Tag Archives: Friendship

The Kid Who Came From Outer Space – Ross Welford

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Harper Collins Australia

January 2020

ISBN: 9780008333782

ISBN 10: 0008333785

Imprint: HarperCollins – GB

List Price: 14.99 AUD

This is the second Ross Welford book I have read and reviewed [The 1, 000 Year Old Boy] and once again I am tremendously impressed in his story-telling which takes something unbelievable and makes it completely feasible.

A small village in Northumberland is shocked and in turmoil after the mysterious disappearance of 12 year old Tammy especially of course her parents and her twin brother Ethan. Despite vigorous and thorough searching there seem to be no clues. That is until Ethan reluctantly accompanies relative newcomer and definitely odd Iggy for a spot of fishing to ‘take his mind off’ the situation. The boys don’t have any luck with the fishing but they do ‘catch’ something – the realisation of an invisible spacecraft and the appearance of a definitely visible fur-covered tailed humanoid called Hellyann – who indicates that she not only knows where Tammy is but how to rescue her.

Imagine a civilisation that keeps animals in a zoo for the edification of its own species – oh that’s right – but imagine if that civilisation is located on a remote planet in another galaxy and the animals kept are actually humans. That’s where Tammy has been taken by one of the ‘Hunters’ of the planet Anthalla. This race has become so uniform and so controlled in its past 500 years of history that no member of it dares to disagree with any of the strict protocols in place. There may be order and peace but it’s at a price – with no individuality or emotions allowed. The flaw in that is that there are just a few Anthallans whose ancestors were of ‘mixed’ DNA so that their descendants retain some human traits – such as emotional responses. And Hellyann is one of these ‘Hearters’ and knows that there is something inherently wrong with abducting a human, removing it from its family and keeping it sedated and contained. Hence she sets out on a mission to rescue Tammy but enlisting Ethan and Iggy.

There is much humour to be had in this narrative but also a great deal of thought-provoking concepts to consider. Once again Welford has crafted a story which demonstrates the unerring ability of children to bridge the sometimes vast gap between others and forge unlikely friendships as well as rising to challenges which reveal their inner reserves of determination, resilience, courage and compassion.

Another truly worthwhile book to share with your readers from around 8ish upwards, I highly recommend it for Middle Primary to Lower Secondary students.

Aussie Kids

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Introducing an absolutely fabulous new series for your newly independent/emerging readers that will take them all over Australia to meet a diverse array of characters and visit iconic destinations.

Not only will this be the perfect share for those units on Australia for Junior school kiddos but is a superb introduction to diversity, inclusion and current topics expressed in an easily relatable manner.

 

Aussie Kids: Meet Zoe and Zac at the Zoo – Belinda Murrell/ David Hardy

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Penguin Australia

From a NSW Zoo to a Victorian lighthouse, or an outback sheep farm in WA to a beach in QLD, this junior fiction series celebrates stories about children living in unique places in every state in Australia.

8 characters, 8 stories, 8 authors and illustrators from all 8 states!

Published: 4 February 2020

ISBN: 9781760893651

Imprint: Puffin

RRP: $12.99

First up let’s meet Zoe and Zac – two ‘almost twins’ as they share the same birthday who are from Dubbo. (Fancy that, I lived there for twelve years and two of my daughters were born there!). These two lucky kids live within the well-known Western Plains Zoo and for their 7th birthday they will spend the day with Zoe’s zookeeper mum helping out with all the animals.

It sure is a lot of fun and also hard work feeding the hungry lions, giraffes and meerkats and poop-scooping large mounds of elephant dung but the most exciting part of the day is discovering why Amali the lioness has not turned up for her food.

Who better to write this first instalment than Belinda Murrell who grew up in a vet surgery and whose love of all animals shines through in so many of her highly popular titles? David Hardy’s illustrations are exactly right for the intended readership full of life and just a little on the cheeky side.

 

Aussie Kids: Meet Taj at the Lighthouse – Maxine Beneba Clarke/Nicki Greenberg

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Published: 4 February 2020

ISBN: 9781760894528

Imprint: Puffin

RRP: $12.99

Set in Victoria, Taj and his family have not long been in Australia and like so many refugees have their own struggles both in leaving their homeland and also in settling into a completely new country, community and society.

When Taj gets despondent about feeling out of place, his Mama reminds him to ‘believe’. It’s very hard to do so at times and Taj doesn’t even want to wear his favourite lightning bolt t-shirt, which has given him his nickname. His Dad is worried as well as he can’t find work – any work – but again Mama is there to reassure and urge him to ‘believe’.

Gradually things start to improve, Mama is learning English at the local library (Yayy! For libraries!) and Taj is beginning to enjoy his new school. They are starting to adapt to different foods and different sounds and different people but Dad still can’t find a job.

Until one day Dad comes home and suddenly the little family is packing up excitedly and driving a long way south along the Great Ocean Road until they arrive at their new home and Dad’s new job – a lighthouse and Dad is the new lighthouse keeper!

The new community welcomes the family and soon Taj is not only wearing his favourite shirt again but also a life-savers cap as he joins the local Nippers.

Again a terrific story introducing young readers to the wealth of diverse cultures and people in our big beautiful country. Maxine and Nikki have created a warming and relatable story for migrant and Aussie born kids alike.

 

At the end of each book is a double page of fun/interesting facts – in the first about animals in the second about lighthouses.

This is going to be an outstanding series to get onto your shelves and into the hands of your readers from around 7-9 years.

Highly recommended for Junior libraries and personal collections!

Tulip and Brutus – Liz Ledden/Andrew Plant

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Ford St Publishing

October 2019

9781925804348

$14.99

This is such a perfect book for going back to school time as small children find themselves in a classroom full of disparate personalities and temperaments – many of them for the first time.

Tulip and her ladybird friends live in the flowers and play in the sunshine sipping honeydew while Brutus and the stinkbug gang hang out in the undergrowth and muddy patches.  There is never any combined play with these two bug groups.

But when a storm hits and completely disrupts their patch of garden it’s a case for all mini-beasts on deck when a danger flies overhead. Suddenly it seems that teamwork and cooperation are a much better option for all concerned.

So it is with those little ones who are just navigating new situations and relationships and what better way to demonstrate the value of working together and building friendships than with the power of a delightful picture book?

Ledden has created a simple but effective text and as usual Andrew Plant’s illustrations are stunning and joyous.

Highly recommended for little ones from around 3 year upwards.

The Secrets of Magnolia Moon – Edwina Wyatt. Illustrated by Katherine Quinn

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Walker Books1563752879094

November 1, 2019

ISBN: 9781760651541
Imprint: Walker Books Australia
Australian RRP: $19.99
New Zealand RRP: $21.99

The first word that popped into my head whilst reading this was ‘whimsical’ so it was no surprise to read the publisher’s blurb to find that was their choice of descriptor as well.

I found myself thinking I could sense echoes of Milly-Molly-Mandy (yes showing my age!). To my mind there was a familiar feeling of that same gentle child’s life in a little house spending time with her playmates, having small adventures and delighting in the world around her.

The narrative explores Magnolia’s year of being nine years old concluding as she turns ten and a secret is revealed. Magnolia is excellent at keeping secrets. She is also a great friend, loves Greek myths and hanging upside down in the magic tree with her bestie Imogen.

While not a difficult read I think it will take a fairly capable young reader to fully appreciate the nuances and would suggest it to be most suitable for children from around 8 years upwards.

It is a beautifully presented little book with its hardcover and delightful illustrations and really a delight to hold in one’s hands.

This is Wyatt’s debut novel and it will be interesting to see what might come next. I suspect there will be readers who will want to know more about Magnolia.

The Besties – Felice Arena and Tom Jellett

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We all know how hungrily those newly independent readers gobble up their favourite series of easy chapter books and we also know that there are times when we struggle to find them the ‘next series’ on which to embark.

This super new series from a highly talented pairing is going to tick a lot of boxes. The two ‘besties’ of the title are Ruby and Oliver so right there you have instant appeal for both boys and girls and also a fabulous demonstration that opposite genders can very easily be friends!

Felice has the knack of engaging his readers always and by having these two new characters simply enjoying their friendship, everyday life, playtimes and simple adventures will very easily hook those early readers into the narratives.

The Besties Show and Smell (#1)

9781760890988

January 2020

ISBN: 9781760890988

Imprint: Puffin

Format: Paperback

RRP: $9.99

Ruby has been so excitedly looking forward to her turn at Show & Tell because she’s going to play her ukulele for the class but things go awry when their regular teacher is away. The replacement teacher Mr Botham is a real grump and refuses to proceed with the regular program but Ruby is not to be daunted. Ollie is a little disturbed and cross that she’s going to defy the old crank while he’s out of the room but soon recovers and all is well. Ruby’s impromptu performance is a huge success and not even class clown Zac’s ‘smelly’ response can quench the mood.

The Besties to the Rescue (#2)

9781760890971

January 2020

ISBN: 9781760890971

Imprint: Puffin

Format: Paperback

RRP: $9.99

Ruby has been practicing her trampoline skills and asks Ollie to video her stunning flips and tricks. Of course Ollie is only too happy to do so but when the pair watches the result they realise that the naughty neighbourhood cat has attacked a bird’s nest and the little fledgling has been tipped out onto the ground. Ruby and Ollie know the little bird is too young to fly so it’s up to them to help it and enable it to survive.

 

These are super cute stories full of fun with the right dash of imagination to appeal to the little ones that will pounce upon it. Jellet’s illustrations resonate with the joy and energy of the characters. Felice and Tom, who did such a brilliant job on the Sporty Kids, have nailed it again with this new series. Two more are already on the way so what a great way to start off the new year for your borrowers – get some on your shelves ASAP!

Highly recommended for readers from around 6 years upwards

Nop – Caroline Magerl

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Walker Books

1557722836811

November 2019

ISBN: 9781760651251
Imprint: Walker Books Australia
Australian RRP: $26.99
New Zealand RRP: $28.99

I’d like to introduce you to Tedward who has been my constant companion for 62 years and 2 months. He was given to me for my first Christmas when I was two months old. He no longer has much left of his German mohair fur, his tummy growl has not worked for many many years but his glass eyes still twinkle with the light of love.

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In many respects Tedward is very like Nop in their shabbiness and rather unkempt appearance but poor Nop is not loved nor does he have a true friend.

Nop has lived in the Dumporeum for a long time, ignored and passed over by the crafters around him and those who select other refurbished toys to take home, despite the new bowtie he has given himself. But Nop is not going to let this determine his fate. Using all his ingenuity and courage he creates his own wonderful hot air balloon and takes off into a new life, one in which he discovers a special friend.

Caroline’s newest book is another gentle and beautifully illustrated offering in which the values of self-belief and acceptance are strongly but subtly underlined.  Nop may have been unwanted and ignored in the Dumporeum but as the special bear-friend of a wise orang-utan becomes highly regarded and well loved.

Another sumptuous treasure of a book from this talented writer/illustrator!

Highly recommended for readers of all ages from littlies upwards.

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Thank you Caroline for allowing me to use this delightful rough from Nop’s illustrative process!  Stay posted for a Q&A with this amazing artist coming up in the New Year!

 

 

Boy Giant: Son of Gulliver – Michael Morpurgo

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Harper Collins

September 2019

ISBN: 9780008347925

ISBN 10: 0008347921

Imprint: HarperCollins – GB

List Price: 19.99 AUD

And the master has done it again! Morpurgo has drawn on Jonathon Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels as his inspiration for this latest exploration of human nature, political unrest and compassion.

Omar has fled war-torn Afghanistan with his mother in a race for survival. A long and dangerous journey sees them at last reach the sea and a boat for England but a storm at sea wreaks havoc and Omar finds himself washed up on a small island – and even stranger, surrounded by hundreds of tiny people.

It is Lilliput and the inhabitants believe that Omar is the descendant of Gulliver their revered saviour who visited them three hundred years earlier.  Omar’s sojourn on the island helps him to recover from terror, to develop compassion and wisdom, discover skills and strengths and eventually prepares him for a risky journey to England to try and find what remains of his family.

With much skill Morpurgo draws parallels between a three hundred year old text considered seditious and subversive in its time with its criticism of power and politics and the present day where our humanity struggles against those who are determined to destroy and oppress.

MM is one of my most favourite authors and never fails to astonish me. Who else could suspend my disbelief to the point where a tiny pair of Lilliputians helping to narrate a tale would seem so normal?

This is another fine tale for readers from around ten years upwards and in fact would make a splendid read-aloud or class novel for upper primary/lower secondary to engender discussions and commentary.

Of course, highly recommended – loved it!

 

Pages & Co [Book 2]: Tilly and the Lost Fairy Tales – Anna James

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Harper Collins

September 2019

ISBN: 9780008229900

ISBN 10: 0008229902

Imprint: HarperCollins – GB

List Price: 19.99 AUD

Once more Tilly and Oskar are plunged into a whirl of adventure and mystery as their book-wandering travels continue. Their world and their families are in a state of flux as the British Underlibrary becomes embroiled in turmoil. The new Librarian Melville Underwood is decidedly sinister and unscrupulous and there is a veil of mystery about his long absence in the fairy tale world and the continued unknown whereabouts of his sister Decima.

When Tilly and Oskar visit Paris (and discover that Oskar is also a book-wanderer) they bravely venture into the fairy tale world and are dismayed by the instability of the stories there – large black abysses appearing in plots, various versions of the same story overlapping randomly and characters becoming lost. All this appears to be the work of some dark force and it seems that Tilly and Oskar are the ones to solve the problem and restore order.

This series is proving to be quite a delight with its fresh approach to plot and characters. Book lovers both young and old will relish the concept of becoming truly ‘present’ in the stories they read and will readily identify with Tilly’s favourites as well as being very cognizant of the ever-present dangers and villainous characters lurking in odd places. There are tense moments when ‘happy ever after’ seems elusive and there is no doubt that the evil characters are ruthless but Tilly and Oskar have proven their mettle already and will not rest until the fairy tale world is safe again.

My first readers to try out this series have been completely taken with it and I know they will be enthusiastically lining up for this second instalment. I highly recommend it for your kiddos from around Year 4 upwards.

Beverly, Right Here – Kate diCamillo

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Walker Books

ISBN: 9781406391633
Imprint: Walker
September 2019
Australian RRP: $19.99
New Zealand RRP: $22.99

Without a doubt this is the happiest review I’ve ever written. Not just because it’s another fabulous book from this much-loved author, nor just that it continues the story of Raymie, Louisiana and Beverly but for a far more personal reason.

My review copy arrived just a few days before my girl and I were going on our holiday to Tasmania so it was one of my first choices to take along with me. I read most of it in the Brisbane airport terminal then finished it off during the flight. The Kid was quite taken with the cover and then curious about the story so I handed it to her and before we landed in Melbourne for the first leg of our trip she had read the first chapter. Now for a 14 year old you may not think this a significant moment but for a child who was first assessed with an intellectual impairment at six and who has struggled for years with both spoken and written language it was a true milestone moment. In that first chapter there were just five words of which she was unsure – and after checking with me, three of them she had correct and the other two she had worked out but couldn’t quite get the context or meaning. TRIUMPH!

She is now halfway through the book and is really enjoying the story – and the effect of her success has been electrifying to say the least. Her ‘reading level’ (GRRRR) at school has escalated over eight levels at least since her last literacy group before the holidays. My heart is singing! It is such a breakthrough for her and her confidence is soaring.

So with that out of the way, let me tell you about the story itself. We know from the two previous books that Beverly’s life is far from easy and when her beloved Buddy dies she’s finally had enough and takes off. At 14 with no money and only the clothes she’s wearing she lands in a new town where she manages to find some work and is taken in by a quirky but kindly old lady who becomes Beverly’s entrée into an atmosphere of caring. As some time goes by Beverly begins to establish positive relationships and meaningful friendships and eventually is able to rationalize her old life and how she might overcome the obstacles she faces.  Her newfound insight into herself enables her to move forward with confidence and determination.

Once again Kate has given us a memorable book. For me it will always be the book that turned my girl into a ‘reader’. Thank you from the bottom of my heart Kate diCamillo.

Kensy and Max #4: Out of Sight – Jacqueline Harvey

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9780143791928

Penguin

September 2019

ISBN: 9780143791928

Imprint: Puffin

RRP: $16.99

Just as life for the intrepid and resilient twins seems to be settling with both their parents and their grandparents restored to the family, the London house habitable again and being back at school with their friends, things start hotting up.  Their upcoming first Pharos review is doubtless a tad stressful given there’s no wriggle room for inadequacies and the school play looms large but there’s far more to it than that. They appear to be not only surrounded by deception and mystery but for the first time ever each is keeping a big secret from the other.

As well there is annoyingly inquisitive new student Blair, new Drama teacher/Pharos agent/”world famous actor” Mr Theo Richardson and some missing journalists with which to contend. The twins’ training in stealth, disguise, parkour and coding are all about to become far more necessary than just for the upcoming review!

When it becomes apparent that there is a large-scale operation focused on thefts of valuable pieces and that somehow there’s a connection to both the new Drama teacher and the missing journalists, the Pharos kids are galvanised into action.  Given the skills, expertise and native intelligence the twins and their friends are able to apply to a dangerous situation the review could seem an anti-climax.

Once again, readers will revel in the excitement of this series. Each book gets a little edgier with the twins (and their friends) demonstrating real independence, quick thinking, teamwork and bravery.

Jacqueline Harvey has proven over and over her ability to connect with her readers by providing exactly the right adventures that appeal to the middle school kiddos upwards. It’s certainly no wonder that her fan base just continues to grow and that each new book is greeted with such enthusiasm.

Highly recommended for readers from around 9 years upwards.