Australia Reads!

Australia ReadsAUSTRALIA READS is an initiative to get more Aussies reading, more often. As an avid reader, as a parent of avid readers and as an author, this is something that means a great to me. Reading is not just an important life skill, it’s not just a gateway to learning, it’s not just a way into the thoughts and experience of other people, it’s not just an escape from everyday life, it’s not just entertainment — it’s not “just” anything. It is all of these things, and so much more. It is the most immersive storytelling experience there is!

So, I am proud and honourned to be an Australia Reads Ambassador (along with a bunch of really awesome peeps… check ‘em out here).

I love talking about books and sharing what I’ve been reading. Given that I also love taking photos, I often use Instagram for sharing my reading experiences. I thought I’d collect the fifteen most recent book posts here on my blog, as it gives me an excuse to share them all again!


Fil and Harry

FIL AND HARRY by Jenny Blackford
Christmas Press, 2021.
This kids’ book is 100% cat approved. It’s also approved by my 12-year-old, even though it’s actually aimed at younger readers. I loved it too. It’s a delightful story about a young girl who discovers her cat can talk… just in time for him to help her out with some school friend issues. The book also has some lovely illustrations by Kristin Devine.


A Glasshouse of StarsA GLASSHOUSE OF STARS by Shirley Marr
Puffin, 2021.
This is such a beautiful book! A story about a young immigrant girl trying to adapt to life in Australia, it mixes gentle fantasy and reality in such a lovely and unique way. It is heartfelt, heartbreaking, poignant and hopeful. Written in second person, its style is striking and yet so comfortable, drawing you in and putting you into the shoes of Meixing Lim. I’ve been an admirer of Shirley’s writing every since her first young adult novel, FURY, hit the shelves in 2010. But she has outdone herself with this middle grade book. Can’t wait to see what she writes next. I was lucky enough to get my hands on a special ARC of the book, which has a die-cut extra cover.

Good Night Ivy BrightGOOD NIGHT, IVY BRIGHT, written by Ben Long, illustrated by Andrew Plant
Ford Street Publishing, 2021.
This lovely rhyming story about trying to fall asleep while searching for the colour purple is the perfect vehicle for Plant’s glorious illustrations. So much colour and magic on every page of this picture book.

Putting Australia on the MapPUTTING AUSTRALIA ON THE MAP by Carole Wilkinson
Wild Dog Books, 2020.
This is a kids’ books about maps… specifically Australia’s long journey towards being accurately included on world maps. It’s a story of exploration and adventure, of piecing together a cartographic puzzle spanning centuries, from Ptolemy in 150AD to Matthew Flinders in 1801. The text is beautifully illustrated with old maps that you can get lost in for ages. This book is map-nerd heaven! And a great way of showing kids that the maps we take for granted these days, have a long and complex history.

The Peski Kids: The Mystery of the Squashed CockroachTHE PESKI KIDS: THE MYSTERY OF THE SQUASHED COCKROACH by R.A. Spratt
Puffin Books, 2018.
I read this book when it came out in 2018 and loved its slightly warped sense of humour (the author is, after all, also responsible for the NANNY PIGGINS books). Enjoyed it just as much the second time around as I shared it with my 12-year-old. We had frequent laugh-out-loud moments. We’ve moved straight on to the second book.

Of Boys and BoatsOF BOYS AND BOATS by Ian Trevaskis
Ford Street Publishing, 2020.
What a joy this book is. Combining history and childhood adventure, with friendship and even a touch of romance. In 1956, while dealing with bullies and anti-immigrant prejudices, a group of friends work together to complete building a sailing boat, owned by a disfigured, reclusive WW1 survivor. With the backdrop of the Melbourne Olympic Games, this story deals with so many things, from the futility of war to the way human beings treat each other, from the importance of friendship to the possibility of overcoming your past. It is, in so many ways, about opening new doors. Although it doesn’t shy away from the difficult issues, it is adventurous, exuberant and optimistic. Loved it so much!

Frizzle and MeFRIZZLE AND ME, written by Ellie Royce, illustrated by Andrew McLean
Ford Street Publishing, 2021.
This lovely picture book is about families. It’s about how families can be different. It’s about how families can grow and change, whether it’s just two (where the story begins) or a family of six. But most of all, it’s about love… because that is what makes a family. Diversity is a wonderful feature of this book and I love how the main child character (who we see grow from birth to age 8) isn’t assigned a gender in either text or pictures. It gives any child the opportunity to identify with them. The illustrations are soft and gentle, just like the text.

Sherlock HolmesTHE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES and HIS LAST BOW by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Originally published in 1905 and 1917 respectively, these two volumes were collected in this one edition from CRW Publishing in 2005 (part of a complete Sherlock Holmes collection). I do love dipping into the Homles oeuvre every now and then. I particularly enjoyed this collection, as it was my first time reading Holmes’s final adventure — a very different story, about espionage on the eve of WW1, it has, right from the start, quite a different feel about it, in part because it isn’t narrated by Watson.
“One might have thought already that God’s curse hung heavy over a degenerate world, for there was an awesome hush and a feeling of vague expectancy in the sultry and stagnant air.”
I also found it amusing that Australia gets a mention in “The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax”…
“The Revd Dr Shlessinger, missionary from South America, is none other than Holy Peters, one of the most unscrupulous rascals that Australia has ever evolved – and for a young country it has turned out some very finished types.”

The Peski Kids: Bear in the WoodsTHE PESKI KIDS: BEAR IN THE WOODS by R.A. Spratt
Puffin Books, 2019
It’s the second book in the series, and just as good as the first. Weird and wacky and loads of fun. The Cat Lady is a real hoot and my new fave character. My 12-year-old and I loved the book and have already moved on to Book 3

This series of books is a spinoff from the successful LETHBRIDGE-STEWART range of DOCTOR WHO spinoff books published in the UK by Candy Jar Books. THE LUCY WILSON MYSTERIES are sci-fi adventures aimed at kids/young teens and are heaps of fun. I’ve read quite a number of them and enjoyed them immensely. After having the pleasure of writing for the LETHBRIDGE-STEWART range with a novel called FEAR FREQUENCY (which came out earlier this year), I can now announce that I’ve written a LUCY WILSON novel.

Pierrot's SongPIERROT’S SONG by Rachel Nightingale
Odyssey Books, 2019.
This is the third and final book in THE TALES OF TARYA. Heavily inspired by the Commedia dell’arte, this is a unique fantasy trilogy. So immersive. So captivating. I loved the first two books and this one did not disappoint, providing a very satisfying conclusion. Highly recommended! And I really love the covers for all three books, by Nadia Turner.

FrankieFRANKIE GOES TO KINDERGARTEN, written by Peta Baxter and Connie Hemmens, illustrated by Marjory Gardner
Ford Street Publishing, 2021.
Well… Marjory is way better at drawing than me. But Frankie was too cute not to have a go. This is a lovely book about a dog going to kindergarten, based on a real-life kindy dog and written by actual kindy teachers. It’s nice and gentle, and a great way to introduce little kids to the concept of kindergarten and what they’ll be doing when they start attending. Marjory’s illustrations are colourful and fun.

Orchard Books, 2016
A great reference guide for fans, with all the stats and info you could possibly want on each Pokémon. As an obsessive player of POKÉMON GO, I’ve loved getting all this additional background and info.

Earth MattersEARTH MATTERS: LOVING OUR PLANET by Carole Wilkinson
Wild Dog Books, 2021.
This is not Carole’s first environmental book. As an author, and as a human being, she is passionate about saving our planet. I still reckon her 2015 book, ATMOSPHERIC: THE BURNING STORY OF CLIMATE CHANGE, is brilliant. But this new picture book is so wonderfully accessible. Although aimed at children, it spells things out for even the thickest climate change denying adult. But it’s not just a book of doom and gloom… it clearly sets out what people can do to help. It’s a great read and really should be in every school library.

The Peski Kids: Stuck in the MudTHE PESKI KIDS: STUCK IN THE MUD by R.A. Spratt

Puffin Books, 2019.

12-year-old and I continue to enjoy the PESKI KIDS books with this third volume. Bank robbery. Fraud. A marriage of convenience designed to stop a deportation. An international super spy being interrogated in a former Soviet prison. Doesn’t really sound like a hilarious kids book does it? And yet, it is! Perhaps it’s the addition of a water buffalo and tons of mud that does it? These books are so wonderfully unexpected and delightfully demented.

Happy Reading, everyone!