Sage Cookson’s Stormy Weather by Sally Murphy

‘Where are you going this time’ my friend Lucy asks when I tell her I will be away from school the following week.
‘Townsville,’ I say. ‘In Queensland.’
‘Is it near Crystal Bay?’ she asks.
I shake my head. Last year Lucy came with us when we visited Crystal Bay. It was a fun holiday, even though I was locked up in a storeroom by a mean lady called Nancy who thought I was spying on her.

Ten-year-old Sage Cookson accompanies her television chef parents whenever they travel to shoot an episode of their famous cooking show. It could be lonely, and she does miss her best friend Lucy, but each trip is full of adventure and often intrigue. This time, the family are off to Townsville in Queensland in search of sun, sand, sea and seafood. Just off the coast, headed their way is a cyclone. Their time in Townsville is nothing like they thought it would be, but Sage and her family manage to bring their own sunshine. And she nails her school assignment! Text is large, images accompany every chapter heading and as a bonus, there’s a recipe at the end!

Sage’s life is an unusual one. Mostly, it’s an adventure and she has caring parents who make sure she is safe AND completes her school work. She manages her social isolation by keeping in regular contact with her friend, Lucy. She can also rely on the long-time crew of her parents’ show. But she’s never experienced a cyclone from this close and this trip is more ‘exciting’ than she could have imagined. In the aftermath, she finds a way to help the helpers. Recommended for newly independent readers.

Sage Cookson’s Stormy Weather, Sally Murphy New Frontier Publishing 2018 ISBN: 9781925594263
review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller
www.clairesaxby.com

Keeper of the Crystals 7: Eve and the Rebel Fairies by Jess Black

Eve felt sleepy. She and Oscar had been out all day with Eve’s Dragon, Ingvar, enjoying the brilliant summer weather and celebrating school holidays. It was past their bedtime, but she and Oscar needed to get his bed sorted out before they could crash.
‘It was nice of your gran to let me stay for a few days while Mum and Dad are away.’ Oscar yawned as he helped Eve unroll the spare mattress.

Eve, her friend Oscar and Eve’s dragon, Ingvar are back in a new magical adventure. This time, it’s the fairies who need help. There’s only a finite amount of magic in the enchanted world and two rogue fairies are ensuring that it’s being used faster than is sustainable. If they are to help safe the tree of life, Eve and co will need to find the fairies and somehow convince them to change their ways. Illustrations accompany each chapter heading.

Keeper of the Crystals is a series of early chapter books. In each, Eve is able to access the worlds of magical creatures. In fact, she is called to help when other worlds are in danger. Although she can’t fly herself, she does have a companion dragon who is happy to carry her (and Oliver) if and when necessary. ‘Eve and the Rebel Fairies’ has a strong message about the effect humans are having on the planet and the consequences for other occupants. An adventure for lovers of magic and of our world. Recommended for newly confident readers.

Keepers of the Crystals 7: Eve and the Rebel Fairies, Jess Black New Frontier Publishing 2018 ISBN: 9781925594218

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller
www.clairesaxby.com

Mr Pegg’s Post by Elena Topouzoglou

Anna lived with her mum and dad in a lighthouse by the edge of the sea.
Anna would spend her days indoors reading or outside, in her rowboat, while the sun was shining.
But Anna was lonely.

Every day Mr Pegg, the pelican postman, would drop off letters for her parents. Every day Anna hoped for a letter just for her.
Anna is lonely. The only visitor to the lighthouse is Mr Pegg, bringing mail for her parents. No one every sends her letters. So when a storm blows Mr Pegg off course and he hurts his wing, Anna is more than happy to help out. Together they deliver the mail all along the coast. This can’t last and when Mr Pegg is better, Anna is resigned to returning to her lonely isolation. But when Mr Pegg returns, there is more than one surprise for Anna. Illustrations are watercolour and pencil and depict an island and landscape that look quite Mediterranean.

To some children, Anna’s life looks exotic. She lives in a lighthouse and has her own rowboat. Anna’s life would be perfect if she could just have a friend to share it with. A chance accident provides the opportunity for Anna to help out the postie and to make some friends. ‘Mr Pegg’s Post’ is a story of loneliness, friendship and the power of communication. Recommended for preschool and early schoolers.

Mr Pegg’s Post, Elena Topouzoglou New Frontier Publishing 2018 ISBN:9781925594195
review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller
www.clairesaxby.com

Lucia and Lawrence by Joanna Francis

Lucia and Lawrence are next-door neighbours.
Lucia has a head full of dreams that reach as high as the sky and as deep as the sea.
Lawrence has a head full of numbers that are useful, predicable and safe.

Lucia and Lawrence live side by side but have very different personalities. Their friendship is coloured by Lucia’s exuberance and Lawrence’s reticence. Yet, mostly they find a middle ground that allows them to play together. Until Lucia’s birthday. Lucia invites Lawrence to join in her celebration, but Lawrence says no. That’s all. No. Lucia parties without him, and it’s only afterwards that she discovers there are different ways to celebrate. Illustrations are pencil and watercolour and show their two worlds becoming one.

Lucia is very outgoing and a little bit wild. Lawrence is pretty much the opposite and feels safest in his room with his numbers. But their friendship happens at the intersection of their personalities, with their imagination. Together, their adventures harness the talents and strengths of each. A gentle story of friendship. Recommended for early schoolers.

Lucia and Lawrence, Joanna Francis New Frontier Publishing 2018 ISBN: 9781925594157
review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller
www.clairesaxby.com

Little Stunt Riding Hood by Matt Cosgrove

Once upon a fine, fully sick, hotted-up motorcycle…
… there revved a little daredevil, making the loudest noise you ever heard!
‘Oh, he is so annoying!’ the neighbours would proclaim as he roared past on his motorbike.

In a new ‘Epic Fail Tale’ from Matt Cosgrove, Little Red Riding Hood gets a makeover. No character is safe. Little Red Riding Hood undergoes not just a gender change, but now he’s riding a motorbike and bringing mayhem. The neighbourhood will never be the same. Spreads are interspersed with illustrations, thought bubbles, puns and word subsititutions. There’s even a bonus Seven Ninjas graphic story at the end.

Don’t say you weren’t warned! ‘Little Stunt Riding Hood’ is the wildest adventure on two wheels, through the most windy, convoluted, gross, punny ‘forest’ you never imagined. This is no fairy tale. But it is a cautionary tale. Just not in any way you’ve ever been cautioned before. Recommended for newly independent readers, and those transitioning from fully illustrated texts. Pun for everyone.

Little Stunt Riding Hood, Matt Cosgrove Scholastic 2018 ISBN: 9781742992501
review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller
www.clairesaxby.com

Jacaranda Magic by Dannika Patterson and Megan Forward

Five friends feeling bored on a hot stick day.
‘What should we do?
What games can we play?’

It’s a summer day and five friends are at a loss. What to play? None of their normal games/activities will do. When a breeze showers them with Jacaranda flowers, their imaginations come alive. The flowers, the branches, the tree itself all contribute in sparking game after game that they devise and share. The Jacaranda tree offers endless opportunity for invention and imagination. Illustrations are pencil and watercolour, loose and summery.

Imagination requires space to grow. Time space, not just physical space. Cued by falling flowers, a group of children begin to imagine new worlds. No props are needed beyond imagination and the tree. A potentially empty summer’s day fills with adventure and discovery as the children explore their physical world. Recommended for pre- and early-schoolers.

Jacaranda Magic Dannika Patterson ill Megan Forward Ford St Publishing 2018 ISBN: 9781925804010
review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller
www.clairesaxby.com

Freaks on the Loose by Leigh Hobbs

Miss Corker was a brand-new teacher and she was about to meet 4F, her brand-new class.
The headmaster introduced the children one by one.

‘Freaks on the Loose’ is two books in one, combining 4F for Freaks’ and ‘Freaks Ahoy’. In the first instalment, 4F have seen off another teacher and they see no reason that Miss Corker won’t soon follow. They have a reputation for awfulness and it’s well earned. Miss Corker consults The Teacher’s Handbook and makes it to the end of the first day. Just. Next day, though, there’s another new teacher, Miss Schnorkel. And Miss Schnorkel appears to have the measure of this legendary class. In the second story, Miss Schnorkel takes the class on an excursion aboard a boat. They visit a ship of retired teachers and of course mayhem ensues. Text is minimal and most of each page is filled with black and white images of the dreadful students and their appalling behaviour.

It’s difficult to decide whether this is a warning to aspiring teachers, or a manual for students. Either way, it’s full of giggles and guffaws as teacher and students get to know one another. Leigh Hobb’s iconic illustrations and monstrous characters are perfectly pitched at newly independent readers. Recommended for teachers and students alike.

Freaks on the Loose, Leigh Hobbs, Allen&Unwin 2018 ISBN: 9781780294311
review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller
www.clairesaxby.com

Meet Me at the Intersection, edited by Rebecca Lim & Ambelin Kwaymullina

We are the voices too often unheard, the people too often unseen. But we are here; we are speaking. And through this book, we invite you into our worlds.
Meet us at the intersections. 

As the introduction to this collection reminds us, there is a startling lack of diversity in the books offered to children and teens the world over. Most importantly, stories told by diverse creators are significantly under represented in the publishing landscape, and thus in bookstores, libraries and schools. Meet Me at the Intersection aims to bridge this gap by offering an anthology written by authors who are First Nations, People of Colour, LGBTIQA+ aor who live with disability.

Included stories include memoir, contemporary fiction, historical fiction, speculative fiction and poetry and each includes a brief biography of the writer and their aims and considerations in producing their contribution to the anthology.

Edited by Rebecca Lim and Ambelin Kwaymullina and iwth contributions form a mix of established and emerging creators, including Alice Pung, Kelly Gardiner and Amra Pajalic, the collection offers a range of unique perspectives of life for readers of all backgrounds.

Meet Me at the Intersection, edited by Rebecca Lim & Ambelin Kwaymullina
Fremantle Press, 2018
ISBN 9781925591705

Off the Track, by Cristy Burne

Harry’s perfect life was straying way off track. he looked pleadingly at Mum. Surely she could see? Spending an entire weekend tramping around stinking-hot snake-filled scrub was a horrible mistake. But doing it without a phone? That was just brutal.

Harry is not happy. Not only has his mum moved him from his comfortable life in Sydney to live in Perth, but now she’s agreed to spend the weekend hiking in the bush with her old friend Ana, and her daughter Deepika. There are snakes, and spiders and insects in the bush – and, worst of all, no mobile phones allowed. Well, not for Harry, anyway. Mum seems to be the only one allowed to have her phone. She says it’s in case of emergencies, but Harry knows she’ll be using it every chance she gets. Out on the Bibbulmun Track, his worst fears are realised – there really are snakes and spiders. And every time they are in range, Mum has her phone out. Then, just when he starts to enjoy himself, Harry discovers that things really can go wrong out in the bush.

Off the Track highlights the Australian outdoors, and especially Western Australia’s iconic Bibbulmun Track, in a pleasing blend of adventure and self-discovery. Many young readers will relate to Harry’s dismay of being ‘forced’ to live without every day conveniences like flushing toilets, beds, and technology. Others will love the outdoors setting and the taste of hiking the story offers.

Gripping junior fiction.

Off the Track, by Cristy Burne
Fremantle Press, 2018
ISBN 9781925591743

The Geography of Friendship, by Sally Piper

They haven’t seen each other for years, but here they are, falling onto the same old pattern as though there’s no other worth considering. Maybe it’s more to do with the place they’re walking through. Maybe the land has designs on them – maybe it always had – robbing them of the power to choose alternatives.

It’s been twenty years since they first walked the rail as teens, and twenty years since their friendship fell apart. Now, Samantha, Lisa and Nicole are walking the same trail, in an attempt to salvage something, even though it is clear to at least two of them what its they are trying to salvage.
That first hike was meant to be an adventure, a kind of coming of age in the wilderness, but what happened in those five days changed all of them, and severed their friendship. Will revisiting the scene of those terrible five days really mend their friendship, and will it help each woman to heal the wounds which continue to effect their lives?

The Geography of Friendship is a finely woven story. the use of three perspectives, and the shift bewteen the events of the past, the present and those in the intervening years, could become complicated, but rather makes for a pleasing complexity as the reader gets to know each woman and gradually piece together what has happened.

Absorbing and satisfying.

The Geography of Friendship, by Sally Piper
UQP, 2018
ISBN 9780702259975