A good environment for reading

It’s the time of year for book award shortlists, and one that’s just been announced promotes not just a love of reading, but also a love of nature. The shortlist for the Wilderness Society’s Environment Award for Children’s Literature recognises some gorgeous books that encourage a sense of caring and responsibility for the environment.

Appearing in the list are several titles by authors who have recently held popular events here at Wild Things. Renee Treml visited us last July to read from the delightful Once I Heard a Little Wombat, which is on the Picture Fiction shortlist.

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Another Wild Things visitor whose book appears on the Fiction shortlist is Samantha Wheeler, with her story of a boy who learns about Australia’s endangered dinosaur-like bird in Mister Cassowary. Also featured on the Fiction shortlist is Alison Groggon’s The River and the Book, a favourite with Wild Things staff.

To see all the books on the Environment Awards shortlist, have a look at the official website. You’ll also find there details about a competition, being run in conjunction with the awards, that uses nature to inspire children to write or draw.


Girls speaking out!

We’ve been inspired by the upcoming Tara Moss event, Speaking Out, to compile a list of books about girls speaking out—from memoirs written by girls who have spoken out against inequality, bias, injustice and more, to fiction featuring girls who have overcome adversity and found their voice.

Speaking Out: A 21st-Century Handbook for Women and Girls is a guide for girls and women about why you should speak out, how to do it, and what to expect when you do. Not only does it talk about the many ways, both overt and subtle, that women’s voices are silenced, it provides technical and motivational information about how to speak out. Chapters cover topics such as public speaking, how to prepare for and deal with criticism, and surviving social media, all with the aim of providing women and girls with the confidence and ability to use their voice.

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Moss says that talking isn’t the only way to speak out, and this is something that’s echoed in The Gutsy Girl, a new release by Caroline Paul. This book is a compilation of stories, activities and tips to inspire girls to pursue a life of adventure, and contains a chapter titled “It’s not what you say, it’s what you do”. In it, Paul tells of her adventures on a Russian-American white water expedition in Siberia, interspersed with facts about “girl heroes” who make statements with their amazing achievements rather than with words.

Malala Yousafzai is the world-famous Pakistani girl whose actions in standing up for her right to education almost cost her her life, but also led her to being the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. Her story is available to younger readers in several formats, including a picture book and a middle reader edition of Malala’s memoir, so girls of all ages can hear her story.

Yassmin Adbel-Magied is another young woman who has been recognised for her work advocating the empowerment of women, being chosen as the 2015 Queensland Young Australian of the Year. Yassmin’s Story tells how, at 16, she founded Youth Without Borders, an organisation focused on giving young people a voice and helping them work for positive change in their communities. At 21, as the only woman working on a remote oil and gas rig, she had to use her frank and fearless voice to establish her place among the men who called her hajib a tea cosy.

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In children’s fiction, there are many stories for all ages, with heroines who speak out for themselves or others. The young girl in Yasmeen Ismail’s I’m a Girl doesn’t just speak out, she SHOUTS out, at anyone who mistakes her for a boy. “I’m a girl!” she shouts at anyone who calls her a boy because she’s so fast, or brave, or smart.

Robert Munsch’s classic The Paper Bag Princess is a favourite with Wild Things customers, who love to share with their daughters or grandchildren the story of Princess Elizabeth, who outwits the dragon and saves the prince. When the prince’s only reaction to being rescued is to scold Elizabeth because she isn’t dressed like a real princess, she speaks out and tells him they won’t be getting married after all!

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In The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, nine-year-old Ada goes on a war-time adventure that gives her the confidence to speak out, first to protect her younger brother and finally for herself, against a cruel and uncaring mother.

Meg McKinlay’s CBCA shortlisted novel A Single Stone is the tale of a young woman’s discovery of the corrupted morals of her village,s elders. Jena is a prestigious miner of a precious stone that keeps her village alive in the winter. She has to challenge her entire village’s way of life with the discoveries she makes. This beautifully written book fascinates the reader with its strong female protagonist and gently introduced but powerful premise.

Frankie Landau-Banks is a girl who silences her smart and geeky voice when she blossoms over the summer and attracts the attention of a gorgeous senior at school. She takes on a different persona to keep her new boyfriend’s attention and fit in with her new “friends”. But her true self emerges when she realises she’s been excluded from her boyfriend’s all-male secret society, and she speaks out by using her wit and creativity to defeat the boys at their own game.The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E Lockhart is a must-read for your 12 to 16-year-old.

Imagine if you couldn’t speak out, if you suffered a condition where you couldn’t always speak when you wanted to, or talk in a public place, and could converse infrequently with only a few trusted people. In Kylie Fornasier’s The Things I Didn’t Say, Piper has Selective Mutism but learns, through love, friendship and doubt, the power of words, both spoken and unspoken.

Don’t miss the Speaking Out event with Tara Moss, on Saturday, June 4, 11am at Avid Reader!


Slamming the CBCA short list

The short lists for the CBCA Book of the Year awards will be announced today and we’re waiting to see how the lists match the choices voiced at last Tuesday night’s inaugural Book Slam, run by the CBCA Qld Branch.

What’s a Book Slam? It’s an event where anyone has the chance to convince the audience, in two minutes, why their favourite children’s or YA book should be on the short list (or should have made the long list) for this year’s CBCA Book of the Year awards.

Brisbane author Chris Bongers and CBCA Qld Branch members slammed (and some even rhymed!) about some amazing books. Their polished performances didn’t deter audience members or Wild Things staff from jumping up to improvise. Here’s the rundown on who slammed about which books:


Chris Bongers slamming about Cloudwish by Fiona Wood

CBCA Qld Branch President Sue Wright chose Pig the Fibber by Aaron Blabey, which she believes was sadly absent from the long list. Branch Secretary Trish Buckley slammed about another book that didn’t make the long list: Green Valentine by Lili Wilkinson.

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Chris Bongers wished and wished that Cloudwish by Fiona Wood would be recognised, while Sam Sochacka rhymed the reasons why the beautiful Suri’s Wall by Lucy Estela and Matt Ottley was worthy of a place. Sam also presented other favourites: My Dead Bunny by James Foley and Sigi Cohen; Perfect by Danny Parker and Freya Blackwood; Mr Huff by Anna Walker; Ride, Ricardo, Ride by Phil Cummings and Shane Devries; and And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda by Eric Bogle and Bruce Whatley.

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Reader’s Cup Coordinator Jenny Stubbs selected, from the Information Books category, Phasmid by Rohan Cleave and Coral Tulloch and picture books Piranhas Don’t Eat Bananas by Aaron Blabey, One Step at a Time by Jane Jolley and Sally Heinrich, and another favourite that didn’t appear on the long list, Bad Ned by Dean Lahn.

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Wild Things staff member Anna shared her love for The Cow Tripped Over the Moon by Tony Wilson and Laura Wood and, for older readers, A Single Stone by Meg McKinlay. West End School’s Tania Venuto explained to the audience why My Gallipoli by Ruth Starke and Robert Hannaford was an important book in their library.

Wild Things staff picks for the CBCA short list


The River and the Book by Alison Croggan. Croggan has written a book which is both a fable and a powerful allegory for our time. Set in an unnamed country besieged by environmental concerns the story features a young woman Simbala who is the latest in a long line of women who can read the Book to find answers to the villager’s questions. The Book makes a prediction of change but Simbala is shocked to find out that change comes in the form of a sympathetic foreigner who does the greatest damage imaginable. Simbala is propelled on a journey to help her village and herself. This is a story that can be read at many levels, is philosophically complex and the character of Simbala and her cat companion have continued to haunt me.

Molly and Pim and the Millions of Stars by Martine Murray. A novel for younger readers which sparkles with whimsy and alights with a certain wild freshness. Molly’s mama is something of a neighbourhood witch and when she accidentally turns herself into a tree, Molly’s already unusual home life becomes even more difficult to explain to her ‘normal’ friend Ellen. Molly and her herb- loving, potion-making Mama are delightful characters and the book manages to be both humorous and emotionally rich. Pim is a refreshingly unique boy ally and a lovely counterpoint to Molly. Highly recommended for 8-12 years olds. Molly and Pim and the Millions of Stars would also make a perfect read aloud story for a home library.
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Jodie: In the Skin of a Monster by Kathryn Barker, One True Thing by Nicole Hayes, and one that seriously should have been on the long list, Clancy of the Undertow by Chris Currie (and we’re not just saying that because Chris works at Avid Reader!).

Sally: Bogtrotter by Margaret Wild and Judith Rossell. Bogtrotter spends every day running through his bog, because that’s what bogtrotters do. One day, though, he stops to pick a flower and his whole world opens up… I love that Bogtrotter starts the book happy and ends the book even happier–it’s more about appreciating what you have and appreciating any extra additions to what you have than making changes because you’re discontent. Also beautifully illustrated!

Genevieve: Bogtrotter: a sweet story of adventure this beautiful, bright book captured my heart. But with a green monster called the Bogtrotter how could it not? One of my favourite books of the year! Fourteenth Summer of Angus Jack by Jen Storer: I read Fourteenth Summer with the Wonder Book Club, Wild Things’ book club for 10 – 13 year olds, and it was universally loved. It somehow manages to include Norse mythology in an Australian setting completely naturally. A great sibling duo stumble into their heritage, with strange mythical creatures, a father that doesn’t know to grieve and a healthy dose of evil.

Jennifer: Talk Under Water by Kathryn Lomer