The Poppa Platoon: Operation Dessert Storm by Danny Katz and Mitch Vane

Operation Dessert Storm is the second book in the funny Poppa Platoon series. This book had me at the word dessert! Yes, I’m that person who goes to restaurants and reads the dessert menu first so I can plan my meal around my dessert (or just have dessert!). Anybody else do the same? 

For weeks, Abbie has bugged her grandfather, major Poppa, to take her to Wibbly the Cheeky Wizard’s Spooky All-You Can-Eat Family Restaurant. Today is the day and Poppa has carefully planned the Poppa Platoon’s dangerous mission to sneak into the restaurant, eat as much as they can for $14.95 and leave plenty of room for dessert. But first, Abbie has to pass Major Poppa’s All-You-Can-Eat Buffet Training Course and Dessert Bar Drills. Now I know why you don’t choose soup at the buffet if you want dessert!

This mission is very important to Major Poppa who declares “Today we fight in the name of Cherry n’ Cream Cheese Strudel!” and this is his plan…

1.We go into the castle.
2. We sit down, there’s no hassle.
3. We join the buffet line (Poppa first, us behind).
4. We eat until we can’t eat more.
5. When we’re done we’re out the door!

Not all quite goes to plan because Grandpa, Abbie and Flynn don’t have a table booking and have to sneak past the ugly Door-Witch with red beady eyes. Crawling past hairy legs under sticky wooden tables and being caught in a messy food fight against an All-You-Can-Eat Buffet Professional and her Freckly-Twin Chicken-Balancing-Buffet-Bandits makes their Operation Dessert Storm almost a mission impossible. It’s up to Abbie to bravely complete her first Solo Mission and eat as MUCH dessert as she can as QUICKLY as she can in 5 minutes. Forget plates, cutlery and manners when you’re a Dessert Warrior! Will Abbie avoid being captured by the Door-Witch and The 12th Armed Wizard Brigade and what will the Major Poppa discover about Wibbly the Cheeky Wizard?

Operation Dessert Storm will have you laughing out loud and make your sweet tooth tingle and your tummy rumble! It might also have you cooking up a storm in the kitchen creating desserts like Bleeding Heart Jellies, Marshmallow Ghost Pie, a ten-storey Spooky Cupcake Tower or creative desserts of your own that you could serve at your spooky restaurant.

If you have read or watched The Little Lunch series then you will already know the talented husband and wife team of author, Danny Katz and illustrator, Mitch Vane. Danny’s wacky humour and Mitch’s quirky cartoons make The Poppa Platoon books fun to read, especially aloud!

Begin the laughs with the first book,The Poppa Platoon: In World War Chew on a trip to the Royal Melbourne Show on a dangerous mission to the crowded Showbag Pavillion to buy a Chunky Choco Cherry Chew Showbag. 

Happy Reading and dessert eating!

Wakestone Hall by Judith Rossell

When you return to school shortly, consider yourself lucky you’re not orphan, Stella Montgomery whose horrid aunts have sent her to the grimly strict boarding school, Wakestone Hall so she can learn how to be obedient. The school has rules for everything such as  ‘No Girl Shall Traverse the Main Staircase under any Circumstance’ which  poor Stella broke in the first ten minutes of arriving and had to copy the rule fifty times in her best handwriting. Girls who misbehave are sent to the mysterious Headmistress, Miss Garnet who has a cruel secret.

                                   Wakestone Girls, so straight and true,
                                   Always do as we should do.
                                   Marching on with main and might,
                                   Always Righteous, Always Right.

When Stella’s new friend Ottilie goes missing, Stella and fellow student, Agapanthus are determined to find her. With help from Joe, a young scrapper, the girls track down the evil Gabbro brothers, but there are more mysteries to unravel. Why did the Gabbro brothers kidnap Ottilie and who are they working for? How is their cruel Headmistress, Miss Garnet and her greedy brother, Thaddeus involved? In their search for answers, Stella and her friends journey deep underground to The Wake where Stella bravely faces her nightmare, the King of the Mountain and makes a discovery that will both give her answers and change her life forever.

Wakestone Hall is the third and final book in Judith Rossell‘s Stella Montgomery series. I enjoyed being transported once again to the world of Victorian England and sharing another  adventure solving mysteries with Stella and her friends with an ending that is also a happy new beginning for Stella…

Being a big fan of the colour purple, I loved the purple text and illustrations, stunning purple endpapers and purple ribbon bookmark! Judith has a magnificent colour illustration of Wakestone Hall on the front cover and the book is filled with Judith’s intricately detailed illustrations of characters, places and objects of the Victorian time.

Happy reading!

Judith Rossell – Adventures in Illustration

If you live near Eltham then give yourself a treat over the holidays and visit Judith Rossell’s ‘Adventures in Illustration’ exhibition at the Eltham library with your family. It’s in the community gallery until January 20th.

Judith Rossell is a writer and illustrator of children’s books. You might know her best from her award-winning Stella Montgomery novels or for her whimsical illustrations of Bogtrotter written by Margaret Wild.

Today I discovered that Judith also loves mazes and puzzles and has created and illustrated some fabulous maze and puzzle books. This is an illustration from one of the books.

Bogtrotter is a picture book I have loved sharing with classes in the library so I was excited to see my favourite illustration on display.

It was fascinating to see close-ups of Judith’s detailed sketches and final illustrations from her Stella Montgomery series including the sketch and final illustration of the front cover of her latest book Wakestone Hall. You can look through folders of Judith’s work and explore her illustrating process. I’m looking forward to reading this book over the holidays!

Judith is also a crafty person and you will be impressed with her ‘House for Miniature Students’ created from recycled and re-purposed materials. Make sure you read the information about some of the pieces Judith has used. (My photo of the house doesn’t do it justice.) You can also see Judith’s mini handmade Christmas trees decorating the fireplace and a model of her dream beach house. Once again, Judith’s love of detail is on display! (I wonder if Judith’s past life as a scientist is coming out?)

Judith grew up in Eltham and it is wonderful that her work is on display at the Eltham Library Community Gallery. I hope lots of families visit Judith’s exhibition and writers, illustrators and creators of all ages will be inspired.

Workshops with Judith Rossell

Book into these creative workshops with Judith as part of the Summer Reading Club.

Thank you Yarra Plenty Library for making reading, writing and creating so much fun!

Happy creating!

The Tales of Mr Walker by Jess Black

Mr Walker will steal your heart from the first page as he narrates and stars in his very own illustrated hardcover book!

On a brilliant autumn morning, Mr Walker arrives at the Park Hyatt, ready to put his best paw forward as a Guide Dog Ambassador. However, all he can see is a very tall, grand building whose top is covered by clouds. Where is the park?

In his new role as a hotel dog, Mr Walker learns to walk on slippery marble floors, ride in elevators, greet guests both friendly and not so friendly, help the hotel staff and settles in with his new family while having some unexpected adventures along the way in four fun and heart warming stories.

Jess Black brings Mr Walker to life as he shares the world though his eyes and his personality and warmth are perfectly captured by Sara Acton in her delightful watercolour illustrations. Jess and Sara are a dynamic duo of dog lovers who make you want to visit Mr Walker and give him a great big hug!

In his real life, Mr Walker is a charming golden Labrador who trained as a Guide dog, but his outgoing personality was better suited to being a Guide Dog Ambassador at the Park Hyatt in Melbourne where he greets guests as they first walk in the door and helps them feel at home. Guests can also request to take Mr Walker for walks in the morning, play with him in the park, or sometimes even practice yoga on the hotel deck. He has a specially made Tasmanian oak bed to lounge on in the hotel lobby and he even has his own Instagram account at mrwalker_parkhyatt where you can follow his adventures!

Photo credit: Park Hyatt Melbourne

Royalties from sales of this book go to Guide Dogs Victoria so when you buy this book you are supporting a wonderful organisation and dogs like Mr Walker.

Keep an eye out for more adventures with Mr Walker in February and August in 2019. Scroll down here for a sneak peek!

Happy Reading!

Mamie by Tania McCartney

We know her as May Gibbs, the creator of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, but to her family, she was known as ‘Mamie’ (pronounced May-me). This year is the 100th birthday of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie (1918-2018).

In her exquisite picture book, Tania McCartney brings a young Mamie to life in a magical modern day setting.

Mamie is a little girl with a big imagination who ‘could draw as soon as she could walk’. Her world is filled with fairy friends and singing and dancing in made up plays until her life is turned upside when her family ‘moves to the bottom of the world’. Accompanied by her Scotty dog, Mamie explores and draws her strange new home of ‘shimmering bushland’, but Mamie misses her magical friends until one night she dreams of a little fairy with a gumnut on his head…a bush fairy.

Like me, I know that you will be spending a lot of time pouring over the many tiny details in Tania’s vibrant illustrations that lovingly capture the essence of May Gibbs as a little girl and celebrate the power of imagination. Mamie is one of my favourite books this year!

I was very lucky to win a copy of Mamie. Thank you, Tania! 

You can download some activities for Mamie here

Happy reading!

Ho! Ho! Ho! There’s a Hippopotamus on Our Roof Eating Christmas Cake by Hazel Edwards

Our roof is noisy!
Thump!
Thump!
Thump!

Our favourite hippopotamus is back and this time he’s having lots of fun getting ready for Christmas in There’s a Hippopotamus on Our Roof Eating Christmas Cake. A perfect book to add to your Christmas collection!

Deborah Niland’s classic illustrations show hippo busy writing his present list (that’s a LOT of cakes), having messy fun icing his large Christmas cake, doing a special Christmas cake dance, some Christmassy dressing up and singing Carols by Cakelight. The little boy in the house below is also excitedly getting ready for Christmas with his family and has made a scrumptious Christmas present for his hippopotamus friend.

What does your family do to get ready for Christmas? Do you have a favourite activity?

There are lots of fun Christmas activities for you to download in this Hippo Christmas Activity Pack

Hazel Edwards wrote her first hippopotamus book There’s A Hippopotamus on Our Caravan Roof Eating Cake in 1980 and this is the seventh book about her much loved hippopotamus. These days, Hazel is often called ‘The Hippo Lady’! 

Do you have a favourite hippopotamus book by Hazel?

Happy Christmas reading! 

Lenny’s Book of Everything by Karen Foxlee

Karen Foxlee, will take your feelings on a roller-coaster ride when you read Lenny’s Book of Everything as Lenny and her brother Davey burrow their way into your heart and remind you of the wonder and preciousness of life.

On the day Davey Spink was born his mum had a ‘dark heart feeling’ and felt ‘something’s not right’. Her feeling is right when Davey turns five and starts growing faster than he should. Davey is diagnosed with gigantism, a rare condition that causes him to keep growing. By the time Davey is seven he is man-sized and this is harmful for his health. Lenny is very protective of her younger brother, but she has her own challenges and it’s not easy being the sister of ‘the giant’. 

Lenny, Davey and their mum who works two jobs don’t have much, but they have each other. Their mum wins a free subscription to Burrell’s Build-It-At-Home Encyclopedia and Fridays become the highlight of the week when each new volume arrives. The encyclopedia transports Lenny and Davey to places beyond the walls of their tiny apartment and brings knowledge and the wonder of the world into their lives. 

The B volume fuels Lenny’s fascination for beetles and her dream to become a coleopterist and the bird section introduces Davey to golden eagles. He even invents his own imaginary eagle called Timothy who sits on his shoulder and he feeds him imaginary crumbs. When the C volume arrives they discover Canada. Lenny as ‘chief imagineer’ imagines them travelling to Bear Lake. Planning their adventurous trip there and the log cabin Davey wants to build, carries them through the ups and downs of Davey’s health until the day Lenny and Davey squeeze goodbye in Morse Code.

Karen Brownlee exquisitely weaves the story and its characters together using the volumes of Burrell’s Build-It-At-Home Encyclopedia with Lenny as the narrator. As you read, think about how Karen’s words make you feel, how she describes her characters or the images she creates in you mind with her carefully chosen words.

If you have read Wonder by R.J. Palacio or Ugly by Robert Hoge you might also like Lenny’s Book of Everything. Auggie, Robert and Davey’s stories give us an opportunity to walk in their shoes and help us to understand a little more some of the challenges of living with a disability. 

Click HERE to read this National Geographic Kids’ interview with Karen Foxlee.

Look closely at the front cover. How does the image connect to the story? Click HERE to see how the cover was created. This is a rare novel with endpapers. Why do you think they have been included?

Click  HERE to read an extract of Lenny’s Book of Everything.

Happy reading and a BIG TISSUE ALERT!

Teacher notes

Everything I’ve Never Said by Samantha Wheeler

Ava has Rett syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that leaves her unable to speak or walk and she needs help with moving and eating. She is a regular 11 year-old girl on the inside who hears, sees and understands everything, but Ava can’t communicate because she is trapped in her body that won’t work properly.

How do you say you want jam and not vegemite on your toast, that your favourite colour is pink not purple or tell your big sister that you don’t want to be an embarrassment and just want to hang out with her like sisters do?

Ava has a disability, but she is also strong, feisty and funny, and as the narrator of the story she gives us an insight into the challenges of every day life with Rett syndrome as well as the challenges it can also bring to a family.

One day I’ll talk like Aimee.
One day I’ll find a way.

Thanks to the encouragement of her new friend, Aimee and the determination and problem solving of Kieran, her occupational therapist, it is Ava’s eyes that provide the key for her to be heard at last. You are going to be cheering Ava on alongside her family when she communicates with them for the first time!

I didn’t know about Rett Syndrome until I read this book. Samantha Wheeler has written this story with so much heart and understanding because her own daughter Charlotte was diagnosed with Rett Syndrome when she was fourteen. 

If you enjoy books that give you an opportunity to walk in somebody else’s footsteps and experience a life that is different to yours then Everything I’ve Never Said is a perfect choice.

“Everyone has something to say, whether they communicate in a conventional way or not. We just need empathy and understanding” (Samantha Wheeler)

Happy reading!

Beware The Deep Dark Forest by Sue Whiting

“You must beware the deep, dark forest,”
Rosie told Tinky.
“Never, ever go in there.”

Rosie has never gone into the deep, dark forest, but when her puppy Tinky runs off into the forest she has to find him. 

“But the deep, dark forest is thick with danger,” warned Rosie’s Grandma. “Carnivorous plants they say.”
And venomous snakes,” said Rosie’s dad. “So I’ve heard.”

Would you go into the deep, dark forest?

Rosie can’t leave Tinky lost and alone in the dangerous forest and goes on a quest to rescue him. She needs to have courage as the forest becomes deeper, darker and muddier. Along the way, Rosie has to bravely sneak past a big, bristly brute, find a way to cross a place that is dizzily, dangerously, dreadfully deep and face a menacing, monstrous, muddy creature to save Tinky.

Sometimes like Rosie we don’t know how brave and clever we can be.

Sue Whiting has written a story that is like a fairytale. It is lots of fun to read aloud with its repetition and descriptive words, especially when Rosie stands up to the muddy creature at the end! Can you find ways Sue has used words to make her writing scary, exciting and fun? 

Annie White‘s earthy water colour illustrations take you into the forest with Rosie and often as the reader you can see things in the forest that Rosie can’t see. Can you see any carnivorous plants and venomous snakes or spot the shadow of the menacing, monstrous muddy creature? What has been printed on the purple endpapers, can you explain why?

If you like scary stories that are fun and going on quests where you can be a hero, then Beware The Deep Dark Forest is just the book for you!

Happy reading!

Teacher notes by Sue Whiting

Why I Love Summer by Michael Wagner

There are four seasons in a year, and they’re all AWESOME, but only one gets to be summer.

We are getting closer to summer here in Australia and along with Mitch, lots of people LOVE summer. In summer the sun shines, the sky is blue, days are longer and for a while everyone in the family is on holidays at the same time.

Summer is time to put on your t-shirt, cap and sunscreen and spend hours outside playing with friends, riding your bike, epic backyard cricket games, water fights, doing bombs in the pool and going nuts in the sun. There’s also Mitch’s favourite time of the day, Ice-cream O’Clock and family barbecues when you can stay up later than school nights because there are hardly any rules in summer. Mitch and his family along with many other families in summer go camping at the beach where everyone is happy and there’s so much to do…and Mitch can be with his family all the time.

Michael Wagner (author of Why I Love Footyreminds of what we love about summer in such a fun way. What are some of your favourite things to do in summer? Ask your mum and dad or even your grandparents what they liked to do in their summer holidays when they were kids. What was their favourite ice cream? 

Tom Jellet‘s illustrations are a celebration of our Australian summer and capture in colourful detail the ways our summer is unique. Take a close look at the ice creams on the endpapers, what dad’s cooking on the barbie, the fun summer activities, and I’m sure walking down that sandy path and catching a glimpse of the beach will be familiar to many of you.

You can also download a fabulous Why I Love Summer Activity Pack and have fun inventing an icy-pole, writing a holiday postcard or spotting things in the beach picture like a one-legged seagull and even Santa Claus!

Thank you Michael and Tom for such a fun book to remind us of why we love summer and wish it could last forever…

Happy reading!