Tag Archives: Puffin

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.

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]

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!

The PM’s Daughter – Meredith Costain

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Penguin Australia

March 2022

  • ISBN: 9781761046704
  • Imprint: Puffin
  • RRP: $16.99

I’m well aware that many things just pass me by – especially when it comes to TV. To be fair, though The Kid is a teen, she would be way too engrossed with her horror movies to watch a show on the ABC but it appears that this series has been quite the hit.

Inspired by the series, Meredith Costain has brought her considerable talent and experience to crafting a book that will, most certainly, engage your tween/teen readers. This storyline really has something for everyone. Cat (otherwise known as Catalina) is the daughter of Australia’s first single parent/female/foreign-born PM – which, let’s face it is hugely significant in itself (and really, let’s hope prophetic, shall we?). After a tedious and tiring FIFO scenario, Cat and her PM mum, plus great-aunt Tia (who is totes adorable) are re-locating to Canberra from Perth.

The Lodge is not the most hip place to live for sure (and yes, I have seen inside it, so can vouch for that) and Cat is well miffed at leaving behind home, friends, and pets to be faced with protocols, antique furniture, hideous clothes and boring functions. Most of all, she’s full fed up that she is expected to put aside her own values and beliefs around important issues like climate change and the voting age to ‘toe the party line’ for the sake of her mum.

And, of course, it’s not because she doesn’t love her mum but, after all, she’s a teen girl – that’s her prerogative surely? – disagree and battle over everything! (Trust me, I’m on my second time around raising The Kid so I know of which I speak!).

Canberra is, as always, a heaving mass of fomenting discord with agitators – especially the youthful ones – as well as opposition to the new PM’s proposed policies, the threat of WA seceding and the usual hoi polloi of political media circus. And Cat ends up right in the middle of it all as she navigates new situations, tries to make friends whilst dancing around the trust issues and struggles to make her own voice heard.

When her mum is in danger of losing her new post due to blatant sabotaging, it falls to Cat and her new chums to salvage a career – whilst maintaining their own values and beliefs, no easy ask.

This is a tremendously enjoyable read which I think kiddos from around 12/13 will greatly appreciate. It has action, tension, family relationships, friendships, a little romance and a good dash of suspense to keep the discerning reader interested.

I’m definitely going to talk this one up to my year 7s & 8s in particular, and already considering adding it the newly revamped lit circle program I’m creating.

Highly recommended for readers from 12 upwards – and those reluctant readers who can often be tempted by the film tie-in angle.

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!!