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The World’s Worst Pets

The World's Worst Pets

The World’s Worst Pets

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The World’s Worst Pets

David Walliams

Adam Stower

HarperCollins, 2022

312pp., pbk., RRP $A24.99

9780008499778

Imagine if instead of your cat Tiddles or your dog Fido, you had Houdini, the magician’s rabbit or Zoom, the supersonic tortoise, or Griselda, a grizzly bear with a big secret or even Furp, the monstrous goldfish! Good pets, bad pets, supervillain pets, pets as big as a house and pets that could eat you in one gulp! What would your life be like? 

Well, you can catch a glimpse in this new addition to Walliams’ World’s Worst series that includes The World’s Worst Children, The World’s Worst Teachers and The World’s Worst Parents as he brings his unique sense of humour and writing style to another ten stories of humour and horror.  Short stories, crazy characters, and hundreds of full-colour illustrations – the perfect recipe for encouraging newly independent readers to keep reading despite the book being among the heaviest they will ever pick up!!!

As winter closes in and the grey, cold, wet days seem unending, this is the perfect fill-a-minute read-aloud to cheer up a class or a child.  And perhaps lead them to other works by Walliams to read alone such as the escapades of Gangsta Granny or the more serious Code Name Bananas .

 

Pearly and Pig and the Great Hairy Beast

Pearly and Pig and the Great Hairy Beast

Pearly and Pig and the Great Hairy Beast

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pearly and Pig and the Great Hairy Beast

Sue Whiting

Walker, 2022

224pp., pbk., RRP $A15.99

9781760653590

When the special phone rings in the middle of a storm, a phone that is a secret landline of the Adventurologists Guild and only meant to be answered by qualified members of that group, Pearly Woe is sent into a panic,  Her parents are members, she is not, but they should have been home hours ago and it keeps ringing – MOOOO, MOOOO, MOOOO. Should she answer it and break the rules or does she use her initiative and pick it up because such non-stop ringing is so unusual?

For despite being able to speak 27 languages, including some animal tongues,  Pearly Woe is one of the world’s greatest worriers and her over-active imagination creates a dozen different scenarios for even the most common situation. But when she does finally lift the receiver, hearing her mother’s voice does not bring her comfort – instead the strange message with its cryptic clues set off a chain of events that even Pearly’s imagination couldn’t have conjured.  Pearly’s parents have been kidnapped by Emmeline Woods, who is not the nice character she portrays on screen, and who demands that Pearly hand over Pig, her pet pig  whom she talks to all the time to ease her anxiety.  Alarm bells are ringing loudly already but seeing Woods shoot Pig with a tranquiliser gun  galvanises Pearly into mounting a rescue mission that sees her in the icy wastes of Antarctica and having to confront her worries, fears and imagination in ways the she would not have dreamed possible. 

This is a fast-paced, intriguing adventure for young, independent readers who are beginning to want some depth to the stories they read and the characters they meet.  While there are subtle environmental messages embedded in the story, it is Pearly’s anxiety and self-doubt that many will relate to personally, while others will cheer her on to believe in herself and overcome those fears.  It can be amazing how our love and concern for those who are most precious can spur us to do things we never though we would be capable of… even if we can’t speak 27 languages to help us out.

To me, the mark of a quality story is if I can hear myself reading it aloud to a class, and this is definitely one of those. 

  

Oh No, George!

Oh No, George!

Oh No, George!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oh No, George!

Chris Haughton

Walker, 2022 

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

9781529507881

Harris is going out and as he bids farewell to his pet dog George, he implores George to be good.

Of course George promises, but when you’re left in the house alone there are so many temptations… Will George be good?

Young readers will love this hilarious story as they predict whether George will be able to resist temptation. What would they do?  Haughton’s distinctive  artwork adds to the appeal, underlining why this book has remained in print, and this is the 10th anniversary edition.  

 

The Ugliest Dog in the World 30th Anniversary Edition

The Ugliest Dog in the World

The Ugliest Dog in the World

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Ugliest Dog in the World 30th Anniversary Edition

Bruce Whatley

HarperCollins. 2022

32pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

 9781460761533

As the clock ticks around, and pages are pulled off the calendar, it seems no time at all when a favourite that surely was just released yesterday, celebrates an important anniversary.  Last week it was the 120th anniversary of Peter Rabbit, this time it’s Bruce Whatley’s The Ugliest Dog in the World. Surely it’s not 30 years since I first heard the hoot of children’s laughter as they pored over the hilarious text and illustrations in this classic! I particularly remember the kids labelling the “lady next door” as Ms …  (a colleague) “because she looks just like her!” Out of the mouths of babes, and, in this case, some things can’t be unheard – even 30 years on.

This is the perfect book for teaching this generation about ‘beauty being in the eye of the beholder”, that everyone views the same thing differently, and that body image really doesn’t matter.  And even if the dog doesn’t meet the standards for Crufts, it still brings love and joy to its owner and that’s all that matters. 

Only the best books endure, and this is one of those.

 

 

Einstein the Penguin

Einstein the Penguin

Einstein the Penguin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Einstein the Penguin

Iona Rangeley

David Tazzyman

HarperCollins, 2021

224pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

 9780008475963

December in London “where the days end early and forget to start on time” can be cold and miserable and so the Stewart family decide to spend the afternoon at London Zoo. Six-year-old Arthur and nine-year-old Imogen each have their favourites to see, but Arthur particularly wants to visit the penguins.  And while he is there, it seems he connects to one tiny one in particular, reluctant to leave, and so Mrs Stewart bids it farewell saying, “And you, Mr Penguin, must come and stay with us whenever you like.  Penguins are always very welcome at our house.”

So everyone is very surprised when Mr Penguin actually turns up on their doorstep that evening, with a rucksack labelled ‘Einstein’ on its back…

But what is a fairy penguin from Sydney, Australia doing in London in the first place?  Imogen, who fancies herself as a detective like her favourite book character, enlists Arthur’s help on a mission to find out… But will the discovery mean saying goodbye to Einstein forever?

This is a thoroughly enjoyable, very different story for newly independent young readers who will love the fact the Mr and Mrs Stewart are not only willing to go along with having Einstein stay but also enable the children to discover what’s going on.  Rarely are parents so amenable to their children’s wishes. But the story also throws up questions about keeping pets, and whether it’s fair to keep some creatures in captivity either as a pet or in a zoo, so it offers an opportunity for the reader to reflect on issues broader than the story itself. 

 

 

Go Home, Cat!

Go Home, Cat!

Go Home, Cat!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Go Home, Cat!

Sonya Hartnett

Lucia Masciullo

Puffin, 2022

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

9781760899493

When Nicholas finds a silver coin while he is playing in the garden, his first thoughts are that he can buy his favourite liquorice with it. So he sets off for the shops – the reader can follow his journey on the map on the endpages – only to discover that his beloved cat is following him.  No matter how often he says ,”Go home, Cat,” the cat keeps following. He crosses the road carefully but just as he pushes open the sweet shop door, he sees Cat stuck in the middle of the road, a very dangerous place to be…

Celebrating nothing more than the love and bond between a boy and his pet, this is a heart-warming, almost old-fashioned story that harks back to an era that perhaps many of its target audience are unfamiliar with.  For who among them can remember when there were little sweet shops in the main street, their windows filled with all sorts of delights and the anticipation of what to choose on the rare occasion there was money to spare, being as exciting as the purchase itself?  OH&S inspectors would be down like a ton of jaffas on such a place now, but this story took me back to Mary Gray’s lolly shop (and her fabulous fudge) in the Whitcombe & Tomb’s arcade in my childhood Christchurch, aided and abetted by Masciullo’s artistry which takes us back to a different time! How did we survive being offered handmade lollies in jars and trays, carefully scooped into white paper bags, sealed with a twist? Definitely dreaming with eyes open, here!

A companion story to Come Down, Cat, this is a nostalgic trip down memory lane that needs to be shared between grandparent and grandchild. 

 

The School for Talking Pets

The School for Talking Pets

The School for Talking Pets

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The School for Talking Pets

Kelli Anne Hawkins

Beth Harvey

HarperCollins, 2021

336pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9781460759202

When shy 12-year-old Rusty hears a cat talking on the television news about a secret school for pets on a hidden island, and the school’s principal announces a competition for children to submit why they and their pet should be accepted, he is very excited.  After all, what could be better than getting to understand his blue-tongue lizard Bongo than having it talk to him? His father seems to be grumpy all the time since is mum died and doesn’t even seem to notice him much and although he is liked by his peers, he’s not one of the in-crowd.

So he writes his “25 -words-or less” and to his surprise he finds himself at the school for a week! But once on the island, things don’t go to plan. Already concerned that he and Bongo won’t meet the standards of the other winners from Japan, Germany, England and the USA,  Rusty must work with them, a terrifyingly tattooed gardener, and a multitude of clever animals to save the school from the clutches of the two secret agents who have come to shut it down so their controllers can use the  animals for their own purposes,  and that is overwhelmingly hard for someone who has only one friend at his regular school because of his lack of self-confidence and shyness.

Described as “Doctor Dolittle meets Willy Wonka” this is a story for independent readers that has a unique plot but a familiar theme – that of “the child least likely…” finding themselves in a situation where they have to put their insecurities aside for the greater good of those around them and, in doing so, finding an inner strength they didn’t know they had. But deep down, regardless of all the external praise for his actions, like all kids, he just wants the recognition and approval of his dad, the most significant adult in his life.

When I offered a pile of review books to Miss 10 to choose those she wanted to read, this was the top of the pile and I think it will be the same for any young independent reader who wants something different but solid that has heroes and villains and just a touch of the extraordinary.

Who’s This Little Chick?

Who's This Little Chick?

Who’s This Little Chick?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who’s This Little Chick?

Auntie Aldang

Little Steps, 2021

32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.95

9781922358370

When a little chick hatches from a little rock in their garden, Jay and Essie go on a mission to find her family.  Assuming that because she hatched from an egg. they go to the chicken zoo to search.  But while they find all sorts of different chickens, none of them are the little chick’s parents.  Will there be a happy ending?

Told in rhyme, this story follows a familiar theme of searching for a parent by comparing the baby’s characteristics to those of the adults, but this has the twist of introducing young readers to some of the different species of chooks that there are, beyond those that are more familiar.  Some of very strange but sadly, this little chick isn’t like them at all.

As well as that aspect, young readers can also consider whether chickens are the only things that hatch from eggs, and they could even start to compare their own looks to those of their parents so they can see the various features they share that make them a unique blend of genes. 

Was the little chick even a chick? Perhaps a story that initiates the discussion about where they came from. 

Pax, Journey Home

Pax, Journey Home

Pax, Journey Home

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pax, Journey Home

Sara Pennypacker

Jon Klassen

HarperCollins, 2021

256pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

9780008470289

A year has passed since Peter and Pax have seen each other, since the separation of a once inseparable pair.

The war is over but the land has been left desecrated and deserted as the water supplies have been poisoned by heavy metals. Peter’s father has died in questionable circumstances and although Peter is back living with Vola, and his grandfather visits regularly, he believes that everything he loves he hurts and they leave him so he is determined to shut the world out and live alone.  After all, he is nearly 14.  

And so, the boy-man sets out on a journey to reclaim his old home; to join the Water Warriors, a band of people painstakingly cleaning up the polluted waterways to restore life -flora, fauna and human – to it;  and to keep the world at arm’s length and out of his heart forever. That way he can keep those he might love, safe. But is that possible?  He certainly didn’t count on meeting Jade, let alone her insight and wisdom. 

Meanwhile, Pax has adapted to the wild he did not seek; and has become father to a litter of kits, one of whom is an inquisitive, feisty female whom he must protect at all costs, particularly after she drinks deeply of the contaminated water. And as they continue their long journey home, Pax continually picks up the scent of the boy who abandoned him…

This is one of those stories that stays with you long after you reluctantly turn the final page, not just because of the power of the surface story but because the layers and  currents that run through it,just like those of the river that is at its heart – the river that put Peter back into old territory and provides Pax with safe passage from humans and predators. Although Pennypacker believed that she would not write another novel after Pax, clearly deep within her she knew there was more of this story to be told and this is the compelling sequel, one that kept me up well past my bedtime as I immersed myself in it, wanting to finish but knowing that when I did I would be left with that feeling that comes when an absorbing plot and great writing come together.

If you have mature, independent readers who can appreciate the nuances and parallels of what is between and beyond the words  then this is the duo for them.  Less sophisticated readers will enjoy the story for what it is, but it is those who are able to reach down to the deeper waters below the surface who will most appreciate it. 

Outstanding. 

 

Pax

Pax

Pax

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pax

Sara Pennepacker

Jon Klassen

HarperCollins, 2017

298pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9780008158286

War is coming and Peter’s father is answering the call to arms. But first he must deliver Peter to his grandfather’s care 300 miles away and before that, they must return the fox that has been Peter’s pet since it was a kit to the wild.

Pax and Peter have been inseparable since Peter found him, his mother killed by a car (as was Peter’s and their friendship has helped him come to terms with his anger and grief as his father dealt with his) and  his siblings having starved to death, so to abandon Pax to the wild  is heart-breaking.  But while Peter sort of understands why, Pax is bewildered when the car roars off while he is searching for a beloved toy Peter has thrown…

And so begins one of the most heart-warming, heart-wrenching stories of the love between human and animal that I’ve read for a long time. Told in alternating chapters between them, we follow Pax’s gradual adaptation to his new surroundings as he slowly comes to accept that Peter is not coming back, at the same time as we follow Peter’s journey back from his grandfather’s home determined to find him and reunite.  Neither feels whole without the other.  The author worked closely with an expert in fox behaviour, and as well as celebrating that limitless affinity that a child can have with an animal, tame or wild, she uses the two-voice perspective to explore and explain the issues in the story.

This is one for independent readers, or even a class read-aloud, with much to consider and discuss.  At the end of it, Pennepacker was not going to write another novel but eventually she did.  That book is  a sequel to this one – Pax: the Journey Home  – and it was receiving that to review that had me requesting Pax.  I am so glad I did.