Archive for January, 2015

All the bright places
By Jennifer Niven
ISBN 9780141357034


I stick by my predictions that this was going to be brave and honest. And it was!
I sat on my back porch, sun streaming down on a glorious afternoon reading All the bright places.
Finch and Violet meet at the top of the school tower, both of them overwhelmed by a sense of deep, dark despair. From that meeting, while it takes a bit of time and negotiating, their relationship grows and I felt myself smiling as I was watching a young couple fall in love. Both have things they need to deal with and bit by bit things begin to change. Finch forces the situation and they are teamed together to work on a school project. He manages to encourage Violet to step well out of her comfort zone as they travel outside of the safety of their small town as part of the project’s requirements to find the natural wonders of their state. But as Violet’s world opens up, his world becomes more and more difficult to cope with. By the end of the book, I was still sitting on my porch in the sunshine, but tears falling (hoping the neighbours didn’t hear) feeling I just wanted to reach out and hug them both.

Mental health issues, especially for teenagers is often a taboo subject but it shouldn’t be. We need open discussions and we need to not be afraid to talk. Finch and Violet are both broken people, both needing help but not knowing where to turn. There is hope, always hope but sometimes, like Violet, you need to be shown where hope hides and find all the bright places. Very moving, thought provoking YA novel.
Check out the great trailer for this book posted earlier right here.
Much like Mandy Hager’s Dear Vincent in an earlier post I applaud authors of YA fiction for bringing us such poignant novels.

Again, if you need help or know someone who does, please don’t hesitate to ask someone. There are agencies to call, and teachers at school who will listen. Reach out!

The magical world of Todhunter moon
By Angie Sage

ISBN 9781408858189
UK cover
What a cool trailer. Great to encourage middle/older readers with a bit of magic and mayhem. I thoroughly enjoyed Angie Sage’s earlier Araminta Spook series. In fact I even have a little Araminta doll sitting in a basket on my desk.
While it has been suggested that readers read the Septimus Heap series before reading the new Pathfinder series, it isn’t essential. So briefly this is the blurb.
Tod has grown up a PathFinder, one of an ancient seafaring tribe. Her mother, who died when Tod was young, had a very different history. She was from a mysterious magykal desert-dwelling family. When Tod’s father disappears she is not only alone, but soon finds herself swept into the path of an evil sorcerer. Now Tod must choose which of her pasts will help her to survive: PathFinder or Magician. Magyk will allow her to fight like with like, but her PathFinder heritage gives Tod something special – the edge.

Angie Sage’s new book combines breathtaking action with fabulous plotting. The characters are instantly engaging, the tension is relentless and Angie’s superlative storytelling weaves the threads seamlessly together for an utterly satisfying read.”
I know a group of year sixes who loved Septimus Heap so this is on the list of books to buy for school this year. And with a trailer like this one, who wouldn’t want to read it?

And the band played Waltzing Matilda
BY Eric Bogle
Illustrated by Bruce Whatley
ISBN 9781743317051
Allen and Unwin

band 2

We all know the famous anti-war song but in this sophisticated picture book format, the song takes on new meaning. It is the story of the battle at Gallipoli and with the 100 year commemorations happening soon, this book is ideal as a talking point at all levels across the school curriculum. I can see primary, intermediate and secondary school teachers and librarians using it to tell students about the Gallipoli Campaign and how even now their are still many lessons to learn. For Australians and New Zealanders, the ANZAC’s and the disastrous Gallipoli Campaign will forever be part of our shared history. This book is a must have for any school library.
It is an iconic song with a powerful message and beautifully illustrated. I have seen and read many of the books Bruce Whatley has illustrated with his humorous style but this book is completely different. The mostly sepia tones of the illustrations help create a mood and feeling that left me quite stunned. The trailer, a combination of the song and the book’s illustrations reflects the images of a war that won’t be forgotten. I was reluctant to return the book to the public library as I wanted to read it over and over again but I have since ordered one for school.

There are teacher notes for classroom use found here.

White tiger legend
By Hu Yuan Nabe

The trailer to this book is very well produced. In fact it is eventually going to be an animated film.

“Take a journey with Zi beyond reality. Go beyond space. Go beyond time. Go beyond the inner workings of your mind. Are you ready for the answer to all things?
Warriors throughout history have journeyed to the famed Shaolin Temple, birthplace of Kung fu, to embark upon this incredible journey – seeking adventure, challenges, and answers to life’s deepest questions.”

Glazed man & rat girl
By Scott Cahan

Quirky well produced animated book trailer just right for middle grade readers.

“A superhero who gets his super powers from donuts, and a girl who keeps turning into a rat no matter how hard she tries to stop herself. Together, they stumble their way through a story of heroic adventure and bad eating habits. When the evil RoboCreep threatens their city, Glazed Man and Rat Girl are the only two people brave enough and foolish enough to stand in his way.
It’s a classic tale of good vs. evil starring the lovable but dim-witted Glazed Man,and the good-hearted but totally berserk Rat Girl.”

The right word : Roget and his thesaurus
By Jen Bryant
Illustrated by Melissa Sweet
ISBN 9780802853851
Eerdmans Books

Wow! What a find. I saw the trailer to this book and immediately ordered the book from my public library but had to wait as it was on order and not ready for release yet. The wait is well worth it. This book is magic.
“If only all the ideas in the world could be found in one place, then everyone would have one book where they could find the best word, the one that really fit. Peter carried this idea with him like a secret treasure.”
This is a picture book biography of the life of Peter Mark Roget and his fascination with words and making lists of words. This is a beautifully produced book. It has everything. I just love the wonderful vintage scrapbook end pages.The illustrations are perfect. Collage, scrapbook, all in-keeping with the times Roget lived.Very well thought out. There is the author and illustrator notes pages as well as a list of principal events in Roget’s lifetime. There are also teacher notes available here.
His Thesaurus was published in 1852. The word Thesaurus means “treasure house” in Greek and this is indeed a treasure of a book. Not only will I make sure I get one for school but it is one I will add to my own collection.

The walled city
By Ryan Graugin
ISBN 9780316405058

The trailer for this new YA thriller may be short but I love it. I love the dark shadowy alleyways and the soundtrack is just perfect. It is a pacey and tense trailer worth watching over and over. I have added the book to my “must read” list as the trailer is so enticing I just have to read the book.

“There are three rules in the Walled City: Run fast. Trust no one. Always carry your knife. Right now, my life depends completely on the first. Run, run, run.”
“Jin, Mei Yee, and Dai all live in the Walled City, a lawless labyrinth run by crime lords and overrun by street gangs. Teens there run drugs or work in brothels—or, like Jin, hide under the radar. But when Dai offers Jin a chance to find her lost sister, Mei Yee, she begins a breathtaking race against the clock to escape the Walled City itself.”

If you want to hear the author talking about the inspiration for her book just watch the clip below.

All the bright places
By Jennifer Niven

ISBN 9780141357034

I must say I have not read this novel but have been following its build up and it is high on my list to buy and read. I am in two minds though, as I can’t wait to see how this book about Violet Markey and Theodore Finch plays out but I am almost afraid to read it. In the space of 12 months 4 young men I have known have all tragically taken their lives. However, we can not hide the fact, that teen depression and mental illness exists. We can not ignore the damage and impact these illnesses have. So yes! I want to read this book but no spoilers please. I want to find out for myself how it all ends.
From the publisher’s web site because their blurb says it best.
“Theodore Finch wants to take his own life. I’m broken, and no one can fix it.

Violet Markey us devastated by her sister’s death. In that instant we went plowing through the guardrail, my words died too.

They meet on the ledge of the school bell tower, and so their story begins. It’s only together they can be themselves . . .

I send a message to Violet: ‘You are all the colors in one, at full brightness.’

You’re so weird, Finch. But that’s the nicest thing anyone’s ever said to me.

But, as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink. How far will Violet go to save the boy she has come to love?”

I commend the publishers who have made the following announcement as part of their publication details.

“Please be advised that this novel explores themes and issues that may be disturbing or upsetting to some individuals. These include self-harm, mental illness and grief.”
Please be mindful whom you recommend this book to. It is not for everyone. Those that it is for, will no doubt love it for its honesty and bravery.

Once a shepherd
By Glenda Millard
Illustrated by Phil Lesnie

ISBN 9781921720628
Walker Books


I was moved to tears the first time I read this book and the next and the next. It is book which haunts the reader with its powerful story and wonderful illustrations. The story begins with Tom the shepherd out in the field with his sheep. We see his life played out when he falls in love and marries his sweetheart Cherry. We see him go off to war but we don’t see him return. Published in time to commemorate World War 1 this is ideal for all levels. It certainly leaves it wide open for all manner of discussions.

Millard uses words sparingly producing a succinct yet poignant story. As the saying goes, less is more! This is Phil Lesnie’s first picture book but I bet you it won’t be his last. I love the plain weave of the end pages, symbolic of the story and the love between Tom and Cherry.
You can find teacher notes here to help explore this book further. This is a must-have for any schools contemplating a study on World War 1 and the impact of war on ordinary people.

As an aside, two of my favorite books by Glenda Millard are The duck and the darklings where the language is just brilliant and one of the best books to use for teaching creative writing.
The other is The Mbobo tree another hauntingly beautiful picture book, this time in a more traditional story telling format.

The Pied Piper of Hamelin (Trickster tales)
By Russell Brand
Illustrated by Chris Riddell
ISBN 9781476791906
Simon & Schuster


What a joy to read such a funny retelling of an old familiar story. Russell Brand takes the traditional story and fills it with humor and laugh-out-loud moments which will delight not just kids but adults as well.
Hamelin is a town filled with the most obnoxious, self-obsessed and mean-spirited people you can imagine. When the town is suddenly plagued with hundreds and thousands of rats, the Mayor seeks the help of a stranger to dispose of them. However, like all good stories, promises are broken and prices are paid. Lessons to learn, for sure but what a gorgeously funny way to make a point.

Chris Riddell excels at bringing characters to life in his very humorous illustrations. The personalities shine through, the good, the bad and the down-right nasty, warts and all. The combination of author and illustrator works so well that this is sure to be a hit. I certainly hope there will be other trickster tales and soon!

Take time to listen to the author read from his book.