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.

The Clumsies make a mess by Sorrel Anderson (alias the Clumsies)

Here is another little gem – a junior novel easy to read and heaps of fun! The Clumsies make a Mess arrived in our library last week and I was keen to read it because on flicking open the pages you discover three things – this looks like a long book (198 pages) but it is not, the print is huge (which I love) and the words are crazy (just like Geronimo Stilton). Crazy words? I wonder what the technical term is for this. If the word is jumped then the word looks like it is jumping, if the word is down then it goes down and so on.

Howard Armitage is in a very boring job which seems to mainly involve meetings and reports. His boss, the aptly named Mr Bullerton, is on the war path. Thank goodness that in books special friends like mice, elephants and dogs can help you. These mice have the most fabulous names Mickey Thompson and Purvis, the elephant is called Ortrud and the dog is Allen. Howard loves coffee and sausages and all difficulties are solved by starting with a cup of tea.

This little book is just perfect for children junior grades. Each chapter is a self contained story. It reminded me of Letters from a mouse by Herbie Brennan which is a little book I am always keen to recommend and the good news a second book about these Clumsies should arrive soon. I also wondered if Sorrel Anderson might be related to Scoular Anderson?

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The unfinished Angel by Sharon Creech

This is one of those very illusive books. What I mean by this is I am not sure if I loved it or if it has just left me puzzled. I am glad I went on this reading journey with Sharon Creech and even now days later I am still thinking about this book and wondering at the message (if there was one) and wondering about this angel (she is a lovely character) and most of all wondering about Zola a girl with wisdom beyond her tender years. Zola is a little bit like Stargirl (Jerry Spinelli) with her multilayered colourful clothes and thoughtful view of the world.

I am a huge fan of Sharon Creech and so I was excited to begin The unfinished angel. Unlike the other books by Sharon Creech in my blog – Love that dog, Hate that cat, The unfinished angel is not a verse novel. The print size and white space make it look like a book for middle primary but it is such a sophisticated story I think it is better placed with senior primary students.

I do plan to re-read this special book because I am sure it like the skin on an onion and as I read it again I expect more layers of meaning will be revealed.

If you enjoy the books of David Almond then look for The unfinished Angel. The feelings I had reading this book were just like the ones I had reading Skellig.

Angel has lived in this Swiss village for centuries. The village is near the border with Italy hence most of the influences and language are Italian. Angel looks over the town and tries to take care of these disparate inhabitants but it only through the arrival of Zola and her father that she is able to really make a difference to the daily lives of these people and especially to the lives of one special group of lost and homeless children. You can read more about the plot here.

One of the lovely features of this book is the unique language of Angel. Sharon Creech is such a skillful writer we always know what Angel means even though the words are unfamiliar.

“The casa is pink … but the stone tower that rises more than three stories above it is the colour of its stone – how do you call it? Tan? The colour of straw in winter? Of coffee with very much milk? …So maybe you think it is nothing specialful, this tower, but to me it is the finest of all towers in all the world.”

Monday, June 14, 2010

The remarkable secret of Aurelie Bonhoffen by Deborah Abela

I recently attended a talk where the speakers tried to guess which books might be short listed for the CBC 2010 awards. One speaker just sparkled when she talked about The remarkable secret of Aurelie Bonhoffen so with this in mind I sat down last night to read this new book by Deborah Abela.

I lifted my head 2 hours and 275 pages later…. This book just sped along and I loved it from beginning to end. It has all the elements for me that make a great story – friendship, food, a love story, twists and turns, strong characters, the triumph of good over evil, oh and did I mention food.

If you are a fan of Odo Hirsch you must read this book. If you loved Hazel Green you will adore Aurelie Bonhoffen. One thing I don’t do very well when I read a book is notice chapter headings. I am glad I missed the first one in this book because I was in for such a marvelous surprise. The opening scene is of a girl in a coffin with undertakers preparing for her burial. “She had been carefully laid out. Gentle hands smoothed down her white silk dress, combed her soft curls and brushed on her make-up so her cheeks looked like two faintly pink cherry blossoms.” Just as everything appears to be ready a train arrives. I immediately thought it was a train from the underworld. This is not the case, however, Aurelie and her two uncles are part of a ghost train act which itself is part of a carnival found down at the pier. The Bonhoffens are an old family of circus performers including trapeze artists, jugglers, magic act and animals (well people who dress up as animals). We discover all these talented people really early in the story because the story opens on the day of Aurelie’s birthday and everyone has planned a marvelous surprise party which includes delicious cloudberry juice and blackforest cake with extra Belgium chocolate.

Deborah Abela makes all the food in this book sound so delicious… "The smell of chocolate drifted though the air as Lilliana (Aurelie’s grandmother) poured her brew into two large mugs. She spooned freshly whipped cream on top, followed by sprinkled flakes of chocolate.”

The evil and aptly named Mr Crook is out to evict the Bonhoffens and take over the pier. He has blackmailed the mayor who is weak and vain. In a lovely twist Aurelie makes friends with Rufus, the son of the Mayor, and together with Aurelie's fun loving uncles and one very special ghost, the are able to avert disaster.

This book was not shortlisted for 2010 which seems such a shame but I do hope you can find a copy to enjoy – do this quickly in case it goes out of print like so many other of my favourite books.

There are teachers notes too.

Bear and Chook by the sea by Lisa Shanahan illustrated by Emma Quay

If you have been reading my blog you will know I really value books about friendship and this lovely book, short listed for the Children’s Book Council awards for 2010, is no exception.

Bear and Chook are so different. Different in size, looks, behavior and most importantly different in their view of the world. We talk about glass half full and glass half empty. Just like Minton and Turtle in the series by Anna Fienberg, Chook is the doubter (not quite a pessimist) and Bear is the optimist, they are two halves of an important whole.

Bear sets the pace for their adventure to the sea but it is Chook who guides him safely home when things don’t quite turn out as planned and when they arrive home “Bear made chook some warm honey toast.” Any mention of honey is sure to get me in. When I was a young child my all time favourite book, the one I could recite every word, was about Yogi bear eating warm honey cake. It was a little Golden book and I still long to find a copy.

Bear and Chook by the sea is just a delight from beginning to end. The youngest children will enjoy the repeated noisy phrases as our heroes journey out into the world and back again. More experienced readers will enjoy the completely satisfying ending when Chook allows Bear to continue his dream. Adults might even find there is quite a lot to learn about relationships in this charming story.

Mark Macleod has lovely things to say about this book too. I did love the first book Bear and Chook but I think this sequel is even better. You can also read some teachers notes.

The second best friend by Sally Rippin (Bille B Brown series)

Often one of the hardest things to find is a very junior novel with a satisfying story. When children are ready to move away from ‘readers’ they want engaging stories but of course the text needs to be simple enough to support a beginning reader. The new series Billy B Brown seems to answer this need.

In The second best friend Billie faces a dilemma which I think most young children will easily identify with – loyalty to a real friend.

Billie has some lovely sparkly pens. Jack gave these pens to Billie. Rebecca would like these pens. Rebecca has a lovely purple pony. Rebecca is willing to swap. What should Billie do?

As a further aid to the reader all the important emotional words (not too many to become annoying) are bold.

“Billie looks at Jack. She can see that Jack looks upset but she doesn’t know what to say. She mainly feels excited that Rebecca want to be her friend.”
There are six books in the series and I am sure they will quickly become ‘hot potatoes’ with my youngest readers. The web site is worth a visit too.