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The Astonishing Chronicles of Oscar from Elsewhere

The Astonishing Chronicles of Oscar from Elsewhere

The Astonishing Chronicles of Oscar from Elsewhere

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Astonishing Chronicles of Oscar from Elsewhere

Jaclyn Moriarty

Kelly Candy

A & U Children, 2021

432oo,, hbk., RRP $A22.99

9781760526368

Even though his stepdad was seen dropping him off at school each morning, Oscar didn’t seem to make it through the school gates and Deputy Principal Kugelhopf is demanding a written explanation.

But how can you explain that you were on a quest  to locate nine separate pieces of a key, held by nine separate people, in order to unlock a gluggy silver spell that had trapped the Elven city of Dun-sorey-lo-vay-lo-hey? That the quest was an urgent one because Friday at noon, the spell would become permanent, the Elves would be crushed to death and Oscar would be trapped in this magical world forever? That, even though you’re just a regular non-magical kid who likes to skateboard, your companions were Bronte, a girl who makes magical ‘Spellbinding’ rings, Alejandro, a former pirate/current prince who can shoot arrows and make fire from stones, Imogen, who can read broken maps and is a kickboxing master, Esther, who saved her entire world from some kind of ancient monster, Astrid, a smart ten year old who can read minds, and Gruffudd, a surprisingly speedy (and always hungry) Elf?

But, between himself and Imogen, Oscar manages to recount the adventures and from them emerges the fourth book in the Kingdoms and Empires series, a whimsical fantasy series for independent readers . While there are lots of illustrations, this is one for the older reader who enjoys fantasy and is perhaps looking for a new series to explore if they haven’t already discovered it. 

Ride the Wind: Skydragon 3

Ride the Wind: Skydragon 3

Ride the Wind: Skydragon 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ride the Wind: Skydragon 3

Anh Do

James Hart

Allen & Unwin, 2021

200pp., pbk., RRP $A15.99

9781760879013

When a mysterious glowing purple ball ignites their home while they are innocently making pizzas for tea, only Amber and her brother Reggie emerge from the inferno alive but both are badly injured, Reggie in a coma. Weeks later, watching from her neighbour’s fence Amber sees what remains of her home demolished in a very hush-hush operation.

Five years later, with Reggie still in a coma and Amber reminded daily of the events because of the scar on her face, she is  the butt of nasty comments and bullying from her peers who refuse to see the girl beyond the scar. The only constant is her fascination with dragons and her only joy, the beauty of the insect world. But something very strange happens when she trips and falls while on an insect-watching excursion with her class and is surrounded by a swarm of deadly hornets…

Afterwards, Amber knows she has been given an incredible power, but was it a freak accident, or was there something she was supposed to do with it?  Controlling her new ability might be the hardest thing Amber has ever done. Especially when she is running for her life.  Who is her mysterious enemy? What connection does he have to Amber’s past? And, most importantly, does Amber have what it takes to truly become . . . Skydragon?

Now, in this third adventure, Amber is tired of being hunted, and sick of being afraid. Maybe she can escape her destiny and live a normal life, like a normal girl.  But two new villains are on the prowl, and when other people’s lives are on the line, will Amber hide … or will she rise?

This is an intriguing series aimed at those newly independent readers who are discovering the worlds to which their new skills can take them but who still need a little support with shorter chapters and some illustrations. Anh Do is arguably one of the most popular authors for this age group at this time and he knows how to come up with something original, appealing and pitch it at just the right level. This is perfect for those who are at the top end of the readership for this blog and also for those who are a little older and who are still developing their skills because to be reading something by Anh Do, a favourite of their peers, is a huge boost to their self-esteem and self-belief.  They can be a reader and they can belong. 

Witched: The Spellbinding Life of Cora Bell

Witched: The Spellbinding Life of Cora Bell

Witched: The Spellbinding Life of Cora Bell

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Witched: The Spellbinding Life of Cora Bell

Rebecca McRitchie

Sharon O’Connor

Angus & Robertson, 2021

320pp., pbk., RRP $A17.99

9781460757666

In Jinxed! The Curious Curse of Cora Bell, the first in this series, we met  eleven-year-old Cora Bell who  is a foundling with no memory prior to her life with the elderly Dot and  her cat Scratch. They live in a room hidden behind a wall in the  crowded, industrial city of Urt, where everyone looks out for themselves, and their survival is dependent on scavenging and trading such as rare and exotic things – apple seeds, silver forks, shoe polish amidst fierce competition. Life takes a terrifying turn for Cora when she finds a few words scribbled on a piece of paper. She takes it home and says the words aloud. Suddenly, two plump, hairy fairies named Tick and Tock crash land in her path to warn her that she is in terrible danger. Cora has unknowingly summoned a sinister creature known as a Jinx.  Jinxes eat magical beings and once they have a scent, they never forget it. Cora is thrown headfirst into a world filled with magic, necromancers, shape-shifters, enchantresses, fairies, nightwalkers, witches and giants as her home is destroyed, her family goes missing and she’s pursued by the menacing and powerful Jinx.

The second episode, Havoc! The Untold Magic of Cora Bell continued the story and now this is the final in the series. Cora is racing against time. With her beloved guardian, Dot, badly injured, she must face fearsome werewolves, gross beetle worms and a vengeful warlock in order to save her.  But as questions about her long-lost parents arise, Cora and her fairy friends begin a search for the one person who might hold all the answers. The one person who disappeared the same night Cora’s parents did …

Will Cora finally discover the truth about her family? Or will the evil syphon return to finish what he started, and destroy Cora once and for all?

Miss 10, a capable reader (although not as avid as her older sister) loves this series because she sees herself as Cora with hidden magical powers and she becomes fully immersed in the story. It was one of the first of these more ‘grown up’ novels she tackled alone and while she will be thrilled to have the final in her hands, she will also be sad to know it’s the end of something that has carried her through the tricky, long days of lockdown boredom. Nevertheless, it has really helped her develop her independent reading skills as she became so engrossed in it and she is ready for more.  IMO, that a story is endorsed so whole-heartedly by its intended audience is the best review and so this is a series that has a place in any library collection. 

Kensy and Max 8: High Voltage

Kensy and Max 8: High Voltage

Kensy and Max 8: High Voltage

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kensy and Max 8: High Voltage

Jacqueline Harvey

Puffin, 2021

384pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9781760898557

Imagine getting in a car in one country and waking up in a strange place in another!  That was the beginning of a whole new adventure for twins Kensy and Max back in 2018 in Breaking News, the first in this series. 

Now, in the 8th in the series, the twins are back – comfortable in their roles and deeply involved in a new adventure. After a tumultuous school term, a family holiday with sunshine, sleep-ins and Portuguese tarts is just what Kensy and Max need. And Granny Cordelia is adamant: there are to be no investigations while on vacation. But when strange incidents start piling up, the twins are torn between their loyalty and their nose for adventure.

As all leads point to the annual E-Prix championship, Kensy and Max find themselves drawn into the middle of a menacing plot. High-powered sports cars are not the only dangers on the streets of Sintra. Someone wants Wolf Motors and the Formula E car race to go up in smoke, and they won’t let anything – or anyone – get in their way.

When the series first came out, I popped the first two into Miss Then 12’s Christmas stocking and all other presents were abandoned as she buried her nose deep in them, and then three weeks later, re-read them on the long bus trip from Canberra to near Adelaide on her way to her Scout Jamboree.  And now, even though she is 15, deeply into computers, coding and creating her own animated characters, she is still in love with the twins and their adventures and regularly asks if there is a new addition to look forward to.  Won’t she get a surprise when she goes to her letterbox after nearly two months in lockdown to find this!  But, IMO, there is no greater endorsement for an author and their writing, no better testament to the characters and their situations and adventures.  To be so eagerly awaited after such a time by readers who have moved through a major period of development and who seek comfort in the familiar and trusted. 

Thus this is a series to invest in, because you know it will endure with not only those discovering it today and wanting to keep reading, but also the waves of students who will be ready for it in years to come. 

Genie and Teeny Make a Wish

Genie and Teeny Make a Wish

Genie and Teeny Make a Wish

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Genie and Teeny Make a Wish

Steven Lenton

HarperCollins, 2021

160pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

9780008408206

Grant the genie is like most other genies because he lives in a lamp and is magical, but because he gets his words mixed up his wishes often go wrong.  So when he conjures up a large snake instead of a birthday cake for Queen Mizelda, he is literally tossed out of Genie Land. His lamp lands on Earth but it so bashed and battered he has to find a new home – which he eventually does, in an old teapot. 

Grant is very lonely until he meets the puppy, Teeny. Then Genie and Teeny are kidnapped by the evil purple-loving Lavinia Lavender, and find themselves on-course for a rollercoaster of an adventure – when all they really want is a place to call home…

This is the first in a new series of adventures  that is perfect for those just starting out reading novels.  There is an invisible narrator who speaks directly to the reader inviting them into the story as well as all the textual supports of short chapters, larger and more varied fonts, and plenty of illustrations. And being a series – Wishful Thinking is due in February 2022 and The Wishing Well in Aprilso there is the promise of more adventures to come is a bonus. 

The What on Earth Institute of Wonder

The What on Earth Institute of Wonder

The What on Earth Institute of Wonder

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The What on Earth Institute of Wonder

Lisa Nicol

Puffin, 2021

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

9781761041556

In the dead of night, the full moon blazing and with their mum double-dosed on sleepy-time tea, 12 year-old Sal (who can talk to birds and animals) and 8 year-old Roy (who’s ready for the apocalypse) quietly climb into a 1975 VW Kombi campervan already filled with an adolescent African elephant and driven by 14 year-old Bartholomew (who is yet to get his drivers’ licence),  This unusual crew, accompanied by Hector the kakapo, set off on a strange expedition which the reader is warned about in the prologue, deep into the Animal Kingdom.  

Despite its quirkiness, there is much the independent reader will relate to in this story including being in single-parent families where the remaining parent is barely coping; the small-minded community members of a small town whose slogan is “Don’t Get Your Hopes Up”; the feeling that animals are more trust-worthy and reliable than adults; and the desire to save the entire animal kingdom from the ravages humans inflict on it.

Nicol has a proven record of turning the ordinary into the extraordinary through her amazing imagination and her desire to empower the children who are her heroes through books like Vincent and the Grandest Hotel on Earth and Dr Boogaloo and the Girl who Lost her Laughter  but still embodying those critical themes of family, friendship, self-belief and loyalty throughout.

Whether this is a read-alone or a read-together, it will appeal to those ready to take flight on an extraordinary adventure, accept strange things really do happen and just enjoy the ride. 

The Song of Lewis Carmichael

The Song of Lewis Carmichael

The Song of Lewis Carmichael

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Song of Lewis Carmichael

Sofie Lsguna

Marc McBride

Allen & Unwin, 2021

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

9781760878573

Matthew has dreamed and read and thought about the North Pole for as long as he can remember. And he has done it secretly. It is a place that cannot be tarnished by the world in which he lives – a world in which he struggles to find answers and make friends, while everything seems to come easily to other children.

But one day, while reading in the park, Matthew befriends a crow with a broken wing and that night  Lewis Carmichael taps on Matthew’s window – a crow who believes in Matthew in the most simple and ordinary ways. Soon, the unexpected voyage of a lifetime begins, and it will change everything… A hot-air balloon ride to the Arctic and now Matthew stood on the snowy peak and stared out at the world spread before him. Every picture in his books had been limited by the size of the page, contained within frames. Here, there was no frame. Here, the picture didn’t end. Beyond those icy plains, the sea, and beyond the sea, a land that floated on the ice, drifting northwards. Matthew put the binoculars to his eyes and saw valleys and cliffs and rivers all made of snow. Everywhere was white.

Parents looking for quality stories to slip into their child’s Christmas stocking this year are spoiled for choice – and this new one from Sofie Laguna is no exception.  Matthew is that quiet child, withdrawn, unable to make friends who prefers to read and make friends with the characters in his books because he feels like he doesn’t belong that so many parents and teachers will recognise. But, to my knowledge, none of those I know have befriended a crow, particularly one that can talk, and get taken on such an extraordinary adventure… Yet, this is so well-written and so delicately illustrated (the Aurora Borealis spread is exquisite) that it is utterly believable and the reader is swept up in the adventure. And while he is away, this child of helicopter parents has to learn to be resilient, independent, decisive, courageous and confident – all those things that we want for our children but are sometimes too afraid to let them develop. 

Presented entirely in a blue monochromatic scheme, including the text, this is one that is either a read-alone for independent readers, a read-together between parent and child as the perfect bedtime story or a read-aloud with a class and the opportunity to explore a mysterious land with Matthew. 

 

The School between Winter and Fairyland

The School between Winter and Fairyland

The School between Winter and Fairyland

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The School between Winter and Fairyland

Heather Fawcett

Allen & Unwin, 2021

352pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9781760526542

“Twelve-year-old Autumn is a beastkeeper at Inglenook School for Magicians, which she secretly dreams of attending as a student. Instead, she must care for Inglenook’s menagerie of dangerous creatures so the king’s future monster hunters can study them. But when she isn’t mucking out the griffin stalls, Autumn searches for clues about her twin brother’s mysterious disappearance. Everyone else thinks that he was devoured by the terrifying Hollow Dragon, but Autumn isn’t so sure.

Enter Cai Morrigan, the famous young magician prophesied to one day destroy the Hollow Dragon. When Cai comes to Autumn with a secret problem, Autumn agrees to help on one condition: that the ‘Chosen One’ join her quest to find her brother. Together they uncover the dark truth that lies at the heart of Inglenook School – because every school has its secrets…”

This is one for independent readers who are established readers of fantasy, like Miss 10, but who still like to straddle the worlds of reality and magic.  Autumn is one who Miss 10 can relate to, perhaps even put herself in her shoes, and the familiar themes of adventure, family, friendship and self-discovery blend seamlessly with the magical creatures who inhabit a world as cleverly constructed as Hogwarts.  While the foundations of the story are shared with other stories – the traditional tropes on which fantasy for this age is based and why they are so popular- this is a solid read that will have readers looking for a sequel.  In the meantime they could indulge themselves in Fawcett’s other books, Ember and the Ice Dragons , a story about a young dragon turned into a human girl to save her life, or The Language of Ghosts about a young princess in exile who rediscovers a forgotten magic. All three may appear in Miss 10’s Christmas stocking. 

Noah Wild and the Floating Zoo

Noah Wild and the Floating Zoo

Noah Wild and the Floating Zoo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Noah Wild and the Floating Zoo

Alexander McCall Smith

Nicola Kinnear

Bloomsbury, 2021

128pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

9781526605559

Noah and his sister Hatty live with their aunt and uncle, well mostly with their aunt because Uncle Loafy (a very good baker) is a sea captain and spends most of his time sailing to exotic places. To Noah’s great surprise, he discovers his uncle owns a zoo, given to him many years previously and managed by an old friend.  But the friend wants to retire and there is no one to take over the zoo. While most of the animals have been sold to other zoos, there are four left – Henrietta the llama from South America, Mrs Roo the kangaroo from Australia, Ram the tiger from India and Monkey Robertson from Africa. 

Uncle Loafy has decided he will return each one to their home country but although he has a boat and maps and charts , he doesn’t have a crew…  Before he knows it, Noah and his family are setting sail on a round-the-world trip returning the zoo animals to the places they were born.  But when they try to return Monkey Robertson, they’re in for a whole boat-load of trouble!

This is a light-hearted story that will appeal to young independent readers who like both humour and adventure.  It would also make the perfect read-aloud to younger students who are learning to follow a serialised story -something new to add to the tried-and-true toolbox.  

The Shark Caller

The Shark Caller

The Shark Caller

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Shark Caller

Zillah Bethel

Usborne, 2021

368pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781474966849

Blue Wing is desperate to become a shark caller like her waspapi Siringen. 

“I want to be able to call the sharks. Teach me the magic and show me the ways,” she begs him for the hundredth thousandth taim but he refuses, telling her she knows why he will not. 

Instead she must befriend infuriating newcomer Maple, who arrives unexpectedly on Blue Wing’s island. At first, the girls are too angry to share their secrets and become friends. But when the tide breathes the promise of treasure, they must journey together to the bottom of the ocean to brave the deadliest shark of them all… and it’s not a great white.

Papua New Guinea is just as a mysterious land now as it was when I lived there 50 years ago, steeped in history, legends and traditions going back to the earliest civilisations and when the author moved from there to the UK (and had to wear three jumpers even in summer) she was peppered with so many questions about her life there that she wrote this book to help answer them.  And in doing so, she has woven an intriguing tale of adventure, friendship, forgiveness and bravery with such a real-life background that I was taken back to the days when I was there with all sorts of memories that I thought were forgotten, including the pidgin phrases.  

Even though physically it is at the upper end of the readership for this blog, competent independent readers of all ages will immerse themselves in the story which, even though it has such a diverse backdrop, still has a universal theme threaded through it. For those interested in finding out more there are the usual Usborne Quicklinks, as well as a most informative note from the author and some questions for book clubs that delve deeper.  One for those who are ready to venture into something a little different.