Archives

Maybe

Maybe

Maybe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maybe

Morris Gleitzman

Viking, 2017

192pp., pbk., RRP $A19.99

9780670079377

Once I escaped from an orphanage to find Mum and Dad…

Then I had a plan for me and Zelda…

After the Nazis took my parents I was scared…

Soon I hoped the Nazis would be defeated and they were…

Now Zelda learns her grandfather’s story…

Maybe there will peace and happiness for Felix at last…

Felix, Gabriek and Anya, who is now seven months pregnant, are once again on the run trying to get back to Gabriek’s farm and hide from Zliv, the murderous brother of Gogol the Polish patriot who vowed  ‘Poland has been crawling with vermin for centuries. Germans, Austrians, Jews, Ukrainians, Russians.  Now we’re cleaning them up.” and killed by Felix.

But there is a very rude and dangerous homecoming and once again they have to flee – this time on a treacherous journey that lands Felix in Australia. Maybe this will be the land of opportunity for a young boy who only wants to attend university to become a doctor. But…

The sixth in this family of books that tells the remarkable story of Felix in a way that it has to have a considerable element of truth, shows that when the guns fall silent the war is not necessarily over and sanctuary is elusive not guaranteed, Yet throughout both this book and the series, Felix maintains his humanity and resourcefulness and in cases, his child’s logic provides a touch of humour to lighten the dark which Gleitzman does not shy away from. He believes our children need to know about this history which is so recent if could be that of their grandparents’ and refuses to patronise them by glossing over the not-so-nice. 

Much has been written about the Holocaust that is inaccessible to our upper primary students because it is so factual and so foreign they can’t comprehend it – in this series written through the eyes of a child it becomes clearer and starts to develop a belief that this must never happen again, whether it be against a religion, a race, a gender or any other reason that people can be marginalised.  Sadly, now termed “ethnic cleansing” it does continue but no longer does the world turn such blind, uncaring eyes.  

For those who are venturing into the investigation of how Australian has developed in post-war times particularly with the immigration of so many from Europe, this series is essential reading to understand why people couldn’t just “return home”; why there were no homes to go to and why somewhere as faraway and foreign as Australia held such appeal.  For it is the Felixes of this world who established not only the town I live in but this multicultural, tolerant nation that we and those who follow must work hard to maintain. 

And now we await Always, the conclusion to an enriching and engrossing saga.

I Wish I Could Be a Superhero

I Wish I Could Be a Superhero

I Wish I Could Be a Superhero

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Wish I Could Be a Superhero

Susan Hall

Cheryl Westenberg

NLA Publishing, 2017

32pp., pbk., RRP $A17.99

9780642278890

Wesley Wombat really wanted to be a superhero.

‘If only I had superpowers like all my friends!’ he thought longingly.

If only he could fly like the king parrot, swim like the platypus, jump like the kangaroo or protect himself with body armour like the echidna.  But, sadly, no matter how hard he tries to be like his friends in the bush, his attempts end in near disaster.  He is feeling really despondent but his mother reassures him he will find his special talent and to look forward to the birthday party with his friends the next day.  And it is on his way to the party that Wesley discovers his super power and becomes a super hero.

This is a charming story written for the very young who are learning to identify our unique indigenous creatures and their special characteristics.  Using a lift-the-flap format, Cheryl Westenberg has created the most wonderful illustrations of Wesley’s mishaps that little ones (and bigger ones too) will roll on the floor laughing and really understand the fun to be had in stories while understanding that each of us has our own super power because we are all really good at something. Bright and colourful and accompanied by extra pages of facts about each of the featured creatures, this is a must-have addition for the early childhood collection.  

Can You Find Me?

Can You Find Me?

Can You Find Me?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Can You Find Me?

Gordon Winch

Patrick Shirvington

New Frontier, 2017

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

9781925059793

Mother Nature has provided many of our commonly seen creatures with the most amazing camouflage so that when they are in their natural habitat they are very hard to see.  In this stunning book by Gordon Winch, author of Samantha Seagull’s Sandals which has delighted so many children in my care over the years, readers are encouraged to spot familiar and not-so-familiar creatures hidden in plain sight in Pat Shirvington’s beautiful lifelike illustrations which really connect to the natural world.  

Apart from little ones loving these sorts of hide and seek books, it also encourages them to look with new eyes at their local landscape and wonder what might be living there.  Perhaps before they go stomping through the bush or the sand dunes they will stop and tread more carefully appreciating it more as a home for creatures, camouflaged though they may be.

Then using the text format as a model, they could investigate a different creature and then create their own page to add to the book – a new way of presenting information for the ubiquitous report about Australian animals that is in every early childhood curriculum.

Why Crocodiles Smile

Why Crocodiles Smile

Why Crocodiles Smile

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why Crocodiles Smile: Cric Croc discovers nature’s wonders

Anthony W Buirchell

Laila Savolainen

Cric Croc Enterprises, 2017

32pp., pbk., RRP $A16.95

 

9780995424340

Young children are warned from an early age to “never smile at a crocodile” but what if the crocodile smiles at you?

Cric the Crocodile has spent a week with his family in the Daintree region of Far North Queensland but he is puzzled because all the crocodiles he met smiled all the time. So his dad Crisis explains why.

The bull Crocodile was a sneaky beast

It was looking around for a scrumptious feast

With big yellow eyes it searched around

Looking for food from the watery ground.

And as those big yellow eyes alighted on a possible meal, it smiled with anticipation. But the creatures – cassowaries, brolgas, cormorants, barramundi and a host of other beautiful creatures indigenous to the area- were smarter that Crocodile and took themselves out of harm’s way very quickly.  Until an unwary Pelican came by…

Like its predecessors the story is told in rhyme as young readers are introduced to a range of Australia’s unique but less familiar creatures.  Beautiful drawings by Pickawoowoo illustrator, Laila Savolainen bring the text to life with their accuracy and spectacular colour palettes as well as inspiring interest in the flora and fauna of a part of Australia that would be unfamiliar to many.  It also introduces the concept of the food chain – after all, the crocodile does have to eat – and perhaps an investigation into the mechanisms that Mother Nature provides so that creatures do not become easy prey.

A worthy addition to the library’s collection of books for younger readers that introduce them to the amazing wonders of this country. 

Shapes of Australia

Shapes of Australia

Shapes of Australia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shapes of Australia

Bronwyn Bancroft

Little Hare, 2017

24pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781760129286

So often we walk around with our eyes open but we don’t really see anything.  Yes, we see trees and rocks and distant mountains and even birds in the sky but do we ever see the distinctive shapes they make and the patterns within them?

With her artist’s eye, Bronwyn Bancroft has taken the items we take for granted and brought them to life through colour and pattern in the distinctive way that only she can, ensuring that next time we see ocean waves and river boulders, even city skyscrapers, we will look at them with new eyes.

Inspirational for its bold use of colour, intricate, detailed patterns and simplified geometry emphasised  by the shapes within the shapes, this visually stunning book will also inspire poetry as students appreciate the simple sentences that accompany each picture building metaphors like the “crystal shards” of skyscrapers and the “quilt of nature’s comfort” of the grasslands. 

An excellent companion to Colours of Australia students could be encouraged to examine the unique shapes of their own landscapes, even if that is just the playground, and reproduce them in Bancroft style.

Whatcha Building?

Whatcha Building?

Whatcha Building?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whatcha Building?

Andrew Daddo

Stephen Michael King

ABC Books, 2017

32pp, hbk., RRP $A24.99

9780733334153

Every day on his way home from school Little Davey Durak watches the old milk bar on the corner being demolished, another victim of the ever-encroaching city inexorably guzzling all in its path. And every day Bruce the Builder would say hello to Davey as he carefully pulled the building apart and put the pieces in the skip, their final resting place.  

One afternoon, Davey asks Bruce for some wood -something he begins to do each day.  Sometimes it is a long piece and sometimes, short or chunky or thin.  But no matter how often Bruce asks what Davey is building, Davey doesn’t tell.  Bruce has heaps of ideas about what it could be but Davey keeps his secret.  Until the day Bruce helps him heave the old milkbar sign home…

Set against a backdrop of a city built like no other, one that could only be constructed in the mind of Stephen Michael King, Daddo has created a story that has many layers to it.  Young readers will have fun trying to predict what it is that Davey is building while others will relate to their neighbourhood slowly but surely changing as “progress” comes to town.  Others might like to investigate how the collage effect of the main characters superimposed on the landscape adds to the image of the layering of the landscape and how, in reality, everything is an imposition on the original.  And there might also be discussions about why King has chosen to depict the modern city using everyday objects in new ways while thinking about how they themselves might recycle or upcycle instead of throwing out. 

So many conversation starters – Is progress always good?  How do Bruce and Davey represent the past and the present? How has the children’s community changed over time? Has this been for the best?  Perhaps that could even inspire a local history project with interviews with long-term residents and a photographic journey or perhaps the children could create a record of their community as it is now so that future generations can do a compare and contrast. 

Teachers’ notes are available but all of that is wasted if it is not built on a solid, engaging, entertaining story – and this is certainly that.

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. 

 

Paddy O’Melon the Irish Kangaroo

Paddy O'Melon the Irish Kangaroo

Paddy O’Melon the Irish Kangaroo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paddy O’Melon the Irish Kangaroo

Julia Cooper

Daryl Dickson

Exisle, 2017

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

9781925335637

On the very day that he took his first steps out of his mother’s pouch, the little kangaroo is separated from her as two large black marauding dogs race through the clearing, scattering them to shelter.  The joey cannot keep up with his mum so he hides, found hours later by the O’Melon family who live in a valley in the rainforest and who care for injured and orphaned native creatures.  They all him Paddy O’Melon, their Irish kangaroo.

Wrapped in a pillowcase pouch and bottle-fed a special milk mixture, Paddy not only survives but thrives. He spends more and more time in the garden as he grows meeting and making friends with the other creatures that the O’Melons have rescued.  Eventually, all his time is spent outdoors and the family tell him that when he is old enough he can return to the wild and live with his own kind.  But just what is his “own kind”? When he introduces himself as Paddy O’Melon the Irish kangaroo, he is met with sniggers and giggles and no one is able to help him.  The best advice he can get is to find the cassowary who knows everything and everyone…

This is a charming story with echoes of Are You My Mother? but with much more depth and interest.  Written by a highly regarded naturalist, who has since passed away, it not only introduces the reader to the unfamiliar and unique creatures of Far North Queensland but carries a lot of information about them in both the text and the stunning illustrations, but never intruding into the story of Paddy’s quest.  

While many are familiar with kangaroos and wallabies,  few know about their cousins the pademelons who inhabit the northern rainforests  In an effort to spread the word about the species of her home region, Cooper has deliberately included the more unusual and suggests that readers can go here for more information about them. There are also Teachers’ Notes available and royalties are being donated to further the conservation of the area.

Apart from just being a good story, this book also introduces us to more of Australia’s wonderful wildlife, perhaps setting up an investigation that compares and contrasts those of the FNQ region to those in the students’ region.

Koala

Koala

Koala

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Koala

Claire Saxby

Julie Vivas

Walker Books, 2017

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

9781925126396

 

When Little Koala climbs up the branch for dinner he gets a nasty surprise when instead of feeding him, his mother’s pouch is closed and she gives him a cuff around the ear.  He is no longer welcome as she is pregnant again and it is time for him to become independent.  Koalas not only live solitary lives but they are also territorial so the search for his own home among the gum trees is not easy.  When he thinks he has found a safe place to sleep he is woken by a thunderous roar and pushed out of the tree by another older male but he must find another resting place quickly because he is unsafe on land.

Bushfire-ravaged country, storms, snakes and food options limited make finding a new home challenging – is there a safe place for him?

Koala is a perfect book for not only teaching young readers about one of our iconic faunal symbols but also introducing them to the concept of non fiction.  Like Python , it crosses the boundaries between imagination and information by bringing real life to life through story. Even though the story of Koala only took place in Saxby’s imagination, it is so well-researched and accurately portrayed by Vivas’s lifelike illustrations that it could have happened, and, as we read, we get both information and insight into these extraordinary creatures.  Vivas has portrayed the key physical attributes of the koala accurately so its need for two thumbs and strong sharp claws are evident but she has also given him emotions as he is kicked out and faces going it alone. As well as the details embedded in the story there are also additional facts included in a different font so the distinction between story and information is clear and this is referred to in the simplified index, itself a great teaching tool.

Young children always have questions about their world and this concept of “faction” is the perfect way to help them learn more before they are able to read independently.  Finding non fiction that is accessible to young readers and answers questions as well as generating more is difficult in early childhood, but this certainly meets all the criteria to spark a range of investigations, not the least of which could be comparing the koala’s age of independence with that of the child as well as a variety of family structures. 

An important addition to any primary library collection.

 

Aliens, Ghosts and Vanishings

Aliens, Ghosts and Vanishings

Aliens, Ghosts and Vanishings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aliens, Ghosts and Vanishings: Strange and Possibly True Australian Stories

Stella Tarakson

Richard Morden

Random House Australia, 2016

288pp., hbk., RRP $A27.99

9781925324969 

Australia really is a ‘story country” and the tales, tall and true that have been collected in this volume prove just how rich and diverse this nation is.  Even our unofficial national anthem focuses on a ghost so why wouldn’t there be a wealth of stories about mythical creatures, mysterious locations, haunted places, UFO sightings, bizarre disappearances and strange happenings?

 

From bunyips and yowies to Azaria Chamberlain and the disappearance  of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, this is a collection that will absorb the lover of the weird, wonderful and utterly mysterious, some familiar and others not-so. Ostensibly for those 10 and over, its clear format, short chapters and abundant illustrations will appeal to any independent reader who is interested in finding out more about the strange and unusual that this country has on offer.   

As well as the stories themselves, there are pages with extra information and some of the sources the author used for her research are included for those who wish to investigate further.  

Identified as a Notable Book in the 2017 Eve Pownall Award for Information Books, I know a couple of young readers who are going to be having to do scissors-paper-rock to see who reads this one first.