The Very Noisy Bear, by Nick Bland

The Very Noisy BearIn the Jingle Jangle Jungle,
there was music in the air…
And it landed in the ears
of a very sleepy Bear.

When Bear is woken by his friends playing music, they suggest he joins in. But when he tries to play the drums, he bashes too hard and knocks them over, when he tries to play the guitar, his claws get tangled in the strings, and when he tries the trumpet, he makes a loud screech that scares the monkeys. Luckily his friends are persistent -and when he’s offered the microphone, Bear soon has everybody dancing when he roars in perfect harmony.

The Very Noisy Bear has all the fun of its predecssors, including The Very Cranky Bear, with humorous rhyming text, gorgeous animal-filled illustrations (rendered in acryclic paint), and a gentle, humorous story.

Lot sto like!

The Very Noisy Bear, by Nick Bland
Scholastic Press, 2015
ISBN 9781743627853

Available from good bookstores and online.

Scream, by Jack Heath

Scream: The Human Flytrap‘Get them out, get them out -‘
Josh pulled the old woman’s hands off his shoulders. Her skin felt like wet tissue paper.
‘Mum!’ he yelled.
‘What happened to him will happen to you!’ the woman screeched. ‘Go away! Go away!’
She froze, staring over Josh’s shoulder. Josh looked, but saw nothing other than the trees swaying in the breeze.

Strange things are always happening in Axe Falls, but when Josh and his family move into an old, run-down house, they get really creepy. Josh is sure something terrible has happened in the house, and the old lady from next door keeps telling him he must leave, but his family don’t seem to be worried. At school, his best friend’s science experiment comes to life, and Josh starts to wonder if the two things are connected – and whether he will live long enough to find out.

Scream is a new high-action horror series from Australian author Jack Heath. The Human Flytrap introduces Josh and his friends as they deal with human flytraps, while the second instalment, The Spider Army , features an invasion of deadly blue-backspiders.

Each book stands alone, and has plenty of twists and turns to keep readers of all abilities hooked. Spooky covers and page embellishments add to the eerie feel, and The Human Flytrap has a sound chip so that the book screams when opened, which will amuse young readers.

The Human Flytrap , ISBN 9781760152086
The Spider Army , ISBN 9781760152093
Both by Jack Heath
Scholastic Australia, 2015


Freedom Ride, by Sue Lawson

Freedom Ride
He smiled at the Aborginal woman. “You were here first.” He swept his hand from her to the counter. “After you.”
My mouth fell open.
The woman peeked at him from under her eyelashes but didn’t move.
“I insist. Ladies first.”
Mrs Dixon clicked her tongue. “Now, Barry. She can’t be served until you and Robbie have been…” She didn’t need to spell it out. White people were served before Aborigines in Walgaree, no matter what.

Robbie knows that Aborginal people are treated differently than white people in Walgaree, but he also knows that this is how it has always been. It;s nothis problem though – he has enough problems of his own. His home life, with a loveless grandmother and a grumpy Dad, is difficult. And his friends are drifting away from him. When he meets Barry, the owner of the local caravan park, he has some chance at happiness. He spends his summer working for Barry, and their friendship grows.

As the summer progresses, it becomes harder and harder for Robbie to ignore the divide between the white citizens and the Aborgines who live in camps outside the town, especially as he gets to know Micky, who has also been employed by Barry. In the meantime, student protestors are preparing to travel trough country towns to protest the treatment of Aborgines, in a Freedom Ride. As they get nearer to Walgaree, tensions rise in the town, and Robbie has to choose his own stance.

Freedom Ride is a wonderful historical novel set in a fictional town but based on real events. Few young Australians will know the tale of the Freedom Rides, but Sue Lawson brings them to life here in a way that will both interest and inform. Robbie’s personal story, as he struggles with an overbearing grandmother, a brooding, distant father, and the msytery of his mother’s death, is also absorbing.

An outsanding young adult read.

Freedom Ride, by Sue LAwson
Black Dog, 2015
ISBN 9781925126365

Available from good bookstores or online.

Hush, Little Bird, by Nicole Trope

Hush, Little BirdShe’s coming today. She’s coming here. Right here to where I am.
I thought I would have to wait two years to see her. Two whole, long years. I haven’t seen her for a lot longer than that. I haven’t seen her since I was eight years old and now I am thirty-three years old. That’s twenty-five years.

When she was a child, Birdy was hurt by people she should have been able to trust. Now she’s a mother herself, but she’s away from her daughter, and the rest of her family. While she’s inside, she’s had time to think about those who hurt her – and she will make them pay. So, when Rose is transfered to the same facility, Birdy is excited at the opportuntiy to exact revenge.

Rose has been convicted of a terrible crime – the manslaughter of her husband, a former television icon who had a secret, shocking life that Rose and their children had no idea about. But Rose should have seen, should have sensed that something was wrong. Shouldn’t she?

Hush, Little Bird is a shocking, intriguing tale which deals compassionately and honestly with the difficult subject of paedophila and abuse. Told through the alternating voices of Rose and Birdy, the novel gradually reveals what has come before. For Birdy, this is the tale of her abuse as a child, the intervening years and how she came to be now in prison, plotting revenge on those responsible. For Rose, this is the story of her seemingly perfect marriage to a man she now comes to realise she didn’t know well at all, and the events that led to her being accused of killing him. It is also the story of how their lives overlap and what happens when they cross paths again.

While dealing with a hard subject, the story is not only palatable but also compelling, with the reader able to connect with the characters and get to know them intimately. Hush, Little Bird is well wrought, important and a great read.

Hush, Little Bird, by Nicole Trope
Allen & Unwin, 2015
ISBN 9781760113728

Available from good bookstores and online.

The Great and Wondrous Storyteller, by Michael Scott Parkinson


The Great & Wondrous Storyteller

Oh, hello. I am the Great and Wondrous Storyteller!
I have read big books. I have read little books.
I have read short books, tall books,
thick books and thin books …
I have read every
type of book you can imagine!

Everybody knows that the Great and Wondrous Storyteller is, in fact, a great and wodndous storyteller. Everyone knows he has read all kinds of books, to all kinds of people. But everyone also knows that you don’t eat books, or hold them upside down, or start at the end. So why is the Great and Wondrous Storyteller doing all those things?
The Great and Wondrous Storyteller is a gorgeous celebration of books and reading, with a gently educative element – teaching youngeters about the magic of books, and encouraging them to take up reading. The digital illustrations are bright and colourful, with the main character, Norbert, an adorable green monster, and other characters being a range of cute, big-eyed animals.

This debut picture book also explores themes of honesty and learning.

The Great and Wondrous Storyteller, by Michael Scott Parkinson
Five Mile Press, 2015
ISBN 9781760066628

Available from good bookstores and online.

Newspaper Hats, by Phil Cummings & Owen Swan

Newspaper Hats
Georgie walked through the doors that opened like curtains.
‘Will Grandpa remember me today?’ she asked.
Her father squeezed her hand and smiled. ‘Wait and see.’

Georgie loves her Grandpa, and goes with Dad to see him. But Grandpa has trouble remembering things, and sometimes he doesn’t even remember Georgie, even though he remembers things from long ago. Georgie tries to jog Grandpa’s memory with photographs and when they find a photo of Georgie wearing a newspaper hat, Grandpa remembers how much he loves those hats. Soon, Georgie, Grandpa and Dad are busily making paper hats for each other and for the other residents of the nursing home.

Newspaper Hats is a beautiful story of the love between a grandchild and grandparent, and the issues of memory loss and dementia. While the child character is challenged by the fact that her grandfather doesn’t remember her, she is empowered by being the one who finds a way to connect with him, enriching both of their lives.

The illustrations, rendered in watercolour and pencil in gentle pastel tones, are a lovely complement to the text, and touches such as news font on key words, and endpapers featuring headlines and front pages from a wide range of time periods add visual interest and talking points.

A wonderful tool for discussing issues of ageing – and celebrating newspaper hats!

Newspaper Hats, by Phil Cummings & Owen Swan
Scholastic, 2015
ISBN 9781743622544

Available from good bookstores and online.

Hush Little Possum: An Australian Lullaby, by P. Crumble and Wendy Binks

Hush, Little PossumHush, little possum, don’t you cry,
Mama will keep you safe and dry.

As the sky rumbles, rain falls and the wind bangs sheds and sways trees, Mama Possum hastens to reassure and protect her baby, singing her a lullaby to let her know she will keep her safe and warm.

To the tune of ‘Hush, Little Baby’ Hush, Little Possum gives an Australian twist to the old favourite, brought to life in adorable illustrations by Wendy Binks. The big-eyed possums traverse stormy farm scenes, with appearances by other animals – both wild and farm animals –  giving lots for youngsters to spot and enjoy.

The hard cover picture book is accompanied by a recording of the song, sung by Deborah Mailman, as well as an instrumental version for singing along.

A cute offering for preschoolers.

Hush, Little Possum, by P. Crumble & Wendy Binks
Scholastic, 2015
ISBN 9781743626436

Available from good bookstores and online.

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.

Palace of Tears, by Julian Leatherdale

Palace of TearsAngie loved Mr Fox’s magnificent, absurd hotel. In fact, it was her one true great love. But…today Angie was so cross, so fed up with everybody and everything, she would probably cheer if a wave of fire swept over the cliff and engulfed the Palace and all its guests.

When Adam Fox throws a lavish party for his son, Robbie,at his grand hotel, the Palace, everyone is invited. Everyone except the girl next door, Angie, who has been Robbie’s childhood friend but who, it seems, is not deemed suitable for such an event. Her mother Freya is an artist and her father a groundsman at the hotel. This slight has sent Freya into a rage, and Angie is determined that somebody must pay, but nothing prepares her for what happens – when her game with Robbie ends in a terrible tragedy.

In 2013, as the Palace is restored to its former glory and her mother Monika gradually drifts away in the fog of Alzheimers, Adam Fox’s granddaughter Lisa decides it is time to uncover her family’s history. She wants to know why the hotel is known by locals as the ‘palace of tears’ and why her mother is so emotionally distant. As she digs into the past, though, she finds more mysteries.

Palace of Tears is an absorbing novel filled with stroies of love, betrayal and secrets. Though the Fox family is fictional, the hotel is inspired by the Hydro Majestic Hotel in the Blue Mountains, and many real historical figures and events are used in the story, most notably the homefront events of the two world wars and the treatment of German-Australians during World War 1. The stories of Lisa, Monika and Angie are alternated throughout the book, meaning that the reader uncovers the truth along with Lisa as well as coming to understand the motivations and personalties of the characters.

This debut novel is a captivating mix of family saga, romance and historical fiction.

Palace of Tears, by Julian Leatherdale
Allen & Unwin, 2015
ISBN 9781760111601

Available from good bookstores and online.

How the Sun Got to Coco's House, by Bob Graham

How the Sun Got to Coco's HouseIt had to start somewhere.
While Coco slept faraway, the sun crept up
slowly behind a hill, paused for a moment,
seemed to think twice…
before it plunged down the other side and skidded gently across the water.

This delightful homage to the sun and sunshine traces the sun as it rises in a farway land, seen only by polar bears, then travels around the globe, shining on children and animals in many countries, crossing beaches, mountains, forests and oceans, before finally shining through Coco’s window, waking her and her family, and spending the day shining on her and her friends.

From master Australian creator Bob Graham, How the Sun Got to Coco’s House has the simple yet expressive style that fans of his work have come to know and love. From polar bears to people, cityscapes to vast deserts, every pages ia delight created in simple lines, muted colours and text of just a setence or two.

A celebration of sunshine and of life everywhere, How the Sun Got to Coco’s House is beautiful.

How the Sun Got to Coco’s House, by Bob Graham
Walker Books, 2015
ISBN 9781406359008

Available from good bookstores and online.