In a few short weeks, Callie would be starting at Birchwood High, and if they were all calling her Calliope-Jean from day one, she’d be Calliope-Jean – super nerd – until the end of time. This week at In The Rip would be her one chance to change that. In her wildest dreams she’d be CJ McGee – cool, daring, adventurous. But if Callie was what she could get away with, then Callie would do just fine. Surely if other people knew her by a different name, then she’d be different on the inside as well?
Every summer was the same at In The Rip. They’d been renting the house for as long as she could remember with family friends The Lanes and The Kensingtons. Callie asked why they couldn’t rent a separate house this year, but her mother had laughed and said you don’t mess with tradition. Trouble was ‘tradition’ also meant sharing the summer with Sasha, Cody and the twins. Sasha who, now that she was fifteen, had the sass and attitude to match, and had switched from being her ally to hardly noticing her. The one person Sasha was noticing was Ned, one of the local surfers. And then there was Mitch Lane and his younger brother Billy. Mitch was the same age as Callie but had made it his life’s mission to find ways to upset her. This year Mitch had brought along his cousin Owen, who seemed to have lots in common with Callie and the ability to keep Mitch in check. The three decide to investigate the series of recent robberies in the quiet coastal village of Sawyer’s Point, but it is when Sasha goes missing after sneaking out, that Callie must live up to her name and use her tenacity, perseverance, and resilience to save Sasha and discover the unexpected identity of the thief.
This coming-of-age story cleverly manages to bridge the gap from childhood to teenager. The pressures of having an overprotective mum, being an only child and trying to navigate your early teen years are not easy, and many readers will empathise with Callie as she tries to establish her own identity. The clandestine meetings to determine who the thief is will engage even the most reluctant of readers, with a possible ghost sighting and a near encounter with the local teenage gang in the dead of night keeping readers guessing and on the edge of their seats. Annual holidays with relatives and lame dad jokes will resonate with many, as will the feelings of frustration at not being taken seriously.
This is a brilliantly written middle grade novel about resilience, growing up, and navigating the sometimes confusing and complicated changes along the way to becoming who you want to be.
Teaching themes could include families, friendships, family vacations, theft, robbery, gangs, resilience, teenagers, individuality, summer, water safety, coastal towns.
Find out more about A.L. Tait
Published by: Scholastic Australia.
Release date: 1 August 2023
ISBN: 9781760260163 (PB)
Highly recommended for ages 11+
How much does the Earth weigh? How are rainbows made? Where do dreams come from? Why do I have a tail bone and not a tail? Will mum ever stop crying? How do I put us back together? The right way, like we were with you?
These are questions Carina Sugden needs answered but the only person who can answer them isn’t there anymore. Carina’s dad passed away and the family can’t seem to find their way through the sadness and loss. Her mum decided when the doctors had said there was nothing more they could for dad, that they all needed a ‘tree change,’ and so the small town of Forrest was chosen. Even though the house they found was a ‘fixer-upper’, dad had wanted an adventure in a place surrounded by trees and had wanted them all to fix the house together.
But the town and their new home in the Otway Ranges seemed to bring more hurt, more problems and even more sadness because dad hadn’t come with them. Mum threw herself into fixing up the house on her own, crying behind closed doors and shutting people out, Jack became more distant and mean and didn’t want anything to do with his little sister anymore, Gramps tried his best to keep the peace but was fighting a losing battle, and Carina spent hours searching the forest near their new home for the one thing dad had been certain was there and that she had promised her dad she would find for him – a moon tree. Her dad had told her about the seeds taken into space on the 1971 Apollo mission and the trees planted with them on their return to Earth. They were special, just like her dad, and she wasn’t going to let him down. But finding one was proving much harder than she thought.
Finding a path through grief is never easy, but the journey can eventually give rise to new friends, new beginnings, and the opportunity to heal - which is exactly what Forrest gives the Sugden family.
This is a truly beautiful story that captures the very essence and heartbreak of profound loss. Shivaun Plozza doesn’t shy away from the reality of the friction and conflict that can occur at times like this and approaches it with enormous gentleness and poignancy so that the reader doesn’t feel confronted but is rather placed in the heart of this family and gently brought along on their journey through grief to acceptance.
‘I don’t think memories are bad. I think they’re like seeds – you plant them, nurture them and they grow up big and strong and that way the people you love never really die.’
I totally agree with Carina’s character. What a wonderful way to keep alive the memories of those we have lost. Let’s all plant our own memory seeds from now on.
Teaching themes could include grief, families, acceptance, loss, trees, science, magic, dendrology, scientific processes, intergenerational relationships and friendship.
Find out more about Shivaun Plozza
Published by University of Queensland Press
Release date: 4 July, 2023
Highly recommended for ages 9+
Jack doesn’t like trying new things or too loud noises. What he really likes is anything that zooms, digs, or races, and of course, his favourite food, peanut butter sandwiches. His best friend likes peanut butter sandwiches too and they eat them together every lunchtime. She even lets Jack ride on the back of her wheelchair sometimes. Jack’s mother works at the zoo and took Jack, his sisters, and his best friend to visit all the animals at feeding time. The noise of the animals munching on their favourite foods was hard to ignore but, at each enclosure, Jack bravely squeezed his eyes shut and tried the yummy fruits and vegetables for himself. When they came to the lions, Jack began flapping his hands up and down really quickly which is something he does when he’s really excited. The other zookeepers were a bit worried that the lions were getting ready to pounce but, after all the new things he’d tried that day, Jack was fearless. He picked up the lions' food and threw it towards them and as far away from everyone as he could. The next day he stood up in front of the whole class and told everyone about their exciting day, and his best friend and sisters were right there with him.
This is an engaging and inspiring story about two best friends who like each other just the way they are. It celebrates their differences, applauds their similarities, and highlights how we each have something special and unique to offer as a friend. Told with empathy and understanding, JACK’S BEST DAY EVER will hopefully spark conversations about the misconceptions and stereotyping of those who are neurodivergent and encourage more open mindedness and acceptance of who we are as individuals. The warm and colourful illustrations expertly showcase the emotion of the characters and the powerful message at the heart of this story – that not everyone is the same, and that is a wonderful thing.
Find out more about Gabrielle Bassett
Find out more about Annabelle Hale
Published by Woodslane Press
Release date: 01 May 2023
For ages 4 +
Thanks to Romi Sharp and Books on Tour PR & Marketing for the review copy of the book and promotional images
Matty’s dad is in prison and he and his mum don’t have enough money to pay the rent anymore. Plus the school bully, Noonan, has it in for him. But he still has Asha, his best friend in the whole wide world. One afternoon when he gets home from school, Matty finds mum has packed his things in the car and tells him they’re leaving tomorrow. They can’t pay the rent anymore and money – or the lack of it – is a big problem. Matty is devastated. She tells him they’re going to Crawley Creek to stay in the old house that his grandpa built but never got to live in. But what about Asha? They were planning on spending the summer together, before he went to the local high school where there were a thousand Noonans, and she went to the selective high school her adoptive parents were pushing her to go to. She was his only friend - apart from the magpie that warbles hello every day. When would he see her again? ‘Just for the summer,’ his mother assures him. ‘Just until we can get back on our feet a bit. Can you do this for me? For us Matty?’
This is a story about survival, renewal and forgiveness. The author writes with such depth, insight and understanding of the landscape, the sea, and the specialness of the world and those around us. He encourages us to look deep inside and find the strength to take care and pride in ourselves, our communities, and our country. His descriptions of the landscape and the creatures and spirits that dwell there, are hauntingly beautiful, and draw the reader further into country and the lives of those in the small township by the sea that is the backdrop for the story. Matty’s interactions with Old Bill, the town outcast, and his father who turns up unexpectedly, become increasingly complex as the tale unwinds. Yet they are also simple, and full of an inner yearning to belong, be seen as, and find, your true self. A nuanced, heartfelt and absorbing story of the interconnectedness of the people and places that enrich our lives.
Find out more about Bradley Christmas
Published by Walker Books Australia
Release date: 08 March, 2023
ISBN: 9781760656393 (PB)
Highly recommended for ages 10 +
Teaching themes could include: father-son relationships, families, coming of age, resilience, communities, friendship, change, compassion, sustainability, looking after country and indigenous culture.
Classroom notes by Walker Books found here
In this new picture book from Shae Millward we meet Ziggy, a rabbit who was once companion to The Amazing Albertino, a most marvellous and magnificent magician. They travelled the world together, delighting and surprising audiences. Albertino would make things disappear and then reappear, and when he tapped his wand three times and spoke the magic words, Ziggy would jump out of Albertino’s hat to the amazement of the crowd. After each performance, Alby (as Ziggy affectionately called him) would gaze up at the moon, and once told him, ‘The moon is a master of illusion Ziggy. It’s a dusty old rock. . . yet we see it as beautiful. It appears to shine but makes no light of its own. It seems to change shape, yet it is always whole.’ Albertino began spending a lot of time in his room, and Ziggy was certain he was working on a really BIG trick. Then one day when Ziggy woke up, Alby was gone. Alby had made all kinds of objects vanish before, but had never made himself disappear. And so Ziggy waits, and waits, and waits for him to reappear. As he waits, he meets Owl, and tells him how worried he is that something has gone wrong with the trick. Owl reassures him that the trick was a success, his greatest ever, and that he is not gone, but all around them. Albertino has simply changed from one form into another, and is now part of the moon, the stars, the rainbows and flowers. But most importantly, he will always be part of Ziggy's heart.
This is such a quietly emotive and beautiful tale of friendship, loss and acceptance. With the moon as a metaphor for being ever changing but at the same time always there, Shae Millward offers a gentle explanation of losing someone in the physical sense, but still having them with us in the memories and everyday reminders all around us. Andy Fackrell’s gorgeous illustrations are perfect support for the story, with his use of bold, bright colours when Ziggy and Alby are together, and subtle nighttime hues as Ziggy waits for his friend to return. Ziggy’s expressions from his sadness and confusion about Alby’s disappearance, to his pure joy at the realisation that he will always be with him, are enchanting and poignant in their simplicity. THE RABBIT’S MAGICIAN is an uplifting tale of love, comfort and remembrance, and would make a wonderful addition to collections and picture books dealing with grief.
Supporting teaching themes could include friendship, loss, grief, love, magic, rabbits, animals, magicians, the moon, phases of the moon.
Find out more about Shae Millward.
Find out more about Andy Fackrell.
Link to author interview with Shae Millward.
Link to lesson activities.
Published by Ford St.
ISBN: 9781922696076 (HB)
Highly recommended for ages 3 - 8
The Curiosities centers around a young boy named Miro, who begins to see the world in a way that is different to others. When the Curiosities first appear they seem to blend in, but gradually they show Miro the 'oddments and snippets', 'wonders and possibles' in the places where no-one else looks. Sometimes the curiosities would show Miro how to tickle songs from the earth, whisper up waves and dance with him deep into the night. The pull of the curiosities gradually became stronger and stronger and soon others in his village begin to notice them too. They became so loud that people began to stare, and no matter what he did, Miro could not tame them. They were almost unbearable, and he felt as though he was vanishing deep inside the earth. Then he heard the whisper of a village elder who helped Miro brush away the darkness of the curiosities. They were still there, but he found the more he connected with people, the easier it was to control them. And he noticed that many others had their own the curiosities too which helped him feel not so alone.
There are many who deal with neurodiversities and disabilities, and this book is a wonderful celebration of who we are and how we see ourselves, and encourages us to not to worry too much how others choose to see us. Zana Fraillon is one of my favourite YA authors and she has managed the cross over to picture books flawlessly. Her text is poignant and uplifting, but also challenging, asking us to know ourselves first before we look at how we perceive others. Phil's whimsical and playful images draw us into Miro's world to see what life looks like through his eyes. His clever depictions of the curiosities as recognisable but wisp-like creatures, make us aware but not afraid of them, and inspires us to embrace the curiosities in all of us.
Diversity, autism, neurodiversity, acceptance, empathy, perspective, community, culture and mental health are all topics that can be introduced and discussed when using this beautiful and highly recommended book in the classroom.
Find out more about Zana Fraillon
Find out more about Phil Lesnie
Published in 2021 by Hachette Australia
ISBN 9780734417848 (HB)
Recommended for ages 4 - 8
Bear is a little different to the others in his class. He prefers reading and the quiet of his own thoughts, to the lively goings on of the other bears. Space is quiet too, which is why Bear loves it so much. When he begins to design and build his own rocket ship, his classmates laugh at him, but Bear doesn't take too much notice. Once it's finished, he blasts off into the cosmos and marvels at all the wonderful things he can see. And best of all, in space, no-one laughs at his ideas. After a while though, space begins to feel a little lonely. Suddenly, out of his window, he notices a small speck coming towards him. It's Panda in another rocket ship! Bear invites Panda on board and together they share their stories about space over cups of hot chocolate. That's when Bear discovers that having a friend to share the journey with, is much more fun. A story about differences, friendship, and the power of acceptance.
This beautifully crafted story by Deborah Abela, is brought to life through the wonderful illustrations of Marjorie Crosby-Fairall. Deb's gentle, poignant text captures the loneliness that can be felt by children who are a little different, whilst at the same time celebrating being able to look at the world from another perspective. Marjorie's fun and colourful illustrations are the perfect accompaniment to the text, and with the many smaller details she's included on each page, you'll find something new to discover every time you read the book.
My students fell in love with Bear from the very first page, and this is an excellent book to use for discussions centered around acceptance, tolerance and friendship.
Published August 2020 by Walker Books Australia.
Click here for the official book trailer.
As a teacher librarian I tried to read as many of the books as I can that I purchase for my library. Obviously I don't get through them all, ('too many books, not enough time' is my catch cry!) but I do read all the picture books that come in. I think you'll guess by that confession, they are my favourite format. But there was one that had been ordered before I came to this library which I only just discovered today and it is Croc and Bird by Alexis Deacon.
I am also a writer and write (among other things) about inclusion, acceptance and tolerance. THIS is the book that I wish I had written! From the gentle, poignant text, to the simple but evocative illustrations, this book encapsulates the very essence of acceptance. If you don't have this already in your libraries or at home, you really should get a copy.
Two eggs hatch side by side. One is Croc. One is Bird. They do everything together until, one day, when they are grown, the river carries them away from the home they have made together. They find a lake full of crocodiles and birds and, after taking another look at each other, decide they should join the group with the animals that look like them. But some of the habits they've learned when they were together, don't quite fit with the rest of their kind. Eventually, after not being able to sleep in their new homes, they seek each other out and realise it doesn't matter about what they look like or how they behave. What matters most is how much they have missed each other and feel happiest when they are together.
Follow Alexis Deacon on Instagram.
Published in 2012 by Hutchison
Recommended for ages 2 - 6