I Love You by Xiao Mao ill Tang Yun

Ms Giraffe is Little Badger’s teacher.
She is very kind and very clever.
One day, Ms Giraffe writes some new words on the whiteboard.
Wo ai ni
Ti amo
Je táime
Ich Liebe dich
Te quiero

Little Badger loves school and when her teacher teaches them how to say ‘I love you!’ in multiple languages, she’s very happy to practice. She says ‘I love you!’ all the way home. At home, she continues, practising, practising in different languages all the way through dinner, her bath and to bedtime. Her parents are caught up in her enthusiasm and reaffirm their love in different languages. All characters are represented as animals. Illustrations are stylised, pencil and paint. End-papers reflect some of the elements Little Badger loves.
I Love You’ was originally published in China and the first alt-language offering in this new edition is appropriately in Chinese (both phonetic and in script). Ms Giraffe introduces the idea that all languages express the same emotion, but with different sounds. Little Badger applies her new knowledge generously. This is a lovely book, with friendly illustrations and will be enjoyed at home, in kindergartens and in schools to introduce different languages. Recommended for pre- and early-schoolers.

I Love You, Xiao Mao ill Tang Yun
New Frontier Publishing 2017
ISBN: 9781925059762

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

Tracy Lacy Is Completely Coo-coo Bananas! by Tania Lacy ill Danielle McDonald

Once upon a time …

Once upon a time …

Once there was a girl. She seemed like a normal girl living in a normal house …

It was a dark and stormy night …

Once upon a time …

 Once there was a girl. She seemed like a normal girl living in a normal house …

 It was a dark and stormy night …

Oh cheesey-cheeses! I’m going to cut straight to the chase. It’s late and I’m still up …

It’s almost the last day of primary school, and Tracy couldn’t be happier. It’s time to put her disasters of primary school behind her and head into high school with a clean slate. She has plans to make sure it happens. She’s determined to be a whole different person, and she’s going to make sure her best friends Ponky and Ag are as prepared as she is. What starts as a bit of a story, becomes a diary in which Tracy documents the last days of school and the summer holidays leading up to this new chapter in her life. Throughout, there are brief conversations with her brother, who is clearly not listening to her instruction to stay out of her diary! Each opening includes doodles, sketches, patterns and a variety of text sizes and fonts, as does the cover.

Decorated on the cover and throughout with doodle-extras, it’s clear that Tracy Lacy is no shy violet. She’s brash, outspoken, confident … and misunderstood. Her friends Ponky and Ag accept her for who she is, even when she is most trying to reinvent herself, and them. But not everyone else does. Her teacher, the school principal, the cool kids seem often to misinterpret her words and actions (at least, that’s how she sees it). Tracy’s story is full of humour and her observations of others help the reader to see beyond the words and understand what she doesn’t quite get. At heart, a story about coming to terms with who you are. Recommended for mid-primary + readers.

Tracy Lacy is Completely Coo-coo Bananas!, Tania Lacy ill Danielle McDonald

Scholastic 2016 ISBN: 9781760279820

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com

Black Sunday, by Evan McHugh

The other thing Mrs Kearsley says you can do in a diary is write down your dreams and aspirations/ That’s even easier. I want to be a Bondi lifesaver like Grampa Jack. So, that’s my life story done. I’m goin’ down the beach.

Nipper is not impressed whn his teacher makes him keep a diary. He doesn’t want to spend his free time writing – he just wants to be at the beach. He’s even less impressed when she wants to read what he’s written, and his refusal to show her lands him in a lot of trouble.

In secret, Nipper starts preparing himself for his future career – swimming distances, imagining he’s rescuing someone. He has to wait until he’s 16 before he can get his Bronze Medallion and become part of the brigade. But one eventful day in 1938 – a day that would become known as Black Sunday – his secret is revealed in dramatic fashion.

Black Sunday is a diary format novel for primary aged readers fictionalising the events of Black Sunday, 1938 and bringing to life the Bondi of the time. Although Black Sunday is a feature, the book spans a year, so covers events both before and after the day.

Nipper is a likable narrator, and his story will appeal to middle and upper primary aged readers.

Black Sundaym by Evan McHugh
Scholastic Australia, 2016
ISBN 9781743627990

Another Night in Mullet Town, by Steven Herrick

People like you and me, Jonah,
we drag down the price of everything we touch.

Jonah and Manx have been happy living on the wrong side of Coraki Lake – the side which does’t have beach access. They fish and swim in the lake, and spend their Friday nights watching Ella and Rachel and wishing they had the courage to talk to them. But life is changing. Their run down town is being sold off by a greedy real estate agent. Manx’s dad’s servo struggles to keep its doors open, and Jonah’s parents argue non-stop. The things that happen at their Friday night gatherings by the lake will bring change, and not all of it will be good.

Another Night in Mullet Town is a gritty, realistic verse novel told from the perspective of Jonah, a boy with just the one close friend (though he hopes Ella will become his friend, or something more). He and Manx have always been mates, but he worries that Manx is drifting away, consumed with hatred for the wealthy new-comers. He’s also struggling with the effects of his parents’ fighting. For all that’s going wrong, he manages to find things to be happy about, and he is a likable, often humorous narrator.

Herrick’s poetry is, as always, accessible to young readers with each poem only a page or two, enticing readers to read just one more. The use of the verse novel form means that there is emotional depth, character development and a wonderful sense of place, delivered with a satisfying compactness which means it will reach readers of all abilities.

Another Night in Mullet Town, by Steven Herrick
UQP, 2016
ISBN 9780702253959

Trouble and the Missing Cat by Cate Whittle ill Stephen Michael King

It turns out that our school Principal doesn’t live in a cupboard at the end of the corridor next to the teachers/ staffroom, even though Kyle Watson and Braedon Smythe both say so, and they should know. They are always being sent to see the Principal. As for me, Georgia, I’ve never made it beyond talking to the Deputy before, and she usually comes up to the classroom.

It turns out that our school Principal doesn’t live in a cupboard at the end of the corridor next to the teachers/ staffroom, even though Kyle Watson and Braedon Smythe both say so, and they should know. They are always being sent to see the Principal. As for me, Georgia, I’ve never made it beyond talking to the Deputy before, and she usually comes up to the classroom.

Georgia travels to school on the back of Trouble, a dragon. Trouble stole their house you see, and set it in the mountains. It was far easier for Georgia to get a lift to school than to try and set their house back on its block. But Trouble has been banned from school and the alternative ‘drop-off point’ is at the spot where their old house was. When Tibbles, the cat next door vanishes, Georgia is happy to help find him. She collects clues and eventually solves the mystery. Black and white illustrations appear on most openings.

Trouble is a dragon, and just like an oversize puppy, he is enthusiastic and not really aware of his size. Georgia is full of enthusiasm too, and sometimes surprised when her attempts to help out are misinterpreted. Their adventures are great fun and will have readers giggling. Fans of Anna Fienberg and Kim Gamble’s ‘Tashi’ stories will enjoy these tales. Recommended for independent readers or read-to for younger children.

Trouble and the Missing Cat, Cate Whittle ill Stephen Michael
King Scholastic 2016 ISBN: 9781742990774

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com

The Things I Didn't Say, by Kylie Fornasier

I hate the label Selective Mutism – as if I choose not to speak, like a kid who refuses to eat broccoli. I’ve used up every dandelion wish since I was ten wishing for the power to speak whenever I want to. I’m starting to wonder if there are enough dandelions.

Piper Rhodes doesn’t talk to strangers. But far from this being a sign of following parental rules, her silence seems inexplicable. She can talk at home, and to people she knows well, but at school and in the community, words fail her. This causes lots of problems, but as she starts at a new school for her final year of schooling, Piper is never more aware of just how problematic it can be. Teachers think she’s being rude, and making friends is difficult. Then there’s West: the school captain, soccer-star, boy who has it all. He seems intent of getting to know her, even if it means writing notes.

Selective Mutism is a difficult condition to live with and for other people to comprehend. Even the name is problematic, as Piper complains, implying a ‘selection’ or choice being made. The Things I Didn’t Say is a wonderful exploration of the challenges it holds for one teen character, at the same time as being just a great read about friendship, peer pressure, and parental expectation. Piper has changed schools by choice after losing her best friend following a drunken party, and at the new school finds both new friends and new enemies. West, who appears to have it all, also has struggles, particularly with meeting the expectations his parents have of him. Their seemingly unlikely relationship blossoms through notes and text messages, but is threatened by people around them.

An excellent young adult read.

The Things I Didn’t Say, by Kylie Fornasier
Penguin, 2016
ISBN 9780143573630

Bro, by Helen Chebatte

Image result for bro helen chebatte hardie grant’Bro, listen to me,’ Diz pleads, sliding to the edge of his seat and holding out his hands. ‘Fight club’s for posers. Lebs fight for good reason, not to show off. You don’t need to prove nothing’.’
’He’s challeng
ed me, bro. What do you want me to do? Say no? Do you want him to tell everyone Lebs are chickens? He’s had one Leb fight him and he’s already bagging us out.’

Romeo Machlouf is in year ten at a boys school. He has good mates and tries to stay out of trouble, though it isn’t always easy. When a fight club starts up, he isn’t interested – he doesn’t want to fight. But he might not have a choice, because Lebs stick together, and don’t take any crap from Ozzies, or from Fobs either.

Bro is a coming of age story about growing up: first love, identity, violence and its consequences are all explored through the first person voice of Romeo. At the same time, the themes of belonging and race are explored both dramatically and poignantly. Romeo and his friends are all ‘Lebs’ – Australian born but of Lebanese descent (though Romeo’s mother was not Lebanese) – and the school and their broader social circle is very much divided into racial groups . The other groups include the Fobs (‘fresh off the boat’), Maoris, Samoans, Tongans and other islanders ; the Rez (an Arabic word for rice, Asian students; and the Ozzies, “white skinned boys”. Tensions between the groups often run high, and the fight club that springs up in the school is contested along race lines.

An emotional read, Bro tackles important issues in a really accessible way.

Bro, by Helen Chebatte
Hardie Grant Egmont, 2016
ISBN 9781760125509

My First Day at School, by Rosie Smith & Bruce Whatley

On my first day…

From dressing themselves, to eating breakfast, meeting new friends, counting, playing and even home time, My First Day at School takes youngsters through fairly typical things that happen on the first day of school. The use of a range of animal characters adds humour and interest. The character on the spread with the line “I dress myself”, for example, is a centipede, sporting brightly patterned socks on each of its numerous feet. Other spreads feature rabbits, dogs, owls, a rhino and more.

This use of the animal characters to illustrate what is very simple text does not remove it too far from children’s experience and the use of both familiar and less familiar animals – including a sloth, a puffin and a tapir (?) – creates room for discussion both about what is happening at school and about the animals themselves.

Perfect for a young child starting school, My First Day at School is a treasure from one of Australia’s bets loved creative teams in Bruce Whatley and Rosie Smith.

My First Day at School, by Rosie Smith & Bruce Whatley
Scholastic, 2016
ISBN 9781743622964

On Track, by Kathryn Apel

Sometimes it feels  
like my body doesn’t belong
to me, like I tell it to do stuff
and it doesn’t. My feet stumble along
and trip over each other, my hands fumble
and drop, and it’s almost like I’m wrapped in
invisible bubble wrap – stumbly, fumbly, bumbly –
like a spaceman bumping and blundering along.

Toby and his brother Shaun were born less than a year apart, but though they are close in age, they are very different in every other way. Shaun is smart, and good at everything he does. Toby struggles at school, and doesn’t find anything easy – except running away from his ‘big, better brother.’ Shaun might be good at everything, but he feels that people don’t notice his successes – especially when Toby is around.

Tensions between the brothers grow when Toby is diagnosed with a muscular condition and starts getting extra help, including a new laptop for school. When he then joins the school’s athletics team, Shaun resents that this means the coach will spend less time with him. With Sports Day getting closer, tensions between the pair grow.

On Track is a wonderful verse novel about sibling rivalry, self identity and self confidence. Told through the dual first person narratives of Shaun and Toby, the story allows readers to see both brothers’ struggles and motivations, allowing empathy for both to develop. This in turn will help readers to see that individual differences are not always better or worse.

This is Apel’s second verse novel, and makes excellent use of the form, allowing an emotional connection with the two characters. Readers will care about the boys and what happens to them, and the resolution is satisfying without being overly contrived. The inclusion of sport in the plot will add interest for many readers.

On Track, by Kathryn Apel
UQP, 2016
ISBN 9780702253737

Available from good bookstores and online.

Stuff Happens: Fadi, by Scot Gardner

Principal Davies didn’t realise that banning tackling games would mean that our need to tackle would build up and build up until it had to come out.
It came out one recess on the EBO – the oval across the road from school.
I tackled Jack, even though tackling was banned. I broke the rules and I think I broke Jack’s arm.

Fadi is a big by with a big heart. Being a year older than everyone else, and with Samoan heritage and a love for rugby, Fadi feels like whenever he moves he breaks something. But staying still is too hard, and sometimes stuff just seems to happen.

Fadi is a book about getting into trouble, fitting in and learning to like yourself. Gently humorous, the story is also realistic, exploring issues which might confront contemporary children.

Aimed at chidlren in middle and upper primary, Fadi is part of the Stuff Happens series from Puffin Books and will engage both competent and reluctant readers.

 

Fadi (Stuff Happens)

Fadi, by Scot Gardner
Puffin Books, 2015
ISBN 9780143308126

Available from good bookstores and online.