Mapping out my favourite parts of Danielle Binks’ novel ‘The Year the Maps Changed’

Title: The Year the Maps Changed
Year: 1999 (Sorrento, Victoria)
Compass: Head south to locate the official synopsis of this debut middle grade novel by Danielle Binks.

Fred’s family is a mess. Her mother died when she was six and she’s been raised by her Pop and adoptive father, Luca, ever since. But now Pop’s had to go away, and Luca’s girlfriend Anika and her son, Sam, have moved in. More and more it feels like a land-grab for family and Fred is the one being left off the map.

Even as things feel like they’re spinning out of control for Fred, a crisis from the other side of the world comes crashing in. When a group of Kosovar-Albanian refugees are brought to a government ‘safe haven’ not far from Sorrento, their fate becomes intertwined with the lives of Fred and her family in ways that no one could have expected.

Maps
Beautiful cover illustration by Astred Hicks

Map Key/Legend:

❤️ = This book is full of heart. Fred is such a brilliant main character who is going through a time when there are so many changes to contend with. Not only in her personal life, where she’s dealing with grade six and a family unit that’s evolving into something she’s not quite emotionally ready for. But in the wider world around her too. Fred can be stubborn and put her foot in it at times, but she’s also empathetic, kind and has a strong moral compass.

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My top 3 favourite things about Fiona Hardy’s novel ‘How to Make a Movie in 12 Days’

INT. SUBURBAN HOUSE. AFTERNOON. A blogger, CARLY, finishes reading How to Make a Movie in 12 Days. She holds up THE BOOK and looks towards the camera with a grin.

CARLY
This debut middle grade novel by Fiona Hardy is amazing! It’s funny, heartfelt, mysterious and made me want to watch every movie mentioned in it.

THE BOOK
Tell them about my synopsis!

CARLY
Great idea, awesome book!

12 Days
Beautiful cover illustration by Jess Racklyeft

Eleven-year-old film enthusiast, Hayley Whelan, has wanted to make a horror movie her whole life. When Hayley’s grandmother passes away, she’s gifted a video camera from the inheritance so she can make her film ‘Rosebud’ over the holidays with her friends. But Hayley is in for some horrors of her own when it becomes clear that someone is trying to sabotage her movie.

Firstly, I loved how prominent Hayley’s joy for filmmaking was.
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3 brilliant things I loved in ‘The Brilliant Ideas of Lily Green’ by Lisa Siberry

One time in grade six I tried to create my own Impulse body spray by mixing together apple juice, bubble bath and potpourri in a spritzer bottle. After a few days the scent was very ‘eau de forgotten fruit in a schoolbag’. But I loved the thrill of inventing something despite the mishaps, much like Lily Green, the main character in this wonderful middle grade novel from Lisa Siberry (and winner of the 2017 Ampersand Prize from Hardie Grant Egmont).

Lily Green 01
How fantastic is this cover illustration by Maggie Cole

Twelve-year-old Lily is dealing with a lot. Her best friend, Violet, is spending less time with her and more energy on Zoe Von Hammer, Lily’s nemesis. Zoe is also determined to beat Lily in the school science competition for the third year in a row. And on top of all that, Lily’s family salon – the last reminder she has of her dad – is up for sale. The only silver lining is that Lily’s beauty inventions are finally succeeding thanks to some interesting ingredients from her neighbour’s garden. But are her inventions too good to be true?

One of the coolest things in this novel is seeing Lily’s creativity evolve and reading about the fun inventions she makes (even if they end up going haywire).

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3 reasons why you should read ‘Nullaboo Hullabaloo’ by Fleur Ferris

If that fun book title isn’t enough to entice you, then may I present to you: FAIRIES. Honest to goodness fairies. Younger, convinced-fairies-were-living-in-the-garden me would have devoured this story & I’m happy to report older, still-loves-magical-things me adored Fleur’s story, too.

Grade four student, Gemma Hart, already has a lot to contend with. Her parents are talking about moving away from the lovely country town of Nullaboo, and she’s stuck with the topic of march flies for her school science project when she really wanted butterflies. But her life gets even more complicated when she discovers a fairy called Janomi in her bug catcher who desperately needs Gemma’s help to save her fairy colony from not one, but two evil forces.

Nulla 01

I love that this book allows you to embrace the wonderment of magic in your own world.

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My top 3 favourite things about Meg McKinlay’s novel ‘Catch a Falling Star’

For Frankie Avery, the most memorable moment of 1979 was supposed to be graduating primary school – but then a space station called Skylab started to fall towards Earth. Most people are either frightened or fascinated by the ordeal, but for Frankie it has reawakened painful memories of grief and loss about her father she thought she’d locked away. And if that wasn’t enough to contend with, younger brother, Newt, has become fixated on Skylab and what its reemergence back home could mean for his family. “Maybe a space station isn’t the only thing heading straight for calamity.”

CAFS 01

The way Meg McKinlay explores sorrow and heartache through her writing is beautifully and realistically done.

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3 reasons why you should read ‘The Legend of Podkin One-Ear’ by Kieran Larwood

As soon as I finished this captivating tale I wanted to run out and join a clan of brave warrior rabbits to go on adventures with. Horses were never my thing as a kid – I was hopping mad for bunnies, Bugs, Buster, Babs or otherwise – so this book spoke right to my I-once-unwittingly-hired-Watership-Down-from-the-video-store-as-a-child-and-still-maintained-my-unabiding-love-for-rabbits soul.

Podkin One-Ear is the son of a warrior chieftain. Podkin’s life is thrown into chaos when his home is attacked by The Gorm (a group of mutated, iron-clad rabbits who have messed with dark magic). He escapes with his siblings – older sister, Paz, and baby brother, Pook – but the young trio are in for a dangerous journey as they try and find a way to rescue their family and defeat the evil creatures that have descended upon them.

podkin 01

The novel is interesting in that it alternates between a rabbit bard, narrating the story of Podkin to a group of wide-eyed bunnies on Bramblemas Eve, and then delving into Podkin’s adventures as they played out.

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The A-Z highlights of why you should read ‘Lenny’s Book of Everything’ by Karen Foxlee

Volumes A to H

Author appreciation – This is the first book I’ve read by Aussie author Karen Foxlee and I’m equal parts kicking myself for not being aware of her brilliance sooner, but also quite excited to realise that along with Lenny’s Book of Everything, Karen has published four other novels. (Dear Santa, I know what I want for Christmas…)

Lenny 01

Beautiful story – Lenny’s brother, Davey, has a rare form of gigantism. At age seven he’s already the size of an adult and his growth shows no signs of stopping. Lenny loves her younger brother, but it’s sometimes hard to grapple with the emotional gravity of their lives.

One thing Lenny and Davey look forward to arriving each week is the latest intriguing instalment of Burrell’s Build-It-at-Home Encyclopedia, which allows them to become experts on topics such as beetles and eagles, and dream about the places they can visit one day. But the window for adventure becomes smaller as Davey becomes bigger and his health deteriorates, much to his family’s distress.

Family dynamics – Even though Lenny knows Davey is going through a lot, she still has her realistic moments where she gets utterly fed up with him (and vice versa).

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3 reasons why you should read Adam Cece’s MG novel ‘The Extremely Weird Thing That Happened in Huggabie Falls’

I mean, that book title alone is a pretty good reason to have a read – unless you’re already neighbours with The Addams Family and you’re like, ‘Nope, got enough weirdness for my lifetime, thanks.’ It also won the Text Prize in 2017, which is pretty cool. But let me set the scene for you…

Huggabie 01

School friends Kipp Kindle, Cymphany Chan and Tobias Treachery live in Huggabie Falls, the weirdest town on Earth. There you can find witches, vampire bats, trolls and a house built onto a roller coaster, but all of these weird things pale in comparison to the extremely weird thing that’s happening in town. The kids don’t know what it is yet, but they’re determined to find out.

What’s really fun about this book is that the narrator has such a big presence throughout.

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My 3 favourite things about Mat Larkin’s MG novel ‘The Orchard Underground’

Do you ever finish reading a book and get the urge to hold it aloft, presenting it to the world Lion King style for everyone to enjoy because you loved it that much? Well that was me with Mat Larkin‘s quirky and engaging middle grade novel The Orchard Underground.

Orchard 01

Pri Kohli has lived in Dunn’s Orchard all his life, he’s even ‘the face’ of the town. But when newcomer Attica Stone arrives on the scene and starts asking questions – mainly ‘Why is there a distinct lack of orchards in a place called Dunn’s Orchard?’ – Pri realises his town holds more mysteries than he thought, and thus a reluctant detective was born.

Firstly, this book is incredibly funny. I legitimately snorted out loud like an over-excited seal more than once (#glamour).

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3 things I loved in Jaclyn Moriarty’s book ‘The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone’

Confession: I actually loved about a million things in Jaclyn’s middle grade novel but, much like bears, musketeers and singing brothers in Hanson, good things come in threes.

Bronte 01

The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone is about a ten-year-old girl who is sent on a solo adventure, via the instructions in her parents’ will, to deliver gifts to her ten aunts. She faces many obstacles along the way, including pirates, police and magical creatures, but if she doesn’t follow her parents’ precise orders, terrible events will occur.

Bronte was already my hero from this description alone, because I’m pretty sure the biggest adventure I ever went on as a ten-year-old was taking the shortcut through the cemetery near our house to get to the shops (the promise of an ice-cream won out over ghost possession). But this leads into my first thing I loved about the book: Bronte is a fabulous main character.

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