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Elbow Grease

Elbow Grease

Elbow Grease

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Elbow Grease

John Cena

Howard McWilliam

Puffin Books, 2018

40pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

9780143794400

Elbow Grease is the smallest monster truck in the Demolition Derby. Even though his brothers Tank, Flash, Pinball and Crash were tougher, faster, smarter and braver, they didn’t intimidate him nor deter him from racing.  Even the fact that he was different because he ran on an lithium-ion battery and needed to be recharged every night did not stop him believing in himself and his ability to keep up with his brothers.  Because Elbow Grease had gumption, that mixture of strong will and determination to keep on going even when it seemed all was lost.

When Mel the mechanic puts a large poster of a monster truck Grand Prix on the wall, Elbow Grease is determined to compete, regardless of the derision of his brothers.  He drove to the Grand Prix by himself, snuck in behind all the others at the starting line and off he went.  It soon became obvious that the other trucks had more experience and better technique but Elbow Grease refused to give up. On an on he went until it started to pour and his battery went completely flat…

Inspired by growing up with four older brothers, John Cena has captured the spirit of determination that younger siblings so often have as they strive to keep up, and has created a powerful story about trying new things, resilience, facing fears and obstacles, and doing everything you can to keep going.  It’s a lesson in “Of at first you don’t succeed….” 

Told with a bare narrative with all the speech in speech bubbles, sometimes the message is less than subtle, but young readers will delight in the bright, bold illustrations that carry the expression and the humour.  Some who are familiar with WWE competitors might even recognise Cena from that field and be inspired because of that.  In an interview, Cena said, “With ‘Elbow Grease’ and the books to follow, I want to offer kids a fun and engaging way to learn about the power of ambition, dedication, and heart. These concepts have been transformative in my life, from my childhood up to now, and it’s so important to me to pass the positivity on and help our youngest generation see that right mindset is key to achievement,”

Monster trucks appeal to so many little boys that even if they don’t absorb Cena’s message at first, at least they will continue to discover the joy of reading as they find books about the topics that interest them. 

Unicorn!

Unicorn!

Unicorn!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unicorn!

Maggie Hutchings

Cheryl Orsini

Affirm Press, 2018 

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

9781925712506

Luka makes the world light up
Like a shooting star on a dark night.

But when Luka gets really sick and makes a wish for a unicorn, it is not so easy for her best friend to keep her promise of making it come true.  Even though she did lots of research about where to find one and how to catch it when she did, she couldn’t find the information she needed.  So she drew a picture of one but that didn’t satisfy Luka as she lay in her hospital bed. And neither did dressing up in a onesie.  Even borrowing a pony and putting a cardboard horn on it did not make a difference.  But sometimes every minute spent wishing and hoping and determined to keep a promise can pay off…

Unicorns and little girls currently go together like fish and chips – there is an inexorable pull between them – and so to discover a picture book that features them is all that will be needed to get your young readers clamouring for this one.  The double bonus is that it is a quality story that is about friendship and the lengths we go to for those we love which is accompanied  by exquisite illustrations.  And the ending is perfect – even I looked under my bed!

 

The Brave Knight

The Brave Knight

The Brave Knight

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Brave Knight

Sally Gould

Celeste Hulme

New Frontier, 2018

24pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

978192559419

High in his treehouse, the handsome, brave knight stands guard over his lands – his backyard.  With his long, sharp sword and shiny, strong armour, he guards his castle against enemy knights, and when they arrive he tricks them, making them pay gold for knowledge of the secret entrance, eventually imprisoning them…

This is a charming story that will delight all those little lads who like to dream of being a knight in shining armour.  There are even instructions for making a sword so they too can be the guardians of their realm.

 

Digby and the Duck

Digby and the Duck

Digby and the Duck

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Digby and the Duck

Max Landrak 

Lothian Children’s, 2018

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

9780734417770

Digby is sure someone is watching him. It is just a feeling, but no matter what time of day or where he goes, he is certain that there are eyes following his every move.  Determined to find out who or what, he searches for clues, finally stepping in some poo that appears to prove his theory, and that sends him on a research search to discover what sort of creature does such droppings. But is the creature that he finally decides is the culprit, actually the spy?

Many of us will have had that weird feeling that someone is looking at us, but it is usually just a passing thing and we seldom go to the lengths that Digby does to discover who or what it is. But once he thinks he has solved the mystery, his world is back in balance and so this story sends a strong message about facing your fears, staring them down and getting them into perspective. So many of our young people suffer from anxiety of  real or imagined situations -in fact, some are like Digby and feel out of kilter if there is nothing to worry about as the ending of the story shows – so helping them develop strategies to deal with this is a critical pathway forward to learning.  Whether it’s doing research as Digby does to get to the root of the fear or talking about it with others to discover the particular fear is common or other strategies, until the feeling is dealt with satisfactorily it can become crippling.  

Ensuring our children’s mental health is safe is as important as their physical health so this is another one to add to the mindfulness collection, to be shared and discussed as we continue to help our students develop resilience as they learn how to deal with fear and anxiety.

Morris the Mole

Morris the Mole

Morris the Mole

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Morris the Mole

Nicki Greenberg

Allen & Unwin, 2018 

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

9781760630829

Up from the darkness, out of his hole…
Comes pioneer…

trailblazer…

MORRIS THE MOLE! 
With a twirl of his spade and a twitch of his nose, 
Morris makes TUNNELS wherever he goes…

Morris loves to dig and explore the great underground, finding treasures and tucker but when he pops out of the earth, he seems to create havoc. Ruining picnics, toppling stalls, disturbing games – it seems that Morris just has an unerring ability to come up in the wrong place! But the day that he hits concrete yet tunnels on undeterred changes his life forever…

Nicki Greenberg, creator of Meerkat Choir and The Naughtiest Reindeer series never fails to delight with her quirky characters and energetic  language that just oozes the rhyme and rhythm that young listeners adore.

Thwarted…
Obstructed…
Scuttled and stuck…
Is Morris defeated?
Is Mole out of luck? 

It doesn’t matter that most of the audience will be unfamiliar with moles- finding out about them is part of the experience – they will just revel in his energy and enthusiasm for his passion, as well as his determination to pursue it even though it lands him in trouble.  The surprise ending really sets up the scenario for a sequel – here’s hoping Ms Greenberg has one in the pipeline. 

Me and My Fear

Me and My Fear

Me and My Fear

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Me and My Fear

Francesca Sanna

Flying Eye, 2018

32pp., hbk., RRP $A27.99

9781911171539

In the beginning her constant companion Fear is small, just big enough to keep her from doing things that would be harmful or dangerous.  But when she moves to a new country where she doesn’t know the language, the neighbourhood, the school or those she meets there, Fear grows and grows until it all but cripples her.  She feels more and more lonely and isolated each day, her self-confidence disappears and she hides herself away, full of self-doubt and beginning to loathe this new place as she begins to believe that she is too different to be understood, accepted and liked .  But a little boy is watching… can he lead her back by helping to shrink Fear?  And what does she discover about all the children in her class, indeed, everywhere?

This could be the story of any one of the children in our care, even those who have not had to emigrate to a new country and a whole new way of life.  While this companion to The Journey shows that the plight of refugees is not necessarily resolved as soon as they reach a new country, anxiety about the unknown, even the known, plagues many of our students, some to the point that they cannot get themselves to school, and so this book which demonstrates the power of how reaching out, being friendly, having empathy and making connections (even if that is your own biggest fear) can lead a troubled child back to a more normal world, where Fear is natural but it is a normal size.

The soft, retro colour palette reinforces the gentle tone of the book, and even though Fear grows and grows, it is not a black, dark, formidable, force but more a white, soft, marshmallow-like character that is not physically threatening . It maintains its shape even as it grows suggesting that its core remains the same, rather than becoming an overwhelming fear of everything.

Recommended in many lists as one that can help children not only begin to understand and overcome their own fears, but also one which can help others make the first step of reaching out and embracing those who seem isolated, this story is one that has many roles to play within the curriculum.

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.

DC Comics Absolutely Everything You Need to Know

DC Comics Absolutely Everything You Need to Know

DC Comics Absolutely Everything You Need to Know

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DC Comics Absolutely Everything You Need to Know

Liz Marsham & Melanie Scott

DK, 2018

200pp., hbk., RRP $A39.99

9780241314241

Founded in the US in 1934 by Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson, DC Comics, named from an original series called Detective Comics which introduced Batman to the world in 1939,  is one of the world’s oldest comic publishing companies.  Now a subsidiary of Warner Bros, DC is the home of many popular superheroes such as Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman,  Green Lantern and Green Arrow;  supervillains like The Joker; Lex Luther,  Brainiac, and The Penguin; and fight-for justice teams like The Justice League and Teen Titans. 

While they have always been popular in comic format, the magic of technology and special effects have seen a surge in popularity of all these characters as they garner new audiences through movie screens.  In this new publication from DK, all the known and unknown of the goodies and baddies has been gathered together so young readers can learn more about their heroes and their enemies and get a better understanding of who they are, what they do and how and why they do it.. Reflecting the comic format of their origins but touched with DK publishing magic to make the range of information easily accessible to young readers, this publication takes the stories back to their print origins, albeit in full colour these days, turning them full circle and encouraging fans to read as well as view. 

With events like Comic-con  pulling massive crowds of young and not-so around the world; regular news stories of sick children being lifted by a visit from their heroes and new-release movies breaking box-office records, the pull and power of those original characters has not dwindled over the last 80 years.  Thus, this would be an investment for the library collection or the Christmas stocking as there is already a captive audience who could boast that reading is their superpower.   

The Princess in Black and the Science Fair Scare

The Princess in Black and the Science Fair Scare

The Princess in Black and the Science Fair Scare

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Princess in Black and the Science Fair Scare

Shannon Hale & dean Hale

LeUyen Pham

Candlewick Press, 2018 

96pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

 9780763688271

On the outside, Princess Magnolia looks like the perfect princess – a pretty face, golden curls, sparkly tiara, glass slippers, and conventional-princess pink-on-pink ensemble – but she has a secret.   Her castle is near a hole in the ceiling of Monster Land and so she frequently has to fight and vanquish the monsters that sneak out, and when she does so she turns into her alter ego, the Princess in Black. Whenever her glitterstone ring sounds an alarm that a monster is near, she dons a black costume even though “princesses don’t wear black”, presses a switch to turn her sceptre into a staff and jumps onto Frimplepants her unicorn who becomes Blacky her fearless steed whenever its glitterstone horseshoe rings!

In this, the sixth episode in this popular series, Princess Magnolia is excited and nervous because she is going to the Interkingdom Science Fair to present her poster about seeds and plants. When she arrives, she sees that her friends are there too, each with their own entry. Princess Honeysuckle has made a mole habitat, Princess Sneezewort has built a blanket fort, and Tommy Wigtower has a talking volcano that’s saying “EAAAAT!” Wait, what? Surely there are no monsters here! But a surprise goo monster makes this a job for the Princess in Black…

Combining princesses and superheroes, short chapters and lavishly illustrated,  this is a popular series that young girls who are newly independent readers will like and look forward to as it offers protagonists who are resilient, resourceful, and inclusive. 

For those who want to use this as a teaching tool to compare the stereotypical view of princesses with the new emerging picture there are some useful teaching notes available

  

Ariki and the Giant Shark

Ariki and the Giant Shark

Ariki and the Giant Shark

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ariki and the Giant Shark

Nicola Davies

Nicola Kinnear

Walker Books, 2018

144pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

9781406369793

Washed up on the shores of Turtle Island in her cradle, no one knows quite where Ariki has come from and the islanders wanted to put her back on the waves, but Arohaka said she was a gift from the ocean and a gift should never be refused.  So he becomes her guardian although no matter how long she lives there, she is not accepted as one of them – by the adults or the children.

Protected by her distinctive tattoos which are different from those of the other children, Ariki loves to spend her days in the sea rather than doing chores.  An excellent swimmer, her favourite game is to catch the tail of the baby yellow moon sharks and hitch a ride around the lagoon while they are too young to turn and bite her.  She is more at home in the sea than on the land, and on the day her life is saved from the jaws of the nihui by a shark bigger than she has ever seen, life changes for her.  Struck by drought, the islanders are struggling to find food and when two of the island’s fishermen tell a tale of a large creature that scares the nihui and almost bites their boat in half, leaving behind a tooth bigger than a man’s hand, then fear strikes and the islanders are frightened to go into the sea. They are determined to kill this monster but Ariki, her friend Ipo, Arohaka and the children have other ideas…

This is the first in a new series from zoologist Nicola Davies and as well as being an entertaining read, her knowledge of the ocean, its ways and its creatures gives an added dimension of authenticity.  Ariki is a strong, independent feisty heroine who is content with herself despite the ridicule of her peers and her friend Ipo also shows similar resilience as he deals with his own issues. Highly original, well-written and utterly engaging, this is the perfect read for those who are independent readers moving on from beginner novels.