Tag Archives: Bloomsbury Australia

Rida and Madiya: a Bloomsbury Reader – Niyla Farook and Umair Najeeb Khan

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Bloomsbury Australia

May 2023

RRP: $14.99

ISBN9781801991933
ImprintBloomsbury Education
SeriesBloomsbury Readers

Yes, this is a sample of Bloomsbury readers and these have been written and aimed directly at the UK curriculum market, but don’t let that put you off. This series has been crafted by some top authors and the books written in a way that is both engaging and supportive of emerging independent readers. That being said, this is also a fun and warming story about siblings that young readers will thoroughly enjoy, and to which many will also relate.

Rida and Madiya are sisters in a blended family, who share a room, and are as different as chalk to cheese. Rida is quiet and reserved and looking forward to starting high school the following year. Madiya is a madcap 6 year old, boisterous and loud, and often quite outrageous with her ideas and actions. The two argue about everything and it seems their differences will continue to fuel their squabbles. When the local library is in danger of being closed down, Rida is determined to help save it and, reluctantly, accepts some unexpected help in her quest from Madiya. But it seems that this is only going to result in more conflict, until they finally work out a way to set aside their rivalries.

As well as the lively narrative, readers will enjoy the connections made to real life scenarios including family and diversity. I would suggest if you are looking for some new simple chapter books, this series would go a long way to filling a gap and encouraging our kiddos to think beyond their own sphere of knowledge.

Recommended for readers from around five upwards who are moving into this reading space.

Blackbeard’s Treasure – Iszi Lawrence

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Bloomsbury Australia

May 2023

ISBN9781801990967
ImprintBloomsbury Education
RRP: $14.99

It’s been quite a long time since I’ve read a swashbuckling pirate adventure, and this was a good one to break that drought. It is adventure/historic novel based on facts about that period of time when pirates and privateers were roaming the waters, particularly in the newly colonised parts of the world. Many were dodging the law before they took to piracy but some were simply looking for an easy way to make a fortune. Others, more or less, ‘fell’ into piracy, either by being captured and forced to make choices (join the crew or die) or simply by being in the wrong place at the wrong time. While there were many who were utterly corrupt and without scruples or conscience, others simply play-acted their ferocity and perpetuated their legendary fearsomeness, in order to make their lucrative trade easier. One such was Edward Teach, commonly known as Blackbeard and this adventure shows a different side of him, than that which has been often shown in books and media.

Abigail, eleven years old, lives with her father in the Caribbean. She really has no friends except for slave boy, Boubacar, whose mother Nanny Inna, looks after. Her mother is dead, but even if she were alive, she would be looked after by Nanny, as that’s how it worked in a ‘gentleman’s’ house. Her friendship with Boubacar, is not the easiest as a little girl dressed in muslin and in training to be ‘lady’ cannot associate with a slave boy or play vigorously but they really only have each other.

When the pirate Captain Vane arrives on their island, Abigail learns that her father is not only a cheat but a coward who abandoned his crew to save himself. Vane’s revenge is swift and Abigail and Boubacar are lucky to escape with their lives. Their escape leads them from one tricky situation to another and they are taken on board, Abigail posing as a boy, by Black Caesar, who is looking to restore his service with the notorious Blackbeard. Abigail’s shattered illusions about her father, lead her on an emotional rollercoaster, as she discovers that there can be ‘honour among thieves’.

There are near misses and high drama as she and Boubacar, learn not only new skills but more information about their connection than they had ever imagined. This is an exciting and fast-paced adventure for your middle grade readers and could lead to many wanting to explore more of the famous/infamous names mentioned such as Blackbeard, Black Caesar, Stede Bonnect and Anne Bonney, and places such Charles Town and St Christoper’s Island.

Geography, history, mapping, exploration of other piratical literature and characters would be a wonderful addition to a high-interest topic. Perhaps a class read aloud to coincide with Talk Like a Pirate Day and fundrising would be a fun way to share. Personally I would love to build a unit of work around this. I highly recommend it to you for your readers from around ten years upwards.

Where the River Takes Us – Lesley Parr

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Bloomsbury Australia

April 2023

ISBN9781526647771
ImprintBloomsbury Children’s Books
RRP: $16.99

I can now confirm for sure that Lesley Parr has become one of my favourite MG authors. This is the third of hers I have read – avidly – and it’s not just the fact that they are set in Wales (home to my dearest friends) so I get to know a little more about that country but because her adventures are fresh and original and her characters so completely engaging and well-realised. This new one is set in the early 70s when life in the UK, particularly in Wales, was troubled and dark, figuratively and literally. The Coal Miners’ strikes were a fiercely fought battle to better conditions and wages for those who provided the means for the easy electricity for the rest of the country. In 1972, for the first time since 1926 UK coal miners again went on strike in a bitter struggle for their improved conditions. You can read more about this here.

For the working class it was even harder for those on ‘rationed’ electricity supplies as many workers were either not working at all or working only a few days a week. For Jason and his big brother Richie, life cannot get much worse. Both parents are dead and 18 year old Richie is doing everything he can to be parent and provider for 12 year old Jason, but with limited work (and insufficient wages even when it was full time) the mortgage payments on their house are becoming more and more impossible to maintain.

Jason has a good circle of friends, Catrin his next-door neighbour is first and foremost but then there’s also Jinx and Tam, each very different in personality and attitudes.

Their district is alive with the reports of a mystery ‘big cat’ spotted in the woods and reputedly killing stock and wildlife. When a competition is announced with £100 offered up for a clear photo of the beast, Jason and his mates are determined to win the pot – with the proceeds intended to help Jason and Richie. The brothers’ financial dilemma has also caused Richie to make a poor choice and get involved with the local thuggish thieves resulting in much angst and possible disaster. The kids’ quest for the beast is punctuated by dramas, both small and large, but throughout their camaraderie increases and the bonds of friendship strengthen as each discovers within themselves hidden depths and truths.

Whether the ‘Beast’ exists or not, what is a fact, as both Jason and Richie find out, that there are people who care and who are willing to go the extra mile to support them, not only in their grief but in the practical day-to-day new life they face.

The interaction between characters is wonderful. Jinx is a lively and ‘interesting’ boy who is deeply suspicious (jealous?) of Jason’s close friendship with Catrin, but as the adventure progresses and he gets to know, Jinx becomes increasingly comfortable, and even attached to Catrin. Tam, always the calm phlegmatic, ‘tree trunk’ of a boy, who prefers inaction rather than violence, realises that sometimes one needs to be more proactive. He also learns that not speaking of the dead, is tantamount to wiping their existence from record, and his awareness of how to respond to Jase’s grief is enhanced, restoring their former bonds. Catrin proves she’s not just a clever ‘swot’ and rule-abider but can be both innovative and creative when it comes to problem-solving. And Jason learns that not everything is black and white – sometimes there are shades of meaning, action and behaviours, and he begins to self-regulate his extremes of emotion.

This would make a great serial read-aloud for kiddos around Year 5/6 or even Year 7 and at the same time, offers them some insight into another time and place which is likely to be unfamiliar to them. Highly recommended for readers from around 11 years upwards.

Peace on Earth, good will toward all

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Emily Gravett: Meerkat Christmas

Whatever, and however you celebrate I wish you all safe and happy holidays, from me and The Kid. Many thanks to all who follow and bother to read my reviews – which are haphazardly posted at best – and I’m thrilled to see that this year the blog has had well over 10 000 views!!!! Wow!! 2023 marks a decade since I decided to start collating the reviews I was doing in one place ,and began Just So Stories, and there have been many, many changes in my life since then. It looks like my full-time teaching days are over but will still need to keep earning somehow for a while to support The Kid so new adventures await.

Not only do I want to thank you all but also the wonderful authors, illustrators, creators and of course the publicists at various publishing houses who let me play in their world. I have a couple of Christmas reviews to write up and post today, and then about twenty more to catch up on (!!) after the festivities are done.

I do hope your own celebrations are filled with joy – The Kid and I will be in our happy place for three days (very like Kev in that illustration!) and ours will be slow and salty.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – J. K. Rowling. Jim Kay (Illustrator)Neil Packer (Illustrator)

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Bloomsbury Publishing

October 2022

ISBN9781408845684
ImprintBloomsbury Children’s Books

RRP: $75.00

Readers of this blog will know of my passion for all things Harry and I have often shared the magnificence that comes my way via Bloomsbury Publishing (long may the prosper!). The fact that this is my favourite of all the original books, and that it was released the day before my birthday was like the universe bringing it to me as a special gift (and of course, the marvellous Sonia who knows my weakness well by now!).

What is there to say? We have all seen the sumptous illustrated versions of the first four – we have all ooh-ed and aah-ed over them and believe me, so have the children. In my libraries, they are highly sought after – whether to take home and pore over, or sit and gaze lovingly at each glorious page in their quiet times at break.

This dazzling new addition to any fan’s collection will be a shining jewel in the bookshelf and, trust me, though it’s been in my possession for a week now, I have not even come close to exploring all it’s wonderful details. I do wish I was still in my library having my Potterheads meetings!

I certainly can’t say it any better than this:

This is a stunning visual feast of a book, filled with dark magical delights for both fans and new readers alike. Breathtaking scenes, iconic locations and unforgettable characters await inside – Luna Lovegood, Professor Umbridge, Grawp the giant, and many more – as Harry Potter and Dumbledore’s Army prepare for the coming battle against Lord Voldemort. Perfect for Potterheads of all ages!

Christmas is coming, they are already telling us. Can I just say if you have a Potterhead in your circle you will become their greatest benefactor if this is your gift to them. Pop it into a Santa sack in your house and watch the delight – of course, don’t expect to see the recipient for a few days (maybe for the food but that’d be it). Or, better still, just buy it for yourself – Merry Xmas to you!

I don’t need to ‘sell’ this – but I will of course give it my utmost recommendation – now, don’t bother me – I have more to explore! 😉

More Celebrating Harry’s Anniversary!!

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COMPETITION:

As we get ready to celebrate 25 years of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Bloomsbury Publishing wants to hear YOUR memories of your first reading experiences of Harry Potter. On 26th June 2022 (the anniversary itself) Bloomsbury will release a video of fans’ first memories of reading Harry Potter.

Get your entries to Bloomsbury for a chance to be featured in the video AND for a chance to win a signed copy by J.K. Rowling of the anniversary edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (publishing 9th June).

Competition closes 10 April. Enter here: bit.ly/3qvPBiv

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone 25th Anniversary edition – J. K. Rowling

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January 2022

Bloomsbury

ISBN 9781408855652

RRP: $16.99

Cover art by Jonny Duddle

It seems hardly any time at all since I reflected on 20 years of HP and yet, here we are, at the start of a huge year of silver anniversary celebrations for what is, to my mind at least, the most successful fiction series of all time. Many of you will have already got the heads up about the many events planned but if not, do make sure you check them out and sign up for newsletters and activity packs. I am hugely excited for the upcoming release of the illustrated Tales of Beedle the Bard and, in my new library, starting up yet another PotterHeads group as well as beginning plans for a Harry Potter Night event later in the year.

There is also a great Miles of Magic competition which might excite your kiddos – I’ve been sharing it with mine, as well as my staff and library groups.

In the meantime, given it is the anniversary and, no doubt, as I have done you have a regular re-purchase of titles as they get shabby and worn out (how many others can you say that about!?), you might like to consider buying the anniversary edition, either paperback or hardback as a special – or even to offer up as the ultimate desirable prize for a celebratory competition of your own.

My own HP collection continues to expand. Besides jewelry, clothing, accessories, and the pieces I have at school in my library, I’ve just re-organised my ‘home’ collection as it had outgrown its space on the regular bookshelf. My latest acquisition is the adorable handmade mandrake ‘Cadfael’ – he’s just so cute! But also quite new from Xmas: the Sorting Hat, the Pensieve kit and the Hufflepuff wax seal set – from my equally HP crazed middle daughter – thanks Kimmy, fellow Hufflepuff! 🙂

The Kid just shakes her head each time something new in the HP line comes into the house (where did I go wrong? WHY is she so resistant to the charms of HP et al?) but that’s unlikely to stop the flow any time soon.

Happy Silver Anniversary Harry and congratulations to J. K., Bloomsbury and the artists and creators who have added so much to the original stories – and special thanks to the lovely Sonia at Bloomsbury Australia, who understands my obsession very well. Some of us will never be too old for Harry!

Harry Potter Night Celebrations 2021

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Fifty young wizards and witches from Year 4 to Year 8 had plenty of magical fun at our big HP Night event yesterday afternoon. On arrival the kids all got a sealed envelope containing their Hogwarts letter, a laminated house themed bookmark (which neatly gave me the groups for the activity rotations) and a temporary tattoo of a lightning bolt.

Our activities:

Making butterbeer and decorating HP-themed biscuits

Winged Keys

Wand making/decorating and also completing wand permits

Potions brewing (colour changing tea plus mini-potion bottles)

Papercrafts such as Cubees (Harry Potter & Voldemort), I Spy, Harry Potter ABC, House colour bows and rosettes,

Mini-Quidditch game and chocolate leapfrog game

Trivia and photo ops

Lucky door prizes – every student got a prize, from pencils to figurines, lanyards to badges, loads of bits and pieces I had accumulated during the year from various sources, and then one final draw for a copy of HP and the Half-Blood Prince which I had spare.

We had 3 tables of collectibles most of which belonged to myself, my junior school t-l and my library tech but one of our IT staff also lent us his Lego Diagon Alley for display. My own Lego group had already built the Great Hall during the term to form part of our display – we had some of our new HP books for perusal and a couple of static displays – Flourish & Blotts – with an amazing moving wizard photo of Gilderoy Lockhart (created by my library tech) as well as a Gringotts table.

It was exhausting, noisy, chaotic but hugely fun and exciting for all the kiddos.

The Valley of Lost Secrets – Lesley Parr

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Bloomsbury Australia

February 2021

ISBN:9781526620521
Imprint:Bloomsbury Children’s Books

RRP: $14.99

Omg, I can’t tell you how much I loved this read during the week!! It completely reminds me of two much-loved favourites, Carrie’s War by Nina Bawden and Goodnight Mister Tom by Michelle Magorian (both of which I own and have re-read many times), but with its whole new take on the situation of evacuee children in WWII.

Jimmy and his little brother have been evacuated from London to a Welsh valley – traditional, coal-mining families and either open welcomes or suspicion of ‘foreigners’. Mr and Mrs Thomas are warm and caring, and little Ronnie is quickly comfortable with both, but Jimmy is both distrustful and resentful. He’s already lost his mum, who took off leaving the brothers with their dad and grandmother, and he’s certainly not ready to treat this temporary stay as ‘home’. The entire London contingent seem different here. Jimmy’s best friend, now lodged with the local minister’s family, has turned into a nasty bully like the Reverend’s son and Florence, uncared for and abused at home, blossoms into a true friend.

Jimmy is to realise that even a temporary family can be a solace but first there are difficulties to overcome and these are complicated when the boy discovers a human skull hidden in the hollow of an old tree. Enough to scare even an adult, this find has Jimmy scrambling for someone to trust and sometimes an ally can be found in the most unlikely quarter. The secrets of the valley are gradually revealed as Jimmy and his little tribe work together to solve a decades old mystery, and bring much needed comfort to a long-held grief.

We do know, of course, that not all the evacuated children had happy experiences and we cannot begin to comprehend how overwhelming or unnerving the whole exercise would have been even for those who did. In those times, many city children had never had any experience of wide open spaces, nature and the reality of rural living – some didn’t even know that milk came from cows!

Young readers, particularly those who are fond of such stories set in wartime, will find much to love about this narrative. The strong themes of family, friendship and bravery are very inspirational and will give many children finding our current circumstances difficult some insight in dealing with similar events.

Highly recommended for your readers from around ten years upwards.