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Checkout the latest recommended resources from the SLANSW Review Team

  • 16 May 2023 7:12 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Title: The Impossible Story of Hannah Kemp

    Author: Leonie Agnew

    Reviewer: Rhonda Bruce

    Audience: 12+

    She's left me with one missing mother, one adoptive mother, and now, a supernatural parent fuelled on ink. Three mothers. No matter what I've done, no teenager deserves that. (P209)

    Hannah Kemp is 15 years old, adopted, traumatised by an accident which she caused, a brilliant reader and, in her mind, unpopular with most people. Hannah's story changes when she encounters a weird mobile library that has books that contain true stories about local people and their secrets. Then, Hannah discovers her own book on the shelves...

    Links to the History and English Curriculum

  • 16 May 2023 6:55 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Title: Growing in to Autism

    Author: Sandra Thom-Jones

    Reviewer: Rhonda Bruce

    Audience: Parents and Teachers

    When I eat anything, whether a three-course meal or a handful of peanuts, I chew the food evenly on both sides of my mouth. The first piece I chew in the left, the second I chew on the right, then I repeat this until it's all eaten. Each piece of food needs to be the same size. (P 80)

    An enlightening and captivating memoir by a university researcher who writes about her journey with autism. It is both personal and poignant at times, with chapters dealing with particular aspects of autism; sensory overloads, deficits in social interactions, hypersensitivity, relationships and autistic strengths. A very interesting book, giving insights into how autism affects her everyday life. Recommended for both parents and teachers of students with autism. 

    Links to the English Curriculum

  • 28 Apr 2023 2:41 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Title: The Ghost of Gracie Flynn

    Author: Joanna Morrison

    Reviewer: Rhonda Bruce

    Audience: YA 13+

    "After my funeral, the three of them did their best to salvage things. They went to a coupe of films together and played Scrabble, drinking cask wine and discussing current affairs. But they knew it was futile." (Page 64)

    Gracie Flynn is dead but she is not gone. Years later, her friends are reunited and Gracie tells her part of the story wistfully as the story weaves its way to the solving of her death and that of the murder of one of her friends.

  • 28 Apr 2023 2:31 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Title: The Bravest Word

    Author: Kate Foster

    Reviewer: Donna Dobson

    Audience: Primary

    “I’m embarrassed and ashamed and filled with the worst guilt I’ve ever felt in my life. I’m a a failure. And I don’t think the world needs people like me. Instead of dismissing that thought, I keep it there, in my head, lingering, taunting. The world doesn’t need me.” (P173-174)

    A timely book, dealing with the issues of mental health in a young boy on the cusp of his first teenage years. Matt is a believable character, with supportive parents and good friends. But Matt is tired, all the time, and has lost interest in school, sport and friends. Every day activities now fill him with dread, leaving him feeling ill and teary. He feels lost, alone and useless. 

    Running parallel to Matt’s story, is Cliff, a dog who Matt and his dad discover abandoned and abused. Caring for Cliff, Matt learns that dogs can suffer from anxiety and depression, and he begins to recognise the signs within himself. This leads Matt to the bravest word…help. A sensitive, insightful read, particularly for 12-13 year olds, teachers and parents.

    Similar books are “The Way of the Dog” by Zana Fraillon, “Talking to Alaska” by Anna Woltz and Laura Watkinson, ”August & Jones” by Pip Harry, “OC Daniel” by Wesley King, and “Runt” by Craig Silvey.

  • 28 Apr 2023 2:25 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Title: Grace Notes

    Author: Karen Comer

    Reviewer: Rhonda Bruce

    Audience: YA 13+

    “This song has a grace note,

    a tiny note that's there for


    but can easily be ignored,

    not played.

    Tonight, I add it in -

    just because.

    We can all do with an extra note

    of grace” (Page 17).

    Grace is a gifted violinist who wants to play violin for the rest of her life. James would love to be a street artist, who draws, paints and redraws and paints in his family garage. James sees Grace on Instagram playing the violin and paints her portrait in a Melbourne alley. Grace sees her portrait and sets out to find the artist. It's a great story set when the first COVID outbreak occurred in Melbourne. It's about learning to follow your dreams.

  • 28 Apr 2023 2:17 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Title: The Little Match Girl Strikes Back

    Author: Emma Carroll

    Illustrator: Lauren Child

    Reviewer: Donna Dobson

    Audience: Primary

    “I realised that people, working together for a purpose, could also achieve magical,                    magnificent things” (p175).

    Unlike the traditional little match girl, this match girl proves more than a ‘match’ for the Match Factory Tyrants.

    A simple retelling of the classic tale, reveals the horrid and poisonous conditions that young girls and women were forced to work in to earn money to support their families. This story takes place in Victorian times and subtly reveals what life was like for the poor, with the focus on the unhealthy conditions of match factories. Bridie, the main character sells matches on the street, but unlike the original little match girl, she is a determined, indignant and quick-witted child. After an incident, she is left with three crooked matches. By striking each match, Bridie gets a glimpse of the future, and it is enough to give her the courage and strength to stand up for what she believes in. But she doesn’t stand alone.

    This story is further supported by the artistic flair of Lauren Child, who’s red, black and white illustrations depicting Victorian life with authenticity, and break up the story nicely.

    A fast-paced historical novel, with quirky illustrations, suitable for primary school-aged readers. The book encourages readers to fight for what they believe in, and it’s magical a group of people can achieve.

  • 28 Jan 2023 8:06 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Title: The Edge of Limits

    Author: Susanne Gervay

    Reviewer: Tom H (Year 11)

    Confronting, empowering, and insightful. Susanne Gervay's novel, The Edge of Limits, is an emotional rollercoaster exploring the search for identity and finding one’s self in a confusing world riddled with expectations, unwritten rules, and unfamiliar experiences. Pulling from her own teenage children's experiences, Gervay artfully constructs an authentic story of a gruelling school camp through the lens of 17-year-old protagonist, Sam Knox.

    The reader gets to follow not only the physical journey of teenage boys on a school camp–trekking through the bush, climbing sickening slopes, swimming in icy cold water and exploring a confronting cave–but also the heartfelt emotional journey that sees the characters grow and develop. The Edge of Limits is a coming-of-age story highlighting hidden qualities in people and the importance of talking about your feelings to better yourself and learn about others. It wholeheartedly grapples with pertinent issues relevant to both boys and girls, including consent, mateship, acceptance, and masculinity, making it an insightful and valuable read. However, what truly brings this book to life is the authentic voice of Sam, which is clear, strong, realistic, and nuanced, allowing it to make deep connections with young men. It's a book that keeps you turning the pages.

    The Edge of Limits’ story is also blasted forward by the antagonist, Watts, the school bully who strikes fear and frustration into all who cross him. His character is scheming, power-seeking, evil, and has a twitching personality born from peer pressure, locked-up feelings, a lack of good role models, and not understanding healthy masculinity. These traits cast Watts as a core agent in driving home many morals, including the dangers of drugs, suicide rates, violence, and abuse.

    While the reader builds an increasingly unpleasant image of Watts, we follow Sam's journey from a lost and confused teen into a more confident young man with a greater understanding of himself and his place in the world. He learns to stand up for what is right and surprises the reader by facing his fears and crushing what is wrong. This heroic character allows readers to form their own opinions of whether they want to be the bully or the hero. The book doesn't force anything; it presents good and bad values in action and guides the reader to choose wisely.

    In terms of the beautiful imagery and plot, there were some minor things I noticed. Firstly, this is quite an intense book and generally suited to readers aged 15 and above. This is because the story has scenes and characters that are so disturbing or frustrating that it might trigger powerful emotions and leave unforgettable memories. And although this is where much of the book's value lies, younger readers should proceed with care.

    The book also employs small flashbacks that dive into Sam's past and give more depth and clarity into his thoughts, emotions, and beliefs. These flashbacks are insightful, and I wish the book used this technique more often and in more depth.

    So, will younger readers take the time and effort to commit to a book like this? Gervay sure thinks so, and after reading it, I agree. It's short enough to be approachable and long enough to engage the teenage brain and invoke actual, lasting change for the betterment of humankind.

    The Edge of Limits helps boys find themselves. It shows them that  there's value in their hearts and shatters many stereotypes constraining men and women, allowing people to live happier, fuller, and freer lives.

    It was a pleasure reading this book and a joy to rate it 9/10. Happy reading!

    Interested to learn more about Susanne Gervay and her work? Then you may like to consider attending our next Professional Learning Summit: The Strength of Story (4 March 2023) where Susanne is presenting the opening keynote address "The Search for Identity is the Journey"

  • 28 Jan 2023 8:01 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Title: The Sugarcane Kids and the Red-Bottomed Boat

    Author: Charlie Archbold

    Reviewer: Donna Dobson

    A simple and fun read that children will enjoy as it does not take too long to read, and when getting kids into reading that is important. You want children to finish a book, feel a sense of accomplishment, and leaves them ready to devour another… and then repeat.

    The Sugarcane kids are four young children who live in far North Queensland, so they know to keep an eye out for crocodiles, particularly a large saltwater crocodile called Sebastian.

    Andy shares his time between his mum and his dad; each parent having a new partner, but they generally get along.

    Andy enjoys the time with his mum, as his best friend Eli lives nearby.

    The crux of the story is that Eli’s older brother Jacob is arrested for jewellery theft and his court case is looming. Whilst Jacob is in custody, Andy and Eli decide to investigate because they are certain that Jacob is innocent.

    With the help of two other friends, and Andy’s sausage dog Washington, the foursome starts an investigation that takes them into the mangroves and into the territory of the legendary Sebastian.

    Woven into the plot, are subplots of a schoolyard bully, diverse family situations, Aussie/Indonesian culture, and push-bike riding fun. This book engages the reader as it is simple, interesting, subtly funny, and contains enough suspense to hold the reader captive.

  • 28 Jan 2023 7:58 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Title: Grandma Mary’s Factory

    Author: Elizabeth O’Brien

    Reviewer: Vicki Bennett

    An informative story that explores the simplicity, yet complexities, of growing up in a multicultural community in Australia. The book explores the history of a family to keep this alive.

    The descriptive language used creates a clear representation of Grandma’s Factory. The story explores the community and how they all support each other.

    Each page has text highlighted to enhance the meaning of the work using Kerning–the visual representation enhances and highlights the importance of these words to explain what is happening in the factory.

    Family and community is the most important message that I took from this book. The author is sharing her and her children’s memories of their grandma and mother.

    It is a historical fictional picture book that is keeping the stories of the past alive.

  • 28 Jan 2023 7:49 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Title: Ice

    Author: Susan Brocker

    Reviewer: Donna Dobson

    If you are a boy who likes gaming, and your parents give you a hard time about the amount of time spend indoors on games, then this might well be a book for you.

    The book starts with a helicopter crash into a snowy and mountainous part of New Zealand and the only survivor is a tracking dog.

    The book then jumps to Zac, a young boy who is now living in Wanaka with his father, a hard man, and a kind step-mother, thoughtful step-sister, and a step-brother.

    Zac feels out of place and prefers to spend time in his room gaming.

    His step-mother takes him to a dog-shelter to choose a dog. This is where the tracking dog from the beginning of the story comes into it. A bond forms through the cage between boy and dog, and even though his step-mother has misgivings, this is the dog Zac takes home and names her Ice, because of the colour of her eyes.

    Zak’s father is not impressed by Zac’s choice of dog and grumbles about his ability to handle a strong husky, so he sets Zac up with a job at a private wild life sanctuary, collecting animal dung. But things are not what they seem on the surface at the sanctuary.

    Zac meets several characters, both good and not so good. Ice appears to be a good judge of character and either accepts a person or gets her hackles up with others. Unbeknown to Zac, Ice is recognised by the wealthy sanctuary owner and his henchmen as she is the dog they had secretly organised to come out from South Africa with her tracker.

    This sets off a chain of events that sees Zac grow in confidence and determination to find out what is really going on. Why is a lion tormented, why are the elephants mistreated, what is underneath the sanctuary, and who is following Zac and trying to steal Ice?

    Zac ventures into the wilderness with Ice, where Ice leads him to the site of the crashed helicopter and its deceased passengers, but they also discover a wrecked van filled with a cachet of exotic animal pelts and tusks.

    Zac, who has limited experience in the wilderness and in dealing with ruthless henchmen, finds himself battling for survival. This is where his gaming skills and knowledge come in handy. In games, Zac is a hero, but in real life, his father thinks he is useless. But Zac uses survival techniques he has learned from playing games to outwit criminals, scale up out of a cave, and save his dad and step-family.

    This is an adventure story that holds one’s attention from start to finish, and whilst far-fetched, kids, particularly gamers, will enjoy this book (and maybe feel that it authenticates their time gaming). And we all fall in love with the husky, Ice, and feel the loss of her handler as much as this sensitive tracking dog.

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