Monthly Archives: January 2016

The Boy with Two Lives – Abbas Kazerooni

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ISBN:9781743314838

Publisher:Allen & Unwin

Imprint:A & U Children

Pub Date:September 2015

RRP: $15.99

 

Many of you will resource units of work/inquiry examining the lives of inspirational people through biographies and memoirs. This book and the previous memoir are perfect, timely and contemporary for readers from Middle Primary upwards.

This second instalment in Kazerooni’s powerful history continues from his international bestseller On Two Feet and Wings. The first volume retells then nine year old Abbas’ amazing escape from war-torn Tehran during the Iraq-Iran conflict. This second continues the story of a character determined to survive and succeed.

Now a refugee in England, the cousin who is supposed to be caring for Abbas as his sponsor and guardian dumps him in a boarding school where the boy thrives, makes friends, impresses staff with his character but grieves for his absent family. The feckless and cruel cousin Mehdi has one saving grace. His girlfriend has compassionate and kind parents who take Abbas into their home and offer much love and comfort. That is, until Mehdi decides he is tired of waiting for money from Abbas’ parents to pay school fees and puts the young boy to work illegally in each and every school holiday under the threat of deportation.
After some time this awful situation gets worse when after several traumatic life changes, Mehdi abandons Abbas to homelessness at age 13. His triumph at winning a scholarship to a prestigious school is marred by his daily struggle to simply survive with little food or personal comforts such as clean clothes, warmth and shelter. With family and friends unaware of Abbas’ situation he is forced to improvise his own life as he becomes all the more determined to attain his education.

This is a gripping read (one sitting for me) made all the more poignant because Abbas’ amazing character shines through despite all his dreadful situations. At no time is there a total collapse into self-pity, instead even in his darkest hours and immense despair Abbas finds inner strength and resilience somehow.

When Mehdi goes one step too far and threatens to kill Abbas, thinking the boy has ‘snitched’ on him and his nefarious activities, Abbas is finally rescued from his nightmare.

Tracing the extraordinary and at times harrowing journey undertaken by the young Abbas makes the reader reflect on the many things we often take for granted here in Australia.

I cannot recommend this highly enough – please take some time to find out more about this exceptional man who is now a successful writer, actor and producer living in California. I was fortunate enough to hear an interview with him on Radio National a couple of years ago and hope to secure a blog Q&A with him if possible.

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ABC Dreaming – Warren Brim

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Magabala Books

  • Published:Nov 2015
  • ISBN:9781922142627
  • Format:Paperback

 

RRP: $17.95

I have purposely saved this one for the start of the school year believing it to the most beautiful ABC book I have seen in a long, long time and so perfect for introducing your preppies to both the alphabet, Australian flora and fauna and Indigenous culture.

In particular as Warren is descended from the Djabugay  people of Far North Queensland, this is even more relevant to our Queensland schools as the illustrations depict the diverse wildlife and plants found in the Far North rainforests.

Each vibrantly colourful page shows an illustration of the chosen creature or plant in traditional Aboriginal style and colours.  An interesting exercise might be to research the actual descriptions and images with the children to make comparisons between the stylised and photographic versions.  And of course while there will be some familiar names to the children, others which are unique to the Far North may require some investigation.

Warren is a celebrated artist whose work you will know from Creatures of the Rainforest.

As usual Magabala has published another truly quality book that will make a perfect addition to any bookshelf whether home or library.

Highly recommended for toddlers up.

Please Open This Book – Adam Lehrhaupt/Matthew Forsythe

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Simon & Schuster Australia

  • Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books
  • 40 pages |
  • ISBN 9781442450714
  • October 2015

List Price

AU$ 24.99

NZ$ 27.99

 

The expression ‘more fun than a barrel of monkeys’ has never been as evident as in this crazy chaotic new picture book from the duo who brought you Warning, Do Not Open This Book!.

Completely giggle-making for young readers, a bunch of monkeys plus a few assorted others are trapped inside a book which has been closed by a ruthless child. The only way to rescue them is to turn the pages and release the mayhem. But wait! By turning the pages the reader draws ever closer to the end – and the book will be closed again! ARGGGHHH!

With an irresistible power given to the reader, with the monkeys’ impassioned pleas to be kept unrestrained, this book will thoroughly engage readers from preschool up.

The striking illustrations are digitally composed and the black backgrounds (well after all it IS dark inside a closed book!) are relieved by primarily earth-toned compositions.

This pair’s first book was an E.B. White Read-Aloud Honor Book and received much praise.  This is definitely in every way its equal.
Visit Adam’s website here to find out more about the author and watch the book trailer.

 

Highly recommended for your small humans up to around age 8 (or older ones who love a giggle!).  Start your own campaign now – SAVE THE MONKEYS!

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Out of My Mind – Sharon Draper

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outofmymindSimon & Schuster Australia

  • Atheneum Books for Young Readers |
  • 320 pages |
  • ISBN 9781416971719 |
  • August 2013 |
  • Grades 5 and up |
  • Lexile 700

List Price

AU$ 11.99

NZ$ 13.99

 

This is an older title which I have only just read and if you loved ‘Wonder’ (R. J. Palacio) you will also love this book.

Melody is an extremely intelligent 11 year old girl with a photographic memory. The problem is that nobody knows this – not even her parents who are her strongest supporters. Melody has cerebral palsy and cannot walk, talk, feed herself or accomplish any physical actions except using her thumbs. Her schooling has been a torturous confinement to a ‘special education’ room where teachers come and go with scant disregard to their students’ abilities.

But Melody’s life is changing. A move to integrate the disabled students into mainstream classrooms is one positive, especially when accompanied by an intuitive young woman named Catherine who becomes Melody’s helper in class. Suddenly Melody has teachers who are keen to empower her and in particular Catherine’s brainwave about a device called a Medi-Talker allows Melody to find her voice. Her neighbour, retired teacher Rose, is another adult instrumental in fostering Melody’s emergence from her long silence.

Despite obstacles of bullying classmates and insensitive adults (teachers and doctors) Melody begins to shine as her extraordinary mental ability begins to emerge triumphantly.  With her hero being Stephen Hawking Melody knows that she too can conquer the world – even if it does take twice the effort of anyone else.

This is a marvellous novel and there is much to support it is a class study or simply as a recommendation to our students as we encourage them to become more empathic.

See more here at Sharon Draper’s website, watch a book trailer here or find some teaching notes here.

 

Highly recommended for astute readers of around 9 years and up.

 

 

Not a book – a movie

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Many of you will have read articles particularly fairly recently about the real life bear who inspired A. A. Milne’s classic stories about Winnie-the-Pooh. A recently published picture book sparked some of these.

I was so delighted to pick up the DVD of the movie ‘A Bear Named Winnie’ at the local  Km*** last Friday for the princely sum of $4.

There is so much to like about this lovely film – with character roles played by Stephen Fry, David Suchet and Michael Fassbender – which tells the story of how a young Canadian, Lt Harry Colebourn, of the Canadian Army Veterinary Corps, rescues a black bear cub. The endearing animal immediately bonds with him and despite the sometimes chaos that can be caused by such a creature in an army camp, manages to smuggle Winnie (Winnipeg) to England when he is mobilized to the front.

This is a World War 1 story with a real difference enabling viewers to glimpse the work of the veterinary corps, our Canadian compadres and the amazing friendship between human and animal.

Harry realises he cannot take Winnie to the front in France so she is placed in the London Zoo for the duration of the war under the care of a very crusty (but actually marshmallow) head keeper played by Stephen Fry.

When Harry returns from active service traumatised and withdrawn it is Winnie who rescues him in turn. After his recovery he has every intention of taking Winnie back to Canada but when he realises just how loved she is by children and adults alike who visit the zoo, he leaves her in their care where she lived happily until 1934.

In 1926 when A. A. Milne and his small son visited the zoo and became entranced by Winnie’s charm and her gentle playful nature was afterwards immortalised for endless generations of readers.

With a rating of PG this would be a worthy addition to your literary (and historical) film collection – get to that store now!

Awesome Animal Stories for Kids – Aleesah Darlison

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ISBN: 9780857989680

Published: 01/12/2015

Imprint: Random House Australia Children’s

Extent: 208 pages

– RRP $14.99

One thing we know as teacher-librarians is that you can never have too many animal stories. Younger readers especially eat up such tales whether crazy, realistic, whimsical or humorous. This new collection from Aleesah Darlison covers all those bases and with a text that is ideally suited to newly independent readers who are enjoying their first foray into chapter books.

Kasey rescues and nurtures a baby magpie, Grandpapa Cat tells his grandkittens the legend of Alvarado, King of Cats, we find out what happened next to Puff the Magic Dragon, Princess Pigletta is pignapped and so much more! Any young reader will enjoy the imaginatively told animal adventures in this collection and they would be ideally suited to the short ‘read aloud’ times after breaktimes.

This much-published award-winning author has definitely come up trumps with this fun anthology of 12 stories. Highly recommended for your shelves for both boys and girls of around 7 years up.

Check out Aleesah’s website here for more info about her, her books, author talks, resources and news.

http://www.facebook.com/AleesahDarlisonFanPage

http://twitter.com/aleesah

 

Nightbird – Alice Hoffman

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  • Simon & Schuster Children’s UK |
  • 208 pages |
  • ISBN 9781471124211 |
  • March 2015

List Price

AU$ 16.99

NZ$ 18.99

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Yes this one had remained incognito on the shelf for a long time and really I am sorry I did not read it sooner. If you have girls aged around 12 years and up this is the modern fairytale full of romance and magic to recommend to those who want a gentle and lyrical story about families, true love and ancient curses.

Teresa Jane Fowler known as ‘Twig’ because of her tree-climbing tendency lives in small-town Massachusetts with her mother, reputedly the most beautiful woman in the state, on their Pink apple orchard. She hasn’t always lived there although her mother grew up there. They used to live in New York City but when she was younger Twig and her mother moved back to the family home – arriving in the middle of the night with their secret.

Since their arrival her mother has turned the Pink apple orchard into a thriving business, Twig goes to school and hangs out in trees and both completely avoid social contact with other townsfolk in order to keep their secret safe.

But things are changing in their town of Sidwell. There are rumours of a monster lurking at nights, the local owls are under threat from a new development and some new neighbours move into the old witch’s cottage next door.

Despite her enforced isolation, Twig is drawn to the new girls next door, Julia and Agate, and they become her first real friends. But will this friendship to expose the long-hidden secret?  And there are other secrets arising from the past and the time of Agnes Early, the witch who first lived in Mourning Dove cottage.

Twig’s friendship with Julia encounters many obstacles not the least of which is Agate’s discovery of Twig’s family secret and its consequences.

As you can tell, I don’t want to give away too much but suffice to say this was a ‘one sitting’ read which kept me thoroughly engaged from start to finish.

 

Deadly D & Justice Jones: #3 The Search – Dave Hartley & Scott Prince

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Magabala Books

  • Published:Oct 2015
  • Pages:192pp
  • ISBN:9781925360011
  • Ages:Middle primary, Upper primary
  • Format:Paperback

RRP $12.95

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The legion of fans that were captured by the first two Deadly D books will lap this one up as well!

And who wouldn’t be delighted to picture legendary coach Wayne Bennett caught up in a circus act?

In this new adventure Dylan and his best bro Justice are being stalked by some very scary clowns – scarier than most of their kind because really they are working for a very nasty villain known as the Ringmaster.  BIGTOP circuses are definitely not what they seem – Biological Investigation Group to Organise Prototypes is a despicable organisation kidnapping people with special abilities to steal their DNA and create clones. No wonder they are after Dylan AKA Deadly D!

To add to this Dylan’s mum finds some incriminating evidence about his regular Deadly D transformations and he confesses to his role playing for the Broncos. Without hesitation Dylan is packed off to his Nana’s back in Mt Isa for a bit of good old-fashioned ‘sorting out’.

But everything and everyone seems to be going into a meltdown when their hero Deadly D disappears and Supercoach Bennett enlists Justice to help him find the missing star. When they take off on their search they are not expecting to be kidnapped by BIGTOP stooges and used as bait to lure Dylan into their evil clutches.  With the usual high inks, near catastrophes, footy humour and general gentle mocking of Broncos legends, the adventure rockets along to a more than satisfactory conclusion.

This series has so much going for it – especially for those ‘hard to get at’ boys in your readership. Footy, positive Indigenous role models, terrific humour, ridiculous situations and triumphs of good vs bad – Hartley and Prince are really hitting the mark and let’s hope the series continue in the same engaging style.

Highly recommended for your lovers of footy especially – aged around 9 years upwards.

Check out the authors’ December 2015 tour here.

The Adventures of Miss Petitfour – Anne Michaels

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Bloomsbury: Tundra Books

PenguinRandomHouse Australia

December 2015

ISBN 9781770495005

RRP $19.99

This beautifully presented hardback is packed with all things to delight girls from around 7 up as they begin their chapter book journey.

The quirky Miss Petitfour lives with her cats – all sixteen of them – and is always having adventures in between her baking delicious treats, making interesting objects and dancing. Her mode of transport around her little village is an umbrella with a marvellous ‘string of cats’ – as her precious felines all wrap each others’ tails to become a furry kite tail.

The text is very cleverly peppered with some challenging and unusual vocabulary which is not only explained directly to the reader but then utilised in each story to clarify meaning. The very sweet illustrations by Emma Block add some lovely visuals for the readers’ pleasure.

Five stories are presented full of the wonderful adventures, cheese eating cats and edible delicacies sprinkled throughout.

With the kind of eccentricity that so flavours classics such as Pippi Longstocking and Mary Poppins this little volume will be sure to entrance your younger readers.