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Scoop McLaren: Waves of Mystery

Scoop McLaren: Waves of Mystery

Scoop McLaren: Waves of Mystery

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scoop McLaren: Waves of Mystery

Helen Castles

New Frontier, 2020

170pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781922326010

Scoop McLaren is the thirteen-year-old news editor of her own online newspaper Click! Her role model is her dad  (who runs his own newspaper too) and he has taught her that delivering the news is an extremely important job because people rely on it so they can be properly informed.  Together with Evie, her roving reporter best friend, the girls strive to keep the residents of their seaside village of Higgity Harbour informed while using their sleuthing skills to solve some curious mysteries along the way. 

This is the second episode in this series for independent readers and in it Scoop has another mystery to solve. When Fletcher, her childhood friend enters the Higgity Harbour top surfing competition, strange things start happening… It looks like someone could be out to stop Fletcher from winning! With her roving reporter, Evie, by her side, Scoop investigates all avenues. Can she track down and rescue her friend to solve this monster wave of a mystery once and for all?

Series remain popular with young readers as they become so familiar with the characters they not only see them as friends but also see themselves as being in the story, rather than an arm’s length observer.  So as our readers head back to the library to see what is new and exciting after the long summer break, new additions to favourite series are pounced upon starting the reading journey for the year.  This series is for those who like a mystery that has realistic, relatable characters and the promise of more episodes to come…the last page ends on a cliff-hanger ensuring another one won’t be far away.. 

Tinsel – The Girls Who Invented Christmas

Tinsel - The Girls Who Invented Christmas

Tinsel – The Girls Who Invented Christmas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tinsel – The Girls Who Invented Christmas

Sibéal Pounder

Bloomsbury, 2020

320pp., hbk., RRP $A17.99

9781526619273

Homeless because her parents died before her memories were made and having vowed to never spend another night in an orphanage of 19th century England,  Blanche Claus hates Christmas.  From her shelter under the bridge she called home, she’d spend the day loudly counting down the seconds until it was over – or she fell asleep in the snow.

This Christmas Day started out as many before it but it was disturbed by the appearance of an old woman with a fancy bauble dangling rom her finger. Giving the bauble to Blanche who protests she doesn’t have a tree to hang it on, the old woman assures her she doesn’t need a tree for this one and as mysteriously as she came, she disappears. Looking at the bauble Blanche sees a snowy landscape decorated with tiny houses and technicolor icicles but it is the giant dancing Christmas tree that catches her eye.  This is the first gift she has ever been given and it changes her attitude and her life forever leading her to first Rudy, an old horse ready for the knackery and then a friendship (also a first) with Rinki.

You get an inkling of where the story is going from the tagline of the title, the byline of the blurb – “”What if somewhere along the way we’ve all got the Santa story a bit wrong…”” and Blanche’s declaration that if she could have or do anything in the world it would be to give every child a gift on Christmas morning so they would also know the joy she felt when that old woman offered her the bauble. 

This is a charming story that draws you in until suddenly an afternoon is gone and you’ve done nothing but be captivated by the magic of the Christmas of your childhood days.  It would make the perfect Christmas Countdown read-aloud or evening read-together as we approach this special time together, and this is another that is going to Miss 9 and Miss 14 who, even at their age, still love that special family time sharing a story.  

 

 

Funny Kid Belly Flop

Funny Kid Belly Flop

Funny Kid Belly Flop

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Funny Kid Belly Flop

Matt Stanton

ABC Books, 2020 

272pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9780733340604

I have a confession to make.  Sometimes when I’m in the children’s book section I earwig on conversations, particularly those about what book to choose.  Truly, it’s because I want to hear what kids are choosing for themselves but sometimes I find myself joining in and making recommendations, particularly if it is a perplexed parent or grandparent. Last Saturday was one such occasion when a mum wanted something for her newly independent reader who was just stepping out into novels and liked “funny stuff.”  So I reached for Matt Stanton and said that she wouldn’t go wrong because everything he writes is funny. Whether it’s a picture book or a novel, Stanton’s philosophy is  “books inspire the imagination, imagination births creativity and creativity changes the world” and so he deliberately sets out to engage the reader in something they can relate to and enjoy.

This is #8 in this series about Max, his friends and family and his duck. Despite having 250+ pages, it is one for newly independent readers who are ready to tackle something a bit meatier but still with the support of short chapters and plenty of graphics, which showcase Stanton’s talent as a cartoonist as well as a writer. This time max and his mate Abby, who seldom agree, are determined that the upcoming swimming carnival has to be cancelled – Max because he doesn’t want to appear half-naked in front of an audience; Abby because she would rather train for the online maths Olympiad.  So when these two, who are usually at each other’s throats, team up, there can only be one outcome – fun and laughter.

Our students may be disappointed to see the school year end as they head for summer holidays and missing their mates but at least with authors like Matt Stanton on our team we can keep them reading and looking forward to the new year which will come quickly enough.  I’m sure the person who was getting the book I recommended will be on the look out for the others in the series. 

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.

 

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!

 

Yorick and Bones

Yorick and Bones

Yorick and Bones

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yorick and Bones

Jeremy Tankard

Hermione Tankard

HarperCollins, 2020

144pp., pbk., RRP $A34.99

9780062854308

This is an hilarious story about a skeleton who is roused from his death when a hot dog vendor collides with a witch causing a potion she’s carrying to spill from her hands and seep into Yorick’s grave. He awakens, surprised to find he has slept so long that he has lost his memory until a dog digs him up. All that Yorick wants is a sausage and someone to share it with but while he finds the sausage easily enough, finding a friend is a harder task. 

Subtitled “The lost graphic novel by William Shakespeare”, this is a graphic novel for the upper end of the readership of this blog because the text has been written in Shakespeare’s language and iambic pentameter rhythm, making it one for those independent enough to cope with that.  At the same time, it may well capture older readers’ imagination, particularly those familiar with Shakespeare’s works as there are references that have been cleverly adapted throughout. 

Something different to offer those who declare that they have ‘read everything”. 

Julian at the Wedding

Julian at the Wedding

Julian at the Wedding

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Julian at the Wedding

Jessica Love

Walker, 2020

40pp., hbk., RRP $A27.99

9781406397482

Julian and his grandmother are attending a wedding. In fact, Julian is in the wedding along with his cousin Marisol. When wedding duties are fulfilled and with a new dog friend in tow, the pair takes off to roam the venue, exploring everywhere from underneath tables to enchanting willow trees to muddy puddles!  So when Mariola’s dress gets ruined, Julian has the perfect solution. But how will the grown-ups respond?

We first met Julian and his flamboyant grandmother in Julian is a Mermaid, a brilliant but controversial interpretation of being true to oneself. This sequel is just as good as it subtly shifts the narrative of convention so that the wedding being that of two brides is as normal as any other is almost unremarkable. After all, a wedding is just “a party for love.”

However, its impact may be more profound. 

The story behind Charles M. Schultz introducing a black character into the Peanuts comic strip has been well-documented and there are stories galore of how this impacted young black readers in the US, particularly.  Suddenly they were seeing themselves in literature in a new and positive portrayal. And so it may well be with children like Julian – those who don’t live in a conventional family; those for who two mums and two dads is the norm; those who prefer to be mermaids than superheroes. Here they are in a story that treats their situation as the norm and moves on to the real issues – ruining your bridesmaid’s dress at a wedding where, traditionally, you’re supposed to remain pristine!

Like its predecessor, most of this story is told in the stunning illustrations with the minimum of text, and they hold so many riches that the book demands to be explored again and again. Jessica Love won the Bologna Ragazzi Award and Klaus Flugge Prize for Julian is a Mermaid, her debut picture book and it is quite probable that this will be among the prizewinners too. 

The Heartsong of Wonder Quinn

The Heartsong of Wonder Quinn

The Heartsong of Wonder Quinn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Heartsong of Wonder Quinn

Kate Gordon

UQP, 2020

184pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9780702262821

Lonely orphan Wonder Quinn lives in the attic of Direleafe Hall with only a gloomy crow for company. Every year she hopes to make a true friend and every year her heart breaks when she doesn’t.

But when a spirited new student, Mabel Clattersham, befriends her in class, Wonder’s dreams seem to be coming true. As the girls grow closer, Wonder discovers her friend has a list of strange wishes: Throw a pie, leap into the sky, break someone’s heart…

What is Mabel’s big secret? Can Wonder protect her heart from being broken all over again?

This is a beautifully written ghost story with a difference.  Rather than being scary, this is a gentle ghost who craves a friend and becomes one, celebrating friendship, love, acceptance and belonging while embracing grief as a natural emotion that we all experience. This is a sensitive story, and despite its larger font, illustrations and short chapters, probably more suited to more mature readers who are able to read between the lines as well as along them.  The reader is not told that Wonder is a ghost, although there are clues from the get-go that perhaps she is not an ordinary schoolgirl for the astute reader to pick up – that fact that she is watching the girls arrive at school from her perch on the roof yet is unseen and undetected by either the students or the staff is one such indicator. It is also what I would have told my students is a tissue book – be prepared to shed some tears.

Normally, this is not my preferred genre but its evocative title, superb selection of vocabulary and imagery, its sensitivity and its uniqueness kept me engaged till the end.  One to look for and put into the hands of just the right reader.

 

 

Ruby and Graham

Ruby and Graham

Ruby and Graham

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ruby and Graham

Lucy Barnard

New Frontier, 2020

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

9781921928758

Ruby the red squirrel loves to party and have fun, whereas Graham the grey squirrel prefers to be more organised and less spontaneous.  Between them, Acorn Wood is a good place to live although, to Graham, Ruby seems to be more popular and have more friends.  So one day he decides that the party life is for him so he throws away his clipboard with its list of things to do and joins in the fun.  If changing who he is means more fun and more friends, then that’s the life for him.

But as he parties, gradually Acorn Woods starts to change and it is no longer the pleasant place it was. Chaos and confusion become the norm. No one liked it, least of all Ruby who decided she would speak to Graham about it and confesses her secret desire… 

Little ones will love this story that shows them that while each of us is different, it is the differences that keep everything in balance.  We can’t all be spontaneous and carefree like Ruby, no matter how much fun that might look from the outside, and trying to change who we really are inside can be tricky.  But it is possible to be both sensible and sensational at the same time – it’s just that there are different times for the different sides to shine! 

Meesha Makes Friends

Meesha Makes Friends

Meesha Makes Friends

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meesha Makes Friends

Tom Percival

Bloomsbury, 2020

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

9781526612953

Meesha was skilled at craft work and  loved using her imagination to make all sorts of things. But the one thing she could not make were friends.  No matter how she tried, she never knew what to say, when to say it or what to do.  So she stayed alone and lonely, until one day she took out her craft tools and made a whole lot of little friends.  These were friends she could take with her everywhere, and even though they couldn’t play football or tennis or catch, she was comfortable with them.

One day her mother took her to a party and it wasn’t long before Meesha was alone again, so she started making her own kind of friends.  And then she noticed someone watching her… Maybe she wasn’t as alone as she thought. 

This is the fourth in this series for younger readers which includes Perfectly Norman, Ruby’s Worry, and Ravi’s Roareach designed to help them navigate social situations that can feel overwhelming by sparking conversations about mental and emotional health, positive self-image, building self-confidence and managing feelings. Reading stories and talking to children about what they might encounter in certain situations before they arise is a sound way to provide them with a range of strategies they can draw on if they feel they are sinking under the weight of anxiety.  

If we ask a child, or an adult for that matter, what is the most worrying thing they will be confronted with in a new situation, the most likely answer is that they will know no one or will not have any friends.  So this book, particularly, deserves a place in that collection that addresses friendship, making friends and overcoming anxiety.