them the Nanny Piggins version of the Bard’s tragedy.

Honestly, you’d be mad to leave it off your orders list – so get cracking and buy it before the business manager cuts off your budget for the year! Highly recommended for all lovers of the absurd from around Year 4 upwards.

*snortle:  A hearty laugh that is punctuated by a snort on the inhale.

Enola Holmes and the Elegant Escapade: Enola Holmes #8 – Nancy Springer

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Allen & Unwin

August 2022

ISBN: 9781761066245

Publisher: A&U Children’s

Imprint: A & U Children

RRP: $16.99

As we all eagerly anticipate the new forthcoming Netflix adaptation, what better way to feed our love of Enola and her adventures than by reading this newest in the series? (In this house we are both fans of not only Enola but definitely Millie Bobby Brown!)

Nancy Springer’s series following the adventures of Sherlock Holme’s ferocious young sister has been a smash hit and created a huge following, mostly among girls from around Year 6 to Year 9. In this latest episode our favourite sleuth is determined to rescue her friend Lady Cecily Alastair, an unfortunate young woman who is being cruelly treated by her nasty and domineering father.

After the success of the initial ‘spring’ from her family home, Enola is relieved that she has secured Cecily’s safety but her relief is short-lived when Cecily disappears from the secret office Enola maintains. For many this would not be such a disaster but Cecily is hampered by her dual personalities – one left-handed, confident and resourceful and one right-handed which has been forced upon her and rendered her meek and helpless. With no money nor resources, no skills or friends to call upon – how can this young woman possibly survive the streets of London?

Of course, Enola’s adventures would not be complete without snarky intervention from older brother Sherlock (who always feels himself to be superior- wrong). The banter between the two is highly entertaining as always but Enola’s superior female intellect is more than a match for Sherlock’s rather more prosaic kind of intelligence.

This series hardly needs any ‘selling’ – suffice to say your kiddos from around Year 6 upwards will just gobble it up and just in time for the new Netflix adaptation!

The Golden Swift – Lev Grossman

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Bloomsbury

July 2022

ISBN9781526647634
ImprintBloomsbury Children’s Books

RRP: $14.99

A couple of years back I enthusiastically endorsed The Silver Arrow and I am very pleased to say that this second instalment is equally as enchanting for your middle school readers.

A year after they first encounter The Silver Arrow and begin their mission to save the world’s endangered animals via the Great Secret Intercontinental Railway, Kate and Tom are back on board as conductors, but this time things are different. The pair come across a very different train on the secret railway – The Golden Swift – which is also dropping off animals at stations. The problem is that these other conductors are delivering animals to the wrong stations and Kate is determined to find out the whole story.

The ensuing adventures range across the globe from the outback wilds of Australia to the depths of the Bering Sea in a magical submarine and once the identity of the rival conductors is known, Kate feels that they have formed an undeniably positive partnership – one which will change the course of nature for the better. But there’s a huge realisation coming their way – insights into themselves and their new friends, but also a deeper understanding of the complex intertwinings of the natural world – past, present and future.

Like the first, this is not simply about the exciting adventure and quirky characters (where else would you encounter a bossy cassowary who is the dispatcher for the railway or indeed a completely crazy wolverine?) but offers up much food for thought with rich discussions on ethics, brainstorming possible solutions to the terrible castrophe with which the world is faced, and strategies to avoid further damage.

Beautifully imaginative once again, this is a must to add to your collection and your astute readers from around ten upwards will adore it.

Spark – M.G. Leonard

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Walker Books

September 2022

Imprint:Walker Books

ISBN13:9781406389388

Australia RRP:$18.99

New Zealand RRP:$21.99

There is something quintessentially English about a group of children who are into bird-watching I think, especially when combined with all the other great things going on in this series. A diverse cast of characters, an appealing setting where the kids can roam in their own private forest at will, navigating the sometimes not clear-cut avenues of friendship, thrilling adventures and a mystery to solve, all combine to make this an irresistable read to middle school kiddos.

We know that mystery and crime stories for younger readers are booming at present but the point oif difference with the focus on children who care for nature and apply their knowledge in a positive way makes for a thoroughly charming twist.

When Jack comes across a badly hurt cat he suspects that the injury is deliberate – but who could be responsible for such a cruel act? He knows this is another opportunity for the Twitchers to do some investigating but there is soon even more to investigate when the expected arrival of one of the most rarely seen birds is threatened by a local wildlife poacher. The children rally their full force and put their minds to a well thought out plan that will, with any sort of luck, save both the local cats and the magnificent lammergeier.

This is a top notch adventure for readers from around Year 3ish upwards especially those that like their stories action-packed! It would be best read after the first so that your kiddos know the characters and backstory but this is not completely necessary.

Guest Blogger: Welcome Laura @ The Mad Hatters Bookshop!

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It gives me such pleasure to introduce Laura from the cutest ever bookshop, The Mad Hatters at Manly. I take any opportunity I can to browse this glorious feast of literary delights and never, ever come away empty-handed! Laura and her team are so knowledgeable about children’s lit and even with my long history of teacher-librarianship and reviewing, Laura is still my ‘go to’ for tricky questions like ‘What’s hot in graphics right now?’ What better way to spend a little time on one of these glorious spring days we’re having than to go for a drive, go book-shopping, enjoy some food at one of the many cafes in the neighbourhood and relish Manly’s iconic views? Get thee thy skates on – the sooner, the better!

           

My name is Laura and I’m the co-owner of The Mad Hatters Bookshop situated on Quandamooka Country in Manly, Queensland. We are an independent bookshop with a focus on children’s books all the way from babies to young adults, as well as a selection of new release fiction and non-fiction for grown-ups.

            When the store opened in 2015, there were very few bookstores around that focused on children’s books. Ann-Marie, the original owner and a talented illustrator, based the store’s theme on Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz, with little references scattered around the store: a yellow brick road, an enchanted reading corner and a rabbit hole. (We often tell the kids the rabbit is asleep to stop them pulling on the legs, however we stopped after one little one inspected it and informed us, ‘No, he’s not breathing, he’s dead.’) A few years later, we turned our back room into a Harry Potter-themed games room—the only part of the store which the adults get more excited about than the kids.

            Over the years, we’ve hosted book launches, writing workshops, story readings and pop culture-themed parties, with our Harry Potter party being, to this day, our most popular event. We also host three book clubs for kids & teens and two for adults, which, depending on the age group, elicits important conversations such as, ‘Is social class in Australia real?’ or ‘Who has the most outlandish Stranger Things theory this month?’

            My favourite thing about the store is how eclectic and bright it feels, despite the small space. Growing up, I loved bookstores but disliked the bland uniform shelving of commercial chains, so it is always a joy to see people skip down the yellow brick road or sit in the reading chair in the enchanted story corner, or search the store for little book references.

            Bookstores are facing many challenges in a post-pandemic world, including rising book prices, low profit margins, competition from discount stores who utilise loss leader pricing tactics, and delivery delays caused by a fractured global supply chain. The past few years have seen quite a few Australian bookstores fold and little government support for the bookselling industry. But the pandemic has also bolstered a great deal of grass roots community support—with people looking to social groups like book clubs for connection. And it’s this support we hope to lean on now and in the future. To quote the great Neil Gaiman: ‘A town isn’t a town without a bookstore.’

Dreaming by Starlight – Siobhan Curham

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Walker Books

August 2022

ISBN13:9781529504019

Australia RRP:$16.99

New Zealand RRP:$18.99

I completely fell in love with The Moonlight Dreamers, and the follow-up Tell it to the Moon and have enthusiastically talked them up while pushing them into the hands of my middle secondary girls. Thankfully they agreed! So it’s really exciting to see the newest title which segues from the original group of girls into a very different but just as delightful circle.

Jazz and her parents have just re-located from Sydney to Brighton in the UK and it’s just too much misery as far as Jazz can tell. No surf, no sand just rocks, not even water warm enough to swim in, not to mention a very snobby and cliquey private school. Luckily Jazz’ older cousin Amber, picks up on her unhappiness vibe and takes her under her wing before she heads off to Paris to study. Amber is confident that if Jazz follows the example of the Moonlight Dreamers with some tweaking of her own, she will soon find her tribe.

Even though Jazz is highly sceptical, she figures she has nothing to lose so next thing she is sharing some postcards to invite likeminded girls to join forces. Jazz, Portia, Hope and Allegra are as unlikely a combination as could be, and at first, things are not entirely without drama, but before too long the four girls have become as close a team as is possible, not only helping each other to achieve their dreams but, along the way, finding new purpose for helping others to do the same.

This is another truly heartwarming story which will captivate readers from around 12 years upwards. It is sweet and feel-good and, most of all, it extols that beautiful bond that females of all ages can have and the role they play in building each other up. I defy any reader to leave this one feeling untouched!

Highly recommended for readers from Upper Primary onwards.