The Besties Make a Splash – Felice Arena/Tom Jellett

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9781760890964

Penguin Random House

April 2020

ISBN: 9781760890964

Imprint: Puffin

RRP: $9.99

The Besties are back for their next little adventure and your little newly independent readers are going to be well pleased about that!

Again Felice has taken a familiar event in the lives of many small humans and turned it into a fun and engaging romp with a great message woven into it.

As we know Oliver and Ruby have been besties for ever. They do everything together and they love going to the beach where there is so much to do; swimming and jumping the waves, exploring the rock pools, racing around in general and of course getting an ice-cream from the beachside kiosk van.  Such an outing is doubly exciting when their two friends from school turn up as well. Zac is very funny and Isabella is quite the live-wire and they are both great friends as well. Just because you are best friends doesn’t mean that you absolutely positively have to do everything together or even enjoy everything the same so when the two Besties split up to enjoy their own preference of activity – Ruby with Zac and Oliver with Isabella – it seems like a great idea.

Well sometimes things don’t work out quite the way we plan and Ruby and Oliver find themselves feeling just a tad overwhelmed by their individual companions, their exuberance and just the, well, difference in personalities. All in all it’s a bit of a relief to have the adventure over and to be back in their own comfortable groove.

As we know these little ones at the start of their school years are often dipping in and out of friendship circles and for some it can be quite the challenge to try out the company of someone else. We all prefer the friendship of those with whom we are comfortable but it can also be a great learning experience to connect with someone else, even on a temporary basis.

Once again Tom Jellett has captured the personalities of Oliver and Ruby perfectly and Felice has ticked all the boxes for these beginning readers who will love this new book as much as the earlier ones in the series and will be waiting impatiently for the next one.

Highly recommended for small humans from around 5 years upwards.

In case you missed it – catch up on Felice’s blog post about the importance of play.

James Gong The Big Hit – Paul Collins

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Hybrid Publishers

June 2020

ISBN 9781925736441

RRP: $16.99

Fourteen year old James Gong is pretty much a fairly average teenage boy living in suburbia with a family who are also pretty average – well in most respects. His mother rescues dogs and keeps them out the back of their house, to the frequent annoyance of neighbours, and counsels her pooches with tender dedication. His father does – well, James isn’t exactly sure what it is his father does but he likes to hope that his dad is a spy since his job seems to be so well-hidden (at least it is to James). He has an older sister Caitlin who can be a real pain, like most big sisters, who is always banging on trying to save whales, trees, the environment- really whatever cause is topical.

For the most part James’ life is pretty cool. He has his besties Jay and Ethan, school is tolerable and he is just about to qualify for his black belt in taekwondo under the instruction of the exacting and ferocious Mr Choi.  When a crew from TV show My Life arrive at the hall to film a segment for the program they are mightily impressed with James’ jumping spinning side kick, so much so that they want him to star in their upcoming blockbuster movie. Wow! Hollywood fame and fortune awaits for young James – or does it?

While James is super-excited about the movie role, except for the scene that involves a KISS with a lovely young girl, there are aspects about the whole filming process that baffle him – like the lack of sophisticated equipment, or sets or indeed costumes. Little does he know that Marcie and Win the film-makers are actually pulling a tax-dodge swifty.  Added to the confusion around the movie, James is still at loggerheads with his sister, fighting his weird attraction for Caitlin’s best friend Amber who scorns him with vigour and seriously neglects his taekwondo practice resulting in a  fail in his black belt grading.

To make matters worse when the movie premieres it’s so ludicrously hilarious instead of the big action film James was expecting so that now, instead of being a Hollywood superstar,  he feels like he’s losing out big time and that he’s the biggest fool alive.

But perhaps, just perhaps there are positives in the offing. I really don’t want to give away any spoilers but let’s just say that there are a few very tricky twists in James’ story that Paul Collins has managed without the slightest hint of contrivance.

I feel there will be many readers both boys and girls who will really get into this book. They will love the action, relate to the well-developed characters, chuckle at the humour, wince at James’ ineptitude and – okay, at times ‘denseness’ – but ultimately will rejoice with him and certainly  express their emotions at the biggest ‘ah ha’ moments.

I recommend this highly for readers from around 12 years upwards who I can guarantee will thoroughly enjoy it.  If you’re looking for a great read-aloud or shared novel this will make a fabulous addition with many levels and themes to explore throughout.

Check out some teaching notes here and given the disruptions to normal services you can order your copy here right now!

The Missing: the True Story of my Family in World War II – Michael Rosen

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Walker Books

March 2020

ISBN: 9781406386752
Imprint: Walker
Australian RRP: $22.99
New Zealand RRP: $24.99

First of all I have to say that I have the greatest admiration for Laureate Michael Rosen, both as a writer, a champion of children’s reading and school libraries and as a human. His writing over the years has always resonated with readers both young and old whether prose or poetry.

This is an account both intensely personal and powerful of Rosen’s determination to uncover the history of his missing relatives – who were ‘there before the war ….and gone after’. With very little to go on Rosen made it his mission over years, countries and continents and what scant records were available to piece together the fate of his missing uncles and aunts during the terrible purge of the Jews by the Nazis.

From the outset the tone of this volume is conversational in order to make it accessible and clear to his young readers and while never shying away from facts of genocide, death camps and similar topics he does not go into depth or details which may make it too confronting for the reader.

Written in both prose and poetry (in the main, excerpts from longer works) which was written specifically addressing his family as his thoughts turned to them, it is also interspersed with such rare primary documents and photos as were uncovered during his long research. The book concludes with extensive book lists of both fiction and non-fiction about the Holocaust and refugees (including our own Once by Morris Gleitzman and The Arrival by Shaun Tan)  as well as a useful list of museums and libraries for further investigation and an index. I would add to the list of graphics both the new White Bird by R. J. Palacio as well as Peter in Peril: Courage and Hope in World War II (2016) – Helen Bate.

In my experience, there is a large sector of child readers who will devour books around the Holocaust and not, in my opinion, because of any ghoulishness but rather a deep desire to understand the terrible tragedy, which in turn further develops their empathy and their acute awareness of injustice, and in the cases of some books the demonstration of resilience and the enduring hope displayed by so many.

I commend Rosen on his sharing of his own family’s sad story and his continuing endeavours to provide for children meaningful and thought-provoking readings. Books such as this one in particular will go a long way to raising our readers as compassionate and caring adults in an increasingly intolerant world.

Highly recommended for readers from around ten years upwards.

Easter Goodies – hopping your way!

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This is a swag of lovely titles for little people just in time for Easter gifts. When my girls were little – and then with my grandies – their Easter gift was always heavier on the book gifts than the chocolate. (Of course a little bit of chocolate is always necessary at any age!). So if you are of a similar bent these might suit your purpose from tiny ones to slightly bigger ones – enjoy!

First up from the Baby Animal Tales series:

Walker Books Australia

March 2020

Goodnight Little Duckling

1572990772458

ISBN: 9781916180543
Imprint: Magic Cat Publishing
Distributor: Walker Australia-HEDS
Australian RRP: $18.99
New Zealand RRP: $22.99

Goodnight Little Bunny

1572990771782

ISBN: 9781916180505
Imprint: Magic Cat Publishing
Distributor: Walker Australia-HEDS
Australian RRP: $18.99
New Zealand RRP: $22.99

 

These are such sweet and simple books perfect for some soothing reading sessions with little people. The illustrations are digitally manipulated combining photographic images of each little animal with glorious watercolour-like enhancements. The overall effect of this simply shouts sunny days and happiness.

Little Duckling ignores his mother’s instruction not to leave the nest while she goes off to find him a juicy worm and inevitably gets into a little pickle when his solo adventure on the water leads him to following first a darting dragonfly and then a friendly frog. Naturally this leads him well away from the nest and he gets a little anxious. Fortunately, he discovers he has paddled around in a complete circle and when he hears some quiet ‘peep peep’ sounds he realises his brothers and sisters have hatched and he is home safely

Little Bunny is very wary of leaving the safety of the burrow but her good friend Mouse is excellent at teaching important safety skills like using her twitchy whiskers and velvety ears and most of all her strong back legs. All of these come in very handy when she accidentally runs into a fox and despite her fright is able not only to escape but also to warn her bunny family in the burrow.

These are just truly delightful and would make a beautiful gift for any little reader from around toddler up to Prep age.

I’m Ready series – Jedda Robard

Penguin Random House Australia

March 2020

Imprint: Puffin

RRP: $1299

I’ve shared some from this series before so many of you will already know how adorable these are for little kiddos around 2- 4 years old. Each title deals with those significant events in childhood featuring Australian animal families in a sturdy board book format.

I’m Ready for the New Baby

9781760891626

ISBN: 9781760891626

Quite possibly the most significant life event for a little person – especially if they are the first-born little Wombat is excited about the forth-coming arrival of a new brother. Mother and Father Wombat are very on top of involving the little one in all the preparations including helping to decorate the nursery, handing over her old cot (because she’s way too big for it now!) and choosing a gift (and one for herself as well). All of this ensures a happy and calm time for everyone and the joy in welcoming new little baby brother wombat is evident.

I’m Ready for Easter

9781760891596

ISBN: 9781760891596

 

There is great excitement all round as little Platypus and his friends prepare for an Easter celebration. All the familiar rituals are here for the little readers to recognise – bakers with their hot cross buns, colourful treats appearing in the shops, making Easter hats for the parade, as well as making a basket to hold treats and of course the fun of an Easter Egg hunt and special lunch with family and friends. Given our current circumstances and most if not all little ones missing out on all this shared fun, this would be a fabulous read to share and perhaps plan ahead for the next Easter

Peter Rabbit 2 tie-ins

Penguin Random House

February 2020

Peter Rabbit Movie 2 Novelisation – Beatrix Potter

9780241415290

ISBN: 9780241415290

Imprint: Puffin

RRP: $12.99

The first Peter Rabbit was a runaway (hop away?) success and the sequel released this month has been hotly anticipated. Sadly children will not get to see it just yet with all the cinemas closed but the next best thing would surely be sharing the new adventures by reading the book. Then they will even more hyped up for when they eventually get to see the movie!

Based on the Beatrix Potter’s original stories of Peter but with a modern twist to contemporise for new audiences, these new adventures will be just as popular in this sequel.

Peter Rabbit 2: Bunny Trouble

9780241410875

ISBN: 9780241410875

Imprint: Puffin

$9.99

And not to be forgotten the emergent readers have this very cute easy reader to add to their reading repertoire. Peter’s new adventure in the big city is illustrated with photographic stills from the movie making a great connection between film and text. Level 2 in Penguin Young Readers for ‘progressing readers’ this one would be perfect for little ones from around Prep- Year 2 as the tackle more complex sentences, simple dialogue with picture and context clues.

Also look out for the Peter Rabbit Quiz Book, Peter Rabbit Sticker Activity book and the Peter Rabbit Colouring Sticker Activity book.

This Easter is not the one that any of us expected. The Kid and I were meant to be going on our first joint overseas adventure for a week in Phuket but instead we are going to be grateful to be safe at home and enjoy some sunshine, gardening, walking and reading. I hope all my readers will also be feeling as blessed in their homes and don’t forget to add a bit of chocolate to your reading!

Archicards: Build a Castle [64 slot-together cards for creative fun] – Paul Farrell

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Harper Collins Australia

March 2020

ISBN: 9781843654469

ISBN 10: 1843654466

Imprint: Pavilion Childrens – GB

List Price: 24.99 AUD

 

So not exactly what I would normally expect to be reviewing but how super timely at this point in time! And while I’m sort of thinking that I could gift them either as a library prize or to a small person of my acquaintance, I’m actually strongly tempted to have fun with them myself! Because they do look like very serious fun for all ages for sure!

If you have your children at home already – or just getting ready for the upcoming holidays or stay-at-home, these would make a terrific addition to your store of resources – or those moments when you’re in need of a sanity preserver. Of course, you could also team it with some research into medieval times sneaking in some great learning opportunities including studies of society and language.

These are very sturdy and will clearly withstand many hours of building and re-building in which kiddos can let their imaginations run riot. I think it would be uber-cool if you happened to have some little knights to add to a playscape as well.

Check them out in this video clip – fun fun fun!

 

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Derek Dool Supercool #1: Bust a Move– Adrian Beck. Illustrated by Scott Edgar

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9781760892951

Penguin Australia

March 2020

ISBN: 9781760892951

Imprint: Puffin

RRP: $14.99

Yep, we’ve all known a Derek – and indeed, some of us have taught one! Derek Dool thinks he is the ant’s pants really and doesn’t miss a chance to let everyone know. It’s just a shame that no one else seems to appreciate his supercool-ness. Mind you, given his very uncool father it’s to be expected.

Of course, Derek does have his stalwart friends, Big Denise and Booger – I probably don’t have to go into too much detail about them given their names – but despite their whole-hearted support Derek still struggles to achieve the acclaim which he feels is rightly his.

So Derek’s immediate problem is how to demonstrate that he really is the ‘coolest, funniest, most handsome kid in school’ in the dance-off happening at the school disco, especially as he’s up against his nemesis, Carmichael Cruz.

Really, with his vast quantities of talent, nothing can go wrong – well, except for wet pants (due to melting ice but looking like suspect toilet troubles), an incident with a giant cake, an escaped pet rabbit and a rogue giant mirror ball. Oh and that little matter of Cruz actually being a great dancer and Derek getting the blame for a disastrous social event.

Kids from around 8 years upwards will absolutely love this. It is exactly the kind of slapstick funny, gross-out humour, ridiculous situations and outrageous characters that they love. And with Edgar’s  comical illustrations and the interspersed Bad Dad Jokes they will get even more laughs out of it.

Really, some light-hearted comedy that also includes some themes of real friendship and family is a good antidote for the current doom and gloom.

If you haven’t already, get hold of this for your middle/upper primaries and wait for them to add to their favourite funny series lists!

The Ghost of Howler’s Beach (The Butter O’Bryan Mysteries #1)  – Jackie French

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Harper Collins Australia

February 2020

ISBN: 9781460757727

ISBN 10: 1460757726

List Price: 16.99 AUD

 

To most folks Butter O’Bryan would seem a lucky boy.  In a time when many people are destitute and homeless he lives in a large and comfortable house, known as the Very Small Castle, he has three eccentric but loving aunts –  known as Elephant, Peculiar and Cake – and a well-regarded and clever doctor father who has offices in Sydney’s Macquarie St. He goes to a good school where he has chums and at home there is always a veritable cornucopia of good food prepared by Cooky. But the truth is that Butter often feels lonely and sad, particularly in the school holidays with no school or mates to distract him. He misses his mother who died a year ago dreadfully and even though the aunts are so very good to him, the emotional distance between him and his father makes him even sadder.

When he wanders down to Howler’s Beach just below the Very Small Castle one morning and discovers three raggedy thin children playing a game of cricket, he’s a little hopeful of joining in the game – even though he suspects they may be from the nearby susso camp and he’s not supposed to go near to those inhabitants. This edict is not from a snobbery point of view but a health precaution imposed by his father and aunts. No fear of that though as he is resoundingly rejected by the kids who disappear as soon as his attention is diverted by their dog digging furiously in the sand.

All thoughts of disappointment and loneliness vanish as quickly as the kids when the scruffy little dog disinters a human skull from the sand! Butter quickly wraps up the skull and takes it home in a great state of agitation and with his imagination running wild. And thus begins a curious mystery/adventure that young readers will find compelling as the history of three ragged kids, a strange and pathetic old man who dies unexpectedly on the door step of the Very Small Castle, a three-legged dog and a secret cove unravels. Along the way the empathy and innate goodness of the O’Bryan family is an inspiration for all readers –  a valuable lesson in our current global situation.

So, on the surface a really well-thought out and engaging tale that will totally hook readers from mid-primary upwards. But of course, there’s more 😊 . Jackie’s setting is the Depression in the Sydney area and readers will absorb so much historical information about this period of time in our country and the impact it had on the vast majority of ordinary people. The aftermath of the Great War has already made itself felt in a multitude of ways and now unemployment, poverty, homelessness and sickness are wreaking havoc on an already disenfranchised sector of society. There are references to significant events and topics such as the polio epidemic, the susso, wireless sets, the building of the Harbour Bridge and the cricket – including the great Bradman. And just to add even more value to this, Jackie has concluded with informational pieces about many of these as well as some typical 1930s recipes even including Bread and Duck under the Table – such a well-known and still used idiom in Australia.

Once again, I cannot recommend this highly enough. I think any reader from around ten years upwards will enjoy it very much on all levels.

How To Make Friends with the Dark – Kathleen Glasgow

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Harper Collins Australia

April 2020

ISBN: 9781460751060

ISBN 10: 146075106X

Imprint: HarperCollins – AU

List Price: 19.99 AUD

 

Here is what happens when your mother dies.

My timing for reading this could have been better really. It was the 5th anniversary of losing my girl this past week, a scant fortnight before  Miss K’s 10th birthday. So at times it completely undid me reading Tiger’s story but trust me despite the heart-breaking poignancy there is also light and hope in this narrative.

Tiger and her mother have always been a team – just the two of them – in a little house with not much money but lots of love. There are often times when Tiger is completely fed up however: no money, no new clothes (her mother eclectically selects throw-outs from other people for her daughter) and above all her mother’s almost obsessive over-protectiveness.

Like most teenagers, Tiger is ready to rebel and does so spectacularly with a massive show-down with her mum about her plans to attend the upcoming big dance with one of her best friends, Kai – the boy she’s always really liked. As the mother-daughter conflict escalates during a day of constant texts and missed calls with Tiger refusing to countenance either her mother’s attitude or the hideous dress she’s found in a conciliatory gesture, the unimaginable happens. Tiger’s mother suffers a fatal aneurism and is dead within seconds – alone and as Tiger well knows, with her daughter’s last horrible words as the last exchange between them.

With no family to take her on, Tiger is immediately thrown into the maw of children’s services and foster homes and her ‘Grief Life’ consumes her and comes close to completely overwhelming the little resilience she might muster. And then, the most unexpected development turns everything on its head. Tiger has a half-sister and indeed, a father (who happens to be in jail)  – something for which Tiger has never been prepared, given her mother’s refusal to even discuss the past.  But the trauma isn’t over for Tiger. The journey of her adjustment to her new life, new family, new emptiness, new dark is at times harrowing and heartbreaking but ultimately some hope surfaces and perhaps – just maybe- Grief Life will ease, at least partly.

This is beautifully written and Tiger’s voice is compelling throughout. Make no mistake, it’s not an easy read emotionally but very much worth it. Our individual ability to process and then live with grief is unique to each – I know this only too well – but for anyone who has been in this aching abyss of blackness this could well be a book that will prove both cathartic and affirming.

I recommend it most wholeheartedly… but for mature readers from around 14 years upwards – there is some profanity and certainly some confronting situations/incidents as well. For your school library it’s definitely for your Middle to Upper secondary students.

Find teaching notes here.

7 Steps to Get Your Child Reading – Louise Park

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Allen & Unwin

February 2020

ISBN 9781760524678

RRP $24.99 Au

Louise Park is not only a highly regarded writer of over 250 books including popular series, with a career spanning 30 years, but also a recognised literacy expert and educational consultant with a passion for supporting Indigenous children, ESL students and at-risk learners.

Now Louise has lent us the benefit of her wide experience and knowledge and provided parents a ‘primer’ so to speak for establishing successful reading routines with children from the earliest age upwards. This is no dry text book but is written with a conversational tone and  packed with easy to digest tips and strategies for all who pick it up. Whether new to this  notion of setting a child on the reading path or with some experience any reader will find antidotes for this hitherto uncharted territory of a generation of children who are often more familiar with swiping, pinching, tapping of devices than page-turning. Not that Louise ignores the potential of digital reading but rather illustrates the ways to make the most of all forms of reading to give children the foundation for literacy success and enjoyment.

As educators we already know that the boundaries have shifted and most of us see this on a daily basis. Those of us of a certain age who have been teaching for quite a long time definitely recognise the changes in our youngest students coming into Prep and the ensuing and often compounding difficulties faced by some as they make their way upwards throughout their year levels.

Rather than despairing over this, many of us are determined to do all we can to ensure that our students have every opportunity of success not only at the point in time but in the future. As readers of this blog will know, my own young person has had a rocky road in conquering her difficulties in reading and the joy in seeing her now not only confidently reading but enjoying it is a reward in itself. I believe that we, as teachers of literacy, want this for every single one of our charges and certainly, in my role as teacher-librarian, this is always the goal in mind for my library users. It’s not always easy but Louise’s book addresses the issues for children with difficulties as well which is a real bonus for those raising kiddos who struggle.

The chapter headings will give you a good sense of the outline and the topics covered address all aspects:

Introduction: Generation Alpha
That reading thing
Step 1: Talking their way to literacy
Step 2: Reading their way to literacy
Step 3: Linking writing and reading
Step 4: Taming the tech and making it count
Step 5: Harnessing the power of book ownership
Step 6: Embracing two reading philosophies
Step 7: Finding just-right books for any age
Difficulty learning to read, write and spell

This is a book that should be promoted to parents with vigour and copies should be available from all school libraries. I have already shared that promotion with our school community and know that there will be many parents who take it up in order to offer their own children the best start possible.

I cannot endorse this book enough. In my opinion it’s a must not only for your library but as a down-to-earth reference for all parents of growing readers.

 

 

 

Harmony Week 2020

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Harmony Week celebrates Australia’s cultural diversity.

It’s about inclusiveness, respect and a sense of belonging for everyone.

Our new display in the Senior Library offers many books which would provide insight into both cultural diversity and the need for refuge for some people. Our selections covers fiction, faction and biography. What are your plans for Harmony Week?