This week Maureen Mann shares some of her recent reading delights to provide some inspiration for the summer reading ahead.
I have had a lovely time, since returning from a long overseas trip, catching up on some of the books I missed while away. Below, (but not all I have read), are some of the better ones which have come my way – dominantly picture books as that is my great love. I found many of the titles through CBCA’s Reading Time, book news and reviews. If you haven’t discovered this resource, check it out: https://readingtime.com.au. I get the digest version which appears intermittently in my inbox.
Bush Tucker Counting by Maureen Glover and Gabrielle Fry. Magabala Books, 2023.
This is a lovely board book about bush fruits. The watercolour illustrations are clear, muted primary colours, but the fruits are usually found in northern Australia. There are concepts of number, adjectives and alliteration.
In My Garden by Kate Mayes and Tamsin Ainslie. Harper Collins, 2023.
The reader learns about gardens around the world, some of the plants which grow in them, as well as the environment in which they leave. Much of this learning is through the illustrations rather than the written text, giving the reader plenty to explore. Japan, Malawi, Iceland and Australia are some of the locations. There is an affirmative sentence within each double page spread that the child is happy within their world. I really like that the front and back endpages are different and detailed, showing animals and plants from around the world.
Mr Clownfish, Miss Anemone and the Hermit Crab by Sean E Avery. Walker Books, 2023.
Avery, using cartoon-like graphics, shows the interdependent relationship between a clownfish and an anemone. The fish helps find food for the anemone as well as protecting it from predators and helping to keep tentacles clean while the anemone’s sting keeps the fish safe. There’s a third relationship which develops when the anemone fixes onto the back of a hermit crab and is therefore able to move around, something which is usually impossible. I am not a great fan of anthropomorphic animals, but they work in this book, with their expressive faces. Readers will absorb much information about life in the sea which having fun with the story.
Timeless by Kelly Canby. Freemantle Press, 2023.
The back of the book says it all: It’s about time. Emit and his family never have enough of it, so Emit sets off to catch it, to find it, to buy it but he finally realises that you have to make. Canby’s unusual illustration style combined with wonderful word puns make this a book to be savoured by all readers, no matter their age. Don’t forget to spend time reading the end pages!
Mr Impoppable by Trent Jamieson and Brent Wilson. Larrikin House, 2023.
Gerald is not convinced that he can’t Mr Impoppable, and fun stems from all his attempts. From the expected pins, needles and lightning bolts to the improbable. The cartoon-style cartoons are full of action and humour and Gerald and Mr Impoppable form a strong bond and unexpected friendship. Lots of discussion about who is in control.
Meet Me at the Moon Tree by Shivaun Plozza. University of Queensland Press, 2023.
Carina and her family move house after the death of their father and husband, during the period when none of them is really coping with his absence, and at the same time adjusting to new friends and a new environment. Grandfather seems to be the one grounded person. Carina grasps onto past discussions with her father about moon seeds which had been taken into space and then sown around the world to see how they had mutated. Carina believes they are magic and that she will be able to communicate with her father that way. It’s a very sensitive look at the different impacts of grief, and how one family copes. A book for middle-school readers.
Godfather Death by Sally Nicholls and Julia Sarda. Walker Books, 2023.
Based on a Brothers Grimm story, we learn about the poor, desperate fisherman who has to find a godfather for his newborn son. He rejects God because he doesn’t treat all people fairly. He rejects the Devil because he tricks people. HE finally chooses Death who can’t be tricked or bargained with. But the fisherman doesn’t realise how he is duped. Sarda’s woodcut style illustrations, red, yellow, green, black and white, are beautiful and deserve to be studied rather than passed over quickly. Suited to middle school readers.
Eat My Dust by Neridah McMullin and Lucia Masciullo. Walker Books, 2023.
This is the fictionalised account of the 1928 drive made by Jean Robertson and Kathleen Howell, with Barney the dog, in their open-topped car from Perth to Adelaide, smashing the land speed record (only stopping for fuel and running repairs) and helping map Australia on the way. The story shows how the women broke stereotypes, despite the criticism that women shouldn’t do such things. Masciullo’s illustrations bring the journey to life and show modern readers a small but important achievement from “the olden days”.
Impossible Creatures by Katherine Rundell. Bloomsbury, 2023.
What a stunning fantasy story for middle school (and older) readers. When Christopher visits his grandfather, he is warned not to climb to the top of the hill, but Christopher does it anyway and “falls” into the Archipelago, a world populated by wonderful mythical (for us as readers) creatures who are introduced at the beginning of the book, in the Guardian’s Bestiary. He meets Mal with her pet griffin and her magical flying coat. Mal is fleeing from the man who wants to kill her (why?), and their adventure is fast-paced and perilous. Rundell is an excellent wordsmith, and she has created multi-dimensional characters in an excellent story. Themes of environment degradation and protection, friendship, love, loyalty.
Have a look for any of these which you haven’t seen before. All are available through Libraries Tasmania.
Retired teacher librarian and avid reader
Editor’s note: What an interesting and varied selection. I have read a number of these too, but will look out for the remainder - Godfather Death has certainly peaked my curiosity. I am (not so) patiently waiting for my turn for the audio version of Impossible Creatures!