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The Dragon with the Chocolate Heart

The  Dragon with the Chocolate Heart

The Dragon with the Chocolate Heart

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The  Dragon with the Chocolate Heart

Stephanie Burgis

Bloomsbury USA, 2017

256pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781408880319

Bored with being confined to the cavern on the mountain and faced with another 30 years of the same until her scales are hardened, baby dragon Aventurine squeezes through a secret exit to take herself off to find the world and a human to eat.  As she wanders down the mountain because she damaged her wings in her escape, her sensitive nose not only picks up the smell of a human but also of something else, utterly delicious and tantalising – and dangerous…

For the human is a food mage and in order to protect himself from being Aventurine’s dinner he tempts her to try his delicious chocolate drink.  Suddenly, instead of being a fearsome dragon with glittering silver and red scales towering over the human, Aventurine finds herself transformed into a little girl with tiny, blunt teeth, no fire, and not a single claw to use in battle, prostrate in front of this now gloating tall man who leaves her to her own devices.  

Trying to stand but failing, Aventurine tries to crawl back up the mountain to her family but when her Grandfather doesn’t recognise her as he flies overhead and indeed, shoots a warning burst of fire in her direction, she realises she will have to try to make her way to the city to find a life and satisfy her insatiable craving for chocolate.

But how can a penniless, naive girl with the thoughts and heart of a dragon survive the betrayal, deception, trickery and unknown ways of humans in a large busy city obsessed with money, class and position?

Suitable for a read-aloud or a read-alone for an independent reader, this is a unique, intriguing tale with a strong female protagonist who learns a lot about herself as both a human and a dragon as she navigates the unfamiliar world of Drachenberg. For those who like adventure tinged with fantasy this is something new.

Sage Cookson (series)

Sage Cookson

Sage Cookson

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sage Cookson’s Sweet Escape

9781925059618

 

Sage Cookson’s Ring of Truth

9781925059748

 

Sage Cookson’s Fishy Surprise

978-1-925059-75-5

 

Sage Cookson’s Singapore Sensation

9781925059960

Sally Murphy

New Frontier, 2017

56pp., pbk., RRP $A9.99

Sage Cookson is a ten-year-old whose parents, Ginger and Basil, travel Australia and the world, and lucky Sally gets to go with them. While they are sampling the food, learning new cooking techniques and then sharing their new knowledge with their massive television audience through their show The Cookson’s Cook On, Sage has a lifestyle that others might envy.

However, in each episode she gets into a scrape that she needs to get out of.  In the first book, Sweet Escape  there are problems with a famous chocolatier while in Ring of Truth she is accused of stealing a treasured ring. Her friend Lucy travels with her to Crystal Bay in  Fishy Surprise but the return of an old adversary causes issues and in Singapore Sensation things go wrong when a lady with pink hair starts to stalk them.

This new series for newly independent younger readers combines the author’s love of television cooking shows and mysteries, so that in each new addition something goes wrong and Sage has to solve the problem.  Despite the glamorous backdrops of each story, food is the focus so all the budding Junior Masterchefs can enjoy reading about cooking, trying the recipes which are included and then visiting Sage’s website  for more.  With four books in the series so far, Sage is going to appeal to a range of young readers who will be able to follow her adventures without having to wait for the next one. Perfect for the upcoming cooler days when reading is the best thing to do.

Captain McGrew Wants You for his Crew!

Captain McGrew Wants You for his Crew!

Captain McGrew Wants You for his Crew!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Captain McGrew Wants You for his Crew!

Mark Sperring

Ed Eaves

Bloomsbury, 2017

32pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781408871034

Despite it being centuries since pirates ruled the seas of the Caribbean, they still hold a fascination for young readers, many of whom see themselves in the role of the swashbuckling buccaneer.  So in this rollicking story-in-rhyme, author Mark Sperring has created a job description for prospective applicants which illustrator Ed Eaves has interpreted in the boldest, brightest colours populated with regular girls and boys that young readers will recognise.

All the well-known tasks of pulling up the anchor, climbing the rigging, peering from the crow’s nest for land, digging deep holes for burying and retrieving treasure, waiting on the fat, demanding Captain McGrew deliberately suggesting that this might not be the romantic life stories have portrayed in other books, particularly as this time the ‘heroes’ are the crew not the captain. Having to sploosh the deck, batten the hatches and fire the cannons while all around a fierce storm rages might dampen enthusiasm, but if it doesn’t then there is always the thought of octopus stew, endless dishwashing and even walking the plank to discourage the most hardy.  If the constant tiredness and navigating through the night are the deal-breakers then there is always Norman the Knight…

Every stereotypical aspect of life on the high seas is addressed in this engaging tale which will feed the imagination and perhaps inspire the life-plan of our young readers for the long-term, but in the short-term they will enjoy its rhyme and rhythm, its vibrancy and action and learn that stories can take them anywhere they want to go. And just what might a job description for a knave look like?  Maybe it might be better to stay a kid for a while.

The Leaky Story

The Leaky Story

The Leaky Story

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Leaky Story

Devon Sillet

Anil Tortop

EK Books, 2017

32pp., hbk., 2017

9781925335392
 
The Blossburn family are engaged in their usual activities – parents engrossed in a television program while J.J. is playing with toys on the mat.  No one is taking any notice of the books on the shelves, least of all the one that is slowly swelling as it demands to be read.  Only when it swells so much that it falls over and the letters start to spill out with the drip-drips becoming plop-plops does J.J. notice and try to stem the flood.  In fact it is not until the plop-plops become a splish-splash and the living room starts to look like an aquarium as all sorts of sea creatures invade it and swamp their recliner chairs that Mr and Mrs even start to notice that something might be amiss.  But their attention is grabbed when pirates sail through and challenge them that the fun really begins.
 
Young children will love this concept as they willingly suspend their reality and let their imaginations take over.  Canberra-based author Devon Sillet was awarded the Australian Postgraduate Award for her research into speculative fiction for young adults and it seems that this is a great example of the “what-if’ story starter.  What if your favourite story came to life right there in your living room?  Can you imagine the responses the children could draw, just as Anil Tortop has done with Sillet’s words in such a colourful, fun way?  Let them tell you about as book they have bought or borrowed that they just couldn’t wait to read and what it would be like if it came true right there in their home. A great way to start their writing careers.
Or even if they all started with the same story – an intriguing way to introduce the concept that even with the same information we all perceive and interpret things differently because of our previous experiences and understandings. Similarly,  they might like to turn the story around and talk about how 17th century pirates would feel in a 21st century home.
 
The final page is very satisfying as the Blossburns have all discovered the magic of words and the adventures they can take them on – what will they have happen in their living room next? What adventure would the children like to have?

You Choose …flip me

You Choose - Flip Me

You Choose – Flip Me

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You Choose…Flip Me

Alien Invaders from Beyond the Stars/Night of the Creepy Carnival

9780143784029

Super Sports Spectacular/Trapped in the Games Grid

9780143784036

George Ivanoff

Random House, 2017

pbk., RRP $A19.99

Remember the frustration of finishing a book in a series that you have really enjoyed but you need to go to the library or the bookstore to track down the next one?  Or worse, still, wait for it to be written and published?  The solution seems to be having two books in one as with the new packaging of George Ivanoff’s very popular You Choose series.  Now our students can have all the fun of following pathways through one book and when they are done with that, slip them over to read through another immediately.  No waiting,  No cooling of enthusiasm. Just more reading.

For a couple of decades at least, the choose-your-own-adventure stories have been popular, particularly with boys, as they like the interactivity and the gaming nature of them.  So to be able to serve them up two at a time to aficionados not only encourages them to keep reading but also shows them that the library DOES have stuff that meets their interests and needs.  That has to be good.

 

My Friend Ernest

My Friend Ernest

My Friend Ernest

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Friend Ernest

Emma Allen

Hannah Sommerville

Angus & Robertson, 2017

32pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

971460750544

It is the first day of school and Oscar has put his brave on along with the knight’s shining helmet from the big dress-up box.  But just as he goes to get the shield he is shoved out of the way by a kid who snatches the dragon tail.  A knight and a dragon are traditional enemies and so it seems to be the case again.  Oscar is intimidated by this scary dragon-child and even though he acts brave he’s not really.  Seeking shelter in the cubby he finds a princess who is  hiding from the crocodiles  and then in comes the dragon…

This is a story that was probably reflected in most of the schools around Australia just three or four weeks ago as the newest bunch of big-schoolers began their new adventure.  No matter how big and brave and fearless they were on the outside, they were just little five-year olds in a big new world on the inside.  While in those traditional scenarios Oscar would have slain that dragon, in this story he faces his fears.  He tells the dragon he is not afraid of him but when they come face to face he is able to articulate that he is a little bit scared and why.  Rather than hiding behind his fears and perhaps not having the best start to school because he makes Ernest scarier than he is, Oscar learns that acknowledging them and facing them can lead to something much better. He also learns that just as he is hiding his concerns behind the knight’s outfit, others might also be hiding behind a brave face and that taking the time to dig a little deeper can lead to some rewarding and fun times.

From the front cover, Sommerville’s illustration bring this text to life – young children will know immediately that this is going to be about two little boys – one a knight, the other a dragon and thus destined for conflict.  But there is also a clue to the outcome in the title – the main character is Oscar but the book is called My Friend Ernest.

Even though the beginning of term is slipping away into the memory, it is only days gone by so this would be a timely book to read to the children and remind them of how they were feeling back then and how far they have already come in conquering their fears and how brave they are and can be.  Life is going to be tricky at times – just how tricky depends on how we deal with the twists and turns.

 

History Mysteries: Diamond Jack

History Mysteries: Diamond Jack

History Mysteries: Diamond Jack

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

History Mysteries: Diamond Jack

Mark Greenwood

Puffin Books, 2017

88pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

9780143309260

March 1942 – the Japanese have reached Indonesia and there is a constant stream of flights shuttling refugees from Java to the safe haven of Broome on the north-west coast of Western Australia.  Russian flying ace Captain Smirnoff is piloting one of the last planes to leave Bandung Airport, an old DC3 stripped back to the bare minimum to allow for as many passengers as possible including five Dutch pilots, a trainee flight engineer, a mother and her 18 month old son.  

Just as they are about to take off an official jumps on board and hands Smirnoff a package, tell him to “Take great care of this.  Someone from the bank will collect it when you land.”

Unfortunately for Smirnoff, his crew and his passengers, the Japanese have switched their target to Broome and just an hour from their destination they are shot down. Despite injuries and continuing Japanese fire, Smirnoff manages to bring the plane down on the edge of  the beach…

What happened next – the survival and rescue of the passengers; the finding and the contents of the mysterious package and the enigmatic  man who became known as Diamond Jack are the centre of this intriguing true tale that still remains unanswered 75 years on. Should he have done what he did?  Is “finders keepers” really the rule to live by?  

Rudyard Kipling once said, “If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten” and in this new series from self-confessed history-hunter Mark Greenwood there are stories told that would otherwise have been forgotten, if they were ever widely known in the first place.  Short, engaging reads written in short chapters, large font and liberally illustrated they are not only perfect for the young reader moving on to independent reading but also those who may not have yet unlocked the key.  Greenwood writes an introduction that personalises the story as though he is talking directly to the reader, drawing them into this tale that is about to unfold and then, the tale told, he talks about the sources he has drawn on and provides a lot of extra information so not only is the story authenticated but there is scope for further discovery.

Something special to add to the collection and promote an interest in times past in a way seldom done. Australia- a country full of stories!

Fox and the Jumping Contest

Fox and the Jumping Contest

Fox and the Jumping Contest

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fox and the Jumping Contest

Corey R. Tabor

Balzer & Bray, 2016

32pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9780062398741

 

The animals are having a jumping contest – Elephant, Bear, Rabbit, Turtle, Frog and Fox have all entered – and Fox is determined he will win.  He even imagines how good the trophy will look perched on his mantlepiece.  

But Fox isn’t particularly good at jumping so he figures if that trophy is going to have pride of place in his loungeroom he will need a bit of assistance.  So while the other animals practise, he schemes and plans and builds.  His solution? A jetpack that he paints to match his fur hoping the other animals won’t notice – so it is clear that he knows he is cheating. 

On the day of the contest with the bird judges all ready and perched high in the branches the animals show their talents.  Frog does well and gets extra points for style; Turtle doesn’t do as well and Elephant less so.  Bear was loud and Rabbit was spectacular.  And then it was Fox’s turn…

This is a story with a twist, and it’s a twist that can spark some great discussion points which are perfect for getting young children to start to think critically, to philosophise and to empathise. Fox with his jetpack strapped to his back disappears so high in the sky that the judges can’t wait for him to return so they begin the awards ceremony. But just as Rabbit is about to receive the trophy, Fox falls back to Earth and plops into it and takes first place. The final scene shows Fox standing back admiring the cup on his mantlepiece, right where he had envisioned it would be.

But does Fox deserve it?  Has he cheated? Were there written rules about external assistance or were they just assumed? Why do we have rules? How do the other animals feel about the win? What about rabbit? Has there been fair play and sportsmanship? What is the twist in that final scene and was it a reasonable way to solve the problem? What does ‘compromise’ mean? 

Careful exploration of the text, verbal and visual, offers a lot of depth to this story and it deserves re-reading to get the most from it.  For example, Elephant doesn’t mind that she cannot jump well because she is “good at other things” and that in itself could provoke another discussion about how we all have our strengths so comparisons are not always fair.  Even very young children have a strong sense of justice and with the pictures enriching the words so well with their extra detail and action there is much to examine and ponder.

Life and literature are full of characters who are determined to win regardless and this is a surprisingly good story that can introduce even very young children to contemplate, at their own level, the philosophical question of does the end justify the means and giving them an opportunity to start thinking on a more abstract level, from different perspectives and consider what is not being said.    

One to get brains moving…

 

 

Artie and the Grime Wave

Artie and the Grime Wave

Artie and the Grime Wave

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Artie and the Grime Wave

Richard Roxburgh

Allen & Unwin 2016

240pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9781760292140

When bully Nate Grime and his sidekick Wart throw Artie’s only pair of shoes over the overhead wires, they start off a chain of events that not only brings down the Mayor of the town but also provides for a hair-raising crazy adventure that will appeal to boys in those mid-late primary years.

Artie only has one pair of shoes because after his dad, a trapeze artist, died a few years previously, his mother has been so deep on grief that she has confined herself to the couch all but abandoning Artie and his angry older sister, Lola.  His best mate Bumshoe – (real name Alex Baumschule) suggests that they find paperbark trees to make new shoes from so Artie not only avoids his mother’s anger but can also go to school.  It is while they are searching for the trees that they discover a cave full of possibly-stolen-stuff and its sinister guardians Mary, Funnel Web and Mr Budgie.

Populated with a number of eccentric characters who all become part of Artie and Bumshoe’s attempts to get the truth out as they search for Gladys Unpronounceable-enko’s tortoise Gareth which has disappeared and desperately avoid the clutches of the ruthless gang, Roxburgh has written and illustrated a rambunctious romp that pits the skinny, awkward kid and his overweight mate against bullies, mean teachers and desperate gangsters that many readers will put themselves in the hero’s shoes.  In fact Roxburgh says, “”My oldest boy started to hit an age where I was conscious I was finding the books I was reading him as entertaining and amusing as he was,” … ”I thought I could write to that world, I could locate myself in that neck of woods and deal with that immature adventurous sense of play.

Because of his public profile, Roxburgh and his book received a lot of publicity when it was released in October 2016 and I was keen to see if the writing actually lived up to the hype.  Pleased to record that it kept me reading to the end and that I could ‘see’ young boys particularly enjoying it and recommending it to their peers.  A great start to the 2017 reading seasons.

Santa’s Christmas Journey

Santa's Christmas Journey

Santa’s Christmas Journey

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Santa’s Christmas Journey

Fiona Watt

Simona SanFilippo

Usborne, 2016

10pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9781474906401

Once a year Santa makes an important trip that starts off at the North Pole, goes high over a busy city and above snowy mountains to land safely on the rooftops of your house.  He squeezes down the chimney and then heads out over the rooftops to continue on his way.

And it is nearly time for him to make that journey!

This is a charming novelty book that preschoolers will love because it comes with a wind-up sleigh that follows the tracks inset into the thick board pages and which move from left to right so reinforcing the direction of print. . And as they watch it go on its journey there are things for them to seek in the colourful detailed pictures which add to the interactivity and fun.  Not suitable for those under 3 because of the small parts, nevertheless this  would make a perfect Santa Sack filler that will engross the little one and help them understand the fun and joy of books and reading. Older siblings could even trace Santa’s journey to their house and map it or use the Santa Tracker from Google or NORAD!