REVIEW: Leave Taking by Lorraine Marwood

Published: 2nd July 2018

Publisher: University of Queensland Press

Pages: 125

Format: Paperback (borrowed from the library

RRP: $14.95

3.5/5 Stars

What if you had one week left to say goodbye to everything you’d ever known?

Toby and his mum and dad are leaving their family farm after the death of Toby’s younger sister, Leah. Together, they sort through all their belongings and put things aside to sell or throw out. It’s a big task, and Toby doesn’t want to leave the only place he’s called home. 

As his last day on the farm approaches, Toby has a plan – a plan to say goodbye to all the things and places that mean something special to him and Leah, from the machinery shed and Pa’s old truck to the chook house. With the help of his best friend, Trigger the dog, he learns what it means to take your leave.

 

I don’t understand how we can leave

this farm. I don’t.

But I’m trying.

Funny, suddenly there are lots

of things I don’t understand. 

Leaving Taking by Lorraine Marwood is not your typical middle-grade novel. Told through free verse poetry, Marwood has captured the very essence of what it feels like to be leaving the only place you’ve called home, to lose a loved one and to reconcile that leaving the place full of memories with them doesn’t mean you leave them behind.

All my saness

for Leah is turning me into a stranger.

I cried reading this novel. We know right from the blurb that Toby’s family are struggling in the wake of his sister’s passing to cancer. We know they are selling the family farm that’s been in their family for generations because their family needs a fresh start, and yet somehow Marwood is able to take the reader on such a ride that your heart breaks for Toby and his family.

That helped a lot. 

But there is so much

inside me that hurts,

so doing this map of goodbye

makes me feel

a bit more like the Toby

I was when I was a big brother.

Marwood’s writing is spare, but tender and poignant taking the reader on an emotional rollercoaster as we follow Toby around his family farm on his ‘top-secret’ mission to say goodbye to everything he has ever known. With Trigger, his faithful dog is by his side, Toby teaches the reader about a farmer’s day-to-day life, breaking down the chores and dangers (brown snake in the machinery shed) into relateable bite-sized pieces. Through his first-hand account, we see a farm through three generations (his dad and Toby’s Grandpa feature heavily in this story) and what it takes to call it quits on a long-running family farm and how intertwined your life is with the land, animals and the everyday activities.

‘None of us want to forget Leah, 

and wish she was here

every single moment 

of every day.

We can’t bring her back,

but we can live for her.’

Leave Taking is a poignant story about grief and what it means to move on, both physically, but emotionally. It’s a story recommended for readers age 7/8 plus years of age and is a great introduction to big concepts of change, grief and losing a loved one.

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

Angus & Robertson | Booktopia | Dymocks | QBD

To learn more about Lorraine Marwood, visit the following social media sites:

Lorraine Marwood’s Website | Goodreads | Instagram | Facebook 

 

REVIEW: Bouncing Back – An Eastern Barred Bandicoot Story by Rohan Cleave and illustrated by Coral Tulloch

Published: 1st April 2018

Publisher: CSIRO Publishing

Pages: 32

Format: Hardback picture book (borrowed from the library)

RRP: $24.95

5/5 Stars

A beautifully illustrated story of this marsupial’s plight and how it was saved from extinction.

The Eastern Barred Bandicoot is one of Australia’s most threatened species. When their existence came under extreme threat from habitat loss, predators and human development, Eastern Barred Bandicoots found refuge in the most unlikely of places – a garbage dump. This captivating true story details the plight these small, nocturnal marsupials faced, and the outstanding efforts that ensured their protection. Written by Rohan Cleave and illustrated by Coral Tulloch, Bouncing Backshows that even on the brink of extinction, there is hope for the survival of our most vulnerable species.

Rohan Cleave and Coral Tulloch’s first book, Phasmid: Saving the Lord Howe Island Stick Insect, won a Whitley Award for Children’s Natural History Book and was an Honour Book in the Children’s Book Council of Australia Book Awards (Eve Pownall Information Book category).

Bouncing Back: An Eastern Bandicoot Story by Melbourne zookeeper Rohan Cleave and illustrated by Coral Tulloch, is a non-fiction picture book seeking to educate its readers about the Eastern Barred Bandicoot and the environmental issues/dangers it’s currently facing as an Australian endangered species thanks to deforestation, urban developments, introduced predators and pollution.

This book is quite frankly fascinating. Narrated as though the Eastern Barred Bandicoot itself was talking to you about its various attributes, habitats and facts, the narrative is riveting and quirky, but at the same time, absolutely devastating. With only two natural areas for habitation in the world – Victoria and Tasmania – the Eastern Barred Bandicoot was fast approaching the very real danger of extinction. They had all but vanished from Victoria all together; the last known habitat for them there was a garbage dump prior to intervention from environmental conservation teams! Continue reading

REVIEW: Noni the Pony Rescues A Joey by Alison Lester

Published: 11th June 2019

Publisher: Allen & Unwin

Pages: 24

Format: Hardback Picture Book (borrowed from the Library)

RRP: $24.99

4/5 Stars

Noni the Pony and her friends help a lost wallaby joey find his family in this jaunty follow-up to Noni the Pony and Noni the Pony Goes to the Beach.

Noni the Pony and her friends Dave Dog and Coco the Cat are headed out to spend the day roaming the hills near Waratah Bay. But then they meet a lost wallaby joey who needs help finding his family. So Noni, Dave, and Coco ask all of their animal friends, from koala to wombat to possum, if anyone has seen the wallaby family. Will they be able to help their new friend find his way home?

Best selling Australian author and illustrator Alison Lester is back, with her third book in the Noni the Pony series, Noni the Pony Rescues a Joey.

Noni the Pony Rescues a Joey is a sweet and simple tale about a lost joey looking his family, and the various Australian animals Noni the pony, Dave the Dog and Coco the Cat find along the way while looking for Joe the Joeys’ family.

I’m ashamed to admit here, that I’ve never read Noni the Pony or Noni the Pony Goes to the Beach before, but after devouring the new Noni the Pony Rescues A Joey, I will be rectifying that quick smart.

Allison Lester’s narrative is simple, sweet and to the point. As our gang of animals undertake their adventure, we are introduced to a variety of Australian animals in their natural habitat. Each animal is introduced with an accompanying piece of information about their personalities (shy platypus etc) or their chosen habitat (sleeping koala high in the trees).  The text is presented in rhyme with no more than two sentences on each page. The font size is large and the language simple, making it perfect for children learning to read to recognise letters and words, and hopefully read along with their parent.

Lester’s illustrations are iconic. Featuring thick bold outlines, her realistic cartoon style shapes the character of the book. Switching between full-colour pages and the occasional white background, Lester makes sure her words and intent are not only clear and concise but working in perfect harmony with the illustrations and overall presentation of the narrative.

Noni the Pony Rescues A Joey is a brilliant early childhood picture book, ideals for children aged one to four years old. I highly recommend this book for anyone looking to add to their child’s book collection or as a baby shower/first birthday present. It would also make an ideal gift for readers from overseas thanks to the simple introductions to our Australian fauna and flora.

Note: Noni the Pony Rescues A Joey was awarded the 2019 CBCA Book of the year: Early Childhood award.

 

To purchase a copy of Noni the Pony Rescues A Joey, visit the following online retailers:

Allen & Unwin Australia | Amazon AUS | Angus & Robertson | Booktopia | Book Depository | Dymocks | QBD

Alison Lester’s Website | Facebook |

To learn more about Alison Lester, visit the following social media sites:

Alison Lester’s Website | Facebook |

REVIEW: The Roadhouse by Kerry McGinnis

Published: 2nd July 2019

Publisher: Michael Joseph, an imprint of Penguin Random House Australia

Pages:329

Format: paperback (courtesy of the publisher for review)

RRP: $32.99

When aspiring actress Charlie Carver learns that her cousin Annabelle has died, she immediately leaves Melbourne to fly home to the remote family roadhouse east of Alice Springs. It has been years since her last visit and her relationship with her mother, Molly, is strained but Charlie is determined to patch up their differences.

The reunion, however, is interrupted when Molly suffers a heart attack. With her mother airlifted out for life-saving surgery, Charlie is left to take the reins of the struggling family business, alongside friends old and new, including the captivating local stockman Mike.

The authorities declare Annabelle to have taken her own life, but when a woman’s body turns up at an abandoned mine site, Charlie begins to wonder what else is being covered up, and why.

Beginning a search for the truth, a perilous bush chase unfolds that threatens her own life, causing Charlie to wonder whether she ever knew Annabelle at all …

From the bestselling author of The Heartwood Hotel comes the suspenseful new outback mystery from Australia’s authentic rural writer and beloved voice of the bush.

The Roadhouseby Kerry McGinnis was a book that surprised me. I’ve read a few of Kerry McGinnis’ backlist by now, and I naively thought I knew what I was getting myself into with this novel. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

There is a lot to unpack in McGinnis’ 2019 new release, The Roadhouse. I could seriously talk your ear off about: how expert the writing is; how full of life and delightfully flawed her characters are; how familiar and foreign the isolated setting is; and how bloody Australian the book is.  I couldn’t get enough of any of it as I raced through the books 329 pages, anxiously trying to guess outcomes and wishing for a Happily Ever After (HEA) for poor Charlie.

Continue reading

Waiting On Wednesday: ‘Styx & Stones’ by Carmen Jenner

 

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

Is it September yet? This new book from Carmen Jenner is going to be epic and I can’t wait to get stuck into it … with a box of tissues, chocolates and perhaps some alcohol on hand of course!

 

Published by: Self Published

Expected Publication: 3rd September 2019

Cancer sucks … and then you die.

Alaska Stone is a walking wet dream.

My wet dream.

For years, I’ve watched her in the halls, wanted her, but she never knew I existed.

Not until she walked into my chemo session.

For me, it was love at first sight.

For her? It might take a little longer.

But hey, it’s not like we’re on a deadline or anything.

 

Add to Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/46351246-s-s

 

REVIEW: The Jacket by Sue-Ellen Pashley and Illustrated by Thea Baker

Published: 1st May 2019

Publisher: Black Dog Books, Imprint of Walker Books Australia

Pages: 32

Format: Hardback Picture book (Purchased)

RRP: $25

5/5 Stars

A lovely picture book for every child who has outgrown a favourite toy or piece of clothing.

The jacket was no ordinary jacket. It was soft, like dandelion fluff. It was warm, like the afternoon sun. It was comforting, like a hug from your favourite teddy.

In The Jacket, a child’s favourite piece of clothing, which she outgrows, passes on to her little sister and then is repurposed for a new life. This is a heartwarming story about growing up and learning to let go of the things you become attached to in childhood.
 

The Jacket by Sue-Ellen Pashley and illustrated by Thea Baker is the most superb little picture book.  It’s like a comforting hug just before bedtime.

The Jacket is a story about a much loved colourful coat that is passed from Amelia to Lily, to Lilly’s dolls, the cat with her kittens and finally breathed new life in to once more as the worlds most fabulous teddy bear for Lilly’s younger brother.  It’s a story about adventures, sentimental value and the emotional connections we make with much-loved clothes and treasured toys.

The Jacket is truly one of the most heartfelt and beautiful picture books I’ve held in a long time. Featuring a mix of stunning illustrations, clever collages and the layering of images, Thea Baker has done an outstanding job of bringing Sue-Ellen Pashley’s story to life. Featuring double-page illustrations, full of patterns, colours and layered detail this book’s illustrations are hard to adequately describe, except to say they are lifelike and literally jump off the page. On more than one occassion I found myself running my fingertips across the page half expecting to be able to feature the texture of the backgrounds and jumper; it was just all so real!

Sue-Ellen Pashely’s story is heartfelt and beautifully presented through simplistic styling. Featuring mainly short, one-line sentences, Pashley’s narrative takes us on a journey of love, creation, adventure and new life. It allows the reader to re-live their own memories and remember that item that we all hold near and dear to our heart. I loved seeing the personal journeys the jacket took with each new owner, the comfort it gave and the warmth it brought into their life. It’s a simple, but elaborately beautiful piece of clothing that keeps on giving – emotionally, mentally and physically.

The Jacket by Sue-Ellen Pashley and illustrated by Thea Baker is a delightful picture book that is sure to warm your heart and fill your bookshelves with love. It’s a picture book that will keep on giving and is a great educational tool as well (for the value of items, the need to pass it on and the way we can repurpose items that we no longer need or use).  It’s clever, artistically beautiful, narratively brilliant and just a fantastic book to behold.

 

To learn more about Sue-Ellen Pashley, visit the following social media pages:

Sue-Ellen’s Website | Facebook 

 

To learn more about Thea Baker, visit the following social media pages:

Thea Baker’s Website | Facebook  | Twitter | Instagram

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

Walker Books Australia | Amazon AUS | Amazon US | Angus & Robertson | Booktopia | Book depository | Dymocks | QBD |

REVIEW: Pig the Tourist by Aaron Blabey

Published: 1st July 2019

Publisher: Scholastic Australia

Pages: 24

Format: hardback picture book (purchased)

RRP: $17.99

5/5 Stars

Pig the Pug is causing havoc and hilarity as he travels around the world.
Pig was a Pug
and I’m sorry to say,
when he went on vacation
he’d cause great dismay.

Everywhere he goes around the globe, Pig the Pug offends the locals and causes destruction and devastation. However, in the end, Pig’s rudeness comes back to bite him…

Rich with author-illustrator Aaron Blabey’s signature rhyming text and unforgettable illustrations, Pig the Tourist is a laugh-out-loud story that follows the six previous books in the series (Pig the Pug, Pig the Winner, Pig the Elf, Pig the Star, Pig the Fibber, and Pig the Stinker).

Pig the Pug is back and dare I say it, better than ever.

Everybody’s favourite little destroyer, Pig the Pug is continuing his adventures in this latest release from bestselling author Aaron Blabey. This time Pig and his family are headed overseas and around the world on what is meant to be the most epic of holidays … but Pig, being Pig, things never turn out the way they are intended.

I love everything about Pig the Tourist. From Blabey’s adorably quirky illustrations to his highly entertaining rhyming narrative. As an adult, I find this book has the most hilarious little innuendos and metaphors making it the perfect book for an adult to read to a child over and over again. There is just so much going on, kids and adults of all ages are going to love it!

The fun starts right with the endpapers this time as we learn that Pig has defaced poor Trevour the Dachshund’s international passport. Keen-eyed readers will also note the Piranha from Piranhas Don’t Eat Bananas featured on the title page instead of Pig and Trevour. Right from the get-go, this caught my attention and made me smile. Blabey was up to something, and it didn’t disappoint!

As usual Blabey’s illustrations are comedic, colourful and larger than life. Featuring a mix of double-page illustrations with white and full-colour backgrounds, his images capture your attention and make it incredibly hard to look away from the chaos that Pig leaves in his wake.

When the book opens, Pig has escaped his cage and is causing all sorts of mischief as Trevour looks on bewildered from the safety of his own cage. Over the course of the book, we see the most amusing holiday ‘snapshots’ as Pig causes havoc everywhere from stealing the  hotdog stand in New York, to writing his name in pee on a polar bear in Antartica, to destroying ancient wonders of the world in Eygpt, to upsetting the locals in Japan, China, Australia, France, Italy and England. He makes international headlines when he bawls over the Queen of England and topples the leaning tower of Pisa before finally getting his comeuppance in the murky waters of the Amazon with the Prihana’s.

Although I’m extremely biased here my favourite pages have to include the Australian page where Pig has doughnuts for ears and is wearing an ‘I’m a Koala’ sign around his neck. I laughed out loud at this one for longer than I am willing to admit. A close second being the African stampede …

Blabey’s text is suitably humorous, educational and just damn smart. He never breaks his rhyme even when subtly explaining to readers of all ages the need to be respectful of other cultures, customs and places of interest.

Best selling author, Aaron Blabey keeps getting better with each and every book, and it’s no surprise that this book is selling out quicker than you can say Pig the Tourist! His characters, settings, and story are spot on and I can’t wait to see what Pig gets up to next time.

Pig the Tourist is an absolute hoot for readers young and old; I highly recommend this book!

  

To learn more about Aaron Blabey, visit the following social media pages:

AARON BLABEY WEBSITEFACEBOOK

To purchase a copy of Pig The Tourist, visit the following online retailers:

Angus & Robertson | Booktopia | Book Depository | Dymocks