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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.

Giraffe Math

Giraffe Math

Giraffe Math

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Giraffe Math

Stephen R. Swinburne

Geraldo Valério

Little, Brown Young Readers US, 2023

40pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9780316346771

Twiga the giraffe introduces young readers to fascinating facts about giraffes and their relationship to other creatures-all by using math concepts such as measurements, graphs, shapes, word problems, and more.

This interactive picture book explores these spectacular animals through a STEM lens as everything from their speed and size to their intricate camouflage patterns (which act as internal air conditioning) and other body characteristics are featured. It’s an in-depth look at the animal kingdom’s most beloved gentle giants.

Animals have cycles of popularity and where, not so long ago, it was all about dolphins and elephants, now giraffes are enjoying the limelight.  So those in their fan club are not going to be too bothered by all the facts and figures in this book being in imperial measurements, because there is so much more information embedded in the text.  That said, for the young Australian reader, a lot of it will seem to be in a foreign language as they grapple with terms like feet and inches, ounces and pounds, and although there is a conversion chart provided, nevertheless such things can be hard to visualise for the inexperienced, even with the many illustrations offered as comparisons )although they are not necessarily done to scale.).   For older readers, it can be an opportunity to learn about different systems of measurements, both current and past, as well as doing the calculations involved in converting imperial to metric, although an online  measurement converter does it online in a flash. 

Despite the shortcomings on the mathematics side, this is still a worthwhile book for those with a fascination for the species and who are keen to learn more about these creatures with their strange ossicones (different between male and female) and their pizza-sized hooves.  

 

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)

The Goblins’ Revenge

The Goblins' Revenge

The Goblins’ Revenge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Goblins’ Revenge

Andy Prentice

Tom Knight

Usborne, 2024

288pp., pbk., RRP $A15.99

9781803706467

For 93 years the land of Sibele has been ruled by the evil wizard Darkmoon, and now he is hunting down the last few rebels who dare to oppose him, and the only one who can save them and end his reign is the reader. With a horde of undead warriors on the trail and a series of blood-curdling dangers ahead , it would be a terrifying task for anyone – but you’re just a goblin, which makes things even more challenging. Confronted by menacing monsters, ghostly magic and a thrilling race against time in this spectacular fantasy adventure gamebook, the reader becomes the hero whose decisions and choices determine the outcome.  

Decades ago the choose-your-own adventure genre hit the shelves and were an instant success with those who like to insert and immerse themselves in the stories, and this 21st century version combines that genre with the gaming craze, combining three loves of the current generation – video games, fantasy and a story in print which becomes a new adventure with every choice made. 

It begins with instructions on how to play complete with items, weapons and abilities, a logbook to keep track of the relevant details of the quest as  well as all the other things needed to play a game and complete a quest in this modern era.  There are crucial picture puzzles to solve along the way, and although a computer is not needed to play, there are links to an online dice roller if physical dice (needed to play the combat system) aren’t available as well as a printable logbook.

I am the first to admit that this is not my sort of game and my granddaughters gave up in frustration as they tried to teach me some of theirs, but nevertheless, this seems to be something that teacher librarians should be aware of so they can capture the imagination and minds of those engaged by this sort of activity, thus demonstrating that the library has resources that are relevant to them. In fact, while the publisher suggests this is suitable for 9+, it could be one to give to your gamers for feedback on suitability both for reading /comprehension age as well as future releases in the series.  

Three Tasks for a Dragon

Three Tasks for a Dragon

Three Tasks for a Dragon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Three Tasks for a Dragon

Eoin Colfer

P. J. Lynch

Walker Books, 2023

32pp., hbk., RRP $A32.99

9781529505825

After his father’s ‘accidental’ death at sea, his stepmother Queen Nimh and stepbrother Prince Delbayne invoke ancient Lagin law that only those who can summon the mysterious wolfhounds can become king, and Prince Lir is to be banished from his beloved homeland forever. The prince is a scholar not a warrior and acquiesces to his fate, but in an apparent act of generosity, Prince Delbayne pleads his stepbrother’s case and it is agreed that if Prince Lir can complete an ancient quest he will be able to return. 

Thus Prince Lir finds himself on a mission to rescue a young maiden being held captive by the dragon Lasvarg on his island, not realising that it is all part of a devious, malicious plan and dark magic concocted by his not-so-nice brother to ensure that Lir never returns to assume his place on the throne… But then, Delbayne does not realise that brains can overcome brawn… 

Created by two who have each been the Irish children’s laureate, this is a story reminiscent of the quests of old, drawing the reader into the fantasy of kings and queens and dragons and maidens needing to be rescued  with its twists and turns in the plot while its superb illustrations bring times gone by to life.  You can almost envisage this as a Lord of the Rings-esque movie, and while it has the traditional good versus evil as its underlying theme, because Prince Lir keeps his father’s words “The trick to it… is to work with what is around you,” it has a refreshing new perspective because rather than trying to trick the dragon and kill it to save Cethlenn, Lir uses his brains to cure the dragon’s ailments caused by the mould in his damp cave, mend his broken wing, and restore his fire-breathing powers,

, forming a partnership that eventually outwits and outlasts Nimh, Delbayne and even Lagin itself..

This is an illustrated novella that would make an ideal introduction to this genre as a read-aloud merging the traditional elements and feel of the classic quest with more modern themes.  

 

Secret Sparrow

Secret Sparrow

Secret Sparrow

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Secret Sparrow

Jackie French

HarperCollins, 2023

256pp., pbk., RRP $A17.99

9781460760468

September 1978 and Arjun is walking to the local mall when he hears the roar of a flash flood approaching and sees the river become a turbulent mass of brown, white-flecked water with cars bobbing along like plastic bath toys.  Miraculously a motor bike appears and he is urged to climb on, as the rider heads to the only high part of this flat landscape that should never have been built on – a grassy knoll that boasts only a small carpark and a rubbish bin on a pedestal. 

As surprised as he is by the ferocity and the swiftness of the flood, he is even moreso when he discovers his rescuer is an elderly woman! And that she is  a woman with an amazing story to tell as the waters rise and she makes him climb in the rubbish bin and use old newspapers for warmth and has the wisdom to know his thoughts need diverting from both the  current situation and the fate of his mates trapped in the mall.  It is a story of going from growing up in an English village during World War I to being commandeered into serving her country despite being only 16;  to being torpedoed by a German U-boat while crossing the English Channel to living and working in the hell of the trenches of France… all because she learned Morse Code while competing with her older brothers and became so fast and accurate her skills had been noticed.

But this is not just Jean McLain’s story told to keep a young lad calm and distracted – this is the story of at least 3600 women who were used as signallers as she was during World War I who not only signed an oath that they would never divulge their role even decades after the war was over but whose service was never formerly recognised and so they received only their Post Office employee pay while they served and had to pay for their own medical treatment if they were injured, and whose army records were deliberately destroyed by the authorities because of their embarrassment at having to admit that they not only had to rely on women to serve, but the women had excelled. To have to admit that so many had been able to step up and cope in situations that required “physical strength, mechanical knowledge and the courage to work under fire” when such physical and emotional circumstances as war and its inevitable death were seen as “unwomanly”, was an anathema to many men and so not only were individual stories never told, they were lost altogether.

But, using her usual meticulous research, author Jackie French has brought it to light, as once again she winkles out those contributions of women to our history that seldom appear in the versions of history told by men.  So as well as Arjun being so intrigued by Jean McLain’s story as the night passes, dawn appears and she teaches him to use her long-ago skills to summon help, our more mature, independent readers (and their teachers) can also learn something of that which we were never told.  Because, apart from those in the roles like Jean McLain who could be prosecuted for sharing their wartime adventures even with their family, there was an unwritten code of the survivors of all wars that the horrors would not be shared because, apart from being horrific, unless you were there you would never understand.  But now at the age my grandfather was when he died, I have learned a smidgeon of what it must have been like for him on the notorious Somme and can only wonder at how he went on to become who he did.  

It is estimated that World War I claimed the lives of some 16 million people worldwide, 9.5 million of which were military deaths. It is also estimated that around 20 million were wounded, including 8 million left permanently disabled in some way. Of those lives lost, 54 000 were young Australian lads who were so eager to sign up for this grand new ‘adventure’ that they lied about their age and 18 000 young Kiwis who, like my grandfather, believed it was their duty to fight for “King and Country”. But only now, through stories like this and The Great Gallipoli Escape, are we learning the real story and through the questions she has her characters ask and answer are we being encouraged to question things for ourselves, not just about the war but also what we stand for. Often in the story Jean McLain is spurred on by her belief in her need to  “do her duty” and that her actions are saving lives, but then she poses the same situation to Arjun. “What are we worth if we don’t do our duty to each other? What kind of life is it if you don’t love someone or something enough to die for them? What matters to you, eh?’ 

As well as teaching us about the past, French inspires us to think about the future – and that is a gift that only writers if her calibre can give our students. 

  

What You Need to Be Warm

What You Need to Be Warm

What You Need to Be Warm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What You Need to Be Warm

Neil Gaiman

Bloomsbury, 2023

32pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

9781526660619

I have neither the desire or the skill to review this book because anything I say or write pales into insignificance in the presence of the wondrous Neil Gaiman. Thus I am going to use the foreword and the publisher’s notes to show what this book is about and why I immediately recommended it to colleagues who were seeking just such a piece…

in 2019, before COVID, the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the current Israeli conflict, winter was coming to the northern hemisphere and people were going to be cold , especially people who didn’t have homes because they had fled the fighting in their countries or their homes, often their villages and towns, had been destroyed.  To draw attention to their plight Neil Gaiman asked his social media followers  what reminded them of warmth.  And from the tens of thousands of replies, each with a specific memory, he wove the responses into a long green scarf, so symbolic of being snuggled in warmth, and into a poem that became a film and now a book illustrated by people like Chris Riddell, Benji Davies, Yuliya Gwilym, Nadine Kaadan, Daniel Egnéus, Pam Smy, Petr Horácek, Beth Suzanna, Bagram Ibatoulline, Marie-Alice Harel, Majid Adin and Richard Jones, with a thought-provoking cover from Oliver Jeffers.

It is  “an exploration of displacement and flight from conflict through the objects and memories that represent warmth in cold times. It is about our right to feel safe, whoever we are and wherever we are from, and about welcoming those who find themselves far from home. “

Sadly, in 2023, winter is again coming to the northern hemisphere and more people than ever are without a home, or warmth whether that’s wrapping your hands around a baked potato on a winter’s night or wrapping yourself in a blanket knitted by your grandmother or just the warmth of feeling safe indoors, so sales of every copy of this book will help support the work of UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, which helps forcibly displaced communities and stateless people across the world.

And if you want to do more, check out Wrap With Love and perhaps start a knitting group in the new year.

Beasts of the Ancient World

Beasts of the Ancient World

Beasts of the Ancient World

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beasts of the Ancient World

Marchella Ward

Asia Orland

DK., 2023

144pp., hbk., RRP $A37.99

9780241569078

The myths, legends and folklore of civilisations, generations and destinations are peppered with stories of brutal beasts and mysterious monsters, and, on the surface, this is a collection of those stories from around the globe. There are stories about fantastic creatures such as the Japanese baku, which had the power to devour nightmares, the wise Egyptian Sphinx, and the fearsome Minotaur who went head-to-head with Theseus in Greek mythology, and a map that shows just how widespread the stories are. Stories are collected under the headings of Our Worst Fears, Battles with Monsters, Kind Beasts and Harnessing the Power of Beasts, and accompanied by colourful illustrations that are not too scary.

But there is also an analysis of why people believe in these creatures, why they evolved and what they actually represent that can persuade the reader to read them through a different lens, seeing the similarities between the stories and the differences in how the beasts were vanquished – if indeed they were.  The concept of a monster has been used over time to represent the unknown, dangers and even feelings,  particularly fears,  often serving as a warning.  There is also the suggestion that rather than defeating the beasts that we could perhaps learn to live with them as we begin to understand the origins and purpose of the stories, because “things are never really as simple as brave human defeats monster.”

Thus, while younger readers can learn the stories surrounding the monsters so often associated with mythology, more mature readers can start to analyse the back story – what circumstances might have promoted the invention of such a creature, how it might be similar to other stories and why the imagery persists today. Are today’s generations very different to those who have gone before?

 

 

How It Works: Electricity

How It Works: Electricity

How It Works: Electricity

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How It Works: Electricity

Victoria M. Williams

Miguel Bustos

Usborne, 2023

16pp., board book., RRP $a19.99

9781474998888

Whoever labelled the magic that happens when you turn on a light switch “electrickery” nailed it, in my opinion. Never one to understand the phenomenon, even I, as a ‘more mature’ adult learned something from this new book from Usborne,  So if I can, your students certainly will.

The source of our energy is a hot topic right now as the switch to renewables becomes more necessary and urgent, and so, more than ever, understanding how it works and where it comes from is becoming a part of even the primary school curriculum. So starting with the basics of what electricity actually is the reader is led step by step through diagrams, explanations and lift-the-flap discoveries to understand how electricity is naturally generated to being able to harness it and even look at future sources, some quite unexpected. And there are the usual Quicklinks to support further investigation.

Living in a town whose history is steeped in the building of the original Snowy Hydro project and whose future is closely tied to Snowy 2.0, this was a must-read for me and IMO, an essential part of your non fiction collection.  

Alex Neptune (series)

Alex Neptune (series)

Alex Neptune (series)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alex Neptune (series)

Dragon Thief

9781474999236

Pirate Hunter

 9781474999274

Monster Avenger

 9781474999298

David Owen

HarperCollins, 2022-2023

250+pp., pbk., RRP $A15.99

Alex Neptune lives in Haven Bay, a town whose history and currency is intertwined with the sea, and particularly the legends of the Water-Dragon and the pirate, Captain Brineblood, But Alex hates the sea because he is convinced it wants him dead and besides, strange things have happened to it since a mysterious factory was built and it is now so polluted that visitors no longer come to the town, let alone support the family gift store Neptune’s Bounty.  And what’s happening with the long-closed aquarium at the top of the hill which mysteriously glows green at night time?

This is new series for independent readers (best read in order for story continuity) that contains all the elements of relatable quirky characters, sea creatures that can talk and adventure that has  been described as  perfect “for fans of Percy Jackson and Dragon Realm”. With his tech-genius best friend Zoey, legend-lover Anil, and a sharp-shooting octopus, Alex discovers that he actually has power over his nemesis , the ocean, and embarks on a series of escapades that feature the town’s two legends, as he tries to save it from whatever is bringing it doom.

Full of action and embedded humour to lighten the mood, this is an entertaining read that has a powerful underlying message of how the ocean is being used by the unscrupulous for their own greed without regard for the consequences. From hating and fearing the ocean, Alex comes to appreciate and value it.  An eye-opener…