Goldenhand, by Garth Nix

‘I’m a messenger!’ bawled the nomad. She was even younger than the young guard, perhaps having seen only sixteen or seventeen of the harsh winters of her homeland. Her lustrous skin was acorn brown, her hair black, worn in a plaited queue that was wound several times around her head like a crown, and her dark eyes appealing. ‘I claim the message right!’

With the Abhorsen, Sabriel, and her husband the King on holidays, the Abhorsen-in-waiting Lirael is responsible for protecting the Old Kingdom from the Dead and any Free Magic creatures. The last six months have been quiet, but two messages are coming her way. One, carried by a stranger from beyond the walls, is in danger of not being delivered because its carrier, a girl named Ferin, is being pursued by sorcerers determined to stop her. The other message, carried by a messenger hawk, is more successful in getting through. It’s from Nicholas Sayre, who Sabriel feared she might never see again. When she responds to the message she finds him unconscious, near to death. To help him heal, and to learn more about the taint of Free Magic he carries, she must take him to her childhood home with the Clayr. With Nicholas safe she must turn her attention to the other message – one which predicts great danger for the Old Kingdom.

Fans of the Old Kingdom series will be delighted with this latest installment, featuring favourite characters including Lirael, Sabriel, Nicholas and Sam, alongside new ones. Nix seemingly weaves his stories with the magic that is found in his world. The Old Kingdom is a richly woven setting, and the people and beings that populate it are intriguing. This is deeply satisfying fantasy at its very best.

With a bonus Old Kingdom story, Goldenhand is divine.

Goldenhand, by Garth Nix
Allen & Unwin, 2016
ISBN 9781741758634

 

Also in the Series:

Sabriel
Lirael
Abhorsen

Clariel (Prequel)

When the Lyrebird Calls, by Kim Kane

The sun had sneaked out from behind the clouds, and sparkles from the shoes bounded about the grass. Madeleine looked back up. the girl crossed her arms. ‘I was not enquiring after the shrubs, she said imperiously. ‘I want to know what you are doing in Bea’s dress slippers.’

Madeleine is not impressed at being sent to the country to stay with her eccentric grandmother for the holidays, while her big brother gets to stay with his best friend. Staying with Mum Crum means early mornings, yoga and hard work. But when she finds a pair of shoes hidden in the cupboard she is renovating, Madeleine is intrigued and wants to know more. Soon, she is finding out far more than she bargained for, when she finds herself transported back to 1900, to the home of the shoe’s owner.

Now Madeline is part of a family and time where women have no power or independence, as the Federation of Australia’s colonies nears. She witnesses the treatment of Aboriginals, staff and children, and is conflicted about both what she sees and how little she can do to change it. She also watches the family struggle through personal turmoil as she worries about how she will get back to her own time.

When the Lyrebird Calls is an absorbing time-slip novel for children and young adults, set in late colonial Australia, as well as in contemporary Victoria. While a number of issues are explored through the text, the action carries the story so that it does not become issue heavy. Young readers will enjoy being able to see aspects of colonial life through the yes of a contemporary narrator.

When the Lyrebird Calls, by Kim Kane
Allen & Unwin, 2016
ISBN 9781741758528

Freedom Swimmer, by Wai Chim

Ma is gone. I fought back tears, gripping the handle of the wheelbarrow tighter so her body wouldn’t tip out too soon. I was taking her to the river to join the other villagers who had passed. I didn’t dare look around – what if one of those bodies had surfaced, caught on a rock instead of being swept away by the current after the last rains? I could almost picture the head of some weeks-dead villager bobbing up beside me, all sunken cheeks and lifeless eyes behind paper-thin lids.

Having watched his parents die in a famine during the ‘Great Leap Forward’, Ming is left orphaned. Sharing a house with other village orphans, he must work hard to grow crops for his village and for the Communist government, with little time for himself. When the Party brings a group of city boys to work in the village, Ming forms an unlikely friend with Li, a charming, likeable city boy. Ming, taught to swim by his father, now teaches Li to swim and as they exchange their stories and their dreams they also start to wonder if there is a chance for freedom.

Freedom Swimmer is a tale of friendship set in 1960s China. Told from the dual perspectives of the two protagonists, the story explores both the effects of living under the fledgling regime, and the efforts of the freedom swimmers, people who attempted to swim from mainland China to Hong Kong, where they would find freedom.

Based on the experiences of author Wai Chim’s father, who made the freedom swim in 1973, Freedom Swimmer is a moving story.

Freedom Swimmer, by Wai Chim
Allen & Unwin, 2016
ISBN 9781760113414

The Safest Place in London, by Maggie Joel

There was something rather splendid about this woman who would not have looked out of place in the pages of a magazine, but whom fate had put here, in the the East End, in a tube station with a cigarette in her mouth and a small child. It set her apart from the wretched mother and her five starving children.

Diana Meadows is lost. She and her three year old daughter Abigail have come up to London on secret business, and somehow caught the wrong bus. Now she’s in the East End and the air raid sirens are blaring. Not far away Nancy Levin and her own daughter, Emily, are cooking chips for dinner when they, too, hear the siren. They know what to do, having done it many times before, and gather their belongings before heading off to the shelter.Both women’s husbands are off at the war – Diana’s Gerald is serving with a tank regiment in North Africa, while Nancy’s Joe has just left to return to the navy after surviving a torpedoing. The husbands believe their wives and daughters are safe. The two women spend the night camped beside each other in the cramped underground space. Though they don’t speak, each observes the other – and their lives become linked before the all clear sounds.

The Safest Place in London is a gripping, shocking tale of war time life and the lengths mothers will go to to protect their families. With the chance to observe the thoughts processes of both characters, and to see what happens beyond the terrible night in the shelter, readers will grow to know them, and perhaps to understand their actions.

Lots to think about both during and after reading.

The Safest Place in London, by Maggie Joel
Allen & Unwin, 2016
ISBN 9781743310601

My Dog Dash by Nicki Greenberg

My dog Dash wasn’t very well-behaved at puppy school.

I think the teacher could have been a bit more patient with him.

My dog Dash wasn’t very well-behaved at puppy school.

I think the teacher could have been a bit more patient with him.

Dash’s story is told by a young girl who loves him. Dash attends puppy school, but although he does many of the same things as other puppies, the teacher is unimpressed. He’s great at ‘sit’ and ‘stay’ but is still working on other tasks. Walking Dash is slow because he’s interested in everything he sees. But he is her pet, and she loves him, despite what others might see as his failures or peccadillos. Illustrations are full page and provide plenty of humour.

Dash is an unusual dog, but there are plenty of those in the world. This young girl is caring and responsible with her pet, despite the reactions of others. ‘My Dog Dash’ is hilarious and will be fun to share with one reader or many. Recommended for pre- and early-schoolers.

My Dog Dash, Nicki Greenberg Allen & Unwin 2016 ISBN: 9781760110673

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com

Mr Chicken Goes to Paris, by Leigh Hobbs

On the way to the Arc de Triomphe, he politely asked someone to take his photo.
‘Of course, monsieur,’ came the reply.
‘Merci, madame,’ said Mr Chicken.

Mr Chicken loves to travel and he has never visited France, so when his French friend Yvette invites him, he hops on the next plane. In Paris there is so much to see. He practises his French phrases as he visits the Arc de Triomphe, the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower and more. And, when things don’t go exactly to plan, his friend Yvette is there to help.

Since its first release in 2009, Mr Chicken Goes to paris has been loved by all ages. Mr Chicken is an oversized, startling looking chicken, but his zest for life and quest for discovery make him loveable. The fact that he seems unaware that he is different – and is, in fact, often more interesting to those around him and the landmarks he is visiting – will delight young readers and be the cause of much discussion.

The latest release of includes a copy of the book and a plush Mr Chicken.

Mr Chicken Goes to paris, by Leigh Hobbs
Allen & Unwin, 2016
ISBN 9781760293024

Go Home, Cheeky Animals! by Johanna Bell & Dion Beasley

At Canteen Creek here we live, there are cheeky dogs everywhere.

Mum gets frustrated by the cheeky dogs hanging around the cap and tries to shoo them away – but Grandpa says they help to keep the other cheeky animals away. When the rains come, so too do the other animals – first a gang of goats then a drove of donkeys, followed by horses, buffaloes and camels. Finally, everyone has had enough – especially the cheeky dogs, who growl at the cheeky animals until they go home. Now the cheeky dogs have the camp to themselves – untilt he enxt time the big rains come.

Go Home Cheeky Animals is humorous, delightful book filled with cheeky dogs and, of course, the other cheeky animals, getting into all sorts of mischief around the camp. Kids will love the story but will especially connect with the illustrative style of Dion Beasley whose work is really accessible and simple – yet filled with life, humour and detail.

Children from remote indigenous communities are offered a story here which connects with camp life, while kids form other parts of Australia will enjoy the insight Go Home Cheeky Animals offers, alongside its humour.

To learn more about the collaboration behind this book and its predecessor, Too Many Cheeky DOgs, visit the creators’ website here.

Go Home Cheeky Animals, by Johanna Bell and Dion Beasley
Allen & Unwin, 2016
ISBN 9781760291655

 

Available from good bookstores or online from Booktopia. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Anders and the Volcano by Gregory Mackay

‘I can’t believe the holidays are almost here, Bernie.’

‘I know. It’s the last day of school already.’

‘I’m so excited!’

‘What do you have planned?’

‘Um …’

‘I can’t believe the holidays are almost here, Bernie.’

‘I know. It’s the last day of school already.’

‘I’m so excited!’

‘What do you have planned?’

‘Um …’

Anders and his friends, Bernie and Eden are looking forward to their holidays, now that school is finished. Anders and his family are going away, as is Eden. But Bernie has no plans as his father has to work. Anders soon sorts that out and Bernie joins his family at the holiday camp. There they spend their time exploring, having fun, making new friends. Eden is happy to join in, but is just as happy to entertain herself with her own projects. Now Anders is not the only one with a beetle, there is even more adventure to be had. Their new friend doesn’t have a beetle, but she does have a cricket, a jumpy one. Cover art shows the friends flying with the aid of their beetles/cricket and the smoking volcano hints at their interaction with this extinct volcano. Characters are drawn lightly as animals of different species.

Told in graphic novel/comic format, Anders and the Volcano is light on text, heavy on image and packaged as a novel. This second adventure with Anders and his friends (Book 1: Anders and the Comet) explores many familiar aspects of summer holidays – going away, exploring, playing, sleepovers. Each of the characters has their own story, and represent a range of family types and backgrounds. The style of the images is uncluttered and gentle and would be accessible to a wide range of readers and reading abilities. Younger competent readers will enjoy the adventures told in the comic style and older readers not ready for full novels will appreciate the different character journeys and the clarity of the text. Recommended for newly competent and mid-primary readers.

Anders and the Volcano, Gregory Mackay
Allen & Unwin 2016
ISBN: 9781760290030

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com

Captain Jimmy Cook Discovers Third Grade by Kate & Jol Temple ill Jon Foye

I discovered three things tody:

Captain Cook was the greatest explorer that ever lived.
Captain Cook is my great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great- great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather
Third Grade is going to be the best year of my life.

It’s History Week and learning about Captain Cook is the second-best thing that has ever happened in Ms Fennel’s class. The first, of course, being the escape of Ambystoma mexicanum, which is Wikipedia for axolotl.

I discovered three things today:

  1. Captain Cook was the greatest explorer that ever lived.
  2. Captain Cook is my great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great- great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather
  3. Third Grade is going to be the best year of my life.

It’s History Week and learning about Captain Cook is the second-best thing that has ever happened in Ms Fennel’s class. The first, of course, being the escape of Ambystoma mexicanum, which is Wikipedia for axolotl.

Jimmy Cook has just discovered a link to Captain James Cook and decided that these genes mean that he is destined for Big Things. He’s keeping a log – a Captain’s log – of all his plans and observations. One of his plans involves completing some of Captain Cook’s unfinished tasks. But first he has to overcome some obstacles, the most troublesome of which is fellow classmate and all-round pest Alice Toolie. No matter what he does, she seems to get there first. But Jimmy is undaunted. World class explorers have to expect a few setbacks. Illustrations scatter throughout to help Jimmy be sure that readers understand his world.

If bright ideas and enthusiasm are what spins the world, then Jimmy Cook is sure of many whirlwind adventures. His Captain’s log overflows his brilliance and capabilities. Nothing shakes his confidence, nothing gets in his way. Not pesky classmates, not the doubts of others, not reality. He is ready to take on the world. Whether or not the world is quite ready for some of his wilder ideas, is another matter. Young readers will be carried along in the excitement of Jimmy’s missions and laugh out loud at some of the absurdities. Recommended for newly confident readers who still like a few illustrations to break up the text.

Captain Jimmy Cook Discovers Third Grade by Kate & Jol Temple ill Jon Foye

Allen & Unwin 2016 ISBN: 9781760291938

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com

This Girl That Girl by Charlotte Lance

This is this girl.

And that is that girl.

This is this girl.

And that is that girl.

This girl and that girl are very different. They dress differently. Their houses are next door to each other but very different. Their families are different in how they look and how they live. But even though they are different in so many ways, this girl and her dad, and that girl and her dad both arrive at the same place. Illustrations are blackline and watercolour, loose and colourful. As the story unfolds, the girls, set in white space, gradually fill the pages with their personalities and adventures.

This Girl, That Girl is a funny and lovely story about travelling different paths to the same destination. It’s about being different within a family as well as to others outside the family. The girls are both fully engaged with their families and their worlds (even when they are at odds with the ‘family way’ of doing things), and both are happy with their own way of living and doing. At the end of the hard work, despite their differences, the outcomes are less different than might have been expected. Great material for classroom and home discussion. The text is spare but the story rich. Recommended for pre- and early-schoolers.

This Girl, That Girl, Charlotte Lance
Allen & Unwin 2016
ISBN: 9781760291709

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com