Archive | January 2015

Glenn Maxwell (series)


Glenn Maxwell

Glenn Maxwell






Glenn Maxwell: Lucky Break

pbk: 9780857986078

ebk: 9780857986085


Glenn Maxwell: Academy All Stars

pbk: 9780857986092

ebk: 9780857986108


Glenn Maxwell: State Showdown



Glenn Maxwell: World Domination


Patrick Loughlin

Random House 2014

192pp., RRP $A14.99


The 2014-2015 cricket season is well and truly here…the South Africans have come and gone; Australia has regained the Border-Gavaskar Cup, the Big Bash winner has been decided and now the focus is on the ICC World Cup .  And the nation’s heartfelt response to the death of Phillip Hughes with the #putoutyourbats tribute has put our national summer game in the minds of all Australians like never before.

So what better way to entice young cricket fans, both boys and girls, to read than with a series which focuses on Glenn Maxwell, the world’s leading T20 player?  When Maxwell was a kid all he read was books and magazines about cricket  and his aim with this series is to inspire young cricketers not only to play cricket but also to read. Co-authored with Patrick Loughlin, these books fill the bill perfectly. They are very readable, even by those who may not yet have fine-tuned their reading skills as well as their cricket skills, and the girls are certainly not ignored. 

In Lucky Break readers are introduced to Will who is captain of his local cricket team and a batting wonder. But he has a hard lesson to learn when he attends a T20 training camp and finds out that it’s hard to stand out when all around you are equally as talented.  With hero Glenn Maxwell’s help, he learns to handle Killer McKinnon’s bouncers as well as a lot about himself as a person, as he works hard to earn a place at the T20 Youth Academy.

In Academy All-Stars we get an insight into the tough regime of an aspiring young cricketer and learn that it’s more than just being able to bat or bowl well.  If you want to play for your state, you need to show you can handle life as well as cricket, even if that means having to compete against your best friend.

Both books will have the reader eagerly anticipating State Showdown and World Domination that have just been published.

Each book includes Maxwell’s Top Tips for T20 batting and a full glossary of cricket terms and colleague Sue Warren has a Q&A with Glenn Maxwell himself.

Cricket fans will be hit for six with this series.

In State Showdown the series continues Will Albright’s journey from local team to state representation which is his dream.  But a crisis in confidence threatens his success and so Maxwell steps into help.  And finally, in World Domination his team is off to England to take on the best of the best in the T20 Youth World Cup. Each book includes Maxwell’s Top Tips for T20 batting and a full glossary of cricket terms.

Even though the books themselves are written for an independent reader about Year 3-4 level, a number of the names on my reserves list are both older and younger, showing that the subject is the key ingredient and that having enjoyed the first two it is the storyline that brings them back, not any degree of difficulty with the text.

If you haven’t got the first two – Lucky Break and Academy All-Stars – then it is worth seeking them out so when students’ thoughts turn to playing cricket as summer comes, you will have a complete series to offer them.


Tashi and the Wicked Magician and Other Stories

Tashi and the Wicked Magician and Other Stories

Tashi and the Wicked Magician and Other Stories










Tashi and the Wicked Magician and Other Stories

Anna Fienberg and Barbara Fienberg

Geoff Kelly and Kim Gamble

Allen & Unwin, 2014

hbk., 96pp., RRP $A19.99



If I were asked to name one of the most popular series for newly independent readers that has endured over my time as both a teacher and a teacher librarian, I would undoubtedly answer, “Tashi”. And just as Miss 8 has reluctantly come to the end of reading the series, a new one is released much to our delight!

Unlike the previous titles in the series, this has not two but five separate stories in it, each one featuring that delightful little character who is so clever, resourceful and brave as he confronts fearsome opponents set on destroying his village and his peace.  This time there’s a  magician with a greedy plan, a haunted house about to go up in flames, ruthless ruffians after a rare orchid, and a quest for the bravest person in the land to face the fire-breathing Red Whiskered Dragon.

Also unlike the previous titles, this one is in hardback not paperback and the illustrations are in colour rather than the monochromatic ones we are used to.  But regardless of the differences, Tashi is the same little hero we know and love and whether this is another in the series, as it is for Miss 8, or the first time a child has met him, he will become a friend for life.

Back in the days when I was co-ordinating Read Around Australia I ran a book rap based on all the Tashi novels published at the time. Small groups of students selected one story and had to write a synopsis and then pose a series of questions that would challenge the thinking of other students around Australia who had to answer them.  What they discovered was that each story threw up a number of ethical questions that could be discussed and debated and so they became so much more than an introduction to fantasy and an easy read.  These new stories are similar – is saving the greedy Baron’s treasure a worthy cause worth risking your life for? 

For those of you wanting to start your year off with something special, then check out A Flight of Fantasy, a unit of work based on the series and available for free through the National Digital Learning Resources Network.  Log into your Scootle account and search for R11582.  It’s written for Years 5/6 but can easily be adapted for younger students.

There’s also a trailer for a television series released last year and if you’re quick you can catch the episodes online (Episode 1 expires on Feb 5!)

Tashi and the Wicked Magician and Other Stories could be just the very thing you have been looking for to give students a great kickstart to the year and have them buzzing about reading and the library for the rest of it.














Withering-by-Sea: A Stella Montgomery Intrigue

Judith Rossell

ABC Books, 2014

hbk., 260pp, RRP $A19.99


The Hotel Majestic stood high on a cliff overlooking the seaside town of Withering-by-Sea, dominating and imposing with its towers and turrets and curlicues and columns and chimneys and balconies and lots of curly metal spouting, looking for all the world like a gigantic white wedding cake.  In this impressive place 11-year-old Stella Montgomery lived with her three aunts, Condolence, Temperance and Deliverance who believed that Curiosity is Vulgar, Silence is Golden and insisted that little girls should study such things as deportment, needlework, pianoforte and French Conversation for Young Ladies.  They certainly should not fraternise with other children, wander off on their own accord or get embroiled in mystery and intrigue.

Stella is kept on a very tight leash knowing nothing about her past apart from her parents having died when she was little, and there seems to be some secrecy about that. But she is somewhat resigned to her fate, accepts her frequent punishment of bed without supper and life plods along until one day she sees a guest of the hotel hide something in one of the oversize pot plants in the conservatory (her favourite hideaway).  Just as her interest is piqued she is called by Ada her aunts’ maid and marched off, leaving her beloved atlas on the floor to be discovered by who-knows-whom and thrown away.  This disturbs her greatly so late in the night, putting her courageous on, she sneaks out to retrieve it and finds herself in the middle of a most mysterious set of circumstances. 

A murderer who calls himself a professor but who is really a magician, the lost waif Bob who is fey and can see things in ink in his hands and who cannot escape the magician’s clutches, an old Italian whose cats “sing” along with his violin and Gert the feisty dancer are all central to this fabulous old-fashioned suspense story which rollicks along at a great pace. What is in the little silver bottle that Mr Filbert begged Stella to keep safe with his dying breath, and why is The Professor determined to go to such great lengths, including kidnapping and murder, to get it? How does he discover that Stella has it? Why is everyone else affected by the smoking “Hand of Glory” yet Stella is not?

Blending Victoriana with a touch of magic, tension and a fast pace, Judith Rossell has written a marvellous mystery that hooks the reader from the start and keeps them on the line right through to the breath-taking climax and then on to the conclusion… except that it’s not.  The reader is left dangling as Stella climbs the stairs to the Hotel Majestic and the reception of her aunts, determined to find out just who she is.  The perfect scenario for the next instalment.

Printed using a blue font and illustrated in monochromatic tones and with a royal blue ribbon bookmark which all add to the mood and mystery, this is a book for the independent reader who is looking for something that will absorb them and take them on a journey into a new genre.  Young girls will sympathise with the circumstances of Stella’s life but will see themselves as the level-headed, courageous heroine who is determined to keep her promise to Mr Filbert no matter what. 

A solid, satisfying read that will have readers waiting for the next adventure.  Teachers notes aligned to the Australian Curriculum are available.

The Cryptic Casebook of Coco Carlomagno and Alberta (series)

The Cryptic Casebook of Coco Carlomagno and Alberta (series)

The Cryptic Casebook of Coco Carlomagno and Alberta (series)












The Cryptic Casebook of Coco Carlomagno and Alberta (series)

Ursula Dubosarsky

Terry Denton

Allen & Unwin, 2014

pbk., 84pp., RRP $A9.99

Meet Coco Carlomagno the highly-strung Chief of Police of Buenos Aries and his more grounded but cunning cousin, Alberta who work together to solve the mysteries of that city.  As intrepid crime-fighters, they are on each case  with enthusiasm and go deep under cover to discover the answers.  Being guinea pigs allows them to go deeper than most!

So far, there are six in the series – The Perplexing Pineapple, The Looming Lamplight, The Missing Mongoose, The Dismal Daffodil, The Quivering Quavers and The Talking Tombstone – and each has a mystery to solve with critical pictures to examine, clues to follow and puzzles to solve that makes each an enthralling and engaging story for the younger independent reader wanting a challenge.  (Miss 8 adores them).  Embedded in Dubosarsky’s witty text are a range of puzzles created by Terry Denton for the reader to work through and both text and illustrations encourage the reader to play close attention so they can attempt to solve the mystery before Coco and Alberto do.  Each book has a glossary of the Spanish words used in the story as well as an explanation of the clues so the reader can return to the page and reflect on what was read and how it added to the story.

The Dismal Daffodil explores the Japanese garden in BA, while The Quivering Quavers goes behind the scenes at the opera and The Talkative Tombstone is set in the cemetery. Just the sorts of settings you’d expect a mystery to be set and a wonderful way to introduce students to a new genre and have them asking for more. 

Such combined creative minds as Dubosarsky and Denton can only mean an excellent read. As eager learners come into the library to find what’s new for this new school year, this series should be on prominent display.


Squishy McFluff, the Invisible Cat: Supermarket Sweep

Squishy McFluff, The Invisible Cat: Supermarket Sweep

Squishy McFluff, The Invisible Cat: Supermarket Sweep











Squishy McFluff, the Invisible Cat: Supermarket Sweep

Pip Jones

Ellie Okstad

Faber and Faber, 2014

pbk, 80pp., RRP $A11.99



Squishy McFluff is so sweet, you’ll be smitten.
Such a clever and funny invisible kitten!

Imagine the fun of having a cat that only you can see, especially when it is really good at inventing great things to do like playing hide-and-seek at which he is world champion.  This is Ava’s luck.   She has a big imagination and is happiest when she’s playing with her cat, even though it can lead to trouble.  Which is exactly what happens in this adventure at the supermarket.

Beginning with creating havoc as soon as they get in the car which only an over-worked mechanic can fix, this story-in-rhyme tells a tale of mayhem and disaster about what really should be the most mundane of chores.  Much preferring to be out in the forest digging for treasure and searching for elves than looking for pickles and pastries on shelves, Squishy devises a plot that involves a race with a supermarket trolley…

Young children will love this new series from this English author as it holds many laughs and just a little bit of naughty.  Ella Okstad’s limited-palette illustrations are charming, capturing the essence of the text perfectly.

As with many new series, there’s a website with extra information and more fun and games at

This is something a little bit different to offer those just getting started on their independent reading journey who need a bit of support through short chapters, larger font and uncomplicated vocabulary – I think they will be eagerly awaiting the next adventure. 

Anzac Ted

Anzac Ted

Anzac Ted









Anzac Ted

Belinda Landsberry

Exisle Publishing, 2014

hbk., 32pp., RRP $A19.99



Anzac Ted’s a scary bear

And I can tell you why.

He’s missing bits, his tummy splits,

He only has one eye.


His fur is torn and dirty

And he hasn’t any clothes.

He doesn’t hear with just one ear;

He should have two of those.


His head is kind of wobbly

And his legs are rather slow.

Perhaps it’s due to one or two

Encounters with a foe!

So begins an enchanting story-in-rhyme about a very special teddy bear – one that doesn’t win prizes in the toy show and sometimes makes the other children cry when he turns up for Show’n’Tell.  He isn’t shiny and new and he can’t change into something else and the other kids in the class just ridicule him.  But Anzac Ted has a story – a story that no other child’s toy has about why is he so old and torn and how brave he has been.

With a gentle touch on both text and illustration, newcomer Belinda Landsberry has crafted a delightful story about a bear who has seen better (or worse) days that is just perfect to introduce the youngest children to the stories of ANZAC and why there is such a focus on this special day on the calendar.  With a clever shift of colour tone between now and then, there is a seamless transition between the two eras of Anzac Ted’s life tied together with the love and reverence with which he has been passed down through the family and clearly will continue to be so. The unconditional love of the boy for his teddy is obvious and it remains constant despite the opinions of his peers.  Perhaps if his story were told, Ted would have all the votes at the toy show. But really, some heroes don’t want, need or get medals or accolades. 

On my Pinterest board Remembering Gallipoli  I’ve pinned over 150 titles of books about World War I for the primary-aged student and Anzac Ted is one of just a handful suitable for sharing and exploring with the K-2 brigade to help them understand.  It offers just a broad overview from a family perspective – Grandpa Jack leaves home and even though he’s 21, his wife pops his childhood teddy is his case … “For luck.” She said, “take Anzac Ted. I know he’ll bring you home.”  And even though we think of soldiers as being big and brave and daring, there are times when they are lonely and afraid and Anzac Ted brings them comfort and courage. There are teachers’ notes written by the author, herself a primary school teacher.

This is a must-have in your collection.


Once A Shepherd

Once A Shepherd

Once A Shepherd










Once A Shepherd

Glenda Millard

Phil Lesnie

Walker Books, 2014

hbk., 32pp., RRP $A27.95


This is a heart-warming story of a young man, the love of his life and their hopes and dreams when once their world was all at peace.  And then comes the war, and clad in a warm coat made from wool spun by his wife from the sheep he tends, he kisses his unborn child and marches off to do his duty.  But sadly, he does not survive, losing his life as he kneels to help an enemy, a stranger. However, this is one who feels he has a debt to repay and after the war he does so bringing the story full circle and on to new things as once there is peace again.

Using the softest of palettes to echo the mood of this story, this picture book is a blend of all that is wonderful with that format.  Even the covers and endpapers feature the weave of the coat adding to its importance to the story. The sparse text, its rhyme and its emotions have been beautifully portrayed by newcomer Phil Lesnie

While reviews from other sources in other countries question the need for such a story for such young readers, Millard has contributed another addition to the library of stories of how our nation was shaped, its spirit born and its heroes revered, particularly as we commemorate the centenary of ANZAC Day.  While war itself is brutal, this is a story that shows the backstory of Tom, bringing the everydayness of those who answered the call into sharp focus, and even moreso as the young enemy soldier shows his compassion by returning the coat. By giving the characters names we feel a connection to them and even that stranger becomes more “alive” as we imagine his determination and journey to return the coat to Cherry While not shying away from what happened to Tom, it shows that every one was a father, a son, a brother, a husband…

A book that offers more with every reading.


A peek inside...

A peek inside…


Friday Barnes (series)

Friday Barnes

Friday Barnes









Friday Barnes: Girl Detective


Friday Barnes: Under Suspicion


R. A. Spratt

Random House, 2014

pbk., 250+ pages; RRP $A15.99

Friday Barnes is the daughter of two highly-intelligent, eccentric physicists who are so disconnected from her upbringing that they called her Friday even though she was born on a Thursday.  She did have four siblings, all much older than her being born during the four-and-a-half years their mother had allocated for the task.  Friday was not scheduled and her birth was fitted in around a lecture her mother had to give in Switzerland.  Eleven years later, Friday had largely raised herself and she was happy with that.  Her greatest wish was to be unnoticed because you could do so much more that way like eating a whole block of chocolate at once without it being taken off you.    Unfortunately, it also means that you do not develop very good social skills particularly if you spend your time reading scientific tomes and educating yourself beyond the realms of anything a school could offer.

However, as well as the non-fiction her parents library consisted of, Friday had a penchant for detective novels because “being a detective allowed a person a licence to behave very eccentrically indeed” and she had honed her powers of observation and logical thought over the years.  But the time has now come for Friday to go to high school and given her parents haven’t even realised she is no longer in preschool, it was up to her to sort it.  She would have preferred not to go at all because she saw it as being all about “bullying, dodge ball and having to find a date for the prom” but the government was insistent that she do.  She tried to compromise by applying for university and passed the exam to study medicine but was knocked back on her age. 

So rejecting the idea of the Foreign Legion, the Peace Corps and being smuggled out of the country by people traffickers, after helping her ex-cop, private investigator Uncle Bernie solve a case she finds herself with the means to send herself to Highcrest Academy the best and most expensive boarding school in the whole country.  Her intention is to stay under the radar, do what she has to do and leave.  But things do not work out that way.  Right from the start, her nondescript self-imposed uniform of brown cardigans, grey t-shirts and blue jeans makes her stand out among the fashion parade that is the elite, wealthy students who also attend and being knocked down in the carpark on the first day doesn’t help either. Nor does being the brightest student in the entire school, being labelled “scholarship girl” by the school bully and being unable to help herself being able to point out the flaws and inaccuracies in the conversation and presentations of others. Antagonising the handsome, previously-smartest student Ian Wainscott adds to her woes, particularly when her roommate, the not-so-bright Melanie insists there is a romance blooming, something that Friday scoffs at. But their paths have already been inextricably interwoven…

More and more, she is called on to solve “mysteries” as her reputation spreads, and eventually the headmaster enlists her to solve the mystery of the strange monster roaming in the school swamp and frightening the living daylights out of everyone.

Friday Barnes in a new series from the author of Nanny Piggins and it is one that will appeal to independent girl readers who want some substance to their reading. Friday is a likeable character who will appeal to many who are not necessarily the high-fliers in the school.  Even though they may not be as smart as Friday, they will read about themselves in this series and thoroughly enjoy it.  Girl Detective  ends on a cliff-hanger, as, having solved the mystery of the swamp monster, Friday herself is then arrested and readers have to discover why in Under Suspicion which has just been released.  Tantalising that also concludes with “To be continued…” suggesting that there will be more episodes in this series that will leave readers waiting on them.

A worthy addition to the collection for girls on the brink of starting their own secondary school adventure.


Mr Chicken Lands on London

Mr Chicken Lands On London

Mr Chicken Lands On London








Mr Chicken Lands on London

Leigh Hobbs

Allen & Unwin, 2015

hbk., 32pp., RRP $A9.99


“Mr Chicken couldn’t wait another minute, so he finished his breakfast, collected his camera and flew to London.  London was his favourite city in all the world.”

And so begins another adventure of this quirky character who, five years ago, showed us the sights and delights of Paris and whose size and shape made him instantly recognisable.  Using his Union Jack parachute to land gently in the River Thames  (luckily his camera was waterproof) he checks into the Savoy Hotel and, after a good night’s sleep , a full English breakfast and a quick review of facts and figures about London, he visits his special friend, Her Majesty the Queen for morning tea and makes an impromptu balcony appearance.  But he can’t stay long – there is so much to do before lunch and tourists keep stopping him to take their photo.  After lunch, sumptuous as usual,  his sightseeing continues with all the iconic spots on his itinerary until he is so tired he needs a quick nap before dinner. Then the night’s entertainment begins!  And come midnight, after a hectic day, he finally feels he has London to himself as he walks, in the light of the fall moon, down the Mall to the House of Parliament. 

Once again, Leigh Hobbs has packed as much into this story as Mr Chicken packed into his day in London and it’s such a fast pace that you get breathless just thinking about it.  Even reading his schedule on the endpaper is enough to overwhelm you and its forecast by the map of the city on the front endpaper.  But of course, this isn’t just a travel guide to London – Mr Chicken is the star of the show and Leigh Hobbs’ humour is evident in every picture.

This book is so much richer than its text and pictures.  Like Mr Chicken Goes to Paris it’s an opportunity for young students to understand that there are places beyond those that are familiar to them and compare them to their home town. 

Using the book as the impetus, we used Google Earth to “fly” us to London and the functionality of that app to view the places that Mr Chicken visited, so we were really inside the story and able to develop an understanding that each place has its unique iconic features, environments and activities that attract locals and visitors alike.  Then we asked the question, “If Mr Chicken came to our town, what would be the unique places he could visit and things he could do?” sparking an investigation into the natural, built and heritage features of our local environment which offered so many cross-curricular avenues to explore that continued to engage the students for some time. Like Mr Chicken, they identified the must-sees and must-dos, photographed and drew them, mapped them and created an itinerary for visitors to our region.  Amazing learning for Year 1 students!

Even without its use in this way, Mr Chicken Lands on London will be a winner with students as its predecessor continues to be, and I do hope it’s not another five years before he goes on another journey.  But to see why we might because of the work involved, have a look at this video where Leigh Hobbs demonstrates his craft.

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

Regal Beagle


Regal Beagle

Regal Beagle










Regal Beagle

Vijay Khurana

Simon Greiner

Random House 2014

pbk., 121pp., RRP $A14.99


Tragedy has struck the kingdom and every person in the entire land is crying.  Their beloved Queen had died – a queen who was very good and very fair and very beautiful and who was much loved. Apart from the grief though, it has presented her advisors with a problem for the Queen has died without heirs – no husband, no children, no brothers, sisters, aunts or uncles or any distant relatives. Yet there has to be a new monarch.  Lord Runcible is very keen to put himself forward but first the Royal Scrolls are consulted and they reveal that the successor has to be the Queen’s best friend.  Which is all very well until they realise that the Queen’s best friend is a beagle named Lucy!

Lucy is offered the role and given the chance to think about it and she is very inclined to decline until she hears Lord Runcible carrying on and knows he is scheming and conniving to take the throne.  So she agrees but can a dog rule a kingdom?  Can she hold out against a flea infestation, a dog-napping and an icy cold dip in the river? 

This is a perfect story for either a read-aloud or a read-alone – it moves along at a fast clip and is just the right blend for the newly-independent reader.  It’s a light-hearted tale of the traditional good versus evil variety with an underlying message of trusting yourself and looking beyond the surface appearance. Readers eagerly looking for what’s on your New for You display will be very pleased to see this.