Find Fergus – Mike Boldt

Fergus the brown bear is learning how to hide, only he’s not very good at it. Yet.

When we first meet Fergus, his attempts at hiding are pretty much equivalent to a child putting their hands over their eyes and assuming that means you can’t see them anymore. Or hiding behind the curtains but forgetting that their feet are still visible. Actually, maybe Fergus hasn’t quite reached that level yet.

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You’ve got to give him credit though. Fergus listens to instructions and applies what he’s learned to his next attempt. With perseverance, he gradually gets better at hiding until he finally masters it.

This book would not be nearly as entertaining if the animals weren’t so expressive. Fergus is absolutely adorable but you’ll also meet a duck and a fox, and a whole bunch of rabbits, squirrels, elephants, moose and bears (of course).

My favourite finds included a polar bear who’s just heard a joke, a bear hug and “an elephant with a squirrel problem”.

After you finish reading you can go back to the fold-out pages to search for the things (other than Fergus) that there are to find.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

The hilarious mind behind I Don’t Want to Be a Frog and Bad Dog brings picture book fans the super-funny, interactive story of Fergus the bear, who loves to play hide-and-seek with the reader … but can’t really seem to get the hang of it. 

Children will giggle from start to finish as they follow huge, loveable Fergus and see all the silly ways in which he is TERRIBLE at playing hide-and-seek such as hiding behind a VERY tiny tree (“Found you, Fergus! That was too easy!”) or hiding in a giant crowd of bunnies and squirrels (“Try bears, Fergus. Bears!”). 

But wait the game isn’t over yet! The last two pages fold out into a giant panoramic look-and-find scene, where Fergus is well and truly hidden, and young readers can have fun looking for him and lots of other silly details in the the crowd.

Phoebe and Her Unicorn #13: Unicorn Famous – Dana Simpson

After having a best friend who’s a unicorn for quite a while now, Phoebe discovers that unicorns have become popular and she’s not sure whether she’s okay with that or not. I, too, was into unicorns before they were cool so I understand where Phoebe is coming from.

Marigold employs her skills as a tooth fairy negotiator. Like all parents do, whether they want to admit it or not, Phoebe’s dad attempts to customise her. Phoebe and Marigold enjoy a day out at the water park.

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Dakota receives a Blarty Award but she’s not entirely sure what the award is for since she doesn’t speak goblin. Marigold proves she has great taste in movies.

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Dakota and Phoebe settle on being kind of friends. Phoebe makes her own Halloween costume without any magical unicorn assistance.

And my personal favourite, Claustrophoebea and Pointyhead make another long overdue appearance.

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I can’t believe I still love this series so much! This is the thirteenth time I’ve been allowed to see what lies beneath the Shield of Boringness and I’d hang out with Marigold and her human, Phoebe, again tomorrow if Marigold was inclined to magic up the fourteenth graphic novel by then.

There’s a great blend of comics that explore things we already know in a new way, like Marigold’s obsession with her reflection, and entirely new, very important unicorn related information.

Unicorn sneers will make 62% of your freckles fall off.

We also discover what’s to blame for us not being able to get negative comments out of our heads. It was peanut butter all along. Who would have suspected something that’s seemingly innocuous was capable of something so dastardly?!

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Andrews McMeel Publishing for the opportunity to fall in love with this graphic novel early.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

When your best friend is a unicorn, every day is a stroll down the red carpet. Phoebe Howell’s unicorn BFF, Marigold Heavenly Nostrils, is happy to provide the celebrity treatment – teaching Phoebe fancy new spells, giving her a ride to school so she doesn’t have to ride the bus, and even negotiating with the tooth fairy on her behalf.

But when Phoebe starts noticing that unicorns have become a trendy fashion statement, she doesn’t feel quite so unique. Fortunately, she’s distracted by adventures including a visit to the unicorn community and a trip to the woods to see her friend Dakota receive an unusual honour at the goblin award ceremony. Unicorn Famous is filled with amusing examples of the extraordinary lengths friends will go to make each other feel special. 

Book Haul – February 2021

Hey book nerds!

I hope you’ve had a wonderful month. There’s been a lot of rainy days in my neck of the woods so there have been plenty of excuses to stay inside and read. February gifted me three bookish highlights.

Mort the Meek and the Ravens’ Revenge, the first book in a series, will be released in March. Mort is Brutalia’s new Royal Executioner. This is a problem because Mort is a pacifist. The bigger problem is that the first person Mort is supposed to execute is his best friend.

Lonely Castle in the Mirror is the latest in a growing list of translated books that I’ve loved. A group of teenagers who no longer attend school go through their mirrors, wind up in a castle that looks like it belongs in a fairytale and meet the Wolf Queen.

The Haunting of Aveline Jones is also the first book in a series. I got all grabby when I saw its gorgeous cover at the library. There’s creepy childlike scarecrows, a secondhand bookstore and a mystery to be solved.

February Reads


Book Mail

It’s two years later …

Friday steps out of prison, a shell of her former self. She’s still wearing the same brown cardigan, but she swears she’s never solving mysteries again! Who is Friday kidding? She can’t suppress her brilliant deductive mind and is soon drawn back into the intrigues of Highcrest Academy.

Then Uncle Bernie rings, pleading with Friday to fly to Italy and help him protect the Uffizi Gallery from a team of art thieves – and she can’t say ‘no’ to family. Even if it means travelling to the city where Ian, her nemesis/ex-boyfriend is living.

Will Friday be able to protect Italy’s finest artworks? Will Melanie stay awake long enough to help her? And will Ian still be as gorgeous as a Greek god and twice as annoying? 


The king of beasts and the lord of birds, together once more,

will know a third companion, as the days grow dim. 

The Unicorn, the Minotaur and the Griffin are united at last. Surely together they will be unstoppable!

But the Collector is not going to give up without an epic fight, and not all the beasts of legend are on the side of good …

Have Kelly, Minh and Jimmy met their match? Will the prophecy fail just when it looks most like coming true?


Take a journey through the oceans of the world in this beautiful book, made entirely from hand-pressed plants.

Artist Helen Ahpornsiri transforms silky seaweeds, feathery algae and bright coastal blooms into playful penguins, scuttling crabs and schools of silvery sharks. Turn the page to explore each corner of the oceans, from hidden rock pools to the darkest depths. Marvel as plants transform into marvellous creatures, and discover the magic and beauty that lies beneath the waves..


Kindle Black Hole of Good Intentions

Some boys go too far. Some boys will break your heart. But one boy can make you whole.

When Grace meets Ian she’s afraid. Afraid he’ll reject her like the rest of the school, like her own family. After she accuses the town golden boy of rape, everyone turns against Grace. They call her a slut and a liar. But … Ian doesn’t. He’s funny and kind with secrets of his own.

But how do you trust the best friend of the boy who raped you? How do you believe in love?

A gut-wrenching, powerful love story told from alternating points of view by the acclaimed author of Send.


In 1978, Laurie Strode survived an encounter with Michael Myers, a masked figure who killed her friends and terrorised the town of Haddonfield, Illinois on Halloween night. Myers was later gunned down, apprehended and committed to Smith’s Grove State Hospital. 

For forty years, memories of that nightmarish ordeal have haunted Laurie and now Myers is back once again on Halloween, having escaped a routine transfer, leaving a trail of bodies in his wake. This time, Laurie is prepared with years of survival training to protect herself, her daughter Karen and her granddaughter Allyson, a teenager separated from her family and enjoying Halloween festivities.


Some people like to shoot. Some people like to kill. 

Three victims, three bullets, three cities.

The first of these simultaneous serial killings occurs in San Francisco, Sergeant Lindsay Boxer’s jurisdiction and reporter Cindy Thomas’s beat. The shooters are precise, as is their target selection. Each one of the men and women down excels at an illegal and deadly activity that is dominating public debate. As the casualty list expands, the fear and fascination with this shooting gallery galvanises the county.

Are the shooter villains or heroes? And who will be next?


Brian Greene takes readers on a breathtaking journey from the big bang to the end of time and invites us to ponder meaning in the face of this unimaginable expanse. He shows us how, from its original orderly state the universe has been moving inexorably toward chaos, and, still, remarkable structures have continually formed: the planets, stars, and galaxies that provide islands in a sea of disorder; biochemical mechanisms, including mutation and selection, animate life; neurons, information, and thought developed into complex consciousness which in turn gave rise to cultures and their timeless myths and creativity.

And he describes, as well, how, in the deep reaches of the future, the nature of the universe will threaten the existence of matter itself. Through a series of nested stories Greene provides us with a clearer sense of how we came to be, a finer picture of where we are now, and a firmer understanding of where we are headed. Taken together, it is a completely new perspective on our place in the universe and on what it means to be human.


Every family has it secrets. Even the most ordinary tucks things away, out of sight. Things you don’t want to talk about. Sometimes dangerous things. 

Charlie is ten years old. He lives with his mum in an ordinary house, in an ordinary town. He goes to school, he does his homework and watches his mum work harder and harder to keep their little world afloat. An everyday life, outwardly no different to any other. But in every family there are secrets. 

Charlie’s dad went missing three years ago. No one knows where he has gone. The police couldn’t find him. His mum won’t talk about him. 

His dad had told him troubling things about his family’s past, stuff that did not make sense, that was incredible and frightening. 

And now there are strange things happening in the town where he lives. Children are going missing. Taken from houses and parks, from the woods and playing fields. 

Charlie knows the disappearances are linked to his dad and the stories he used to tell him. 

Charlie can see things that other people can’t. 

Strange things that come from dark places. Strange things with an insatiable hunger. 

The Nasties are coming. 

And only Charlie can stop them.


In the darkness of forever, in the cold places beyond the veil, something evil is stirring. 

Charlie Picker, last of the Watchers, is trying to find out what is happening to his friend Pete ‘Bash’ Bashir. Locked in the secure wing of a hospital, in a coma for over a year, the police are waiting for him to wake so they can charge him with the murder of the children who went missing in Therwick. 

Charlie knows what really killed those children. It wasn’t Bash. It wasn’t anything from this earth. It was the Nasties, a species older than time, born outside of our normal universe. Terrible creatures that had made their home here and grew fat on the blood of innocents. Charlie knows the Watchers are meant to kill these creatures, to protect the earth from the horrors that squirm and multiply in the gaps between the universes. 

And he knows that one day the Nasties will return for him. 

As he prepares for that fight, he makes a dangerous mistake. The veil that protects the earth is damaged. Something else finds a way through. 

Charlie finds himself in a desperate race to close the rip, caught between the Nasties and the other foul creatures that roam the darkness of the multiverse. With the help of his friends he must unite the Watchers and prevent the annihilation of the human race. 

Quite a lot to ask of a twelve year old. 


NetGalley

In this second book in the humorous, mystery-solving graphic novel series that’s perfect for fans of Bad Guys, Sherlock Bones and his ragtag team hunt down a swamp monster!

Sherlock Bones’s home, the Natural History Museum, has added an exciting new exhibit, Reef to Shore, that includes a mangrove forest and shallow coral reef habitat, with touch tanks in between. When Sherlock overhears a that a swamp monster has been sighted, he gathers his team to investigate. At first Sherlock Bones suspects Nivlac, a quirky octopus with a talent for camouflage – and tank pranks.

But then, loud bellowing leads Bones and team to the mangroves, where they find a horrifying long-haired green beast! Can they escape the creature – or is it too late for our beloved frogmouth bird skeleton and his ragtag mystery-solving team?


The first in a wickedly funny new series about an aspiring pacifist in a brutal kingdom!

On Brutalia violence is a way of life. Ravenous ravens circle overhead, monstrous grot bears cause chaos and the streets are bulging with brawls. But Mort isn’t like the other islanders – he’s determined to live peacefully. His struggle is made even tougher when the cruel queen appoints Mort as Royal Executioner. No one has challenged the royals and lived to tell the tale. Can Mort keep his head and outwit the queen? 


Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day – Seanan McGuire

Spoilers Ahead! (marked in purple)

The living are a mystery to me. I didn’t spend enough time as one of them.

Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day was my second ever Seanan McGuire read and it’s just become my first Seanan reread. It also has the distinction of being the only book on my very long list of favourites that, if you were to ask me its name when it wasn’t sitting right in front of me, chances are that I would fail miserably in my attempt to arrange the D’s in the correct order.

Our main character is Jenna, a ghost who volunteers for a suicide prevention hotline, and that right there is the book I didn’t know I needed to read until I learned of its existence.

Jenna’s sister, Patty, died by suicide in 1972. Jenna’s death, shortly after her sister’s, was accidental. Because Patty died when she was supposed to, she bypassed the ghost stage, moving straight on to whatever comes after death. Jenna died before her time so she will remain on earth as a ghost until when she should have died. Except time works differently for ghosts – they can both give and take time from the living.

The guilt Jenna feels over not seeing the signs that led to her sister’s death has resulted in her feeling like she needs to earn her death, only counting the minutes where she’s confident she’s made a positive impact on someone’s life.

I started earning the time I take, justifying it with my actions before I pull it into myself.

I would have been content if that was the entire story, but it’s not. There’s also witches, magic and mysteriously disappearing ghosts. Oh, and a bunch of “feline senior citizens” and cornfields, because this is a Seanan McGuire book, in case you’d forgotten.

If my tear ducts hadn’t suddenly taken a vacation, the dedication alone would have been enough to activate them.

For everyone who has been tempted to go, and has found the strength to stay. I will see you all tomorrow.

Suicide and suicidal ideation can be difficult enough topics to even broach, let alone do right with the sensitivity they deserve. I feel like Seanan has done a really good job here, in the phone call we get to listen in on, in the grief and guilt that Patty’s family experience and the responsibility Jenna feels for not anticipating and preventing her sister’s death.

I’ve paid off a fraction of my debt I owe to Patty, for not hearing the things she never said to me.

It took a little while for me to get my head around how ghost time works but by the time I figured it out, something had happened that has so far always happened when I’ve read a Seanan book: I believed. The characters and the rules that apply in the New York they’re living in felt real to me, and that’s part of Seanan’s magic as far as I’m concerned.

I was entirely satisfied with this story fitting inside a novella during my first read but I’ve gotten greedy since then. I wanted more ghosts, more witches, and more time with those I was introduced to. I could read entire books dedicated to the stories Sophie, Brenda and Delia have to tell.

My reread has raised some questions that my reader’s bliss hid from me during my first read. That was the read that essentially consisted of me marvelling at my good fortune, having so recently discovered a new favourite author.

Don’t get me wrong, though. The question marks above my head did not interfere with my enjoyment of this novella. I still love it to bits. Don’t be surprised if you see me reading it a third time.

Major Spoilers Ahead: Continue reading at your own risk.

It’s mentioned late in the story that

“Ghosts don’t just happen. Someone has to make them. That’s why we all died so early, and why so many of us had freak accidents.”

The person or people or witch or witches who make the ghosts are never revealed. Neither are their motives. Maybe it’s to make sure places are anchored or maybe it’s to make sure time can still be given and taken. The most likely reason to make new ghosts would be to trap them inside mirrors but Jenna has been living her life after death for over forty years mirror free. The not knowing for sure isn’t a big deal in the scheme of things but I would have liked to have at least met whoever it was that was making the ghosts so I could interrogate them myself.

The witch who imprisons almost every ghost in New York must have done a massive amount of research and spent more time than I can fathom collecting a mirror that would work on each individual ghost. It doesn’t say how many ghosts are spending this portion of their lives after death in New York but I’m almost positive that you couldn’t fit all of their mirrors in a supply room.

Content warnings include death by suicide (including the method used).

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

When her sister Patty died, Jenna blamed herself. When Jenna died, she blamed herself for that, too. Unfortunately Jenna died too soon. Living or dead, every soul is promised a certain amount of time, and when Jenna passed she found a heavy debt of time in her record. Unwilling to simply steal that time from the living, Jenna earns every day she leeches with volunteer work at a suicide prevention hotline.

But something has come for the ghosts of New York, something beyond reason, beyond death, beyond hope; something that can bind ghosts to mirrors and make them do its bidding. Only Jenna stands in its way.

Sheets #2: Delicates – Brenna Thummler

You never know what’s going on inside someone else’s head – how they’re hurting – even if you put the hurt there yourself.

Marjorie, who felt like a ghost in Sheets, has recently started the eighth grade. In order to fit in, she hides who she really is from her new friends. Marjorie and her family are, each in their own ways, grieving the death of her mother.

Eliza is an outcast who is repeating the eighth grade.

“Sometimes I feel like a ghost, but maybe a ghost in the wrong place, you know?”

Eliza spends her time trying to capture ghosts on Lorraine, her camera (named after Lorraine Warren), for her paranormal portfolio. Being herself has resulted in Marjorie’s new friends bullying her, while Marjorie stands by, visibly uncomfortable but not intervening.

Marjorie spending time with her new friends means she doesn’t have as much time to spend with Wendell, her favourite ghost.

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He’s missing his friend and feeling left out. He is trying his best to deal with both his life and life after death.

I loved Eliza. Anyone who dresses up as a Ghostbuster for Halloween and wears different coloured socks is my kind of person. I ached for her as I watched her cross back and forth between being too visible and invisible.

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I always look for fun background details in graphic novels. My favourite find in Delicates was the names of the movies playing at The Rubin – The Ghost Wears Prada and What a Girl Haunts.

As I’ve come to expect from Brenna Thummler, the artwork was absolutely gorgeous. The characters’ expressions often speak louder than their words and, although it’s been a long time since I last read Sheets, the colour palette immediately drew me back into its world.

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“You should never have to hide who you are.”

Content warnings include bullying, depression, grief, racism and suicidal ideation.

Thank you very much to NetGalley and Oni Press for the opportunity to read this graphic novel.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Marjorie Glatt’s life hasn’t been the same ever since she discovered a group of ghosts hiding in her family’s laundromat. Wendell, who died young and now must wander Earth as a ghost with nothing more than a sheet for a body, soon became one of Marjorie’s only friends. But when Marjorie finally gets accepted by the popular kids at school, she begins to worry that if anyone learns about her secret ghost friends, she’ll be labeled as a freak who sees dead people. With Marjorie’s insistence on keeping Wendell’s ghost identity a secret from her new friends, Wendell begins to feel even more invisible than he already is.

Eliza Duncan feels invisible too. She’s an avid photographer, and her zealous interest in finding and photographing ghosts gets her labeled as “different” by all the other kids in school. Constantly feeling on the outside, Eliza begins to feel like a ghost herself. Marjorie must soon come to terms with the price she pays to be accepted by the popular kids. Is it worth losing her friend, Wendell? Is she partially to blame for the bullying Eliza endures?

Delicates tells a powerful story about what it means to fit in, and those left on the outside. It shows what it’s like to feel invisible, and the importance of feeling seen. Above all, it is a story of asking for help when all seems dark, and bringing help and light to those who need it most.

Wayward Children #6: Across the Green Grass Fields – Seanan McGuire

Illustrations – Rovina Cai

“There’s no right way to be a girl.”

It’s Seanan McGuire. It’s Wayward Children. I will always be sure.

At ten, Regan has already seen what can happen to girls when they’re different. She’s determined to fit in; “strange was something to be feared and avoided above all else in the vicious political landscape of the playground”.

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In the Hooflands, Regan comes across all manner of hooved beings including centaurs, unicorns and kelpies. There she is told that it’s her destiny to save this world, even though she doesn’t believe in destiny. She finds acceptance and love with her found family, giving her the freedom to be who she is, rather than having to constrain herself to fit inside the box of other people’s expectations.

This series has the diversity that other series can only dream of and I was absolutely thrilled to learn that Regan is intersex. I trust Seanan to write with the sensitivity her characters deserve and I really felt like I got a sense of what it was like for Regan when she learned her parents had kept this a secret for so long. I wanted to give her parents a bear hug for the way they explained this to her and for their love of their daughter in general.

“There was nothing wrong with you then, and there’s nothing wrong with you now. You are the way nature intended you to be. Horse-crazy and not very interested in math and too fond of cauliflower for any ten-year-old girl.”

Every Heart a Doorway is my favourite book and I always dread having to wait an entire year to get my next Wayward Children fix. I initially wasn’t quite as excited about this book, though, mostly because I’ve been chomping at the bit to read so many Waywards’ stories since the first book and this one was going to introduce me to someone brand new. Then there’s the fact that I bypassed the young girl horse phase entirely and was worried that may cause me to fail to connect with Regan.

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I loved Regan, though, and Chicory, the friend she always deserved. But it was Gristle and Zephyr who stole my heart and I only wish they had been given more page time because they (particularly Gristle) were brilliant!

Unlike previous books in this series I didn’t really feel the urgency of Regan’s quest and there was a time during the middle of her story it seemed like I was treading water, waiting for the inevitable. However, the writing was still gorgeous and I hope Regan finds her way into a future quest, through the continuation of her story or by finding herself at Eleanor West’s School for Wayward Children.

“Feel up to an adventure, human Regan?”

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I am already anxiously waiting for Where the Drowned Girls Go.

Content warnings include bullying and intersexphobia.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

“Welcome to the Hooflands. We’re happy to have you, even if you being here means something’s coming.”

Regan loves, and is loved, though her school-friend situation has become complicated, of late.

When she suddenly finds herself thrust through a doorway that asks her to “Be Sure” before swallowing her whole, Regan must learn to live in a world filled with centaurs, kelpies, and other magical equines – a world that expects its human visitors to step up and be heroes.

But after embracing her time with the herd, Regan discovers that not all forms of heroism are equal, and not all quests are as they seem…

Eggshell Skull – Bri Lee

The term ‘eggshell skull’ refers to the legal principle that a victim must be accepted for who they are individually, regardless of where their strengths and weaknesses place them on a spectrum of human normality. If you strike a person whose skull happens to be as thin as an eggshell, and they break their head open and die, you can’t claim that they were not a ‘regular’ person. Full criminal liability – and responsibility – cannot be avoided because a victim is ‘weak’.

This was a really drawn out read for me – almost three months have passed since I read the first chapter. Part of this snail’s pace can be put down to bad timing; I’d finished reading Louise Milligan’s Witness less than two weeks before I started this book and it had already solidified my feelings about the way the Australian legal system chews up and spits out sexual assault survivors.

‘But what if the legal system is unfair?’

Reading about the cases that came across Bri’s desk while she was working as a judge’s associate became overwhelming at times. Some of the details were vividly described so if sexual assault is a particularly difficult topic for you, please take good care of yourself if you choose to read this book.

Bri’s experience working in the legal system offers her a different perspective than most survivors. Yet even she is not able to prepare herself for the emotional toll that her own case of historic sexual assault will have on her.

Bri is unlike so many survivors for a number of reasons.

She has the full support of her loved ones throughout the process. Many survivors do not have that luxury, having to go it alone.

She is confident that the people she tells about the sexual assault she experienced will believe her. So many survivors have not been believed when they’ve had the courage to speak out.

She reports the sexual assault to the police. “Less than one in three Australian women who are sexually assaulted ever go to the police.”

The police charge the perpetrator in Bri’s case, while “fewer than one in five sex offences reported to the police result in charges being laid and criminal proceedings being instigated.”

While I wished for less details at times when Bri was explaining the cases she worked on as a judge’s associate, I found myself wanting more details about her own court case. With such a build up throughout the book, I felt like I only managed a quick glance around the courtroom for much of the trial.

Content warnings include alcohol and other drug use, child abuse, domestic violence, eating disorders, mental health, self harm, sexual assault and suicidal ideation.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

EGGSHELL SKULL: A well-established legal doctrine that a defendant must ‘take their victim as they find them’. If a single punch kills someone because of their thin skull, that victim’s weakness cannot mitigate the seriousness of the crime. 

But what if it also works the other way? What if a defendant on trial for sexual crimes has to accept his ‘victim’ as she comes: a strong, determined accuser who knows the legal system, who will not back down until justice is done?

Bri Lee began her first day of work at the Queensland District Court as a bright-eyed judge’s associate. Two years later she was back as the complainant in her own case. 

This is the story of Bri’s journey through the Australian legal system; first as the daughter of a policeman, then as a law student, and finally as a judge’s associate in both metropolitan and regional Queensland – where justice can look very different, especially for women. The injustice Bri witnessed, mourned and raged over every day finally forced her to confront her own personal history, one she’d vowed never to tell. And this is how, after years of struggle, she found herself on the other side of the courtroom, telling her story.

Bri Lee has written a fierce and eloquent memoir that addresses both her own reckoning with the past as well as with the stories around her, to speak the truth with wit, empathy and unflinching courage. Eggshell Skull is a haunting appraisal of modern Australia from a new and essential voice.

Ninja Kid #6: Ninja Giants! – Anh Do

Illustrations – Anton Emdin

It’s time for Duck Creek’s Halloween Fair and Nelson and Kenny have been eating all their vegetables and working out to prepare for it. Last year they weren’t tall enough to go on the scariest rides but they’re determined to be able enjoy them this year.

It’s a good thing Grandma has a brand new invention, a size converter, which she cautions the boys not to use because it still has some kinks.

Like accidentally making you smaller when you wanted to be taller. This comes with a unique set of problems.

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It wouldn’t be a Ninja Kid book if evil Dr Kane didn’t show up in his helicopter, ready to implement his latest dastardly plan to run everyone out of Duck Creek.

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This looks like a job for Ninja Kid and H-Dude!

‘Ah, maybe they’ve got other problems to deal with’

Ninja Kid and H-Dude may look more adorable than they ever have before …

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but they’re still ready to take on Dr Kane and save Duck Creek again.

Grandma, as usual, was the highlight of the book for me. Readers who have been following this series from the beginning are being rewarded for their patience; we’re closer than ever to finding out exactly what happened to Nelson’s father.

Anton Emdin’s illustrations are staying true to the style Jeremy Ley introduced in the early books. The details are fun, the Halloween costumes are imaginative and the fair definitely looks like somewhere I would want to spend Halloween.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

The fair is in town! Nelson and Kenny want to go on ALL the rides! But after testing Grandma’s new invention, they’re suddenly TOO SMALL to go anywhere! Luckily, Nelson and Kenny have a plan to get TALLER again … way, WAAAAY TALLER!

Beneath the Waves – Helen Ahpornsiri

Text – Lily Murray

I didn’t think the awe I felt when I first saw Helen Ahpornsiri’s A Year in the Wild could be replicated. I was wrong. Beneath the Waves has had the same effect on me.

Helen took me on a journey through the seasons in A Year in the Wild, using petals and leaves to create the most adorable array of animals. My favourite image from that book remains the owl.

In Beneath the Waves, Helen uses seaweed, coastal flowers and garden plants to explore the coast, open ocean, tropics and polar waters. I loved the entire book but did have a few favourites:

  • The baby turtles, each of which have a different expression and unique shell design.
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  • The contrast of the polar bear against the black background enables the details to stand out more. There’s a black background behind the angler fish as well and it’s absolutely stunning.
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  • The blue whale. Not only was this image so detailed, my favourite fact of the book accompanied it. Their “tongues alone weigh as much as an adult elephant!” How’s that for perspective?!
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If you can’t believe an artist could possibly transform pressed plants into such realistic animals, I’d encourage you to watch Helen at work on YouTube.

I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next.

Thank you so much to Allen & Unwin for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Take a journey through the oceans of the world in this beautiful book, made entirely from hand-pressed plants.

Artist Helen Ahpornsiri transforms silky seaweeds, feathery algae and bright coastal blooms into playful penguins, scuttling crabs and schools of silvery sharks. Turn the page to explore each corner of the oceans, from hidden rock pools to the darkest depths. Marvel as plants transform into marvellous creatures, and discover the magic and beauty that lies beneath the waves…

Consent – Vanessa Springora

Translator – Natasha Lehrer

Every so often I read a blurb and just know a book’s contents are going to make my blood boil. This is one of those books.

In her memoir, Vanessa (V.) tells us about G.

G. is Gabriel Matzneff, a French author who, in his books, never attempts to hide his sexual assaults (he calls it love) of underage girls and his trips to the Philippines to sexually assault even younger boys. G. is someone who has won awards for detailing his crimes.

After they met at a party, G. quickly turned his attention to Vanessa.

I had just turned fourteen. He was almost fifty.

The fury for me came in waves, each time someone who could have (and should have) protected Vanessa failed to do so.

Her father is physically and emotionally absent; he doesn’t act on the outrage he feels when he learns of Vanessa’s ‘relationship’ with G.

Her mother allows it, even casually having dinner with her daughter and her rapist. Sure, her mother “consulted” her friends about him but none of them were “particularly disturbed”. This is the woman who made a deal with the devil:

Whatever the reason, her only intervention was to make a pact with G. He had to swear that he would never make me suffer.

The police are notified on a number of occasions but their efforts can hardly be accused of being an investigation.

Then there’s Emil Cioran, a philosopher and friend of G., who came up with this gem:

“It is an immense honor to have been chosen by him. Your role is to accompany him on the path of creation, and to bow to his impulses.”

I’m so glad that Vanessa has used writing to tell her truth, the very medium that her abuser used to distort her experiences with him.

This was a quick but difficult read. I spent a significant amount of time wanting to throw the book against a wall, mostly because the people who were infuriating me weren’t conveniently standing in front of me.

The fact that so many people essentially gave this man their blessing to continue being a serial predator astounds me. Because books are such an integral part of my life I feel justified in being personally offended that G. was encouraged to continue writing about his sickening behaviour, both by the French publishers who continued to print them and the people who actually paid to read them.

G. was not like other men. He boasted of only having had sexual relations with girls who were virgins or boys who had barely reached puberty, then recounted these stories in his books. This was precisely what he was doing when he took possession of my youth for his sexual and literary ends.

This is a well written book. Just make sure you have a punching bag handy when you read it.

P.S. This NY Times article has given me a glimmer or hope that G. may get to see the inside of a jail cell. Maybe all of his published books will be good for something after all: evidence.

Content warnings include domestic violence, gaslighting, grooming, mental health, paedophilia and sexual assault.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Already an international literary sensation, an intimate and powerful memoir of a young French teenage girl’s relationship with a famous, much older male writer – a universal #MeToo story of power, manipulation, trauma, recovery, and resiliency that exposes the hypocrisy of a culture that has allowed the sexual abuse of minors to occur unchecked.

Sometimes, all it takes is a single voice to shatter the silence of complicity. 

Thirty years ago, Vanessa Springora was the teenage muse of one of the country’s most celebrated writers, a footnote in the narrative of a very influential man in the French literary world.

At the end of 2019, as women around the world began to speak out, Vanessa, now in her forties and the director of one of France’s leading publishing houses, decided to reclaim her own story, offering her perspective of those events sharply known.

Consent is the story of one precocious young girl’s stolen adolescence. Devastating in its honesty, Vanessa’s painstakingly memoir lays bare the cultural attitudes and circumstances that made it possible for a thirteen-year-old girl to become involved with a fifty-year-old man who happened to be a notable writer. As she recalls the events of her childhood and her seduction by one of her country’s most notable writers, Vanessa reflects on the ways in which this disturbing relationship changed and affected her as she grew older. 

Drawing parallels between children’s fairy tales and French history and her personal life, Vanessa offers an intimate and absorbing look at the meaning of love and consent and the toll of trauma and the power of healing in women’s lives. Ultimately, she offers a forceful indictment of a chauvinistic literary world that has for too long accepted and helped perpetuate gender inequality and the exploitation and sexual abuse of children.