Ned Kelly and the Green Sash, by Mark Greenwood

I do not pretend that I have led a blameless life, or that one fault justified another, but the public, judging a case like mine, should remember that the darkest life may have a bright side…

As a child, Ned Kelly saved another boy from drowning in a flooded creek, and was awarded a green sash for his heroism. But it was not this act of bravery for which Ned was to become famous – but for his career as an outlaw, begun just a few short years later.

Whilst there are have been dozens of books, stories, songs and poems about Ned Kelly’s life, Ned Kelly and the Green Sash offers a new insight into his childhood and into his character. The first person narrative presents Ned’s perspective of events, whilst the use of newspaper formats in the middle of the book offers the contrast of the opinions of the time. The gouache illustrations, by Frane Lessac, also give readers an insight into Kelly’s life, with the rich colours of the bush contrasting with the more subdued tones of the prison cell and the sepia tones of the newspaper spreads.

Author Mark Greenwood encourages readers to form their own opinions of Kelly’s actions, and the first person narrative, complemented with the news extracts and Ned’s own writing, as well as back of book notes, gives plenty of food for thought.

A wonderful offering for children of all ages.

Ned Kelly and the Green Sash

Ned Kelly and the Green Sash, by Mark Greenwood & Frane Lessac
Walker Books Australia, 2010

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The Marriage Club, by Kate Legge

In the ensuite she washes briskly, her mind busy with all she must accomplish today. In her mirror, her face is a medley of excitement and sadness. Tears brim in her hazel eyes. She blinks them back, telling herself she’s no time for second thoughts.

When Leith plans to end her marriage by moving out, she tells no one – not her children, not her best friends, and certainly not her husband, George. But Leith doesn’t move out – because the night before she plans to leave she is killed. Is it an accident, or murder?

In the week that follows her death George uncovers her plans and the secrets that made up their marriage are gradually unravelled. Leith’s friends, too, find that their friend was not necessarily the person they thought she was.

The Marriage Club is a story which some might find confronting as it explores the truth behind relationships and friendships, and the ways which people cultivate public perceptions. Leith appears to be a perfect wife and mother, yet her marriage is strained and difficult. Her friends have their own secrets, which emerge as the week progresses. Readers will find themselves questioning how these secrets have remained so well hidden for so long, at the same time enjoying their unravelling.

An intriguing expose of contemporary society.

The Marriage Club

The Marriage Club, by Kate Legge
Penguin, 2010

this book can be purchased online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Summer Days, by Lenny Pelling

Polly and Jez were as close as two friends could be.
Two friends who had never met, that is.
They had learned about true friendship through letters, just like their mothers…
and their grandmothers.

Polly and Jez are wonderful friends – even though they have never met. They are pen pals, writing to each other just as their mothers and grandmothers have done for years. When Polly travels around Australia with her grandparents, Jez lives the journey using Polly’s postcards and her own imagination.

Summer Days is the first title in the new Pen Pals Forever series from Random House and author/illustrator Lenny Pelling. Written using a combination of third person narration and letter format, and with text accessible to beginning readers, this little offering celebrates friendship and the endangered art of letter writing. With black and white illustrations on every spread, and back of book tips for children to find and write to their own penpals, as well as the free gift of a pencil case with pencil and eraser, this will appeal especially to girls in the early years of school.

Very cute.

Pen-Pals Forever 1: Summer Days

Pen-Pals Forever 1: Summer Days, by Lenny Pelling
Random House, 2010

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The Complete Adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, by May Gibbs

One very hot night, when the Cicadas were singing so loudly that Snugglepot couldn’t hear his father snoring, he and Cuddlepie crept out of bed and out of the house.
“Where are you going?” asked Cuddlepie.
“To see the Humans,” said Snugglepot.
“Only in the distance,” pleaded Cuddlepie. Then they began their journey.

Since their first appearance in 1918, the adventures of gumnut babies Snugglepot and Cuddlepie have delighted readers of all ages. Images of the pair have also been widely loved.

This new edition brings all three volumes of their adventures together in one volume, with the original illustrations. Collectors and adults who have loved the tales in the past will be delighted to have them anew, and younger readers may enjoy the chance to discover them for the first time.

In paperback format, this would make a great gift for a young Aussie reader.

The Complete Adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie

The Complete Adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, by May Gibbs
This edition Angus & Robertson, 2010

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

One Perfect Pirouette, by Sherryl Clark

‘You can do it. You know you can.”
Trouble was, I wasn’t sure I could. What if Mrs Calzotti had taught me badly? What if I had a million bad habits to fix? No, that was silly. My absolute best – every time. I focussed totally on Ms Ellergen’s voice, shutting out Mum and my jumbled worries, and placed my feet in first position.

Brynna’s dream is to attend the National Ballet School, and her family is helping her follow that dream. They have all moved to Melbourne so that she can learn from a top teacher and prepare for her audition. But the move isn’t easy. Money is tight, her parents have had to get new jobs and her brother Tam is angry and upset about the move.

As Brynna struggles to fit it at school and at ballet classes, she wonders if the price of pursuing her dream is too high, for herself and her family.

One Perfect Pirouette is a story about following your dreams and, especially, about finding the determination to follow those dreams in spite of the obstacles and challenges which arise. As well as having to work hard to learn the skills required, Brynna must also solve dilemmas of time and space to rehearse, money for lessons, and fitting in to the ballet class. Away from ballet she also faces issues common for most teens, including peer pressure, family conflict and time management. There is a lot happening in her life, but author Sherryl Clark manages to give each area of Brynna’s life due focus, so that none are glossed over.

Whilst ballet fans will enjoy this book, it is not just for them – Brynna’s dilemmas will absorb readers of differing backgrounds.

Likely to appeal to girls aged 10 to 14.

One Perfect Pirouette, by Sherryl Clark
UQP, 2010

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Tasmania's Convicts, by Alison Alexander

Convicts: hardened criminals, petty offenders, shiftless tramps, ordinary people? Ancestors to ignore, to defend, to hide, to boast about? A shameful past, or an interesting and novel one? A history to deny or sensationalise? One that had no effect on the present, or left an indelible stain?

Tasmania’s Convicts: How Felons Built a Free Society is, as the title would suggest, a nonfiction offering, exploring the role of convicts in the settlement and development of Hobart and all of Tasmania.

With 72 000 convicts transported to Van Diemen’s Land (now Tasmania) between 1803 and 1853, and approximately 74 percent of modern day Tasmanians descended from convicts, the contribution these often unwilling settlers made to shaping Tasmania is undeniable. Historian and author Dr Alison Alexander explores this contribution, peppering her text with anecdotes and examples of the convicts, the lives they left behind, and their new lives in the colony.

For anyone with an interest in Australian history, this is a very accessible offering.

Tasmania's Convicts: How Felons Built a Free Society

Tasmania’s Convicts: How Felons Built a Free Society, by Alison Alexander
Allen & Unwin, 2010

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The Hunt for Ned Kelly, by Sophie Masson

I do not think that anyone alive in our time will ever forget Ned Kelly. I know I never shall. Was he a hero? Was he a villain? I cannot say, even now. But he will live in my memory forever, the dark and the bright, together.

It is 1879 and 12 year old Jamie Ross and his older sister Ellen are travelling through Victoria. The Kelly Gang is on the roam, but Jamie and Ellen are not afraid. Rather, Ellen is hoping to have the opportunity to photograph them and make her fortune.

But their encounters with the Kelly’s and their supporters are not as they expect, and when the chance to take the photo arises, the chance to make money is no longer as exciting as it seems.

The Hunt for Ned Kelly is a diary format story exploring the life and times of Ned Kelly through the experiences of a child character. Like other titles in the My Australian Story series, the story combines fiction with history to give young readers a personal experience of this piece of history.

The Hunt for Ned Kelly will appeal to upper primary aged readers.

The Hunt for Ned Kelly (My Australian Story)

The Hunt for Ned Kelly (My Australian Story), by Sophie Masson
Scholastic, 2010

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Baby Wombat's Week, by Jackie French

Few Australian picture books have been as internationally successful as Diary of a Wombat (2002). Now the team from this book have produced a sequel, Baby Wombat’s Week, featuring the offspring of that first wombat.

Just like his mother, Mothball, Baby Wombat creates havoc as he digs, searches for food, and plays with his friend – a baby human. Using the same minimalist diary format, and the same adorable style of illustrations of marvellously expressive wombats, and colourful surrounds against white backgrounds, Baby Wombat’s Week will delight fans of the earlier work, and attract a whole new legion of fans.

Very cute.

Baby Wombat's Week

Baby Wombat’s Week, by Jackie French & Bruce Whatley
Angus & Robertson, 2010

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Saving Pandas, by Dr Carla Litchfield

Giant pandas (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) are massive bears, just like black bears, polar bears and brown bears. They share the same habitat as red pandas, but are not closely related to them. Surprisingly little is known about the behaviour of giant pandas in the wild – except that they spend about 12 hours a day eating bamboo!

Saving Pandas is a new addition to the non fiction series of picture books from Black Dog Books. The books are large format paperbacks, with beautiful photos of animals and their habitats. Extra info bites extend the non fiction narrative and are displayed in different fonts. Words that might be unfamiliar are in bold and a glossary at the back gives their meaning. The final page also provides extra ‘panda facts’ and website addresses. Saving Pandas is full of photos of young and mature pandas. Red pandas might share the name and a similar habitat, but are not closely related to Giant pandas.

Giant pandas look cute and cuddly but with her opening words, Dr Litchfield reminds us that they are also enormous and well…they are bears! Few people would want to cuddle a big black bear, but there’s something about pandas that makes them seem cuddle-able. Despite the size. Despite the claws. This new series ‘Rare Earth’ from Black Dog Books looks at endangered animals and the programs in place to help them survive. Some readers may only respond to the cuteness of these giants, but for others, it’s an introduction to the world of animal conservation. Pitched for lower- to middle-primary aged readers, the language is simple but informative and perfect for lovers of animals and of non-fiction.

Saving Pandas (Rare Earth)

Saving Pandas (Rare Earth) Dr Carla Litchfield
Black Dog Books 2010
ISBN 9781742031149

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

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Chess Nuts, by Julia Lawrinson

Jackson wanted to come back in, sit down, and blitz them all, but how could he? Everyone knew Jackson was the best athlete in the school, and why would someone like that hang around the chess room? Jackson could imagine what Flash Buckley would think if he saw Jackson with the Chess Nuts.
I’ll show them, Jackson decided.
Just not today.

Jackson is sporty and popular. He wins everything – and people are happy to see him win. But suddenly the thought of winning isn’t as enticing as it used to be.

Anna isn’t good at sport, but she is good at chess. She is the number one player in the A-team. Then Jackson turns up to chess, and Anna is not happy. He is good at everything else – why would he want to muscle in on Anna’s territory? As the chess season continues, however, both children find they have plenty to learn from each other.

Chess Nuts is an absorbing read for middle and upper primary aged readers. The focus on chess will intrigue both chess-mad readers, and those new to the game. It is wonderful to see an unsporty sport profiled, and the use of chess-board layouts to illustrate games or moves throughout the book is a wonderful addition.

Author Lawrinson is perhaps better known for her edgy young adult novels, but when she writes for younger readers she does it well.

Chess Nuts

Chess Nuts, by Julia Lawrinson
Penguin, 2010

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