Friday, December 31, 2010

Recommended reading for Grade 6

At the end of Year 6 students write small entries for their Year Book. One part of this is to list the ‘best book I’ve ever read’. In 2010 this list surprised me and made me very happy. This group did not appear to be great readers but their collective list of recommended titles is very exciting and would make a great starting point for any future Year 6 student looking for a great read. Many of these titles were reviewed in this blog which could mean some students actually read my blog (wonderful) or some students talked to me and asked for recommendations (my favourite thing) or some students listened when books were recommended to the whole class!
I put the image of Blueback here becuase it is one many had enjoyed as a class read-a-loud and it is a famous Australian book and I am writing this blog entry on a warm summer day.

  • Here is a list of the series they enjoyed :
    Conspiracy 365
    A series of Unfortunate events
    Deltora Quest
    Main Street
    Harry Potter
    Darren Shan
    Midnight Library
    Alex Rider
    Zac Power
    Sisters Grimm
    Spiderwick chronicles

Here is a list of individual titles :

  • Tussock by Elizabeth Pulford
    Locket of Dreams by Belinda Murrell
    Alice Miranda at school by Jacqueline Harvey
    Skeleton Key by Anthony Horowitz
    Why I hate School
    Unfinished Angel
    Mao’s Last Dancer by Li Cunxin (Young reader edition)
    The Billionaires Curse
    Little Secrets by Emily Blake
    Eragon by Christopher Paolini
    Vicky Angel by Jacqueline Wilson
    Sticky Beak by Morris Gleitzman
    No Tears by Krista Bell
    Ramose in exile by Carole Wilkinson
    Marley and Me
    Just Annoying by Andy Griffiths
    Robe of Skulls by Vivian French
    The donkey who sailed the world by Jackie French
    Percy Jackson and the lightning thief
    No talking by Andrew Clements
    Cicada Summer
    Blueback by Tim Winton
    Frankel Mouse by Odo Hirsch
    Boy Overboard by Morris Gleitzman
  • Lord of the rings by JRR Tolkein
    Medici Curse
    Nightmare Academy by Dean Lorey
    Closing out by Pat Flynn
    Where the mountain meets the moon

Hope you find a title or two on this list you would like to read - remember they are all available in your school library....

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The midnight zoo by Sonya Hartnett

Each word in the Midnight Zoo by Sonya Hartnett is like a drop of liquid gold. So breathtaking are her descriptions of place and character that you become immediately immersed in this ugly place – a city almost bombed out of existence. You need to take your time reading each word but the action is so breathtaking the story just rushes you along. As I go back now to write this blog I find that you can open any page in this narrative and find an exquisite piece of writing.

Here is an example so you can ‘see’ the city in ruins “Broken glass glittered on every surface, like fireflies caught in an appalling web of smashed furniture and cleaved stone. …It was dangerous … not everything that had fallen had arrived in its final resting-place yet”.

Each child and animal is seeking hope in this hopeless world. This is a fable about war, its futility and harm. But it is also about hope and freedom, about choices and true humanity, about trust and the importance of listening.

Please take the time to read this book but before you do you can hear an excellent commentary on the story recorded as part of the ABC Radio National book show.

I am not sure who is the intended audience for this book but I almost needed to postpone my everyday life so I could rush home to read the second half of this book started early one morning. The cover seems child-like (I think I like the Walker books one better) but this is not a book for a young reader and yet the messages are so universal it is important book for everyone. I guess for my library this book will be recommended to senior Primary readers although there are some distressing scenes Sonya Hartnett handles these swiftly so the reader is not left to dwell on the sadness but rather to see the light of hope.

The metaphor of night as black clad horseman immediately sets the mood. Tomas and Andrej are on the run carrying their bundles. Hartnett takes her time revealing the contents of these bundles along with the reasons for this war, the boy’s terror and the reasons for the existence of the midnight zoo. I love the way one little word gives you a hint for example those bundles … “Both boys carried sacks on their backs, the older bearing the weightier load, the younger charged with the more delicate.”

Ever since I read Taronga by Victor Kelleher, zoos have represented a level of terror and concern for me. I struggle with the idea of wild animals kept in cages away from their homeland, species and natural life. The zoo in this book is so important. Each animal has story to tell but equally each represents a different world continent – kangaroo, bear, llama, wolf, seal, lion and boar. The children themselves are also from a threatened species - they are Rom or gypsies.

I will make the prediction that this book will reach our Children’s Book of the Year short list and I would love to see it reach the Newberry judges too. This seems very possible since Sonya Hartnett is a highly acclaimed author and received The Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award in 2008 - an award very close to my heart!

If you have read books by David Almond such as Heaven Eyes or Skellig, or perhaps Unfinished Angel by Sharon Creech, Tajore Arkle by Jackie French, The other side of Truth by Beverley Naidoo or After the First Death by Robert Cormier then you will want to read The Midnight Zoo.

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Gorgon in the Gully by Melina Marchetta

Well done Puffin for publishing this fabulous little Australian chapter book! I loved it from page 1 to page 119. Why am I praising the publisher? This is a story with a very authentic Australian flavour which is not surprising given the credentials of the author Melina Marchetta. There is no way this book will be taken up by the US market and this makes me cheer. Our children need books set in their own time and place. Danny is our Australian school boy hero. He lives in a very recognizable neighborhood and attends the local Catholic Primary school. His class teacher is a fearsome beast and I love her! I also laughed at all the little playground groups in Year 4 such as the soccer kids, handball, netball, the ‘So you think you can dance?’ girls, cricket players, homework kids, marble players, card players and the hopscotch girls.

“The only thing the kids from St Raph’s had in common was that all them knew that way, way, way beyond the basketball courts, the classrooms, the tuckshop, the bubblers, the toilets and the school hall, there was a patch of grass and then a dip and everything that rolled beyond the patch of grass and the dip disappeared. Every single time.” The real issue here is no one is brave enough to venture into the gully because of the Gorgon who has lived there for years and years. Countless hundreds of balls, and other objects are held in his clutches never to be seen again.

Our unlikely hero is Danny Griggs. He has to find a way to go down into the gully because he has just booted the soccer team’s lucky ball, the one signed by Harry Kewell no less, straight into the gully. Trouble is Danny has a huge secret, well actually it is not a secret because everyone knows, Danny is scared of everything. He is scared of his friend Bella because she is smarter and taller then him, he is scared of Jackson, another friend, because he often just wants to talk and just talking scares Danny but most of all he is scared of the school bully Simmo. Danny is even scared of using the telephone in case the person on the other end of the line can’t remember who he is.

Danny may be scared but he also has amazing strengths. He is a thinker and an organizer and he is very skilled in negotiation. For this crisis he will need all these skills to bring his friends and class mates together to conquer the gorgon once and for all.

I especially loved the character of Mrs Ruby, the Year 4 teacher. Any issue in class is resolved with find-a-word puzzles – dangerous - peril, hazard, risk, threat, menace, jeopardy. Mrs Ruby has a find-a-word for every situation. Other class rules include no eating in class, no green pens, no sharpening of pencils in to sharp point to jab in someone’s arm, no using the S words – shut up or stupid and no getting up from your desk to put a paper in the bin!

This is a book to make you laugh and think and cheer. The ending is simple and predictable but that is all part of the charm. As soon as I finished this book I wanted to put it into the hands of a teacher and ask them to read it to a class because it is a book that demands to be shared.

The idea of these Pocket Money Puffins is to celebrate seventy years of Puffin books, written by favourite authors at a pocket money price. As far as I can tell there are fourteen titles in this series. The first one I picked up was Magic Puffin: A Birthday Surprise but it didn’t really grab me. I will now go back to it and try again and I plan to pick up more of these little books I am sure many will be winners with our Junior Primary readers.

You can preview the whole of the first chapter from The Gorgon in the Gully and when you do I am sure you will want to rush out and borrow this book from your school library and read it read it read it! Look out too for all the references to favourite books like Beast Quest. When you finish this book you should look for NIPS XI by Ruth Starke it is a longer book but it has the same charm and wonderful team work of The Gorgon in the Gully.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Where the mountain meets the moon by Grace Lin

In a scene reminiscent of the best folklore Minli uses her last coin to help a poor beggar. He is thirsty and wants a peach from the market stall. The mysterious beggar eats the peach and then he takes a small stick from his pocket and plants the peach pit alongside the stick. As the crowd stand there mesmerised the stick begins to grow. It sprouts branches and then pink blossoms. The petals fall like a soft carpet, green leaves sprout and soon the tree is heavy with ripe fruit. "Children gathered round and stared longingly at the luscious fruit." The old man invites the crowd to help themselves but Minli stands to one side watching. She alone notices that "every time someone plucked a peach from the tree, a peach from the fruit stand disappeared." Who is this beggar? Minli follows him and as he runs away she catches his sleeve and sees a glint of gold. The gold is a bracelet in the shape of a dragon. "Everyone knows a gold dragon is always and only worn by kings."

This is just one of the many memorable scenes in this book. Minli needs to visit the Old Man of the Moon so she can ask him how to restore the fortunes of her family who live near Fruitless Mountain. At its heart this story is a journey and like all great stories involving journeys as a reader I really felt I too was travelling with Minli. Along the way she meets a dragon and through her kindness the two become inseparable friends with a shared destiny.

I love the way Grace Lin weaves Chinese folklore into her story. Minli's father is a storyteller and so are many of the other people and magical characters she meets along the way. A simple change of font allows the reader to recognise the inclusion of a story and each of these help weave a tapestry of life lessons as Minli woks through each of the challenges presented by her quest.

Gold fish, markets, peaches, dragons and most importanly friendship abound in this magical tale.

At the end of each year our Grade 6 students include a highly recommended book as part of their year book profile. The list for 2010 was quite exciting and this fabulous book was mentioned by more than one student.

Where the Mountain meets the Moon is a Newberry Honor book which means you can find plenty of information about it on web sites and blogs. I also found an excellent page of teaching activities. This would be a terrific book to read as a serial for a class talking about China. The book design and illustrations are also beautiful.

If you loved the Dragonkeeper series by Carole Wilkinson you must look for Where the Mountain meets the Moon.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Clementine, Friend of the Week by Sara Pennypacker

Clementine is irresistible. Her meetings with the school Principal, for example, are always so funny.
“’You think students should have professional development days, the way teachers do?’ She asked …. ‘Right, some extra days off to get better at stuff.’….’Well, Clementine … I could run that by the school board. But I think I already know what they’d say.’ … ‘I think they’d say students already have professional development days. Two of them a week. They’re called Saturday and Sunday.’”
Clementine is heading for an extra special week at school because it is her turn to be Friend of the Week which means she gets to tell her autobiography, be line leader, collect the milk money, feed the fish and her class mates will write compliments in a special booklet which she can take home at the end of the week. Margaret has two suggestions for Clementine give compliments and presents to her classmates to ensure good comments in her booklet. Then Margaret thinks Clementine has been reading her booklet, made the year before, and it seems the friendship is over.

Then there is the bicycle decorating contest which will be held the following Saturday. When I was in Grade 6 we also had a bike decorating contest so I could really relate to the excitement of this idea.. Clementine is lucky that her dad, in his job as manager of their apartment building, has a collection of decorations for every week of the year, not just Halloween, Valentines Day and Christmas but important celebrations like Fruitcake-Toss Day, Hair Style Appreciation Day, Punch the Clock and National Honesty day. All these decorations are stored in the basement and Clementine is allowed to use any or all of them to decorate her bike.

If you have not yet met Clementine look out for this series in your library. If you like Junie B Jones, Judy Moody, Clarice Bean, Amber Brown, Keena Ford and Daisy Dawson, you will love Clementine. I wonder if we will ever know her brother’s real name? A Clementine is a type of orange and so as a protest and in a hilarious twist Clementine calls her brother vegetable names Parsnip, Cabbage, Turnip, Radish etc. Read more about this and an extract from the novel in the author’s blog. Clementine Friend of the Week is the fourth book in this series and I think they just keep getting better and better.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Left Shoe and the Foundling by Annie O'Dowd

I have spent a lovely week listening to the audio book of Left Shoe and the Foundling. A friend reviewed this book when it was first published and I did always mean to read it but somehow never quite got there. Thank goodness someone gave me the audio book – this is a story to treasure.

Left Shoe is a seadog. Just to fill you in on the details of these warm little creatures. Humans cannot see seadogs but they live quite close. Seadogs live in burrows along the seashore. The rooms in these burrows have the delightful name snug. Seadogs eat seed cakes and drink squink which is a drink made from squid ink. Seadogs are always born as twins – a boy and a girl but sadness arrives all too soon at the beginning of this book for Left Shoe, our hero, when his twin sister Broken Shell dies.

Seadog babies “are always named at sunrise. They are named after the most special piece of treasure …. (such as) interesting objects washed onto the beach by the sea." The Sandburrow family consists of Blue Bottle – the mum, Old Cork – the dad, Shark Tooth and Driftwood – baby twins and Left Shoe. The greatest threat to the lives of these peaceful creatures is the giant squid.

Early one morning Left Shoe decides he simply cannot bear to attend the school sports day where all the races and fun seem to involve being a twin. Instead he decides to go fishing in his small boat. There have been signs in previous months that the giant squid has returned and grey skies and gusting winds indicate that Left Shoe is heading for a dangerous, perhaps even life threatening, encounter.

What about the foundling I hear you ask. In the wild seas Left Shoe sees a basket and “to his surprise the basket held a tiny, shivering seadog. … it was a girl puppy, dressed in a yellow spotted night dress…. When Left Shoe picked her up … he could feel her trembling.” So this is how we meet Marigold who will soon to become the newest family member. And yes there are three more books in the series too. Check out the author web site. The illustrations (by the author herself) are just perfect. I will certainly add this title to my list of great reads for younger students.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Donavan's word jar by Mona Lisa De Gross

As I drove home from my School Library tonight the host on the radio was talking about collections. In particular he talked about people who collect toys. I have a great collection of soft toys that match with stories for example Spot, Clifford, Kipper, and Arthur – the famous book dogs. Why mention this? Because it is a great example of serendipity – I love that word and serendipity is the key to this book.

Donavan collects words which he researches and writes on yellow paper with a purple pen. His first words for the collection, which Donavan keeps in a large jar, are nutrition, ballyhoo, boutique, pincers, profound and hush.

This tiny chapter book is only 70 pages but it packs a huge emotional punch at the end which I won’t give away. The big issue for Donavan is what to now his word jar is full. He seeks advice from everyone but while each person offers a possible solution ultimately all say Donavan must make his own decision.

It was also fun to discover the author's son is called Donavan.

There is always someone out there who shares their work. I found some fabulous teaching ideas for this book.

I also found a page with all the wonderful words from the book and a game too!

A couple of years ago we made a word wall for our library. All the children and parents sent in their favourite words and we printed them onto brick coloured paper and posted them on a notice board. We might do this again when my class reads this book early next year.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Museum of Thieves The Keepers Book one by Lian Tanner

Imagine if all the things we throw away were taken and stored in a museum. Imagine a city where children are so protected they are forced to live as prisoners within their own families. Imagine waiting until you turn 12 to be set free from chains that tie you to your parents. Imagine that on the day you turn 12 the ceremony where you achieve freedom, called Separation Day, is cancelled and all your hopes annihilated. These are the events at the beginning of Museum of Thieves – The Keepers Book One. Goldie is our young heroine and while she has the skills, spirit and determination to escape all this horror she does not know her own strengths or abilities quite yet. As she runs away Goldie sets off a chain of events that will leave you breathless.

You will feel like you are reading about a long ago time with character names like Guardian Hope and Guardian Comfort and Toadspit, Jude, Olga Ciavolga, Fugleman, the Protector and Sinew. But the imagined creatures and horror of the corrupt authority figures mean this is a purely imagined world – thank goodness. The level of betrayal and duplicity by Fugelman to his sister is amazing. Once again we have some strong political messages just like the ones in Toby Alone and in those fabulous books by Michelle Paver.

Speaking of imagined creatures these ones are fabulous. There is a Brizzlehound called Broo and Morg – a slaughterbird and other creatures which just get a mention, but are somehow easy to imagine too, like the sloomerkin.

If you love dogs you will adore Broo. “Cautiously, she stroked his ear. It was warmer and silkier than she expected. … The little dog wagged his tail so furiously that his whole body wagged with it. Then before Goldie could stop him, he jumped into her lap, put his paws on her shoulders and began to lick her face with his hot red tongue.”

Lian Tanner is such a descriptive writer you can really see the museum where Goldie finds sanctuary and true friendship. The old city and the museum itself reminded me of my favourite book Momo.

If you enjoyed Fearless by Tim Lott, all the books of Cornelia Funke, Skulduggery Pleasant and books by Zizou Corder then you must read The Keepers.

When you read Lian’s web site you will see a list of her favourite books and from this is was easy for me to recognize her inspiration. I also found some fabulous reviews which teachers should read.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

If bees rode shiny bicycles by Michelle A. Taylor

I know I have not reviewed many poetry books but here is one to treasure and it came to my attention again because we have just purchased the audio version so each day for the last week I have listened to this lovely assortment of poems as I drive to and from my school.

I won’t quote the whole poem from the title it is a little too long but here are a couple of verses :
If music shone like silver
And books were made of bread
If words were jam and treacle
And hugs were coloured thread

If sleep was socks and slippers
And Sunday was a frog
If bees rode shiny bicycles
With an octopus for cogs ...

If money was marbles and lollipops
And word an annoying itch
If imaginations were endless
Then we’d all be rich!

My favourite poems in this collection are Lollipops, Green peas, Chasing the clock and the four poems about the seasons called Ten Syllables.

In this web site you can see the first 30 pages of the book in full. For teachers if you are talking about insects or sea creatures or Australia Animals and you want a poem or two then this is the perfect book. Also the title poem might inspire your writers.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Toby and the secrets of the tree by Timothee de Fombelle

This book left me breathless and while I didn't want it to end I also didn't want to stop reading. It is essential to read the first one before tackling this sequel and so I am glad I finished the first one on Saturday and started the second on Sunday as I think I might have lost track of all these wonderful and interconnected characters.

I am not going to outline the plot I am just going to say once you read Toby alone you must rush out and get Toby and the secrets of the Tree it is fabulous.

Once again the writing is just magical. Here is a tiny taste when Toby once again visits the Asseldor family this time at Christmas.

"Toby surveyed the table in all its finery. It was that Asseldor magic touch capable of laying on a feast at the end of the world. And in the great tradition of Seldor, places had been laid for the two visitors even though they hadn't been invited ... it's hard to say what makes a party unforgettable. A party is a mystery that can't be manufactured."

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Toby Alone by Timothee de Fombelle

One of the most satisfying parts of my job as a Teacher Librarian is when a student recommends a book to me. Last week a Year 6 boy asked me if we had the sequel to Toby Alone and I knew at once he must have really enjoyed this book so I grabbed it with both hands and last night I sat down and began to read and read and read.

This book is a winner. It is a world in miniature but you soon forget this as Toby fights for survival and his father, a scientist, realizes the tree they all live in is in extreme danger. The people of this book are about one millimeter tall and their whole world is a large oak tree. As with any society there are greedy evil people who are out to exploit the riches around them and there are special heroes and friends who help each other in times of great need.

“Toby’s father subscribed to the crazy idea that the Tree was growing. It was an extremely controversial notion …. Does the Tree change? It is eternal? Where did it come from? Will the world end? And, most important, above all: is there life beyond the Tree?”

Toby Lolness, his dad Sim and mother Maya are a perfect little loving family unit until Sim makes an amazing discovery about tree sap. In the wrong hands the power of the sap could destroy the world as they know it – just like nuclear power or petrol or gun powder – so Sim decides to keep the details of his findings a secret. He is immediately banished with his family to the low branches of the tree.

“Toby didn’t tuck himself into bed on the first evening the Lolness family entered their new home. The three of them sat on his parents bed, in front of a crackling fire. They held hands.”

This is a book of complex story telling with constant flash backs and a host of characters but the writing is so wonderful it just carries you along.

I love so many things about this book and as with all good books I just want to put it into the hands of as many readers as I can. The language is fabulous (interestingly this book was originally written in French), the relationships are sincere and special, the messages are strong but not delivered in any heavy handed way. There is an ecological message but I also found a strong political message about corruption and power. Throughout the story there are funny moments such as weevils playing funnyball, touching moments when Toby draws flowers and these are recognized by Isha, Elisha’s mother and the comic relief of Sim and his glasses which are so difficult to remake. Finally of course there are plenty of references to inventive and delicious sounding foods including honey pancakes!

This book reminded me of so many others – The Amazing adventures of Chilly Billy and The Borrowers (size), Chronicles of Ancient Darkness (survival in a strange landscape), The Guardians of Ga'Hoole (politics and subversion) and Time stops for no mouse (fabulous character names).

Finally I loved this book so much that today I went shopping and bought the sequel in hardcover! After only 3 chapters I am once again hooked into the world of Toby and his friends. My top 20 all time favourite books constantly expands - but here is another one to add to that list. I also read all the print reviews I had here at home including Magpies, Horn Book and Reading Time and I must ask why no one seemed to shout from the highest treetops that this is a fabulous book. At least Horn Book gave it a "2" which is almost their highest rating and I see from the inside flap that it won heaps of awards in France. Once again I would say go out and grab this book you will not be disappointed. You might like to watch a little trailer.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Ratbags and Rascals by Robin Klein illustrated by Alison Lester

Here is a terrific collection of seventeen short stories. Alas as is often the case with books in this blog it is out of print.

This book was first published in 1984 but look for it in your library. Every story is the perfect length for when you have ten spare minutes and need a quick story to read either for yourself or to a class. Today we read How Clara Bepps put Strettle Street properly on the map and Year 5 loved it. Clara thinks her street is so boring but she soon rectifies this by adding stars on the footpath, a swimming pool inside a disused house, a canter levered car park and a stage where you can bring something and take something. This is such a lovely idea.

Another very funny story in this collection is Parker Hamilton about a family robot. I like the idea of robots helping in the home and in fact this does happen in Japan. If you want to go further with robots you should also read Eager and Eager's Nephew by Helen Fox- these are among my favourite robot stories.

Have you ever been on a school camp and had to put up with a night of snoring? The Anti Snore Machine is the story for you. The diagrams that accompany this story are just perfect for all aspiring inventors.

There are fun little illustrations scattered throughout the book by Alison Lester. My copy has a different cover which is yellow and pink and actually more appealing than the one I found for this blog entry. Look for Ratbags and Rascals.  I am sure it could easily be hiding on your school library shelves. I have also found several copies at charity book sales in recent years.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Kumiko and the Dragon's secret by Briony Stewart

I have read many very positive reviews of this junior novel so when it surfaced in our library I grabbed it. I will say the first book was a little disappointing – perhaps a little bit too short but I just loved this second book Kumiko and the Dragon’s secret. All the way through I kept thinking of little girls who would love this small, beautifully illustrated gem.

Kumiko has the ancient blood line of dragons – we discover why in the first book Kumiko and the Dragon. Every night Kumiko and her little sister Arisu are guarded by dragons and up until now they have been safe but in this second installment we read how the Shadow Catchers are rising and they are hungry for dragon power. When Kumiko leaves her house to visit her Obasaan (her Grandmother) the Shadow Catchers pounce and kidnap Arisu. Having captured her they now have power over the dragons which means the dragons themselves are unable to help Arisu. This vital task falls to Kumiko even though she was once very afraid. “I stand up with anger beating through me like a drum. I have been terrible to my younger sister … but there are some things I know for certain…. Life without her would be like the moon falling out of the sky or spring without flowers.”
As with all good folktales Kumiko is given some special gifts to help her in her quest. The oldest dragon makes a ladder so Kumiko can travel from the clouds. For this he uses his whiskers. Next she is presented with an ancient kimono which will be her disguise. Another dragon sheds his tears and as they fall onto her skin they offer a special layer of protection. She has a feather as sharp as a knife and a small necklace from her own guardian dragon Tomodo so she can remember how much he truly loves her.

I have now discovered why the voices and tone of this book feels so authentic and so Japanese. Briony Stewart heard these stories from her own Japanese Grandmother. The fighting scenes, for example, seem to come straight from Crouching Tiger Hidden dragon as Shadow Catchers leap into the air and spring across great distances. There is so much packed into this 80 page chapter book – find it soon – you will not be disappointed.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Mummy snatcher of Memphis

Some books give you such a strong sense of place and time and this is certainly the case with the Mummy Snatcher of Memphis with the dark alley ways of nineteenth century London through to the deserts of Egypt.

Kit, the only daughter of Professor Theodore Salter, attends the opening of a new mummy exhibition which includes items recently acquired by her aunt Hilda who is a famous explorer. The boxes are taken into the museum and while Hilda and Professor Salter are outside waiting for the next carriage the children hear strange noises coming from the largest packing box. “It was dark inside the box. A glimpse of golden paint, shining off the sarcophagus…. Then I noticed something dark and crouching. The whites of two eyes peering through the gloom.”.

The contents of the mummy case lead the children on a wild adventure to Egypt from Cairo to Siwa across the dangerous desert. They are hunting for the scarab beetle which has caused a curse.

I found the last few chapters exciting but a little confusing as I lost track of just why everyone was frantically trying to reach the temple at Siwa and why these crazy English villains were so desperate for the scarab.

Putting that to one side I will look out for the next three Kit Salter adventures I am sure they will be just as wild as this one. The author has a good web site worth checking out. You can read more about the plot on this blog.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Plum Puddings and Paper Moons by Glenda Milllard

Magic is left over from childhood … we are all born with magic in us but many of us forget about it when we are grown up.”

When I read books to young children I often feel this kind of magic. I want to start this blog with three seemingly disconnected thoughts/events.

A young boy gave me a very special gift today – a bar of chocolate all the way from Belgium where he had recently travelled with his family.

Every so often a book arrives in our library that is so precious it leaves me breathless with anticipation. I have to begin reading straight away.

I don’t come from a large family but if I could choose a family to join this would be a very easy decision. I would choose the Silk family. They are incredibly special people who I have come to know and love through the skillful and magical writing of Glenda Millard.

Gifts? Yes I really did receive a lovely gift today. A gift chosen especially for me (a chocolate lover) and a gift given in kindness. The book that arrived today was the fifth book about the Silk family called Plum Puddings and Paper moons. At its heart I feel this book is about gifts even though the gifts are expressed as wishes. There are two kinds of wishes – those that are deep and dark and made aloud wishes that are usually for fun and not important at all. The silks call this second kind “Red kite wishes”.

Scarlett the oldest Silk sister wishes for peace in the world. The catalyst for this is a young refugee boy who has come to live in the town of Cameron’s Creek. Scarlett asks an important big question and hears the horrible truth about Anik’s family. “When I return home there is only smoke and fires. My village is burning. My house is gone. I hear guns and I run very fast.” Anik’s words spill out like hot soup. Scarlett needs to take action so she uses her worn out school tights to make wishbands. She sells these for fifty cents to all the people in Cameron’s Creek and on Christmas eve over three hundred people from the town gather in a quiet demonstration for peace.

Afterwards, in true Silk tradition, everyone gathers for a shared meal under the Cox’s Orange Pippin and for this Ben Silk has made a new table. It is so large and long nine men are needed to lift it out of the workshop. The table is made from the wood of an old bridge. Bridges have featured very prominently with us this year in school across Australia. Bridges do bring people together.

Finally I need to mention cakes, I love to cook cakes and one I regularly cook is an Armenian Nutmeg cake. Glenda Millard calls it an Armenian love cake and she kindly includes the recipe in the back of the book. I can tell you this is a delicious cake and just as delicious is the idea that Amber (another Silk sister) makes cakes to show her true feelings when words don’t come easily. Silver milk bottle tops also feature in this story and they were certainly a part of my childhood.

If you haven’t discovered the Kingdom of Silk find these books and start from the beginning this is a reading journey that will linger with you for a long time.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Ghost in the Machine by Patrick Carman

You can read my blog entry for the first book in this series. I must confess I only watched two of the videos – the first and the last and I watched them after I read this book. The book does stand alone and while I am sure most readers will love all those videos personally I found the two I watched a little slow and the heavy breathing drove me a slightly crazy.

All that to one side I did enjoy Ghost in the Machine even more than Skeleton Creek. The tension in these stories is fabulous.

Ryan and Sarah need desperately to solve this mystery. Why does the ghost of Joe Bush still haunt the dredge and how exactly is Ryan’s father involved in all of this? I liked the double life of the town librarian, the idea of writing on walls in your sleep, blue rock and all the science/alchemy ideas. Gold and greed are at the heart of this story but the ending will surprise you.

Since communication between our two heroes is limited to emails, the internet and text messages Carman keeps the reader on the edge of his or her seat as each small fragment of this mystery is revealed.

Go to the web site of the author to see him in person.

You need the book in your hand to view all the videos because for each one you need a password. Is this a marketing ploy or just a clever union of the book with the web – I have to say I am not sure?

Here is a very comprehensive review of these two books if you would like to know more. You will need to read book one first to make sense of Ghost in the Machine but if you enjoy a great mystery look for this book today. And YES the third book has just been released.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

It was you Blue Kangaroo by Emma Chichester Clark

It was you Blue Kangaroo is a perfect book to share with a young child. They will quickly recognize the scrapes that Lily gets into and enjoy the repeated denial of any wrong doing as she points to her friend Blue Kangaroo. In our library we have the whole set of these terrific stories and our recent editions included a CD for listening. Look at each title page and count the flowers - we discovered this is the way to track which book to read next.

With the CD for It was you Blue Kangaroo I was delighted to discover Joanna Lumley is the story teller. She does read the whole book but this is on track two - it is the first track which is a delight as Joanna simply tells the story of Lily and Blue Kangaroo complete with little unobtrusive sound effects.

Lily begins by washing her toys – a great idea except she forgets to turn off the tap. Next is the great idea of dressing up the cat this is of course not a great idea as far as the cat is concerned. Next stop on Lily’s journey of destruction is her little brother in the sand pit. Mum then sends Lily and Blue Kangaroo to her room but here the real mischief begins. In total exasperation Blue Kangaroo is banished to a high shelf for the whole night.

Throughout the story Blue Kangaroo just looks at Lily but he doesn’t say one word. The final indignity of the high shelf galvanizes him into action. Blue Kangaroo climbs down from the shelf in the dead of night, finds a piece of paper and pen and he writes a very important letter when he then ‘posts’ under the bedroom door of Lily’s mother.

The final line of this book, while entirely predictable is also the most special.

Look for the whole series in your library soon. One day I might even add a little toy of Blue Kangaroo to my collection. Oh and by the way this is my 150th blog entry - an achievement I am quite proud of.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Esty's Gold by Mary Arrigan

There is a perfect little philosophical statement towards the end of this well written and well researched historical novel Esty’s gold by Mary Arrigan : “It’s a funny thing about life : one moment you can be in the depths of despair and the next you are working a new plan to make things better.”

Esty is living through the Irish potato famine and while her family are not farmers and she herself is not starving, the impact of these terrible events is nevertheless devastating. Early in this story Esty (short for Esther) befriends a young starving girl called Brigid only to witness her quiet death as they sit together outside Esty’s home.

Following the death of her own father, he works for the land owner as a tax collector, Esty herself is sent into service. Here she makes real friends and learns important life lessons. Having the rare skill of literacy, she reads all about the discovery of gold in Australia and so when an offer is made to send her mother and grandfather to America she persuades all concerned that instead they should head to Australia.

This story is told in two parts. Life in Ireland and life on the Goldfields. I especially liked the way Arrigan made the transition between the two times. She didn’t labour over the journey to Australia but just filled us in gradually, through Esty’s eyes, as she journey’s to the goldfields encountering prospectors, and bushrangers along the way. The characters and relationships in this story will stay with me for a long time. This is an excellent book for senior Primary students even though the publisher’s web site lists it as suitable for 12-15 year olds. I had to keep reminding myself the author is Irish and lives in Ireland because the second half of the book in the goldfields feels very authentic.

If you need an accessible way to explain the politics of Ireland in 1850s and the politics of the Eureka Stockade in Australia this is the perfect little novel.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Book Trailer for Billionaires Curse

The Emerald Casket by Richard Newsome

Two boys and two girls, exotic and dangerous India, jewels that unlock caskets, evil men with murderous intentions, dreams that foretell the future, chases, climbs and so much more, The Emerald Casket is the sequel to The Billionaires Curse.

I commented in my first blog entry about this book saying that I really did not like the cover design but I think I have changed my mind. This second book clearly has the same designer and with the hints of crabs, ninjas, flood waters and temples the cover this time the cover does seem the perfect way to showcase what is to come when you open this book.

Apart from the evil Mason Green the adults in these books, especially the police, are all a set of bumbling fools. This second book opens with Constable Lethbridge at home alone attempting to make breakfast only to discover the milk is long past it’s use-by date. He makes a cup of tea sweetened with honey and wanders into his back yard to check on his beloved pigeons. He doesn’t notice when a large plop slops into his tea. Unfortunately his pigeons are no help when Lethbridge is attacked in his kitchen by figure clothed entirely in black. He scribbles an SOS and slips it into the tube on his pigeon’s leg but when he finally wakes up several hours later his pigeons are happily pecking at bird seed in his kitchen and his notebook (with all the case notes from the first adventure) has been stolen.

Meanwhile Gerald (he is the billionaire) and his two friends twins Sam and Ruby receive an invitation to visit Alisha Gupta in India. Alisha helped in the first installment when they were looking for the diamond to open casket number one. Gerald as a billionaire owns a plane of course and on boarding the Captain suggests a game of plane sledding – this sounds like terrific fun. On arrival in India, though, the scene is set for spies and kidnappers. At the airport Gerald sees a mysterious man “The black-clad figure remained motionless, staring. Gerald could feel the eyes drilling into him.” This is the first of many people who appear to be trailing our team.

The girls go shopping on their first day and while on this expedition Gerald is confronted by a fortune teller who hands him a mysterious card bearing his family crest and a tower. This leads the kids to take a luxury but hazardous train trip to the Taj Mahal and from there to the lost city of Mamallapuram which disappeared under a tsunami many years ago.

By the end of this amazing romp we have the emerald and the second casket as you might have predicted but now the way is set for Book Three of the trilogy with our intrepid heroes contemplating a journey to France.

In my first blog of this series I held great hopes for Mr Fry unfortunately these were not realised in the second book. I do hope we can learn more about this contradictory butler in the next installment. I recommend this series for any one who likes rapid adventure, a few laughs and kids who never give up. You can read more on the author's site.

The Flight of the Silver Turtle by John Fardell

I have begun this week reading sequels. The first of these is The Flight of the Silver Turtle which is the sequel to The seven Professors of the far North.

In this second book by John Fardell we have another rapid paced adventure filled with wonderful team work, codes, flying machines and travel.

This adventure begins again with a visit to Professor Ampersand by Ben, Zara, Sam and Marcia. Following an outing to the seaside the group find an old aeroplane hanger with a partially completed seaplane inside. This seems like the perfect vehicle for the professor to trial his latest invention – “a new kind of energy cell which combines the technology of batteries and fuel cells and is more compact the efficient than either…. After just ten minutes plugs into the mains electricity, my energy cell contains enough power to keep the motor running for several hours.”

The friends meet the owner and builder of this plane – Amy and join her in the restoration project but they are being watch by very unfriendly eyes and thus begins a chase across Europe to discover the truth behind the mysterious work of Maskil Stribnik and the Silver Turtle. They must also thwart Noctarma, an evil international criminal gang who need these secrets to complete their plans for world domination.

If you enjoyed The Mysterious Benedict Society then you will race through this series. I especially enjoyed the scenes where the kids have to fly the seaplane and the ingenious way they solve their navigation problems as they fly across the English Channel, across France and arrive safety on Lake Geneva and the terrifying moments when Claire is trapped underwater in this lake with her air tanks rapidly emptying.

I am now on the look out for book three in this series The secret of the Black Moon Moth.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Four Feet, Two Sandals by Karen Lynn Williams

You may have read my review of The Colour of Home. Here is another really special picture book which needs to be on every senior primary reading list. Four Feet, Two Sandals tells the moving story of Lina’s life in a refugee camp in Pakistan. She has been living there for two years following the long and dangerous journey from Afghanistan and over time her bare feet have hardened but when an aid truck arrives with clothing Lina is so excited to see a sandal left behind. It fits her perfectly but where is its partner? Another girl has found it. Feroza is new to the camp and her feet are very damaged.

It is Lina who suggests the best compromise. The girls should share the sandals – taking one day each. Through this simple act of generosity a lovely friendship blossoms. Things go well, with the girls watching the boys in their makeshift school room, spending time together enjoying secrets and future plans until one day Lina gets the joyous news that she and her mother along with two young brothers are now allowed to enter America.

The scene where the two girls say goodbye will leave you in tears. Take a look at this video for more details of the illustrations and background to this important and moving story.

There are excellent teacher notes too. I use this book with Year 6 students as part of their topic "Identity and Values" along with the web site "The Long Journey".

It's a book by Lane Smith

I will let this one speak for itself! I love Web 2.0 but I also love books. All children should experience the joy of stories. A school library or any library is, of course, a great place to get your hands on all those books!

The little animation leaves out the page where the monkey says he will go to the library to get another book. Also the ending in the book is quite @@!!

Frank Asch and Moonbear

Our Kindergarten classes have spent the last three or four weeks exploring the world of Frank Asch and his little character Moonbear. At first glance these books seem so simple and yet each has a layer of science which the children a this age love to identify.

Asch sets up the science message with four small squares at the beginning of each book. In these pictures we see something changing. It might be a rainbow in Skyfire, the position of the moon in Moon Game, a tree through the seasons in Happy Birthday Moon or a tadpole in Moonbear’s Pet.

I think the special appeal of these books comes from the simple device that the young reader is way smarter than our little bear hero. Did he really visit the moon to eat moon cake? Of course not the children all shout. Did he really put out the skyfire with his bucket of water? Did he really give the moon a lovely hat for his birthday? As as added bonus I am even lucky enough to own a little Moonbear toy and when he emerges from my library bag there is usually quite a squeal of delight!

Frank Asch has a fun web site and there are quite a few videos on the internet of his lovely books. Every Moonbear book is a delight – look for them in your library today. I should also mention Bear and Little bird enjoy some delicious Honey Cake in Skyfire. If you are a regular reader of my blog you will know I love the idea of honey cake.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Children's Book Council of Australia 2010 award winners

In this blog you can read about some of the winners for 2010.

1. Picture Book of the Year The Hero of Little Street
2. Younger Readers Book of the Year Darius Bell and the Glitter Pool
3. Early Childhood Picture Book of the Year Bear and Chook by the sea

There were also six honor books. This is a difficult concept to explain to our youngest students. They like the clear cut idea of second or third. In the Picture Book section Honor book Isabella’s Garden used beautiful language and joyful illustrations to tell the story of the seasons using The house that Jack built as a model. Fox and Fine Feathers was an allegory about talents. Nightjar may be plain but his skills with camouflage prove an effective way to ultimately save the lives of his companion birds who live on the forest floor.

In the Younger Readers section I have already reviewed Pearl verses the World and will write more about Running with horses soon.

In my school Early Childhood picture book was the most controversial. The youngest children really enjoyed Fearless although my observation was that only children in Grade 2 and higher really ‘got’ the jokes especially the one a few pages from the end when dad asks “Who’s a fearless boy then” and the dog replies “Is that a trick question?”. I thought the idea at the beginning of the book explaining humans sometimes have the wrong name was a little too abstract and added nothing important to the story but the illustrations and trailer were perfect.

We all enjoyed making links between The Terrible Plop and Chicken Licken and The Gruffalo. It was also good to have The Little Big Book Club to read this book because I am not sure I could have read this book quite so many times (twenty times over two weeks!).

Neither of these books received an award. The only claim to fame for Kip (Honor book) was the fun we had making the rooster noises and I think the adult view of the new house in Clancy and Millie and the very fine house juxtaposed against Clancy’s view as seen in the illustrations was again too abstract for most of my youngest students. If I had a little more time I might have linked this last book with Our House by Bob Graham. I have a copy of the DVD which is just magic and I think might have helped add a better layer of understanding to the game of imagination played by Clancy and Millie. I did use my most favourite book Clouds by Peggy Blakeley to talk about using clouds in a story. If you have ever seen this magical book look in a library grab it quickly – it is a very special with scrumptious illustrations by Kazuo Niizaka.
It has been a good Book Week but I do lament the lack of little junior novels. It seems to me in the past twenty years little chapter books for Grades 2-4 have simply disappeared from the short list. I fondly remember Thing, Berk the Berserker, Boris and Borsch, Bernice Knows best, and of course my long time favourite One Night at Lottie's House. Perhaps 2011 will include some little gems like this. I certainly hope so.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Hero of Little Street by Gregory Rogers

It occurred to me today that my earliest memory of reading and enjoying a textless picture book was also a CBCA winner. That book was Sunshine by Jan Omerod which was the winner in 1982 and so it seems we have gone full circle with the CBCA Picture book of the Year for 2010 which is also an amazing textless picture book – this is certainly a story that you need to spend time with. It is The Hero of Little Street a very worthy winner of our prestigious Australian children’s book award.

I am so glad I waited until Book Week to share this book across my school. Perhaps I had a premonition that it would be the winner. Every time we read this book to our classes the children made more and more discoveries. It is now clear that this book is best looked at in conjunction with the two predecessors – The Boy, the bear, the Baron and the Bard and Midsummer Knight It should also be looked at in conjunction with the art of Vermeer and Van Eyck. You can read more at in the teacher notes.

I think children from Grades 2 thought to Grade 6 all found something to relate to in this book - from the bullies chasing our little hero, to the integration of famous art and the wonderful changes of perspective as Gregory Rogers reveals each scene. We also had some interesting discussions about vocabulary – our youngest children asked about china (the special plates of Delft are smashed) and the word butcher! Not one child questioned the lack of printed text though, as our love of Leaf by Stephen Michael King from the CBCA awards last year showed every child books can tell stories even without words!

Reading The Hero of Little Street was made so much easier in our school library because we were able to use the ebook and this new medium also lead to to excellent discussions amongst the students as to the value and purpose of ebooks!

Among my favourite textless picture books are by Peter Collington The tooth fairy, The small miracle, The Angel and the Solider boy and all of these are once again sadly out of print. I would love a copy of The Angel and the Solider boy for my collection. I also love Sunshine by Jan Ormerod. Whenever I put on tights, and layers of skivvies on cool winter mornings I think of the early scenes in Sunshine when the little girl puts on so many layers of warm clothes.
Look for a copy of The Hero of Little Street in your library - it will now have a special GOLD sticker to show it is the winner for 2010 of the Children's Book Council of Australia Picture Book of the Year award.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Rapunzel's Revenge by Shannon and Dean Hale illustrated by Nathan Hale

We have over 38,000 resources in our school library so I always have a little smile to myself when children of all ages ask “Have you read every book in this library?” I always answer truthfully and say no but I have read heaps of them. Adding to this list of books I have actually read I can now say I have read and enjoyed a graphic novel – Rapunzel’s Revenge. This is the first book in this format I have read. We don’t own many books graphic novels but our collection is growing. Recently we added a small set of Geronimo Stilton titles in graphic form and of course all the Asterix and Tin Tin adventures are perennial favourites.

As an adult reader it took me a little while to settle into the style of a graphic novel with all those capital letters, action words and little commentary boxes but by about page 50 I found myself thoroughly enjoying this wild adventure.

As a fairy tale Rapunzel is one I really like even though it is very complex. In Rapunzel's Revenge Shannon and Dean Hale flesh out all the reasons why Rapunzel is imprisoned in that tower, why she grows her hair and how romance saves the day. This is not a book for the squeamish however, some of the attacks Punzie and Jack endure are – well quite graphic!!

Just like a young reader I only worked out the identity of Jack about five pages from the end!

I thoroughly recommend Rapunzel's Revenge for any senior primary reader especially for those new to graphic novels or those who love fairy tales or even reluctant readers looking for some wild action.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan

I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to kneel or buy stamps from him or what. Then it occurred to me why he must be here. “Oh listen Lord Hermes, about Luke…” This thought process and fragment of internal dialogue epitomize why I really enjoy books in the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan. They have a clever mix of humour, Greek mythology, and action.

Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters is the second book in this series. You can read my review of book one earlier in this blog. Book two certainly does not disappoint. The story opens with Percy trying to lay low on his last day in a regular school before he is due to return to Camp Half Blood but as early as page seven we know the events of this day will not go to plan.

In this book we meet some well known characters such as Annabeth and Clarisse along with Grover and Chiron but added to the mix this time is Tyson who incidentally is a Cyclops. Using skills learned from Hephaestus, Tyson makes the most fabulous parting gift for our hero Percy. There are hints all through the story that Tyson is making something and I couldn't wait to find out what it might be.

Once again our heroes embark on a quest (to retrieve the Golden Fleece no less) and as always there is a prophecy to unravel. This time they battle with sirens, the Hydra, Stymphalian birds, Scylla and Circe. I think the scene when this last character turns Percy into a Guinea Pig will linger with me for a long time.

This book is certainly another action thriller. You can read an extract. It can stand alone but you will make better sense of all the relationships and history if you read The Lightning thief first. Finally when you find yourself hooked on this series take a look at all the fabulous books on Greek Mythology in your school library. Knowing more about Zeus, Poseidon, Ares etc will add to your enjoyment.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Night Fairy by Laura Amy Schlitz illustrated by Angela Barrett

Book design plays such an important part in book selection and words on the cover of this book certainly caught my eye – the author is a Newberry winner (although she is new to me) and I love the illustrator Angela Barrett. On the other hand I am not a huge fairy fan so I began this book not sure what journey it might take me on.

This is a winner – a really lovely book, beautifully written with just the right amount of tension and personality. Yes this a book for girls but what a special book it is. When the girls have finished with those Rainbow Magic books (not among my favourites) and are ready for some real reading with a fairy to admire then grab The Night Fairy.

Flory, like all fairies, is left to fend for herself from a very tender age. As she ventures forth into the world danger is close at hand and she is attacked by a bat who “swooped down upon her, caught her, and crunched up her wings.” This means Flory can no longer fly and so she seeks refuge in the garden of a giant. This garden is so well described with flowering trees, bird and nectar feeders, a pond, and in one tree a disused bird house which Flory is able to use as her home. The transformation of this space into her fairy home is very special.

There are interesting ideas in this book about negotiation and rights and bargaining and keeping promises and the illustrations by Angela Barrett are just perfect including the little embellishments at the start of each chapter.  You can see these on the book web site.

This is a tiny and insignificant looking little book but I certainly won’t let it languish on our library shelves – I am really looking forward to putting this magical tale into the hands of a young reader. It would also make a terrific family read-a-loud for middle primary girls. You can read some glowing reviews of this book on the internet.  Here is a set of teaching notes.

This book reminded me of Rumer Godden (I loved all her books as young child), and Peter Collington – The Tooth Fairy this is a wordless picture book but with the same magical settings.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Keena Ford and the second-grade mix up by Melissa Thomson

We have a new kid in the class joining Clarice Bean, Judy Moody, Billie B Brown, Clementine, June B Jones and Amber Brown. We now welcome Keena Ford.

Keena is not really sure how to write the date for her birthday. Here is a simple way to explain to your students why the date is called 9/11. Keena’s birthday is not on 2nd September but she writes 9/2 on the Birthday graph her new teacher is constructing and the teacher immediately jumps to the wrong conclusion that Keena is celebrating her birthday tomorrow! There will be Birthday crowns and chocolate cake and Keena loves chocolate cake almost as much as she loves a pudding pie (I have no idea what a pudding pie is but it sounds extra delicious). Adding to her problems the second grade children have been split into two classes of boys and girls. Eric, Keena’s best friend, makes his boy class sound fabulous – no rules, you can chew gum, and best of all “you get to write with a PEN! … I thought it was against the law to write with a pen in the second grade.”

Then Keena discovers they even eat pudding pie in Eric’s class and this happens EVERY day so Keena knows she has to investigate. We know if she does this she will heading to Mr Lemon’s class again – he teaches time-out!

I will certainly hunt out the second book in this terrific junior series because I know it will be a winner.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Houndsley and Catina and the quiet time by James Howe illustrated by Marie-Louise Gay

Houndsley and Catina is like a lyrical poem disguised in a simple junior novel. Houndsley loves the silences and the white that the snow affords and he looks for ways to make this quiet day even more special, especially once he suggests their house is like an island. Catina, on the other hand, at first only sees disaster but as the day unfolds with music practice, poetry writing, board games, cooking and stories she settles down.

Their neighbour Bert has also been practicing his music too but this mostly seems to involve lots of crashes and bashes. Like me I hope you hold your breath when Bert plays the final note at their evening concert. “It was the closest the cymbals can come to silence. It sounded like a chime in the wind. It lingered and floated and fell into the quite time.”
All three friends travel home together and Houndsley invites Catina and Bert to stay the night. Luckily the cookies they had made for supper were left at home. “Eating cookies was a perfect way to share a quiet time together.”
Look for other books about Houndsley and Catina in our library. I give these gems ten out of ten every time.

Click on this link to see another book illustrated by Marie Louise Gay - you can see her lovely illustrations. We have this book in our library too!

Morris MacMillipede The Toast of Brussel Sprout by Mick Fitzmaurice illustrated by Satoshi Kitamura

This book has such a fabulous title!!

We all have dreams and Morris MacMillipede is no exception. He dreams of ballet but how can this be possible with 42 pairs of feet? Buying ballet shoes is the first obstacle but after many weeks as a paper boy Morris is finally able to buy all those shoes for 84 pounds. The ballet classes with Madame Butterfly are hopeless but when Morris lands the part of the ugly caterpillar in Sleeping Beauty it seems his dreams can come true. Sad to say the performance is a disaster but all is not lost. It is the wise old Stag Beetle – the voice of wisdom who first encouraged Morris to follow his dreams, who now comes to the rescue.

I am a huge fan of Satoshi Kitamura and this little junior novel is made all the more special by the addition of his marvelous illustrations. Morris MacMillipede has a fun cast of insect characters and an tells an important heart warming story.

Simple stories that are easy to read but have stories you want to keep reading are sometimes hard to find for young readers. This one is a winner. You should also look for other books illustrated by Satoshi Kitamura in our school library especially What's inside the Alphabet book and In the attic.

Ever Clever Eva by Andrew Fusek Peters

Folk Tales do not figure high on my reading list not for any deliberate reason they just don’t seem to make it onto my reading pile very often. It is for this reason Ever Clever Eva was a terrific surprise. This is a traditional Czech tale which is easy to read and where goodness and good sense are rewarded and fools have important lessons to learn.

Eva is a wise girl who is able to solve riddles and more importantly understand human pride. She works for her tyrant uncle who falsely promises a cow in return for her years of labour. The matter ends in a court case where the judge sets a riddle. Eva solves the riddle and marries the judge but he makes her promise never to interfere in his judgments. We readers know Eva will never be able to keep this promise.

“You have interfered in my work and broken your promise…. You must leave this house tomorrow morning and never return….. but as a gesture of goodwill, I will allow you to take with you the one thing that is dearest to you. Now choose wisely!”

Can you guess what Eva decides to take?

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Tumtum and Nutmeg's Christmas adventure! by Emily Bearn

When I read the first title in the Tumtum and Nutmeg series I was hooked and shocked. Poor little Tumtum eats poison chocolate and is very close to death. I knew there had to be a happy ending but the journey was very hazardous.

Now I have read a new Tumtum and Nutmeg installment – the Christmas Adventure and while it does not have quite the same impact of the first book it is nevertheless a terrific little read.

Tumtum and Nutmeg live in the home of Arthur and Lucy Mildew. Their father is an absent minded inventor so it is up to Tumtum and Nutmeg (who unfortunately have no children) to care for these neglected young children. Christmas is coming and the chimney is blocked. How will Father Christmas deliver the presents and is this why none arrived last year? Tumtum and Nutmeg must save the day. Luckily toys are close by but they are guarded by the evil Baron Toymouse.

There are delicious recipes at the back of this book and the promise of another Tumtum and Nutmeg adventure. Take a minute to check out their web site - it is perfect.

If you liked books by Beatrix Potter, the stories of The Borrowers or Bramley Hedge then you will love Tumtum and Nutmeg. PS Don't wait until Christmas to sample this little tale.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Toppling by Sally Murphy

It is difficult to know where to begin with this little book. If I say too much about the plot it will be spoilt. I know this because after hearing the author speak at the recent CBCA State Conference I knew the whole story before beginning and I am sure this is why this emotional story didn’t quite have the impact I would have expected.

Toppling is a new verse novel from the author Pearl Verses the world.

The premise of toppling over dominoes as a hobby works really well. The idea of a free choice school project is also excellent.

Dominic is John’s best friend …
Dominic Fraser likes footy
and soccer
and cricket.
He likes reading funny books
and motorbike magazines.
He like art
but not maths
but not Science

He’s fun
and funny
and loyal
and pretty cool.
And he’s my best mate

That is John talking - who is Dominic - who are his friends - what is happening in his life? You will need to read this beautifully illustrated book to find out.

This is a book about the ups and downs of life, about good friends, and fabulous teachers. There are some surprises and you will probably read this book all in one go. Look for it soon - this little book is an important reading experience.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Orange Silver Sausage a collection of poems without rhymes from Zephaniah to Agard Compiled by James Carter and Graham Denton

Orange Silver Sausage a collection of poems without rhymes from Zephaniah to Agard is a very special poetry book. I knew this was a winner from the title and lovely book design – this book has rounded edges. Zephaniah to Agard refers to the poets who write about every thing from libraries to caterpillars, adventures to seasons. In this book of fifty poems you will find well loved poets such as Jane Yolen, Roger McGough, Alan Ahlberg, Ted Hughes, John Foster and Michael Rosen. Walker books describe this book as 'classy and stylish' and I completely agree.

My favourites are right near the beginning Library and Caterpillar’s Lullaby. There are some great writing and performance tips at the end of the book. I would like to see this very special little book on every teacher’s desk. Just open this book at any page and you will find a poem to treasure and share.

After the book is closed

Whether it is in the words
or their meanings,
Or the sounds they make
or the way they echo one another;
Or simply the pictures
they paint in the imagination,
Or the idea they begin
or their rhythms

whether it’s the words
or their histories,
Their curious journeys
from one language to the next
Or simply the shapes they make
in the mouth –
Tongue and lips moving,
breath flowing.

Whether it’s the words
or the letters used
To spell them, the patterns
they make on the page;
Or simply the way they call feelings
into the open
Like a fox seem suddenly in a field
from a hurrying train…

Whether it’s the word
or the spaces between –
The white silences
among the dark print,
I do not know.
But I know this; that a poem
Will sing in my mind
long after the book is closed.

Gerard Benson

If you love poetry, if you love sharing poetry with children, if you have room in your collection for one more poetry book or even if you don't have room - grab this book - I am sure you will love it.