Chip. by Kylie Howarth

He ate
fat chips, skinny chips,
doggy vhipd, sandy chips,
crunchy little bits of chips
and even spicy chilli-dipped chips.

Like most gulls, Chip would do anything for fish and chips, even though the chips he eats make his stomach ache. So, when the fish and chip van owner bans Chip and his mates from being fed chips, Chip gets desperate. He hatches a plan to impress people so much they won’t be able to resist him and his friends.

Chip is the humorous tale of a greedy, but inventive seagulll, who trains his friends to fly in formation so they can compete in an airshow and get free chips. Though the plan works, the result is not free chips (which are bad for gulls) but fresh fish, which is more satisfying. The mixed-media illustrations make use of collage, pen outlines and digital elements and Howarth’s ability to give Chip plenty of emotion and movement with just a few simple lines is clever.

A fun picture book which will be enjoyed by kids and adults alike.

Chip, by Kylie Howarth
Five Mile, 2016
ISBN 9781760400736

The Books of My Childhood: Sally Murphy

Today I’m beginning a new blog idea which I hope will turn into a regular feature, with the participation of other Australian authors and illustrators, as well as anyone else who chooses to participate. I’m calling it The Books of My Childhood because it is where I will invite participants to share five(ish) books that they loved in their childhoods, and tell us a little about them So, here goes: my take on the books I remember from my childhood.

  1. MandyMandy, by Julie Edwards. This isn’t the first book I remember reading, but it is the first one I remember reading and wishing I’d written – so much so that I sat down and wrote my own story, Tereasa, which – like Mandy – featured an orphan girl who lives in a orphanage but longs to have a family of her own. For some reason I really connected with the character Mandy, even though I was very far from being an orphan. The other interesting fact about Mandy, which I only realised in my adult life, is that its author, Julie Edwards, is better known as Julie Andrews, the actress. How did I not know that the actress I loved was also the author I loved?
  2. Are You My Mother? (Beginner Series)Are You My Mother? , by P.D. Eastman. I loved this book and the absurdity of a bird being batched and mistaking all kinds of other things as its mother. I also have strong memory that this is the first book I felt confident to read aloud to other kids – on the reading mat at kindergarten.
  3. Horton Hatches the EggHorton Hatches the Egg, by Dr Seuss. I’m not sure why this book isn’t as well known by most people I know as Dr Seuss’s other books, because I adored this book, again for the absurdity of its plot as well as the strong sense of justice I felt with its ending. I also remember my Mum reading this one to me from a hardcover, red bound edition. It’s one of the first books I also bought for my first child as well as for my first grandchild. With two more grandchildren on the way, guess what I’ll be buying.?
  4. Volume 1 of the Childcraft books which accompanied our World Book Encyclopedia set and which was filled with so many poems – and coloured pictures, including photos. One poem stands out in my memory The Purple Cow BY Gellett Burgess, with its accompanying photo of a purple cow. There were other poems which I adored and memorised, but I think the amazing photo (remember, this was before photoshop!) helped to cement this one as a favourite.
  5. The Naughtiest Girl in the SchoolThe Naughtiest Girl in the School (and its sequels) by Enid Blyton – as well as so many of her other books, including the Secret Seven (which I liked better than the Famous Five). The Naughtiest Girl was the start of my love affair with boarding school stories, which culminated in The Chalet School stories in my teen year, and subsequently faded when I spent two years in boarding school myself and discovered there were no tuck boxes and very few midnight feasts.

So, there’s my five. If you would like to comment on these, feel free, and if you would like to write a post with your own five (give or take a couple)

Bio: Sally Murphy is a children’s author, poet, doctoral candidate, reviewer, mother, grandmother, wife and lover of life. She loves to read and one of her few regrets in life is that she can’t read in her sleep.

Pig the Winner, by Aaron Blabey

Pig was a Pug
and I’m sorry to say,
if he didn’t come first
it would ruin his day…

Believe it or not,
he was quite hard to beat.
And the reason was simple …
Yes, Pig was a cheat.

Pig the Pug is back in his third laugh out loud adventure and, as always, Trevor the Dachshund is right by his side. This time, Pug is doing whatever it takes to win, and making a contest or race from everything he and Trevor do. But, when he insists on an eating race, he eats more than he intended, ending up with the bowl wedged in his mouth.

Using jaunty, well-written rhyming text Pig the Winner tells a tale that is chiefly humorous but also has a gentle message about competitiveness and friendship. Blabey’s illustrations , in acrylic as well as pen and pencil, are filled with funny details, and the facial expressions of both characters are hilarious.

Perfect for read-aloud sharing, Pig the Winner is a winner.

Pig the Winner, by Aaron Blabey
Scholastic, 2016
ISBN 9781760154288

Theophilus Grey and the Traitor's Mask, by Catherine Jinks

You don’t think it a rather provocative arrangement?’ the clergyman began, then broke off, frowning. He had been interrupted by a noise that made Philo’s hair stand on end.
It sounded like a wolf’s howl. Long and drawn-out, it echoed off the high brick walls that penned them in, finishing on a growling quaver.
It seemed to be coming from behind them.

Theophilus Grey is a linkboy – a boy who guides paying customers home, or across town, after dark falls on London streets. It’s the work he’s been doing for as long as he can remember, and along the way he has learnt the power of that memory. The things he sees, the conversations he hears and the people who have them, can prove to be useful, so he watches and listens, remembering everything he can.

When Philo is asked to work as a spy to gather intelligence against the Jacobites, who are plotting to overthrow King George, he has to draw on all his resources. Even then, he seems to be collecting enemies and drawing attention to himself far more than is comfortable. As the tensions mounts, Philo has to questions where his loyalties should really lie.

Theophilus Grey and the Traitor’s Mask is the second novel featuring Philo and his friends – fellow linkboys, hawkers, actors and more. Set in 1750s England, it is a satisfying blend of adventure and history, likely to appeal to upper primary readers.

Theophilus Grey and the Traitor’s Mask, by Catherine Jinks
Allen & Unwin, 2916
ISBN 9781760113612

The Things I Didn't Say, by Kylie Fornasier

I hate the label Selective Mutism – as if I choose not to speak, like a kid who refuses to eat broccoli. I’ve used up every dandelion wish since I was ten wishing for the power to speak whenever I want to. I’m starting to wonder if there are enough dandelions.

Piper Rhodes doesn’t talk to strangers. But far from this being a sign of following parental rules, her silence seems inexplicable. She can talk at home, and to people she knows well, but at school and in the community, words fail her. This causes lots of problems, but as she starts at a new school for her final year of schooling, Piper is never more aware of just how problematic it can be. Teachers think she’s being rude, and making friends is difficult. Then there’s West: the school captain, soccer-star, boy who has it all. He seems intent of getting to know her, even if it means writing notes.

Selective Mutism is a difficult condition to live with and for other people to comprehend. Even the name is problematic, as Piper complains, implying a ‘selection’ or choice being made. The Things I Didn’t Say is a wonderful exploration of the challenges it holds for one teen character, at the same time as being just a great read about friendship, peer pressure, and parental expectation. Piper has changed schools by choice after losing her best friend following a drunken party, and at the new school finds both new friends and new enemies. West, who appears to have it all, also has struggles, particularly with meeting the expectations his parents have of him. Their seemingly unlikely relationship blossoms through notes and text messages, but is threatened by people around them.

An excellent young adult read.

The Things I Didn’t Say, by Kylie Fornasier
Penguin, 2016
ISBN 9780143573630

Saving Jazz, by Kate McCaffrey

My name is Jasmine Lovely, Jazz usually (unless I’m in trouble), and I’m a rapist. In fact, I’m guilty of more than just rape but, as my lawyer says, in the interests of judicial fairness, we can’t be prejudicial. It’s hard enough to admit rape. As a girl, people look at you exceptionally hard. People look at you blankly. Not that it’s something I admit to often, like I just did to you.

Jazz has a pretty good life: she’s pretty, popular and smart. She lives in the small town of Greenhead, a seemingly idyllic settlement north of Perth. Like the other teenagers, she likes to party, to drink and to use social media. But when those three things all spin out of control one fateful night, the consequences are terrible – for Jazz, for her best friends Annie and Jack, and for the whole community of Greenhead.

Saving Jazz is a gritty, chilling story of cyber bullying and the use of social media, following the story of what can happen when these two get out of control. With the viewpoint character, Jazz, telling her story through a blog, we are given the insight of someone who has been both bystander and perpetrator, with the book being told after the major event, looking back, but then progressing to beyond the time when the blog is started, with 43 ‘posts’ spanning several years.

McCaffrey is known for broaching difficult topics, and Saving Jazz is no exception. AT the same time, though, the story has plenty of warm moments, offering hope both for the characters and for the reader.

An outstanding young adult read.

Saving Jazz, by Kate McCaffrey
Fremantle Press, 2016
ISBN 9781925163582