Monday, May 24, 2010

Miss Lily's fabulous pink feather boa by Margaret Wild

There are some picture books that are meant to be shared and treasured and I really think Miss Lily's fabulous pink feather boa fits this category.

The Last Potoroo is in need of a holiday so she travels to the far north of Australia where the hibiscus flowers are as large as dinner plates. She climbs the stairs to Miss Lily's holiday house, suitcase in hand. What a shock! Miss Lily is a crocodile. Luckily she only eats fish and has a very small appetite. Each evening Miss Lily dances with a splendid pink feather boa. The Last Potoroo falls in love with these magical moments and when she catches the boa at the end of the performance she feels she can do anything and everything.

In a moment of weakness (one I think we can all relate to) the Last Poteroo goes into Miss Lily's room one afternoon and when she sees a little pair of scissors on the dresser she cuts a tiny piece from the boa. When I read this part you can hear the children gasp at the enormity of this crime. The Last Poteroo is in such despair over her wickedness she buries the piece of boa but her guilt leaves her with terrible nightmares.

This is a story of friendship and redemption. Miss Lily does forgive The Last Potoroo and Margaret Wild is such a marvellous story teller this important scene is not laboured instead it is handled with gentleness and warmth.

If you have a picture book collection then this book is an essential purchase. We are reading books this term about friendship and I always include Miss Lilly's fabulous pink feather boa when we do this. Other favourites are A Friend Like Ed by Karen Wagner, Suzie and Alfred in a welcome for Annie by Helen Craig and Henry and Amy by Stephen Michael King.

By the way a potoroo is a endangered Australian animal but our little character discovers she is not really the last one left. It is also good to read this book with a feather boa around your shoulders.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

One Night at Lottie's House by Max Dann

Our Year 3 classes have just finished reading One Night at Lottie's house. Here is another true gem which should never go out of print. Arthur is afraid of everything. He never stays away from home with out his ghost fighting kit and he will really need all his supplies and courage if he is to survive one night at Lottie's house.
Arthur’s mum and dad are off to a dentist convention and even though Arthur begs to be allowed to stay in the hotel it is arranged that he will stay with Lottie, a friend from school. His dad will pick him up in the morning. But “Arthur only needed one look at Lottie's House before declaring I don’t think I’ll be alive in the morning Father”.

Arthur endures a night of zombies, aliens, bunyips, vampires, gargoyles and trolls but the worst thing is the ghost of Lottie's father that Arthur sees walking down the hallway dragging a chain. Arthur hurries to the kitchen to make a special potion so he will be repulsive to ghosts. He needs weeds that grow by a graveyard fence, the shriveled whiskers of ten old men, sawdust from a coffin, cockroaches, swamp goo and holy water. None of these things are in this kitchen. What will Arthur do?

Our original edition of this book has terrific line illustrations by David Pearson but at least this book continues to stay in print since it has been reissued as an Aussie Bite with illustrations by Stephen Axelsen. If you like tension and horror with some really good fun thrown in look for One Night at Lottie's House in your library soon. I first read this great little book in 1986 when it was short listed for the Children's Book Council Awards and I continue to enjoy reading it to junior students all these years later.

Gregor and the Prophecy of Bane by Suzanne Collins

You may have read my review of Gregor the Overlander, book one in the Underland Chronicles. Now I have read Book 2, Gregor and the prophecy of Bane and it was certainly another page turner.

Boots is kidnapped and Gregor must follow her into the Underland where once again there is a mysterious prophecy which seems to involve Gregor. At the heart of this quest Gregor must find The Bane, an albino rat who is said to be ready to take over the world. The most distressing part of this prophecy seems to involve Boots, Gregor’s baby sister. “Die the baby, die his heart, die his most essential part.” But Boots is a little girl. Who is this prophecy really talking about?

The loyalty of the friends – bats, cockroaches and Underlanders along with one very special rat and some annoying fireflies is all put the test as Gregor and his companions travel to the Labyrinth. As in the first installment the scenes of battle and death are filled with blood and horror. Early on their journey Gregor is attacked by a giant squid. “As the squid had held on to him the longest and he had no fur to protect his skin… he saw the swollen red circles were beginning to ooze pus. His whole body felt hot and skaky.”

There are five books in this series but after the horrors endured here I will take a little break before tackling Gregor and the curse of the Warmbloods. This is such good writing that you really feel every twist, turn and jolt plus the true horror of claustrophobia in this underground world. The final scenes, though, do make the whole experience very worthwhile.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Diamond of Darkhold by Jeanne DuPrau

The Diamond of Darkhold is the fourth and final book in the series that began with the Book of Ember. Doon and Lina make a trade for an ancient book from a traveler and although only eight pages are left they realize answers to many of the mysteries from their past can be revealed if they go back to the city of Ember which they left several months ago.

The journey out of Ember had involved boats and rapids all going one way so of course their return journey needs to take a completely different route. At the end of the first book Doon and Lina threw a note down to the city into a chasm, a note that led to the rescue of four hundred people. As they look down into the chasm now months later all should be dark but instead they see a dim light. Following a steep and perilous path the two friends climb back down to their old home.

The small group of people now living in the City of Ember are very dangerous. They capture Doon and Lina must flea the city to find help. Doon meanwhile finds a jewel which matches information in the book titled “For the people of Ember". It will be these 'diamonds' that later give the people electricity and using this and other things like seeds that the townspeople collect from their old city, the future seems assured but also there will need to be a huge amount of learning which will continue through the generations. The Horn Book review said the conclusion is everything a series closer should be, satisfying but provocative.

I was captivated by the first book in this series and I loved the second book People of Sparks. Although I read the prequel Prophet of Yonwood quite quickly it was not as powerful as the first two. I have also seen the movie which is worth watching although I did not like the way the character of the mayor was portrayed – seeming to act like a clown or buffoon.

It is so great to be talking about the final book in a series and not the first and to be able to say I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I read it over breakfast, waiting in queues and late into the night. When I first read City of Ember I was so excited I wanted everyone to read this book in fact I almost didn't want the final book to end. If you enjoy reading fiction which describes a possible future for human life grab this series with both hands. You might also like to hunt for an old movie called Logans Run which reminded me of this series.