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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.

 

Gumnut Babies

Gumnut Babies

Gumnut Babies

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gumnut Babies

May Gibbs

HarperCollins, 2016

272pp., hbk., RRP $A39.99

9781460752555

 

One hundred years ago the first edition of May Gibbs’ iconic Gumnut Babies was published – the forerunner to her classic Snugglepot and Cuddlepie. In this stunning centenary edition which echoes the original layout, fonts, illustrations and colours, a new generation is introduced to the stories of The Gumnut Babies, the Gum Blossom Babies, The Flannel Flowers and Other Bush Babies, Boronia Babies, Wattle Babies, Nuttybub and Nittersing, and Chucklebud and Wunkydoo. 

On all the big Gumtrees there are Gumnut Babies.  Some people see them and some don’t; but they see everybody and everything.  Perhaps that’s why their eyes are so big… They are full of mischief and are always teasing the slow-going creatures; but they hurt nothing and are gentle, for they love all the worlda.

Born in 1877 in England and coming to Australia at just four years old, May Gibbs spent years observing the bush and its creatures as her family farmed in both South Australia and Western Australia and she claimed she “could draw before I could walk”.  She excelled at botanical drawing and has said, “It’s hard to tell, hard to say, I don’t know if the bush babies found me or I found the little creatures”.  The Gumnut Babies made their first appearance in 1913 as part of the illustrations for Ethel Turner’s The Magic Button and gradually the bushland fantasy world grew with the writing and publication of a number of stories, including the publication of Tales of  Snugglepot and Cuddlepie in 1918.

Gibbs was a fierce protector of the environment and these stories are guaranteed to have young readers begin to appreciate all that lives in our unique natural landscape.  Her legacy lives on through Nutcote as well as her generous gift of leaving the copyright of all her works to Northcott which provides support to those with disabilities and the Cerebral Palsy Alliance which supports the 34 000 people living with this condition in Australia alone.    

Apart from being a classic of Australian literature the May Gibbs website  offers activities and lesson plans; there is a stage production of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie currently touring the country and the State Library of NSW has an online exhibition of her works.

A fitting centenary tribute to a true Australian classic.

A century apart... Gumnut Babies then and now

A century apart… Gumnut Babies then and now

The Everything Princess Book

The Everything Princess Book

The Everything Princess Book

The Everything Princess Book

Barbara Beery

Brooke Jorden

Michele Robbins

David Miles

Rebecca Sorge

Bloomsbury, 2016

160pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9781942934653

This book is exactly what the title says – it is all to do with princesses and royalty from stories to recipes, games and activities, things to make and how to be a princess. Richly illustrated,  it begins with half a dozen traditional stories of princesses from around the world and then moves on to a section bursting with all sorts of recipes fir for a secret garden tea party, a cottage picnic and a pink princess party .  There are tips for serving the food, correct table manners and etiquette including how to wave and curtsey and even a guide to the members of the Royal household.  In fact there is little about being a princess that is not covered.

Going through a ‘princess stage’ is almost a rite of passage for little girls, enhanced by Disney’s adaptations of many of the traditional fairy tales, and there was always a big demand for anything of this nature in the school I was in last year, particularly with those girls who were learning English as another language and who saw this as a way into the language of the playground.  This would be like a bible for them as the stories and concepts are already familiar so as well as speaking the ‘same language’ they can now read it too.

With is lavish hardcover protecting its spiral bound contents, it is attractive and would be one to recommend to grandparents looking for something special for the Christmas stocking.

The Great Dragon Bake-Off

The Great Dragon Bake-Off

The Great Dragon Bake-Off

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Great Dragon Bake-Off

Nicola O’Byrne

Bloomsbury, 2016

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

9781408839560

 

Flamie Oliver was a dragon – and especially enormous, terrifying dragon.  So enormous and terrifying, in fact, that he was invited to the Ferocious Dragon Academy, a special school for dragons who were very, very, good at being very, very bad.  But Flamie had a secret – he was very, very bad at being very, very bad BUT he was very, very, good at baking.  

He loved pastries and breads and cupcakes and cakes and was an expert at creating the most delicious treats.  He spent so much time practising and perfecting his creations that he forgot to practise his dastardly dragon skills and when the finals day he came, he was not ready.  While his classmates Heston Blowitall, Scaly Berry and Paul firewood performed their death-defying deeds, which pleased Miss Puffitup immensely, Flamie failed.  And so the only way to graduate is for Flamie to kidnap a princess and eat her!

Flamie had no problem kidnapiong the princess, but how do you eat something like that?  Which are the best flavour combinations to make her palatable? How can Flamie get out of this pickle? what did he do that means he is the star of Miss Puffitup’s Brilliant Baking Academy?

Cooking shows abound on television and while their target audience may not be the same as that for this book, nevertheless young listeners and readers will delight in the humour and understand the conundrum that Flamie has – and their parents and carers sharing the story with them will appreciate the clever play on both the names but also the inspiration, the Great British Bake-Off. While the illustrations and the dastardly deeds seem to confirm the stereotype that little ones have of dragons, it is Flamie’s difference that is at the core of the story.  Even though he keeps his passion and skills a secret at first, it is these which come to the fore and are celebrated and he and his young audience learn that it takes all kinds and it’s OK to be different.  Having the courage to be yourself is the most important trait of all.

Full of fun and colour, action and movement this is another winner from Nicola O’Byrne who also gave us the fabulous Use Your Imagination and illustrated the tender  My Little Star.  And to keep the enjoyment going there is a postcard and an activity pack to download.

 

 

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.  

Lola’s Toybox: The Patchwork Picnic

Lola's Toybox

Lola’s Toybox

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lola’s Toybox: The Patchwork Picnic

Danny Parker

Guy Shield

Hardie Grant Egmont, 2015

85pp., pbk., RRP $A12.95

9781760124366

Lola was never allowed in the shed – it was too messy and too dangerous And it had spiders.  So when her mum decides to clean it out and invites the children to choose what they want to keep, she is amazed.  Hidden under a sheet and cover in dust she discovers a very old wooden toybox marked with the word Timberfields.  But older brother Nick also wants the box and as he comes into Lola’s room to demand it, she hides inside pulling the lid down only to find it fills with light and begins to shake.  When it stops, Lola climbs out and discovers herself on a beautiful hillside and her Buddy, her learn-to-dress clown and favourite toy who had been in the box with her can talk and, with a little practise of rusty limbs, can walk and move!

Buddy knows all about this place where the toybox (now a picnic hamper) has taken them.  “The Kingdom is where toys come when they are not being played with by their children,” he tells Lola.  “And there are lots of different lands in the kingdom.”

So begins a new series from the author of Tree and Parachute that will appeal to young girls who are making the transition from structured home readers.  In each episode, Lola and Buddy face a particular problem that has Lola having to decide the best way forward for all because as the only human, only she has the logic and emotions to seek a win-win solution.  The problems that she faces in The Kingdom reflect those that the readers may face in their own world and so as Lola works her way through them, the thoughts and skills she brings to the situation can be taken on board by the reader. The series is as much about empowering the reader to be more independent as it is to tell an engaging story. In The Patchwork Picnic Lola has to resolve a dispute at the teddy bears’ picnic between the soft toys and The Plastic Prince and his army of plastic toys who while already ruling Nevercalm are determined to take over The Kingdom. But before she is trusted she has to pass a test…. 

Described by the publisher as “imaginative fantasy”, there are three others in the series – On the Story Sea, The Treasure Trove and The Plastic Palace.  All will offer young girls a good solid read that they will enjoy.