Archives

The Courage of Magnolia Moon

The Courage of Magnolia Moon

The Courage of Magnolia Moon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Courage of Magnolia Moon

Edwina Wyatt

Katherine Quinn

Walker, 2022

160pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

9781760654658

If Magnolia Moon were an entry in her young brother’s book of facts that she is “minding” until he is old enough to read it, it would say, “Magnolia Moon is ten years old (almost eleven). She is good at secret keeping, magic making, tree whispering , feather finding and dancing the Heel and Toe Polka (which she has been practising for the school barn dance). She has three best friends: Imogen May, Casper Sloan and Reuben the angel boy, although she is not so friendly with mathematics. She has a cat called Atlas and is getting her very own bedroom soon…”

In this, the third in this series,  she has to dig deep to find the courage to move forward in a range of everyday situations – like going to the dentist, or repairing her relationship with her best friend – that will be familiar to lots of the young independent readers who enjoy her adventures and may be inspired to face each day a little braver, too.. 

Each chapter is a separate episode in her everyday life but because of the setting, characters and events, the story has a continuity that spans a year of Magnolia’s life.  Easy to read with a few illustrations, this is a series that will appeal to young girls just finding their independence as they navigate the world of the ups and downs of family and friendships.

Smarty Pup (series)

Smarty Pup

Smarty Pup

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Smarty Pup: Friends Fur-ever

Anh Do

Anton Emdin

A & U Children’s, 2022

160pp., pbk., RRP $A15.99

9781760526399

Life is a little ordinary for Lily right now, particularly as she has lost her mum, but things change when her Dad decides they could be a family of three again by getting a dog – something both Lily and her mum had wanted for ages.  

At the animal shelter, Lily chooses JJ, who kind of clumsy, but something about his smiley face makes her really happy inside. They change even more when Lily discovers  that JJ can talk and is actually super smart. He can speak a number of languages, and knows the answers to maths and geography questions.  This could be the answer to her constant dilemma about having something interesting for show-and -tell, but then things get complicated. It’s one thing to be the centre of attention for a few minutes, another to be accused of something you didn’t do. 

Anh Do is one of Australia’s most popular and prolific authors, and this new series is somewhat of a cross between a picture book and a novel. Told by Lily herself , highly illustrated in colour with conversations in speech bubbles and different fonts, it is an ideal stepping stone between basal, instructional readers and the novels newly independent readers are aspiring to. The story is grounded in the familiar situation of what to share for Show and Tell, and the characters are relatable, although of course there is the usual Anh Do twist. Reading a popular author loved by older peers and siblings is an added bonus! 

A new series that will have a lot of fans and followers.  

 

How to be . . . The New Person

How to be . . . The New Person

How to be . . . The New Person

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to be . . . The New Person

Anna Branford

Walker Books, 2022

128pp., pbk., RRP $A15.99

9781760655839

Hazel Morrison has a secret habit – pretending to make videos about everyday things. Eight important tips for successfully buttering toast! Putting your hair in a ponytail: a step-by-step guide! But when her family move to the outer suburbs, Hazel has to cope with starting at a new school where she doesn’t exactly feel welcomed. However, she does meet a new friend – her elderly neighbour Veronica,  But then Veronica has to move too.

So when a school project inspires her to create a real video, she knows just what her focus will be – a how-to guide for being “the new person” . . . because everyone, sometime, will meet one, or be one!

Having laughed and cried through Old People’s Home for Teenagers and having seen the impact of the isolation of lockdown on all ages, it would seem to me that loneliness is at the root of the mental health issues of today’s generations.  While older people finding themselves alone after the death of a partner has always been a trigger point, and one to be aware of regardless of their “I’m OK” protestations because they “don’t want to be a burden”, the anti-social nature of social media is a new phenomenon.  Although it allows for easier connectivity, that connectivity can be done alone and in private without having to have face-to-face contact, without having to develop the skills of interaction or relationship-building, and without regard for the impact of the words on the recipient.  No wonder the teens in the television show, most of whom admitted that they spent hours upon hours in their bedrooms, lacked the confidence to mingle with others.

Thus, as we approach the end of another school year and children are facing having to start a new school, whether that’s in a new location or just moving on to high school, anxiety will be starting to build already as they contemplate being “the new kid” and all that that entails.  This book, written for young independent readers, deserves to be shared with our students to open up conversations that allow them to share their anxieties, to learn that they are all feeling the same way, and to develop strategies so they can believe in Veronica’s observation that “Wherever there are lots of people, there is always at least one nice person. You don’t always find them right away but sooner or later you usually do.  And after that, things get easier.”

IMO, instead of focusing on academics and grades and stuff in the last few weeks of the year, the greatest thing we can do for our students is to guide them along the pathway ahead, to show them that there are many walking beside, behind and in front of them, that the apprehension they are feeling is universal and that they can and will find that “one nice person.”  It starts with being one yourself.   

 

If someone has lost their smile, give them one of yours.

Remarkably Ruby

Remarkably Ruby

Remarkably Ruby

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Remarkably Ruby

Terri Libenson

HarperCollins, 2022

384pp., pbk., RRP $A17.99

 9780063139183

Ruby is moving to middle school, a whole new environment with a whole lot of new people to meet.  Which for some, will be an exciting opportunity, but very daunting for one who doesn’t have “the greatest social skills” , whose not into dances, social media or sports, and who is as tall as their money tree. 

More for the upper end of this readership, nevertheless it is a story that will resonate with many who find themselves having to change schools, and its first-person voice, diary-like entries and a format resembling a graphic novel make it accessible to any independent reader.

It is the 6th in the Emmie and Friends series, written to help young girls navigate those tricky tween years by showing them that the problems and issues they face are common and there are ways to work their way through them.  So while some may not resonate so much with Ruby (although many will),  there are others in the series that will definitely speak to them, making it a series that needs to be in the library’s collection as our young girls seek books about those just like themselves, with the same insecurities, confusion and peer pressure.

 

 

 

Miss Penny Dreadful and the Midnight Kittens

Miss Penny Dreadful and the Midnight Kittens

Miss Penny Dreadful and the Midnight Kittens

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Miss Penny Dreadful and the Midnight Kittens

Allison Rushby

Bronte Rose Marando

Walker, 2022

144pp., pbk., RRP $A15.99

9781760654030

1872.  Miss Strickland’s School for Girls of an Enquiring Mind and Penny Pickering’s mind is wandering, as it often does, in Miss Pugh’s lessons.  She’s sketching ideas about what might happen if bears invaded the school when her daydreams are interrupted by a summons to the principal’s office. 

Although she has often dreamed of being taken away from the school by her Aunt Harriet who writes very popular short stories known as “penny dreadfuls” (hence the nickname other girls in the school have given Penny), she is most surprised when it actually happens and she finds herself on the way to Mr Toddington’s Museum of the Curious and Absurd with her aunt, the pet monkey Jones and the surly Mr Crowley.  For there is a mystery about some strange kittens to be solved… and Penny finds herself actually drawing on those boring lessons from Miss Pugh, not only to solve it but to think of a solution that means win-win for everyone.

With an intriguing cast of characters, but not so many that the reader loses track, and short chapters, this is a great new series for younger readers who enjoy mysteries, that takes them back to a time when beliefs and attitudes were very different so the plot is very plausible and the atmosphere for more mysteries is established, particularly as this story ends on a cliff-hanger setting them up for the next episode – just what has happened to her parents because the cryptic postcard her aunt gives her makes no sense… 

Is it a case of “dreaming with eyes open” or “be careful what you wish for”?

 

 

August & Jones

August & Jones

August & Jones

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

August & Jones

Pip Harry

Lothian Children’s, 2022

280pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9780734420350 

There is an old saying that every cloud has a silver lining but who knew the extent of it as Jones and her mother and father packed the last of their belongings into their old red ute, and said goodbye to their farm in Cotton forever, driven off by drought and forced to head for life in a tiny apartment in the city where her dad had a job with his brother.  

How could such a move, one made by many in recent years, have such a widespread impact as this story, inspired by the true story of two children in Victoria, unfolds.

Because, as much as 11 year-old Jones misses her rural life, she also has a prosthetic eye because of early childhood cancer, and now the vision in her other eye is getting blurry. Tough and scary at any time but when your passions are running and rock-climbing, it can seem like life is over,  But at her new school, she is paired with August, a somewhat introverted little lad whose dad makes him play footy and even though August hates it, he persists because otherwise he fears being invisible. A friendship blooms and blossoms as together they take on all the challenges facing them, and as the news about Jones’s eye is the worst, make a Must-See bucket list of the things she wants to see before she loses her sight completely – a list that has tentacles that reach out to embrace many and change those lives as well as both Jones and August.

Told by the two children in alternating chapters, this is a moving, heart-warming, tear-jerking story about family and friendship overcoming heartbreak and hardship that will appeal to independent readers who like real-life stories that are both inspirational and aspirational.  And as both Jones and August reach the summit of Mt Kosciuszko, signaling not the end but the beginning of new adventures, you just want to cheer!!  

It wouldn’t surprise me to see this one among the CBCA Book of the Year nominees in 2023,  following the success of The Little Wave.

Worth reading past your bedtime just to find out what happens…

Little Ash (series)

Little Ash (series)

Little Ash (series)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Little Ash (series)

Ash Barty

Jasmine McCaughey

Jade Goodwin

HarperCollins, 2022

64pp., pbk., RRP $A9.99

9781460762783

There would be few in Australia who do not recognise the name Ash Barty, who have not admired her grace, sportsmanship and honesty, and who were not disappointed when she retired from professional tennis without defending her 2021 Wimbledon title.

She has become the role model for so many of our younger readers and so this new series about school, sport, friendship and family will be welcomed.  While not necessarily autobiographical, it shows Ash to be just like other kids, reinforcing the idea that even ordinary people can become extraordinary, and dreaming with eyes open is something that everyone can do.

Written and formatted to support the newly independent reader, each story addresses a common issue that kids face from having to choose between things they love to putting others before that love.  With four stories out now to whet the appetite,  and two more to come in November the series will be a perfect addition to your Stepping Stone collection bridging the gap between formal reading instruction materials and the world of independent reading. 

 

Leilong’s Too Long!

Leilong's Too Long!

Leilong’s Too Long!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leilong’s Too Long!

Julia Liu

Bel Lynn

Gecko Press, 2022

28pp., hbk., RRP $A27.99

9781776574339

Leilong the brontosaurus is a very good school bus, and the children are all ready and waiting as he goes from building to building to collect them.  But being a brontosaurus in a modern city of cars and buses and trucks and people can have its drawbacks and Leilong finds himself banned and confined to the school gymnasium.  He is so upset that he cries and cries… and finds himself a new career!!

Young readers first met Leilong when he took them to  library storytime and they will be happy that he returns in another adventure. What if Leilong arrived at their school?  What uses could he have?  Have them write letters to the principal to persuade them that Leilong should stay… 

 

Mr Bambuckle’s Remarkables Join Forces

Mr Bambuckle's Remarkables Join Forces

Mr Bambuckle’s Remarkables Join Forces

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mr Bambuckle’s Remarkables Join Forces

Tim Harris

James Hart

Puffin, 2022

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

9781761044557

Even though the students is 12B of Blue Valley School have been labelled the misfits and miserables of the school, they are beginning to blossom and bloom  under the influence of their teacher Mr Bambuckle, who, unlike Principal Sternblast, sees and teaches them as the unique individuals they are, each with their own stories and challenges.  They are now a cohesive group who value and support each other, but that connection may be challenged when they are joined by four new students from Blue Valley Grammar, the rival school which has just closed. 

But when Principal Sternblast’s plan to create a school for high achievers so he will get paid more and have new students join while existing students who do not pass the academic entry test will be excluded, the class feels threatened and doomed.  Are they to be disbanded and each marginalised yet again?  Are they going to be able to set aside their differences with the new students to unite to come up with a plan to save their school? How will they be able to put what they have learned about themselves and each other through Mr Bambuckle’s teaching into action that means they can stay together? But while the solutions are hilarious, amidst the shenanigans and LOL moments, there are some serious messages about working together, trusting others even if they may seem to be very different, and finding the joy in deep friendships that come through the storyline that every reader can appreciate. It might even set up philosophical discussions about the concepts of division based on academic ability, a practice still rife in the education system, and whether success is only measured in grades, scores and potential salaries. 

Readers who took a shine to Mr Bambuckle in the first of this new series, and those who have not yet met him, will be glad to see him making a  comeback in the fifth in this series ideal for independent readers with its humour, identifiable characters, short chapters, copious illustrations and other inserts that break up the text. Each student in the class each has a thumbnail introductory sketch at the beginning of the book enabling the reader to see that these kids are just like them, thus immediately building connections and suggesting that this is a school story that reflects their experiences.

As well as being an ideal read-aloud,  it is also perfect for moving some of the more reluctant readers along their reading pathway, While each book is a stand-alone read, with five in the collection there is scope to satisfy those who become hooked as well as introducing other equally engaging Tim Harris reads like the  Toffle Towers  or Exploding Endings series or James Hart’s Super Geeks  series, each building confidence and opening up even more doors. 

 

My Favourite Teachers

My Favourite Teachers

My Favourite Teachers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Favourite Teachers

Beck & Robin Feiner

ABC Books, 2022

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

9780733342332

When we hear the word ‘teacher’ we automatically think of those amazing people who work in the classrooms of our schools working with our kids to help them understand the world around them, how it works and where they can or might fit into it.  We might even value them and the work they do a bit more since the pandemic forced many parents to take on the job of teaching the formal stuff at home.

But as well as those dedicated to the profession, our children have many teachers in their lives – parents and grandparents, sisters and brothers, neighbours and friends. This book is a celebration of ALL the teachers in children’s lives.  Each double page spread introduces a student and who their favourite teacher at school is, and also one from their community.   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

However, while its solid block colour illustrations are eye-catching, the choice of both the font style and colour (white on pale pages is never easy) could make it tricky for some of its target audience to read and this too, could spark interesting discussions about how important  presentation is to readability. When students are formatting their own presentations, there is a tendency to pick the brightest colours, the most intricate fonts and use every piece of app whizzbangery there is, often resulting in eye candy that hurts and distracts the eyes from the essential message of the text.  Thus, learning how to present tasks visually to obtain maximum attention to the message is an essential skill.  

The book itself begs to be a model for students to add their own pages, offering them an opportunity to look at not only the diversity of what they learn, but also those who teach them.