You Choose series #6 & #7 – George Ivanoff

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#5 Night of the Creepy Carnival

ISBN: 9780857986696

Published: 01/05/2015

Imprint: Random House Australia Children’s

Extent: 160 pages

RRP $14.99

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#6 Alien Invaders from Beyond the Stars

ISBN: 9780857986719

Published: 01/05/2015

Imprint: Random House Australia Children’s

Extent: 160 pages

RRP $14.99

When I received my first copies of books from this series I road tested them on my grandson who is somewhat of a reluctant reader. In fact, he was staying at my place, picked them up and didn’t put them down until he’d finished each. To me that’s a pretty fair indication of how they will be received in your library.

These latest two have gone to another young man who might enjoy them and I await his response eagerly. I know I’m pretty hopeless – I couldn’t get past 3 choices until I was exterminated so I hope he does better!

George has cleverly taken all the great aspects of gaming and transformed them into book form where readers can challenge themselves to achieve the end goal.  While primarily aimed at Middle Primary to Upper Primary these can be enjoyed by readers of all ages and certainly, if you have readers who struggle these would be a superb choice as the level of engagement and the appeal of the subject matter are perfect. Readers will persist with their reading quite naturally as they attempt to navigate their way through all the pitfalls of each story.

Clowns are considered very sinister in our family so the Night of the Creepy Carnival is well named and I didn’t like being caught out by them at all! Aliens are marginally less scary but still enough to appeal to those readers who like a good safe fright.

I remember so well how my own girls used to love the Choose Your Own Adventure format (especially the Famous Five series!) and think the timing of bringing this style of fast paced interactive reading back to the attention of a new readership is perfect.

Highly recommended for readers aged around 9 and up. Do you have what it takes?

Footy Dreaming – Michael Hyde

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Ford St Publishing

May 2015

186 p. RRP: $17.99

ISBN: 9781925000993

Like so many other youngsters around the country, Noah and Ben live for their footy. They are both completely focussed on being the best players they can be in their provincial footy teams but also share a common goal: to be selected for the Bushrangers and go on to play the big game at the MCG. They are both prepared to put in the hard yards to achieve this by being rigorous with their training and skilling and always giving their best effort. Despite their similarities, their cautious friendship is marred by division. Noah comes from a solid and loving Aboriginal family, grounded in their kinship and supportive of each other and their culture. Noah plays for the Mavericks: a successful team who work as a team under the guidance of an experienced and wise coach. Ben, on the other hand, has only his dad and sister and plays for the Kookaburras (because he is made to follow the family tradition of doing so). The Kookaburras are a sloppy outfit with prejudices and favouritism rife in its ranks. It has not ever had a good name in the game.

Michael Hyde achieves a wonderfully realistic and utterly believable cast of characters, each with their own voice as he explores this complex small town scenario. The boys are drawn together despite their team rivalry through not only their shared goal but also their growing understanding of being in the other’s shoes – or footy boots.

With the kind of dramas one would expect in everyday Australian life such as death of a relative, teenagers struggling to find their own identity, dealing with racism and prejudices, bullying, establishing relationships with mates or girls, Hyde presents us with a view of this sport, which often verges on a fervent religion, as well as life outside the big city that gives real insight into these young players and their hurdles and their community.

If you have not yet found the right book for a young person in your readership clientele, this might well be the one that flicks the magic switch.

Both male and female characters are strong and resonant providing appeal to both boys and girls. The plot is well constructed and the important issues of racism, prejudice and bullying are handled deftly and with sensitivity.

Highly recommended for readers from around 12 up.

Watch This Space: #1 Out to Launch – Colin Thompson

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Random House Australia

ISBN: 9781742756202

Published: 01/05/2015

Imprint: Random House Australia Children’s

Extent: 256 pages

RRP: $15.99

Last year when I had the good fortune of a blog Q&A with Colin Thompson, following the publication of the final book about The Floods, he told us about his forthcoming series called Watch This Space and after watching patiently, it’s arrived!

Out To Launch is the first in this new series which will foreseeably be every bit as popular as Colin’s previous bestsellers. With his very recognisable acerbic wit and uncanny ability to pinpoint the most laughable and ridiculous aspects of popular culture, Colin’s newest comic offering puts the spotlight on reality TV shows with superb results.

Billionaire entrepreneur Radius Limpfast is the most successful creator of reality tv shows in history but is never content to rest, always seeking more spectacular attention on his programs. “Then one night, after a particularly creative bacon curry, Radius dreams up the ultimate reality show.”

He intends to send an ordinary family to the moon to live in a huge glass dome where they will be watched by the entire world.  Sounds incredible doesn’t it? Amazing even!! What a concept it is for the ultimate in reality television and all planned to the last detail. Nothing could possibly go wrong.

Except for choosing a family that is not really the ‘ideal’ for the project (The Contrasts: Stark, Laura, Primrose, Jack and Crumley the dog) with the throw in of a ‘fake’ granny, Apricot. And except for cutting corners on costs for essentials like a reliable rocket transport and a suitably protective glass dome dwelling. And except for underestimating the skills of 14 year old girls and elderly ladies. And more!

Boys and girls from around 10 up, plus those of us who relish Colin’s very particular sense of humour will be very excited about this new series. The second in the series In the Pink is already in the works and who knows how many more to come?

Highly recommended for readers from Middle Primary to Lower Secondary.

Stories for Simon – Lisa Miranda Sarzin & Lauren Briggs

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Random House Australia Children’s

May 2015

RRP $24.99

ISBN 9780857987440

We all Stand on Sacred Ground: Learn, Respect and CelebrateNAIDOC theme 2015

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Kevin Rudd’s Apology to the Stolen Generations in February 2008 was momentous for all Australians – both Indigenous and non-Indigenous. And it is critically important that we teach our children the significance of this in order to nurture the healing in a meaningful way and to promote a positive future for all our people.

This beautifully written and illustrated book is destined to be a key title in this educative process for younger children as the collaborators (and long-time friends) transform the huge issues surrounding this acknowledgement of a dark time in our nation’s history into a story that even small children can readily grasp.

Simon collects many beautiful things such as shells and feathers and fossils. When he is sent a boomerang as a gift to start a new collection, he immediately takes it to school to show everyone. The old newspaper in which it is wrapped becomes the focus of many questions as the teacher spots these words “For the pain, suffering and hurt, we say SORRY”.  After the class’ discussion about this tragic history, Simon’s thoughts and dreams reflect his new knowledge. A dream of raining ‘sorry’ stones becomes a reality and the beginning of a new friendship, a new ‘collection’ of special stories and a new appreciation of First Australians’ past.

Sarzin and Briggs were mentored throughout the creative process by Indigenous Elder Vic Simms, ensuring that both text and illustrations were sensitively handled with all due respect.  He says ‘I believe this book will generate interest, understanding and reconciliation for the future, starting with the minds of children and by telling a story that is seen through their innocent eyes.’

Suzy Wilson, founder of the Indigenous Literacy Foundation, states ‘This book is a welcome and important addition to school libraries and bookshelves everywhere. It will provoke important conversations between parents and children, in classrooms and throughout the community’.

Australian of the Year, Adam Goodes, Michael O’Loughlin and the Goodes O’Loughlin (GO) Foundatio endorse the book and all royalties  will be donated to the Foundation.

Find teaching notes here.

Highly recommended for all readers, particularly younger Primary students, this is a must have for your collection to continue developing cross-cultural understandings.

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Samurai vs Ninja (#1 & #2) – Nick Falk & Tony Flowers

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Samurai vs Ninja 1: The Battle for the Golden Egg – Nick Falk & Tony Flowers

ISBN: 9780857986054

Published: 01/04/2015

Imprint: Random House Australia Children’s

Extent: 96 pages

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Samurai vs Ninja 2: The Race for the Shogun’s Treasure

ISBN: 9780857986368

Published: 01/04/2015

Imprint: Random House Australia Children’s

Extent: 96 pages

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RRP: $9.99

From the dynamic duo that brought us the Billy is a Dragon and Saurus Street series – much loved by your younger readers no doubt! – comes this hilarious new offering with some extremely loopy characters.

Full of antics and situations which will have huge appeal to those children setting out on their beginning chapter books journey; these stories relate the ongoing skirmishes between the rival ninjas and samurais with laugh-out-loud humour. Readers will relish moments such as ‘It’s raining ninja poo!’ and ‘..so she’d snuck into his room and put wasabi in his undies’.

In volume #1, the crazy warriors are both angling for Japan’s greatest treasure – the fabled Golden Egg. Cheating and revenge tactics abound as neither team play fair.

The #2 episode sees the manic factions facing off again when the Great Bear is stolen from Edo Castle and the shogun promises a great honour to whoever can find his prized possession.

While written in a fashion that will draw in those newly independent readers there is a great opportunity to expand vocabulary including some Japanese language – ably explained in a glossary at the end of each book.

Flowers’ cartoon illustrations are a terrific adjunct to readers  with their speech bubbles adding punch to each punch line delivered.

These are exactly the sorts of stories that could be the basis of some creative writing as students come up with their own wacky adventures for the Japanese crazies.

Highly recommended for younger readers aged around 6 and up.

Kookoo Kookaburra – Gregg Driese

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Magabala Books

RRP $24.95

  • Published:May 2015
  • Pages:32
  • ISBN:9781921248900

Kindness is like a boomerang – if you throw it often, it comes back often

How timely that this beautiful new picture book from this talented Sunshine Coast author/illustrator should come my way just now when my family and I have been shown so much kindness from so many people.

Described as a morality tale, the theme of Gregg’s new book is simply kindness and the power it has to change our lives.

Long ago Kookoo Kookaburra lived happily in the bush and had many friends, who loved his amusing stories and and his gift of making them feel happy. But when Kookoo’s stories start focusing on teasing other animals and being unkind, the animals turn away from him no longer finding his tales funny.  Wise old Uncle Googaguga gave him some good advice likening kindness to a boomerang and suggesting that he be mindful of how he spoke of others. Kookoo resisted the Elder’s words until he came to realise that he was so lonely without the companionship of the other bush creatures.  Kookoo returned to telling stories that amused the other animals without making fun of them and once again his laughter rang out across the bush – and still does today.

Written in a way which reaches out to the very youngest of readers, this will be a worthy book for sharing with children from Prep up and a wonderful way of promoting the concept of kindness to others in our daily lives.

I was impressed with Gregg’s artwork in his first book Silly Birds (reviewed on Just So Stories last year) and am even more impressed with the vibrant illustrations in this new picture book. From the gorgeous endpapers to the beautiful full page paintings to the delightful accents on the facing text pages, this is a sumptuous visual feast throughout.

I love this book and highly recommend it for your own library shelves.

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Meet Banjo Paterson – Kristin Weidenbach/James Gulliver Hancock

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Random House Australia

ISBN: 9780857980083

Published: 01/04/2015

Imprint: Random House Australia Children’s

Extent: 32 pages

RRP $24.95

The picture book series of ‘Meet……’ has been extraordinarily successful in bringing the biographies of outstanding Australians to younger readers.  Taking simple information and presenting it in a very accessible text accompanied by illustrations has opened up a whole new experience for younger students, giving them all a very clear picture of salient points about each subject’s life and times.

The latest offering in the series examines the life of arguably our most famous poet, A. B. Paterson better known to all as Banjo, beginning with his early life growing up in the countryside near Yass and through to his working in the ‘big city’ where his longing for the outback evidenced itself in his bush ballads.

Banjo’s acclaim as a bush poet was swift and universal – loved by both city dwellers and country folk alike.  Lines from various poems are cleverly quoted to highlight certain events and occasions and Hancock’s illustrations in tones that reflect that landscape offer a visual exploration of others. Readers could certainly try to identify each poem from its given illustrative clue.

Of course, perhaps the most familiar composition for the intended readership is ‘Waltzing Matilda’ which receives its due attention and offers a wonderful opportunity to explore the vocabulary of this famous poem in detail. There is much in here to enrich a teaching program – comparisons of town/country life in Banjo’s time and in the present day, entertainments and hobbies of the past, landscapes and so much more. Here the provided teaching notes will be a terrific bonus.

As with previous titles in the series a double page spread at the end contains a time line of The Banjo’s life and given his involvement with WWI this could be a timely chance to introduce younger students to the man whose work is loved by so many generations of Australians.

Find teaching notes here.

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Clementine Rose and the Movie Magic – Jacqueline Harvey

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Random House Australia

ISBN: 9780857985187

Published: 01/04/2015

Imprint: Random House Australia Children’s

Extent: 160 pages

RRP: $12.99

The avid Clementine Rose fans in your library crowd will eagerly pounce on No #9 in this sweet series.

This latest adventure sees the beginning of next door neighbour Basil’s film documentary about Penberthy House – of course, starring Clementine Rose!  This excitement is tempered however by Lady Clarissa’s worries about some strange occurrences at the quaint hotel which are exacerbated by the arrival of two unexpected guests – one hotel inspector and one very well groomed but snooty woman. Both have a pivotal role in the latest drama to occupy Clementine’s family. With the hotel’s future – indeed the very house’s future- at stake, it’s a lucky thing indeed when a very sneaky sabotage plot is revealed.

Parallel to these story threads is the promise of a budding romance as Basil’s assistant Drew and his 7 year old son Will develop an immediate rapport with both Lady Clarissa and Clemmie.  Now we all be awaiting the next instalment very impatiently to see how this progresses!

Jacqueline Harvey continually strikes just the right note with her books for younger girls. The mix of adventure, mischief, humour and excitement has great appeal for the intended age group and each book contains much with which these readers can easily identify – even though they don’t live in a big old house or own a teacup pig!

Find teaching notes here or visit Jacqueline’s website here.