Sage Cookson’s Fishy Surprise (Bk3) by Sally Murphy

‘But I don’t know what to paaaaack,’ my friend Lucy wails down the phone.
I laugh. ‘Don’t panic. You can always borrow my stuff if you forget anything. I’m just so glad you’re coming with us!’
I switch the phone to my other ear as I look around my bedroom, making sure I haven’t forgotten anything in my own packing. ‘It will be nice and warm at Crystal Bay, so you won’t need much.’ I glance at my suitcase. ‘I’ve packed my swimmers, shorts, t-shirts, pyjamas …’

Sage Cookson is the daughter of famous TV chefs and has a wonderful life travelling around with her parents. But she misses her best friend, Lucy, so she’s excited that Lucy is joining them for this trip. They are off to a seaside town and there’s the promise of beach and great food. There’s also a mystery as an old foe reappears. It might be just coincidence, but Nancy is no more friendly than when last they met.

‘Fishy Surprise’ is episode three in this series for young independent readers. Sage’s life is much more exciting than that of many other ten-year-olds, but it also has its challenges. Not spending enough time with her friends is one of them. Not this time. With Lucy beside her, Sage has an accomplice as she works to solve this mystery. Young readers will thrill to the life Sage leads and empathise with her travails. Themes around family, friendship, loyalty round out these stories and add filling to the pastry. Recommended for independent readers.

Sage Cookson’s Fishy Surprise, Sally Murphy
New Frontier Publishing 2017
ISBN: 9781925059755

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller
www.clairesaxby.com

Harry Kruize, Born to Lose by Paul Collins

Monday 3rd October
First day back from school holidays and today in English, Mr Granger discussed the power of writing. He explained how the pen is mightier than the sword and gave examples of how writing influenced people to change. He said words can be so powerful that if you really want a wish to come true, then the best way to make it happen is to write it down.
To prove his point, he has set us a whole-term writing assignment where we have to write down a heap of wishes and explain why we really want them to come true. Then we have to document the exact circumstances of when each wish is granted.
I really like Mr Granger, and English is by far my favourite subject (I even want to be a writer when I grow up), but I am wondering whether he has lost the plot a bit with this one!

Harry Kruise is doing it tough. He’s the shortest kid at school, his dad is not around and his mum takes in boarders, old blokes, who mostly stay in their room. At school, he’s the frequent victim of bullying, mostly from Brick. A dog would help, if only his mother would allow him to have one. It would mean he’d finally have a friend. Then old man and master storyteller, Jack Ellis, moves into the shed. Jack is full of stories, lots of them about dogs. Slowly, slowly Jack’s life begins to change. Mr Granger has told him and his classmates that wishes will come true if you really want them to, and set the class an assignment that will last the entire term.

Told in online diary entries, dog tales and wishes, Harry reveals his life, his dreams, his fears. He’s thirteen years old, Term 4 of his first year of secondary school has just begun and he’s not having a lot of fun. He’s seeing the school psychologist every week. He’s also full of fear. If his father can leave like he did, Harry is sure nothing else in his life will ever secure. There are themes around loss, bullying, family and more. By the end of the term though, Harry has stopped sinking and starting to swim. Told with humour and including great Australian yarns, ‘Harry Kruize, Born to Lose’ offers short chapters and clearly marked viewpoint changes. Recommended for upper primary readers.

Harry Kruize, Born to Lose, Paul Collins
Ford St Publishing 2017
ISBN: 9781925272628

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller
www.clairesaxby.com

How Many Dinosaurs Deep? By Ben Kitchin ill Vicky Fieldhouse

Jim was learning how to swim. He had just gone up from the baby pool to the middle-sized pool.
‘Don’t worry,’ said his mum. ‘It’s not that deep. I don’t think the middle-sized pool would even come up to a Stegosaurus’s knee!’
‘Really?’ said Jim as he edged away from the water.
‘A Stegosaurus must be big! How deep can water get?’

Jim is a bit apprehensive about the deeper water in the middle-sized pool and his swimming lessons. He’s also obviously keen on dinosaurs. Mum relates the depth of this and other water to a scale he can visualise – that of dinosaurs. As he questions his mum and she answers in ‘dinosaur scale’, he gradually overcomes his fear of this new pool. A final spread at the completion of the story offers dinosaur information and images. Illustrations are in watercolour and black pencil.

Dinosaurs are fascinating for so many children, and many master the complex pronunciations and collect myriad facts long before they can write those names or the information. Here, a realistic fear is overcome by connecting it to Jim’s fascination for these extinct animals. Mum relates this experience to Jim’s interest and diverts his fear into curiosity about other waters and their depth relative to different dinosaurs. On one level this is a story about fear of water, but it also offers the opportunity to talk about science and measurement. And dinosaurs. Recommended for pre- and junior-primary readers.

How Many Dinosaurs Deep? Ken Kitchin ill Vicky Fieldhouse
New Frontier Publishing 2017 ISBN: 978925059731

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller
www.clairesaxby.com

Happily Ever After: Beauty and the Beast ill Helen Magisson

There was once a rich merchant who had six children: three sons and three daughters. His youngest daughter Bell was called ‘Beauty’.
Everyone admired her.
The two eldest daughters went out to parties every night. They laughed at Beauty when she stayed at home to read books.

A retelling of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ for younger readers, with full page whimsical illustrations on every opening. Text is large and language accessible.

Young readers will enjoy this gentle telling of the classic fairy tale, ‘Beauty and the Beast’. Brief enough to be read in a single bedtime session, the text is also accessible to independent readers. Part of a new series from New Frontier, this version of an old favourite is sure to find favour with lovers of fairy tales.

Happily Ever After: Beauty and the Beast, ill Helen Magisson
New Frontier Publishing 2017
ISBN: 9781925059809

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller
www.clairesaxby.com

The Legend Series 3: Down the Line by Michael Panckridge

‘Where do we go?’ I asked Jack as we raced around the corner of the hall.
We had just finished assembly. All the cricket winners had been presented with their trophies and certificates when Travis Fisk had asked, with a sinister smile on his face, if we’d seen Bryce Flavel around.
Straightaway we knew something was up. And judging by the smirk on Travis’ face, it wasn’t looking good for Bryce.
Our friendly genius was big on brain, but muscle wasn’t so big on him.

Mitchell and his friends are back in round three of the Legend competition. This time it’s tennis. Previously, Mitchell has won both surfing and cricket competitions to be the individual sport legend. All points add to an overall tally, the winner of which becomes Legend of Sport for the year. Travis Fisk, who has up until now been the hero of every sport, is not happy. Neither is his sports-crazy, school sponsor father. It seems that they will stop at nothing in pursuit of their ambitions. Each instalment in the series begins with an outline of the upcoming sport and structure of the points system. Final pages offer sports stats and a quiz.

Mitchell is settling well into his new school, making both friends and an enemy. Travis Fisk seems to have it for everyone, determined as he seems to win everything. Travis is showing occasional cracks in his bully mask, though there’s still plenty of antagonism. Where Travis has two thugs who do whatever he tells them, Mitchell’s friends are more varied and each brings their own talents and skills to the friendship. There are plenty of sport stats and strategies here, but also themes around friendship and bullying. Recommended for mid-primary readers, particularly those overwhelmed by novels.

The Legends: Down the Line, Michael Panckridge

Ford Street Publishing 2017 ISBN: 9781925272635

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller
www.clairesaxby.com

The Legend Series 4: Clearing the Pack

We always seem to be looking for Bryce Flavel. Before the school holidays, after the Legend of Tennis presentation, we’d been looking for him when he suddenly popped out of nowhere at one end of the library.
Now we were back in the same place, again looking for our missing friend.
‘Bryce?’
‘There he is,’ said Bubba, pointing to the deepest and furthest part of the library. We raced over. Well, okay, we didn’t exactly race over, but we hustled and bumped our way across as fast as we could go with Mrs Lee, the library staff member on duty, watching us over her glasses.

Mitchell and friends (and bully Travis Fisk) are back for a fourth instalment of the Legend Series, this time featuring football (and netball for the girls, although there’s a hint that next year, girls will be playing football too). Those competing will be judged on skills and knowledge as well as performance. As usual, Mitchell and his friends are fully part of the excitement. This time though, there’s also more than one mystery to be unravelled. Each book begins with an index, an outline of the Legend of Sport rules and conditions and a prologue summarising what has come before. Final pages offer statistics and details of each element.

Mitchell and friends are competing at football (and netball) this round of the Legend competition. Although Travis and his thugs are still causing mayhem, there are glimpses behind the bullying to a more reasonable Travis – not many, but enough to give the reader a chance to wonder at what causes his behaviour. Jack’s not having a lot of fun though, and Bryce’s behaviour is even more odd. So as well as lots of details about sports, there are other clues to be deciphered, other mysteries to solve. Recommended for mid-primary readers, particularly those who would rather be outside with a ball.

The Legend Series 4: Clearing the Pack, Michael Panckridge
Ford Street Publishing 2017 ISBN: 9781925272642

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller
www.clairesaxby.com

Review Tommy Bell Bushranger Boy 2: The Horse Thief by Jane Smith

There was a new kid at school. His name was Francis and after only one day he was already the most popular kid in Tommy Bell’s class.

The boys liked Francis because he was good t sports. The girls liked him because he was good-looking, and eve the teachers liked him because he was polite and clever. Tommy liked him because Francis loved horses.

There was a new kid at school. His name was Francis and after only one day he was already the most popular kid in Tommy Bell’s class.

The boys liked Francis because he was good at sports. The girls liked him because he was good-looking, and even the teachers liked him because he was polite and clever. Tommy liked him because Francis loved horses.

There’s a new kid at school and he’s very popular. Tommy likes him too because Francis also likes horses. Tommy has his own horse, Combo, near his house on the edge of town. Tommy is pleased to be invited to be part of Francis’s friendship group. But membership requires him to break a school rule, and there are consequences. Although he avoids trouble, Tommy is uneasy.  When Tommy is on holidays with his family, he is again transported back in time. He meets a charming bushranger, Francis Christie who seems to be able to talk himself out of most trouble. Tommy is initially drawn into by his silver tongue, but struggles to maintain his trust of the bushranger. Chapter headings are full page and titled as well as numbered. Illustrations are scattered throughout.

Tommy Bell Bushranger Boy’ is a new series from Big Sky Publishing. Each adventure brings history to life for young Tommy, by transporting him from life in a rural town to meet up with a bushranger. Tommy has to decide whether or not he is comfortable with the sometimes questionable behaviours and excuses he encounters. Each of the encounters also serve to help him work through dilemmas he his experiencing in his own life. Chapters are short and titles help to hint at what’s to come. Recommended for independent readers in low-mid primary.

Tommy Bell Bushranger Boy: The Horse Thief, Jane Smith
Big Sky Publishing  2016
ISBN: 9781925520064

Tommy Bell Bushranger Boy 1: Shoot-out at the Rock by Jane Smith

Right from the start of the school day, things went wrong for Tommy Bell.

It began when Mrs O’Grady handed back their history tests and Tommy got a big fat two out of ten. She frowned at him and said, ‘Tommy, see me at lunch time.’

That was bad news. Mrs O’Grady was nice but she was strict. Tommy was dreading lunchtime.

‘But history’s boring,’ Tommy tried to explain later, when Mrs O’Grady kept him back. …

… ‘It’s only boring if you’re not using your imagination,’ said Mrs O’Grady.

Right from the start of the school day, things went wrong for Tommy Bell.

It began when Mrs O’Grady handed back their history tests and Tommy got a big fat two out of ten. She frowned at him and said, ‘Tommy, see me at lunch time.’

That was bad news. Mrs O’Grady was nice but she was strict. Tommy was dreading lunchtime.

‘But history’s boring,’ Tommy tried to explain later, when Mrs O’Grady kept him back. …

… ‘It’s only boring if you’re not using your imagination,’ said Mrs O’Grady.

Tommy is struggling to connect with history. It seems to be all facts and figures and that’s boring. His teacher suggests that he needs to connect more by using his imagination. As a consequence of his poor history test results, she gives him a book to read during lunch break. This is not how he planned to spend his lunch break and he’s a bit cross. He’s missing out on donuts! When his plan to get the last donut goes badly wrong, Tommy finds himself in more trouble than he imagined. And to make things even worse, he’s headed off to spend school holidays with his grandfather. Tommy is struggling to make sense of history, because it feels too boring. It also feels like he is being punished unjustly. But his trip to his grandfather’s farm  is wilder than he expects when he is transported back to gold rush times. Now he is living history and it’s anything but boring. There are occasional full-page illustrations scattered throughout. Titled chapter pages hint at the action to come.

Tommy Bell Bushranger Boy is a new series of early chapter books for independent readers. Part of each book is set in a contemporary country town, and part takes Tommy back to early times when bushrangers roamed the countryside. In this first instalment, Tommy is transported back in time and meets Captain Thunderbolt.  He experiences what it is to live the life of a bushranger. It’s certainly exciting but not necessarily anything like he might have imagined. There are moral and ethical challenges he must confront in the context of this historical world that link to his own life. Recommended for independent readers in lower-mid primary school.
Tommy Bell Bushranger Boy 1: Shoot-out at the Rock, Jane Smith
Big Sky Publishing 2016
ISBN: 9781925275940

The Little Elephant Who Lost His Bath by Jedda Robaard

Little Elephant woke up feeling very grouchy.

He was hot and dusty

and needed a swim …

Little Elephant woke up feeling very grouchy.

He was hot and dusty

and needed a swim …

Little Elephant wakes up and feels in need of a bath. He investigates many options to achieve this but none are right. Eventually, though, with the help of a friend, he finds the perfect bath. Gently coloured illustrations are pencil and watercolour set in white space. Sturdy square format, board pages and lift-the-flap, designed for little hands.

The Little Elephant Who Lost His Bath, Jedda Robaard
The Five Mile Press 2016
ISBN: 9781760400408

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com

The Kids’ Survival Guide by Susan Berran

Prelude

Ok, so one day I’m living in the city, surfin’, hanging-out with my mates, everything is totally awesome and then along comes one annoying, diarrhoea pants, little snot-nose sister, Miss Smelly Melly Poop Pants.

‘You’re a big brother now, Sam.’

‘We’re moving to the country, Sam.’

What the? Why? Do I get a say in this …

NOOO!

Prelude

Ok, so one day I’m living in the city, surfin’, hanging-out with my mates, everything is totally awesome and then along comes one annoying, diarrhoea pants, little snot-nose sister, Miss Smelly Melly Poop Pants.

‘You’re a big brother now, Sam.’

‘We’re moving to the country, Sam.’

What the? Why? Do I get a say in this …

NOOO!

Sam has moved to the country and he’s not loving it. But luckily for Sam, another former city kid arrives. They speak the same language, they get into the same trouble. And that’s where this story really begins. In the aftermath of a particular adventure-gone-wrong, Sam realises that all old people know exactly the same lectures. He and Jared decide to write a manual to help other kids decode these same lectures. The manual will also help other kids to get out of trouble, particularly if they have annoying little sisters. Black and white illustrations are scattered throughout.

Sam is full of helpful advice for his readers, offering translations and responses to those tedious stories from adults about how things were different in their day. From his first person perspective, he’s is the innocent victim in every action, every accidental disaster, every conversation. Readers will recognise the situations and enjoy Sam’s insights. He also offers the final, fool-proof formula for getting out of anything you don’t want to do. It’s in the International Rule book you know!  For newly independent readers transitioning to longer chapter books

The Kids’ Survival Guide, Susan Berran
Big Sky Books 2016
ISBN: 9781925520071

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com