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Strong and Tough

Strong and Tough

Strong and Tough

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Strong and Tough

Rico Hinson-King

Nick Sharratt

Bloomsbury, 2022

32pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781526648631

With the FIFA World Cup well under way,  many young lads will have thoughts of becoming a Socceroo and representing their country in the future. 

So this is a timely story to share with them to show that dreams can come true if they hold on to their hope and stare down whatever difficulties might confront them on the way. They need to stay strong and tough. 

Written during homework club at Manchester City FC in 2020 by the amazingly talented ten-year-old Rico Hinson-King. an everyday boy with an extraordinary story to tell through the character of Charlie about being taken from his birth parents, being separated from his sisters and being placed in foster care and despite being scared and lonely at times, surviving because of his love of football.  Practising to be the best he could be helped keep his mind off things, his determination and resilience helped him to be brave, strong and tough no matter what and one day he scores a goal that is even better than scoring the winning sudden-death penalty at a cup final!  

But as much as it is about football, it is also about his journey in the foster-care system, something that many of our readers will know about but never read about.  So although they might not have the same dream as Charlie, they can be inspired to follow their own passion, to understand that it can be scary and lonely at times but there are ways to distract from those big feelings with even better ones.  

 

The Champ (series)

The Champ

The Champ

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Champ

The Champ 1

9781760526870

Rock ‘n’ Roll

9781761065620

Anh Do

A & U  Children’s 2022

192pp., pbk., RRP $A15.99

Popular and prolific storyteller is back with a new series for young readers transitioning to novels with all the supports these readers need including action-packed plots and relatable characters who have a touch of superpower to turn them from ordinary to extraordinary in times of need.

Summer loves sport, and there is nothing she would love more than to charge down the field towards an open goal, or soar through the air over the basket. She would love to be part of a team but instead she always seems to be the last one picked, probably because of her lack of co-ordination which even she recognises. Then one day something amazing happens and Summer discovers she is no longer the spectator but the superstar. The purple gloop that covered her and landed her in hospital has turned her life around. However what is magical for Summer is misery for her older brother Carl who goes from being a talented upcoming footballer to being in a wheelchair, and Summer finds herself with a lot more responsibility.

With her new expertise, Summer decides to enter contests to earn money to support her family, but as it turns out, there are far more important things for her to do, starting with sorting out a witch who looks strangely familiar and is causing trouble in her home town while keeping her new powers secret because  a government agency, armed with a robotic minion, begin to take an interest in her.  In the second in the series, she has to deal with the mysterious Book Witch again when everyone’s favourite rock band is kidnapped.

Younger readers who are just meeting Anh Do as an author will like what they read and easily be able to fit themselves into the story, perhaps even venturing into his many other series  as they wait for Summer’s next adventure, but those more familiar with his works, particularly SkyDragon may find parts of the plot familiar.  That doesn’t decry from the appeal of this new series as there is a reason Do is so popular and this is yet another way to get readers on the cusp of being independent to keep reading. 

 

 

 

Nice Garry (series)

Nice Garry (series)

Nice Garry (series)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nice Garry (series)

Bowled Over 

9781460761342

In A Spin

9781460761359

Michael Wagner, Nathan Lyon

David Williams

HarperCollins, 2022

192pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

On the eve of the 2022 ICC Men’s T20 World Cup, this is a new series featuring renowned spin bowler Nathan Lyon that is going to appeal to young cricket loving readers. While Lyon himself will be in the commentary box this year (although he is determined to be good enough again to make it into the Australian T20 side), nevertheless the comments of “Nice, Garry” will be heard on the cricket pitch in other formats as the season wears on.

Inspired by the talent and passion Australian Test cricketing great Nathan Lyon has for the game, nicknamed Garry after AFL star Garry Lyon, this is the story of an ordinary kid with an extraordinary gift, but the talented 10-year-old discovers that sometimes gifts like his can present new, unexpected challenges that have to be faced.  

Following in the format of other sports series which focus on leading lights in a variety of codes, readers not only learn about their heroes and tips and tricks of the games they play, but also what it takes to be both a leader and a team member and that sometimes being really good at a particular thing is not always enough.  There are responsibilities that come with the rewards.

As well as being one to hand to the aspiring young cricketers, it is also one to hand to the reluctant reader who has to read it and decide whether it is a series worth purchasing for the library’s collection.  Among all the other series available, what will make this one stand out and appeal to many, making it a worthwhile investment?  

 

Football Fever 1: The Kick-off

Football Fever 1: The Kick-off

Football Fever 1: The Kick-off

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Football Fever 1: The Kick-off

Kristin Darell

Puffin, 2022

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

9781761048067

It’s a new season for the Under 11s Merridale Fever! Kyra’s the star striker and can’t wait to meet the team’s new recruit, Sam – all the way from England. But Sam has a secret – he’s never played on a mixed team, and it’s shaking his confidence. Will advice from some very special football superstars help Kyra and Sam join forces so the team can kick off the season with a bang, or will it end in disaster before it even begins?

Suitable for newly independent readers, particularly those with a passion for football,  this is the first in this series, the beginning of  an expansive publishing program in partnership with Football Australia.  Featuring Commbank Matildas and Socceroos stars Sam Kerr, Ellie Carpenter, Mary Fowler, Rhyan Grant and Joel King – it is  part of the lead-up to the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023™ hosted by Australia and New Zealand in July-August, 2023.  

The second in the series, Half-Time Heroes, is due late November so readers can look forward to regular new releases as anticipation builds. 

 

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. 

 

The Unstoppable Flying Flanagan

The Unstoppable Flying Flanagan

The Unstoppable Flying Flanagan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Unstoppable Flying Flanagan

Felice Arena

Puffin. 2022

192pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9781761044366

Before Daisy Pearce, Darcy Veccio and Tayla Harris, even before Barb Hampson, Lisa Hardeman, and Debbie Lee, there was Maggie Flanagan.

Melbourne, 1942. So many husbands, fathers and brothers have enlisted including Maggie’s older brother Patrick, whom she idolises, although she idolises his football skills more and treasures the ball he left in her safe-keeping. Wherever she goes, when she is not at school, it is with her and she continually practises her skills, keeping a running commentary of an invisible game going in her head. 

And so when the new parish priest inspires the Year 5/6 students at her very traditional Catholic school to hold a fund-raiser for the troops abroad, Maggie knows that the sew and bake stalls are not for her (and being a girl, she’s not allowed to enter the build-and-race billycart event) and so she decides to stage an all-female football match.  But while women are slowly emerging from the domestic drudgery imposed on them by men who believe a woman’s place is, “barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen” as they take over the roles left vacant by those who are now soldiers, playing football is not seen as something females do and so Maggie is faced with the enormous task of finding enough players to field two teams who not only have the skills but also the courage to stand up against the prejudice and ridicule. Can Carrots (as she is known to her dad, as I was to mine) prevail? Will her praying to the picture of Mary in Sister Gertrude’s office give her the people she needs? If she does, will they be allowed to play?  Will there be enough people interested in watching to actually raise some money?   

Inspired by a chance reading of a discarded newspaper on a train to Scotland,  as much as this story is about Maggie’s struggles to find players as she contends with the fearsome Sister Gertrude, the bullying Mickey Mulligan and the disdain of her own female friends, it is also about having the courage to be yourself and follow your dreams in the face of such odds.  Arena offers us Gerald whose dream is to sing and dance on stage; Elena who, of Italian heritage, is seen as a traitor even though she was born in Australia; Nora who seems to be the shadow of the haughty Frances but who has her own secrets, and a host of other “miss-fits” who make this such an engaging read for everyone. Who would think that Maggie would ever have any sympathy for Mickey Mulligan or that Grumpy Gaffney could save the day?  What is Sister Clare’s secret? 

While this is a fictional story, it was the courage and determination of the Maggie Flanagans of yesteryear who refused to be pigeon-holed, who refused to accept that they were less intelligent and less capable than men who paved the way for what is now not only the very successful AFLW but also for all those in what have been traditionally men’s sports and occupations. (Being the daughter of one such pioneer, I empathise with her strongly.) It’s a thoroughly researched, totally absorbing insight into a time not so long ago that is about so much more than footy that will appeal to independent readers who like historical fiction.  As Maggie would say, “A-women.” 

 

Spike Surfs

Spike Surfs

Spike Surfs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spike Surfs

Robert Lorenzon

Wild Dog Books, 2022

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

9781742036229

This book is subtitled “From Lost Dog’s Home to Surfing Champ” and that is exactly the story it tells.  Spike was at the Lost Dogs’ Home, waiting in vain for someone to love him enough to take him home – and along came Rob!

But Rob loved to surf and the ocean terrified Spike but with friendship and patience, amazing things began to happen culminating in a spectacular ride at the championships in Noosa!

Told by Spike and illustrated with real photos, this is a heart-warming story of how hope and devotion can blossom when the chemistry is right. And the author is putting his money where his mouth is by donating 50% of the royalties to the Lost Dogs’ Home so they can continue helping other surrendered dogs whose numbers have increased by 70% in the last 12 months.

Teachers’ notes are available.

Specky Magee

Specky Magee

Specky Magee

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Specky Magee

Felice Arena & Garry Lyon

Puffin, 2022

192pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9780143777168

Twenty years ago when the AFL season was being dominated by the team from Port Adelaide but two less-likely contenders, Brisbane Lions and Collingwood  fought out the premiership, one of the most popular series that wouldn’t stay on the shelf was Specky Magee – the story of a 12-year-old footballer whose off-field challenges almost surpassed his on-field exploits.  

Nicknamed Specky because he takes such spectacular marks, the young Specky can’t understand why there is a photograph of him in footy gear in pride of place in the family home yet the family can’t stand football. And so he decides to investigate… It is Specky’s backstory that made this such a popular read because suddenly the boys particularly, were reading about their own challenges as they navigated puberty and family interactions and the bridging that child-adolescent chasm.  They found themselves in the story.

And while Felice Arena’s name wasn’t well-known at the time, Garry Lyon’s was.  As captain of the Melbourne Demons from 1991-1997,  three All-Australian nominations and an emerging media career, Lyon was a leading personality whose name on the front cover of a book would draw in even the most reluctant reader.  For it to evolve into a series of eight books was just the icing on the cake. There are many who owe their reading prowess today to that series, girls as well as boys, because this was also a ground-breaking series that was written for both. While the AFLW was still 15 years away, nevertheless the girls are strong characters who help shape Specky off the field. And Christina introduces him to the notion that girls can play as well as boys.

It is testament to the quality and strength of the story that it is being re-released 20 years on from its debut and it will have as much appeal now as it did then.  While the series spans Specky’s life from 12-14, and thus perhaps is at the upper end of the readership of this blog, nevertheless there will be younger readers who will cherish it for being one of just a handful available about their beloved game. 

Meanwhile, having read the series all those years ago, I’m looking forward to Arena’s new title – The Unstoppable Flying Flanagan the story of a young girl who used her football skills to raise funds for the troops in 1942… perhaps the origins of AFLW go back much further than we think. 

 

Born to Run

Born to Run

Born to Run

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Born to Run

Cathy Freeman

Charmaine Ledden-Lewis

Puffin, 2021

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

9781761043802

There would be few who were able to witness the lighting of the cauldron at the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000 who will have forgotten the image of Cathy Freeman standing with the torch.

 

Now, in this picture book version of her autobiography, we can learn of all that it took to get there. and then to the finish line of the 400m in the gold medal position just a few days later. We learn about her older sister Anne-Marie who, crippled by cerebral palsy, inspired her to keep training; how even when she won it was the second-place getters who were awarded the medals because they were white; of having to leave her beloved family and go to boarding school where she was the only Aboriginal girl…

This is an inspirational story of someone who is a household name in Australian sport, one of the best of the best who overcame so much, not the least of which was the colour of her skin.  But more than that it demonstrates that champions and heroes start life as ordinary people, just like the book’s readers, that they face all the setbacks, doubts and other obstacles as “regular people” but they dig deep because their passion to achieve is so strong. It demonstrates the power of self-belief, and particularly the support of family, and shows that there are many others standing on the dais even if they’re not seen by the public. 

Written openly and honestly, the picture book format is perfect for its intended audience because they are at the age when dreams start to take shape, the passion starts to build and the foundations for becoming a champion are being put in place. Perhaps it will help consolidate their own dreams. 

Biographies and autobiographies in a format and language accessible to younger readers are an important part of the development of the age group for a lot more reasons than just a lot of facts about someone famous.  And for this to be about someone so familiar yet so ordinary in many ways, may just be the catalyst a future star might need. If she could, I can… She persisted.

 

Cricket, I Just Love It!

Cricket, I Just Love It!

Cricket, I Just Love It!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cricket, I Just Love It!

Alister Nicholson

Tom Jellett

A&U Children’s, 2021

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

9781760526801

The ICC T20 World Cup is being played; the Women’s Big Bash League is well underway; and community cricket is back! Summer’s on its way and backyard cricket is not far behind. The timing of the release of this book could not be better.

Cricket, I just love it! It really is the best.
Batting, bowling, fielding, Twenty20 or a test.
I watch it or I listen and of course I always play.
Cricket is my favourite part of every single day.

Cricket is Australia’s national sport with its national captain’s name known more widely than that of any politician and so many childhood memories are bound up games played on the beach, in the backyard or even in the street with the nearest garbage bin commandeered as the wickets and :over the fence is out” a universal rule. So this rollicking ode to cricket in all its forms with all it perks and quirks is just the greatest fun . Written in rhyme by  one of the most well-known voices on ABC Sport’s AFL and cricket coverage, Alister Nicholson has the expertise and experience  to explain the game that baffles many and for the uninitiated there are not only clues of the terms in the text and illustrations, but also the endpapers. Because the main theme of this book, apart from the joy of the game, is that it is a game for everyone from the top professional tournaments to the Saturday kids’ games and all stops in between, male or female, a fact emphasised by Jellett’s illustrations with their iconic style and bold colour.

Beyond the story there is the opportunity to scan a QR code to hear it read by the author, and watch it in Auslan so all abilities are catered for. It will inspire the next Elyse Perry, Meg Lanning or Tim Payne. The perfect gift for the cricket lover, or the person who wants to understand what all this fuss is about!