Never Say Die – Alex Rider

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alexrider

Walker Books Australia

ISBN: 9781406377040
June 1, 2017
Australian RRP: $16.99
New Zealand RRP: $18.99

How absolutely apt that as we mourn the loss of the suavest Bond of them all – vale Sir Roger Moore – the new Alex Rider explodes into our reading lives with every bit of excitement that we have come to anticipate from the teenage spy.

When Anthony said that Alex’ career had come to an end we were all pretty sad. But unexpectedly, three years after what we thought was the last book in the series, the youthful hero is back. Following on from Scorpia Rising and the defeat of the international crime ring, Alex is living in America pretty unhappily, especially as he is still grieving for Jack Starbright, believed killed.

But the world has never had a shortage of villains (as we see so clearly in the news) and from Scorpia’s ashes have risen the Grimaldi brothers – eccentric and evil identical twins every bit worthy of being in an Ian Fleming book. When Alex receives a cryptic line of email he is positive that Jack is still alive and abandons America, his host family and school to find her.

From Egypt to Saint Tropez to a lonely corner of Wales, the action is super-charged and electrifying. Twists and turns abound as we know they will from such a master crime storyteller as the Grimaldis’ ingenious plot is revealed.

While some things have changed  – Mrs Jones is now head of MI6 replacing Alan Blunt – familiar faces are back, like Ben Daniels, Alex’ especial side-kick.

Alex Rider is back: back home, back in MI6 and the thick of espionage, back with his loyal Jack Starbright and back in our reading lists. Bring on some more please Anthony! This is a dose of adrenaline that we all love!

As you are aware there is quite a bit of violence in these but it’s not horribly graphic. I recommend them to my older primary students and upwards.

By the way, the whole series has been re-issued with some very spiffy new ‘dinner jackets’ – you can predict that they are already on my ‘to order’ list!

This one comes with my highest recommendation for thrill-seekers and I eagerly await more from Anthony’s fertile imagination.

The Adventures of Miss Petitfour –    Anne Michaels. With illustrations by Emma Block

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petitfour

Allen & Unwin

ISBN: 9781408868058

Imprint: Bloomsbury Childrens

May 2017-05-20

RRP $14.99

The second delicious instalment of Miss Petitfour’s adventures has arrived and is every bit as delightful as the first. Who could possibly resist this unique individual and her ‘furry rope’ of cats?

With first an introduction to Miss P and her numerous feline companions, this contains five more slightly silly but very much ‘fun’ stories revolving around everyday life for the elegant but eccentric Miss Petitfour. Whether it’s causing unintentional chaos at the village jumble sale or investigating a mysterious ‘OOM’ noise, Miss P and her band of assistants can fix every problem – even if they accidentally cause it.

One of the absolute delights of these books is Anne Michael’s introduction of sophisticated vocabulary with an explanation of each word. Talking directly to the reader takes the child right into the world that has been created and enables them to feel every bit as exhilarated as the cats having their daily airing.

The first book has been hugely popular in our library so I know this one will also be.

Highly recommended for capable readers from around eight years upwards.

 

The Fall – Tristan Bancks

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thefall

9780143783053

May 29, 2017

Random House Australia Children’s

RRP $16.99

 

Well, after much impatient anticipation I could just say ‘WOW’! But that’s hardly the review this new action-packed novel deserves so I shall continue.

Tristan has a superlative ability to write everyday all-too-human imperfect characters and transform them into inspirational heroes.

Sam has never known his father. He knows he has one, he knows his name and his occupation and sometimes a vague idea of where he is. He lives with his mum in the beautiful Blue Mountains and as an almost teenager who has faced some physical difficulties, he’s becoming a little hard to handle at times.  Following some serious surgery to correct a scoliosis issue, Sam is finally going to stay with his dad in Sydney for some recuperation for himself and some respite for his mum.

In his mind, he has created his crime reporter father into a kind of super-hero, even writing his own comics about Harry Garner: Crime Reporter where his James Bond-like father is a legend.

The reality falls far short when Sam finds himself sleeping on an uncomfortable couch in a dingy apartment and a father who insists on being called Harry not Dad. Harry is not the tall handsome action hero of Sam’s dreams but an old tired-looking man with the same twisted body that Sam himself would have been destined for without the painful surgery. Instead of bonding time with his father, Sam is left alone day and night with Magic, a rather drooly but affectionate dog and leftover take-away pizza for rations.

From the outset the reader is plunged into Sam’s nightmare experience in the big city. Alone as usual and fitfully awake during the night, Sam overhears an altercation on the balcony above his father’s apartment. Cautiously watching through the window, Sam is shocked to see a man fall down to the ground where it crumples into an unquestionably very dead body. He knows instantly that the man has been pushed – and that falling six floors is a very effective way to silence an enemy.

Racing to tell Harry he realises that his dad is gone – again – and in a quandary goes downstairs to check on the man and realises all too late that he has been seen.  He knows enough about major crime to conclude that this is not a healthy situation for him to be in.

With unremitting drama, pace and suspense the next twenty four hours becomes a cat-and-mouse game of desperation as Sam tries to piece together the crime, aided in part by a new friend Scarlet from the floor above.

Perhaps the worst part for Sam is wondering if and how his father could be involved with this dreadful circumstance.

The climax of this adventure story will have readers on the edge of their seats, with palms sweating as Sam and his father literally dodge bullets and escape their own deaths.

With themes of trust, family/male relationships, resilience and courage this is another fine coming-of-age novel from a master storyteller.

Watch Tristan’s book trailer and find out some more of the back story here.

My highest recommendation for this especially for readers from around ten years upwards.  Your readers who seek the adventure/mystery genre will be completely gripped by this.

 

 

 

Letters to the Lost – Brigid Kemmerer

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letters

Allen & Unwin

ISBN:9781408883525

Publisher:

Bloomsbury UK

Imprint :Bloomsbury Child

March 2017

RRP $16.99

Juliet’s mother died in a terrible hit-and-run accident. On her way home from yet another international photography mission documenting the heartbreak of war zones and disasters, she returned early at Juliet’s request and on her way from the airport was suddenly and terribly gone forever. Like so many of us who have lost someone so dear, Juliet cannot let go, especially of rituals, like writing letters to her mother as she has done all her life. Only now she leaves them at the cemetery.

Declan Murphy is known by his ‘reputation’. He’s tough looking and constantly confrontational, he’s spent time in jail, he’s doing community service and he spends most of his time skulking around trying to be invisible. Nobody knows the truth behind his attitude, not even his best friend realises the full depths of Declan’s story.

When Declan, as part of his mowing community service at the cemetery, reads one of Juliet’s letters, he is so overcome with empathy that he responds with his own comment.  Outraged beyond belief at the invasion of her privacy, Juliet responds to him with undisguised contempt and rage. And thus a strange correspondence begins.

Along with that, a close and trusting relationship between two dreadfully despairing young people who do not know each other slowly builds. Or are they strangers?

Slowly but surely each is unravelling the real identity of the other and along with that an antipathy which belies the honesty and trust of their anonymous letter exchanges.

For both the healing process and the road to hope is their unfailing support for each other as their separate tragedies unfold and their defences are lowered.

The characterisation in this is excellent – even relatively minor characters bristle with life and emotion.  I particularly like the ‘voice’ of both Juliet and Declan – though Declan’s intellect has been shrouded by other details this as well as his inherent compassion shines through. There is, as one might expect, from seventeen year old protagonists some low level swearing but it is all totally in context and expressive in itself.

There is a real twist in the tale which avoids cliché or triteness and is exactly the kind of ‘messiness’ that might happen in families. All in all it’s a terrifically engaging read and the reader develops a real affection for these characters.

Highly recommended for readers from around 14 upwards.

 

 

Engaging Adolescents- Michael Hawton

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engaging

Exisle Publishing

May 2017

ISBN  9781925335408

RRP $29.99

You know those shows on TV about history’s worst jobs? I reckon parenting teenagers should be heavily featured!

Yes, I’ve raised three girls – only with moderate success, doing the best I could, with what I had and lots of tantrums/screaming matches/exhausting emotions – and now, raising a granddaughter about to become a teen. (Luckily a much more placid child than her mum was!).

Michael Hawton has used his many years of experience as a psychologist, clinical expert for NSW Children’s Court and teacher of behaviour management to provide parents with a handbook for negotiating tempestuous times with teens.

This is no heavy textbook filled with psych-babble and jargon but rather a practical easy-to-read, simple guideline for navigating the storms – or indeed averting them.

Each chapter is summed up with some essential points (say what you’re going to say, say it and then say it again) so that the reader (who may be slumped in exhaustion) can set these ideas into their long term memory.  There are opportunities throughout to practise new skills and techniques and the whole is well developed with a family case study exploring three all too common issues.

My teacher head could easily relate to ideas presented but non-teachers will find it just as relatable I have no doubt.

I think that most of us would agree that our teens (and parents) are facing such a shift in societal thinking and attitudes that providing our kids with strong values and respectful relationships is arguably the most difficult it has ever been.

This is a highly recommended read and addition to your shelves – be they library for parents, your own personal or professional reading. I will certainly be sharing it with staff and parents at my own school as well as friends who are about to embark on the rollercoaster of teen-dom with their kids.

Stay posted for a Q&A with Michael on this blog – I look forward to picking his brain! In the meantime you can watch him here on Today Show Extra.

What is Poetry? – Michael Rosen

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poetry

Walker Books

ISBN: 9781844287635
Imprint: Walker
February 1, 2017

Australian RRP: $14.99
New Zealand RRP: $16.99

 

Many years of working as a successfully and highly regarded poet has given Michael Rosen some great insights into the ins and outs of poetry in its many forms. This is basically a handbook for either teachers or students who are keen to pursue a deeper understanding of poetry; how it works, how it makes us feel and how to write it.

To begin with Michael looks at a selection of classic poems with careful analysis of form, language and technique. I have to say I felt he needed to do some deeper research into Waltzing Matilda and its origins as a couple of comments were, in my opinion, inaccurate.

The second part of the book sees Michael examining his own writing, elaborating on his intentions and writing process.
Along the way Michael gives young writers some great tips on both writing and performing poetry.  Additionally he includes useful websites and an appendix of poets.

This is certainly a valuable addition to your store of poetry books and though aligned to English National Curriculum standards will work very well in a classroom setting here.

Recommended particularly for classroom use for Year 4 upwards

ANZAC Day 2017

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Two books which it seemed appropriate to save for this year’s commemoration – both of them not to be missed.

 

Kokoda: Younger Readers edition – Peter FitzSimons

kokoda.jpg

OCT 25, 2016 | 9780734417435 | RRP $14.99

Hachette Australia

Imprint: Lothian Children’s Books

Journalist Peter FitzSimons has proven himself as Australia’s top non-fiction writer, consistently leading bestseller lists. The original edition of Kokoda was described as ‘engrossing narrative’ (Sydney Morning Herald) and its success with the audience spoke for itself.

In some inspired publishing, this edition has been produced for young adult/teen readers and will be a valuable addition to any library, particularly in the study of Modern History and Australia/Asia relations.

In 1942 young Australian soldiers – so young that many were still teenagers – were confronted by a campaign that was so seemingly impossible that it still beggars belief.  Faced with the Imperial Japanese forces these legendary diggers took on some of the wildest and untamed terrain in the world and became a force with which to be reckoned.

Take a look inside here. It is quite simply un-put-downable.

Highly recommended for secondary students from Year 7 upwards.

Sachiko – Caren Stelson

sachiko

ISBN: 9781467789035
Imprint: Lerner PG – Carolrhoda Books
Walker Australia-HEDS
November 1, 2016

Australian RRP: $27.99
New Zealand RRP: $29.99

No doubt many of us would think we are pretty familiar with the tragic history of the atomic blasting of Nagasaki and Hiroshima. We’ve shared many recounts and also more fictionalised accounts of this terrible time.

This non-fiction totally changed my understanding of this event and its hideous aftermath.

Sachiko Yasui was six years old when Nagasaki was ripped apart on August 9th 1942. In the process her family and their after-life was also torn to shreds.

The clouds parted

Pikadon!

Toshi. Aki. Ichiro. They are gone now.

So is Misa.

My father.

My mother.

I nearly died too.

So Sachiko began a talk to primary school children fifty years after the event. Through all her struggles in the intervening years she had kept quiet about her family’s tragedy and the ongoing problems she and her parents faced.

Since that time she has continued to share a message of the importance of peace to schools and groups.

Caren Stelson spent many hours in interviewing Sachiko and researching primary sources to construct what is the most moving history of this disaster I’ve ever experienced.

She has used photographs of both Sachiko and Nagasaki to illustrate the non-fiction narrative as well as including copious references, notes, glossary and more.

Again, this is an important book for the study of modern history but more than that it is a testament to the faith that can endure and salvage a person’s life from circumstances more dire than any of us can imagine.

Highly recommended for readers from around 12 years upwards.

 

A Bunch of Books for Babies

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I seem to have acquired quite a few titles in the last few months which would all be very suitable for stocking up a baby’s bookshelf. Perhaps you have a new bub in your circle to whom to gift a personal library. If so any or all of these would be very appropriate and, I’m confident, welcome.

Hello Little Babies – Alison Lester

hello

Harper-Collins

ISBN: 9780733330414

ISBN 10: 073333041X

Imprint: ABC Books – AU

On Sale: 01/12/2016

List Price: 24.99 AUD

No matter where they are, what their cultural background, babies all have so much in common.  Whether they are sleeping, eating, playing or moving each little individual’s progress over their first year is a delight to their parents. Six tiny newborns are cuddled, encouraged, played with, read to and comforted by their mothers and fathers.

With Alison Lester’s usual delightful illustrations in a cameo style this will be a favourite read for little ones.

 

At the Zoo I see [Young Art Series] – Joshua Button/Robyn Wells

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Magabala Books

February 2017

ISBN:9781925360455

RRP $9.99

This delightful board book is the first in a new series from the wonderful Magabala people showcasing the artwork of young Indigenous artists. The format is extremely simple. Each page features an animal that might be seen at one of Australia’s zoos but each also uses an interesting adjective to describe these, broadening the vocabulary and aural experience of little listeners. Come and see the pacing jaguar or the queenly cassowary and be part of the great zoo adventure!

Highly recommended for little ones from birth to 3 years or so.

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I Can Use My Potty sticker reward book : Bloomsbury Activity Books

potty

Bloomsbury

March 2017

ISBN: 9781408879061

RRP $9.99

Well, if you’ve had children you’ve been through the toilet training routine. Some are so easy and some are just downright difficult!  It is entirely possible that something like this might help to encourage those who are finding it tricky to get the hang of the whole business.

Along with the text of the how, what, why etc of using the potty there are pages of ‘charts’ for stickers – for after naps, after meals and before bed and so on.

If this is a problem for anyone you know, it certainly would be worth a try!

Princess ; Lift-the-flap Friends

princess

Bloomsbury

ISBN 9781408864142

Pirates ; Lift-the-flap Friends

pirates

ISBN 9781408864050

Like all lift the flap books, children will love discovering the hidden treasures that await. Each page has multiple flaps so there is plenty of fun to be had.  The flaps are a good size as well and these are nice chunky board books made to sustain lots of pawing!

Others in the series are Dinosaurs, Space (reviewed previously here) and Fairies.  These are a huge hit in our childcare centre and no doubt will be popular with small ones of your acquaintance.

 

 

Dozy Bear and the Secret of Sleep – Katie Blackburn. Illustrated by Richard Smythe.

dozy

Allen & Unwin

ISBN:9780571330195

Imprint:Faber Children Pb

May 2016

RRP $14.99

And to top things off, let’s put them to sleep. Bedtime can be an issue not just for little ones but for older children as well for one reason or another. Miss Small, not unnaturally, has often had some difficulties with sleep in the past two years since we lost her mum. It has taken a lot of reassurance and patience to arrive at a point where she is now sleeping happily in her own bed in her own room.

Dozy Bear wants to go to sleep. He knows he’s tired but he just can’t seem to get there.  With the help of some useful strategies from his parents and grandparents, Dozy discovers the secret to relaxing mind and body so that sleep can come blissfully.

This is a terrific book for ‘easing the drama of bedtime’ and I highly recommend it to any parent or carer who faces this problem.

 

 

 

Owl Bat Bat Owl By Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick 

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Walkowlbater Books

ISBN: 9781406364392

October 2016

Australian RRP: $24.99
New Zealand RRP: $27.99
This is another deceptively simple picture book but has a great message. With no words Fitzpatrick still clearly tells the story of what happens when two different families share the same living space. Mother Owl and her babies live on top of a branch and Mother Bat with her little ones move in to the underside of the branch.

How can two such very different families co-exist? But all over the world mothers are mothers and kids are kids and a stormy night which threatens them all soon sorts out the problems that each may have at first anticipated.

Even toddlers will be able to discern the plot of this delightful story.  Perhaps we should get some politicians to read it as well?

Recommended for little humans from around 2 years upwards.

Triangle – Mac Barnett & Jon Klassen

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Walker Australia

ISBN: 9781406376678
Imprint: Walker

March 14, 2017
Australian RRP: $24.99
New Zealand RRP: $27.99
You know when you see these two names that you are going to laugh a lot over what appears a deceptively simple picture book.

Meet Triangle who lives in a triangular house with a triangular door amongst lots of other triangle shapes.  One day Triangle thinks up a sneaky trick to play on Square so off he goes through the triangles, the not-triangles to get to the squares and Square’s house.  And the trick works really well – so well that Square gets very cross and chases Triangle all the way back to his house. Then he tricks him right back – or does he?

Klaasen’s illustrative technique is always so expressive despite its seemingly spare and subtle style. Even the youngest of children can ‘read’ his character’s expressions in my experience.

Highly recommended for Prep upwards.