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A Different Boy

A Different Boy

A Different Boy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Different Boy

Paul Jennings

Geoff Kelly

A & U Children’s, 2018

112pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781760523503

Anton is lost, lonely, hungry and bewildered as he is led into Wolfdog Hall, a home for boys without parents. He is handed his tag – O. Muller – and told the O is for “Orphan” although he will most likely end up as a C – ‘custody’ or ‘criminal’, the tag for those who try to abscond.  As gloomy and as dismal as his future, which was to have been on the great ocean liner he can see sailing to  “a warm, sunburnt country -a land of sweeping plains and rugged mountains which ran down to golden beaches surrounded by a jewel sea,” Anton soon finds himself between a rock and a hard place.  He is either going to be strapped by a brutal teacher for drawing a rude picture of him or be beaten up by the boy who did draw it for dobbing on him.  But then he recalls his dead’s fathers words – ‘If you’ve got a bad deal, get out of it and move on.” – and so he walks out of the orphanage altogether.

His steps lead him to that ocean liner but how is he to get aboard with no boarding pass, no family, no money and no luggage?  Is he doomed to be returned to the orphanage and fulfil the officer’s prophecy?

Confronted on the first page by just two paragraphs of text surrounded by razor wire, it is obvious that this is not going to be one of Paul Jennings’ more light-hearted stories. And indeed, it isn’t.  Despite its initial appearance as a stepping stone for newly-independent readers, this one has a lot of twists and turns that need a more mature mind to get the most from it.  Although Australia is clearly identified as the “New Land”, Anton’s origins are not defined beyond being a country that has recently been devastated by war, which may resonate with some readers, and the events on board the ship are complex, especially the final resolution.  

As an adult reader, this is Jennings at his best but don’t be misled thinking that this is one for younger readers.  That said, it is unique, different and utterly absorbing for those who are ready for it.

The Dog With Seven Names

The Dog With Seven Names

The Dog With Seven Names

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Dog With Seven Names

Dianne Wolfer

Random House Australia, 2018

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

9780143787457

A tiny dog, the runt of the litter, is born on a remote cattle station. She shouldn’t have survived, but when she is given to Elsie, the station-owner’s daughter as a Christmas gift, and is called Princess, she becomes a cherished companion. Life is perfect … until War arrives.

With Japanese air raids moving closer, Elsie’s family leaves the Pilbara for the south and safety. But the small dog has to stay behind. Found by Stan and Dave, two drovers intent on signing up for the Army, but who have a mob of cattle to deliver to Port Hedland, she becomes just plain “Dog”. But tragedy strikes and she is taken under the wing of a flying doctor,who calls her Flynn, and becomes a hospital dog and experiences the impact of war on north-western Australia. She witnesses wonderful and terrible things and gives courage to many different humans… 

But through all her adventures and many names, the little dog remembers Elsie, who girl who loved her best of all. Will she ever find her again?

Told through the voice of Princess, this is a heart-warming story that not only tugs at the heart-strings but also brings to life the events of the early 1940s and their impact on north-western Australia, a region as historically remote to many as it is geographically,  in a way that alerts children but doesn’t scare them. 

Many of Dianne Wolfer’s books have an historical theme which brings the past to life for young readers (Light Horse Boy was a CBCA Honour Book in 2014 and Nanna’s Button Tin is a Notable for this year) and once again, her thorough research is a hallmark of this new release.  There is a timeline of the events of World War II aligned to the events in the story as well as other historical notes, all of which not only add authenticity to the story but also provide new pathways for interested readers to follow.  

Independent readers who like animal stories will adore this. 

Help Around the House

Help Around the House

Help Around the House

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Help Around the House

Morris Gleitzman

Puffin, 2018

198pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9780143793236

Eleven-year-old Ludo is on his way to live in Canberra because his father has just been elected as the new Independent federal representative for Culliton, but beginning with being seated in business class he is overwhelmed by the luxury and ostentation that come as part of a federal Member’s salary and entitlements.

A boy who lives (almost) strictly according to Scout Law and his deceased mother’s mandate of helping others, Ludo vows to turn things around and get the politicians to understand and act on how much their generous remuneration would help others who are not so fortunate, particularly the homeless.  But it is not as easy as it seems and while his father is off on a fundraising trip, Ludo, with his new Scout friend Henry, soon finds himself embroiled in the seedier, selfish side of Canberra’s political life, hampered by Mike, his father’s aide who can see no further than votes, the next election and power, but helped by Mrs B, the housekeeper who knows more than a regular housekeeper might. Ludo is determined to ensure that fairness and justice prevail, even though that finds him out late at night, bending some of the rules instilled in him by his mother with whom he has regular ‘conversations’ and who Gleitzman says is modelled on his own mother who died while he was writing the book.  She is certainly a strong guiding presence for Ludo in a place where moral principles seem to have departed, and while the ideals learned from her may get shaken at times, nevertheless, Ludo’s core beliefs about who he is and what he should do are unshaken.

This is the latest release from the current Australian Children’s Laureate (his next is the finale to the Once series) and like all his books since his first, The Other Facts of Life written in 1987, this is a cracker.  Over 30 years of writing for children. children whose  own children will be getting ready to share his work with their children, and Gleitzman still has the rare gift of combining credible, likeable characters in almost-plausible situations with a message softened with humour.  Ludo who sees life through the idealistic eyes of a typical 11-year-old who has been brought up in kindness and selflessness and who has absorbed the tenets of Scout Law into his psyche learns some tough lessons about the reality of life, particularly how personal perceptions shape responses, while his father also has to reassess his future as the truth about political life becomes apparent.  Given the recent events in federal parliament, this is particularly relevant as questions are asked about who among our young people would want to become a politician.

Having spent 30 years living in Canberra, this book has a personal connection and even though some of the places are fictitious,  many of the events in the story are not and Gleitzman’s exposure of the behind-the-scenes machinations and motivations was unsurprising to this somewhat-jaded senior citizen.  But to the young reader, perhaps meeting Gleitzman for the first time,  it may be disappointing that adults are so self-centred but the ending is uplifting and will reaffirm their belief in the basic goodness and good intentions of most adults.  A page-turner! 

The Champion Charlies (series)

Champion Charlies

Champion Charlies

 

 

 

 

 

The Champion Charlies

Adrian Beck

Random House, 2018 

152pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

 

The Mix-Up

9780143791249

Boot It

9780143791263

The Knockout Cup

9780143791287

The Grand Finale

9780143791300

 

Charles was the best player in the boys’ football team and Charlotte was the best player in the girls’ side.  But this season they’re both playing in the same mixed team.

Is there room for two champion Charlies on the one side? Can they get past their rivalry to help form the greatest football team Jindaberg Primary has ever seen?

Developed in partnership with Football Federation Australia and released in time for the FIFA World Cup, soccer fans will enjoy this new series, particularly those who are newly independent readers as there is a lot of textual and graphic support to sustain their efforts. With characters the reader can relate to, familiar obstacles to overcome and an in-built rivalry as well as the external one of playing another team, each episode builds up into a page-turning climax that makes you want to find out what happened.

There are four in the series – The Mix Up, Boot It, The Knockout Cup and The Grand Finale – each leading on from the other and fans will be happy that the final two have now been released! 

Currently soccer-mad Miss 7’s favourite series, they have been the perfect bridge into novels for her and she is eagerly waiting for these new ones to be in her mailbox so she can find out what happens and put what she learns into practice on the field! 

Another great series focusing on Australian sports and familiar names that not only encourages our children to read but also get outdoors and play.

A Boy Called BAT

A Boy Called BAT

A Boy Called BAT

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Boy Called BAT

Elana K. Arnold

Charles Santose

Walden Pond, 2018

208pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

9780062445834

Bixby Alexander Tam, known to those who know him as BAT because of his initials, his love of animals and the way his arms and hands flap when he gets excited, prefers life to be logical, predictable, routine and without surprises. He’s not good with noise (so wears his sister Janie’s earmuffs often), doesn’t like the mushy texture of some foods, is sensitive to the feel of fabrics on his skin and finds it difficult to make eye contact and hold casual conversations. Clearly, to even a non-teacher who doesn’t know the signs of being on the autism spectrum, this is a little boy with  special needs. But Bat is not unhappy or frustrated – his mum, sister and teacher are sensitive to his needs, his peers seem to accept him for who he is, and although his father, whom he stays with “every-other-Friday” seems to struggle a little with his non-sporty son, generally Bat is content and just gets on with things.

But when his mum, a vet, brings home a newborn skunk that needs special care, Bat comes into his own, devoting his life to caring for the kit and planning how he will be able to keep it and care for it beyond the initial few weeks before the local wildlife refuge can take over. He needs to show his mum that he is responsible and committed enough, even contacting a skunk expert for advice. 

This is an engaging story that shows the reader the world through Bat’s eyes but which is not patronising, sentimental or emotional.  Bat’s autism adds a different and interesting perspective to the relationships between the characters but the concept of an eight-year-old taking care of an orphaned animal and hoping to keep it longer is a story that could be about any young person.  I believe that all children should be able to read about themselves in stories, and those about autistic children are rare, so this one which has such a solid, familiar storyline so every reader can relate to it while learning about the world through unfamiliar eyes, is a must-have.  Its sequel Bat and the Waiting Game is also available in hardcover. 

 

 

 

 

Boy Underwater

Boy Underwater

Boy Underwater

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Boy Underwater

Adam Baron

Benji Davies

HarperCollins, 2018

256pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9780008267018

Cymbeline Igloo is nine years old, is the third-best footballer in Year 4 (joint), second best at roller-skating. Even though he has only one parent while his friends have two or even four, he is  fit, healthy and totally normal in every way.  Yet, despite living in Lewisham in south-east London he has never been swimming.  His mum has never taken him near a pool, a lake, a river, the seaside – always brushing away his request with seemingly plausible excuses. 

So when his teacher says that the class will be starting swimming lessons the following Monday, Cymbeline is somewhat daunted.  He doesn’t even own a pair of swimmers!  But encouraged by his best friend Lance (named after the disgraced cyclist) and goaded by the class bully Billy, he agrees to a race against Billy in the pool.  Naturally, things end very badly for Cymbeline, not the least of which is losing the swimmers he found in his dad’s things in the attic, but it is the response of his mother who is called to the pool that is the most startling of all.  

As a result of this incident, she ends up in a psychiatric hospital taking Cymbeline’s beloved soft toy Mr Fluffy with her.  And Cymbeline is forced to stay with his rich Aunt Millie and Uncle Chris , to whom he is a burden, and cousins Juniper and Clayton who make it clear they want nothing to do with him. Totally alone, his mother hospitalised and not well enough to see him, and no cuddly toy to take to bed to comfort him, Cymbeline is bewildered and scared but determined to find out what is wrong with his mum to have had such an extreme reaction.  Surely the world seeing his willy isn’t enough to provoke such a response. And why has she taken Mr Fluffy?   Befriended by super-smart Veronique and even Billy, who has his own issues at home, Cymbeline is determined to get to the bottom of things.  And when he does, it becomes clear that adults really should paint the whole picture when they tell a child something big, not just the bits they think the child can handle.  Sometimes honesty can prevent a lot of heartache – the child isn’t left to fill the gaps with their own, often wild, imagination.

Written in the first-person in a voice that really echoes that of a 9-year-old boy, this is a story that will engage the independent reader with a storyline that has some meat to it and is totally credible. Even though it deals with some heavy-duty issues, this is done with a light hand, humour and empathy, providing an insight into the lives of some of the children in our care that we might not always see. Families falling apart for whatever reason is a common story, sadly, and it’s not always the teacher, in this case Mrs Phillips, who is the confidante.  Many children, like Cymbeline, are carrying  unseen burdens.   

For me, a quality novel is one that engages me to the end and I can hear myself either reading it aloud to students or book-talking it.  Boy Underwater is indeed, one of those.   

Mummy Fairy and Me

Mummy Fairy and Me

Mummy Fairy and Me

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mummy Fairy and Me

Sophie Kinsella

Marta Kissi

Puffin, 2018

166pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9780141377889

“Hello. I’m called Ella Brook and I live in a town called Cherrywood. My best friends at school are Tom and Lenka. My worst enemy is Zoe. And then there is my mummy. She looks normal, like any other mummy . . . but she’s not. Because she can turn into a fairy. She just has to shut her eyes tight, say ‘Marshmallow’ . . . and POOF! She’s Mummy Fairy.

Ella’s family has a big secret – her mummy is a fairy! She can do amazing spells with her computawand. Only, sometimes the spells go a bit wrong, and that’s when Ella steps in to the rescue.”

This is a new series for those readers who are newly independent from the author of the Shopaholic series as well as a number of other books for adults.  It is her first children’s book and she has nailed just the sort of thing that these young girls like to read and written it in a style that is similar to the way they write so it will engage them immediately.  Short chapters, large font and lots of line drawings to support the text will support the reader as skills are honed and its future as live-action movies for television  will ensure its future.  There is already a sequel available.

Fairy-in-Waiting

Fairy-in-Waiting

Those of us of a certain age will remember the popularity of Bewitched, and this could have a similar future. 

The Peski Kids 1, The Mystery of the Squashed Cockroach

The Peski Kids 1, The Mystery of the Squashed Cockroach

The Peski Kids 1, The Mystery of the Squashed Cockroach

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Peski Kids 1, The Mystery of the Squashed Cockroach

R. A. Spratt

Puffin, 2018

275pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9780143788812

Feisty, feminist April is twelve; pedantic, peace-loving Fin is 13;  shy, stuttering Joe is 16 and they are the children of a brilliant paleontologist mother and a bumbling botanist father.  When their mother is captured at an Eastern European airport and imprisoned for being an international spy, her boss Professor Maynard intervenes, blows their house up and whisks the children away just seconds before the Kolektiv come to do the same thing.

Driving through the night, they are taken to their father’s farm near the tiny town of Currawong, a man who is as vague as their mother is smart and whom they haven’t seen for eleven years and scarcely remember because he is terrified of his wife. He is so nervous and passive that he lets his young neighbour Loretta Viswanathan practise her show jumping in his garden, despite her crashing into and ruining his carefully collected and nurtured plants.

Forced to change their name, and urged by Professor  Maynard to fit into the community so they are safe, they find themselves having to don a school uniform – which includes a skirt for April which deeply offends her principles of choices – and rushed off to school along with Pumpkin, April’s companion dog to help her with her anger management issues but which has more issues than she does.

But how are they going to fit into a town that has a giant potato (that looks like a big poo) as its main tourist attraction and where the Currawong Annual Cockroach Races are one of the biggest events of the year and the greatest hero to have emerged was a long-ago lawn bowls champion who is still honoured?  Can independent, street-wise city kids become country kids? Can they put their personal differences and continual squabbling aside to unite and keep themselves safe?

This is the first in a new series from the author of Friday Barnes and Nanny Piggins and which promises to be just as engaging and intriguing as its predecessors.  Because she draws on her own experiences, family, and surroundings, Spratt has a knack of making the quirkiest of characters credible so that the reader immediately connects with them and wants to find out what happens as they navigate their way not only through “normal life” but also the adventures and mysteries that befall them.  Inwardly, they want to be like Friday and her cohort and it will be no exception with this new family.  Funny, sassy, smart, independent, resilient with a strong sense of their own self and their place in the world, April, Fin (aka Sharkfin) and Joe (aka Peregrine but he forged a new birth certificate)  will quickly become the new aspirational heroes for the 10+ age group who are independent readers.

With two more additions already planned for release in January and August next year, Miss 12 (who adored Friday Barnes and begged me to buy her the whole series) is going to have her Christmas holiday reading sorted, as will all the other Friday Barnes fans!

The Peski Kids, The Mystery of the Squashed Cockroach will be launched at The Little Bookroom in Melbourne, today August 22.

 


Kensy and Max – Breaking News

Kensy and Max

Kensy and Max

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kensy and Max – Breaking News

Jacqueline Harvey

Random House Australia, 2018

366pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99  

9780143780656

Imagine getting in a car in one country and waking up in a strange place in another!  That’s the beginning of a whole new adventure for twins Kensy and Max who started their journey in Zermatt, Switzerland and 16 hours later find themselves in the grounds of an unfamiliar mansion in England.  While it seems their carer Fitz knows his way around as he follows an unfamiliar fellow wearing a red dressing gown with matching slippers inside and up the stairs, Max is mystified but the warmth and comfort of a large, soft bed is too tempting and he is soon asleep again.  But when they wake in the morning to find themselves locked in the mystery deepens and the adventures begin…

Breaking News is the first in a new series by the author of both Clementine Rose and Alice-Miranda series, featuring feisty twins Kensy and Max.  At just 11, Kensy is feisty, impulsive and has two speeds – full-tilt or out-cold – while Max is more measured and perceptive, They are smart and athletic and fiercely competitive, particularly between themselves, but also tough and determined, which seems a perfect combination of characteristics for amateur sleuths who find themselves in a strange and mysterious situation as the real truth about their parents’ employment emerges and they are separated from them for their own safety.

As well as writing another cracking story that will engage independent readers who love a good mystery, Harvey also invites the reader into the story by enabling them to try to solve the clues as they read and using the mysterious Caesar code to encrypt the chapter headings.

With the second in the series, Disappearing Act just weeks away from release this is the perfect time to hook young readers into an intriguing series from one of our best authors for the age group.

 

Little Witch (series)

Little Witch (series)

Little Witch (series)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Secrets & Spells

9781925520101

Hauntings & Hexes

9781925520576

Plots & Potions

9781925675252

Aleesah Darlison

Big Sky Publishing, 2017-2018

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

The tiny beach town of Mixton Bay isn’t Courtney’s idea of a holiday. In fact, she thinks it the sleepiest, most boring holiday place ever and the house she is to stay in is so ugly even a dog wouldn’t sleep in it. But now her grandmother, whom she never met and whom her father hasn’t spoken to for years has died and her house must be sorted and sold.  But once she gets there her curiosity takes over and she starts asking questions about her family’s history and why it has been so fractured.  Little does she know that those family secrets, magic and mystery, and the memory of her grandma Delia will result in a special holiday to remember.

 When she finds a mystical ‘Book of Spells’ with her name on the box, discovers Ink the talking cat and a new surfer friend, Justice who has a secret of his own, suddenly her life gets very interesting and is changed forever.

The Little Witch Series features wholesome magical stories with gentle elements of tween/teen romance. The stories deal with realistic family and relationship issues set against a backdrop of fantasy and magical escapism centred in the real world. Light-hearted and funny, this series feature a strong, independent and unique female lead character whom readers will relate to as she confronts familiar situations with new solutions, learning more and more about her family and herself as she does so. 

No matter what series Darlison writes she has a knack of creating totally believable characters who are great role models for young readers showing independence, imagination and ingenuity while still engrossing them in a compelling and intriguing adventure.