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Aug 21 2017

How does my home work? by Chris Butterworth

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Ill. by Lucia Gaggiotti. Walker Books, 2017. ISBN 9781406363784
(Age: 5+) Highly recommended. STEM. Home appliances. Electricity. All the things we do not think about in the home: how does a switch turn on the light, how does the fridge work, where does the gas come from to keep us warm, where does the waste water go, how does it get to the house, and so on, are questions answered in this easily understood hymn to the house and what happens inside its walls. A double page is devoted to each new idea. The first tells us about the things we do each day without thinking about it, while over the page a double page image of the plan of a house shows the services in and out: the electricity, gas, water in and water out. Further on we have a double page showing where our electricity comes from, discussing turbines, coal and nuclear power, solar, wind and water power. Further over and we see where the water we use in the house comes from and how it gets to the house, followed by a look at where water is used in the house and what happens after it is used. Another double page shows the treatment of used water and what happens to it.
Each page is clear and well illustrated with a simple but not simplistic text. A double page at the end of the book shows how energy can be saved within the house, and this is followed by a brief index and websites for more information. All in all a wonderfully informative and clearly presented book on the basic services which come to us everyday in our house.
Fran Knight




Aug 21 2017

Bad mermaids by Sibeal Pounder

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Bloomsbury, 2017. ISBN 9781408877128
(Ages 8-11) Mermaids. Adventure. Fantasy. Author Sibeal Pounder's new fantasy series explores the world of mermaids and their adventures in the Hidden Lagoon. When Arabella Cod, Queen of the Mermaids is captured, it is up to Beattie Shelton and twins Mimi and Zelda Swish to rescue her. These young friends have enjoyed a short summer break living in the human world with real legs. However, after only two weeks they receive a mysterious crabagram and have to return home. Their underwater kingdom is swarming with biting piranhas and a new leader has taken control. With the aid of a talking seahorse called Steve, Beattie, Mimi and Zelda investigate the kidnapping, search for clues to the queen's whereabouts and try to free the residents of the lagoon from the evil invaders.
Travelling in their Clamarado 7, the young mermaids follow Arabella Cod's diary entries to each of the last places she visited. Each location is beautifully unique. Hammerhead Heights is a huge underwater canyon filled with thousands of mermaids swimming with their special shark tails. Here they enjoy fishy fare at Jawella's and soon eliminate Ray Ramona as a possible captor of their queen. With piranhas patrolling the waters and mermaids limited in the places they can swim freely, careful planning and teamwork is needed.
Bad mermaids is an enchanting junior novel, with colourful underwater characters, beautiful shell costumes, fancy tails and delicious fishy menus. There are fun articles from the Mermaids' newspaper, 'Clamzine', and rival reports from the enemies' point of view. Sibeal Pounder's descriptive language, fun puns, alliteration and imaginative descriptions make Bad mermaids a fun story to read for ages 8-11.
Rhyllis Bignell




Aug 21 2017

The anti-boredom book of brilliant outdoor things to do by Andy Seed

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Ill. by Scott Garrett. Bloomsbury, 2017. ISBN 9781408870099
Gardening. Crafts. Cooking. Games. Holidays. Summertime fun in the garden, you can build a tipi, create a den with a fence, sheets and chairs, build a bug trap or create a beautiful water rainbow. With step-by-step instructions, stuff you need and plenty of tips, young readers can create a perfect picnic or a special treasure hunt. Spinners, snappers, paper plate Frisbees, giant bubble wands even making gloop, there are so many easy things to make indoors. With easy to source materials and a little imagination, there are plenty of things to create indoors or outdoors.
There are so many places to explore and see outside, castles to explore, go bird watching, tracking animals or observe shooting stars in the Northern and Southern Hemisphere. Safety measures are included throughout, telling an adult and asking for advice is important.
Andy Seed's anti-boredom activity book is packed full of games, indoor and outdoor fun, recipes to cook, something special for every season. Thirty-seven exciting challenges are included as well, at an easy, harder or tough level; try going for a night walk, sleeping under the stars or flying a kite. Scott Garrett's fun cartoon illustrations add excitement to this activity book; look for the farm horse playing table tennis and the gardener doing the splits. The creative design and placement of the text boxes, silhouettes and shadows, backgrounds and borders makes this a fun to explore information book. The anti-boredom book of brilliant outdoor things to do is just right for a family to motivate their creativity and engagement with the world around them.
Rhyllis Bignell




Aug 21 2017

Tell it to the moon by Siobhan Curham

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Walker Books, 2017. ISBN 9781406366150
(Age: 12+) Highly recommended. Tell it to the moon is an incredibly hopeful story about friendship and supporting one another through the tough times. I would highly recommend this for people aged twelve and up as it reinforces the importance of surrounding yourself with the right kind of people. Following on from the previous novel, The Moonlight dreamers we follow the girls as they overcome new obstacles and discover new dreams to be fulfilled.
Amber's ambition of visiting the grave of her beloved writer has been fulfilled, but what will come next for her budding writing career? She's experiencing writers block, back to being bullied at school, and her identity comes down as she tries to contact her birth mother. Amber doesn't know what to do next, she feels like much less of a moonlight dreamer than ever before. Maali is still searching for her soulmate but her romantic prayers change course as her father's health deteriorates. Her father is now haggard and having trouble even standing upright. There is something badly wrong and yet Maali and the doctors don't know what. Sky's life is rocked by her Dad's determination to send her to school. Her first time in secondary school, and just ahead the GCSE are looming, however she soon learns that not to let her fear of school swallow up her dreams when she meets a fellow poet, Leon, who encourages her dreams. Rose's world is coming apart at the seams, finally having recovered from the topless photo scandal, she has finally found the courage to accept her sexuality. But with that comes a whole new world of ups and downs as her crush, the lovely Francesca, reveals her boyfriend at the very moment Rose intends to come out.
It seems that times will continue to be tough for the moonlight dreamers as they deal with problems within their family, relationships, school, and religious beliefs. The girls must band together and in doing so demonstrate the importance and strength of their friendship, as well as continue to achieve their dreams.
Kayla Gaskell, 21




Aug 17 2017

Kid Normal by Greg James and Chris Smith

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Bloomsbury, 2017. ISBN 9781408884539
(Age: 10+) Kid normal is the first book in a series by Greg James and Chris Smith. The story follows lead character Murph Cooper through the frightening task of moving house, leaving friends and changing schools part way through the term. When all the closest schools are full, Murph ends up in the unlikely situation of being a regular kid in a school for super heroes!
Every child who has gone through this will be able to sympathise with him and I think this will help them to believe in the character and in the story.
Murph joins a gang of kids called 'The Super Zeroes' who are those without superpowers and therefore unlike everyone else. Unfortunately they get picked on by the kids with superpowers - but this gives them the desire to fight back and use what they know to fight the bad guy Nektar.
This is a really funny book with quirky, silly illustrations that will appeal to most people who have a sense of humour. The book is however too long in my opinion. At 384 pages long, there are parts of the story that are too drawn out and this makes it inaccessible for readers who are not particularly confident or intimidated by the look of a very thick novel. It is not difficult to read but I think younger readers will potentially drift away half way through the book due to its length. In saying that - this book is written to be read out loud! A class of children will giggle and laugh all the way through if the teacher (or parent) read this book with voices, movement and flair.
I really enjoyed the messages that came with this story, and think they are a great conversation starter for children around 8 years old and above. There are undertones of school hierarchy, and of course good versus evil, but also that everyone is special in their own way and that superpowers are not necessary to win the fight against evil villains!
Suitable for children from 8 years old but more so for 10+ due to the book length. Also for lovers of David Walliams and David Wallace.
Lauren Fountain




Aug 17 2017

DK Find Out! series

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DK Publishing, 2017.
Decades ago DK Publishing revolutionised the presentation of non fiction to young readers with bright photographs, information in manageable, well-labelled chunks and the clever use of white space so that the reader was not overwhelmed. Their  Eyewitness series became a staple of primary school library collections. Now they have a launched a new series, DK Find Out! for the younger reader, using their familiar format but adding many more features so the newly independent reader can access information at their level.
Beginning with a durable paperback cover which folds out to be a quiz with answers and essential information relevant to the topic such as areas of study, a timeline or a phylogenetic tree, it then offers a page where the reader can jot down the things they have already identified that they want to find out thus supporting the inquiry method of investigation from the get-go. Then, as is customary with DK books, there is the usual contents, glossary and index pages which encourage and enable young readers to use the clues to get to what they want and in between are double-page spreads of basic information and glossy photographs and diagrams, all clearly labelled. So as well as being an ideal way of exploring print to find information they also serve as a model for students to present their findings if their searches have been assignment based rather than just curiosity.
To top it there is an easy-to-navigate website that offers more information and activities as well as support for teachers and parents. Like the books it is also a teaching tool for helping young children learn to use a website for information, one designed for their level and more authoritative and targeted than Wikipedia.
Despite the misguided opinion of some, there is a lot of research and reasons that primary school libraries, particularly, need to have a robust, attractive, up-to-date non fiction collection and this new series demonstrates the value of not only catering to those who prefer to read non fiction but also those wanting to find out more NOW! As well, the series is attractively priced so that parents can purchase individual volumes to accompany particular interests or investigations that their child is pursuing.
Miss 6 is fascinated with the human body and snaffled my review copy as soon as she saw it, not only asking and answering questions for herself but also learning vital lessons about using such resources. Now she is exploring those for information as often as those for her imagination. It won't be hard to fill her Christmas stocking!
Barbara Braxton




Aug 17 2017

This savage song by Victoria Schwab

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Monsters of Verity book 1. Titan Books, 2016. ISBN 9781785652745
(Age: 14+) Recommended. 2017 Locus Awards nominee. Dystopian fiction. In a world that has been invaded by monsters, Kate Harker and August Flynn find themselves together on the run. There are three types of monsters: Malchai who drink blood and are made when there is a murder, Corsai who eat flesh and bones and are formed from violence and Sunai who feed on the souls of sinners and are formed from a major catastrophe like a school bombing. August Flynn is a Sunai, but longs to be less of a monster. His adopted father, Henry Flynn, runs one side of Verity, while Kate Harker's father runs the other side. However the truce that Flynn and Harker had made is beginning to come apart at the seams and August is sent to spy on Kate in an effort to find out what is going on.
The setting of Verity and the formation of monsters from evil acts is quite original and made reading This savage song quite different. Kate's feisty nature and need to please her crime boss father contrasted with August's attempts to be less monster-like. When they both are attacked at their school, they have to rely on each other to work out what is happening and to escape the attempts to kill them. Although there are slight hints at a Romeo and Juliet type of relationship, this is minor to the plot, which is action driven, while posing questions about morality and ethics.
There are some very thrilling and frightening scenes as the monsters chase Kate and August through the underground tunnels and Schwab manages to surprise with some unexpected twists and turns. The conclusion is satisfying but leaves plenty of opportunity for expansion in Our dark duet, the second in the series, which is on my to-read list.
This was a compulsive read with unique characters and magic. Readers who enjoy Holly Black's books will want to read this one.
Pat Pledger




Aug 15 2017

Rockabye Pirate by Timothy Knapman

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Ill. by Ada Grey. Bloomsbury, 2017. ISBN 9781408849392
Rock-a-bye pirate, in the crow's nest
Mummy says bedtime, and Mummy knows best.
You've had your adventures, you've sailed the high seas,
So under the covers and go to sleep, please.

During the day, this little pirate has all sorts of pirate adventures doing all the things pirates do. But the life of a pirate isn't all swashbuckling, treasure-seeking and making enemies walk the plank - come nighttime they have to have their dinner, have a bath, wash their hair, get in the PJs and snuggle into bed to listen to a bedtime story. And this smart mummy knows this, turning her boy's bedtime routine into a pirate-centred lullaby to settle him down and lull him to sleep.
Author of other preschool-friendly stories such as All Aboard the Dinosaur Express, Knapman describes himself as a children's writer, lyricist and playwright and his way with words, their rhyme and rhythm certainly shines through in this latest offering. Sublimely illustrated so that even the wickedest pirates who ever set sail - Black-Bearded Brewster, Sea Dog McPhail, Cross-Eyed Delaney and Freddy the Fright - become just regular people who go home to their magnificent purpled-hair mum, there is everything that is familiar about pirates in this book as well as things that are not so it is scaled back to become a gentle bedtime story for even the toughest, most adventurous daytime seafarer.
Barbara Braxton




Aug 15 2017

Survival skills handbook, series by Bear Grylls

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Knots. ISBN: 9781783422982
Camping. ISBN 9781783422593
Maps and navigation. ISBN 9781783423002
Dangers and emergencies. ISBN 9781783422999
(Age: 8+) Recommended. Survival. Camping. Knots. Navigation. First Aid. Bear Grylls is the world famous survivalist, ex-military commando known for his extreme outdoor adventures on his television series and his work as Chief Scout for the UK Scout Association. Each of these factual Survival skills handbooks focuses on the knowledge, resources, tips and tricks to meet the challenges of living in the wilderness. These provide easy-to-read instructions, clear colourful diagrams and step-by-step guides presented with sturdy covers and elastic bookmarks. They are the perfect addition to a camping backpack, wrapped in a waterproof bag.
Knots is a comprehensive volume of all things rope-related, splicing, tripod lashing, attaching a dinghy to post with a pile-hitch and the more familiar knots used in camping. With an introduction about the knot's purpose, a tip from Bear Grylls and close-ups of each stage with labelled sections, this is a great book for campers, sailors and Scouts.
Camping discusses everything from tent types, making shelters, hunting knives (with an adult in charge), toileting and showering, to food preparation and fire making. He introduces this with an encouragement to enjoy these experiences with friends and family, and safety is an important part of his message. Healthy nutrition, personal hygiene and environmental awareness are also covered.
Maps and navigation looks at the essential skills needed to start an adventure in the wild. The diagrams illustrate the basic equipment required, to being prepared for the conditions, familiarisation with your location, journey and destination. The ability to read a contour map, use a compass, measure distance, even reading signs in nature are extremely beneficial skills to have.
Dangers and emergencies even includes an Australian section on snakes. Knowing how to set an emergency signal, fire cones, flares, even a jungle distress signal is included. Dangerous insects, arachnids, reptiles and mammals are shown with their specific patterns and colours. How to treat snakebite, escape from quicksand, purify water, test for edible plants and build a shelter are vital skills for young wilderness explorers.
Bear Grylls' Survival skills handbooks are excellent resources for everyone who enjoys life in the great outdoors.
Rhyllis Bignell




Aug 13 2017

A Monster Calls (film) book and screenplay by Patrick Ness

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Focus Features, 2016, released in Australia 2017
(Age: 12+) Highly recommended. Fantasy, Monsters, Death, Cancer, Bullying, Acceptance. Conor (Lewis MacDougall) screams as he falls out of bed, clutching a hand slipping from his grasp. The clock shows 12.07 and he knows it is the old nightmare. His mum (Felicity Jones) is still asleep when he leaves for school the next morning, and he drags his feet knowing what waits. The bully is relentless, but it is Conor's invisibility which is most hurtful. No one speaks to him, and his teacher talks in a soft voice, offering help. But no one can.
Conor's mother has cancer and sleeps most of the time. When her mother (Sigourney Weaver) comes to stay, Conor does not welcome this bossy interfering woman. Conor becomes more angry when his absent father (Toby Kebbell) arrives from America, full of promises. But when he must live with his grandmother on Mum's return to hospital, his anger builds.
The only thing that knows how Conor feels is the monster who fills his room at night. The yew tree by the church, the same one his mother watches from the window, tells him three stories, each drawing Conor to seeing both his father and grandmother in a different light, and to admit to himself the truth of his mother's illness.
The book, first published in 2011, written by Patrick Ness after an idea sketched out by the late Siobahn O'Dowd, won the Kate Greenaway Medal for its illustrator, Jim Kay, and the Carnegie Medal. Now directed by J A Bayona (Orphanage and Impossible) the film radiates with repressed anger. Conor is unable to admit the truth. His anger manifests itself in smashing his grandmother's front room, and putting the bully into hospital.
Ness has written the screenplay for this film, concentrating on the four main characters and the monster, the yew tree, as it reaches into the dark recesses of the mind, coping with the imminent death of someone very close. The brooding presence of the yew tree, pulling up its roots and striding into Conor's bedroom is mesmerising, his fearsomeness tempered by his voice (Liam Neeson), at once solicitous and fatherly as he tells Conor the stories. The claustrophobic feel of the film, intensified by the acton restricted to four rooms, Conor's house, Grandmother's house, the school room and the hospital room, while going outside the chilling presence of the monster fills the screen. The viewer hardly breathes, intent on seeing what is behind the stories, and how Conor will accept it.
A highly emotive fantasy thriller about a boy's guilt at his mother's disease, the film has further developed the brooding atmosphere of the book, and would suit an audience of teens and adults.
Fran Knight




Aug 13 2017

Zombelina school days by Kristyn Crow

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Ill. by Molly Idle. Bloomsbury, 2017. ISBN 9781619636415
(Age: 3-6) Recommended. Themes: School life, Zombies, Dancing, Rhyming stories. Kristyn Crow's fun rhyming story Zombelina School Days is a perfect picture book for sharing with a younger audience. This story is filled with spooky jokes, funny puns and easy to read rhymes. When she scans her body in her daddy's X-ray machine, after her breakfast of lizard eye gruel, her mom calls her drop-dead gorgeous!
Zombelina the gorgeous green zombie loves to dance; she has practised her special moves for show-and-tell. Something interesting happens as she twirls, her body parts go flying, with her arms or hands landing in some funny places. In a class full of human pupils, Zombelina is just one of the team. When Morty a new student arrives, the little zombie and her best friend Lizzie help him settle in, teaching him new dance moves and playing bug detective at recess.
Molly Idle's cute colour pencil illustrations bring Zombelina, her family and class mates to life. Her artistic style with sharp lines and bright colours are a perfect match for Crow's poetry. Where will Zombelina's arm, hand or leg fly off to when she dances? There is a musicality and fluidity of movement here that adds to the fun and excitement of Zombelina School Days. Crow's understated messages of acceptance, encouragement, friendship and having a go promote inclusiveness.
Rhyllis Bignell




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