In August 1930, a Norwegian ship moored at a remote island in the Arctic Ocean. Ashore, crew members found a body which turned out to be that of Sven Andree, a Swede, who in 1897 tried to reach the North Pole by helium balloon with two comrades. They also found other human remains, artefacts and also found a diary.
The diary proved to be that of Andrée so they were able to finally reconstruct the events leading up to and after the launch.
1897: As explorers and scientists scramble to conquer the North Pole, Sven Andree with fellow explorers Nils Strindberg and Knut Frankel, takes up the challenge. Setting flight in the hydrogen balloon, Nils leaves his fiancee Anna and his brother Erik behind in Stockholm anxiously hoping for his return. Anna and Erik develop an interest in one another giving each some unease given that Nils is out in the wild somewhere, braving the elements.
33 yrs later the journalist, Stubbendorf, who found the remains now sets out to find Anna and/or Eric but they don’t want to be found. He uncovers lost loves, deceit and long-buried secrets, and discovers a story that has stayed hidden for decades and the people who have been concealing it.
The story of the attempted crossing to the pole is described in The Ice Balloon by Alec Wilkinson. Jenny North refers to it in her bibliography. It presents a non-fiction account of polar exploration at the time, setting the scene in which the balloon attempt took place. It makes fascinating complementary reading.
Both are in stock now.
Jackie French, recently announced as Australia’s new Children’s Laureate for 2014-2015, has just released the third novel in “The Matilda Saga”. The newest — entitled The Road to Gundagai – follows A Waltz for Matilda and The Girl from Snowy River. It is set during the Depression in rural Australia and traces Blue Laurence’s escape from her aunts’ mansion to become a mermaid in the Magnifico Family Circus. But somewhere there is a murderer, waiting to strike again…
We have all three books in the Saga in store, best for readers aged 11 and up, as well as numerous other books French has written for all ages.
The Road to Gundagai – Jackie French – PB – HarperCollins – $20.00
We now have in store the fourth and newest in the “Grimstones” series: Music School. Martha Grimstone heads off to the famous Queen’s Music Academy to study the Epithium. Asphyxia uses her standard format of drawing and puppetry to give us a story of new friends, wrong names, uncooperative bats and a Grimstone in a traditional school.
The Grimstones: Music School — Asphyxia — PB — Allen & Unwin — $15
See the glittery gold cover? And the classy hot-pink font? They’re a fair representation of the glitz, glamour and trash of the super-uber-rich upper-classes of Singapore and South-East Asia. They’d have no qualms in wearing this colour combination to set foot on their private jet for another drab weekend on a private island — as long as it was in a couture item by this season’s hottest label, and cost upward of $250K. As other reviewers have said, this novel is a modern Dynasty set in the tropics, and it’s one hell of a romp.
The pretext for the expose is that two up-and-coming NYU professors, Nick and Rachel, decide to take a 10-week summer holiday and meet Nick’s family in Singapore. What Nick fails to mention is that he is the heir to Singapore’s greatest fortune, channelled through three proud dynasties into his humble person. With untold billions at stake, the super-rich bring out their diamonds and claws to meet Nick’s new girlfriend…
This book was absolutely gripping, mostly because it was impossible to believe how ludicrous these rich types could be with their bottomless bank accounts. Monthly trips to Paris for wardrobe refreshing, a million dollars in jewellery in 10 minutes to make yourself feel better after a bad day, the gymnasium on board the private jet used for those weekends away in mainland Chinese shopping malls… Just fascinating, like an amazing sociological exploration of a different species. A perfect holiday read, with enough substance to make it worthwhile.
Crazy Rich Asians – Kevin Kwan – TP – Allen & Unwin – $25.00
Wombat Divine by Mem Fox is one of Australia’s most popular picture books about Christmas, by one of Australia’s leading children’s authors. Wombat is finally old enough to be part of the Nativity Play (his favourite part of Christmas), and he excitedly goes to auditions to try out for any part he can. Despite his enthusiasm Wombat just can’t find the role for him, but before he can get too downhearted Bilby comes up with the perfect idea: Wombat would be a divine Baby Jesus.
Kerry Argent’s bright and detailed illustrations of the scenery and the Australian bush animals are rich in colour and life, and truly impart the excitement of Christmas.
Wombat Divine comes in regular paperback at $16 and mini hardback at $17.
Readers of ghost stories, gothic novels and general eerieness will be delighted to get their hands on Diane Setterfield’s new novel, Bellman & Black: A Ghost Story. In this, Setterfield’s first since the fabulous The Thirteenth Tale (2006), the tale opens with young Will Bellman slaying a rook with his catapult. As William grows into a charming young man, successful in the wool-milling business and in living a good life with his attractive family, he seems the epitome of the golden child. But then comes the trickle, then the flood, of funerals… and the strange man who appears at each of them, but only to William… and the near-wordless deal they make one bleak night in the cemetery…
The novel is well written, and explores thought, memory, joy and the darkness of the soul. It is convincing without being overdone, detailed while remaining subtle, and makes sure that it doesn’t leave the reader in a quagmire of gloom come the end of the book. Perfect for those who like the odd swirl of ectoplasm in their daily lives.
Bellman & Black: A Ghost Story – Diane Setterfield – PB – Orion Publishing – $30
To all you die-hard Wimpy Kid fans out there, it’s your lucky day! Diary of a Wimpy Kid #8: Hard Luck has just been released, and finds poor old Greg Heffley in a pickle again. This time his best buddy has abandoned him (for a GIRL!) and finding a replacement isn’t easy. Since nothing seems to be going right anyway, he decides to give up making decisions entirely and leave it all to the Magic 8 Ball….. What could possibly go wrong? Another hilarious adventure sure to please current fans. And if you’ve been living under a rock and haven’t discovered the Wimpy Kid, or just haven’t quite caught up yet, we have all the past Diaries in stock as well. Paperback $15
A friendly new take on Graeme Base’s gorgeous 1986 classic, Animalia — now in an early-learning edition aimed at slightly younger children than the original. Each page features two alphabet letters, with a few key-word illustrations per letter. The right-hand page then folds out to reveal the matching key-words, plus an image of the original Animalia page for that letter. It’s a lovely large-format hard-cover, and a great way of introducing new readers to Graeme Base.
My First Animalia – HB – Penguin – $20
The Girl Who Brought Mischief is set in Denmark in 1911 and Inge Maria is sent to an isolated island to live with her grandmother, whom she has never met. At first, grandmother seems gruff, but gradually Inge Maria softens her heart, even though Inge Maria does cause a lot of things to go wrong. When Inge Maria goes to school, she finds it is very different from what she was used to in Copenhagen where boys and girls were allowed to play together, and girls weren’t expected to be quiet and still. She finds it hard, but again, Inge Maria just has a way about her which makes things change.
The book reminded me of Heidi by Johanna Spyri which I loved as a child. It has the old fashioned, gentle way about it. Excellent for 8-11 year olds. Paperback, $15