Royal Flying Doctor Service Series – George Ivanoff

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Oh George! These are just fabulous! How often have we looked for really engaging thoroughly Australian adventure stories that will work for both boys and girls? And with this new series you have totally nailed a gap in the collections of many – well done!

The stories are true to life and written in a very accessible way that will suit not-so-strong readers as well as those who are sailing competently through their literary quests. They revolve around the outstanding and unique work of the RFDS and the many patients, emergencies and emotional dramas this wonderful service supports.

LOVE the outstanding covers and the alliterative titles especially!

Each has some illustrations ably rendered by Maria Pena and the first ends with a brief history and explanation of the RFDS. As if this isn’t enough purchase of the books supports the tremendous work of one of our greatest institutions.

Royal Flying Doctor Service 1: Remote Rescue

ISBN: 9780857988768

Published: 01/02/2016

Imprint: Random House Australia Children’s

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Ten year old Dawson is on a road trip with his dad and two sisters, one older and one younger. Their mum is held up with work for this family holiday to Uluru and intends to fly up from Adelaide to join them. In the meantime the travellers are heading for the famous Oodnadatta track exploring along the trek.

The adventure takes a serious turn for the worst when the family camp at Farina, a deserted ‘ghost’ town and the kids’ dad has a dreadful accident in an abandoned building, breaking his leg badly as well as sustaining a nasty bang to his head. Dawson and his older sister Samantha must set aside their usual sibling rivalry in order to secure help for their father and to keep their little sister Em calm. Fortunately they are assisted by a kindly pair of ‘grey nomads’ and experience first-hand the spirit of the outback and the invaluable help of the RFDS.

Royal Flying Doctor Service 2: Emergency Echo

ISBN: 9780857988782

Published: 01/02/2016

Imprint: Random House Australia Children’s

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Twelve year old Alice lives in the outback mining town of Mount Magnet with her mum, two year old brother and their grandfather. Sadly the family lost Alice’s dad to a serious illness and times have been tough for the whole family. Luckily Alice has her best buddy Ben and their shared love of cricket to help with the sad moments.

 

But a cricket game is cut short when Alice becomes really ill and suffers awful stomach pains. With Ben and Grandpa to look out for her, it appears that Alice may have appendicitis and events move very quickly as the local medical team suspect the offending organ may have ruptured.

 

Alice’s first experience of a plane trip and going to Perth is certainly not what she could have imagined as she and Grandpa are rushed off in a RFDS plane for emergency surgery. The raging storm which accompanies their flight is certainly not going to ease any anxiety but Grandpa’s own appendicitis and RFDS story along with the kind Dr Helen who is their support person relating her family history with the RFDS help greatly.

 

 

Both of these stories were a delight to read and children will not only enjoy the adventure and drama but gain a real insight into remote  life in Australia and the work of the RFDS.

 

Two more titles are on the way: Medical Mission and Fast Flight so be sure to get all these on your order list.

 

Highly recommended from Year 4 to Year 7.

 

Check out George’s website here for more.

Friday Barnes: #4 No Rules – R. A. Spratt

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ISBN: 9780857987013

Published: 04/01/2016

Imprint: Random House Australia Children’s

RRP – $15.99

The increasingly popular nerdy detective, Friday Barnes, makes her fourth appearance in this latest instalment filled with even more mayhem and mysteries.

To begin with Friday is rather surprisingly deported to Switzerland for lack of proper citizenship documents. Not surprisingly this is because her irritatingly vague but brilliant scientist parents failed to take care of such a trifle after her birth in Switzerland twelve years before.

While Friday spends three weeks productively in the Zurich airport transit lounge as the tangle of her actual citizenship is resolved, Highcrest Academy dissolves into utter chaos – of course!

The intrepid girl detective arrives back to find the school in an uproar of anarchy following the apparent mass dismissal of all the staff. With no teachers (no matter how incompetent) to supervise the students are running amok and it appears that Friday’s arch-nemesis but sometimes friend Ian Wainscott is responsible.

When the letters are shown to be a forgery and seemingly by the hand of Ian, he loses his scholarship place at the academy and is relegated to a nearby state school.

However that is far from the end of the catastrophes. How can a whole class set of maths text books disappear in just fifteen minutes? Who on earth would deliberately poison the students’ favourite beef stroganoff? And why would the most disliked boy in school have all his furniture removed? These and the arrival of a particularly unpleasant new Vice Principal are all problems which are simply grist to Friday’s mill.

It is no wonder this series is growing so rapidly in its readership as the favourite characters prove again and again how entertaining they are. Not least is Friday’s endearing personality which fluctuates between her sheer genius intelligence to bewildered gauche geek with the regularity of a pendulum.

Highly recommended for readers from around 8  years up who enjoy a fun mystery with some crazy antics.

Lift and Look – Dinosaurs/Space

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Dinosaurs (Lift and Look)

Published: 01-02-2016

ISBN: 9781408864067

Imprint: Bloomsbury Activity Books

RRP: $12.99

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Space (Lift and Look)

Published: 01-02-2016
ISBN: 9781408864074
Imprint: Bloomsbury Activity Books
RRP: $12.99

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These beautiful sturdy board books are just an absolute delight!

With large lift up flaps they are perfect for small hands and will withstand much loving re-reading.

Little ones can begin to learn the names of some favourite dinosaurs as they explore where they are hiding or share a trip to the moon and come home again for a lively space party.

Vibrantly colourful illustrations are matched perfectly with simple text in large clear font.

I predict these will be great favourites with any small humans in your reading circle. Keep a watch out for forthcoming titles School and Garden.

Highly recommended for babies to toddlers.

Rich & Rare – edited by Paul Collins

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ISBN: 978-1-925272-11-6
Publication date: October 2015
Extent: 512 pages
Format: B Format paperback
Price: AUD$24.95
Category: Genre fiction and poetry
Age guide: 11+

 

This is a sumptuous and luscious smorgasbord feast for any reader, gathering delicacies supplied from Australia’s best storytellers. Our ‘young and free’ creators include: Michael Gerard Bauer, Gary Crew, Justin D’Ath, Scot Gardner, Kerry Greenwood, Libby Hathorn, Leigh Hobbs, Sofie Laguna, Kirsty Murray, James Roy, Shaun Tan and Gabrielle Wang.

Ford St seems to have a monopoly on providing us with wonderful anthologies that are both fresh and contemporary. This is another that will provide fabulous reading for individuals and also for reading aloud. I have been advocating and supporting reading aloud to older students and this is a perfect volume for such a purpose. The diversity of the collection allows for students to be introduced to this impressive cast of writers, to sample a wide-ranging variety of genres and to explore the structure of successful short story writing and poetry.  Here they will find humour, horror, reality, fantasy and much more. There is something for everyone on this menu!

This was one of my outstanding ‘holiday’ reads as I spent time in the beautiful Blue Mountains with family as I could easily pick it up at any time and read one or two stories in moments of complete laziness. Perhaps my only ‘complaint’ is that some of the stories are so engaging that I was almost disappointed to reach the end so quickly. I think my favourite was the marvellous violin which springs to life after long disuse – you will see what I mean when you read it!

This collection sits easily on shelves for your upper primary to secondary students – only one story had a few ‘iffy’ moments but nothing graphic or disturbing.  Illustrated throughout the text is even more accessible for those reluctant readers.

Certainly if your English program includes exploring the short story genre this would be ideal for demonstrating to students how this can be achieved.

Oh and that cover is JUST divine!! :-)

Highly recommended for both personal and classroom/library reading.

Teaching notes are available at the Ford St website – so you can easily plan to incorporate the book in your planning.

Curiosity House: #1 The Shrunken Head –  Lauren Oliver & H. C. Chester

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Hachette Children’s Books


ISBN:
 9781444777192

Publication date: 13 Oct 2015

Page count:

Imprint: Hodder & Stoughton

 

Welcome to Dumfrey’s Dime Museum of Freaks, Oddities, and Wonders where mysteries, oddities, freaks, adventures and creepy stuff abound!

Orphans Philippa, Sam and Thomas have grown up in this strange and extraordinary place looked after by Mr Dumfrey, owner and proprietor of New York’s strangest house of wonders. Each of these children is gifted with a peculiar talent. Philippa is a mentalist, Sam is so strong he needs to take care opening doors and Thomas can fold himself up into amazingly small spaces. Together with assorted helpers and other ‘acts’ they all struggle to keep the Dime Museum open.

Then the arrival of a marvellous Amazonian shrunken head lifts the attendance of the strange museum but not without accompanying dramas of thefts, mysterious deaths and a creepy stranger stalking the children. The appearance of a fourth child, Max, a street urchin with an uncanny ability to throw knives so accurately they can split a hair completes the cast.

After the audacious theft of the shrunken head the four children are determined to retrieve and save their home despite some serious opposition. In the process they encounter murder and mayhem and a startling revelation about their pasts.

For readers who love the quirkiness of Lemony Snicket and similar books, this is a great read which moves along at a rattling pace with some wonderful characterisations and wonderfully spooky settings.

Highly recommended for readers around ten and up.

The Boy with Two Lives – Abbas Kazerooni

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ISBN:9781743314838

Publisher:Allen & Unwin

Imprint:A & U Children

Pub Date:September 2015

RRP: $15.99

 

Many of you will resource units of work/inquiry examining the lives of inspirational people through biographies and memoirs. This book and the previous memoir are perfect, timely and contemporary for readers from Middle Primary upwards.

This second instalment in Kazerooni’s powerful history continues from his international bestseller On Two Feet and Wings. The first volume retells then nine year old Abbas’ amazing escape from war-torn Tehran during the Iraq-Iran conflict. This second continues the story of a character determined to survive and succeed.

Now a refugee in England, the cousin who is supposed to be caring for Abbas as his sponsor and guardian dumps him in a boarding school where the boy thrives, makes friends, impresses staff with his character but grieves for his absent family. The feckless and cruel cousin Mehdi has one saving grace. His girlfriend has compassionate and kind parents who take Abbas into their home and offer much love and comfort. That is, until Mehdi decides he is tired of waiting for money from Abbas’ parents to pay school fees and puts the young boy to work illegally in each and every school holiday under the threat of deportation.
After some time this awful situation gets worse when after several traumatic life changes, Mehdi abandons Abbas to homelessness at age 13. His triumph at winning a scholarship to a prestigious school is marred by his daily struggle to simply survive with little food or personal comforts such as clean clothes, warmth and shelter. With family and friends unaware of Abbas’ situation he is forced to improvise his own life as he becomes all the more determined to attain his education.

This is a gripping read (one sitting for me) made all the more poignant because Abbas’ amazing character shines through despite all his dreadful situations. At no time is there a total collapse into self-pity, instead even in his darkest hours and immense despair Abbas finds inner strength and resilience somehow.

When Mehdi goes one step too far and threatens to kill Abbas, thinking the boy has ‘snitched’ on him and his nefarious activities, Abbas is finally rescued from his nightmare.

Tracing the extraordinary and at times harrowing journey undertaken by the young Abbas makes the reader reflect on the many things we often take for granted here in Australia.

I cannot recommend this highly enough – please take some time to find out more about this exceptional man who is now a successful writer, actor and producer living in California. I was fortunate enough to hear an interview with him on Radio National a couple of years ago and hope to secure a blog Q&A with him if possible.

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ABC Dreaming – Warren Brim

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Magabala Books

  • Published:Nov 2015
  • ISBN:9781922142627
  • Format:Paperback

 

RRP: $17.95

I have purposely saved this one for the start of the school year believing it to the most beautiful ABC book I have seen in a long, long time and so perfect for introducing your preppies to both the alphabet, Australian flora and fauna and Indigenous culture.

In particular as Warren is descended from the Djabugay  people of Far North Queensland, this is even more relevant to our Queensland schools as the illustrations depict the diverse wildlife and plants found in the Far North rainforests.

Each vibrantly colourful page shows an illustration of the chosen creature or plant in traditional Aboriginal style and colours.  An interesting exercise might be to research the actual descriptions and images with the children to make comparisons between the stylised and photographic versions.  And of course while there will be some familiar names to the children, others which are unique to the Far North may require some investigation.

Warren is a celebrated artist whose work you will know from Creatures of the Rainforest.

As usual Magabala has published another truly quality book that will make a perfect addition to any bookshelf whether home or library.

Highly recommended for toddlers up.

Please Open This Book – Adam Lehrhaupt/Matthew Forsythe

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Simon & Schuster Australia

  • Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books
  • 40 pages |
  • ISBN 9781442450714
  • October 2015

List Price

AU$ 24.99

NZ$ 27.99

 

The expression ‘more fun than a barrel of monkeys’ has never been as evident as in this crazy chaotic new picture book from the duo who brought you Warning, Do Not Open This Book!.

Completely giggle-making for young readers, a bunch of monkeys plus a few assorted others are trapped inside a book which has been closed by a ruthless child. The only way to rescue them is to turn the pages and release the mayhem. But wait! By turning the pages the reader draws ever closer to the end – and the book will be closed again! ARGGGHHH!

With an irresistible power given to the reader, with the monkeys’ impassioned pleas to be kept unrestrained, this book will thoroughly engage readers from preschool up.

The striking illustrations are digitally composed and the black backgrounds (well after all it IS dark inside a closed book!) are relieved by primarily earth-toned compositions.

This pair’s first book was an E.B. White Read-Aloud Honor Book and received much praise.  This is definitely in every way its equal.
Visit Adam’s website here to find out more about the author and watch the book trailer.

 

Highly recommended for your small humans up to around age 8 (or older ones who love a giggle!).  Start your own campaign now – SAVE THE MONKEYS!

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Out of My Mind – Sharon Draper

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outofmymindSimon & Schuster Australia

  • Atheneum Books for Young Readers |
  • 320 pages |
  • ISBN 9781416971719 |
  • August 2013 |
  • Grades 5 and up |
  • Lexile 700

List Price

AU$ 11.99

NZ$ 13.99

 

This is an older title which I have only just read and if you loved ‘Wonder’ (R. J. Palacio) you will also love this book.

Melody is an extremely intelligent 11 year old girl with a photographic memory. The problem is that nobody knows this – not even her parents who are her strongest supporters. Melody has cerebral palsy and cannot walk, talk, feed herself or accomplish any physical actions except using her thumbs. Her schooling has been a torturous confinement to a ‘special education’ room where teachers come and go with scant disregard to their students’ abilities.

But Melody’s life is changing. A move to integrate the disabled students into mainstream classrooms is one positive, especially when accompanied by an intuitive young woman named Catherine who becomes Melody’s helper in class. Suddenly Melody has teachers who are keen to empower her and in particular Catherine’s brainwave about a device called a Medi-Talker allows Melody to find her voice. Her neighbour, retired teacher Rose, is another adult instrumental in fostering Melody’s emergence from her long silence.

Despite obstacles of bullying classmates and insensitive adults (teachers and doctors) Melody begins to shine as her extraordinary mental ability begins to emerge triumphantly.  With her hero being Stephen Hawking Melody knows that she too can conquer the world – even if it does take twice the effort of anyone else.

This is a marvellous novel and there is much to support it is a class study or simply as a recommendation to our students as we encourage them to become more empathic.

See more here at Sharon Draper’s website, watch a book trailer here or find some teaching notes here.

 

Highly recommended for astute readers of around 9 years and up.

 

 

Not a book – a movie

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Many of you will have read articles particularly fairly recently about the real life bear who inspired A. A. Milne’s classic stories about Winnie-the-Pooh. A recently published picture book sparked some of these.

I was so delighted to pick up the DVD of the movie ‘A Bear Named Winnie’ at the local  Km*** last Friday for the princely sum of $4.

There is so much to like about this lovely film – with character roles played by Stephen Fry, David Suchet and Michael Fassbender – which tells the story of how a young Canadian, Lt Harry Colebourn, of the Canadian Army Veterinary Corps, rescues a black bear cub. The endearing animal immediately bonds with him and despite the sometimes chaos that can be caused by such a creature in an army camp, manages to smuggle Winnie (Winnipeg) to England when he is mobilized to the front.

This is a World War 1 story with a real difference enabling viewers to glimpse the work of the veterinary corps, our Canadian compadres and the amazing friendship between human and animal.

Harry realises he cannot take Winnie to the front in France so she is placed in the London Zoo for the duration of the war under the care of a very crusty (but actually marshmallow) head keeper played by Stephen Fry.

When Harry returns from active service traumatised and withdrawn it is Winnie who rescues him in turn. After his recovery he has every intention of taking Winnie back to Canada but when he realises just how loved she is by children and adults alike who visit the zoo, he leaves her in their care where she lived happily until 1934.

In 1926 when A. A. Milne and his small son visited the zoo and became entranced by Winnie’s charm and her gentle playful nature was afterwards immortalised for endless generations of readers.

With a rating of PG this would be a worthy addition to your literary (and historical) film collection – get to that store now!