Ruben, by Bruce Whatley

As he did every day, Ruben tied his shoes, pulled his hat firmly down on his head and grabbed his goggles and coat.
It was time to slip into the street and head for Block City.

Alone on the streets of a derelict futuristic city, Ruben livessurrounded by the things he has found, and scavenging what he needs to survive. But it is getting increasingly hard to ednure. When he meets a girl, a fewllow scavenger, the pair offer each other some comfort and exchange their knowledge. bak c in his home, Ruben realsies that he needs more.

Ruben is an eerie, thought provoking glimpse at a dystopian future where machines abound, and children struggle for survival in a world with seemingly few humans. With sparse text and rich, complex greay-scale illustrations, much of the meaning is for the reader to discover or to create, and this is a book which will evoke discussion and require much thought.

Suitable for children and adults, Ruben is a work of art.

Ruben , by Bruce Whatley
Scholastic, 2017
ISBN 9781743810354

In the Dark Spaces, by Cally Black

The stranger keeps coming, long-legged stretches of shiny black uniform kicking down the ramp. And it’s not a person. Facing McVeigh is this tall half-crow, half-scarecrow things, all dressed in black. SHiny black armoured ridges line down the centre of its chest and across its shoulders like the back of a crocodile. Its head is a massive beaked helmet. And it’s not a leathery cape, cos it’s moving by itself. They’re wings. Wings that lift higher and quiver….
My scalp prickles. Not right. This is not right. This is a real thing!

Tamara has spent most of her life hiding. Since she was orphaned, her Aunt Lazella has kept her hidden on the ships where she ekes out a living in the kitchens. Now, Tamara is responsible for keepign her little cousin, Gub, silent while Lazella works. But if she can get strong enough to work, too, their fortunes will improve.

When the ship is raided by strange crow-like figures, Tamara finds her fortunes changing in a completely different way. Separated from Gub, Tamara finds herself a prisoner of the invaders, taken back to their hive where she must figure out a way to stay alive long enough to figure out how to get back to her cousin. But, separated by space, this is not going to be asy.

In the Dark Spaces is a stunning spec-fic offering. Set in an unnamed future where fleets of starships mine space for the minerals necessary for survival on Earth, the story explores what happens when an alien race objects to the human presence, which threatens its own existence. Fourteen year old Tamara, who knows too well the downsides of human society, gets to experience first hand the highs and lows of an alternative civilisation, as well as being drawn into the quest for peace.

Tamara is an intriguing character, whose near-silent existence as a stowaway in her aunt’s quarters is swapped for one where she is initially voiceless because of the barriers of language. Her tenacity, coupled with her willingness to learn and to question, are key to her survival, and her loyalty to her absent cousin is a key factor in her survival.

Explroing themes including language, loyalty, human rights and so much more,
In the Dark Spaces is an outstanding read.

In the Dark Spaces, by Cally Black
Hardie Grant Egmont, 2017
ISBN 9781760128647

A Thousand Hugs from Daddy, by Anna Pignataro

In your arms it’s safe and snug,
you always give a thousand hugs.
And I’m as happy as can be-
one hug is not enough for me!

Starting at home and then out into the day a father and child go through the day playing, resting and even overcoming obstacles in the ford of bad weather – with hugs every step of the way.

While the text could be any pairing of adult and child, the illustrations, coupled with the use of ‘Daddy’ in the title, show this pair as a father and infant polar bear. Home is an igloo, and most of the book takes place outside against snowy backgrounds. The palette of mainly whites and greys is gently brightened with soft yellows of light and muted blue skies and snowflakes. This visual gentleness echoes the lyrical rhyming text, making it suitable for cuddle time or bed time.

A beautiful, tender celebration of father-child bonds.

A Thousand Hugs from Daddy, by AnnaPignataro
Scholastic, 2017
ISBN 9781760276973

Feathers, by Phil Cummings & Phil Lesnie

The boy spied a falling feather
spinning
and drifting.
He climbed to the top of a craggy mountain and caught it.
It was soft and smooth on his grimy chief.

When the sun rises on a crisp,cloudy day a sandpiper knows it is time to leave, so it takes flight, heading for warmer climes. First though, on its long journey, it flies over scenes of destruction and hardship – an earthquake, a war zone and a flood. In each place,a feather falls to earth, offering hope to a child below. Finally, as the bird reaches safety near Mia’s house, it drops one last feather. When Mia catches it, she feels lucky. The reader, who has seen the hardships faced by the other children, is particularly aware of how lucky Mia is.

Feathers is a beautiful picture book, on the surface tracing the story of a bird’s migration but, at the same time, exploring the differing fortunes of children across the globe. The theme of hope, symbolised by the bird’s feathers, is demonstrated with exquisite simplicity in both the text and in the outstanding watercolour,pencil and gouache illustrations.

Just beautiful.

Feathers , by PhilCummings andPhilLesnie
Scholastic, 2017
ISBN 9781760157357

The Way Back, by Kylie Ladd

Terry swallowed. ‘You need to call Matt, get him back here. I hope I’m wrong, but when the dogs are onto something and then it suddenly vanishes it usually means the person has got into a car, or been picked up and carried. If Charlie was still anywhere near where we found her helmet we’d have her by now, but she’s not.’ He put his hand on her arm. ‘This changes things, Rachael. I don’t think she’s just missing anymore. We’re dealing with a potential abduction.’

Charlie Johnson is part of a loving family. She has an amazing best friend, and is kind of into Liam, a cute guy from school. But, most of all, she loves horseriding, especially riding Tic-Tac, who she’s finally convinced her parents to lease for her. But one day Charlie and Tic-Tac go out riding, and only Tic-Tac comes back.

For four months, Charlie’s friends and family searched desperately, not knowing if she is dead or alive. For four months, Charlie survives – barely. Finally, she is found wandering and injured, miles from where she was lost. Of course being reunited is wonderful, but can Charlie and her family really heal from what she – and they – have all been through?

The Way Back is a moving story of separation, fear and determination. Ladd explores the emotional complexity of the situation from a number of perspectives, showing that there is no one way that such events can impact on victims, or of dealing with the aftermath of such. Ladd’s empathy and insight take the reader inside a difficult situation in a way which seems real, yet prevents the experience from being overwhelming.

Gripping.

The Way Back, by Kylie Ladd
Allen & Unwin, 2017
ISBN 9781760297138

A Perfectly Posh Pink Afternoon Tea, by Coral Vass & Gabriel Evans

The table was set, today was the day!
In a dainty pink dress danced Annabelle Mae,
with five little friends by the old willow tree,
for a perfectly posh pink afternoon tea!

Annabelle Mae is having a party – a posh afternoon tea, with her friends all dressed up an lots of sweat treats with tea cups and spoons. But next door, two boys – Darcy and Dean – are scheming to spoil the party. When they turn the sprinklers on it looks like everything might be ruined – but Annabelle Mae is not so easily upset. Instead, the posh tea party becomes a messy mud party.

With text in rhyme which scans well and is a pleasure to read aloud, a story with a lovely, non-preachy message, and joyful illustrations, A Perfectly Posh Pink Afternoon Tea is a cute picture book for younger readers.

Good fun.

A Perfectly Posh Pink Afternoon Tea , by Coral Vass & Gabriel Evans
Scholastic, 2017
ISBN 9781743811689

Reena’s Rainbow, by Dee White & Tracie Grimwood

In Reena’s world, sounds scattered and scrambled and made no sense.
But her clear blue eyes saw everything.
She saw the scruffy brown dog with drooping ears who hid in the shadows of the park.

Reena is hearing impaired. She loves to play with the other children who come to the park but sometimes she is left behind because she doesn’t hear what is happening. Dog is homeless. He loves to watch and to play, but he doesn’t have a person or place of his own. But when the two pair up, each findsa new sense of belonging.

Reena’s Rainbow is a touching story of friendship and belonging. The pairing of girl and dog is heart warming, and the message about acceptance is important. The gentle soft-toned illustrations are a perfect complement to the gentlessness of the story.

Lovely.

Reena’s Rainbow , by Dee White & Tracie Grimwood
EK Books, 2017
ISBN 9781925335491

A Bag and a Bird, by Pamela Allen

All went well until the bag filled with air.
The bird was stopped. Down it fell.
The bag became its parachute.
Slowly down, down it went, into the water.
While it sat there on the sea, the plastic bag began to sing. Deeper and deeper it sank.

When John and his mother set off for a picnic at Sydney’s Botanic Gardens they pack a picnic in a plastic bag. But, when they sit down to eat, the plastic bag blows away, and, after a group of birds fight over its contents, the bag is caught on one bird as it flies away. Spectators come together to solve the bird’s dilemma and save it from drowning, pulled down by the bag.

A Bag and a Bird is a picture book with a gentle message about the impact of litter on animals, as well as an action-filled story which children will enjoy. The sense of community portrayed in both the text and the comic-style pictures will delight, and defenders of the much-maligned ibis, will be pleased to see that the bird in question is, in fact, an ibis.

With Allen’s whimsical style and a story that is both fun and gently educative, A Bag and a Bird will be popular at school and at home and, set amongst iconic Sydney landmarks, makes a good souvenir or gift.

A Bag and a Bird, by Pamela Allen
Penguin, 2017
ISBN 9780143783909

It’s OK to Feel the Way You Do, by Josh Langley

Everyone has feelings.
Your feelings are an important part of who you are.
Just like the beating of your heart.

Everyone one – child or adult – has feelings: happy, sad, angry, lonely. And, as this little offering points out, not only is it okay to have these feelings, but they are actually what makes you ‘you’.

In simple, authentic text, accompanied by cartoon-style line drawing illustrations, Langley explores both the sensations which different feelings evoke and ways of addressing those feelings. For example, for anger, he suggests running around like a chicken and “flapping those arms to shake off those angry feelings”, or simply taking the time for some deep breaths.

Entertaining and important, this little book will appeal to children and those who care for them.

It’s OK to Feel the Way You Do, written & illustrated by Josh Langley
Big Sky Publishing, 2017
ISBN 9781925520965

Sparrow, by Scot Gardner

One two three breath one two three four.
After the dusk burned out and the stars began winking in his salt-stung eyes it became impossible to judge the distance to shore. The stars finished some way above the waterline, but was theat the Kimberley coast he could see, or clouds hanging low over an endless ocean?
One two breath one two breath.

Travelling by boat at the end of a survival trip off the Kimberley coast, Sparrow sees that the boats i about to sink and decides to swim for safety and for freedom. His life in juvie has been tough, and h’es prepared to risk everything for freedom. But there are sharks and crocodiles in the water, and its getting dark. the shore, too, is filled with dangers. Yet none of these dangers are perhaps as dark as the memories that crowd his mind.

Sparrow is a compelling story of survival both in the remote Kimberley wilderness, and on the streets of Darwin. Sparrow, selective mute after a childhood of trauma, relives the events which have lead to him being in juvenile detention as he tackles the new challenges for day to day survival which have arisen as a result of his decision to flee the boat.

A moving, unforgettable story.

Sparrow, by Scot Gardner
Allen & Unwin, 2017
ISBN 9781760294472