Exchange of Heart by Darren Groth

Brisbane
Have you always wanted to travel to other FAB parts of the world?
Not so much.
Do you want to immerse yourself in an AWESOME new culture?
If it helps.
Are you ready for the RAD adventure you’ve always dreamt about?
Not my dream.
Then YOU are srsly the sort of student YOLO Canada is looking for!
I srsly doubt it.

Munro Maddux is stuck. Stuck in a destructive and seemingly inescapable loop of ‘if only I had …’ He agrees to go to Brisbane from Canada on a six-month student exchange, hoping that the voice in his head will finally shut up. Never mind that by going, he’s living his little sister’s dream. But although his host family is great and the school welcoming, the only place the voice is silent is at Fair Go, an assisted living residence, where his new school sends him to complete compulsory volunteer hours. His ‘team’ decide they will help him get to know their town, their world.

Exchange of Heart’ sees Munro fly half way around the world, desperate to escape his grief at his sister’s death. But of course, grief doesn’t work that way. It travels with him and no matter how he tries, it grabs at his heart and stops him. Stops him sleeping. Stops him developing friendships and relationships. Stops him functioning like a ‘normal’ 16-year-old teenager. Whatever ‘normal’ is. His volunteering at Fair Go is his lifeline, his safe place, his refuge from and journey back to living. His ‘team’ mentor as much as are mentored, accept him, challenge him. ‘Exchange of Heart’ doesn’t miss a beat. Recommended for secondary readers.

Exchange of Heart, Darren Groth, Random House Australia 2017 ISBN: 9780143781578
review by www.clairesaxby.com, Children’s author and bookseller
www.clairesaxby.com

The Figures on the Lake, by Peter O’Shaughnessy

What are these ghostly figures?
Stark, angular and bright
against the salt lake’s crystal surface
they disturb its blinding light…

Since 2003, a remote salt lake near Wiluna, in Western Australia, has hosted a set of sculptures installed, as part of the Perth Arts Festival’s 5oth anniversary, by internationally renowned artist Antony (now Sir Antony) Gormley. based on the townsepople, the figures dot the crystal white sal lake and attract visitors from around the world, drawn to this remote part of the country to view and talk about art.

The Figures on the Lake a selection of poems, sketches and paintings recording and responding to the beauty of the figures. Artist and poet Peter O’Shaughnessy has visited the sculptures many times, and, following the success of an exhibitions of paintings interpreting the sculptures, was moved to produce a book honouring the sculptures and their story.

The idea of a series of art and poetry inspired by another series of artworks is a wonderful one, and the book is a delight to browse. Proceeds from sales of the book help to support cancer charities.

Available from the author, in Bunbury Western Australia, or through the Wilunatic Press Etsy Store.

The Figures on the Lake, by Peter O’Shaughnessy
Wilunatic Press, 2017
ISBN 9780648055914

To the Moon and Back, by Dianne Bates

Seeing Claire’s anxious face, Mum added, ‘But I love you. And your dad loves you. It’s just that we don’t love one another. Now I’ve found Mac, someone I like more than your dad. And I want to live with my two favourite people – you and Mac. Do you understand?’
Claire nodded, but didn’t really understand. All she understood for sure, was how she felt. She wanted to live with Dad forever.

Claire loves both her parents, but her mum has been keeping secrets from her dad, and now she’s told Claire that they have to leave. Mum and Dad have had lots of fights, and Dad has even hurt Mum sometimes. But he’s never hurt Claire, and she isn’t happy about leaving him behind and going to live with Mum’s new friend, Mac. Hopefully, it will only be temporary and Mum and Dad will reunite so Claire can live with her ‘real’ family.

For younger readers, To the Moon and Back explores the issue of family breakup, and the impact of both domestic violence and new relationships on children. Claire faces problems which all too many young readers will be familiar with, either in their own lives or in the lives of their peers and Bates tries to make the issues accessible by showing them through the eyes of a child.

To the Moon and Back, by Dianne Bates
Big Sky Publishing, 2017
ISBN 9781925520293

Eric the Postie, by Matt Shanks

The post office didn’t hire echidnas
(or any other animals for that matter).
But this wouldn’t stop Eric.
he would do anything to fulfil his dream!

Eric knows he could be the best postman ever – he can stay dry, avoid dogs, lick the envelopes, and even help open letters. If only he had some mail to deliver. But, no matter the obstale, Eric is determined to follow his dreams.

Eric the Postie is a delightful picture book about following dreams, even if they are big and you are little. Young readers will enjoy both the silliness of an echidna wanting to be a postman, and the rightness of the solution.  the illustrations, in watercolour with  white backgrounds, are gorgeous in their apparent simplicity.

Suitable for at home reading or sharing at school, Eric the Postie will also appeal to adult readers.

Eric the Postie, by Matt Shanks
Scholastic, 2017
ISBN 9781743811931

 

Dinosaur Trouble #1 and #2, by Kyle Mewburn & Donovan Bixley

There is only one reason why Arg is bored:
1. He is never allowed to do anything exciting.
Arg is not allowed to go hunting with his dad. He is not allowed to explore the jungle, or play by the lava pits. Arg’s mum thinks everything is too dangerous.

Arg is bored AND hungry. He isn’t allowed to go hunting, or do anything else interesting. But when Mum brings home some eggs, Arg finds out this egg is more interesting that expected. There’s a cute dinosaur inside. Arg’s the only one who knows, and he wants to keep it that way so that his new friend isn’t eaten.

The Great Egg Stink is the first book in the new Dinosaur Trouble series, featuring cave boy Arg and his Stone Age family. the second book, The Lava Melt shake, shows Arg figuring out a way to stop lava from wiping out the village.

Both books are easy to read, short chapter books with black and white illustrations on every spread, and lots of humour mixed with action.

Suitable for newly independent readers, each book stands alone.

Dinosaur Trouble: The Great Egg Stink ISBN 9781775433668
Dinosaur Trouble: The Lava Melt Shake ISBN 9781775433675
By Kyle Mewburn & Donovan Bixley
Scholastic, 2017

Pippa’s Island: The Beach Shack Cafe

Outside, kids were running, shouting, playing and laughing. If I closed my eyes it sounded just like the playground of my old school back in London. But instead of cool and misty air, the sun shone down bright and hot. The air smelled different too. All sea-salty and spicy. And of course the biggest difference was that almost everyone was a stranger.

Pippa and her family might have moved to an idyllic island town, but that doesn’t make it easy. She has left behind friends she’s known since nursery school in London, and moved across the world to Australia, where everything seems different. On top of that, they are living in a caravan in her grandparents’ garden while Mum puts everything into renovating a run-down boatshed she wants to make into a cafe bookshop. Pippa isn’t sure it will work, but when she makes some new friends, things start looking up.

The Beach Shack Cafe is the first title in a new series following Pippa’s new life on Kira Island. Pippa faces the challenges of a new start with the help of her thoughtful, if slightly distracted, mum, and through trial and occasional error.

Young readers will love the island setting and will look forward to more installments.

Pippa’s Island 1: The Beach Shack Cafe, by Belinda Murrell
Random House Australia, 2017
ISBN 9780143783671

Marvin and Marigold: A Christmas Surprise by Mark Carthew ill Simon Prescott

On the first of December, Marigold Mouse
found a rather large box at the front of her house.
Ms Marigold Mouse
Busselton Road
Mouseville
FRAGILE
*Do not bend*
Sender: Mrs M. Mouse (Snr)

It’s Christmas and Marigold finds a box on her doorstep. She opens it to find a letter from her mother and a box full of tree and Christmas decorations, a memory in each one. From her window she spies her neighbour Marvin. His aloneness and loneliness radiates through the window, and she invites him to join her. Together they decorate the tree, share Christmas memories and celebrate the spirit of Christmas. Illustrations show a snowy Christmas, teddy bear-like mice and gingerbread-like houses.

Marvin and Marigold live side-by-side. When her parcel arrives, Marigold is happy to invite her friend to share the decorating of the Christmas tree. He brings a snack to share. Gentle rhyme details the friendship and the sharing of Marigold’s family tree tradition. Inherent in the rhyme and the illustration is the reminder that Christmas is about sharing with those around you. The final image shows the friends sitting by the fire, with both stockings hung together as they share a meal and more chat. Recommended for pre- and early-schoolers.

Marvin and Marigold: A Christmas Surprise, Mark Carthew ill Simon Prescott
New Frontier Publishing 2017
ISBN: 9781925259991

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

Sage Cookson’s Literary Launch by Sally Murphy

‘Come on Sage, it’s not that bad,’ my friend Lucy says, one hand on my shoulder. Í know you can do it.’
Tears spring to my eyes. ‘I don’t think I can, Lucy. I think I’d rather fail!’
I look around the room at the rest of our classmates, all busy working on their task, or talking about it, or trying to get away with doing other things without the teacher, Mr Duke, noticing. I wonder if any of them feels as bad as I do about our assignment.

Ten-year-old Sage Cookson spends a lot of time travelling with her TV chef parents. It’s an exciting and varied life but Sage is often absent from the school she attends with best friend, Lucy. While she stays in touch with Lucy when she’s away, she doesn’t know her other classmates that well. When Mr Duke sets them an assignment to deliver a three-minute no-notes presentation to the class, Sage is terrified. Her normal sunny confidence vanishes. She has no idea what to talk about and she is convinced she will never be able to speak in front of the whole class. At home, everyone is excited about the impending launch of Mum’s cook book, so she keeps her worries to herself.

Confident people always seem that they can do anything, and it can be hard to believe that they ever experience nerves. But often, they have worked hard to be able to overcome the same nervousness that first-timers experience. Sage doesn’t want to disturb her parents when they are so busy. Her parents might be busy but they can also ‘read’ Sage and they want to help her. They, Lucy, and new family friend, Tori, offer a number of strategies, but in the end Sage has to make her own decisions, and to make her own presentation. Recommended for newly independent readers.

Sage Cookson’s Literary Launch, Sally Murphy
New Frontier Publishing 2017
ISBN: 9781925594010

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

Sage Cookson’s Christmas Ghost by Sally Murphy

‘You stay safe,’ my friend Lucy instructs me. and have a wonderful Christmas. I’ll miss you!’
‘I’ll miss you too!’ I say. Have the best Christmas ever.’
Lucy climbs into her dad’s waiting car, clutching the Christmas present I’ve given her.
‘And no pressie-poking!’ I call.
‘Same to you,’ she says, grinning as I hold up the gift that she has given me. ‘Bye Sage!’

It’s Christmas time and Sage and her TV chef family are flying to Western Australia to film a world record attempt at making the largest ever pavlova. The film crew are already there, now it’s time for Mum, Dad and Sage to meet Myra, who will be making the pavlova record-attempt at an old brickwork factory. There are rumours of a ghost at the brickworks, and when things start to go wrong, Sage begins to wonder if the rumours might be true. There’s nothing Sage likes more than a mystery. Since everyone else is busy, she’ll just have to investigate by herself.

Sage has an exciting life accompanying her parents and their crew around Australia. This year has been particularly exciting with several dramatic episodes. Her parents are busy setting up the event and Sage has time to notice things that others may not. Her sleuthing always ends well, though there are often some tense moments. She doesn’t always get things right but she keeps trying. Sage’s adventures are always exciting as she visits different regions of Australia. Recommended for newly independent readers.

Sage Cookson’s Christmas Ghost, Sally Murphy
New Frontier Publishing 2017
ISBN: 9781925594058

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

Pretty Girls Don’t Eat by Winnie Salamon

Call me old-fashioned, but there’s nothing quite like a department store in the middle of the week. Quiet, shiny, anonymous. You could spend an entire day in the lingerie section, surrounded by lace, elastic and padded inserts and nobody would consider you a pervert because they wouldn’t even notice. Watching the flat screens in electricals, trying out mattresses in bedding, browsing through racks of dresses that cost $2000 each. Applying hand cream, perfume, lipstick. All without a single, ‘Can I help you?’

Winter seems to know exactly what she wants from life. She loves fashion and design and has an enviable talent in making her designs translate from the page to wearable art. She has great friends and a supportive family. But at sixteen years old, she’s starting to wonder if things might be better, if even her best friends and her family might love her better, more, if she wasn’t quite so fat. It might also help in the ‘never been kissed’ department too. Scratch the surface of any ‘perfect’ life and there’s plenty of non-perfection to be found. Although it can be harder to believe, non-perfection can be more interesting.

Everyone has secrets. And secret thoughts. Particularly in adolescence. It’s a time of discovery, of working out who you are, and also of looking at others around you in new ways. Hormones play their part in realigning understanding of friendships and family. ‘Pretty Girls Don’t Eat’ offers an opportunity to unstitch and refashion beliefs of self and others. There’s plenty here for discussion. How does a seemingly together teenager start believing negative self-talk? How perfect are the ‘perfect’ lives of everyone else? There are some great role models here – not perfect ones – and a hopeful future. Recommended for early- to mid-secondary readers.

Pretty Girls Don’t Eat, Winnie Salamon
Ford St Publishing 2017
ISBN: 9781925272772

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