Monthly Archives: October 2021

Harry Potter-ween!!

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So of course the piece de resistance of any batch of books, particularly at Halloween, is new HP ones and these two are absolute corkers!!!

Bloomsbury Australia

Harry Potter – Magical Creatures: a movie scrapbook

Warner Bros

September 2021

ISBN9781526644299
ImprintBloomsbury Children’s Books

RRP: $29.99

Any HP fan would love this and if kids, will certainly strip all its special additions out to adorn their walls, school books, lunchboxes whatever. There are all manner of inserts: stickers, art prints, postcards, even a woven cloth badge!!, all of which will absolutely delight any dedicated PotterHead (including this one!).

I don’t think any true fan finds it a disappointment to find out more about how their favourite stories were brought to life on the screen, and even those who are purists who might pretend to disdain a movie version of their darlings, can still appreciate the imagination, creativity and technical skill that goes into kindling life into mythical and fictional creatures.

No matter your favourites (for me, definitely bowtruckles and pygmy puffs – I do prefer my magical beasties small and friendly – although I wouldn’t say no to a niffler), you will derive much pleasure in finding out more about their role and their presentation in the movies. Read the profile on so many of the creatures that are part of the Wizarding World from beautiful and loyal Fawkes the phoenix to much-loved Hedwig as well as the nasty ones like the Basilisk and mountain trolls.

Harry Potter – A Magical Year: The Illustrations of Jim Kay – J. K. Rowling (author), Jim Kay (illustrator)

October 2021

ISBN9781526640871
ImprintBloomsbury Children’s Books

RRP: $45.00

If you have a PotterHead in the family, look no further for their Christmas gift. This is simply magnificent and any devotee will be so thrilled with it, will pore over it for hours and treasure it for years to come.

This is exactly what you might guess from the title. It is what I would describe as an almanac of significant events and memories from the Wizarding World so for each day there is an excerpt or quote as well as the absolutely dazzling illustrations throughout. Just look at these examples:

At the Quidditch World Cup – of course!
Isn’t it beautiful? Of course, Hagrid would want one!

As I browse through this, I am captivated by the sheer beauty and detail of Jim Kay’s illustrations which so exquisitely envisage our cavalcade of favourite characters and recall so many of our memorable moments whether from the first time we read the books or the latest re-reading. Of course for those of us who were among the first readers two decades we have always had our own mental picture of certain people, places or plot details and somehow, when I see Kay’s interpretation, it is always exactly right.

Of particular interest are the additions of insights such as reproductions of original sketches and prepping. These are always fascinating and I have often shown children insights into the process of illustrating and they are always completely enthralled.

I know many of my HP aficionado friends are planning to put this on their shelf – of course, mine is firmly ensconced with its family as you will see below!

No higher recommendation can I give than to say it’s a must – you would rather buy this than eat your next meal and most definitely for any family or friends who deserve a sumptuous gift, you would be on a winner with this in their Christmas stocking.

I cannot thank Bloomsbury (and Sonia) enough for allowing me to wallow in the Wizarding World so often – I appreciate it so very much.

PS: re: “treasure it for years to come” – I went to the Bloomsbury website to check I had all the necessary details and see they had said the same thing! (well to say it independently I’m sure confirms it!).

Don’t panic!! I have more shelf space!! (and if I didn’t I’d buy another bookshelf!)

The Supernatural Survival Guide – George Ivanoff

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Penguin Australia

September 2021

ISBN: 9781761043635

Imprint: Puffin

RRP: $24.99

Here is the third in George’s Survival Guides and it’s not just in our house that each has been so anticipated. This one is totally going to tick boxes for a lot of your readers – and dare I say it, the geeky, the preppers, the curious, the sceptics and the ones who just love weird. In fact, kiddos that would feel very comfortable meeting George himself for a good chinwag as he is so adept at putting the Style into eccentricity – and that is totally a compliment! I couldn’t get the Human Body Survival Guide away from the Kid and this one will be even more firmly held in her grasp (or at least bookshelf). Not for nothing, has she faithfully absorbed the X-Files and anything else supernatural she can find – although I have to say, our foray into ‘yeti sighting’ territory around Noosa and the information that there were serious ‘spotters’ did make her laugh a lot!

George tackles all things spooky in this new guide from UFOs (oh yeah, Roswell rocks!) to Nessie, ghost-busting to spirtualism, the power of the mind and ‘other random weird stuff’. In other words, there is something to intrigue and fascinate just about every reader, no matter their preference in freakish encounters, events or experiences.

I have done a very successful unit of work with Year 8s exploring cryptozoology so this is not just a topic or, indeed, a book just for a primary audience (clearly the Kid confirms that). I have successfully recommended the two previous books to reluctant boy readers, who have come back for more (so come on George, I’m going to need more than three please!).

I’m still dipping in and out of it – which is definitely part of the huge appeal of these books. The design of information being well broken up into fact boxes/files, diagrams, tables, snapshot case studies, dot point lists and ‘post it’ notes is a complete winner and ensures accessibility for any reader. And the cleverness of each book being a different colour theme (yellow, then orange, now lime green) is inspired (plus they look really stunning on your bookshelf -or would if they stayed there long enough).

Love it – a LOT! and I highly recommend it for your readers from curious 8-year-olds up to…well, adults really.

Thanks for another cracker George – I did promise I would write this wearing a foil helmet for protection and then discovered, I’ve run out! I’m a bit anxious that this will not be a secure alternative – please advise!

There’s a Ghost in this House – Oliver Jeffers

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Harper Collins Australia

October 2021

  • ISBN: 9780008298357
  • ISBN 10: 0008298351
  • Imprint: HarperCollins GB
  • List Price: 29.99 AUD
The name Oliver Jeffers has long since become synonymous with innovative and stylish picture books with not only loads of kid appeal but, in equal measures, adult appeal. In fact, my library tech, after seeing this book in processing for our collection, commented ‘I want one for myself, I love it so much!’.

Without doubt books for young readers which invite the children to become part of the whole experience of text and illustrations are far and away the most popular in any setting, in my experience – just think, Herve Tullet, Beck & Matt Stanton, the simplicity of Spot or the stories within story of The Jolly Postman. Add to that fun, the joy of being in on the secret – that which is hidden from the character/s in the book itself and now, you are getting close of why this new picture book is going to make your little kiddos lose their minds with the fun and excitement of discovering theghosts in the spooky house.

A little girl lives in a gloomy atmospheric house, beautifully rendered in mixed media illustrations. She knows about ghosts because she’s heard of them but doesn’t know what they might look like or if they are even real. Some people say they are covered in white sheets…….or at least are white with sort of black holes for eyes. Do they hide in corners or under couches? Where would you look if you wanted to find one?

Cleverly interspersed are transparent tracing paper pages which turned back onto the illustrated spread, reveal the spirited spirits who are taking such mischievous delight in hiding from the protagonist.

I showed this to the too-cool-for-school teenaged Kid this morning and even she exclaimed ‘Oh that’s so cool and fun!’.

So take it from me, this one is a winner – and you may well need at least two copies as it’s going to be in high demand! Highly recommended for some fun and laughs, for readers from around Prep to Year 2 or 3.

Bahahaha! Love this promo!! Well played Oliver Jeffers!!

Happy Halloween!

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I have a few fun titles to share and will be posting the reviews this afternoon and evening. We don’t get many trick-or-treaters around here as it’s a neighbourhood with a lot of older people and not so many kids but I still like to make sure I have some goodies – just in case!! and I do let them know we are T&T friendly! Last year the Kid had fun with her friends over for a picnic party but this year she is going for a swim and a bbq – oh well1

The Magical Bookshop – Katja Frixe. Illustrated by Florentine Prechtel. Translated by Ruth Ahmedzal Kemp.

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Bloomsbury

September 2021

Imprint: OneWorld

ISBN: 9781786075666

RRP: $14.99

Such a sweet and happy book this is! Translated from the German with great dexterity while retaining just the right amount of that quirkiness of expression that European children’s books often have, this is just a delight from start to finish.

Mrs Owl’s bookshop is full of magic and it is Clara’s favourite place to be. She loves her family very much but it can get very noisy in a full house. The bookshop gives Clara a space to just be – curled up in a favourite spot with a favourite book or chatting quietly with Mrs Owl, not to mention Mr King, the mirror, and Gustav, the cat – both of whom also talk! They are the greatest comfort to Clara, especially now when her very best friend forever, Lottie, is moving away. It’s all because Lottie’s father has a new girlfriend and Lottie’s mum does not want to stay in the same town as the new couple.

How can the two girls bear to be separated? It is just not fair. And then there’s Clara’s new teacher who might be pretty but Clara is not convinced of her friendliness. New boy Leo is no substitute for Lottie in the classroom and all in all, things are feeling pretty grim. Then there’s the very worst thing about this new year, is that someone is determined to close down the bookshop with some very nasty tricks and underhanded actions.

It soon becomes apparent that even with Lottie gone, Clara still has friends and those friends need her help badly. Maybe, in doing that, things might just get a little easier to bear in the light of Lottie’s move so far away.

This has such a lovely feel of friendship and community about it and readers from around 7 years upwards will enjoy it for not only the mystery but also the humour and magic.

Highly recommend for independent readers from around Year 2 upwards.

Cato’s Can Can – Juliet Sampson & Katrina Fisher

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Ford St Publishing

August 2021

ISBN: 9781025804751

RRP: $24.95

Juliet’s newest book is just sheer joyfulness on paper! I know she loves her dancing, and so do we in our family – it’s only the current generation who have declined to dance actually *sad face* – so this gorgeous, happy story about Cato the cockatoo who yearns for someone with whom to dance is just perfect. Equally, your kiddos who dance – or even those who just have to move with the music! – will love it as much.

Cato finds plenty of dancers from the local dance school but just as he seems to get close they all disappear. Finally, he is brave enough to go right inside the building and there they all are – the ballet dancers who leap, the rappers who spin and all the rest. All the dancers he has seen in his search, with their actions so like other native birds, welcome him into their class and suddenly – everyone is learning a new dance – the can can!

This is sweet and happy and full of such positive energy, and a lovely affirmation that we can always find kindred spirits if we care to look. I absolutely love Juliet’s comparisons to our various birds and Katrina’s illustrations are just spot on, with the dancing children almost bursting off the pages with their energy.

Highly recommended for your little readers from around Prep upwards – I can well imagine some lively dance sessions both during and after a shared reading. You can also find teaching notes and activities here. [I have in fact, made a similar birdy craft with my kiddos and it’s a huge hit!]

This Much is True – Miriam Margoyles

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Hachette

September 2021

ISBN: 9781529379884

RRP: $49.99

Well, what a rambunctious and joyous ride this memoir has been for my holiday read of the past few days! Miriam did not really cross my radar until I saw her as the Spanish Infanta in Blackadder but that’s really as much as I for one needed – thereafter, I was always keen to see her (or indeed, hear her).

Much of Miriam’s work did not reach us (or certainly not me) being often UK or US theatre-based, or her many voice-over parts but when she did come to my attention it was always noteworthy – whether as the voice of Fly, in Babe, or as Professor Pomona Sprout, Head of Hufflepuff.

🦡

(the best house don’t you know!).

Now at 80, Miriam has taken time to share with us all anecdotes, memories, significant incidents and her dearest people in a memoir that is both profound and hilarious, reflective and insightful, fascinating and vulgar – in fact, everything you would expect from this much-loved and well-respected veteran of radio, stage, TV and film.

In more recent years I have relished her documentaries which have been both well-conceived and brilliantly executed with integrity and empathy as well as her interviews – many of which have left me gasping for breath after all the laughter.

Miriam takes us on a journey from her middle-class upbringing as the only child of a respected Jewish couple, to her schooldays as the naughtiest girl at Oxford High School, onto Cambridge where she took her degree in English and then her first steps in acting, behind a radio mike with many of the greats of the day. She began making an impressive living with her many voice-over roles whether as one of the female roles in Monkey (stuff of legends that!), PG Tips or the Cadbury Caramel rabbit. Later, her career diverted to many varied roles in all kinds of genres, many to critical acclaim including her BAFTA award for Supporting Actor in The Age of Innocence. Her recognition has not been confined to her industry. In 2002 she received the OBE for Services to Drama, an award she was chuffed to receive despite some contrary political views.

Her gossipy insights into her encounters with the famous and great – as well as the famous and less-than-great – are screamingly funny and clearly her skill as a raconteur translates as easily in the written word as in her spoken interviews.

This is an absolute pearler of a read but, fair warning, if you are squeamish about ‘language’ or straightforward commentaries of the sexual kind, this is likely not a read for you. Fortunately, I don’t know anyone like that, and my friends and family are all clamouring to read this and will love it as much as I have.

Highly recommended for anyone interested in memoirs or admirers of this icon of British acting.

PS: Great interview

The Amazing Case of Dr Ward – Jackie Kerin/Tull Suwannakit

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March 2021

Ford St Publishing

RRP: $16.99

ISBN: 9781925804706

When a true life story can be brought to life in an engaging picture book it’s a real bonus and this particular book has so many applications for rich discussion and learning experiences; science, HASS, innovation, and invention. Hands up all those who have had a terrarium in their home – or made them with children….yep, me too. And yet, I had never heard of the man who conceived of this amazing way of growing plants. Nathaniel Ward was fascinated with growing plants, particularly unusual ones and was determined to both see and grow the exotic plants that voyagers in the 19th century were seeing and attempting to bring back to England. The long sea journeys, weather and vermin made is almost impossible for healthy specimens to arrive intact and through a chance discovery, Ward saw that plants can grow in a sealed glass container successfully for indefinite periods of time.

Dr Ward’s curiosity and innovation enabled the transport of many of the plants – both decorative and useful – to other shores and while, with hindsight, we have come to understand that some of those introduced to Australia have been a disaster for our native habitats, there is also no doubt that the production of fruit and other crops has been an important part of our agricultural landscape and economy.

Most intriguing of all is the concept of simple wondering and experimentation that lead to something now so commonplace that we accept its presence without question, and it is this, in my opinion, that your young readers will connect with the most. Reading this even to your upper primary children will provoke so many learning opportunities and I highly recommend it for your kiddos from around six years upwards.

Good Night, Ivy Bright – Ben Long/Andrew Plant

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Ford St Publishing

April 2021

RRP: $16.99

ISBN: 9781925804720

This is a glorious book with both a joyful rollicking rhyming text from author, Ben Long, and (as always) sublime illustrations from Andrew Plant. On the surface it is a splendid introduction to both colours and colour mixing but it goes much deeper than that. To be honest, I can’t say it better than Ben himself:

What I didn’t realise while I was writing this story was the importance of the moose.
Everyone needs a moose. We all have times when we’re challenged – when we are tired,
troubled, or in tears. And it’s at those times when we need someone to sit down next to us
and be there for us, just like the moose in this story. For some people, the moose might be
their mum. For others it might be their dad, sister, brother, friend, or all of the above.
Similarly, sometimes we need to be the moose for someone else. It’s a good reminder to ask
for help when you need it, and to offer help when it’s needed.

Just imagine using this with your class and investigating all the artistic possibilities but at the same time inviting discussion around when we might need a ‘moose’ in our lives. It would take very little encouragement to generate the most valuable of conversations and giving small humans the reassurances they need, as well as putting into their minds the possibility that they might, in turn, be someone’s ‘moose’.

I just love this and can easily envisage it in either your library session or a classroom setting – especially since there are brilliant teaching notes provided!

Highly recommended for little readers from around five years upwards.