This is a clever romp-in-rhyme through the characters of familiar fairy tales and folktales that will bring back memories of loved stories as well as suggest new ones to explore. Who is Herd Boy? Why was the Nymph protecting her tree? And why is ‘ugly’ just a disguise? Perfect for extending children’s reading into traditional tales from a range of countries as they try to match character with story.
But while the illustrations are quirky, I’m not so sure that the target audience is attracted to these muted, retro colours that seem to be so prominent in children’s books at the moment. My experience of 45 years with littlies is that children will view the cover as quite dull and pass it over in favour of something more eye-catching, so that while the text is brilliant it will take an adult’s encouragement to entice the child to explore it.
“Aussie Rules is awesome. Out on the boundary Bailey warms up. He takes a bounce and boots the ball; a banana kick bends towards me.”
As well as taking a romp through an Aussie Rules football game, this book also takes a romp through the alphabet using alliteration as a clever but not contrived device to keep the text flowing. Those familiar with the game and its terminology will enjoy the story as friends enjoy their game despite the appalling weather, while those who are not so aware will learn a little more so they might be tempted to watch a match or two.
There are few picture books about football written for the reluctant reader so this may also capture that market, as they recognise the action, the words and their meanings and start to believe that there is something in this reading thing for them.
Janine Dawson has not only captured the movement and action of the game but she has incorporated kids of both genders and a range of backgrounds that reflects the inclusivity of Aussie Rules and sport in general, so each child should be able to find themselves in the game somewhere. The fun and enjoyment of playing together in a team lifts right off the page and the score becomes irrelevant -just as it should be. Even the rain turning the oval into a quagmire so everyone is slithering and sliding in mud just adds to the fun, and the detail in the background (like the lady trading her umbrella for the pooper-scooper) emphasises the fact that weather cannot be the determinant of our activities.
An uplifting read about going out and having fun with friends, whether it’s Aussie Rules or something else, cleverly told so that is has a wider audience than just the AFL aficionado.
Willowvale Girls Grammar is an agricultural boarding school with 500 students offering a Vet Cadets program, and Abbey, Talika and Hannah are sharing a room. They need to learn to live together even though they come from very different backgrounds – Hannah obviously has money on her side and is a neat freak, while Abbey is the opposite, and Talika is Indian, which neither of the others have any experience of. But each has a family who loves them and fusses over them, and each has first day nerves.
Nevertheless, adjust they must and it is not long before the adventures begin and they become an inseparable trio solving mysteries, causing chaos and all the time, learning more and more about the creatures they care for..
From the author of Juliet, Nearly a Vet comes this new series for slightly older readers who are interested in caring for animals, perhaps even becoming vets themselves. With three other titles due for publication over the next few months this promises to be a great addition to your collection to satisfy those girls who are always after new animal stories.
To celebrate the launch there are two Vet Conventions being held in Queensland but check the website for availability of spaces.
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.
Did you take the B from my _ook, or my _ed, _ull, or even my _utterfly???
Following on from the hilarity of This is a Ball, Beck and Matt Stanton have created another delightful romp for preschoolers focusing on what happens when their favourite letter ‘B” is removed from some of their favourite words.
Starting by introducing the sound and the noise it makes, it continues with some single words which are then combined into a series of hilarious sentences that just beg for the child to interact and supply the missing letter. Look! The _eetle is wearing the _lue _oots, jumping on the _ed and _ouncing the _all with the _ulls!” Someone has stolen the “b’ and only the child can fix it! At the bottom of each page there is a commentary between the writer and the reader, openly inviting them to join in so there is even more fun to be had.
Like its counterpart This is a Ball, this book has a much wider audience than a first glance would suggest and a much wider application than fun between parent and child as a bedtime read. With such an emphasis, rightly or wrongly, on phonics in early reading instruction these days this is a perfect way to introduce this sound and all the others, in a way that plays with language and makes it fun so the desire to be a reader is enhanced. It could spark a host of class books based on favourite letters or those that start the children’s names so they explore its sound, the words that start with it and then put them together in crazy sentences that can then be illustrated. There might even be a discussion about how those letters not chosen might feel and a joint construction made as a model prior to their creating their own. The Bruna-esque illustrations are perfect with their entire focus being the particular word or sentence in focus and provide an easy-to-emulate model.
Those learning our language for the first time would delight in it, particularly those who are a bit older and who want something more than a traditional alphabet book and posters of words starting with a particular phoneme. There would be so much engagement that the learning would be natural and meaningful and go deeper than other more traditional strategies.
Both this and This is a Ball seem such simple concepts for a book that you wonder why they haven’t been done before – but it takes creators who have a real understanding of just what it takes to engage a child in reading so they are bouncing about and demanding more to pull it off so successfully.
Thirty years ago in 1986 an armoured armadillo avoiding an angry alligator appeared from the pen of one of Australia’s most iconic illustrators. It was followed by beautiful blue butterflies basking by a babbling brook and a host of other creatures including eight enormous elephants expertly eating Easter eggs; horrible hairy hogs hurrying homeward on heavily harnessed horses; meticulous mice monitoring mysterious mathematical messages; and even zany zebras zigzagging in zinc zeppelins.
For this was the magical, mystical, marvellous Animalia – an alliterative alphabet book and which, after selling more than three million copies worldwide and spawning a television series, is now celebrating its 30th birthday and a whole new audience is set to wonder at its creativity, its detail, its colour and try to spot the tiny Graeme on each page. It is indeed a feast of vivid visual literacy. And underneath the familiar dust cover which so cleverly hints at what is inside is a glamorous golden cover AND a fabulous poster of the lazy lions lounging in the local library. (Great role models for reading!!!)
Since Animalia’s original publication we have come to associate Graeme Base with intriguing stories woven around the most scintillating illustrations and if this is your first introduction to his work, you will be on the lookout for his other works.
Congratulations Graeme – thank you for bringing us these superb creatures and creating such riches for our young readers.
For 45 years Roger Hargreaves’s Mr Men characters have been delighting children in a series of books that are distinctive for their child-friendly size, white covers, and simple, colour-block illustrations. Beginning with Mr Tickle, inspired by his son’s question about what does a tickle look like, Hargreaves added more than 40 other characters as well as another 42 Little Miss characters, each with a simple message and value. It has been such an iconic series that to celebrate their 45th anniversary, the characters were redrawn and featured as part of the 2016 VIVID Festival in Sydney.
A series that has already lasted 445 years in print is likely to last another 45 at least, so this new alphabet book featuring the characters and very familiar objects drawn in the familiar Hargreaves style is the perfect way to introduce the very youngest readers to this literature institution. The simple, bright solid-colour illustrations are just right for the very young and the board book format makes it sturdy for not-so-sophisticated hands.
The Mr Men series is set to delight yet another generation.
Australia to Z is Armin Greder at his uncompromising, most confronting best. From the creator who brought us The Island which really turned a spotlight on our treatment of newcomers, comes this totally different alphabetical look at Australia which is just perfect for getting students to have a look at what it means to be Australian. While ‘soft’ investigations focus on icons, anthems, heroes and food, Australia to Z takes a much tougher look starting with the A for Aborigine looking out and seeing a First Fleet ship on the horizon to the deliberately juxtaposed B for Boat People showing more recent arrivals.
This is political commentary brought into the lives of children so they need to think and investigate…why has Greder chosen ‘calories’ for C, Ikea for I, and R for Rupert? But there are flashes of humour to lighten it too, with K being for the kangaroo that springs from nowhere in the night to take out the front of your car, and the ominously raised finger of the umpire for O for Out! And finally, there is Z for Zoo but the illustration is not what you would expect – but is perhaps the most poignant of all. This really is Australia under the microscope as the title page image suggests.
The choices make us think about how others see us, and with Greder being a Swiss immigrant, his perception may be sharper than others. But the inclusion of Advance Australia Fair almost as an appendix is a masterstroke – how different are the words we sing to the life we live?
Often in an ‘alphabet book’ the illustrations are more important than the text itself, but in this one the two are interdependent. Yes the text is biting but it is the powerful illustrations that accompany it that add the extra punch. Why are Rupert’s eyes blank? What does the picture of the Digger represent? With bold black strokes and a minimal palette, each image says all it needs to say and leaves a lasting impression long after the page has been turned.
Working in a highly multicultural school which has a significant population of children who come to learn English for the first time so they can work comfortably in their neighbourhood schools later, it never ceases to amaze me how these kids get along and understand each other so well without a common language let alone skin colour. There are many quotes and memes online that state “Children are not born racist –they learn to hate” and that is certainly my experience. Using Australia to Z in a focus on identity and belonging would be a most powerful way to raise issues, investigate and discuss them because knowledge leads to understanding, understanding leads to tolerance and tolerance leads to acceptance. Maybe this year’s Year 5 and 6 students will be a turning point as they create their own with the theme “what could be”..
“If words make up stories and letters make up words, then stories are made up of letters. In this menagerie we have stories, made of words, made for all the letters.”
And that’s just what this fabulous book by Oliver Jeffers is all about. He has taken the concept of a picture book and viewed with through a new lens. So instead of the traditional 26 letters accompanied by pictures of words starting with the letter, heretThere are 26 stories, one for each letter of the alphabet, each short, succinct, imaginative and complete. Here’s an example…
“Bernard and Bob lived on either side of a bridge and for years had been battling each other for reasons neither could remember. One day Bob decided to fix thing so Bernard couldn’t bother him anymore, by burning the bridge between them. But Bob learned an important lesson that day. He needed the bridge to get back.” Characters like Owl and Octopus appear and reappear throughout the stories adding continuity especially as Z returns us to Edward the astronaut’s problem of the first page! The cartoon-like illustrations that are Jeffers’ trademark are more about illustrating the story than emphasising the sound of the letter, another departure from the more traditional format of an alphabet book and the whole has a wonderful mix of humour and quirkiness that it will appeal to all ages..
This is so much more than an alphabet book to entertain littlies, although it does that very well. There is the opportunity to introduce the concept of alliteration – Danger Delilah is a daredevil who laughs in the face of Death and dances at the door of Disaster – and explore how it can be used to add meaning and depth to a story. Students could also be challenged to create similar short stories – telling a tale in two or three sentences that still contain a traditional story structure.
Every time I dip into this book I find more to delight me – adults and children alike will love this one.
Alligator in an anorak; bear in a bathtub… this is a quirky learn-your-alphabet book that will delight very young readers. The creator’s English-ness shows through with some animals and objects that might be unfamiliar to younger readers but the illustrations provide very strong visual clues that will not only draw on their predictive skills but also extend their vocabulary. Getting early readers to examine the illustrations for clues to the meaning of the text –even if that text is offbeat– is one of the most powerful tools we can help them develop, not only on their journey to being independent readers but also being information literate. Many of Parton’s interpretations such as the yak in a yacht and a whale in a wigwam are laugh-out-loud funny. Why not put an elephant in an eggcup? How did the jackdaw get in the jar? The word for X will inspire some investigation with a dictionary or Wikipedia! What is a xantus? Can an urchin really wear undies successfully?
Alphabet books are great fun for reading aloud and exploring the concepts but they also provide a model for young children to create their own stories. Brainstorm all the animals you can think of beginning with each letter of the alphabet and then let the children put them in a strange place that calls for alliteration. Build a weird and wonderful wall story for the library that will not only give them a feeling of pride and ownership but will be an excellent teaching tool for the year. I’m thinking a Kiwi in the Kitchen would be just right for K! (And hilarious if I am that Kiwi!)