Staff Picks – November 2015



Dara Palmer’s Major Drama by Emily Shevah  $17.99rrp 

Move aside Ruby Redfort and Nikki Maxwell (from Dork Diaries) there’s a new fun girl with attitude to love. I relished this book that follows 11yo Dara who is super keen to get a lead role in the school musical, Sounds of Music. She has a positive gutsy personality but does need a reality check at times; like relaising her soap opera overacting needs major work! Another great layer in the novel is that Dara is Cambodian and was adopted by a white UK family with an older supportive brother Felix and an annoying younger sister Georgia (also an adoptee, but this time from Russia). So apart from school dramas and friendships she has to deal with accepting and learning more about her birthplace and her younger sister through a drama empathy project. Dara is an extremely lovable, full of life character that you warm to immediately, as well as nod knowingly at all she still has to learn. Lots of realistic dialogue, age appropriate drama, choices to make and dilemmas to solve, this is a winner for me. 9+

Fave quotes; Noodles. Who’d have thought they could teach me what friends were?
After all that effort, I still wasn’t good enough to get the lead role in a musical I wrote about myself. 

The sofa is a great place to think. They should have sofas to lie on in school – I’d get As for everything.

There are times when the words people say are bigger than just words, they’re full of something so intense, you can’t even breathe. 



Fans of the 12 book Rangers Apprentice series will delight to know that John Flanagan has written something better than another sequel – it is a prequel. Set in Middle Ages Gorlan, we go back to the younger days of Halt who is completing his Ranger’s training. Morgarath is the great baddie – desperate to be king and sets the plan to disband the Ranger’s outfit. This leads Halt and Crowley to go on a quest to unite the Rangers and save the Prince and the kingdom. Best thing about this book is new readers can get into this series, whilst older fans can get more insight into the backstory of the early days. All fans will enjoy the vivid descriptions of this medieval time period, lots of boy action and adventure as well the choices all these young kids have to make to become the men they will be. Warning: it does end on a cliffhanger, but John let us know in a recent visit to the shop that the second prequel is coming soon. 9+


Hester & Harriet by Hilary Spiers $29.99rrp

Hester and Harriet are two somewhat moody and unsociable sisters on their way to Christmas dinner. A Christmas dinner they have tried (without success) to get out of every year. Isabelle is a horrid cook, and why can’t George just let them spend the day at home? Hester notices something not quite right by the road. Into the sister’s lives come Daria and Milo, a young mother and child with nowhere else to go. Thinking they’ve finally found an excuse to avoid the dreaded festive dinner, the sisters take to their new house guests immediately. When questions start popping up almost hourly, and it becomes evident that there may be a number of people out looking for Daria, Hester and Harriet begin to wonder what they’ve got themselves into. Daria seems unwilling to divulge many details and then their unruly teenage nephew, Ben, rocks up at their door. What could he possibly want? This Christmas is certainly looking VERY different to the way it looked this morning!
Hester and Harriet is an absolutely charming novel. It reminds me of a BBC drama, with a little village filled with nosey or quirky characters (Finbar, especially, is a read treat) and menacing secrets, lead by two protagonists that I can’t help imagining as Judi Dench and Maggie Smith.  I felt myself swept up in the story, transported into the landscape, and enjoying the sister’s quarrels and banter. Much of the plot seems to be the ‘everyday’ – plenty of cooking and dinner and nicking out for milk – brushed up against some ‘outside the norm’ events. Hester and Harriet is the perfect light read for the upcoming summer break. An engaging plot wrapped up in swathes of character and charm.


Colour Snap App! by Claire Fay $14.95RRP 

With all the colouring books that have come out in the last year for adults – for them to de-stress and meditate and whatever else they’re supposed to do – kids everywhere have missed out on colouring for fun (!!!). They have been quite possibly ignored and left outside with the chalk while their parents hog the pencils and textas inside. These kids will suffer no longer! Claire Fay and Walker Books have brought out Colour, Snap, App!, which brings back the F.U.N. in colouring in a new, exciting way.
Natasha brought this to my attention recently as I am studying animation – I have fallen in love with it and I can guarantee that your child, or the child you will give this to as a present, will absolutely love it as well. There’s nothing more exciting than seeing your drawings, or in this case, coloured-in illustrations come to life right in front of your eyes. Instead of sitting their for hours on end animating, Fay makes animating for the young ones much simpler with three easy steps: 1. Colour the pages in; 2. Take a photo of the coloured-in pages with your tablet or smartphone; and 3. Download the app, selects the photos, and watch as the still images come to life in an animated film. The 16 pictures in Colour, Snap, App! can produce up to 8 minutes of animated film – and from experience, 8 minutes can take months (and months) to do.
Appropriate for ages 5 and up, Colour, Snap, App! will be the perfect Christmas stocking filler. Claire Fay recommends uploading the animated film to social media and use the hashtag #coloursnapapp to share and discover others’ animated animals in the process.


The Dress Shop of Dreams by Menna van Praag $19.99RRP

Every night, Cora Carraway awakens from the same wistful dream that she’s had ever since her parents died on her fifth birthday. However, since that fateful night, Cora has little time to involve herself in such trivial matters such as dreams, magic and even love. As a scientist intent on saving the world, Cora relies on her head and disregards her heart, much to the despair of her doting grandmother, Etta.
Unlike Cora, Etta follows her heart rather than her head. And although Etta claims that she isn’t a psychic, her little dress shop in the town of Cambridge seems to have a magic all of its own. With a little nip and tuck, and a special little star sewn into the lining, Etta’s dresses can help women free their hearts’ desires. However, much to her dismay, Etta struggles to help her granddaughter open her heart again.
This book is certainly a must-read for fans of magical realism. The sprinkle of magic really engages your imagination and surrounds the book in a veil of intrigue, but doesn’t seem to unrealistic and over-the-top.
For fans of Alice Hoffman and Sarah Addison Allen, this book is a delightful, romantic and magical read, all about opening up one’s heart and letting love in. Besides, a little magic can’t cause any harm, can it?

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