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!

Happy reading and thinking up fun 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! 

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

 

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 Champion Charlies series by Adrian Beck

Charles was the best player in the boys’ football team.
Charlotte was the best player in the girls’ side.
But this season they’re both playing in the SAME mixed team
Is there room for TWO Champion Charlies in the ONE side?

Adrian Beck has combined his cheeky brand of humour with his love of football (soccer) to create a fun sport series that celebrates the world game of football.

The Mix-Up is the first book in The Champion Charlies series.

Charlotte Alessi and Charles ‘CJ’ Jackson are talented football players at the Jets Football Club. Charlotte is ultra organised, has a no-nonsense ponytail and is smart. CJ is a risk-taking daredevil who doesn’t like to follow rules and is not always smart which we quickly learn when he attempts a kamikaze rescue mission of a football stuck in a tree in the opening chapter. These two total opposites will need to find a way to work together in a mixed football team if they want to continue playing their beloved football.

CJ and Charlotte both have qualities that would make them a good team captain. CJ desperately wants to be the Jets’ captain and gets himself into all sorts of trouble as he tries to win over teammates and puts his friendship with his mate Benji at risk. CJ and Charlotte finally overcome their rivalry at a Matilda’s game when they hear striker, Sam Kerr explain the key to the Matildas’ success “We just pull together, try to use everyone’s skills and face every challenge as a team.” 

There’s lots of football action in the final chapters as the Jets try to bond as a team to beat their arch rivals, the Hillside Hammersmiths. Watch for a clever tweak to the Jets’ tactics (courtesy of The Dancing Dads) in the second half. Which team will win and who will be named the new captain of the Jets?

One of my favourite characters is Mr Hyants, otherwise known as High Pants. He is named as the new coach even though he has never coached before. After reading a sports blog about inspirational music, High Pants (who always wanted to be a pop star) coaches the team by singing karaoke from the sidelines with songs to motivate them. Imagine hearing ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ when you’re doing goal kicking practice or ‘Shake it Off!’ when you fall over! It’s a very unique way of coaching!  

Top Five Reasons to read the The Mix-Up

It’s fun

You can read about sport

There are fun facts about football

You’ll know how to do the 4-2-2 formation (I do now!)

You might want a karaoke coach 

 

Try the first chapter of The Mix-Up!  HERE

The second book Boot It is also available and the next two books in the series will be published in September.

Writing workshop with Adrian Beck at The Little Bookroom
Tuesday, July 10th

This workshop is for 7-12 year-olds during the school holidays. Each ticket includes a copy of the book The Champion Charlies: The Mix-Up which will be available to collect at the workshop.
You can book your place HERE  I guarantee it will be fun writing with Adrian!

Happy reading and playing soccer!

Teacher notes

 

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 

.

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