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Test Trouble

Test Trouble

Test Trouble

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Test Trouble

Serena Patel

Louise Forshaw

Barrington Stoke, 2024

88pp., pbk., RRP $A17.99

9781800902756

When his teacher announces that there will be a timed maths test the following Monday, Arun goes into meltdown.  Even though he is bright and attentive, tests, especially timed ones, make him feel extremely anxious as he feels the pressure to perform.  And so he is determined to get out of it by any means possible staging a protest about tests altogether (which only gets him into more trouble) and even pretending to be sick.  But then a conversation with his neighbour helps him see things in a different light….

This is a story that nearly every reader will relate to. The anxiety that comes with the expectation of being tested, and being expected to do well, no matter how often teachers and other adults try to reassure you that it is “just a test” to let them know how you’re coping and that they can know where you need support.  The fact is that the fear of not living up to expectations, particularly your own, can become bigger than the test itself and that is what distorts the results, not your lack of knowledge and understanding.  

But even though we, as teachers, know this and that there are better ways of assessing a student’s progress and program, boffins wanting to protect their positions insist on imposing tests to measure achievement as though a score on a paper on a particular day indicates anything other than that, and using the results to make all sorts of high-stakes claims and decisions.  So until there is enlightened leadership, such as the implementation of the ACT Senior Secondary Certificate, which does not require a final exam,  our students are going to find themselves in Arun’s position, sadly from their Kindergarten year. And so this is a worthwhile addition to every teacher’s toolkit, especially those who teach that middle primary area where the fear and anxiety really start to take hold, so it can be shared over and over, especially the conversation that Arun has with Mr Patel on pp48-49. Sometimes just turning up for something that we are afraid to do is the biggest achievement, and, having done that, the rest is not so hard.  

This is a little book that has the potential to have the most enormous impact.

This book is from a new imprint, Barrington Stoke, that HarperCollins UK has acquired. Many will know that Barrington Stoke print all of their titles using dyslexic-friendly paper stock, formatting and fonts. Many of their books, including this one, are hi-lo texts written by popular authors but which have been edited to have a lower reading age than interest age so it’s great that they are now going to be readily available in Australia.

Lily Halfmoon (series)

Lily Halfmoon (series)

Lily Halfmoon (series)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lily Halfmoon (series)

The Magic Gems 

9781761180354

The Witches’ Council

9781761069727

Xavier Bonet, translated by Marie Trinchan

A&U Children’s, 2024

80pp., graphic novel, RRP $A17.99

Nine-year-old Lily Halfmoon has just moved to the town of Piedraville. New house, new school and … new powers?

Surprise – Lily is a witch! She must learn magic, and find her animal guardian and gemstone, while keeping her new identity a secret. Not even her family can know.

Protecting the people of Piedraville from evil is no easy task. Especially when a dangerous creature is on the loose. Will Lily finally discover her gem’s unique power with the help of her new friends, Gigi and Mai, all without attracting attention? But a mysterious person is after her rare moonstone, and if they get their hands on it, it could threaten everything Lily holds dear. Will Lily have the strength to fight for what she believes?

The concept of ordinary children discovering magical powers as they become more independent, having to find their particular protective talismans and staving off those who want them is becoming a familiar trope in literature for the emerging reader, but nevertheless, as the enduring popularity of Harry Potter demonstrates, it is one that remains popular and with a constant stream of newly independent readers emerging, discovering it, it will continue to fascinate.   

So with its familiar themes, what sets this series apart?  Firstly, it is in graphic novel format so the reader has to be able to cope with that format, although this one has more dialogue to carry the story than others, the panels track left to right in a logical sequence and it is in regular font, rather than all capitals, making its appearance more familiar, as well as ‘regular’ pages that add more information and background – so, all in all, making it a solid introduction to this popular format. It also has potential to become a sought-after series, as in The Magic Gems, as well as the plot and premise being introduced, the characters and their relationships are established setting the platform for any number of adventures to come, particularly given the cliffhanger ending..  

 

Wurrtoo: The Wombat Who Fell in Love with the Sky

Wurrtoo: The Wombat Who Fell in Love with the Sky

Wurrtoo: The Wombat Who Fell in Love with the Sky

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wurrtoo: The Wombat Who Fell in Love with the Sky

Tylissa Elisara

Dylan Finney

Lothian, 2024

185pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

9780734421982

In the fifty-fifth burrow of Bushland Avenue in a beautiful clearing on Kangaroo Island where the arching gum trees kiss, is the home of Wurtoo, the hariy-nosed wombat. His is the one at the end with the big red trapdoor and large gold doorknob and a myriad of tunnels because he loves to extend it, so much so that it can take awhile for him to get to his front door. It even has a library where he has just four books that he cherishes – a book of fairytales that has taught him all about love; a plant encyclopedia that told him where to find his favourite muntrie berries and wattleseeds;  a cookbook which helps him make them into something delicious, and a fourth, his favourite, which had stories as old as time and in particular, a map of a most sacred place, the Forest of Dreaming. And it fuelled his dream to follow the map across the water to the mainland, climb the ancient tree to the heavens, and marry the love of his life, the sky.

But first, he needs to find the courage because right now, he can barely leave the burrow without his nerves getting the better of him, because having led such a solitary life, the thought of meeting other creatures terrified him. And so , despite being nocturnal by nature, he chooses to go out in the daytime so he can be unseen, and each day he makes a pilgrimage to the lighthouse for a picnic.Little does he know, that on this particular day his life will change forever because he inadvertently saves Kuula the koala from a bushfire, and acquires the adventure companion he didn’t know he needed.

With Kuula by his side, Wurrtoo finds the courage to leave the safety of his burrow and sets out on an epic journey to cross the island, reach the mainland and climb to the top of tallest tree in the Forest of Dreaming. But it’s fire season, and danger and strange creatures lurk behind every gum tree. To make it, the pair must face their fears together, learn the importance of friendship and discover the power of wombat wishes.

Described as an “Indigenous Blinky Bill meets Winnie the Pooh”, this heartwarming and beautifully illustrated novel for independent readers by the 2021 black&write! fellow Tylissa Elisara, and it is worth reading for the power of the descriptions of the landscape alone.  Immediately, the reader is transported into Wurtoo’s world, akin to Tolkien’s description of the home of Bilbo Baggins, and relate to his ambitions, desires and fears.  It is one for those readers who love adventures and quests, and with traditional First Nation stories, knowledge, food and culture woven seamlessly into the tale, it becomes one that not only engages and entertains, but helps the non-indigenous reader better understand that incredible connection to Country that exists for those who are.

There is also the underlying universal theme of building trust, facing your fears, accepting those you meet for who they are, so friendships are built on similarities rather than differences, that will speak to many readers, perhaps encouraging them to think that if Wurrtoo can do this, so can they.  

For me, the mark of a story that works, is hearing myself read it aloud to a class of students, and this one is one of those rare ones.  So with teachers’ notes available to enhance and enrich the experience, this is definitely recommended as a read-aloud for Years 3-4.  Something different, inspiring and Australian.

Mia Megastar

Mia Megastar

Mia Megastar

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mia Megastar

Ada Nicodemou & Meredith Costain

Serena Geddes

Puffin, 2024

176pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781761342158

Meet Mia!
Her life is pretty interesting and amazing. She’s the only kid in her class who lives above a shop. And not just any shop – everyone knows Costa’s is the best place for groceries and the yummiest pastries. She has a cute-but-annoying little brother, Yianni, and the best friends ever. Oh, and her mum plays the worst pranks. Mia loves dancing and singing and is always putting on a show. And she’s ready to step into the limelight . . . this year will see Mia get closer to her dream of becoming a megastar.
But the road to stardom is not without a little drama. . .

Loosely based on her own childhood, this is the first in a three-part series  for young independent readers by Home and Away star of 22 years, Ada Nicodemou.  With the upsurge in online opportunities where anyone with ambition (if not talent) can showcase their abilities, there are many of our young students who will relate to Mia’s aspirations and who will find, like Mia (and someone close to me) that it involves a lot more than a camera and an internet connection.

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

Characters that appeal because the reader can put themselves into the lead role, an attractive layout with many visual features including acting tips from someone who has proven herself, and the promise of more to come in July and October, make this a series that is going to appeal to a large number of newly-independent readers who are looking for something new to pass the cold, winter months.  My aspiring young performer has grown through the phase now, but I know this will find a willing and wanting audience at the local primary school.  

The Last Zookeeper

The Last Zookeeper

The Last Zookeeper

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Last Zookeeper

Aaron Becker

Walker Books, 2024

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

9781529517873

In a not-so-futuristic time, the Earth has flooded and the waters continue to rise. The only signs of humankind are the waterlogged structures they left behind. Peeking out from the deluge are the remnants of a zoo, home to rare and endangered animals like elephants. giraffes, tigers, pandas  and rhinoceroses, who have hung on and clung on despite everything. Tender-hearted NOA is a huge construction robot who has found a new mission as the caretaker of the zoo’s beleaguered inhabitants, and despite towering above them, they trust him.  Bracing for the next storm, NOA builds an ark from the wreckage around him and together they go in search of new land, only to almost perish as that anticipated storm hits while they are at sea.  But then something miraculous arrives, and NOA not only discovers sanctuary for those he has saved, but something even more profound…

 Described by the publisher as a “luminous sci-fi parable for our changing world”, the only words in this masterpiece are a quote from primatologist and anthropologist Dr Jane Goodall,..

Only if we understand, can we care.

Only if we care, will we help.

Only if we help, shall all be saved.

But within the illustrations is a powerful story that is a parallel to the biblical story and which offers so many riches to explore, particularly by those who are so well aware of the need to protect and preserve the environment and the prospect of the impact of climate change.  So while younger readers may interpret this as a futuristic retelling of Noah and his ark, more sophisticated readers will bring all their own existing knowledge and experiences to tell their own tale as they examine the details embedded in the illustrations creating a unique, very personal story unimpeded by the text of another.  And while it may seem to be a story of gloom and doom that could be depressing, there is a twist that references the other biblical story of the Garden of Eden that offers hope that perhaps not all is lost in the post-apocalyptic world… 

Reviews of this amazing work abound and each suggests a new aspect, element or interpretation that could be explored including discovering Becker’s other work, The Tree and the River, which is a “time-lapse portrait of humankind – and our impact on the natural world”, making both of these core texts for older readers who, having asked what-if now want to consider what-next. So while most are touting it as suitable for ages 4-7, to me this is one for older readers who have an understanding of the current environmental uncertainty and who can bring that, as well as their knowledge of the biblical stories and the universal human need for hope to the table so they can really appreciate the beauty and value of Becker’s work.  

Super Sloth: Revenge of the Chick-Oats

Super Sloth: Revenge of the Chick-Oats

Super Sloth: Revenge of the Chick-Oats

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Super Sloth: Revenge of the Chick-Oats

Aleesah Darlison

Cheri Hughes

Big Sky, 2024

140pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781923004948

On a remote itty-bitty island off the coast of Panama there is an itty-bitty community of itty-bitty creatures. And while the rest of these pygmy sloths are content to dwell in the trees and move around “as slow as a rainy winter weekend”, Romeo Fortez, is different.  At his naming ceremony, the heavens do spectacular and amazing things and  Romeo is imbibed with powers of speed, intelligence, and irresistibly hypnotic good looks. As he grows up, Romeo craves speed and adventure and even his parents know that Escudo Island would never be big enough for him. But then he overhears a reference to New York – the city that never sleeps – and he knows that that is where he must be…

In the second episode of this action-packed series for newly independent young readers, ,Romeo’s nemesis, the unhinged Professor Ian Weird-Warp, is at it again. Bent on revenge, he concocts a quirky catastrophe. Mixing chicken and goat genes, he spawns a gang of eccentric chick-oats and they’re on the loose in the Big Apple, destroying everything in their path all the while chanting, ‘Berk-berk-baa!’

As the team faces off against Professor Weird-Warp’s sinister demands for Romeo’s surrender, they must hatch a brilliant plan to thwart the mad professor’s wicked schemes once and for all. Can this unlikely crew save the city from the clutches of the chick-oats?

Apart from being a fun read, it ends with the professor obviously intending more shenanigans so readers might like to have fun imagining what his next mutations might be – firstly it was a shark and a wolf, now chickens and goats so what could be next?  Perhaps they could even draw what they visualise and develop their own story based on what they already know of the resident characters, Weird-Warp’s motivations and their own imaginations.  

Stacey Casey and the Lost City

Stacey Casey and the Lost City

Stacey Casey and the Lost City

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stacey Casey and the Lost City

Michael C. Madden

Nancy Bevington

Big Sky, 2024

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

9781922896667

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 this, the third episode, while Stacey, her dad and the baby dinosaur have escaped back to 2022 after robbing a bank with Ned Kelly, Oliver was captured by the evil Isla Palmer. But now he has turned up at their home but as an old man…  Travelling back to 1964 to rescue him, and to stop an evil woman from stealing a powerful artifact and taking over the world, Stacey and her friends  take on a dangerous quest that takes them to a place outside of all time and space as they team up with the world’s most famous philosopher, Plato, to explore the lost city of Atlantis. And somehow, they have a dinosaur to return to its mum…

This is a series best read in order so there is continuity of the narrative but it is one that will appeal to those who prefer to go back in time rather than forward for their reading matter.  Atlantis, a mythical island in the Atlantic Ocean born in the imagination of Plato has always held intrigue for many, and this story may even inspire young readers to delve deeper into its origins, opening up new reading horizons.

Computer Technology for Curious Kids

Computer Technology for Curious Kids

Computer Technology for Curious Kids

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Computer Technology for Curious Kids

Chris Oxlade

Nik Neves

CSIRO Publishing, 2024

128pp., hbk., RRP $A32.99

9781486318360 

It’s 1996, lunchtime in the library of a new government primary school in Canberra, and rather than the students you would expect to find there, there is a group of staff members lined up for their turn on the one computer that is linked to a local internet service via a dial-up line.  It’s long before the department gets a LAN let alone a WAN, but these teachers are encouraged to be there by their enlightened, visionary principal (who has even hired an ICT coach for the teachers) as each one waits their turn to send an email to a colleague, to feel the thrill of having received one, and marvelling at this new way of doing business and its potential.

Fast forward nearly 30 years and nothing has moved quite as fast as the development of the technology and the impact it has had on the global community, even beyond.  Now, instead of the wonder of email, encyclopedias on CD-ROM and being able to prepare a program without the trusty white-out on hand, we have terminology like artificial intelligence, smartphones, social media and cyber-security as part of our everyday vocabulary and our youngest students are participating in programming, playing video games and making movies using drones in a realm that was once reserved for the boffins and nerds. 

So this new release from CSIRO Publishing in their Curious Kids series, is as much a journey through time as it is one of discovery. Taking the young reader on a trip that covers the history of computing, hardware and software components, data and apps, programming, communications and their ubiquity in daily life, this explains all sorts of things at their level of understanding, using text and illustrations that are straightforward but not overly technical or complex.  For example, “image editing” is described as “editing photographs, perhaps to make then brighter or darker; to get rid of unwanted parts or to remove imperfections” followed by simple explanations and examples of the ways that people do this as they resize photos, or crop them to make the subject more prominent, or removing things like trees that seem to be growing out of a person’s head.

Similarly, the way computers are used to make life simpler, even being a central part of many of the toys and games the child plays with is explained as so many things are just taken for granted because they have always been in the child’s life, much as the telephone, radio and television were for previous generations. Just as their parents might not be able to recall a time when there wasn’t instant entertainment available in the room with the click of a remote, so too our little ones can’t imagine life without their friends and their activities being visible on a screen. 

Whether this is a trip down memory lane for some, a way of understanding these “new-fangled computers” for others, and explanation of the how, what and why for those with a need to know, or the opening of a door to further explanation,  this is a fascinating dip-and-delve book that has something or everyone. 

 

 

11 Ruby Road: 1900

11 Ruby Road: 1900

11 Ruby Road: 1900

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

11 Ruby Road: 1900

Charlotte Barkla

Walker Books, 2024

192pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9781760657949

Ever since her Great Aunt Mildred picked the vacant block on the new housing development as a child in 1863 because she loved its giant Moreton Bay fig tree, it has belonged to Dorothy’s family and now they have moved from the country to the city to live in the house and run the store that Mildred’s mother established.

But city life  is very different to the rural one Dorothy has known. Ruby Road is bustling – full of families and children, horse-drawn carts and even a mysterious dog – and there are many other changes such as having to go to school and crossing swords with Miss Armstrong who insists on perfect printing of letters and needlework , despite Dorothy’s love of writing stories which she does in her secret writing room. Meeting a young Asian boy who also likes to write stories, Dorothy not only finds an outlet and audience for her imagination, but is also exposed to prejudice and racism, particularly towards the Chinese who were blamed for “taking all the gold” from the gold rush and inspired the White Australia Policy, as the colonies united to become one country. Inspired by a declaration by her Aunt Esme that she wouldn’t marry and be the possession of a man, Dorothy dreams of being a famous actress and independent and writes a play that she persuades the neighbourhood children to perform. But then a conversation between her mother and Esme about women having the right to vote and have a say in their lives, inspires a change of focus… and hopefully, a change in thinking for many.

Somewhat akin to the concept of Nadia Wheatley’s classic, My Place, this is the first in a series tracing the stories of the occupants of 11 Ruby Road in Brisbane, introducing young independent readers to the lives of those who lived in the times, as well as the genre of historical fiction.  It opens up many avenues of Australia’s history to explore – federation, racism, the status of women- all of which give today’s children an insight into how things were and an opportunity to investigate how and why they have changed.

A series worth following and offering to those investigating or interested in this country’s history in a way that makes it meaningful and accessible.

The Transylvanian Express

The Transylvanian Express

The Transylvanian Express

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Solve Your Own Mystery: The Transylvanian Express

Gareth P. Jones

Louise Forshaw

Walker Books, 2023

224pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9781760656591

Haventry is a town where the ordinary and extraordinary collide and with ghosts, werewolves, vampires, mummies, zombies and all sorts of other fantastic creatures living side by side, trouble is always brewing. Following the delivery of a mysterious letter from an unknown client, Klaus Solstang is on the Transylvania express travelling to the home of dreaded  Count Fledermaus, a vampire whose castle will be opened for an annual public event. The trouble is that a VIP, Night Mayor Franklefink, has gone missing while on the train, and one of the suspects is his arch nemesis, Bramwell Stoker.

However, Klaus Solstang is not an ordinary detective – he is a yeti and the reader becomes his assistant in solving the mystery, bestowed with special magical powers. And so this modern choose=your-own-adventure begins…

Written for independent readers, this is one of a series in which the reader is actively engaged in solving a mystery, each choice of action made offering a new permutation of the story. This feeling of being directly involved is consolidated with the narrative being written in the second person, addressing the reader encouraging them to follow the prompts and clues, identify opportunities and motives, and then choose which path to take to work out who committed the crime.  Each path leads to a different outcome so it is one of those books that keeps on giving. 

Part of a series of four that depend on the reader’s participation, it encourages a deeper interaction with the story than normal and is ideal for those who like to solve crimes and mysteries and fancy themselves as detectives..

Solve Your Own Mystery (series)

Solve Your Own Mystery (series)