Book Review: Kicking Goals with Goodesy and Magic

Teaching in a boys school, I am always on the lookout for books that will appeal to my students. Kicking Goals is one that meets many of the requirements I have to make me recommend a book to my students as a “should read”.

It is an entertaining and inspiring book. What is there not to love about it? Kicking Goals is about two well-known sportsmen who have set high standards, not only concerning their sport but also about how they live their lives. The author, Anita Heiss has the ability to write books with insight and humour that young readers enjoy and can relate to.  The fact that they are all indigenious and one dollar of every purchase of this book goes to the GO Foundation, which provides educational scholarships to indigenous children, adds to the worth of the book.

There are also Teaching Notes to accompany the book for teachers who may be interested in the book as a class novel. The story would best suit readers in upper primary or lower secondary schools.

Kicking Goals with Goodesy and MagicKicking Goals with Goodesy and Magic by Anita Heiss  My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is aimed at younger readers, and I think that the boys I know would particularly like it. The book is about Adam Goodes and Micheal O’ Loughlin, who were amongst the best footballers to ever play for the Sydney Swans AFL club. Anita Heiss interviewed both men separately and their responses to her questions are written alternatively on the pages of this short book. The character of the men comes though their responses as they voice their ideas about growing up, the importance of friendship, goal setting, sport, family, etc. This is a book that many young boys, and especially many young Indigenious readers,  boys or girls, would respond to as they set their own goals.

Although as an adult I notice and acknowledge many of the former issues, younger readers should simply find it fun to read as well as giving them an insight into the lives of some well-known sportsmen. It is fun to read with a lot of banter and humour as well as the more serious stuff.

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Shaun Tan’s new book The Singing Bones.

I have only just bought a copy of Shaun Tan’s new book, The Singing Bones. It is a change in style from the previous publications he has been involved in. The style of the illustrations are very Tan but the medium in which they were created is new. They are quite amazing but I will need to have more time to fully grasp what he has created as he tried to encapsulate the gist of each fairytale. As always the detail and power of his deceptively simple images is amazing. As I looked at them some seem familiar, appearing to be inspired by character drawings in his earlier publications, and others completely new and powerful in their strangeness. I am never disappointed with Shaun Tan’s works, he never ceases to inspire and challenge me as a reader.

The singing bones - Shaun Tan

Shaun Tan was approached to illustrate the German edition of a new Philip Pullman book. On his website Shaun explains how he became involved in the publication. It is interesting to read about how he came to the decision to create the illustrations for the book. It is a collection of many classic fairy tales re-told/envisioned by Philip Pullman with the title Grimms Märchen.

In the end there were more illustrations than were needed and so these were used to illustrate The Singing Bones.  Jack Zipes has written some short but potent interpretations of the fairytales to accompany the images.

There are other versions of this collection of classic fairytales re-told/envisioned by Philip Pullman under the title  Grimm Tales: For Young and Old but these are not illustrated with Shaun Tan’s wonderful figures. 

Review: Ranger’s Apprentice prequel. The Tournament at Gorlan

I have enjoyed John Flanagan’s Ranger’s Apprentice books from the start. It is a great series that the boys at my school really enjoy. I was very pleased to see that he has revisited this realm and to read more about the early days of some old friends.

An interview with John Flanagan is below and he talks about more ideas for novels.


Ranger’s Apprentice The Early Years 1: The Tournament at GorlanRanger’s Apprentice The Early Years 1: The Tournament at Gorlan by John Flanagan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is a prequel to Ranger’s Apprentice series. It introduces young Rangers Halt and Crowley as they are wandering through the country after being dismissed from their jobs. They begin to develop a plan to thwart the contrivances of the sinister Baron Morgarath, who is disbanding the Rangers as part of a plan to take the throne. Baron Morgarath is a powerful and popular nobleman in Araluen and a formidable warrior. He is also a treacherous and ambitious tyrant, who will stop at nothing to get what he wants. The realm is in trouble.
Using subterfuge, Morgarath has King Oswald held as a prisoner in his castle and the rightful heir, Prince Duncan, is becoming more and more discredited as he seems to be engaged in criminal and thuggish behaviour in the North. This is not the Prince that Cowley knows and respects. Halt and Crowley decide seek out other former Rangers and hatch a plan to get to the bottom of the rumours about Prince Duncan, expose the nefarious dealings that Morgarath has been involved in and restore the true Rangers to their rightful places.
This book re-captured the spirit of the original Ranger’s Apprentice series and also filled in a lot of back-story about Halt, Cowley and Duncan as well as a young Baron Arald.
There was humour, especially in the witty banter between Halt and Crowley, and the action at the tournament towards the end of book was exciting enough for any adventure lover.
Another great addition to our library and it has already been borrowed and read by quite a few students, both younger and older ones.
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Ranger’s Apprentice The Early Years. Book 1 The Tournament at Gorlan

The Ranger’s Apprentce series has been a big hit at our school. many boys can’t wait to get their hands on the latest edition so I am looking forwarc to going home and reading my new title on my kindle.

The book trailer link was sent to me today that serves to pique my interest.

We have heard about how popular John Flanagan’s series is oerseas so I found this video interesting as well. This was published on YouTube on 13 Sep 2015. John Flanagan’s editor and publisher, Zoe, kept a video diary of her trip to the Netherlands with John to be guests of honour at Ranger’s Apprentice Day. WARNING: video contains juicy information that fans will love.

YA book review. Head of the River by Pip Harry

Head of the River

Head of the River by Pip Harry

Head of the River is not simply a novel about sport. It is about so much more. It is ultimately about friendship, growing up, relationships, identity, insecurities and anxieties when you are becoming an adult and family bonds. Sport is the mechanism but it is not an “issues” book.

It is an interesting read, looking at the pressures placed on young people the world of elite school sport. Money and prestige play a big part in this rather insular world where winning seems all-consuming.

This novel tells the story of Cristian and Leni Posescu who are twins on rowing scholarships. There are high expectations that they will perform well, partly because their parents are both medal winning Olympians and partly because they must maintain high performances to stay at the school. The pressure to do well and win the Head of the River eights, in both boys and girls sections, place almost unbearable pressures on both them and others in their circle.

The narrative unfolds with the voices of Cristian and Leni in alternating chapters as they explain their struggles. Each is trying create a balance in their lives whilst finding a place for study, working out their relationships as well as keeping up with the rigorous training regime in preparation for the final race.  Each finds out that not everything can be achieved the way they want it to.

At the end of the novel, the love they have within their family, and the support they give to each other, leaves the reader with a positive impression of life beyond school.

An interview with the author about this books can be found at http://www.kids-bookreview.com/2014/1…

There is a review here and here.

Teachers notes can be found here for encouraging further discussion.

This book raises some real-world issues that younger athletes may experience when they seek to excel in a sport. The boys are exposed to the use of anabolic steroids and performance enhancing drugs. The consequences of this use comes to light in a way that introduces some topical questions about sporting culture and the detection of drug cheats as well as the pressure placed on young athletes to perform at elite levels

Book trailer for the novel below.