Book Review: Promise Me Happy

Promise Me Happy – Robert Newton – Penguin Books Australia – Published 7 May 2019

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Synopsis

Nate’s had it tough. An abusive father. His mother dead. He’s done things he regrets.

But he’s never met anyone like Gem. She’s a tiny piece of wonderful and she’ll change everything he knows about himself. Is this the beginning of happiness? Or is there more hardship around the corner?

My thoughts

Promise Me Happy – a moving, authentically Aussie coming of age story at its best. Perfect for fans of YA contemporary fiction about relationships, family and finding a place to belong, Promise Me Happy is a soothing, gently-paced and touching novel.

Nate knows this is his last chance. Leaving juvie to live with an uncle he doesn’t know, Nate has low expectations about this next phase in his life, yet it can’t be worse than returning to live with his drunk and abusive father and memories of his dead mother. But living with uncle isn’t at all what he expects, nor the charming little fishing town, the slower lifestyle, space to breath, quirky young neighbour, Henry or the intriguing, combat-boot and tartan-wearing Gem. It may be just the second chance Nate needs, if he can hang on to it.

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Book Review: Guff

Guff – Aaron Blabey – Penguin Australia – Published 2017

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Synopsis

A delightful book for anyone who’s ever had a little fabric friend.

My thoughts

Aaron Blabey is the author of many delightful, hilarious children’s picture books, and Guff is no exception. Guff is sure to delight children and parents alike, with its whimsical take on the special bond between child and stuffed toy.

Meet Guff. He is the special friend of one little girl who has known and loved him since she was little. She recalls the adventures they have had together – and sometimes apart.

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Book Review: Lintang and the Pirate Queen

Lintang and the Pirate Queen – Tamara Moss – Lintang #1 – Penguin Random House Australia – Published 31 July 2017

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Synopsis

Lintang dreams of escaping her island home and having adventures on the high seas. She gets her chance when she and her best friend, Bayani, face a deadly mythie and survive, attracting the attention of the infamous Captain Shafira. Lintang’s bravery earns her an invitation onto the ship of the pirate queen, who is on her way to hunt down a nest of vicious sirens.

But they’ve barely left the island when Lintang discovers that Bayani has risked his life to stow away. Worse, he won’t tell her why. Lintang must choose whether to be loyal to Captain Shafira and continue with her adventures, or be loyal to her best friend and lose everything she’s ever wanted.

My thoughts

Lintang and the Pirate Queen is a book of epic quests, mystical creatures, and a brave young girl who dreams of exploring. It is the perfect book for middle-grade readers who enjoy a touch of magic mixed with plenty of adventure.

Lintang has always wanted to explore beyond the borders of her island home. At home, she can never seem to do the right thing and is constantly getting in trouble for her wild storytelling and epic sword fights. But when the infamous Captain Shafira saves Lintang’s life, Lintang is granted the opportunity to accompany the pirate queen on her voyage. When Lintang discovers her best friend, Bayani, has joined them as a stowaway, Lintang is determined to discover the secrets he is keeping from her, even if it means putting at risk her chance to fight sea monsters and sail the oceans.

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Book Review: Exchange of Heart

Exchange of Heart – Darren Groth – Penguin Random House Australia – Published 31 July 2017

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Synopsis

Sometimes, Life takes on a life of its own…

Since the sudden death of his younger sister, Munro Maddux has been stuck. Flashbacks. Anger. Chest pains. And a voice – taunting, barking, biting – that his counsellor calls ‘the Coyote’. Munro knows a student exchange will not be the stuff of Disney movies. But in Australia he intends to move beyond his troubled past.

Forced by his new school to join a volunteer program, Munro discovers the Coyote is silenced in one place: Fair Go, an assisted living residence in Brisbane’s west, where Munro gets to know his team of residents: dogged designer Bernie; sleeping refugee Shah; would-be wedded couple Blake and Dale; comic creator Iggy; and self-defence tutor Florence. As this unlikely group shows Munro the sights, Munro’s notion of what it means to be a big brother begins to change.

But the burden Munro carries is not so easily cast aside, and unexpected developments at Fair Go prompt a devastating flashback that threatens to end the student exchange. Will the Coyote ultimately triumph? Or can Munro find the fortitude necessary to mend his heart?

My thoughts

There is so much to love about Exchange of Heart. I enjoyed every single minute spent reading this amazing book. Heart, humour, grief, and friendship combine in this moving story.

After the sudden death of his sister, Munro Maddux is desperate to do something to shake the numbness and remove the voice in his head. So he grabs at the opportunity to complete a student exchange program to Australia. Here, he hopes he can find the peace he is searching for. But a volunteering program at his new school has him working at Fair Go, an independent-living residency for young adults with disabilities. Instead of this sparking more trauma and flashbacks, like he expects, being around the residents finally quiets the voice in his head.

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Resource: Penguin Random House Australia Teachers’ Catalogue

2017 Penguin Random House Teachers’ Catalogue 

The Penguin Random House Australia Teachers’ Catalogue is a fantastic resource. As a librarian I am always on the lookout for new resources to better improve my own practice, as well as ensure that the literature that I am recommending to readers is both up-to date and first class. The Penguin Teachers’ Catalogue offers that and more.

The catalogue is divided into five main sections. The first, Feature Articles, offers a range of articles about reading and publishing trends, from short stories to coding.

The second section is divided into reading stages, from Early Years right up to Years 11 and 12 in Stage 6. Each of these Stage chapters presents newly published titles, reviews, author/illustrator insights and even activity ideas.

The third section of the Teachers’ Catalogue offers a comprehensive guide to the DK book range and new titles, grouped by subject. The short fourth section offers a range of titles for professional development, while the fifth and last section, Curriculum Resources is a curated titles lists by subject or focus, such as titles with Indigenous themes or those that feature STEM themes.

I have found the curriculum resources lists particularly helpful, especially when designing promotions for special events or compiling resource lists for particular topics. And the activity ideas, such as the the Hungry Caterpillar finger puppets, are also fantastic resources.

For a limited time, teachers and librarians may subscribe to the Penguin Teacher’s Newsletter and receive a free copy of the Teachers’ Catalogue. See the Penguin Teachers’ website for more information.

Book Review: A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares

A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares – Krystal Sutherland – G.P Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers – Published 5 September 2017

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Synopsis

Ever since Esther Solar’s grandfather was cursed by Death, everyone in her family has been doomed to suffer one great fear in their lifetime. Esther’s father is agoraphobic and hasn’t left the basement in six years, her twin brother can t be in the dark without a light on, and her mother is terrified of bad luck.

The Solars are consumed by their fears and, according to the legend of the curse, destined to die from them.

Esther doesn’t know what her great fear is yet (nor does she want to), a feat achieved by avoiding pretty much everything. Elevators, small spaces, and crowds are all off-limits. So are haircuts, spiders, dolls, mirrors and three dozen other phobias she keeps a record of in her semi-definitive list of worst nightmares.

Then Esther is pickpocketed by Jonah Smallwood, an old elementary school classmate. Along with her phone, money and a fruit roll-up she d been saving, Jonah also steals her list of fears. Despite the theft, Esther and Jonah become friends, and he sets a challenge for them: in an effort to break the curse that has crippled her family, they will meet every Sunday of senior year to work their way through the list, facing one terrifying fear at a time, including one that Esther hadn’t counted on: love.

My thoughts

This amazing books takes mental health and family breakdown and wraps it in a layer of magic and imagery so strong it glows like a thousand candles in the dark. It is a story of family and fear and bravery and love. It is funny and clever and sad and just a little bit frightening.

Esther Solar’s family is cursed. Cursed to die of their greatest fear. It’s why her father hasn’t left the basement in six years, why her brother is constantly surrounded by multiple sources of light, and why she herself has decided to never find her greatest fear. Instead, Esther has created a list of her worst nightmares and has worked hard to avoid each and every one of them. But then an old classmate (and crush) reappears in her life, pickpockets her belongings, and discovers her list. Jonah decides that Esther must face her fears and that he will help.

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