Tag Archives: Independence

Be Careful, Xiao Xin! – Alice Pung/Sher Rill Ng

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Harper Collins

September 2022

  • ISBN: 9781922033932
  • ISBN 10: 1922033936
  • Imprint: Working Title Press AU
  • List Price: 24.99 AUD

There will be many who will welcome this beautiful book as a fitting addition to their multi-lingual collection, and, in particular, if Mandarin is a taught language in the school. However, it will be equally well-received by those who are looking to empower their youngsters with self-confidence and resolve.

It is all too easy as adults to project our fears and worries onto our children, not because we want frighten them but simply because of our natural urge to protect them. At times though, this can become like a suffocating blanket we wrap around kiddos, creating anxiety and insecurity. As educators, all of us will have experienced, no doubt countless times, the ‘helicopter’ parent who diminishes and thwarts their child at every turn.

Xiao Xin sees himself as a fearless Red Warrior. His family see him as a little boy incapable of taking care of himself or keeping himself safe. The subtleties in the illustrations as the adults’ worry monsters appear around the edges, the use of colour to emotively convey the feelings of the fretting adults and the bravado of the little boy and (once unpacked) the meaning of Xiao Xin’s and Fan Xin’s names combine to give this narrative a powerful depth which will provide fodder for much rich discussion. Some of this will be simply focused on the protective strategies of parents/adults and the self-belief that children may have but there is certainly a wonderful opportunity to compare the cultural norms and expectations around the freedoms of children to learn, take risks and become independent.

Alice Pung’s text is spare but evocative and Sher Rill Ng’s illustrations take this to a breathtaking level, which will both engage and move readers and the cleverness of that cover art – just wow!

Highly recommended for readers from Prep 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.

The Great Escape from Woodlands Nursing Home – Joanna Nell

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Hachette

Trade Paperback: OCT 27, 2020 | 9780733642869 | RRP $32.99

While the wind howls wildly and the rain is falling constantly this is the perfect read to take a break from the busyness of Christmas preparations and just relax. Light-hearted and witty the antics of this group of senior citizens will entertain you and demonstrate that old age does not equal abandonment of living life to it’s fullest.

Retired nature writer, Hattie Bloom, has lived her entire life in the home she and her parents shared with her wild garden full of birds for the only company she wanted. A nasty fall puts her into the Woodlands Nursing Home and as she has no family to care for her it is there she must stay – very reluctantly. She is determined to ‘escape’ the confines of this annoyingly noisy and peopled place as she chafes against the loss of her solitary independence.

She’s not the only one to be determined to resume her own self-sufficient existence. Walter Clements, widower and retired driving instructor, who fancies himself as not only an excellent comedian but also a ‘ladies’ man’ is set on returning to his home and life once he has been assessed as capable and fit to manage his brand-new mobility scooter. These two not only clash in temperament but in the physical sense when Walter barrels his scooter into Hattie badly injuring her and further delaying her rehabilitation process.

At the clandestine meeting of The Night Owls, a very unofficial group run by the innovative and unconventional Sister Bronwyn, the pair have their official meeting but remain at odds. That is, until the late-night hijinks are uncovered and Sister Bronwyn is dismissed summarily with a very dodgy replacement installed. Hattie and Walter join forces to rescue both Sister Bronwyn and the Night Owls along with the only joys and pleasures their group of fellow oldies have.

This is hilarious, poignant and often surprising but there are also some serious undertones that give pause for thought around how our older citizens are treated in some facilities as well as some inspiration on how things could be changed for the better in such places.

While essentially a light and hugely enjoyable read of the laugh-out-loud kind the reader cannot help but reflect on aging, love, community and friendship but it is thoroughly heartening and it would be a hard to please reader who could not find it a worthwhile read.

Highly recommended for your holiday pleasure!

Eight Princesses and a Magic Mirror – Natasha Farrant/Lydia Corry

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y648 (3)

Harper Collins

November 2019

ISBN: 9781788541152

ISBN 10: 1788541154

Imprint: Head Of Zeus – Zehpyr – GB

List Price: 29.99 AUD

Whether you are looking for alternative princesses or fairy tales or just looking for a beautiful book for the Mighty Girls in your readership this stunning gift book ticks all the boxes.

When an enchantress prepares for a new princess’ naming day saying she promises to ensure that the new little girl will become an ‘excellent’ princess, she needs to determine what in fact that means.

According to some it’s clean fingernails, manners, being pretty and kind to animals but the enchantress feels it’s so much more than just that. Her magic mirror is really not that much help but she knows a way to solve that problem and shrinks the large mirror to a pocket-sized compact and so its adventures begin.

Picked up by the first princess and travelling through time, place and misadventure over centuries the mirror becomes an important talisman for a eight different girls, each with their own strengths and energetic personalities who demonstrate courage, intelligence, compassion and love with big hearts and a burning desire to live life to its very best whatever that may be.

When the mirror returns finally to the old enchantress both have learned something valuable and lasting and the new princess will undoubtedly benefit from their wisdom.

This is truly a beautiful book both to read and behold – the colourful illustrations lend a real insight into each different princess and the absolutely glorious binding will make it a treasure for any recipient.

Mirror, mirror on the wall… what makes a princess excellent?’ The enchantress’s mirror travels through time, from east to west, to find the answer. Reflected in it are princesses who refuse to be pretty, polite or obedient. These are girls determined to do the rescuing themselves. The Arabian princess of the desert protects her people from the king with the black and gold banner; Latin American Princess, Tica, takes a crocodile for a pet; a Scottish princess explores the high seas; African Princess, Abayome, puts empathy and kindness above being royal; and in a tower-block, Princess saves her precious community garden from the hands of greedy urban developers. {Publisiher}

Highly recommended for readers from 8 years upwards.