Archives

Tashi and the Stolen Forest

Tashi and the Stolen Forest

Tashi and the Stolen Forest

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tashi and the Stolen Forest

Anna & Barbara Fienberg

Kim Gamble

Allen & Unwin, 2020

96pp., pbk., RRP $A2.99

9781760878566

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, a little boy was finally born to a couple who so desperately wanted a child that after consulting Wise-As-An-Owl the wife sipped a special mixture made for her and within a year, Tashi was born.  Right from the start he proved to be very clever and had many adventures before finally fleeing from a wicked warlord, arriving in this land on the back of a swan where he became Jack’s special friend.  Every now and then he would share an adventure with Jack and then Jack recounted these to his incredulous parents.  And so the adventures and legend of Tashi were born…

For over 25 years, the stories have fascinated young, independent readers as they are the perfect introduction to the world of fantasy and the fantastic, including almost every Year 3 class I’ve taught since the stories were first published.  Presented in a paperback format that each contained two stories, they were perfect for real-alouds as well as read-alones, so much so that in 2001 my Year 3 classes led a national Book Rap that had students from all over the country answering the questions my students had posed about the stories via online activities and emails as the power of the Internet was gradually harnessed to connect children beyond the school walls.

And now it is time for another wave of emerging, newly-independent readers to get to know this magical little fellow who has such big adventures with a new story published at a special Australia Reads price so that more children can start reading. In this stand-alone, Tashi tells about the time the old forest disappeared, and Much-to-Learn was in danger of disappearing with it! And then the whole village was threatened … Could magic sand and a certain spell help save them all? Only someone as clever as Tashi could find a way to outwit the Baron – and solve the mystery of the disappearing trees.

For those who are unfamiliar with Tashi, or who want to make sure they have all the books ready for renewed interest, you can check the list of books here – promote them to your emerging readers who will appreciate the quality stories as they begin  their journey through novels which give them the confidence and satisfaction of reading a “chapter book” for themselves.

 

 

News Hounds: The Dinosaur Discovery

News Hounds: The Dinosaur Discovery

News Hounds: The Dinosaur Discovery

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

News Hounds: The Dinosaur Discovery

Laura James

Charlie Alder

Bloomsbury, 2022

128pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781526620583

Gizmo is a city dog, so when he moves to the village of Puddle with his journalist human he doesn’t know what to expect but, luckily he had Jilly, the wolfhound next door, to show him around. Even though Gizmo might not know the difference between a cow and a tractor he’s got a nose for a story, and so he starts The Daily Bark, a newspaper for the dogs of Puddle. Gizmo is the editor, Jilly (who knows everyone) is the lead reporter, and Bunty is the weather reporter.  Lola is the sports reporter, Bruno is the fashion and beauty expert while Bob, who is the station master’s dog, writes the travel news.

In this, the second in this series for young, newly independent readers transitioning to novels, Bob helps Diamond, a seemingly aristocratic Afghan hound jump off the train as she arrives with her new master, Mr Marcus, owner of the Curiosity Shop, and reputedly a cat person.  But in his efforts to outdo the other dogs in trying to impress Diamond, he unwittingly digs up a dinosaur bone… So he not only has the scoop of the century for The Daily Bark but also having to keep it same from others who want it so much more!

An engaging read for all those young readers who love dogs, who know they do more than snooze in the sun when their owners are absent and who are looking for a fast-paced story that is just right for them. 

 

The Book Club Bank Heist

The Book Club Bank Heist

The Book Club Bank Heist

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Book Club Bank Heist

Ruth Quayle

Marta Kissi

Andersen Press, 2022

192pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781839131271

Easter holidays and Joe is on his way to stay with his Granny in Muddlemoor, a quintessential English country village (complete with a vicar fund-raising for a new church roof)  and he’s very excited because not only does he love going there but his Welsh cousins Pip and Tom are joining him. 

But when they  discover that a dangerous gang of robbers is hiding in the local area, it seems like this is another mystery for them to solve, and so they start an investigation straightaway. At first, a number of people and places come under suspicion as they follow the procedures in Tom’s favourite series of books by ace detective Albie Short, but it’s when  Granny’s Book Group seems to be acting RATHER suspiciously that their focus shifts..  Could Granny’s Book Group be the true-life bank robbers? After all, they always seems to be short of cash until Granny seems to start splashing it around, they NEVER talk about books and for another thing they keep going on about a local bank. There’s only one thing for it. The cousins must stop Granny getting arrested, even if it means putting themselves in danger.

Told by 9 year-old Joe in the conversational style of the age group with lots of illustrations to break up the text, this is a good story for newly independent readers who like down-to-earth stories that they can feel they are a part of, either as an observer or a participant.  Because they’re straddling the line between working with the concrete and the abstract, having to be involved and being able to be objective, they will probably join the dots like Joe and his cousins do and they will delight in the way the robbers are eventually caught. A great way to introduce this genre that might lead to classics like The Famous Five, The Secret Seven or perhaps Nancy Drew or The Hardy Boys, each taking them into the world of mystery adventures as well as a time before the internet and mobile phones, maybe even into conversations with their grandparents about books shared and enjoyed. 

Gangsta Granny Strikes Again!

Gangsta Granny Strikes Again!

Gangsta Granny Strikes Again!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gangsta Granny Strikes Again!

David Walliams

Tony Ross

HarperCollins, 2022

368pp., pbk., RRP $A22.99

9780008530259

Ten years ago, we first met 11-year-old Ben in Gangsta Granny  who was bored beyond belief when he was made to stay with his grandmother because he thought she was the boringest grandma ever: all she wanted to do was to play Scrabble, and eat cabbage soup. But there are two things Ben didn’t know about his grandma.

1) She was once an international jewel thief known as The Black Cat.

2) All her life, she had been plotting to steal the Crown Jewels, and now she needed Ben’s help…

Now, in this long-awaited sequel, it is a year since Ben lost his Granny and his days as an international jewel thief are over, only the memories live on and he is now dreaming of becoming a plumber. But then something inexplicable happens. World-famous treasures are stolen in the dead of night and the clues point to none other than The Black Cat? But that’s impossible…?

With a bevy of characters from the original as well as some new ones, ranging from a suspicious librarian (who is a relative of Mr Parker, the leader of the neighbourhood watch group who all think that Ben is connected to the robberies) to the Queen (who needs no introduction), Walliams has created his first ever sequel which will not only embrace a new generation of readers, but delight those who remember and loved the original.  There is a great message that reminds us that just because somebody has died, it doesn’t mean that they’ve disappeared from your life and your heart. There are all sorts of settings and signs that recall happy times shared and memories are recalled. Despite being 368 pages, it is perfect for young readers as it is liberally illustrated and the typical Walliams’ humour carries the story along at a fast clip.  Maps and diagrams help the reader understand the setting and the circumstances and all in all, this is a perfect read for the upcoming holidays… 

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.

Kensy and Max 8: High Voltage

Kensy and Max 8: High Voltage

Kensy and Max 8: High Voltage

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kensy and Max 8: High Voltage

Jacqueline Harvey

Puffin, 2021

384pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9781760898557

Imagine getting in a car in one country and waking up in a strange place in another!  That was the beginning of a whole new adventure for twins Kensy and Max back in 2018 in Breaking News, the first in this series. 

Now, in the 8th in the series, the twins are back – comfortable in their roles and deeply involved in a new adventure. After a tumultuous school term, a family holiday with sunshine, sleep-ins and Portuguese tarts is just what Kensy and Max need. And Granny Cordelia is adamant: there are to be no investigations while on vacation. But when strange incidents start piling up, the twins are torn between their loyalty and their nose for adventure.

As all leads point to the annual E-Prix championship, Kensy and Max find themselves drawn into the middle of a menacing plot. High-powered sports cars are not the only dangers on the streets of Sintra. Someone wants Wolf Motors and the Formula E car race to go up in smoke, and they won’t let anything – or anyone – get in their way.

When the series first came out, I popped the first two into Miss Then 12’s Christmas stocking and all other presents were abandoned as she buried her nose deep in them, and then three weeks later, re-read them on the long bus trip from Canberra to near Adelaide on her way to her Scout Jamboree.  And now, even though she is 15, deeply into computers, coding and creating her own animated characters, she is still in love with the twins and their adventures and regularly asks if there is a new addition to look forward to.  Won’t she get a surprise when she goes to her letterbox after nearly two months in lockdown to find this!  But, IMO, there is no greater endorsement for an author and their writing, no better testament to the characters and their situations and adventures.  To be so eagerly awaited after such a time by readers who have moved through a major period of development and who seek comfort in the familiar and trusted. 

Thus this is a series to invest in, because you know it will endure with not only those discovering it today and wanting to keep reading, but also the waves of students who will be ready for it in years to come. 

Goldilocks: Wanted Dead or Alive

Goldilocks: Wanted Dead or Alive

Goldilocks: Wanted Dead or Alive

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Goldilocks: Wanted Dead or Alive

Chris Colfer

Jon Proctor

Little Brown, 2021

330pp., pbk., RRP $A22.99

9781510202504

When we first meet her in The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell, Goldilocks is a beautiful and tough-as-nails outlaw. In this brand new, lushly illustrated full-colour graphic novel, readers learn her origin story as she takes you on adventures where she may or may not break a few laws along the way.

Once upon a time, the kingdoms of the fairy-tale world lived in perfect harmony under the guidance of the Happily Ever After Assembly. But not all creatures and territories have been invited to this peaceful union. Monsters and criminals have found refuge in the Dwarf Forests, a land without rulers or law. When a plot by the Charming brothers is unveiled and threatens to push society’s unwanted from their homes, the fairy-tale world’s harmony and Goldilocks’ home are put in jeopardy…

Not being able to read graphic novels (not even comics as a child) I drew on the wisdom of my colleagues for advice about the suitability of this book and series for those in the target parameters of this blog and I was assured that it would be very suitable for mature independent readers at the upper end of its reach, so late Year 3 and beyond.  The series features on the NSW Premier’s Reading Challenge for Years 5 and 6  and when I mentioned it to Miss 10, she immediately said, “Save it for me, Grandma.” (The series is now heading for her Santa Sack.)

I love when one book leads to so many more that can satisfy our readers, particularly at a time when reading will be filling many hours. 

Catvinkle and the Missing Tulips

Catvinkle and the Missing Tulips

Catvinkle and the Missing Tulips

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Catvinkle and the Missing Tulips

Elliot Perlman

Laura Stitzel

Puffin, 2020

304pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

9781760894382

Catvinkle lives in Amsterdam, with her barber-owner Mr Sabatini, and she likes to think that the world revolves around her, as cats generally do. From her basket near the fireplace in what she considers to be her room, she watches the legs and feet of the passers-by as they walk past her window, delighted when she sees someone with socks that don’t match and occasionally swishing her tail that has a big red bow tied to it. All is well with her world.

Now best friends with Ula the stray Dalmatian this second adventure in this series  with its subtle message about inclusivity and acceptance is as delightful as the first, even to a non-cat person like me. This time Catvinkle and Ula find themselves defending two sheep accused of eating Amsterdam’s tulips, and they’re not sure what to believe. The sheep say they’re innocent, but they do look very sheepish. But to win this case, Catvinkle will need the help of a wolfhound, a llama, two travelling koalas, a pair of Russian bears . . . and a very special bird.

As well as being an entertaining read for those who like something a bit different that is engaging, this also has an underlying theme of justice, fairness and those other qualities that are so important at this time to that age group that hasn’t quite discovered shades of grey and compromise yet.

Even though Perlman has received many awards for his adult novels, he certainly knows how to spin a tale for children and these two together would make an excellent gift for newly independent readers who enjoy animal stories that are just good, clean fun. 

 

Hound the Detective

Hound the Detective

Hound the Detective

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hound the Detective

Kimberley Andrews

Puffin, 2020

32pp., pbk., RRP $A17.99

9780143774655

I’m Hound! And I’m a sleuth.

I solve all types of cases.

I sniff and snuff until my nose

detects the clues and traces.

Missing jewels, stolen cars —I always solve the crime.

And his latest case has been mysteriously delivered by post, sending him on a trail that takes him all over town on the scent of something mysterious – although that something isn’t disclosed till the very last page. 

Kimberley Andrews, the creator of the memorable Puffin the Architect has created another masterpiece that will have readers of all ages poring over the detailed illustrations as eagerly as Hound follows his nose,  searching for clues and other hidden treasures. With its clever rhyming text, there’s an unspoken challenge for the reader to find the solution before Hound does, ensuring close engagement with the mystery and offering the opportunity for prediction and speculation. One for a range of ages that reminded me of the fun my students had trying to solve the mystery in the Graeme Base classic, The Eleventh Hour.

Fabio the World’s Greatest Flamingo Detective: Peril at Lizard Lake

Peril at Lizard Lake

Peril at Lizard Lake

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fabio the World’s Greatest Flamingo Detective: Peril at Lizard Lake

Laura James

Emily Fox

Bloomsbury, 2020

128pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

9781408889374

In a small town on the banks of Lake Laloozee lives Fabio, the world’s greatest flamingo detective. He’s not tall or strong, but slight and pink. And he’s very, very clever …

Most of the time. But when an unusual lapse of judgement leads Fabio to accept a ride in his associate Gilbert’s plane, little does he know he’ll be nose-diving into a new mystery!

When the tiny plane crash-lands near a remote village in the savannah, all Fabio wants is a pink lemonade to calm his nerves. But the town well has dried up, and the water didn’t just disappear on its own! Fabio’s on the case, and it’s going to take a daring sting operation to set things right.

With its hot pink and citrus yellow colour scheme in both the illustrations and pages, this is a  series that will appeal to newly independent readers who like something a bit wacky in their reading diet. Flamingoes are up there with unicorns on the popularity charts right now, so for that reason alone it will be appealing  but as the third in the series, it offers more than just offbeat characters with  a mystery to solve through an engaging storyline while still supporting readers who are transitioning to the complexity of novels.