Archive | November 2022

The Magic Faraway Tree: A New Adventure

The Magic Faraway Tree: A New Adventure

The Magic Faraway Tree: A New Adventure

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Magic Faraway Tree: A New Adventure

Jacqueline Wilson

Mark Beech

Hodder Children’s, 2022

285pp., hbk., RRP $A35.00

9781444963373

2856pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781444963380

Seventy-plus years ago, the stories of Enid Blyton were the core of the young child’s reading diet.  A trip in the magic wishing chair or a visit to a land through the mysterious cloud above a huge tree were a much-anticipated part of the bedtime routine introducing us to the fantasy genre and leading us on to read series like The Famous Five and The Secret Seven  or any other of her 700 books and 2000 short stories for ourselves. 

Such were the memories made that that generation went on to share her work with their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and some, like me, went on to become teachers and shared them with a new class of fans every year for 50 years!!! So to discover that Jacqueline Wilson had been given permission to weave new adventures among the branches of the Faraway Tree so new, modern readers can share the magic and mystery made this high on my list of review requests.  And I’ve had my nose in it all afternoon not only meeting the new and familiar characters like Silky, Moonface, the Saucepan Man and Dame Washalot among others but recalling my own introduction to them all those years ago and the joy and wonder I’ve brought to children over the years when I have shared them.  

In this new adventure, Milo, Mia and Birdy are on a countryside holiday when they wander into an Enchanted Wood and following a rabbit who can speak to them through the thick forest with its mysterious whispering leaves, discover a beautiful tree that stands high above the rest. The Magic Faraway Tree is home to many remarkable creatures including a fairy called Silky, her best friend Moonface and more. Little Birdy is only too happy to find that fairies are real. Even her older brother and sister are soon won over by the magic of the Faraway Tree and the extraordinary places they discover above it.

Keeping true to the original concept, including the writing style, this is both a nostalgic visit to past pleasures as well as the gateway to reading the entire series which remains in print.  IMO, this is one of the best series to introduce young readers to reading novels because each chapter is pretty much complete in itself making it ideal for a both a read-aloud session and a read-alone session, yet there is the continuity of both the storyline and the characters to be able to pick it up and set it down without having to orient yourself to a whole new read.  While there is drama in each chapter . the plot remains straightforward so there are not too many twists and turns to confuse the novice reader. 

My well-thumbed, well-read 1971 editions of the series have pride of place on my bookshelf, and this new adventure will be sitting there with them too, ready for when my grandchildren are ready to read it to theirs.  Hachette, the publishers, kindly sent me a hardcover version but it is also available in paperback at a more accessible price so more generations can lose themselves in the magic.  

Strong and Tough

Strong and Tough

Strong and Tough

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Strong and Tough

Rico Hinson-King

Nick Sharratt

Bloomsbury, 2022

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

9781526648631

With the FIFA World Cup well under way,  many young lads will have thoughts of becoming a Socceroo and representing their country in the future. 

So this is a timely story to share with them to show that dreams can come true if they hold on to their hope and stare down whatever difficulties might confront them on the way. They need to stay strong and tough. 

Written during homework club at Manchester City FC in 2020 by the amazingly talented ten-year-old Rico Hinson-King. an everyday boy with an extraordinary story to tell through the character of Charlie about being taken from his birth parents, being separated from his sisters and being placed in foster care and despite being scared and lonely at times, surviving because of his love of football.  Practising to be the best he could be helped keep his mind off things, his determination and resilience helped him to be brave, strong and tough no matter what and one day he scores a goal that is even better than scoring the winning sudden-death penalty at a cup final!  

But as much as it is about football, it is also about his journey in the foster-care system, something that many of our readers will know about but never read about.  So although they might not have the same dream as Charlie, they can be inspired to follow their own passion, to understand that it can be scary and lonely at times but there are ways to distract from those big feelings with even better ones.  

 

Which Egg?

Which Egg?

Which Egg?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Which Egg?

Roxane Gajadhar

Rob Foote

Little Steps, 2022

28pp., pbk., RRP $A16.95

 9781922678584

When a huge wind blows the eggs of Stork, Parrot and Crocodile off their nests so they all end up in a jumble,  who knows which egg is which? Luckily, they have the sense and patience to wait for the eggs to hatch, and sure enough they are able to tell which baby belongs to which parent.

 Even though the theme of whose egg is whose is familiar, nevertheless it sets up all sorts of investigations for young children to follow.  Stork, Crocodile and Parrot each mentions a particular characteristic that their baby will have to enable them to identify them so not only could the child predict what that might be, but they could also think about what might be the significant indicator for other creatures they know, such as a zebra having stripes, and maybe setting up a parent-child matching game.  This could lead to them looking at themselves and their parents and seeing what of which they share.

More broadly they could start to develop their research skills by investigating which creatures hatch from eggs – clearly it’s not just birds. Chickens Aren’t the Only Ones was always my go-to text for this  and the children were always fascinated with what they learned, often leading into questions about their own origins.  

This is another story evolving from The Book Hungry Bears television show in which the main characters share picture books, hungry to learn all they can from those they settle down to share together, encouraging young readers to do the same and which is becoming one of my favourite series for young readers because of the places they can go because of their reading.

The Bedtime Book of Impossible Questions

The Bedtime Book of Impossible Questions

The Bedtime Book of Impossible Questions

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Bedtime Book of Impossible Questions

Isabel Thomas

Aaron Cushey

Bloomsbury, 2022

96pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781526623751

Can I sleep with my eyes open?

Why can’t I tickle myself?

What’s the world’s worst smell?

Why are bubbles always round?

Children asked impossible questions all the time much to the chagrin of their parents who are trying to get the child to sleep or who have no idea of the answers. And the child is not satisfied with “I don’t know” but now this book allows you to follow that with, “Let’s find out.” Starting with the premise that science is fundamentally about asking questions, particularly impossible ones, using what you know already as the stepping stones to look for answers which often throw up new questions, and continuing to experiment, explore, collect and discover while all the while discovering new rabbit-holes to investigate, the book gives the answers to a wide range of questions based on best-practice current knowledge. 

So as well as demonstrating why humans don’t have tails, why we need eyebrows and how many stars there are, they even explain why tortoises can beat hares! Lots of pictures and accessible text that keeps the audience front and centre make this a book that will not only help parents out but also nurture the budding scientists and support their curiosity as it validates that there are no silly questions – just those needing answers.  Perhaps they will be inspired to ask their own and that could build the basis of your science program for the year.  Investigating what they want to know rather than what some curriculum writer thinks they should! 

 

 

Little Bat Up All Day

Little Bat Up All Day

Little Bat Up All Day

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Little Bat Up All Day

Brian Lies

HarperCollins, 2022

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

9780358269854

Little Bat has never stayed up all day before! He always goes to sleep at the end of the night and so he is very curious about how the world looks when he’s normally asleep. He’s excited to see how everything looks in the sun and so he decides to stay up all day.

It turns out the world is a much different place – it’s hot, bright, and noisy and full of new things. . Luckily, Rusty the Squirrel is willing to show Little Bat around, even though Little Bat struggles to stay awake.  But when these new, fast friends separate at the end of the day, how will they stay in touch when one is usually awake while the other is asleep?

With a distinctive illustrative style that has won him a Caldecott Honor award among others for The Rough Patch,  this is a charming story to share with young readers who always want to stretch their bedtime because they think that something magical happens to the world after dark.  And it does – for all sorts of creatures who have slept during the day emerge when the sun disappears and the shadows take over.  So it’s no wonder Little Bat is curious about what happens in the world while he is asleep. 

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

As well as shining a light, so to speak, on the activities we diurnal creatures tend to take for granted, this is also an opportunity for young readers to learn about nocturnal creatures and consider why that is the best time for them to be awake. Why does Little Bat sleep during the day?  It can lead to investigations about why we have day and night, the phases of the moon, and even why all creatures need to sleep at some time.

More than just a bedtime story.  

 

The Champ (series)

The Champ

The Champ

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Champ

The Champ 1

9781760526870

Rock ‘n’ Roll

9781761065620

Anh Do

A & U  Children’s 2022

192pp., pbk., RRP $A15.99

Popular and prolific storyteller is back with a new series for young readers transitioning to novels with all the supports these readers need including action-packed plots and relatable characters who have a touch of superpower to turn them from ordinary to extraordinary in times of need.

Summer loves sport, and there is nothing she would love more than to charge down the field towards an open goal, or soar through the air over the basket. She would love to be part of a team but instead she always seems to be the last one picked, probably because of her lack of co-ordination which even she recognises. Then one day something amazing happens and Summer discovers she is no longer the spectator but the superstar. The purple gloop that covered her and landed her in hospital has turned her life around. However what is magical for Summer is misery for her older brother Carl who goes from being a talented upcoming footballer to being in a wheelchair, and Summer finds herself with a lot more responsibility.

With her new expertise, Summer decides to enter contests to earn money to support her family, but as it turns out, there are far more important things for her to do, starting with sorting out a witch who looks strangely familiar and is causing trouble in her home town while keeping her new powers secret because  a government agency, armed with a robotic minion, begin to take an interest in her.  In the second in the series, she has to deal with the mysterious Book Witch again when everyone’s favourite rock band is kidnapped.

Younger readers who are just meeting Anh Do as an author will like what they read and easily be able to fit themselves into the story, perhaps even venturing into his many other series  as they wait for Summer’s next adventure, but those more familiar with his works, particularly SkyDragon may find parts of the plot familiar.  That doesn’t decry from the appeal of this new series as there is a reason Do is so popular and this is yet another way to get readers on the cusp of being independent to keep reading. 

 

 

 

Book of the Microscope

Book of the Microscope

Book of the Microscope

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book of the Microscope

Alice James

Usborne, 2022

64pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

9781474998468

Give a little child a magnifying glass and you will entertain them for hours.

Give a little child a pair of binoculars and you will entertain them for days,

But give them a microscope and you will entertain them weeks, if not a lifetime.

There is something fascinating that draws little people into looking at little things, so much smaller than they are and which captures their interest and imagination.  How well I remember the times it was our turn to have the school’s class set of microscopes and the anticipation and oy of discoveries made.  It didn’t surprise me that now Miss 16 had a microscope and a telescope on her Santa lists when she was but a babe!

So this book which explains what a microscope is, how it works and how to use it will be a welcome companion to a gift of the real thing. There are so many things to look at in and around the home that it can be overwhelming but with brilliant illustrations and accessible text, the reader is directed to focus on specific things such as the shapes and textures of thinks like moss or pollen and thus when they choose their own investigations they have learned the sorts of things to look for and at. There are even projects such as peeling a leaf or growing body bacteria  so the budding scientist is even more actively engaged.

Apart from being a brilliant suggestion for keeping young readers entranced as the long summer holidays approach, being an Usborne publication means there are safe links to follow to learn and discover more including using a virtual microscope.  

As well, the TL’s best friend Peter Macinnis still endorses the GoMicro, a device that attaches to a smart phone and for which he has written a series of free lessons for kids to use to explore the world around them.   More information about the device and how it can be purchased and used in schools (included purchasing a class set for $270) is here  or contact Peter directly for the teaching notes. 

Toodle the Cavoodle: Sniffle Snuffle

Toodle the Cavoodle

Toodle the Cavoodle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Toodle the Cavoodle: Sniffle Snuffle

Richard Tulloch

Heidi Cooper Smith

Big Sky, 2022

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

9781922765772

Toodle the Cavoodle like to sniffle and snuffle because there were always lots of smells to tickle his nose.  

Sweet smells and sticky smells, muddy smells and messy smells, stink y smells, sweaty smells and could-be-good-to-eat smells…

But now the grandparents of Lillipilly Lane want to clean up the old abandoned scritchy-scratchy grass patch with its rusty cans, plastic bottles and old car and make it a safe play area for the sparkly-sandals girl and the other neighbourhood children.  Smelly sneakers grandpa and grubby-gumboots grandma shoo him away but can disaster be averted when he takes refuge in the old car?

This is a new picture book series for young readers – Whoops-a-diddle is due in December – that will delight dog lovers with its charming artwork and roll-off-the-tongue language that changes a simple story into a family favourite.  

Both the Australian Curriculum  and the new NSW syllabus have a focus on how the use of particular vocabulary promotes imagery and understanding of texts, and this is a perfect example of how the clever use of both alliteration and onomatopoeia combined with inspired design can invoke all the senses to make reading a 3D experience in the way that only print can.  Young readers will love hearing and playing with the language and then making up their own – have a look at their own shoes and think of how they would describe themselves, and then the  two words they would use for their grandpa or grandma or teacher or…? Have them lie in the grass and discuss how it feels or sniff the air and see what they can identify.  Apart from playing with language, there are extensive, AC-linked teachers’ notes available.

Taking it further is the hallmark of a quality read and this does it so well.   

 

Social Media Survival Guide

Social Media Survival Guide

Social Media Survival Guide

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Social Media Survival Guide

Holly Bathie

Usborne, 2022

304pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781474999267

Like it or not, use it or not, social media is an integral of today’s life and despite it being illegal for those under 13 to have accounts because the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998 (COPPA), which prevents collection and storage of personal information from children under 13 years of age which originated in the US but which is pretty much universal, many of our young students still access sites and apps daily. 

For many parents, the world of social media and instant connectivity is not one in which they grew up – it’s all happened in the last 20 years –  and so helping their children navigate where they never went when they were children can be tricky.  Perhaps the recent hacking of Optus and Medicare and the exposure of personal date gathered legitimately can have a silver lining if it alerts parents to the spread of their digital footprint and propels them to start considering what they are sharing, and thus, their children. 

For even though way back in 1996 my school had a huge focus on safe surfing of the web and the kids, most of whom did not have access to computers and the internet at home, had the basics drummed into them from the get-go, the issues caused by the use of these instant, anonymous platforms continue to rise as our young people seek attention, fame, and in some cases, notoriety. Who can forget the death of 14 year old Dolly Everett who took her own life because of online bullying.?

Thus this book which enables our young readers, even those under the required 13 years) to manage their life, relationships and mental health on social media platforms and empowers them to stay safe online is an important read for all.  With the usual engaging layout we associate with Usborne, but in monochrome rather than colour, it offers in-depth coverage of a range of important a difficult issues young people face including body image, appearance-enhancing filters, influencers, sexual content and mental health. It uses recognisable themes rather than platform specifics, making the content relevant long-term, and tips on how to set up accounts safely and best manage privacy and messaging settings. It also addresses the user’s online persona, online reputation, and relationships; helps them understand  fake news and information and how to handle online bullying, as well as avoiding trolls.

While social media can have a really positive side – many would have been very isolated without during COVID lockdowns – and it would be wonderful if we could instil such a sense of confidence and well-being in the younger generation that they never feel the need for anonymous, meaningless affirmation, nevertheless there is a dark side and users must be aware of the potential for harm as well as good.  Once it’s out there, it’s out of your control. 

As well as being an important guide for the kids, it is also really useful for parents themselves as they learn what it is their child needs to know and do, understand and value as what was once just “peer pressure” from your immediate social circle is now a universal phenomenon right there in their hand. It goes hand-in hand with the excellent site and work of the E-Safety Commissioner established by the Australian government which has information for everyone from parents to teachers to kids to women to seniors and even a host of diverse groups who may be targeted or marginalised. 

Despite the care we take, every keystroke or finger tap can unknowingly add to our digital footprint, and so the better informed we are the safer we will be. Thus this is one to recommend to parents, to teachers and for yourself if you have responsibility for students or your own children online. 

 

The Trouble with the Two-Headed Hydra

The Trouble with the Two-Headed Hydra

The Trouble with the Two-Headed Hydra

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Miss Mary-Kate Martin’s Guide to Monsters (series)

The Trouble with the Two-Headed Hydra

Karen Foxlee

Freda Chu

Allen & Unwin, 2022

304pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781760526634

Although a rather anxious child who prefers  to make lists so she can plan and manage her life because she doesn’t cope with change well, nevertheless Mary-Kate Martin has left the sanctuary of her grandmother’s home to travel the world with her mother whose life is spent on mystery-solving adventures such as why the Woolington Wyrm was causing such destruction in a quiet English village. 

This time, Mary-Kate and her mother are visiting Galinios, an idyllic Greek Island filled with history and surrounded by the shimmering Aegean Sea. An ancient mosaic has been unearthed at the local sardine processing plant and Professor Martin must investigate, leaving Mary-Kate to enjoy a few days of sunshine and antiquity.

But a message asking for help changes everything. A wrecked boat and smashed jetty have recently disrupted life on this tranquil island and point to a monster-sized mystery. Could the local legend of the Two-Headed Hydra be more than a story? If so, what could make this historically serene sea creature so angry?  Armed with her glitter pens and strawberry-scented notebook, Miss Mary-Kate Martin is determined to find answers. She might be scared of heights, but there is no problem too big for her to solve.

This is the second in this series for independent readers who like mystery, adventure and a touch of fantasy, and given that it is based on the creature of Greek mythology perhaps it will inspire deeper investigation, maybe even an entry into the class Monsters book inspired by yesterday’s review.