Archive | June 2023

Blackbeard’s Treasure

Blackbeard's Treasure

Blackbeard’s Treasure

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blackbeard’s Treasure

Iszi Lawrence

Bloomsbury, 2023

288pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

97818010967

It’s 1718: pirate ships sail the oceans and brutal slave masters control the plantations so that those in Europe can enjoy luxuries like sugar, cotton and tobacco.

Eleven-year-old Abigail Buckler lives with her father in the Caribbean. Her clothes are made of finest muslin so she can’t play in them, not that there’s anyone to play with anyway. Her only “companion” is Boubacar, a slave boy whose whole family would be punished if their friendship became public knowledge. Such are the protocols of the time, she isn’t even allowed to go out alone. But when pirates attack the settlement, Abigail’s life changes forever, particularly her beliefs about and relationship with her father. Suddenly her old certainties about right and wrong, good and bad start to unravel. 

Maybe Abigail doesn’t have to be so ladylike after all… in fact she can’t be as she dresses like a boy to escape and the twists and turns of her new life show her there are many sides to people, and not all stereotypes are true. 

Fast-paced, action-filled this is a tense drama packed with characters who actually existed including Blackbeard himself, historical detail about the Atlantic slave trade, the ravages of empire and imperialism and the human cost of providing those luxuries to a Europe obsessed with displays of wealth and power, and which takes a look at the real pirates of the Caribbean, making it more than just a swashbuckling adventure and perhaps the start of an investigation that could help readers start to understand old practices and current attitudes. 

The Bird Book

The Bird Book

The Bird Book

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Bird Book

Steve Jenkins

Robin Page

Clarion Books, 2023

48pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9780358325697

From the time a small feathered animal launched itself into the air 150 million years ago, the planet’s skies have been populated with birds and now  more than 10 000 species have evolved from that first archaeopteryx, being the only creatures of the dinosaur era to survive the impact of the asteroid that hit the earth 66 million years ago.

Using minimum text and many many illustrations of examples, the reader is taken on an exploration of the species that explains what a bird is, how the species evolved, and the features that have made them so successful including the power of flight, their senses, their adaptations to  their habitats, migration and all the other facets of life that one would expect to discover. The only drawback that it may have for the younger reader is the small, hand0writing like font that may prove tricky for them to read without help. Overall, though, this is an intriguing and informative book that really provides an ‘all-you-need-to-know’ introduction to a creature that varies from the bee hummingbird that weighs less than a ping pong ball tp the wandering albatross with its wingspan of over three metres to the ostrich which is the largest living bird on the planet these days, outstripped by the extinct giant moa, endemic to New Zealand.

Steve Jenkins has given young readers some fascinating insights into the animal world such as The Animal Toolkit and Animal Facts by the Numbers, and this is just as fascinating.

Riz Chester: The Counterfeit Bust

Riz Chester: The Counterfeit Bust

Riz Chester: The Counterfeit Bust

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Riz Chester: The Counterfeit Bust

R. A. Stephens

Em Hammond

Wombat Books, 2023

90pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

9781761111181

Riz Chester has highly tuned senses and notices things that most people don’t, such as the brand of cheese being changed in the tuckshop lunches, the 10gram change in the size of the packets of chips, and the differences between identical twins Sabrina and Jenny.  She keeps a note of the differences in her Weird Stuff Log because when she mentions them, people look at her funny.  

But when she feels the difference in a $10 note that she is handed as change in a shop, she can’t help but say something and so, sets in place an intriguing story of investigation that demonstrates the value of planning, thinking logically and recording what you discover in an organised way.  

This is the first in a new series for newly independent readers – the second, The Fingerprint Code is due in November – that features ordinary kids working together to solve a puzzle using nothing but smart, logical thinking.  No super powers, fantastic friends or timeslips so it will appeal to those who prefer to stay in the here and now.  

With all the regular structures and strategies that support young readers, this is a series that will not only promote reading but with its back pages focusing on the what, why and how of forensics, might also inspire students to at least be more observant and appreciate the value of the research process, if not pursue a science career.  One to earmark to get all the episodes. 

The Busy Garden

The Busy Garden

The Busy Garden

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Busy Garden

Mary Luciano

Nandina Vines

Little Steps, 2023

32pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9781922678553

Early morning, and all the critters in the garden are awake and going about their usual regular routines.  Beatrice the bee, Lenny the lizard, Sienna the spider – they each have their daily chores that keep them busy. But then the children arrive to play and like most kids, they don’t even see all the little inhabitants in their homes and at their work, let alone the destruction they cause as they play…

With vivid illustrations that take the reader to eye level in the garden in a way they seldom get to see in reality, this is a story-in-rhyme that not only raises awareness of the diversity and busy-ness of the garden’s inhabitants but also teaches them that is the work of these creatures that make it as stunning as it is so it is a pleasant place to play.  

One to encourage young readers to be more aware of their surroundings and their impact on it, as well as leaving them in awe and wonder of all that goes on when they aren’t there.  

 

Super Sloth: The Shar-Wolf of New York City

Super Sloth: The Shar-Wolf of New York City

Super Sloth: The Shar-Wolf of New York City

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Super Sloth: The Shar-Wolf of New York City

Aleesah Darlison

Cheri Hughes

Big Sky, 2023

140pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781922896537

On a remote itty-bitty island off the coast of Panama there is an itty-bitty community of itty-bitty creatures. And while the rest of these pygmy sloths are content to dwell in the trees and move around “as slow as a rainy winter weekend”, Romeo Fortez, is different.  At his naming ceremony, the heavens do spectacular and amazing things and  Romeo is imbibed with powers of speed, intelligence, and irresistibly hypnotic good looks. As he grows up, Romeo craves speed and adventure and even his parents know that Escudo Island would never be big enough for him. But then he overhears a reference to New York – the city that never sleeps – and he knows that that is where he must be…

But when Romeo eventually gets there after a journey involving a boat, a bus, a rusted bicycle, a logging truck, two trains and a plane,  he discovers that Professor Ian Weird-Warp, a geneticist obsessed with splicing animal genes together, has unleashed a gigantic mutant shar-wolf on the city. With the help of some new human and animal friends, Romeo forms a team of crime fighters to save the city from the evil Professor Weird-Warp and his mutant creation.

This is a new action-packed series for newly independent readers which combines the author’s love of sloths and superheroes with fast-paced adventures and humour underpinned by friendship and teamwork and the opportunity to learn a little more about one of the planet’s more curious species.. Darlison says, “My goal was to craft an engaging read that allows kids to escape from reality and enter an exciting and intriguing world where animals and humans can accomplish amazing things together,” and she has done this well. 

In My Dreams

In My Dreams

In My Dreams

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In My Dreams

Chelsea Schar-Grant

Aaron Pocock

Little Steps, 2023

32pp., pbk., RRP $A16.95

9781922678409

Just like its intended audience, little Platypus has big dreams of being everything from a movie star to a police officer to a princess, even a racing car driver. And given being asked what you want to be “when you grow up” has to be one of the most common questions asked of young people (as though who they are at the moment is not enough), this is a story deliberately written to inspire the imagination and start the dream.

The vibrant, detailed illustrations explore Little Platypus’s dreams beautifully – my favourite has to be her in her “shining pink tutu” with “silk ballet pointe shoes” on her feet – and really help the young reader realise that if she can do it so can they.  Great for showing little ones that they can dream big, as well as being a kickstart for those a little older who could articulate their dream and then investigate what it would take to make it come true.

Ruby’s Rescue

Ruby's Rescue

Ruby’s Rescue

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ruby’s Rescue

Elizabeth Mary Cummings

Cheryl Hughes

Big Sky, 2023

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

9781922896292

Ruby is really keen to help the animals that have been injured in a recent bushfire, but is finding it tricky because she is confined to a wheelchair because she broke her leg when her horse threw her when it was spooked by the smoke. Pushing a wheelchair over rough ground is hard work and so she has to be satisfied with helping her mother rake leaves so that the house is more fireproof before the next fire season.  She is even more determined when she finds a possum with burned paws, and that night she gets inspiration from an unusual source…

This is a timely release as we are urged by state bushfire authorities to prepare our homes during these cooler months in preparation for the summer fire season, and in fact, it contains a checklist from the NSW Rural Fire Service to encourage families to take action.  But it also a story that demonstrates to young readers that they are not powerless and that there are things they can do to help not only in preparing their home but in caring for the wildlife that will be inevitably impacted and injured as well. 

While stories like this and The Fire Wombat bring the heart-breaking impact of fire to our attention, others like Alight: A Story of Fire and  Nature  show that it is an integral part of the life cycle of the bush and thus, even our young readers, need to be aware and ready.  

Leeva At Last

Leeva At Last

Leeva At Last

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leeva At Last

Sara Pennypacker

Matthew Cordell

HarperCollins, 2023

320pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9780008606190

The tiny town of Nutsmore is ruled by two despots – the Mayor who seeks only fame, and her husband the Treasurer who seeks only fortune. And caught in the middle is their daughter Leeva, only conceived because her mother read in a celebrity magazine that a birth would give her more fame, but utterly neglected and ignored by both, used as their unpaid servant.  She has even been given an Employee Manual  (although she is the sole employee) that forbids her to leave the grounds. She is banned from going to school because schools teach “Human Inanities. Things like art, literature, poetry, music. Things you don’t need to get famous or make money.”

All Leeva knows of the world comes from a television soap opera, a fitness program and the weekly newspaper that teaches her a new word for the day. When Leeva reads in the newspaper that a new school is opening in the town and all children are required to attend, she sees a way that she might meet real people.  So after completing the daily book-keeping problem her father sets for her, she pushes her way through the hedge and discovers the town’s library – and a whole new world as she tries to answer her own question of what are people for.  What she discovers is that her parents are loathed for their tyranny, so much so that she can’t divulge her identity, but how can a little girl, a librarian and her nephew, a boy so scared of the world that he wears a hazmat suit and a badger turn things around? 

This is a story that reminded me in part of some of those of Roald Dahl, particularly those in which the children triumph over the nasty adults with little regard for some of the practicalities of real life.  Leeva, whose full name is Leeva Spayce Thornblossom because her mother was too self-absorbed to even bother naming her, is determined and resilient, as her instinct for survival and justice outweigh any trepidation or fear, and despite her parents’ attitudes is determined to win their love until she ultimately learns that such people can love only themselves and she opens herself to creating a new family who do love her. 

The day Leeva pushes her way through a hole in the hedge and discovers a library with a librarian who knows just the right books to help her answer her questions not only opens up whole new worlds for Leeva but also an entertaining read for independent readers who like whimsical, cheerful characters who overcome all the odds. 

 

 

Birdie Lights Up the World

Birdie Lights Up the World

Birdie Lights Up the World

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Birdie Lights Up the World

Alison McLennan

Lauren Mullinder

EK Books, 2023

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

9781922539489

Each evening at sunset, Birdie the penguin would sing to the sky, enticing the stars and the moon to come out so the other zoon animals would not be left in darkness. She believed that she was the chosen one, and this was her sole purpose.  But she is dismayed when she gets sick and cannot sing, and depressed when the sky lights up in its evening show regardless. Clearly, she is not as important as she thought she was.  What is her purpose if not to sing the night in?

This is a sensitive story that opens up opportunities to discuss some philosophical questions with young readers about purpose and responsibility and coping with disappointment.  Teachers’ notes suggest some of the questions that could be posed and how Birdie’s situation might be related to their own lives, particularly if ambitions or expectations are thwarted somehow. In a world where every little thing is rewarded with praise and celebration, some children are not learning how to deal with things that don’t work out the way they want and so this is a chance to ask, “But what if…” 

“The author has said that she wanted to deliver the message that we all have special, unique gifts and it’s our responsibility to share them with the world. If we have a song to sing, we should sing it, whether it fills a stadium or only brings joy to one person … it all counts.” 

Do You Love Oceans?

Do You Love Oceans?

Do You Love Oceans?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do You Love Oceans?

Matt Robertson

Bloomsbury, 2023

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

9781526639646

Young readers can dive to the darkest depths of the deep blue sea, weave in and out of colourful coral reefs and learn about the incredible people who are trying to save our oceans in the fourth book in Matt Robertson’s award-winning Do You Love? series that includes Do You Love Exploring? , Do You Love Bugs? and Do You Love Dinosaurs? 

They can investigate shipwrecks where scorpionfish hide, dive down to the Mariana trench to meet a dumbo octopus, marvel at ocean giants and dart in between manatees in mangrove forests and explore the wonders of our underwater worlds on every page, from coral reefs, sharks and the deep to shipwrecks, weird fish and frozen seas through Robertson’s signature format of limited text and vibrant illustrations that make the information easily accessible..

 

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

They can discover that lobsters keep their teeth in their tummies, that there are rivers and lakes beneath the ocean and that sea stars have no brain or blood?

This is a series that taps into the interests of young readers and gives them a taste of what can be discovered once their interest is piqued.