The adorable Clementine Rose is gaining more fans every day – in fact I read a review of another title the other day where someone wrote “Ain has created a character that reads like an older Clementine”, just assuming the readers would automatically know who the “Clementine” is. So those who already know this remarkable young lady (and that’s so many in the newly independent reader population) will be delighted to know she’s back in another adventure, and those who have not yet met her are in for a treat as they enjoy this title and discover there are several others to feed their hunger for her.
In this episode, a documentary is being made about Penberthy House and Clementine has the starring role. But of course things do not run smoothly and the arrival of two unexpected guests turns things upside-down and Clementine finds herself trying to sort out the problems and restore the reputation of her home.
Miss 8 has been a fan of Clementine since she read her first adventure and she is going to be delighted to discover this among her birthday presents on Friday. But she will be even more delighted to know that there are even more adventures on their way, including Clementine Rose and the Birthday Emergency due for release on July 1!
Each week the postman delivers new books for review and I’m always delighted to find new series in the collection as publishers cater for those who are moving into “early chapter books” and providing the stepping stone that will hook kids on reading so they keep reading for pleasure. It’s been three years since we first met this delightful young lady and she is now established as a firm favourite with the girls I know and they are introducing her to their younger sisters. Excitement plus.
It starts as a simple hide-and-seek book with the reader encouraged to find the elephant, the parrot and the snake amongst a forest of trees of all shapes and sizes and colours. Turn the page and the same challenge applies – but this time it’s a little easier because some of the trees have been chopped down. And on the next double-spread it is easier again as even more trees have disappeared. And then, where the trees were a house appears and then another and another. And so it continues until there so many houses and buildings that there is just one tree, and the elephant, the parrot and the snake are clearly visible enclosed in a fence with Zoo on it. Until they take matters into their own hands…
Stunningly illustrated by this award-winning French illustrator and inspired by a visit to Brazil where he saw the forest set alight to provide space to plant soy beans as well as the concept of Where’s Wally?, in some ways the theme of this wordless text is akin to that of Jeannie Baker’s Window. The encroaching of civilisation and its impact on the environment and the creatures within it is explored in a way that not only the youngest reader will understand but which will serve as a springboard for more mature readers to investigate.
The colours and shapes of the lush forest evoke positive emotions but as the white of the cleared land and the muted tones of the houses and buildings take over the pages a sense of sadness takes over. There are no words – they are not needed.
This is the perfect adjunct to a theme of Change, particularly if the focus is on how humans have an impact on the environment and the needs of creatures that dwell there. Given Australia’s poor record of stopping species becoming endangered or even extinct, this is a focus area that demands attention and where better to start the appreciation of what we have than with the very young?
There is such excitement on the station platform as all the little dinosaurs await the arrival of the Dinosaur Express. At last, it comes into view –
The engine’s like a T-Rex head, the carriages have scales
It’s faster than a pterosaur – it flies along the rails!
Eagerly each little dinosaur climbs aboard, the stationmaster waves a flag and there’s a mighty Hiss! Chug-Chug! and then the engine roars.
Told in rhyming couplets that emphasise the rhythm of a train on the tracks and illustrated with the brightest colours, this is a wonderful, rollicking story about a train journey that would be the envy of any little person who harbours a desire to be a train driver, especially when the narrator has the golden ticket that means he gets to drive the train himself! A wonderful combination of the dreams of many – trains and dinosaurs.
Apart from just being a great story that will entertain young readers, there’s scope to talk about how the rhythm of the words add to the atmosphere and even how the author shapes the imagination with phrases like “the engine’s like a T-Rex head”. “doors like pterodactyl wings” and “seats like allosaurus paws” beginning them on their journey of becoming critical readers. The illustrations are rich in detail encouraging a closer look and something new to discover each time this story is read. This is likely to be a favourite.
“Do you remember how much we loved each other?” is a strange way to start a story because you would think that two talking to each other would not forget that. But it is the perfect beginning for this gentle, insightful reflection of that special relationship between grandparent and grandchild. Beautifully and softly illustrated using mice as characters, it explores a situation that so many of our students are facing as their grandparents and great-grandparents get older and forgetfulness and dementia start to take over.
“Do you remember when you started hiding things in strange places?” Do you remember when you flooded your house?” “Do you remember when you were cross?…You’d never spoken to me like that before. Did I do something wrong?” Such a common experience for so many, but this story has a beautiful twist. Because while Grandma Mouse can’t remember, Grandchild can and so she starts to paint pictures of Grandma’s stories so that even if Grandma has forgotten, the memories won’t be lost entirely. As gradually the grandchild becomes the ‘adult’ it doesn’t really matter that Grandma can’t remember because they create new memories and the love that binds them together is the strongest memory of all.
When memory fades to the point where even a child is not recognised, it can be very confronting and difficult to cope with as an adult who understands what is happening on an intellectual level if not an emotional one. Thus it is even more difficult for a child who interprets the loss as personal rejection and banishment and even lack of love. Sharing Do You Remember? would be a wonderful way for a parent to help a child understand what is happening and the pointers about what dementia is and how a child can interact with the sufferer regardless are so useful. Little children often fear those who are ageing, especially when they have to move into assisted care and sometimes the visits stop and the relationship wanes –but this book which also gives guidance for parents about how to handle the situation could be the pathway to keeping the love flowing. Helping our children understand by being upfront with them is the greatest gift we can give them and their grandparents.
Speaking from personal experience based on my own grandchildren and their Great Gran, O’Gara and McNeil have nailed it.
The publishers’ blurb for this series says, “In the Edo Period of Japan, two teams fight for supremacy – the serious samurai and the scheming ninjas. To determine who is the best, a deadly contest is held. The prize is the Golden Egg, the most magnificent treasure in all of Japan. But when the ninjas cheat, the samurai will stop at nothing to get revenge. Tighten your topknot and sharpen your sword – the Samurai vs Ninja battle is about to begin!” And so begins another action-packed series from this talented pairing of Nick Falk and Tony Flowers who brought us both Saurus Street and Billy is a Dragon.
This series is set 300 years ago when the serious Samurai with their smooth, straight kamishimo and tight topknots lived in a castle on the tip of the Mountain of the Tiger’s Claw and the silly Ninja with their ripped and wrinkled shinobi shozoku and looped and lose obi lived in a castle at the tip of the neighbouring Mountain of the Dragon’s Claw. Because the Samurai practise the ancient art of Nodo no Kingyo (the Way of the Thirsty Goldfish) and the Ninja, the ancient art of Mink-u-i-Buta (the Way of the Ugly Pig) the scene is set for conflict – and it is not long before it begins. The Samurai challenge the Ninja to a contest – and through crazy characters with even crazier ideas the reader is taken on an hilarious but suspenseful adventure. Despite the traditional honour and fairness normally associated with these protagonists, the reader sees a totally different side of them that provide many LOL moments!
Capitalising on the craze for things Japanese as manga-type stories permeate through to our youngest readers, this is an energetic, fast-moving series that will capture the imaginations of younger readers who are ready for independent reading but still need the support of short text and illustrations which are integral to that text. Falk and Flowers seem to feed off each other in a symbiotic relationship that knows exactly what their audience wants and how to give it to them and offer stories that are going to maintain that zest for reading as the transition from instructional reader to free choice is made. With chapters finishing at just the right time and the book finishing on a cliff-hanger that sets up the next episode, the books make perfect read-alouds which will have their listeners demanding more and scurrying to the library looking for the next in the series.
Charlie is a hard-working ranch dog. There is always so much to do on the ranch – riding, roping, feeding, fixing, and making sure pesky critters stay away from the homestead. But there’s fun too, especially when it’s time to play ball. His favourite is football, or is it soccer? Or basketball? Or something else?
This is a cheerful story that will appeal to all those who have dogs, or who would like one, and the ending will provide a laugh. Even though it is American it emphasises the fun dogs can offer as well as how they contribute so much to our lives in a practical way. Recently there was a news story about Molly, a little dog who accompanies twins to an ACT school because her super-sensitive nose can detect when their ketones change and they are in need of insulin, and this story about Charlie (who is real) could be a kick-starter to how dogs help us in everyday life. The children will be familiar with the work of guide dogs but there are all sorts of assistance dogs whose work is often unknown. Perhaps it is time to celebrate all that these fun, four-legged furry creatures do for us. Getting to know Charlie with his floppy ears, droopy eyes and short legs would be a great start.
“Once there was a boy who had to leave home…and find another.” As he climbs into an open rowboat, armed with just a book, a bottle and a blanket in his backpack he clutches a teacup filled with the earth from where he used to play. As he sails over the seas, sometimes rough and wild, sometimes smooth and calm, through light and dark days constantly watching for a speck that would grow into a new land he is reminded of what he has left and understands how things can change with a whisper. But throughout his seemingly endless journey he protects his teacup of soil and watches a miracle begin.
Born from the story of her family’s own journey, Rebecca Young has created a most delicate and sensitive narrative that encapsulates the experience of leaving the familiar for the new, whether literal or metaphorical. We don’t know learn why the boy has left home – that is up to the reader to speculate based on individual experience – but for anyone who has had to take that first step on an unfamiliar path, the shades of dark and light, the feeling of forward and backward, the heights of the ups and the depths of the downs will be familiar. But at no stage does the reader lose a feeling that there will be a positive ending. Hope shines through both the words and the pictures and the final double spread captures the innate optimism of life.
Matt Ottley’s illustrations are exquisite. Using a carefully chosen palette and a remarkable vision, they echo the sparse text interpreting the mood and the theme. As well as the physical threat and comfort of the sea, they also symbolise the threats and comforts of life itself and the individual’s need and ability to navigate them. Ottley says, “…it was the most beautiful picture book I’d ever read. It is such a huge story about the human spirit, about loss and grief, love and joy, about beauty and also high adventure.” He describes being able to interpret the words as “an artist’s dream”.
This is a story that is rich in opportunities to accompany an inquiry unit about immigration and emigration as well as for older students to think about the journeys they are about to embark on as they become more independent and adventurous. There are very useful teachers’ notes available that will enable this to be an enriching and enlightening read for those in Year 5+