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The Astonishing Chronicles of Oscar from Elsewhere

The Astonishing Chronicles of Oscar from Elsewhere

The Astonishing Chronicles of Oscar from Elsewhere

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Astonishing Chronicles of Oscar from Elsewhere

Jaclyn Moriarty

Kelly Candy

A & U Children, 2021

432oo,, hbk., RRP $A22.99

9781760526368

Even though his stepdad was seen dropping him off at school each morning, Oscar didn’t seem to make it through the school gates and Deputy Principal Kugelhopf is demanding a written explanation.

But how can you explain that you were on a quest  to locate nine separate pieces of a key, held by nine separate people, in order to unlock a gluggy silver spell that had trapped the Elven city of Dun-sorey-lo-vay-lo-hey? That the quest was an urgent one because Friday at noon, the spell would become permanent, the Elves would be crushed to death and Oscar would be trapped in this magical world forever? That, even though you’re just a regular non-magical kid who likes to skateboard, your companions were Bronte, a girl who makes magical ‘Spellbinding’ rings, Alejandro, a former pirate/current prince who can shoot arrows and make fire from stones, Imogen, who can read broken maps and is a kickboxing master, Esther, who saved her entire world from some kind of ancient monster, Astrid, a smart ten year old who can read minds, and Gruffudd, a surprisingly speedy (and always hungry) Elf?

But, between himself and Imogen, Oscar manages to recount the adventures and from them emerges the fourth book in the Kingdoms and Empires series, a whimsical fantasy series for independent readers . While there are lots of illustrations, this is one for the older reader who enjoys fantasy and is perhaps looking for a new series to explore if they haven’t already discovered it. 

The Great Book-Swapping Machine

The Great Book-swapping Machine

The Great Book-swapping Machine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Great Book-Swapping Machine

Emma Allen

Lisa Coutts

NLA Publishing, 2021

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

9780642279736

 

Late one night, a thing appears in the paddock next to Fabio’s house, way out in the outback where people just drove past without stopping. .

His dad calls it ‘space junk’ and rang the Space Agency to come to take it away. But Fabio figures it is more than just junk and when he opens the hatch and climbs inside he discovers books. Books about the galaxy; big, fat books; books full of poems. On the pilot’s seat is a book called A Daydreamer’s Guide to the Galaxy and he can’t resist taking it home, staying up late into the night reading and learning. Next morning he feels he is ready to fly but when he pulls the big red lever, nothing happens and he throws the book out in disgust.  The next morning it is gone – but not too far.  The girl from next door is reading it and she hands him one of her books. It is the first of many swaps made among all sots of people, all of whom have to band together to stop the persistent people from the Space Agency from taking the “space junk” away.

This is one of the most enjoyable stories I’ve read and reviewed this year – but then, given its focus, that’s hardly surprising.  With its  funny, original and imaginative story, whimsical illustrations and an informative fact section, it’s a book about the joys of reading and the importance of community, both of which are dear to my heart.  While the usual fact pages at the back of any NLA publication give information about the National Library itself ( a familiar, favourite stomping ground for me) and little street libraries it opens the door to investigating the many different libraries in the world such as The Library of Ashurbanipal, the oldest known in the world, to the packhorse librarians of the Appalachians to their local children’s library and all stops in between.

I adore stories that send me down rabbit holes of discovery and this one has all the elements to do just that.

Horrible Harriet and the Terrible Tantrum

Horrible Harriet and the Terrible Tantrum

Horrible Harriet and the Terrible Tantrum

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Horrible Harriet and the Terrible Tantrum

Leigh Hobbs

A&U Children’s, 2021

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

9781760878221

Horrible Harriet lives in a nest in the roof of the school. All the other children are scared of her. But she has decided it is time for a change – she is going to be the Good Girl that everyone likes. But no matter how hard she tries, she can’t convince her classmates that she has changed.  

Harriet is convinced it is because up in her room , locked in a cage is a Terrible Tantrum.  Even though she treats it like a pampered  pet, Harriet refuses to let it out because she knows it won’t behave as it becomes more and more demanding and frightening. And the morning she discovers it has escaped and taken her seat in class, she just knows that this was going to be a challenging day…

Leigh Hobbs was the Australian Children’s Laureate 2016-2017, acknowledged for all the splendid characters he has brought into children’s lives over the years including Old Tom,  The Freaks in 4F and Mr Chicken. He first introduced us to Horrible Harriet in 2002 and this new episode celebrates her 20th anniversary. He has a knack for creating characters that really appeal to his readers and Harriet is no exception.  Everyone will see a part of themselves in her which means, that despite her behaviour, she resonates and when she tries to be good there is a certain sympathy for her well-intentioned but mis-directed efforts. 

A great opportunity to introduce students to this character. follow her adventures and talk about how we can manage ourselves in all sorts of situations, recognise the triggers that will release the Temper Tantrum and  what can be done to keep it contained. By making the Temper Tantrum a separate physical entity Hobbs cleverly separates it so it can be examined and managed dispassionately, enabling the child to also look at their behaviour at arm’s length.

Genie and Teeny Make a Wish

Genie and Teeny Make a Wish

Genie and Teeny Make a Wish

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Genie and Teeny Make a Wish

Steven Lenton

HarperCollins, 2021

160pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

9780008408206

Grant the genie is like most other genies because he lives in a lamp and is magical, but because he gets his words mixed up his wishes often go wrong.  So when he conjures up a large snake instead of a birthday cake for Queen Mizelda, he is literally tossed out of Genie Land. His lamp lands on Earth but it so bashed and battered he has to find a new home – which he eventually does, in an old teapot. 

Grant is very lonely until he meets the puppy, Teeny. Then Genie and Teeny are kidnapped by the evil purple-loving Lavinia Lavender, and find themselves on-course for a rollercoaster of an adventure – when all they really want is a place to call home…

This is the first in a new series of adventures  that is perfect for those just starting out reading novels.  There is an invisible narrator who speaks directly to the reader inviting them into the story as well as all the textual supports of short chapters, larger and more varied fonts, and plenty of illustrations. And being a series – Wishful Thinking is due in February 2022 and The Wishing Well in Aprilso there is the promise of more adventures to come is a bonus. 

The What on Earth Institute of Wonder

The What on Earth Institute of Wonder

The What on Earth Institute of Wonder

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The What on Earth Institute of Wonder

Lisa Nicol

Puffin, 2021

288pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9781761041556

In the dead of night, the full moon blazing and with their mum double-dosed on sleepy-time tea, 12 year-old Sal (who can talk to birds and animals) and 8 year-old Roy (who’s ready for the apocalypse) quietly climb into a 1975 VW Kombi campervan already filled with an adolescent African elephant and driven by 14 year-old Bartholomew (who is yet to get his drivers’ licence),  This unusual crew, accompanied by Hector the kakapo, set off on a strange expedition which the reader is warned about in the prologue, deep into the Animal Kingdom.  

Despite its quirkiness, there is much the independent reader will relate to in this story including being in single-parent families where the remaining parent is barely coping; the small-minded community members of a small town whose slogan is “Don’t Get Your Hopes Up”; the feeling that animals are more trust-worthy and reliable than adults; and the desire to save the entire animal kingdom from the ravages humans inflict on it.

Nicol has a proven record of turning the ordinary into the extraordinary through her amazing imagination and her desire to empower the children who are her heroes through books like Vincent and the Grandest Hotel on Earth and Dr Boogaloo and the Girl who Lost her Laughter  but still embodying those critical themes of family, friendship, self-belief and loyalty throughout.

Whether this is a read-alone or a read-together, it will appeal to those ready to take flight on an extraordinary adventure, accept strange things really do happen and just enjoy the ride. 

The Witchling’s Wish

The Witchling's Wish

The Witchling’s Wish

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Witchling’s Wish

Lu Fraser

Sarah Massini

Bloomsbury, 2021

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

9781408899953

 

Above the misty mountains, below a glowing moon

lived  lonely little witchling, with a wibbly, wobbly broom…

While she could tolerate most things, her loneliness was beginning to get to her and she realises she needs a friend.  And because she can’t grow one, or sew one she decided to magic one instead. But what happens when she needs something that is already a friend to someone else?

This is a heart-warming story that has a universal message about friendship that will have wide appeal.  The illustrations are just perfect, enhancing the rhyming text perfectly making it an ideal read-aloud particularly as our little ones return to the classroom and have to navigate making friends all over again. Loved it. 

The Song of Lewis Carmichael

The Song of Lewis Carmichael

The Song of Lewis Carmichael

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Song of Lewis Carmichael

Sofie Lsguna

Marc McBride

Allen & Unwin, 2021

192pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9781760878573

Matthew has dreamed and read and thought about the North Pole for as long as he can remember. And he has done it secretly. It is a place that cannot be tarnished by the world in which he lives – a world in which he struggles to find answers and make friends, while everything seems to come easily to other children.

But one day, while reading in the park, Matthew befriends a crow with a broken wing and that night  Lewis Carmichael taps on Matthew’s window – a crow who believes in Matthew in the most simple and ordinary ways. Soon, the unexpected voyage of a lifetime begins, and it will change everything… A hot-air balloon ride to the Arctic and now Matthew stood on the snowy peak and stared out at the world spread before him. Every picture in his books had been limited by the size of the page, contained within frames. Here, there was no frame. Here, the picture didn’t end. Beyond those icy plains, the sea, and beyond the sea, a land that floated on the ice, drifting northwards. Matthew put the binoculars to his eyes and saw valleys and cliffs and rivers all made of snow. Everywhere was white.

Parents looking for quality stories to slip into their child’s Christmas stocking this year are spoiled for choice – and this new one from Sofie Laguna is no exception.  Matthew is that quiet child, withdrawn, unable to make friends who prefers to read and make friends with the characters in his books because he feels like he doesn’t belong that so many parents and teachers will recognise. But, to my knowledge, none of those I know have befriended a crow, particularly one that can talk, and get taken on such an extraordinary adventure… Yet, this is so well-written and so delicately illustrated (the Aurora Borealis spread is exquisite) that it is utterly believable and the reader is swept up in the adventure. And while he is away, this child of helicopter parents has to learn to be resilient, independent, decisive, courageous and confident – all those things that we want for our children but are sometimes too afraid to let them develop. 

Presented entirely in a blue monochromatic scheme, including the text, this is one that is either a read-alone for independent readers, a read-together between parent and child as the perfect bedtime story or a read-aloud with a class and the opportunity to explore a mysterious land with Matthew. 

 

The School between Winter and Fairyland

The School between Winter and Fairyland

The School between Winter and Fairyland

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The School between Winter and Fairyland

Heather Fawcett

Allen & Unwin, 2021

352pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9781760526542

“Twelve-year-old Autumn is a beastkeeper at Inglenook School for Magicians, which she secretly dreams of attending as a student. Instead, she must care for Inglenook’s menagerie of dangerous creatures so the king’s future monster hunters can study them. But when she isn’t mucking out the griffin stalls, Autumn searches for clues about her twin brother’s mysterious disappearance. Everyone else thinks that he was devoured by the terrifying Hollow Dragon, but Autumn isn’t so sure.

Enter Cai Morrigan, the famous young magician prophesied to one day destroy the Hollow Dragon. When Cai comes to Autumn with a secret problem, Autumn agrees to help on one condition: that the ‘Chosen One’ join her quest to find her brother. Together they uncover the dark truth that lies at the heart of Inglenook School – because every school has its secrets…”

This is one for independent readers who are established readers of fantasy, like Miss 10, but who still like to straddle the worlds of reality and magic.  Autumn is one who Miss 10 can relate to, perhaps even put herself in her shoes, and the familiar themes of adventure, family, friendship and self-discovery blend seamlessly with the magical creatures who inhabit a world as cleverly constructed as Hogwarts.  While the foundations of the story are shared with other stories – the traditional tropes on which fantasy for this age is based and why they are so popular- this is a solid read that will have readers looking for a sequel.  In the meantime they could indulge themselves in Fawcett’s other books, Ember and the Ice Dragons , a story about a young dragon turned into a human girl to save her life, or The Language of Ghosts about a young princess in exile who rediscovers a forgotten magic. All three may appear in Miss 10’s Christmas stocking. 

The Shark Caller

The Shark Caller

The Shark Caller

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Shark Caller

Zillah Bethel

Usborne, 2021

368pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781474966849

Blue Wing is desperate to become a shark caller like her waspapi Siringen. 

“I want to be able to call the sharks. Teach me the magic and show me the ways,” she begs him for the hundredth thousandth taim but he refuses, telling her she knows why he will not. 

Instead she must befriend infuriating newcomer Maple, who arrives unexpectedly on Blue Wing’s island. At first, the girls are too angry to share their secrets and become friends. But when the tide breathes the promise of treasure, they must journey together to the bottom of the ocean to brave the deadliest shark of them all… and it’s not a great white.

Papua New Guinea is just as a mysterious land now as it was when I lived there 50 years ago, steeped in history, legends and traditions going back to the earliest civilisations and when the author moved from there to the UK (and had to wear three jumpers even in summer) she was peppered with so many questions about her life there that she wrote this book to help answer them.  And in doing so, she has woven an intriguing tale of adventure, friendship, forgiveness and bravery with such a real-life background that I was taken back to the days when I was there with all sorts of memories that I thought were forgotten, including the pidgin phrases.  

Even though physically it is at the upper end of the readership for this blog, competent independent readers of all ages will immerse themselves in the story which, even though it has such a diverse backdrop, still has a universal theme threaded through it. For those interested in finding out more there are the usual Usborne Quicklinks, as well as a most informative note from the author and some questions for book clubs that delve deeper.  One for those who are ready to venture into something a little different.  

What Zola Did on Sunday

What Zola Did on Sunday

What Zola Did on Sunday

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Zola Did on Sunday

Melina Marchetta

Deb Hudson

Puffin, 2021 

96pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

9781760895228

Ever since we first met Zola a year ago,  readers have been following her adventures as she brings her community together and now all the connections reach their pinnacle at the St Otto’s Community Fete. Their is the stall of the knitting group that Zola and her nonna belong to; her friend Leo’s mum is going to be givng a demonstration about how police dogs work in the community; her other nonna will be hosting the organic produce stall and her mum will have the cake stall.  As well there are competitions and all sorts of other attractions.  Will Zola be able to get through the fete without any of the drama and strife she seems to attract?

This is the final in this series that has had young readers enthralled and Zola and her friends have become friends of the reader too.  And for those who have not yet met Zola, then there is a treat in store.  A must-have for anyone with a reader who is just embarking on novels but needs the textual supports as well as the familiarity of characters and situations to consolidate their skills.