Dancing to the Flute, by Manisha Jolie Amin

Kalu, it seems, has a gift for music, and the healer’s brother is a talented teacher. Kalu finds himself removed from his friends and all he knows, as he follows his dreams.

Until one night when the ripe moon rose, casting cool blue shadows on the ground.He closed his eyes and played, recalling the river as it made its way down to the sea. Imagining the fish swimming through the currents like streamers in the wind. Then he played the wind itself, fading into a rustle between leaves before lifting to the sky once again.

Kalu’s life is one of struggle. A street kid, he has no family, and relies on his energy and his wit to survive. Yet he manages to make friends, people from all walks of life – Bal, the buffalo herder, Malti, a servant, and Gaga Ba, her wealthy mistress. But it is when he befriends a travelling healer that his life changes. Kalu, it seems, has a gift for music, and the healer’s brother is a talented teacher. Kalu finds himself removed from his friends and all he knows, as he follows his dreams. His new life is fulfilling, but also challenging. The biggest challenge is finding a way to believe in himself.

Dancing to the Flute is a beautiful tale of friendship and self-discovery, richly played out amongst the countryside and cultural diversity of India. Kalu’s story is woven with mythical tales, and the stories of Kalu’s friends, with heartache and tragedy balanced with joy and hope.

The author, Manisha Jolie Amin was born in Kenya to Indian parents and now lives in Australia, but her love and deep connection with India is apparent. This, her first novel, has heart and depth which transports the reader to India and into the lives of the characters.

Dancing to the Flute

Dancing to the Flute, by Manisha Jolie Amin
Allen & Unwin, 2012
ISBN 9781742378572

This book is available in good bookstores or online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Australian Story: An Illustrated Timeline, by Tania McCartney

ith such a huge time span to cover, and much of it predating written history, author Tania McCartney still manages to cover a wide array of events

Once there was nothing.
Then there was something.

So begins this wonderful nonfiction offering, which uses this simple. yet powerful, introduction to then explore Australia’s history, from Earth’s beginnings, to the time of the dinosaurs, Indigenous Australia pre European exploration and settlement and through the stages of history since then to the modern day. With such a huge time span to cover, and much of it predating written history, author Tania McCartney still manages to cover a wide array of events and, imporrtantly, to acknowledge important aspects of Aboriginal history such as the Dreamtime, and the impact of European settlement on the original owners. Post settlement history includes key dates such as Federation, exploration and Australia’s involvement in war, as well as Australia’s sporting, industrial and artistic achievements, as well as natural disasters, economic development and more.

The timeline is supported throughout by illustrations including photographs and artworks from the National Library’s collection, as well as new illustrations by Peter Shaw. Young readers will enjoy exploring the visual material and the overall design of the book is excellent, being both accessible to young readers and visually pleasing.

This is an outstanding classroom or school library tool, but is also likely to be enjoyed at home for private reading, being the sort of book that can be either read cover to cover or simply browsed and dipped into.

An excellent resource.

Australian Story: An Illustrated Timeline

Australian Story: An Illustrated Timeline, by Tania McCartney
NLA Publishing, 2012
ISBN 9780642277459

This book is available in good bookstores, directly from the National Library of Australia’s bookstore, or online from Fishpond.

A Confusion of Princes, by Garth Nix

A fabulous new space-opera offering from one of Australia’s finest spec-fic creators. Set in a far-distant universe almost unrecognisable from the present, where technology and human consciousness have both evolved to a level where social structure, communication and every day life bear little resemblance to the present day

I have died three times, and three times been reborn, though I am not yet twenty in the old Earth years by which it is still the fashion to measure time.
This is the story of my three deaths, and my life between.
My name is Khemri.

Being a Prince should offer a life of privilege and ease, or so Prince Khemri thinks on the day of his investiture. But when you are only one priest out of millions, all hoping to one day be Emperor, then life can get pretty complicated. Khemri is no sooner a Prince than he is forced to use all of his skills and those of his Master Assassin Haddad, just to stay alive. In his subsequent training Kemri makes more enemies than friends, and has more than enough adventures for one life time – which is partly why he dies three times, each time being reborn.

While being an immortal Prince has its attractions, Khemri also learns what it means to be human – and has some tough choices to make.

A Confusion of Princes is a fabulous new space-opera offering from one of Australia’s finest spec-fic creators. Set in a far-distant universe almost unrecognisable from the present, where technology and human consciousness have both evolved to a level where¬† social structure, communication and every day life bear little resemblance to the present day, the story features one young prince’s adventures as he struggles to adapt to a life very different from that he envisaged for himself. Along the way, it explores themes of humanity, valour and ambition, with unexpected elements of romance and family.

The world Nix creates is complex and, at times, a little confusing, but whilst he doesn’t pause to explain, readers gradually build an understanding of how things work. Khemri is an intriguing first person narrator who seems at times arrogant and at others likeable, and sometimes foreshadows, allowing the reader to guess at what might be yet to come. There is action aplenty, with Khemri managing to land himself – or just to be landed, against his will – in crisis after crisis.

Suitable for young adult readers, particularly those with a thirst for action.

A Confusion of Princes

A Confusion of Princes, by Garth Nix
Allen & Unwin, 2012
ISBN 9781741758610

This book is available in good bookstores or online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Show Day, by Penny Mathews & Andrew McLean

As soon as I wake up, I remember that today is special.
It’s Show Day!
We’re going to the show!

There’s nothing like a country show, and in Show Day, author Penny Matthews captures the fun and magic of the day. Told through the first person perspective of young Lil, the story follows a family from waking up in the morning, getting ready and travelling to the show, and the events of the day. Every member of the family has entered at least one competition – Dad for marmalade and wood chopping, Mum for cakes and pumpkins, younger brother Henry for chickens and Best Pet, and Lil for Most Unusual Pet. They don’t all win, but there are prizes, fun and surprises. There are also plenty of other show experiences including rides, showbags and things to eat.

Andrew McLean’s watercolour illustrations bring the text to life and add lots of little glimpses of the fun and activity of the show. Young readers will enjoy spotting details like the variety of pets in the pet tent, and the side shows in side show alley.

Show Day brings to life a fun tradition of Australian life. Especially pleasing is the rural setting, and the sense of family fun which is prevalent.

Good stuff.

Show Day

Show Day, by Penny Matthews & Andrew McLean
Omnibus, 2012
ISBN 9781862916890

This book can be purchased in good bookstores, or online from Fishpond.