Archives

Dragon Storm

Dragon Storm

Dragon Storm

Dragon Storm

Tomas and Ironskin

9781839940026

Cara and Silverthief

9781839940064

Ellis and Pathseeker

9781839940088

Mira and Flameteller

9781839940040

Alastair Chisholm

Nosy Crow, 2022

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

In the land of Draconis, there are no dragons. Once, there were. Once, humans and dragons were friends, and created the great city of Rivven together. But then came the Dragon Storm, and the dragons retreated from the world of humans. To the men and women of Draconis, they became legends and myth.

But in this new series for newly independent readers, the dragons show that it is their extinction that is the myth! But only a few special selected children can see them, befriend them and work with them.

Tomas has always been told that now, dragons are extinct, and so he can’t believe it when a mysterious stranger invites him to join a secret society, the Dragonseer Guild – and tells him that not only do dragons still exist, but also that Tomas has a very special power… he can summon his very own dragon! But Tomas faces a difficult choice, and he and his dragon, Ironskin, must learn to trust each other – and together, they have to save their home from a deadly threat.

Meanwhile, Cara has spent her life on the streets, relying on her wits – and a mysterious voice that seemed to live inside her head – for survival. She’s amazed when she learns that the voice actually belongs to a dragon – her dragon – and she’s also invited to join, the Dragonseer Guild, for those who can summon their own dragon. But Cara isn’t used to having friends, and so when she and her dragon Silverthief uncover a dangerous secret, they must decide who they can trust… and their lives will depend on it.

Adding to these already published episodes are two more coming soon…

It’s the Maze Festival in the city of Rivven, and young dragonseer Ellis and his dragon Pathseeker are determined to be the first to complete the three mazes in the grounds of the king’s palace and win this year’s tournament. But after they discover someone secretly using dangerous dragon magic, Ellis and Pathseeker face a far greater challenge – and it will take all of their skills and courage to find their way back home, and keep the existence of the dragons a secret from the king.

The fourth story tells the tale of young dragonseer Mira and her dragon Flameteller love finding out how things work and fixing them, and so they’re excited to learn about the ancient magic that powers the home of the Dragonseer Guild – and helps keep its existence a secret. But when the King of Draconis announces a plan to hunt down and destroy all dragons, and the magic that powers the Dragonseer Guild begins to fail, threatening to expose it to the world, Mira and Flameteller must find a way to fix it – before the Guild, and the dragons, are found by King Godfic’s soldiers.

And to top it off there are two more scheduled for 2023 –  Kai and Boneshaow and Erin and Rockhammer. 

The long, cold days of winter are always a good time to introduce newly independent readers to new series, as they have the time and inclination to snuggle down and read.  And if the episodes in the series are published close together so they don’t have to wait too long to meet their new-found friends again, even better. As a read-alone, it is aimed at the 7-9 year olds who still need the support of a  larger font, short chapters and illustrations but who want an absorbing plot that has characters to whom they can relate as well as a touch of the extraordinary.  But it would also work as a read-aloud to younger readers, offering a gentle, safe introduction to not only the world of dragons but also to fantasy in general.  While the first, Tomas and Ironskin is more of a world-building, scene -setting story it is the perfect foundation for young readers who still need to orientate themselves in the world of fantasy and its particular characteristics while building a platform for the stories in the rest of the series.  Using it as a taster -read-aloud to build desire and anticipation to know what happens to the rest of the children is a great way to keep young readers reading.

I think your collection will need more than one copy of each of these to satisfy demand. 

Cranky Chicken

Cranky Chicken

Cranky Chicken

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cranky Chicken

9780734420954

Cranky Chicken Party Animals

9780734420985 

Katherine Battersby

Lothian, 2021-2022

104pp., graphic novel, RRP $A14.99

 

In the first book, the reader is introduced to Cranky Chicken. Everything about Chicken is cranky. Cranky eyes, cranky eyebrows, super-sharp cranky beak, even cranky scratchy feet. And everything makes Chicken cranky. The sun is too bright, the dirt is too dirty…

By why is Cranky Chicken so angry? Could she be lonely? So what happens when a very cheerful worm named Speedy, who just wants to be friends, comes along? Could it be the end of the worm or a new start for Cranky Chicken?

In the second episode , Cranky Chicken is super hungry and the crank-O-meter is on high. What can Speedy the worm do to help? How about … a yummy snack? A day at the beach? An unsurprising party? It’s party time for Cranky and Speedy, two Best Feathered Friends!

This is a new series about mismatched friends who bring joy, companionship and a new perspective to each other’s lives for newly independent readers who are dipping their toes into the graphic novel format and are able to follow a story that is based on speech between the characters rather than having lots of extra descriptive test or illustration.  The action is carried in the conversation and captions in separate but connected stories that demonstrate that there are many ways to be a friend, particularly accepting each other for who they are as they are what is offered as friendship for all that it is. 

Old Fellow

Old Fellow

Old Fellow

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Old Fellow

Christopher Cheng

Liz Anelli

Walker Books, 2022

32pp., hbk., RRP $A25.99

9781760652395

The Swedish have a word for this story- fika [fee-ka]. It means “a moment to slow down and enjoy the good things in life”.  And that is exactly what the old man and his dog do from the moment they wake and stretch their creaky old bones, through their walk in the park meeting old friends and new and then home again for a well-earned cuppa. But is it the man or his dog that is the “old fellow”?

There are only a handful of authors who can take such an everyday occurrence as an old man and his dog taking their daily exercise and turn it into such a charming story that has so many possibilities.  Indeed, Chris Cheng has dedicated this story to the “Old fellows of Campderdown Memorial Park”, suggesting that he. himself, has spent an hour or more there just  practising fika as he watches all the meetings and greetings and connections that are made, for a walk in the park is as much mental and emotional exercise as it is physical.

While, in previous generations the old man might be represented by a grandfather, that stereotype has been replaced and so our children might not have as much contact with those whose birthdays start with a 7 and beyond and so this is an opportunity for them to engage with this age group and as programs such as Old People’s Home for 4 Year Olds showed so well, there are huge benefits for both sides. Teachers’ notes are available.

In the meantime, Liz Anelli’s illustrations are so rich in detail as she captures not only the community who enjoy the park but their connections and friendships that you can almost feel the camaraderie coming off the page. And the reader’s next walk in their park will be viewed through a different lens.

With titles such as Bear and Rat  and One Tree , among many others to his credit, Chris has once again shown his incredible ability to capture the emotional essence of a situation that can open up a whole new world for young readers as they learn to identify, express and manage their own feelings.  

In the meantime, here is that elusive fika in action!

The Lost Whale

The Lost Whale

The Lost Whale

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Lost Whale

Hannah Gold

Levi Pinfold

HarperCollins, 2022

320pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

9780008412944

Rio is lost – both physically and emotionally.  

He has been sent from London to Los Angeles to stay with his grandmother while his mother is in hospital trying to recover from her chronic mental illness. But the tiny, quiet seaside town of Ocean Grove is so different from busy London; and so is his grandmother’s house – so much bigger than their tiny city flat, especially when he is to sleep in his mother’s childhood bedroom.

As if that weren’t enough, not only does he scarcely know his grandmother who is all shiny jumpsuits, sharp elbows and hard angles and whose hugs are not the deep, warm snuggly type he is used to, but he believes that if he had just tried harder and done more he could have prevented his mother’s downward slide into the psychiatric hospital.  At first,  Rio shuts everyone and everything out, unable to do anything but think about his mother and fears for her safety if he is not there.  After all, he’s been her carer for most of his 11 years. He is consumed by guilt if he relaxes or has fun, or even feels at peace. He is fixated of fixing here, despite being so far away, and when he discovers her childhood sketches of a grey whale named White Beak he hatches a plan that will surely save her, one made even more possible when he at last makes a friend in Marina who is passionate about the whales that migrate past Ocean Beach each year and whose dad happens to own a whale-watching business.  

After his own incredible encounter with White Beak, Rio is even more determined but then the reports of her being sighted as she journey s south to the lagoons of Mexico stop. Rio is determined to find her  because White Beak and his mother become one and the same person in his mind, and he and Marina hatch an audacious plan…

As with Gold’s debut novel, The Last Bear  this is a story  that stays in the mind long after the final page has been turned, and as with that story, it is a journey of discovery for the child as much as the focus animal. Rio is so used to being the grown-up, the responsible one, that he has to learn to forge relationships with his grandmother, Marina and her father and to be able to trust others to have his mother’s interests at heart, accepting that he can’t fix everything by himself. But the parallel story about the life and times of the world’s whales, whatever species, and the perils they face as their habitat is threatened is equally important.  It could easily have been set in coastal New South Wales about the humpback highway.  

This is one for independent readers who are seeking a well-written story that has substance and authenticity, but it would also make an excellent class read-aloud.  

 

The Bravest Word

The Bravest Word

The Bravest Word

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Bravest Word

Kate Foster

Walker Books, 2022

240pp., pbk., RRP $A17.99

9781760654719

Last year Matt did really well at school, loved being a star football player, hanging out with his friends Kai and Ted and playing jungle Warfare, while avoiding bully-boy Joseph. But this year things are very different – and it’s much more than the changes that being at high school bring. 

Instead of enjoying football, he has a panic attack when he steps on the field; he avoids Kai and Ted; he’s not paying attention in class or doing his homework – in fact, he feels like he is so worthless that he is ruining the lives of those around him, including his loving parents and is beginning to wonder whether he should really be here at all. He is always tired and wanting to sleep and the tears come all the time, especially when he doesn’t want them…

While his mother dismisses his issues as “growing pains”, his father has a suspicion that there is something deeper going on and he takes Matt on a walk to see if Matt will open up.  But before he gets the chance, they hear a whimper in the bushes and discover a severely neglected and abused dog tied to a tree.  Together they release it and take it to a vet where Matt promises Cliff, whom he has named after his recently passed, dearly loved grandfather, that life will get better. But is that a promise he can keep when he is in such a dark place and his mother has said no to having a dog so many times before… And when it all boils down, who helps whom the most?

While this is a story probably more suited to the upper end of the target audience of this blog, nevertheless it is a poignant, compelling story for both teachers and parents as it gives such an insight into childhood anxiety and depression demonstrating that these are real illnesses for our kids, and also for the students themselves, because there will be some who will see themselves in Matt and who may, through him, build the courage to utter that bravest word.  Although the story is written very positively, the characters are very real and there were times when I was close to tears as I read. Why is there still such a stigma attached to having a mental illness but not-so when it’s a physical illness?  Why is it OK to take medication long-term to have a healthy heart but not to have a healthy brain?

However, shared as a classroom read-aloud in conjunction with the teachers’ notes  and other authoritative resources,  this could have a positive outcome for someone, especially when suicide is the leading cause of death in Australians aged 15-24 and “for every youth suicide, there are 100 to 200 more attempts.”  At the very least it will raise awareness and understanding and even if the sick child doesn’t or can’t open up, one of their classmates might trigger a conversation.

Kate Foster is also the author of Pawsin which she drew on her own son’s experience to give us a look into the world of the autistic child and this book is every bit as eye-opening as that.  If we are to acknowledge and recognise the struggles that some of those we know are experiencing, then this is a must-read in my opinion.  

 

 

A Best Friend for Bear

A Best Friend for Bear

A Best Friend for Bear

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Best Friend for Bear

Petr Horàcek

Walker, 2022

32pp., hbk., RRP $A27.99

9781406397543

Black Bear is feeling lonely, so he decides to look for a friend. Luckily, he meets Brown Bear, who is in the same situation! The bears decide to search for a friend together. They search everywhere, but their elusive friend is nowhere to be found. Or have they been right there all along?

With stunning artwork and heart-warming text, this is a beautiful picture book from the Kate Greenaway Medal-shortlisted Petr Horácek that will delight our youngest readers who may be feeling a little apprehensive about taking that next step to preschool or big school. Not making friends is one of the greatest anxieties and this will reassure them that friends are everywhere – they’re just people you haven’t met yet. 

Bored: Milo Finds $105

Bored

Bored

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bored: Milo Finds $105

Matt Stanton

ABC Books, 2022

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

9780733342035

Milo is so bored that he is having a conversation with an ant, when suddenly he spies money lying in the middle of jis cul-de-sac.  There’s $105 to be exact and he ha s no idea who it belongs to or what he should do about it.  His stepmum, Liz, tells him it is “finders keepers” but his mum, a law student, says he must try to find the owner.

Being somewhat shy, introverted  and anxious, this causes issues for Milo who is afraid of Rocco the bully; would love to know Evie better but she’s always got her headphones on, and is somewhat overawed by the confidence of Frog; the new kid who has invented his own brand of martial arts.  Suddenly, having so much money becomes a nightmare, particularly when Frog and Rocco look like they’re going to get into a fight about it t the bus stop. “Some kids just have power and other kids don’t, and I don’t understand it. Where do you get power from? Because if I knew, I’d happily spend a hundred and five dollars to buy some.

But then Frog hatches a plan…

Told by 11 year old Milo, this is a new series from the author of Funny Kids and The Odds in which Stanton again demonstrates his ability to turn everyday situations and authentic characters that readers will recognise into stories that engage even the most reluctant readers.  While there is a strong sense of family because Milo misses his older brother Henry who has joined the army, rather than his having two mums, (which is just accepted by kids if not by adults) it is the evolving and changing friendships between the children that carry the story along, just as they do in real life.

When Milo muses, “Some kids just have power and other kids don’t, and I don’t understand it. Where do you get power from? Because if I knew, I’d happily spend a hundred and five dollars to buy some, ” some readers will be urging him to find his voice while others will be feeling just as concerned as he is.  Being able to evoke such opposite emotions is the sign of a writer who knows kids well and how to relate to them through story, and achieves his goal of creating stories with “emotional guts”, with “truth and understanding” and allow the reader “to feel a little less alone.”

The second in the series, due in September, is told from Frog’s perspective as he tries to fit into this new neighbourhood and one suspects that the other children in the street will also get their say in the future.

 

Garlic and the Vampire

Garlic and the Vampire

Garlic and the Vampire

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Garlic and the Vampire

Bree Paulsen

HarperCollins, 2022

160pp., graphic novel, RRP $A16.99

9780062995087

Garlic feels as though she’s always doing something wrong. Again, she is late for market day different vegetables selling themselves to the humans in an old-fashioned rural village. Originally created by the kindly but powerful Witch Agnes to be “mute little helpers”, she  has enjoyed their growth into independent contributors to the community. At least with Carrot by her side and the kindly Witch Agnes encouraging her, Garlic is happy to just tend her garden, where it’s nice and safe.. So when the vegetables notice smoke trailing from the chimneys of a nearby castle, Agnes uses her magic to investigate and discovers that a vampire has moved in.

Because of the belief that garlic drives away vampires,  and in spite of her fear and self-doubt, Garlic is tasked with slaying the bloodsucker. Celery goes with her reluctantly, payback for his willingness to sacrifice her for the mission. So, with everyone counting on her, Garlic reluctantly agrees to face the mysterious vampire, hoping she has what it takes…

Although the theme of believing in yourself in this story is a common refrain, everything else about it is new and refreshing. Vampire lore and information about witchcraft are woven throughout the story, offering an introduction to the premises which underlie many other stories with these sorts of characters,  and Witch Agnes’ wisdom often speaks directly to the audience drawing them into it rather than being passive observers. 

While this is not a complex read, cheerful rather than chilling, with a subtle message about believing in stereotypes and rumours, readers will still need to have the reading skills necessary to interpret a graphic novel, seamlessly integrating the illustrations with the plot because there are many passages where there is no speech.  That said, with its warm colours, and faces which are friendly rather than frightening, this is a gentle introduction into both the format and fantasy. 

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

The House at the Edge of Magic

The House at the Edge of Magic

The House at the Edge of Magic

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The House at the Edge of Magic 

9781406395310

The Tower at the End of Time

9781406395327

Walker Books, 2021-2022

240pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

Crouched behind the stacked crates of the fishmonger’s stall in the market, Nine’s muscles are tensed, her senses alert waiting for just the right moment to snatch the lady’s handbag… For the streets are her world and stealing treasures for Pockets, the leader of the gang, is her life and she knows all the tricks of pickpocketing and all the twists and turns of the alleys and lanes  back to the Nest of a Thousand Treasures. He’s called her Nine because she in the ninth member of the gang, offering her a place to sleep and the odd meal in exchange for the things she steals.  

But Nine dreams of bigger things, a better life and when she steals a house-shaped ornament from a mysterious woman’s purse, things begin to change… She knocks on its tiny door and watches in wonder as it grows into a huge, higgledy-piggledy house squeezes between its neighbours. Inside are characters as strange as the house – Eric the housekeeper troll who is lost without his feather duster; a Scottish wooden spoon who wields a sword and Flabberghast , a young wizard who’s particularly competitive at hopscotch… But they have all been put under a spell by a wicked witch, a spell that only Nine can help them break before the clock winds down and which, while offering her a better life means she will have to sacrifice the thing that is dearest to her…

While the time and place of this new three-part series aren’t identified, it is reminiscent of the Dickensian world of Oliver Twist and Fagin but with magic and fantasy thrown in. But there the similarities end for Nine is not Oliver – she is clever, smart and thanks to her visits to the local library where she is actually welcomed, very well-read, and her willingness to save her new “friends” is more about giving herself a prosperous future than any altruistic concerns for them. She is determined to find the strawberries that Pockets says don’t exist… But then, given her life so far she has never known friendship and kindness and her defensiveness and self-interest have been built on the walls of self-protection. So, if she succeeds in breaking the spell, will she be able to just walk away with her prize?  

There is a plethora of fantasy books in the children’s book market at the moment with characters and plots whose limits know only the bounds of their authors’ imaginations, but this one stands out because of Nine and her emotional growth as she begins to understand that there is more to life than the untold wealth promised by the glowing jewels imprisoned by the witch’s spell.  The characters are not scary and unimaginable – we can all picture a troll, a wizard and a wicked witch and what can be confronting about a game of hopscotch?

As soon as she saw them on my desk, Miss 11 claimed these for herself and had her nose in them – now she must wait patiently for the third and final, although its title and release date remain as mysterious as Flabberghast’s house.  

Found You, Little Wombat!

Found You, Little Wombat!

Found You, Little Wombat!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Found You, Little Wombat!

Angela McAllister

Charles Fuge

Walker, 2021

24pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9781760653491

Little Wombat loves playing hide-and-seek with his friends, even though he doesn’t understand all the rules of the game. So when it’s his turn to look, he hides again, then calls out “Two, TEN” and opens his eyes. So Rabbit and Koala suggest he counts 10 flowers and searches for them. But Little Wombat doesn’t count the pink blossoms beside him, he wanders far away, over the hill, looking for yellow ones. Suddenly, he realises that he’s all alone. But that he can depend on his friends and his mum coming to the rescue.

Little Wombat and his friends are becoming favourites with our youngest readers as their stories so often relate to the sorts of things that they, too, like to do.   Who doesn’t love a good old-fashioned ga me of hide-and-seek or splashing in puddles? So with easy read-along text and endearing, engaging illustrations this is one they will return to again  and again.