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Tallulah’s Nutcracker

Tallulah's Nutcracker

Tallulah’s Nutcracker

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tallulah’s Nutcracker

Marilyn Singer

Alexandra Boiger

Clarion Books, 2013

48pp., hbk., RRP $A33.99

9780547845579

Christmas time means it is time for the popular perennial performance of Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker based on the original story by E. T. A. Hoffman and budding ballerina Tallulah is very excited as she has won a role as one of the mice.  She is convinced she will be the best mouse ever and practises very diligently, turning down social invitations and inviting everyone she knows.  Even when she discovers the role is more about scurrying around wriggling her paws rather than doing eye-catching ballet moves, she doesn’t get discouraged, 

But on the night things don’t go according to her plan, and her performance is not what she dreamed it would be, so she scuttles off and hides, too ashamed to face even her family.  And when the ballet master, Clara and the Sugar Plum fairy come looking for her she is sure her future as a ballerina is over before it gets started…

This is a story that will appeal to all those who aspire to being the Sugar Plum Fairy one day with its gentle but realistic storyline and charming watercolour illustrations.  For those who are familiar with the story of The Nutcracker it takes on a new dimension and for those for whom this is new, not only will it help explain the prevalence of nutcracker decorations in stores at this time but it will also lead to one of the classic Christmas time stories, and perhaps even a performance of the ballet!

Worth tracking down for the ballerina who likes to read!

The Princess and the Christmas Rescue

 

 

 

The Princess and the Christmas Rescue

The Princess and the Christmas Rescue

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Princess and the Christmas Rescue

Caryl Hart

Sarah Warburton

Nosy Crow, 2017

32pp., hbk. RRP $A24.99

9780857637079

Kept in her beautiful palace at the top of the world by parents who fear for her safety because of what lives in the surrounding forest, Princess Eliza is lonely  But even though she is stuck inside all day with no one to play with, she is resourceful and she figures out how to make almost anything with a few bits of wood and some string — including her own toys! But her parents think that her mechanical inclinations aren’t suited to a princess, and tell her she’d be better off devoting her time to searching for a friend.

But not being allowed to go out into the world makes that a tricky thing, and even drawing on her fairytales doesn’t help – the gingerbread man skedaddles, the frog she kisses doesn’t turn into a prince and even dangling her long hair out the window brings no visitors. But as she sits at the window she smells smoke drifting over the trees and is determined to find out who is making it and she slips out into the forest.  As a huge shaggy shape looms up out of the snow she is frightened but it turns out to be a friendly deer who carries to his master’s house where she finds elves who are overworked and despondent because  Santa has the flu and they’re unlikely to finish all the orders before Christmas Eve.

But Eliza knows just what to do – at last all that time spent with paper and paperclips, scissors and glue comes in very handy… but can she save Christmas?

Recommended by A Mighty Girl for being a story that empowers girls and encourages them to be “smart, confident and courageous” this certainly meets these criteria.  From defying her parents and going into the forest, demonstrating her inventive intelligence in an elves-and-shoemaker kind of way to save Christmas and yet still keeping her feet on the ground (sort of), this is a story that will appeal to girls everywhere and help take the sting from the word ‘princess’ that it has acquired over the last decade or so. Being clever, imaginative and inventive is not restricted to boys! And it could well be the springboard for kickstarting some problem-solving as Makerspaces need new life breathed into them at the beginning of 2018.  Students could brainstorm the other sorts of problems that Santa might encounter as he tries to meet everyone’s requests and then they could invent something to solve them.  

A joyful, fun story that will be a permanent part of my Christmas Countdown.

Sage Cookson’s Christmas Ghost

 

 

 

Sage Cookson's Christmas Ghost

Sage Cookson’s Christmas Ghost

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sage Cookson’s Christmas Ghost

Sally Murphy

New Frontier, 2017

65pp., pbk., RRP $A9.99

9781925594058

Sage Cookson, daughter of globe-trotting celebrity chefs Ginger and Basil, is on the move again.  Sad about leaving her best friend Lucy behind for Christmas, nevertheless she is excited about going to Western Australia where her parents are going to be supervising the creation of the world’s largest pavlova in an attempt to break the record for this dessert, currently held by its country of origin, New Zealand.  

Too large to be baked in conventional ovens, the action takes place in a disused brickworks where the kilns are large enough to accommodate it, and there will be live crosses to its creation and success (or otherwise) during the annual carols by Candlelight program broadcast on television in the eastern states.  Despite a definitive ruling,  this concoction of sugar and egg whites has been the subject of dispute since it was first created and served in 1927 in honour of ballerina Anna Pavlova’s visit to the two countries in the 1920s and this becomes the centre of the conflict.  Are all the little things going wrong or going missing the work of a malevolent Christmas ghost or a saboteur…

This series for newly independent younger readers combines the author’s love of television cooking shows and mysteries, so that in each new addition something goes wrong and Sage has to solve the problem. Will she get to the bottom of this mystery and enable Australia to claim the record or will it stay where it belongs, in New Zealand?  Sage is going to appeal to a range of young readers who will be able to follow her adventures and then visit her website for more fun. Learning to make proper pavlova is something we Kiwi kids learned at our mother’s elbow, but there is a recipe included (very similar to the original, proper one) that more adventurous young cooks might like to try.

This Book Isn’t Safe

This Book Isn't Safe

This Book Isn’t Safe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This Book Isn’t Safe

Colin Furze

Puffin, 2017

192pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9780141386959

According to Wikipedia, “Colin Furze is a YouTube personality, stuntman, inventor, filmmaker, and former plumber from Stamford, Lincolnshire, England. ” He has his own YouTube channel  with over 5.5 million subscribers  which is “the home of crazy inventions, brilliant world records and constant disregard to health and safety” and he has now encapsulated his philosophies and inventions into print to continue his desire to inspire kids to embrace engineering, invent and create things and be comfortable and confident with the tools and materials that he uses daily.  

It contains contains ten awesome inventions for girls, boys and parents everywhere to make at home with a basic tool kit. Ever wondered how to make concrete shoes? Or how to build your own downhill trike? Or how to tidy your room in three seconds using a lever?

With the current focus on STEM, makerspaces and encouraging students to be both problem posers and solvers this will be a great addition to the collection.  Laden with photographs that are explained with captions or step-by-step instructions it may just be the way into reading that you have been searching for for those reluctant readers. Beginning with making a pair of concrete boots as a taster, there is a series of pages about inventions and inventing and the tools needed followed by pages of the things he has done and how he did them as well as more inventions for the reader to try for themselves.

As a book that encourages kids to have a go, this is brilliant and with all the accompanying online sites, easily found by searching for “Colin Furze” there could be a new generation of engineers spawned!!  

 

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.

 

Grace and Katie

Grace and Katie

Grace and Katie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grace and Katie

Susanne Merritt

Liz Anelli

EK Books, 2017

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

9781925335545
Twins Grace and Katie like to draw but their drawings are very different.  Grace’s drawings are done with a variety of pens and pencils, all black and full of straight lines, angles, shapes and precision.  Katie’s are done with all sorts of media in all sorts of colours, and filled with patterns, squiggles and swirls and imagination.
Neither cares much for the other’s style until one day they both decide to draw their home.  Grace’s is like a map and organised, Kate’s is full of people and bright and colorful.  But then both girls realise there is something missing…
This is  an interesting exploration of the difference between twins who so often are assumed to be the same, particularly when they look so alike.  Illustrator Liz Anelli has emphasised the difference between the two girls by giving Grace a straight, organised hairstyle while Kate’s is more every-which-way, a bit like her.  But essentially, physically they are the same.  However that’s where the similarities end – you can imagine that Grace would have a sensible, neat, organised bedroom and lifestyle while Kate’s would be the opposite and yet outsiders would assume that because they look alike they must also be alike and think alike.
Stories about twins are not common so this is a great addition to the collection so that not only can the children read about themselves in a book but also send a message to the world that they are individuals first but lucky enough to share the special bond that twins have and which both girls discover. 

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.

Pippa’s Island: Cub Reporters

Pippa's Island: Cub Reporters

Pippa’s Island: Cub Reporters

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pippa’s Island: Cub Reporters

Belinda Murrell

Random House Australia, 2017

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

9780143783688

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!.

Pippa has a new puppy called Summer, is learning to surf, has settled into school and now has a group of friends – Meg, Cici and Charlie- and they call themselves the Sassy Sisters. So when teacher librarian Mrs Neill launches a student newspaper inviting all the students to submit articles for the first edition, they are very excited.    But each has different interests and therefore different ideas of the focus of their story so whose idea will be adopted? And what happens when naughty puppies and tropical weather and unco-operative shopkeepers interfere with their plans? Being a junior journalist is not as easy as it sounds.

This is the second in this new series by Belinda Murrell, aimed at the independent reader who is looking for something that will absorb them for a while.  Writing modern stories for this tween-age group who are on the cusp of becoming young women with all that that entails is difficult because there is a fine line between what to include so the older girl remains interested and what to leave out so that the younger girl who is reading at this level is not turned away. In this series, Murrell has nailed it with just the right balance.  There is action aplenty, a healthy relationship with the boys in the story, Cici’s fashion interests to add the touch of glamour and a main character who could be almost any girl who picks up the book.  This and its predecessor The Beach Shack Cafe      will be in Miss 11’s Santa’s Sack this year!

When I was this age I read The Pen and Pencil Girls   by Clare Mallory, a book which had such an influence on my writing as a child that I tracked a copy down and bought it a few years ago. Move forward a couple of decades and the Junior Journalists club was the most popular and sustainable one  that operated in my school library, and now we have Cub Reporters to inspire another generation.  Offering kids an authentic outlet for their writing, their illustrating and their photography is a winner for getting those who have a passion for these things involved in school life while perhaps moving them on to a higher level of expertise. Let this book be the one to kickstart a program in your library. 

Sage Cookson: Literary Launch

Sage Cookson: Literary Launch

Sage Cookson: Literary Launch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sage Cookson: Literary Launch

Sally Murphy

New Frontier, 2017

56pp., pbk., RRP $A9.99

9781925594010

Sage Cookson is a ten-year-old whose parents, Ginger and Basil, travel Australia and the world, and lucky Sally gets to go with them. While they are sampling the food, learning new cooking techniques and then sharing their new knowledge with their massive television audience through their show The Cookson’s Cook On, Sage has a lifestyle that others might envy.

In this latest episode, Sage is confronted by a school assignment which many children dread – having to prepare and present a three-minute speech to her classmates.  She fears all the things that many do – forgetting the words, being laughed at, being boring – and even the comforting words of her best friend Lucy don’t reassure her.  Nevertheless she perseveres amidst all the excitement of the launch of her mother’s first cookbook at the Sydney Opera House, helped enormously by Tori who has flown in from Singapore to give her own speech at the occasion.  But when traffic delays everyone except Sage and her mum, Sage finds herself volunteering to do the opening speech … is this the silliest decision she has made?

This new series for newly independent younger readers combines the author’s love of television cooking shows and mysteries, so that in each new addition something goes wrong and Sage has to solve the problem.  Sage is going to appeal to a range of young readers who will be able to follow her adventures and then visit her website for more fun, as well as trying out the delicious cupcake recipe included.