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Hotel Flamingo

Hotel Flamingo

Hotel Flamingo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hotel Flamingo

Alex Milway

Piccadilly Press, 2019

192pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

9781848127753

When young Anna inherits a dilapidated once-grand hotel from her Great Aunt Mathilde, she’s determined to restore it to its former glory. But this is no ordinary hotel – all of her staff and guests are animals! Anna soon rises to the challenge. Whether it’s a flamingo, a penguin or a hippo knocking at the door, Anna is ready to welcome them all – with the help of her trusty sidekicks T Bear the doorman, Squeak the friendly mouse, and Lemmy the lemur receptionist … As she soon finds out though, running an animal hotel is no easy task. Can Anna make Hotel Flamingo a success once more?

This is a heart-warming story for newly independent readers who just want to immerse themselves in the land of what-if? Peppered with line illustrations with pops of pink, of course, it will appeal to those who imagine a life surrounded by animals and making things the best they can for everyone.  It has a strong theme of inclusion – even the cockroaches are welcome – and that the warmth generated within is because of its diversity.

The first of a series of four, this is a quirky new series that will sit well on your shelves, but not for long as it will soon gather a fan following.

A Great Escape

A Great Escape

A Great Escape

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Great Escape

Felice Arena

Puffin, 2019

176pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9780143794042

Berlin, August 13, 1961, the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the US and its allies is at its peak and  Peter is playing with his mates Max and Hubert, ignoring his mother’s requests to come inside because they are leaving to visit the western side of the city, controlled by the Western Allies and entirely surrounded by the Soviet-controlled East Berlin and East Germany. It doesn’t seem like a big deal because Peter can always stay with his grandparents as he frequently does.

But this time things change for overnight the East German authorities start constructing the wall which divided the city for 28 years and Peter finds himself separated from his parents and little sister Margrit as they are unable to return to the East and he can not join them. Guarded by tanks and soldiers with ferocious dogs and who shoot to kill, it seems that Peter will never see his family again.  However, he is determined to escape and despite seeing the fate of most of those who do try, including the body of his best friend’s older brother left caught in the barbed wire as a warning, his resolve to rejoin his parents doesn’t waver.  While he meets new friends Otto and Elke he is scorned by others, including being taunted and beaten by his old friend MAx who considers him to be a traitor for wanting to be reunited with his family.

This is knife-edge reading about a period in time that was the backdrop to the life of a generation and inspired by the author’s visit to Berlin and asking himself, “If the Wall were to be implemented today, and I were separated from my family, what would I do?” He has brought the period and the dilemma of so many to life through Peter and his friends, and created another must-read to go with The Boy and the Spy and Fearless Frederic.  As well as shining a spotlight on a recent period in history that is still fresh in the minds of many of our students’ grandparents who will have seen it, perhaps even been affected by it, it also sets up a number of ethical questions that could lead to some robust discussions.  

Just as with its predecessors, this is a meaty book that will appeal to those who like some real depth to their reading and who are then compelled to find out more about the events and circumstances.  Perfect for independent readers who are a little older and have a sense of history and are interested in the lives of other children in other places in other times.  As Arena asked himself, what would they do if they found themselves in another’s shoes?

The Secret of the Youngest Rebel

The Secret of the Youngest Rebel

The Secret of the Youngest Rebel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Secret of the Youngest Rebel (Secret Histories Book 5)

Jackie French 

Angus & Robertson, 2019

128pp., pbk., RRP $A 14.99

9781460754801

1804 in the fledgling colony of New South Wales, and Frog, like so many orphan children is starving, eking an existence by stealing food scraps and anything else of value for Ma Grimsby in exchange for some rat-infested straw to sleep on at night. Tempted by an apple tart in a basket carried by a fine lady, Frog cannot resist and snatches it – but is caught by a tall man and life changes forever.  It is the time of the Irish uprisings against England in Ireland, and transported to the colonies for their sedition, the word of rebellion is spreading through Sydney Town, Parramatta, Green Hills and beyond.  And the person who has caught Frog is their leader, Phillip Cunningham. 

Frog is enraptured by Cunningham, his eloquence, his promises and enthralled by the thought of a life that is so much better than this and the cry of “death or liberty”, Frog joins the rebels in their ill-fated rebellion at Castle Hill but Frog has a secret even bigger than that of being a rebel. To say much more would be to disclose Frog’s greatest secret and that is something that the young independent reader should have the surprise of discovering, but this is another intriguing read and one that offers amazing insight into the lives of the children of this time – a life so utterly different and unimaginable for today’s younger generation.

Meticulously researched as usual, based on eyewitness accounts and reaching back into her family’s history, Jackie French has created the fifth in this series of this country’s secret histories, and it stands proudly alongside Birrung the Secret Friend, The Secret of the Black Bushranger, Barney and the Secret of the Whales and Barney and the Secret of the French Spies  helping to bring history alive for young readers who may otherwise  see it as dry, dusty and irrelevant. 

This is a must-have series in any library as it not only sits alongside the mandated curriculum but brings it to life in a way that only Jackie French can.

 

52 Mondays

52 Mondays

52 Mondays

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

52 Mondays

Anna Ciddor

Allen & Unwin, 2019

208pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781760523480

Melbourne in the hot summer of February 1964 , in the hot car on the way to Nana and Zayda’s and Anna clutches the library book she can’t wait to read. It’s called Hitty: the life and adventures of a wooden doll and it not only inspired young Anna to own her own antique doll, a dream that lasts 52 Mondays, but also inspired the older Anna, the author, to tell the tale of the joys and disappointments of her real-life childhood search for the doll.

Based on her own life and following the success of The Family with Two Front Doors  which tells the story of  her own family, the Rabinovitches who “dance, laugh and cook their way through an extraordinary life in 1920s Poland”, the author takes the readeron a journey through the life and times of children growing up in 1960s Melbourne.  No computers, no Internet or social media, in many homes, not even a television set – just the day-to-day adventures of children who had to seek and make their own fun.  For those like me it is a trip down memory lane to the days of warm school milk, Mr Whippy, and desks in rows in schools, while for more modern young readers it is an insight into the lives of their grandparents -something very different to that which they know.

Whichever, it is a very readable story about a little girl with a dream, parents who understand and support it, the  highs and lows of following it, and the determination and resilience  required to achieve it. 

 

 

Charlie Changes into a Chicken

Charlie Changes into a Chicken

Charlie Changes into a Chicken

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Charlie Changes into a Chicken

Sam Copeland

Sarah Horne

Puffin, 2019

299pp., pbk., RRP $A7.99

9780241346211

When the draft copy of this book first arrived in the post, it came with a flurry of yellow feathers and straight away it was apparent that it was going to be something a little different and lots of fun.

Charlie is an optimist, but things are conspiring against him. His brother SmoothMove is in hospital waiting for an operation, his parents are trying to hide how worried they are, and the school bully is upping the ante in Charlie’s direction.

The thing is, Charlie’s never really been stressed before – not properly, sweatily, heartpumpingly, stressed – and with everything going on at home, plus all the normal worries at school, he’s starting to panic. And this is bad, because Charlie’s just learnt that when he gets properly, sweatily, heartpumpingly, stressed, he turns in to an animal, all sorts of animals. A flea. A pigeon. A rhino. Who knows what’s next?

The school play is only a couple of weeks away, and Charlie is starting to worry. What if he transforms in front of the whole school, while he’s on stage playing Sad Potato Number 1? What if he turns into a naked mole rat or a John Dory in front of everyone he knows, with the spotlight on him? Will he get sent away for Science to deal with? Will his parents crack up with all the extra stress? Will everyone know he’s a freak?

With the help of his three best friends, Charlie needs to find a way to deal with his extraordinary new talent. And fast.

With its eye-catching bright gold cover, zany illustrations and informative footnotes that add extra information about the story without intruding into it, this one will be a winner with independent readers looking for the fun in stories.  They can learn more about Charlie’s friends, who are introduced here

The new year is bringing forth a wealth of new novels and series for young independent readers who just want to curl up and read a quality story and this is one of them.  Hook your boys with this one, with at least two more to come.

Kensy and Max: Undercover

Kensy and Max: Undercover

Kensy and Max: Undercover

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kensy and Max: Undercover

Jacqueline Harvey

Random House Australia, 2019

400pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9780143791904

The third in this series which includes Breaking News and Disappearing Act , twins Kensy and Max have adjusted to the disappearance of their parents, and are comfortable in their new life as part of the important Pharos organisation, headed up by their grandmother, Cordelia. 

In this adventure they are back in London for no time at all before things begin to heat up – quite literally. As a result, Granny Cordelia ships them off to Australia on an undercover mission. The twins find themselves planted in a posh Sydney school where first appearances prove to be deceiving.

What seems like a straightforward assignment turns into something so much bigger. Kensy and Max must employ all their spy skills – the fate of their parents, and who they’ve been searching for, depends on it.

When I gave Miss 12 the first two in this series all other Christmas presents were forgotten as she sat and devoured them, and then re-read them on the long bus trip to the Australian Jamboree near Adelaide just a couple of weeks later. Regardless of what anyone else might say, there is no more powerful review than that of the intended audience and to me, Miss 12, who is a discerning reader, has said it all.

Perfect for your up-and-coming independent readers who want characters they can relate to and events that they can picture themselves being involved in and emerging victorious of course, as they  try to solve the clues as they read and using the mysterious Caesar code to encrypt the chapter headings.

 

How To Raise Your Grown-Ups (Hubert Horatio, Book 1)

How To Raise Your Grown-Ups (Hubert Horatio, Book 1)

How To Raise Your Grown-Ups (Hubert Horatio, Book 1)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How To Raise Your Grown-Ups (Hubert Horatio, Book 1)

Lauren Child

HarperCollins Children’s, 2018

208pp., hbk., RRP $A 19.99

9780008264086

“These stories are about the days when the Bobton-Trents had it cushy, very cushy indeed.”

The Bobton-Trent seniors certainly know how to make the most of their extravagant wealth – socialising, doing things, buying things and generally being more than a little bit … irresponsible…

Luckily for them, their son Hubert Horatio Bartle Bobton-Trent is an exceptionally intelligent, talented and sensible child.

Unluckily for Hubert, this tends to mean that a lot of his spare time is spent steering his rather unruly set of grown-ups out of trouble. So oblivious are they, they don’t realise that their lavish lifestyle means that their money has run out. even when the Bobton-Trents and their guests sit at a bare dinner table, waiting for an hour and 22 minutes for the maid to serve them, unaware that the staff has left.  They are also unaware of their only child’s immense talents –  he phones his parents at the age of one, reads at two and-when he tumbles into the pool at age three-discovers that he is “”a natural swimmer – and when their financial situation becomes clear to him, he tries ways to raise money through schemes like hosting board game sessions and opening the mansion up for tours, but all his schemes fail because his parents just spend the proceeds. It even becomes his decision to sell the mansion and downsize to an apartment!

Lauren Child brings her unique combination of story-telling, illustration and humour to this new series of books for the newly-independent reader.  Even though the message about money not necessarily being the happiness-bringer it is reputed to be may be lost on the target audience, nevertheless young readers will delight in the outrageous lifestyle and Hubert’s constant vigilance and tactics to keep the family afloat. Those who are a little older might like to think about how income is derived and disbursed and the sorts of decisions that must be made. 

With the second episode Alien Beings due later this year, this is a series that will become very popular as the word spreads among your students. 

Mary Poppins

Mary Poppins

Mary Poppins

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mary Poppins

P.L. Travers

Lauren Child

HarperCollins, 2018

192pp., hbk., RRP $A39.99

9780008289362

First published in 1934, Mary Poppins was the greatest success of Australian born Pamela Lyndon Travers.  It gained a new lease of life when Disney produced a musical movie adaptation in 1964 starring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke and introducing the world to songs like A Spoonful of Sugar, Chim Chiminee and of course, Supercalifragilisiticexpialidocious.

Now, with the release of Mary Poppins Returns in late 2018, the stories of this magical nanny are being discovered by a new generation and so the publication of a reimagined, abridged edition of the original, beautifully illustrated by Lauren Child, is the perfect way to build a bridge between the movie and its original premise.

When seemingly staid and upright Miss Poppins arrives to be the new nanny for the Banks children – Jane, Michael, and the twins, John and Barbara – it seems that nothing much will change from previous nannies.  Good behaviour is encouraged, misbehaviour punished and order and routine are important.  But within her stern exterior are some magical powers such as being able to slide up banisters, float in the air, step into pictures, stick stars on the sky, and talk to animals. Mary takes the Banks children on a series of magical adventures, such as using a magical compass to travel around the world, and suddenly the children find themselves forming a relationship with her that they don’t have with their busy, neglectful, upmarket parents..

Lauren Child has created an edition of this classic tale that is perfect for this time and generation and which should have pride of place in any collection featuring classics which are being introduced to a new generation. It is excellent as an independent read-aloud but would also be great as a bedtime read-along, introducing younger reaers to the concept of novels with chapters that continue the story with the same characters.

Amelia Chamelia and the Birthday Party

Amelia Chamelia and the Birthday Party

Amelia Chamelia and the Birthday Party

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amelia Chamelia and the Birthday Party

Laura Sieveking

Alyssa Bermudez

Puffin Books, 2019

96pp., pbk., RRP $A9.99

There is not much that is more exciting that planning your 8th birthday party because at last you are old enough to have a say in everything. And so that’s what Amelia Chamelia is doing – choosing invitations, making decorations, sorting out costumes, making party bags.  Whatever is required for the best party ever, Amelia is making sure she has it.  The only dark cloud on the horizon is that she has to invite her twin cousins Danny and Andy and she knows they are going to be trouble.  And sure enough they are…

But Amelia has a secret power. A power that nobody else knows about. When she is furious or frightened, she can change colour. Her toes tingle, her knees tremble, her skin prickles, her nose tickles, her breath quickens and then with a hiccup she changes colour to blend in with the background, just like a chameleon.

This is the first in a new series for newly independent readers, particularly girls, who are looking for something that focuses on familiar events but which has a special twist in the tale.  Short chapters, a larger font and plentiful illustrations support the reader in consolidating their skills while offering a well-written story that engages and entertains.  Other titles are Amelia Chamelia and the Gelato Surprise, Amelia Chamelia and the School Play, and Amelia Chamelia and the Farm Adventure.  The first two are out now, just in time for the back-to-school excitement, the other two will be available in early April, 2019.

I think this is a series that will appeal to Miss 7 who is already in the throes of planning her 8th birthday, even though it is still two months away! Let’s hope she doesn’t have any evil twins to invite because I’m pretty sure she can’t change colour!

47 Degrees

47 Degrees

47 Degrees

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

47 Degrees

Justin D’Ath

Puffin, 2019

256pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9780143789079

Saturday, February 7, 2009 and Victoria wakes to a weather forecast of 47 degrees in Melbourne with strengthening northerly winds, part of the pattern of the previous few days as a heatwave crawls across the state. In the tiny community of Flowerdale,  Zeelie’s dad is enacting the family’s bushfire survival plan to stay and defend their home even though her mum and young brother are in the Emergency Department of a Melbourne hospital because Lachy has fallen off Zeelie’s horse Rimu.

Zeelie’s not sure her dad has made the right decision but even though there is a lot of smoke in the air her dad is convinced that his precautions are just that – precautions, and wherever the fire is, they will be safe. But when Zeelie goes next door to find Atticus, the old dog they are minding for absent neighbours who has wandered home and discovers small fires already started by embers, her fear rises particularly for the welfare of her horse Rimu. And when the generator fails and there is no longer electricity for the water pumps, it is clearly time to leave… but what about Mum and Lachy and Rimu?

Based solidly on his own experiences during those Black Saturday bushfires, Justin D’Ath has woven a tale that could be the story of any one of our students or children who has experienced the very real horror of bushfires.  At a time when adults are frantically busy trying to keep everyone and everything safe, and reassuring their children with what they want them to hear, there is not time to put themselves in their child’s shoes and see the events through their eyes.  When her dad asks her to pack suitcases, Zeelie packs her mum’s wedding dress and evening gowns rather than the more practical things;  she is angry at her mum because she has taken the vehicle with the towbar because she didn’t have enough petrol in hers so Rimu will be left to his own devices … kids focus on the details while the adults are dealing with the big picture and providing an insight into the child’s thinking and fears is what D’Ath has done so skilfully. Because he experienced many of the events that Zeelie does, the story has a unique authenticity and the reader feels the heat, smells the smoke, visualises the flames and empathises with the fear as Zeelie and her dad try all sorts of routes to get to Melbourne, only to be turned back towards the danger because even greater danger lies ahead.  D’Ath deals with the less-than-happy parts sensitively, acknowledging rather than ignoring them, and helping readers deal with the fact that not all things have a sugar-coated happy ending.  

As the 10th anniversary of one of this country’s greatest natural disasters when  173 people died and over 2000 homes were destroyed approaches, this is not only account of the an event that had an impact well beyond those who were caught up in it but also an insight into the what-did-happens and the what-ifs of those who have experienced similar events, providing us with an inkling of the trauma that many of our students might have faced and are still dealing with, critical as the milestone memory will generate a lot of media that could bring a wave of flashbacks and other psychological issues.

However, it is also a story of hope for them because 10 years on Justin is still able to write stories for them despite losing everything himself, and while the immediate future might be bleak, unknown and scary there is clear air coming and because Australians step up in an extraordinary way at these times, they will be OK.