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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.  

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.

Squishy Taylor (series)

Squishy Taylor (series)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Squishy Taylor and the Bonus Sisters

9781760126759

Squishy Taylor and a Question of Trust

9781760126766

Squishy Taylor and the Vase that Wasn’t

9781760126773

 

Ailsa Wild

Ben Wood

Hardie Grant Egmont, 2016

Sita Taylor (aka Squishy Taylor based on her hero. gangster Squizzy Taylor) is an 11 year-old “solver of problems and mysterious mysteries with a daredevil flair for anything ninja-esque, [and] a big heart with a soft spot for anyone needing help” Reflecting the lives of .many of the target audience of young independent readers, Squishy is also from a mixed race background, and is part of a blended family and the first book Squishy Taylor and the Bonus Sisters deals with the familiar situation of children from different families being blended into one. An absent mother whom she chats with each night via Skype while trying to connect with another female adult mother-figure; sharing a room with two strangers who are her new sisters; a noisy baby who is her half-brother are tricky issues in themselves and initially the situation is difficult and prickly but as time (and adventures) go by things become more positive until she seems them as her bonus sisters. Trying to discover who is living in the basement of their apartment block (and shouldn’t be) is an extra conundrum.

The new sisters really gel in Squishy Taylor and a Question of Trust when they realise each hates their neighbour Mr Hinkenbushel and form a club dedicated to making his life as miserable as possible, particularly if they can get him arrested in connection with some stolen diamonds!

She is of that new breed of literary heroes for our girls – smart, independent, curious and imaginative – who faces real-life issues calling for real-life decisions that her audience can relate to because she lives in today’s world and is undaunted by those who think that she should behave in a certain way while still having all those doubts and issues that girls of this age do.  Yet she still has those mysteries to investigate that her audience would love to have in their own lives and so this serves as a sound introduction to that genre. Discussion of the elements of a quality mystery (and perhaps a comparison with Enid Blyton’s Famous Five series and why it has endured for nearly 75 years despite its ‘old-fashioned’ setting) could open a whole new world of reading for middle-primary girls who still need the support of larger fonts word art and generous illustrations to enrich and enhance their reading.

Like many of her age group, Miss 9 is right into reading series – preferring to binge read all episodes in one continual session – and she has already earmarked this collection for these school holidays. Tempt your young ladies with the book trailer 

squishy_taylor.2

 

The Snow Sister

The Snow Sister

The Snow Sister

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Snow Sister

Emma Carroll

Julian de Narvaez

Faber Children’s. 2015

128pp., pbk., RRP $A 14.99

9780571317639

 

It is Christmas Eve in Victorian England and Pearl Granger has just got into trouble for using her sister’s beautiful red and gold paisley shawl to adorn the “snow sister” she has made to honour and remember her sister Agnes who died from fever three years ago.  Since her death, Christmas has meant little to the family so Pearl is more concerned about the scolding she is going to get but it will be worth it because each year she builds herself a snow sister and each year she misses Agnes a little less.  Living in poverty means there is not a lot of extras for Christmas – even taking the two pieces of coal for her snow sister’s eyes means that the fire will burn a little lower that night despite the blizzard that is approaching.

As she trudges inside to face her due, she is met by the postman whose sack is weighed down by “these new Christmas cards” and he gives her a letter that she is to give her father immediately.  It is a letter that would seem to change the Grangers’ lives forever as Pa has been summoned to a solicitor’s office in Bath to hear the reading of his rich brother’s will – a will of which he is the ‘main beneficiary”.  Imagining new wealth beyond their dreams,  Pearl is sent to beg some more credit from Nobel’s Grocery so the family can have the ingredients for their first Christmas pudding since Agnes died but a series of circumstances see her getting to see the rich side of life that she fantasises about and helps her understand that all may not be what it seems.  Life is not necessarily about how many sugar plums you can eat.

As it cover hints, this is a poignant, heart-warming short story, beautifully written and illustrated with monochrome pictures evocative of the period, that not only paints a picture of the poor in Victorian England but also teaches lessons about the true meaning of Christmas and the power and importance of family love.  The rich–poor, upstairs-downstairs nature of society where wealth determines status is very apparent and readers will engage with Pearl’s almost Cinderella-like character in comparison to the snooty, spoiled Lockwood girls.

This would be a wonderful choice for a family read-aloud over a few nights or for the newly independent reader who is looking for more than a picture book story about Christmas.  Reviews of other books by Emma Carroll have suggested that she is an author on the rise and if  The Snow Sister is a sample of the quality of her writing, she is one I will look for again.  Definitely one for the Christmas collection.

 

Squishy McFluff the Invisible Cat: Secret Santa

Secret Santa

Secret Santa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Squishy McFluff, the Invisible Cat: Secret Santa

Pip Jones

Ellie Okstad

Faber and Faber, 2015

pbk, 80pp., RRP $A12.99

9780571302567

 

Squishy McFluff is so sweet, you’ll be smitten.
Such a clever and funny invisible kitten!

Imagine the fun of having a cat that only you can see, especially when it is really good at inventing great things to do like playing hide-and-seek at which he is world champion.  This is Ava’s luck.   She has a big imagination and is happiest when she’s playing with her cat, even though it can lead to trouble – which is exactly what happens in this latest addition to this series.

It’s nearly Christmas and Ava and Squishy are very excited.  But there are still preparations to be made, like buying the last minute things which means going into town where all is decorations and celebrations.  The trouble begins when Ava spots the wonky star at the top of the Christmas tree… The next day it is time to wrap the presents and when Mum says to wrap EVERYTHING, she is taken at her word… For someone who was trying to be good through all of December, this might not have a pretty ending for Ava, but she has one special thing she wants so she writes Santa a letter.

Young children will love this series from this English author as it holds many laughs and just a little bit of naughty. Written in rhyme it bounces along and Ella Okstad’s limited-palette illustrations are charming, capturing the essence of the text perfectly.

For those who can’t get enough of him, there’s a website with extra information and more fun and games at http://squishymcfluff.com/

This is something a little bit different to offer those just getting started on their independent reading journey who need a bit of support through short chapters, larger font and uncomplicated vocabulary – I think they will be eagerly awaiting the next adventure.  Perfect for putting aside for this year’s Christmas Countdown.

Meet… Sidney Nolan

Meet...Sidney Nolan

Meet…Sidney Nolan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meet… Sidney Nolan

Yvonne Mes

Sandra Eterovic

Random House Australia, 2015

32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9780857985897

I recently evaluated the 759 section of an established primary school library collection, the section that could be best described as ‘painters and their paintings’.  While there was a solid representation of those European artists that could be expected, there was nothing relating to our Australian painters, particularly those of the 20th century.  So I was delighted to see that the latest in the Meet… series, that collection of biographies about iconic Australians for primary students, addressed the life and times of Sir Sidney Nolan.  Its focus is the story behind the distinctive Ned Kelly paintings (available via Scootle MO12591).

As a boy in Victoria, Nolan loved to listen to the stories about Ned Kelly told to him by his grandfather who was a police officer at the time.  It inspired his imagination in many ways and so when circumstances of World War II had him on the run rather like the Kelly gang, an idea was sparked and an signature series of images was created.  And from that grew a new and different way to show this country’s amazing landscape making his style and works instantly recognisable, both in Australia and beyond.  There is now a permanent display of his works at the Canberra Museum and Gallery and together with the tools available on that site, this new addition to this series is perfect for enabling younger students to begin to learn about the legacy of this great Australian.

 

Silver Shoes (series)

Silver Shoes

Silver Shoes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Broadway Baby

9780857989031

 

Lights, Camera, Dance

9780857989055

 

Samantha-Ellen Bound

Random House, 2015

pbk., 144pp., RRP $A14.99

 

Broadway Baby and Lights, Camera, Action are the latest additions to the Silver Shoes series which follows the early dancing days of a group of friends at the Silver Shoes Dance Studio.  Each girl has her favourite genre and this time it is the turn of Ellie and Ashley to shine again. Since her success in And All That Jazz, Ellie has been taking singing lessons and now she is determined to wow them in a Broadway musical and become a ‘triple threat” – one who can act, dance and sing.  However, her strength is jazz ballet not tap dancing and there are those who are better than she also auditioning.

Meanwhile, in Lights, Camera, Action hip-hop lover Ashley is now inspired by reggae and is desperate to impress an agent looking for the star of his next music video.  But, as with the others in this series, there are those who are determined to be better than the heroine so like Ellie, Ashley has to dig deep into her inner self to persevere and test herself. 

Dancing remains one of the most popular sports for Australian children and so it’s no wonder that this series has been a hit with so many of the young girls I know.  Once again, the author’s expertise shines through and while the key focus is on the dancing element, she still holds a mirror to the life of this age group who are branching out into new ventures and friendships as they try out new independence.  Each reader sees herself as the lead character on the stage but can also relate to the challenges that have to be faced to get there. 

I know these will be snapped up as soon as they appear – here’s hoping there are more in the pipeline!

Click here for a review of the first two in the series

Click here for a review of the first two in the series

Click here for a review of others in the series

Click here for a review of others in the series

 

 

Lola’s Toybox: The Patchwork Picnic

Lola's Toybox

Lola’s Toybox

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lola’s Toybox: The Patchwork Picnic

Danny Parker

Guy Shield

Hardie Grant Egmont, 2015

85pp., pbk., RRP $A12.95

9781760124366

Lola was never allowed in the shed – it was too messy and too dangerous And it had spiders.  So when her mum decides to clean it out and invites the children to choose what they want to keep, she is amazed.  Hidden under a sheet and cover in dust she discovers a very old wooden toybox marked with the word Timberfields.  But older brother Nick also wants the box and as he comes into Lola’s room to demand it, she hides inside pulling the lid down only to find it fills with light and begins to shake.  When it stops, Lola climbs out and discovers herself on a beautiful hillside and her Buddy, her learn-to-dress clown and favourite toy who had been in the box with her can talk and, with a little practise of rusty limbs, can walk and move!

Buddy knows all about this place where the toybox (now a picnic hamper) has taken them.  “The Kingdom is where toys come when they are not being played with by their children,” he tells Lola.  “And there are lots of different lands in the kingdom.”

So begins a new series from the author of Tree and Parachute that will appeal to young girls who are making the transition from structured home readers.  In each episode, Lola and Buddy face a particular problem that has Lola having to decide the best way forward for all because as the only human, only she has the logic and emotions to seek a win-win solution.  The problems that she faces in The Kingdom reflect those that the readers may face in their own world and so as Lola works her way through them, the thoughts and skills she brings to the situation can be taken on board by the reader. The series is as much about empowering the reader to be more independent as it is to tell an engaging story. In The Patchwork Picnic Lola has to resolve a dispute at the teddy bears’ picnic between the soft toys and The Plastic Prince and his army of plastic toys who while already ruling Nevercalm are determined to take over The Kingdom. But before she is trusted she has to pass a test…. 

Described by the publisher as “imaginative fantasy”, there are three others in the series – On the Story Sea, The Treasure Trove and The Plastic Palace.  All will offer young girls a good solid read that they will enjoy.

Star of the Week

Star of the Week

Star of the Week

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Star of the Week

Sally Rippin

Hardie Grant Egmont, 2015

42pp., pbk., RRP $A7.95

9781760124410

 

This is the final in the very popular Hey Jack series written for those very young readers who are stepping between “home readers” and “chapter books.” The best friend of Billie B. Brown now has a 20-book series deliberately written for boys who don’t identify with action heroes or spies.

As with the others in the series, Rippin takes a situation that her target audience can relate to and explores it in an imaginative and engaging read.  This time, Jack is named “Star of the Week”., a much sought-after accolade but he’s not sure he can carry the responsibilities of the role particularly as his primary duty will be to introduce soccer star Tim Little at the impending school assembly and he is full of nerves and excitement.  But then he discovers Aaron crying in the boys’ bathroom because his dog has died and he has a brainwave that might cheer his friend up.  It means he won’t get to meet the famous sportsman but…

Rippin says she was inspired by Dr Seuss, Richard Scarry and Joyce Lancaster Brisley (Milly-Molly-Mandy series) when it came to writing both Hey Jack and Billie B. Brown and she was determined they “would begin in second person, contain the language of a school reader and stick to the simplest day to day occurrences of a six to eight year old,” so they would be accessible and appeal to the reluctant reader. She tried them out on her own son, massaging them based on his responses and eventually bringing two series that have been the starting point for so many to fruition. In an interview, she says that she wanted her readers to be someone “who is ready to try their first chapter book. Someone who wants to read about a character they can relate to and who could, very possibly, become their very best friend.”

Having watched both family members and students immerse themselves in both Hey Jack and Billie B. Brown and make enormous steps in their competence and confidence, I think she has hit the mark

Tashi

Once Tashi Met A Dragon

Once Tashi Met A Dragon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once Tashi Met a Dragon

Anna Fienberg and Barbara Fienberg

Kim Gamble

Allen & Unwin, 2015

pbk., 32pp., RRP $A14.99

9781925267440

tashi_series

 

 

 

 

Tashi and the Golden Jawbone
9781925267020

Tashi and the Giant Squid
9781925267020

Tashi and the Big Scoop
9781925267006

Tashi and the Magic Carpet
9781925267013

Anna Fienberg and Barbara Fienberg
Allen & Unwin, 2015
64pp., pbk., RRP $A9.99

It was with great delight, but not surprise, that when I returned to working in a primary school library after a protracted absence I discovered that the favourite series amongst the students in Year 2 – the ones who are just starting their independent reading journey – was Tashi. Every day they asked for new stories or put existing ones on reserve. So they are going to be very excited to know that there is not one, not two, but five new additions to the adventures of this delightful little character who is so clever, resourceful and brave as he confronts fearsome opponents set on destroying his village and his peace.

Once Tashi Met a Dragon is a picture book beautifully illustrated in colour by Kim Gamble that is just delightful. In it, Tashi finally meets the dragon that he has heard stories about forever. Usually it lives on the mountain in a palace of gold and each year it sends the rains so that the villagers can thrive. But this year, the rains haven’t come and only one person is brave enough to venture forth to find out why…

The other stories –Tashi and the Golden Jawbone, Tashi and the Giant Squid, Tashi and the Big Scoop and Tashi and the Magic Carpet – have been inspired by the original stories created by Anna Fienberg and her mother, but are the novelisations of episodes from the popular television series on ABC3. True to the original story concept, these have coloured computer-generated images created by Flying Bark. Rather than having two stories in the one book as the original print series does, these are augmented with 20 pages of puzzles, games and activities providing extra fun and encouraging greater understanding.

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. Now a whole new audience can discover the magic meaning.

For a complete list of all the original Tashi books as well as more fun and games go to http://tashibooks.com/ or you can check out the new look, including a trailer at http://www.flyingbark.com.au/tashi/