Archives

You Choose …flip me

You Choose - Flip Me

You Choose – Flip Me

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You Choose…Flip Me

Alien Invaders from Beyond the Stars/Night of the Creepy Carnival

9780143784029

Super Sports Spectacular/Trapped in the Games Grid

9780143784036

George Ivanoff

Random House, 2017

pbk., RRP $A19.99

Remember the frustration of finishing a book in a series that you have really enjoyed but you need to go to the library or the bookstore to track down the next one?  Or worse, still, wait for it to be written and published?  The solution seems to be having two books in one as with the new packaging of George Ivanoff’s very popular You Choose series.  Now our students can have all the fun of following pathways through one book and when they are done with that, slip them over to read through another immediately.  No waiting,  No cooling of enthusiasm. Just more reading.

For a couple of decades at least, the choose-your-own-adventure stories have been popular, particularly with boys, as they like the interactivity and the gaming nature of them.  So to be able to serve them up two at a time to aficionados not only encourages them to keep reading but also shows them that the library DOES have stuff that meets their interests and needs.  That has to be good.

 

Artie and the Grime Wave

Artie and the Grime Wave

Artie and the Grime Wave

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Artie and the Grime Wave

Richard Roxburgh

Allen & Unwin 2016

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

9781760292140

When bully Nate Grime and his sidekick Wart throw Artie’s only pair of shoes over the overhead wires, they start off a chain of events that not only brings down the Mayor of the town but also provides for a hair-raising crazy adventure that will appeal to boys in those mid-late primary years.

Artie only has one pair of shoes because after his dad, a trapeze artist, died a few years previously, his mother has been so deep on grief that she has confined herself to the couch all but abandoning Artie and his angry older sister, Lola.  His best mate Bumshoe – (real name Alex Baumschule) suggests that they find paperbark trees to make new shoes from so Artie not only avoids his mother’s anger but can also go to school.  It is while they are searching for the trees that they discover a cave full of possibly-stolen-stuff and its sinister guardians Mary, Funnel Web and Mr Budgie.

Populated with a number of eccentric characters who all become part of Artie and Bumshoe’s attempts to get the truth out as they search for Gladys Unpronounceable-enko’s tortoise Gareth which has disappeared and desperately avoid the clutches of the ruthless gang, Roxburgh has written and illustrated a rambunctious romp that pits the skinny, awkward kid and his overweight mate against bullies, mean teachers and desperate gangsters that many readers will put themselves in the hero’s shoes.  In fact Roxburgh says, “”My oldest boy started to hit an age where I was conscious I was finding the books I was reading him as entertaining and amusing as he was,” … ”I thought I could write to that world, I could locate myself in that neck of woods and deal with that immature adventurous sense of play.

Because of his public profile, Roxburgh and his book received a lot of publicity when it was released in October 2016 and I was keen to see if the writing actually lived up to the hype.  Pleased to record that it kept me reading to the end and that I could ‘see’ young boys particularly enjoying it and recommending it to their peers.  A great start to the 2017 reading seasons.

Big Bash League (series)

Big Bash League

Big Bash League

 

 

 

 

 

Big Bash League

Michael Panckridge

Random House Australia, 2016

156pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

Switch Hit Showdown
9780143782193

Captain’s Clash
9780143782216

Double Delivery
9780143782230

Bowling Blitz
9780143782254

With the cricket season well under way and the very popular Big Bash League looming, this is a series that will appeal to all fans of the format, both boys and girls.  Each book is a separate entity focusing on fans of two of the teams in the league – Switch Hit Showdown features the Melbourne Stars and the Melbourne Renegades; Captains’ Clash is Sydney Sixes and Sydney Thunder; Double Delivery is Hobart Hurricanes and Brisbane Heat and Bowling Blitz, the Perth Scorchers and Adelaide Strikers. Each has passionate cricketers involved in a local competition and having to find a way to work together to overcome obstacles.

Panckridge, well known for his sports adventure books, has cleverly included players of both genders in the stories acknowledging that cricket is not a male-only sport and the WBBL and our national women’s cricket team the Southern Stars are gaining a much higher profile and respect as their success grows.

Written for independent readers, each book includes tips about the focus skill – batting, all-rounder, fielding and bowling as well as a profile of the two teams.  Double Delivery even has instructions for Dice Cricket that can be played when you can’t get outdoors.

A great series for those who love their sport and demand to read about it. 

 

 

 

Barney and the Secret of the Whales

Barney and the Secret of the Whales

Barney and the Secret of the Whales

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Barney and the Secret of the Whales

Jackie French

Mark Wilson

HarperCollins, 2016

144pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

9780732299446

 

It is Sydney in 1791 and Barney and Elsie have settled into their lives with the Reverend and Mrs Johnson as the fledgling colony tries to establish itself.  The Third Fleet has arrived and Captain Melvill is a guest at dinner.  Little does Barney know that this will change his life for Melvill is in command of the Britannia, a whaling ship and intent on sailing into southern waters to plunder its riches now their human cargo has been safely delivered.

With a promise of earning enough money to buy stock for land he hopes to be awarded in time, particularly after the Johnsons have made it clear they will return to England, Barney is enticed to join Melville’s crew for the journey south.  But the dream is shattered almost the minute he steps on deck and he is dismayed to discover that this is not a one-off experience – he is indentured for three years!  Assigned to being up the mast as the lookout, Barney soon spots whales and he and the reader are plunged into the gruesome details of the hunt, the capture and the destruction of a magnificent creature.  Because he is the one who gave the alert of its presence, Barney holds himself responsible for its death and wonders if he can really do this for another three years.  

The second in the Secret Histories series and sequel to Birrung, the Secret Friend, this is another engrossing and engaging read from master historical storyteller, Jackie French.  In the notes at the back she makes it clear that distasteful as they may be to the modern reader, whaling and sealing were the two industries which sustained our nation in those early years and enabled it to diversify so that other products like wool could take over.  

Written for readers the same age as Barney, it traces Barney’s story through his own voice and his discovery of himself – a landlubber rather than a seaman – with a clarity that many of his age would not have today. At its most basic level  there is scope for comparing the life of a child of Barney’s era and circumstance to one of a 12 year old in Australia in the 21st century and even to track the events that have occurred to bring about the changes.    What do today’s children think those of the 23rd century might think about their lives?

French has not glossed over the details of the fate of the whale but viewed through Barney’s perspective which is sympathetic to the whale’s ordeal, it is perhaps a more gentle account than the reality and may well raise issues about how humans treat animals and why they do or did.  There is an excellent opportunity to compare and contrast the perception and treatment of whales in the 18th and 19th centuries and their consequences  to the current situation where they are revered. 

As usual, Jackie French has crafted a tale that is a perfect standalone read as well as being an opportunity to dig deeper, behind and beyond the words.  Teaching notes are available.

Usborne Illustrated Traditional Stories

Usborne Illustrated Traditional Stories

Usborne Illustrated Traditional Stories

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Usborne Illustrated Traditional Stories

Usborne 2016

256pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9781409596721

 

This is a collection of 17 stories from around the world that have been passed on from generation to generation so they are now part of our literature but which don’t fit into the fairytale classification.  Stories like The Boy who Cried Wolf, The Gingerbread Man, Baba Yaga and The Little red Hen sit alongside not-so-well-known ones like Tam Lin and The Fisherman and the Genie/

With lovely illustrations throughout and with a luxury padded hardback cover, this is one of those must-have volumes in your teacher’s toolkit that you can take out and share whenever there is a spare minute or two, continuing the tradition of passing them on to a new generation.  Newly independent readers will also enjoy them as the familiar stories,  larger font and short story format will make them an easy bedtime read.  

This series is filling a niche for younger readers that has been empty for some time .

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.  

Usborne Illustrated Originals

The Railway Children

The Railway Children

Kidnapped

Kidnapped

The Odyssey

The Odyssey

Anne of Green Gables

Anne of Green Gables

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Railway Children

E. Nesbit

Ji-Hyuk KIm

Usborne Illustrated Originals, 2016

384pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781474915984

 

Kidnapped

Robert Louis Stevenson

Fran Parreno

Usborne Illustrated Originals, 2016

448pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781409581970

 

The Odyssey

Retold by Anna Melbourne

Sebastiaan Van Donnick

Usborne Illustrated Originals, 2016

255pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781409598930

 

Anne of Green Gables

L. M. Montgomery

Usborne Illustrated Originals, 2016

504pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781409598671

Every time someone produces a list of “Books Children MUST Read” or “The Top 100 Books EVER” or something similar, there are certain titles that are always included – titles like The Railway Children, Kidnapped, Anne of Green Gables and The Odyssey and a host of others that have been written over the past century or so and the quality of the story has earned them the tag of ‘classic’.  While it is hard to pin down exactly what it is that makes a story “a good read” let alone a classic, generally it is agreed that it is a story that has a plot that focuses on a universal truth that is understood by readers from various backgrounds, social levels and abilities and has stood the test of time and is considered representative of both life and literature of the time.

However, as our children are surrounded by graphics and demand these as an integral part of their reading, some of the text-dense releases of the past hold little appeal for them and so many miss out on being acquainted with stories that they might enjoy.  Usborne is addressing this with their new releases of the stories under their Usborne Illustrated Classics banner with complete and unabridged reprints of the originals but that are illustrated in full colour and packaged with attractive covers.  Endpapers help situate the story as their landscape is very different to that which is now familiar and  some have glossaries of unusual words or phrases and information about the author, the setting or the timeframe.  By searching for the title on Usborne’s Quicklinks site readers can find links to websites that tell them more about the story itself or its author.

While competent, independent readers will read the stories for themselves, these new editions are perfect for a teacher to serialise in the classroom or a parent reading to a child at bedtime. (Kidnapped first appeared as a serial in the magazine Young Folks, so it would a perfect starting point to introduce Stevenson’s works.) A wonderful way to introduce a new generation to titles from the past that they should read. 

 

The Big Flood

The Big Flood

The Big Flood

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Juliet Nearly a Vet: The Big Flood

Rebecca Johnson

Kyla May

Puffin, 2016

84pp., pbk., RRP $A9.99

9780143507031

Juliet and her best friend Chelsea love animals, and Juliet KNOWS she will be a vet.  Problem is, she’s only ten years old so she has a bit of time before she can go to university and start the study.  But she’s getting a head start by helping her mum in her veterinary practice, keeping her vet diary meticulously and making sure her emergency kit is always on hand. Chelsea is also an animal fanatic but her dream is to be a world famous trainer and groomer. 

In this, the 11th in this series, Juliet and Chelsea are involved in rescuing a variety of creatures after rain has deluged the land and left it flooded.  The first task is to get their neighbours’ alpacas to higher ground and while the cria goes willingly on the boat, its hembre (mother) is a little more hesitant.  Once that task is complete, they head for home but Juliet is sure she spots movement on an island and wants to stop. However, her mother is anxious to get back to the surgery in case neighbours have brought in any emergencies and so Juliet is left frustrated.

She is determined to confirm what she saw and so with the help of Chelsea and her dad (who is afraid of animals, particularly mice) she sets off in Chelsea’s brother’s canoe to investigate.  And sure enough, there is a whole menagerie there including mice, lizards, stick insects and an echidna who is struggling to breathe.

This is a series that is loved by young girls who love animals and who are independent readers. The combination of strong, independent girls who are “clever, almost grownups” and animals mixed with a touch of humour is  unbeatable. It’s written by Rebecca Johnson who is the author of so many of those delightful junior non-fiction titles photographed and published by Steve Parish, and illustrated with cute pictures by Kyla May.  Interspersed throughout are excerpts from Juliet’s vet diary which actually include some interesting facts such as those about the alpacas and which could be a model for the other Juliets in the offing.  There’s also a quiz at the end of the book that enhances the learning.

All the books in the series are listed here. If your library doesn’t have them they are a worthwhile investment because they tick so many boxes for the Year 2-4 reader.

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.

The Stupendously Spectacular Spelling Bee

The Stupendously Spectacular Spelling Bee

The Stupendously Spectacular Spelling Bee

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Stupendously Spectacular Spelling Bee

Deborah Abela

Random House Australia, 2016

232pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781925324822

Things have been tough in the tiny town of Yungabilla, and particularly so for the Wimple family since mum gave up her teaching job to homeschool Boo because of his asthma and Dad lost his as a journalist when the local newspaper closed down and he’s now got his own handyman business. But they are a close-knit family with Dad’s eternal optimism steering them through the roughest times, Mum’s patience and calming influence keeping everyone on track and Nanna Flo’s pragmatism keeping them grounded Every Friday night they gather around the television to watch The Stupendously Spectacular Spelling Bee with India Wimple successfully spelling every word along with the contestants.  So when host Philomena Spright looks straight down the camera lens exhorting children to enter the new series, India feels she is speaking directly to her.

Which is all very well because spelling really tricky words is not India’s problem – it’s her shyness and the family’s pecuniary problems that are bigger hurdles.  When she was younger and had the starring role in the school play, she was all set to go but just as she stepped on stage she saw a couple of people leaving and realised it was her mum and dad hurrying her young brother Boo outside to deal with another major asthma attack.  She lost her lines and her confidence in public at that moment but gained a loud voice in her head that constantly fuels her self-doubt and her fear that it would happen again. It pops up all the time suggesting that it’s impossible for one as ordinary as her to achieve a dream  So, at first she tells her family that she can’t enter and despite their protestations she sticks to her decisions.  But that night she sees Dad smile, something that is rare these days, so so that she can see that smile again, she agrees to have a go.

And so the scene is set for a most heart-warming, spirit-lifting story of a family and a community getting together to overcome all sorts of obstacles and hardships to make the dream come true.  This is not just about India- the whole town needs this, if only to prove that kids from the back of beyond are just as clever and polished as city kids and their own children can have the future they want.

Much has to be done to help India build her confidence and self-belief, just as much has to be done to find the money to get her to the heats and the final.  There are all sorts of contestants including the super-confident as well as  pushy parents to contend with, without even thinking of words that most of her age won’t have heard of, let alone use or understand (even when they are in a sentence!) It’s a story that we’re seeing playing on television all day at the moment, as our Olympic competitors from all sorts of backgrounds, overcome all the odds and realise their dream of being an Olympian. Even the contestants in the tremendously popular television program The Great Australian Spelling Bee will now come to life and be more like the real kids they know.  And while for Olympian, television contestant and India alike the prize is the goal, it’s also about the journey and what they learn along the way that is the most important.

This is an inspirational story that would make a great read-aloud and a wonderful read-alone at any time but particularly at this time or at the beginning of the year as we encounter students with all sorts of concerns about what hurdles they will have to leap as a new phase unfolds and fears have to be faced. Striving for a dream, using the support of those around you, taking one step at a time, believing in yourself and allowing obstacles to become opportunities is a  message that our young need to hear, especially when they seem to be surrounded by ‘instant success” and live in a world of ‘instant gratification’. 

Adding to the story is the introduction of each chapter… a particular word is featured, it’s definition and part of speech and just like in the competition it is used in a sentence.  This prepares the reader for what is to come, building personal vocabulary and understanding in the best way as we read on to see how it plays out.  Daunting, valorous, imperious, calamitous and skulduggery all come to life!

Deborah Abela has written a most profound book, very different from much that is available to younger readers today, and created not only an engaging, what-happens-next story but one built around a family who will be readily recognisable by readers.  If Miss 10 were to adopt India Wimple as her role model, I would be more than happy.