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I Can Only Draw Worms

I Can Only Draw Worms

I Can Only Draw Worms

I Can Only Draw Worms

Will Mabbitt

Puffin, 2017

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

9780141375182

 “This book is about worms. (I can only draw worms.) “

And so that’s just what we are presented with.  Bright hot-pink worms (except for one yellow one because he lost his pen) that mix and mingle and get to know each other and have adventures, all of which the reader has to imagine because the author can only draw worms.  Set on white page juxtaposed with some really bright backgrounds the reader is drawn in, but while the blurb suggests that the book is “hilarious” and guaranteed to have children howling with laughter” I think there is a gap between the age of the reader that it visually appeals to and that able to grasp the humour.

It’s different, it’s quirky, it’s definitely bright and young readers will love to join in the counting aspect as Mabbitt brings this most humble creature to life., encouraging them to use their imagination to fill in all the missing illustrations because he can only draw worms.  

Handstand

Handstand

Handstand

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Handstand

Lisa Stickley

Pavilion, 2016

32pp., hbk., RRP $A17.99

9781843653127

Little girls love to do handstands and Edith is no exception.  She is teaching herself and each day she gets a little better increasing her upside-downness by a second each day.  But each day something interrupts her concentration like the worm who popped up by her hand, the bird who used her hand for target practice and the spider that crawled down her shorts when she rested her legs against a tree.  But nevertheless she keeps on practising…

This is an interesting book – it’s tagline is “a kind of counting book” which it is as Edith manages an extra handstand and an extra second each day and the words and numbers are included in the illustrations.  But it is also intriguing because as she encounters each little creature the creature gives its perspective on how Edith has interrupted it, offering an introduction to getting young readers to see things from another point of view.  The worm pops his head above ground and sees “a giant hand next to my preferred popping up place”.  It could spark some discussion and drawing about how little girls and little boys appear to the creatures in their environment. Resilience is also a theme – how we must practise and practise to get better and not be deterred by trivial things like a spider in your knickers.

The appearance of the book is also interesting – harking back to a time when handstand competitions were features of recess and lunch break entertainment for girls of my era, the colours and style give it a definite retro feel.  Even the name ‘Edith’ suggests a bygone time. The illustrations are also what a child the age of the narrator might draw adding to the impression that this is, indeed a young girl telling her story, but the font, presented in the style of a young child might prove tricky for young readers  to start with. 

Even though this appears to be a counting book at first flick-through, there is much more in it that can provide lots of chat between child and adult and even tempt them to try a new skill.  I’m sure Miss 10 and Miss Nearly-6 eyes will boggle at the thought of Grandma being the school handstand champion a lifetime ago!!!

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!

 

Five Little Elves

christmas_countdown_2016

 

 

 

 

Five Little Elves

Five Little Elves

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Five Little Elves

Dan Yaccarino

HarperFestival, 2016

16pp., board book, RRP $A12.99

9780062253385

 

Five little elves sitting on a sled,

The first one said, “Where’s the man in red?”

With the concept of Elf on a Shelf gaining such ground in the homes of those with little people – the perfect spy for Santa – this timely release of this traditional rhyme in board book format is a perfect addition to the Christmas stocking of the very young.  With its rhyme and rhythm and bold, bright illustrations it is definitely one for sharing over and over, helping even the tiniest ones start to learn the nuances of our language and the joy of story. At the same time, being a board book, it is sturdy enough to be placed in those tiny hands and survive the explorations that they and teeth will make.

Board books are an ideal way to introduce children to the love of reading as having heard the story in a safe, loving relationship, their format allows them to be handled and sucked and chewed as the little one begins to exercise their own power over the story. Even though they might not yet be able to read the words for themselves, may even be too young to join familiar rhymes and stories, being able to handle and manipulate the book itself is a huge step in that early reading journey.

Many publishers have  produced board books for Christmas – some are familiar stories reproduced such as the charming Room for a Little One by Martin Waddell; some feature characters like Elmer, Clifford and Maisy with whom the children are already familiar; others like That’s Not My Elf offer a textural element while others like Dear Santa are just new stories published in a format that will appeal. Whatever their foundation, each serves the very real purpose of enchanting very young children with the pleasure that comes from sharing a story, one that speaks to them of the best time of the year and offers delight and satisfaction.

A friend (an expert in children’s reading and literature) Kerry Neary, who has been known to wander shopping centres at Christmas time to give board books to the young children he sees in an endeavour to start their love of reading as early as he can, has compiled a collection of well-loved stories in board book form. At least one of them should find their way into the stocking of a toddler you know this Christmas. These are all available from Book Depository as well as bookstores but he emphasises it is only a selection, rather than a definitive collection.  To Kerry, to me and to all  those with a passion for having children love reading from the get-go, any book popped into the stocking and shared is a bonus.

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bb1 bb18 bb19 bb20

 

 

 

 

 

 

Push! Dig! Scoop!

Push! Dig! Scoop!

Push! Dig! Scoop!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Push! Dig! Scoop!

Rhonda Gowler Greene

Daniel Kirk

Bloomsbury, 2016

32pp., pbk., RRP $A9.99

9781408881668

Over by the dirt pile all the heavy machinery is lined up ready for another hard days’ work on the construction site.   Bulldozers, diggers, loaders, graders – they are all there in this charming counting rhyme that will hold appeal for preschoolers.  Using onomatopoeia and lots of movement, little ones will be encouraged to join in as the machines work and don’t stop till night falls and it is time to rest.  They will love counting each of the baby machines and anticipating how many there will be next.

Each machine has a mama or papa surrounded by all the little ones learning what to do, a pictorial metaphor for our own little ones as they, too, are dependent on their parents as role models.  “Children learn what they live” is so well demonstrated! Readers will enjoy thinking about the job each machine does and how they all have a special task to do while they work together to get the job done. They can examine the specialist role of each machine and how it is specially designed for its role and perhaps start laying the foundations of an engineering interest.

Bright, colourful and charming, this will fit very well in the Santa sack!

The Crayons’ Book of Numbers

The Crayons' Book of Numbers

The Crayons’ Book of Numbers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Crayons’ Book of Numbers

Drew Daywalt

Oliver Jeffers

HarperCollins 2016

18pp., board book., RRP $A16.99

9780008212865

In 2013 Daywalt and Jeffers introduced us to a most unlikely set of heroes, or at least a set that they probably didn’t realise would become so popular they would become a series.  But that is what has happened to Duncan’s seemingly innocuous packet of crayons.  From the day they refused to be stereotyped any longer in The Day the Crayons Quit to their second adventure when they came home even crankier than ever in The Day the Crayons Came Home their stories and individuality have delighted young readers.  Now they are the stars of a number of board books for the very youngest readers beginning with getting them to count them as they find them.  Typically though, each crayon does not come quietly – there’s a comment from each one of them as they are discovered.

This is a lovely book for a parent-child exploration helping the littlest one learn numbers and colours at the same time and just delight in the joy of these clever, quirky characters.  Why can’t dinosaurs be pink? Why are red and blue so tired and worn out?  What else could green do apart from colour in crocodiles?  Lots to chat about and speculate on.

 

Ten Little Owls

Ten Little Owls

Ten Little Owls

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ten Little Owls

Renée Treml

Random House, 2016

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

9780143782537

 

The little wombat from One Very Tired Wombat is back in a new counting book adventure!  But this time, instead of being kept awake by all the daytime creatures, it is his nighttime friends who are coming out to play.  Hopping mice, quolls, Tasmanian devils, sugar gliders and fruit bats are all there in their nocturnal romp from dusk till dawn until the ten little owls hoot a goodnight tune and signal that the sun is rising and it’s bedtime.

So many baby animals exploring their nighttime surrounds under the cover and care of darkness show the very young reader that this is not a time of rest for everyone and that for many creatures once the sun goes down is a time of safety and security.  They can speculate about why some animals feel safer at night and learn new words like ‘nocturnal’ and ‘diurnal’, perhaps even seeking to find out more about the creature that most appeals to them.  Anticipating how many creatures might feature on the next page is always fun as counting skills are consolidated and confirmed is a bonus.

Slightly older children might even do a compare and contrast with One Very Tired Wombat or use this as a model for a class book as they explore what other creatures prefer night to day, where they live and what they find on their nocturnal wanderings.

Renée’s exquisite scratchboard illustrations bring each creature to life in great detail and the rhyming texts provides a rhythm that’s going to ensure the little listener will be joining in enthusiastically.

For those of you in Melbourne, the book will be launched at The Little Bookroom at 759 Nicholson Street at 3.00pm, this Saturday August 27.  More details here

Christmas at Grandma’s Beach House & Christmas at Grandad’s Farm

Christmas at Grandma's Beach House

Christmas at Grandma’s Beach House

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas at Grandad's Farm

Christmas at Grandad’s Farm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas at Grandma’s Beach House
9781760065140

Christmas at Grandad’s Farm
9781743463789

Clare Saxby
Janine Dawson
Five Mile Press, 2015
24pp., hbk., RRP $A16.99

A double dose of fun with these two titles that bring back memories of fabulous family get-togethers at Christmas. No one does Christmas quite like grandparents and in Christmas at Grandad’s Farm the family arrives at the farm all ready for the iconic Australian bush holiday complete with dust and flies and the fun of the favourite swimming hole in the creek. Set to the tune of Jingle Bells, it rollicks along through the day and into the night where it’s hard to go to sleep because of all the excitement.

In the sequel Christmas at Grandma’s Beach House more fun and memories abound as the whole family gathers at the beach to the tune of Twelve Days of Christmas. Uniquely Australian, it celebrates all the wonderful things that a beach holiday brings and instantly connects to so many in its audience.

The bright cartoon-style illustrations are just perfect, evoking a sense of freedom and fun and friendship, and while the theme of both books is iconic images of a Down-Under Christmas, nevertheless the colours and little details give a nod to the more traditional elements that set this time of the year apart from other holiday times.

There are many Australianised versions of Christmas, often set to the tune of those traditional songs, but these two with their connections to activities and memories that so many are familiar with will really be enjoyed again and again as part of the festive season.

Ten Blue Wrens and what a lot of wattle

Ten Blue Wrens and what a lot of wattle

Ten Blue Wrens and what a lot of wattle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ten Blue Wrens and what a lot of wattle

Elizabeth Honey

Allen & Unwin, 2015

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

9781760290511

 

There have been boundless counting books based on Australiana over the years, but Ten Blue Wrens has to be one of my favourites.  Full of iconic but different images, it is a celebration of this nation in pictures and rhymes that will capture the imagination of any little person.  Who could resist

One little nipper dipping in the pools

Two straight fingers for a goal in Aussie rules

Each page brings something that the reader will relate to and want to talk about as they discover the detail in the enchanting illustrations. “Six fat strawberries on a passionfruit pavlova. There were six lamingtons…none left over.”  Unlike most counting books that end at 10 or 12, this one gives opportunities to count up to some of those ginormous numbers that little ones like.  The endpapers are gorgeous but my favourite is the final page and the clever use of words that sums up everything.

Shared bedtime stories can be as much about the learning as the bonding and there is research to show that chatting to children about maths concepts as they read can improve their understanding  so there are riches and rewards in one that is so full of fun.

Putting on my teacher librarian hat, I love stories like this – not just for the joy and energy they bring to our littlest listeners but also for the model they provide for older students to create their own.  What better way to investigate what it is to be Australian than to use this as a kickstart for thinking beyond the obvious and drawing on personal passions to say who you are.  Honey created the images using acrylics sponged onto stencils adding another element to explore as students create their own interpretations.

The hardback edition of this book was a CBCA Notable Book for Early Childhood in 2012.  Its release in paperback in 2015 means not only has it endured but also a new generation of young readers can enjoy it. A classic in the making.

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

 

Abigail

Abigail

Abigail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Abigail

Catherine Rayner

Little Tiger Press, 2015

32pp., pbk., RRP $A14.95

9781848956469

Abigail the giraffe loves to count but each time she does, she encounters a problem.  Ladybird disappears under a leaf, the leaves, get eaten, Zebra’s stripes keep moving and Cheetah’s spots are way too fast!  Even when she finds something that seems okay and her friends help her, there are problems.  Her animal friends can’t count.  So Abigail teaches them but just as they are getting things sorted the sun goes down.  How will they practise in the dark?

This is a charming counting book for young readers written and illustrated by Kate Greenaway medallist Catherine Rayner who has given us a number of beautiful animal stories including Augustus and his Smile  Little people will love to join in with the counting as they practise theirs and will share her good-natured frustration as she has to keep starting again.

Like many others, I’m a fan of Rayner’s emerging menagerie as each creature comes to life with its own personality with a few strokes of her watercolour brush and its accompanying text. She spends hours studying her subjects so they are just right.  In fact she shares her instructions for drawing Abigail at and the story is read online here.

 Perfect for preschool.

A peek inside...

A peek inside…