Thursday, October 7, 2010

New Aussie Books - October 2010

This is another of my 'New Aussie Books' updates. There are so many great Australian books published each year that it isn't possible to keep up with all of them. In each of these updates I try to share 8-10 recent books across the ages 0-16 years.

1. Picture Books (0-6 years)

'A Giraffe in the Bath' written by Mem Fox & illustrated by Kerry Argent (Viking, 2010)
This is a very funny picture book. The cover alone suggests this, but the text is also amusing and engaging for young children in the typical Mem Fox style. Would a giraffe in the bath make you laugh? Maybe a frog in the flour? A sheep in the shower, an owl with the flu, or even a roo on the loo? Well if not, maybe a crocodile with style will just make you smile? Mem does her magic with the text once again. Simple but effective language that is predictable but not repetitive and boring.

Kerry Argent's wonderful illustrations add greatly to the text and helps to create a book that children will want to return to again and again.

'April Underhill, Tooth Fairy', by Bob Graham (Walker, 2010)

This is the story of two fairies who come of age. High in the sky above Parkville, toothfairies April (7 and 'three quarters') and Esme (6) leave their nervous parents as they head off on their first tooth collecting journey. There are many challenges along the way but they experience success on their first very unusual visit to Daniel Dangerfield's house. As always Bob Graham does a wonderful job as storyteller and illustrator; he never disappoints. Children up to age 6 will love this book.

'Queen Victoria's Underpants' written by Jackie French and illustrated by Bruce Whatley (Harper Collins, 2010)

Fans of Bruce Whatley as an illustrator and Jackie French as an author will remember  the brilliant 'Diary of a Wombat' (Jackie French & Bruce Whatley) and its companion volume 'The Secret World of Wombats'. This lovely new book might well have lost them their heads once (!), but it amusingly offers an insight into the reign of Queen Victoria and her underwear. Against the revealed fact that at the beginning of the reign of the 'Empress of half the world' very few women wore underpants, the book asks, did Queen Victoria have underpants?

After briefly setting the scene for the question, we soon meet Lizzy whose family are in the clothing industry, and find out about Queen Victoria's role in developing underwear. Few would know that Queen Victoria made the wearing of underpants popular. We learn of Lizzy's mother and the events that lead to her final development of the underpants. P.S. - By the time Queen Victoria died most woman in Britain wore underpants.

'Love from Grandma' by Jane Tanner (Penguin/Viking, 2010)

Every Jane Tanner picture book is a joy, and this one is no exception.  This is the story of Emily and her relationship with her Grandma. When her Dad gets a new job, and her family moves to the country, her life changes.  Her Grandma gives her a strawberry plant as a reminder of the gardening they did together, and she promises her that by the time it has ripe strawberries she will be out to visit. Time drags on, but eventually her Grandma arrives with a special surprise.  This is a simple story with no dramatic twists, but it is beautifully told and illustrated, and offers an insight into the special relationship between grandparents and their grandchildren.  

2. Younger Readers (6-9 years)

'Chicken Stu' by Nathan Luff (Scholastic, 2010, 186pp)

This is Nathan Luff’s first book. Stuart is an 11-year-old boy, who likes books, is asthmatic and lives with his widowed Mum in Sydney. He is forced to spend the summer holidays on his aunt and uncle’s farm. He doesn't cope well at first and prefers to stay inside the farmhouse reading. But then two of his wild cousins introduce him to some of the fun of the Australian bush. They name him Chicken Stu and the fun-filled action begins. Amidst the fun, the 'Good facts about chickens you may not know' and the action, there are some serious sub-themes being developed. These include how Stu copes with his asthma attacks and the death of his father.  This book will be enjoyed by boys aged 7-11.

'Toppling' written by Sally Murphy and illustrated by Rhian Nest James (Walker, 2010, 127pp)

Sally Murphy's previous book 'Pearl Verses the World' was named as an Honour Book in the Children's Book Council awards for 2010 (see my post on the CBC awards here). This book continues in the same style, which is probably best described as a verse novel. Once again Sally Murphy tackles serious issues that centre on the stories of John and Dom. John is the narrator. He loves making long domino patterns and toppling them. This simple past-time helps him to cope with the illness of his best friend who has cancer. The deceptively simple book challenges children to think about deep issues that many encounter in their lives and the verse form seems to create the 'gaps' that facilitate this type of reflective thought. Here's a sample:

Okay, I say.
Dom threw up all over his desk-
…Is he OK asks Mum.
I tell her that he went home
looking white
and how we couldn’t use the classroom
because it was
all stinky
from the spew.
You should have smelt it!
It’s good to see Tess’s face
When I say that
But then I think of Dom...

The text is well supported by the excellent simple pen and wash illustrations of Rhian Nest James. This is a moving book that speaks of friendship, the strength of the human spirit and triumph in the midst of suffering and adversity. This book will be enjoyed by mature boys and girl aged 8-11 years.

3. Independent Readers (10-13 years)

'Jaguar Warrior' by Sandy Fussell (Walker Books, 2010, 212pp)

This is the story of Atl, a young Purepechan slave. It is set in the age of the Aztec empire and a place we know today as northern Mexico. Atl is imprisoned in a box and has been there seven days and awaits death as part of an Aztec ceremony of sacrifice to the Mexican gods. He is not afraid as the anger rises within him and significant twist occurs in his story. A war-party of conquistadors attacks the head temple and Atl’s reputation as the fastest runner in Technotitlan leads the High Priest to set him free to send a message to get help for the Purepechan people. He escapes through hidden tunnels of the temple and heads into the jungles of South America, encountering dangers and collecting companions on the way.

Sandy Fussell delivers a fast moving adventure story that 10-14 year old boys will enjoy.  It is a well-researched historical narrative (see my earlier post on this genre here and here) that is worthy of consideration.

'The Ruby Talisman' by Belinda Murrell (Random House, 2010, 241pp)

This is an historical timeslip fanstasy set in the period of the French Revolution. The main character of the story Tilly is told by her aunt of an ancestor who survived the French Revolution. She shows the 15 year-old a priceless heirloom, a ruby locket. She falls asleep wearing it, wishing she could escape to a more exciting life.  She travels back in time and finds herself in France, during the French Revolution.  It is 1789 and Amelie a French aristocrat living in the Palace of Versaille also falls asleep wearing the same locket wishing to be rescued from a marriage that she does not want. The girls wake to find each other and are immersed in the dangers and violence of the Revolution.  This well written and historically well researcher novel will be well received by children aged 12+ (especially girls).

Other Posts on Literature

For all my posts on Children's Literature use the site label (HERE)


PlanningQueen said...

I had the absolute joy to take my daughter to a session with Bob Graham a couple of months ago in conjunction with the release of April Underhill. He showed the children how he created his illustrations and taught them some basic techniques. Bob was so patient and encouraging to the kids, it was fabulous to watch.

Terry Doherty said...

Thanks for sharing this list, Trevor. It is so helpful to get a sense of not only the readability, but the read-alike-ability of the books, too.

Trevor Cairney said...

Nice to hear from you Nicole and Terry. Quite a treat for you and your daughter Nicole; Bob Graham is fantastic! Trevor