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The Magic Word

The Magic Word

The Magic Word

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Magic Word

Mac Barnett

Elise Parsley

Balzier & Bray, 2016

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

9780062354846

Paxton C. Heymeyer seems to have forgotten his manners, so when he asks his babysitter for a cookie she asks him for the magic word.  But instead of saying, “Can I have a cookie, please”, Paxton C. Heymeyer shouts “Can I have a cookie, alakazoomba?”  Suddenly, in a puff of blue smoke he not only discovers a cookie in his hand but the power to summon up anything he wants with that one magic word.  A walrus to chase the babysitter to the North Pole; a waterslide in the living room; a jungle bedroom; anything his imagination lets him dream.  Even an elephant and a robot-servant!

But when Rosie comes to play he finds that things aren’t quite what he wishes for because elephants can’t play cards or any of the other things friends do together…

There would be few of our littlies who have not been asked for “the magic word” so they will relate well to this engaging story of being able to have whatever you want – it brings life to the saying “Be careful what you wish for.”  Asking them what they would wish for or dream of having will elicit a lot of discussion and drawing, but there is also much to think about when Rosie refuses to play and goes home. Friendship and happiness are not all about material things and instant gratification, and this book may provide food for thought for those who want to have the latest thing NOW, and those who wish they could.

 

Fox and the Jumping Contest

Fox and the Jumping Contest

Fox and the Jumping Contest

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fox and the Jumping Contest

Corey R. Tabor

Balzer & Bray, 2016

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

9780062398741

 

The animals are having a jumping contest – Elephant, Bear, Rabbit, Turtle, Frog and Fox have all entered – and Fox is determined he will win.  He even imagines how good the trophy will look perched on his mantlepiece.  

But Fox isn’t particularly good at jumping so he figures if that trophy is going to have pride of place in his loungeroom he will need a bit of assistance.  So while the other animals practise, he schemes and plans and builds.  His solution? A jetpack that he paints to match his fur hoping the other animals won’t notice – so it is clear that he knows he is cheating. 

On the day of the contest with the bird judges all ready and perched high in the branches the animals show their talents.  Frog does well and gets extra points for style; Turtle doesn’t do as well and Elephant less so.  Bear was loud and Rabbit was spectacular.  And then it was Fox’s turn…

This is a story with a twist, and it’s a twist that can spark some great discussion points which are perfect for getting young children to start to think critically, to philosophise and to empathise. Fox with his jetpack strapped to his back disappears so high in the sky that the judges can’t wait for him to return so they begin the awards ceremony. But just as Rabbit is about to receive the trophy, Fox falls back to Earth and plops into it and takes first place. The final scene shows Fox standing back admiring the cup on his mantlepiece, right where he had envisioned it would be.

But does Fox deserve it?  Has he cheated? Were there written rules about external assistance or were they just assumed? Why do we have rules? How do the other animals feel about the win? What about rabbit? Has there been fair play and sportsmanship? What is the twist in that final scene and was it a reasonable way to solve the problem? What does ‘compromise’ mean? 

Careful exploration of the text, verbal and visual, offers a lot of depth to this story and it deserves re-reading to get the most from it.  For example, Elephant doesn’t mind that she cannot jump well because she is “good at other things” and that in itself could provoke another discussion about how we all have our strengths so comparisons are not always fair.  Even very young children have a strong sense of justice and with the pictures enriching the words so well with their extra detail and action there is much to examine and ponder.

Life and literature are full of characters who are determined to win regardless and this is a surprisingly good story that can introduce even very young children to contemplate, at their own level, the philosophical question of does the end justify the means and giving them an opportunity to start thinking on a more abstract level, from different perspectives and consider what is not being said.    

One to get brains moving…

 

 

Three Little Monkeys

Three Little Monkeys

Three Little Monkeys

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Three Little Monkeys

Quentin Blake

Emma Chichester Clark

HarperCollins, 2016

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

9780008164478

Hilda Snibbs is not like other people.  She doesn’t have a dog or a cat or even a goldfish – she has three little monkeys.  Their names are Tim and Sam and Lulu and they are very lively.  Every time she leaves the house and leaves them on their own, they trash it.  Nothing is safe – not her hat, her knitting, her favourite shampoo, the toilet paper…

She tells them she is disappointed in them, she asks what she has done to deserve such wretched little monkeys; she wonders how long she can put up with them – and each time Tim and Sam and Lulu look at her with their big round eye and say nothing.  One day after they had been into everything in her bathroom, she cries, “Oh, for a peaceful life without these wicked little monkeys!”  But when she comes home the next day and they are gone, she realises how much she misses them until…

This is a funny, lovable story that will become a favourite of little ones as they recognise some of the mischief they themselves might have created over time. Quentin Blake’s words marry so well with Emma Chichester Clark’s illustrations – little vignettes that are full of action and fun as they show the monkeys at work – that this is a masterful collaboration.  Even though the monkeys are so naughty they remain lovable and it’s Hilda Snibbs who becomes the “villain”.  As Miss 5 said, “Why did she keep leaving them on their own?  She’s stupid!”

Three Little Monkeys is the perfect bedtime read-aloud as the children delight in the antics and naughtiness of the monkeys and see that they are loved regardless of what they do, while Hilda Snibbs will resonate with exasperated parents who sometimes long for the quiet life they had before their own little monkeys were born., even though they know they wouldn’t have it any other way.

Joyful. 

 

Watch Out for Muddy Puddles

Watch Out for Muddy Puddles

Watch Out for Muddy Puddles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Watch Out for Muddy Puddles

Ben Faulks

Ben Cort

Bloomsbury, 2016

32pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781408867204

 

Watch out for muddy puddles!

Because you never really know…

What there might be lurking

down in the depths below.

As south-eastern Australia picks itself up from another weather event and hopefully heeds the message about the dangers of floodwaters, do we ever stop to warn our children about what might lie in the depths of muddy puddles? Because underneath that calm surface that just asks to be splashed all over from a massive jump in your best boots there could be all sorts of strange things – long-lost footballs, lonely socks and underwater kings or maybe hungry crocodiles, angry pirates or kissing frogs!  Frozen ones can be treacherous too and there are some that will spin you round and round like a washing machine or plunge you deep down through the planet, tumbling past the sandstone, the fossils and the granite. But the worst one of all is the one that is home to the BIG BAD rubber ducky.

A funny and fantastic romp in rhyme through puddles and the imagination from Mr Bloom from CBeebies that will charm the boots of our youngest readers who will be itching to tell you what they think might be at the bottom of a muddy puddle!  Great inspiration for a class mural!!

Watch the trailer, have fun with the activities and investigate where the puddles go when the sun shines.  A perfect introduction to some basic science.

 

Oh, Albert

Oh, Albert

Oh, Albert

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oh, Albert

Davina Bell

Sara Acton

Penguin Viking 2016

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

9780670078608

Albert is one of those dogs – a lovable golden labrador puppy with a voracious appetite for everything, regardless of whether it is ‘official’ dog food or not.  Each day, when no one is around he finds something that grabs his attention and as is the manner of dogs, explores it by eating it.  Taste is not an issue – pink ribbons, red flags, white cords, green swim goggles, a black bike helmet – they are all part of Albert’s diet, much to the family’s frustration and threats.  Until on Saturday he eats something dogs should NEVER  eat – chocolate!

As they sit at the vet hoping he will pull through, the family begin to realise what Albert means to them and regret their hasty comments.  But whether Albert pulls through and whether he learns his lesson is an ending for the reader to discover…

This is a captivating story that is so full of riches, not the least of which is how Albert would feel if he were human and all he heard were negative remarks.  Because each double spread only shows the times when Albert’s appetite has got him into trouble you wonder if that is the only time this busy family with their pilates, ballet, swimming, school, bike-riding and so on notice him.  Is he doing this stuff for the attention he craves? Do we only notice and attend to the things our children,our students or our pets do wrong, rather than acknowledging the 99% of the time they bring us love and joy? are we so busy being busy that we forget why we had the children or got the pet in the first place? Do we only stop to reflect when there is a crisis? Hmmm…

Davina Bell’s text is perfect for engaging the young reader in early-reading behaviours.  It has a repetitive refrain that encourages the child to join in (and consolidate their knowledge of the days of the week) and Sara Acton’s pictures invite prediction of not only what Albert will eat but how that will impact on the ‘victim’.  Focusing on the essential storyline with white space instead of extraneous detail, little people will be able to read this to themselves easily, able to work out what happens as they turn each page – but hearing the words will add so much more to the experience that they will want it over and over.  It will move from first-read to familiar to favourite very quickly. It is a cumulative story so each episode leads into the next in a way that is really cohesive so there is also the opportunity to talk about cause and effect.  If you leave your swimming goggles where Albert can eat them, how will you cope at swimming the next day?

But mostly this is a story of the unconditional love we have for our pets and readers, adult and child, will be able to put themselves into the story sparking memories that can be shared and drawn. . Maybe everyone and everything will get an extra hug today.

Miss 5 is going through a ‘dog phase’ and this is one she is going to adore.

 

Little Mouse’s Big Breakfast

Little Mouse's Big Breakfast

Little Mouse’s Big Breakfast

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Little Mouse’s Big Breakfast

Christine Pym

Nosy Crow, 2016

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

9780857636737

Dusk on a cold winter’s day and Little Mouse realises he has nothing for his breakfast the next morning.  There is nothing nearby for him – no seeds or berries as winter has taken its toll on the landscape. But he knows just where to go.  Even though it involves an arduous journey along the path, up the drainpipe and through the window to the house’s kitchen, he knows there will be delicious things there.  And so there are – a bright blueberry, a rosy red apple, big brown biscuits and a whole lot more.  Our eyes are always bigger than our tummies when we are hungry and so are Little Mouse’s so he balances everything precariously so he can have it all. Just as he is leaving he spots his favourite treat – a stripy sunflower seed so he just has to have that too!

But he forgets that Cat is also looking for breakfast and Cat’s favourite is Mouse!

This is a charming story that explores the notion of being satisfied with what we have and not being greedy which has one of those uh-oh endings that little people love.  They will have fun predicting what might happen next!  With its muted palette, it has a retro feel about it both in appearance and storyline.  It is fresh and funny and I can hear the children’s reactions as Little Mouse’s pile grows higher and the shadow of Cat looms – s sure sign of a winner.

Perfect for sharing with little ones and recommending to their parents.  Check out the preview . 

 

The Truth According to Arthur

The Truth According to Arthur

The Truth According to Arthur

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Truth According to Arthur

Tim Hopgood

David Tazzyman

Bloomsbury, 2016

32pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781408864999

What do you do when you know you’ve done the wrong thing and you know you’re going to be in BIG TROUBLE when mum finds out?

Arthur has ridden his big brother’s bike, which he knows he not allowed to do, and he’s bumped into his mother’s car and left a big blue mark on it.  He and Truth are not best buddies right now because he is afraid of what will happen when his mum finds out.  So when his friend Noah asks him what happened, Arthur bends Truth just a little.  Noah tells him he thinks Arthur’s mum will be really cross which is not what Arthur wants to hear so when his friend Lula asked him, he stretches Truth instead.  But that didn’t work either so he tries covering Truth up, disguising it, even hiding it – but no matter what he did, Truth just kept popping up in his face.  Even ignoring it wasn’t very successful – and then Arthur hears his mum calling him!  Uh-oh!

We know little children tend to fib because they are afraid of the consequences of their actions but often the fibs get them into more strife.  This is a fresh look at this common predicament that will help Arthur and the children understand that no matter what they try to do, Truth is going to pop up anyway and often telling the truth immediately and taking responsibility is much more rewarding.  The torment of having the lie discovered is not worth the agony of waiting for it to be so.

With its distinctive illustrations and close-to-home storyline, young children will relate to this tale very well. Before the ending is revealed –will Arthur tell the truth or not – the reader is asked to predict what Arthur will do and then challenged to consider what they would do so it offers a superb opportunity to reflect and discuss both options and consequences. A unique book with lots of scope to delve deeper.

Wolfish Stew

Wolfish Stew

Wolfish Stew

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wolfish Stew

Suzi Moore

Erica Salcedo

Bloomsbury, 2016

32pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781408844953

 

There once was a rabbit whose name was Grey

And he went to the woods to pick berries one day.

With a basket in had he skipped along

As he skipped down the path, he sang this song.

“I must stick to the path, I must stay on the trail.

I must always look out for the BIG BUSHY TAIL.’

But Grey is so busy looking for the big bushy tail he forgets to look for the wolf’s other bits – his knees, his snout and his feet!

This is a catchy story-in-rhyme that will entertain and engage young readers as they follow Grey through the woods and try to spot the wolf and warn the carefree rabbit that there is danger nearby.  Wolves, woods and vulnerable creatures have been the source of children’s stories since the days of Little Red Riding Hood and The Three Little Pigs and there seems to be no end to their mean, sneaky, cunning ways.  Very young readers soon learn that if there is a wolf in the story then that means trouble for the hero and they will delight in trying to spot Blue in the colourful, detailed pictures and shout out the warnings to Grey, just as the narrator does. Tension rises when a knife and fork are spotted and the wolf’s intention is made very clear.

Young children love stories where the hero and villain are obvious, they can take sides to cheer them on, warn them of danger and celebrate when good triumphs over evil – especially when it comes in a superbly-crafted surprise ending as it does in this story.  Older minds might question whether the wolf was just doing what wolves do, and through an examination of similar tales, investigate whether wolves deserve the bad rap they have but younger ones will just love the way they can interact and enjoy this rollicking story-in-rhyme.

The greatest gift we can give our little ones is the pleasure and wonderment of story through engaging plots, stunning illustrations and a joyful use of language.  Wolfish Stew meets all those criteria.

Out for the Count

Out for the Count

Out for the Count

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Out for the Count

Anne Fine

Vicki Gausden

Barrington Stoke, 2016

96pp., pbk.,  RRP $A13.99

9781781125076

Like many children, Hugo would really like a pet – in his case, a gerbil.  He raises the issue again with his dad just as he is finishing the repainting of Hugo’s room.  Even though his father acknowledges that Hugo would probably look after it very well, he is not a fan of keeping things in cages and so the answer continues to be no.  However, there may be a compromise.  Hugo works out that the gerbil would only be in the cage for seven hours during the time he is at school, so his father suggests that Hugo experiences that by staying alone in his now-empty room for the same time.

Hugo accepts the challenge and at midday with just the newspaper already spread on the floor, a snack, three chosen toys (a ghost puppet, a bucket of bricks and a monkey on a stick) and his watch he enters the room to stay alone for seven hours.  And even though he also has what gerbils don’t – an imagination – the time creeps by so slowly it seems like it stands still.  Will Hugo last the seven hours?   

This is an entertaining short story for emerging readers written some time ago but repackaged for the Little Gems series which is deliberately designed to support students with dyslexia. The font is “dyslexia-friendly” helping those who confuse letter shapes to see them more clearly and spaced to minimise confusion; the pages are tinted and the paper thicker so illustrations are not “shadowed” on previous pages; the stories short but engaging; and the book is just right for small hands to hold and read alone.  Plots are linear and the language and its structure less complex than in other stories for a similar age group. “This process was developed by dyslexia and speech and language experts in response to research and feedback from thousands of readers on hundreds of Barrington Stoke manuscripts over the years.’ 

Dyslexic or not, Out for the Count is entertaining, witty and wise and will spark lots of conversations about people’s need to confine animals to cages and the “rightness” of this.

A Beginner’s Guide to Bear Spotting

A Beginner's Guide to Bear Spotting

A Beginner’s Guide to Bear Spotting

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Beginner’s Guide to Bear Spotting

Michelle Robinson

David Roberts

Bloomsbury, 2016

32pp., hbk., RRP $A22.99

9781408845554

 

If, like the child in the story, you are planning on going on a bear-spotting adventure, then this is definitely the must-have guide to have with you. You mustn’t venture into bear country without knowing the difference between the black bear (ursus americanus) and the brown bear (ursus horribilis, your backpack full of anti-bear gear such as pepper spray and bubble gum, and your trusty teddy for company. And as you are repeatedly told throughout the story, you need to pay attention, focus, take note and heed the advice.  For only with it will you be safe.

Even though the chances of coming across either one or the other is pretty unlikely, nevertheless it can happen and the strategies to be applied vary depending on the species.  Don’t climb a tree if it’s a black bear because it can follow you, whereas a brown one can’t.  Play dead if it’s a brown one, although that might be an invitation to dinner if you’ve confused them because black bears can be a little bit brown and brown bears can be a little bit black. 

This is a heart-warming adventure with beautiful illustrations with exquisite line-work that brings all the characters to life and add lots of humour so the reader can be brave and safe at the same time.

Little children love stories about bears, real or not, and this is another one to add to the collection that will bring delight and pleasure and reinforce the idea that stories and reading them are fun. And the next time they go on a bear hunt they will be well-prepared!

 

A peek inside...

A peek inside…