History Mysteries: Diamond Jack, by Mark Greenwood

Just then, Jack discovered a sodden parcel wedged between the plane’s ribs.
He tore off the string binding and red wax seals. Inside was a bloated leather wallet, bursting with small packages wrapped in tissue. He emptied the contents of one into his calloused hands. What he saw stole his breath away …

As a plane prepares to ferry Dutch refugees out of Java to escape war-torn Java, the captain is passed a valuable package to carry to safety. But the plane is attacked, and crash-lands, the passage temporarily forgotten in the quest for survival. When Jack Palmer, a sailor and beachcomber, comes across the abandoned wreck of the plane he can’t help but be curious about what he might find on board. What he does find is beyond anything he could imagine.

Diamond Jack, the first title in the new History Mysteries series by Mark Greenwood, is a junior novel exploring the events surrounding the crash of a Dakota aircraft and subsequent disappearance of a parcel of diamond on board. Using the known facts and people involved, interwoven with a fictionalised version of what might have happen, the story provides an intriguing glimpse into the past. Young readers will be drawn into the mystery as they also view and learn about a chapter of Australian war history.

With historical photographs, maps and notes including a timeline, this is history children can connect with.

History Mysteries: Diamond Jack, by Mark Greenwood
Penguin Random House, 2017
ISBN 9780143309260

One Keen Koala, by Margaret Wild & Bruce Whatley

ONE keen koala
ready for school.

One keen koala is ready for his first day of school. hH is joined by two perky penguins, three excited wallabies and so on, as they discover the fun of starting school. From posing for photographs, to meeting the teacher, to playing with paint and glue, having stories and, at the end of the day hurrying home to mum, the animals romp through the day.

With rhyming text by Margaret Wild and joy-filled watercolour and pencil illustrations by Bruce Whatley, this is an offering sure to be embraced by youngsters starting school, and their parents. It will withstand repeated rereadings, and the simplicity of the text will encourage children to join in on rereadings.

Lovely.

One Keen Koala, by Margaret Wild & Bruce Whatley
Scholastic, 2017
ISBN 9781743629291

The Shark Caller, by Dianne Wolfer

I stared into the shark’s unblinking eye. The voices grew louder. It felt like they were calling me. I tried to understand, but the mako’s black eyes were frightening. I looked away.
The voices stopped. 

Isabel (Izzy) and her mother are returning home to the place she was born – an island in Papua New Guinea. Izzy loves her home, but this time, her journey is sad. They are taking the ashes of her much-loved twin brother home to be scattered.

On the island, Izzy and her mother start to heal, but Izzy also sees that the island is changing. The environment is changing, threatened by logging and modern technologies, and the sharks no longer answer the cries of the village shark callers. The clan needs someone to take an offering deep beneath the sea in a traditional offering to the shark god. The person must be a twin from the shark-calling lineage. Lizzie is the last twin. I will take great courage to even attempt the challenge.

The Shark Caller is a gripping, moving story of bereavement and courage, combining contemporary realism with fantasy elements. The issues of grief and of family obligations are combined with broader issues of environmental change and the impact of modernisation on traditional communities and ecocultures.

Suitable from readers in upper primary and beyond.

The Shark Caller, by Dianne Wolfer
Penguin Books, 2016
ISBN 9780143780557

Mopoke, by Philip Bunting

This is a mopoke.

So begins this delightful, understated picture book featuring (as the title suggests) a mopoke – or  bookbook owl. Each spread features just one line of text – or even a single word, as the mopoke becomes a poorpoke, a poshpoke, and a range of rhyming ‘pokes’ – slowpoke, yopoke, crowpoke and so on. By the end of the book, the mopoke begins to look bothered, before squawking (hooting?) in frustration and flying away. Apparently, what the mopoke wants – peace and quite – is not going to be found on this branch.

The illustrations, on black backgrounds representing the night sky, are simple, with the mopoke seated on a single branch, a few stars in the background, and occasional appearances from other animals, including other mopokes and – surprisingly – a wombat, the surprise of which will make youngsters laugh.

Adult readers should find the repetition and simplicity  of the text an opportunity to use expression and encourage child participation. Creator Philip Bunting has written about this on his website.

Lots of fun.

Mopoke, by Philip Bunting
Scholastic, 2017
ISBN 9781742991658

Available from good bookstores or online.

Bronze Bird Tower, by Carole Wilkinson

Kai sighed. The dragon haven had been his home since he was a dragonling, yet he showed no pleasure in returning.

“Gu Hong selected this place to be the home of the dragons,” he said. “She chose well. It is not so high that it is wintry throughout the year round. And no creatures can scale the sheer cliffs – not a goat, not a rabbit and, more importantly, not a human.”

At last Tao and Kai have arrived at the Dragon Haven. Now Kai can resume his position as leader, and Tao can take on the role of Dragonkeeper. But there is no big welcome, and Tao wonders if he and Kai will be made to leave, and once again face the murderous warlord, Jilong.

Although their welcome is luke-warm, the pair do their best to fit in, and even have moments of something nearing harmony with the dragon cluster. But when Jilong finds out where they are, it seems their peace will be shattered. Not only does Tao question his own role at the haven, but also whether dragons will ever be able to live peacefully anywhere in the world.

The sixth and final title in the Dragonkeeper series, Bronze Bird Tower is fabulous fantasy for readers of all ages. Tao and his friends are endearing, and the other dragons, with their different personalities, make for an absorbing cast. The twists and turns as the dragons find a way forward, and Tao and Kai seek to establish their roles, are both exciting and satisfying.

Wonderful.

Bronze Bird Tower, by Carole Wilkinson
Black Dog Books, 2017

 

 

Storm and Grace, by Kathryn Heyman

…she is screaming, the way he wanted,
the way he promised she would…

Grace Cain loves diving, and is in Sydney completing her degree so she can make a career beneath the ocean. But when she meets Storm Hisray, world-famous freediver, her world is rocked. She has never met anyone like him. He convinces Grace to follow him back to his home on an idyllic Pacific island. There life seems perfect, and soon Storm is teaching Grace to dive like him, alongside him. They will be a freediving couple.

But as Storm pushes Grace to dive deeper, push herself further, cracks start to appear. Is it Grace who matters to Storm, or being the best, being noticed?  Grace becomes increasingly aware that she is deeper water than she could have ever imagined.

Storm and Grace is a haunting novel. The reader is drawn into the beauty and the terror of freediving – and of life with a charismatic man who will stop at nothing to manipulate those around him. The voices of other women, other victims, of Storm and men like him, narrate parts of the novel, so that the reader sees the danger  long before Grace, an unusual technique which keeps pages turning.

Beautiful yet terrifying, this is a remarkable novel.

Storm and Grace, by Kathryn Hayman
Allen & Unwin, 2017
ISBN 9781743313633

 

Available from good bookstores and online.

 

 

The Grand Genius Summer of Henry Hoobler, by Lisa Shanahan

It struck Henry that perhaps he was waiting for the exact right moment to be daring and brave. The exact right moment where he felt no worry at all, not one tiny flicker. But what if that moment never came?

Henry Hoobler and his family are off on holiday – but Henry would rather stay home with his Nonna. There are lots of scray things about a camping holiday at the beach – sharks, spiders, snakes and blue-ringed octopi. But the thing he is most afraid is the new bike he got for Christmas, which is strapped to the trailer. Everybody wants him to ride it – but Henry is scared he’ll fall off.

The Grand Genius Summer of Henry Hoobler is a feel-good story about what it the meaning of bravery, friendship and family. As Henry tries to summon the courage to get on his bike, he navigates a new friendship with Cassie, who lives in the holiday park, and conquers other fears, including helping his little sister find a lost pony in the middle of the night. He also observes those around him learning new things and taking on challenges of their own.

With laughter, moments of poignancy, and lots of feel-good moments, The Grand Genius Summer of Henry Hoobler is a treat.

The Grand Genius Summer of Henry Hoobler, by Lisa Shanahan
Allen & Unwin, 2017
ISBN 9781760293017

Lisette’s Paris Notebook, by Catherine Bateson

What do you wear to Paris? Ami and I discussed it for hours but I still couldn’t think of anything suitable. Ami said a trench coat with nothing underneath but your best underwear. That was only if some boy was meeting you at the airport, I said.

Lisette has just finished school and is taking a gap year. She travels to Paris to experience great works of art and brush up on her conversational French before she heads to university. Lise isn’t impressed when her clairvoyant landlady, Madame Cristophe and her mother, home in Australia, enrol her in language lessons with international students. She just wants to explore and experience Paris. But when she grudgingly attends her first class, she realises it’s not all bad – there’s a hot guy there, and she also makes some new friends. Maybe she might find more than she bargained for in Paris.

Lisette’s Paris Notebook is a quirky mix of romance and coming of age, featuring a slightly self-obsessed yet likeable main character. Lisette’s adventure is Paris is overshadowed by coming to terms with the death of the father she never got to meet, and her lack of previous romantic success. Teen readers will enjoy the Paris setting.

Lisette’s Paris Notebook, by Catherine Bateson
Allen & Unwin, 2017
ISBN 9781760293635

Hot Dog!, by Anh Do

If you’re thinking this book is about the yummy hotdog that you eat, then you’re thinking of the wrong hotdog!

Hotdog is a long skinny dog – a sausage dog – who likes to try hard to get things right. His friend Lizzie is a lizard, who’s good at blending in, and their other friend, Kevin, is a lazy cat whose humans dress him up in all kinds of costumes. When the trip meet in the park for a ply, they are joined by a baby bird who has fallen out of his nest. The trio of friends are determined to get the bird back to his mother – but first they have to deal with obstacles including karate-chopping roosters and even dirty nappies.

Hotdog is a brand new series from comedian and best-selling author Anh Do. With simple, humorous text and cartoon-style illustrations (by Dan McGuiness), and textual embellishments to add interest, including different font sizes and speech bubbles, this first book will delight young readers transitioning to chapter books.

Hotdog, by Anh Do & Dan McGuiness
Scholastic 2016
ISBN 9781760279004

A Shadow’s Breath, by Nicole Hayes

‘We need to get out of here,’ Nick says.
Tessa nods gingerly. She must have hit her head at some point; pain like a knife presses behind her ear, and she’s plagued by the constant feeling of battling to stay conscious. She feels trapped and helpless, but she knows they can’t stay in the car.

Tessa’s life has been difficult for a long time: the death of her father when she was just eleven was followed by her mother’s battle with alcohol and an abusive new partner. Lately, though, things have been improving. It’s just Tess and her mum at home, and Tessa has a boyfriend, Nick, who she adores. Now, though, Tessa and Nick are in trouble. A corner taken too fast on an remote road has left them trapped in a car. No body knows where they are, and it’s up to Tess to lead them to safety. Thing is, she isn’t sure that she wants to be found: maybe it is all to hard to carry on.

A Shadow’s Breath is a heart wrenching tale of bravery in the midst of terrible circumstances. Using alternating chapters of ‘Then’ -(Tessa’s life before the accident) and ‘Now’ (the aftermath of the accident, and Tessa’s struggle to find a way out of the wilderness she and Nick have crashed in) the story gradually reveals both what lead to the crash and the days following, inviting readers to unravel events as they gain more understanding.

Both beautiful and heartbreaking, A Shadow’s Breath is a journey readers will be glad they took.

A Shadow’s Breath, by Nicole Hayes
Random House, 2017
ISBN 9780143781097