Tag Archives: R.A. Spratt

Stuck in the Mud: Peski Kids #3 – R. A. Spratt

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Penguin Random House9780143796350

August 2019

ISBN: 9780143796350

Imprint: Puffin

RRP: $16.99

The Peski kids have certainly encountered some bizarre events since their arrival in the backwater town of Currawong but perhaps the annual town Mud Run is one of the most strange – to their minds at least. Added to this is the even more repugnant situation of Ingrid, the Swedish neighbour, moving into their house to consolidate a pretence of becoming engaged to their father – a ploy to deter the evil foreign agents who are holding their missing mother captive.

Despite the reluctance particularly of Joe and April, all three kids become embroiled in the ‘festivities’ of this strange town community event. Finn is pretty pleased to have won the right to design the course – visions of bulldozers and other heavy duty machinery, mud slides, diabolic obstacles and just pure devilry are his inspiration. Joe is lured by the promise of baked goods and of course April is forced, due to her rather forthright treatment of the new vision-impaired student, to partner said classmate so that he can compete.

Possibly this could all work out without undue additional stress but when the prize money is stolen in a daring bank heist, someone has to step up and who better than this ‘outside-the-square-thinking’ tribe?

Once again R. A. Spratt has brought the comedic muscle she is known for to another fabulously engaging story for kiddos aged from around 8 years upwards. Following the successes of Nanny Piggins and Friday Barnes, the Peski Kids are fast becoming firm favourites with middle school reading fans. The ‘snort laugh’ is always my measure of a truly hilarious book – and this new episode did not fail to deliver.

Highly recommended for your readers from Year 3 upwards!

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Perks of the Hobby – R. A. Spratt

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You can well imagine how I leapt at the invitation to meet up with Rachel – aka R. A. Spratt – which came via the delightful Zoe, publicist with Penguin Random House. We had a delicious time chatting and laughing and I managed to sneak in a few questions on her professional life – as well as learning more about this very talented writer.

In case you didn’t know R. A. began as a writer for TV and had a very successful career doing so before switching to children’s books – and half a million books later, has certainly proven her outstanding ability with that venture! She told me that her first contract was offered the day after her oldest daughter was born so she was taking the phone call resting up in the maternity ward. Talk about double excitement! The only possible issue was that the offer was for two books with the second one to be delivered in three months – three months with a newborn? Easy peasy (!!) – not – but without hesitation she was into it and of course went on to deliver another six episodes in the hilarious and still so popular Nanny Piggins series.  Friday Barnes – Girl Detective was the next series to emerge from this fertile brain – and when it came to an end not so long ago – also after eight books, I had girls literally wailing with despair at their loss.

Now we have another new series rolling out with The Peski Kids and I’m told the third installment is completed.  I am reliably informed that this will also be an eight book series and workshopping for the next “high concept” venture is already underway – what a woman!! She’s a real powerhouse!

I asked Rachel about her main female protagonists – Nanny P, Friday and April – and commented how quirky, feisty and often opinionated they are, though totally endearing. It would seem that they are in many ways a reflection of their creator – well I never! *wink*.

I mentioned that I had been reading some material on Anthony Horowitz earlier in the day and his comment about the leap from writing for television and for children is not that huge a chasm as they are both about fast paced exciting events and relatable characters – Rachel agreed and went on to say that originally Nanny Piggins was to be a ‘pitch’ for a tv show so when she actually tackled it as a book she wrote it in exactly the same way  as she would have approached a sit-com – cast of six main characters, one central location and ‘floating’ cast plus the high level excitement ‘events’.

R. A. works from her home office amidst the busy-ness of raising two girls and a dog – along with her writer husband.  I knew already that she is extremely fit – and does completely ridiculous looking stunts like hanging upside down at the gym and running in potato races (am I right with that?) but didn’t know she also teaches bell-ringing at her local church in the lovely locality of the Southern Highlands (what a beautiful spot it is!).

She is currently in Brisbane cramming in a load of school visits – lucky children!- and one day I hope to see one of her very animated presentations. Within the last week Nanny Piggins’  tenth anniversary was celebrated at The Children’s Bookshop to much enjoyment from the many in attendance., both children and adults.

Thank you so very much for sharing such a pleasant time with me Rachel – all I can say now is that my kids at school are going to elevate me even further to goddess-like status by virtue of my associations!  And of course thank you to Penguin Random House for allowing me the pleasure of reading plethora new books from so many talented writers for children.

Here’s Rachel in action at the anniversary celebration…

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oh post coffee…..

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Bear in the Woods: Peski Kids #2 – R. A. Spratt

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peskies

Penguin

9780143788836

January 8, 2019

Puffin

 

$!6.99

R. A. Spratt has been entertaining readers hugely for some time now with Nanny Piggins and Friday Barnes and now with her new series The Peski Kids which is every bit as funny and quirky as her others. In this second instalment the Peskis are doing their very best to keep a low profile in their new town – the strange and parochial Currawong – but low profile + Peskis doesn’t seem to mesh.

Out in the bush doing punitive ‘cleaning up’ April is washed away in an overflowing creek but manages to crawl to the bank where she is confronted with a large black bear. Of course no one believes her story and are all convinced she is delusional. Likewise nobody believes that Finn didn’t intend to break the weird Cat Lady’s foot. And then there’s the additional mystery of neighbour Loretta buying Mr Peski new underwear. Joe at least is mostly staying under the radar – well except for that incident of rejecting Officer Odinsson’s overpowering young sister. Then there’s the town Daffodil Festival, Constable Pike and odd Dr Vaas, the loopy Mayor and the ever-present threat of the Kolektiv to deal with so really the Peski kids are up against it at all turns.

In all it makes for a thoroughly hilarious romp in which the kids begin to sort out the intricacies of Currawong and it’s rather unique population.

Spratt takes her readers on a non-stop ride with every story she writes and this series will be no exception. It’s just starting to build momentum in my library after the general despair over the demise of the Friday Barnes series but it’s definitely catching on!

Highly recommended for readers from around eight years upwards.

 

Total Quack Up- Edited by Sally Rippin and Adrian Beck. Illustrated by James Foley

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9780143794905

Penguin Random House

9780143794905

October 15, 2018

Puffin

RRP $14.99

 

Here’s another super choice for the kid who loves humour – and again, very timely with Christmas rushing in upon us.

 

The cream of our Australian children’s writers have contributed a wealth of funny stories: Deborah Abela, Tristan Bancks, Adrian Beck, Jacqueline Harvey, Paul Jennings, Alex Miles, Oliver Phommavanh, Sally Rippin, R.A. Spratt and Matt Stanton are all crowd pleasers at any time.

 

Oliver P’s poem about writing a poem, Rhyme Time!, made me laugh aloud – definitely going to use that the next time I do a library unit that features poetry to ward off the inevitable groans. Jacqueline Harvey’s Pet Sit Pandemonium: Operation Snowball is also a cracker – the image of Puss with poor Pavarotti clamped in his jaws balefully glaring had me falling about. And of course, Nanny Piggins is a guaranteed chortle-inducer and Pigerella, R. A. Spratt’s contribution, is no exception.

 

From football loving pigs to a principal with a rat phobia, from vegetarian bikini-wearing hippos to a crazed vacuum cleaner, this compilation will have something for every reader.

The book also includes the first publication of the winning entry in the Kids’ WB competition by Ella Wallace.

 

Royalties from the sales of this book go directly to Dymock’s Children’s Charities with all the authors as well as James Foley, illustrator, thrilled to be part of the project donating their talents and work.

 

So buying this book will not only give the kids you love some pleasure but also help to provide some for children in less fortunate circumstances.

 

Highly recommended for kids who love to laugh, from around eight years upwards.

 

The Peski Kids #1: The Mystery of the Squashed Cockroach – R. A. Spratt

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9780143788812

Penguin Random House

9780143788812

July 30, 2018

Puffin

 

$16.99

 

There were many sad faces in my library when I reported that the Friday Barnes series had come to an end (including mine) but there was the consolation that R. A. Spratt was working on a new series. And here it is! And it’s hilarious! I was tucked up in bed reading it and snort-laughing at so many times.

I’ve said before that Spratt has such a knack for creating quirky characters and a real sense of the absurd and it doesn’t get much quirkier or absurd than this narrative!  Meet Joe, sixteen and a bit gawky with a nervous stammer, Fin (i.e. Sharkfin) thirteen and April, twelve, siblings who are always arguing – easy enough as April is pretty much your semi-psycho anarchist tween who live with their mother, a middle-aged professor of paleontology –  or so the children think.

It’s not until a wholly unexpected visit from their mother’s boss, Professor Maynard, that the children discover that their mum is actually an international spy who has been incarcerated by the dreaded Kolektiv organization. As the kids are now also targets they are rushed out of their home minutes before it explodes and re-located hours later in the country town of Currawong and the home of their father, who is without doubt the most eccentric, absent-minded and wimpish dad ever. He’s clearly unaccustomed to children whether his own or not. The kids’ entrée into Currawong community life is  far from auspicious as they (April) scorn such long-held traditions as the Cockroach Races, lawn bowls and flat caps and escalates when competitive cockroaches begin being nobbled. Throw into the mixture a bizarre but beautiful neighbor, a maniacal dog (April’s) and a host of weird and sociopathic townspeople and you have the makings of a series that is going to captivate kids right from the get-go.

Watch the book trailer here and R. A. Spratt talking about the book here.

Without a nano-second’s hesitation, highly recommended for your readers aged from around ten years upwards.

 

 

Triple Treat: Jacqueline Harvey, Belinda Murrell and R. A. Spratt

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Such fun to open parcels with books from the most popular authors in my library – and my literary circle! The titles from this trio are highly sought after among my readers and there is always much exchanging in the returns line up with ‘She had this but I want to borrow it next’.

To make it an even more interesting mix there is a beginning, a ‘middle’ and, sadly, an ending.

Kensy and Max #1: Breaking News – Jacqueline Harvey

K&M

9780143780656

February 26, 2018

Random House Australia Children’s

RRP $16.99

Without a doubt, Jacqueline Harvey has the girls from 7 to teens eating out of the palm of her hand with her Clementine Rose and Alice-Miranda series.  And if you have not had the pleasure of Jacqueline presenting at your school I suggest that you do as she is without doubt the most energetic and engaging author I’ve seen in action.

Now Jacqueline has turned her considerable talents to a series pitched at both boys and girls with a hugely popular premise – espionage! Kensy and Max are twins both alike and also very different. They are well used to living all over the globe as their parents, apparently, are first responders in both tourist resorts and in crisis/humanitarian situations. However, when the pair finds themselves in a completely strange house with only their ‘manny’ Fitz in loco parentis things being to turn very mysterious indeed with their parents missing in a civil revolt and house inhabitants who are both strange and yet oddly familiar.

The two are in turn baffled and curious and begin to piece puzzle pieces together of their own initiative. It would seem that MI6 is a ‘family’ thing!

This new series has both memorable characters and believable circumstances which will thoroughly intrigue readers from around 8 years upwards. I don’t need to use my considerable powers of ESP to predict that this will be as big a winner as Jacqueline’s other series.

Highly recommended for readers from mid-primary up – get it on your shelves ASAP!

 

Pippa’s Island #3: Kira Dreaming – Belinda Murrell

pippa3

9780143783701

January 2, 2018

Random House Australia Children’s

RRP $14.99

 

Without fail, if I put a Belinda Murrell book, whether Lulu Bell or one of the time slip series into a girl’s hands, I have her hooked from that moment. I’d like to think it’s my skill as a teacher-librarian but really its Belinda’s talent at knowing exactly what will grab her readers!

 

This is the third in her latest series and already I have girls clamouring for the next so this will be a huge hit when school goes back. There is something just purely delightful and happy about Pippa and her friends and family, even though there are serious moments e.g. Pippa’s absent dad. This doesn’t detract as I believe so many children can relate to the ambivalence about a parent who has absconded from the family. It’s difficult for them to reconcile their own love for that parent and the feeling of rejection/abandonment.

In this new episode, the Sassy Sisters are entering the school talent quest and while Pippa’s besties, Cici, Meg and Charlie are rapt about this opportunity, Pippa has real problems with her stage fright. Unexpectedly, it is this which provides a catalyst for Pippa to resume some ‘friendly’ relations with her MIA father.

These stories are fabulous narratives about real life situations to which readers can relate – despite the fact that they may not live on a tropical island!

Again, highly recommended for readers from around eight years upwards and if you’ve missed the first two, put them on your ‘to buy’ list as well!

 

Friday Barnes #8: Never Fear – R. A. Spratt

fridayfinal

9780143784203

January 2, 2018

Random House Australia Children’s

RRP $15.99

 

When I gently broke the news to my avid Friday readers that the forthcoming book would be the last in the series there was full scale caterwauling and gnashing of teeth. The only thing that saved me from literary lynching was the promise of a new series in the pipeline – whew!

 

I’ve mentioned this before. I love Friday! I love her geekiness, her gauche-ness, her daggy clothes and social ineptitude.

 

Highcrest Academy has a new principal and she is one seemingly mean and shockingly capable young woman. She promptly promotes Friday to Year 12 to ‘extend’ her and Friday is convinced that this means she’s just one step away from being ousted from what she regards as her home.

Along with this is the persistent rumour of long hidden gold somewhere in the school grounds and when implosions and explosions begin to disrupt the regular (!!) routine of Highcrest everyone is on edge.

 

Some huge questions are answered in this final volume. Will Friday ever kiss Ian? Can Melanie stay awake long enough to observe it? Who will still be a student in the academy at the end of year? Is the new principal who she says she is or an imposter? And will Friday ever kiss Ian? 😉

 

There will be some sad faces at this the final Friday chapter but reassure your readers that more great stuff is on its way from R. J. Spratt’s imaginative mind!

Highly recommended for readers from around mid-primary upwards.

 

Friday Barnes #5 The Plot Thickens – R. A. Spratt

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fridaybarnes

9780857989932

August 1, 2016

Random House Australia Children’s

 

RRP $15.99

I have some readers who have been driving us mad in the library waiting and waiting on a new Friday Barnes fix – and here it is!

Friday’s at her best solving mysteries, uncovering truth, being a complete dork and antagonising people in this latest episode. Her on/off friendship with Ian Wainscott begins unravelling faster than Friday’s daggy cardigans when she catches his formerly incarcerated father out in a huge lie about wanting Ian to live with him. Ian is furious that Friday has humiliated him in front of everyone.

That sets the tone for the whole term with things going awry all round. Two new teachers, a rather bogus celebrity artist taking over the Art class and an unlikeable bumptious PE teacher seem set to make Friday’s life more difficult.

Ian’s retaliation for the public shaming is a series of pranks played against Friday which begin to make her school life quite intolerable to the point where she starts to contemplate leaving Highcrest Academy.

However, in the meantime there are problems to solve with mysterious graffiti appearing all over the school, perimeter fences being cut in the dead of night and a rogue vending machine catching hold of arms.

It seems that Friday is really up against it this term but always plucky and unable to curb her innate insatiable drive to find the answers to any given unexplained incident, she ploughs ahead and of course, a satisfactory resolution (and armistice with Ian) is the outcome.  This is one girl protagonist who really brings joy proving that you don’t have to be a popular fashionista to be a winner – smart, caring and unpretentious, Friday is a Mighty Girl in my opinion.

As always, highly recommended for readers from around 8 and up – I foresee multiple reservations for this one in our library!

Friday Barnes: #4 No Rules – R. A. Spratt

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fridaybarnes

ISBN: 9780857987013

Published: 04/01/2016

Imprint: Random House Australia Children’s

RRP – $15.99

The increasingly popular nerdy detective, Friday Barnes, makes her fourth appearance in this latest instalment filled with even more mayhem and mysteries.

To begin with Friday is rather surprisingly deported to Switzerland for lack of proper citizenship documents. Not surprisingly this is because her irritatingly vague but brilliant scientist parents failed to take care of such a trifle after her birth in Switzerland twelve years before.

While Friday spends three weeks productively in the Zurich airport transit lounge as the tangle of her actual citizenship is resolved, Highcrest Academy dissolves into utter chaos – of course!

The intrepid girl detective arrives back to find the school in an uproar of anarchy following the apparent mass dismissal of all the staff. With no teachers (no matter how incompetent) to supervise the students are running amok and it appears that Friday’s arch-nemesis but sometimes friend Ian Wainscott is responsible.

When the letters are shown to be a forgery and seemingly by the hand of Ian, he loses his scholarship place at the academy and is relegated to a nearby state school.

However that is far from the end of the catastrophes. How can a whole class set of maths text books disappear in just fifteen minutes? Who on earth would deliberately poison the students’ favourite beef stroganoff? And why would the most disliked boy in school have all his furniture removed? These and the arrival of a particularly unpleasant new Vice Principal are all problems which are simply grist to Friday’s mill.

It is no wonder this series is growing so rapidly in its readership as the favourite characters prove again and again how entertaining they are. Not least is Friday’s endearing personality which fluctuates between her sheer genius intelligence to bewildered gauche geek with the regularity of a pendulum.

Highly recommended for readers from around 8  years up who enjoy a fun mystery with some crazy antics.

Friday Barnes #3: Big Trouble – R. A. Spratt

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9780857986993

ISBN: 9780857986993

Published: 03/08/2015

Imprint: Random House Australia Children’s

Extent: 272 pages

RRP $15.99

Ace amateur super sleuth Friday Barnes just gets busier and busier! In the third of the series, young Friday finds a perfect swarm of mysterious goings on at Highcrest Academy. Firstly, there is the unexpected visit from her absentminded father when he brings the dreadful news of the disappearance of Friday’s mum. Has she been kidnapped? Has there been some kind of terrible accident? Friday’s mood is not helped by having her father installed at her school until things have been sorted out. This is particularly so because the Headmaster also needs her help. Not only is there a huge kerfuffle with the arrival of new student, Princess Ingrid of Norway but it seems a thief is at large. The elusive Pimpernel is leaving calling cards everywhere and personal items are disappearing at rapid rate.

Friday’s relationship with her nemesis Ian Wainscott seems poised on the edge of a change after she helps Ian’s mum thwart her ex-husband’s attempt to leave her in financial ruin.  Certainly some of her classmates are eagerly awaiting a shift in the dynamic!

Friday’s giftedness is never grating, probably because it is balanced so delightfully with her social ineptitude. Her gauche geekiness is really very endearing and Spratt’s characterisations are always a triumph.

Another very positive aspect to Spratt’s writing is her ability to weave a more sophisticated vocabulary into the text with a full expectation that her tween readers will correctly interpret it. And they do! These books are proving very popular in our library with our new-to-high-school Year 7 girls.  For that reason it is just wonderful to see that the next volume will be published in early 2016.

Find a fun Friday Barnes Scavenger Hunt kit for libraries here and don’t forget that previous books had teaching notes provided.

Highly recommended for your budding detectives from around 9 years upwards.

Friday Barnes #1: Girl Detective – R. A. Spratt

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Friday Barnes 1: Girl Detective – R. A. Spratt

ISBN: 9781742759623

Published: 01/07/2014

Imprint: Random House Australia Children’s

Extent: 256 pages

RRP:  $15.99.  Paperback.

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No doubt you would all be familiar with the wonderful world of Nanny Piggins. Now R. A. Spratt introduces us to a new character, Friday Barnes, who I am certain will prove every bit as popular as the porcine prima donna.

Friday Barnes is a Matilda-esque child, thoroughly neglected by her remote scientific parents – the surprise and unplanned child after a neatly organised delivery of four older siblings. Left basically to her own devices for eleven years, Friday is an exceptionally intelligent girl who has read everything she can lay her hands on (starting with all the scientific texts which are the only reading matter in her house). Her only respite from the remoteness of her parents and her carefully camouflaged presence at school is the weekly contact with her Uncle Bernie, an insurance investigator.

When Uncle Bernie is faced with a terrible investigation (the theft of a diamond necklace worth squillions) that seems unsolvable, Friday decides he needs her help and with the resourcefulness of her own clever brain plus the help of her fictional hero, the great Poirot, Friday reveals the culprit and earns herself a huge reward.

Friday is not a mercenary child but the reward money solves her own problem – where to go to high school (since the university turned her down though she blitzed the entrance exam – apparently they weren’t prepared to take on a 11 year old student!). She promptly pays her fees for the most exclusive school in the country, Highcrest Academy, figuring that attending a school which operates on a profit margin, it will at least be easier to bribe her way out of sporting events.

What Friday does not count on is that far from being anonymous at Highcrest, she suddenly finds herself investigating problems from missing homework to wildlife smuggling as well as dealing with some of the nastier pupils.

While Friday still hasn’t figured out the point of high school, she has gained her first friends ever and solved some very tricky mysteries – just by being herself.

Readers, particularly girls, of about 10 plus will greatly enjoy this fun read.