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Jan 23 2020

China through time retold by Edward Aves

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DK, 2020. ISBN: 9780241356296.
(Age: 7+) Highly recommended. Themes: China, Canals, Yangtze, Ancient history, Regeneration. Two and a half thousand years ago, an emperor had a brilliant idea - joining the two mighty Chinese rivers, the Yangtze and Huai to form a magnificent canal which would enable him to move troops quickly to places where they were needed. The next thousand yeas saw canals built and waterways joined to create an incredible canal capable of trading between Hangzhou in China's south and Beijing in the north.
Each double page of this outstanding large format book recreates a scene in the life of this canal system, shadowing the rise of China as a powerful nation in the Asian realm. The first double page, entitled, Construction begins, Yangzhou 486BCE, shows an army of peasants digging and carting soil. Information around the edges of the pages gives details about how the people worked, while the illustration shows in no uncertain terms the brutality of the regime in charge. Several men in chains are being taken away by heavily armoured warriors, one dying man is being carted off by fellow workers, high towers surround the project with soldiers on the alert. Eager eyes will pick out the work the men do, the magnificence of the emperor and his retinue, the tools with which these people worked.
Each subsequent double page displays the history of the Grand Canal, completed in 605 CE. So readers will see the impact of the canal bringing peace, civilisation and trade to towns along its banks. But people became complacent and in 1699 CE a great flood threatened so the emperor demanded that the river course be changed and the canal dredged to avoid further floods destroying towns and cities. More care was taken of the canal, reversing its decline and even though fewer barges ply their trade along the waterway the Grand Canal is a showcase of China's ancient heritage, a canal of some 1800 ks, the longest and oldest canal in the world. This book shows readers the people who use it: the builders, the soldiers, merchants, rivermen, the emperor and his advisers, children and mysterious travellers.
The richly detailed illustrations are enticing, giving the reader a panorama of Chinese life and customs, showing building styles, dress and food, bridges and boats, life along the canal from small farms and villages to the outstanding modern city of Tianjin, a stark contrast to the pages before and after with their images of past treasures. The last page offers a short quiz and glossary with information about the illustrator, Beijing artist Du Fei who specialises in detailed historical illustrations.
This is a remarkable book which reflects China's importance in the world today while highlighting one of its past achievements.
Fran Knight


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Jan 23 2020

Foul is fair by Hannah Capin

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Penguin, 2020. ISBN: 9780241404973.
(Age: 16+) Highly recommended. Revenge - this is the name of the jet black hair dye that Elle chooses for her transformation into Jade, following the night of her sweet 16 birthday outing to the St Andrew's prep party, a party which changed her life, where she, bright, shimmering in her silver dress and full of party fun, found herself drugged by a spiked drink and gang raped by the school's best young lads. Author Capin spares us the details of that night, but the brief memory flashes that haunt Elle/Jade let us know enough of what happened.
Elle decides she is not a victim, she is not a survivor, she is an Avenger. She and her coven of loyal friends, Jenny, Summer and Mads, set out to exact that vengeance with the death of every boy that took part. And so Elle cuts and dyes her hair, and becomes Jade, the tough new girl at St Andrew's. These are the first couple of chapters of Capin's book. From there the action grips you by the throat and drags you into the spiral of events where Jade, cool and ruthlessly in control, targets each of her assailants one by one. A pawn in Jade's game is the honourable young Mack, a boy who was not part of the gang, but who becomes an easy target, someone who will do her bidding.
If you think the story sounds violent and gruesome, think about the plot of Macbeth, the Shakespearean play offered to senior secondary students. Capin's novel is another version of the Macbeth story; only it is not a mother driving her son to murder, but an equally driven girl able to manipulate Mack in just the same way. Her three friends are her coven, the witches, who chant and foretell the future and assist Jade in becoming the powerful queen of the St Andrew's peer group. There is no mercy, no kindness, no love, just a fierce determination for vengeance and power.
Capin's novel would make an interesting study in its reinterpretation of Shakespeare's play, an adaptation for modern times that is bound to capture the imagination of students with its setting of school peer groups, jealousy, bullying, and sexual assault.
Helen Eddy


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Jan 23 2020

Denali by Ben Moon

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Simon and Schuster, 2019. ISBN: 9780143133612.
(Age: Adolescent - Adult) In an unexpected way, this true story lifts the reader into a realm where human and animal interaction creates a bond that is intensely supportive and loving. Denali is about the deep relationship between a dog and a human being. Its focus is both on Ben's inner and outer 'selves' in all their complexity, on his moods, desires and being, and intuiting the soul and mind of his beloved dog. The narrative reflects the intensely supportive and loving relationship that Ben builds with his dog.
In this intensely personal narrative, Ben takes us into his world, one that embraces fresh air, mountains, surfing and climbing, and includes, at the heart of his story, his beloved dog Denali. This is clearly a revelatory and honest self-portrait that remains true to its intention, woven around the relationship between human and dog. The story soars with the emotional support that each offers when the other is suffering. Throughout the narrative we are privileged to 'hear' what Denali is thinking, and those of us who believe in the emotional and mental intelligence of dogs can understand how comforting are the 'thoughts' that Ben intuits Denali as offering. We are invited to understand the fundamental principles of loving concern that Ben feels he is offered by Denali, and the deep concern that Ben offers Denali in return is evident throughout their lives together.
Ben Moon is a much respected professional photographer with an absorbing interest in the outdoors, in the earth's extraordinary structures, the mountains, the crags and the roiling seas. He surfs, climbs and scales sheer cliffs, his stunning professional photographs and stories supporting his lifestyle. Backed by the suppliers of the clothing and tools appropriate for his loved outdoor adventures, he makes short movies, writes up details of places, climbs and outdoor walks, and produces exceptional photographs of the mountains, cliffs, lakes and seas.
It would be most suitable, and indeed inspiring, for both adolescent and adult reading.
Elizabeth Bondar


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Jan 23 2020

The Besties show and smell by Felice Arena and Tom Jellett

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Penguin Random House, 2020. ISBN: 9781760890988. 80pp.
(Age: Beginner readers) Highly recommended. Felice Arena and Tom Jellett have teamed up again with a new series called The Besties. In the series, in each book, the two main characters are introduced through illustrations and speech bubbles on the first double page. "Hi. I'm Ruby." "Hi. I'm Oliver." These are fun, page-turner beginner readers that are grounded in everyday situations that engage children who are learning to read. The books are small and easy to hold (approximately eighty pages) and each page has a varied amount of large font text which is typeset in different places on the pages - above, below and around the illustrations for variety and interest. Sentences are well structured; vocabulary is accessible; interest level is high. Even a reluctant reader would want to read on to find out what is going to happen to Olly and Ruby next. Because the situations are familiar, much of the text (even the difficult words) could be inferred so that the beginner reader would not stumble and lose the thread.
In The Besties show and smell, Ruby and Oliver have a hilarious and worrying time with a relief teacher and Show and Tell time in their class. At the back of the book are detailed instructions about "How to make a rude noise with your armpit" (Highly exciting!), a cartoon related to the topic by "Olly Comics," a little ukulele song with an online address for lyrics, chords and strumming patterns, two pages of jokes, information about The Sporty Kids series and fun, child friendly information about the author and illustrator.
There is plenty here to engage and indeed expand the world of the beginner reader. Teachers would be pleased and relieved to see that Felice Arena does not play "cool-not" games with incorrect grammar. The beginner reader is exposed to only correct grammar and punctuation! Hooray! Extracts could be used to direct student attention to correct English usage as models for their own writing.
Highly recommended for both reading and interest level for beginner readers.
Wendy Jeffery


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Jan 23 2020

Together things by Michelle Vasiliu

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Illus. by Gwynneth Jones. EK Books, 2020. ISBN: 9781925820294. 32pp., hbk.
The little girl loved to do things with her dad - special things like taming wild animals, flying high in the sky and climbing rocky mountains. But now that's all changed because her dad is sick with an illness that no one except a special doctor can see. And he might even have to go to hospital to get better. However, her mother is wise and she knows and explains how there are different things that the girl and her dad can do together while he gets better, maybe not as exciting as sailing stormy seas or drinking tea with the Queen, but just as important so their love stays strong.
This is a story that will resonate with many of our students as one in five adults experiences depression in their lifetime, so many will understand and empathise. Together things helps young children to understand that while it is okay for them to feel mad or sad about this, sometimes they must do different things together while their parent focuses on their mental health and getting better.
Just as we are now paying attention to the mental health of our students, so too must we help them understand that they are not alone if there is such illness in their family and that they are not responsible for it. Sharing this story and talking about how common the issue is will help those kids seeing it firsthand realise that they are not alone and that there are many ways to show and share love.
Barbara Braxton


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Jan 22 2020

I am perfectly designed by Karamo Brown with Jason Brown

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Illus. by Anoosha Syed. Macmillan Children's Books, 2019. ISBN: 9781529036152. 40pp.
(Age: 4+) Highly recommended. American media personality, author, and activist Karamo Brown began his career in 2004 on the MTV The Real world; Philadelphia, becoming the first openly gay black man on a reality show. He is now a cultural icon, heading the Netflix show, Queer Eye.
This book I am perfectly designed, celebrates diversity and empowers children as it relates the story of a boy and his father walking and talking through their day. Based on the interaction between Karamo and his son, Jason, the book brims with understanding. Each step is full of love and celebration, companionship and family. Beginning with breakfast the chat between father and son recalls their earlier years, as the boy remarks his head seems so big in photos, but dad replies, it was perfectly designed for you. This conversation sets the tone of the book, the dialogue between the two, father and son, the child talking about past events, dad reminding him all along that he is perfectly designed. Climbing a tree in the ark, or playing on the swing, dad reminds him that he is perfectly designed to explore the world. When the boy becomes lost or sad, he is told that he is perfectly designed and wonderful to his dad no matter how he feels.
The boy then talks about the future when he has left home and dad grows older, and the two decide that roles will be reversed, that the boy is perfectly designed to care for his father.
Each page reflects the sentiment expressed in the text, as the illustrations are full of love and family, reminding readers what they do with their dads, from talking over the breakfast table, to walking to the park, celebrating Halloween, playing in the playground, climbing a tree, meeting friends at the ice cream stall, playing with other children in the street.
The illustrations by Canadian artist, Syed, bubble with family life, displaying enthusiastic relationships between parents and children, siblings and friends, reflecting the diversity of modern life.
The smallest detail will be picked out by eager eyes: tying shoelaces, taking a photo with the phone, the age groups spotted in the streets, the warmth of a family picnic, the market stalls, the diversity of building styles. Each caught and held my attention, making me want to read the book again. The endpapers too will draw the eyes of the readers as they see themselves within one of the family groups, and spot their friends and relatives.
This is a enticing story showcasing the loving relationship between a father and his son, modelling the things they do together, the times that will have as a family.
A clip on the Macmillan website shows Karama and his son, talking about why they wrote the book.
Themes: Diversity, Self image, Confidence, Inclusion, Communication.
Fran Knight


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Jan 22 2020

Deeplight by Frances Hardinge

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Macmillan, 2019. ISBN: 9781529014570.
(Age: 11+) It is 30 years since the underwater gods of the Myriad archipelago fought a cataclysmic battle and all died. Since then relics of the gods' bodies are sought after as they retain power. 14 year old orphan, Hark, and his friend Jelt, 16, search the beaches and dive for pieces of 'godware' to sell. Brave, clever, courageous Jelt pulls Hark along like a current but his increasingly reckless schemes eventually land Hark at the slave market where, after eloquently speaking up for himself, he is saved from the slave galleys and bought by Dr Vyne, a strange woman researching the old gods. He is taken to an island fortress which turns out to be a sanctuary for the old priests who no longer have gods to serve. There Hark settles in to a life serving the priests and passing on any of their knowledge to Dr. Vyne. When Jelt finds Hark and insists on him helping retrieve an old bathysphere, loyal Hark gets involved in something bigger than both of them.
This story is infused with language which conjures up images of the sea, it ebbs and flows capturing the reader in a net of the imagination. Through it all, issues of loyalty keep being tested: 'loyalty is not a virtue in its own right. Its' worth depends on where it's spent' p128. Should Hark give loyalty where it is not reciprocated? The more he learns through the stories of the old priests, the more he understands about the connection between fear and faith and the larger issues of Myriad's place in their world and he has to make some hard decisions for the greater good.
A dark and complex story set in a well imagined fantasy world suitable for middle school students and all lovers of fantasy.
Themes: Fantasy, magic, loyalty, friendship.
Sue Speck


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Jan 22 2020

Life without diabetes by Dr Roy Taylor

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Simon and Schuster, 2020. ISBN: 9781760853914. 320pp.
(Age: Adult) Recommended. The Newcastle Diet gained notoriety in 2011, when a small group of people went on the diet exploring the link between diabetes and the fatty tissue around the liver and pancreas, by initially living for eight weeks on 600 calories a day. Half of the small group were deemed to be in remission with their diabetes at the end of the three month trial.
Professor Taylor's book, Life without Diabetes, outlines the physiology of the gut and what the pancreas, liver and stomach do in digesting food.
A forward by one of the participants in the study is of course positive and joyous about having achieved a remission for her diabetes and losing weight.
And following this introduction is a handy guide to using the book. If like me, you want to get to the nitty gritty, then turning to chapter 7 is the way to go, as this chapter tells you about the 600 calories a day diet and how to go about it. Chapters one to six outline the way the body usually copes with food intake, and what goes wrong to cause type 2 diabetes. And at the end of each chapter is a fact file reiterating what was covered in the chapter before, giving those overwhelmed with the terminology of the book an easy to understand navigation tool.
The guide gives access to those with little time on their hands, while many others will read the book from cover to cover. I dipped in an out, reading the sections suggested, but also using the substantial index to look things up that I wanted to know more about (the pancreas, for example).
Although chatty and using layman's terms through out, I found the book heavy going and needed to refer to the index, as well as having a list of commonly used terms and their meanings as a book mark. Not having done biology at school is a distinct disadvantage. (I have also read Gut by Giulia Enders recently and even though it is written in the most basic of language and uses humour to get its message across, I needed to reread and keep a checklist of commonly used words)
But this aside, for those living with diabetes, this is a fascinating exploration of why it occurs and the steps people can take to reduce the likelihood of getting it and a guide for some to shake off the mantle of diabetes altogether. It worked with seven out of the eleven original dieters in 2011 and has gained a much larger group of supporters and participants since then.
A well researched and presented book, well worth a visit in the continuing search for a way of loosing weight and preventing, even reversing the onset of diabetes. Themes: Diabetes, Diet, Newcastle Diet.
Fran Knight


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Jan 22 2020

Don't read this book before dinner by Anna Claybourne

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National Geographic Kids, 2019. ISBN: 9781426334511. 144pp., pbk.
(Age: 6-12) "If you love to be grossed out, grab a seat at the table to revel in some of the most repulsive and downright disgusting true stories from around the globe.
From wretched rodents and beastly bugs to putrid plants and muck-filled moats, step right in to find out more about the icky, sticky world around you. Gloriously gross stories of decaying delicacies, foul fashion, horrible history, awful animals, and more are paired with eye-popping pictures, fun facts, and hilarious quizzes in this fun book. Topics go way beyond food to include art, plants, animals, fashion, pop culture, medicine, the human body, and beyond. It's a hot mess to digest, but it's sure to leave kids disgusted and delighted . . . " (Publisher)
Using an appealing double-page spread format to explore all things gross, Nat Geo Kids is designed to appeal to the 6-12 year olds keen to find out more about their world and what is in it.
This particular edition is one that is likely to appeal to young boys and while there are those adults who don't think this sort of thing is "real reading" (in the same way comics were disdained in their day), in my opinion anything that encourages them to hone their literacy skills is to be commended, particularly when it has the quality that you know is associated with Nat Geo Kids. To add to the experience and spread their horizons wider, there is also the Australian version of their website which has unique topical local content such as What is a Bushfire?
There are often queries to TL networks about what are the best magazine subscriptions to continue as popularity tends to wane, and for the primary school age group, Nat Geo Kids is always near the top of the list proving it has stood the test of time as an investment. With such a focus on the environment well beyond the curriculum, it just make sense to make it available to our students.
Barbara Braxton


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Jan 22 2020

Graveyard Shift in Ghost Town by Michael Pryor

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Allen and Unwin, 2019. ISBN: 9781760523930. pbk., 307pp.
Following the success of Gap Year in Ghost Town (2017) comes a sequel, Graveyard Shift in Ghost Town, where Anton and Rani continue to work together to rid inner city Melbourne of a swathe of ghostly manifestations. Pryor has lots of fun with ghoulish humour keeping readers totally engaged and laughing. Anton is nineteen and trying to be more mature and make mature decisions. He is now part of his family firm, the Marins coming to Australia after parting with the Company of the Righteous whose members get rid of ghosts. Anton's family helps ghosts on their way, assisting them leave this earth, a gentle strangely satisfying task. Anton and Rani are about their trade one night when they discover there are many many more ghosts than usual, and not just ghost: Lingerers, Thugs, Moaners and Weepers are also hanging about in large aggressive numbers.
Lulled into a smartly written and clever ghost hunting story I was amazed when the duo came across the bodies of several homeless people, strung up by chains, blood leaking all over the factory floor. The mood of the book changes to something far more sinister as Anton and Rani along with her researcher girlfriend, Bec, realise that they were lured to this place and are now facing the worst of the ghosts - Trespassers in the form of the Ragged Sisters with the aim of ridding Melbourne of the Marins.
As the story becomes darker and more creepy, Pryor keeps the story light with his emphasis on word play and asides, while their meeting up with the brother and sister duo from London adds a new dimension of intrigue to the story. When long lost aunt Angie turns up with an horrendous story of being in the other world for five years, her experiences help them with the ghost outbreak. Laugh out loud humour, referencing up to the minute events, the setting in Melbourne is intoxicating as the story and characters play out a cat and mouse game to the death.
Fran Knight


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Jan 21 2020

Peace by Garry Disher

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Paul Hirschhausen book 2. Text, 2019. ISBN: 9781922268150. 336pp.
(Age: Senior secondary - Adult) Highly recommended. Disher is an expert at bringing to life the Australian countryside and Peace is a wonderful example of rural noir. Although Constable Paul Hirschhausen was introduced in Bitter Wash Road, Peace can be read as a standalone. Hirsch is a rural cop patrolling the areas in the dry country south of the Flinders Ranges in South Australia. He is gradually beginning to be known by the town people and even acts as Santa Claus for the children of the town. His life has been relatively peaceful until there is a vicious attack in Kitchener Street, and a woman leaves her baby in a hot car. Then the Sydney police are involved and Hirsch has to use his expertise and knowledge of the local area in locating a missing woman.
Disher is a master of descriptive writing and readers who have lived in or visited small country towns will recognise the vivid pictures of both the countryside and the town characters. And extracts from Mrs Keir's 19th century journal will make the reader want to learn more about early pioneering life and the Aboriginal community.
Hirsch is a very likeable character who is intelligent and very capable of working out what is happening and following through, making judgement calls that fit in with being a rural cop and working with the community. His internal dialogue is often humorous and adds to the enjoyment of the story.
The action ramps up with the discovery of a body and the reader is left to grapple with all the different threads as Hirsch weaves his way through danger, trying to avoid police bureaucracy and local town politics. The nail biting conclusion highlights the clever plotting by Disher and will leave the reader satisfied.
I can't wait for more Paul Hirschhausen stories.
Pat Pledger


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Jan 21 2020

Changing Australian education by Alan Reid

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Allen and Unwin, Sydney, 2019. ISBN: 9781760875206.
Subtitled: How policy is taking us backwards and what can be done about it. The author (an Adelaide ex-teacher and university education lecturer) argues that neoliberalism is the underlying cause of the problems in Australian education. These are identified as a culture of competition (NAPLAN, PISA, etc. scores) and an emphasis on self rather than the common good, leading to inequitable educational outcomes and a socially segregated education system including privatisation of the school system.
The proposed solution is to establish the purposes of education which the author recommends as categorised into democratic, economic, individual (education for its own sake) and social and cultural purposes. Establishing these should lead to a fairer and socially just society - the opposite of the effects of neoliberalism. A case study is utilised to expand on the suggested solution.
The book is useful for the general public interested in education as well as educators as it covers a historical basis to current education policy and discusses reviews of major reports (e.g. Gonski Review, Grattan Report, work of T. Hattie) as well as critiques of NAPLAN and PISA. However I found the language structure and terms used detracted from ease of reading.
Ann Griffin


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Jan 21 2020

Rainbow plate by Doctor Preeya Alexander

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Illus. by Annabel Cutler. Little Steps Publishing, 2019. ISBN: 9781925839418. pbk., 28pp
Highly recommended. This is a simple story about eating well and teaching children good habits for healthy eating later in life.
Comparing the foods to the rainbow makes it a fun story and could get young children thinking about what they are eating and how they can vary what they are eating.
The illustrations in the book support the story well making it fun to read.
The introduction for parents in the front of this book is a great reminder to parents about the importance of eating healthily, and that also it doesn't have to be a chore, it can be a game. Use the rainbow plate to see how many different colors you can eat in a day.
You could also keep a record and see if over a week you can manage to eat all of the colors of the rainbow.
I highly recommend this book.
Karen Colliver


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Jan 21 2020

Otherwise known as Pig by Catch Tilly

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Wakefield Press 2019. ISBN: 9781743056790.
(Age: Years 9-12) Originally presented as a play, this story of year nine students bullying and harassing each other, explores the damage students can suffer at school when these issues are not addressed. Morgan is physically bullied by Stormin, who is a slow learner and makes up for it by being the biggest bully and fear of retaliation means the other students don't intervene or report. Morgan is academically clever but hates sports, much to his father's disappointment. His parents are vaguely aware of his problems but expect him to stand up for himself and his dad suggests self-defence lessons. More worrying than Stormin is Chris, an intelligent manipulator who Morgan has identified as a sociopath. He engineers Morgan's being banned from his haven, the library, and then burns down the art room when Morgan is welcomed there. Even Lissa, the girl he likes, is affected by the bullying when Chris' girlfriend Steph, makes sure she denies him. Morgan is not immune from the culture of bullying, verbally taunting Stormin in a cycle of abuse. This is a story of warped and abusive friendships and a boy desperate for affection and self-respect. 'Loser' is a powerful word wielded by the stronger in a daily struggle growing up in our schools. The protagonists in this story feel powerless and the adults are complicit in not maintaining a safe environment. I can see this would have been a successful play but I found the characters a little thin and unconvincing for a novel. The absence of an adult perspective may make the book popular with younger readers who may feel empowered by it and it will be a useful discussion starter for middle school students.
Teacher's notes are available. Themes: Bullying, friendship.
Sue Speck


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Jan 21 2020

Cat science unleashed by Jodi Wheeler-Toppen

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Photographs by Matthew Rakola. National Geographic Kids, 2019. ISBN: 9781426334412. 80pp., pbk.
(Age: 6-12) This is part of the NatGeo Kids Hands-on science series and complements their website aimed at 6-12 year olds. But rather than just facts and figures about cats that can be found in any book about them, this encourages the reader to participate in 22 safe and cat-friendly activities that let them work alongside their cat to discover what makes it tick.
They can learn the effects of catnip and why it can see so well in the dark; how it balances so well and always land on its feet as wells as toys to make. Each activity is paired with step-by-step instructions, clear and interesting scientific explanations, and cool photographs shot specifically for this book. Hands-on activities and fun information for budding scientists prompt further learning and offer a behind-the-scenes look at current feline research.
Using a magazine format with lots of photos and diagrams as well as information in accessible chunks, it is divided into four chapters, each accompanied by relevant explanations and activities. There is also a glossary, an index, and other extra information to help students build their information literacy skills as they learn to navigate non-fiction texts.
There are often queries to TL networks about what are the best magazine subscriptions to continue as popularity tends to wane, and for the primary school age group, Nat Geo Kids is always near the top of the list proving it has stood the test of time as an investment. With such a focus on the environment well beyond the curriculum, it just make sense to make it available to our students.
Barbara Braxton


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Jan 21 2020

Aesop's fables first reading series by Susanna Davidson

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Illus. by John Joven. Usborne, 2019. 48pp., hbk.
The lion and the mouse. ISBN: 9781474956550.
The ant and the grasshopper. ISBN: 9781474956567.
The hare and the tortoise. ISBN: 9781474956543.
There are some stories that have stood the test of time for generations and Aesop's fables are among these with their messages still pertinent even in this age of screens and technology. So this new release of these old tales written and illustrated for young emerging readers will open them up to a new generation.
The lion and the mouse tells the story of the arrogant lion who cannot imagine that a tiny mouse would ever be able to help him but discovers that friends can be found in strange places; The ant and the grasshopper reminds us about the need to balance work and play as Ant busily prepares for winter, while Grasshopper sings the summer away; and The hare and the tortoise pits a boastful hare against the slow tortoise with a surprising result.
Knowing these sorts of stories which are the basis of many other stories enriches the young child's literary knowledge and adds depth to their understanding of those other stories so to have them available in the library's collection is essential, in my opinion.
Barbara Braxton


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Jan 17 2020

The Great River Race by Tim Harris

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Illus. by James Foley. Toffle Towers 2, Puffin, 2020. ISBN: 9780143795438. 253p.
(Age: 10+) Highly recommended. Toffle Towers is still 'Fully Booked' (Book One in the Toffle Towers series). Chegwin Toffle, the world's youngest hotel manager, leads his loyal staff in improving facilities and services to put the flagging hotel back on the map. Guests love walking on the ceiling in magnetic boots to check in at the desk with Lawrence, the hotel butler. With the Great River Race looming, visitor numbers are climbing - plus Chegwin's novel ideas are popular with tourists looking for unique experiences.
Unfortunately, a number of 'reverse muggings' distract most of the staff from providing their usual competent services. His waitress, Katie begins reciting bad poetry to the diners. Dean the caretaker, must cope with oven mitts glued to his hands and the guests are defecting to Brontesa Braxton's hotel on the other side of Alandale. Chegwin makes a few mistakes in countering this obvious sabotage and learns important lessons about the value of consultation, respect and teamwork as he grapples with a secondary mystery of an elusive guest squatting in Room 49. The mystery leads Chegwin to discover a veritable network of tunnels linking the various parts of the hotel.
In one of his daydreams Chegwin unwittingly agrees to sign over Toffle Towers if the hotel boat loses the Great River Race to the Braxton Hotel. Whilst the team have pitched in early with a winning design, it is Chegwin's ability to brainstorm under pressure that will decide the fate of Toffle Towers.
James Foley's illustrated cartoons, storyboards, tables and memos compliment Chegwin's imaginings and consolidates unbelievable possibilities in our minds. There are still mysteries to solve which means we can anticipate a few more adventures at Toffle Towers.
Deborah Robins


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Jan 17 2020

Big lies in a small town by Diane Chamberlain

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St Martin's Press, 2020. ISBN: 9781509808625.
(Age: Adult - Mature YA) Recommended for adult readers. The young woman, Morgan Christopher is unexpectedly rescued from jail through a bequest and request from a benefactor known for his incredible artistic talents. Morgan's own incomplete art skills are needed as she is thrust into the task of restoring a mural created in 1940. This restoration project comes with time pressures and emotional pressures from the artist's daughter as she unearths the history of the original artist, Anna Dale. Anna was the winner of a National Town Mural competition to paint the mural for the town of Edenton. As an outsider, she ruffles a few locals and her Northerner ways and opinions are sometimes at odds with the local North Carolina residents. The social milieu of the 1940's town reveals the inter-racial conflicts of Southern USA in the 1940s as well as the joys and challenges of the small town. What should she include in her artistic representation of the town? When the contemporary parolee, Morgan, investigates the history of the mural that was never displayed, she uncovers a history that has many twists - and some of them are not pleasant. In her own story she must unravel her own insecurities related to the event that caused her imprisonment, and needs to decide whether she is worthy of love and the incredible honour of becoming an art restorer for the late renowned artist.
This is an impressive adult dramatic saga incorporating the two separate stories of the original artist - Anna Dale, and the contemporary restorer - Morgan Christopher. Told with time shifts back and forth between the two stories, there is a slowly unfolding revelation of the drama that led to the mural's disappearance. The process of art restoration is overseen by the interesting gallery administrator and there are stories of family disharmony and restoration woven through the saga. Diane Chamberlain is a master of the romantic and historical narrative, and this is the kind of book that would be enjoyed as a 'holiday' selection because of the revelation of the mystery and social drama across the generations within the 385 page narrative. Although this is an adult story, it could be read by mature YA readers.
Recommended for adult readers. Themes: Historical drama; Art restoration; Racial discrimination - USA; Romance; Murder mystery; Sexual Assault
Carolyn Hull


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Jan 17 2020

The Little Grey Girl by Celine Kiernan

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The Wild Magic trilogy Book 2. Walker, 2019. 217 pp. 9781406373929. pbk.
In the first book in The Wild Magic trilogy, Begone the raggedy witches, Mup realises that she has magical powers. The Queen from across the border, her grandmother, uses her magic to keep control over her subjects and when she flees with the raggedy witches, Mup's mother is the obvious replacement, but she does not want the power nor does she want to be queen. She is persuaded to leave her own home and move to the Glittering Lands guiding her daughter, Mup, and her husband and their son, Tipper, now a dog, over the strange waterway which marks the entrance to this mysterious place.
The second in the series, The Little Grey Girl, takes up the story as Mam is declared queen, protesting all the while. She is besieged by petitioners, and heads back into her mother's castle to think about what to do next. But during the night, Mup sees a mysterious little grey girl in the courtyard, and calling Crow they go to investigate. It has been snowing fiercely, and Mam's adviser, Firinne, has warned her that this is the old queen's curse and to be watchful.
The castle is still full of memories of the tyrannical past, and Mup grapples with the question of free will, as her mother encourages the people to make up their minds for themselves; she will not tell them what to do.
The characters in this beautifully written book are exceptional: Mup with her strong moral centre is brave and disarming, able to throw lightning from her fingers to keep herself protected from the forces of the evil she feels all around, while Crow the bird that can change into a boy speaks in rhyme.
But the little grey girl intrigues; is she a threat, either a a raggedy witch or someone who needs help. With the long dead Dr Emberly and Crow, Mup descends to the dungeons beneath the castle following the little grey girl, to find out about the drawings she leaves on the walls, which cause such distress. But to find the core of the problem they must fight the dog which holds all the sadness the little grey girl takes from people, a fight which could lead to their deaths.
Kiernan's voice is unique, taking its readers along brave new paths, involving them with a strong, independent young girl hesitantly using her magical powers, but always aware of how it will affect those around her.
Fran Knight


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Jan 17 2020

My book with no pictures by B.J. Novak

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Puffin Press, 2019. ISBN: 9780241444177. 40pp. pbk.
(Age: All) Recommended. The book with no pictures is a fun story and this book makes that story even more fun by letting people fill-in-the-blanks and write their own words.
Kids of all ages can have fun putting different words into the story to make it as funny as they like. It would appeal to all ages, as anyone can add words into the story.
Kids can have fun filling in the blanks and then getting their parents or teacher to read it.
This book can be used to encourage reluctant writers to create a fun story using the scaffolding of the book with no pictures.
I enjoyed reading this book and recommend it to anyone with a sense of humor.
Karen Colliver


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Jan 17 2020

Slay by Brittney Morris

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Hodder Children's Books, 2019. 330pp. ISBN: 9781444951721. pbk.
Massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) are a combination of role playing video games and online games in which a very large number of people interact with one another within a virtual world. As an older reviewer I found I had to immerse myself in the terminology in the book, using the internet to find answers, then jumping into the gaming word portrayed. Most readers of this book will find a more comfortable affinity with the world created by Morris to tell her story about racial inequality in the USA. This multi layered and complex issue is displayed by a range of characters: Kiera, one of four Black students at Jefferson High is peculiarly asked for her opinion as if she is the spokesperson for all Back people, Steph, Kiera's sister is a promoter of African American Vernacular English, Malcolm Kiera's boyfriend is desperate for them both to be accepted into Spelman College, one of the foremost HBCU places (Historically Black College) where he feels he will not have to compete with white students, while Kiera's white friends ask her if it is OK to wear their hair in dreads, or wear an Indian headdress to a fancy dress party. Kiera retreats into the digital world she has created, Slay, where all of the players are black and in playing, understand the rules of the game. And here she can be herself.
Morris very cleverly places all the characters into positions where they are able to reveal the racial tension that underlines their lives. But the game is above all this, or so Kiera believes.
When she finds that one of the players, Anubis has been killed over the paper money used in the game, she is appalled. Not knowing that she is the developer, her friends and family discuss the issues that this Black game creates: is it anti white, discriminatory, is it racist, what happens when the developer is discovered, will he or she be sued for the boy's death? Kiera must solve the crime and the last half of this engrossing tale hangs on crime detection as she and Steph and her friend in Paris untangle the web of clues hidden within the game, leading to a neat resolution with a twist in the tale.
Fran Knight


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Jan 16 2020

Near extinction by R.A. Spratt

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The Peski Kids book 4. Puffin Books, 2020. ISBN: 9780143796367.
(Age: Upper primary+) Highly recommended. Near extinction is the third book in The Peski Kids series. This time the Peski (pesky) kids literally face their own extinction in a dinosaur park on a class geography/paleontology excursion.
The Peski Kids series is full of exciting, page-turning adventure. Spratt exposes the reader to current social/cultural/political concerns, language and vocabulary whilst somehow managing an authentic tween/teen voice.
The characters are clever and outrageous young people who stun the reader with their sharp banter and antics. You can't identify with them (they're too wild) but the teenage reader would be impressed with them, following their activities (from a safe place) and never admitting openly (rather surreptitiously investigating) if they don't understand some of the witty allusions. The Pesky Kids are countercultural with some of their comments and actions. Being well rounded characters, they all have flaws and strengths which happen to be somewhat complementary.
Hilarious, current, politically incorrect terms and idioms by the dozen fly in the rapid fire dialogue between the characters. The smart play with language and meaning is perfect for the upper primary child. We want our readers to be exposed to rich vocabulary. The book demands active thinking too. The motivation is there because this is rude, insolent, smart kid talk and as a kid yourself you would not want to appear out of it. The author tantalizes the reader with connections like " . . . my brother will bear a striking resemblance to Anne Boleyn . . . " Many terms and concepts such as man spread, misogyny, roadkill and human smoothies are thrown about and hilariously dealt with by these characters.
The Peski Kids: Near extinction conjures up a fantastic visual adventure. Imagine a pink school bus with a theme park dinosaur speared into the roof with a child caught in its jaws being driven by jewel thieves at break-neck speed down a country road chased by a rural policeman and international spies.
Even though The Peski Kids: Near extinction seems to be about tough, naughty kids who go against the grain, it is also about love, family, right and wrong and shades of grey. Adoption, migration, international espionage, teenage relationships and unusual family structures are embedded themes.
R.A. Spratt does not disappoint with The Peski Kids series for older children. Highly recommended.
Wendy Jeffery


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Jan 16 2020

Hot Dog: Show time by Anh Do

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Illus. by Dan McGuiness. Hot Dog 7. Scholastic, 2019. ISBN: 9781742997889. 128pp.
(Age: 6-8) Recommmended. In Hot Dog Book 7, the three main characters, Hot Dog, Kev and Lizzie are once again ready for a new and exciting adventure. Toy Town is holding a Talent Show and the three friends are desperate to win - the prize being a voucher to the best toy shop in town. They spend quite some time deciding on what to do, with most of their trials not being successful. However they decide on a song and set about writing the lyrics and making the costumes, all with lots of fun and humour. The big day arrives and the entertainment is awesome! The three friends are a hit with the crowd and have everyone in the audience singing along. They ultimately come a gracious second to the Daredevil Hamsters and win a huge tray of cupcakes.
After the Talent Show they have to prepare for Emma and Ribbit's wedding in the Big Top at the circus. The day does not go according to plan due to rainy weather and Hot dog, Kev and Lizzie have to pitch in and support the wedding couple with all the help they can - from making bridal outfits, for the circus animals, finding flowers, providing the entertainment and sharing their cupcakes.
The illustrations of Dan McGuiness complement the story perfectly and keep the reader engaged in the simple yet engaging text. The use of different sized fonts draws the reader's attention and maintains interest in the story. The Hot Dog series is perfect for emergent readers as well as those children who struggle with reading as the use of the same characters and familiar words allows these children to successfully read independently. Themes: Humour, Friends, Talent show, Wedding ceremony, Family.
Kathryn Beilby


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Jan 16 2020

Silly, messy, amazing, magnificent ME by Kylee Cooke

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Little Steps Publishing, 2019. ISBN: 9781925839630. pbk. 28pp.
Highly recommended. Sometimes Em is told she can't do things like wear certain clothes or be a dragon, but she does not listen and is determined to do what she wants. With her family's support, her mum tells her to 'wear what you feel good in and be confident!',
Her dad tells her 'anyone can play any sport.'
Em tries her best with both things she enjoys and things she is not so crazy about.
Em knows she is not good at everything but Em loves everything about herself, especially her name because backwards it spells ME.
This is a very positive book about the importance of loving yourself, it doesn't matter how good or bad you are at something, it doesn't matter if people say you won't be able to do that, if you give it your best shot and enjoy what you are doing you can do anything you want.
I highly recommend this book for its positivity.
Karen Colliver


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Jan 16 2020

Going the distance by Beth Reekles

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The Kissing Booth 2. Penguin, 2020. ISBN: 9780241413227. 368pp.
(Age: 15+) Noah has left for college while his girlfriend Elle and brother Lee navigate senior year in his shadow. Lee made the football team, but he's not quite the player Noah was, meaning Elle doesn't get much sympathy from Lee as she yearns for Noah. Lee is consolidating his romance with Rachel more and more, which means Elle becomes more and more friendly with the new boy to the group. Levi is cute if not a tad maudlin having been dumped by his girlfriend, since moving interstate.
Tension builds as Noah is pictured on social media, enjoying frat parties and meeting pretty college girls. High School rumours precipitate a showdown between Noah and Elle. Will their relationship survive or are new love interests the natural outcome of trying to sustain a long distance relationship?
Acclaimed adolescent author, Beth Reekles is on a winning YA formula with the success of her Kissing Booth series. Both manuscripts so far have been adapted for Netflix. The cliched romantic plot shies away from any number of modern, familial or social themes. Interesting that this volume in depicting the obligatory obsession of adolescents with romance is, according to the author, somewhat improved in the television manuscript. The comparison just may be a boost to both readership and views but certainly won't condemn the reality of peer pressure in the manner of the best of jarring and jolting YA literature.
Deborah Robins


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Jan 16 2020

The reef rescue by Delphine Davis

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Mermaid holidays series. Illus: Adele K. Thomas. Penguin Random House, 2019. ISBN: 9780143796473.
(Age: 5-7) The Mermaids are going to Sea Star Reef Summer Camp together, a holiday that Olivia Ocean is really looking forward to sharing with her friends. She plans to have as much fun as possible and do some exploring of the reef while she is there. Finding the elusive 'Dumbo Octopus' becomes the driving motivation for Olivia and her mermates. They do however break some rules and put themselves into a risky situation which might have some consequences.
This is a story that is like a cartoon episode with animated characters and slightly lame humour and sea-themed terminology. The essence of the story is just about friends getting together, but the cartoon-like illustrations reveal the underwater fantasy and the slightly odd characters in the mermaids' holiday world. Text within the book has coloured capitalised words scattered throughout to add interest, and many of the expressions and idiom have a marine theme. This is just a light-hearted story to engage early readers.
Suited to readers aged 5-7 who have graduated to easy chapter books. Themes: Mermaids, Friendship.
Carolyn Hull


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Jan 15 2020

Saga by Nikki McWatters

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University of Queensland Press, 2019. ISBN: 9780702262517.
(Age: 13+) Recommended. Three eras, three random women in a long matriarchal line beginning in the 11th Century with Astrid, a priestess of the Temple of the Goddess Nerthus, fighting to save her doctrine and community from destruction by the Roman Church. Even the mighty Vikings convert and threaten everything Astrid holds dear. Her second sight and her role as the Skaldmaer, in learning to write the King's epic poems, prompts her to record the tenants of her religion for posterity. Unfortunately, she is distracted by King Olav, her childhood sweetheart, proposing marriage and making her an enemy of the state.
Fast forward to the 19th Century to an orphaned girl purchased from the Glasgow Poorhouse by a ruthless undertaker. Mercy escapes to London where her bold nature opens another door, indentured to novelist and feminist, Anne Radcliffe. Mercy is self-taught but Anne completes her education as a social experiment. Though thriving, Mercy longs to discover her true identity returning to Glasgow to use her skills to help educate poor children.
McWatters must imagine a modern counterpart and this time it is Mia, living in present day Australia, who inherits the ancient book Systir Saga. Ostensibly a valuable family record, written in an ancient language, she and her bestie travel from the Blue Mountains to an island in Scotland to learn about her mysterious heritage.
Saga completes the trilogy, which began with Hexanhaus, then Liberty. Like these earlier novels, Saga may stand alone but the rule of three still applies - three strong women, three periods in human history, weaving intergenerational new characters to highlight all nine heroines in a long matriarchal line, championing the meek and changing the course of history. One for both feminists and fans of historical fiction. Teacher's notes are available.
Deborah Robins


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Jan 15 2020

Ocean's revenge by Gavin Aung Than

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Super sidekicks book two. Puffin, 2019. ISBN: 9780143795889. Unpaged.
(Age: 8+) Highly recommended. Junior Justice, Flygirl, Dinomite and Goo, return in their second Super Sidekicks adventure. The Prologue page reacquaints us with these resourceful assistants and Captain Perfect, one of their former bosses. Fittingly, all nine celebrity superheroes are sidelined in chapter one - kidnapped one by one, by an ancient Babylonian sea goddess, Tiamata.
By chapter two, we see the Super Sidekicks step up as a destructive ocean monster approaches Sydney unchallenged. The Mother of the Seas, sick of humans using the oceans as a junkyard, has animated the Trash Titan, but has Tiamata underestimated the Sidekicks' powers?
Will the Sidekicks be capable of wisdom and compromise, unlike their obnoxious superhero mentors and the various international leaders? Does the politicians' reluctance to give and take in order to save humankind from the Trash Titan menace, draws clear parallels to the real-world struggles of climate activists against the current world order?
Taking young readers beyond perceived comic book entertainment, this black and white graphic novel alludes to our collective assault on the environment and science, with a timely message. The lovely thing is that the meek appear to have the answers, not the entitled demigods of culture or politics.
The endpapers contain a drawing lesson as Than, a talented cartoonist responsible for the syndicated Zen Pencils creations, shares his creative process with his fans. Download free posters and more @ aungthan.com
No Adults Allowed is the first adventure in the Super SideKicks series and Book Three, Trial of Heroes is due in 2020. Collect all Super SideKicks if you're a fan of classic comic books. Teacher's notes are available.
Deborah Robins


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Jan 15 2020

Haunted Warriors by Lian Tanner

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The Rogues book 3. Allen and Unwin, 2019. ISBN: 9781760293543. 315pp.
(Age: 9-13) Highly recommended. Six warriors - Duckling, Pummel, Otte, Sooli, an enchanted chook and a cat along with Alms - mistress Krieg and Grandpa (Lord Rump) travel by magic tarpaulin blown along by Grandfather Wind. Their dangerous mission is to go back to a massive castle known as the Strong-hold in the cursed city of Berren in the country of Neuhalt. Their quest is to get to the Strong-hold, find out who raised the evil Harshman from the grave and send him back to the grave. They aim to restore the rightful heir, Otte, to the Faithful Throne and remove the curse from the city.
This fantasy has all the medieval trappings - the castle, baileys, keeps, towers and chambers together with the people - the cooks, chambermaids, nobles, simpering courtiers and soldiers. Other characters are from Tanner's imaginary fantasy world - the Margraves and Margravines, the Bayams, Harshman and the warriors themselves with their magic powers. The warriors are haunted - each in a different way and they are not without their own flaws and difficult pasts. The haunting is part of their special identity and gives individual (and complementary) magic powers which come in handy for their survival.
The strong-hold court rituals, the formal protocols of respect and address, the structure of life are reminiscent of military, royal, religious and other institutional organizations where an understanding of the way things work is vital. There is a real sense of power and manipulation. Our heroes have to work smart using their wits and special skills to win back control from their foes.
Haunted Warriors is a classic tale of the fight between good and evil in the fantasy genre. Sacrifice, togetherness, protectiveness, courage and most of all the power of the bonds of love overwhelm evil in the end. The reader is exposed to the concepts of " . . . love and friendship and comfort-in-times-of-trouble . . . " versus ". . .graves and rotten fruit, and murder and loss and dispossession . . . " and are granted a window into what the misuse of power can look like.
Action-packed and magical, this book (and the highly acclaimed series) is highly recommended for 9-13 year olds.
Wendy Jeffery


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Jan 15 2020

The new kid : Very popular me by James O'Loughlin

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Pan Macmillan Australia, 2019. ISBN: 9781760554835. 224pp.
(Ages: 6+) Highly recommended. In the second book in the New kid series Sam is adjusting to life in Canberra, his new school, friendships and is preparing to become a big brother to a new baby sister. The story starts with Sam still trying to make friends and learn the intricacies of the school classroom and student dynamics. As the story progresses, Sam is faced with many dilemmas as he deals with his sudden popularity and later with the devastation of becoming the teacher's pet. All this occurs due to Sam finding an interesting and sort after marble in the garage of his house and this leads to his popularity as every student tries to win the marble during playtime when marble games are strongly contested. Sam struggles to hold onto both the marble and his popularity as he at first refuses to partake in matches and then realises that the marble has taken over his life and he eventually loses it. He also deals with his first girlfriend who has lots of rules about their relationship and finally the loss of everything when a new teacher arrives and makes him the teacher's pet.
The story focuses on Sam's attempts to un-pet himself and regain his popularity or at least his average kid status. Sam struggles with life and friendship and the story is written in such a way that the reader at times feels sorry for him and at other times wishes that he would just see what is right in front of him. Like many primary aged children, Sam is struggling to find his place amongst the unfamiliar environment of a new school and a new home, and as life changes for the main character the reader will sympathise with these changes and reflect on their own school experiences.
The book will appeal to a wide range of readers as it is full of laughs, real situations that the reader will recognise from their own school experiences. Because of this the book will captivate the classroom audience as a read-aloud and will engage the reader.
I would recommend this book to primary school aged readers as they are the ones who are most likely to identify with the storyline, however, younger readers would enjoy these books too. Themes: School, friendship, family, peer pressure, humour.
Mhairi Alcorn


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Jan 15 2020

DK Life Stories

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Dorling Kindersley, 2019.
Albert Einstein by Will Mara. ISBN: 9780241322918. hbk., 128pp.
Gandhi by Diane Ailey, illus. by Charlotte Age. ISBN: 9781465474636. hbk., 128pp.
Wil Mara has made Einstein's life story an engaging and fascinating look at this very complex human being, one whose ideas have shaken up the foundation of modern physics. As a patent clerk in Bern Albert had time to think about and discuss his ideas, publishing his four ground shaking papers in 1905, which made the academic world take notice. Teaching at Berlin he saw the rise of Fascism in the 1930's a direct result of the punishing Treaty Of Versailles which ended World War One. A committed pacifist he took the position at Princeton in the USA and there he was able to advise people on the road Hitler and his scientists were taking. The Manhattan Project grew out of his advice, paradoxically doing the very thing he thought countries should not do. Considered one of the greatest minds of the twentieth century, Einstein died in 1955.
The book on Gandhi has the same format, presenting to younger readers a leader of the twentieth century known over the world. It begins with his family and childhood in India where he became aware of the oppression of British rule. Moving to South Africa to work as a lawyer, their system of keeping black and white separate infuriated him, and he did all he could to support the underrepresented. He successfully developed the idea of satyagraha, a way of dealing with the British through non-violence and civil disobedience which was instrumental in winning India's freedom from British rule in 1947. This potted biography presents a flawed man who in developing ideas of peace and non violence influenced others who came after him such as Martin Luther King. Born in 1869, he was assassinated in 1948 by a fanatic who disagreed with his peaceful approach to non Hindus.
Divided into ten (Einstein) and 12 (Gandhi) chapters, the sentences are short and pithy, illustrations dot the pages and the whole is complimented with fact boxes, asides and photographs, designed to entrance the younger reader. A detailed glossary, most useful index, family trees, who's who and timeline of their lives are rounded off with a quiz that readers will love to try.
The books are part a series, DK Life Stories, and while the format may not immediately attract some readers, a teacher will be able to point them out to students as a valuable and involving source of information.
Fran Knight


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Jan 15 2020

Amazing Animal Earth by Alessandra Yap and Anastasia Popp

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Little Steps Publishing, 2019. ISBN: 9781925839425. pbk. 28pp.
Recommended. This is a fun story that visits the continents of the world Africa, Europe, Asia, North America, South America, Australia and Antarctica looking at the iconic animals from each of these areas.
Each of the animals listed on a page are somewhere in the illustrations on that page. This adds to the story as you try and locate the animals you have just read about.
This book can be used as a starting point for teaching about animals from different continents.
This book shows the reader that there are many amazing animals around the world.
I recommend this book for young children to enjoy and teachers to use it to introduce the topic of different animals around the world.
Karen Colliver


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Jan 15 2020

Don't follow Vee by Oliver Phommanvanh

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Puffin, 2019. ISBN: 9780143505747. hbk., 192pp.
Vee has always gone along with her mother's taking a picture each morning to put on her Instagram account called 'The Chronicles of Vee' - an account her Mum started when she was a baby. Vee always says yes when Mum asks her if it is OK to continue, but this year is different. Vee is in high school, and Mum has begun accepting things from businesses to have Vee wear at school and show online. She has also started trying to jazz up Vee's life and show baby pictures. She tries being anti-Vee, doing things that Mum would hate, attempting to turn the account upside down, but she gains more followers! Mum is aiming for 150,000 followers so Vee must find a way to stop it all. So she turns the table on her mother, snapping her one morning before she wakes. She encourages her mother to get out more, join a singing group and meet new friends. As her strategies begin to work, Vee almost loses her best friend, Annabelle.
This is an excellent middle-primary book about the use of the mobile phone, of friendship and family. Phommanvanh's humour is a treat, easy to read and laugh out loud at the antics of Vee as she tries to subvert her mother's interference in her life without causing mayhem in the house.
Along the way are some neat sideswipes at the power of the mobile phone, as children cannot wait to see the number of likes, or what the next instalment of Vee's life is about or how many burgers her friend Bryan has eaten, or what Mum is doing to get her daughter noticed. The underlining imperative of 'get a life' appealed to me and will touch those who read the book and may find that reading it better than looking at a screen!
And I loved Vee, trying hard not to upset her mum who has brought her up alone but equally aware that she needs to focus on something else, and make a life for herself. I hope there will be another instalment of Vee's life, as her character is hard to let go.
At the end of the book is a teaser of the first three chapters of The other Christy. This was published in 2016 and is equally as enjoyable, so it will gain another audience after kids have enjoyed Don't Follow Vee.
Fran Knight


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