The National Museum of Australia is home to one of the richest collections of objects, photographs, artefacts and other items that document the history of this country from the times of our earliest indigenous people through European exploration, settlement and expansion and on into the 21st century. Drawing on these riches, Robert Lewis has traced the story of Australia in a way that is accessible to young independent readers wanting to begin to understand their heritage.
Filled with photographs, charts and other illustrations, it gives an overview offering explanations of key events and the people behind them which encourage the young historian to delve deeper, explore further and perhaps even make a plan to visit the museum itself to see the actual objects.
This would make a great reference work to have on the home shelves as children start their formal study of the nation’s history but it also perfect for the library’s collection to help answer quick questions and show that history is about story not just facts and figures.
Alien Invaders from Beyond the Stars/Night of the Creepy Carnival
Super Sports Spectacular/Trapped in the Games Grid
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.
March 1942 – the Japanese have reached Indonesia and there is a constant stream of flights shuttling refugees from Java to the safe haven of Broome on the north-west coast of Western Australia. Russian flying ace Captain Smirnoff is piloting one of the last planes to leave Bandung Airport, an old DC3 stripped back to the bare minimum to allow for as many passengers as possible including five Dutch pilots, a trainee flight engineer, a mother and her 18 month old son.
Just as they are about to take off an official jumps on board and hands Smirnoff a package, tell him to “Take great care of this. Someone from the bank will collect it when you land.”
Unfortunately for Smirnoff, his crew and his passengers, the Japanese have switched their target to Broome and just an hour from their destination they are shot down. Despite injuries and continuing Japanese fire, Smirnoff manages to bring the plane down on the edge of the beach…
What happened next – the survival and rescue of the passengers; the finding and the contents of the mysterious package and the enigmatic man who became known as Diamond Jack are the centre of this intriguing true tale that still remains unanswered 75 years on. Should he have done what he did? Is “finders keepers” really the rule to live by?
Rudyard Kipling once said, “If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten” and in this new series from self-confessed history-hunter Mark Greenwood there are stories told that would otherwise have been forgotten, if they were ever widely known in the first place. Short, engaging reads written in short chapters, large font and liberally illustrated they are not only perfect for the young reader moving on to independent reading but also those who may not have yet unlocked the key. Greenwood writes an introduction that personalises the story as though he is talking directly to the reader, drawing them into this tale that is about to unfold and then, the tale told, he talks about the sources he has drawn on and provides a lot of extra information so not only is the story authenticated but there is scope for further discovery.
Something special to add to the collection and promote an interest in times past in a way seldom done. Australia- a country full of stories!
Before the age of printing made books more accessible to the general populace, texts were painstakingly produced by hand in monasteries by monks who were among the few literate people in a community. Artists known as illuminators embellished a text made by a scribe with a colourful, highly decorative capital letter often gilded with gold leaf so it appeared to be filled with light. Such books were priceless and became treasured objects.
From its collection of texts, most of which are 500 years old, the British Library has selected 26 examples, each representing a letter of the alphabet and each annotated with the origin of the original, and transformed them into intricate outlines perfect for those who enjoy the challenge of colouring in. There are samples from medieval charters and seals, historical and literary manuscripts, from Virgil to Chaucer and Royal Statutes to the Book of Psalms and the endpapers have reproductions of the originals so there is a choice to try to duplicate the original or create something new.
While there are many benefits of colouring in for children that centre around the development of hand-eye co-ordination and spatial awareness, it is becoming a favoured occupation by those who are older for the therapeutic qualities particularly promoting mindfulness and reducing stress.
Although photocopying of the images for multiple use in a makerspace environment would be a breach of copyright, nevertheless each page could be given to individuals in need of a break, Printed on quality paper they would make a colourful display which could spark an investigation into the origin and history of the written word, the history and origin of the process of illuminations or even life in the Middle Ages generally, particularly the role of religion which is such a driving force for many, even today. The current anti-Islamic fervour which seems to be building around the world has very deep roots!
It could also become the ubiquitous alphabet chart found in primary libraries or even become the signage for the fiction section. Imagine the boost to a child’s self-esteem when they see their work put to such a useful purpose!
This books offers more than just a shoosh-and-colour activity to fill in time. It has the potential to take the students on a journey into our past.
What happens when you ask leading authors such as Nick Falk, Sofie Laguna, Tristan Bancks, Jacqueline Harvey, George Ivanoff, Aleesah Darlinson and half a dozen others to write a short story featuring a dog? You get a volume of twelve stories starring magic dogs, invisible dogs, hacker dogs, and all sorts of others that will keep dog lovers reading for a long time.
There are stories about Bad Buster, The Dog Kisser, Susie the Wonderdog, The Dog who Forgot and even The Magic Piddle that will appeal to the newly independent reader with their larger font and manageable word count, and illustrated by Jules Faber. The quality of the authors mean the quality of the story is guaranteed and even though they are brief, the reader is still left feeling satisfied that they have been entertained and perhaps even seek out other works by the authors.
With summer holidays here and children looking for something to read that doesn’t need too much effort and concentration, short stories are the answer. They can be the bridge between formal instructional texts and fully independent reading of self-selected novels so their value should never be underestimated. So if you have a dog-lover who is looking for something short but satisfying, this is the ideal solution.
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.
The Night Santa Got Lost: How NORAD Saved Christmas
The Night Santa Got Lost: How NORAD Saved Christmas
Regency Kids, 2015
On a day long ago began NORAD’s tradition-
Tracking Santa’s red sleigh on his once-a-year mission.
Using radar and satellites – fighter jets too!
Reporting on Santa, wherever he flew.
But one Christmas Eve a blizzard rolls in and so Santa leaves the North Pole early much to the dismay of NORAD who weren’t prepared for the unscheduled start. And as the green blip disappears off the radar screen and there is no sign of Santa or his reindeer, panic ensues. A four star general and the Commander-in-Chief order the fighter jets into the air and every last piece of technology the US Air Force has is set to searching for Santa.
Eventually he is found buried deep in a snow drift but now it is too late to get all the presents to the children in the traditional way of reindeer and sleigh, so once again the bigwigs put their heads together and come up with a most audacious plan that involves NATO and other US allies, battleships, cruisers, submarines, helicopters, C-17s, trucks and tanks and every other sort of transport available to the military. And for those places where “The children love Santa, but the leaders say no”, there are Special Ops, Navy SEALS and tough Army Rangers.
Will their mission succeed? Will they get to all the children of the world in time?
Dedicated to the children whose parents “allow us to live in a world where we have the freedom to believe in Santa Claus” this is a very different story for Christmas, one that acknowledges those who serve by showing them in a less-that-traditional setting. NORAD (North American Aerospace Defence Command) is a joint United States and Canadian military organisation and for over 60 years it has tracked Santa’s flight each December 24. Children can watch where he is by going to the website or downloading an app so they know when they have to get into bed after their tour of the local Christmas lights as more than 1500 people trace his every movement through 47 radar installations in Northern Canada and Alaska, alerting them to when Santa actually leaves the North Pole, and satellites at about 22,000 miles above the Earth with infrared sensors, which see the heat coming off of Rudolph’s nose. In addition, there high-speed digital SantaCams set up around the world to catch a glimpse of him passing by the different cities.
Written in the vein of The Night Before Christmas this is one that even older children will enjoy. While predominantly American and with several pages of explanations at the end, nevertheless it will resonate particularly with children whose family members are in the services.
The blurb reads, “Stop your mum picking her nose, read the secret diary of a dog, catch a bus and then let it go, discover how one slice of toast can make you the most popular person in school, start wearing a crown and give up eating pig-nostril gruel, use a wrecking ball to defeat a bully, show your big sister the very scary secret in your wardrobe, unleash the awesome power of chips, live in a house that gets wiped clean more often than a bottom.”
But there is so much more to this collection of short stories from a master storyteller who seamlessly switches between the poignancy of Two weeks with the Queen, the gaiety of Toad Rage and the seriousness and sincerity of the Once series. Gleitzman himself says, “Nine stories, and I’ve made them different lengths because different parents have different ideas about how long a person should be allowed to read before turning the lights out.”
With a title designed to attract that reader who loves to makes sure parents and teachers have a stomach-churning moment when they see it, nevertheless there are serious undertones to each as the central character of each tries to grapple with a big problem affecting family or friends using a thought process and logic that are particular to that age group. Creativity is alive and well in children – until the formality and seriousness of school try to quell it.
Along with Give Peas a Chance and Pizza Cake, these stories which give the author “a break from the stiff neck and stiff brain you sometimes get writing book-length stories” might seem a long way from the stories Gleitzman commonly crafts and which he is so valued for, but as he says, he would” hate to forget that in stories a laugh can have a teardrop as a very close neighbour.” However, despite the sombre notes this is a collection that will keep those newly independent readers, particularly boys, reading and help them transition to the next phase of their reading journey – which will probably be a Gleitzman novel – as they show that even short stories with wicked titles can have great, credible characters and a depth of plot that makes reading so worthwhile.
Parents, teachers and teacher librarians are blessed to have such a gifted writer as Gleitzman on their side.
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.
Long before J.K. Rowling introduced us to basilisks, blast-ended skrewts and bow-truckles, literature was alive with fantastic creatures stretching way back into the mythology of ancient civilisations. “Mythology is a place where we can meet all kinds of beings, from human-like spirits to hybrids formed from two or more different animals.”
From giants to griffins, Cerberus to Pegasus this luxuriously illustrated book introduces a menagerie of sixteen fantastic creatures and explains their origins and their powers. With the illustrations being done by a variety of artists and a myriad of techniques used, this is a lavish visual feast that has the reader delving into each creature’s story and learning the background of those things that inhabit so many favourite books and films and may even take them on a journey through the mythologies of storytellers, perhaps even investigate why they populate history in the way they do.
This is a must-have in any school library collection to satisfy the fascination with fantasy and those which inhabit that world that shows no signs of abating.