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Fairytales for Feisty Girls

Fairytales for Feisty Girls

Fairytales for Feisty Girls

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fairytales for Feisty Girls

Susannah McFarlane

Allen & Unwin, 2018

128pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781760523541

Fairytales have a history much older than the sanitised Walt Disney versions that our young readers are familiar with; even older than the 19th century collections of the Brothers Grimm or Perrault in the 17th century- they delve right back into the history of oral storytelling, many based on true events that were brutal and terrifying, too horrific to record in print even for  Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm. However, they were determined to preserve the old stories that told of their Central European heritage  and so using the folklore as a basis, they created stories that were solidly rooted in good versus evil and didactic.

Their stories and those of others like Hans Christian Andersen have become part of our children’s literary heritage princesses are pretty, princes handsome, where good always triumphs usually at the hand of some man, and everyone lives happily ever after.  But society changes and so must the stories, particularly as the call for non-traditional princesses who save themselves grows ever louder.  So this collection of retellings of Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella and Thumbelina is a welcome and timely addition to a long line of reinterpretations.

Still using the original premise and plot, Susannah McFarlane has expanded the stories and woven endings that are completely plausible and palatable for those looking for strong, independent, resourceful and resilient female characters.  The heroes are as feisty as their readers. Written by the editor of Stuff Happens  one of my favourite series for boys, and beautifully illustrated by a number of female Australian illustrators, this is a book for the slightly older independent reader who is familiar with the Disney versions and can appreciate the twists that McFarlane has included.

Thirty years ago when we were just beginning to teach children about protecting themselves through programs like Protective Behaviours, Try Again Red Riding Hood was a preferred resource because it shone a spotlight on the actions of familiar characters and how they could have done things differently.  Fairytales for Feisty Girls takes this concept to the nth degree, perhaps becoming the latest evolution of stories that are almost as old as Methuselah! Students might like to try re-writing one of the other traditional tales in a similar vein.

The Hole

The Hole

The Hole

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Hole

Kerry Brown

Lucia Masciullo

ABC Books, 2018 

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

9780733335235

Squirrel is making her way through the woods with a basket of goodies to share with her cousin Vera.  But when she stops to have a rest, she spies a hole in the ground and being inquisitive she peers down it. Wondering who lives there she climbs into it, only to find she can’t touch the bottom and she is stuck because she can’t get a purchase on the sheer walls to hoist herself up.  Her shouts for help are heard by an ostrich passing by, also with a basket of goodies to share with his cousin but when he sticks his long neck down the hole to investigate, it is longer than squirrel’s legs and he declares he can’t see anything,  Trouble strikes when his head his wedged in the hole, both Squirrel and Ostrich convinced that there is a monster at the bottom of the hole who will have them both for his lunch. Three monkeys also find themselves trapped and when a tiny mouse appears to waken the monster by yelling at it, everyone seems doomed…

This is a charming  adventure that engages from the get-go with its 3D cover featuring a hole filled with black and two bright eyes!  Young readers will suggest that it’s about a monster at the bottom of a hole but the monster shape revealed on the front page could be anything so there are no clues there,  The story begins with Squirrel’s curiosity, moves through the willingness of others to help those in distress or need and ends with a friendship amongst some unlikely characters. Young readers might like to speculate on what might be at the bottom of the hole, although they are unlikely to guess because it’s not a creature young Australians would be familiar with.  Nevertheless, the scope for describing the monster that might be there is endless. They could also put themselves in the position of the squirrel, the ostrich and the monkeys to consider how they would respond – would they be curious, would they help or would they continue of their journey because someone is expecting them?

Its rhyming format and the cumulative text make it perfect for reading aloud and Masciullo’s illustrations capture the emotions and the drama of the moment perfectly.

Teachers’ notes are available.

Duck!

Duck!

Duck!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Duck!

Meg McKinlay

Nathaniel Eckstrom

Walker Books, 2018

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

9781925381535

It was a quiet afternoon on the farm with the horse, cow, pig and sheep going about their horse, cow, pig and sheep business when the tranquility was interrupted by a little duck shouting “Duck!”  Annoyed at being disturbed and so egocentric is each creature that they are more intent on pointing out their differences from and therefore superiority over the duck that they don’t notice the darkening sky or that Duck has donned a bucket-helmet.  Until…

Those familiar with the other meaning of the word ‘duck’and who have keen eyes will pick up on what is about to happen and those familiar with that classic tale by L. Frank Baum will delight in the final page.

Meg McKinlay, author of No Bears  and Once Upon a Small Rhinoceros always tells a great story that is worthy of a dozen reads and this is no exception.  The illustrations are so perfect for the story you would think that the two were in the same room collaborating on each spread, rather than being on opposite sides of the country.

Pure charm!

Tropical Terry

Tropical Terry

Tropical Terry

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tropical Terry

Jarvis

Walker, 2018 

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

9781406376425

Terry is a very plain fish who lives with his best friends Cilla the crab and Steve the sea snail, playing games like Dodge-a-Dolphin, Shark Speed and Hide-a-Fish. But while he enjoys their company and the games, he secretly covets the glamour of the other residents of Coral Reef City as they flit about showing off their colourful, glittery finery.  But they see Terry as dull and boring and shun him leaving Terry sad and isolated. 

But then he has an idea and after a bit of this and a bit of that he emerges as the most stunning, dazzling tropical fish in the ocean.  Immediately those who shunned him the day before are attracted and beg him to play with them.  Swishy, swishy, swooshy, swooshy – Terry joins his new friends leaving Cilla and Steve behind.  But as well as attracting his new friends, Terry has also caught the eye of Eddie the Eel who has just one thing on his mind…dinner!

This is a new take on the old themes of being satisfied with and proud of who you are, being comfortable in your own skin, being careful about what you wish for and the value of real friends.  It builds to a climax and young readers will want to know if Terry escapes and whether his new “friends” will still be friends.  The bright illustrations contrast with Terry’s feeling of being dull and with their rich blue background, the reader feels they are part of that undersea world with all its riches and colours. 

Perfect for inspiring discussions about individuality and valuing the differences of others as well as artwork!.

Grandmas from Mars

Grandmas from Mars

Grandmas from Mars

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grandmas from Mars

Michelle Robinson

Fred Blunt

Bloomsbury, 2018 

32pp., pbk., $A12.99

9781408888766

Fred and Nell’s parents are off to an important meeting, as are many of the other parents in their town, and so the children are being left with Grandma. In lots of houses parents are saying,,,

“It’s school in the morning, they can’t be up late…

So: homework, a bath – and in bed before eight”

And the grandmas are saying…

“Eat up your greens”

Stop picking your nose.

Give grandma a kiss

What your grandma says goes.”

Meanwhile, on Mars the Martians are watching and they hatch a plan…suddenly the earth grandmas are beamed up and lookalike substitutes take their place.  Grandmas that encourage the children to eat junk food, stay up all night, and do all the forbidden things that have appealed for so long.  

But is it all fun?  Is this really Grandma? Is that a spare eyeball? A tail? A striped tongue?” As the penny drops and the children realise not all is at it seems, they run… but can they escape?

Refreshing as it is to see grandmas who are not stereotypical little old ladies with their hair in a bun, wearing a cardigan and satisfied with sitting and knitting (a concept somewhat alien to today’s young readers) perhaps a grandma from Mars is a step too far as alternative! Young readers will delight in this rollicking rhyming story with its bright actin-packed pictures that introduces someone who, on the surface, seems more the sort of grandma they want  but then will be grateful for the loving grandma that they have. I know Miss 7 and Miss 12 will be counting their blessings after reading this! And they may just be grateful for the lessons they’ve learned…

Be careful what you wish for!

The Little Mermaid

The Little Mermaid

The Little Mermaid

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Little Mermaid

Alex Field

Owen Swan

New Frontier, 2018

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

9781925059816

In 1837, Hans Christian Andersen gave the world his classic story of Ariel, the little mermaid who falls in love with a human prince and in exchange for legs so she can walk on earth with him, she gives up her voice. It is very much a tale of “Be careful what you wish for.”

Retold many times and in many formats, probably the most-well-known version being that of Disney, this is a new retelling that goes back to the original without all the “trimmings”.  For younger readers who are emerging as independent readers, it is retold simply in a straight-forward manner with beautiful new illustrations in water colour and coloured pencils. 

While teachers’ notes are available, it could be used as one of a number of versions of this story to compare and contrast additions, alterations and omissions that the various retellers have chosen to make.  

Others in this series include The Ugly Duckling, The Princess and the Pea, Little Red Riding Hood and Beauty and the Beast.

Giants, Trolls, Witches, Beasts – Ten Tales from the Deep, Dark Woods

Giants, Trolls, Witches, Beasts - Ten Tales from the Deep, Dark Woods

Giants, Trolls, Witches, Beasts – Ten Tales from the Deep, Dark Woods

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Giants, Trolls, Witches, Beasts – Ten Tales from the Deep, Dark Woods

Craig Phillips

Allen & Unwin, 2017

192pp., pbk., RRP $A24.99

9781760113261

Ever since there have been children there has been children’s literature and having children learn lessons about life through this literature has been a constant thread in every culture across the globe.  Since the earliest days of mankind, stories have been created and told from generation to generation not just to explain the unknown but also to inspire better, more mature and moral behaviour in children with dire consequences inflicted by fearful creatures if boundaries were breached.  Didacticism was alive and well with stories featuring giants, trolls, witches, beasts and other fantastic figures achieving amazing things, wreaking havoc, surviving disasters or decreeing punishments so that adults as well as children lived in fear of retribution for misdeeds.

Now, with modern communication and science, while such creatures do not have the power of fear they once had, nevertheless they are still a central part of today’s literature with stories like the Harry Potter series and Game of Thrones commanding huge audiences as well as a continuing fascination for those stories in which the modern have their origins.  But until now, these have been retold and republished in formats that tend to scream “younger readers” and from which those who see themselves as more mature than the “picture book brigade” shy away from regardless of the quality of the content.  So to have ten traditional tales from ten countries brought together in graphic novel format as creator Craig Phillips has done is going to create a buzz of excitement.  Here, in one superbly illustrated volume, are stories featuring giants, trolls, witches and beasts with all their magical powers and chilling feats and universal messages of courage and obedience. that will appeal to those who are fascinated by this genre in a format that will support and sustain their reading.

Phillips has kept his audience in mind as he has drawn – the imaginary creatures are all sufficiently gruesome and grisly so their characters are clear but not so much that they will inspire nightmares. The mix of familiar and unfamiliar characters offers something for each reader to explore and perhaps think about why stories from such diverse origins have such similar themes.  Is there indeed, a moral and ethical code that links humans regardless of their beliefs and circumstance?

One that will appeal to a wide range of readers and deserving of its place among the 2018 CBCA Notables.

 

Lola Dutch

Lola Dutch

Lola Dutch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lola Dutch

Kenneth Wright

Sarah Jane Wright

Bloomsbury USA, 2018

40pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781681195513

Sometimes Lola Dutch is a little bit much!  Each morning she wakes up brimming with ideas about how to have an AMAZING day and then, with her animal friends, goes about doing so.  

It starts with breakfast where Gator gets grits and gravy, Pig gets pastries with hot chocolate and marshmallows, Crane orders crepes and cream and all the while her friend Bear watches on with trepidation because he knows who gets to wash the dishes and clean up. On their morning walk, Lola decides to go to the library and while the others read about great inventors, chemists and writers, Lola reads about great artists – which sets her imagination running…

And so the day goes on, with Lola’s imagination knowing no bounds and Bear trying to rein it in a little.  Even bedtime is not calming and peaceful until Lola discovers that despite the frenetic day, there is really only one thing she needs.

Inspired by the antics of their four children, this husband and wife team have created a book that not only is full of big ideas but also leaves the reader a bit breathless.  Parents choosing to read this to their children at bedtime need to be ready for their suggestions for how their next day can be AMAZING – and then hope it’s all forgotten about come morning, unless they want an AMAZING day too! If they do, there’s more here.

 

A Lion is A Lion

A Lion is A Lion

A Lion is A Lion

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Lion is A Lion

Polly Dunbar

Walker, 2018

40pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781406371536

Before you start to read this entertaining book with your littlies, brainstorm all the words they associate with the image of a lion. 

Most likely, the word “fierce” will be among those suggested.

BUT… is a lion still a lion if he wears a hat? Or carries an umbrella? Is he still fierce and angry and scary and any of those other words that were suggested?

Or does any of the other seemingly friendly things that this lion does when he comes to visit in this hilarious but cautionary tale?

Is there a reason we are warned to “never smile at a crocodile” or that “a leopard doesn’t change its spots”?

Rhythmic text and engaging illustrations carry this story at a rollicking pace, rather like an old-fashioned vaudeville act where you want to yell out and warn the children that there is a dastardly villain hiding in the wings and all is not what it seems!  Provoke discussions about why the lion is dressing up and being so nice; draw parallels with the wolf in Little Red Riding Hood; start a conversation about stranger dangerand investigate the message of “You can’t judge a book by its cover.”  But most importantly, enjoy a fun read!

Molly Mischief: My Perfect Pet

Molly Mischief: My Perfect Pet

Molly Mischief: My Perfect Pet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Molly Mischief: My Perfect Pet

Adam Hargreaves

Pavilion, 2017

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

9781843653424

Molly, aka Molly Mischief or MOLLY!!!, has lots of ideas, some of which are not as good as others.  When her dad takes her and her brother to the zoo, she decides that she would really like a BIG pet, one much bigger than Polka her pet mouse.

And so she tries a few – a hippopotamus, a polar bear, a giraffe, a tiger, a rhinoceros, even a walrus – but none of them is just right.  Even the ostrich and the snake weren’t suitable – her family is so hard to please.  But then she discovers the elephant…

 When his father Roger died after a series of strokes in 1988, Adam took over the successful Mr Men series and even though it took him “years of trial and error” to perfect his father’s art style, he persevered and it is that same canvas that adds the charm to this new series that will resonate with many children who have good but out-there ideas, annoying brothers, and a twinkle in their eye.  

When almost-independent Miss 6 spotted this on the review pile, she pounced on it and did not surface until it was complete, and even after reading it she had so much to tell us as she speculated on the sort of pet she could/would have! A better recommendation than any fancy words I might write!