Category Archives: Australian

Valentine by Jodi McAlister

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valentineValentine by Jodi McAlister, paperback novel, 389 pages, published by Penguin Random House Australia Pty Ltd in 2017.

Four teenagers in the seaside town of Haylesford were all born on Valentine’s day of the same year. Pearl, Finn, Cardy and Marie have grown up together, but now they seem to be marked by the birthday they share. Who or what is after them? And why? Pearl is determined to find out what is really going on, but she might need a little help.

This book came in a book box from The YA Chronicles, and I knew nothing about it when I started to read. And wow! I probably wouldn’t have picked Valentine up myself, assuming that it was a romance novel, but I was pleasantly surprised to discover that it is actually a paranormal fantasy with some romance. And it is really awesome to boot!

From the first chapter, I knew I was going to have trouble putting Valentine down. The plot was intricate, weaving itself into a fast paced ride of darkness and delight. Every chapter’s end had me saying “just one more chapter…” And there’s another book coming in this new series! Yay! There is a short preview at the end of Valentine, which will have to sustain me until Ironheart‘s release next year.

Valentine is not a fairytale, but it is a tale of faeries. Real faeries who are cruel and unforgiving, and zealously pursuing their task without thought to its effects on the humans. They are ruthless and powerful, with some pretty neat tricks up their sleeves. There were two groups after the Valentine babies, the Seelie and the Unseelie, and while one lot was evil, the others weren’t that much better. The way the Unseelie controlled the black animals to frighten and torment was very creepy. I will never be able to see a black cat again without wondering about its evil intent.

I liked the way the story was told, though it took me a little while to catch up with some of the abbreviations in the lingo, such as PDA. That made me feel a bit old! Still, the plot was dramatic and engaging; a very satisfying read. There were some lusty scenes, which may not be everyone’s cuppa, but I thought they were well written, and appropriately utilised for the story.

Pearl was such an interesting and deep character; strong and passionate, I instantly liked her. Most of the characters were quite complex, and I enjoyed getting to know them all. I was amused by Pearl’s denial of her feelings for bad boy Finn, while crushing on Cardy, who is considerably different in personality and looks. She had a great relationship with her older brother and sister, who were also her guardians. I disliked Finn at the start, he just acted like such a jerk, but he improved. As I got to know him better, I realised that he wasn’t all that bad, much more sensitive than I expected.

Valentine is most suitable for middle to upper high school students and older.

My First Book Box

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Recently I had seen a few places advertised online that were selling book box subscriptions, but they were not available in my area, or the postage costs were prohibitive. Then I ran across The YA Chronicles, an Australian based book box subscription service specialising in young adult literature. I could hardly have been more excited! I love YA and read it as much as I can, so this was just perfect.

Each month, a new release YA book is chosen to develop a book box. It is then accompanied by several themed goodies, which make it a truly fun experience. A subscription would make an excellent gift for a lover of YA.

Book box

Book box

My first box arrived during the week, yay! I got an email from Australia Post early in the morning to say it was on board with the driver for delivery that day. I waited impatiently all day for it to arrive, but it didn’t show up until after four, by which time all the kids were home from school, so I had to sneak off to my room to open it in peace!

I was tingling with anticipation as I opened the box to find black tissue paper surrounding the wonderful contents. Inside was the book, Valentine by Jodi McAlister, along with a lovely smelly and glittery soy candle, a pin, some tea and a bookmark. And I love it all!

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Already looking forward to the next box! Thanks to The YA Chronicles for giving me such joy!

The Very Brave Bear by Nick Bland

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18162731The Very Brave Bear by Nick Bland, paperback picture book, published by Scholastic Australia in 2013.

Bear is picking berries when he is startled by Boris Buffalo, who emerges from the slimy waters of the bog. Bear claims he wasn’t scared, and that he can do the bravest things that Boris can do. They challenge each other to various activities trying to out-brave the other. Could there be anything that scares these two brave  beasts?

The Very Brave Bear is another book in The Very Cranky Bear collection from wonderful author and illustrator, Nick Bland. My pre-schoolers love this series, and they are very fond of Bear.

We love this book! It has been read many times in our family; The Very Brave Bear is funny with lovely lyrical language and detailed illustrations. It keeps my kids engaged and wanting to read more. I’m impressed when Bear and Boris try to wear a beard of bees, but my kids like it best when they are tumbling down the steep hill and getting poked with porcupine quills. We all like the ending to the story.

The Very Brave Bear is suitable for toddlers, preschoolers and lower primary school children. It is a perfect book for sharing a giggle with your child.

This Hungry Dragon by Heath McKenzie

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hungrydragonThis Hungry Dragon by Heath McKenzie, hardback picture book, published by Scholastic Australia in 2016.

A very hungry dragon goes on an eating spree. Bear, fox, bull, is there anything he won’t eat?

This Hungry Dragon is an hilarious book with a message about eating right. The dragon grows and grows with every meal, eating well past the time when he is actually full, leaving him feeling rather sick.

All of my kids love This Hungry Dragon, especially my three year olds. They will ‘read’ it to themselves over and over, in between asking me to read it to them. The story is funny with great read aloud rhyming language and lovely illustrations. The dragon is pretty cute, but my favourite picture is inside the dragon’s tummy. We all love to spot different items that the dragon has eaten! I also like the unchangeable expression on the beefy bull.

This Hungry Dragon is most suitable for toddlers, preschoolers and lower primary school children. Heath McKenzie is a well loved author in our house; we like I Wanna Be a Pretty Princess and What Does Santa do When it’s not Christmas. We are looking forward to more books from this terrific author soon.

The Dreadful Fluff by Aaron Blabey

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dreadfulfluffThe Dreadful Fluff by Aaron Blabey, picture book, published by Penguin Group (Australia) in 2012.

Serenity Strainer is perfect, except for the evil belly button fluff she pulls out one Saturday morning. The Dreadful Fluff goes on a rampage through Serenity’s house, collecting fluff and lint, and terrorising her family.

We’ve owned The Dreadful Fluff for a while now, and it has been well loved by all of my children. They think it is hilarious that belly button fluff could be alive and evil! Even when he starts devouring family members, the kids are still laughing. It is a particular favourite of my three year olds, who insist on reading it again and again.

It really is quite a funny book, and I like it a lot. The Dreadful Fluff is delightfully wicked and gross. I love the way he is drawn, with such expressive eyes and a nasty grin. And he just looks so ecstatic when he is rubbing himself again the dryer door, I can almost hear him purring. Serenity’s method of fighting him is ingenious. The moment Serenity goes all Rambo and challenges the Dreadful Fluff is my favourite scene in the book.

The Dreadful Fluff is most suitable for toddlers through to lower primary school children.

Trouble at Home by Cate Whittle

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troubleathomeTrouble at Home by Cate Whittle, and illustrated by Kim Gamble, chapter book, 96 pages, published by Scholastic Australia in 2016.

Georgia’s house is stolen by a large, green dragon with blue wings. Which is bad enough, but her little brother, Godfrey, was in the house watching TV at the time, so he was taken too. Georgia’s mum is distraught about Godfrey, and they have nowhere to live. No-one believes Georgia about the dragon, so she takes her other brother, Henry, and sets out to rescue Godfrey, assuming he hasn’t already been eaten by the dragon.

This quirky chapter book was a fun read with my seven year old. She could have easily read it by herself; it was a good length, contained appropriate language for younger children, and had short chapters, with black and white illustrations scattered throughout. However, we often read together as it is fun to share stories like this one, and we really did enjoy Trouble at Home.

The story is written in first person by Georgia. She is a great character; I loved her dialogue, and the way her story was written. It reminded me a lot of how my girls tell stories. We liked the way the dragon was portrayed too. Who knew a dragon could blush? Or be a fan of tea?

Trouble at Home is suitable for lower to middle primary school children, and would suit reluctant readers. There are more Trouble books in the series, which we definitely want to read. We already have the second book in the series, Trouble and the Missing Cat, which my daughter has asked to read next.

 

Crossing by Catherine Norton

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crossingCrossing by Catherine Norton, paperback novel, 192 pages, published by Omnibus Books in 2014.

Cara has lived behind the Wall her entire life. She knows nothing but food shortages, and responsibilities beyond her years. When Leon and his family move into the top floor of Cara’s apartment building, she gets a glimpse of how things could be different.

Crossing was a fast, captivating story of a different life. The city in the story is nondescript, and could be anywhere in the modern world. However, the Wall is reminiscent of the Berlin Wall in Germany, and the lifestyle also had elements of socialist Russia during the Cold War. Everything about the city made me think of the colour grey; the clothes, the streets, the buildings, even the sky. The city felt defeated, along with all its residents. Their lives were full of hardships, but the loss of freedom felt particularly oppressive to me, especially when observing the view over the Wall from Leon’s apartment.

Growing up with such restrictions and deprivations was tough enough, but Cara also had to cope with her parents’ mysterious work trips, and the responsibility of caring for her younger sister, Lilith, during those times. Even when her parents were home, they didn’t appear to take much interest in Cara anyway, with most of their focus on Lilith, as she showed promising aptitude for computers that would make her useful and valuable for the government. Cara was quite isolated even within her family unit. I felt quite sympathetic towards Cara, and I was glad that she found a friend in Leon.

The story jumped from past to present quite a lot, and it was sometimes not clear when the time had changed. Otherwise, the story was good. It did end a little faster than I had expected, and I was left pondering a few unanswered questions, which is not necessarily a bad thing. This can be a creative opportunity for the reader! Overall I liked Crossing.

Crossing is most suitable for upper primary school and lower high high school students. My fifth grader read Crossing in one sitting, and told me afterwards that it was a good read for her. She felt that she read about a life vastly different to hers, and it made her appreciate her own situation and family more.

 

Pig the Elf by Aaron Blabey

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pigelfPig the Elf by Aaron Blabey, hardback picture book, published by Scholastic Australia in 2016.

It’s Christmas time, and the greediest dog of all, Pig, has made a very long list of all the things he wants from Santa. He loves Christmas for all the presents that Santa will deliver, but in true Pig fashion, things don’t go the way he desires.

We have loved all of the Pig the Pug books so far, so we were excited to see what Pig would get up to at Christmas. Pig is very greedy, so it wasn’t surprising that his Christmas list was incredibly long. You can read parts of the list within the back cover of the book. I laughed reading some of the things he asked for, such as a beard, and a trained shark. Oh Pig, just what would you do with those?

Pig the Elf is a great book to share with young children during the holiday period. The story is humorous, and the language rhymes, which is fun to read aloud. The illustrations are cute and quite festive. I particularly liked Pig in his red suit; though he looks rather crazy when he is informing Trevor that he will be waiting up for Santa. Of course, there is also a message in there about being grateful instead of greedy, I’m not sure Pig will really embrace it though.

We all enjoyed Pig the Elf, and I’m sure it will be a favourite for many Christmases to come. It is most suitable for toddlers and primary school children, as well as the young at heart!

An Aussie Night Before Christmas by Yvonne Morrison and Kilmeny Niland

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aussiexmasAn Aussie Night Before Christmas by Yvonne Morrison and Kilmeny Niland, hardback picture book, first published by Scholastic Australia in 2005.

Twas the Night Before Christmas gets a makeover, Aussie style!

An Aussie Night Before Christmas is quintessentially Australian. Everything from possums to water tanks, Pavlova and Shazza, to beer left out for Santa. There is so much nostalgia in this Aussie Christmas story! An old rusty ute pulled by kangaroos, with Santa at the wheel in his red stubby shorts and thongs. This is pretty much how I imagined he would be lying in bed on those hot summer nights of Christmas eves past. And we always left out beer for Santa to drink, because delivering presents all over is thirsty work! Now all he gets is a cup of milk that has probably soured in the heat…

The story follows the basics of the original, but spruced up with Aussie colour. The language is lyrical and quirky; great for sharing aloud and having a bit of a chuckle. The illustrations complement the text perfectly. They are festively bright, and clear yet detailed. Santa’s flowered shirt really is something!

I love this Australian version of an old favourite Christmas poem; it is perfect to share with my children on Christmas Eve. I hope this is a tradition that will continue for many years to come in our family.

An Aussie Night Before Christmas is suitable for all ages, but could be read alone by lower primary school children.

 

 

Christmas Wombat by Jackie French and Bruce Whatley

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xmaswombatChristmas Wombat by Jackie French and illustrated by Bruce Whatley, paperback picture book, published by HarperCollinsPublishers in 2011.

The wombat from Diary of a Wombat is back, and this time it is Christmas. What kind of havoc can she wreak when Santa pays a visit?

Being a wombat sounds pretty good, with all that sleeping, scratching and eating. The wombat’s quest for carrots really is comically singular! She challenges reindeer and even a polar bear to claim all the carrots she can. She has such spunk! The expressive nature of the illustrations bring her to life.

Christmas Wombat is easy to read and the illustrations are gorgeous. This is a great book for sharing with the kids around Christmas.

Christmas Wombat is suitable for toddlers through primary school children.