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Amelia Chamelia and the Birthday Party

Amelia Chamelia and the Birthday Party

Amelia Chamelia and the Birthday Party

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amelia Chamelia and the Birthday Party

Laura Sieveking

Alyssa Bermudez

Puffin Books, 2019

96pp., pbk., RRP $A9.99

There is not much that is more exciting that planning your 8th birthday party because at last you are old enough to have a say in everything. And so that’s what Amelia Chamelia is doing – choosing invitations, making decorations, sorting out costumes, making party bags.  Whatever is required for the best party ever, Amelia is making sure she has it.  The only dark cloud on the horizon is that she has to invite her twin cousins Danny and Andy and she knows they are going to be trouble.  And sure enough they are…

But Amelia has a secret power. A power that nobody else knows about. When she is furious or frightened, she can change colour. Her toes tingle, her knees tremble, her skin prickles, her nose tickles, her breath quickens and then with a hiccup she changes colour to blend in with the background, just like a chameleon.

This is the first in a new series for newly independent readers, particularly girls, who are looking for something that focuses on familiar events but which has a special twist in the tale.  Short chapters, a larger font and plentiful illustrations support the reader in consolidating their skills while offering a well-written story that engages and entertains.  Other titles are Amelia Chamelia and the Gelato Surprise, Amelia Chamelia and the School Play, and Amelia Chamelia and the Farm Adventure.  The first two are out now, just in time for the back-to-school excitement, the other two will be available in early April, 2019.

I think this is a series that will appeal to Miss 7 who is already in the throes of planning her 8th birthday, even though it is still two months away! Let’s hope she doesn’t have any evil twins to invite because I’m pretty sure she can’t change colour!

Emily Green’s Garden

Emily Green's Garden

Emily Green’s Garden

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Emily Green’s Garden

Penny Harrison

Megan Forward

New Frontier, 2018

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

 9781925594249

Emily Green lives in a perfectly lovely house, in a perfectly lovely street where people are always bustling, hurried and hustling, too busy to talk to each other or relax and pass the time of day. 

Like the others in the street, each day Emily and her parents scrub and dust and polish until their whole house sparkles from top to bottom, so all the houses are nice and neat, front porches are spic-and-span and the street is shipshape. 

But secretly, Emily would like to explore and play and create and make some mess, so one day when she catches a glimpse of something green on the pavement, she has an idea.  After a visit the library to learn more about plants, she creates something magical inside her home but when it starts to get out of hand, and her parents decide the garden has to go, Emily know she just needs to share it with others…

Once again, as in The Art Garden, Penny Harrison has used the joy of plants as the core of this new book so beautifully illustrated by Megan Forward who illustrated one of my all-time favourite Christmas books,  All I Want for Christmas is Rain. The ingenuity of this story is that Emily has to grow everything indoors to start with, thus showing even the apartment-dwellers amongst our students that is possible to bring a little of the outside indoors, perhaps even inspiring them to have a go, themselves.

After spotting the seedling growing in the crack in the footpath, Emily goes to the library to find out more about plants so the obvious question to ask is, “What did she find out about growing plants?” This should start an investigation into the needs, characteristics, habits and importance of plants and perhaps even spark some practical experiments as well.

One to share and explore as the autumn planting season looms… plenty of time to prepare.

 

47 Degrees

47 Degrees

47 Degrees

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

47 Degrees

Justin D’Ath

Puffin, 2019

256pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9780143789079

Saturday, February 7, 2009 and Victoria wakes to a weather forecast of 47 degrees in Melbourne with strengthening northerly winds, part of the pattern of the previous few days as a heatwave crawls across the state. In the tiny community of Flowerdale,  Zeelie’s dad is enacting the family’s bushfire survival plan to stay and defend their home even though her mum and young brother are in the Emergency Department of a Melbourne hospital because Lachy has fallen off Zeelie’s horse Rimu.

Zeelie’s not sure her dad has made the right decision but even though there is a lot of smoke in the air her dad is convinced that his precautions are just that – precautions, and wherever the fire is, they will be safe. But when Zeelie goes next door to find Atticus, the old dog they are minding for absent neighbours who has wandered home and discovers small fires already started by embers, her fear rises particularly for the welfare of her horse Rimu. And when the generator fails and there is no longer electricity for the water pumps, it is clearly time to leave… but what about Mum and Lachy and Rimu?

Based solidly on his own experiences during those Black Saturday bushfires, Justin D’Ath has woven a tale that could be the story of any one of our students or children who has experienced the very real horror of bushfires.  At a time when adults are frantically busy trying to keep everyone and everything safe, and reassuring their children with what they want them to hear, there is not time to put themselves in their child’s shoes and see the events through their eyes.  When her dad asks her to pack suitcases, Zeelie packs her mum’s wedding dress and evening gowns rather than the more practical things;  she is angry at her mum because she has taken the vehicle with the towbar because she didn’t have enough petrol in hers so Rimu will be left to his own devices … kids focus on the details while the adults are dealing with the big picture and providing an insight into the child’s thinking and fears is what D’Ath has done so skilfully. Because he experienced many of the events that Zeelie does, the story has a unique authenticity and the reader feels the heat, smells the smoke, visualises the flames and empathises with the fear as Zeelie and her dad try all sorts of routes to get to Melbourne, only to be turned back towards the danger because even greater danger lies ahead.  D’Ath deals with the less-than-happy parts sensitively, acknowledging rather than ignoring them, and helping readers deal with the fact that not all things have a sugar-coated happy ending.  

As the 10th anniversary of one of this country’s greatest natural disasters when  173 people died and over 2000 homes were destroyed approaches, this is not only account of the an event that had an impact well beyond those who were caught up in it but also an insight into the what-did-happens and the what-ifs of those who have experienced similar events, providing us with an inkling of the trauma that many of our students might have faced and are still dealing with, critical as the milestone memory will generate a lot of media that could bring a wave of flashbacks and other psychological issues.

However, it is also a story of hope for them because 10 years on Justin is still able to write stories for them despite losing everything himself, and while the immediate future might be bleak, unknown and scary there is clear air coming and because Australians step up in an extraordinary way at these times, they will be OK. 

 

Eva’s Imagination

Eva's Imagination

Eva’s Imagination

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eva’s Imagination

Wendy Shurety

Karen Erasmus

New Frontier, 2018 

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

 9781925594232

“Mum, I’m bored!” announces Eva as she throws herself onto the carpet.

But when her mum suggests she uses her imagination, Eva has no idea what that is, although her mum assures her she will know when she finds it.  So Eva pulls on her boots, gathers some snacks, a stick and her faithful dog Chops and sets out to find it.  

On her journey she wanders through a narrow valley, explores a pine forest while a lonely cuckoo calls, climbs up a steep mountainside while the wind whistles, pausing to rest at the top before continuing on her adventure in the hunt for her imagination.  Dark caves with scary creatures, bridges to rainforests full of ferns and vines and even a snake… on and on the search goes until she stumbles across a pile of books and seeks refuge on Mum’s knee for a story, convinced she can’t find her imagination anywhere!

As the excitement of Christmas and holidays pass but the hot days linger, every mum in Australia has heard the words, “I’m bored.”  And probably responded in the same ways as Eva’s mum.  Being bored is an essential part of life for not only does it mean we have to draw on our inner selves for the entertainment we seem to crave, but it also means we need to draw on our imaginations, our creativity, and wander into the world of “what if?”  It helps us pose problems and solve them, taking us out of the here and now and into the realm of possibility, daydreams and wonder, through valleys, up mountains and into scary caves.  Rather than fearing being bored (or having our kids be bored), we should welcome and embrace it as  the portal to the unknown. Who knows what we will find!

This is a story that may mean children never look at their own homes in quite the same way again! Adventures can be anywhere and everywhere with just a little imagination -even if you don’t know you have one!

Pippa’s Island: Puppy Pandemonium

Pippa's Island: Puppy Pandemonium

Pippa’s Island: Puppy Pandemonium

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pippa’s Island: Puppy Pandemonium

Belinda Murrell

Random House, 2018

240pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9780143793267

Life could hardly be more different for Pippa.  From a seemingly happy family living in a Victorian terrace house in London to a caravan in her grandparents’ backyard on a tropical island off the Australian coast.  Forced to make changes when her husband decided to work in Switzerland without them, Pippa’s mother has uprooted the family to a totally new environment where she is now running the increasingly popular Beach Shack Cafe created from an old, abandoned boat shed – a huge contrast to being a stockbroker in London!.

But the end of caravan life is in sight as Pippa’s mum finally has enough money to get the apartment finished – the children have even given up their pocket money to add a few more dollars to the pot. So when Pippa is overcome by a wave of unexpected jealousy because she is still wearing her daggy English school swimmers and doesn’t have a bike to go to other parts of the island with her friends, she decides to turn the negative feelings into a positive, particularly when she sees a beautiful pair of swimmers on sale.  And so Pippa’s Perfect Pooch Pampering is born.  Offering dog-walking, pampering and pooper-scoopering, what could possibly go wrong?

As this review is published, Miss Now 12 will be on her way to the Australian Scout Jamboree, on a bus for 15 hours with electronic devices banned.  But no doubt she will have her nose buried in this latest episode in her favourite series which she loves because the story “sounds just like me and my friends and the things we do.”  

For those who are new to the series, they don’t have to have read the others first (although it would be time well spent) because Murrell introduces Pippa, her family and friends and circumstances in an easy-to-read introduction meaning each episode is a stand-alone.  With its theme of just appreciating the pleasures found in friendships and simple things, and reflecting the lives of regular kids, even those who don’t live on a tropical island,  this is a glorious series for girls who are independent readers but who are not quite ready or interested in the contemporary realistic fiction that features in many stories for young adults. 

Even though she is a year older than when I first introduced her to Pippa and her friends, I know Miss 12 will be delighted to have them accompany her on that long bus trip! 

 

Bigger Than Yesterday, Smaller Than Tomorrow

Bigger Than Yesterday, Smaller Than Tomorrow

Bigger Than Yesterday, Smaller Than Tomorrow

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bigger Than Yesterday, Smaller Than Tomorrow

Robert Vescio

Kathy Creamer

Little Pink Dog Books. 2018

32pp., hbk.,  RRP $A24.95

9780994626950

Summer holidays are here and Dad and Hannah are going camping,  As they are leaving, Mum, who is staying home to look after the baby, gives Hannah her scarf although Hannah is sure she won’t need it because the fire will keep her warm and she is “bigger than yesterday.”

This becomes her mantra as the day passes, they find the perfect spot and set up camp.  But as night falls and they toast marshmallows, suddenly Hannah starts to feel “smaller than tomorrow”.  Will she manage without her mum through the night?

This is a charming story for young readers who may be facing their first outdoor experience these summer holidays.  While it is very exciting it can be daunting once the sun sets and there are new sounds and smells, especially for those with an imagination, so it’s OK to be a little afraid as you start to become independent. Even though Dad does as much as he can to help Hannah feel confident and comfortable, sometimes something a little extra is needed.  The twist at the end is not only delightful, but also a great idea. 

With a gentle storyline, complemented by soft watercolour illustrations, this is something special to share with little ones before they begin this new adventure, one that is almost a rite of passage in an Australian childhood.   

Hush Say the Stars

Hush Say the Stars

Hush Say the Stars

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hush Say the Stars

Margaret Spurling

Mandy Foot

Little Book Press, 2018

32pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9780648115663

Hush, say the stars, as they shine through the night.

All is still, all is quiet, sleep tight…

As night falls and the stars peek through, the farm slowly quietens as the animals bed themselves down for the night.  And so it is for the little boy as he snuggles down with his pet bunny into his cot.  It is time for the animals to sleep and time for him to.

Getting little ones to sleep at night can be tricky, particularly as the days lengthen and being awake and about is tempting, but this lullaby-like story is the perfect finale of the three stories that should make up the nightly bedtime reading routine.  With illustrations as soft as the text and the message, it is perfect for settling even the most awake child as they learn that everything needs to sleep and there is a ritual that is followed everywhere, even for the animals.  Even children living in the city could talk about the creatures that they know that are settling in for the night, as the stars shine over the country regardless of whether it’s rural or urban – they just see different things as they do. 

With its soft language and soporific rhyme, this is a must-have for any parent with a young toddler.  Pop it in their Christmas stocking – they will thank you for it, night after night.

 

 

Let’s Go Strolling

Let’s Go Strolling

Let’s Go Strolling

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let’s Go Strolling

Katrina Germein

Danny Snell

Little Book Press, 2018

32pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9780648115687

Taking a toddler for a walk in a stroller on a sunny day is one of life’s more pleasant and relaxing experiences, especially if it’s a welcome break in a hectic daily routine.  Enjoying the activity, taking notice of nature and the amazing things that can be seen as you stroll rather than rush, sitting in the park, meeting friends with their toddlers – it all goes to making an enjoyable experience for parent and child. 

So this lovely book for preschoolers that focuses on this simple activity and brings it to life is a delight to share, as our soon-to-be readers not only relate to the events but are also encouraged to think more about what they see on their daily walk.  Perhaps it is an opportunity for parent and child to take a lead from Germein’s text and Snell’s illustrations and create their own book about their daily walk.  A few pages that have the repetitive text of “On our walk we saw…” and a photo or drawing will not only become a family favourite but also help the child understand the power they have over words – saying them, writing them and reading them.

This book has been produced under the umbrella of Raising Literacy Australia, and with such experienced authors and illustrators on board, it certainly helps meet the mission and aims of that charity. It’s familiar setting and activity, its simple rhythmic language accompanied by illustrations that enable the young reader to predict the text, and the potential for follow-up are all part of those essential elements that lay the foundations for mastery of print. 

 

Why I Love Summer

Why I Love Summer

Why I Love Summer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why I Love Summer

Michael Wagner

Tom Jellett

Puffin, 2018

32pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

9780143783749

There are four seasons in a year, and they’re all awesome, but only one of them gets to be summer!

Summer in Australia is unique for many reasons, not the least of which is that is very much a family time and this story, as bright as the season it’s about, celebrates this.  With his family involved in all sorts of activities – so many of them familiar to the young readers who will enjoy this – it’s an opportunity to not only get excited about all the outdoor free fun that summer offers, but also for the adult reader to reminisce about happy childhood memories from their own summers. Perhaps even recreate them. 

Backyard cricket, wheelbarrow races, cooling off under the sprinkler, sharing fun with friends at the local swimming pool, ice-cream o’clock. extended bedtimes as the long summer nights laze on as the barbecue smokes in the background, holidays at the beach amidst crowds of people with the same idea  – what could be more iconic than that?

Use it to kickstart an investigation into the seasons, or spend the last week of the year creating a mural of all the activities students are planning to celebrate the upcoming summer holidays.

At a time when money is often tight because of the Christmas splurge and screens seem to soak up so much time, this is the perfect book to celebrate the season and make memories to last through both winter and adulthood!

 

 

 

The First Adventures of Princess Peony

The First Adventures of Princess Peony

The First Adventures of Princess Peony

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The First Adventures of Princess Peony

Nette Hilton

Lucinda Gifford

Walker Books, 2018 

64pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

9781760650445

Once upon a time there was a dear little girl called Peony.That’s P.E.O.N.Y. And it’s me. I live in a Castle with my Dragon whose name is Totts. That’s T.O.T.T.S And that makes me a Princess if you really want to know.

This afternoon Princess Peony is in her Royal Gardens practising princessy things with her pet dragon (which bears a remarkable resemblance to a dog) such as being obeyed and taking her “dragon” on very long walks.  But when her big brother (aka Prince Morgan the Troll) ventures into the game and builds a bear trap for the bears  that might escape from the local zoo, she has to draw on all her courage and resourcefulness to sort out the consequences. 

What follows is a rollicking story that will appeal to young girls who dream of being a princess themselves and dress up and pretend.  Princess Peony believes very much in this world that her imagination has created, inspiring readers to let their own imaginations roam into their own Royal World, in what is the first of a series. To help them, there is a guide to being a princess at the end, which includes a list of pre-requisites which could find their way into the Christmas stocking of any potential princess. 

The text is very dependent on the illustrations, which are all pretty in pink themselves, and so it is a book that can be a read-aloud or one that supports the newly-independent reader.  

A peek inside...

A peek inside…