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Hero

Hero

Hero

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hero

Jennifer Li Shotz

HarperCollins

224pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9780062652218

Hero, a retired search-and-rescue dog, is not prepared for a stray puppy to come into his life. But when he and twelve-year-old Ben find Scout injured and afraid, the new addition leads them down an unexpected and dangerous path. When Scout goes missing, it’s up to Hero to use his search-and-rescue skills to find Scout and bring him home.

This is a compelling story about the bond between a boy and his dogs and the lessons Ben has to learn about sorting out priorities as he promises that he will keep up his schoolwork and grades if he is allowed to keep the puppy, Scout. But it’s hard when you have friends and baseball also vying for your time.

More for the independent reader, nevertheless it would make a great read-aloud to a class or younger person who loves dogs with just the right amount of tension and a happy ending.  

Moo and Moo and the Little Calf too

Moo and Moo and the Little Calf too

Moo and Moo and the Little Calf too

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moo and Moo and the Little Calf too

Jane Millton

Deborah Hinde

Allen & Unwin, 2017

32pp., pbk., RRP $A17.99

9781877505928

Just after midnight on November 14, 2016 the earth under the north-east of New Zealand’s South Island started to shudder and shake.  Once again an earthquake was reshaping the landscape as immovable forces fought for supremacy 15 000 metres below the surface – not just a regular shake that Kiwis are used to, this one was 7.8 on the Richter scale meaning widespread movement and damage.

Fast asleep in their paddock in the Clarence Valley on this bright moonlit night were two cows and a calf, who soon found themselves the subject of news footage around the world as the shaking and quaking split their sleep and their surroundings asunder and left them stranded on an island two metres high and 80 metres from where they started. 

Told in rhyme, Moo and Moo and the Little Calf too tells the story of the three animals and how they were rescued, a story that will fascinate young readers.  Imagine if the chair or the carpet they are sitting on suddenly moved and fell away and they were left stranded so high they couldn’t get down! 

While there were many stories of the quake and its impact on the landscape and the people, just as there are about recent devastating weather events in Australia, we sometimes forget about the impact on the wildlife that such phenomena have. The destruction of their habitat, their dislocation from familiar food sources, their deaths and injuries are often overlooked as the human drama plays out.  There was concern that the seal colony at Ohau Point (where I had been with my grandchildren exactly a year earlier) had been destroyed and with the seabed being lifted 5.5metres in places, also concern for the marine life off the coast.

So bringing this true story to life in a picture book that will endure much longer than a short television news clip not only tells the story of the cows but also puts a focus on other creatures who endure the trauma as humans do.  What happened to the sealife, the birds, the kangaroos and all the other creatures during Cyclone Debbie and the resulting floods?  How do they survive during devastating bushfires?  What can be done to save them, help them, and restore their habitats?  What are their needs? Even Kindergarten students can start investigations along those lines, giving meaning and purpose to the ubiquitous studies of Australia’s wildlife so they go beyond mere recognition.  

 While Moo and Moo and the Little Calf too might appear to have a limited audience and timeframe, used as a springboard it could be the beginning of something much greater. And that’s without even going down the path of the cause of earthquakes and how such events give us the landscapes and landshapes we are familiar with, or considering what’s in that floodwater they want to play in!

 

Cric Croc

Cric Croc

Cric Croc

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cric Croc

9781925442595

Cric Croc and the Bedraggled Pony

9780995424302

Anthony W. Buirchell

Nikki Ball

Vivid Publishing, 2016

32pp., pbk., RRP $A16.95

In the first of what is proposed to be a series that spans the Australian continent, young readers meet Cric Croc who is a baby crocodile born on the Daintree and learning to lead a healthy life with exercise, good food, plenty of sleep, lots of fun, friends and love.  Intended to be a “role model for good behaviour”, the lovable Cric Croc does lots of things that preschoolers will identify with and perhaps emulate. The things he does support the health syllabus for early years and young children can discuss the things that they do that Cric Croc also does.

In the second book, Cric Croc wants to learn to ride and befriends a bedraggled, bullied pony he meets in a stable and between the two of them they triumph. Its focus is looking beyond the physical appearance to the inner person beneath and how mutual respect and teamwork can be win-win.

Written in rhyming text by retired teacher Anthony Buirchell and illustrated by Nikki Ball, this is a new team to the Australian publishing scene with plans to take Cric Croc, his friend Roo and their cameras across the country sharing the sights it has to offer, introducing children to places beyond their neighbourhood. Those in WA can have free visits to schools while those further afield have access to other support materials.  

Something new that will entertain and educate and perhaps become a favourite character in young children’s lives.

Hooray for Birds

Hooray for Birds

Hooray for Birds

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hooray for Birds

Lucy Cousins

Candlewick Press, 2017

40pp., hbk., RRP $a24.99

9780763692650

Can you imagine…just for one day…you’re a busy bird? Yes, a bird! Hooray!

Ask a little child what birds can do and they are bound to tell you that they fly.  But in this exuberant book by Lucy Cousins we learn about all the other things they can do – and that the child can do too.  They can start the day by shouting cock-a-doodle-doo, hop, peck, swim and stretch, stand very tall on just one leg waddle like a penguin and run like an ostrich, puff out their chest and then bid the day farewell with a tuwit tuwoo. 

As well as responding to the vibrant colours and bold illustrations on solid colour backgrounds, young readers will delight in doing the things that birds do, flapping their wings, exercising their lungs and generally just having a lot of fun as they are introduced to a flock of different birds, some familiar, some not-so. It soon becomes clear that birds come in all shapes and sizes and colours and can do all sorts of things and make all sorts of noises. Even though there are not the familiar magpies, kookaburras and emus that might be found in a book of Australian origin, nevertheless roosters, swans, peacocks and flamingos are very recognisable and will help the child learn about the diversity of our feathered friends..    Combined with a simple rhyming pattern the distinctive pictures will help the child become a role-play reader as they engage with the book on their own.  

A peek inside....

A peek inside….

Full of fun and energy, this will ensure a menagerie in the house for sure!

Rock Pool Secrets

Rock Pool Secrets

Rock Pool Secrets

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rock Pool Secrets

Narelle Oliver

Walker Books, 2017

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

9781922179357

“Down on the rocky shore, waves crash and smash.  Then the tide goes out and the sea is calm. It’s a good time to explore the rock pools.”

For some the magnificence of high tide with the waves pounding the coast is their favourite sea-time – the tranquility of low tide is not dramatic enough for them. But what looks to be a peaceful, not-much-happening environment  is actually one of the greatest activity on the seashore because the myriad of creatures that live there have just a few short hours to feed and do what they do before the inexorable tide encroaches again.  You just have to take the time to look.

In this superbly illustrated new book from Narelle Oliver, she takes us on a journey around the rockpools pointing out things that might stay hidden to the non-looker exposing them underneath flaps that blend into the artwork as well as the creatures blend into their habitats.  The transparent shrimp in its leafy hideaway; the hermit crab in its seashell home; the anemones like seafloor flowers…each brought to life in their subtle colours in extraordinarily detailed linocuts  waiting to be discovered nestling in crevices, hiding in the seaweed or camouflaged on the rocks.. As well as the captions that accompany the text there is also a glossary with further information about the creatures featured that will inspire young beach-goers to spend some time looking and wondering and marvelling at nature’s disguises when they next catch the beach at low tide. 

My seaside home...

My seaside home…

As a child I grew up in the very south of the South Island of New Zealand (next stop was literally Antarctica) and we were allowed to roam the rockpools all day (until the tide came in) so so many of my childhood memories are built around the discoveries we made.  Nowadays, when I get to the coast I head for the rockpools and do what I did way back when and spend many calming, healing hours just looking.  

Armed with the beauty and knowledge from this book, perhaps there will be a new generation of hunters inspired to look a little closer, tread a little more gently and delight in the hidden wonders especially as summer draws to a close and many are making a last trip to the beach until the warm comes again.

Over the years of her too-short life, Narelle Oliver has brought nature to life for young readers in her exquisite works like The Hunt, Leaf Tail, The Best Beak in Boonaroo Bay, Fox and Fine Feathers, Sand Swimmers and for her final work to be one that focuses on my favourite environment is just superb.

Vale Narelle.  You gave us so much and we are indebted to you.  Thank you.

Baby Dance

Baby Dance

Baby Dance

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Baby Dance

Katrina Germein

Doris Chang

Raising Literacy Australia, 2016

12pp., board book, RRP $A9.90

9780994385321

 

Four delightful Australian animal babies are doing what all babies do when they hear a piece of music – they move to it.  So in this charming story Wombat, Sugar Glider, Echidna and Cockatoo show off their individual and unique moves until in the end they all have to sleep, the one thing they and all little ones have in common.

In soft, earthy pastel colours and the simplest of rhymes this is a story that will engage the youngest readers as they move along with the babies or let its rhythm lull them to sleep.  Given that our native creatures feature in so many story for the very young, they will delight in  recognising perhaps familiar friends like the wombat or meeting new ones like the echidna and even learning a little more about them.  Why does the echidna spin when the others do not?  Why do the others cover their ears when Cockatoo sings?  

Its sturdy board book format and small size make it perfect for toddlers to handle for themselves so they can be role-play readers while parents will enjoy sharing with their child because of the fun that can be had.

Another one on its way to Miss 21 months as her delight in stories grows.

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.

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.