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Ella

Ella

Ella

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ella

Nicole Godwin

Demelsa Haughton

Tusk Books, 2016

32pp. hbk., RRP $A24.99

9780994531407

Ella is a baby elephant with a broken heart. Taken from her mother at a very early age to become part of the tourist attractions in Thailand, she is shackled by a large chain, poked with a bullhook to be the centre of tourist photos and expected to paint pictures and be the drawcard at weddings.  Always hungry, her only friend is a scrawny chicken but her greatest wish is to see her mother again and be reunited with her.  Wherever she goes she is on the lookout for her and follows every lead that she hopes will be successful, particularly when she sees her future in the eyes of an old and broken elephant saddled with a howdah and expected to enjoy carrying tourists with a need to say they have ridden an elephant.

One night during a fierce storm Ella is sure she has  found her but just as she is about to meet up, she is hit by a car and left on the side of the road.  But all is not lost, for Ella is picked up and hauled into a truck that drives away to a … sanctuary.

Written to give a voice to elephants and all other creatures held captive for the tourism market, this is a touching story that tugs at the heartstrings as the reader is given an insight into what really happens behind the scenes of what seems like an innocuous activity. Despite the charming illustrations that suggest a story for the very young, the front cover gives a clue that this is not a happy, sweetness-and-light story and despite its uplifting ending readers are bound to have questions they want answered.  Some of these are provided on the final pages of the book while  others might need some research.  Along with Elizabeth Stanley’s The Deliverance of Dancing Bears  and Katherine Applegate’s The One and Only Ivan  it would make an ideal springboard into the use and treatment of animals as tourist attractions and spark a lot of debate about the ethical issues and changing attitudes towards animals in captivity.

Thought-provoking and worthy of a place on the library’s shelves. 

The Famishing Vanishing Mahoosive Mammoth

The Famishing Vanishing Mahoosive Mammoth

The Famishing Vanishing Mahoosive Mammoth

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Famishing Vanishing Mahoosive Mammoth

Hollie Hughes

Leigh Hodgkinson

Bloomsbury, 2016

32pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781408862780

 

“I’m so famishing, I’m vanishing,” moaned the mahoosive mammoth  when he woke up early in the morning with an empty tummy.  But even though his friend Bug finds and feeds him an enormous amount of food through breakfast, a snack, brunch and lunch, and afternoon tea at the seaside the mahoosive mammoth is still hungry and nothing will satisfy the funny feeling deep inside.

But Bug is clever and realises why his friend is always hungry – and comes up with the perfect solution.  And Mammoth finally fixes that funny feeling inside.

This bright, colourful story-in-rhyme moves along at a fast clip and young readers will be astonished at how much food can be eaten by one creature in one day!  They will delight in the language – watch ‘mahoosive’ become part of their vocabulary – and have fun thinking of new snacks that might fix that funny feeling or imagining the consequences if the mammoth’s tummy does pop!

A fun read that will enchant young readers.

 

Little Why

Little Why

Little Why

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Little Why

Jonny Lambert

Little Tiger Press, 2016

32pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9781848691834

 

Tucked in the back, in-between the legs of the elder elephants, Little Why is supposed to walk in line and stay out of harm’s way.  But it is a big, new world out there with lots of new things to see.  Things such as Wildebeest’s spiny-spiky special horns.

“Wow!” he gasps.  I need some spiny-spiky special horns like those!.  I would look super-duper scary!  I would charge this way and that.  Could I have some spiny-spiky special horns?”

“No”, he is told and ordered back into line.  But it’s hard to stay in line when you spot a giraffe with long-lofty leggy legs that would be good for reaching the highest leaves, or a cheetah with speedy-spotty, fuzzy fur or a crocodile with a snippy-snazzy snout!  Even a near miss doesn’t stop him but he does stay in line, even though he has the sulks…

This is a charming variation on a common theme of stories for little children – that they are special and perfect just the way they are – but Little Why with his constant asking of “Why?’ is so resonant of a young pre-schooler that is has instant appeal.  And who hasn’t fallen in love with images of baby elephants waddling in and out of their parents’ legs as they take their first steps.  The illustrations are detailed and their collage-like structure gives them texture and depth, with the expressions bringing the animals and text to life. There is also the added detail of two little insects to discover on each page as well as Little Why’s constant companion, a little blue bird who keeps a careful eye on him. Little ones will appreciate the perspective of Little Why looking up at the world, just as they do.

This is another story that, as well as having having that oft-used theme that is essential to a healthy self-esteem and sense of self-worth , has the sort of language, rhythm and repetition that little listeners love and delight in exploring for themselves. 

Where’s the Elephant?

Where's the Elephant?

Where’s the Elephant?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where’s the Elephant?

Barroux

Egmont UK, 2015

32pp., hbk., RRP $A23.95

9781405276481

It starts as a simple hide-and-seek book with the reader encouraged to find the elephant, the parrot and the snake amongst a forest of trees of all shapes and sizes and colours.  Turn the page and the same challenge applies – but this time it’s a little easier because some of the trees have been chopped down.  And on the next double-spread it is easier again as even more trees have disappeared.  And then, where the trees were a house appears and then another and another.  And so it continues until there so many houses and buildings that there is just one tree, and the elephant, the parrot and the snake are clearly visible enclosed in a fence with Zoo on it.  Until they take matters into their own hands…

Stunningly illustrated by this award-winning French illustrator and inspired by a visit to Brazil where he saw the forest set alight to provide space to plant soy beans as well as the concept of Where’s Wally?, in some ways the theme of this wordless text is akin to that of Jeannie Baker’s Window. The encroaching of civilisation and its impact on the environment and the creatures within it is explored in a way that not only the youngest reader will understand but which will serve as a springboard for more mature readers to investigate. 

The colours and shapes of the lush forest evoke positive emotions but as the white of the cleared land and the muted tones of the houses and buildings take over the pages a sense of sadness takes over.  There are no words – they are not needed.

This is the perfect adjunct to a theme of Change, particularly if the focus is on how humans have an impact on the environment and the needs of creatures that dwell there.  Given Australia’s poor record of stopping species becoming endangered or even extinct, this is a focus area that demands attention and where better to start the appreciation of what we have than with the very young? 

Emily Eases Her Wheezes

Emily Eases Her Wheezes

Emily Eases Her Wheezes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Emily Eases Her Wheezes

Katrina Roe

Leigh Hedstrom

Wombat Books, 2015

hbk., 32pp., RRP $A19.99

9781925139129

Emily the Elephant is so full of energy that she scarcely stopped.  She would whizz around on her scooter, leap and twirl like a ballerina and bounce on her trampoline for hours.  She loved to be active.  But every now and then she had to sit still and look on because her asthma made her chest tight and her breathing difficult.  At first her friends were frightened of her coughing and wheezing but she reassured them that they couldn’t catch what she had.  But it really irked her to sit and watch but when she disobeyed her mum and jined in, she ended up in strife and needed her puffer.  Until one day she discovered a sport that she could join in, one which really helped her strengthen her lungs and improve her breathing.

As the school year gets underway, there are going to be many like Emily in classrooms – kids who can’t join in because of this disease and for whom all teachers must have training in how to deal with it if they are presented with a child having an attack.  Because 1 in 10 Australian children suffer from it and it is a common reason for children needing emergency medical care, it is essential that we all understand the potential seriousness of an asthma attack and that students and teachers alike know that it is something that cannot be ignored.  In this picture book written for younger readers, everyone learns something.  Emily learns that even when she thinks she’s okay she still needs to take it easy; her friends learn that it’s not something to be frightened of and they can help Emily; and the reader learns that while this is a treatable and manageable disease, a person suffering an attack needs to be taken seriously.

Children, particularly those in their first year of school who have not had exposure to large groups of children where there is likely to be an asthmatic need to know that while it might be scary it’s not catchy, and those who are sufferers will enjoy reading about themselves in a book just like other “normal” children and will feel less marginalised. Liegh Hedstrom’s charming illustrtions lighten the message somewhat – can you imagine an elephant using her bed as a trampoline?  There is a also comprehensive overview of asthma provided by a leading paediatrician that the parent reading the story aloud will find enlightening and reassuring

Wombat Books have a history of publishing books that need to be written and shared (Marty’s Nut Free Party ; Happy Pants; Coming Home) but which might not make the mainstream, big publishers’ lists and Emily Eases Her Wheezes is an important contribution to this.  

Elephants Have Wings

Elephants Have Wings

Elephants Have Wings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Elephants Have Wings

Susanne Gervay

Anna Pignataro

Ford Street, 2014

Hbk., 32pp., RRP $A26.95

9781925000399

 

Bedtime.  And that means a bedtime story, a nightly ritual in many homes and especially this one.  Snuggled under the covers, the children wait in anticipation as Father begins Grandfather’s Story, a tale from his childhood. 

“One night, your grandfather told me and the other children to go outside and search for the secret…”

And so begins a new take on the old story of The Blind Men and the Elephant

The children all think the secret is something different – “a rope”, “a tree branch”, “a marble”, “a scarf”, “a sandy wall” they cry, and begin arguing until they are so angry they are shrieking at each other like a babble of monkeys because each believes they were right.  And then Grandfather came outside carrying a candle and the children saw that each had been right but had also been wrong. 

“So what is the secret?” asked the children.

“It is for you to discover,” said Father.

And as the children fall asleep, pondering, they set off on a magical adventure flying on a mystical elephant with wings through to morning where they discover the secret.

In a world where reality comes straight into our living rooms, it is lovely to share a story that offers the suggestion of peace and hope.  As the elephant soars over the world’s landscapes showing the children its beauty but also its ugliness, the children learn about people and the core thread of humanity that binds us all together.  The elephant is symbolic in many religions, representing courage, hope, endurance and wisdom and so the parable of The Blind Men and the Elephant is part of the story-telling of many religions and cultures, making this re-imagining a story for all children. 

The riches of tradition, mythology and spirituality are woven into a wonderful tapestry, beautifully captured by Anna Pignataro’s imagination in the outstanding pictures, intertwined with imagery of the Asia and India where the story first originated. Even the endpapers with their merging rainbow colours emphasise the message.

elephant_wings3

The concept that we are all the same but different is a difficult one for young people to grasp because they only see the external but this partnership of Gervay and Pignataro (who also brought us Ships in the Field) is so successful that the message it accessible to all. So much so that it has been awarded the Blake Prize logo, an annual Prize and Exhibition program for contemporary art and poetry exploring the themes of spirituality, religion and human justice, and the first children’s book ever to have been honoured in this way.

This is a book for all ages. The commonality of its story across so many religions begs an investigation into why it would be – what is its core message that has such universality?  Going back to the original story could spark a discussin about what is truth and how our perception of events is dependent on our role within them and the lens through which we are looking. Even though each picture is full of the richest details, its true beauty only emerges when we look at it in its entirety.

I have a shelf on which I put the books that I think are going to be CBCA award winners this year.  This one is going onto that shelf!

elephant_wings2

A peek inside…

My First Elmer Collection

My First Elmer Collection

My First Elmer Collection

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My First Elmer Collection

David McKee

Random House, 2014

hbk., RRP $A19.99

9781783441792

If the preschool children in your life haven’t been introduced to Elmer yet then you need to read my review of the first story in the series.   He is a perennial favourite, even with children much older than the target market of preschoolers.

In this collection of board books just the right size for small fingers,  there are four titles – Elmer’s Day, Elmer’s Colours, Elmer’s Friends and Elmer’s Weather. Each is perfectly pitched at the youngest of readers, introducing them to basic concepts about their world while bringing delight and laughter.  McKee’s bright pictures appeal enormously and he is a most recognisable character.

It is 25 years since we were first introduced to Elmer, and given the delight a group of Year 2 students took in exploring stories about j=him just a week ago, it is clear that that appeal is not going to fade. This would be an ideal set to begin your child’s reading journey.

Elmer

Elmer

Elmer

David McKee

Andersen Press, 1989

Elmer is an elephant.  But he is no ordinary elephant.  Elmer is a patchwork elephant. He is yellow and orange and red and pink and purple and blue and green and black and white. And he gets into all sorts of adventures with his elephant friends and jungle mates in the series that is so popular it’s available in a range of languages which is perfect for those with students who are lucky enough to be bilungual. and formats including an ebook from iTunes and a YouTube clip.  

Elmer is among my list of perfect story books.  It has a most engaging character who is quite child-like; the stories are simple, and at times funny, but there is is a richness which can lead to lots of prediction, problem-solving and discussion; and the pictures are colourful and support the text perfectly. It’s great as a read-aloud but it also attracts those early readers who are trying books out for themselves.

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

Elmer is a rich teaching tool. Very little ones can practise their colour recognition and an Internet search will return a range of blackline masters to colour and help develop fine motor skills. The technique that McKee has used to depict the jungle vegetation lends itself to creating a mural using cut-paper shapes and adding pictures of Elmer’s friends and labelling these helps vocabulary development.  There’s scope for an investigation of where Elmer might live and who might live there with him, as well as providing parallel non-fiction resources as children clamour to find out more about this appealing species, including their sustainability.  There’s a reason television news shows always report the birth of baby elephants.

Definitely one of my best.