Legend Series Book 6: On the Buzzer by Michael Panckridge

The day after the Legend of Soccer presentations, a Friday, was cold and wet. I slept in. Mum had gone to work, but she and Dad must have decided that a day away from school would be good for me. He had a rostered day off so that worked too.
I kept looking at my watch and wondering what all the kids at Sandhurst were up to.

At lunchtime I grabbed Dad’s phone and sent a text message to Bryce. I wanted him to know that I could still come around to his place for the Legends party.

The Legend Series has moved on from soccer. This competition is about basketball. Mitchell and his mates are keen, as is a new student, Rat. The mystery in the library seems to become more complex as they discover more. The focus is on basketball, a trophy that seems a permanent fixture at Wetherwood School, one of the other competitor schools. The stakes are getting higher and not everyone is playing by the rules. The final game is so close, nobody is game to predict the outcome. Extras include a quiz and school scoresheets.

The Legend Series measures achievement across a range of different sports, with elements of knowledge as well as skills, at Sandhurst Primary School. It encourages fair play and rewards teamwork. Mitchell, newcomer to the school, loves his sport, but he’s also keen to establish and maintain friendships. Travis Fisk is also a keen and skilled sportsman, but seems to have a philosophy of winning at all costs. Their friendship group also includes several of the best sportsgirls at the school, as well as members with other skills that are valued as much as sporting prowess. An exploration of school and student dynamics and the role of competition and sports. Recommended for mid- to upper-primary readers.

Legends Series Book 6: On the Buzzer, Michael Panckridge
Ford St Publishing 2018
ISBN: 9781925272932

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

Legend Series Book 5: Over the Wall, by Michael Panckridge

I still couldn’t quite believe what had happened last week after the Legend of Football presentations.
A group of us had raced off to the library straight after the presentation assembly. We hadn’t heard a thing from Bryce, who had shoved his mobile phone into our hands moments before the end of lunch that day. Then he’d headed off to, we assumed, the library. Outside the hall there were parents, students and teachers milling about everywhere. There was a great-looking afternoon tea for everyone, with visitors and kids alike tucking in.

‘Over the Wall’ is Book Five in the Legend series that sees Mitchell and friends competing at different sports. There’s a girls’ comp that runs simultaneously and there’s overlap in some sports. This time, soccer is the contested sport. Mitchell and his arch-rival Travis Fisk are neck and neck in the overall competition. As they and others duel for points, there’s a mystery beyond the library that is occupying time and mind. There are also extras, including score sheets for the Legend Series, and a quiz.

Mitchell has only arrived at Sandhurst school for this final year of primary school. So there’s plenty he doesn’t know about the school, the students and the sports competition. As the series progresses, he builds a friendship group, becomes familiar with the cultures of his new school and of the other schools involved in the sports competition. He’s competitive and skilled, but also knows how to play fair. This provides a point of contrast with Travis Fisk who seems to come from a family where winning is the only option, no matter the cost. Recommended for readers in mid- and upper-primary, particularly those who would rather be out playing sport.

Legend Series Book 5: Over the Wall, Michael Panckridge
Ford St Publishing 2018
ISBN: 9781925272925

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

Stephanie Chiocci and the Cooper’s Hill Cheese Chase, by Matt Porter

‘Good old Collingwood forever, they know how to play the game!’ my ringtone proudly sings.
Eddie McGuire is calling me. It’s the third time today. He may be president of the Collingwood Football Club, and I the captain of the women’s team, but this is getting ridiculous.
‘Hey, Ed,’ I say … again.

Steph Chiocci is on a post-season break from her duties as captain and player in the AFLW league. She’s supposed to be resting, but instead she’s in England after receiving a letter from a fan. Emily’s grandmother is a cheesemaker but is under attack from a rival trying to push her out of business. Emily wants Steph to compete on her grandmother’s behalf in the Cooper’s Hill Cheese-Rolling Race. Steph is up for the challenge, but rolling a cheese is not the same as bouncing a football. Steph needs to work on her game plan. Added extras at the end include Steph Facts, Q&A and some football tips for aspiring players.

What do football players do in the off-season? Chase cheese of course! ‘Stephanie Chiocci and the Cooper’s Hill Cheese Chase’ is the first in a new series of chapter books, called Footy Stars, featuring stars of AFLW. Steph not only takes on a challenge, but also outwits a bully and saves a cheese business. There are plenty of laughs here as well as a footy tip or two. Recommended for mid-primary readers and fans of football. Extra interest if reader is a Collingwood fan!

Stephanie Chiocci and the Cooper’s Hill Cheese Chase, Matt Porter
Ford St Publishing 2018
ISBN: 9781925272888

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

Game Day Books 1 and 2, by Patty Mills with Jared Thomas

‘Patty, have you ever thought about playing basketball?’ Coach Clarke asked.
I shrugged my shoulders.
‘I’d like you to try out,’ he said.
‘Would I get to play on the ball for the whole game?’ I asked him.
Coach Clarke laughed. ‘Everyone plays on the ball in basketball.’

Patty loves sport, but he’s never played basketball before. Still, he’s good at every other sport he plays, and his uncle Danny is a great basketballer, so he expects to be a great basketballer straight away. He soon discovers there more to the game than just shooting hoops.

Patty Hits the Court and Patty and the Shadows are the first two books in the new Game Day series written by Australian basketball sensation Patty Mills, together with author Jared Thomas.

Perfect for sports mad readers, the books tell high interest stories, as well as showing children from Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islanders engaged in every day life, including school, sport and family life, as well as partaking in cultural events such as Mabo Day. This blend is really important for all Australian children.

Patty is a likable main character, who doesn’t always get everything right. He has to learn, for example, to share the ball, and to overcome bullying and difficulties with school work, topics which make him relatable for young readers.

Game Day: Patty Hits the Court and Patty and the Shadows, both by Patty Mills with JAred Thomas
Allen & Unwin, 2017

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

Princess Parsley by Pamela Rushby

It’s not that easy being a princess, you know.

I mean, you’re flat out finding anything even resembling a decent prince to go to the Year Eight disco with.

And you just try shopping for a nice new tiara in downtown Mullumbimby. As if. Not to mention anything like glass slippers: non-existent. Nothing more exotic that Super softs and hush Puppies ever hits the Mullumbimby shoe shop.

And what do you do when the kids at school don’t curtsy to you? Have them exiled?

Or executed?

Being a princess? I tell you, it’s nothing but problems.

It’s not that easy being a princess, you know.

I mean, you’re flat out finding anything even resembling a decent prince to go to the Year Eight disco with.

And you just try shopping for a nice new tiara in downtown Mullumbimby. As if. Not to mention anything like glass slippers: non-existent. Nothing more exotic that Super softs and Hush Puppies ever hits the Mullumbimby shoe shop.

And what do you do when the kids at school don’t curtsy to you? Have them exiled?

Or executed?

Being a princess? I tell you, it’s nothing but problems.

What do you do when your parents decide it’s groovy to call you Parsley? And your sisters Sage, Rosemary and Thyme? How much worse can life be as you head off to secondary school on the bus? Well, much worse. When her Dad declares their property the Principality of Possum Creek after a feud with a neighbour, her school life goes straight to the dogs. The trio of ‘blondes’ have a field day. It’s not that she wants to be a ‘blonde’, more that she just wants to get along with everyone and fit in. But if that’s going to happen, she’s going to have to find a way to adjust to her new status. Retreating to the drum class is not going to cut it.

‘Princess Parsley’ is hilarious. When you’ve spent your primary years at a school in Mullumbimby, and your parents are, ahem, alternative, there was always going to be waves when you hit the bigger world of secondary school. Parsley is open and honest, responsible and well-loved and it is a surprise to her that not everyone else views the world from that strong platform. Parsley’s year is full of ups and downs and she carries the giggling reader with her through all her trials and travails. Hidden deep inside the hilarity are themes around family, belonging, bullying and more. Recommended for mid- to upper-primary readers.

Princess Parsley, Pamela Rushby Omnibus Books 2016 ISBN: 9781742991610

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com

Spark by Adam Wallace and Andrew Plant

I began as a tiny spark

all alone in the dry grass.

‘Let’s play,’ said the wind.

‘Okay,’ I replied.

The wind whistled and gently picked me up.

I began as a tiny spark

all alone in the dry grass.

‘Let’s play,’ said the wind.

‘Okay,’ I replied.

The wind whistled and gently picked me up.

Spark is the story of a wild fire, told from the perspective of elemental fire. It begins as a spark, and in answer to a question from the wind, the two begin to play. The ‘play’ escalates as the fire and wind race across the land until the fire acknowledges the destruction and wants to end the game. The wind continues until together, they turn on their path and witness the cost of the play. Illustrations are painted and progress from summer sunny through bright flame to black and greys to finish with the tiniest glimmer of colour. Text is hand-drawn by illustrator Andrew Plant. Image frames grow with the intensity of the fire and retreat as it does. Image frames set in smoky pages.

Spark is the story of the consequences of a single careless incident. There’s a sense of menace from the front cover on, hands-over-the-eyes please-don’t-let-this-happen inevitability. What starts small quickly builds out of control, with no time to see the damage. Bit like bullying really. Suggested reading age is pre-school but it will have applications well beyond preschool, particularly in the classroom. Illustrations provide the opportunity to search out beetles, ants and larger animals as fire chases all before it. Recommended for early primary and for inclusion in discussions about both fire and bullying.

Spark, Adam Wallace and Andrew Plant
Ford Street Publishing 2016
ISBN: 9781925272413

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com

The Other Christy, by Oliver Phommavanh

OtherCHristyMy name is Christy but nobody calls me that. I’m in the same class with another girl named Christie, so I’ve become just the other Christy, the spare Christy. Not the popular, loud one everyone likes.

Christy Ung has been on the outer ever since she arrived in Australia. Every year she is put in the same class as Christie Owen, and that makes Christy the other Christy. Christie Owen is loud and popular – but she’s also mean, especially to Christy. Christy, meanwhile, has no friends, and her classmates don’t even seem to notice her. The only people who seem to care are Auntie Mayly and Grandpa, who is really strange, and whose main passion in life is cleaning. With such a strange home life, Christy wonders if she will ever be able to make a friend.

The Other Christy is a humorous but touching story of searching for friendship an fitting in, dealing as well with issues of immigration and bereavement. Christy is being raised by her Grandfather after the death of her mother in Cambodia, and is keenly aware of the differences between her own homelife and those of her classmates. Christy is a likeable protagonist, and the resolution is satisfying.

The Other Christy, by Oliver Phommavanh
Puffin Books, 2016
ISBN9780143505723

Teresa: A New Australian, by Deborah Abela

’This is it. The beginning of our new lives. Ready?
Teresa and her mama nodded. ‘Ready.’
They stepped into the cheers and music and beneath flying streamers and confetti. All around them were people in tears, hugging and laughing.
People made sure they stood together to take their first steps onto Australian soil. When they did, he wiped his sleeve across his eyes. Mama kissed his cheek. ‘You old softie.’

War rages across Europe, and Teresa and her family endure tough times in their homeland, Malta. There are bombing raids every day, and her father is away fighting alongside the allies. Even when peace finally comes, life is difficult, so Teresa’s family make a difficult decision – they will leave Malta and start a new life in Australia.

In Australia life is safer, and Teresa’s parents find jobs, but there are still many obstacles to overcome, including getting used to Australian ways. Not everyone is welcoming of new Australians, but Teresa is determined to succeed in this strange new land.

Teresa: A New Australian is wonderful new historical fiction, exploring the life of one new migrant in the years following World War 11. Teresa is a feisty, loyal girl who faces each new challenge head on. Readers will enjoy getting to know her and at the same time will become familiar with aspects of Australia’s history they may not know.

Teresa is an outstanding addition to the New Australian series.

Teresa , by Deborah Abela
Omnibus, an imprint of Scholastic, 2016
ISBN 9781742990941

New Boy, by Nick Earls

The car is still all snot and tears and noise when we get to the drop-off zone outside One Mile Creek State School.

As Mom’s door opens, Hansie’s screaming makes everyone look at us – students, parents, teachers, all arriving at this same precise inconvenient moment. This is not the perfect beginning to my first day.

I am supposed to look cooler than this.

Before he and his family moved to Australia, Herschelle used the internet to research what life would be like, and to learn Australian slang. But now that he’s here, Herschelle is discovering that it is very different than he expected: the food is strange, the other kids don’t understand his accent, and the other kids haven’t heard of most of the so-called Aussie slang he has learnt. At his last school, he was one of the cool kids, but here he’s quickly learning what it’s like to be different.

New Boy is a funny, moving story about the immigrant experience, about belonging and about bullying and racism. Primary aged readers will laugh at Herschelle’s problems with language and his surprise at how things are done in Australia, but they’ll also feel for him as he struggles to understand and to adapt.

Herschelle is a likeable narrator, and New Boy is a valuable tool for classroom reading as well as for private enjoyment.

New Boy, by Nick Earls
Puffin Books, 2015
ISBN 9780143308393

Available from good bookstores and online.