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Grandma Wombat

Grandma Wombat

Grandma Wombat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grandma Wombat

Jackie French

Bruce Whatley

HarperCollins, 2016

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

9780732299590

 

Grandma Wombat is like most wombats – and a lot of grandmas!  She likes to spend her day relaxing – scratching, eating, sleeping and occasionally baby-sitting. She solves problems like there being no carrots and thinks that, unlike the kangaroos who bounce around her, her grandson is polite, well-mannered and even, better behaved.  

But while she is sleeping, Grandson Wombat is NOT!  Oh no!  He’s off having his own adventures because, to him, kangaroos are playmates and their wombat-size pouches and their big bouncy legs are perfect for taking a wombat to places where a wombat has never before ventured.  Grandson Wombat is a master at hitching a ride wherever he sees one but on the back of a skydiver might be a jump too far!

Once again, Jackie French and Bruce Whatley have created a wonderful adventure for little people that is just bursting with the joy of life and the fun of the perfect marriage of text and illustrations that will make them want to read it over and over and over again.  And perhaps think up their own adventures for next time they go to visit their grandma…

 

Toad Delight

Toad Delight

Toad Delight

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Toad Delight

Morris Gleitzman

Puffin, 2016

144pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9780143309239

He’s back!!!!  That ugly, poisonous, gentle-hearted cane toad Limpy is back!!!  In his fifth adventure just in time to be introduced to a whole new generation of newly independent readers who just want a light-hearted read full of fun about Australia’s public enemy #1.

After doing his usual morning rounds of saying goodbye to his relatives that have been squished flat as a placemat by cars and baked as hard as a pizza in the sun, Limpy goes to check on his cousin Goliath to try to stop him getting himself killed by threatening traffic.  But this morning Goliath is not at his normal spot in the swamp sharpening sticks to wave at cars and trucks and yelling obscenities at them –  this morning he is sitting on a mound of freshly picked waterlilies, his arm around a penguin-like creature that turns out to be a child’s backpack.  And there the trouble begins.

Goliath has fallen in love and when the owner of the backpack takes it away from him, he is so distraught and heart-broken he is determined to find ‘Penny’ again, even if it means venturing into the city.  In the meantime, Limpy has decided that the reason that humans don’t like cane toads is because they see them as greedy and mean and he is on his own quest to persuade both his relatives to change their ways and for humans to form a different perception.  So when there is an opportunity for the two of them to get to the city, albeit with a camera crew for a television show, they don’t hesitate.  What they don’t realise until it is almost too late, is that this television crew is from a culinary show specialising in unusual ingredients and their next big thing is going to be battered cane toad buttocks…

Gleitzman is a master storyteller and it is hard to grasp that the author who introduced us to the sombre story of Felix in the series Once, Now, Then and Soon is also the creator of this crazy, humorous, mad series about a cane toad with a squashed right leg (that predicts the weather) who has delighted readers since we first met him in 1999 in Toad Rage when he tried (and failed) to have cane toads become the mascots for the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney.  Since then, thousands and thousands of children have followed his madcap adventures, always pushing the good side of the species, through Toad Heaven, Toad Away and Toad Surprise. Toad Delight is just as much fun and begs to be shared aloud and read alone but not before a meal.  (Perhaps not immediately after it, either.) 

With its Olympic theme, now might be a prime opportunity to introduce new audiences to Limpy through Toad Rage and then tantalise them with Toad Delight as the next course. 

No child should complete primary school without knowing this endearing little character and his loving rellies.

 

Morris Gleitzman promotes Toad Delight in Canberra

Rockhopping

Rockhopping

  Rockhopping

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rockhopping

Trace Balla

Allen & Unwin, 2016

80pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781760112349

 

Uncle Egg and Clancy are spending a lazy, languid afternoon on the Glenelg (Bugara) River which flows through the area we call The Grampians but which is known to its indigenous peoples as Gariwerd.  Clancy muses on where all the water is coming from and Uncle Egg suggests that they should find out.  But this adventure will be different to the previous one in Rivertime  where they took a canoe to the river’s mouth.  This time they will be heading upstream so they will have to walk and rockhop.  And this time, Clancy is much more enthusiastic, even prepared to walk to school in new boots every day so he can prepare for the journey.

Their journey begins at Budja Budja (Halls Gap), sleeping in a tent under the stars amongst the motorhomes, caravans and pop-tops, already suggesting an underlying theme of being at one with the world rather than manipulating it.  And just as in Rivertime, through detailed text and illustration in graphic novel format, we share Clancy’s journey, learning as he learns about the river’s story, its flora and fauna, its secret ways of enabling its ancient custodians to survive, and the prehistoric mountains it passes through.  It is an intimate account of his journey, not so much his self-realisation this time as it was in Rivertime but one of resilience, perseverance, self-reliance, respect and trust, particularly when Egg’s backpack falls into a ravine and Clancy is stranded halfway up the cliff.  He learns about the power and the gift of silence and solitude and the surprises and secrets Nature is willing to show us if we take the time to look and listen, and about his place in the universe.  Even when Egg rejoins him and while they are not lost –“just going a different way”- there are lessons to learn and gradually the relationship becomes one of two equals regardless of age, sharing something unique that teaches them more than they ever imagined. Going with the flow rather than the plan.

This really is a story about the journey being as important as the destination.

“That’s just it.

I’m not going anywhere, or trying to find anything. I’m just being here.”

And that message of enjoying the moment we are in is perhaps the most important of all. 

There is an interview with Trace Balla on the CBCA Reading Time site  which explains the authenticity of the story and how she enables the reader to be embraced by the serenity and beauty just as Egg and Clancy are.  In my review of Rivertime I wrote, “ It’s not just the story of Clancy and Egg and their journey, but a calming, almost meditative, read for the reader. The format of the comic strip with individual panels not only reflects the pace of the dogged, uphill climb but also ensures the reader slows down to enjoy the surroundings just as Clancy and Egg do. Often when we pick up a picture book we just skim read it just as we can “skim read” our daily lives because we don’t think we have time to delve deeper and really appreciate and value what we have, but as you get into this story it drags you in, just as it did Clancy, until you become absorbed and oblivious to the distractions around you.”  And so it is with Rockhopping.  It’s a book that deserves every minute you put into reading it but ensure you have lots of minutes so you can savour it to its core.

The epitome of Australia: Story Country.

Go Home, Cheeky Animals

Go Home, Cheeky Animals

  Go Home, Cheeky Animals

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Go Home, Cheeky Animals

Johanna Bell

Dion Beasley

Allen & Unwin, 2016

32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99
9781760291655

In the Northern Territory is the remote indigenous community of Canteen Creek, a tiny settlement that seems to have more dogs than people.  Grandpa feeds them so they like his house best and even when Mum tries to shoo them away, he tells her to let them stay because they keep the cheeky animals away.  For, as the weather works through its annual cycle of big rains, the sweaty season, the cool winds, the drying grass and the dry soaks a gang of goats, a drove of donkeys, a herd of horses, a bunch of buffaloes, even a caravan of camels invade the little town one after the other making life awkward.  Nothing seems to deter them – not Dad’s flapping arms; not Uncle’s stamping foot; not Aunty’s big stick; not even sister’s thong and certainly not the horde of cheeky dogs – who just lie there despite Grandpa’s beliefs!  Until the big rains come again…

This is an unusual book that has a fascinating back story  The most striking aspect is the illustrations which look like they have been done by someone the age of the intended audience, and that in itself will appeal because young children love that their style is validated in a “real book”.  So often they dismiss their efforts because they don’t look like “book pictures” or the “real thing” so to have illustrations that they themselves could have done will draw them into the story.  A bit of research though indicates that the artist, Dion Beasley, was born with multiple disabilities – profoundly deaf and with muscular dystrophy – and the whole book is testament to celebrating the diversity of abilities that people have, focusing on what they can do, not what they can’t. It would be perfect as the centrepiece for the International Day of People with a Disability on December 3 and Don’t Dis My Ability 

But illustrations do not necessarily a story make, and the text, too, is fascinating as it cycles through the seasons in a land that we all live in but most are so unfamiliar with.  The northern climate is so different from the four distinct seasons that we southerners experience and the changes on the landscape are subtle but profound so as well as being introduced to the feral animals of the north, the reader is also taken on a journey that is in sharp contrast to what most would be familiar with. Right there is the kernel of an investigation that could stretch across year levels and even countries.

In the bio blurb, Johanna Bell says that working with Dion has changed the way she sees the world and tells stories.  In the hands of an informed, imaginative teacher this book could have a similar impact on our students.  Perfect for Australia: Story Country.

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

The Snow Wombat

The Snow Wombat

The Snow Wombat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Snow Wombat

Susannah Chambers

Mark Jackson

Allen & Unwin, 2016

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

9781760113810

 

Wombat is out on his daily wander through the high country.  Everywhere he goes there is snow. 

Snow on the stockman’s hut

Snow on the crows

Snow on the woollybutt

Snow on my NOSE!

But in this winter wonderland, there is one place where there is no snow… and that’s where he is headed.  But not until he’s savoured the delights on his way, appreciating the sights, smells, tastes and feel of the snow.

How could I resist a beautiful story about my favourite creature exploring the country I live in?  Few Australian children have the opportunity to live where snowfalls are a regular event and where our native creatures have to do the best they can to survive so this is a wonderful opportunity to introduce them to an environment that is Australian but so different to their own.  Wombat meets some of the high country fauna and flora on his journey, all snow-covered in what is a harsh habitat in the winter months but which is his home and which he loves.

Written in rhyming text with perfect pauses that invite the reader to join it, the story is beautifully illustrated in a palette that is so familiar to me yet so unfamiliar to others.  This is not your harsh red and ochre colour scheme of the stereotypical Australian landscape, but the subtle whites, greys and murky greens set against the brightest, bluest sky anywhere.  The endpapers have the map of Wombat’s journey which adds another dimension (including consolidating the left-to-right progression of text) and would encourage getting an atlas to see just where this story is set. Some may be surprised to find it is very close to their home!

This story is rich in possibilities for starting investigations.  Apart from the obvious of finding out about wombats generally, they could explore the prospects of the endangered Northern Hairy Nose Wombat who has its own special day on May 11 each year headed by Wombat Foundation director Jackie French http://www.wombatfoundation.com.au/hairy-nosed-day.html   Older readers could be inspired to think about the adaptations made by both wildlife and vegetation to survive in snow country and how it compares to that with which they are more familiar while others may choose to look at climate change and what that might mean for Wombat and his friends, and the high country generally.   A sign of a great picture book is its ability to engage readers far beyond its apparent audience, and this is one of those.

For those of you who are lucky to live near Great Escape Books on the Great Ocean road at Airley’s Inlet there is a free event focusing on this book on Monday June 13, 2016 at 11.00am.  It’s free but bookings are essential – myevents@greatescapebooks.com.au.  Perhaps it’s an opportunity to get to know this iconic creature and the Australian landscape better.

A presentation of the book at the Cooma Monaro Shire Library

A presentation of the book at the Cooma Monaro Shire Library

Help me with the rhyming words

Help me with the rhyming words

Orphaned baby wombats being cared for by L.A.O.K.O. http://www.laoko.org.au

Orphaned baby wombats being cared for by L.A.O.K.O.

Getting up close and personal

Getting up close and personal