Book Review: The Unwanteds

The Unwanteds – Lisa McMann – Aladdin – Published 30 August 2011

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Synopsis

When Alex finds out he is Unwanted, he expects to die. That is the way of the people of Quill. Each year, all the thirteen-year-olds are labeled as Wanted, Necessary, or Unwanted. Wanteds get more schooling and train to join the Quillitary. Necessaries keep the farms running. Unwanteds are set for elimination. 

It’s hard for Alex to leave behind his twin, Aaron, a Wanted, but he makes peace with his fate—until he discovers that instead of a “death farm,” what awaits him is a magical place called Artimé. There, Alex and his fellow Unwanteds are encouraged to cultivate their creative abilities and use them magically. Everything Alex has ever known changes before his eyes, and it’s a wondrous transformation. 

But it’s a rare, unique occurrence for twins to be divided between Wanted and Unwanted, and as Alex and Aaron’s bond stretches across their separation, a threat arises for the survival of Artimé that will pit brother against brother in an ultimate magical battle.

My thoughts

I was forced to read this book. It has quickly become a favourite amongst my book club members and I was fearful that my membership (despite being the group leader) was going to be revoked if I, too, did not read it. I was also intrigued when those same readers said they would rather go to Artimè from the Unwanteds than Hogwarts from Harry Potter. I thought that a) it was obviously a fantastic book or b) they were all crazy. Now I have read it for myself and, while it is certainly a fun book that teems with creativity and fresh ideas, I would still (and will probably always) choose Hogwarts, should my letter ever finally arrive.

I cannot overstate the popularity this book has amassed in the last few months at our school. It has been quickly passed from hand to hand, spreading through word of mouth and recommendations. The middle-school boys have been the driving force behind the fandom, but girls from that age group, and older, have equally loved it. And I can understand why. The Unwanteds is the ideal book for readers – those who value creativity and imagination for whom simple articles of stationary or clay or drawings or anything can always be more than they first appear.

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Book Review: If I Were a Wizard

If I Were A Wizard – Paul Hamilton – EdTech Team Press – Published 1 November 2016

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Synopsis

While his fellow classmates dream of becoming football players, architects, and doctors, Ralph wants to be a wizard. With his magic, he would help his friends and family members—and even make the world a better place!

If I Were A Wizard introduces coding concepts through the enchanting imagination of a young boy. From Repeats and Loops to Algorithms, If I Were a Wizard prompts discussion and helps build conceptual understanding of coding.

My thoughts

If I Were A Wizard introduces the concepts of coding to children (and adults) in this imaginative picture book.

When Ralph’s teacher asks the class what they want to be when they grow up, there is the predictable reply of football player and doctor and architect. But Ralph wants to be a wizard. When his teacher asks why, Ralph explains all the ways in which he could help his family with his magic.

This book can be read as a simple but lovely story about a little boy who wants to help people, but cleverly hidden are the basic coding concepts. For example, when Ralph explains that he wants to make ten perfect waves for his father, this introduces the concepts of repeats and loops, and when he wants to help his grandfather retrace his steps to find his glasses this introduces sequence and order. Luckily for those of us who might be a little unsure about these concepts, they are all included in a glossary at the end of the book, which links the page to the concepts and provides an explanation.

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Book Review: A Patch From Scratch

A Patch from Scratch – Megan Forward – Penguin/ Viking – Published 28 March 2017

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Synopsis

Jesse and Lewis want to grow their own fruit and vegies, just like people do on a farm. They’re going to dig and build, plant and grow, and when they’re finished they’re going to have a feast!

My thoughts

A Patch From Scratch is the story of Jesse who, with his mum and his dad and his big brother Lewis, creates a veggie patch.

There is something so deliciously earthy about this book, from the avocado-green end pages to the beige backgrounds on each page. This book is packed with heaps of content. The story flows nicely as the family first dream about their new veggie garden, then create a plan, begin building the chicken coop and raised garden bed, and start their planting. Everything from composting to companion planting, seed raising to pest control is covered within the story. There is enough information for this to become a wonderful guide for children who want to create their own veggie patch. Jesse even creates his own plant diary. The back of the book also contains information about the history of home veggie patches, where to find more information, the cycle of the veggie patch creation and maintenance and even some recipes to try.

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Book Review: Twig

Twig – Aura Parker – Scholastic – Published November 2016

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Synopsis

Finding friends isn’t easy when no one can find you!

One, two, three. One, two three.

Why won’t someone play with me?

Heidi is a stick insect, long and thin like the twig of a tree. It’s her first day at Bug School, where she hopes to learn lots and make new friends. But no one will talk to her . . . and no one will play with her at lunch. No one notices her at all – not even her teacher Miss Orb. Perhaps she’s blending in with the branches a little too well! Finally, Heidi speaks up for herself and Miss Orb comes up with a plan to help Heidi stand out.

Aura Parker’s winsome illustrations are a pure delight. Kids of all ages will pore over the adorable details and enjoy the numbers and counting elements throughout the story. The endpapers are a delight and each includes a search-and-find activity.

My thoughts

I fell in love with this picture book when I first saw the end pages. I didn’t even need to read the story or flick through further to know it was going to be a gorgeous book.

Are you a bit different from those around you? Do you stand out? Or maybe you are so different no one even sees you? That’s the problem Heidi has. No one sees her. Heidi is tall and thin, just like the twig of a tree. It is her first day of school, but it is hard to make friends when no one notices you in the playground and you can’t join in the classroom activities if no one knows you’re there.

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Book Review: Lucy’s Book

Lucy’s Book – Natalie Jane Prior, Cheryl Orsini (ill.) – Lothian – Published 28 February 2017

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Synopsis

LUCY’S BOOK captures that special connection between a child and their favourite book, as well as celebrating the way sharing stories can bring people together.

Lucy’s mum takes her to the library every Saturday. Lucy loves to read, but there is one special book that she borrows over and over again. The book is shared between friends, dropped in the ocean, flown to China and even made into a banana sandwich. But what will happen when everyone’s favourite book goes missing?

My thoughts

Lucy’s Book is a charming and delightful story that perfectly captures that magic moment when a book and a person first meet and change each other forever.

When the librarian hands Lucy a book and says “I think you’ll enjoy this one,” she couldn’t predict what would happen next. It becomes Lucy’s book. Her favourite. The book she wants to reread a hundred times. Lucy borrows it many times, shares it with her friends, takes it on holidays, and then discovers it has been removed from the library shelves. Desperate, Lucy begins a search to find her book.

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Book Review: Welcome To Country

Welcome To Country – Joy Murphy and Lisa Kennedy (ill.) – Black Dog Books

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Synopsis

Welcome to the traditional lands of the Wurundjeri People. We are part of this land and the land is part of us. This is where we come from. Wominjeka Wurundjeri balluk yearmenn koondee bik. Welcome to Country.

My thoughts

Welcome To Country shares the wonderful traditional words of welcome from the Wurundjeri People of Melbourne. It is beautifully written and the words flow gently over the pages, set against gorgeous illustrations.

In a day when showing respect to the traditional owners of the land is so key (though it has never not been important, I might add), it is wonderful to share the words traditionally used to welcome visitors.

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Book Review: The Lost Kingdom of Bamarre

The Lost Kingdom of Bamarre – Gail Carson Levine – The Two Princesses of Bamarre #0.5 – HarperCollins – Published 2 May 2017

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Synopsis

Peregrine strives to live up to the ideal of her people, the Lakti—and to impress her parents: affectionate Lord Tove, who despises only the Bamarre, and stern Lady Klausine. Perry runs the fastest, speaks her mind, and doesn’t give much thought to the castle’s Bamarre servants, whom she knows to be weak and cowardly.

But just as she’s about to join her father on the front lines, she is visited by the fairy Halina, who reveals that Perry isn’t Lakti-born. She is Bamarre. The fairy issues a daunting challenge: against the Lakti power, Perry must free her people from tyranny.

My thoughts

Achingly gorgeous, this is a tale of courage, family, love, loyalty, and a dangerous quest for freedom.

The name Gail Carson Levine evokes strong memories – my first discovery of her beautiful stories, an eternal love for her wonderful characters, sharing her books with other readers, and rereading the tales many, many times over. Of all her books, The Two Princesses of Bamarre was always my favourite, so let’s just say I was completely thrilled that there was to be a new book, a prequel to this wonderful story. Starting The Lost Kingdom of Bamarre I was both excited and cautious – could this story possibly live up to the wonder I feel when reading The Two Princesses? At first, no, it could never have that sparkle of first discovery, but this new story shares all the same wonder, vibrant character, clever storytelling, and magic as the original, and by the end I was just as in love with this book as I am with The Two Princesses of Bamarre.

Perry is the daughter of Lord and Lady Tove – a true Lakti in strength and ability and courage. She can run and fight better than all of her peers. But when she discovers that she is actually Bamarre, stolen from her true family, her eyes are opened to the treatment of the Bamarre and how, with a little courage, freedom could be theirs.

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Book Review: Suri’s Wall

Suri's Wall

Suri’s Wall – Lucy Estela, illustrated by Matt Ottley – Penguin Books Australia – Published 26 August 2015

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Synopsis

Eva squeezed Suri’s hand. “What’s there? What can you see?”

“What can I see?” Suri looked out over the wall. “Oh, it’s beautiful, let me tell you all about it.”

A moving tale of the power of the human spirit.

My thoughts

This is an incredibly powerful book.

I went into the book knowing very little about it. I had not even read the blurb. And I think that was the best way to read it. So, if you want to go and find a copy, snuggle down, enjoy the story and then come back and read my review, go ahead. I’ll wait….

Suri’s Wall has been nominated for CBCA’s Book of the Year in 2016, and for very good reason. It is a particularly powerful and moving story. It speaks volumes and yet is gentle and quiet in conveying a message of hope and beauty in times of pain and loss.

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Book Review: Skyfire

Skyfire

Skyfire – Michael Adams – Scholastic Press Australia – Published July 2016

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Synopsis

Seven talented and driven teenagers from around the world have been selected by trillionaire Internet King Felix Scott to form an elite group of young people committed to help make a difference in the world. They meet at the ceremony announcing their selection, then their lives are bound together on a quest as they come to realise that each of them has been sent part of a code that predicts an unknown disaster.

My thoughts

Skyfire begins The Seven Signs series where seven young people are entangled in a dangerous and compelling mystery that puts the whole world in danger. It is fun, fast-paced and full of action.

Seven young people have entered a competition that is set to change their lives. As the winners, they are granted the chance to work with the internet and technology king Felix Scott. They are gifted the latest in phone technology, rides aboard space-skimmers and even one million dollars. But as they are named winners they become targets for a cruel and dangerous plot to destroy the world. They each receive a sign, which together they must decode before terror is unleashed on the world.    

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Author Interview: Soraya Nicholas

Author Interview: Soraya Nicholas

Pony DetectivesI would like to welcome author Soraya Nicholas to my blog. Soraya is the author of the recently released children’s books Pony Detectives and Gymkhana Hijinks, the first two books in the new Starlight Stable series.

This is a wonderful series for young readers, particularly if they are horse crazy. Set in the Australian bush, this is a lovely addition to all those horse stories that young readers just love.

Poppy has always wanted her own pony, and her dream finally comes true when her aunt and uncle present her with the most gorgeous pony, Crystal. But joining Poppy at her aunt and uncle’s stables are two other girls who have also been gifted their own ponies. These girls form a wonderful friendship, take care of their ponies and even set out to solve the mystery of the horses that have disappeared from neighbouring properties.

You can find my full review of Pony Detectives here.


Soraya-Finn

Meet Soraya.

Soraya is pictured here with her own horse, Finn. 

I recently had the chance to meet and work with Soraya when she visited the school’s library and conducted a writing workshop with some lucky students. Soraya shared with us some of her writing tips, her inspiration for her stories and the publishing process. She has graciously offered to answer a few more of my questions so that I can share them with my readers here.     Continue reading