Bancroft, Bronwyn (text/illus.)
Why I love Australia
Surry Hills, N.S.W.: Little Hare Books, 2010. – [32] p.
ISBN 978-1-921541-78-0
Australia – Landscape – Nature
In this exquisite picture book, award-winning indigenous Australian artist and illustrator Bronwyn Bancroft celebrates characteristic landscapes and features of her beloved home country. As she explains in a note at the back, a small Aboriginal figure holding a wooden bowl with smoke drifting from it is included in each picture; he represents a traditional cleansing ceremony and serves as a host inviting readers to enter the different landscapes they see on each double-page spread. From beaches, bush land, rainforest, and snowy mountains to suburbs and city life, Bancroft portrays the separate scenes in glowing bright colours and hypnotising traditional patterns. The succinct, poetic text is clearly infused with her love and respect for the vast continent. (Age: 3+) 

Edwards, Hazel / Kennedy, Ryan
F2m. The boy within
Melbourne, Vict.: Ford St Publ., 2010. – 330 p.
ISBN 978-1-876462-90-1
Transsexualism – Gender identity – Transitioning – Acceptance
Gender transitioning is by no means a common topic in young adult fiction. Yet this is exactly what Hazel Edwards and Ryan Kennedy – who himself grew up as a girl and transitioned at twenty-seven – have chosen to tackle. The result is a striking and authentic account of eighteen-year-old punk girl Skye who feels increasingly uncomfortable in her own body. The jumpy first-person narration makes readers witness how desperately Skye tries to make sense of her life. Intensive Internet research about gender identity confirms her suspicion that, although she was officially born as a girl, she has always been a boy inside. Turning from Skye into Finn is a psychologically, socially, and financially stressful struggle that often leaves the young protagonist completely exhausted but makes him look forward to his new life. (Age: 16+) 

Hartnett, Sonya
The midnight zoo
Camberwell, Victoria: Viking, 2010. – 186 p.
ISBN 978-0-670-07405-1
War – Orphan – Survival – Zoo animals – Freedom
This poetic children’s novel by award-winning author Sonya Hartnett is a quiet, multi-layered fable. Set in a war-torn country somewhere in Eastern Europe, the powerful metaphorical story follows Andrej and Tomas, two young Romany brothers, who numbly trudge through the dark and desolate land; carrying their baby sister and their few belongings from one destroyed village to the next, they search for food and shelter. One night they stumble upon a small deserted zoo on the edge of a town and meet its wise caged animal inhabitants. Frightened at first, the two boys listen attentively as lioness, wolf, bear, kangaroo, and the others share their sad stories; the tales inspire the boys (and the readers) to philosophise about war, courage, and freedom as they try to find new hope for their future. (Age: 10+)

Jeffrey, Belinda
Big river, little fish
St Lucia, Qld.: University of Queensland Press, 2010. – 268 p.
ISBN 978-0-7022-3850-5
Australia /1956 – Flood – Survival – Outsider – Expectations – Father – Son – Friendship
Belinda Jeffrey’s multi-layered second teenage novel is set in a small town on the banks of the Murray River in South Australia. In her quiet and intriguing third-person narration, the author follows the thoughts and emotions of her fifteen-year-old protagonist, who doesn’t fit in with the rest of the world. Tom – or “Mot” as his best friend Hannah likes to call him because he was born backwards – can’t read or write properly; he doesn’t meet anyone’s expectations and feels most comfortable alone down at Old Mother Murray, the big river that’s threatening to drown the town completely during the winter flood of 1956. Yet in desperate times, Tom finds his own strength and skills, and the town folk realise that there is more to the lonely boy than meets the eye. (Age: 14+)

Macinnis, Peter
Australian backyard explorer. [Explorers, adventures, fascinating facts, backyard projects]
Canberra: National Library of Australia, 2010. – 191 p.
ISBN 978-0-642-27684-1
Australia/1700-1900 – Explorer – Expedition
This comprehensive non-fiction book does not only provide a wealth of facts about Australian explorers from the eighteenth and nineteenth century, such as who they were, what kind of aims they had, which problems they encountered, or how their knowledge survived until the present day. In addition, the author successfully bridges the gap between past actions and achievements and modern-day life by suggesting a variety of projects and experiments that young readers will be able to perform in their own “backyard”. Divided into short portions of text, which are complemented by additional information (such as diary entries or boxes headed “Closer Look” or “Did You Know?”) and an abundance of visual material partly taken from the National Library of Australia archives, this treasure trove is a fascinating read for young would-be explorers. (Age: 10+)

McCaffrey, Kate
Beautiful monster
North Fremantle, W.A.: Fremantle Press, 2010. – 231 p.
ISBN 978-1-921361-98-2
Brother – Death – Coping with grief – Anorexia nervosa
When Tessa’s ten-year-old brother is killed by a car, her family starts falling apart. Two years later, Ned is the only one who understands, comforts, and (allegedly) loves her. To win back her parents’ approval, Tess does her utmost to be perfect: Top marks at school, success at her rowing club, and losing weight are the only things that count. Denying herself food becomes an obsession, and sinister Ned keeps pushing her further and further. Caught in her own perception of the world, she is blind towards the lethal danger she is in. Kate McCaffrey creates convincing characters and paints a frighteningly authentic picture of how inexorably the fifteen-year-old protagonist gets entangled in the spider’s web of anorexia nervosa. This intense novel will stay in readers’ minds long after they’ve finished it. (Age: 14+)

Mitchell, Simon (text)
Wood, Ben (illus.)

Louie the pirate chef
Kingswood, SA: Working Title Press, 2010. – [32] p.
ISBN 978-1-921504-05-1
Parents – Son – Expectations – Profession – Self-discovery
Louie’s pirate parents are adamant that he get a proper job, so they make him join Captain Blackheart’s ferocious pirate crew. Louie, however, doesn’t care about raiding other ships, plundering towns, or hunting buried treasure – he dreams of becoming a chef. At first, the other pirates laugh their heads off at the idea, but when they are about to starve, stranded on a lonely island, and Louie whips up one delicious meal after the next, they suddenly support his choice of profession. The light-hearted, amusing story is brought to life by the vibrant, cartoon-like watercolour illustrations, that depict the fierce pirates as an absurd and silly crew of misfits, who eventually hail their new hero as “the finest chef in all the Seven Seas”. (Age: 4+)

Said, Aimee
Finding Freia Lockhart
Newtown, NSW: Walker Books Australia, 2010. – 291 p.
ISBN 978-1-921529-15-3
Friendship – Peer pressure – Search for identity
Since the start of high school in Year Seven, Kate and Freia have been best friends; yet all of a sudden, Kate becomes part of the popular Bs, the coolest girls in their year – or as Freia secretly calls them: “the teenage equivalent of the Spice Girls: Bitchy, Bratty, Bleachy, and Wannabe.” Since she doesn’t want to lose her former best friend nor spend the rest of her school years as social outcast, Freia reluctantly tags along, pretends to eagerly listen to clothes and boy talk, and ignores her fifth-wheel feeling. In a funny and fresh style with dry, humorous asides, Aimee Said’s anti-heroine comments on her shallow, fashion-obsessed peers, her ancient parents, herself, and life in general, while she tries to circumnavigate the dangerous cliffs of high school etiquette and find her true identity. (Age: 14+)

Tanner, Lian
Museum of thieves
Crows Nest, N.S.W.: Allen & Unwin, 2010. – 341 p.
(Series: The keepers; 1)
ISBN 978-1-74237-157-3
Tyranny – Overprotection – Runaway – Friendship – Self-confidence
In the city of Jewel, children are chained 24/7 either to their parents or the “Blessed Guardians” to protect them from any kind of real or imaginary danger. To escape her confined life and the guardians’ cruelty, Goldie runs away and ends up at the mysterious Museum of Dunt, where rooms shift restlessly, a brizzlehound is on the loose, and the museum keepers are intent on saving the city from the sly and cunning Fugleman. This original debut novel is a thrilling fantasy adventure, that allows young readers to share the well-rounded protagonists’ pain, fear, shock, and eventual relief. The open end hints at new dangers lurking in the second volume of the captivating trilogy that young and old fantasy fans will be eager to dive into. (Age: 11+)

Trewin, Trudie (text)
Orsini, Cheryl (illus.)

Wibbly Wobbly Street
Lindfield, N.S.W.: Scholastic Press / Scholastic Australia, 2010. – [32] p.
ISBN 978-1-74169-561-8
City – Conformity – Individuality – Acceptance
Mayor Angle, Councillor Column, and the rest of Squareton’s local councillors are very proud of their town’s straight, smooth, flat, tidy, rectangular-shaped streets and houses (and people). It could all be perfect if it wasn’t for one peculiar street that completely ruins the whole neatness: “Wibbly Wobbly Street wound up and down, thin and out, right and left, and everywhere in between”; and its houses and people are just as peculiar as the street itself. So Angle calls in the street-straightener. This hilarious and nonsensical book is a fresh take on the celebration of otherness and individuality. The contrast between the boring, spruce, dully-coloured majority and the lively and energetic bunch of Wibbly Wobbly people in bright colours leaves no doubt as to whose side the author and illustrator are on. (Age: 4+) 

Wilkinson, Carole
Sugar sugar
Fitzroy, Vic.: Black Dog Books, 2010. – 337 p.
ISBN 978-1-74203-120-0
Journey – Coincidence – Search for identity – Love
Set in the 1970s, Carole Wilkinson’s first novel for a teenage audience transports her readers back in time on a fascinating journey of self-discovery. For ages, Jackie has dreamt of becoming a fashion designer. So the slightly naïve and clumsy Australian girl, working as shop assistant during her gap year in London, jumps on the ferry and heads towards Paris with the intention of showing her portfolio to famous André Courrège. Yet then, more than a few things go awry and the weekend trip to Paris unintentionally turns into a hitch-hiking hippie adventure trip across Europe and the Middle East with varying companions. While on the road, the amiable heroine slowly realises that her heart’s ambition may lie elsewhere. (Age: 16+)


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