Imprint: Black Dog Books
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.
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.
Allen & Unwin Australia
Imprint: Bloomsbury Child
Pub Date: August 2016
With the surfeit of cookery shows most children will have seen at least part of one if not actually The Great British Bake Off. And they may well also be familiar with Jamie Oliver.
Now they can meet Flamie Oliver who attends the Ferocious Dragon Academy. Flamie is invited to attend the academy because he is very FEROCIOUS and the academy is where all scary dragons go to hone their deadly skills. There is just one small problem. Flamie really doesn’t want to be ferocious nor practise deadly skills. His passion is pastry and all he really wants to do is cook.
In fact, he is so enthralled with perfecting his culinary art, that when finals arrive, he fails all his tests miserably. Miss Puffitup the Head is not at all pleased and sets Flamie an additional test to make up for his abysmal marks. He is to kidnap a princess and EAT her! Argghhhh!
Flamie has no problem with the kidnapping part but as for the eating – well, that’s clearly just not going to happen. For a start, he can’t even think what other ingredients would combine with princess flavour.
Together the kidnapped princess and Flamie arrive at a solution which has all the other dragons as well as Miss Puffitup dead impressed and Flamie has no need to fret about failing his Dastardly Dragon Skills Degree. He’s the new star pupil of Miss Puffitup’s Brillant Baking Academy!
This is a fun read for children as well as a great reminder that it’s ok to be different and that everyone has different talents and personalities.
Highly recommended for young readers from around 5 years up
Oh George, why do you do this to me? I continually bomb out – repeatedly. I must be the most hopeless ‘choose-your-own-adventurer’ ever! But they are great fun – and the kids are eating them up. I have a bunch of girls who just love the interactivity of this series – and I know that boys are just as wild for them. Hopefully they’re better survivors than I am!
You Choose 9: Extreme Machine Challenge
Imprint: Random House Australia Children’s
Of course if you are attending the Extreme Machine Expo the highlight would be actually getting to drive one for real, rather than just the simulator demos. After all, it must be safe right? So which should you choose? Motorbikes, helicopters, jets, speedboats – so much variety it’s mindboggling. You are so excited by all the possibilities you don’t even notice those strange characters at first. But strange things are afoot and suddenly you are in the race of your life.
You Choose 10: In the Realm of Dragons
Imprint: Random House Australia Children’s
Naturally anyone who has always been obsessed by dragons is going to try and prove a legend about them. When you find out about the rumours of dragons right near your school camp you just have to try and discover the truth. And wow! When you come across two peculiar looking eggs, maybe the legend really is true! But just because you love dragons doesn’t mean they are going to love you right back does it?
Marmaduke the Very Popular Dragon – Rachel Valentine/Ed Eaves
Pub Date:June 2016
There would be very few children – or indeed adults – who have not been in the same position as Marmaduke at some time. Marmaduke and Meg are the very best of friends and the envy of everyone in the kingdom as a result. They are different but when they are together, differences don’t matter.
Then one day one of the princesses who has been watching from the safety of her tower gets up the courage to ask if she can join them to play.
And gradually all the other princesses, princes, dragons and even knights want to join in the fun as well. Marmaduke is a huge hit as he is affable and helpful and a great friend. But sometimes being a great friend to many people causes us to lose sight of our very best friend. And so it happens with Marmaduke and Meg.
But of course, there must be a happy ending for all and so it is. Marmaduke realise he has basically abandoned Meg in the sudden flattering flush of his popularity and makes amends.
Aside from being a quite delightful story, this would be a super book to share with those little ones who are, even halfway through the year, trying to come to grips with friendship issues.
Highly recommended for little people from Prep upwards.
PS – they will love the sparkly bits!
Imprint: Random House Australia Children’s
Extent: 208 pages
– RRP $14.99
One thing we know as teacher-librarians is that you can never have too many animal stories. Younger readers especially eat up such tales whether crazy, realistic, whimsical or humorous. This new collection from Aleesah Darlison covers all those bases and with a text that is ideally suited to newly independent readers who are enjoying their first foray into chapter books.
Kasey rescues and nurtures a baby magpie, Grandpapa Cat tells his grandkittens the legend of Alvarado, King of Cats, we find out what happened next to Puff the Magic Dragon, Princess Pigletta is pignapped and so much more! Any young reader will enjoy the imaginatively told animal adventures in this collection and they would be ideally suited to the short ‘read aloud’ times after breaktimes.
This much-published award-winning author has definitely come up trumps with this fun anthology of 12 stories. Highly recommended for your shelves for both boys and girls of around 7 years up.
Check out Aleesah’s website here for more info about her, her books, author talks, resources and news.
Imprint: Hodder Children’s Books
Publication date: Sep 2015
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
Random House Australia
Once upon a time, in the 1960s, there was a young cub reporter who worked for the Bucks Free Press covering such scintillating happenings as village fairs and other local events. Despite the rigours of such journalism, Sir Terry Pratchett began writing short stories for young readers which were also published in the newspaper.
This rather unostentatious beginning was to lead to the magical, fantastical world of Pratchett as we know it.
Sir Terry has trawled back over these stories from his youth and selected some for this volume – mostly exactly as they were written originally, with only a little tweaking here and there.
Of particular interest I think are Tales of the Carpet People and Another Tale of the Carpet People which of course later developed into Terry’s first novel.
Dragons and wizards, a lake monster, an adventurous tortoise called Hercules and pointy hats and magic spells a-plenty come together in a humorous romp through the young Pratchett’s imagination.
Whether you are a diehard fan or more selective of the many offerings penned by this master storyteller or even if – surely not! – you have never read a Terry Pratchett book, this is a terrific anthology which would sit well on shelves from primary to lower secondary or home. [Beautiful hardcover concealed by attractive dustjacket!]
“..that naive young lad on the motorbike and the grown-up me with my black hat and beard are the same person – and all we both ever wanted to do was write for people old enough to understand.
And to imagine…”
Clicking on his image will take you to a 2008 article where Sir Terry discusses his diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease.
Billy is a Dragon. Nick Falk. Illustrated by Tony Flowers
Random House Australia March 2014
Billy is a Dragon: First Bite
Billy is a Dragon 2: Werewolves Beware!
Following their great success with the Saurus Street series, Falk and Flowers have again teamed up with this new series about nine year old Billy Fincher. Billy is pretty much your average boy who loves his bulldog Bertha and has problems with the school bully. That is, until, he is bitten by lizard at the local shop and suddenly finds strange things start happening.
“His fingernails turn into claws, his skin becomes green and he starts breathing fire. His teeth grow enormous, his eyes become red and his school clothes pop off at the seams.”
While being a dragon certainly has its advantages, particularly when it comes to giving the school bully his come-uppance, Billy finds it’s not all plain sailing (flying?) being so different. To start with, his parents are none too happy about having a fire-breathing dragon for a son and think he should he be put in a zoo.
Miss Small, who as it happens, is a nine year old dragon devotee, with a nine year old boyfriend called Billy – was poised on the edge of her seat clamouring for more after the first couple of pages read aloud. Following the same appealing format as the Saurus Street series, these are fabulous for newly independent readers with quirky fonts to emphasise onomatopoeias and whacky drawings to accompany the text.
Girls and boys alike will thoroughly enjoy Billy’s adventures as he deals with shapeshifting lessons, werewolves, hungry teachers and more. Look out for more to come – these ones will be hugely popular with the 7 and up readers.