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A Great Escape

A Great Escape

A Great Escape

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Great Escape

Felice Arena

Puffin, 2019

176pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9780143794042

Berlin, August 13, 1961, the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the US and its allies is at its peak and  Peter is playing with his mates Max and Hubert, ignoring his mother’s requests to come inside because they are leaving to visit the western side of the city, controlled by the Western Allies and entirely surrounded by the Soviet-controlled East Berlin and East Germany. It doesn’t seem like a big deal because Peter can always stay with his grandparents as he frequently does.

But this time things change for overnight the East German authorities start constructing the wall which divided the city for 28 years and Peter finds himself separated from his parents and little sister Margrit as they are unable to return to the East and he can not join them. Guarded by tanks and soldiers with ferocious dogs and who shoot to kill, it seems that Peter will never see his family again.  However, he is determined to escape and despite seeing the fate of most of those who do try, including the body of his best friend’s older brother left caught in the barbed wire as a warning, his resolve to rejoin his parents doesn’t waver.  While he meets new friends Otto and Elke he is scorned by others, including being taunted and beaten by his old friend MAx who considers him to be a traitor for wanting to be reunited with his family.

This is knife-edge reading about a period in time that was the backdrop to the life of a generation and inspired by the author’s visit to Berlin and asking himself, “If the Wall were to be implemented today, and I were separated from my family, what would I do?” He has brought the period and the dilemma of so many to life through Peter and his friends, and created another must-read to go with The Boy and the Spy and Fearless Frederic.  As well as shining a spotlight on a recent period in history that is still fresh in the minds of many of our students’ grandparents who will have seen it, perhaps even been affected by it, it also sets up a number of ethical questions that could lead to some robust discussions.  

Just as with its predecessors, this is a meaty book that will appeal to those who like some real depth to their reading and who are then compelled to find out more about the events and circumstances.  Perfect for independent readers who are a little older and have a sense of history and are interested in the lives of other children in other places in other times.  As Arena asked himself, what would they do if they found themselves in another’s shoes?

Ivanhoe Swift Left Home at Six

Ivanhoe Swift Left Home at Six

Ivanhoe Swift Left Home at Six

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ivanhoe Swift Left Home at Six

Jane Godwin

A. Yi

Allen & Unwin, 2019

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

9781760631864

Ivanhoe Swift left home when he was six.
He had heard many songs about the world, and it was time to see it for himself. 
‘We won’t know where you are!’ cried his father.
‘I’ll know where you are,’ said Ivanhoe. ‘And you can look out for my kite in the sky. Goodbye, parents!’

This is a touching story about the young child’s need to push the boundaries and explore the world beyond the grip of their mother’s hand or the garden gate.  Ivanhoe’s parents understand this and are prepared to let him go, but knowing that some of the things he will see and the people he will meet might not be as nice as they are, they ensure that he knows he is loved and is always welcome home. 

Go well, as you travel, over the world as you roam…

But if you grow weary of your journey, then let the sea bring you home.

So armed with his bag , a hat and a pencil, the map from his wall, his kite and the songs in his head, he sets off on his adventure.  And sure enough he meets the nice and not-so-nice, braves the woods and sees the ocean  but when his kite. now battered and tattered, is taken by the wind, he knows it’s time to head home.

Young children will resonate with Ivanhoe’s desire to see the world and be inspired to create their own journeys, but will their parents be as trusting as Ivanhoe’s?

 

Circle

Circle

Circle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Circle

Mac Barnett

Jon Klassen

Walker Books, 2019

4899., hbk. RRP $A24.99

9781406384222

Triangle and Square are visiting Circle, who lives at the waterfall. When they play hide-and-seek, Circle tells the friends the one rule: not to go behind the falling water. But after she closes her eyes to count to ten, of course that’s exactly where Triangle goes. Will Circle find Triangle? And what OTHER shapes might be lurking back there?

This is the third in this trilogy which started with Triangle  and continued with Square., and it is just as engaging as its predecessors.  As well as Barnett’s text, Klassen’s almost monochromatic illustrations carry the action with much of it being conveyed through the eyes alone. As with the other two, there is a subtle message in the story – this time, after running out from behind the waterfall because they are scared of the unknown shape, Circle ponders about whether the unknown really is scary.  In addition, the reader is invited to imagine just which shape the two may have been talking to, opening up the scope to explore other common 2D shapes and perhaps even craft their own stories about them.

This is an intriguing trilogy, unlike anything done before which deserves a place in any home or school library because it is timeless and will cross the generations.

Kensy and Max: Undercover

Kensy and Max: Undercover

Kensy and Max: Undercover

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kensy and Max: Undercover

Jacqueline Harvey

Random House Australia, 2019

400pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9780143791904

The third in this series which includes Breaking News and Disappearing Act , twins Kensy and Max have adjusted to the disappearance of their parents, and are comfortable in their new life as part of the important Pharos organisation, headed up by their grandmother, Cordelia. 

In this adventure they are back in London for no time at all before things begin to heat up – quite literally. As a result, Granny Cordelia ships them off to Australia on an undercover mission. The twins find themselves planted in a posh Sydney school where first appearances prove to be deceiving.

What seems like a straightforward assignment turns into something so much bigger. Kensy and Max must employ all their spy skills – the fate of their parents, and who they’ve been searching for, depends on it.

When I gave Miss 12 the first two in this series all other Christmas presents were forgotten as she sat and devoured them, and then re-read them on the long bus trip to the Australian Jamboree near Adelaide just a couple of weeks later. Regardless of what anyone else might say, there is no more powerful review than that of the intended audience and to me, Miss 12, who is a discerning reader, has said it all.

Perfect for your up-and-coming independent readers who want characters they can relate to and events that they can picture themselves being involved in and emerging victorious of course, as they  try to solve the clues as they read and using the mysterious Caesar code to encrypt the chapter headings.

 

Geronimo; the penguin who thought he could fly

Geronimo

Geronimo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Geronimo: the penguin who thought he could fly

David Walliams

Tony Ross

HarperCollins Children’s, 2018

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

9780008279752

At the “bottomest bottom” of the world, amidst a huge colony of emperor penguins, little Geronimo is born and right from the get-go, all he wanted to do was fly! Despite his dad telling him that penguins don’t fly, Geronimo persisted in following his dream and whether it was using the icy slopes as a runway, the elephant seal’s tummy as a trampoline, or the spout from the blue whale’s blowhole as a launching pad, he was determined that he would overcome his not-made-for-flying-despite-its-wings body.  Despite the failures, Geronimo still dreamed of flying – a dream apparently shared by all penguins in their early lives.  But after a particularly devastating misadventure while trying to hitch a ride on an albatross, Geronimo has to admit that the dream was indeed, over and a single tear rolled down his face.

His father was so moved by that that he called a meeting of the whole colony and…

The theme of penguins dreaming to fly is not a new one in children’s stories but when it is in the hands of master storyteller David Walliams and the creative genius of Tony Ross the result is an hilarious adventure that will be a firm favourite with younger readers.  They will empathise with Geronimo as he tries everything to make his dream come true, and perhaps be inspired by his determination, perseverance and resilience. At the other end of the scale, older readers could identify their dreams and perhaps start investigating what it is that they need to do to make them come true while parents sharing this with their children will also want to be like Geronimo’s father, prepared to try anything and everything to help their child’s dream come true, supporting them, protecting them and helping them deal with the failures and disappointments that will inevitably befall them. 

An utterly charming book that celebrates dreams and making them happen.

Where Happiness Lives

Where Happiness Lives

Where Happiness Lives

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where Happiness Lives

Barry Timms

Greg Abbott

Little Tiger, 2018

24pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781848699519

In the beginning Grey Mouse is very happy and satisfied with his sweet little house which has enough room for each mouse to have fun, plenty of windows to let in the sun where he is safe and never alone. But one day while he is out walking he spots a much larger house that is hard to ignore, the home of White Mouse who invites him up to the balcony to view an even more impressive house high on a hill.  Together they set out to visit it, so focused on reaching their destination they are oblivious to all the sights, sounds and smells that surround them on their journey. 

 When they get there, it is indeed a house like no other, and they are welcomed in by Brown Mouse who delights in showing them round her magnificent mansion,  Grey Mouse and White Mouse feel more and more inadequate and its features are revealed until they come to a room that has a large telescope and they peek through it…

Told in rhyme and illustrated with clever cutouts and flaps to be lifted, this is a charming story for young readers who will learn a lesson about bigger not always being better, and the difference between wants and needs, as well as being encourage to reflect on what makes them happy.  It is things?  Or something else? Is the grass always greener?

Both the story and the presentation have a very traditional feel about them, making it perfect for young readers who relish the places books can take them. And with the aid of boxes, rolls and other everyday items they can have much fun creating their ideal home!

 

Princess Scallywag and the No-Good Pirates

Princess Scallywag and the No-Good Pirates

Princess Scallywag and the No-Good Pirates

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Princess Scallywag and the No-Good Pirates

Mark Sperring

Claire Powell

HarperCollins, 2019

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

9780008212995

Princess Scallywag and the Queen are out on the royal yacht enjoying the fresh air when they are invaded by three stinky, sweaty, no-good pirates waving their swords and determined to take them prisoner. 

But three stinky, sweaty, no-good pirates are no match for the quick-thinking Queen and the persnickety princess, although it is touch-and-go for a while as they desperately try to save themselves from being made galley slaves, scrubbing the decks and walking the plank!

A sequel to Princess Scallywag And The Brave, Brave Knight, this is a bold adventure story for those who like their princesses feisty, clever, and subversive.

BumbleBunnies: The Pond

BumbleBunnies: The Pond

BumbleBunnies: The Pond

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BumbleBunnies: The Pond

Graeme Base

HarperCollins, 2018

24pp., hbk., RRP $A16.99

9781460753941

Early one morning Wuffle the puppy, Lou the kitten and Billington the duck are playing with Wuffle’s new ball when they accidentally send it into the pond.  Billington goes after the ball and Wuffle jumps in too, but Wuffle can’t swim.  Is he going to drown? It looks like this will be a story with an unhappy ending when suddenly, out of the blue sky comes an amazing sight…

This is the first in a new series by the amazing Graeme Base, written for our earliest readers.  (The second, The Sock, is due later this month, with two more later in the year.) In it he uses simple text and his exquisite detailed artwork to bring everyday incidents to life in story, with the added twist of three superhero bunnies who use their intelligence and unique skills to get the heroes out of potentially dangerous situations.

Apart from being entertaining stories in themselves, the nature of series means that even little ones can learn about each character and carry what they know of them over to the next book.  They will delight in helping the BumbleBunnies choose what is needed for each situation, giving them a sense of power over the words, that most stories don’t have and suggesting the ways that the BumbleBunnies can each use their skills to rescue the situation.

While this is quite a departure from his works for older children, nevertheless, Base’s attention to detail in the illustrations makes them so rich that they demand to be read over and over again with something new to discover each time.

 

Eva’s Imagination

Eva's Imagination

Eva’s Imagination

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eva’s Imagination

Wendy Shurety

Karen Erasmus

New Frontier, 2018 

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

 9781925594232

“Mum, I’m bored!” announces Eva as she throws herself onto the carpet.

But when her mum suggests she uses her imagination, Eva has no idea what that is, although her mum assures her she will know when she finds it.  So Eva pulls on her boots, gathers some snacks, a stick and her faithful dog Chops and sets out to find it.  

On her journey she wanders through a narrow valley, explores a pine forest while a lonely cuckoo calls, climbs up a steep mountainside while the wind whistles, pausing to rest at the top before continuing on her adventure in the hunt for her imagination.  Dark caves with scary creatures, bridges to rainforests full of ferns and vines and even a snake… on and on the search goes until she stumbles across a pile of books and seeks refuge on Mum’s knee for a story, convinced she can’t find her imagination anywhere!

As the excitement of Christmas and holidays pass but the hot days linger, every mum in Australia has heard the words, “I’m bored.”  And probably responded in the same ways as Eva’s mum.  Being bored is an essential part of life for not only does it mean we have to draw on our inner selves for the entertainment we seem to crave, but it also means we need to draw on our imaginations, our creativity, and wander into the world of “what if?”  It helps us pose problems and solve them, taking us out of the here and now and into the realm of possibility, daydreams and wonder, through valleys, up mountains and into scary caves.  Rather than fearing being bored (or having our kids be bored), we should welcome and embrace it as  the portal to the unknown. Who knows what we will find!

This is a story that may mean children never look at their own homes in quite the same way again! Adventures can be anywhere and everywhere with just a little imagination -even if you don’t know you have one!

Bigger Than Yesterday, Smaller Than Tomorrow

Bigger Than Yesterday, Smaller Than Tomorrow

Bigger Than Yesterday, Smaller Than Tomorrow

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bigger Than Yesterday, Smaller Than Tomorrow

Robert Vescio

Kathy Creamer

Little Pink Dog Books. 2018

32pp., hbk.,  RRP $A24.95

9780994626950

Summer holidays are here and Dad and Hannah are going camping,  As they are leaving, Mum, who is staying home to look after the baby, gives Hannah her scarf although Hannah is sure she won’t need it because the fire will keep her warm and she is “bigger than yesterday.”

This becomes her mantra as the day passes, they find the perfect spot and set up camp.  But as night falls and they toast marshmallows, suddenly Hannah starts to feel “smaller than tomorrow”.  Will she manage without her mum through the night?

This is a charming story for young readers who may be facing their first outdoor experience these summer holidays.  While it is very exciting it can be daunting once the sun sets and there are new sounds and smells, especially for those with an imagination, so it’s OK to be a little afraid as you start to become independent. Even though Dad does as much as he can to help Hannah feel confident and comfortable, sometimes something a little extra is needed.  The twist at the end is not only delightful, but also a great idea. 

With a gentle storyline, complemented by soft watercolour illustrations, this is something special to share with little ones before they begin this new adventure, one that is almost a rite of passage in an Australian childhood.