Lottie and Walter by Anna Walker

Every Saturday morning Lottie goes to her swimming class, but she is afraid to go into the water. Lottie watches the other children swimming and having fun, but Lottie has a secret. Only Lottie knows there is a shark hiding in the swimming pool that wants to eat her! 

One day Walter appears at the pool and Lottie discovers her secret friend loves books and  bubbles, eating fish fingers and playing hide-and-seek too. Most of all Walter loves to sing! When Lottie feels scared of the dark Walter quietly sings her to sleep…

Humbelly doo,
Lumbelly la,
Loopy loo!

Can her friend Walter help Lottie find her courage to jump in the pool so she can enjoy the pool party with her friends?

I was lucky to hear Anna Walker talk about Lottie and Walter. Anna’s idea for her story came from when she was little and her cousin told her there was a shark in her grandparent’s pool. When Anna was young she had lots of secret companions and decided a walrus was a perfect secret friend for Lottie. Anna wanted her walrus to sing and Walter’s song is one of her son Sam’s funny poems.

Anna’s ideas for stories come from her everyday life, travelling, her pets or even feelings and she paints or draws them in her visual diary. You can read more about how Anna created Walter and Lottie HERE.

Anna loves to bring her characters to life by making and knitting them and using them in stop motion videos. She is very talented, patient and humble.

Walter is wearing his party hat!

Can you tell that Anna loves drawing walruses?

Download your own Lottie and Walter activity pack and have fun creating Walter in different ways!

Thank you Anna, Lottie and Walter for reminding us that even though we might be scared at times, we all have the courage we need inside…

Happy reading! 

A Great Escape by Felice Arena

 Felice Arena takes us on a daring adventure set in Cold War Germany in 1961 when the government built the Berlin Wall that divided Germany into East and West and separated families, friends and neighbours for twenty eight years. 

Imagine your city has been divided by a wall and and your family is on the other side…

Peter stays with his grandparents when his parents and sister go on a trip across the border to the West. They wake to find the government is building a wall through their city. It is guarded by soldiers, tanks and fierce dogs so nobody can get through and people can no longer go to the West. Peter feels trapped and is scared he might never see parents and little sister, Margrit again. Finding a way past the wall will require courage and ingenuity. Peter and his friends Otto and Elke desperately want to escape, but whose daring plan will succeed…

A Great Escape is an exciting adventure story, but it is also a reminder of how strong the love of family can be, even when a wall tries to separate them. Peter’s story will tug at your heart.

United States Information Service, Department of State [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

I was lucky to hear Felice talk about A Great Escape on it’s publishing day and he celebrated  by bringing Peter’s favourite Kalter Hund cake (also known as ‘Cold Dog’ cake!). Despite it’s name, it’s a scrumptious chocolate biscuit cake and you will definitely want more than one slice! Thanks, Felice!

Here’s the recipe if you would like to make it yourself. 

Felice explained that a visit to Berlin sparked the idea for A Great Escape as he wondered what if he had been there when the Berlin Wall was built…how would he have felt and what would he have done if he had been separated from his family? Stories often begin by writer’s thinking “What if….”

By chance, Felice also discovered his neighbour Peter was a guard on the West side of the Berlin Wall, and he could tell Felice about life in Berlin at that time. In fact, Felice named his main character after Peter and Peter’s dog, Otto became the name of Peter’s friend! 

As Felice was writing his book he gave it a ‘working title’ that eventually changed to A Great Escape. What do you think his ‘working title’ for his story might have been? 

Historical fiction books are portable time machines that can transport us back in time to experience places and events and help us to understand our world and ourselves a little more. 

I wonder where Felice will take us on our next historical adventure…what do you think?

Happy reading!

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!

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

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

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!

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Final Note:

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

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

Happy reading!

Teacher Notes

 

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