Archive | June 2018

The Day War Came

The Day War Came

The Day War Came

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Day War Came

Nicola Davies

Rebecca Cobb

Walker, 2018

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

9781406376326

It started as an ordinary day- there were flowers on the window sill, her father sang to her baby brother, her mother made her breakfast, kissed her nose and walked with her to school,  School was ordinary too – she learned about volcanoes, how tadpoles turned to frogs and she drew a picture of a bird.

But then, just after lunch war came.  The devastation and desperation was complete.  The only salvation was to run – through fields, roads,and mountains in the cold and the mud and the rain; riding on trucks, buses, even a leaky boat and eventually up a beach where shoes lay empty in the sand. 

But war had come to this nation too – not the bombs-and-bullets type of war but one where hearts and minds are closed to those seeking refuge – until there is one act of kindness that changes both thinking and lives…

It is tragic enough that here in Australia some think it is OK to  put desperate children in detention, children who have suffered more than the decision-makers can ever imagine; but to know that Australia is not alone in this as evident by the recent policies of the US administration and that this poem was inspired by UK government refusing sanctuary to 3000 unaccompanied child refugees in 2016 is heart-breaking and head-shaking.  How has humanity become so selfish it can’t give succour to a child?

Told through the eyes of the child it not only puts a face to all the children displaced by adult motives but also makes the stories and plight of these children accessible to young readers – readers who might be like the little boy in the story and start a groundswell of change.  It is a book that cannot be shared in isolation – it needs a conversation that focuses on the girl’s emotions and feelings; her resilience and determination; and the big question “what if this were you?” (and some of our students may well be able to tell us because it has been them.) 

In a world that seems to be driven by economics rather than empathy this is a book that might start to change things, if now now then perhaps for the future.  Perhaps it is time for another make-love-not-war generation, despite the current protagonists being the products of the previous one. 

Julian Is a Mermaid

Julian Is a Mermaid

Julian Is a Mermaid

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Julian Is a Mermaid

Jessica Love

Walker, 2018

40pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781406380637

Going home on the subway with his grandmother, Julian spots three glamorous women dressed as mermaids and is immediately transported to his imaginary world living under the sea as a mermaid, at one with the creatures there.  He is pulled from his reverie as the train reaches his stop but the memory lingers and once he is home and his grandmother goes to have a bath, he uses the things in her apartment to transform himself – plant fronds for flowing, hair, lacy curtains for a splendid tail, and some lipstick. But then his grandmother comes out – will she scold him for becoming something so feminine or will she embrace his imagination and diversity?

In what is almost a wordless picture book, the reader has to immerse themselves in the pictures to really engage with this story that challenges the stereotype of being a mermaid being a girl’s dream and celebrates diversity, being true to yourself and accepted for that. 

One can imagine the eyebrows that would be raised on an Australian metro train should three glamorous women dressed as mermaids get on, each confident in themselves and their dress (reminiscent of the costumes of Priscilla, Queen of the desert)- but this is New York and instead of derision they encourage a young child to dream and then make that dream a reality. 

His grandmother, somewhat overweight but nevertheless flamboyant in her own style, is clearly very comfortable in her own skin, not driven by the expectations of others and definitely not the stereotype grey-hair-and-knitting that is so commonly portrayed in stories, and so it is not surprising that she embraces Julian’s desires and takes him to a place where he can truly belong. 

Because so much of the story is told in the illustrations, they have to be superb and they are. From the stunning undersea creature presenting the mermaid Julian with a coral necklace to the characters that Julian and his grandmother pass in the street, indeed even the women in the pool in the endpages, each with is imbued with personality and confidence and pride in who they are. 

This is a book that demands close reading and reflection so its riches are revealed; it is one that will raise questions and demand explanations; but to those who are like Julian and dream of things that are beyond the traditional stereotype bounded by gender, it will bring comfort and maybe confidence so they too can be themselves. 

What’s at the End of this Piece of Rope?

What's at the End of this Piece of Rope?

What’s at the End of this Piece of Rope?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s at the End of this Piece of Rope?

Tania Cox

Jedda Robaard

Lothian Childrens. 2018 

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

9780734418012

 

When a young child discovers a piece of rope lying on the ground, she pulls it with all her might but cannot release it.  Even when the monkey offers its help and they pull together, it does not reveal its end. Kangaroo and Gorilla come to help without success and it is only when Hippo adds his enormous weight that the secret is revealed as the rope finally gives and they all end up in a tangle on top of each other.  But is what they find what they are expecting? Or want?

Delicately illustrated with gentle watercolours. this is a charming book for early childhood about curiosity and co-operation which opens up the world of stories to young readers. The predominant use of questions means they will have fun predicting what could be at the end of the rope, something so enormous it defies such huge effort, as well as suggesting who will be the next to say, “Would you like some help to see?” as each creature is larger than the one before. The concept of enlisting others to work together to help solve a problem is strong and no doubt the children will share instances of when they have worked with others to reach a solution beyond them as individuals, as well as the feelings of frustration and crankiness when they can’t sort it for themselves.  An opportunity to talk about resilience and perseverance, perhaps.

The overhead perspective of what the rope might be attached to will encourage them to look closely at the picture, reinforcing not only the relationship between text and pictures in quality picture books, but also the need to look for cues and clues in the details.  More experienced readers might even investigate the use of perspective in pictures so that a story’s message is enriched and enhanced. 

And with the ending left hanging, so to speak, they might like to imagine what happens next.  Engaging with texts such as this which demand the child’s involvement and encourage them to predict based on both the context and the illustrations is such a vital foundation of early reading behaviour, teaching the child they can be an active participant in the story rather than just a passive viewer and thus enhancing their enjoyment.

Seemingly simple on the surface this is rich in rewards and possibilities with comprehensive teachers’ notes available.

Grandmas from Mars

Grandmas from Mars

Grandmas from Mars

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grandmas from Mars

Michelle Robinson

Fred Blunt

Bloomsbury, 2018 

32pp., pbk., $A12.99

9781408888766

Fred and Nell’s parents are off to an important meeting, as are many of the other parents in their town, and so the children are being left with Grandma. In lots of houses parents are saying,,,

“It’s school in the morning, they can’t be up late…

So: homework, a bath – and in bed before eight”

And the grandmas are saying…

“Eat up your greens”

Stop picking your nose.

Give grandma a kiss

What your grandma says goes.”

Meanwhile, on Mars the Martians are watching and they hatch a plan…suddenly the earth grandmas are beamed up and lookalike substitutes take their place.  Grandmas that encourage the children to eat junk food, stay up all night, and do all the forbidden things that have appealed for so long.  

But is it all fun?  Is this really Grandma? Is that a spare eyeball? A tail? A striped tongue?” As the penny drops and the children realise not all is at it seems, they run… but can they escape?

Refreshing as it is to see grandmas who are not stereotypical little old ladies with their hair in a bun, wearing a cardigan and satisfied with sitting and knitting (a concept somewhat alien to today’s young readers) perhaps a grandma from Mars is a step too far as alternative! Young readers will delight in this rollicking rhyming story with its bright actin-packed pictures that introduces someone who, on the surface, seems more the sort of grandma they want  but then will be grateful for the loving grandma that they have. I know Miss 7 and Miss 12 will be counting their blessings after reading this! And they may just be grateful for the lessons they’ve learned…

Be careful what you wish for!

Goat’s Coat

Goat's Coat

Goat’s Coat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Goat’s Coat

Tom Percival

Christine Pym

Bloomsbury, 2018

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

9781408881019

Let me tell you the tale of Alfonzo the goat,

Who was terribly fond of his lovely new coat

The pictures on the wall and the clothes on their stands in Alfonzo’s hallway show a goat who has a keen eye for fashion and one for whom sartorial splendour is important.  So to have a new coat with “bright shiny buttons all made out of glass and a collar the colour of freshly cut grass” -such a stunning contrast to the thick yellow weave of the coat itself – is something that is very important to him. As he walked through the streets showing it off, he felt very proud as people admired him.

But as he walks he hears cries of despair from creatures in distress who really need his coat more than he does.  Will he be able to part with it?  Of course he does – he may be a fashionista but he is also generous and gradually, bit by bit, his coat goes to helping others until not even the collar is left.  So when he gets caught in a blizzard on his way home and he curls up in a cold ball beneath a boulder to keep warm, all looks very grim for him until…

Tom Percival’s clever rhyming text works perfectly with Christine Pym’s illustrations as young readers need to refer to the pictures to see just why Goat’s coat gradually looks tattier and smaller until there is nothing left.  There are lots of opportunities for predicting how he might solve each creature’s problems and even what those problems might have been so it’s great for helping early readers learn to engage fully with both text and pictures to immerse themselves in the context of the story as much as its content.  There is also a great opportunity for parent and child or teacher and class to discuss what Goat did and think about his actions after reading to deepen awareness of not only the story but how people help each other.

Deceptively simple, richly rewarding.

 

In-Between Things

In-Between Things

In-Between Things

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In-Between Things

Priscilla Tey

Candlewick Press, 2018

40pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9780763689834

In between the covers of this book is a rollicking story about a cat and a dog who explore all the things in between things in the house. 

The cat is between that table that’s green and the chair with the tear sitting right over there,

The dog is between the floor and the cat (and does not enjoy being in the middle like that!)

As well as exploring all sorts of physical things like the glass of the fishbowl between keeping the fish wet and us dry,  there are all sorts of hybrids like mixed colours, spoons and forks called sporks, skirts and shorts that make skorts,  and dancing with a jig and a wiggle makes a jiggle that makes everyone giggle! 

As well as learning the language of position which is such an important maths concept, young readers will delight in examining the highly detailed illustrations for more examples of in-between while at the same time enjoying the rhyme and rhythm of a story that takes an everyday concept and turns it into a story.

 

A Stone for Sascha

A Stone for Sascha

A Stone for Sascha

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Stone for Sascha

Aaron Becker

Candlewick Press, 2018 

48pp., hbk., RRP $A27.99

9780763665968

Just before the family leaves on a holiday at the beach, they bury their beloved dog.  As Sascha grieves and dusk falls, she takes her bucket to the ocean’s edge to collect stones to take home to cover the bare mound that is her dog’s grave.  Among those she picks up is one that is particularly bright and shiny and as she looks up to the stars she begins to wonder and trace the stone’s journey to its resting place on the shore.  From a meteor that hurls itself to Earth in the time of the dinosaurs to being picked up by Sascha and eventually placed on her dog’s grave,  it has a long and fascinating history that reveals itself in a series of stunning illustrations in this wordless text, traveling through time and across lands. 

But, perhaps most important of all, although Sascha continues to miss her dog terribly, she begins to understand that nothing is truly lost – everything, even a stone and a dog, has a history and a legacy and is but one piece in the jigsaw that is both our own and the planet’s story.  We are more than what is happening to us in the moment – all that has gone before has shaped us and what we do now will change us for the future. 

Described by one reviewer as the “young person’s Shaun Tan”, this story has so many layers to explore and ponder with each visit – Becker’s decision to not add text means the reader has to impose their own making for a wonderful opportunity to reflect and consider and wonder. Against the background of the muted palette, the gold of the stone stands out like a thread weaving its way through a carpet, just as our own individual stories while being but one strand of a much larger tale, nevertheless stand out for us.

The Silver Sea

The Silver Sea

The Silver Sea

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Silver Sea

Alison Lester & Jane Godwin

Children from the Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne

Affirm Press, 2018

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

9781925584745

Let’s go down to The Silver Sea,
Come on, I’ll hold your hand…

Take a journey with two little children as they explore what is beneath the waves in this magical adventure created by young people at the Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne with  Australian authors Alison Lester and Jane Godwin.

Inspired by a multi-storey aquarium that was once part of the RCH environment, and created during a series of drawing workshops with the young patients, this is a stunning collaboration that features the rhythmical lullaby-like text of Lester and Godwin and the distinctive artwork of children that can never be replicated by adults.   From splashing with the dolphins and seals in the waves to deep down in the indigo depths and back home again through diving shearwaters, the vast array of sealife is brought to life through the eyes and hands of the children.

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

Little ones will be inspired to create their own images of what they might see if they were able to go on an adventure like the children in the story. while older readers might like to investigate some of the creatures that they encounter.  There is nothing quite so entrancing as seeing a leafy sea dragon in amongst the seaweed – an enduring memory of my scuba diving days – and wanting to know more about them!

All proceeds from the book’s sales go to the Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne, making an extra reason for ensuring this utterly charming story is in your collection.  

 

Is It The Way You Giggle?

Is It The Way You Giggle?

Is It The Way You Giggle?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is It The Way You Giggle?

Nicola Connelly

Annie White

New Frontier, 2018

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

9781925594102

What makes you special?

Is it the way you look or something that you can do?

Is it the way you giggle or the way you wiggle?

This is a new take on a perennial topic that will encourage little people to think about what it is that makes them special.  With the entire text being in question format as though the author is speaking directly to the reader, it provokes thought about those things that are unique to us that make us stand out, going beyond the obvious of the colour of the skin, eyes and hair and starting to look at the inner person-their personality, their expertise  and their mannerisms.  Even those with low self-esteem will be able to contribute something and perhaps get a little lift that there is something special about them.  

Annie White’s charming illustrations in watercolour and pencil show that even within one family of four kids from the same parents and exposed to the same sorts of things, there is huge diversity amongst them which is accepted, appreciated and celebrated within the family. 

Extensive teachers’ notes offer new ideas about using this book with early childhood children but as a parent-child read-along, it’s a great opportunity for a chat about how the child and other family members are special and even what makes the family itself unique.

Little Witch (series)

Little Witch (series)

Little Witch (series)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Secrets & Spells

9781925520101

Hauntings & Hexes

9781925520576

Plots & Potions

9781925675252

Aleesah Darlison

Big Sky Publishing, 2017-2018

176pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

The tiny beach town of Mixton Bay isn’t Courtney’s idea of a holiday. In fact, she thinks it the sleepiest, most boring holiday place ever and the house she is to stay in is so ugly even a dog wouldn’t sleep in it. But now her grandmother, whom she never met and whom her father hasn’t spoken to for years has died and her house must be sorted and sold.  But once she gets there her curiosity takes over and she starts asking questions about her family’s history and why it has been so fractured.  Little does she know that those family secrets, magic and mystery, and the memory of her grandma Delia will result in a special holiday to remember.

 When she finds a mystical ‘Book of Spells’ with her name on the box, discovers Ink the talking cat and a new surfer friend, Justice who has a secret of his own, suddenly her life gets very interesting and is changed forever.

The Little Witch Series features wholesome magical stories with gentle elements of tween/teen romance. The stories deal with realistic family and relationship issues set against a backdrop of fantasy and magical escapism centred in the real world. Light-hearted and funny, this series feature a strong, independent and unique female lead character whom readers will relate to as she confronts familiar situations with new solutions, learning more and more about her family and herself as she does so. 

No matter what series Darlison writes she has a knack of creating totally believable characters who are great role models for young readers showing independence, imagination and ingenuity while still engrossing them in a compelling and intriguing adventure.