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Checkout the latest recommended resources from the SLANSW Review Team

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  • 26 Jun 2024 1:51 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Title: Burnt Eucalyptus Wood: On Origins, Language and Identity

    Author: Ennatu Domingo

    Reviewer: Rhonda Bruce

    Audience: Stage 5

    "When I move through the world, it doesn't bother me that before anything else they look at my 'packaging'. I am European, I am African. But I don't want to have to worry anywhere about my physical safety on account of the colour of my skin, and even less so at home, in Catalonia"(p 128)

    Ennatu Domingo's stunning autobiography is a combination of the story of her nomadic childhood in Ethiopia, her adoption and life in Catalonia, interspersed with short reports on the politics and unrest in Ethiopia and Africa.  She tells her story in a stratightforward manner but with a love and understanding of her families and cultures. Ennuta describes what it is like to be adopted by people from another culture and the accidental and unexpected effects of being decultured, including the forgetting of one's own original language. She discusses belonging and identity in the outstanding authentic debut work.

    An autobiography of journey and experiences, both incredibly truthful and poignant but full of hope and promise. 

    *covers additional reading for Stage 5 English Core Representation of Life Experiences; and, Stage 6 Text and the Human Experience and Language, Identity and Culture

  • 22 May 2024 11:28 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Title: Our Dark Duet

    Author: V.E. Schwab

    Reviewer: Natalie Lincoln

    Audience:  12+

    Kate, the pragmatic monster killer, listens to music as she hunts. Her friend (or enemy), August, plays music to reap the souls of sinners. When a new monster appears in the city of Verity, Kate must return from a new life in neighbouring Prosperity to defeat the shapeless beast that turns human against human. If they can unite, they might just win.

    V.E Schwab’s Our Dark Duet is about the battle between good and evil, and is another tale questioning who is actually the bigger threat, the humans or the monsters. It is also so much more. Being a sequel, I’d advise reading That Savage Song first as I had to work to figure out the backstory of the cities of Verity and Prosperity and the complicated relationship between Kate, who fights both internal and external monsters, and August, a monster trying not to be one. Regardless, I was swept away with the increasingly fast paced action and read faster and faster, and with increasing nervousness, as the shadowy new monster rose.

    Protagonist, Kate, cooly dispenses with monsters, and together, she and ‘frenemy’ August, are juxtaposed in a duel between human and monster, distrust and lust, and one is never quite sure, like themselves, which side they will land on. Almost more intriguing are the monsters -  the shadowy Corsai, spawned by violence and surviving on flesh; the corpse like Malchai, made by murder; and the most beautiful monsters, the Sunai, formed by major catastrophes and who play instruments to feed on the souls of sinners. From the striking Prelude, I was captivated by this world and the uniqueness of the characters, both human and monster.

    There is an abundance of death in this novel. It is dark, and young adult readers will like it. In my school library this would however, be having an ‘older readers’ flag attached despite the recommended reading for 12 years+. For a story about monsters, the writing is mature, with a descriptiveness and detail that lifts it to the literary. The verse sections provide another refreshing element, reinforcing for me, that this novel is more than just a story about good versus evil. Stylistically the story is elevated beyond your ordinary fantasy genre of humans and monsters, resulting in a nuanced vision of the light and dark that exists in all of our souls.

  • 22 May 2024 11:19 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Title: “Banjo, the Woylie with Bounce

    Author: Aleesah Darlison 

    Illustrator: Mel Matthews 

    Reviewer: Donna Dobson

    Audience: 6 - 8 year olds

    “Woylies are known as ‘farting rats’ because of the noise they make when frightened.”

    "Endangered Animal Tales: The Woylie's Fight for Survival" beautifully combines fiction with facts to engage young readers in the plight of the brush-tailed bettong, also known as the woylie, an endangered species in Australia.

    Through captivating storytelling, readers are transported into the world of this small marsupial, learning about its struggles for survival amidst habitat loss and threats from introduced predators. The vibrant illustrations complement the narrative, appealing to children's imaginations while also conveying the importance of conservation efforts. 

    Despite the challenges faced by the woylie, the book ends on a hopeful note, highlighting the establishment of a sanctuary for these precious creatures, instilling a sense of optimism and empowerment in young conservationists. "Endangered Animal Tales: The Woylie's Fight for Survival" is both educational and inspiring, making it a must-read for children interested in wildlife conservation.

    KLA: Science/ English

  • 22 May 2024 11:02 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Title:  The Sun and Other Planets. A 3-D Solar System with Pop-Ups!

    Author: Patricia Geis

    Reviewer: Donna Dobson

    Audience: 6-10 year olds

    “The Sun, Earth, and Moon have been doing their dance in the universe for millions of years. But, they are not alone!”

    ‘The Sun and Other Planets’ is an exhilarating journey for young space enthusiasts, aged 6 to 10. Bursting with interactive features like pop-ups, sliders, and lift-the-flaps, this book transforms learning into an adventure. Each page invites exploration, making it impossible for curious minds to resist. The illustrations are set out on black pages and will captivate the reader while also delivering essential space facts.

    However, parents should note that distances are measured in miles, which might require additional explanation for young readers accustomed to the metric system. Overall, “The Sun and Other Planets” is a stellar choice for igniting a passion for astronomy while providing hours of interactive fun.

    KLA: Space

  • 22 May 2024 10:44 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Title:Karamea House

    Author: Anne Keen

    Reviewer: Rhonda Bruce

    Audience: Stage 6

    Karamea House tells the story of 17-year-old Sara Johnson, who faces many challenges in her life after her parents are killed in a car accident. Having lived in a very religious community all her life, Sara is sent to Karamea House where she begins to experience a different lifestyle and learns to make decisions about her own life and her future.

    A story about self-discovery, coming-of-age, and being resilient.

    *covers Stage 6 Text and the Human Experience

  • 22 May 2024 10:31 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Title:  The Truth about Max

    Author: Alice & Martin Provensen

    Reviewer: Donna Dobson

    Audience: K-2

    "When Max gets tired of the barnyard, he walks down the lane, into the fields. You would not know him. He looks like a tiger. Now...  his real life begins."

    The Truth about Max isa delightful tale that follows the adventures of Max, a cunning feline with a penchant for mischief. Through vivid illustrations, particularly on the double-page spread showcasing Max’s growth, readers witness his transformation from a small cat to a larger-than-life figure, mirroring his mischievous nature. The simplicity yet descriptive language adds charm to the story, with phrases like ‘big yellow eyes’ and ‘important tail’ painting a vivid picture of Max’s character. As Max navigates the barnyard, displaying his hunting prowess and teasing antics, young readers are sure to be captivated by his antics. However, Max’s journey extends beyond the farm, revealing a tiger-like demeanor as he ventures across the fields, adding an element of excitement and adventure. Children will undoubtedly adore Max for his blend of naughtiness and endearing qualities, making this book a delightful addition to any young reader’s collection.

    Overall, The Truth about Maxis a charming story that combines engaging illustrations with simple yet descriptive language to bring Max’s escapades to life. With its lovable protagonist and relatable adventures, this book is sure to entertain and captivate young readers, making it a perfect choice for Storytime.

  • 14 May 2024 3:25 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Title: The Upwelling

    Author: Lystra Rose

    Reviewer: Rhonda Bruce

    Audience: Secondary 

    "Tarni's hands are two stop signs in the air. I copy. She screeches and the same words over and over, which I don't understand. The tallest hunter bellows. I scowl at him, then at Tarni. Her eight words stop my questions. N'gian followers. The penalty is death" (p117)

    Kirra, a descendant of a truth-dreamer and foreteller of the future, has an end-of-the- world nightmare which threatens her world's existence. As a keen surfer, Kirra enters a surfing competition which is being held where her brother was killed, and is tossed by a huge tunnel wave and ends up in the past in traditional lands. Kirra is befriended by Narn, a dolphin-caller, and the girl he loves, Tarni, who has a gift for understanding and speaking very language and dialect. Together these three face the evil Malung in order to save their past, present and future.

    Strongly recommended to readers who love Fantasy and First Nations stories. Shortlisted for the 2023 Prime Minister's Literary Award for young fiction. Winner of the Black&Write! Writing Fellowship. 

    *This novel dives deeply into the traditional culture of the Yugembah people. Highly relevant to the Year 7-10 English Syllabus Wide Reading Program and covers Cultural Diversity

  • 14 May 2024 3:01 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Title: The True Colour of a Little White Lie

    Author: Gabriel Bergmoser

    Reviewer: Rhonda Bruce

    Audience: 14+ 

    I stared at her and tried to remember the script. But the script was based on asking her how she felt about me, which now seemed obvious. I couldn't remember what I'd written down to say if she said yes" (P177)

    Nelson is an awkward, fourteen-year-old nerd who makes a disastrous attempt to ask the girl that he likes out on a date - by email. Embarrassed by her refusal, Nelson is thrilled when his parents accept a job at the local ski lodge for the season. Left mostly to himself, Nelson inadvertently ends up in a love triangle, enters The Whitt - a classic skiing race for seriously good skiers, (which he is not) and tells a few little white lies along the way. Nelson can't outski the repercussion of his actions but he does learn that we all have flaws and that life has a lot of jumps along the way.

    * covers additional reading for a range of texts by Australian authors and texts chosen by students for personal interest and enjoyment. Stage 5 English Core representation of Life Experiences; and, Stage 6 Text and the Human Experience

  • 14 May 2024 2:14 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Title: Birdy

    Author: Sharon Kernot

    Reviewer: Rhonda Bruce

    Audience: 14+ (contains references to trauma)

    "I have not yet spoken one word to anyone here, outside my family, but maybe today that will change. Maybe today my words will uncork themselves and flow like something liquid" (Pg 46)

    Maddy has selective mutism - she is choosing not to speak after "The Incident". Alice is waiting for her daughter, Birdy, to come home. It's been 45 years since Birdy left. When Maddy and her family move to a farmhouse near Alice's town, these two unlikely people connect until Maddy takes something precious.

  • 3 Feb 2024 5:10 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Title: The Weaver and the Witch Queen 

    Author: Genevieve Gornichec

    Reviewer: Natalie Lincoln

    Audience: Middle High School

    … a woman need not be defined by her men…she can stand for herself and make her own way” (p490)

    Genevieve Gornichec’s historical fantasy, The Weaver and the Witch Queen, begins in the adolescence of protagonist, Gunnhild, and sisters, Signy and Oddny. Here we are introduced to the backstory of these Viking women – each with their own courageous story to tell. Gunnhild suffers an unpleasant mother, while her friends are victim to their farm being raided, leaving them tragically separated. Their bonds are strong, though it remains to be seen if they are deep enough to overcome the challenges before them – from those that wish them harm, and from those they fall in love with.

    This novel is about women. Like many speculative fiction works, it delves into diversity and we are presented with an array of characters who enable a reader to explore the many guises people come in. What is enjoyable is the matter of fact nature of the characters and their exploits – Gunnhild’s wrestle with her conscience and marriage, Oddny’s monthly trials with her periods, and Signy’s silence about her traumatic ‘lost’ years when sold into slavery. Life, alongside the magic and mythology, happens in a very human way.

    Beside the female characters are a host of male counterparts – they too trying to navigate power structures and relationships in a Viking world. An unquestioned respect for the women in their lives and their importance to community is prevalent. Though steeped in hierarchy, Viking society doesn’t shy away from acknowledging the role of women in all aspects of life.

    Thematically, the novel seeks women’s truth. That being, as Oddny declares, “… a woman need not be defined by her men…she can stand for herself and make her own way” (p490). Alongside this, the story touches upon queerness and provides an interpretation of how a transgender person may have lived – providing, as is Gornichec’s style, a ‘real life’ representatiion of that diversity which has for so long been omitted from narratives. The novel is also about friendship, loyalty and the notion that family is what we make it.

    While the novel may involve witches, seers and magical animals, it primarily deals with real life. Life for women and the many paths they may follow. It is an authentic life, and for that it can be harsh. With true friends, and a sprinkling of magic, there is the possibility and hope that one can find the joy of both independence and connection with others. Highly engaging and readable, The Weaver and the Witch Queen would be best suited to middle high school aged students.

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