Archive | August 2015

Trick-Stars

Trick-Stars series

Trick-Stars series

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Triple Magic

9781743319055

Summer Spell

9781743319062

Second Chance

9781743319079

Saving Destiny

9781743319086

Chasing Dreams

9781743319109

Princess of the Sands

9781743319093

Karen Wood

Allen & Unwin, 2015

112pp., pbk., RRP $A9.99

 

Identical triplets Ruby, Lexie and Kit Trickett dream of leaving Windara Farm performing spectacular tricks on their beautiful gypsy cob horses. It’s a dream that’s a far cry from the vegetable-growing district around Kulnara where the girls live on their grandfather’s farm.  But their horses Tinker, Kismet and Featherfoot are workhorses and Grampy is not a wealthy man.  However things change when Ruby climbs into the loft to look for some old horse rugs to keep the horses clean and discovers a mysterious trunk.  Its lid is painted blue with gold stars and a silver moon and there is a hand-painted picture of a horse with two riders standing on its back – very much like her dream. And written on the lid is “Gallius and Levinia Trickett”, her grandparents.

Ruby doesn’t know it but this discovery unleashes family histories and secrets that become the impetus for this new series written for newly independent readers from about 7-10.  Mix dreams, sadness, and intrigue with horses, acrobatics, magic and characters that appeal and there is a formula for a series that will appeal to girls who love reading and horses. There are six in the collection (Chasing Dreams and Princess of the Sands are published this month) each building on the previous episode. I predict they will be warmly welcomed and eagerly read as young ladies put themselves in the saddle alongside Ruby, Lexie and Kit and share the dream with them.

 

Spider Iggy

Spider Iggy

Spider Iggy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spider Iggy
Aleesah Darlinson
Sarah Jane Hinder
Wombat Books, 2015
32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99
9781925139334

No one notices let alone appreciates the beauty that Spider Iggy tries to bring to the grim grey city as he spins his web in intricate designs each day. No one wants to be friends with him and life is unhappy. He dreams of a place filled with colour and light and other spiders who will like him. And then one day on the breeze he hears the words, “Be brave” and he is inspired to change things. And even though on his journey to find a new life he is met by setbacks like the man with the broom and the lady with the windscreen wipers and even the birds with their fast, ferocious and fierce beaks he finds the obstacles are actually opportunities that take him forward to his destination. “Be brave” echoes in his head and from deep within he finds the courage to keep going. And then he meets Bert…

Every one of us could empathise with Spider Iggy as there have been or will be times in our lives when we need to dig ourselves out of a rut and find the wherewithal to go forward – whether it’s towards friendship and love, conquering a fear or facing the unknown. We can draw from his spirit of determination, resilience and persistence and make obstacles into opportunities. Young children will also identify with him as not only is every day a new adventure to be negotiated safely but they are also small, helpless and powerless and somewhat at the mercy of others in their world. They also don’t have the worldly wisdom of adults so they need to dig deep within themselves to overcome.

The story also portrays spiders in a new light – both the man with the broom and the lady with the windscreen wipers respond to Iggy based on their personal prejudices of fear and disgust about spiders, opening up another line of discussion. While Spider Iggy’s plight will not convince me that things with more than four legs have a place in my life, nevertheless I’d be willing to consider their place in the world. Teaching notes  offer a range of suggestions to explore these concepts more deeply including links to other titles and websites that could be used as a gateway to information literacy for littlies. Should Little Miss Muffet have been so frightened?

This is a story to support any child who has felt on the outer – it would not have surprised me if the author had trod tender ground and allowed Iggy and Bert to share something special – and to encourage them to keep looking because they will find that place they belong. Sarah Jane Hinder’s illustrations are bright and capture the text in a way that portrays Iggy’s emotional and physical journeys perfectly while keeping the mood light so that for those who just like the surface story are well entertained.

The Cloudspotter

The Cloudspotter

The Cloudspotter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Cloudspotter

Tom McLaughlin

Bloomsbury, 2015

32pp., hbk., RRP $A22.99

9781408854969

 

Franklin, aka The Cloudspotter, is obsessed with clouds.  Big ones, squeaky ones, sneaky, pretend-they-can’t-see-you ones, even angry ones.  But Franklin is not a budding meteorologist.  He’s a dreamer who sees pictures and objects in the clouds and his imagination takes him up there to play in them.  It makes this friendless little boy feel less alone and be king of his domain. But one day Scruffy Dog comes along apparently looking for something.  Franklin is afraid it is after his clouds and no matter what he does, Scruffy Dog does not leave.  Soon it has become part of Franklin’s dreams which annoys him so much that he puts a plan into action that will get rid of Scruffy Dog forever.  Which is when he discovers…

This is a gentle and touching tale about a little boy who seeks refuge from the world in his imagination choosing to roam amongst the skyscapes rather than play with his friends – and he does have them even if he doesn’t realise it because they are the ones who have nicknamed him The Cloudspotter.  It’s about being happy being alone without being lonely, of seeking joy and solace in your own company until something happens that makes you realise that you can’t be totally on your own in this world. Can you really be isolated with an imagination as rich as Franklin’s? There’s no indication that Franklin is bullied or neglected or unhappy so that he has been driven to his solitary passion – who hasn’t stretched out on the grass on a summer’s day, looked at the clouds drifting overhead and let their mind wander to places far away?

When Scruffy Dog arrives Franklin is concerned that it will take away but the strong message is that friendship always adds – as people we are more when there are more, not less.

McLaughlin has captured an important lesson about the balance and need for both aloneness and friendship with simple text which says much and a light hand using a soft palette that underlines the beauty of the concept and the story. It is calming, almost ethereal and would be a great recommendation for pulling the curtains on the day.

 

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

Mr Huff

Mr Huff

Mr Huff

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mr Huff

Anna Walker

Viking/Penguin 2015

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

980670078042

When Bill wakes up he looks out the window and sees it is cloudy with a chance of rain.  Not a good start to his day.  And it doesn’t improve any with all sorts of mishaps happening. As it progresses what starts out as a small light grey mood develops into a bigger darker crankiness that follows him wherever he goes.  Strangely, the angrier he gets the more things seem to go awry.  And Mr Huff just gets bigger and bigger dogging his footsteps from home to school, to class – even out on the playground and home again.  It shares his bath and sleeps under his bed.  No matter what, Mr Huff is THERE!   Until…

This is a gentle, sensitive story that will resonate with children.  Even though Mr Huff is a figment of Bill’s imagination, they will empathise with that feeling that there is some sort of black cloud following them around some days turning everything they touch to moosh.  Author and illustrator Anna Walker, who also brought us Peggy, has used a very restrained palette which underscores the grey sort of day that Bill is having but which is lifted by the most exquisite little details that enrich both the text and the illustrations.  Mr Huff is a grey blob with soft curves and almost a feeling of transparency and transience. His expression is quite neutral so that he is not threatening to the reader visually but he can be felt and the reader can sense the mood of melancholy that settles on Bill. He brings the saying “having the weight of the world on your shoulders’ to life. 

Yet throughout, there is a feeling of optimism and hope and the end is just divine.

Often when children read books the characters are full of lightness, brightness and fun and so to encounter a character who has the sort of mood that they have doubtless experienced helps them see the reality of life that can be portrayed in stories.  It can get them talking about their sadder feelings and how these are perfectly normal but that we can choose how we respond to things.  It can be cloudy with a chance of rain or it can be cloudy with a chance of sunshine! The astute teacher will also listen and perhaps even pick up on the child whose moods are darker and more persistent – a possible sign of childhood depression which is more common than we realise.  A valuable addition to the collection.

‘Same’

'Same'

‘Same’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Same

Katrina Roe

Wombat Books, 2015

32pp., hbk RRP $A19.99

9781925139266

 

When Uncle Charlie comes to visit, Ivy runs away and hides.  Uncle Charlie’s hands shake when she’s not expecting it and it’s hard to understand him when he talks.  He is also in an electric wheelchair that is very BIG and seems to move by itself.    When they go to the park to play, Uncle Charlie can’t join in.  He just has to watch.  And when mum reads a story he just has to listen because he can’t hold the book in his unsteady hands. Everything about Uncle Charlie is just a little bit different and it’s a bit scary for a little person.

But a heart-warming miracle happens when Ivy draws a picture for Uncle Charlie and then he draws one for her!

This is another wonderful story from a publisher who is not afraid to give a voice to issues that our students encounter but rarely read about.  With its themes of difference and inclusion, Same acknowledges that people in wheelchairs can be confronting for little people (and even for bigger ones) but if we can see past the physical to the person inside there are many more similarities than differences.  Katrina Roe is the author of Emily Eases her Wheezes  and once again she has captured in both the text and illustrations a common issue in a sensitive way that invites discussion not only about knowing someone with a disability, but also thinking about that person and how it might feel to be left out and forced to sit on the sidelines.

While this story has a domestic setting and Ivy meets Uncle Charlie in her own home, under the Disability Standards for Education legislation it is likely that our students will encounter more and more people who are wheelchair bound in their school lives, so this is a perfect way to not only start a conversation about our commonalities as people but also show how we can embrace and celebrate people’s differences.

Thumbs up to Wombat Books for continuing to go out on the edge!

Peas in a Pod

Peas in a Pod

Peas in a Pod

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peas in a Pod

Tania McCartney

Tina Snerling

EK Books, 2015

32pp., hbk, RRP $A24.99

9781921966712

 

When Pippa, Pia, Poppy, Polly and Peg were born they looked exactly the same.  And they did everything the same.  And at the same time. Even toilet training! But as time marched on, as it inevitably does, the girls started to change, as they inevitably would.  They like different things and do different things at different times.  The changes become challenging.  And their parents can’t cope so they step in and put everything right.  For a while everything is the same again until as time marches on, as it inevitably does, the girls start to change again, as they inevitably would.  And this time they are old enough to take control – just little things at first but eventually…

This is a superb book that looks at growing up and how there is an inner us that demands to be different even if we are one of identical quins!  And that that little point of difference is what makes us unique and needs to be explored, exploited and celebrated.  Charming, quirky illustrations that are so appealing emphasise the humour which make this so much more than a mundane story about growing and changing.  While the adult reading the story to the child will empathise with the parents in the story, the child will just love it and delight in trying to trace each girl’s journey.

This is a wonderful way to talk to students about not only finding their inner self, but having the courage to stay true to it.  While we often focus on looking for the similarities of people while we ignore their physical differences, this takes that to the next level by looking beyond the similarities to the deeper differences.  It’s about individualisation rather than generalisation.

Loved it.

Pig Dude

pig_dude

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pig Dude: He can do anything

Michael Wagner

Adam Nickel

Billy Goat Books, 2015

64pp., pbk., RRP $A11.99

9780994251718

 

Pig Dude was in a very bad mood.  He was frustrated.  “I cannot read. I cannot add up. I cannot skip.  I cannot even hop on this foot,” he complained to his mother.  “I am bad at ALL things.” 

But Mama believes in Pig Dude and hugs him tightly and tells him he can do anything!  And Pig Dude believes her so he sets himself a mission… he will FLY.  And so begins an hilarious adventure of his attempts to fly.  Even though his attempts are not immediately successful and land him in some precarious positions, Pig Dude carries his mother’s words in his ears and he persists and perseveres, bouncing back to try again and again and again until one day…

This is a warm-hearted story about love and self-belief, determination and resilience.  Even though his first efforts give him a burnt bottom. he tries again and when his second effort ends in a nose-dive onto the beach and leaves him despondent, it doesn’t take much for his passion to be reignited after a meeting with his friend Clover.

Apart from the discussions that could be had between parent and child, teacher and students about the importance of persistence, a whole world of investigation about flight could be opened up. You could start with the text and investigate why Pig Dude’s efforts failed. Or investigate if the balloon solution could have been successful if the birds hadn’t intervened. If flight is defined as “travel through the atmosphere”, how do the arrows fly?”  This could then be expanded into investigations about how creatures of the natural world fly and what has been learned from this to enable to use flight.   Have a paper aeroplane contest or investigate why things come down.   Or ask “What superheroes have the power of flight?”  “What would/could you do if you could fly?’  Every child will generate their own question to investigate.

What seems on the surface to be a charming story that will delight young readers, becomes the catalyst for a lot more than being a one-read wonder.

Pig Dude also heralds the arrival of a new independent publishing company Billy Goat Books.

 

My Amazing Dad

My Amazing Dad

My Amazing Dad

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Amazing Dad

Ezekiel Kwaymullina

Tom Jellett

Little Hare Books, 2015

32pp., hbk., RRP $24.95

9781921894862

 Does it matter if Dad can’t mow the lawn but can make amazing mazes?  Or bake a cake if he knows where the cake shop is? Or get you to school on time if he gets you there eventually via a giant hopscotch?  Does it matter if he can’t fix a leaky tap but loves to make bubble baths or remember bedtime because he’s telling the best stories?  Absolutely not.  He is still an amazing dad! And it’s all sorted by the time mum gets home from work, anyway.

 This is a wonderful story of a dad in a different family structure, one that more and more children can relate to as dads choose to be the stay-at-home parent and mums take on the outside work load. Through the juxtaposition of what this dad can and can’t do, it challenges the stereotypes of dads in other stories as Tom Jellett provides the most subtle hints that this is just another manifestation of what we embrace as family today.  His big bright pictures are bold and vibrant, bringing the simple but powerful text to life perfectly. The colour choices celebrate the exuberance and abundance of love in this family.

 As Father’s Day draws near, this would be an ideal story to focus on the roles of dads and where they fit in the students’ families, albeit with the caveat about being sensitive to those who do not have a live-in dad, as well as the shape of families of today. 

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

 

Daddy’s Sandwich

Daddy's Sandwich

Daddy’s Sandwich

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Daddy’s Sandwich

Pip Jones

Laura Hughes

Faber & Faber, 2015

32pp., hbk., RRP $A22.99

9780571311828

 What do you put on a sandwich for daddy if you are going to make one with absolutely everything he loves?  Well you start with a slice of white bread that is crusty on the outside, a little bit of butter, some cheeses that’s a tiny bit stinky and some tomato –with the green bit pulled off.  And then you let your imagination go wild and add biscuits dunked in tea, his slippers, his uncrinkled newspaper, his phone, and, and , and… Finally a great big squirt of ketchup.  And to finish it off, you top it with the thing that he loves most of all!

 This is an hilarious story that will have young readers gasping with delight as Daddy’s sandwich gets more and more outrageous!  And they will be clamouring to tell you what they would put in a sandwich for their daddy.  The big, bright, bold illustrations underscore the magnificence of this sandwich and its construction and capture the mood perfectly.  Making a sandwich is a fantastic way to introduce young children to the concepts of instructions and sequencing and there is much scope for encouraging the children to talk about what they would put in their sandwich for their daddy and then creating a pictorial version of it – perhaps scouring magazines for the perfect illustrations. 

 But it’s also just a great read-aloud to share as Father’s Day draws near.

Chu’s Day at the Beach

Chu's Day at the Beach

Chu’s Day at the Beach

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chu’s Day at the Beach

Neil Gaiman

Adam Rex

Bloomsbury, 2015

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

9781408864367

 

Chu the panda is well-named for whenever he sneezes, he sneezes with such force amazing things happen.  And in this third adventure, it is no different. An ordinary day at the beach with his family with his mother sitting on the sand reading her book, his father in the water up to his tummy and the ice cream seller giving Chu an extra scoop gets turned on its head when Chu feels that familiar tickle and the inevitable happens.  The ocean parts in a somewhat biblical fashion and Chu finds himself among creatures more familiar with being under the water than on it.  The whale expresses their feelings…”When the sea is broken, I cannot go home,” it said.

So Chu needs to sneeze again to put things back the way they were.  But no matter what, he cannot sneeze and it seems the sea will remain broken. Until…

Younger readers may well have already met Chu is his earlier adventures, Chu’s Day and Chu’s Day at School so they will be thrilled to see another episode that promises lots of fun.  Even if he is new to them, the storyline and the bright, engaging illustrations will appeal. There are things that are familiar and things that are new, and all will be holding their breath to hope that Chu can find a way to sneeze. 

A charming addition to a preschool collection from a writer who seems to be able to hit the mark with a wide range of audiences which can be used to help the children understand continuity of character and what they already know about both Chu and the beach to help them predict and enjoy the story.