Anything But Fine
– Tobias Madden –
Penguin Random House Australia
Published 31 August 2021
Ballet is everything for Luca. It’s his future, his time, all his effort and his friendships. So when he falls down the stairs at his ballet studio and breaks his leg, it changes everything. When the doctors say he will never dance again, Luca isn’t sure what that means for his future. Who is he without ballet. When he loses his scholarship and has to move school and he shuts out his friends, the only bright side is seeing Jordan at OT. Jordan is the school captain and rowing champion at Luca’s new school. Luca thinks there might be something between them but Jordan is apparently straight. And has a girlfriend.
Anything But Fine is authentically Australia, from the Ballarat setting, to the slang and high school culture. #LoveOzYA
One of the things I most enjoyed about this book was Luca’s friendship with Amina. Amina is nerdy, talks a lot and isn’t who Luca thought he would be spending time with. She’s also as different from his old friends as possible. Amina is Indonesian-Australian and Muslim. She is absolutely fantastic and just what Luca needs. Luca also learns to be a better friend to Amina and more deserving of her. He makes some pretty lousy mistakes in this book, both towards Amina and his old friends, as well as to his dad and other adults who have been there for him. But Luca isn’t afraid to own up to these mistakes and learn from them.
Lintang and the Pirate Queen – Tamara Moss – Lintang #1 – Penguin Random House Australia – Published 31 July 2017
Lintang dreams of escaping her island home and having adventures on the high seas. She gets her chance when she and her best friend, Bayani, face a deadly mythie and survive, attracting the attention of the infamous Captain Shafira. Lintang’s bravery earns her an invitation onto the ship of the pirate queen, who is on her way to hunt down a nest of vicious sirens.
But they’ve barely left the island when Lintang discovers that Bayani has risked his life to stow away. Worse, he won’t tell her why. Lintang must choose whether to be loyal to Captain Shafira and continue with her adventures, or be loyal to her best friend and lose everything she’s ever wanted.
Lintang and the Pirate Queen is a book of epic quests, mystical creatures, and a brave young girl who dreams of exploring. It is the perfect book for middle-grade readers who enjoy a touch of magic mixed with plenty of adventure.
Lintang has always wanted to explore beyond the borders of her island home. At home, she can never seem to do the right thing and is constantly getting in trouble for her wild storytelling and epic sword fights. But when the infamous Captain Shafira saves Lintang’s life, Lintang is granted the opportunity to accompany the pirate queen on her voyage. When Lintang discovers her best friend, Bayani, has joined them as a stowaway, Lintang is determined to discover the secrets he is keeping from her, even if it means putting at risk her chance to fight sea monsters and sail the oceans.
2017 Penguin Random House Teachers’ Catalogue
The Penguin Random House Australia Teachers’ Catalogue is a fantastic resource. As a librarian I am always on the lookout for new resources to better improve my own practice, as well as ensure that the literature that I am recommending to readers is both up-to date and first class. The Penguin Teachers’ Catalogue offers that and more.
The catalogue is divided into five main sections. The first, Feature Articles, offers a range of articles about reading and publishing trends, from short stories to coding.
The second section is divided into reading stages, from Early Years right up to Years 11 and 12 in Stage 6. Each of these Stage chapters presents newly published titles, reviews, author/illustrator insights and even activity ideas.
The third section of the Teachers’ Catalogue offers a comprehensive guide to the DK book range and new titles, grouped by subject. The short fourth section offers a range of titles for professional development, while the fifth and last section, Curriculum Resources is a curated titles lists by subject or focus, such as titles with Indigenous themes or those that feature STEM themes.
I have found the curriculum resources lists particularly helpful, especially when designing promotions for special events or compiling resource lists for particular topics. And the activity ideas, such as the the Hungry Caterpillar finger puppets, are also fantastic resources.
For a limited time, teachers and librarians may subscribe to the Penguin Teacher’s Newsletter and receive a free copy of the Teachers’ Catalogue. See the Penguin Teachers’ website for more information.
A Patch from Scratch – Megan Forward – Penguin/ Viking – Published 28 March 2017
Jesse and Lewis want to grow their own fruit and vegies, just like people do on a farm. They’re going to dig and build, plant and grow, and when they’re finished they’re going to have a feast!
A Patch From Scratch is the story of Jesse who, with his mum and his dad and his big brother Lewis, creates a veggie patch.
There is something so deliciously earthy about this book, from the avocado-green end pages to the beige backgrounds on each page. This book is packed with heaps of content. The story flows nicely as the family first dream about their new veggie garden, then create a plan, begin building the chicken coop and raised garden bed, and start their planting. Everything from composting to companion planting, seed raising to pest control is covered within the story. There is enough information for this to become a wonderful guide for children who want to create their own veggie patch. Jesse even creates his own plant diary. The back of the book also contains information about the history of home veggie patches, where to find more information, the cycle of the veggie patch creation and maintenance and even some recipes to try.
Optimists Die First – Susin Nielsen – Penguin Random House – Published 2 March 2017
Petula has avoided friendship and happiness ever since tragedy struck her family and took her beloved younger sister Maxine. Worse, Petula blames herself. If only she’d kept an eye on her sister, if only she’d sewn the button Maxine choked on better, if only…
Now her anxiety is getting out of control, she is forced to attend the world’s most hopeless art therapy class. But one day, in walks the Bionic Man: a charming, amazingly tall newcomer called Jacob, who is also an amputee. Petula’s ready to freeze him out, just like she did with her former best friend, but when she’s paired with Jacob for a class project, there’s no denying they have brilliant ideas together – ideas like remaking Wuthering Heights with cats.
But Petula and Jacob each have desperately painful secrets in their pasts – and when the truth comes out, there’s no way Petula is ready for it.
Optimists Die First is a mildly depressing book. It has an honest and gritty tone, so realistic of the circumstances in which the characters find themselves. This in-your-face honesty is perfect for the theme of this book – trust, family, and somehow coping with the guilt of mistakes that shake your world. This book also involves an abundance of cats, cat videos, and crafting addictions – you have been warned.
Petula knows death is lurking around every corner. She is a pessimist and she knows her vigilance will keep her alive longer. She wasn’t always like this. She wishes she had been, because then her baby sister might still be alive. She carries the weight of this tragedy, trying to keep her family from fracturing further. She has been assigned to the school’s art therapy, where a miss-matched group of teens are meant to express their fears and troubles through juvenile art projects. But Jacob, a new addition to the group, shakes them up, gives them a boost of creativity, and might even bring them together.
The Sun Is Also A Star – Nicola Yoon – Delcacorte Press – Published 1 November 2016
Natasha: I’m a girl who believes in science and facts. Not fate. Not destiny. Or dreams that will never come true. I’m definitely not the kind of girl who meets a cute boy on a crowded New York City street and falls in love with him. Not when my family is twelve hours away from being deported to Jamaica. Falling in love with him won’t be my story.
Daniel: I’ve always been the good son, the good student, living up to my parents’ high expectations. Never the poet. Or the dreamer. But when I see her, I forget about all that. Something about Natasha makes me think that fate has something much more extraordinary in store—for both of us.
The Universe: Every moment in our lives has brought us to this single moment. A million futures lie before us. Which one will come true?
I chose to read this because of a) that cover and b) so many enthusiastic reviews. Those reviews seemed to be persistent urging to read this wonderful book, just give it a try. I would recommend the same. The Sun Is Also A Star is so very clever, so very cool and so very worth reading.
I found the synopsis vague… purposely so because the less you know the better. The plot points aren’t important – it’s the magic of all the little moments coming together. Natasha has one day left in New York before she and her family are deported back to Jamaica. For Daniel, this day is the last day of his childhood, of following his own dreams before relinquishing them to follow the path set before him by his parents. When the two meet it seems more than happenstance, maybe even meant to be.
I absolutely adore the romance in this book. Insta-love move over because love at first sight (or maybe second sight) is clearly the winner here. Yes, this is a love story told over one day. Skeptical? Fair enough. I’m sure, like me, you’ve read stories where the characters fall head over heels so quickly that it seems more ridiculous than romantic. I had no such problems with The Sun Is Also A Star. Daniel is a dreamer, poet, romantic. He believes in meant-to-be and love. Natasha on the other hand is a scientist, lover of facts and just a little bit cynical. She thinks Daniel’s crazy to believe in love, yet she can’t deny how drawn to him she is.