Archive | May 2017

Millie Loves Ants

Millie Loves Ants

Millie Loves Ants

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Millie Loves Ants

Jackie French

Sue deGennaro

Angus $ Robertson, 2017

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

9781460751787

Ants are the most numerous insect in the world -scientists estimate there are more than 10 000 species and maybe 100 000 trillion individuals – which is a good thing because Millie the echidna loves them.  No matter where they are – on the path, beneath the bath, in the kitchen, in the shed, on a picnic, in the bed – Millie is on an endless quest to eat as many as she can.  Whether it’s a hunter ant, a soldier ant or even a queen flying before rain, she is on their trail because she is on a special mission…

Echidnas are not uncommon in the bush environment from rainforests to dry sclerophyll forests to the arid zones and with their formidable spines and remarkable ability to grip the ground, even hard concrete so they cannot be disturbed, it is no wonder they are are the oldest surviving mammal on the planet today. Knowing that author Jackie French lives in the bush environment in south-east New South Wales, one can imagine her watching an echidna snuffle across her backyard on the trail and this delightful book being born as she pondered its search and brought it to life in rhyme. 

While Millie continues her dogged pursuit, which is such a steady but remarkably speedy pace,  artist Sue deGennaro adds movement and humour in her portrayal of the ants who are as clever as they are numerous.  We’ve all seen them carrying food bigger than they are but who would have thought they could manoeuvre four cupcakes and a suite of garden tools!! And in amongst the frivolity there is a lot of information about the benefits of these tiny creatures to our landscape and lives, even if we do see them as pesky annoyances in the sugarbowl! 

Having endeared us to the ants through these charming pictures, we then discover the reason for Millie’s journey and hearts melt all over again – while a lesson in life is learned. We need food to provide food.  Little readers will not only understand echidnas a little more after experiencing this book but they will also view ants in a different light and perhaps take time to observe and think about what the ants are doing before hitting them with a spray or a foot.

Extensive teachers’ notes are available as well as a poster but this copy is winging its way to Queensland for Miss Almost 2 just for the share joy and delight of the words, the rhyme, the pictures and her love of stories that is already well-cemented because of tales like this.

A frequent visitor

A frequent visitor

 

Where is the Very Hungry Caterpillar?

Where is the Very Hungry Caterpillar?

Where is the Very Hungry Caterpillar?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where is the Very Hungry Caterpillar?

Eric Carle

Picture Puffin UK, 2017

10pp., board, RRP $A16.99

9780141374352

The world was first introduced to the very hungry caterpillar as he munched his way through a menu of goodies almost 50 years ago!  Now he is back, hiding somewhere under the flaps waiting to be discovered by little fingers.  

With the bold colours and readily recognisable illustrations of the wondrous Eric Carle who has a gift of turning the mundane into the extraordinary, it’s time for little ones to have even more fun with the little caterpillar that so many of them already know and love.  And as well as recognising the familiar foods from the original story and perhaps even being able to read the words for them because of that, they can also learn what other tiny creatures inhabit the world beneath their feet and maybe tread a little more gently on this earth.

This ticks all the boxes about helping our first readers to understand the basic concepts about print that are so vital to their reading success, particularly making connections between this new story and the one they know as they learn to carry that knowledge and apply it to a new situation.  Brilliant from what might appear to be a humble board book!

Ballerina Dreams: A true story

Ballerina Dreams

Ballerina Dreams

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ballerina Dreams

Michaela & Elaine DePrince

Ella Okstad

Faber Children, 2017

80pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9780571329731

Many a young girl dreams of becoming a ballerina and so it was for Michaela DePrince after she saw a picture of a girl in a tutu in a magazine.  Sound familiar? Probably.  But life for Michaela was very different than that of many of the girls we know.  She was an orphan living in an orphanage in Sierra Leone after her parents were killed in the war and teased unmercifully by the other children because she suffered from vitiligo, a condition that affects the pigment of the skin.  They called her Spots and “the devil’s child”!

How does a little girl from such a background become a leading dancer in a world that valued a different sort of beauty to hers? Currently  the Grand Sujet for the Dutch National Ballet’s main company for the 2016-2017 ballet season, Michaela tells her story in this specially adapted version of her memoir Hope in a Ballet Shoe. It is a story of hard work, perseverance and hope, a message which she constantly shares with other disadvantaged children in order to encourage them to strive for a dream. In 2016 she was named an Ambassador for War Child Netherlands.

Perfect for those who dream of being ballerinas, it is also a story of following your dreams and being willing to put in the hard work that it takes to achieve them.  Ideal for newly independent readers, with short chapters, larger fonts and many illustrations, it can also introduce autobiographies to young readers showing them that there is much to learn, enjoy and inspire in this genre.

Just after she was adopted and living in the USA she watched a video of The Nutcracker; when she was eight she auditioned for and won a role as a polichinelle girl in the ballet, and vowed that one day she would be the first black Sugar Plum fairy. She achieved that in 2015.

As Michaela writes, “It doesn’t matter if you dream of being a doctor, a teacher, a writer or a ballerina.  “Every dream begins with one step. After that, you must work hard and practice every day. If you never give up, your dream will come true.”

 

 

 

 

Archie and the Bear

Archie and the Bear

Archie and the Bear

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Archie and the Bear

Zanni Louise

David Mackintosh

Little Hare, 2017

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

9781760127510

Archie loves being a bear but people just see his as a boy in a bear suit.  Strong-willed, determined and frustrated that people don’t believe him, Archie runs away to the forest where he meets a bear who is all about being a boy.  When Archie comments on the bear’s boy suit the bear growls at him that he is a boy not a bear, and instantly there is a bond between them.  Sharing the things they love like honey sandwiches, fishing and reading they support each other until darkness falls and the night grows cold and suddenly it’s better to be who you really are.

Mackintosh’s illustrations bring each identity to life using scale to show not just the physical relationships but also the emotional ones. And despite being so small, even just a speck in some pictures, Archie’s will remains strong and large saying much about physical size and shape not defining us as people. 

This is a quirky, original story about being true to yourself that will open up all sorts of discussions about imagination, self-belief and friendships. Even though adults might not see Archie as a bear, young readers will get it as the author has climbed into their thinking and they will relate to it. Sometimes it’s not enough to be a powerless little boy in an adult-dominated world.

Discussions may even wander into the field of how each living thing has adapted to its environment, each with its own special needs met within it, and why the ending was inevitable.

Unusual but intriguing.    

All about Peter

All about Peter

All about Peter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All About Peter

Beatrix Potter

Penguin UK, 2017

10pp., board, RRP $A16.99

9780141374758

When Beatrix Potter first wrote about Peter Rabbit for five-year-old Noel Moore, son of Potter’s former governess Annie Carter Moore, in 1893 and then revised it until it was finally published by Frederick Warne in 1902, I wonder if Ms Potter could have imagined that 115 years later it would have been translated into 36 languages and sold over 45 000 000 copies worldwide.  I wonder if all those publishers who rejected it when she first submitted it to them are kicking themselves as yet another incarnation is set to introduce a new generation of little people to the wonderful characters and distinctive illustrations.

Moving away from its iconic appearance as the familiar small white-framed books perfect for little hands, this new version is a Peter Rabbit-shaped board book which introduces Peter in rhyme.  Little ones are introduced to Peter and then invited to join him as he hops, jumps and scampers through the woods with Cousin Benjamin until it’s time for sleep.  It’s the perfect introduction to this endearing and enduring cast of characters for today’s toddlers, getting them ready to meet all Peter’s family and friends and romp through Mr McGregor’s garden and the beautiful British countryside brought to life by Potter’s meticulous and detailed artworks.  

Miss 6 met Peter and his mates when she was still in her cot – now it’s time to pass the baton to Miss 2, the 4th generation of our family to be enchanted.  

Happy Days Out

Happy Days Out

Happy Days Out

 

 

 

 

 

 

Off We Go 

9781408876688

 

On the Farm 

9781408876701

Ekaterina Trukhan

Bloomsbury, 2017

10pp., board, $A14.99

Two interactive board books for the very young which take them on a journey into town or to the farm teaching them new vocabulary and inviting them to find things hidden in the illustrations.  Very young children will delight in finding things that they are already familiar with – there are peepholes and flaps galore to explore – and learning the names of the places and things that are common to them.  On the other hand. often city kids have no idea at what is found and done on a farm and vice versa – country kids may not be aware of the hustle and bustle of the city – so introducing them to the sorts of things they may find there at such an early age helps sets up their schema for when they encounter them in other stories.  Even the concepts of “city” and “farm” and where they are and how they get there can be explored, compared and contrasted, and new vocabulary built.

Great for the very young as well as those learning English for the first time. They might illustrate additional things they know as they show off their new knowledge.

We’re All Wonders

We're All Wonders

We’re All Wonders

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’re All Wonders

R.J. Palacio

Puffin, 2017

32pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9780141386416

Wonder is the unforgettable story of August Pullman, an ordinary boy with an extraordinary face that has touched readers all over the world as it became an instant classic, used widely for one-school-one read projects and spread through word-of-mouth recommendations.  Now Palacio has transformed the core message of that book into a picture book that transcends ages with its powerful theme.

Even though he does ordinary things like riding a bike, eating ice cream and playing ball, Auggie is not an ordinary kid because he does not look like all the other kids in his class.  He knows this and he knows they point and laugh and call him names which hurt his feelings.  But he and his dog Daisy have a remarkable strategy for dealing with things when they get tough… And it certainly puts the hurt into perspective.

Even though he knows he can’t change the ways he looks, perhaps he can change the way people see.

Echoing the cover of the original, Palacio has depicted Auggie has a one-eyed child wearing a bright red t-shirt which stands out like a beacon against the more muted tones of the illustrations, somewhat like Auggie himself standing out amongst the masses. And for someone with no face, Palacio has nevertheless managed to convey a whole range of emotions in the illustrations and text. Every word does a job. 

In a book full of messages about belonging and acceptance perhaps the strongest one is Auggie’s inner strength.  Yes his feelings are hurt but he has learned through his family’s love and acceptance of him as he is that he has the strength to endure, maybe even overcome the insults and prejudices.  Even though he needs time out to heal, he has the resilience to come back stronger than ever.  He knows he is a wonder, he is unique – but then, aren’t we all?

Those who have not read the novel do not need to do so in order to connect to this book (although this one may well inspire them to seek it out) because it’s message is more important than the character.  Every one of us is an Auggie in some way – try being a red-head with freckles and glasses in the 50s when Marilyn Monroe-types were the role models – so every one of us could be the central character.  Written sensitively and with a light hand, particularly when it comes to Auggie’s solution, this book should be at the core of any program focusing on mindfulness, well-being, inclusivity, acceptance of others and being enough just as we are.  Perhaps this book will, indeed, bring Auggie’s hope of changing how people see to fruition.

 

Storm Whale

Storm Whale

Storm Whale

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Storm Whale

Sarah Brennan

Jane Tanner

Allen & Unwin, 2017

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

9781760293642

Bleak was the day and the wind whipped down when I and my sisters walked to town …

Surrounded by seabirds being buffeted every which way, wild waves  crashing on the shore and bitten by a chill wind that blew their skirts high, turned their legs blue and made their hair fly like a brumby’s tail, three sisters make their way to the beach undaunted by nature’s fury.  In fact they are delighting in it.  But that soon turns to anguish when they spot a whale stranded on the high tide line.  

Scarred old mariner, beached in hell,

Far from the cradling ocean swell,

Far from the peace of the ocean deep

Where ancient fugitives find their sleep.

Swept by the tide to its farthest reach,

Left with the kelp on the hard wet beach…

Dark as a demon, dull of eye

Waiting in silence to drift…or die

All day the girls battle to keep the whale alive, unperturbed by the weather and the waves soaking them to the skin.  But as dark rolls in and the driving rain sends them home, they have to leave the whale to its fate.  Even the cosy warmth of the fire doesn’t warm their hearts and their night is restless but dream-filled as the storm rages on.  Next morning they hasten back to the beach and discover a miracle…

Written in the most poetic language and accompanied by the most evocative illustrations, Storm Whale took me right back to my childhood in a seaside town at the very south of the South Island of New Zealand – next stop Antarctica- and brought back haunting memories of storms with wild winds that crashed the waves onto the rocks and made for the most exciting times.  While whales abounded, they didn’t become stranded on that part of the coastline although it was common on beaches not too far distant.  This is a story that not only paints a different picture of the seaside as the benign summer holiday playground of many of our students but brings to life the fury and magnificence of Nature and the insignificance of even those as mighty as whales in her power.   

The rhyming text suggest the ceaseless rhythm of the ocean and indeed, life itself, while both words and pictures give a subtle but strong message of respect and the need to appreciate, value and conserve.  

A most moving book that will touch the reader on many levels.

A Kiwi Year – twelve months in the life of New Zealand kids

A Kiwi Year

A Kiwi Year

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Kiwi Year – twelve months in the life of New Zealand kids

Tania McCartney

Tina Snerling

EK, 2017

32pp., hbk., RRP SA19.99

9781925335446

On the surface there don’t appear to be many difference between Australian kids and their Kiwi cousins apart from the fact the we Kiwis “talk funny”.  But as five Kiwi kids – Charlie, Ruby, Oliver, Mason and Kaia – show us as they journey through their year, there are subtle distinctions, enough to make their lives special and unique.

As well as different vocabulary like ‘tramping’ not ‘bushwalking’ and ‘jandals’ not ‘thongs’ Kiwi kids love rugby not rugby league or Australian Rules and are familiar with a very different range of flora and fauna.  Maori culture and the influence of our Pacific Island neighbours is very strong with official places and concepts being in both languages. Maoritanga is a mandatory part of the school curriculum.  The land is younger and much more mountainous and so winter is more severe with more opportunities to participate in snow sports, but summer sees us at the beach and playing cricket, even if we still remember that infamous underarm bowling incident.  

But like Australia, ANZAC Day is sacred and we remember those who put the NZ in the word, and with the European forefathers of both country being predominantly from the United Kingdom many of the annual festivals are the same.  But there are some that are unique that celebrate our heritage and landscape bringing a richness to our lives and our culture that is unique.

So many times I’ve heard Australians say they don’t want to go to New Zealand because it would be just like Australia in miniature, but once having been there, change their tune and marvel at just how different it is. Tania and Tina have ferreted out those things that make this country and its people unique and bring them to life through the eyes of the children, celebrating them in such a special way that this book will be handed on to my grandchildren (whose dad is also a Kiwi) so they can understand where they come from – and why Grandma is just a tad different at times!  LOL.

Noah’s Ark

Noah's Ark

Noah’s Ark

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Noah’s Ark

Charlotte Guillain

Lesley Grainger

Bloomsbury, 2017

24pp., board, RRP $A14.99

9781408883631

No matter your choice of religion or lack of it, the story of the flood caused by rain for 40 days and 40 nights and how Noah, his family and a collection of animals survived it by living on the Ark transcends them all and has almost become part of the folklore children are expected to know. 

This sturdy board book, the perfect size for little hands is a great introduction to this ageless story with its bright pictures and simple text.  Religion and story aside, it is also a great story to start a myriad of investigations taking the learner on a journey of their fancy.  They could investigate questions such as

Where did Noah live?

How big was the Ark?

How long is 40 days?

Why did he take two of each creature?

What makes rain?

What is a rainbow?

Geography, length, time, reproduction, family trees, weather, light and colour, history, can all be explored through this one story and each would lead to a better understanding of the world around them, something they strive to do. Such a rich story will be read over and over with something new to be discovered each time .Even if this board book  version isn’t the one for your students seek out a version that is appropriate for your students, surround it with a myriad of questions and let them loose!