Book Review: The Way To Treasure Island

The Way To Treasure Island – Lizzy Stewart – Frances Lincoln Children’s Books – Published 6 June 2019

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Synopsis

Matilda and her dad are very different. Matilda is fast and Dad is slow. Matilda is tidy and Dad is messy, and Matilda is quiet and Dad is very, very loud. They’re off to find treasure, but Dad keeps getting distracted. Soon, they’re lost and Matilda is getting crosser and crosser… 

Will they ever find the way to treasure island?

My thoughts

The Way To Treasure Island is a bright and colourful picture book about accepting differences in personalities and enjoying the company of family. It is an adventure story full of wonder and unexpected discoveries.

Matilda is neat, quiet and likes to follow instructions. Matilda’s dad is messy, noisy, often distracted and makes things up as he goes. They love to spend time together, even through they are very different. When Matilda and her dad set out on a treasure hunt, Matilda wants to follow her map, while her dad gets them lost and keeps getting distracted. Matilda’s not sure they’ll ever find the treasure. But as they journey, Matilda and her dad will find they can learn a lot from each other.

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Book Review: Summer of a Thousand Pies

Summer of a Thousand Pies – Margaret Dilloway – Balzer+Bray – Published 16 April 2019

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Synopsis

When twelve-year-old Cady Bennett is sent to live with the aunt she didn’t even know she had in the quaint mountain town of Julian, she doesn’t know what to expect. Cady isn’t used to stability, or even living inside, after growing up homeless in San Diego with her dad.

Now she’s staying in her mother’s old room, exploring the countryside filled with apple orchards and pie shops, making friends, and working in Aunt Shell’s own pie shop—and soon, Cady starts to feel like she belongs. Then she finds out that Aunt Shell’s pie shop is failing. Saving the business and protecting the first place she’s ever really felt safe will take everything she’s learned and the help of all her new friends. But are there some things even the perfect pie just can’t fix?

My thoughts

Summer of a Thousand Pies is a sweet middle-grade contemporary novel. A story about family and belonging, set amongst the backdrop of food, glorious food, Summer of a Thousand Pies touches on some deep and troubling themes such as homelessness, financial hardship, and the constant fear and struggle to belong faced by illegal immigrants. With diverse characters and a strong -if a little too headstrong at times- lead characters, Summer of a Thousand Pies is sure to delight young readers.

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Book Review: Stephen Hawking

Stephen Hawking – Isabel Sanchez Vegara and lllustrated by Matt Hunt – Little People Big Dreams – Lincoln Children’s Books – Published 5 February 2019

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Synopsis

When Stephen Hawking was a little boy, he used to stare up at the stars and wonder about the universe. Although he was never top of the class, his curiosity took him to the best universities in England: Oxford and Cambridge. It also led him to make one of the biggest scientific discoveries of the 20th century: Hawking radiation. This moving book features stylish and quirky illustrations and extra facts at the back, including a biographical timeline with historical photos and a detailed profile of the brilliant physicist’s life.

My thoughts

I have heard great things about the Little People, Big Dreams series, so I was eager to read this instalment which features the great scientist Stephen Hawking.

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Book Review: Your Mind Is Like The Sky

Your Mind Is Like The Sky: A First Book of Mindfulness – Bronwen Ballard, Illustrated by Laura Carlin – Lincoln Children’s Books – Published 5 February 2019

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Synopsis

Your mind is like the sky. Sometimes it’s clear and blue – but sometimes a raincloud thought comes along and makes everything seem dark. So what can we do about rainclouds?

My thoughts

Mindfulness is a hot topic and this book is a wonderful way to introduce the concept to young readers. The story is simple and very clear in its descriptions of mindfulness techniques, using a metaphor of the sky, with both cloudy and clear sunny days, to illustrate the concept, and yet also clearly explaining the process of controlling your thoughts. The illustrations, a mix of watercolours and coloured pencil outlines contribute to the dreamy state of the book and give it a child-like air. The main character is consistently done in full colour while many of the background characters and objects remain as simple outlines.

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Book Review: Rise of the Dragons

Rise of the Dragons – Angie Sage – Rise of the Dragons #1 – Scholastic Press – Published 26 February 2019

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Synopsis

Once our world was full of dragons who lived in harmony with humans. But after a group of rogue dragons, the Raptors, tried to take over Earth, all dragons were banished to another realm.

Most humans forgot about the dragons, claiming they never existed. Eleven-year-old Sirin knows the truth — she grew up with stories passed down through the generations. However, when her mother falls ill, even Sirin has trouble believing in magic . . . until she sees a mysterious streak of silver in the night sky.

Sirin becomes the first child to “lock” with a dragon in centuries — forming a deep friendship unlike anything she’s ever imagined. But Sirin learns that not all dragons returned with good intentions, and soon she finds herself at the center of a battle between the dragons who want to protect the humans . . . and those who want to destroy them.

My thoughts

I adored The Magyk series by Angie Sage and it remains a perennial favourite with our library’s young readers, and so I jumped at the chance to read and review the first book in her newest fantasy series, Rise of the Dragons. With the promise of game cards and a matching online game, Rise of the Dragons promised to be an exciting release. The new world Sage has created and her daring plot of intrigue, dragon battles and family bonds is both thrilling and thoroughly enjoyable. It is sure to be a hit with our middle-grade readers. After all, everything is better with dragons.

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Book Review: Ogre Enchanted

Ogre Enchanted – Gail Carson Levine – Ella Enchanted #0.5 – HarperCollins – Published 16 October 2018

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Synopsis

Evie is happiest when she is healing people, diagnosing symptoms, and prescribing medications, with the help of her devoted friend (and test subject) Wormy. So when Wormy unexpectedly proposes to her, she kindly turns him down; she has far too much to do to be marrying anyone. And besides, she simply isn’t in love with him.

But a certain meddling fairy named Lucinda has been listening in, and she doesn’t approve of Evie’s rejection. Suddenly, Evie finds herself transformed from a girl into a hideous, hungry ogre. Evie now has only sixty-two days to accept another proposal—or else be stuck as an ogre forever.

My thoughts

Ogre Enchanted is as enchanting and humorous as its predecessor Ella Enchanted, and will delight old fans and new readers alike. Ogre Enchanted is a modern-day fairytale, with a strong and independent lead character, and threads of friendship and romance. Simple and unique, this twist on a loose retelling of Beauty and the Beast will delight (and possibly disgust) young readers.

Evie, though only fifteen, is a gifted healer. Her passions are herbs, healing tonics and devoted attention to her patients. In Wormy, Evie has a dear friend and willing subject upon whom she tests all her new cures and tonics. But when Wormy proposes, Evie is quick to turn him down – she has no intention of marrying young. Unfortunately the fairy Lucinda hears Evie’s refusal and transforms Evie into a hideous, very smelly and eternally hungry ogre as punishment. Evie has just 62 days to accept another proposal or she will remain an ogre forever.

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Book Review: West

West – Edith Pattou – East #2 – HMH Books – 23 October 2018

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Synopsis

When Rose first met Charles, he was trapped in the form of a white bear. To rescue him, Rose traveled to the land that lay east of the sun and west of the moon to defeat the evil Troll Queen. Now Rose has found her happily-ever-after with Charles—until a sudden storm destroys his ship and he is presumed dead. But Rose doesn’t believe the shipwreck was an act of nature, nor does she believe Charles is truly dead. Something much more sinister is at work. With mysterious and unstoppable forces threatening the lives of the people she loves, Rose must once again set off on a perilous journey. And this time, the fate of the entire world is at stake.

My thoughts

West is a delightful fantasy novel, gorgeously pieced together with adventure and folklore it is sure to please fans of East and new readers alike.

East (though it will always be North Child to me) is one of my most favourite books. I love its beautiful writing, elegant and so very imaginative in its simplicity. I love the fairytale remix. I love the strength of Rose, her curiosity, wandering spirit and determination. I love the short chapters written from the perspectives of multiple characters which detail the story. I love the White Bear and I love Rose’s love for him. And so, when a sequel was announced, some 15 years after the publication of East, to say I was excited might have been a huge understatement. And yet, sometimes a new title after so many years, an extra part of a story which you thought completed, can sometimes be a disappointment. Fear not, because West is every bit as beautiful, magnificent and wondrous as East. It continues Rose and the White Bear’s story as if the ink on the pages of East had only freshly dried. It carries the same heart, the same creative storytelling in its unique and simple way. It doesn’t undo any of the happy ending of the first book, but simply continues the story. And it has made this reader very, very happy.

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Book Review: His Name Was Walter

His Name Was Walter – Emily Rodda – Harper Collins Australia – Published 23 July 2018

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Synopsis

While on a history excursion, an ill-assorted group of four kids and their teacher are left on a country road when their minibus breaks down. At the suggestion of a friendly tow-truck driver, the five take shelter in a nearby old, deserted mansion. There they find a little old desk with a secret drawer. Inside the drawer is a book containing a handwritten story and a series of vivid, strangely lifelike paintings. The book is called His Name Was Walter.

The story begins: ‘Once upon a time, in a dark city far away, there lived a boy called Walter, who had nothing but his name to call his own.’ And so begins the tale of Walter – his lonely childhood, his flight from the haunted streets of the city, his discovery of Magda the witch, his quest to find Magda’s lost daughter, and his meeting with the love of his life, the mysterious, tragic girl he calls Sparrow.

As the night closes in around them and the story of Walter and Sparrow unfolds, the kids read it avidly. Slowly the outer and inner stories begin to mesh. Slowly the story of Walter draws the five members of the group together. And in the end every one of the five plays a vital role in the uncovering of the truth.

My thoughts

From master storyteller, Emily Rodda, comes a stunning new story. His Name Was Walter is part mystery, part historical, part fantasy and wholly charming -sure to delight young and older readers alike.

When a small group of school children and their teacher get stranded on a lonely road while on an excursion it makes sense for them to shelter in the large house nearby. But the empty house is hiding many secrets, among them an old book with its thrilling story of young orphan Walter and his adventures, the strange people he meets and the mysterious girl named Sparrow that he sets out to rescue. As the story unfolds, the four children will encounter mysteries, history and a tale the likes of which they would never have imagined.

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Book Review: Saving Winslow

Saving Winslow – Sharon Creech – HarperCollins – Published 11 September 2018

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Synopsis

Louie doesn’t have the best luck when it comes to nurturing small creatures. So when his father brings home a sickly newborn mini donkey, he’s determined to save him. He names him Winslow. Taking care of him helps Louie feel closer to his brother, Gus, who is far, far away in the army.

Everyone worries that Winslow won’t survive, especially Louie’s quirky new friend, Nora, who has experienced loss of her own. But as Louie’s bond with Winslow grows, surprising and life-altering events prove that this fragile donkey is stronger than anyone could have imagined.

My thoughts

A heartwarming story of a young donkey, the boy who is determined to save him, and the way in which small things can sometimes have the biggest impact. Lyrical and sweet, Saving Winslow is a simple but touching story for young and middle-grade readers.

When Louie is given another of his Uncle Pete’s orphan animals, a newborn donkey, everyone warns him not to get too attached, as it will probably die anyway. But there is something about the tiny, grey bundle that whispers to Louie that here is an animal who wants to survive, and Louie is determined to be the one to save him. So, Louie names him Winslow and begins raise him.

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Book Review: Sweet Adversity

Sweet Adversity – Sheryl Gwyther – HarperCollins Australia – Published 18 June 2018

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Synopsis

There’s never a good time to be orphaned – or abandoned … especially when you are twelve years old, and it’s the Great Depression.

In 1928, Shakespearean actors, the McAllisters, are forced to leave their daughter Adversity at the Emu Swamp Children’s Home.

They fully intend to return, but things don’t go according to plan.

Then, to make matters worse, Scrimshaw, a villainous theatrical agent, hears the talented Addie sing. He plots to use her in his next money-making venture, but when he turns up at Emu Swamp to collect his prize, Scrimshaw finds she’s run away.

Together with Macbeth, her Shakespeare-quoting cockatiel, Addie is about to embark on the adventure of a lifetime.

My thoughts

Sweet Adversity, set in Australia during the Great Depression of the 1930s, is an exciting middle-grade adventure, complete with a strong and brave young heroine, an awesome sidekick talking cockatiel, and thrilling baddies. It is sure to delight young readers who enjoy stories about history, acting, friendship and adventure.

Adversity McAllister knows she belongs on the stage. Acting alongside her parents and her Shakespeare-quoting cockatiel, Macbeth, is all she wants to do. But money and food is short, so her parents leave Addie at an orphanage, with plans to collect her when they can. However, the orphanage operator, Matron Maddock, plans to sell Adversity to an evil theatre agent. Addie must flee from the orphanage with Macbeth, and, with the help of many friends along the way, embark on an epic adventure to find her freedom.

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