"The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise." - author Jackie French

Showing posts with label Junior Fiction. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Junior Fiction. Show all posts

Monday, 7 July 2014

Review: Angela Nicely

Angela Nicely is the kind of girl who's always getting up to mischief or into trouble … but it's not her fault, honestly! After all, if Mrs Skinner comes to school with completely different hair one day, then Angela just has to find out whether it's a wig.

And if annoying Tiffany is going to be a model in the Poppets' fashion catalogue, then surely Angela should be as well?

And if all the instructors at Angela's mum's spa break are eating chocolate, well, then why can't Angela and her mum have some? It's just not fair otherwise!

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Review: The Quirks Welcome to Normal (The Quirks #1)

The Quirks have just moved to the small town of Normal, Michigan. It’s a lovely town with picket fences, a diner run by a woman who treats all her staff like family, and a great local school. Everything in Normal is, well, normal. Everything except the Quirks, that is.

Molly’s twin sister Penelope can create things from her imagination, like Niblet, the blue furry monster who lives under her bed. Her mother Bree can control people with her mind, her grandfather, Quilliam Quirk, can make time rewind and her little brother Finn is invisible to everyone except Molly. That’s Molly’s ‘quirk’ – she’s immune to the magical powers of her family.

Molly really wants to find a place where they can stay long enough to make friends, but with such a quirky family, it probably won’t be long before they move on again to avoid being noticed. Is it possible for Molly’s family to pretend to be normal so that they can fit in and stay this time?

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Review: I Am Juliet

Arguably Shakespeare's finest tragedy, this love story between two star-crossed lovers from warring families is as timeless as the angst and beauty of young love.

Unlike the original play, and subsequent versions of a story oft-told, this unique take on Romeo and Juliet has been cleverly corralled and tenderly told through the eyes of young Juliet Capulet, our 13-year-old protagonist.

As Jackie French does so well, I Am Juliet quickly propels the reader into a time long past. Starting the book with a peek into Shakespeare's world, we meet young Rob, a teen lad who is the first to play the role of Juliet on an Elizabethan stage.

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Review: Saving the Farm (Chook Chook #3)

Mei is now happy and settled in her blended family, but all is not well. A government official has made plans to build a freeway through their tiny village and he expects everyone to sell their homes without argument.

He did not expect to meet people like Mei and her family who fight to protect their farm and the entire village. However, when they refuse to sell their land, the government official springs bad news with a decidedly menacing sneer.

Can Mei and her family stop the freeway from being built? How do you fight powerful government officials? You’ll never guess who saves the day—or will you?

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Review: Rivertime

The cover of Rivertime promises pictures, but Rivertime is not a picture book. The first page offers facts and figures, but Rivertime is not boring. Instead, delightful comic strip style pages offer an easy-to-read fictional tale that could be true. Starting in the middle of life’s suburban busy-ness, Rivertime takes you, however reluctantly, on a slow-right-down summertime river journey.

Told from the first person’s perspective, you never learn the narrator’s name, but that’s okay. Instead, you get to share this young boy’s frustration at having to leave his techno toys behind and his irritation at not being able to sleep on hard ground. Rivertime has a hurried pace at first, but as the young guide learns to relax, the pages landscapes spread out, long and languorous, just like a relaxing Summer’s day.

Review: Midnight Burial

Miss Florence Adelaide Williamson has had the most terrible day. Her big sister, Lizzie, has died of fever. It was so sudden, within hours, the household are in pure shock.

Papa and some men have buried her on the property. No time for a funeral. Her clothes are burned. The house plummets into mourning.

How could Lizzie have died so quickly? Lizzie's best friend Miss Susannah Jones is suspicious. Lizzie and her Papa had a huge row earlier that day. Lizzie told her everything, so Susannah just knew he would kill her. He said that he would.

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Review: Badudu Stories

Badudu Stories is a collection of four short stories written from the perspective of young Aboriginal children learning English at the Mount Margaret Mission. Based on the author’s own experiences at the Mission as a child, the stories highlight just how isolating and confusing it can be to try to understand the many idioms of the English language.

While Badudu Stories focuses on the experiences of Indigenous children, children from a variety of cultural backgrounds are sure to identify with the school students in the stories who struggle to translate phrases such as ‘too big for your boots’ and ‘smartie pants’ in a way that makes sense. The short story ‘What Do You Say?’ also highlights the confusion that can be caused by different cultural expectations of manners and social behaviour.

Friday, 13 June 2014

Review: Jasper Zammit: 3 books in 1



Recently, I have finished the first book in this compilation, and now I am up to the second book, called Jasper Zammit the Striker. 

The book starts off with Jasper dreaming about scoring a magnificent goal for a famous team, Real Madrid. His Grandad, Nonna, was a great soccer player back in his time. He told Jasper it’s necessary to practise boxing, athletics and dancing to improve your game.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Shout out: Geronimo Stilton books

Intrepid reporter Geronimo Stilton and his friends have been entertaining English-speaking readers for 10 years. The first Geronimo Stilton books were published in Italy in 2000, with the first English versions of the stories published by Scholastic in February 2004.

Over the years, Geronimo and his friends at the Rodent Gazette have travelled around the world in search of stories, having amazing adventures and solving mysteries wherever they go. There are also several mini-series (Thea Stilton, Cavemice, Spacemice, Creepella von Cacklefur and Kingdom of Fantasy) that take readers to specific times and places.

To celebrate the 10th anniversary, Scholastic has published a special hardcover Geronimo Stilton title: The Hunt for the Golden Book. Grandfather William wants to throw Geronimo a special party to celebrate 10 years since his first book was published and he asks Geronimo to write a special story for the occasion. When Geronimo’s laptop is stolen just before he finishes the new book, he and his friends must hunt it down. Will they find it in time for the party?

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Review: EJ Spy School Early Readers


These very earliest of chapter books, with extra extra large print, tick plenty of early reader must-have boxes. Believable characters and a simple story arc with an obstacle in the way of the goal to be achieved are all in place. Don’t look too close or you’ll see little irregularities: just hop on and enjoy the fun of the ride.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Review: The Fairy Who Wouldn't Fly

As adults, Australian classics sit at the heart of our childhood--and while new classics are being published all the time, there is some kind of deep emotional satisfaction in offering the books we loved as children, to our own children.

Pixie O'Harris was born in Wales and emigrated to Australia where she worked as an artist, cartoonist and illustrator for newspapers, magazine and books. A true Renaissance woman, she was also an author, broadcaster, and designer of items such as sheet music covers, stationery and book plates. She loved to paint murals in children's hospital wards, and in 1977, became patron of the Royal Alexandra Hospital for Children.

Saturday, 31 May 2014

Review: Darcy Moon and the Deep-Fried Frogs

Darcy Moon has a few problems to solve.

Firstly, there’s her parents. How can she make sure that the other kids at school don’t realise her parents are so strange? Her dad makes compost for a living and her mother thinks leftover lentil burgers are perfect for her lunchbox. Having parents who are so in tune with nature they refuse to own a car or a TV isn't likely to help her social standing at school.

Then there is the fact that Darcy spent the money that was supposed to be donated to the Save-a-Species fundraiser on potato chips. Of course, they weren’t just ANY chips. They were Skippity Chips, the latest snack food craze that has made their creator a multimillionaire. How could she resist?

Oh, she also needs to work out how to deal with the talking frog who thinks she is an Earth Guardian who can discover what has happened to all the missing frogs. Just your everyday ‘save the delicate balance of the environment’ kind of thing.

It’s going to be a busy week.

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Shout Out: Freak Street

In 2008, the Freak Street series was launched, sharing the stories of everyday life for the residents of this not-quite-average suburban street. The first four books introduced the Wizardsons, Aliensons, Zombiesons and Humansons, families with odd pets, quirky habits and a knack for getting caught up in exciting adventures.

Over the past six years, the series has expanded to include the Vampiresons, Supersons and Werewolfsons and now, in 2014, the Piratesons. The original four families have also each featured in Time Machine and Holiday stories.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

KBR Recommends: My Life books by Tristan Bancks

The vibrancy, energy and humour Tristan Bancks is known for, shines through in these gorgeously-produced junior fiction novels. This series is pretty much a nail-biting - no, make that toe-biting - thrill ride through one boy's life.

Have you ever been kissed by a dog? Ever had to eat Vegemite off your sister's big toe? Have you had a job delivering teeth? Has a bloodthirsty magpie ever been out to get you? Ever woken up to discover that everything hovers? And have you eaten 67 hot dogs in ten minutes?

I have. I'm Tom Weekly. This book is full of my stories, jokes, cartoon characters, ideas for theme park rides and other stuff I've made up. It's where I pour out whatever's inside my head. It gets a bit weird sometimes but that's how I roll.


If you're a fan of Andy Griffiths and Jeff Kinney, My Life and Other Stuff That Went Wrong is the book that has been missing in your life.

Is your grandpa super-angry? Has your nan ever tried to climb Mt Everest? Have you started your own playground freak show? And have you ever risked your life to save your pet rat from certain destruction?

I have. I'm Tom Weekly and this is my life.

Inside the covers of this book you'll read lots of weird-funny-gross stories and learn the secret of my strangest body part. But I guarantee that won't freak you out as much as the story of how Stella Holling, a girl who's been in love with me since second grade, tricked me into kissing her.

Packed with brilliant line illustrations by Gus Gordon, this series is ideal for ages 8 - 12, but also great for struggling or reluctant readers.

The My Life books are published by Random House Australia, and retail for $15.99 each.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Review: Going Bush with Grandpa

Peter sets off with his Grandpa to go gold prospecting in the bush. Everything they do and see is out of the ordinary for urban dwellers. Even country kids will find some unexpected fun with this Grandpa. For a start, there are no tents.

After damper and curry and a bit of dancing around the campfire, Peter and Grandpa unroll their swags and sleep under the stars. The reason for rolling up and tying their swags tightly each morning gave me the shivers. Would you want to sleep out in the open if you had Grandpa’s bush neighbours? I wouldn’t.

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Review: The Boy from Snowy River

George dreams of going to Big Spills Water World. But it’s a world away from tiny Mumblegum where he lives. There is only one way his dream will be realized and that’s if he wins the Stockman’s Cup prize money at the Dargan’s Ridge festival celebrating The Man from Snowy River.

But is their old and last stock horse Bandicoot up to the race? His history of running outshines that of all other horses, but he’s old. George’s highly motivated Gran won’t be defeated. Will her schemes and the runaway goats serve to transform George’s dream to reality?

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

KBR Recommends: You Choose ... series

A brand-new series of interactive novels for the highly adventurous, who love to choose their own storyline outcome. Read if you dare! Mistakes will cost you dearly! 

Wealth beyond your wildest dreams or deadly pirate's curse!

You find an old map while holidaying in a secluded seaside town. It is said to have belonged to the fiercest pirate of them all – One-Eyed William, who was buried with his treasure. Could it be real, or is it someone's idea of a joke? You set off to follow the map to find out . . .

Will you uncover the treasure of Dead Man's Cove, or will you be destined for doom?

You Choose ...

Supreme ruler of the world or misfortune for life!

You are an ordinary kid – or so you think. Strange things start to happen. You make a rabbit appear from underneath your teacher's hat. Then you dream about a mystical diamond and a mysterious old woman with long white hair. It turns out you have magical powers ...

Do you try to keep your talents hidden or do you go off to Magic School?

The You Choose books are published by Random House and retail for $14.99 each.

Friday, 9 May 2014

KBR Recommends: Billy Slater Rugby League Series

At last! A rugby league junior fiction series for boys (and girls!), about a local boys' rugby league team who get special coaching and advice from star NRL player Billy Slater.

Josh can play footy. He's fast and fleet-footed and a blur down the sideline. But every time he steps onto the field a stampede of elephant-sized butterflies invade his stomach and he fumbles the ball.

Having his footy-mad grandad screaming from the sidelines doesn't help. To top it off, he blows an easy try and loses his team the opening game of the season. Josh starts thinking about giving up football forever. That is, until NRL legend and Josh's hero, Billy Slater, turns up at training one day.

Can Billy help Josh overcome his nerves and hang onto the ball long enough to score?

Junior is the youngest player for the West Hill Ravens. He is also the biggest. Everyone on the team starts to call him Cannonball because, when he makes a bust, he's virtually unstoppable.

Even though Junior is helping his team score more tries than ever, no one seems to be able to see past his size. When team mentor, Billy Slater, sets the Ravens a challenge, Junior's bad feeling gets even worse.

Will Billy be able to help Junior prove there is more to him than meets the eye?

Author Patrick Loughlin is a high school English teacher and writer who lives in Sydney with his wife, two daughters and hyperactive spoodle. He played Junior Rugby League rather badly when he was young.

The Billy Slater series is published by Random House. Each book retails for $12.99.

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Review: Princess Labelmaker to the Rescue

Princess Labelmaker to the Rescue is the latest book in the bestselling Origami Yoda series by Tom Angleberger. A working knowledge of Star Wars is not compulsory to read the books, but it will help make them more enjoyable and to understand the “in” jokes.

According to Origami Yoda “tests do not make one great”, but at McQuarrie Middle School, preparation for standardised testing is in full swing and the Origami Rebel Alliance is in uproar. They do not want to see more episodes of FunTime featuring the dreaded Professor FunTime (who is not fun at all). Preparation for testing is taking up all their time, leaving no room for any other educational, but fun activities. They believe that the forces of standardised testing, and the commercial entity that creates the FunTime program, are on the Dark Side.

Friday, 2 May 2014

Shout Out: Maxx Rumble Soccer Books

KBR loves a book series that gets boys reading, and this fabulous fun collection from Michael Wagner will have them fully-engaged. Follow Maxx, Rexx and the Stone Valley Saints through a tough (and hilarious) season of soccer mayhem.


"Don t worry, Rexxy," I said. "The Giants just THINK they re smart. I bet they re even dumber than us!" "IMPOSSIBLE!" said Rexxy. Eight teams. Three weeks. One winner! That's the Soccer Knockout competition. And the Saints want to be that winner. But before they even reach the second round, they must beat a team of total geniuses!

Lots of bad things had happened to me on the sporting field, but this was the worst. I never thought I d battle with my own brother! It's week two of the Soccer Knockout competition and the saints are up against the Outhouse Rodents. To have any chance, Maxx must beat his archrival, Ben "BOOFA" Booferson, and Rexxy simply has to stop falling in love with his opponent.
...the crowd couldn't take it anymore. They jumped the fence! They surrounded the ref. They grabbed his whistle and threw it onto the ground. A granny pirate stomped on it! A toddler pirate punched it. Grand Finals are different. And the Soccer Knockout Grand Final is as different as it gets. Things go haywire! They go crazy! They go completely insane! And then they go REALLY weird! Can Maxx, Rexx and the Stone Valley Saints overcome the rottenest team in history, or is this where their Grand Final dream gets fed to the sharkies?

Maxx Rumble is published by Black Dog Books, and the books in this new Soccer series retail for $9.95 each.