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Dotty Detective (series)

Dotty Detective

Dotty Detective

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dotty Detective: The Paw Print Puzzle

Clara Vulliamy

HarperCollins UK,2016

176pp., pbk., RRP $A9.99

 9780008132453

Inspired by their favourite television character Fred Fantastic, Ace Detective, Dotty and her best friend Beans have formed the Join The Dots Detective Agency.  They have special badges that they wear underneath their coat collars so they don’t blow their cover and are ably assisted by Dotty’s dog McClusky to solve mysteries that seem to occur.

Guided by Fred Fantastic’s tenets of

  • Stay Frosty. Always be on the lookout
  • Follow That Hunch. If you’ve got a funny feeling you may be onto something important
  • Use Your Noodle. Think
  •  A Light Bulb Moment. A sudden genius idea
  • Get Proof.  You must have the evidence before you can solve your case
  • Jeepers Creepers Use your Peepers

in this episode they set out to solve the strange noises that Dotty hears in her hallway at night.  When she opens her door and can’t see anything she is almost convinced to believe in ghosts and that her house is haunted.  But by using the clues, conveyed through secret notes written in invisible writing, they are able to identify what is really going on…

This is a new series that is perfect for the newly independent reader with its layout, illustrations, larger font, shorter chapters and humour.  The pace is rapid and the use of a variety of fonts highlights key ideas and actions without the need for a host of words.  Girls will relate to her feisty nature but boys will also find the situations familiar and appealing.  Others in the series are Dotty Detective, The Midnight Mystery, and The Lost Puppy.

A worthwhile new series to get for those who are beginning their independent reading journey. 

Aliens, Ghosts and Vanishings

Aliens, Ghosts and Vanishings

Aliens, Ghosts and Vanishings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aliens, Ghosts and Vanishings: Strange and Possibly True Australian Stories

Stella Tarakson

Richard Morden

Random House Australia, 2016

288pp., hbk., RRP $A27.99

9781925324969 

Australia really is a ‘story country” and the tales, tall and true that have been collected in this volume prove just how rich and diverse this nation is.  Even our unofficial national anthem focuses on a ghost so why wouldn’t there be a wealth of stories about mythical creatures, mysterious locations, haunted places, UFO sightings, bizarre disappearances and strange happenings?

 

From bunyips and yowies to Azaria Chamberlain and the disappearance  of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, this is a collection that will absorb the lover of the weird, wonderful and utterly mysterious, some familiar and others not-so. Ostensibly for those 10 and over, its clear format, short chapters and abundant illustrations will appeal to any independent reader who is interested in finding out more about the strange and unusual that this country has on offer.   

As well as the stories themselves, there are pages with extra information and some of the sources the author used for her research are included for those who wish to investigate further.  

Identified as a Notable Book in the 2017 Eve Pownall Award for Information Books, I know a couple of young readers who are going to be having to do scissors-paper-rock to see who reads this one first.

The Great Zoo Hullabaloo

The Great Zoo Hullabaloo

The Great Zoo Hullabaloo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Great Zoo Hullabaloo

Mark Carthew

Anil Tortop

New Frontier, 2017

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

9781925059786

“When Jess and Jack open the gates to the zoo
It was strangely deserted. Nobody said BOO.”

So where have all the creatures gone? Because the more they look, the less they see – just trails of scats and feathers and tracks. Determined to find them they separate following the clues but as dusk falls and there is still no sign, Jess is getting concerned.  Then comes the sound of music from the nearby bush and a huge flash of a flare splits the sky and Jack emerges.  The animals are having a party but what are they celebrating?

A charming story told in rhyme which  will enchant young listeners as they try to guess where the animals have gone, and once they’ve been discovered, predict what they are up to. Filled with movement and sound both words and pictures convey the fun and excitement of a party  – just the feel of the word ‘hullabaloo’ on the tongue is fun.  But being part of it is even more fun so be prepared for making music!

But  there is also the opportunity for little ones to learn more about the creatures in the zoo – the fact that each has a different-shaped foot that makes a unique track starts the exploration on the endpapers, the references to the different feathers of the different birds and the introduction of the term “scats” and what they are and how they offer valuable clues about their producer all meld to make this an intriguing initiation into a more in-depth recognition of animals than just their shape and colour.

Further ideas are available in the teachers’ notes and Anil Tortop has demonstrated her illustrative techniques  to show how a pencil sketch becomes such a beautiful picture full of depth and colour.

History Mysteries: Lasseter’s Gold

Lasseter's Gold

Lasseter’s Gold

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lasseter’s Gold

Mark Greenwood

Puffin, 2017

88pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

9780143309321

In the 1930s as the Great Depression held Australia in its grip and people desperately wanted something to hope for, Harold Lasseter walked into the office of the president of the Australian Workers’ Union with a tale to tell that remains one of Australia’s greatest mysteries to this day.

He told Mr Bailey of a magnificent gold reef  that in 1897 he had discovered in the harsh, inhospitable and inaccessible country that is the desert lands where South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory meet.  But he lacked the money, manpower and equipment to return to it to exploit it although if the AWU were to back him…

Historian and author Mark Greenwood has taken his fascination with this subject that he first wrote about in The Legend of Lasseter’s Reef and turned it into another episode in this wonderful History Mysteries series, bringing the story of Harold Lasseter and his legendary reef to yet another generation of readers.  Was Lasseter genuine – or a conman? Where are the three hills that look like “ladies wearing sunbonnets”, “a group of Dickens women in Dombey and Sons”?,  Is there still a rich reef of gold waiting to be discovered – even explorer Dick Smith won’t divulge what he discovered!  If it is there, should it be explored and exploited or should the mystery be forever consigned to Australian folklore?

Accompanied by archival photos, a timeline, links to further information and references to his friendship with Lasseter’s son Bob who believes his father’s story and has made several expeditions to reveal the truth, this is just the sort of tale that will grip young readers encouraging them to look backwards as well as forwards and discover the stories of this country.

 

Sage Cookson (series)

Sage Cookson

Sage Cookson

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sage Cookson’s Sweet Escape

9781925059618

 

Sage Cookson’s Ring of Truth

9781925059748

 

Sage Cookson’s Fishy Surprise

978-1-925059-75-5

 

Sage Cookson’s Singapore Sensation

9781925059960

Sally Murphy

New Frontier, 2017

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

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.

However, in each episode she gets into a scrape that she needs to get out of.  In the first book, Sweet Escape  there are problems with a famous chocolatier while in Ring of Truth she is accused of stealing a treasured ring. Her friend Lucy travels with her to Crystal Bay in  Fishy Surprise but the return of an old adversary causes issues and in Singapore Sensation things go wrong when a lady with pink hair starts to stalk them.

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.  Despite the glamorous backdrops of each story, food is the focus so all the budding Junior Masterchefs can enjoy reading about cooking, trying the recipes which are included and then visiting Sage’s website  for more.  With four books in the series so far, Sage is going to appeal to a range of young readers who will be able to follow her adventures without having to wait for the next one. Perfect for the upcoming cooler days when reading is the best thing to do.

History Mysteries: Diamond Jack

History Mysteries: Diamond Jack

History Mysteries: Diamond Jack

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

History Mysteries: Diamond Jack

Mark Greenwood

Puffin Books, 2017

88pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

9780143309260

March 1942 – the Japanese have reached Indonesia and there is a constant stream of flights shuttling refugees from Java to the safe haven of Broome on the north-west coast of Western Australia.  Russian flying ace Captain Smirnoff is piloting one of the last planes to leave Bandung Airport, an old DC3 stripped back to the bare minimum to allow for as many passengers as possible including five Dutch pilots, a trainee flight engineer, a mother and her 18 month old son.  

Just as they are about to take off an official jumps on board and hands Smirnoff a package, tell him to “Take great care of this.  Someone from the bank will collect it when you land.”

Unfortunately for Smirnoff, his crew and his passengers, the Japanese have switched their target to Broome and just an hour from their destination they are shot down. Despite injuries and continuing Japanese fire, Smirnoff manages to bring the plane down on the edge of  the beach…

What happened next – the survival and rescue of the passengers; the finding and the contents of the mysterious package and the enigmatic  man who became known as Diamond Jack are the centre of this intriguing true tale that still remains unanswered 75 years on. Should he have done what he did?  Is “finders keepers” really the rule to live by?  

Rudyard Kipling once said, “If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten” and in this new series from self-confessed history-hunter Mark Greenwood there are stories told that would otherwise have been forgotten, if they were ever widely known in the first place.  Short, engaging reads written in short chapters, large font and liberally illustrated they are not only perfect for the young reader moving on to independent reading but also those who may not have yet unlocked the key.  Greenwood writes an introduction that personalises the story as though he is talking directly to the reader, drawing them into this tale that is about to unfold and then, the tale told, he talks about the sources he has drawn on and provides a lot of extra information so not only is the story authenticated but there is scope for further discovery.

Something special to add to the collection and promote an interest in times past in a way seldom done. Australia- a country full of stories!

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.  

Friday Barnes: The Plot Thickens

Friday Barnes: The Plot Thickens

Friday Barnes: The Plot Thickens

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday Barnes: The Plot Thickens

R. A. Spratt

Random House, 2016

240pp., pbk., RRP $A15.99

9780857989932

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 fifth 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.  

Unfortunately, things do not start well for our heroine as she is immediately suspicious when the father of Ian Wainscott, best described as her frenemy arrives, declares he has been cleared of all charges and wants to whisk Ian off to the Cayman Islands.  Using her knowledge of remarkable things, Friday not only proves the papers he is waving are frauds but she works out why he wants Ian so desperately.  Thus Ian is not only once again reminded of his father’s lack of love for him but it’s done in front of his friends.  So he sets out to get revenge and Friday becomes the butt of numerous pranks that actually put her in danger.

Throw in a decidedly dodgy art teacher who has a huge tax debt and no income, someone mysteriously defacing the school’s artworks with graffiti, a new PE teacher who thinks he can break Friday’s will and the ever-present Melanie whose droll comments add so much humour to the situation and here is another great tale for those who are independent readers and who are looking for an out-of-the-ordinary heroine.  Throughout the story Friday finds herself embroiled in a number of incidents, all of which she solves with her incredible knowledge and logic, and all of which eventually contribute to the big picture in some way.

This is a series that is best read in sequence as one book leads to another and the last few pages of this one set the scene for Danger Ahead which will be released in January 2017. Independent readers from Yr 3+ will love it.

Squishy Taylor (series)

Squishy Taylor (series)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Squishy Taylor and the Bonus Sisters

9781760126759

Squishy Taylor and a Question of Trust

9781760126766

Squishy Taylor and the Vase that Wasn’t

9781760126773

 

Ailsa Wild

Ben Wood

Hardie Grant Egmont, 2016

Sita Taylor (aka Squishy Taylor based on her hero. gangster Squizzy Taylor) is an 11 year-old “solver of problems and mysterious mysteries with a daredevil flair for anything ninja-esque, [and] a big heart with a soft spot for anyone needing help” Reflecting the lives of .many of the target audience of young independent readers, Squishy is also from a mixed race background, and is part of a blended family and the first book Squishy Taylor and the Bonus Sisters deals with the familiar situation of children from different families being blended into one. An absent mother whom she chats with each night via Skype while trying to connect with another female adult mother-figure; sharing a room with two strangers who are her new sisters; a noisy baby who is her half-brother are tricky issues in themselves and initially the situation is difficult and prickly but as time (and adventures) go by things become more positive until she seems them as her bonus sisters. Trying to discover who is living in the basement of their apartment block (and shouldn’t be) is an extra conundrum.

The new sisters really gel in Squishy Taylor and a Question of Trust when they realise each hates their neighbour Mr Hinkenbushel and form a club dedicated to making his life as miserable as possible, particularly if they can get him arrested in connection with some stolen diamonds!

She is of that new breed of literary heroes for our girls – smart, independent, curious and imaginative – who faces real-life issues calling for real-life decisions that her audience can relate to because she lives in today’s world and is undaunted by those who think that she should behave in a certain way while still having all those doubts and issues that girls of this age do.  Yet she still has those mysteries to investigate that her audience would love to have in their own lives and so this serves as a sound introduction to that genre. Discussion of the elements of a quality mystery (and perhaps a comparison with Enid Blyton’s Famous Five series and why it has endured for nearly 75 years despite its ‘old-fashioned’ setting) could open a whole new world of reading for middle-primary girls who still need the support of larger fonts word art and generous illustrations to enrich and enhance their reading.

Like many of her age group, Miss 9 is right into reading series – preferring to binge read all episodes in one continual session – and she has already earmarked this collection for these school holidays. Tempt your young ladies with the book trailer 

squishy_taylor.2

 

Archie Greene and the Magician’s Secret

Archie Greene and the Magician's Secret

Archie Greene and the Magician’s Secret

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Archie Greene and the Magician’s Secret

D. D. Everest

Faber & Faber, 2014

hbk., 240pp., RRP $A16.99

9780571309054

 

In a secret world deep beneath the hallowed halls of the Bodleian Library in Oxford lies the Museum of Magical Miscellany, a repository of all the world’s magical books and artefacts saved from the fire that destroyed the ancient Library of Alexandria and then again from the Great Fire of London in 1666.  It is into this world that Archie Greene finds himself when he receives a mysterious gift on his 12th birthday, a gift that has been waiting 400 years to be delivered and which turns Archie’s life upside-down so that within 24 hours he has been uprooted from the comfort of his grandmother’s house (and she has gone on a mysterious mission) to the quirky Oxford residence of his previously unknown cousins Bramble and Thistle Foxe.  He discovers that not only does he bear the mark of the Flame Keepers of Alexandria – those who find, mind and bind the books that are not yet within the safe confines of the Museum – but he is also a book whisperer.  He can hear the words of the books as they rustle their pages to tell their secrets.

Immediately, Archie is thrown into a tricky situation as he discovers that his birthday book is one of the Terrible Tomes, one of the seven most dangerous books of dark-magic ever written and one which the Greaders (those who seek the magic for their own wicked purposes) would dearly love to have.  As he learns more and discovers the secrets of the books, Archie realises the important role he has to play in protecting and preserving the ancient lores so the magic arts remain safe. He also starts to learn a little of his own life, something his grandmother has tried to keep a secret since his parents and sister died as she protects him from the past.

Archie is a likeable lad who is, predictably, bewildered at this new life and all that is happening to him, which makes it easy for Everest to build the fantasy world so the reader learns about it along with Archie. Did you know there are three types of magic?  The first is natural magic which comes from the creatures and plants and forces of nature; the second is mortal magic, that created by magicians using instruments and other devices; and the third – the most dangerous – is supernatural magic which draws on the power of the spirits and other supernatural beings. There are also five lores to be adhered to so there is not another disaster like that of 1666.  As all this is as new to Archie as it is to the reader, there is both empathy and understanding as he makes choices that he believes are for the best and we learn about being brave and courageous and he is well supported by the other well-drawn characters in the story.  And there is just enough real history in the storyline to make it all tantalisingly true.

This is a story of magic and mystery that has more twists and turns than the underground passages of the Museum of Magical Miscellany.  It is a well-written page turner that has a host of characters, both good and evil, and right from the start the reader is never really sure just who can be trusted and who is not quite who they seem.  While, on the surface, it seems an easy read for the young independent reader, it may be more suited to those who are able to follow various plot strands and multiple characters simultaneously.  It would make an excellent read-aloud, encouraging listeners to be not only waiting for the next chapter but also the next addition to the series.

Parallels will be drawn with another series involving an orphaned boy who discovers he “has the magic” and has to fight against the evil mortals but that’s pretty much where the similarities end.  This is a fresh and new story where “bookshelves are enchanted, librarians are sorcerers and spells come to life” that is not quite as dark as You-Know-Whom. Archie Greene will become a favourite and I will be waiting for Archie Greene and the Alchemist’s Curse, coming later this year.