Louisiana’s Way Home by Kate DiCamillo

Published: 2nd October 2018 (print)/2nd October 2018 (audio) Goodreads badge
Candlewick Press / Listening Library
Pages: 240/3 Hours 35 min
Narrator: Cassandra Morris
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Junior Fiction
★   ★   ★  ★ – 4 Stars

When Louisiana Elefante’s granny wakes her up in the middle of the night to tell her that the day of reckoning has arrived and they have to leave home immediately, Louisiana isn’t overly worried. After all, Granny has many middle-of-the-night ideas. But this time, things are different. This time, Granny intends for them never to return. Separated from her best friends, Raymie and Beverly, Louisiana struggles to oppose the winds of fate (and Granny) and find a way home. But as Louisiana’s life becomes entwined with the lives of the people of a small Georgia town — including a surly motel owner, a walrus-like minister, and a mysterious boy with a crow on his shoulder — she starts to worry that she is destined only for good-byes. (Which could be due to the curse on Louisiana’s and Granny’s heads. But that is a story for another time.)

This story is told to us by Louisiana and from the start we are put right into the excitement as Lousinana and her grandmother take off on a mysterious journey in the middle of the night. I love DiCamillo’s work and this was just as beautiful as all her other stories. She has a way with making the everyday seem profound and important and she makes you realise the everyday is profound and important too.

I liked the almost magical feel of this story. The southern charm is evident and the peculiarities of Louisiana’s grandmother add a nice eccentricity to the tale but the further you get into the story it becomes so much more. The feeling of belonging, finding out who you are and where you belong in the world is an emotionally touching story. Louisiana’s innocence, the daunting nature of her situation are captivating and as DiCamillo takes her story into new friendships, tough questions, and harsh realities it draws you in further. There is a timeless feeling despite being set in modern time.

The characters are just as charming and it is hard not to be captured by their hospitality and kindness. Their love and support of Louisiana are a nice comfort while you follow her journey and try and find her footing in this strange new life her grandmother has put her in. I can understand how it may feel too perfect at times but it is also refreshing and it brings safety and security to a child’s world, a refuge with open love and acceptance without fear.

The audiobook was a wonderful expereince, Morris captured Louisiana’s voice perfectly and her narration only added to the mystical nature of the tale. There is nothing actually magical about this story, really, but DiCamillo’s stories always feel a little out of this world, some deep magic and I felt that with this story. There was an old time feel to the setting and it had the childhood innocence but resilience, knowledge and strength as well.

This is a standalone but it has connections to characters previously seen in DiCamillo’s book Raymie Nightingale. This is a story that is both heart-warming and heartbreaking but Louisiana is endearing and seeing her discover who she is and what she is capable of enduring is a beautiful comfort. A very small part of you may even tear up as you read, especially the end, and that is 100% completely acceptable.

You can purchase Louisiana’s Way Home via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

The Tales of Mr Walker by Jess Black

Published: 29th October 29th 2018Goodreads badge
Puffin Books
Illustrator: Sara Acton
Pages: 192
Format: Hardback
Genre: Junior Fiction
★   ★   ★   ★ – 4 Stars

Introducing Mr Walker – a hotel dog with a nose for adventure!

On a brilliant autumn’s day, Mr Walker arrives at the grandest hotel in town. While things get off to a wobbly start, this charming labrador is determined to put his best paw forward. And it’s just as well because the most unexpected adventures await…

There are four tales included in this omnibus and it explores the adventures of Mr Walker and his life at the Park Hyatt. Black makes Mr Walker act and behave like a dog, but he also has his own thoughts and understanding about what is happening around him. The story is entirely through his perspective and it was heart-warming to see how he loves and adores the people he works with and lives with.

Having these tales be based on the real Mr Walker who has been living and working at the Park Hyatt in Melbourne since 2017 is even better. As a failed guide dog he is a wonderful ambassador and Black includes a bio at the back of the book so you can get to know the real Mr Walker.

The four tales included are filled with mystery and drama, Mr Walker gets to investigate and solve problems, help out and help people by being himself. There is real heart in the stories and having Mr Walker be at the centre of it you get to see all these stories and see people interact with a dog they may not with another human.

There are wonderful dog moments like seeing Mr Walker manoeuvre on marble floors, seeing him play in the park with his dog friends, as well as a great representation of how he uses his nose and tracking to understand the world around him and using that to find things.

Acton’s illustrations are adorable. The simple water colour drawings are scattered throughout and depict Mr Walker in many delightful and humorous ways. They are mini inclusions amongst the text and it gives off a great storybook feel.

There are many more tales of Mr Walker but having four in this first book gets you invested in his story and I’m certainly looking forward to reading about more of his adventures.

You can purchase The Tales of Mr Walker via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | Angus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon Aust | Audible

Jack Jones: The Lost Temple (#3) by Zander Bingham

Published: 19th September 2018Goodreads badge
 Green Rhino Media
Pages: 106
Format: Paperback
Genre: Junior Fiction/Adventure
★   ★   ★  ★ – 4 Stars

While exploring deep in the jungle, Jack Jones, his sister Emma and best buddy Albert uncover a hidden temple inside a cave that has been lost for centuries. To learn its secrets, they’ll have to cross piranha-filled rivers, creep past an ancient crypt, resolve a slithery situation, and find their way through a temple maze. 

But as the cave starts to crumble around them, will they track down the ancient Book of the Gods and figure out a way to leave before they’re trapped forever? 

Join Jack, his sister Emma and best buddy Albert as they work together to decode symbols to identify the newly-discovered temple, find a way inside, seek to locate an ancient relic that archaeologists have been searching for hundreds of years to find, and escape before the cave collapses around them. 

Note: I received a copy of this book for review

Jack Jones and his friends are back for another exciting adventure. There is no real necessity to read these in any particular order, but there is slightly more detail and background given in The Pirate Treasure that may give some more indication of who these kids are. That’s not to say you aren’t given clues and context here either, but this story jumps straight into an adventure without much history.

I enjoyed this story. The Jack Jones books are classic adventure stories of finding lost temples and secret cities, hidden treasure and all the adventures reminiscent of the classic tales. Ideal for kids to go on the adventures alongside and something which brings out the adventurous spirit. The same sensibilities are evident for the kids and how and why they are allowed to explore. I felt the language was a bit more natural this time around regarding the manners and politeness. There is friendship and helping one another which is endearing, and Bingham demonstrates what kids are capable of achieving and the discovering on their own. He gives them an adventure of being independent and the freedom of taking chances, making mistakes, and getting messy.

The technology is there once again with Jack’s tablet, but that isn’t always there to help them, something which adds to the overall narrative. Despite the inclusion of technology, it also shows the kinds of adventures kids can have without technology. Even if we won’t all discover ancient temples, the act of exploring with friends is often an adventure in itself.

While Jack is the central character, I wanted a bit more from the other two like I’d seen in other stories. Albert and Emma have roles to play but in this story it felt like they were often there to push Jack along, Emma even more so than Albert. While there is not a lot of story to give time to extra information, seeing a bit more of these secondary characters would be great.

The stories all end with the kids succeeding and no one getting injured but there are still challenges on the way the kids must overcome. Seeing them be challenged and having to use logic and their minds are good examples for readers, especially for the younger kids.

You can purchase The Lost Temple via the following

Booktopia | Book Depository

Wordery | Angus & RobertsonFishpond

 Amazon | Amazon Aust | Publisher

Book Face Pacific Fair | Readings Kids

Jack Jones: The Haunted Lighthouse (#2) by Zander Bingham

Published: 18th September 2018Goodreads badge
Green Rhino Media
Pages: 102
Format: Paperback
Genre: Junior Fiction/Adventure
★   ★   ★ – 3 Stars

Could the old lighthouse that Jack’s aunt bought to turn into a guesthouse actually be haunted? Mysterious figures in the windows…strange noises…flickering lights. Is this really the work of ghosts? 

Join Jack Jones and crew as they investigate the ghostly events taking place during their stay at The Point Danger Lighthouse in this modern-classic adventure. 

Note: I received a copy of this book for review

With a small holiday at a lighthouse offering a chance for excitement, the ghost stories have the kids intrigued but also a little wary. With more mystery than adventure this second Jack Jones book offers the kids a chance to be ghost hunters and detectives.

The trio are back with their enthusiasm to explore and have fun this time with an old lighthouse the locals believe is haunted. While I still enjoyed the story, and enjoyed seeing how the kids logically worked through problems, I think I enjoyed the adventure style of the previous book more than the mystery, it felt like there was something missing this time around. There didn’t feel like as much going on in this story. Whether this is because this was more mystery than adventure I’m not sure. Certainly there is less wonder and discovery, replaced with more modern and common issues like power failures.

Bingham adds in a few more characters this time, we see some of the local residents and their stories and experiences add to the narrative and makes them more rounded characters and pads out the story some more making it flow better.

There was still intrigue to find out the culprit to all the strange happening around the place, and with logical explanations or a Scooby Doo villain the only choices I was keen to find out more, either being welcomed. Bingham shows the kids bravery and determination to solve the mystery and while there is less danger present than before, it is also more relatable. The relatable fears and situations make the characters experience understandable, especially for younger readers, but Bingham makes sure to show that being scared doesn’t stop the trio from choosing to go on regardless.

The writing felt more natural but still in the same Bingham style; short sentences, explanations and simple language for easy reading and comprehension. This is one you can read alone but there is certainly a lot more backstory provided in the previous book; this story works well as the continuing adventures of Jack Jones and company.

You can purchase The Haunted Lighthouse via the following

Booktopia | Book Depository

WorderyFishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust | Publisher

Book Face Pacific Fair | Readings Kids

Jack Jones: The Pirate Treasure by Zander Bingham

Published: 20th September 2018Goodreads badge
Green Rhino Media
Pages: 103
Format: Paperback
Genre: Junior Fiction/Adventure
★   ★   ★ – 3 Stars

When a message-in-a-bottle washes up on their local beach, Jack Jones, his sister Emma and best buddy Albert discover that it just might lead to a Spanish galleon ship that has been lost for centuries! Will Jack and his crew decode the clues left by pirates to reveal the hidden location of the ship? Can they succeed where many have failed? Or will they fall into one of the traps left behind by those trying to protect the ship, and the priceless treasure believed to be aboard?

Note: I received a copy of this book for review

At 103 pages this is a quick read but one that suits this kind of story. The focus is on the adventure rather than offering long and detailed back stories of characters or the environment. We are given a few details about each of the characters but not a lot of time is wasted on filling in unnecessary details. Bingham includes enough to fill plot holes and explain away lack of parental supervision but the majority of the character back story and description is kept brief. This was something I didn’t mind; I didn’t need all the extra information. There’s enough there to know the characters but the focus is moving plot along.

Even though this is short it’s filled with mystery and adventure that kids would love to get lost in. It combines the modern and the old and showcases what kids can achieve when they work together. The narrative is not complicated and it’s sprinkled with lessons and morals about being kind and helpful. There is adventure and danger but no enemies to defeat or violence to endure. There are challenges the characters face but with teamwork and the support of friends the trio are able to succeed.

The style of story could easily suit any age, it is very Treasure Island and having independent kids but still having them be responsible and knowledgeable offers good lessons too. I can easily see kids from even the age of six enjoying this kind of story, especially with the simple language and layout. The layout is basic, the story told in a collection of short paragraphs with large text. This formatting actually would lend itself to younger kids reading it as well as the chapters are short and the words simple to read. There are also detailed black and white illustrations throughout the book as well to help kids visualise the story. With the intention of having a book that helps transition kids into reading chapter books and more complicated stories, this is a great starting point. Even older kids who simply want a good adventure story will love this.

I am keen to see what other adventures this trio get up to. Having gotten used to the writing style, the innocent adventures are reminiscent of The Famous Five where it is about having experiences as friends and not about fighting villains or having overly complicated narratives.

You can purchase The Pirate Treasure via the following

Booktopia | Book Depository

WorderyFishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust | Publisher

Book Face Pacific Fair | Readings Kids

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