Dear Grandpa by Kate Simpson

Published: August 2019 Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Allen & Unwin
Illustrator: Ronojoy Ghosh
Pages: 32
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

A picture book about the special relationship between a boy and his grandfather, who stay close even when they are separated by distance.

Grandpa, did you know that if you rub a needle with a magnet, one end will point to the north and the other end to the south? In the south there’s an apartment building 160 metres tall. From the balcony, you can see the entire city. There are cinemas and ice cream shops … and me!

As Henry measures the distance between his new apartment and Grandpa’s wooden house under the mango tree, Grandpa works out how close they really are. A moving story that celebrates the bond between a boy and his grandfather.

This is a great story about families who live far apart but can still have meaningful and connected lives. We learn about Grandpa and Henry through their letters to one another – the content of which explores facts Henry’s learning and we learn about where he lives and what he has been doing as he recounts it to his grandpa.

Simpson shows us that Henry is loving and likes to share fun facts with his grandpa while Grandpa is supportive of his affection and adds his own fun to the letters as well. Telling these things in a letter to his grandpa is sweet and it shows the fun whimsical relationship the pair have.

Ghosh’s illustrations are a beautiful addition. The letters between Grandpa and Henry take centre stage but around them Ghosh has created stunning illustrations about their content with everything from a picture of Henry’s new neighbourhood to a beautiful two page spread of blue whales and Grandpa floating through the milky way. What I love about these illustrations is Ghosh alternates between Henry’s life and the real world and Grandpa’s exaggerations.

The symmetry between the start and end of the narrative is clever and I loved how it created a nice frame not only story wise, but by creating similar emotions that we experienced at the start but which have evolved as we’ve read the story.

This is a beautiful story about missing family but still being able to connect with them and share your lives with them. The relationship comes across the page as you go back and forth between the pair, Simpson capturing the light but deep connection between grandfather and grandson remarkably well. There is a lot said in these pages and even through the most innocent and whimsical interactions it tells so much.

You can purchase Dear Grandpa via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

AWW Update Jan – Mar

While I have read a lot so far this year (she says when she’s actually three books behind schedule), it seems almost none have been Australian. With the first quarter of the year gone I need to step up my game because I will be very behind soon on my projected goal of reading 40 and reviewing 35 books for this year’s AWW.The fact I have only read one book is abysmal and even the fact I reviewed four they were all read in previous years so it’s not a good start.

I have so many physical books I want to read but I am still on the audiobook path so my options are sparse unless they are picture books I stumble across. I have a few novellas I’ve been wanting to read so I might ease my way back into physical books and see how I go. I am a lot better than last year at reading physical books so I am going to take the slow and steady approach, a lot of it this time round is the time to sit and read too so it will be a delicate balancing act.

All is not lost though, I have read or reviewed some books by Aussie women so that’s something at least. I am now hoping to use the shock that I’ve read so few spur me on for the next three months and get my numbers up — in the meantime I’ll be glad it’s not zero.

 

AWW21 BOOKS Jan-Mar

Theodore the Unsure by Pip Smith – Review

Darkest Place by Jaye Ford – Review

Meet Me at the Intersection ed. Rebecca Lim and Ambelin Kwaymullina – Review

The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl by Melissa Keil – Review

The Fire Wombat by Jackie French

AWW21 TOTAL

Read: 1/40

Reviewed: 4/30

 

Book Launch: Crackenback by Lee Christine

My last in-person book event was March 2020 so it was curious that my next in-person one was March 2021 almost to the exact day. Also wonderfully coincidental, both of those events were to celebrate the release of a new book by Aussie author Lee Christine. I didn’t get to do a write up of the first event because the world broke soon after and my attention was diverted elsewhere, but this time I am excited to share my adventures (I may still write up the other launch, we’ll see what happens).

The book launch was held at Belmont Library in Lake Macquarie and we were told by wonderful host Julie that it was also their first event since COVID put a stop to in-person events. Lee was in conversation with Jamie Lewis about her new book Crackenback, set among the Snowy Mountains and it was a delightful couple of hours to learn about how it came about.

Jamie Lewis in conversation with Lee Christine at Belmont Library

Crackenback isn’t a sequel to Lee’s previous book Charlotte Pass it is a standalone novel, however a few of the characters might be familiar. Lee told us she tried to not put too many references to Charlotte Pass in there, but there are a few vague mentions given the same detective is involved; as Jamie put it, it’s a separate story but part of the same world Lee has created.

Jamie spoke with Lee about given Australians love the outdoors so much, it’s only fair our serial killers would too and Lee told us how real life killer Malcom Naden was the main focus of her research. The way he lived for so long on the run, how he was resourceful, hardened, and knew how to live off the land was the information she needed for the story. She also spoke about how our National Parks are so vast and so intimidating themselves that they are often the perfect place to hide out and become victim to.

Lee spoke about the characters in Crackenback and how small actions give us insight into who they are, and how sometimes even the slightest thing can change a reader’s view of a character. This is why she was so careful in how her villain was portrayed and how the other characters behave too. They are all counterpoints to one another, reminding readers of the stakes and relieving some tension for the reader.

Jamie brought us back to the landscape and how it is a point of tension itself within the book, and how it and the weather is like another menacing character to contend with. Lee described the area around the Snowy Mountains as being dotted with huge granite boulders and snow and wind, ice, mist and fog all adding to the perilousness of the place. It also heightens the sense of claustrophobia of being trapped in the lodge with no way out without succumbing to the elements.

Lee’s book with our complimentary merch.

When the issue of setting a novel in 2020 came up Lee told us her worries about whether to mention the COVID issue. Luck was on her side because there was still a snow season and the police kept working so her story was realistic, but there was also a worry that including a mention of the pandemic would not only date the book, but be a turn off for those who had lived through it and didn’t want to then read about it. With Lee’s books used as an entertaining escape, people wouldn’t want to read about their daily lives and in the end there is only a brief and vague mention as recognition.

Jame mentioned that there is a lot playing with reader’s minds in the book. The aim of writing, Lee said, is wanting the readers to be emotionally invested in her characters. She needs readers to worry so much they will wonder how the characters will get out of the situations she puts them in. With crime stories we know there are goodies and baddies, ultimately knowing how it will go, but it’s the how in between – as Jamie said it’s the playing with reader emotions. Jamie also mentioned there are strong themes of revenge and second chances, Lee agreed and said with second chances there’s always a chance of hope which is important. There are also themes of fate and the intrusion of the past which make this a beautifully complicated sounding story.

The conversation carried on to cover how characters are named and the importance and fun that can be had with secondary characters before Lee and Jamie discussed how tough it was writing parallel story lines. Exposing readers to what was happening at the lodge while also what is happening with the police meant there was a need to keep readers informed but the police one step behind. This, Lee said, was another chance to worry the reader if the two would ever converge or if it would be too late.

As the afternoon drew to a close Lee teased us with information about the third book, set in the same region and another crime to solve. Hopefully it won’t be too long before I’ll be attending the book launch for that book as well!

Crackenback is now available for purchase, as is Lee’s previous book Charlotte Pass. If you love books filled with intrigue, mystery, a touch of danger on all sides as well as a plot that keeps you guessing that Charlotte Pass is for you. I have yet to read Crackenback but based on what I heard this weekend and what I have heard from others it’s a thriller that sounds just as compelling.

You can purchase Crackenback via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | Angus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

Author Info

Website | Twitter | Instagram

 

Queen Celine by Matt Shanks

Published: 1st February 2019Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Walker Books Australia
Illustrator: Matt Shanks
Pages: 40
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

Celine Beaufort is queen of what she is quite certain is the most beautiful rock pool in the world. It’s perfect. And to make sure nothing ever changes, she decides to build a wall around it. Unfortunately, that turns out to be a royal mistake. As self-proclaimed ruler, it’s up to Celine to right her wrong and restore her rock pool to its former glory, this time with everyone welcome. 

This is a cute book and it has a nice message but it doesn’t really grab you. I didn’t entirely dislike it though, I liked the contrast between every day Celine and at the beach Celine, it highlights how this is her time to shine and become the queen she wants to be. It’s also a good story that shows Celine never intentionally means to cause any of problems that arise. It’s innocent enough and sweet enough that Celine never is shown as malicious or controlling, just a little too enthusiastic and naïve.

But while the story is a tad lacklustre, the illustrations on the other hand are the absolute best. I think I had more fun studying the cute and clever illustrations than I did reading the book. The pictures are adorable and each page is filled with a lot to look at and study. I loved the art style and I loved the tiny details that made up this beach community. Small details like little sea creatures with fun expressions are so gosh darn adorable that I can forgive the underwhelming story that goes with it.

While the story had a nice message about sharing and nature, and Shanks does do a good job in showing us all of that without actually saying it, it doesn’t quite hit the spot.

You can purchase Queen Celine via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | Angus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon Aust

AWW Update Oct-Dec

Curiously I read nothing by Aussie women in October or November so from my update in Oct I am jumping into December. A lot of these are picture books because aside from trying to find some cute Chrissy picture books I sussed out the CBCA list and read a few of those as well. I found a few missing from the previous update so I’ve added them in where they belong but even without those I’ve added another 15 books in December. It brings my total to 58 which is pretty awesome. I haven’t reviewed all of these yet but I will be so I’ll have to count that towards next year’s reviews. There’s some pretty fun books on this list though so I’m looking forward to reviewing them soon.

AWW20 BOOKS Oct – Dec

All I Want for Christmas is Rain by Cori Brooke

Please Don’t Hug Me by Kay Kerr

This Is a Ball by Beck Stanton

Who’s Your Real Mum? by Bernadette Green

My Folks Grew Up in the ’80s by Beck Feiner

The Red Book by Beck Stanton

There’s no such thing! By Heidi McKinnon

All Through The Year by Jane Godwin

Reindeer’s Christmas Surprise by Ursula Dubosarsky

Little Dog and the Christmas Wish by Corinne Fenton

A Very Quacky Christmas by Frances Watts – Review

What Do You Wish For? by Jane Godwin

Tea and Sugar Christmas by Jane Jolly

An Aussie Day Before Christmas by Kilmeny Niland – Review

Santa and the Sugar Glider by Alexa Moses

AWW20 TOTAL

Read: 58/40

Reviewed: 20/30

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