Pig and Pug – Lynne Berry & Gemma Correll

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Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

40 pages

ISBN 9781481421317

June 2015

RRP

AU$ 24.99

NZ$ 27.99

Two small animals are quite different – and also very alike! Pig and Pug are rather small, ‘petite and portable’ in fact. They are just the right size to fit in a pocket (for Pig) and a purse (for Pig).

Have you already noticed how similar their names are? Small certainly did as we read aloud. As the story continued she giggled at many other similarities as these two meet each other for the first time, name-call, poke, wrestle and eventually make friends – sort of.

I am equally confident your young readers will also delight in the many parallels between this pair of perky but rather pugnacious (or is that pugnacious?) pets.

This is overtly a very simple picture book with a very narrow but effective palette of colour used for the illustrations (somewhat reminiscent of a Dick Bruna style). For those readers exploring the sounds of words and language, comparing and contrasting these, and finding likenesses this will be a popular choice. As a read aloud it will work particularly well with Preps/Kinders who are now moving towards some independent reading.  Of course, at the start of next year it will be super as an introductory term read aloud, having children discern similar and different sounds/words.

Highly recommended for 0-5 years old.

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Lulu Bell Series – Belinda Murrell

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Lulu Bell and the Pirate Fun – Belinda Murrell

9780857985545

ISBN: 9780857985545

Published: 01/06/2015

Imprint: Random House Australia Children’s

Extent: 96 pages

RRP $9.99

Lulu Bell and the Magical Garden

9780857985644

ISBN: 9780857985644

Published: 01/06/2015

Imprint: Random House Australia Children’s

Extent: 96 pages

RRP $9.99

I recall when I was so pleased to meet Belinda Murrell last year at Black Cat Books Paddington just after I had received my first Lulu Bell titles to review and being able to tell her just how delighted my Small was with the stories.

I must speak sternly with the fabulous Zoe from Random House because despite this blatant and overt expression of fandom somehow I missed out on reviewing the two titles released earlier this year (….Arabian Nights & …. Koala Joey – March 2015) and therefore Miss Small missed those as well, even though we had received Lulu Bell & The Christmas Elf before Xmas.

However, the past couple of weeks have been cosily spent snuggled up in bed together reading two chapters each night of the latest in the series and once again my little animal lover has revelled in the stories. She loves to project herself and her own experiences into the plot, to offer comments, predict what’s next or simply express her pleasure. For a very hardworking little girl with language difficulties, who is trying her heart out to acquire more sight words and reading skills, such engagement and connection with texts is vital.

Once again Belinda Murrell takes us inside Lulu Bell’s daily life with its small but nonetheless thrilling excitements and adventures. Whether it’s watching baby chicks hatch at school, planning a rebuilt school garden, rescuing a much loved family dog from a flooded creek or helping with a little brother’s special party, any young reader can make connections in some way to Lulu and her family.  Small’s expression when she learned that Lulu’s cousin is called Lachie (a family name with us as well) was worth bottling. She literally bounded up the stairs each night to have the next instalment of chapters read and was oh so disappointed when we reached the conclusion of the second book.

Looks like I’d better get hold of the rest of the series published before I began reviewing or that I’ve missed out to provide my special girl with more reading pleasure.

Highly recommended as always for newly independent readers or those who may be struggling as a fantastic read-aloud, especially girls.  Check out Belinda’s website here and find all the Lulu Bell titles here at Random House.

PS!! The absolutely wonderful and vivacious Zoe Bechara from Random House is sending us the ‘missing’ Lulu Bells – stay posted for more rave reviews!!!

A Week Without Tuesday (A Tuesday McGillyCuddy Adventure #2) – Angelica Banks

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ISBN:9781760110376

Publisher:Allen & Unwin

Imprint:A & U Children

Series:A Tuesday McGillycuddy Adventure

Pub Date:May 2015

Page Extent:400

Format:Paperback –

RRP $15.99

Perhaps it’s because Tasmania is smallish, perhaps it’s because it’s coldish, perhaps it’s because it’s so beautiful, perhaps it’s because there is so much variety – whatever it is we seem to have some extremely talented creators come from our tiny island state.

This novel is my introduction to Angelica Banks aka Heather Rose and Danielle Woods as co-authors.  I had not seen the first in the series ‘Finding Serendipity’ but will be sure to seek it out now. Although I missed the first instalment I did not have much trouble picking up with characters and events from the past in this new adventure.

I found the plot refreshingly original and thoroughly engrossing. There are many descriptive passages which define the much used expression of ‘lyrical’.

Writers are going missing and then reappearing in weird places, sometimes injured or otherwise damaged. The public thinks it must be a mad kidnapping ploy by some crazy criminal/s but Tuesday, her author mother Serendipity and her dad Denis all surmise it is more likely to be that these authors are disappearing to ‘there’ that is, the place where authors’ stories are born and grow and flourish. And further, instead of returning home as usual when their story is completed, somehow they are ending up in the settings and plots of other stories.  Yes, it does sound a little confusing in the way I’ve just told it but when you read the book, it makes perfect sense :-).

Forbidden by Denis to write anything for fear they will also be caught up, Serendipity and Tuesday restrain themselves with much difficulty from putting pen to paper.  But stories have a way of catching up with those who must tell them and when Tuesday takes her delightful dog Baxterr to the park for a little walk and sees a special ‘story’ thread floating towards her; she knows she just has to take hold of it.

Tuesday is swept up into an adventure of huge proportions and must help The Librarian and The Gardener to take charge of the colliding story worlds. This she is able to do  but only after many complications involving Vivienne Small (heroine of Serendipity’s books), flying dogs, evil vercaka, the strange furred brother and sister, Tarquin and Harlequin as well as another writer of whom, no doubt, both we and Tuesday will see more – Blake Luckhurst.

I have no hesitation for recommending this highly to those readers, from around 10 years and up, who possess imagination and a creative spirit.

Phyllis Wong and the Waking of the Wizard – Geoffrey McSkimming

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ISBN: 9781760113384

Publisher: Allen & Unwin

Imprint: A & U Children

Pub Date: June 2015

Page Extent:400

Format: Paperback

RRP $15.99

Here comes the indomitable Phyllis Wong again! Geoffrey McSkimming’s savvy young conjuror (who is also a superb mystery solver) is such a likeable character; no wonder then, that this series has taken off with so many young readers.

All the important characters from the earlier books including Phyllis’ trusty but eccentric sidekick, Clement and her pet police contact, Chief Inspector Barry Inglis, return along with some interesting new arrivals such as Orson Quilrose, procurer of antique and vintage photographs, and Detective Pinkie Chatterton (now there’s a familiar surname! I wonder…hmmmm).

In this new volume, Phyllis’ great-grandfather, the famous Wallace Wong, reappears in his Transiting travels and Phyllis learns of his special quest. For many decades WW has pursued the same mission, which is to discover the hidden refuge of Myrddin the most famous magician of all time. You may think if this wizard is so famed you might know his name – and you probably do, if we use one of the most well-known alternatives of Merlin.

Young Phyllis begins to piece together a quite remarkable history wherein her esteemed forebear mixes it up in the theatrical world with a very dubious and nasty ventriloquist, Alexander Sturdy. This latter is knocked off his perch by the debut of a rival, Hercule Perkus and his lifelike ‘dummy’ Jasper.

Revenge and long forgotten deeds come to the surface in a contemporary setting and the world at large is threatened by the villain Sturdy’s plans to sabotage an amazing development in technology.

With her customary aplomb, quick thinking and sharp judgements Miss Wong pieces together the disparate clues in the case and with the assistance of her friends and colleagues is once more placed to emerge triumphant.

This series is just delicious. Action, humour, a little reflection, excellent values – and good always trumps evil. I would highly recommend you adding this and the first two volumes to your collection if you have not already done so!! For capable readers of around 8/9 years and up.

And Oh My Goodness! just look at this!! From such a talented pair of creators!!

Happy Bastille Day!

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In honour of Bastille Day a review of a newish picture book plus a revisit of two older titles for your revolutionary pleasure.

An Armadillo in Paris – Julie Krause

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Random House Australia

ISBN: 9781770495265

Published: 02/02/2015

Imprint: Tundra Books

Extent: 32 pages

$29.99

This whimsical travelogue has been lurking on my shelves for months but with hindsight I’m very pleased I’ve saved it till Bastille Day.

Arlo the armadillo hails from Brazil and is one of a long line of adventurers. His grandpapa Augustin was also a noted traveller who kept journals of his various trips and now Arlo is the beneficiary. Following his grandfather’s Paris journal Arlo is taken on a sumptuous tour of the best sights, scenes and senses of the heart of France, all of them leading to the climax of the Eiffel Tower in all her glory.

For children who are interested in other countries, and particularly for those who study French at their schools, this would be a real treat. Krause’s illustrations are very stylish and have a definite European feel to them, despite her Canadian origins.

In honour of the anniversary of ‘le Revolution’ tomorrow, I read this aloud to my two English classes today – Year 7 and Year 8 – and both were quite delighted by it. We all agreed that nobody is ever too old for picture books and learning facts in such a pleasant way as a vicarious stroll through the avenues of Paris can only be good J.

Since our college studies French this will be added to our own picture book shelves and I highly recommend it to you for your own shelves to expand readers’ awareness of other cultures and customs.

“Paris is always a good idea.” Audrey Hepburn and the author Julie Krause both agree.

This is Paris – Miroslav Sasek

paris_cover

Simon & Schuster

Imprint: Universe

  • First published: 1959
  • Reissued: 2004

If you have not ever experienced Sasek’s beautiful travel books for children, you really must. I love that the new editions have ‘updated’ information on that contained within the book at the end.

Be prepared to fall in love with these!!

The Invention of Hugo Cabret – Brian Selznick

hugo

Scholastic

January 30, 2007

I have loved this book since it was first published – and even enjoyed the film adaptation. There is something entirely magical about the book and its gorgeous and stylish graphic format.

Check out the official site for information and more.

Watch a book trailer here.

Activities etc here at Scholastic.

The Cat Who Came in off the Roof – Annie M. G. Schmidt

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Allen & Unwin

Imprint: Pushkin Children’s Books

ISBN: 9781782690368

RRP: $16.99

Have you heard of this author? No, neither had I but the title intrigued me – I do like an interesting title. Plus I’m a cat person. This charming novel held my interest fully for the return trip to the city today.

Tibbles is a journalist – but not your average one. He is painfully shy, he is an excellent writer but seems to find only stories that are not ‘newsworthy’ and he is a cat lover. When his editor threatens him with dismissal if there is ‘just one more cat story’, Tibbles is at a loss. Then Minou appears –  literally, ‘treed’ by a ferocious dog in his local park and then later in the evening by crawling through his attic window. A strangely attractive young woman, Minou exhibits cattish behaviours – well, after all, she’s been ‘treed’ by a dog and now she is in Tibbles’ kitchen gnawing on a fish skeleton from his rubbish bin!

So begins one of the most delightful and original novels I have read in a long while. Minou is in fact a cat, who has somehow become a human, though not without her erstwhile tendencies as a feline. Tibbles begins his ascendancy and redemption as a journalist when Minou starts to bring him tidbits from the ‘Cat Press Agency’. Obviously the many cats of a small town would have insight into much of the town’s real news.

This is such a happy read – easy, light, almost – dare I say it? – fluffy! I loved it! I urge you to read the love story of Tibbles and Minou – with its unfolding drama due to the obligatory villain. Having just recently revisited the ‘101 Dalmations’ with the wonderful ‘twilight barking’ sending of information, this truly resonated.

From the publisher:

Annie M. G. Schmidt was regarded as the Queen of Dutch Children’s Literature and her books have been an essential part of of every Dutch childhood for the last fifty years. (She trained as a librarian!).

I thank her for bringing some real reading joy to my life at the moment.

Highly recommended for readers of around 12 and up!!

An update………

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It’s been almost a month since I posted anything. I have a stack of books, mounting up threatening to topple over that need reviewing. My excuse is starting a new job four weeks ago and trying to get my head around not only a new school but a new ‘system’, and teaching a new English class – with more to come after the holidays – , being a full on full time working ‘mother’ caring for my little granddaughter and still dealing with my overwhelming grief for the loss of my youngest daughter. One can’t keep talking about it – I understand that others get tired of it – it’s hard enough for me to deal with it and with Small’s grief as well on a day to day basis but it’s July and in three weeks it would have been Jen’s 35th birthday and so a lot of emotion is simmering and proving difficult to deal with. All of this has meant I’ve been somewhat distanced from the mounting pile of books – halfway through something that is too confronting, 3/4 through the one I’m reading at school in our ‘reading time’ in English – but today, for a train trip to the city I picked up the first (and newest arrived) book off the pile and devoured it on the return trip. Stay posted – I will come back. For now it’s just ‘complicated’.

New Boy – Nick Earls

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Penguin Australia

Puffin Imprint

Published: 25/03/2015

Format: Paperback, 176 pages

RRP: $14.99

price:AUD $14.99

ISBN-13:9780143308393

Yes, it’s true, Nick Earls is one of my very most favourite authors :-) no matter if it’s kid lit or adult fiction. Aside from that, he is such a lovely human and very funny.  When he graciously did a Q&A for my blog last year, one of the things we discussed was his arrival in Australia from Ireland as a child. Nick talked about the aspects that he found a little strange coming to a new country.

He has taken that personal experience and projected it into terms that children today can easily embrace through the story of one boy’s experiences as a newly arrived immigrant from South Africa. Herschelle is a pretty typical boy who has left mates, sport, school and a fairly frightening environment behind when his family move to Brisbane. He soon realises despite his research of Australian slang and customs, in order to fit in, that he doesn’t – at all.

With his ever present humour, Nick takes the reader on Herschelle’s journey into acceptance via his struggle with bullying and racism. It is this humour that takes the edge of some pretty intense concepts and puts this in terms with which younger readers can readily identify from their own playground observations.

Along with his designated buddy Max (of whom Herschelle initially suspects total nerdism) , Herschelle takes on the challenge of assimilating into his new surrounds and most notably his new school, One Mile State School. When the burgeoning friendship is jeopardised by Max’ apparent collusion with the school bully, Lachlan, Herschelle is all the more convinced he will never become part of the Australian fabric. After the ongoing persecution from Lachlan comes to a head and the principal steps in, Herschelle realises both that racism is not manifested in just one way and that bullying can be invisible to others, as he finds out that Max has also suffered at Lachlan’s intimidatory behaviour.  The two boys are back on track and find themselves well placed to ‘buddy’ another ‘new boy’ when Roy arrives at the school. A refugee from South Sudan, Roy’s experiences provide even more enlightening revelation to the two friends.

This is an important book to promote to your readers and with Refugee Week fast approaching, would be a perfect vehicle to convey the important messages of acceptance and unity.

‘With courage let us all combine’

One True Thing – Nicole Hayes

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Random House Australia

ISBN: 9780857986887

Published: 01/05/2015

Imprint: Random House Australia Children’s

Extent: 400 pages

RRP $19.99

With this second novel, Nicole Hayes has absolutely confirmed her talent as a quality writer for young adults.  We are all too aware of the intense scrutiny under which our politicians are placed – and often, rightly so – and the accompanying media feeding frenzy which generally accompanies this, but how often do we give thought to the effect of all this on a public figure’s family or children?

Hayes has taken this idea and crafted a stunning story revolving around Frankie (Francesca) Mulvaney-Webb, daughter of the Victorian Premier, Rowena, who has stepped up into that position and is now running for election to confirm her post.

Amid considerable antipathy from some quarters about having a female state leader, Rowena is subjected to a vilifying media campaign over her connection with an unknown young man. Woven into this fabric: Frankie’s new friend (potential boyfriend) who is a dedicated amateur photographer, who has unwittingly provided the ‘evidence’ of this questionable relationship, her young brother and father who, like the rest of the family struggle to cope with the glaring spotlight and open “slur” tactics, her rather eccentric Irish grandmother who appears to be keeping secrets, Frankie’s indie band and her relationships with her best friends, all of which combine to impact on Frankie and her life in ways which would have many of us running for cover.

Despite her life seemingly going completely pear-shaped, Frankie demonstrates strength of character which is both admirable and inspirational. Strong female characters abound in this novel which makes it a must-read for young women as they also navigate their way to sometimes fraught teenage years.

For those looking for novels which also deal with gay issues, this is a worthy addition to your ‘Rainbow’ collection as Frankie also deals with the developing gay relationship between her two best friends. Her difficulties in adapting to being a ‘third wheel’ would easily apply to many other circumstances and her struggle to bring herself to an acceptance with grace and warmth is a pattern for similar situations.

Lending itself well to philosophical debates such as: when does the political become personal, when is a secret not ours to share, how does a family demonstrate its unity in the face of overwhelmingly opposition, loyalty, love and commitment to a cause, there will be much to unravel in discussions arising from the reading.

An amazing book which demands to be consumed immediately, I know I for one will follow Hayes’ writing career with great interest.

Highly recommended for readers, particularly girls, from around 13 upwards.

Teaching notes can be found here.