Goodwood by Holly Throsby

Published: 1st October 2016Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Allen & Unwin
Pages: 304
Format: Paperback
Genre: Fiction
★   ★   ★ – 3 Stars

It wasn’t just one person who went missing, it was two people. Two very different people. They were there, and then they were gone, as if through a crack in the sky. After that, in a small town like Goodwood, where we had what Nan called ‘a high density of acquaintanceship’, everything stopped. Or at least it felt that way. The normal feeling of things stopped.

Goodwood is a small town where everyone knows everything about everyone. It’s a place where it’s impossible to keep a secret.

In 1992, when Jean Brown is seventeen, a terrible thing happens. Two terrible things. Rosie White, the coolest girl in town, vanishes overnight. One week later, Goodwood’s most popular resident, Bart McDonald, sets off on a fishing trip and never comes home.

People die in Goodwood, of course, but never like this. They don’t just disappear.

As the intensity of speculation about the fates of Rosie and Bart heightens, Jean, who is keeping secrets of her own, and the rest of Goodwood are left reeling.

Rich in character and complexity, its humour both droll and tender, Goodwood is a compelling ride into a small community, torn apart by dark rumours and mystery.

This doesn’t feel like a mystery per se, there is a mystery, two mysteries, but a lot of the surrounding story covers the nature of the small town and the day to day lives of those in it. There are moments where there’re clues and accusations, and you do wonder what happened to the missing people, are they connected, is it innocent or is it foul play? Throsby does a good job having a mystery woven into the day to day lives of this small town community. She manages to depict small town life in a way that feels like a welcoming place, but is also one where everybody knows everyone’s business and there are secrets hidden for a good reason.

This is a slow story that draws you into the characters and the town, establishing the scenes and the players while the mystery happens around it. There are a lot of names and connections to keep track of but while it feels busy, it does give a sense of how involved in everybody’s lives the town is and how everybody is known to one another. The characters help create the setting as much as the descriptions of the surroundings do.

Throsby has spread out the timeline and the mystery is satisfactory without feeling obvious. There are surprises and clues throughout and what seems innocent could become more crucial later on. I enjoyed how Throsby makes the missing people first and foremost, while also making the reader wait and find out what happens. Town life carries on afterwards and it brings a sense of reality to the story. Certain people will be affect more than others, the businesses must keep running, lives go on, even if deep down everyone has been affected in some way by what has happened.

The 90s setting was fun. It isn’t obvious or over the top but it is there enough to know when the events are happening with casual references to Nirvana, overalls and other minor references giving a 90s feel to the story naturally. Overall it was an enjoyable read and one where the few surprises and revelations add to the small town dynamics where things are not always as it seems.

You can purchase Goodwood via the following

Booktopia | Book Depository

DymocksFishpond  Amazon | Amazon Aust

A Day at the Show by Gwyn Perkins

 

Published: 31st July 2018Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Affirm Press
Illustrator: Gwyn Perkins
Pages: 32
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

Doreen the hen has laid another perfect egg! Little Iggy and Grandad think she deserves to win a prize.

What follows is a family trip to the colourful chaos of the Show, filled with spinning tea cups, merry-g-rounds, lots of animals and some healthy competition.

Here is a story about family adventures, the magic of the show, and the joy of running one tiny car into another.

From Perkins’ first book A Walk in the Bush I’ve slowly grown quite attached to these stories. I love Grandad and Iggy and I love the little conversations he has with the cat and how he helps him have adventures and appreciate the world around him.

This time round Iggy and Grandad go to the show because of how proud Grandad is of Doreen and her egg laying ability. He wants to show off her skills and while they’re there have a great day at the show.

The simple conversations are quite profound and somehow Perkin’s makes a regular thing like going to the show seem even more fabulous and adventurous. The illustrations are bright and colourful and a little more cartoony considering many livestock are riding the merry-go-round and buying show bags. But the enthusiasm from grandad and Iggy’s silence is adorable and endearing and I love their little adventures.

I love how the animals are not only being judged but also are the ones enjoying the show. Grandad and Iggy explore everything that makes these shows fun – the woodchop, the show bags, the animal judging. It reminds me of the many times I’ve been to the Royal Easter Show and it’s something many people can relate to even if it is only a local fete or carnival.

I look forward to the many other adventures I hope this pair will have. It is a great exploration of Australian culture and yet is timeless and could be anywhere at all. It’s a simple story but it is filled with heart too.

You can purchase A Day at the Show via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | Angus and Robinson

 FishpondAmazon Aust

Just the Way We Are by Jessica Shirvington

Published: 22nd June 2015 Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Harper Collins
Illustrator: Claire Robertson
Pages: 32
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

A celebration of families of every kind!

Meet Anna, Chiara, Henry, Izzy and Jack.

Their families might not look like your family, but that’s okay … they’re perfect, just the way they are!

Just the Way We Are is a wonderful book that demonstrates that every family is different and many different types of family exists. There’s diversity between the families and between the cultures and generations presented which was great to see. There’s representation for same sex parents, single parent families, divorced households, fostered and adopted families, and grandparents living in the same house kind of families.

Robertson backs this up with wonderfully diverse illustrations filled with colour. They are cartoonish but not over the top or comical, and help celebrate this cultural diversity ever further with her creations and helps celebrate what makes each family special.

The narration alternates between each child of the five separate families, telling readers about the activities they do with their family and a simple but clear explanation about the type of family they are a part of. The message repeated throughout is that each family is perfect just the way they are and each one is celebrated with happy moments and positive attitudes. The formatting is clear, each child is given a different coloured font for their story, and over a few pages tells the reader why their family is perfect just the way it is.

Shirvington has created a great story that helps celebrate the uniqueness of families, not only in their make up, but in the activities each family does together as well. I really loved this story because it is perfect to show that different families exist outside the reader’s own and each family is unique in their own special way.

You can purchase Just the Way We Are via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

Shout Out to the Girls: A Celebration of Awesome Australian Women

Published: 26th February 2018Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Random House Australia
Pages: 224
Format: Hardcover
Genre: Non-Fiction
★   ★   ★   ★ – 4 Stars

Let’s give a shout-out to 50 awesome Australian women with these easy-to-read biographies of their incredible achievements. From Cathy Freeman to Turia Pitt, Edith Cowan to Julia Gillard, Cate Blanchett to Olivia Newton-John, plus rally car drivers, molecular biologists, and more, this book is a celebration of women in all fields, from all walks of life, and from Australia’s past and present. Brought to life by colourful illustrations from female artists, Shout Out to the Girls is the ultimate inspirational read for young and old.

This really is an amazing book because it shows kids and adults alike the hard work Aussie women have put into doing what they love and changing the world for the better. There are different career paths and starting points, as well as cultural background to gain inspiration from and to show that anything is achievable with passion and determination and being true to yourself.

I learnt a lot too which was great. I discovered a woman and former convict named Mary Reibey founded Westpac (something which is not mentioned in their history or on their website by the way), I also discovered the amazing work our women have done in the past to help the poor, sick, and injured, and fight for rights and better conditions of those around them – people like Mum Shirl, Jessie Street, and Edith Cowan. There’s also pages filled with women who are doing what they love and breaking boundaries and glass ceilings, not to mention there are so many fabulous young women and girls changing the world today which is incredible to see.

Each woman has a one page biography about their lives and their contributions to their field or the world. Even with this brief snippet you get a great sense of the work these women have done and the challenges they have faced to get there. Some of the entries I felt were simplified which was curious and left out key pieces of information but I understand this is not the point of this collection and not everything can be included, but it was an interesting omission for some. Alongside these biographies are an accompanying illustration drawn by different artists that captures the essence of these accomplished women and brings to life some recognisable faces and some that may not be as well known.

This is a great book to celebrate the amazing women Australia has given the world and the recognition is something that will no doubt inspire others who read this and show that women can and have changed the world and no one should let anything stand in the way of their dreams.

You can purchase Shout Out to the Girls 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

 

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