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Meerkat Choir

Meerkat Choir

Meerkat Choir

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meerkat Choir

Nicki Greenberg

Allen &  Unwin, 2017

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

9781760290795

It is time for the very first practice of the meerkat choir and the choir-master is all set to begin.  But each time he starts the countdown  he is interrupted by another creature wanting to join in.  But this choir is for meerkats only – no outsiders allowed = and so he sends them away, in an increasingly less-than-friendly manner as his frustration grows.  Finally, the other creatures get his message that they are not welcome and practice begins.  But the sound is not what he is wanting – it’s more enthusiastic than musical and he stomps off in disgust.   Then the disappointed meerkats hear a beautiful noise and go to investigate…

As well as being a LOL story which nevertheless has serious undertones about acceptance and inclusion, the intrigue of this book is in its format and illustrations.  The narrative is told in large speech bubbles with the choir-master’s increasing frustration being expressed in larger and larger fonts while the clever use of soft shapes, lines and colours gives a visual aspect to the melodious sounds which contrasts with that depicting the sounds of the meerkats when they finally do sing.  While children will tell you that they can’t see sounds, this technique shows that sounds can evoke visual imagery just as they can evoke physical movement and offers a great opportunity to play them contrasting pieces that firstly encourage them to move in different ways and then express them using colours and lines.  Extending the exercise further, they could discuss the mood that music can elicit and how it’s possible to accentuate mood through music by listening to the background tracks of movies or television, or even watching different parts of a ballet such as Swan Lake where the music, mood and movement of the Four Little Swans is so different from that of the final conflict between Siegfried and the sorcerer.

A book that can take you from a choir of meerkats who first appeared in The Naughtiest Reindeer at the Zoo to the masterful work of Tchaikovsky and Pepita; one that has each of a range of reviewers focusing on different elements of its content and construction,  is indeed special – no wonder it is a 2018 CBCA Notable in the Early Childhood category!

Teachers’ notes are available.

 

The Second Sky

The Second Sky

The Second Sky

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Second Sky

Patrick Guest

Jonathan Bentley

Little Hare, 2017

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

9781760127985

Down in the depths of Antarctica an egg cracks open and little Gilbert the penguin looks up through the opening and sees the sky for the first time. Above him the moon glows, the stars sparkle and the birds wheeled.  Gilbert knew where he wanted to be…. soaring high through the heavens with the storm petrels, the shearwaters and the mighty wandering albatross.

But even though his big clumsy feet and small fluffy wings weren’t made for flying, he tried and tried and tried.  But all to no avail.  Even as his fluffy down gave way to feathers, he kept trying – waddling and flapping, waddling and flapping  and each time ending up on the ice, not in the sky.  He didn’t listen to Aunty Anchovy and the other family members who told him to give up.  He persisted, becoming even more determined the day he saw the wandering albatross soar and glide…

Set aside the messages of the need to practice, persistence and resilience that Gilbert’s story encourages and just bask in the wonder of the words and the beauty of the illustrations of this charming story of a penguin who clearly missed the memo about the place of penguins in the world.  Young readers will LOL as Gilbert tries to follow his dream and empathise with his belief that it’s just a matter of time and he will master flight as he gets older and stronger – just as they will get more co-ordinated and balanced as they grow. 

This is a delightful story about reaching for the stars, but when that dream doesn’t come true there can be something even better in the substitute.  

Nominated as a 2018 CBCA Notable for both the Early Childhood and Picture Book categories, it thoroughly deserves its place in both.

Teachers’ notes are available.

Bobo & Co

Bobo & Co

Bobo & Co

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Opposites

9781408880500

Shapes
9781408880517

Nicola Killen

Bloomsbury, 2018

10pp., board book, RRP $A12.99

In the latest in the Bobo series,  Bobo the panda and his friends, Snap the crocodile, Riff the giraffe and the rest of the gang continue to introduce preschoolers to common concepts in this enjoyable and engaging  lift-the-flap first concepts series.

This time, in Opposites Bobo the Panda and his friends are playing and as they do so they explore common antonyms like in and out, fast and slow; while in Shapes it’s Bobo’s birthday and all his presents have distinctive but familiar shapes.

While most board books focusing on these concepts for the very young usually feature pages that are disconnected, the continuity of a story throughout makes these appealing and helps little ones realise that books are more than just pictures with labels.  The lift-the-flap format makes them interactive as well as encouraging the child to predict what might come next.

I’m a Duck

I'm a Duck

I’m a Duck

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m a Duck

Eve Bunting

Will Hillenbrand

Candlewick Press, 2018

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

9780763680329

Imagine being a duck that is afraid of water!

But that’s the problem of this little one who rolled into the pond as an egg, and although quickly rescued by her mother, she has been left with a morbid fear of deep water.

Now I’m a duck who’s scared to go

in the pond or lake, and so

I cannot swim, and that is bad.

A landlocked duck is very sad.

Despite the encouragement of family and friends like Frog and Owl, Little Duck just can’t pluck up the courage to have a go.  She eventually has a go in a puddle, practising all day and night, but even though she’s well prepared, when it comes to the pond she’s really, really scared!  And then one day…

This is a gentle book, both in tone and palette, focusing on overcoming fear that will resonate with many young readers who will have have had to pull their big-kid pants on and have a go at something that has terrified them.  No matter how supportive those around you are, how much they offer to help you, as the little ducking observes, “I’d love to have you help me through it, but I’m the one who has to do it.”

It’s a story about moving at one’s own pace, practising and preparing, and doing things your own way that will offer comfort and support to those facing what seem to be insurmountable challenges and the joy of going from trepidation to triumph. No doubt little listeners will each have their own tale to tell as they reflect on similar situations and then give themselves a high-five for having mastered their fear. 

Rescue & Jessica: A life-changing friendship

Rescue & Jessica

Rescue & Jessica

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rescue & Jessica

Jessica Kensky & Patrick Downes

Scott Magoon

Candlewick Press, 2018

32pp., hbk., RRP $A27.99

9780763696047

Rescue thought he would grow up to be a Seeing Eye dog – after all, that’s what his family does.  However, his handler thinks he would be better as an assistance dog and Rescue is worried that he wouldn’t be any good at that.  He did not want to let anyone down.

Meanwhile, Jessica has had to have one of her legs amputated and will need either a prosthetic leg or a wheelchair to be mobile.  This is not what she thought her life would be like and she worried about whether she will be able to manage the changes.  And then she and Rescue are teamed up…

Based on the true story of a young woman injured in the Boston Marathon bombing in April 2013, just five years ago, this is a story of how Jessica and Rescue manage the unexpected changes in their lives and how they rescued each other.  Five years on, it is not only a tribute to assistance dogs the world over,  it also highlights the struggles of those who survive these disastrous events and continue to cope long after the headlines have moved on – in this case, more than 260.  

As well as the personal story of Jessica and Rescue, it also highlights the resilience, the perseverance, and the continuing hard work that it takes to go forward from such a life-changing event including those that do not make world headlines. The cause of Jessica’s unhealthy legs is not disclosed within the story and so there are many children who, sadly, can relate to the realisation that life as they know it has changed and life as they had dreamed is irrevocably altered.   Divorce, family break-ups,illness,  car accidents, deaths… these (and more) are part of the fabric of our students’ lives that they may be dealing with in silence and while they might not require an assistance dog, we need to be mindful of their struggles. Sharing this story and discussing Jessica’s feelings of despair and hope, taking one step at a time, one day at a time may help them progress just a little further.

 

 

Little Fish (series)

Little Fish

Little Fish

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where is Little Fish?

9781406374186

Count with Little Fish

 9781406374193

Lucy Cousins

Walker Books, 2018

22pp., board book, RRP $A11.99

Little Fish is the new creation from the creator of Maisy and in these two new releases very young readers will love to lift the flaps to discover where he is hiding and then to count to 18 as he introduces all his fishy friends.  

With bright bold pictures full of colour, pattern and detail that encourage exploration, little ones will enjoy following his adventures and practise their early reading behaviour as they will soon be telling themselves the stories independently with these just-right-for-little-hands books, sturdy enough to endure toddler trials. 

Cousins has proven through her many publications for littlies that she knows just what attracts them and this new series is no exception.

Ash dresses her friends

Ash dresses her friends

Ash dresses her friends

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ash dresses her friends

Fu Wenzheng

New Frontier, 2018

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

9781925594027

Ash, the azure-winged magpie  is feeling lonely. Unlike the brash. bold magpies that Australian children are familiar with,   she lacks confidence amongst her feathered friends who assume she is shy and so is left out of conversations at bird gatherings.  She desperately wishes she had someone to play with. 

When a sad elephant comes along who wants a new shirt, Ash has an idea that will cheer him up.  Producing an almost unending blot of fabric she makes him a bold red and white shirt that is so admired by other creatures that they also want new clothes. Suddenly she has all sorts of friends, not just those like her.  But when the fabric runs out after she makes a quilt for a snail, she is alone again.  Were her new “friends” just there for what she as to give them?

Set against a background of fifty shades of grey, bold red is the only contrast colour used in the illustrations symbolising the luck, joy and happiness  that the Chinese believe it to hold, acknowledging the heritage of the author.

Young children who may feel overwhelmed in the presence of those older and bolder than they are may well draw some comfort from this story which shows that we can find friends everywhere, even in unexpected ways, and that true friends are those who give as well as take. 

Teachers’ notes are available

I love you, Stick Insect

I love you, Stick Insect

I love you, Stick Insect

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I love you, Stick Insect

Chris Naylor-Ballesteros

Bloomsbury, 2018

32pp., pbk., RRP A12.99

9781408882955

How much fun can two stick insects have in one day?  When one meets another, he immediately falls in love and describes the magical day they will have – joining a band, going to the beach, surfing, skating, kiting… But all the while the butterfly is trying to tell him he is romancing a stick!  But is he???

A year or so ago a friend’s granddaughter (who has been described as a mini David Attenborough) went through a stick-insect-as-a-pet stage, apparently more common that we might think with specimens easily purchased from various sources.  She chose a Goliath (or two or three) and while not everyone’s idea of a pet, she took great care of them ensuring they had the right leaves and humidity and so on to maximise their lifespan. 

So while a humorous book with a stick insect as its focus might seem strange, nevertheless there will be those who will pick it up because of that.  Others will just love it for its fun and the twist in the end.  Those who enjoyed I’m Going to Eat this Ant will be familiar with the creator’s way of telling a story and will be pleased to see a new release from him.

Lola Dutch

Lola Dutch

Lola Dutch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lola Dutch

Kenneth Wright

Sarah Jane Wright

Bloomsbury USA, 2018

40pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781681195513

Sometimes Lola Dutch is a little bit much!  Each morning she wakes up brimming with ideas about how to have an AMAZING day and then, with her animal friends, goes about doing so.  

It starts with breakfast where Gator gets grits and gravy, Pig gets pastries with hot chocolate and marshmallows, Crane orders crepes and cream and all the while her friend Bear watches on with trepidation because he knows who gets to wash the dishes and clean up. On their morning walk, Lola decides to go to the library and while the others read about great inventors, chemists and writers, Lola reads about great artists – which sets her imagination running…

And so the day goes on, with Lola’s imagination knowing no bounds and Bear trying to rein it in a little.  Even bedtime is not calming and peaceful until Lola discovers that despite the frenetic day, there is really only one thing she needs.

Inspired by the antics of their four children, this husband and wife team have created a book that not only is full of big ideas but also leaves the reader a bit breathless.  Parents choosing to read this to their children at bedtime need to be ready for their suggestions for how their next day can be AMAZING – and then hope it’s all forgotten about come morning, unless they want an AMAZING day too! If they do, there’s more here.

 

Butterfly Wishes (series)

Butterfly Wishes

Butterfly Wishes

 

 

 

 

 

Butterfly Wishes (series)

Jennifer Castle

Bloomsbury, 2018 

128pp., pbk., RRP $A9.99

Sisters Addie and Clara have just moved to a new house in the country, where they discover that their backyard is a gateway to the enchanted realm of magical butterflies called Wishing Wings. These special butterflies have the power to make wishes come true! 

Each story is complete with plenty of illustrations (the covers alone will inspire imagination) and contain a gentle life lesson as the problem and its resolution are explored.

This is a new series for newly independent readers, particularly girls, who are looking for something with sparkle, magic and the beginnings of fantasy.  While the first, The Wishing Wings,  is available now the others will be released in quick succession so these young readers do not have to wait too long to revisit this new magical world. 

A delightful new series that will encourage young readers to keep coming back for the next episodes.