Tag Archives: Friendship

Spark – M.G. Leonard

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Walker Books

September 2022

Imprint:Walker Books

ISBN13:9781406389388

Australia RRP:$18.99

New Zealand RRP:$21.99

There is something quintessentially English about a group of children who are into bird-watching I think, especially when combined with all the other great things going on in this series. A diverse cast of characters, an appealing setting where the kids can roam in their own private forest at will, navigating the sometimes not clear-cut avenues of friendship, thrilling adventures and a mystery to solve, all combine to make this an irresistable read to middle school kiddos.

We know that mystery and crime stories for younger readers are booming at present but the point oif difference with the focus on children who care for nature and apply their knowledge in a positive way makes for a thoroughly charming twist.

When Jack comes across a badly hurt cat he suspects that the injury is deliberate – but who could be responsible for such a cruel act? He knows this is another opportunity for the Twitchers to do some investigating but there is soon even more to investigate when the expected arrival of one of the most rarely seen birds is threatened by a local wildlife poacher. The children rally their full force and put their minds to a well thought out plan that will, with any sort of luck, save both the local cats and the magnificent lammergeier.

This is a top notch adventure for readers from around Year 3ish upwards especially those that like their stories action-packed! It would be best read after the first so that your kiddos know the characters and backstory but this is not completely necessary.

Dreaming by Starlight – Siobhan Curham

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Walker Books

August 2022

ISBN13:9781529504019

Australia RRP:$16.99

New Zealand RRP:$18.99

I completely fell in love with The Moonlight Dreamers, and the follow-up Tell it to the Moon and have enthusiastically talked them up while pushing them into the hands of my middle secondary girls. Thankfully they agreed! So it’s really exciting to see the newest title which segues from the original group of girls into a very different but just as delightful circle.

Jazz and her parents have just re-located from Sydney to Brighton in the UK and it’s just too much misery as far as Jazz can tell. No surf, no sand just rocks, not even water warm enough to swim in, not to mention a very snobby and cliquey private school. Luckily Jazz’ older cousin Amber, picks up on her unhappiness vibe and takes her under her wing before she heads off to Paris to study. Amber is confident that if Jazz follows the example of the Moonlight Dreamers with some tweaking of her own, she will soon find her tribe.

Even though Jazz is highly sceptical, she figures she has nothing to lose so next thing she is sharing some postcards to invite likeminded girls to join forces. Jazz, Portia, Hope and Allegra are as unlikely a combination as could be, and at first, things are not entirely without drama, but before too long the four girls have become as close a team as is possible, not only helping each other to achieve their dreams but, along the way, finding new purpose for helping others to do the same.

This is another truly heartwarming story which will captivate readers from around 12 years upwards. It is sweet and feel-good and, most of all, it extols that beautiful bond that females of all ages can have and the role they play in building each other up. I defy any reader to leave this one feeling untouched!

Highly recommended for readers from Upper Primary onwards.

Ash Barty presents Little Ash…:Ash Barty with Jasmin McGaughey/Jade Goodwin

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Harper Collins

July 2022

Little Ash Perfect Match! #1

  • ISBN : 9781460762769
  • ISBN 10: 1460762762
  • Imprint: HarperCollins AU
  • List Price: 9.99 AUD

Little Ash Friendship Fix-it! #2

  • ISBN: 9781460762776
  • ISBN 10: 1460762770
  • Imprint: HarperCollins AU
  • List Price: 9.99 AUD

Little Ash Tennis Rush! #3

  • ISBN: 9781460762783
  • ISBN 10: 1460762789
  • Imprint: HarperCollins AU
  • List Price: 9.99 AUD

Little Ash Goal Getter #4

  • ISBN: 9781460762790
  • ISBN 10: 1460762797
  • Imprint: HarperCollins AU
  • List Price: 9.99 AUD

These little chapter books for your emerging readers are just great fun but, of course, also promote some terrific values and ideas – healthy exercise, friendship, sportsmanship, family values and school – along with the inspiration of one of our most celebrated sports stars. There is no doubt that Ash Barty has won hearts worldwide, not just for her prowess in her chosen sport but her unfailing good grace and exemplary behaviour. In a world of so-called ‘sports stars’ who behave far more like spoiled brats, Ash is a shining beacon of what we all hope for our children.

Beginning with her first foray into tennis, and her progess, and charming stories of friends, school and family, these will be a huge hit with any of your younger readers. Ash not only exemplifies the best of attitudes in sport but is such a huge inspiration in particular for young First Australian kiddos. She truly is a champion ‘on and off the court’.

I for one hope there are more to come in this series and would love to get it in the hands of some people (planning on doing that soon!). Highly recommended for small humans from around 6 years old.

The Book of Wondrous Possibilities – Deborah Abela

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Penguin Australia

  • 2 August 2022
  • ISBN: 9781761044021
  • Imprint: Puffin
  • RRP: $16.99

From the opening paragraph this brilliant book simply sparkles with magic and adventure – unsurprisingly, for those of us who have followed Deborah Abela’s writing career for years!

My first encounter with this joyful creator was when, as the organiser of an extravaganza showcase at Marrickville Library, way back around 2004, I invited Deborah )who had just hit the kid lit lists with her Max Remy serie) to be our special guest for the kiddos. She was a huge drawcard then – and still is!

Your readers of such books as Inkspell and Pages & Co are going to flip out about this one. It has everything needed to enthrall and excite middle graders: a reluctant and self-doubting hero, a feisty girl to organise things, a sweet guardian, a nasty villain, a dubious pillar of society with a very strong-minded daughter – and a completely endearing pet mouse who will steal everyone’s heart – all tied up in a world of literary magic like no other.

Arlo Goodman has lived with his uncle Avery, in the bookshop, since his mother was tragically killed in a hit-and-run accident. When bolshie Lisette, runs into the shop and promptly hides from a particularly intimidating pursuer, Arlo’s quiet – and rather dull – existence is suddenly turned upside down. It appears his mother has left him a grimoire – a mysterious book in which the stories written are magically realised – and his own story is to help understand just how brave he truly is. Lisette’s grandmother has also died, under terrible circumstances, and now the girl’s inherited ability to magically write the stories of the grimoire is being sought by wealthy and sinister business tycoon, Marcellus, via his brutal henchman, Silas.

Mystery and adventure, humour and pathos all mix together to create this abundantly glorious new narrative from one of middle schoolers’ favourite writers. I, for one, would like to see more adventures from Arlo, Lisette and Herbert – just saying!. Congratulations Deborah on another superb read! Highly recommended for your kiddos from around Year 4 to Year 7.

Read more about Deborah’s wondrous writing during lockdown here and if you are a Sydneysider, get thee to the Glee party!

The Silver Sea – Belinda Murrell

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Penguin Australia

  • August 2022
  • ISBN: 9781761045554
  • Imprint: Puffin
  • RRP: $16.99
I really can’t rave enough over this new series of Belinda’s! The first The Golden Tower was a book that I literally gobbled up and this one took only a little bit longer (due to the fact that The Kid has been sick and I’ve been tired!). And how delightful it has been to re-visit Tuscia, the parallel world that Sophie has come to love.

Young Sophie is still living with her grandmother while her mum and brother are busy with Archie’s summer camp for young geniuses. During her summer sojourn Sophie has discovered, by complete accident, her Nanna’s connection with beautiful Tuscia and the Rossellana family. After one grand adventure, Sophie has been spending lots of time learning to fence and just generally enjoying the time with her grandmother.

Then one morning she wakes up to no Nanna, just a note explaining that her grandmother had to return to Tuscia to help her sister. That in itself would be strange enough – to leave Sophie without notice – but when grumpy cat Baccio arrives to tell a tale of kidnap and danger, Sophie knows it is not just strange but frightening. The only solution is for her to return to Tuscia herself and work with her Rossellana family to rescue the two old ladies.

Little does Sophie, or her family, know that the kidnapping is the tip of an iceberg of intrigues, long-held grudges, monstrous and cruel villains and devious plots.

Belinda Murrell takes her readers on another exciting and fascinating adventure through this fictitious, but almost real, land with a real focus on friendship, courage, resilience and initiative throughout. Sophie’s encounters with travelling players and evil sorcerers, a sea monsters and a winged lion and more make for thrilling reading, which is made all the more enjoyable for the introduction to Italian language and cultural references throughout.

Another cracking read (and series!) from this delightful author. If you missed the first, make sure you catch up and add this one. Highly recommended for readers from around Year 4 upwards.

Willa and Woof 1: Mimi is Missing – Jacqueline Harvey

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  • Penguin Random House
  •  5 July 2022
  • ISBN: 9781761043314
  • Imprint: Puffin
  • RRP: $12.99

Question:

What’s more exciting than a brand spanking new Jacqueline Harvey book?

Answer:

A brand-new Jacqueline Harvey series!!

That’s right folks! In case you’ve missed the excitement of last week’s release AND – can you believe it? – television ads to promote it! – Jacqueline’s super new series Willa and Woof sprang to life amid great rejoicing.

Your little readers from around Year 2 upwards will fall in love with this new cast of characters, just as they have with all the old familiar crew from this hugely successful and popular author.

Eight-year-old Willa lives with her family in a friendly cul-de-sac. Her best four-legged friend is Wilfrid, the albino wolfhound, known as Woof, her best same-age friend is Tao and her best old-age friend, Frank.  

Willa visits Frank almost every day in the next-door retirement complex and even though he’s a bit of a crusty old curmudgeon, she seems able to make him smile. She also loves to help him with his last remaining pigeon, Mimi.  So, when Willa discovers that Mimi is missing, she is very upset and certain that the disappearance is entirely her fault – she really can’t remember if she latched the aviary door securely.  Willa is determined to find Mimi as swiftly as possible, but then Frank goes missing as well! What on earth is happening?

Willa is every bit as adorable as Clementine Rose and Alice-Miranda so fans of these two will welcome her arrival with great enthusiasm. The whole story is imbued with joy and warmth which make it a pleasure to read.

Welcome Willa and Woof! Don’t miss out on picking up this completely adorable introduction – I’m already looking forward to the next instalment!

Gus and the Starlight – Victoria Carless

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Harper Collins

May 2022

  • ISBN: 9781460760642
  • ISBN 10: 1460760646
  • Imprint: HarperCollins AU
  • List Price: 16.99 AUD

This is such a completely fresh take on both family stories and ghost stories. It is charming, poignant and thoroughly engaging for readers from around mid-primary to lower secondary.

Gus is tired of moving house and never belonging anywhere. It’s the reason she refuses to make friends. When her mother packs her, her older sister and younger brother, up yet again and they basically escape the ugly situation with Mum’s boyfriend, things don’t look like getting any better. They wind up in a little hick town, where they start living in an abandoned and reputedly haunted drive-in movie theatre in exchange for getting it up and running. Much to the surprise of the nasty employer (but not quite owner) and to Gus, her family actually begins to turn this enterprise into somewhat of a success. That doesn’t mean though, that she’s going to make friends. She’s choosing not to like her new teacher or the project she’s doing with her strange science partner, with whom she most certainly is not going to be friends. She really doesn’t want to love being the projectionist at the Starlight and she definitely does not want to hang out with the strange boy she sees around the drive-in.

There are all kinds of ghosts in life – the ones that are those who have passed on but also the ones who are very much alive but choose to pursue from the past. Gus learns to deal with both kinds as well as discovering new skills and depths to herself, of which she had no idea prior to coming to this quiet little town. As well, her family grows and slowly flourishes, like blooms in a freshly-dug garden bed, as they all find true acceptance in their new home.

This will definitely find an audience with your readers particularly around year 5-7, both boys and girls, as its appeal is wide.

Ming & Flo Fight for the Future: (The Girls Who Changed the World #1) – Jackie French

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Harper Collins

March 2022

  • ISBN: 9781460760208
  • ISBN 10: 1460760204
  • List Price: 16.99 AUD

A brand new series from Jackie French is always cause for great excitement, and this one is going to be a corker, given this fabulous start!

We have all been awed by Jackie’s wealth of historical novels and her indomitable female characters over the years. Now younger readers have the opportunity to examine and reflect upon the past, with its many, often hidden, layers while becoming fully immersed in an exciting and engaging narrative.

Young Ming Qong wonders why so much of history fails to mention girls and women, because surely they also contributed to the events that have shaped both Australia and the world. She imagines what it would be like to step back in time and forge destinies as an intrepid explorer or a wise ruler. When a strange purple-robed character appears and introduces herself as “Herstory”, Ming’s chance to see and experience the past is at hand, though not at all as she might have pictured it.

Instead of some grand setting, Ming is transported back to a drought-stricken, barren farm in the late 19th century where young Flo and her mother, try desperately to survive while the man of the family is largely absent – thankfully, as on the rare occasions he is home, it means drunken rages and beatings. When Flo’s mother is killed by snake-bite, Ming/Flo seeks refuge with her mother’s sister, Aunt McTavish, who lives ‘comfortably’ in Sydney. Her stay with her wealthy aunt introduces Ming to many new revelations about the past, especially of pre-Federation Australia: the long fight for both federation and women’s suffrage, the plight of the poor, the lack of education or indeed any other opportunities for betterment, and a far more diverse population than Ming has ever read about.

Can Ming help make a difference? She does her very best by helping Aunt McTavish in her mission to petition for a new referendum on the question of Federation but also, in her work with Louisa Lawson, for the advancement of women. As well, she instigates changes in her own right – teaching at the Raggedy School and rescuing orphaned Emily from dire circumstances.

It’s a cracking read all round. There is, of course, far more than the ‘big picture’ events enhancing this storyline, and Ming’s compassion, insight and empathy make for a terrific, positive example for readers – without any preachiness. The various characters who ably demonstrate that there are multiple aspects to anyone’s personality are memorable, and while we leave most of them behind at the end of the book, we do have the next one to deliciously anticipate, where Ming along with her brother, will be off on another time travel adventure.

This is eminently suited to your readers in Upper Primary up to Year7 or even 8, particularly your Mighty Girls, to whom I heartily recommend it. Congratulations Jackie on yet another fine series, again inspired by your own family “herstory”!

Mr Bambuckle’s Remarkables Join Forces – Tim Harris

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Penguin Australia

  • 1 March 2022
  • ISBN: 9781761044557
  • Imprint: Puffin
  • RRP: $14.99

It seems incredible – or should I say remarkable – that is already four years since I had the pleasure of sipping Himalayan tea with the delicious Mr Bambuckle – sorry, I mean, sipping delicious Himalayan tea with Mr Bambuckle! And now everyone’s favourite teacher (up there alongside me really) is back with his class of remarkable pupils, plus some new additions, and they have the most important undertaking ever when they collectively uncover Principal Sternblast’s dastardly plot.

The new children in the class have come from the recently closed Blue Valley Grammar, nearby private school, and while they are a tad reticent at first, each of the four quickly find that they are not only welcome but valued. But for how long? It appears the Blue Valley School is also under threat, not of entire closure, but a take-over by a private consortium who see an opportunity to create a new exclusive selective school to replace the defunct grammar school. And, as one would expect, Sternblast is up to his neck in the behind-the-scenes machinations with not one whit of concern for any havoc he may cause.

At first class 12B are rather nonplussed as they think that neither Mr Bambuckle nor Miss Frost are making an effort to stop this disaster. But as always, Mr B has all his ducks lined up as he makes sure that his pupils are both prepared and ready to combine their collective strengths and save their school.

As always, this is such a fun read and while there is plenty of nonsense on offer, there is also many great messages imparted to readers: recognising one’s own worth, maximising impact by collaborative action, research and planning pay off, faith and trust in one’s comrades and the joys of true friendships – no matter how different the personalities. Tim has a real knack of combining the absurd with the meaningful, and his experience as a primary teacher always shines through in his excellent caricatures of 12B’s students.

This series has been so popular in my libraries, and without doubt there will be a clamouring to be the first to borrow this when you add it to your shelves.

Highly recommended for kiddos from around Year 4 upwards.

Specky Magee- Felice Arena, Gary Lyons

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Penguin Australia

1st March 2022

  • ISBN: 9780143777168
  • Imprint: Puffin
  • RRP: $16.99

Seriously, these anniversaries always give me such a jolt – “Whaddya mean 20 years of Specky?” she says with disbelief as she opens the parcel. Yep, face it, you have been doing this job a long time! I’m the first to admit (much to the disgust of a couple of former gentleman friends) that I am not an AFL aficionado – hello!? born and bred in Sydney, right in the heart of Dragons territory and went to St George GHS – any surprise as to my football allegiance!?) but the Specky series is so much more than football.

Any youngster who is a keen follower or player loves this series – right from the start I can confirm – and it will be no different as a new generation pick them up. The footy aspect is integral, of course, and the story line is fortified by the technical ‘know-how’ inserted at relevant points. But the theme of Specky is so much more than this. Readers will relate with ease to Specky’s relationships with friends and family, at school or at home or on the footy field, and they will empathise with his dilemmas and concerns.

It is in this first Specky story that he discovers he is adopted, and as anyone could imagine, the whole unravelling of this (so far) family secret causes much disquiet all round but the sensitivity and understanding that underlies the text is so very affirmative and reassuring for any young reader.

Readers don’t need to know anything about the game (hey I’m testament to that point). If they are fans, they will love the footy details but even without that, they will thoroughly enjoy the well-paced plot, the interactions of family and friends and Specky’s very down-to-earth and utterly believable actions, speech, and responses to the situations in which he finds himself.

There is obviously a very valid reason why these books are still so popular. In fact, in my new library, while I’m dissing a lot of titles that, rightfully, should be in a primary library, I strongly defended Specky. If our Year 7s come in and haven’t yet discovered this legend, they should and I will be the first to recommend!

I highly recommend this series to you for your readers from around Year 4 upwards but please – bear in mind, if you are struggling to tempt some readers (boys or girls) in lower secondary who lack confidence and enthusiasm but are mad AFL players – give this the biggest plug ever!! I’m now trying to think what incentive I can add to a big promo of it in my new space!