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Gustavo, the Shy Ghost

Gustavo, the Shy Ghost

Gustavo, the Shy Ghost

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gustavo, the Shy Ghost

Flavia Z. Drago

Walker Books, 2021

40pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9781406398502

 Gustavo is a ghost. He is good at doing all sorts of paranormal things, like walking through walls, making objects fly and glowing in the dark. And he loves playing beautiful music on his violin. But Gustavo also has a problem. He is SHY. Which means some things are harder for him to do, like getting in a line to buy eye-scream or talking to the other monsters. But Gustavo longs to be a part of something, he longs to be seen. More than anything, he wants to make a friend. So, plucking up all his courage, he sends a very special letter: “Dear Monsters, I would like to invite you to my violin concert at the Day of the Dead party…”

But will anybody come?

This is a most delightful, award-winning story that will resonate with so many who find their shyness crippling, to the point that it really impacts their life and stifles their dreams.  Based on the creator’s own childhood, it offers hope to those who would really like to make a friend by encouraging them to discover their strengths and passions, play to them and share them. Even for those who are not as shy as Gustavo, a lack of confidence in who we are can prevent us from making the most of the situations that present themselves, and this has been quite noticeable after months of having to be t  home without the physical contact of our friends,  So sharing Gustavo’s story, considering the worst that might happen in a situation and then suggesting strategies that could be used if it does can be a starting point to taking that first step.  If Gustavo can find a way, our children can.  

One to share with all our students as the social season really starts to take off, and even if it’s making the first move to make a new friend in the caravan park at the beach, it will open up new horizons. 

There’s a Ghost in this House

There's a Ghost in this House

There’s a Ghost in this House

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There’s a Ghost in this House

Oliver Jeffers

HarperCollins, 2021

44pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

 9780008298357

There is always something intriguing about opening a book that is sealed in plastic so you can’t browse its contents until it’s too late.  And with a title like There’s a Ghost in this House you wonder what is hidden inside that needs to be confined.

So it was with great trepidation that I opened this new release from Oliver Jeffers, with its peek-a-boo cover, particularly today of all days when we know that ghosts and ghouls are roaming the earth for their final time before heading one way or the other. Just what was I setting up? Would I be swamped by “a fraid of ghosts” that would haunt me and mine for ever?

But putting on my recently-discovered brave I answered the little girl’s invitation to enter the grand doors of this mysterious mansion that looks like it has come down through the ages, and helped her in her search for the ghost she had been told lived there. But what we found, or didn’t, will remain a mystery between us for this is one book that needs no further explanation.

Save to say, that it is one of the most engaging, cleverly designed books that I’ve read and the publishers were right to put that plastic seal on it! This is Oliver Jeffers at his best! 

The Supernatural Survival Guide

The Supernatural Survival Guide

The Supernatural Survival Guide

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Supernatural Survival Guide

George Ivanoff

Puffin, 2021

176pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

 9781761043635

All Hallows Eve, that special night dating back to the 0th century Celtic festival of Samhain when its celebrants believe that the barriers between the physical and spirit worlds blur, allowing more interaction between humans and the inhabitants of the Otherworld. It was held on October 31 to mark the end of summer and the beginning of the long dark winter, particularly in those northern regions of what is now the United Kingdom and bonfires were lit to entice the sun to remember to come back.  It was the final night that the souls of those who had died could roam before ascending to heaven or descending to hell.

As time passed, civilisations rose and disappeared and beliefs and festivals waxed and waned,  the time known as Hallowe’en and all the traditions of witches and ghosts, and masks, costumes and jack-o-lanterns to scare them off has evolved.  So the release of this book, which attempts to make the paranormal more normal is timely.  Drawing on his personal long-term fascination with “the supernatural, the paranormal, the mysterious, the unknown the unexplained and the downright weird” and taking on the role of a child caught between a dad who believes that things like UFOs, ghosts and the yeti are true – “the truth is out there” – and a more practical, pragmatic mum who has a sensible explanation for noises in the night and strange sky shapes; Ivanoff has investigated the more common phenomena and offers a scientific explanation or debunks them.  “The truth is in here!”

Using the child-friendly format of The Australia Survival Guide and The Human Body Survival Guide he tackles topics like  Is the Loch Ness Monster real? Does Big Foot exist? Are there scientific reasons for hauntings? What is cryptozoology? What can explain UFO sightings by multiple witnesses? So young readers will be well-armed as the spooky season approaches.  (And given that The Australia Survival Guide was published just before the Black Summer of 2019-2020, this could prove particularly useful!

Lottie Luna and the Giant Gargoyle

Lottie Luna and the Giant Gargoyle

Lottie Luna and the Giant Gargoyle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lottie Luna and the Giant Gargoyle

Vivian French

Nathan Reed

HarperCollins, 2021

144pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

9780008343071

Imagine appearing to be a regular young girl but in reality you are a werewolf with powers that make you super-fast and super-strong and give you x-ray vision.  Lottie Luna is just that and although she doesn’t like to use her powers, preferring to be just the regular young girl,  but if she finds her friends in a pickle she will use them to help them out.

In this fourth adventure in the series, when Lottie’s school holds its yearly talent competition, she finds that she might just have to use them… if she’s going to help her friends save the day and win first prize…

Written for  for young, newly independent readers who see themselves as just like Lottie – being just regular little girls on the surface , but with a heroine not too far below the surface, each story is richly illustrated with all the supports needed to carry their reading journey forward making this is an ideal series to offer those looking for something new and different. 

 

Lottie Luna and the Fang Fairy

Lottie Luna and the Fang Fairy

Lottie Luna and the Fang Fairy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lottie Luna and the Fang Fairy

Vivian French

Nathan Reed

HarperCollins, 2021

144pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

9780008343040

Lottie Luna is a werewolf. She’s super-fast, super-strong and has X-ray vision. Lottie doesn’t really like to use her special skills, though – she just wants to be like everyone else. But when Lottie and her friends go camping, she finds that she might just need to – if she’s going to find out the truth about the fang fairy…

This is the third in this series for young, newly independent readers who see themselves as just like Lottie – being just regular little girls on the surface , but with a heroine not too far below the surface. Richly illustrated with all the supports needed to carry their reading journey forward, this is an ideal series to offer those looking for something new and different. 

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

Nine Worlds in Nine Nights: A Journey Through Imaginary Lands

Nine Worlds in Nine Nights: A Journey Through Imaginary Lands

Nine Worlds in Nine Nights: A Journey Through Imaginary Lands

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nine Worlds in Nine Nights: A Journey Through Imaginary Lands

Hiawyn Oram

David Wyatt

Walker Studio, 2019

48pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9781406377705

Theoretical physicist, Professor Dawn D. Gable Ph.D., MRI, MInsiP, deals only in facts and shuns the world of stories and imagination.  So when she is interrupted on her birthday by her niece and nephew whom she hasn’t seen for years and doesn’t even recognise, she is not pleased. Even moreso when they present her with a gift from her brother, and she tosses the unwanted present aside. But as midnight draws close, she finds herself being drawn to it as if by an unseen force, and tearing off the wrapping she discovers a book, a childhood favourite called Lost in the Imagination, written and illustrated by “dreamers, fantasists and folklorists”, and which took her and her brother to amazing worlds when they were young, but which she has no time for now.

Tossing the book on the fire, she is surprised that it does not burn – and the strange magic begins. 

This is the journal of that magic, as led by the strange creature Hyllvar, descendant of Nidhogg, the ancient Norse dragon, who emerges from the flames, Prof Gable realises she is alone, bereft of new ideas and inspiration and in need of a challenge…

Superbly crafted and beautifully illustrated, both the professor and the reader are taken on a journey to explore a city of robots, the ancient city of Kor, the miniature world of Lilliput and flying island of Laputa, a mountainous home of mythical beasts, the primeval island of Buyan, Atlantis, Valhalla and more. From cover to cover this is a mystical and magical book that even non-fantasists like me are drawn into in a way that I was drawn into both Middle earth and Hogwarts. It is captivating and a must for all those whose imaginations know no bounds and who delight in exploring the mythical places of the ancients, the literary creations of minds long gone but whose fantasies linger.  Miss 8 and Miss 13 are going to love this and perhaps venture into more classical tales of fantasy as their imaginations will be piqued to read more. In fact, Grandma might make up a package of the stories that go with the worlds just to entice them!

In The Dead of the Night

In The Dead of the Night

In The Dead of the Night

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In The Dead of the Night

Arthur McBain

Tom Knight

Little Hare, 2019

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

9781760503413

It’s a cold, rainy night and a storm is outside
Rain beats on the window by Lily’s bedside
She’s scared of the dark so she shuts her eyes tight
She hates nothing more than the dead of the night

Tap. Tap. Tap. Comes a noise from the hallway …

There is something about hearing strange sounds in the middle of the night that makes our imaginations run wild as we think about the possibilities – is there a monster with horns on its head; a vampire looking for prey; or a mesmerised ghost? All of these ideas fill Lily’s head as she lies there listening to the Tap. Tap. Tap. But, remembering her little brother is also asleep and needs protecting, she summons her courage and determines to conquer whatever is making the noise…

Using rhyme and repetitive text, and stunning illustrations that are fearsome but not too scary, McBain and Knight have managed to build a story that reaches a crescendo of tension but which resolves itself with an unusual twist which will resonate with lots of young readers whose imaginations are as active as Lily’s.  It’s an opportunity to talk about what might be making the tap, tap, tap and for little ones to share their fears about the dark and the noises of the night, and to reassure them that even as adults, we are all scared of the unknown at times and we have to summon our courage to investigate too. 

Reassuring and different.

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Giants, Trolls, Witches, Beasts – Ten Tales from the Deep, Dark Woods

Giants, Trolls, Witches, Beasts - Ten Tales from the Deep, Dark Woods

Giants, Trolls, Witches, Beasts – Ten Tales from the Deep, Dark Woods

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Giants, Trolls, Witches, Beasts – Ten Tales from the Deep, Dark Woods

Craig Phillips

Allen & Unwin, 2017

192pp., pbk., RRP $A24.99

9781760113261

Ever since there have been children there has been children’s literature and having children learn lessons about life through this literature has been a constant thread in every culture across the globe.  Since the earliest days of mankind, stories have been created and told from generation to generation not just to explain the unknown but also to inspire better, more mature and moral behaviour in children with dire consequences inflicted by fearful creatures if boundaries were breached.  Didacticism was alive and well with stories featuring giants, trolls, witches, beasts and other fantastic figures achieving amazing things, wreaking havoc, surviving disasters or decreeing punishments so that adults as well as children lived in fear of retribution for misdeeds.

Now, with modern communication and science, while such creatures do not have the power of fear they once had, nevertheless they are still a central part of today’s literature with stories like the Harry Potter series and Game of Thrones commanding huge audiences as well as a continuing fascination for those stories in which the modern have their origins.  But until now, these have been retold and republished in formats that tend to scream “younger readers” and from which those who see themselves as more mature than the “picture book brigade” shy away from regardless of the quality of the content.  So to have ten traditional tales from ten countries brought together in graphic novel format as creator Craig Phillips has done is going to create a buzz of excitement.  Here, in one superbly illustrated volume, are stories featuring giants, trolls, witches and beasts with all their magical powers and chilling feats and universal messages of courage and obedience. that will appeal to those who are fascinated by this genre in a format that will support and sustain their reading.

Phillips has kept his audience in mind as he has drawn – the imaginary creatures are all sufficiently gruesome and grisly so their characters are clear but not so much that they will inspire nightmares. The mix of familiar and unfamiliar characters offers something for each reader to explore and perhaps think about why stories from such diverse origins have such similar themes.  Is there indeed, a moral and ethical code that links humans regardless of their beliefs and circumstance?

One that will appeal to a wide range of readers and deserving of its place among the 2018 CBCA Notables.

 

Unicorn Princesses (Series)

Unicorn Princesses

Unicorn Princesses

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unicorn Princesses (series)

Sunbeam’s Shine

9781681193267

Flash’s Dash

9781681193304

Emily Bliss

Bloomsbury, 2017

128pp., pbk., RRP $A9.99

Unicorns are Cressida Jenkins’s favourite thing so when she meets one in the woods behind her house, one who needs her help and invites her to the Rainbow Realm, her greatest wish comes true.  

In Sunbeam’s Shine a blundering wizard-lizard casts a spell that accidentally robs Princess Sunbeam of her magic yellow sapphire. Without it, she loses her powers–the ability to create light and heat. The only way to reverse the spell is for a human girl who believes in unicorns to find the yellow sapphire and reunite Sunbeam with her gemstone. Sunbeam ventures into the human world and enlists Cressida’s help.

In Flash’s Dash, the annual Thunder Dash is approaching, and Princess Flash has opened the race to non-unicorns for the first time ever! Cressida is the first human girl invited to participate, but Ernest the wizard-lizard accidentally casts a spell that covers the race track in sticky, pink goo! 

Is Cressida able to help her new friends out?

Judging by requests by students and parents in forums I belong to, unicorns are the in thing of young girls and so a new series about them will be very popular, particularly one that is designed to be read independently by emerging readers or read aloud to those not quite there yet.  Illustrated and with a heroine who probably personifies the inner wishes of the reader to have their own special unicorn,  it is a light read that encourages them to find the magic in stories and they will be looking for the next additions to the series.

Swan Lake

Swan Lake

Swan Lake

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Swan Lake 

Anne Spudvilas

Allen & Unwin, 2017

48pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9781743318454

Over 140 years ago, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky brought a story about first love, betrayal, loss, and good versus evil to life through a musical score he called Swan Lake. and on March 4 1877 through the choreography of Julius Reisinger and a few years later that of Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov that music was interpreted through dance, laying the foundations of one of the most loved and enduring of the classical ballets.

Now, in 2017, it has been reinterpreted through the stunning artwork of Anne Spudvilas.   

With a synopsis of each act to explain what the reader is going to experience, the story unfolds in pictures that echo the dark, hazy, haunting mood that permeates the story – the lake at midnight, the malevolence afoot at the Grand Ball,  the storm that accompanied Siegfried’s battle with the Sorcerer and the final tragic ending. Dramatic in their composition and demonstrating how many shades of grey there really are, Spudvilas has captured the essential elements of the story while also portraying the atmosphere that the music and choreography bring to the experience.

For those who are unfamiliar with Swan Lake as a ballet it is a complete sensual experience in itself; for those like me (and Spudvilas) who have been entranced with it since childhood, it is yet another layer adding to the wonder and love of the original. 

Definitely one to add to the collection for a range of reasons – at its basic level it is the story behind a classic ballet and its  interpretation in pictures;  but at a deeper level there is so much to explore and interpret such as  the creation of mood through a monochromatic scheme; the use of imagery and colour to identify emotions or portent…

While the long-ago LP record cover that took me into a lifelong love of ballet in general and Swan Lake in particular has disappeared forever, this new interpretation will be a suitable substitute and will join the other members of my treasured collection that brings back such happy memories. And even though I know I will only ever be Odette in my dreams maybe it will spark a dream for my granddaughters!

Watch this for in the 2018 awards lists…