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The Unwilling Twin

The Unwilling Twin

The Unwilling Twin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Unwilling Twin

Freya Blackwood

Angus & Robertson, 2020

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

9781460757536

Jules and George are the same in every way. It is quite impossible to tell them apart. They even have matching birthmarks on their bottoms. 

And like all twins, they do everything together including having a long, hot day at the beach.  But sometimes, even twins disagree…

This is a charming story for littlies that will help them believe in the fun and magic in books, for there is a twist to the story which they will delight in pointing out right from the start.  Eagle eyes might even spot it on the front cover!  Nevertheless, they will soon be immersed in it as they go to the beach with Jules and George and relive their own memories (or build their imaginations if going to the beach is just a dream.) The ending is LOL funny – Freya Blackwood hasn’t lost her ability to entertain with both words and pictures.

 

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Deep End

The Deep End

The Deep End

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Diary of a Wimpy Kid:  The Deep End

Jeff Kinney

Puffin, 2020

224pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9780143796084

Greg Heffley returns to delight readers in the 15th episode of this popular series, one that will resonate particularly this year because, like many Australian families searching for a summer holiday, Greg  and his family hit the road for a cross-country camping trip, ready for the adventure of a lifetime.  But things take an unexpected turn, and they find themselves stranded at an RV park that’s not exactly a summertime paradise. When the skies open up and the water starts to rise, the Heffleys wonder if they can save their vacation – or if they’re already in too deep.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid is a series that has gone from strength to strength since its inception over 12 years ago as new waves of young lads hear his story about trying to fit in to middle school and relate to it.  Written in the first person as a diary and liberally illustrated with stick-like figures it is an easy read that has hit the mark for reluctant and ready readers, ensuring they continue to find reading a pleasure.

A great one to pop in the Santa Sack to give a few hours of pleasure during those seemingly endless kilometres or the inevitable wet day stuck inside!

 

Pages & Co (series)

Pages & Co (series)

Pages & Co (series)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tilly and the Bookwanderers 

9780008229863

 

Tilly and the Lost Fairy Tales

9780008229900

 

Tilly and the Map of Stories

9780008229948

HarperCollins, 2018-2020

400+pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

 

 

“From outside on the busy north London high street, Pages & Co looked like an entirely normal bookshop. but once inside it didn’t quite make sense how everything fitted inside its ordinary walls. The shop was made up of five floors of corners and cubbyholes, sofas and squashy armchairs, and a labyrinth of bookshelves heading off in different direction.  A spiral staircase danced up one wall, and painted wooden ladders stretched into difficult-to-reach corners.  Tall arched windows above made it feel a little like a church when the light spilled in and danced on the air. When it was good weather the sun pooled on the floor and the bookshop cat – named Alice for her curious nature- could often be found dozing in the warmest spots.  During the summer the big fireplace behind the till was filled to bursting with fresh flowers, but at is was October, a fire was roaring there…”

Does this not conjure up every booklover’s dream of a magical place, a bookstore where magic and mysteries, adventures and escapades beckon?  And for it to be the home of Tilly who prefers the company of book characters to the people in real life and, although not having been outside London, is a seasoned traveller within the pages of the books that abound on the shelves just shouts that this is going to be a series for booklovers and readers that will deliver all that is expected and more.

But what if your favourite characters could not only come out of the books and have real-life conversations with you but could also take you back into the book to have your very own adventure within the story? Tilly discovers that this is part of her relationship with her books and that, unlike other series where it is a secret power, this one is shared by her family,  There is much more to her grandfather and grandmother and the family’s history and lives than she ever imagined. Bookwandering is what this family does, and it might explain the mysterious disappearance of her mother and the absence of her father.

Created for independent readers or perfect for classroom read-alouds, this is a series that really needs to be read from the first one in order so that the subsequent adventures have context but it will have the book lover hooked from the start, regardless of their age, and wishing they too could bookwander into the magical, mystical world of their favourite characters.  I just loved it!!! Once your students know about it they will be queuing up!

 

Pirate Stew

Pirate Stew

Pirate Stew

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pirate Stew

Neil Gaiman

Chris Riddell

Bloomsbury, 2020

48pp., hbk., RRP $A22.99

9781526614728

Their parents are having a night out and so have hired a babysitter, but he is not your regular carer.

His hair was grey. His face was scarred.

Right leg a peg, left hand a hook.

He grinned a grin and said, “my card.”

It read

Long John McRon, Ship’s Cook.

Soon joined by others, each the quintessential stereotype of a pirate crew member, they set about feeding the children but it is no ordinary food they concoct.  They make pirate stew.

But rather than joining in the fun and games as all sorts of things are thrown into the pit, the children remain dubious, if not worried, , because if they eat the stew they will become pirates too. But nevertheless, a night of adventures lies ahead which gets even more interesting when their parents arrive home and hungry, devour the children’s bowls of uneaten pirate stew!

This is the most delightful tale from an author absolutely dedicated to getting children to read through entertaining stories, and so richly illustrated that it is impossible to summarise it in a few lines for a review.  Starting with two children who faces show what they think of their parents having a night out and who do not embrace the possibilities of having a pirate cook for a babysitter,  Gaiman’s rollicking rhyme and Riddell’s detailed illustrations offer an adventure that can be and demands to be read again and again and again. Just what was in those doughnuts?  The twist in the ending is unexpected and sets up a whole lot of opportunities for asking “what if…”.

Here’s a taste…

A wonderful opportunity for children and parents to find their treasure…. 

 

The Tindims of Rubbish Island

The Tindims of Rubbish Island

The Tindims of Rubbish Island

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Tindims of Rubbish Island

Sally Gardner

Lydia Carry

Zephyr, 2020

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

9781838935672

Since the days of the Vikings, the Tindims have lived on Rubbish Island, recycling debris salvaged from sunken pirate ships and galleons. They have always lived in secret, caring for the creatures of the sea and helping messages in bottles to find the right tides. But now as plastic threatens to overwhelm their island home, the Tindims make contact with children for the first time ever to show them how to turn rubbish into treasure…

Join Skittle, her furry pet Pinch, her parents, Admiral Bonnet, Mug, Jug, Brew, Captain Spoons,  Granny Gull and Barnacle Bow on  Rubbish Island where they seem to find a use for every piece of rubbish that the ‘Long Legs’ throw into the water. For years they have lived by their motto: ‘Rubbish today is treasure tomorrow’.  Wander through its warren of underwater rooms, including a toothbrush library and a hospital for sick fish, climb its terraces overlooking the sea and scale Rubbish Mountain. Set sail with them on their first ocean adventure as they show keen young human ecologists how to help protect our planet for the future.

There was recently a discussion on an education forum about teachers having younger readers who are newly independent and who have outgrown the levelled basal readers that are usually offered the age group.  The consensus was that these readers should not have their opportunities stifled by stories with controlled vocabulary and contrived sentence structure just because of their age and a convenient label, and that while they still needed some support with shorter chapters, larger fonts and illustrations which not only broke up the text but also helped clarify it, there were plenty of these sorts of books that offered such a platform, built on a solid, quality storyline. This series, is one of those.

It is modern in appearance and focuses on a theme that is close to the heart and minds of its target audience, that of making this world a better place by thinking globally and acting locally. There are not a lot of things that our youngest readers have the power to improve or change, but being environmentally conscious is one of them so this book which inspires them to be more aware is certainly within their realm. Reminiscent of the classic series The Borrowers by Mary Norton, it may even inspire them to expand their horizons and read that collection.

The first in this series, it is one that should appeal to those who are ready to test the next stepping stones of their reading journey.

 

Time for Adventure, Daddy

Time for Adventure, Daddy

Time for Adventure, Daddy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Time for Adventure, Daddy

Dave Hackett

UQP, 2020

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

9780702262852

The little girl has a fun day of adventures and activities in mind, taking a picnic to explore the great outdoors while the sun is shining.  But Daddy has other things on his to-do list, like doing the laundry, picking up the toys and all the other chores that can fill in a day not spent at work. But when he finally relents and goes, the little girl gets more than she bargained for…

Using his iconic cartoon style in full colour, Hackett has added another to his series of stories that celebrate family life and encourage parents to seize the day and enjoy the time they can with their children. Both parent and child will enjoy sharing this book as it reflects daily life and both will see themselves in the situations. 

Role reversal books are hugely popular with our littlest readers as they feel themselves empowered as they imagine what could happen if they were in charge, so this book, and the others in the series, are perfect for getting little ones interested in books and the stories and adventures they hold. One to recommend to the parents of your preschoolers. 

Back to Sleep

Back to Sleep

Back to Sleep

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Back to Sleep

Zoë Foster Blake

Mike Jacobsen

Puffin, 2020

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

9781760897901

Just as he is drifting off to sleep, Finn hears a noise at his bedroom door.  In walks Mummy, and she is thirsty. Taking her by the hand and carefully guiding her around his Lego space station, Finn settles her back in bed with her water bottle.  Then just as he is settling down again, there is another noise.  This time it is Daddy who has had a bad dream, but as Finn guides him back to bed Daddy stands on the Lego…

This is a role reversal story of bedtime that will appeal to young readers who will see themselves and their nighttime antics in the actions of the parents.  Teamed with  hilarious illustrations which offer more each time you look at them, this is a bedtime story that will be shared over and over again as parent and child recognise the various mishaps which will no doubt spark memories and chatter. 

One of the most powerful ways to get little people interested in the magic of books is to write about situations in which they can see and place themselves, and this certainly does that.  One to recommend to your parents of preschoolers.

The Thank-you Present

The Thank-you Present

The Thank-you Present

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Thank-you Present

Jane Martino

Annie White

Puffin, 2020

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

9781761040054

Evie and Lola are best friends.  They share everything and like the same things.  But most of all they like July because that’s when they have their birthdays, and birthdays mean presents.  But July is a long way away and they really can’t wait until then.  However, when they put a plan to have their birthdays now to their Dad, he says no and explains that presents are a way of saying thank you.  At first the girls don’t understand but when they do, they discover the meaning and the feeling of gratitude.

 This is the first book in the five-part mindfulness-informed series, developed in collaboration with Smiling Mind, Australia’s leading not-for-profit organisation in the pre-emptive mental health space. This year we have all learned that gratitude comes in many forms and the things we are grateful are not necessarily physical and tangible. Following the story, which is thought-provoking especially for littlies, there is a three-minute guided exercise focusing on gratitude  for the reader to engage in as well as a suggestion for creating a thank you letter, and an activity pack to make it easier. 

If there is a silver lining to the events of 2020 it is the spotlight being shone on the mental health of all ages of the community, including our youngest who don’t necessarily understand what’s been happening and why they can’t do the things they take for granted. Introducing them to the concept of being grateful for what they do have rather than grieving for what they haven’t can be a sound springboard.

 

I’m a Hero Too

I'm a Hero Too

I’m a Hero Too

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m a Hero Too

Jamila Rizvi

Peter Cheong

Puffin, 2020

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

9781761040115

Heroes come in all shapes and sizes and most of them don’t wear capes – that’s the lesson we can learn from this pandemic that has rocked the nation, indeed the world.  In fact, in some countries people have stood outside at a certain time and applauded the local heroes, particularly the health care workers . However, while the children have joined in, many have been left bewildered about the changes in their lives. Children like Arty who doesn’t understand why he can’t listen in on Mum’s conversations any more; or why his dad is working at home and often grumpy; or having to be at the end of the skipping rope from Granny and not being allowed to play in the playground.   

Why are there all these changes?  Why can’t the world go back to the way it was?

When his dad finally explains that that can’t happen until people like Arty’s mum find a way to beat the virus, Arty realises he can do things that will help to beat it too. That he is not powerless and that he can be a hero fighting this invisible, supersonic virus by doing ordinary, everyday things like washing his hands properly and often; not touching things like supermarket trolleys and his face; coughing into his elbow and putting his tissues in the bin; and helping at home by getting dressed when he is told and waiting for his dad to finish his video calls before interrupting. He can even  draw beautiful pictures and post them to Granny.  And one day, if he and everyone else is a hero, things will change back to the way they were.

Our kids are remarkably resilient and if they understand why they have to do certain things they will adapt and adopt quickly, but sometime we adults forget the explanation.  This is a remarkable book that takes the time to talk to the children and show them how they too, can be heroes just by doing what they have been asked.  That while restrictions may be tiresome and boring, every little bit helps and together, we can defeat this insidious enemy. 

Share the story, and make a wall display in a cape-shape that details the things that our kids can do to be heroes and then let them look for their friends being heroes so they can add their name to the display.  Reinforce the everyday hero concept so they feel empowered and powerful. That’s the way to win.

Hello Jimmy!

Hello Jimmy!

Hello Jimmy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hello Jimmy!

Anna Walker

Puffin, 2020

40pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781760893422

When Jack visits his dad he never knows which dad he is going to see – will it be the funny, joke-telling dad he used to know or will it be the one who is so sad and silent, the one who feels as lonely as Jack does? These days it seems to be the sad, silent one more often than not until one day his Dad finds Jimmy the parrot on his doorstep.  But while Jimmy appears to cheer him up, it seems it is at the expense of his relationship with Jack. So while everyone else seems to be pleased that Jimmy is now in dad’s life and bringing him some happiness, Jack is not so thrilled and one night when he leaves his bedroom window open, Jimmy flies out…

Sadly, Jack’s situation and his relationship with his dad will be familiar to many of our students as they struggle to deal with separation, divorce and alternate visiting periods and not yet mature enough to understand the impact that this has on everyone.  The sadness, the remoteness, the isolation is interpreted as not being loved any more or somehow being held responsible for the split and thus a lot of internal, negative self-talk that can damage bonds permanently.

Anna Walker, who also gave us the touching Florette, was inspired to tell this story of the enduring bond between father and child as she watched her brother cope with a separation.  This real-life reference gives it a tenderness and poignancy because as an observer, but one who was close to the situation, she was able to view the impact on both her brother and the children as well as bringing other personal experiences and memories to the pages, giving the reader the impression that this story has really happened.  

This year has been one of the toughest that many families will have ever endured and there are going to be many of our children who will be feeling as confused, perhaps abandoned, as Jack does.  Hello Jimmy! gives us an opportunity to share this situation within the classroom and without touching on specific relationships, help those children understand that they are visible, they are not alone, there is understanding and support for their plight available, that even though their parents are grieving for the loss of their marriage and dreams, they are still loved and wanted.  The good times of funny jokes and making milkshakes and tacos together will return.