I'm always looking for good literature that children who can read independently will find engaging. Lots of books come across my desk for review and here are eleven that caught my interest. I have arranged them in rough age order so that the first books are the easiest (children 6-8 years) and the latter books best for children 10-12 years.
1. 'Lilly the Elf' by Anna Branford and illustrated by Lisa Coutts (Walker Books)
'The Elf Flute' tells how little Lily receives a surprise package with a silver flute one day from an aunt. But the flute proves more difficult to pay than she thought and emits only whiffles, not sweet sounds. Will she ever make it to the special concert?
'The Wishing Seed' tells how one day Lily (who lives in a tiny house under a bridge) has an encounter with a dandelion seed. She lets the dandelion drift away on the wind and makes a wish. But will her wish come true?
The books are engaging and will be a good source of reading material for children who can read alone at the grade 2 level.
Walker has also published 'The Midnight Owl' and 'The Precious Ring' in the series.
2. 'The Cleo Stories' by Libby Gleeson & illustrated by Freya Blackwood (Allen & Unwin)
Freya Blackwood beautifully illustrates the book with her characteristic watercolour images. All in all, it is a wonderful book for 'first' readers. The book was the winner in the Younger Readers category of the 2015 CBC Australia Book of the Year Awards.
3. 'Roses are Blue' by Sally Murphy and illustrated by Gabriel Evans (Walker Books)
Pearl Verses the World' and 'Toppling'.
This is another wonderful book for younger readers (aged 7-9 years). Amber Rose and her family are dealing with tragedy and much change. Amber Rose struggles to accept that her wonderful Mum has gone, and while she loves her new mother, she misses her old mum. A beautiful touching book.
4. 'Kitten Kaboodle - Mission Two: The Lightning Opal' by Eileen O'Hely & illustrated by Heath McKenzie (Walker Books)
Kitten Kaboodle is not just a cat, he is a detective! In fact, he is a very surprising cat; even his collar can freeze a dog at twenty paces. Kitten Kaboodle is
the number one secret agent at CAT - the Clandestine Activity
Taskforce. When the Disaster Organisation Group (DOG) sends an
opal-chipped robot to find Kitten Kaboodle, he leads the canines to CAT
Headquarters, and then all the way to Lightning Ridge. Can Kitten
Kaboodle stop DOG from using the opalised dinosaur skeleton that lies
beneath the desert sand?
The simple comic-like illustrations add to the fun of the text in these simple books of about 130 pages with large print and no more than 150 words per page. They are an easy read for readers aged 7-9 years. Younger boys will love the action and fun.
Children will also enjoy 'Mission 1: The Catier Emerald'
5. 'Diary of a Golf Pro' & 'Diary of a Basketball Hero' by Shamini Flint & illustrated by Sally Heinrich (Allen & Unwin)
Shamini Flint has been producing a number of these funny books (up to nine now) that appeal to that desire within most young boys and girls to become a great sporting stars. She covers varied sports including Taekwondo, Rugby, Cricket, Track & Field, Soccer and more.
In Diary of a Golf Pro, Marcus who is a maths whiz and not good at sport, tries valiantly to convince his far too persistent father that he does not want to play golf. Poor Marcus and his Dad end up in a match play event with hilarious results and a surprising ending. These are fun books that are a light and enjoyable read for children aged 6-8 years. The line drawings from Sally Heinrich make a great contribution to these amusing books. Tentative and reluctant boy readers will enjoy them.
6. 'Ten' by Shamini Flint (Allen & Unwin)
Shamini Flint is in her own words "an ex-lawyer and stay-at-home mum who is determined to change the world through writing!" She has a good instinct for what young somewhat reluctant readers want in a book. Her Asian heritage and experience shine through in this book set in her native Malaysia.
This is another fresh and authentic tale that grapples with intersection of sport, parental aspirations and children's efforts to he their own person, in spite of what others want or expect.
7. 'Tashi and the Wicked Magician and other stories' by Anna Fienberg and Barbara Fienberg & illustrated by Geoff Kelly & Kim Gamble (Allen & Unwin)
This is another delightful book in the series of Tashi books that span a number of years. This latest offering is beautifully designed. My review copy was in hard cover and is a delight. It has 90 pages that are interspersed with beautiful illustrations. The stories are engaging and fresh.
Tashi and his friend Jack set out on four fabulous adventures of
mystery and magic. Tashi tells tales of
courage and daring when faced with a magician with a greedy plan, a
haunted house that is about to go up in flames, ruthless ruffians after a rare
orchid, and a quest for the bravest person in the land to face the
fire-breathing Red Whiskered Dragon.
8. 'Cartboy Goes to Camp' by L.A. Campbell (Allen & Unwin)
This is a sequel to 'Cartboy and the Time Capsule' and the hapless Hal Rifkind (a.k.a. Cartboy) is off to summer camp. But this is a camp with a difference. This is a history camp where you churn butter, get to plant maize, get your own water from a local stream and can be punished for not doing chores! Hal's hillarious journal is filled with drawings, timelines and photos of this 'special' adventure to a camp where nothing has changed for 400 years. It's a very funny book that readers aged 8-10 will love.
9. 'The Ravenous Gown and 14 More Tales about real beauty' by Steffani Raff (Exisle Publishing)
This is a wonderful and funny book that intelligent young girls (in particular) will love. It is a collection of 'twisted' new fairy tales. Twisted in the sense that they don't follow the expected plot, or dish up the same 'unreal' characters. All that you have come to expect is turned on its head. Here is a sample in the first story from which the collection takes its name. A princess finds herself in the scullery of a castle in a mess and a fairy godmother comes to her rescue. The princess exclaims:
"I didn't think you actually existed. I thought you were just some convenient literary device used in fairy tales to grant wishes to deserving princesses who found themselves in need."
Each tale has more than a few twists and turns. You will find magic mirrors, dragons, a princess who could fly, a crystal castle and more.