Monthly Archives: February 2019

Kensy and Max #3: Undercover – Jacqueline Harvey

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9780143791904

Penguin Random House

9780143791904

March 5, 2019

Random House Australia Children’s

 

$16.99

Jacqueline Harvey has done it again with another super episode in her cracking new series about the two intrepid twins, Kensington and Maxim aka Kensy and Max.  The children’s parents are still MiA but news of them is filtering through and they know they are getting closer to unravelling the mystery of the kids’ grandparents who disappeared before the twins were born. After a couple of rather nasty incidents in London, the twins, Fitz and Song are sent off to Sydney by their indomitable Granny Cordelia, head of Pharos – the security organization with which the whole family is involved.

The twins are detailed to befriend a brother and sister at their very new posh school to prevent a possible kidnapping.  Neither is particularly impressed either with their targets or the school itself and would struggle indeed if not for their other new friend, a would-be spy named Curtis.  But what seems like a very straightforward mission at first quickly becomes more convoluted as the twins realise that somehow the fate of their parents is connected with the less than charming Dash Chalmers. The children must employ all their new spy strategies as well as their natural aptitudes to successfully resolve this new and potentially deadly situation.

It’s another superb action filled adventure which will be equally enjoyed by both boys and girls from around ten years upwards. Kensy and Max are both extremely likeable characters each with their own personality foibles that make them even more relatable. Each adventure is also liberally sprinkled with humour and lighter moments to leaven the seriousness of the ‘spy’ factor and of course, the decoding of each chapter heading also provides an extra soupçon of fun.  This series, as with Jacqueline’s previous much-loved books, focuses on important themes of family bonds, loyalty, trust, friendship, courage and resourcefulness.

Highly recommended for mid-primary students upwards – and you’d best get at least two copies!

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Utterly Uber Usborne #2

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Lift-the-Flap Engineering

engineering

Harper Collins

ISBN: 9781474943659

ISBN 10: 1474943659

Imprint: Usborne – GB

December 2018

List Price: 19.99 AUD

A kid is never too old for a lift-the-flap book and that has been evidenced by the satisfying reaction of a little boy I know who has been fascinated by the ‘Bridges’ book in this series. I am super confident he’s going to love this one just as well!

Creative engineering has been a bit of a hot topic for me in recent times for my after school Wednesday afternoon group which, when I first took it over was stuck in an endless rut of Code Club, but has now expanded to many variations on the STEAM movement. At present my group (ages vary from 7/8 to 12/13 and both boys and girls) are attempting to build functioning ferris wheels using (mostly) popsticks. It is quite entertaining to watch (ok I do need to get out more) but also a fabulous exercise for them in problem-solving, trial-and-error, care with materials and construction and collaboration.

This book covers topics such a flight, robots, gadgets and machines, helping people and the world and future possibilities. As with others in the series the pages are sturdy enough to withstand much handling and flap-lifting (think giant board book).

All in all these are a terrific way to get younger readers interested in topics which will intrigue and inspire them.

 

1000 Things Under the Sea – Jessica Greenwell/Nikki Dyson

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1000sea

 

 

ISBN: 9781474951333

ISBN 10: 1474951333

Imprint: Usborne – GB

List Price: 19.99 AUD

 

1000 Animals – Jessica Greenwell/Nikki Dyson

1000animals

ISBN: 9781474951340

ISBN 10: 1474951341

Imprint: Usborne – GB

August 2018

List Price: 19.99 AUD

There’s not a great deal to say about these two beautiful books except just that. Each one features double spreads filled with clearly captioned images of creatures found in various habitats. The underwater version is sub-divided into categories such as Coral Reefs, Warm Waters, Deep Dark Seas and Lots of Jellyfish while the animal edition covers living things from bugs to farm animals in a similar styled array.

Additionally each features an index and the Sea book also contains pages on treasures found by scuba diving and underwater machines.  They are colourful and very visually appealing as well as being a virtual encyclopedia of their individual themes.

Children from as young as three will delight in poring over these time and time again as they discover new favourites.

 

 

Utterly Uber Usborne

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Y’all know I’m a bit of a non-fiction geek ever since childhood so when I get a pile of Usborne books for all ages my nerdy heart just sings!

Here are some of the riches I have been exploring of late.

 

True Stories: Polar Adventures – Paul Dowswell

polar

Harper Collins

Imprint: Usborne

November 2018

9781474948135

$9.99

All the great names are here: Peary, Amundsen, Scott, Shackleton, Fiennes as well as some perhaps not so well known. For many children this will be new history as it seems that the stories of these intrepid and courageous explorers are no longer much talked about. Perhaps as the growing awareness of climate change, and disturbances to the Earth’s extremities impinges on  oung scientists it is timely to re-visit those who first made research and study in such places possible.

With eight chapters beginning with a general overview of the polar regions and geography and moving right up to the present day this will offer children an opportunity to vicariously explore the harsh and often dangerous polar regions and realise the extreme bravery of those who led the way in such expeditions.

A terrific read for kiddos from around ten years upwards.

 

Business for Beginners

business

ISBN: 9781474940139

ISBN 10: 1474940137

Imprint: Usborne – GB

List Price: 19.99 AUD

Lara Bryan

Illustrated by Kellan Stover

With Rose Hall

 

Business studies are no longer just the province of secondary students with so many primary schools setting up entrepreneur units very successfully. So this book designed for younger readers is the perfect introduction to these burgeoning business tycoons.

 

Beginning with an outline of what we mean by business and commerce the book divides its information into chapters such as: How to Start a Business, Keeping Track of Money, Making a Product and Growing the Business. Content covers diversifying, advertising, business failures, being a leader and much much more.

 

Colourfully illustrated and with the text broken up well into manageable chunks aided by comic strip styling, speech bubbles, fact boxes this is an easy-to-read and comprehensible as well as comprehensive ‘textbook’ for the young person aspiring to be a successful business owner.

 

Highly recommended for readers from around ten years upwards with a special slant towards those who are looking to establish their own enterprise.

 

100 Things to Know About Numbers, Computers & Coding

100things

ISBN: 9781474942997

ISBN 10: 1474942997

Imprint: Usborne – GB

November 2018

List Price: 19.99 AUD

When was the webcam invented and why? Do imaginary numbers exist? What is fuzzy logic? Find the answers these questions about the amazing world of numbers, computers and coding, along with loads of other curious, amazing and mind-boggling facts, in this eye-catching book that is absolutely bursting with information.

Oh yes we all know what the current catchcries are don’t we? And seemingly there are plethora books on the topics of coding and computational thinking for all ages. This one at least moves behind the actual ‘how to’ aspect and gives readers a very thorough exploration of all manner of topics from original computing, fascinating maths facts, hacking, successes and failures and more.

If you have kids who are into any of the coding clubs or this is a topic for your classroom there will be no doubt be many who will want to pick it up and discover new information.  We do know that the processes of coding will not be done by these youngsters in the future but there is no doubt, as I tell my classes, that their ability to think computationally will stand them in good stead in many situations as they grow older.

 

Recommended for readers from ten years upwards.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Great Escape – Felice Arena

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escape

Penguin Random House

9780143794042

March 2019

Puffin

$16.99

I have never been a student of post-war modern history so my knowledge of the Cold War has always been minimal – sketchy even – but, as serendipity would have it, not one but two of my most recent audio ‘reads’ on my daily commute have referenced this period extensively and in great detail.

Now Felice Arena has brought this era to life for young readers with a compelling narrative based on facts. Peter is swept up in the swift and cold-hearted division of Berlin when his parents and younger sister are in the West on a day visit,  while he has stayed home with his grandparents in the East. In just one day the barriers become impassable and implacable with hundreds of families and couples completely sundered from each other.

For Peter this separation is utterly unbearable and from the first he begins to plot and plan how he might escape over the newly-erected barricades before the Wall becomes a concrete reality. In the course of his pursuit of a workable method of fleeing he encounters two new friends, Elke and Otto, both of whom are also trying to get to their families. The ingenuity of these other children is truly inspiring, demonstrating the lengths to which those who have been cut off from their loved ones would reach, despite the menacing threats of soldiers, guns and savage dogs.

Peter’s growing distress over his isolation but also his increasing worry over his aged and frail grandparents and their care is a dilemma which he must resolve before he can even contemplate action. Life in East Berlin is fraught with danger – the Stasi (secret police) always on the lookout for “traitors”. It almost seems inconceivable that any power would create such a heinous division of family and friends – but then it seems that the idea of building walls has not yet gone out of fashion and many will recognise the correlation and repugnancy of such action resonating in modern situations.

This is a powerful demonstration of the bonds of family and the courage of those who risk all to attain freedom from cruel and callous oppressors.

I cannot recommend it highly enough for readers from around ten years upwards and think it would be a particularly apt read for older students who are embarking on the study of this period of history.

Fish Kid and the Lizard Ninja – Kylie Howarth

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fishkid

 

 

Walker Books

ISBN: 9781760650810
Imprint: Walker Books Australia: February 1, 2019
Australian RRP: $14.99
New Zealand RRP: $16.99

If you have readers who love a good fun story with a bit of interesting information plus a smattering of a conservation message this will be a huge hit.  The first in a new series Kylie Howarth has set up readers for a hilarious romp following the adventures of Fish Kid.

Bodhi is not at all interested in the ocean or the creatures that inhabit it -especially the scary ones. But he has little chance to escape either with a father who is a marine biologist and a mother who is an underwater photographer. He is particularly unhappy at being trapped in a boat in the Galapagos Islands with a very annoying skipper’s daughter who keeps pranking him

When Emely persuades Bodhi to drink a special smoothie she’s made – mentioning the mango but omitting the sea cucumber and jelly fish ingredients – Bodhi has a terrible allergic reaction which ends up with them both overboard and stranded on a lonely island. But there has also been a more long term effect. Bodhi can now swim like a super fish and stay submerged for simply ages! With no sign of being rescued, the pair engineers their own escape accompanied by a rather large and ugly, though seemingly intelligent, marine iguana. Their mission is a success and along the way they manage to alert the authorities to a sea cucumber poaching racket.

Throughout the text are scattered fact pages about the various sea creatures which Bodhi and his parents encounter which offers readers a fantastic opportunity to increase their knowledge of these. Also on offer is the underlying repeated message about preserving our marine habitats.

All in all this a great package for readers from around eight years upwards.

Activity pack: Fish_Kid_Activity_Kit_FINAL_WEB.01

Sampler: Fish_Kid_Sampler

Love Lie Repeat – Catherine Greer

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loveliverepeat

Penguin

9780143791225

March 5, 2019

$19.99

I’ve mentioned before that I have in recent times been somewhat disenchanted with many of the YA novels that have come my way. There have been a few exceptions. This one, debut novel and all, is an absolute corker!

Annie and her ‘island girls’ (the kind you take with you to a desert island), Ashlin and Ruby have been a threesome forever. They are bonded so closely that nothing could ever tear them apart. While their family lives may be complex in one sense with divorces, absent fathers, family secrets they lead privileged lives with money, fashion and solid support.

When Ashlin’s hitherto unknown half-brother, Trip, arrives from Canada, asked to leave his school due to some unexplained arson attacks, the girls’ previously tight bonds of friendship begin to fray in varying degrees. Annie’s burgeoning relationship with Trip seems destined to follow some kind of roller-coaster experience as she repeatedly trusts him, rejects him, reconciles with him. Ashlin’s secret sexual identity begins to reveal itself while Ruby, ignoring Annie’s obvious interest in Trip, starts throwing herself at the boy with little regard for her friend.

Into this mix of emotional angst are the girls’ usual activities of sport, singing, holidays and fashion but all of these seem to be overcast by some sinister atmosphere and more frighteningly, inexplicable random fires.

Greer has put together an intense and gripping narrative with many twists and turns and the ending is not to be missed.

Given its fairly adult themes this is not a book I would recommend for your younger teens but I have no hesitation in promoting it to senior secondary students.

Truly Tan #7: Baffled – Jen Storer. Illustrated by Claire Robertson

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tan

Harper Collins

ISBN: 9780733334139
ISBN-10: 073333413X
Series: Truly Tan
October 2018
Imprint: ABC Books

RRP $16.99

Can I just say I truly love Tan? Yes sirree, I do! Since the first one I ever read I found this series very appealing and loads of fun. There is a real trend for detective/mystery/spy stories for younger readers but they don’t all quite hit the spot for the much younger ones and this one does.  Kiddos from around 7 years old who are able readers will find these readily engaging and accessible.  But it’s not just the mystery aspect which is so attractive. The beautiful, loving and plain old-fashioned fun of Tan’s family and friends’ interactions creates a narrative that is very easy to love.

In this new episode Tan and her bestie Gloria continues their adventures ; with a school outing – at night, by torchlight to some of the creepier parts of Peppercorn Valley, helping out at Gloria’s parents’ shop after an accident and discovering the mystery of some very odd graffiti.

The very strangest part of the adventure is trying to unravel exactly what is going on at Journey’s End, the spookiest house in the town, and why the old ladies have those strange symbols all over the house. Are the old dears ok? Tan and Gloria are determined to find out the truth and make sure they are.

I love Tan’s quirky diary entries (always informing us of which pen she is using!) and the elucidation of more unusual vocabulary – what an opportunity to extend language!

There is such a wonderful ‘feel good’ aspect to these stories with lots of solid values woven throughout – loyalty, honesty, friendship, compassion and empathy.

Highly recommended for readers from around Year 3 upwards.

52 Mondays – Anna Ciddor

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Allen & Unwin

ISBN: 978176052348052mondays

Imprint: A & U Children

Pub Date: March 2019

RRP $14.99

 

It would appear that Anna Ciddor and I must be of the same vintage as this fictionalised account of a year of her childhood and the many references to commonplace 60s objects and events resonate so readily. While my own experience was growing up in suburban Sydney it would seem that suburban Melbourne was not so far removed after all.

Young Anna describes a year in her everyday life as the oldest of three girls in a Jewish family, all of whom relocated following the war. After reading a particular book Anna becomes infatuated with the idea of owning her own antique doll and her loving parents go above and beyond to make that dream come true. As the year passes with almost weekly visits to the local antiques auction house, Anna relates the family celebrations, the playtimes, school and the house which clearly is bursting with love.

It is a delightful story which I consumed in one sitting and as well as allowing readers a glimpse into a childhood spent in a family of a different culture, also invites a closer knowledge of daily life in a long ago decade when owning a TV was still fairly uncommon, children were not just satisfied but excited by far less in the way of outings and material possessions and family life was valued.

Highly recommended to readers from around eight years upwards.

 

Mr Bambuckle’s Remarkables On the Lookout: #3 – Tim Harris

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9780143793144

February 5, 2019

Puffin

RRP: $14.99

 

Even those who have not been privileged enough to sip Himalayan tea with Mr Bambuckle are completely taken with the adventures of his class 12B. The continual struggle to defeat the pressures put upon them by short-sighted school admin individuals and to foster each child blossoming into their full potential is real.

When 12B goes to camp they are eagerly anticipating a real adventure, particularly when it appears that their campsite is ‘off the radar’ so to speak. Even though there are the usual hiccups with students not completely in sync with each other, it’s shaping up well. That is until, Miss Frost turns up. The snarky new deputy seems intent to find fault with every little thing.

Still, 12B with Mr Bambuckle’s backing and natural flair seem determined to prove Miss Frost’s dire prognostications wrong and equally committed to supporting their much loved teacher.

 

But when Vex goes missing it seems that all is doomed to become a swan song for Mr Bambuckle. It’s up to 12B to save the day and their teacher.

 

Tim Harris’ recounts of the adventures of Mr B and 12B are not only highly amusing but have much to offer young readers about loyalty, friendship, empathy and honesty.

 

If your kidlets have not yet caught onto the Bambuckle  phenomenon make sure you buy this and the first two in the series and watch them roll in the aisles laughing.

 

Highly recommended for readers from around eight years upwards.

 

47 Degrees – Justin D’Ath

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47

Penguin Australia

9780143789079

January 8, 2019

Puffin

RRP:  $16.99

Australia has more than its fair share of natural disasters. One only has to think about the events of the last week or so with the terrible floods in North Queensland and the raging fires in Tasmania. Arguably one of the very worst of these was the Black Saturday fires in Victoria. Ten years ago the country, and indeed the world, was rocked by the news of the ferociously devastating fires in Victoria which claimed 173 lives, cost millions in damage and untold mental anguish for so many.

Justin D’Ath has drawn on his own experience (losing his home for a start) to create a narrative in which readers can immerse themselves safely while relating and empathising with those caught up in the horror. Homes, possessions, pets….family…..so much at risk and so much loss by so many.

Keelie has not lived in the district long. She and her family re-located from New Zealand and are really still finding their way in their new community and environs. Her dad has done all the right things to safeguard their home but when Mum and little brother have to go to Melbourne on a medical emergency, Keelie is not feeling confident with Dad’s plans. She is quite naturally worried about their home and their safety but her horse is her biggest concern immediately.

When the worst happens and the winds change and the roaring dragon of fire encroaches, Keelie and her dad plus dogs must quickly abandon their home for safety.

This is a gripping tale of courage, friendship, compassion and loss to which young readers will readily connect. We all hope and pray to avoid such terrible and ravaging events but the knowledge that so many are ready to step up and take care of those who are at risk is a reassuring prospect. As Australians I believe we are particularly good at this. We may be offhand and blasé about much but when the worst happens, we rally and support and fight back.

What a fantastic read this is! I highly recommend it to you for readers from around ten years upwards.

 

*In memory of those who lost their lives and those who fought on to save those they could*

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