Tarin pushed his dark and troubled thoughts aside. Luuka was right. They were bruised and battered, they had lost much of the Offering, but they were alive. He touched the owl pendant at his throat.
Thank you Spirit of Owl for protecting us. Thank you, Spirit of Wolf, for defending us.
Then he focused once more on the churning water ahead.
With winter rapidly drawing in, Tarin’s quest to save Mammoth Clan by finding the Mother and presenting her with the Offering, is seeming increasingly unachievable. One of his travelling companions, Kaija, is badly wounded, and they are without medicine, food and shelter. When help comes, it is from an unlikely source, but even with safety and friendship, Tarin must figure out a way to overcome his own doubts and continue on his perilous journey.
Clan of Wolves is the second title in the Tarin of the mammoths series. Set in the stone age, with mystical elements including Tarin’s ability to connect with animal guides, the plot is strong and the world in which Tarin and his friends move is as intriguing as it is well-defined. In this book we see Tarin, who has been seen in his own clan as a weakling, becoming ever stronger as he uncovers his own strengths and learns to accept help and guidance.
Perfect for readers for middle primary and up, this is an outstanding series.
Clan of Wolves, by Jo Sanhu
Penguin Books, 2017
Esther Solar had been waiting outside Lilac Hill Nursing and Rehabilitation Center for half an hour when she received word that the curse had struck again.
Rosemary Solar, her mother, explained over the phone that she would no longer, under any circumstances, be able to pick her daughter up. A cat black as night with demon-yellow slits for eyes had been found sitting atop the hood of the family car – an omen dark enough to prevent her from driving.
Esther Solar believes her family is cursed. Ever since her grandfather met Death in Vietnam, every family member has been cursed to suffer from one great fear, and to eventually die because of that fear. Her Grandfather, told her will die from drowning, avoids water, even baths. Esther’s father is an agoraphobic who has lived in the basement for six years, And her twin brother Eugene is terrified of the dark. Esther, though, is determined to avoid the curse, by avoiding everything that might trigger a phobia. She’s made a list of them, a semi-definitive list of worst nightmares. Then she meets Jonah, a would-be film maker with problems of his own, who is determined to make her confront, and dispel every one of her possible phobias.
Funny, sad and satisfyingly weird, A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares is hard to categorise, which is a good thing. The cast of flawed characters – teens and adults – are intriguing, and the plot equally absorbing. There’s some tough stuff happening, but the story is ultimately fun.
A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares Penguin, 2017
Ickyfoodia is our alphabetical guide to the disgusting foods, horrible recipes and weird meals that don’t get covered in other food books. We love food – in fact, we eat it every day! Sometimes the food we eat is delicious, but sometimes it’s totally grow.
We looked at lots and lots of food books and found that they are all about edible, healthy and altogether undisgusting foods But what about the other things we eat? The horrible hamburgers? The Terrible toast? The nasty noodles?
The Listies bring you an extravaganza of foods you may never have considered; food you may have eaten but have never seen in a cook book. Until now. ‘Ickyfoodia’ is dedicated to the ‘weirdo meal, the edible invention, things we eat when we aren’t sure we should’. Illustrated by the authors, there are exploding saucepans, glow-in-the-dark carrots, left-over mummifried chicken and all manner of other delicacies to see and make. Beware: there is a linguini bikini and vomatoes and other tummy-turning treats.
‘Ickyfoodia’ is an alphabet of awfulness, a tabling of terribleness, a mish-mash of monstrosities. There are recipes, cartoons, photos, lists, puns, and many many word plays. You may not want an invitation to any dinner proposed by the Listies, but you might want to share the recipes out loud. If you like your puns, and are a fan of gross, then this is the book for you. Recommended for mid-primary readers.
Ickyfoodia: the Ultimate Guide to Disgusting Food, the Listies (Matt Kelly and Richard Higgins)
review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller
as he settled each paw
was lazy old sleepyhead,
It’s a peaceful, sunnny morning, and Scarface Claw has settled down for a rest. But with a sudden shudder and sway his resting place – Tom’s van – is hurrying away, down the driveway and along the highway, with Scarface clinging on to the roof. om is so intent on getting where he needs to be that he doesn’t notice the efforts of boys on a school bus, or Peter the plumber, or any of the townspeople. It is up to Constable Chrissie, with her sirens and light to put a stop to the van, and get the cat home.
Scarface Claw Hold Tight! is a wonderful new addition tot he Hairy Maclary and Friends series. As with other stories, the adventure stands alone, though fans will be delighted to see favourite characters, including the tough cat Scarface Claw, Tom and even Miss Plum all feature.
Text is in rhyming verse which scans welll and withstands the repeated readings which chidlren will demand, and the illustrations featuring the detailed water colour and ink outlines which Dodd does so well.
Scarface Claw Hold Tight! by Lynley Dodd
Pufin Imprint, Penguin Books, 2017
My name is Connor and I’m a nerd, so my friends call me Con-nerd. Well, my old friends did, back at Green hill Primary. I’ve only been here at Kentsworth High School for a week, so nobody has called me Con-nerd. They don’t even call me a nerd.
That’s because this place is full of nerds.
In primary school, Connor had a great group of friends. They thought he was a nerd, but that was one of the things they liked about him. This year, though, Connor is at highschool, and his friends are at different schools. He’s at an academic selective school, and everyone there is smart. Suddenly, Connor isn’t the smartest one in his class. In fact, he isn’t anywhere near the top. With no friends to talk to, and everyone around seemingly super-smart, Connor isn’t sure if he’ll survive his first term of high school, let alone make his family proud, or have time to follow his true dream – of being a comic book creator.
Super Con-Nerd is the second story featuring Connor, who is smart, funny, loyal to his friends and an entertaining narrator. This installment stands alone satisfactorily, but it will be especially enjoyed by those who have already met Connor in the first book.
Suitable for readers of all abilities, Super Con-Nerd is a satisfying read.
Super Con-Nerd, by Oliver Phommavanh
Puffin Books 2017
Someone yelling wakes me up. I have no idea what time it is. I jump out of bed and head for the kitchen. I almost collide with Mum, who’s also coming out of her room.
‘Go back to bed,’ she whispers.
I don’t Dad is standing in the middle of the kitchen. The fluorescent light is on and he’s in his undies. They bag a little around his arse. He’s pointing at the clock.
‘I’ve got to go to work!’ he’s yelling. ‘Why didn’t you wake me up?’
‘Honey,’ Mum says, ‘you don’t need to go to work yet.’
‘Don’t lie to me!’ he roars. ‘I’m supposed to be there!’
‘Honey,’ Mum repeats soothingly. ‘It’s three o’clock in the morning. You go back to bed and it’ll be time to go in another few hours.’
‘Why are you doing this to me?’ he yells. ‘What am I doing here? What is this? Who do you think you are?’
Amelia is in Year 12, trying to impress her art teacher, navigating an increasingly unpredictable home life, and trying to work out what’s going on with her friends, particularly her closest friend, Gemma. Her dad is changing, forgetful, angrier more often. Her mum has her own adjustments to make. To Amelia, it’s as though everything she has ever known is changing. And she’s not quite sure what to do. But the days pass, whether or not she wants them to. In the growing chaos and confusion, Amelia begins to work out who she is.
Everyone says Year 12 is big, but no one could have predicted Amelia’s year. It’s not just the work, or growing up. It’s like someone threw her into a tornado and all she can see is a blur. Relationships are at the heart of ‘Before You Forget’, those with family and with old friends and new. ‘Before You Forget’ becomes the song of change, of evolving, of reality. Amelia’s art practice, her struggle to communicate via canvas is a metaphor for her struggle to navigate and understand her changing world. Recommended for mid- to upper-secondary readers.
Before You Forget, Julia Lawrinson
review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller
Just then, Jack discovered a sodden parcel wedged between the plane’s ribs.
He tore off the string binding and red wax seals. Inside was a bloated leather wallet, bursting with small packages wrapped in tissue. He emptied the contents of one into his calloused hands. What he saw stole his breath away …
As a plane prepares to ferry Dutch refugees out of Java to escape war-torn Java, the captain is passed a valuable package to carry to safety. But the plane is attacked, and crash-lands, the passage temporarily forgotten in the quest for survival. When Jack Palmer, a sailor and beachcomber, comes across the abandoned wreck of the plane he can’t help but be curious about what he might find on board. What he does find is beyond anything he could imagine.
Diamond Jack, the first title in the new History Mysteries series by Mark Greenwood, is a junior novel exploring the events surrounding the crash of a Dakota aircraft and subsequent disappearance of a parcel of diamond on board. Using the known facts and people involved, interwoven with a fictionalised version of what might have happen, the story provides an intriguing glimpse into the past. Young readers will be drawn into the mystery as they also view and learn about a chapter of Australian war history.
With historical photographs, maps and notes including a timeline, this is history children can connect with.
History Mysteries: Diamond Jack, by Mark Greenwood
Penguin Random House, 2017
I stared into the shark’s unblinking eye. The voices grew louder. It felt like they were calling me. I tried to understand, but the mako’s black eyes were frightening. I looked away.
The voices stopped.
Isabel (Izzy) and her mother are returning home to the place she was born – an island in Papua New Guinea. Izzy loves her home, but this time, her journey is sad. They are taking the ashes of her much-loved twin brother home to be scattered.
On the island, Izzy and her mother start to heal, but Izzy also sees that the island is changing. The environment is changing, threatened by logging and modern technologies, and the sharks no longer answer the cries of the village shark callers. The clan needs someone to take an offering deep beneath the sea in a traditional offering to the shark god. The person must be a twin from the shark-calling lineage. Lizzie is the last twin. I will take great courage to even attempt the challenge.
The Shark Caller is a gripping, moving story of bereavement and courage, combining contemporary realism with fantasy elements. The issues of grief and of family obligations are combined with broader issues of environmental change and the impact of modernisation on traditional communities and ecocultures.
Suitable from readers in upper primary and beyond.
The Shark Caller, by Dianne Wolfer
Penguin Books, 2016
They were fifty miles to victory and defeat, fifty miles to collapse and renewal, and fifty miles to a new place for Australia among the nations of the world. They were among the most significant fifty miles in our history.
After four years of conflict in Turkey, Palestine and Europe, both sides of the Great War conflict are weary and seeking to end the conflict. For the men of the five Australian divisions stationed in France, the end seems a long way away, though, and while they are battle weary they are able to come together under Major-General John Monash and play a decisive role in claiming the last fifty miles – the miles which will see an end to the war.
The Last Fifty Miles is an accessible, detailed account of Australia’s involvement in World War 1 and particularly its role in the final months of the conflict on the Western Front.
Readers are offered insight into the reasons for the war, the main personalities involved on both sides, and the impact of the war on Australians at home as well as those serving.
Suitable for amateur history buffs or anyone wanting to better understand the Great War.
The Last Fifty Miles, by Adam Wakeling
Penguin Books, 2016
‘Let me tell you a story about my grandfather…My grandfather came to this country with nothing, but now, because of his hard work and sacrifice, I have everything. Grandpa was proud of his work, of every little toy that he made. That’s why he was so successful. There’s nothing more important than hard work and sacrifice…’
Adam Kulakov loves his life. He has plenty of money, thanks to inheriting his grandfather’s toy company, a beautiful wife and a son he adores. He has no shortage of mistresses, either. No matter that some of his ideas don’t turn out so well, or that he has trouble finding good staff who will stick around. His grandfather, Arkady, is also happy. After escaping Auschwitz at the end of World War Two, he was able to build a new, successful life for himself in Australia. Now he is retired, but Adam’s wife, Tess, on whom more and more responsibility for running the company falls, includes him in decision making. They have a close relationship.
But when Adam makes one mistake too many, the future of the toy company and of his marriage becomes increasingly rocky. And for Arkady, the horrors of the past are coming back to haunt him, too.
The Toymaker combines twin narratives of 1944 Poland and contemporary Australia so that the reader not only sees Arkady’s story unfold alongside the modern narrative, but also becomes aware of the contracts and similarities between the experiences and personalities of grandfather and grandson. It is a story of privilege, corruption and survival which is both absorbing and uncomfortable.
The Toymaker, by Liam Pieper
Penguin Books, 2016