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Unicorn Princesses (Series)

Unicorn Princesses

Unicorn Princesses

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unicorn Princesses (series)

Sunbeam’s Shine

9781681193267

Flash’s Dash

9781681193304

Emily Bliss

Bloomsbury, 2017

128pp., pbk., RRP $A9.99

Unicorns are Cressida Jenkins’s favourite thing so when she meets one in the woods behind her house, one who needs her help and invites her to the Rainbow Realm, her greatest wish comes true.  

In Sunbeam’s Shine a blundering wizard-lizard casts a spell that accidentally robs Princess Sunbeam of her magic yellow sapphire. Without it, she loses her powers–the ability to create light and heat. The only way to reverse the spell is for a human girl who believes in unicorns to find the yellow sapphire and reunite Sunbeam with her gemstone. Sunbeam ventures into the human world and enlists Cressida’s help.

In Flash’s Dash, the annual Thunder Dash is approaching, and Princess Flash has opened the race to non-unicorns for the first time ever! Cressida is the first human girl invited to participate, but Ernest the wizard-lizard accidentally casts a spell that covers the race track in sticky, pink goo! 

Is Cressida able to help her new friends out?

Judging by requests by students and parents in forums I belong to, unicorns are the in thing of young girls and so a new series about them will be very popular, particularly one that is designed to be read independently by emerging readers or read aloud to those not quite there yet.  Illustrated and with a heroine who probably personifies the inner wishes of the reader to have their own special unicorn,  it is a light read that encourages them to find the magic in stories and they will be looking for the next additions to the series.

Tashi Storybook

Tashi Storybook

Tashi Storybook

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tashi Storybook

Anna Fienberg

Barbara Fienberg

Kim Gamble

Allen & Unwin, 2017

256pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9781760295684

If I were asked to name one of the most popular series for newly independent readers that has endured over my time as both a teacher and a teacher librarian, I would undoubtedly answer, “Tashi” and now it is time for another wave of emerging, newly-independent readers to get to know this magical little fellow who has such big adventures.

This special selection of stories includes Tashi and the Baba Yaga, Tashi and the Genie, Tashi and the Big Stinker, Tashi and the Haunted House, The Book of Spells, The Three Tasks, Tashi and the Phoenix and a brand new story Kidnapped!   Tashi, the imaginary friend of Jack, is a delightful little character who is so clever, resourceful and brave as he confronts fearsome opponents set on destroying his village and his peace, often having an ethical dilemma to come to grips with as he seeks a solution.

Not only is he a lovable character, the short stories and the amazing monochrome illustrations that break up the text are perfect for starting newly-independent readers off on their journey through novels giving them the confidence and satisfaction of reading a “chapter book” for themselves.  Tashi and his adventures have been the springboard for many a young reader over many years and this new selection will no doubt encourage many more.

Billy and the Minpins

Billy and the Minpins

Billy and the Minpins

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Billy and the Minpins

Roald Dahl

Quentin Blake

Puffin, 2017

112pp., hbk., RRP $A22.99

9780141377506

Billy’s mum is always telling what to do and what not to do to be good,  But all the things he was allowed to do were boring, and those he was forbidden were exciting.  The one thing he was not allowed to do was to never ever go outside the gate all by himself and certainly to never go into the Forest of Sins  which he could see from the loungeroom window.    His mother painted a fearsome picture of the beasts that lived there – Whangdoodles, Hornswogglers, Snozzwanglers, Vernicious Knids and most terrifying of all, the Terrible Bloodsuckling Toothpluckling Stonechuckling Spittler- and told him that while many went in, none came out.

Billy figured this was just mother-talk to keep him from breaking the rules so when one day The Devil whispered in his ear, he could resist no longer and out the window he climbed, through the gate he went and into the forest he disappeared…

Roald Dahl is  master storyteller and he loved to write stories for children that made them not only the heroes but also in defiance of the adults in their lives, so this is Dahl at his best.  While not as well known as some of his other works, it is nevertheless just as gripping and intriguing and engaging as the others.  This new edition is the first time that Quentin Blake has done the illustrations for it in his iconic style and as usual he has brought Dahl’s imagination and words to life.  They are liberally scattered throughout the text, breaking up both the words and the tension so that this is a perfect version for the newly-independent reader venturing into the world of “chapter books’ while, at the same time, introducing fans to a not-so-familiar story.

To me, the perfect novel is one I can hear and see myself reading to my students and just as The BFG captured me from the get-go so did this.  This needs to be on your read-aloud list for 2018.  

Swan Lake

Swan Lake

Swan Lake

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Swan Lake 

Anne Spudvilas

Allen & Unwin, 2017

48pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9781743318454

Over 140 years ago, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky brought a story about first love, betrayal, loss, and good versus evil to life through a musical score he called Swan Lake. and on March 4 1877 through the choreography of Julius Reisinger and a few years later that of Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov that music was interpreted through dance, laying the foundations of one of the most loved and enduring of the classical ballets.

Now, in 2017, it has been reinterpreted through the stunning artwork of Anne Spudvilas.   

With a synopsis of each act to explain what the reader is going to experience, the story unfolds in pictures that echo the dark, hazy, haunting mood that permeates the story – the lake at midnight, the malevolence afoot at the Grand Ball,  the storm that accompanied Siegfried’s battle with the Sorcerer and the final tragic ending. Dramatic in their composition and demonstrating how many shades of grey there really are, Spudvilas has captured the essential elements of the story while also portraying the atmosphere that the music and choreography bring to the experience.

For those who are unfamiliar with Swan Lake as a ballet it is a complete sensual experience in itself; for those like me (and Spudvilas) who have been entranced with it since childhood, it is yet another layer adding to the wonder and love of the original. 

Definitely one to add to the collection for a range of reasons – at its basic level it is the story behind a classic ballet and its  interpretation in pictures;  but at a deeper level there is so much to explore and interpret such as  the creation of mood through a monochromatic scheme; the use of imagery and colour to identify emotions or portent…

While the long-ago LP record cover that took me into a lifelong love of ballet in general and Swan Lake in particular has disappeared forever, this new interpretation will be a suitable substitute and will join the other members of my treasured collection that brings back such happy memories. And even though I know I will only ever be Odette in my dreams maybe it will spark a dream for my granddaughters!

Watch this for in the 2018 awards lists…

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.

A Miscellany of Magical Beasts

A Miscellany of Magical Beasts

A Miscellany of Magical Beasts

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Miscellany of Magical Beasts

Simon Holland

Various illustrators

Bloomsbury, 2016

48pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9781408881958

Long before J.K. Rowling introduced us to basilisks, blast-ended skrewts and bow-truckles, literature was alive with fantastic creatures stretching way back into the mythology of ancient civilisations.  “Mythology is a place where we can meet all kinds of beings, from human-like spirits to hybrids formed from two or more different animals.”

From giants to griffins, Cerberus to Pegasus this luxuriously illustrated book introduces  a menagerie of sixteen fantastic creatures and explains their origins and their powers.  With the illustrations being done by a variety of artists and a myriad of techniques used, this is a lavish visual feast that has the reader delving into each creature’s story and learning the background of those things that inhabit so many favourite books and films and may even take them on a journey through the mythologies of storytellers, perhaps even investigate why they populate history in the way they do. 

This is a must-have in any school library collection to satisfy the fascination with fantasy and those which inhabit that world that shows no signs of abating.

 

Gris Grimly’s Tales from the Brothers Grimm

Gris Grimly's Tales from the Brothers Grimm

Gris Grimly’s Tales from the Brothers Grimm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gris Grimly’s Tales from the Brothers Grimm

Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, Margaret Hunt

Gris Grimly

Balzer & Bray, 2016

288pp., hbk., RRP $A14.99

9780062352354

Way back when, fairy tales involving all sorts of terrifying, evil creatures that were all eventually defeated by the powers of good were told to children as a way of exhorting them to make the right choices and stay on the straight and narrow.  

In 1812 German brothers Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm began gathering and publishing the tales in a collection that eventually spanned seven volumes.  Right from the beginning there was criticism of their content because even though they were marketed as ‘children’s tales’ they were deemed too gruesome for children and changes were made so that some of the scarier elements were softened, such as making the wicked mothers of Snow White and Hansel and Gretel in stepmothers (an image which modern stepmothers still battle.) Over the years, more and more changes have been made with the myriad of interpretations and reprints until we have the more acceptable versions we have today.

But in this collection Gris Grimly, (an apt name) has faithfully reproduced the original text of forty one tales, some familiar and some not-so, and adorned them with his own inimitable artwork. “The result is a Grimm collection unlike any other, set in a world that is whimsically sinister, darkly vivid, and completely unforgettable.”

This is probably not a collection  that you would pick up and read to a Kindy kid as an introduction to fairy tales or a before-the-bell time-filler but it could be one to give a slightly older child who is craving the horror stories being read by older siblings or peers. It might also be the collection that you share if you are doing a comparison of versions of the same tale and how they have changed or been changed or if you are investigating childhood of different eras and want to look at the literature of the times and the purpose for it.  

Scary for some, sweet for others.

The Gobbledygook and the Scribbledynoodle

The Gobbledygook and the Scribbledynoodle

The Gobbledygook and the Scribbledynoodle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Gobbledygook and the Scribbledynoodle

Justin Clarke & Arthur Baysting

Tom Jellett

Penguin Viking, 2016

32pp., hbk. RRP $A19.99

 

Look! Look! It’s the Gobbledygook!
He’s reading his favourite mon-story book.

Comfortable in the library and using his best book-reading manners that he learned in The Gobbledygook is Eating a Book, the Gobbledygook is enjoying exploring his favourite book, whispering the quiet words, shouting the loud ones and making up those he doesn’t know (just like real-life early readers).  But when one of the monsters jumps right out of the book and begins to scribble all over the books the Gobbledygook is very distressed. While the Scribbledynoodle takes notice when it is told that it should not draw on the books, it then takes to drawing on everything else in the library – the walls, the shelves, even the librarian – until the Gobbledygook and his friend escort it outside.  And there it teaches them that there are pictures in many more places than a book. Clouds, rainbows, puddles and snail trails all have their own kind of pictorial magic with the day (and the story) ending in peeking ‘at the pictures we dream in our sleep.”

This is a wonderful romp in rhyme for young readers who will delight in its tongue-twisting words, fast pace, crazy ideas and bright, colourful pictures.  Even though the Gobbledygook is a monster with big teeth and even bigger feet, he’s not one that will scare them and you can just hear the oohs and ahs as they see the destruction that the Scribbledynoodle causes.  Even though they are young THEY know better and will delight in telling the adult reader so.  But they will be pleased that instead of the Scribbledynoodle being in BIG trouble, it gets redirected and through the kindness of the Gobbledygook and his friend, it not only makes new friends but shows them important things too.  The children will be on their way outside to see if they can see an elephant’s bum in the clouds! But they will also look at the colours, shapes and patterns in nature with new eyes, perhaps getting inspiration for their own drawings.

This is “a magnificent, magical, colourful doodle of a day in the life of a Scribbledynoodle”. which will go from first-read to favourite very quickly!

 

Wormwood Mire

Wormwood Mire

Wormwood Mire

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wormwood Mire: A Stella Montgomery Intrigue

Judith Rossell

ABC Books, 2016

288pp., hbk., RRP $A22.99

9780733333019

 

Stella Montgomery is in disgrace.  After being missing for two nights and returning covered in mud and dressed as a boy after the adventures described in Withering-By-Sea her aunts Deliverance, Temperance and Condolence have packed her off to join her cousins Strideforth and Hortense and their governess at the family home of Wormwood Mire.  Now she is alone on a long, lonely train journey rattling along towards an unknown, ancient stately home once owned by Wilberforce Montgomery, the epitome of the eccentric Englishman of the late Victorian era who travelled the world collecting all sorts of plant and animal specimens and filling his home and its grounds with them, dead and alive.

With just A Garden of Lilies, Improving Titles for Young Minds, a book of doom and gloom and depressing moralistic statements for company, nevertheless Stella is not daunted because surely nothing could be worse than the weeks of icy weather, cold porridge, endless boring lessons, and her aunts’ disdain and distaste that she has just endured. Even though she imagines Strideforth, Hortense and a strict governess to be just waiting for her to make a mistake, Stella has with her a stolen photo of a mother pushing a pram with two toddlers in it and the inscription “P, S & L’ on the back.  She is sure that P is for Patience, her mother, and S is for herself, and imagines L to be for an unknown sister named Letty.  So despite everything, she is somehow looking forward to this trip because she is hoping to discover who (or what) she is. Even though strange things begin to happen immediately when she ventures into the mysterious Spindleweed Sweetshop hoping to get something for her empty tummy while she waits to be taken to Wormwood Mire, she draws on Letty for strength and courage and ventures forth with determination.

Judith Rossell is a master of  building intrigue, mystery and suspense through her compelling descriptive writing that takes the reader right into the setting of an ancient, deserted English pile with multitudes of empty, dusty rooms, clanking pipes, secret tunnels and overgrown gardens where who knows what dwells.  Luckily for Stella Strideforth, Hortense and the governess Miss Araminter are friendly and as curious as she is but Jem and his reclusive grandparents with their warnings of dire, mysterious happenings in the past and their reaction to Stella make for another gripping episode that keeps the reader enthralled. Pet mollymawks and ermines, peacocks that split the night with their raucous shriek, a giant fish with razor teeth that seems to frighten creatures to stone and a tower-top study full of a secret collection of dangerous creatures and plants suck you in like a monster Venus flytrap and the outside world ceases to exist.

Like Withering-By-Sea, this one is printed in that dark green favoured by the Victorians and the monochromatic illustrations in the same tones all add to the atmosphere that suggests that more timid readers might like to read this in daylight.  

Withering-By-Sea won a host of awards –Winner, Indie Award, Children’s and YA, 2015; Winner, ABIA Book of the Year for Older Children, 2015; Winner, Davitt Award, Best Children’s Crime Novel, 2015; Honour Book, CBCA Book of the Year, Younger Readers, 2015; Shortlisted, Aurealis Awards, Children’s Book, 2014;; Shortlisted, Prime Minister’s Literary Awards, 2015 and I predict this one will be just as successful and popular.  

But if you will excuse me, I need to read just one more chapter!

BTW – HarperCollins are hosting a virtual excursion called Cautionary Tales with Judith Rossell on Tuesday October 18 11.30-12.15 AEDT  for students in Years 4-6.  

The Great Sock Secret

The Great Sock Secret

The Great Sock Secret

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Great Sock Secret

Susan Whelan

Gwyneth Jones

EK Books, 2016

32pp., hbk.,  RRP $A19.99

9781925335248

It is one of the great mysteries of our times.  Ever since washing machines were automated and readily available, pairs of socks have been forever separated, never to meet their match again.  And Sarah’s house is no different – there is a basket full of odd socks and her mum is on a mission to find their partners.

But Sarah knows where they are – the fairy families that live in her house are masters at repurposing them for all sorts of fun and games – and she is desperate that her mother not discover the truth.  She even suggests that they take Max the puppy for a walk instead but her mother is not to be deterred or distracted and so the great sock hunt begins.  However, even though she searches high and low, in cupboards, behind doors, in the bathroom, under the furniture, and in brother Thomas’s bedroom, her mother’s eyes are not as sharp as Sarah’s and she does not see what is really happening with the socks.  But when she is satisfied with the two she does find Sarah breathes a sigh of relief  – until her mother suggests that they now start searching for lost pens…

This is an utterly charming story from the team that created the outstanding Don’t Think About Purple Elephants that reminded me of The Borrowers by Mary Norton (and which would be a great read-together serial as a follow-on.)  Like Sarah, the reader has to have sharp eyes to find what has happened to the socks because so much of the story is in the wonderful illustrations – a trait of perfect picture books in my opinion.  

Young children will take great delight in seeing what adults can’t as they try to spot all the fairies as well as suggesting what else they might use the socks for.  Maybe that is where all the missing socks in their homes have disappeared to – watch them go searching but don’t let them tell!

Miss 5 loved this – we read it over and over during a recent visit and there was something new to discover each time! And yes, The Borrowers will be the next family serial.