I’ve been very fortunate to receive quite a few children’s and middle grade titles for review recently, and I wanted to recap a few of them here. I’ve also talked about them in a recent Kids Books vlog if you want to hear my immediate thoughts. Thank you to Allen & Unwin for the review copies!
The Very Hard Book by Idan Ben-Barak and Philip Bunting
Readership Age: 4-10
This dynamic author/illustrator duo have come up with a fun picturebook that challenges readers to ask ‘why’ to a whole host of fun questions. It opens up metacognitive thinking and has the potential for some really great, deep conversations… but also is just an enjoyable bedtime read. Ben-Barak always has fascinating, thought-provoking topics, and Bunting’s illustrations add a touch of whimsy that draws readers in, making them lean in to observe each and every page.
Big Feelings by Rebekah Ballagh
Readership Age: All ages
This is a great book that tackles the complicated topic of feelings and emotions. Each page in the book highlights a particular emotion kids (and adults) might feel on a daily basis, explaining it and providing examples of when/where/why someone might be feeling like that. At the back of the book, there’s a fantastic resource for any adult – parents/guardians/teachers – who might be reading this book with younger children. There are strategies for coping with big feelings, tools and tips and it’s all laid out in a very accessible way. This is a great book to add to bookshelves and classrooms everywhere.
Sky Dragon 5: Wave Breaker by Anh Doh
Readership Age: 8-14
This was my first foray into the Sky Dragon series by Anh Doh (and he’s very prolific with his children’s series!). Amber and her companion are taking time to rest and recover from recent events, but while spending time at one of the local beaches, Amber meets some of the locals who are concerned that local marine life are regularly beaching themselves on the shore. Amber begins to investigate and uncovers some unscrupulous behaviour happening off shore. I feel like I probably needed a little more context for Amber’s history (I wouldn’t recommend jumping in at this book), but I was intriguing by what was going on. I liked the environmental message that was a thread through the book – the impact of human behaviour on wildlife – and the fact that there was a constant level of action/adventure happening to keep readers engaged.
Sunny the Shark by Remy Lai
Readership Age: 6-9
What a pleasant surprise this little graphic novel is! Sunny is a Whitetip shark that gets caught on some plastic in the ocean. We see the impact this has on her life as it begins to prevent her from swimming/moving freely stopping her from hunting and slowing her down. It also touches on the important work researches are doing in tagging and tracking animals and trying to help (while minimising their impact on the animals). It’s a great story that also teaches children about sharks. There’s a fantastic section at the back of the book with facts and more information. The illustrations are bright and colourful and very engaging.
Writes of Passage: Words to Read Before You Turn 13 by Nicolette Jones
Readership Age: 9-13
I love to collect quotes, so this book was very appealing to me – it’s a curated collection of extracts from texts, quotes from speeches and lyrics. It’s beautifully presented – the colours, fonts and layouts are visually appealing. It’s broken into sections that you can flip through – including family, books, growing up, etc. I will say that it did feel very American/British-centric (not exclusively, but heavily weighted) in the texts extracts were selected from, so be aware of that.
Honour Among Ghosts by Sean Williams
Readership Age: 8-12
This middle grade title was a really pleasant surprise – a young girl watches her father be falsely accused of stealing from the house of the local magistrate and be imprisoned. She and her friends set about to prove his innocence and uncover a deeper problem of social inequity. There’s a little bit of a magic in this historical adventure, and a whole lot of heart. I really enjoyed reading watching the mystery slowly reveal itself and had fun with all the characters. This is for those children who enjoy a good mystery, ghosts and stories set in the past.
Through My Eyes: Mia by Dianne Wolfer
Readership Age: 11-14
Set during the 2019 cyclone off the coast of Western Australia, Mia is a young teen who finds herself braving the fierce weather alone when her veterinarian mother is called out to a farming station over an hour away. Mia is level headed in a crisis and works her way through the action plan for cyclones (a regular enough occurrence) while also looking after the animals on her family property and caring for the injured wildlife seeking shelter from the storm. The book also included a timeline of the events that occurred back in 2019, which makes it a great text to read in a classroom and to investigate what really happened.