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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.

Tashi and the Wicked Magician

Tashi and the Wicked Magician

Tashi and the Wicked Magician

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tashi and the Wicked Magician

Anna Fienberg & Barbara Fienberg

Geoff Kelly & Kim Gamble

Allen & Unwin, 2016

96pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781760290504

The only thing that spreads faster than a cold through a primary school is the news that there is a new Tashi book out and the library has a copy!

In this new paperback addition to the series, Tashi – that magical little chap who has big adventures – features in five new stories and confronts fearsome opponents set on destroying his village and his peace.  This time there’s a  magician with a greedy plan, a haunted house about to go up in flames, ruthless ruffians after a rare orchid, and a quest for the bravest person in the land to face the fire-breathing Red Whiskered Dragon.

Originally published in hardback format in 2014, this is a timeless series that continually appeals to those newly independent readers who are stepping out into the world of fantasy.  The stories are short, the illustrations colourful and the characters are clearly good or evil.

Back in the days when I was co-ordinating Read Around Australia I ran a book rap based on all the Tashi novels published at the time. Small groups of students selected one story and had to write a synopsis and then pose a series of questions that would challenge the thinking of other students around Australia who had to answer them.  What they discovered was that each story threw up a number of ethical questions that could be discussed and debated and so they became so much more than an introduction to fantasy and an easy read.  These new stories are similar – is saving the greedy Baron’s treasure a worthy cause worth risking your life for? 

If you want to capitalise on the fascination for Tashi,  then check out A Flight of Fantasy, a unit of work based on the series and available for free through the National Digital Learning Resources Network.  Log into your Scootle account and search for R11582.  It’s written for Years 5/6 but can easily be adapted for younger students.

Many will be familiar with Tashi through the series screened on the ABC – they will be delighted to know they can meet him again and share his adventures in the world of print.  He even has his own website.  

Toad Delight

Toad Delight

Toad Delight

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Toad Delight

Morris Gleitzman

Puffin, 2016

144pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9780143309239

He’s back!!!!  That ugly, poisonous, gentle-hearted cane toad Limpy is back!!!  In his fifth adventure just in time to be introduced to a whole new generation of newly independent readers who just want a light-hearted read full of fun about Australia’s public enemy #1.

After doing his usual morning rounds of saying goodbye to his relatives that have been squished flat as a placemat by cars and baked as hard as a pizza in the sun, Limpy goes to check on his cousin Goliath to try to stop him getting himself killed by threatening traffic.  But this morning Goliath is not at his normal spot in the swamp sharpening sticks to wave at cars and trucks and yelling obscenities at them –  this morning he is sitting on a mound of freshly picked waterlilies, his arm around a penguin-like creature that turns out to be a child’s backpack.  And there the trouble begins.

Goliath has fallen in love and when the owner of the backpack takes it away from him, he is so distraught and heart-broken he is determined to find ‘Penny’ again, even if it means venturing into the city.  In the meantime, Limpy has decided that the reason that humans don’t like cane toads is because they see them as greedy and mean and he is on his own quest to persuade both his relatives to change their ways and for humans to form a different perception.  So when there is an opportunity for the two of them to get to the city, albeit with a camera crew for a television show, they don’t hesitate.  What they don’t realise until it is almost too late, is that this television crew is from a culinary show specialising in unusual ingredients and their next big thing is going to be battered cane toad buttocks…

Gleitzman is a master storyteller and it is hard to grasp that the author who introduced us to the sombre story of Felix in the series Once, Now, Then and Soon is also the creator of this crazy, humorous, mad series about a cane toad with a squashed right leg (that predicts the weather) who has delighted readers since we first met him in 1999 in Toad Rage when he tried (and failed) to have cane toads become the mascots for the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney.  Since then, thousands and thousands of children have followed his madcap adventures, always pushing the good side of the species, through Toad Heaven, Toad Away and Toad Surprise. Toad Delight is just as much fun and begs to be shared aloud and read alone but not before a meal.  (Perhaps not immediately after it, either.) 

With its Olympic theme, now might be a prime opportunity to introduce new audiences to Limpy through Toad Rage and then tantalise them with Toad Delight as the next course. 

No child should complete primary school without knowing this endearing little character and his loving rellies.

 

Morris Gleitzman promotes Toad Delight in Canberra

Roald Dahl Collection

Roald Dahl Collection

Roald Dahl Collection

 

 

 

 

 

 

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

9780141365374

Matilda

9780141365466

The BFG

9780141365428

Roald Dahl

Puffin, 2016

pbk., RRP $A16.99

On September 13, 1916 one of the greatest children’s authors of all time was born and in just 43 days there will be great celebrations to mark the centenary of his birth.  There are many events planned, particularly in the UK but to mark the occasion here, Penguin Random House have relaunched a number of his most popular books, bringing the works of this word wizard into the world of a new generation.

Originally written in 1964 and already over 50 years old, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is arguably the best-known of Dahl’s creations having been made into a movie in both 1971 (under the title Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory) and in 2005. It was also converted to an opera The Golden Ticket in 2010 and a musical in 2013.  It is the story of poverty-stricken Charlie Bucket who wins one of five golden tickets (along with Augustus Gloop, Veruca Salt, Mike Teavee and Violet Beauregard) to visit the mysterious, magical chocolate factory of eccentric chocolatier Willie Wonka and the adventures that befall them. 

Matilda is the story of child genius Matilda Wormwood who loves to read and study but who is regarded by her ignorant, self-absorbed family as a freak and a scab.  This does not deter her in any way for she is smart enough to see them for what they are.  It also features the lovely Miss Honey and the frightening, stereotypical principal Miss Trunchbull who has her own reasons for being so nasty that the children live in fear of her.  This has also been made into both a movie and a musical. (Tickets to the Brisbane production of this are part of the Readathon prize)

In 1982, Dahl wrote The BFG introducing us to Sophie, the Big Friendly Giant, a host of very unfriendly giants and his wonderful way with words that speak directly to his audience.  Few children would not know what a whizzpopper is and be able to explain its cause and effect  particularly after the release of the movie that was such a hit in the recent school holidays.

Dahl’s writing career spanned five decades and during that time he brought love and laughter, mystery, mayhem and magic into the lives of millions – telling stories that engage adults as much as children.  These three are just a tiny portion of those he wrote and having been translated into 55 languages, there would be few who would not know of his genius and had a little light brought into their lives because of it.  Publishers Penguin Random House have launched a readathon competition to celebrate this milestone but for me, it will be about sharing my favourite story (George’s Marvellous Medicine) with Miss 5 whom I know is going to make a reading friend for life

Penelope Perfect: The Truly Terrible Mistake

Penelope Perfect: The Truly Terrible Mistake

Penelope Perfect: The Truly Terrible Mistake

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Penelope Perfect: The Truly Terrible Mistake

Chrissie Perry

Hardie Grant Egmont, 2016

144pp., pbk., RRP $A14.95

9781760120276

Penelope Kingston (aka Penelope Perfect) has made a terrible mistake.  When she answered the questions on the maths test, she missed five of them on the back of the page!!  Not only does that mean she might not get an A  on her report card (and thus the admiration and another $20 from her absent father) but she has also received the same mark as Joanna, the “naughty girl’ in the class who is much more adept at blowing spitballs than academics.  Penelope is devastated, especially when Ms Pike refuses to let her take the test again!

But she sees a way to redeem her grades (which seem to be her motivation and on which her entire self-worth is based) through excelling in the drama competition instead.  In fact she has already written a play that will put them ahead of the other groups, but then her drama teacher Mr Salmon mixes up the groups and instead of her usual crew, Penelope now has Joanna in her group – and Joanna most definitely has her own ideas!

Penelope turns to her beloved grandfather for advice – as she often does, particularly when she feels the loud, bossy, angry twin of her Gemini personality rising – and he gives her the cryptic message to “colour outside the lines”.  So will she be able to work as a team member and shine in the play or will her wilfulness and need to be perfect (in her eyes) destroy all her relationships? Is even her new best friend Bob deserting her?

Girls from Years 2-6 will be able to empathise with the plights of the characters in this story, whether they are a Penelope, a Joanna, or a peace-maker Bob.  Personally, I would have liked to have seen Penelope get a greater understanding of the reasons behind Joanna’s behaviours, but perhaps that just me with my adult-teacher hat on, and not seeing things through the eyes of Miss 10 who was eager to re-read the series and then devoured this new one on her recent visit.  I reviewed the first three earlier this year and it says a lot about how they resonated with Miss Now-10 that as she dug through the pile of new books on her bed, that this was her first choice to read. 

Reading series plays an important part in the reading development of our students because they have already internalised much about the characters and the setting so they can devote their attention to more complex plots so to have another one that appeals to those in-between readers to add to the collection is a bonus.  Miss 10 and I did have a discussion about whether Penelope should measure her worth in grades and whether that was the only reason her dad loved her, as well as what she thought about Joanna and whether there were ‘Joannas’ in her class and how she might reach out to them, which is the beauty of us both usually reading the same books, but even without that shared-reading element, this is a series I can recommend.

The Other Christy

The Other Christy

The Other Christy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Other Christy

Oliver Phommavanh

Puffin, 2016

208pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9780143505723

 

For the last three years at Cabravale Primary, Christy Ung has been in the same class as Christie Owens.  Even though they share the same name, they couldn’t be more different.  Loud, brash, attention-seeking it girl Christie Owens is the opposite of shy, quiet, friendless Cambodian Christy – so much so that she has been dubbed “The Other Christy’.

All Christy wants is to have a friend, someone to bake treats for, someone who doesn’t see her as a ‘spare Christy’ and calls her anything but ‘The Other Christy’. But it doesn’t happen.  If her class were the solar system, Christie Owens would be the sun, her friends the planets, and Christy is Pluto.  She views herself as a meteorite floating around the school, spending her time in the Quiet Quad with the other meteorites who find it tricky to make friends for one reason or another.

She is made to feel even more isolated when she is the only person in the class who doesn’t receive an invitation to Christie’s party but even though her own birthday is just a week later she doesn’t feel she can invite people to her home because her Grandpa whom she lives with has a germ phobia and most of Christy’s home time is spent cleaning.  However, her dead mother’s sister has married an Australian and lives nearby so Christy is able to escape some times, learning to bake the most scrumptious treats.  It is Christy’s baking skills that bring a huge change in her life as she takes her birthday cake into school – a triple chocolate cheesecake that sets off a chain of events that Christy could not have foreseen.  Not only does she start to build friendships (although she doesn’t recognise them at the time) Christie becomes her BFF!  But, as is the way of friendships with this age group it has to survive and overcome several hurdles as both girls learn a lot about themselves and others on the way.

This is an engaging and entertaining read that reflects so much of what happens in Year 5 and 6 as friendships wax and wane, ebb and flow, include and exclude, as the children gradually move into adolescence and independence wanting to branch out on their own but needing the safety and solace of family.  Christy’s home life, built on a very different life in Cambodia that is gradually revealed, echoes that of many of our students who come here unable to speak English and having to overcome that as well as the cultural changes, let alone making friends in a situation where friendships were cemented in Kindergarten. 

Phommavanh says he has drawn on his experiences as a teacher and it is clear he was a very observant one as the dynamics of the relationships could be duplicated in almost any school in the country.   It is touching, sensitive and wholly realistic but mostly, it offers hope for those, who, like Christy, want nothing more than to have someone they can call a friend. It’s about staying true to yourself and your beliefs and trusting that who you are is enough. 

Captain Jimmy Cook Discovers Third Grade

Captain Jimmy Cook Discovers Third Grade

Captain Jimmy Cook Discovers Third Grade

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Captain Jimmy Cook Discovers Third Grade

Kate and Jol Temple

Jon Foye

Allen & Unwin, 2016

160pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

9781760291938

 

It all starts in History Week when Jimmy Cook discovers three things…

  1. Captain Cook was the greatest explorer that ever lived.
  2. Captain Cook is his great grandfather 32 times removed
  3. Third grade is going to be the best year of his life.

He also discovers that he and said Captain Cook have three things in common…

  1. They share the same name
  2. They are both great explorers
  3. They both look good in a tricorn hat.

Discovering these things is almost as good as the escape of the class’s pet ambystona mexicanum (axolotl) and helps the younger James Cook discover there is more to history than that discovered so far on yawn.com.  His interest wanes fractionally when Ms Fennel insists that each student keeps a diary of Cook.  Jimmy is having none of this “sitting down with a fluffy purple pen and drawing rainbows that smile and flowers with tears.”  Diaries are definitely girl things and Captain James Cook would never have done that as he bravely explored the high seas, but he changes his mind when Ms Fennel points out that a ‘boy diary’ is called a log, and Captain James most definitely kept one of those. 

So for the next six weeks Jimmy Cook keeps a log, starting with a note of the weather and an inventory of his pockets, as all logs do. He shares his excitement at having to dress as Captain Cook and his bitter disappointment when he discovers that the local museum does not have HM Bark Endeavour but just an old nail.  But it his discovery that Cook died a violent death in Hawaii, a land surely still inhabited by savages who need to be tamed that provide the impetus for him to get to Hawaii himself, and the discovery that a cereal company is offering an all-expenses paid trip there to the person who collects the most coupons could be his means to get there.

This is a rollicking, fast-moving story full of typical Year 3 thoughts and humour that will carry the reader along, eager to discover whether Jimmy beats his rival Alice Toolie in the coupon collection stakes and whether he does make it to Hawaii to tame the savage beasts who killed his hero and great grandfather (32x removed).  With the diary entries keeping chapters short and interspersed with graphics that could have been drawn by Jimmy himself, it has broad appeal for younger readers who will see themselves in the story somewhere.  It has its serious moments, particularly when Jimmy does work experience as a Town Crier helping Bernie the homeless man sell The Big Deal, but all in all, it’s an engaging read that will inspire our younger boys to keep reading. 

They can discover more on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HZkrpS5olcA and look forward to Captain Jimmy Cook Discovers X Marks the Spot.

Fizz the Police Dog (series)

Fizz the Police Dog

   Fizz the Police Dog

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fizz and the Police Dog Tryouts

9781760112851

Fizz and the Dog Academy  Rescue

9781760112844

Fizz and the Show Dog Jewel Thief

9781760112882

Fizz and the Handbag Dognapper

9781760112899

Lesley Gibbes

Stephen Michael King

Allen & Unwin. 2016

80pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

 

Fizz is now a grown up dog, no longer a puppy, and he is very determined that he wants to be a brave, clever, fast police dog.  The only problem is that he is not a German Shepherd – he’s a small cute ball of white, fizzy, fuzzy fur!  Not exactly the right look for a police dog. In fact he’s a Bolognese and comes from a long line of champion show dogs and is expected to follow the family tradition.  Or at the very least a lapdog, a handbag dog or a companion dog like his brothers and sisters.

But Fizz is determined, even moreso when his friend Tom tells him it’s not the size of the dog in the fight but the size of the fight in the dog and shows him an advertisement for the upcoming police dog tryouts. All Fizz has to do was show up and pass three tests.   But when he arrives at the police station he is somewhat daunted for there are many dogs waiting and all of them much bigger.  His courage and confidence take a deep dive. When Amadeus who comes from a long line of police dogs and who has been practising for a long time, arrives with his ‘henchmen’ and starts to bully him and suggests he goes to the Miss Fluffy Puppy tryouts, Fizz really starts to worry and doubt.  But from deep within, his determination rises and he stands up to Amadeus and refuses to give in.

And so the day begins, with Amadeus bullying Fizz at every opportunity trying to prove that he will be the next City Police Dog, not some little thing that looks like a powder puff.  First up is the Bark Test, then the Scare Test and then the Chase-and-Catch Test.  How will Fizz ever compete against all those other dogs?  But being a police dog isn’t all about being the fiercest, angriest, loudest dog in the pack – it’s about being smart and fearless and resilient. But sometimes even that’s not enough.  Amadeus becomes the City Police Dog and Fizz becomes…

This is a new series for younger almost-independent readers that will have wide appeal to those who like animal stories, adventure and fun.   There are now four in the series which follow Fizz through his Academy training to become a dog detective and on to his first cases, one of which involves his sister Crystal. With short chapters and such an engaging character, the text demonstrates the author’s long experience as a primary school teacher as well as the owner of some feisty little dogs (who may have wanted to be police dogs too.)  Stephen Michael King’s illustrations are the perfect accompaniment – who wouldn’t quiver in the face of Amadeus?  You need to look what happens when you line the spines up in order!  Clever!

Series offer many benefits for readers – not the least of which is encouraging the child to keep reading – and to find one that is so appealing to both boys and girls and is well written and appropriately illustrated is gold.  The test for me is whether I can hear myself reading it aloud to children as I read it silently to myself, and this definitely met that criterion.  Now to find some kids to share it with…

For those of you near Avalon in Sydney, Lesley Gibbes will be reading and signing copies of the books at the Avalon Community Library on July 7 at 10.30am.  RSVP to the library.