Lily in the Mirror by Paula Hayes

I have started this journal in the hope that something interesting and supernatural will happen to me but I fear this is unlikely. I am not an orphan and I do not live in a cupboard under the staircase. We do have a staircase cupboard – it is full of gumboots and old newspapers but I don’t live in it and I have parents, two of them. Alive. And they both love me. A lot. This is good but annoying, as it is usually unloved orphans that have all the magical luck. Mum actually gave me a cushion with ‘You are so loved!’ written on it. I was like, what is this … I wanted the one with the black leafless tree lithograph on it. It looks dark and mysterious. To be dark and mysterious is one of my lifelong goals. If passing inhabitants of an alternate magical world see the ‘You are so loved!’ cushion on my bed, they will keep walking.

I have started this journal in the hope that something interesting and supernatural will happen to me but I fear this is unlikely. I am not an orphan and I do not live in a cupboard under the staircase. We do have a staircase cupboard – it is full of gumboots and old newspapers but I don’t live in it and I have parents, two of them. Alive. And they both love me. A lot. This is good but annoying, as it is usually unloved orphans that have all the magical luck. Mum actually gave me a cushion with ‘You are so loved!’ written on it. I was like, what is this … I wanted the one with the black leafless tree lithograph on it. It looks dark and mysterious. To be dark and mysterious is one of my lifelong goals. If passing inhabitants of an alternate magical world see the ‘You are so loved!’ cushion on my bed, they will keep walking.

Lily is a precocious and confident eleven-year-old and this is her journal. Lily lives at home as part of a loving family (including an annoying brother and an older sister). She loves all things supernatural and would love to discover some magic in her life, but so far, her life is unfortunately very normal. She loves her grandfather and his cooking and sad that her grandmother is too unwell to live at home. Her chance meeting of another Lily – who she calls Other Lily – changes everything. A magic mirror, a long-held secret and a new friend are going to take up all her time and imagination, for many skills are needed if Lily is to solve this intriguing mystery.

Lily in the Mirroris gothic horror for mid-primary readers. Filtered through Lily’s diary, potentially scary elements are tempered by her often humourous reactions and retellings. Young readers will be caught up in the magical elements of this historic family mystery. Dressed in pink, the cover is designed to appeal to girls, particularly competent younger readers wanting a longer story pitched at their emotional level. There are many themes around the changing nature of family. Recommended for younger middle primary readers.

Lily in the Mirror, Paula Hayes
Fremantle Press 2016
ISBN: 9781925163872

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com

Saving Jazz, by Kate McCaffrey

My name is Jasmine Lovely, Jazz usually (unless I’m in trouble), and I’m a rapist. In fact, I’m guilty of more than just rape but, as my lawyer says, in the interests of judicial fairness, we can’t be prejudicial. It’s hard enough to admit rape. As a girl, people look at you exceptionally hard. People look at you blankly. Not that it’s something I admit to often, like I just did to you.

Jazz has a pretty good life: she’s pretty, popular and smart. She lives in the small town of Greenhead, a seemingly idyllic settlement north of Perth. Like the other teenagers, she likes to party, to drink and to use social media. But when those three things all spin out of control one fateful night, the consequences are terrible – for Jazz, for her best friends Annie and Jack, and for the whole community of Greenhead.

Saving Jazz is a gritty, chilling story of cyber bullying and the use of social media, following the story of what can happen when these two get out of control. With the viewpoint character, Jazz, telling her story through a blog, we are given the insight of someone who has been both bystander and perpetrator, with the book being told after the major event, looking back, but then progressing to beyond the time when the blog is started, with 43 ‘posts’ spanning several years.

McCaffrey is known for broaching difficult topics, and Saving Jazz is no exception. AT the same time, though, the story has plenty of warm moments, offering hope both for the characters and for the reader.

An outstanding young adult read.

Saving Jazz, by Kate McCaffrey
Fremantle Press, 2016
ISBN 9781925163582

I Love Me, by Sally Morgan & Ambelin Kwaymullina

I Love MeI love me!
I love my eyes.
I love my nose.
I love the way my curly hair grows.

From mother-daughter dup Sally Morgan (author) and Ambelin Kwaymullina (illustrator), I Love Me is a lively celebration of being yourself – and loving yourself. From physical features, inside and out, to emotions and personality, text and illustrations show indigenous children loving being who they are.

The book aims to build self-esteem in indigenous and non-indigenous children and the bright illustrations and bouncy, prose, which uses rhyme, rhythm and repetition will engage youngsters and encourage them to join in the reading.

I Love Me, by Sally Morgan & Ambelin Kwaymullina
Fremantle Press, 2016
ISBN 9781925163490

Eagle, Crow and Emu: Bird Stories by Gladys Milroy and Jill Milroy

High in the treetops a baby eagle shrieked and called for its parents to return. Little Eagle was growing quickly. He was always hungry, so both parents had to leave the nest to find food for him. They loved Little Eagle and couldn’t wait to soar with him into the sky and show him the amazing world they lived in.

eagle, crow and emuHigh in the treetops a baby eagle shrieked and called for its parents to return. Little Eagle was growing quickly. He was always hungry, so both parents had to leave the nest to find food for him. They loved Little Eagle and couldn’t wait to soar with him into the sky and show him the amazing world they lived in.

Eagle, Crow and Emu – Bird Stories is a collection of three bird stories told in an Indigenous storytelling style. In the first, ‘Eagle and Bullfrog’, Little Eagle struggles to learn how to fly, but is helped by his land-dwelling friends. ‘The Great Cold’ tells the story of Magpie who wants to join all the other animals in the Cavern where they will be safe from the Great Cold. First she must find a way to keep her egg warm and safe. In ‘Emu and the Water Tree’, Emu learns the consequences of selfishness and the rewards of sacrifice. Each story includes black and white illustrations and is told in short chapters.

Two of these stories (‘The Great Cold’ and ‘Emu and the Water Tree’) have previously appeared as stand-alone stories, but with ‘Eagle and Bullfrog’ offer a collection of stories ideal for young readers. They offer young Indigenous readers the opportunity to read stories told in the same style as they would have been if shared orally. They also offer non-Indigenous readers an entry point to traditional Australian stories. Buried in each of engaging story is information about the fauna and landscape of Australia as well as stories about how to live. Perfect for newly independent readers and beyond.

Eagle, Crow and Emu – Bird Stories, Gladys Milroy and Jill Milroy
Fremantle Press 2016
ISBN: 9781925163711

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com

We All Sleep by Ezekiel Kwaymullina ill Sally Morgan

Against pink skies kookaburra calls

Over swaying reeds frog leaps

Against pink skies kookaburra calls

Over swaying reeds frog leaps

Beginning at sunrise and ending with starlight, a child observes their world. The light changes, the animals appear at their ideal time of day, plants wave in the breeze. On each page is a small companion blue bird and a hint of which animal will feature next. Artwork is colourful, simple and complex, full of pattern and life.

We All Sleep is a particularly Australian lullaby, featuring iconic animals and birds, doing their thing in an Australian landscape, watched by an Australian child. It offers an opportunity to introduce our native fauna and flora, while the rhythm of the language is informative and soothing. An ideal gift to send overseas, and to keep close at home. Recommended for pre- and early schoolers. And art students.

We All Sleep, Ezekiel Kwaymullina ill Sally Morgan
Fremantle Press 2015
ISBN: 9781925162684

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com

At My Door, by Deb Fitzpatrick

Deliveries do not come late on a school night. They don’t come in a normal car, that then speeds away. And they don’t cry.

When Poppy hears the doorbell late at night, she wonders what is happening. Then she hears crying, and worried voices. It seems the family has had a late night delivery – but it isn’t a parcel or a letter. It’s a baby. Suddenly the family’s peaceful, ordered life is turned upside down. Where has the baby come from, and why has it been left on their doorstep?

At My Door is an entertaining story about families and familial stress. The issue of the abandoned baby contrasts with the stable life of the traditional family which Poppy is part of of – Mum and Dad, an older brother and Poppy herself. Along with the msyetry of the baby, and the practicalities of helping her, Poppy becomes aware of the difficulties other families face, as will readers.

This is gentle exploration of some potentially weighty issues, a mix which will draw readers in to the story as well as opening up lots of discussion.

At My Door, by Deb Fitzpatrick
Fremantle Press, 2015
ISBN 9781925162707

Bella and the Wandering House, by Meg McKinlay

Bella and the wandering house cover‘Sorry.’ Bella lifted her foot. She hopped onto the path and looked back at the house. And as she did, a shiver prickled her skin. Because what she saw made no sense. The front steps ran down the veranda – the way they always had, the way they must. But where they should have met the path – the way they always had, the way they must … they didn’t.
Instead, things were crooked. It was if the world had shifted sideways a little, in a quiet sort of way…

Bella is the only one who notices that her house is doing strange things. Her mum and dad, caught up in their busy lives, think she’s dreaming when she says that the house has moved. But soon the house starts moving further and further from their yard, and even Bella’s parents are forced to take notice when they wake up next to a pond. But it is Bella who figures out why the house is moving, and what they can do to help it.

Bella and the Wandering House is a whimsical tale of a wandering house, imagination and memories. The gentle mystery of why the house wanders – and what can be done about it – is resolved agianst the background of a lovely relationship between Bella and her grandfather. Bella is an independent, strong character, and and the change in her parents as the story proceeds is satisfying.

Suitable for junior primary readers.

Bella and the Wandering House, by Meg McKinlay
Fremantle Press, 2015
ISBN 9781925162301

Can a Skeleton Have an X-Ray? by Kyle Hughes-Odgers

Can a Skeleton Have an X-Ray?How does sound taste?
Do colours smell?
Why do onions make me cry?
Who builds the wings for birds to fly?

Children love to ask questions – even (or sometimes, it seems, especially) questions which can’t be answered, so they will love Can a Skeleton Have an X-Ray? which is filled with questions. From practical questions (Why do onions make me cry?)  to whimsical questions (Can a skeleton have an x-ray?) to deep, even philosophical questions (How does the future look?) there are questions to ponder, discuss and even laugh about.

Hughes-Odgers’ quirky illustrations will delight readers of all ages. In black ink with watercolour, each illustration uses cross-hatching and detailed line work with earthy colour tones, to bing to life imaginative scenes which will inspire as much discussion as the questions themselves.

A visual feast,Can a Skeleton Have an X-Ray? is a unique, inspirational book for children and adults.

Can a Skeleton Have an X-Ray? by Kyle Hughes-Odgers
Fremantle Press, 2015
ISBN 9781925162691

Sister Heart, by Sally Morgan

I am lost
lost
lost
in my saltwater tears.

Snatched from home by a policeman, and sent south on a terrifying ship voyage, Annie finds herself trapped in an institution with other stolen children. She longs for her home up North, with her mum, her baby sister, and her extended family. Instead, she has rules, and strange surroundings, a teacher who yells and punishes and even a new name. The only light comes from her new friend, Janey, who treats her like a sister and helps her learn how to survive. But even their friendship can’t ensure they will be happy.

Sister Heart is a brilliant, beautiful verse novel which uses the poetic narrative to explore the issues of the stolen generation in a form which makes them accessible to young readers. Annie speaks directly to the reader with heart breaking honesty. The immediacy and intimacy of this first person voice will draw readers of all ages into the story.

From the author of My Place and many other books for children, Sister Heart is an important, moving book.

Sister Heart, by Sally Morgan
Fremantle Press, 2015
ISBN 9781925163131

Available from good bookstores and online.

Harold and Grace, by Sean E Avery

The storm rushed, and howled, and splashed, and blew at the tiny tree, the little pond and the lonely leaf.

When it finally stopped, the lonely leaf was safe.

When a single caterpillar egg and a single frog egg survive a storm, an unlikely friendship is formed.  When Harold the tadpole and  Grace the caterpillar hatch from their eggs, they meet and, in spite of their obvious differences, become best friends. In the pond, Harold is teased by the fish who see that he is not the same as them. In the tree, Grace is shunned by the other insects because she is not the same as them.  But they lend each other support.

Eventually, though, Harold gets busy in the pond and forgets about Grace for a while. When he returns to see her, she is not there. Instead, there is a cocoon. Distraught, he uses the cocoon as a pillow, until one day a butterfly emerges and the pair are, after a brief misunderstanding, reunited.

Harold and Grace is a warm, funny tribute to friendship and diversity, which also explores the life cycles of frogs and butterflies, paralleled with the ebbs and flows of friendships. The illustrations use black ink and digital colours, with a palette rich in greens and purples, in natural tones that reflect the outdoor setting of the story. The whimsy of the characters and their surrounds is delightful, and the design of the book, in a smallish square hard cover with a felted embellishment, is adorable.

A beautiful offering.

Harold and Grace, by Sean E. Avery
Fremantle Press, 2015
ISBN 9781925162295

Available from good bookstores and online.