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How to be . . . The New Person

How to be . . . The New Person

How to be . . . The New Person

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to be . . . The New Person

Anna Branford

Walker Books, 2022

128pp., pbk., RRP $A15.99

9781760655839

Hazel Morrison has a secret habit – pretending to make videos about everyday things. Eight important tips for successfully buttering toast! Putting your hair in a ponytail: a step-by-step guide! But when her family move to the outer suburbs, Hazel has to cope with starting at a new school where she doesn’t exactly feel welcomed. However, she does meet a new friend – her elderly neighbour Veronica,  But then Veronica has to move too.

So when a school project inspires her to create a real video, she knows just what her focus will be – a how-to guide for being “the new person” . . . because everyone, sometime, will meet one, or be one!

Having laughed and cried through Old People’s Home for Teenagers and having seen the impact of the isolation of lockdown on all ages, it would seem to me that loneliness is at the root of the mental health issues of today’s generations.  While older people finding themselves alone after the death of a partner has always been a trigger point, and one to be aware of regardless of their “I’m OK” protestations because they “don’t want to be a burden”, the anti-social nature of social media is a new phenomenon.  Although it allows for easier connectivity, that connectivity can be done alone and in private without having to have face-to-face contact, without having to develop the skills of interaction or relationship-building, and without regard for the impact of the words on the recipient.  No wonder the teens in the television show, most of whom admitted that they spent hours upon hours in their bedrooms, lacked the confidence to mingle with others.

Thus, as we approach the end of another school year and children are facing having to start a new school, whether that’s in a new location or just moving on to high school, anxiety will be starting to build already as they contemplate being “the new kid” and all that that entails.  This book, written for young independent readers, deserves to be shared with our students to open up conversations that allow them to share their anxieties, to learn that they are all feeling the same way, and to develop strategies so they can believe in Veronica’s observation that “Wherever there are lots of people, there is always at least one nice person. You don’t always find them right away but sooner or later you usually do.  And after that, things get easier.”

IMO, instead of focusing on academics and grades and stuff in the last few weeks of the year, the greatest thing we can do for our students is to guide them along the pathway ahead, to show them that there are many walking beside, behind and in front of them, that the apprehension they are feeling is universal and that they can and will find that “one nice person.”  It starts with being one yourself.   

 

If someone has lost their smile, give them one of yours.

Bored: Frog’s Mystery Twin

Bored: Frog's Mystery Twin

Bored: Frog’s Mystery Twin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Bored: Frog’s Mystery Twin

Matt Stanton

ABC Books, 2022

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

780733342042

“I can get myself in all sorts of trouble when I’m bored … My name is Frog and this may have been a very bad idea. I’ve started at this new school and when you’re trying to fit in the best thing you can do is just try something totally crazy! Right?

Well, it seemed like a good plan. Only now Luisa has decided I’m her favourite person to make fun of, Evie thinks I’m completely nuts, Milo’s grumpy about something or other and I’m about to tell everyone the whole story about my secret twin brother with the same name. True story! I swear.”

We first met Frog in the first of this 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. Now it’s his turn to be in the spotlight as he navigates being the new kid on the block and in the school, a situation that will be familiar to many readers.

As these wet holidays drag along, this could be the perfect antidote particularly with the promise of the third in the series coming soon, and readers being encouraged to send their reviews direct to Matt Stanton himself. 

Sunny the Shark

Sunny the Shark

Sunny the Shark

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunny the Shark

Surviving the Wild 3

Remy Lai

Allen & Unwin, 2022

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

9781761065460

Usually Sunny the whitetip shark is a fierce predator, cruising the ocean with a shoal of pilot fish friends, looking for food. However, when she mistakes a plastic ring for food and it gets wrapped around her fins making  it tricky to hunt her life is in danger.   

For despite their willingness to help her, even following whale songs to try and find food while being terrified of the presence of any boat, Sunny is cranky and snappy – emotions provoked by fear rather than anger. So will she be able to break free by herself, and find food before winter sets in, or will she need to accept her friends’ help?

This is the third in this new graphic novel series  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 Sunny whose problems may be similar to those they are facing,  they also learn about the perils of things like pollution, the dangers of plastics for wildlife and why we all need to be responsible consumers as well as disposers. Being in the shoes of the main character – this one inspired by a true story about another shark, Destiny, who was found in similar circumstances – 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. 

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.  Add to this the appeal of a graphic novel format and this is another winner for this talented creator. 

Football Fever 1: The Kick-off

Football Fever 1: The Kick-off

Football Fever 1: The Kick-off

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Football Fever 1: The Kick-off

Kristin Darell

Puffin, 2022

144pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781761048067

It’s a new season for the Under 11s Merridale Fever! Kyra’s the star striker and can’t wait to meet the team’s new recruit, Sam – all the way from England. But Sam has a secret – he’s never played on a mixed team, and it’s shaking his confidence. Will advice from some very special football superstars help Kyra and Sam join forces so the team can kick off the season with a bang, or will it end in disaster before it even begins?

Suitable for newly independent readers, particularly those with a passion for football,  this is the first in this series, the beginning of  an expansive publishing program in partnership with Football Australia.  Featuring Commbank Matildas and Socceroos stars Sam Kerr, Ellie Carpenter, Mary Fowler, Rhyan Grant and Joel King – it is  part of the lead-up to the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023™ hosted by Australia and New Zealand in July-August, 2023.  

The second in the series, Half-Time Heroes, is due late November so readers can look forward to regular new releases as anticipation builds. 

 

Tilda

Tilda

Tilda

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tilda

Sue Whiting

Walker Books, 2022

272pp., pbk., RRP $A17.99

9781760654634

As the 19th century becomes the 20th, hard times have befallen Tilda and her beloved Papa as they grieve the loss of Tilda’s mother, the burning down of the Nimble Ninepence so Papa is out of a job, and his family turning his back on them. Desperate, he puts Matilda into the Brushwood Convent and Orphanage for Girls while he joins the SA Citizen Bushmen Contingent to go to South Africa to fight in the Boer War.  

But he vows to return to her for her, and it is this promise that Matilda clings to as she endures orphanage life with all the harshness that we associate with those institutions, except she has a particularly rough time as head nun Sister Agatha has singled her out for some reason, determined to break her spirit.  Buoyed by her mother’s advice telling her to be strong, and her strong friendship with the sickly Annie, Matilda resists every attempt and every punishment to admit that she is an orphan, until she sees apparent proof that her father has indeed, abandoned her, and her world crumbles…

Ever since I first came to Australia and read Playing Beattie Bow in 1980 (introduced to her by a Tl mate whose job I envied),  I have had a penchant for historical fiction set in Australia, with strong female leads..  Tilda is a worthy addition to my list.  Author Sue Whiting has grounded the story loosely on her grandmother’s life who, like mine, was born in New Zealand in 1896, and then moved as a baby to Australia.  While she has manipulated the events and the timeline slightly, as authors are allowed to do, she has used the little she knows to craft a powerful story of courage and determination, a willingness to stand up to authority and be her own person, that was not the norm in those times.  Or, if they were, it was still very much a man’s world and such resilience in girls was not written in the history books.  Despite the reign of Queen Victoria. the lives of independent young women were relegated to novels. 

More for the older end of the target readership of this blog , nevertheless it is one that more mature younger independent readers will relish as a new world of times past will be opened up to them.  While they may not relate directly with Tilda’s circumstances, nevertheless they will be cheering her on, barracking for her each time she stands up to Sister Agatha, and empathising with her as she is determined to look after Annie.  Who knows – this may be a young girl’s “Beattie Bow” and lead them down reading paths they didn’t know existed.  

Stacey Casey (series)

Stacey Casey (series)

Stacey Casey (series)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stacey Casey (series)

The House that Time Remembers

9781922615886

The Cheeky Outlaw

9781922615848

Michael C. Madden

Nancy Bevington

Big Sky, 2022

164pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

Stacey Casey’s father is a terrible inventor. But now, despite years of failed inventions, he has created a functioning time machine.  But instead of sending him back in time, he turns their entire house into a time machine, transporting everyone and everything in it back into history, although they still have access to parts of 2022 like mobile phones and the internet.

In the first episode, Stacey and her friend Oliver find themselves in 1964 faced with a series of extraordinary events. They find a bizarre artifact and encounter strange man who seems to know Stacey … but why is he chasing them? Who set the school on fire? And what’s with all the famous people they keep meeting? Can the friends solve the string of unanswered questions and find their way home?

In the second in the series, Stacey, Oliver and Mr Casey are 100 million years in the past looking at dinosaurs. Suddenly they find themselves chased by an angry lightning claw and escape by an emergency jump back to 2022. Now they have two problems: a stowaway baby cooperensis dinosaur and a damaged time machine. To try and fix things they travel back in time to 1880s Australia where they find themselves faced with more challenges – outlaws, explorers and a mystery that could destroy the universe!

Historical fiction is a valuable way to take students back to previous times so they can immerse themselves in the way of life then and thus get a better understanding of the events that occurred and the decisions that were made, some of which may still be impacting them today.  This new series for independent readers who have developed that concept of times and lives  past being real, as opposed to the futuristic, imaginary world that much of contemporary literature places itself in, is another opportunity to broaden horizons.  For example, in the first story they find themselves still in their home town but in 1964 so students might like to investigate what their own town was like in 1964, perhaps interviewing residents who were there then or investigating how it has changed over 60 years and the causes for those changes, thus developing an understanding of how the past can reach out to shape the present. 

Teachers’ notes  linked to Australian Curriculum outcomes offer suggestions for implementing these sorts of investigations with a strong theme of linking today’s students’ lives to the events in the story, such as being accused of something they haven’t done, ensuring that the series is more than just a fictional recount of past events. 

Roxy & Jones (series)

Roxy & Jones (series)

Roxy & Jones (series)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Roxy & Jones (series)

The Great Fairytale Cover-Up

9781406391374

The Curse of the Gingerbread Witch

9781406391381

Angela Woolfe

Walker Books, 2020-2022

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

Once Upon a Modern Time, in the city of Rexopolis, in the Kingdom of Illustria, lived twelve-year-old Roxy Humperdinck, struggling to exist on the meagre wages of a toilet cleaner for the Ministry of Soup, and sharing a room with her half-sister Gretel, who is actually she of  Hansel and Grete fame. although Roxy is unaware of that.  When she accidentally discovers a secret vault in which a girl called Jones was hiding, dressed in a daffodil outfit, and who has a habit of leaving mysteriously leaving only a shoe behind, the pair become friends and through a mysterious book, discover the secrets of an enchantment  put on people who know that Illustria once had a frightening past and was known as the cursed Kingdom of Diabolica so that the real events have been wiped from memories.

Roxy discovers the truth about her  brother and sister raising suspicions  that all might not be as it seems and when her new friend  reveals  that her real name was actually Cinderella Jones, the mystery deepens. As they embark on a quest for the Seventh Stone, Roxy is about to discover the truth about her world and her family: that witches are real, magic is real and fairy tales are not only real … despite what the ruling Ministry of Soup wants them to believe.

In the second in the series, Roxy  is still reeling from the Great Fairy Tale Cover-up when Cinderella Jones returns with a new mission: to investigate The Missing – the children who followed the Pied Piper into the mountain thirty years ago, never to be seen again. And so begins another crazy adventure that takes the girls up Jack’s beanstalk, through Red Riding Hood’s Woods … and to the cottage of the most evil villain of all time, the Gingerbread Witch.

This is a series that straddles the known of the fairytale world with the blurry borders of fantasy for those who want to delve into that magical world but still need to have a foot in the world of reality and what they know. While there are any number of fractured fairytales in picture book format, this is one  for those who are independent readers and who have the skills to follow a reasonable complex plot made easier if they know their traditional fairy tales because the references will make more sense.  

Best read in order for continuity, this is a series that sets itself up for more episodes that will be one of those that readers return to regardless of their age just because they have engaged with both characters and plot and want to know what happens. 

How to Survive on Mars

How to Survive on Mars

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Survive on Mars

Jasmina Lazendle-Galloway

CSIRO Publishing, 2022

120pp., pbk., RRP $A29.99

9781486314669

For the last couple of weeks, students have been “dreaming with their eyes open” – dreaming of what they would like to be, do and go, and, for some, that would include travelling into space, perhaps even living on another planet, like Mars.

But how to survive? With not enough air to breathe, sunlight to keep  warm, or any available food and water, life on Mars would be a challenge… but it just might be possible! In this stunning new release, the reader is taken on a journey to the Red Planet to discover natural wonders like ancient polar ice caps, the highest volcano in the solar system and a 45-kilometre-wide impact crater that was once a Martian lake. Led by astronomer and member of the National Space Society of Australia, scientists, engineers, archaeologists, ethicists and science-fiction writers have joined together to explore the planet, consider the challenges and offer solutions so those with an interest and the dream can dream on.

Photographs, activities and quizzes make it an inviting read even for those without the dream, as space tourism gathers momentum and the first crewed Mars Mission, which would include sending astronauts to Mars, orbiting Mars, and a return to Earth, is proposed for the 2030s, just as these readers will be thinking about planning gap years or family holidays. What a change from the pilgrimage to the UK of my generation!

 

 

Animal Migrations

Animal Migrations

Animal Migrations

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Animal Migrations – Flying, Walking, Swimming

Diane Jackson Hill

CSIRO Publishing, 2022

80pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9781486315413 

Every year hundreds of thousands of animals trek across kilometres of land, traverse entire oceans or fly from one end of the planet to the other, and then back again. 

While drawings from the Stone Age period show hoofed animals travelling across the African savannah and  the Ancient Greeks were aware that the local birdlife disappeared and reappeared at certain times, today’s scientists are still asking questions and learning the answers as these annual journeys take place centuries on.  But why do they do this?  Where do they go? How do they find their way? How do they last the distance? How do they survive extreme weather and hungry predators? How do they navigate a landscape that includes rivers, mountains, oceans, cities and towns? 

These are the sorts of questions that our budding naturalists ask and which are answered in this new publication in an accessible layout that has lots of photos and other illustrations as well as text that is written to meet the needs of the intended audience without being too babyish or scientific. It explores the migrations of mammals, birds, insects, fish, reptiles, amphibians, crustaceans and aquatic microorganisms, as well as their effect on our world, and how we can help these migrating animals.

With all the supports expected of a quality non fiction text, including a glossary, index and suggestions for further investigations this will be a valuable addition to any school library.

A Reluctant Witch’s Guide to Magic

A Reluctant Witch’s Guide to Magic

A Reluctant Witch’s Guide to Magic

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Reluctant Witch’s Guide to Magic

Shivaun Plozza

Puffin, 2022

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

9781761043994

Willa is just an ordinary non-magical 12 year old girl, living in the Wild – a city squished between two warring witch covens. She hates the constant conflict and spends her days dodging wayward spells – from raining frogs to dancing chickens – which cause havoc for regular people like her. And it’s all because of the witch war! No wonder she also hates witches.

But one day she’s not ordinary at all. She discovers she does, indeed, have magic, much to her dismay.  Thus, she is taken to the castle where she learns all about spells, witchcraft, and the two waring covens of witches, one of which she will have to join and be initiated into before her 13th birthday. If she doesn’t choose one or the other, her magic will be uncontrollable and she will explode. She seeks help from her new friends -Gish, the castle dogsbody, Marceline, the palace librarian, and Talon, one of her most faithful cat companions – to try to find a resolution but her attempts to control her magic are interrupted by a rogue witch, who begins nefarious spells against the Ordinary Folk. What does the witch want and what does it have to do with Willa? Can she get her magic under control before the whole town is doomed and her birthday arrives? 

Written more for independent readers at the upper end of this blog range, this is an imaginative story that capitalises on the current fascination with all things magical while allowing the reader to put themselves into the story.  Given the choices between the two covens. perhaps exploding might be the better option! It relies on the traditional good versus evil for its basic premise while including the modern scenario of a young girl being able to make her own decisions and choose her own path.