Archive | November 2018

Let Sleeping Dragons Lie: Have Sword, Will Travel 2

Let Sleeping Dragons Lie: Have Sword, Will Travel 2

Let Sleeping Dragons Lie: Have Sword, Will Travel 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let Sleeping Dragons Lie: Have Sword, Will Travel 2

Garth Nix & Sean Williams

Allen & Unwin, 2018

288pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781743439937

Independent readers who are lovers of fantasy, particularly tales of yore, will love this second in the series about Sir Odo and Sir Eleanor.  

First introduced in Have Sword, Will Travel, when Odo and Eleanor stumble upon an ancient sword in a river outside their village, and much to Odo’s dismay he discovers that he’s awoken a famous enchanted blade called Biter, and thus has instantly become a knight, this new adventure begins with an action-packed scene when Sir Odo and Sir Eleanor defend an old man named Egda, a warrior named Hundred  from the bilewolves who have already attacked their village. But Egda and Hundred are not who they appear to be at first sight, and with their trusty and talkative swords, Biter and Runnel, they are plunged into a quest that will take them to unfamiliar lands, where they will fight unseen enemies and unlock unbelievable secrets in order to prevent an unbearable impostor from taking the crown.

Not being a great fantasy fan – Harry Potter and the tales from Middle Earth being my limit – I was nevertheless engaged to the end with this new series by these master storytellers who have written several series in collaboration as well as their independent writing.   So those who like this genre will be more than thrilled with this new release that is exciting, fun, and which could so easily have them as the super hero characters.

 

Sonam and the Silence

Sonam and the Silence

Sonam and the Silence

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sonam and the Silence

Eddie Ayres

Ronak Taher

Allen & Unwin, 2018

32pp., hbk./, RRP $A24.99

9781760293666

When Sonam turns seven, she is deemed no longer a child and her big brother orders her to cover her hair and begin to work. But the streets of Kabul and its market are too loud and scary for Sonam, the cacophony making a storm in her head and so she runs.  As she runs, she hears a strange sound and follows it, finding an old man with milky eyes and a curved spine in a garden of mulberry and pomegranate trees.  In his arms he is cradling a rubat, making music that Sonam has never heard before because in Taliban Afghanistan music has been banned.  

The music captures Sonam’s heart and each day she visits the old man, learning to play the rubat that he has given her – the one he played as a child.  But when her brother hears her humming and investigates further, he takes Sonam’s rubat forbidding her to sing or play again.  And as the noise builds in her head again, and the roar of gunfire and rockets is so close, she becomes withdrawn and her heart shrinks.  Until one day, she knows she just has to go back to the pomegranate garden…

This is “a lyrical fable-like story by the well-known musician, author and broadcaster Eddie Ayres, about the irrepressible power of music.” Based on his own experiences in Afghanistan and a young girl he knew there, he challenges the reader to think what a world without music would be like, particularly as it is often the key connection between peoples with no other common language. But as Sonam discovers, even if there is no audible external sound, there is still music.  

Illustrated by Iranian-Australian visual artist Ronak Taher using sombre colours and many layers and textures, which offer uplifting features like Sonam floating above the noise and chaos of the city, this is a thought-provoking story about how other children live in other parts of the world, and, indeed, how some of those in our classes have lived. While music has now been allowed in Afghanistan, the six years that the silence reigned must have been devastating for those for whom music is as essential as food. Readers are challenged to consider what their life would be like if something they held dear was banned, and if others prevented them from indulging in it because of the dangers such behaviour could invite.  Ayres suggest an Australia without sport, but what about a country without books? As with no music, how would the stories be told and continued?

As Christmas draws closer and the hype escalates, this is a book to share and consider those whose lives are very different and for whom joy comes from something other than a brightly wrapped present. 

Catvinkle

Catvinkle

Catvinkle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Catvinkle

Elliot Perlman

Laura Stitzel

Puffin, 2018 

240pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

9780143786368

Catvinkle lives in Amsterdam, with her barber-owner Mr Sabatini, and she likes to think that the world revolves around her, as cats generally do. From her basket near the fireplace in what she considers to be her room, she watches the legs and feet of the passers-by as they walk past her window, delighted when she sees someone with socks that don’t match and occasionally swishing her tail that has a big red bow tied to it. All is well with her world.

But one day, kindly Mr Sabatini brings home a stray Dalmatian to live with them and Catvinkle’s life is not only interrupted but is irrevocably changed.  Even though cats and dogs are not supposed to like each other, Ula’s politeness and meekness impress Catvinkle and gradually they become friends.  But when they present their friendship to others of their species, they find that what they have is not necessarily acceptable to all.

Written in response to what the author describes “as a ‘surge in, and tolerance for, racism and bullying’ in public discourse” this is a gentle story that addresses  that racism and bullying and promotes social inclusion while remaining on the surface, a story about an unlikely friendship between a cat and a dog. If they can accept a llama who plays backgammon, why can’t others?

Perlman has been short-listed twice for the Miles Franklin Literary Award and his skill with putting words onto paper is very evident – this story, while intended for young independent readers, engages adults so it makes a perfect bedtime read-aloud to younger children too.

Something different for those who like something different. 

Teachers’ notes are available.

Australia Illustrated (2nd edition)

Australia Illustrated

Australia Illustrated

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Australia Illustrated (2nd edition)

Tania McCartney

EK Books, 2018

96pp., hbk., RRP $A32.99

9781925335880

“Australia. Big. Beautiful. Diverse. From the First People to washing lines and crocodiles, football and sunshine, koalas and akubras, skyscrapers and beaches, this is a glorious tribute to this wide brown land and its rich and varied multicultural communities. Vibrantly illustrated with watercolour, ink and mono-printing, it not only celebrates the more ‘typical’ Australian flora, fauna and landmarks, but also showcases the everyday quirks and idiosyncrasies that make Australia unique.”

This new, updated edition is just as superb as the first, and you can read my review of that here. A must-have in your school library and personal collections, and the perfect gift for someone overseas, regardles of their age..

 

Mamie

Mamie

Mamie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mamie

Tania McCartney

HarperCollins, 2018

32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781460755860

On January 17, 1977 “in a land far away, where fairies, pixies and elves live deep in the woods,” a baby girl was born. To her parents she was Mamie, but to generations of Australians she is May Gibbs, creator of the iconic literary characters the Gumnut Babies. In this centenary year of the publication of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, Tania  McCartney has created this stunning tribute to Mamie’s life, tracing the early years of the little girl with the big imagination who could draw as soon as she could walk, staged home-made musicals and who became fascinated with the Australian bush and its creatures after her family moved to Adelaide and then Perth when she was just a few years old.

Told in a way that engages and enchants, rather than a litany of sterile facts – “she skipped and rode through shimmering bushland where smooth grey trees dipped their blossoms-heavy branches, and birds gathered to trill and chatter” –  McCartney not only brings the world of May Gibbs to life but also puts dreams in the head of any young child with an imagination. May Gibbs was just an ordinary little girl who did wonderful things as she grew up, so why not them?

Mamie also introduces young readers to the genre of biography and the concept of the stories behind the stories.  Instead of the usual  dispassionate collection of dates and milestones that are soon forgotten, we see the person and how her eventual legacy was shaped by the very ordinary days and deeds of her childhood and circumstances.  Perhaps other important people have a similar story to tell too.

Just as Gibbs had her distinctive style, so does McCartney and it is this modern interpretation that is such a big part of the appeal of this book.  This is not a stodgy piece of close-formatted text with deadpan pictures in a dull retro palette – it is as fresh and alive as Mamie herself was, full of plans and actions just like so many little girls today, finishing at what was really just the beginning.  

Aspirational and inspirational.

Good Rosie!

Good Rosie!

Good Rosie!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Good Rosie!

Kate DiCamillo

Harry Bliss

Walker Books, 2018 

40pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781406383577

Rosie loves living with George and going for walks with him, but she is lonely.  The dog in the bottom of her empty silver food bowl does not talk back to her, and when George sees historical figures in the clouds, Rosie just sees squirrels to chase – never another dog.  But when George does point out a dog-cloud and Rosie barks at it, he realises she wants company and takes her to the dog park.  

But there are too many dogs who are loud and boisterous for Rosie until…

This charming story in graphic novel format by the author of such outstanding books like Because of Winn-Dixie is perfect for any little person who loves dogs, or who is a little like Rosie and not sure how to go about making friends.  And it’s not just Rosie who learns to navigate the obstacles, but George himself finds some new people for his life too. Bliss manages to give each dog its own personality with compassion and humour so that even Maurice is portrayed as awkward rather than a bully. 

As a new school year looms on the horizon and many children will be facing new adventures in new schools, and perhaps with some trepidation, they may well relate to this little terrier as she enters a new environment which is overwhelming but manages to find her place within it. Because of its format with some quite small panels, this is one to be shared one-on-one with a child so Rosie’s anxiety and how she dealt with it can be talked about, and perhaps give reassurance and confidence that, on the whole, the big wide world of school is a friendly place and that each child is like Maurice, Fifi and Rosie – they just want a friend if only they could learn now to make one. 

Puddle Hunters

Puddle Hunters

Puddle Hunters

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Puddle Hunters

Kirsty Murray

Karen Blair

Allen & Unwin, 2018

32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781760296742

Who doesn’t love splashing and sploshing in puddles after rain.  Even grown men do! 

So after the rain stops, Ruby and Banjo and Mum go up the street, and into the park, over the bridge and down to the riverflats where the puddles lie waiting… So much fun for free and nothing a hot bath won’t fix when the fun is finished.

This is a lovely story about puddle-sploshing for young readers that will have them watching the sky for big, fat, grey rain clouds and reaching for their gumboots. Perhaps those who do get to enjoy the puddles can do a special rain dance for those who haven’t seen rain for so long, maybe never, as this drought continues.

A good way to start a conversation about where the rain comes from and why we need it. 

 

 

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Meltdown

 Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Meltdown

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Meltdown

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Meltdown

Jeff Kinney

Puffin Books, 2018 

224pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9780143309352

Lots of kids live on Greg Hoffley’s street, but because it is partly on the flat and partly on the hill, loyalties are fiercely divided and any peace is an uneasy truce. Those on the flat think they own the street, refusing to let those from higher up play there, but then the tables are turned when it snows and those from down below want to come uphill to enjoy sledding.  “if you live on Surrey Street, you’re either a HILL kid or a NON-hill kid and there’s no switching sides.”

After a miserable week of bitterly cold days which have been a trial for Greg as he had to face walking to school while other friends’ parents drive past; indoor recesses where people sneeze their germs over him; worrying about frostbite because he is so skinny; navigating perilous footpaths and a host of other dangers that made his life more than difficult, his life is made more miserable because he’s in trouble for not digging the driveway clear, even though he did have it done but because he tried to renege on the deal he had made with some neighbourhood kids, they piled all the snow back again! So when the weekend comes and he’s looking forward to a lie-in and playing a few video games, he’s dismayed to discover that his mother decides he needs to spend the day outside being active, and even locks the door so he can’t come back inside.

And that’s when the conflict starts… but the end result is a great lesson in dealing with differences, problem solving,  strategising, co-operating, knowing when to compromise, all life skills that are so important.

Greg Hoffley has a legion of fans as his popularity grows from when we first met him more than 10 years ago  and this 13th book in the series will not only delight them but also garner him a lot more as new readers learn about this young lad who struggles to fit in with his peers in middle school (Years 5-8 in the USA) and his loyal best friend Rowley Jefferson.  With their first-person narrative that echoes the voice and thoughts of so many boys like Greg, their cartoon drawings and humour, this addition to the series is available in paperback, hardback, audio book and ebook so regardless of the format that most appeals to a young reader, they can access it.  

This is one of those books that even reluctant readers will want to have because to be talking about it will mean being part of the “in-crowd”, important for those who otherwise struggle to belong.

 

 

 

The Awesome Book of Space

The Awesome Book of Space

The Awesome Book of Space

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Awesome Book of Space

Adam Frost

Bloomsbury, 2018 

112pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

9781408896501

Did you know that if you were an ancient Egyptian then your understanding of the sun’s journey across the sky would focus on a giant dung beetle called  Khepri who dug the sun out of the underworld in the East at dawn, rolled it across the sky and then pushed it back into the underworld in the evening? But if you were an Aztec you would know that there had been four suns before this one, which is called Tonatiuh, and without human sacrifices, it would refuse to move across the sky and all the crops would fail.

On the other hand, did you know that just one space suit (used on the ISS only about 25 times each) costs 40 times more than the top-of-the-line Rolls Royce car; or what would happen if you fell into a black hole?

These are the sorts of things covered in this intriguing book about space that is perfect for young readers who like to dig and delve and have their information presented in a graphic format rather than lots of text making it  accessible to readers at all levels of development.  Ranging across the sort of subjects that young readers like to ask questions about or surprise their parents with at the dinner table, this book answers questions like 

  • How many pairs of pants you’d need to pack to live in a space station for a year?
  • What the weather is like on Neptune?
  • How many tonnes of litter humans have left on the moon?

Written in the conversational tone of Splat the Fake Fact, young readers are invited to guess or research the answers to some of the articles such as which of a range of creatures has not made it into space, so that it becomes an interactive experience rather than just a passive reading one.  And with the range of topics covered, it offers a taster for everyone providing the boost to do some further research if the imagination is gripped, not just about space itself but also physics, geology, and a host of STEM topics. Just how many explanations did earlier civilisations have for the sun’s journey across the sky and how do they compare with what we know to be the case now that science has solved its mystery? 

Not only would this be a valuable addition to a library collection to inspire space enthusiasts, but it’s also the right size and price for popping in the Christmas stocking.   

 

It’s a Story, Rory!

It's a Story, Rory!

It’s a Story, Rory!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s a Story, Rory!

Frances Watts

David Legge

HarperCollins, 2018 

40pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9780733335938

 

Hey, Milly, why are we on this blank page?’

‘It won’t be blank for long. We’re going to be in a STORY, Rory!’

Rory the fox is puzzled because he has never been in a story before and he’s not even sure how one works. Luckily his friend Milly the chook knows a  little bit more and with the  helpful voice of the narrator explaining how stories work, they have an adventure that will  entertain as much as it educates.

This is a brilliant companion to the fabulous Parsley Rabbit’s Book About Books, the CBCA Eve Pownall Book of the Year in 2008. In that, Parsley Rabbit explained all the parts of a book to young readers, and in this new one, Watts and Legge have teamed up again to talk young readers through the structure of a story.  Explaining the role and purpose of the narrator, the characters, the plot, and the setting; discussing the need for description (which can be achieved with words or pictures or both combined); creating an event which engages the reader and to which the characters should react; building anticipation; introducing the concept of genre to determine how the story will proceed; and drawing the story to a conclusion which satisfies both the characters and the reader are all done as Rory’s and Millie’s adventure unfolds on the pages. 

Illustrator Legge has said, “The line between writer and illustrator was well and truly blurred to the point where I’m not sure where some of the ideas for both words and pictures came from,” and this is very evident as the link between the text and pictures and the narrator’s explanation and the characters’ adventure is seamless. Whereas Parsley Rabbit focused on the child as a consumer of stories making it easier for them to navigate their way around a physical book, this one concentrates on the child as the creator of stories, helping them move from the blank page to something that has all the essential elements that engage a reader. For those who want to read the story behind this story, Frances and David discuss it here

As both a teacher and a teacher librarian, I can envisage having this book as the basis for my entire writing program for a class for a year, satisfying nearly every outcome of the English strand of the Australian Curriculum.  Imagine giving every child a blank page and inviting them to either draw an original character or describe one (depending on their preference for words or pictures) and then passing that page on to either have words or a picture added.  That’s the start of a collaboration that could go on and on as the characters become real as the other elements are explored. Further teaching notes are available

If there is one book that you are going to add to your teaching toolbox this year, this should be it.  Ask for it in your Christmas stocking!