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!

Total Quack Up! edited by Sally Rippin and Adrian Becks

Total Quack Up! is a collection of short stories from some of Australia’s funniest children’s authors guaranteed to have you quacking up and laughing out loud! So be careful where you read this book…

Sally Rippin and Adrian Beck are the editors of Total Quack Up! They wanted to help raise money for Dymocks Children’s Charities who work very hard to make sure kids across the country get their hands on great books and develop the skills they need to read them. Sally and Adrian asked eight author friends if they would like to write a funny story and James Foley to be the illustrator. These generous people donated their story and illustrations to create this book and all of the proceeds from Total Quack Up! will go to Dymock’s Children’s Charities.

Buying a copy of Total Quack Up! is a ‘win-win’ because you get a funny book to enjoy AND you will be helping other kids to have books so they can enjoy reading too!

Here’s a taste of the stories in Total Quack Up!…

After reading Total Quack Up! you might be inspired to write your own funny short story…

Happy reading!

His Name Was Walter by Emily Rodda

Emily Rodda is one of Australia’s most well known children’s authors and you may have already enjoyed her Rowan, Rondo or Deltora Quest fantasy series. Rowan of Rin is still one of my favourite books! Emily Rodda’s real name is Jeanette Rowe. She writes using Emily Rodda for her children’s books and as Jeanette Rowe for her adult mystery books. 

Emily Rodda’s latest book, His Name Was Walter is mystery, fantasy, supernatural, historical fiction and part love story all rolled into one book. It is a story within a story that will keep you turning the pages to find out what happened to Walter and why it is so important to the anonymous author that he is remembered. 

When the mini bus breaks down on their history excursion, Mrs Fiori and four students take shelter overnight in an abandoned mansion in Storm Valley. Little do they know how a piece of history will change after this night. In the kitchen, Colin notices an elegant handcrafted writing desk where he discovers a secret drawer containing amongst other treasures, a beautifully handwritten book filled with exquisite water colour illustrations. It’s title is His Name Was Walter.

Colin and Tara are drawn to the mysterious book and secretly read it by torch light when the others go to sleep and become lost in Walter’s story. After being abandoned, Walter is raised in a beehive, works for mice, befriends a witch who can turn into a cat, falls in love with a girl who can turn into a sparrow and battles a beast. Colin and Tara feel compelled to finish the book as they sense the menacing mansion is hiding a tragic secret. Mrs Fiori and her students discover His Name Was Walter is more than a  fairytale and it helps them to right an injustice so Walter can be remembered as an honest, brave and loyal young man.

Who was Walter?

Why did Sparrow want Walter’s story to be told?
 

You can read the first three chapters HERE.

Happy reading!

Teacher Notes

The Mulberry Tree by Allison Rushby

The Mulberry Tree by Allison Rushby is mysterious, a little spooky and one of those books you can’t put down because you need to know how the story ends. 

When ten year old Immy and her parents move from Sydney, Australia to a small English village they shrug off the legend of the ancient and fierce-looking mulberry tree in the backyard of Lavendar Cottage that has cast fear over the village for years. The villagers believe the mulberry tree steals away girls living in the cottage on the eve of their eleventh birthday and they superstitiously cross the road to avoid the mulberry tree and Immy’s family. Immy struggles to make friends at her new school, her dad is still not himself after an incident and life is not working out as well as her family had planned. 

When Immy starts hearing a mysterious rhyme in her head she is determined to find out what happened to the two missing girls. Immy researches the legend at the local library and has help from her elderly neighbour Jean whose best friend Elizabeth was the second girl to disappear in 1945. Tension rises as Immy’s eleventh birthday draws closer when she notices changes in the mulberry tree outside her window. The tree no longer looks angry, but rather tired and weak and even sad. Immy begins to feel sorry for the tree and wonders what could have caused the vicious marks on its trunk. “You can trust me” she told the tree. “I won’t hurt you.” 

Can brave Immy solve the mystery of the mulberry tree before she too disappears on her eleventh birthday?

Happy reading!

Teacher notes

Ting Ting the Ghosthunter by Gabrielle Wang

Gabrielle Wang‘s title and vibrant cover entice you to want to read her latest book Ting Ting the Ghosthunter.

“This sequel to the award-winning Ghost in My Suitcase is a powerful magic realism story about ghost-hunting, finding yourself, Chinese mythology, family and culture”

Ting Ting’s adopted grandmother Por Por is a famous ghost-hunter who is teaching thirteen year old Ting Ting the ancient skills and art of ghost-hunting. Ting Ting chose her name because it meant ‘Thunderbolt’ and she wants to strike the ground and make the ghosts tremble. She is getting tired of capturing harmless da duzi or ‘fat belly’ ghosts and wants to be a famous ghost-hunter.

When her grandmother mysteriously disappears on a ghost-hunting job,Ting Ting ignores the warning from the Yi Jing and takes it upon herself to find Por. When Ting Ting arrives at the remote Black Band Village she finds a dangerous ghost enemy with a frightening plan and learns a hard lesson when she thinks the enemy is weak and she is strong. Ting Ting will need to trust others, believe in her true self and call upon all of her ghost-hunting knowledge and skills if she is to save Por and the villagers. Can Ting Ting prove herself to be a true ghost-hunter?

When you have finished the book, look closely at the front cover. Can you see clues about the story that Gabrielle has included in her illustrations? She has also included exquisitely detailed black and white sketches throughout her book that give you little snapshots along the way.

Gabrielle has left me wondering if she has a new story in mind for Ting Ting and Little Cloud…

Writing and Illustration Workshop with Gabrielle Wang

This is a fabulous opportunity if you are  8 -12 years old and would like to develop your writing and illustrating skills in a workshop with Gabrielle.

Where: The Little Bookroom 

When: Monday, September 24th (school holidays)

Time: 3.00pm – 4.00pm (NOTE THE TIME CHANGE)

You can find more information and book your place HERE.

Happy reading and ghost-hunting!

Teacher Notes

Natural Born Loser by Oliver Phommavanh

Maybe that’s the main reason Mr Humble picked me. I was a natural born loser, a nobody, but I was a nobody who believed in Barryjong. Now I’ve become somebody worth following. (Raymond) 

Natural Born Loser by Oliver Phommavanh is one of my favourite books of the year! 

There is so much heart in this story and after reading this interview with Oliver, you can see how his experiences as a student and teacher have played a big part in helping him write Natural Born Loser.

Not everyone wants to be a leader out the front and in the lime light, certainly not Raymond Bulanghagui. He sees himself as a follower and prefers to blend into the background, particularly around bullies. That is until the new principal, Mr Humble arrives and wants to turn Barryjong school around so it’s no longer a joke amongst other schools and a breeding ground for bullies. Raymond’s life changes when his best mate Zain dares him to ‘audition’ for a prefect position. No one is more shocked than Raymond when he is chosen alongside Zain, Randa and Ally who all seem to have more to offer than he does. However, Mr Humble has seen something in Raymond and gives him a chance to step up and be a leader.

The four prefects don’t have an easy job ahead with bullymons like Russell Carney (Carn-age) and his cronies ready to bring them down at any opportunity. When Raymond dares himself to speak up at assembly and suggests they raise money for new air conditioners all of a sudden he goes from being a nobody to the students supporting him. I’m sure you too will be cheering on the four prefects as they learn to combine their talents and work together as a leadership team to raise their goal of $20,000. Their crazy fundraising challenges are fun for students, teachers and parents alike, especially the brilliant Dareathon! The fundraising culminates in an exciting Footy Fan Day and there’s one final surprise from Mr Humble for the four prefects, who along the way have united the Barryjong Primary School community and turned it into a ‘cool’ school in more ways than one.

There’s no stopping ‘Barryjong United’ now!

Happy reading and thinking up fun dares for a Dareathon!

Teacher notes

 

Kensy and Max 2: Disappearing Act by Jacqueline Harvey

If you’re looking for mystery and adventure and some danger along the way then head off to Rome with Kensy and Max in Disappearing Act these school holidays!

In their second book, Kensy and Max are now regular students at Central London Free School and have begun their formal training as agents for the spy agency called Pharos.

Thanks to coded messages from their missing parents, the twins know they are alive, but to protect their parents they can’t tell anyone. So Kensy and Max spend the Christmas break at their grandmother’s stunning estate, Alexandria which is also the countryside base of Pharos and filled with cleverly concealed state of the art training facilities (the hydraulic diving board is impressive!). Kensy and Max are excited about taking driving lessons, but when something goes terribly wrong with Esmerelda, some quick thinking from Kensy prevents a tragic ending. They’re seriously wondering if someone is trying to get rid of them.

Kensy and Max finally meet their rather mysterious Uncle Rupert who causes quite a stir when he arrives at the Christmas party via parachute, but leaves them with more questions than answers. Despite missing their parents and Fitz their manny, Christmas is a fun celebration with ugly jumpers and a Thriller-esque dance-off before the twins head to Rome on a school excursion. Buoyed by a secret message from their parents, Kensy and Max hope to secretly meet them in Rome where Mr Reffell, their passionate history teacher is eager to show his students the history, art and architecture of Rome. However, when inquisitive Kensy notices a dark-haired boy acting suspiciously with a group of orphans near the Trevi Fountain it unexpectedly leads to Kensy and Max’s first mission for Pharos. Along with their fellow agents-in-training, the twins put their talents and newly acquired spy skills into practice as they bravely attempt to rescue the Prime Minister’s kidnapped son and put a stop to the plans of the evil criminal network, The Diavolo. You will definitely need to catch your breath at the end of this book!

One of Max’s talents is cracking codes and he deciphers the Pig Pen Cipher to reveal an important message the team has intercepted. Read the information Jacqueline Harvey has included at the back of her book and watch this video to help you decode the book’s chapter headings and try coding your own secret messages to share with friends or information you want to keep secret.

Happy Reading and coding!

Mr Bambuckle’s Remarkables Go Wild by Tim Harris

Grab your tents, sleeping bags and marshmallows! Mr Bambuckle and 12B are off on a camping adventure in Tim Harris‘ third book, Mr Bambuckle’s Remarkables Go Wild.

Camping doesn’t start well for Damon Dunst who forgets to pack his tent. Luckily Mr Bambuckle has a spare tent. DO read Damon’s instructions for ‘How to put up a Tent’, but DON’T follow them! When their tents have been set up and the students are relaxing around the fire toasting marshmallows, the last person they expect to be lurking in the bushes is the dreaded Miss Frost! Armed with a GPS and a thick folder of rules, the assistant principal has arrived to ensure Mr Bambuckle and 12B are following the rules because she believes ‘discipline is the new order’ and is still looking for an opportunity to fire Mr Bambuckle. However, Mr Bambuckle is already prepared and his motto of ‘kindness and team work’ empowers his students to work together to support each other when the nasty Miss Frost reveals her plans.

Canteen Carol is back and this time Mr Bambuckle expertly twists their hilarious conversation so she unwittingly agrees to supply food for their camp meals. Led by Slugger, the class work together to create an impressive meal on the first evening, ending with a mouth-watering dessert of Belgian-chocolate-dipped fairy bread garnished with flakes of toffee-caramel. Can you believe Miss Frost chose to eat her own food instead??

Unfortunately, but not surprising, Miss Frost is a person who holds a grudge and suspects it was Scarlett who used PhotoCrop to transport her to South America. Miss Frost is out for revenge and has planned a high-tech hide and seek challenge using her GPS to track down the students. We experience the challenge through Miffy Armstrong’s eyes as she tries to overcome her fear of hurdles and the students work together as a team to win. However, it’s Scarlett’s courage that shines through in the end.

Thanks to their inspiring and mysteriously well planned teacher, the students in 12B continue to have fun and learn a lot about themselves and each other during their adventures in the wilderness. There are lots of laughs with Mr Bambuckle’s witty puns, Damon’s attempts to get to sleep; Vinnie’s lesson about sucking up and Myra and Albert’s Morse Code chat. I don’t know about you, but I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for the speckled-dagger vulture when I’m on my walks!

Stay tuned for Mr Bambuckle’s Remarkables on the Lookout in early 2019 when Vex Vron goes missing…

Happy reading!

The Alien Zoo…Good As New! by Adrian Beck

“Holy heckballs!” as Jen would say. Adrian Beck has written a fun, action-packed, roller coaster (or is that food cart) ride of an adventure with The Alien Zoo…Good As New! as Ben and Jen along with Gideon, Dane and Ava, attempt to save both alien and Earth creatures and even humankind from extinction. Who knew Space Flu could be so dangerous?

A shape-shifting Sh’veele infected with Space Flu is delivered to the Alien Zoo and needs to be kept in isolation before it is cured. However, when Jen’s sweet little guinea pig Vernon escapes from her pocket and enters the Sh’veele’s container he becomes infected and transforms into a large ferocious zombie furball, all teeth and claws and ready to attack. Vernon needs to be caught before he infects the Alien Zoo…and beyond!

When humans get the flu we’re all aches and pains, snuffles and sore throats. However, when alien creatures are infected with Space Flu it takes effect immediately and they become wildly aggressive, detest being locked up and worst of all they develop a taste for humans (the only ones immune to Space Flu)! Imagine what some of the creatures with all types of dangerous abilities that you’ve already met in the first Alien Zoo book would be like when zombified? Yikes!!

Normally Space Flu isn’t a problem at the Alien Zoo because Cooper the robot would spray the cure through sprinklers. However, Ben has been reprogramming Cooper and now the decontamination process isn’t working. Ben needs to do a manual reset of Cooper to get him working properly and stop the Space Flu from spreading. It’s not going to be easy to make their way to the control room where the most dangerous creatures are kept while also being chased by baby Greepers who have transformed into hulking beasts with razor sharp tails. On their dangerous quest to stop the spread of the Space Flu, our brave zoo keepers and friends hide out in the stinky cheese burp-filled Flurp enclosure to cover their human scent, dodge icy cold spitballs from an Octorg that turns its targets to sub zero before they shatter, survive a hair raising ride in food carts above a swirling lava river and solve Grandpa’s mysterious codes and clues. As the reader, you too get to be part of the action by solving interactive puzzles and optical illusions along the way and finally discover why hippos are so important and what really happened to Grandad.

I really enjoyed how fast paced this adventure is, the creative problem solving and Adrian’s fun and cheeky sense of humour that shines through Ben as he narrates the story. It has all the elements that make a great book for teachers to have fun reading to their class. Add to this Heath McKenzie’s lively illustrations that brilliantly bring the characters and alien creatures to life and you have a perfect team.

I liked the first book, The Alien Zoo….And You! so much that I dressed as Jen for Book Week last year!

Happy reading and avoiding Space Flu!