Sage Cookson’s Literary Launch by Sally Murphy

‘Come on Sage, it’s not that bad,’ my friend Lucy says, one hand on my shoulder. Í know you can do it.’
Tears spring to my eyes. ‘I don’t think I can, Lucy. I think I’d rather fail!’
I look around the room at the rest of our classmates, all busy working on their task, or talking about it, or trying to get away with doing other things without the teacher, Mr Duke, noticing. I wonder if any of them feels as bad as I do about our assignment.

Ten-year-old Sage Cookson spends a lot of time travelling with her TV chef parents. It’s an exciting and varied life but Sage is often absent from the school she attends with best friend, Lucy. While she stays in touch with Lucy when she’s away, she doesn’t know her other classmates that well. When Mr Duke sets them an assignment to deliver a three-minute no-notes presentation to the class, Sage is terrified. Her normal sunny confidence vanishes. She has no idea what to talk about and she is convinced she will never be able to speak in front of the whole class. At home, everyone is excited about the impending launch of Mum’s cook book, so she keeps her worries to herself.

Confident people always seem that they can do anything, and it can be hard to believe that they ever experience nerves. But often, they have worked hard to be able to overcome the same nervousness that first-timers experience. Sage doesn’t want to disturb her parents when they are so busy. Her parents might be busy but they can also ‘read’ Sage and they want to help her. They, Lucy, and new family friend, Tori, offer a number of strategies, but in the end Sage has to make her own decisions, and to make her own presentation. Recommended for newly independent readers.

Sage Cookson’s Literary Launch, Sally Murphy
New Frontier Publishing 2017
ISBN: 9781925594010

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

The Blue Cat, by Ursula Dubosarsky

A few streets away, a car putting down the twisted hill. It halted outside a block of mulberry-brick flats. A small boy emerged from the back seat, out onto the pavement. He was carrying a suitcase. He stood there, looking upwards. His skin gleamed like snow.
in the middle of the road a sleek cat lay stretched out, absorbing the sunshine.

It is 1942, and Columba (who was named after a nun) is growing up in war time Sydney. A new boy – a refugee from ‘You-rope’ – appears in the neighborhood, at about the same time as a strange blue cat. Columba is intrigued by the new boy, Ellery, though he doesn’t speak English and Columba struggles to understand where he has come from and why he is here. This isn’t the only thing she struggles to understand. Why are the cloaks being put forward for an hour? Why do the adults talk about ‘taking people’s minds off things? And, with Singapore falling, and regular air raid practices, will they be safe here in Sydney?

The Blue Cat is an enchanting piece of writing. Historical fiction with just a tiny twist of magical realism, it is a gentle story of the confusion of a child faced with frightening, not-quite-understood events. With an insight into how the childhood experiences of Australians during the war years, and to harbourside Sydney life, this is an entrancing read.

The Blue Cat, by Ursula Dubosarsky
Allen & Unwin, 2017
ISBN 9781760292294

Matty's Comeback, by Anita Heiss

Matty's ComebackThere’s only two minutes left but the ball is back in play and then the entire Burrow breaks into a slow song that gathers pace. Matty is leading the way and he is proud, until he hears his mother singing completely off-key, and then he’s just a little bit embarrassed, but he keeps going…
Botany Road, take me home
To the place, I belong
Back to Redfern, South of Sydney
Take me home, Botany Road.

Matty loves footy, and he loves his team, the South Sydney Rabbitohs. He’s pretty sure he’s their number 1 fan – and his friends and family agree. He’s even chosen the team he plays for because they have the same colours as South Sydney. When he’s not cheering for the Rabbitohs, Matty is scoring tries for his team, and soon they’ll be playing in the grand final. But when he is injured, it looks like Matty won’t be able to help his team out at all.

Matty’s Comeback is a sports-filled junior novel. Matty is a determined, likeable kid – though he isn’t perfect, especially when it comes to the way he teases his little sister. He is surrounded by a loving Koori family, works hard for what he wants and is loyal to his friends – and his team.

Perfect for any kid who loves rugby, Matty’s Comeback is also a great story about family, friends and overcoming obstacles.

Matty’s Comeback, by Anita Heiss
Scholastic, 2016
ISBN 9781760152031

My Australian Story: Vietnam, by Deborah Challinor

It’s supposed to be a fair way to decide who does national service and who doesn’t, but Mum reckons it isn’t. She says the fate of a mother’s son shouldn’t depend on a number picked out of a barrel. The marbles that go in the barrel have the days of the month on them. An agreed number of marbles are drawn out of the barrel, and if your birth date is on one, you’re ‘balloted in’.

It’s 1969 and Davey’s big brother Tom has been conscripted. Chosen because of his birthdate, he has no choice but to report for service. Soon, Tom is in Vietnam and his family are back home worrying about him. But there are other things happening in Davey’s life, too. He and his two best mates love surfing, and are determined to win the inaugural Newcastle Under-14 Championship. Thye are fascinated, too, by the planned moon landing, and follow preparations keenly. But growing up isn’t always fun, and Davey and his mates have some hard lessons to learn.

Vietnam , part of the My Australian Story series, is a wonderful diary format story giving an insight into Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War through the experiences of one family. It also offers a snapshot of late 1960s life, including the music of the time, key events in the year, the union movement, the impact of war on generations of Australians and more.

An excellent offering for primary aged readers.

My Australian Story: Vietnam , by Deborah Challinor
Scholastic Australia, 2015
ISBN 9781743628003

Springtime, by Michelle De Krester

Picking up her pace, Frances saw a woman in the shadowy depths of the garden. She wore a wide hat and a trailing pink dress; a white hand emerged from her sleeve. There came upon Frances a sensation that sometimes overtook her when she was looking at a painting: space was foreshortened, time stilled.

Frances and her partner Charlie have recently moved to Sydney. As she battles a sense of displacement, Frances finds pleasure in her daily walks with her rescue dog, Rod, who looks fearsome but is terrified of strangers. On a favourite stretch of her walk, Frances starts to glimpse a woman in a long dress, accompanied by a white dog. There is something surreal about what she sees, and she can’t help thinking the figure is ghostly.

Springtime is an intriguing little story – a short novella exploring the supernatural as well as themes of displacement, family and relationships. Billed as a ghost story, and packaged in a charming small hardcover format with a slip case, it is a book that is a delight to hold and to read.

Charming.

 

Springtime: A Ghost Story, by Michelle De Krester
Allen & Unwin, 2014
ISBN 9781760111212

Available from good bookstores and online.

Razorhurst, by Justine Larbalestier

Kelpie didn’t look at the card between her fingers. She could feel it there, but she was staring at the red splashes on the walls, on the mirror of the wardrobe, across the two paintings, at the blood sliding down them in rivulets. her nostrils flared at the smell from the dead man and she wished she could close them.
She did not see or smell apples.

Kelpie has been living on the streets of Surry Hills almost as long as she can remember. Her friends are mostly ghosts – she alone seems to be able to see and hear them – so she’s no stranger to death, but she is still shocked when she stumbles across the scene where Jimmy Palmer has just been slain. Unwittingly, she is now part of a turf war between mob bosses Glory Nelson and Mr Davidson. She also has a new, unexpected friend and protector – Dymphna Campbell – who was Jimmy’s girlfriend and Glory’s best girl. But Dymphna doesn’t know who to trust: she had Jimmy had been plotting to replace both of the mob bosses, and whoever killed Jimmy must have known that. Jimmy’s ghost wants to help, but he’s a bit hysterical over the turn of events. Kelpie’s only living friend, Snowy, also seems to want to help, but Jimmy says it was Snowy who killed him. Could sticking together be the thing that keeps both girls alive?

Set in 1930s Sydney, Razorhurst is historical fiction with a paranormal element, via the ghost characters. Set amidst the backdrop of a period where poverty was high, and gangs focused on prostitution and gambling preferred the razor as a means of enforcement and retribution, the story is fiction, but does draw on the lives of madams Tilly Devine and Kate Leigh, and 1930s prostitutes Dulcie Markham and Nellie Cameron as starting points for the intriguing characters of Glory and Dymphna.

Kelpie and Dymphna, who alternate as viewpoint characters, seem initially to be two very different people thrown together by circumstance, but it emerges that they have more in common than either thinks. this makes their relationship both complex and, for the reader, intriguing. The events that they endure, both within the short time frame of the book and in their pasts – which we see through flash backs – are violent and traumatic, yet both girls are strong, albeit in different ways.

Razorhurst is absorbing, frightening, and, at times, amusing. It is also utterly readable.

 

Razorhurst

Razorhurst, by Justine Larbalestier
Allen & Unwin, 2014
ISBN 9781743319437

Available from good bookstores or online.

The Inevitability of Stars, by Kathryn R. Lyster

Sahara turns, her waist-length hair flying wildly in the breeze that’s starting to pick up. You don’t get it.
Get what?

Get me, she says. You’re so happy to have this mediocre life, Rip, and sometimes I just want to scream at the thought of spending the rest of my life here.
What’s wrong with here?

Rip and Sahara have been friends all of their life, from childhood playmates to high school lovers. But after school they don’t want the same things. Rip wants to settle here forever, but Sahara wants to follow her dreams of being an artist, and to see the world beyond Byron.

Rip struggles to cope without Sahara, and with the memories of losing his mother. In Sydney, Sahara ones her craft and makes new friends. When she meets the rich and charismatic Sean, she seems to have the life that she wanted. But as Rip struggles to recover, Sahara’s glamorous life starts to fall apart. It’s too late for her and Rip to help each other, isn’t it?

The Inevitability of Stars is an evocative, poignant tale of love, life and recovery. Set in Byron Bay and Sydney, with elements of mysticism, this is a hard to classify book because it deals with so much. Part romance, part coming of age, part self discovery – the list goes on. Mostly, though, it is a beautiful book which will have wide appeal to older teens as well as adults.

Lovely.

 

The Inevitability Of Stars

The Inevitability of Stars, by Kathryn R. Lyster
Harlequin Mira, 2013
ISBN 9781743560495

Available from good bookstores or online. Read a sample of the book here.

Strictly Confidential, by Roxy Jacenko

Jasmine Lewis – Jazzy Lou to her friends – is working her backside off trying to make her way up in the world of PR. No matter what time of the day – or night – her boss Diane summons her, Jazzy is there, doing Diane’s bidding

Perhaps if my life as a publicist had begun in Milan, I’d be lounging in my La Perla finest, all frastaglio embroidery and mixing it with Italy’s beautiful people. Hell , I’d probably have found myself at one of Berlusconi’s bunga-bunga parties in the name of product placement where I’d thank God that, in my twenties, I was far too old to be his type.
Instead it all began with a red Vixenary g-string in the back-streets of Sydney’s Darlinghurst.

Jasmine Lewis – Jazzy Lou to her friends – is working her backside off trying to make her way up in the world of PR. No matter what time of the day – or night – her boss Diane summons her, Jazzy is there, doing Diane’s bidding. She’s done coffee runs, she’s handled laundry, she’s even got out of bed at 3am to rescue a client from the paparazzi. But no matter what she does, it seems Diane is never happy – so when Jazzy Lou is summonsed to Diane’s office she knows it isn’t for a pat on the back. But some clouds really do have silver linings, and soon Jasmine is founding her own PR company – Queen Bee – and doing things her way. It should be all positive from here. Right?

Strictly Confidential introduces the chaotic, but fun, character of Jazzy Lou and provides an insider’s look at the world of PR. Author Roxy Jacenko is herself a PR powerhouse, having started her own PR firm when she was just 24. the novel is populated by a colourful cast of characters, including (of course) Jazzy, as well as her best friend Luke, a gossip columnist, cricket players, actresses, pop starlets and more. Whilst at times it is a little difficult to remember who is who in this cast, that serves to accentuate the craziness of the world Jazzy Loud occupies.

An absorbing, fast paced novel.

Strictly Confidential: A Jazzy Lou Novel

Strictly Confidential: A Jazzy Lou Novel, by Roxy Jacenko
Allen & Unwin, 2012
ISBN 978174237757

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

Fergus at the Fireworks, by JW Noble

It’s New Year’s Eve, the year’s last day
Time for the annual fireworks display.

Fergus the Ferry, with a load of passengers is watching the fireworks. He sees Fireboat George start the display with a big swoosh, and wishes he too could do something to make everyone cheer.
When the fireworks end, other boats send up distress flares. George realises they are doing this for fun, and so does not respond. But, when a flare hits a boat’s sail, fire breaks out and the people on board need help. Quick thinking Fergus and his Captain, Joe, rescue the trapped sailors and Fergus is rewarded by the cheers of the watching crowd.

Fergus and the Fireworks is a cute story in rhyme, likeley to appeal to preschoolers. The Sydney Harbour setting and the bright illustrations by Peter Townsend will appeal to Australian youngsters, whilst the message about responsible use of flares and being wary of crying wolf may appeal to parents.

Cute.

Fergus at the Fireworks, by JW Noble, illustrated by Peter Townsend
Scolastic, 2003