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!

Mr Bambuckle’s Remarkables on the Lookout by Tim Harris

“So that’s why I needed to run away. I need to change. And the best way for me to turn things around is to be less like Vex Vron and more like you, Mr Bambuckle. I’m going to copy you.”

Vex Vron has run away! He has left a note and its up to Room 12B to work together to find him before his family and Mr Sternblast find out he’s missing. Trapped by the rules she strictly enforces, Miss Frost is not happy about having to help so she can save her job. However, something quite remarkable happens to Miss Frost and her silver hair during the search for Vex.

Canteen Carol once again finds she is no match for Mr Bambuckle, Myra learns a tough lesson about generosity from the Kindergarten kids and Vex Vron reminds us of the importance of being yourself. 

In so many positive and fun ways, Mr Bambuckle has transformed the lives of the students in Room 12B and the teacher we all wish we had, is going to receive the highest teaching award in the country. This means there is no way Mr Sternblast can get rid of Mr Bambuckle now! 

After much anticipation we finally get to see the mysterious Indian spark-maker beetle in action as it helps Mr Bambuckle reveal an important message for Room 12B and also for us…

TOFFLE TOWERS

Tim Harris has a new series called Toffle Towers coming out in August! You can read a short preview at the back of Mr Bambuckle’s Remarkables on the Lookout or read more about it HERE and watch for the front cover to be revealed…

Happy reading! 

Roald Dahl’s Imaginormous Challenge

It all begins with an idea…

Roald Dahl’s stories often began as tiny ideas scribbled into his ‘Ideas Book’ before they became his much loved stories like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda, The Witches and The BFG.

Roald Dahl’s Imaginormous Challenge is looking for creative and exciting story ideas from 5-12 year olds across Australia

Could it be YOU?

HOW TO ENTER:
Submit your BEST story IDEA in under 100 words
You can only enter once
by
16 April 2019

PRIZES:
CHOOSE which major prize you want to apply for
Your story idea turned into a book
Your story idea turned into a theatre creation
Your story idea turned into a Minecraft world

Roving reporter and reviewing the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory play

There are also FIVE libraries of Roald Dahl books to be won

All the information you need is at
Roald Dahl’s Imaginormous Challenge Australia

fly high

stuart anthony via Compfight
Let your imagination take flight…

Rainbow Bear by Stephen Michael King

I am a huge fan of author and illustrator Stephen Michael King whose illustrations dance with joy and creativity.  Stephen says that he loves to draw and dream and likes nothing better than when a small idea grows beyond his original imagining.

Stephen Michael King lives on an island and I love that he has added a few “Henry and Amy” wiggles and a bunch of squiggly “Milli” somethings to his house. You can find out more about Stephen HERE and the books he has created over 20 years HERE 

Rainbow Bear is a playful story set in a white snowy world. When Bear returns from a trip to the city with gifts for his family, he wakes the next morning to find himself looking rather different. Who are the secret artists that decorate his furry canvas with colourful swirls and dots and lines and circles each night while he’s asleep? When Bear finds a clue, he turns the tables on the little artists and they share a fun family day of colour and creativity before diving into the deep blue ocean, blowing bubbles and turning somersaults.

After reading Rainbow Bear, you might be tempted to colour in the black and white endpapers. (I think Stephen Michael King might love his readers to do just that!)
Why do you think the endpapers are black and white? Did you also notice that the endpapers are different? 

Did you know Stephen Michael King often includes a little red bird in his picture books (you can see a picture of it on his website). I wonder if you can find his bird in Rainbow Bear

“I love colouring outside the lines – and that made creating ‘Rainbow Bear’ a whole lot of fun.” (Stephen Michael King)

Happy reading and creating!

Teacher notes

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!

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!

Lemonade Jones by Davina Bell

Lemonade Jones has the BEST name! She is a six year old who bubbles with sass and enthusiasm. Lemonade Jones is full of questions, tells the truth (a bit too honestly at times) and finds it hard to stick to rules because she likes things to be loud and exciting.

Lemonade Jones’ feisty and funny character has been delightfully created by Davina Bell and brought to life with Karen Blair’s water colour and pencil illustrations that perfectly capture Lemonade’s world at home and school.

In The First Day Back, Lemonade Jones’ old school has closed and she is starting at a new school. The day doesn’t begin well when Lemonade Jones discovers she isn’t in the same Year One class as her best friend Clark Dark. How can they get married if they’re in different classrooms? There are also rules to remember and students to deal with like Leela Blue who likes to be the best. Adjusting to a new teacher and class is hard and Lemonade Jones even has to spend time in the Quiet Corner after a rather unfortunate incident with Marcus Crackle. At the end of a long first day, Miss Wisby reminds Lemonade Jones that each day is a new chance to learn and she can start afresh tomorrow.

Lemonade Jones is celebrating her sixth birthday and has invited the whole class to her first party in The Zoo That Comes To You. In Show and Grow she delights in telling everyone about all of the zoo animals that will be at her party. On the day however, the zoo keeper and zoo animals are not at all what Lemonade Jones had been expecting, but imagination, creativity and a fire engine save the day! “That was the best birthday party ever” said Clark Dark.

I’m really looking forward to following more of Lemonade Jones’ adventures in her very own series.

Happy Reading!

Teacher notes

Real Pigeons Fight Crime by Andrew McDonald

Did you know your city is protected by a secret squad of crime-fighting pigeons? Yes, pigeons!

Some pigeons might spend their day cooing or looking for breadcrumbs, but not the Real Pigeons! This feathered secret crime-fighting squad solve mysteries and fight bad guys to keep your city safe. Andrew McDonald and Ben Wood reveal all in Real Pigeons Fight Crime.

GrandPouter has gathered together his team of pigeons who are perfect for fighting crime because they are fast, can attack and they’re everywhere! Each pigeon in the team also has his own unique pigeon power. They hold their top secret team meetings in rubbish bins (which can be dangerous on bin collection day!) and are always on the look out for animals and people to help and mysteries to solve. They might be checking out your neighbourhood right now!  

In the three stories in this book, GrandPouter, Rock, Homey, Tumbler and Frillback work together using some very creative (or is that crazy) problem solving combined with their pigeon powers to solve The Great Breadcrumb Mystery, track down an elusive Bat Trapper and prevent a disaster at the Food Truck Fair. Keep an eye out for Rock’s clever (and sometimes wacky) disguises and Tumbler’s impressive flight moves when he flies at night with the bats. 

If you’re looking for a new funny series to read then this is it. I’m sure you will have as much fun reading Real Pigeons Fight Crime as Andrew and Ben have had writing and illustrating it. They are a fabulous team who share the same wacky sense of humour that bursts out their book! You won’t look at pigeons in the same way ever again!

Create your own Real Pigeon
Research pigeons to help you create your own Real Pigeon character.

What are its characteristics and pigeon power?
What is its name?
What will it look like?

Lucky for you, the second book in the Real Pigeon series called Real Pigeons Eat Danger will be coming in November! Read more about it HERE

Happy reading and being Super Coo fighting crime with the Real Pigeons!

Teacher notes

Mr Bambuckle’s Remarkables by Tim Harris

Mr Bambuckle’s Remarkables by Tim Harris arrived on the book scene last year and has been a huge success. Mr Bambuckle is not your usual teacher. (I think there might be a bit of Tim in Mr Bambuckle!) Imagine being in Room 12B and arriving at your classroom at Blue Valley School to find a new teacher balancing on a unicycle on top of his desk, with mischievous green eyes, wearing a dazzling blue suit and who can flick a frypan from his sleeve and whip up bacon and eggs for the class for breakfast!

Mr Bambuckle’s way of teaching is not traditional and Mr Sternblast the principal desperately wants to get rid of him. The students however, thrive with Mr Bambuckle who has a way of knowing just what each of his students need. He encourages them to be creative, solve problems and become independent and brave. The Apps his students create can be a great spark for creativity in everyday classrooms. Mr Bambuckle is the only one who isn’t afraid of Canteen Carol and their conversation about buying a bar of chocolate is lots of fun to read aloud! Some of the student’s personal stories are revealed throughout the book and as readers we won’t be looking at our washing machines in the same way, some might like the idea of Parental Rental and for others, drone flying will definitely on the To Do list.

Mr Bambuckle and the Remarkables Fight Back

In the second book, Mr Bambuckle is replaced by the nasty Miss Frost who ‘makes Canteen Carol look like a teddy bear’. Miss Frost says that discipline is the new order. She gives detention at the drop of a hat, rips up perfectionist Victoria’s handwriting sheets into tiny shreds and tosses the stickers and stamps the students designed into the bin. Thanks to Scarlett’s magic fingers, she finds a creative way with PhotoCrop to get rid of Miss Frost so Mr Bambuckle can return to 12B.

The students in 12B have lots of adventures in this book. Many students will be relieved they don’t have a buddy like Albert’s buddy, Buster. Sammy’s dad’s mistake will get you thinking about whether 8 year olds should have the same rights as 18 year olds while some readers might like to take up Mr Bambuckle’s challenge and have fun acting out imaginative ways to enter their classroom!

Unfortunately it’s not the last of Miss Frost. Will Dodger be able to save the day? Find out in book three in September.

Happy reading!