Children's New Releases 

A Single Pearl and more

 - Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Picture Books

A Single Pearl
by Donna Jo Napoli, (ill) Jim LaMarche This is a wonderful picture book-not only is it an original and singular story, it is uplifting, and quietly life affirming-and personally I've never read a story about a pearl before. A tiny insignificant grain of sand is dropped into the ocean. It feels nothing but small and unimportant until one day it is sucked into the gills of an oyster. There it stays for years and years, being coated with shiny layers, unknowingly getting fatter and more lustrous, while feeling more and more lonely. Eventually a pearl diver digs up the oyster, and the next part of the pearl's journey begins. Everything about this book is in perfect balance, the text is lyrical, spare but affecting, and the illustrations take the story and make it sing. Jim LaMarche's pictures are realistic, but very sensitive. They are full of movement and colour, the underwater scenes are cool and mysterious, and the earthbound pages are warm and full of light, set in ancient Persia which lends a fairy tale aspect to the story too. It is a really special book, and while this may sound trite, it's surely bound to become a classic. ($27, HB)  Louise

Everyone Sleeps

In Everyone Sleeps by Marcellus Hall, Conrad the small pug doesn't sleep and this happens to worry him, as it does many parents whose little ones don't readily sleep either! Come on a four-legged adventure to visit foxes, ducks, otters and more animals in their sleeping habitats. Will Conrad ever be able to sleep? Hall's beautiful watercolours are lush and soothing, his sleeping animals create a vivid lullaby and Conrad just might be your hero to save those sleepless hours... You never know-perhaps he might even send your child to sleep. ($20, HB)  Meaghan


The Book of Languages
(ed) Mick Webb

Can you imagine being only one of two known people in the whole world to speak a particular language? Spoken on the Bolivian border, Guarasu is just that, and these facts, among many others, make this book compelling reading. Opening with endpapers showing faces as varied as the languages detailed within, this colourful book is inviting and informative. Language families, facts, maps and rating of international usage follow. Did you know that there are almost 7,000 languages spoken in the world? For each major language we have a short history, the countries in which it is spoken, useful everyday greetings, pronunciation, numbers 1-10, distinctive traits (eg. read from right to left, or vertically) and the alphabet both written & phonetic. Also included are weblinks to hear each language. Compared with more than one billion speakers of Mandarin Chinese, Welsh, with about 700,000 speakers seems a minor language, yet outside Wales there are pockets of Welsh-speakers in Patagonia and Argentina. Finally, Webb explores some non-verbal languages such as sign language, whistling, computer codes, and semaphore, as well as animal communication. Interesting, enlightening, and definitely recommended. ($33, HB)  Lynndy

The House by J. Patrick Lewis, (ill) Roberto Innocenti

This is a truly beautiful objet d'art, a glorious representation of history in art and quatrains. Built in 1656, the House survived for two and a half centuries through plague, war, modifications, families and neglect. We first encounter it in 1900 when the House is rediscovered then fortified for habitation again. How apposite the opening: 'I listen as the gossip-wind exhales, Behold! The House of twenty thousand tales. No longer shut away, a doomed outcast...'
Subsequently we observe the depiction of critical times in the life of the House over the next 10 decades: modest successes in the life of its family; the event of WW1 & its consequences for the family; WW2; social & structural changes; abandonment 'Wild creatures and the elements intrude';  and transformation at the end of the twentieth century. Elegant language and lyrical descriptions of the time are juxtaposed with dates & vignettes, alternating with full double-page illustrated spreads. This works on so many levels-as a picture book, poetry, personification of history and social change. Highly detailed illustrations invite closer perusal, to discern the intricacies and the evolving differences. Design & production scream 'classic!', as does the stripped book with its scripted title and cloth binding. An unusual book, to treasure and re-examine. ($30, HB)  Lynndy


The Mimosa Tree by Antonella Preto ($20, PB) What are they putting in the water out west? WA certainly has a reputation for churning out quality teen fiction-Zac & Mia, Have You Seen Ally Queen? and Creepy & Maud are some recent examples-and this debut novel by Preto is no exception. I had a shallow (but to book-lovers, completely understandable) reason for choosing this novel: the jacket was pretty! The contents don't disappoint, I'm happy to report. The year is 1987 and our protagonist Mira is 17, comes from an Italian migrant family, and is about to start university. Her mother has recently recovered from cancer; she hates her father, and has no friends. With her penchant for wearing all black and listening to The Smiths, she's not the cheeriest of girls. On top of that, she is preoccupied with the spectre of nuclear war and obsessively draws maps with possible escape routes. Mira's world does end up exploding, but not in the way she thinks. And no map will prepare her for what's in store... Like her western counterparts, Preto has a down-to-earth touch. The often heavy subject matter is deftly handled and offset by occasional well-placed and welcome injections of humour. Much of this humour stems from Mira's problems with her close-knit Italian family, who seem authentic without being stereotypical. Mira is also a completely believable and sympathetic character, and regardless of the generation gap, has a loving and affectionate relationship with her mother. Avoiding the pitfalls of lesser writers, Preto evokes a place in time without resorting to gratuitous historical and cultural references. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a nice long read on a quiet afternoon. Curl up on the couch with a cup of tea, a box of tissues and ignore your phone. Unless it's your mum, of course. Tell her you love her. Hannah

The Vanishing Moment by Margaret Wild

Admittedly it's been a long time since Wild's previous novels but I don't recall being as immediately smitten by those (and I am not at all influenced by the extensive mention of Gleebooks here, I promise!) The confluence of two young women in a beachside town weaves together two different tragedies. Are they escaping their respective past lives, or on the brink of choosing new trajectories? Add to the mix a 'magician' who claims to  know how to change their futures, and this story of loss, guilt, love and friendship pivots on an exceptional twist. All too human, and utterly masterful, this is a memorable story for readers of 14+!. ($18, PB) Lynndy

Run by Tim Sinclair

Parkour + concrete poetry were twin inspirations for Run, a book described by Tim Sinclair's publishers as 'genre fiction meets literary verse novel'. Precision, economy, playfulness & creativity-they have a lot in common, so it seems to me a natural fit. Set in locations that will be familiar to Sydneysiders-Pyrmont, Cockatoo Island, Annandale, South Head & The Gap-with extended flashbacks to the Adelaide Hills, Run is an atmospheric thriller. The tight focus on a handful of characters only adds to an air of claustrophobia & paranoia, making clear how important the discovery of parkour has been to Dee who, if he didn't already owe his life to it, certainly does by the end of the novel... Unusual visual elements, the pace & physicality of descriptions of parkour -I think there's a lot here to engage very different kinds of readers. Sinclair skilfully creates a real sense of flow in the action sequences that I found gripping. I'd be really interested to hear feedback about this from teachers & students. For an individual, this is probably a read for 13-14+ but teachers might choose to study it with classes of 15+. For anyone unfamiliar with parkour-part running, part athletics, part gymnastics, and all philosophy-I recommend watching some video clips. There are a lot out there. And make sure to see the book trailer for Run, which is really nicely done. ($20, PB) Liesel


We have some excellent new writing implements in the shop at the moment. The Lyra Groove ergonomic pencils are just right for children learning to write. Triangular in shape, they are indented with eight round grooves down each of the three sides, perfectly comfortable for small fingers. We also have Lyra Multicoloured pencils (the ones that Quentin Blake calls Magic Pencils), with four colours through the one lead. These are great fun to use, and can be used to great effect for drawings on coloured paper. Lastly, we have lovely wooden fountain pens, specially designed for children by the German pen company Lamy. They are smaller and lighter than adult fountain pens, and all the standard Lamy ink cartridges fit in them. (We have refills in blue, black, red, green, turquoise and violet). Louise