Category Archives: Literature

Thursdays at Orange Blossom House – Sophie Green



JUL 28, 2021 | 9780733646126 | RRP $32.99

Sophie Green has once again crafted a beautiful and resonant narrative that will capture the hearts of readers, just as her first two books did, with its exploration of the ‘circle of women’ always so evident in her work and, to my mind, so very important to so many. Indeed, as we all face these uncertain and increasingly anxious circumstances which threaten to engulf us, there are many (and, of course, not just women) who are feeling increasingly isolated and Sophie’s books remind us that making connections, forging bonds and the solidarity of sisterhood are such vital concepts for us all.

There is so much to love about this. First for me, it’s set in Cairns. Ok, so I know that Cairns is not right next door to Redcliffe, but it is Queensland and I have at least been there several times – the first when I was six (all the way from Sydney). Secondly, it’s set in the ’90s and I love the preface to each new episodic time frame with the movie releases, top songs etc – very clever device that instantly takes all of us back to a moment in time.

So, it’s 1993 (which incidentally was the year I started teaching, mature-age graduate, in a little Queensland country town) and Grace Maud (always known by both names) has retired from cane farming and the farm established by her grandfather, having handed over the management to her son and daughter-in-law. She’s 74 and knows that it’s time to take that step back but the move into town and her feeling of isolation and creeping old age has her feeling very down. High school teacher Patricia has resigned herself to being the ‘bunny’ of her siblings, caring for her aging parents particularly her mother with dementia, having given up her dreams of travel and a more exciting life. In her early 40s and reckoned quite beautiful, Patricia has condemned herself to a solitary and resentful existence, alone and unappreciated. Youngest of the three is Dorothy, daughter of German immigrants who feels she has always taken a back seat as she has helped her parents with her profoundly deaf sister. Now she is married to a warm and loving German man and desperate to have a baby and the repeated disappointments and trauma are threatening to completely overwhelm her.

Each by some quirk of fate end up at Orange Blossom House where vivacious and exotic Sandrine teaches yoga each week. This in itself is quite the novelty for the time and place, given that most Cairns residents view yoga as the province of vegetarians and weirdos. But the quirky and lively Sandrine is far from a weirdo and her excellent teaching and, more importantly, her leading each woman to release the negativities they hold is a catalyst for the trio who over time bond with such tenderness and support that it is supremely engaging for the reader.

I have absolutely reveled in each one of Sophie’s books and this was no exception. That I read it over two nights is testament to my complete capitulation to her wonderful character driven narratives and the sense of connectedness I feel each time I read her books. I have already recommended verbally this to so many of my friends but now I’m fully endorsing it here.

Get hold of it!! And give yourself the pleasure for a few hours of an escape to the tropics and some thoroughly enjoyable company.

Be Frank With Me – Julia Claiborne Johnson



Allen & Unwin Australia




Pub Date:February 2016

RRP $27.99

As  you know, I don’t seem to get around to reading grown up books often but there was something about the blurb for this one that begged me to read and review it.

Thank you thank you A&U for allowing me the unmitigated pleasure of doing so! Charming, funny, poignant, realistic and with a cast of unforgettable characters, this has been an absolute joy for my night time reading of the past week.

The reclusive and reputedly eccentric author M.M. Banning has been shamefully victimised by a fraud which has left her penniless. Her literary fame which rests on a single perfect novel now studied in schools all over America burns as brightly as ever but the funds have dwindled desperately.

Banning’s publisher, Isaac Vargas, despatches his most able young assistant Alice Whitley from New York to the East Coast to monitor Banning’s progress with a promised new novel. Despite having not published a word since The Pitcher, Banning’s contract for this new book is her financial salvation but the progress is not without obstacles. Alice’s mission is not just to deliver reports on the book’s progress but to ‘manage’ both Banning’s domestic life and her nine year old son, Frank.   If M. M. Banning is considered eccentric then her son Frank has not only inherited her genetic makeup but taken oddity to a whole new level.

A nine year old boy addicted to old movies, with a remarkable intelligence and a wealth of trivia hoarded away in his brain, Frank dresses in a range of outfits that transform him from a mini Teddy Roosevelt to a Clarence Darrow with equal ease and completely lacks any awareness of social mores. Needless to say, this does not stand him in good stead with other fourth-graders and indeed, many adults are taken aback by Frank’s rather unnerving personality.

Alice’s initial surprise as this strange household assaults her senses gradually turns to an unconditional acceptance of Frank and she becomes to a huge extent a surrogate parent for him.

Throw into this mix, the devastatingly attractive Xander whose presence throws Frank into paroxysms of joy, has a soothing effect on Mimi (M.M.) and thoroughly unnerves Alice.

This book has so much to offer the reader in terms of pure joy but has also a great deal to say about our acceptance of others, and society’s definition of ‘normal’.

You will not be disappointed if you look out for this one. While primarily aimed at an adult audience there is nothing in this that would prohibit being a delightful addition to a secondary library for discerning readers.

Read an excerpt here and an author interview is below (Allen & Unwin Australia).

BE FRANK WITH ME is your first novel. Tell us something about how you came to write it at this stage in your life.
Julia Claiborne Johnson: If you’re asking me why it took me fifty years to decide to write a novel, I’ll tell you this – I was a late bloomer in every way imaginable. I never had a boyfriend until I was in my twenties, didn’t have a decent job until I was pushing thirty, didn’t have children until I was almost forty and had almost no common sense whatsoever until sometime after that. Though I had made my living as a writer for most of my life, I didn’t try my hand at a novel before because I didn’t think I had a story to tell that anybody would be interested in reading.

What changed?
JCJ: I got old. I had children. Those two things may not be unrelated. By the time I topped fifty, my perspective on everything changed. For example: When my daughter was in the 6th grade, she read To Kill a Mockingbird for school. She lost her copy almost immediately, so I had to buy a second one to make the first one turn up. I hadn’t read that book since I was around her age, so when the other copy resurfaced, I read it. Oh, I thought this time around, Boo Radley has some form of autism. When I read the same book almost forty years ago, I just thought Boo was weird. Because nobody knew better in those days.

In that moment, a lot of things clicked into place for me. I went to school with a monosyllabic loner named Edgar who combed his hair straight down across his forehead and wore the same bright yellow polyester plaid sport coat to school every day. Edgar, I realize now, must have been on the spectrum. Who knew? Poor Edgar was pursued and tormented for being different, not by me; but I never stuck up for him, either. I can remember wondering what kind of mother let her son go out into the world in that stupid jacket every day. Now I know the jacket probably wasn’t negotiable. Edgar’s mother was doing the best she could. She had to pick her battles, just like me and every other mother on earth, but on an epic scale. I imagine she lay awake every night, wondering where she’d gone wrong with Edgar, worrying herself sick about what would become of her child. It hurts me to think about that now. Though I might have argued with you about this in my twenties, I have come to know that there’s no heartbreak like the kind that comes seeing your children suffer. If I’d maimed only a few of the people I wanted to for causing either of my babies a moment’s unhappiness, I’d be in prison for life.

For some time after I finished re-reading To Kill a Mockingbird, I couldn’t stop thinking about Harper Lee and Boo. One afternoon I was walking down my block, turning all of it over in my head again, and I thought, I bet it was hard for Harper Lee to write Boo’s character, but not as hard as it was for Edgar’s mother to raise him.

By the time I walked up my front steps, a novel I wanted to read had unspooled itself, beginning to end. The irritating thing about wanting to read it was that I’d have to write it first. Even more annoying, the beginning-to-end I ended up with wasn’t exactly what I’d imagined when I started. I wish I could tell you it didn’t take me much longer to write my novel than it did for me to think the thing up, but I would be lying. That sucker took me six years to wrestle down onto the page.

In your book, Frank is never given any kind of diagnosis. Is that on purpose?
JCJ: Look, all of us are puzzles. I grew up in the South, and there are more nuts in my family that you’d find in a holiday box of pecan brittle. Then I lived in New York City for more than a decade, a place that’s Mecca for the willfully eccentric. In California, I came to know lots of adults who couldn’t tell you the color of my eyes if their lives depended on it, who recoiled if you touched them or went on a little too long about their pet obsessions. Vintage breadboxes, anybody? But these were people who had brilliant careers anyway.

That’s why I didn’t want to stick a pin in Frank and say, Here’s what’s going on with him. The end. I wanted Frank to represent all the brilliant oddballs, real and fictional, diagnosed and undiagnosed.

Talk to us about Frank’s outfits.
JCJ: When I was young I worked as a fashion writer for magazines in New York. You wouldn’t know it to look at me – then as now, I looked like somebody who dressed in the dark from a random pile of clothes on my bedroom floor. I was awestruck by the people in the fashion department. So what if some of them couldn’t spell the same word the same way three times in the same sentence? They looked amazing. What they did with clothes and accessories was nothing short of brilliant. From them, I learned a valuable lesson: Academic achievement is not the only benchmark of genius. In fact, it’s about as common as hen’s teeth, and almost as interesting.

I suppose I could have made Frank a math whiz or a pint-sized expert on the Punic Wars, but it seemed more fun to give him sartorial flair – a look that Alice describes as “a peacock in a barnyard full of chickens” – to establish him as a kid apart from all the typical grade-schoolers on a California playground. So I dressed Frank as if he found his outfits in a pile of clothes on the dressing room floor at Brooks Brothers. Back in my fashion-magazine days, our offices were over their flagship store in midtown, so I knew that old-school haberdashery look inside out. That became Frank’s Fred Astaire aesthetic.

One last thing I ought to mention: On our first big family trip to Manhattan, my own seven-year-old son begged me to buy him a tiny three-piece pin-striped suit he unearthed in a kid’s store around the corner from our hotel. Forget surfers. My little Californian saw all those men striding through midtown in their closed-toed shoes and beautiful wool suits as titans, girded for battle. He wanted to be one of them. That tiny three-piece ensemble turns up in Frank’s story as the E.F. Hutton suit.

How did you come up with the ideas for the characters?
JCJ: Well, Mimi had to be a writer, since the whole idea was showing how much harder it is to live a situation you’ve only imagined before. I decided she’d written a book based on her eccentric brother who she’d turned her back on when they were young because she didn’t feel like her brother was her responsibility. Then I gave her a son of her own, one with similar issues. She couldn’t abandon her son because he was all hers and she was all he had.

From there, I needed to introduce an outsider who’d gradually unravel everybody else’s story. Hence Alice. I made her like a younger version of Mimi as a source of conflict. I have found in life there is nothing more annoying than seeing your worst qualities mirrored in other people. Those are the people you can’t help despising, no matter how hard you try to cut them slack. My daughter explained those two another way:  “Alice is nice you, and Mimi is mean you.” I prefer thinking of them as energetic me and exhausted me, but my daughter has a point.

After that, I wanted somebody to be the rock in the sea of crazy, so that character became Mr. Vargas. Then I needed somebody to guide Alice through the shoals of the glass house and the Dream House, so Xander was born. In my mind, Xander is twinned with Frank. Frank has too much knowledge and very little savoir faire; Xander is too handsome and too charming and too willing to skate by on that. Xander has squandered his talents; Frank may never figure out how to put his to good use. Either outcome is heartbreaking to me.

What were you thinking of when you had Mimi move into a glass house?
JCJ: If you want a literal answer, when I came up with Mimi’s house, I was thinking of the Stahl house in Los Angeles. In the end, Mimi’s house didn’t look much like that one – hers is stone out front but transparent from every other angle. But LA is full of all these amazing glass houses – between all the pricey hillside and oceanfront real estate, there are lots of views to maximize. But a glass house, when you’re obsessed with privacy? Madness, with a heaping side of hubris. Mimi’s so caught up in the trappings of success that she doesn’t stop to think, Hey, those views go both ways. Of course, by the time Alice is on the scene, every window in the house has floor-to-ceiling curtains.

On the heavy-handed metaphorical level, I confess: I liked the idea of a house that lets you see inside a life more than you might otherwise, the way a book reveals what’s going on in a writer’s mind.

Los Angeles seems like the sixth major character in your book. Do you feel that way, too?
JCJ: I do. I’ve lived here longer than I’ve lived anyplace else – almost twenty years now – so on a practical level, it made sense to set Frank’s story here. But it’s more than that. Hollywood is the font of so much happiness in Frank’s life. It’s his Harvard and Yale and Oxford University all rolled into one. He uses them to learn how to be in a world where he feels shunned for his gifts. Movies are full of people who “know how to act.” Every time he watches a film, Frank gets a master class in the mannerisms of the actors pretending to be real people. Their conversations always play out the same way so there are never any surprises. This is enormously comforting to somebody like Frank, who goes through real life feeling like he never has his end of the script.

But I also think Los Angeles is just the sort of place Frank would pick to live in when he has to live someplace outside his head. Los Angeles is as varied and boundless as Frank’s imagination. Think about almost any place on earth, and the chances are pretty good that you can find some facsimile of it within a day’s drive of LA. A desert or a jungle, snow-capped mountains, the ocean, fake New York or Italy or Paris or Bavaria or the surface of the moon.  That’s what drew movie people here in the first place. That, and the fact that, Thomas Edison would send out flunkies to bust up your cameras if you tried to set up shop on the East Coast in violation of one of his thousand or so movie patents.

Why did you tell the story from Alice’s point of view? Why not Mimi’s, or Xander’s or Frank’s?
JCJ: Alice is the narrator because it is Alice who undergoes the most change in the “now” of the story. She arrives full of that Pollyanna attitude of hers, confident she’ll do a great job, with cheerfulness, efficiency and self-control. By the time she goes back to New York, she sees what an unpredictable mess life is. Her time in California has taught her that you can’t always control your elemental temper, children or other people any more than anybody controls an earthquake, floods or fire.

Why tell your story almost entirely in flashblacks?
JCJ: I’m not a deep thinker. I like my stories big. Tell me a big explosion of some kind is coming down the road, and I’m in.


Barney and the Secret of the Whales – Jackie French



ISBN: 9780732299446

ISBN 10: 0732299446

Imprint: HarperCollins – AU

On Sale: 01/02/2016

Pages: 144

List Price: 12.99 AUD


Is there any other author who has such a deft hand at bringing Australian history alive for young readers as Jackie French?

It appears this much –loved and well-respected writer is unsurpassed in this particular genre (not to mention all her other writing!).


The second instalment in the The Secret Histories series re-introduces the reader to young Barney. The boy’s mother was a convict but she sadly died like so many on the perilous journey of the First Fleet and Barney, being a free person but a child, would still be at risk if not for the generosity of the Johnsons who have taken him to their hearts.

In these early days of the colony, life for so many can be harsh and surviving can be fraught. Accruing any kind of wealth is almost unheard of as the newly founded settlement lumbers along.


Then an exciting visitor named Captain Melvill turns up and brings with him tales of great adventure and the lure of riches to be had from whaling.  Barney is not greedy by any means but he knows that one day the Johnsons will return to England and he along with his little friend Elsie will need to make their own way in New South Wales. If he can go whaling it would mean the opportunity to earn the stake money for a small farm for them.


Life on a whaling ship as a boy is tough and often hard but it is not that which makes Barney heartsick. It is the cruelty of the killing of one of the most magnificent animals he has ever encountered. The hunting of sperm whales with the riches they bring to men revolts Barney to a point of misery.  Fortunately after just one hunting expedition Barney is able to return to his peaceful home.


For lovers of history this examination of a little known aspect of the early European settlement in Australia is fascinating. For students who are inquiring into such history it is vital to my mind. No longer can we gloss over the less honourable events in our country’s history.

Highly recommended for all readers Year 4 and up.

Rich & Rare – edited by Paul Collins



ISBN: 978-1-925272-11-6
Publication date: October 2015
Extent: 512 pages
Format: B Format paperback
Price: AUD$24.95
Category: Genre fiction and poetry
Age guide: 11+


This is a sumptuous and luscious smorgasbord feast for any reader, gathering delicacies supplied from Australia’s best storytellers. Our ‘young and free’ creators include: Michael Gerard Bauer, Gary Crew, Justin D’Ath, Scot Gardner, Kerry Greenwood, Libby Hathorn, Leigh Hobbs, Sofie Laguna, Kirsty Murray, James Roy, Shaun Tan and Gabrielle Wang.

Ford St seems to have a monopoly on providing us with wonderful anthologies that are both fresh and contemporary. This is another that will provide fabulous reading for individuals and also for reading aloud. I have been advocating and supporting reading aloud to older students and this is a perfect volume for such a purpose. The diversity of the collection allows for students to be introduced to this impressive cast of writers, to sample a wide-ranging variety of genres and to explore the structure of successful short story writing and poetry.  Here they will find humour, horror, reality, fantasy and much more. There is something for everyone on this menu!

This was one of my outstanding ‘holiday’ reads as I spent time in the beautiful Blue Mountains with family as I could easily pick it up at any time and read one or two stories in moments of complete laziness. Perhaps my only ‘complaint’ is that some of the stories are so engaging that I was almost disappointed to reach the end so quickly. I think my favourite was the marvellous violin which springs to life after long disuse – you will see what I mean when you read it!

This collection sits easily on shelves for your upper primary to secondary students – only one story had a few ‘iffy’ moments but nothing graphic or disturbing.  Illustrated throughout the text is even more accessible for those reluctant readers.

Certainly if your English program includes exploring the short story genre this would be ideal for demonstrating to students how this can be achieved.

Oh and that cover is JUST divine!! 🙂

Highly recommended for both personal and classroom/library reading.

Teaching notes are available at the Ford St website – so you can easily plan to incorporate the book in your planning.

The One and Only Ivan – Katherine Applegate



Harper Collins Australia

  • ISBN:9780007455331
  • ISBN 10: 000745533X
  • Imprint: HarperCollins – GB
  • Published 2012
  • RRP: 99 AUD

I may well be one of the last to read The One and Only Ivan although I have heard all the fulsome praise for it since its publication.  And now what to say about a book that not only lives up to its hype and my expectations but exceeds them?

No reader could remain unmoved by this story of courage, dignity, intelligence and compassion. If only all humans could exhibit these traits as well as Ivan does.

For those who don’t know, Katherine Applegate’s novel about Ivan the captive gorilla, his long and bleak incarceration in a shopping mall with a ‘circus’ theme and his eventual freedom to the Atlanta Zoo is based on a true story. You can read more about it here at Zoo Atlanta.  Ivan’s history is a sad one but ultimately has a positive outcome which reflects what can happen when a community rallies together to redress an injustice.

Ivan’s fictional story will break your heart – and then heal it again – as Ivan moves from acceptance and resignation to his plight, to his fight for freedom as he vows to protect Ruby, a tiny baby elephant, newly arrived at the mall.

For over twenty years Ivan has lived in his solitary confinement with his only companions being other animals in the mall, most particularly Stella the elephant and Bob, an intentionally homeless dog. His best human friend is Julia, the daughter of the mall’s cleaner. Ivan is a natural artist and Julia connects with him with her own artistic efforts. But things change and the popularity of the mall’s animal exhibits and the ‘circus’ shows performed regularly begin to pall with customers. Mack, the owner, is determined to boost the centre’s attendance and when Stella begins to show signs of injury and aging, he snaps up a bargain buy from a bankrupted circus in the shape of tiny Ruby.   Ruby is comforted by Stella’s maternal presence but the old elephant’s health fails so much that combined with a lack of concern from Mack and no vet assistance, Stella dies and Ruby is left a defenceless infant again. And this is when Ivan begins his transformation into the silverback protector he has always been meant to be. His final promise to Stella to ensure Ruby has a happier fate than dying in a shopping mall cage, leads Ivan to discover his inner abilities and prove that anything is possible with determination and creativity.  His relationship with Julia and his own will to fulfil his vow achieve a remarkable and uplifting resolution.

Find a discussion guide here and check out the website here for more information about the book, the One and Only Ivan and the author.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough and have already earmarked it for a Readers Circle title in my new library. It is definitely on my ‘tiramisu’ book list!

A Week Without Tuesday (A Tuesday McGillyCuddy Adventure #2) – Angelica Banks




Publisher:Allen & Unwin

Imprint:A & U Children

Series:A Tuesday McGillycuddy Adventure

Pub Date:May 2015

Page Extent:400

Format:Paperback –

RRP $15.99

Perhaps it’s because Tasmania is smallish, perhaps it’s because it’s coldish, perhaps it’s because it’s so beautiful, perhaps it’s because there is so much variety – whatever it is we seem to have some extremely talented creators come from our tiny island state.

This novel is my introduction to Angelica Banks aka Heather Rose and Danielle Woods as co-authors.  I had not seen the first in the series ‘Finding Serendipity’ but will be sure to seek it out now. Although I missed the first instalment I did not have much trouble picking up with characters and events from the past in this new adventure.

I found the plot refreshingly original and thoroughly engrossing. There are many descriptive passages which define the much used expression of ‘lyrical’.

Writers are going missing and then reappearing in weird places, sometimes injured or otherwise damaged. The public thinks it must be a mad kidnapping ploy by some crazy criminal/s but Tuesday, her author mother Serendipity and her dad Denis all surmise it is more likely to be that these authors are disappearing to ‘there’ that is, the place where authors’ stories are born and grow and flourish. And further, instead of returning home as usual when their story is completed, somehow they are ending up in the settings and plots of other stories.  Yes, it does sound a little confusing in the way I’ve just told it but when you read the book, it makes perfect sense :-).

Forbidden by Denis to write anything for fear they will also be caught up, Serendipity and Tuesday restrain themselves with much difficulty from putting pen to paper.  But stories have a way of catching up with those who must tell them and when Tuesday takes her delightful dog Baxterr to the park for a little walk and sees a special ‘story’ thread floating towards her; she knows she just has to take hold of it.

Tuesday is swept up into an adventure of huge proportions and must help The Librarian and The Gardener to take charge of the colliding story worlds. This she is able to do  but only after many complications involving Vivienne Small (heroine of Serendipity’s books), flying dogs, evil vercaka, the strange furred brother and sister, Tarquin and Harlequin as well as another writer of whom, no doubt, both we and Tuesday will see more – Blake Luckhurst.

I have no hesitation for recommending this highly to those readers, from around 10 years and up, who possess imagination and a creative spirit.

Zafir [Through My Eyes] – Prue Mason



ISBN: 9781743312544
Australian Pub.: February 2015
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Imprint: A & U Children
Subject: Children’s fiction
Suitable for ages: 11-14

RRP $15.99

A carefree happy boy in Syria, on the cusp of becoming a young man, finds himself and his family caught up in the tragedy of Syria’s civil war.

Prue Mason has lived in the Middle East and has already an understanding of many issues of that region. In this book, she wanted to try to explain how the violence in Syria began and of course, how it affected the ordinary people.  She comments that… Doing the research for this story has been harrowing. I’ve been in tears many times as I’ve viewed YouTube clips and read the blogs of people who are seeing their country torn apart from within. 

A recent statement from the United Nations (UNICEF)underlined the fact that Syria is one of the most dangerous places on Earth for a child – with an estimated 5.5 million affected by the country’s ongoing conflict (Time, March 2014).

When Zafir, his doctor father and equally well-educated mother, relocate from Damascus to Homs, they have no idea of the impending doom which is hurtling towards their everyday lives. As revolt and bloodshed become commonplace and the city of Homs is targeted by gunfire and shelling, Zafir’s family is torn apart and this 13 year old boy, like so many other Syrian children, is forced to grow up fast and fight to survive.

As with the other titles in this series, readers are placed in a position of understanding the uncertain and often tragic circumstances of their international counterparts and are encouraged to exercise their compassion and sense of justice.  Through My Eyes represents an important initiative in Australian children’s publishing offering both the opportunity to examine and deepen knowledge of these world affairs and also to contribute to UNICEF through the sales of the books.

Highly recommended for all Upper Primary/Lower Secondary readers – the whole series should be on your shelves. Teaching notes for this latest title will soon be available at Through My Eyes, others are already in place.

Five Children on the Western Front – Kate Saunders



Allen & Unwin Australia

ISBN: 9780571310951
Australian Pub.: November 2014
Publisher: Faber
Imprint: Faber Child Trade
Subject: Children’s fiction
Suitable for ages: 9-12

If you, like me, love E. Nesbit’s Five Children and It stories, then this new book will thoroughly delight you.

Time has passed and the children are grown up – well the four ‘Bigguns’ are grown up. Lamb is no longer the baby of the family. Little sister Edie takes on that role.  To their great surprise, Lamb and Edie discover the Psammead in the gravel pit at the bottom of their garden and realise that all the marvellous stories told to them by the Bigguns are true!

No one, least of all It, knows why or how he has reappeared but as the Great War begins its dreadful havoc, both the older and younger Pembertons begin to see that the return of the Psammead has been for real purpose for themselves and for the strange magical sand fairy.

Beautifully written and echoing the style of the originals, retaining their flavour of time and place but still extremely appealing to modern readers, this novel would make a fine addition to your collection for the upcoming centenary commemoration of the ANZACs. It is both humorous and poignant, and while there are certainly tragic events they are couched in such a way that readers will not be left distraught. Young readers will gain a deeper understanding of what the Great War was like, not just for soldiers but for those who were nursing or working in other capacities, as well as for children and family at home.

Your more adventurous readers of around 12-14 looking for something different will enjoy this.

Highly recommended for your collection.

The Thousand Dollar Tan Line: Veronica Mars 1



An Original Mystery by Rob Thomas

Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham

ISBN: 9781760112363
Australian Pub.: November 2014
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Imprint: A & U Children
Subject: Young adult fiction

Some of your students may already be acquainted with Veronica Mars from the highly successful television series and movie, created by Rob Thomas.

Now, in conjunction with Jennifer Graham, Thomas has embarked on a book series featuring the feisty private investigator.

Returning to her home town of Neptune, California, after a decade’s absence, Veronica is in partnership with her father in his private inquiry business. Struggling to stay afloat financially, as her father recovers from an accident and pursuing only dreary matrimonial disputes and similar, Veronica is anxious for the future of the business.

Then spring break arrives and Neptune is flooded with hordes of young people from colleges all over hell- bent on drinking, drugs, and parties while generally creating havoc in the normally quiet though somewhat seedy town.

When a young girl disappears from a wild party, Veronica is employed to assist with the investigation much to the chagrin of the local inept and corrupt sheriff. When a second girl disappears, things get really messy as it turns out this second girl is the stepdaughter of Veronica’s long estranged mother. Veronica’s investigations uncover drug cartel ties with party hosts and links to some very unsavoury characters.

This was a real thriller in every sense of the word. Fast-paced with the action moving along at a great clip, believable characters and a good plot twist all engage the reader with ease.

The publisher suggests this is a novel for the 14-18 years bracket. However, I will be firmly making this Senior Fiction only in my library. Very plentiful strong language, sex and drug references would make me extremely hesitant to recommend this to readers in Middle School.

For readers who enjoy series reading, this is the first in what promises to be a very exciting, slick and sexy collection.

click here to hear a teaser from the audiobook..

The Beastly Pirates – John Kelly



Allen & Unwin Australia

Bloomsbury Children Imprint

February 2015

ISBN 9781408849859

RRP $14.99

Shiver the timbers of your younger readers with this wonderfully witty and rollicking rhyming story about the scurviest pirates you’ve ever encountered!

This just begs to be read aloud with lots and lots of vocal expression. It is chockful of onomatopoeia and alliteration which make it even more marvellous for a story time experience that is thrilling and just scary enough to be exciting. The use of interesting variations in font size along with the use of vocabulary which will extend the reader’s repertoire add appeal to an independent reading as well, so this book has it covered from both angles.

The Beastly Captain Snapper

Is most hideous and vile.

A one-eyed, cutlass-toting

Pirate-eating crocodile.


With a body hard and muscled,

Covered head to toe in scales,

His colossal snout is four feet long,

And full of teeth like nails.

John Kelly’s illustrations are bold and detailed providing a visual feast to accompany the text. Humour abounds such as when the nasty pirates are eating crumpets and cupcakes contrasting with the next spread when the next pirate is served up with spaghetti and ragu, after an altercation with the Kraken.

This will make a terrific addition to any picture book collection – whether home or school. It certainly was well received here!

Highly recommended for young readers from about 6/7 years up.