The Pain, My Mother, Sir Tiffy, Cyber Boy & Me, by Michael Gerard Bauer

It all started with The Pain. He officially came into my life exactly nine weeks and one day before my Year Ten Graduation Dance.
It was a Friday.
The thirteenth of the month.
Notice anything there?

Maggie Butt is not happy. She started the year determined that everything would go well – but with the end in sight, things seem to be going fro ad to worse. Not only has she failed to make any friends, but she doesn’t have a date for the graduation dance and her marks in English (her favourite subject) are plummeting. But that’s the worst of it. Her mother seems to be letting her new boyfriend – The Pain – into both her own life, and Maggie’s, whether Maggie likes it or not.

The Pain, My Mother, Sir Tiffy, Cyber Boy & Me is a funny novel about many of the difficulties of being a teenager – romance, friendship, self-image and family. Maggie has a lot going on with her parents’ divorce having led to her changing schools and not fitting in at the new one. Her mother’s blossoming relationship with a new boyfriend also causes disruption – not the least of which is his ability to scare off the only boy who’s ever shown an interest.

There are lots of laughs to be had but there are also more serious moments.

The Pain, My Mother, Sir Tiffy, Cyber Boy & Me, by Michael Gerard Bauer
Omnibus Books, 2016
ISBN 9781742991504

Teresa: A New Australian, by Deborah Abela

’This is it. The beginning of our new lives. Ready?
Teresa and her mama nodded. ‘Ready.’
They stepped into the cheers and music and beneath flying streamers and confetti. All around them were people in tears, hugging and laughing.
People made sure they stood together to take their first steps onto Australian soil. When they did, he wiped his sleeve across his eyes. Mama kissed his cheek. ‘You old softie.’

War rages across Europe, and Teresa and her family endure tough times in their homeland, Malta. There are bombing raids every day, and her father is away fighting alongside the allies. Even when peace finally comes, life is difficult, so Teresa’s family make a difficult decision – they will leave Malta and start a new life in Australia.

In Australia life is safer, and Teresa’s parents find jobs, but there are still many obstacles to overcome, including getting used to Australian ways. Not everyone is welcoming of new Australians, but Teresa is determined to succeed in this strange new land.

Teresa: A New Australian is wonderful new historical fiction, exploring the life of one new migrant in the years following World War 11. Teresa is a feisty, loyal girl who faces each new challenge head on. Readers will enjoy getting to know her and at the same time will become familiar with aspects of Australia’s history they may not know.

Teresa is an outstanding addition to the New Australian series.

Teresa , by Deborah Abela
Omnibus, an imprint of Scholastic, 2016
ISBN 9781742990941

Sing a Rebel Song, by Pamela Rushby

The men seemed to be having a vote. They raised their hands. Dad came back to Mr Callan. ‘Every man here is a member of the Shearers Union,’ he said. ‘We have agreed that we can only shear under the verbal agreement of our union. If we sign your Shearing Agreement we will not be upholding the union. We’ll be blacklegs.’
The men muttered angrily among themselves. ‘We won’t sign!’ someone shouted.

Its 1891, and Maggie McAllister, whose dad is a shearer, gets a firsthand experience of one Australia’s most dramatic events: the Shearer’s Strike, where shearers fought for better pay and conditions and the pastoralists in turn tried to get them to work for less. While Maggie’s Dad and his fellow workers strike, march and protest, Maggie and her mother help to report on events and distribute notices.

But Maggie’s friends don’t all agree with the strike – or with her actions. Her friend Clara is the daughter of a wealthy farmer, and her other friend Tom needs work to help support his family. It seems that friendship doesn’t always survive. And for Maggie, witnessing the events of the strike make her aware that both sides have some valid viewpoints – and some questionable tactics.

Sing a Rebel Song is an exciting, moving account of the strike, and of the part one fictional character plays in it. It also provides an insight into Australian life in the late nineteenth century, and the birth of the union movement through an accessible story.

Rushby has a knack of making history come alive for young readers.

Sing a Rebel Song, by Pamela Rushby
Omnibus Books, 2015
ISBN 9781742991344

Star of Deltora: Shadows of the Master, by Emily Rodda

And at that moment, Britta threw caution to the winds. She tore her eyes from the model ship and looked up at the old man staring at her so anxiously.
‘I will be at the Traders’ Hall tomorrow,’ she said. ‘How can I resist?’
‘Hooroar!’ Gaptain Gripp bellowed, punching the air. ‘Did you hear that, Bosun? She’ll try for it! An’ you mark my words, Bosun, she’ll do us proud! She’ll show those other traders’ daughters a thing or two!’

For as long as she can remember, Britta has wanted to be a trader like her father. But since his quest to find the Staff of Tier brought disgrace to his name and to his family left behind, that dream has seemed unreachable. Now, though, she has a chance. There is a challenge to select the apprentice to the Trader Rosalyn. and Britta is eligible – as long as the townspeople don’t realise who she is. Determined to be selected, Britta risks everything for the opportunity of a lifetime.

Shadows of the Master is the first in the new Star of Deltora series. Set in the same reality as the Rowan of Rinn and The Three Doors series, this new series promises to be as much loved as its predecessors. Readers will bond with the resourceful Britta and her efforts to follow her dreams in spite of her insecurities. Other characters are also intriguing, and it will be interesting to see how her fellow apprentices – three every different characters – develop across the series.

While young fantasy fans are likely to appreciate the book, it also likely to appeal to those who are perhaps less familiar with the genre, because it is both accessible and well-paced, at a length that is not too daunting.

A gripping introduction to what promises to be an excellent series.

Shadows of the Master, by Emily Rodda
Omnibus Books, 2015
ISBN 9781742990620

The Crocodolly, by Martin McKenna

Adelaide wasn’t allowed to have pets. Not anymore.
Esepcially not one like Ozzy.
So Adelaide came up with a cunning plan.
She would disguise Ozzy
as her very own
crocodolly!

Adelaide is a very inventive young lady, so when she finds a baby crocodile in her carton of eggs, she decides that she can keep him, if she disguises him as a doll. It isn’t a problem while Ozzy is small, but Ozzy keeps groing and growing, and soon he is causing havoc all over town. When she can’t keep him any longer, Adelaide finds a place where his havoc could come in useful crushing junk at a recycling plant.

The Crocodolly is a funny picture book featuring a clever, caring main character, an unlikely pet and plenty of silliness, for a satisying combination which will please young readers. Olly is pretty endearing – for a crocodile – and the illustrations have lots of detail and comic elements including speech bubbles.

A laugh out loud, feel-good book.

The Crocodolly, by Martin McKenna
Omnibus Books, 2015
ISBN 9781742990712

Flying High, by Sally Morgan & Ezekiel Kwaymullina, illustrated by Craig Smith

Flying HighIf a set of wings suddenly grew out of my back, I’d be over the moon! I haven’t told any of my friends about my dream of flying. They’d just laugh at me. Every kid knows there are good laughs and bad laughs. I’m sick of the bad laughs.

Larni struggles at school. Words and letters don’t keep still on the page, and the other kids laugh at her – even her friends. So she can’t wait for the school holidays, when she is going on a plane to visit her Gran up north.
Gran is delighted to see Larni, but sad when Larni says she isn’t good at anything. Gran assures her that she will find the thing she is good at. Sure enough, when Gran sits down to her sculpture proejct, Larni finds that she has a special talent for making things.

Flying High is a short chapter book about self-confidence, and family ties, especially between grandparents and grandchildren.

This is the latest of several books by Morgan and Kwaymullina, a mother-son team, and illustrated by Craig Smith. Each story is a stand alone tale, but all feature indigenous chidlren and their families doing things which all children will relate to – family outings, holdiays, spending time with extended family and so on. As such, these books are not only a wonderful opportunity to engage indigenous children, but also for children of all backgrounds, who are offered so many books with anglo-saxon characters, or where non-anglo characters confront issues of difference. The issues here – learning difficulties, self-belief and family closensess – are universal.

With lots of illustrative support and accessible text Flying High is suitable for junior primary or for older readers who require extra support.

Flying High, by Sally Mprgan & Ezekiel Kwaymullina, illustrated by Craig Smith
Omnibus Books, 2015
ISBN 978174299070

Available from good bookstores and online.

Magpie Learns a Lesson, by Sally Morgan & Ezekiel Kwaymullina, illustrated by Tania Erzinger

Secretly Magpie felt jealous of her friend.
He could soar to great heights.
He could drop from the sky like a stone.
He could see over a long distance.
Magpie decided to play a trick on him.

Magpie can sing beautifully, but she is jealous of her gentle, kind friend Brown Falcon, for his hunting and flying skills. So she plays a series of mean tricks on him to make him look silly. AT first Falcon tries not to mind, but eventually he gets cross and flies away. When Magpie gets caught in a hunter’s nest she realises, almost too late, the value of Falcon’s friendship.

Magpie Learns a Lesson is a charming lesson about friendship and, in a story with echoes of The Boy Who Cried Wolf, the importance of being honest. The story is brought to life in beautiful acrylic paintings, with the oil sketch paper adding . texture. Rich blue skies alternate with creamy backgrounds and eucalypt greens for the ground and tress scenes, giving a generous echoes of the Australian bush.

A wonderfully Australian title.

Magpie Learns a Lesson, by Sally Morgan & Ezekiel Kwaymullina, illustrated by Tania Erzinger
Omnibus Books, 2015
ISBN 9781742990590

Available from good bookstores or online.

Bridget, by J. Moloney

‘You don’t want to be stopping here, me young colleen,’ he said. ‘In England, the Irish are bottom of the heap – kept poor and treated like eejits ’cause of our Catholic faith. Go someplace where you’re as good as the rest. That’s what I’d do, if I was young like you.’

Life has been tough for Bridget, but now she setting sail for Australia, where she is to start a new life. She isn’t afraid. Nothing could be worse than staying in Ireland and starving to death. Still, she cries for what she is leaving behind – her mother and brothers in the work house and her father and grandmother, both dead. In Australia, too, she finds that though life might be better, her strong spirit might land her in trouble.

Bridget, part of Omnibus Books’ New Australian series is set in and after the time of the Irish potato famine of the mid nineteenth century, and shows both that famine’s effects as well as the resultant scheme which saw poverty stricken Irish shipped to Australia. Although not convicts, Bridget and her fellows travellers have few rights and must adapt to life in a very foreign land.

Suitable for readers in middle primary and older, Bridget is historical fiction with broad appeal. Bridget is a likeable narrator who readers will enjoy getting to know.

 

Bridget (New Australian)

Bridget, by J. Maloney
Omnibus, 2015
ISBN 9781742990989

Available from good bookstores and online.

One Night, by Penny Matthews & Stephen Michael King

In any farmyard, on Christmas Eve, if you are very lucky, you can hear the animals talk.

It happens only on this most magical of nights.

And it happens only in that moment just before midnight

when the world is silent, waiting.

On Christmas Eve, at midnight, legend says that animals can talk. They speak to remember the part that animals played on the very first Christmas – where a donkey carried the baby’s mother, horses gave up their stall and other animals provided soft bedding. Even the mouse and the spider did their bit, and the rooster crowed to herald the news. Proud of the part their forbears played, the animals celebrate on Christmas Eve.

One Night is a delightful, gentle Christmas tale with the focus squarely on the animals, though two spreads show Mary and Joseph with baby Jesus, and the final spread shows all the animals gazing at the sleeping baby.

The text is not overdone, using the animals’ dialogue to show their pride, and the watercolour and pencil illustrations are a perfect complement with soft, expressive animals and night time hues.

A lovely Christmas offering.

 

One Night, by Penny Matthews & Stephen Michael King
Omnibus Books, 2014
ISBN 9781742990279

Available from good bookstores or online.

Imagine a City, by Elise Hurst

Imagine a city
and drops of rain
A world without edges
Where the wind takes you high…

Fish that fly through the sky , gargoyles that come alive and drink cups of tea, and cats that play chess are just a few of the wonders that populate the pages of this fantastical, magical yet gentle book. The poetic text is minimal – just a few words per page – and invites readers to use their imagination. The illustrations, in black pen and ink on cream backgrounds use light and shadow, and lots of cross-hatching and detail, to amazing effect. There is a historic feel, with steam trains, historical figures and buildings and of course the lack of colour all enhancing this, but it doesn’t feel dated. Rather, it seems the children pictured are in a time slip adventure, taking the reader with them.

The design of the book is also special. In clothbound hard cover, with embossed text and a panel print illustration, the endpapers also use red ink rather than the black of the rest of the book. The whole feels sumptuous and a real keepsake.

Imagine a City would make a perfect gift for a child or an adult.

 

Imagine a City, by Elise Hurst
Omnibus, 2014
ISBN 9781742990095

Available from good bookstores or online.