Archive | February 2017

Fly Way Peter

Fly Way Peter

Fly Way Peter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fly Way Peter

Frank Dickens

Ralph Steadman

Pavilion, 2016

32pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781843653219

Jeffrey the Giraffe is very unhappy.  Even though it is a lovely day, and he is the same size as the other giraffes and has the same spots as them, he has a short neck and that makes him different.  As he wanders through the jungle feeling sorry for himself he almost steps on a little bird walking in the grass. The little bird is most indignant but when he hears Jeffrey’s story about being different and lonely he suggests going for a wall.

Jeffrey is surprised that the bird, whose name is Peter suggests a walk when everyone knows birds fly. But like Jeffrey, Peter is different for he cannot fly.  That is until an innocent game of hide and seek changes both their lives forever…

First published in 1964, it has been republished several times over the years and now another generation will get to share this story with a theme that not only passes the test of time but endures in a myriad of situations everywhere so it will resonate with today’s readers as much as it did 50 years ago. Steadman’s bright, detailed illustrations are full of fun and echo the artwork of children although there is much to discover with closer examination.

Little ones can be encouraged to predict what might happen at several parts in the story particularly when Jeffrey’s predicament becomes apparent, which encourages them to take risks in a very safe environment, and they will enjoy joining in with the actions and words as the animals try to solve Jeffrey’s problem.  Retelling and art opportunities abound! The best stories promote this sort of spontaneous interaction and so it is perfect for helping them understand the fun and enjoyment of stories and the printed word. 

This is a classic story about friendship, co-operation and accepting others for what they are not what they look like that will probably still have a place on the shelves 50 years from now.

My Friend Ernest

My Friend Ernest

My Friend Ernest

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Friend Ernest

Emma Allen

Hannah Sommerville

Angus & Robertson, 2017

32pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

971460750544

It is the first day of school and Oscar has put his brave on along with the knight’s shining helmet from the big dress-up box.  But just as he goes to get the shield he is shoved out of the way by a kid who snatches the dragon tail.  A knight and a dragon are traditional enemies and so it seems to be the case again.  Oscar is intimidated by this scary dragon-child and even though he acts brave he’s not really.  Seeking shelter in the cubby he finds a princess who is  hiding from the crocodiles  and then in comes the dragon…

This is a story that was probably reflected in most of the schools around Australia just three or four weeks ago as the newest bunch of big-schoolers began their new adventure.  No matter how big and brave and fearless they were on the outside, they were just little five-year olds in a big new world on the inside.  While in those traditional scenarios Oscar would have slain that dragon, in this story he faces his fears.  He tells the dragon he is not afraid of him but when they come face to face he is able to articulate that he is a little bit scared and why.  Rather than hiding behind his fears and perhaps not having the best start to school because he makes Ernest scarier than he is, Oscar learns that acknowledging them and facing them can lead to something much better. He also learns that just as he is hiding his concerns behind the knight’s outfit, others might also be hiding behind a brave face and that taking the time to dig a little deeper can lead to some rewarding and fun times.

From the front cover, Sommerville’s illustration bring this text to life – young children will know immediately that this is going to be about two little boys – one a knight, the other a dragon and thus destined for conflict.  But there is also a clue to the outcome in the title – the main character is Oscar but the book is called My Friend Ernest.

Even though the beginning of term is slipping away into the memory, it is only days gone by so this would be a timely book to read to the children and remind them of how they were feeling back then and how far they have already come in conquering their fears and how brave they are and can be.  Life is going to be tricky at times – just how tricky depends on how we deal with the twists and turns.

 

History Mysteries: Diamond Jack

History Mysteries: Diamond Jack

History Mysteries: Diamond Jack

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

History Mysteries: Diamond Jack

Mark Greenwood

Puffin Books, 2017

88pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

9780143309260

March 1942 – the Japanese have reached Indonesia and there is a constant stream of flights shuttling refugees from Java to the safe haven of Broome on the north-west coast of Western Australia.  Russian flying ace Captain Smirnoff is piloting one of the last planes to leave Bandung Airport, an old DC3 stripped back to the bare minimum to allow for as many passengers as possible including five Dutch pilots, a trainee flight engineer, a mother and her 18 month old son.  

Just as they are about to take off an official jumps on board and hands Smirnoff a package, tell him to “Take great care of this.  Someone from the bank will collect it when you land.”

Unfortunately for Smirnoff, his crew and his passengers, the Japanese have switched their target to Broome and just an hour from their destination they are shot down. Despite injuries and continuing Japanese fire, Smirnoff manages to bring the plane down on the edge of  the beach…

What happened next – the survival and rescue of the passengers; the finding and the contents of the mysterious package and the enigmatic  man who became known as Diamond Jack are the centre of this intriguing true tale that still remains unanswered 75 years on. Should he have done what he did?  Is “finders keepers” really the rule to live by?  

Rudyard Kipling once said, “If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten” and in this new series from self-confessed history-hunter Mark Greenwood there are stories told that would otherwise have been forgotten, if they were ever widely known in the first place.  Short, engaging reads written in short chapters, large font and liberally illustrated they are not only perfect for the young reader moving on to independent reading but also those who may not have yet unlocked the key.  Greenwood writes an introduction that personalises the story as though he is talking directly to the reader, drawing them into this tale that is about to unfold and then, the tale told, he talks about the sources he has drawn on and provides a lot of extra information so not only is the story authenticated but there is scope for further discovery.

Something special to add to the collection and promote an interest in times past in a way seldom done. Australia- a country full of stories!

Fox and the Jumping Contest

Fox and the Jumping Contest

Fox and the Jumping Contest

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fox and the Jumping Contest

Corey R. Tabor

Balzer & Bray, 2016

32pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9780062398741

 

The animals are having a jumping contest – Elephant, Bear, Rabbit, Turtle, Frog and Fox have all entered – and Fox is determined he will win.  He even imagines how good the trophy will look perched on his mantlepiece.  

But Fox isn’t particularly good at jumping so he figures if that trophy is going to have pride of place in his loungeroom he will need a bit of assistance.  So while the other animals practise, he schemes and plans and builds.  His solution? A jetpack that he paints to match his fur hoping the other animals won’t notice – so it is clear that he knows he is cheating. 

On the day of the contest with the bird judges all ready and perched high in the branches the animals show their talents.  Frog does well and gets extra points for style; Turtle doesn’t do as well and Elephant less so.  Bear was loud and Rabbit was spectacular.  And then it was Fox’s turn…

This is a story with a twist, and it’s a twist that can spark some great discussion points which are perfect for getting young children to start to think critically, to philosophise and to empathise. Fox with his jetpack strapped to his back disappears so high in the sky that the judges can’t wait for him to return so they begin the awards ceremony. But just as Rabbit is about to receive the trophy, Fox falls back to Earth and plops into it and takes first place. The final scene shows Fox standing back admiring the cup on his mantlepiece, right where he had envisioned it would be.

But does Fox deserve it?  Has he cheated? Were there written rules about external assistance or were they just assumed? Why do we have rules? How do the other animals feel about the win? What about rabbit? Has there been fair play and sportsmanship? What is the twist in that final scene and was it a reasonable way to solve the problem? What does ‘compromise’ mean? 

Careful exploration of the text, verbal and visual, offers a lot of depth to this story and it deserves re-reading to get the most from it.  For example, Elephant doesn’t mind that she cannot jump well because she is “good at other things” and that in itself could provoke another discussion about how we all have our strengths so comparisons are not always fair.  Even very young children have a strong sense of justice and with the pictures enriching the words so well with their extra detail and action there is much to examine and ponder.

Life and literature are full of characters who are determined to win regardless and this is a surprisingly good story that can introduce even very young children to contemplate, at their own level, the philosophical question of does the end justify the means and giving them an opportunity to start thinking on a more abstract level, from different perspectives and consider what is not being said.    

One to get brains moving…

 

 

Fancy Pants

Fancy Pants

Fancy Pants

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fancy Pants

Kelly Hibbert

Amanda Graham

Raising Literacy Australia, 2016

32pp., pbk., RRP $A14.90

9780994385352

Once a year the Outback Dance is held near Bunyip’s Bluff

Where animals in fancy pants arrive to strut their stuff…

Dingo loves to dance under the desert’s night sky but he doesn’t have any fancy pants -just his regular coat and while he pretends not to care, deep down he really does.  

Meanwhile all the other outback creatures are preparing for the big night, although not without some difficulty.  Poor Emu is more suited to scarves – pants are not her thing while Bilby’s britches are still on the line and Kangaroo falls over in his and tears a big hole in them!  Wombat seems to have gained some weight since the last dance, Koala has too many choices and makes a big mess and poor Cockatoo is just bamboozled about how a bird can fit into pants!  Only Frill-Neck Lizard seems comfortable, looking like something straight from Priscilla, Queen of the Desert!

But eventually everyone gets themselves sorted, meeting together near Wombat’s place – and then Dingo turns up in just his coat.  At first the animals are concerned for their safety but then when he says that his coat is all he has, Kangaroo breaks the hush that has fallen…

February 16 is World Read Aloud Day and what better way to celebrate than with a rollicking, rhyming yarn that will not only entertain young readers with its humour and bright pictures, but will also allow them to hear the sounds and rhythms of our language and join in the delight that stories give.  

Who hasn’t had the dilemma of what to wear to a party and then found that their choice doesn’t work – it’s too small, it’s in the wash, it has a scratchy tag, it’s ripped, it’s just not right somehow?  And who has felt awkward and awful  about not having a costume when everyone else is in fancy dress? Not only will young readers resonate with the situations in this story but it will also help think about Dingo and how he might be feeling and how they might respond if this was one of their friends.  Would they poke fun, making him feel more miserable than he already is, or is there a better way?  And what if they were Dingo with no fancy pants to wear?  Would they decide to stay home or wrap themselves in a cloak of resilience and go anyway?  

Team it with the 1988 classic Animals Should Definitely Not Wear Clothing by Judi and Ron Barrett and have them design their own fancy dress for the story by giving them “paper doll” cutouts that they have to dress, encouraging them to think about size and structure and fit. Talk about why humans wear clothing, why our clothes are so different, national costumes, fashion, and a host of other related topics.  

While illustrator Amanda Graham has many books under her belt, this is the first work of an experienced primary school teacher and to another teacher’s eye it reflects so much of what we know attracts youngsters to the printed word including a strong underlying theme that opens up lots of discussions that will help children think beyond the words and pictures on the page.  A book that will be read again and again and which enables a new pathway to be explored each time.

Our Dog Benji

Our Dog Benji

Our Dog Benji

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our Dog Benji

Pete Carter

James Henderson

EK Books, 2017

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

9781925335330

Benji is a dog that eats anything and everything – no matter what, he has a go at it and even sits in front of the fridge each morning in the hope that it has exploded overnight.  Hus young master is not so adventurous – like many of his age he takes his time with new tastes and flavours and can be quite a fussy eater.  But he decides to follow Benji’s example and be a little more adventurous as he sees that these foods don’t kill Benji – although they might make his tummy rumble and cause a smell that no one can stand, not even Benji.  But there is one thing neither of them will eat…

Told with humour and colourful detailed pictures, this is a charming story for under-5s who aren’t quite sure when something unfamiliar appears on their plate.  But it is also an opportunity to talk to them about the things a dog should never eat and should never be given particularly pig products, milk, onions and chocolate because they are toxic to them.   Taking care of a pet is more than a daily walk and a brush every now and then.

Given the new research that shows the food that toddlers eat has a profound effect on their lives long-term particularly their likelihood of being overweight or obese, any books that start conversations with them about nutrition  and what they and their pets need to be healthy and active has to be a winner.  Thumbs up for this one.

Frog and Toad: The Complete Collection

Frog and Toad: The Complete Collection

Frog and Toad: The Complete Collection

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Frog and Toad: The Complete Collection

Arnold Lobel

Harper Collins, 2016

256pp., hbk., RRP $A39.99

9780008136222

 

In the 1970s two characters appeared in the realms of children’s literature and they are as popular today as they were then.  Frog and Toad are an odd couple but Lobel wrote four volumes each with five stories about them exploring their friendship and showing young readers that it is fine to be an individual and your own person.  This collection brings together all of the engaging, warm and funny stories and features a special foreword by Julia Donaldson, author of The Gruffalo.

Written with familiar vocabulary in simple sentences and a large font with his hand-drawn and hand-coloured illustrations, Lobel has crafted stories around familiar incidents that young children will resonate with such as the dilemma of sharing a cool ice cream on a hot day, or raking leaves on a windy day.  While Frog is the practical one, Toad is more emotional and imaginative as in the story of Christmas Eve when Frog is late and Toad immediately thinks something has happened to him.

“Classic” literature are stories which have a deeply human message that carries across time and space regardless of its historical or geographical setting and even those Frog and Toad have been around for 40 years, each story appeals and echoes with today’s readers just as it did then.  Mr 42 loved hearing these as bedtime stories and as he travelled on his journey to being an independent reader he loved that he could read them for himself.  Now it is time to share that joy and pleasure with his Miss Nearly 6.

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

Words

Words

Words

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Words

Christoph Niemann

Greenwillow, 2016

352pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

 9780062455505

 

What can you do with a word?  For me drawing and writing are very closely related. Both a word and a picture have the power to express extremely complex thoughts and emotions with amazing simplicity. Think of the word “love,” or a drawing of a smiling face. Being able to understand words and images opens the door to knowledge, communication, and connection to people all over the world.”

What originated as a set of cards for the New York City Department of Education to inspire children to learn English in a playful way has evolved into a most unusual book that takes more than 300 of the words we use often and interprets them in simple line drawings that require the reader to look closely to match meaning and picture. The illustration of the meaning is not always literal so that it has to be teased out and talked about, enhancing the reader’s understanding of it. Niemann makes connections between the word and emotions, cause and effect, actions, opposites, comparisons  and whatever else he feels will best express the richness of its meaning in an entertaining way that will teach and endure.  It is the relationship between the word and its illustration that is the key to explaining its meaning, rather than just a set of graphemes and a tangible object.  In fact many of the words that are included are not nouns or verbs but other parts of speech that can be tricky to explain. (He has even added a pictorial explanation for the common parts of speech at the end that should really help students remember them!)  Others such as scintilla and Brobdingnagian rely on their juxtaposition to enhance their meaning and add to the humour while homophones are depicted with their multiple meanings. And the toast that ALWAYS falls jam-side down is the perfect definition  

 

 

As much fun as this book is in and of itself, it is also a perfect springboard for getting students to try their hand at their own pictorial explanations for those words that trip them up.  There are many applications in the teaching day to have students interpret words through graphics and let them broaden their understanding of how our language works.

What looks like a simple book at first glance is full of promise and potential as a teaching tool.

The Fix-It Man

The Fix-It Man

The Fix-It Man

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Fix-It Man

Dimity Powell

Nicky Johnston

EK Books, 2017

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

9781925335347

Dads can fix anything – that’s what dads do.  Kites, kennels, teapots – whatever is needed.  He can even cobble together a rug made of rainbows and old hugs for mum – but he can’t fix mum.  Not even with his special peach and honey brew.  Even the doctors and lots of rest can’t fix mum. Not even all the love in the world.  

And no matter how hard they try, little girls can’t mend broken hearts – not hers, not dad’s and not Tiger’s.  Well, not with stick tape or glue or needle and thread..  But dad has one more special thing up his sleeve  and together they start to mend.

This is a poignant story of loss and one that will resonate with many children who have lost a parent or other loved one.  With its gentle text and soft palette, even though it is sad it is not gloomy because the love between this family oozes from the page and from that, the hope is tangible. And the threads that bind the family are stronger and more enduring than nails, glue, sticky-tape or any other kind of man-made adhesive or fastening.

Grief is a natural part of life and while we might like to protect our children from it, nevertheless it happens and we often struggle helping them to cope with their loss.  This book allows conversations to start and explores the way it is an emotion that we each express and deal with in our own way.  Dad’s lap is cosy and warm but his face is crumpled and wet; pieces spill out from Tiger’s heart and little girls try to do what they can to paper over the cracks – but they are too wide. But together…

Whether shared as a 1:1 or as a class, it offers children the opportunity to talk about losses in their life and to learn that they are not alone in feeling lonely, lost, scared and even betrayed but there is love and it does get easier.

Colour Your Own Medieval Alphabet

Colour Your Own Medieval Alphabet

Colour Your Own Medieval Alphabet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Colour Your Own Medieval Alphabet

British Library

Pavilion. 2016

56pp., pbk., RRP $A22.99

9781911216001

Before the age of printing made books more accessible to the general populace, texts were painstakingly produced by hand in monasteries by monks who were among the few literate people in a community.  Artists known as illuminators embellished a text made by a scribe with a colourful, highly decorative capital letter often gilded with gold leaf so it appeared to be filled with light.  Such books were priceless and became treasured objects.

From its collection of texts, most of which are 500 years old,  the British Library has selected 26 examples, each representing a letter of the alphabet and each annotated with the origin of the original, and transformed them into intricate outlines perfect for those who enjoy the challenge of colouring in.  There are samples from medieval charters and seals, historical and literary manuscripts, from Virgil to Chaucer and Royal Statutes to the Book of Psalms and the endpapers have reproductions of the originals so there is a choice to try to duplicate the original or create something new.

While there are many benefits of colouring in for children that centre around the development of hand-eye co-ordination and spatial awareness, it is becoming a favoured occupation by those who are older for the therapeutic qualities particularly promoting mindfulness and reducing stress.  

Although photocopying of the images for multiple use in a makerspace environment would be a breach of copyright, nevertheless each page could be given to individuals in need of a break, Printed on quality paper they would make a colourful display which could spark an investigation into the origin and history of the written word, the history and origin of the process of illuminations or even life in the Middle Ages generally, particularly the role of religion which is such a driving force for many, even today.  The current anti-Islamic fervour which seems to be building around the world has very deep roots!

It could also become the ubiquitous alphabet chart found in primary libraries or even become the signage for the fiction section.  Imagine the boost to a child’s self-esteem when they see their work put to such a useful purpose!

This books offers more than just a shoosh-and-colour activity to fill in time. It has the potential to take the students on a journey into our past.