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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.

The Eagle Inside

The Eagle Inside

The Eagle Inside

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Eagle Inside

Jack Manning Bancroft

Bronwyn Bancroft

Little Hare 2015

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

9781742974699

It is Jimmy the honeyeater’s first day at flying school and just like all new students he is somewhat anxious.  Would there be other small birds?  Would they sip nectar like him or would they be worm eaters? As he approaches the school he is surrounded by birds of all sorts and sizes- all much bigger than he is.  Full of fear and doubt already, his anxiety is increased when Cockatoo almost crashes into him and immediately blames Jimmy. “No one bumps into me and gets away with it” screeches Cockatoo who demands Jimmy’s lunch. The other birds laugh at him and Jimmy feels so humiliated he huddles at the bottom of the tree and cries.  School is not a place for him.

But then Eagle takes him under his wing and Jimmy (and the other birds) learn a lot of lessons about self-belief, individuality and the eagle inside. 

In his dedication to this book, the author writes. “If you have ever felt alone, undervalued or doubted yourself, this book is for you.  No matter what people say, you can be what you want if you are willing to believe in yourself and back it up with hard work, hard work and more hard work.”  This is a story for everyone who has ever felt intimidated by situation or circumstance, showing that we all have our strengths and an eagle inside.  It’s perfect for the preschooler about to journey on to “big school” but also a reaffirmation for those about to start any new journey into an unknown word.

Renowned artist Bronwyn Bancroft has interpreted her son’s words in her distinctive style full of colour, pattern and movement which put Jimmy’s tiny size perfectly in perspective, not only emphasising the reasons for his concerns but how we all feel when we are intimidated if not humiliated. The natural symbiosis between mother and son is evident in the relationship between the text and illustrations and it is no wonder that Ms Bancroft has been nominated for the prestigious Hans Christian Andersen Awards for 2016!

An early contender for the next CBCA Picture Book of the Year nomination, in my opinion!

13 Words

13 Words

13 Words

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

13 Words

Lemony Snicket

Maira Kalman

HarperCollins, 2014

pbk., 40pp., RRP $A14.99

 9780061664670

 

 

Word Number 1: bird                    The bird sits on the table

Word Number 2: despondent         The bird is despondent.  In fact, she is so sad that she hops off the table to look for something to cheer her up.

And so begins this new story from Lemony Snicket (A Series of Unfortunate Events) that continues his penchant for quirky but thoroughly engaging stories.  Bird hops off the table to explore the cake (Word Number 3) that is in the box under it and is joined by dog (word Number 4).  Together they eat the cake and then while Bird gets busy (Word Number 5) Dog goes off in his convertible (#6) and meet Goat (#7) and together they look for things that might cheer Bird up.  They decide on a hat (#8) and so continues a wonderful tale that compels the reader to make connections between words like “haberdashery”, ‘panache’ and ‘mezzo-soprano’.

Giving life to the words are the amazing illustrations of Maira Kalman which have been described in the Kirkus review as “gorgeous, Matisse-like, gelato-colored”.  They force the reader to engage with them drawing you in to discover a range of unexpected delights that are just as original as Snicket’s storyline.  It’s as though SNicket and Kalman have decided to take the iconic format of a children’s basic word book and turn it upside-down.  Not only have they used words that kids know but they’ve also chosen some of those that they love to learn.  What kindergarten word list contains “panache” and “despondent”?  Add to that, instead of the words being isolated and disconnected, they’ve turned them into a story that puts them in a context that demonstrates their meaning and makes a most appealing story. 

This book works on so many levels apart from just being plain fun.  Students could make a list of the most delicious words that roll of their tongues; they could make their own list of thirteen words and try to weave them into a story; they could make a chart of all the different types of hats and classify them as sunsmart or not; and given that Bird is still despondent at the end of the story they could speculate on what might make her happier.  It’s a book that keeps on giving and has something for each age group you share it with.

Check out this book trailer for a sneak peek!

The Dawn Chorus

The Dawn Chorus

The Dawn Chorus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Dawn Chorus

Suzanne Barton

Bloomsbury Publishing, 2014

hbk., RRP $A24.99

9780140839218

Deep in the forest, just as the sun begins to rise, little Peep is woken from his slumbers by the most beautiful song. Stretching his wings and fluffing his feathers he sets out to find out where it is coming from.  But if it’s not Owl or Mouse or Frog, who could it be?  AHA!  There on an enormous tree on the top of a hill are lots and lots of birds, all singing their hearts out.  It is the Dawn Chorus and their job is to sing lustily each morning to let the world know a new day has begun.  Because Peep loves to sing, he wants to join and the conductor invites him for an audition the next morning.  But Peep doesn’t make it in time the next day, and the day after he was so tired all he could do was yawn!

“Perhaps you’re not meant to sing”, sighed the conductor.

Peep is so disappointed.  “Why can I sing in the evening but not in the morning?” he asks.  And suddenly, he has the answer – one that lifts his spirits and his voice and brings joy to all!

This is a beautifully illustrated book by new author and illustrator, Suzanne Barton. A combination of collage, drawing and painting, the gentle colours and delicate patterns are enchanting and very appealing.

Anyone who has heard a real dawn chorus wonders at the diversity of sounds as each bird adds its greeting, and this concept is enhanced by each bird in the tree being different.  However, even though as individuals each has a song to sing, it is when all are singing together that the true magic happens. But as well as celebrating unity, there is also the ability and need to celebrate difference, as Peep discovers.   What a wonderful way to introduce those concepts to young learners. I’ve put this one aside for when I work with a Year 1 class next week – I can see myself working with it, and that’s the greatest compliment of all from a teacher librarian.

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

Max

Max

Max

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Max

Marc Martin

Penguin, 2014

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

9780670077434

Max and Bob are great mates.  They live by the sea and during the day, Max keeps Bob company in his fish and chip shop (Max loves both fish and chips so it’s a perfect partnership) and in the evening they go fishing together.

How can that scenario make for a most enchanting story that kept 9 and 10 year-olds engaged for over an hour and wanting more?

Well, Max is a seagull, who’s a little bit cheeky and a little bit mischievous, and this is the story of a friendship that endures even after Bob has to close his shop because of a lack of business.  When Max comes to the shop one morning, Bob has gone, and even though he waits and waits and waits, his friend does not return.  Without Bob there is no attraction for Max and so he decides to leave – but as he flies high over the city looking for another home he smells a familiar smell…

Marc Martin won the 2013 Crichton Award for Australia’s best new illustrator and the illustrations for ‘Max’ add so much to its message and its charm.  Using a variety of techniques, vignettes and full-page spreads, (the class laughed out loud at Max sitting on top of the No Seagulls sign) they are rich and exquisite, providing so many more layers to the story than just the text alone.  For example, while there is no written explanation for the downturn in business, the picture of cranes soaring high above the funfair, the main drawcard of the area, tells its own story and opened up a discussion about the impact of tourism on local economies (particularly pertinent where I live).  Later, the reason for the dismantling for the funfair is also evident and sparked a debate about “you can’t stop progress”. What seems like a simple tale for a preschooler to enjoy is so much more.

As well as an enthusiastic discussion that ranged from personal stories of feeding seagulls hot chips, recalling other seagull stories we’ve read such as ‘The Lighthouse Keeper’s Lunch” and “Samantha Seagull’s Sandals” to the importance of the snow-oriented industry on our region, to country versus city living, the students also embraced the task of imagining what Max would have seen as he flew over our town and then drawing a birds-eye view map of it.  Suddenly that concept made sense to them! What started as a story to share because I loved it became a rich and rewarding experience for all of us that went far beyond the focus and timeframe I’d allocated.  But when you’re on a good thing…

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

Another look...

Another look…

The Cocky Who Cried Dingo

The Cocky Who Cried Dingo

The Cocky Who Cried Dingo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Cocky Who Cried Dingo

Yvonne Morrison

Heath McKenzie

Little  Hare

hbk; RRP $24.95

9781921541421

 

“In the back of beyond, underneath the hot sun,

lived a huge flock of parrots, who loved to have fun.

They would scratch in the dirt, and splash in the creek,

Sing raucous songs and then dance beak-to-beak.”

 

And among them was a handsome and arrogant young cockatoo who was not yet ready to go to sleep.  He liked to play tricks, and if you are familiar with the traditional tale of The Boy who cried Wolf, you can predict the storyline of this Australian version.  But what happens when the real dingo comes?  Are the other parrots sick of his tricks and do they ignore him?  Does Cocky escape with a valuable lesson learned?

The rhyme and rhythm of this story have it bouncing along and young listeners and readers will join in with the chorus in delight, shouting out for help.  They will be on edge as it reaches its climax and shiver when they see those fierce dingo teeth.  It can spark discussion about telling the truth and be the perfect forerunner to Who’s afraid of the big bad wolf? a free unit of work based on the original tale available from the National Digital Learning Resources Network (ID# R11580).

The pairing of Morrison and McKenzie is perfect – the colourful, whimsical illustrations are just right to build the tension but not overwhelm with fear.  A must for any school library collection which supports a values curriculum.

Others in the series are

The Emu that laid the Golden Egg

The Emu that laid the Golden Egg

The Three Wallabies Gruff

The Three Wallabies Gruff

Town Possum, Outback Possum

Town Possum, Outback Possum

Colour for Curlews

 

Colour for Curlews

Colour for Curlews

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Colour for Curlews

Renée Treml

Random House, 2013

hbk., RRP SA19.95

9781742759234

Ebook  978174759234

Two somewhat drab but curious curlews find an artist’s brush and some paint, and run off with yellow, red and blue.  It’s not long before they are no longer drab.  Then Bowerbird gets busy with the blue paint, and Brolga with the red and suddenly this trend has gone viral!  So many colours and so much fun, and off they go to show their friends.  Then along comes the very tired wombat from Renee’s first book and puts his body down for a nap, right where the paints have all merged into a brown puddle.  But those curious curlews that caused him so much grief in that first book come back … and they have paint brushes!!!

Ms Treml seems to have her finger on just what makes a great picture book for younger readers.  Rhythmic, rhyming text, colour, humour, fun, an ending that leaves room for the imagination and some tidbits about the birds is the bonus and could lead to an interesting investigation of why birds have colours, and how there were so many variations from just three tubes of paint.

Living where I do, I see a range of beautifully coloured birds every day – they have certainly dipped into a paint palette as rich as Ms Treml’s imagination!