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Little i

Little i

Little i

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Little i

Michael Hall

Greenwillow Books, 2017

48pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9780062383006

The alphabet letters were quite happy being what they were until one day Little i’s dot fell off.  It rolled down a hill, tumbled over a cliff and splashed into the sea.  Little i felt weird and the other letters felt confused because now Little i looked like a number and you can’t make words with numbers.  

So Little i decided to find his dot and starts off on an adventure that takes him to some interesting places. His question mark boat takes him across the seas until he finds an island that has a remarkable sea passage that passes a spectacular exclamation point waterfall, through the cold dark parenthesis tunnel (with asterisk gems), through the field of lovely comma sprouts, across the spine-chilling hyphen bridge to the very edge of the land where his dot completes his journey like a full stop at the end of a sentence.  But when Little i puts his dot back on he feels strange, setting his quest and his story up for an imaginative and fun end.

With bold shapes and colours, this is one of those books that seems really simple on the surface but then you wonder what sort of mind could make such a story. But then he did write Red, A Crayon’s Story.  Not only is it clever it is brilliant, so rich in so much for the very young reader. Little i feels incomplete without his dot and that he doesn’t really belong in the alphabet, just as some children feel adrift if they haven’t got their mum, a special friend or a favourite toy by their side and so talking about Little i’s story may help them realise that they can not only survive without that security blanket but be even better for being brave enough to leave it behind.  Self-confidence in who we are is such a critical part of growing up.

It is also wonderful for those who are just beginning to understand that words are constructed from letters – Hall shows this by having the letters in the words do their talking; distinguishing between letters and numerals; and maybe starting to wonder what the other marks on the page are. There is a myriad of talking and teaching opportunities as the children demonstrate their knowledge of those initial concepts about print that are part of early kindergarten assessments.  Yet, whatever level the child is at for looking at the technicalities and tools of language, overall and throughout there is an engaging story and a satisfying finish which have to be at the core of anything we share with little ones if they are to love stories and reading and all that they offer.

If this were Australian, I’d be looking for it during Awards Season 2018!  

Aussie Legends Alphabet

Aussie Legends Alphabet

Aussie Legends Alphabet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aussie Legends Alphabet

Beck Feiner

ABC Books, 2017

56pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9780733338946

A is for Adam Goodes . An Aussie Rules superstar who fought hard for his footy team and even harder for his people.

B is for Bob Hawke. A lovable larrikin who helped make Australia fair dinkum.

And so it continues throughout the alphabet with a well-known person personifying each letter, introducing young readers to some of Australia’s more colourful characters and perhaps inspiring them to find out more about those who interest them.

However, while the concept is interesting, I was confused about the target audience – IMO definitely not for three year olds as suggested by the publisher because little ones of that age are more interested in E for Easter Bunny and S for Santa Claus. But do those who are ready to learn about those who made Australia require an alphabet book with text suitable for the very young and pictures that have been contrived to echo the letter they represent?  Even though there is an expanded thumbnail sketch of each person on the final three pages, the content, format and intended audience did not gel for me.

Similarly, there is confusion with the alphabetical order because the format is not consistent… while most entries draw on the first letter of the personality’s first name some resort to the first letter of the surname while “D” refers to Dame Edna Everage, X is for INXS and Z is for “Shazza, Wazza, Kezza and the rest”. 

However, those issues aside, this could serve as a model for those who are investigating significant people who have shaped this country to build their own Aussie Legends Alphabet as a shared project.  Not only would this give them purpose and practise with note-taking, extrapolating and summarising but it would also be an interesting insight into those whom they think are important as they justify their choices. Challenging them to provide evidence is an important skill as they learn to build an argument that can be defended in a discussion.

A is for Australian Animals: A factastic tour

A is for Australian Animals

A is for Australian Animals

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A is for Australian Animals: A Factastic Tour

Frané Lessac

Walker Books, 2017

48pp., hbk., RRP $SA24.99

9781925381009

Australia is full of the most amazing animals on the planet! What animal has six thumbs? What animal produces square poo? What animal is made up of 95 per cent water and is highly venomous? 

There have been many books, including alphabet books, published about Australian fauna over the years that one wonders what a new one could add to the collection.  Renowned author and illustrator Frané Lessac has found the answer in this fabulous new publication described as a FACTASTIC tour of our unique wildlife.

While the familiar candidates like the kangaroo and koala are there, she has also included many not so well-known creatures like the Irukandji Jellyfish, the Hopping Mouse, the Ulysses Butterfly and the Velvet Gecko. Beautifully setting each in its own natural environment with a brief introductory caption, she has also scattered bite-sized facts about each for those who want to know more.

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

Even more....

Even more….

Stunning in its presentation, thorough in its research this is a must-have modern approach to a perennial topic that can not only assist young children in their search for knowledge about this country’s amazing fauna but also offers a model for how they could present their own information when they do their own investigations.  After all, it is one that is done in the early childhood years in almost every school so why not challenge the class to develop their own factastic tour? 

Once Upon an ABC

Once Upon an ABC

Once Upon an ABC

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once Upon an ABC

Sophie Masson

Christopher Nielsen

Little Hare, 2017

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

9781760128432

A is for Anansi, both clever and neat,

B is for Brer Rabbit with tar-sticky feet…”

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.  

Concept is great, presentation not so.

Great Goal! Marvellous Mark!

Great Goal! Marvellous Mark!

Great Goal! Marvellous Mark!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Great Goal! Marvellous Mark!

Katrina Germein

Janine Dawson

Ford Street, 2017

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

9781925272673

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.  

Vet Cadets (series)

Vet Cadets

Vet Cadets

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Welcome to Willowvale (Vet Cadets #1)

Rebecca Johnson

Puffin, 2017

180pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9780143782711

  

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. 

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.

Did You Take the B from My _ook?

Did You Take the B from My _ook?

Did You Take the B from My _ook?

Did You Take the B from My _ook?

Beck & Matt Stanton

ABC Books, 2016

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

9780733334832

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.

Look forward to many more…

Have a look for yourself!


 

 

 

Animalia

Animalia

Animalia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Animalia

Graeme Base

Penguin, 2016

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

9780670079131

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. 

 

 

My First Mr Men a b c

My First Mr Men a b c

My First Mr Men a b c

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My First Mr Men a b c 

Roger Hargreaves

Penguin, 2016

16pp., board book., RRP $A16.99

9781409389187

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.