Most stories about dragons have the dragon capturing a princess and fighting the brave knight who comes to save her. But that’s not what this story is about because the dragon has gone off in a huff in search of a story where he is the hero not the villain.
But each time he enters a story – The Gingerbread Man, The Three Little Pigs, Goldilocks, Hansel and Gretel, Little Red riding Hood – he is told the same thing. “No! There are no dragons in this story!”
And then he spies a boy climbing a beanstalk. But just as Jack tells him the same thing, the giant captures the dragon and suddenly the dragon doesn’t want to be in the story! But just as he seems doomed, the giant sneezes and blows out the sun… Can the dragon be a hero at last?
This is a charming, colorful romp through a lot of childhood favourites that young children will delight in recalling and discussing the various forms the villain takes if it is not a dragon. They will connect with characters and settings they know while the left-to-right direction of print is emphasised with the vivid and clever illustrations. Older children can venture down the path of learning about stereotypes and how preconceived notions can lead to unfounded expectations, perhaps even starting to gather a collection of stories where the stereotype is challenged and then starting to examine their own prejudices.
Quality stories always have lots of layers to suit lots of readers – this is one of those.
Wherever Adeline went, so did Bunnybear. They had been together since forever, never apart. He was soft and cuddly, his ears and legs wibbling and wobbling and he flipped and flopped along. He even had his own seat at the table for morning milk and biscuits with Nanna. Bunnybears was her best friend and she didn’t feel right without him. Until one day, Bunnybear accidentally got left at the beach… Caught in a tug-of-war between a curious seagull and Adeline’s puppy, poor Bunnybear was destroyed and Adeline was distraught. That night there was a Bunnybear-shaped empty space in her bed and she felt very alone.
Next day Nanna sat in her knitting chair and made a new Bunnybear for Adeline. But this one wasn’t the same. It was too stiff and straight and no matter how Adeline squished and squashed him, he felt like a stranger. And so he sat on the shelf, hard and still like a statue. But then, one day Nanna had to go away for a while and with no milk and biscuits for morning tea, and no sitting in the knitting chair with her, the days became long and quiet. And then Adeline remembered…
This is a soft and gentle story, illustrated with the soft and gentle palette and the soft and gentle lines of watercolours, that will remind all readers, young and not-so of their favourite take-along-everywhere toy of their childhood. Everyone has a Bunnybear in their story, that one toy that we felt lost without regardless of whether it was shabby or pristine. In fact, shabby was better because it showed how loved it was but despite that, there is always room for change and sometimes when it is thrust upon us we need to embrace it. This softness is not just in the storyline but also in the rhythm of the story – long sentences that spread out over vignettes and pages as life continues on its merry way but changing to shorter, more abrupt statements when the worst happens and then gradually getting longer and more rhythmic as life takes on a new pattern. The whole wraps around the child like a hug, reassuring them that things will work out even if they are different.
Sometimes when little ones go to big school there is a suggestion that it is time to leave their preschool lives behind, including their beloved toys that have been with them since birth. And yet with this huge change in their lives they are left without the companionship of their most trusted and comforting friend and ally. Photos of Prince George starting school recently showed him looking a bit bewildered and unsure, and even though his grandfather Prince Charles thought the experience “character-building” we have to remember we can still count in months the time these little ones have been in the world and they need and deserve all the support they can get. The astute teacher will acknowledge that these are more than just a collection of stitches and stuffing, that they are imbued with love, safety and security and perhaps having a special shelf so the special toys can come to school too with the child deciding when they want to wean themselves. Meanwhile the teacher librarian can encourage them to read to their special toy in school and at night and might even provide a collection of teddies for those who just need an extra hug or two. It worked for me!
Sometimes when you’re gone I wonder why your job seems more important to you…than me.
Sometimes when you’re gone I get upset and angry when you miss things that are important to me.
Sometimes I look at what you do and I realise that you don’t want to leave… but by making our lives harder, you are making other people’s lives better.
But even with that understanding, it doesn’t make the life of a child with a parent in the Defence Forces or any other profession which necessitates prolonged absences any easier.
This is poignant true story based on the 16 year-old author’s own experiences of being a child in a military family grappling with the absence of a loved parent. It was her way of telling her dad about her feelings while he was away and her confusion when he came home as the family had to adjust to another routine. In an interview with the Canberra Times she says, “When I showed it to Dad, it wasn’t really anything we had discussed before … it was quite a shock to him…
But Jess didn’t just write this book for her dad, she wrote it for all children of Defence families and in a letter to them she tries to reassure them that their feelings are common and normal,they are not alone and even providing a page for them to write their own ending to the sentence, Sometimes when you’re gone…
Many of us have taught many children from military families who have struggled with having a parent deployed and there has been an expectation that they will “soldier on” and manage the separation and the emotions that go with it. But this book has a wider application than just military families – many of our students will have parents away, either permanently or temporarily – and in sensitive hands this could be the perfect opportunity to support them by getting them to open up about their feelings; to help them understand that they are not alone and it’s normal to feel resentful at times and they don’t have to feel guilty; to help them help their parents understand the impact of the separation because often parents are so busy being adults that they forget what it’s like to be a bewildered kid.
This is one for all teachers, not just counsellors, and deserves a wide audience among our profession – it has the power to change lives.
The little girl looks out from her city window and sees a cloud and part of a rainbow. At first, it seems like it is the only colour in this grey, drab city landscape and she thinks longingly of the rainbows she used to see in the country on the family farm – rainbows that spanned the whole sky and lit it up, not just a small arc peeping from a cloud because the sky is full of buildings.
But gradually she begins to see spots of colour in her new surroundings – not the full-blooded red of the tractor of the farm but the red postbox in the street; not the orange of the sunset and the twine around the hay bales, but a curl of orange peel on the pavement; not the blue of her sheepdog Billy’s eyes but the paint of a neighbour’s fence… And there is one colour that both landscapes have in common.
This story is a marriage of text and illustration, each interdependent as they should be in quality picture books. At first the little girl sees only the rainbow, even though there are other spots of colour around her, as she thinks nostalgically of the colours of the country but as she starts to see more of her environment, so too the colours in the pictures increase although the city remains grey and the country bathed in light. And as her thoughts slowly attune to the city environment she begins to see more objects, different from the farm but perhaps with something to offer as she peers over the blue fence and sees a treehouse with a rope ladder and maybe a friend.
Perhaps, after all, there is but one rainbow – it just sees different things. An interesting contrast between city and country living that poses the question about why the family may have moved; about nostalgia as we tend to yearn for the things we remember when we are out of our comforts zone and hope as we learn to adjust and adapt to new places, new things and new experiences.
I just ate my friend. He was a good friend. But now he is gone. Would you be my friend?
Monster has eaten his friend and now he is on a search for another one. One by one he asls other monsters but each has a different reason why they can’t oblige. Too big, too small, too slow, too scary – each has a unique excuse. But finally another one agrees…but this is definitely a case of “Be careful what you wish for”!
Set against a background of a dark starry sky, this is a story that has a dark humour to it and the twist in the end may puzzle very young readers but older readers will appreciate it. Even though the illustrations appear quite simple, there is a lot of expression built into the large white eyes and the slitted mouth that offer a lot of scope for encouraging young readers to look at the details in the pictures and interpret feelings from the facial features. Teaching them to read the pictures as well as the words is a critical skill to get the most from stories, even those that appear to be fairly simplistic.
Using the universal desire for having a friend as its basis, it offers scope to discuss what it means to be a good friend and how you keep them. Perhaps eating them is not the best idea, but what can you do when you find you don’t agree on something. Even discussing the fundamental question of whether friends can disagree and still be friends is important in developing the concept of friendship.
Fresh, original and offering all the things a quality picture book should.
Guff is a somewhat weather-beaten soft toy. With both an eye and an ear missing, patches and fraying edges he looks like he has had a hard life, when, in fact he has had a loved life. Given to the little girl when she was very tiny and he was as new and pristine as she was, he’s been with her every step of her growing-up journey and has survived the nearest of near misses like being left on the bus, floating out to sea and even going through the washing machine.
With its sparse text the real story of Guff is told in the pictures with insight and humour – the mother’s expressions are exquisite and the love and the special relationship amongst mother, daughter and toy just exudes from the page.
Guff is the toy we’ve all had, the constant companion that has given support and comfort when we’ve needed it – our best friend and confidante. Guff is there in all our childhood memories, intertwined with our adventures and misadventures. Guff makes it OK to go on your first sleepover or your first school camp with him close by your side even if you are in Year 4 or 5. Guff is the warmth and comfort of Linus’s security blanket and just as acceptable. He is the toy we will treasure and pass on to our children and tell them stories about.
Guff is Aaron Blabey’s latest masterpiece, not just a story for little people to listen to as they snuggle down with their Guff but one that will evoke memories for the storyteller and generate even more stories .
Guff is precious and very special – both the book and the toy.
Down in the vegie patch behind the garden gnome, live two little peas in a pod they call home…
They joke and they laugh, these best of best friends… but they also drive each other right round the bend.
Because each night Pop, the eldest, snores like a bear as he sleeps in his chair, while Pip likes to bake and as she does, she loves to sing. But she can’t sing well and her tuneless ditties wake Pop up in a very grumpy mood. Eventually he can stand it no longer and he backs his bags and leaves the pod. Pip is glad to see him go but as time goes on both begin to realise how much they miss each other. Is there a way forward that can give this story a happy ending?
This is a charming story perfectly illustrated to appeal to younger readers as has been shown by the number of times it was chosen as the dress-up favourite for parades for Book Week recently. Young readers really embraced the characters and their dilemma as they recognised themselves and their siblings – often at loggerheads but lost without each other. It’s rhyming couplets move the pace along ensuring the action is maintained without getting too intense, even when Pop is caught by the kitten making just the right amount of tension for little people to manage. And they are sure to have suggestions about how Pop and Pip can overcome their differences – many will draw on their own experiences!
One of those stories that will stand out and quickly become a favourite.
Reena is deaf and the little brown dog in the park is homeless. But even though her ears didn’t work, her eyes did and she saw the things that others take for granted. So even though she couldn’t hear the wind in the trees, she could still see the leaves swirling and Dog leap to catch the acorns.
When the children came to play hide and seek in the park she was very good at finding their hiding places, but when it was her turn to hide no one could find her and she couldn’t hear them calling so they left her there alone. Luckily Dog was able to fetch her mother who explained that people are like the colours of the rainbow – each one different but together a strong and beautiful entity. But both Reena and Dog felt like they didn’t belong in the rainbow. Will they ever fit in?
As well as windows that show readers a new world, stories should also be mirrors that reflect their own lives. Children, in particular, should be able to read about themselves and children like them in everyday stories so they understand they are not freaks and that others share their differences and difficulties. Reena’s Rainbow is a wonderful addition to a growing collection of stories that celebrate the uniqueness of every person and not only show them they are not alone but also help others to understand their special needs. Imagine how frightened Reena must have felt when all the children left the park because they assumed she had gone home.
Young children are remarkably accepting and resilient – they don’t see colour, language, dress or disability as a barrier to the child within – those are handicaps that adults impose on themselves – but the more stories like this that we share with them, the more likely they are to develop knowledge, understanding, tolerance and acceptance and thus develop into adults who embrace difference rather than shunning it. Close inspection shows that rainbows actually include every shade of every colour, not just those visible to the eye, and through Reena and Dog and characters like them we can all learn to discern the not-so-obvious beauty.
Imagine having curly hair that has spirals and squiggles and swirls and curls that are too bouncy and loopy and knotty and fuzzy and frizzy… so hard to handle it makes you dizzy!!!
Now imagine all the crazy-daisy ways you might try to straighten it. You could brush it for hours; get your friends to stretch it; you could put big books on it or even tie balloons to it! Maybe stick it down with sticky tape or even give yourself a bucket bath…
Or you might learn to live with it and love it, especially if you met someone with dead straight hair who would love to have your curls…
This is a superbly illustrated, funny, story-in-rhyme that will resonate with every girl who wants what she hasn’t got. Whether it’s straight hair, long legs, no freckles, there is always something we wish we could change.
Even though its target audience is very young readers, this would be the perfect kickstart for a discussion about body image, body-shaming, self-acceptance, loving who we are on the inside and all those sorts of issues that start to plague young girls. An important addition to your collection relating to mental health and mindfulness.
Pip Sullivan first entered our reading lives in Run, Pip, Run when she had to live on her wits to stay out of the clutches of the authorities when her “grandfather” Sully had a stroke and subsequently died. Fearful of being put in foster care, Pip found temporary refuge with her best friend Matilda’s family. But to Pip, Matilda is perfect and never seems to get into trouble whereas Pip doesn’t seem to be able to stay out of it. Convinced she is going to be put in formal foster care with all that entails because she believes the Brownings no longer want her, Pip hits the road with her inseparable dog Houdini determined to find her real mother. With only a nine-year-old postcard to go by, she is determined to get to Byron Bay…
Full of determination, resilience and quick-thinking Pip has much to overcome as she makes her way north, all the while never giving up hope and never forgetting Houdini who is very well named. Despite her somewhat unorthodox upbringing, she has learned some important life lessons from Sully and these make her a particularly likable little girl of just ten and a bit. Asking to pay extra for her train fare because she had skipped without paying the day before is just one example. And when all you want is a family of your own, nothing will deter you.
Written so that the reader can understand her perspective and her thinking, it is an engaging sequel that is every bit as good as the CBCA shortlisted original. An engaging, solid read that is a little bit different for independent readers.