Grug Gets Lost – Ted Prior



  • Simon & Schuster Australia |
  • 32 pages |
  • ISBN 9781925030518 |
  • October 2015


AU$ 4.99

NZ$ 6.99


Is there anyone who doesn’t love Grug? He has been a long-time favourite in our family for sure and I have certainly spent many happy library sessions sharing Grug’s stories with small people. They always loved to innovate our own Grug story through shared writing to follow up!

Who can believe we’ve had the pleasure of Grug’s company since 1979?  Look here for the animation of the original created by the author/illustrator Ted Prior.

In this new adventure poor Grug is waylaid on his way home from shopping by a fallen tree blocking his path. When he detours around the log the path can no longer be seen and Grug finds himself lost in a strange part of the forest. Trees look scary with face-like features watching him and when a wild wallaby hurriedly leaps past him, Grug is really very anxious indeed.  He has walked so far and worried so much that tiredness overcomes him and he falls asleep. On waking he begins to see some light peering through the dense trees and heads towards it. Oh joy! He has found Cara’s hollow log which means he is almost home.  Little readers will share Grug’s relief at being home snug and safe again.

Check out the fun things to do at Grug’s own website or find out more at Ted Prior’s webpage here.

Highly recommended for younger readers from 2 upwards!

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Just hanging out with Grug!

The Little Shop of Monsters – R. L. Stine. Illustrated by Marc Brown



Hachette Australia

  • ISBN:9780316348522
  • Publication date:25 Aug 2015
  • Page count:48
  • Imprint:Little, Brown Young Readers USA
  • RR $14.99

So R. L. Stine drove us all crazy over the past decade or so with endless Goosebumps books – but hey! They got the kids reading didn’t they?

Since then his books have moved into an older readership and I have observed the success of these with boys and girls in lower secondary particularly.

Now – look out! – he’s moving into the Junior Fiction picture book market with this very entertaining book about some very crazy monsters.

Yes of course there are lots of kids (and let’s face it, some adults) who get a bit thingy about monsters but this is exactly what is needed to take the sting out of the unknown scariness. Though referred to as a shop the illustrations make this seem more like a rescue/shelter facility for the said monsters and as the children inspect each variety, there is a deliciously descriptive explanation of each.

Any child who is harbouring a fear of unknown creepy monsters under the bed will giggle at monsters like Yucky and Mucky or Teaser and Squeezer – and though it is revealed that these monsters are smelly, vile and horrible – we can be quite safe as we check out each and every one. Then we can run away quite safely monster-free!

I envisage that this would be a very popular read-aloud with many of our younger students. There are some juicy interactive moments such as guessing the name etc which will delight the thinkers in the audience.

Have a lot of fun with this one – I know we will!

Click here for a trailer narrated by Jack Black!

Ugly – Robert Hoge



ISBN: 9780733634338

Publication date: 11 Aug 2015

Page count: 160

Imprint: Hachette Australia

RRP $16.99

It has taken me a while to get to review this Younger Readers’ version of Robert Hoge’s successful memoir. My Year 8 students have been working on an English task which was to research and write a feature article about an inspirational hero and one of my young ladies had chosen Robert because she had started reading his memoir. I had just received this review copy so handed it to her in case she might find it helpful as well.  Not only does the book come with her recommendation, she was so delighted that Robert responded to her email to him and she has been able to ask him questions directly. What a generous human! Thank you Robert – you provided this wonderful young girl with an amazing learning experience!

Today I spent a very pleasant hour or so reading this funny and moving, honest and courageous recollection of growing up as the ‘ugly’ kid

Robert’s story is by now pretty well known to many adults who have either learned about his life via the book or the media but this new edition will bring his inspirational story to a whole new readership.

When Robert was born with severe physical problems including a large facial tumour, his family’s life changed in many respects but not in the most important aspect. They were still a loving, supportive unit who when faced with a challenge rose to it with an admirable and enviable ease.

But let’s not make light of this. This is an incredible story – of not only a wonderful human being but an exceptional family.

Do yourself a favour and read it. Better still put this on your shelves! The Younger Reader version is eminently suitable for readers of around 10 and up.

Check out Robert’s website here and teaching notes here

How to Train Your Dragon #12: How to Fight a Dragon’s Fury – Cressida Cowell



Hachette Australia

Imprint: Hodder Children’s Books

ISBN: 9781444916584

Publication date: Sep 2015

RRP: $19.95

Without doubt the How to Train Your Dragon series has been a runaway success with avid readers from all over the world eagerly anticipating each subsequent instalment. The Dreamworks franchise which produced the movies has only built on the huge popularity of the books.

When I speak of the reader fans, I’m not just talking about children here. For those of us who love dragons, nonsense, crazy characters and absurd humour these books are pure delight.

The latest in the series is How to Fight a Dragon’s Fury and once again Cressida Cowell  has provided us with a saga worthy of the Viking tradition as our intrepid hero Hiccup Horrendous Haddock the Third continues his quest to protect his people and their dragons in the face of the revolting and conniving Alvin the Treacherous.

You will no doubt remember the cliffhanger ending of the last episode when we were all left wondering if Hiccup truly was dead. But we all know that would be impossible – I mean to say, he’s the HERO! Yet his father Stoick the Vast and all his tribe saw him fall from the sky and believe that he is lost to them. Luckily that tenacious little Bog-Burglar Camicazi refuses to accept what would seem to be evidence and knows in her heart that Hiccup is alive and must be found. Not only must he be found he needs to get to the island of Tomorrow and be crowned the King of the Wilderwest. How can this happen when Alvin the Treacherous now holds all King’s Things.

As usual the adventure is full of twists and turns, danger and despair, surprises and secrets and above all, laugh-out-loud humour as we follow the exploits of all the characters we’ve come to know and love – or loathe!

Far be it from me to give away too much of the plot but suffice to say devotees will adore this book and Cressida’s quirky illustrations as much as ever.

Definitely a must for your shelves for adventurous readers from around ten years and up – read an excerpt here

The Vanilla Slice Kid – Adam Wallace & Jack Wodhams. Illustrated by Tom Gittus



Ford St Publishing

ISBN: 978-1-925272-02-4
Publication date: 1 October 2015
Extent: 144 pages
Price: AUD$14.95

Well it’s clear we have our own contender to usurp Roald Dahl in the list of favourites for readers who love wacky and fantastical stories!

When Archie Cunningham is born, it is apparent to his parents – a disgustingly greedy and vile pair of individuals – that their unwelcome baby had a very surprising superpower. Perhaps it had something to do with the revolting Mrs Cunningham stuffing down every form of cake she could lay her fat hands on during her pregnancy but perhaps it is just one of the enduring mysteries of the world. Whichever it is, immediately after his arrival young Archie produces tiny chocolate cupcakes from the palms of his hands! So despite the fact that his parents have not the slightest interest in their baby or a child at all, they are avariciously interested in his potential as a provider of the world’s most delicious pastries.

Fast forward five years which have been lonely and isolated ones for Archie and his talent re-emerges after extreme provocation from his parents. They continue to ignore him as a child and look on him solely as a secret money making machine, providing the best edible delicacies on the market.  But when finally Archie is allowed to go to school, his bizarre talent is revealed and all hell breaks loose.

Secret agents, a megalomaniacal General, children collected for their unusual and special talents, Archie’s life does not seem destined to get much better. Except for one thing – Archie finds some real friends and though the odds look bad for them all, they prove that together they are stronger than any crazy bullies.

This is a read which fairly gallops along at an amazing pace. And while the reader feels most sorry for Archie there is no doubt that there are many real belly laughs throughout as the ridiculous situations and grotesque caricatures continue.

Definitely a winner for either boys or girls from around 8 years up, this is one to add to your shelves for sure!

Display Time




This year, rather than Halloween, I wanted to create a Day of the Dead feature. Of course,traditionally one would have photos of loved ones on the ofrenda but instead we have characters who have died in books. I found a fun free program which created ‘photo frames’ around each picture. They were laminated and a folded heavy cardboard stand added. Candles and flowers (traditionally marigolds) have been added and closer to the day we will have a bowl of Mexican lollies for the students to enjoy (bought from Chile Mojo). I’m deciding whether to buy one actual sugar skull as well :-). The traditional tissue paper banner is from the same supplier. In the meantime the display is proving very popular with students. In the background (board with red slips) is our question of the moment “Which dead book character would you bring back to life?”. Harry Potter characters are definitely leading the field in the answers!

The Singing Bones – Shaun Tan



Allen & Unwin

Imprint; Allen & Unwin Children

October 2015

ISBN 9781760111038

RRP $35.00

Along with many others a new work from Shaun Tan sends a frisson of expectation and the promise of delighted awe through me and The Singing Bones is no disappointment. From the first ‘picking up’, feeling the sleekness of the stylish binding to the leisurely inspection of each sumptuous spread, this is a volume that can be described without hesitation as a visual and tactile feast for any reader.

A foreword from Philip Pullman and introduction by Jack Zipes, leading scholar of fairy tales, herald page after page of a book inspired by the work of legendary story collectors – and librarians! – Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm (the Brothers Grimm).

Rather than simply retelling the stories Shaun Tan has chosen to focus on what might be described as the ‘kernel’ of each tale; seventy-five of the Grimm’s collected folk stories in all are included. An annotated index summarises the plot of each. Stories familiar to us all such as Rapunzel, The Sleeping Beauty and Red Riding Hood are joined by far less well known tales, allowing readers to more fully appreciate the immense body of work undertaken by the two German brothers in their lifetimes.

To accompany each tale, Tan has created the most amazing sculptures of small figures which Pullman describes as “perfect realisations of the strangeness of the characters they represent”.

In an explanation at the end of the book, Tan relates how this project evolved and provides more details on his webpage (link above).  When the book was launched earlier this month, it was accompanied by an exhibition of the sculptures – cue envy of Melburnians at this point!  I think those of us in other states would like to hope we might also have the opportunity at some stage to see this stunning display of artwork.  Apparently attendees were invited to create their own little figures in clay – a super idea for your library! I recall doing this same thing with Shaun’s little white creature from The Arrival with some brilliant results from students.

I have shown this book to several colleagues today and all have exclaimed over the ‘beauty’ of it – both presentation and contents. We are already discussing adding this to our Readers Circles titles for 2016 as it is such a unique work. With amazing synchronicity it also arrived in our box of standing orders this morning, so will shortly be prominently displayed in our library.

I know this will need no recommendation to you all but regardless; I cannot endorse it more fulsomely. It is truly special and a book to be treasured!  While I do believe fairy tales are for everybody, your teenies might find these a bit sophisticated so probably around Middle Primary and up would be my recommendation.

(Watch out for this to be an award winner!)

Friday Barnes #3: Big Trouble – R. A. Spratt



ISBN: 9780857986993

Published: 03/08/2015

Imprint: Random House Australia Children’s

Extent: 272 pages

RRP $15.99

Ace amateur super sleuth Friday Barnes just gets busier and busier! In the third of the series, young Friday finds a perfect swarm of mysterious goings on at Highcrest Academy. Firstly, there is the unexpected visit from her absentminded father when he brings the dreadful news of the disappearance of Friday’s mum. Has she been kidnapped? Has there been some kind of terrible accident? Friday’s mood is not helped by having her father installed at her school until things have been sorted out. This is particularly so because the Headmaster also needs her help. Not only is there a huge kerfuffle with the arrival of new student, Princess Ingrid of Norway but it seems a thief is at large. The elusive Pimpernel is leaving calling cards everywhere and personal items are disappearing at rapid rate.

Friday’s relationship with her nemesis Ian Wainscott seems poised on the edge of a change after she helps Ian’s mum thwart her ex-husband’s attempt to leave her in financial ruin.  Certainly some of her classmates are eagerly awaiting a shift in the dynamic!

Friday’s giftedness is never grating, probably because it is balanced so delightfully with her social ineptitude. Her gauche geekiness is really very endearing and Spratt’s characterisations are always a triumph.

Another very positive aspect to Spratt’s writing is her ability to weave a more sophisticated vocabulary into the text with a full expectation that her tween readers will correctly interpret it. And they do! These books are proving very popular in our library with our new-to-high-school Year 7 girls.  For that reason it is just wonderful to see that the next volume will be published in early 2016.

Find a fun Friday Barnes Scavenger Hunt kit for libraries here and don’t forget that previous books had teaching notes provided.

Highly recommended for your budding detectives from around 9 years upwards.

The Taming of the Queen – Philippa Gregory



  • Simon & Schuster UK |
  • 448 pages |
  • ISBN 9781471132971 |
  • August 2015

List Price

AU$ 45.00

NZ$ 49.99

Why would a woman marry a serial killer?
Because she cannot refuse…

Every now and again I lash out and actually read a ‘grown up’ book and being a very genuine admirer of Philippa Gregory’s historical fiction was most excited to be able to review her latest book.

Kateryn (also known as Catherine) Parr was the last and surviving wife of the infamous Tudor monarch, Henry VIII. She is also arguably the least known of his wives in a sense – even the rather innocuous Anne of Cleves had some more notoriety if only because the marriage was so short-lived without the grisly end of other less fortunate of Henry’s spouses.

For those who have watched that excellent BBC series The Tudors or studied some medieval history there will be some background knowledge of the main facts. Philippa Gregory’s talent lies in bringing history to life by building on the facts through deeper research not only of the direct subject but also the prevailing attitudes, customs and daily lives of the period in question.

Kateryn was a beautiful 30 year old married to a much older husband when Henry Tudor first decided to make her his wife. When her husband died, the aging King Henry wasted no time in proposing to Kateryn, insisting she come immediately to court, despite her still being in mourning; and so began Henry’s last marriage and his first to a queen who despite her personal preferences, devoted herself to his well-being and also to the task of reuniting father and royal children thus ensuring those children were recognised and respected.

Kateryn had already secretly been planning to marry Sir Thomas Seymour, and indeed following Henry’s death in 1547, finally did so. Despite her disappointment in not being able to pursue her true love yearning, she proved a loyal and diplomatic wife to an increasingly despotic and erratic Henry.

She raised many eyebrows and incurred some real wrath for what was perceived (but never proven) as Protestant heresy, but was able to avoid the dire persecution inflicted on others, innocent or guilty, by engaging the king’s support and rekindling his loyalty to her.  She was perhaps the most scholarly woman of her times and demonstrated this through her writing and published works as well as her ability to match wits with the men surrounding her.

As always for these complicated times, plots and twists of fortune abound and provide fascinating indeed compelling reading offering real insight to the Tudor court and its significant players.

For lovers of historical fiction and particularly Medieval history, I believe, Philippa Gregory is top of the tree. If you have not yet tried out her books, I urge you to do so – you will not be disappointed.

There is a great reading group guide here.