Tag Archives: Humour

The Chime Seekers – Ross Montgomery

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Walker Books Australia

November 2021

ISBN: 9781406391190
Imprint: Walker

RRP: $18.99 Au , $21.99 NZ

Some of us of a certain vintage have enduring memories of Jareth, The Goblin King (aka the divine David Bowie) taking away baby Toby when Sarah becomes so frustrated with her little brother that she wishes him gone. Ross Montgomery has combined that idea with traditional English folklore of faerie and created a fantasy adventure that will thrill readers from the first page.

Yanni is angry. He is angry with his parents for taking him away from the little house in town where he has lived all his life, because it is too small. He is angry that their new place is not just in the country but in a horrible place called Fallow Hall, where everything is bleak and bare. He is angry because they have not gone for their usual summer holiday to visit his grandparents in Greece and he misses his Yiayia terribly. He is angry because now he has to put up with his annoying cousin, Amy. And most of all, he is angry because his parents have baby Ari and she alone is the reason for all the other calamities.

When Yanni and Amy are left to babysit Ari, all Yanni’s angry thoughts come together in a rush when the children accidentally allow an evil faerie into the house, and baby Ari is kidnapped, with a changeling left in her place. Despite his resentment of his little sister, Yanni cannot allow her to be trapped in the faerie world and together with Amy, he goes through the portal into a whole other Fallow Hall where the two cousins must use all their wits, skill and resilience to face down the trickery and cruelty of Lorde Renwin.

This is exciting and a tiny bit scary, thankfully with moment of humour to offset the tension, with so many rich characters and plot twists that able readers will thoroughly enjoy every moment of the perilous journey. Side by side with the quest are some lovely insights into family relationships, courage, sacrifice and ingenuity. It is the sort of book one just gobbles up because the unbearable urge to know what happens next is overwhelming. Sophisticated and astute readers from around ten years upwards will relish this and I thoroughly endorse it as a fabulous addition to your collection.

Beijing Tai Tai – Tania McCartney

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Exisle Publishing

2012

ISBN: 9781921966156

RRP: $14.99

I first met Tania when she came to my Canberra school as our author guest around ten years ago, and she and I just clicked from the first moment we spoke to each other. Since then it has been my honour and pleasure to be her friend. I have reviewed her books, been in awe of her talent (and her effortless elegance!), commiserated with her over slights and unjust decisions, laughed at silliness, virtually hugged each other many times and continue to be mad friends. When she offered up her book, of which she had some surplus copies, I jumped at the chance to read it.

It’s not exactly a travel book nor is it exactly a memoir but it combines both of these elements into a fabulous mash-up of anecdotes and vignettes that describe the experience of a very Aussie wife and mother living an ex-pat life in one of the strangest, most foreign (to us!) and downright quirky countries possible. I delighted in reading this over a few nights as I relaxed back into ‘school’ nights and loved, for one thing, that I could read one or two or more accounts depending on my level of tiredness.

I laughed out loud, I sympathised with Tania’s plight when bewildered or baffled, I snickered at her, often, caustic commentary on aspects of the Sino-experience and found her recurring mention of shopping totally hilarious – especially knowing her for such a total style-icon!

Aside from my political leanings, I couldn’t do it, I admit. I considered teaching in international schools and China and Hong Kong were among ones for which I interviewed years ago – and it was a close thing I admit, but I just couldn’t go through with it. So I takes me hat off to anyone who does take such a leap of faith – particularly with small children in tow.

I found this a lovely and insightful read. Not only has it given me a close-up look at one of the world’s busiest cities but has also provided me with some extra connection into my friend’s spirit.

Thanks Tania for the chance to vicariously live abroad with you – I’ll pass on the spitting, street toilet habits, your aya and even the shopping!!

Highly recommended for anyone with a pulse and a sense of humour – also with an interest in daily life from a Westerner’s perspective in an Asian setting particularly. Thanks for sharing Tan!

Round the Twist – Paul Jennings

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Penguin Australia

  • February 2022
  • ISBN: 9780140342130
  • Imprint: Puffin
  • RRP: $14.99
When an author has been voted Australia’s favourite by the children who love his work, over forty times – yes FORTY! – no one can deny his enduring appeal. When you tell your Welsh friend about this book, which combines both original stories and TV show insights, and she goes crazy because the whole family has loved RtT for years, no one can deny his global appeal either!

I was saying to someone just yesterday that, in our pursuit to promote new books, we sometimes forget that back catalogue titles also demand to be shared as each new crop of readers comes along. I am acquainted with so many young adults (that is, anyone younger than me) who exclaim with delight ‘Paul Jennings books!! That’s how I got hooked on reading!’. Going right back to my very first library, I never had any PJ books on the shelves. As fast as they were being returned, some other kid was grabbing them with ferocity.

Paul’s biography (such a delightful and also poignant read) gave readers some insight into his venture into TV script-writing, but it was pretty much slanted to more mature readers. This volume is one that the kids themselves can get into, as they re-visit some favourite stories, learn more about the actors as well as the entire process of creating one of the most successful Australian children’s series ever.

Kids who have yet to experience the absurdity of Paul’s stories but have seen the TV show, now on Netflix, will be keen to pick this up, and what a way to hook those reluctant readers! I would definitely share it with the readers in my new library, but this copy is earmarked to go express post to Wales!

Highly recommended for your readers from around Year 4 upwards – don’t miss out! it’s just TOO good!!

Sticky McStickStick: the Friend who Helped me Walk Again – Michael Rosen

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Walker Books

February 2022

ISBN: 9781529502404
Imprint: Walker

Australian RRP: $27.99
New Zealand RRP: $29.99

When I first read about Michael Rosen’s near-death Covid episode, I found it incredibly moving as this man is one of my most admired creators of children’s literature. Then I read, and shared, his article thanking Sticky McStickStick, and knew for certain that this was a not-to-be-missed book. And here it is, at last, and so very much worth waiting a while.

This, as with so many of Michael’s books, will touch the heart of many but, perhaps more importantly, will help children and their families come to grips with the struggle is the recovery from extreme and debilitating illnesses. One of the oft-repeated phrases two years into the pandemic is ‘long Covid’ and many accounts are emerging as people describe their ongoing difficulties along the road to a true recovery. Realistically, though our scientists have achieved great things with regards to vaccines and testing and so on, the lasting effects of the virus, in all its permutations, will continue to be a focus for research for years to come.

Michael couches his illness and subsequent rehabilitation in terms that will be readily understood by young readers, and offers an opportunity for important, indeed vital, discussion around the ‘afterwards’ of being infected or seriously ill. In typical Rosen fashion he manages to even make light of what must have been Herculean efforts in making those painful steps towards resuming a normal kind of life. The natural pairing with Tony Ross is, as always, inspired, as the illustrations so beautifully support the text with a full gamut of emotions.

I foresee this being a hugely significant book in primary classrooms and library as 2022 continues to unfold in a continuation of the difficulties of the past two years, and I would strongly suggest you put this on your order list and share it will all your primary students – and really, even secondary students as a conversation starter. Our kiddos need to know that hope is not extinguished, and that though recovery may be fraught, it is possible, more often than not.

Highly recommended for students from around Year 1 upwards.

Friday Barnes #10: Undercover – R. A. Spratt

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Penguin Australia

February 2022

  • ISBN: 9781761043659
  • Imprint: Puffin
  • RRP: $15.99

Some readers of this blog may recall my review of the ‘re-appearance’ of Friday and her cronies. My kiddos at school lost their minds when it hit the shelves so make sure you stand back again because the rush will be on. Now that Friday et al are all teens, the secondary kids are tremendously excited to get back into one of their favourite series from primary school. They still relish the clever plots, Friday’s quirkiness and the unravelling of mysteries but also to enjoy the growing romances and relationships. Naturally, where Friday is concerned, romance is never going to be a smooth ride. Naturally, since her stint in jail, Friday is even more emotionally fragile, something her best friend Melanie pinpoints very astutely.

Friday is most definitely not avoiding big decisions (like working with her Uncle Bernie and Ian, her nemesis/boyfriend, investigating crimes) and she’s certainly not avoiding Ian and their growing romance (using the word very loosely). She is in fact, helping out her best friend’s brother in his hour of great need. Mel’s brother, Binky, is now living in the land of his beloved Ingrid and, following the directive of Ingrid’s stern father the King, is serving out the required term in the Norwegian army. All of this is fine but when Binky ends up being charged with dereliction of duty, he calls upon Friday to help him prove his innocence. Of course she does. But there’s more to come in Norway (and beyond): Princess Ingrid’s upcoming 21st birthday (and the mysterious incidents which keep preventing her return to Oslo), continuing art thefts across Europe, the reasons behind Binky’s set up and the connection with the Global Seed Vault.

Like all the Friday books this is a joyous romp with plenty of snort laugh moments but the growing depth to the plot lines, character development and interactions offers more for the serious and thoughtful reader. I’ll have great pleasure talking this one up in my new library in the coming weeks.

Highly recommended for your readers from Upper Primary to Mid-Secondary in particular. Thanks R. A. Spratt for another great adventure with everyone’s favourite daggy detective.

Clarice Bean: Think Like an Elf – Lauren Child

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Harper Collins Australia

November 2021

  • ISBN: 9780008470845
  • ISBN 10: 0008470847
  • Imprint: HarperCollins GB
  • List Price: 24.99 AUD

I am just sorry this one didn’t arrive in time for me to get it read and reviewed before Christmas because it really is a perfect gift to share with a young reader. In her own inimitable manner, Lauren Child, takes us into Clarice’s home and family with side-splitting results as they prepare for a festive season very different to their normal ones. No hundreds of potatoes to peel, nor a house full of people, nor Mum and Dad slumping with exhaustion. This Christmas is going to be QUIET.

For Clarice, who normally looks forward to Christmas so much, this does not feel right, and she is struggling to feel the Xmas spirit as she usually would. Without all the extended family expected for the celebrations, and even her bestie, Betty Moody, going to Japan (!!) for Christmas, no Advent calendar with tiny doors to open, and almost no money in her toadstool/piggy bank to buy presents, things are looking very gloomy and not the least bit tinselly sparkly.

As you would always expect, nothing runs smoothly for the Tuesday family from an issue with selecting the Xmas tree, the accidentally too-large turkey which ends up on the floor before being eaten by Cement, the dog and a random fox (in which no one believes), Clarice, being helpful, but mixing up the airmail parcels and more. All of which makes for all the hilarious mayhem we have come to expect from this talented creator. The interspersing of all the Ruby Redfort references, are just a crack-up of course as Clarice tries to follow the advice and sagacity of her literary hero.

Naturally it won’t matter one jot to your readers if this was on offer when school starts back, when Christmas and New Year are just a memory but equally, if you were buying this for a gift (for next Xmas!) or to add to your store of Xmas stories, just perfect. It is beautifully bound, with the dust-jacket being more Christmassy than the actual binding, but both still delightful, with lovely Christmas tree endpapers. And of course, Lauren’s illustrations throughout, as always, are charming and completely in keeping with the quirkiness of the narrative.

Highly recommended for readers from around 8 years upwards.

Rapperbee: poems to give you a buzz – Harry Laing. Illustrations by Anne Ryan.

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Ford St Publishing

October 2021

ISBN: 9781925804775

RRP: $14.99

Harry’s poems are a delight for both young and old. If you and your kiddos enjoyed his previous books, including MoonFish, this one will equally entertain you. Particularly for rollicking read-alouds or, for performances, (think 2022 assembly pieces!) this collection of funny and quirky verses will become part of your standard repertoire.

Rhymes, raps, songs, cheese poems, animal poems, shape-poems...combined with Anne Ryans’s highly creative illustrations will ensure this is not just a book for the classroom and teaching, I can guarantee your kiddos will want to claim this for their own reading pleasure.

Given I still have my childhood copy of Spike Milligan’s Silly Verse for Kids, much dilapidated and clearly well-loved, you will understand why I think this is just a gem of a book. My suggestion is that you grab a copy for your collection, either personal or professional and, may I also suggest that if you are a relief teacher this would be a super addition to your ‘bag of tricks’ for those one-off days in unknown classrooms.

Highly recommended for readers from around 7 years upwards.

Shadowghast – Thomas Taylor

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Walker Books Australia

September 2021

ISBN: 9781406386301
Imprint: Walker
Australian RRP: $17.99
New Zealand RRP: $19.99

It’s back to Eerie-on-Sea for another cracking and creepy mystery. In this new adventure a seriously spooky magician arrives in town, accompanied by henchmen, and purports to be Herbie’s long-lost aunt. She seems to enthrall the boy but his friend and ally, Violet, is far from convinced of the Caliastra’s sincerity or truthfulness. As Halloween approaches and the time for the annual Ghastly Night event, strange things begin to happen.

People are either going missing altogether or somehow becoming changed – and not for the better. Poor Herbie yearns to have a real family and home and he truly wants to believe that Caliastra is both his aunt and that her intentions are wholesome but as the mystery deepens, it seems more and more unlikely.

Can a famous illusionist actually do real magic? Because once she demonstrates the power of the Shadowghast lantern, it would seem that the light it throws is indeed true sorcery. Perhaps the story of the Shadowghast is more than just legend and it’s up to Herbie and Violet to unravel the truth.

This series is so much fun and while, in our library, it has been a little slow to take off, it is definitely gaining momentum – and deservedly so. It is deliciously and thrillingly spooky, has exactly the right blend of mystery and humour, some wonderful themes of loyalty, friendship, family and courage and, for those of my ilk, fabulous frivolity and wordplay. One only has to encounter the two protagonists in the first book – Herbert Lemon and Violet Parma – to know that punnish fun is in store throughout! (fish and chips sold by Mr Seegol! hahahaha!)

This mix echoes the best of Lemony Snicket but is far superior in my opinion and Taylor’s skill in creating both his imaginary setting and engaging our suspension of disbelief is admirable.

If your kiddos haven’t got onto this series yet, I strongly recommend you adding it to your collection and book-talking it. Some read-aloud excerpts would certainly find their mark with any audience from around Year 4 upwards.

Funny Kid Prank Ninjas [Funny Kid #10] – Matt Stanton

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Harper Collins

September 2021

  • ISBN: 9780733340628
  • ISBN 10: 0733340628
  • Imprint: ABC Books AU
  • List Price: 14.99 AUD

I freely admit it. I’m not a huge fan of the many comic mega-series. They always seem to me to be very formulaic and same-same BUT I never find that in Matt’s books. Each Funny Kid I have read has provided delicious belly laughs and absurdist humour par excellence.

It’s school holidays in Redhill and Max & Co are in the throes of a massive prank war. (Pranking seems to be a very popular theme both in kids’ books and real life these days!). Max is considerably cheesed off that his friends, particularly his BEST friend, Hugo, are all ranged against him in the bid to out-prank his every effort. But he is the Prank Ninja and his stealthy moves are sure to win the battle – aren’t they?

A movie-theatre ninja, toilet turbulence, shopping-mall disasters, cling-film mazes and an unimaginable Kid-Free Zone are just some of the things in store for Max and his friends

It seems that it’s not just the kids who are pranking though. There are some definite suspicious happenings that cannot be attributed to either side of the kid prank-war. Could it be that an adult is trying to make trouble for everyone?

This would be a great addition to any Christmas stocking for a relaxed and funny read – possibly after a lot of yummy food on a lazy Xmas Day afternoon.

Highly recommended for kiddos from around 9 years upwards.

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!!