My Own Way by Joana Estrela Translated by Jay Hulme

Published: 1st March 2022Goodreads badge
Publisher
: Wide Eyed Editions
Illustrator
: Joana Estrela
Translator
: Jay Hulme
Pages
: 40
Format
: Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

Small children are often asked to choose between a gendered binary–”boy” or “girl”, “pink” or “blue”. This colorful picture book smashes these stereotypes and encourages the reader to follow their own way!

“Girl or Boy?”
What brings you joy?
“Pink or blue?”
It’s up to you.

With vibrant illustrations and concise, poetic text, this powerful book teaches young children that there are no limits in what you can do and who you can be.  You are unique!

Translated from the original Portuguese by award-winning transgender poet Jay Hulme, My Own Way is an important, timely, and beautiful celebration of identity, difference, and respect.

I picked this book up with reasonable expectations but I wasn’t expecting it to be as profound and lovely as I did. There are sometimes only three words on a page but they are impactful words. The story reminds the reader that it’s up to them to decide who they want to be. It starts off familiarly with the choice of blue or pink, girl or boy, emphasising what brings you joy is most important.

There’s wonderful messages that whether man or woman you should be as kind as you can, also that boy and girl doesn’t cover everyone and you might be both or none. I love that a book with such simple text can actually be more impactful than a story where a child is exploring their identity through a plot. Those are amazing as well, but I loved the simplicity of this.

There are fantastic lines like “your truth isn’t hidden underneath your clothes” and “your truth is something only you can know”. Kids should be told they can be and feel however they want and it’s ok, that there’s more to them than whether they are a boy or a girl and Estrela and Hulme do that beautifully. There is also a great message that it’s up to each person to say who they are and no one else.

The pictures are simple and minimal on character detail but they accompany the words well. Full page and brightly coloured they stand out with unusual colour combinations as well as great symbolic use that colours don’t always match the people society expects them to match.

With only a few words there is a lot of important lessons being learnt and I’m amazed that so much can be said with so few words and I applaud Estrela and Hulme for presenting it so well.

You can purchase My Own Way via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

Series Review: Animorphs by K. A. Applegate

If someone were to have told me that starting a 25 year old children’s book series would become all consuming, addictive and my new obsession I don’t think I would have believed them.

I always loved the Animorphs, I loved the TV show as a kid, but never read the books. I knew the story, I got it, I knew there were books – did not realise there were 50+ but that was ok. I spent years trying to track them down before finally finding them all on ebook. I got them and then never started them before one day basically saying ‘I have to start eventually’ and opened book one. That was the beginning of the end. I INHALED THEM. I sped through them, I was reading one to two a day (at average 200 pages this isn’t hard), but I was invested like nothing before.

It may sound like a lot to wax lyrical about a 25 year old children’s series but honestly, the themes and issues that are addressed make this more important than it looks on the surface. The writing is engaging, it draws you in, the character are complicated, flawed, scared children and yet watching them do the unimaginable has been mind blowing. The themes about what humanity is, what people are capable of, the moral justifications for doing what these characters do, the ongoing struggle between right and wrong, it’s incredible. Of course there are the fun moments where they battle tiny aliens and have less serious adventures, but it is always building. Everything has a purpose and over 54 books and additional side series the world that’s been created is one I won’t soon forget. I’m glad in a way I got to experience this for the first time as an adult, though I knew of the world from the TV show (which is good but changes things and is nowhere near as impactful), because it’s made me appreciate the absolute masterpiece that a very simply written story can manage to affect me so much.

After immersing myself in this brilliant series for seven straight weeks, a book always on the go, picking it up in a quiet moment to read a few more pages meant it was never not in my life. To come to the end was scary because I did not want it to end. I did not want to head into those uncertain waters and see the outcome of this long war of pain, suffering, courage, bravery and determination.

The absolute stress and intensity of those final half dozen books. My heart, my nerves, none of them were operating at normal capacity. Everything changes quickly as the final comes to a head. The sudden shift from a gradual build up to all out urgency was confronting. The familiarity of the six main characters suddenly changes and it’s an unsettling feeling of change as everything you’ve known changes and you don’t know what is going to happen. Not that you ever know what is going to happen but there is some faith the six of them remain and go on. Now, anything is up for grabs.

This story is about the horrors of war, it’s about humanity, about doing the right thing, about family, love, sacrifice. It’s Phenomenal. I cannot believe how Applegate (and the other ghostwriters) have mixed these major themes into a story about children who make jokes, mess up, turn into dolphins and dogs, who are going to school. The writing is deceptively simple and yet conveys so much that can knock you over with a line or two. From the very beginning you go on this adventure with these kids and by the end of you you’ve changed as much as them, you’re thinking about the ethical nature of war and self-defence, and you’ve gotten to know these characters so deeply you pity them and treasure them and truly when those final books hit and pretenses are dropped and you learnt the full truth, my god it’s amazing.

On top of the Big Stuff, Applegate is also incredible and getting inside the minds of animals. Because the premise is these kids can turn into animals the exploration of instinct and how animal behave and with what purpose was fascinating. The differences between ant and dogs, or tigers and dolphins was amazing to read about. While a lot of this would be speculation obviously, there was a lot of knowledge and logic as well as; the nature of ants is well known and the mind of a housecat may be a mystery but there is also observed behaviours that can be utilised in understanding instinct. The learning journey about morphing and each acquired animal was certainly one of the best parts.

These are sometimes not for the faint hearted though. Applegate doesn’t full on describe gruesome scenes, but it can be really brutal. Descriptions of morphing can be quite gross and of course battles with alien enemies is going to result in bloodshed and a few near death experiences. I liked how restrained she was, revealing enough that doesn’t sugar-coat how horrific these circumstances can be, but also writing it in  way that felt real without going too far, these are still for kids after all.

The urge to spoil this so I can gush about every amazing thing these books contain is high but truly the chance to experience them for the first time is something I never want to take away from someone. Applegate has given permission to read these for free with the ebooks given their scarcity, or eBay or Gumtree may have a few to snatch up but to get the full experience every book I think needs to be read and the ebooks may be your best bet. I also discovered recently that the audiobooks are on Scribd but things come and go from Scribd frequently and it is a paid subscription service so it may not be an ideal option.

You can read the entire Animorphs series via the following

Scribd

eBooks

Fluffy McWhiskers Cuteness Explosion by Stephen W. Martin

Published: 12 October 2021Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Margaret K. McElderry Books
Illustrator: Dan Tavis
Pages: 40
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

Meet Fluffy—an adorable kitten. So adorable, in fact, that anyone who sees her will spontaneously explode into balls of sparkles and fireworks. KABOOM! Poof.
Poor Fluffy doesn’t want anyone to get hurt, but everything she tries, even a bad haircut, just makes her cuter! So Fluffy runs away someplace no one can find her. Find out if there’s any hope for Fluffy in this funny and subversive story about self-acceptance and finding friendship in unlikely places.

This was instantly in my Top Five picture books of the year because this book is AMAZING. I laughed so much, I loved every page, I loved the words, the illustrations, the premise, the humour. I loved every single thing and I need other people to love this book.

Highlights begin before you even open the book. In lieu of author and illustrator it has ‘Explosions by’ and ‘Cuteness by’ which is FANTASTIC. Loved that. From there the greatness only went up.

It is filled with some dark humour, well as dark as a picture book can really go – animals and people do technically explode a lot in this book, but there are reasons, it is done in an adorable and hilarious way, and honestly it’s that wonderful absurd humour that makes this a brilliant book.

The illustrations are brilliant, Tavis captures the essence of Cuteness for Fluffy McWhiskers and with Martin’s blunt writing, the high logic of the situation and the lengths this poor burdened cat must go to it is the perfect combination to enhance the tone they’re aiming for.

I could reread this story multiple times and love it each time. This poor cat, who is doing the best she can, through no fault of her own, is trying to help people, to save their lives but nothing is working. I love Martin’s solution at the end and I love that there isn’t actually a solution either. It was the best way to end the story.

If you want something funny and clever, something kids will certainly love as there are many, many explosions on the page, this might be the book for you.

You can purchase Fluffy McWhiskers Cuteness Explosion via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | Angus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley

Published: 1st August 2010 Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Pan Macmillan Australia
Pages: 263
Format: Paperback
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★   ★   ★   ★ – 5 Stars

Lucy is in love with Shadow, a mysterious graffiti artist.

Ed thought he was in love with Lucy, until she broke his nose.

Dylan loves Daisy, but throwing eggs at her probably wasn’t the best way to show it.

Jazz and Leo are slowly encircling each other.

An intense and exhilarating 24 hours in the lives of four teenagers on the verge: of adulthood, of HSC, of finding out just who they are, and who they want to be.

Crowley has written a sweet and intriguing story of 24 hours of adventure and discovery and what I love about it is there’s established relationships so instalove isn’t a real issue given no one is professing love quite yet, but there are certainly connections and second chances.

Crowley captures the teenage friendship and interactions well, the story highlights that teens can have deep thoughts and dreams and ambitions. They aren’t just the outward persona they project to the world.

I liked the alternating points of view because it shows how the same experiences are seen through different eyes. I liked being in Ed and Lucy’s head and seeing their perspectives. The recapping on chapters was interesting. Often you’ll see with alternating voices the scene flips instantly but the small recap is repetitive but I didn’t mind because it brings a new perspective to the latest moment or event and then follows through with a new voice.

This story cemented my love for 24 hour stories. Stories and lives evolved and changed by a mere 24 hours can be so profound and powerful and Crowley does something phenomenal with this story in exploring the lives of these kids and their intricacies, passions and their friendships.

I would reread this in a heartbeat because it is short but powerful and getting to explore the city of Melbourne through the eyes of these characters again would be wonderful.

You can purchase Graffiti Moon via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | Angus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

The Littlest Yak by Lu Fraser

Published: 1st October 2021Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Peachtree Publishing Company
Illustrator: Kate Hindley
Pages: 32
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

On the tip of the top of a mountain all snowy, where the ice-swirling, toe-curling blizzards were blowy, in a herd full of huddling yaks, big and small, lived Gertie . . . the littlest yak of them all.

Gertie is the littlest yak in her whole herd, and she’s feeling stuck in her smallness – she wants to grow UP and have bigness and tallness!

But when it turns out that there are some things that only Gertie can do, might she come to see that she’s perfect, just the way she is?

I was immediately won over by the cute cover, it basically sealed the deal and I am so glad the story held up to the same standard.

Being the smallest in the herd and feeling like she needs to be bigger, Gertie is a great character for all those kids who wish to grow up faster. They are tired of being small, and they feel useless and just too small to be of any help. Gertie is told numerous times that she will grow up eventually but of course she doesn’t listen and seeing her montage of activities to get big was fantastic. I love Fraser’s rhymes and accompanied by adorable pictures this book could do no wrong.

I loved the illustrations so much, Hindley’s pictures are beyond adorable and the contrast of Gertie and the bigger yaks is wonderful. I loved the detail and colour scheme of her surroundings and the little knitted hats the yaks wear are delightful. I could easily steal a few of these pages and put them on my wall they are so cute.

The story is told with wonderful rhyme and there is a great flow that keeps you engaged and turning the page. The story itself has a great message about being yourself, not wishing to grow up too soon and that bigness can come in all shapes and sizes. Seeing Gertie try and grow up and be big is endearing but it’s wonderful when she learns that she is just right the size she is now.

You can purchase The Littlest Yak via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

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