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Star Wars: The Original Trilogy: A Graphic Novel

Star Wars

Star Wars

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Star Wars: The Original Trilogy: A Graphic Novel

Hardie Grant Egmont, 2016

208pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781760128180

A long time ago in a galaxy far far away – well it was actually 1977 and the world was very different then – George Lucas released the first of his Star Wars movies and such was its impact that almost 40 years on those who saw it then are still fans and every day it gathers a new cohort, young and not-so-young.  Such was the success of the original, plans for more were made and in 1980 it was followed by The Empire Strikes Back and in 1983, The Return of the Jedi.

Since then there have been prequels and sequels and a massive merchandising franchise that it holds the Guinness World Records title for the “most successful film merchandising franchise. With the 40th anniversary clearly in sight this is only going to grow and so the release of a graphic novel -the preferred book format of so many- is sure to build a whole new legion of fans.  

Containing the three original films, now dubbed Episodes IV, V and VI this release will appeal to those who are already devotees (so many of my family and friends have asked for the review copies) as well as gather new ones.  For those in school libraries it will add another dimension to your Star Wars collections of both fiction and fact which never seem to stay on the shelf and always have a long reserve list, in my experience. Now the core of the phenomenon is accessible to even the most reluctant reader or new English speaker in print format and that alone, makes it a must-have.

And a certain Christmas stocking is sorted for me!

Push! Dig! Scoop!

Push! Dig! Scoop!

Push! Dig! Scoop!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Push! Dig! Scoop!

Rhonda Gowler Greene

Daniel Kirk

Bloomsbury, 2016

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

9781408881668

Over by the dirt pile all the heavy machinery is lined up ready for another hard days’ work on the construction site.   Bulldozers, diggers, loaders, graders – they are all there in this charming counting rhyme that will hold appeal for preschoolers.  Using onomatopoeia and lots of movement, little ones will be encouraged to join in as the machines work and don’t stop till night falls and it is time to rest.  They will love counting each of the baby machines and anticipating how many there will be next.

Each machine has a mama or papa surrounded by all the little ones learning what to do, a pictorial metaphor for our own little ones as they, too, are dependent on their parents as role models.  “Children learn what they live” is so well demonstrated! Readers will enjoy thinking about the job each machine does and how they all have a special task to do while they work together to get the job done. They can examine the specialist role of each machine and how it is specially designed for its role and perhaps start laying the foundations of an engineering interest.

Bright, colourful and charming, this will fit very well in the Santa sack!

Barney and the Secret of the Whales

Barney and the Secret of the Whales

Barney and the Secret of the Whales

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Barney and the Secret of the Whales

Jackie French

Mark Wilson

HarperCollins, 2016

144pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

9780732299446

 

It is Sydney in 1791 and Barney and Elsie have settled into their lives with the Reverend and Mrs Johnson as the fledgling colony tries to establish itself.  The Third Fleet has arrived and Captain Melvill is a guest at dinner.  Little does Barney know that this will change his life for Melvill is in command of the Britannia, a whaling ship and intent on sailing into southern waters to plunder its riches now their human cargo has been safely delivered.

With a promise of earning enough money to buy stock for land he hopes to be awarded in time, particularly after the Johnsons have made it clear they will return to England, Barney is enticed to join Melville’s crew for the journey south.  But the dream is shattered almost the minute he steps on deck and he is dismayed to discover that this is not a one-off experience – he is indentured for three years!  Assigned to being up the mast as the lookout, Barney soon spots whales and he and the reader are plunged into the gruesome details of the hunt, the capture and the destruction of a magnificent creature.  Because he is the one who gave the alert of its presence, Barney holds himself responsible for its death and wonders if he can really do this for another three years.  

The second in the Secret Histories series and sequel to Birrung, the Secret Friend, this is another engrossing and engaging read from master historical storyteller, Jackie French.  In the notes at the back she makes it clear that distasteful as they may be to the modern reader, whaling and sealing were the two industries which sustained our nation in those early years and enabled it to diversify so that other products like wool could take over.  

Written for readers the same age as Barney, it traces Barney’s story through his own voice and his discovery of himself – a landlubber rather than a seaman – with a clarity that many of his age would not have today. At its most basic level  there is scope for comparing the life of a child of Barney’s era and circumstance to one of a 12 year old in Australia in the 21st century and even to track the events that have occurred to bring about the changes.    What do today’s children think those of the 23rd century might think about their lives?

French has not glossed over the details of the fate of the whale but viewed through Barney’s perspective which is sympathetic to the whale’s ordeal, it is perhaps a more gentle account than the reality and may well raise issues about how humans treat animals and why they do or did.  There is an excellent opportunity to compare and contrast the perception and treatment of whales in the 18th and 19th centuries and their consequences  to the current situation where they are revered. 

As usual, Jackie French has crafted a tale that is a perfect standalone read as well as being an opportunity to dig deeper, behind and beyond the words.  Teaching notes are available.

Discovering Dinosaurs

Discovering Dinosaurs

Discovering Dinosaurs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Discovering Dinosaurs

Simon Chapman

Bloomsbury, 2016

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

9781408194614

Can we ever have too many books about dinosaurs to entice our young people, particularly boys, to pick up a book and read?  

Certainly in my school library I put all those with the 567.9 classification on a special shelf so they were easily gettable (and put awayable) because they were in constant demand and it was hard to keep up with the requests.

But this new title by explorer Simon Chapman is not just another book of facts and figures and pictures.  Told in a semi-narrative style, Chapman tells the stories of  various paleontologists who made the various discoveries across the world and fills the pages with incredible illustrations, pop-outs, pull-downs, lift-the flaps and other devices that make this one of the richest, most intriguing books on this subject I’ve seen.  Every page is crammed with new discoveries to be made so the reader feels the anticipation of those early scientists as they pursued their quests.  

From the 3D-like cover through to its glossary on the endpapers it is the most sumptuous, luxurious publication you just want to keep running your hands over it and investigating each page thoroughly to what makes a dinosaur, when and where they lived, what they ate, why they fought and why they became extinct.

Not only would this be a very welcome addition to a library’s collection, if I had a student who was passionate about this subject I’d be giving parents a heads-up that this might be an ideal item for this year’s Santa sack!

Up, Up and Away

Up, Up and Away

Up, Up and Away

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Up, Up and Away

Tom McLaughlin

Bloomsbury, 2016

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

9781408870150

Orson loves to make things and he is always tinkering and experimenting.  His latest idea is the most ambitious yet, but what does it take to build your very own planet?  Can it be made with

  • A cup full of rocks
  • A dash of water
  • A sprinkling of metal
  • A lot of nothingness
  • A big bang …

BOOM! He has it – a tiny planet with rings around it, right there in his bedroom! But it seems that BUILDING a planet is the easy bit; taking care of it is a different thing altogether. Over time, Orson realises that his planet needs to be free and that sometimes you have to let go of the things that you love the most …

This is a quirky story that will appeal to the dreamers as Orson realises his dream after a lot of reading and research. Those with an innate need to invent and make will empathise with Orson’s need as well as his dilemma when he realises what he must do.  But there is a deeper message here. When Orson tries to keep his planet happy by taking it to the movies but it doesn’t respond, he undertakes even more reading to find out what it really needed – thereby posing a big question for the reader.  What DOES our planet need to keep it happy?  What can we do to make sure that it is?  

With its deceptively simple text and storyline and charming pictures, this book has the potential to spark an important investigation into all aspects of the environment and its sustainability.

Clever Trevor’s Stupendous Inventions

Clever Trevor's Stupendous Inventions

Clever Trevor’s Stupendous Inventions

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Clever Trevor’s Stupendous Inventions

Andrew Weldon

Puffin, 2016

100pp., pbk., RRP $A9.99

9780143309154

Clever Trevor’s name is not really Trevor.  It’s Stuart.  But nothing rhymes with “Stuart” and because he is so clever – he invented and built the Rabbit Brain Booster out of his dad’s old computer and a car battery – his friends have renamed him Trevor.  

But for all his cleverness Trevor was still failing at school, especially this year with Mr Schmedric.  Nothing Trevor submitted for his assignments met Mr Schmedric’s expectations – but then Mr Schmedric was one of those teachers who thought there was only one way to do anything.  He won’t accept Trevor’s inventions as acceptable solutions for assignments and bullies him mercilessly. He is the epitome of a nightmare teacher – and thankfully one that no student will ever meet.  

So you can imagine Trevor’s shock when he discovers that Mr Schmedric is not only confiscating his projects but he was selling them… and making a lot of money, which he makes sure Trevor knows about.  So Trevor and his friends hatch a plot to get their own back, but Mr Schmedric is smarter than they give him credit for.  When he threatens to make Stuart repeat his class next year, they have to come up with a new plan…

This is another very funny book-length cartoon from the talented Andrew Weldon.  We first met Clever Trevor as a friend of Steven, The Kid with the Amazing Head,  and now he comes into his own.  It is an engaging tale which brings up all sorts of issues about the ethical use of information and ideas as well as the concept of power.  Can authority be misused?  Is it possible for the underdog to win? Can brains overcome brawn?

Younger readers, particularly the boys and those who are reluctant readers, will enjoy this story in its very accessible format and will be eagerly awaiting a new adventure from this talented creator. And in the meantime they can use the makerspace to create their own great invention!

The Kid with the Amazing Head

The Kid with the Amazing Head

The Kid with the Amazing Head

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Kid with the Amazing Head

Andrew Weldon

Puffin, 2016

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

9780143309161

Steven wakes up one morning to find that he can make his head do anything he wants.  He can look like other people,  He can shove a piano up his nose. He could have a hundred eyes or look like other people.  He could even turn his ears into sails to make travel faster!  

But will he use this unique ability for good or for evil?  Will be and his friends Clever Trevor and  Small Paul catch bank robbers or be bank robbers?  

Mostly, Steven uses his power to amuse and amaze but one day the friends see a Missing Persons poster for Claire Blairey, daughter of Mary Blairey who was the inventor of the very popular Hairy Mary’s Scary Fairies and that give the three boys an idea…

Andrew Weldon is a cartoonists whose work has been in many well-known newspapers and is now carried over into this new book that is going to appeal to newly-independent readers who like stories about weird and wacky characters that are an integral mix of text and illustration.  If the concept alone isn’t funny enough there is a lot more humour embedded in the cartoons as the story unfolds and this encourages the reader to pay close attention to both.

I think this will be one of those books that takes off with the Year 1-4 boys and will be in hot demand (along with Clever Trevor’s Stupendous Inventions).

There is an interview with the creator about his cartooning career on ABC Rollercoaster which may be inspirational and aspirational for those who are constantly doodling.

Tashi and the Wicked Magician

Tashi and the Wicked Magician

Tashi and the Wicked Magician

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tashi and the Wicked Magician

Anna Fienberg & Barbara Fienberg

Geoff Kelly & Kim Gamble

Allen & Unwin, 2016

96pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781760290504

The only thing that spreads faster than a cold through a primary school is the news that there is a new Tashi book out and the library has a copy!

In this new paperback addition to the series, Tashi – that magical little chap who has big adventures – features in five new stories and 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.

Originally published in hardback format in 2014, this is a timeless series that continually appeals to those newly independent readers who are stepping out into the world of fantasy.  The stories are short, the illustrations colourful and the characters are clearly good or evil.

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? 

If you want to capitalise on the fascination for Tashi,  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.

Many will be familiar with Tashi through the series screened on the ABC – they will be delighted to know they can meet him again and share his adventures in the world of print.  He even has his own website.  

LEGO: Build Your Own Adventure

LEGO: Build Your Own Adventure

LEGO: Build Your Own Adventure

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LEGO: Build Your Own Adventure – City

9780241237052

LEGO: Build Your Own Adventure – Star Wars

9780241232578

Dorling Kindersley, 2016

Kit including hbk book and LEGO pieces, RRP $A39.99

An unusual review today but one deliberately chosen to alert you to a new series of books published by Dorling Kindersley and released here through Penguin.  Given the buzzword of the moment in school libraries is ‘makerspaces’ and there are constant requests to the forums I belong to for ideas about activities that can be offered, especially those which enhance the library experience as well as the design, make, appraise process, this series offers a wide-ranging solution.

While we are all familiar with the regular box of Lego bricks and paper instructions for making what’s inside (instructions which always get damaged or lost), the instructions for these creations come in a hardcover book with the LEGO pieces in a separate container which can be opened out to form the foundation of the adventures. They are enclosed in a sturdy slipcase which makes for easy storage. The box also has a pictorial list of its contents so putting them back should be easy. 

Each comes with a mini-figure and a vehicle related to the theme – City has a fireman and a firetruck while Star Wars has a rebel pilot and Y-Wing Starfighter – and the makers are encouraged to build them from the supplied bricks following the very clear, full-colour numbered instructions.  Then, within the book there are suggestions for building further adventures using their own bricks to create their own story.  Each is divided into chapters with clear pictures of the models that could be built to enhance the telling although instructions are not given because builders might not have the precise bricks used.  For example, in City which features Ed the firefighter there are clear pictures to build the fire station environment as well as suggestions for uniform lockers, a town map and a tool bench.  Each chapter then features a cityscape with a range of related suggestions for getting the imagination and creativity into top gear.

For those new to LEGO there is a pictorial ‘glossary’ identifying terminology with examples so budding builders can hunt through their existing LEGO collection to find the sorts of pieces they will need, as well as five pre-build checks which would make a handy poster to display in the makerspace.

  1. Organise your bricks into colours and types
  2. Be creative and substitute other bricks if you don’t have the exact one in the plan
  3. Research what you want to build by finding pictures on it in books or online
  4. Have fun and if something isn’t what you thought it would be, change it to something else
  5. Make a model stable to house the creations

While each of the books in the series would be perfect for an individual LEGO fan, their appeal for the library collection is that there are plenty of ideas and opportunities for groups of builders to collaborate and negotiate to build an entire scene that could then be photographed and used as an individual story stimulus, allowing each to create and achieve at their own level.

Whether your library or school has an existing LEGO collection or is just starting to acquire one, this series is an excellent starting point to giving its place in the makerspace and the curriculum focus and purpose, not just for the thinking and building processes involved but also those essential people skills of collaborating, negotiating, making suggestions tactfully, offering feedback and being a team member.   

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

Toad Delight

Toad Delight

Toad Delight

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Toad Delight

Morris Gleitzman

Puffin, 2016

144pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9780143309239

He’s back!!!!  That ugly, poisonous, gentle-hearted cane toad Limpy is back!!!  In his fifth adventure just in time to be introduced to a whole new generation of newly independent readers who just want a light-hearted read full of fun about Australia’s public enemy #1.

After doing his usual morning rounds of saying goodbye to his relatives that have been squished flat as a placemat by cars and baked as hard as a pizza in the sun, Limpy goes to check on his cousin Goliath to try to stop him getting himself killed by threatening traffic.  But this morning Goliath is not at his normal spot in the swamp sharpening sticks to wave at cars and trucks and yelling obscenities at them –  this morning he is sitting on a mound of freshly picked waterlilies, his arm around a penguin-like creature that turns out to be a child’s backpack.  And there the trouble begins.

Goliath has fallen in love and when the owner of the backpack takes it away from him, he is so distraught and heart-broken he is determined to find ‘Penny’ again, even if it means venturing into the city.  In the meantime, Limpy has decided that the reason that humans don’t like cane toads is because they see them as greedy and mean and he is on his own quest to persuade both his relatives to change their ways and for humans to form a different perception.  So when there is an opportunity for the two of them to get to the city, albeit with a camera crew for a television show, they don’t hesitate.  What they don’t realise until it is almost too late, is that this television crew is from a culinary show specialising in unusual ingredients and their next big thing is going to be battered cane toad buttocks…

Gleitzman is a master storyteller and it is hard to grasp that the author who introduced us to the sombre story of Felix in the series Once, Now, Then and Soon is also the creator of this crazy, humorous, mad series about a cane toad with a squashed right leg (that predicts the weather) who has delighted readers since we first met him in 1999 in Toad Rage when he tried (and failed) to have cane toads become the mascots for the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney.  Since then, thousands and thousands of children have followed his madcap adventures, always pushing the good side of the species, through Toad Heaven, Toad Away and Toad Surprise. Toad Delight is just as much fun and begs to be shared aloud and read alone but not before a meal.  (Perhaps not immediately after it, either.) 

With its Olympic theme, now might be a prime opportunity to introduce new audiences to Limpy through Toad Rage and then tantalise them with Toad Delight as the next course. 

No child should complete primary school without knowing this endearing little character and his loving rellies.

 

Morris Gleitzman promotes Toad Delight in Canberra