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This is Banjo Paterson

This is Banjo Paterson

This is Banjo Paterson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is Banjo Paterson

Tania McCartney

Christina Booth

NLA Publishing, 2017

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

9780642278982

The final verse of one of Australia’s most iconic poems reads…

And down by Kosciuszko, where the pine-clad ridges raise

Their torn and ragged battlements on high,

Where the air is clear as crystal, and the white stars fairly blaze

At midnight in the clear and frosty sky,

And where around The Overflow the reed beds sweep and sway

To the breezes, and the rolling plains are wide,

The man from Snowy River is a household word today,

And the stockmen tell the story of his ride.

But what is also “a household word today” is the name of the man who wrote those words – A. B. (Banjo) Paterson.

In this brand new book, written and illustrated especially for younger readers, Tania McCartney and Christina Booth tell the story of a man whose legacy of stories of life in the Australian bush told in rich, evocative language and distinctive rhyme and rhythm lives on more than 150 years since his birth. 

Born on February 17 1864 and named Andrew Barton Paterson he was known to his family and friends as Barty, the eldest of seven children in a typical rural Australian family of the time.  He grew up with a deep love of horses, particularly one called Banjo, and even when he moved to the city to attend high school and later become a journalist and a war correspondent, he never lost his love of the bush.

There is more than a hint of truth in the words of Clancy of the Overflow…

I am sitting in my dingy little office, where a stingy

Ray of sunlight struggles feebly down between the houses tall,

And the foetid air and gritty of the dusty, dirty city

Through the open window floating, spreads its foulness over all…

And I somehow rather fancy that I’d like to change with Clancy

Like to take a turn at droving, where the seasons come and go…

But the focus of this book is not Paterson’s poems but his life, particularly that of his childhood and the influences and circumstances that shaped him, his writing and his subsequent place in our literature, history and hearts. Tania has drawn on a plethora of rich research material, much of it held in the National Library of Australia, to present this story so that even this year’s Kindy kids who may well be learning the words of Waltzing Matilda for the very first time, can be inspired to not only know about the person who wrote them but also to see that they weren’t created overnight by a grown-up who just decided to write them,. Instead it was the stuff of the poet’s childhood and the things he learned as he grew up that made him able to write so richly, and maybe they can acknowledge their own talents and build on them. Perhaps, even at their young age they are good at words or drawing or making things and they can follow that passion now – they don’t have to wait to be a grown-up.

“Even children in early education need to be exposed to inspiring and life-altering stories of real life people that once so deeply affected–and continue to do so–our lives, our history and where we are going.” (McCartney, 2017)

What sets this book apart from others on the same topic and with a similar audience is the parallel visual storyline that accompanies it in Christina’s watercolour illustrations.  These are not just mere depictions of Paterson’s life that add a visual element to the words – these add extra layers to the words by showing kids of the 21st century playing in the backyard and doing the modern-day equivalent of what Banjo would have done in his time. Drawing on their own childhoods (and that of nearly every other child in the world), McCartney and Booth went back to the world of dress-ups, role-play and story-telling, further underlining the concept that this is as much a story of the reader’s life and dreams as it is that of Paterson’s.  Immediately there is a connection not just between prose and illustration but also between creators and reader, a connection that is vital to engage the mind and the imagination and the what-if.  (You can read more of the thinking behind the illustrations here.)

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

The first collaboration between McCartney and Booth was This is Captain Cook and I venture to say that this will be as well-received and as successful. As well as the factual material and excerpts from poems that are included at the back (as is common with books published by the National Library), Tania is currently running a virtual launch of the book on her blog where the backstory of the book’s creation is being told.  Day 6 includes links to some great resources as well as comprehensive teachers’ notes linked to the K-3 Australian Curriculum  There is also a free real-life launch at the NLA in Canberra on February 11  or for those not near the national capital you can join Tania on Periscope on Friday 17 February at 1pm AEDST, where she will be chatting about the book live from the National Library, and showing various priceless Banjo Paterson items, along with original artwork by Christina Booth!

 

And, as an added extra, for those of you are fans of Paterson and his work there is the Banjo Paterson Australian Poetry Festival in Orange, NSW from February 16-26, 2017 or you can visit his childhood home.

An Aussie Day Before Christmas

An Aussie Day Before Christmas

An Aussie Day Before Christmas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Aussie Day Before Christmas

Kilmeny Niland

Scholastic, 2008

32pp., hbk., RRP $A15.99

9781741690972

‘Twas the day before Christmas
And in his beach shack,
Santa was snoozing,
Flat out on his back.

‘Shake a leg, love,’
Sheila Claus said.
‘Time to get ready
For the big night ahead.’

There is much to do before Santa makes his once-a-year flight…chooks to feed, breakfast to have, a walk with his missus, the news to read, pressies to wrap and the ‘roos to sort out. “The koalas won’t help me, they’re too flamin’ slow.” 

Putting iconic Australian sayings and slang to the familiar rhythm of the Clement C. Moore poem, Kilmeny Niland uses her artistic talent to portray a DownUnder day before Christmas through stunning illustrations that capture a very different picture of Santa than the traditional one our children are so familiar with.  

Before sharing it, children might like to speculate on what it is that Aussie Santa does in preparation – perhaps a surf, perhaps a nap, perhaps prawns and a beer – whatever they predict they will delight in Niland’s interpretation that might dispel their snowy North Pole images forever. And a must for any collection of Australian Christmas stories you might be sending to children overseas.

Emily’s Bush Christmas

christmas_countdown_2016

 

 

 

 

Emily's Bush Christmas

Emily’s Bush Christmas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Emily’s Bush Christmas

Jackie French

Bruce Whatley

HarperCollins, 2015

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

9780732286934

It’s Christmas Day in Shaggy Gully and all the animals are doing the things they do best – the kangaroos are bouncing, the echidnas are prickly, the emus are peckish, koalas are relaxing and the bats and wombats are just hanging about.  The Shaggy Gully chorus are sharing their Christmas carols  – the cockatoos and kookaburras are giving it their all while Emily tries to keep in tune with her tuba.  Suddenly the ambiance is shattered by a ghastly groan coming up from the creek.

“ooooogggggghhhhhh! I’m mad and I’m mean! I’m the BUNYIP ooooogggggghhhhhh!.”

In response, Emily Emu’s tuba echoes the same ghastly sound! The bunyip’s’ moan makes her tuba groan. But Emily decides that everyone, including bunyips, should be happy at Christmas and so she sets about trying to change the bunyip’s mood.  But no matter what she and her friends do, the bunyip stays mad and mean!  Until he discovers Emily’s tuba…

You just know that a Christmas story from Jackie French and Bruce Whatley is going to be Australian and it’s going to be good.  And so it is with this tale which is uniquely Australian and which will bring a smile to the face of little ones (and bunyips.) They will love to see what their favourite creatures get up to in the bush on this special day – even Ringo the Dingo is there – as Jackie always weaves a wonderful story that is worth reading over and over, especially if you play them this sound clip so they can hear the sound of the tuba and why it is so perfect for a bunyip!  

This team always produces the best – and this is no exception.

Little Dog and the Christmas Wish

christmas_countdown_2016

 

 

 

 

Little Dog and the Christmas Wish

Little Dog and the Christmas Wish

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Little Dog and the Christmas Wish

Corinne Fenton

Robin Cowcher

Black Dog Books, 2014

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

9781742032368

Little Dog and Jonathan are the best of friends.  But trouble strikes when a massive thunderstorm hits while Jonathan and his mother go shopping on Christmas Eve leaving Little Dog at home, alone.  Even though he does not like thunder and lightning, Little Dog need to protect Jonathan so he squeezes under the gate to find him.  

At first the smells and sights are familiar but it is not long before Little Dog is in new territory.  But even so and even though the thunderstorm is still raging, he continues on  his search.  When he sees the open door of the baker’s cart he jumps in and the old Clydesdale clip clops along, taking Little Dog into town where everything, everywhere and everyone is strange.  As hard as he looks he cannot find Jonathan. And still the rain and thunder and lightning continue. Even when he finds shelter and the busker invites him to go home with him, Little Dog knows he needs to find Jonathan. And so his search continues…

This is a most poignant story about that special bond between a dog and its human friend that will resonate with every child and adult who has one.  There is something about the loyalty and love that is so strong. Set in Melbourne in the 1950s, it is nostalgic, even sentimental, as the soft palette, watercolour illustrations take the reader back into a gentler, slower time where Christmas is not so frenetic.  Illustrator Robin Cowcher was shortlisted for the CBCA Crichton Award for New Illustrators in 2015.

In 2014 this book was the focus of the Christmas window display in Myer, Melbourne, the 60th anniversary of this much loved, Melbourne tradition, a rare honour afforded to only the best of books! (And the author’s new book, One Christmas Eve, is the focus of the 2016 windows.)

Something a little different, a little more like the Christmas stories of yesteryear for the Christmas Countdown.

Credit: Kids' Book Review

Credit: Kids’ Book Review

 

 

All I Want for Christmas is Rain

christmas_countdown_2016

 

 

 

 

All I want for Christmas is Rain

All I want for Christmas is Rain

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All I Want for Christmas is Rain

Cori Brooke

Megan Forward

New Frontier, 2016

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

9781925059717

It is a sight so familiar to many Australian children.  Brown, cracked, dried earth as far as the eye can see, and even if it could see further, the landscape wouldn’t change. Drought.  The farmer’s curse is this sunburnt country where it can be a long time between drinks for the land and paddocks are empty as livestock is trucked off to the saleyards because it costs more to feed them than they are worth. 

It takes its toll on farmers and their families and in a desperate bid to change things, Jane takes the long shiny train into her nearest town because Santa is coming and he is the one person who can grant children’s wishes.  Standing in the queue in the hot sun, patiently waiting her turn, Jane has only one request from Santa.  “My wish is for rain.”

Set against a backdrop of the most stunning and powerful illustrations that depict the desolation of the Australian landscape in drought, this story-in-rhyme brings alive the reality of summer and Christmas for so many and gives the reader pause to think about what life can be like at this time for our country cousins and what are the true gifts that we can hope for.  While we cling to the English traditions of our ancestors with snow-clad scenes, hot dinners and Santas in red furry suits, there are those who see an entirely different side to this festive time that may not be so joyful. An excellent opportunity for the children to express their interpretation of an Australian Christmas in art and perhaps a change from the more traditional pictures and crafts.

I wish it had been available in 2002 when the news was dominated by the dreadful drought gripping so much of the country and my library’s focus was on gathering gifts for the children of Charleville. It would have been the perfect starter to show the people behind the landscapes of the news in a way that spoke directly to my students.  But, in the meantime, it’s winging its way to Wales to show some children there what Christmas can be like for the children here.

 Another worthy addition to Australia: Story Country.

Gifts for Charlevile

Gifts for Charleville

Gifts for Charleville

Gifts for Charleville

 

Big Bash League (series)

Big Bash League

Big Bash League

 

 

 

 

 

Big Bash League

Michael Panckridge

Random House Australia, 2016

156pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

Switch Hit Showdown
9780143782193

Captain’s Clash
9780143782216

Double Delivery
9780143782230

Bowling Blitz
9780143782254

With the cricket season well under way and the very popular Big Bash League looming, this is a series that will appeal to all fans of the format, both boys and girls.  Each book is a separate entity focusing on fans of two of the teams in the league – Switch Hit Showdown features the Melbourne Stars and the Melbourne Renegades; Captains’ Clash is Sydney Sixes and Sydney Thunder; Double Delivery is Hobart Hurricanes and Brisbane Heat and Bowling Blitz, the Perth Scorchers and Adelaide Strikers. Each has passionate cricketers involved in a local competition and having to find a way to work together to overcome obstacles.

Panckridge, well known for his sports adventure books, has cleverly included players of both genders in the stories acknowledging that cricket is not a male-only sport and the WBBL and our national women’s cricket team the Southern Stars are gaining a much higher profile and respect as their success grows.

Written for independent readers, each book includes tips about the focus skill – batting, all-rounder, fielding and bowling as well as a profile of the two teams.  Double Delivery even has instructions for Dice Cricket that can be played when you can’t get outdoors.

A great series for those who love their sport and demand to read about it. 

 

 

 

Radio Rescue!

Radio Rescue!

Radio Rescue!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Radio Rescue!

Jane Jolly

Robert Ingpen

NLA Publishing, 2016

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

9780642278784

Jim loved living at Four Wells – hunting rabbits, exploring with Bluey and chasing goannas.  But life in Australia’s remote regions can be very lonely and there were times when Jim wished he could be a bit closer to his best friend Frank.  He couldn’t wait until they got one of those “new-fangled radios” that were making people so excited.  It would be wonderful to hear voices from all over the country – voices other than those of his mum and dad who loved the life as much as Jim did, but who often felt just as lonely and isolated as Jim.  

So there was huge excitement the day a truck finally appeared on the horizon and a man called Alf helped them connect it altogether and how to use the pedals and tap out Morse code.   And when the words, “Hello to everyone at Four Wells, Welcome aboard” came back, it felt as though the world had burst open!  

But when a snake spooked Dad’s horse and he fell off with a thud, that radio came into its own…

Although the Australian Inland Mission Aerial Medical Service under the stewardship of John Flynn was well established, it was clear that there needed to be better ways for those in the Outback to communicate their needs and their location so during the 1920s Alf Traegar worked hard at inventing a radio that could be powered by foot leaving the hands free to tap out the dots and dashes of Morse code.  He finally succeeded in late 1928 and in mid-1929 the first radio was installed in a private home, changing the lives of so many for ever.

While there is information in the back of the book about the invention and impact of the radio,  it is the way Jane Jolly has interpreted this into a personal story that brings the importance of its invention to life so that today’s technology-immersed children can connect with life in a time not so long ago. Surrounded by instant communication with the entire planet,  it takes something like this story to demonstrate the life of children before the Internet and the difficulties that were faced not 100 years ago!!!  These developments have happened within the lifetime of their great-grandparents.

Robert Ingpen’s illustrations are exquisite – each one featuring a monochromatic drawing of its focus and then opening out into a double page colour spread that echo the colours of the land, its unique light  and emphasise its vastness and isolation.

A superb contribution to Australia: Story Country.

Barney and the Secret of the Whales

Barney and the Secret of the Whales

Barney and the Secret of the Whales

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Barney and the Secret of the Whales

Jackie French

Mark Wilson

HarperCollins, 2016

144pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

9780732299446

 

It is Sydney in 1791 and Barney and Elsie have settled into their lives with the Reverend and Mrs Johnson as the fledgling colony tries to establish itself.  The Third Fleet has arrived and Captain Melvill is a guest at dinner.  Little does Barney know that this will change his life for Melvill is in command of the Britannia, a whaling ship and intent on sailing into southern waters to plunder its riches now their human cargo has been safely delivered.

With a promise of earning enough money to buy stock for land he hopes to be awarded in time, particularly after the Johnsons have made it clear they will return to England, Barney is enticed to join Melville’s crew for the journey south.  But the dream is shattered almost the minute he steps on deck and he is dismayed to discover that this is not a one-off experience – he is indentured for three years!  Assigned to being up the mast as the lookout, Barney soon spots whales and he and the reader are plunged into the gruesome details of the hunt, the capture and the destruction of a magnificent creature.  Because he is the one who gave the alert of its presence, Barney holds himself responsible for its death and wonders if he can really do this for another three years.  

The second in the Secret Histories series and sequel to Birrung, the Secret Friend, this is another engrossing and engaging read from master historical storyteller, Jackie French.  In the notes at the back she makes it clear that distasteful as they may be to the modern reader, whaling and sealing were the two industries which sustained our nation in those early years and enabled it to diversify so that other products like wool could take over.  

Written for readers the same age as Barney, it traces Barney’s story through his own voice and his discovery of himself – a landlubber rather than a seaman – with a clarity that many of his age would not have today. At its most basic level  there is scope for comparing the life of a child of Barney’s era and circumstance to one of a 12 year old in Australia in the 21st century and even to track the events that have occurred to bring about the changes.    What do today’s children think those of the 23rd century might think about their lives?

French has not glossed over the details of the fate of the whale but viewed through Barney’s perspective which is sympathetic to the whale’s ordeal, it is perhaps a more gentle account than the reality and may well raise issues about how humans treat animals and why they do or did.  There is an excellent opportunity to compare and contrast the perception and treatment of whales in the 18th and 19th centuries and their consequences  to the current situation where they are revered. 

As usual, Jackie French has crafted a tale that is a perfect standalone read as well as being an opportunity to dig deeper, behind and beyond the words.  Teaching notes are available.

Meet…The Flying Doctors

Meet...The Flying Doctors

Meet…The Flying Doctors

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meet…The Flying Doctors

George Ivanoff

Ben Wood

Random House, Australia, 2016

32pp., hbk.,  RRP$A24.99

9780143780687

In 1911 John Flynn went to work on a mission more than 500 kilometres from Adelaide, the beginning of a journey for which thousands of people have been grateful for over the decades since then.  In what is still a remote area, Flynn was greatly disturbed by the lack of medical facilities beyond the metropolitan areas . Not satisfied with patients being treated by those with a rudimentary knowledge of first aid with support being sent in Morse code over the telegraph system, while doctors could take weeks to reach them using whatever transport was available.  Flynn knew there had to be a better way and so began his quest to find a solution.

Flight seemed the obvious answer but in those days both planes and pilots were hard to come by and it took 10 years of campaigning before his first plane was ready for service.  In 1928, his dream came true – he formed the Australian Inland Mission Aerial Medical Service using  a single-engine plane on loan from QANTAS< aptly named Victory.  Immediately there was a difference – 50 missions and 255 patients treated in a year.  

But they were not out of the woods yet – in fact they were a bit lost over desert landscapes navigating by landmarks because there were no radios in the planes. Even though it meant that they could only fly at night in extreme emergencies,  nevertheless the pilots put their craft down in the most amazing places and with Alf Traegar’s invention of the pedal radio in 1929 at last the people of the outback started to get the services they needed.

In 1955 the name was changed to the Royal Flying Doctor Service, and one of Australia’s most iconic institutions  has gone from strength to strength now servicing rural and remote areas from 23 bases scattered around the country. 

The story of the RFDS is one that every child should know – from those in the cities where medical services on tap can be taken for granted to those in the Outback where lives depend on it daily.  It is a rich and rewarding story of success and Ivanoff has managed to cram so much information into just 32 pages while still keeping it personal and connected to its child audience.  Wood’s illustrations emphasise the isolation and enormity of the landscape adding weight to the extent of the issue and the importance of its solution.

As always with this series, there is a timeline at the back that encapsulates the milestones.

Meet… is one of the most significant series of biographies written for young Australian readers as they are introduced to the diverse and critical contributions that have been made by individuals to the development of this nation. including Ned Kelly, Captain CookMary McKillop, Douglas Mawson , The ANZACs , Nancy Bird Walton, Banjo Paterson, Weary Dunlop, Sidney Nolan , Don Bradman and Nellie Melba. In my opinion, John Flynn’s story is one of the most important.

Edward the Emu (mini-book)

Edward the Emu

Edward the Emu

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edward the Emu

Sheena Knowles

Rod Clement

HarperCollins, 2016

32pp., pbk., RRP $A9.99

9781460753514

Edward the emu was sick of the zoo,

There was nowhere to go, there was nothing to do,

And compared to the seals that lived right next door,

Well being an emu was frankly a bore.

And so Edward decides he will be a seal, and when that doesn’t work out he thinks he would like to be a lion, and then a python until it becomes clear that when you are an emu, that really is the best thing to be.  

Companion to Edwina the Emu and perfectly illustrated by Rod Clement, this is always the go-to book to kickstart a fun storytime and a discussion about being yourself, and that we all have special attributes that make us unique, different but just as important as anyone else. Nearly 30 years since its original publication it sits solidly in the realm of Australian classics for children and now, reprinted in mini-book format so it is the perfect size for little hands, its popularity will peak again.

A must-have in every child’s library.