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Goodbye House, Hello House

Goodbye House, Hello House

Goodbye House, Hello House

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Goodbye House, Hello House

Margaret Wild

Ann James

Allen & Unwin, 2019

32pp., hbk., RRP $a24.99

9781743311103

This is the last time I’ll fish in this river. 
This is the last time I’ll run through these trees. 
This is the last time I’ll dream by this fire …  

In scenes familiar to many, Emma is saying goodbye to all the familiar places in her old home in the country as her family prepares to move to a new one in the city.  Perhaps the most poignant is when she  changes the writing on the wall from Emma lives here to  Emma lived here. But rather than being maudlin and upset, the story turns around as she arrives at the new house and she anticipates all the possibilities it offers. And this time changes the writing on the wall of her new room by changing the old Kim lives here to Emma lives here now, consolidating the idea that change happens and things move on. 

Even though Wild has used a minimum of text, James’s illustrations tell much of the story with the backgrounds depicting the juxtaposition of the two houses, with the unique depiction of Emma superimposed on them showing that she remains the same and the experiences she will have will still be familiar in many respects. Against the muted background, Emma really pops out with all her emotions on display, again demonstrating that the story of a little girl is what’s important rather than the place she finds herself in.  We are still who we are despite the circumstances that surround us. 

Many young readers will have stories to tell that are similar to Emma’s and this offers them the opportunity to open up about their experiences and emotions, particularly those around starting a new school as Emma will have to do. It may offer some insight into how scary things can be for those who have not had the experience.  

Saved!!!

Saved!!!

Saved!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saved!!!

Lydia Williams

Lucinda Gifford

Allen & Unwin, 2019

32pp., hbk. RRP $A19.99

9781760524708

Living alone in the Australian outback, Lydia loves her sport but she doesn’t have anyone apart from the animals to play with.  And even then, she seems to be beaten before she starts.  Kangaroo can bounce too high and blocks all her shots at the basketball ring; Emu gives her a good start in the running race but still whizzes by,; and even sleepy Koala has her covered when it comes to Aussie Rules.  Lydia really wanted to be the best at something but didn’t know what that could be until Kangaroo suggests a game of soccer…

The author, Lydia Williams is an Indigenous Australian soccer player who grew up on the red dirt of Western Australia, travelling with her family to many Aboriginal communities where she learnt how to play sport with bare feet. Her family taught her how to live off the land and the values of Indigenous culture; they even had two pet kangaroos. When her family moved to Canberra, Lydia started playing soccer competitively as a way to make friends. Having played soccer for nearly twenty years, she currently plays for Melbourne City in the W-League. Lydia is the first-choice goalkeeper for the Australian Matildas, and is also signed to the Seattle Reign FC in the United States. 

Using her experience and expertise, she has crafted a charming story for young readers about persevering to find your niche and being the best you can be. It wouldn’t have surprised me if the outcome of the story had been different because you just know that she would have dealt with either result well, echoing her real-life experience of leaving WA at 11 years old and having to forge a new life in Canberra, not only 3000km away but also a busy city! ‘”It’s a bit of an autobiography, a little bit of fantasy and has a good message as well. It has a unique take on it to go out in the world…It encourages kids that no matter what their background is or what challenges are in their way, they can have fun and actually achieve something they enjoy if put their mind to it.” You can learn more about her early life in this interview

Accompanied by Lucinda Gifford’s delightful illustrations that echo the palette of the outback, this is a story with a difference because of its authenticity that will resonate with young readers particularly those with older siblings who seem to be better at things than they are. 

 

Girl Geeks (series)

Girl Geeks (series)

Girl Geeks (series)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Hackathon

 9780143795056

Game On

9780143795063

Alex Miles

Puffin Books, 2019

192pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

From the Girl Geek Academy website…

What would the internet look like if there were more women building it?

  • By the age of 6, children classify jobs as male and female.
  • By the age of 8, they are limiting aspirations
  • By 13 many of them have already ruled out career options that don’t fit with gender stereotypes.
  • By ages 16-17 60% of girls aspire to stereotypically ‘female’ jobs.

So the mission of the Girl Geek Academy is to increase the number of women and girls in tech, games, making, robotics, 3D printing, aviation, drones and space by teaching one million women
to learn technology by 2025. Launched by five women with the aim of making girls in STEM and IT the norm, they are developing a series of initiatives aimed at those from five years old up to mature women, one of which is this new series of books that put geek girls in the spotlight and in charge.  They show that technology is fun and girls are awesome, with each focusing on each of the girls, Hamsa, Eve, Niki and Maggie and their particular talents – hacker, hipster or hustler. With characters that young girls such as my Miss 13 will recognise, they take everyday situations that arise in schools and show how the girls use their strengths to solve them, demonstrating that being a ‘geek girl’ is as normal as being any other sort of girl.  It’s just one part of who they are.

As well as this new series (four in the pipeline so far) there are many other programs and resources available on the academy website to support and enable the development of digital technologies in the school and across the curriculum so this is both a series and a website that could and should be promoted widely to staff and students.  So often, geeks don’t see the library as having anything for them, particularly when there is still such an emphasis on books and reading, so this is yet another way to reach out to that long tail – all those potential patrons that a library has but who don’t use the facility because they don’t believe it has anything to offer them.

Well-written, illustrated and as perfect for the newly-independent reader as it is for those whose appetite for reading is never sated, this is a series with a difference and with huge potential. 

 

The Visitor

The Visitor

The Visitor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Visitor

Antje Damm

Gecko Press, 2019

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

9781776571895

Elise was frightened—of spiders, people, even trees. So she never went out, night or day. One day a strange thing flies in through the window and lands at her feet. And then there comes a knock at the door. Elise has a visitor who will change everything.

This is a charming story, cleverly constructed with its dark and bright palettes, that shows how a child can unwittingly bring life and light back to where there seems only darkness. Using a unique process of drawing Elise and Emil and then placing their cutout figures in a small, tidy home with furnishings crafted of paper and board, photographing them and then adding colour washes or not as the story’s mood dictates, Damm demonstrates how much we really do need others in our lives if we are to experience its true joy. The final page demonstrates this perfectly.

Whenever there is a news story about children visiting an aged care facility, the residents always talk about how alive they start to feel, something that my own mother-in-law experienced herself.  Unable to recognise her own son and daughter towards the end, nevertheless she was able to recall the words to the songs that our school choir sang and join in with them.  But not only did she talk about it to us for many visits afterwards, the children themselves also talked about the people they had met, the grandparents they didn’t have and the friendships that were beginning to blossom as the visits became a regular fortnightly activity. There was a purpose to their learning new lyrics and practising their singing and my m-i-l always knew when there was a visit imminent.

Lots of scope to develop vocabulary about feelings but more powerfully, never underestimate the power of a child in someone’s life and think about how you and yours could brighten someone else’s.

 

 

Brindabella

Brindabella

Brindabella

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brindabella

Ursula Dubosarsky

Andrew Joyner

Allen & Unwin, 2018

208pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9781760112042

While Pender is playing in the bush near his home, he hears a gunshot and to his dismay he discovers a mother kangaroo taking her last breath.  But as her eyes glaze, he notices movement in her pouch and Pender finds himself with no choice but to take care of the baby joey he names Brindabella.  With his artistic, somewhat reclusive father, they raise Brindabella and even though Pender knows she will one day need to return to the bush he puts that way to the back of his mind, until the day her natural instincts become too much for her and Brindabella leaves…

With the narrative switching between Pender and Brindabella’s perspectives, this is a sensitively written novel for young independent readers that explores the relationship between people and animals. Why do Pertelote the chook, Billy-Bob the dog and Ricky the cat stay with Pender and his father while Brindabella has a compelling need to leave? Confronting, even emotional in parts, Dubosarsky brings the Australian bush alive so all the senses are engaged and the reader is there with Pender, opening opportunities for lots of sensory responses that confirm, compare and contrast Pender’s home with that of the reader themselves.

Shortlisted for the 2019 CBCA Book of the Year for Younger Readers, this is a story that I know Miss 8 is going to adore particularly because she loves to roam our bush block and we have our own share of Brindabellas, but for those not as fortunate, there are teachers’ notes and activities that will help to bring it into the realm of city kids. Download them from the home site.

My Real Friend

My Real Friend

My Real Friend

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Real Friend

David Hunt

Lucia Masciullo

ABC Books, 2019

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

9780733334894

Rupert is William’s imaginary friend, a role he is quite happy to have because they do so much together.  Make music, paint pictures, play games … it’s all great fun except for two things. He never gets to choose the game and be the hero, but worst of all, that William will stop imagining him and he will fade away. And one day, William breaks the news to him…

Told from Rupert’s perspective, this is a charming book for early readers who are familiar with imaginary friends. As Rupert contrasts his life with William’s, there is a lot of humour in his observations and sometimes Rupert’s life in the imagination seems more fun. Poignant though his comments are, there is always the expectation that this story will not end well for Rupert but Masciullo’s clever mixed-media illustrations soften the blow and his appearance as the shadow on William’s new friend’s skateboard is masterful, suggesting that William might not quite have let go yet. 

Friendships, real and imaginary, wax and wane over time as circumstances and situations change and this is a celebration of that.  Rupert is a vital part of William’s childhood, as imaginary friends are for many children, and the letting go as social circles widen can be painful.  It validates those imaginary friends of the young readers and opens the doorway for discussions about the difference between the two and the place they have in our lives.  It is a way of encouraging those still rooted in their immediate concrete world to start viewing things from another perspective, particularly through Rupert’s weariness of always being the victim or the loser!

Ideas to guide the discussions are available

Detention

Detention

Detention

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Detention

Tristan Bancks

Puffin, 2019

240pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9780143791799

Sima and her family are pressed to the rough, cold ground among fifty others. They lie next to the tall fence designed to keep them in. The wires are cut one by one. 

When they make their escape, a guard raises the alarm. Shouting, smoke bombs, people tackled to the ground. In the chaos Sima loses her parents. 

Dad told her to run, so she does, hiding in a school and triggering a lockdown. A boy, Dan, finds her hiding in the toilet block. 

What should he do? Help her? Dob her in? She’s breaking the law, but is it right to lock kids up? And if he helps, should Sima trust him? Or run?

Whatever decisions are made will change their lives forever.

With the rise and spread of nationalist, right-wing conservative governments around the globe, xenophobia is alive and well in communities and countries around the world. In Australia it is always a hot topic particularly around election time and especially since former prime minister John Howard declared, “It’s about this nation saying to the world we are a generous open hearted people, taking more refugees on a per capita basis than any nation except Canada, we have a proud record of welcoming people from 140 different nations. But we will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come” in an election speech just weeks after the attacks on the World Trade Centre buildings in 2001.

Having just had another federal election with the rhetoric of asylum seekers, detention centres and people’s rights claiming a lot of media space and votes, this new book from Tristan Bancks is very timely. In it, through the students in the Reading Superstars class and their teacher Miss Aston, he asks the questions that need to be considered about the plight of refugees, particularly as much of what the children say is the echo of their parents’ perspectives. Bancks says he has tried to tell the story as “a human one, rather than a political one” and he has achieved this as the reader becomes very invested in the plights of Simi and Dan and constantly wonders what would they do if they were either of those characters.

In my opinion, the greatest power of this book is in the hands of a class teacher reading it aloud and discussing the issues as Miss Aston does while she and her charges are in lockdown. That way, a range of points of view can be explored and explained, taking the story to a whole new level, rather than being an individual read that throws up questions but for which the reader doesn’t seek answers. And that teacher should be prepared to answer the inevitable, “What would you do if you were Miss Aston?”

Books for this age group are rarely the focus of reviews on this blog, but I believe that this is such an essential read as part of any study about migration and refugees, it deserves all the publicity it can get. Superb.

 

 

The Boy in the Big Blue Glasses

The Boy in the Big Blue Glasses

The Boy in the Big Blue Glasses

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Boy in the Big Blue Glasses

Susanne Gervay

Marjorie Crosby-Fairall

EK Books, 2019

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

9781925335996

Superhero Sam has had to get glasses – big blue ones – but he doesn’t like them. They make his ears hurt and even though, his well-meaning parents and  grandparents and even his teacher say he looks handsome in them, he hates that.  It’s as though it’s all about his glasses and he, himself, is invisible. They make such a fuss about this new superhero, it’s as though they’ve forgotten the old superhero he was before.  

His best friend George still knows him and plays with him though, but then the day comes when George is not at school and the other children start to make fun of him…

Every now and then you pick up a story that really resonates with you and Sam was me 60+ years ago, my son 40 years ago and my granddaughter seven years ago.  Each of us had to go through the trauma of appearing in public wearing glasses, and despite the well-intended comments of others, it’s tricky to know who you are when you don’t recognise yourself in the mirror but you know you are still you inside.

Sam is just one of hundreds of other kids who face this situation, and author Susanne Gervay is well-known for taking those everyday but confronting situations and putting them into the spotlight so the extraordinary becomes ordinary, and inspiring hope for happiness ahead.  No one likes to be different when they are little and wearing glasses seems like a huge placard that tells others you are not 100% perfect and that somehow you are less than the other children in your class.  Yet inside you know you are just the same person you were the day before when you didn’t have glasses.

Superbly and sensitively illustrated, this is a book that not only belongs in any collection for young readers and which should be actively promoted because so many children will see it as a mirror and learn to love reading even more as they read about themselves. Others might see it as a window and begin to understand how self-conscious Sam and others feel and how they can be more empathetic, rather than unkind like the children in the story who call Sam “googly-eyes” and “pufferfish”. It might even be an opportunity to  explore other “disabilities” and the sorts of ways that science and technology can now assist in overcoming them comparing the advances to the days when no such help was available and life became a misery. 

Excellent, down-to-earth, and one for everyone, glasses or not!

My Culture and Me

My Culture and Me

My Culture and Me

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Culture and Me

Gregg Dreise

Puffin, 2019

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

9780143789376

Feel the rhythm of the music, from your heart down to your feet.

Enjoy the movements of melodies, as clapsticks keep a strong beat.

This is my culture. This is me. 

Beginning with preparing for a corroboree  with the relationships between the land and the body art to the way stories and beliefs and practices are passed from older to younger, helping both indigenous and non-indigenous children understand the connection to country that is such an integral part of Aboriginal culture.  

Beautifully written and illustrated, My Culture and Me is a heartfelt and stirring story of cherishing and sustaining Indigenous cultures, although there is relevance and applicability to all cultures whatever they may be, especially if the message of his dedication is read in its broadest terms…

To my children…and the children of Australia. You are the next generation of our Dreaming Circles, Everything that we do should look after this country, so it continues to look after our future generations.

An important addition to your indigenous literature collection and curriculum.

 

Arthur and the Tiger

Arthur and the Tiger

Arthur and the Tiger

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Arthur and the Tiger

Sophie Beer

Puffin Books, 2019

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

9780143791836

Arthur’s circus is full of daring performers.

The Acrobat can soar like an eagle. The Strongman can lift a car with one finger. The Jugglers can breathe fire like dragons. But Arthur has never been brave enough to learn any daring circus tricks. He would prefer to have a picnic and tea with his friends.

So what will Arthur do when a terrifying tiger joins the circus? Especially when his father, the Ringmaster tells him he is to be the tiger tamer!

This new book from Sophie Beer with its bright illustrations with a rather retro look focuses on Arthur facing his fears and overcoming them, albeit with a little help from the tiger itself. Even though  community rumours have built up the fear to fever pitch, perhaps, in reality, things aren’t as bad as they seem.

It also takes readers back to a time when the circus coming to town was a huge event, animals were allowed to be part of the acts and part of the appeal was seeing them as wild creatures being subjugated by humans even though they were supposedly wild and fierce and scary. In fact circus public relations traded on this to attract the crowds so if older students were investigating animal rights in relation to recent news events, this could be a valuable resource to examine another perspective. Similarly, the way the citizens of the city respond to the news of the tiger, each adding to or twisting the story could also be the basis for a discussion about fake news, particularly in light of the current election.  

Good picture books span age groups – this is one of those.