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My Brother Ben is a story of birds, boats and the bond brothers share. An ode to nature and a reminder that not all heroes wear capes.

Luke is a quiet boy who loves sketching birds and thanks to his Aunty Gem, is becoming an expert at recognising their calls. His big brother Ben is bold and brave as he climbs on the roof or leaps out of the huge twisted paperbark Jumping Tree into Cabbage Tree Creek.

Despite their differences, Luke and Ben stick together like Apostlebirds, especially since their father moved away. The brothers share a dream of owning their own boat to explore the channels and secret inlets of Cabbage Tree Creek. The perfect opportunity arises when the local council runs a competition to celebrate the creek and first prize is a boat.

Luke and Ben come up with a plan to win, but it is threatened when Ben starts high school and the boys begin to drift apart.  When Ben and Frankie become friends, the trust the brothers share is tested, especially when Ben starts sneaking out of the house at night. Luke will discover that all is not as it seems and his brother Ben really does mean it when he says "Trust me."

Peter Carnavas captures the beauty of nature with lyrical descriptions that immerse you in the sights, sounds and life of Cabbage Patch Creek.

The cool water swallowed me and I sank until my toes dipped in the mud at the bottom. Then I rose up, floated on my back and watched the paperbark leaves dance against the sky. Ben did the same. We were two sea stars spinning slowly on the surface.

Scattered throughout the book are sketches of birds from Luke’s sketchbook. My favourites are the sketches of Luke’s magpie, Maggie in the chapter headings that remind me of the magpie family who have called my backyard their home for many years.

“When you open your eyes to birds, the world opens itself in return.” (Aunty Gem)


My magpies enjoying sunset
Here is Peter talking about his book My Brother Ben...

My Brother Ben is one of my favourite reads this year.

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

Happy reading!

Teacher notes

How strange it all was. A bird in his hands, a balloon on his roof.
Yet things felt more real here, than less.

Matthew is about to have the adventure of his life when he meets Lewis Carmichael, a black crow with a broken wing who can talk. Lewis invites Matthew on a trip to the North Pole and together they ride Boreas the North Wind in a colourful hot air balloon for six thousand, nine hundred and twenty-two nautical miles all the way to the Arctic.

Matthew is a quiet boy, lacking in confidence, slow at school and without friends. He thinks his parents need another child, someone who was more what they wanted. Matthew escapes his worries reading books about the Arctic, a frozen land of polar bears, reindeer, snow geese and Arctic Wolves. A place full of space; secret and wild.

Visiting the North Pole is Matthew’s dream and for the first time Matthew has a friend with Lewis.

Throughout their journey Lewis is by Matthew’s side encouraging, challenging and believing in him as Matthew learns to fly the balloon, treks across the ice and climbs a snowy peak to see the icy white world of his dreams. As they face challenges along the way, Matthew’s confidence, courage and resourcefulness grow alongside the reassuring soundtrack of Lewis’ song.

In all the world, in all the world,
Never did I see, never did I see.
In all the lands, in all the lands
Just one boy, one boy.
This boy. This boy.

The Song of Lewis Carmichael by Sophie Laguna with its intriguing title and magical front cover, is a heartwarming voyage of discovery and a joy to read. Marc McBride’s realistic line drawings in Arctic blue immerse you in the story and vividly bring it to to life. Marc's double page illustration of Aurora Borealis is breathtaking! A story of many layers that will linger with you beyond the last page.

Everyone deserves a friend like Lewis Carmichael.

Read Chapter One HERE

Happy reading!

 

 

 

 

Teacher notes

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!

 

 

 

 

If you're an animal lover then Devils in Danger by Samantha Wheeler is the book for you.

What could be making blood-curdling, screechy screams in the dead of night and leaving mysterious paw prints in Killarney's yard? 

Curiosity gets the better of Killarney. When she investigates the loose floorboards in the kitchen, Killarney finds recently missing items of clothing. With help from April a wildlife zoologist, they discover the culprit is a recently released wild Tasmanian devil called Fern who is denning under the house with her two imps. 

Killarney wants to protect Fern and give her little family a safe place to live, but not everyone at Dodges Ferry is happy about Tasmanian devils in their community. Killarney, struggles with reading and writing at school, but is encouraged by April to keep a journal about her precious visitors. Killarney even begins researching Tasmanian devils and soon knows she has to do something to protect this endangered species losing its natural habitat and being forced to live closer to humans. 

I thought of our little devil, her fur shining and whiskers twitching as she pottered around our backyard. She didn't deserve all the rumours. The angry notes. The nastiness.

How can Killarney convince her town that Tasmanian devils are worth saving? They might look fierce and have powerful jaws, but Tasmanian devils aren't dangerous. They are quite shy and can be beneficial to the community. Killarney will need perseverance and ingenuity to change the negative views of some her friends and her mum's clients. 

"When people care about about something, really care, then they're much more likely to help."

After reading Devils in Danger you will find Killarney's Scientific Journal at the back filled with interesting facts, useful websites and ways to help our Tasmanian devils.

Thank you for the copy of this book to review UQP

Samantha has also written Turtle Trackers and Wombat Warriors

Happy reading!  

Teacher notes

 

Bear and Rat by Christopher Cheng celebrates a friendship that is deep and true and filled with love.

Bear and Rat are best friends who do everything together, but one day Rat wonders

"Will we always hold hands like this, even when we are old and wrinkly..."

Bear reassures Rat that he will be there for her no matter what happens. He will hold her hand if she is scared of spooky stories or stubs her toe, if they cross a river or if she is sick in bed for weeks and he will even hold her hand if she does something really, really bad. 

Stephen Michael King’s water colour and ink illustrations tenderly bring Bear and Rat to life as they travel hand-in-hand through the seasons with their trusty umbrellas, sharing adventures and cups of tea and being there for each other through life's ups and downs. Until one day Bear has to let go of Rat’s hand and hold her close in a different way.

Christopher was lucky to marry his best friend Bini. When Bini was sick he wrote Bear and Rat for her using their favourite animals. Christopher Cheng and Stephen Michael King's seamlessly woven words and images create a very special picture book that will gently squeeze your heart.

It is always a treat to hear an author read their book. Enjoy Christopher Cheng reading Bear and Rat...

Happy reading!

Teacher notes

 

The Ballad of Melodie Rose is a quiet story of connectedness filled with magic, memories and mystery, wrapped in the warm glow of sunrise and sprinkled with stardust.

Melodie Rose is abandoned on the doorstep of Direleafe Hall with a note pinned to her coat, a broken heart and no memory. When Melodie meets the school’s resident ghosts, Lucy, Florence and Nell, she thinks she must be a ghost too.

As Direleafe Hall begins to feel like home, Melodie learns of the mysterious Lady in White who plans to buy and flatten the boarding school to build a resort. Even though it is dilapidated, Direleafe Hall is filled with joy and history and memories and Melodie knows she must save the school for her grandmother and the girls both real and ghostly, but also in case her mother returns. Will she be brave enough to stand up to the Lady in White?

Melodie, Hollowbeak Crow and the girls devise a list of plans to show the Lady in White the true beauty of Direleafe Hall beyond its dust and cobwebs and cracks in walls like sorrows. But in the end it will take someone with courage, empathy and kindness to unlock the Lady in White's hardened heart.

The Ballad of Melodie Rose is about belonging, being brave and being seen and about knowing when to hold on and when to let go. It follows The Heartsong of Wonder Quinn. Both of these heartfelt books need to be read slowly to savour Kate Gordon’s poetic writing and the exquisite imagery she creates.

I’m excited that Kate is writing the third book The Calling of Jackdaw Hollow to be published in March 2022. I hope it reveals even more about my favourite character, the mysterious Hollowbeak.

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!

 

The Edge of Thirteen by Nova Weetman sensitively captures what it's like to be a teenager as your world begins to change and you balance on the edge of who you are and who you want to be.

After the summer holidays, Clem is eager to catch up with her best friends Ellie and Bridge as they begin Year 8. To her surprise, she discovers her friends are growing up faster than her and their talk is about boys and bras and periods. Things have changed between them and Clem feels left behind.

Clem doesn't want to change, but she also wants to fit in and be like everyone else at high school. When she makes friends with Tom in her photography class, everyone starts gossiping. At school camp Clem desperately tries to fit in, but is left feeling embarrassed and betrayed by Bridge. Have they grown too far apart to save their friendship that began on the first day of primary school?

Striking up an unlikely friendship on camp with pink-haired Jacqs might be just what Clem needs to help her find the confidence to be herself and follow her own path at her own pace.

A gentle and affirming story for readers on the edge of thirteen.

If you enjoyed The Edge of Thirteen, you can also meet Clem in The Secrets We Keep and The Secrets We Share.

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

Happy reading!

2

It's 1969 and change is in the air...

Man is about to step foot on the moon as Sharnie Burley takes her first steps into high school with its new rules, new subjects and the challenge of making new friends. 

Sharnie's view of the world is widening. As the Vietnam War rages overseas, people at home in Australia are protesting in the streets against the war and sending young men to fight without having a choice (conscription). Opinions are dividing society and friends are becoming enemies at school. There is conflict in Sharnie's family too when her big sister Cas gets involved in anti-war protests and upsets their father who believes fighting for your country is an honour. Sharnie wants to share her worries with Gran, but her beloved Gran is fighting a battle of her own. Along with Gail, her unlikely new friend, Sharnie finds her voice through art and begins to make her own mark on the world. 

Footprints on the Moon by Lorraine Marwood is a verse novel with many layers skilfully and sensitively woven together using beautiful imagery linked to the moon landing.

Thank you for the copy of this book to review University of Queensland Press. 

Happy reading!

Teacher notes 

 

My neighbours would have heard lots of laughter coming from my backyard as I was reading Derek Dool’s third book and latest crazy attempt to become SUPERCOOL. This time Derek is running for his life!

After a disastrous meatball-eating competition at the ‘G’Day, Norway” event, Derek sets his sights on winning the school cross-country race. However, he’s going to have to beat Nora the Norwegian exchange student and star cross-country runner as well as his nemesis and last year’s winner, Carmichael Cruze.

Derek is far from being a natural athlete, but when he learns his dad won the school's first cross-country race, he thinks running must be in his DNA and he’s in with a chance. Not even having to run around the school in his underpants if he loses is going to stop Derek!

Big Denise and Booger have a huge task getting Derek fit, but Big Denise knows just how to motivate Derek to run up hills.

Armed with his Doolerade energy drink (a melted down whole packet of fun size Mars bars and some out of date cocoa) and dressed in his dad’s old jogging outfit and floral underpants (don’t ask!), Derek is determined to beat Nora and Cruze and impress his dad – win/win/win!

But Derek’s plans fall apart when a storm hits as he enters the darkening bush where local rumours say a witch lurks…

Will Derek make it out of the bush to win the cross-country race and be SUPERCOOL at last? 

The dynamic duo of Adrian Beck and Scott Edgar have given us another laugh out loud story filled with humour and heart. Run as fast as you can to grab your copy! 

Happy reading!

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