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The Robin and the Reindeer

The Robin and the Reindeer

The Robin and the Reindeer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Robin and the Reindeer

Rosa Bailey

Carmen Saldana

Hodder Children’s, 2021

96pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9781444956542

The wintery white landscape is a wonderland for Little Reindeer who is learning about snow and cold for the first time.  So entranced is she by her surroundings that she doesn’t notice that the herd has moved on on its journey to the caves in the warmer south.  She is lost and the snow has already covered their tracks so she has no idea which way to go.  But she remains calm, remembers her mother’s words about digging a hole in the snow to keep warm and waits out the night.

Through the snowflakes that are still falling the next morning she catches a flash of red – curious because Leader told her all the birds had also travelled south – and a robin with his scarlet breast appears.  Together, with the robin perched on Little reindeer’s nose like a beacon, they travel through the forest until…

This is a simple story beautifully told and illustrated in a muted palette that reflects the setting, making it a great choice for a calming read at the end of a boisterous session or day.  A cross between a picture book and a novel, it is ideal for those making that transition as it has the supports needed such as just a sentence or two on each page to maintain interest even though it is somewhat longer than a regular picture book. Just as Little Reindeer realises she is becoming “a real reindeer” when she sees her budding antlers, so readers will understand that they are becoming ‘real readers”. Just charming. 

 

The Magic Faraway Tree: A New Adventure

The Magic Faraway Tree: A New Adventure

The Magic Faraway Tree: A New Adventure

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Magic Faraway Tree: A New Adventure

Jacqueline Wilson

Mark Beech

Hodder Children’s, 2022

285pp., hbk., RRP $A35.00

9781444963373

2856pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781444963380

Seventy-plus years ago, the stories of Enid Blyton were the core of the young child’s reading diet.  A trip in the magic wishing chair or a visit to a land through the mysterious cloud above a huge tree were a much-anticipated part of the bedtime routine introducing us to the fantasy genre and leading us on to read series like The Famous Five and The Secret Seven  or any other of her 700 books and 2000 short stories for ourselves. 

Such were the memories made that that generation went on to share her work with their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and some, like me, went on to become teachers and shared them with a new class of fans every year for 50 years!!! So to discover that Jacqueline Wilson had been given permission to weave new adventures among the branches of the Faraway Tree so new, modern readers can share the magic and mystery made this high on my list of review requests.  And I’ve had my nose in it all afternoon not only meeting the new and familiar characters like Silky, Moonface, the Saucepan Man and Dame Washalot among others but recalling my own introduction to them all those years ago and the joy and wonder I’ve brought to children over the years when I have shared them.  

In this new adventure, Milo, Mia and Birdy are on a countryside holiday when they wander into an Enchanted Wood and following a rabbit who can speak to them through the thick forest with its mysterious whispering leaves, discover a beautiful tree that stands high above the rest. The Magic Faraway Tree is home to many remarkable creatures including a fairy called Silky, her best friend Moonface and more. Little Birdy is only too happy to find that fairies are real. Even her older brother and sister are soon won over by the magic of the Faraway Tree and the extraordinary places they discover above it.

Keeping true to the original concept, including the writing style, this is both a nostalgic visit to past pleasures as well as the gateway to reading the entire series which remains in print.  IMO, this is one of the best series to introduce young readers to reading novels because each chapter is pretty much complete in itself making it ideal for a both a read-aloud session and a read-alone session, yet there is the continuity of both the storyline and the characters to be able to pick it up and set it down without having to orient yourself to a whole new read.  While there is drama in each chapter . the plot remains straightforward so there are not too many twists and turns to confuse the novice reader. 

My well-thumbed, well-read 1971 editions of the series have pride of place on my bookshelf, and this new adventure will be sitting there with them too, ready for when my grandchildren are ready to read it to theirs.  Hachette, the publishers, kindly sent me a hardcover version but it is also available in paperback at a more accessible price so more generations can lose themselves in the magic.  

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. 

 

 

 

Willa and Woof 2: Birthday Business

Willa and Woof 2: Birthday Business

Willa and Woof 2: Birthday Business

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Willa and Woof 2: Birthday Business

Jacqueline Harvey

Puffin, 2022

128pp., pbk., RRP $A 12.99

9781761043321

Willa’s best old-age-friend Frank hates birthdays, but that’s not going to stop her from throwing him the greatest surprise party ever!

Willa plunges headlong into party planning and things immediately start to go wrong. Why don’t older people look forward to and celebrate birthdays as enthusiastically as the young?  She’ll need all her problem-solving skills (with the help of Tae, her best same-age friend, and her trusty sidekick Woof) to save the celebration!

Can Willa pull off the surprise?

This is the second in this new series from popular Jacqueline Harvey, with the third, Grandparents for Hire due in January, ensuring young readers do not have to wait long between reads for the next episode to whet their appetite.  As with the first, it is created for younger readers who are consolidating their skills and need quality writing, interesting characters and relatable plots, supported by short chapters, a larger font and illustrations.  

In my review of the first one, Mimi is MissingI suggested offering it to a reluctant reader and asking them to read it and assess whether it will be worth buying the additions that follow, and so this could be the consolidation read – is the series living up to expectations?  To extend their thinking, you could invite them to think about what more they learned about the characters in this new story and have them build a summary of characters such as this, so others can get to know them and follow the relationships…

This could then become part of a bigger display called Select-A-Series created by students summarising their own favourite series to persuade others to extend their reading horizons, as well as giving real purpose and context for reading as they become more critical readers, encouraged to pause and think about what they are reading rather than skimming the pages and looking for what’s next.   To add depth it could become part of a poll to find the most popular series for the year, making and building on the display for the entire year ensuring student-centred learning and participation.  

Federal Minister for Education Jason Clare is currently spruiking a proposal for providing teachers with lesson plans, returning to a cookie-cutter approach that focuses on the subject rather than the student, so this could be a way of providing something that meets curriculum outcomes but in a highly personalised way, 

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. 

 

PD McPem’s Agency for Mysterious Mysteries

PD McPem's Agency for Mysterious Mysteries

PD McPem’s Agency for Mysterious Mysteries

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PD McPem’s Agency for Mysterious Mysteries

The Recorder Racket

9780645218084

The Puzzling Pet Parade

9780645218015

Anna Battese

Ruth-Mary Smith

Yellow Brick Books, 2022

64pp., pbk., RRP $A11.95

Penelope Delores McPem (aka PD McPem) and her puppy Scooter are staying with PD’s grandparents for the summer holidays which coinicides with her grandparents’ annual cleanup. 

While cleaning up the garage with Grandpa, PD finds a box full of things from the olden days, including Grandpa’s old brown trilby hat, his trench coat and a magnifying glass – everything PD needs to start her own Detective’s Agency!

In the first episode of this new series for emerging young readers,  PD’s most treasured treasure goes missing and she must use all of her new detecting skills to track down the culprit. Can she overcome a shoo-ing Granny, a double-crossing dog and a universe-chomping black hole to save her beloved recorder?

In the second, it’s West Bay Primary School’s annual Pet Parade and Miss Hartnett’s Year One class is excited to showcase their lovable companions.  PD McPem is particularly keen to show off her clever canine assistant, Scooter.  But the arrival of her new deskmate, Theodora Putkins, and her Rhinoceros Beetle Circus creates havoc when both Scooter and Mary the beetle are nowhere to be found! Can PD McPem’s agency for Mysterious Mysteries solve the puzzle of the missing pets before it’s too late?

With all the textual features needed to support those transitioning from instructional readers to more unstructured texts, this is a new series that will appeal to young girls who will see themselves as PD McPem and relate to the adventures she has,  as well as being introduced to the mystery genre, perhaps prompting them to delve further into it, maybe even with classics such as The Famous Five and The Secret Seven giving them common talking points with their parents and grandparents and starting conversations about their favourites.  Those who are traversing the “stepping stones” between reading materials love series because it means they can bring their prior knowledge of the characters and situations to the story so they can get stuck into the new adventure without having to figure out relationships and so forth, and so a new one to add to the mix is always fun.  

 

Smidgen: How to Make a Pet Monster 3

Smidgen: How to Make a Pet Monster 3

Smidgen: How to Make a Pet Monster 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Smidgen: How to Make a Pet Monster 3

Lili Wilkinson

Alex Patrick

Albert Street, 2022

200pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781761067433

Life has changed dramatically for 11-year=old Artie.  He and his mum have just moved into a spooky old house with his mum’s new partner, and while he’s OK with that (even if he doesn’t know quite what to call the partner) he has also gained a sister – one who is a year older than he and who terrifies him.

Artie also likes to read his Junior Scientist magazine bur he is having trouble finding a quiet place to do so – he can’t read downstairs because his mother is renovating; he can’t read in the kitchen because David Cole (what he has settled on calling him that) is making dinner; and he can’t read in his room because Willow is being too noisy, shouting on her phone to her friends and playing her electric guitar “making sounds like someone is stomping on a bag of cats”. so he ventures up to the attic and that’s where he discovers The Bigge Boke of Fetching Monsters.  Unfortunately, before he has a chance to hide it, Willow discovers it and she insists on trying out the instructions.  Artie, who doesn’t believe in monsters at all because, like ghosts and skeletons and other things that live in haunted houses like his, they don’t exist, is very apprehensive but Willow is insistent. And the fun begins…

Now having made Hodgepodge , who is now Artie’s best friend, and Flummox  who has gone to live with their neighbour, Willow wants to try again.  But Artie is not so sure – perhaps they have pushed their luck too far and will get something not as friendly this time. 

Written and formatted for those who are newly independent readers with short chapters, larger font and lots of illustrations, this is the third in this series that will appeal to those who are a bit like Artie and a little afraid of what’s beyond their immediate world, as well as those like Willow who push on regardless – and even those who sit somewhere in between.  With its two predecessors, it’s a solid series to encourage young readers to keep reading.  Being able to bring prior knowledge to a story adds extra confidence and so this is one that should be read in sequence. although there is enough support built in for it to be a stand-alone. 

Willa and Woof 1: Mimi is Missing

Willa and Woof 1: Mimi is Missing

Willa and Woof 1: Mimi is Missing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Willa and Woof 1: Mimi is Missing

Jacqueline Harvey

Puffin, 2022

128pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

9781761043314

Willa’s four-legged best friend is her albino wolfhound, Woof; her same-age best friend is Tae Jin whose name means “person of greatness” in Korean; and her old-age best friend is Frank Pickles who lives next door in the retirement village and is very old and very grumpy with crinkly skin and bags under his eyes.  Willa visits him almost every day and listens to his stories about how he used to race pigeons when he was younger, although now he only has Mimi in the aviary in his tiny back yard. 

So when Willa discovers Mimi is missing and she thinks it is her fault because she didn’t latch the cage properly, she is devastated and, after searching everywhere, hatches a plot to lure her home.  But when that backfires, she knows she has to confess to Frank – but then she discovers he is missing too…

Told by Willa herself with that typical young-person humour, this is the first in a new series from the author of Clementine Rose, Alice-Miranda, and Kensy and Max , created for younger readers who are consolidating their skills and need quality writing, interesting characters and relatable plots, supported by short chapters, a larger font and illustrations.  For me, one of its strengths is the small group of main characters who are interesting even though they don’t stray too far from what is expected allowing the reader to take in the whole story without having to think too much about who’s who and their relationships.  At the same time though, there are those who play a minor role in this story but who will most likely pop up again in sequels, establishing a network that will become familiar.  This is a key reason that series are particularly popular with readers – they can bring their prior knowledge of the characters to the page and get stuck into the story itself without having to be distracted.

While I think this is a series that is going to build into becoming as popular with young readers as its predecessors, why not offer it to a reluctant reader and ask them to read and assess whether it will be worth buying the additions that follow, ensuring that they support their judgement..  Giving them context and purpose for their reading could be just the bridge they need to cross…  (And if they’re not hooked, you’ve started a conversation about what they do like to read, as well as the opportunity to give it to others on a 2/3 basis for purchase.) 

Clarice Bean: Scram!

Clarice Bean: Scram!

Clarice Bean: Scram!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Clarice Bean: Scram

Lauren Child

HarperCollins, 2022

176pp., pbk., RRP $A17.99

9780008541507

Clarice Bean Tuesday is 12, second youngest in an extended family that comprises her granddad, and her grandmother, her dad, her mother, her 16-year old brother Kurt, her 14 year old sister Marcie and her younger brother Minal Cricket Tuesday who is 5.  As with many larger families, life is often chaotic but on this particular day Clarice is feeling bored because nothing ever happens except for sometimes. And only on rare-ish occasions, which is hardly ever. There are times when even I can’t turn the nothing into more than it is. But there was one day in the holidays that began as a nothing day and then everything happened. Absolutely nearly everything.

Cranky and bored because it is the summer holidays and her brothers and sister are annoying, her best friend Betty Moody is away,  and Robert Grainger, her weird neighbour is boasting that he is looking after a rabbit. Everyone seems to be having more fun than she is. That is, until she finds that a puppy has followed her home and will not ‘scram’. Knowing that when her parents return from the wedding, they  will only make her try to find its owner, Clarice and her siblings all work together to look after the dog and hide it from them.

Written in Clarice’s 12 year-old voice, this is a series from the author of Charlie and Lola,  that has been around for over 20 years but with intermittent new releases, remains as popular as ever with younger newly independent readers. They will relate to the everyday events that Child skillfully makes entertaining and using lots of the formatting devices that support young readers to tackle longer reads, this new release could see the resurgence of the series amongst a new generation of readers.

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.