Showing posts with label middle-grade. Show all posts
Showing posts with label middle-grade. Show all posts

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Charlie Changes into a Chicken

Charlie Changes into a Chicken by Sam Copeland, illustrated by Sarah Horne (Puffin) PB RRP $7.99 ISBN 9780241346211

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

Charlie McGuffin is introduced to readers aged 8+ years by an avuncular narrator who is indeed jolly and obviously used to talking in such a jocular way as to immediately capture – and hold -- the attention of children. By the second page we learn that Charlie is ‘just like you. Except that he has a you-know-what, and I’m guessing many you reading this don’t have a you-know-what.’ So of course, Charles is like some of the readers, not all of them.

The most unusual and ‘majorly huge massive difference’ is that Charlie can change into animals. After visiting his older brother (SmoothMove) who is at hospital for the millionth time as he is quite ill, Charlie turns into a spider. One that has a heart-grasping escape from the family’s cat before reverting to his usual self and landing with a huge thump in bed which upsets his mum.

From then on, whenever he is stressed (and he has more stresses than the average child), Charlie turns into an animal – like a flea, a pigeon, even a rhino. So it is that he needs help from his three best friends, Mohsen (who has a PS4 AND an X-box, but five sisters ‘so that balanced out’), Wogan and Flora to understand and work out how to deal with his new power. Flora, for instance, suggest breaking into the principal's office and shaving her monkey...

This book is fast-paced, full of action, abounding in jokes and fun which is sure to engage young readers’ attention. It also has quite a few footnotes which explain – always in a semi-serious but mostly jocular manner – things which children might not know (who knew about spiders’ bums?) and gives explanations to what has happened (not always accurate).

The book is amply illustrated with black and white sketches which complement the tone of the book and add to its joyousness.

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

When Friendship Followed Me Home

When Friendship Followed Me Home by Paul Griffin (Text Publishing)
RRP $16.99
ISBN 978-192535549-9

Reviewed by Wendy Fitzgerald

Every now and then I read a book that I know I will not forget. When Friendship Followed Me Home is special.

Young Ben Coffin is a foster child. At age 10 he is adopted by a loving mum, Tess- a kind-hearted speech therapist. For the first time Ben feels loved and starts to hope that things will go well for him.

But at school he’s the target for a bully named Rayburn. Ben avoids Rayburn by taking refuge in the library with the kind librarian, Mrs Lorentz. It’s in the library that Ben befriends Mrs Lorentz’s daughter, Hayley (like the comet). And it’s in an alleyway beside the library where Ben finds a small abandoned dog he calls Flip.

Ben and Flip have a strong connection. They embark on a training program to make Flip into an assistance dog. Ben and Hayley start a fabulous reading program called ‘Read to Rufus’ where kids who struggle with reading can read to a trained companion dog- in this case Flip.

There is a beautiful scene on Page 131 where Ben is encouraging a young reluctant reader, Brian, to read to Flip. The interaction between Flip and Brian is precious. I think Flip is the real hero in this story.

I have not heard of a program like this in Australia. Maybe we should try it?

When Friendship Followed Me Home explores some tough issues- abandonment, domestic violence, homelessness, illness, grief, family, friendship, first love, acceptance, loss, pets, imagination and magic.

But all the way there is a wonderful innocence about Ben. In spite of all the terrible things that happen to him and Hayley- I was left with an overwhelming feeling of hope.

I also loved the idea that Ben and Hayley were writing a story together. It is called ‘The Magic Box’ - a time-slip story set in Luna Park in 1905. Often this story mirrors what’s happening in their lives and ties beautifully into the ending.

I like that there are many literary references throughout the book. In particular Griffin refers to ‘Feathers’ by Jacqueline Woodson. I want to read this ‘Feathers’ and I think kids would like to as well.

Paul Griffin is a talented writer. He is a teacher and a devoted helper of at risk and special needs teens. He works with organisations like ‘Behind the Book’ and ‘Literacy for Incarcerated teens’. 

Griffin is the author of several novels for YA – Ten Mile River, Stay with me, Burning Blue and Adrift. Paul lives in Manhattan.

When Friendship Follows Me Home - published in 2016 is Griffin’s first middle-grade novel. His next middle-grade novel, Marty comes out in 2017.

I strongly recommend When Friendship Follows Me Home to kids 11 and older. It will spark terrific discussion with parents and teachers. I loved it.