Monday, February 10, 2020

Home Sweet Home by Moira Butterfield and Clair Rozzite

Home Sweet Home by Moira Butterfield and Clair Rozzite
September 2019 Egmont


What makes a house a home? How is your house similar or different to others around the world? 

From tents and huts to bobbing boats and apartments high up in the sky – they are all wonderfully varied, but there is something that makes them all special . . . 

Meet a variety of families throughout the book in this wonderful celebration of different cultures. Discover gers in Mongolia, tree houses in Japan, apartments in Italy, eco houses, canal boats and much, much more.

I am always looking for new books that fit in with the curriculum in some way, and this book is perfect for Foundation HASS, Geography: 

Inquiry Questions
  • What are places like?
  • What makes a place special?
  • How can we look after the places we live in?

The places people live in and belong to, their familiar features and why they are important to people 

Apart from the obvious link to the curriculum, this is an interesting and engaging book in it's own right.  It has a feature that I Hadn't thought about before, but I love it, and will be sure that I point it out when showing this one to schools.

I just assume that when teachers use a book in the classroom, especially with a particular lesson in mind, they will stop and ask questions relating to what they can see in the illustrations, to connect and engage with the students.  You should never assume though, because this might not come naturally to some.  So that's what I like about this book. There is a question prompt for every page.  You can see some what I mean by looking at some of the internal page images below.

For example, the first image below, looking at roofs.  It asks the questions: What does your roof look like? Do you know one that looks different to yours?

Friday, January 31, 2020

Scars Like Wings by Erin Stewart

Scars Like Wings by Erin Stewart
October 2019 Simon & Schuster


Everyone has scars. Some are just easier to see ... 16-year-old Ava Gardener is heading back to school one year after a house fire left her severely disfigured. She's used to the names, the stares, the discomfort, but there's one name she hates most of all: Survivor. 

What do you call someone who didn't mean to survive? Who sometimes wishes she hadn't? When she meets a fellow survivor named Piper at therapy, Ava begins to feel like she's not facing the nightmare alone. Piper helps Ava reclaim the pieces of Ava Before the Fire, a normal girl who kissed boys and sang on stage. But Piper is fighting her own battle for survival, and when Ava almost loses her best friend, she must decide if the new normal she's chasing has more to do with the girl in the glass-or the people by her side. 

The beautiful, life-affirming debut from Erin Stewart that's being called the YA answer to Wonder. Perfect for fans of Jandy Nelson, Nicola Yoon and John Green.

When a book is described as the 'YA answer to Wonder' just have to read it and see for yourself. 

Life is hard enough for any 16 year old in high school, so imagine if you had to deal with all of the normal high school drama,  while being severely disfigured due to burns sustained from a house fire.  That's only the start of it.  The house fire that was the cause of the burns also took the lives of Ava's parents and her cousin.  So now Ava lives with her Aunt and the room of her now dead cousin.

Like Wonder, this book makes you think about the kind of person you are.  We all like to think that we are good and kind people, but what would it be like when a new girl comes to school, with a melted face, no ear and a toe where her thumb should be?  Would you find it easy to look her in the eye and have a conversation? How would you feel about holding her hand?  Those of who have not been in that circumstance can't answer that, not really...but we all hope we would be able to see past the outside to the person underneath the scars.

Unlike Wonder I found myself putting myself in Ava's shoes.  I don't remember wondering what it would be like for Auggie?  Maybe because he was younger?  Maybe because he, for the most part, had such a positive outlook on life.   But I did wonder how I would feel if I was Ava, maybe because I have been a 16 year old girl.  Would I be brave enough to face the world looking so different?  Would I be able to look people in the eye when they spoke to me, knowing what they see when they look at my face?  Again, we can never know, but I would like to think that I could be even half as brave as Ava. 

I know it's only a story, and Ava is not a real person, but reading a book like this makes me want to be a braver person, just in everyday life. Take more risks, do the things you love without worrying what other people will think of you, and find the people that bring out the best in you.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Greta and the Giants: Inspired by Greta Thunberg's stand to save the world by Zoe Tucker illustrated by Zoe Persico

Greta and the Giants: Inspired by Greta Thunberg's stand to save the world by Zoe Tucker illustrated by Zoe Persico
Published December 2019 Quarto UK

This inspiring picture book retells the story of Nobel Peace Prize nominee Greta Thunberg - the Swedish teenager who has led a global movement to raise awareness about the world's climate crisis - using allegory to make this important topic accessible to young children.
Greta is a little girl who lives in a beautiful forest threatened by Giants. When the Giants first came to the forest, they chopped down trees to make houses. Then they chopped down more trees and made even bigger homes. The houses grew into towns and the towns grew into cities, until now there is hardly any forest left. Greta knows she has to help the animals who live in the forest, but how? Luckily, Greta has an idea... A section at the back explains that, in reality, the fight against the 'giants' isn't over and explains how you can help Greta in her fight.

When I started reading this I was surprised, as I expected it to be a picture book depicting the life of Greta Thunberg.  I have read a number of books about Greta recently for middle grade and older readers, so I thought a picture book would be a great addition to this collection.

That is not what this picture book is though.  As the blurb states (which I obviously didn't read properly), this is an allegory (a story, poem, or picture that can be interpreted to reveal a hidden meaning, typically a moral or political one.).  Once I got my head around the fact that this wasn't a narrative non fiction title about Greta, I was most impressed.  It's the perfect starting point to talk about this amazing young activist with young readers.

Greta and the Giants is a story about a girl standing up to the giants that come into her forest and start chopping down the trees, and destroying the habitats of all who live there.  This is a young children's picture book, and as such it has a positive and happy ending...not necessary a reflection on what is happening in the real world, but for this age group, a satisfying conclusion.  It emphasises the importance of speaking up, and how one voice can become many.

There are notes in the back of the book about the real life Greta, as well as notes on what we can do to help battle climate change.

I think Greta's words, "No one is too small to make a difference" will inspire a younger generation to use their voice and start to make a difference.

~ Thanks to NetGalley for the reading copy

Monday, January 20, 2020

Full Disclosure by Camryn Garrett

Full Disclosure by Camryn Garrett
November 2019 Penguin


Simone is HIV-positive - and positive HIV won't define her. She also knows that celibacy is the best way to stay safe. 

Enter Miles Austin- intelligent, funny and way too sexy for Simone to resist. 

But her classmates don't know that she's HIV-positive - and what is the truth worth in the hands of the wrong person?

The peak of the AIDS epidemic was in 1987, I was 15.  I remember that HIV and AIDS held the biggest fear as far as STDs went.  There was the terrifying Grim Reaper advertisement that aired on televisions all across the country, putting the fear of god into everyone

Now in 2019, it's not something I really think about.  I know now that HIV is not a death sentence, and that HIV rates across Australia are declining....but not in all parts of Australia.. I have just learned  that Australia's worst HIV epidemic since the AIDS crisis is happening right now, in 2019 in the Northern Territory, so maybe this is the perfect time for a YA novel about HIV to be released.

Simone is HIV positive, she has had the virus from birth, contracted from her mother.  Simone was adopted by her two Dads and she has always known what it means to be HIV Positive, and knows how to look after herself.  She also know that she's not supposed to tell people about it, because most people just won't understand.  In fact Simone has recently started new school due the fallout that occurred at her previous school when she told people she thought she trusted.

HIV has never been an issue...but then Simone has never been a 17 year old girl before and with being a 17 year old girl comes hormones, cute boys and the desire to go further than just holding hands.

I seem to be reading a lot of YA at the moment where a character is different in some way, burn victims, amputees, ....  
Each of these characters have overcome their obstacle in different ways, but there are some seemingly universal factors that helped them along the way.  
One, having good friends. Having the right people around you can make all of the difference.  
Two, accepting what your (new) life is like and making the most of it.

With or without a disability/medical condition/disfigurement High School can be hard, and one of he most important things you can do is 'Find Your Tribe'.  Find the people who make you feel good about yourself, make you laugh, and make you want to be the best version of yourself.  That sounds like whole lot of 'inspirational quote' mumbo jumbo when I write it down, but honestly, I don't think I did that in High School.  I spent way too much time trying to be like other people and worrying what other people thought of me...maybe there's no way of getting away with that, but don't make it a full time thing.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

The Iron Man by Ted Hughes Illustrated by Chris Mould

The Iron Man by Ted Hughes Illustrated by Chris Mould
Published August 2019 Faber and Faber

Stunning illustrations by Chris Mould make this one of the most exciting editions of The Iron Man to be published.

The Iron Man came to the top of the cliff.
Where had he come from? Nobody knows.
How was he made? Nobody knows.

Mankind must put a stop to the dreadful destruction by the Iron Man and set a trap for him, but he cannot be kept down. Then, when a terrible monster from outer space threatens to lay waste to the planet, it is the Iron Man who finds a way to save the world.

Iron Man has been described as one of the greatest modern fairy tales...and I don't think I have read it...until now.  I may have, years ago, but I have no memory of it.  Guilty as I am of judging a book by its cover, I was drawn to this edition.  It's a hardback, large size, (height: 28cm) and beautiful bronze lettering and highlights on the's beautiful...and it made me pick it up...and even read it!

My first thought is 'why have I never read this?'..the language is captivating, right from the start and it would be an amazing 'read a loud'.  Chris Mould's illustrations work perfectly and  most definitely add something to the story for me.  The colours evoke the right mood, and the layout keeps the reader engaged in the story.

I would love to say that I would have enjoyed this story just as much if I had read it years ago in an earlier edition...but we'll never know.  All I can say is that I am glad to have read it in this one.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Zenobia by Morten Durr and illustrated by Lars Horneman

Zenobia by Morten Durr and illustrated by Lars Horneman
October 2018 UQP

Zenobia was once a great warrior queen of Syria whose reign reached from Egypt to Turkey. She was courageous. No-one gave her orders. Once she even went to war against the emperor of Rome.

When things feel overwhelming for Amina, her mother reminds her to think of Zenobia and be strong. Amina is a Syrian girl caught up in a war that reaches her village. To escape the war she boards a small boat crammed with other refugees. The boat is rickety and the turbulent seas send Amina overboard. In the dark water Amina remembers playing hide and seek with her mother and making dolmas and the journey she had to undertake with her uncle to escape. And she thinks of the brave warrior Zenobia.

Zenobia is a heartbreaking and all-too-real story of one child's experience of war. Told with great sensitivity in few words and almost exclusively with pictures, Zenobia is a story for everyone.

This is not a new one, just over a year old...but as I wasn't doing much in the way of Instagram or blogging back then, I thought I would say a few words about it now.

Zenobia is a perfect example of visual literacy, and the impact it can have on a reader. 

At first glance it would be easy to think that this is book for younger readers.  It's a larger format  (about A5 size) graphic novel, very little text...but it would have to be one of the most powerful refugee stories I have read.  

The colour changes in the illustrations show what part of the story is told in present day, and the parts that are memories of what has led the Amina to this point.  The present day illustrations are full colour, while the memories are depicted in a sepia like tone.  Like so many regugee stories, we see Amina living her life, happily in her village until the day her parents leave and don't come back.  Leaving her home, that is now nothing but rubble, with her uncle, who pays her way onto a boat, her only hope at survival...

I talk about this book a lot in schools, and I warn the students not to flick though this one and dismiss as a book for younger readers.  I tell them to be prepared to be prepared for confronting images and a a heart wrenching story.  It's the kind of book that you read, and when you get to the end you think...hang on did that just happen, and when you realise that it did, it will break your heart.

Excellent Teachers Notes available here.

Friday, November 22, 2019

488 Rules For Life by Kitty Flanagan

488 Rules For Life by Kitty Flanagan
Published November 2019 Allen & Unwin

488 Rules for Life is not a self-help book, because it's not you who needs help, it's other people. Whether they're walking and texting, asphyxiating you on public transport with their noxious perfume cloud, or leaving one useless square of toilet paper on the roll, a lot of people just don't know the rules. But thanks to Kitty Flanagan's comprehensive guide to modern behaviour, our world will soon be a much better place.
A place where people don't ruin the fruit salad by putting banana in it ... where your co-workers respect your olfactory system and don't reheat their fish curry in the office microwave ... where middle aged men don't have ponytails ...
What started as a joke on Kitty Flanagan's popular segment on ABC TV's The Weekly, is now a quintessential reference book with the power to change society. (Or, at least, make it a bit less irritating.)
What people are (Kitty Flanagan is) saying about this book: 'You're welcome everyone.' 'Thank god for me.' 'I'd rather be sad and lonely, but right.' 'There's not actually 488 rules in here but it sure feels like it'.

This book may have started out as a joke, but I challenge you, as a reader, not to start nodding your head at some of the rules, thinking 'yes, absolutely...that should be a rule!'

The book is divided into sections, and you can see that Kitty has been very thorough... all areas are covered!
  • The Fundamental Rule 
  • Around the Home
  • Health & Lifestyle
  • At the Office
  • Language
  • Planes, Trains & Automobiles
  • Food
  • Relationships & Dating
  • Parenting
  • Fashion
  • At the Movies
  • At the Shops
  • Technology
  • Sport
  • Parties & Celebrations
  • Holidays & Travel
  • Art & Entertainment
  • The Final Rule
Rule 1: The Fundamental Rule
If you don't agree with a rule, forget about it, move on to the next one.
Whatever you do, don't get angry, and start bleating on social media about how it is impossible to live your life by these 488 rules.  That's not what this book is about.

What this book is about, is fun.  It's a book you don't have to read from front to back, it's the perfect little pick me up when you just want something light and refreshing to read... something that will put a smile on your face.

Of course I have my favourite rules, as you will too,

At the Movies
Rule 279
Leave a courtesy buffer seat: If I am honest I would like a courtesy buffer around me at all times in life, but I will take 'at the movies' as a start.  Why do people sit next to you at the movies when there are spare seats...I will never understand that kind of madness.

Health & Lifestyle
Rule 36
Dress according to the standard of cyclist you are.  I don't believe have to say anymore

Technology - Mobile Phones
Rule 311
Use your inside voice.  Honestly, I really don't need (or want to) hear the drama that is going on in a strangers life.

Then there are the rules I am guilty of...I guarantee you'll find those in there too:

Rule 429
Never tell someone the book (or movie ) has a twist. I am very good at not giving away ending, but I have been known to mention a twist or two.  

Rule 131
Calling it 'cacao'  doesn't make it healthier than cocoa. I have a 'healthy' cup of hot cacao every morning...

And did you know that there is a 'right ' way to cut an orange? I didn't, but it's right there on page 107, pics in my Instagram story.