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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.

Nanna’s Button Tin

Nanna's Button Tin

Nanna’s Button Tin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nanna’s Button Tin

Dianne Wolfer

Heather Potter

Walker Books, 2017

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

9781922077677

Poor Ted.  He has been cuddled so hard for so long he has lost his eye and needs a new one.  And so it is Nanna’s button tin to the rescue.  It’s a special tin with all sorts of buttons – surely there will be one that is just right for Ted. One that is just the right size, just the right shape and just the right colour. Perhaps it is the yellow one that was on the baby jacket worn home from hospital – but no, it is too shiny-bright.  Maybe the brown, bear-shaped button from the birthday jumper; or the angel ones sewn on to the snuggly to protect a sick little girl.  For every button in the button tin has a special story and an important memory to be shared.  But none is quite right until… and a new story and a new memory are made.

In the days of the Great Depression and World War II, when make-do-and-mend was the mantra, mums everywhere saved buttons off outgrown clothes, pieces of string and all sorts of things for the day they would be needed again.  Button tins were the norm and many a young girl of the 50s had a special treat of being able to upend the tin, sort through the gems and hear family stories that may well have been forgotten if the connections were not made.  In these days of zippers, stretch fabrics and throwaway fashion one wonders how such family memories will be passed on.

This is a warm, wrap-you-in-a-hug story perfectly illustrated in a retro palette with gentle lines and details that will bring back memories of the button tin to many grandmothers sharing the story with their little ones.  And for more modern mums, it might be the inspiration to gather those special clothes together so a memory quilt can be made so the stories can be passed on.  For it is those intimate family details that continue our heritage as much as the monoliths of the past.  Who would have thought something as small and innocuous as a button could spawn so much, not the least an amazing book that needs to be on every family shelf.

This one is on its way to someone with her very own memories of her nanna’s button tin and a tin full of memories to share with her granddaughters.

Brothers from a Different Mother

Brothers from a Different Mother

Brothers from a Different Mother

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brothers from a Different Mother

Phillip Gwynne

Marjorie Crosby-Fairall

Penguin Viking 2017

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

9780670078486

Tapir lives in the jungle and Pig lives in the village but they meet at a common waterhole where they each go to play.  W  brothers or sisters of their own, they recognise they are similar but different but the differences don’t stop them eventually playing together, having fun swimming, chasing butterflies, wallowing in the mud and looking for yummy things to eat.  They decide they are brothers from a different mother.

But when their fathers discover they are playing with each other, they are forbidden to mix with each other – simply because they are pig and tapir and thus different.  Pig and Tapir are very unhappy and lonely and so they decide to disobey their fathers.  Tapir heads for the village while Pig goes to the jungle, each meeting with opposition to their search but determined to forge on.  And when they do meet up, all the fun is back on again as they wallow in the mud.  But then their fathers come looking for them..

Superbly illustrated, this is a tale that reflects what happens in the schoolyard with kids all the time.  They look for similarities not differences and friendships are as diverse as the children.  Racist, ethnic, religious, economic and social differences are not part of their perspectives – those are concepts imposed on them by adults.  Using a saying that is currently popular amongst close friends, Gwynne has brought to life its true meaning and as well as creating a charming story he has offered a great springboard for discussions about acceptance, tolerance, diversity, inclusivity and understanding as our children encounter all these things every day in the playground.  One might suggest that there are adults in this world who could learn more from this story than their children.

Ballerina Dreams: A true story

Ballerina Dreams

Ballerina Dreams

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ballerina Dreams

Michaela & Elaine DePrince

Ella Okstad

Faber Children, 2017

80pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9780571329731

Many a young girl dreams of becoming a ballerina and so it was for Michaela DePrince after she saw a picture of a girl in a tutu in a magazine.  Sound familiar? Probably.  But life for Michaela was very different than that of many of the girls we know.  She was an orphan living in an orphanage in Sierra Leone after her parents were killed in the war and teased unmercifully by the other children because she suffered from vitiligo, a condition that affects the pigment of the skin.  They called her Spots and “the devil’s child”!

How does a little girl from such a background become a leading dancer in a world that valued a different sort of beauty to hers? Currently  the Grand Sujet for the Dutch National Ballet’s main company for the 2016-2017 ballet season, Michaela tells her story in this specially adapted version of her memoir Hope in a Ballet Shoe. It is a story of hard work, perseverance and hope, a message which she constantly shares with other disadvantaged children in order to encourage them to strive for a dream. In 2016 she was named an Ambassador for War Child Netherlands.

Perfect for those who dream of being ballerinas, it is also a story of following your dreams and being willing to put in the hard work that it takes to achieve them.  Ideal for newly independent readers, with short chapters, larger fonts and many illustrations, it can also introduce autobiographies to young readers showing them that there is much to learn, enjoy and inspire in this genre.

Just after she was adopted and living in the USA she watched a video of The Nutcracker; when she was eight she auditioned for and won a role as a polichinelle girl in the ballet, and vowed that one day she would be the first black Sugar Plum fairy. She achieved that in 2015.

As Michaela writes, “It doesn’t matter if you dream of being a doctor, a teacher, a writer or a ballerina.  “Every dream begins with one step. After that, you must work hard and practice every day. If you never give up, your dream will come true.”

 

 

 

 

Archie and the Bear

Archie and the Bear

Archie and the Bear

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Archie and the Bear

Zanni Louise

David Mackintosh

Little Hare, 2017

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

9781760127510

Archie loves being a bear but people just see his as a boy in a bear suit.  Strong-willed, determined and frustrated that people don’t believe him, Archie runs away to the forest where he meets a bear who is all about being a boy.  When Archie comments on the bear’s boy suit the bear growls at him that he is a boy not a bear, and instantly there is a bond between them.  Sharing the things they love like honey sandwiches, fishing and reading they support each other until darkness falls and the night grows cold and suddenly it’s better to be who you really are.

Mackintosh’s illustrations bring each identity to life using scale to show not just the physical relationships but also the emotional ones. And despite being so small, even just a speck in some pictures, Archie’s will remains strong and large saying much about physical size and shape not defining us as people. 

This is a quirky, original story about being true to yourself that will open up all sorts of discussions about imagination, self-belief and friendships. Even though adults might not see Archie as a bear, young readers will get it as the author has climbed into their thinking and they will relate to it. Sometimes it’s not enough to be a powerless little boy in an adult-dominated world.

Discussions may even wander into the field of how each living thing has adapted to its environment, each with its own special needs met within it, and why the ending was inevitable.

Unusual but intriguing.