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History Mysteries: Lasseter’s Gold

Lasseter's Gold

Lasseter’s Gold

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lasseter’s Gold

Mark Greenwood

Puffin, 2017

88pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

9780143309321

In the 1930s as the Great Depression held Australia in its grip and people desperately wanted something to hope for, Harold Lasseter walked into the office of the president of the Australian Workers’ Union with a tale to tell that remains one of Australia’s greatest mysteries to this day.

He told Mr Bailey of a magnificent gold reef  that in 1897 he had discovered in the harsh, inhospitable and inaccessible country that is the desert lands where South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory meet.  But he lacked the money, manpower and equipment to return to it to exploit it although if the AWU were to back him…

Historian and author Mark Greenwood has taken his fascination with this subject that he first wrote about in The Legend of Lasseter’s Reef and turned it into another episode in this wonderful History Mysteries series, bringing the story of Harold Lasseter and his legendary reef to yet another generation of readers.  Was Lasseter genuine – or a conman? Where are the three hills that look like “ladies wearing sunbonnets”, “a group of Dickens women in Dombey and Sons”?,  Is there still a rich reef of gold waiting to be discovered – even explorer Dick Smith won’t divulge what he discovered!  If it is there, should it be explored and exploited or should the mystery be forever consigned to Australian folklore?

Accompanied by archival photos, a timeline, links to further information and references to his friendship with Lasseter’s son Bob who believes his father’s story and has made several expeditions to reveal the truth, this is just the sort of tale that will grip young readers encouraging them to look backwards as well as forwards and discover the stories of this country.

 

AFL Factivity

AFL Factivity

AFL Factivity

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AFL Factivity

Michael Panckridge

Puffin, 2017

48pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

9780143785330

ANZAC Day has come and gone and so that means it’s officially time to be indoors more often than not and watching footy on telly is a sanctioned activity.  

For those who follow AFL this bright colourful, carefully constructed factivity book is the ideal accompaniment as fans of all ages can test their knowledge, learn new things and participate in some brain-tingling activities that focus on their favourite sport.  Some of the activities are challenging, such as writing a player profile for the back of the Crunchy Crispies cereal pack; others will require some research while there are also the usual word searches and the like.  However, it can also be used as a teaching resource as many of the activities can be made open-ended, having students apply the challenges to a sport of their choosing or to have them create a similar challenge for their chosen sport.Developing your own crossword involves a lot more than just completing one.

Hooking kids into learning by engaging them with their passion is a surefire way of getting them to learn-by-stealth so even the most reluctant readers can find something that will help them understand reading does have a purpose, it can be fun and it IS for them.  A double sheet of stickers at the end could add to the motivation!

 

 

 

 

Hero

Hero

Hero

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hero

Jennifer Li Shotz

HarperCollins

224pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9780062652218

Hero, a retired search-and-rescue dog, is not prepared for a stray puppy to come into his life. But when he and twelve-year-old Ben find Scout injured and afraid, the new addition leads them down an unexpected and dangerous path. When Scout goes missing, it’s up to Hero to use his search-and-rescue skills to find Scout and bring him home.

This is a compelling story about the bond between a boy and his dogs and the lessons Ben has to learn about sorting out priorities as he promises that he will keep up his schoolwork and grades if he is allowed to keep the puppy, Scout. But it’s hard when you have friends and baseball also vying for your time.

More for the independent reader, nevertheless it would make a great read-aloud to a class or younger person who loves dogs with just the right amount of tension and a happy ending.  

Captain McGrew Wants You for his Crew!

Captain McGrew Wants You for his Crew!

Captain McGrew Wants You for his Crew!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Captain McGrew Wants You for his Crew!

Mark Sperring

Ed Eaves

Bloomsbury, 2017

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

9781408871034

Despite it being centuries since pirates ruled the seas of the Caribbean, they still hold a fascination for young readers, many of whom see themselves in the role of the swashbuckling buccaneer.  So in this rollicking story-in-rhyme, author Mark Sperring has created a job description for prospective applicants which illustrator Ed Eaves has interpreted in the boldest, brightest colours populated with regular girls and boys that young readers will recognise.

All the well-known tasks of pulling up the anchor, climbing the rigging, peering from the crow’s nest for land, digging deep holes for burying and retrieving treasure, waiting on the fat, demanding Captain McGrew deliberately suggesting that this might not be the romantic life stories have portrayed in other books, particularly as this time the ‘heroes’ are the crew not the captain. Having to sploosh the deck, batten the hatches and fire the cannons while all around a fierce storm rages might dampen enthusiasm, but if it doesn’t then there is always the thought of octopus stew, endless dishwashing and even walking the plank to discourage the most hardy.  If the constant tiredness and navigating through the night are the deal-breakers then there is always Norman the Knight…

Every stereotypical aspect of life on the high seas is addressed in this engaging tale which will feed the imagination and perhaps inspire the life-plan of our young readers for the long-term, but in the short-term they will enjoy its rhyme and rhythm, its vibrancy and action and learn that stories can take them anywhere they want to go. And just what might a job description for a knave look like?  Maybe it might be better to stay a kid for a while.

You Choose …flip me

You Choose - Flip Me

You Choose – Flip Me

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You Choose…Flip Me

Alien Invaders from Beyond the Stars/Night of the Creepy Carnival

9780143784029

Super Sports Spectacular/Trapped in the Games Grid

9780143784036

George Ivanoff

Random House, 2017

pbk., RRP $A19.99

Remember the frustration of finishing a book in a series that you have really enjoyed but you need to go to the library or the bookstore to track down the next one?  Or worse, still, wait for it to be written and published?  The solution seems to be having two books in one as with the new packaging of George Ivanoff’s very popular You Choose series.  Now our students can have all the fun of following pathways through one book and when they are done with that, slip them over to read through another immediately.  No waiting,  No cooling of enthusiasm. Just more reading.

For a couple of decades at least, the choose-your-own-adventure stories have been popular, particularly with boys, as they like the interactivity and the gaming nature of them.  So to be able to serve them up two at a time to aficionados not only encourages them to keep reading but also shows them that the library DOES have stuff that meets their interests and needs.  That has to be good.

 

History Mysteries: Diamond Jack

History Mysteries: Diamond Jack

History Mysteries: Diamond Jack

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

History Mysteries: Diamond Jack

Mark Greenwood

Puffin Books, 2017

88pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

9780143309260

March 1942 – the Japanese have reached Indonesia and there is a constant stream of flights shuttling refugees from Java to the safe haven of Broome on the north-west coast of Western Australia.  Russian flying ace Captain Smirnoff is piloting one of the last planes to leave Bandung Airport, an old DC3 stripped back to the bare minimum to allow for as many passengers as possible including five Dutch pilots, a trainee flight engineer, a mother and her 18 month old son.  

Just as they are about to take off an official jumps on board and hands Smirnoff a package, tell him to “Take great care of this.  Someone from the bank will collect it when you land.”

Unfortunately for Smirnoff, his crew and his passengers, the Japanese have switched their target to Broome and just an hour from their destination they are shot down. Despite injuries and continuing Japanese fire, Smirnoff manages to bring the plane down on the edge of  the beach…

What happened next – the survival and rescue of the passengers; the finding and the contents of the mysterious package and the enigmatic  man who became known as Diamond Jack are the centre of this intriguing true tale that still remains unanswered 75 years on. Should he have done what he did?  Is “finders keepers” really the rule to live by?  

Rudyard Kipling once said, “If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten” and in this new series from self-confessed history-hunter Mark Greenwood there are stories told that would otherwise have been forgotten, if they were ever widely known in the first place.  Short, engaging reads written in short chapters, large font and liberally illustrated they are not only perfect for the young reader moving on to independent reading but also those who may not have yet unlocked the key.  Greenwood writes an introduction that personalises the story as though he is talking directly to the reader, drawing them into this tale that is about to unfold and then, the tale told, he talks about the sources he has drawn on and provides a lot of extra information so not only is the story authenticated but there is scope for further discovery.

Something special to add to the collection and promote an interest in times past in a way seldom done. Australia- a country full of stories!

Artie and the Grime Wave

Artie and the Grime Wave

Artie and the Grime Wave

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Artie and the Grime Wave

Richard Roxburgh

Allen & Unwin 2016

240pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9781760292140

When bully Nate Grime and his sidekick Wart throw Artie’s only pair of shoes over the overhead wires, they start off a chain of events that not only brings down the Mayor of the town but also provides for a hair-raising crazy adventure that will appeal to boys in those mid-late primary years.

Artie only has one pair of shoes because after his dad, a trapeze artist, died a few years previously, his mother has been so deep on grief that she has confined herself to the couch all but abandoning Artie and his angry older sister, Lola.  His best mate Bumshoe – (real name Alex Baumschule) suggests that they find paperbark trees to make new shoes from so Artie not only avoids his mother’s anger but can also go to school.  It is while they are searching for the trees that they discover a cave full of possibly-stolen-stuff and its sinister guardians Mary, Funnel Web and Mr Budgie.

Populated with a number of eccentric characters who all become part of Artie and Bumshoe’s attempts to get the truth out as they search for Gladys Unpronounceable-enko’s tortoise Gareth which has disappeared and desperately avoid the clutches of the ruthless gang, Roxburgh has written and illustrated a rambunctious romp that pits the skinny, awkward kid and his overweight mate against bullies, mean teachers and desperate gangsters that many readers will put themselves in the hero’s shoes.  In fact Roxburgh says, “”My oldest boy started to hit an age where I was conscious I was finding the books I was reading him as entertaining and amusing as he was,” … ”I thought I could write to that world, I could locate myself in that neck of woods and deal with that immature adventurous sense of play.

Because of his public profile, Roxburgh and his book received a lot of publicity when it was released in October 2016 and I was keen to see if the writing actually lived up to the hype.  Pleased to record that it kept me reading to the end and that I could ‘see’ young boys particularly enjoying it and recommending it to their peers.  A great start to the 2017 reading seasons.

The Night Santa Got Lost: How NORAD Saved Christmas

christmas_countdown_2016

 

 

 

 

The Night Santa Got Lost: How NORAD Saved Christmas

The Night Santa Got Lost: How NORAD Saved Christmas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Night Santa Got Lost: How NORAD Saved Christmas

Michael Keane

Michael Garland

Regency Kids, 2015

40pp., hbk.

9781621573982

 

On a day long ago began NORAD’s tradition-

Tracking Santa’s red sleigh on his once-a-year mission.

Using radar and satellites – fighter jets too!

Reporting on Santa, wherever he flew.

But one Christmas Eve a blizzard rolls in and so Santa leaves the North Pole early much to the dismay of NORAD who weren’t prepared for the unscheduled start.  And as the green blip disappears off the radar screen and there is no sign of Santa or his reindeer, panic ensues.  A  four star general and the Commander-in-Chief order the fighter jets into the air and every last piece of technology the US Air Force has is set to searching for Santa.

Eventually he is found buried deep in a snow drift but now it is too late to get all the presents to the children in the traditional way of reindeer and sleigh, so once again the bigwigs put their heads together and come up with a most audacious plan that involves NATO and other US allies, battleships, cruisers, submarines, helicopters, C-17s, trucks and tanks and every other sort of transport available to the military. And for those places where “The children love Santa, but the leaders say no”, there are Special Ops, Navy SEALS and tough Army Rangers.

Will their mission succeed?  Will they get to all the children of the world in time?

Dedicated to the children whose parents “allow us to live in a world where we have the freedom to believe in Santa Claus” this is a very different story for Christmas, one that acknowledges those who serve by showing them in a less-that-traditional setting.  NORAD (North American Aerospace Defence Command) is a joint United States and Canadian military organisation and for over 60 years it has tracked Santa’s flight each December 24. Children can watch where he is by going to the website   or downloading an app so they know when they have to get into bed after their tour of the local Christmas lights as more than 1500 people trace his every movement through 47 radar installations in Northern Canada and Alaska, alerting them to when Santa actually leaves the North Pole, and satellites at about 22,000 miles above the Earth with infrared sensors, which see the heat coming off of Rudolph’s nose. In addition, there  high-speed digital SantaCams set up around the world to catch a glimpse of him passing by the different cities.

Written in the vein of  The Night Before Christmas this is one that even older children will enjoy.  While predominantly American  and with several pages of explanations at the end, nevertheless it will resonate particularly with children whose family members are in the services.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Snot Chocolate

Snot Chocolate

Snot Chocolate

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Snot Chocolate

Morris Gleitzman

Puffin Books, 2016

165pp, pbk., RRP $A14.99

9780143309222

The blurb reads, “Stop your mum picking her nose, read the secret diary of a dog, catch a bus and then let it go, discover how one slice of toast can make you the most popular person in school, start wearing a crown and give up eating pig-nostril gruel, use a wrecking ball to defeat a bully, show your big sister the very scary secret in your wardrobe, unleash the awesome power of chips, live in a house that gets wiped clean more often than a bottom.”

But there is so much more to this collection of short stories from a master storyteller who seamlessly switches between the poignancy of Two weeks with the Queen, the gaiety of Toad Rage and the seriousness and sincerity of the Once series. Gleitzman himself says, “Nine stories, and I’ve made them different lengths because different parents have different ideas about how long a person should be allowed to read before turning the lights out.”

With a title designed to attract that reader who loves to makes sure parents and teachers have a stomach-churning moment when they see it, nevertheless there are serious undertones to each as the central character of each tries to grapple with a big problem affecting family or friends using a thought process and logic that are particular to that age group.  Creativity is alive and well in children – until the formality and seriousness of school try to quell it.

Along with Give Peas a Chance and Pizza Cake, these stories which give the author “a break from the stiff neck and stiff brain you sometimes get writing book-length stories” might seem a long way from the stories Gleitzman commonly crafts and which he is so valued for, but as he says, he would” hate to forget that in stories a laugh can have a teardrop as a very close neighbour.”  However, despite the sombre notes this is a collection that will keep those newly independent readers, particularly boys, reading and help them transition to the next phase of their reading journey – which will probably be a Gleitzman novel – as they show that even short stories with wicked titles can have great, credible characters and a depth of plot that makes reading so worthwhile.  

Parents,  teachers and teacher librarians are blessed to have such a gifted writer as Gleitzman on their side.

Read what Morris Gleitzman has to say on the value of short stories.

Star Wars: The Original Trilogy: A Graphic Novel

Star Wars

Star Wars

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Star Wars: The Original Trilogy: A Graphic Novel

Hardie Grant Egmont, 2016

208pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781760128180

A long time ago in a galaxy far far away – well it was actually 1977 and the world was very different then – George Lucas released the first of his Star Wars movies and such was its impact that almost 40 years on those who saw it then are still fans and every day it gathers a new cohort, young and not-so-young.  Such was the success of the original, plans for more were made and in 1980 it was followed by The Empire Strikes Back and in 1983, The Return of the Jedi.

Since then there have been prequels and sequels and a massive merchandising franchise that it holds the Guinness World Records title for the “most successful film merchandising franchise. With the 40th anniversary clearly in sight this is only going to grow and so the release of a graphic novel -the preferred book format of so many- is sure to build a whole new legion of fans.  

Containing the three original films, now dubbed Episodes IV, V and VI this release will appeal to those who are already devotees (so many of my family and friends have asked for the review copies) as well as gather new ones.  For those in school libraries it will add another dimension to your Star Wars collections of both fiction and fact which never seem to stay on the shelf and always have a long reserve list, in my experience. Now the core of the phenomenon is accessible to even the most reluctant reader or new English speaker in print format and that alone, makes it a must-have.

And a certain Christmas stocking is sorted for me!