What we’re reading

What are Wild Things staff recommending at the moment?

Anna loves All My Treasures: A Book Of Joy, the new release from Jo Witek whose gorgeous books In My Heart and Brave As Can Be are hugely popular with Wild Things staff and customers.

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I am always on the lookout for books that inspire joy, appreciation and contemplation, therefore I am excited to announce that I have struck gold with Jo Witek’s new book ‘All My Treasures’! A young girl’s Grandmother has given her a beautiful porcelain box to hold all of her ‘treasures’. As the young girl starts to think of things that she loves, she realises treasures are often a moment or a memory. The illustrations are quirky, the lift-the-flap sections are full of unexpected delight and this book will bring Grandparents and their Grandchildren together to contemplate the most meaningful thing of all: time together.

Sally has just finished reading Wolf by Wolf, a YA title by Ryan Graudin.

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Wolf by Wolf is set in an alternate world where Nazi Germany never fell and Hitler never died. Every year, to commemorate their victory, a motorcycle race is held that spans several countries—and the winner gets to meet Adolf Hitler. Yael, a former death camp prisoner, is part of the resistance. Her mission is to win the race, at whatever cost, and kill Hitler. Yael must battle her traumatic past, vindictive contestants, and the dangers of the road. Worst of all, the people who care about her are asking too many questions. Add in some shape-shifting and you have a fast-paced alternate history sci-fi novel. Yael is dedicated, vulnerable, tough, and ruthless—but is she ruthless enough to do what it takes to win? And if so, does that make her as bad as the Nazis? This is a gripping read suitable for readers aged 14 and over.

Kasia is enjoying Can I Eat That? by Joshua David Stein and illustrated by Julia Rothman.

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This book makes me hungry! A wonderful and whimsical picture book that encourages and entertains curiosity about food and other cultures. Bold and vibrant images are accompanied by text that asks funny and practical questions, shares information, challenges our perspectives and plays with language to make you want to further explore the tastes, textures and stories behind what we eat. For ages 2+.

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Books about books

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There are books about everything—dinosaurs, princesses, feelings, the environment, and more—but bookloving parents (and booksellers!) have a special love for books about books.

Here are some of the ones we love; books that explain why books are so special, and others that have fun with characters who break through the fourth wall and talk directly to the reader.

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We love Lane Smith’s It’s A Book, which sings the praises of books and why they’re better than any form of technology. The jackass in the story first ridicules the monkey because his “book” can’t scroll or text or tweet, but once the book is in his hands and he starts to read, he becomes immersed in the story for so long that the monkey has to go to the library to find another book.

Similarly, Book by David Miles, illustrated by Natalie Hoopes, shows with its beautiful illustrations how a book, “the most quiet, ordinary thing that could be”, that has no bonus levels or sounds or passwords, can be anything, or take you anywhere, you can imagine.

This is not a picture book by Sergio Ruzzier is actually a picture book, one that gently shows young readers how words can create pictures in your imagination.

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The family in Peter Carnavas’ The Children Who Loved Books doesn’t have much—no television, no car, and a caravan for a house, but that caravan is full of books. Getting rid of the books to make space seems like a good idea, until the family realises how bare their life is without them.

Someone who really loves books is Nibbles the Book Monster; the only problem is that Nibbles loves to eat books! In this funny book by Emma Yarlett, Nibbles eats his way through several classic tales, cleverly included as books within the book.

Characters from classic tales also appear in The Last Book Before Bedtime by Nicola O’Byrne. The narrator and the characters from the Three Little Pigs, Cinderella, and Little Red Riding Hood, debate which book should be the last book before bedtime, in a story that meshes all three stories into one humorous tale.

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Many of those characters also appear in Hrefna Bragadottir’s Baxter’s Book, lining up for their turn at the Storybook Audition. Baxter, an “unusual creature”, auditions to appear in a book about him, but after watching the auditions of other, more experienced characters, fears that he’s not good enough. They all offer advice to Baxter, encouraging him to be scary, or silly, or brave like them. But Baxter finds that being himself is the best way to be.

Mo Willems’ wonderful Elephant & Piggie ham it up in We Are in a Book!, talking to the reader, flicking through pages, and rolling around in laughter when they discover the power to make the reader say “banana”. They get to be the stars of the book, unlike young Nicholas Ickle in Nick Bland’s The Wrong Book.

Poor Nicholas tries to tell the reader that the book is all about him, but on every page an array of characters, from an elephant to a queen and her retinue, arrive to steal the show. Nicholas tries to tell them they’re in the wrong book, but will anyone listen?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wild picks for the Guardian Children’s Fiction prize

The Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize longlist for 2016 has just been announced, and Wild Things staff have reviewed their favourites from the list.

Jennifer reviews The Marvels by Brian Selznick

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I read The Marvels some time ago but the beauty of the illustrations, their detail and the way they wordlessly convey so much of this dark and entrancing story, has stayed very much with me. This story seeps in to you, much as great poetry does, as an experience of ongoing revelation. This creation by Brian Selznick, who also gave us The Invention of Hugo Cabret, is two thirds wordless graphic novel and one third prose, and tells a tale of generations of one family, of madness, of the theatre and of love. I recommend it to creative readers from 14 to 104.

Jodie reviews The Smell of Other People’s Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock

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This wonderful book tells the story of four teens in Alaska in 1970, living in different family circumstances but with lives that end up entwined. Ruth is the one who loves the smell of other people’s houses, breathing in the aromas of love and acceptance that she doesn’t find growing up an orphan in her grandmother’s house. Dora is hard and mean; Alyce wants to pursue a career in ballet but sacrifices her chance at this to appease her separated parents; and Hank, like Dora, is trying to escape a bad family situation, but while Dora escapes to her friend’s home, Hank takes his brothers on a perilous stowaway adventure. Love and some slightly mystical forces bring these four young lives together in this beautiful and evocative story.

Jodie also reviews Riverkeep by Martin Stewart

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The proof copy of this debut novel arrived with a cover listing comparisons of Riverkeep to, among others, Moby Dick, Wizard of Oz, Neil Gaiman, Ursula Le Guin and Charles Dickens. And it’s true there is a feel of all of these influences in this story, set in a world where all is slightly familiar but creepily different. To save his father, who has been possessed by a strange creature, Wulliam must travel away from his duties as Riverkeep and his simple home on the river to join the hunt for the mormorach, a giant Moby-Dick-like creature terrorising the coast. Along the way, he gathers a band of interesting characters, including Tillinghast, the man made of straw. The language is rich, the writing is gently captivating, and the story ends with the possibility of more to come.

The Bone Sparrow by Zana Fraillon

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The story of Subhi, a refugee born in an Australian detention centre, was featured on our last blog.

Other longlisted titles are: Chasing the Stars by Malorie Blackman; Crongton Knights by Alex Wheatle; Sweet Pizza by G R Gemin (will be released in Australia in October); and Hell and High Water by Tanya Landman.

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You can read some of the judges’ comments on these books on the Guardian website.

(And just BTW, has anyone else noticed the prevalence of blue covers on this longlist?!)

 

 

Refugee stories

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Asylum seekers and detention centres have been a constant topic in the news and public debate for some time in Australia, and are also appearing as the subject of some recent releases in children’s fiction.

One title that tells a sweet story while dealing with some hard issues is When Michael Met Mina by Randa Abdel-Fattah. This YA book is a Romeo and Juliet style romance, with “Juliet” being Mina, an Afghanistani-born former detention centre resident, and “Romeo” being Michael, son of the founders of the new Aussie Values political party. The star-crossed lovers first encounter each other from opposing sides at a rally for refugees.

All sides of the debate on asylum seekers, border control and assimilation are covered in this very political story, with a spectrum of views presented sometimes in a thoughtful way, sometimes with humour (“They should shut the hell up and respect the fact they have free speech in this country.”).

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Zana Fraillon’s The Bone Sparrow, recently longlisted for the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize 2016, tells the story of Subhi, born in an Australian detention centre to a Rohingya refugee. He has known nothing of life except the detention centre, and dreams of what life is like outside. One night Jimmy, a girl from the outside, sneaks in through the wires to find out what life is really like there. The two children develop a friendship that gives them strength and courage.

Putting a familiar and popular face on asylum seekers is The Little Refugee, Anh Do’s picture book story of his family’s perilous escape by boat from Vietnam in 1980. The book was released in 2011, and was nominated for numerous awards. It’s simple text and emotional illustrations capture the fear and danger of their trip, with the pages becoming colourful to match the relief the Dho family feels when they find safety and a chance to build a new life in Australia.

 

It wasn’t me, honest!

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Children learn to lie from around the age of two, and any parent knows those little lies are usually all about “I didn’t break that toy/eat that chocolate/make that mess”. It’s such a common occurrence in young children that it’s no surprise there are plenty of picture books that deal with this topic, often in very humorous ways.

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The Truth According to Arthur by Tim Hopgood & David Tazzyman is a funny book about fibbing, that depicts Truth as a character and illustrates the way Arthur stretches, hides and bends the truth when he scrapes his mother’s car while riding his older brother’s bike. Arthur realises that the only way to make sure Mum isn’t too angry is to actually tell the truth.

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Shannon Horsfall’s Was Not Me tells of a young boy who believes he has a twin, Not Me, who does lots of naughty things and gets away with it. In the end he has to admit that Not Me is actually Me.

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Unfortunately, one character who doesn’t seem to learn anything until he’s received some painful justice is Pig the Pug, Aaron Blabey’s well known dog who doesn’t like to share. In Pig the Fibber, we learn that Pig doesn’t like to tell the truth either, and poor, long-suffering Trevor gets the blame for breaking the vase, ripping the dress and making a grim stink.

While Arthur and the boy from Was Not Me realise by themselves that honesty is the best policy, it takes a bowling ball on the head to make Pig the Pug understand that karma happens when you tell one too many fibs!

Note: You can hear Shannon Horsfall read Was Not Me this Sunday, July 3, at Wild Things from 11:30am, with activities and cupcakes! Then on Thursday, July 7, Shannon returns for more storytelling and activities for under-6s.