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Ava’s Spectacular Spectacles

Ava's Spectacular Spectacles

Ava’s Spectacular Spectacles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ava’s Spectacular Spectacles

Alice Rex

Angela Perrini

New Frontier, 2017

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

9781912076536

Ava does not like wearing her spectacles at school so she finds it difficult to see the board and read her books.  Her teacher understands this and knows she has to help Ava feel okay with wearing them so she begins to talk to Ava.  “If only Little Red Riding Hood had put on her glasses the day she went to visit her grandmother…she would have seen the big teeth and big eyes.”

Ava stops crying and Mrs Cook continues, gradually getting Ava to understand that wearing glasses is helpful and a good thing, not a badge of shame.

Every now and then you pick up a story that really resonates with you and Ava was me 60 years ago, right down to the red hair tied up in bunches. It’s as though illustrator Angela Perrini had been looking at my family photo albums (although we didn’t have coloured photos way back then!)  And then six years ago, it was my granddaughter who was Ava and in the intervening time, hundreds of other kids too. 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.  As a teacher of 45 years, I’ve seen it over and over although luckily there is much greater acceptance these days.  Oh, to have had a teacher as understanding and as smart as Mrs Cook.

This is a book that not only belongs in any collection for young readers but which should be actively promoted to both teachers and parents as a strategy for getting little ones to be comfortable with wearing their glasses rather than ashamed.  While Mrs Cook sticks to well-known stories and rhymes where 20/20 vision would have been helpful there would be plenty of incidents, real and imaginary, that teachers and parents could draw on to play the what-if game.  

So many children will see this book as a mirror and learn to love reading even more as they read about themselves, while others will see it as a window and begin to understand how self-conscious Ava and others feel and how they can be more empathetic. They might even 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. 

Superb.

I’ll Love You Always

I'll Love You Always

I’ll Love You Always

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ll Love You Always

Mark Sperring

Alison Brown

Bloomsbury, 2017

32pp., pbk., RRP $A13.99

9781408873335

How long will I love you?
A second is too short.
A second is no time
for a love of this sort.
A minute is no better,
for minutes fly by!
They’re gone in a moment
like a sweet butterfly.
Moving through the day, the seasons and then the years, Mother Mouse’s ode to her child and everlasting love will reassure children that they are lovable and loved and will be always.  “Love you to the moon and back” is something our little ones hear often but this story, told in rhyme and accompanied by charming pictures that just ooze warmth and love, expresses that concept in a way that little ones can understand.  The affirmation that a mother’s love is never-ending, even when our offspring challenge us, is so important and this is a wonderful way of helping them understand that, especially as there are lots of other mums depicted in the pictures. This is a universal feeling, not one confined to Mother Mouse and her baby.

Time is such a nebulous and abstract idea that children find it difficult to get their heads around it, but this delightful story helps to explain it by quantifying the measurements in order.  A second is so short we can but blink, but there are many things we can do in an hour or a morning, while nighttime brings its own unique activities and each season its features.  

A perfect lullaby-type story to draw the curtains on the day for our little people.

egg

egg

egg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

egg

Kevin Henkes

Greenwillow, 2017

40pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9780062408723

Four eggs – one pink, one yellow, one blue, one green.  Crack. Crack Crack.  Three hatch and release their little ones – but the green one does not.  Waiting, waiting, waiting…Listening, listening, listening… Peck. Peck. Peck.  Until finally… But what emerges is not what is expected.  And as the birds fly away in surprise it is left alone, sad and miserable.  Until…

Described as “a graphic novel for pre-schoolers”, Caldecott Medallist Kevin Henkes has woven a magnificent story with the minimum of words and some seemingly simple illustrations.  Using the softest pastel palette, simple lines and shading he conveys so much emotion and action that even the very youngest reader will be able to sit and tell the story to themselves and their teddies without having to know one word of the sparse text.  They will enjoy predicting what might be in that final egg and be surprised when the secret is discovered.  Could that really be inside an egg?  Are birds the only things that hatch from eggs?  They will also empathise with the surprise when it is left alone and lonely, perhaps able to express their own feelings when they have been in a similar situation.  A perfect opportunity to build a word wall of synonyms for ‘sad”. Inviting them to retell the story will encourage them to organise and order their thoughts, begin to understand sequence is important, and use their own words and language skills to express what happened – critical elements in developing early reading skills.  And of course, this story is the perfect lead-in to the classic tale of The Ugly Duckling.

Brilliant for littlies but older children could gain a lot from looking at the techniques used to produce so much from so little.

Is Bear Here?

Is Bear Here?

Is Bear Here?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is Bear Here?

Jonathan Bentley

Little Hare, 2017

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

9781760129811

Bear is lost.  Where could he be? Perhaps he has been left in town.  At the market?  At the museum? Perhaps at the park?  Oh no.  Bear is nowhere to be found.  But wait…

Reminiscent of a stage show where the villain keeps popping up but the hero doesn’t see him, and the audience is screaming loudly “There! Look!” but split-second timing is everything, this companion to Where is Bear will delight very young readers.  Luckily in this story, though, bear isn’t a villain – in fact he is the hero.

A perfect book for teaching little ones about the joys of story and the fun to be had between the pages of books while they empathise with the trauma of having lost a favourite companion.

 

Town Mouse, Country Mouse

Town Mouse, Country Mouse

Town Mouse, Country Mouse

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Town Mouse, Country Mouse

Richard Jones

Libby Walden

Caterpillar, 2017

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

9781848575462

Living in a bustling town is exhausting for a little mouse and she dreams of a quiet place in the country.  So she writes to her country cousin to see if she can visit for a while, swapping homes so they each have a holiday..  Country Mouse is very excited because he has always wanted to be “a mouse about town.” But things are not quite as wonderful as they expect and neither is sorry when their holiday is over and it’s time to go HOME.

This traditional fable from Aesop has been retold in rhyme, bringing its powerful message of what it means to be home and to belong to a new generation.  Cleverly illustrated with a gentle palette and strategic cutouts it’s a story that has endured over time because of its timeless message of “the grass always seems greener” .  Little ones can have fun imagining what it might be like to live the life of their hero or in another place, but then also reflect on the things they would miss if they were really able to make the swap.

A classic.

The Chalk Rainbow

The Chalk Rainbow

The Chalk Rainbow

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Chalk Rainbow

Deborah Kelly

Gwynneth Jones

EK, 2017

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

9781925335453

Zane is different to other kids – he lives in his own world with his own language, a need to line things up and has an inordinate fear of the colour black.  Black food, black clothes, black anything – he won’t go near it.  Not the pedestrian crossing, the soft fall at the playground, not even his own driveway.  So Zane is trapped on the front step unable to venture further, even when his dad yells at him.  Until one day his sister starts to draw a chalk rainbow on the steps to cheer him up.  Zane likes colour so he joins in. And then the magic begins…

Like so many children Zane is on the Autism Spectrum and while their issues might seem unreasonable and even be unfathomable to those around them, like Zane’s fear of black frustrates and angers his father, nevertheless they are very real to the child.  And because of the way their brain is wired they can’t overcome them any more than we can expect them to change their hair colour or foot size, so it is up to us as adults to adapt our way of thinking and working so we can enable the child to manage the world better.  It’s about acknowledging their disorder and treating them with respect and dignity.  If they can’t change then we must.  Through imagination and love, the rainbow bridges work for Zane’s family and instead of being frustrated even his dad is able to free Zane from the prison walls of black.  

Kids themselves are very accepting of others whatever their differences, but they don’t always understand how their actions can help or hinder.  Nearly every classroom had a child with ASD these days and while that child’s issues might not be the colour black, using this book as a springboard to introduce how peers can help the ASD child have a better time at school would be a brilliant start towards total acceptance and understanding.  Even if there is no ASD involved, using the imagination to make something like a chalk rainbow to take that next step into the unknown is a wonderful strategy.

An essential addition to the school library’s collection and the home library of the siblings of an ASD child.

Welcome to Country

Welcome to Country

Welcome to Country

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Welcome to Country

Aunty Joy Murphy

Lisa Kennedy

Black Dog, 2016

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

9781922244871

“Aboriginal communities across Australia have boundaries that are defined by waterways and mountains.  To cross these boundaries or enter community country you need permission from the neighbouring community.  Each community has its own way of welcoming to country”.  

This is the acknowledgement of the ancestors and traditional lands of the Wurundjeri People, the first people who occupied the Melbourne area prior to European colonisation  extending north of the Great Dividing Ranges, east to Mt Baw Baw, south to Mordialloc Creek and west to Werribee River. 

Through the voice of Joy Murphy Wandin AO, Senior Aboriginal Elder of the people, it tells the story of the people whose name comes from Wurun, the River White Gum and Djeri, the grub that lives within the tree; each sentence being brought to life in the stunning illustrations of Lisa Kennedy a descendant of the Trawlwoolway People on the north-east coast of Tasmania. Combining words in Wolwurrung Nguiu, the traditional language and English, it demonstrates the deep connection between the people and the land they occupy, their love and respect for it and their desire that this be also respected by those who visit.  

“We invite you to take a leaf from the branches of the white river gum.  If you accept a leaf and we hope you do, it means you are welcome to everything, from the tops of the trees to the roots of the earth.  But you must only take from this land what you can give back.”

Despite being a relatively recent addition to our formal ceremonies, we are now used to each beginning with the Welcome to Country of the traditional indigenous inhabitants of the land on which the ceremony takes place.  This book is an essential addition to our understanding of not just the Welcome itself but also to that enduring, deep-seated connection of the people to their lands and how it is such an integral part of who they are and their heritage.

Although not shortlisted for the CBCA Awards, 2017 it was recognised as a Notable Book.  While this is an essential addition to every school library in the Wurundjeri district, it is also an important acquisition to every school library because while the words of their local indigenous peoples’ Welcome to Country may differ, the sentiment and acknowledgment of ancestry and heritage is common.  Students could be encouraged to discover just what their local greeting is and use the activities described in the teaching notes 

Remarkable.

 

 

A Canadian Year – Twelve Months in the Life of Canada’s Kids

A Canadian Year: Twelve Months in the Life of Canada's Kids

A Canadian Year: Twelve Months in the Life of Canada’s Kids

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Canadian Year -Twelve Months in the Life of Canada’s Kids

Tania McCartney

Tina Snerling

EK, 2017

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

9781925335439

Continuing this fabulous series which includes A Kiwi Year , An Aussie Year and a host of others, young children are introduced to the children of Canada.  There is Chloe, who speaks both French and English; Oki who is Inuit, Ava who is of Chinese heritage; Liam of Scottish heritage and Noah whose dream is to place ice hockey for the Vancouver Canucks – kids just like those found in every classroom in Australia but whose lives are subtly different because of their geographic location.  Whoever heard of it being -30° in January and instead of being at the beach kids are skiing, skating and sledding?  And as we currently shiver through early winter and another Big Wet, it’s hard to imagine there are children on summer vacation for two months, kayaking, salmon fishing in the ocean, swimming, camping in the wilderness and visiting Santa’s Summer House just outside Toronto.  If nothing else, and there is SO much more, students will learn about the seasons being somewhat different in the northern hemisphere.

Offered as vignettes for each month, young children learn that there are places beyond their immediate horizons and there are kids who do things that are a bit different but overall, despite the timeframe, they enjoy and do the same things as kids everywhere so there is more that binds than divides. 

Intercultural understanding is a mandated part of the Australian Curriculum so that students “understand how personal, group and national identities are shaped, and the variable and changing nature of culture” and this series is the perfect way to start this with young children whose concepts of the world are just developing. 

As usual, there is the is a double-page spread featuring intriguing facts and figures which just invite comparisons with Australia – if ‘Canada” comes from ‘kanata’ meaning village, where does “Australia” come from? If Canada is the world’s second-largest country, what is the largest?  What’s the difference between large as in area and large as in population? While teachers’ notes are available, the children themselves will generate enough questions to drive their own investigations. 

Why not use it as a model for a class calendar, highlighting the important events of each child’s life in each month visually exploring the unity and the diversity and promoting an important bond of belonging and acceptance so that lives and heritage are celebrated.  Create a wall display for each month and invite the children to contribute to it, and then compare what is happening with other children in other parts of the world using this series as the key resource.

Great Goal! Marvellous Mark!

Great Goal! Marvellous Mark!

Great Goal! Marvellous Mark!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Great Goal! Marvellous Mark!

Katrina Germein

Janine Dawson

Ford Street, 2017

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

9781925272673

Aussie Rules is awesome.  Out on the boundary Bailey warms up.  He takes a bounce and boots the ball; a banana kick bends towards me.”

As well as taking a romp through an Aussie Rules football game, this book also takes a romp through the alphabet using alliteration as a clever but not contrived device to keep the text flowing.  Those familiar with the game and its terminology will enjoy the story as friends enjoy their game despite the appalling weather, while those who are not so aware will learn a little more so they might be tempted to watch a match or two.  

There are few picture books about football written for the reluctant reader so this may also capture that market, as they recognise the action, the words and their meanings and start to believe that there is something in this reading thing for them.

Janine Dawson has not only captured the movement and action of the game but she has incorporated kids of both genders and a range of backgrounds that reflects the inclusivity of Aussie Rules and sport in general, so each child should be able to find themselves in the game somewhere.  The fun and enjoyment of playing together in a team lifts right off the page and the score becomes irrelevant -just as it should be. Even the rain turning the oval into a quagmire so everyone is slithering and sliding in mud just adds to the fun, and the detail in the background (like the lady trading her umbrella for the pooper-scooper) emphasises the fact that weather cannot be the determinant of our activities.

An uplifting read about going out and having fun with friends, whether it’s Aussie Rules or something else, cleverly told so that is has a wider audience than just the AFL aficionado.  

The Whirlpool

The Whirlpool

The Whirlpool

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Whirlpool

Emily Larkin

Helene Magisson

Wombat Books, 2017

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

9781925563047

Life is lovely for Polar Bear Cub.  He has a happy, loving family where he is safe and protected.  He has friends and dreams for the future. Each day is better than the last and he is in charge of his life.  Even the stars shine just for him.

But suddenly all that is snatched away.  Without warning, darkness descends and there is no family or friends.  No hopes and dreams. Loneliness is his only companion – not even the stars are there for him.

Born from a uni assignment of using words and pictures together to make meaning, this is an unusual story because as the text speaks directly to the reader, it is the pictures of Polar Bear Cub that provide such a graphic interpretation of what they are saying, even though there is no reference to him in the words themselves. Together, they give depth and understanding to a situation that many of our children find themselves in when disaster and catastrophe strike their lives and all that is familiar is gone. Even its title is symbolic of the range of emotions that are within us, sometimes raging out of control but always eventually calming to a manageable level.

To children, some things – such as the coming of Santa Claus – seem to take forever, while to adults the time passes in a flash.  Similarly, to a child darkness lasts forever with no hope of light and their emotions are intense.  This book is written “for kids to know that it’s okay to feel a range of emotions. It’s okay to feel lonely, sad or uncertain – but these times don’t have to last. ”  

The well-being, particularly the mental health, of our students is receiving more and more focus in our curriculum as mindfulness programs are seen as crucial to a student’s success in other areas so this is an timely addition to that collection of resources to initiate discussions and provide support.