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The Battle

The Battle

The Battle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Battle

Ashling Kwok

Cara King

EK Books, 2020

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

9781925820409

 

It is Edward’s first day at knight school and  to protect from the battles he expects to face, he puts on his full suit of armour. Sitting in the back of the Great Hall surrounded by unfriendly creatures , he is mortified when the king asks him to tell the others about himself. Even though at home he likes to fight giants and ogres, here at knight school he seems to be surrounded by them and he is not so brave. And when one sits beside him on the bench as he starts to eat his lunch, things are r-e-a-l-l-y scary…

It is that time of the year again when the prospect of Big School is looming closer and closer and some of our little ones are getting really apprehensive, particularly this year where, in some places, the opportunity for orientation visits and becoming familiar with people and places has not been allowed. So stories like these that not only show that fears are shared but they can be overcome are welcome as they offer such reassurance. Cleverly illustrated showing the ogres and dragons as ordinary boys and girls and the concept of the physical armour holding him back in the same way that mental armour does, Edward comes to some new understandings and discovers this school-thing isn’t as frightening after all.

However you are connecting with your preschoolers this year, include this story in your repertoire for an added dose of confidence. 

The Heartsong of Wonder Quinn

The Heartsong of Wonder Quinn

The Heartsong of Wonder Quinn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Heartsong of Wonder Quinn

Kate Gordon

UQP, 2020

184pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9780702262821

Lonely orphan Wonder Quinn lives in the attic of Direleafe Hall with only a gloomy crow for company. Every year she hopes to make a true friend and every year her heart breaks when she doesn’t.

But when a spirited new student, Mabel Clattersham, befriends her in class, Wonder’s dreams seem to be coming true. As the girls grow closer, Wonder discovers her friend has a list of strange wishes: Throw a pie, leap into the sky, break someone’s heart…

What is Mabel’s big secret? Can Wonder protect her heart from being broken all over again?

This is a beautifully written ghost story with a difference.  Rather than being scary, this is a gentle ghost who craves a friend and becomes one, celebrating friendship, love, acceptance and belonging while embracing grief as a natural emotion that we all experience. This is a sensitive story, and despite its larger font, illustrations and short chapters, probably more suited to more mature readers who are able to read between the lines as well as along them.  The reader is not told that Wonder is a ghost, although there are clues from the get-go that perhaps she is not an ordinary schoolgirl for the astute reader to pick up – that fact that she is watching the girls arrive at school from her perch on the roof yet is unseen and undetected by either the students or the staff is one such indicator. It is also what I would have told my students is a tissue book – be prepared to shed some tears.

Normally, this is not my preferred genre but its evocative title, superb selection of vocabulary and imagery, its sensitivity and its uniqueness kept me engaged till the end.  One to look for and put into the hands of just the right reader.

 

 

What Zola Did on Tuesday

What Zola Did on Tuesday

What Zola Did on Tuesday

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Zola Did on Tuesday

Melina Marchetta

Deb Hudson

Puffin, 2020

96pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

9781760895167

Cousins Zola and Alessandro live next door to each other – there’s even a gate cut into the fence by their Nonno Nino before he died so they could be together as much as they want, so most afternoons after school they play together. 

After her adventures trying to help her Nonna and the school gardening club, Zola has been trying to stay out of trouble joining Nonna at the community gardening club, trying to learn to listen and even giving Alessandro’s dog Gigi obedience lessons so she will be allowed to play in Nonna’s garden with the children. But new neighbours, cats and dogs that aren’t yet friends,  Nonna learning to knit and a new school project to help the homeless can really only have one outcome when Zola gets involved…

This is another joyous romp about Zola and her friends doing ordinary everyday things  in which the reader can see themselves, understand and relate to, while forming a stepping stone for newly independent readers with a solid text combined with lots of illustrations, short chapters and humour. This could be any neighbourhood anywhere and it could be the inspiration for children to get together in ways they did in previous generations and be the foundation blocks of a new community as the children in this series are. Most children, regardless of the heritage, understand “Nonna” is the Italian word for grandmother and now they can add the Arabic word Teta to their vocabulary – just another subtle way that diversity is celebrated in the story.

There are seven stories in the series altogether and each one promises to be just as engages and entertaining.

 

The Battle of Book Week

The Battle of Book Week

The Battle of Book Week

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Battle of Book Week

Kate & Jol Temple

Georgia Norton Lodge

Allen & Unwin, 2020

206pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781760875572

It begins when Alice Toolie becomes a library monitor and demands that Jimmy Cook  returns a library book, Princess Snow Cone and the Snuggle Panda Sleepover which she claims he has had forever and consequently banning him from borrowing any library books until it is returned.  Jimmy Cook denies all knowledge of the book but is desperate to maintain his borrowing privileges as he needs to learn as much about space as possible before his upcoming voyage there.  The conversation sparks a furious exchange of notes and messages and continues as Jimmy eventually gets the signatures he needs to a petition to become a library monitor himself and thus have unlimited access to the books.

But when Book Week is imminent and the two are required to work together to organise activities, particularly a visit by two unknown-to-them authors, the rivalry and hilarity reaches new levels as each tries to claim the glory. Ms Murtle, the librarian, fires them, and the only way they can get their positions back is to win the Book Parade – but that means having to work together…

 This is an engaging easy read told in the notes and messages between Alice and Jimmy that will have those newly independent readers thoroughly entertained and looking for the others in the series if they have not yet discovered them.  With its humour, format and clever graphics it is the perfect forerunner to this year’s CBCA celebrations as Alice and Jimmy decide who will be the unicorn’s bottom! Who comes out on top and is the disappearance of Princess Snow Cone and the Snuggle Panda Sleepover resolved?

Edie’s Experiments 2: How to Be the Best

Edie's Experiments 2: How to Be the Best

Edie’s Experiments 2: How to Be the Best

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edie’s Experiments 2: How to Be the Best

Charlotte Barka

Sandy Flett

Puffin, 2020

240pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781760891763

Edie has settled into her new school and is starting to make friends, despite her somewhat catastrophic early attempts to treat the process like a science experiment.  Her love of science and concern for the environment is as strong as ever – even though it causes the ire of her family when she turns the hot water off if their showers exceed four minutes – and she and her friend Annie B are looking forward to presenting their work at the upcoming Eco Fair. 

But then a new student arrives, one who also loves science and who is determined to be the best.  Dean Starlight sabotages Edie’s work, but when he sends her an apology card with a hidden nasty message  Edie declares war…

This is the second in this series for independent readers who enjoy school stories, science and characters they can relate to.  Each is an individual and each has flaws, as do we all, but there is a sense that they are real and Edie’s continued positivity is refreshing in a world that seems to carry only bad news these days.  As with the first book, there are line drawings to break up the text and Edie’s experiments are all provided in case a reader might be inspired.  There is also the possibility that the reader will learn something about human nature too, and be more insightful and compassionate when those around them don’t behave as they expect or desire.  Dean has a backstory that drives his behaviour, as do we all. 

A series to spread the word about. 

Alice-Miranda in the Outback

Alice-Miranda in the Outback

Alice-Miranda in the Outback

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alice-Miranda in the Outback

Jacqueline Harvey

Puffin, 2020

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

9781760891039

Alice-Miranda and her friends are off to the Australian Outback! They’re going to help an old family friend who’s found himself short staffed during cattle mustering season. The landscape is like nothing else – wide open and dusty red as far as the eye can see. It’s also full of quirky characters, like eccentric opal miner Sprocket McGinty and the enigmatic Taipan Dan.

As the gang settles in at Hope Springs Station, mysteries start piling up. A strange map is discovered indicating treasure beneath the paddocks, a young girl is missing and there are unexplained water shortages. Can Alice-Miranda get to the bottom of this desert dilemma?

It’s been 11 years since we first met Alice-Miranda Highton-Smith-Kennington-Jones, and, in that time she has had many adventures around the world, entertaining so many young girls over that time with her positivity and perseverance.  Even those who started their own reading journey when Alice-Miranda first organised her own admission to Winchesterfield-Downsfordvale Academy for Proper Young Ladies like to pop back and enjoy her new adventures.  This new adventure takes them into the Australian Outback, a new experience even for many Australian kids, and, within the context of an engaging story, offers them an opportunity to learn about the history of the country that extends beyond the First Fleet and the ugly, dirty streets of early Sydney.

So whether your girls are already avid fans or newcomers to this series, there is much to absorb them and the good news is, that unlike Clementine Rose,  Jacqueline Harvey is already planning new adventures. 

Boo Loves Books

Boo Loves Books

Boo Loves Books

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Boo Loves Books

Kaye Baillie

Tracie Grimwood

New Frontier, 2020

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

9781922326027

Phoebe is not the most confident reader in Miss Spinelli’s class and does whatever she can to avoid it for fear of showing her inability to both her teacher and her classmates. But Miss Spinelli is smart and knows what is behind Phoebe’s reluctance and so she organises an excursion to the local animal shelter. Phoebe’s tummy is in knots until she meets Big Boo who is just as nervous as she is.  And then the magic happens…

Many of our younger readers believe that “real” reading is making no mistakes at all, and rather than display their lack of confidence, choose not to read at all because they fear being judged by their audience.  So finding someone or something to read to that does not judge, does not comment, but just enjoys the sound and the rhythm of the words can often be the key to unlocking the reader within.  This is a charming story that will not only give many of our students a confidence boost as they relate to Phoebe but also up conversations about what a “real” reader does, including making those inevitable mistakes. 

And while it might not be possible to visit a dog shelter or have a dog visit the classroom, there is always a teddy who is willing to listen! 

Elizabella and the Haunting of Lizard Lake

Elizabella and the Haunting of Lizard Lake

Elizabella and the Haunting of Lizard Lake

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Elizabella and the Haunting of Lizard Lake

Zoë Norton Lodge

Georgia Norton Lodge

Walker Books, 2020

224pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

 9781760651855

Excitement is in the air as Elizabella – poet, fixer of fairytales and the biggest prankster in the history of her school – heads off to camp with the rest of her class. But when Larry the Lizard learns she’s headed to Lizard Lake he stows away in her suitcase, dreaming of discovering the other sentient lizards rumoured to be living there. Soon, Elizabella begins having strange dreams and wonders if Lizard Lake is haunted. Meanwhile back at Bilby Creek, Martin madly searches for Larry, eventually stumbling on another lizard who looks exactly like him. After discovering who is really haunting Lizard Lake, Larry and Elizabella return home to solve another mystery. Who is the imposter hanging out with Martin? 

This is the third in this series for young independent readers – Elizabella Meets Her Match and Elizabella and The Great Tuckshop Takeoverhave already been published and Elizabella Breaks a Leg will be available in September. Described as a ” messy mix of Matilda, Pippi Longstocking and Horrid Henry”, this is a lively series for girls who like a light-hearted read but with a bit of substance as they see themselves in the situations that Elizabella manages to get mixed up in.   Told from the perspectives of Elizabella, her father, her pet lizard and her principal Mr Gobblefrump, the adventures of Bilby Creek Primary School’s camp at Lizard Lake will entertain as the camp’s motto is “Don’t Worry, Be Happpy” (distorted for copyright reasons) and everything has a positive spin on it.  While Elizabella and her friend Minnie really want to devise the greatest prank of all time, they are confronted by real-life issues that provide a serious side that makes for a story that offers more than the blurb would suggest.

This is a series worth promoting to your students in that Year 3-4 range who are ready for the next step on their reading adventure.   

 

 

 

Nelson 1: Pumpkins and Aliens

Nelson 1: Pumpkins and Aliens

Nelson 1: Pumpkins and Aliens

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nelson 1: Pumpkins and Aliens

Andrew Levins

Katie Kear

Puffin, 2020

176pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

9781760893347

Nelson hates vegetables. He hates the smell of them, he hates the look of them. Most of all, he hates eating them, which can be tricky when you live in a family that loves them.  His grandparents grow them, his father cooks them and the family devour them – all except Nelson who has the grossest pile of smuggled, uneaten vegetables stored under his bed. His greatest hate is pumpkins but this is pumpkin season and his grandfather has grown his best crop ever – which he brings to town weekly so Nelson’s dad can cook them in every way imaginable.  

The other thing that Nelson hates is school, particularly Mr Shue who has been his teacher for four years, since Kindergarten.  They are always on a collision course. But when his grandmother tricks him into swallowing an entire bowl of pumpkin soup, and he discovers that he has superpowers, will he us them to save the school and Mr Shue from aliens from Neptune – aliens that he invented in a moment of desperation?

This is the first in a fast-paced series that will appeal to newly-independent readers who are ready for something more meaty but still having the short chapters and liberal illustrations to support them.  With its premise that will resonate with many, characters that are easily recognisable and the type of exaggerated humour that appeals to its target audience,  Levins has created a series that children will engage with and parents will love, simply because it may encourage a lot more vegetable eating and the battles about eating the daily requirement may be over. Unlike Nelson who was looking for ways to hide his veges, perhaps readers will even be moved to seek out pumpkin recipes and then cook them and share their opinions with their friends in this time of stay-at-home. 

Hattie

Hattie

Hattie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hattie

Frida Nilsson

Gecko Press, 2020

160pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9781776572717

Hattie is a street-smart country girl in her first year of school. She lives just outside of nowhere, right next to no one at all. Although she has a dog called Tacka and two outdoor cats, Havana and Stick, as well as ducks and chooks, she lives in a place so remote that she is lonely. Luckily she’s starting school and that brings new adventures.

There would be many Australian children who could relate to the isolation of Hattie and who long to go to school for the social contact that is so critical, and while her adventures at school are set in the Scandinavian world they are not so different from situations our children might find themselves in. However, this book is probably better as a read-aloud rather than a read-alone because its format is not as supportive for those reading about six-year-olds as other books are.  Perhaps that reflects the Scandinavian school experience where kindy kids can read independently with regular fonts and few illustrations. That aside, it is an engaging story that introduces young readers to a world that is very different from theirs yet remarkably similar.