Tuesday, March 22, 2022

The Garden We Share by Zoe Tucker illustrated by Julianna Swaney

The Garden We Share by Zoe Tucker illustrated by Julianna Swaney

Published March 2022 North South Books 


This inspiring picture book written by ZoĆ« Tucker and illustrated by Julianna Swaney—the #1 New York Times bestselling illustrator of We Are the Gardeners by Joanna Gaines—celebrates the friendship between a young girl and an elderly woman as they plant seeds in a community garden alongside friends and neighbors, waiting for the seeds to flower. By mid-summer, the friends welcome a rainbow of color in the garden and picnics in the sun. At harvest, the young girl’s elderly friend is bed-ridden, but jubilant as they share baskets with red tomatoes and snap peas amid the sweet smell of lavender. When the last leaves fall, everything is different. But in the spring, hope arises anew.

So much to love about this book, it is beautiful.  

A story about family, that special bond between a grandparent and a child, and precious time spent in the garden, and in the kitchen, cooking up the spoils of the garden.  I love the community garden and those that spend time there. Yes there's gardening, but there's also time just spent there enjoying the garden, sharing food and stories.  Without being explicit, this story covers a lot... patience, the change of seasons, community, sustainability and loss.  The little girl in this book has a concrete 'thing' to help her remember her grandmother, the garden, as well as her grandmother's friends, reminding us that those that are still here help keep the memories of those gone alive. 

The last illustration is so very clever, showing us that those we love are with us always.

Thank you to NetGalley and North South Books for the opportunity to review this title.

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Lily Harford's Last Request by Joanna Buckley

Lily Harford's Last Request by Joanna Buckley

Published February 2022 Harper Collins


Lily Harford is nearing the end of her once joyful life - and for her, it can't come soon enough. Who will have the courage, kindness and love to grant her last request? A compassionate and heartfelt story for readers of Jodi Picoult, Tricia Stringer and Fiona Lowe.

Lily Harford's last request is a big one...help me to die.  And this is how the book starts, with Lily's death.

From the start, we go all the way back to the beginning, exploring Lily's life until she finally ends up in a nursing home.

Three strong women, play a part in this book, Lily, her daughter Pauline, and the carer from the nursing home, Donna,  whose stories are told in alternate chapters, but come together to form the story of Lily's last months. 

The stories of the different characters are woven together beautifully.   While Lily may be at the end of her life, a life well lived, Pauline and Donna look back on their own lives, and look toward the future, learning from Lily that you are in charge of your life...it is what you choose to make of it, so make it a good one.

Throughout the book, the reader is always aware that one of these characters helped Lily to die...but it's (as you can probably guess) not until the end of the book that find out who.

Saturday, February 12, 2022

Em and Me by Beth Morrey

Em and Me by Beth Morrey

Published February 2022 Harper Collins


A mother.

A daughter.

A secret waiting to be discovered.

For too long – since the sudden death of her mother as a teenager, since the birth of her daughter, Em, when she was just seventeen – Delphine has been unable to let go of the past, obsessed with protecting Em and clinging to a secret that could ruin everything. She’s been living life in safe shades of grey.

 The day that Delphine finally stands up for herself is the day that changes everything.

 Delphine begins to remember what it’s like to want more: rediscovering her singing voice, opening herself to friendship, and reviving not only her mother’s roots, but her mother’s memories. As her life begins to fill with colour, can she be brave for herself and for Em? And what would happen if she finally told the truth?

 A big-hearted, hopeful novel about finding second chances – and taking them.

Beth Morrey surprised me with her first book, Saving Missy.

In Saving Missy, I wasn't sure how I would connect with the story of a 79 year old character...but I did.

Beth Morrey has a way with characters, and Em and Me does not disappoint..

This book is about Delphine Jones, a young mother who has made sacrifices with her own life to raise her daughter, who she had as a teenager. Through an array of interesting characters, from all walks of life, Delphine starts to believe that now is the time to follow her own dreams.  Great characters, full of heart, love , friendship, secrets, I highly recommend it

It's the kind of book that makes you think about all of your own dreams, big or small, and seeing Delphine take the risk, might just give the reader the push to do the same.

Thanks to NetGalley and Harper Collins for the opportunity to review this title

Wednesday, February 9, 2022

Social Queue by Kay Kerr

Social Queue by Kay Kerr

Published September 2021 Text Publishing


Zoe Kelly is starting a new phase of her life. High school was a mess of bullying and autistic masking that left her burnt out and shut down. Now, with an internship at an online media company—the first step on the road to her dream writing career—she is ready to reinvent herself. But she didn’t count on returning to her awkward and all-too-recent high-school experiences for her first writing assignment.

When her piece, about her non-existent dating life, goes viral, eighteen-year-old Zoe is overwhelmed and more than a little surprised by the response. But, with a deadline and a list of romantic contenders from the past to reconnect with for her piece on dating, she is hoping one of her old sparks will turn into a new flame.

Social Queue is a funny and heart-warming autistic story about deciphering the confusing signals of attraction and navigating a path to love.

I think that navigating the world of love is hard for anyone.  For Zoe Kelly, a young woman with autism, it's absolutely exhausting.  

Just out of high school, Zoe starts to think about dating and romance, realising that all through high school, maybe she missed the signals, so as part of a writing assignment she decides to write about her experiences, only to have a number of people respond...people who had been interested in her.  Bravely, she decided to reconnect with them, and see what happens.

This book has all of the elements of a great rom com...only so much better.  Zoe lets us into her world, showing us what it is to live with autism, the things that are really hard, and how she deals with them.  We even learn how to talk about autism, as Zoe teaches her colleagues the same.  This book is both entertaining and education, without feeling like we're being beaten over the head with the message..

Thanks to NetGalley and Text Publishing for the opportunity to review this title

Wednesday, February 2, 2022

If Not Us by Mark Smith

 If Not Us by Mark Smith

Published September 2021 Text Publishing


Hesse lives a small coastal town, where a coalmine and power station are a part of the scenery, and a part of the ever-growing problem of climate change. His mum is a member of a local environmental group campaigning to close the mine and shut down the power station. It’s a no-brainer, of course, but Hesse is more interested in surfing—and in Fenna, the new exchange student from the Netherlands.

But when someone seems to be trying to derail the campaign, and his friends’ families face losing their jobs, Hesse begins to realise that things are complex.

Even though he’s reluctant to step into the spotlight, with Fenna’s encouragement he decides it’s time to make a stand. Because some things are too important to leave to everyone else. And even one small, nervous voice can make a difference.

When Hesse agrees to speak at a protest meeting he has no idea of the storm he is about to unleash.

I am always on the lookout for YA titles with strong male characters, and I am happy to say that I found one with this book.

Hesse is a teenager who lives in a small town, where in the background, a mine and Power Station have always been there in the background...employing a large number of people from the town.  When he starts to question the environmental impact of these industries, he feels he needs to use his voice and speak up for what he believes is the right thing.

This would be a great book to look at in schools, as it encourages discussion about climate change, environmental issues and values.  Is it right to close down an industry that is causing damage to the environment, knowing that people will lose their jobs and  the whole town may suffer the consequences?  What is more important?  The planet and our health? Or industry, jobs and the livelihoods of those who work in the town?

It's not all environmental issues and protests, there's friendship, family and romance as well, so it makes for a very well rounded read.

Tuesday, February 1, 2022

Do You Speak Fish? by DJ Corchin and illustrated by Dan Dougherty

Do You Speak Fish? by DJ Corchin and illustrated by Dan Dougherty

Published December 2021 Sourcebooks eXplore


When a child meets a fish and says hello, the fish does not respond. The child is shocked. What a rude fish! But soon the child learns that it's not up to the fish to speak the child's language. And if the child wants to communicate, he'll have to take the time to learn how to speak Fish.

This book reminds me of a novel Fish In a Tree by Linda Mullaly Hunt, and the quote in it about how we treat/judge people: "Everybody is smart in different ways. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its life believing it is stupid."

As an English speaker, I must admit that no matter where we go in the world, we’re pretty fortunate in that so many other nations speak English as their second language, so in that regard we are quite spoilt.  What if that wasn’t the case, and what must it be like for people who come to English speaking countries, and find it difficult to understand and be understood.

That’s a big thing to think about, so a book like Do You Speak Fish is great because it tells the story from a completely different perspective, one where animals can talk, but one in which we can think about our own actions, values and behaviours. 

The boy on the story gets quite frustrated when the animals don’t understand him, because he doesn’t speak, fish/lion/bee etc.  Shouldn’t all creatures speak ‘kid’?  It’s not until the wise tree makes him think about it, does he realise that maybe he should make the effort to learn fish/lion/bee and then in turn they might learn yours, and even just learning a little bit and being that bit more thoughtful can make a massive difference and make others feel more welcome and included.

A great book to start a conversation in the classroom.

Thanks to Net Galley and Sourcebooks for the opportunity to review this title.

Monday, January 31, 2022

What Lives In The Woods by Lindsay Currie

What Lives In The Woods by Lindsay Currie

Published September 2021 Source Books Young Readers


All Ginny Anderson wants from her summer is to sleep in, attend a mystery writing workshop, and spend time with her best friend. But when Ginny's father--a respected restoration expert in Chicago--surprises the family with a month-long trip to Michigan, everything changes. They aren't staying in a hotel like most families would. No, they're staying in a mansion. A twenty-six room, century-old building surrounded by dense forest. Woodmoor Manor.

But unfortunately, the mansion has more problems than a little peeling wallpaper. Locals claim the surrounding woods are inhabited by mutated creatures with glowing eyes. And some say campers routinely disappear in the woods, never to be seen again.

As terrifying as it sounds, Ginny can't shake the feeling that there's something darker . . . another story she hasn't been told. When the creaky floors and shadowy corners of the mansion seem to take on a life of their own, Ginny uncovers the wildest mystery of all: There's more than one legend roaming Saugatuck, Michigan, and they definitely aren't after campers.

It's after her.

The one genre I always find difficult to source, for primary aged readers is horror.  Something scary (but not too scary), and a proper ghost story, not the old Scooby Doo and Nancy Drew versions where it turns out the 'ghost' was the butler/groundskeeper/janitor pretending to be a ghost.

This is a ghost story, and it's creepy, but it's a real mystery too.  The way the characters work together to follow the clues and solve the mystery , makes it a double whammy, as mystery readers will like this one too.

Great writing really sets sets the scene for this book, and creates the ominous atmosphere that runs through the entire story.

Looking forward to getting this one out into schools and libraries.