Whatever, and however you celebrate I wish you all safe and happy holidays, from me and The Kid. Many thanks to all who follow and bother to read my reviews – which are haphazardly posted at best – and I’m thrilled to see that this year the blog has had well over 10 000 views!!!! Wow!! 2023 marks a decade since I decided to start collating the reviews I was doing in one place ,and began Just So Stories, and there have been many, many changes in my life since then. It looks like my full-time teaching days are over but will still need to keep earning somehow for a while to support The Kid so new adventures await.
Not only do I want to thank you all but also the wonderful authors, illustrators, creators and of course the publicists at various publishing houses who let me play in their world. I have a couple of Christmas reviews to write up and post today, and then about twenty more to catch up on (!!) after the festivities are done.
I do hope your own celebrations are filled with joy – The Kid and I will be in our happy place for three days (very like Kev in that illustration!) and ours will be slow and salty.
Another glorious information book sneakily posing as a picture book *grin*, in the most excellent style for which Jennifer Cossins has become well known and loved.
The book explores the incredible migratory habits of 25 different species, quite a few from Australia, and when I shared it with a Year 3 class a few days ago, they were utterly riveted. There were exclamations, excited comments and gasps of surprise (particularly when you tell them why the bogong moth migration was so welcomed by our First Nations peoples).
Each stunning double page spread features another species with descriptive information plus a featured fact. While we didn’t have time to explore the entire book, I focused mainly on the Australian species, and the swift parrot and it’s perilous status was a very enthusiastically discussed highlight.
I always find children love nature books and, further to that, just a couple of days ago, a teaching colleague and I were remarking that we both think many children are now preferring non-fiction to narrative picture books. We believe because such NF is so marvellously created these days but perhaps, also because in our teaching we are (well, most of us) encouraging and fostering inquiry learning. It makes for children who wonder and who relish ‘facts’.
Certainly I can vouch for the warmth with which this particular book was embraced and I have no doubt that your youngsters will similarly enjoy their experience. I highly recommend it for children from Lower right up to Upper Primary.
As NAIDOC 2021 draws to a close, this is such an important book to share with you, examining as it does the lives and incredible actions of seven inspirational First Australian heroes. Each of these amazing Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander figures contributed in immensely important ways to their people and to our nation, though some have been sadly overlooked in the general terms of history. How fitting it is that this book sheds light on not only some whose names are known to contemporary society but also some whose stories have been side-lined.
As far back as the arrival of the Europeans comes the first of these inspiring stories with the account of Patyegarang, the Darug woman who worked closely with Lt Dawes, officer and scientist with the First Fleet. These two worked together each learning the language of the other and compiling a list of Aboriginal words. The discovery of Dawe’s writings in 1972 has helped to revive the Darug language and, though we have no knowledge of Patyegarang after Dawe’s departure back to England, her legacy lives on with this important record.
The stories of the remaining six icons are just as fascinating: Bungaree, whose efforts were of such great aid to Matthew Flinders; Taronorerer, who rebelled against the white blackbirders and led her people in battle; Yarri and Jacky Jacky, rescuers of 69 people in the Gundagai floods of 1852; Mohara Wacando Lifu, first Indigenous woman to receive the Royal Humane Society’s Gold Medal for bravery; David Unaipon, known by many as the Black da Vinci and Fanny Balbuk Yooreel, resistance fighter and fierce protector of the environment.
Make no mistake each of these makes for compelling reading and the colourful spreads will engage readers’ interest in the text and give rise to much fruitful discussion.
Perfectly suited to classroom units of work exploring cross-cultural perspectives but also so very much worthwhile promoting as independent reading for readers from around year 3 upwards.
Highly recommended for your readers and your teachers alike..
In a tweet when I mentioned I was reading this – and reading WAY past my bedtime because I was so engrossed – Anna Morgan replied “This book will disturb your sleep schedule” is an excellent review!
Well all I can say is that it definitely will!!! Right from the get-go this one will have your YA readers hooked and tuned out to all that’s going on around them as they become drawn into a schoolies week like no other.
Grace has been a very committed Christian since an early age but when it comes down to schoolies week she realises that the prejudices and intolerance of her church friends are not what she wants for a whole week away. Instead she decides to tag along (and be the chauffeur, organiser and carer) for her brother Casper and his two great friends, Noah and Elsie. Casper is procrastinating on getting his portfolio for art school put together, Noah’s anxiety over ATAR and his future, fueled by pressure from his parents, is consuming him and Elsie, who knows she’s no stellar academic, is just trying to hold their friendship group together.
On the first night of their trip at a fairly typical schoolies beach party the group encounters a beautiful but mysterious girl who seems to have some kind of persuasive power that is irresistible. Sienna convinces the friends to go camping with her on the uninhabited island not far offshore. But the camping sojourn soon unravels into increased uncertainties, negative emotions and friendship fractures for them all – worse, it becomes increasingly apparent that Sienna’s motives are far from friendly and the mystery that surrounds her past is sinister in the extreme. Soon it is not just their friendships that are in danger but their very existence. These characters are very believable and the action flows so beautifully as the plot, and the mystery, unfolds.
Drawing on legends of the sirens and the powers they held over travelers, this is a coming-of-age story that combines suspense and thrilling action with the qualms that all school-leavers have and provides a very satisfying reading experience for those students who are facing the future with their own questions.
The TV show that has enchanted young viewers continues to draw them in further with the books that are just perfect for newly independent readers.
Kitty has a very bad cough so of course her cat family all try to help, with varying suggestions none of which seem entirely useful. When Kitty coughs up a furball the cats all realise that the little girl has been following their example of grooming styles when in fact what she really should do is have a bath. A BATH! That’s definitely not the cat way so it takes quite some persuasion to get Kitty into the tub but once she’s there she realises that in some ways she’s far more human than cat!
Again another delightful story from the creators of these charming characters and one that will be a very popular read with your littlies from around 5 years upwards.
You could even check out the Kitty website here for some inspired stocking fillers and wonderful holiday activities!!
What a double bonus for me! First to be part of the Book Blog Tour to launch Rebel Gods – the gripping conclusion of Will Kostakis’ Monuments series. Second to be able to introduce you all to an amazing young woman, Tiarna Georghiou – Year 12 student, blogger, reporter, talented performer, passionate reader and, I’m proud to say, one of my students! You can treat yourself to Tiarna’s reviews at her blog The Book Mermaids as well as finding her on other social media platforms but in the meantime here is her thoughtful review of Rebel Gods and her Q&A with Will.
Rebel Gods, the final instalment of The Monuments series by Will Kostakis is an exciting new middle-grade / young adult novel. The novel follows the lives of three teenagers; Connor, Sally and Locky who are learning how to lead their parallel lives as newbie Gods, and ordinary teenagers. It is up to the adventurous trio to stop the rebel gods from reducing the world to ruin, however, they don’t know where to start. The three ‘newbie gods’ are faced with many challenges and difficult questions such as; who should decide the fate of the world? This novel is gripping and exciting, while still being heartfelt and emotionally driven at times.
I was drawn in to the story from the very first page, and was swept up in the writing style and the beautiful descriptions. The novel is told from a very authentic YA voice, which many children and young adults will be able to identify with. The book features a diverse cast of characters who are all humorous and fun. The book was adventure filled, and action packed, but still had lots of romance and friendships for the readers to invest in! I recommend this book for everyone who loves adventure stories, and wants to read a fun and exciting story!
Q1) You were extremely young when you started writing novels, what childhood experiences led to you discovering your love of writing?
My pappou (grandfather) wanted us to be avid readers and writers, because he struggled with both, so he would wait outside newsagencies before they opened to buy exercise books and watch us fill them as kids. He instilled in me a love of reading and writing, and I carry that with me to this day.
Q2) What does the Monuments series mean to you personally?
I launched into the Monuments duology after writing my heaviest contemporary novel, The Sidekicks, which was an intensely personal reflection on the death of a friend in high school. That took an emotional toll on me, so I needed to write something fun and light – I didn’t realise just how much I needed to until I wrote it. Monuments was my escape, and writing Rebel Gods to escape Hellscape 2020 … So the books will always mean a lot to the author side of me.
But I wrote Monuments for that fifteen-year-old version of me who loved fantasy novels, but wished there were more than unfolded in his city, and that featured people like him as their heroes. I centred a gay, Greek protagonist, and instead of giving him identity angst, I let him be the star of a laugh-a-minute adventure.
Q3) What do you hope your writing to achieve?
Firstly, I hope my writing entertains. Secondly, I hope my books show their teen readers that there’s a place in the world for them, whoever they are, and that they are remarkable, just as they are.
Q4) Where do you get the inspiration for your books?
I draw from my life, the media I consume, and my surroundings. So, the Monuments series was equal parts inspired by my evolving relationship with my friends and family, and the media I loved as a teen – videogames like The Legend of Zelda and TV shows like Alias.
Q5) Who are your favourite authors?
I have way too many to list, but the ones who never let me down are Terry Pratchett (a childhood favourite I still revisit, and am still surprised by), Barry Jonsberg (he really kickstarted my love of contemporary YA), Ellie Marney (Australia’s queen of YA crime writing – her latest None Shall Sleep is so creepily wonderful), Melina Marchetta (her YA and adult books are so honest and real), Lili Wilkinson (I’m jealous of everything she writes – her latest is The Erasure Initiative), and John Corey Whaley (the final scene of his Where Things Come Back is a masterclass in writing).
Q6) What is your process for writing books? Do you plan them all before you begin, or do you just let the creativity flow?
I usually start with an opening scene that illustrates what a character wants, or establishes what the key theme is (in The First Third, the family breaking apart set the scene for a story involving the protagonist bringing it back together). I like to have five or six key scenes established and a clear end point before writing a book, so there’s room to experiment as I write, and let the creativity flow as you say, but I’ve realised I work best with some guard rails to keep the story moving in the right direction. My second draft is when I get very strict with structure, and if a scene or character doesn’t add to where the story is ultimately going, they get the chop. Then it’s a matter of fleshing scenes out and refining the book until it’s ready for release.