Squidge Dibley Destroys the School by Mick Elliott

Squidge DibleyTitle: Squidge Dibley Destroys the School

Author: Mick Elliott

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Lothian Children’s Books

Published: 25th June 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 175

Price: $14.99

Synopsis: Squidge Dibley is the new kid at Craglands South Primary … and the school might not survive him. The start of a hilarious new series about a very strange class, perfect for fans of Weirdo, Funny Kid and Tom Gates.

Things are going downhill fast for class 6PU at Craglands South Primary School. They’ve changed teachers more times than most kids change their socks, and their latest one is so strict they aren’t even allowed to sneeze. But just when it seems like the school term has been turned into a prison term, a new kid arrives.
A kid unlike any other kid at Craglands South.
A kid named Squidge Dibley.
He’s small, quiet and strangely … squidgy.
And he’s about to change everything.

SQUIDGE DIBLEY DESTROYS THE SCHOOL is book one in a hilarious new series by Mick Elliott, author of THE TURNERS, and features his unforgettable cartoon-style illustrations on every page.

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Padman O’Donnell is in year six at Craglands South Primary School – and is in a class that churns through teachers faster than anyone could ever imagine. One day, the only teacher who has managed to survive the longest it taken away sick, and the class has to be taught by Vice Principal Hoovesly – who has so many rules, he starts to make them up as he goes just to have a reason to punish the class – for breathing, for gasping, for trying to learn. Until the day Squidge Dibley arrives. Unlike any other student, Squidge has a variety of unusual diseases that make him burp, stretch, and explode when exposed to certain elements and noises – something that kids will find very amusing if they enjoy this kind of humour.

Each time a teacher tries to make Squidge do something, he produces a note – informing the teacher of what not to do and why, resulting in various incidents where the teacher, in many cases, Vice Principal Hoovesly, is thwarted in what he is trying to do. As the narrator, Padman provides his thoughts and impressions on each student and the teachers, so everything that happens is seen through his eyes. However, Hoovesly is quite an awful person, so even Principal Shouthmouth (called that because nobody in the story can pronounce her real name) is keen to see him get what he deserves. When a teacher forbids sneezing – something you can’t control, drastic measures must be taken.

The first in a new series, this is sure to capture the imaginations of younger readers with the cartoon-like illustrations that complement the text, and the fun characters who cause mischief, but when it counts, really come together and utilise their unusual talents and tricks to help their new friend, Squidge. Every character in this novel is different and has a quirk that makes them unique. It is these differences that are celebrated throughout the book, as they should be in real life as well.

This is a great book for primary school readers looking for a bit of fun and difference in their reading, and is a good, quick read as well.

Hogwarts: A Movie Scrapbook

hogwarts movie scrapbook.jpgTitle: Hogwarts: A Movie Scrapbook

Author: Judy Revenson

Genre: Movie scrapbook, fantasy, popular culture

Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing

Published: 1st December 2018

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 48

Price: $29.99

Synopsis:Every year, students clamber aboard the Hogwarts Express at Platform 9 3/4 and make their way back to Hogwarts for the start of another school year. In the atmospheric castle and its vast grounds, they learn how to brew potions and cast spells, how to tend magical creatures and defend themselves from dark magic.

This magical scrapbook takes young readers behind the scenes at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, covering everything from how students arrive at the school and are sorted into their houses to the many magical subjects they study while there. Detailed profiles of each class feature information about the professors, classrooms, and key lessons seen in the films and are heavily illustrated with dazzling concept art, behind-the-scenes photographs, and fascinating reflections from the actors and filmmakers, giving readers a spellbinding tour of Hogwarts life.

Destined to be a must-have collectible for fans of Harry Potter, Hogwarts: A Movie Scrapbook also comes packed with interactive inserts.

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The Wizarding World of Harry Potter keeps growing, The current books exploring the wider world of Hogwarts, and how the movies brought the settings, characters, spells, the Dark Arts and everything else to life, going through prop hunting, and snippets of behind the scenes interviews with cast and crew. In the most recent scrapbook from Warner Brothers and Bloomsbury, the world of Hogwarts, and how it was brought together is explored, from classes to letters, to teachers, ghosts and getting to the school each year.

The details present in the books reflect the intricate efforts that the set designers took when collecting props and designing the sets for each classroom and aspect of Hogwarts across the films shows how much thought was put into recreating the world from page to screen, and each stage had to be just right, to create a feeling of magic and wonder, but also a sense of familiarity in the lives and look of the characters and their world.

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Included in the book are brief profiles on the key Hogwarts classes and professors, and information about houses, sorting and house points, contributing to what is already known from the books and films, and adding to the knowledge of those who may not know all of this, and be discovering new secrets as these books come out and as they explore the world that has existed for over twenty years for many fans over and over through the books and the movies. It is an intriguing book, that brings the world further to life for new and old fans, and gives deeper insight into exactly how the movies were created from the books, and the time and effort that went into them to make sure the books were translated seamlessly to film.

The Slightly Alarming Tale of the Whispering Wars by Jaclyn Moriarty (Kingdoms and Empires #2)

whispering wars.jpgTitle: The Slightly Alarming Tale of the Whispering Wars

Author: Jaclyn Moriarty

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: 24th October 2018

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 528

Price: $22.99

Synopsis:An enchanting and whimsical spell-filled fantasy novel from Jaclyn Moriarty, the highly-acclaimed author of The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone and the award-winning author of Feeling Sorry for Celia and A Corner of White, suitable for readers who loved A Most Magical Girl

I was taken by Whisperers at 2pm, so I never pulled the lever for the laundry chute.
That’s what bothered me most. 
This is way ahead in the story, though. A lot happened before that.

The town of Spindrift is frequented by pirates, Shadow Mages and charlatans. It’s also home to the Orphanage School, where Finlay lives with Glim, Taya and Eli. Just outside town is the painfully posh Brathelthwaite Boarding School, home to Honey Bee, Hamish and Victor, Duke of Ainsley. When the two schools compete at the Spindrift Tournament, stakes are high, tensions are higher, and some people are out to win at any cost. Before long, the orphans and the boarding school are in an all-out war.

And then Whispering Wars break out, and Spindrift is thrust onto the front lines. Children are being stolen, Witches, Sirens and a deadly magical flu invade the town, and all attempts to fight back are met with defeat.

Finlay, Honey Bee and their friends must join forces to outwit the encroaching forces of darkness, rescue the stolen children, and turn the tide of the war. But how can one bickering troupe outwit the insidious power of the Whisperers? And who are the two mysterious figures watching them from the shadows?

From the award-winning Jaclyn Moriarty comes a spellbinding tale of unlikely friendship, unexpected magic and competitive athletics.

~*~

The Slightly Alarming Tale of the Whispering Wars is the next in the Kingdoms and Empires series, that began with Bronte Mettlestone and her rather inconvenient adventures to visit aunts and hand out gifts to them, where she meets up with Alejandro and other friends – that is her story, and in the second book, we have two delightful and enthusiastic narrators – Finlay, from the Orphanage School, and Honey Bee, from the Brathelwaite Boarding School, a rather painfully posh school on the edge of town, and when the book opens, Finlay and Honey Bee are at each other’s throats, and their schools are neck and neck in a local sports competition – a competition that the Brathelwaite students desperately have to win if they do not want to incur the wrath of their headmaster – who is rather questionable and I sincerely didn’t trust him from the get-go. As time goes on though, both Finlay and Honey Bee – who alternate chapters and actually get to know each other – relate to the reader the rivalry between their schools, and the strange goings on in spindrift – children are disappearing, and each school thinks two mysterious children who keep popping in and out of Spindrift are from the respective schools, spying on the opposing school – but is this the case, or are they another entity entirely?

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Eventually, Finlay and Honey Bee realise that they must work together 0 and their friends must work with them and each other to uncover the truth about what has been happening with the help of two mysterious visitors who know more than they are letting on – visitors that readers of the previous book will recognise and enjoy seeing again. The Whisperers are back, as are the tales of Spellbinders and Witches and faery magic – and a set of twins – intelligent, smart and cheeky – to rival Fred and George Weasley – the latter of which would probably take Eli and Taya under their wing should the worlds meet, and the mischief caused would be wonderfully catastrophic, as well as dragons – my favourite final chapter line is “And that’s when the first dragon landed.” What a way to end a chapter! Alone, all these elements are effective – but together, they create an atmosphere of humour and mystery that is delightful and exquisite in its execution, and is an exciting plot, driven by magic of all kinds that weaves its way around the words and spellbinds the reader. As I read in, the surprises kept coming, and I was cheering for Finlay and Honey Bee, glad that they finally managed to get along, though their arguing made the story extremely amusing and brought a lovely sense of humour to the book, as did the way they broke the fourth wall, and spoke directly to the reader, and admonished each other for misleading or not telling the reader something – an excellent addition!

This series is shaping up to be spectacular one, and is yet another example of the fine, well-honed talent we have coming out of Australia, especially with our women writers, whose stories are often diverse, and cross a myriad of experiences and genres in both fiction and non-fiction, and this is only growing each year as we have more and more enthusiastic and wonderful talent entering the scene. A wonderful follow up, and hopefully, with many more to come.

The Distance Between Me and the Cherry Tree by Paola Peretti, translated by Denise Muir

cherry tree.jpgTitle: The Distance Between Me and the Cherry Tree

Author: Paola Peretti, translated by Denise Muir

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Bonnier/Allen and Unwin

Published: 29th August 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 208

Price: $16.99

Synopsis: A novel for all ages about a young girl losing her sight, inspired by the author’s own life story. For fans of Wonder, The Little Prince and The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly

A novel for all ages about a young girl losing her sight, inspired by the author’s own life story. For fans of Wonder, The Little Prince and The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly

Mafalda is a nine-year-old girl who knows one thing: some time in the next six months her sight will fail completely. Can Mafalda find a way through a seemingly dark future and still go to school, play football and look after her beloved cat? With the help of her family, and her friends, Mafalda needs to discover the things that will be important to her when her sight has failed. A moving, empowering tale of courage and determination that will inspire young and old.

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Mafalda is going blind – she knows, at nine years old, that she has six months left until her world changes forever – her house, what she can do now and what she will have to give up when she loses her sight, and the changes she will have to make. At home, she has her cat, Ottimo Turcaret, and her parents. At school, a counsellor called Estella, who is hiding a dark battle of her own, and her new friend, Filippo, who helps her navigate a world that is slowly descending into darkness. As she ventures towards her new reality, each part measuring the distance she can see until her whole world is taken by the darkness, Mafalda crosses off everything she can no longer do on her list and prepares to live a new life. However, Mafalda doesn’t really want things to change, and as her sight diminishes, the other changes in her world become more apparent as well.

Translated from Italian, and inspired by the life story of the author, who has Stargardt disease like Mafalda, the novel explores what it is like to live with a disability that is constantly getting worse, that has no cure, and impacts on everything Paola and Mafalda are able to do. It a story about friendship, family and hope, but also about how disability can affect the life of the disabled person and those around them, and how family and friends choose to act, the roles the must take on and what they do when the disability becomes more apparent or perhaps difficult for them to understand.

Through her experience of an encroaching disability, Mafalda finds friendship in an unlikely place with Filippo – someone she never thought would be her friend, but it is Filippo and Estella, the school counsellor, who help her through the encroaching darkness and whose loyalty proves she can still be who she is, just a little bit different to before. Having a friend like Filippo helps her through the changes she is going through.

The disabled experience is not often explored in books – and if it is, not always allowing the disabled character to be disabled -they must be healed or freed somehow. So what I liked about this book was the reality of Mafalda’s disability and how it will change her life, how illness can affect people and take them away. It is all seen through the eyes and feelings of a child, Mafalda, but is still very powerful. It allows people of all ages who are disabled to see themselves reflected in literature – to see how a disabled person navigates and must learn to adjust the way they navigate the world they live in are real experiences for disabled people that differ from person to person, and through Mafalda, some of these struggles can be seen.

A very powerful book about family, friendship and identity that will stay with you long after you finish.

The Butterfly in Amber (Chain of Charms #6) by Kate Forsyth

the butterfly in amber.jpgTitle: The Butterfly in Amber (Chain of Charms #6)

Author: Kate Forsyth

Genre: Historical Fiction/Children’s Fiction

Publisher: Pan MacMillan

Published:

Format: 1st July 2008

Pages: 266

Price: $9.99

Synopsis: Life is always hard for the gypsies, who live to their own rhythm and their own rules, but since Oliver Cromwell had seized control of England, life had been harder – and drabber – than ever. But now life for the Finch tribe has gone even more horribly wrong. They have been accused of vagrancy and murder, and thrown into gaol with only three weeks to live. The only members of the family to escape are 13-year-old Emilia and her cousin Luka. They have been entrusted to find the six charms and bring them together again. Then, perhaps, the gypsies could once again have some luck… And the Finch tribe could walk free. What Emilia and Luka do not realise is that there is a price to be paid for each lucky charm, and that the cost may prove too high…

28th August – 3rd September, 1658:
Luka and Emilia travel to London to find the last of the Graylings tribe, who has married a Puritan lawyer and turned her back on her past. As well as all the perils of the capital city, the children must escape the vengeful Coldham, and still get to Kingston-Upon-Thames in time to rescue their families. But then, on the anniversary of his greatest victory, the Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell is mysteriously stricken down… Will everything change? And can the children save their family in time?

The thrilling conclusion to the Chain of Charms series.

Winner of the Aurealis Award for Best Children’s Long Fiction 2007

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AWW-2018-badge-roseThe Butterfly in Amber marks the finale of The Chain of Charms series, and it reaches its climax as Luka and Emilia reach London, the capital and the heart of Parliament, and where Cromwell is destined to die within days of them arriving. As they set foot in London, they are pursued by Coldham, and arrive at the home of the Countess of Dysart, whose loyalties are uncertain until she agrees to shelter the children as they make their way through London, searching for the last member of the Grayling family, who has married a Puritan lawyer, turning away from her past. Here, they will meet family they never knew they had, be reunited with a friend from the past, and have to continue to try and evade Coldham as Cromwell is struck down on the anniversary of his greatest victory – all things Emilia has seen as they travelled across the country. With the charms reunited at last, can Emilia and Luka save their family in time?Kate_Forsyth

In the final instalment, Luka and Emilia, now in London, must use all their luck and abilities to evade Coldham, the Roundheads and pickpockets – as they seek to reunite the charms, save their family and meet up with the rest of the traveller families that they have encountered on their quest for the charms. As they venture onwards, sacrifices must be made – and they are always on watch, in case they fall into the wrong hands. Fate will bring an old ally to them and set forth a series of events that culminate in the finale of their quest, and the resolution written down in history about the end of Cromwell’s reign and the return of peace to England.

Kate Forsyth’s series  finale is as exciting and engaging as the previous five books, and brings together all the threads of story, plot and characters that have been popping in and out since the beginning of the story. I read it in two nights, eager to see what happened and how it was all resolved, and was caught up in the history, adventure and magic faced by Emilia and Luka on their perilous journey to find the charms and reunite them to save their family. She combines magic and history to create a believable  and inspiring world, where there are good characters, like Emilia and Luka, the evil characters such as Coldham, and the characters who, at great risk to their own safety and lives, help Emilia and Luka such as Tom Whitehorse, Countess Dysart and the many others who sheltered Emilia and Luka, and helped them get away from Coldham and find the charms on their journey.

I had so many favourite characters, especially the crew from the previous two books that included the Royalist Duke, a highwayman, Tom Whitehorse, and a Catholic Priest, whose company kept them alive and showed that people from all walks of life wanted to end Cromwell’s rule and were willing to do whatever they could to achieve it – including the Catholic Underground helping Luka and Emilia, proving the complexity of issues in the world can be seen from many angles, and is dealt with exceptionally well in children’s books.

I have now completed my read of this series, and thoroughly enjoyed it as I have all the other Kate Forsyth books I have read. Onto the next adventures!

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Book Bingo 13 – a book with non-human characters

Book bingo take 2

Book bingo Saturday again – round two, post thirteen of the year for the challenge. To mark off the non-human characters square, I have gone to a book I wrote a quiz for as part of my quiz writer job with Scholastic that fits the category of a book with non-human characters:

A book with non-human characters: A Home for Molly by Holly Webb, Beast World by George Ivanoff

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A Home for MollyA Home for Molly is about a young puppy called Molly – who has been left behind at a beachside town by her owners and forgotten. She befriends two girls – Anya and Rachel, ad plays with them on the beach. When it comes time to go home, each girl leaves with her family, thinking that Molly belongs to the other. Molly’s search for a home, and Anya and Rachel try and help her – before their holidays end and they have to go home. Neither wants to leave Molly alone, but who does she belong to – or will she find a new home with Anya or Rachel?Beast world

A home for Molly is a sweet story, with a sweet ending and fits this category quite well. Molly’s perspective of her world is charmingly written, and I felt as small as Molly did when trying to navigate her world. Molly is an adorable character, and though the story is also about Anya and her desire for a dog and to help Molly, it fits into the category of non-human character quite nicely.

Of the many books I have read, this was always the category I knew I wasn’t sure how I would fill. Animals – I had a few ideas here, such as Paddington, Animal Farm, and a few that had peripheral animal characters. Other options would have been aliens, cyborgs or robots – I received one by George Ivanoff called Beast World that also fits into this category – which is a steampunk London ruled by animals in a world where humans are extinct, which is accessed through a portal and is part of a series – which I have also been writing quizzes for and hope to write on the last two books in the series which came out recently.

I chose these two books because animals were front and centre, and main characters the reader sees the story through rather than a peripheral character who are often seen through the lens of the human characters. Whilst these two books are not by Australian Women Writers, there are many others that will be. I’m not sure how I will fill some squares the second time around, but by ticking off what I can first, hopefully I will manage to wokr out the trickier ones.

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Grandpa, Me and Poetry by Sally Morgan, Illustrated by Craig Smith

grandpa me poetry.jpgTitle: Grandpa, Me and Poetry

Author: Sally Morgan, illustrated by Craig Smith

Genre: Children’s Fiction

Publisher: Omnibus/Scholastic

Published: 1st May, 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 52

Price: $9.99

Synopsis: Melly likes poems that rhyme with words like frog, bog, doggedy-dog.

And when the school holds a poetry competition, Melly has her eye on the prize, with a little bit of inspiration from Grandpa.

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One of Melly Wilson’s favourite things is poetry, and her favourite person is her grandfather. While Melly is at school, Grandpa is in hospital, and she is learning about poetry – which is something that connects her with Grandpa. Together, they come up with rhymes, and poems that don’t rhyme for school. When a poetry competition is announced, Melly is excited: she loves words that rhyme and wants to write a poem that will stun her teacher and win the competition, and perhaps she will – with some inspiration from Grandpa.

I was sent this book by Scholastic as part of a quiz writing program and decided to also review it here.

AWW-2018-badge-roseGrandpa, Me and Poetry is about Melly, who enjoys poetry – but only if it has sounds, beats and repeats – and if it rhymes. She doesn’t like poems that don’t rhyme, but her teacher does. Melly is a cute character, and the book is told from her perspective, as she worries about her Grandpa, who is in hospital, her Mum and writing the perfect poem to please her teacher and win a prize at Family Day at school. But will Melly have her family there?

It is a story about a family, told from the perspective of the daughter and her love of poetry, and how she uses it to express herself at an uncertain time, with a nice resolution at the end of the story that brings a smile to the face of readers.

As well as being cute, it was also funny. Melly’s rhymes were a highlight and will delight readers as they read it and enjoy the sense of rhyming and rhythm that Melly enjoys too. From her cheeky rhymes in class, to her poem that doesn’t rhyme, and her final poem about her Grandpa, Melly’s poetic journey is funny, cute, and enjoyable. and has a great main character, who is full of life but also, shows that everyone has worries and obstacles that they need to overcome.

A great book for children starting to read chapter books and novels, or for reluctant readers, and also a great book to learn to read with, this is a highly enjoyable book for all ages from one of Australia’s fabulous Indigenous authors.

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