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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. 

The Royal Academy of Sport for Girls (series)

The Royal Academy of Sport for Girls

The Royal Academy of Sport for Girls

 

 

 

 

 

The Royal Academy of Sport for Girls (series)

Laura Sieveking

Random House Australia, 2017

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

9781925324624

The Royal Academy of Sport for Girls is the dream school for girls aspiring to be elite athletes in almost any sport.  With a range of high-spec training facilities, top coaches and a curriculum that embraces all the regular things but still allows time for training without ridiculous pre-dawn or after-dark hours, only the most promising are able to pass the rigorous entrance tests and go on to take advantage of what’s on offer.

This is a new series that will appeal to independent readers who are sports-minded and who are looking for stories about girls who excel at what they do. While each title so far focuses on a sport that  is normally for individuals, each is encased in a team atmosphere so the message about teamwork is still strong.  There is a strong central character who is devoted to her sport but who also faces particular challenges in order to be more than just a champion competitor.  In High Flyers Abby doubts her ability; in Leap of Faith Chloe starts two months after the other girls;  in Running Free Josie academic work is suffering; and in In Too Deep Delphie discovers a secret about a rival team member who is also her friend. 

Each book stands alone – it is the setting that is the common theme rather than the characters – but the whole series will be welcomed by those who enjoy reading about girls like themselves and putting themselves in the character’s shoes as they confront the choices that have to be made.

The Boy and the Spy

The Boy and the Spy

The Boy and the Spy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Boy and the Spy

Felice Arena

Puffin, 2017

176pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9780143309284

Little did Antonio know that when he stuck an irreverent sketch of Hitler and Mussolini on the windscreen of a German jeep that that his life would change forever. Chased by a German soldier, leaping from the treacherous il Diavolo, and rescuing a wounded American spy is not in the script of life for a rota, an abandoned child who is despised and ridiculed by his Sicilian village even though he has been adopted and taken in by and cares for Mamma Nina. 

But that one act by an innocent 12-year-old sets off a chain of events that keeps the reader enthralled as Antonio lurches from one situation to another seeing the reality of war and understanding the true meaning of family. Set in his homeland, Felice Arena has always wanted to create a story there but it took a long time for Antonio’s voice to echo in his head and demand that his story be told. It is a story worth the wait,

Any story that encourages boys, particularly, to read is to be commended but it is wonderful to see what could be termed a true, rollicking, boy’s own adventure being published. Moving apace with credible characters, both good and evil, Antonio gets into such situations that you wonder how he will get out of them but are willing him onward to success even though he is technically helping the enemy.  That said, it will also appeal to girls because without Simonetta’s help Antonio would have stumbled at the first hurdle and Arena himself says that there could be another story in the escape of Simonetta and her mother.  That’s one I will be looking out for!

This one is for the slightly older independent readers who are looking for a bit of meat and tension in their stories, who like something that compels them to keep reading and appreciate story-crafting at a high level. 

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. 

Pip and Houdini

Pip and Houdini

Pip and Houdini

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pip and Houdini

J. C. Jones

Allen & Unwin, 2017

208pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781760296056

Pip Sullivan first entered our reading lives in Run, Pip, Run when she had to live on her wits to stay out of the clutches of the authorities when her “grandfather” Sully had a stroke and subsequently died. Fearful of being put in foster care, Pip found temporary refuge with her best friend Matilda’s family. But to Pip, Matilda is perfect and never seems to get into trouble whereas Pip doesn’t seem to be able to stay out of it. Convinced she is going to be put in formal foster care with all that entails because she believes the Brownings no longer want her, Pip hits the road with her inseparable dog Houdini determined to find her real mother.  With only a nine-year-old postcard to go by, she is determined to get to Byron Bay…

Full of determination, resilience and quick-thinking Pip has much to overcome as she makes her way north, all the while never giving up hope and never forgetting Houdini who is very well named. Despite her somewhat unorthodox upbringing, she has learned some important life lessons from Sully and these make her a particularly likable little girl of just ten and a bit.  Asking to pay extra for her train fare because she had skipped without paying the day before is just one example. And when all you want is a family of your own, nothing will deter you.

Written so that the reader can understand her perspective and her thinking, it is an engaging sequel that is every bit as good as the CBCA shortlisted original. An engaging, solid read that is a little bit different for independent readers.

 

The Cherry Pie Princess

The Cherry Pie Princess

The Cherry Pie Princess

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Cherry Pie Princess

Vivian French

Marta Kissi

Walker Books, 2017

176pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781406368970

“It’s not much fun being a princess: you have to be prim, proper and obedient. Princess Peony lives in a world full of magical creatures – hags, trolls, giants and fairy godmothers – but her father’s strict rules leave her feeling bored and lonely. She wants to learn how to DO things, and cooking’s at the top of her list. But when Peony borrows a recipe book from the public library, the king has the old librarian who tried to help her arrested for “speaking out of turn”. Can Peony stand up to her father and make things right?”

The publisher’s blurb sums up this engaging story very well. Despite being somewhat of a misfit in her family shunning shoes and pretty dresses to better herself, she counts down the days till her 13th birthday when she is allowed an unescorted “educational” visit but is dismayed to find that her plans to again visit the library which she first discovered when she was nine, are thwarted by Mrs Beef who believes a visit to the family’s mausoleum to study her ancestors would be much better for her. But she manages to escape, makes her way to the library and there her adventures really begin…   

For independent readers who like their princesses to have some attitude but also compassion, this is a new take on the more traditional tale.  Lovers of familiar  fairy tales will see it still has many of the features of the originals with a tyrant king with old-fashion views; older, self-absorbed sisters who treat the youngest one with disdain; the mean, miserable governess with the iron fist; fairy godmothers who can grant wishes; a neglected old hag who is cranky that her invitation to the new prince’s christening has not arrived; dark gloomy dungeons where innocents sit forgotten for years; a talking cat… and only one person who can save the day when trouble threatens.   But they will also like the determination, compassion, resilience and self-reliance of Peony who is more like them and isn’t relying on a handsome prince to get her out of bother.

Vivian French’s storytelling is accompanied by a sprinkling of illustrations that add charm and character, making this ideal for a bedtime read-along  or read-alone for the 7+ age group.

The Secret Garden & Other Stories

The Secret Garden & Other Stories

The Secret Garden & Other Stories

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Secret Garden & Other Stories

Usborne Illustrated Classics

Usborne, 2017

388pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9781409586562

Usborne have added another volume to their stable of illustrated collections that bring us the tales, stories, myths and legends that have been shared with and enjoyed by children throughout the generations.  This collection includes The Secret Garden, The Railway Children, The Wizard of Oz, Black Beauty, Little Women and Heidi, all based on the original stories and beautifully illustrated to entice the young reader ready to take their reading in a new direction.

There are some stories that have endured over time for very good reasons and this collection is one that celebrates some of those that continue to be published in full so many years later.  They are the sorts of stories that grandparents and even great-grandparents remember fondly and love to give so these abridged versions are the perfect introduction to the longer, original stories.  Apart from just being a good read, they give 21st century children a glimpse into the lives of children of the past to a time when life wasn’t dominated by screens and technology. Who wouldn’t be tempted to explore the mysteries of Misselthwaite Manor, wander down the yellow brick road or be afraid of going from luxury to poverty overnight?

As well as being an essential addition to the collection, this could be one to flag in your suggestions for Christmas purchases for parents!

Chook Doolan (Series)

Chook Doolan

Chook Doolan

 

 

 

 

 

Chook Doolan (series)

James Roy

Lucinda Gifford

Walker Books, 2017

64pp., pbk., RRP $A7.99

Chook is not his real name – that’s Simon – but he’s earned his nickname because he is anxious and scared about many things, even everyday encounters, and “chook” is another word for chicken.  Let’s Do Diwali, Up and Away, On the Road and Unhappy Camper are the latest releases in this series  especially designed for the young reader making the transition from basal reader to novels. 

In each story, Chook faces a situation that scares him such as working with new people,  speaking in public, being in a crowd, playing with strangers, sleeping away from home and he has to draw on his inner reserves to deal with each one.  Often circumstances are that he becomes involved in events and doesn’t realise that he has overcome his fear and come out the other side until it is all over, each time gaining a little more confidence. All the issues he faces are those that will be familiar to the young reader so they can draw strength and confidence from Chook’s success. 

Short chapters, large font and plenty of illustrations support the newly emerging reader and with such relevant topics told well this is a perfect series to entice even the reluctant reader into more challenging books and show them that this reading thing actually has something to offer them and they can be successful at it.  

Brambleheart

Brambleheart

Brambleheart

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brambleheart

Henry Cole

Katherine Tegen Books

288pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

9780062245441

Naming Day at the school on The Hill -an old rubbish dump on the edge of the woods – is the most important day for the students because it is then that they get their surnames based on their expertise in particular disciplines such as metal craft and weaving.  Chipmunk Twig, who prefers to read discarded picture books rather than the old instruction manuals preferred by the other students, is struggling to excel and seems destined to become a lonely Errand Runner. Shamed and embarrassed he runs away, falls into a river and when he reaches the shore he finds a golden egg from which hatches a dragon.  And suddenly his fortunes change – or do they?

Miss 11, an avid reader, was drawn to this book on a recent visit because it is the sort of story she likes and she immediately put her nose into it. However her comments afterwards suggested it did not live up to expectations.  Even though the writing is descriptive,  she said she was glad there were the pictures to help because her imagination wasn’t drawing them for her.

She felt that the storyline did not match her predictions and there were several gaps that were unexplained such as how Twig got back upriver; what is making Char the dragon so sick; enemy Basil’s change of heart and how Lily, banned from seeing Twig manages to accompany him on the final adventure.  She wasn’t keen on the up-in-the-air, to-be-continued ending which left the story unresolved until the sequel Bayberry Island is read. Sadly, Grandma didn’t have it. Perhaps if she did and all the loose ends were tied up she might have enjoyed it more.

Friendship and the ethics of keeping animals captive and cheating to achieve a goal are the themes of this story but to Miss 11, the target audience for the story, they were lost in her confusion of the story.

Unusual for me to publish a less-than-positive review but when you have the critique of the intended audience, it’s hard to ignore it.  

Vet Cadets (series)

Vet Cadets

Vet Cadets

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Welcome to Willowvale (Vet Cadets #1)

Rebecca Johnson

Puffin, 2017

180pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9780143782711

  

Willowvale Girls Grammar is an agricultural boarding school with 500 students offering a Vet Cadets program, and Abbey, Talika and Hannah are sharing a room. They need to learn to live together even though they come from very different backgrounds – Hannah obviously has money on her side and is a neat freak, while Abbey is the opposite, and Talika is Indian, which neither of the others have any experience of. But each has a family who loves them and fusses over them, and each has first day nerves. 

Nevertheless, adjust they must and it is not long before the adventures begin and they become an inseparable trio solving mysteries, causing chaos and all the time, learning more and more about the creatures they care for..

From the author of Juliet, Nearly a Vet  comes this new series for slightly older readers who are interested in caring for animals, perhaps even becoming vets themselves. With three other titles due for publication over the next few months this promises to be a great addition to your collection to satisfy those girls who are always after new animal stories. 

To celebrate the launch there are two Vet Conventions being held in Queensland but check the website for availability of spaces.