Tag Archives: School Stories

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!

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.

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!!

Tell ’em – written by Katrina Germein & Rosemary Sullivan [with the Children of Manyallaluk School] Illustrated by Karen Briggs.

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Harper Collins Australia

May 2020

  • ISBN: 9781921504921
  • ISBN 10: 1921504927
  • Imprint: Working Title Press – AU
  • List Price: 24.99 AUD

What an absolute joy this book is! I’ve had some absolutely cracking books of late featuring Indigenous/First Australian themes but this one, which gives readers an insight into the everyday life of contemporary First Australian kids living in their remote community, is just superb.

Not only will it give children of either European or other cultural backgrounds quite an eye-opener but it will also be so much fun for jarjums in urban settings whose own lives will be very much different to these kids from Manyallaluk.

Follow this bunch of exuberant youngsters as they respond to the question of ‘What else?’ (to tell kids in other places) with a real exploration of their community and country.

Tell ’em how us kids like to play.
We got bikes and give each other rides.
Tell ’em about the dancing and singing,
And all the stories the old people know.

Every page is alive with colour and joy as we join the Roper River kids at their school with the pond and the banana trees, as they do handstands and disco dancing, practise for ceremony , hunt for bush turkey, goanna and kangaroo, fish and sleep in the bush making campfires for damper and tea. Just truly smashing – I love it!

Highly recommended for your kiddos of every persuasion from around four years upwards!

Lottie Luna and the Twilight Party (Lottie Luna #2) – Vivian French. Illustrated by Nathan Reed.

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9780008343019

Harper Collins Australia

March 2020

ISBN: 9780008343019

ISBN 10: 0008343012

Imprint: HarperCollins – GB

List Price: 12.99 AUD

We all know two things for certain. Young readers love to see a reflection of their own lives: school, friendship, family and so on and that Vivian French excels in creating engaging and whimsical adventures for her audience.

This is Lottie’s second book and some readers will already have become acquainted with a little girl who is much like themselves except for the fact that Lottie is a werewolf. She’s not just a werewolf however because even though these creatures have special powers Lottie has even more due to being born at a very auspicious time. She is super fast and super strong for example.

But in most aspects she is a little girl like many others. She’s excited about her new school and new best friends, she gets annoyed with her big brother and she finds her parents by turns wonderful and a little embarrassing.

Lottie and Wilf want to plan a super surprise for their best friend Marjory who has never had her own birthday party and they come up with a fabulous idea. They will persuade the super-hot group the Wailers to play at her own twilight party. Interfering with their plans and indeed their friendship are usual-not-so-nice classmate Aggie and her even nastier cousin Kiki who is visiting.

Luckily all is resolved in time for a perfectly splendid party the likes of which Marjory has neither experienced nor expected.

This is jolly good fun in the very best way. Readers will love the werewolfish twists on normal everyday life yet still relate easily to the dilemmas and situations.

Recommended for readers from around 7 years upwards.

Lottie Luna and the Twilight Party (Lottie Luna #2) – Vivian French. Illustrated by Nathan Reed.

Harper Collins Australia

March 2020

ISBN: 9780008343019

ISBN 10: 0008343012

Imprint: HarperCollins – GB

List Price: 12.99 AUD

We all know two things for certain. Young readers love to see a reflection of their own lives: school, friendship, family and so on and that Vivian French excels in creating engaging and whimsical adventures for her audience.

This is Lottie’s second book and some readers will already have become acquainted with a little girl who is much like themselves except for the fact that Lottie is a werewolf. She’s not just a werewolf however because even though these creatures have special powers Lottie has even more due to being born at a very auspicious time. She is super fast and super strong for example.

But in most aspects she is a little girl like many others. She’s excited about her new school and new best friends, she gets annoyed with her big brother and she finds her parents by turns wonderful and a little embarrassing.

Lottie and Wilf want to plan a super surprise for their best friend Marjory who has never had her own birthday party and they come up with a fabulous idea. They will persuade the super-hot group the Wailers to play at her own twilight party. Interfering with their plans and indeed their friendship are usual-not-so-nice classmate Aggie and her even nastier cousin Kiki who is visiting.

Luckily all is resolved in time for a perfectly splendid party the likes of which Marjory has neither experienced nor expected.

This is jolly good fun in the very best way. Readers will love the werewolfish twists on normal everyday life yet still relate easily to the dilemmas and situations.

Recommended for readers from around 7 years upwards.

Derek Dool Supercool #1: Bust a Move– Adrian Beck. Illustrated by Scott Edgar

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9781760892951

Penguin Australia

March 2020

ISBN: 9781760892951

Imprint: Puffin

RRP: $14.99

Yep, we’ve all known a Derek – and indeed, some of us have taught one! Derek Dool thinks he is the ant’s pants really and doesn’t miss a chance to let everyone know. It’s just a shame that no one else seems to appreciate his supercool-ness. Mind you, given his very uncool father it’s to be expected.

Of course, Derek does have his stalwart friends, Big Denise and Booger – I probably don’t have to go into too much detail about them given their names – but despite their whole-hearted support Derek still struggles to achieve the acclaim which he feels is rightly his.

So Derek’s immediate problem is how to demonstrate that he really is the ‘coolest, funniest, most handsome kid in school’ in the dance-off happening at the school disco, especially as he’s up against his nemesis, Carmichael Cruz.

Really, with his vast quantities of talent, nothing can go wrong – well, except for wet pants (due to melting ice but looking like suspect toilet troubles), an incident with a giant cake, an escaped pet rabbit and a rogue giant mirror ball. Oh and that little matter of Cruz actually being a great dancer and Derek getting the blame for a disastrous social event.

Kids from around 8 years upwards will absolutely love this. It is exactly the kind of slapstick funny, gross-out humour, ridiculous situations and outrageous characters that they love. And with Edgar’s  comical illustrations and the interspersed Bad Dad Jokes they will get even more laughs out of it.

Really, some light-hearted comedy that also includes some themes of real friendship and family is a good antidote for the current doom and gloom.

If you haven’t already, get hold of this for your middle/upper primaries and wait for them to add to their favourite funny series lists!

Alice-Miranda at School: 10th Anniversary Edition – Jacqueline Harvey

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Penguin Random House Australia

February 2020

ISBN: 9781760896034

Imprint: Penguin

RRP: $19.99

Parents (and librarians) of the legion Alice-Miranda fans you are hereby warned! It will not matter one jot whether your devotee has every title in the series they will vociferously demand this gorgeous anniversary edition become part of their collection.

This beautiful hardback with its sumptuous gilt scrolling will be the piece de resistance for any lover of the tiny indomitable compassionate child we have all come to know and love.

From her first appearance ten years ago Alice-Miranda has gone from strength to strength with readers,  even thos who would now be considered too old for the readership still happily delving into the pages of her adventures.

Jacqueline’s understanding of what makes such stories relevant and meaningful to her readers is superb and she is unwavering in her commitment to provide fun and excitement along with kindness and courage exemplars for her fans.

Readers have just had the excitement of seeing Alice-Miranda in her first animated film appearance (an event that caused joy of immense proportions for so many!) and now they will revel in holding this precious gift of a book in their hands.

A beautifully written letter from Jacqueline prefaces this edition and her readers, both  young and old, will love the insight into the creation of A-M and her journey into published work.

You know and I know that I don’t need to ‘sell’ this one – like all the other titles (18 in all, along with other activity books and so on) – will just jump off the shelves into the hands of those who sincerely hope that this tiny dynamo has many more adventures in store.

Either as a special gift or just because – this one is a must-have! Congratulations Jacqueline Harvey on this wonderful milestone and thank you for all the joy that Alice-Miranda along with Clementine Rose plus Kensy and Max have brought to us all.

Attack of the Meteor Monsters [Maudlin Towers #3] – Chris Priestley

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9781408873137

Bloomsbury

October 2019

ISBN: 9781408873120
Imprint: Bloomsbury Children’s Books

RRP: $15.99

 

If you or your readers haven’t caught onto this series yet I would urge you to do so. While we all know it’s important to have narratives which deal with significant issues or concepts, it’s equally important to just have a chuckle in my opinion – and Maudlin Towers certainly does this ‘par excellence’.

Very reminiscent of Ronald Searle’s fabulous St Trinian’s and his collaboration with Geoffrey Willans on the Molesworth series, Maudlin Towers and it’s chief characters Mildew and Sponge are dim-witted inept students in an outstandingly chaotic school which always seems to be running into adventures of the strangest ilk.

In this new adventure the school is inundated by some rather odd girls and their teacher while at the same time Mildew and Sponge witness what they at first believe to be a meteor crashing to earth. As the story unravels it becomes apparent that the ‘meteor’ is in fact a space ship and its occupants have dispersed – coincidence? I think not. When a second space vehicle arrives complete with large scary but hilarious mechanical spiders the pace quickens and predictably further rumbustifcations ensue.

I cannot say I detect any deep meaningful concepts (except perhaps to not always be mentally consumed by the thought of biscuits!) but it is all raging good fun wonderfully written and illustrated by Priestley.

Do your kiddos a favour and get some humour into their bookshelves – indeed why not buy all three if you have not already done so!

Highly recommended for readers from around 8 years upwards.

Murder Most Unladylike #8: Top Marks for Murder – Robin Stevens

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9780241348383

Penguin

August 2019

ISBN: 9780241348383

Imprint: Puffin

RRP: $16.99

Yes there are seven previous books but this series has been somewhat of a ‘sleeper’ in my library. Now, however, due to the enthusiasm of several devoted fans it is steadily growing in its popularity. I know that this newest volume will be avidly sought after and the reservation list will be frustrating for some of my girls.

Deepdean School for Girls might seem to be an innocent place but that’s never the case and the current state of affairs is no exception. When Daisy and Hazel return after their absence the place is humming with anticipation of the Anniversary Weekend but parents begin to arrive and poisoning sends shock ripples throughout the school. Everything seems to point to a parent being the guilty party and the girls are fearful that if the perpetrator is not caught, Deepdean might cease to exist altogether.

As always this is almost like a very dark and deadly Malory Towers but the power of ‘school stories’ is always evident. When some murder is thrown in amongst a gang of smart and sassy girls there’s bound to be loads of excitement, suspense and clever detection work to be had – an irresistible combination for my middle school readers!

Don’t Follow Vee – Oliver Phommavanh

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9780143505747

Penguin

9780143505747

May 2019

Puffin

RRP: $16.99

 

So many of us are what could be referred to as social media junkies……of course I’m not talking about moi! But if you were a 12 year old kid who is not into any of platforms that your peers are, yet you are totally famous and have been since you were a baby, how would you feel about it?

 

Vee and her mum are a tight pair/team. Vee’s dad departed just after she was born and she’s never known him but her mum, who quite naturally considers Vee the sunshine of her life, has ‘Insta-grammed’ Vee’s entire life for all to see and appreciate. Now getting close to 150k followers, Vee is beginning to feel rather hemmed in and as if she has no ‘real’ life – just the one on Insta.

 

With her 13th birthday coming up, Vee is really not too sure about continuing with the whole deal, particularly as school/mates/self esteem kicks in so Vee comes up with a plan to dissuade her followers and encourage her mum to abandon the Chronicles and focus on her own life.

 

This is Oliver at his best. The characters are authentic with voices that will resonate with readers. It is funny, poignant, insightful and downright fabulous! For the more astute reader, there is a lot upon which to reflect regarding the bombardment of social media and virtual life re reality.

 

I loved this and I truly believe that your readers, either boys or girls, will also really engage with it.

Highly recommended for your readers from around ten years upwards.