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! 

The Year of the Pig by Charles Hope

Pig was full of hope.
When the school race came around,
he was sure in his heart that this year
his luck would change.

Pig has never been a winner. He was last to finish tests, the last picked for games and even the last to have his birthday. This year he hopes it will be his lucky year and he will win the school’s Annual Running Race across the forest.

Pig’s classmates race off and leave him behind, but Pig calmly keeps making his way to the finish line. Jess Racklyeft’s playful water colour illustrations show each of his classmates getting side-tracked along the way through the forest. When Pig arrives at the finish line he is surprised to find himself the first one there and just a few hoof-steps from winning! However, Pig is worried about his missing friends and decides it is more important to find them and help them to the finish line. Today Pig is a winner!

At the back of the book you will find the animals in this story are based on the Chinese Zodiac.  Find your year of birth and read about the qualities of your animal. Does the description sound like you? What would have happened to you as an animal in the story?

In the Chinese calendar, 2019 is the Year of the Pig. Read the Chinese Zodiac description for a Pig. How does Pig demonstrate these qualities during the story? How is he a winner?

In this this gentle and heartwarming story, Pig reminds us to be hopeful, be true to ourselves, be a good friend and to keep a look out for others.

Happy reading!

Teacher Notes

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!

The Tales of Mr Walker by Jess Black

Mr Walker will steal your heart from the first page as he narrates and stars in his very own illustrated hardcover book!

On a brilliant autumn morning, Mr Walker arrives at the Park Hyatt, ready to put his best paw forward as a Guide Dog Ambassador. However, all he can see is a very tall, grand building whose top is covered by clouds. Where is the park?

In his new role as a hotel dog, Mr Walker learns to walk on slippery marble floors, ride in elevators, greet guests both friendly and not so friendly, help the hotel staff and settles in with his new family while having some unexpected adventures along the way in four fun and heart warming stories.

Jess Black brings Mr Walker to life as he shares the world though his eyes and his personality and warmth are perfectly captured by Sara Acton in her delightful watercolour illustrations. Jess and Sara are a dynamic duo of dog lovers who make you want to visit Mr Walker and give him a great big hug!

In his real life, Mr Walker is a charming golden Labrador who trained as a Guide dog, but his outgoing personality was better suited to being a Guide Dog Ambassador at the Park Hyatt in Melbourne where he greets guests as they first walk in the door and helps them feel at home. Guests can also request to take Mr Walker for walks in the morning, play with him in the park, or sometimes even practice yoga on the hotel deck. He has a specially made Tasmanian oak bed to lounge on in the hotel lobby and he even has his own Instagram account at mrwalker_parkhyatt where you can follow his adventures!

Photo credit: Park Hyatt Melbourne

Royalties from sales of this book go to Guide Dogs Victoria so when you buy this book you are supporting a wonderful organisation and dogs like Mr Walker.

Keep an eye out for more adventures with Mr Walker in February and August in 2019. Scroll down here for a sneak peek!

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

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

The Heart of a Whale by Anna Pignataro

The Heart of a Whale by Anna Pignataro is a gentle story of a whale whose enchanting song brings happiness and hope, magic and wonder to the ocean and its inhabitants, but whale is lonely and nothing can fill his empty heart.

 Anna’s whimsical water colour illustrations will take you swimming into the depths of the ocean through seagrass taller than a forest, past seabeds, through fathoms and over dreaming turtles and forgotten treasure and it will warm your heart when whale’s wish is finally heard from far away.

Anna has used water colour, ink and pencil to create her illustrations. Open the book to see the full page front cover and have fun finding the many colourful sea creatures and plants throughout the story. This beautiful story is like a poem so read it aloud and let the rhythm of the words carry you along just like the ocean carried whale’s song…

Do you have a favourite illustration or sentence?

Watch this video if you’re interested in learning more about why whales sing.

Happy reading!

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!

Mr Humble gave the prefects a poster with tips for How to be a Natural Born Leader
Raymond tried these tips that you might like to try too. What else would you add?

Follow the leaders you look up to
Practise the things that make you feel uncomfortable
Get to know the people in your team
Learn something new about people

Happy reading and thinking up i-dares for a Dareathon!

Teacher notes

 

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!