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

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!

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! 

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!

Happy reading!

Teacher notes

 

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!

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!

Fearless Frederic by Felice Arena

Last year Felice Arena’s writing took a new turn when he released his first historical fiction novel. The Boy and the Spy took his readers on thrilling spy adventure set in Sicily during World War Two. I know there will be many readers excited to read his latest historical fiction novel Fearless Frederic.

In Fearless Frederic, readers are transported to Paris during the ‘Great Flood’ of 1910 when many people were made homeless as the water from the River Seine rose up through the sewers into their homes. The lives of Frederic, Claire and Thierry intersect in an exciting adventure where friendship and courage are central. They become the Floodwater Friends as they rescue others from rising flood waters, encounter a dangerous escaped zoo animal and battle against pickpockets and looters. Frederic learns important lessons as they work together like the Three Musketeers to stop art thieves and bring about justice for Frederic’s father.

You are going to be immersed in life in Paris in 1910 and swept up in this fast moving adventure.

Don’t forget to read the back of the book where Felice explains how he came to the idea for this story and the research he undertook to ensure his story is realistic and accurate. You can also read the back story of Fearless Frederic in this interview with Felice.

After reading Fearless Frederic, I have a list of places to visit and thanks to Thierry, the magnificent Sainte Genevieve library is at the top of my list!

Look closely as you watch the book trailer. Can you see a creature?

Happy reading!

Teacher notes

Kensy and Max: Breaking News by Jacqueline Harvey

What would you do if you woke up in a strange place? If your whole life changed in an instant and you had no idea what was going on?

Jacqueline Harvey is the author of  the hugely successful Alice-Miranda and Clementine Rose series and now you can meet her newest characters, Kensy and Max in their action-packed spy adventure series.

‘Breaking News’ is the first book in the Kensy and Max series. The story is like a carefully crafted jigsaw puzzle made up of missing parents, intriguing characters, mysterious events, suspicious looking grannies, cryptic codes, a strange new school, and family secrets all intricately linked and ready for the reader to piece together with Kensy and Max.

Resilient and resourceful twins, Kensy and Max Grey will appeal to readers who enjoy following clues, cracking codes, solving mysteries and being part of the action alongside the twins. When you finish this book you will be waiting excitedly for the second book to find out more about Kensy and Max and their exciting new life at the highly secretive Pharos.

Happy reading!