Ella Diaries: Dreams Come True by Meredith Costain ill Danielle McDonald

Wednesday, after school

Dear Diary,

I can’t believe it. It can’t possibly be true.

But it IS!

Cassi Valentine – the best most excellent pop star in the WHOLE WILD WORLD – is coming here. To my town.

Maybe even to MY SCHOOL!!!

ZOW-EE!

I heart Cassi Valentine SOOO MUCH!

Wednesday, after school

Dear Diary,

I can’t believe it. It can’t possibly be true.

But it IS!

Cassi Valentine – the best most excellent pop star in the WHOLE WILD WORLD – is coming here. To my town.

Maybe even to MY SCHOOL!!!

ZOW-EE!

I heart Cassi Valentine SOOO MUCH!

Ella is back in a new adventure told through her diary. In ‘Dreams’ Come True’ Ella is excited to hear that her music idol is coming to town and that if they can win a competition, Cassi might perform at their school. She has a last-minute brilliant idea and then discovers she has to work with her enemy, Peach Parker. Everything goes wrong and it begins to look like not only will winning be impossible but that Ella will have alienated all her friends. Dreams Come True is written in a handwriting font complete with larger, coloured, all-caps words. Each opening includes doodle-type illustrations in black and red.

‘Ella Diaries’ is a new series from Scholastic, an Australian pitch at the market for ‘Dork Diaries’. Ella is a passionate and energetic main character and she is surrounded by a supportive family and teachers. She is stubborn and loyal and just a tad sure she’s generally right. About most things. In Dreams Come True she is excited that maybe her favourite singer might visit, but very challenged by having to work with Peach. The action is fast-paced and although filtered through Ella’s own words, the dynamics are visible to the reader. There is an intensity of emotion that many parents and teachers will recognise and young readers will empathise with. Recommended for newly independent readers who like a mixture of text and illustration.

Ella Diaries: Dreams Come True , Meredith Costain Danielle McDonald
Scholastic 2015 ISBN: 9781760153045

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com

 

Ella Diaries: I Heart Pets by Meredith Costain ill Danielle McDonald

Friday, after school

Dear Diary,

You know how some days are better than others? Well, today was one of those days. It was an exceptionally excellent, outstanding, superb, very, very GOOD day.

Friday, after school

Dear Diary,

You know how some days are better than others? Well, today was one of those days. It was an exceptionally excellent, outstanding, superb, very, very GOOD day.

Ella is excited when Careers Day introduces her and her classmates to people who work with animals. She’s sure she’s found her calling in life. After all, she loves animals. She and her friend Zoe establish a pet-care business and wait for the millions to roll in. But surprisingly, it takes longer than she expects, and there are hurdles she didn’t imagine. Not least, their first job is much less active than they imagine. Written in diary format, there are images on every opening. Text is in a handwriting font, and some words are picked out in colour (green). Cover is decorated with doodles and collage.

Ella Diaries is a new series from Scholastic featuring Ella, her friends, her family and her arch-rival, Peach Parker and cronies. Ella is dramatic and passionate, but her drama and passion are genuine and relatable. Each story in this series is fully rounded and believable, with realistic twists and turns. Ideal for newly-independent readers transitioning to full novels. Recommended for mid-primary readers.

Ella Diaries: I Heart Pets, Meredith Costain ill Danielle McDonald

Scholastic ISBN: 9781760153038

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com

The Bad Guys Episode 1 by Aaron Blabey

Pssst!

Hey, you!

Yeah, you.

Get over here.

I said, GET OVER HERE.

What’s the problem?

Oh, I see.

Yeah, I get it …

Pssst!

Hey, you!

Yeah, you.

Get over here.

I said, GET OVER HERE.

What’s the problem?

Oh, I see.

Yeah, I get it …

The Big Bad Wolf begins this tale of good deeds done by bad characters by insisting the reader come closer. Bad Guys are just misunderstood, you see. He convenes the first meeting of the ‘Good Guys’, which includes a snake, a shark and a piranha. Each of them has a rap sheet longer than his arms. But Wolf is sure his plan will work. Trouble is, before he can convince the general public that these are now the Good Guys, he has to convince his crew. When words won’t cut it, he takes them out on a mission to do some ‘Good Deeds’. How can it go wrong? Presented in graphic novel format with varying text types and sizes and images on each opening.

Aaron Blabey has written many successful picture books and The Bad Guys is his first longer text. The Bad Guys is the first in a new series. The text is short and fully supported and extended by illustrations. Young fans of Blabey’s work will be engaged with this fast-moving story. Adult fans will be chuckling too. As with all his work, there’s a deeper message about making judgements about character purely on past actions and appearance. Wolf may be struggling with stereotypes, but he wins points for persistence. Recommended for newly independent readers and any fans of Blabey’s picture books.

The Bad Guys : Episode 1, Aaron Blabey

Scholastic 2015 ISBN: 9781760150426

 

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com

Wesley Booth: Super Sleuth by Adam Cece ill Michel Streich

Here’s everything you need to know about me:

I’m a super sleuth (which is another word for detective, only awesomer);
I do not have a head shaped like a giant lemon (no matter what my stupid big brother]says); and
I have a nemesis. Her name is Cassidy Strong. Note: she is evil.

And it’s because of Cassidy Strong that I’m standing in front of the whole school, and I’ve just told everyone I’ve solved the biggest case in the history of Hub Hill Primary. Only one problem: I haven’t solved the case, I’m not even close to solving the case, and Cassidy Strong (remember she’s the evil one) tricked me into saying I had. That’s why she’s standing in the front row with a grin so wide it looks like she’s got a banana jammed sideways in her mouth.

Here’s everything you need to know about me:

  1. I’m a super sleuth (which is another word for detective, only awesomer);
  2. I do not have a head shaped like a giant lemon (no matter what my stupid big brother says); and
  3. I have a nemesis. Her name is Cassidy Strong. Note: she is evil.

And it’s because of Cassidy Strong that I’m standing in front of the whole school, and I’ve just told everyone I’ve solved the biggest case in the history of Hub Hill Primary. Only one problem: I haven’t solved the case, I’m not even close to solving the case, and Cassidy Strong (remember she’s the evil one) tricked me into saying I had. That’s why she’s standing in the front row with a grin so wide it looks like she’s got a banana jammed sideways in her mouth.

Wesley Booth: Super Sleuth has a reputation to protect. Or establish. He is sure he will soon solve Hub Hill Primary’s mysterious rash of thefts. If only his offsider would stay onside. If only he can stay out of range of the school bully. If only he can pass his maths test. If only he can beat the new girl, Cassidy Strong. But apart from that – the solution and therefore his reputation is assured. All he has to do is be super-observant, process all the clues he finds. Somehow, despite worsening relationships at home and at school, despite more red herrings than he’d hoped, eventually Wesley prevails. There are black and white illustrations at each chapter heading and scattered throughout.

Wesley Booth was standing in front of the queue when confidence was handed out and somehow received a second helping. Only a double dose of confidence allows him to keep pushing on when everything around him seems to be set against him. He’s also fortunate to have very forgiving friends, because he’s so single-minded that he sometimes overlooks their needs. There is plenty of humour wrapped up in this mystery and readers will be curious to solve it. Classes seem more like secondary classes although the action is set in a primary school, with different teachers for every subject and pass and fail grades. Set up seems to suggest this might be the first in a series. Ideal for confident middle primary readers but also for reluctant older readers.

Wesley Booth, Super Sleuth, Adam Cece ill Michel Streich
Scholastic 2015 ISBN: 9781742991016

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com

Scream, by Jack Heath

Scream: The Human Flytrap‘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

 

Lily the Elf: The Midnight Owl & The Precious Ring, by Anna Branford, illustrated by Lisa Coutts

The Precious Ring (Lily the Elf)an owl is hooting.
Lily shivers with each hoot.
“Who’s awake? Who? Whoooo?” asks the midnight owl.
Lily covers her ears with her pillow.

Lile the Elf can’t sleep. SOmehwere nearby an owl is hooting. It sounds scary. In the mroning, though, Granny tells her that the owl sounds friendly. She wants to take Lily to meet him. But Lily doesn’t think she can be as brave as granny, until, with Granny’s help, she finds her own strength and makes a new friend.

The Midnight Owl is one of the new Lily the Elf series from author Anna Branford and illustrator Lisa Coutts, and is warm tale of bravery, friendship and the bond between a grandchild and grandparent.

In the second book, The Precious Ring , Lily finds a human ring in the garden near her home. Filled with water, it is just right for a paddling pool for Lily to play with. But when she realises that the ring is a much-loved possession which a human child has lost, she has to decide whetehr to keep her pool, or work to get it back to its rightful owner.

Both stories use simplle, but interesting text, with lots of illustrative support, perfect for young readers transitioning from first readers to the chapter book format. Lily is a loveable, honest and quirky character, and the relationship between her and Granny, with Dad playing a supporting role, is lovely.

The Midnight Owl ISBN: 9781925081053
The Precious Ring ISBN: 9781925081046
both by Anna Branford, illustrated by Lisa Coutts
Walker Books 2015

Pup Patrol 1: Farm Rescue; Pup Patrol 2: Bush Rescue; Pup Patrol 3: Storm Rescue by Darrel & Sally Odgers

‘Baaaa! Baaaaaa! Baaaaaddddd!’ Sheep in a panic make a pawful lot of noise.

‘Can we take the boat to rescue them?’ James shouted. (He had to shout over the noise of the rain, the sheep and the river.) ‘Stamp and your dog work well together. They can help by keeping the sheep in a bunch.’

‘Too Risky, yelled Glen Pepper. Rain dripped off his long nose. ‘Look at that!’

He pointed as a whole tree tore past us on the flood. ‘If that hit the boat, we’d tip over!’

Rusty, the old Border Collie, barked once, sharply. Then he growled, ‘Do something! Quickly!’ to Glen.

Glen stared at the sheep and shook his head. Rain poured down. It was like having a big bucket of water tipped over us.

‘Why are humans so slow?’ said Rusty. ‘Those sheep need help!’

‘Baaaa! Baaaaaa! Baaaaaddddd!’ Sheep in a panic make a pawful lot of noise. Pup Patrol #1: Farm Rescue

‘Can we take the boat to rescue them?’ James shouted. (He had to shout over the noise of the rain, the sheep and the river.) ‘Stamp and your dog work well together. They can help by keeping the sheep in a bunch.’

‘Too Risky, yelled Glen Pepper. Rain dripped off his long nose. ‘Look at that!’

He pointed as a whole tree tore past us on the flood. ‘If that hit the boat, we’d tip over!’

Rusty, the old Border Collie, barked once, sharply. Then he growled, ‘Do something! Quickly!’ to Glen.

Glen stared at the sheep and shook his head. Rain poured down. It was like having a big bucket of water tipped over us.

‘Why are humans so slow?’ said Rusty. ‘Those sheep need help!

Stamp (full name: Barnaby Station Stamp of Approval) is a young border collie and this is his story. He is travelling around Australia with James. James is taking a year off before going to university. James uses the CB radio in his Fourby (ute) to maintain regular contact with his parents at home. Each title includes a list of characters, glossary and many doggy puns. Most openings include black and white illustrations.

In Farm Rescue they take shelter on Pepper Plains when they encounter floods. There Stamp meets Rusty, an older border collie. When the floodwaters rise, it’s up to them to save some sheep. At the end of ‘Farm Rescue’ James adopts another dog, a young and wild pup he calls Ace.

In Bush Rescue, James, Stamp and Ace visit a vet in Jasper. Unfortunately, there’s a bushfire raging and there’s no time for anything but emergency services. James helps out at the vet and together they are involved in pet and wild animal rescue.

In Storm Rescue , James, Stamp and Ace head north into far north Queensland in search of adventure. This time the adventure comes in the form of a cyclone and all three are kept busy with rescues and more in the Atherton Tablelands.

Pup Patrol is told from Stamp’s perspective and Stamp and all the animals he encounters can talk to one another. Stamp is well-behaved and skilled at working with James. Ace, on the other hand is young and a little wild. But between them, James and Stamp teach him how to behave. Each adventure presents a different part of Australia experiencing extremes of weather. There are plenty of insights into dog behaviour and dog training. And there are many puns to set readers giggling. (Perhaps also to encourage them to invent some of their own?) Recommended for newly independent readers ready for chapter books.

Pup Patrol 1: Farm Rescue (ISBN: 9781743622995), Pup Patrol 2:Bush Rescue (ISBN: 9781743623008), Pup Patrol 3: Storm Rescue (ISBN: 9781743623015), Darrel & Sally Odgers Scholastic Press 2015

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com

A Week Without Tuesday, by Angelica Banks

9781760110376.jpgVivienne knew of beasts that were large, and beasts that were vicious, but she knew of no creature that was both large and vicious enough to inflict such terrible wounds on a Winged Dog. Even if two Winged Dogs were to clash, which was unheard of, their claws were not sharp enough to make the awful gashes this dog had suffered.

Strange and terrible things are happening in Vivienne Small’s world. A Winged Dog has fallen from the sky, carrying an ominous note. She sets out to figure out what is happening, and soon discovers that the City of Clocks is under siege from terrible vercaka, the like of which have never before been seen in Vivienne’s world. Back in the real world, Tuesday McGillycuddy and her mother Serendipity Smith are very worried. Famous writers from around the world are disappearing, only to reappear in strange places, often with mysterious injuries. Tuesday wonders if she is the only one who can figure out what is happening – and soon she and Vivienne are working together to try to fix the problem.

A Week Without Tuesday is an action-packed, warm adventure, a sequel to Finding Serendipity, but standing alone enough to be enjoyed by readers not familiar with the first. Tuesday and Vivienne are brave, generous and loyal protagonists, supported by a a varied and interesting cast. The fantasy world Vivienne inhabits, and the wider universe which houses the worlds created by writers is intriguing.

Fun and exciting.

A Week Without Tuesday, by Angelica Banks
Allen & Unwin, 2015
ISBN 9781760110376

Ella Diaries 1: Double Dare You

Dear Diary

Hello Diary. My name’s Ella and

Once upon a time there was a girl called Ella. She lived

How are you supposed to start a diary? I’ve never had one before. Mum and Dad gave me this one for Christmas because

a) I like writing. I’m always writing stories and they love the poems I make up for their birthdays and other special days.

b) They think I have a good imagination and they think writing something every day is a good way to ‘exercise’ it.

c) I’m going into Grade 5 this year (starting tomorrow!) and Dad says Grade 5 was the best year of his life.

Dear Diary

Hello Diary. My name’s Ella and

Once upon a time there was a girl called Ella. She lived

How are you supposed to start a diary? I’ve never had one before. Mum and Dad gave me this one for Christmas because

a)      I like writing. I’m always writing stories and they love the poems I make up for their birthdays and other special days.

b)      They think I have a good imagination and they think writing something every day is a good way to ‘exercise’ it.

c)      I’m going into Grade 5 this year (starting tomorrow!) and Dad says Grade 5 was the best year of his life.

Ella starts Grade 5 with high hopes, but from the beginning her first day is disastrous. It begins with the no-show of her best friend Zoe, and goes downhill as everyone else sits at the classroom tables in pairs. Only Ella is alone. And just when she thinks this is the worst thing that can happen, the door opens and in comes mean girl, Peach, who isn’t even supposed to be in this class. Of course, she sits in the only spare chair – on Ella’s table. As the days and weeks pass, Ella records her life both in and beyond school. Peach continues to cause trouble. Ella’s diary is written in a handwriting font and includes ‘hand-drawn’ images and words picked out in red. There are also crossed out spelling mistakes and phrases. Ella includes some of her poems. At the end there is room for readers to make their own diary entry, write their own poem and draw their own picture. There’s also a sneak-peek of ‘Ballet Back-flip’, the next title in the ‘Ella Diaries’ series. Cover art includes ‘doodles’ that give hints about some of the adventures within.

‘Ella Diaries’ is a new series for mid-primary readers, primarily girls. Double Dare You begins with the new school year and establishes the characters and the world Ella occupies. Ella is a bright, energetic student who displays a positive outlook on most of her world (with the exception of her relationship with bully Peach). She is a leader, a supportive friend and keen to learn. Young readers will recognise characters from their own classroom, the good and the less so. When Ella has to make a decision about whether or not to do a dare, or in this case, a double-dare, she thinks about what it would be like to be the victim. Double Dare You lets the reader peek into Ella’s innermost thoughts, fears and enthusiasms. Recommended for mid-primary readers.

 

Ella Diaries 1: Double Dare You , Meredith Costain ill Danielle McDonald
Scholastic Australia 2015 ISBN: 9781743628638

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com

Ella Diaries 2: Ballet Backflip

Saturday, before dinner

Dear Diary,

You will never ever EVER believe what happened today!

I was at ballet class like I normally am every Saturday morning. My ballet class is held at La Madame Fry Ecole du Ballet (which is just a fancy way of saying Mrs Fry’s ballet school). Except, actually, the school isn’t very fancy at all.

The main reason for this is because ballet is held in our local scout hall which means when we’re not there, the scouts ar, which is a VERY BAD THING.

Reasons why sharing your SPACE with SCOUTS is BAD:

Scouts are (mostly) boys
Boys often SMELL BAD (especially when they have been running around playing sweaty scouty games. Ewwww.)
Boys leave old bits of chewy under the seats.
They also leave BOY GERMS all over the wooden barre …

Saturday, before dinner

Dear Diary,

You will never ever EVER believe what happened today!

I was at ballet class like I normally am every Saturday morning. My ballet class is held at La Madame Fry Ecole du Ballet (which is just a fancy way of saying Mrs Fry’s ballet school). Except, actually, the school isn’t very fancy at all.

The main reason for this is because ballet is held in our local scout hall which means when we’re not there, the scouts ar, which is a VERY BAD THING.

Reasons why sharing your SPACE with SCOUTS is BAD:

  1. Scouts are (mostly) boys
  2. Boys often SMELL BAD (especially when they have been running around playing sweaty scouty games. Ewwww.)
  3. Boys leave old bits of chewy under the seats.
  4. They also leave BOY GERMS all over the wooden barre …

Ella is getting the hang of diary-keeping. In it she can talk about anything she wants to without fear of discovery, except perhaps by her snoopy little sister Olivia. In Ballet Backflip ’, Ella dreams of being the lead in the ballet recital. She and her friend Zoe, hatch plans to make sure they can share the limelight. Meanwhile at school, Peach is demonstrating new skills learned at gymnastics. Her backflip is very impressive, even Ella has to admit. The school playground is transformed as Ella’s classmates all try their own moves. Text is presented in a hand-writing font and there are illustrations scattered throughout. Some words and parts of the illustrations are picked out in purple. Ella includes some of her poetry too. If there are words that Ella thinks might not be understood, she includes a footnote explaining what she means. There is room at the back to write a shape poem of your own and decorate it however you want to.

Ballet Backflip is book 2 in the Ella Diaries series. Ella is in Grade 5 and reveals all in her diary so the reader is able to share in her ups and downs, excitements and frustrations. Ella is passionate about ballet and thinks her friend, Zoe is just as committed, but gradually comes to realise that changing interests don’t have to mean a betrayal of friendship. She demonstrates the difference between enthusiasm and obsession, and also the benefits of learning to adapt to new challenges. Young readers will recognise themselves and their dilemmas and potential solutions. There’s plenty here for young dancers, and gymnasts and their families. Recommended for mid-primary readers.

 

Ella Diaries 2: Ballet Backflip by Meredith Costain ill Danielle McDonald

Scholastic Australia 2015 ISBN:9781743628645

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com