In the Arabic language, there are over 50 words describing the degrees of love. That’s 50 stories, 50 life-worlds. This lyrical and heartwarming book takes you on a journey through 11 of these Arabic expressions for love
While this deceptively simple text focuses on the journey of an Arabic family seeking refuge, it is most definitely a book for all children, regardless of their family history or culture. Each Arabic expression (in Arabic symbols/script as well as words) is accompanied by a lyrical one-sentence definition and both are pinned against the backdrop of glorious double spreads full of life and indeed, love. Maxine’s illustrations are gloriously rendered in watercolour pencil and collage, and vibrantly reflect the liveliness of the child who is offering up the words of love.
The child’s family find friends in their new home, along with much joy with nature, pets, neighbours and school, although they do miss their old home and remember it with love as well.
In a world increasingly beset with ugly hate and conflict, we know we must continually reinforce empathy and compassion in our youngsters and, in my opinion, the most effective strategy in our toolbox is through quality literature which is thoughtful and sensitive. Sharing this book will provide a perfect entrée into rich discussions on refugees, migrants, different cultures and languages, kindnes, and ways to make people welcome.
It is a book full of hope as well as love and I would love to share this with children and have them create their own artworks with their depictions of love in its many forms.
Highly recommended for little people from Kinder upwards.
Sam, half monster/half fairy, has not only that secret to keep but many others. For example, there’s the one about his pack – the gargoyles who protect him, and the one about his school friends, the shape shifters who can change into dogs at will. There’s also the one about the rumour that he is the new King of Ogres and that Queen Maggie, the very nasty faerie who purports to be his mother, is delighted to find out that has more powers than she had imagined. Not to mention that he’s hatched a tiny gargoyle just by sneezing – and that the Kavanagh family, with whom he is fostered, are, in fact, his real family, from whom he was stolen many years before. Sam is not one to bow down and do evil, no matter how high the stakes, so he must find a way forward to defeat Maggie and create a new world for monsterkind. With the aid of his pack and his own innate goodness and ability to express kindness to all, he is well on his way to a fitting climax to his arduous battle.
There is high drama, and much humour. There is unswerving belief in acting with integrity, and there is unshakeable loyalty. There is a wonderful lesson in diversity and accepting differences, and, above all, the importance of love, especially that for family and friends.
I have loved this series so much – and I am also happy/sad that it has come to an end but I do look forward very much to T. C. Shelley’s next foray into writing – particularly if it is for upper primary/lower secondary.
Highly recommended for your lovers of magical fantasy from around 9 years upwards.
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.
ISBN: 9781760651107 Imprint: Walker Books Australia Australian RRP: $24.99 New Zealand RRP: $26.99
It is certainly not an ideal time to launch new books but it is the perfect time to share a book about hugs especially for little people who are missing out on those special cuddles from grandparents, other family and friends.
Millie loves all the things that most little people do like jumping mud puddles, chasing butterflies and eating Grandma’s cookies but most of all she loves hugs. So when she wakes up one day feeling rather flat and sad (and how many of our kiddos would be feeling likewise right now?) she thinks she must have lost her hug. So with her friend Harry she goes off to find it and of course, has many of her special friends are more than happy to share their love.
Lisa Kerr has done a spectacular job of creating such a simple but very touching story about the beauty of connection and in these parlous times this is such an important message to convey. So many kinds of hugs to share – whether for hello or goodbye, with one arm or when you are sleepy – all of these will delight the little people who have the pleasure of reading this.
What is your favourite type of hug? Naturally mine are the special ones from my girl – who even though she’s the too-cool teen still has that loving aspect to her nature.
HIghly recommended for little readers from around 3 years upwards.
You would be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t love the crayons books!
Now you can give the gift of love AND crayons to someone special whether that’s a big or a small person.
What colour do you think love is? For me it’s a sort of sunset orangey/red 😊. For you it might be white “because sometimes love is hard to see” or perhaps it’s grey “because love can be small and soft, or big and strong” or even purple “because love has its own imagination”. Each variation is accompanied by the colourful crayon drawings we’ve come to relish in these popular titles.
You may choose to give this to a little one to show your love for them or even add it to a special Valentine’s Day gift – my copy is going to be one of the ‘revolving’ titles in the reflection space in my library – just to remind all who pick it up that love comes in many colours but is always present.
Highly recommended for readers from babies upwards.
Mem Fox has triumphed again with this simply beautiful new picture book inspired by the most personal of motivations – the bond between loving grandparent and grandchild.
In their first collaboration Mem and Freya have produced a gentle and warming exploration of life and death that will resonate with many readers, both young and old.
When a tiny star falls to earth it turns into a baby to be cherished, nurtured and loved by its family, growing and thriving in that security of warmth and tenderness. All the time, growing taller and getting older and eventually creating its own family where the circle of love continues. After many full and happy years the star that was begins to become frailer and to shrink until once again becomes tiny, so tiny that it disappears it seems. But no, once again the tiny star sparkles in the night sky reminding all that the love we feel never ends.
Some readers will know that I am raising my beautiful granddaughter so I can completely relate to this expression of love and the accompanying realisation that one day we will not be here for our grandchildren. In the meantime, how privileged are we to share so deeply in their lives and forge these bonds that will last forever.
Thank you Mem and Freya for this outstanding and tender testament to that love which, I have no doubt, will be not only welcomed but lauded with praise.
Highly recommended for both your professional and personal shelves to share with young readers from toddlers upwards – why not pre-order yours now!
Stay posted for a forthcoming Q&A with the inimitable Mem soon!
So as I chuckled my way through this (and truthfully at times snort-laughed) I thought to myself ‘I reckon Shakespeare would entirely approve of this retell’. After all, he did write to entertain or move people but he also wrote to subtly convey his opinions about topics and issues relevant to his age. And in what some would dismiss a mere comedy he cleverly illustrated the excesses of power and the selfishness of individuals determined only to further their own desires and goals.
Peaseblossom, who would rather be known as Pete, is not one of the most significant characters in the original play but takes front and centre in this version. He does have a pretty responsible job in the Fairy Court being a Potions Fairy and the apprentice of Puck. He is destined to marry on Midsummer’s Eve and be promoted to first assistant in the potions game but he is far from satisfied with life in the fairy realm. His real passions are his love of great pizza and the beautiful Gaela, a smart selkie, posing as a pizza chef many years into the future.
Pete is pretty fed up with Oberon and Titania giving orders and creating chaos willy nilly amongst both fairies and humans, and is just as displeased when he finds a bunch of vampires behaving in pretty much the same way in Gaela’s life. Being rather savvy and far worldlier wise than some of his fairy comrades Pete has the right antidote to both these dilemmas.
This is an elegant and timely reminder to us all that, despite the somewhat parlous times in which we live, we all have the power of free will and can make choices that will be positive for ourselves, our race and our earth. The layers underlying the light heartedness will be a springboard to much rich discussion on ethics and self-determination.
Now that the pile of review novels is finally getting to a stage that could be described as semi-tamed, it’s time to get stuck into plethora picture books. So here are some animal-focused ones to get into – because we all know that our little readers just love a great animal story and we love them because so often they send such positive messages.
Flat Cat – Hiawyn Oram/Gwen Millard
Walker Books Australia
ISBN: 9781406371543 Australian RRP: $24.99 New Zealand RRP: $27.99
“If you love something, set it free” – that was my first thought on reading this book. My second thought was the memory of buying my beloved Burmese cat, Possum, many years ago. I was determined that he would be an ‘inside’ cat but after two weeks of completely shredded flyscreens, I realised that was not in his nature and so he became an inside/outside cat and was my best friend for the eight years of his life.
Sophie loves Jimi-My-Jim and gives him everything you might think a cat could desire – toys, special food, sparkly collars, beds and even clothes. The one thing that Jimi-My-Jim is missing is freedom. He is never allowed outside and gradually he becomes ‘Flat Cat’ because he so morose at seeing the outside world only through a window. When one day by accident, Flat Cat manages to get hold of the front door keys, he is off and away and discovers a world full of other cats, life, excitement, joy and another very special cat – Blanche. While at first the consequences prove to be difficult for both Flat Cat and Sophie, they are overcome and Flat Cat is able to pursue his new life – with the joy of the freedom plus the joy of being Sophie’s special friend.
This offers a serious point of discussion about when, if ever, it’s acceptable to reject the rules in place and certainly gives ‘helicopter’ parents an opportunity to examine their practices.
I certainly recommend it for young readers from around six years upwards – but would suggest that it could also be a valuable addition to parent information nights!
Good Rosie! – Kate de Camillo. Pictures by Harry Bliss
Walker Books Australia
ISBN: 9781406383577 Australian RRP: $24.99 New Zealand RRP: $27.99
I really meant to get to this one sooner rather than later because I truly adore Kate di Camillo’s work. This is such a departure from her novels but is truly enchanting and endearing.
We all need friends and Rosie is no exception. She has a good life with her human, George, but is lonely without doggy companions. Sometimes it seems that she and George don’t have much in common, for example, an intense interest in squirrels. When George takes Rosie to the dog park for the first time, she is somewhat overwhelmed. She has never seen so many dogs before and she feels confronted and scared. She is even more so when Maurice, a very large St Bernard approaches shaking his toy bunny with such vigour it’s a wonder the toy’s extremities still exist. But then the tiny Fifi with her sparkly collar doesn’t seem a kindred spirit either.
It takes an unfortunate incident between Maurice and Fifi to help Rosie realise that sometimes friends come in different shapes and sizes and that we don’t all ‘click’ at first sight.
Formatted in a graphic novel style, this is a lovely reminder about unlikely friendships but moreover about overcoming prejudices and feeling anxious.
A fabulous book for sharing with young readers to kick-start conversations about acceptance and building relationships.
Saying Goodbye to Barkley – Devon Sillett/Nicky Johnston
Losing our furbabies is difficult. For children who have grown up with a special pet it is arguably even moreso. Super Olivia and her trusty sidekick, Barkley, have always been a team. As Olivia carries out her amazing super-hero deeds, Barkley is always right by her giving his all. When Barkley is no longer there, Olivia feels her zest for super-sleuthing and action-heroism has also gone. But after her grieving she realises that Barkley would not want her to give up her passion in life, nor forget his extraordinary assistance. Olivia knows what she must do as a true super-hero for whom rescues are a daily event. She must rescue a new sidekick.
Spud is white, fluffy and adorable – and absolutely useless at fighting crime and uncovering dastardly plots but Olivia loves her anyway.
This is not a story about replacing one pet for another but a beautiful way of describing that eventually we can heal from our losses and find joy in other ways, events and companions.
Highly recommended for readers from around six years upwards.
Yes, of course there will be more to say but really this book was so incredible it really did almost leave me speechless. Just when I think Emily Rodda cannot get any better (I mean, I just loved The Shop at Hooper’s Bend!) she comes up with something so extraordinary that it is hard to imagine how any person can be so very talented.
After their excursion bus breaks down on a lonely country road a history teacher and four children are forced to seek shelter in a strange old, once grand, house until they are rescued. The overwhelming atmosphere of the shabby half-ruined place is one of melancholy and malevolence. When they accidentally discover a very beautiful hand-written and illustrated book in a secret drawer the mystery deepens. The allegorical fairytale written to tell the story of Walter and Sparrow drives Colin and Tara especially, as the most sensitive of the group, to seek the truth behind the story . While they are all intrigued by the strangely vivid almost lifelike painted illustrations it is the story itself that envelops them and compels them to keep reading throughout the night.
Emily’s book within a book explores the themes of justice, loyalty, compassion and true love all cloaked in a tale filled with magic and murder, prophecies and promises and long-hidden secrets.
As the haunting tale of Walter and Sparrow unravels the children and their teacher are drawn into a poignant and forgotten history until they finally solve the puzzle and at last, though decades later, justice can be served.
What a treat this book is! I read the first three chapters to Year 5 last Friday and you could have heard a pin drop with all of them clamouring for more – fortunately they will get that!
If you haven’t yet added this to your shelves be sure to do so. I highly recommend it for discerning readers from around ten years upwards.
ISBN: 9781406378276 Imprint: Walker Release Date: November 1, 2017 Australian RRP: $24.99 New Zealand RRP: $27.99\
This one had slipped through the cracks but certainly not by intention! I love Bob Graham’s books and this one is no exception.
It is the story of the travels of one Irish poesy ring from the time it left the hand of its teary owner as she rode across the downs in 1830 flinging it away until it fetches up in a New York pawnbroker’s shop in 1967.
Demonstrating yet again that he has the ability to create a seemingly simple picture book which actually takes the reader across time and space to deliver a beautiful and poignant message, Bob has created yet another to-be-classic.
Aside from the ring’s own journey what a beautiful way to explore the passing of time, the changing of landscapes and the shifting of circumstances to young children. And how many readers will be thrilled to think about the possibility of hidden forgotten treasures not to mention wondering if the ring – with its inscription of “love never dies” will fulfil its destiny of belonging to someone much loved.
In a broader sense this could well explore the idea that we all wind up where we are meant to be – no matter how long it takes.