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+
Just when Penny thought things in Year 5 were actually going okay. With the help of her friends Maria, Kristian, Petra and Rocco, and Cosmo her dog, she figures she can cope with pretty much anything. And there’s always her doodling and her chats with Mrs Hines, the Feelings Teacher if she gets a little anxious again. But little does Penny know that life in 5th grade and at home is going to change in a BIG way.
She came home from school one day in January and was told they were moving house! Her mum was expecting twins, and they needed more room, so they had to move. But Penny didn’t want to move away from her old house. What if the old house was mad they had moved? What if the new owners were messy or painted the walls hideous colours? What if one of the chandelier crystals in her new room fell on her head in the middle of the night? What if she couldn’t organise all her stuff for the movers in time?
Then the 5th grade replacement teacher Miss Kettle told the class everyone had to be involved in the school play that her friend Petra had written. She wasn’t too worried as she was cast as the bat and all she had to do was flutter. That is until halfway through rehearsals, she found out the bat was also the narrator. She would have to speak on stage!
And then there was the problem with her new neighbourhood friend Chloe who hated her friend Maria. How was she ever going to solve that? Problems were everywhere and EVERYTHING was changing! What was she going to do?
In this warm, insightful, and at times laugh out loud second book in the Penny Draws series, award winning author Sara Shepard takes us along on Penny’s journey through the changes that rekindle her anxiety. We are told in a simple and truthful way how this affects Penny and her ability to cope. The strategy proposed by her Feelings Teacher, Mrs Hines, doesn’t seem to work at first, and it is only as the story unfolds that Penny realises how brave she has become and that everything will be okay. The concern and empathy shown for Penny by her friends and family is the wonderful and uplifting thread woven into the story that tugs at the heartstrings of the reader and helps create a deeper understanding of the effects of anxiety.
Teaching themes could include anxiety, families, friendship, acting, writing, diaries, dogs, coping strategies and change.
Find out more about Sara Shepard and Penny
Published by Text Publishing
Release date: 5 September 2023
ISBN: 9781922790408 (PB)
Highly recommended for ages 8+
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
Ben has lived with his aunt Samantha ever since he suffered a brain injury six years ago. His injury caused memory problems which means he can't remember anything about his past or his parents, or why his aunt seems to resent him so much. There are no photographs or keepsakes in the house to give him clues about his parents, except for a postcard, sent from Barcelona, that he salvaged from the bin when Samantha wasn’t looking. And lately, he seems to be forgetting things a lot more. He's so worried he could lose his memory forever, that he's taken to drawing his ideas on paper and keeping them hidden.
But today when he woke up, things felt different. The dream he frequently had about a dark cave with no way out had changed. He had seen a shaft of light ahead in the blackness and hurried towards it but, when he was almost there, his bedside alarm went off. As he rushed downstairs to help his aunt get ready for school, the sound of the clocks in the house intensified and then suddenly, stopped. His aunt didn’t seem to notice. Ben hadn't realised it was his twelfth birthday until he had began organising Samantha's notebooks and saw the date on the first page. September 15th. That’s when it started again. All the clocks in the house began ticking and clanging at once, the radio screeched, and the drips from the kitchen taps sounded like hail. The hands on the clocks started winding backwards, a storm began to brew outside, and he felt an intense tingling sensation run through his body as he fell to the floor. Then there was silence. When he opened his eyes, he was not in the kitchen anymore.
And so Jayben’s journey begins into the Elf world. He discovers that he is the Ninth Dreamer, the one prophesised to reignite the torch and bring peace to the land, and help the elves regain their memories instead of having to hang them in jars on trees so they don’t forget. With the help of his new-found friends Phee, Peggro, Maggie, Raynor and Yespa, they must get to the last rock, find Jayben’s memory chord, avoid getting caught by the agents, defeat the evil Snaggis, and destroy Null – the false Ninth Dreamer. But things are not as easy as they seem, and treachery hides in places where they least expect.
This is a fast paced, exciting, thrill a minute adventure into a new fantasy realm created by Thomas Leeds. A whole world of creatures and magic opens up from the very beginning. Evil witches, fantastic beasts, strange lands and powerful magic entice the reader deeper into the story with every page turn. A powerful new series from an author who has experienced the trauma of brain injury and memory loss himself, this has the potential to become the next sought-after fantasy classic for upper primary/middle grade readers. The cover art is both gorgeous and intriguing, and captures the essence of the story beautifully. There is so much more of this adventure waiting to be told!
Supporting teaching themes could include friendship, courage, fantasy, magic, magical realms, memory loss, neurological disorders, witches, families.
Find out more about Thomas Leeds
Cover Illustration Teo Skaffa
Published by Hodder & Stoughton (an imprint of Hachette UK)
Release date 2 February 2023.
ISBN: 9781444968637 (HB)
Highly recommended ages 9 - 13
'I don't want this yucky roast. I just want some cheese on toast.' The child in the story finds something unpleasant about every vegetable on his plate and refuses to try the healthy food in front of him. The refrain on each page of 'What I really want the most, is some yummy cheese on toast' is a familiar one many parents will recognise at dinner time! As the child goes through each of the items on his plate, the patient mum finally asks '. . . don't you want to grow up strong? Every mother can't be wrong!' The boy then reluctantly tries the food and discovers that roast and vegies are actually extremely yummy - maybe even better than cheese on toast!
This new story by Kelly Louise Jarris is one every family will relate to. The sparse, simple text combined with the repetition of 'What I really want the most, is some yummy cheese on toast', is highly engaging and perfect for beginning readers. The cartoon-style illustrations are large and colourful, and the perfect compliment to the text for this age group.
Published by KLJ Books
ISBN: 9780645535136 (PB)
Recommended for ages 3 - 5
Thanks to Romi Sharp and Books On Tour PR & Marketing for access to book images.
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When a little girl asks ‘Are you there? It’s so lonely in the dark!’, her older sister tells her to imagine they are feathers on a wing, and takes her on a journey of imagination to help her realise that she is never alone. Whether they are links in a daisy chain, stitches in a scarf, branches in an ancient tree, or stones in a bridge standing strong together, the older sister reminds the younger that they will always be connected, and always be part of a bigger whole in some way.
This is such a beautiful story and the words have a gentle, soothing quality to them that immediately draws the reader in. The lilting, rhythmic style is reminiscent of a hushaby song which is supported by the music, written in a minor key, that Maria Speyer has included in the endpapers. The stunning illustrations, also by the author, add to the dreamlike quality of the story, and the palette of soft blues, coral pinks and mustard yellows accentuate its ethereal nature. The hint of gold in the feathers and title text makes for a striking and dazzling cover.
Supporting teaching themes could include sisters, families, relationships, dreams, rhyming stories, music.
Find out more about Maria Speyer.
Published by University of Queensland Press (UQP)
ISBN: 9780702263255 (HB)
Highly recommended for ages 4 - 7
Chris McKimmie has a knack of being able to capture the essence of a story with language and images that are simple yet also have an underlying complexity that goes beyond what is on the page. His latest picture book is no exception. In The New Dog we meet Kiddo. Kiddo is very happy with the two snuggly futon beds, the water and food bowls, the king size bed he shares with his humans and the box full of stuff that Teddy has left behind. From this very first page Chris McKimmie reveals another layer to the story and gives us a subtle insight into the reason Kiddo has become part of this family. Kiddo loves to chew, dig, play, bark and eat anything left lying around or within reach on the kitchen bench! He’s also afraid of storms, hates baths and loves lying in the warm patches of sunshine in his yard. All the things you would expect from a loveable canine. Chris’s illustrations are a joy with bright colours and a slightly imperfect perspective that children love and see reflected in their own artwork. There is also a little help from his family for some of the drawings which adds to the feeling of warmth and inclusion in the images. There are clever plays on text direction and font changes which add to the fun and involvement for the reader. This warm and engaging story is a must have for anyone who has ever lost a canine friend and then experienced the delight of welcoming a new, playful, mischievous and instantly loveable family companion.
Chris McKimmie is an award-winning writer, illustrator and artist whose book I NEED A Parrot, won the CBCA Picture Book of the Year Award in 2020. His stories are always quirky, eye catching and totally relatable for younger readers. The New Dog, aimed at readers aged 4 +, could almost be seen as a sequel to Me, Teddy, the story of the family’s beloved black Labrador, and would make a wonderful addition to any collection of animal stories.
This review can also be found online in BuzzWordsMagazine
Supporting teaching themes could include animals, dogs, loss of a pet, families, grief and stylized artwork.
Find out more about Chris McKimmie
Published by Ford Street Publishing
ISBN 9781922696038 (HB)
Highly recommended for ages 4 +
Matty has everything going for him - a loving family, great friends, great skills on the soccer field and pretty good grades at school - which should add up to a great life right? Well they did, until recently. When soccer season started this year Matty found he couldn't get himself onto the pitch without sweaty palms, a racing heartbeat and a mind that kept telling him he wasn't good enough. And he couldn't figure out why. Things got worse when he began dodging his friends calls and texts, missing birthday parties, not doing homework and avoiding school. He felt guilty, scared, angry and sad with himself, and all he really wanted to do was sleep the world away. But one morning his dad convinced him to go for a walk in the local national park where they came across an abandoned dog. Matty felt an instant connection to this small, frightened creature. After coaxing him into their car, taking him to the vet and eventually being allowed to adopt him and bring him home, 'Cliff' and Matty become inseparable. Cliff has 'good days and bad days', and as the dog begins to heal, Matty realises that he needs help to heal too. He summons up all his courage to eventually tell his dad that he thinks he might be depressed, to which his dad replies 'You've no idea how brave you're being by telling me that.' This is one of my favourite moments of the book. Kate Foster writes with such clarity, compassion and understanding about Matty's struggles. There is a beautiful empathy and strength that shines through in this story, and the relief Matty feels after he finally tells his closest friends about his depression is palpable. As is the surprise when he discovers that someone else his own age, whom he would never have suspected, is suffering from severe anxiety. This is my other favourite moment in the book as it is Matty's realisation that he is not alone.
Animals, especially dogs (sorry but I'm totally biased about this!) are the perfect listeners and companions for when we're not feeling great. They know when we need a snuggle and will goof around with us when we're happy. They are like mirrors into our souls, emotional soothsayers, and seem to have an innate understanding of exactly what we need at any given time. Cliff was Matty's ideal companion.
Kate's own experience with depression has no doubt given her an invaluable, first hand insight into this illness. Her writing is filled with emotion, and the story is meaningful and transparent without being patronising or reductive. This is an important, must have, highly recommended novel for upper primary and middle school.
Matty is not alone as a young man suffering with depression as, according to the Beyond Blue organisation, one in seven young men aged between 16 and 24 experience depression or anxiety each year. If you are suffering from mental health issues you can contact Headspace, Kids Helpine or Reachout.
Themes for teaching could include mental health, depression, anxiety, friendship, courage, self awareness, dogs, pets as therapy, families and father-son relationships.
Find out more about Kate Foster.
Release date May 4, 2022. Published by Walker Books Australia
ISBN: 9781760654719 (PB)
Highly recommended for ages 9 +
The Glint of Gold is there everyday if you look for it. You can see it in the white plum blossoms, the sparkles Jack Frost leaves and the colours of a sunset. You can hear it when you sing or listen to the song of a magpie, smell it when you walk in the bush after the rain, feel it when you dance in bare feet on the grass or snuggle close to someone. Each glint of gold is like a piece of treasure to be thankful for and remembered at the end of the day, knowing there will be more for us to find tomorrow. This is a beautiful, comforting story about taking pleasure in the every day. Kate's lilting text encourages us to slow down and look around at the small things that fill our hearts and bring a smile to our faces when we least expect it. Patricia's illustrations are full of colour and vibrance and with every page turn the reader discovers a new 'glint of gold'. A wonderful story of gratitude and mindfulness, The Glint of Gold is a celebration of the senses and the heart.
Wellbeing, mindfulness, families and the colours and animals of the Australian bush could all be linked as teaching ideas to this gentle story. With thanks to Books On Tour PR & Marketing and Little Pink Dog Books for access to the digital copy.
Find out more about Kate McGann here.
Find out more about Trish here.
Published 2021 by Little Pink Dog Books.
ISBN 9780648964032 (HB)
Recommended for ages 4 - 7
In this book by Peter Carnavas, we meet Mary, a quiet girl living in a noisy family. Mary thinks quiet thoughts, steps quiet steps and whispers quiet words. She is so quiet that no-one in her family hears her. She decides to be even quieter still, and eventually it is like she has disappeared completely. When her family stops being noisy for a moment and discovers they cannot find her, they begin calling her name and searching the neighbourhood. Finally, when they stop calling and stand still and listen, they hear Mary's tiny, quiet voice singing to the birds under the tree at the end of their street, where she had been all along. The family realised it wasn't until they were quiet that they could really hear her. The simple, elegant text is supported by Carnavas's illustrations in soft, gentle colours and the use of black and white to highlight Mary as she fades is beautiful.
This book is a celebration of those who are quieter than the rest of us, and who like to take their time and stop, wonder and listen to what is all around them.
Published in 2019 by University of Queensland Press
Recommended for ages 4 - 7