Book of Colours, by Robyn Cadwallader

She lifts a hand towards the bundle, but lets it drop again. Anticipation is a strange creature. For nearly two years she has waited for this moment, and now it is here, she doesn’t want to unwrap the parcel. How long has she imagined the illuminators with brush and quill, bent at their desks day after day, choosing colour and gold leaf. How long has she waited to see their work. But now she doesn’t want to look inside.

When Mathilda orders a prayer book made, she imagines it as a thing of beauty, both a sacred object and a symbol of the status she and her husband will hold. But when it is delivered, almost two years later, much has changed. For the illuminators, too, life has changed. In their small shop in London, a team of five have worked on the illustrations, each with their own things to prove and their own reasons for being there. The creation of the book is as complex as their lives, and the life of the woman for whom it is intended.

The Book of Colours is a complex, well woven story of life in 14th century England. Set against the backdrop of real events, and with a strong cast of characters from all walks of life, the story alternates between the events in the months after the book is delivered, and those in the time it is being worked on in London. The richness and complexity of the illuminations in the book are echoed in the rich, complex lives of the characters, particularly Will, an illuminator with a troubled past, Gemma, the wife of the master illuminator whose shop Will works in, and the Lady Mathilda, for whom the book is destined. Gemma’s husband, John, their son and other minor characters are also presented as rounded, intriguing characters.

Like the precious book in the story, this is a book which will stay with the reader fora long time.

The Book of Colours, by Robyn Cadwallader
Foruthe Estate, an imprint of Harper Coolins, 2018
ISBN 9781460752210

Unearthed, by Amie Kaufman & Megan Spooner

I swallow hard, gritting my teeth. Millions of light-years from home, standing on the surface of an alien planet, it never truly hit me until now that the biggest thing I’d have to fear would be another human being.

Mia is alone on Gaia, a planet far from Earth. Her goal is to scavenge as much alien tech as she can to earn not just her backer’s approval but something far more important – enough money to buy her little sister’s freedom. Jules Addison is on Gaia too, but his goal is far more important, he thinks. He wants to study the long extinct alien civilisation who once lived here – in the hopes that what he learns might save humanity, and his father’s reputation. With very differing aims, neither is impressed when they meet – but it fast becomes apparent that they need each other if they are to survive the planet, let alone meet their personal goals.

Unearthed is a young adult space-opera blending sci-fi with action, romance and tomb-raiding scenes reminiscent of Indiana Jones, where the pair must cooperate to navigate action puzzles to stay alive and continue their quest.

The dual narrative allows readers to connect with the two main characters and to understand both their motivations and their back stories. Both are likeably flawed and although the story is slow in patches, it is increasingly absorbing, and readers will be left keen to read the sequel and find out what happens to Mia and Jules.

Unearthed, by Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner
Allen & Unwin, 2018
ISBN 9781760292157
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Ninja Kid: From Nerd to Ninja, by Anh Do

Grandma looked at the cake … and all the stuff on the ground. ‘You’ve got a long way to go before you know how to use your skills properly,’ she said, ‘and I’m here to help. But your mum’s right. There is no doubt about it, Nelson…you are a NINJA!

Nelson is am awkward uncool nerd, who lives in the junkyard with his mum, grandma and cousin. So when he wakes up on his tenth birthday and can suddenly do things he never could before, he is more than a little weirded out. When he learns that he is, in fact, a ninja – perhaps the last ninja on earth – he thinks there must be a mistake. He can’t even get his undies around the right way, let alone save the world.

From Nerd to Ninja is the first offering the new Ninja Kid series from much loved comedian and children’s author Anh Do. Combining humour with a fast moving story and an unlikely, though likable, hero, the story is sure to impress young readers who will keenly await the next installment.

From Nerd to Ninja, by Anh Do
Scholastic Australia, 2018
ISBN 9781742993263

The Dog With Seven Names, by Dianne Wolfer

On Christmas morning the Boss lifted me by the scruff of the neck and dumped me in an old kerosene tin. he carried me from the outside kennel and tucked me under a strange sparkly tree. When Elsie saw me, she danced and I smelt her joy.

When a tiny puppy is born on a remote cattle station, her survival is unlikely. The runt of the litter, and with a mother who dies soon after delivering her latest litter of pups, only the station owner’s daughter has any time for her. When Christmas comes, the pup is gifted to the daughter, Elsie, cementing their bond, and Princess gets a name.Girl and dog are inseparable until war arrives, and they are separated. In the years that follow the dog has adventures around the Pilbara region as war causes turmoil to all around her and, as she helps and bonds with a range of new people, she also acquires a series of new names. But she never forgets her Elsie, and dreams of being reunited with her.

The Dog With Seven Names is a warm, tender tale of one little dog, set against the historical events of Word War Two in rural Western Australia. Told from the perspective of the dog, the narrative is both childlike and perceptive, offering a unique insight into the impact of war and the bonds between dogs and humans.

Dianne Wolfer has a knack for delivering historical fiction in a form which at once palatable, well researched, and engaging, doesn’t disappoint with this warm-hearted, loveable book.

The Dog With Seven Names, by Dianne Wolfer
Random House Australia, 2018
ISBN 9780143787457

Small Spaces, by Sarah Epstein


We don’t pick and choose what to be afraid of. Our fears pick us.

When she was eight Tash Carmody witnessed her secret friend Sparrow abduct a child, Mallory Fisher. But nobody believed Tash, because no one else had ever met Sparrow and, over the years since, Tash has come to accept that Sparrow wasn’t real and that some trauma  caused her to create her version of events. Mallory has been mute since the week that she went missing, and, after years of counselling and being sheltered by her increasingly frustrated mother, Tash is determined to put events behind her. But Mallory and her family are back in town and old memories are resurfacing. Tash becomes increasingly isolated from her few friends as she starts to wonder if Sparrow really does exist – or whether she herself is the dangerous one.

Small Spaces is a gripping psychological thriller for young adult readers. The mystery of what happened to Tash, and Tash’s involvement, will keep readers guessing. Tash’s first person narration is interspersed with scripts of recordings of her counselling sessions over the intervening years, allowing readers insight into Tash’s version of events at the time, and what has happened in the intervening years.

Creepy, gripping and unputdownable.

Small Spaces, by Sarah Epstein
Walker Books, 2018
ISBN 9781921977381

Lucy’s Dawn, by Juliet Blair

Today has been the most important day of my life. I still don’t know whether to laugh or cry.
This is how it all began…

Lucy wants nothing more than to to work in the printing industry, like her father, but because she’s a girl, her dream seems unattainable. When an opportunity arises to work in Louisa Lawson’s Printery, she is delighted. She’ll be working in the office, but she hopes that, one day, she might be promoted. In the meantime, she loves working in the printery, where all the staff are female except for the owner’s son, the young poet Henry Lawson.

Lucy’s Dawn is the diary format story of a fictional girl set amidst the historical lives of Henry Lawson and his mother, and events in Sydney in 1889, particularly those surrounding the printer’s union and the rights of women to work in the printing industry.

Giving an insight into the lives and rights of women, and daily lives in Australia prior to Federation, the story will be of interest to young history enthusiasts.

Lucy’s Dawn , by Juliet Blair
NLA Publishing, 2018
ISBN 9780642279170

Bird to Bird, by Claire Saxby & Wayne Harris

Deep in the forest where sundrops spill
a bird sends seeds to the floor.

Over the seas, a bird drops a seeds which sprouts and, slowly, grows into a tree. When that tree is felled it becomes, in turn, part of a ship bearing convicts, then a frame for a weaving loom and, eventually, part of a lean-to. When the lean-to is abandoned the wood lies dormant until a crafter finds it and from it carves a wooden bird.

This beautiful story shows the journey of one tree, with the use of the bird at the beginning and end drawing an elegant circle which even young children will connect with. The repurposing of the wood from convict bunk to loom to building material to carving material connects history with the growing contemporary re-awakening of the importance of recycling and upcycling.

The poetic text is simple, and a delight to read aloud, and Harris’s illustrations make stunning use of light and perspective.

A delight for a home library as well as a useful classroom read.

Bird to Bird, by Claire Saxby & Wayne Harris
Black Dog, 2018
ISBN 9781925381122

The Poesy Ring: A Love Story, by Bob Graham

County Kerry,
west coast of Ireland, 1830.
Bitter tears were shed and a ring was thrown.

In an act of sorrow, a woman throws away a poesy ring. Inscribed with the words ‘Love never dies’, the ring lies first in a field then,  under an oak tree which grows nearby, before being caught in the hoof a deer which stops to eat acorns. From there the ring begins a journey which sees it eventually at the bottom of the ocean where it is swallowed by a fish and so, almost two centuries after it was thrown, finally finds its way back to human hands. Purchased by young lovers from a gold trader, the ring is finally placed once again on a young woman’s finger.

There is so much to ponder on and love in this book. The fascinating journey of the ring, the idea of love travelling and being passed on, the mystery of the woman who threw the ring, and her story, will leave readers pondering and even discussing for quite some time. The illustrations, with Bob Graham’s special blend of realism and whimsy, will also delight and inspire further examination.

A treasure of a book about a unique treasure.

The Poesy Ring, by Bob Graham
Walker Books, 2018
ISBN 9781406378276

Sandcastle, by Philip Bunting

‘Don’t worry,’ says Grandad.
‘The sandcastle is still here;
you just can’t see it.’

Rae wants to build a magnificent sandacste, and when Grandad offers to help they do indeed build a very fine castle. But when the tide starts to come in, Rae watches as, bit by bit, the magnificent castle is washed away. Grandad, though, explains that the castle isn’t really gone, because everything that made it is still there.

Sandcastle is a beuatiful exploration of the ebb and flow of life, and of the gentle bond between grandparent and grandchild. Whil Grandad’s wisdom is deep, so too is Rae’s willingness to accept that wisdom.

The deceptively simple illustrations use sandy tones as well as blues with embellishments of red and yellow. The focus is squarely on Rae and Grandad as they enjoy time together, seemingly the only two at the beach – with the exception of a gorgeous orange crab. Another lovely touch is the absence of any gendered pronouns for Rae, something which is difficult to achieve but doesn’t seem forced in this text.

A beautiful book.

Sandcastle, by Philip Bunting
Allen & Unwin, 2018
ISBN 9781760634438

White Gum Creek, by Nicole Hurley-Moore

For an instant as he approached the counter, there was a warm, tingly flare erupting somewhere in her core. She told her friends – she even told herself – that all she wanted to do was reach out and help this guy. She didn’t exactly know how she was going to go about it but he needed to be around people again.

When his wife died in a tragic accident, Nick Langtree became a recluse, living alone in a caravan on his farm, punishing himself for Sophie’s death. But it’s been six years and his friends think it’s time he forgave himself and allowed himself some happiness. Tash Duroz, in particular, wants to reach out to him. But deep down she knows she’s kidding herself that she just wants to be friends with Nick. What she feels is something else.

Nick is hardly aware of Tash, though he appreciates her friendliness when she serves him at the bakery. he is, though, willing to start getting his life back on track. If only strange things didn’t keep happening around the farm. It’s almost as if Sophie is haunting him – but maybe there is someone who has a grudge against him.

White Gum Creek is a story about dealing with heartache and grief and forging new beginnings, as well as friendship and self-forgiveness. With an element of mystery to keep the story moving forward, it is a satisfying, engaging read.

White Gum Creek, by Nicole Hurley-Moore
Allen & Unwin, 2018
ISBN 9781760631109