REVIEW: Mamie by Tania McCartney

Published: 16th November 2018

Publisher: Angus & Robertson, Imprint of HarperCollins Children’s Books

Pages: 32

Format: Hardback picture book, borrowed

RRP: $24.99

5/5 Stars

TO US SHE IS MAY GIBBS, CREATOR OF SNUGGLEPOT & CUDDLEPIE.

BUT TO HER FAMILY, SHE WAS KNOWN AS ‘MAMIE’.

In a land far away, where fairies, pixies and elves live deep in the woods, a baby girl is born. Her parents call her Mamie.

Mamie loves to sing and dance and paint with her magical woodland friends. Her days are like a fairy tale.

But when Mamie’s family move to Australia, she misses green fields drenched with rain. The hot skies and dusty plains of her new home turn Mamie’s world upside down. Will she ever find new fairy friends in this strange and beautiful land?

From the talented Tania McCartney comes an exquisite book that celebrates the life of renowned children’s author and illustrator, May Gibbs.

Mamie by Tania McCartney is perhaps one of the most unique, inspiring and beautiful pictures books I have read in a long time. Part biography, part fascinating story with the most picturesque illustrations, Mamie is not only a beauty to behold, but a book to treasure.

May Gibbs (1877-1969) is a household name for her contribution to literature and the arts throughout her lifetime, and long since her passing. Held in high praise, and regarded as the best of the best, her books are timeless, beautiful creations that still entertain readers of all ages  some 50 years post her passing… and yet, the women  held in such high esteem, the creator of an iconic Australian series, is largely unknown to vast majority of Australians. All of that changes with Mamie however.

Mamie is simply put an illustrated picture book documenting  the beloved May Gibb’s life. It’s one of many books released as part of the 100 years of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie (1918-2018) anniversary celebration, but it is perhaps one of the most important, and certainty the most unique.

Mamie explores the very essence of May Gibb’s life and is one of a handful of texts out there that seeks to know the artists –  her life, passion, process and art – beyond the scope of her celebrated literature and artwork.  It’s a documentation, fascinating narrative and a beautiful story of hope, imagination and inspiration.

Mamie’s drawings were inspired by nature. Wildflowers spilled from her paint brush. Her pictures were so beautiful, one of them were rolled up, tied with a ribbon and sent to the Queen Of England!

Cecilia May ‘Mamie’ Gibbs (1877-1969) was born in England on the 17th January 1877.  She moved to Australia with her family at the tender age of 4 years old, only to be devastated by what she found here. Despite searching high and low, she could not find one trace of her beloved fairies from back home. For years she sought them out, creating fairy gardens that yielded no luck, instead only finding ‘gumuts and ragged blossoms’ at every turn.  With nothing left to do, May turned her imagination to the gumnuts and blossoms, and turned them into the world we all know and love as the adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie.

Tania McCartney deservers all the praise she can get for the creation of Mamie . Featuring stunning, and decadent, illustrations depicting the most extravagant and imaginative childhood and life of the Iconic Aussie legend May Gibbs, Mamie is a beauty to behold. Not only does it offer a rare glimpse into the workings of Gibb’s mind, passion and processes, but it does so with an elegance and grace that effortlessly whisks the reader off into a world of imagination, the fae and of course, Snugglepot and Cuddlepie. McCartney’s illustrations are second to perhaps only Gibb’s herself, with the former’s images sweeping across double page spreads and bringing the text to life in the most unexpected and magical of ways.

It’s harder to fully comprehend and explain the pure beauty of Mamie in words, for really the narrative is an experience better felt than explained. It’s a sweet story with a massive heart, that captures an icon in the making.  It’s well worth a read, and I can not recommend this one highly enough!

 

To purchase a copy of Mamie, visit the following online retailers:

Harper Collins Australia | Amazon AusBook depository | Booktopia | Dymocks |

 

To learn more about Tania McCartney, visit the following social media pages:

Tania McCartney’s website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest | Youtube

 

REVIEW: Amazing Australian Women – Twelve Women Who Shaped History by Pamela Freeman & Illustrated by Sophie Beer

Published: 28th August 2018

Publisher: Hachette Australia

Pages: 32

Format: Hardback Picture Book

RRP: $26.99

5/5 Stars

Meet twelve amazing Australian women who have changed the world, in small ways and large.

Some of them are world famous, like Annette Kellerman and Nellie Melba.

Some of them are famous in Australia, like Mary Reibey and Edith Cowan.

All of them deserve to be famous and admired.

These women are the warriors who paved the way for the artists, business owners, scientists, singers, politicians, actors, sports champions, adventurers, activists and innovators of Australia today.

The featured women are:
Mary Reibey, convict and businesswoman
Tarenore, Indigenous resistance fighter
Mary Lee, suffragist
Nellie Melba, opera singer
Edith Cowan, politician
Tilly Aston, teacher, writer and disability activist
Rose Quong, actress, lecturer and writer
Elizabeth Kenny, nurse and medical innovator
Annette Kellerman, swimmer and movie star
Lores Bonney, aviation pioneer
Emily Kame Kngwarreye, artist
Ruby Payne-Scott, scientist

After the runaway success of  Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls (GNSFRG) in 2016, the children’s market has been flooded with books attempting to stand up along side GNSFRG in terms of concept, format, content and deliverance.  I don’t think any of the offerings got anywhere half as close as GNSFRG until Amazing Australian Women: Twelve Women Who Shaped History (Amazing Australian Women for short) by Pamela Freeman and illustrated by Sophie Beer came along.

Obviously, being Australian I have a bit of bias towards this particular offering, and I do acknowledge that while GNSFRG was all inclusive world wide phenomenon because it included women from all backgrounds (colour, race, nationality and all walks of life), and Amazing Australian Women: is limited to twelve specific Australian women, thus making it a more niche title. It’s this niche market that makes this particular book all the more special however compared to those that have come before it, as it speaks particularly to Australia’s history and the women who helped shaped society as we know it today. I’ve also found it to include less of the author’s bias, and be more inclusive than most of the titles attempting to emulate GNSFRG success from all over the world. I digress however …

Right from the introduction, Freeman has done an outstanding job of acknowledging and shaping the readers expectations when it comes to Amazing Australian Women. Her tone is one of awe and fascination, but it also balanced and lacks a lot of the bias I was expecting the book to contain.

Some of them are famous around the world, such as Annette Kellerman and Nellie Melba.

Some of them are famous in Australia, such as Mary Reibey and Edith Cowan.

And all of them DESERVE too be famous, and admired.

Amazing Australian Women features a map early on in the book illustrating where these twelve Australian women have hailed from. There is at least one women from every state and territory, making sure that those featured within the book are a true representation of the whole of Australia, not only due to their contributions and backgrounds, but by locale as well.

Amazing Australian Women‘s set up is clear, concise and easy to navigate. Each personality chosen is given a double page spread, featuring one full page portrait illustration, and one page of text telling their story. The images are bold, creative and dare the reader to look more closely. The text, is simple and to the point. It’s factual, but entertaining,  showcasing Freeman’s art at it’s best.

Although it pains me to admit as much, I didn’t know about some of these women and their contributions, and I’d never thought to even question why and how a woman came to be on our $20 note. Having studied a LOT of history at school, and then again at University, I thought I had a pretty decent grasp on Australian history, only to have this book show exactly how much was missing from the pages of history text books, and academic courses.

While the insights gained within the picture book are enough on their own as a taster, and text in their own right, Freeman has included a glossary, and mini biography with further reading and links should one be interested to look into them more. I found these resources invaluable and was delighted by her forethought and dedication to the project.

Historically women and their contributions from society have been forgotten or written from the pages of text books and history itself; in this latest addition from Pamela Freeman and illustrated by Sophie Beer, the dynamic duo have set about setting some of the records straight. Their stories will equally surprise, validate and inspire the reader long after the turning of the final page.  I highly recommend Amazing Australian Women: Twelve Women Who Shaped History to anyone interested in learning more.

To purchase a copy of Amazing Australian Women, visit the following online retailers:

Hachette Australia | Booktopia | Amazon USA | Amazon AUS | Angus & Robertson | Dymocks | QBD | Readings |

To learn more about Pamela Freeman, visit the following social media sites:

Author Website | Pamela Freeman.com | Facebook | Hachette Australia | Goodreads |

To learn more about Sophie Beer, visit the following social media sites:

Sophie Beer .com | Instagram | Twiiter | Tumblr | Goodreads

 

 

Waiting On Wednesday: The Boy Who Steals Houses by C.G. Drews

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted at Breaking the Spine. The purpose is to spotlight upcoming releases that we are excited for.

Published by: Hachette  AUstralia

Expected Publication: 9th April 2019

Can two broken boys find their perfect home? By turns heartbreaking and heartwarming, this is a gorgeously told, powerful story.

Sam is only fifteen but he and his autistic older brother, Avery, have been abandoned by every relative he’s ever known. Now Sam’s trying to build a new life for them. He survives by breaking into empty houses when their owners are away, until one day he’s caught out when a family returns home. To his amazement this large, chaotic family takes him under their wing – each teenager assuming Sam is a friend of another sibling. Sam finds himself inextricably caught up in their life, and falling for the beautiful Moxie.

But Sam has a secret, and his past is about to catch up with him.

Heartfelt storytelling, perfect for fans of Jandy Nelson and Jennifer Niven.

In a time of immigration crises, war, and border conflicts, WE ARE DISPLACED is an important reminder from one of the most famous people to experience displacement that everyone deserves universal human rights and a home.

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

This week I’m heading off to Sydney for Books By The Bridge on Saturday. I’m really looking forward to this event; not only do I get to meet some pretty amazing authors, BUT I also get to catch up with some of my favourite people that are scattered through out all of Australia. Book friends really are amazing people; spread across numerous states, territories and even countries, we don’t usually get to see each other in person very often, but when we do, man is it on.

Are you going to Books By The Bridge at Luna Park this weekend? In light of the event, and because I still  need to read this one, I’m reading some books by attending authors this week!

Reading wise, can I just say this year is shaping up to be an extremely amazing bookish year. Not only have I enacted a number of changes on the blog and kept on track with some of my goals and aspirations, but I’ve read a bunch of books already this year (39 at last count), many of which are exceptional. I’m trying to pump out as many reviews as I can, as quickly as I can.

 

Currently Reading:

The 2:00 a.m. call is the first time Lexie Vidler has heard her sister’s voice in years. Annie is a drug addict, a thief, a liar—and in trouble, again. Lexie has always bailed Annie out, given her money, a place to sleep, sent her to every kind of rehab. But this time, she’s not just strung out—she’s pregnant and in premature labor. If she goes to the hospital, she’ll lose custody of her baby—maybe even go to prison. But the alternative is unthinkable.

As weeks unfold, Lexie finds herself caring for her fragile newborn niece while her carefully ordered life is collapsing around her. She’s in danger of losing her job, and her fiancé only has so much patience for Annie’s drama. In court-ordered rehab, Annie attempts to halt her downward spiral by confronting long-buried secrets from the sisters’ childhood, ghosts that Lexie doesn’t want to face. But will the journey heal Annie, or lead her down a darker path?

Both candid and compassionate, Before I Let You Go explores a hotly divisive topic and asks how far the ties of family love can be stretched before they finally break.

 

Listening to:


Marriages of convenience are so…inconvenient.

Rescued by Calvin McLoughlin from a would-be subway attacker, Holland Bakker pays the brilliant musician back by pulling some of her errand-girl strings and getting him an audition with a big-time musical director. When the tryout goes better than even Holland could have imagined, Calvin is set for a great entry into Broadway—until he admits his student visa has expired and he’s in the country illegally.

Holland impulsively offers to wed the Irishman to keep him in New York, her growing infatuation a secret only to him. As their relationship evolves from awkward roommates to besotted lovers, Calvin becomes the darling of Broadway. In the middle of the theatrics and the acting-not-acting, what will it take for Holland and Calvin to realise that they both stopped pretending a long time ago?

 

 

 

 

 

 

hoping TO read:

A searing page-turner of family secrets and the legacy of war by the Top 10 bestselling Australian author of BEFORE I LET YOU GO

2019 Life changed beyond recognition for Alice when her son, Eddie, was born with autism spectrum disorder. She must do everything to support him, but at what cost to her family? When her cherished grandmother is hospitalised, a hidden box of mementoes reveals a tattered photo of a young man, a tiny leather shoe and a letter. Her grandmother begs Alice to return to Poland to see what became of those she held dearest.

WWII Alina and Tomasz are childhood sweethearts. The night before he leaves for college, Tomasz proposes marriage. But when their village falls to the Nazis, Alina doesn’t know if Tomasz is alive or dead.

2019 In Poland, separated from her family, Alice begins to uncover the story her grandmother is so desperate to tell, and discovers a love that bloomed in the winter of 1942. As a painful family history comes to light, will the struggles of the past and present finally reach a heartbreaking resolution?

Inspired by the author’s own family history, The Things We Cannot Say unearths a tragic love story and a family secret whose far-reaching effects will alter lives forever.

 

Just Finished:

     

 

 

 

Last week on the blog:

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

REVIEW: Verity by Colleen Hoover 3/5 Stars

Waiting On Wednesday:  Beautiful Death by Fiona McIntosh

LONG LOST REVIEW: Four Weeks, Five People by Jennifer Yu 3/5 Stars

REVIEW: Penelope’s Playground by Roxy Jacenko, Pixie Curtis and illustrated by heather Hawkins 4/5 Stars

Review: Mallee Sky by Jodi Toering and Illustrated by Tannya Harricks  5/5 Stars

REVIEW: Mallee Sky by Jodi Toering & Illustrated by Tannya Harricks

Published: 1st February 2019

Publisher: Black Dog Books, imprint of Walker Books Australia

Pages: 32

Format: Hardback Picture book (courtesy of the publisher)

RRP: $24.99

5/5 Stars

An extremely timely and beautiful picture book about the effects of drought and climate change in the Mallee.

The first people of the land call the Mallee “Nowie”. It means sunset country. When the sun goes down the red heat of the day bleeds into the sky and sets it on fire. Drought and rain – life under a Mallee Sky. This poetic text by emerging author Jodi Toering is beautifully accompanied by lush oil paintings by fine artist and illustrator Tannya Harricks.

 

Mallee Sky by Jodi Toering and Illustrated by Tannya Harricks is one of the most beautiful picture books I have ever seen. The story and illustrations are lush, larger than life and brutally honest depictions of life on the land in outback Australia.

The first thing I noticed about Mallee Sky was Tannya Harrick’s stunning oil painting illustrations. As a mutli-award winning artist in her own right, Harrick’s illustrations are beautiful to behold and capture both Jodi Toering’s story and the personality of the the Mallee people and the countryside perfectly. I could honestly stare at her paintings all day, every day.

Every double page spread features full conceptual and realistic pieces of art that convey the multifaceted aspect and nature of the Australian country, towns and people.  In fact Harrick’s artwork really brings the Australian countryside into Toering’s story as a fully fledge character with an over-abundance of stubborn and relentless personality. The scenes are picture perfect and show the desert s in all it’s tenacious glory.

Jodi Toering uses simple, short and sharp descriptions to report the difficulties and stubbornness of the Mallee country where drought has thrived for more years than any one can remember. The text is large and present in a clear, bold font that brokers no argument as it discusses the highly volatile truths of drought, despair, climate change and life in the country.

Toering’s narrative starts out praising the beauty of the country with its undisturbed starry skies, vast rolling landscapes featuring unique flora and fauna, big blue skies, and the unrepentant summer sun that never truly leaves. With each page turned, and more and more remarks on the affects of the relentless attacks by the sun, heat and drought, a stark and unforgiving country is revealed to be struggling, and dying before the communities eyes. With no water to spare, crops, grass and trees alike have long decayed leaving endless seas of dry, dirt paddocks and blistering bitumen as well as vacant shops and homes as families are forced to relocate in the tough times.

It’s not all doom and gloom though, as one day during school, children are greeted with unfamiliar sounds as the sky angrily transforms; the rain finally arrives. Young and old race outside to dance in the rain that they so desperately need – and for some, may not even have seen before. What follows is a country healing from drought, vibrant colours awash the landscape as far as the eye can see and missed flora and fauna return home once again.

To some Mallee Sky will be an introduction to the country they don’t know, far away from the beach fronts, bustling cities and coastal towns, rural Australia and the Mallee Desert in particular is fighting an impossible battle against the brutality of climate change with the ranging sun and drought filled land. For others it will be a story they know well; a confirmation of what they know to be part of their every day lives finally seen and acknowledge by those far removed by proximity and community. It’s a welcoming acknowledgement and embrace by the city, towns and main stream society for what they hold dear and the uphill battle they simply call life on the land.

I honestly adore everything about Mallee Sky by Jodi Toering and Tannya Harricks and find it one of the most eye pleasing and brutally honest picture books out there. It’s a poignant story that Australians living on the coast  are really only coming to terms with  in recent weeks thanks to the widespread campaigning of organisations like Rural Aid, Drought Angels, Buy A Bale and Aussie Helpers just to name a few, and innovative and quick thinking promotions and public crusades by individual farmers and celebrities alike. It’s a haunting and all too familiar story by everyone living on the land in recent memory and one that has scary repercussions for our futures if the community doesn’t act now.

 

To purchase a copy of Mallee sky, visit the following online retailers:

Walker Books Australia | Angus & Robertson | Booktopia | Book Depository | Dymocks | QBD | Wheeler Books

To learn more about Jodi Toering, visit the following social media pages:

Jodi Toering’s Website | Twitter | Walkers Books Australia |

 

To learn more about Tannya Harricks, visit the following social media pages:

Tanya Harricks website | Walker Books Australia |

 

 

 

 

REVIEW: Penelope’s Playground by Roxy Jacenko with Pixie Curtis and Illustrated by Heather Hawkins

Published: 5th February 2019

Publisher: Bauer Media Pty Limited

Pages:32

Format: Hardback Picture Book (Borrowed)

RRP: $19.95

4/5 Stars

Penelope is different.

She loves to dress up in fun clothing – polka dots, stripes, patterns of all sorts. The brighter and kookier the better! But not everyone ‘gets’ Penelope’s unique style, and it only takes one new girl at school to bring Penelope’s world crashing down.

A picture book for 5-8 year olds about bullying in primary school, and how it can target and affect any child.

 

Penelope’s Playground by Roxy Jacenko, with help from Pixie Curtis and illustrated by Heather Hawkins is a brilliant and bright picture book illuminating the dangers of bullying for everyone involved. It’s a bight light of hope and compassion, and would make a brilliant addition to any child’s library.

Penelope’s Playground is borderline ground breaking. It’s the first picture book that I can recall that deals with bullying in illustrated form using humans and not animals as the stories focus. Because of this the story appears more poignant and powerful. Making the narrative just as refreshing and unique as the main character.

Penelope has her own style of dress; she loves polka dots, big bows, odd socks and loud colours. But when Beth, the new girl at school starts to ridicule and laugh at the way Penelope looks, dresses and acts, Penelope is hurt. With relentless bullying in front of her peers and in private, Penelope’s big bright personality begins to dim as she grows increasingly self conscious, rejected and lost. Things escalate quickly, and before too long Penelope doesn’t want to go to school – she feels sick at the thought of it -, and not even Harry (her younger brother) can pull her own out of her despair.

Penelope’s Playground is a book school’s Australia wide NEED to invest in. For not only is a powerful story of the dangers of bullying, it shows clearly what happens to the bully and the victim and those surrounding them both. To an extent, Jacenko’s text tries to justify the reasons for why someone might bully another human being, but I think the real power in this picture book comes from the way both Penelope as the victim and her bully deal with the aftermath of it.

Penelope is pushed to the point where she eventually cracks under the pressure of bullying. When Beth turns on her little brother, Penelope shocks herself by speaking up and defending her brother and discovers a barrage of support from her peers as she confronts Beth for her bullying behaviour. Quickly the children turn on Beth, and there are scenes of the students playing as Beth watches on alone. It would have been so easy for Jacenko to leave this part of the story out, as we all know mob mentality is fickle and switches sides to support the now empowered Penelope and isolates bullying Beth. Instead Jacenko has Penelope reaching out to the isolated Beth when she notices her alone and asking her if she wants to play. This in itself is amazing. I have yet to see another picture book about bullying come even close to having the ‘victim’ reach out to the ‘aggressor’. Majority of them end with the confrontation and now-happy protagonist. What isn’t said in any of these books, is how often the original bullied child can become a bully to others easily as they justify the behaviour along the lines of ‘I’m just doing what you did to me’ when given the opportunity (such as the change in power dynamics feature in Penelope’s Playground ). Instead, Jacenko’s Penelope reaches out to Beth, knowing exactly what this isolation feels like, and invites her to play with them. Beth happily accepts and the story ends with everyone content.

While I acknowledge it is often unrealistic for the neatly wrapped ending of Penelope’s Playground, I still think it serves as lesson and guidance for what could be achieved when given the opportunity. Sure, most bullies will either not take up the opportunity, or could remain toxic, but Penelope gave Beth the ability to choose between right and wrong, thus not making herself a accomplice in further bullying, and in this instance, it worked out.

Compared to other picture books aimed at the five-to-eight year old market, the text in Penelope’s Playground could be considered wordy and long, but I think the narrative justifies the length. It’s too complex, even for young children, to be made shorter and cut out. To this end, it may not be the book a parent chooses to read to their child before bedtime, but it’s one they can rely on to cover all basis when the situation is required, or as a discussion aspect one afternoon. The font chosen is also not the usual and typical clear cut font of many current picture books, but rather it’s almost an artsy child scrawl style of font (sorry I don’t know the exact font script to identify it). It’s still easy to read though, and makes the narrative read almost as though its a letter and secret the children are passing on to each other.

Heather Hawkins’s illustrations are on point. Using bright pastel’s watercolours, the book seems happy and not overly dark in appearance even when everything becomes subtly muted alongside Penelope’s character. Majority of the pages have white backgrounds with just enough images strategically placed around the text that they add to rather than detract from the narrative’s message and overall story arc.

After Penelope’s story has ended,  Jacenko, Curtis and Hawkins have a double page spread breaking down what it means to be bullied, why children and adults bully others and some of the universally accepted tips and tricks to deal with bullying if it happens to you or someone you know. There are links to further reading and help-lines should the reader need it. The authors didn’t have to include this additional material in the book, but by doing so they show just how much bullying has affected their own lives and how much they seek to help any child (or adult) who finds themselves in Penelope’s shoes at some point in their life.

Penelope’s Playground is a one of the kind book, despite the needed, but contemporary saturation of the current market with bullying books for children. It’s fresh, hopeful and realistic giving readers of all ages a sense of optimism and child like wonder for being different and acceptance of our own individual quirks and unique style.

To purchase a copy of Penelope’s Playground , visit the following online retailers:

Angus & Robertson | Booktopia | Book Depository | Dymocks | Kogan | QBD |

To learn more about Roxy Jacenko, visit the following social media pages:

Roxy’s Wbsite | Instagram | Twitter

 

To learn more about Heather Hawkins, visit the following social media pages:

 Instagram | Hawk’s Creative