Jane Godwin’s delightful new series for your younger readers, venturing on their independent reading journeys will, I predict, be a huge hit. These kiddos are always enthralled with stories which mirror their own doings, likes and dislikes, worries and joys, and, of course, family and friends.
Isabelle is an only child who lives with her Dad. She has a best friend Harry B, and a cat, Steve, plus a baby cousin called Bibi. As happens in many classes in schools all over, there are some double-ups (and even triple-ups!) of names but Isabelle loves being the only one with her name. Then Isobel arrives, and even with a different spelling, Isabelle feels somehow threatened, especially as new Isobel is very loud and in-your-face which can be rather confronting for a shyer child.
These four stories in one volume explore Isabelle working through making friends with Izzy, something which definitely has some trickier moments. These will provide some perfect fodder for class discussions about friendships, getting along and the dynamics in different families.
Isabelle’s suspicion that Izzy has stolen a precious possession and the awkwardness that ensues is a great example of how these stories will enhance classroom circle time conversations by examining how to handle such situations and, indeed, how to both apologise and accept apologies graciously. Given Isabelle’s own family situation, it’s little wonder she’s also a little bit intimidated by Izzy’s teenaged half-sisters and it takes a little while to overcome her anxiety with this – a great bit of growth and learning there to take into a group discussion. Whether it is something big or something small, these are stories with which your younger readers can easily make connections to self.
There are some extensive teaching notes to accompany this and while I can understand that the bibliography at the end of these seems to focus on series/titles with girl titular/main characters, it would be good to keep in mind that there are also several such series with boy protagonists in the lead – albeit, all of these have a combination of both genders in their narratives.
All in all, this is going to be a hit with those keen beans in Year 1 or Year 2 moving into their first ‘chapter books’. I give it a big thumbs up for these little guys from 6 years upwards.
Jane Godwin has created another intense narrative for teen readers which really encapsulates how different a ‘coming-of-age’ might be for disparate individuals. The teenagers at the Otway Community School, which is not your regular school, are used to doing things differently but the ‘dropping’ is a new experience altogether. Based on a similar Dutch activity, the students, in small groups, are dropped into the forest/wilds at 4 pm with a basic kit of essentials and must find their way back to the school, 27 kms away, by midnight. Five very different young people head off in a group which is about to encounter much worse than just the dark and some rain. Each has their own backstory that impacts on their behaviours and reactive responses, especially to challenges:
Elle has lived all over the world as her mother works for DFAT but now finding herself in rural Victoria is still feeling adrift and, as yet, unable to find her niche in the social groups,
Fred has found himself continually in trouble, and angry, since his parents have not only split up but essentially each abandoned him,
Ash is definitely more settled in some ways than the others, but being the child of a same-sex couple he’s struggling to define his own interpretation of becoming a man while determined to reject all the examples of toxic masculinity he observes,
Laila is the daughter of a world-famous self-help guru and appears to be the most collected and calm of all, but her family situation is fraught as her celebrity dad basically ignores them all,
and then there’s Chrystal, exchange student from America, who clings onto her Snoopy stuffie, constantly hums, is obsessed with her phone and appears to be perpetually in some of brain fog.
When things begin to go awry with their hike rapidly, it is hardly a surprise given the dynamics between them all, and there is far more to contend with than just their own mis-management of the experience. A lost child, serious threats from older and drunk males intent on creating havoc in the bush, losing precious equipment and a wild storm lashing the entire district all add to the intensity of their deteriorating expedition.
Facing the elements of nature, the unknown, the intrusion of violence and their own insecurities and fears, the five must somehow survive the night – and each other. Gripping throughout, this is a real page-turner and readers from around 13 or 14 upwards will thoroughly enjoy it. Jane Godwin is adept at creating the kind of thrilling and drama filled narrative that readers in this age group relish and I have yet to have a disappointed punter when I’ve suggested one of her titles.
It’s been a rather hectic time the past month or so. A new school, a new job always presents its challenges and a special kind of tiredness but in this – dare I say – year of unprecedented circumstances, perhaps even moreso. While I’ve done a fair bit of reading after crawling into bed exhausted each night, weekends have been so full that time to write reviews has been at a premium. Now I’m ready to rock and roll again and so I’m kicking off with a swag of Christmas books, both new and older – most for your little peeps but one for the discerning grown-ups as well.
Christmas Tales – William McInnes
OCT 27, 2020 | 9780733644733 | RRP $32.99
No doubt you know William for his extensive acting career but if you haven’t had the joy of reading any of his books why not make a start with this one? Of course, I am a little biased given our shared Redcliffe connection as well as the fact that I’ve had the joy of meeting him several times but he really is a supremely acute observer and hilarious raconteur which makes his memoir writing just delicious.
I can’t help it if I’m a boring conservative dag, but I love Christmas, always have and hopefully always will. Whatever brand of faith you fly under, even if you proclaim you don’t have one, Christmas is a time of generosity, good citizenship and decency.
This is a collection of anecdotes about celebrating Christmas as a child, a young man and now an older adult with many references to our home town but also peeks into other settings. All are laced with William’s own brand of quintessentially laconic larrikin humour and his unfailing ability to pinpoint the kernel of hilarity in each situation. Naturally I particularly loved the many insights into Christmas times in Redcliffe past but the acerbity is not confined to these.
Anyone with a fancy for some light and witty reading will love this – Australian readers will recognise many of the ‘types’ in characters and situations described but I would also suggest that if you have overseas friends to whom you gift, this would make a truly epic present. Of course, buying oneself a treat is always completely justified as well. For whatever reason, this is one to put on your ‘must read’ list.
Get in the hammock or deck chair or simply sprawl on a beach towel beside the sea (can’t go past Moreton Bay!) and soak up the happiness.
Highly recommended for anyone with a sense of humour – or those who need to acquire one!
Slinky Malinki’s Christmas 1 2 3 – Lynley Dodd
Even the Kid still loves Slinky Malinki the adorable scamp of a cat – possibly because our Whiskers closely resembles him!
For the little ones beginning their wondrous journey of books this delightful counting book in board format will make an excellent stocking stuffer.
We put our tree up over the weekend and because it hasn’t had an airing for two years we wondered how the cats would react, especially the kitten – so far, so good! But Slinky of course has other ideas. Tiny readers will delight in watching this rascally cat work his way up the tree pouncing on ornaments. Spotting the ornaments on the full illustration of the tree will add some fun for those a little older.
It goes without saying that Dame Lynley’s delightful illustrations will provide much enjoyment for both small and big people sharing the book.
Highly recommended for tiny humans from 0-5 years old.
The Christmas Tale of Peter Rabbit – Emma Thompson
Imprint: Warne ISBN: 9780241427279
First published 2013 and this edition 2018
The joy that is Peter Rabbit continues over a hundred years since his original creation by Beatrix Potter – witness the huge success of the recent movies. Emma Thompson, award-winning acress and screenwriter, has taken up the challenge of continuing the legacy left us by B.P. in the most charming way.
‘Rabbits are always very uppity during the Christmas season, and Peter Rabbit was no exception.’
We all know Peter has a talent for mischief and when he pairs up with his cousin Benjamin, even more so! But we also know he is essentially a very kind little bunny and when the pair make a new friend, William the turkey, they are shocked to find out that the bird is intended for Mr MacGregor’s Christmas dinner. Of course, they are not going to let that happen!
Emma Thompson’s continuation of Peter’s adventures is a loving tribute to the style of the original books and the delightful illustrations by Eleanor Taylor likewise reflect the charm of those of Beatrix Potter. A beautiful hardback edition with both dust jacket and binding so superb it’s hard to decide which I like best – and the most adorable endpapers, this is one to make a little person very happy indeed.
If you are searching for a special gift for a newly independent reader this is one that will be treasured and re-visited with great love.
Highly recommended for readers from around 4 years to 8 years old.
What Do You Wish For? – Jane Godwin & Anna Walker
Imprint: Picture Puffin
Originally published in 2015 and then re-issued in softcover some years later this is book which begs to be brought out each Christmas and perhaps, this year, more than ever. Read here for Jane’s own reflections on the inspiration for the book and her thoughts about gratitude.
Ruby loves the magic of Christmas – the fun and the lights, the presents and the baking and of course, Christmas wishes. But while the other children in the street are busily writing their wishes for the special wishing tree, Ruby decides to write down all the things that make Christmas truly magical. As we know, and try to impart to our little people, the true meaning of the festive season goes well beyond the fripperies and fun.
To encourage your readers to think more deeply about the real spirit of Christmas, definitely add this one to your list.
Highly recommended for readers from around 6 years upwards.
The First Christmas – illustrated by Jess Racklyeft
Being in a Christian school my library team and I feel it is particularly important to have a collection that reflects the spirituality that imbues our whole curriculum. This year we had commented that many of our books for little people were very tired-looking and certainly lacked engaging appeal – and had decided that a goal for next year is to improve this situation.
This absolutely charming picture book captures the essence of wonder and amazement that is the Nativity and is definitely one we will be promoting in our re-vamped collection. Retold simply and celebrating the true spirit of Christmas as well as the hope and joy brought to the world over 2 000 years ago, this is a modern classic which should be standard fare for any library collection as well as home bookshelves.
There are stunning double spreads as well as smaller illustrations all emphasising the idea of family at the heart of this event – a notion that surely continues today and particularly this year when so many families have struggled with separations and disappointments.
Needless to say, I suggest this is a must for your gift or order list and a book to which readers will return again and again.
If you are looking for something new in your ‘identity’ collection this beautiful coming-of-age narrative will be a perfect fit.
The recent months have been a revelation in how some humans handle a crisis situation and for teens this can be a real challenge. Lissa is no different. Home alone one afternoon a strange boy turns up on her doorstep with a small baby in his arms. Reed has recently found out that he’s adopted and believes that Lissa’s mother might also be his but more than that, his older and troubled brother has handed over the baby, his tiny daughter, for safekeeping. Being on the run is hard enough but having a tiny human to care for makes it almost impossible. Lissa finds herself caught up in Reed’s dilemma while, at the same time, trying to help her older brother who has been blamed for a social media debacle with huge ramifications.
In the process of trying to unravel Reed’s history as well as helping him care for tiny Mercy, Lissa uncovers a secret about her own birth which causes her real anguish and questioning around her own identity.
Jane Godwin has written a beautiful story with compelling characters for whom the reader really feels as they navigate their various ways through their complex predicaments. This is a story of inner strength, family solidarity and an expression of the true meaning of family – it’s not about blood, it is in fact about love.
I highly recommend this for your readers from around 12 years upwards. I can’t wait to ‘book talk’ it tomorrow to my student book group.
Described by the publisher as an ‘explosion of fun and pure joy’ this is a delightfully riotous and exuberant picture book full of colour and humour. The Rawa Community School is on the edge of the Great Sandy Desert and the children there helped to write the text along with Alison and Jane and provided all the cut-out illustrations. What an experience it must have been for all as these two celebrated authors worked alongside the middle school students drawing out all their creativity and their own Martu cultural knowledge.
Some very crazy looking monsters emerge from Dora Lake giving the children a little scare before going completely bonkers all around the place, even to school which completely disrupts a good day’s learning!
Loaded with rhyme, rhythm and some wonderful onomatopoeia cleverly highlighted in large colourful fonts, this will be a real hit with little ones either to read by themselves or as an enthusiastic read-aloud.
Highly recommended for little readers from around toddlers upwards!