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.

Choosing books for young readers

A few weeks ago I wrote a post called Reading – Choosing what to read in the holidays? and included an infographic. In the first week of our school holidays I have spent my time looking after three primary school children. Two are just beginning to read on their own. The weather has been cold so although we have spent some time outside, we have also done a few indoor activities as well. Reading with the two boys was part of it. It was a great way to share my enjoyment of some of my favourite children’s books. The boys enjoyed snuggling up and being read to as well as having a go themselves. The Peter Rabbit stories are currently being televised as a cartoon and this was a great starting point.

I thought would share this infographic that seeks to give some advice about books for younger readers if  you are interested in some more  ideas about what might make good starting point. The following is another infographic, created by Personal Creations, that might be a useful starting point. They have analyzed over 50 popular children’s books, from the classic The Tale of Peter Rabbit to the more contemporary bestseller, Harry Potter and given some idea about how long it might take younger readers to finish the books.

They followed the fluency standards for elementary grades, based on academic fluency standards (US) and calculated how long it takes kids to read these books.

How Long It Takes Kids to Read Popular Books shows each book accompanied with the number of words, and the reading time – split into three grades: 2, 3, and 4.

Wondering where your child falls in this list? Follow the fluency standards for elementary grades 1 – 6 below and you can quickly calculate how long it’ll take your eager reader.

Grade 1: 50 words per minute (wpm)
Grade 2: 70 wpm
Grade 3: 100 wpm
Grade 4: 130 wpm
Grade 5: 140 wpm
Grade 6: 160 wpm

Reading comprehension is not built into calculations and it is important to talk about what the young reader has understood about the text and illustrations, but most of all the activity needs to be about encouraging an enjoyment of reading.

Please include attribution to PersonalCreations.com with this graphic.

How Long It Takes To Read Popular Kids Books by PersonalCreations.com

My Gallipoli: Ruth Starke adds another great book to the ANZAC stories

My Gallipoli

My Gallipoli by Ruth Starke, illustrator Robert Hannaford
This very poignant picture book is the second picture book centered around the Gallipoli story that Ruth Starke has  written. The first being An ANZAC Tale (2013) with Greg Holfeld as the illustrator. This book was a CBCA notable book for that year.

This book looks at the history of Gallipoli, from the months immediately before the landing at Anzac Cove in April 1915, through to the Allied retreat and the aftermath of the First World War, and beyond to the present day, where people make pilgrimages to this historic campaign site and take part in increasingly large commemoration ceremonies.

These are rich stories, of courage, valour, bravery, fatalism, despair and loss, told from many different perspectives. There are direct accounts from real participants such as the Australian war correspondent C.E.W. Bean, Turkish commander Mustafa Kemal (Ataturk), the weary Chaplain Bill McKenzie who is trying to give the dead a decent burial, Anzac war scout Harry Freame, sniper Billy Sing and Lieutenant Cyril Hughes, a Gallipoli veteran who was with the Graves Registration Unit, part of the Imperial War Graves Commission.
These stories are intermingled with factually based descriptions from other characters including the exhausted nurse treating wounded soldiers aboard HMS Gascon on the night of 25 April, a young indigenous soldier who was more equal in Gallipoli than at home, a mother seeing her wounded son disembark and realising the extent of his injuries for the first time, and an old Turkish man visiting his brother’s grave at Gallipoli 70 years after his death.
Alongside the Australian stories are stories from participants from the different nationalities who were also part of this campaign. There is the story from a young Turkish shepherd recruited to fight for his country, one from a British seaman who towed the first boats carrying soldiers onto the shores of Anzac Cove in the dawn of 25 April, and stories of the Ghurkas, Afghans and Sikhs who fought in the British Indian Army as well as stories from the New Zealand contingent, soldiers from the Auckland and the Wellington Battalions who took part in the battle of Chunuk Bair.
The final story is that of a young woman visiting the Lone Pine Cemetery, quietly contemplating the Gallipoli campaign and the loss of young lives. It is part of a war, now 100 years ago, that changed how our nation saw itself.
The illustrator, Robert Hannaford, captures the characters and the mood of each story as well as the surrounding landscape.
There is also short commentary about each of the stories in the notes section at the back of the book.

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The future is here, almost! Machine Wars by Michael Pryor

Stories about future societies, especially dystopian ones, are high on our “most popular books” lists. Most are about surviving in this new somewhat alien worlds, Hunger Games and Maze Runner, and many are read across most year levels. Other favourites include: Bzrk (#1 of series) by Michael Grant, 0.4 (#1 series) by Mike Lancaster, The Hunt (#1 of trilogy) by Andrew Fukuda and Skinned (#1 Cold Awakening trilogy) by Robin Wasserman. 

Michael Pryor‘s book is set at the beginning, when the hero might just have a chance to stop things before society is forced to change and is enjoyed mostly by our younger students, the 12-13 year olds. The setting is now, today and easily believable.

Machine Wars

14-year-old Bram comes home late and as he arrives at the gate senses something is wrong. It is part of the survival strategy that his parents have drilled into him all his life. Bram’s mother is a brilliant scientist who is a world leader in the artificial intelligence world. She has always been aware that things could go wrong in her field and has planned for it. Bram has an elaborately planned survival plan, called “Scatter and Hide”, that has been designed to give his mother time to find a solution to the disaster. She asks Bram to stay out of the clutches of Ahriman (as the AI calls himself) for 3 weeks. He must not be taken hostage if she is to figure out how to overcome the rogue AI. This turns out to be easier said than done. With the help of his friend Stella and Bob, another AI unit, built by his mother and put into his childhood toy duck, Bram works hard to stay free. It is not easy to stay out of the clutches of a being that controls the internet. In today’s world staying off-line and off the grid is difficult especially when so many everyday activities are dependent on technology without you being really being aware of it. Bram teaches Stella to use a slingshot against some of Ahriman’s creations and Bob has some very useful moves as they try to stay ahead of their pursuer.

Bram is intelligent and a bit of a loner due to moving around a lot due to his parents working arrangements. He has developed various coping mechanisms such as using different character voices to hide his feelings. Stella, his new friend, is independent, thinks for herself and belongs to no single group but is friendly with all. Together, along with Bob, they decide that it is sometimes better to attack than just hide. Their days are spent alternatively hiding and planning then carrying out ways to fight back.

There are some humorous moments such as the description of Bram trying to find a way of keeping up with the news without technology and Stella walking across to a newspaper seller to buy the “old-fashioned” option.

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From the authors site, a page that discusses the novel, the story behind, its writing and links to other information.

Teacher Notes from Random House here.