Home in the Rain

Home in the Rain

Home in the Rain

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Home in the Rain

Bob Graham

Walker Books, 2016

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

9781406368239

It is time for Mum and Francie to head home from Grandma’s. Despite the fact that it is bucketing down rain and the highway is crowded with buses, oil tankers, trucks and other cars they feel safe and secure in their little red car – as safe and secure as the baby tucked away in mum’s womb.

As the rain continues to tumble soaking everything in its path – good for the mouse obscured from the kestrel’s view but not so good for Marcus out fishing with his dad with the water dribbling down his neck- Mum pulls into the picnic spot to have the lunch Grandma has prepared. As they sit their breaths fog up the window, and, cloistered in this intimate environment, like all children, Francie cannot resist writing her name on the window.  After she writes her own, she writes Mum and Daddy but there is a window left, waiting for the name of the new sister due soon.  But what will it be?

With his gentle, detailed, watercolour-wash illustrations and carefully chosen text, once again Bob Graham has taken the most ordinary of situations and crafted a touching, memorable story that brings beauty to the mundane, something from very little. The climax of the story where Mum chooses the baby’s name comes in a dirty, busy petrol station – the antithesis of where such a memorable moment is likely to occur, although Graham finds the beauty as Francie splashes in the rainbows of the oil-water puddles.

Our names are our most personal possession and children are always curious to find out why their parents chose the names they did so this is the perfect opportunity for them to investigate how they came to be called what they are.  It is also an opportunity to compare the various reasons as well as investigate popular names, collect data and share what they learn.

At the same time there is much to talk about being caught in the rain. where the rain comes from, how it makes you feel and why windows clog up. Further afield, they can look to the impact of the rain on the landscape – why has Graham introduced the rabbit, the mouse, the kestrel, the ducks, the fishermen, Marcus, even the two men who have had a bingle in the car?  

As is typical in his books, Graham has included so much with more to be discovered and considered each time it is shared.  Shortlisted for the 2017 CBCA Picture Book of the Year award, this is one that will be hard to beat.

The Dragon with the Chocolate Heart

The  Dragon with the Chocolate Heart

The Dragon with the Chocolate Heart

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The  Dragon with the Chocolate Heart

Stephanie Burgis

Bloomsbury USA, 2017

256pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781408880319

Bored with being confined to the cavern on the mountain and faced with another 30 years of the same until her scales are hardened, baby dragon Aventurine squeezes through a secret exit to take herself off to find the world and a human to eat.  As she wanders down the mountain because she damaged her wings in her escape, her sensitive nose not only picks up the smell of a human but also of something else, utterly delicious and tantalising – and dangerous…

For the human is a food mage and in order to protect himself from being Aventurine’s dinner he tempts her to try his delicious chocolate drink.  Suddenly, instead of being a fearsome dragon with glittering silver and red scales towering over the human, Aventurine finds herself transformed into a little girl with tiny, blunt teeth, no fire, and not a single claw to use in battle, prostrate in front of this now gloating tall man who leaves her to her own devices.  

Trying to stand but failing, Aventurine tries to crawl back up the mountain to her family but when her Grandfather doesn’t recognise her as he flies overhead and indeed, shoots a warning burst of fire in her direction, she realises she will have to try to make her way to the city to find a life and satisfy her insatiable craving for chocolate.

But how can a penniless, naive girl with the thoughts and heart of a dragon survive the betrayal, deception, trickery and unknown ways of humans in a large busy city obsessed with money, class and position?

Suitable for a read-aloud or a read-alone for an independent reader, this is a unique, intriguing tale with a strong female protagonist who learns a lot about herself as both a human and a dragon as she navigates the unfamiliar world of Drachenberg. For those who like adventure tinged with fantasy this is something new.

Ginger Green: Playdate Queen (series)

Ginger Green: Playdate Queen

Ginger Green: Playdate Queen

 

Ginger Green: Playdate Queen

Kim Kane

Jon Davis

Hardie Grant Egmont, 2016

60pp., pbk. $A9.99

 

This is a new series featuring Ginger Green, a lovable little fox, who likes to dance, do gymnastics, dress up and make-believe.  But even more importantly she likes to play with her friends and has lots of playdates, each of which brings a new challenge to negotiate and resolve. Friends who won’t share, friends who prefer her sister, friends who like to do different things, friends who are naughty… each one requires tact and thoughtfulness so it ends in a win-win situation.

Written for emerging independent readers with short chapters, large font and charming illustrations, this is a great series for those just growing into the realm of developing friendships beyond the influence of parents and having to work through the minefield of egos, wants, needs and  expectations. Using settings and situations that will be familiar to the audience, the stories provide suggestions for how to handle challenges that the reader will inevitably face without having to rely on parental help, helping build empathy, resilience and compassion.

Hero

Hero

Hero

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hero

Jennifer Li Shotz

HarperCollins

224pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9780062652218

Hero, a retired search-and-rescue dog, is not prepared for a stray puppy to come into his life. But when he and twelve-year-old Ben find Scout injured and afraid, the new addition leads them down an unexpected and dangerous path. When Scout goes missing, it’s up to Hero to use his search-and-rescue skills to find Scout and bring him home.

This is a compelling story about the bond between a boy and his dogs and the lessons Ben has to learn about sorting out priorities as he promises that he will keep up his schoolwork and grades if he is allowed to keep the puppy, Scout. But it’s hard when you have friends and baseball also vying for your time.

More for the independent reader, nevertheless it would make a great read-aloud to a class or younger person who loves dogs with just the right amount of tension and a happy ending.  

The Periodic Table Book: A stunning visual encyclopedia of the elements

The Periodic Table Book

The Periodic Table Book

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Periodic Table Book: A stunning visual encyclopedia of the elements

Tom Jackson

DK, 2017

208pp., hbk., RRP $A35.00

9780241240434

Watch any quiz show on television and there is bound to be a question about the Periodic Table, that, odd-shaped mysterious, multi-coloured chart that decorates the walls of science classrooms and labs and which to many, including me, remains a mystery even after it is studied and memorised.

The Periodic Table

The Periodic Table

However, in this bright, brand-new publication from DK (Dorling Kindersley) those new to the wonders of chemistry are able to understand it better through the use of clear explanations and thousands of photographs and diagrams, starting with an explanation of just what an element is. “Everything in nature, from the mountains and the oceans to the air we breathe and food we eat are made up of simple substances called elements… The elements are rarely found in their pure form.  Mostly, they are combined with each other to make compounds, which make up substances around us. To find out more about the elements, we need to take a good look at the periodic table …it shows the key information for each element, grouping them into similar types. With this information we can use the elements to make the things we need. Every element has its own story of where it comes from, what it can do, and how we use it.”

So it’s a bit like baking a cake – you put some butter, sugar, eggs and flour in particular proportions together and the chemical reaction amongst them when heat is applied leads to a cake we can eat, rather than four separate ingredients that are not so palatable.  Or. as my son the chef keeps telling me, “It’s about how the ingredients work together that produces the dish.”

Using the stunning DK layout of photos, bite-sized chunks of text and white space that is their signature style, it begins with an explanation of what elements are (that even I can understand), through to ancient ideas about alchemy, a very clear explanation of inside an atom (I do remember that it was a New Zealander, Sir Ernest Rutherford who first split it but never understood what that meant or its impact),so the reader is taken on a  on a visual tour of the 118 chemical elements of the periodic table, from argon to zinc. It explores the naturally occurring elements, as well as the man-made ones, and explains their properties and atomic structures. Each has a ready-reference summary of its atomic structure, physical and chemical properties, and the compounds it occurs more frequently in, as well as photographs of it in its raw state, its origins and uses (who knew that sodium was a key element of both mummification and fireworks) so that everything begins to make sense. There is even one of those charts tucked into a pocket at the back, perfect for the bedroom wall, the toilet door or the classroom.

While I have managed to reach a senior age without knowing too much about chemistry, it is very different for today’s students as so many new technological developments, medical breakthroughs and as-yet-unknown jobs rely on a knowledge and understanding of chemistry, the elements that make up this world and others, and how and why that periodic table is what it is.  With STEM being the primary focus of so many curricula, this is a must-have for both the beginner and experienced junior scientist.  Instead of just memorising “Happy Henry Lives Beside Boron Cottage, Near Our Friend Nelly Nancy MgAllen. Silly Patrick Stays Close. Arthur Kisses Carrie” or “Here He Lies Beneath Bed Clothes, Nothing On, Feeling Nervous, Naughty Margret Always Sighs, Please Stop Clowning Around” or singing The Periodic Table Song students will understand the basis of chemistry as a subject and see the relevance of it to their own world.

Perhaps if I came from an era of where it was more than reciting so the chanting was accompanied by explanation, connection and understanding, I would be a better cook today.  No, perhaps not!

 

Moo and Moo and the Little Calf too

Moo and Moo and the Little Calf too

Moo and Moo and the Little Calf too

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moo and Moo and the Little Calf too

Jane Millton

Deborah Hinde

Allen & Unwin, 2017

32pp., pbk., RRP $A17.99

9781877505928

Just after midnight on November 14, 2016 the earth under the north-east of New Zealand’s South Island started to shudder and shake.  Once again an earthquake was reshaping the landscape as immovable forces fought for supremacy 15 000 metres below the surface – not just a regular shake that Kiwis are used to, this one was 7.8 on the Richter scale meaning widespread movement and damage.

Fast asleep in their paddock in the Clarence Valley on this bright moonlit night were two cows and a calf, who soon found themselves the subject of news footage around the world as the shaking and quaking split their sleep and their surroundings asunder and left them stranded on an island two metres high and 80 metres from where they started. 

Told in rhyme, Moo and Moo and the Little Calf too tells the story of the three animals and how they were rescued, a story that will fascinate young readers.  Imagine if the chair or the carpet they are sitting on suddenly moved and fell away and they were left stranded so high they couldn’t get down! 

While there were many stories of the quake and its impact on the landscape and the people, just as there are about recent devastating weather events in Australia, we sometimes forget about the impact on the wildlife that such phenomena have. The destruction of their habitat, their dislocation from familiar food sources, their deaths and injuries are often overlooked as the human drama plays out.  There was concern that the seal colony at Ohau Point (where I had been with my grandchildren exactly a year earlier) had been destroyed and with the seabed being lifted 5.5metres in places, also concern for the marine life off the coast.

So bringing this true story to life in a picture book that will endure much longer than a short television news clip not only tells the story of the cows but also puts a focus on other creatures who endure the trauma as humans do.  What happened to the sealife, the birds, the kangaroos and all the other creatures during Cyclone Debbie and the resulting floods?  How do they survive during devastating bushfires?  What can be done to save them, help them, and restore their habitats?  What are their needs? Even Kindergarten students can start investigations along those lines, giving meaning and purpose to the ubiquitous studies of Australia’s wildlife so they go beyond mere recognition.  

 While Moo and Moo and the Little Calf too might appear to have a limited audience and timeframe, used as a springboard it could be the beginning of something much greater. And that’s without even going down the path of the cause of earthquakes and how such events give us the landscapes and landshapes we are familiar with, or considering what’s in that floodwater they want to play in!

 

Sage Cookson (series)

Sage Cookson

Sage Cookson

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sage Cookson’s Sweet Escape

9781925059618

 

Sage Cookson’s Ring of Truth

9781925059748

 

Sage Cookson’s Fishy Surprise

978-1-925059-75-5

 

Sage Cookson’s Singapore Sensation

9781925059960

Sally Murphy

New Frontier, 2017

56pp., pbk., RRP $A9.99

Sage Cookson is a ten-year-old whose parents, Ginger and Basil, travel Australia and the world, and lucky Sally gets to go with them. While they are sampling the food, learning new cooking techniques and then sharing their new knowledge with their massive television audience through their show The Cookson’s Cook On, Sage has a lifestyle that others might envy.

However, in each episode she gets into a scrape that she needs to get out of.  In the first book, Sweet Escape  there are problems with a famous chocolatier while in Ring of Truth she is accused of stealing a treasured ring. Her friend Lucy travels with her to Crystal Bay in  Fishy Surprise but the return of an old adversary causes issues and in Singapore Sensation things go wrong when a lady with pink hair starts to stalk them.

This new series for newly independent younger readers combines the author’s love of television cooking shows and mysteries, so that in each new addition something goes wrong and Sage has to solve the problem.  Despite the glamorous backdrops of each story, food is the focus so all the budding Junior Masterchefs can enjoy reading about cooking, trying the recipes which are included and then visiting Sage’s website  for more.  With four books in the series so far, Sage is going to appeal to a range of young readers who will be able to follow her adventures without having to wait for the next one. Perfect for the upcoming cooler days when reading is the best thing to do.

Usborne Illustrated Myths from Around the World

Usborne Illustrated Myths from Around the World

Usborne Illustrated Myths from Around the World

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Usborne Illustrated Myths from Around the World

Anya Klauss

Usborne, 2016

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

9781409596738

What do Demeter and Persephone, Finn MacCool and the fish of Maui all have in common?  Well, they are included in this collection of stories from around the world beautifully illustrated by Anya Klauss.

In times long past before the truth was known, many of the things like the sun’s passage across the sky or the formation of the land were a mystery to those observing them so they made up stories to explain the particular phenomenon.  Even though they came from far-flung places and diverse peoples. their common thread was to explain the seemingly inexplicable so that the world made sense to them. Whether it involved giants, mythical beings and creatures, magic or sorcery, each story sought to demystify and through their telling through generations across thousands of years they have endured, even though science may have intervened to expose the truth.

As well as being a wonderful introduction to these sorts of stories and embracing a range of cultures, such myths can also be the entry point into scientific investigations for young and not-so-young scientists.  If Maui did not fish the North Island of New Zealand out of the sea, how did it get there? If the changing of the seasons are not caused by Demeter’s love and loss, how are they formed?  A great way to link literature and science and start our students on their own quests.

 

Baby Band

Baby Band

Baby Band

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Baby Band

Dianne Jackson Hill

Giuseppe Poli

New Frontier, 2017

28pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781925059779

Many people live in the tall apartment block, each living their lives without even knowing their neighbours let alone socialising with them.  They didn’t even say hello to each other in the corridors! That is, until the baby moves into an apartment on the 8th floor. And like babies do because they have to, the baby cried, and cried a lot no matter how much his mother try to calm and soothe him.  His cries could be heard all over the 8th floor.

And then one day, when he was a little older he found the pits and pans, as babies do, and of course he clanged them together, as babies do. His mother screamed in delight and the CLANG, AHHH could be heard in every unit.  And something amazing began to happen…

This is a charming story that takes the everyday event of a baby crying and turns it into a tale that many will resonate with .  Exploiting her personal passion for music, the author has shown that there is music  in anything, it can come from anywhere and can creates harmony, and not just the musical kind. Guiseppe Poli’s little vignettes capture the lives of the people in the apartments, emphasising their separation whilst providing little clues for what is about to happen, and the things they share like the teacher who teaches drama and the teen creating movies; the girls and the older lady both enjoying knitting that suggest this baby is going to be the catalyst for some enduring connections.  Even the front and back endpapers suggest that there will be a remarkable journey taking place between them.

On the surface this appears to be just a book for our very young readers whereas it has a place for older readers too, especially if it is shared by a teacher with a purpose.  There is the theme of isolation even though the people live so close together and the theme of friendship through common interests that can be explored, while there is also the fun of making a body band – using the parts of the body to make a sound and a rhythm that can be melded together and then the exploration and combination of the sounds of ordinary objects. 

Diane Jackson Hill started writing children’s books including the wonderful Annabel’s Dance after a long career in teaching, and her understanding of what children want in a story is very clear. This should become a family favourite as who can sit still when all around music is being made.

 

Digby and the Yodelayhee…Who!

Digby and the Yodelayhee...Who!

Digby and the Yodelayhee…Who!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Digby and the Yodelayhee…Who!

Renee Price

Anil Tortop

Create It Kids, 2017

24pp., hbk., RRP $A22.99

9780992345754

High in a very tall tree Digby Fixit hears an unusual and very noisy noise.  Being a lover of music he scrambles down the tree to discover who is making it. Perhaps it is one of his very-bestest friends.  Is it Stanley strumming his guitar? Or Sophie tooting her kazoo? Perhaps it is Freda on the piano or Theo thumping his drum.  Maybe it is Wilfred on his double bass or Tarquin tapping the sticks.  No.  None of these and the noise was still noisy.  So using his trust noise-o-meter he followed its lead and found…

Written in rhyming verse to echo the passing of time and the rhythm of the music, author Renee Price has used her early childhood teaching and music educator experience to bring an engaging tale to young readers, introducing them to a variety of common instruments and their sounds along the way. Full of energy, fun and colour, readers are taken on a journey that will have them showing you their knowledge of the movements and sounds associated with the various instruments and then wanting to join in the jam session at the end- which they can do because there is a recording of the song that can be downloaded via the QR code provided.  They will also recognise that final sound that brings the music to an end – but not the fun.

Illustrator Anil Tortop has also hit the mark with her illustrations – each set on a background of a bold, solid colour and capturing such a wide range of action and emotion in clever, unfussy strokes that even include an intrigued cat. And, as with many characters, Digby now has his own website so the fun can continue.

An original storyline that teaches children a little about musical instruments (a change from Peter and the Wolf),  a little about the passage of time and a lot about curiosity, friendship and fun will be a welcome addition to home and library collections.