Review blog

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Jun 22 2018

Blue Window by Adina Rishe Gewirtz

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Candlewick Books, 2018. ISBN 9780763660369
(Age: Older adolescents - Adults) This powerful novel, epic in scope, presents an undiscovered world that seems to be both predictably human and terrifyingly inhuman. Seeming to fall into a new world through a blue glass window, five imaginative siblings find themselves caught in an unexpected place where what they have known as normal does not exist. Their aim is to escape but they cannot understand how they have been caught in the new world, so the possibility of leaving seems to be physically impossible.
This is a world of upheaval, violence and fear, a world where the inhabitants are oppressed, bullied and subjugated to rules that dominate their lives. They are largely unaware of a possibility of a world that offers freedom, peace or love. We are aware that Gewirtz subtly suggests changes in our world that mimic that of her dystopian society, such as control of free thought, of liberal education, or of equality and justice. Both disturbing and violent, this world suggests that some of the present and past worlds that we have known or inherited are the result of the potential for human beings to allow those with power to overrule others to the extent that all known freedoms cease to exist, and dominance, in all aspects of life, to quash the spirit.
In this dystopian world, the inhabitants, strange-looking and with quite different ideas about life, seem to follow many of the ways of the children's own world, yet their world runs on different rules. It ought to be terrifying but the children seem to find the strength to analyse the way this world works and the strength to resist further exploration, and to realize the power of their own individual strength. The power of their minds to dream up a scenario seems to be one avenue of enabling change, as they discover, and it is this positive thinking that offers escape but, paradoxically, alerts the inhabitants to their presence and endangers them.
This novel is about the power of goodness, decency, kindness, intelligence, and the capacity of the human spirit to overcome extreme repression. It speaks of aspects of societies that our world has known, but placing the children in one such world evokes both our empathy and our fear of the power of thought and persuasion. I found it disturbing and unsettling to read, with such young people, unable to reach their own family and known world, plunged into such a harsh and violent world. The characters, somewhat ingenuously, appear to not realize the actual threat of that world, and their strength of character, loyalty and love, appear to enable them to find the means to flee.
Qualities such as persistence, kindness and decency are important in the interactions of the children, both within their little group and with the locals. Their return to their family home is a satisfying ending, but plunging such young people into such a violent and oppressive world evokes a disturbing response in the reader. Beautifully written, this book is suitable for older adolescents or adults.
Elizabeth Bondar




Jun 21 2018

In-between things by Priscilla Tey

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Candlewick Press, 2018. ISBN 9780763689834
(Age: 4+) Highly recommended. Themes: Words. Adventure. Curiosity. A sumptuously presented picture book which humorously plays with the word between, inviting readers to see what is in-between the everyday. Between marvelously attractive end papers, a cat and a dog romp through the pages, asking the reader to look in-between with them. The chair is between the parrot and carpet, while the carpet is between the chair and the floor, but looking between the carpet and the floor they find things that they would prefer stay there: a dust ball, fur ball and clump of hair. Going down the stairs into the cellar reveals a pile of things between the two floors, while over the page, the idea of between separating two things is proposed, showing examples of several things that certainly need something between them.
Each page shows the two animals exploring their domain, pointing out the importance of things in-between.
With stunningly luminous illustrations, Tey presents a book that younger children will adore, searching out all the between things on each page, making connections between the everyday things they see. Tey loves word play and in this book she gives full reign to those words to do with between: middle, inside and outside, words to do with household objects, and some about warm and cold, night and day. For younger readers this will be a treat, learning new words as they read of what is between, and having it read a loud, will invoke much discussion.
Fran Knight




Jun 21 2018

A thousand perfect notes by C.G. Drews

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Orchard Books, 2018. ISBN 9781408349908
(Age: 13+) Recommended. The Maestro reigns in Beck's house in much the same manner as Miss Trunchbull does in Roald Dahl's, Matilda. An internationally acclaimed and now incapacitated pianist, the physically imposing matriarch intimidates her son to strive to be a concert pianist like herself. Beck doesn't rebel despite hours of piano practice every minute that he is not at school. His hands ache and so do any other body parts if he speaks up. But he cannot leave Joey, his baby sister, whom he cares for almost entirely due to his mother's neglect.
When his teacher pairs him up with August for an assignment, bit by bit, the free spirited girl forces him to let her into his life. As the friendship grows and as a date with destiny approaches in the form of a possible internship with his famous Uncle Jan, his dysfunctional home life is exposed. Sadly, as so often happens outside of books, the characters are not galvanized to act until someone gets really hurt.
A light romance on the one hand, but a very dark and we hope anachronistic story of domestic violence. Unfortunately this may not be the case and many abused children and teenagers may continue to feel so isolated that they have no one to turn to. The role reversal of the physically and verbally abusive mother figure highlights the added shame for a powerless male victim. C.G. Drews infers that women are not exempt from bad character, nor men from taking the roles of victim or rescuer.
Natural dialogue and Beck's juxtaposed stream of consciousness helps young adults to appreciate that neglect and oppression are problems too serious to bear alone. Thank goodness for August and of course, the villages and authors who give such characters life.
Deborah Robins




Jun 21 2018

The lemonade problem by Jennifer Oxley and Billy Aronson

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Peg + Cat series. Candlewick, 2017. ISBN 9781536200614
(Age: 3-6) Themes: Problem solving. Girls. Cats. Small business. Mathematics. Peg + Cat is a popular animated cartoon series for pre-schoolers that features a little girl and her indigo cat working on mathematical challenges using their problem-solving skills. Through their series of picture books and television programs, Jennifer Oxley and Ben Anderson's goal is to encourage pre-schoolers' curiosity about maths in their daily lives and creatively solve everyday problems.
In The lemonade problem, Peg and Cat decide to start a small business selling ice-cold lemonade to people passing buy. Instead of coins, the little girl decides that one cup costs ten marbles. Peg always keeps her special marble under her hat. Decorated with balloons and bunting they eagerly wait for their first customer. Can the young reader see what is missing? After the teens arrive on their skate boards, they bargain Peg down on her prices until 1 cup costs two marbles. Unfortunately, Peg forgets the cups and Cat is sent off to trade cookies for them. Their friend Viv even draws a bar graph to help Cat understand the maths problem. More exciting exchanging occurs as Cat's focus becomes diverted with dancing and red peppers. Of course, just as Cat arrives to save the day, the weather changes and no-one wants their cold drinks. As the story line twists and turns, Peg and Cat use their problem solving skills to work on a better solution, manage their business and then all is right in their world.
Oxley and Aronson's characters are sketched with pencil on paper first with simple shapes and lines drawn on a bright patchwork town that stands out from the graph paper backgrounds. Mathematical symbols, signs and shapes add interest, as the concepts of comparing numbers and reading bar graphs are revealed intrinsically. The Peg +Cat series have a 'transmedia approach' just right for the preschool audience, with enjoyable books, animated cartoons and an interactive games website.
Rhyllis Bignell




Jun 21 2018

The mystery of the colour thief by Ewa Josefkowicz

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Head of Zeus, 2018. ISBN 9781788546492
(Age: 12+) This is the story of a girl called Izzy, a cygnet called Spike and the power of feathers gathered from strong winds. It is a beautifully written debut about hope, healing and new beginnings.
First there was the accident, then came the nightmares and the mystery of the shadowy thief who steals all the colours from Izzy's world... a mystery that needs solving.
This is a beautiful story about a girl's struggle to overcome her guilt for supposedly causing a car accident that left her mum in a coma. Izzy's world appears to be falling apart in front of her very eyes - her best friend is being incredibly mean to her, her dad is distancing himself from her and school is awful. The author has very cleverly used the colour thief to steal all hope from the young girl's life - as she begins to unravel the complexities in her life the colour slowly begins to return. Izzy sees similarities in her own life in that of her new friend Toby, who was recently paralysed from a skateboard accident. Toby brings hope to Izzy's life and allows small glimmers of hope to appear. This is an emotional read covering themes including families, friends, challenges at school, belief, self-belief and most importantly empathy. Suitable for children aged 12 and it will certainly be a welcome addition to the collection.
Kathryn Schumacher




Jun 20 2018

A shout in the ruins by Kevin Powers

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Sceptre, 2018. ISBN 9781473667785
(Age: 16+) Highly recommended. Powerfully written and well crafted, this novel draws together two strands, one set during the cruel times of slavery plantations and the American Civil War and the other, ninety years and more later, as George Seldom sets out on a path toward some kind of atonement. It is a complex weaving of personal stories - the clues holding it together are a faded note, an elkhorn handled knife, and a pair of cracked blood veined glasses. The lives of slave owner Bob Reid and his teenage daughter Emily, and the ruthless Frenchman, Levallois, are inextricably intertwined with those of the slaves Rawls and Nurse, two lovers that will never know freedom. Rawls is a 'runner' a would-be escapee, and is hobbled to pay for it, his two big toes chopped off, but he continues to hope that one day he will find the young girl, Nurse, named for her wetnurse duties. The day they finally meet again is a moment of silent overpowering emotion, neither of them daring to speak. Can there be any chance of happiness for them in the lawless violence of the times?
Author Kevin Powers served in the Iraq War, he obviously knows war first hand, and it is depressing to realise that the violence he describes must be written from experience, that men continue to torture and kill each other now just as they did back then. However, despite the horror and carnage depicted in the novel there are glimpses of hope, people strive to love and care for each other, and perhaps one day find a kind of peace.
I read this book, and then turned to the beginning and read it through again. It is a complex book, the language is rich and poetic, the story harsh and cruel, but not without hope. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it - it is a rewarding read, and adds to the understanding of what we are as human beings.
Helen Eddy




Jun 20 2018

Stink: Hamlet and Cheese by Megan McDonald

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Candlewick Press, 2018. ISBN 9780763691639
(Age: 8+) Highly recommended. Stink: Hamlet and Cheese is a great way to introduce Hamlet and Shakespeare to younger readers. The main character, Stink, may not be too happy about being the only boy at Shakespeare camp but it sure beats being stuck at home without his friends.
Stink's friend, Sophie, makes Shakespeare camp sound amazing. Stink likes the idea of acting and loves the idea of sword fighting. Unfortunately, Riley (a girl from school) is also at camp. She is so annoying and Stink is worried about all of the kissing talk. Does Riley really want to kiss him? Yuck! Thankfully, Stink's sister and Sophie help him make a shield. At least he has one way of blocking any potential Riley kisses!
Despite the kissing threat, Stink still enjoys camp. He gets to see a Shakespeare play, learns how to insult like Shakespeare and learns about the words we use today that were actually created by Shakespeare. As the Saturday performance approaches and family and friends get ready to attend, Stink starts to worry about that kiss. Will his anti-kiss shield be enough?
Stink: Hamlet and Cheese is a fun and easy read. It has some funny moments and great characters. The author has included elements of Shakespeare's plays making them easy to understand. the story will teach readers about the mysteries behind Macbeth, the famous quotes and the new words we wouldn't have without Shakespeare. This book is highly recommended for readers aged 8+.
Kylie Kempster




Jun 20 2018

Peter Rabbit: Hello Peter! by Beatrix Potter

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Warne, Puffin Books, 2018. ISBN 9780241324332
(Age: 1-3) Highly recommended. Board book. What a wonderful introduction to Peter Rabbit and the delightful illustrations by Beatrix Potter. This board book is for very young children, but adults reading the rhyming words and looking at the drawings will also be engrossed and enchanted as they go through the book.
The rhymes are gentle and easy to read aloud. An example is:
Peter loves to jump and play,
Peter's had a busy day.

Each rhyme is accompanied on the opposite page by a gorgeous illustration. Young children will love pointing out the carrot that Peter is kicking in the air as he plays, and will laugh at the snoozing Peter after his busy day. There are colourful flowers, birds and butterflies adorning the pages in soft pastels and the final two pages are winners:
Peter's mother wants to cuddle
Before it's time to sleep and snuggle.

This is sure to become a firm favourite with young children and their care-givers.
Pat Pledger




Jun 20 2018

Silent but deadly by Pixel Kid and Zack Zombie

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Diary of a Minecraft Creeper series. Scholastic, 2018. ISBN 9781742768724
(Age: 7-9) Themes: Bullying, School life, Minecraft computer game. Pixel Kid and Zack Zombie bring Jasper the Creeper back for another adventure in "Silent but Deadly." This junior novel is written in the familiar diary format is packed with Minecraft characters and filled with gross behaviour, family and school dramas and the requisite fart jokes.
Jasper the Creeper's class is teaming up with Mr Grossegg's class to write, produce and perform plays about Minecraft Mythology. Jasper's group includes his best friend Harry and Burt Sting the biggest bully and his gang, Blake the Blaze, Zane the Zombie and Sam the Slime. Harry warns Jasper about these guys and their previous trouble-making. In drama class they just walk around making fun of the other students' plays. Their group choose to act out the story of Sir Farts-a-Lot and his epic adventure slaying an Ender Dragon. Burt and his gang choose the best roles while Harry and Jasper become the front and back end of the dragon. Burt's continual bullying causes problems for Jasper who farts gunpowder whenever he's stressed or upset.
When they meet at the entrance to the mineshaft after school, Stu, Jasper's human friend offers him some advice. 'Be better than the bully don't act like they do.' Of course, things get worse for a while, Harry's temper causes a fire in the drama room, both Harry and Jasper are suspended for bullying Burt and his mates.
With help from his family and advice on how to stand up to the school bullies, Jasper plucks up the courage, battles an Ender dragon and plays the lead character in his school play.
"Silent but deadly" is another fun addition to the "Diary of a Minecraft Creeper" series. With all the familiar characters and typical humour, silly situations and grossness, fans will enjoy this easy-to-read diary and cartoon style format.
Rhyllis Bignell




Jun 20 2018

Parvana - A graphic novel based on the original book by Deborah Ellis

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Allen and Unwin, 2018. ISBN 9781760631970
Highly recommended. "This beautiful graphic-novel adaptation of the animated film, inspired by Deborah Ellis's beloved novel, tells the story of eleven-year-old Parvana.
When soldiers burst into her home and drag her father off to prison, Parvana is forced to take responsibility for her whole family, dressing as a boy to make a living in the marketplace of Kabul, risking her life in the dangerous and volatile city.
By turns exciting and touching, Parvana is a story of courage in the face of overwhelming fear and repression. Readers will want to linger over this powerful graphic novel with its striking art and inspiring story." Publisher.
I must say I was not at all excited about reading a graphic novel as these do not appeal to me at all but I must say I was pleasantly surprised. We have Parvana as a set text for our Year 6 classes so I was eager to read this version and I was not disappointed. The illustrations added so much to the story line and to the overall understanding of the plot. Concepts such as bullying, war, family, poverty, friendship and the role of women are presented. It touches on an important time in Afghanistan and the hardships that may continue to face. Parvana is an extremely strong willed lead character who takes it upon herself to help bring her father home at a time where girls were given very little freedom. A must have to add to the graphic novels' collection.
Kathryn Schumacher




Jun 19 2018

Peg + Cat : The camp problem by Jennifer Oxley and Billy Aronson

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Walker Books, 2018. ISBN 9780763699222
(Age: 5-8) Peg + cat: The camp problem is an engaging story designed for 5-8year olds. The Peg + Cat series has an undercurrent of mathematics equations which easily slide into the stories and essentially enable children to learn about maths without even knowing it! This story surrounds Peg and her pet Cat who are dealing with a homesick friend at Camp Niniwawa. The maths topics include colour patterns and counting in 5 and 10s.
I used this book as a homework reader with my 7 year old and was pleasantly surprised both with the story and the mix of familiar and challenging words. The chapters were the perfect length for his reading level/ability (level 16) and would work either to be read in one sitting or across a series of days.
During the story we were able to stop and focus on the mathematical concepts, practising counting by 5s to 100, and used the colour pattern chapter as a stepping stone to more complex pattern scenarios. The maths level is around that for a 5 year old but easily extended.
I really liked this aspect of the book as it was such an easy pathway from literacy to numeracy. There are a variety of other titles in this series, where Peg and her trusty sidekick Cat use maths to solve problems. These would be great to be used in a class situation, to concrete concepts and enlighten students who may be finding particular base level number concepts hard. Mr. 7 year old gave it 3.5 out of 5.
Lauren Fountain




Jun 19 2018

Crash landing by Robert Muchamore

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Rock Wars Book 4. Hodder Children's Books, 2017. ISBN 9781444914634
(Age: Secondary) "Jay, Summer and Dylan are fresh out of the biggest reality show there is. But they're about to discover what fame and fortune are really about. Jay's brother Theo is young, rich and famous: but is it making him happy? Summer's got to weather her one-star reviews and take her career back into her own hands. And Dylan might soon be seeing the world of show-business from the four walls of a prison cell. They've got everything to play for."
Not having read a single title from amongst the three preceding books in the series, I came to the story without any background knowledge of the various characters. Despite this, it was simple to piece together sufficient information to understand the motivation of most of the characters and I found them to be interesting and engaging. From virtually the first page the book is scattered with drug references, discussion of life in the music industry, reality TV shows, prison life and general aspects of the 'seedy side of life'. Positive, loving relationships between friends and family are, however, present throughout the story too. Loyalty, honesty and ethical issues are investigated and provide an interesting dilemma for various characters. Ultimately, the resolution seemed to be quite satisfying as certain people receive their comeuppance, which seems to have been well deserved.
The cover of this book does state that it is not suitable for younger readers and I would agree with this assessment. With the main characters being sixteen, this title would best be suited to readers in secondary school. Initially, a definite romp, filled with fights and life in prison, the story does have a positive outcome and a message, without being overly didactic. This title would probably hold most appeal to young teens.
Jo Schenkel




Jun 18 2018

The 13th Reality: Journal of Curious Letters by James Dashner

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Scholastic, 2018 (First published by Simon and Schuster, 2008). ISBN 9781742994789
(Age: 11+) Highly recommended. Themes: Fantasy, Science Fiction, Truth and Reality, Courage, Quantum Physics, Adventure, STEM. Atticus Higginbottom (nicknamed 'Tick') is not a super-hero type. In fact he is more the kind of 13 year old student who is likely to spend time in his own locker at the 'suggestion' of the school bully and who has a passion for the local library, the pursuit of science and understanding quantum physics. He is also the recipient of a series of strange letters that are both extremely puzzling and also life-altering. These letters demand great intelligence and problem-solving skills and ultimately bravery as they lead Tick into dangerous new territory, alternate realities and, as a side-note, into new friendships. His courage is tested and the world he knows is challenged, twisted and tipped upside-down in amazing ways. Reality itself is tested by technology, new knowledge, new possibilities and possibly even forces of good and evil. Quirky characters abound. Fortunately he has a supportive family to fall back on! (This is in itself a pleasant change from the ultra-independence of many teen YA characters.)
The author James Dashner is perhaps better known for his dystopian speculative fiction, "The Maze Runner", written for a slightly older YA audience. "The Journal of Curious Letters" is infused with humour and a little bit of science and technology, but it is mostly an enthralling, fantasy-quest, adventure written for capable and intelligent young readers. This book was originally released in 2008, before "The Maze Runner", but this Scholastic release should capture a new readership that enjoys reading about young protagonists who are pushed to their limits and overcome adversity using their brainpower. (Readers that have enjoyed Trenton Lee Stewarts' "The Mysterious Benedict Society" series will enjoy this book too.) I will also look forward to reading more in this series and will even enjoy grappling with the concepts of Quantum physics that underpin the idea of alternative realities!
(Note: James Dashner has been embroiled in the #Metoo controversy. Read his and other comments online to inform your own opinion on this issue. Young readers may or may not be aware of the issues, but the book publishing industry is not immune.)
Carolyn Hull




Jun 18 2018

Jane Seymour. The Haunted Queen by Alison Weir

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Six Tudor Queens series. Headline, 2018. ISBN 9781472227683
(Age: Senior secondary - Adult) Recommended. Jane Seymour is a wonderful read with Alison Weir convincingly bringing the Tudor Court of Henry VIII to real, exciting and tumultuous life both in the Court and in Jane's daily life.
As a very young girl, she leads a normal quiet country life but feels that she has a religious calling which she must follow. At that time, all decisions are made for her by her father and male members of the family, but having been able to convince her father, she then observes the difference in conditions between the postulates and nuns as opposed to those of the Abbess, and can no longer continue her calling there. Although she never loses her religious beliefs - which later cause her great mental pain and danger - it is her first experience of how the world of that time worked.
She becomes a maid-of-honour to Henry's first queen, Katherine of Aragon, to whom she is devoted. At that time, Henry is making plans to somehow remove Katherine and marry Anne Boleyn, in the hope that she will provide him with the much-needed son to keep the Tudors on the throne. The clarity with which Alison Weir describes the intrigues, love affairs, preferments, demotions, cruelty and deaths of those whom Henry can advance or destroy at will, makes electrifying - sometimes chilling - reading. Her use of words of that period - do you know what a 'kirtle' is? - is fascinating.
It would seem that Henry really did love Jane Seymour who, with the birth of the future King Edward, gave Henry his long-awaited son. She died 12 days later.
Throughout her life, Jane was haunted in many ways; compromising her religious calling, her loyalty to Katherine, her hatred of Anne Boleyn, the fear that she would never produce a male heir. In this book, we feel that we can see first-hand the turmoils of her life and of the times.
My only disappointment in the format of the book was that the Timeline, given at the back of the book, would have been so much more helpful and interesting at the beginning.
Peb Blackwell




Jun 18 2018

William Wenton and the Secret Portal by Bobbie Peers

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Walker, 2018. ISBN 9781406371710
(Age: 9-12) Themes: Science Fiction, Adventures, Codes and ciphers, Secrecy. Norwegian film director Bobbie Peers' "William Wenton and the Secret Portal", the second novel is darker and slower-paced than "William Wenton and the luridium thief". He takes us back to familiar surroundings at a more hostile and locked in Institute for Post-Human Research. William's body is filled with a metallic substance, 49% liridium which enables him to solve the world's most difficult puzzles. There are evil forces at play, and a mysterious women with a mechanical hand who needs William's powers to open a special cryptoportal in the Himalayas.
When William appears on television ready for a competition to solve The Difficulty puzzle, he suddenly experiences a powerful seizure and is unable to continue. Sent home, he is crushed by his loss. When his grandfather, a master cryptographer, collects him and deposits him at the Institute, only to leave again, William's worries continue. The Institute has changed dramatically, more like a jail than a vibrant research facility. His room is a prison, with steel bars on the windows and he must be accompanied everywhere by a porter-bot. Guard-bots carry passivators to stop William from searching the buildings and grounds for clues to his illness and reasons for the changes at the now hostile environment. Even his friend Iscia now a field assistant has altered; she even works with his enemy Freddy.
When the mysterious woman appears in his room and tries to kidnap William, he determines to find answers. Stealthy forays into the basement where he discovers a mysterious man encased in a steel slab and into the gardens to a secret underground space leave William with more questions than answers. With Ischia's help and Freddy's interference William sets consequences in motion when he handles a powerful orb that destroys many artefacts stored in The Depository. His actions open a cryptoportal in the Himalayas allowing for the evil woman Cornelia Strangler to steal an entire cryonic storage unit. Can William save the earth from the return of vast quantities of luridium that will infect all human and destroy life on Earth?
Bobbie Peer's second science-fiction novel has a darker quality to the plot and setting that makes it difficult at times to make sense of William's struggles and his decisions. His sense of loneliness and constant struggles are confronting, more darkness than lightness. More code-breaking and cyphers would have helped as well. "William Wenton and the Secret Portal" is suitable for readers who enjoy futuristic fiction filled with gadgetry and alternate forms of travel.
Rhyllis Bignell




Jun 18 2018

Jabberwalking by Juan Felipe Herrera

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Candlewick, 2018. ISBN 9781536201406
"Can you walk and talk at the same time? How about Jabberwalk? Can you write and draw and walk and journal all at the same time? If not, you're in luck: exuberant, blue-cheesy cilantro man Juan Felipe Herrera, Poet Laureate of the United States, is here to teach you everything he knows about being a real-life, bonified, Jabberwalking poet!
Jabberwalkers write and speak for themselves and others no matter where their feet may take them - to Jabberwalk is to be a poet on the move. And there's no stopping once you're a Jabberwalker, writing fast, fast, fast, scribble-poem-burbles-on-the-run. Scribble what you see! Scribble what you hear! It's all out there - vamonos!" (Publisher)
Juan Felipe Herrera is the first Mexican-American Poet Laureate in the USA. For people that like poetry and nonsense words, then this book is for you. It is part story, part handbook and packed with nonsensical words and phrases - which loosely reminded me of the made up words featured in Roald Dahl books. It allows readers to see that words can be written down anywhere - they can be completely random and interesting at the same time. Lessons learnt could include listening, expressing and tailoring one's ideas and thoughts about writing. An interesting read.
Kathryn Schumacher




Jun 18 2018

Alma and how she got her name by Juana Martinez-Neal

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Candlewick Press, 2018. ISBN 9780763693558
(Age: 4+) Highly recommended. Alma is a little girl who believes her name is far too long, until the day her dad explains to her where her name came from. She then realized that her name had meaning and that each bit of it did fit her just right. In the end she worked out that her name was perfect.
The story talks about each of her individual names and where they came from and what was important about that particular person and which of these traits Alma has inherited.
She then learns that Alma was chosen just for her and she is the first person in the family to have that name and she can now make her own story to go with her name.
The illustrations in this book tie in perfectly with the story that is being told.
I would highly recommend this book for 4+.
Karen Colliver




Jun 15 2018

Genesis by Brendan Riechs

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Project Nemesis 2. Pan Macmillan, 2018. ISBN 9781509869992
(Age: 13+) Recommended. Genesis is a whirlwind of a story full of thrilling experiences and mind boggling scenarios that will have you questioning your own existence. It's the sequel to Riechs' first book Nemesis, which was equally amazing, and is able to keep you up till 3am reading. It follows Min, a feisty girl who stands up for what she believes in, and Noah, a natural born leader who's grown from the spineless character he was in book one. Together they fight in a struggle to survive against their year level's cohort - the only people left 'alive', trapped in an unground computer on an apocalyptic earth.
The plots dives into themes of not only mystery but relationships as the characters deal with the emotional stress of love and hate. This story is a scary possibility, mashing Hunger Games and Lord of the Flies with astounding technology to surprise you with every chapter.
Riechs goes into incredible detail making you almost forget it's fiction and thankful to be in the safety of your own bed. Genesis is a stirring read that you won't regret and I can't wait to see what's in store for this series.
Grace S. (Student)




Jun 15 2018

Lady Mary by Lucy Worsley

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Bloomsbury, 2018. ISBN 9781408869444
(Age: 13+) Recommended. "By turns thrilling, dramatic and touching, this is the story of Henry the Eighth and Catherine of Aragon's divorce as you've never heard it before - from the eyes of their daughter, Princess Mary.
More than anything Mary just wants her family to stay together; for her mother and her father - and for her - to all be in the same place at once. But when her father announces that his marriage to her mother was void and by turns that Mary doesn't really count as his child, she realises things will never be as she hoped.
Things only get worse when her father marries again. Separated from her mother and forced to work as a servant for her new sister, Mary must dig deep to find the strength to stand up against those who wish to bring her down. Despite what anyone says, she will always be a princess. She has the blood of a princess and she is ready to fight for what is rightfully hers." (Publisher)
I have read a number of historical fiction based on these times - adult, YA and the younger reader. I thoroughly loved this book and it allowed me to further develop my knowledge about Princess Mary. It is cleverly written from the child's perspective and Worsley does an excellent job of allowing the reader to empathise with the strong lead character as she moves from a young lonely girl to a determined young lady, determined to return to court and reclaim her crown. Themes such as determination, isolation, the desire to be loved, persistence and acceptance. I think this certainly fits into the YA category as it touches on virginity and bastards and at times the content is a tad too old for the older students in a primary school. I would recommend it to children from 13 and up who are historical fiction readers and who will love this book.
Kathryn Schumacher




Jun 15 2018

Miniwings - Firestorm's musical muck-up by Sally Sutton

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Scholastic New Zealand Limited, 2018. ISBN 9781775434863
(Age: 7+) Imagine having six gorgeous little winged toy horses that come to life when the adults aren't looking! Firestorm is the hero - or chief troublemaker - in this fourth book in the series.
Clara and Sophia are preparing for their performance in the school orchestra, but those sneaky little Miniwings stow away in their instrument cases. Surely, they won't press the fire alarm . . .
This is a delightful series by Sally Sutton that is a must read for fans of the Ella Diaries and Go Girl. Each Miniwings has its own adventure. It will appeal to girls who are challenging themselves with reading chapter books. The storyline is simple and easy to follow, allowing even the reluctant reader to be successful tracking the text and being able to understand the plot. The print is relatively large and the gorgeous illustrations throughout the book will be a hit with the girliest of girls. This book would be suitable for readers aged 7 and up.
Kathryn Schumacher




Jun 15 2018

Best buds under frogs by Leslie Patricelli

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Candlewick Press, 2018. ISBN 9780763651046
(Age: 10+)Recommended. "For Lily, it's the worst first day of school ever. Who would want to be friends with the new girl, whose debut act is to throw up on the playground (on somebody's shoes!)? Fortunately, quirky Darby comes to the rescue. Darby likes frogs and candy and oddball stuff, and soon she and Lily have formed their own club - the Rizzlerunk Club. But before you can say "BFF," Darby's former best friend, mean-spirited Jill - who had moved to London - returns unexpectedly. Can Lily and Darby's friendship survive the British invasion? Peppered with charming illustrations and hilarious mishaps involving "conjoined" frogs, accidentally shaved eyebrows, and school pranks gone awry, this engaging tale of fourth-grade life will have readers wishing they could join the Rizzlerunk Club for real." (Publisher)
I was pleasantly surprised by this book. I found it to be a fantastic account of the challenges that children face, particularly when moving to a new school. This is Patricelli's first novel and it is sure to be a winner. The book would be suitable for students 10 years and up - although the text is relatively large and there are gorgeous little illustrations throughout the story, the book does contain some themes towards the end of the book that are suitable for the older age. It touches on themes such as choices, peer pressure, friendship and differences. It touches on exclusion of others and has some powerful lessons for those that may be experiencing the same issues. All in all, a heart-warming tale.
Kathryn Schumacher




Jun 15 2018

Count with little fish by Lucy Cousins

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Walker Books, 2018. ISBN 9781406374193
(Age: 2+) Highly recommended. Board book. This is a colorful counting book that has both the numerals and the number word and a little rhyme to go with each number.
This is a fun counting book from 1 to 10.
The bright colors engage the reader and the slightly tactile pictures of the fish make it fun to find them on the page.
The numerals are nice and big to be able to trace over with small fingers.
I highly recommend this book for 2+
Karen Colliver




Jun 14 2018

The outcast by Taran Matharu

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Summoner series: the prequel. Hachette, 2018. ISBN 9781444939095
Recommended. The outcast instantly had me hooked, taking me through parallels between Fletcher and Arcturus virtually from the beginning. It explained and fleshed out most of what fans of the Summoner series already knew, while throwing in exciting twists and turns. The foreshadowing for the rest of the series was perfectly paced. The events didn't seem forced and made sense in the story. As a prequel, it is intriguing to see the character development it brings to the series, and makes you want to read the whole series again with the new information in mind, with new eyes. I wouldn't mind doing exactly that.
The Summoner series is reminiscent of the Ranger's Apprentice series, of which I am a fan. In fact, I enjoy almost all fantasy novels, with some notable failures. Anyway, as an avid fantasy fan, and a lover of dragons, I appreciate the way the demons are described, the unique way they act. They don't feel like mere pets, but exotic demon companions. The rarer demons that I've never heard of have prompted me to research more exotic demons, and I've found many that are a great fit with my own story writing. The outcast brought its own unique touch to the fantasy genre, with etching, summoning levels and infusion.
Overall, it's a fantastic read. I would recommend it to all fantasy, video game and general novel lovers.
Rachel Bauer (Year 11 student)




Jun 14 2018

Goat's coat by Tom Percival

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Ill. by Christine Pym. Bloomsbury, 2018. ISBN 9781408881019
(Age: 3-6) Themes: Goats. Coats. Helpfulness. 'Let me tell you the tale of Alfonzo the goat, who was terribly proud of his lovely new coat.'
Tom Percival's charming rhyming story begins with a rather proud goat Alfonzo, admiring his handsome coat with glass buttons. He enjoys the comments of others as they admire his new piece of clothing and skips and prances out of town. This little goat has a caring heart as he meets different creatures who need his help, he's willing to assist them. With a little creativity the homeless frog family sail away in a blue boat made from his coat cuffs.
A trembling pale cat with a sore tail, is also helped. Alonzo's uses the hem of his not so beautiful coat to comfort and bandage the wounded animal. After clip-clopping through the woods whistling a happy tune, Alonzo then helps rescue a little chick. As the weather turns to snow, the young goat solves more problems with parts of his coat, until there only a few threads left. Lost in a blizzard, he's forced to shelter under a boulder, until all his new friends arrive to assist him.
Tom Percival's delightful story celebrates the generosity of spirit, the joy of sharing and thinking of others before yourself. Christine Pym's whimsical watercolour, gouache and pencil illustrations bring the characters to life. Her delightful forest scenes combine natural shadings of green and brown backdrops with bold brushstroke leaves. Preschoolers will enjoy watching Alonzo's bold yellow and green check coat disappear and become repurposed. Goat's coat is just right to share with a young audience and they will enjoy discussing Alonzo's creative problem solving and commenting on his helpful character.
Rhyllis Bignell




Jun 14 2018

The Goose Road by Rowena House

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Walker Books, 2018. ISBN 9781406371673
(Age: 12 and up) Highly recommended. "France 1916. Angelique Lacroix is haymaking when the postman delivers the news: her father is dead, killed on a distant battlefield. She makes herself a promise: the farm will remain exactly the same until her beloved older brother comes home from the Front. "I think of it like a magical spell. If I can stop time, if nothing ever changes, then maybe he won't change either." But a storm ruins the harvest, her mother falls ill and then the requisition appears... In a last-ditch attempt to save the farm from bankruptcy, Angelique embarks on a journey across France with her brother's flock of magnificent Toulouse geese." Publisher
It does not take a lot to convince me to read any novel about World War 1 and this was no exception. I found it really hard to put down. House did a fantastic job in developing Angelique and I found myself turning each page hoping only the best for her. As she begins to unravel more and more secrets about her abusive father, the girl is torn between hatred for him and a sense of guilt that he did not survive the war. Set in France in 1916, fourteen year old Angelique takes it upon herself to save the family farm for the long awaited return of her brother who is serving in the army.
The reader is drawn into the atrocities of war and the guilt felt by so many who were not actually away fighting, as well as the hardships and hunger faced by so many and the different roles that people had to take on. Disaster after disaster strikes including the requisition of animals, gossip, unpaid gambling debts and the breakdown of her mother all contribute to a difficult journey experienced by Angelique. Themes such as hardship, anger, determination, resilience and friendship are discovered throughout the story. A must have to add to the library collection.
Kathryn Schumacher




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