Hattie Helps Out – Davina Bell & Jane Godwin/Freya Blackwood

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ISBN:9781743435434

Publisher:Allen & Unwin

Imprint:A & U Children

Pub Date:March 2016

RRP $24.99

 

This is a delightful story to which young readers will easily relate.

Hattie loves to help out and she thinks she is very good at it. Baby Lottie is not so much of a help but that’s not her fault. One very busy day Mama is trying hard to get ready for Dad’s special birthday dinner.  There is so much to do – the birthday cake, the house cleaning, flowers to arrange and more. Hattie helps with the birthday cake but then it’s time for her nap – which is not a nap anymore insists Hattie. “It’s a rest…”. She persuades Mama to snuggle with her just for a few minutes and inevitably one very tired mother is sound asleep and Hattie is wide awake.

And because she is such a great helper she knows what she must do. Watch Hattie as she builds a delightful biscuit tower, arranges flowers all over the house including the light shades and toilet bowl, sweep the floor and all it’s stuff into a corner and shovel all the cooking equipment back into a cupboard.

When the family arrive for dinner and Mama finally wakes up they are all amazed at the wonderful surprise. Who could possibly ask for a more special birthday dinner?

With Freya Blackwood’s always exquisite illustrations this is a real treasure of a book and highly recommended for little humans from around 3 – 6 years old.

The Family with Two Front Doors – Anna Ciddor

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ISBN:9781925266641

Publisher:Allen & Unwin

Imprint:A & U Children

Pub Date:March 2016

RRP $14.99

 

To take one’s own family history and turn it into a delightful, amusing and engaging story takes a real talent.

Anna Ciddor has done so with this wonderful tale of family warmth, traditions and insight. Inspired by her grandmother’s stories Anna has painted a beautiful picture of a Jewish family’s life in Poland before the horror of World War 2.

The Rabinovitches (the family name struck such a chord with me as it was also my great-grandfather’s name!) are a lively and close family who occupy two houses as there are quite a few of them. Yakov the mischief maker, Nomi, Miriam and serious Shlomo and more lead the reader into a fascinating glimpse of life in the 1920s in Lublin, Poland.

The details of daily life, celebrations and rituals, the excitement of older sister Adina’s wedding and adventures in the streets of their town bring this charming family to life before our eyes offering us a superb chance to develop more cultural understandings.

This is a book which holds up the ordinary life of a family and shows us the joy and love that abounds between all its members while at the same time commemorating the author’s lost family.

A marvellous addition to your collection especially suited to readers from around 12 up, I highly recommend it to you. Teaching notes are available here.

Blueberry Pancakes Forever – Angelica Banks

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ISBN: 9781760110451

Publisher :Allen & Unwin

Imprint: A & U Children

Pub Date: June 2016

RRP $15.99

 

As soon as I opened the package I was bursting to read this third and last instalment in the Tuesday McGillycuddy trilogy. And so I did in one sitting, devouring it as easily and happily as Tuesday might her father’s pancakes.

I have lately often spoken of the dearth of original and fresh stories and Angelica Banks AKA Tasmanian writers Heather Rose and Danielle Wood provide exactly the antidote to that.

This latest is a little darker and deeper than the previous two stories with a terrible sadness impacting on Tuesday and her author mother, Serendipity Smith. A year previous to this adventure, their much loved husband and father Denis died and their lives have become cloistered and cobwebby inside a once sunny and happy home and their shared world of writing, Vivienne Small’s world has become frozen in an endless winter.

The unexpected arrival of Tuesday’s eccentric godmother Colette Baden Baden heralds the beginning of healing and the start of a fresh and often dangerous adventure.

Much to her surprise, Serendipity is once again drawn by a mysterious story thread and leaving Colette to care for Tuesday returns to the Library for respite and rousing from the Librarian.

Almost immediately Tuesday is also snared by an even stranger story thread and finds herself captured by the weird and rather scary Loddon who seems to think he knows her.

As Baxterr and Colette desperately seek out Tuesday, defying all the conventions of the place where only writers are allowed, Tuesday and Vivienne face horrible dangers from the seemingly demented Loddon.

Without her faithful doggo at her side she seems to be in a very frightening situation and the defeat of Loddon seems almost impossible.

But strength and help often come from unexpected sources and Tuesday’s own story embraces both past and present intertwining threads.

These characters become so real to the reader and the whole premise of the series is so fresh and entrancing that one cannot help but become more and more engaged with their lives. I am a little sad to part with them.

For one who has spent the past fourteen months in intense grief this new story has particular resonance and offers the hope of healing. I cannot help but think that anyone in similar circumstances would also find it so.

If you have not yet discovered the magical world of Tuesday I recommend that you rush to buy this series and promote it to your readers who are hungry for a new hero – a girl of resilience, courage and compassion.

Highly recommended for readers aged around 8 to 13.

 

Stanley the Amazing Knitting Cat – Emily McKenzie

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Category:Picture books

ISBN:9781408860489

Allen & Unwin

Publisher:Bloomsbury

Imprint:Bloomsbury Child

Pub Date:February 2016

RRP $15.99

Stanley is most definitely not your average moggy. He doesn’t do any of the usual cattish things like chasing mice or having hassles with dogs.  He’s not even lazing around sleeping in the sun all day. In fact, he’s always busy knitting.

He knits beanies and balaclavas, socks and scarves, neck warmers and trunk warmers, onesies and woolly jumpers for all his friends.

One day Stanley spies a poster for a grand knitting competition inviting all comers to knit their wackiest woolly wonder. Naturally Stanley is determined to win!

He starts to knit – and knit and knit. All his friends are mad with curiosity. What is it Stanley is making? A giant knitted rainbow? The guesses are many and varied and still Stanley keeps knitting until he runs out wool – oh no!  What on earth can he do? There is only one option so Stanley immediately starts unravelling all his friends’ lovely handknits much to their chagrin.

The day of the competition arrives and there is no sign of Stanley in the hall. His friends are none too pleased that their lack of warmth was to no advantage when suddenly they all realise that Stanley is outside in a gigantic knitted hot air balloon ready to whisk them all away to apologise for his unravelling.

Of course, such a splendid woolly wonder is a winner and Stanley ends up with a lifetime of supply of wool with all his friends being more than amply clothed.

This is a fun read for little people with lots of colour and surely a great opportunity to introduce some knitting to children whether finger, French or regular!!

Middle School: Going Bush –James Patterson

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Middleschool

ISBN: 9780143781219

Published: 01/03/2016

Imprint: Random House Australia Children’s

RRP $15.99

Rafe can’t be more excited. He’s been selected to join a very special Young Artists group along with a very select few youngsters from around the world. They are all to meet up in Australia and take part in an extraordinary all-expenses paid experience investigating ancient Indigenous art, making their own art and being taught by famous Brushes McGarrity.

Of course Rafe’s last Aussie experience did hold a few untoward happenings but this is such an awesome honour and he will get to see his great friend Ellie again. He can’t wait!

Naturally, things just can’t possibly be that simple – not with Rafe’s form.  With a huge hungry looking crocodile in a place it should not be, something very odd about the famous rock paintings supposedly discovered by McGarrity, sneaky and secretive goings-on in the dead of night and some very interesting international companions there is lots to occupy Rafe, Ellie and their new friend Denny which has nothing at all to do with being young art talents.

This latest episode will further consolidate the legion of fans that have enthusiastically embraced the Middle School series. I have noticed that even reluctant readers gravitate to these so they definitely deserve some promotion in your library.

Recommended for readers from around Year 4 upwards.

The Shadow Keeper – Abi Elphinstone

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  • Simon & Schuster Children’s UK |
  • 320 pages |
  • ISBN 9781471122705 |
  • February 2016

List Price

AU$ 16.99

NZ$ 19.99

 

The second in this exciting series sees the central character Moll Pecksniff and her companions living in secret in a cave by the sea where they plan their next move in the battle against the evil Shadowmasks. Now that Moll realises the import of her destiny as the Bone Murmurer and her history, including the fate of her parents, she is determined to prove her worth.

 

She knows she must find the Amulet of Truth at all costs. It is the only thing that will wield the necessary power over the enemy.

 

But how to do this when faced with mer-people, wicked smugglers and seemingly impossible coded messages?

Of course, her trusted friend Siddy and the enigmatic wildcat Gryff are right by her side but what of Alfie, the strange boy who came to their rescue and seems to be their ally?

 

Again the reader is immersed in the thick of the action with this wondrous and exciting tale. As all good quests must be it is filled with thrills, suspense, mystery, secrets, bravery and treachery. The Old Magic must be saved and only Moll can achieve this and must before the dark magic overtakes them all.

 

This is every bit as gripping as the first instalment with all the requisite good and evil that befits a great story of its type.

 

Any reader will be left breathless and be impatient for more there is no doubt.

 

Highly recommended for middle school readers upwards.

 

Read a snippet here.

Izzy the Invisible – Louise Gray, illustrated by Laura Ellen Anderson

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Allen & Unwin Australia

ISBN: 9781848125094

Publisher: Bonnier

Imprint: Piccadilly Books

Pub Date: March 2016

RRP $14.99

 

Just imagine if you could be invisible whenever you like – most children would love this!

This new story which is perfect for beginning independent readers comes from a mystery author so to speak. The publisher’s notes tell us that Louise Gray is a new pseudonym for an author of over ninety books and sales of over $3 million dollars.

Izzy is a very sweet little girl who is rather curious and quite lively. She lives with two busy working parents and a rather bossy older sister. It is her Nana Lin who is her real kindred spirit. Nana is a retired science teacher who has quite a menagerie (which is perfect for Izzy who is not allowed pets) and still messes about with her various experiments. Her latest is a concoction called Vanishoo which she hopes will make things become invisible but it’s just not working out. That is, until Izzy accidentally knocks an extra ingredient into the swirling liquid bubbling on the stove – and promptly vanishes!

Luckily, it’s not actually a permanent condition. It seems that a feather from Nana’s parrot  Perky makes Izzy visible again as long as she keeps hold of it.

Not surprisingly Izzy’s parents are none too thrilled with this development and harass Nana to come up with an antidote.  While they await this impatiently, Izzy does make good use of her new ability by giving some nasty teenagers a good wake up call, helping a neighbour and making peace with her big sister.

All in all this is a fun read with some solid family messages about trust and doing the right thing.

Recommended for young readers of about 7 years upwards.

Guest Blogger – Aleesah Darlison

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Ideas Are All Around Us

By Aleesah Darlison

 

A great story often starts with a simple idea.

Ideas for stories bombard me each and every day.

Ideas are everywhere I go. In everything I see and do. And in everything I hear.

If you’re interested in writing stories, you can find ideas in the world around you too.

You see, stories abound in all the many subtle nuances of our life – you just have to keep your eyes and ears and mind open to them.

And then, of course, once you have them you need to keep them.

Ideas can be like butterflies floating on the breeze, fragile and zippy, here one minute and gone the next.

Collecting your ideas in one place is always a good … well, idea. You may not use them today. You may not use them tomorrow. But one day, when you’re scratching around for something to write, trying to find inspiration to breathe renewed life into your lacklustre first draft, those little ideas that you collected days, weeks, months or even years ago will come to your rescue.

I run loads of writing workshop for children and adults, many of which focus on collecting ideas. Discovering and expanding on ideas are two of the most difficult processes that face writers of all genres. Yet they shouldn’t be.

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Why? Because collecting ideas is fun! And if you learn a few basic techniques for the collection of ideas, it makes your story writing that much easier and enjoyable too. It doesn’t matter if you’re an adult or a child, these simple story idea collection techniques apply to everyone.

Here are just a few of my best tips for those wanting to discover the ideas that exist in the world around them:

  1. Keep a book in your bag or on your desk and add something to it each day. This might be a thought or an observation; a sign you’ve seen; details of a poster; a drawing or photo; a newspaper article or comic. Anything you like.
  2. Visit a café or shopping mall and sit somewhere you can see other people. Write down details of people you see who interest you. What do they look like? How do they walk? What are they wearing? Who are they with? Record conversations you overhear.
  3. Go for a walk along the beach. Take your notebook or phone/voice recorder with you. Start walking and let your mind wander. Record things you see, think, hear. You might even be lucky and have storylines or characters reveal themselves to you as you walk. This is one of my favourite ways to get ideas flowing.
  4. Think back to when you were a child (this is a particularly good exercise if you’re writing for children). Write down ten places you went to that were fun. They might have been everyday places where you lived or they might have been places you visited on holidays. Expand on your list by adding details of what you liked, or didn’t like, about each place.
  5. Select one of your ideas or images and use it to create a mind map. Put the word or image in a circle in the middle of your page and then write or draw any ideas that come to mind in branches connected to the main circle. Mind mapping is also called brainstorming and I find it’s a fabulous way to kick-start ideas into solid storylines.

There are many more ways you can collect ideas for stories, but these are a great start for beginning writers.

Happy Idea Hunting Everyone!

Best wishes

Aleesah Darlison

Aleesah’s latest release is a picture book titled Zoo Ball. It’s a humorous, rhyming story about a boy called Ned who takes his ball to the zoo and then promptly loses it! This is where all the animals get into the action, passing the ball around, and it’s also where the fun and frivolity starts…

‘Don’t bounce that ball, Ned,’ Mum warned.

‘Don’t bounce that ball at all.’

 

‘We’re at the zoo to see animals today,’ Dad said.

‘So put the ball away.’

 

But Ned didn’t listen to Mum or to Dad.

Instead he bounced and bounced and

BOUNCED the ball he had.

He bounced it low, he bounced it high,

He bounced it right into the sky…

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Zoo Ball is a very original book in that it’s illustrated completely by Australian school children. The publisher, Wombat Books, developed a competition that was entered by students across Australia. Each entrant could choose to illustrate a single page or double page spread of the book. Winners for each page were chosen and the overall winning entrant also got to illustrate the front cover.  In this way, the competition and the book has created twenty-three new, young published illustrators.

Aleesah had this to say about the inaugural Wombat Books Illustration Challenge:

“It’s been a fantastic initiative and it’s really blown me away to see how talented children are,” Aleesah said. “It’s my hope that, given this start in picture book illustration at a young age, some of these illustrators will go on to become picture book illustrators when they grow up.”

 

And now a little bit about Aleesah….

Aleesah Darlison is an award-winning Australian children’s author who writes picture books, chapter books and novels. Her much-loved stories promote courage, understanding, anti-bullying, self-belief, friendship, teamwork and environmental themes. In 2015, she won the Environment Award for Children’s Literature (Non-Fiction) for her picture book, Our Class Tiger. In 2012, she was shortlisted for the same award for her picture book, Warambi.

Since commencing her writing journey six years ago, Aleesah has written over thirty-five books including Zoo Ball, Stripes in the Forest: The Story of the Last Wild Thylacine, Awesome Animal Stories for Kids, the Netball Gems Series, the Unicorn Riders Series, the Totally Twins Series, Ash Rover: Keeper of the Phoenix, Little Good Wolf, Puggle’s Problem, Little Meerkat, Spidery Iggy, and Mama and Hug.

Travelling throughout Australia and overseas, Aleesah delivers talks and workshops to children and adults at preschools, schools, libraries, bookstores, literary festivals and writers’ centres. She is currently Director of the NSW Writers’ Centre Kids and YA Literary Festival. When Aleesah isn’t creating entertaining and enchanting stories, she’s usually looking after her four very energetic and imaginative children.

For information about Aleesah’s creative writing workshops and author talks, visit her website at:

www.aleesahdarlison.com

or check her out on Facebook:

www.facebook.com/AleesahDarlisonFanPage

To purchase copies of Zoo Ball, visit the Wombat Books website:

www.wombatbooks.com.au

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All-Stars bind-ups

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Glenn Maxwell 1 and 2 Bindup – Patrick Loughlin

Lucky Break

Academy All-stars

ISBN: 9780857988867

Published: 02/11/2015

Imprint: Random House Australia Children’s

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Glenn Maxwell 3 and 4 Bindup

State Showdown

World Domination

ISBN: 9780857988881

Published: 02/11/2015

Imprint: Random House Australia Children’s

GM2

RRP $19.99

 

In more double your fun your young cricket devotees will be able to indulge in these two new bindups in the Glenn Maxwell series. Previously I reviewed the first two titles on this blog.

Books 3 and 4 take young Will’s playing ambitions to new highs – and lows. Will finds it hard to believe that his dream has come true when he finds himself playing at the hallowed MCG in the T20 National Youth Shield. He has been working on his positive thinking and his technique but suddenly finds himself struggling in his play. His rhythm has completely left him and he despairs of even making it through. He looks to his mentor Maxi to help him settle down and get back into the swing.

Book 4 holds even more excitement as Will and his team mates travel to England and the home of cricket to play in the T20 Youth World Championships.  While Will may be in seventh heaven having been selected not just for the team but asked to captain it, he is also a mass of nerves and misgivings about his ability to lead the team successfully. This is particularly so when he needs to somehow meld together the players from different states and overcome their rivalries. Again he looks to Glenn for advice and sagacity in his quest for the best.

These are just perfect reading for your cricketers, be they boys or girls, and with two for the price of one, you can’t go wrong putting them on your shelves.

Recommended for readers from around ten and up.

 

 

 

 

 

You Choose… Flip Me #1 & #2

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You Choose Flip Me! 1 and 2 – George Ivanoff

The Treasure of Dead Man’s Cove

Mayhem at Magic School

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You Choose Flip Me! #3 & #4

ISBN: 9780857989536

Published: 01/12/2015

Imprint: Random House Australia Children’s

RRP $19.99

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You Choose Flip Me! 3 and 4

Maze of Doom

The Haunting of Spook House

 

ISBN: 9780857989550

Published: 01/12/2015

Imprint: Random House Australia Children’

RRP $19.99

If you have kept up with this blog you will have read my reviews of the You Choose… series previously. For those who have not purchased these great titles here’s the opportunity to double the fun with two bind-ups each with two stories.

These particularly appeal to reluctant boy readers but have equal attraction for those who just want a bit of a spooky read – and there are plenty of those! I have secondary students trying to inveigle me into ‘shifting’ some titles from the primary library as they think they are ‘too scary’ for the younger ones. Really it’s just because they want to read them again!

It’s unfortunate that I never seem to successfully navigate my way through these – I always end up SPLAT in some way or other! Fortunately, others seem to have more luck – or is that skill?

The series is now up to #11 so this is a great time to stock up on the earlier titles and start promoting them.

Highly recommended for readers from around Year 4 and up.