Tag Archives: School Stories

Bad Nana #1: Older but Not Wiser – Sophy Henn

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nana

Harper Collins

ISBN: 9780008268053

ISBN 10: 0008268053

Imprint: HarperCollins – GB

June 2018

RRP $17.99

Newly independent readers who love a giggle are bound to fall in love with Bad Nana and her granddaughter, Jeanie. Of course Bad Nana isn’t really bad – but she is cheeky and unconventional, most definitely mischievous, and certainly the type of granny that any kid would want to claim.

Jeanie and her baby brother spend a lot of time with Bad Nana as both their parents work full time and that suits Jeanie just fine. Of course there are times when Bad Nana can be a little embarrassing and she’s very good at getting Jeanie involved in her madcap antics. You know, like the time she accompanies Jeanie’s class to the local museum which is the most boring excursion ever and made worse by the grumpy curator. The angry man is almost beside himself with criticising the children and even humiliating them but Bad Nana doesn’t stand for such nonsense and when she slips herself into Henry VIII’s seat at the mock medieval feast, replacing the mannequin, she ensures her aim with a chicken drumstick and more is spot on.

Bad Nana’s no-nonsense attitude and her rather unique appearance are very endearing. Young readers will really feel attracted to her and the stories are wildly funny without being nasty or mean (well, except for the rather horrid class show off, Lydia). Bad Nana’s exquisite timing in giving bullies their come-uppance will definitely appeal to youngsters who will giggle all the way.

Apart from the hilarious story line the eye-popping fluoro colour scheme of lime, hot pink and black of the illustrations will really give a shot of excitement.

Highly recommended for readers from around seven years upwards.

Mr Bambuckle’s Remarkables On the Lookout: #3 – Tim Harris

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9780143793144

February 5, 2019

Puffin

RRP: $14.99

 

Even those who have not been privileged enough to sip Himalayan tea with Mr Bambuckle are completely taken with the adventures of his class 12B. The continual struggle to defeat the pressures put upon them by short-sighted school admin individuals and to foster each child blossoming into their full potential is real.

When 12B goes to camp they are eagerly anticipating a real adventure, particularly when it appears that their campsite is ‘off the radar’ so to speak. Even though there are the usual hiccups with students not completely in sync with each other, it’s shaping up well. That is until, Miss Frost turns up. The snarky new deputy seems intent to find fault with every little thing.

Still, 12B with Mr Bambuckle’s backing and natural flair seem determined to prove Miss Frost’s dire prognostications wrong and equally committed to supporting their much loved teacher.

 

But when Vex goes missing it seems that all is doomed to become a swan song for Mr Bambuckle. It’s up to 12B to save the day and their teacher.

 

Tim Harris’ recounts of the adventures of Mr B and 12B are not only highly amusing but have much to offer young readers about loyalty, friendship, empathy and honesty.

 

If your kidlets have not yet caught onto the Bambuckle  phenomenon make sure you buy this and the first two in the series and watch them roll in the aisles laughing.

 

Highly recommended for readers from around eight years upwards.

 

Treasure of the Golden Skull: Maudlin Towers #2 – Chris Priestley

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skull

Bloomsbury

December 2018

ISBN: 9781408873106
Imprint: Bloomsbury Children’s Books

RRP : $14.99 AU $16.99 NZ

Readers return to the wacky world of Maudlin Towers with Mildew and Sponge as they attempt to save their mouldering school from closure, due to its pecuniary troubles. Ever since the funds for the renovations disappeared in time (see the first book) there seems to be no solution to the threat of closure.   That is until Mildew and Sponge realise the possibility of the legendary Captain Greenbeard, fearsome pirate (and as it turns out, Mildew’s ancestor) having buried his treasure nearby.

It is rather unfortunate however that it’s not just the bumbling pair hunting treasure. Due to Kenningworth’s big mouth and newspaper coverage the school is taken over by pirates from Greenbeard’s crew who are also after the treasure.

As usual despite their ineptitude Mildew and Sponge manage by dint of accident rather than brilliance to save the day. These are hilarious stories which are sort of a mash up of Molesworth and comic horror which many readers will find a really enjoyable read.

Recommended for able readers (given the word play throughout etc) from around ten years upwards.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid #13 : The Meltdown – Jeff Kinney

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9780143309352

Penguin Random House

9780143309352

October 30, 2018

Puffin

RRP: $14.99

 

There is not much more embarrassing than being an adult of a certain age in public and snort laughing as you read the newest Wimpy Kid book, attracting strange looks from wary observers.  But it does seem to happen to me every time and this is no exception.

 

Fans of the hapless Greg Heffley have been waiting for the newest book to arrive and won’t be disappointed in the manic mayhem of a neighbourhood in full-blown snowed-in battle mode.

 

“Snow days” are a rather foreign concept for Australian kids but many could probably related to other weather events impeding their attendance at school. And like most kids (and teachers) an unexpected holiday is to be relished.  The severity of the winter weather has already been quite a trial for Greg with lost gloves, melted boots, unploughed sidewalks and bossy Safety Patrol girls combining to make the daily slog to school a complete nightmare. So when the weather becomes even worse and the cold snap enforces a school close-down, Greg is pretty jubilant until that is both his mother and the other neighbourhood kids all seem to conspire to make the unexpected luxury of ‘free time’ into an endless round of chores and full on snow warfare.  Greg and Rowley attempt to best their rivals in a series of side-splitting moments that certainly all the WK fans will relish.

Will the pair eventually triumph over their opposition? Will the snow ever thaw? Will Greg ever be able to escape the endless round of household tasks? So many questions to be answered! And the fans will undoubtedly enjoy discovering the results.

As always a high recommendation for kids with a sense of the absurd looking for a light read.

Check out some Meltdown activities here.

 

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.

 

 

Mr Bambuckle’s Remarkables #3: Go Wild – Tim Harris

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9780143789024

Penguin Random House

9780143789024

September 3, 2018

Random House Australia Children’s

RRP : $14.99

 

Being curled up and cosy with a steaming cup of Himalayan tea – what could be better? If you have the new adventure of Mr B and 12B to make you laugh, of course.

The class camp is going to be super-fun with Mr Bambuckle’s feathered friend Dodger having carefully chosen the right location and Mr B’s own unique style of doing things which means it’s not going to be your average school camp. However, it looks as though plans are going to be thwarted when the heinous new deputy-principal Miss Frost (think Tilda Swinton as the White Witch from Narnia) turns up to throw cold water over any proposed activities.

Naturally the imperturbable Mr Bambuckle is more than equal to dealing with a rigidly frigid administrator and the class seems well able to follow his lead and their own initiative to survive any obstacle put in their way. The whole class – except Vex who sleeps the entire duration of the camp – are triumphant in their successes but it does not escape their notice that Mr B seems just a little too friendly to the dreaded Miss Frost. What next for the intrepid class? Well, as Vex has disappeared mysteriously when the camp is struck – it could be almost anything!

Kids in my readership have been gobbling up the first two in this series and I can guarantee they will be grabbing this one as quickly as they can as well!

Highly recommended for kids (ok yes and grownups) who love to laugh at complete absurdity!

Natural Born Loser – Oliver Phommavanh

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Penguin Random House

9780143505730

July 30, 2018

Imprint: Puffin

RRP: $16.99

I just have to say straight up – it was really great to read a truly ‘feel good’ book. This is a perfect read-aloud for kids in around Year 3-6 to generate some inspiration and discussion on school cultures in a humorous but meaningful way.

Raymond is, in his own mind, a bit of a loser. He’s a follower not a leader, he’s not the smartest in his class, he can’t even score a goal in soccer but he does care about his school. He cares that the school his mum also went to has degenerated into a dodgy ‘joke’ that everyone including his almost perfect cousin speak of with scorn. When the school gets a new principal (after several who left in despair in rapid succession) there might be some hope. Mr Humble wants to reinstate prefects – not captains but a team who will work together for the school. Raymond has no confidence in his own chances but goes along with his friend Zain, super soccer star, for an interview with the principal and his simple comment that he wants the school to be better and like it was when his mum went there impresses Mr Humble enough to include him in the team.

A team of four with very divergent personalities and skills has a rocky start but it is Raymond’s good sense and ability to communicate honestly that begins to make a difference. Of course, his bold statement that air conditioning for the lower classrooms (which will cost $20 000!) at the first prefects’ assembly could possibly have been his ruin.  However, Raymond’s hitherto unsuspected ability to rally people together even the die-hard bullies of the school proves that he is really a leader not a loser.

The themes of friendship, teamwork, compassion, understanding and loyalty run through this narrative which happily has a great outcome. If you are looking to give your kids a bit of a pep up for this second half of the year this would be the perfect choice.

Highly recommended for readers from around ten years upwards.

Pippa’s Island 4: Camp Castaway – Belinda Murrell

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pipisland

Penguin Random House

ISBN 9780143783725

April 2, 2018

Imprint: Random House Australia Children’s

RRP: $14.99

 

I may have had to wait a while for my review copy to arrive but it was completely worth it. If ever a ‘sea change’ from dull dreary winter normality was needed it was now and this was just the tonic required for that!

Pippa and her Sassy Sister friends are super excited about the 5M class camp to a tropical island two hours from home.  It’s a far cry from Pippa’s London experience of school camp sleeping over in the school hall watching movies. This camp is all about building independence, resilience and friendships beginning with learning how to sail the twin-hulled catamaran that delivers them to their island and continuing with cooking, organising, teamwork and initiative.

What a joy to read it is! Of course, there are still some ‘iffy’ relationships to sort out. Pippa and Olivia are still at odds with each other and the boys’ continual pranking of the girls is quite annoying, although the girls’ revenge is sweet when it comes.

Gradually over the five days of camp the children learn not only how to take care of themselves and work with each other but discover hidden (or ignored) positive qualities in their classmates.

From the gorgeous cover that (to me) echoes tropical fruit salad to the eminently believable characters and scenarios this is not just an enjoyable read but would, I think, encourage readers to reflect on their own personal relationships both in and out of school.

This series of Belinda’s has been taken up with huge enthusiasm with my junior readers. I’ve even had one delightful Year 4 girl so excited by them that she’s brought me Cici’s strawberry cupcakes to try out after using the recipe in a previous book! (I can only hope for more treats to come – the perks of the job *wink*).

And on that note I think we will all be eagerly awaiting the next instalment from the Pippa’s Island gang – great stuff Belinda!!

Highly recommended for readers from around Year 3 upwards.

 

 

Alice-Miranda in Scotland [#17]– Jacqueline Harvey

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Random House Australia Children’s

ISBN 9780143786016

May 2018

RRP $16.99

 

What could possibly be more delightful than our favourite BFF immersed in Scotland’s culture and icons?  The inaugural Queen’s Colours leadership program for children is kicking off in the land of Burns, Bruce and Braveheart and Alice-Miranda (after a tricky start) as well as friends from near and far are part of the cohort.

 

With some colorful and memorable new characters to entertain as well as some tricky puzzles to solve along the way, the kids are bound to have loads of fun and great experiences.  Whether its caber tossing or Highland dancing the leaders of the future are keen to have a go and earn some points for their team. Of course, as always there are a few less-than-positive participants although after one initial hiccup this is not the ubiquitous Caprice causing most of the upsets. A rather nasty cousin of Alice-Miranda’s bestie Millie, one Madagascar Slewt is quite the most obnoxious child and makes no bones about her indifference to rules, socially acceptable behavior or consideration of others. What a toad!  Even Alice-Miranda has difficulty overlooking her appalling behavior.

 

Despite that negativity the program is going pretty well until  the intrusion of a real ‘monster’ as well as the fabled one in Loch Ness which threatens in a very real way the safety of Alice-Miranda and her team. Fortunately some resourceful thinking and some daring courage will save the day and as always, Alice-Miranda’s innate compassion and empathy for others shines through.

 

I hardly need to recommend this as the series is perpetually ‘off the shelf’ in our library, one returned copy being snapped up by another borrower time and time again. However, the alacrity with which my review copy was pounced upon for two extremely keen sisters demonstrates admirably the popularity of this character and her stories.

Bring on the Empty Horses, so the old saying goes…….

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…though these are far from ’empty………..

 

As my village knows Miss Small has now been riding for about 18 months and is about to compete in her second show tomorrow (last show she got a first in her class of Beginner Rider!) so despite a lifetime in almost total ignorance of riding, except for some childhood excursions with my horse-mad cousin, I am now plunged into a new world.

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As a teacher-librarian I am well aware that the love of ‘horsey’ books never diminishes and as it happens I’ve acquired quite a few over the past few months – all of them delightful!

First up, the continuation of Starlight Stables:

Starlight Stables: Brumby Rescue (Book 5) – Soraya Nicholas

brumbyrescue

Penguin

9780143787440

January 2, 2018

Puffin

RRP: $12.99

This delightful and engaging series continues with young Poppy bidding on an extremely beautiful brumby at auction, fully convinced she can tame him. Everyone else thinks she’s crazy!  The task proves more difficult than Poppy could imagine but this series is about determination and passion and Poppy is not about to give up on her dream. And as usual, Aunt Sophie is ever helpful. After a few contretemps, she suggests a camp out at the Barmah Muster and thinks it’s possible that Storm could be up for it, given enough training. After all, it will allow Poppy to take Storm to his own stamping grounds and maybe give her the edge she needs to truly win his confidence with her.

While Poppy works with Storm when she can, Sophie also trains him while Pops is at school. Together they make a formidable team of rider and horse. Even though Poppy adores her pony Crystal, there is something so special about wild Storm that excites her so much that she is determined to make him just as awesome as the other horses in the stables.  When Storm begins to respond, Poppy and Sophie both know they have a very special horse on their hands. Roll on the Barmah Muster!

Starlight Stables: Barmah Brumbies (Book 6) – Soraya Nicholas

barmah

Penguin

9780143787433

January 2, 2018

Puffin

RRP: $12.99

 

What could possibly be more exciting for three horse-mad girls than a five day trail ride through a national park camping out and spotting wild brumbies? Well of course, not much!  Not only do the girls get to experience a fabulous adventure but they also learn much about the origins and history of the brumby population and also, why some locals would rather those wild horses be gone from the bush. In the process there is also much to be learned about other introduced species such as the fox and while measures to contain these seem cruel to the girls, there is much sense in what is being done to preserve the native wildlife. For sensitive animal-loving children this can be a very fraught issue indeed and this book will do much to balance the argument.

Of course, adventures abound during the trail ride and the girls are up for almost anything – whether it’s ‘allowed’ or not.

Children who love horses will adore these books because they are not only necessarily ‘horsey’ but chockfull of horsiness, friendship, challenges and the Australian setting.

 

Competing for the Cup: (Ride: Book 2) – Bobbi JG Weiss

CompCup

Walker Books

ISBN: 9780763698553
Imprint: Candlewick Entertainment

May 2018

RRP: $14.99

Apparently this is derived from a show on Nickelodeon, of which I plead ignorance, but feel that it’s possible I will be searching out DVDs before Christmas. I’ve not read the first in the series but it seems that young Kit Bridges has relocated to England (from USA) with her father Rudy, following her mother’s death. Rudy has taken on a position at an elite equestrian boarding school and Kit is now a pupil there. All in all, it’s been difficult for them both but there are positives, one of which is Kit’s favoured horse TK. However, TK is a tad problematic and while Kit is keen to overcome any difficulties, there is a great deal of pressure from the Head of School due to the need to keep the school’s standing right up in the higher echelons of riding. Needless to say, as a boarding school and a new girl therein, there are also other more personal problems with which to deal.

 

All in all, this is a pleasant but not demanding read and somewhat lacks the overall excitement and energy of other similar series. Despite that, it goes without saying that the horsey kids will still love it and there are plenty of both boy and girl characters with whom to become engaged.

 

The Promise Horse – Jackie Merchant

promisehorse

Walker Books

ISBN: 9781760650568
Imprint: Walker Books Australia
Release Date: July 1, 2018

RRP: $16.99

 

I really loved this book. It’s not just horsey but explores many nuances of family life and relationships. Harry is pretty upset when she and her parents move from the city to the country to be nearer her grandparents. This is  not because she doesn’t love her grandparents nor because she doesn’t want the promised horse as ‘recompense’ for the move but moreso because she hates being the new kid in school – especially the overly tall, gawky red-headed kid with the dead sister. Harry still hears Sissy constantly – a problem for her parents and clearly the counsellors but Harry knows that she is not ready to let Sissy go.

The ‘promised horse’ appears in the form of a borrowed ex-show horse called Marksman who is as out-of-place as Harry due to his huge size. Accustomed only to the school ponies in the city, Harry has her work cut out for her as she learns to gain confidence with Marksman and override the helicopter concerns of her mother. She also has to deal with a school bully who also rides but when she sees Billy’s problems with his father, she develops real insight into his attitude.

Harry’s progress working out issues with bullying while making new friends, her mother’s grief and her own reluctance to let go of Sissy makes for compelling reading for both boys and girls. The horsey readers will also really appreciate the details of Harry’s training and first gymkhana.

Fabulous read for kidlets from around 8 years upwards.

 

Horses Wild & Tame – Iris Volant/Jarom Vogel

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Flying Eye Books

ISBN 9781911171324

January 2018

RRP : $27.99

 

I just LOVE the Flying Eye non-fiction books that come my way and naturally this one was extremely well-received by both myself and Miss Small. Always elegant and a visual treat, these books are the kind to be pored over at length. This one traces the origins of the horse and then explores the many variations, legendary incarnations, domesticity, uses and evolution of this superb animal. It includes interesting information such as the formation of the hoof and famous or iconic horses and will beguile a horse lover for hours.  This is Jarom Vogel’s first foray into illustration and is both striking and engaging and a wonderful match for the text.

This is one that will not make its way to the library shelves but remain firmly on our own so that Miss Small can continue to revel in its beauty and revelations.