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A Bag and a Bird

A Bag and a Bird

A Bag and a Bird

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Bag and a Bird

Pamela Allen

Viking, 2017

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

9780143783909

John and his mother decided to have a picnic in Sydney’s Botanic Gardens.  The long walk from Kirribilli across the Harbour Bridge to the Gardens was all part of the adventure and there was something special about seeing everyone else rushing while they were relaxing.  

Nevertheless, when they finally arrived they were hungry and John pulled his sandwiches out of a plastic bag.  Surrounded by curious, hungry ibises John is more interested in the way they snaffle his last sandwich when a teasing wind blows his bag onto the ground not realising that he is setting off a chain of events that is unlikely to end well…

Master storyteller Pamela Allen’s message in this story could not be clearer.  Clean Up Australia   estimate that about 1 trillion bags are used and discarded world-wide every year and in Australia alone over 10 million new bags are being used every day. These either end up in landfill or in the waterways, taking 400-1000 years to break down depending on their exposure to light. The story of the ibis is just one story of hundreds that must happen every day to our fauna, without such a good ending.

With plastic bags banned in some jurisdictions and about to be in others, nevertheless even those which replace them can be just as toxic to our wildlife so this is the perfect book to develop awareness and to begin investigations into their use, their disposal and the litter issues that we seem to be drowning in ourselves.  While many schools have student-led litter patrols which focus on the immediate environment, A Bag and a Bird highlights what can happen further afield, particularly bringing the message home with her choice of setting and illustrations of sights very familiar to even those who don’t live in Sydney.

Not just a cracking story, this book has the potential to change attitudes and actions – can we ask for more from 32 pages? A book for all ages. 

 

egg

egg

egg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

egg

Kevin Henkes

Greenwillow, 2017

40pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9780062408723

Four eggs – one pink, one yellow, one blue, one green.  Crack. Crack Crack.  Three hatch and release their little ones – but the green one does not.  Waiting, waiting, waiting…Listening, listening, listening… Peck. Peck. Peck.  Until finally… But what emerges is not what is expected.  And as the birds fly away in surprise it is left alone, sad and miserable.  Until…

Described as “a graphic novel for pre-schoolers”, Caldecott Medallist Kevin Henkes has woven a magnificent story with the minimum of words and some seemingly simple illustrations.  Using the softest pastel palette, simple lines and shading he conveys so much emotion and action that even the very youngest reader will be able to sit and tell the story to themselves and their teddies without having to know one word of the sparse text.  They will enjoy predicting what might be in that final egg and be surprised when the secret is discovered.  Could that really be inside an egg?  Are birds the only things that hatch from eggs?  They will also empathise with the surprise when it is left alone and lonely, perhaps able to express their own feelings when they have been in a similar situation.  A perfect opportunity to build a word wall of synonyms for ‘sad”. Inviting them to retell the story will encourage them to organise and order their thoughts, begin to understand sequence is important, and use their own words and language skills to express what happened – critical elements in developing early reading skills.  And of course, this story is the perfect lead-in to the classic tale of The Ugly Duckling.

Brilliant for littlies but older children could gain a lot from looking at the techniques used to produce so much from so little.

Gary

GAry

Gary

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gary

Leila Rudge

Walker Books, 2016

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

9781925081695

Most of the time Gary is like all the other racing pigeons in the loft.  He eats what they do, sleeps with them and is always dreaming of adventures.   He even keeps a scrapbook based on the information they share with him after a race because that’s where Gary is different.  He doesn’t go on the races because he cannot fly. He listens to everything they say and records it in his scrapbook – he has notes about wind speed and directions, stop off points and flight paths. as well as a lot of other stuff they collect for him.

So when one day Gary accidentally finds himself far from home, his scrapbook comes in very handy. His brain becomes more important than his wings and suddenly he has adventures of his own to share that the other pigeons envy.

This is an engaging and clever combination of text and illustrations that require the reader to really interact with them in order to discover how Gary solved his problem. The reason for Gary’s disability is not disclosed – it could be physical or emotional – suggesting that it is not important; what is important is that he overcomes it and leads a full and happy life.  In fact, as in real life often, his adventures inspire others.  Gary, in his cute striped beanie and the racing pigeons in the red-hot jumpers will quickly become favourites with young readers – it deserves to be part of the CBCA 2017 shortlist for Early Childhood..

 

 

 

 

Little Owl’s Egg

Little Owl's Egg

Little Owl’s Egg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Little Owl’s Egg

Debi Gliori

Alison Brown

Bloomsbury, 2016

32pp. pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781408853795

When Mummy Owl announces that she has laid a beautiful egg and there is going to be a new baby owl in the nest, Little Owl is most dismayed.  There cannot be another baby owl because that’s him! But when Mummy suggests that perhaps it will be a worm rather than an owl, Baby Owl is even more distressed.  

And so begins a charming tale of speculating just what might be in the egg . In the absence of it being a Princess Wormy Choco-Penguin Crocophant Dragowl Baby Owl is prepared to settle for it being a dragon but then he starts to think and gradually his mind is changed and he begins to look forward to the newcomer.

Young readers will connect with this story, particularly those who have had news that there is to be a new baby in the house and they are worried that there won’t be enough love for two. Alison Brown’s illustrations capture the author’s text perfectly and make the characters very endearing. Speculating what else could be inside the egg will provide fun and the opportunity to investigate what else begins as an egg because chickens aren’t the only onescould lead to some interesting discoveries.

 

Somewhere Else

Somewhere Else

Somewhere Else

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Somewhere Else

Gus Gordon

Viking, 2016

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

9780670078851

Some birds fly north; some birds fly south; some birds take the bus… but George Laurent doesn’t go anywhere.  It seems he is too busy baking his scrumptious pastries to be able to explore the world.  Even when his world-travelling customers try to tempt him with descriptions of a sunrise over the Andes, or Paris by night, even the Alaskan tundra in autumn, George always has an excuse – even the ironing is more important!!

But come the bleak, cold days when all his feathered friends have disappeared to warmer parts and George is left alone, his only remaining friend Pascal Lombard drops in looking for somewhere warm for winter.  He is puzzled that George has not gone with the others, and slowly he manages to eke out the truth – George Laurent, baker extraordinaire, does not know how to fly.  When it was flying lesson day all those years ago he had been doing something else and since then he had just made excuses not to – even though he really would have liked to have been able to go somewhere else.

Pascal, who believes he has a knack for solving tricky problems, is determined to teach George how to fly but it is not until they see a picture in a newspaper…

This is an engaging tale which will resonate with many children – having a zillion reasons for not doing something you can’t but are expected to be able to do.  As a teacher I was a master at detecting avoidance behaviour because I lived it at home with my son, so as soon as I started reading I knew there was an underlying issue.  But astute readers may well pick it up in the clues in the amazing illustrations which use a variety of media, particularly collage.  From the carefully selected advertisements of old styles of luggage on the endpapers, Gus Gordon has skilfully used pieces of print from all sorts of sources to add depth, mystery and humour to the exquisite illustrations. Every time you read it there is more to peruse and ponder.

Time to get out the atlas and discover the places that George’s friends went and maybe even investigate the concept of animal (and human) migration.  Why are they always on the move? We can tell the seasons where I live by the variety of birdlife that is present so perhaps it’s time to do an inventory of the local birdlife over time – perfect real-life context for data collection and interpretation. Or perhaps a physiological investigation into how most birds fly but some can’t and how this has been translated into human flight. Then there is the philosophical question about “no place like home” as George and Pascal discover something familiar is missing from their travels. Some children might even learn from George and seek help to find pathways around their own difficulties.

I love picture books that seem to be written for one age group but with some consideration can transcend all ages, offering the prefect reason to return to them again and again apart from just being an absorbing story.  A CBCA Notable for 2017, I was surprised this did not make the shortlist.

 

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!

Feathers for Phoebe (mini book)

Feathers for Phoebe

Feathers for Phoebe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Feathers for Phoebe

Rod Clement

HarperCollins, 2016

32pp., pbk., RRP $A9.99

9781460753507

Phoebe is a small grey bird and she doesn’t like it one bit.  Surrounded by the most colourful, exotic birds she feels she is inferior and so desperately wants to be more like them. So with the help of Zelda who runs the most popular beauty salon in the forest she begins a transformation.  But no matter what she adds, no one notices her and stops to admire her.  Even when she is totally transformed and unrecognisable from the small grey Phoebe, no one seems to notice. 

Zelda tells her that sometimes “feathers are not enough” and she needs more – a song, a sound and some moves. So Phoebe spends the day practising until she has the perfect moves for the perfect grooves.  The all-new singing, dancing Phoebe is ready to show herself to the world…

When Miss 10 started school this was the National Simultaneous Storytime of the Year pick and she loved it.  It was a family favourite for months and no bedtime session was complete without reading it.  It’s colour, it’s movement, it’s humour and it’s message about being yourself really appealed to her -as it did to thousands of other children – and sparked endless sessions of creating new feathers for headbands and dressing up in the gaudiest of fabrics and having fun being whoever her imagination decided, but each evening off came the regalia and she got into her ordinary pyjamas, happy to be herself and having her favourite story read yet again.

Now Miss 10 is an independent reader and she reads this book to Miss 5 who is not quite there yet.  But how wonderful it is to have this mini-book version that is just the right size to fit Miss 5’s hands so having heard the story so often already will be reading it for herself very soon.  Christmas stocking sorted!!!

Home of the Cuckoo Clock

Home of the Cuckoo Clock

Home of the Cuckoo Clock

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Home of the Cuckoo Clock

Robert Favretto

David Eustace

Ford Street, 2016

32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.95

9781925272253 (hbk)

9781925272260 (pbk)

Deep in the Black Forest nestles the village of Schoenwald, frozen in time – but a somewhat chaotic time for there were no clocks and people did things when they felt like it (or remembered) rather than according to hands making a particular pattern on a numbered face.  One day a weary cuckoo lands in a pine tree and is dismayed to see the disorder and disarray in the village and so the next morning, and every morning after that, this natural time-keeper for Nature sang out.  What a difference this regular greeting made.  Until one night a huge storm brought the cuckoo’s pine tree crashing down and the cuckoo was blown off the mountain and way down into the valley…

Superbly illustrated in a calm palette and with intricate detail (including a hidden egg on each page)  that draw the reader into this isolated village in a beautiful part of the world, this is a perfect story for introducing children to the concept of time and the need to have some order and continuity in our lives.  Little ones will have lots of fun imagining what would happen at home or school if everyone could do what they liked when they liked and I can imagine two contrasting murals being created with each child contributing a vignette.  Having explored the world of no-time, they could then be introduced to the vocabulary of time – before, after, during, now, then, soon, morning, afternoon, evening, night, dusk, dawn, first, next, last – and the skills of sequencing.  Those wanting greater challenges could explore how and why the day is divided into the chunks it is; time zones; time pieces;  what they can achieve in a given period of time… Time is the most abstract concept to teach but it is the one that is most prevalent in our lives.  To have such a unique story and such stunning illustrations to kickstart its investigation is such a gift.

Students could also have lots of fun enacting a storm (complete with sound effects) so fierce that the cuckoo was blown away as well as predicting what will happen to the village.  How could the problem be solved? what role might Franz, the village craftsmen have in that?

The sound of the cuckoo might be unfamiliar to some so they could listen to it and discuss why it might be preferable to that of a rooster as a wake-up sound.  This could lead into an investigation of familiar bird calls or the reasons behind the ‘dawn chorus’.  This could lead into an investigation of familiar bird calls or the reasons behind the ‘dawn chorus’ as well as setting up a bird-watching station and identifying the common and seasonal birds which visit the school playground.  And of course, there is always the old favourite round, Within the Shady Thicket

Maths, science, history, music and English outcomes could all be explored in this one title.

Further teaching notes are available.

 

The Birds of Bethlehem

The Birds of Bethlehem

The Birds of Bethlehem

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Birds of Bethlehem

Tomie de Paola

Nancy Paulsen Books, 2012

40pp., hbk

9780399257803

It is the morning of the first Christmas and the birds of Bethlehem have gathered in the field to search for stray pieces of corn that might have dropped from the harvest.  But this morning they are more interested in gossiping than eating as they talked about the events of the previous day.  According to the green birds many people had been seen coming over the hills, while the yellow birds added the inn in the town was full, and the blue birds told of a man and his wife being led to a stable.  Even the red birds had a tale to tell – of an angel appearing and talking to the shepherds who were tending their sheep in the fields.  The brown birds saw the sky filled with heavenly hosts singing but the white birds tale was the most interesting of all because they followed the shepherds.  And so all the birds decided they needed to see for themselves.

Using his signature illustrative style and folkloric telling of stories, Tomie de Paola creates a new version of the Christmas story using the birds of Bethlehem to explain what happened on that day all those years ago.  Using a warm palette, soft lines and a simple background, the birds in their colours predominate just as they do in the text.  There is a sense of awe and anticipation as each couple shares their observations leading up to all of them flying to see what had taken place that had evoked such amazing sights.  It’s a new look at an old story that will appeal to those for whom the story is new as well as those who have heard it before – from a different perspective.

When I asked my US colleagues for their essential stories to read at this time, The Birds of Bethlehem was recommended by many.  It is easy to see why.

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

Seagull

Seagull

Seagull

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seagull

Danny Snell

Working Title Press, 2015

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

9781921504815

Flying makes Seagull’s heart sing.  Using wind and wings, she would hover and glide, swoop and soar over the sea, the beach and the dunes.  But one day as she lands on what looks like clean white sand, her foot gets caught in some tangled fishing line thoughtlessly discarded  as it so often is.  She can no longer fly and she cannot free herself.  The more she tries, the more difficult it becomes, and her friends are unable to help. Each can only loosen it a little. Exhausted, hungry and unable to find food, she nestles into the grass in the dunes.  Just as she is going to sleep, she hears footsteps and a little boy comes along…

Apart from a personal love of seagulls and the freedom they represent, this is a touching and timely tale of how a thoughtless act such as discarding unwanted fishing line can have disastrous and unforeseen effects.  While Danny Snell doesn’t take the story to what could have been its conclusion, nevertheless his words and pictures carry a very strong message that should reach every reader’s heart.  Based on a true event, he has taken an everyday situation and used his skill with words and pictures to create a memorable story that has a profound message. For while Seagull flies through clean, fresh, invigorating air, she flies over sand dunes that look pristine from on high but which, in reality, are littered with rubbish left by lazy humans.  The simple, sparse expanses of nature’s landscape make the unnatural elements come into sharper focus. 

With summer coming on and beach holidays looming,  this is the perfect story to share, to discuss and to create awareness that just because a piece of rubbish is out of our hands, it is not gone for ever and that our carelessness can have dire consequences for the creatures that give this planet the beauty it has. A plastic bag can be fatal for so many. There is also a parallel message about the cumulative effect of everyone just doing a little and that what may be overwhelming for one, can be overcome by many. Together, we can make a difference.

Even though it may look like it is intended for our youngest readers, it has something to offer a broad age group and hopefully the message of “take only photographs, leave only footprints” will become the mantra and model of all our students.