In a gentle, lullaby-like rhyme the little one is getting ready for bed and wishing everything a goodnight before sleep takes over. The polar regions, the Northern Lights, the oceans and seas , cars, boats, planes, birds, bees and fish – everything that he knows is included in this final farewell for the day.
Goodnight houses, nests and burrows.
Goodnight daylight, until tomorrow’s.
The text is captured in a soft palette of muted colours, softened even further by subtle tones and shadings and blurred lines and within each picture everything is settling down for the night, snuggled together and listening to a bedtime story. Even the tiniest insect is reading or listening as the flowers and grasses curl around them. In fact the whole theme is one of being curled up in the arms of something that loves and protects, and that night and darkness and sleep are a time of safety and security.
This would be the perfect inclusion as the final read for the bedtime reading routine, gently calming everyone and sending them off to dreamland comforted and comfortable, loving and loved.
Paxton C. Heymeyer seems to have forgotten his manners, so when he asks his babysitter for a cookie she asks him for the magic word. But instead of saying, “Can I have a cookie, please”, Paxton C. Heymeyer shouts “Can I have a cookie, alakazoomba?” Suddenly, in a puff of blue smoke he not only discovers a cookie in his hand but the power to summon up anything he wants with that one magic word. A walrus to chase the babysitter to the North Pole; a waterslide in the living room; a jungle bedroom; anything his imagination lets him dream. Even an elephant and a robot-servant!
But when Rosie comes to play he finds that things aren’t quite what he wishes for because elephants can’t play cards or any of the other things friends do together…
There would be few of our littlies who have not been asked for “the magic word” so they will relate well to this engaging story of being able to have whatever you want – it brings life to the saying “Be careful what you wish for.” Asking them what they would wish for or dream of having will elicit a lot of discussion and drawing, but there is also much to think about when Rosie refuses to play and goes home. Friendship and happiness are not all about material things and instant gratification, and this book may provide food for thought for those who want to have the latest thing NOW, and those who wish they could.
Triangle lives in a triangular house with a triangular door. One day he decides to visit his friend Square and play a sneaky trick on him. He walks past lots of triangles – small, medium and big – and past a lot of others that weren’t triangles any more until he got to a place where there were many squares. When he finally gets to Square’s house he plays his sneaky trick, hissing like a snake because he knows Square is afraid of snakes.
But he gives the game away when he is laughing so hard Square discovers him. After glaring at each other Square chases Triangle all the way home – back past the squares, the shapes with no names and the triangles – and has the last laugh. Or does he?
Often the simplest ideas and illustrations create the best stories and that is definitely the case with this, the first in a trilogy of stories about sneaky shapes. Mac Barnett has crafted a charming story that will intrigue and make young readers think, while Klassen’s iconic muted illustrations allow the storyline and the main characters to shine while still being a critical part of the tale. Being able to convey everything through just the shape and position of the eyeballs is proof of a master at work and will encourage the reader to look even more closely at the illustrations, building those critical concepts about print that are so vital for early readers.
Perfect as a standalone, readalong story that will become a favourite, it also offers lots of things to talk about such as shape recognition but could also extend the more curious with question like “Why aren’t they triangles any more? What might have happened?” or “What would you call the shapes without names?” And the question posed on the final page will elicit a vigorous discussion as well as predictions about what will happen next. There might also be a philosophical discussion about whether Triangle and Square are friends and whether this is what friends do to each other. Why did Triangle want to trick Square; how sometimes the prankster doesn’t realise the impact the prank is having and is it possible to still be friends if someone plays a prank on you?
Young children will delight in creating their own versions of Triangle and Square, perhaps as stick puppets, and making up their own adventures to tell.
The Blossburn family are engaged in their usual activities – parents engrossed in a television program while J.J. is playing with toys on the mat. No one is taking any notice of the books on the shelves, least of all the one that is slowly swelling as it demands to be read. Only when it swells so much that it falls over and the letters start to spill out with the drip-drips becoming plop-plops does J.J. notice and try to stem the flood. In fact it is not until the plop-plops become a splish-splash and the living room starts to look like an aquarium as all sorts of sea creatures invade it and swamp their recliner chairs that Mr and Mrs even start to notice that something might be amiss. But their attention is grabbed when pirates sail through and challenge them that the fun really begins.
Young children will love this concept as they willingly suspend their reality and let their imaginations take over. Canberra-based author Devon Sillet was awarded the Australian Postgraduate Award for her research into speculative fiction for young adults and it seems that this is a great example of the “what-if’ story starter. What if your favourite story came to life right there in your living room? Can you imagine the responses the children could draw, just as Anil Tortop has done with Sillet’s words in such a colourful, fun way? Let them tell you about as book they have bought or borrowed that they just couldn’t wait to read and what it would be like if it came true right there in their home. A great way to start their writing careers.
Or even if they all started with the same story – an intriguing way to introduce the concept that even with the same information we all perceive and interpret things differently because of our previous experiences and understandings. Similarly, they might like to turn the story around and talk about how 17th century pirates would feel in a 21st century home.
The final page is very satisfying as the Blossburns have all discovered the magic of words and the adventures they can take them on – what will they have happen in their living room next? What adventure would the children like to have?
Preschool teacher Ms Giraffe has three favourite words – “I love you” – and when she teachers Little Badger and her friends how to say them in a variety of different languages, Little Badger is inspired. She practises and practises uttering the words in Chinese, Spanish, French, German, Italian and English to everything she sees, even her new knickers! She is determined to learn and not forget them.
This is a charming story from a Chinese author and illustrator that will have a place in any collection where there are children learning about others and sharing their lives as they discover that there are languages other than English but while words can sound different they can still have the same meaning. While our Chinese, Spanish, French, German and Italian students will delight in having their language celebrated in this way, it is also a wonderful opportunity for those who speak other languages to share how to say “I love you” in their special way, and contribute to a stunning wall display that demonstrates both diversity and inclusion. It would be the perfect focus for Harmony Day.
While primarily for younger readers, it could also be a springboard for investigating other common phrases in various languages as well as discovering just how many languages are spoken in the homes of the students.
Books and stories which reach out in this way to those who are new to this country or who are learning English as another language do wonderful things for embracing the multicultural nature of our society and the riches that such a patchwork of origins can bring to all out lives as well as sending a welcoming message to the non-English speakers. Aroha nui New Frontier for bringing this to our children.
For children moving house away from friends and familiar things can be tougher than parents realise, and especially so when the move is from one well-known environment to one that is completely unknown.
Mae and her family move from her house with a garden, an apple tree, daisies and daffodils, green grass and birds to an inner-city apartment that is all rooftops and tall buildings – the epitome of the concrete jungle. There are no windy paths and leafy cubbies, just statues and Keep Off The Grass signs. There are no treasures for her treasure jar, just boxes and more boxes and when she tries to draw familiar things on the pavement outside, the rain washes them away. No matter what she does, Mae cannot make this new place resemble her old one.
But one day, standing on a box peering through her binoculars at the endless rooftops, she spies an open space with swings in the distance and so she, her mum and dog set off to find it. It is a long walk through this unforgiving city and the end result is a disappointment. But as she sits forlornly on the swing, she spies a bird and follows it until it disappears into a leafy forest. But the forest is closed. And then Mae spots something that changes things…
Anna Walker is the creator of Mr Huff, winner of the CBCA Early Childhood Book of the Year in 2016, Peggy shortlisted in 2013 and a host of other books that centre around her ability to get into the head of the subject, consider “what if…” and then emerges through her gentle, detailed illustrations that bring the text to life and invite the reader to delve deeply into them.
Mae could be any child who has moved house, perhaps with little say in the decision made by parents concerned with adult-things, who has discovered themselves amongst the totally unfamiliar but who has drawn on their inner reserves and resilience to try to make it work until eventually it does. Without describing Mae’s feelings, but detailing her actions in words and pictures, the reader feels and understands Mae’s vulnerability and bewilderment and yet throughout there is a sense of hope and a knowledge that she will prevail. Despite the bleakness of the city and its harsh facade there is a feeling that Mae will break through – perhaps it is in the children who come to view her courtyard art amidst empty plants pots or in the new budding trees as she goes through the streets, or in the swan, duck and ducklings in the river as the city awakens to spring… Florette, a small flower that makes up a bigger one, is the perfect title for this story perfectly encapsulating that concept of from little things…
A look through Anna Walker’ website shows a host of awards for her work – this could well be added to that list.
There are many people in a child’s life – parents, siblings, grandparents, aunties, uncles, cousins, neighbours, best friends, parents’ friends, pets…and that’s before they even venture into the world of preschool and big school! And the shape of the relationship with each one is different.
In this new book by Deborah Kelly, as softly illustrated as its focus, the connections are explored and enjoyed – the arty-crafty days; the yummy-scrummy days; the pedal-pushing days; the silly-billy days; the sandy-sandwich days; the footy-playing days; the slippery-sliding days; the grubby-garden days; the woofy-wagging days; the handy-helper days; the sausage-sizzling days; the stretchy-yawning days – all mixing, matching and melding together to enrich the child’s life and cocoon them in love.
Apart from the variety of adventures that the child has and the reader will resonate with, the richness of the language and its rhyme, rhythm and repetition will engage and perhaps even encourage the young reader/listener to start thinking about the relationships they have and starting to describe them using similar language. Primarily aimed at the preschooler, this book could also have traction with older students as an extension of learning about friendships so they move from thinking about what makes a friend and how to be one but also the types of relationships they have with those in their lives. For example, the relationship with their parents will be different from that with their teacher, and that with other children can be shaped by age, expertise and even power. Discussing why we are friends with particular people (or aspire to be), how friends should make us feel and where we fit in others’ lives brings confidence and builds empathy and resilience when things don’t work out. Are friendships always smooth sailing?
Many parents seem to be deeply concerned about the friendships their children make particularly when the meetings are beyond parental control – as evidenced by this request to an international email group where a parent was looking for books about “choosing the “right” friends. She has requested that there be African American characters and she is concerned that he [bright son] seems to be choosing friends who are in the lower academic classes.” By sharing Me and You older children might examine the friendships they have and what holds them together; debate the notion of “right friends”; discuss how a variety of friends who bring different circumstances, skills and attitudes can enrich lives; and begin to understand the role and influence that friends have in their lives as well as their position in the lives of their friends. Such understanding may well offer valuable insight into their connections with other people, now and in the future helping them to make the sorts of choices their parents would be happy with. and defending those that they wouldn’t.
Perhaps author and illustrator just wanted to share the joy of being a child with all its fun and activity, but for me the best picture books work across a number of levels and delve deeper than the immediate storyline and pictures and therefore this one works very well.
The National Museum of Australia is home to one of the richest collections of objects, photographs, artefacts and other items that document the history of this country from the times of our earliest indigenous people through European exploration, settlement and expansion and on into the 21st century. Drawing on these riches, Robert Lewis has traced the story of Australia in a way that is accessible to young independent readers wanting to begin to understand their heritage.
Filled with photographs, charts and other illustrations, it gives an overview offering explanations of key events and the people behind them which encourage the young historian to delve deeper, explore further and perhaps even make a plan to visit the museum itself to see the actual objects.
This would make a great reference work to have on the home shelves as children start their formal study of the nation’s history but it also perfect for the library’s collection to help answer quick questions and show that history is about story not just facts and figures.
Can you imagine…just for one day…you’re a busy bird? Yes, a bird! Hooray!
Ask a little child what birds can do and they are bound to tell you that they fly. But in this exuberant book by Lucy Cousins we learn about all the other things they can do – and that the child can do too. They can start the day by shouting cock-a-doodle-doo, hop, peck, swim and stretch, stand very tall on just one leg waddle like a penguin and run like an ostrich, puff out their chest and then bid the day farewell with a tuwit tuwoo.
As well as responding to the vibrant colours and bold illustrations on solid colour backgrounds, young readers will delight in doing the things that birds do, flapping their wings, exercising their lungs and generally just having a lot of fun as they are introduced to a flock of different birds, some familiar, some not-so. It soon becomes clear that birds come in all shapes and sizes and colours and can do all sorts of things and make all sorts of noises. Even though there are not the familiar magpies, kookaburras and emus that might be found in a book of Australian origin, nevertheless roosters, swans, peacocks and flamingos are very recognisable and will help the child learn about the diversity of our feathered friends.. Combined with a simple rhyming pattern the distinctive pictures will help the child become a role-play reader as they engage with the book on their own.
A peek inside….
Full of fun and energy, this will ensure a menagerie in the house for sure!
“Down on the rocky shore, waves crash and smash. Then the tide goes out and the sea is calm. It’s a good time to explore the rock pools.”
For some the magnificence of high tide with the waves pounding the coast is their favourite sea-time – the tranquility of low tide is not dramatic enough for them. But what looks to be a peaceful, not-much-happening environment is actually one of the greatest activity on the seashore because the myriad of creatures that live there have just a few short hours to feed and do what they do before the inexorable tide encroaches again. You just have to take the time to look.
In this superbly illustrated new book from Narelle Oliver, she takes us on a journey around the rockpools pointing out things that might stay hidden to the non-looker exposing them underneath flaps that blend into the artwork as well as the creatures blend into their habitats. The transparent shrimp in its leafy hideaway; the hermit crab in its seashell home; the anemones like seafloor flowers…each brought to life in their subtle colours in extraordinarily detailed linocuts waiting to be discovered nestling in crevices, hiding in the seaweed or camouflaged on the rocks.. As well as the captions that accompany the text there is also a glossary with further information about the creatures featured that will inspire young beach-goers to spend some time looking and wondering and marvelling at nature’s disguises when they next catch the beach at low tide.
My seaside home…
As a child I grew up in the very south of the South Island of New Zealand (next stop was literally Antarctica) and we were allowed to roam the rockpools all day (until the tide came in) so so many of my childhood memories are built around the discoveries we made. Nowadays, when I get to the coast I head for the rockpools and do what I did way back when and spend many calming, healing hours just looking.
Armed with the beauty and knowledge from this book, perhaps there will be a new generation of hunters inspired to look a little closer, tread a little more gently and delight in the hidden wonders especially as summer draws to a close and many are making a last trip to the beach until the warm comes again.
Over the years of her too-short life, Narelle Oliver has brought nature to life for young readers in her exquisite works like The Hunt, Leaf Tail, The Best Beak in Boonaroo Bay, Fox and Fine Feathers, Sand Swimmers and for her final work to be one that focuses on my favourite environment is just superb.
Vale Narelle. You gave us so much and we are indebted to you. Thank you.