Tag Archives: Harper Collins Australia

So long Picture Book Month 2022

Standard

Well it was a bit of a mammoth effort and one I haven’t undertaken for a few years but a new PB review posted each day of the month – whew!! Thanks for anyone who played along with me :-). Hope you discovered some treasures for your collections!! and of course, thanks to the publishers who are kind enough to let me read voraciously for them :-).

Now SO many others to catch up on – about 18 piled up from biographies to MG novels – lucky holidays are imminent!!

Dancing with Memories – Sally Yule with Professor Ralph Martins & Maggie Beer. Illustrated by Cheryl Orsini.

Standard

Harper Collins

July 2022

Imprint: ABC Books AU

  • ISBN: 9780733342578
  • ISBN 10: 0733342574

RRP: $24.99

The length of time I’ve been sitting on this is certainly no reflection of its quality or value so please don’t think it is. Given my rather tumultuous year, there came a point where I just thought – save all these PBs for November so now you are getting the benefit of them all in one 30 day extravaganza *grin*.

I’d venture to say that there would be very few families who have not been touched by dementia or Alzheimer’s in some way. I know that often when I talk to kiddos, younger or older, there are numerous anecdotes regarding family members who are affected and we talk about how difficult and sad it can be.

My own beautiful Mum slipped further and further away from us for nearly ten years before we lost her altogether and it was heartbreaking. We talked to our little people about what was happening with Nanny but a sensitively written book such as this is a godsend to families faced with the same situation.

Lucy has dementia and knows it. She knows she forgets things and that she remembers things but there is no predicting which. Fortunately she has family and friends looking out for her to help her and when she remembers her granddaughter’s wedding but forgets that her daughter is picking her up, a solo bus trips turns into a worrying and anxious time. With good fortune, all ends well but it is certainly a timely reminder to those of us in this situation to always be mindful of what can happen.

This is Sally Yule’s first foray into writing and is based on her long years of experience working with Alzheimer’s patients and families, as well as her own parents. This first-hand experience was her impetus to share with families and children to help them understand more about living with dementia. The additional material from Professor Ralph Martins [Foundation Chair in Ageing and Alzheimer’s Disease at Edith Cowan University WA, and Professor of Neurobiology at Macquarie University NSW.] and Maggie Beer, [much-loved cook, author and former Senior Australian of the Year] is a wonderful bonus. I know, I’m going to try out some of Maggie’s recipes for sure.

Highly recommended for your readers from Prep upwards and I would strongly suggest sharing the information on this one with your community via newsletter or socials as well as ensuring your guidance officer/counsellor has a copy to hand. Extensive teaching materials available as attached.

Diary of a Rescued Wombat – Jackie French/Bruce Whatley

Standard

Harper Collins

November 2022

  • ISBN: 9781460761823
  • ISBN 10: 1460761820
  • Imprint: HarperCollins AU
  • List Price: 24.99 AUD

Twenty years ago Jackie French and Bruce Whatley collaborated on what was to be the first of ‘the Wombat’ books, and you might say, the rest is history! To celebrate this milestone, this is an absolutely not-to-be-missed prequel to the entire series with the story of the rescue of Mothball – arguably the most famous wombat in history.

Following the immediately recognisable format of the first – and ensuing books – readers can trace Mothball’s journey from tiny furless solitary joey to rambunctious and bossy big girl, now grandmother. All of us who follow Jackie’s socials love to see the parade of wombats (and other creatures) who make themselves at home at her place. And some of us, such as myself, who have been fortunate to visit Jackie’s place (a couple of times) have been equally excited by significant wombat aspects as with chatting with Jackie :-).

I’m in love with Bruce’s illustrations as always, but the instantly recognisable adult humans (Jackie and Bryan) made me chuckle. If I had a library unit coming along with little people looking at Australian animals, I think I would dedicate the whole library unit to the Wombat books (and study of them), and am contemplating writing the unit up as a ‘just in case’ for next year.

As always with Jackie’s books, I feel completely superfluous giving my own humble recommendation – you know they are just a given for your order list – but seriously, how can you go past such an adorable insight into the ‘almost true’ history of Mothball.

My highest recommendation (I can’t wait to share it with a class!) for little readers from toddlers upwards. By the way, have you got your commemorative coin yet?? It’s a fine addition to my ‘bookish’ coin collection I must say!

Gus and the Starlight – Victoria Carless

Standard

Harper Collins

May 2022

  • ISBN: 9781460760642
  • ISBN 10: 1460760646
  • Imprint: HarperCollins AU
  • List Price: 16.99 AUD

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.

Eyes that Speak to the Stars – Joanna Ho/Dung Ho

Standard

Harper Collins Australia

March 2022

  • ISBN: 9780063057753
  • ISBN 10: 0063057751
  • Imprint: HarperCollins US
  • List Price: 24.99 AUD

Last year, in my old library, we fell in love with Eyes That Kiss in the Corners and so did our kiddos, many of whom could make connections with the cultural heritage of the characters. This beautiful companion book will be equally well-received I believe.

When a young boy is made to notice his eyes as being different in shape to those of his friends, he feels sad and an outsider. The love and wisdom of his father and grandfather, and the recognition that his eyes are like theirs, as are his little brother’s, lift his spirits to the skies – just as his eyes tilt to the skies. The endless possibilities of light and destiny revealed by the night skies with their constellations and comets are all his, as his eyes speak to the stars.

Once again it is not just the lyrical text with its resonant message of inclusivity and the beauty of cultural heritage, but the superb illustrations that make this such a stunner of a book. The iconic visual references to the family’s heritage: dragons, pagodas, rice paddies, night markets, lanterns and more are a virtual feast for the eyes.

With Harmony Day just around the corner, this will make a fabulous focus for your celebrations in the library or classroom, particularly when paired with its companion. And so much rich discussion and activities, particularly art, could ensue!!

Check out the teaching guide here as well.

HIghly recommended for your readers from Prep upwards.

Ming & Flo Fight for the Future: (The Girls Who Changed the World #1) – Jackie French

Standard

Harper Collins

March 2022

  • ISBN: 9781460760208
  • ISBN 10: 1460760204
  • List Price: 16.99 AUD

A brand new series from Jackie French is always cause for great excitement, and this one is going to be a corker, given this fabulous start!

We have all been awed by Jackie’s wealth of historical novels and her indomitable female characters over the years. Now younger readers have the opportunity to examine and reflect upon the past, with its many, often hidden, layers while becoming fully immersed in an exciting and engaging narrative.

Young Ming Qong wonders why so much of history fails to mention girls and women, because surely they also contributed to the events that have shaped both Australia and the world. She imagines what it would be like to step back in time and forge destinies as an intrepid explorer or a wise ruler. When a strange purple-robed character appears and introduces herself as “Herstory”, Ming’s chance to see and experience the past is at hand, though not at all as she might have pictured it.

Instead of some grand setting, Ming is transported back to a drought-stricken, barren farm in the late 19th century where young Flo and her mother, try desperately to survive while the man of the family is largely absent – thankfully, as on the rare occasions he is home, it means drunken rages and beatings. When Flo’s mother is killed by snake-bite, Ming/Flo seeks refuge with her mother’s sister, Aunt McTavish, who lives ‘comfortably’ in Sydney. Her stay with her wealthy aunt introduces Ming to many new revelations about the past, especially of pre-Federation Australia: the long fight for both federation and women’s suffrage, the plight of the poor, the lack of education or indeed any other opportunities for betterment, and a far more diverse population than Ming has ever read about.

Can Ming help make a difference? She does her very best by helping Aunt McTavish in her mission to petition for a new referendum on the question of Federation but also, in her work with Louisa Lawson, for the advancement of women. As well, she instigates changes in her own right – teaching at the Raggedy School and rescuing orphaned Emily from dire circumstances.

It’s a cracking read all round. There is, of course, far more than the ‘big picture’ events enhancing this storyline, and Ming’s compassion, insight and empathy make for a terrific, positive example for readers – without any preachiness. The various characters who ably demonstrate that there are multiple aspects to anyone’s personality are memorable, and while we leave most of them behind at the end of the book, we do have the next one to deliciously anticipate, where Ming along with her brother, will be off on another time travel adventure.

This is eminently suited to your readers in Upper Primary up to Year7 or even 8, particularly your Mighty Girls, to whom I heartily recommend it. Congratulations Jackie on yet another fine series, again inspired by your own family “herstory”!

A Whale of the Wild – Rosanne Parry

Standard

Harper Collins Australia

January 2022

  • ISBN: 9780062995933
  • ISBN 10: 0062995936
  • Imprint: HarperCollins US
  • RRP: $16.99

This is just a magical read – the lyrical text almost flows like the water Vega and her family inhabit – and was certainly for me last night, a really intriguing but also restful way to read myself ready to sleep. That’s not to say it’s without tension and drama but there really is just something about it that just floats the reader along with the orcas.

I have to be honest. I had never heard of the Salish Sea nor was I particularly aware of different types of orcas, so reading this was also very informative and it is indeed described as ‘slyly educational’ which is pretty much spot on. *grin*

Vega and her family are already facing difficulties as their usual salmon feeding cycle has been disrupted and their hunger increases as they try to find the salmon that is usually so plentiful. They do not realise that humans have made such an impact on the ecosystem at first. Vega is learning to be the salmon finder for her family, against the day when she will become the matriarch following on from her mother and grandmother but when an earthquake and subsequent tsunami separate her, along with her younger brother Debden, from the rest of the pod, they must brave danger and threats to try to find their family again. In a sea that is almost unrecognisable they face sharks, their increasing hunger and polluted waters and Vega must be resilient and employ every skill she has learned from her mentors.

It is a rousing adventure, a wonderful story of survival and an ecological lesson all in one with superb research underpinning the entire story. It is further enhanced with beautiful black-and-white illustrations, and also includes a map, much backmatter and information on orcas.

The publisher suggests it for 8 years upwards and certainly it is not a demanding text but I am seriously considering it for inclusion with our scant ‘Animals’ genre collection for our Year 7s in particular as I think there would be many kiddos who like both animal stories and are interested in environmental topics for whom this would greatly appeal.

On that basis I’m giving it a full recommendation for readers from around Year 4 to Year 8. A very useful teaching guide is available.

Read more about SRKW (Southern Resident Killer Whales)

Einstein the Penguin – Iona Rangeley. Illustrated y David Tazzyman.

Standard

Harper Collins Australia

December 2021

  • ISBN: 9780008475963
  • ISBN 10: 0008475962
  • Imprint: HarperCollins GB
  • List Price: 19.99 AUD

This is a fun new read for your kiddos who are moving on from those first easy chapter books to something a little more challenging. Imagine stirring up Paddington stories with Mr Popper’s Penguins with a good dash of Finding Nemo and just the tiniest hint of The Wrong Trousers, and you’ll be coming close. And in saying that, I am certainly not implying that this is derivative, merely that it reminds me strongly of all these stories with its fun and joyousness.

When the Stewart family visit London Zoo on a very gloomy winter’s afternoon the children are not very thrilled but certainly brighten up when they encounter a very endearing little penguin on their way out. When the children protest strenuously about leaving the penguin, and insisting that the bird accompany them home, Mrs Stewart kindly tells the little penguin he is always welcome at their home, in an effort to divert the kids. So, of course, the very next day there is a knock on the door and – lo and behold!- there is a penguin on the doorstep, complete with backpack.

As it turns out, Einstein is a penguin from Australia – ‘Sydney’ Zoo (well, that would actually be Taronga Zoo) to be exact and this smart little bird manages to convey to Imogen and Arthur, that he is here to find his much-loved friend, Isaac – who was whisked away with no due regard for comradely associations.

This is a story that is both funny and endearing as the children, especially would-be detective, Imogen, do their utmost to re-unite Einstein and Isaac – well, at least so each knows the other is safe and well.

It is both well-paced and ‘cute’ really and I foresee would be a big hit as a read-aloud – I would probably pitch it at Year 2s or 3s personally. Highly recommended for your younger readers from around 7 years upwards.

Christmas Always Comes – Jackie French/Bruce Whatley

Standard

Harper Collins Australia

October 2021

  • ISBN: 9781460757895
  • ISBN 10: 1460757890
  • Imprint: HarperCollins AU
  • List Price: 24.99 AUD

Jackie and Bruce are always a formidable team, and their picture books are always memorable and en pointe despite the setting, theme or plot. In this instance, while the narrative reflects a period past – one of many tough times in Australian history, when drought, lack of finances, insecurity over livelihood and home and challenges rise up to face ordinary people – the intent and message does not deviate from today’s uncertainties for many families.

After two years of increasingly worrying social circumstances, many are feeling the strain which is imposing on relationships, family bonds, workplaces and financial security (not wealth). It is hard to focus on the true meaning of life, and indeed the spirit of Christmas – and I do not refer to that in a religious sense – when you are afraid you won’t meet your next mortgage or rent payment or be able to buy groceries let alone gifts.

I don’t think I am alone when I think that for many children the wonder and magic of Christmas has diminished in our times, but I also believe that it is children who, more often than not, ‘get’ the message and import of what is meant by the Christmas spirit. I truly think that the majority of kiddos have an innate sense of generosity and also ‘fairness’ – that it is not fair for some to have much and others to have little. And that latter, in itself, is a relative concept.

For Joey and Ellie, in the drought of 1932, droving cattle with so little in the way of resources and what must be so sickeningly worrying for their parents, Christmas is still a special time. Ellie is old enough to realise that perhaps Christmas won’t happen as it should in normal circumstances but Joey has all the confidence of one who knows the secret of magic. And so it comes to pass, that the children meet with Bill Darcy, someone who has long ignored Christmas as often happens after tragic personal loss, and while by today’s often extravagant terms, their shared Christmas is modest, it is still a triumph of spirit and giving.

This, of course, is a must for any collection and will make its way to your list of top Christmas titles to share with your little folk, or to gift to small people in your circle. Another splendid offering from this remarkable pair of creators – to whom I wish a very Merry Christmas, with many thanks for all that you give us, as educators, and the children we teach.

Highly recommended for littlest ones upwards 5 years+.

Funny Kid Prank Ninjas [Funny Kid #10] – Matt Stanton

Standard

Harper Collins

September 2021

  • ISBN: 9780733340628
  • ISBN 10: 0733340628
  • Imprint: ABC Books AU
  • List Price: 14.99 AUD

I freely admit it. I’m not a huge fan of the many comic mega-series. They always seem to me to be very formulaic and same-same BUT I never find that in Matt’s books. Each Funny Kid I have read has provided delicious belly laughs and absurdist humour par excellence.

It’s school holidays in Redhill and Max & Co are in the throes of a massive prank war. (Pranking seems to be a very popular theme both in kids’ books and real life these days!). Max is considerably cheesed off that his friends, particularly his BEST friend, Hugo, are all ranged against him in the bid to out-prank his every effort. But he is the Prank Ninja and his stealthy moves are sure to win the battle – aren’t they?

A movie-theatre ninja, toilet turbulence, shopping-mall disasters, cling-film mazes and an unimaginable Kid-Free Zone are just some of the things in store for Max and his friends

It seems that it’s not just the kids who are pranking though. There are some definite suspicious happenings that cannot be attributed to either side of the kid prank-war. Could it be that an adult is trying to make trouble for everyone?

This would be a great addition to any Christmas stocking for a relaxed and funny read – possibly after a lot of yummy food on a lazy Xmas Day afternoon.

Highly recommended for kiddos from around 9 years upwards.