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Jan 19 2018

Rebel voices : The rise of votes for women by Louise K. Stewart

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Ill. by Eve Lloyd Knight. Wren and Rook, 2018. ISBN 9781526300232
(Age: 8 - Adult) Highly recommended. From the fascinating eyes that follow the reader on the front cover to the end papers with vibrant red ticks this is a book that is totally engrossing and informative. It is beautifully produced with fabulous illustrations that stimulate the imagination and the information about how women all over the world have gained the right to vote is comprehensive and very interesting.
Rebel voices is engrossing. It tantalises the reader right from the beginning with the unusual contents page that will make the reader stop and think but also gives the opportunity to pick the topics that were of interest. Starting with the trailblazers in New Zealand and Australia the book then continues to describe chronologically, and by country, how women won the right to vote. Many of the entries also give information about the women who fought so hard to gain recognition. Thus the reader learns about Sojourner Truth who campaigned in the US and the inspiring life of Matilde Hidalgo de Procel in Ecuador as well as other fascinating women in countries around the world and better known figures like Emmeline Pankhurst.
This is a fascinating and well researched look at the time it has taken for women to get the vote. The excellent time line and the range of women who fought so hard make this a really good volume to have in the primary and secorndary library and classroom.
Pat Pledger


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Jan 19 2018

This book isn't safe by Colin Furze

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Puffin Books, 2017. ISBN 9780141386959
(Age: 7-13) Highly recommended. In a world where children watch videos of other children opening toys for fun, it is not a strange occurrence that a YouTube star should write a book. Colin Furze is a self confessed crazy inventor who makes a living designing inventions such as vacuuming shoes, building the worlds fastest mobility scooter and creating a 360 degree swing as big as a house. His YouTube channel states "this channel is the home of crazy inventions, brilliant world records and constant disregard to health and safety," basically all the thing young kids love to watch!
This book showcases his life and crazy creations, while giving instructions for 10 inventions the reader can make at home.
I have to admit that I had never heard of Colin Furze before (and immediately googled him!!!) and found that he has a huge following - over 5 million - and that many of his projects are funded by television and gaming companies.
This book is set out in a way that children of about 7-13 years old would love, with lots of photos and easy to read explanations. There are also multiple fonts on a page, bright colours and a combination of hand written and typed information.
I liked this book for a number of reasons:
1) It is written with humour and appealed to both myself and my 7 year old. It is so good to be able to read a book and BOTH laugh.
2) The inventions the author explains step by step are all feasible for kids and their parents which is important as it would be disappointing to read this book and not be able to do any of them!
3) The author explains how to safely learn to drill holes, saw wood and measure things. I think these are all really important skills to have and to include them in this way will hopefully mean children take note and learn how to do them correctly.
There was not anything I didn't like about this book, it would make a great gift for a young child who loved to build, make and create!
Lauren Fountain


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Jan 19 2018

The ABC book of feelings by Helen Martin and Judith Simpson

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Ill. by Cheryl Orsini. HarperCollins, 2017. ISBN 9780733338298
(Age: 3-6) Themes: Emotions, Wellbeing. Toddlers and pre-schoolers can find it difficult knowing how to deal with their emotions in suitable ways. The ABC Book of Feelings helps with the understanding of personal emotions as well as showing youngsters how to appreciate other's feelings too. This easy to share book aids young children by showing a variety of familiar situations and provides talking points for simple conversations. On a rainy day, how do children, a cricket team, car drivers and pedestrians cope with the weather?
There are ways to calm down, seek help when things are overwhelming and importantly kindness, caring for others and saying sorry is emphasized. Having healthy minds and healthy bodies is important by developing understandings about these key concepts helps in family, social and group settings. The authors use gentle rhymes, questions and simple text to explore and explain many different kinds of feelings.
Cheryl Orsini's charming characters drawn in little vignettes and shown in full page scenes, portray the funny, sad, happy, even disgusting situations that the young child can relate to. The ABC Book of Feelings supports the teaching of emotional and social wellbeing in the Early Years, when children begin to develop their own identity and build and maintain relationships. Healthy bodies and healthy minds are key to learning how to participate in their homes and learning communities.
Rhyllis Bignell


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Jan 19 2018

Friday Barnes: Never fear by R. A. Spratt

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Random House, 2018. ISBN 9780143784203
(Age: 9+) Recommended. Detectives, Boarding school. Friday Barnes is the youngest child of two scientists, and has been left mostly to her own devices growing up. With an immense IQ and a love of detective novels, she jumps at the chance to do some detecting. In the first of the series, she worked on solving a bank robbery, using the huge reward to get herself to the most exclusive of boarding schools. But here of course, it's not all plain sailing and she needs to put her sleuthing to good purpose.
In this book, number eight in the series, Friday is increasingly puzzled and not a little upset at the work undertaken by the new headmaster, Dr Belcredi, at her school, Highcrest Academy. He is turning everything upside down. But Friday manages to get off side with this person and is close to being expelled, when a rumour about stolen gold being stashed at the school emerges, impelling her to put her brain into action, and work out what is going on. But first she must get herself out of detention, not an easy task.
All of her usual flair continues in this funny outing for this wonderful quirky main character. This time a little romance sneaks into the equation, showing readers a different side of her character. She is self sufficient, daring and clever, and is sure to attract the most fastidious of readers.
Fran Knight


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Jan 18 2018

Harry Potter: a journey through a history of magic by British Library

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(Age: All Harry Potter fans) Highly recommended. If you are a Harry Potter fan then this book is a MUST HAVE! After bringing this book home I made the mistake of showing to my son (a new Harry fan) and it has been a struggle to get any time with the book myself!
Harry Potter: a journey through a history of magic is a wonderful book showcasing the amazing collection of artefacts put together for an exhibition for the British Library to celebrate 20 years since the first instalment of the record breaking series.
This book intertwines the daily lessons and faces of Hogwarts with the ancient history and art of magic that has been recorded over the last thousand years. As I read the chapters I really got a sense of where J. K. Rowling was able to explore her ideas and add meaning and appropriate description to particular scenes such as the Bezoar stone or the first documented use of incantations.
I particularly loved the hand-drawn maps and pictures by J. K. Rowling, with little questions on the side where you can see her thinking, and also how well planned out her story is. In addition to this you get to see copies of both hand-written and typed draft pages of various books - complete with words crossed out, re-typed and questions raised as to where she may go with that idea next.
When I asked my son why he enjoyed this book so much it was a pretty simple answer from him - the illustrations! He loved Jim Kay's artwork which were taken from the illustrated editions. He said they were "colourful, funny and looked just like them"
I think that this book would be a wonderful gift for any Harry Potter lover, at any age, and also a great addition to a school library to add more meaning and understanding to this popular series. 10/10 from both myself and my Harry Potter obsessed child!
Lauren Fountain


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Jan 18 2018

Mallee boys by Charlie Archbold

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Wakefield Press, 2017. ISBN 9781743055007
(Age: 13+) Teenaged Sandy and his older brother Josh live with their father on a farm in Mallee country. These family members all love and care for each other in a blokey household where wife and mother Ellie is painfully missed following a fatal road accident. It is clear that each person is lost in their own way and the household barely manages to function at times when anger, hurt and frustration rise up and smother respectful communication and cooperation.
Aside from the bereavement two years previously, the family members struggle to deal with life's common challenges. Josh and his father work hard to earn a meagre living by cropping the marginal land and must manage with outdated and unreliable machinery, hard seasons and limited liquidity. Sandy yearns to complete his final years of study in Adelaide and applies to schools which can provide academic content and support which he can't access at his local school. The entrance examinations place a great deal of pressure upon both Sandy and rejection letters diminish his self-esteem.
Importantly, the story also considers the position of both boys as they try to meet girls and establish relationships in a setting where the limited population offers little opportunity to make friends with new people. I liked the way that awkwardness, lack of confidence and heart-ache were portrayed so realistically within a plot which presented every-day rural life simply and unapologetically.
The characters in this novel are entirely authentic and the author is clearly very familiar with the setting as she depicted them fondly and respectfully, without resorting to stereotype. It was pleasing to see that a vital plot development which strains friendships and tests family relationships was exactly the kind of event which could take place in a country setting. The resolution and conclusion are similarly satisfying for being measured and affirming.
This refreshing and intelligent story suits readers 13 and over.
Rob Welsh


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Jan 17 2018

Starlight Stables series by Soraya Nicholas

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Brumby rescue, book 5. ISBN 9780143787440
Barmah brumbies, book 6. ISBN 9780143787433
Penguin, 2018.
(Age: 9-12) Recommended. Themes: Friendship. Horses and horse riding. Brumbies. Soraya Nicholas' Starlight Stables series is packed full of fun, friendship and horses. Twelve-year-old Poppy, Milly and Katie enjoy their weekends riding, caring for their ponies, competing in events, camping out and experiencing new adventures.
In Brumby rescue Poppy accompanies her Uncle Mark, a veterinarian to a horse auction. Poppy enjoys listening to the auctioneer, the buyers bidding on the horses as they are paraded around the ring. She is alarmed at the fate of some older and unwanted horses as they are sold to the Meat Man. Poppy passionately bids on a wild brumby using all of her savings and some extra money from her uncle. A new chapter in her life begins as she learns to gain the wild horse's confidence with the assistance of her Aunt Sophie. Poppy and her friends still enjoy cantering across the country side on their horses, helping out in the stables and going home each week for school. This story explores the dynamics of taming a wild creature, shows the patience and resilience required, and displays how family and friends help in tough times.
Barmah brumbies continues with Poppy, Millie and Katie keen to ride in the Barmah Muster. Aunt Sophie looks into the possibilities and decides they will join in the Barmah Heritage Ride instead, spending five days riding in the forest and camping in the muster yards. There's the excitement of a one-day horse event before they leave with Poppy and her pony Crystal winning the competition. Poppy, Millie and Katie help at the campground, and Storm the brumby seems to recognise the sounds and smells of this familiar country. Aunt Sophie rides Storm while the girls love participating in the ride on their ponies. Their decision to sneak out of camp and search for the wild brumby herd causes problems as they become lost and their uncle and aunty have to frantically search for them.
Soraya Nicholas shares her knowledge of horsemanship and the responsibilities of being a horse owner in these exciting Australian stories. Her characters are realistically portrayed, they struggle, share their concerns and encourage one another. She brings the countryside to life and shares her passion for wildlife rescue and respect for the environment. The Starlight Stables series is perfect for readers who like animal and nature novels and for horse lovers.
Rhyllis Bignell


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Jan 17 2018

Bush birthday by Lorette Broekstra

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Bush birthday. ISBN 9781925267051
Bush bedtime. ISBN 9781925267068
Allen and Unwin, 2018
(Age: 1-4) Themes: Counting. This is a new range of books featuring a cast of ten Australian bush baby animals. The same cute, fluffy baby animals with oversized heads and big eyes appear in both of the books and the stories are short, playful and colourful. They cleverly explore language and counting concepts and are therefore perfect for early childhood settings.
Bush bedtime counts from one to ten (ONE climbs up the tree, And TWO climb down, etc.) and also features positional and directional words (up, down, through, out, on, between, behind, by, in, at). The number words and the focus vocabulary words are in a different colour to encourage beginning word awareness. The story begins with one animal setting out on a journey and on each page another animal joins the group. At the end of the book all of the animals find themselves at the billabong for platypus's birthday party.
Bush bedtime is opposite in that it counts backwards from ten to one. It is a take on the classic rhyme Ten in the Bed, however, this version starts off with "There are TEN out of bed". One by one, the animals get sleepy so as "NINE crawl low" kookaburra sneaks off to bed and as "TWO climb on the bed" wallaby tucks himself in. Once "There are TEN in the bed, It's time to say... Goodnight!"
The animals are all smiley and having oodles of fun, making music, bouncing high and dancing. This title also features adjectives (low, high, loud, quiet, big, small), which are bolded and made to look like their meaning (e.g. "high" is stretched upwards, while "low" is stretched out sideways).
Nicole Nelson


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Jan 16 2018

Unearthed by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

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Unearthed book 1. Allen and Unwin, 2017. ISBN 9781760292157
(Age: 13+) Highly recommended. Themes: Science fiction. Adventure. The Undying, an alien race, has left behind technology on Gaia, an abandoned planet, that will save the earth and there is a race to discover more of it. Jules Addison has come to Gaia as a scholar, convinced by his father that there is a secret warning contained in a message that tells of danger to those who uncover it. Meanwhile Amelia (Mia) Radcliffe has won passage on a space ship because she is a clever scavenger who just wants to make enough money to save her sister back on Earth. When the two confront other scavengers after their equipment, they decide to work together to find out the secrets that the Undying have left behind.
From then on it is all action as the pair race across the planet with the scavengers in hot pursuit. They have to pool their abilities once they reach the hidden temple and the way they work out the clues and avoid all the obstacles and traps makes for an exciting read. Told in alternating chapters by Jules and Mia, the reader gains an in-depth understanding of the character and motivation of each and can sympathise with both as they work toward such different goals. They are both intelligent and clever and gradually see where the other is coming from and gain a measure of trust. The snappy dialogue between the two is often funny and gives the reader some relief from the ever present danger and action.
Even before I knew that Unearthed would be made into a film I found myself agog with the sheer speed and action in the book and could easily imagine it on the big screen. In fact it reminded me a lot of Indiana Jones and Lara Croft movies and the story line would have great appeal to audiences who enjoy the action adventure movie and book. And the ending is sure to keep the reader waiting impatiently for the next episode in the story.
Pat Pledger


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Jan 16 2018

Nicola Berry series by Liane Moriarty

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Pan Macmillan, 2017.
Nicola Berry and the petrifying problem with Princess Petronella. ISBN 9781760554736
Nicola Berry and the shocking trouble on Planet Shobble. ISBN 9781760554743
Nicola Berry and the wicked war on the Planet of Whimsey. ISBN: 9781760554750
(Age: 10+) Recommended. Themes: Humour, Space Travel, Competitions. A trio of funny space travel books about Nicola Berry are rereleased, after first appearing in 2009.
Nicola Berry and the petrifying problem with Princess Petronella is the first of this three-book outer space adventure series for young readers written by adult author, Liane Moriarty. Each of the books is about 200 pages long, with about 40 chapters, making it an encouraging read for mid to upper primary readers.
Nicola Berry's life is changed completely when an odd looking man from another planet, Globagaskar, comes to earth on an even odder mission. This very tall person is on the lookout for someone to travel back to his planet, where as the Earthling Ambassador, she will try to convince the very spoilt princess on Globagaskar that earth is not to be used as a waste disposal dump.
She is not sure that she has the wherewithal to convince the girl, but off she goes with the blessing of Earth's inhabitants behind her. And once on Globagaskar her confidence begins to ebb.
Moriarty has developed a fascinating premise, akin to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams) where earth is to be destroyed to make way for a super highway, and her characters are bubbling with enthusiasm and self doubt tackling the huge problem.
The other two in this fine series, Nicola Berry and the shocking trouble on Planet Shobble and Nicola Berry and the wicked war on the Planet of Whimsey were also first published in 2009, and have been rereleased as well.
They are just as funny as Nicola and her friends, The Space Brigade, find themselves in all sorts of trouble, but in using their considerable cleverness manage to elude their pursuers. Wonderfully entertaining, hilarious and with lots of jokes about society's hang ups, the series will be eagerly picked up by new readers.
Fran Knight


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Jan 16 2018

Tracy Lacy for Classy Captain! by Tania Lacy

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Ill. by Danielle McDonald. Tracy Lacy bk 2. Scholastic, 2017. ISBN 9781760275969
(Age: 8-11) Themes: School Life, Humour, Friendship. Tania Lacy's high octane character Tracy Lacy returns in Tracy Lacy for Classy Captain! Time for Tracy to leave the familiarity of primary school with all of its hideous experiences and humiliating incidents and start fresh at Northwood High. Of course nothing goes to plan, her very first day is a disaster, there's an embarrassing situation at lunchtime, and Tracy inhales a blowfly and expels it in a large snot tentacle which lands on Year 12 student Lisa Harmes' uniform. Screaming and pandemonium occurs and Tracy decides to either move to Latvia or stay at home for the rest of Hell School! When the Year 7 Class Coordinator Mr Master announces there will be a vote for a boy and girl class captain for the whole year level, Tracy decides it is her time to shine. Her rival and arch-enemy from primary school Victoria Fuller is there to thwart Tracy's dreams. She shares Tracy's dreadful art drawing from her early days at school, her rainbow pony Oomphoff who farts rainbows with the other Year 7s. Poor Tracy Lacy is disgraced again. With her loyal friends Ag and Ponky's support she bounces from one disaster to the next. She even scores her Daily Working stats - Mood, Sucky Moments, Unsucky Moments, and 'TRA-LA-FO-CLA-CA' or Tracy Lacy for Class Captain moments.
Tania Lacy's over-the-top character Tracy Lacy's distinctive voice, side thoughts and side-side thoughts with her unusual family and laugh out loud school incidents make this an amusing novel. Danielle McDonald's expressive caricatures add humour and liveliness to Tracy's diary entries. With flourishes, starry borders, bold sized text and an array of fonts, Tracy Lacy for Classy Captain is a visually exciting novel. Themes of self-acceptance, resilience, loyalty, puberty, coping with the transition to high school, family life, making the right choices are included.
With a large dash of comedy and some cringe-worthy moments this novel is just right for preteen readers both girls and boys.
Rhyllis Bignell


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Jan 16 2018

That inevitable Victorian thing by E.K. Johnston

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Dutton Books for Young Readers, 2017. ISBN 9780735231597
(Age: 15+) Recommended. Themes: Fantasy. Alternative British Empire, Diversity, Romance, Duty. Genetics. Readers will find themselves in a very different political and scientific world when they encounter Victoria-Margaret, a direct descendant of Queen Victoria who has travelled incognito to Toronto to be presented as a debutante at her cousin's ball. She is excited to have the opportunity to shed the trappings of royalty and meet people as a normal young woman. Helena, too has been invited to the debutante ball. She is the daughter of a pre-eminent geneticist, and as her mother's daughter must present a happy face even when uncertain in the social whirl of tea parties and dances. August Callaghan is also in Toronto for the ball and is overjoyed to be meeting Helena again, hoping to cement their childhood attachment, even though he is frantic about the bad decisions he has made about his family's shipping empire which is under siege from pirates. The three discover an unusual bond, which will fascinate the reader.
E.K. Johnston is an author who is not afraid to take risks and write very original and thought provoking books. Her first book, The Story of Owen : dragon slayer of Trondheim (2015 YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults (Top Ten), 2015 William C. Morris YA Debut Award Nominee) grabbed my attention and I have followed this author with interest since then. Her story of an empire that has been built on making diverse genetic royal marriages instead of the princes and princesses marrying white royalty from Europe is unique and raises lots of questions about what the world would be like now if Queen Victoria has made those decisions. Throughout the book are snippets of conversations that Victoria-Margaret has on the net with the partner that has been chosen for her as genetically compatible and Helena too finds a partner who suits her genetic profile.
This is a novel that will challenge readers as they follow the well described characters of Margaret, Helena and August who must make some difficult decisions about their sexual orientation and duty as they come of age.
Pat Pledger


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Jan 15 2018

Rain fall by Ella West

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Allen and Unwin, 2018. ISBN 9781760296834
(Age: 12+) Highly recommended. Murder. Crime. Thriller. New Zealand. Coal mining. Rodeos. Horses. Living in Westport on the south island of New Zealand, where rain is measured in metres, Annie is stuck at home one afternoon when the police surround the neighbouring property; the owner, Pete, having fired at the local police station the night before. Without warning the house blows up, shattering Annie's windows, and muffling their eardrums, but Annie's first thought is for her horse, Blue, fractious at loud noises. She takes him for a ride on the beach, and there meets Jack, the son of the detective sent to the area to help with the search for a missing body. The idea that her neighbour, Pete, was involved with any of this is puzzling, the reclusive young man still grieving for his mother who recently died.
The crime thriller that follows is taught and involving, set in the most inhospitable of places where it never seems to stop raining. West evokes the setting with ease, informing us of of the coal mining that underpins the community, Annie's father a train driver who take the coal south to Greymouth, where it is taken by other drivers across the ranges to Christchurch. But the worldwide downturn in coal production is seeing the demise of the town and its population, and layered within the story are varying points of view about coal, tree felling, rodeos and isolation.
West's writing is compelling, far better that the adult thriller I recently put aside in disgust, after being lured by the idea of 'a bidding war' for its publication. Readers can breath in West's atmospheric, if soggy setting, she peoples her novel with credible players, and makes their interaction absolutely believable. The climax builds steadily, drawing the reader into this small world and its undercurrents, as Annie and Jack follow a light, headed into the mountains.
This is a terrific crime story, and would make a good class text with its layering of themes and ideas, smart central characters and stunning setting. I was excited to see this new book
by New Zealand author, Ella West after reading Night vision (2014) and was just as absorbed reading it from cover to cover in one sitting.
Fran Knight


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Jan 15 2018

The Susie K Files by Shamini Flint

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Ill. by Sally Heinrich. Allen & Unwin, 2017.
Life of the party. ISBN 978176029 6681
Game changer. ISBN 9781760296698
(Age: 6+) Highly recommended. Themes: School. Difference. Fitting in. Problem solving. Susie K is a problem solver, she loves all things science and despite Mum's best efforts at pushing Susie to fit in, she just does not. So mesmerised by her problem solving efforts she actually keeps a filing cabinet of her attempts to solve problems, each file containing the problem, the experiments she carries out to explore the problem and her attempts to solve it. A few examples are given at the start of the story to explain just what she does. She would love a pet but is highly allergic to them so solves the problem by getting a goldfish. George becomes her confidante through the stories. Sally Heinrich's cute line illustrations underline the humour in the text adding another level of fun for the reader.
But as children read they will discover Susie's main problem, that of fitting in. All readers will sympathise with Susie as it is a universal problem that scans all ages and types of people.
The second in the series, Game changer will entreat younger readers as Susie must solve a major problem with Sports Day coming up at school. Being a devoted scientist and problem solver, sports does not figure into her realm of skills; she is hopeless at them all, so must do something to change this state of affairs.
Funny, wittily illustrated with an engaging main character, this series is sure to please middle primary people.
Fran Knight


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Jan 15 2018

Star Wars: What is a droid? by Lisa Stock

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Star Wars: DK readers level 1. DK 2017. ISBN 9780241301272
(Age: 6+) Star Wars. Droids. Space. The first in a series of readers produced by DK, concerning the series Star Wars, this book uses a format that is readily accessible to newly confident readers. The book is 24 pages long and is divided into twelve sections of two pages each with colourful illustrations and between twenty and thirty words on each double page spread. The subject matter is appealing to younger readers, the format is easy to use, and the whole has an index and contents page teaching new readers skills of using a non fiction book. The first of four, What is a droid?, Blast off!, Rey to the rescue and The adventures of BB-8, this one tells the reader the difference between good and bad droids, then talks about several individually. C-3P0 and R2-D2 take up the next four pages and will be easily recognised by readers, and after this follows a range of droids used in the series of films. I had no idea there were so many! After this is a two page quiz and a glossary, making a complete book for young readers to absorb and test themselves. The text does not play down to early readers, and the illustrations add to the fun of the book. Early readers will love recognising the droids they have seen in the films, and enjoy the quiz at the end.
Fran Knight


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Jan 15 2018

Championship dash by Michael Panckridge

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Big Bash League book 6. Penguin Random House, 2017. ISBN 9780143782292
(Age: 8-11) Recommended. Themes: Cricket; Overcoming difficulty. The Kangaroo Flat Galahs are a team of junior cricketers who come from a small but supportive community and have to battle uphill in order to make a mark in the regional competition against the Edenhope Eagles. They are desperately under skilled and don't even have a full team - even if you count Fatty Bumbar, the coach's bull mastiff. But then a mystery cricketer revitalises their team. Allunga seems to come out of nowhere, but her gentle manner and her amazing cricket skills combine to instil hope and success in the ragtag team as they make their way to the State T20 championships to represent their region of Western Australia. With star cameo appearances from the real T20 stars, this is a wonderful book for young readers who love cricket. Ironically I read this book while the T20 competition was in play, and I felt genuinely impressed in the way some basic cricket skills were communicated within an appealing story for young readers. I will be recommending this to both male and female readers who enjoy sport, or who just enjoy a story where the central characters need to face difficulty and work together in order to have any hope of success. It has real heart-warming qualities.
Carolyn Hull


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Jan 15 2018

The Polar Bear Explorers' Club by Alex Bell

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Ill. by Tomislav Tomic. Faber and Faber, 2017. ISBN 9780571332540
(Age: 8-11) Recommended. Themes: Fantasy, Explorers and exploration. Stella Starflake Pearl was saved as a young child from the Icelands, an unexplored land and adopted by her rescuer Felix. This pale white girl lives in a beautiful mansion with a polar bear, unicorns, pygmy dinosaurs and mean Aunt Agatha who wants to send Stella off to boarding school. Her one desire is to be an explorer, a navigator and sail away with her father on his next expedition. He is a member of the Polar Bear Explorer's Club that bans women from embarking on their adventures, much to Stella's disgust. She is surprised and delighted when Felix relents and the very next day, Stella and her unicorn Magic set sail aboard The Bold Adventurer.
Stella is feisty and fearless. She soon befriends Shay the captain's son and wolf whisperer and Beanie who is studying to be a medic. They are handicapped by the Ocean Squid Explorers Club who are accompanying them especially Ethan, a self-centred boy who dislikes Stella, Beanie, and Shay. The fast-paced adventure includes an ingenious escape from a collapsing ice bridge, navigating subterranean caves and tunnels, problems with wolves and a herd of woolly mammoths. With the young explorers separated from the others, they learn to deal with the extremely cold conditions by relying on each other's abilities.
Tomic's black and white sketches are styled to look like 19th century drawings recorded by explorers. As the four young explorers journey across the ice and snow, we see the daring sleigh ride across the ice bridge, the magnificent sparkling castle rising in front of them and the opulent entrance to the Polar Bear Explorers' Club. Alex Bell's magical world captures the imagination, her settings are detailed, her narrative lyrical, with her magical creatures and humans filled with both wonder and danger. Read aloud to a middle primary class, this fantasy promises to keep the students engaged, and there are more adventures ahead for Stella and her friends.
Rhyllis Bignell


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Jan 15 2018

The Wolf, the Duck and the Mouse by Mac Barnett

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Ill. by Jon Klassen. Walker Books, 2017. ISBN 9781406377798
(Age 4-10) Highly recommended. This is a modern day humourous pour quoi or origin fable that explains why wolves howl at the moon. A mouse gets swallowed by a wolf and in the belly of the beast meets a duck. "I may have been swallowed, but I have no intention of being eaten", the duck declares over a fine breakfast of bread and jam. So, does duck want to get back to the outside? Of course not: down here is no need to worry about being gobbled up! The two new friends feast, dance and feast some more but all this ruckus is giving the wolf a stomach ache, making him the perfect target for a hunter. "We must fight. We must try. Tonight we ride to defend our home", declares the mouse. So scare away the hunter they do, and are in exchange for their help the wolf grants them a favour (gobbling them up again, of course!), thereby resigning himself to a lifetime of howling at the moon in pain ("Oh woe! Oh woe!).
While definitely a quirky tale, this never seems to stray to the ridiculous. The friendship formed between the duck and the mouse is endearing and the way they save the wolf and live (somewhat) harmoniously with it in the end is pleasing and chortle-worthy.
Jon Klassen's illustrations are fantastic, especially when mouse and duck are dining at a long dining table dressed in their Sunday best, white top hats over their eyes and red wine spilling from their raised glasses. Their charge (brandishing hockey sticks and kitchen utensils) to scare away the hunter is also spectacular. Washed out browns and greys lend the book a sombre feel but despite its macabre subject matter it is really rather upbeat and the inside of the wolf is warm and homey (walnut brown tones). Both the illustrations and the language have an olden day, fairy tale feel (the hunter's tobacco pipe, record player, "flagon" of wine, duck wears a nightcap to bed, "Oh woe, oh shame", "I fear this is the end").
This really is a timeless tale that despite its uniqueness seems somehow familiar. It will appeal to old, young and probably everyone in between.
Nicole Nelson


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Jan 15 2018

I'll keep you safe by Peter May

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Quercus, 2018. ISBN 9781784294946
(Age: Adult) Although a murder mystery, I'll keep you safe is also very much a love story. Niamh and Ruairidh Macfarlane are a husband and wife team, successful fabric weavers from Scotland, who are now much sought after in the Paris fashion world. But Niamh has just received an email saying that her husband is having an affair with fashion designer Irina Petrov. Is that the explanation for his recent air of distraction, and the secret messages he seems to be getting? When from the window she sees Ruairidh leave their hotel to meet Irina in the courtyard below, she rushes downstairs to see them departing in Irina's car. Running to follow them she sees the car explode in a ball of fire, both occupants killed instantly.
Looking back over their life together, Niamh tries to understand what has happened. Is her husband still her one true love, the man who promised to always keep her safe? Their lives have been intertwined since they met as children when they were first brought together by a moment of danger, and there have been moments since then, when their friendship has been tested, but in her heart Niamh has always known that Ruairidh was the only person she wanted to spend her life with.
Lieutenant Sylvie Braque has the task of solving the crime, following the leads thrown up by family feuds, broken friendships, and the competitive fashion industry. An underlying theme throughout the novel, is the question of values, how does one balance love, duty, and family ties? Is it only when confronted with death that each person is forced to work out what their true values are?
The setting for all this is the wild and brooding world of bog marshes, sea spray and storm ravaged cliffs - the Isle of Lewis, in Scotland, is a stark contrast to the fashion world of Paris. Connecting it all is the Dark Web, where a killer can be hired to destroy with a car bomb. The reader is compelled to read until the last page to find out just what happened between Niamh and Ruairidh.
Helen Eddy


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Jan 15 2018

Meet the Flying Doctors by George Ivanoff

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Ill. by Ben Wood. Penguin Random House Australia, 2016. ISBN 9781408876787
(Age 7+) Recommended. Most Australians have heard of the Royal Flying Doctor Service and many owe their lives to its support. Meet the Flying Doctors by George Ivanoff and Ben Wood will help children to appreciate the organisation by explaining how it was formed. The title is one in the Meet series, which aims to introduce younger readers to people who have played significant roles in Australia's history.
The story is told by a young, fictional narrator who explains why he believes that his life has been saved by the Reverend John Flynn. This device enables the author to begin with a kitchen table discussion about the man on the $20 note, and end with the narrator's journey to hospital by plane. Between these two events is a straightforward telling of Flynn's arrival in the outback, and his determination to create an aerial medical service after reading about the death of an injured stockman. Ivanoff has explained the steps taken by most of those involved in helping Flynn to realise his dream. Alfred Traeger, inventor of the pedal-powered radio, is not mentioned in the text but his achievement is included in a detailed timeline at the end of the book. The timeline appears to have been written for adults, who can use it to answer questions or provide additional information in a classroom. A map of Australia marks air base locations but does not name them. Information about current technology has been incorporated into the narrative. The text is written in a medium-sized font. Sentences are short and clearly written. Wood's engaging illustrations reproduce the colours of the outback in soft shades of ochre and green. Like aerial photographs, two of the pictures represent the landscape from a pilot's point of view.
Younger readers, who read or share Meet the Flying Doctors, can enjoy learning about a remarkable aspect of Australian history.
Elizabeth Bor


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Jan 11 2018

Funny kid stand up by Matt Stanton

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HarperCollins, 2017. ISBN 9780733335983
(Age: 7+ years) Highly recommended. Max Walbert is the boy who can make others laugh, the funny kid. Only . . . he's lost his funny. On the eve of Redhill's local talent quest, Max pulls a prank on his new teacher, but nobody laughs. By the time the auditions come around, Max has managed to put a lot of people off side, including the other entrants. His best friend Hugo remains on his side, but after a few poor life choices of late, Hugo is now angling to be Max's life coach. Begrudgingly and after being spectacularly heckled by a clown named Tumbles, Max accepts that to win the talent quest he is going to have to find some new material. But then his grandpa goes missing from the nursing home, and Max suddenly has a lot more serious matters to consider; especially when he is the one who discovers that his Grandpa has been kidnapped.
Children from about seven or eight will find the style of this book very easy to read.
This novel is for fans of Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Tom Gates and similar. It took me a little while to work out that the speech used by comic pictures in the book was part of the text and not separate from it, but kids familiar with this style would pick it up straight away.  From the outset, the novel will have readers laughing out loud. Max's narrative, for a book about a kid who is unfunny, is definitely fun to read. Author Matt Stanton is definitely creating a reputation for himself in comedic prose, including upcoming titles in the Funny Kid series, Fart Monster series and This is a Ball series.
This book comes highly recommended for middle Primary years students and also for reluctant readers.
Clare Thompson


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Jan 11 2018

Witch snitch by Sibeal Pounder

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Witch Wars series. Bloomsbury, 2017. ISBN 9781408892046
(Age: 9-10) Recommended. Sibeal Pounder's Witch Snitch : The Inside scoop on the witches of ritzy city is another addition to the popular Witch Wars series. This book is all about Tiga's first Witchoween, which is a celebration of how wonderful witches are if you were wondering, and her entry into the film world when she is asked to help make a documentary about the most interesting witches in Sinkville. There are 18 fantastic, interesting witches for them to interview and each one for their own special reasons. One develops the bestselling mouldy jam cat food with a hint of fairy flavour, another the owner of a secret cafe and another who has a museum dedicated to mermaids and owns over 100 pairs of mermaid -print leggings. All interviews scenarios are funny, and filled with problems to be solved by Tiga and her crew.
Although it is part of a series I found that it was a good standalone book as the book is full of character profiles, craft and cooking activities and fun facts about the witches of the Witch Wars fame. Dedicated fans of this series or newcomers could easily follow the ideas and create their own Witch Wars party as intended by the author.
This book is quite girly, in that there is a lot of talk of fashion, style and fairies, plus the majority of the characters are female. It would be ideal for a reader who struggles with the jump to longer chapter books as the illustrations and activities provide a nice interlude and distraction if needed.
I particularly enjoyed the funny character names such as Fluffanora, Sluggfey and Melodie McDamp! I think young readers will find the humour in these names.
Sibeal Pounder's writing is lively and interesting, keeping readers entertained and hooked to the story. I have not read any of the other Witch Wars stories, however if they are written in the same way then I feel that this would be wonderful series for readers around 9/10 years old.
Lauren Fountain


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Jan 11 2018

The Getaway by Jeff Kinney

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Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Book 12. Penguin, 2017. ISBN 9780143782797
(Age: 7-12) Recommended. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Getaway is the 12th book in the long standing, award winning series by Jeff Kinney. Just as in book 9 The long haul, this story depicts the Heffley family going on vacation. The structure of the book is the same as the previous titles, written in a diary style and filled with the line drawn pictures that are synonymous with this series. As usual there are many struggles and issues that Greg and his family face. From the beginning there are problems and it is easy to see that this is not going to be the relaxing Christmas break that they had hoped for.
The issues include a fear of flying, navigating unknown and interesting local animals, annoying parents, and stomach troubles to name a few! Most of these would be very real to children when on holidays and I think that this book, even though it is total fiction, deals with them in a funny way and shows that even after all sorts of incidents and problems you can still enjoy a holiday with your family.
It is over 200 pages long, however it is an easy read with the pictures adding interest and especially humour to the story. It is written for primary school aged children and it fits this criteria perfectly. The topics are relevant, it is very funny and the illustrations mean that even children who are not confident readers will find enjoyment in the series. There was not as much toilet based humour as in the previous books I have read, but the tropical paradise holiday craziness makes up for that.
This is the 4th book of this series that I have read and I can see why so many children love it. I recommend this book to children aged 7-12, especially readers who may struggle with longer chapter books as the pictures break up the text very nicely. I give it 4/5.
Lauren Fountain


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Jan 11 2018

We're going on a bear hunt (Snowglobe Gift Book) by Michael Rosen

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Ill. by Helen Oxenbury. Walker Books, 2017. ISBN 9781406377736
(Age: 2-7) This is a special edition of the classic 1989 picture book, featuring a snow globe window in the front cover. The timeless picture book depicts a long journey and a quick retreat. It can be chanted, sang or read and is just as well known now as a standalone song. Part of its charm is that children of all ages love joining in with the sound effects ("swishy swashy!", "Squelch squerch!") and the catchy refrains.
It is a favourite of educators because it is enjoyed by children of all ages and provides opportunities for many follow-on activities. The last page, where the bear walks alone on the beach, also provides a great discussion point. This is an attractive new version of the book, but is probably suited to home libraries rather than public or schools due to the plastic snow globe insert in the cover. While it is fairly sturdy it does make the book more prone to damage.
Nicole Nelson


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Jan 11 2018

You belong to me by Colin Harrison

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Bloomsbury, 2017. ISBN 9781408886298
(Age: Adult) Recommended. Themes: Murder; Greed; Maps; Drama (Thriller). You Belong to Me! Greed, jealousy, desire and ambition clash violently in this tense drama set in New York amongst the upwardly mobile and the rich and well-connected. Paul Reeves, the central character is a twice married, but now single lawyer with a passion for old maps of the New York region. This passion borders on obsession and impacts his current relationships and direction. His neighbour, Ahmed Mehraz, is of Iranian extraction and has successfully risen to great heights within American society and particularly in the complex world of global business. His beautiful wife, Jennifer, is an adornment and possibly a 'possession' that might prove to be a future political asset as proof of his 'neo-American' success, but she hides a past with rough edges. Into this cauldron of external success and the rise-to-the-top arrives an ex-flame for Jennifer, an all-American ex-serviceman - William Wilkerson, whose relationship with Jennifer fractures the surface of the veneer of success. The successful Ahmed sets in motion an engineered solution to prevent the interloper from destroying his plans for the future and with Paul and Jennifer also embroiled in keeping William from Ahmed's attention, the circumstances of their life become very complicated. Tension, violence, and organised crime enter the otherwise perfect world of the richly connected neighbours. Even though past horrors of Tehran's history have been left behind for the Mehraz family, the reader feels the tension as current horrors involving Mexican assassins and murder slowly twist what seemed to be glamour and success into a miry mess. And into all of this we see the wheeling and dealing of Paul Reeves as he tries to get his hands on his own prized possession - an antique map of New York.
Harrison has written a slowly ratchetting thriller, that uses New York and its locale as a contributing influence in the tension. I loved the insight into Antique Map collecting and the uber-successful business world with its flashy botoxed-facade as the setting for this slow-burn tense drama. With some quite violent moments, this is not for the faint hearted, and definitely for an adult audience as jealousy, sexual pursuit and obsession take over - who belongs to whom?
Recommended for adult readers who enjoy the Drama/Thriller genre (with some violence)
Carolyn Hull


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Jan 10 2018

We see everything by William Sutcliffe

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Bloomsbury, 2017. ISBN 9781408895986
(Age: 12+) Highly recommended. War. Terrorism. Drones. Using drones to target and kill people who are enemies of the regime is given a sophisticated outing in this menacing dystopian novel by award winning author, William Sutcliffe.
Alan is a failure to his single mother. Disinterested in school he seems to have no drive but gaming is his passion and he is chosen to train for a position within the government secret service, to use drones to watch and kill terrorists. Alan loves the uniform, the money, the prestige but finds his mother is appalled that he has taken such a job.
Meanwhile in The Strip, an area within Central London full of homeless and displaced people, bombed out of their homes, surrounded by no go zones and barbed wire, Lex takes on a courier job for his activist father, taking messages to houses within the ruined city where they live, aware of drones constantly overhead monitoring their every move. People caught in The Strip still manage to live with handouts and aid, some things smuggled in via the tunnels. Lex's ability with gaming gives him an edge with his deliveries, he knows how to avoid detection, to check out the route ahead, to stay safe and so learns his role quickly. He uses money earned selling cigarettes to buy himself a secondhand bike and this gives him some freedom, but Alan watching from above, sees a boy and his relationship with his father helping him restore the bike, a closeness he has never known. He becomes involved with the two that he watches, developing an empathy for them both, the boy only a little younger than he, the father teaching him things possibly meant to help him survive when he is gone.
Set in London, Lex's life is bound by a small section of the inner city, with barbed wire keeping them contained, but it could be anywhere, and astute readers will make the link between other places around the world where people are suffering behind walls, contained in bombed surroundings, often refugees in their own country, tunnels, bombing and barbed wire all part of their everyday lives. And this story shows us that the watched and the watchers are people living out their lives surviving as best they can. But in this case the drones are a formidable piece of armory.
Told in alternate chapters, one from The Strip where Lex delivers his messages, and the other from the control room, where Alan watches, guiding his drone to collect information. But the day is coming when Alan will be asked to use his drone to kill.
The film 'Eye in the sky' (2015) introduced audiences to the power of using drones, and this is shown with more intimacy in this book as Sutcliffe reveals the two boys and what motivates them, their lives coming inexorably closer. A thriller that is sure to engage the most jaded of readers, the links to the gaming world are intoxicating.
Fran Knight


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Jan 10 2018

The Firefly Code by Megan Frazer Blakemore

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Bloomsbury, 2017. ISBN 9781681195278
(Age: 10-14) Recommended. Themes: Science fiction. Genetic engineering. Utopias. Friendship. Megan Frazer Blakemore's science fiction novel The Firefly Code explores friendship and life in the beautifully crafted utopian world of Old Harmonie. Everything from a regulated diet to strict guidelines for living is adhered to by the residents. Parents can genetically design their children and when they have their thirteenth birthday they learn their genetic makeup and choose their latency a special gift.
Twelve year old Mori and her friends, Julia, Theo and Benji live in cookie cutter houses on Firefly Lane. They love riding their bikes, swimming and hanging out together. Mori's curious about the history of her environment, and she loves to explore deep in the woods right near the fence separating the outside world from hers. When new girl Ilana moves into the vacant house, she seems to be too perfect, and the friends are curious about her textbook life and family, her past and her sometimes strange behaviour.
Mori and Ilana form a special bond; Mori's inquisitiveness is piqued by Ilana's actions causing her to carefully observe her behaviours. The two girls build a secret retreat they call 'Oaksedge' in the woods, a special retreat where Mori nurtures her special trees. When the friends decide to explore the abandoned house left by the founders of Old Harmonie, friendships are tested and questions are raised. Mori takes Dr Varden's notebook explaining the origins of the society based on genetic engineering of bees and their behaviour. With an unexpected fire, the disappearance of Ilana and Mori's determination to uncover more about her great-grandma's role in starting this special place, this is an exciting story.
Blakemore's novel told from Mori's perspective is an engaging read, exploring everyday life, friendships and realistically discussing the role of genetic engineering and the impact of life in a utopian society. The Firefly Code is a suitable science fiction narrative for the middle grades as a class novel.
Rhyllis Bignell


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Jan 10 2018

Horses wild and tame by Iris Volant and Jarom Vogel

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Flying Eye Books, 2018. ISBN 9781911171324
(Age: 7+) Recommended. Horses are of endless fascination to many people and this book will satisfy both children and adults who are very familiar with them as well as those who seek information about them.
The contents page is comprehensive and the reader can read from the beginning of the book starting with the Introduction and What is a horse right through Horse gaits, Wild horse, Legendary horse and many more finally coming to Horse care and the Index. Those who are interested in specific topics can also peruse horse topics that might interest them, e.g. the impact that the story Black Beauty had in its time or Sports horses in the Modern Olympics.
Rich illustrations in deep greens, mellow browns and vivid blues stand out and complement the text that is concise and interesting to read and could be managed by an independent reader. It is also a book that is good to flick through - the beautiful colours and drawings draw the eye, and the reader just has to stop and read. I was fascinated by the legendary horse Pegasus and the drawings of war horses made me stop to read about them.
This would be a very worthwhile addition to any library or classroom.
Pat Pledger


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