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Dynamic Duo

Little Stars (A Hetty Feather Adventure)
by Jacqueline Wilson; illustrated by Nick Sharratt (Random House, $35)
Reviewed by Sophie Robinson

little_stars_cover_web‘I woke with a start, my head hurting, aching all over… I didn’t even know who I was. Hetty Feather, Sapphire Battersea, Emerald Star?…’

This is how Hetty Feather, the main character in this 5th book of the Hetty Feather series, feels the morning after running away from Tanglefield’s Travelling Circus. In the 4th book (‘Diamond’), Hetty had met a young girl called Diamond. And it is in this sequel, ‘Little Stars’, that Hetty and Diamond continue their journey together.

Hetty and Diamond’s resourcefulness means that the pair find lodgings with a seamstress, in exchange for work. They also create a duo act, and are employed by Miss Ruby at the nearby Music Hall. Life settles into a routine, however when Marina Royale and her troupe of touring actors come to town, Hetty and Diamond have the chance to turn their hand to acting. Read more »

Hard Candy

Opal Plumstead
by Jacqueline Wilson (Random House, $34.99)
Reviewed by Sophie Robinson

9780857531100-1-edition.default.original-1Do you like lollies? Opal Plumstead certainly did… until she was forced to work in a lolly factory. You see, Opal’s father wants to be an author. He writes a manuscript and sends it off to the publishers, who say they are interested in perhaps accepting his book. He thinks the publishers will say yes, and pay him lots of money, so he takes the family out to celebrate. They spend a lot of money celebrating … so when the publisher says ‘no’ to the manuscript, Opal’s father has a big pile of bills to somehow pay back. In desperation he steals from his employer to pay the outstanding bills, but gets caught out.

Opal then has to leave her posh school, and her scholarship, to work in the Fairy Glenn Sweet Factory, making fondant moulds. Opal’s older sister has an apprenticeship at a hat shop, and offers to leave to find a higher-paying job to support the family, but her mother won’t let her. So it’s all up to Opal. The story follows Opal as she grows into a young woman starting out in the world.

Read more »

Road Trip (With Kids)

Diary of a Wimpy Kid – The Long Haul
by Jeff Kinney (Puffin Books, $17.99)
Reviewed by Ruth Brassington

Wimpy_kidI reviewed last year’s Wimpy Kid issue, Hard Luck, when someone gave it to me for my birthday. I waited this year, but it was my hard luck that I didn’t get this new one as a present. In The Long Haul young Greg Hefley is at it again – telling us about his life in ways that surprise, amuse and sometimes appal. This time the theme is a long haul family road trip, with an extra character or two on board and a range of car games to help the distances fly and the family dynamic run smoothly. Of course this was never going to happen. Those who’ve ever been on long haul journeys with children will understand that, and with the Hefley family ANYTHING can happen. And so it does – sugar wafers and breath mints for holiday dinner treats dinner anyone? Or shall we visit a pet cemetery?

Reminiscences from past dramas in Greg’s life are delivered by way of entertainment and I, as a parent and grandparent, was reassured about the “normalities” of family life. Although, as Greg says about himself, “Whenever I have a difficult choice to make, I always seem to pick the wrong one.” And there’s a self-send-up by the author, whose character comments that teachers and parents don’t always like their children being keen on a certain series of books.

Eight-year-old Henry liked Jeff Kinney’s latest offering, the ninth in his Wimpy Kid graphic series: “It’s a good book. I’ve read all of them now. I hope he gets an idea for another one next year!” As for me, well, I might be just a bit jaded by these Wimpy Kids, and I don’t think I’ll review any more of the series. But then I’m not a kid.

Catching Tinselitis

The Jacqueline Wilson Christmas Cracker
by Jacqueline Wilson (Random House, $19.99)
Reviewed by Sophie Robinson, age 12

9780440870784-1-edition.default.original-1On the first page of Jacqueline Wilson’s new book The Jacqueline Wilson Christmas Cracker, the well-known and loved character Tracy Beaker is jealous because her arch-rival Justine has a present from her Dad. The present carries a label saying ‘Do not open till 25th December!’ You will have to work hard to obey that instruction, too, if you are a fan of Jacqueline Wilson. The book has excerpts featuring many of her best characters are packed into over 300 pages of hilarious holiday reading. There’s Hetty Feather, twins Garnet and Ruby, and of course Tracy Beaker, ‘You’re Tracy Beaker, so you get to be big bossy knickers, right?’

Whenever I find a new Jacqueline Wilson book, I just have to sit down and read it straight away. And that is just what I had to do with this book too. Jacqueline Wilson has a way of making the characters come to life, and it feels as though you are really there beside them in the story.

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Digital Kids

Raising Children in a Digital Age
by Bex Lewis (Lion Husdon)
Reviewed by Nikki Slade Robinson

Digital_Age_CoverGrooming, identity theft, security settings, inappropriate content, viruses … and your children. The ‘Digital Age’ is yet another area that parents have to get their heads around managing. Another lot of negotiating, researching, talking to other parents.  Making sure your children brush their teeth, eat their veges and learn how to cross the road safely all seem quite straightforward when compared with tackling the ever-changing world of digital access using all manner of digital devices that are now available. How do you give your children the skills they need to use this resource sensibly and safely? How do you keep up with the changes? Wouldn’t it be great if somebody could bundle up all the information a parent needs, into one nice, non-technological device called a book?

Bex Lewis, an expert in social media and digital innovation, has done just that. She starts by discussing the pros and cons of digital technology, putting the issues in perspective. She explains how media reporting often focuses on a minority of users and incidents, portraying digital issues in an inaccurate way, ‘fear sells. … The press has a habit of scaremongering parents and hyping the online risks’, and she then discusses the benefits to be had from digital technology.

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