Archives

First Day

First Day

First Day

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First Day

Margaret Wild

Kim Gamble

Allen & Unwin, 2017

32pp., pbk, RRP $A14.99

9781760293918

Like thousands of other children around Australia at this time, Salma, Khalil, Jun, Stephen, Penny and Alex are getting ready for their first day of school.  Each has a different routine and each has different emotions.  Each has things they can do really well and each has things that bother them – differences that every kindergarten teacher knows will make this another exciting year as personalities emerge, learning happens and unbreakable bonds are made.  Because no matter what those differences are – whether they are how the children are feeling, who is in their family, even how they journey to school, like Ms Manoli it is their job to shape and direct these young lives so their first day of school is the best day and each child feels excited and empowered to come back again and again and again… or twelve years!

Sharing First Day on the first day is a great way to start the school year as it will help the children understand that each of them is an individual but whatever their hopes and fears, they are shared by others and they are not alone.  Even adults, like Alex’s mum who is also returning to school for the first time in a long time has similar feelings so it’s not babyish to be feeling apprehensive and concerned.

It could also be a solid foundation for a foray into the early steps of information literacy as each child compares their feelings, expectations, achievements and routines with the children in the story.  There is scope for sequencing as they map the school day; graphing as they discover how each comes to school; mapping as they identify key parts of the school like Stephen who needs to know where all the toilets are – a host of real-life, in-context activities that can kickstart this learning journey.

First Day was first published 20 years ago – it is testament to its quality that it is still in print and still a staple of the early childhood collection.

Penguin Problems

Penguin Problems

Penguin Problems

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Penguin Problems

Jory John

Lane Smith

Walker Books,  2016

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

9781406375992

Poor Mortimer.  His life really is difficult.  It’s so hard living in the Antarctic when you don’t like snow, the light is too bright, you have to swim in the ocean which is too dark and it smells salty, you sink like a stupid rock and there are lots of things that want you to be their dinner.  And when you are on land you have to waddle and you look silly when you waddle, and that’s just the beginning.  Try looking like everyone else and not being able to find your parents… Is there no end to the problems that penguins have?  Every day seems to be a “terrible, horrible, no good very bad day” and then a  walrus tapping him on the shoulder. Is this day going to have a very bad ending too?

Apart from being very funny even though Mortimer himself is so serious and makes sure he gets the last word, this is an important book in the armoury of the mindfulness collection and even moreso with the issue of children’s mental health attracting official attention so teachers in all sectors can detect and determine students’ problems early. Mortimer is definitely a pessimist who can see no joy in anything and as teachers, we are all aware of the child in our class who has a similar outlook.  While one story alone is not going to turn this around – as the final page in the story suggests – nevertheless we can help children start to count their blessings, look for positive validation in themselves and offer genuine affirmation to others. 

Perhaps the author deliberately chose a penguin as his protagonist because of their stark “black-and-whiteness” where life is either good or bad and Lane through her illustration style not only softens the edges of Mortimer but also his surroundings so that there is the possibility of some light getting through.  If we are teaching our students to be critical readers and ask, “What is the author’s purpose for writing ?” ;”What does the author want me to know from reading this story?” and “How is the message being conveyed?” then this would be an excellent tool as we try to get them to examine  issues of objectivity and accuracy in other resources.

Right from the get-go with no title on the front cover (it is on the back, though) and the inner flap setting Mortimer’s tone, the reader knows this story is going to be different. A search online will reveal a range of resources to support it, but as with all quality picture books, it stands alone as an entertaining story first and foremost whether its underlying message is explored or not. 

 

I Went to See Santa

 

 

 

I Went to See Santa

I Went to See Santa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Went to See Santa

Paul Howard

Bloomsbury, 2017

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

9781408844724

It’s a classic scenario of little ones and their need to be just that bit better than their friend.  So when the little girl announces that she went to see Santa and got a pair of Christmas glasses, her friend says well he not only got Christmas glasses but also an amazing magic set!

And so it goes on and on, getting more and more fabulous until the most unexpected end!

Young children love stories like this where they can not only join in but also help the ageing, forgetful adult remember all the things in the list.  

If you share this with more than one, prepare for a rollicking, raucous time that will bring joy and delight and an affirmation that stories and books and reading are FUN!

Little i

Little i

Little i

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Little i

Michael Hall

Greenwillow Books, 2017

48pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9780062383006

The alphabet letters were quite happy being what they were until one day Little i’s dot fell off.  It rolled down a hill, tumbled over a cliff and splashed into the sea.  Little i felt weird and the other letters felt confused because now Little i looked like a number and you can’t make words with numbers.  

So Little i decided to find his dot and starts off on an adventure that takes him to some interesting places. His question mark boat takes him across the seas until he finds an island that has a remarkable sea passage that passes a spectacular exclamation point waterfall, through the cold dark parenthesis tunnel (with asterisk gems), through the field of lovely comma sprouts, across the spine-chilling hyphen bridge to the very edge of the land where his dot completes his journey like a full stop at the end of a sentence.  But when Little i puts his dot back on he feels strange, setting his quest and his story up for an imaginative and fun end.

With bold shapes and colours, this is one of those books that seems really simple on the surface but then you wonder what sort of mind could make such a story. But then he did write Red, A Crayon’s Story.  Not only is it clever it is brilliant, so rich in so much for the very young reader. Little i feels incomplete without his dot and that he doesn’t really belong in the alphabet, just as some children feel adrift if they haven’t got their mum, a special friend or a favourite toy by their side and so talking about Little i’s story may help them realise that they can not only survive without that security blanket but be even better for being brave enough to leave it behind.  Self-confidence in who we are is such a critical part of growing up.

It is also wonderful for those who are just beginning to understand that words are constructed from letters – Hall shows this by having the letters in the words do their talking; distinguishing between letters and numerals; and maybe starting to wonder what the other marks on the page are. There is a myriad of talking and teaching opportunities as the children demonstrate their knowledge of those initial concepts about print that are part of early kindergarten assessments.  Yet, whatever level the child is at for looking at the technicalities and tools of language, overall and throughout there is an engaging story and a satisfying finish which have to be at the core of anything we share with little ones if they are to love stories and reading and all that they offer.

If this were Australian, I’d be looking for it during Awards Season 2018!  

If You’re Happy And You Know It

If You're Happy And You Know It

If You’re Happy And You Know It

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If You’re Happy And You Know It

Barbara Szepesi Szucz

Zonderkidz, 2017

20pp., board book., RRP $A15.99

9780310759225

There are few little ones who don’t learn this catchy tune very early and love to move to it as they follow the actions. So this new board book version, sturdy enough to survive the repeated readings it will get, is perfect for involving them in the reading process and helping them understand that they can be readers too. Asking about what makes them happy them for other actions that they can do to demonstrate their feelings is always a winning activity.

All sorts of creatures having fun together in the park  portrayed in a childlike way with happy expressions and bright colours will attract their attention and before long, instead of being a first-read at bedtime it will be an all-day favourite.

Jump and Shout

Jump and Shout

Jump and Shout

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jump and Shout

Mike Dumbleton

Peter Carnavas

Little Book Press, 2017

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

 9780994385376

Is there anything better than a family picnic in the park where you can walk and run, jump and shout and climb and swing and then flop and drop at day’s end?

This is a rollicking adventure perfect for preschoolers who will recognise themselves in the story and will love to join in all the actions as they relive a special day out they have had, right through to the very end!

Written in rhyme with each word cleverly illustrated to show what it says, this is one that a little one will soon read independently as the content is so familiar. Dumbleton and Carnavas   really know how to reach our younger readers and start them on their adventures in reading.

Those of you familiar with The Little Big Book Club and Raising Literacy Australia and their work with early childhood literacy will be glad to know that Little Book Press is its new official publishing house and there is already an extensive catalog of titles perfect for preschoolers, many of which have been reviewed on this blog.  

 

Madeline Finn and the Library Dog

Madeline Finn and the Library Dog

Madeline Finn and the Library Dog

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Madeline Finn and the Library Dog

Lisa Papp

Old Barn Books, 2017

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

9781910646328

Madeline Finn does not like to read. Not books. Not magazines. Not even the menu on the ice cream van. Reading out loud in class is a nightmare and the words get stuck in her mouth “like peanut butter” and the other children laugh.  While they get stars from their teacher, all Madeline gets is a “Keep Trying” sticker.  She gets a lot of those.  But she desperately wants a star and so one night she makes a wish on a star for a star.  

Sadly, some wishes take a bit of time to come true and come the end of the week and it’s time for her to visit the local library she is truly despondent, is tired of trying and has all but convinced herself she will never be a reader.  But librarian Mrs Dimple has a surprise for her – a surprise that will not only turn her reading around but also her life…

There are children like Madeline Finn in every class – children who hate the out-dated practice of having to read aloud to the group because all it does is shine a public light on their struggles as they try to master the written word and self-talk themselves further and further down the rabbit hole of being a non-reader.  As a teacher and teacher librarian who has spent 45 years helping little ones to read I wanted to shake Madeline’s teacher and show her that stickers and stars and “keep trying” are fruitless – but then Lisa Papp wouldn’t have had a story and there wouldn’t have been a happy outcome, albeit fraught with anxiety, for Madeline.

Sharing this story with the class will help the Madelines understand that there are many kids like them who just haven’t quite got reading sorted yet, but that it is achievable and even enjoyable. They are not the only ones who find the squiggles on the page confronting but that it is OK to make “mistakes” and these become fewer as their understanding and confidence grows.  Reading is not about the stars on a chart, but the inner satisfaction of being immersed in something that takes you away from the here and now and into the land of imagination and possibility. 

More and more the power of dogs as pets as therapy is being recognised and they are turning up in all sorts of places. While it might not be possible to have one in your school library, it is possible to substitute Bonnie for a teddy – or a host of teddies – so those who have yet to develop confidence in their reading because they believe “real readers” don’t make mistakes can have a non-judgemental partner to read to.  My experience was children who dreaded coming to the library would be there before school and at lunchtimes reading to their favourite teddy – I ended up with about 50 in the collection – as they built their confidence and their skills in a safe, friendly, non-threatening environment. They even became regular borrowers!

While this story will bring comfort and hope to a lot of little people, hopefully it will also inspire teachers to reflect on their professional practice and consider whether they are doing things that inadvertently marginalise their not-there-yet readers and make changes.  

Teacher’s hat is now off!

 

 

Big Box Little Box

Big Box Little Box

Big Box Little Box

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Big Box Little Box

Caryl Hart

Edward Underwood

Bloomsbury, 2017

32pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

9781408872765

Big box, little box…

My box, YOUR box!

Cat loves boxes – all sorts of boxes – big, small, fat, thin, huge tiny… and in this romp in rhyme so many boxes are explored. But it is not just a collection of rhyming words or opposites, there is a story told in the clever choice of words and their accompanying pictures that early readers will be able to tell for themselves, delighting in their ability to read.  

This is a great story to share with little ones because there is so much to share and talk about. If a fat cat sits on a little box, what will be the outcome?  And if a box has a corner nibbled out of it, what might be inside? And given the obvious answer, is this story about to end badly? Two word phrases, rhyme, bold pictures, humour, predictability that engages the reader – a perfect combination to take our youngest readers further into their love with reading. 

 

DK Children’s Encyclopedia

DK Children's Encyclopedia

DK Children’s Encyclopedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DK Children’s Encyclopedia

DK, 2017

304pp., hbk., RRP $A49.99

9780241283868

 

Miss 6, a newly independent reader with an insatiable curiosity for the world around her, came to stay for the weekend.  As usual, after dumping her bag where Grandad could trip over it she headed straight for my pile of review books to see what was new and this encyclopedia was on the top of the pile… and that was the last we saw of her till teatime.

Written for her age group with appropriate language, sentence structure, pictures and layout at last she felt she had found something just right for her.  No more having to get Miss 11 or a nearby adult to help her find things and then explain them – she was independent and LOVING it. (And no arbitrary phonics tests to test her skills – she was motivated, she expected to find out what she wanted to know and she had a range of strategies to draw on!)

Each page is devoted to a topic and with its alphabetical arrangement she was able to flip through to what she wanted, although after she learned how to use the Contents page she felt very grown up. Nine different key subject areas are covered – Art, People, History, Earth, Nature, Science, Technology, Space and the Human Body – all those which fascinate this age group and each is colour-coded so classifying is easy and the idea of grouping like with like is reinforced.  Each topic also has a “See Also” box so the reader can read more in related topics, and there is a comprehensive glossary, an index and a Reference section, each of which Miss 6 wanted to learn how to use “so I can use my book properly.” There are also several “Story of…” pages, double-page spreads which bring together information from different perspectives to take the thinking further.

While her bag was somewhat heavier when she left for home, Miss 6 didn’t mind the extra weight because she now had her “very own ‘cyclopedia”, had learned a lot of new skills and was feeling very smug. 

This is the perfect addition to your early childhood collection so little people can feel as empowered as Miss 6 and a perfect suggestion for parents for the Christmas stocking!

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

 

There Is NO Dragon In This Story

There Is No Dragon In This Story

There Is No Dragon In This Story

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There Is NO Dragon In This Story

Lou Carter

Deborah Allwright

Bloomsbury, 2017

32pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

9781408864906

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.