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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. 

The Super Adventures of Ollie and Bea (series)

The Super Adventures of Ollie and Bea

The Super Adventures of Ollie and Bea

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Super Adventures of Ollie and Bea

It’s Owl Good

9781760526474

Squeals on Wheels

9781760526481

Renee Treml

A&U Children’s 2021

64pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

Ollie is an owl who wears glasses. And Bea is a bunny with very big feet. They don’t know it yet, but they are about to be best friends. Can they help each other to find their OTTER-LY awesome inner superhero?

This is a new series in graphic novel format for young readers transitioning from the basal readers of commercial reading schemes to less-controlled books offering a stepping stone to more complex “early chapter books”. Treml has endowed her characters with the usual charm so they appeal to her audience and Owl’s constant corny puns offer an introduction to this play on words as a humorous concept.  Told as a continuous conversation primarily between Owl and Bea, unlike her Sherlock Bones series, this one has blank backgrounds that therefore place the emphasis on the characters and what they are saying, another opportunity to explore the concept of how critical dialogue can be to carry the story.

Young readers will relate to and like Ollie and Bea, seeing parts of themselves in each, and will no doubt look forward to further adventures. 

 

Super Geeks 2: Planet Pancake

Super Geeks 2: Planet Pancake

Super Geeks 2: Planet Pancake

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Super Geeks 2: Planet Pancake

James Hart

Puffin. 2021

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

 9781760895143

Zeek and Arnie are best friends. They do everything together. They love solving problems, inventing, playing video games, coding, reading comics, cooking (mostly Arnie) and planning WORLD DOMINATION (mostly Zeek). 

In the second in this series,  Zeek and Arnie hear about a heap of TREASURE at the edge of the world, so they decide to investigate. Zeek wants to use the treasure to fund his quest for WORLD DOMINATION! But how will they get there? After using their inventing skills to build a ship, the Enchilada, they sail off with Eleanor. But there’s trouble brewing on the horizon . . . What will Zeek and Arnie find at the edge of the world? Will it be TREASURE or TROUBLE? And . . . are they really alone?

The graphic novel format of this book with a minimum of text carrying the story along at a fast pace will appeal to those who prefer screen to print and who, themselves, relate to the geekiness of the boys.  Those who enjoyed the first in the series will appreciate not having had to wait too long to meet their friends again and join in another madcap adventure. 

Pawcasso

Pawcasso

Pawcasso

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pawcasso

Remy Lai

A & U Children’s, 2021

240pp., graphic novel, RRP $A16.99

9781760526771

Every Saturday, Pawcasso trots into town  on his own with a basket, a shopping list and cash in paw to buy groceries for his family. One day, he passes by Jo’s house, where she’s peering out the window, bored and lonely. When Jo sets out to follow him, a group of kids from school mistake her for Pawcasso’s owner and, excited to make new friends, she reluctantly hides the truth. But what starts as a Chihuahua-sized lie quickly grows into a Great Dane-sized problem when Pawcasso gets his own internet fan club … will Jo be able to solve the mystery of the dog’s owners before she is caught out in her web of lies, will Jo risk her new friendships by telling the t? Are hew new friendships more important than telling the truth?

This is a graphic novel which provides many hilarious moments as it delves into Jo and Pawcasso’s adventures as well as setting up a dilemma that students may well debate the solution for as the various layers impacting Jo’s life are considered.  What drives us to tell “little white lies” and when do they become untruths that can trap us?  Is a “little white lie” ever acceptable?

The community which Jo finds herself venturing into reflects the communities that we all live in – there are always everyday issues that take on a life on their own and divide residents – and Lai uses clever techniques such as having Jo join a book club to discuss philosophical questions such as “If love comes from the heart, does hate come from the brain?”  offering scope for lively class discussions within an at-arms-length context.

While its graphic novel format may entice hesitant readers  to engage with reading, this is a story that poses questions in a way that demonstrates the power of story to address those big questions while being entertaining at the same time.  There are several downloads for teachers available on the publisher’s website.  Intriguing.