Tag Archives: Spies

Truly Tan Shocked! – Jen Storer. Illustrated by Clare Robertson

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Harper Collins Australia

January 2021

  • ISBN: 9780733334146
  • ISBN 10: 0733334148
  • Imprint: ABC Books AU
  • List Price: 17.99 AUD

It has been ages since I’ve had the delight of reading a new Truly Tan book and the joy has not diminished one whit!

In this new adventure Tan and Gloria are most worried about their teacher, Miss Dragone, who has been acting most peculiarly: taking cooking classes to make delicious muffins, having her eyebrows and nails ‘done’, buying a fancy new bike – all kinds of weird stuff. Naturally, the determined spies are set on finding out exactly what is going on and confirming their suspicions that not all is well with their teacher.

Tan is also dealing with the very disquieting upcoming birth of a fifth Callahan sibling. She is not at all comfortable with losing her place as the youngest in the family, especially for yet another sister. As it is, the Lollipops (her older sisters) are all being as mental as ever and in fact, more so, as Emerald prepares for the starring role in the school production and deals with her first boyfriend break-up, Amber is seething with jealousy having only made the chorus of the show and Rose is wafting in and out of her home-made yurt reading everyone’s aura and communing with the bush fairies. And just to top it off, Tan feels that her 10th birthday – such a special occasion – will be completely overshadowed, indeed forgotten, in all the kerfuffle around her.

As usual, all is pretty chaotic really, yet Tan and Gloria press on with their investigation, with Tan’s diary entries (and the vivid description of which pen she is using) providing highlights of each stage. The explanations of unusual words at the conclusion of each chapter again provide readers with some bonus material.

Will Tan and Gloria uncover the truth about the Mystery of Miss Dragone? Will Tan get a special celebration for her birthday? And will she be able to cope with the arrival of Callahan #5?

All in all, absolutely great fun as always – these are ‘truly’ laugh-out-loud books that will appeal strongly to your independent readers.

Highly recommended for kiddos from around 8 years upwards.

Kensy and Max #7: Take Down – Jacqueline Harvey

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Penguin Australia

March 2 2021

  • ISBN: 9781760898533
  • Imprint: Puffin
  • RRP: $16.99

The countdown to Take Down is on! The kiddos are going to be wild with excitement to read this new adventure with the spies-in-training, as they set off for the World STEM championships in exotic Singapore. The team from the Central London Free School are thrilled to be in the finals for the world’s most prestigious STEM competition but when their grandmother, Dame Cordelia Spencer, falls victim to a poison attack, Kensy and Max are not so keen on going ahead with the trip. However, they are persuaded by their parents and friends that not only will they be safer in Singapore but that their obligation to the team is more important than sitting around in a hospital waiting room. Naturally, that proves dead wrong as the twins and their friends become embroiled with an illegal animal smuggling operation, the very dangerous villain who has been pursuing their family and the mystery surrounding their friend Autumn’s missing parents.

Once again Jacqueline Harvey has hit on a winning combination, combining the growing concerns around the illegal trade in exotic species and STEM, which is arguably the hottest topic in education at present, not to mention the reference to the dangerous nerve drug which was the subject of a recent (and huge) political attack. Kensy and Max prove themselves to be increasingly resourceful and creative and the growing emphasis on their friends’ skills and aptitudes, and their developing teamwork, will provide fans with more rich fodder for discussion and engagement. This underlining of family and friends being vital to our overall safety, success and achievements (no matter how talented we may be as individuals) is a valuable point of reflection for readers.

For those who have not had the pleasure of visiting Singapore it is a thoroughly delightful vicarious tourist experience, highlighting the best of the iconic sights and experiences to be found in this amazing city/country. Though the Kid has spent a week there, I’ve only had the brief encounter with a stop-over in the airport, sadly, and would love to see more of this vibrant and beautiful place – maybe one day!

There is never any need to ‘sell’ Jacqueline’s books, but this comes with my highest recommendation for your readers from around Year 4 upwards as the series gets edgier, more exciting and more in-depth with each new volume. Available for pre-order now, so don’t miss out – your kids will be waiting very impatiently for it to hit your shelves!!

Full Speed: Kensy and Max #6 – Jacqueline Harvey

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Penguin Australia

September 2020

  • ISBN: 9781760890025
  • Imprint: Puffin
  • RRP: $16.99

Is it any wonder that Jacqueline Harvey’s fans are legion? Her consummate skill in smashing out superlative stories for young ‘uns just continues to enthrall and capture their reading hearts.

Now the sixth instalment in the hugely successful Kensy and Max series takes the thrills even further as the young twin spies undertake a covert mission in the Alps accompanied by their parents and close companions, Fitz and Song.

The nasty Van Leer couple are some of the most unlikeable villains readers will encounter, only outweighed by the pack of really dastardly gun-smugglers who have attached themselves to the Van Leer’s lucrative data-theft enterprise. It’s up to the Spencers to forestall both sets of malefactors and in the picturesque snowy setting of Zermatt this is exactly what they do. There is plenty of action to excite with skillful skiing, stealthy stalking and wild chases on snow-mobiles as the plot unravels, revealing far more than the Pharos family anticipated.

Most unexpectedly the revelations about Soren, the Van Leer’s bullied and repressed son, give rise to a startling development which,completely shock all involved.

Once again Kensy and Max demonstrate their latent talents as spies-in-the-making, often taking the initiative in the whole mission and ably thwarting even the most heinous of criminals.

Jacqueline Harvey’s narratives not only celebrate resourcefulness, quick-thinking and capability but also trust, loyalty and family relationships. Combined with the thrills and spills that accompany the spy business – even for those who are still learning the ropes – this is an unbeatable series with scads of appeal for both boys and girls from around 8 years upwards.

Though they do not need any recommendation from me, as they simply fly off the shelves as soon as they are spotted, they would be top of my list for your middle school kiddos.

Teaching notes available for this series

League of Llamas [#3 and #4] – Aleesah Darlison

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Penguin Random House Australia

July 2020

Aleesah Darlison continues her hilarious new series with these two new episodes in the adventures of Phillipe, Lloyd and Elloise, those daring LOL agents who are afraid of nothing – well almost nothing. Kids love the antics of rather hapless Philippe and Lloyd who are generally getting themselves into dangerous scrapes with narrow escapes – usually saved from complete disaster by the help of Elloise, g-llama-rous and efficient daughter of Head of LOL, Mama Llama. Packed with action as well as very funny wordplay these have already proven to be a big hit with junior readers who will be very excited about the new missions coming their way.

Undercover Llama #3

  • ISBN: 9781760894191
  • Imprint: Puffin
  • RRP: $9.99

A disastrous and almost deadly failed mission to recover missing secret files from some not-so-featherbrained chickens has done nothing to enhance Phillipe’s cred with Mama Llama and he’s getting close to being de-activated as an agent. In fact, if not for the support of the lovely Elloise defending him it’s likely he might not have been given a reprieve. Now the trio are going undercover and not just any ordinary kind of investigation either. They are going to pose as band members of world famous pop star, Bruno Llamars!

On tour in Chickenlovakia the agents find themselves once again embroiled with the rogue chickens but there also appears to some monkey business involving Bruno’s manager, Wally Chimpopo.

Can they salvage their reputations and recover the missing files? Only time will tell and in the meantime they must sort out the bad eggs from the good ones.

Rogue Llama #4

  • ISBN: 9781760894207
  • Imprint: Puffin
  • RRP: $9.99

As if Philippe doesn’t have enough trouble keeping out of strife, he’s dropped well and truly in the llama doo-doo when he follows an unreliable rat informant and is framed for a crime he didn’t commit. When Mama Llama demands he turn in his badge, Phillipe is determined to clear his name. So it’s off to hunt down the rat who ratted him out, first to Ratopia and then to the last place one would look for a rat, good or bad, Catagonia. Surviving on his wits alone – never a good move really – Philippe finds himself in a tight place but luckily his friends Lloyd and Elloise haven’t yet given up on him and their timely intervention saves the day. Once again the trio are on the trail of that smelly badger Bottomburp, mastermind of criminal mischief and parp-er of extraordinary vileness.

And with a little bit of luck and the surprising but useful intervention of a very cranky whale, Phillipe is able to redeem himself and once again take up his place as LOL’s leading and best-looking llama.

So much fun to be had with these! Don’t forget to check out Aleesah’s page for some llamazing activities as well – your kiddos would love to have a whole llama-filled book party!

Highly recommended for young readers from around six years upwards.

Nightshade – Anthony Horowitz

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1583105566022

Walker Books Australia

April 2020

ISBN: 9781406395877
Imprint: Walker

Australian RRP: $16.99
New Zealand RRP: $18.99

Coming hard on the heels of the 20th anniversary of Alex Rider’s first adventure – Stormbreaker – is even more high-octane heart-pumping tension as Alex plunges deep into a mysterious organisation known as Nightshade.

Once again Alex is an unwilling recruit into MI6’s latest investigation and this time he is in danger right from the get-go as he is sent into the maximum security prison on Gilbratar, impersonating  ruthless killer and terrorist, Julius Grief – his clone from Point Blanc. It’s not just the danger of the mission that puts Alex in peril but the fact that young Grief had made plenty of enemies within the prison walls who would be only too happy to see him on his way to a permanent end.

An MI6 agent has been murdered and two child-assassins, unbelievably, were responsible. Only one of them was captured and it is apparent that he is a boy believed dead in an accident but it seems kidnapped and raised as a human weapon.  It’s Alex’ mission to befriend him and if possible discover more about Nightshade, the organisation behind not just one but many missing children.

Will Alex be able to connect to Freddy – No 9 – and successfully infiltrate Nightshade to discover their plans? Moreover, will he then be able to prevent the loss of life of thousands of people? As usual this 13th thriller-adventure proves Anthony’s power to create an explosive and suspenseful narrative that will thoroughly engage and entertain fans of the original teen spy.

I’ve just bought the entire series in the fabulous newest editions to replace our rather sad-looking ones in our collection and now planning a big bold Alex Rider display for when the kiddos come back to school.

I’m unashamedly both an Alex fan and a Horowitz one and highly recommend this – and the entire series – for your readers from around Year 6 upwards.

 

Stormbreaker – Anthony Horowitz

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1574636428062

Walker Books Australia

March 2020

ISBN: 9781406388589
Imprint: Walker
Australian RRP: $16.99

By chance, when I found out that the new 20th anniversary edition of Stormbreaker was being released I was ‘re-reading’ it on audio during my commute and relishing the pure adrenalin rush that is the hallmark of the series.

Frankly I’d be happy to read Anthony’s shopping list – the man just oozes talent in whichever field he pursues but let’s face it there is something super special about young Alex. It remains one of those series which I can inveigle a reader to pick up for a first read and have that reader come back for a bulk borrow of the rest of the series.

And how extra exciting is it that this anniversary edition heralds another new episode in Alex’ thrilling adventures – Nightshade is coming!

If for some reason you’ve never accompanied Alex on any of his adventures (seriously??) you should know he is a 14 year old schoolboy who is recruited unwillingly by the powers that be following the suspicious death of his guardian Ian Rider to undertake dangerous and potentially deadly missions. In reality the man he always knew as an international banker was in fact a highly skilled secret agent and has trained Alex all his life to be as competent an operative as himself. Now Alex is sent to investigate one Herod Sayle, to all appearances a wealthy and generous benefactor, but in fact one with not only a streak of insanity but a vindictive killer.

Sayle’s plot to unleash a deadly virus on every single one of Britain’s schools via the gift of his new and technologically unsurpassed computer, the Stormbreaker, is what Alex must put a stop to – succeeding in fact where his uncle had failed.

The action doesn’t stop for a second in this roller-coaster introduction to a world into which Alex finds himself so reluctantly dragged but due to the management of his many ‘hobbies’ instigated by his guardian he actually finds himself surprisingly well-prepared.

This is  a series that both boys and girls will grab hold of with gusto, fully immersing them in the non-stop action. Thank you Anthony for 20 years of thrilling adventures with the boy-spy who beats them all!

Highly recommended for readers from around ten years upwards and why not pre-order the newest volume now!

Freefall:  Kensy & Max #5 –– Jacqueline Harvey

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9780143796985

Published: 3 March 2020

ISBN: 9780143796985

Imprint: Puffin

RRP: $16.99

 

Hold onto your seats for another major adrenalin rush in this new top-notch adventure of twins Kensy and Max, young agents-in-training!

In this latest episode there is a continuing thread from the previous book in which a thoroughly evil villain was unmasked. The outwardly charming Dash Chalmers has a strong connection with the Spencer family who along with his own now estranged wife and children are all at risk from his retribution.  The family have already survived house bombings, attacks from hired assassins, kidnappings and more but this drama is not yet put to rest, nor will it be until the odious and dangerous Dash has been completely neutralised, one way or another.

This time around the pair becomes a trio with the addition of Curtis Pepper, their erstwhile neighbour in Sydney, who already fancies himself quite the spy. Little does he know when he comes to visit the twins and their family at Alexandria, their English home, that he is actually being sized up as a new Pharos agent-in-training.

So while Dame Cordelia, the matriarch of the family and Head of Pharos, is honoured with the Myrtle award for media achievements and the family heads off to New York for the ceremony, there are numerous other factors at play: another attempt on their lives via a speedboat, factotum Song’s mysterious behaviour, ditto Uncle Rupert’s – both of whom are apt to disappear at the most crucial moments! – the Postal Assassin at large in NYC, the strange man who accosts them all in a park, a mysterious girl who appears to be stalking them and so much more.  Kensy and Max, plus their highly-valued new sidekick Curtis, find themselves needing to be even more resourceful and bold in their actions. And once again they rise to the occasion splendidly. But as one chapter in evil doing ends, another begins and readers will be delighted to know that it seems we can all look forward to another instalment in the future.

Again Jacqueline Harvey has hit the right chord with her mix of high-octane adventure, a good sprinkling of humour and some pithy observations on human character. And as with previous books in this series readers are introduced to yet another cipher to add to their repertoire. All in all, who could want for more?

I know that many will already have this on their ‘to order’ list and I also know that young readers will be queuing up to be the next in line to read it.

Highly recommended for all avid JH fans and newcomers from around 10 years upwards.

League of Llamas – Aleesah Darlison

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94234nz Visit Aleesah’s webpage here

 

Penguin

March 2020

RRP: $9.99

 

Well… Aleesah’s new series is bound to be a hit with junior/middle primary readers with galloping (I’m not sure llamas actually gallop but still…) plots, high octane humour and loads of adventure. I knew that James Bond is currently having a contemporised make over but I’m thinking that Phillipe Llamar is going to give the super suave secret agent a real run for his money once the word gets out!  After all, he’s got the good looks and the extravagant fringe (thanks to extensions) – in fact he oozes style. Of course it’s a bit of a shame he also often exudes incompetence but still, one can’t have everything.

These new stories make great use of innumerable llama puns (driving Llamaborghinis) and other word play such as the names of countries (Chickenlovakia and Crowatia) which kiddos will find highly amusing and no doubt will emulate with gusto.

 

#1 The Golden Llama

9781760894160

ISBN: 9781760894160

Imprint: Puffin

In which we are introduced to Phillipe, his sidekick Lloyd, Mama Llama the big boss of the League of Llamas agency, a beautiful but suspicious lady llama and some very dastardly badgers led by General Bottomburp (I know, right!?).

Phillipe’s mission is to retrieve stolen files regarding SPIT (Space Precision Initial Test), a highly sensitive initiative of the Llama Republic Space Agency, Bottomburp’s office deep within the badger’s mansion. His plan to do this whilst everyone is deep in food and dance at a huge ball is a good one but things do go awry. However Phillipe salvages the operation, if not his dignity, but there is more in store as the badger cohort retaliate with a llama-napping and the theft of the Llama Republic’s most significant monument, the Golden Llama.

#2 Llama Impossible

9781760894184

ISBN: 9781760894184

It wasn’t until I read this second instalment that I found a reference to James Bond..

If James Bond was a llama, he’d be Phillip, albeit slightly more clumsy and conceited…….hah! that cracked me up after my earlier mention!

A speeding train with failed brakes driven by a rotund llama chockfull of choc-cookies and a nasty gecko who appears to be a baddie, a martial arts academy full of badgers who like to beat up llamas, arson, a robbery at Tiffanllamas & Co Jewellery Store and more – it’s all in a day’s work for Phillipe and his trusty comrades, all the while protecting his famous fringe. Are all these incidents the work of Bottomburp, who is reputedly holidaying in Papua New Guinea Pig, or are the llama agents being misled?

It seems that when the intrepid pairing of Phillipe and Lloyd become a trio with the lovely Elloise that things work out with great satisfaction – perhaps a little wonkily along the way but still all’s wellama that ends wellama.

 

Trust me, your kiddos are going to lap these up like llamas eating gardenias – or badgers eating worms. I would recommend for readers from around 7 years upwards.

 

 

 

 

The Peski Kids: Near Extinction #4 – R. A. Spratt

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9780143796367

Penguin Australia

January 2020

ISBN: 9780143796367

Imprint: Puffin

Format: Paperback

RRP: $16.99

Readers may rest assured that this latest episode in The Peski Kids once again passes the snort-laugh test with flying colours. There is something truly inspired about these completely kooky characters.

This new instalment opens with the reluctant wedding of Dad and the intimidating Ingrid but is rudely interrupted not by the kids but a strange foreign woman delivering an impassioned message from imprisoned Mum. While shy Joe, pedantic Finn and firecracker April (not to mention the irascible Pumpkin) would willingly stop the wedding there is more to this situation than meets the eye.

While Dad and Ingrid disappear purportedly to the city for a little break before the wedding resumes, the kiddos along with Loretta, newly adopted into the family and even more newly expelled from her private school, are trapped into a doleful school excursion to the famed (using the term loosely) Dinosaur museum at Gulargambone (which was pretty much my loudest snort-laugh as having lived in the Central West for 12 long years which was made even longer by the fact that it IS the Central West).

Of course no one would expect an excursion either from the Currawong school or which includes the Peski kids to go according to plan and so it is. Finn is trapped in a dinosaur’s mouth, Joe is hotly pursued by love-lorn Daisy and April threatens to derail the whole trip but no one expects the intrusion of dangerous jewel thieves. Meanwhile Dad and Ingrid who are not in the city are on a rescue mission somewhere deep in Europe and Dad has to pull out all his limited reserves of courage and ingenuity to be of use.

The hilarity just keeps on coming and Spratt’s comedic gifts will have readers guffawing with abandon once again.  And as to be expected the story concludes with a nicely set up segue into the next volume. Roll on #5!!

Highly recommended for readers from around 8 years upwards.

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Kensy and Max #4: Out of Sight – Jacqueline Harvey

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9780143791928

Penguin

September 2019

ISBN: 9780143791928

Imprint: Puffin

RRP: $16.99

Just as life for the intrepid and resilient twins seems to be settling with both their parents and their grandparents restored to the family, the London house habitable again and being back at school with their friends, things start hotting up.  Their upcoming first Pharos review is doubtless a tad stressful given there’s no wriggle room for inadequacies and the school play looms large but there’s far more to it than that. They appear to be not only surrounded by deception and mystery but for the first time ever each is keeping a big secret from the other.

As well there is annoyingly inquisitive new student Blair, new Drama teacher/Pharos agent/”world famous actor” Mr Theo Richardson and some missing journalists with which to contend. The twins’ training in stealth, disguise, parkour and coding are all about to become far more necessary than just for the upcoming review!

When it becomes apparent that there is a large-scale operation focused on thefts of valuable pieces and that somehow there’s a connection to both the new Drama teacher and the missing journalists, the Pharos kids are galvanised into action.  Given the skills, expertise and native intelligence the twins and their friends are able to apply to a dangerous situation the review could seem an anti-climax.

Once again, readers will revel in the excitement of this series. Each book gets a little edgier with the twins (and their friends) demonstrating real independence, quick thinking, teamwork and bravery.

Jacqueline Harvey has proven over and over her ability to connect with her readers by providing exactly the right adventures that appeal to the middle school kiddos upwards. It’s certainly no wonder that her fan base just continues to grow and that each new book is greeted with such enthusiasm.

Highly recommended for readers from around 9 years upwards.