October 20 2020

How to make a bird, by Meg McInlay

How to make a bird

How to make a bird, by Meg McInlay and Matt Ottley

Title: How to make a bird
Author: Meg McInlay
Illustrator: Matt Ottley
Genre/ issues: Picture book. Creativity.

Happy book birthday to this gorgeous thing! How To Make a Bird is a stunning story by @megmckinlay which explores the process of creativity and bringing to life your vision. I’m endlessly in awe of picture book authors who convey such insightful messages with such a brevity of words. Combined with this is the magic of @mattottleyart’s illustration, which is utterly breathtaking, and captures the joy and hope of McKinlay’s story so beautifully. This is a gorgeous picture book and I’m glad I read it when I did – it reminded me of the power of the hope that lies within me. Highly recommended for all ages.

#TamaraReads #2020readingchallenge 71/100

Happy reading,

Tamara

 

 

October 18 2020

Picture book weddings

Julian

Julian at the wedding, by Jessica Love

Title: Julian at the wedding
Author: Jessica Love
Genre/ issues: Picture book. Love. Personal expression. Queer representation.

Shop local where you can: For Australian readers, you can find this book on Booktopia. or support your local independent bookstore. US readers, check out Bookshop.org.

Julian is a Mermaid was one of my favourite picture books last year, and Julian is back, this time for a wedding! Julian wears a gorgeous purple suit, and when he and his friend Marisol go playing in the gardens, her dress gets dirty, so Julian comes to the rescue. Featuring two stunning brides, an adorable dog, and a cacophony of colours, this book is an utter joy. “A wedding is a party for love”, this book tells us, and I love everything about it. I particularly love that the default background colour is kraft brown rather than white – it feels significant and appropriate in a book that celebrates the joy of a wedding party filled with people of colour. If you’ve not read Julian is a Mermaid, pick that up when you get this. Both delightful reads, and I hope we get to see more of Julian from Jessica Love.

Aunty's wedding

Aunty’s Wedding, by Miranda Tapsell and Joshua Tyler

Title: Aunty’s Wedding
Author: Miranda Tabsell, Joshua Tyler and Samantha Fry (ill)
Genre/ issues: Picture book. Love. Personal expression. Queer representation.

Another wedding book! Vibrant colours and a simple and accessible storyline feature in this lovely story about a family preparing for Aunty’s Wedding. It celebrates the cultural traditions of a Tiwi wedding, and includes a Tiwi language glossary at the end. Sweet and engaging- well worth adding this lovely book to your collection!

 

#TamaraReads #2020readingchallenge 69/100 and 70/100

Happy reading,

Tamara

 

 

October 2 2020

Lumberjanes, Vol 2 Friendship to the Max

Lumberjanes

Lumberjanes Vol 2: Friendship to the Max

Title: Lumberjanes volume 2: Friendship to the max
Author: Noelle Stevenson
Genre/ issues: Comics. Mystery. Adventure. Supernatural.

Shop local where you can: For Australian readers, search Indies to locate your closest independent bookstore, or find it on Booktopia. US readers, check out Bookshop.org.

A quick catch up post – I thought I’d posted about this, but then realised I had expected to read a lot more graphic novels last month so was going to post them all together. Instead, this was one of only 4 books I read in September. It’s worthy of its own post, regardless. I love Lumberjanes. It’s smart, funny, quirky and cool. The diversity of strong female characters gives me endless seratonin. Volume 2x Friendship tor the Max, sees the campers encounter some characters you might be familiar with from Greek mythology, but in a whole new way. Such a great comic series!

#TamaraReads #2020readingchallenge 63/100

Happy reading,

Tamara

 

 

September 28 2020

Hollowpox, by Jessica Townsend

Hollopox

Hollowpox, by Jessica Townsend

Title: Hollowpox
Author: Jessica Townsend
Genre/ issues: Fantasy. Middle grade fiction.

Shop local where you can: For Australian readers, search Indies to locate your closest independent bookstore, or find it on Booktopia. US readers, check out Bookshop.org.

There’s something to be said for reading a book at the right time, huh? When I first read Nevermoor, I remember thinking it was ok but nothing spectacular. I reread it last year when I read Wundersmith, because I thought perhaps I’d not been in the right head space for it the first time around, and I was right. So, what a joy it was today to revisit this wonderful world. Hollowpox is definitely my favourite of the three books so far in this series, with its effortlessly diverse cast of characters, and complex and powerful dilemmas to be faced. I love that we got to see more of Miss Cheery in this book, and I think I’ve found a new contender for favourite fictional library.
Hollowpox deals with some pressing and timely concepts. How do we handle a virus that’s spreading uncontrollably though the population? How do we deal with the even more dangerous spread of intolerance and hatred towards those who are different? How do we decide when and how we take a stand?
This is a fascinating and lovely book, which didn’t end up where I thought it would, but I was thrilled to go on the journey regardless. Jessica Townsend has expanded further on this magical world, and I’m here for it. Hollowpox is out soon – if you’ve got middle grade or YA readers in your life who haven’t discover the joy of Nevermoor yet, get them on it! 🌂

#TamaraReads #2020readingchallenge 61/100

Happy reading,

Tamara

July 20 2020

The Track series, books 1 and 2

Tracks

Ghost and Patina, by Jason Reynolds

Title: The Track series: Ghost and Patina
Author: Jason Reynolds
Genre/ issues: Middle grade. Sports. Family. Friendship.

Shop local where you can: For Australian readers, search Indies to locate your closest independent bookstore, or find it on Booktopia. US readers, check out Bookshop.org.

I read the first 2 books in Jason Reynolds’ Track series a few weeks ago and loved them. I was planning on posting about them all when I finished the series, but I’ve hit a slump so I’m leaving book 3 and will come back to them later, so here’s a quick review on Ghost and Patina so I don’t forget them in my #2020readingchallenge tally.

I’ve probably read more sportsing books this year than I have in my whole life – I’m making an effort to expand my reading horizons and explore genres and themes I’d usually skip over. This series is a fab middle grade read, 4 books about 4 different members of the same track team, who all deal with their own family and personal issues. Ghost, the eponymous character from the first book in the series, lives with his mother whilst his father is in prison for attempting to shoot them both. He is dealing with bullying at school, and is struggling to find his place, and to be seen for who he is. The metaphor of running in this book sets up a beautiful through line for the stories that are to come. Patina, in book 2, attends an elite private school and lives with her aunt, as her mum is unable to care for her because of her complex medical conditions. They both joined the track team at the same time, but are running their own races, literally and figuratively.
These are both great books, and I love the way Jason writes. He’s definitely one of my favourite author finds of the year.

#TamaraReads #2020readingchallenge 45/52 and 46/52

Happy reading,

Tamara

 

 

July 3 2020

Black brother, black brother, by Jewell Parker Rhodes

Black brother, black brother by Jewell Parker Rhodes

Black brother, black brother by Jewell Parker Rhodes

Title: Black brother, black brother
Author: Jewell Parker Rhodes
Genre/ issues: Middle grade. Racism. Mixed-race families. School. Finding your place.

Shop local where you can: For Australian readers, search Indies to locate your closest independent bookstore, or find it on Booktopia. US readers, check out Bookshop.org.

Another “one session” read for me. I spent a couple of hours last night waiting for my daughter at her ballet class in the city, and smashed through this book in about 90 minutes. Black Brother, Black Brother is a wonderful middle grade novel by Jewell Parker Rhodes, which tells the story of Donte and Trey, mixed race brothers who experience very different treatment at their exclusive private school. Donte wants to disappear, wishing that he could just get through the day without being targeted or compared to his lighter skinned brother. A sensitive and powerful examination of the impacts of unconscious and systemic racism, with references to the impact of the school to prison pipeline effect, and an important message about finding your own strength. A really wonderful read.

#TamaraReads #2020readingchallenge 40/52

Happy reading,

Tamara

 

 

June 21 2020

The Crossover, by Kwame Alexander

Crossover

Crossover, by Kwame Alexander

Title: The Crossover
Author: Kwame Alexander
Genre/ issues: Middle grade. Verse novel. Sports. Family. Relationships.

Shop local where you can: For Australian readers, search Indies to locate your closest independent bookstore, or find it on Booktopia. US readers, check out Bookshop.org.

In order to expand my reading horizons this year, I’ve been consciously choosing books that wouldn’t normally be ones I’d gravitate towards. Sports books fit firmly in that category, and in an effort to decolonize my bookshelf, I’m reading books by BIPOC authors as much as possible this month.
The Crossover by Kwame Alexander is EXCELLENT. I love that, in fiction in general and verse novels like this in particular, you get such incredible opportunities to care about and empathise with characters who are so innately different from you. This book definitely provided me this experience, as we get to see the struggles of the main character, a basketball star, and his twin brother, who start to drift apart as they go through the junior high school year. Their father is a former basketball star himself, with health issues and a dislike of doctors that causes friction amongst the family. It’s beautiful, compelling poetry, with such incredible heart and soul. Highly recommended, and well worth all the awards it received upon its release.

#TamaraReads #2020readingchallenge 35/52

Happy reading,

Tamara

 

 

May 20 2020

Worse things, by Sally Murphy

Worse things, by Sally Murphy

Title: Worse Things
Author: Sally Murphy
Genre/ issues: Middle grade/YA. Verse novel. Contemporary fiction. Refugees. Identity. Finding your place.

Shop local where you can: search Indies to locate your closest independent bookstore, or find it on Booktopia.

This arrived in the mail today, and I just devoured it in one sitting. This verse novel by Sally provides the parallel narratives of three teens all dealing with their own issues. A footballer who breaks his arm in the first game of the season, and is frustrated at not being able to play. A hockey player whose mother wants her to be a Hockeyroo but who’d rather be doing almost anything else. And a refugee who is still struggling with the stupid language and the strangeness of his new home.

I really loved this book. It’s a deceptively easy read, but extremely powerful despite that simplicity, and with a series of sparsely scattered illustrations that serve as a sucker punch for the emotions filtering through the poetry. One particular poem had me sobbing so unexpectedly hard as I thought about the refugee kids I used to teach and show through the library – it took me a solid 5 minutes to recover enough to keep reading. Thank you for this, Sally. It’s a wonderful piece of work.

#TamaraReads #2020readingchallenge 28/52

Happy reading,

Tamara

May 19 2020

Strangeworlds Travel Agency, by LD Lapinski

Strangeworlds Travel Agency by LD Lapinski

Strangeworlds Travel Agency by LD Lapinski

Title: Strangeworlds Travel Agency
Author: LD Lapinski
Genre/ issues: Middle grade. Magic. Adventure. Mystery.

Shop local where you can: search Indies to locate your closest independent bookstore, or find it on Booktopia.

What a delight this book was! I started reading the proof copy, and then the released version arrived, so both of these copies have many dog-eared pages to highlight passages that I wanted to remember.
When Flick stumbles across The Strangeworlds Travel Agency, it’s not what she was expecting. After discovering she has a secret gift, she also discovers something else that’s quite magical – the suitcases filling the travel agency are actually portals to other worlds!
This book has a whimsy and joy that I’ve not come across in a while. I also loved that there’s not really a hideous villain – whilst there are certainly antagonists who our main characters have to go up against, they aren’t pure evil, and their actions aren’t totally heinous. That’s not the point of the novel – heroes defeat bad guys, world is saved, yadda yadda. It’s far more subtle than that. It’s two people stumbling their way through adventures as they figure out who they are and what’s important to them. It’s about the joy of travel and exploration, but also the treasures that you take with you on those journeys. At least, that’s what it was for me. Also, NEVER leave your suitcase behind.
This is LD Lapinski’s first novel. I genuinely hope we see much more from them. I wished I’d taken the time to pull out the rest of my suitcase col
lection for a suitable luggage photo of this one, but I have another book to start!

#TamaraReads #2020readingchallenge 27/52

Happy reading,

Tamara

May 18 2020

Coraline by Neil Gaiman

Coraline

Coraline with my girls

Title: Coraline
Author: Neil Gaiman
Genre/ issues: Audiobook/ live reading. Adventure. Mystery.

Shop local where you can: search Indies to locate your closest independent bookstore, or find it on Booktopia.

I listened to the New York Public Library’s read-along of Neil Gaiman’s Coraline last week, and it was so wonderful. The morning of the first session was supposed to be the day that my daughter Kelsey flew out to the US for her first solo adventure, which would mostly have seen her spending a bunch of time in New York, so it seemed appropriate for us to have a breakfast of bacon and waffles while we listened to Neil Gaiman read the first couple of chapters.

I love this book – it’s probably one of the ones I’ve read the most in between reading the physical copy, listening to the audiobook and this readalong, and teaching it multiple times. I love what it says about facing scary things but doing them anyway because they’re important. It’s always wonderful to hear people who appreciate the power of words read good quality literature, and this series was such a treat, with the reading being shared between Neil, LeVar Burton, Rosario Dawson and Dakota Fanning. I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’d listen to Gaiman read his shopping list, but it’s been so long since I’ve listened to LeVar Burton read that I’d forgot just how brilliant a narrator he is. It was a good reminder to cue up some more of his podcast, which is a fab collection of stories from a range of genres, all read by LeVar in his inimitable style. The relish and delight he feels for words and stories is palpable, and I need more of that in my life. The sessions for this are still available on the NYPL website – I’d highly recommend it if you’ve not listened to it already.

#TamaraReads #2020readingchallenge 26/52

Happy reading,

Tamara