Ava’s Spectacular Spectacles by Alice Rex ill Angela Perrini

Ava sat at her desk, gazing at the board.
‘Ava,’ said Mrs Cook. ‘Where are your glasses today?’
Ava looked down at her schoolbag.
She hated her glasses.

Ava hates her glasses, and sometimes chooses not to wear them, even when wearing them would help her to read. Ava’s teacher sympathises and rather than tell her to put them on, she opens a book of fairy tales. One by one, Mrs Cook suggests that all of the main characters in her favourite stories, could have avoided their troubles by wearing their glasses. By the end, Ava is adding to the stories, and seeing her own life more clearly. Glasses have become the hero of every story. Illustrations are black pencil and block colour set in pastel backgrounds.

Ava would rather not see than use her glasses, when they mark her out as different. Her teacher uses fairy tales to suggest that wearing her glasses will make her the hero of her own story. In a classroom, Ava’s Spectacular Spectacles offers the opportunity to have students reframe fairy tales for different outcomes. At home, it could form the basis of conversations about the strengths in difference. And young spectacle-wearers may enjoy seeing themselves reflected in story.

Recommended for early-schoolers.

Ava’s Spectacular Spectacles, Alice Rex ill Angela Perrini
New Frontier Publishing 2017
ISBN: 9781925059984

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

The Bad Guys Episode 1 by Aaron Blabey

Pssst!

Hey, you!

Yeah, you.

Get over here.

I said, GET OVER HERE.

What’s the problem?

Oh, I see.

Yeah, I get it …

Pssst!

Hey, you!

Yeah, you.

Get over here.

I said, GET OVER HERE.

What’s the problem?

Oh, I see.

Yeah, I get it …

The Big Bad Wolf begins this tale of good deeds done by bad characters by insisting the reader come closer. Bad Guys are just misunderstood, you see. He convenes the first meeting of the ‘Good Guys’, which includes a snake, a shark and a piranha. Each of them has a rap sheet longer than his arms. But Wolf is sure his plan will work. Trouble is, before he can convince the general public that these are now the Good Guys, he has to convince his crew. When words won’t cut it, he takes them out on a mission to do some ‘Good Deeds’. How can it go wrong? Presented in graphic novel format with varying text types and sizes and images on each opening.

Aaron Blabey has written many successful picture books and The Bad Guys is his first longer text. The Bad Guys is the first in a new series. The text is short and fully supported and extended by illustrations. Young fans of Blabey’s work will be engaged with this fast-moving story. Adult fans will be chuckling too. As with all his work, there’s a deeper message about making judgements about character purely on past actions and appearance. Wolf may be struggling with stereotypes, but he wins points for persistence. Recommended for newly independent readers and any fans of Blabey’s picture books.

The Bad Guys : Episode 1, Aaron Blabey

Scholastic 2015 ISBN: 9781760150426

 

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com

Two Fearsome Fairy Tales from France, retold by Adele Geras, illustrated by Fiona McDonald

Two Fearsome Fairy Tales from FranceA long time ago, in a faraway land, lived a widowed merchant with three daughters. The youngest was so lovely that everyone who saw her wondered at her beauty. Her name was Belle and she was as good and kind as she was beautiful.

Continuing their series of retold fairy tales from around the world, Christmas Press has combined the talents of author Adele Garas and illustrator Fiona McDonald Two Fearsome Fairy Tales from France. While the two tales – ‘Beauty and the Beast’ and ‘Bluebeard’ may be familiar to many readers, these are not saccharine versions but more traditional tellings of the tales. The illustrations, too, have a traditional feel to them, with a blend of full colour pates, ornate borders, smaller coloured illustrations and some grey scale.

This hard cover offering will appeal to fairy tale lovers and older readers.

Two Fearsome Fairy Tales from France, retold by Adele Geras, illustrated by Fiona McDonald

Available from good bookstores and online.

Metro Winds, by Isobelle Carmody

So there was a girl. Young but not too young. A face as unformed as an egg, so that one could not tell if she would turn out to be fair or astonishingly ugly. She was to be sent to a city in another land by a mother and father in the midst of a divorce. The one thing they could agree upon was that the girl should not be exposed to the violence they meant to commit on their life. There was a quality in her that made it impossible to do the ravening that the end of love required.

Metro Winds

Nobody who has read any of Isobelle Camody’s work can doubt her ability as a story teller, and this new collection of six stories serves only to cement that certainty. Metro Winds, a collection of six stories, is an eminently satisfying offering, diverse yet each connected by its quality and by the movement through the real world to fantastical, alternate worlds. Some have links to popular fairy tales, including the Princess and the Pea, whilst all have settings which will be familiar – Australia, Paris, Venice – and themes and premises which are at once recognisable yet somehow unfamiliar.

With subject matter including broken homes, marital strain and loss, couched in fantastical scenarios such as a wolf prince who abandons his wife and child because of a curse and a sister who mourns the disappearance of her younger sister but must relinquish her in order to safe a world, these are stories which grip the reader and keep the pages turning, staying with you long after the final page.

Metro Winds, by Isobelle Carmody
Allen & Unwin, 2012
ISBN 9781865084442

Available from good bookstores or online.

Moonlight & Ashes, by Sophie Masson

Inside my cupboard was a tree – a miniature hazel tree no higher than the length of my hand from wrist to fingertips, but still a tree, perfect in every way…And as I stared, I saw a slight movement amongst the leaves, a rustle carried by a wind I couldn’t feel, a wind that came from – I knew not where.

Once Selena was the must loved and pampered daughter of a wealthy noble and his cherished wife. Now, though, her mother is dead and Selena is Ashes, the lowest servant in the house, ignored by her father and mistreated by her stepmother and stepsisters. All that keeps her from running away is the death bed promise she gave her mother – to stay strong and not abandon her father.

When her sixteenth birthday arrives, Selena is at her lowest ebb. Her father, it seems, has forgotten her birthday, and she is in trouble with her stepmother. When her father does remember his gift is simple – a twig from a hazel tree growing near her mother’s grave. It seems impossible, but this twig is the beginning of change for Selena. Its enchantments allow her to attend an elaborate ball, where she meets the Crown Prince.

Moonlight and Ashes is a brilliant retelling of the Cinderella story, though it is as unexpected as it is beautiful. There is not a fairy godmother or a pumpkin in sight. Instead, Selena is a strong young woman who draws on her own resourcefulness, and the strength of her new friends, together with her newly discovered gifts, to grasp her destiny.

There is magic in this book – it captivates and keeps the pages turning.

Moonlight and Ashes

Moonlight and Ashes, by Sophie Masson
Random House, 2012
ISBN 978174275379

This book is available from good bookstores or online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

The Emperor's New Clothes Horse, by Tony Wilson & Sue deGennaro

‘I’d trade all these trophies for one Cristobel Cup!’

The Emperor loves horse racing, and his horses have won every ace in the land – except the Cristobel Cup. He will do anything to win one. When the Royal Trainers fail to find him the perfect horse he turns to a pair of brilliant international trainers who produce a special horse. They warn him though: only clear-thinking citizens will see the horse for what it is- a mighty racehorse. Those who are stupid will see just a wooden clothes horse.

This is a witty take on the classic story The Emperor’s New Clothes, with a clothes horse taking centre stage in this equine twist. Youngsters who haven’t heard the original will get almost as much out of the story as those who have, though the two work well together and for older children there is an opportunity for comparison of the two. Illustrations, using Copic markers and black biro are delightfully humorous. The unusual layout is also clever, with each illustration spanning the centre of each spread, and text appearing on the outer third of each page against pastel backgrounds picking up the colours of the illustrations.

Suitable for early childhood, but with applicability well into the school years.

The Emperor’s New Clothes Horse, by Tony Wilson & Sue deGennaro
Scholastic, 2012
ISBN 9781742830452

This book is available in good bookstores or online from Fishpond.