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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.

The Fairy Dancers: Dancing Days

The Fairy Dancers: Dancing Days

The Fairy Dancers: Dancing Day

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Fairy Dancers: Dancing Days

Natalie Jane Prior

Cheryl Orsini

ABC Books, 2017

48pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

9780733335648

Every Saturday, with a hop, a skip, and a magical twirl, Mia, Emma and Grace (with a little help from Mia’s dachshund, Coco) put on their dancing shoes and turn into Fairy Dancers. First introduced in 2015 with The Fairy Dancers, this is the second volume which brings the three friends together in three stories perfect for young readers and aspiring ballerinas. 

Starting with a sleepover at Miss Ashleigh’s house where Emma is concerned about sleeping away from home; then a story where the girls have to dance with boys; and finally an adventure with Santa, this is a great way to build the bridge into reading longer “chapter books” independently.  Each story is short and complete in its own right and there are plenty of gentle illustrations that both illuminate and break up the text .

One for the budding ballerinas and perfect to pop in the Christmas stocking.

 

On the Night of the Shooting Star

On the Night of the Shooting Star

On the Night of the Shooting Star

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the Night of the Shooting Star

Amy Hest

Jenni Desmond

Walker Books, 2017

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

9781406377330

Bunny and Dog live on opposite sides of the fence, both literally and figuratively.  Bunny’s house is a blue square and overgrown, Dog’s is a red round and immaculate. Each  home reflects who they are in subtle but significant ways and each lifestyle is their own, yet remarkably similar.  For years they live side by side, never speaking, valuing their privacy, leading solitary lives but very lonely.  Then one clear night while out looking at the stars, they both see a shooting star…

This is a story of opposites, of differences but mostly of friendship. No matter how different from us someone might seem, we should take the opportunity to reach out and connect because the riches and rewards of friendship, even between opposites is worth it. There is scope for predicting why the two have not connected after all this time and how they feel, while also giving the children an opportunity to think about their neighbours and their relationships with them. Perhaps even explore the meaning of this popular advertisement and consider what they could do or say to make someone’s life less lonely.

Gentle, calming and a perfect bedtime story.

 

Niko Draws A Feeling

Niko Draws A Feeling

Niko Draws A Feeling

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Niko Draws A Feeling

Bob Raczka

Simone Shin

Carolrhoda Books, 2017

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

9781467798433

Like many children, Niko loved to make pictures and everywhere he went he had a packet of coloured pencils and a pad of paper.

He was inspired by so much of what he saw that he just had to draw it, and when inspiration hit it felt like a window opening in his brain. An idea would flit through the open window like a butterfly, flutter down to his stomach, then along his arm and fingers to his pencils where it would escape onto his paper in a whirlwind of colour,

But in a world of what-is no one understood his pictures when he shared them.  They could not see the ice cream truck, the sun, or the robin’s nest because Nico had drawn the feelings that he felt – the ring-a-ling of the bell of the icecream truck, the warmth of the sun on his father’s face, the hard work of the mother robin making her nest- and so his pictures were too abstract to their rooted-in-reality viewers. This inability to understand his interpretations of his world had an impact on Niko and that night he drew a picture of his feelings, taping it to the back of his door where it wouldn’t be seen.

But even though he viewed the world through different eyes he was undaunted and as he set off with his paper and pencils the next day, a removalist van pulled in next door.  Niko’s world was about to change… he meets someone who feels the butterfly land on her fingers when she sees his pictures.

In the late 70s just as I was beginning my teaching career and finding my feet in the classroom, Harry Chapin released a song that had a profound effect on me and my teaching, helping me understand the individuality of people and that their differences should be not only accepted but celebrated.  And all those memories and lyrics came flooding back from 40 years ago as soon as I started reading Niko Draws A Feeling.  This is a story that acknowledges that being different can be difficult, that admires the resilience of those who accept themselves for who they are regardless, and that affirms that no matter how outside-the-square we are there are others like us and if we are lucky our path through life will find them.

Raczka has written a story that should have an impact on both adults and children and perhaps even on teachers, in the way Flowers Are Red had on me. Cleverly, Simone Shin’s illustrations bridge the world of Niko and those who look at his drawings.  They are clearly recognisable for what they are but their depiction uses media and techniques which step well away from photographic representations or the realistic style we are familiar with.

A book that will change the reader. If I were to draw my feelings about it, the page would be filled with red hearts.

 

Meeka

Meeka

Meeka

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meeka

Suzanne Barton

Anil Tortop

Bluebell Books, 2017

32pp., hbk., RRP $A22.99

9780648099307

There are lots of tantalising tastes and smells at the community food markets – crusty French bread, buttery corn on the cob, fluffy, puffy fairy floss, peanuts, walnuts, all kinds of nutty nuts… but the most tantalising of all is dad’s spicy, dicey stew. Made with spices, herbs, almonds, apricots, lemons and some other secret ingredients, it not only draws in the market-goers but also a cute little bird called Meeka who samples it every day and sings with delight.

But Meeka also likes to sample all the goodies from the other stalls and is friendly with all the other cooks and sellers so when Meeka goes missing, there is great consternation.  Finally found with a bulging tummy and feeling very sick from eating all the non-bird food, Meeka is placed in one of the tagines used for the spicy, dicey stew to recover and then disaster happens…

New author Suzanne Barton crowd-funded this charming story that gently suggests that we really should not feed our pets and wildlife human food because it is not the best for them and that Mother Nature really has a better diet for them.  Anil Tortop’s gentle pastel illustrations bring the busyness of the markets to life in a series of vignettes that tell as much of the story as the text.  Certainly there are two crucial pictures that are not referred to in the words on which the story hangs, and which demonstrate the links between words and pictures in quality picture books.

Young children will enjoy this story – you can hear them gasp when they see what the little girl does with Meeka and encourage their predictions of Meeka’s fate and they will like the rhythm and rhyme of the food words.  They can share their favourite foods and maybe taste each other’s and then investigate why it is not a good idea to indulge our pets and wildlife as they discover just what they should be eating.

Debut story, debut author but hopefully not the first-and-only.

Finn and Puss

Finn and Puss

Finn and Puss

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finn and Puss

Robert Vescio

Melissa Mackie

EK Books, 2017

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

9781925335507

When Finn, a lonely little boy, finds a lost cat it would seem their problems are solved.  Finn has a friend and the cat has a home. 

But then Finn spots a poster advertising the cat as lost … Will he return it or is their friendship more important to him?

Told in a few words but with exquisite illustrations that are as gentle as the story but rich in emotion and detail, this  is a story which explores the connections between a child and a pet and how hard it can be to do the right thing.  But sometimes that right thing can have its own reward.

Charming.

The Beast of Hushing Wood

The Beast of Hushing Wood

The Beast of Hushing Wood

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Beast of Hushing Wood

Gabrielle Wang

Puffin, 2017

192pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9780143309178

For the close-knit residents of Dell Hollow, Hushing Wood is dark and sinister but for nearly-12 year old Ziggy it wraps itself around the town like a sleeping cat, protecting it from the outside world – not that there are any towns or villages anywhere nearby  Lately though, since her dad left because no matter how long they live there, “foreigners” are still outsiders,  its reputation seems to be coming true as strange things seem to be happening, not the least of which is the recurring nightmare that Ziggy has that has convinced her she is going to drown on her 12th birthday. A place that has offered her solace and comfort now seems menacing and unfamiliar.

So when Raffi Tazi begins at the school, the first new student there ever, not only is he an outsider but he has black wavy hair and skin the colour of burned butter, very different from the Dell Hollow norm of fair skin and light hair.  And instead of wearing his shirt tucked into his belted pants, he wears a loose white cotton shirt that hangs over baggy trousers.  Fodder indeed for the narrow minds of the town, particularly class bully Harry Arnold. So is he friend or foe? How does his arrival coincide with the strange happenings and appearances that Ziggy experiences?

A mixture of mystery, magic, and adventure this is an imaginative tale that will appeal to  independent upper primary readers who are starting to be aware of themselves and their place in the world and perhaps experiencing a little insecurity at the changes happening within and without.  Even Grandpa who has been Ziggy’s rock for so long can not help as he is sliding into dementia and although there is a hint that Hushing Wood used to be different, his memories are muddled and so Ziggy must find her own path to understanding and acceptance .

An intriguing read that will resonate long after the last page is read.

 

 

 

Perfectly Norman

Perfectly Norman

Perfectly Norman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Perfectly Norman

Tom Percival

Bloomsbury, 2017

32pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

9781408880982

Norman had always been perfectly normal. That was until the day he grew a pair of wings! 

He had imagined growing taller or even growing a beard like his dad, but not growing  a pair of wings!

Norman is very surprised to have wings suddenly – and he has the most fun ever trying them out high in the sky. But then he has to go in for dinner. What will his parents think? What will everyone else think? Norman feels the safest plan is to cover his wings with a big coat.

But hiding the thing that makes you different can prove tricky and upsetting. The coat became a burden, even an embarrassment and Norman began to resent the wings until he realised it was the coat making him unhappy, not the wings. After all, no-one else has wings, so why him? Can he find the courage to discard the coat? What does he discover when he does?

In this poignant story about being different, Percival has set the text against striking backgrounds of various shades of grey depicting normal and dull while giving Norman bright colour and light so that his feelings of being unique are highlighted physically as well as emotionally. He has also chosen to depict a diversity of characters, each unique in their own way and each of whom accept Norman as normal, so really, what does “normal’ mean?

 For a wonderful part of their lives, children don’t see difference and they just love who they are but then awareness starts to develop and they start to see themselves with new and often unkind eyes.  They want nothing more than to be the same as their peers, to not stand out, to be normal and anything that makes them unique, whether it is skin colour, wearing spectacles, being an only child or growing a set of wings, becomes a burden that they would rather not carry. But the freedom when the coat is shed… 

Accepting and celebrating who we are and what we are, especially those things that make us special and unique is so important for our mental health and at last, we are starting to understand that the self-talk and messages we give ourselves as we interpret our interactions and experiences as a child can have an incredible impact on the well-being of our older selves. The more children can encounter books like Perfectly Norman and discuss them so they understand that there is no ‘normal’ or “perfect” the healthier they will be.  It is our responsibility as teacher librarians, teachers and other significant adults in their lives to make sure they meet lots of Normans and not only grow to love their own wings but to use them to fly!

 

Friday Barnes: Bitter Enemies

Friday Barnes: Bitter Enemies

Friday Barnes: Bitter Enemies

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday Barnes: Bitter Enemies

R. A. Spratt

Random House Australia, 2017

254pp., pbk., RRP $A15.99

9780143784197

Friday Barnes is the daughter of two highly-intelligent, eccentric physicists who are so disconnected from her upbringing that they called her Friday even though she was born on a Thursday.  She did have four siblings, all much older than her being born during the four-and-a-half years their mother had allocated for the task.  Friday was not scheduled and her birth was fitted in around a lecture her mother had to give in Switzerland.  Eleven years later, Friday had largely raised herself and she was happy with that.  Her greatest wish was to be unnoticed because you could do so much more that way like eating a whole block of chocolate at once without it being taken off you.    Unfortunately, it also means that you do not develop very good social skills particularly if you spend your time reading scientific tomes and educating yourself beyond the realms of anything a school could offer.

However, as well as the non-fiction her parents library consisted of, Friday had a penchant for detective novels because “being a detective allowed a person a licence to behave very eccentrically indeed” and she had honed her powers of observation and logical thought over the years.  But the time has now come for Friday to go to high school and given her parents haven’t even realised she is no longer in preschool, it was up to her to sort it.  She would have preferred not to go at all because she saw it as being all about “bullying, dodge ball and having to find a date for the prom” but the government was insistent that she do.  She tried to compromise by applying for university and passed the exam to study medicine but was knocked back on her age. 

So rejecting the idea of the Foreign Legion, the Peace Corps and being smuggled out of the country by people traffickers, after helping her ex-cop, private investigator Uncle Bernie solve a case she finds herself with the means to send herself to Highcrest Academy the best and most expensive boarding school in the whole country.  Her intention is to stay under the radar, do what she has to do and leave.  But things do not work out that way.  But right from the start, her nondescript self-imposed uniform of brown cardigans, grey t-shirts and blue jeans makes her stand out among the fashion parade that is the elite, wealthy students who also attend the school.

And so, in this the seventh episode in the series, Friday is well-known to all at the school , either having got them into trouble or out of it at some stage.  

But all is not well at Highcrest Academy because it is the start of the new academic year and Friday is not there.  She has been whisked off to a school in Switzerland by her parents leaving best friend Melanie and “boyfriend” Ian bereft and bewildered.  How will they get through the year?  

Luckily for them, Friday does turn up and all are immediately embroiled in a new adventure as the school celebrates the 150th anniversary of the birth of its founder Sebastian Dowell, and as part of the celebrations four previous principals return, each with very different ideas and plans.  

Miss 11 had this series at the top of her reading wishlist for Santa this year as she has discovered a character not too unlike herself – intelligent, quirky, and a bit different from her peers but very comfortable in her own skin, yet deep down wanting to be just like them – and is eagerly reading her way through the earlier episodes.  She will be thrilled to see #7 in her Santa Sack and know that #8 Never Fear will be out in time for those long January days.

Baabwaa and Wooliam

Baabwaa and Wooliam

Baabwaa and Wooliam

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Baabwaa and Wooliam

David Elliott

Melissa Sweet

Candlewick Press, 2017

40pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

 9780763660741

Baabwaa is a sheep who loves to knit. Wooliam is a sheep who loves to read. It sounds a bit boring, but they like it. However, one day Wooliam suggest they leave their comfortable caravan and seek an adventure. Even though they live in a field that is surrounded by a stone wall they do encounter an adventure as a  third sheep shows up -a funny-looking sheep who wears a tattered wool coat and has long, dreadfully decaying teeth. Wooliam, being well-read, recognizes their new acquaintance as the Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing! The wolf is so flattered to discover his literary reputation precedes him that he stops trying to eat Baabwaa and Wooliam. And a discovery by the sheep turns the encounter into an unexpected friendship.

This is an intriguing but interesting story for young readers that has a number of twists and turns to keep them engaged as they learn that even those considered too different, perhaps even a threat, can become a friend.  Funny, descriptive, and accompanied by illustrations that capture the personalities of both Baabwaa and Wooliam, and show the wolf in a variety of lights, this will capture young minds right from the front cover as they predict that this is not just about two sheep enjoying life and that there is trouble looming in paradise.