Ten Little Figs, Rhian Williams, Nathaniel Eckstrom

Ten Little Figs, Rhian Williams, Nathaniel Eckstrom, Walker Books, 2020, rrp $24.99 Hb, isbn 9781921977312.

A delightful counting down book featuring a young child, his/her dog and a fig tree.

Beginning with the opening page …‘10 little figs are on my tree. I love figs and they’re all for me.’… we are drawn into the child’s world of wonder and questioning as at each the turn of a page a fig disappears.

Where do they go? Who takes them? Will there be any left for the child by the end of the story?

These are the questions we ask as we turn the pages and scour the clue filled pages for clues.

One by one the figs are taken by a selection of creatures that are all Australian and can be found in many backyards. I particularly loved this fact, reading about creatures from our country that many people may not realise are native…even the fig tree is a local!

The rhyming text is matched delightfully with colourful, fun illustrations. The expressions on the faces of the mischievous creatures are very funny and I love the eye glass the child uses for the 7 little figs page; such a lovely extra piece to the story.

I can see many parents/grandparents/carers reading this story to their young charges, laughing along with them.

The end page has a countdown of the figs along with a reminder of who ate them, such a nice way to recount the tale.

A lovely book that I am looking forward to reading with my grandson when the Covid19 restrictions are lifted.

Sharon Greenaway

30th April 2020.

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To the Bridge, Corinne Fenton, Andrew McLean

To the Bridge, The Journey of Lennie and Ginger Mick. Corinne Fenton, illustrated by Andrew McLean, Walker Books, 2020, rrp $26.99, isbn 9781925126822.

Another great picture book by Fenton based on real life characters. This one is about quite a remarkable young bloke by the name of Lennie Gwyther and his pony Ginger Mick.

Lennie was born in 1922 to a farming family in Leongatha, Victoria, Australia. Ginger Mick was born ‘the very same day…’

When Lennie was two he was given the pony and thus began a remarkable bond.

As Lennie grew he and Ginger Mick would collect the newspapers from the train and read about … ‘the news of Australia’s biggest bridge’…being built in Sydney, a place some 600 miles (around 1,000 kilometres) away. Lennie wanted to know all there was about this bridge.

When at the young age of 9 his father had an accident on the farm, Lennie took on the job of a man and worked the farm. When his father recovered he was amazed at all the jobs his son had tackled and offered Lennie a reward. For Lennie it was a trip to Sydney to see the opening of the bridge was all he ever wanted.

And so on 3rd February 1932 Lennie and his pony Ginger Mick took off on an adventure that would take them many weeks.

What they saw and who they met is what the rest of the book is about, along with illustrations that at times need no words to describe the sheer enormity of their journey.

Do they make it to the Sydney Harbour Bridge opening? Don’t go on line to find out but rather read and enjoy this beautiful rendition of a story that captures the heart and mind of both a young boy and a young country.

Another great picture book by Australian author Corinne Fenton

Sharon Greenaway

30th April 2020

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The Book of Chance, Sue Whiting

Book review

The Book of Chance, Sue Whiting, Walker Books, 2020, paperback, $17.99, 978 17 60651367 (Junior fiction).

Chance is in year seven and her mother is her everything, along with her dog Tiges and best friend-cum-almost sister Alek from next door.

Her mother is also highly regarded in the community as a helper of refugees settling into Australia.

So, together with her neighbours, Chance organises for the family home to be given a make over by the television show, I Just Wanted To Say Thank You.

Little does Chance know that this change in the family home will amount to so much more than just how the furniture and rooms will look. It will be the beginning of the end for how Chance sees herself and her mother.

The story is told through the eyes of Chance and begins (nearly) at the end, which is an intriguing way to start as it draws the reader into why and how Chance got into the predicament she is in.

Each chapter has a time frame and sub title, for example chapter 1 is Crossing the Bridge, Now. And then the next chapter begins the counting down from 37 days ago. This structure helps the reader to understand what is happening just that little more

Chance thinks in black and white, as is demonstrated early in the story with her reaction to a social media post from one of her best friends .

It is this attitude that will end up being the deciding factor in Chance dealing with the shock of discovering everything her mother had told her was a lie .

I don’t wish to add anything more to the review as this story is complex and at the same time rings true, which I found at at the end of the book that Whiting had based her story on ‘a real crime that was committed in 1998 but not solved until 2017’ .

I have attached at the bottom of my review the blurb from Walker Books which sums up the story well

An intriguing and poignant novel; worth a read .

Sharon Greenaway

‘Chance is a black-and-white thinker until she realises that sometimes there are shades of grey.

Chance is in Year 7 and thinks she has it all – a loving mother, dog Tiges, best friend and almost-sister next door. But when a reality TV team makes over her house, she discovers newspaper cuttings from the past that cause her to question the world as she knows it and everyone in it. Then she finds herself caught between two realities, identities and worlds. Face-to-face with the truth, Chance has a very difficult decision to make, which almost splits her in two. This powerful story explores what is true and what is fake in today’s world. And while Chance is all about the truth, she ponders whether “Maybe being truthful was really just a big lie.” ‘(Walker promotional blurb)

Junior fiction that covers honesty and truthfulness versus the complete opposite
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Nop

Nop, Caroline Magerl, Walker Books, 2019, isbn 9781760651251, RRP $26.99 hb.

Nop is a ragged little teddy bear at Oddmint’s Dumporeum ( I love this word, it conjurs up so many ideas to its meaning).

Nop is lost amongst a crowd of others – all toys seeking a new home. At night, as in many a fairy story, the toys come alive in order to mend one another and thus make themselves more acceptable to potential new owners.

The following day the shop is busy with every toy except Nop, having …’somewhere wonderful to go.’

But it is the rags that are leftover that Nop sees as an opportunity to find his own destiny rather than waiting on someone else to make it happen.

And so he sews a wonderful balloon in which he grasps for freedom.

The watercolours Magerl uses give such an incredible whimsical feel to the story, an almost dreamlike quality which draws you in and makes you want to examine each page for clues as to what is happening.

For me it is the use of the written language that is just as if not more enticing in this story.

…’In a place soft with dust’…’A crinkly paper bag for each…’ are just two examples of the life that is created with Magerl’s words.

This story is a fairy tale of the times: a child’s loneliness is tackled in a positive way, where the underlying message is to stay strong and true to who you are.

Before reviewing this book I read an interview with Magerl which I found to be enlightening as to what influences her work.

Teachers and parents/guardians will find this of interest too.

https://lamppostmagazine.com/2019/10/27/literary-life-an-interview-with-caroline-magerl/

A lovely story,

Sharon Greenaway

15th November 2019.

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The Pigeon has to go to school.

The Pigeon has to go to school!

Words and pictures by Mo Willems, Walker books, 2019, softcover, isbn 9781406389012, $16.99

This book is about the Pigeon who really does not want to go to school, even the reading out of the title of the story alarms it.

The Pigeon begins by stating there is nothing to learn at school because it already knows everything (parents may relate to their child here).

From there the Pigeon asks lots of questions that worry it, such as when are school start times, whether the teacher will like pigeons or how will the Pigeon cope with all the stuff there is to learn…

What if I learn too much? My head might pop off.’ It says. The accompanying illustration made me chuckle relieving the tension that is being built up as the reader realises just how worrying the thought of school can be for a child (the Pigeon), especially if the child has never been before with his or her older siblings. Turning over to the following double page spread of a tiny Pigeon in a sea of pale grey nothingness is such a poignant way of illustrating just how small and scared the Pigeon really feels.

This book is so good at being a straight talking picture story book for grown ups and children alike.

It gives grown-ups an insight into how their child may be feeling at the prospect of school for the first time. During the reading of the story the child and grown-up can sit down and discuss why the Pigeon feels this way about school and offer answers together. The positively lovely denouement with the contrasting end papers will make this story one that will be read again.

Recommended for all children and grown-ups starting their new school life together.

Sharon Greenaway.

8th October 2019

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