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Apr 21 2017

How the queen found the perfect cup of tea by Kate Hosford

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Ill. by Gabi Swiatkowska. Carolrhoda books, 2017. ISBN 9781467739047
(Age: 4+) Highly recommended. Humour, Tea, Adventure, Quest. When the queen sips her morning cup of tea, she finds something is amiss. It simply does not have the taste she is looking for. Her servant James is puzzled: is there too much milk or not enough sugar. She takes to the skies in a hot air balloon to seek out the perfect cup of tea. She calls in at several places and a child makes her a cup of tea each time. The three are from different cultures and sharp eyed readers will notice the very different ways that their tea is made. Each time it is prepared, the queen becomes more involved, and children will see that her participation in the ritual of making tea is making her happier.
Repetition in the story makes it even funnier, as the same thing happens but with a different outcome each time, until she finally realises that she can make it for herself, and if she can make a cup of tea, then many other things she can do flow on.
This is a funny tale, sure to raise a laugh from the audience, whether read aloud or by themselves. Children will be sure to join in once they see the repetition, and watch out for the many animals that join in the fun along the way. The illustrations too compliment the tale well, adding another level of humour to the story. Readers will be looking to make a cup of tea at the end of their reading.
Fran Knight




Apr 20 2017

The magic word by Mac Barnett

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Ill. by Elise Parsley. Balzer and Bray, 2016. ISBN 9780062354846
Paxton C. Heymeyer seems to have forgotten his manners, so when he asks his babysitter for a cookie she asks him for the magic word. But instead of saying, "Can I have a cookie, please", Paxton C. Heymeyer shouts "Can I have a cookie, alakazoomba?" Suddenly, in a puff of blue smoke he not only discovers a cookie in his hand but the power to summon up anything he wants with that one magic word. A walrus to chase the babysitter to the North Pole; a waterslide in the living room; a jungle bedroom; anything his imagination lets him dream. Even an elephant and a robot-servant!
But when Rosie comes to play he finds that things aren't quite what he wishes for because elephants can't play cards or any of the other things friends do together...
There would be few of our littlies who have not been asked for "the magic word" so they will relate well to this engaging story of being able to have whatever you want - it brings life to the saying "Be careful what you wish for." Asking them what they would wish for or dream of having will elicit a lot of discussion and drawing, but there is also much to think about when Rosie refuses to play and goes home. Friendship and happiness are not all about material things and instant gratification, and this book may provide food for thought for those who want to have the latest thing NOW, and those who wish they could.
Barbara Braxton




Apr 17 2017

Worm loves Worm by J.J. Austrian

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Ill. by Mike Curato. Balzer & Bray, 2016. ISBN 9780062386335
Worm loves Worm. So they decide to get married. It shouldn't be a problem but suddenly all their minibeast friends chip in. "You'll need someone to marry you. That's how it's always been done." You'll need a best man, bridesmaids, rings, a band... and so on and so on, because "that's how it's always been done."
Worm and Worm agree to each suggestion hoping that after they acquiesce they can get married but no... there is always something else. So when they are told that they need to have a bride and groom, worms being hermaphrodites, they have no trouble with being either or both - but that isn't how it's always been done. Will they ever just celebrate their love by getting married???
This is a charming book that, on the surface, is just a story about two worms wanting to get married because they love each other, and that, to a four-year-old is a natural thing to do. It is just a celebration of love. For those in different circumstances or a little bit older there is a sub-text of marriage equality and things can change - things don't always have to be because they have always been. It's enough to love each other without all the other trappings; it's about inclusion and equality and showing affection regardless of any traditional views and values that have been imposed on a natural state of mind. That's what little ones understand and accept - intolerance is something they learn.
Choosing worms as the main characters is a masterstroke because there are no physical differences between worms - there is nothing to say which is female and therefore the bride or male and therefore the groom. So the central message of love being the key ingredient and the rest of the elements of a wedding just being seasoning remains the central theme. Perhaps some of our politicians and those who influence them should read this and get to the core of what really matters.
A great addition to a school library collection that allows children to see their own family structure in a story, to show others that there are all sorts of family structures, and to explain marriage equality to those unfamiliar with the concept.
Barbara Braxton




Apr 17 2017

Big picture book of long ago by Sam Baer

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Ill. by Wesley Robins. Usborne, 2016. ISBN 9781409598725
Take a city, an English city, and then take a journey back through time and discover how people have lived and worked there over the centuries right back to its Stone Age camp beginnings.
Interspersed with double-page spreads of how people travelled, what they wore and the structures they built, this is a Richard Scarry-esque picture book loaded with pictures and captions that will fascinate the young reader fascinated with history. Or it might be the one that sparks an interest as the reader looks for the changes across the centuries and thinks about why they have occurred.
More to this than meets the eye.
Barbara Braxton




Apr 17 2017

Three little monkeys by Quentin Blake

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Ill. by Emma Chichester Clark. HarperCollins, 2016. ISBN 9780008164478
Hilda Snibbs is not like other people. She doesn't have a dog or a cat or even a goldfish - she has three little monkeys. Their names are Tim and Sam and Lulu and they are very lively. Every time she leaves the house and leaves them on their own, they trash it. Nothing is safe - not her hat, her knitting, her favourite shampoo, the toilet paper...
She tells them she is disappointed in them, she asks what she has done to deserve such wretched little monkeys; she wonders how long she can put up with them - and each time Tim and Sam and Lulu look at her with their big round eyes and say nothing. One day after they had been into everything in her bathroom, she cries, "Oh, for a peaceful life without these wicked little monkeys!" But when she comes home the next day and they are gone, she realises how much she misses them until...
This is a funny, lovable story that will become a favourite of little ones as they recognise some of the mischief they themselves might have created over time. Quentin Blake's words marry so well with Emma Chichester Clark's illustrations - little vignettes that are full of action and fun as they show the monkeys at work - that this is a masterful collaboration. Even though the monkeys are so naughty they remain lovable and it's Hilda Snibbs who becomes the "villain". As Miss 5 said, "Why did she keep leaving them on their own? She's stupid!"
Three little monkeys is the perfect bedtime read-aloud as the children delight in the antics and naughtiness of the monkeys and see that they are loved regardless of what they do, while Hilda Snibbs will resonate with exasperated parents who sometimes long for the quiet life they had before their own little monkeys were born, even though they know they wouldn't have it any other way.
Joyful.
Barbara Braxton




Apr 12 2017

Lift-the-flap questions and answers about Science by Katie Daynes

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Lift-the-flap questions and answers about Science by Katie Daynes
Ill. by Marie-Eve Tremblay. Usborne, 2016. ISBN 9781409598985
From the time they are born children are innately curious and as soon as they are able to articulate the words, they ask questions so they can make the connections they need as they try to make sense of their world. As the nearest adult we try to help them with the answers. Some of the answers are at our fingertips but some need a little more digging.
Often those answers lie in science and this book is a great introduction for the budding young scientist who has the questions and wants a basic explanation that can be followed further if they wish. Just 16 pages long, it is divided into double page spreads with the headings what, why, when, where, which, who, how and yes or no. Each page has several questions, the answers for which are hidden under the flaps. Starting with the basic "What is science?" and "What do scientists do?" it goes on to explore other questions about science itself as well as others such as "Is the sky really blue?" Simple explanations and quirky pictures under the flaps provide a straight-forward answer as well as the starting point for further investigations. Having the answers under the flap gives the child an opportunity to consider the question and then suggest their own explanation before checking to see if they are on the right track.
Aimed at the young reader with an interest in science, nevertheless it is a book to be shared with a grownup who can help with some of the words, interpret the answers more fully and suggest other sources for finding out more including the Usborne web page for the book which has more questions, links to websites and other books in the series that delve deeper.
Books like this start the young child on their way to being information literate - able to locate, evaluate, analyse, interpret information so they can then use it to satisfy their curiosity, discover the world around them and ask new questions. With the current emphasis on STEM (science technology, engineering and maths) in the school curriculum not only does this book provide answers, it demonstrates that those answers can be found in print as well as modelling how to ask questions that require more than a one-word answer to take an investigation further.
It could even be the springboard for an ongoing class activity with a question posed each week so students can share their answers which are then compared to the explanation provided, discussed and investigated, sparking an interest in science that endures.
This is a dip-and-delve book - one the reader will come back to time and time again.
Barbara Braxton




Apr 12 2017

Goodnight world by Debi Gliori

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Bloomsbury Children's, 2016. ISBN 9781408872734
"Bedtime and time to say goodnight to the world.
Goodnight planet, goodnight world,
Peaceful clouds around Earth curled."
In a gentle, lullaby-like rhyme the little one is getting ready for bed and wishing everything a goodnight before sleep takes over. The polar regions, the Northern Lights, the oceans and seas , cars, boats, planes, birds, bees and fish - everything that he knows is included in this final farewell for the day.
"Goodnight houses, nests and burrows.
Goodnight daylight, until tomorrow's."
The text is captured in a soft palette of muted colours, softened even further by subtle tones and shadings and blurred lines and within each picture everything is settling down for the night, snuggled together and listening to a bedtime story. Even the tiniest insect is reading or listening as the flowers and grasses curl around them. In fact the whole theme is one of being curled up in the arms of something that loves and protects, and that night and darkness and sleep are a time of safety and security.
This would be the perfect inclusion as the final read for the bedtime reading routine, gently calming everyone and sending them off to dreamland comforted and comfortable, loving and loved.
Barbara Braxton




Apr 11 2017

William Wenton and the luridium thief by Bobbie Peers

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William Wenton bk 1. Walker, 2017. ISBN 9781406371703
(Age: 9+) Highly recommended. Norwegian film director Bobbie Peers' debut children's novel is a written like a cinematic thriller packed with action, intrigue and drama. His creative attention to detail is outstanding, with the purpose built bots supporting the cybernetic world filled with advanced technology.
The story begins with a grandfather's disappearance, resulting in a family fleeing to hide in a small town in Norway. A secret ingredient called luridium holds the key and there are sinister forces that will stop at nothing to find it.
Eight years ago, William's grandfather, a world-famous cryptographer and inventor, disappeared into a tunnel deep in the London Underground taking a secret with him. Now William and his parents live a secret life afraid to be discovered. William hides out in his bedroom honing his code-breaking skills, researching famous cryptographers and creating puzzles, continuing his grandfather's legacy. When the Impossible Machine arrives at the local museum, he disobeys his parent's instructions and slips away to solve the encrypted puzzle. Of course, this is a trap and after his achievement is publicised, he is kidnapped and taken to the mysterious Institute for Post-Human Research. Here young candidates undergo testing for their supreme scientific and technological abilities. What an amazing and unusual environment filled with cybernetic bots, robotic plants, even a Cosmotorium. William befriends another candidate Iscia and together they investigate his grandfather's disappearance, the reasons why he left and the mysteries of the intelligent metal.
William Wenton and the luridium thief is a journey into an incredible new world where technology and science are celebrated. This novel received the Norwegian Ark Children's Book Award in 2015. Peer's imaginative and intense cybernetic world add excitement and danger to William's dangerous quest for the truth, and this would make an exciting class novel for Upper Primary students.
Rhyllis Bignell




Apr 11 2017

Maisy goes to the bookshop by Lucy Cousins

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Maisy's first experiences series. Walker Books, 2017. ISBN 9781406369847
(Age: 3+) Recommended. Bookshops. Books. In the series, Maisy's first experiences, which includes stories of Maisy as she goes camping, or visits the library or goes to a hospital, the wonderful Maisy is put into situations which may be new to some readers, showing them what to expect and helping to diffuse any concerns they may have.
In this book, Maisy is off to a bookshop for the first time.
Once inside she sees rows of shelves with books and finds it difficult to select just one. She looks at several before making up her mind. Ostrich the book shop owner shows her his favourite book, one about birds, then she spies her friends, Charlie, Cyril and Eddie. Each has their own favourite and can imagine themselves in the story. They then go to the cafe for a treat, and Maisy pays Ostrich for her book, receiving a receipt. On leaving the bookshop Maisy catches the bus to her friend's house to give her the newly purchased book as a present, and they read it over and over again, as well as out loud.
A charming book with Cousins' very familiar black outlined images of Maisy and her friends, the tale introduces younger readers to the delight of books and using their imaginations to be part of the story. Words relevant to visiting a bookshop are used, introducing the reader to specific words used for book buying and reading. A wonderful introduction for younger readers.
Fran Knight




Apr 06 2017

My name is Victoria by Lucy Worsley

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Bloomsbury, 2017. ISBN 9781408882016
(Age: 10-14) Highly recommended. Historical fiction. Miss V. Conroy is a very good girl. She is quiet, well-mannered and wants to obey her father Sir John Conroy, the comptroller of the household of the widowed Duchess of Kent. When her father takes her to Kensington Palace to be the companion to the young Princess Victoria, she finds that she is expected to spy on her and report back to her father. Princess Victoria is being brought up under the Kensington System, which aims to keep her isolated and dependent on Sir John and her mother and keep control when she becomes queen.
Lucy Worsley, described as the 'much loved TV historian', has written an engrossing and fast paced tale of the two young girls. She has chosen to give them an alternative history. Even though Queen Victoria's letters and diaries suggest that the two were enemies, Worsley has written a story presenting the scenario that the two did become friends, while ensuring that the historical period and background are accurate.
There is plenty of intrigue in the Kensington household and Worsley has the skill to bring this period to life as well give an indepth description of the cruel Kensington System which made Victoria so unhappy. The reader gets to know the characters of the two young girls and can empathize with Miss V. Conroy who is torn with the dilemma of what she should tell her father, and Princess Victoria, a headstrong and determined girl who has to contend with very difficult circumstances.
Worsley introduces My name is Victoria on YouTube.
Well researched and absorbing My name is Victoria will become a favourite of readers who enjoy historical fiction.
Pat Pledger




Apr 04 2017

Defy the stars by Claudia Gray

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Hot Key Books, 2017. ISBN 9781471406362
(Age: 14+) Highly recommended. Science Fiction. Artificial intelligence. Robots. Space travel. Relativity. Pollution. Earth is dying, and there is a war between it and Genesis, one of the colony planets. The people of Genesis have closed down access to their planet knowing that Earth will only destroy it the way their own has been destroyed. In a raid on Genesis, Noemi a brave young pilot boards a ship and meets Abel, a mech warrior from Earth. Programmed to obey commands from humans, Abel at first seems like any other robot to Noemi, but gradually she realises that he is no ordinary mech, instead he is unique and has the ability to dream.
This is a truly fascinating, exciting and engrossing story. The reader is swept along as Noemi and Abel fly through space trying to find the parts that will enable them to block access to Genesis and save the other young pilots who were preparing for a suicide expedition to fight Earth. They travel to various colony worlds each unique and intriguing, and meet the Vagabonds, a group who sail forever in the stars. Life on board the space ship and on the colony planets is vividly described and each of the characters is fully realised.
What makes this a stand out novel though is the theme of what makes a human. The gradual realisation by Noemi that Abel is more than a robot makes her question all she has been brought up to believe. If he has the ability to dream and to feel, is he then more than a machine? Perhaps he should be given the right to make his own decisions about whether he will die for Genesis. But then what will happen to Noemi's world?
With a love key love story, a high octane plot, and a stunning exploration of what it means to be human Defy the stars is a riveting read. I can't wait for the next in the series.
Pat Pledger




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