Monthly Archives: December 2017

Mr Bambuckle’s Remarkables:  Fight Back – Tim Harris

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fighback

9780143785873

January 29, 2018

Random House Australia Children’s

RRP : $14.99

The kids in 12B are pretty despondent.  Mr Bambuckle has been sent packing by Principal Sternblast and their replacement teacher Miss Frost is as icy as her name.  Every day is a complete nightmare with dreary worksheets and stony silences.  However, there is some hope when mysterious messages from Mr Bambuckle appear randomly. Scarlett discovers the wonders of PhotoCrop and the meaning of Mr B’s message about her having magic fingers becomes clear as she realises she can displace things – even people. Goodbye Miss Frost!

It’s not Scarlett alone who has brought about the good-riddance of their snarly teacher nor is it her doing that the school board reinstates Mr Bambuckle. This is a class who can, when needed, work together to achieve great things.

With Mr B back, on his unicycle with bacon and eggs and Himalayan tea, the class is ready to fire up their imaginations and their self belief.

The text is interspersed with lists and other bits and pieces which makes for some relief for those kidlets who struggle a little with large amounts of print.

Tim Harris kicks another goal with this continuation of the hilarity of Mr Bambuckle’s remarkable class. If you missed my previous review and the lunatic Q&A with Mr B and Tim look back – it’s definitely worth the giggle!

 

Highly recommended for readers from around 8 years upwards – I believe this is one series that will really grab those reluctant readers.

 

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Triple Treat: Jacqueline Harvey, Belinda Murrell and R. A. Spratt

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Such fun to open parcels with books from the most popular authors in my library – and my literary circle! The titles from this trio are highly sought after among my readers and there is always much exchanging in the returns line up with ‘She had this but I want to borrow it next’.

To make it an even more interesting mix there is a beginning, a ‘middle’ and, sadly, an ending.

Kensy and Max #1: Breaking News – Jacqueline Harvey

K&M

9780143780656

February 26, 2018

Random House Australia Children’s

RRP $16.99

Without a doubt, Jacqueline Harvey has the girls from 7 to teens eating out of the palm of her hand with her Clementine Rose and Alice-Miranda series.  And if you have not had the pleasure of Jacqueline presenting at your school I suggest that you do as she is without doubt the most energetic and engaging author I’ve seen in action.

Now Jacqueline has turned her considerable talents to a series pitched at both boys and girls with a hugely popular premise – espionage! Kensy and Max are twins both alike and also very different. They are well used to living all over the globe as their parents, apparently, are first responders in both tourist resorts and in crisis/humanitarian situations. However, when the pair finds themselves in a completely strange house with only their ‘manny’ Fitz in loco parentis things being to turn very mysterious indeed with their parents missing in a civil revolt and house inhabitants who are both strange and yet oddly familiar.

The two are in turn baffled and curious and begin to piece puzzle pieces together of their own initiative. It would seem that MI6 is a ‘family’ thing!

This new series has both memorable characters and believable circumstances which will thoroughly intrigue readers from around 8 years upwards. I don’t need to use my considerable powers of ESP to predict that this will be as big a winner as Jacqueline’s other series.

Highly recommended for readers from mid-primary up – get it on your shelves ASAP!

 

Pippa’s Island #3: Kira Dreaming – Belinda Murrell

pippa3

9780143783701

January 2, 2018

Random House Australia Children’s

RRP $14.99

 

Without fail, if I put a Belinda Murrell book, whether Lulu Bell or one of the time slip series into a girl’s hands, I have her hooked from that moment. I’d like to think it’s my skill as a teacher-librarian but really its Belinda’s talent at knowing exactly what will grab her readers!

 

This is the third in her latest series and already I have girls clamouring for the next so this will be a huge hit when school goes back. There is something just purely delightful and happy about Pippa and her friends and family, even though there are serious moments e.g. Pippa’s absent dad. This doesn’t detract as I believe so many children can relate to the ambivalence about a parent who has absconded from the family. It’s difficult for them to reconcile their own love for that parent and the feeling of rejection/abandonment.

In this new episode, the Sassy Sisters are entering the school talent quest and while Pippa’s besties, Cici, Meg and Charlie are rapt about this opportunity, Pippa has real problems with her stage fright. Unexpectedly, it is this which provides a catalyst for Pippa to resume some ‘friendly’ relations with her MIA father.

These stories are fabulous narratives about real life situations to which readers can relate – despite the fact that they may not live on a tropical island!

Again, highly recommended for readers from around eight years upwards and if you’ve missed the first two, put them on your ‘to buy’ list as well!

 

Friday Barnes #8: Never Fear – R. A. Spratt

fridayfinal

9780143784203

January 2, 2018

Random House Australia Children’s

RRP $15.99

 

When I gently broke the news to my avid Friday readers that the forthcoming book would be the last in the series there was full scale caterwauling and gnashing of teeth. The only thing that saved me from literary lynching was the promise of a new series in the pipeline – whew!

 

I’ve mentioned this before. I love Friday! I love her geekiness, her gauche-ness, her daggy clothes and social ineptitude.

 

Highcrest Academy has a new principal and she is one seemingly mean and shockingly capable young woman. She promptly promotes Friday to Year 12 to ‘extend’ her and Friday is convinced that this means she’s just one step away from being ousted from what she regards as her home.

Along with this is the persistent rumour of long hidden gold somewhere in the school grounds and when implosions and explosions begin to disrupt the regular (!!) routine of Highcrest everyone is on edge.

 

Some huge questions are answered in this final volume. Will Friday ever kiss Ian? Can Melanie stay awake long enough to observe it? Who will still be a student in the academy at the end of year? Is the new principal who she says she is or an imposter? And will Friday ever kiss Ian? 😉

 

There will be some sad faces at this the final Friday chapter but reassure your readers that more great stuff is on its way from R. J. Spratt’s imaginative mind!

Highly recommended for readers from around mid-primary upwards.

 

Collins Modern Classics: Thomasina (: the Cat who Thought She was a God) – Paul Gallico

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thomasina

ISBN: 9780007395187

ISBN 10: 0007395183

Imprint: HarperCollins – GB

RRP $14.99

 

When I was little and even a bit more than little my mother often took me to the movies. Usually we saw Disney films or musicals – our favourites. I’m guessing it was around 1964 and I was eight years old when we went to see The 3 Lives of Thomasina which I adored. Some others of a certain vintage may also remember it with Patrick McGoohan, Susan Hampshire and a very young Karen Dotrice. What I didn’t realise at the time was that it was also a very well known book by a very famous author (despite being a voracious reader). When I did discover the book I fell in love with the story all over again and now have had the great pleasure of receiving this new edition in the  Collins Modern Classics series.

Seven year old Mary Ruadh is motherless but has a father who loves her beyond life. Of course she loves him as well, though others find him very cold and often crochety. Alas poor Mr McDhui is the village vet, a thwarted doctor due to family pressures and really he’s not very fond of animals. Especially he is resentful of young Mary’s pet Thomasina, a cat of wisdom for whom the child holds a fierce passion.

When Thomasina falls ill, the vet is in the depths of a crisis trying to save a blind man’s dog and callously tells his assistant to put the cat down. Mary’s grief is boundless and her antagonism towards her father is vengeful and actually cruel as a result.

Yet Thomasina is not dead. She is rescued by a strange young woman who lives in the woods as a hermit and tends to the wild creatures.  Thomasina’s second life begins in Lori’s cottage and she feels her previous life as an Egyptian deity is back.

Mary’s intensity of grief is so overwhelming and leads to her falling closer and closer to death from a broken heart. Her father is beside himself and has nowhere to turn until he too discovers the compassionate power that Lori holds.

Fey Lori is the catalyst that will provide healing for father, child and cat.

This is an iconic Gallico book full of magic reality. Love, compassion, trust and faith all play their part in this strange and compelling story.

Gallico wrote over forty books (did you know he wrote The Poseidon Adventure?) and many of them feature similar themes and animals.

This is well worth a re-visit and an introduction to a new generation.

Highly recommended for readers from around ten years upwards.

 

A Superb Surfeit of Dame Lynley Dodd

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Sometimes procrastination pays off. I have been putting off reviewing the scads of picture books I have piled up ready for the holidays. How pleased that Dame Lynley Dodd’s newest offering is one of these because this week I was thrilled to spend not one but two sessions in the presence of this living treasure – arguably New Zealand’s greatest author.

The Moreton Bay library services hosted a Dame Lynley Dodd extravaganza and I was firstly not only amazed that such a momentous occasion was to be held locally but that also there was such a minimal cost!

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First of all, Thursday afternoon was an hour’s glorious In Conversation with Dame Lynley Dodd. I am reliably informed by the lovely Zoe B from Penguin Random House that there were 400 attendees.  Interviewed by her good friend and curator of her art exhibition, Penelope Jackson (herself a well-known art historian and author) the rapt audience was treated to insights into Lynley’s early life, career and ongoing work.

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Saturday was an even greater thrill with two master classes hosted by the Redcliffe Art Gallery. First we revelled in an hour’s guided tour of the Telling a Story with Dame Lynley Dodd exhibition with Pamela Jackson describing original artworks, inspirations and works-in-progress. This was followed by a personal workshop of around twenty people all of whom were completely and utterly entranced by Lynley’s walk through of her approach to writing and illustrating. What is there to say? It was wonderful and special and truly a highlight of my year, both personal and professional.

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Taking centre stage of course (with Dame Lynley reading it to us during the Thursday session) was her newest and 34th book:

Scarface Claw, Hold Tight

scarface.jpg

Penguin

9780143770985

October 2, 2017

Puffin

RRP $19.99

 

Using the inspiration of a local news story about a cat that was blissfully sleeping on the roof of its owner’s car (quite a common scenario) and the ensuing pandemonium when the owner takes off into town, Scarface Claw – that disreputable and ruffian-like feline – is subjected to a wild ride.

As one can imagine, the driver has no clue that he has an unintentional stowaway and is slightly bemused by all the passersby who madly wave to him in attempts to halt his progress.

Of course, after all these futile attempts the inevitable happens and the poor unknowing driver comes to a sudden stop whereupon a rather disgruntled and discombobulated Scarface unceremoniously slides to the car bonnet.

This book was referred to, as quoted in the Conversation session, as vintage Dodd and of course it is. That seemingly effortless rollicking rhyme to which every child responds recounts Scarface’s adventure with humour and spirit, while all the while we are quite sure that there will be a safe and happy outcome.

Long we may enjoy the delight of Dodd! Now that some of us are enjoying them in a third generation without them ever losing their original joy, we can only hope for many more.

Highly recommended for all little and larger readers from toddler age upwards.

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Binge Reading Jackie French

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The upside of injuring both your legs badly at the same time is that you have a very legitimate excuse to stay in bed reading a lot. And fortunately my lovely friends at Harper Collins must have had some kind of premonition because the day before my accident I had received a plethora amazing books to review including the three here. Fortunately (with hindsight) I had not yet read Miss Lily’s Lovely Ladies which meant I had the double delight of reading both the first and second in the series back to back (over the course of two days). The latest in the Matilda series Facing the Flame was consumed in one evening.  Aside from anything else I think the rate at which I devoured these speaks volumes for the sheer pleasure of them.

Miss Lily’s Lovely Ladies

ISBN: 9781460753583

ISBN 10: 1460753585

Imprint: HarperCollins – AU

 27/03/2017

RRP $29.99 AUD

misslily
A tale of espionage, love and passionate heroism.

Inspired by true events, this is the story of how society’s ‘lovely ladies’ won a war.

Young Sophie Higgs has grown up a privileged girl being the only child of the wealthiest man in NSW, Jeremiah Higgs the king of canned corned beef. But in the rigid society of Sydney, as in England, ‘trade’ is scorned and so despite her wealth, intelligence and beauty it would seem Sophie will always be second-class by the established standards. Until that is, in order to deflect Sophie from an unsuitable love affair, she is sent to England to the home of her father’s old army friend Earl of Shillings to be coached by his cousin Miss Lily and eventually be presented at court.

In England Sophie’s world is wonderfully and gloriously opened wide as she becomes the prized ‘pupil’ of the enigmatic Miss Lily and makes new friends, is sought after by new lovers and particularly held in esteem for her wit, courage and compassion. But the glittering world of the debutante is quickly extinguished by the outbreak of war and it is here that Sophie demonstrates her real abilities and character.

As with all of Jackie’s historical novels a completely captivating and richly detailed narrative is interwoven with actual historical fact to create a mesmerising offering.  I was hooked from the very first page and would have been extremely sorry to reach the end except for the fact that I had the next volume with which to continue. How fortunate are we to have such an exceptional writer to claim as our own? The breadth of her talents seems endless.

Highly recommended for readers of around mid-teens upwards. Find teaching notes here.

The Lily and the Rose

ISBN: 9781460753590

ISBN 10: 1460753593

Imprint: HarperCollins – AU

19/03/2018

RRP 29.99 AUD

lilyrose

The Great War is over but that doesn’t necessarily equate to peace. Sophie Higgs is soon to come to this realisation as she re-establishes her life in Australia, taking over her late father’s business empire as an independent confident young woman. Alongside her, the circle of women who have become her ongoing support network in a society that is no longer defined by the old norms.

It is not only politics and world affairs that are clouded for Sophie. She is still torn between her love for Nigel, Earl of Shillings, the strange attraction of Dolphie the German aristocrat and in a new twist a stranger, John, who is trying to expiate his own war by carving crosses into rocks until he feels at peace.

A call for help from her old friend Hannelore sees Sophie becoming even more daring as she goes to wartorn Germany on a rescue mission from which she returns even more confused in her emotions.

Those thoughts remain until a crisis with Nigel’s health sees her racing to England via the unheard of method of flying with female pilots around the world to reach her beloved and at last the two are married with their whole future ahead of them. Or is it?

Jackie has left this tapestry with some small waving threads that will have every reader hanging out for the next instalment.  Again a superlative storyteller takes us on a magical, romantic and adventurous journey and my recommendations remain glowing for the mid-teens upwards.

 

 

Facing the Flame – #7 The Matilda Saga

ISBN: 9781460753200

ISBN 10: 1460753208

Imprint: HarperCollins – AU

20/11/2017

$29.99 AUD

flame

I didn’t need to re-read the last in the series to be utterly enthralled by this latest right from the get-go. In fact, this was a complete binge, read in one night because it was just too good and too gripping to put down.

Jed Kelly is the happiest she has ever been. She’s married to Sam, and pregnant with their first child. Her hearth and home are a haven. Young Scarlett is doing well at uni and carving out a newly independent life.

Then cracks start to appear. The dry weather is worsening with many old-timers predicting the worst of fires ever. The man she fears most re-appears in Jed’s life, intent with malice and revenge. A young girl blinded in an accident is creating issues at the River View facility. But Gibbers Creek is one tough and tight community where there is immense support for each and every one of their whole.

When the tiny spark finally escalates into the worst imaginable fire, the community is galvanised into action and though Jed passes through a frightening and dangerous episode and one could say her baby almost has a baptism of fire, the loyalty, intuition and the indomitable spirit of old Matilda resonates through the township and surrounds.

This is a cracking story filled with rich characters both old and new and imbued with all that we hold dear about Australian love of country and mateship.

Highly recommended for readers of around 14 upwards.  If you don’t have the complete series yet, this is one worth investing in for your collection particularly for Middle/Upper school and wide reading of Australian spirit/identity.

 

Mr Bambuckle’s Remarkables – Tim Harris….and Mr Bambuckle himself!!!

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Tim Harris, illus by James Hart
Random House
Released September 2017
Paperback
ISBN 9780143785859
RRP $14.99

Tim Harris exploded onto the children’s literature scene quite literally with his Exploding Endings books. Now he brings us a true hero of the classroom, Mr Bambuckle. The children of Room 12 B are wary of their expected new teacher, given their previous one was a po-faced relic who stood no nonsense. Their astonishment when they enter the classroom to find Mr Bambuckle balancing on the teacher’s desk on a unicycle is off the radar. And that’s just the start!

What other teacher do you know can produce soup from their pockets or cook bacon in the classroom? Indeed, is there one you can think of who provides Himalayan tea to anyone in need?

Or even more importantly, a teacher who realises their kids’ insecurities such as killer washing machines and builds a scaffold to overcome these?

Of course, not everyone appreciates Mr Bambuckle’s unique talents e.g. Principal Sternblast (thank goodness, I’ve only known one of those!) but the kids in 12B know that nothing will ever be the same and that Mr Bambuckle must stay despite all obstacles being presented!

This is a tremendously fun read and is chockfull of memorable characters aside from Mr B. Readers from around 8 years upwards will fall in love with this teacher and want to be in his class forever!

Check out a teaser here.

 

And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for – Q&A with Mr Bambuckle himself! – oh and Tim Harris. Ta dah!!!!

Q&A with Mr Bambuckle and Tim Harris

 

How excited am I to welcome to Just So Stories Mr Bambuckle himself! And of course, Tim Harris.

Mr Bambuckle, I am SO excited to have the opportunity to speak with you – I feel a little flustered really! – but let’s get started.

Q1: Mr Bambuckle, I’d love for you to give my readers a little insight into the young you – the baby, the kid, what sort of student were you, hobbies, family – well you get the picture! We want to hear about the making of Mr Bambuckle!

Did you know that Himalayan tea is a most wonderful calmer if you’re feeling flustered? Dear Sue, please take this cup and let me know what you think. I brewed it myself.

Ah, yes, my parents … Well, it’s difficult to know where to start with such remarkable people. Put it this way – I learned to abseil before I could walk. I learned to use chopsticks before I could hold a fork. I learned how to scuba dive before I could say the word ‘fish’. My childhood was saturated with rich learning experiences and, being mostly home-schooled, I was able to enjoy it with those I loved best. I suppose my love of learning directed me into teaching.

Q2:  Mr Bambuckle, can you expand a little on your philosophy when it comes to teaching/pedagogy? Children are remarkable little people.

Life would certainly be dull without remarkable little people. I have fifteen of them in my current class in room 12B. We have an awful lot of fun together. Of course, the children themselves often don’t know they’re learning. It’s amazing what can be achieved with a sense of excitement. My philosophy is simple: children will learn a great deal if want to be taught.

Q3: What was it that brought you to the children in 12B?

I’m beginning to learn it was fate. Well, that and a gut feeling when I stumbled across the ad online. There’s something about the children in room 12B that not many others I’ve taught have possessed. I’m yet to work out exactly what it is, but I sense they’re building up to something extraordinary.

Q4: Just excuse me a moment Mr Bambuckle, we’ll be right back with you ……this question is for your friend Tim. Tim, I understand that you have also taught. Perhaps you can tell us a little about your experiences in classrooms as the ‘man in charge’?

Hi there, Sue! Thanks for having me. I’ll pass on the Himalayan tea though, Mr B. Yes, I taught for fifteen years and loved it. I used to play the drums for my first class. If they worked quietly, we’d let out all the noise on the drum kit! I worked with some amazing teachers and taught a bunch of awesome little people.

Q5: And Tim, to continue – leading on from that – what sort of student were you at school? Were you the class clown or the geek or the nerdy suck up?

I was mostly quiet and well-mannered. However, I did have my quirks. A couple of friends and I would write silly skits at lunch and then beg our teacher to let us perform them to the class. I loved the thrill of drawing a laugh from a crowd. I rarely got in trouble, but if I did, it was usually for trying to make someone laugh.

Q6: Now Mr Bambuckle, you brought some interesting strategies to the classroom of 12B, where did you gain your training in these or what prompted you to create them?

Would you like more tea, Sue? You have certainly relaxed a lot during the interview. Though I suggest you stop belly dancing on the table. Now, to your question, I picked up most of my strategies through living life both inside and out of the classroom. If you allow yourself to experience much, eventually you’ll pick up some useful ideas and strategies.

Q7: Mr Bambuckle, you have a real knack, and I would judge a passion, for bringing out the best in a child – for giving a child with perhaps some low self confidence the boost they need to blossom.  Can you elaborate on that aspect?

You simply must have a chat to dear Evie Nightingale. It’s children like her who make me look good. I suppose all it takes to boost confidence is giving each student the voice or platform they require to flourish. That, and a touch of bacon and eggs.

Q8: We have been left in somewhat of a limbo regarding Mr Bambuckle’s future as the continuing teacher for 12B – what can we expect in the near future? And as a rider to that, do you think that that dim-witted apoplectic principal is jealous of your success?

I was deeply saddened after my conversation with Mr Sternblast, as there is much work to be done in room 12B.The dear principal simply needs to drink more Himalayan tea. As you can tell, lovely Sue – and I would suggest climbing down from the bookcase – the tea is a wonderful relaxant. Mr Sternblast has other things on his mind, and I suspect that brings out the worst in him.

Q9: Back to you Tim, what principles do you hold dear in the teaching of our youngsters? How much of your philosophy is based on your real life experience? And how does that translate into bringing us the stories of Mr Bambuckle (*Swoon*)?

The relationships in a classroom were always at the centre of what I tried to do. Healthy relationships tend to remove other stresses, and a stress-free environment is supportive of good learning. I also tried to genuinely value every child I taught and would always look for the positive in them. This, combined with a strong understanding of the content and how to teach it, can make for some excellent learning.

Q10: This question is for both of you. As a teacher-librarian, there are times when I am so dismayed by  the casual attitudes demonstrated by administrative types and also the dive in reading for pleasure that regularly occurs in middle school, I’m interested to hear your thoughts on ways you both think we might tackle this problem?

Tim: Shared reading was highly-prized time in my classroom. I tried to make it so much fun that it eventually become a reward. I remember sitting down with a book in my last class and the students rushed to the floor, cheering. Much depends on the teacher and how they portray what reading time can and should look like. I meet some amazing teacher-librarians and teachers when I visit schools, who celebrate books in their learning spaces. It’s encouraging to know that others are making a literary impact in their rooms. But it has to start at the top.

Mr Bambuckle: Blue Valley School’s teacher-librarian, Mrs Paige, is an excellent example of how we can tackle the problem. She always knows how to get the right book into the right hands, and she even lets some students borrow more than the allowed amount to satisfy their hunger for words. Put simply, her enthusiasm for books is contagious.

Q11: There are many readers keen to find out what next is in store for the excitement generated by you both. What can we share here on Just So Stories to give these kids a ‘teaser’?

Mr Bambuckle: Would you like another top up of tea, dear Sue? I daresay you’ve become quite fond of Himalayan brew during our interview. As a teaser, I can certainly reveal that remarkable things will continue happening in room 12B. Also, if you look closely at the cover of Book 2, you may just notice something on my shoulder – a bird! I can’t wait for you to meet him!

Tim: Lots is planned for 2018. The year kicks off with the release of Book 2 in the series in late January. I’ll be getting out and about, visiting lots of remarkable schools around Australia to chat all things bookish and creative. Book 3 is also underway, and we expect it will be released in September. There are a couple of other exciting things in the pipeline that will be revealed shortly.

Thank you both so much for your time. It has been such a huge pleasure to meet you both! I’d love to host you in my library at any time! Good luck with the next instalment in this wonderful insight into teaching and learning!

Mr Bambuckle: Thank you, lovely Sue. I think you’d rather enjoy the Himalayas.

Tim: Thanks, Sue! We look forward to visiting your library soon!