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Friday Barnes: Last Chance

Friday Barnes: Last Chance

Friday Barnes: Last Chance

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday Barnes: Last Chance

R. A. Spratt

Puffin, 2023

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

9780143779247

Friday Barnes is the daughter of two highly-intelligent, eccentric physicists who are so disconnected from her upbringing that they called her Friday even though she was born on a Thursday.  She did have four siblings, all much older than her being born during the four-and-a-half years their mother had allocated for the task.  Friday was not scheduled and her birth was fitted in around a lecture her mother had to give in Switzerland.  Eleven years later, Friday had largely raised herself and she was happy with that.  Her greatest wish was to be unnoticed because you could do so much more that way like eating a whole block of chocolate at once without it being taken off you.    Unfortunately, it also means that you do not develop very good social skills particularly if you spend your time reading scientific tomes and educating yourself beyond the realms of anything a school could offer.

However, as well as the non-fiction her parents library consisted of, Friday had a penchant for detective novels because “being a detective allowed a person a licence to behave very eccentrically indeed” and she had honed her powers of observation and logical thought over the years.  But the time has now come for Friday to go to high school and given her parents haven’t even realised she is no longer in preschool, it was up to her to sort it.  She would have preferred not to go at all because she saw it as being all about “bullying, dodge ball and having to find a date for the prom” but the government was insistent that she do.  She tried to compromise by applying for university and passed the exam to study medicine but was knocked back on her age. 

So rejecting the idea of the Foreign Legion, the Peace Corps and being smuggled out of the country by people traffickers, after helping her ex-cop, private investigator Uncle Bernie solve a case she finds herself with the means to send herself to Highcrest Academy the best and most expensive boarding school in the whole country.  Her intention is to stay under the radar, do what she has to do and leave.  But things do not work out that way.  Right from the start, her nondescript self-imposed uniform of brown cardigans, grey t-shirts and blue jeans makes her stand out among the fashion parade that is the elite, wealthy students who also attend and being knocked down in the carpark on the first day doesn’t help either. Nor does being the brightest student in the entire school, being labelled “scholarship girl” by the school bully and being unable to help herself being able to point out the flaws and inaccuracies in the conversation and presentations of others. Antagonising the handsome, previously-smartest student Ian Wainscott adds to her woes, particularly when her roommate, the not-so-bright Melanie insists there is a romance blooming, something that Friday scoffs at. But their paths have already been inextricably interwoven…

Now, Friday, Melanie and Ian are Paris and they are discovering that the art scene is a hot-bed of crime as they investigate a mystery surrounding the Mona Lisa. Is the painting hanging in The Louvre a fake? And where is the original?

This is the 11th in this series  that was first published in 2014 and which quickly became a favourite among those looking for a story that had some meat to it with a heroine they could relate to, including Ms Then-8. Since then Friday’s adventures and escapades have garnered a wide and increasing audience, including Ms Now 16 who will be thrilled to get this one despite being eight years older.  But as well as the established fan base, this is such a timeless and quality series  the beginning of the school year is the perfect time to introduce it to a new generation of independent readers who not only have 10 others to fill their reading calendar but also another episode to look forward to in 2024.  Even if they read nothing else this year, this is a solid foundation for the future. 

Australia Remembers: Wartime Nurses

Australia Remembers: Wartime Nurses

Australia Remembers: Wartime Nurses

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Australia Remembers: Wartime Nurses

Jacqui Halpin

Big Sky, 2022

72pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781922615602

For over 100 years Australia’s military nurses have been risking their own lives to save the lives of others. From nursing Gallipoli wounded in Egypt during World War I, to treating injured troops and civilians in modern day Afghanistan, with skill, devotion, and compassion these courageous nurses have cared for the casualties of war.

Australia Remembers 6: Care and Compassion – Wartime Nurses, the sixth in this series, shines a light on the remarkable women, and later men, who have served, and continue to serve Australia and humanity during times of war, conflict and natural disasters. The hardships, dangers and sorrows they faced is made accessible to younger readers and highlights the outstanding contribution of these often-forgotten heroes. With historic photographs, quotes from past and present-day nurses, fascinating facts and medical breakthroughs, questions and fun activities, it provides engaging and informative reading for children, adults and educators.

It ensures Australia’s military nurses will be remembered for the sacrifices they have made, the care they have given, and the lives they have saved with facts and photographs combined in a layout that makes the information readily accessible. Teachers’ notes are available to guide a deeper understanding  of both the text and its subject, making this a valuable addition to any collection that focuses on Australia’s military history and the things we commemorate around Both April 25 and November 11.

The Super Adventures of Ollie and Bea

The Super Adventures of Ollie and Bea

The Super Adventures of Ollie and Bea

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Super Adventures of Ollie and Bea

Bunny Ideas

9781761068119

Otter-ly Ridiculous

9781761068126

Renee Treml

A&U Children’s 2023

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

Ollie is an owl who wears glasses. And Bea is a bunny with very big feet, but, despite their differences they are best friends who work together to solve mysteries. 

These are the two latest adventures in this graphic novel series  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”. Following the format of the previous four where the emphasis is on the conversation between the characters, Treml again places her characters into situations that are familiar to her audience.  In Bunny Ideas Bea is planning some fun games to play with her friends but they must follow her rules while in a game becomes a quarrel that threatens friendships, offering opportunities for the reader to consider what options there are for harmony and what choices they might make in a similar situation.

In a recent media interview I was asked why I thought it was important for little ones to read and apart from fueling their imagination and inspiring their dreams, I emphasised the need for them to read about children and characters who were just like themselves so that they could not only see themselves in stories and thus affirming who they are as they are is enough, but that they could encounter and solve problems such as those in these stories from a distance.  Contemporary realistic fiction has been defined as  “real stories that could happen here and now [in which] the author attempts to weave a story based on believable characters, a plausible plot and a recognisable setting so that young readers … can vicariously live through the story’s characters while they read” (Travers, B. E. & Travers, J. F. (2008) Children’s literature: A developmental perspective. Hoboken, NJ, USA: John Wiley) and while it is a term usually applied to literature for young adults, IMO Treml has nailed it in this series for much younger readers.  

Willa and Woof 3: Grandparents for Hire

Willa and Woof 3: Grandparents for Hire

Willa and Woof 3: Grandparents for Hire

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Willa and Woof 3: Grandparents for Hire

Jacqueline Harvey

Puffin, 2023

128pp. pbk., $A12.99

9781761043338

Willa’s four-legged best friend is her albino wolfhound, Woof; her same-age best friend is Tae Jin whose name means “person of greatness” in Korean; and her old-age best friend is Frank Pickles who lives next door in the retirement village and is very old and very grumpy with crinkly skin and bags under his eyes.  Willa visits him almost every day and listens to his stories about how he used to race pigeons when he was younger, although now he only has Mimi in the aviary in his tiny back yard. 

But when the principal announces that there will be a Grandparents’ Day next week when the children can bring their grandparents to school to join in activities – a common event in many schools – Willa discovers that not everyone has a grandparent to ask or that some are just not in a position to attend, including herself.  So she sets out with a plan to make it a day that everyone can enjoy but sometimes plans don’t turn out the way you expect.

This is the third in this series for younger emerging readers following Mimi is Missing and Birthday Business with the fourth due in April, making the wait in between episodes not too long and thus being ideal for demonstrating how books in a series build on each other so the characters become more and more familiar and thus, more real. They begin to care about what happens to them, an essential if they are to finish the book. 

Series are an important part of reading development and are so much more than a commercial decision to attract readers back. Because the reader is already familiar with the characters, the settings and the likely storyline they are able to bring their existing knowledge to the read, predict what is likely to happen and be empowered to tackle more complex stories, using and honing their developing skills as they do so. Each book completed offers a sense of accomplishment and builds a desire and momentum to complete the series, making the choice of the next read easier while continuing to affirm that they can become a “real reader” and encouraging them to seek other books by the same author or in the same genre, ever widening their reading horizons.    

It’s worth finding innovative ways to display series so they are easily accessible by even the most reluctant reader and build on their intrinsic popularity. Authors like Jacqueline Harvey who create characters like Willa and her friends and build stories around things that are really familiar to young readers do so much to make the teacher librarian’s job so much easier. 

 

The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents

The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents

The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents

Terry Pratchett

Corgi Children’s, 2022

304pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9780552578929

Rats! They’re everywhere –  in the breadbins, dancing across tabletops, stealing pies from under the cooks’ noses. So, what does every town need? A good piper to lure them away. That’s where Maurice comes in! A streetwise tomcat with the perfect money-making scam.

Everyone has heard the stories about the piper and the rats, and con-cat Maurice finds a stupid-looking kid with a pipe, and has his very own plague of rats – strangely educated rats who are highly intelligent, can speak and have a sense of morality. 

But in Bad Blintz, someone is playing a different tune and now Maurice and his rats must learn a new concept: evil….

While this edition is a tie-in to the movie that is about to be released, the original was the 28th novel in the bestselling Discworld series, a series set on a flat, circular world balanced on the backs of four elephants which in turn stand on the back of a giant turtle. Typically, the stories are inspired by classic literature, in this case Robert Browning’s, The Pied Piper of Hamelin.  While the series itself is primarily aimed at adults, this one is for children and Pratchett was awarded the prestigious Carnegie Medal for it. There are twists and turns that older readers are more likely to appreciate so this might be one best shared in conjunction with both Browning’s story and the movie.

Funny Kid Catastrophe

Funny Kid Catastrophe

Funny Kid Catastrophe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Funny Kid Catastrophe

Matt Stanton

ABC Books, 2022

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

9780733341991

Absolutely, definitely, does not under any circumstances does Max want a cat. So why did Mum and Dad just bring one home? And it’s about to ruin his life.

With the prospect of  being First Kid of Redhill because his mum has decided to run for mayor, and thus retiring as Funny Kid, 11 year-old Max is contemplating all the power, attention and kudos he will have in that position when his parents return with something for him.  But it’s not a security detail, a limousine, the keys to the city or even a five dollar note with hi face on it – it’s a cat from the local animal shelter. But Max is not a cat-person – he thinks such people should seek medical help – so how is he going to cope with this gift and still maintain his dignity, integrity and position as First Kid?

As Christmas and New Year fade into the distance, this is the ideal read for young independent readers- those who have met Max already in his previous 10 adventures and those who are about to get to know one of the most successful characters in Matt Stanton’s amazing collection.  Stanton is very much in tune with what kids in those middle years like to read about, particularly characters that they can relate to and secretly wish to be.  The place that the edgy humour of Jennings, Gleitzman and Milne played in their parents’ childhood is now being filled by him with great success, demonstrating that good stories with lots of humour and over-the-top situations are always winners, particularly if they have a slightly serious side that anchors them in reality and adds depth to the story. In this one Max learns about being open-minded – perhaps he converts to being a “cat-person” after all- as well as the power and pitfalls of social media.

Apart from being an entertaining read in itself, it sets the reader up to explore not only the others in the series, thus taking care of their holiday reading, but also exploring some of Stanton’s other works  including his new series, Bored.

 

Mathematics for Beginners

Mathematics for Beginners

Mathematics for Beginners

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mathematics for Beginners

Sarah Hull

Tom Mumbray

Paul Boston

Usborne, 2022

128pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

 9781474998543

Ask your students what they believe maths to be and you will get answers such as ‘numbers’, “measuring”. “counting”… and probably emotions like “hard”, “boring”, “waste-of-time”.  There are more groans and moans than jumps for joy.

 But mathematics is known as the “queen of all sciences” and the word itself comes from the Ancient Greek meaning “that which is learned” or “what you can know.”  And, indeed, it takes but a short investigation to see that maths concepts pervade every aspect of our lives and that is the focus of this book  for those who have mastered the basics of counting and calculating, to demonstrate the application and extension of those skills in solving almost every problem we have, from the mundane such as knowing the using a bus timetable to  extending our knowledge into areas we are yet to explore to solving mysteries that have confounded generations. 

Over the 50+ years I’ve spent in education, many of them helping young children understand the basic concepts through several maths-focused books, I know the key to success is showing them that what they are learning is relevant to their lives and something they will use again and again, and that is also the focus of this book.  So as well as looking at what statistics and probability are, it shows how they can be used to predict which sports teams will win.  By understanding shapes and scale, Lego models become more adventurous.  By understanding pi we can share the pie equally…

With the usual appealing layout and reader-friendly language we associate with Usborne publications, this is one that will take those with an interest deep into the realm of possibilities and, as usual, there are also the Quicklinks which fascinate further.

Hope Is The Thing

Hope Is The Thing

Hope Is The Thing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hope Is The Thing

Johanna Bell

Erica Wagner

A&U Children’s, 2023

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

9781761180026

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
These opening lines from Emily Dickinson’s poem, Hope is the thing with feathers   are the inspiration for this stunning picture book  begun after the devastation caused by the bushfires which ravaged so  much of south-east Australia in 2019-2020. 
A young girl who is a bird lover and watcher, as are the book’s creators, focuses on the birds around her as they return to their burnt-out habitats to resume the lives and lifestyles that are natural to them clearly with the hope, indeed expectation, that it will continue as always regardless.  The kookaburra sings, the baby emus learn to run, the parrot nests in the hollow tree, the seagull is still eyeing off the hot chips…
The last years have been tough for many, and there will be those facing new challenges as the new year rolls over, so this is a perfect book to share to show that hope for better things is what drives us forward regardless of how dire the current situation might be. While hope might be seen as unreachable as the eagle able to soar above and be free, it can also be as mundane as the ibis returning to raid the rubbish bins in anticipation of food.   If the bowerbird still seeks the blue among the black ruins of the landscape, we, too, can look for the diamonds amongst the stones. 
Erica Wagner’s extraordinary mixed media illustrations interpret the author’s lyrical words perfectly, the final illustrations showing that with hope, we too can fly…
Perfect for sharing with students at the beginning of the year as they think about their hopes and dreams for the year and start formalising goals they want to achieve.
Erin Hanson Poetry

Erin Hanson Poetry

The Book of Wondrous Possibilities

The Book of Wondrous Possibilities

The Book of Wondrous Possibilities

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Book of Wondrous Possibilities

Deborah Abela

Puffin, 2022

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

 9781761044021

Since his mother died in a hit-and-run accident, Arlo Goodman lives a quiet, solitary life with his Uncle Avery in a run-down flat above their bookshop. Solitary from choice, and home-schooled, he has no friends, except for his pet mouse, Herbert. However when a girl called Lisette bursts into the shop and begs him to hide her from a murderer, closely followed by the most terrifying man Arlo has ever encountered, his life changes forever.

For she has a parcel for him from his mother!  She has sent him a grimoire – a book of magic spells and invocations, or one itself that is magic – and to his surprise, when he tentatively opens it,  there is a story called The Courageous Journey of Arlo Goodman written by his mother!

And so begins the most amazing adventure in which Arlo discovers just how brave he really is as he tries to protect this rare book from falling into the hands of  the wealthy but sinister business tycoon, Marcellus, who has set his brutal, scary Silas to get it no matter the cost. 

It seems appropriate to start a new year with a book called The Book of Wondrous Possibilities, particularly one in which the main characters face demons, both external and internal, and discover their inner strengths and courage that enable them to not only survive but flourish. Abela has created characters that are relatable but added that touch of magic that takes the story above being an unlikely narrative of two kids facing danger that ordinary children wouldn’t, into the realm of “If Arlo could…” or “If Lisette can…” As many of our students face new challenges in this new year, this is one to offer them to give them that boost that they might need.

It was the perfect title to pop into the book pouch I made Miss 11 for Christmas as she starts Year 7 in a high school where she knows no one… I know she is looking forward to it as a year of wondrous possibilities. 

 

Virtually Christmas

 

 

 

 

Virtually Christmas

Virtually Christmas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Virtually Christmas

David Baddiel

HarperCollins, 2022

256pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9780008334321

It used to be the most WONDERFUL time of the year, but for years Christmas has been taken over by Winterzone.

All the things that made Christmas special are gone: the human connection, the baubles passed down through generations, even the rubbish cracker jokes.

Instead, Christmas is run by robots, while 3D holograms of Santa Claus called Santavatars check if you’ve been naughty or nice – and on Christmas Eve, all of the presents are delivered by ZoneDrones instead of Santa’s reindeer!

But when they stumble on a curious clue, eleven-year-old Etta and her friend Monty find themselves thrown into a fight to bring back Christmas. Racing against time and against the might of Winterzone, they must find the real Santa – before the true meaning of the festive season is lost forever . . .

In some ways, our children are used to Christmas being virtual with travel restrictions meaning a lot of family get-togethers are being done online, and as a consequence, a lot of the long-held traditions and rituals have been let go.  So as well as being an engaging read for young independent readers with a unique-till-now theme, it is also an opportunity for them to reflect on the things that they would miss most about Christmas if they were taken away.  What are the things that their family does that make it a personalised experience, the things they will continue to do with their own children in years to come?  What have they taken for granted? What do they want to reinstate?

For many, Christmas is about family and making memories and there is a lot of effort put into making it a magical time but what do our children actually take on board?  And perpetuate? This is an entertaining story in itself, but with the capacity to encourage some great what-if thinking…