Time to reflect on what I read last month – and, because it’s also a new year, my the year as a whole. In December I cleaned out my to-read cupboard, and when I counted up how many books are waiting for my attention, realised I needed to perhaps not buy any new books in December. I did manage that, even though it was a challenge. So, all bar two of the 14 books I read came from that cupboard. The exceptions were the Trixie Belden book, which I had to dig out of a storage crate in my back shed, and a Christmas book which was a gift. So, here’s what I read in December.
Books for Children
- Secret of the Unseen Treasure , by Kathyrn Kenny (Golden Press, 1977). When I was in primary school I adored the Trixie Belden series, and much later bought the whole series off ebay for my own children to enjoy. But it had been some time since I read one for myself. I chose this one because of its title, and enjoyed getting back into Trixie’s adventures.
- One Wrong Turn, by Chenee Marrapodi (Fremantle Press, 2023). I loved this story of ballet rivalry, belonging and the challenges of trying to follow dreams while still maintaining friendships and other responsibilities. The two characters both dream of being professional ballerinas, but their rivalry threatens to derail these plans. You don’t have to love ballet as much as this pair in order to really relate to this story.
- Space Kids: Mars Mission, by Aleesah Darlison, illustrated by Nancy Bevington (Big Sky, 2023). This was a review copy I picked up out of my to-read pile. I hadn’t read the other titles in the series, but was pleased to see it stands alone so although a young reader might like to read them in order, they could still enjoy it on its own. A group of kids living on a Space Station where their parents work, and, in this instalment, an adventure to Mars.
- Super Sloth Episode 1: The Shar-Wolf of New York City, by Aleesah Darlison, illustrated by Cheri Hughes (Big Sky, 2023). Another from my review pile, by the same author. The first in a series featuring an unlikely superhero – a sloth named Romeo who, with his new friends, rescues New York from a mutant shar-wolf.
- The Bookseller’s Apprentice, by Amelia Mellor (Affirm press, 2022). Not sure why it took me so long to get around to reading this which was in my to-read pile for over a year. It’s a delight to read – filled with action, magic, nastiness and loveliness, set in a magical late 1800s Melbourne.
- The Sixpenny Island, by Ruth Park, illustrated by David Cox (Ure Smith, 1968). I picked this up at a second hand book sale and enjoyed it – the story of an English family who, newly arrived in Australia, win a remote tropical island in a lottery, and decide to spend time there. I was surprised when I went looking for it for sale online to link to, to find that it seems quite rare, and also fetches a good price second hand so it seems I scored myself a bargain.
- Clancy’s Cabin, by Margaret Mahy (Puffin Books, 1987, first published 1977). Another second hand treasure as three siblings have an adventure holidaying in the cabin their father played in as a child, and solving a mystery.
- Stuff and Nonsense, Compiled by Michael Dugan, illustrated by Deborah Niland (Collins, 1974). And another second hand find. An anthology of nonsense and humorous poems, some by Dugan and others from further afield, including a sprinkling written by children.
- Brigid Lucy Wants a Pet, by Leonie Norrington, illustrated by Tamsin Ainslie (Little Hare, 2011). And yes yet another second hand treasure. Not sure how I missed this series when it was new, but glad I at least read this one. What’s not to love about a story narrated by an imp – which lives, unseen, in Brigid’s hair, giving us a close up into Brigid’s life as she navigates life, trying hard to be good.
- Toodle the Cavoodle: Crunchy Munchy, by Richard Tulloch & Heidi Cooper Smith (Big Sky, 2023). When I tidied up my to-read pile , I sat down and read three picture books in one sitting, all review copies from the one publisher. Not a bad way to spend an hour. I’ve read a Toodle book before, and love the rendering of this little dog and his adventures. This time Toodle realises there is something wrong with one of the humans on Lillipilly Lane and needs to raise the alarm.
- Who’s the Gang on Our Street?, by Susanne Gervay & Nancy Bevington (Big Sky, 2023). Another delight – this time focussing on a much-loved local Australian gang – of the bird variety. Cheeky sulphur-crested cockatoos flit through the pages, with readers encouraged to guess who they are.
- Ruby’s Rescue, by Elizabeth Mary Cummings & Cheri Hughes (Big Sky, 2023). The third of the three picture books, focussing on the plight of animals injured during bushfires.
- Stepfather Christmas: A Festive Countdown Story in 25 Chapters, by L.D. Lapinski (Orion, 2023). What a cool concept for a book – a Christmas story with 25 stories so that you read one chapter each day (or night) in December, culminating oat Christmas – so, in effect, an Advent book. Even cooler for me was that it was gift from my gorgeous friend Tamara reads, meaning I could imagine her reading the same chapter each day.
Books for Adults
- Cellnight: A verse novel, by John Kinsella (Transit Lounge, 2023). A beautifully wrought verse novel – told in ‘spindle’ sonnets and moving between protests against visiting nuclear armed US ships to Fremantle in the 1980s as well as events before and after in a novel that challenges power in many forms.
This brings my total for 2023 to 133 books. This is 34 less than I read in 2022, which is fine – I actually had a goal to not worry about numbers, but about quality and enjoying what I read. And I did, especially enjoying the number of classic Australian children’s books i read, especially ones I’d not read before, thanks to various second hand book shopping expeditions – planned and unplanned.
In 2024 I aim, again, to not worry about quantity, though I would like to significantly reduce the to-read pile which takes up a lot of cupboard space. There are two ways to do this – by reading them all or by moving them from there to by general shelves. Probably I need to not do the latter, as my shelves are already overflowing. I do feel that I need to either get more bookshelves, or actually do more rehoming of books so that instead of sitting unread they get to be in the hands of other readers.
Anyway, too many books is a lovely problem to have, so I am not worried about it – just pondering a dilemma many book lovers have. To keep or to share. And i like to do a bit of both.
Here’s to an excellent year of reading coming to an end, and to an equally excellent one beginning. I’d love to hear what YOU have been reading.