Category Archives: Adventure

Never Say Die – Alex Rider

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Walker Books Australia

ISBN: 9781406377040
June 1, 2017
Australian RRP: $16.99
New Zealand RRP: $18.99

How absolutely apt that as we mourn the loss of the suavest Bond of them all – vale Sir Roger Moore – the new Alex Rider explodes into our reading lives with every bit of excitement that we have come to anticipate from the teenage spy.

When Anthony said that Alex’ career had come to an end we were all pretty sad. But unexpectedly, three years after what we thought was the last book in the series, the youthful hero is back. Following on from Scorpia Rising and the defeat of the international crime ring, Alex is living in America pretty unhappily, especially as he is still grieving for Jack Starbright, believed killed.

But the world has never had a shortage of villains (as we see so clearly in the news) and from Scorpia’s ashes have risen the Grimaldi brothers – eccentric and evil identical twins every bit worthy of being in an Ian Fleming book. When Alex receives a cryptic line of email he is positive that Jack is still alive and abandons America, his host family and school to find her.

From Egypt to Saint Tropez to a lonely corner of Wales, the action is super-charged and electrifying. Twists and turns abound as we know they will from such a master crime storyteller as the Grimaldis’ ingenious plot is revealed.

While some things have changed  – Mrs Jones is now head of MI6 replacing Alan Blunt – familiar faces are back, like Ben Daniels, Alex’ especial side-kick.

Alex Rider is back: back home, back in MI6 and the thick of espionage, back with his loyal Jack Starbright and back in our reading lists. Bring on some more please Anthony! This is a dose of adrenaline that we all love!

As you are aware there is quite a bit of violence in these but it’s not horribly graphic. I recommend them to my older primary students and upwards.

By the way, the whole series has been re-issued with some very spiffy new ‘dinner jackets’ – you can predict that they are already on my ‘to order’ list!

This one comes with my highest recommendation for thrill-seekers and I eagerly await more from Anthony’s fertile imagination.

Bronze Bird Tower: Dragonkeeper #6 – Carole Wilkinson

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dkeeper

Walker Books

ISBN: 9781925381412
Imprint: Black Dog Books
March 2017
Australian RRP: $24.99

In 2002 Carole Wilkinson introduced us to a small downtrodden Chinese girl with no name and a marvellous world of beautiful, mysterious and terrible dragons. Set in ancient China where dragon hunters and warring feudal lords, oppression of the miserable poor and contemptuous dismissal of females were commonplace, the girl who became Ping the honoured dragon keeper is a heroic figure.

Six books later 400 years have passed in the history of the dragons and their keepers and now Ping’s descendant Tao, a young Buddhist boy partly trained as a monk, and Kai, the dragon Ping cared for as a hatchling are escaping from the dreaded Jilong, avowed dragon hater, and his horde of nomads.

They finally reach their destination, the dragon haven, where Kai is destined to fulfil his role as leader and Tao hopes to become dragon keeper for all dragons only to find much is amiss with the remaining dragons. A mysterious sickness afflicts the beasts and that is only the beginning of the many trials Tao must overcome before he, and Kai, can attain their desire and destiny.

There are, as usual, so many beautiful moments and themes in this latest instalment – the strength that resides within even the smallest of sentient beings, the connections between all living things, the loyalty and faith of friends, acceptance of differences and more. So much richness in Carole’s writing always has readers hooked in readers from the very start and so many of us have eagerly anticipated each forthcoming new adventure.

This is ostensibly (is that a perhaps Carole?) the final in the saga but we can all hope that we may yet get to find out if the future of the dragons is assured.

Read more about the series and Tao’s guide to dragons here.

Highly recommended for readers from around 8 years upwards.

The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart: Stephanie Burgis. Illustrated by Freya Harris

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Bloomsbury

March 2017

ISBN 9781408880319

RRP $14.99

 

It’s often not easy being the youngest in the family particularly when your older siblings are considered by all to be brilliant and talented. Arguably it’s even harder to be the baby of a dragon family without the hardened scales or working wings that would allow you to venture outside the family mountain cave.

Aventurine is not the most compliant of youngsters though and one day when she is really fed up with what she sees as the over-protective care of her mum and grandfather as well as the annoying superiority of her older brother, she takes it upon herself to squeeze through her usual spy hole in the mountainside and escape.

Emerging from her rocky nest with scratched and damaged wings and feet she begins to doubt the wisdom of her rebelliousness but presses on regardless. She soon realises it is not so easy to catch your own food or even know where you are and when she comes across a young man brewing chocolate she thinks she has finally found an easy target. Taking each other by surprise the youth offers her chocolate instead of him and Aventurine is immediately smitten by the overwhelming deliciousness of the concoction and, too late, realises that she has been tricked. Drinking the hot chocolate of a food mage she is transformed into a human girl and now finds herself even more helpless and inexperienced.

With an undaunted fiery heart, as per her family’s heritage, Aventurine undertakes the most amazing adventure of her life and winds up in the big city where despite all obstacles she becomes an apprentice chocolatier.

Overcoming tremendous twists and turns of fate, Aventurine finds herself with a second ‘family’ and her true passion – making chocolate. Naturally, her dragon family are not going to take the disappearance of their youngest hatchling easily and the climax of the tale sees a showdown between suspicious and ignorant townsfolk and the might of the dragons. Of course, this mighty girl reveals her true nature by saving the day – and her new hoard.

This is such an original story. It was an absolute pleasure to read and Aventurine is not the only strong female character to bring the adventure to life which makes it all the more appealing. Feisty females, enchantments, nasty villains, yummy chocolate, friendship, loyalty and love – this book has it all.

This will be getting a hugely positive book talk for the girls in my library.

Highly recommended for readers from around 9 years upwards.

RFDS Adventures #4 & #5 – George Ivanoff

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Fast Flight (RFDS #4)

Random House Australia

ISBN: 9780857988829

Published: 02/05/2016

Imprint: Random House Australia Children’s

RRP $14.99

 

Young Dillon is pretty much like any other boy of his age. He loves his cricket, his room is always pretty messy and he likes hanging with his best mate Jay. Pretty much the only thing that sets Dillon apart is that he has a rare genetic disorder called Crigler-Najjar Syndrome. Less than one in a million people are born with this and the essence is that it affects Dillon’s liver to a point of such damage that his only option is a liver transplant.

Finally the time arrives after so long waiting but the problem is that it’s the middle of the night when the call comes and Dillon needs to get from Adelaide to Melbourne as fast as possible. Enter the RFDS – not just the saviours of the remote outback and bush patients. Inspired by a true case this is another riveting read in the fantastic series.

 

Medical Mission (#5)

 

medicalmission

ISBN: 9780857988805

Published: 02/05/2016

Imprint: Random House Australia Children’s

 

RRP $14.99

Just outside Coober Pedy a RFDS plane lands in the middle of the night at a large cattle station.  Help has arrived to help Josh’s mum with the delivery of their new baby. But when complications arise Mum and bub are airlifted to hospital and Josh is left with his Dad to help things keep on track on the property. Josh can’t help worrying about his mother and baby sister especially when no one is telling him anything.  One thing he knows is that the RFDS is

a vital service for those in remote locations and he and his classmates initiate a fundraiser for the organisation. Just as things seem to be going along okay, Josh is bitten by a deadly snake and it’s his turn to be airlifted. Lucky medical intervention has come a long way with snakebite since the early days and Josh’s outcome – as well as that of his family – is a positive one.

 

This is such a worthy series to add to your collection. The true-to-life stories, the information carefully woven in, the compelling tension of emergency situations and the opportunity for readers to ‘walk a mile in another kid’s shoes’ are all superb reasons. Of course, the fact that sales support the RFDS are another bonus.

Highly recommended for readers from around ten upwards.

RFDS Adventures #4 & #5 – George Ivanoff

 

Fast Flight (RFDS #4)

Random House Australia

ISBN: 9780857988829

Published: 02/05/2016

Imprint: Random House Australia Children’s

RRP $14.99

 

Young Dillon is pretty much like any other boy of his age. He loves his cricket, his room is always pretty messy and he likes hanging with his best mate Jay. Pretty much the only thing that sets Dillon apart is that he has a rare genetic disorder called Crigler-Najjar Syndrome. Less than one in a million people are born with this and the essence is that it affects Dillon’s liver to a point of such damage that his only option is a liver transplant.

Finally the time arrives after so long waiting but the problem is that it’s the middle of the night when the call comes and Dillon needs to get from Adelaide to Melbourne as fast as possible. Enter the RFDS – not just the saviours of the remote outback and bush patients. Inspired by a true case this is another riveting read in the fantastic series.

 

Medical Mission (#5)

 

 

ISBN: 9780857988805

Published: 02/05/2016

Imprint: Random House Australia Children’s

 

RRP $14.99

Just outside Coober Pedy a RFDS plane lands in the middle of the night at a large cattle station.  Help has arrived to help Josh’s mum with the delivery of their new baby. But when complications arise Mum and bub are airlifted to hospital and Josh is left with his Dad to help things keep on track on the property. Josh can’t help worrying about his mother and baby sister especially when no one is telling him anything.  One thing he knows is that the RFDS is

a vital service for those in remote locations and he and his classmates initiate a fundraiser for the organisation. Just as things seem to be going along okay, Josh is bitten by a deadly snake and it’s his turn to be airlifted. Lucky medical intervention has come a long way with snakebite since the early days and Josh’s outcome – as well as that of his family – is a positive one.

 

This is such a worthy series to add to your collection. The true-to-life stories, the information carefully woven in, the compelling tension of emergency situations and the opportunity for readers to ‘walk a mile in another kid’s shoes’ are all superb reasons. Of course, the fact that sales support the RFDS are another bonus.

Highly recommended for readers from around ten upwards.

RFDS Adventures #4 & #5 – George Ivanoff

 

Fast Flight (RFDS #4)

Random House Australia

ISBN: 9780857988829

Published: 02/05/2016

Imprint: Random House Australia Children’s

RRP $14.99

 

Young Dillon is pretty much like any other boy of his age. He loves his cricket, his room is always pretty messy and he likes hanging with his best mate Jay. Pretty much the only thing that sets Dillon apart is that he has a rare genetic disorder called Crigler-Najjar Syndrome. Less than one in a million people are born with this and the essence is that it affects Dillon’s liver to a point of such damage that his only option is a liver transplant.

Finally the time arrives after so long waiting but the problem is that it’s the middle of the night when the call comes and Dillon needs to get from Adelaide to Melbourne as fast as possible. Enter the RFDS – not just the saviours of the remote outback and bush patients. Inspired by a true case this is another riveting read in the fantastic series.

 

Medical Mission (#5)

 

 

ISBN: 9780857988805

Published: 02/05/2016

Imprint: Random House Australia Children’s

 

RRP $14.99

Just outside Coober Pedy a RFDS plane lands in the middle of the night at a large cattle station.  Help has arrived to help Josh’s mum with the delivery of their new baby. But when complications arise Mum and bub are airlifted to hospital and Josh is left with his Dad to help things keep on track on the property. Josh can’t help worrying about his mother and baby sister especially when no one is telling him anything.  One thing he knows is that the RFDS is

a vital service for those in remote locations and he and his classmates initiate a fundraiser for the organisation. Just as things seem to be going along okay, Josh is bitten by a deadly snake and it’s his turn to be airlifted. Lucky medical intervention has come a long way with snakebite since the early days and Josh’s outcome – as well as that of his family – is a positive one.

 

This is such a worthy series to add to your collection. The true-to-life stories, the information carefully woven in, the compelling tension of emergency situations and the opportunity for readers to ‘walk a mile in another kid’s shoes’ are all superb reasons. Of course, the fact that sales support the RFDS are another bonus.

Highly recommended for readers from around ten upwards.

Mrs Whitlam – Bruce Pascoe

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Magabala Books

Author: Bruce Pascoe

Published: Jun 2016

ISBN: 9781925360240

Ages: Middle primary, Upper primary, Young Adult

 

I am very quickly becoming very enamoured of Bruce Pascoe’s writing for young people (not to mention for adults). He is really deft at making his young adult characters believable and contemporary without relying on current vernacular or props to make them so.

 

Marnie is horse mad but from a family that precludes her from owning one of her own. But a woman in her town who has sadly lost her daughter gives Marnie not only the horse but all its tack. Unfortunately, even owning her own horse and being a competent rider doesn’t quite cut it with the other teens at pony club. Their attitude towards an Aboriginal girl in their midst is far from welcoming particularly when she is riding a Clydesdale called Mrs Whitlam.

 

However Marnie has a strong family and her own inner strength. When she and Maggie (aka Mrs Whitlam) rescue a child from the surf and seals a growing friendship with George Costa, the Golden Boy of the school, she becomes a heroine and her acceptance in a worthy circle of friends is confirmed.

 

This is an evocative text which illustrates the sometimes sly racist attitudes in Australian towns but is never ‘preachy’ which makes it all the more powerful.

Marnie and Maggie make a formidable duo and not least of all because of their individual strengths and loyalty.
Highly recommended for readers in Upper  Primary to Lower Secondary.

Ollie’s Odyssey – William Joyce

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Simon & Schuster Australia

  • Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books
  • 304 pages
  • ISBN 9781442473553
  • April 2016
  • RRP $27.99

 

This is a Hans Christian Andersen-style tale of magic and wonder that echoes of the same tenderness as works such as The Velveteen Rabbit.

When Billy is just a baby he has a problem with his heart which makes his parents fearful and anxious until they know the outcome. To assuage her fretting, Billy’s mother creates a special toy for him. Made of soft textured fabrics and containing the ‘bell’ heart from her own favourite childhood toy, Nina the dancing doll, Ollie becomes Billy’s best friend and most treasured companion. In short, he is Billy’s favourite and as Billy grows up, strong and happy, Ollie shares in every single A-venture.

Running parallel to the story of Billy and Ollie, we discover a dark world of hidden menace with a history stretching back to a carnival where Nina the dancing doll once entranced Billy’s mother. In those days a very popular sideshow attraction was the Bonk-a-Zozo, one of those games where patrons try to win a toy by hitting a target.  In its heyday, toys came and went regularly but there was always a happy communal feeling to the booth with Zozo the clown, the target, reigning benevolently over all.  Then the dancing doll arrived but was hung so discreetly that few customers noticed her. However Zozo had eyes only for her – and she responded with her own eyes – as no words ever passed between them. As time goes by the carnival becomes less and less popular and on a day that changed the course of events forever, a little girl came with her father and won the prized doll. Taking her away, she claimed her as her favourite toy and Zozo’s clown heart hardens and his thoughts turn dark.

Zozo makes it his mission to recruit the Creeps whose only mission is to steal the favourite toys of all children – including Billy.  When Billy is made to attend a BORING wedding with his parents, he secretly takes Ollie with him but disaster strikes and Ollie is toynapped.

The ensuing rescue mission is filled with drama but as it must, love and bravery triumphs. ‘Never has a journey of ten blocks been so epic.’

The story is beautiful and the artwork enchanting. A beautiful hardcover with glorious glossy pages, this is a testament to books being a work of art in themselves.

Browse inside the pages here.

This is a book to treasure. As a sustained read-aloud it will engage its audience from the very beginning and I predict lead to much discussion about the demonstrated values and philosophy.

Highly recommended for children from around 8 to 12.

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Middle School: Going Bush –James Patterson

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Middleschool

ISBN: 9780143781219

Published: 01/03/2016

Imprint: Random House Australia Children’s

RRP $15.99

Rafe can’t be more excited. He’s been selected to join a very special Young Artists group along with a very select few youngsters from around the world. They are all to meet up in Australia and take part in an extraordinary all-expenses paid experience investigating ancient Indigenous art, making their own art and being taught by famous Brushes McGarrity.

Of course Rafe’s last Aussie experience did hold a few untoward happenings but this is such an awesome honour and he will get to see his great friend Ellie again. He can’t wait!

Naturally, things just can’t possibly be that simple – not with Rafe’s form.  With a huge hungry looking crocodile in a place it should not be, something very odd about the famous rock paintings supposedly discovered by McGarrity, sneaky and secretive goings-on in the dead of night and some very interesting international companions there is lots to occupy Rafe, Ellie and their new friend Denny which has nothing at all to do with being young art talents.

This latest episode will further consolidate the legion of fans that have enthusiastically embraced the Middle School series. I have noticed that even reluctant readers gravitate to these so they definitely deserve some promotion in your library.

Recommended for readers from around Year 4 upwards.

Goblin Mafia Wars [City of Monsters #2] – DC Green

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Ford St Publishing

April 2016

ISBN 9781925272208

RRP $18.95

You would think that as a royal hume dude your life would be one of complete luxury not to mention stressfree. Think again! PT (Prince Thomas of Monstro City) and his Dead Gang friends are embroiled even deeper in nasty situations and deadly – or is that undeadly? – circumstances; their quest to find the eggs of the last dragon, Kalthazar,  as well as trying to avert complete goblin civil war and annihilation of all other species, thwarting the evil plans of the horrendous Dr Franken, removing the usurper Prince Robbie and just a few other issues.

Following the toxic altercation at Fire Mountain with the goblins’ attack and Kalthazar’s limping escape to the Isle of Giants, the Gang minus friend Zorg begin a trek which first of all sees them navigating through the Dead Zone. Yowsers! This is one extremely bogus territory where even monsters like the Dead Gang are in very real danger of being exterminated – not least of all by their erstwhile compadre Scarab, the super-strong mummy gal.  She’s kind of ticked off about Zorg and decides that PT in particular is totes responsible.

Surviving this and then a very unnerving train ride back to Monstro City, the Dead Gang faces yet more monstrous mayhem. While PT manages to conduct some very delicate negotiations– and some highly skilful bluffing – with the rival goblin factions (think Sopranos style goblins!), his plans are sabotaged by the appearance of a chocolate popcorn gobbling older/younger idiot savant (without the savant) brother Prince Robbie. Rumour has it he has been cryogenically preserved by famous Dr Franken for the past ten years and not in fact stolen by the Vampire Queen. Looks like vampiric Stoker is not PT’s brother after all – or is he?

And just what is Dr Franken’s dastardly involvement with the goblin factions and the mentally deranged Prince Robbie? How did he get that dragon egg? And what the web is with all those freaky arms? Trapped in small cages in the evil doctor’s ‘hospital’ things look grim for this grimmest – and often grimiest- of gangs, with no apparent hope of escape. Spoiler alert – yet they do along with an about-to-hatch dragon egg!

DC Green has provided readers with another rip-snorter yarn about these highly idiosyncratic monster teens who have their own methods of solving problems. Their combined abilities and wacky take on situations along with their staunch support of each other prove more than a match for their adversaries.

High humour rating and all the excitement of fast-paced action will prove yet again to be a winner with readers from around 12 and up.

If you missed the first volume you MUST go and get it! Can’t wait for the next instalment – write faster DC!

Oh and PS – completely buzzed about that quote on the back cover!!

 

 

The Selected Adventures of Bottersnikes and Gumbles

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by S A Wakefield

illustrated by Desmond Digby

 

ISBN: 9781460751923

ISBN 10: 1460751922

Imprint: HarperCollins – AU

On Sale: 01/01/2016

Pages: 224

List Price: 14.99 AUD

 

I think I have lost count of how many times over the years as both a classroom teacher and a teacher-librarian I have shared S. A. Wakefield’s classic stories about the Bottersnikes and Gumbles. I know I was devastated when I lost my own copy of the first volume (probably during one of the innumerable house moves) and then often struggled to find a copy in subsequent libraries.

 

How overjoyed I was to find that a brand new edition was released to coincide with the new television series (and why did THAT take so long!? About time we had some more Australian content for our children!).

 

Thank you Harper Collins for allowing me the opportunity to wallow in the nostalgia of one of the most iconic Australian children’s series with this wonderful volume.

 

For those who don’t know (really?) there are many creatures living in the bush with which you are no doubt familiar but there are also the Bottersnikes and Gumbles.

 

The Bottersnikes are very unpleasant and hideously ugly beasts. Lazy and bad-tempered, they live in rubbish dumps where they eat pictures out of old magazines and newspapers and have a special fondness for mattress stuffing – or indeed anything they can scrounge in their indolence.  They despise the bush and its inhabitants and particularly hate the Gumbles – but love to capture these in order to make them do all their work.

 

The Gumbles are cheerful little squishy critters who love their natural surroundings, always try to protect the animals who live in it and always keep it tidy.  Their bodies are so pliable they can be squashed and reshaped in many different ways and always return to their original shape – which comes in very handy whenever they are snaffled by the Bottersnikes and stuffed into jam tins until it’s time to do some grubby work.

 

This new edition takes a selection of various stories from the four original books in the series (and the original illustrations) and romps its way delightfully throughout as the Gumbles, despite their continual captures, always outwit the nasty ‘snikes.

 

Apart from the rampant humour throughout the stories this has always been my ‘go to’ for kicking off environmental units of work. The children love the stories with their rich and crazy adventures and the total triumph time and again of the happy little Gumbles.

 

Rush out now and make sure you get your copy! Highly recommended as a read aloud from around Year 1 up and for more independent reading from about Year 3. Watch a clip from the TV series here.

Why not try  making some Gumbles – I think the squishy balloon craft could easily be adapted for this.

Seahorse – Bruce Pascoe

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Magabala Books

August 2015

ISBN:9781921248931

RRP $16.95

Both boys and girls in middle primary or thereabouts will enjoy this exciting story set on the beach of Seahorse Bay. Camping, fishing, snorkelling and a sunken boat are all the makings of a terrific family adventure.

Jack is making real progress with his snorkelling with his dad, Vince, as a good teacher. He in turn is helping little sister Tanya with her efforts.  Jack has seen stingrays and octopus, collected abalone and crayfish but his real moment of astonishment comes when he finds a cleat from a boat, closely followed by an anchor. After some investigation, Vince reckons the wreck can be salvaged and made good again. Imagine their curiosity when upon scuba diving to check out the likelihood of this, Vince and Jack come to the conclusion that the boat was deliberately scuttled.

And it seems the mysterious man dressed in black who has been watching them from on top of the cliffs could be the person responsible. What is the secret of the sunken boat? And why is Jack’s family being threatened for retrieving it?  Luckily the police are right on top of things and there is a satisfactory conclusion which might not have been the case given the drug running and murder that haunt the wreck.

Reluctant readers will surely be engaged in this book as the text is very accessible and full of action in less than one hundred pages. There are some wonderful descriptions of the underwater sea life and the wild beach.

Recommended for readers from around Year 3 and up.