Henri is a little caterpillar with a big ambition. He wants to fly and go on an amazing, incredible, impossible-seeming adventure to see the world outside his garden. But how can such a little caterpillar make such a huge dream come true?
His friends want him to stay where he is – safely in the garden with them. But Toad tells if if he doesn’t chase his dreams, they will get away. And so with the help of other friends like Bird, Mole, and Fish he is on his way. But it is not until he sees a tethered hot air balloon that he believes his amazing, incredible, impossible-seeming adventure will begin. If he can get to the top he is sure he will be able to see the whole wide world. But as he begins to crawl up the ropes, something happens to him and he finds himself shackled and sleepy. And then when he wakes…
This is a charming story that will appeal to young readers, especially those who know the life cycle of butterflies and can predict what will happen to Henri. But it is also an inspiring story about believing in yourself, having a dream and making it happen, even if it means stepping w-a-y outside your comfort zone. It’s ending is comforting – knowing that there is nearly always a safe haven we can return to. It is a soft, gentle story cleverly echoed in the soft gentle palette and is a perfect bedtime read as children snuggle down to their own dreams.
“This book is about worms. (I can only draw worms.) “
And so that’s just what we are presented with. Bright hot-pink worms (except for one yellow one because he lost his pen) that mix and mingle and get to know each other and have adventures, all of which the reader has to imagine because the author can only draw worms. Set on white page juxtaposed with some really bright backgrounds the reader is drawn in, but while the blurb suggests that the book is “hilarious” and guaranteed to have children howling with laughter” I think there is a gap between the age of the reader that it visually appeals to and that able to grasp the humour.
It’s different, it’s quirky, it’s definitely bright and young readers will love to join in the counting aspect as Mabbitt brings this most humble creature to life., encouraging them to use their imagination to fill in all the missing illustrations because he can only draw worms.
Ants are the most numerous insect in the world -scientists estimate there are more than 10 000 species and maybe 100 000 trillion individuals – which is a good thing because Millie the echidna loves them. No matter where they are – on the path, beneath the bath, in the kitchen, in the shed, on a picnic, in the bed – Millie is on an endless quest to eat as many as she can. Whether it’s a hunter ant, a soldier ant or even a queen flying before rain, she is on their trail because she is on a special mission…
Echidnas are not uncommon in the bush environment from rainforests to dry sclerophyll forests to the arid zones and with their formidable spines and remarkable ability to grip the ground, even hard concrete so they cannot be disturbed, it is no wonder they are are the oldest surviving mammal on the planet today. Knowing that author Jackie French lives in the bush environment in south-east New South Wales, one can imagine her watching an echidna snuffle across her backyard on the trail and this delightful book being born as she pondered its search and brought it to life in rhyme.
While Millie continues her dogged pursuit, which is such a steady but remarkably speedy pace, artist Sue deGennaro adds movement and humour in her portrayal of the ants who are as clever as they are numerous. We’ve all seen them carrying food bigger than they are but who would have thought they could manoeuvre four cupcakes and a suite of garden tools!! And in amongst the frivolity there is a lot of information about the benefits of these tiny creatures to our landscape and lives, even if we do see them as pesky annoyances in the sugarbowl!
Having endeared us to the ants through these charming pictures, we then discover the reason for Millie’s journey and hearts melt all over again – while a lesson in life is learned. We need food to provide food. Little readers will not only understand echidnas a little more after experiencing this book but they will also view ants in a different light and perhaps take time to observe and think about what the ants are doing before hitting them with a spray or a foot.
Extensive teachers’ notes are available as well as a poster but this copy is winging its way to Queensland for Miss Almost 2 just for the share joy and delight of the words, the rhyme, the pictures and her love of stories that is already well-cemented because of tales like this.
The world was first introduced to the very hungry caterpillar as he munched his way through a menu of goodies almost 50 years ago! Now he is back, hiding somewhere under the flaps waiting to be discovered by little fingers.
With the bold colours and readily recognisable illustrations of the wondrous Eric Carle who has a gift of turning the mundane into the extraordinary, it’s time for little ones to have even more fun with the little caterpillar that so many of them already know and love. And as well as recognising the familiar foods from the original story and perhaps even being able to read the words for them because of that, they can also learn what other tiny creatures inhabit the world beneath their feet and maybe tread a little more gently on this earth.
This ticks all the boxes about helping our first readers to understand the basic concepts about print that are so vital to their reading success, particularly making connections between this new story and the one they know as they learn to carry that knowledge and apply it to a new situation. Brilliant from what might appear to be a humble board book!
Worm loves Worm. So they decide to get married. It shouldn’t be a problem but suddenly all their minibeast friends chip in. “You’ll need someone to marry you. That’s how it’s always been done.” You’ll need a best man, bridesmaids, rings, a band… and so on and so on, because “that’s how it’s always been done.” Worm and Worm agree to each suggestion hoping that after they acquiesce they can get married but no… there is always something else.
So when they are told that they need to have a bride and groom, worms being hermaphrodites, they have no trouble with being either or both – but that isn’t how it’s always been done. Will they ever just celebrate their love by getting married???
This is a charming book that, on the surface, is just a story about two worms wanting to get married because they love each other, and that, to a four-year-old is a natural thing to do. It is just a celebration of love. For those in different circumstances or a little bit older there is a sub-text of marriage equality and things can change – they don’t always have to be because they have always been. It’s enough to love each other without all the other trappings; it’s about inclusion and equality and showing affection regardless of any traditional views and values that have been imposed on a natural state of mind. That’s what little ones understand and accept – intolerance is something they learn.
Choosing worms as the main characters is a masterstroke because there are no physical differences between worms – there is nothing to say which is female and therefore the bride or male and therefore the groom. So the central message of love being the key ingredient and the rest of the elements of a wedding just being seasoning remains the central theme.
Perhaps some of our politicians and those who influence them should read this and get to the core of what really matters.
A great addition to a school library collection that allows children to see their own family structure in a story, to show others that there are all sorts of family structures, and to explain marriage equality to those unfamiliar with the concept.
At the bottom of the garden
where no one really sees,
a secret school is hidden
amongst the grass and weeds.
And it is the first day of school for all the little bugs that live in the garden. Spiders have to learn the pitfalls to avoid like climbing up waterspouts, crickets need to know their new song for the summer, ladybirds have to learn to count spots and all of the other things that go with the first day of school, under the watchful, caring eye of Miss Bumblebee.
With a new school year just over the horizon for many of our pre-schoolers this is a delightful story in rhyme that will help them allay their nerves and they start the what-ifs and their anxiety begins to build. The illustrations show each bug as a friendly individual (even the spiders) and the idea that school is fun threads its way through helping to quell questions and nerves.
One to add to your preschool collection to be shared as the term moves on – the children might even like to think of a favourite bug and decide what it is they would have to learn. Would a centipede have to know how to tie shoelaces?
Bugsy Bug is going to visit his grandma. She lives somewhere in the Big Bug Log but Bugsy is not sure how to get there so the reader has to help him. Solving clues to find the right doors, lifting flaps, following directions, trails and mazes, escaping from the scary spider, through the log he travels until he reaches safety, this is an interactive read perfect for the parent and very young child to enjoy together.
The shape of the cover with its cutout says, “Explore me!” and the bright colourful pictures are enticing. There is much to discover and discuss in their fine detail as the child seeks to solve the clues. While there needs to be an adult to read the commentary and clues, the child will delight in looking for things like the bee in the bow tie, using their finger to follow snail trails and so on, all of which reinforce the left-to-right direction of reading and the delight of story.
The benefits of having children enjoy stories from a very young age are well documented but having those stories being interactive and demanding input from the listener is a bonus. This is much more than a story about Bugsy getting to Grandma’s house – it demands the child’s attention and input, all the while consolidating that subliminal message that stories are not only fun but that the child and the activity are worth the attention of the adult sharing it with them. This is not a disembodied voice encouraging them to tap this or swipe that – this is someone who cares about them making the time to get involved and help them solve Bugsy’s problem.
Perfect for preschool and even younger and a wonderful opportunity to create some original artwork, a map of the log, and to team with some early non fiction about bugs!
Spider Iggy Aleesah Darlinson Sarah Jane Hinder Wombat Books, 2015 32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99 9781925139334
No one notices let alone appreciates the beauty that Spider Iggy tries to bring to the grim grey city as he spins his web in intricate designs each day. No one wants to be friends with him and life is unhappy. He dreams of a place filled with colour and light and other spiders who will like him. And then one day on the breeze he hears the words, “Be brave” and he is inspired to change things. And even though on his journey to find a new life he is met by setbacks like the man with the broom and the lady with the windscreen wipers and even the birds with their fast, ferocious and fierce beaks he finds the obstacles are actually opportunities that take him forward to his destination. “Be brave” echoes in his head and from deep within he finds the courage to keep going. And then he meets Bert…
Every one of us could empathise with Spider Iggy as there have been or will be times in our lives when we need to dig ourselves out of a rut and find the wherewithal to go forward – whether it’s towards friendship and love, conquering a fear or facing the unknown. We can draw from his spirit of determination, resilience and persistence and make obstacles into opportunities. Young children will also identify with him as not only is every day a new adventure to be negotiated safely but they are also small, helpless and powerless and somewhat at the mercy of others in their world. They also don’t have the worldly wisdom of adults so they need to dig deep within themselves to overcome.
The story also portrays spiders in a new light – both the man with the broom and the lady with the windscreen wipers respond to Iggy based on their personal prejudices of fear and disgust about spiders, opening up another line of discussion. While Spider Iggy’s plight will not convince me that things with more than four legs have a place in my life, nevertheless I’d be willing to consider their place in the world. Teaching notes offer a range of suggestions to explore these concepts more deeply including links to other titles and websites that could be used as a gateway to information literacy for littlies. Should Little Miss Muffet have been so frightened?
This is a story to support any child who has felt on the outer – it would not have surprised me if the author had trod tender ground and allowed Iggy and Bert to share something special – and to encourage them to keep looking because they will find that place they belong. Sarah Jane Hinder’s illustrations are bright and capture the text in a way that portrays Iggy’s emotional and physical journeys perfectly while keeping the mood light so that for those who just like the surface story are well entertained.
“Ladybird loves to hide. Yoo-hoo, Ladybird! Where are you?” And so begins another Mem Fox classic, which she describes as a Where’s Wally for the very young. For Ladybird, one of those teeny-tiny red,-with-black-spots creatures that just fascinate little people, has a wonderful time with her friends and is not easy to spot unless you have very keen eyes! But, it’s OK if you don’t find her because there’s a close-up on the next page to help you.
What is there that’s new to say about Mem Fox and her ability to write deceptively simple books that just appeal to generation after generation? Possum Magic had its 30th anniversary in 2013 and now Miss Nearly 3 won’t sleep without hearing Where is the Green Sheep? first. And here is another winner!
In Mem’s words, it is “a typical Mem Fox book for the very young with simple language, predictably wrapped in rhyme and neatly tied with rhythm and repetition”. Even though it is only 133 words, it took two years to write because it took that long for “every one of those 133 words fell into place, the syllables sang the right tune, the commas settled into their correct position, and the page-turns worked like the puzzle they were meant to be.” (You can read more of what Mem says on her website.)
The illustrations which are absolutely integral to a book of this nature are utterly charming and Ljungkvist has done a perfect job of making the puzzle tricky – but not too tricky – hiding Ladybird in plain sight in familiar places amongst toys and objects that will appeal, but which will also create a lot of discussion! Would you really find an octopus in your bath? As well as hiding Ladybird, she has cleverly included lots of other repetitive elements in the pictures so this can become a hide-and-seek on a grand scale!
If you were to construct a Who’s Who in Children’s literature, Australian or otherwise, particularly of those who are the leaders of perfect picture books for under-8s, Mem Fox would be at the pinnacle. In my opinion, she is a national treasure and needs to be in every child’s life and library.
“In the light of the moon a little egg lay on a leaf”.
Who doesn’t know this classic story of the hatching of that little egg, and the caterpillar’s journey through a an orchard of fruits throughout the week, a un-caterpillar feast on Saturday and culminating in a massive stomach ache? So big, in fact, that the little caterpillar has to eat through a nice green leaf to ease it and then goes to sleep for another week, snug in a cocoon until he emerges as a beautiful butterfly.
First published in 1969, this story has endured for 45 years because it has all the things that young readers like – an engaging character, bright pictures created in Carle’s signature collage style, cut and cutout pages that promise new things when they are turned, counting and prediciting and reading along, and a most satisfying ending.
Over the years, Carle has written many stories for the very young and whether its The Very Busy Spider, The Tiny Seed or Does a Kangaroo have a mother, too? each has a place on the bottom shelf, your read-aloud basket and your teaching toolkit.
Now, at the age of 84, Carle has released Friendsa new story inspired by an old snapshot and a long-ago memory.