There is no need to say this is another brilliant book for children and will sell millions because it is and it will.
Like the others it is bizaare, funny, simple to read, with identifiable heroes and villains and a socially insightful look at the care for the aged.
Jack loves his grandpa but his dementia is becoming a problem. Grandpa still thinks he is fighting the Battle of Britain in his spitfire and the nazis are still after him. In a way he is correct. Grandpa escapes his digs wanders for days like an escaped prisoner then causes damage to the planes in the War Museum.
Jack pleads for his parents to have grandpa at home, they consent but he escapes again, attracts the attention of the police and is put into Twilight Towers a home for the elderly.
The home is run by Miss Swine and a couple of nurses named Daisy and Blossom who have Love/Hate on their knuckles and spiderweb tattoos on their necks. Grandpa and all the other inmates are confined by keeping them doped to the eyeballs.
Jack and grandpa plot an escape similar to the one from Colditz Castle.
This is a tall story about being different for primary and intermediate school students and it would make a great read-a-loud .
Alistair and Eleanor met at the law firm of Bother and Blastit. They were attracted to each other as both were completely obsessed at being normal, what ever that may mean? This is the main theme of this novel, normality!!
They marry, have a boy and a girl, settle in Sydney, everything normal and out of the human eye. They are happy. Then along comes Barnaby. From the first seconds after birth he began to float upwards, he defies gravity. The Brockets are horrified. How dare their son be different, how dare he attract attention to himself. As if he can help it of course!
When Barnaby is 8 years old his mother takes him to Sydney Heads and lets him go. He floats upward to the most amazing around the world adventures from Brazil, New York and even inner space.
Barnaby learns a lot about difference and the ending is just perfect as are Oliver Jeffers understated illustrations.
Uncle Trev and His Whistling Bull by Jack Lasenby. Pub. Gecko Press, 2012.
This novel for primary and intermediate school children is a laugh from beginning to end. Uncle Trev is the human equivalent of Harry Wakatipu and he tells yarns that have a strong link with reality yet are miles off the planet.
The narrator is a bed ridden young boy suffering from a severe illness, who needs all the help and encouragement he can get. Uncle Trev is there to tell a wonderous range of yarns about life on the farm in back country New Zealand during the Great Depression.
He starts with the story of his whistling bull Hubert who can warble Pokarekare Ana and the Rose of Tralee among other songs. Hugely funny as are all the stories. Then he gets into his borrowing neighbour Gotta Henry as well as telling ghost stories from his family past.
Not only is the tongue firmly in the cheek but there are a lot of home truths about life and community on the farm in the 1930’s. A bonus is the character of the boy’s mother who Uncle Trev avoids like the plague. She considers Uncle Trev tells a “farrago of rubbish”. Look it up and see what it means.
Children need to hear stories of the past and get a good laugh out of them. How many children can resist hearing ghost stories in the dark?
I liked the stories and so will you.
Many of you will know the Chris van Allsburg picture book classic The Mysteries of Harris Burdick first published in 1984 that featured 14 illustrations with a title and worded observation underneath that suggested mystery.
Many teachers have used this book to inspire their students to write stories on what they have seen in the illustrations. I myself have pondered what happened in each.
Well 14 very good American writers have provided their thoughts of what happened in each. Jon Scieszka, Louis Sachar, Lois Lowry Kate Di Camillo, Stephen King and others including Chris Van Allsburg himself have answered the mysteries of the pictures.
Some will appeal others will not. I personally loved the Lois Lowry story of the Seven Chairs -The fifth ended up in France. Brilliant imagination from all 14 writers and a great addition to any school library.
I read this book in half a day so it will keep you interested, Mysteries always do.
The stars of this book are of course the illustrations themselves. Check out the picture book it is a classic.
Nanny Piggins and the Wicked plan by R.A. Spratt. Pub. Random House, 2009.
This collection of 13 inter-related short stories takes a shot at everything from unscrupulous lawyers to Brownies and Boy Scouts.Loosely held together by Mr Green the children’s father trying to get rid of Nanny Piggins who is going nowhere. Boris the Russian Bear again features plus a host of others.
Nanny Piggis is as unPC as you can get and the fun just flows.
My favourite story is when an Armadillo challenges Nanny Piggins to prove who is the best flying animal in the world. By “flying” means being shot out of a cannon across a gorge a la Evil Knievel.
R.A,Spratts description of an armadillo is “like a pig going to a fancy dress as a tank”. Her use of language and her descriptions are just brilliant.
I won’t tell you anything else just get out and read it!
Ideal for children at school years 4 to 8. Buy the whole series they will shoot out of your library.
The Death Defying pepper Roux by Geraldine McCaughrean. Pub. Oxford University Press, 2009.
Pepper Roux has been brought up in a strict Catholic household which in his own mind has completely ruined his childhood, and I agree with him. It is not a criticism of the religion just a strong dig at fanaticism and literal interpretation.
At his birth his devout and twisted Aunt Mireille told his family that she had a dream about Saint Constance who told her that Pepper would not live longer than his 14th birthday.
What a burden to put on anybody.
Poor Pepper spent much of his childhood on his calloused knees but still he grew up with a big heart and a sense of fairness and feelings for his fellow man, that is seen in so few.
When he reaches his fourteenth birthday and the big deed has not happened he takes off on an adventure that is exciting, uplifting and completely bizarre. Death defying you might say.
Will he die as predicted?
His first adventure is as captain of a ship that was once his fathers ship, and this leads to other adventures that are incredible. Almost a shaggy dog story. The plot is so superb that every incident and character is related to what has happened before much like the plot of Holes by Louis Sachar
McCaughrean’s writing style gives life to the story and the novel is structured into short paragraphs within a chapter that means the reader can pick it up and put it down after a short burst. But you will not do that I assure you.
You are with Pepper all the way as he is on the run, changing his identity at will, trying to do the right thing but at the same time having complete faith in his fellow man in spite of the harrowing things that happen. A modern day youthful Don Quixote.
The ending is brilliant. This book is for everybody. Don’t miss it.