Book Review: Valdemar’s Peas, by Maria Jönsson

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_valdemars_peas.jpgValdemar LOVES fish fingers but he HATES peas! But Papa says ‘The peas go in the tummy. Then ice cream. Chocolate ice cream!’ Valdemar may be a little wolf but he’s a clever little wolf. He hatches a cunning idea to get the peas in the tummy without having to eat a single one.

Valdemar’s Peas is a tale about an all too familiar dinner time dilemma that I’m sure many young children and their parents have experienced. The back and forth between Valdemar and his Papa is all too relatable and both children and parents will find humour in Valdemar’s determination and trickery to get chocolate ice-cream. Although, I don’t think my own parents would have shown as much appreciation for such a cheeky and quick-witted response as Valdemar’s Papa!

Maria Jönsson’s adorable, black and white illustrations which are accented with reds, browns and greens suit her playful story perfectly, portraying well Valdemar’s distaste for peas, smugness at his own successful trick and Papa’s exasperation. I think Valdemar’s Papa will be more specific about which tummy the peas need to go into next time!

Reviewed by Alana Bird

Valdemar’s Peas
by Maria Jönsson
Published by Gecko Press
ISBN 9781776571963

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Book Review: Afternoons with Harvey Beam, by Carrie Cox

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_afternoons_with_harvey_beam.jpgIf we listen to talkback radio, we form a relationship with the host, love them or hate them, and Afternoons with Harvey Beam is a book which takes the reader into the life of a talkback host, his problems, his loves and his family.

Harvey Beam left his small home town of Shorton to work in talkback radio in Sydney but after many years his popularity is waning and he is facing redundancy.

When the head of HR says, ‘What I see is a man no longer making connections, a man who is not happy in himself, a man who is not playing nicely with the other kids, and all of that equals bad radio,’ Harvey believes his biggest mistake is ‘not sleeping with the head of HR’.

Being called back to Shorton because his father is dying gives Harvey time to think and reflect on his life and where he is going in the future.

Beam’s entire family still live in Shorton and the reader is introduced to his mother, brother, and two sisters as well as his father Lionel .He still has a good relationship with his ex wife and his daughters as well as his mother but finds his sisters behaviour challenging and his brother Bryan is not at all welcoming. But it is his father’s hostility which is at the heart of the book and the reader is never fully informed what has caused the dysfunction between the male members of the Beam family. As Harvey takes time to reflect we learn about his divorce as well as his parents split, but a talkback session reminds him ‘it all starts and ends with family.’

I enjoyed this book. It was well written with pockets of humour, and the author is able to write with great clarity to reveal the strength and emotions flowing amongst the characters. There is hope for the future as new relationships develop and family ties are strengthened but I was disappointed more was not revealed about what had caused the hostility between Harvey and Lionel.

An interesting Australian family drama, the book will appeal to a wide age group both male and female.

Carrie Cox is a journalist , author, tutor and mother who lives in Perth Australia This is her first novel but she has written two non fiction books, Coal , Crisis, Challenge and You Take the Road and I’ll Take the Bus.

Reviewed by Lesley McIntosh

Afternoons with Harvey Beam
by Carrie Cox
Published by Fremantle Press
ISBN  9781925591088

Book Review: I’m the Biggest, by Stephanie Blake

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_i'm_the_biggest.pngSimon is now so big he has his own self-named Netflix series! This little rabbit has taught our household how hilarious the words Poo Bum are, how brave you can be when wearing a cape, and how to negotiate swapsies with friends. He even went to school at around the same time as my youngest son.

So now it’s time for sibling rivalry. Simon has grown – but he hasn’t grown as much as Caspar (alias: Gaspard), and he’s not happy. The catch-phrase in this title is ‘No Way’. He accuses his mum of feeding Caspar more, then gets sent to his room for being cheeky, where he swears revenge.

They go to a park, where Simon is asked to keep an eye on his brother. He spots a big kid from his class trying to bully him, as he scores a goal in soccer.  Will he let it keep on happening? Or is he going to pretend like nothing is happening?

As a self-appointed connoisseur of Simon books, this one fell flat for me. First – modern parenting doesn’t look like this. I don’t send my kids to their room for saying ‘No Way’. If I did, they’d never be in the lounge (they say much worse, at times). And ‘No Way’ just doesn’t have the shoutability the previous catch-phrases have had.

That said, the rivalry between brothers certainly rang true, especially in the area of height. My youngest recently lost his 8th tooth, so they are now even in the number of teeth that have fallen out, to the chagrin of the elder brother! And they have the same size feet. And I could totally see the eldest seriously considering letting his brother be menaced, to get him back.

If you are a collector of Simon books, add it to the collection! But if you haven’t started on them yet, start with Poo Bum, and don’t forget A Deal’s A Deal. And if you want your kids to learn a bit about empathy, try 2017 title, I Can’t Sleep!

Reviewed by Sarah Forster

I’m the Biggest
by Stephanie Blake
Published by Gecko Press
ISBN 9781776572021

 

Book Review: Whisper of a Crow’s Wing, by Majella Cullinane

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_whisper_of_a_crows_wing.jpgPoetry collection Whisper of a Crow’s Wing is incredibly in tune with nature. The poem Winter Solstice exemplifies this. Here, Cullinane beautifully describes what the world is like on the shortest day of the year. Cullinane starts by telling us:

In the dark I cannot say what the day begins with. The curtains are closed
and dreams still drowse beneath our blankets.

This beginning perfectly captures the environment that envelops people and places in the middle of winter. The idea of dreams drowsing beneath blankets is a beautiful description of what life is like on these cold, winter days. Like we are all half-sleeping in winter, waiting for the sun to come out again. Even just these two sentences are enough to bring forward the image of slow days filled with grey.

Cullinane’s voice is beautifully lyrical and a perfect fit for the landscapes that she brings to life. The last stanza of the poem Learning to Breathe Again is a wonderful example of this, where she writes:

Better to consider
the small shapes in the gorgeous chaos of the world:
a snowflake flitting through the air,
swathes of blue and orange entangling the sky in their warm shawl,
glances to be tucked away like stones run smooth by rivers,
the shadows of our hands like wings, playing with the light.

Each image by itself is so clear and breathtaking. Placed together into a single verse, each image and sentence builds upon the last to help enrich the setting. By stacking up wonderful pieces of description in this way, Cullinane’s poetry tucks you into a stunning world. It feels like a world that has been touched by something magical, a world with a difference.

This way in which Cullinane lightly touches on the images around her makes her poetry so tender. Her poem Finale to the Season shows the world waking up from the winter landscapes that Cullinane had described in previous poems. Cullinane acknowledges:

We’re not there yet, but there are hints: in the pink-red clasp of sorrel,
the cicada easing a pitch lower, shedding its voice.

The subtle changes that come with the seasons is a wonderful subject that once again allows Cullinane to describe the nature around us so perfectly. She continues:

You are primed towards spring in the north, the light
drifting a little more each day like the black letters on this page
as they move across the white space, which remind me
of crows stalking frozen trees, or your breath hard and quick
as you sleep in the room we shared, each in our own narrow bed.

Cullinane’s reference to the poem on the page itself is excellent. The amount of light in each day grows incrementally with the onset of spring. Like this gradual change, the act of reading and moving across the page brings each word alive and into imagination.

Cullinane’s poetry style carries its own grandeur like the landscapes she describes. Her voice is distinct and clear. And in Whisper of a Crow’s Wing, this voice holds your hand, leads you through terrain, and points out details that you may have once missed.

Reviewed by Emma Shi

Whisper of a Crow’s Wing
by Majella Cullinane
Published by OUP
ISBN 9781988531229

Book Review: I have lost my way, by Gayle Forman

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_i_have_lost_my_wayIt shames me to say that this is the first novel by Gayle Forman that I have read. However her reputation preceded her and I was keen to get into this book.

There are three central characters in this book – Freya who has lost her singing mojo, Harun who is planning to run away from home to find the boy he loves, and Nathaniel who has suffered a family tragedy and arrives in New York alone and without really knowing what he is going to do.

The three quite literally collide in Central Park, when Freya in a moment of inattention falls from a bridge on to Nathaniel who is passing below, and whom Harun thinks, for a moment, is his missing man!

The book takes place over the space of one day, during which Forman explores loss in various forms. She does this with real empathy for her characters, whose backgrounds and stories come across very well. Each one has some real issues to confront, and there’s quite a lot of insight into how some parts of the music industry, in particular, can be quite brutal.

The novel also deals sensitively with (in this particular case) gay men coming out to their families – or not – and how despite different ethnicities the issue is still, and only, that of acceptance and love.

Confronting issues of sexuality, depression, suicidal thoughts are all here, but dealt with in a way that I think would encourage readers to think and talk about issues which concern them.

The way these three young people connect, relate and provide support to one another might seem a tad far-fetched to an older, more jaundiced reader, but nonetheless it works. I was gripped from page one, and I recommend it highly to teenage readers. I hope school libraries will pick this one up too.

Reviewed by Sue Esterman

I have lost my way  
by Gayle Forman
Published by Simon & Schuster
ISBN 9781471173721

 

Book review: A kaleidoscope of butterflies & other such collective nouns, by Kate Hursthouse

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_a_kaleidoscope_of_butterflies.jpgHave you ever heard of a conspiracy of lemurs or a tower of giraffes? In her amazing work of art, Kate Hursthouse introduces us to the weird and wonderful collective nouns for 25 animals. Some are more familiar, like a herd of llamas and some are a little bit odd, like a circus of puffins.

A kaleidoscope of butterflies & other such collective nouns is a beautifully illustrated picture book that will enrich young readers and adults alike with new language to describe the wonders of nature. Her amazing ability to turn words into art make each page a masterpiece. Young children will love discovering the many patterns that make up the different creatures adorning each page of this book.

My early childhood class and I loved reading A kaleidoscope of butterflies & other such collective nouns. Children are fascinated by animals and we found this lovely book both insightful and humorous. Whoever heard of an army of caterpillars? This particular collective noun had us examining our monarch caterpillars for any sign of helmets.

A kaleidoscope of butterflies & other such collective nouns can be enjoyed for its brilliantly bold artwork as well as its informative language. It would be a treasured addition to any child’s bookshelf.

Reviewed by Alana Bird

A Kaleidoscope of butterflies & other such collective nouns
by Kate Hursthouse
Published by Little Love
ISBN 9780473422356

Book Review: Scientist, Scientist, Who do you see?, by Chris Ferrie

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_scientist_scientist_who_do_you_see.jpgI’m not sure if there are any other books on the subject matter of this book, but I found this one an intriguing and rather refreshing look at Scientists and their impact on the world. Everyday things we take for granted. The format is such that even fairly young children can get some sort of understanding of the world that is around them – and still evolving.

Einstein,
Einstein,
Who do you see?
I see Marie Curie
In her laboratory.
Curie,
Curie,
Who do you see?

And so on – featured are also Ahmed Zewail, Grace Hopper, James Maxwell, Ada Lovelace, George Washington Carver, Chien-Shiung Wu, Alan Turing, Anna Mani, Charles Darwin, Katherine Johnson, Chris Ferrie (the author and finally YOU! You can change the world.

At the back of the book is a short explanation of what each scientist has achieved.
I think this book has an important part to play. Science is an exciting field – ever-changing with technology.

The author Chris Ferrie is a physicist, mathematician and also very importantly, the father of four, encouraging from an early age an interest in science.

Reviewed by Christine Frayling

Scientist, Scientist, Who Do You see?
by Chris Ferrie
Published by Sourcebooks / Distributed by New South
ISBN 9781492656180