Australia’s First Children’s Laureates


Australia has announced their first Children’s Laureates and they are a pair of children’s authors.  Alison Lester and Boori Monty Pryor will serve for two years.  During that time, they will travel to every state and territory in Australia in order to reach as many children as possible with their message to read more.

Both authors had responses to their appointments:

”One of the most frightening things in the world is a child who can’t read and write,” Pryor said.

”People keep saying books are going to have their day,” Lester said. ”But especially for a child a book is the most wonderful way to travel and escape and discover.”

The William C. Morris YA Debut Award Finalists

And the nominees are:


Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson


Paper Covers Rock by Jenny Hubbard

Under the Mesquite by Guadalupe Garcia McCall

Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley


Goodness, I haven’t read a single one of these!  They are all patiently waiting on my to-read list, but I haven’t managed to get to any of them.  So please, let me know which ones are your favorites!

Review: The House Baba Built by Ed Young

house baba built

The House Baba Built: An Artist’s Childhood in China by Ed Young

Illustrator Ed Young grew up in Shanghai during World War II.  His father managed to get them a house that was safe because he built it himself.  He made a deal with the landowner that he would build a house and after 20 years, the landowner would get it free and clear.  But in those 20 years, Ed Young’s family lived there.  It was a huge home with a swimming pool, space to roller skate on the roof, staircases to slide down, and lots of other places to play.  This is the story of growing up in that house with the war raging around them, but also feeling very safe as a family because of the house.  It is the story of welcoming people beyond their family to stay with them, giving refuge and forming a larger family unit.  It is the story of years of playfulness and joy together despite the outside forces because his father thought brilliantly and quickly.

It will come as no surprise to those who know Young’s work that this is a beautifully designed book.  Young weaves together paper cutting, sketches, painting and photographs into a dreamlike world of his childhood where some things stand out crystal clear and others are fogged by time.  It is like looking into someone else’s memories along with them.  They are beautiful and mesmerizing.

This book may have trouble finding an audience.  While the illustrations are gorgeous, the story is told in vignettes rather than one large story.  This technique will resonate more with slightly older readers than usual picture book preschoolers.  On the other hand, teachers looking for a book to inspire telling a biography in more than words will delight in this book.  It will share aloud well and the illustrations will invite readers into Young’s world.

A book for older elementary school readers who may take some encouragement to pick it up.  Once they do, they will be transported to Shanghai in the 1930s and 40s.  Pair this with Drawing from Memory by Allen Say for two artist’s childhoods in Asia.  Appropriate for ages 7-10.

Reviewed from ARC received from Little, Brown.

Review: Prized by Caragh M. O’Brien


Prized by Caragh M. O’Brien

In this sequel to Birthmarked, Gaia has escaped into the wasteland with her infant sister, following a rumor to guide her.  Gaia is reaching the end of her strength and her baby sister is perishing when she is discovered by a rider from Sylum.  When she is brought into their matriarchal society, Gaia is forced to give up her sister into the society for care and must submit herself to their rules.  No man can speak to her first much less touch her, and a kiss can get you jailed.  Sylum is slowly dying, since there are many more male births than female.  But Sylum also cannot be escaped easily.  Newcomers get physically ill and then after that violent illness are unable to leave.  If they try to leave, they will die of an even more extreme illness.  So Gaia is trapped in Sylum without her sister, trying to follow their rules, when she discovers that Leon is also there, imprisoned.  In order to free him, Gaia has to give up the last of her will to the ruler of Sylum. 

I adored the first book in this series.  The Enclave was a skewed society that was fully rendered and well thought out.  O’Brien has done the impossible in a single series and created within her world another complete society that makes sense, surprises, and then displays its darker side.  Sylum is a world run by women, but also a decaying society where there are few rights especially for those who refuse to follow the rules.  It is a beautiful, green but dreadful place where the darkness is right below the lovely surface.  In short, it is immensely readable and a wonderful dystopian setting.

O’Brien introduces us to new characters just as we are getting reacquainted with those we enjoyed in the first book.  Gaia remains a fierce, independent force who is bright, inspiring and strong.  She is a character thrown into a society she does not understand, who makes waves with every step and friends too.  There are two brothers who serve as additional love interests in this complex society that forbids touching.  They are wonderfully similar but also very different, attractive in different ways to Gaia.  Still, there is also the angry and ever-frustrating yet fascinating Leon to consider.  As Gaia muses, it is actually a love square rather than a triangle.

This is a compulsively readable book, just like the first.  The world is well drawn, but it is the different societies that truly shine here.  I look forward to the rest of the series, because this book was very unexpected and I can’t guess what is going to happen next.  Appropriate for ages 14-17.

Reviewed from copy received from Roaring Brook Press.

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