His Name Was Walter by Emily Rodda

Emily Rodda is one of Australia’s most well known children’s authors and you may have already enjoyed her Rowan, Rondo or Deltora Quest fantasy series. Rowan of Rin is still one of my favourite books! Emily Rodda’s real name is Jeanette Rowe. She writes using Emily Rodda for her children’s books and as Jeanette Rowe for her adult mystery books. 

Emily Rodda’s latest book, His Name Was Walter is mystery, fantasy, supernatural, historical fiction and part love story all rolled into one book. It is a story within a story that will keep you turning the pages to find out what happened to Walter and why it is so important to the anonymous author that he is remembered. 

When the mini bus breaks down on their history excursion, Mrs Fiori and four students take shelter overnight in an abandoned mansion in Storm Valley. Little do they know how a piece of history will change after this night. In the kitchen, Colin notices an elegant handcrafted writing desk where he discovers a secret drawer containing amongst other treasures, a beautifully handwritten book filled with exquisite water colour illustrations. It’s title is His Name Was Walter.

Colin and Tara are drawn to the mysterious book and secretly read it by torch light when the others go to sleep and become lost in Walter’s story. After being abandoned, Walter is raised in a beehive, works for mice, befriends a witch who can turn into a cat, falls in love with a girl who can turn into a sparrow and battles a beast. Colin and Tara feel compelled to finish the book as they sense the menacing mansion is hiding a tragic secret. Mrs Fiori and her students discover His Name Was Walter is more than a  fairytale and it helps them to right an injustice so Walter can be remembered as an honest, brave and loyal young man.

Who was Walter?

Why did Sparrow want Walter’s story to be told?
 

You can read the first three chapters HERE.

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

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

Kensy and Max 2: Disappearing Act by Jacqueline Harvey

If you’re looking for mystery and adventure and some danger along the way then head off to Rome with Kensy and Max in Disappearing Act these school holidays!

In their second book, Kensy and Max are now regular students at Central London Free School and have begun their formal training as agents for the spy agency called Pharos.

Thanks to coded messages from their missing parents, the twins know they are alive, but to protect their parents they can’t tell anyone. So Kensy and Max spend the Christmas break at their grandmother’s stunning estate, Alexandria which is also the countryside base of Pharos and filled with cleverly concealed state of the art training facilities (the hydraulic diving board is impressive!). Kensy and Max are excited about taking driving lessons, but when something goes terribly wrong with Esmerelda, some quick thinking from Kensy prevents a tragic ending. They’re seriously wondering if someone is trying to get rid of them.

Kensy and Max finally meet their rather mysterious Uncle Rupert who causes quite a stir when he arrives at the Christmas party via parachute, but leaves them with more questions than answers. Despite missing their parents and Fitz their manny, Christmas is a fun celebration with ugly jumpers and a Thriller-esque dance-off before the twins head to Rome on a school excursion. Buoyed by a secret message from their parents, Kensy and Max hope to secretly meet them in Rome where Mr Reffell, their passionate history teacher is eager to show his students the history, art and architecture of Rome. However, when inquisitive Kensy notices a dark-haired boy acting suspiciously with a group of orphans near the Trevi Fountain it unexpectedly leads to Kensy and Max’s first mission for Pharos. Along with their fellow agents-in-training, the twins put their talents and newly acquired spy skills into practice as they bravely attempt to rescue the Prime Minister’s kidnapped son and put a stop to the plans of the evil criminal network, The Diavolo. You will definitely need to catch your breath at the end of this book!

One of Max’s talents is cracking codes and he deciphers the Pig Pen Cipher to reveal an important message the team has intercepted. Read the information Jacqueline Harvey has included at the back of her book and watch this video to help you decode the book’s chapter headings and try coding your own secret messages to share with friends or information you want to keep secret.

Happy Reading and coding!

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! 

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

The Ateban Cipher series by A.L.Tait

The Ateban Cipher series by A.L.Tait is an exciting adventure series. If you like quest stories like Rowan of Rin by Emily Rodda or you’re a fan of the Ranger’s Apprentice series by John Flanagan, then this is the next series for you!

Book One: The Book of Secrets

Gabe stared in horror at the small book in his hand. The light from the low fire danced across its golden cover, setting off a shower of sparkles from the rainbow of jewels that adorned it. Its beauty was dulled only by a dark, spreading smudge of blood.

Gabe is a young apprentice monk, who has been raised at Oldham Abbey and only knows this peaceful and protected world. One evening when the Abbey is raided, Gabe is given the mysterious Book of Secrets to protect by Brother Benedict as he lays dying. 

Gabe is thrust into the outside world on a quest full of danger, intrigue and adventure. What is the secret of the book? Why is it so valuable and who is the mysterious ‘Aidan’? Lost in the forest, Gabe is rescued by a feisty band of rebel girls who live in an old oak tree. Merry, Gwyn, Scarlett and Midge are skilful, clever, brave and fiercely independent. Their fast moving adventure unfolds in forests, tunnels and dungeons as Gabe and the girls seek to rescue Merry and Gwyn’s father, help a prince (Eddie) in trouble and unravel some of the mystery surrounding the Book of Secrets.

 

Teacher Notes

Book Two: The Book of Answers

‘The Ateban Cipher,’ Lucien continued, ‘is also known as the Book of Answers.’  ‘Answers to what?’ Eddie asked. ‘Everything. Any question you might have, the answer is in here.’

In this sequel, Gabe continues his quest accompanied by the girls and Eddie to a remote mountain fortress in search of Lord Lucien as they are closely pursued by their enemies. Lucien answers some of their questions about the mysterious secret coded manuscript and explains how dangerous it would be for The Book of Answers to fall into the wrong hands. While there, Gabe also unexpectedly discovers his true identity and learns about his parents.

Working as a team is vital as Gabe and his friends seek to outwit Lord Sherborne and his henchmen. Their clever problem solving and combined skills keep the encrypted Book of Answers safe while helping Eddie regain his crown and Merry and Grace race against time to save their father. Gabe’s confidence, courage and skills develop along the way and when the key to the Ataban Cipher is finally revealed, he makes a decision that will change the direction of his life.

I thoroughly enjoyed these two books and if you’re like me, you will want to have The Book of Answers ready to read as soon as you have finished The Book of Secrets!

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

Olive Black: The Pyramid Puzzle by Alex Miles

Olive Black is a ten year old who is living her dream as a movie star, jetting around the world filming, doing movie promotions and interviews. Rather than being full of her own self-importance, Olive is a down to earth, funny, caring and adventurous girl in Year Five whose BFF is Rani.

The Pyramid Puzzle is Olive Black’s fifth movie adventure written by Alex Miles. This story was inspired by one of Olive’s fans who suggested to Alex that Olive should star in a movie about mummies.

In her latest movie The Pyramid Puzzle, Olive is a junior archeologist who is uncovering ancient secrets in the tombs of Egypt. When she returns to school Olive has another puzzle to solve when she meets a new teacher who introduces herself as Harriet. A teacher using her first name is surprising, but the shocked reaction of their teacher Miss Loople when she sees Harriet has Olive and her friends intrigued. What is the connection between the teachers and why is Miss Loople always trying to avoid Harriet?

Olive and her friends decide to dig a little deeper into the school archives to find out more about Harriet, especially when she takes the credit for Miss Loople and their class’s idea for the spectacular Egypt Alive day. Thanks to some unexpected help from Nathan the naughtiest boy in her class and some missing toilet paper, all is finally revealed.

This is a fun Egyptian mystery filled with adventure and lots of great ITHEAs (Idea That’s Hyper-Extremely Awesome)!

Alex Miles (or is that Cleopatra?) had fun talking about her book on Kids WB. You can watch it HERE

These are some things I discovered about Alex at a recent school library visit…

Alex liked to read Choose Your Own Adventure and Agatha Christie mysteries

Alex wrote 8 books in the popular Zac Power series

Alex’s first Olive Black book took 7 years to write – she had to have lots of patience and perseverance! 

Alex likes acting just like Olive and she published her first play at secondary school when she was 17 years old

Alex doesn’t use any technology to write her book until the final draft. She starts writing in her journal and plots the story on a wall using post-it notes

It takes about six months to create an Olive Black book including thinking of the idea, plotting, editing and illustrating

Some writing tips from Alex…

Create great well-rounded characters – get to know them

Use ideas from the people and the world around you

Give your character challenges outside their comfort zone

Use your Imagination Muscle regularly!

You might like to invite Alex to your school to do some writing creativity sessions with your class and help you exercise your Imagination Muscle!

Happy reading!