Stuff Happens: Sean by Will Kostakis

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Published: 27th August 2014Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Penguin Australia
Pages: 120
Format: Paperback
Genre: Junior Fictions
★   ★  ★  ★  – 4 Stars

 

4 boys, 4 stories, 4 great Australian writers in an important new series.

Stuff happens sometimes.

Everyday stuff.

At school, at home, with sport, with mates.

For Ned it happened with a new teacher.

For Sean it happened starting at a new school.

For Michael it happened when he thought he was disappointing his parents.

For Jack it happened when a game at recess went wrong.

This is such a sweet story. It is a quick read and part of the wider series but there is a wonderful message in there about being a friend and finding your place in a new school. Despite the length the narrative is quite complicated which I was surprised about. Kostakis covers feeling scared of a new school and trying to make new friends. But he also explores how leaving one place doesn’t make the love of your old home go away. There are lessons about being helpful and making grown up decisions when you are scared of the consequences.

There are morals and messages but they are not obvious as they develop naturally around the characters and their actions. Kostakis doesn’t make it overly complicated either, Sean’s feelings and thoughts help tell the story as well as his feelings and the inclusion of the emotion chart at the bottom of some pages was a clever way to indicate how Sean was feeling.

I read this because it was a Will Kostakis book, now I might need to track down the others in the series as well to get the full scope of this fascinating set of books.

You can purchase Stuff Happens: Sean via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | Angus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

Clancy the Quokka by Lili Wilkinson

Published: 1st October 2019Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Allen & Unwin
Illustrator: Alison Mutton
Pages: 32
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

Here’s Clancy the quokka. So friendly and charming.
His innocent face is truly disarming.

Clancy the Quokka is super cute, but also has a super cheeky habit of raiding picnic food, so when he spots a magnificent birthday cake, how can he resist? After the mayhem he creates, will Clancy learn his lesson?

Clancy is a tiny adorable quokka and his thieving proclivities are the main focus on this book but Wilkinson also manages to highlight his charming and adorable nature. I liked the direction this story took, we’re introduced to Clancy and his world initially but as the story goes on we see the wider world and the bigger picture and his role within it. There’s humour and laughs from both story and illustrations, not to mention a recognition about many traditional Australian party pastimes that Clancy inadvertently takes part in.

I enjoyed this story because it makes Clancy a little villain which is hilarious and so enjoyable to read about. The rhymes are lovely and flow really well as you read them, plus the devilishly adorable illustrations show exactly what is going on alongside the words.

Mutton’s illustrations take up the entire page and are realistic but have a fun cartoonish quality as well. The colours are natural and depict the real world, the Australian bush as well as people and other surroundings. They are beautiful addition and they help bring our Clancy’s personality and his expressions show us how he’s feeling.

This is an absolutely adorable story that is filled with fun and cheekiness, with a few lessons learnt along the way. It is simple but fun and it’s a great celebration of one of amazing native animals.

You can purchase Clancy the Quokka via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | Angus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon Aust

 

Meerkat Choir by Nicki Greenberg

Published: 27th September 2017Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Allen and Unwin
Illustrator: Nicki Greenberg
Pages: 32
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

The meerkats are excited. They’re ready for their very first rehearsal with their meerkat choirmaster. But just as they’re about to sing their very first note, they’re interrupted by a steady stream of other animals who want to join in.

The meerkat choirmaster insists his choir is only for meerkats. And he gets grumpier and grumpier at each interruption.

There is a lot of humour throughout this story which is a marvellous feat considering how few words there are. There is a lot of enjoyment to be gotten from the illustrations and the reactions of those involved too.

The story starts as the meerkat conductor is about to begin rehearsals only to be interrupted by others who wish to join. After rejecting a few animals who ask, the conductor starts sending away animals that come and start singing unprompted. I thought this was incredibly clever because it breaks up the monotony of “Can I join” “No” through the whole book, and demonstrates how different animals make sound.

Seeing the conductor get crankier with each interruption is delightful. Greenburg’s illustrations add a lot of emotion and frustration when there are few words to the story. The traumatised faces of the meerkats as each animal joins in is funny, especially when they are of the more dangerous kind.

There is a wonderful message to be learnt too that excluding others is not only mean and discriminatory but may also be detrimental to your ambitions.

You can purchase Meerkat Choir via the following

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Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon

The Sidewalk’s Regrets by Kate Larkindale

Published: 1st February 2019Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Evernight Teen
Pages: 304
Format: ebook
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

Seventeen-year-old Sacha McLeod isn’t looking for someone to rock her world. But when she hears the boy in the music store play the guitar, the music thrills her and she falls hard for Dylan and his sound.

Sacha finds herself spending less time with her violin and more time with this guy. Her plans for her violin-virtuoso future—and her self-confidence—are shattered when she screws up the audition for a summer music program. Failure isn’t something she’s had to face before, so when Dylan asks her to spend her vacation with him in the city, she lies to her parents, pretends she won a place in the summer school, and secretly moves in with Dylan.

She’s expecting romance, music, and passion, but when she finds herself playing second fiddle to Dylan’s newly acquired drug habit, she realizes despite what the songs say, sometimes love isn’t all you need. 

Note: I received a copy of this book from the author for review

CW: Drug use

I was pleasantly surprised by the direction this story took. It wasn’t the rock and roll summer story I was expecting, though there were a few tropes like instant love which was convenient, but from a “first love at seventeen” approach the infatuation and impulsiveness makes sense. The narrative starts off slow as we are introduced to Sacha and her world of classical music. Her sheltered music life gets a jolt when she hears the music of Dylan for the first time and she is thrown into this rock and roll world. From there the story starts rolling and soon it has a nice flow which is maintained through the rest of the story. It was quite fascinating because the story doesn’t follow the typical route I was expecting, but there are still great moments of tension and drama you come to expect from this kind of story. It’s a story of a band trying to hit the big time, a girl whose dream might not happen, and the lure of fame and the rock and roll life. The three of those things together sound like a story already told but Larkindale adds a new approach and it makes for an engaging story.

Sacha’s mindset and her goals are explored quite well through this and you see how her reasoning and her justifications change with each new experience. It’s one way to see it as her constantly changing her mind, but it makes more sense that she justifies things to herself, especially given her situation and her desire to stay with Dylan. The depiction of drug use is well done and a very apt description from what I have read elsewhere. It is a key part of the story and there are moments where using drugs is described in action and character reaction. Larkindale also shows the gradual descent of usage, the way it starts off small and soon grows into something bigger. It also shows how easy it is to actually fall and how you can go from top to bottom fairly fast.

Even though the perspective is always through Sacha, the rest of the characters felt real. Larkindale has given them a lot of depth into their passions and desires and you understand their motives and actions, even if they seem foolhardy at the time. This is a story revolving around one summer, but Larkindale takes it beyond that as well and you see the characters grow and find out who they are. I loved how the story ends up, the experiences of the characters makes this story and seeing how the story ends is satisfying once you have gone on this journey with them.

You can purchase The Sidewalk’s Regrets via the following

Book DepositoryDymocks

 Wordery | Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

Long Lost Review: The Wrong Girl by Zoe Foster

Long Lost Reviews is a monthly meme created by Ally over at Ally’s Appraisals which is posted on the second Thursday of every month. The aim is to start tackling your review backlog. Whether it’s an in-depth analysis of how it affected your life, one sentence stating that you only remember the ending, or that you have no recollection of reading the book at all. 

Published: 26th February 2014Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Penguin Australia
Pages: 304
Format: Paperback
Genre: Romance
★   ★  ★  ★ – 4 Stars

Lily is a producer on a successful cooking segment for a daily morning show. The new chef has just arrived on set and he is drop dead gorgeous. And despite everything – the sabbatical that Lily and her flatmate Simone are taking from men, the fact that Jack is a work colleague – Lily falls head over heels for him.

And while Lily battles her feelings, her flatmate Simone breaks their pact and starts dating some guy from her wholefoods shop. That guy turns out to be Jack. Up close, Lily bravely watches on as romance blossoms between Simone and Jack. Or does it? They don’t seem to have much in common, apart from their striking good looks. And Lily and Jack just seem to get each other. Is that the same thing as falling in love? And could she ever dream of betraying a friendship? Lily has to make some difficult decisions about work and home, and realises that if she doesn’t take life by the scruff of the neck, she is the one who’ll be picked up, shaken and dumped. 

I really loved this book. I had it sitting on my shelf for years and I finally got around to reading it in 2017 and I have to say I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. It was made into a TV show but I can’t bring myself to watch it because based on a cursory glance at the first few episode summaries it clearly changes a few things I absolutely loved about the book so I haven’t watched it. I’m sure it is still good in its own right but I want to preserve my book memories.

The blurb makes the story sound more like unrequited love than I believe it initially to be. Naturally, after having sworn off men, the perfect one walks into Lily’s life, but what I loved was that Lily and Jack’s relationship doesn’t start off perfectly. She takes a while to warm up to him and their friendship and work/life banter is much more enjoyable than having them get together. Yes Lily starts to get a crush on Jack, but it doesn’t consume her or become to focus of the novel, her determination to further her career is the focus of her days and Foster balances her work and her downtime really well so Lily’s whole life is encapsulated without having every tiny detail and event laid out.

I loved that Foster didn’t go the jealous friend/unrequited love route she could have done. Yes it is there in the tiniest instance, but Lily is so in denial over her feelings for Jack initially she never pines over Jack being with someone else, nor does she obsess over him like a lovesick puppy. It was really refreshing and I loved the different approach to having her feelings be the be all and her job and life be brushed over while she spent her time thinking about him.

So much of everything is done wonderfully in this. The right balance of fun, seriousness, and romance. I love Lily as a character, she is young but growing up, she knows what she wants and has a goal in mind, but she also has a little fun as well. I definitely think a reread of this is in order because I remember it being such a wonderful read filled with the surprises and delights to entertain while also feeling real and having an emotional impact.

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