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Snow Penguin

Snow Penguin

Snow Penguin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Snow Penguin

Tony Mitton

Alison Brown

Bloomsbury, 2017

32pp., hbk., RRP $A22.99

9781408862957

Way down south at the very bottom of the world a little penguin is very curious about what the world is like beyond the icy, snowy rookery. But as he gazes seaward on the edge of the ice he doesn’t notice that the ice is cracking and suddenly he finds himself floating amidst a world of creatures that he hasn’t seen before. Blue whales, orcas, elephant seals, sea lions – all are new to him and potentially dangerous.  But even though he is not afraid of them, as darkness draws in and the sea turns from blue to black he is worried about getting home to his family.  Will he be safe or will he be someone’s dinner?

This is a charming story that particularly appeals because of its subject and location. But apart from that it is beautifully illustrated, with almost realistic creatures but with a touch of whimsy that make them seem friendly so you know the cute little penguin will be okay.

Told in rhyming couplets that keep the rhythm smooth and soothing, this is a gentle book perfect for bedtime and introducing young readers to some of the unfamiliar creatures that share this planet with them – and the curious penguin.

Meeka

Meeka

Meeka

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meeka

Suzanne Barton

Anil Tortop

Bluebell Books, 2017

32pp., hbk., RRP $A22.99

9780648099307

There are lots of tantalising tastes and smells at the community food markets – crusty French bread, buttery corn on the cob, fluffy, puffy fairy floss, peanuts, walnuts, all kinds of nutty nuts… but the most tantalising of all is dad’s spicy, dicey stew. Made with spices, herbs, almonds, apricots, lemons and some other secret ingredients, it not only draws in the market-goers but also a cute little bird called Meeka who samples it every day and sings with delight.

But Meeka also likes to sample all the goodies from the other stalls and is friendly with all the other cooks and sellers so when Meeka goes missing, there is great consternation.  Finally found with a bulging tummy and feeling very sick from eating all the non-bird food, Meeka is placed in one of the tagines used for the spicy, dicey stew to recover and then disaster happens…

New author Suzanne Barton crowd-funded this charming story that gently suggests that we really should not feed our pets and wildlife human food because it is not the best for them and that Mother Nature really has a better diet for them.  Anil Tortop’s gentle pastel illustrations bring the busyness of the markets to life in a series of vignettes that tell as much of the story as the text.  Certainly there are two crucial pictures that are not referred to in the words on which the story hangs, and which demonstrate the links between words and pictures in quality picture books.

Young children will enjoy this story – you can hear them gasp when they see what the little girl does with Meeka and encourage their predictions of Meeka’s fate and they will like the rhythm and rhyme of the food words.  They can share their favourite foods and maybe taste each other’s and then investigate why it is not a good idea to indulge our pets and wildlife as they discover just what they should be eating.

Debut story, debut author but hopefully not the first-and-only.

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.