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Amelia Chamelia and the Birthday Party

Amelia Chamelia and the Birthday Party

Amelia Chamelia and the Birthday Party

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amelia Chamelia and the Birthday Party

Laura Sieveking

Alyssa Bermudez

Puffin Books, 2019

96pp., pbk., RRP $A9.99

There is not much that is more exciting that planning your 8th birthday party because at last you are old enough to have a say in everything. And so that’s what Amelia Chamelia is doing – choosing invitations, making decorations, sorting out costumes, making party bags.  Whatever is required for the best party ever, Amelia is making sure she has it.  The only dark cloud on the horizon is that she has to invite her twin cousins Danny and Andy and she knows they are going to be trouble.  And sure enough they are…

But Amelia has a secret power. A power that nobody else knows about. When she is furious or frightened, she can change colour. Her toes tingle, her knees tremble, her skin prickles, her nose tickles, her breath quickens and then with a hiccup she changes colour to blend in with the background, just like a chameleon.

This is the first in a new series for newly independent readers, particularly girls, who are looking for something that focuses on familiar events but which has a special twist in the tale.  Short chapters, a larger font and plentiful illustrations support the reader in consolidating their skills while offering a well-written story that engages and entertains.  Other titles are Amelia Chamelia and the Gelato Surprise, Amelia Chamelia and the School Play, and Amelia Chamelia and the Farm Adventure.  The first two are out now, just in time for the back-to-school excitement, the other two will be available in early April, 2019.

I think this is a series that will appeal to Miss 7 who is already in the throes of planning her 8th birthday, even though it is still two months away! Let’s hope she doesn’t have any evil twins to invite because I’m pretty sure she can’t change colour!

47 Degrees

47 Degrees

47 Degrees

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

47 Degrees

Justin D’Ath

Puffin, 2019

256pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9780143789079

Saturday, February 7, 2009 and Victoria wakes to a weather forecast of 47 degrees in Melbourne with strengthening northerly winds, part of the pattern of the previous few days as a heatwave crawls across the state. In the tiny community of Flowerdale,  Zeelie’s dad is enacting the family’s bushfire survival plan to stay and defend their home even though her mum and young brother are in the Emergency Department of a Melbourne hospital because Lachy has fallen off Zeelie’s horse Rimu.

Zeelie’s not sure her dad has made the right decision but even though there is a lot of smoke in the air her dad is convinced that his precautions are just that – precautions, and wherever the fire is, they will be safe. But when Zeelie goes next door to find Atticus, the old dog they are minding for absent neighbours who has wandered home and discovers small fires already started by embers, her fear rises particularly for the welfare of her horse Rimu. And when the generator fails and there is no longer electricity for the water pumps, it is clearly time to leave… but what about Mum and Lachy and Rimu?

Based solidly on his own experiences during those Black Saturday bushfires, Justin D’Ath has woven a tale that could be the story of any one of our students or children who has experienced the very real horror of bushfires.  At a time when adults are frantically busy trying to keep everyone and everything safe, and reassuring their children with what they want them to hear, there is not time to put themselves in their child’s shoes and see the events through their eyes.  When her dad asks her to pack suitcases, Zeelie packs her mum’s wedding dress and evening gowns rather than the more practical things;  she is angry at her mum because she has taken the vehicle with the towbar because she didn’t have enough petrol in hers so Rimu will be left to his own devices … kids focus on the details while the adults are dealing with the big picture and providing an insight into the child’s thinking and fears is what D’Ath has done so skilfully. Because he experienced many of the events that Zeelie does, the story has a unique authenticity and the reader feels the heat, smells the smoke, visualises the flames and empathises with the fear as Zeelie and her dad try all sorts of routes to get to Melbourne, only to be turned back towards the danger because even greater danger lies ahead.  D’Ath deals with the less-than-happy parts sensitively, acknowledging rather than ignoring them, and helping readers deal with the fact that not all things have a sugar-coated happy ending.  

As the 10th anniversary of one of this country’s greatest natural disasters when  173 people died and over 2000 homes were destroyed approaches, this is not only account of the an event that had an impact well beyond those who were caught up in it but also an insight into the what-did-happens and the what-ifs of those who have experienced similar events, providing us with an inkling of the trauma that many of our students might have faced and are still dealing with, critical as the milestone memory will generate a lot of media that could bring a wave of flashbacks and other psychological issues.

However, it is also a story of hope for them because 10 years on Justin is still able to write stories for them despite losing everything himself, and while the immediate future might be bleak, unknown and scary there is clear air coming and because Australians step up in an extraordinary way at these times, they will be OK. 

 

Pippa’s Island: Puppy Pandemonium

Pippa's Island: Puppy Pandemonium

Pippa’s Island: Puppy Pandemonium

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pippa’s Island: Puppy Pandemonium

Belinda Murrell

Random House, 2018

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

9780143793267

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!.

But the end of caravan life is in sight as Pippa’s mum finally has enough money to get the apartment finished – the children have even given up their pocket money to add a few more dollars to the pot. So when Pippa is overcome by a wave of unexpected jealousy because she is still wearing her daggy English school swimmers and doesn’t have a bike to go to other parts of the island with her friends, she decides to turn the negative feelings into a positive, particularly when she sees a beautiful pair of swimmers on sale.  And so Pippa’s Perfect Pooch Pampering is born.  Offering dog-walking, pampering and pooper-scoopering, what could possibly go wrong?

As this review is published, Miss Now 12 will be on her way to the Australian Scout Jamboree, on a bus for 15 hours with electronic devices banned.  But no doubt she will have her nose buried in this latest episode in her favourite series which she loves because the story “sounds just like me and my friends and the things we do.”  

For those who are new to the series, they don’t have to have read the others first (although it would be time well spent) because Murrell introduces Pippa, her family and friends and circumstances in an easy-to-read introduction meaning each episode is a stand-alone.  With its theme of just appreciating the pleasures found in friendships and simple things, and reflecting the lives of regular kids, even those who don’t live on a tropical island,  this is a glorious series for girls who are independent readers but who are not quite ready or interested in the contemporary realistic fiction that features in many stories for young adults. 

Even though she is a year older than when I first introduced her to Pippa and her friends, I know Miss 12 will be delighted to have them accompany her on that long bus trip! 

 

Clementine Rose and the Bake-Off Dilemma

Clementine Rose and the Bake-Off Dilemma

Clementine Rose and the Bake-Off Dilemma

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Clementine Rose and the Bake-Off Dilemma

Jacqueline Harvey

Random House Australia, 2018

160pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9780143780595

Clementine Rose is a sassy young girl who was delivered not in the usual way at a hospital but in the back of a mini-van in a basket of dinner rolls.  Living in the magnificent mansion in Penberthy Floss with her mother, her Aunt Violet, Digby Pertwhistle the butler and pet teacup pig, Lavender, Clementine Rose has had many adventures that her readers can really relate to, making her a favourite with newly independent readers.

In this new story, Clementine Rose and the Bake-Off Dilemma, Clementine Rose is bursting with plans for the school holidays! But with the announcement that a new cooking show will be filmed in the village, everything changes. While Clementine is disappointed that her activities have been cancelled, she soon has an idea and takes to the kitchen in a baking frenzy. If only her mother wasn’t feeling so sick and could help out when things turn sticky.

Everyone wants to be a part of the show – especially Mrs Bottomley! – and it doesn’t take long before temperatures are running high. With the main event being held at Penberthy House, Clementine has the inside scoop and spies some surprising behaviour from the contestants. Will she uncover a secret? And will the show be a flop, or a scrumptious success?

When the first in this series, Clementine Rose and the Surprise Visitor, was published in September  2012 I introduced Miss Then 6 to it and she was enthralled because here was a feisty young heroine whom she could relate to and each new addition to the series was greeted with much anticipation.  As the series progressed along with her reading skills, she would read them eagerly to her younger sister.  Now she is 12 and moving into high school she has moved on but now her young sister is an independent reader herself and I’m sure she will love this new episode as much as the others, even moreso because she will be able to read it for herself. 

Jacqueline Harvey has certainly created a character who resonates with her readers and as the new school year isn’t that far away,  this is a series to introduce to a whole new group of newly independent readers looking for something that will engage and intrigue as they meet Clementine and her friends.   As my friend Sue Warren says on her Just So Stories blog, “Jacqueline Harvey continually strikes just the right note with her books for younger girls. The mix of adventure, mischief, humour and excitement has great appeal for the intended age group and each book contains much with which these readers can easily identify – even though they don’t live in a big old house or own a teacup pig!” Exactly what I would have said (and have, in previous reviews.)

If this series in not yet in your collection, seriously consider adding it if you want to capture young girls looking for a great read.

Let Sleeping Dragons Lie: Have Sword, Will Travel 2

Let Sleeping Dragons Lie: Have Sword, Will Travel 2

Let Sleeping Dragons Lie: Have Sword, Will Travel 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let Sleeping Dragons Lie: Have Sword, Will Travel 2

Garth Nix & Sean Williams

Allen & Unwin, 2018

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

9781743439937

Independent readers who are lovers of fantasy, particularly tales of yore, will love this second in the series about Sir Odo and Sir Eleanor.  

First introduced in Have Sword, Will Travel, when Odo and Eleanor stumble upon an ancient sword in a river outside their village, and much to Odo’s dismay he discovers that he’s awoken a famous enchanted blade called Biter, and thus has instantly become a knight, this new adventure begins with an action-packed scene when Sir Odo and Sir Eleanor defend an old man named Egda, a warrior named Hundred  from the bilewolves who have already attacked their village. But Egda and Hundred are not who they appear to be at first sight, and with their trusty and talkative swords, Biter and Runnel, they are plunged into a quest that will take them to unfamiliar lands, where they will fight unseen enemies and unlock unbelievable secrets in order to prevent an unbearable impostor from taking the crown.

Not being a great fantasy fan – Harry Potter and the tales from Middle Earth being my limit – I was nevertheless engaged to the end with this new series by these master storytellers who have written several series in collaboration as well as their independent writing.   So those who like this genre will be more than thrilled with this new release that is exciting, fun, and which could so easily have them as the super hero characters.

 

Catvinkle

Catvinkle

Catvinkle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Catvinkle

Elliot Perlman

Laura Stitzel

Puffin, 2018 

240pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

9780143786368

Catvinkle lives in Amsterdam, with her barber-owner Mr Sabatini, and she likes to think that the world revolves around her, as cats generally do. From her basket near the fireplace in what she considers to be her room, she watches the legs and feet of the passers-by as they walk past her window, delighted when she sees someone with socks that don’t match and occasionally swishing her tail that has a big red bow tied to it. All is well with her world.

But one day, kindly Mr Sabatini brings home a stray Dalmatian to live with them and Catvinkle’s life is not only interrupted but is irrevocably changed.  Even though cats and dogs are not supposed to like each other, Ula’s politeness and meekness impress Catvinkle and gradually they become friends.  But when they present their friendship to others of their species, they find that what they have is not necessarily acceptable to all.

Written in response to what the author describes “as a ‘surge in, and tolerance for, racism and bullying’ in public discourse” this is a gentle story that addresses  that racism and bullying and promotes social inclusion while remaining on the surface, a story about an unlikely friendship between a cat and a dog. If they can accept a llama who plays backgammon, why can’t others?

Perlman has been short-listed twice for the Miles Franklin Literary Award and his skill with putting words onto paper is very evident – this story, while intended for young independent readers, engages adults so it makes a perfect bedtime read-aloud to younger children too.

Something different for those who like something different. 

Teachers’ notes are available.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Meltdown

 Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Meltdown

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Meltdown

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Meltdown

Jeff Kinney

Puffin Books, 2018 

224pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9780143309352

Lots of kids live on Greg Hoffley’s street, but because it is partly on the flat and partly on the hill, loyalties are fiercely divided and any peace is an uneasy truce. Those on the flat think they own the street, refusing to let those from higher up play there, but then the tables are turned when it snows and those from down below want to come uphill to enjoy sledding.  “if you live on Surrey Street, you’re either a HILL kid or a NON-hill kid and there’s no switching sides.”

After a miserable week of bitterly cold days which have been a trial for Greg as he had to face walking to school while other friends’ parents drive past; indoor recesses where people sneeze their germs over him; worrying about frostbite because he is so skinny; navigating perilous footpaths and a host of other dangers that made his life more than difficult, his life is made more miserable because he’s in trouble for not digging the driveway clear, even though he did have it done but because he tried to renege on the deal he had made with some neighbourhood kids, they piled all the snow back again! So when the weekend comes and he’s looking forward to a lie-in and playing a few video games, he’s dismayed to discover that his mother decides he needs to spend the day outside being active, and even locks the door so he can’t come back inside.

And that’s when the conflict starts… but the end result is a great lesson in dealing with differences, problem solving,  strategising, co-operating, knowing when to compromise, all life skills that are so important.

Greg Hoffley has a legion of fans as his popularity grows from when we first met him more than 10 years ago  and this 13th book in the series will not only delight them but also garner him a lot more as new readers learn about this young lad who struggles to fit in with his peers in middle school (Years 5-8 in the USA) and his loyal best friend Rowley Jefferson.  With their first-person narrative that echoes the voice and thoughts of so many boys like Greg, their cartoon drawings and humour, this addition to the series is available in paperback, hardback, audio book and ebook so regardless of the format that most appeals to a young reader, they can access it.  

This is one of those books that even reluctant readers will want to have because to be talking about it will mean being part of the “in-crowd”, important for those who otherwise struggle to belong.

 

 

 

Lenny’s Book of Everything

Lenny's Book of Everything

Lenny’s Book of Everything

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lenny’s Book of Everything

Karen Foxlee

Allen & Unwin, 2018

352pp., pbk., RRP $A19.99

9781760528706

On July 26, 1969, six days after man walked on the moon, Cindy Spink caught the Number 28 bus to the hospital where she gave birth to Davey, a brother for three-year-old Lenny.  Right from the start she had a ‘dark heart feeling -as big as the sky but kept in a thimble” that something wasn’t right and so it proved to be.  For, although he was a normal sized baby, Davey kept growing and growing until by the time he was ready to start school he was already 4″5″ (135cm) tall and had been denied entry to preschool because of his height. 

Lenny loves her brother very much but it’s tough being a sister to someone who is a bit different, no matter how lovable, and when your dad has walked out and your mum has to work two jobs just to keep a roof over your head so your eccentric Hungarian neighbour looks after you for much of the time, life can be confusing and conflicting . 

The bright spot every week is the arrival of the latest issue of the Burrell’s Build-It-at-Home Encyclopedia, which their mum won in a competition. Through the encyclopedia, Lenny and Davey experience the wonders of the world – beetles, birds, quasars, quartz – and dream about a life of freedom and adventure. Davey loves the articles about birds of prey while Lenny becomes fixated on beetles and dreams of being a coleopterist.  Together they dream of a life in a log cabin in Great Bear Lake, away from the away from the noisy city and the busy bus station across the road, their strange neighbours and the creepy Mr King. And when the instalments don’t arrive fast enough and the company keeps trying to tempt them to spend money to get issues faster and with the special volume covers, Mrs Spink takes the time to take on the publishers with the letters becoming a side story that shows her persistence and determination to do the best for her kids, regardless of the challenge. 

But as Davey’s health deteriorates, Lenny realises that some wonders can’t be named, but they can be diagnosed and when Davey’s gigantism is traced to tumours in his pituitary gland, in a time when cancer and its treatment were still referred to as “the C word”, the reader knows that there is probably not going to be a happy outcome. 

This is both a heart-warming and heart-wrenching book for older, independent readers, one they can relate to because Lenny’s life is so ordinary and like theirs, yet one that will engender compassion as she struggles to come to terms with what is happening to Davey, not wanting to burden her mother who is “made almost entirely of worries and magic” and who does not realise just how desperately she is missing her dad until she thinks she has found his family. For those who have siblings with significant health issues it may even be cathartic as they realise that the feelings of resentment, even shame, that they sometimes have are natural, common and understandable and they are not evil or undeserving for having them. 

Lenny’s Book of Everything doesn’t just refer to the encyclopedia that opens up the world for her and Davey; it refers to all her thoughts and emotions, reactions and responses of a childhood spent with a sick sibling in a sole-parent family in a poorer neighbourhood of a moon-rock drab town with very little money for everyday things let alone treats. It is raw in places but eminently understandable.  

Written when the author herself was going through a time of momentous grief . it is beautifully written, a compelling read and one that adults will also appreciate. It is a story of joy and heartbreak, humour and honesty, but mostly it’s just about the immense, immeasurable love among families.

 

 

 

 

The Restless Girls

The Restless Girls

The Restless Girls

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Restless Girls

Jessie Burton

Angela Barrett

Bloomsbury, 2018

160pp., hbk., RRP $A27.99

9781408886915

 

For her twelve daughters, Queen Laurelia’s death in a motor car accident is a disaster beyond losing a mother. Their father, King Alberto, cannot bear the idea of the princesses ever being in danger and decides his daughters must be kept safe at all costs. Each girl – Frida, Polina, lorna, Ariosta, Chessa, Bellina, Vita, Mariella, Delilah, Flora, Emelia  and the youngest, Agnes – has her own special talents and interests, talents and interests that had been encouraged by their mother but of which King Alberto knew nothing.  To him, girls were of little value, useful for getting married and bringing further wealth to his kingdom of Kalia and so as they grew up, he knew nothing about rearing girls and certainly didn’t approve of them being educated – “a girl may as well have been a sunflower or a trumpet”. So deep in grief at his wife’s death and afraid his daughters will suffer a similar fate because their mother had encouraged their independence and freedom, he removes all the things they love – their lessons, their possessions and, most importantly, their freedom. When Princess Frida defies him, as in the traditional tale of The Twelve Dancing Princesses from the Brothers Grimm that the story mirrors, the girls are locked in a small room where they spend all their days and nights, except for one hour a day in the garden “to stretch their legs”.

When they find an escape from their cell-like room, sneaking off through a hidden door to a different world 503 steps down underneath the palace, life becomes a bit more bearable but Frida is made aware that there is always a price to pay for such freedom.  And, just as in the original, it is the girls’ worn out dancing shoes that give them away and Frida finds she has to use all her intelligence and ingenuity to keep her sisters safe and eventually free them…

This is a modern day version of that old German tale and by expanding on it, describing the settings, giving the girls personalities and emotions,  breathing life into characters that are usually one-dimensional, although it is somewhat disappointing that when the pilot arrives to try to solve the mystery of the worn out dancing shoes, that each is struck by his looks at first.

This is a story for independent readers who like a bit of meat in their fairy tales, while setting up the question, “Is freedom free?

 

Funny Stories and Other Funny Stories

Funny Stories and Other Funny Stories

Funny Stories and Other Funny Stories

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Funny Stories and Other Funny Stories

Morris Gleitzman

Puffin Books, 2018

560pp., pbk., RRP $A24.99

9780143793380

Swap a bomb for three ice-creams on a train, bounce on a vampire’s bed, eat a pizza that makes you fearless, read the secret diary of a dog, unleash the awesome power of chips, save ten lives with a paper clip, surprise your mum with a chainsaw, use a demolition ball to defeat a bully, live in a house that gets wiped clean more often than a bottom…

Since Morris Gleitzman, the current Australian Children’s Laureate wrote The Other Facts of Life in 1987, he has been entertaining children with his stories -some long, some short , some serious, some not-so – and this bumper new release is a  compendium of all his shorts stories in one place, plus a bonus story! So in one volume that will satisfy the needs of those who like to borrow fat books, those who like to laugh out loud, and those whose preference is for short, read-in-one-go stories,  all the stories from Give Peas A Chance. Pizza Cake and Snot Chocolate are gathered together – 36 stories in all.  Even rationed to one a week, that’s a lot of the classroom read-aloud program taken care of for the year, or, for the young, independent reader, a lot of  fun practice in honing skills and enjoying the delight of the printed word! 

With at least 40 books with his name on the cover and the final in the Once series on the horizon,  Gleitzman not only has an established fan  base amongst teachers and parents, but this new offering will see that swell as others discover his quirky humour and his gift for telling stories.