This time there’ll be no hiding at the back of the classroom, hoping no one notices me. No pretending to have a stomach ache or locking myself in the toilets to cry. In just nine hours I’ll be standing in front of a while class of the little monsters, trying not to make some kind of terrible mistake. Although I think I’ve already made one, taking this job in the first place.
Every teacher is nervous when they start their first job. But Zelda Stitch has an extra thing to worry about: how to keep the fact that she’s a witch secret from her students. especially when she isn’t even good at being a witch. When term starts she soon realises that it isn’t going to be easy. When the children play tricks on her, she struggles to keep her magic hidden. And it seems she isn’t the only witch in the room. One of her students seems to developing witch skills. And someone in the school has put a hex on the principal.
The Cursed First Term of Zelda Stitch is a humorous diary-format novel, complemented by equally humorous illustrations by the author. Zelda is bumbling but likeable, and supported by an interesting cast including her seemingly objectionable cat, Barnaby.
An easy read, with plenty to keep readers turning pages.
The Cursed First Term of Zelda Stitch, by Nicki Greenberg
Allen & Unwin, 2017
‘Get them out, get them out -‘
Josh pulled the old woman’s hands off his shoulders. Her skin felt like wet tissue paper.
‘Mum!’ he yelled.
‘What happened to him will happen to you!’ the woman screeched. ‘Go away! Go away!’
She froze, staring over Josh’s shoulder. Josh looked, but saw nothing other than the trees swaying in the breeze.
Strange things are always happening in Axe Falls, but when Josh and his family move into an old, run-down house, they get really creepy. Josh is sure something terrible has happened in the house, and the old lady from next door keeps telling him he must leave, but his family don’t seem to be worried. At school, his best friend’s science experiment comes to life, and Josh starts to wonder if the two things are connected – and whether he will live long enough to find out.
Scream is a new high-action horror series from Australian author Jack Heath. The Human Flytrap introduces Josh and his friends as they deal with human flytraps, while the second instalment, The Spider Army , features an invasion of deadly blue-backspiders.
Each book stands alone, and has plenty of twists and turns to keep readers of all abilities hooked. Spooky covers and page embellishments add to the eerie feel, and The Human Flytrap has a sound chip so that the book screams when opened, which will amuse young readers.
The Human Flytrap , ISBN 9781760152086
The Spider Army , ISBN 9781760152093
Both by Jack Heath
Scholastic Australia, 2015
Miku and her class are off on school camp, and she should be revelling in time away and no homework. But something’s wrong. She can smell it, she can feel it.
‘Cait, are you still there?’ I could hear breathing on the other end of the phone, but Cait’s voice had disappeared, cut off halfway through a sentence. ‘Hello?’ It was dark outside, late on the night before school camp, and I had a bad feeling in my gut that was cutting like knives. I was supposed to be packing shirts and shoes and lucky charms to take to camp, but I hadn’t even opened my case.
Miku and her class are off on school camp, and she should be revelling in time away and no homework. But something’s wrong. She can smell it, she can feel it. Cait, who believed her and helped her in her first brush with Japanese demons, is acting oddly. For a start she claims to have no knowledge of the demons they fought so recently. Before they even reach the camp, an ancient man appears and offers a treat to one of their classmates. Miku struggles to make anyone believe they are all in danger. Not even Cait seems to understand the urgency. But there’s no way Miku is going to be able to best the demons on her own. Help, when it finally comes, is from unexpected quarters.
The Filth Licker is the second instalment in the Takeshita Demon series from Cristy Burne and the action proceeds at breakneck pace as it does in the first adventure. They feature demons from Japanese mythology who have for some reason followed Miku and her family in their move from Japan to London. Miku is assisted in her fighting of the demons by remembering the stories told her by her grandmother. In Japan, they were protected from the demons by her grandmother and by a house ghost, but in England their protection seems to have vanished. Miku is a clear-thinking and resourceful demon fighter, who must often fight alone. The demons are clever and resourceful, but always there is a way to overcome them. The disgustingly-named Filth Licker is just one of them! Recommended for upper primary readers.
Takeshita Demons 2: The Filth Licker, Cristy Burne
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books 2011
review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author
If you are under twelve (or have kids under that age) and haven’t heard of Elizabeth Honey, then you’ve been missing out. Honey is one of Australia’s funniest and best author/illustrators. Her work includes picture books, novels and poetry for a range of ages, all with her whimsical illustrations and unique humour.
In Honey Bunch, three of Honey’s bestselling children’s novels are brought together in one volume. This should be enough Honey to keep any fan satisfied and to get any reader new to Honey’s books hooked.
In 45 & 47 Stella street and Everything That Happened, strangers move in to Henni’s neighbourhood. But these aren’t any old strangers – they’re strange strangers. They keep to themselves and actively discourage the neighbours from getting to know them. Henni and her friends think something is wrong.
In Don’t Pat the Wombat, grade six gets to go on school camp. Everything would be great, if it weren’t for the grumpy teacher known as The Bomb, and his tendency to pick on Jonah. Mark and his friends are not impressed.
In What Do You Think, Feezal, the final story in the book, Bean moves to Sydney with her parents. She lives in a luxury penthouse on the top of a magnificent building and has everything a girl could want – well, almost everything. What bean really wants is a dog and some time with her parents. Will she get either?
Honey Bunch is suitable for eight to twelve year old readers.
Honey Bunch, by Elizabeth Honey
Allen & Unwin, 2002
Rowan is the weakest child in the village. While the other children of Rin are brave and strong, Rowan has many fears. He is given the job of tending the bukshah herd, a job with no real challenge attached. But when the stream that flows through the village dries up, it is Rowan who has the power to to solve the problem.
Along with six of the strongest and bravest villagers, Rowan must climb the mountain that overshadows the village and find a way to restore the water supply.
On the mountain each of the seven must face his or her deepest fear. Only one will have the courage and the wits to reach the top and overcome the final challenge.
Rowan of Rin is a timeless fantasy story for younger children and would make an ideal introduction to the genre. Awarded the Children’s Book Council Book of the Year Award, the title has been reprinted several times since its first release in 1993 – a testament to its popularity.
Rowan of Rin, by Emily Rodda
Omnibus Books, 1993
At the same moment that Eva is born, a Curlew chick hatches. Despite being on opposite sides of the world, Sister Chick and Eva share a special bond that connects their lives.
Behind her back fence, Eva sees a marshy rubbish dump – once a resting point for curlews on their migration travels. When she finds the body of a curlew there, Eva dreams the journey of the migrating birds as they travel from their breeding grounds in Siberia to the warmth of the south. This dream makes her start an ambitious project – cleaning up the dump area so the birds can come back.
When Sister Chick finds her way to the resting place, she returns Eva’s favour in a special way.
Sister Chick is a special story of friendship, loyalty and conservation. It is an easy to read but inspirational book for 8 to 12 year olds.
Meme McDonald is a writer and photgrapher. Previous books include Put Your Whole Self In and The Way the Birds Fly. She has also written a series of books in partnership with Boori Monty Pryor, including My Girragundjia and Flytrap.
Sister Chick, by Meme McDonald
Allen & Unwin, 2002
Allie and Bethan can’t wait to move into their new house – because they will finally have their own bedrooms. When Mum buys it, it is a bit of a dump, but by the time they move in it’s been repainted and renovated. Perfect.
But something strange is happening in Bethan’s bedroom. Mysterious writing is appearing on the walls, written by an unseen hand. Bethan refuses to stay in the room and, pretty soon, he and Allie are sharing again. Allie is not happy with this and is determined to solve the mystery.
It appears the writing is some kind of story, written by the ghost of a girl who used to live in the house, Eglantine Higgins. Was she murdered here? And why is she writing on the walls? Aggie and her family, along with various psychics, ghost experts and other new-age helpers, must resolve Eglantine’s problem, before she drives them from the house.
Eglantine is a superb ghost story which will especially appeal to girls aged 10 to 12, and even older. It combines mystery with humour and more serious themes. In particular, we see Allie becoming more in tune with herself as she gets to know Eglantine.
Catherine Jinks is an Australian author who has written over twenty books for children and young adults. She lives in the Blue Mountains with her husband and daughter.
Eglantine: A Ghost Story, by Catherine Jinks
Allen & Unwin, 2002
Jack has a problem. George Hamel, the school bully, has started calling him Bum-head. Soon, the whole school is calling him names, spitting at him, even hurting him physically. Jack can’t tell his mum because she has too many other things to worry about. He will have to work it out for himself.
I am Jack, by Susanne Gervay is a special story about bullying, and one child’s experiences of it. Gervay deals with a sensitive topic with insight and gentle humour, so that younger readers are being educated while they are being entertained, rather than being preached at. There are no quick-fixes or bandaids to fix Jack’s problem, but rather an awakening on the part of those around Jack as his family and his school work together to tackle the problem for Jack and for all other victims of bullying.
I am Jack should be compulsory reading for every parent, teacher and child aged 8 to 12. It is a truly wonderful book.
I am Jack, by Susanne Gervay
Angus and Robertson, 2000
Dale and Tomias are best friends. Dale’s grandfather was the first white man to setle here at Long Hole, where Tomias’s ancestors have lived since the dreaming. Their Mums grew up together too.
Now they’re in year seven, their last year at the community school. It’s supposed to be fun – but the arrival of Gordon and his father, Mr Armstrong, has changed things. Mr Armstrong manages the community and his new rules upset everyone. Gordon thinks HE owns the place.
The Barrumbi Kids is a delightful story about growing up in Australia’s remote communities. Dale and Tomias, and their friends, move between Aboriginal and white cultures – fishing, hunting, playing and going to school. They get into trouble and they learn about themselves, about each other and about the wider world.
Leonie Norrington spent much of her childhood on a remote community in Australia’s north, part of a large Irish-Catholic family. She later worked in journalism. This is her first novel for children.
Barrumbi Kids is a an exciting novel, suitable both for classroom and private reading.
The Barrumbi Kids, by Leonie Norrington
While his parents are off having an adventure in Patagonia, Kaz is sent from his home in Japan to stay with his grandparents in Far, Far North Queensland. He doesn’t realise he is about to have an adventure of his own.
When Kaz is on his way to the Dairy Day Parade in Milaa Milaa, he is kidnapped by a group of Casskins. The Casskins are large birds, related to the Cassowaries, but much bigger and far more intelligent. Not only are they more intelligent than cassowaries – Casskins are more intelligent than any other creature – especially mankind.
The Casskins need Kaz to help them prevent a dam being built and a uranium mine opening – two events which could have disastrous consequences for the local animals. At first scared and reluctant, Kaz finds himself becoming increasingly willing to help the Casskins and the other creatures he meets on his adventures.
Although this is a work of fantasy, The Song of the Casskins is both a humorous and exciting adventure story and an educational tool – with a message about conservation and appreciating our environment and our wildlife. A useful aid is the addition of facts about the cassowary in the early part of the story.
The Song of the Casskins will appeal to 8 to 10 year old readers, although may be less appealing to those still adapting to the language of the novel.
The Song of the Casskins, by John Fitzpatrick