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Elbow Grease

Elbow Grease

Elbow Grease

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Elbow Grease

John Cena

Howard McWilliam

Puffin Books, 2018

40pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

9780143794400

Elbow Grease is the smallest monster truck in the Demolition Derby. Even though his brothers Tank, Flash, Pinball and Crash were tougher, faster, smarter and braver, they didn’t intimidate him nor deter him from racing.  Even the fact that he was different because he ran on an lithium-ion battery and needed to be recharged every night did not stop him believing in himself and his ability to keep up with his brothers.  Because Elbow Grease had gumption, that mixture of strong will and determination to keep on going even when it seemed all was lost.

When Mel the mechanic puts a large poster of a monster truck Grand Prix on the wall, Elbow Grease is determined to compete, regardless of the derision of his brothers.  He drove to the Grand Prix by himself, snuck in behind all the others at the starting line and off he went.  It soon became obvious that the other trucks had more experience and better technique but Elbow Grease refused to give up. On an on he went until it started to pour and his battery went completely flat…

Inspired by growing up with four older brothers, John Cena has captured the spirit of determination that younger siblings so often have as they strive to keep up, and has created a powerful story about trying new things, resilience, facing fears and obstacles, and doing everything you can to keep going.  It’s a lesson in “Of at first you don’t succeed….” 

Told with a bare narrative with all the speech in speech bubbles, sometimes the message is less than subtle, but young readers will delight in the bright, bold illustrations that carry the expression and the humour.  Some who are familiar with WWE competitors might even recognise Cena from that field and be inspired because of that.  In an interview, Cena said, “With ‘Elbow Grease’ and the books to follow, I want to offer kids a fun and engaging way to learn about the power of ambition, dedication, and heart. These concepts have been transformative in my life, from my childhood up to now, and it’s so important to me to pass the positivity on and help our youngest generation see that right mindset is key to achievement,”

Monster trucks appeal to so many little boys that even if they don’t absorb Cena’s message at first, at least they will continue to discover the joy of reading as they find books about the topics that interest them. 

The Brave Knight

The Brave Knight

The Brave Knight

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Brave Knight

Sally Gould

Celeste Hulme

New Frontier, 2018

24pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

978192559419

High in his treehouse, the handsome, brave knight stands guard over his lands – his backyard.  With his long, sharp sword and shiny, strong armour, he guards his castle against enemy knights, and when they arrive he tricks them, making them pay gold for knowledge of the secret entrance, eventually imprisoning them…

This is a charming story that will delight all those little lads who like to dream of being a knight in shining armour.  There are even instructions for making a sword so they too can be the guardians of their realm.

 

The Football Book – Post World Cup Edition

The Football Book - Post World Cup Edition

The Football Book – Post World Cup Edition

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Football Book – Post World Cup Edition

David Goldblatt & Johnny Acton

DK, 2018

400pp., hbk., RRP $39.99

9780241332856

With the northern hemisphere competitions gathering momentum, and the Australian A-League beginning and garnering more attention because of Usain Bolt’s participation, this book about the most popular sport in the world written to include the latest information from the 2018 FIFA World Cup is likely to become a much-loved, much-discussed addition to your collection as your young soccer fans pore over it. 

Beginning with a section on the origins of football which go back into ancient times and how it is now a global sport – about 250 million people play it regularly and if footballers were a nation, it would be the 4th most populous on Earth – it continues with comprehensive chapters about how the game is played; teamwork; the individual skills and how to master them; and then individual guides to the various nations who play; the World Cup and world records. There is an outline of Australia’s national achievements, each team in the A-league and even names those players who were eligible to play for Australia but who chose other teams instead. It really is 400 pages crammed with information for both the novice and the aficionado, regardless of which side of the boundary line you are on. 

However, while the Women’s World Cup has its own double spread, the book’s focus is predominantly on the male game with even the gender-neutral sections like How the Game is Played featuring male characters and champions.  

With illustrations, maps, charts, diagrams and easily readable text, this is one that will be a communal read in the library, turning reluctant readers into real readers, as well as one that will fit snugly into a Christmas stocking.

 

DC Comics Absolutely Everything You Need to Know

DC Comics Absolutely Everything You Need to Know

DC Comics Absolutely Everything You Need to Know

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DC Comics Absolutely Everything You Need to Know

Liz Marsham & Melanie Scott

DK, 2018

200pp., hbk., RRP $A39.99

9780241314241

Founded in the US in 1934 by Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson, DC Comics, named from an original series called Detective Comics which introduced Batman to the world in 1939,  is one of the world’s oldest comic publishing companies.  Now a subsidiary of Warner Bros, DC is the home of many popular superheroes such as Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman,  Green Lantern and Green Arrow;  supervillains like The Joker; Lex Luther,  Brainiac, and The Penguin; and fight-for justice teams like The Justice League and Teen Titans. 

While they have always been popular in comic format, the magic of technology and special effects have seen a surge in popularity of all these characters as they garner new audiences through movie screens.  In this new publication from DK, all the known and unknown of the goodies and baddies has been gathered together so young readers can learn more about their heroes and their enemies and get a better understanding of who they are, what they do and how and why they do it.. Reflecting the comic format of their origins but touched with DK publishing magic to make the range of information easily accessible to young readers, this publication takes the stories back to their print origins, albeit in full colour these days, turning them full circle and encouraging fans to read as well as view. 

With events like Comic-con  pulling massive crowds of young and not-so around the world; regular news stories of sick children being lifted by a visit from their heroes and new-release movies breaking box-office records, the pull and power of those original characters has not dwindled over the last 80 years.  Thus, this would be an investment for the library collection or the Christmas stocking as there is already a captive audience who could boast that reading is their superpower.   

Norman the Knight Gets a Fright

Norman the Knight Gets a Fright

Norman the Knight Gets a Fright

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Norman the Knight Gets a Fright

Mark Sperring

Ed Eaves

Bloomsbury, 2018

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

9781408873991

Meet Norman the Brave:
He’s in need of some knaves
to help him get ready for royal parades.

It’s amazing just how much work there is to do to get ready for a royal parade – not just catching his horse and squeezing him into his armour, but darning his socks and ironing pants as well!  And if that’s not enough, there are dragons and bandits and brigands to ward off on the way to the parade ground!!!  But there’s a catch – and it may not be the job for you.  In which case…

This is a rollicking rhyme through medieval times that is full of fun and humour that will appeal to a wide range of readers.  The text is superbly set off by the bright. bold pictures which are packed full of detail and fun, but sadly Norman’s behaviour may well resonate with some.  He is the Queen Bee while his knaves are just his drones and his treatment of them is unbecoming but common.  

So if the little ones decide that being a knave for a knight is not for them, they can speculate on what it might be like to work for a …

Fun and funny!

 

 

Wonders of the World

Wonders of the World

Wonders of the World

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wonders of the World

Isobel Otter

Margaux Carpenter

Little Tiger, 2018

16pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9781848577251

The sub-title of this book is “An interactive tour of marvels and monuments” and indeed, that it what it is from cover to cover as it explores the wonders of both the ancient and the modern world.

More than 2000 years ago, Antipater of Sidon, a Greek writer identified seven must-see sites of the small world around Greece (world exploration was limited and the Mediterranean was seen as the centre of a flat world) and these became known as the “Seven Wonders of the Ancient World”, still referred to in books and quiz shows as such. However, in 2000 AD a new list was compiled from the popular votes from a list of 200 man-made landmarks and these are considered to be the seven wonders of the modern world.

All 14 are explored in this colourful, interactive lift-the-flap book beginning with a world map showing their locations and whether they are ancient or modern selections.  Each has an illustration of the building, an introduction to it and then several pertinent facts that are often hidden under a flap or other device demanding interaction.  

While Australia has no entry in the man-made wonders, it does feature in the list of natural wonders on the final endpapers, which are presided over by a magnificent pop-up Paricutin Volcano, the youngest volcano in the world.

As well as perhaps laying the seeds for future travel and discussions about why these monuments have endured,  this is one of those books that groups of young boys love to pore over and discuss, a behaviour that appears to be crucial to their reading development as they seek to discover the wonderful and the weird and out-do each other with their discoveries.  It is worth having in your collection for that alone!

 

A Different Boy

A Different Boy

A Different Boy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Different Boy

Paul Jennings

Geoff Kelly

A & U Children’s, 2018

112pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781760523503

Anton is lost, lonely, hungry and bewildered as he is led into Wolfdog Hall, a home for boys without parents. He is handed his tag – O. Muller – and told the O is for “Orphan” although he will most likely end up as a C – ‘custody’ or ‘criminal’, the tag for those who try to abscond.  As gloomy and as dismal as his future, which was to have been on the great ocean liner he can see sailing to  “a warm, sunburnt country -a land of sweeping plains and rugged mountains which ran down to golden beaches surrounded by a jewel sea,” Anton soon finds himself between a rock and a hard place.  He is either going to be strapped by a brutal teacher for drawing a rude picture of him or be beaten up by the boy who did draw it for dobbing on him.  But then he recalls his dead’s fathers words – ‘If you’ve got a bad deal, get out of it and move on.” – and so he walks out of the orphanage altogether.

His steps lead him to that ocean liner but how is he to get aboard with no boarding pass, no family, no money and no luggage?  Is he doomed to be returned to the orphanage and fulfil the officer’s prophecy?

Confronted on the first page by just two paragraphs of text surrounded by razor wire, it is obvious that this is not going to be one of Paul Jennings’ more light-hearted stories. And indeed, it isn’t.  Despite its initial appearance as a stepping stone for newly-independent readers, this one has a lot of twists and turns that need a more mature mind to get the most from it.  Although Australia is clearly identified as the “New Land”, Anton’s origins are not defined beyond being a country that has recently been devastated by war, which may resonate with some readers, and the events on board the ship are complex, especially the final resolution.  

As an adult reader, this is Jennings at his best but don’t be misled thinking that this is one for younger readers.  That said, it is unique, different and utterly absorbing for those who are ready for it.

Help Around the House

Help Around the House

Help Around the House

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Help Around the House

Morris Gleitzman

Puffin, 2018

198pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9780143793236

Eleven-year-old Ludo is on his way to live in Canberra because his father has just been elected as the new Independent federal representative for Culliton, but beginning with being seated in business class he is overwhelmed by the luxury and ostentation that come as part of a federal Member’s salary and entitlements.

A boy who lives (almost) strictly according to Scout Law and his deceased mother’s mandate of helping others, Ludo vows to turn things around and get the politicians to understand and act on how much their generous remuneration would help others who are not so fortunate, particularly the homeless.  But it is not as easy as it seems and while his father is off on a fundraising trip, Ludo, with his new Scout friend Henry, soon finds himself embroiled in the seedier, selfish side of Canberra’s political life, hampered by Mike, his father’s aide who can see no further than votes, the next election and power, but helped by Mrs B, the housekeeper who knows more than a regular housekeeper might. Ludo is determined to ensure that fairness and justice prevail, even though that finds him out late at night, bending some of the rules instilled in him by his mother with whom he has regular ‘conversations’ and who Gleitzman says is modelled on his own mother who died while he was writing the book.  She is certainly a strong guiding presence for Ludo in a place where moral principles seem to have departed, and while the ideals learned from her may get shaken at times, nevertheless, Ludo’s core beliefs about who he is and what he should do are unshaken.

This is the latest release from the current Australian Children’s Laureate (his next is the finale to the Once series) and like all his books since his first, The Other Facts of Life written in 1987, this is a cracker.  Over 30 years of writing for children. children whose  own children will be getting ready to share his work with their children, and Gleitzman still has the rare gift of combining credible, likeable characters in almost-plausible situations with a message softened with humour.  Ludo who sees life through the idealistic eyes of a typical 11-year-old who has been brought up in kindness and selflessness and who has absorbed the tenets of Scout Law into his psyche learns some tough lessons about the reality of life, particularly how personal perceptions shape responses, while his father also has to reassess his future as the truth about political life becomes apparent.  Given the recent events in federal parliament, this is particularly relevant as questions are asked about who among our young people would want to become a politician.

Having spent 30 years living in Canberra, this book has a personal connection and even though some of the places are fictitious,  many of the events in the story are not and Gleitzman’s exposure of the behind-the-scenes machinations and motivations was unsurprising to this somewhat-jaded senior citizen.  But to the young reader, perhaps meeting Gleitzman for the first time,  it may be disappointing that adults are so self-centred but the ending is uplifting and will reaffirm their belief in the basic goodness and good intentions of most adults.  A page-turner! 

A Boy Called BAT

A Boy Called BAT

A Boy Called BAT

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Boy Called BAT

Elana K. Arnold

Charles Santose

Walden Pond, 2018

208pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

9780062445834

Bixby Alexander Tam, known to those who know him as BAT because of his initials, his love of animals and the way his arms and hands flap when he gets excited, prefers life to be logical, predictable, routine and without surprises. He’s not good with noise (so wears his sister Janie’s earmuffs often), doesn’t like the mushy texture of some foods, is sensitive to the feel of fabrics on his skin and finds it difficult to make eye contact and hold casual conversations. Clearly, to even a non-teacher who doesn’t know the signs of being on the autism spectrum, this is a little boy with  special needs. But Bat is not unhappy or frustrated – his mum, sister and teacher are sensitive to his needs, his peers seem to accept him for who he is, and although his father, whom he stays with “every-other-Friday” seems to struggle a little with his non-sporty son, generally Bat is content and just gets on with things.

But when his mum, a vet, brings home a newborn skunk that needs special care, Bat comes into his own, devoting his life to caring for the kit and planning how he will be able to keep it and care for it beyond the initial few weeks before the local wildlife refuge can take over. He needs to show his mum that he is responsible and committed enough, even contacting a skunk expert for advice. 

This is an engaging story that shows the reader the world through Bat’s eyes but which is not patronising, sentimental or emotional.  Bat’s autism adds a different and interesting perspective to the relationships between the characters but the concept of an eight-year-old taking care of an orphaned animal and hoping to keep it longer is a story that could be about any young person.  I believe that all children should be able to read about themselves in stories, and those about autistic children are rare, so this one which has such a solid, familiar storyline so every reader can relate to it while learning about the world through unfamiliar eyes, is a must-have.  Its sequel Bat and the Waiting Game is also available in hardcover. 

 

 

 

 

Boy Underwater

Boy Underwater

Boy Underwater

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Boy Underwater

Adam Baron

Benji Davies

HarperCollins, 2018

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

9780008267018

Cymbeline Igloo is nine years old, is the third-best footballer in Year 4 (joint), second best at roller-skating. Even though he has only one parent while his friends have two or even four, he is  fit, healthy and totally normal in every way.  Yet, despite living in Lewisham in south-east London he has never been swimming.  His mum has never taken him near a pool, a lake, a river, the seaside – always brushing away his request with seemingly plausible excuses. 

So when his teacher says that the class will be starting swimming lessons the following Monday, Cymbeline is somewhat daunted.  He doesn’t even own a pair of swimmers!  But encouraged by his best friend Lance (named after the disgraced cyclist) and goaded by the class bully Billy, he agrees to a race against Billy in the pool.  Naturally, things end very badly for Cymbeline, not the least of which is losing the swimmers he found in his dad’s things in the attic, but it is the response of his mother who is called to the pool that is the most startling of all.  

As a result of this incident, she ends up in a psychiatric hospital taking Cymbeline’s beloved soft toy Mr Fluffy with her.  And Cymbeline is forced to stay with his rich Aunt Millie and Uncle Chris , to whom he is a burden, and cousins Juniper and Clayton who make it clear they want nothing to do with him. Totally alone, his mother hospitalised and not well enough to see him, and no cuddly toy to take to bed to comfort him, Cymbeline is bewildered and scared but determined to find out what is wrong with his mum to have had such an extreme reaction.  Surely the world seeing his willy isn’t enough to provoke such a response. And why has she taken Mr Fluffy?   Befriended by super-smart Veronique and even Billy, who has his own issues at home, Cymbeline is determined to get to the bottom of things.  And when he does, it becomes clear that adults really should paint the whole picture when they tell a child something big, not just the bits they think the child can handle.  Sometimes honesty can prevent a lot of heartache – the child isn’t left to fill the gaps with their own, often wild, imagination.

Written in the first-person in a voice that really echoes that of a 9-year-old boy, this is a story that will engage the independent reader with a storyline that has some meat to it and is totally credible. Even though it deals with some heavy-duty issues, this is done with a light hand, humour and empathy, providing an insight into the lives of some of the children in our care that we might not always see. Families falling apart for whatever reason is a common story, sadly, and it’s not always the teacher, in this case Mrs Phillips, who is the confidante.  Many children, like Cymbeline, are carrying  unseen burdens.   

For me, a quality novel is one that engages me to the end and I can hear myself either reading it aloud to students or book-talking it.  Boy Underwater is indeed, one of those.