Tag Archives: Penguin Australia

Seven Days- Fleur Ferris

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Penguin Australia

May 2022

  • ISBN: 9781761043352
  • Imprint: Puffin
  • RRP: $16.99

I really do love a good countdown action/adventure and Fleur Ferris has brought her masterful manipulation of tension into a fantastic new narrative for middle school readers. In similar fashion to her hugely successful and popular suspenseful stories for YA kiddos, this one follows a cracking pace from the very first page.

Ben is really angry with his father, who seems to be far more interested in his high-flying corporate job crushing people and the environment, than in Ben. And now, much to his complete disgust, Ben is being packed off to the country to spend a week with his aunt, uncle and cousin – a fate too horrible to contemplate from this teen’s point of view. It’s not that he thinks his aunt and uncle are awful, it’s just that his cousin is so much more adept than him dealing with country type stuff like animals and motorbikes and physical activity. Ben is really far more citified than he cares to admit at times.

The very last thing that Ben imagines happening is to become embroiled in a generations-old family feud, a murder mystery and a treasure hunt which ends up in the enclosure of two very cranky hippos at the nearby zoo. Ben has set his watch the minute he arrives in Manibee to countdown until it’s time to go back home, but now that seven days ticking away is how long he has to solve a century-old crime, work out the location of an almost mythical cache of stolen jewelry – oh, and actually survive the dangers on all sides.

With the unexpected assistance of his cousin Josh, with whom he finally develops a far more friendly relationship, as well as the even more surprising aid from Josh’s crush, Olivia, of the very family that despises their own (a nice little Romeo & Juliet twist here), Ben manages to unearth the long lost stolen goods, prove the solution of the crime, and resolve the family feud but not without a dramatic plot twist that will make readers’ heads spin!

With lots to say about family, misleading appearances, values and beliefs, friendship and acceptance of differences, your readers from around Year 6 upwards will truly relish this fast-paced thrilling ride.

Highly recommended for middle primary/lower secondary – this is an author to whom your kiddos will love an introduction!

The Very Hungry Caterpillar’s Bug Hunt: a lift-and-learn book

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Penguin Australia

  • April 2022
  • ISBN: 9780241553503
  • Imprint: Puffin
  • Format: Board Book
  • RRP: $14.99
You know when you put together the art and charm of Eric Carle and lift-the-flap fun, you have a winning combination. When that fun becomes learning as well, it’s a beautiful bonus.

Your littlest readers are going to love this. Every page is pure classic Carle and the fact that there are several flaps on each spread will just send them into paroxysms of squealing joy. Aside from finding the mini-critters, you can focus on some prepositions and rhyme – what more could you want? Well of course, just delight in reading :-).

I anticipate this will be a read-aloud on high rotation in many homes and libraries too. Whether you have a little one to buy for, or a creche, playgroup or kinder – or your Preppies – this will make a super addition and a terrific springboard to some nature observations.

Guest Reviewer: Jessica Finden

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Introducing the lovely Jess, currently teacher-librarian (part-time) at Carmel College, Thornlands. Jess is definitely the glue that holds together the Bayside Secondary T-L Network and works hard always, organising meetings, and our regional Readers Cup competition. In tandem with her Head of English she has transformed the set novel program at Carmel with both flair and success. Her sessions in her library including book groups are, I know, highly valued by both the student participants and her college.

Today she is sharing her thoughts about a recently published novel, gaining a real foothold in libraries.

House of Hollow by Krystal Sutherland

March 2021

ISBN: 9780143796992

Imprint: Penguin

Format: Paperback

Pages: 304

RRP: $19.99.

Recommended for Teens 15+

There are some instances when you pick up a book and you just know that you are going to thoroughly enjoy reading it.  House of Hollow by Krystal Sutherland was exactly this for me.  A dark, modern day fairytale – equal parts tantalizing and horrific, Sutherland’s ability to infuse her writing with the gothic use of the sublime and the uncanny keeps you entertained even as you squirm at the unfolding events.

As children, Iris Hollow and her two sisters disappeared.  A month later, they returned with no memory of what had befallen them.  With a change to their eye colour and hair and a small scar at their throat, their parents knew that something disturbing had happened to them.

17 year old Iris is just trying to live a normal life and finish high school but her older, famous and dazzling sisters are busy living anything but a normal life.  When Iris’ older sister Grey disappears, Iris and her sister Vivi follow a trail of peculiar clues leading them not only to where Grey is but unlocking answers from their past – answers that they may not wish to uncover.

House of Hollow entices you to fall down the rabbit hole into the lives of the Hollow sisters, knowing that you are not going to like what you find at the end.

5 stars

I do have this book on my TBR list – and aside from anything else, just check out that fab cover art! Thank you so much Jess for joining us today!

The Unstoppable Flying Flanagan – Felice Arena

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Penguin Australia

29 March 2022

ISBN: 9781761044366

Imprint: Puffin

RRP: $16.99

In a completely genius move, Felice Arena has combined his love of football (the AFL kind) and his skill with bringing lesser-known history to life. Set in Melbourne in the later years of WWII, this is the story of Maggie Flanagan who loves the game of football, and her team St Kilda, with all the passion of the most diehard fan. It is also the story of everyday life in Australia with the threat of war and invasion hanging like a pall, the constant worry about the menfolk away fighting, the rise of feminism and the history of women’s football.

Maggie practises her footy skills every day, using the precious football entrusted to her by her older brother, Patrick, who is away over the other side of the world, fighting for King and country. Football for girls is not only considered inappropriate – “unladylike” – but, indeed, risible by many people, mostly but not only males. So, when the new local priest suggests the children of Maggie’s school come up with some fund-raising ideas to support the troops, and Maggie proposes a girls’ football match, the shock and ridicule from many quarters soon squashes the idea.

If nothing else, Maggie is one determined young woman, and with Blessed Mary listening to her prayers, she knows she can succeed in this enterprise, despite the apparent obstacles. Over the course of just a couple of weeks, Maggie seems to uncover potential players for her match in the most surprising of places: the new ‘ice-woman’ delivering for the household ice-chests now that her husband has enlisted, or similarly the ‘milk-lady’, the usherette from the cinema, school nurse Nancy, Lizzie who lives with Miss Kelly of the corner shop, and even Sister Clare. Some of these have actually played football before, much to Maggie’s surprise. She also makes discoveries about her elderly neighbour, Grumpy Gaffney, and new girl, Elena, that not only give her much pause for thought but show her different ways of thinking.

Felice cleverly weaves into this snapshot of a significant time in our history, many of the prevailing attitudes and customs of the time – thankfully, most of them long gone the way of dinosaurs – as his narrative reveals how diverse people such as Maggie’s effeminate best friend, George, and Italian Elena were generally treated. The arrival of the ‘Yanks’ in Australia was divisive at the time and this too, is reflected in older sister Rita’s deviation from her steady boyfriend, seemingly dazzled by a tall good-looking American. Overall, there is much here that will provide some interesting discussions and comparisons for your young readers.

Like all of Felice’s stories, above all it is a cracking good yarn, with a plot that moves along at a brisk pace with a keen desire to find out what happens next. This, aside from anything else, will make this a fabulous tempter for your reluctant readers, particularly those who love their footy – whether boys or girls – and along the way they will absorb some valuable insights into a period of history that had great impact on the growth of our nation and our society.

Highly recommended for your readers from around Year 5 up to Year 7 – it will definitely be going up on my current Specky Magee anniversary display and will be part of my book talking with my kiddos over the coming weeks. Just in time for footy season – it’s a winner all round!

[Pre-orders available from the usual suppliers]

Dear Greta – Yvette Poshoglian

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Penguin Australia

March 2022

  • ISBN: 9781761043789
  • Imprint: Puffin
  • RRP: $16.99
Like most kids in their last year of primary school, Alice Boghosian is hoping it will be her best one yet and that she will really stand out. What she doesn’t expect to do is stand up for what’s right, especially in the face of strong opposition, and with just everything (so it seems) going completely awry.

First of all, for their writing task, a collaborative project between library and classroom, Alice gets Greta Thunberg as her ‘significant person’ to whom she is meant to write fictional letters. Who wants to get a teen environmental activist to write to? Now a pop star, that would have been far easier and way more fun too.

Then because of the whole COVID thing, the annual Harmony Day Food Festival can’t take place in it’s usual actual on-site format (we all know those disappointments by now). Instead of an oval full of colourful stalls and delicious smells with loads of visitors and even media coverage, Alice is one of four kids tasked with creating a virtual event. So how the heck do you turn a food festival with real food into a virtual event that people will want to see – especially when one of your team is the school’s most annoying boy?

But her woes don’t end there. When her grandmother – her nene – has a heart attack, she comes to stay with Alice’s family – in Alice’s bedroom, where she proceeds to take over, even usurping Alice’s favourite trackpants!! How rude!

And then of course, there is the usual stuff with which to contend – her superior older sister, her dad’s disappointment over not being able to save the local wetlands from a freeway development and her best friend’s fragile health. In fact, just about every which way she turns, Alice is faced with seemingly impossible dilemmas.

But somehow, over the term, as she comes to research more about Greta and begins to share her thoughts and feelings in the format of the so-called fictional emails, Alice begins to see many things in a different light. The very fact of writing down her problems and emotions actually starts to open up a range of possibilities, empowering Alice to ultimately emulate Greta in standing up for what’s right and fair. And along the way, discovering that those other ‘problems’ weren’t impossible to solve after all. In fact, things seem to unravel easily once you change your mindset – a good lesson for us all, really.

This was a very enjoyable read, which I knocked over last night, and one which kiddos from around Year 4 to Year 7 would best enjoy. It’s not a difficult read, especially given the format of the emails telling the narrative but it has many layers to it, which I can see translating well to a shared reading for a class. Much rich discussion could arise on many topics: family life, relationships and heritage, multiculturalism, environmental issues both past and present, protests, sibling rivalry, and friendships among them.

I know it came in our standing order last week so some folks will already have a copy but if not, do yourself a favour, and add it to your list soon. I intend for it to be part of our Harmony Day display in our library!

As a footnote: for those of you who missed the Everyone’s an Author series, produced by NSW Dept of Ed (with which Yvette was involved), make sure you check it out. It was a valuable resource for our Write a Book in a Day kids last year!

Hopping towards Easter (already!)

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It’s true that the start of this year has been fraught – not to put too fine a point on it. In my house: switch jobs on the last day of holidays, school is delayed by a week for The Kid, a week or so later The Kid is not well and after a couple of days tests positive for Covid, so we’re both in quarantine for a week, get over that (negative test on the Thursday) so she still can’t go to school on the Friday as its pupil-free at her school, freak extreme rain/storm event in Qld causing flooding all weekend, schools closed for two days but she still can’t get to school as the trains are not yet running after the floods, then we all get sent home on Thursday and schools are closed again on Friday. So she’s not been to school for three of the six weeks of term, and I’ve missed a week and a half. Seriously, can we just have 2021 back? I promise not to complain again! Meanwhile, now it’s a mere few weeks until Easter bounces around again but I want to give the heads up on these two beauties so that you have time to get them!!

The Tale of Peter Rabbit – Beatrix Potter

[120th Anniversary picture book edition]

Penguin Australia

March 2022

  • ISBN: 9780241545379
  • Imprint: Warne
  • RRP: $16.99

I truly wish you could see just how glorious this is with its stunning gold foil cover! If ever a fictional character deserved such a beautiful anniversary edition, it must surely be Peter, whose adventures and near-escapes have been enthralling little readers for over a century with completely undiminished love and enthusiasm.

When Beatrix wrote her first little story, naming the central character after her own childhood pet, purely for the amusement of a sick child, I feel sure she had no accurate idea of his enduring appeal, though she was certainly astute. Indeed, when friends urged her to publish the story, it was soundly rejected by numerous publishers and so, boldly, she published it herself. The rest, as they say, is history. The initial success prompted Frederick Warne & Co to issue it commercially and now, 120 years later, it has sold in excess of 45 millions copies, been translated into 36 languages, and spawned so much merchandising, film versions and spin-off books. Potter, herself, saw the possibilities for marketing with her own creations of a soft toy, a board game and nursery wallpaper in the first few years following publication.

In the intervening years, it is difficult to think of an ‘incarnation’ of Peter in merchandise that has been left untouched and yet, despite, what is almost saturation this rather naughty little rabbit, his friends and family – and even his nemesis – continue to delight children around the world.

This beautiful edition is absolutely worthy of honouring the longevity of the first little white book with its adherence to Potter’s original illustrations but now fully in colour and such gorgeous endpapers!

If you have a special little person in your circle, expecting a new arrival or simply to add to your collection to celebrate this significant literary milestone, you should order your copy immediately.

The Unfunny Bunny – Adrian Beck and James Hart

Penguin Australia

  • March 2022
  • ISBN: 9781761043093
  • Imprint: Puffin
  • RRP: $17.99

Ok, I admit, this is not Peter Rabbit or even close to it – but it is really very funny, and it will have your kiddos rolling around like Easter eggs on a slippery slope. For reading aloud adults like myself, it’s completely the joy of so many rabbit-related puns that brings the joy (particularly given my penchant for all things rabbit). For the munchkins this is just part of the fun with the rhymes and the hare-larious antics of the family adding to the mix (NOT MIX-omatosis!!).

I have to say after the deluge of a week we’ve had in the Sunshine State the premise of a washed-out Easter doesn’t seem beyond the realms of possibility, but fingers crossed our wild weather will have settled by then!

’Twas the night before EASTER
When I spotted the BUNNY!
So I offered to help
Make the EGG HUNT more FUNNY!

James’ illustrations which make the bunny-impersonating kid look as much like a rabbit as the actual rabbit looks like a rabbit make me laugh just by seeing them, and the riotous colours, facial expressions plus the weird and wonderful situations, all add up to one laugh-out-loud reading experience.

My prediction is that when offered up as a read-aloud – the reading will inevitably finish up with ‘AGAIN!’ from your audience.

I highly recommend you rush out and buy both of these – different but so very appropriate, particularly as Easter gifts (my girls always got books PLUS chocolate!) – and enjoy them both!

Happy Specky-versary!

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Following up on my review of Specky’s 20th anniversary edition – as the actual birthday is today – it was timely to kick off the 2022 footy season with not only a display to feature everyone’s favourite young AFL player, but the code itself. And of course, an opportunity to have a ‘win’ incentive to encourage the borrowers in my new library!. Thanks Felice Arena & Garry Lyon, for bringing us all such a great character, who just never gets old! and also thanks, to one of my new specky-tacular library assistants, Gretchen, who kindly brought in her son’s AFL jersey collection to add to our display!

Mr Bambuckle’s Remarkables Join Forces – Tim Harris

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Penguin Australia

  • 1 March 2022
  • ISBN: 9781761044557
  • Imprint: Puffin
  • RRP: $14.99

It seems incredible – or should I say remarkable – that is already four years since I had the pleasure of sipping Himalayan tea with the delicious Mr Bambuckle – sorry, I mean, sipping delicious Himalayan tea with Mr Bambuckle! And now everyone’s favourite teacher (up there alongside me really) is back with his class of remarkable pupils, plus some new additions, and they have the most important undertaking ever when they collectively uncover Principal Sternblast’s dastardly plot.

The new children in the class have come from the recently closed Blue Valley Grammar, nearby private school, and while they are a tad reticent at first, each of the four quickly find that they are not only welcome but valued. But for how long? It appears the Blue Valley School is also under threat, not of entire closure, but a take-over by a private consortium who see an opportunity to create a new exclusive selective school to replace the defunct grammar school. And, as one would expect, Sternblast is up to his neck in the behind-the-scenes machinations with not one whit of concern for any havoc he may cause.

At first class 12B are rather nonplussed as they think that neither Mr Bambuckle nor Miss Frost are making an effort to stop this disaster. But as always, Mr B has all his ducks lined up as he makes sure that his pupils are both prepared and ready to combine their collective strengths and save their school.

As always, this is such a fun read and while there is plenty of nonsense on offer, there is also many great messages imparted to readers: recognising one’s own worth, maximising impact by collaborative action, research and planning pay off, faith and trust in one’s comrades and the joys of true friendships – no matter how different the personalities. Tim has a real knack of combining the absurd with the meaningful, and his experience as a primary teacher always shines through in his excellent caricatures of 12B’s students.

This series has been so popular in my libraries, and without doubt there will be a clamouring to be the first to borrow this when you add it to your shelves.

Highly recommended for kiddos from around Year 4 upwards.

That Cat – Jacqueline Harvey. Illustrated by Kate Isobel Scott.

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Penguin Australia

  • 1 March 2022
  • ISBN: 9781761040702
  • Imprint: Puffin
  • RRP: $19.99

When the delightful Jacqueline came to my place last year (dinner, lots of talk and loads of laughs!) she told me about her first picture book which was on its way. How excitement!! And really no surprise regarding the subject matter – given her great affection for her adopted furbaby Bally Puss (who is far more sociable than our snarky Whiskers, who wouldn’t even come out to say miaow to our guest).

This is a gorgeous rhyming book which will provide much joy for the little humans in your life. It has exactly the right kind of bounce and jounce that is perfect for read-aloud for tiny toddlers, but also for those early readers who will love showing off their new vocabulary with the ‘-at’ words on offer. The simple text will provide a super platform for those emergent readers to strut their stuff whilst providing some juicy giggles with the lively and vibrant illustrations from Kate Isobel Scott.

Definitely not one to rest on her laurels with her best-selling series of Alice-Miranda (now with two animated stories on STAN), Clementine Rose and Kensy and Max, this super-talented creator and thoroughly lovely person is now adding to her impressive repertoire and I, for one, am looking forward to more entertaining and enjoyable titles.

Whether it is a brat cat or a fat cat, a scat cat or a rat cat- the kiddos will find exactly THAT cat to tickle their feline fancy!

Congratulations Jacqueline on such a hugely successful leap from novel to picture book – clever ducky!

Highly recommended for little readers from toddler-sized up to early primary years.

Whiskers the Brat Cat
Such a fun evening!

Specky Magee- Felice Arena, Gary Lyons

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Penguin Australia

1st March 2022

  • ISBN: 9780143777168
  • Imprint: Puffin
  • RRP: $16.99

Seriously, these anniversaries always give me such a jolt – “Whaddya mean 20 years of Specky?” she says with disbelief as she opens the parcel. Yep, face it, you have been doing this job a long time! I’m the first to admit (much to the disgust of a couple of former gentleman friends) that I am not an AFL aficionado – hello!? born and bred in Sydney, right in the heart of Dragons territory and went to St George GHS – any surprise as to my football allegiance!?) but the Specky series is so much more than football.

Any youngster who is a keen follower or player loves this series – right from the start I can confirm – and it will be no different as a new generation pick them up. The footy aspect is integral, of course, and the story line is fortified by the technical ‘know-how’ inserted at relevant points. But the theme of Specky is so much more than this. Readers will relate with ease to Specky’s relationships with friends and family, at school or at home or on the footy field, and they will empathise with his dilemmas and concerns.

It is in this first Specky story that he discovers he is adopted, and as anyone could imagine, the whole unravelling of this (so far) family secret causes much disquiet all round but the sensitivity and understanding that underlies the text is so very affirmative and reassuring for any young reader.

Readers don’t need to know anything about the game (hey I’m testament to that point). If they are fans, they will love the footy details but even without that, they will thoroughly enjoy the well-paced plot, the interactions of family and friends and Specky’s very down-to-earth and utterly believable actions, speech, and responses to the situations in which he finds himself.

There is obviously a very valid reason why these books are still so popular. In fact, in my new library, while I’m dissing a lot of titles that, rightfully, should be in a primary library, I strongly defended Specky. If our Year 7s come in and haven’t yet discovered this legend, they should and I will be the first to recommend!

I highly recommend this series to you for your readers from around Year 4 upwards but please – bear in mind, if you are struggling to tempt some readers (boys or girls) in lower secondary who lack confidence and enthusiasm but are mad AFL players – give this the biggest plug ever!! I’m now trying to think what incentive I can add to a big promo of it in my new space!