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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.

A Kiwi Year – twelve months in the life of New Zealand kids

A Kiwi Year

A Kiwi Year

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Kiwi Year – twelve months in the life of New Zealand kids

Tania McCartney

Tina Snerling

EK, 2017

32pp., hbk., RRP SA19.99

9781925335446

On the surface there don’t appear to be many difference between Australian kids and their Kiwi cousins apart from the fact the we Kiwis “talk funny”.  But as five Kiwi kids – Charlie, Ruby, Oliver, Mason and Kaia – show us as they journey through their year, there are subtle distinctions, enough to make their lives special and unique.

As well as different vocabulary like ‘tramping’ not ‘bushwalking’ and ‘jandals’ not ‘thongs’ Kiwi kids love rugby not rugby league or Australian Rules and are familiar with a very different range of flora and fauna.  Maori culture and the influence of our Pacific Island neighbours is very strong with official places and concepts being in both languages. Maoritanga is a mandatory part of the school curriculum.  The land is younger and much more mountainous and so winter is more severe with more opportunities to participate in snow sports, but summer sees us at the beach and playing cricket, even if we still remember that infamous underarm bowling incident.  

But like Australia, ANZAC Day is sacred and we remember those who put the NZ in the word, and with the European forefathers of both country being predominantly from the United Kingdom many of the annual festivals are the same.  But there are some that are unique that celebrate our heritage and landscape bringing a richness to our lives and our culture that is unique.

So many times I’ve heard Australians say they don’t want to go to New Zealand because it would be just like Australia in miniature, but once having been there, change their tune and marvel at just how different it is. Tania and Tina have ferreted out those things that make this country and its people unique and bring them to life through the eyes of the children, celebrating them in such a special way that this book will be handed on to my grandchildren (whose dad is also a Kiwi) so they can understand where they come from – and why Grandma is just a tad different at times!  LOL.

The Great Zoo Hullabaloo

The Great Zoo Hullabaloo

The Great Zoo Hullabaloo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Great Zoo Hullabaloo

Mark Carthew

Anil Tortop

New Frontier, 2017

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

9781925059786

“When Jess and Jack open the gates to the zoo
It was strangely deserted. Nobody said BOO.”

So where have all the creatures gone? Because the more they look, the less they see – just trails of scats and feathers and tracks. Determined to find them they separate following the clues but as dusk falls and there is still no sign, Jess is getting concerned.  Then comes the sound of music from the nearby bush and a huge flash of a flare splits the sky and Jack emerges.  The animals are having a party but what are they celebrating?

A charming story told in rhyme which  will enchant young listeners as they try to guess where the animals have gone, and once they’ve been discovered, predict what they are up to. Filled with movement and sound both words and pictures convey the fun and excitement of a party  – just the feel of the word ‘hullabaloo’ on the tongue is fun.  But being part of it is even more fun so be prepared for making music!

But  there is also the opportunity for little ones to learn more about the creatures in the zoo – the fact that each has a different-shaped foot that makes a unique track starts the exploration on the endpapers, the references to the different feathers of the different birds and the introduction of the term “scats” and what they are and how they offer valuable clues about their producer all meld to make this an intriguing initiation into a more in-depth recognition of animals than just their shape and colour.

Further ideas are available in the teachers’ notes and Anil Tortop has demonstrated her illustrative techniques  to show how a pencil sketch becomes such a beautiful picture full of depth and colour.

Home in the Rain

Home in the Rain

Home in the Rain

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Home in the Rain

Bob Graham

Walker Books, 2016

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

9781406368239

It is time for Mum and Francie to head home from Grandma’s. Despite the fact that it is bucketing down rain and the highway is crowded with buses, oil tankers, trucks and other cars they feel safe and secure in their little red car – as safe and secure as the baby tucked away in mum’s womb.

As the rain continues to tumble soaking everything in its path – good for the mouse obscured from the kestrel’s view but not so good for Marcus out fishing with his dad with the water dribbling down his neck- Mum pulls into the picnic spot to have the lunch Grandma has prepared. As they sit their breaths fog up the window, and, cloistered in this intimate environment, like all children, Francie cannot resist writing her name on the window.  After she writes her own, she writes Mum and Daddy but there is a window left, waiting for the name of the new sister due soon.  But what will it be?

With his gentle, detailed, watercolour-wash illustrations and carefully chosen text, once again Bob Graham has taken the most ordinary of situations and crafted a touching, memorable story that brings beauty to the mundane, something from very little. The climax of the story where Mum chooses the baby’s name comes in a dirty, busy petrol station – the antithesis of where such a memorable moment is likely to occur, although Graham finds the beauty as Francie splashes in the rainbows of the oil-water puddles.

Our names are our most personal possession and children are always curious to find out why their parents chose the names they did so this is the perfect opportunity for them to investigate how they came to be called what they are.  It is also an opportunity to compare the various reasons as well as investigate popular names, collect data and share what they learn.

At the same time there is much to talk about being caught in the rain. where the rain comes from, how it makes you feel and why windows clog up. Further afield, they can look to the impact of the rain on the landscape – why has Graham introduced the rabbit, the mouse, the kestrel, the ducks, the fishermen, Marcus, even the two men who have had a bingle in the car?  

As is typical in his books, Graham has included so much with more to be discovered and considered each time it is shared.  Shortlisted for the 2017 CBCA Picture Book of the Year award, this is one that will be hard to beat.

The Twelve Underwater Days of Christmas

christmas_countdown_2016

 

 

 

 

The Twelve Underwater Days of Christmas

The Twelve Underwater Days of Christmas

The Twelve Underwater Days of Christmas

Kim Michelle Toft

Silkim Books, 2007

hbk 9780975839041

pbk 9780975839034

 

Take the traditional Christmas song, add the most magnificent creatures of the world’s oceans, include important information about those creatures and immerse the whole in the beautiful painted silk artworks of Kim Michelle Toft and you have, quite simply, my most favourite Christmas book ever!

Toft has used the words of The Twelve Days of Christmas not only to introduce readers to the dwellers of the deep, but has also built on the tradtional concept of gift-giving at this time to emphasise what a precious present these creatures  are – one that we may not enjoy for much longer if we don’t start to value it now.

“All of the magnificent creatures in this book rely on the ocean for their survival and many were once found in abundance.  This is no longer true.  Modern technology, huge increases in the world’s population and lack of management have resulted in some serious problems.  These problems include over fishing, pollution from poorly treated sewage, effluents from oil spoils, litter and global warmingwhich is contributing to the destruction of coral reefs all around the world.  It is up to nations,  governments and the will of the people to work together to help conserve these incredible gifts from nature.”

Thus, as well as being a stunning visual feast, there is a serious message that can be emphasised, enabling this book to sit well within any sustainability curriculum.  Even though students might not be able to replicate the artworks which are handdrawn with gold gutta on white silk then painted with brushes using silk dyes, the concept itself might inspire a class project of those things in the local region that might disappear if no action to preserve them is taken.

At the end of the book is an amazing poster containing all the creatures mentioned, and some versions have a CD of Toft’s lyrics sung by Lisa Hunt.  What a wonderful song to add to the Christmas repetoire.

Toft always writes and illustrates about her passion – the preservation of ocean life – and you can see all her publications here and as a bonus, here’s a full unit of work for The World that We Want.

She is one who must have a place on your library’s shelves – school or home.

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

 

Don't miss the poster!

Don’t miss the poster!

 

Clark the Shark Loves Christmas

christmas_countdown_2016

 

 

 

 

Clark the Shark Loves Christmas

Clark the Shark Loves Christmas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Clark the Shark Loves Christmas

Bruce Hale

Guy Francis

Harper, 2016

32pp., hbk., RRP $A34.99

9780062374523

At Theodore Roosterfish Elementary School,  Clark the Shark loves everything about Christmas – the decorations, the cookies and the carols.  But when Miss Inkydink announces that this year there will be a Secret Santa and he gets to pick a name from the hat so everyone eventually gets a present he is even more excited.  Clark thinks the best thing about Christmas is getting presents.  

But Clark doesn’t like secrets and so he spends his time trying to discover who has picked his name, totally forgetting that he is supposed to buy a present for his friend.  So when there is just one day left and he has spent all his money, he has to part with his favourite comic book even though he doesn’t even know if Benny likes comics.  Everyone else seems to have put a lot of thought into what they have given…

This is an exuberant tale that will resonate with those who have been around littlies who are so excited about the getting and still have to learn about the giving.  The illustrations with their colour, movement and detail help build the feeling of excitement and because it has a happy ending there’s room for a chat about what Christmas should really be about.  

This is the fifth in the series about Clark and will appeal to young children who enjoy something a little different from the usual Christmas story.

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…

 

 

Fright Club

Fright Club

Fright Club

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fright Club

Ethan Long

Bloomsbury, 2015

30pp., board book, RRP $A9.99

9781681190433

It is the night before Hallowe’en and time for one final meeting of the Fright Club to make sure that all is in readiness for Operation Kiddie Scare.  Vladimir is determined that his monsters will be perfect with their ghoulish faces, scary moves and chilling sounds.  But he only allows the scariest monsters to join – Only the scariest of monsters can join Fright Club-Vladimir the Vampire, Fran K. Stein, Sandy Witch, and Virginia Wolf have all made the cut – so when an ‘adorable bunny’ knocks and requests membership, it is turned away.    The same things happens when the bunny returns with Frances Foxx, Public Attorney, claiming discrimination.     But Bunny and Foxx have a plan…

Don’t be put off by the format of this book – board books are usually associated with simple stories for the very young – because it is an engaging story that will not only send shivers up the spine but have the audience practising their own ghoulish faces, scary moves and chilling sounds so they, too, can become members of the Fright Club.  Frances Foxx’s  question about whether  only monsters can be frightening can open up discussion about what they might be frightened of as well as opening the door for an investigation about why people dress up to scare at this time of the year.  Even though Hallowe’en is widely dismissed as “an American thing that should have stayed there”, its origins go back long before America was even discovered and provide for a fascinating insight into the beliefs and thoughts of our ancestors – something that is crucial to understanding the works of those like Shakespeare!

Ethan Long is an award-winning author and it’s easy to see why with his ability to pack so much into what is seemingly a simple story for littlies.  They will enjoy it.

The Everything Princess Book

The Everything Princess Book

The Everything Princess Book

The Everything Princess Book

Barbara Beery

Brooke Jorden

Michele Robbins

David Miles

Rebecca Sorge

Bloomsbury, 2016

160pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9781942934653

This book is exactly what the title says – it is all to do with princesses and royalty from stories to recipes, games and activities, things to make and how to be a princess. Richly illustrated,  it begins with half a dozen traditional stories of princesses from around the world and then moves on to a section bursting with all sorts of recipes fir for a secret garden tea party, a cottage picnic and a pink princess party .  There are tips for serving the food, correct table manners and etiquette including how to wave and curtsey and even a guide to the members of the Royal household.  In fact there is little about being a princess that is not covered.

Going through a ‘princess stage’ is almost a rite of passage for little girls, enhanced by Disney’s adaptations of many of the traditional fairy tales, and there was always a big demand for anything of this nature in the school I was in last year, particularly with those girls who were learning English as another language and who saw this as a way into the language of the playground.  This would be like a bible for them as the stories and concepts are already familiar so as well as speaking the ‘same language’ they can now read it too.

With is lavish hardcover protecting its spiral bound contents, it is attractive and would be one to recommend to grandparents looking for something special for the Christmas stocking.

Bizzy Bear Spooky House

Bizzy Bear Spooky House

Bizzy Bear Spooky House

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bizzy Bear Spooky House

Benji Davies

Nosy Crow, 2016

10pp., board book., RRP $A9.99

9780857636904

“The ever-intrepid Bizzy Bear has come for a visit to a super-spooky Halloween house. As he climbs the rickety stairs and walks the cobwebby corridors, all sorts of creepy characters appear from doors and hidey holes. Bizzy, naturally, remains undaunted – but where could he be going and what will he find there?”

This is a delightful board book perfect for the very young who will enjoy the rhyming text and the interactivity of the things to discover on the pages.  Discovering what’s hiding behind the chair, who’s behind the door and predicting why they are all getting together will delight them for ages.  Although there is little text, there is great detail in the colourful illustrations which will enrich and enhance the child’s vocabulary as they make their collection of spooky things.

I predict it will become a favourite as they will be able to tell themselves the story very easily.