Tanglewood, by Margaret Wild & Vivienne Goodman

‘What is family?’ asked Tanglewood.
‘Family is love and friendship. Family is everything.’

Tanglewood is the only tree on a tiny island, and she is lonely. She calls to the dolphins, the seals and the birds to come and play with her, but they don’t, and Tanglewood thinks she might die of loneliness. Then, in the midst of a storm, a seagull falls into her branches, and Tanglewood shelters her. When Seagull leaves, to return to her family, Tanglewood is even more alone, having known the feeling of company, but she stays strong, because one day Seagull will return. When that day comes, Tanglewood gets a delightful surprise – not one seagull, but a whole flock, bearing the gift of life in the form of seeds.

Tanglewood is a breathtaking collaboration. Margaret Wild’s text is powerful, syaing enough but never too much and moving like a gentle stream from page to page. Read aloud, the words entrance. The illustrations are a mix of sizes, form double page spreads, to multiple panels on a page, as well as single panels and horizontal panels spanning the middle of spreads with text above and below. The might of the sea, the sparsity of the lonely island and the beauty of the gulls are all captured.

This is a charming, wrenching, gorgeous story.

Tanglewood

Tanglewood, by Margaret Wild & Vivienne Goodman
Omnibus, 2012
ISBN 9781862915701

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

Millie's Something Special, by Tania Cox & David Miller

Millie sighed. “How can I be brave? I’m too small to stomp and roar and my feather’s aren’t meant for flying.”

Poor Millie. A small dinosaur with a long feathery tale, she has no means of protecting herself from big, bad Reggie. Each of her friends has something special to make them feel brave. But not Millie. She doesn’t thinks he’ll ever find her something special. Until she comes across Reggie late at night and is surprised when her tail tickles him and makes him laugh. At last it seems she’s found her special skill.

Millie’s Special Something is a delightful tale about unique talents, bravery, friendship – and the fun of tickling, too. Tania Cox’ text is beautifully brought to life by the paper sculpture illustrations for which David Miller is well known, full of detail and quirkiness.

Youngsters will love the dinosaur characters, and the message is gentle. Suitable for early childhood classrooms and at home enjoyment.

Millie's Special Something

Millie’s Special Something, by Tania Cox & David Miller
Working Title Press, 2012
ISBN 9781921504389

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

Ben and Duck, Sarah Acton

A story of friendship

Ben likes to feed the ducks at the park. But today there is only one duck. So Ben feeds him and then decides to return home. Duck follows. No matter whether Ben goes under, over or around on the way home, Duck follows him. Even when he finally thinks he’s escaped the following Duck, Duck turns up at his house. Ben gives in and discovers that his normal activities are more fun when Duck joins in. When it’s bedtime, Duck goes home, but next morning Ben’s preparation for his trip to the park take into account his new friendship. Illustrations are in watercolour, pencil and sepia ink, and set the main protagonists in plenty of white space.

Ben seems content as a solitary figure, but sometimes friends know us better than we know ourselves. Duck is happy initially to eat all that Ben brings, but then follows Ben home as if recognising that the two could be friends. Ben’s initial resistance is overcome and the pair enjoy their time together. Ben and Duck is a gentle tale about the positive yet intangible benefits of friendship. Very few words are needed, just as very few are really needed in establishing and maintaining friendship. Recommended for pre-schoolers and early primary readers.

Ben and Duck

 

Ben and Duck, Sara Acton
Scholastic 2011
ISBN: 9781741699142

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

www.clairesaxby.com

This book can be purchased from good bookstores or online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

The Red Bridge, by Kylie Dunstan

Claire and her family have moved overseas, to a city where everything seems terribly different to her home in Australia. Claire worries about lots of things – the language, the traffic, the food – but most of all she wonders how she will make new friends. Maybe, her mother suggests, the friends will find her.

Claire had said goodbye to all her favourite people
and flown a long way from home.

Everything was different, the smells, the sky, the sounds.
Everything seemed difficult.

Claire and her family have moved overseas, to a city where everything seems terribly different  to her home in Australia. Claire worries about lots of things – the language, the traffic, the food – but most of all she wonders how she will make new friends. Maybe, her mother suggests, the friends will find her. And that is exactly what happens. Claire is waved to by a little girl on the back of a bike, and smiled at by a boy in a restaurant. When she meets the  girl again in the markets, she knows she has a new friend. But it is when Claire finds herself lost  on a walk that her new friend, Kieu, actually finds her, and shows her the way home.

The Red Bridge is a sumptuous picture book about friendship and about change. Claire moves across the world, but the fears she feels are just as real for children going through any move, or even other changes in their lives. How will I make friends? How will I know how to do things? How will I get around? Claire is guided by her mother, who doesn’t express her own fears at the same changes, yet perhaps best shows them in her triumphant cheer when they manage to get across a busy road together. But Mum also has the courage to let Claire explore her new neighbourhood after they’ve become familiar, a nice touch which is perhaps a gentle reminder for nervous parents to let go.

Illustrated in generously rich reds, browns and golden tones using Dunstan’s delightful mixed media collage, The Red Bridge is a beautiful offering suitable for early childhood readers.

Red Bridge

The Red Bridge, by Kylie Dunstan
Windy Hollow Books, 2011
ISBN 9781921136726

This book can be purchased in good bookstores, or online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Harry's War, by John Heffernan

Harry loves spending time with his Grandpa, especially when Grandpa shares his stories of the war. Grandpa is a war hero, and his stories are amazing. Harry’s dad was a soldier, too, but he died when Harry was little, so Harry never heard his stories. Harry’s War is a moving tale of one boy’s quest for the truth about his father and grandfather as he learns about truth, family and friendship…

What’s war? – you ask.

That’s a really hard question. I’m not even sure I can answer it. I’ll try, but, and I’ll do it by telling you about my war. Whether that’s enough you’ll have to figure out for myself.

Harry loves spending time with his Grandpa, especially when Grandpa shares his stories of the war. Grandpa is a war hero, and his stories are amazing. Harry’s dad was a soldier, too, but he died when Harry was little, so Harry never heard his stories. In fact, Harry doesn’t know much about his dad at all, because no one will tell him about Dad’s years in the army, or about his death. When he starts to unravel the truth, Harry realises why Mum has kept her secret. But it is another secret which has the power to really change Harry’s life.

Harry’s War is a moving tale of one boy’s quest for the truth about his father and grandfather as he learns about truth, family and friendship. With the reader he also learns about he realities of war and its effects on soldiers and those left behind. There is a lot being explored here – as well as the issues already mentioned, there is Harry’s struggle with reading and writing, his friendship with his bet mate Will, and his sometimes careless attitude towards himself and others. Mostly, though is just an absorbing story.
Harrys War

Harry’s War, by John Heffernan
Omnibus, 2011
ISBN 978186291927

This book can be purchased from good bookstores or online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

A Straight Line to My Heart, by Bill Condon

Tiff loves to read – but she’s pretty surprised to meet a boy who likes to read, too. What’s even more surprising is that Davey seems to want to get know her. Maybe things are about to turn around for her. But it’s not going to be plain sailing for Tiff…

There’s nothing quite as good as folding up into a book and shutting the world outside. If I pick the right one I can be beautiful, or fall in love, or live happily ever after. Maybe even all three.

If you can’t get a boy, get a book, that’s my motto.

Tiff loves to read – but she’s pretty surprised to meet a boy who likes to read, too. What’s even more surprising is that Davey seems to want to get know her. Maybe things are about to turn around for her.

But it’s not going to be plain sailing for Tiff. She’s just finished school for ever and is about to start work experience at the local paper, a stepping stone to the career as a journalist she’s always dreamed of. The reporter there, Shark, is hard-nosed and seemingly unimpressed to have a new recruit to take under his wing. Tiff’s best friend, Kayla, has some big news to share with her that she’s nt going to like. And at home, Reggie – part grandad, part father, part mart – is coughing  alot, and giving up smoking because, as he declares, he’s cactus.

A Straight Line to My Heart is a brilliant, touching, story of life, first love, and family – in its different forms. Tiff’s mother died when she was born, and there’s no mention of her brith father, but Reggie and his step son Bull are family enough for her. Kayla, her best friend, also has a mixed up family, finding a way to be together, and Tiff’s new family at the newspaper proves to be an unlikely source of support for her.

Bill Condon has a reputation for excellence. His previous novel, Confessions of a Liar, thief and Failed Sex God, was the winner of the inaugural Young Adult Fiction prize int he Prime Minsiter’s Literary Awards, and No Worries was an honour book in the CBCA Awards. A Straight Line to My Heart will not disappoint fans of Condon’s  work, and will win him plenty of new ones as well.But that doesn’t mean it’s an easy book to read. There is humour and warmth, but there’s tough stuff, too, and if you’re prone to crying at sad bits, you’ll need tissues for this one.

Just brilliant.
A Straight Line to My Heart

A Straight Line to My Heart, by Bill Condon

Allen & Unwin, 2011 ISBN 9781742377308

This book can be purchased in any good bookstore, or online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Friendship Maker, by Randa Abdel-Fattah

Welcome to my Manual.
My name is Lara Zany and I am an official Friendship Matchmaker.
If you’re reading this Manual it’s probably because you’re sick and tired of feeling lonely. Or maybe you have a friend but you’re not sure where you stand with them. Or maybe you’re the third wheel in a trio. Or can’t work out how to strike up a conversation with somebody in the canteen line. Maybe you’re the one who gets picked last at sports. Don’t worry. I’m here for you. You’ve come to the right place!

Lara Zany has it sorted. She knows just what friendship is and how to make it happen. She’s in Grade Five at Potts Court Primary School and is their official Friendship Matchmaker. She knows just how to help start conversations, avoid bullies, repair misunderstandings and much more. And everyone is happy with the service she’s providing. But now, there’s a new girl at school. Emily Wong doesn’t seem to understand the rules. In fact, she seems determined to break all Lara’s rules. Lara tries to save her from the bullies and from standing out, suggesting that she’ll never make friends if she keeps going. Instead of being grateful Emily challenges her to a competition.

Lara has put a lot of energy into her Manual. She is sure that it will soon be published by Harry Potter’s publisher and she will be catapulted into the world as an instant millionaire. But that’s the future. Right now, she’s keeping the manual a secret and most of her school energy is invested in sorting out all the friendships at school. There are rules for escaping the attention of the school bully, and for keeping your friends. Only occasionally is there a hint at the events that precipitated this preoccupation with analysing the ‘rules of friendship’. Readers will recognise the LBC (loner by choice), Trios, Quads, BOBF (Bus Only Best Friends), and some of the conversational gambits. The Friendship Matchmaker uses first person, and allows the reader to ‘read between the lines’, seeing what’s going on behind Lara’s words. Recommended for mid-primary readers.

The Friendship Matchmaker, Randa Abdel-Fattah
Omnibus Books 2011
ISBN: 9781862919204

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author
www.clairesaxby.com

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