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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. 

Super Sidekicks 3: Trial of Heroes

Super Sidekicks 3: Trial of Heroes

Super Sidekicks 3: Trial of Heroes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Super Sidekicks 3: Trial of Heroes

Gavin Aung Than

Puffin, 2020

160pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9780143795902

Junior Justice (aka JJ) and his super sidekick pals are back in the third instalment in this graphic novel series . Having just saved the world they’ve now been invited to join H.E.R.O. – the Heroic Earth Righteousness Organisation – an exclusive club for the planet’s most famous superheroes. But before they can become members, the team must pass the hardest challenge in the universe, a test so scary and difficult only the truly heroic can survive.

With its graphic novel format ensuring an abundance of action this new episode will be welcomed by the growing body of fans of the series as students return to school and are eagerly seeking something new to read.  With the first two only being published in 2019, they are still available for those who haven’t yet met this band of mini superheroes so there’s opportunity to catch up if the series has escaped your notice.  Pitch it to those newly independent readers who like action and adventure as well as a feeling of being on the side of right, particularly at a time when movie theatres are closed and there is nothing new to take their attention and streamed reruns are rapidly losing their appeal. 

 

Azaria: A True History

Azaria: A True History

Azaria: A True History

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Azaria: A True History

Maree Coote

Melbournestyle Books, 2020

44pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9780648568407

On a cool August night 40 years ago, in the shadow of Uluru, a mother laid her baby to sleep in a tent while she and her husband and her other two children sat under the stars outside – and unknowingly began a scandal that even today, still divides opinion. For that baby was Azaria Chamberlain and before the night was over, a story that made world headlines had begun.  Because when the mother heard a rustling in the tent she turned and saw a dingo making off with the baby and called out… sparking one of the most controversial episodes in modern Australian history.

For despite the baby’s jumpsuit being found by the Anangu trackers the very next day, people had not heard of a dingo taking a baby before and so the rumours and gossip started. Fuelled by media reports of a baby with an unconventional name, a family from a different religion and a mother in such deep grief she couldn’t cry, everyone had an opinion and so the story of Azaria Chamberlain captured the world’s imagination.  It would be 32 years before the truth was known and even then, many didn’t believe it. Still don’t.

At first when I received this book I wondered why this story would need to be known by our young readers, many of whom would have parents too young to remember the events. But as I read it it became clear – just as Uluru is “ten times bigger underground than it is above”, the message that we must look further and deeper for the truth than the surface headlines is very powerful, particularly in these days of fake news and deliberate manipulation and misinterpretation of facts. Azaria’s story, widely identified as Australia’s first modern trial-by-media, is just the vehicle that carries the more important concept that our older students need to bring to their research.  Look at sources for purpose, perspective, accuracy and  authority before accepting them  and relying on them as truth; that everyone brings something to a situation depending on their beliefs, values, attitudes and motives and that the truth can soon be lost under a myriad of layers.

The story of Azaria became “like a fairytale from long ago , with a wolf in the forest, a cruel king and angry townsfolk” and just like fairytales, a kernel of truth gets overlaid with embellishments and changes with every new teller. However in this beautifully illustrated picture book for older readers who now, more than ever, need to learn about the need to be critical thinkers and to not take things on face value Coote has demonstrated the evidence of every character in a story having its own perspective – even the dingo, often now maligned and vilified by humans, was just doing what dingoes do.

For those of you wanting to demonstrate why our students need to walk the extra mile, this would be the perfect introduction. 

 

 

 

League of Llamas (series)

League of Llamas (series)

League of Llamas (series)

League of Llamas (series)

Aleesah Darlison

Puffin, 2020

128pp., pbk., RRp $A9.99

The Golden Llama 

9781760894160

Llama Impossible

9781760894184

Undercover Llama (July 2020)

9781760894191

Rogue Llama (July 2020)

9781760894207

The League of Llamas (LOL) are a group of secret llama agents and they’re on a mission to save the world – if only Agent 0011 Phillipe Llamar could stop looking in the mirror at his luxurious fringe and Agent 0013 Lloyd Llamanator could resist the temptation to eat everything in his path!

This is a new series for the newly independent reader who is looking for something a little different as the LOL set out to protect the world from the evil badger General Bottomburp – but in a bumbling style somewhat akin to Maxwell Smart of yesteryear rather than the suave smoothness of James Bond, things don’t always go according to plan., providing a lot of laughs along the way. Darlison herself loves llamas, which is why they are the unusual heroes, but her love of language and clever use of it and her ability to hone in on what young emerging readers want to keep them engaged mean that this is a series that will have wide appeal that should hook those enjoying the new-found power of being able to read whatever catches their eye.. 

Midnight Ninja

Midnight Ninja

Midnight Ninja

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Midnight Ninja

Sam Lloyd

Bloomsbury, 2019

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

9781408884836

Meet this little boy and his pussycat called Ginger.
He’s got a great big secret. At bedtime he’s the might MIDNIGHT NINJA!

When the emergency bell sounds, he springs out of bed and is off to find and fight the baddies! Tonight’s mystery is socks going missing from clotheslines everywhere and so, using his teleporter he’s off on his mission.  What he discovers is quite surprising and he finds himself in BIG trouble.  But it’s his trusty cat Ginger who comes to the rescue and between them, they not only retrieve all the missing socks but solve the problem so they won’t need to be taken again.

This is an action-packed story that will appeal to young readers, particularly boys who will see themselves in the role of the hero and delight in using all the weapons , Written in rhyme, it bounces along at a great pace with intriguing, detailed illustrations that complement the text and set the imagination running!

A great bedtime story for little lads and lasses who can drift off to sleep dreaming that they are also Midnight Ninjas.