Showing posts with label bullying. Show all posts
Showing posts with label bullying. Show all posts

Wednesday, 19 December 2018


Scapegoat written by Ava Keyes illustrated by Aleksandra Szmidt (Little Steps Publishing) RRP $14.95 (PB) ISBN 9780648267461

Reviewed by Nean McKenzie

This bright and cheerful looking picture book covers a subject not so happy – family bullying. This is Ava Keyes’s debut picture book, partner-published with Little Steps Publishing. In rhyming prose, the story unfolds of Scapegoat, who is blamed by his family for everything that goes wrong. Illustrations by Alexsandra Szmidt add character and humour to balance the more serious topic of the book.

Scapegoat is a young goat who keeps getting into trouble. His brother Marco is fun to play with, but when he is naughty, it’s Scapegoat who gets told off. In fact, even when the parents do something wrong, Scapegoat is blamed for that as well. It is at school that Scapegoat’s friends realise what’s going on at home and the impact this is having on Scapegoat. They talk to the teacher, who then approaches the parents about it.

It is an interesting topic as most books about bullying deal with what happens at school, so this is a kind of different side of things. The book could be used by teachers for kids when they suspect it might be happening at home. The resolution of the story is more about the child believing in themselves than the parents changing their behavior, which could be empowering for someone in this situation. While the rhythm of the rhyme is not always consistent, using animals to represent children lifts the story and makes it more fun.

Scapegoat could be read aloud by adults, who can then explain the concepts to children or read independently by kids who like the illustrations. Scapegoat is a niche book with a definite purpose for kindergarten and lower primary school children.

Saturday, 11 November 2017

Interview with Alison Reynolds

Can you tell readers about your book?

These are the latest two picture books in the Pickle and Bree’s Guide to Good Deeds series aimed at children 4- 8. They explore social etiquette and positive behaviour in a light, humorous way. The Playground Meanies is about bullying and The Big Snow Adventure tackles respecting rules.

Each book features a Handy Guide to Good Deeds on the last page, which can be used as a discussion point for adults and children.

What is the book’s history to publication?
The Five Mile
Press commissioned these books as part of an ongoing series. The editor approved my initial concepts after a bit of toing and froing.
                                                                                            Do you have an agent?
I don’t have an agent, but having a husband who is an accountant helps me a lot. He is a whizz at examining contracts and chasing up royalties.

Why did you choose Five Mile Press as your publisher?
I’ve worked with The Five Mile Press for many years and value highly my relationship with them. They’ve offered me many wonderful opportunities to write many different style books. They’re perfect match for somebody like me who enjoys a challenge.

How long did it take from submission of your manuscript to receipt of advance copies?The whole process from initial concept to being edited took about five months.

Which editor did you work with? Was there a lot of work that needed to be done to your manuscript? How was the editing experience for you?
I worked with the super talented Melissa Keil at The Five Mile Press. She manages to point out where the text can be improved with tact and perspicacity. There was not as much work needed as for the first two books, because I know the characters now. With Melissa, I feel we’re working together to make the books the best books they can be.

Who is the book’s illustrator? Why do you like her work?
Mikki Butterley is a brilliant illustrator who lives in the north of England. She comes from a background of creating cards, and her attention to detail is extraordinary. I adore her work for the sense of fun she captures. Whatever wild whacky idea I come up with in the text, Mikki seems to be able to match it up with a gorgeous illustration. I also love her colour palette.

Anything else you’d like to say about your publisher?
I would recommend The Five Mile Press to illustrators and other authors. They produce a range of different fabulous products, which makes it an exciting company to work with.

Have you written other books for children?
I’ve had over 70 books published, including board books, picture books, chapter books, choose-your-own-adventure style books and even a non-fiction adult book.  I work for different publishers, which helps me maintain a flow of work.

Do you belong to a writing group?
I’ve belonged to a few writing groups in the past. One group has transformed into a lunching group of close friends as I’m the only one who still writes on a full-time basis. I firmly believe writing groups can be excellent especially when you’re starting out, but you need to be in one that suits you. If you find you’re in a toxic writing group that makes you feel bad, belittled and if you’re the one who is doing all the work, run. I’m lucky enough to be working with editors who give me thoughtful, excellent feedback, so I’m not in a writing group at the moment.

I had a few outstanding writing tutors/mentors when I studied, for example Janey Runci, Sari Smith, Rachel Flynn and Marg McKenzie. 

What are you working on at the moment? 
I have an idea that I’m playing with for a series for 6- 8 year olds. I’m not at the stage of sending it out to publishers yet, but hope to be there soon. I’ve had a variety of books published, including picture books, board books, chapter books, middle grade books and even an adult non-fiction book.

Anything else you’d like to add?
To aspiring writers out there: never give up; never give up; never give up.
I would love you to check out my website at

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Gorinjas - the beginning

Gorinjas - the beginning by Mark Lancaster, illustrated by Inma Vassar (Moshpit Publishing) PB RRP $13.50   ISBN 978-1925529715

Reviewed by Stacey Gladman

Throughout life we face adversity and challenges: the real challenge is how we deal with them. Gorinjas - the beginning introduces the reader to two young characters - Gonga and Jemma - with a twist. Both Gonna and Jemma and all characters in the book are gorillas. Much like humans, the gorillas attend school and have their own problems to deal with, such as bullying.

Gonga and Jemma have been bullied throughout their lives. A chance sighting of a legend among the gorillas - Shintu - sets them on a path to self-discovery through martial arts. Shintu was himself trained in martial arts by monks and begins to teach the two young gorillas the intricate nature of martial arts.

The fast-paced action story has everything for young readers aged eight to 12 year-old including martial arts, secret tunnels and life lessons. The story flowed well throughout, with readers getting a good sense of understanding what was happening without stagnating for young readers. A more serious undertone of determination and hard work pays off in the end for Gonga and Jemma, with the pair eventually coming face to face with their bully, but will their training be enough?

The book is written in easy-to-read chapters, interspersed with monochrome drawings throughout at key scenes which add their own element to the story experience. The idea of writing from a gorillas point of view is interesting and comes across well, which I believe helps the reader relate to the central characters.

Gorinjas - the beginning appears to be part of an ongoing series and I can see young readers wanting to read on and find out what adventures Gonga and Jemma go on next. The book has the potential to be used as a learning tool on how to deal with adversity in a non-violent manner and how to learn about the inner peace and calm that martial arts is centred around.

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Gorinjas - the beginning

Gorinjas - the beginning by Mark Lancaster, illustrated by Inma Vassar (Moshpit Publishing) PB RRP $13.50
ISBN 978-1925529715

Reviewed by Stacey Gladman

Throughout life we face adversity and challenges: the real challenge is how we deal with them. Gorinjas - the beginning introduces the reader to two young characters - Gonga and Jemma - with a twist. Both Gonna and Jemma and all characters in the book are gorillas. The gorillas, much like humans attend school and have their own problems to deal with, such as bullying.

Gonga and Jemma have been bullied throughout their lives. A chance sighting of a legend among the gorillas - Shintu - sets them on a path to self discovery through martial arts. Shintu was himself trained in martial arts by monks and begins to teach
the two young gorillas the intricate nature of martial arts.

The fast-paced action story has everything for young readers aged eight to 12 years including martial arts, secret tunnels and life lessons. The story flowed well throughout, with readers getting a good sense of understanding what was happening without stagnating for young readers. A more serious undertone of determination and hard work pays off in the end for Gonga and Jemma, with the pair eventually coming face to face with their bully, but will their training be enough?

The book is written in easy to read chapters, with interspersed monochrome drawings throughout at key scenes which add their own element to the story experience. The idea of writing from a gorilla’s point of view is interesting and comes across well, which I believe helps the reader relate to central characters.

Gorinjas - the beginning appears to be part of an ongoing series and I can see young readers wanting to read on and find out what adventures Gonga and Jemma go on next. It has the potential to be used a learning tool on how to deal with adversity in a non-violent manner and learning about the inner peace and calm that martial arts is centred around.

Saturday, 7 January 2017

My Best Friend is a Goddess

My Best Friend is a Goddess by Tara Eglington (Harper Collins Australia) PB RRP $19.99   ISBN 978-0-7322999-0-3

Reviewed by Karen Hendriks

Australian Tara Edlington has written a powerful novel that is seriously smart, having a unique appeal that highlights the turmoil of self-discovery with all the hurts and triumphs of growing and changing as a teenage girl. 

The book’s theme is more than friendship: it also covers bullying, death, family, self discovery, boys, school, parents, and change. In doing this, it touches the hearts and souls of its teenage readers.

An addictive read that celebrates girlhood with Emily and Adrianna, both in the role of narrator, the story seamlessly moves along with each girl’s perceptions and experiences. 

Emily and Adrianna have been friends since Year One and have a strong friendship bond that is threatened by the inevitable challenges of not only boy crushes but learning to love and to accept themselves.  One girl is confident, outgoing, and tackles life head on, while the other is stunningly beautiful but feels like an ugly duckling. Each girl envies the qualities of the other.   

“I don’t want it to get to me. Happiness shouldn’t have anything to do with ‘pretty’ or ‘not pretty’. And yet none of that logic stops me from falling into the oh-so predictable trap of looking in the mirror and wishing I was different.  And with that, I let ‘pretty’ rule my world, too.”

The two best friends suffer a crush on the same cute guy, Theo James, but sadly one girl will be left heart-broken.

Unique to the book are references in Emily’s art class to artworks, culture and mythology which adds further interest for the reader.  Character, drama and the information blend together seamlessly so that the reader learns as she reads. My Best Friend is a Goddess is a must-read for young people – especially girls -- aged 13 years and over.

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

The Graces

The Graces by Laure Eve (Allen and Unwin) PB RRP $19.99 ISBN 9780571326808

Reviewed by Daniela Andrews

‘Wouldn’t you ever be tempted?’
‘… Black magic?’ he teased. ‘Nah … Those kinds of things always have consequences …’

When lonely River moves to a new town mid-term, she forms an obsession with the three Grace siblings – the twins, Thalia and Fenrin, and their younger sister, Summer. Everybody says they are witches. There are those that keep well away from them, and those that follow them like puppy dogs. River wants more than their attention – she wants to become one of them. She is living with a dark secret that she believes magic can fix. She’s also attracted to Fenrin. She forms a close friendship with Summer, hoping to learn all she can from the Graces, despite the warning she’s given by social outcast, Marcus: ‘when you do something they don’t like, your life is going to go very wrong’.

The novel is described by the publisher as a cross between The Craft (movie) and The Secret History (Donna Tartt). Readers will also draw comparisons between Stephenie Meyer’s Cullen family (Twilight) and the Grace family. The Graces is slow-paced in terms of action, but it builds up to a dark and gripping climax with an inevitable plot twist. Its constant sense of foreboding makes the book hard to put down. The protagonist, River, is very secretive – not just with the other characters in the book but also with the reader, who might therefore find it hard to form a connection with her. She is not always likeable. I don’t believe she is supposed to be. The author challenges us to decide for ourselves where our alliances lie: will we also fall under the spell of the Graces? (I love the hidden message on the spine of the book!)

Other than witchcraft, the book also covers themes of broken friendships, broken families, bullying and unrequited love. It will appeal to readers aged 12 – 16 years. The author, Laure Eve, has previously written two fantasy novels. She concludes The Graces with much remaining mystery around the parents, Esther and Gwydion, and also takes the story in a new direction. Fortunately, she also leaves us with a promise for a sequel in September 2017.

Monday, 22 August 2016

Song Bird Superhero

Song Bird Superhero by Karen Tyrrell (Digital Future Press)
PB RRP $14.95
ISBN 9780994302137

Reviewed by Kate Simpson

In a world where Supergirl and Wonder Woman are real, Rosella “Rosie” Bird dreams of being able to fly. And she’s not short of ideas that might help her to achieve her goal. Unfortunately, a series of dangerous engineering failures has left her parents less than supportive and with her neighbour Frank contriving to make her life miserable, Rosie feels attacked on all fronts. Only her love of singing sustains her – and that is where the fun begins. With the help of a supportive teacher, Rosie discovers that her voice is the key that will finally let her take flight.

In Song Bird Superhero, Karen Tyrrell tackles again the subject of bullying that she has explored in previous books. Children aged 7-10 will relate to Rosie and her struggle with school bully Frank Furter, who is also her neighbour. Through the book, Tyrrell allows her protagonist Rosie to solve her own problems while also demonstrating to her readers the importance of having a trusted adult to confide in – in this case, teacher Miss Darling.

Although Tyrrell promotes her book as being aligned with STEM science, it is much more science fiction than science fact. Nevertheless, Rosie’s enthusiasm for science and invention is certainly infectious and who knows how many young readers will have new engineering aspirations after reading this book?

Friday, 29 July 2016

Ride High Pineapple

Ride High Pineapple by Jenny Woolsey (Pearls of Wisdom Press) PB RRP $29.25 ISBN 978-0-9945341-0-1                                                                             
Reviewed by Elizabeth Vercoe

Issy is in year 9 at Pinaroo High with a bestie and a beastie. The bestie is a friend and the beastie, a relentless bully.

Ride High Pineapple takes us via Issy’s journal into her friendships, family, school life, anxiety, sporting dreams, and the fact that she’s a normal kid with a not-very-normal face (she has craniofacial syndrome). It shows how she deals with the usual challenges of adolescence as well as being called names like ‘froggy face’.

It’s important to note that Ride High Pineapple is quite distinct in style and delivery from Wonder, another teen title dealing with facial difference.
In typical teenager style, Issy is moody, unpredictable and endearing. She is beautifully rendered in this novel – we don’t always understand her motivations but can resonate with the real and flawed human being before us. When she’s unable to deal with issues, Issy simply ignores them and immerses herself in either a screen or skateboard.

The intensity of teenage life including best friendships, romantic crushes, school and family, is played out with a sense of truth and drama. Issy can be jealous and mean-spirited. She’s also very clever, sassy, compassionate and kind, with a best friend who sticks by her.  

Creating the novel as a journal allows for passages of time to be marked, and requires the reader to do a little ‘work’, which is often a good thing. Coping strategies and questions are both woven into the fabric of the narrative and directly addressed to the reader. At times the author’s agenda is apparent, sitting alongside the practical solutions for children to use when dealing with difference and bullying.  

I love the intent of this beautifully told, page-turning story. The graphic and specific nature of both Issy’s syndrome and the bullying that she receives, are balanced with the technical detail and knowhow around skateboarding to offer interest and intrigue for both boys and girls.  

An unashamedly issues-based YA novel, it will no doubt elicit passionate and varied opinions if used as a stimulus for classroom discussion.   

Monday, 27 June 2016

Gummshoes Mission #1: The Nobbled Numbskull

Gummshoes Mission #1: The Nobbled Numbskull by E.J. Gore (Coppertop Press) RRP $8.99 ISBN 978-0-9873708-8-4

Reviewed by Elizabeth Vercoe This first book in the Australian series of adventures by the Gummshoe Gang has a big heart. It contains a familiar, important message hidden in the question of just who IS sabotaging the school’s star soccer player (and erstwhile bully) Nits – and why?

We are rapidly introduced to a large cast of characters including the ‘nerdy’ Frankie and Ollie who befriend a younger, also ‘nerdy’ Alex, and welcome him into the Gummshoe Gang. Together and separately, the three deals with challenging situations that are translatable to most school playgrounds.
There’s something for most kids in this story that centres on school and football, with a mystery to be solved and bullies to be thwarted. Unrequited tween love also makes an appearance, and the realisation that things are not always as they seem among children, and among adults too.

Author and primary school teacher EJ Gore’s own mission to equip young people with strategies for social inclusion, dealing with bullies and standing up for the ‘right’ thing, is a generous one that works. The characters recognise and build on their own strengths in a way that opens up possibilities for young readers’ own lives. These skills touch on the ideas of being a good friend, harnessing resilience and solving problems. Gore’s gentle, humour-laden writing style reveals a thorough knowledge of her readership and what will have them entertained. 

After initially having to re-read the opening in order to be clear about ‘who was saying what’, I was transported into the world of the book where I willingly stayed for the duration. There’s a lovely balance between mystery and drama in this story that will appeal to both boys and girls.

The end pages feature a word-search puzzle, and children are invited to become part of the Gummshoe Gang via a website. 

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Freedom Ride

Freedom Ride by Sue Lawson (black dog books)
PB RRP $ 17.95
ISBN 9781925126365

Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

This deeply moving and at times disturbing book is based on real events. It takes us back to the Australian Freedom Ride of 1965. Influenced by the American Civil Rights Movement, Sydney University students formed the Student Action for Aborigines (SAFA) with Charles Perkins, the first Indigenous Australian to graduate from university, as their leader. A busload of students decided to travel through country towns to investigate the living conditions of Aboriginal people. It was when they came to Walgaree that is the focus of the story. What took place was the beginning of change within the social and political climate of Australia for Indigenous population.

The story of the Freedom Ride is delicately wound around a parallel story of the brutality of racism and bullying, the abuse of power, and the degradation suffered by whites and Aboriginals alike that stood up for human rights. It is also about having courage to change against all odds.

Robbie lives with his dad and gran, a narrow-minded, bigoted person without kindness or compassion, not even for her grandson. e has been told fro years that his mother diedHHe has been told that his mother died when he was three and she is never mentioned.

Barry takes over the caravan park in Walgaree after his father dies suddenly. Robbie gets a paid job there during the school holidays instead of doing odd jobs for gran’s gossipy friends for nothing. There he discovers the joys of real family life, kindness and interest, and love from both Barry and his mum.

With gossip a raging river in the town of Walgaree, everyone is blaming the Aborigines for all the vandalism and destruction of property. But Robbie knows who’s really doing it. But he dare not speak out.

Robbie’s friendship with the Aboriginal boy Mickey, also employed by Barry, is an excuse for the town’s bully to bash and persecute him mercilessly without any repercussions from his father who happens to be Walgaree’s police chief.

But this is the least of Robbie’s dilemmas. He discovers his dad and gran have lied to him for years. He also witnesses a gut-wrenching act that the two cover up, and he wars with his conscience about keeping silent.

Now that Robbie knows the truth, is he able to stand up for what he believes in and carve a new path in life?

Riveting and unforgettable, Sue Lawson has again created another exceptional piece of historical fiction. Fast-paced with crisp and precise writing, this book comes highly recommended.

Friday, 27 March 2015

Stand Up and Cheer

Stand Up and Cheer by Loretta Re (The Wild Colonial Company)
PB RRP $14.99
ISBN 9780992306922
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

I enjoyed everything about this book from the factual storyline crafted with perfect prose, to the outstanding characters - both bad and good. All my senses stood at attention from the first page to the last. Right from the beginning, a strong sense of time, place, and social conditions is projected.

It is 1934 in Albury situated on the border of NSW and Victoria. Ten year old Jack is passionate about and well-versed on the subject of planes and the history of aviation. When the Great Centenary Air Race from Britain to Melbourne is announced, all he wants is go to Melbourne to see the planes come in. His father, ‘the Voice of the ABC’, is calling the race. It is a time of great adventure and achievement, but also of great poverty due to unemployment.

Mac Robertson, the chocolate king, announces a free trip to Melbourne. The winner must collect the marked wrappers from Cherry Ripe that spell out ‘Centenary Air Race’. Jack sees winning the competition as his only chance of getting to Melbourne.

Jack’s heartbreaking experience with the town’s bully and his stash of wrappers is one of the many sub-stories that make this book so fantastic. Seamlessly knitted to Jack’s story are the disastrous events that cause the Uiver to be blown off course during a fierce storm. Subtly sifted into that is the conflict that occurs in Jack’s father’s working life. This is juxtaposed with his courageous actions that save the plane and crew, and put Albury on the map.

Loretta Re has written a powerful fictional account of a great Australian historical event in such a way, that it is impossible to put the book down. It has so many themes threaded through it that I’m unable to list them all. The writing is full of vivid scenes, and not a single unnecessary word exists anywhere.

I haven’t been so completely absorbed in a book, or enjoyed one so much, in the longest time. It is aimed at the 8-12 age groups but has everything readers of any age want from a story.

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Dropping In

Dropping In by Geoff Havel (Fremantle Press)
PB RRP $14.99
ISBN 9-781-925-162-233
Reviewed by Neridah McMullin

Dropping In is such an enjoyable read; I have to admit it had me from the blurb. From the language to the storyline, it’s a thoroughly satisfying middle reader.

Sticks and Ranga live on the same street, go to the same school and love the same things – skateboarding and PlayStation. When new kid James arrives in his wheelchair, Sticks isn’t sure they can be friends. But Sticks quickly discovers they have a lot in common. Cerebral palsy stops James from doing some things but it hasn’t dulled his sense of humour – and he’s pretty brainy, too. The only thing James can’t do is join Sticks and Ranga when they go skateboarding – or can he?

Three mates, a beat-up old couch, a couple of skateboards and a steep hill … what could possibly go wrong?

Yes, what could possibly go wrong? Alarm bells! So, this scenario sets it up beautifully for an engaging read and you will not be disappointed.

The skateboard language throughout is accurate and entertaining and Geoff Havel’s voice is authentic. It does covers some pretty serious issues such as disability, bullying, ADHD and domestic abuse but it manages to do it with an honest and engaging narration, keeping the tone light.

The characters are original and relatable and it’s one of those stories you just want to keep on reading.

Dropping In offers middle-grade readers a fast paced, feel-good introduction to some seriously important subjects.

This is a highly recommended read for middle primary school readers.

Neridah McMullin is the author of six books for children. Her next book is about a horse in a bushfire to be published by Allen & Unwin in 2016. Neridah loves family, footy and doing yoga with her cat Carlos (who also happens to love footy).

Monday, 26 January 2015

The Cardinal and the Crow

The Cardinal and the Crow written and illustrated by Michael Moniz (Simply Read Books)
HB RRP $21.99
ISBN 978 1927018583
Reviewed by Dianne Bates

With a dust-cover, this is a fine-looking picture book for older readers 7 to 10 years, produced by an English publishing house. The story goes that all the birds in the forest torment old Crow for his scraggly feathers and harsh call. He is especially mocked by their ringleader, the proud Cardinal which has ‘brilliant red feathers and a beautiful warbling voice.’  As a result, the Crow is alone and lonely.

However, when Cardinal gets into trouble with a scavenging cat, there is only one creature smart enough to get him out – the Crow, of course. However, will Crow come to the aid of the boastful bird?

Inspired by Aesop’s Fables, this thoughtful picture book reminds the reader that pride and foolishness often go hand in hand. It has a message for the younger reader, too, about bullying and how the bullied and the bully can sometimes find common ground, even friendship.

The watercolour illustrations of the birds and the landscape are set against a pale brown wash. The only bright colour is of the Cardinal, a few other birds and the cat’s green, greedy eyes. My only criticism of the book is that the typeface could have been larger, especially for small eyes.

Michael Moniz is a Canadian working at Artistic Director for a Toronto-based advertising agency.

Saturday, 29 November 2014

The Perfectionists

The Perfectionists by Sara Shepard (Hot Key Books)
PB RRP $16.95
ISBN 978-1-4714-0434-4
Reviewed by Jacque Duffy

This is one of those non-put-downable books. It is well written, the main characters are likeable, and the pacing is fast, but I have a problem.

Sara Shepard is the author of many popular books including the Pretty Little Liars series, which I confess to not having read but have heard quite a lot about. Pretty Little Liars has sixteen – yes, sixteen -- books in the series. Don’t get me wrong, I like a series, I don’t mind a little breathing space between books. I like to let the characters have a rest too, especially after a fast-paced book like this one.

But here is my problem. The Perfectionists has a lot of characters, starting with five girls plotting revenge against the school’s most popular boy slash bully; each of those girls has her own group of secondary characters, some of which are crucial to the plot. That is a lot of characters to make mental notes about.

I was enjoying this book immensely; not only are these girls managing to get themselves into all kinds of trouble - most of the time not of their own doing - but there has been a murder. Towards the latter half I found it hard to put the book down. I read faster and faster, needing to know who the bad guy/girl is and if the girls were going to be safe.

Then it ended.

Just like that.

I have no idea if these girls whom I had become so fond of were safe.

Looks as though I will have to wait for book number two; I hope it comes out fast.

The book, if read in a classroom situation, would raise healthy discussion. The serious matters of sex, drugs, bullying, suicide and revenge are raised in this story. The characters are fully formed and each has their own story to tell.

The story obviously gives room for sequels and I am sure each would be an enjoyable read.

 Jacque Duffy is the author and illustrator of the series ‘That’s not a …’ learn to read books used in all Queensland State Primary Schools, a picture book The Bear Said Please, and one local history coffee table book.


Friday, 28 November 2014

Being Jack

Being Jack written by Susanne Gervay, illustrated by Cathy Wilcox (Harper Collins)
PBK RRP $14.99
ISBN 9780732296148
Reviewed by Sharon McGuinness

We first met Jack five years ago in I Am Jack, when, as an eight year old, Jack experienced bullying. In the years (and books) that have followed, Jack has endured his father leaving, dealt with the bullying at school, acquired a stepfather when his mum remarries and works out a relationship with stepbrother Leo.

Now in Year 6, family and school life appears to have settled, with Jack enjoying his photography and sharing a love of surfing with Rob his stepfather. The bullying issue however, again raises its ugly head, this time directed at Jack’s friend Christopher and Jack is forced to relive his experience and find a solution to help his friend.

When Jack and Christopher witness dirty play in a football scrum at school, they know that something must be done about the bullies once and for all. Bullying and unfair play are not Jack’s only concern though, as he is soon to turn thirteen and questions about why his father left and his lack of contact begin to niggle. How will he find a father who may not wish to be found? If he finds him, what effect will this have on his mum?

Susanne Gervay again has written a story that is heartfelt and honest. We feel Jack’s fear, his doubt and worries. The perfect ending to the series, we are left confident that Jack is resilient and confident to take on the challenges of adolescence. Suitable for children aged 9+ years.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

The Protected

The Protected by Claire Zorn (University of Queensland Press)
PB RRP $19.95
ISBN 978 0 7022 5019 4
Reviewed by Jo Antareau

Not since “Cat’s Eye” by Margaret Attwood have I read a novel that so compellingly and convincingly captures the blood sport that is teenage-girl bullying.
Hannah McCann is out of step with her peers and desperately wants to fit in and not rock the boat, thereby inviting the vultures to swoop and tear her to shreds. The bullying is carried out in an atmosphere of sweetness and innocence. It’s the little things -- the put downs, the sneers at her lack of cool, the accidentally-on-purpose exclusions that effectively undermine the little confidence Hannah has left, and builds up to a humiliating show-down. Hannah is left accused and sentenced by the school ground judge, jury and executioners. And in the current age of twitter and facebook, she has no respite and no protection from the unrelenting pointing fingers.
Although Hannah does not lack guts, a series of tragic events leaves her a quivering shadow of her former self. The story follows her as she rebuilds her life and makes tentative steps towards self acceptance, eventually regaining her dignity and taking ownership of her mistakes. It is only then that she can interact with others as an equal.

This story affected me at a visceral level while I was reading it and I had to put it aside a few times, as the unfolding story of Hannah’s train wreck life was so unrelentingly powerful.  Full marks to Zorn for a well crafted novel that also tackles the impact of grief upon a family.

Monday, 29 September 2014

To This Day: For the Bullied and the Beautiful

To This Day: For the Bullied and the Beautiful by Shane Koyczan, illustrated by 30 various artists (Walker books)
HC RRP $19.95
ISBN 9781925081510
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

Through tears, I read this poem and examined the illustrations on bullying and its detrimental lifelong effects. Consumed by sadness, with a heart pounding and filled with sorrow for all the people, especially children, that have been victims or perpetrators of bullying, I tuned into the YouTube video of the spoken edition of To This Day. Over twelve million hits and growing, this poem in all its forms, continues to make an impact on people worldwide.

I watched it twice then went into Shane Koycznan’s site to uncover any other work. Words fail me. I have been inspired and profoundly affected alongside the countless others, by his courage and commitment to his fight against bullying.

Shane was bullied unmercifully as a child. These painful experiences gave birth to this book. A spoken word poet, he admits that ‘writing was a way to escape my real life, a way to cope with cruelty and indifference.’

Illustrated by 30 artists, this book is extraordinary and powerful in every sense. These words have been life-changing for many readers and listeners. Included are testaments from several of the contributing artists on their experiences with bullying. To This Day is seen as one of the most influential books on this heartbreaking issue that continues to plague so many people all over the world.  

Bulling facts from and

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Knowing Joey Field

Knowing Joey Field by Pauline Luke (Brolga Publishing available through Pan Macmillan)
PB RRP $16.99
ISBN 9781922175403
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

With a superbly constructed storyline and characters that stand out like beacons in a dark night, Knowing Joey Field is a stunning book on youth, bulling and friendships.

Being the new kids at school should’ve been something that siblings Stephie and Matt were used to. They’d moved around enough. But here they were again, trying to fit in and make new friends with all the same old problems, but now in Moody Bay.

Stephie is befriended by Rose, the sister of the school bully Damian Connor. Matt hooks up with Joey, who is held in awe by many due to his psychic powers and the mysterious something more of himself that he keeps locked away.

Damian is a calculating, manipulative rich boy whose followers do his bidding to stay out of his attack radar. A con artist extraordinaire, his character depicts the evil side of bullies and their bullying tactics. I felt the victim’s fear and their submission to him, and was there in every scene throughout the book.

Pauline Luke has built a powerful story about bullying and its harmful and often tragic outcomes on people’s lives. This confronting theme is perfectly woven into a background of family life, conflicting friendships, tales of sunken treasure, and a series of mysterious break-ins.

Pauline Luke received a twelve months residency at Billilla in Brighton, Melbourne, to complete this book. She has also been the recipient of a May Gibbs and Varuna residency.

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Black Warrior

Black Warrior by Tiffiny Hall (HarperCollins)
PB RRP $14.99
ISBN 9780732294557
Reviewed by Sharon McGuinness

Author Tiffiny Hall believes that the greatest superpower you can ever possess is confidence and self belief. 

Inspired to write the Roxy Ran series because many of her taekwondo students experienced bullying, ‘Black Warrior’ is the third and final in the series, which is aimed at upper primary and early high school students. Author Hall writes with authority as she holds a black belt in Taekwondo.

Black Warrior follows on from ‘White Warrior’ and ‘Red Samurai’ and having read both books will help as background to the series final. We are thrown into the story from the beginning, learning that  Roxy Ran and her sister Elektra must live together without killing each other – literally, as Roxy is a ninja and Elektra has just come out as a samurai, a sworn enemy of the Ninja clan. Hero, the school bully is being bullied himself and we identify that the school is divided into Gate One and Gate Two students.  Roxy has some unanswered questions about her father whom she has not met and her mother refuses to discuss with her, other than branding him as ‘poison’.

Trouble is near as there is a fire and crater in front of the school, then unrest increases as many citizens of the town Lanternwood disappear. A tiger dragon with blazing eyes threatens Roxy, then her friend Cinnamon disappears. When she eventually returns, however, she has changed. The Ninja and Samurai need to unite in order to save the town, leading Roxy to finally meet her father, who is intent on revenge. Just when Roxy needs her powers most, they are lost and she is a mere mortal. In the exciting climax, Roxy must face her fears and find the power within herself and lift the curse over her father. Only then are her powers restored.

Finally, issues from the previous books are resolved – we find out why Hero is often referred to as a mummy’s boy and Jackson  opens up about the illness of his brother Morgan. The symbols of difference and discrimination, represented by Gate One and Gate Two are finally destroyed.

“There are no bullies or victims, no samurai versus ninja, no cool and uncool – just kids.”