Archives

The Accidental Diary of B.U.G.: Sister Act

The Accidental Diary of B.U.G.: Sister Act

The Accidental Diary of B.U.G.: Sister Act

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Accidental Diary of B.U.G.: Sister Act

Jen Carney

Puffin, 2022

256pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9780241455494

Billie Upton Green (aka .B.U.G.) is 10 years old, in Class Five at school and is weaving her way through life at that age keeping a diary about her life and those people and events that are important in it. 

In the first in the series the reader learns that BUG has two mums and that she is adopted, but the main focus of the story is that there is a new girl in their class who seems to take up more of BUG’s best friend Layla’s attention that BUG would like, which has the effect of totally normalising BUG’s family structure so that those who are also in a different configuration to what is considered “normal” not only relate but appreciate that who they live with is no big deal in the bigger picture.

Of course, there are always those who will raise their eyebrows and so Patrick North personifies those conservative views with his comments but they tend to be water off a duck’s back by this third book, where BUG’s circumstances and adoption are widely known and accepted and it focuses on BUG preparing to have a baby sister, also adopted, but who seems to be taking forever to arrive because of all the rules and regulations, even though BUG desperately wants to hold her up for show and share. Luckily, the school musical is in full swing, giving BUG the perfect distraction. She just needs to watch out for Painy Janey, who has her eyes on the main part and doesn’t care what gets in her way…

Told in an easy-to-read conversational style by BUG herself, and interspersed with her doodles and other comments, this is a quick, enjoyable read for those who don’t want to put too much effort into following complex characters and plots. Yet, in saying that, there are thought-provoking incidents that offer “what-would-I-do?” moments so those who are facing familiar issues (or will do) can consider their own reactions and responses, perhaps even plan a strategy they hadn’t thought of.  

Miss 11 pounced on this in my review pile and stuck her name on it, begging me to “process it, Grandma” before she went home so she could take it with her.  That seems like a sure-fire winner to me. 

 

 

What’s New, Harper Drew?

What's New, Harper Drew?

What’s New, Harper Drew?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s New, Harper Drew?

Kathy Weeks

Aleksei Bitskoff

Hachette, 2022

214pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9781444961775

“My name is Harper Drew. I’m using my new journal to take note of all the totally ridiculous things that seem to go on around me with my family and friends. I seem to be the ONLY ONE who sees this all of this stuff for what it is. Completely BEYOND normal.

Recently I’ve been logging Drew Dial Ratings for all the mayhem. On a scale of 0 to 10, how likely is someone to SAY or DO something that would be less sensible than (for example) … a demented camel?

First up is the annual Drew trip to France… and while there might not be camels, there are BATS and Llamas – and my brother Troy who is so obsessed with his hairstyle, he won’t even go swimming… that’s a whole lot of ratings. I’m just hoping I land an invite to Maisie Felix’s party when I’m back to distract me from the Drews… for one whole evening!”

Promoted as  being “perfect for fans of Dork Diaries”, this is the first of a new illustrated series, all about embracing family, and finding unique ways to deal with life’s dramas that is most likely to appeal to girls who are independent readers, who are moving into that tween age and wanting something more sophisticated in the stories they read. The diary format, the first person in a stream of consciousness conversation make it a relatively easy read that is somewhat of a bridge between the novels they are used to and the edgier contemporary realistic fiction they will encounter in a couple of years.  While it is still about family and their relationships so it will resonate with the reader, the more objective perspective of examining what is being said and done gives it some punch and given diary-writing is a popular pastime with its age-intended audience, it will have broad appeal. Harper herself is  sensible, logical, considerate, and very resourceful in solving the problems and so she could become a role model. Even though Harper develops the “Drew Dial Rating” assigning a rating to each individual in terms of their “bizarre, odd, weird, and totally ridiculous” behaviour” her assessments are always done kindly as she accepts each for who they are and understands that who they are is what makes her who she is. There is a strong message about accepting people for who they are, while who you are is enough. 

Readers will find themselves fitting themselves into the story easily, if not as Harper then an engaged observer, and that, in itself, is a recipe for success.  

 

 

 

Tyenna

Tyenna: Through My Eyes - Australian Disaster Zones

Tyenna: Through My Eyes – Australian Disaster Zones

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tyenna

Through My Eyes – Australian Disaster Zones

Julie Hunt & Terry Whitebeach

A & U Children’s, 2022

208pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9781760877019

They huddle low, nostrils burning from the smoke. A wave of despair flows over Tye. Nothing will survive this firestorm. The bush and everything she loves will be lost.

It’s the summer holidays, and Tye is staying at her grandparents’ lodge at Chancy’s Point in Tasmania’s beautiful Central Highlands. But her plans for fun with best friend Lily and working on her pencil pine conservation project are thwarted as fire threatens the community and the bush she loves – and when Tye discovers Bailey, a runaway boy hiding out, she is torn between secretly helping him and her loyalty to her grandparents.

As the fire comes closer and evacuation warnings abound, Tye is caught up in the battle of her life. Will she and Bailey survive? What will happen to her beloved pencil pines and the wildlife at risk? Can she and her close-knit community make a difference in a world threatened by climate change?

This is the latest in this series that offers fictionalised accounts of world events that help our older, independent readers not only understand what happened but allows them to process it.  By giving each story a central character such as Lyla who endured the devastating Christchurch earthquake in 2011, the story becomes one of courage, resilience and hope rather than an historical recount with meaningless facts and figures. It offers the ‘colour and detail’ to the stark monochrome sketches of news reports, websites and other information-only sources.  

Like its predecessors, Tyenna is a well-written, well-researched blend of imagination and information that above all, tells a story of one girl’s experience -sadly one similar to that of  so many of our students who faced that dreadful Black Summer of 2019-2020 when the whole of the east coast of the country seem to be alight – and shows that it is OK to have been scared and fearful, but that natural human resilience can prevail. The first to focus on an Australian disaster (it will be joined by Mia later this year), it will resonate with many in one way or another and thus, if you have a system that places trigger warnings in your books, this may be one to consider.  

While we would all like to protect our kids from the disasters of modern times, natural or otherwise, that can be an impossible task as the world now comes to them in the palm of their hands, but stories like this can offer insight, understanding and a feeling that they too, have come through the other side – often shaped by it but also more resilient and courageous because of it. 

 

 

The Rat-Catcher’s Apprentice

The Rat-Catcher's Apprentice

The Rat-Catcher’s Apprentice

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Rat-Catcher’s Apprentice

Maggie Jankuloska

MidnightSun, 2022

192pp., pbk., RRP $A17.99

9781925227949

It is 1665 Rats have infested homes and alleys in Marie Perrin’s  provincial French town. Twelve-year-old Marie is set to become a maid, although she hungers for adventure. However, one mistake alters her fate and as punishment she is forced to apprentice for an intimidating rat-catcher. Away from her parents and twin brother, and handling gnarly rat traps under Gustave Renard’s unusual mentorship, Marie must overcome a new set of challenges which come after a plague enters her town.

This is an absorbing story for mature independent readers, made even moreso because of its parallels with today’s life where it is COVID-19 that has run rampant.  Despite the time difference, the  preventative measures of masks, social distancing, hand-washing and isolation that Gustav insists his wife and Marie follow are the same as those employed today!  But Marie also has to contend with a society built heavily on the distinctions and privileges (or lack of them) imposed by class and one’s station in life, as well as being female-although the latter doesn’t deter her as she dreams of a life of freedom unfettered by her gender.

While some readers may feel confronted by Marie’s predicament, the author has created credible, well-rounded characters whose lives reflect the times in which they are set, but are even more intriguing because they can relate to the conditions of a pandemic – tough enough for some even with modern science, communications and vaccines. Despite the depths of her despair at times, Marie is spurred on by Gustav and Marion’s belief that the bad times will pass and there will be joy again, and that, in itself, is a reason to share this story with your older students.

A debut novel by an author to look for in the future.

An Eagle in the Snow

An Eagle in the Snow

An Eagle in the Snow

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Eagle in the Snow

Michael Morpurgo

Michael Foreman

HarperCollins, 2016

272pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

780008134174

November, 1940. Coventry has been bombed by the Germans and Barney and his mother have been left with nothing so they are on the train to London on their way to family and shelter in Cornwall.   But just as a neatly-dressed stranger enters their compartment, a lone Messerschmitt 109 begins strafing the train.  The engine driver makes a desperate dash to an upcoming tunnel, eventually stopping the train safely inside. 

But Barney is terrified of darkness and with no lights he can feel his panic rising.  The stranger has a box of matches but there are just five in it, and so, to distract Barney he lights one and begins to tell him a story…

There are two taglines on the front cover of this book, the first being “One moment that could have saved the world from war.”  And that is the story that the stranger tells Barney and his Ma.  An extraordinary tale based on the true story of Henry James Tandey, VC, DCM, MM, the most highly decorated private in the British Army in World War I, Morpurgo wrote the story after hearing of Tandey’s exploits and, like most of his stories, was compelled to  write it so that the unimaginable courage shown by those who have gone before becomes real for those of us who come after.

Which leads to the second tagline, this one from Jackie French- “Brilliant. Historical fiction at its most magnificent.” Because if there is an historical fiction novel with either Jackie French’s or Michael Morpurgo’s name on it then you know that not only are you in for a meticulously researched, intriguing read but that you will be changed for having read. And so it is  with this story.  Tagged as “the man who could have stopped World War II” Tandey’s story is woven into a narrative that reaches deep into the soul of anyone with direct ties to the carnage of the 39-45 conflict and makes them wonder how their own life might have been different if their father/uncle/brother/friend had not had to spend their youth in the hell that was Europe at the time. 

But this is not a facts-and-figures biography, although there is a brief synopsis of Tandey’s life included as a postscript – Morpurgo has taken the facts as they are known and woven them into a narrative that is as compelling for the reader as it is for Barney and his Ma.  Is there ever a time when doing the right thing could be the worst mistake you ever made?

This is a story for independent readers who enjoy real historical fiction (as opposed to a story set in another time) and who are ready to be entertained and educated at the same time.  It’s an easy read technically, but I, for one, wanted to know more and so new avenues have been opened for me to explore.  Not the least of which is once again, considering how my dad’s experiences as a POW in Stalag VIIIB and being force-marched across Poland as part of the German’s human shield shaped him and consequently, me.  

The World Awaits

The World Awaits

The World Awaits

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The World Awaits

Tomos Roberts

Nomoco

Farshore, 2021

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

9780008502058

As one little boy lies in bed one morning, not wanting to face the day, it’s up to his older brother to show him the extraordinary potential within him and how even the smallest of his actions will make the world a better place . . .

In the child’s world of the here and now, where it seems that their world has been dominated by restrictions and limits for ever, and even just the regular routine of going to school is a list of must-dos and dont’s, where even they, as littlies, are subjected to an uncomfortable nose-swab test every other day, it is easy to see why the prospect of staying in bed and hiding under the doona is an attractive option.  Without the adult’s ability to see the big picture and know that each day they get up and face is a day closer to the end of this situation, even the child’s natural resilience can be tested and their robust (or not-so) mental health can be chipped away.

But how do you explain to the child who mostly lives in Piaget’s world of the concrete operational stage where they are becoming more aware of the world around them but are straddling the phases of things needing to be real and that of being able to think and act in the abstract, that they have something called potential and that they can make a difference? Cleverly, in this poem, which is a conversation between adult and child,  Roberts breaks this concept down into things the child does understand – the concepts of adding and subtracting to a larger element known as the ‘common good’ and identifying simple everyday things, like ringing a grandparent, that they can do that contribute rather than withdraw.

“In our core is a plus and minus, and they’re eternally at play.

They give us the power to add goodness to the world or to take some good away.” 

As with The Great Realisation, Roberts shows his ability to take himself to the child’s level, to talk to them in language they understand, yet at the same time provide layers of meaning that more mature readers can delve into. So while he talks to the child of making its bed or helping a struggling beetle back on its feet, there are also more oblique references to the global situation –

A little look at human history tells us all we need to know

It’s no surprise the toughest times were when that number got too low.  

As with that first book, throughout this one are the threads of hope, of better times and of the child having the power to make the decisions and take the actions that will improve things for all, not just themselves.

Roberts’ poems have been described as “a manifesto for our time” and with his ability to connect with kids of all ages, he is certainly one whose works need attention and further explanation.  Perhaps exploring this poem with a child in your realm, and offering them a way forward, is your addition to the bucket of common good for today. one that will have a long-term benefit that, as a teacher, you may never see or know.  As important as it is invisible. 

Australia Remembers 3: Len Waters Boundless and Born to Fly

Australia Remembers 3: Len Waters Boundless and Born to Fly

Australia Remembers 3: Len Waters Boundless and Born to Fly

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Australia Remembers 3: Len Waters Boundless and Born to Fly

Catherine Bauer

Big Sky, 2021 

60pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781922488602

Kamilaroi man, Len Waters may have been born behind the gates of an Aboriginal reserve, but his big imagination and even bigger dreams took him soaring well beyond the reach of those who tried to confine him.

From his childhood days, Len Waters dreamed of taking to the skies. But being indigenous, born in the 1920s and with just a basic education restricted by rules and regulations, it was an unlikely dream at the time. However dreams can come true and from making his home-made model aeroplanes at his kitchen table,  his supportive family, determination, persistence and work ethic meant  he beat the odds to become Australia’s first known Aboriginal fighter pilot, flying RAAF fighter jets in the south west Pacific in World War II.

Len was a history maker, a young man who didn’t let society’s prejudice, his culture or skin colour stand in his way. But when WWII was over, Len sadly discovered that his service and courage did not result in equality. Len once said that, out of his RAAF uniform, he simply ‘returned to being a black fellow’.

Today, decades later, Len’s determination and achievements are recognised and honoured across Australia, his story now told in the third in this remarkable series that makes Australia’s military history accessible to younger readers. with its age-appropriate text, many coloured photos, and appealing layout. But more than that, it is one of a growing number of titles, which includes Dreaming Soldiers by the same author , that are at last, acknowledging the contribution made by our First Nations peoples and perhaps inspiring those of the current generation to also dream big. 

This series which includes Australia Remembers : ANZAC Day, Remembrance Day and War Memorials  and Australia Remembers 2: Customs and Traditions of the Australian Defence Force is a valuable addition to any library’s collection so that our students can learn about the significant events and people of the past that continue to shape us. Len Waters died in 1993, but books like this and The Missing Man are finally bringing his service to prominence and making him so much more than “a black fellow.”  I wonder what he would make of that. 

Round the Twist

Round the Twist

Round the Twist

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Round the Twist

Paul Jennings

Puffin, 2022

144pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9780140342130

Thirty years ago, if you wanted to capture the kids’ attention, particularly boys, through books, no teacher was without a copy of one of the latest Paul Jennings short story collections.  Unreal, Uncanny, Unmentionable, Un-anything – pull it out at any time and you immediately had their undivided attention.  Here, in a few short pages, was someone who mentioned the unmentionable and who brought a blush to the face of many a sensitive teacher (part of the appeal of the stories).

And then Jennings invented the Twist family, fourteen-year-old twins Pete and Linda, eight-year-old son Bronson, and father Tony, a widowed artist who makes sculptures. They live in an old lighthouse on a rugged part of the Victorian coastline and their madcap adventures became one of the most popular on television at the time, and which is now enjoying a resurgence on streaming services.  Beginning in print form first (the new release has the original cover) Jennings agreed to work on the television series in partnership with Esben Storm and this gave him the unique insight into how the series was made that is included in this latest release which includes three of the original stories.

Because of the popularity of both Jennings himself, and the series which ran for 11 years, there is a generation of Australians who not only know his name but can attribute their reading success  to his works and so they will be delighted that such a significant part of their childhood is now opening up for their own children – if, indeed, it ever disappeared.  Fun for fun’s sake! 

 

 

The Supernatural Survival Guide

The Supernatural Survival Guide

The Supernatural Survival Guide

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Supernatural Survival Guide

George Ivanoff

Puffin, 2021

176pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

 9781761043635

All Hallows Eve, that special night dating back to the 0th century Celtic festival of Samhain when its celebrants believe that the barriers between the physical and spirit worlds blur, allowing more interaction between humans and the inhabitants of the Otherworld. It was held on October 31 to mark the end of summer and the beginning of the long dark winter, particularly in those northern regions of what is now the United Kingdom and bonfires were lit to entice the sun to remember to come back.  It was the final night that the souls of those who had died could roam before ascending to heaven or descending to hell.

As time passed, civilisations rose and disappeared and beliefs and festivals waxed and waned,  the time known as Hallowe’en and all the traditions of witches and ghosts, and masks, costumes and jack-o-lanterns to scare them off has evolved.  So the release of this book, which attempts to make the paranormal more normal is timely.  Drawing on his personal long-term fascination with “the supernatural, the paranormal, the mysterious, the unknown the unexplained and the downright weird” and taking on the role of a child caught between a dad who believes that things like UFOs, ghosts and the yeti are true – “the truth is out there” – and a more practical, pragmatic mum who has a sensible explanation for noises in the night and strange sky shapes; Ivanoff has investigated the more common phenomena and offers a scientific explanation or debunks them.  “The truth is in here!”

Using the child-friendly format of The Australia Survival Guide and The Human Body Survival Guide he tackles topics like  Is the Loch Ness Monster real? Does Big Foot exist? Are there scientific reasons for hauntings? What is cryptozoology? What can explain UFO sightings by multiple witnesses? So young readers will be well-armed as the spooky season approaches.  (And given that The Australia Survival Guide was published just before the Black Summer of 2019-2020, this could prove particularly useful!

How Was That Built?

How Was That Built?

How Was That Built?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How Was That Built?

Roma Agrawal

Katie Hickey

Bloomsbury, 2021

80pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9781526603654

From the time our earliest ancestors sought shelter in caves and discovered their limitations, humans have been building structures, each seemingly grander than its predecessors as challenges such as height, length, shape, and strength are overcome and physical impediments such as being underwater, underground, on ice and even in space are conquered.

There is something comfortable and comforting in being enclosed -perhaps it stems from the confines of the womb – and from the early childhood days of making a cubby with a sheet over chairs (itself having evolved to purchased indoor tents) to building towers from toothpicks and peas to bridges “strong enough to hold a toy car” from paper, our junior engineers have evolved to become those making the creations that dominate the modern landscape. While some, like the pyramids , Stonehenge and other ancient temples  have endured across centuries, this book focuses on more modern structures which have solved the problems like how to build high, long, strong and so forth, explaining with explanations and illustrations how the obstacle has been overcome in both general and specific circumstances. 

For example, in the section How to Build Across, the mechanics and physics of various bridge designs are demonstrated and then the construction of Te Matau Ā Pohe, a bridge across the Hatea River at Whangarei, New Zealand that needs to be able to lift quickly to allow essential boat traffic to pass, is explored, showing how the engineers drew on the Māori legend of Maui fishing the North Island from the sea with his hen matai, a magical fish hook, to create the lift mechanism.

Although more for those in Year 5/6+, this is an intriguing book for readers who want to take the basic “design, make, appraise” of STEM to its next level or who have a fascination with structures and aspirations to be structural engineers themselves.  For those just intrigued by big buildings, it is equally fascinating as they learn the whys, whats and hows of their favourites.