It’s a new month which means time to share what I read last month. July was cold, and a bit lazy – I took a week’s annual leave from my day job, and read a lot. And then I had Covid, with a week of enforced rest – and read a lot more. So I was not so surprised to realised I had managed 23 books in the month. And some good ones too! Here’s what I got through:
Books for Kids
- Alex and the Alpacas Ride Again, by Kathryn Lefroy (Fremantle Press, 2022). This is the sequel to Alex and the Alpacas Save the World, which I read when it was released, and has been rereleased so that new readers can enjoy them both. It was great to get to see what happens next to Alex – who thought she’d saved the world (with some help from her grandpa and his alpacas) , but now discovers that the job was only half done. Set in Melbourne, with plenty of action and a dash of humour, this is a gripping read.
- Zadie Ma and the dog who chased the moon, by Gabrielle Wang (Penguin,2022). Zadie’s life isn’t always easy – her father has shell shock from fighting in the war, and her mother seems to love Zadie’s little brother Teddy, but not Zadie. To escape, Zadie writes stories – but when she discovers that her stories have a way of coming true, she decides to write the story of a dog, in hopes she will end up owning that dog. Whimsical, and lovely.
- The Lost Child of Chernobyl, by Helen Bates (Otter Barry Books, 2021). This was in my to-read pile for a while, and I think must have been sent as a review copy. A graphic novel, inspired by the real events of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster of 1986. Although the child’s story is fictitious, the real events and the message of healing and of humankind’s impact on the world, is very real.
- Cat Problems, by Jory John, illustrated by Lane Smith (Walker Books, 2021). Another one from my review pile (can you tell I’ve been having a clean out?), this is a humorous tale of one cat’s day, which is filled with problems – moving sunbeams, noisy household machines, and even another cat who is ALWAYS in the way.
- The Way of Dog, by Zana Fraillon ((UQP, 2022). You know I love pretty much every verse novel ever, so it will be no surprise when I say how much I loved this offering. Written in the voice of the dog, Scruffity, there’s some humour but also lots of feelings, as Scruffity and the people he meets have some big life challenges. I may have cried, but that’s also no surprise..
- August and Jones, by Pip Harry (Lothian, 2022). Jones isn’t happy about moving to the city, but August is happy when he is chosen as her buddy, to show her around the school. The two quickly become friends, and support each other through some really tough times. Pip Harry is an amazing writer, and this one’s another winner.
- Across the Risen Sea, by Bren Macdibble (Allen & Unwin, 2020). Not sure why I hadn’t read this book yet, given that Bren’s one of my favourite writers for middle grade, and an all round lovely person, too. But I realised I didn’t have it, and bought a copy from a lovely bookshop in Dunsborough, and then read it in a day, because I couldn’t pout it down. Set is a post apocalyptic world, with two young friends drawn in drama and adventure involving dangerous trip across the inland sea which global warming has created, evading pirates, giant sharks and crocodiles, in a quest to save their peace-loving village. What’s not love?
- A Clue for Clara, by Lian Tanner (Allen & Unwin, 2020). I bought this after listening to Lian speak at the recent CBCA National Conference. She is a clever, funny speaker, and I was not at all surprised that this translates into her writing as well. Clara is a chicken who has decided she wants to be a detective, just like the one’s she has seen on the Boss’s television. But she’s a small scruffy chicken and not even the other chickens take her seriously – so how can she convince the humans? Fortunately she meets Olive, the daughter of the local policeman. Lots of fun and adventure ensue.
- Tilda, by Sue Whiting (Walker Books, 2022). I have been looking forward to this one for quite a while, since Sue told me the piece of her own family history which inspired the beginnings of Tilda’s story. So I was delighted to receive a review copy ahead of its September release, and read it in two sittings. Set at the turn of the twentieth century in a fictional orphanage, where Tilda is left by her father when he goes to serve in the Boer War. Tilda is mistreated by the dreadful Sister Agatha, and must use all her courage – and some resourceful friends – to survive. A wonderful read.
- Rita’s Revenge, by Lian Tanner (Allen & Unwin, 2022). Having adored Clara, I was delighted to see there was a sequel and, of course, I had to read it. What’s funnier that a chicken detective? A duck out for revenge on that chicken! Just like the first book, this is clever, funny and exciting in equal measure.
- Ella and the Useless Day, by Meg McKinlay & Karen Blair (Walker Books, 2002). Another review copy, and another one I have been waiting for excitedly. I wasn’t disappointed. Far from being useless, Ella’s day is very rewarding, as she and her dad clear out all the items clogging their house that they deem useless – and discover that these very items may indeed be useful for other people. Such a fun book, with a subtly lovely message.
- I am Susannah, by Libby Gleeson (Angus & Roberston, 1987). I’m really enjoying dipping into some of the Australian authors I deeply admire. Frist published in the 80s, this one still holds up . Susie’s best friend has moved away, and this devastates her. Now she is navigating issues of peer pressure, friendship and independence, with no one close who understands, least of all her mum.
- Miss Penny Dreadful & the Midnight Kittens, by Allison Rushby, with illustrations by Bronte Rose Marando (Walker Books, 2022). A fun new series, set in 1872, with the main character, Penny, finding herself travelling with her famous authoress aunt and caught up in the mystery of apparently bewitched kittens. The ending hints at the next mystery, and I look forward to reading it.
- Dreaming by Starlight, by Siobhan Curham (Walker Books, 2022). A middle grade story about friendship and fitting in. The main character, Jazz, has moved to England from Australia and is having trouble settling down until her older cousin tells her about a secret club she used to run called the Midnight Dreamers (who featured in earlier books by the same author, although this one stands alone, too). Jazz follows the same steps and finds three new friends, each with their own set of challenges.
15. The Boy Who Met a Whale, by Nizrana Farook (Nosy Crow, 2021). I bought this on the basis of its amazing cover. and really enjoyed it – a blend of adventure, resilience, facing up to fears and more. And yes, there are whales!
16. Rabbit, Soldier, Angel, Thief, by Katrina Nannestad (ABC Books, 2021). Another beautiful cover, and another beautiful book. Set in Russia in 142 as a six year old Sasha is orphaned and finds himself travelling with the army, sheltering but also providing comfort and support to his new friends.
Fiction for Young Adults
- The Hidden Girl, by Louise Bassett (Walker Books, 2022). Another review copy. I enjoyed this debut novel , set in Melbourne and Indonesia. Mel has a chequered past at school but has tried to keep her head down at her new school. When she discovers a diary with a coded cry for help, she finds it increasingly difficult to stay out of trouble and do the right thing.
Fiction for Adults
- Cotillion, by Georgette Heyer (Heinemann, 1953). When my mother downsized late last year, I was gifted her collection of Heyer’s books, which I had loved in my late teens but not delved into since. I finally made time to read one – Cotillion. Regency romance, with an heiress who will only inherit if she marries one of her benefactor’s great nephews. Amusing, and an easy read, just right for a cold winter evenings. I’ll be reading more, when I have time.
- The Case Book of Sherlock Holmes, by Arthur Conan Doyle. It’s taken a while, but having finished this one I’ve now listened tot he entire collection of Sherlock Holmes books. Nice tor each the end because it’s an achievement, but will miss the writing and the voice of Stephen Fry, who has beenr eading them to me for months and months, in between other audiobooks.
- Benang, by Kim Scott (Fremantle Arts Centre Press, 1999). I hadn’t read this before, though had long meant to. Now I have I wonder why I took so long, but also how many rereadings the book will need before I have unravelled its complexity. There is a lot going on – and that confusion for the reader is deliberate, because the subject matter is complex, and deep and also the narrator’s unravelling of his family’s history is just as confusing for him. Harley is a Noongyar man who is trying to work through the truth of this fact, with the knowledge that his grandfather, a white man, believes he has ‘bred’ Harely to be the frist white Noongyar – ie that he has bred the Noongyar out of him. A disturbing premise, but not as disturbing as knowing that this work is rooted deeply in the history of Western Australia and colonial policies.
- Adultolescence, by Gabbie Hanna (Simon & Schuster, 2017). I picked this one up because of its title, and enjoyed the sometimes irreverent, often funny and very real poetry it contained, dealing with love, life and adulthood in all its guises.
Nonfiction for Adults
- The Art of Storytelling: From Parents to Professionals, by Hannah B. Harvey (Audible, 2012). I got a lot out of this. Aimed at those who want to tell stories – either professionally or more informally, I found that it had a lot to offer a writer as well and, because I use oral storytelling in my sessions, I picked up lots of tips there, too.
- Bedtime Story, by Chloe Hooper, illustrated by Anna Walker (Scribner, 2022). Oh gosh! This is the most beautiful, heartbreakingly honest book. I cried in the first chapter, and several times afterwards. A letter from the author to her son as the family navigates a journey through i9llness. Hooper searches for a children’s book to help, and the book delves into children’s literature, and at he lives of children’s authors, along with issues of life, death, honesty and so much more. With stunning illustrations by the amazing Anna Walker, this is truly a beautiful book
That brings my total for the year (so far) to 104 books, creeping closer to my target of matching last year’s 153. We’ll see – 49 more seems doable, but it’s been a year of busyness so we shall see.
What have you been reading?