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The Trouble with the Two-Headed Hydra

The Trouble with the Two-Headed Hydra

The Trouble with the Two-Headed Hydra

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Miss Mary-Kate Martin’s Guide to Monsters (series)

The Trouble with the Two-Headed Hydra

Karen Foxlee

Freda Chu

Allen & Unwin, 2022

304pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781760526634

Although a rather anxious child who prefers  to make lists so she can plan and manage her life because she doesn’t cope with change well, nevertheless Mary-Kate Martin has left the sanctuary of her grandmother’s home to travel the world with her mother whose life is spent on mystery-solving adventures such as why the Woolington Wyrm was causing such destruction in a quiet English village. 

This time, Mary-Kate and her mother are visiting Galinios, an idyllic Greek Island filled with history and surrounded by the shimmering Aegean Sea. An ancient mosaic has been unearthed at the local sardine processing plant and Professor Martin must investigate, leaving Mary-Kate to enjoy a few days of sunshine and antiquity.

But a message asking for help changes everything. A wrecked boat and smashed jetty have recently disrupted life on this tranquil island and point to a monster-sized mystery. Could the local legend of the Two-Headed Hydra be more than a story? If so, what could make this historically serene sea creature so angry?  Armed with her glitter pens and strawberry-scented notebook, Miss Mary-Kate Martin is determined to find answers. She might be scared of heights, but there is no problem too big for her to solve.

This is the second in this series for independent readers who like mystery, adventure and a touch of fantasy, and given that it is based on the creature of Greek mythology perhaps it will inspire deeper investigation, maybe even an entry into the class Monsters book inspired by yesterday’s review.  

Monsters: 100 Weird Creatures from Around the World

Monsters: 100 Weird Creatures from Around the World

Monsters: 100 Weird Creatures from Around the World

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monsters: 100 Weird Creatures from Around the World

Sarah Banville

Quinton Winter

Wren & Rook, 2021

208pp., hbk., RRP $A45.00

9781526363497

From Cyclops to the Beast of Exmoor, Bigfoot to the Loch Ness Monster, gold-digging ants to an underwater panther, every culture has its iconic monster – some real and others embedded in literature.  While they are as diverse as the people who have seen them, heard them and told their stories, they all share the ability to send shivers down the spine…

In this fascinating book for older readers, and perfect for sharing in those  fill-in-five, each monster is brought to life with its story told on one page and illustrated in full colour.  Each is thoroughly researched, most arise from the storytelling and superstitions of past generations searching to explain mysteries before science exposed the possibilities.  Nevertheless the stories and beliefs remain and even now there are documentaries and even television series focusing on those who believe and are willing to risk all to show the “truth”. Each is identified as to whether it is myth, folklore or a sighting and the taster inspires further investigation.

And while there are monsters from all over the world featured, neither of Australia’s most familiar – the yowie and the bunyip – is featured, setting up the perfect opportunity for students to create extra entries for those as well as any others that might not have been included, as well as investigating the role that such creatures played in people’s lives. For example, many fairy tales with ‘watered-down” monsters were didactic stories designed to improve children’s behaviour! And even as we approach the festive season, youngsters in some countries are threatened with only receiving lumps of coal, if anything, if they don’t behave.  

This book has lots of potential for all sorts of investigations into the world of myths, legends and folklore. 

 

Purple

Purple

Purple

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Purple

Terri Rose Baynton

Little Steps, 2022

32pp., pbk., RRP $A16.95

9781922678591

Monster One likes red; Monster Two likes blue.  And the two quite happily paint side-by-side with their favourite colours until a dollop of red paint ends up in the tin of blue.  But instead of squabbling about it, the two monsters decide to mix them together to see what happens – and are delighted with the result. 

As well as being useful for teaching our youngest readers the names of the colours, and perhaps even experimenting with new combinations such as using blue and yellow or yellow and red, then perhaps going further and playing with tints and hues, this is also about being willing to step out of our comfort zone to try something new, such as a new food or activity.

Written in rhyme which provides the rhythm young listeners like, it also offers opportunities for them to share their own knowledge – if they were painting with only red, what objects would be their focus? It could even focus on conflict resolution strategies. Early childhood teachers will find much teaching scope in this.  

 

Smidgen: How to Make a Pet Monster 3

Smidgen: How to Make a Pet Monster 3

Smidgen: How to Make a Pet Monster 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Smidgen: How to Make a Pet Monster 3

Lili Wilkinson

Alex Patrick

Albert Street, 2022

200pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781761067433

Life has changed dramatically for 11-year=old Artie.  He and his mum have just moved into a spooky old house with his mum’s new partner, and while he’s OK with that (even if he doesn’t know quite what to call the partner) he has also gained a sister – one who is a year older than he and who terrifies him.

Artie also likes to read his Junior Scientist magazine bur he is having trouble finding a quiet place to do so – he can’t read downstairs because his mother is renovating; he can’t read in the kitchen because David Cole (what he has settled on calling him that) is making dinner; and he can’t read in his room because Willow is being too noisy, shouting on her phone to her friends and playing her electric guitar “making sounds like someone is stomping on a bag of cats”. so he ventures up to the attic and that’s where he discovers The Bigge Boke of Fetching Monsters.  Unfortunately, before he has a chance to hide it, Willow discovers it and she insists on trying out the instructions.  Artie, who doesn’t believe in monsters at all because, like ghosts and skeletons and other things that live in haunted houses like his, they don’t exist, is very apprehensive but Willow is insistent. And the fun begins…

Now having made Hodgepodge , who is now Artie’s best friend, and Flummox  who has gone to live with their neighbour, Willow wants to try again.  But Artie is not so sure – perhaps they have pushed their luck too far and will get something not as friendly this time. 

Written and formatted for those who are newly independent readers with short chapters, larger font and lots of illustrations, this is the third in this series that will appeal to those who are a bit like Artie and a little afraid of what’s beyond their immediate world, as well as those like Willow who push on regardless – and even those who sit somewhere in between.  With its two predecessors, it’s a solid series to encourage young readers to keep reading.  Being able to bring prior knowledge to a story adds extra confidence and so this is one that should be read in sequence. although there is enough support built in for it to be a stand-alone. 

Great Big Softie

Great Big Softie

Great Big Softie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Great Big Softie

Kaye Baillie

Shane McG

New Frontier, 2022

32pp., hbk., RRP $A26.99

 9781922326485

Elliot is a GREAT BIG SOFTIE. But to fit in with the other monsters he decides to perform some MONSTROUS deeds. After scaring a little girl on her bike, he must decide whether to continue being MONSTROUS or follow his heart.

This is a charming story for young readers that focuses on being true to who you are on the inside and having the courage to be that person, rather than what others expect of you.  It can be hard to resist the pull of peers but Elliot shows it can be done.  

But it could also be used with older children to explore the concept of stereotypes and how people assume what others are like just based on their physical appearance. Start by getting them to draw a monster and note the similarities in the results.  And perhaps, from there, investigate how advertisers perpetuate those stereotypes such as always making librarians middle-aged, hair-in-a-bun, sensible-shoes-and cardy-wearing, saying “shoosh” or putting a white coat on someone to portray a “scientific truth”.  Or perhaps delve into the origins of racism…Or discrimination in general… And how it feels when you’re the one who is discriminated against.  

Sometimes it is the books that seem to have the most simple, almost superficial storylines that can become the best for exploring tricky concepts. 

 

 

Monster! Hungry! Phone!

Monster! Hungry! Phone!

Monster! Hungry! Phone!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monster! Hungry! Phone!

Sean Taylor

Fred Benaglia

Bloomsbury, 2022

32pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99 

9781526606808

Monster is hungry and craves a pizza.  So he picks up his mobile phone to order one.  However, in his frustration he keeps dialing the wrong number…

This is a book for those who relate to the concept of reaching for the phone when they are hungry rather than on-hand ingredients.   Monster’s mood is captured in the bold colour palette, sharp illustrations and the heavy black font making it a not-so-restful book even though it is funny.  Perhaps an opportunity to discuss what else Monster could do rather than automatically order-in and maybe even a chance to teach about making a sandwich or other simple snack with all that following instructions incorporates. Opportunities to graph the children’s eating habits, favourite snacks, sandwich fillings and so forth – there is always maths embedded in stories if we just look, enabling this to be more than a one-off read. for both teachers and parents.

I Think That It’s a Monster

I Think That It’s a Monster

I Think That It’s a Monster

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Think That It’s a Monster

Steven Krygger

Andrew McIntosh

Little Steps, 2021

32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.95

9781925839951

The little boy is looking for a monster, and although several candidates appearing from the ocean, high in the trees and even the depths of the forest, none of them meet the boy’s criteria.  Physically they each meet the physical characteristics of a monster…

It’s tall and thin and dark

It’s standing on its hands

and its face looks like a shark!

Its legs are long and skinny

it has a million toes

its mooing and meowing

and dripping from the nose.

but the boy has his own definition and within it is a lesson for all of us who might view strange creatures or those who look a bit different with suspicion There is a lot of truth in the old axiom about judging a book by its cover, the meaning of which is itself an opportunity for discussion by older students.   

Told in rhyme accompanied by digital illustrations that give the story the feel of a computer game (the illustrator specialises in pixel art, 3D modelling and UI design, giving it a modern appearance that will appeal to young readers, this is a story for the ages that can offer reassurance to both children and monsters alike! 

Little Monsters

Little Monsters

Little Monsters

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Little Monsters

David Walliams

Adam Stower

HarperCollins, 2021

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

9780008305741

Howler is a little werewolf with a big problem.  Whenever he tries to howl at the moon, his voice is really squeaky and not at all scary.  Because all the other werewolves laugh at him, his parents send him to Monster School so he can learn to be frightening.  

But Howler finds the school itself frightening- he’s not sure if the teachers or the students are the scariest, particularly when he can’t meet their standards for scary smiles, spooking, or growling.  The others laugh at him, his teacher mocks him and he is so woeful he gets expelled!

But on his way home back to the forest in shame, Howler meets some kids out on their annual Hallowe’en trick or treat fun, and he suddenly discovers that it is not only okay to be different but it is also quite useful. 

David Walliams has a knack of reaching out to those children who feel they don’t quite fit in and being able to encapsulate their anxiety and then alleviate it in stories that resonate and appeal.  Even though they might not aspire to be scary like Howler, nevertheless there is always something we’d like to achieve but not quite reach the peak we set. So this story that shows that the best we can do is good enough and that it can have its own rewards is very reaffirming. This is particularly so at this time when our students are heading back to school after a long absence and may be worried that they haven’t achieved all their peers might have because they haven’t had the same opportunities.  While it will have appeal as a story for those who celebrate Hallowe’en, it is one for a broader spectrum because of its life lessons.  

But even without going into that sort of depth, it is just a great story with illustrations that epitomise all that we imagine vampires, ghosts, skeletons, witches, ogres and werewolves to be! 

 

Monster Hunting for Beginners

Monster Hunting for Beginners

Monster Hunting for Beginners

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monster Hunting for Beginners

Ian Mark

Louis Ghibault

Farshore Fiction, 2021

204pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9780755504367

Monster Hunting isn’t as easy as it looks. And Jack should know. Because an ogre has just appeared in his garden and tried to EAT HIS AUNT. (She was the winner of the World’s Worst Aunt competition, but that’s Not The Point).
After (sort of accidentally) defeating the ogre, Jack finds himself apprenticed to a grumpy, 200-year-old monster hunter called Stoop and heading off to Cornwall, where more ogres are causing havoc.  All he has are his wits, his catapult and a magical – sometimes unreliable – book called Monster Hunting for Beginners.

Jack’s a bit worried he might not be the hero everyone’s waiting for. But then again, how many terrifying, bloodthirsty monsters can there really be?

Any book that has a warning that it contains ogres, bogeymen, zomblings, and crusted hairy snot nibblers as its blurb and is written from an author from Ireland, the land most often associated with these sorts of creatures is bound to capture the imagination of its intended audience.  Add in an ordinary, everyday little boy who is little, clumsy, wears glasses, has weird hair and who is not built for trouble -so pretty much like most of the readers -who narrates the story as though the reader is part of it, and there’s a deeper attraction already. But add to that textual effects like illustrations, short chapters, and font changes that make this ideal for newly independent readers and it is not surprising that Jack has lots of positive reviews and a large fan base already.  

Jack is the sort of everyday hero that young readers relate to because their superhero role models are a touch out of reach, and they can appreciate that even they started somewhere. Overlaid with the adventures is wit and humour and all sorts of tips like looking for a secret door or tunnel if confronted by a monster and nothing else has worked, this is the first in a new series that will appeal to those who love their good vs evil stories and who secretly see themselves in the role of the conqueror whether they are 8 or 800!. 

Megamonster

Megamonster

Megamonster

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Megamonster

David Walliams

Tony Ross 

HarperCollins, 2021

384pp., pbk., RRP $A19.99

. On a volcanic island, in the middle of shark-infested waters, stands The Cruel School. The lessons are appalling, the school dinners are revolting and the teachers are terrifying – especially the mysterious Science teacher Doctor Doktur.

When Larker is sent to the school, she quickly realises something very odd is going on… something involving Doctor Doktur, a pair of strange spectacles, and a ‘Monsterfication Machine’. And ultimately she finds herself face to face with a real life Megamonster.

There seems to be no escape – but for Larker, nothing is impossible…

Walliams has previously said that his current writing for children is done to put a smile on the face of his readers, and while this book appears somewhat dark from its synopsis. nevertheless it is a prime example of Walliams knowing his audience and what they want to read.  Using predominantly dialogue and a range of graphic techniques,  it is easily accessible to the newly independent reader and my informal research shows that Walliams is the go-to author at this time, particularly for boys.  

  One to suggest to your students in lockdown – it’s readily available online – or one to save to welcome them back.