Monthly Archives: June 2021

Alice-Miranda in Egypt [Alice-Miranda #20] – Jacqueline Harvey

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Penguin Australia

  •  June 2021
  • ISBN: 9781760891046
  • Imprint: Puffin
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 416
  • RRP: $16.99

Put it on your ‘new books’ display and stand well back because the danger of stampede is very real! Twenty books on and everyone’s favourite little schoolgirl is still guaranteed to excite your readers – and not just your junior readers either. I know several older girls – including one who started university this year! – who are still dedicated A-M fans!

In this new adventure Alice-Miranda and her buddies are off on the trip of a lifetime, as part of the Queen’s Colours leadership program; to Egypt, the land of hidden tombs, ancient monuments, fascinating culture and, of course, camels and palm trees. But the cultural and historical aspects of the trip are not the only exciting highlights. As always it seems, wherever Alice-Miranda goes, mysteries follow, and along with those, some other trifling life problems – such as two boys (unsuccessfully) vying for her attention.

Alice-Miranda has several threads to unravel in this sojourn among the sands; the financial problems of the school and Miss Reedy’s anguish over being the possible cause of these, the extremely odd behaviour of the supposed expert standing in for renowned Dr Hassam, Minister for Antiquities, the suspicious actions of Masud, son of the group’s very knowledgeable guide and the puzzle of how precious artefacts are being smuggled out of the country. Really, it’s all pretty much bread-and-butter to our little dynamo – even though she and bestie Millie wonder aloud if they will ever have a ‘quiet’ holiday!- and readers will enjoy the fast-paced action which is interspersed with rich historic and cultural details.

Again Alice-Miranda demonstrates the resourcefulness, intelligence and empathy that we all associate with her character and which endears her so much to her readers. There are also some really top moments in the narrative which bring strong emotions to the fore as what I would call the “Alice-Miranda effect” influences the actions of her team mates, which will really resonate with readers.

There really is never any need to ‘promote’ a new Jacqueline Harvey book and particularly this series – they simply fly off the shelves and are always in high demand – however, you will no doubt still want to book talk it with your other new titles, if only to watch the scramble afterwards to be the first to grab it!

As always, highly recommended for your readers from around Year 4 upwards.

Endangered Animal Tales 1: Coco, the Fish with Hands – Aleesah Darlison. Illustrated by Mel Matthews.

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Penguin Random House

June 2021

  • ISBN: 9781760899226
  • Imprint: Puffin
  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 32
  • RRP: $19.99

Yesterday at the EdSummit conference Brisbane, I had the great joy of hearing the amazing Aleesah Darlison deliver a lively and engaging presentation called “Saving the Environment through Story”. Uber-talented Aleesah has long been a huge advocate for the environment and has repeatedly taken up the cause of various creatures through her creative work. And what better time to write this review than following that experience on this, World Environment Day!!

This new series from Penguin/Puffin is going to be a real winner with little people, their parents and educators as it explores hitherto not-so-well-known Aussie critters.

First up is the adorable and really very special spotted handfish which is found only in the Derwent estuary near Hobart, Tasmania. Young children will love to hear about Coco and while this is not a narrative in the traditional sense it has a strong sense of story mixed in with the fascinating facts. These sweet and interesting little fish are critically endangered and it is imperative that we all do what we can to protect and conserve the most humblest and smallest of creatures – because they all have their important role to play.

Highlighting the information which is presented in such a palatable and easily accessible way are the absolutely tremendous illustrations from Mel Matthews. Having read the book last weekend, and then listening to Aleesah yesterday my mind immediately raced as to the many possibilities for activities, inquiry and action that one could undertake with kiddos. For those who are looking to focusing on Australian species and taking an active stance on conversation this series is going to be absolute gold, in my opinion.

I’m so thrilled to be able to count Aleesah amongst my literary friends – her talent, generosity of spirit and genuine commitment to educating and encouraging children to take up the challenge of protecting our fragile environment.

Read more about the series here and find teaching resources here – our junior library is about to populate a gifted fish tank with inhabitants and I think this is going to be a perfect accompaniment to that real-life activity.

I cannot recommend this highly enough and am so looking forward to seeing the forthcoming series titles!!! Well done Aleesah on another evident success!!

The Boy Who Stepped Through Time – Anna Ciddor

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Allen & Unwin

ISBN:9781760526443

Publisher:A&U Children’s

Imprint:A & U Children

Pub Date:June 2021

RRP: $16.99

Once again Anna Ciddor has crafted an historical narrative that will both entertain her readers with humour, drama, terrific characters and exciting storylines, and inform them with fascinating, and no doubt, previously unknown facts about life in Ancient Rome. Perry, leaves his family holiday in modern-day France behind , when he accidentally travels back 1700 years to a Gaul occupied by the Romans, . While that in itself would be quite shocking and unsettling, it is even more disturbing for the boy to discover he is a merely a lowly slave, in the household of a quite wealthy family.

Whisked from crumbling ruins in the 21st century, where his family are enjoying a festival celebrating the Roman history of the locale, Perry finds himself in the original Villa Rubia, and – due to his mum’s choice of festival costume for him – mistaken for the new slave boy, expected to carry out the most menial of tasks, sleep in what is basically just a hut and eat the most unappetising of foods, including mice!

Apart from his complete ignorance in not only the ways of ancient Roman households but obviously also the expectations of a slave boy, Perry struggles in his forced adaptation to his new circumstances as he attempts to find a way to return to the present. But his longing to be back with his family is tempered by his growing attachment to his new friends, particularly Camilla Valentia, daughter of the household – about whom, Perry has foreknowledge of her fate, having seen her tomb during his present-day holiday.

Your readers will love this for the adventure and the friendship theme but also the fascinating tidbits about life in ancient Rome – be it wine-making, daily meals, dress, the vernacular expressions, school or other customs. They will also feel deeply Perry’s frustration as he tries every conceivable option to get back to his real life and family.

I have already talked this one up with my ChocLit group – coincidentally our Year 7s are just finishing off their first History unit of inquiry on ancient civilisations so they were rather excited about it. Highly recommended for your readers from around Year 5 upwards.