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!

The Red Fox Clan by John Flanagan

They move silent as a shadow. They climb impossible heights. Their archery skills are unsurpassed. They are Rangers…

I have been a fan of the Ranger’s Apprentice series since John Flanagan wrote the first book in 2004. Yes, that’s a long time ago, but when you really like a series you stick with it!

The Ranger’s Apprentice series began as short stories John wrote for his son Michael to encourage him to read and now readers all over the world enjoy his books. John has also written a spinoff series called Brotherband and these two series combined have sold over 15 million books worldwide! In fact people have even organised Ranger’s Apprentice camps based on the books where participants can learn archery, horseback riding, tracking and survival skills and compete for a silver Oakleaf just like Rangers.

Rangers Apprentice is set in the Kingdom of Araluen. The story follows Will, a 15-year old orphan who becomes an apprentice to the mysterious Halt who trains  the small, agile, clever and courageous Will to become one of the secretive, highly skilled Rangers who protect the Kingdom of Araluen. Alongside Will is his best friend Horace who becomes a champion knight. Will, Halt, Horace and a cast of characters face battles and threats from invaders and traitors as they protect the kingdom. It’s not all about battles though and I really enjoy the friendship and humour shared between Halt, Will and Horace. They are loyal, brave and and skilled and you would definitely want them on your side. You can read about some of the other main characters here.

The Ranger’s Apprentice books are divided into The Early Years, Ranger’s Apprentice and The Royal Ranger.

In the latest Royal Ranger books, Will takes on his own apprentice. Maddie is the first female Ranger. Headstrong Maddie also happens to be Horace’s daughter and a princess, but she has to keep her Ranger training a secret. One month each year Maddie has to return home to resume her identity as Princess Madelyn and wear dresses, much to her disgust!

In The Red Fox Clan, when Maddie returns she discovers a plot against the crown led by a mysterious man in a red fox mask. Who is this man? Why does he believe he should be king? Sometimes the enemy is someone you least expect. Her father Horace has been lured away from Castle Araluen leaving her mother Cassandra to fight off the traitors and it’s up to Maddie to find out the truth about the man in the red fox mask if she is to help save her father’s forces and everyone at Castle Araluen.

Thanks to Penguin Random House, I was very lucky to meet John Flanagan during the school holidays. John is a born storyteller with a twinkle in his eye and great sense of humour. He is also a big fan of old Western movies! John shared many stories with us and I was interested to hear that John plans everything before he starts writing and carefully checks the smallest details to ensure his books are accurate and consistent. Like many other fans of Ranger’s Apprentice, I hope one day the series will be brought to life in a movie. 

Happy Reading!

Alice Miranda in Scotland by Jacqueline Harvey

Six years ago in 2012, I had the pleasure of meeting Jacqueline Harvey when she visited my old school library on a book tour for Alice-Miranda in New York. Jacqueline was the first author to visit our brand new library and you can read about it hereAs she passionately talked about her writing journey, creating the Alice-Miranda series and had fun acting out some of her book characters with the students, we knew that Jacqueline was an author with something special. 

Fast forward to 2018 and Jacqueline Harvey is currently an author of THREE successful book series!  She has written the Alice-Miranda series (17 books), Clementine Rose series (14 books) and her new spy adventure series Kensy and Max which was published this year and the second book is coming in September. That’s 32 books and more to come in each series! Jacqueline is an incredibly hardworking author. She is also devoted to her readers and regularly organises events to meet them and gives generously of her time to support reading and book charities and her fellow authors. 

I couldn’t miss the opportunity to catch up with Jacqueline at The Little Bookroom during the school holidays in Melbourne when she launched her latest book Alice-Miranda in Scotland. Jacqueline is very funny and had us laughing as she demonstrated how to do the Caber Toss  which is a sport in the Scottish Highland Games.

Jacqueline enjoys playing golf and proudly told us how she scored an eagle on the second hole at the famous St Andrew’s Golf Course in Scotland. Golfers will tell you that’s impressive! We also enjoyed listening to Jacqueline read some of Alice-Miranda in Scotland with an impressive Scottish accent that she practised by watching YouTube videos! In fact, Jacqueline gave us a great writing tip and said that she reads each chapter aloud (with accents). Does the story sound the way you want?

There was a long line of excited Alice-Miranda fans waiting to chat to Jacqueline and have their book signed and this grown-up had her book signed too!

Alice Miranda in Scotland

There’s lots of adventure and unexpected mystery when Alice-Miranda and her friends are invited to attend the Queen’s Colours inaugural youth leadership program in Scotland. Even though the selection process doesn’t initially go to plan for Alice-Miranda, she has a big surprise when she finally arrives and is greeted by many familiar faces. The students are divided into five teams and must compete against each other in various challenges that teach them new skills and test their leadership, decision-making and team work skills. It’s not always easy working as a team, especially when you have someone like nasty Madagascar Slewt to deal with! The students are busy with activities including a treasure hunt, highland dancing, Highland Games sports, a challenge on the Himalayas’ putting course at St Andrew’s Golf Club and spending a night at Brokenwind Castle. A visit to Scotland isn’t complete without a boat ride on Loch Ness, but the group’s excursion becomes dangerous when something slams into their boat and almost sinks it. Was it the legendary Loch Ness Monster? 

Throughout the story there are mysterious happenings, but it isn’t until Alice-Miranda leads her Nessie’s Monsters team to safety from an underground bunker that a desperate plot for revenge is uncovered. Luckily all ends well and with the final scores of the competition very close, the winning team is revealed after much fun at their own Highland Games. As the students return to their schools, Jacqueline leaves us wondering if Alice-Miranda’s next adventure might be in Norway visiting her new friend Britt Fox and if there is romance slowly blossoming between Alice-Miranda and Neville.

If you haven’t read any Alice-Miranda books yet, you can still enjoy her Scottish adventures. You might even decide to go on more adventures with Alice-Miranda in her other 16 books.

Happy reading! 

My Life and Other Failed Experiments by Tristan Bancks

My Life and Other Failed Experiments is the seventh book in the Tom Weekly series and it continues to make me laugh out loud! It is filled once again with funny short stories, lists and quizzes by Tristan Bancks and hilarious illustrations by Gus Gordon. I can only imagine the fun Tristan and Gus have creating the Tom Weekly books. What a dynamic duo!

Tom Weekly says his life is a science experiment gone horribly wrong so his new motto is ‘Never give up, never give in’. That’s a big challenge when your guinea pig is held hostage by your evil sister, you’re hit in the face by a fruitcake as hard as a brick, attacked by a posse of possums and you totally embarrass yourself in front of the girl of your dreams on Christmas Eve.

In Hostage, Tom’s sister Tanya holds his guinea pig Gus hostage and threatens to drop him out the window if Tom doesn’t hand over his birthday money – a whopping $180! With just eight seconds left can Tom save his beloved Gus and his birthday money from his evil, maniacal, psycho sister? Stop reading at page 11…What would you do?

The legendary feud between Tom and Jack’s Nans, Nancy and Sue continues in Razorblade Fruitcake when Nancy’s crown as the Fruitcake Queen is threatened when Sue enters the baking competition. Why does Tom believe his Nan when she tells him Sue has baked something dangerous in her fruit cake? Who wins the prize and the fight as fruitcakes go flying like frisbees?

Some people think possums are cute…Tom Weekly is not one of them! Thanks to Tom, in Attack of the Killer Possums, the Weekly’s roof has been invaded by possums and their noisy roof antics are turning his family into sleepless zombies. On top of the ladder at midnight, Tom tries to put the roof tile back in place only to discover…

There are ten or twelve possums staring at me from a tree. A posse of possums. I’m pretty sure one of them is picking his teeth with a long knife. One looks like it has only one eye. Another has tattoos on its pink hairless snout and bears its sharp teeth, growling in a low demonic hiss.

It’s Tom Weekly versus the possums…and it gets ugly!

I don’t think I will be looking at the Christmas lights in my neighbourhood in quite the same way after reading about Tom’s exploits in The Christmas Kiss. Tom’s mum asks him to dress up as Father Christmas on Christmas Eve and zoom down a zip line from their balcony to deliver candy canes and Christmas puddings to neighbourhood kids. Tom only agrees when  Sasha, the love of his life promises to give him a kiss. Eating a record twelve candy canes beforehand, combined with Tom snagging the Christmas tree lights on his way down, makes the Weekly’s Christmas Eve one that will be remembered in their neighbourhood for a long time. And one both Tom and poor Sasha will want to forget!

One of my favourite stories, Author Visit should be compulsory reading for authors! Gary Cleese (aka Barry Cheese thanks to Mr Skroop) is visiting Kings Bay Public school. Not even his ‘Reading is Fun’ t-shirt or Tom Weekly’s desperate attempts can save Gary Cleese from the 400 students ready to bring him down in ways he had never imagined with a barrage of questions that hijack his carefully planned author presentation.

Tristan continues to ask the hard questions with his quizzes What Would You Rather Do? and Who Would You Rather Be? For the record I would rather abseil down the side of a sky scraper than dive off a tall bridge and I’d rather be Wonder Woman than Lisa Simpson (although I’d really rather be Batgirl who was also a librarian!). I’m sure there will be lots of discussion with your friends about your choices and you could think up some of your own! You could also try some of Tom Weekly’s Handy Hacks for Household Chores…your mum might not be impressed though!

After reading My Life and Other Failed Experiments check the back of the book to see all the schools and kids who have helped Tristan with his ideas during his author visits and writing workshops.

 Tristan can make an author visit to your school or a visit via Skype or Google Hangout.

Thanks Tristan and Gus for creating books that make reading fun!

Tristan Bancks’ Writing Workshop

Last week I went along to the fabulous children’s bookshop, The Little Bookroom in Carlton to a writing workshop with Tristan. He read us the opening of Hostage and asked everyone with just 8 seconds left, how they would save Gus the guinea pig. There were some clever ideas!

Next was a writing task, ‘I Remember’ and in 30 seconds you had to write as many funny memories as you could. Tristan then asked everyone to choose one memory to write about, but also add something untrue to their short story. The challenge for the audience was to listen and pick which part of the story wasn’t true. Tristan explained that you write a good story by mixing your experience and imagination (just as Sally Rippin said), which is how he writes his funny stories about Tom Weekly.

Another great piece of writing advice from Tristan was to be kind to yourself as a writer because “Your first (and second and third) drafts always stink.” Keep drafting and polishing your stories until you are happy with them. 

These are great Teacher Notes for the Tom Weekly series.

Happy reading and writing!