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

Turtle Trackers by Samantha Wheeler

Three spine-tingling wails pierced the night air. ‘Beach stone-curlew,’ I murmured, huddling closer to Mum.
A warm, salty gust blasted my face and waves crashed on the shore ahead. The people in front of us whispered, their voices ghostlike in the dark.
‘Everyone ready?’ asked the ranger, Shane, as our group of twenty hurried after him along the track. Shoes shuffled across the coarse sand.

Ten-year-old Isaac and his mother live south of Bundaberg in Queensland, where his mum manages The Pines Holiday Village, a council-owned caravan park. Since Dad is no longer around, Isaac helps his mum as much as he can. In between, he’s a huge fan of the local wildlife, particularly the turtles. Now there’s a full moon and turtles are coming ashore to lay eggs on the beach where they were born. But as well as too much work and not enough time to spend with his friends or the turtles, there are grumpy bloggers, dogs and cats to contend with. Isaac has his work cut out to keep the turtle nests safe until the eggs hatch and a new generation of turtles can make their first journey safely to the sea.

Isaac is doing it tough. He’s lost his dad, his mum is working too hard and no one seems to appreciate how hard he’s trying to keep everyone happy. This is Samantha Wheeler’s third title featuring young characters working to save iconic Australian animals. Each includes a fast-paced adventure and information about animals and the challenges they face for survival in the environment they share with humans. The bright covers on these fictional but also informative novels are very engaging. Recommended for mid-primary readers

Turtle Trackers, Samantha Wheeler UQP 2018 ISBN: 9780702259951

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

The Endsister by Penni Russon

In the locked attic of the house on Mortlake Road in south-west London, near a bend in the River Thames, something stirs.
It shudders, a cobwebbed thing, tattered and dusty, so long forgotten, so long forgetting.
It is hardly anything, but it is almost something, disturbing the shadows, shrinking from the approaching light.

An Australian family inherit a grand old house in London and move from their rented farmhouse to live at Outhwaite House. There Else, Clancy, the twins and Sibbi, along with their parents adjust to a new life. Some settle in more easily than others to this old house – some begin to thrive and others succumb to the secrets trapped within the walls. Told from multiple viewpoints, this is a story of endings and beginnings, and of all things in between.

It takes skill to write a cohesive story from multiple (different-aged) viewpoints without sacrificing the building tension and keeping the reader connected. Penni Russon nails it. Each dweller in Outhwaite House is given a voice and their own story, and together they weave a wonderful, mysterious story that will keep the reader page-turning to the very last. Highly recommended for mid- to upper-primary readers.

The Endsister, Penni Russon Allen & Unwin 2018 ISBN: 9781741750652
review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller
www.clairesaxby.com

Sorry Day by Coral Vass and Dub Leffler

There was a hum of excitement.
Flags flickered in the breeze as Maggie’s heart danced with delight.
‘This is a very special day!’ her mother said.

Maggie and her mum are waiting with thousands of others for an official apology from the Australian government about the Stolen Generations. Interspersed spreads tell the story of taken away from their parents because of policies made by the Australian government of the time. When Maggie is separated from her mother in the crowd, the stories coalesce. The loss of a child for even a few seconds is traumatic for both parent and child. How much worse then to see your child put in a truck and driven away. Finally, the Prime Minister of the day offers an apology to all those families disrupted and damaged by being separated from each other. The contemporary story is depicted in colour, the historical one mostly in sepia tones, like old photos. Final spreads include an explanation of the policy that led to the Stolen Generations. There are also photos of the event that promised to begin to repair the hurt.

National Sorry Day was first held on 26 May 1998 but the event featured here is 13 February when for the first time, an Australian Prime Minister apologised directly to the people of the Stolen Generations. The final spreads also offer a timeline. The depiction of a contemporary child being temporarily lost will be easily comprehensible to most young readers, and will allow them to empathise with the many children taken from their families. ‘Sorry Day’ offers the opportunity to begin discussion in the classroom and the home about belonging and loss. Recommended for primary schoolers.

Sorry Day, Coral Vass ill Dub Leffler NLA Publishing 2018 ISBN: 9780642279033