Tag Archives: Humour

Being You is Enough series- Josh Langley

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Big Sky Publishing

RRP: $14.99

It was such a joy to become connected with the uber-talented Josh Langley online earlier this year and to discover his own magical brand of positivity, particularly as it applies to children. It’s taken a while but this week I received the four books in his amazingly successful series and have fallen in love with them all. After a rather fraught couple of months with the Kid who was struggling with some serious anxiety and other mental health issues, and the frightening stats coming out about the escalating numbers of children and young people presenting with such problems, I can only say that this series could not be more timely. While I know my personal philosophy has always been to encourage self-confidence and self-awareness in children and, in particular, this young woman it is my privilege to be raising, how much more effective is the sharing of such vibrant and entertaining ‘lessons’ via books that make a child laugh as well as think and reflect. Even said Kid laughed when I showed her some of the spreads – and commented ‘Point taken, Gran!’.

Starting early with these vital lessons in being confident, courageous and compassionate, resilience, self-regulation and growth mindset can only prove beneficial for our kiddos. Whether you hold these in your collection (which I plan to do) or share them with your guidance counsellors (which I also plan to do) or if you simply acquire them for use with the small people in your life, Josh’s simple but quirky text in each book accompanied by his joyous cartoon-style illustrations will engage your young readers from the start. And as we all know that hook from the start is the most important part of any learning experience. In fact, seeing these books in person for the first time, I immediately busted out a grin and thought ‘Wow, our very own Todd Parr!’.

The latest in the series was launched a few weeks back and takes as its focus what might just prove to be the most important quality of the decade going forward. The world is in dire need of more kindness. With so much suffering, worry and despair, taking some time to be kind to each other and the Earth itself is vital – for our own mental well-being as much as anything else.

I no longer teach the littlies but even with my older kiddos, I am planning a ‘Being Wildly Kind’ challenge for this term *grin*. My strings of little ‘bee’ lights are ready to go up as are my challenges for them and I believe I will have many of my ‘too cool’ teens rise to the occasion when I ask them the question ‘What kind of person do you want to bee?’.

Josh does not confine himself to his popular books (for children and adults). He also has an online presence with videos and online chats, one of which I joined during the past week to my utter delight. This is a man who not only talks the talk but has walked the walk, his sensitivity and commitment to young people’s mental health being inspired by his own struggles as a child.

I truly cannot recommend these highly enough for your kids – either the ones in your classes or the ones in your family.

Be sure to check out Josh’s website for more resources and inspiration or for information around his school visits and more.

The Shadow Arts – Damien Love

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Bloomsbury

July 2021

Imprint: Rock the Boat

ISBN: 9780861540860

RRP: $14.99

A few months ago, Alex’s world changed forever. Now, just when it seems life is almost getting back to normal, his grandfather crashes back into the picture with grave news…Innocent lives –  even history itself – could be at stake.

Monstrous Devices was one of the most gripping and splendid debut novels I have ever read and I have been eagerly awaiting the next instalment. Let me say right now, it did not disappoint, and I have no qualms that any readers who have so far become engrossed in Alex’ adventures and the mystery of his grandfather, the tall man and the little girl and the battered tin robot will feel the same.

Like the first book this is a thrilling fantasy/adventure that is edgy and dark with some very unsettling evil villains and seriously creepy machines. I included the first in my pre-holiday book talking ‘best holiday reading picks’ to the Year 6 cohort and made sure I underlined that this is not a series for the faint-hearted or squeamish! Needless to say there was a clamour to be the one to borrow it – especially when I told them I had started this sequel and it was just as exciting. It is going to be such a pleasure to give this one a book talk when the new term starts.

Alex has been struggling to get back to ‘normal’ since the whirlwind adventure that blended ancient magical powers with chancy mechanized killing machines. His brief taste of the power that the mysterious tablet commands has taken hold of his thoughts and he has tried to learn to manipulate it. In a moment of danger, Alex’ grandfather re-appears, dapper and suave as ever, and once again the pair are off on a breakneck trip across Europe, this time to rescue their friend, Harry, unravel the mystery of the disappearing paintings and uncover the tall man’s plot to resurrect an ancient evil force. Their travels lead them to the depths of the Black Forest on the very eve of Walpurgis, and along the way Alex begins to piece together his family history, the true identity of the tall man, the connection of the little girl and most of all some of the strange and unfathomable secrets about his grandfather.

When his grandfather becomes unable to carry on, it is up to Alex to put together all the missing pieces, and harness all his powers to ensure the tall man’s plans, which could signal the end of the world as we know it, come to naught. In the process, he learns much about himself and his own resilience, not to mention empathy and intuition.

Beyond the reckless chases, the nimble escapes and the humorous interludes there is a deep theme throughout of the light and dark of human nature, the power of creation for good and evil and the wants and desires of those who seek power, of whatever kind.

Once again this is a triumph of well-crafted writing which will thoroughly captivate your readers from upper primary onwards. It will certainly be a book that your kiddos will want to debate and discuss post-reading so make sure you set time aside for that.

Highly recommended for readers from around 11/12 years upwards – but possibly not ones easily scared by flying sharp mechanical objects that are programmed to attack no matter what. I suggest you issue all loans with a sachet of table salt – just for good measure!

Shockingly Good Stories – R. A. Spratt

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Penguin Australia

  • ISBN: 9781761043376
  • Imprint: Puffin
  • RRP: $19.99

The hilarious author, R. A. Spratt, knows well that her stories make me snort laugh in an extremely undignified manner. I do my utmost to keep these moments private as I have noted that when reading hilarious stories from what is obviously a kids’ book on a train full of commuters and laughing uproariously, one gets looks from fellow travelers that imply more suspicion than a cough in a crowded supermarket (these days). However, I am instructed that I must now do my reading of all new Spratt stories in full view of any unsuspecting members of public in the name of shameless publicity for the aforementioned author.

Well I’ve saved the last couple of stories for an upcoming train journey but the rest were mirthfully devoured over the past week or so and I have to say, that your young funsters are going to lose their tiny minds over this collection. R. A. Spratt has shared the love around between her two outstanding characters, Nanny Piggins and Friday Barnes, with a few well-chosen random fractured fairytales thrown in, all of which will send readers into paroxysms of laughter.

From the get-go I was completely onside with Nanny Piggins’ rendition of Rapunzel Bacon-Hair and the ensuing Piggins tales, oddly all centred on foodstuffs equally reduced me to a gibbering mess. Then there are the always entertaining sleuthings of Friday – which are (for me at least) more subtle in their laughter-provoking moments.

Interspersed with the stories are some fabulous story-telling tips for your budding writers and humorists. Here’s one I particularly enjoyed:

Storytelling Tip #4

Don’t be afraid to yell. Children love yelling. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t be as provoking. If your child’s attention is drifting away throw in a KAPOW! or a BOOOM!!! David Walliams does this all the time. If you do it loud enough, it’s an excellent way to startle your child, raising their heart rate so they don’t fall asleep before the end.

Thanks awfully for that one R. A.! I humbly request some sage advice for startling teens into behaviour that resembles an actual human…………….sorry, I digress.

I never have any hesitation in recommending Rachel’s books with my greatest endorsement. I have seen for myself the mad scramble for kids to get their hands on the newest ones – and seen my kiddos literally weep when a series has finished.

Happy book birthday to Shockingly Good Stories today! Get thee to thy online ordering to have your copy ready to go immediately after the holidays!!

Backyard Birdies – Andy Geppert

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Hachette

JUL 28, 2021 | 9780734420695 | RRP $19.99

Imprint: Lothian Books

Well, you know, I’m a secret bird geek. I love spotting them. I take part in the annual backyard bird survey every year and, even going way way back to my first year of teaching, had my class keeping tally of the birds they saw in the backyards and on their properties. The bird gardens at Maleny are a favourite day trip. We throw our food scraps out onto the grass to feed the neighbourhood bin chickens and crows (mostly). So yes, all in all, a friend of the feathery ones…

And then this book arrived – and I laughed and laughed with the absolute hilarious joy of it. I pretty much expected that I was getting a serious little beginners’ book of bird identification albeit with cutesie illustrations. What I didn’t antipicate was this gloriously uproarious slant on the birds we might most expect to find in our backyards (and here I’m thinking Brisbane backyards as author/illustrator Andy also hails from Bris Vegas).

To whit (but not, in this case, to whoo):

This is a common pigeon. Common because it’s almost identical to every other pigeon.
You’ll sometimes see a white one. That’s because it’s just had a bath. I made that last bit up.

Other avian facts you will discover include:

Seagulls can’t talk.

They can only shout.

and

Kookaburras love hearing jokes from everyone except dads.

Even kookaburras know that dad jokes are terrible.

Along with the fascinating facts… and near-facts… are the delightful and quirky illustrations with each bird depicted next to a common (or dare I say, garden variety) plastic bucket for reference to size and a feather, ostensibly, sticky-taped to the page. Each bird is accompanied by a map for distribution and it’s scientific name so there is some semblance of real information *wink*. The glossary that concludes the book refers not so much words of scientific or technical definition as much as the more random ones chosen by the author.

Most of my friends know that I donate my review books regularly – to a variety of sources – but I found this so amusing and so well-suited to my own sense of humour that it is very likely destined to live on my own bookshelves.

Do not hang about – get thee to your bookseller immediately and order this one. You will definitely not regret it!

Highly recommended for your readers from around six years upwards – I can well picture having a lot of fun with junior classes!

Cardboard Cowboys – Brian Conaghan

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Bloomsbury

May 2021

ISBN: 9781526628602

Imprint: Bloomsbury Children’s Publishing

RRP: $12.99

This is another of the really cracking YA novels I have read in the last few weeks – and another that was a binge read as my heart went out to the main characters, and I became deeply invested in their journey.

12 year old Lenny is deeply unhappy. For many kids, their first year in high school is full of wonder and adventure with new experiences and friendships, but for Lenny it represents misery and isolation, as he relentlessly bullied and fat-shamed by other kids (and a very nasty PE teacher). Only one student attempts to reach out to Lenny, but in his state of despair, he fails to see the overtures for their worth. Given Lenny’s home life has been difficult in the past few months this exclusion and torment seems doubly hard to take. With his older brother gone away, for reasons not clear at the start, Lenny’s best mate and protector is far from his side, and both his parents seem too distracted and caught up to take much notice of him, so not surprisingly Lenny feels completely and utterly wretched.

He takes to cutting school and wandering the canals of Glasgow where one particular bench becomes his special place for thinking. When he unthinkingly chucks an empty soft drink can into the canal though, he finds himself face to face with a very irate and, it soon appears, homeless man. Bruce and Lenny build a friendship that is both unusual and completely moving. They recognise themselves as outcasts, cut off from the normal mainstream of society, and both are struggling to heal from trauma. In doing so, these two will move you to tears of both laughter and poignancy as their unlikely partnership as the ‘cardboard cowboys’ becomes an effective means of starting the healing process for both.

Their road trip north to discover Lenny’s brother, Frankie, is a catharsis for the unlikely friends and one that brings the frayed fabric of both lives a little closer to mending. The backstory of both is confronting but not in a way that will traumatise younger readers, rather it will give them pause for thought on the ease with which people can be thrust into circumstances which cause immense pain and evoke those feelings of empathy that we aspire to instil in our young people.

With its themes of homelessness, bullying, isolation and self-discovery this is an extremely worthwhile book to put into the hands of your astute readers from around Year 6 upwards. I have absolutely no hesitation in naming it as one of my top YA reads so far this year and highly recommend it to you.

Truly Tan Shocked! – Jen Storer. Illustrated by Clare Robertson

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Harper Collins Australia

January 2021

  • ISBN: 9780733334146
  • ISBN 10: 0733334148
  • Imprint: ABC Books AU
  • List Price: 17.99 AUD

It has been ages since I’ve had the delight of reading a new Truly Tan book and the joy has not diminished one whit!

In this new adventure Tan and Gloria are most worried about their teacher, Miss Dragone, who has been acting most peculiarly: taking cooking classes to make delicious muffins, having her eyebrows and nails ‘done’, buying a fancy new bike – all kinds of weird stuff. Naturally, the determined spies are set on finding out exactly what is going on and confirming their suspicions that not all is well with their teacher.

Tan is also dealing with the very disquieting upcoming birth of a fifth Callahan sibling. She is not at all comfortable with losing her place as the youngest in the family, especially for yet another sister. As it is, the Lollipops (her older sisters) are all being as mental as ever and in fact, more so, as Emerald prepares for the starring role in the school production and deals with her first boyfriend break-up, Amber is seething with jealousy having only made the chorus of the show and Rose is wafting in and out of her home-made yurt reading everyone’s aura and communing with the bush fairies. And just to top it off, Tan feels that her 10th birthday – such a special occasion – will be completely overshadowed, indeed forgotten, in all the kerfuffle around her.

As usual, all is pretty chaotic really, yet Tan and Gloria press on with their investigation, with Tan’s diary entries (and the vivid description of which pen she is using) providing highlights of each stage. The explanations of unusual words at the conclusion of each chapter again provide readers with some bonus material.

Will Tan and Gloria uncover the truth about the Mystery of Miss Dragone? Will Tan get a special celebration for her birthday? And will she be able to cope with the arrival of Callahan #5?

All in all, absolutely great fun as always – these are ‘truly’ laugh-out-loud books that will appeal strongly to your independent readers.

Highly recommended for kiddos from around 8 years upwards.

Friday Barnes #9: No Escape – R. A. Spratt

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Penguin Australia

  • February 2021
  • ISBN: 9781760895761
  • Imprint: Puffin
  • RRP: $15.99

R. A. Spratt (aka Rachel) said to me ‘NO spoilers’ when I mentioned I was about to review this new Friday Barnes instalment and given she is both fit and feisty albeit small, I am not about to quibble! So here’s my rather ‘different’ review ;-).

A) Friday is now the same age as The Kid – growing up indeed!

B) The Kid will be going on her first ever school camp this year as she commences Year 10 at her new school and I will be running full checks on any accompanying teachers – just saying.

C) We live with an Italian, and know others, and I have come to the conclusion that they are ALL crazy!

D) When I reviewed #8 in the series on this blog two years ago I commented that I almost had a full-scale riot in my library when I said it would (as I had been told) be the last in the series. Like me, my kiddos just love Friday so much – so they are going to go wild when this new one appears when school goes back.

As with the others in this series there is loads of action and double doses of laugh-out-loud humour as Friday continues to awkwardly navigate her way through confronting social and emotional situations without ever losing her brilliance and genius-level powers of deduction. I loved it, your kids will love it too. I strongly suggest buying multiple copies so put it on your orders list now!!!!

Thanks so much R. A. for bringing Friday back – you know how much we all love her – horrible brown cardigan, porkpie hat, quirky but smart and, above all, the kid you’d most want to have as your friend.

Check out the blurb here at Penguin – then I can’t be blamed for any spoilers!!

Highly recommended for readers from around mid-primary upwards.

Coffee and laughs at the Shingle Inn – memorable outing!!

The Time-travelling Caveman – Terry Pratchett

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Penguin Australia

September 2020

  • ISBN: 9780857536020
  • Imprint: Doubleday Childrens
  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 336
  • RRP: $32.99

Oh Sir Terry how much poorer are we for your departure! This is our final offering from the master and one which will set many young readers on a journey of discovery for more of his completely anarchic and often absurd writing.

Previously unpublished this collection of stories originate from Sir Terry’s early days as a junior reporter writing for his local papers and are little gems in their own right.

Over a dozen stories have been unearthed and polished up to delight and entertain readers with a short introductory preface providing insight.

A crazy neighbour’s home-made rocket ship and a trip to Mars, a talking horse, an invasion of Britain by the little know Tropnecian nation, the titular time-travelling caveman and more are all bound to keep your kiddos in fits of snort laughing.

Ably illustrated by Mark Beech (in a style reminiscent of Quentin Blake) this lovely hardback edition would make a very splendid and welcome gift for a young reader of your acquaintance – or indeed, a TP fan of any age.

Highly recommended for readers from around 7 years upwards.

Happy Halloween!

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We are preparing for a teen ‘Ween party here but I’ve been saving these titles for today so here we go!

Peppa Pig: Peppa’s Spooky Halloween

Penguin Australia

  • September 2020
  • ISBN: 9780241412268
  • Imprint: Ladybird
  • RRP: $14.99

Peppa and her Pig famiy continue to be firm favourites with little ones and this one will delight them as the Pigs prepare for a fun-filled Halloween.

Peppa and George are at Granny and Grandpa’s house and they are ready for some spookiness and luckily, their grandparents are fully in favour.

There is a flurry of baking yummy treats and decorations are dragged out of the attic – luckily Grandpa and Granny have collected quite a lot of Halloween accessories over the years. Soon both the house and yard are suitably creepy.

Next it’s time to raid the dressing-up box and all four costume themselves ready for a Spooky Show. When Mummy and Daddy Pig arrive they will be very surprised!

This is not only great fun for little ones at this time of year but a lovely warm story about the special bond between grandparents and grandchildren.

Your Peppa fans will love it of course!

There’s Something Weird About Lena

Sigi Cohen. Illustrated by James Foley.

Walker Books Australia

October 2020

ISBN: 9781760651503
Imprint: Walker Books Australia
Australian RRP: $25.99
New Zealand RRP: $28.99

For all who loved My Dead Bunny (that was everyone wasn’t it?) here’s another rollicking and hilarious creepy story.

With fabulous rhyming text that begs to be read aloud accompanied by the atmospheric illustrations, your kiddos will want this one over and over again.

Lena is the new kid at school and she’s really WEIRD. She cackles and howls, she shrieks and moans and she’s really not very nice. When her friends decide to prank her by dressing up spookily they are in for quite a shock – Lena is definitely not your average girl!

The fun use of onomatopoeia will simply delight – and your kiddos will be howling along with the reading – in fact, quite likely some adults will as well.

It’s a must – it really is! If your budget is all dried up by now, make sure you put it on your list for next year – you won’t be sorry!

Zombierella: Fairy Tales Gone Bad – Joseph Coelho. Illustrated by Freya Hartas.

Walker Books Australia

September 2020

ISBN: 9781406389661
Imprint: Walker
Australia RRP: $18.99
New Zealand RRP: $21.99

One for your older readers and the first in a three-part series that twists classic stories into very entertaining verse, this is perfect for your kiddos from around 9 years upwards up into Year 7.

With enough of the original story to be familiar but the delightfully gruesome twists – I mean who wouldn’t be far more thrilled with a zombie Cinderella than the insipid Disney version? – kids will gobble this up with much laughter. Trust me, when they get to the climax and instead of losing a glass (or fur) slipper, Zombierella loses her entire foot – they will explode!

Huge fun for readers from Year 4 upwards and I await the next two instalments eagerly, as they will as well.

Mind the Gap, Dash & Lily – Rachel Cohn & David Levithan

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Allen & Unwin

October 2020

ISBN:9781760526214

Publisher:A&U Children’s

Imprint:A & U Children

RRP: $19.99

This is my first encounter with Dash and Lily – and I’m in love with them! As it happens I had put this title on our orders list because I liked the sound of it so much – and as it happens, with a Netflix adaptation on its way – I was pretty confident my keen beans would also enjoy it.

Now I can’t wait to talk it up at our ChocLit meeting this week because I know for sure they will love it!! It may sound cliched but I make no apologies for that – this is exactly the kind of ‘witty and sparkling’ writing that thrills me. I gobbled it up over a couple of nights and it was just pure joy to read.

Dash and Lily have been a couple for around two years and now they are finished school, their lives are changing. Dash is accepted to Oxford – his life-long dream – and while Lily knows she will miss him terribly she in no way wants to hold him back. On the other hand, she is floundering somewhat with her options. Her dog-walking business, Insta following and dog ‘crafting’ skills are really taking off and she is very determined not to follow the generations of women in her family in attending Barnard College. When Dash decides to stay in England for Christmas, Lily splurges on a trip to surprise him (her doggy entrepreneurship is REALLY successful!) in what she sees as a truly romantic gesture. But as many of us know, sometimes romantic gestures do not realise themselves in quite the same way as we have imagined them.

There are moments of real disconnection and none of it is helped by both young people doubting their choices around their chosen paths. However, as both are super intelligent and emotionally aware, they are able to work out not only their relationship but their futures.

There is so much to love about this book! Firstly, I adore that while it outlines completely relatable problems there is none of the intense teeth-gnashing, maudlin introspection and egocentric thinking that seems to pervade so many YA novels. There is a lot of humour – and I particularly love the ‘punny’ expressions throughout – and these two as well as secondary characters are genuinely likeable. I also really appreciate that while the couple do have a physical relationship there is nothing overt that could cause problems with your younger readership and similarly, there is no swearing!

Your readers from around Year 7 are likely to connect with these two as much as I have and I highly recommend it for your astute readers who will fully appreciate the humour, the dilemmas and the joy of the narrative.