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Its publication day here at Penguin and we are excited to share with you our latest new releases. We have something for all year levels this month, so lets start with Primary school and work our way up to Secondary school.
A charming hide-and-seek book from Mem Fox, illustrated by Laura Ljungkvist. Follow the adventures of the ladybird and find her in various scenarios in a fun finding game. Suitable for younger children, this book will fascinate and delight with vivid colour and adorable illustrations.
We know how much your students love Skylanders, so when giving reward stickers why not give them the coolest stickers available? Skylanders Universe Ultimate Sticker Collection features over 1,000 reusable stickers. This bumper sticker book includes all of their favourite Skylanders characters, from Master Eon and Spyro to Terrafin, Stealth Elf and many more.
Book 3 in the adorable and popular series! It’s Spring and all the animals on Maisy’s farm are having babies. Maisy says I can stay for a whole week and help out. There are chicks and ducklings hatching, orphan lambs to feed, and I can’t wait for Bella to have her calf! So many exciting adventures for a trainee vet!
Book 4 in the adorable and popular series! A terrible bushfire has struck and Mum’s vet clinic is in chaos. Every day more and more injured baby animals arrive. Chelsea and I have never been busier! There’s an adorable baby koala to feed by hand, a fat little wombat to bandage, and a funny blue-tongued lizard that Max is determined to make his pet. But who knew that babies needed so much feeding! I may never sleep again!
Eerie because goosebumps are for chickens.
Zak wakes up with no memory of who he is. The parents he can’t remember are acting strange. Why won’t they let him out of the house? And what’s going on in the graveyard next door?
The Moon and More by SARAH DESSEN (Release date 4/06/2013)
Colby may be just a small holiday beach town for the tourists, but for Emeline it’s home. It looks like it’s going to be another typical summer there with her gorgeous high-school sweetheart, Luke – until a New York film-maker and her ambitious assistant Theo check in. They’re obviously after a story. But, when getting the locals to talk proves tricky, Theo decides they need a guide and he’s got his eye on Emeline . . .
Can Emeline decide where her loyalties, and her heart , truly lie before the summer ends?
Teen screen idol Reid is in deep trouble. Dori, a community service supervisor, is determined to set him a good example - and romance is the furthest thing from her mind. Or his. But there’s something irresistible about Reid that not even good girl Dori can ignore . . .
The third in the irresistible Between the Lines series by Tammara Webber, author of New York Times bestseller Easy.
The 2nd Wave
Put that number to shame.
The 3rd Wave
Lasted a little longer. Twelve weeks . . . Four billion dead.
In the 4th Wave ,
You can’t trust that people are still people.
And the 5th Wave?
No one knows. But it’s coming.
On a lonely stretch of highway, Cassie runs. Runs from the beings that only look human, who have scattered Earth’s last survivors.
To stay alone is to stay alive, until she meets Evan Walker. Beguiling and mysterious, Evan may be her only hope.
Now Cassie must choose: between trust and despair, between defiance and surrender, between life and death.
You may have heard your students talking about The Fifth Wave by Rick Yancey, some of them may even have asked if you have a copy in your library. It seems The Fifth Wave is everywhere at the moment, and for good reason. It is a gripping read. On the surface it may seem just another young adult dystopian offering, but the themes and issues explored within this fast paced, edge of your seat novel are themes and issues we as educators are always looking for new and engaging ways to explore with our students.
More than just a novel about alien invasion, The Fifth Wave could be used as a platform to discuss family relationships, invasion, war, immigration, refugee’s and moral dilemma.
The Fifth Wave is recommended for Grade 9+ (14+ years)
This year Read for Australia will be held on Wednesday 31 July at 2pm AEST. Students in schools across the country are invited to participate in a mass read of the book selected for Read for Australia. This year’s book is… Herman and Rosie by Gus Gordon!
Set in New York, this gorgeous picture book is a story about friendship, life in the big city, and following your dreams.
This is a tale about a big city.
It’s a tale of hotdogs and music and the summertime subway breeze.
It’s a tale of singing on rooftops and toffees that stick to your teeth.
But most of all, it’s the tale of Herman and Rosie.
Gus Gordon has written and illustrated over 70 books for children. Gus grew up on a farm in northern NSW and, after leaving school, worked on cattle stations all over Australia before deciding to pursue a career in drawing. Gus’s illustrations are known for their loose and energetic line work, mixed media and humour. His writing is always anthropomorphic—where animals take the place of humans in the narrative. He attributes this to his love of Wind in The Willows by Kenneth Grahame.
Gus’s first picture book, Wendy, was selected as a Children’s Book Council of Australia (CBCA) Notable Book in the 2010 Book of the Year Awards.
We love receiving student reviews here at Penguin Teachers’ Academy! Today we were fortunate enough to be sent reviews for some of our most recent titles. These students are regular reviewers for YARR-A. The YARR-A website is devoted to teenage/young adult books reviews, written by students and teachers, of novels by Australian and overseas authors. We thank them for sharing their thoughts her with us at Penguin Teachers’ Academy and if you have students who are keen to contribute reviews for us, please feel free to leave a comment for us on the post.
Big Thursday by Anne Brooksbank
When I first got Big Thursday I didn’t know expect I thought maybe I would be taken on a journey to the perfect, happy world of Nat and his family. I was instead inducted into the much more real, much more interesting, much more exiting normal world, where there are real problems with real not always easy solutions. Big Thursday is about Nat, an aspiring surfer like his dad once was, just living through high school with his friends. Life was good for Nat until it was uncovered that his dad might have been involved shady work inside his large company which there after Nat’s life became all the more complicated, from being bullied to possibly moving away from his beloved home.
I really like the fact that the story was not all through Nat’s eyes as well as being shown from his point of view that of a teenager. It appealed to me because it came from someone my age as well as showing a side of the real adult world. It’s not the lightest read but for those who like a good hard teen book then I would definitely recommend this.
Daniel, age 12, Canberra, Australia
The Indigo Spell by Michelle Reed is the third book which follows the life events of Sydney Sage, an alchemist. A lot happens to Sydney in this book, let’s just say that there are some dark witches and secret organisations involved, including that of the mysterious Marcus Finch. I have trouble putting this book into a genre because for me fantasy means warrior elves and daring quests by unlikely heroes, however, I’m not sure how else to put it. There is also a strong romantic element to this book, but not so strong that you feel sick. Teen life may also come into play here, but babysitting vampires can hardly be considered normal. The major theme covered in this story was questioning and rebelling against what Sydney has thought she has known her whole life. While the book would make sense on its own, the value of the story is increased by reading previous accounts. Description in this book was used very well and there are still elements of the story that are clear in my mind’s eye. While this book looks large and daunting, it is actually not a difficult read. I would recommend it to girls 11-15. While older girls may enjoy this book I have never been older than 15 so I can’t speak for them. I would encourage girls that read this in upper primary to re-read it again later on, as they would be able to read into the story more.
Sarah, age 15, Canberra, Australia
The book, Diary of a Wimpy Kid – The Third Wheel, by Jeff Kinney, starts off by describing middle school boy, Greg Heffley’s life. Greg has a big family which includes 2 brothers named Mandy and Rodrick. His parents are really nice, but they are always yelling at Greg. The problem is though that Greg is getting yelled at for things that Mandy does! I think the family is really funny and would be great to work with if I did a movie with them. I would recommend this book to children and young adults. There were very funny pictures in the book that really made me laugh. One amusing moment was where Greg had to dance with another boy because there were more boys than girls at the school dance. Overall, there are lots of funny, weird and fantastic events in this book and I would recommend everyone to read this wonderful book.
Louisa-Jane, age 12, Canberra, Australia
The Son of Neptune is about a boy in his late teens, Percy Jackson. He is a demigod, which means that he is half human, half god. He has ended up in California near New Rome, home of the Roman Demigods in America. This is very odd as Percy is Greek, and the Romans are sworn enemies of the Greeks. Percy has lost his memory and cannot remember anything from his past except for one name, Annabeth. Puzzled, he discovers a prophecy, which foretells that the earth goddess, Gaia, will rise and take over the world. Percy, along with his new friends, Frank and Hazel, have just three days to travel to Alaska and prevent the prophecy’s contents coming true. If they fail, all humans and demigods on Earth will die.
Rick Riordan has written a thrilling novel. I personally enjoyed this book because it combines mythology, fantasy and humour and is also very readable. While the novel is very readable, I feel that the first novel is this series, The Lost Hero, needs to be read first so the storyline can be understood. This novel is an incredible read and book lovers, as well as people who enjoyed the previous Percy Jackson series, will be reading this novel and falling in love with it for some time yet. I personally would recommend it to anyone.
Josh, age 14, Canberra, Australia
Prodigy is the second instalment in the Legend series of fictional thrillers written by Marie Lu. The story is set in a dark, dystopic, futuristic United States and tells the story of June and Day, and how they must make life or death decisions to fight for their own, and their family and friends’ survival. The governance in this story is a monarchy with an Elector Primo in charge. The Elector Primo is horrible and has brought nothing but misery and suffering to his people for years. Unexpectedly, however, he dies and is replaced by his son. With this sudden change comes an unsettling within the Republic; June and Day join with a group of freedom fighters called the Patriots and to help them to assassinate the new Elector Primo and drive the republic into a revolution. June and Day need the Patriots to have any hope of rescuing Day’s brother, but the Patriots will only help them if June and Day try to assassinate the Elector Primo. As time goes on, they waver as to whether the new Elector Primo is the same as his father and whether they should indeed kill him. June and Day must decide …
This book is nearly 350 pages long and I found it a challenge to get through. Also, the complex story means that if you miss something, it can complicate the story significantly. As a result of the length of the book, the necessarily of having read the previous book, the complicated story and the theme of this book; it would only be suited for a select reader, someone at least 13+ and who has read the previous book. I found the complex storyline a drawback. If you are a keen reader then by all means, read it and you will probably enjoy it.
Dion, age 14, Canberra, Australia
Rat flu has exterminated nearly every single animal on the planet. The species in Captain Noah’s Lost World Circus are the last of their kind. This book is about the survival of the circus including Lucy the elephant. Colt Lawless and Birdy his friend take on the task of saving the circus.
This book has a few hard words but otherwise it’s fine. You have to read the whole thing, not just part of it. The story kept me interested and made me want to know what would happen next. I recommend it for both girls and boys, 8 years and older.
Pascal, age 11, Canberra, Australia
Nameless is a fairy tale drama based on the Snow White story twisted with reality and fantasy. Camille is the main character; she is a fifteen years old girl who wants to reconnect with her past and therefore her true identity. The novel details Camille’s arduous and dangerous journey to find out who she is and where she truly belongs. Camille starts to show the physical scars of her childhood to her best friends Ruby and Ellie and her adoptive brother Nico. Keeping her scars hidden underneath her school uniform until the mysterious Tor arrives and he has scars of his own to share.
Nameless will appeal to adolescent teenagers, particularly girls. Although the novel has explicit language but in context, the use of language is appropriate and not over used. Throughout this novel many controversial issues arise. Early in the novel we discover Camille was an orphan found on the snowy road and adopted by Papa Vultusino and is raised with his son Nico.
I enjoyed the novel. The creativity used to make the story come alive in its own unique way and the way the author has twisted reality and fantasy without confusing the reader. The novel is well presented; with a story or parable which is applicable to modern day adolescent teenagers. The cover would appeal to teenagers and doesn’t give the story away but it makes you interested in the book. The writing is a reasonable size, easy to read and written in such a way that the reader is drawn into a word of imagery and mystery. I would recommend this book to high school girls from twelve years to sixteen years old.
Skylar, age 12, Canberra, Australia
This great realistic novel shares with the reader exactly what it was like to grow up in Carlton in 1956. This is a fabulous read that I strongly recommend for children aged 9-11 years old, especially if you love books that really let you relate to the character.
Lina is a young Italian girl who now lives in Carlton, Melbourne. She loves writing and tries hard to follow her strong dreams. She wins a scholarship at an expensive girls’ school and to fit in she must keep her home life a secret. A tale of friendship and secrets, this is a great before bed read.
I loved this book because I found it easy to relate to the characters. The only problem I had with this book was that I couldn’t find a clear complication or resolution. Apart from that I found this a great read and I strongly recommend this to anybody who likes a realistic book.
Megan, age 11, Canberra, Australia
The book Meet Ruby by Penny Matthews is an interesting story with drama and sadness. It is part of the Our Australian Girl series. The book is set in 1930 and there was a little girl named Ruby and her life was turned upside down by the Great Depression. She went from very rich to poor.
The beginning of this book was very enjoyable but as a read on I got scared about what might happen. Even though I was scared I wanted to read more and now I am looking forward to book two. I also would like to see what happens to the other girls in the other books from different times. This book would appeal to girls from 8 to13 years. It was pretty easy to read and understand. I rate this book 4½ stars out of 5.
Lelia, age 11, Canberra, Australia
Tim Sinclair’s Run is a story about one teen boy on the run from the world. Dee, a parkour fanatic and his friend Jess live in a city ruled by two worlds, everyday life and the adrenalin-filled parkour fantasy. Then one day Dee’s two worlds collide as he gets tricked and threatened in strange events featuring one mysterious stalker and an iPod. Dee must run from everything he knows and with the help of Jess, work out what must be done to escape death.
This book is a brilliant cliff-hanger which will have you hooked until the last page. When I read Run, the thing that really caught my eye was the use of effects such as word shaping on each page and the descriptive language, both of which make you feel like you are in Dee’s situation and world.
I would recommend this book to 13-18 year olds who like adventure and books that let you escape your world with each turn of the page. Run is a good read with lots of action and surprise. Well done to Tim Sinclair!
Sally, age 13, Canberra, Australia
I think the book Beautiful Creatures written by Kami Garcia and Margret Stohl is an excellent book. It’s about a boy named Ethan Wate and a girl named Lena Duchannes (it rhymes with rains). It is a touching romance and an exciting fantasy.
Lena and Ethan become bound by together by a deep, powerful love. But Lena is cursed and, on her sixteenth birthday, her fate will be decided. Ethan never saw it coming.
As you see it is a really great book though I thought the text could have been a bit bigger. The words, however, were very well chosen and imitated the accents of the people well and explained the theory of the magic. The design of the book, including the family trees and the font, was amazing. I recommend this book to younger readers and adults, or people who love romance novels. To sum it all up, the characters, the themes and the words were all amazing.
Dayton, age 12, Canberra, Australia
Scarlet is the second book in Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles, continuing Cinder’s exciting story, as she struggles to evade the evil lunar queen, and battle with her own emotions for Emperor Kai. This book also introduces a new character, Scarlet, into the series, who adds another layer of excitement and romance to the book as she searches for her missing grandmother, and finds herself falling for the mysterious street fighter who has just entered into her life.
I thought it was very easy to get drawn into, and the introduction of a whole new character made it much easier to follow if you haven’t read Cinder. The author has managed to weave the stories around classic fairy tales which I think added to the beauty of the series, without making it cliché. I think it would be most suitable for girls ages 11 and up, and because details from the previous book are covered early on in Scarlet, it is easy to understand without reading Cinder.
Miriam, age 14, Canberra, Australia
With the combined talents of Margaret Wild and Freya Blackwood how could The Treasure Box ever have been anything short of spectacular? The story begins…”when the enemy bombed the library, everything burned.” Peter and his father flee their war-ravaged city with very little. The only thing Peter’s father saves is a book wrapped lovingly and placed in an iron treasure box. His father explains that this book is, ‘rarer than rubies, more splendid than silver, greater than gold’.
Margaret Wild’s carefully selected words provide the reader with a powerful and uplifting story which highlights the devastation of war and human resilience. The story is beautifully complemented by the superb illustrations of Freya Blackwood. She has used a range of paper cutting techniques to help create depth in her illustrations. The greys and browns in the first half successfully adds to the mood. As the story moves on and Peter returns to reclaim the treasured book, Blackwood adds to her colour palette to include blues and greens to symbolize the return of hope. I absolutely loved this book and look forward to sharing it with others. The Treasure Box successfully reminds us about the importance of stories, past and present.
Kylie, Canberra, Australia
With all Pam’s trademark simplicity of line and characterisation, this is the perfect book to share with the littleies in your life. Together you can choose… are you happy or grumpy? Will you cry or will you sing? Straightforward comparative text about feelings with clean, clear art.
The exciting second book in Isobelle Carmody’s award-winning KINGDOM OF THE LOST series for 8+.
Adventure and danger follow Bily, Zluty, Redwing and the monster as they cross a barren desert and journey over high stony mountains in search of a place where they can make a new home. But will the secret they uncover in the Cloud Mountains be the end of them all…
It’s 1931 . . . and Ruby and her family have lost everything in the Great Depression. Leaving behind her dad, her school friends and everything she knows, Ruby must move to Kettle Farm to stay with her cousins. Life in the country is new and strange, and Ruby has never felt like such an outsider. Thankfully she has her much-loved dog, Baxter, for company – until he gets up to mischief, and everything goes horribly wrong. . .
Follow Ruby on her adventure in the second of four exciting stories about a happy-go-lucky girl in a time of great change.
It’s 1956 . . . and Lina is working hard on the school newspaper. But mean Sarah Buttersworth isn’t making it easy, and when Lina’s best friend Mary gets distracted by her new television, things begin to fall apart. Meanwhile, at home, Lina starts to uncover some dark family secrets. Living in two such different worlds isn’t easy, and when tragedy strikes, she makes a decision that causes her many lives to collide . . .
Follow Lina on her adventure in the second of four exciting stories about a passionate girl finding a place to belong.
An electrifying new series from Justin D’ath, author of the bestselling Extreme Adventures.
Colt Lawless is on the run, suddenly famous, and more than a little superhuman. But can he save the last animals on earth?
Colt Lawless has been performing superhuman acts all over town. To protect his secret identity, he and Birdy have come up with the ultimate disguise. Superclown - completely fearless and impossibly strong. But when he wrestles with an angry panther at a crowded school disco, it looks like Superclown’s cover is blown already. How will he save the world’s animals now?
There’s something strangely freaky about Feeney’s famous flea circus. Roll up, roll up and see. But make sure you leave before feeding time . . .
It all began with the F.B.I. and W.A.R.P. (Witness Anonymous Relocation Programme) hiding witnesses in the past to protect the future – until now . . .
Riley is a Victorian orphan, hurtled into the twenty-first century and on the run from his evil master . . .
Albert Garrick, the terrifying assassin-for-hire pursuing Riley through time, along with . . .
Chevie Savano, the F.B.I.’s youngest and most impulsive special agent.
As Garrick relentlessly hunts them down, Riley and Chevie face a desperate race to stay alive and stop Garrick from returning to his own time – armed with knowledge and power that could change the world forever.
Our Australian Girl is referred to affectionately in the Penguin office as OAG – or, in times of mild stress and chaos, OMG. After all, it’s a big series with lots of elements, and sometimes it can be a little daunting to execute in an ‘oh my goodness’ kind of way. But Sunday 17th March was an OMG moment for another reason – one that was more about awe and excitement than hands plastered to foreheads in panic.
The launch of our two new OAG characters, Ruby by Penny Matthews and Lina by Sally Rippin, gave us an excuse to throw a garden party for fans to celebrate the success of the series, which stands at 26 books and over 200,000 copies sold. From the gorgeous emails we receive from fans, parents, teachers and booksellers, we had an inkling that OAG readers are enthusiastic. But we were still completely unprepared for the crush of Sunday-afternoon revelers who poured into St Heliers Store at the Abbotsford Convent.
It was a rainy day and we suffered the usual pre-match paranoia about whether anyone would bother to show. And yet, while we were still hanging the bunting and arranging the hundred cupcakes, the crowds quickly swelled until it was jostling room only. It seemed that in every corner of the space, momentous things were happening. By the bookselling table, Penny Matthews was meeting the face on the cover of the Ruby books – the gorgeous, smiling, real-life Ruby. In front of the fruit platters, Sofie Laguna had a signing queue that stretched around to the table where fans were entering the competition to win their own OAG charm bracelet.
Future OAG author Michelle Hamer (whose Depression-era Daisy books will be out next year) was chatting with Poppy author, Gabi Wang, who is writing another set of OAGs about Pearlie, a girl in Darwin in World War Two. The series illustrator, Lucia Masciullo, was meeting Letty author, Alison Lloyd, for the first time. Publisher Jane Godwin was recovering from the shock of reuniting with the cover girls Grace and Rose books – now leggy, sophisticated Year 8s. The Readings table was doing a roaring trade, as fans added Meet Ruby and Meet Lina to their collections.
Looking around, it seemed that our deepest wishes for the series had come true. Sure, we had always hoped to bring Australia’s history to life and celebrate the diversity of our heritage. We’d dreamed about helping young people form a strong and resilient sense of what it means to be Australian – something richer than an empty three-syllable chant or a Southern Cross tattoo. We’d reacted strongly against the focus on materialism and image that seemed to be infiltrating our tween entertainment options.
But our biggest aim had been to provide meaningful, memorable stories for OAG readers – ones with characters they’d come to know as friends, and values they could, we hoped, internalise: strength and courage, passion and fortitude, a sense of possibility, and a desire to do what is right and good. Above all, we just wanted to provide girls with the joy, space and comfort that comes when you connect with a story you love. In the ultimate OMG moment, all around us, in a noisy, happy throng of shining young faces, we had evidence that we had succeeded – and then some.
When the formalities began with a ceremonial glass clink, Sally and Penny talked about the stories behind their characters and the characters behind their stories, and Lucia charmed us with an account of her journey from Italy to become a new Australian girl. The cover girls came to the front, and all past and present authors were clapped and cheered.
And at that moment, I realised that we’d actually created something we’d only dreamed of when the series began. It was a feeling of community and female legacy: the sense that we’re giving a new generation an idea of what it has meant and now means to be an Australian girl, with all the hardships, challenges and opportunities enfolded in that responsibility. By connecting readers to the past, it felt that afternoon as if we were building a stronger future. The cupcakes were pretty delicious, too.
Over two years ago I had a meeting in the Penguin offices in Camberwell to talk about my idea for a future Our Australian Girl. Jane Godwin and Davina Bell sat me down at a small round table and talked to me about the series. Let me tell you now, it was like watching a mixture of a comedy duo and an old couple who have lived together for forty years. They were so delightful, so funny, shared so much affection, passion and enthusiasm for each other and this series, that instantly I knew I desperately wanted to work with them. The good news is that two years on and three, nearly four manuscripts later, this feeling still remains. I would be hard pressed to find an editorial team I have enjoyed working with more than JG and DB.
The next person I would like to thank is the inspiration behind all the Lina stories. There is a black and white photo by my bed of a big Italian family, three generations, in their best clothes, looking earnestly towards the camera. In his mother’s arms is a chubby baby in a hand-knitted jumper, his curly black hair lovingly brushed into an Elvis-style quiff. Many people in that photo are gone now, including, sadly, the mother holding the baby who is all grown up now and has a son of his own. The Lina books are dedicated to him, my partner, Raffaele, and are in memory of his mother, Nonna Guiseppina. He is the source of many of these stories, my first reader and my expert on all things Italian. Without him these stories wouldn’t exist. So, thank you, mio caro, I am lucky to have you.
Other people have shared their stories with me, too, some of them here today, like my friend Carmel Hyland’s delightful mother-in-law, Sofia, who took me into her kitchen and told me beautiful stories of her early years here in Melbourne over tea and biscuits.
My mother, who is the same age Lina would be now if she were a real person, is also a constant source of inspiration, even though the Adelaide suburb she grew up in was a world away from multicultural Carlton. To the extent that when one of her father’s friends married an Italian woman it shocked the whole neighbourhood. ‘Have you smelt that cheese she uses?’ my grandmother and her friends would whisper disapprovingly among themselves. ‘It smells like vomit!’
‘And she’s so loud, so flamboyant, so… different!’
All qualities my mother has since encouraged me to be.
Last of all, but most importantly, I want to thank every single one of my young readers. Some of you I recognize, some of you I will meet for the first time today, but I want you to know that with every word I write I have you in mind. You are the reason I love what I do and that I am able to do what I love. You make me want to be the best writer I can be and I will always try my hardest to please you. So thank you, thank you, for without you I would probably still be waitressing.
Penny Matthews’ Speech
One of the most exciting things, when you begin to write a story, is the mysterious process of finding your characters. Often they seem to come almost from nowhere, and they develop pretty much of their own accord. Soon they dominate much of your life. After a while you start to dream about them.
Nellie O’Neill, in the Nellie books, was exactly this sort of spontaneous character. I scarcely had to look for her. She was there right from the start, firmly defined by her Irish nationality and by her tragic historical circumstances. She was hopeful and sweet and funny, and she spoke with a lovely brogue. I felt that I knew and understood her straight away.
Ruby Quinlan was a different matter. Initially there was nothing much to define her. She didn’t come from the fascinating period of shawls and bonnets, but from 1930, a recognisably modern time when people generally lived more or less as they do now. At first Ruby refused to speak to me. When at last I found her voice, I had to drag her into her story kicking and screaming.
Ruby isn’t a poor Irish orphan working as a domestic servant, but a thoroughly middle-class child. In Meet Ruby she lives in a big, comfortable suburban Adelaide house with electricity and a proper bathroom. She goes to a private girls’ school, and her friends and teachers wouldn’t seem too out-of-place in a similar school today. Her father has a luxurious new car, and she herself has just been given a top-of-the-range camera for her birthday. She has never had to struggle for anything in her life.
I knew some very basic things about Ruby. I knew she loved clothes, and parties, and going to the movies. I knew she adored her father and her little dog, Baxter, and she longed for a proper best friend. Yes, she was a bit self-centred, but she was far too generous and warm-hearted to be a brat. I latched on to that warm-heartedness in her character, and by the time I’d written a couple of chapters I was starting to be extremely fond of her. And besides, I knew she was in for a rough time, so I could afford to indulge her a little in the first book. At the start of Meet Ruby, she has never heard of the Great Depression. The real world will catch up with her very soon.
It is a particular pleasure for me to have the Ruby series launched here in Melbourne. My mother was a Melbourne girl, and in some ways Ruby’s story is her story too. When she and my father married, Mum left her comfortable South Yarra home for country South Australia and a man whose pay was ten shillings a week and his boots. Her new home was a tiny, isolated cottage without mains water or electricity. For Mum the culture shock must have been profound. Her trousseau contained cutwork linen tablecloths and crepe de chine nighties, things that must have seemed quite incongruous in her new life. After her death I found the ragged remains of those beautiful silk nighties carefully wrapped in tissue paper. She had worn them until they literally fell to bits.
Coming to grips with dramatic changes in fortune can be wonderfully character-forming, and my mother’s character was remarkable in every way. She had plenty of courage and determination, and she worked hard to fit into her new life. My Ruby is a toughie, too. I know that, like my mother, she’s going to make it.
Ruby would never have become an Australian girl without the help of the Our Australian Girl team. These books are very much a combined effort, and it’s not too much to say that they are a labour of love.
First of all, I must thank Jane Godwin for being my publisher, my ever-reliable critic and sounding board, and my friend.
Thank you to my editor, Michelle Madden, for her patience and skill, and her unfailing good humour. Thank you to Davina Bell for her help, her intimate understanding of the series, and her total commitment to its success.
I thank also Lucia Masciullo for the beautiful, delicate artwork which adds so much to the look and feel of the series. And the books owe their distinctive cover design to the talent of Evi Oetomo, another essential member of the team. Speaking of covers, I must not forget to thank the real Ruby, Ruby Mills, whose portrait appears on the covers of all the Ruby books. She is the perfect image for her fictional namesake, and I see her in my mind as I write.
I must record my gratitude to my family. My daughter Alison and my little granddaughter Imogen are here today, and their presence has helped immeasurably to make this a memorable occasion for me. My son Philip is at present in Brisbane, but I like to think he’s here in spirit. Although he isn’t here today either, my husband Gordon has kept me going in every possible way, and is the still and reliable point around which everything revolves. I can’t thank him enough for what he has done and continues to do, to smooth the path for me. And I am deeply grateful to my cousin Viv Kelly, who as a writer herself is a constant source of empathy and encouragement.
Finally, I acknowledge all the talented and creative Australian Girl writers. I am honoured to be included in the series with you. Thank you all.
Book 2 in the stories of Ruby and Lina will be in shops in May. See ouraustraliangirl.com.au for exciting ideas about how you can incorporate the OAG books into your classroom.