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The Fix-It Man

The Fix-It Man

The Fix-It Man

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Fix-It Man

Dimity Powell

Nicky Johnston

EK Books, 2017

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

9781925335347

Dads can fix anything – that’s what dads do.  Kites, kennels, teapots – whatever is needed.  He can even cobble together a rug made of rainbows and old hugs for mum – but he can’t fix mum.  Not even with his special peach and honey brew.  Even the doctors and lots of rest can’t fix mum. Not even all the love in the world.  

And no matter how hard they try, little girls can’t mend broken hearts – not hers, not dad’s and not Tiger’s.  Well, not with stick tape or glue or needle and thread..  But dad has one more special thing up his sleeve  and together they start to mend.

This is a poignant story of loss and one that will resonate with many children who have lost a parent or other loved one.  With its gentle text and soft palette, even though it is sad it is not gloomy because the love between this family oozes from the page and from that, the hope is tangible. And the threads that bind the family are stronger and more enduring than nails, glue, sticky-tape or any other kind of man-made adhesive or fastening.

Grief is a natural part of life and while we might like to protect our children from it, nevertheless it happens and we often struggle helping them to cope with their loss.  This book allows conversations to start and explores the way it is an emotion that we each express and deal with in our own way.  Dad’s lap is cosy and warm but his face is crumpled and wet; pieces spill out from Tiger’s heart and little girls try to do what they can to paper over the cracks – but they are too wide. But together…

Whether shared as a 1:1 or as a class, it offers children the opportunity to talk about losses in their life and to learn that they are not alone in feeling lonely, lost, scared and even betrayed but there is love and it does get easier.

Little Chicken Chickabee

Little Chicken Chickabee

Little Chicken Chickabee

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Little Chicken Chickabee

Janeen Brian

Danny Snell

Raising Literacy Australia, 2016

32pp., pbk., RRP $A14.90

9780994385338

Crickle, scratch, crackle, hatch – four little chicks pop from their eggs of proud Mother Hen.  Each one cheeps as expected except for Number 4 who says, “Chickabee.”  This startles Mother Hen and the other chicks who insist that “Cheep” is right and “Chickabee” is not.  But Little Chicken is not deterred and goes off to see the world.  However, she finds that even the other farm animals insist that chickens say “Cheep” not “Chickabee” although when Little Chicken challenges them, they have no real reason why not.  

Showing amazing resilience, Little Chicken knows that while “Chickabee” might be different, it is right for her and regardless of the sound she makes, she is still a chicken.  Even when her brothers and sisters reject her again, she has the courage to go back into the world and this time she meets different things that make different sounds which bring her joy,  And then she meets a pig…

This is a charming story about difference, resilience, courage and perseverance and how these can lead to friendships, even unexpected ones. Beautifully illustrated by Danny Snell, this story works on so many levels.  It would be a great read for classes early in this 2017 school year as new groups of children come together and learn about each other while even younger ones will enjoy joining in with the fabulous noises like rankety tankety, sticketty-stackety and flippety-flappity as they learn the sorts of things that are found on a farm.

Given the trend throughout the world towards convention and conservatism and an expectation that everyone will fit the same mould and be legislated or bullied into doing so, Little Chicken could be a role model for little people that it is OK to be different and that no one is alone in their difference.  

 

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

 

 

Worm Loves Worm

Worm Loves Worm

Worm Loves Worm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Worm Loves Worm

J.J.  Austrian

Mike Curato

Balzer & Bray, 2016

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

9780062386335

Worm loves Worm.  So they decide to get married.  It shouldn’t be a problem but suddenly all their minibeast friends chip in. “You’ll need someone to marry you. That’s how it’s always been done.”  You’ll need a best man, bridesmaids, rings, a band… and so on and so on, because “that’s how it’s always been done.”  Worm and Worm agree to each suggestion hoping that after they acquiesce they can get married but no… there is always something else.

So when they are told that they need to have a bride and groom, worms being hermaphrodites, they have no trouble with being either or both – but that isn’t how it’s always been done.  Will they ever just celebrate their love by getting married???

This is a charming book that, on the surface, is just a story about two worms wanting to get married because they love each other, and that, to a four-year-old is a natural thing to do.  It is just a celebration of love.  For those in different circumstances or a little bit older there is a sub-text of marriage equality and things can change – they don’t always have to be because they have always been.  It’s enough to love each other without all the other trappings; it’s about inclusion and equality and showing affection regardless of any traditional views and values that have been imposed on a natural state of mind. That’s what little ones understand and accept – intolerance is something they learn.

Choosing worms as the main characters is a masterstroke because there are no physical differences between worms – there is nothing to say which is female and therefore the bride or male and therefore the groom. So the central message of love being the key ingredient and the rest of the elements of a wedding just being seasoning remains the central theme.  

Perhaps some of our politicians  and those who influence them should read this and get to the core of what really matters.

A great addition to a school library collection that allows children to see their own family structure in a story, to show others that there are all sorts of family structures,  and to explain marriage equality to those unfamiliar with the concept.

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

 

 

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.

Feathers for Phoebe (mini book)

Feathers for Phoebe

Feathers for Phoebe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Feathers for Phoebe

Rod Clement

HarperCollins, 2016

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

9781460753507

Phoebe is a small grey bird and she doesn’t like it one bit.  Surrounded by the most colourful, exotic birds she feels she is inferior and so desperately wants to be more like them. So with the help of Zelda who runs the most popular beauty salon in the forest she begins a transformation.  But no matter what she adds, no one notices her and stops to admire her.  Even when she is totally transformed and unrecognisable from the small grey Phoebe, no one seems to notice. 

Zelda tells her that sometimes “feathers are not enough” and she needs more – a song, a sound and some moves. So Phoebe spends the day practising until she has the perfect moves for the perfect grooves.  The all-new singing, dancing Phoebe is ready to show herself to the world…

When Miss 10 started school this was the National Simultaneous Storytime of the Year pick and she loved it.  It was a family favourite for months and no bedtime session was complete without reading it.  It’s colour, it’s movement, it’s humour and it’s message about being yourself really appealed to her -as it did to thousands of other children – and sparked endless sessions of creating new feathers for headbands and dressing up in the gaudiest of fabrics and having fun being whoever her imagination decided, but each evening off came the regalia and she got into her ordinary pyjamas, happy to be herself and having her favourite story read yet again.

Now Miss 10 is an independent reader and she reads this book to Miss 5 who is not quite there yet.  But how wonderful it is to have this mini-book version that is just the right size to fit Miss 5’s hands so having heard the story so often already will be reading it for herself very soon.  Christmas stocking sorted!!!

Gwendolyn

Gwendolyn

Gwendolyn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gwendolyn

Juliette MacIver

Terri Rose Baynton

ABC Books, 2016

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

9780733335174

In a jungle full of jaguars, monkeys and parrots the last thing you expect to find is a penguin.  But there she is – Gwendolyn, the only penguin in the entire jungle, and she loves it all – the humidity, the glorious. colourful flowers and all the jungle creatures. .  She is such a novelty that she is friends with all the creatures and her positive personality always shines through.  When Jaguar complains that it is too hot, she tells him of the ice and snow in Antarctica; when Monkey complains that the bananas are too squishy she tells him there are no trees in Antarctica let alone banana trees; and when Parrot complains that he cannot find a wife despite his magnificent colours she tells him of the black and white colour scheme of Antarctica.  

Even though all this wise advice makes her friends feel good, it starts to make Gwendolyn yearn for her natural home, a place she has never been to.  And so off she goes on a long, arduous journey eventually arriving exhausted but happy to be there and to meet other penguins and to find her own identity.  There is much fun to be had sliding and diving but…

This is a clever story that explores the concepts of being different, being positive and making the most of things written in a context that will appeal to young readers – although their adult helpers might have to be quick off the mark when the child inevitably asks, “How did she get to be in the jungle? ”  Her constant encouragement to have her friends look on the bright side  could become a refrain for the children when things get a bit tough for them as they ask themselves, “What would Gwendolyn do?” and having sought a solution, move on.  Building the foundations of resilience.

Baynton’s illustrations are clear and detailed and there is much to discover in them as the book is shared while her portrayal of Gwendolyn is endearing.  Young children might like to follow these instructions  to draw Gwendolyn and then use collage or other techniques to place her in either her jungle home or her Antarctic one.  

Jack and Mia

Jack and Mia

Jack and Mia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jack and Mia

Robert Vescio

Claire Richards

Wombat Books, 2016

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

9781925139730

Before Mia moved in next door, Jack was lonely.  But Mia brought rainbows, jungles, concerts and lots and lots of giggles.  Even their mums thought they  were “two sides of the one coin” and “fit together like a puzzle.”  Mia’s amazing imagination took them on adventures that Jack had never dreamed of and when they both got sick at the same time, they were each given a book about making and doing, make-believe and play that allowed them to continue the fun from their beds.  

When they were better they kept using their books, snipping, gluing, taping and  tying a magnificent cardboard castle.  They each wore crowns and royal robes and ruled over their kingdom with wisdom and kindness.  They were as close as the materials that held that castle together.  Until one day Mia moves far away with her family and Jack is back into the isolation and desolation that he felt before Mia entered his life.  Nothing was the same any more.

Across the sea, Mia had also given up.  She was missing Jack just as much.  But then Jack found Mia’s book in his toybox and… 

There is nothing like the deep friendships forged in childhood where there are no distractions beyond deciding what today’s fun will be about.  Jack and Mia is a charming story that focuses on such a friendship and how it can continue even after separation has intervened. It will resonate with children who have moved away from familiar surroundings and friends and show them that there are plenty of ways of keeping in touch to relive old memories and make new ones. The technology of today gives them so much more than that of previous generations and the world can come to you with just a few clicks.

The illustrations enrich the storyline as Jack and Mia do not share the same skin colour but neither notice – it’s all about who each child is, how they connect and the fun that can be had when kids get together, just as it is in any playground. In fact, I’d proffer that the readers will not even notice the difference.  Racism and all that it entails is very definitely a concept learned from adults.

Heartwarming and positive. 

Stanley

Stanley

Stanley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stanley

Colin Thompson

ABC Books, 2016

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

9780733332852

Stanley is not the world’s most attractive dog – he looks like he has been built out of very old, very weathered, very strong bricks and even though he looks dangerous from a distance, he was really as soft as a pillow.  Stanley loves four things – his bed, his dinner, his red rubber ball and Gerald, his human. Unlike Stanley who looked like he had been built from bricks, Gerald looks like he has been created from carefully crafted paper, folded and glued together and rather than looking dangerous, he looked as “harmless as a postage stamp.”  Gerald loves his mum, Stanley and Lego.

Most days Stanley walks Gerald to school but on the whole he was quite lonely at times as Gerald and his mum were all the family in the house, and while he loved them, they never came to sleep in his bed with him.  So when Gerald took Stanley and his red ball to the park and Stanley got to play with other dogs, he loved it.  When Gerald threw the  ball all the dogs would chase it, but they always stood back and let Stanley fetch it.  Until the day a fluffy little thing called Lulu caught it and refused to give it back…an event that will change his life forever!

Colin Thompson, author of the fabulous Fearless, has created another doggy character that children will love and resonate with giving them hope that even though they might feel lonely and be the only one in a single-parent family, things can change.  With his vivid words-and-pictures descriptions of both Stanley and Gerald (with lots of wonderful similes to explore) there is a strong message about not judging things on their appearance and the juxtaposition of the soft, fluffy Lulu  standing up to the tough-looking Stanley is just one example.  

This story has many layers so will appeal to many age groups, but overall it’s just about love and the power of hope and a red rubber ball.

Very useful teachers notes are available.

 

The Cranky Ballerina

The Cranky Ballerina

The Cranky Ballerina

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Cranky Ballerina

Elise Gravel

Katherine Tegan Books, 2016

32pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9780062351241

Ada does not look forward to weekends, particularly Saturdays, because Saturday is ballet day and she HATES ballet.  Her leotard is too tight and her tutu too itchy and as for the moves she is forced to do and practise and practise…as she says, “Arabesques are GROTESQUE”. As for pirouettes – well! Even with her little monster sidekick who tries to offer support and encouragement, she just doesn’t like it. For Ada, it is definitely NOT a case of “practice makes perfect”. 

But one Saturday morning when she is trying to please Miss Pointy she pirouettes right out the door and into a whole new world, one where she fits perfectly.

Across the world, Saturday mornings see young girls and boys going off to do things like ballet and music and sport and so on because their parents think they should, or they should enjoy them or the parents are reliving their dreams, but how many are like Ada and have no aptitude or passion for the activity?  Many were the freezing mornings I cycled many miles to piano lessons thinking of excuses for not having practised until my long-suffering teacher told my mum she was wasting her money. Based on the creator’s one disastrous attempt at ballet when she was four, this story will resonate with those whose abilities, talents and interests lie beyond those that they are expected to do.  

The illustrations are very expressive – even the youngest non-reader can tell that this is a story about an unhappy child who seems to have a permanent scowl and for all their apparent simplicity, the feelings of Miss Pointy and the other girls are very obvious.  With a predominantly gentle colour scheme, lime greens and bright reds punctuate Ada’s discomfort along with speech bubbles and onomatopoeia giving it a fast pace that will encourage young readers to read it for themselves independently without much trouble. The final page is perfect.

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

Sharing this with a class could enable a discussion about the sorts of things that the students do on weekends and their feelings about those activities.  There may be a number of Adas uncovered who will be grateful for having their feelings legitimised and perhaps even have the courage to talk to their parents about what they would really like to be doing and lerning.