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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. 

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…

Sherlock Bones and the Art and Science Alliance

Sherlock Bones and the Art and Science Alliance

Sherlock Bones and the Art and Science Alliance

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sherlock Bones and the Art and Science Alliance

Renee Treml

Allen & Unwin, 2022

288pp., graphic novel., RRP $A14.99

9781761065729

Sherlock Bones, a talkative tawny frogmouth skeleton,  his companion Watts, a mute, stuffed Indian ringneck parrot and Grace, a sassy raccoon return in the third in this series, with a new mystery to solve in their natural history museum home.  This time there is a new exhibition called “The Art and Science Alliance” and the rumour is that the painting of the ancient Greek hydra – an enormous snake-like monster with nine heads – comes alive at night, hissing and Sherlock and his cohorts are determined to find the truth. 

Once again Treml has drawn on her degree in environmental science and passionate love of natural history to craft an intriguing story that informs as much as it entertains. Using the technique of Bones telling the story as a conversation with the reader, interspersed with lots of humour mostly consisting of puns better classified as ‘dad jokes’, she has crafted a graphic novel for young readers who have the skills to follow a story in this format. 

This story opens up lots of different avenues for the interested reader to follow from the relationship between art and science (an initial discussion between Sherlock and Grace) to the intrigue of Greek mythology while being an engaging story in its own right.   

 

 

The Astronaughties

The Astronaughties

The Astronaughties

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Astronaughties:  Moon Mayhem

Andrew Cranna

Walker, 2022

240pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9781760653378

It’s 2120 and  the Moon has been transformed into the ultimate super-cool intergalactic amusement park. The Astronaughties, the children of some of the park’s designers, get a chance to visit the Lunar Park before it officially opens. But when they arrive, they discover their parents are missing. Now their mission is to find them, defeat the baddies and free a trapped alien. Accidentally strapped inside a 400 megaton thermonuclear rocket, the three children, one pet octopug and their robot minder are on a one-way collision course to the moon.

Told by the children’s nanny who has his hands full dealing with them, this is for younger readers who like science fiction, are looking for something a bit silly and definitely not serious, but  who have the ability to follow a story in monochromatic graphic novel format.  

In a recent Lego Masters episode, the task was to build a window to the future.  Could this be it? Let students dream with their eyes open by challenging them to design their own attraction for a lunar-based amusement park. What would they need to know about the moon for it to be successful? A new slant on an old research topic. 

Star the Elephant

Star the Elephant

Star the Elephant

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Star the Elephant

Surviving the Wild

Remy Lai

A & U Children’s, 2022

112pp., graphic novel, RRP $A14.99

9781760526849

There isn’t enough food left on the island to sustain Star’s Asian elephant family -no more teak tree bark, bamboo shoots, bananas or even palatable grasses because their natural jungle is being cleared for palm oil plantations. So Star’s herd has to split up to find other food sources if they are to survive at all, and Star finds himself swimming in the ocean under the stars for what seems like the longest time ever. But the world out there is so big!  Despite Aunty’s constant warnings about not going where his mum can’t see him,  soon Star finds himself lost and alone, facing giant “spiders “and a big, wild ocean and the scariest thing of all … humans! Will he ever be reunited with his family?

The second in a new graphic novel series called Surviving the Wild designed to make young readers more aware of the environment by viewing it through the lenses of those creatures that live in it, this story is loosely based on a true story when, in 1990, three bull elephants swam across the Johor Strait from Malaysia to Singapore, landing on an island where there was a military base and the soldiers tracked the elephants so they could be safely rehomed in a nearby sanctuary,  the focus of this story is the impact of deforestation on the natural inhabitants of these places, from creatures as large and as visible as the elephants and orangutans, to the not-so-obvious like the fiddler crabs.  Thus, even our youngest readers can become aware of the devastation that humans can inflict on the environment and, in their own small way, begin to make changes which can have far-reaching effects.  Even looking at the labels on the food their parents purchase and encouraging them to look for those without palm oil or with the symbols of either the Rainforest Alliance or Forest Stewardship Council can make a difference.

Teachers’ notes focusing on helping young readers read and interpret the graphic novel format are available. 

Rainbow the Koala

Rainbow the Koala

Rainbow the Koala

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rainbow the Koala

Remy Lai

A&U Children’s, 2022

112pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781761065453

It is time for Rainbow the Koala to become more independent and so, after a year of being nurtured and comforted and provided for, he has to say goodbye to his mother and venture off on his own- find a new tree, seek his own food and generally be the adult he was destined to be.  But it’s not easy – for starters,  it’s not just a matter of climbing the nearest tree and calling it his.  It has to be the right species and unoccupied and with the way land is being cleared for humans and the drying landscape making them less nutritious,  there are not so many of the just-rights available.  Waterholes made by humans can be treacherous, dogs are not always the koala’s best friend and the smell of smoke on the air is a signal for alarm…

This is the first in a new graphic novel series called Surviving the Wild designed to make young readers more aware of the environment by viewing it through the lenses of those creatures that live in it.  The new NSW English syllabus, particularly, requires students to be able to “to express opinions about texts and issues… both objectively and subjectively”, so as well as empathising with Rainbow as they, too, face having to step out of their comfort zone to navigate the new world of school; meeting new people who, like Kookaburra, may not be as friendly as they expect, and having to solve problems for themselves, they also learn about the perils of things like habitat destruction, climate change, drought…  Being in the shoes of the main character, in this case a koala which automatically has inbuilt appeal,  helps them be more engaged and understand the situation better, hopefully inspiring them to become not only more aware but more active in environmental protection.  Inspired by the devastating bushfires of the 2019.2020 summer in which it’s estimated over one billion creatures were lost, there are extra pages explaining the origins of Rainbow’s predicament as well as ways that the reader can help by making simple, everyday changes. 

Hallmarks of quality literature include having characters and a plot which are engaging and interesting for the students, offering layers and levels of complexity that are revealed with multiple readings and which enrich discussion and challenge perceptions, thinking and attitudes.  This certainly does that and young readers will look forward to Star the Elephant which is already published and Sunny the Shark due in August. 

 

 

 

Cat & Cat Adventures: The Quest for Snacks

Cat & Cat Adventures: The Quest for Snacks

Cat & Cat Adventures: The Quest for Snacks

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cat & Cat Adventures: The Quest for Snacks

Susie Yi

HarperCollins, 2022

96pp., graphic novel, RRP $A14.99

9780063083806

One day when their human leaves for work, Squash and Ginny find themselves in the most unfortunate predicament: without snacks. With a little help from a magical portal, the two cats embark on a quest to find ingredients for a potion that will produce unlimited goodies.

At first, their mission doesn’t seem so tough. It takes them on a boat race across Mewmaid Ocean and a hot air balloon ride over Mount Lava. But when the cats reach the Enchanted Rain Forest to gather enchanted rainwater, the last item on their list, their mission runs dry. . . It turns out it hasn’t rained in the Enchanted Rain Forest in weeks! 

Can Squash and Ginny get to the bottom of what’s causing this dry spell and secure the final ingredient they need Or have Squash and Ginny taken their last bite . . . for good?

Ever since comics, and their more sophisticated cousins, graphic novels, have been readily available there has been debate about their validity as reading material, particularly in schools.  Despite their popularity with students, there is controversy over whether they are “real reading” and so to offer a story in graphic novel format that is clearly aimed at young readers may spark discussion, if not debate.  While I, as teacher, reviewer, parent and grandparent, have no qualms about the format being one who believes that anything that includes text is available to read, the dichotomy is whether those who have the skills to bring all that is necessary to reading this story, will be engaged by a plot most suited for young readers.  Obviously, there are those who are very young who will be able to manage it, but to me, there is a disconnect between the target audience of the narrative and those with the wherewithal to get the most out of it.  So while there is clearly a demand for graphic novels, could the story have been presented in a different format and thus reach more readers?

For those faced with the dilemma of the inclusion of this format in general into their collections, the following articles were shared in a recent discussion on a forum for teacher librarians…

Understanding Comics

Why Graphic Novels Are Storytelling Quicksand for Reluctant Readers (In a Good Way)

Graphic Novels for Kids: Classroom Ideas, Booklists, and More

The Odds: Run, Odds, Run

Run, Odds, Run

Run, Odds, Run

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Run, Odds, Run

Matt Stanton

ABC Books, 2021

208pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

 9780733340642

Kip is a quiet kid in a loud city. Living with her father after her mum died, she prefers to keep a low profile and her home is her sanctuary. She’s easy to miss and that’s the way she likes it. School, with its hustle and bustle and noise is overwhelming and she is dreading the day the spotlight falls on her and she has to tell the rest of the class why she is special.

Then, one day, Kip’s quiet life is suddenly interrupted. Ten of her favourite characters have stepped out of their worlds of her imagination and memories and into hers as real-life beings.

But what happens when a dragon-hunting rabbit leaves his comic strip? When an old man leaves his picture book? When a ninja leaves her TV show, a race-car driver leaves their video game, and a dinosaur turns up from Kip’s nightmares? But while Kip just wants the creatures to hide and be invisible as she wishes to be, her father tells her , “If you start running away from hard things you never stop running” and Kip (and the reader) learn a significant life lesson.

In this addition to this series, The Woman in the Suit is here. She wants to know about the ten odd characters who escaped Kip’s imagination and now live with Kip and her dad in their two-bedroom apartment and she’s asking questions Kip doesn’t want to answer.

NOW THE ODDS ARE ON THE RUN!

The problem is … Lance the rabbit and Ninja-Nina are duelling, Racer’s trying to drive, Booster the rooster wants to leave and Unicorn and the family cat are not getting along. Kip is hiding secrets from her dad, Diana the dinosaur keeps giving her a fright and the Woman in the Suit seems to know their every move.

Fans will be delighted that this is a series that is going to continue and even moreso with the news that Stanton has signed a new 13-book deal with his publisher – his popularity with his audience proven by becoming one of just a handful of Australian authors to reach the million book-sale mark – and that there is a new series coming in March. Much fun and laughter (with serious, solid undertones) to look forward to. 

Beak & Ally: Unlikely Friends

Beak & Ally: Unlikely Friends

Beak & Ally: Unlikely Friends

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beak & Ally: Unlikely Friends

Norm Feuti

HarperCollins US, 2021

64pp., graphic novel, RRP $A24.99

9780063021570

Ally the alligator is perfectly happy being alone . . . until one day a noisy bird named Beak lands on her snout.

Beak thinks Ally is lonely and needs a friend. He has all sorts of friendship goals in mind, like riding bikes together, going to the movies together, and even solving mysteries together! But when a Long-Billed Party Pooper crashes Beak’s nest-warming party, Ally decides to show Beak something important to her: sticking up for what’s right.

Newly independent readers will be thrilled to have a graphic novel series written for them with stories aimed at their interest level while not having to cope with too much text.  Well titled “Unlikely Friends” this combination of an alligator and a bird as a team is hard to imagine but it does set the scene for some interesting adventures, the next of which is due in early December. So while the theme of the story is not new, its format that is so similar to that which older siblings are enjoying will appeal. 

 

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.