Tag Archives: Penguin Australia

The Colourful World of Poppy Starr Olsen: A novel inspired by the life of the Australian Olympic skateboarder – Poppy Starr Olsen & Jess Black

Standard

Penguin Australia

  • August 2022
  • ISBN: 9780143778837
  • Imprint: Puffin
  • RRP: $16.99

From the opening pages this is just a joyful experience and one that I binged in just two sessions. I’ll be honest here. I didn’t know of Poppy (I don’t watch or follow the Olympics) and I know – well knew – zilch about skateboarding so I didn’t really know what to expect. What I got is a delightful narrative (based on fact, presumably) that revolves around family and friends, following one’s dream, being adventurous, having self-belief and standing up for one’s rights and expectations.

Not only did I thoroughly enjoy Poppy’s story but I really did learn so much – as will readers – and not just via the interspersed facts, but also from the lively descriptions of skating and surfing. Of course, with The Kid now pursuing surfing, it was this connection between the two sports that really grabbed my full attention. Now Grom is the proud owner of a surf-skate carver skateboard and learning to use it is a priority in the agenda! And really it’s pretty fun when your surf coach demonstrates his own skateboard skills (notwithstanding the age he was turning the next day!)

sorry John, and you know you are the coolest guy we know! 😘😍

Poppy lives with her lively and adventurous family in beautiful Bondi and her passion is skateboarding, closely followed by surfing, along with art and craft, family adventures and hanging out with friends. She loves to skate and while she has entered competitions, they have been more about a fun one-off rather than serious events. But when her local skatepark is about to host an awesome comp, Poppy knows she wants to definitely be part of it and give it her best shot. Except it looks like she’s not allowed to compete! Feisty young Poppy is not going to let discrimination stand in her way and just as she wins that battle, another one looms when a local councillor tries to thwart the competition taking place.

It is totally engaging and exciting and the proof of that is that I did a first chapter read-aloud with my Year 6 relief class last week and even the ‘difficult’ boys were totally absorbed!!! WINNING!

I guarantee you will have just as much success promoting to your readers – from middle school right up to year 7 and as much fun doing so!

Highly recommended for kiddos from around ten years on.

Just watch this winning performance!

Astonishingly Good Stories – R. A. Spratt

Standard

Penguin Australia

August 2022

  • ISBN: 9780143779261
  • Imprint: Puffin
  • RRP: $19.99
The freakishly fantastic, amazingly awesome, insanelycompletelybonkerscrazyasafox terrifically talented R. A. Spratt is one of my favouritest authors and purveyors of outrageous snortles*, and well she knows it. She has perhaps been wondering why it has taken me so long to write this review of her latest blisteringly brilliant collection but in my defence I have this to say. I read the entire book cover to cover quite swiftly after it’s arrival but since then I have had it in my ‘relief teaching’ bag whereupon it has made an appearance on several occasions to entertain, amuse and, more importantly, educate some of the finest young minds in Queensland (if not the country).

Now with a day off at my disposal, due to having no voice left with which to teach, I am trying to catch up with reviews, and really it is dead lucky I had already read this latest volume, because there is no doubt that strenuous laughing of the Spratt-induced kind would further reduce my vocal capabilities, so that it would be unlikely to recover them at all within the next week – – and really, where would that leave my adoring fans? (ok, I’m starting to sound like Nanny Piggins now – possibly overdoing the cold&flu meds).

This is a gorgeously galumptious smorgasbord which I can verify will appeal to a wide range of readers of discerning tastes (and as it happens, some who claim to be non-readers). Whether some Nanny Piggins (gosh, how I admire that porcine legend!) providing great insights into famous myths, legends and other historical tales, a mini Friday Barnes mystery or a completely bogus story about big sisters (which reeks heavily of the author’s own household), kiddos from around Year 4 will roll about on the floor with delight with the completely over-the-top antics and adventures herein. I am truly devastated that I no longer have my Year 9 terrorists -I mean, English classes – because after their unit of work on Romeo & Juliet, (their introduction to Shakespeare – now I could definitely write a book on that experience!) I would have loved to share with them the Nanny Piggins version of the Bard’s tragedy.

Honestly, you’d be mad to leave it off your orders list – so get cracking and buy it before the business manager cuts off your budget for the year! Highly recommended for all lovers of the absurd from around Year 4 upwards.

*snortle:  A hearty laugh that is punctuated by a snort on the inhale.

The Book of Wondrous Possibilities – Deborah Abela

Standard

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

Standard

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.

Seven Days- Fleur Ferris

Standard

Penguin Australia

May 2022

  • ISBN: 9781761043352
  • Imprint: Puffin
  • RRP: $16.99

I really do love a good countdown action/adventure and Fleur Ferris has brought her masterful manipulation of tension into a fantastic new narrative for middle school readers. In similar fashion to her hugely successful and popular suspenseful stories for YA kiddos, this one follows a cracking pace from the very first page.

Ben is really angry with his father, who seems to be far more interested in his high-flying corporate job crushing people and the environment, than in Ben. And now, much to his complete disgust, Ben is being packed off to the country to spend a week with his aunt, uncle and cousin – a fate too horrible to contemplate from this teen’s point of view. It’s not that he thinks his aunt and uncle are awful, it’s just that his cousin is so much more adept than him dealing with country type stuff like animals and motorbikes and physical activity. Ben is really far more citified than he cares to admit at times.

The very last thing that Ben imagines happening is to become embroiled in a generations-old family feud, a murder mystery and a treasure hunt which ends up in the enclosure of two very cranky hippos at the nearby zoo. Ben has set his watch the minute he arrives in Manibee to countdown until it’s time to go back home, but now that seven days ticking away is how long he has to solve a century-old crime, work out the location of an almost mythical cache of stolen jewelry – oh, and actually survive the dangers on all sides.

With the unexpected assistance of his cousin Josh, with whom he finally develops a far more friendly relationship, as well as the even more surprising aid from Josh’s crush, Olivia, of the very family that despises their own (a nice little Romeo & Juliet twist here), Ben manages to unearth the long lost stolen goods, prove the solution of the crime, and resolve the family feud but not without a dramatic plot twist that will make readers’ heads spin!

With lots to say about family, misleading appearances, values and beliefs, friendship and acceptance of differences, your readers from around Year 6 upwards will truly relish this fast-paced thrilling ride.

Highly recommended for middle primary/lower secondary – this is an author to whom your kiddos will love an introduction!

The Very Hungry Caterpillar’s Bug Hunt: a lift-and-learn book

Standard

Penguin Australia

  • April 2022
  • ISBN: 9780241553503
  • Imprint: Puffin
  • Format: Board Book
  • RRP: $14.99
You know when you put together the art and charm of Eric Carle and lift-the-flap fun, you have a winning combination. When that fun becomes learning as well, it’s a beautiful bonus.

Your littlest readers are going to love this. Every page is pure classic Carle and the fact that there are several flaps on each spread will just send them into paroxysms of squealing joy. Aside from finding the mini-critters, you can focus on some prepositions and rhyme – what more could you want? Well of course, just delight in reading :-).

I anticipate this will be a read-aloud on high rotation in many homes and libraries too. Whether you have a little one to buy for, or a creche, playgroup or kinder – or your Preppies – this will make a super addition and a terrific springboard to some nature observations.

Guest Reviewer: Jessica Finden

Standard

Introducing the lovely Jess, currently teacher-librarian (part-time) at Carmel College, Thornlands. Jess is definitely the glue that holds together the Bayside Secondary T-L Network and works hard always, organising meetings, and our regional Readers Cup competition. In tandem with her Head of English she has transformed the set novel program at Carmel with both flair and success. Her sessions in her library including book groups are, I know, highly valued by both the student participants and her college.

Today she is sharing her thoughts about a recently published novel, gaining a real foothold in libraries.

House of Hollow by Krystal Sutherland

March 2021

ISBN: 9780143796992

Imprint: Penguin

Format: Paperback

Pages: 304

RRP: $19.99.

Recommended for Teens 15+

There are some instances when you pick up a book and you just know that you are going to thoroughly enjoy reading it.  House of Hollow by Krystal Sutherland was exactly this for me.  A dark, modern day fairytale – equal parts tantalizing and horrific, Sutherland’s ability to infuse her writing with the gothic use of the sublime and the uncanny keeps you entertained even as you squirm at the unfolding events.

As children, Iris Hollow and her two sisters disappeared.  A month later, they returned with no memory of what had befallen them.  With a change to their eye colour and hair and a small scar at their throat, their parents knew that something disturbing had happened to them.

17 year old Iris is just trying to live a normal life and finish high school but her older, famous and dazzling sisters are busy living anything but a normal life.  When Iris’ older sister Grey disappears, Iris and her sister Vivi follow a trail of peculiar clues leading them not only to where Grey is but unlocking answers from their past – answers that they may not wish to uncover.

House of Hollow entices you to fall down the rabbit hole into the lives of the Hollow sisters, knowing that you are not going to like what you find at the end.

5 stars

I do have this book on my TBR list – and aside from anything else, just check out that fab cover art! Thank you so much Jess for joining us today!

The Unstoppable Flying Flanagan – Felice Arena

Standard

Penguin Australia

29 March 2022

ISBN: 9781761044366

Imprint: Puffin

RRP: $16.99

In a completely genius move, Felice Arena has combined his love of football (the AFL kind) and his skill with bringing lesser-known history to life. Set in Melbourne in the later years of WWII, this is the story of Maggie Flanagan who loves the game of football, and her team St Kilda, with all the passion of the most diehard fan. It is also the story of everyday life in Australia with the threat of war and invasion hanging like a pall, the constant worry about the menfolk away fighting, the rise of feminism and the history of women’s football.

Maggie practises her footy skills every day, using the precious football entrusted to her by her older brother, Patrick, who is away over the other side of the world, fighting for King and country. Football for girls is not only considered inappropriate – “unladylike” – but, indeed, risible by many people, mostly but not only males. So, when the new local priest suggests the children of Maggie’s school come up with some fund-raising ideas to support the troops, and Maggie proposes a girls’ football match, the shock and ridicule from many quarters soon squashes the idea.

If nothing else, Maggie is one determined young woman, and with Blessed Mary listening to her prayers, she knows she can succeed in this enterprise, despite the apparent obstacles. Over the course of just a couple of weeks, Maggie seems to uncover potential players for her match in the most surprising of places: the new ‘ice-woman’ delivering for the household ice-chests now that her husband has enlisted, or similarly the ‘milk-lady’, the usherette from the cinema, school nurse Nancy, Lizzie who lives with Miss Kelly of the corner shop, and even Sister Clare. Some of these have actually played football before, much to Maggie’s surprise. She also makes discoveries about her elderly neighbour, Grumpy Gaffney, and new girl, Elena, that not only give her much pause for thought but show her different ways of thinking.

Felice cleverly weaves into this snapshot of a significant time in our history, many of the prevailing attitudes and customs of the time – thankfully, most of them long gone the way of dinosaurs – as his narrative reveals how diverse people such as Maggie’s effeminate best friend, George, and Italian Elena were generally treated. The arrival of the ‘Yanks’ in Australia was divisive at the time and this too, is reflected in older sister Rita’s deviation from her steady boyfriend, seemingly dazzled by a tall good-looking American. Overall, there is much here that will provide some interesting discussions and comparisons for your young readers.

Like all of Felice’s stories, above all it is a cracking good yarn, with a plot that moves along at a brisk pace with a keen desire to find out what happens next. This, aside from anything else, will make this a fabulous tempter for your reluctant readers, particularly those who love their footy – whether boys or girls – and along the way they will absorb some valuable insights into a period of history that had great impact on the growth of our nation and our society.

Highly recommended for your readers from around Year 5 up to Year 7 – it will definitely be going up on my current Specky Magee anniversary display and will be part of my book talking with my kiddos over the coming weeks. Just in time for footy season – it’s a winner all round!

[Pre-orders available from the usual suppliers]

Dear Greta – Yvette Poshoglian

Standard

Penguin Australia

March 2022

  • ISBN: 9781761043789
  • Imprint: Puffin
  • RRP: $16.99
Like most kids in their last year of primary school, Alice Boghosian is hoping it will be her best one yet and that she will really stand out. What she doesn’t expect to do is stand up for what’s right, especially in the face of strong opposition, and with just everything (so it seems) going completely awry.

First of all, for their writing task, a collaborative project between library and classroom, Alice gets Greta Thunberg as her ‘significant person’ to whom she is meant to write fictional letters. Who wants to get a teen environmental activist to write to? Now a pop star, that would have been far easier and way more fun too.

Then because of the whole COVID thing, the annual Harmony Day Food Festival can’t take place in it’s usual actual on-site format (we all know those disappointments by now). Instead of an oval full of colourful stalls and delicious smells with loads of visitors and even media coverage, Alice is one of four kids tasked with creating a virtual event. So how the heck do you turn a food festival with real food into a virtual event that people will want to see – especially when one of your team is the school’s most annoying boy?

But her woes don’t end there. When her grandmother – her nene – has a heart attack, she comes to stay with Alice’s family – in Alice’s bedroom, where she proceeds to take over, even usurping Alice’s favourite trackpants!! How rude!

And then of course, there is the usual stuff with which to contend – her superior older sister, her dad’s disappointment over not being able to save the local wetlands from a freeway development and her best friend’s fragile health. In fact, just about every which way she turns, Alice is faced with seemingly impossible dilemmas.

But somehow, over the term, as she comes to research more about Greta and begins to share her thoughts and feelings in the format of the so-called fictional emails, Alice begins to see many things in a different light. The very fact of writing down her problems and emotions actually starts to open up a range of possibilities, empowering Alice to ultimately emulate Greta in standing up for what’s right and fair. And along the way, discovering that those other ‘problems’ weren’t impossible to solve after all. In fact, things seem to unravel easily once you change your mindset – a good lesson for us all, really.

This was a very enjoyable read, which I knocked over last night, and one which kiddos from around Year 4 to Year 7 would best enjoy. It’s not a difficult read, especially given the format of the emails telling the narrative but it has many layers to it, which I can see translating well to a shared reading for a class. Much rich discussion could arise on many topics: family life, relationships and heritage, multiculturalism, environmental issues both past and present, protests, sibling rivalry, and friendships among them.

I know it came in our standing order last week so some folks will already have a copy but if not, do yourself a favour, and add it to your list soon. I intend for it to be part of our Harmony Day display in our library!

As a footnote: for those of you who missed the Everyone’s an Author series, produced by NSW Dept of Ed (with which Yvette was involved), make sure you check it out. It was a valuable resource for our Write a Book in a Day kids last year!

Hopping towards Easter (already!)

Standard

It’s true that the start of this year has been fraught – not to put too fine a point on it. In my house: switch jobs on the last day of holidays, school is delayed by a week for The Kid, a week or so later The Kid is not well and after a couple of days tests positive for Covid, so we’re both in quarantine for a week, get over that (negative test on the Thursday) so she still can’t go to school on the Friday as its pupil-free at her school, freak extreme rain/storm event in Qld causing flooding all weekend, schools closed for two days but she still can’t get to school as the trains are not yet running after the floods, then we all get sent home on Thursday and schools are closed again on Friday. So she’s not been to school for three of the six weeks of term, and I’ve missed a week and a half. Seriously, can we just have 2021 back? I promise not to complain again! Meanwhile, now it’s a mere few weeks until Easter bounces around again but I want to give the heads up on these two beauties so that you have time to get them!!

The Tale of Peter Rabbit – Beatrix Potter

[120th Anniversary picture book edition]

Penguin Australia

March 2022

  • ISBN: 9780241545379
  • Imprint: Warne
  • RRP: $16.99

I truly wish you could see just how glorious this is with its stunning gold foil cover! If ever a fictional character deserved such a beautiful anniversary edition, it must surely be Peter, whose adventures and near-escapes have been enthralling little readers for over a century with completely undiminished love and enthusiasm.

When Beatrix wrote her first little story, naming the central character after her own childhood pet, purely for the amusement of a sick child, I feel sure she had no accurate idea of his enduring appeal, though she was certainly astute. Indeed, when friends urged her to publish the story, it was soundly rejected by numerous publishers and so, boldly, she published it herself. The rest, as they say, is history. The initial success prompted Frederick Warne & Co to issue it commercially and now, 120 years later, it has sold in excess of 45 millions copies, been translated into 36 languages, and spawned so much merchandising, film versions and spin-off books. Potter, herself, saw the possibilities for marketing with her own creations of a soft toy, a board game and nursery wallpaper in the first few years following publication.

In the intervening years, it is difficult to think of an ‘incarnation’ of Peter in merchandise that has been left untouched and yet, despite, what is almost saturation this rather naughty little rabbit, his friends and family – and even his nemesis – continue to delight children around the world.

This beautiful edition is absolutely worthy of honouring the longevity of the first little white book with its adherence to Potter’s original illustrations but now fully in colour and such gorgeous endpapers!

If you have a special little person in your circle, expecting a new arrival or simply to add to your collection to celebrate this significant literary milestone, you should order your copy immediately.

The Unfunny Bunny – Adrian Beck and James Hart

Penguin Australia

  • March 2022
  • ISBN: 9781761043093
  • Imprint: Puffin
  • RRP: $17.99

Ok, I admit, this is not Peter Rabbit or even close to it – but it is really very funny, and it will have your kiddos rolling around like Easter eggs on a slippery slope. For reading aloud adults like myself, it’s completely the joy of so many rabbit-related puns that brings the joy (particularly given my penchant for all things rabbit). For the munchkins this is just part of the fun with the rhymes and the hare-larious antics of the family adding to the mix (NOT MIX-omatosis!!).

I have to say after the deluge of a week we’ve had in the Sunshine State the premise of a washed-out Easter doesn’t seem beyond the realms of possibility, but fingers crossed our wild weather will have settled by then!

’Twas the night before EASTER
When I spotted the BUNNY!
So I offered to help
Make the EGG HUNT more FUNNY!

James’ illustrations which make the bunny-impersonating kid look as much like a rabbit as the actual rabbit looks like a rabbit make me laugh just by seeing them, and the riotous colours, facial expressions plus the weird and wonderful situations, all add up to one laugh-out-loud reading experience.

My prediction is that when offered up as a read-aloud – the reading will inevitably finish up with ‘AGAIN!’ from your audience.

I highly recommend you rush out and buy both of these – different but so very appropriate, particularly as Easter gifts (my girls always got books PLUS chocolate!) – and enjoy them both!