Category Archives: Reading

How to Train Your Dragon #12: How to Fight a Dragon’s Fury – Cressida Cowell

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isbn9781444916584

Hachette Australia

Imprint: Hodder Children’s Books

ISBN: 9781444916584

Publication date: Sep 2015

RRP: $19.95

Without doubt the How to Train Your Dragon series has been a runaway success with avid readers from all over the world eagerly anticipating each subsequent instalment. The Dreamworks franchise which produced the movies has only built on the huge popularity of the books.

When I speak of the reader fans, I’m not just talking about children here. For those of us who love dragons, nonsense, crazy characters and absurd humour these books are pure delight.

The latest in the series is How to Fight a Dragon’s Fury and once again Cressida Cowell  has provided us with a saga worthy of the Viking tradition as our intrepid hero Hiccup Horrendous Haddock the Third continues his quest to protect his people and their dragons in the face of the revolting and conniving Alvin the Treacherous.

You will no doubt remember the cliffhanger ending of the last episode when we were all left wondering if Hiccup truly was dead. But we all know that would be impossible – I mean to say, he’s the HERO! Yet his father Stoick the Vast and all his tribe saw him fall from the sky and believe that he is lost to them. Luckily that tenacious little Bog-Burglar Camicazi refuses to accept what would seem to be evidence and knows in her heart that Hiccup is alive and must be found. Not only must he be found he needs to get to the island of Tomorrow and be crowned the King of the Wilderwest. How can this happen when Alvin the Treacherous now holds all King’s Things.

As usual the adventure is full of twists and turns, danger and despair, surprises and secrets and above all, laugh-out-loud humour as we follow the exploits of all the characters we’ve come to know and love – or loathe!

Far be it from me to give away too much of the plot but suffice to say devotees will adore this book and Cressida’s quirky illustrations as much as ever.

Definitely a must for your shelves for adventurous readers from around ten years and up – read an excerpt here

http://www.howtotrainyourdragonbooks.com/_template/pdf/How-to-Fight-a-Dragons-Fury.pdf

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The Vanilla Slice Kid – Adam Wallace & Jack Wodhams. Illustrated by Tom Gittus

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Ford St Publishing

ISBN: 978-1-925272-02-4
Publication date: 1 October 2015
Extent: 144 pages
Price: AUD$14.95

Well it’s clear we have our own contender to usurp Roald Dahl in the list of favourites for readers who love wacky and fantastical stories!

When Archie Cunningham is born, it is apparent to his parents – a disgustingly greedy and vile pair of individuals – that their unwelcome baby had a very surprising superpower. Perhaps it had something to do with the revolting Mrs Cunningham stuffing down every form of cake she could lay her fat hands on during her pregnancy but perhaps it is just one of the enduring mysteries of the world. Whichever it is, immediately after his arrival young Archie produces tiny chocolate cupcakes from the palms of his hands! So despite the fact that his parents have not the slightest interest in their baby or a child at all, they are avariciously interested in his potential as a provider of the world’s most delicious pastries.

Fast forward five years which have been lonely and isolated ones for Archie and his talent re-emerges after extreme provocation from his parents. They continue to ignore him as a child and look on him solely as a secret money making machine, providing the best edible delicacies on the market.  But when finally Archie is allowed to go to school, his bizarre talent is revealed and all hell breaks loose.

Secret agents, a megalomaniacal General, children collected for their unusual and special talents, Archie’s life does not seem destined to get much better. Except for one thing – Archie finds some real friends and though the odds look bad for them all, they prove that together they are stronger than any crazy bullies.

This is a read which fairly gallops along at an amazing pace. And while the reader feels most sorry for Archie there is no doubt that there are many real belly laughs throughout as the ridiculous situations and grotesque caricatures continue.

Definitely a winner for either boys or girls from around 8 years up, this is one to add to your shelves for sure!

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This year, rather than Halloween, I wanted to create a Day of the Dead feature. Of course,traditionally one would have photos of loved ones on the ofrenda but instead we have characters who have died in books. I found a fun free program which created ‘photo frames’ around each picture. They were laminated and a folded heavy cardboard stand added. Candles and flowers (traditionally marigolds) have been added and closer to the day we will have a bowl of Mexican lollies for the students to enjoy (bought from Chile Mojo). I’m deciding whether to buy one actual sugar skull as well :-). The traditional tissue paper banner is from the same supplier. In the meantime the display is proving very popular with students. In the background (board with red slips) is our question of the moment “Which dead book character would you bring back to life?”. Harry Potter characters are definitely leading the field in the answers!

The Singing Bones – Shaun Tan

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Allen & Unwin

Imprint; Allen & Unwin Children

October 2015

ISBN 9781760111038

RRP $35.00

Along with many others a new work from Shaun Tan sends a frisson of expectation and the promise of delighted awe through me and The Singing Bones is no disappointment. From the first ‘picking up’, feeling the sleekness of the stylish binding to the leisurely inspection of each sumptuous spread, this is a volume that can be described without hesitation as a visual and tactile feast for any reader.

A foreword from Philip Pullman and introduction by Jack Zipes, leading scholar of fairy tales, herald page after page of a book inspired by the work of legendary story collectors – and librarians! – Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm (the Brothers Grimm).

Rather than simply retelling the stories Shaun Tan has chosen to focus on what might be described as the ‘kernel’ of each tale; seventy-five of the Grimm’s collected folk stories in all are included. An annotated index summarises the plot of each. Stories familiar to us all such as Rapunzel, The Sleeping Beauty and Red Riding Hood are joined by far less well known tales, allowing readers to more fully appreciate the immense body of work undertaken by the two German brothers in their lifetimes.

To accompany each tale, Tan has created the most amazing sculptures of small figures which Pullman describes as “perfect realisations of the strangeness of the characters they represent”.

In an explanation at the end of the book, Tan relates how this project evolved and provides more details on his webpage (link above).  When the book was launched earlier this month, it was accompanied by an exhibition of the sculptures – cue envy of Melburnians at this point!  I think those of us in other states would like to hope we might also have the opportunity at some stage to see this stunning display of artwork.  Apparently attendees were invited to create their own little figures in clay – a super idea for your library! I recall doing this same thing with Shaun’s little white creature from The Arrival with some brilliant results from students.

I have shown this book to several colleagues today and all have exclaimed over the ‘beauty’ of it – both presentation and contents. We are already discussing adding this to our Readers Circles titles for 2016 as it is such a unique work. With amazing synchronicity it also arrived in our box of standing orders this morning, so will shortly be prominently displayed in our library.

I know this will need no recommendation to you all but regardless; I cannot endorse it more fulsomely. It is truly special and a book to be treasured!  While I do believe fairy tales are for everybody, your teenies might find these a bit sophisticated so probably around Middle Primary and up would be my recommendation.

(Watch out for this to be an award winner!)

Friday Barnes #3: Big Trouble – R. A. Spratt

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ISBN: 9780857986993

Published: 03/08/2015

Imprint: Random House Australia Children’s

Extent: 272 pages

RRP $15.99

Ace amateur super sleuth Friday Barnes just gets busier and busier! In the third of the series, young Friday finds a perfect swarm of mysterious goings on at Highcrest Academy. Firstly, there is the unexpected visit from her absentminded father when he brings the dreadful news of the disappearance of Friday’s mum. Has she been kidnapped? Has there been some kind of terrible accident? Friday’s mood is not helped by having her father installed at her school until things have been sorted out. This is particularly so because the Headmaster also needs her help. Not only is there a huge kerfuffle with the arrival of new student, Princess Ingrid of Norway but it seems a thief is at large. The elusive Pimpernel is leaving calling cards everywhere and personal items are disappearing at rapid rate.

Friday’s relationship with her nemesis Ian Wainscott seems poised on the edge of a change after she helps Ian’s mum thwart her ex-husband’s attempt to leave her in financial ruin.  Certainly some of her classmates are eagerly awaiting a shift in the dynamic!

Friday’s giftedness is never grating, probably because it is balanced so delightfully with her social ineptitude. Her gauche geekiness is really very endearing and Spratt’s characterisations are always a triumph.

Another very positive aspect to Spratt’s writing is her ability to weave a more sophisticated vocabulary into the text with a full expectation that her tween readers will correctly interpret it. And they do! These books are proving very popular in our library with our new-to-high-school Year 7 girls.  For that reason it is just wonderful to see that the next volume will be published in early 2016.

Find a fun Friday Barnes Scavenger Hunt kit for libraries here and don’t forget that previous books had teaching notes provided.

Highly recommended for your budding detectives from around 9 years upwards.

A Week Without Tuesday (A Tuesday McGillyCuddy Adventure #2) – Angelica Banks

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ISBN:9781760110376

Publisher:Allen & Unwin

Imprint:A & U Children

Series:A Tuesday McGillycuddy Adventure

Pub Date:May 2015

Page Extent:400

Format:Paperback –

RRP $15.99

Perhaps it’s because Tasmania is smallish, perhaps it’s because it’s coldish, perhaps it’s because it’s so beautiful, perhaps it’s because there is so much variety – whatever it is we seem to have some extremely talented creators come from our tiny island state.

This novel is my introduction to Angelica Banks aka Heather Rose and Danielle Woods as co-authors.  I had not seen the first in the series ‘Finding Serendipity’ but will be sure to seek it out now. Although I missed the first instalment I did not have much trouble picking up with characters and events from the past in this new adventure.

I found the plot refreshingly original and thoroughly engrossing. There are many descriptive passages which define the much used expression of ‘lyrical’.

Writers are going missing and then reappearing in weird places, sometimes injured or otherwise damaged. The public thinks it must be a mad kidnapping ploy by some crazy criminal/s but Tuesday, her author mother Serendipity and her dad Denis all surmise it is more likely to be that these authors are disappearing to ‘there’ that is, the place where authors’ stories are born and grow and flourish. And further, instead of returning home as usual when their story is completed, somehow they are ending up in the settings and plots of other stories.  Yes, it does sound a little confusing in the way I’ve just told it but when you read the book, it makes perfect sense :-).

Forbidden by Denis to write anything for fear they will also be caught up, Serendipity and Tuesday restrain themselves with much difficulty from putting pen to paper.  But stories have a way of catching up with those who must tell them and when Tuesday takes her delightful dog Baxterr to the park for a little walk and sees a special ‘story’ thread floating towards her; she knows she just has to take hold of it.

Tuesday is swept up into an adventure of huge proportions and must help The Librarian and The Gardener to take charge of the colliding story worlds. This she is able to do  but only after many complications involving Vivienne Small (heroine of Serendipity’s books), flying dogs, evil vercaka, the strange furred brother and sister, Tarquin and Harlequin as well as another writer of whom, no doubt, both we and Tuesday will see more – Blake Luckhurst.

I have no hesitation for recommending this highly to those readers, from around 10 years and up, who possess imagination and a creative spirit.

Phyllis Wong and the Waking of the Wizard – Geoffrey McSkimming

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ISBN: 9781760113384

Publisher: Allen & Unwin

Imprint: A & U Children

Pub Date: June 2015

Page Extent:400

Format: Paperback

RRP $15.99

Here comes the indomitable Phyllis Wong again! Geoffrey McSkimming’s savvy young conjuror (who is also a superb mystery solver) is such a likeable character; no wonder then, that this series has taken off with so many young readers.

All the important characters from the earlier books including Phyllis’ trusty but eccentric sidekick, Clement and her pet police contact, Chief Inspector Barry Inglis, return along with some interesting new arrivals such as Orson Quilrose, procurer of antique and vintage photographs, and Detective Pinkie Chatterton (now there’s a familiar surname! I wonder…hmmmm).

In this new volume, Phyllis’ great-grandfather, the famous Wallace Wong, reappears in his Transiting travels and Phyllis learns of his special quest. For many decades WW has pursued the same mission, which is to discover the hidden refuge of Myrddin the most famous magician of all time. You may think if this wizard is so famed you might know his name – and you probably do, if we use one of the most well-known alternatives of Merlin.

Young Phyllis begins to piece together a quite remarkable history wherein her esteemed forebear mixes it up in the theatrical world with a very dubious and nasty ventriloquist, Alexander Sturdy. This latter is knocked off his perch by the debut of a rival, Hercule Perkus and his lifelike ‘dummy’ Jasper.

Revenge and long forgotten deeds come to the surface in a contemporary setting and the world at large is threatened by the villain Sturdy’s plans to sabotage an amazing development in technology.

With her customary aplomb, quick thinking and sharp judgements Miss Wong pieces together the disparate clues in the case and with the assistance of her friends and colleagues is once more placed to emerge triumphant.

This series is just delicious. Action, humour, a little reflection, excellent values – and good always trumps evil. I would highly recommend you adding this and the first two volumes to your collection if you have not already done so!! For capable readers of around 8/9 years and up.

And Oh My Goodness! just look at this!! From such a talented pair of creators!!

New Boy – Nick Earls

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Penguin Australia

Puffin Imprint

Published: 25/03/2015

Format: Paperback, 176 pages

RRP: $14.99

price:AUD $14.99

ISBN-13:9780143308393

Yes, it’s true, Nick Earls is one of my very most favourite authors 🙂 no matter if it’s kid lit or adult fiction. Aside from that, he is such a lovely human and very funny.  When he graciously did a Q&A for my blog last year, one of the things we discussed was his arrival in Australia from Ireland as a child. Nick talked about the aspects that he found a little strange coming to a new country.

He has taken that personal experience and projected it into terms that children today can easily embrace through the story of one boy’s experiences as a newly arrived immigrant from South Africa. Herschelle is a pretty typical boy who has left mates, sport, school and a fairly frightening environment behind when his family move to Brisbane. He soon realises despite his research of Australian slang and customs, in order to fit in, that he doesn’t – at all.

With his ever present humour, Nick takes the reader on Herschelle’s journey into acceptance via his struggle with bullying and racism. It is this humour that takes the edge of some pretty intense concepts and puts this in terms with which younger readers can readily identify from their own playground observations.

Along with his designated buddy Max (of whom Herschelle initially suspects total nerdism) , Herschelle takes on the challenge of assimilating into his new surrounds and most notably his new school, One Mile State School. When the burgeoning friendship is jeopardised by Max’ apparent collusion with the school bully, Lachlan, Herschelle is all the more convinced he will never become part of the Australian fabric. After the ongoing persecution from Lachlan comes to a head and the principal steps in, Herschelle realises both that racism is not manifested in just one way and that bullying can be invisible to others, as he finds out that Max has also suffered at Lachlan’s intimidatory behaviour.  The two boys are back on track and find themselves well placed to ‘buddy’ another ‘new boy’ when Roy arrives at the school. A refugee from South Sudan, Roy’s experiences provide even more enlightening revelation to the two friends.

This is an important book to promote to your readers and with Refugee Week fast approaching, would be a perfect vehicle to convey the important messages of acceptance and unity.

‘With courage let us all combine’

Watch This Space: #1 Out to Launch – Colin Thompson

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Random House Australia

ISBN: 9781742756202

Published: 01/05/2015

Imprint: Random House Australia Children’s

Extent: 256 pages

RRP: $15.99

Last year when I had the good fortune of a blog Q&A with Colin Thompson, following the publication of the final book about The Floods, he told us about his forthcoming series called Watch This Space and after watching patiently, it’s arrived!

Out To Launch is the first in this new series which will foreseeably be every bit as popular as Colin’s previous bestsellers. With his very recognisable acerbic wit and uncanny ability to pinpoint the most laughable and ridiculous aspects of popular culture, Colin’s newest comic offering puts the spotlight on reality TV shows with superb results.

Billionaire entrepreneur Radius Limpfast is the most successful creator of reality tv shows in history but is never content to rest, always seeking more spectacular attention on his programs. “Then one night, after a particularly creative bacon curry, Radius dreams up the ultimate reality show.”

He intends to send an ordinary family to the moon to live in a huge glass dome where they will be watched by the entire world.  Sounds incredible doesn’t it? Amazing even!! What a concept it is for the ultimate in reality television and all planned to the last detail. Nothing could possibly go wrong.

Except for choosing a family that is not really the ‘ideal’ for the project (The Contrasts: Stark, Laura, Primrose, Jack and Crumley the dog) with the throw in of a ‘fake’ granny, Apricot. And except for cutting corners on costs for essentials like a reliable rocket transport and a suitably protective glass dome dwelling. And except for underestimating the skills of 14 year old girls and elderly ladies. And more!

Boys and girls from around 10 up, plus those of us who relish Colin’s very particular sense of humour will be very excited about this new series. The second in the series In the Pink is already in the works and who knows how many more to come?

Highly recommended for readers from Middle Primary to Lower Secondary.

Apocalypse Bow Wow – James Proimos III illustrated by James Proimos Jr

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ISBN: 9781408854983
Australian Pub.: January 2015
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Imprint: Bloomsbury Child
Subject: Children’s fiction

With the plethora of dystopian fiction that has been overwhelming readers in recent years, this very amusing graphic novel is a welcome relief.  A hilarious spin on the whole genre, this is perfect for Middle School readers with a discerning sense of humour.

Two dogs, Apollo and Brownie, usually have no more drama in their days than their running dispute about who is on the couch and who is on the floor.  Until a day comes when unbeknownst to this pair, chaos descends on the world outside – the dawn of the apocalypse with everyone gone.

As dinner time draws nearer and there is no appearance of their humans, the dogs begin to fear that their owners might be ‘Gone for Good’ with the usual hysterical panic that most dogs seem to experience. But when dinner time comes and goes and the next day moves in with still no humans, the dogs realise that this time perhaps their panic was justified and reluctantly decide they must leave the house to find food.  Just this scene alone as the two dogs are baffled by how they will unlock the front door was enough to make me laugh aloud.

How will these two cope with survival in the unknown wider world? And when they are faced with the dog-eat-dog scene for those animals who have survived the disaster, things become even more fraught.

I predict this will have huge appeal to both boys and girls and that it will be the kind of book where the recommendations fly along by word of mouth.

Highly recommended for readers around 11 and up.