The Most Marvellous Spelling Bee Mystery by Deborah Abela

There are words to be spelled,
Nerves to be overcome,
And a champion to be found!

If you enjoyed The Stupendously Spectacular Spelling Bee you will be excited to read the sequel The Most Marvellous Spelling Bee Mystery by Deborah Abela 

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In The Stupendously Spectacular Spelling Bee we met India Wimple, a shy girl who was a brilliant speller, but suffered from stage fright when spelling in front of an audience. Thanks to the unwavering support and creative ideas from India’s close-knit family and country town community of Yungabilla, India achieved her spelling dream at the Grand Final at the Sydney Opera House.

Teacher notes

India’s life in Yungabilla is returning to normal when we meet her in The Most Marvellous Spelling Bee Mystery as she receives an invitation to compete in the Most Marvellous International Spelling Bee in London. However, India can only take one person with her and there is no way India will go without her family! The Yungabilla community are very proud of their spelling champion and come up with a solution.

In London, India is reunited with her friend Rajish and they are both surprised to see the positive changes in their fellow speller, Summer. We also meet new spellers, Peter Eriksson from London and Holly Trifle from Canada. Holly’s parents who are fitness fanatics and own a business called Beaut Butts & Guts will have you cringing, especially when the spellers meet the Queen at Buckingham Palace. 

A series of mysterious mishaps threaten to stop the competition and India and her friends work together with some clever detective work to find the culprit and ensure the Spelling Bee continues. They’re a bit like the Famous Five!

Deborah Abela cleverly includes the spelling bee process in the chapter headings by using a spelling word, its definition and including the word in a sentence. This gives you a clue and invites you to predict what might happen in the chapter.

There is a wonderful spirit of friendship in this competition where the children are not just competitors, but also become friends. Only one of the spellers can win The Most Marvellous Spelling Bee, but they are all winners in the way they grow and learn more about themselves.

Heart-warming
(adjective):
Making you feel happy because you see other people being happy or kind to each other

This is a heartwarming story that celebrates friendship and family and encourages self-belief.

Happy reading and spelling!

Teacher notes

Oma’s Buttons by Tania Ingram

“A memory is something warm, something from long ago, something that makes you cry, something that makes you laugh, and something as precious as gold”. (Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge)

Ruthie loves to visit her Oma and spend time baking, playing and singing together. One day while playing hide and seek, Ruthie finds a pretty tin under Oma’s bed filled with her ‘memory buttons’. Ruthie learns each button is a reminder of a special person in Oma’s life and listens closely as Oma tells the story about each one. The red button is from her mother’s apron because she loved to bake, the blue button is from the suit her Opa wore when he proposed to Oma and she even has a green button for Ruthie from her first dress.  When Ruthie spies a beautiful button that came from Oma’s coat she asks if she can keep it to remind her of Oma. Ruthie carries her button with her everywhere until one day the button slips through a hole in her pocket…

Tania Ingram’s mother-in-law was born in a displaced persons camp in Kematen after her family had to flee to safety during World War Two. As a refugee, she held on to her precious memories and family traditions by keeping buttons, lace and pieces of material in a small tin. A few years ago as Tania listened to her mother-in-law sharing the memory behind each precious item in her tin with her granddaughter, the seed was planted for Tania’s heartfelt story Oma’s Buttons

Looking at the detailed colour pencil illustrations by Jennifer Harrison that beautifully capture the special relationship between Ruthie and her Oma, reminded me of baking with my Nan when I was little and how she patiently let me measure, stir (make a mess) and always lick the spoon at the end! Wearing my Nan’s apron when I cook always brings back wonderful warm memories of baking cornflake biscuits and slices together. 

Do you call your grandmother Grandma, Nana, Nan, Nonna, Oma, Yaya or something different? What do you like to do with your grandma?

This is a picture of the real Oma and her granddaughter (on the left) and the models used for the book (on the right).

Oma’s Buttons reminds us that families are made up of stories that link us together and are part of who we are and it’s important to share them so they’re not forgotten. Next time you see your grandparents, ask them to share some of their memories and stories with you and go on a trip down ‘Memory Lane’ together…

Teacher Notes and visit Tania’s website for creative ideas for buttons

Happy reading! 

Missing by Sue Whiting

I could not put this book down!

When I read the first three chapters of Missing to a Year 5 class, they were hooked from the first line…‘In the dead of the night we ran away.’

Mackenzie da Luca’s mother is missing. Maggie da Luca is a scientist who specialises in bats. When visiting the small town of Boquete in Central America she vanishes without a trace in the jungles of Panama. After her mother has been missing for 114 days, Mackenzie’s dad is still desperate for answers and sneaks off at night with Mackenzie in tow to Panama to find the truth. Mackenzie however has her own theory about her mother’s disappearance and is not sure if she wants her dad to find her mum.

The story alternates between ‘Then’ in Sydney as 12 year old Mackenzie and her family attempt to adjust to life without her mother and ‘Now’ in Panama where Mackenzie is reluctantly searching for clues with her dad. By weaving together the family’s life before and after Maggie’s disappearance, Sue Whiting gradually reveals the pieces of this mystery puzzle.

Mackenzie is a resilient girl, but it’s not easy beginning secondary school without your old primary school friends and the support of your mother. She finds comfort in her sketching and is befriended by the rebellious Billie who takes her under her wing.

When she arrives in Panama, Mackenzie finds it confronting to be wandering the streets of Boquete where her mother was last seen and finds herself wondering…

Did she walk along here? Did the people in the shops and on the street see her? Speak to her on her last day here? Am I walking right past someone who might have seen her get on the bus back to David, leaving Boquete? Or someone who actually knows what happened to her?’ 

A chance meeting with a wildlife worker sets Mackenzie off doing her own risky detective work and asking herself…Is it is better to know or not know the truth about her missing mother?

If you’re in Year 5 and 6 and like a mystery with twists and turns and a roller coaster ride of emotions then Missing is the book for you.

Happy reading!

Teacher notes

Dr Boogaloo and The Girl Who Lost Her Laughter by Lisa Nicol

Can you imagine what your life would be like without laughter?

Dr Boogaloo is no ordinary doctor. Strange disorders and unusual complaints are his specialty. Dr Boogaloo is the doctor you see when you have Talks In Slow Motion Syndrome or You Can Only Sleep Hanging Upside Down Syndrome. Dr Boogaloo and his family use the most powerful medicine of all to cure patients…music! The Boogaloo Family Clinic of Musical Cures has never had a complaint that couldn’t be cured until Blue arrived. Ten-year-old Blue hasn’t laughed for 712 days!

Dr Boogaloo suspects Blue has No Laughing Syndrome and sends her to The Snorkel Porkel Crumpety Worpel Laughter Clinic to be sure. Unlike you and I, Blue doesn’t laugh or even giggle at the Tickle Machine, blooper reels, hula-hooping cats in bikinis, YouTube videos of epic fails, or even at Gassy Gus who can blow up balloons with his bottom.

Dr Boogaloo has two weeks to compose an urgent cure for Blue before she loses her laughter forever. Blue needs the right dose of the right music, but there’s no point listening to a jive if you’re in need of some boogie-woogie, and you can’t just substitute a toot for a blow! Blue patiently listens to talented musicians playing music and instruments she didn’t know existed and even summons the courage to swim with Leonard the Blues singing humpback whale in an attempt to help her laugh again. It isn’t until Dr Boogaloo has almost given up in despair that he finds the cure he needs for Blue in an unexpected place.

One of my favourite parts of the story is the daily ride Blue takes to the clinic on Bessie’s extraordinary iBike. This strange contraption looks like it has an entire orchestra collapsed on it and plays over a million tunes that change with the landscape as you ride along. It would be fun to draw or make your version of the iBike (and even include music and a matching landscape) after reading the fabulous description on pages 41-42.

This is a quirky, funny and sometimes sad story that celebrates laughter, friendship and the power and magic of music.

“Not everyone hears the right music – or knows how to listen. And they suffer terribly… if you don’t let your heart fly, your tune gets right out of whack. It’s a bit like spending your whole life indoors – it’s just not good for your health.” (Bessie)

Happy reading!

Teaching notes