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Fluff, Bullies Beware!

Fluff, Bullies Beware!

Fluff, Bullies Beware!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fluff, Bullies Beware!

Matt Stanton

ABC Books, 2023

216pp., pbk., RRP $A15.99

9780733342080

According to the official government report, Gilbert’s dad disappeared in outer space but Gilbert knows that the truth is his dad died while defending the Earth from an aggressive army of aliens that wanted to turn the planet into a poo-processing plant.   Whatever the reason, Gilbert’s dad doesn’t live with them any more and to compensate, Gilbert’s mum gave him a big fluffy bunny toy.  But this is no ordinary squishy soft toy – Fluff can talk and he has attitude.  

So when Gilbert’s underpants are found hanging from the school gate – everyone knows they’re his because his mum has written his name on them – it is time to get revenge on the bully who put them there, especially as every gate in the street sports a pair of them too …

And so begins another series from the popular Matt Stanton, written for young readers embarking on their independent reading journey with minimal text on each page and lots of illustrations that carry the story forward.  With series like The OddsFunny Kid  and Bored to his credit, Stanton his continuing the legacy of authors like Paul Jennings and Andy Griffiths who turned kids, especially boys, of a previous generation on to the fun of reading by knowing just what it was they wanted to read about and how they wanted to read – pared down text that wasn’t complicated and didn’t take a lot of time.  And with the second in the series due early next year, this is another win not just for Stanton but also all those boys who are still looking for a reason to read. 

Riz Chester: The Fingerprint Code

Riz Chester: The Fingerprint Code

Riz Chester: The Fingerprint Code

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Riz Chester: The Fingerprint Code

R. A. Stephens

E. Hammond

Wombat Books, 2023

90pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

9781761111280

Riz Chester has highly tuned senses and notices things that most people don’t, such as the brand of cheese being changed in the tuckshop lunches, the 10gram change in the size of the packets of chips, and the differences between identical twins Sabrina and Jenny.  She keeps a note of the differences in her Weird Stuff Log because when she mentions them, people look at her funny.  

But, by using her observation skills and logical thinking, she was able to detect counterfeit $10 notes in the first in this series for newly independent readers, and in this episode once again she  demonstrates the value of planning, thinking logically and recording what you discover in an organised way as she tries to determine who could have stolen a baby grand piano from the school’s music room.

This time the forensic focus is fingerprints and there is more information about this at the end of the book, enabling students to understand why they leave unique markers all the time that science is beginning to unravel with greater depth and accuracy every day.

There are lots of series published for this age group, but this one particularly appeals to me because of its emphasis on the need to approach a problem in a clear, methodical way thus brining into play all those skills of the information literacy process.  What has happened? What do we know? What do we need to find out? How can we find that out? What would be the best tools to use? How do we use them? Do I need help using them…  

Pepper Masalah (series)

Pepper Masalah (series)

Pepper Masalah (series)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pepper Masalah (series)

Pepper Masalah and the Flying Carpet

9781761111105

Pepper Masalah and the Temple of Cats 

9781761111143

Pepper Masalah and the Giant Bird

9781761111204

80pp., pbk., RRP $A11.99

 Nine year old Zamir lives with his father and grandmother on an olive farm in Australia with his cat Pepper Masalah (who looks like a mini panther).  Although Pepper Masalah prefers to spend her days sleeping in front of the fire on a red and blue carpet, one that Zam’s grandmother brought with her from Kashmir and which she believes can fly even though it hasn’t done so for many years.  But one night during a storm, Sam and his cat discover  discovered that the rug does have magical powers and they find themselves flying off on all sorts of adventures that take them to all sorts of places, particularly those in the mysterious Middle East.

Inspired by her own circumstances, this is a new series for newly independent readers sharpening their skills, particularly those who love cats and adventures and have dreams of flying off on their own magic carpet. But underlying this, the books also introduce the reader to various cultures, stories and beliefs that they may be unfamiliar with and, in an age-appropriate way, some real world issues, particularly those relating to children.

As well as taking the reader to a region that is in the news but of which little is generally known by the target audience, the series offers the opportunity for the reader to think about where they might go if they had their own magic carpet, perhaps even sparking a way to celebrate all the nationalities represented in the classroom.  Students could design their own magic carpet and then create a display of the important things about their country of birth or ancestry.  

While there are many series written for this age group, this one combines the fantasy of a magic carpet ride, the friendship between a boy and his pet, and the familiarity of the personalities of cats in situations that may offer cause for consideration.  Each story has some information pages at the end as well as a glossary of local words and their pronunciation, grounding the stories in reality.

Something out of the ordinary that will open readers’ eyes to new places and introduce them to children who live different lives from them. 

Ratbags 4: Take Flight

Ratbags 4: Take Flight

Ratbags 4: Take Flight

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ratbags 4: Take Flight

Tom Harris

Shiloh Gordon

Puffin, 2023

192pp., graphic novel, RRP $A14.99

9781761340505

Rats, in general, do not have a good reputation for being friendly and kind, and The Ratbags are no exception.  Their goal in life is to make trouble and to look for naughty things to do.  They dream of mayhem and believe rules are for losers.  Except for one – Jigsaw.  He got his name because he does not fit in, like a puzzle piece that won’t squeeze into place no matter how much you twist and turn it. Jigsaw likes both rules and humans so he doesn’t fit in with the other rats and they shun him. 

In their fourth adventure in this series, The ratbags are on holiday on the trash-filled Scum Island, where everything is just how the ratbags like it – terrible! Even cats are kept in line by a high-flying falcon, who puts on a show for the ratbags! But when Cracker is carried away to the falcon’s lair, Jigsaw starts to worry… is the pesky falcon a feathery friend or foe? One thing’s for sure, with the ratbags in town, the holiday is packed with action, danger and VERY bad manners.

In previous reviews I have focused on the popularity of characters and subjects that make adults squirm and their power to appeal to reluctant readers as well as the attraction of a format that is text-light, illustration-heavy but has a quality story that focuses on familiar elements of friendship, standing your ground against peer pressure and being yourself , and this has been proven by a request from a young lad asking if I had the latest one yet. Not known for his affinity for reading, this was a surprise and one I took pleasure in satisfying (as did my contact at Penguin Random House). Who knows where this series might take this newly-independent reader as he explores the wide world of stories in print.

Maybe this will be the way forward for one of your students to…

Smarty Pup 3: To the Rescue

Smarty Pup 3: To the Rescue

Smarty Pup 3: To the Rescue

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Smarty Pup 3: To the Rescue

Anh Do

Anton Emdin

A&U Children’s, 2023

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

9781761068959

After Lily lost her mum, life was a little ordinary and sad,  but things changed when her Dad decided 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 chose JJ, who was kind of clumsy, but something about his smiley face made her really happy inside. They changed even more when Lily discovered  that JJ could talk and is actually super smart. He can speak a number of languages, and knows the answers to maths and geography questions.

Now the family is healing and is back again in a third adventure with this extraordinary dog who has just declared that he want to be a firedog, following a visit to Lily’s school by Chief Firefighter Do and his son Weirdo. But, like many little ones fascinated by the noise and speed and sirens of fire engines, and the wonder of where they are off to, when fire threatens to burn down a local building, Lily and JJ realise there’s more to firefighting than just driving a big red truck. Will JJ and his latest invention save the day?

Sadly, for too many of our children the sights and sounds of the fire trucks have already been heard this summer as bushfire season shows its hand early, so this is a timely release to focus their thoughts on being prepared and knowing what to do if they are in danger, because unlike JJ, they probably won’t have a mini-copter at the ready. 

With its intriguing hologram covers, this is a series for young independent readers whose older siblings are reading Anh Do’s other series and they want some of the fun, too.  

Etta and the Octopus

Etta and the Octopus

Etta and the Octopus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Etta and the Octopus

Zana Fraillon

Andrew Joyner

Lothian, 2023

100pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9780734421685

FOUND!

One octopus!

Likes to eat tuna sandwiches.

Goes by the name of ‘Oswald’.

It all began when Etta decided to take a bath . . . And realised she wasn’t alone. In the bath sat Oswald. Etta had never had an octopus in her bath before. At first, Etta thinks it might be fun to have Oswald around. But she soon learns that octopuses are not very good at being tidy . . . or cooking . . . or sharing . . . or even playing nicely. Just as Etta has almost had enough, someone comes to claim Oswald. Oswald isn’t perfect, but does Etta really want to send him away?

This is another in the collection of books for emerging independent readers that focus on a young person being befriended by an unusual creature – in this case, an octopus.  It has all the structures like a larger font, short chapters and plenty of illustrations that a young person needs; it contains instructions for the game that Etta and Oswald play, and Andrew Joyner has included a step-by-step guide to drawing Oswald.  But what sets it apart is that Etta starts making a list of the pros and cons of having an octopus as a pet, a strategy that our young readers can learn and adapt as they venture into the realm of persuasive writing.  Their growing maturity allows them to view a problem or situation from more than their own perspective and to be able to stand back and look at the advantages and disadvantages and then list these so they can make an informed opinion is the basis of a quality  argument which is at the heart of persuasive writing and being a critical thinker.  

So, having shared the story with the students, it offers opportunities to set up similar situations such as a dragon having taken up residence in the school playground, so they can start to explore and develop this strategy for themselves.

The ending of this story sets it up to be a series so perhaps there will be more to come that those who like quirky adventures can enjoy. 

The Champ vs the Werewolf Warriorz

The Champ vs the Werewolf Warriorz

The Champ vs the Werewolf Warriorz

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Champ vs the Werewolf Warriorz

Anh Do

Dave Atze

A & U Children’s, 2023

280pp., pbk., RRP $A15.99

9781761065637

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 this episode, the third in this series, the Book Witch and her army of Werewolf Warriorz threaten to ruin the Rockstone Autumn Fair, Summer’s powers are put to the test. Will she be able to save the day, and the fair, without revealing her secret identity? 

Written for those on the cusp of being independent readers with lots of support such as larger font and plenty of illustrations, this is a series that will appeal to those who are taking an interest in the plethora of sport available at the moment, particularly that featuring women. But rather than being blessed with super powers to achieve their goals and vanquish their ‘enemies”, they face seemingly interminable  routine and repetition, recovery and resilience setting up the opportunity for a discussion about just what it takes to get to the top.  

Jawsome

Jawsome

Jawsome

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jawsome

R. J. Timms

Albert Street, 2023

304pp., pbk., RRP $A15.99

9781761068591

Deep under the ocean in the Shallow Side of Chumville Finley the reef shark lives with his dentist parents Su and Shi, and his siblings, Dash, Smash, Crash, Flash , Splash and Bash.  During the day Finley goes to school with his mates Hunter the tiger shark, Gnash the pointer shark and Gilleon the lemon shark, but at night, they are secretly the super-famous rock band JAWSOME!  But not everything is cruisy. Can JAWSOME get to the bottom of an ocean of shady shark-nanigans while keeping their secret identities watertight?

This is a new series for those emerging readers who like a light-hearted read, peppered with pun humour and plenty of illustrations.  Verging on a graphic novel because as much of the action happens in the illustrations as it does in the text, it will also appeal to those students who like to be seen with thick books – it has over 300 pages because of the large font and copious graphics.  But woven among the puns and other fishy jokes are facts about sharks that will de-mystify and maybe un-demonise these creatures so there is learning as well as laughing, as well as a strong lead character that has to learn to face his fears of singing in public step up to help his mates.

One to look for and perhaps give to some reluctant readers to determine if it is worth adding upcoming additions to the series to the library’s collection. 

The Wish Sisters (series)

The Wish Sisters (series)

The Wish Sisters (series)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Wish Sisters (series)

Allison Rushby

Karen Blair

UQP, 2023

108pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

9780702265938

When Flick and Birdie’s Grandma Aggie found an imp in an old bottle and wished for her granddaughters to have unlimited wishes, it seemed like it would be a lot of fun.  But then Imp twisted the wish so that only  Birdie could have the wish, and that can get tricky when one so young and immature has so much power.  So Flick has to be really careful how things are handled.  

This is a new series for emerging independent readers that has everyday situations as their base, but shows how these can be easily turned into turmoil and need rescuing.

In The Party Wish, Flick discovers her little sister has a special gift. Birdie has wished for a super-fabulous unicorn party and it has magically appeared in their backyard! There’s a rainbow slide made out of sour straps, a ball pit full of marshmallows and a real-life unicorn that poops cupcakes while in The Big Wish  Flick is nervous about leading book club for the very first time. It doesn’t help that her little sister is super cranky and won’t stop wishing. Birdie is filling the pram with her favourite snacks and getting puppies appear out of thin air.  In The Running Wish, it is school sports day but how can she make sure her team wins fair and square when Birdie starts meddling with the most important race of the day? And things turn very tricky in The Pet Wish when the girls are helping local seniors group The Busybodies raise money for animals in need and suddenly there is a rainbow cat and a dancing dog in the mix.

Throughout the series (The Christmas Wish is due in November) there is an emphasis on family and friendships and the importance of strong, positive connections between them.   This will be a popular series for young girls, particularly, who want a bit of escapism without too much tension, especially those with younger sisters who can be troublesome at times.  It is very much a book about being careful what you wish for. 

Ratbags 3: Best of Pests

Ratbags 3: Best of Pests

Ratbags 3: Best of Pests

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ratbags 3: Best of Pests

Tim Harris

Shiloh Gordon

Puffin, 2023

192pp., graphic novel, RRP $A14.99

9780143777472

Rats, in general, do not have a good reputation for being friendly and kind, and The Ratbags are no exception.  Their goal in life is to make trouble and to look for naughty things to do.  They ream of mayhem and believe rules are for losers.  Except for one – Jigsaw.  He got his name because he does not fit in, like a puzzle piece that won’t squeeze into place no matter how much you twist and turn it. Jigsaw likes both rules and humans so he doesn’t fit in with the other rats and they shun him. 

Now, after their antics in the second in this series by the author of the Mr Bambuckle’s Remarkables series, the humans have had enough of rats and their ratbag ways. Even Mr Pecky has stopped giving them pizza. But things get taken to a whole new level when robot minks with laser eyes roam the streets, ready to destroy all ratbags, stray cats and jazz musicians! How are the ratbags to survive the humans’ latest pest control? By joining forces with their enemy, naturally! With Cracker and the ratbags on the same team, things are about to get really hairy!

Way back when, about 25 years ago, authors like Paul Jennings, Andy Griffiths and Christopher Milne brought a new style of writing to the children’s literature available at the time – a style that featured what became known as “toilet humour” in which bodily functions and similar subjects became normal and regular rather than the taboo territory they had dwelt in, and these stories, which immediately appealed to boys of a certain age, became a challenge for some adults to share – which, in turn, gave them even more appeal but, in the process, also turned a generation of lads into readers as they were determined to read the stories themselves.

Now, in a similar fashion, the availability and accessibility of the graphic novel format combined with characters and situations that make a lot of adults squeamish, is having the same impact.  Both author and illustrator have a sound understanding of what their target audience is looking for and its method of delivery, so that they are drawn away from the screen and into the world of print where books can be shared and passed around and available on demand. They also know that kids are impatient and so this series has delivered a new episode every two months (the fourth due in September) so there is no interminable wait in between to see what happens next or have other distractions overtake the anticipation.

So regardless of what teachers and parents might think of this as that subjective, elusive concept of “quality literature”- and I would argue that the strong threads of friendship, standing your ground against peer pressure and being yourself take it into that realm anyway –  if you have reluctant readers or those who just haven’t found a reason to read yet, then this is a must-have series.