Monsters by Anna Fienberg and illustrated by Kim Gamble and Stephen Axelsen

If you worry about monsters in your bedroom then Tildy and Hendrik have a plan for you…

Tildy knows there are monsters in her bedroom. They are hiding under her bed, reading her books and playing with her games. They’re big and bold and bossy and sail into her bedroom on the moonlight. Only Tildy can see the monsters. She sleeps with one eye open and the monsters are making her miserable. Hendrik, a new boy arrives at school and also knows about monsters. He becomes Tilda’s friend and has a plan to help Tildy deal with with her monsters.

Monsters isn’t a scary book. It is a warm and playful and encourages us to be brave. Part of the story is set in Kim Gamble’s childhood garden, where as a child he would lie for hours on his back looking up at the clouds, seeing ships, dragons and monsters. Kim Gamble and Stephen Axelson have let their imaginations run wild to create an array of monsters that cheekily play and hide on the pages of the book.

How many different types of monsters you can find? Draw the monsters that hide in your bedroom or use your imagination to create and draw your own scary, funny, fierce or friendly monsters. 

Kim Gamble is one of my favourite illustrators with his whimsical water colour illustrations. You will know Anna Fienberg and Kim Gamble from the much loved Tashi series they created together. In this video, Kim uses chalk pastel to create a scene for Tashi and the Golem. It’s magical!

A Final Note:

Sadly Kim Gamble passed away in 2016 before he finished the illustrations for Monsters. In a beautiful example of friendship, his childhood friend and illustrator Stephen Axelsen finished the illustrations for Anna and Kim’s book.

Thank you for giving us one last book to read and treasure Anna, Kim and Stephen.

Teacher Notes

Happy reading!

The Polly and Buster series by Sally Rippin

Today I had the absolute delight of meeting Sally Rippin. Sally’s passion for creating books for children shines as brightly as her infectious smile.  

Sally loves reading, writing and drawing and says that she is lucky to do what she loves every day. Sally has been writing since she was very young. When she was about 15 years old Sally was a babysitter and would made books like this one for the children she looked after. Sally was destined to become a book creator!

Sally explained that stories come from two places – your imagination and your experience (things that happen to you). Books are a combination of both. When you write a story it needs good characters and a problem.

Sally wanted to write a series with two new characters and use lots of imagination. She likes witches and thought a monster for a best friend for her witch would let her use her imagination. The next step was to create a problem for her characters and after filling her notebook with lots of ideas, Sally decided her problem would be that her friends were not allowed to be friends any more and they would have to fight for their friendship.

Next step was to decide what her characters would look like. Sally’s first picture was in pen and the start of her ideas. Someone told her that Buster looked like a ‘hairy potato’!!

Sally did lots of research about different types of monsters and witches before she created her final pictures of Polly Proggett and Buster Grewclaw using charcoal.

Once Sally knew her characters then she began to create their world of Blackmoon Coven that we enter when we read the Polly and Buster series.

Me and you,
You and me,
That’s the way it
will always be … (Buster)

Polly the witch and Buster the Feelings Monster have the sort of friendship that makes your heart squeeze with happiness. In a world where witches can never be friends with monsters, Polly and Buster have managed to keep their friendship a secret. Until one day when everything changes…

What would you do
if everyone thought
your best friend was
dangerous?

In this book, Polly and Buster are on the run from nearly everyone in town. Who is sending Polly messages through the magical stones and will Polly follow the messages? Polly and Buster have big decisions to make. Will they stay safe and hidden or risk it all to save the day? 

At the end of her session, Sally gave one of the best gifts an author can give their readers and read some of her new Polly and Buster book. It is such a privilege to hear an author read the words they have carefully chosen to write their story.

If you haven’t met Polly and Buster yet, then it’s time you did! Polly and Buster’s friendship is warm, funny and magical and together as friends they can face whatever comes their way…they would love you to join them on their adventures!

If you ever have the chance to go along and meet Sally, please make sure you do because you will will be in for a wonderful treat!

Teacher notes

Happy reading!

The Champion Charlies series by Adrian Beck

Charles was the best player in the boys’ football team.
Charlotte was the best player in the girls’ side.
But this season they’re both playing in the SAME mixed team
Is there room for TWO Champion Charlies in the ONE side?

Adrian Beck has combined his cheeky brand of humour with his love of football (soccer) to create a fun sport series that celebrates the world game of football.

The Mix-Up is the first book in The Champion Charlies series.

Charlotte Alessi and Charles ‘CJ’ Jackson are talented football players at the Jets Football Club. Charlotte is ultra organised, has a no-nonsense ponytail and is smart. CJ is a risk-taking daredevil who doesn’t like to follow rules and is not always smart which we quickly learn when he attempts a kamikaze rescue mission of a football stuck in a tree in the opening chapter. These two total opposites will need to find a way to work together in a mixed football team if they want to continue playing their beloved football.

CJ and Charlotte both have qualities that would make them a good team captain. CJ desperately wants to be the Jets’ captain and gets himself into all sorts of trouble as he tries to win over teammates and puts his friendship with his mate Benji at risk. CJ and Charlotte finally overcome their rivalry at a Matilda’s game when they hear striker, Sam Kerr explain the key to the Matildas’ success “We just pull together, try to use everyone’s skills and face every challenge as a team.” 

There’s lots of football action in the final chapters as the Jets try to bond as a team to beat their arch rivals, the Hillside Hammersmiths. Watch for a clever tweak to the Jets’ tactics (courtesy of The Dancing Dads) in the second half. Which team will win and who will be named the new captain of the Jets?

One of my favourite characters is Mr Hyants, otherwise known as High Pants. He is named as the new coach even though he has never coached before. After reading a sports blog about inspirational music, High Pants (who always wanted to be a pop star) coaches the team by singing karaoke from the sidelines with songs to motivate them. Imagine hearing ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ when you’re doing goal kicking practice or ‘Shake it Off!’ when you fall over! It’s a very unique way of coaching!  

Top Five Reasons to read the The Mix-Up

It’s fun

You can read about sport

There are fun facts about football

You’ll know how to do the 4-2-2 formation (I do now!)

You might want a karaoke coach 

 

Try the first chapter of The Mix-Up!  HERE

The second book Boot It is also available and the next two books in the series will be published in September.

Writing workshop with Adrian Beck at The Little Bookroom
Tuesday, July 10th

This workshop is for 7-12 year-olds during the school holidays. Each ticket includes a copy of the book The Champion Charlies: The Mix-Up which will be available to collect at the workshop.
You can book your place HERE  I guarantee it will be fun writing with Adrian!

Teacher notes

Happy reading!

Mark Greenwood : History Hunter

I like to search for the truth, but hope that through my books readers can discover not just the truth, but also an understanding of the past.  (Mark Greenwood)

During the week I was incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to listen to Mark Greenwood speak to Year 9 students about his writing process. Mark is a born storyteller whose passion for history and writing shines brightly!

On his website, Mark describes himself as a history hunter who enjoys searching for lost explorers and glittering treasure, solving famous cold cases and delving into Australian history’s most baffling mysteries. Mark passionately shared engaging stories behind his books with us. He does lots of research looking for ‘little personal stories’ that he can shape into a story to connect his readers to the larger historical story. 

Mark’s stories often begin with an artefact or an old photo. He told us how his story of Midnight was sparked by a photo he saw at a school in Queensland of the famous light horse battle charge at Beersheeba that changed the course of WW1. Mark started thinking about how he could tell the story of one horse and one rider from the 800 in the battle. Through his research he discovered Guy Bloomfield. His research led him to the Hunter Valley in NSW where Midnight was born and access to Guy’s letters from the battlefields, the actual bullet that missed his spine and Mark even travelled to Beersheeba to retrace Guy and Midnight’s last few days. The amount of research Mark does is amazing, but this is what really brings his stories to life and helps his readers make deeper personal connections with the subjects of his story. 

Mark’s next book due to be published in August is called The Happiness Box set in Changi Prison. The idea for this story was sparked when Mark saw an old faded book called The Happiness Box at National Treasures Exhibition in Canberra. This book was made as a Christmas present in 1942 by a group of Allied prisoners-of-war in Selarang Barracks, Singapore for the children of nearby Changi Jail. You can read more about The Happiness Box HERE

After Mark’s engaging presentation, I told him that I had read his book Ned Kelly and the Green Sash to Year 5 students as part of our Ned Kelly unit last year. Imagine how surprised and impressed I was when he took out a small cloth pouch and unravelled his replica of Ned Kelly’s green sash!

If you enjoy digging into history and solving mysteries then take a look at all of Mark’s books  including his fascinating History Mysteries series and watch some book trailers on his website

Teaching notes for Mark’s books

Happy reading!

The Most Marvellous Spelling Bee Mystery by Deborah Abela

There are words to be spelled,
Nerves to be overcome,
And a champion to be found!

If you enjoyed The Stupendously Spectacular Spelling Bee you will be excited to read the sequel The Most Marvellous Spelling Bee Mystery by Deborah Abela 

.

In The Stupendously Spectacular Spelling Bee we met India Wimple, a shy girl who was a brilliant speller, but suffered from stage fright when spelling in front of an audience. Thanks to the unwavering support and creative ideas from India’s close-knit family and country town community of Yungabilla, India achieved her spelling dream at the Grand Final at the Sydney Opera House.

Teacher notes

India’s life in Yungabilla is returning to normal when we meet her in The Most Marvellous Spelling Bee Mystery as she receives an invitation to compete in the Most Marvellous International Spelling Bee in London. However, India can only take one person with her and there is no way India will go without her family! The Yungabilla community are very proud of their spelling champion and come up with a solution.

In London, India is reunited with her friend Rajish and they are both surprised to see the positive changes in their fellow speller, Summer. We also meet new spellers, Peter Eriksson from London and Holly Trifle from Canada. Holly’s parents who are fitness fanatics and own a business called Beaut Butts & Guts will have you cringing, especially when the spellers meet the Queen at Buckingham Palace. 

A series of mysterious mishaps threaten to stop the competition and India and her friends work together with some clever detective work to find the culprit and ensure the Spelling Bee continues. They’re a bit like the Famous Five!

Deborah Abela cleverly includes the spelling bee process in the chapter headings by using a spelling word, its definition and including the word in a sentence. This gives you a clue and invites you to predict what might happen in the chapter.

There is a wonderful spirit of friendship in this competition where the children are not just competitors, but also become friends. Only one of the spellers can win The Most Marvellous Spelling Bee, but they are all winners in the way they grow and learn more about themselves.

Heart-warming
(adjective):
Making you feel happy because you see other people being happy or kind to each other

This is a heartwarming story that celebrates friendship and family and encourages self-belief.

Teacher notes

Happy reading!

The Ateban Cipher series by A.L.Tait

The Ateban Cipher series by A.L.Tait is an exciting adventure series. If you like quest stories like Rowan of Rin by Emily Rodda or you’re a fan of the Ranger’s Apprentice series by John Flanagan, then this is the next series for you!

Book One: The Book of Secrets

Gabe stared in horror at the small book in his hand. The light from the low fire danced across its golden cover, setting off a shower of sparkles from the rainbow of jewels that adorned it. Its beauty was dulled only by a dark, spreading smudge of blood.

Gabe is a young apprentice monk, who has been raised at Oldham Abbey and only knows this peaceful and protected world. One evening when the Abbey is raided, Gabe is given the mysterious Book of Secrets to protect by Brother Benedict as he lays dying. 

Gabe is thrust into the outside world on a quest full of danger, intrigue and adventure. What is the secret of the book? Why is it so valuable and who is the mysterious ‘Aidan’? Lost in the forest, Gabe is rescued by a feisty band of rebel girls who live in an old oak tree. Merry, Gwyn, Scarlett and Midge are skilful, clever, brave and fiercely independent. Their fast moving adventure unfolds in forests, tunnels and dungeons as Gabe and the girls seek to rescue Merry and Gwyn’s father, help a prince (Eddie) in trouble and unravel some of the mystery surrounding the Book of Secrets.

 

Teacher Notes

Book Two: The Book of Answers

‘The Ateban Cipher,’ Lucien continued, ‘is also known as the Book of Answers.’  ‘Answers to what?’ Eddie asked. ‘Everything. Any question you might have, the answer is in here.’

In this sequel, Gabe continues his quest accompanied by the girls and Eddie to a remote mountain fortress in search of Lord Lucien as they are closely pursued by their enemies. Lucien answers some of their questions about the mysterious secret coded manuscript and explains how dangerous it would be for The Book of Answers to fall into the wrong hands. While there, Gabe also unexpectedly discovers his true identity and learns about his parents.

Working as a team is vital as Gabe and his friends seek to outwit Lord Sherborne and his henchmen. Their clever problem solving and combined skills keep the encrypted Book of Answers safe while helping Eddie regain his crown and Merry and Grace race against time to save their father. Gabe’s confidence, courage and skills develop along the way and when the key to the Ataban Cipher is finally revealed, he makes a decision that will change the direction of his life.

I thoroughly enjoyed these two books and if you’re like me, you will want to have The Book of Answers ready to read as soon as you have finished The Book of Secrets!

Happy reading!

Other Worlds: Perfect World by George Ivanoff

If you are a bit of an adventurer and like exploring then the Other Worlds series by George Ivanoff  has action and adventure mixed with sci-fi and fantasy that would be perfect for you!

The different characters in each stand-alone book find themselves drawn to a key that takes various forms depending on the person. They will want to touch it and by touching the key, they will open a doorway to another world…

In Perfect World, Computer geek Keagan didn’t expect to find himself in a world of clones obsessed with perfection when he was out buying pickles for his mum! 

Taking a shortcut, Keagan finds himself drawn to a computer chip locked in a cabinet of a weird shop called Matilda’s Collectibles. When he trips over and the cabinet shatters, Keagan grabs the computer chip. A shimmering doorway appears and Keagan finds the doorway open to Perfect World.

Perfect World is where people are cloned in groups of five. Everything in the city is controlled. Children learn by having information streamed directly into their brains. Perfection must be maintained at all costs. There is no room for individuality. Is this really a perfect world? Would you want to live in it?

Keagan who is different and therefore imperfect ends up at the Dumping Ground. This is where he finds the rejected clones known as the ‘Refuse’ living in the sewage tunnels filled with junk from the Perfect World above. Keagan meets feisty Eone and the other rejects who have embraced being different and use the junk around them to enhance their individuality. Keagan joins Eone in her mission with the Elders to bring about change to Perfect World. Will perfection or individuality win?

Will Keagan be able to escape Perfect World and find his way home?

There are four books in the Other Worlds series:

Perfect World…a weird world of clones who are obsessed with perfection

Beast World…a crazy world that looks like steampunk London

Game World…a strange virtual reality – part of a game world where humans are battling computers for survival

Dark World…a scary world ravaged by the Darkness

Read more about each book HERE

Teacher notes

Happy reading!

 

Oma’s Buttons by Tania Ingram

“A memory is something warm, something from long ago, something that makes you cry, something that makes you laugh, and something as precious as gold”. (Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge)

Ruthie loves to visit her Oma and spend time baking, playing and singing together. One day while playing hide and seek, Ruthie finds a pretty tin under Oma’s bed filled with her ‘memory buttons’. Ruthie learns each button is a reminder of a special person in Oma’s life and listens closely as Oma tells the story about each one. The red button is from her mother’s apron because she loved to bake, the blue button is from the suit her Opa wore when he proposed to Oma and she even has a green button for Ruthie from her first dress.  When Ruthie spies a beautiful button that came from Oma’s coat she asks if she can keep it to remind her of Oma. Ruthie carries her button with her everywhere until one day the button slips through a hole in her pocket…

Tania Ingram’s mother-in-law was born in a displaced persons camp in Kematen after her family had to flee to safety during World War Two. As a refugee, she held on to her precious memories and family traditions by keeping buttons, lace and pieces of material in a small tin. A few years ago as Tania listened to her mother-in-law sharing the memory behind each precious item in her tin with her granddaughter, the seed was planted for Tania’s heartfelt story Oma’s Buttons

Looking at the detailed colour pencil illustrations by Jennifer Harrison that beautifully capture the special relationship between Ruthie and her Oma, reminded me of baking with my Nan when I was little and how she patiently let me measure, stir (make a mess) and always lick the spoon at the end! Wearing my Nan’s apron when I cook always brings back wonderful warm memories of baking cornflake biscuits and slices together. 

Do you call your grandmother Grandma, Nana, Nan, Nonna, Oma, Yaya or something different? What do you like to do with your grandma?

This is a picture of the real Oma and her granddaughter (on the left) and the models used for the book (on the right).

Oma’s Buttons reminds us that families are made up of stories that link us together and are part of who we are and it’s important to share them so they’re not forgotten. Next time you see your grandparents, ask them to share some of their memories and stories with you and go on a trip down ‘Memory Lane’ together…

Teacher Notes and visit Tania’s website for creative ideas for buttons

Happy reading! 

Missing by Sue Whiting

I could not put this book down!

When I read the first three chapters of Missing to a Year 5 class, they were hooked from the first line…‘In the dead of the night we ran away.’

Mackenzie da Luca’s mother is missing. Maggie da Luca is a scientist who specialises in bats. When visiting the small town of Boquete in Central America she vanishes without a trace in the jungles of Panama. After her mother has been missing for 114 days, Mackenzie’s dad is still desperate for answers and sneaks off at night with Mackenzie in tow to Panama to find the truth. Mackenzie however has her own theory about her mother’s disappearance and is not sure if she wants her dad to find her mum.

The story alternates between ‘Then’ in Sydney as 12 year old Mackenzie and her family attempt to adjust to life without her mother and ‘Now’ in Panama where Mackenzie is reluctantly searching for clues with her dad. By weaving together the family’s life before and after Maggie’s disappearance, Sue Whiting gradually reveals the pieces of this mystery puzzle.

Mackenzie is a resilient girl, but it’s not easy beginning secondary school without your old primary school friends and the support of your mother. She finds comfort in her sketching and is befriended by the rebellious Billie who takes her under her wing.

When she arrives in Panama, Mackenzie finds it confronting to be wandering the streets of Boquete where her mother was last seen and finds herself wondering…

Did she walk along here? Did the people in the shops and on the street see her? Speak to her on her last day here? Am I walking right past someone who might have seen her get on the bus back to David, leaving Boquete? Or someone who actually knows what happened to her?’ 

A chance meeting with a wildlife worker sets Mackenzie off doing her own risky detective work and asking herself…Is it is better to know or not know the truth about her missing mother?

If you’re in Year 5 and 6 and like a mystery with twists and turns and a roller coaster ride of emotions then Missing is the book for you.

Teacher notes

Happy reading!

Olive Black: The Pyramid Puzzle by Alex Miles

Olive Black is a ten year old who is living her dream as a movie star, jetting around the world filming, doing movie promotions and interviews. Rather than being full of her own self-importance, Olive is a down to earth, funny, caring and adventurous girl in Year Five whose BFF is Rani.

The Pyramid Puzzle is Olive Black’s fifth movie adventure written by Alex Miles. This story was inspired by one of Olive’s fans who suggested to Alex that Olive should star in a movie about mummies.

In her latest movie The Pyramid Puzzle, Olive is a junior archeologist who is uncovering ancient secrets in the tombs of Egypt. When she returns to school Olive has another puzzle to solve when she meets a new teacher who introduces herself as Harriet. A teacher using her first name is surprising, but the shocked reaction of their teacher Miss Loople when she sees Harriet has Olive and her friends intrigued. What is the connection between the teachers and why is Miss Loople always trying to avoid Harriet?

Olive and her friends decide to dig a little deeper into the school archives to find out more about Harriet, especially when she takes the credit for Miss Loople and their class’s idea for the spectacular Egypt Alive day. Thanks to some unexpected help from Nathan the naughtiest boy in her class and some missing toilet paper, all is finally revealed.

This is a fun Egyptian mystery filled with adventure and lots of great ITHEAs (Idea That’s Hyper-Extremely Awesome)!

Alex Miles (or is that Cleopatra?) had fun talking about her book on Kids WB. You can watch it HERE

These are some things I discovered about Alex at a recent school library visit…

Alex liked to read Choose Your Own Adventure and Agatha Christie mysteries

Alex wrote 8 books in the popular Zac Power series

Alex’s first Olive Black book took 7 years to write – she had to have lots of patience and perseverance! 

Alex likes acting just like Olive and she published her first play at secondary school when she was 17 years old

Alex doesn’t use any technology to write her book until the final draft. She starts writing in her journal and plots the story on a wall using post-it notes

It takes about six months to create an Olive Black book including thinking of the idea, plotting, editing and illustrating

Some writing tips from Alex…

Create great well-rounded characters – get to know them

Use ideas from the people and the world around you

Give your character challenges outside their comfort zone

Use your Imagination Muscle regularly!

You might like to invite Alex to your school to do some writing creativity sessions with your class and help you exercise your Imagination Muscle!

Happy reading!