Category Archives: 2021

Awesome YA Fiction – New and Coming Soon!

YA (Young Adult) fiction has been, and continues to be, arguably the most vibrant and interesting book category around. What makes it so special? YA tends to be plot-driven (and thus is a popular source of film adaptations); YA is socially aware, often exploring socio-political issues including racism, bigotry and authoritarianism; and YA is working hard at inclusion, in both authorship as well as the stories they tell. Newer YA often includes casts with diverse ethnicity, gender, sexuality and physical- and neuro-abilities. Here are some great examples of such fresh, diverse stories:

Lost in the Never Woods by Aiden Thomas
Five years ago, Wendy and her younger brothers disappeared in the woods near her home in rural Oregon; six months later, she was the only one to return, without any memory of what happened.  When children start disappearing again, Peter Pan (is he real, or just a figment of Wendy’s imagination?) appears, and recruits Wendy to help save the children. Lost in the Never Woods is a dark retelling of Peter Pan; not only is it an atmospheric mystery-adventure, it is also a heartbreaking depiction of grief, loss, and guilt.

Tiger Daughter by Rebecca Lim
It’s all in the little details: #ownvoices stories about Asian Australians always jolt me with a strong sense of recognition – an authenticity and depth of understanding borne of lived experience. So, too, does Tiger Daughter, the story of 14-year-old Wen and her friend Henry, both children of Chinese migrants trying to find a way out of difficult familial, cultural and societal expectations. Rebecca Lim has also used Wen and Henry’s stories to explore complex issues including racism, misogyny, financial and domestic abuse, and cultural diversity. A deeply moving and ultimately hopeful story.

The Gaps by Leanne Hall
Leanne Hall has drawn upon the “Mr Cruel” cases – a series of famously unsolved child abductions from her hometown – to create the moody setting of The Gaps.  The abduction of 16 year-old Yin shocks the whole of her all-girls’ school.  Two students caught in the swirl of unease are Chloe, a scholarship student who feels like an outsider, and Natalia, the queen-bee; they form an uneasy alliance as they witness the fear, rumours and grief that grows with each passing day.  The Gaps interweaves a haunting thriller with sharp observations about the relationships, vulnerabilities and strengths of teen girlhood.

The Court of Miracles by Kester Grant
It’s 1828, and in an alternative-Paris, there is famine and suffering after the French Revolution has failed. While the royals rule by day, it’s the criminals who rule by night – formed into guilds collectively called the Court of Miracles. Young Eponine (Nina) is a cat burglar who joins the Thieves’ Guild with the secret goal of rescuing her sister from slavery; as she rises up through the ranks, she desperately tries to keep her protégé, Cosette, safe while seeking to destroy the Miracle Court from within. With strong female characters, a vivid juxtaposition of the glittering and the seedy, and plenty of familiar names, The Court of Miracles is a dazzlingly inventive riff on Les Misérables.

Bruised by Tanya Boteju
The high-energy world of roller derby provides a colourful backdrop to the sometimes confronting story of Daya, an 18-year-old whose parents died in a car crash.  Daya enjoys the rough-and-tumble of roller derby – getting bruises helps her keep the hurt on the surface, so she doesn’t have to deal with the ache in her heart.  As she is further drawn into the sport, its diverse and inclusive community helps her understand herself, moving towards acceptance and emotional healing.  Bruised contains mature themes related to emotional trauma and self-harm and is recommended for ages 14+.

The Theft of Sunlight (The Dauntless Path: Book 2), by Intisar Khanani
The Theft of Sunlight introduces a smart and loyal heroine – Rae, who is disabled – in a tale full of political and magical intrigue.  When her best friend’s sister is snatched by child traffickers, Rae decides to fight back against this age-old practice.  She seizes an opportunity to visit the royal court, and there finds an ally in Princess Alyrra – thus continuing the story started in Thorn.  As Rae fights against corruption and danger, she learns to accept herself and overcome internalised shame.  The fast pace and immersive worldbuilding will leave you desperately awaiting the next (and final) book in the series!

Cooking up a storm with Booko: Road Trip Cooking

From the ultimate hangover breakfast and salad in a jar, to campfire nachos and ‘apple pie to go’, Road Trip Cooking shows you how to make it all while on the road.

Cooking up a storm with Booko: Be More Vegan

Whether you’re ready to commit to a fully plant-based lifestyle or you’d just like to add a few meat-free dishes to your diet, Be More Vegan can help.

Monday Inspo

Advice…it seems to come from everywhere when you are younger and often at times when you’re not really in the frame of mind to listen to it. That’s why we love that YA novels offer little words of wisdom within their pages. Here’s our fav.

Cooking up a storm with Booko: Baking Happiness

Rosie Madaschi found happiness by baking elaborate cakes and baked goods, and now she’s spreading the joy in Baking Happiness.

Top Activity Books for Children

Like many parents, I am always looking for fresh ideas for my boredom-busting toolkit – interesting and meaningful activities, preferably requiring minimal supervision. I’ve really needed them during the current school holidays, and they’ll be helpful as we spend more time indoors during the cooler months. Anything to stave off moans about Being Bored, or battles about too much screentime! These terrific activity books fit the bill – they offer lots of open-ended ideas that encourage kids to play, think, reflect and create.

Usborne Design Activity Book by Alice James, Tom Mumbray and Petra Baan

Usborne has been publishing excellent children’s activity books for years – you may remember books about spycraft / origami / cooking from your own childhood. This Design Activity Book is another great example, and should offer plenty of fun and inspiration to kids who love art and visual design. Project ideas range from the more traditional, such as hand lettering, and designing logos and book covers, to more complex ones such as developing a board game, developing a website, and applying branding to a collection of items. Each idea is supported by lots of prompts and useful tips that draw upon the different steps of the design process. For ages 8+.

Chill Out: My Mindfulness Activity Book by Josephine Dellow

This activity book is not only fun and inspirational, but being based on mindfulness, can also help to support young people’s wellbeing in the longer term. Chill Out offers a good range of activities, puzzles, games and crafts, created with and for 5 – 8-year-olds; each activity encourages children to focus in on a task, settle the mind, and help to create a peaceful moment in their day. Chill Out is published by Ups!de Down Books, an independent publisher specialising in positive, age-appropriate and accessible titles around mental health and wellbeing. For ages 5-8.

Ninja Life Hacks Journal for Kids by Mary Nhin

This journal is a companion volume to the Ninja Life Hacks series, which are bite-sized, colourful books that aim to help children develop life skills. It covers topics such as managing emotions, developing resilience and learning respectful interactions.  The Ninja Life Hacks Journal turns these messages into goal-setting exercises that nurture a growth mindset: how to look past failures and learn from mistakes, practise positive self-talk and ultimately, develop grit and resilience.  Not only is it a useful workbook, it can become a great keepsake.  For ages 3-11.

101 Things for Kids to do Screen-Free by Dawn Isaac

Are you constantly trying to limit your kids’ screen time? Screen time is a big issue in so many families – especially during holidays –  so Dawn Isaac’s new book caught my eye right away. Dawn’s previous books on Outdoor activities and Rainy Day activities are both terrific resources, and this is no exception. The 101 Things described in this book range from the creative (no-sew sock creatures), to the silly (hands-free eating challenge) to the impressive (backyard mini golf).  There are crafts, recipes, outdoor challenges, games, and projects; most require few or commonly-found materials; some can be done on your own, while others are great for groups.  For ages 4-11.

The Joy Journal for Magical Everyday Play by Laura Brand

Laura Brand may not be well-known outside the UK – yet – but her great ideas around engaging with nature, creative crafting and the importance of play, deserve a wide audience. The Joy Journal offers fifty simple, engaging and open-ended play ideas that will appeal to a range of ages, including toddlers under supervision. Most of the projects are no-cost or low-cost, and use common household items, or scavenged natural materials such as flowers, leaves and twigs. Laura champions messy play, but offers helpful tips and “messiness ratings” for parents who may be more hesitant. The beautiful photograps and friendly chatty text means the book is a pleasure for the parent-reader as well! For ages 2+.

Rosie Revere’s Big Project Book for Bold Engineers by Andrea Beaty

Rosie Revere, Engineer is a firm favourite with both kids and adults, for its fun introduction to the engineering process, and its stereotype-busting story.  Now you can further nurture the inventiveness of your budding engineer with a Rosie Revere project book. With full-colour illustrations, Rosie Revere encourages readers to design and prototype solutions to everyday problems using commonplace items, and to learn from, rather than be discouraged by, failures and flops. The 40+ featured projects include designing a better bicycle, build a simple catapult, construct a solar oven, and more.  For ages 5+.

Cooking up a storm with Booko: We Can All Eat That

We Can All Eat That serves up creative, delicious and informed ideas and recipes for introducing allergens to children.