The Leaky Story
EK Books, 2017
32pp., hbk., 2017
The Leaky Story
EK Books, 2017
32pp., hbk., 2017
You Choose…Flip Me
Alien Invaders from Beyond the Stars/Night of the Creepy Carnival
Super Sports Spectacular/Trapped in the Games Grid
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
Angus & Robertson, 2017
32pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99
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
Puffin Books, 2017
88pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99
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
Corey R. Tabor
Balzer & Bray, 2016
32pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99
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
Allen & Unwin 2016
240pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99
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
10pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99
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!
The Night Santa Got Lost: How NORAD Saved Christmas
Regency Kids, 2015
On a day long ago began NORAD’s tradition-
Tracking Santa’s red sleigh on his once-a-year mission.
Using radar and satellites – fighter jets too!
Reporting on Santa, wherever he flew.
But one Christmas Eve a blizzard rolls in and so Santa leaves the North Pole early much to the dismay of NORAD who weren’t prepared for the unscheduled start. And as the green blip disappears off the radar screen and there is no sign of Santa or his reindeer, panic ensues. A four star general and the Commander-in-Chief order the fighter jets into the air and every last piece of technology the US Air Force has is set to searching for Santa.
Eventually he is found buried deep in a snow drift but now it is too late to get all the presents to the children in the traditional way of reindeer and sleigh, so once again the bigwigs put their heads together and come up with a most audacious plan that involves NATO and other US allies, battleships, cruisers, submarines, helicopters, C-17s, trucks and tanks and every other sort of transport available to the military. And for those places where “The children love Santa, but the leaders say no”, there are Special Ops, Navy SEALS and tough Army Rangers.
Will their mission succeed? Will they get to all the children of the world in time?
Dedicated to the children whose parents “allow us to live in a world where we have the freedom to believe in Santa Claus” this is a very different story for Christmas, one that acknowledges those who serve by showing them in a less-that-traditional setting. NORAD (North American Aerospace Defence Command) is a joint United States and Canadian military organisation and for over 60 years it has tracked Santa’s flight each December 24. Children can watch where he is by going to the website or downloading an app so they know when they have to get into bed after their tour of the local Christmas lights as more than 1500 people trace his every movement through 47 radar installations in Northern Canada and Alaska, alerting them to when Santa actually leaves the North Pole, and satellites at about 22,000 miles above the Earth with infrared sensors, which see the heat coming off of Rudolph’s nose. In addition, there high-speed digital SantaCams set up around the world to catch a glimpse of him passing by the different cities.
Written in the vein of The Night Before Christmas this is one that even older children will enjoy. While predominantly American and with several pages of explanations at the end, nevertheless it will resonate particularly with children whose family members are in the services.
Blue Sky, Yellow Kite
Janet A. Holmes
Little Hare Books, 2016
32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99
High above a bright yellow kite soars in the bright blue sky and as it dips and dives, flits and flies with its tail feathers flying it catches the eye of Daisy. Intrigued she follows its string to see who is flying such a magnificent thing. Up the hill, down the hill and across the field she finds William in a big house on the edge of town. As she watches longingly through the fence, he invites her in and teaches her how to fly it. But then she does the unthinkable – she runs away with the kite all the way back to her house. Knowing she has done the wrong thing she hides it and doesn’t fly it – but where is the joy in a kite sitting on top of a wardrobe instead of soaring through the sky? At last she cannot stand it and she just has to fly the kite – but William sees her and just walks away. Again the kite is placed on the top of the wardrobe but the next day, Daisy takes it down again…
Sometimes little people are just so tempted by someone else’s things that they just have to take them, even though, like Daisy, they know it is wrong to do so. And with Christmas coming on and lots of children having lots of things to show off, there are going to be a lot of children fighting temptation. Thus this is a timely story about wanting, needing, guilt and honesty which has a heart-warming ending that lends itself to all sorts of discussions in the home and in the classroom.
The visual contrast, both physically and metaphorically, of the bright yellow kite against the deep blue sky, juxtaposes Daisy and William’s positions and Jonathan Bentley’s illustrations add much to the text with their movement and colour.
This is a charming story about friendship and forgiveness and the dilemma of whether a thing is more important than a friend.
Molly & Mae
Hardie Grant Egmont, 2016
32pp. hbk., RRP $A24.99
A railway station in rural Anywhere, Australia and Molly and Mae are looking forward to their journey to the city. On the platform there is fun to be had like hide and seek to play as they and the other passengers wait for the train to arrive and their friendship is full of laughter and giggles as the excitement builds. Even being stuck in the bubblegum doesn’t dampen their delight. And even as the waiting goes on and on, there is fun to be had as they enjoy each other’s company. When at last the train comes the fun continues as they colour in, dress up their dolls, experience the dining car, and even do crazy stuff like hanging upside down from the seats!
But slowly as the trip seems interminable cracks start to appear as boredom sets in. Molly thinks Mae is silly and tells her so and Mae doesn’t like it and before long the girls are not speaking to each other, turning away and spending their time peering through the window at the wet, smeary countryside. The whole world looks murky, echoing their feelings. Will they resolve their spat or is this the end of something special?
This is a story about so much more than a long train journey as it mirrors real-life friendships – the excitement of new shared interests, the pleasure in just being together and doing everyday stuff and the anticipation of adventures to come. But there are also times when it is boring, when difficulties happen and there is a choice of building bridges and continuing on the main track or branching off onto another one.
This is a true marriage of text and graphics. Blackwood’s soft palette and somewhat retro feel and clever headings of platform, timetable, journey, signal failure, destination that replicate both the stages of the journey and the development of the friendship express Parker’s concept and text perfectly and the reader is drawn deeper and deeper into the story from the early morning endpaper through the title page to the explosion of the big city station and as night falls over the city. Blackwood has explained her thought processes and choices here showing just how much goes into such a project.
If teachers were ever looking for a book to explain metaphor, this is it!
Would not be surprised to see this among the CBCA shortlisted titles in 2017.