Blue the Builder’s Dog

Blue the Builder's Dog

Blue the Builder’s Dog

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blue the Builder’s Dog

Jen Storer

Andrew Joyner

Penguin, 2016

32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9780670077809

 

Blue is a builder’s dog – an ordinary builder’s dog that can be found on almost any building site in this country.  He rides in the ute to work, guards the tools, greets the subbies and signs the concrete slabs.  (Oops!)  He samples sausage rolls at smoko, cleans up the lunchtime pies and pasties and does all the things a builder’s dog is supposed to do.  He is mates with the whole team.  

But Blue does not have a hard hat, he is not allowed up high (even though he liked to go there) and the Big Boss does not take his advice.

He is also not allowed to sleep in the house with the builder.  He is consigned to the shed – which is NO place for a Working Dog of his stature and importance-and this makes him cranky.  All he wants was his own kennel – not even a flash one, just one with a hidey-hole for old bones, a swinging door with his name and maybe a periscope. So he decides to build his own and quits the building team. Instead of going to work, he stays home to build his own kennel. The result is not quite like the plan he had in his head and probably wouldn’t meet the Big Boss’s standards, but nevertheless it is a grand home worthy of a Working Dog.  That night he snuggles in happily content and unconcerned that the builder has gone out.  Until a huge storm comes…

Jen Storer and Andrew Joyner have created a funny but touching story that will appeal to readers of all ages.  Everyone will recognise Blue (some may even know him) and empathise with his need to have a place of his own.  They will laugh at his building skills but be sad as he huddles on the doormat in the rain waiting for the builder to come home.  And they will delight in the ending which so clearly demonstrates how important it is to be part of a team.  They might even like to try their hand at designing the perfect kennel for Blue and maybe even build it if you have a makerspace.

It is an uplifting story that needs to be read just for the fun of it with the perfect pictures emphasising the quality of the text.  Andrew Joyner has drawn the iconic Blue and captured the personalities and conditions on the building site with great detail and humour so well while Jen Storer has taken a situation  that is played out across Australia everywhere every day and turned it into an engaging tale that is just delightful.  One of those true picture books where the marriage between text and illustration is so synergistic that it touches something within and becomes a read-it-again-and-again favourite.

My Encyclopedia of Very Important Things

My Encyclopedia of Very Important Things

My Encyclopedia of Very Important Things

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Encyclopedia of Very Important Things

Dorling Kindersley, 2016

224pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9780241224939

The sub-title for this new publication from Dorling Kindersley is “for little learners who want to know everything” and that is very apt.  This is the perfect introduction to non fiction and the purpose of encyclopedias for our youngest readers.

There are sections devoted to the planet, places, animals, people, themselves and “other very important things”.  Each topic within each section has a double page spread that is a mix of clear, colourful pictures, text and “white space” that presents the basic information in a way that speaks directly to the child and in language that they can understand.  For example, they can learn that if they were to drive a car straight up it would only take about an hour to reach space and on the way they would pass through five layers of air called the atmosphere.  Accompanying the car is a kid-friendly diagram that shows the different layers with a sentence about each and pictures of the things that ascend to each layer.  

There is such a body of research now that clearly shows the importance of print in the development of research skills and those who have a solid foundation of skills in that medium are better able to use online sources much more effectively and efficiently later so it is no surprise that I am a fan of this book.  When Miss 4 asks, “Where does the sun go at night?” it’s so easy to say, “Let’s have a look in our book to see if we can find out.”  It reinforces the ideas that we can get information from books and with the index at the back, it is a quick and easy exercise.  The structure mimics that of encyclopedia for older readers (although it is not in alphabetical order) so right from get-go they are learning to locate information using contents, an index, page numbers, headings and captions.

It is also perfect for those who prefer non fiction – and in this one the text is accessible so they can do more than just look at the pictures – and even suits those who like to be seen with the heaviest, thickest books (although its size is just fine for Miss 5 to manage independently).  

For a few years, voluminous encyclopedias went out of fashion – and often out of home and school libraries because of the wonder and speed of the Internet.  But thankfully, print versions are making a comeback as we now understand that technology does not provide all the answers; that connectivity and accessibility can be an issue; that what is available is not necessarily at the child’s level of understanding; and that print comes free of advertisements and other distractions.  And a one-off cost can be cheaper than an annual subscription, particularly for basic information that doesn’t change.  

In 2015 I gave a presentation at SLANZA in Christchurch called Information Literacy for Littlies (building on the theme of “From the ground up”) .  Many were surprised that we can help very young children begin to develop their information literacy skills from preschool. My Encyclopedia of Very Important Things is a perfect resource to support this.

Parents and grandparents will love to pop this into the Christmas stocking.

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

Ten Little Owls

Ten Little Owls

Ten Little Owls

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ten Little Owls

Renée Treml

Random House, 2016

32pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

9780143782537

 

The little wombat from One Very Tired Wombat is back in a new counting book adventure!  But this time, instead of being kept awake by all the daytime creatures, it is his nighttime friends who are coming out to play.  Hopping mice, quolls, Tasmanian devils, sugar gliders and fruit bats are all there in their nocturnal romp from dusk till dawn until the ten little owls hoot a goodnight tune and signal that the sun is rising and it’s bedtime.

So many baby animals exploring their nighttime surrounds under the cover and care of darkness show the very young reader that this is not a time of rest for everyone and that for many creatures once the sun goes down is a time of safety and security.  They can speculate about why some animals feel safer at night and learn new words like ‘nocturnal’ and ‘diurnal’, perhaps even seeking to find out more about the creature that most appeals to them.  Anticipating how many creatures might feature on the next page is always fun as counting skills are consolidated and confirmed is a bonus.

Slightly older children might even do a compare and contrast with One Very Tired Wombat or use this as a model for a class book as they explore what other creatures prefer night to day, where they live and what they find on their nocturnal wanderings.

Renée’s exquisite scratchboard illustrations bring each creature to life in great detail and the rhyming texts provides a rhythm that’s going to ensure the little listener will be joining in enthusiastically.

For those of you in Melbourne, the book will be launched at The Little Bookroom at 759 Nicholson Street at 3.00pm, this Saturday August 27.  More details here

Wild Pa

Wild Pa

Wild Pa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wild Pa

Claire Saxby

Connah Brecon

Random House Australia, 2016

32pp. hbk., RRP $A24.99

9780857988003

 

My Pa is not a quiet Pa,
a sit-and-read-the-news Pa.
My Pa is a Wild Pa –
and Wild Pas are lots of fun.

Indeed they are as they chase their grandsons through the dunes in full pirate garb; grow peas in crazy shapes; cook up spectacular meals; and even indulge in a full-on food fight.  Not for this grandfather the conventional “comb-his-three-long-strands” pa; the “trim-and-tidy-roses” pa; or even the traditional baked beans or sausages,  But for all his fun and games, this pa is nevertheless responsible and knows “when enough is quite enough”.

This is an hilarious romp written in rhyme that leaps off the pages with its actions and colourful illustrations. Right from the front cover which depicts Pa and grandson swinging Tarzan-like across the crocodile-infested pond you know this will be a story of fun and frolics that will engage young readers from the get-go.  Pa is cleverly depicted as just an adult version of his younger relative, distinguished only by a somewhat dodgy moustache and beard, emphasising the role model he is offering not only as a grandfather but also a caring family member. The endpapers are delightful – from swinging on a somewhat worse-for-wear clothesline to the suggestion that perhaps they are now in the doghouse!!  

Many schools now celebrate Grandparents Day and this and titles like Miss Mae’s Saturday would be perfect as part of a display about grandparents that could be shared on this day – or as part of a special selection in a Book Fair. Young children will delight in telling their own stories about their own grandfathers (who are no more the stereotypical white-haired chap in a cardigan and slippers than the grey-haired, bun wearing grandmother sitting in her chair knitting) and will begin to understand the family structure as they do.  Sometimes they are a whole lot of fun with a lot of wild ideas!!!

wild_pa2 wild_pa3

 

One Photo

One Photo

One Photo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One Photo

Ross Watkins

Liz Anelli

Penguin, 2016

32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9780670077977

One day dad came home with an old camera – the type that used film and you took it to get developed and you had real photos in your hand to keep.  Then he spends his time taking photos of things around the house.  Not the usual things that people photograph but odd everyday things like his cereal bowl and coffee cup.  Things that he didn’t want to forget as though he thought he was in danger that he would.

He got the photos developed and stuck them on the window in his study.  He used more and more rolls and took more and more photos, but he didn’t seem to want to take any of his family.  This upset them terribly.  “Aren’t we worth remembering?” they asked.

And then the camera was gone.  And so was Dad. For ever.  But one day the camera turns up in the post.  There is still a film in it and when they get it developed, there is just one photo. And finally his family understands the purpose and significance of all those other photos.

This is a most poignant story, one of the most unusual I’ve read in a long time.  And yet it is a story of many of our students, one that may be hard for them to articulate.  In the gentle drawings and soft palette it traces a father’s way of dealing with a terminal illness, one which affects his mind and memory but in a way that is filled with love and tenderness.  The endpapers are intriguing as they juxtapose two different types of photos – one set full of people shots, the other not.  Those of us old enough to remember “real” photos will be taken back to the days of  photo albums and the pleasure they give as they are dragged out so memories can be revisited and recalled, where only one or two photos were taken for posterity rather than the plethora taken today as though we live through the photo rather than the event, even though we might not look at the photo again. Photos were private memories not public trophies  And we will understand what Dad was trying to do and why the old-fashioned camera was so important.  It could open up a whole new world for students who may be scrambling to find such memories in a few years as technology moves inexorably onwards.

One Photo is different.  It’s sad and moving and yet offers hope for those who might be left behind – memories don’t have to fade.

 

Friday Barnes: The Plot Thickens

Friday Barnes: The Plot Thickens

Friday Barnes: The Plot Thickens

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday Barnes: The Plot Thickens

R. A. Spratt

Random House, 2016

240pp., pbk., RRP $A15.99

9780857989932

Friday Barnes is the daughter of two highly-intelligent, eccentric physicists who are so disconnected from her upbringing that they called her Friday even though she was born on a Thursday.  She did have four siblings, all much older than her being born during the four-and-a-half years their mother had allocated for the task.  Friday was not scheduled and her birth was fitted in around a lecture her mother had to give in Switzerland.  Eleven years later, Friday had largely raised herself and she was happy with that.  Her greatest wish was to be unnoticed because you could do so much more that way like eating a whole block of chocolate at once without it being taken off you.    Unfortunately, it also means that you do not develop very good social skills particularly if you spend your time reading scientific tomes and educating yourself beyond the realms of anything a school could offer.

However, as well as the non-fiction her parents library consisted of, Friday had a penchant for detective novels because “being a detective allowed a person a licence to behave very eccentrically indeed” and she had honed her powers of observation and logical thought over the years.  But the time has now come for Friday to go to high school and given her parents haven’t even realised she is no longer in preschool, it was up to her to sort it.  She would have preferred not to go at all because she saw it as being all about “bullying, dodge ball and having to find a date for the prom” but the government was insistent that she do.  She tried to compromise by applying for university and passed the exam to study medicine but was knocked back on her age. 

So rejecting the idea of the Foreign Legion, the Peace Corps and being smuggled out of the country by people traffickers, after helping her ex-cop, private investigator Uncle Bernie solve a case she finds herself with the means to send herself to Highcrest Academy the best and most expensive boarding school in the whole country.  Her intention is to stay under the radar, do what she has to do and leave.  But things do not work out that way.  But right from the start, her nondescript self-imposed uniform of brown cardigans, grey t-shirts and blue jeans makes her stand out among the fashion parade that is the elite, wealthy students who also attend the school.

And so, in this the fifth episode in the series, Friday is well-known to all at the school , either having got them into trouble or out of it at some stage.  

Unfortunately, things do not start well for our heroine as she is immediately suspicious when the father of Ian Wainscott, best described as her frenemy arrives, declares he has been cleared of all charges and wants to whisk Ian off to the Cayman Islands.  Using her knowledge of remarkable things, Friday not only proves the papers he is waving are frauds but she works out why he wants Ian so desperately.  Thus Ian is not only once again reminded of his father’s lack of love for him but it’s done in front of his friends.  So he sets out to get revenge and Friday becomes the butt of numerous pranks that actually put her in danger.

Throw in a decidedly dodgy art teacher who has a huge tax debt and no income, someone mysteriously defacing the school’s artworks with graffiti, a new PE teacher who thinks he can break Friday’s will and the ever-present Melanie whose droll comments add so much humour to the situation and here is another great tale for those who are independent readers and who are looking for an out-of-the-ordinary heroine.  Throughout the story Friday finds herself embroiled in a number of incidents, all of which she solves with her incredible knowledge and logic, and all of which eventually contribute to the big picture in some way.

This is a series that is best read in sequence as one book leads to another and the last few pages of this one set the scene for Danger Ahead which will be released in January 2017. Independent readers from Yr 3+ will love it.

Snooze with Hairy Maclary

Snooze with Hairy Maclary

Snooze with Hairy Maclary

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Snooze with Hairy Maclary

Dame Lynley Dodd

Puffin. 2016

16pp., board book., RRP $A17.99

9780143507284

Everyone’s sleepy,
in need of a snooze.
What place do they go to?
Which spot do they choose?
After some frolicsome fun, Hairy and his gang are ready for a nap. But where will they choose to sleep? Horatio Morse, Barnaby Potts, Schnitzel von Krumm and all the rest of Hairy Maclary’s friends each have their favourite spot to sleep when it’s time for a nap.  And in this superb touch-and-feel book young readers will delight in exploring them.

When we were in New Zealand last year, my family decided they would go to Hobbiton but I chose to find the sculpture of Hairy Maclary and friends in Tauranga instead.  Despite the pouring rain, I was determined to pay my respects to this favourite creature of my childhood and I was not disappointed.  

No child should go through childhood without meeting this wonderful little dog and his mates.  They just bring such joy and this new tale is the perfect introduction. 

hairy_maclary_sculpture

 

My First Mr Men a b c

My First Mr Men a b c

My First Mr Men a b c

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My First Mr Men a b c 

Roger Hargreaves

Penguin, 2016

16pp., board book., RRP $A16.99

9781409389187

For 45 years Roger Hargreaves’s Mr Men characters have been delighting children in a series of books that are distinctive for their child-friendly size, white covers, and simple, colour-block illustrations.  Beginning with Mr Tickle, inspired by his son’s question about what does a tickle look like, Hargreaves added more than 40 other characters as well as another 42 Little Miss characters, each with a simple message and value.  It has been such an iconic series that to celebrate their 45th anniversary, the characters were redrawn and featured as part of the 2016 VIVID Festival in Sydney.

A series that has already lasted 445 years in print is likely to last another 45 at least, so this new alphabet book featuring the characters and very familiar objects drawn in the familiar Hargreaves style is the perfect way to introduce the very youngest readers to this literature institution.  The simple, bright solid-colour illustrations are just right for the very young and the board book format makes it sturdy for not-so-sophisticated hands.  

The Mr Men series is set to delight yet another generation.

Bizzy Bear Spooky House

Bizzy Bear Spooky House

Bizzy Bear Spooky House

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bizzy Bear Spooky House

Benji Davies

Nosy Crow, 2016

10pp., board book., RRP $A9.99

9780857636904

“The ever-intrepid Bizzy Bear has come for a visit to a super-spooky Halloween house. As he climbs the rickety stairs and walks the cobwebby corridors, all sorts of creepy characters appear from doors and hidey holes. Bizzy, naturally, remains undaunted – but where could he be going and what will he find there?”

This is a delightful board book perfect for the very young who will enjoy the rhyming text and the interactivity of the things to discover on the pages.  Discovering what’s hiding behind the chair, who’s behind the door and predicting why they are all getting together will delight them for ages.  Although there is little text, there is great detail in the colourful illustrations which will enrich and enhance the child’s vocabulary as they make their collection of spooky things.

I predict it will become a favourite as they will be able to tell themselves the story very easily. 

I was Only Nineteen

I Was Only Nineteen

I Was Only Nineteen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was Only Nineteen

John Schuman

Craig Smith

Allen & Unwin, 2014

hbk., 32pp., RRP &A24.99

9781743317235

The banner across the top of the cover of this book says, “The iconic song about the Vietnam War that helped change a nation” and indeed, anyone who has heard the original with the haunting voice of John Schuman as the lead singer of Redgum will find that echoing in their head as they “read” this picture book version of the song that brought the realities of the war to a generation. If you are unfamiliar with it, it’s available on You Tube

While, for the first time in history, war was brought into the family living room through the immediacy of television news programs, it was the personalising of what was happening through the lyrics of this song that not only provided a real insight but which has also endured.  In fact, along with the picture of the little girl running naked from her village after it had been destroyed with napalm bombs it would be one of the most-recalled memories of that time.  Its refrain and final line, “God help me, I was only nineteen” encapsulates it all. Both the words and the sensitive, evocative images of Craig Smith show that war is the antithesis of the great adventure that these soldiers’ ancestors thought that it would be as they hastened to answer the call of 1914 and which will be in our thoughts as we move towards the commemoration of ANZAC Day.

But this is much more than another picture book about Australia’s war effort to support the national history curriculum.

As one of those who was very much involved in the events of the time and worked towards the big-picture objectives of not only having Australia and New Zealand troops out of Vietnam because we were against the “all-the-way-with-LBJ” policies of the prevailing governments but also against sending young men to war who, in their own country could not vote or legally have a beer, we did not consider or understand the effects our actions would have on those young men when they eventually came home, mentally and physically wounded, and to have served in Vietnam was a secret and a shame.  There were no parades or celebrations – you might talk about it with your mates to keep you sane but that was all. There was no respect from the public and each soldier was somehow held personally responsible for the events which we saw each night.  (If you, as an adult, want a greater understanding, read Well Done, Those Men by Barry Heard and Smoky Joe’s Café by Bryce Courtenay.)

And so we have the situation today that many of our students have grandparents who are perhaps not as they should be and cannot explain why. They saw and did things that no 19-year-olds should ever have to and it is their experiences, their illnesses, their PTSD, their suicides that have changed the way we now view our serving forces and how they are treated and supported when they come home.  The picture books and television shows always stereotype Grandpa as being loving and jovial and every child deserves such a person – the production of this book might help them understand why theirs is not. It has an important role to play in helping our little ones understand.

If just the lyrics or the clip of the original “I was Only 19” were the only ones used in a study of the Vietnam War, the story would not be complete.  It is through Craig Smith’s final illustrations of the young soldier now a grandfather with his grandson ducking from a chopper, then sharing an ice cream and finally marching on ANZAC Day together that are critical because they show that while he is still troubled by his experiences, he has survived and 40 years on society has moved on to a new and different attitude.  For that we have to thank the continued and sustained efforts of all those Vietnam Vets who would not let us forget. We salute you now as we should have then.

For those who see this as a teaching opportunity, there are teachers’ notes are available.

 

Republished in honour of the 50th anniversary of The Battle of Long Tan.  August 18, 1966

long_tan