Chook Doolan is Back

Award-winning author James Roy and talented illustrator Lucinda Gifford are back with another four sensational books in the popular series for junior readers, Chook Doolan. It is a witty and warm-hearted series suited to sensitive young souls navigating their way through challenging feelings of uncertainty and apprehension.

I reviewed two previous titles here (#3 and #4), outlining these creators’ ability to capture the heart, emotion and relatability sublimely to fit their emergent reader audience. Supportive language structures, short chapters and engaging illustrations allow children from age five to achieve success whilst absorbing every moral and humorous fibre of life within the pages.

Early primary-aged readers will relish the joy and culture shining from the pages in Let’s Do Diwali (#5). Venturing into unknown territory with a tradition he doesn’t know and a crowded event is a daunting prospect for timid Chook – aptly nicknamed for his tendency to scare easily.
When paired with the quietly-spoken Praj on a school task, Chook is presented with the opportunity to learn about Diwali. He is, however, apprehensive about attending the Hindu festival of lights, and subsequently performing well on the class talk. But by embracing the spirit of the culture by wearing a kurta, trying the Indian cuisine and engaging the happy crowd, Chook’s feelings of fear dissolve into excitement. He even feels confident at school to deliver his speech about the ‘awesome’ time he had at the Diwali festival.
This is a valuable story about understanding and welcoming other traditions, and overcoming feelings of anxiety with clearly accessible and supportive practices. Let’s Do Diwali is a jubilant celebration to revisit frequently!

On the Road (#6) is about a family trip to Aunty Liz’s home in Mount Frederick. Chook is unsure about spending time with his younger twin girl cousins. He worries about other things, too, like leaving his pets behind, and having to spend three hours in the car with his taunting older brother, Ricky. Luckily, Chook finds a mutual connection with one of the girls, Evie, through his favourite activity of chess.
This book provides a gentle encouragement that shows serendipitous moments can arise in a safe and supportive environment. A little bit of courage to interact with new or unfamiliar people can lead to some wonderful relationships.

In Un-Happy Camper (#7), Simon Henry Doolan; or Chook, expresses a range of emotions from anxiety to frustration to acceptance and relief. Finding out that his class will be attending a school camp, Chook is no more than unenthusiastic. Snakes and getting homesick are not his cup of tea. All he needs is a few gentle pushes from his mum to convince him that it will be alright. This sensitive, persuasive approach and positive attitude helps Chook through his anguish, and he thoroughly enjoys the school camp…even though they didn’t really go anywhere!
The focus on Chook’s feelings throughout his psychological journey is written effectively to help readers understand their own, sometimes mixed, emotions, and finding ways to ease those discomforts. At the same time the story is injected with humour and intuitively sharp black and white illustrations.

In Up and Away (#8), Chook has been given a school assignment to explore a job he might like to pursue as an adult. Naturally, he is drawn to the job of his father – a pilot. But, there are things about being a pilot that are scary, such as visiting new places and meeting new people. In a cleverly fun way, Chook’s dad teaches him a little about the structure and physics of a plane, which is somewhat reassuring. Whilst waiting for his dad in the Club Lounge, Chook is granted an opportunity to quash his own fears, and impart his knowledge, to help another in need.
This book beautifully showcases the fact that ‘ knowledge is power’, and stepping out of your comfort zone leads to a sense of empowerment and personal growth. Once again, relevant, entertaining and encouraging, young readers will delight in this gratifying story of developing independence.

The Chook Doolan series for junior readers, and in particular young boys developing their literacy skills, is absolutely addictive. These stories of overcoming internal struggles and developing self-confidence are highly relatable, uncomplicated and transparent, as well as pleasantly engaging. Five to eight year olds will definitely be clucking for more!

Author James Roy

Illustrator Lucinda Gifford

Walker Books Australia, June 2017.

#ByAustralianBuyAustralian

Doodles and Drafts – Jess Black Paws for Thought

Jess Black, author of the new Little Paws series joins us at the draft table today to share her inspiration behind these heartwarming story lines. Puppies, chewed shoes and big responsibilities are all part of training a guide dog puppy. The Little Paws series has them all plus buckets of cute puppy appeal to boot. Here’s what Jess has to say:

Writing the Little Paws series was a very positive experience for me. The story lines are fun, there’s plenty of puppy mischief, it’s a family friendly story line but most importantly the kids in the stories are in charge and at the forefront of the story.

Of course, what’s at the heart of the stories is bringing a gorgeous little puppy into your home and committing to raising it on behalf of guide Dogs. This meant that the series involved my spending lots of time with puppies in training with Guide Dogs Australia, understanding what it takes to be a Guide Dog and the impact that having a dog has on the life of a client. This added depth and meaning to writing the stories.

Continue reading Doodles and Drafts – Jess Black Paws for Thought

Fantasy and Adventure – Novel Escapes

 

The golden age of reading begins when youngsters develop their reading confidence around the age of seven or so, and extends into their early teens where suspension of belief is still strong and stories featuring fantasy and adventure rate robustly on the their reading radars.

It is no wonder then that junior and middle grade novels are in such high demand. These three are definitely worth adding to your list.

Trouble and the New Kid by Cate Whittle and Stephen Michael King

Trouble first flew into Georgia’s life early last year. He stole their home inadvertently absconding with her baby brother, Godfrey. Since then, he’s barely been able to stay on the good side of the behaviour books, after run-ins with Mrs Jones and her cat, Tibbles in The Missing Cat. Now, Trouble is back in all his glorious dragon-green unruliness in, Trouble and the New Kid.

Continue reading Fantasy and Adventure – Novel Escapes

Interview – Bookish Adventures with Alice-Miranda

Welcome Alice-Miranda, it’s so lovely to e-meet you!

I hear you are just seven and one-quarter years old yet you get up to some mighty adventures. Would you call yourself a brave kid?

Good morning Tania, it’s lovely to e-meet you too.  I’m very excited because I’m almost eight now – this year has just flown by.  No I don’t think I’m especially brave but I do love adventures.

What’s life like at Winchesterfield-Downsfordvale Academy for Proper Young Ladies?

School is always very busy and I absolutely adore it.  My favourite class is definitely English with Miss Reedy – she’s as mad about books and reading as I am.

Our cook Mrs Smith makes the most delicious food – my favourite dinner is rack of lamb with mashed potatoes, carrots, zucchini and lashings of thick gravy and her chocolate brownies are scrumptious. I like them for afternoon tea with a lovely glass of ice cold milk.

I think we’re especially fortunate to have so many great teachers and people who work at the school.  Mr Charles has a wonderful garden and Mrs Howard is the sweetest housemistress and of course Miss Grimm and Mr Grump make it feel like one big family.

What was it like to have a book series written about you?

It’s a bit strange really but lots of fun.  My best grown up friend Jacqueline Harvey writes them.

You’ve already had some awesome adventures through four spectacular books. Which adventure has been your very favourite and why?

Mmm, that’s a very difficult question because every one of my adventures has been special.

You know that when I first came to school Miss Grimm hadn’t been out of her study for rather a long time and so it was lovely that we became such good friends in the end. On holidays we had so many mysteries to solve and I was very glad that Aunty Gee wasn’t hurt by those terrible kidnappers, who were actually after Mrs Oliver (but the two ladies look so alike that they took the wrong person).

It was wonderful to meet Lucas and so exciting that Aunt Charlotte and Mr Ridley became engaged. I had a lot of fun back at school when we did the play with Fayle School for Boys and I met Miss Hephzibah who I simply adore and then when we went to sea for Aunt Charlotte and Uncle Lawrence’s wedding it was fantastic to meet Neville and be able to help him on his very special mission.  I really don’t think I couldn’t choose

Can you give us the dirt on WDAPYL Headmistress, Miss Grimm?

Miss Grimm is one of the most wonderful people I know. When I first met her she was rather cross and seemed quite upset, but I discovered that she had a badly broken heart, and when I met Mr Grump on my wilderness walk and convinced him he should come back to school and see her it was wonderful – and then they got married and Miss Grimm hasn’t stopped smiling since.

She’s very elegant and she always looks beautiful and she’s just made a decision (which I can’t tell you about just yet) which has made the girls and staff happier than they have ever been.

Ooh – how exciting. Can’t wait to hear more. I’ve been wondering . . . did you get seasick during Alice-Miranda at Sea?

No, I seem to have good sea legs.  I hadn’t been on The Octavia before but I have been on some other large boats.  My Mummy’s poor cousin Lady Sarah got very sick and so did her two daughters, Poppy and Annie.

You’ve certainly overcome some challenges. How important is it for kids to remain positive and determined?

I think being positive is one of the most important things of all.  No matter what happens, if you can try to find something good in every situation, then life just seems so much better.

It’s the same with people. Nobody’s perfect but everyone has strengths and I like to believe that people have good hearts. Sometimes they might not behave quite as well as you’d hope but there’s usually a reason behind it. Rather than looking for a person’s bad points it’s much better all-around if you can focus on the positive.

Determination will help you get through all sorts of situations. I think my friend Jacinta is one of the most determined people I know. She trains so hard and wants to get to the Olympics for gymnastics. I’m sure that she’ll get there and I can’t wait to go and see her.

Would you say that Jacinta Headlington-Bear is your very best friend?

My two best friends at school are Millicent Jane McLoughlin-McTavish-McNoughton-McGill, but she prefers to be called Millie, and Jacinta Headlington-Bear.

Millie is lots of fun and she’s quite straight to the point. Jacinta is too actually, and can be a little blunter than Millie. Jacinta has a hard time with her mother and father because they’re not around for her very often. But it was lovely when her mother came to Aunt Charlotte’s wedding and I really think there was a great change for the better between the two of them.

What’s author Jacquie Harvey really like?

Jacqueline Harvey is very busy. I don’t have nearly as much time with her as I would like. She’s been teaching me a few writing tricks of my own though (I love writing too and I’m planning to write some books with her help – stay tuned for more exciting news about this soon).

Were you named after anyone in particular?

Mummy always liked the name Miranda and Daddy liked Alice so they tried them out together, Alice-Miranda.  They said that it just worked.

What your favourite ice cream flavour and why?

My favourite ice cream is vanilla bean with chocolate topping. It’s scrumptious!

Describe yourself in five words.

Talkative, happy, positive, determined and friendly.

Can you give a sneak peek at your next adventure? I have a feeling it might be somewhere very special indeed!

I’ve just had the most wonderful time in New York City. I went to school there too for a month at Mrs Kimmel’s School for Girls on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. I made some good friends, Lucinda, Ava and Quincy and would you believe I ran into an old friend from Winchesterfield-Downsfordvale (but you’ll have to wait and see who that was).

Mummy and Daddy were in New York to oversee the grand re-opening of Highton’s on Fifth which is a beautiful department store. We stayed in our apartment at the very top of the building overlooking Central Park. Daddy and I did lots of exploring in the city – poor Mummy had a few problems at the store so she wasn’t able to come out as often as she would have liked.

One of my favourite places was The Metropolitan Museum of Art – the locals call it The Met and we had our art lessons there. It was also where I met someone very special – but I’m not telling who that was either. You’ll have to wait and read all about it in February next year.

I can’t wait! Your wonderful escapades have recently been published in the USA and also in Indonesia – congratulations! Will you head over on holiday to visit everyone and celebrate?

Next year I am hoping to do lots of travelling to meet my friends all over the place. I think we’ll start in Australia and then head to the United States and also to England where my first adventure will be published in March. I might try to skip over to Turkey where the first book is due out before the end of this year and who knows, perhaps Indonesia on the way home. Jacqueline Harvey is also very keen to take me on a trip to New Zealand too.

Happy travels, Alice-Miranda, and do come visit us again soon!

Learn more about the lovely Alice-Miranda at her very own blog, and don’t forget to check out what author Jaqueline Harvey has been up to, at her website.

 

Interview – Josh and Phil of The Undys series

Kids’ Book Capers is thrilled to welcome two very special guests – Phil and Josh Undy, superstar lead players from Michael Wagner’s junior fiction series The Undys.

Welcome Phil and Josh, it’s so lovely to e-meet you!

Josh: Thanks, it’s nice to e-meet you too, Tania. Isn’t it Dad? Dad? DAD!?
Phil: Oh, sorry, Joshy-boy, I got distracted. There’s a dead fly on the window sill. It’s upside down. And still buzzing a bit. What was the question?
Josh: It’s nice to e-meet us, isn’t it?
Phil: Yes, it e-is. It’s great to e-meet e-us.
Josh: Butthead.

It’s been said that you are a pair of true pranksters and game-players. Tell us about your antics and which ones you love best.

Josh: Well, we just play games whenever we’re bored. And it doesn’t really matter where we are – we’re pretty good at making up a game on the spot. We play Gut Barging and Toe-Wrestling and Run ‘Til You Stop and all sorts of other made-up games.
Phil: Yeah … I agree with what Josh said. Well said, Joshy-boy.
Josh: Thanks, Pops.

You are also highly competitive. Who tends to ‘win’ between the two of you?

Josh: Me
Phil: Me
Josh: Yeah, right.
Phil: As if.
Josh: Want to thumb-wrestle right now?
Phil: Better not, I think Tania’s got another e-question for us.
Josh: Okay then.

I do have another question. Who would you say is the smartest?

Josh: Me
Phil: Me
Josh: Yeah, right.
Phil: As if.
Josh: Want to thumb-wrestle right now?
Phil: Better not, I think Tania’s got another e-question for us.
Josh: Okay then.

[Stares speechlessly for a moment.] Ummm … what about the best looking?

Josh: Me
Phil: Him
Josh: Yeah, right.
Phil: Tricked you!
Josh: Butthead!

[More staring.] Err … the funniest?

Josh: We’re not actually funny.
Phil: No, we’re more just stupid.
Josh: There’s a slight difference.

[Smiles awkwardly.] What sums up your father/son relationship?

Josh: One second. Hey, Dad, look! That’s fly’s buzzing again.
Phil: Really? Oh, so it is! Wow … it’s so weird-looking…
Josh: While Dad’s distracted I’ll secretly tell you that he’s the best dad in the world. By a million miles.
Phil: … wow it must be getting close to its last buzz by now.
Josh: Next question?

[Smiling warmly.] Can you tell us more about Mum?

Josh: Um, that’s a bit of a sad thing to talk about.
Phil: It’s okay, we can just say it quickly and then keep going. Tania, Josh’s mum, died from cancer when he was four. She was the most beautiful and kind person in the world. And I promised her that when she was gone I would be the best mum a dad can be. And I’ve tried to live up to that promise, every day. Because she really deserves that.
Josh: And now we have Amy.
Phil: That’s right. We’re very lucky.
Josh: The luckiest!

I was so sorry to hear about Mum. I know you will always hold her close to your hearts [pause for some hugging]. Phil – how do you feel about Josh calling you Butthead?

Phil: I don’t really mind – even though I know I should. I think he only does it because we’re friends as well as father and son. It’s like we’re mates, really, isn’t it Joshy-boy?
Josh: Sure is, noodle-nut.

Your game rule is this – “whatever happens, happens”. What does that mean exactly?

Josh: That just means that you never stop the game to complain or whinge or carry on like a pork chop. You just keep playing no matter what happens. It sounds like an easy rule, but it’s not. It’s really hard.
Phil: It sure is. Sometimes I really want to stop and mope, but that rule says I can’t. It’s tough.

You’ve already starred in six rollicking Undys adventures – which has been your favourite and why?

Josh: I think my favourite game is in the green book, Itching for Action, where we play Total Embarrassment with Aunty Faber. But I love all the books just the same.
Phil: Total Embarrassment still gives me nightmares. Eeek.

What was it like to have a book series written about you?

Josh: It was great, but I did actually write it myself. Michael Wagner says he wrote most of it, but it was really me. He’s just competitive about who wrote the most. Some people are weird like that.
Phil: Yeah, he’s very competitive. Strange.

Okay then … so, what’s Michael Wagner really like?

Josh: Competitive.
Phil: Yeah, competitive.

What about illustrator Gus Gordon?

Josh: Nice.
Phil: Yeah, nice.

Describe yourselves in five words.

Josh: Strong
Phil: Silly
Josh: Amazing
Phil: Stupid
Josh: Cool … really nice … the best!
Phil: I think we went over five words.
Josh: Woops. One last one – power-packed!

Can you give a sneak peek at your next adventure?

Josh: Michael Wagner says he’s writing about some action-packed teddy bear at the moment. So he’s not able to help me write more stories. As if a teddy could be as good as us!?

What a shame! I hope we can read more of your adventures soon. Where can people follow you online?

Josh: Just go to Michael Wagner’s website and blog. Where are they again, Dad?
Phil: On the Internet, I think.
Josh: Dad! What are the URL’s?
Phil: The what-r-whats?
Josh: Noodle-nut! I’ll look on the laptop that’s right next to the no-longer-buzzing fly.  Okay, here are Michael’s website and blog: www.michaelwagner.com.au and  wagstheauthor.blogspot.com
Phil: Thanks Tania. It was e-lovely to e-meet you.
Josh: Thanks Tansie. :^)

Tania: *blush*

The Undys Series is published by Puffin and is ideal for kids aged between 7 and 12.