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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. 

 

 

 

Wizelda

Wizelda

Wizelda

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wizelda

Maggie May Gordon

Natasha Hagarty

Little Steps, 2022

32pp., pbk., RRP $A16.95

9781922358608

Everyone knows what a witch looks like – always dressed in black with a funny old black hat.  And what they do – stirring strange brews in big pots with large spoons. And what they have – broomsticks that they fly around on at night, with cats perched on the back and accompanied by owls and bats. 

But what if that’s not what you want?  If you’re left out of the other children’s games because of your black dress but you can’t afford to buy the coloured fabric they are all wearing? And your black pointy hat crushes your curls? Then one day you spot a beautiful  rainbow, full of colour and your mother tells you about the pot of gold at the end of it? Of course you climb it – but is this a case of be careful what you wish for or is there a more magical ending?

An interesting book to share at this time of the year with Halloween and all things witches in the spotlight, or any time you want to introduce children to the concepts of colours and rainbows and they are as curious as Wizelda. 

A Reluctant Witch’s Guide to Magic

A Reluctant Witch’s Guide to Magic

A Reluctant Witch’s Guide to Magic

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Reluctant Witch’s Guide to Magic

Shivaun Plozza

Puffin, 2022

288pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9781761043994

Willa is just an ordinary non-magical 12 year old girl, living in the Wild – a city squished between two warring witch covens. She hates the constant conflict and spends her days dodging wayward spells – from raining frogs to dancing chickens – which cause havoc for regular people like her. And it’s all because of the witch war! No wonder she also hates witches.

But one day she’s not ordinary at all. She discovers she does, indeed, have magic, much to her dismay.  Thus, she is taken to the castle where she learns all about spells, witchcraft, and the two waring covens of witches, one of which she will have to join and be initiated into before her 13th birthday. If she doesn’t choose one or the other, her magic will be uncontrollable and she will explode. She seeks help from her new friends -Gish, the castle dogsbody, Marceline, the palace librarian, and Talon, one of her most faithful cat companions – to try to find a resolution but her attempts to control her magic are interrupted by a rogue witch, who begins nefarious spells against the Ordinary Folk. What does the witch want and what does it have to do with Willa? Can she get her magic under control before the whole town is doomed and her birthday arrives? 

Written more for independent readers at the upper end of this blog range, this is an imaginative story that capitalises on the current fascination with all things magical while allowing the reader to put themselves into the story.  Given the choices between the two covens. perhaps exploding might be the better option! It relies on the traditional good versus evil for its basic premise while including the modern scenario of a young girl being able to make her own decisions and choose her own path. 

 

Garlic and the Vampire

Garlic and the Vampire

Garlic and the Vampire

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Garlic and the Vampire

Bree Paulsen

HarperCollins, 2022

160pp., graphic novel, RRP $A16.99

9780062995087

Garlic feels as though she’s always doing something wrong. Again, she is late for market day different vegetables selling themselves to the humans in an old-fashioned rural village. Originally created by the kindly but powerful Witch Agnes to be “mute little helpers”, she  has enjoyed their growth into independent contributors to the community. At least with Carrot by her side and the kindly Witch Agnes encouraging her, Garlic is happy to just tend her garden, where it’s nice and safe.. So when the vegetables notice smoke trailing from the chimneys of a nearby castle, Agnes uses her magic to investigate and discovers that a vampire has moved in.

Because of the belief that garlic drives away vampires,  and in spite of her fear and self-doubt, Garlic is tasked with slaying the bloodsucker. Celery goes with her reluctantly, payback for his willingness to sacrifice her for the mission. So, with everyone counting on her, Garlic reluctantly agrees to face the mysterious vampire, hoping she has what it takes…

Although the theme of believing in yourself in this story is a common refrain, everything else about it is new and refreshing. Vampire lore and information about witchcraft are woven throughout the story, offering an introduction to the premises which underlie many other stories with these sorts of characters,  and Witch Agnes’ wisdom often speaks directly to the audience drawing them into it rather than being passive observers. 

While this is not a complex read, cheerful rather than chilling, with a subtle message about believing in stereotypes and rumours, readers will still need to have the reading skills necessary to interpret a graphic novel, seamlessly integrating the illustrations with the plot because there are many passages where there is no speech.  That said, with its warm colours, and faces which are friendly rather than frightening, this is a gentle introduction into both the format and fantasy. 

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

The House at the Edge of Magic

The House at the Edge of Magic

The House at the Edge of Magic

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The House at the Edge of Magic 

9781406395310

The Tower at the End of Time

9781406395327

Walker Books, 2021-2022

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

Crouched behind the stacked crates of the fishmonger’s stall in the market, Nine’s muscles are tensed, her senses alert waiting for just the right moment to snatch the lady’s handbag… For the streets are her world and stealing treasures for Pockets, the leader of the gang, is her life and she knows all the tricks of pickpocketing and all the twists and turns of the alleys and lanes  back to the Nest of a Thousand Treasures. He’s called her Nine because she in the ninth member of the gang, offering her a place to sleep and the odd meal in exchange for the things she steals.  

But Nine dreams of bigger things, a better life and when she steals a house-shaped ornament from a mysterious woman’s purse, things begin to change… She knocks on its tiny door and watches in wonder as it grows into a huge, higgledy-piggledy house squeezes between its neighbours. Inside are characters as strange as the house – Eric the housekeeper troll who is lost without his feather duster; a Scottish wooden spoon who wields a sword and Flabberghast , a young wizard who’s particularly competitive at hopscotch… But they have all been put under a spell by a wicked witch, a spell that only Nine can help them break before the clock winds down and which, while offering her a better life means she will have to sacrifice the thing that is dearest to her…

While the time and place of this new three-part series aren’t identified, it is reminiscent of the Dickensian world of Oliver Twist and Fagin but with magic and fantasy thrown in. But there the similarities end for Nine is not Oliver – she is clever, smart and thanks to her visits to the local library where she is actually welcomed, very well-read, and her willingness to save her new “friends” is more about giving herself a prosperous future than any altruistic concerns for them. She is determined to find the strawberries that Pockets says don’t exist… But then, given her life so far she has never known friendship and kindness and her defensiveness and self-interest have been built on the walls of self-protection. So, if she succeeds in breaking the spell, will she be able to just walk away with her prize?  

There is a plethora of fantasy books in the children’s book market at the moment with characters and plots whose limits know only the bounds of their authors’ imaginations, but this one stands out because of Nine and her emotional growth as she begins to understand that there is more to life than the untold wealth promised by the glowing jewels imprisoned by the witch’s spell.  The characters are not scary and unimaginable – we can all picture a troll, a wizard and a wicked witch and what can be confronting about a game of hopscotch?

As soon as she saw them on my desk, Miss 11 claimed these for herself and had her nose in them – now she must wait patiently for the third and final, although its title and release date remain as mysterious as Flabberghast’s house.  

LEGO Harry Potter Hogwarts at Christmas

 

 

 

 

LEGO Harry Potter Hogwarts at Christmas

LEGO Harry Potter Hogwarts at Christmas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LEGO Harry Potter Hogwarts at Christmas

Elizabeth Dowsett

Dorling Kindersley, 2021

80pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9780241469392

Next year, 2022, celebrates the 25th anniversary of the publication of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and I can still remember receiving a copy and thinking, “Who will read a book with that title.” At the time, I was a member of the UK School Libraries Network and suddenly the chatter started, led by someone who generally annoyed me, but this time I was so grateful I read what he had to say!  It started a love affair with arguably the most enduring characters to have emerged in recent literature which has included many hours spent reading a genre I’m not in love with, and many dollars on the original merchandise – all of which my grandchildren would like left to them in my will!

So to have new things coming out all these years later is wonderful. In this book, we are introduced to Harry’s first Christmas at Hogwarts, exploring and sharing his excitement at what is effectively his first real Christmas ever. Illustrated with figurines and models made from Lego and including a Harry Potter figurine to use, we get to know the main characters and share their Christmas with them. While it is not a building guide, there are lots of opportunities to be inspired by things to make to build ne or re-create familiar scenes and objects.

Witch in Training

Witch in Training

Witch in Training

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Witch in Training

Michelle Robinson

Briony May Smith

Walker Books, 2021

32pp., hbk., RRP $A27.99

9781406377804

Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and caldron bubble.
Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the caldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt and toe of frog,
Wool of bat and tongue of dog,
Adder’s fork and blind-worm’s sting,
Lizard’s leg and howlet’s wing,
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.
Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and caldron bubble.
Cool it with a baboon’s blood,
Then the charm is firm and good.
Macbeth: IV.i 10-19; 35-38
This scene and these words from the three witches in Shakespeare’s Macbeth have become the epitome of our perception of witches standing around a cauldron concocting a spell… but where do those ingredients come from?  Are they stored in a special witch pantry to be on hand whenever they feel the need or the urge?  Or is there another secret supply?
In this rollicking rhyme-story, readers are invited to join Betty who is about to learn how to prepare her first spell as a trainee witch. and her mother as they gather the ingredients needed for her first lesson.  There are items to gather from the sky, the wood and other mysterious places and then there is the spell itself to craft.  But this is Betty’s first attempt – can she expect it to go well from the get-go?
Apart from being an engaging read, this is also a familiar tale for our youngsters because, although the circumstances will be entirely different, everyone has had the experience of expecting to do things well especially when we have prepared so well and then finding the outcome not quite what we expected, and having to learn about being resilient, trying again, practising to make progress and all the while leaning from and building on our experience and that of our teachers. 
There is the opportunity to explore the format of recipes, the need to follow instructions, to invent and write their own spells and even speculate on what the unintended consequences could be.
Perhaps even explore those original Shakespearean words and discover just what eye of newt is!  
Love stories like this that can take the reader on all sorts of unexpected journeys…

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!

The Witchling’s Wish

The Witchling's Wish

The Witchling’s Wish

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Witchling’s Wish

Lu Fraser

Sarah Massini

Bloomsbury, 2021

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

9781408899953

 

Above the misty mountains, below a glowing moon

lived  lonely little witchling, with a wibbly, wobbly broom…

While she could tolerate most things, her loneliness was beginning to get to her and she realises she needs a friend.  And because she can’t grow one, or sew one she decided to magic one instead. But what happens when she needs something that is already a friend to someone else?

This is a heart-warming story that has a universal message about friendship that will have wide appeal.  The illustrations are just perfect, enhancing the rhyming text perfectly making it an ideal read-aloud particularly as our little ones return to the classroom and have to navigate making friends all over again. Loved it.