Skip to content

I can’t wait for my room
down the hallway
Mum’s old study
Dad said one more lick of paint
and it’s mine!

Mina has been waiting forever for her own room, gathering her treasures and eagerly planning the perfect layout. Until…

‘someone is coming
to stay with us
for a while,’ mum says
‘someone who needs a home
and…a room.’

Mina’s parents have offered to foster a refugee boy from Afghanistan who needs a place to stay. Mina knows her family is doing a good thing, but her heart is broken and it’s hard to be kind to the stranger who has taken her new room. His name Azzami means ‘one who is fierce like a lion’, instead he is a boy who is scared and small as a kitten and doesn't seem at all grateful to be in Mina's room.

At school, Azzami doesn’t speak and when Oliver and his mates bully him, Mina can’t understand why he won’t stand up to them and instead ‘curls up in silence like a snail in his house’. In class, she doesn’t know if Azzami can read or write, but soon discovers he has his own way of storytelling. When Mina looks closely at Azzami's detailed drawing she sees his life in Afghanistan through his eyes. Azzami's story opens her heart and an unexpected friendship begins.

Mina and the Whole Wide World by Sherryl Clark is a gentle verse novel about friendship and kindness. The world comes to Mina’s house not just in the world globe she finds, but also through Azzami. Mina discovers that even though the world is wide, we are all connected and there is room for us all.

The story is told from Mina's point of view using simple poems and imagery complemented by Briony Stewart's black and white illustrations that beautifully capture feelings and moments as they weave through the text adding another layer of meaning.

Mina and the Whole Wide World is a heartwarming reminder of the power of story to connect us.

Thank you for the copy of this book to review UQP.

Happy reading!

 

 

 

 

The Right Way to Rock by Nat Amoore is an uplifting story filled with heart and humour, seasoned with songs and garnished with gherkins. 

Mac Fleetwood Cooper’s mum is obsessed with rock music. She thinks rock is the only music worth listening to and is doing all she can to help eleven-year-old Mac become a rock star. Mac wants to make his mum proud, so there's no way he can tell her that he loves Broadway musicals and his dream is to write his own one day.

Mac is invited to join the Secret Society of Broadway Music Appreciation (SSOBMA,) and meets Flynn, a talented pianist who has Tourette’s syndrome. Through the boys' friendship we learn what it’s like to have a condition that causes people to have tics (sounds, movement, words and phrases) that they have no control over. Mac shows us how we can be supportive and accept people for who they are. 

When Mac learns The Arts program at Watterson Primary is going to be cut, he is devastated because music with Ms Fox is his favourite class. Mac knows he has to do something to save the program and his teachers’ jobs. It’s an Arts Fiasco! Mac and Flynn devise a daring plan. Watterson: The Musical! is born and becomes a wonderful celebration of friendship, community and The Arts. Go Gherkin Guys!

Nat’s love of musicals shines in The Right Way To Rock. The story is written in acts and scenes rather than chapters and each scene begins with a song re-written from a musical – so much creativity! Nat has also brought back characters from her books Secrets of Schoolyard Millionaire and The Power of Positive Pranking. I really enjoyed the return of Kathy and Mr Piddles who have some surprises of their own.

You can read The Right Way to Rock on its own, but I highly recommend you read Secrets of Schoolyard Millionaire and The Power of Positive Pranking first if you haven’t read them yet. 

Enjoy Nat's unboxing video of  The Right Way To Rock 

This morning I had a moment of serendipity (“Google it!” Tess Heckleston would say). As I was finishing reading The Right Way To Rock, my phone pinged with a photo memory from five years ago on this day. It was the photo below I took of the stage at Matilda The Musical…. read The Right Way to Rock to find out why I smiled at the amazing coincidence!

Happy reading!

 

2

 

Based on stories from her Grandma, Jackie French and Bruce Whatley have created a story reminding us of what we can achieve with kindness and by working together to protect, support and care for each other.

Pandemic transports us to the end of World War One (1918-1920) when a virus called the Spanish Flu was brought home by soldiers returning from war and spread rapidly throughout the world. Today, one hundred years later, we are experiencing another global pandemic with a virus called COVID-19.

As the Spanish Flu spread, people followed the rules and went into quarantine to keep everyone safe by staying apart to stop the virus from spreading. Masks were worn, the doors of shops, theatres and schools closed and 'quarantine curtains' were drawn on homes where people were sick. The streets were deserted.

"People can't get better if they're hungry" she said.
And cows must be milked and dogs must be fed."

Great Grandma organised children from healthy families to help their community. Children rode their bicycles and ponies across the empty land to milk cows, feed dogs and chooks, pick ripe fruit and vegetables and deliver food to saucepans waiting on doorsteps. Eventually the Spanish Flu was defeated and people came together again to celebrate and continue with their lives once more.

Amazingly, Bruce Whatley illustrated Pandemic during his two weeks of hotel quarantine. Bruce could only use the art materials he had on hand so he used a ballpoint pen for the first time for his line work and perfectly captured the bleak mood of the pandemic with the limited paint colours he had available.

Jackie has also included her Great Grandma's Banana Custard recipe on the endpapers for you to try along with how to make Lemon Barley Water.

As you read Pandemic what similarities can you find between the Spanish Flu and COVID-19

Look for the helpers.
You will always find people who are helping.

(Fred Rogers)

Happy reading!

 

 

Across the Risen Sea by Bren Macdibble is an action-packed adventure set in a future affected by climate change where the sea has risen and communities are finding new ways to live.

Naoma and Jag (Jaguar) are best friends who want to become the best fisher people and salvagers on the whole inland sea. They are 'living gentle lives' on high ground, living off the land, fishing and salvaging what they need for their small community in the peaceful Ockery Islands.

One day, three tall strangers from the Valley of the Sun arrive unannounced to chop down trees and set up a mysterious piece of 'Teknology' on Cottage Hill. No explanation is given. Naoma decides to take things into her own hands, but Jag is taken away to the Valley of the Sun to pay the debt instead of Naoma because "A wild spark like you will be no end of trouble."

Naoma boldy sets off alone across the risen sea in Licorice Stix to rescue Jag and find the truth needed to save her village and their way of life. With Naoma as narrator, we are swept along on her daring and dangerous journey as she bravely battles boat-jumping crocodiles, a hungry giant shark and tries to evade Pirate Bradshaw, a mad and ruthless sea hag.

One of my favourite parts of the story is when the elusive Valley of the Sun appears beyond the fog and is not at all what I was expecting to see and is very ingenious!

Across the Risen Sea encourages us to think about our own impact on the planet as it explores life in a world affected by climate change and highlights the importance of communities finding ways to work together with understanding and respect. It also has a stunning cover that captures the dangers Naoma faces sailing alone across the menacing waves. Take a close look at the cover, what do you see? Would you have braved sailing alone across the sea to rescue Jag? 

You might also enjoy reading Bren's previous books How to Bee and The Dog Runner.

Happy reading!

Teacher notes

 

Just like the contours of a map ripple outwards, so do the challenging events in Fred's life in Sorrento, Victoria during 1999. Winifred (aka Fred, Freddo, Winnie) is eleven years old and her family is changing. Fred's mum died when she was six and she is being raised by her adoptive father Luca and her Pop. When Luca's girlfriend Anika and her son Sam move in, Fred feels like her life is swirling out of control and she is being left off the family map, especially when she learns Anika is pregnant. 

At the same time, the impact of the Kosovo War that Fred sees snippets of nightly on the TV, moves closer to Sorrento. A group of 400 Kosovar-Albanian refugees arrive in the middle of the night to stay at the Quarantine Station at Point Nepean as part of 'Operation Safe Haven'. Fred's life becomes entwined with the refugees when she meets Merjeme, Arta and Nora and her moral compass is tested in her attempt to stand up to injustice. 

Fred learns a lot about herself during these twelve months as she navigates and tests boundaries to find her place in her changing map of family, friends, her local community and the wider world. 

Fred's teacher Mr Khouri says:

 "What I think is very important, and truly rare, is to try to gain a different point of view...a little more perspective of the world, which usually entails stepping out from your little corner of it, and seeing through someone else's eyes."

Danielle Binks' heartfelt story encourages us to step out of our little corner of the world...

Read an excerpt of the story HERE.

Teacher notes

Happy reading! 

We're getting special visitors
this term.

Kids from the bush who
want to swim at Manly.
They're driving a long way,
just for a dip.

Some of them 
have never seen 
the ocean. Imagine that!

I don't know about you, but I am always intrigued to know what sparks the idea for an author's book. Pip Harry's spark came when she was sitting on the sand after a swim at the beach. As she watched a group of country school children visiting the beach for the first time, running along the sand, playing in the waves and exploring rock pools and building sandcastles, Pip wondered how the trip would affect their lives and the lives of the families who hosted them.

The Little Wave is a about three very different kids with their own challenges. Their lives connect when a city school plans to bring a country class from Mullin to visit the beach at Manly. Together Noah, Lottie and Jack discover the power of friendship, courage and being true to yourself. 

Noah has no fear when surfing, but doesn't know how to stand up to bullying from his best mate.

Lottie is fascinated by bugs, but worries about her dad who has filled their house with junk.

Jack wants to be a cricket star, but has to do well at school if he wants to see the ocean.

How do a surfer grommet and a a bug collector from the city and a cricket player from the country become friends? 

Discover what happens when Mr M surprisingly pairs Noah and Lottie to organise the class fundraiser and how being pen pals helps Jack and Noah to encourage each other.

The Little Wave is a verse novel written in the first person point of view. This gives readers a window into the thoughts and feelings of Noah, Lottie and Jack as they tell their part of the story. Verse novels are easy to read (but not easy to write!) Their authors often use imagery to paint pictures for readers. This is how Noah describes surfing

Being on a wave
is like riding 
a rolling ball of energy
that's travelled hundreds of kays
across the ocean.

and how Lottie feels when she is ignored on the bus

I feel
like a shiny helium balloon
slowly deflating.

If you have enjoyed reading Kathryn Apel's verse novels, or like reading about kids like you, books about friendship or a story that simply makes you feel good, then The Little Wave is a book you need to read!

The vibrant cover by Sophie Beer captures the beach setting and warmth of this story. Look out for the little symbols Sophie has added to each of the character's chapter headings.

This is Pip Harry's first verse novel...I hope there will be more to come!

Happy reading!

Teacher notes

The Black Saturday bushfires in Victoria on Saturday, 7 February 2009 were among Australia's worst bushfire disasters.

Ella Holcombe grew up in Kinglake and The House on the Mountain was her childhood home that burnt down on Black Saturday.  

At the end of her book Ella has written an important message that she would like you to read with a grown-up.

Remembering Black Saturday
There is fire coming, and we need to move quickly. Mum and Dad start packing bags, grabbing woollen blankets, the first-aid kit, torches and then the photo albums. Dad puts Ruby on her lead and ties her up near the back door. My chest feels hollow, like a birdcage.

The House on the Mountain is told through the eyes of a young girl as she remembers the fiercely hot and windy day in February when her family drove down the mountain at Kinglake to escape a raging bushfire. When her family is allowed to return home, she is shocked to see ‘the hills are bald, with black spikes where the trees used to be’. In their street everything is silent and it’s like ‘stepping into a picture book after all the colour has been drained out’. It’s hard to make sense of what remains of their house.

It’s strange living at Nan’s house and returning to school to learn some teachers and kids will never come back because of the fire. Months pass before the family can move back to their block of land where they live in two caravans as they rebuild their house with help from friends. Slowly shoots of green start to appear in the trees and plants poke through the blackened ground as wildlife returns and life moves forward.

David Cox’s illustrations are a special part of this book in the way they capture both the power and destruction of the bushfire and the natural beauty of Kinglake that Ella remembers from her childhood days. David used photos so the house in the book looks exactly like Ella's mudbrick family home. 

The House on the Mountain is a story of of resilience, healing and hope and a love letter from Ella to her parents.

Skip to toolbar