Imprint: Walker Books Australia: February 1, 2019
Australian RRP: $14.99
New Zealand RRP: $16.99
If you have readers who love a good fun story with a bit of interesting information plus a smattering of a conservation message this will be a huge hit. The first in a new series Kylie Howarth has set up readers for a hilarious romp following the adventures of Fish Kid.
Bodhi is not at all interested in the ocean or the creatures that inhabit it -especially the scary ones. But he has little chance to escape either with a father who is a marine biologist and a mother who is an underwater photographer. He is particularly unhappy at being trapped in a boat in the Galapagos Islands with a very annoying skipper’s daughter who keeps pranking him
When Emely persuades Bodhi to drink a special smoothie she’s made – mentioning the mango but omitting the sea cucumber and jelly fish ingredients – Bodhi has a terrible allergic reaction which ends up with them both overboard and stranded on a lonely island. But there has also been a more long term effect. Bodhi can now swim like a super fish and stay submerged for simply ages! With no sign of being rescued, the pair engineers their own escape accompanied by a rather large and ugly, though seemingly intelligent, marine iguana. Their mission is a success and along the way they manage to alert the authorities to a sea cucumber poaching racket.
Throughout the text are scattered fact pages about the various sea creatures which Bodhi and his parents encounter which offers readers a fantastic opportunity to increase their knowledge of these. Also on offer is the underlying repeated message about preserving our marine habitats.
All in all this a great package for readers from around eight years upwards.
Activity pack: Fish_Kid_Activity_Kit_FINAL_WEB.01
March 5, 2019
I’ve mentioned before that I have in recent times been somewhat disenchanted with many of the YA novels that have come my way. There have been a few exceptions. This one, debut novel and all, is an absolute corker!
Annie and her ‘island girls’ (the kind you take with you to a desert island), Ashlin and Ruby have been a threesome forever. They are bonded so closely that nothing could ever tear them apart. While their family lives may be complex in one sense with divorces, absent fathers, family secrets they lead privileged lives with money, fashion and solid support.
When Ashlin’s hitherto unknown half-brother, Trip, arrives from Canada, asked to leave his school due to some unexplained arson attacks, the girls’ previously tight bonds of friendship begin to fray in varying degrees. Annie’s burgeoning relationship with Trip seems destined to follow some kind of roller-coaster experience as she repeatedly trusts him, rejects him, reconciles with him. Ashlin’s secret sexual identity begins to reveal itself while Ruby, ignoring Annie’s obvious interest in Trip, starts throwing herself at the boy with little regard for her friend.
Into this mix of emotional angst are the girls’ usual activities of sport, singing, holidays and fashion but all of these seem to be overcast by some sinister atmosphere and more frighteningly, inexplicable random fires.
Greer has put together an intense and gripping narrative with many twists and turns and the ending is not to be missed.
Given its fairly adult themes this is not a book I would recommend for your younger teens but I have no hesitation in promoting it to senior secondary students.
Series: Truly Tan
Imprint: ABC Books
Can I just say I truly love Tan? Yes sirree, I do! Since the first one I ever read I found this series very appealing and loads of fun. There is a real trend for detective/mystery/spy stories for younger readers but they don’t all quite hit the spot for the much younger ones and this one does. Kiddos from around 7 years old who are able readers will find these readily engaging and accessible. But it’s not just the mystery aspect which is so attractive. The beautiful, loving and plain old-fashioned fun of Tan’s family and friends’ interactions creates a narrative that is very easy to love.
In this new episode Tan and her bestie Gloria continues their adventures ; with a school outing – at night, by torchlight to some of the creepier parts of Peppercorn Valley, helping out at Gloria’s parents’ shop after an accident and discovering the mystery of some very odd graffiti.
The very strangest part of the adventure is trying to unravel exactly what is going on at Journey’s End, the spookiest house in the town, and why the old ladies have those strange symbols all over the house. Are the old dears ok? Tan and Gloria are determined to find out the truth and make sure they are.
I love Tan’s quirky diary entries (always informing us of which pen she is using!) and the elucidation of more unusual vocabulary – what an opportunity to extend language!
There is such a wonderful ‘feel good’ aspect to these stories with lots of solid values woven throughout – loyalty, honesty, friendship, compassion and empathy.
Highly recommended for readers from around Year 3 upwards.
Allen & Unwin
Imprint: A & U Children
Pub Date: March 2019
It would appear that Anna Ciddor and I must be of the same vintage as this fictionalised account of a year of her childhood and the many references to commonplace 60s objects and events resonate so readily. While my own experience was growing up in suburban Sydney it would seem that suburban Melbourne was not so far removed after all.
Young Anna describes a year in her everyday life as the oldest of three girls in a Jewish family, all of whom relocated following the war. After reading a particular book Anna becomes infatuated with the idea of owning her own antique doll and her loving parents go above and beyond to make that dream come true. As the year passes with almost weekly visits to the local antiques auction house, Anna relates the family celebrations, the playtimes, school and the house which clearly is bursting with love.
It is a delightful story which I consumed in one sitting and as well as allowing readers a glimpse into a childhood spent in a family of a different culture, also invites a closer knowledge of daily life in a long ago decade when owning a TV was still fairly uncommon, children were not just satisfied but excited by far less in the way of outings and material possessions and family life was valued.
Highly recommended to readers from around eight years upwards.
February 5, 2019
Even those who have not been privileged enough to sip Himalayan tea with Mr Bambuckle are completely taken with the adventures of his class 12B. The continual struggle to defeat the pressures put upon them by short-sighted school admin individuals and to foster each child blossoming into their full potential is real.
When 12B goes to camp they are eagerly anticipating a real adventure, particularly when it appears that their campsite is ‘off the radar’ so to speak. Even though there are the usual hiccups with students not completely in sync with each other, it’s shaping up well. That is until, Miss Frost turns up. The snarky new deputy seems intent to find fault with every little thing.
Still, 12B with Mr Bambuckle’s backing and natural flair seem determined to prove Miss Frost’s dire prognostications wrong and equally committed to supporting their much loved teacher.
But when Vex goes missing it seems that all is doomed to become a swan song for Mr Bambuckle. It’s up to 12B to save the day and their teacher.
Tim Harris’ recounts of the adventures of Mr B and 12B are not only highly amusing but have much to offer young readers about loyalty, friendship, empathy and honesty.
If your kidlets have not yet caught onto the Bambuckle phenomenon make sure you buy this and the first two in the series and watch them roll in the aisles laughing.
Highly recommended for readers from around eight years upwards.
January 8, 2019
Australia has more than its fair share of natural disasters. One only has to think about the events of the last week or so with the terrible floods in North Queensland and the raging fires in Tasmania. Arguably one of the very worst of these was the Black Saturday fires in Victoria. Ten years ago the country, and indeed the world, was rocked by the news of the ferociously devastating fires in Victoria which claimed 173 lives, cost millions in damage and untold mental anguish for so many.
Justin D’Ath has drawn on his own experience (losing his home for a start) to create a narrative in which readers can immerse themselves safely while relating and empathising with those caught up in the horror. Homes, possessions, pets….family…..so much at risk and so much loss by so many.
Keelie has not lived in the district long. She and her family re-located from New Zealand and are really still finding their way in their new community and environs. Her dad has done all the right things to safeguard their home but when Mum and little brother have to go to Melbourne on a medical emergency, Keelie is not feeling confident with Dad’s plans. She is quite naturally worried about their home and their safety but her horse is her biggest concern immediately.
When the worst happens and the winds change and the roaring dragon of fire encroaches, Keelie and her dad plus dogs must quickly abandon their home for safety.
This is a gripping tale of courage, friendship, compassion and loss to which young readers will readily connect. We all hope and pray to avoid such terrible and ravaging events but the knowledge that so many are ready to step up and take care of those who are at risk is a reassuring prospect. As Australians I believe we are particularly good at this. We may be offhand and blasé about much but when the worst happens, we rally and support and fight back.
What a fantastic read this is! I highly recommend it to you for readers from around ten years upwards.
*In memory of those who lost their lives and those who fought on to save those they could*
ISBN 10: 1409570517
Imprint: Usborne – GB
List Price: 14.99 AUD
Rarely have I read a book which so captures the Australian landscape, isolation and the deep abiding racism of times gone past which has been written by a non-Australian but this is superb. Taut, thrilling and anxiety-making the narrative follows the friendship of young Comity, daughter of the district telegrapher and Fred, Aboriginal yard boy, and their persecution by a sadistic and depraved assistant to the telegraph station. After Comity’s mother dies from snake bite, Comity is left to fend for herself, keep intrusive relatives at bay via long distance and try to manage house and the duties of the station as her father withdraws deeper and deeper into depression.
Comity has grown up with Fred whom she considers her best friend. He teaches her about the country, the spirits and survival while she teaches him reading and ‘whitefella’ ways. When cruel assistant Quartz Hogg arrives he quickly sums up the situation with Comity’s ineffectual father and sets about usurping his authority, turning his employees against him, setting up an illegal still and worst of all victimising Fred.
When all pretence of compliance breaks down between Hogg and his supervisor, Comity’s father is locked in the despatch room while his assistant and the other hands begin a drunken spree which ends in Fred being hunted like an animal into the wilderness. Comity is desperate to save him and has to rely on the ‘ghans, who are also despised by the white people, to help both of them.
This is not a novel for sensitive young readers but it is an insightful and beautifully written exploration of grief, loneliness, self-reliance, courage as well as the cruelty and prejudices of some humans.
I would recommend it for astute readers from around 12 years upwards – I really enjoyed it very much.
||Bloomsbury Children’s Books
RRP : $14.99 AU $16.99 NZ
Readers return to the wacky world of Maudlin Towers with Mildew and Sponge as they attempt to save their mouldering school from closure, due to its pecuniary troubles. Ever since the funds for the renovations disappeared in time (see the first book) there seems to be no solution to the threat of closure. That is until Mildew and Sponge realise the possibility of the legendary Captain Greenbeard, fearsome pirate (and as it turns out, Mildew’s ancestor) having buried his treasure nearby.
It is rather unfortunate however that it’s not just the bumbling pair hunting treasure. Due to Kenningworth’s big mouth and newspaper coverage the school is taken over by pirates from Greenbeard’s crew who are also after the treasure.
As usual despite their ineptitude Mildew and Sponge manage by dint of accident rather than brilliance to save the day. These are hilarious stories which are sort of a mash up of Molesworth and comic horror which many readers will find a really enjoyable read.
Recommended for able readers (given the word play throughout etc) from around ten years upwards.
ISBN 10: 1474943446
Imprint: Usborne – GB
List Price: 14.99 AUD
Lloyd Alexander was one of America’s most loved and respected children’s authors winning the Newbery Medal in 1969 and U.S. National Book Awards in 1971 and 1982. His most famous work The Chronicles of Prydain series entranced readers of all ages. The Book of Three (1969) is the first in the series and well deserving of Usborne’s release in its modern classics series.
Taran is a young orphan who dreams of being a hero, while he labours on an isolated farm cared for by his guardians, Dallben the enchanter, and Coll, farmer and ex-soldier. While Taran is mostly charged with looking after Hen Wen, the oracular pig, he longs to be as mighty and famous as Gwydion, the High Prince of Prydain, of whom legends are still told.
When danger seems to be creeping closer in mysterious ways, Taran is instructed not to leave the farm but when Hen Wen escapes in terror he ignores his orders and follows her into the wilds of the forest. Thereafter he becomes embroiled in an escalating battle between good and evil encountering a very nasty sorceress, her young ward Eilonwy and a very odd minstrel called Fflewddur Fflam. Alexander drew upon Welsh legends to create his alternate history and much richness is to be found in this narrative of high adventure with its themes of trust, loyalty and self-sacrifice. Along the way as he repeatedly tests and proves himself, Taran reaches a point of realisation of just what is the most important aspect of his relatively ‘small’ life.
This is a fabulous read and holds up with all the freshness and inventive imagination of its original publication. For astute readers of around twelve years upwards this is just terrific and I will be certainly promoting it to my lovers of classic ‘great’ books.
This is the fourth in this series but my first foray into the ancient world of scribe Nico and his slave friend Thrax who have become somewhat adept in solving most peculiar mysteries but it certainly won’t be the last. I loved the unravelling of the problem/s, the humour throughout, the characters and the revelations of everyday life in Ancient Greece.
Nico and Thrax along with all the other citizens of Athens are eagerly anticipating the imminent festival of Anthesteria (similar to All Hallows’ Eve) with its accompanying spookiness and possibility of spirits roaming – oh, and lavish decadent feasting.
But before the boys can even begin to relax and enjoy the festivities they are confronted with the spectre of the Society of the Centaurs, a group dedicated to the destruction of Athens and all it represents.
Readers will find this very engaging with loads of humour and intrigue and despite themselves will learn much about life in ancient times.
A hugely enjoyable read well worth promoting to your readers aged from around eight years upwards.