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Snow Penguin

Snow Penguin

Snow Penguin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Snow Penguin

Tony Mitton

Alison Brown

Bloomsbury, 2017

32pp., hbk., RRP $A22.99

9781408862957

Way down south at the very bottom of the world a little penguin is very curious about what the world is like beyond the icy, snowy rookery. But as he gazes seaward on the edge of the ice he doesn’t notice that the ice is cracking and suddenly he finds himself floating amidst a world of creatures that he hasn’t seen before. Blue whales, orcas, elephant seals, sea lions – all are new to him and potentially dangerous.  But even though he is not afraid of them, as darkness draws in and the sea turns from blue to black he is worried about getting home to his family.  Will he be safe or will he be someone’s dinner?

This is a charming story that particularly appeals because of its subject and location. But apart from that it is beautifully illustrated, with almost realistic creatures but with a touch of whimsy that make them seem friendly so you know the cute little penguin will be okay.

Told in rhyming couplets that keep the rhythm smooth and soothing, this is a gentle book perfect for bedtime and introducing young readers to some of the unfamiliar creatures that share this planet with them – and the curious penguin.

Koala Bare

Koala Bare

Koala Bare

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Koala Bare

Jackie French

Matt Shanks

HarperCollins, 2017

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

9781460751619

If there is anything more than an Australian who hates hearing koalas being labelled “bears”, it is the koalas themselves. 

I may be furry, fat and square-

but I am definitely not a bear!

In this joyful romp in rhyme Koala points out to the little bird trying to stick a “bear” label on his toe why he is not a teddy, a grizzly, a panda, a polar bear, or any other sort of bear – not even one from Goldilocks. 

Who wants blue or yellow fur?

Grey is the colour I prefer!

he says in absolute disdain of teddies and as for wearing trousers!! Teddy bears may feel superior, but not when faced with my posterior!

Jackie French is a most gifted and versatile author, writing for and entertaining older readers with the fabulous Matilda saga ; the newly independents with her Secret History series; history buffs with her family’s story about Horace and of course the very young with the tales about her resident wombat and echidna.  And now she has again drawn on the wonderful wildlife of her idyllic bush home to entertain and educate about koalas!  For me, one of the most appealing aspects of Jackie’s writing apart from telling a ripper yarn which has to be paramount, is her ability to teach as she tells so the reader finishes the book so much richer for having read it. 

But there is also a strong message that we are each unique and as individuals we shouldn’t be stereotyped or taken for what we are not.  As a natural redhead I’ve been plagued with assumptions that I have a fiery temper when really I’m quite placid and reasonable, and if I fire up it’s the issue at hand and nothing to do with my hair colour.  Everywhere we turn these days people are being labelled based on what they look like not who they are and this is a great story to start young readers thinking about the value of the individual rather than judging by how they are dressed or the colour of their skin. 

Matt Shanks has emphasised the gentle but firm thread of this story with his soft lines and light palette using watercolours.  Even the cover is soft to touch.   The addition of the scholarly cockatoo taking notes on each page is masterful.  Little ones will enjoy looking for him while others might predict what he has learned and recorded from each experience. There’s an opportunity to summarise right there – informal, in context and purposeful!

Apart from being a must-have addition to the library’s collection, this is the perfect gift for any little ones but particularly those who live overseas.  Maybe it will help dispel the belief that koalas are bears and save the grating on the ears from all those who know they are NOT!

Teaching notes are available but whether the little ones for whom this is intended need to know the technicalities of ‘onset and rime’ baffles me.  This is where schools stomp on the joy and wonder of reading – they have to teach a curriculum that focuses on deconstructing text rather than constructing imagination and wonderment! Shame, ACARA, shame!

 

Fluke

Fluke

Fluke

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fluke

Lesley Gibbes

Michelle Dawson

Working Title Press, 2017

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

9781921504891

Under the shadow of the great harbour bridge a little southern right whale is born.  For weeks it stays and plays with its mother getting stronger for the long journey south to the Antarctic waters, delighting the people of Sydney who hadn’t seen a pair like this for many years.  But one day a ferry’s motor startles Fluke and he dives deep to the bottom of the water where it is dark and murky and he can no longer hear his mother calling.  

The people of Sydney begin an anxious search for him knowing that without her protection he will be easy prey for a shark…

Based on actual events, this is a charming story illustrated in a palette as soft and gentle as both the text and the events themselves.  Like the humpbacks that are so prevalent down the Humpback Highway at the moment, southern right whales – so-called because early whalers believed them to be the ‘right’ whale to catch because they were large, slow-moving, rich in oil and blubber and floated when they were killed – were hunted almost to extinction in the early 20th century and so the appearance of mum and bub in the harbour brought both joy and hope.  The endpapers provide a thumbnail sketch of these wonderful creatures, adding an extra dimension to the book.

Now that whale-hunting has taken on a whole new meaning  and with seeing a whale in the wild on many bucket lists making it a sustainable tourist industry for many little coastal towns, learning about them through stories like Fluke can only bring a greater awareness and help to guarantee their revival and survival. The whalers  were an important part of our coastal history and settlement, making them an important part of the history curriculum but unlike a generation ago, their activities can now be scrutinised through several lenses as students discuss and debate the “rightness” of their endeavours. The use of books like Fluke would bring another perspective to a webquest.

Teachers’ notes are available 

Loved it.

The Return of the Jabberwock

The Return of the Jabberwock

The Return of the Jabberwock

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Return of the Jabberwock

Oakley Graham

David Neale

Big Sky 2017

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

9781925675009

A long time ago, before you were born,

Lived a beast with eyes of flame and horns!

Your great grandfather defeated the Jabberwock beast

And returned home to a magnificent victory feast!

Inspired by his father’s tale and his great grandfather’s feats, the boy decides to go on his own quest to find his own Jabberwock, and so, armed with just a sword and helmet, he ventures into mysterious, gloomy Tulgey Wood where he is confronted by unimaginable monsters almost at every turn!  Monsters with long spidery legs, ugly beaks and toothless smiles, a turtle-like creature with the ears of a hog and the mouth of a shark… Bravely he continues on his quest but his legs turn to jelly when he sees two scary creatures – could these be the legendary Jubjub bird and the ferocious Bandersnatch?   Courageous though he is, when the Jabberwock itself appears, it is too much and the boy flees…

At this time of the year when scary monsters, ghost, witches and other fantastic creatures abound and people carve glaring pumpkin heads to frighten them off, this is the perfect story to send yet a few more tingles up the child’s spine!  With its atmospheric colour palette, the scene is set for an adventure like no other as each of us hopes we would be as brave as the little boy – but acknowledge there are limits. It’s a great opportunity to discuss fears and feelings and help young children understand that fear is not only shared emotion but an innate human response as encapsulated in the “fight or flight” response.  Do I stay or do I not? 

It is also an entry into the work of Lewis Carroll for those who may not have met him before, or who only know Alice in Wonderland through movie interpretations, as the original poem of The Jabberwocky first appeared in Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, the sequel to  Wonderland.  Considered one of the greatest nonsense poems written in English, Carroll penned the first verse in 1855 and since then its meaning has been discussed and debated.  But it not only confounded Alice…”It seems very pretty,” she said when she had finished it, “but it’s rather hard to understand!” (You see she didn’t like to confess, even to herself, that she couldn’t make it out at all.) “Somehow it seems to fill my head with ideas—only I don’t exactly know what they are! However, somebody killed something: that’s clear, at any rate,” Carroll himself later wrote that he did not know the origins of some of the words.

So while it is something a little different to share this Hallowe’en as those who have not yet been able to leave this  mortal coil wander around seeking their final release, it has application across the ages, across the curriculum and throughout the year. 

It is, indeed, a frabjous day when we find such a rich resource.

On the Night of the Shooting Star

On the Night of the Shooting Star

On the Night of the Shooting Star

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the Night of the Shooting Star

Amy Hest

Jenni Desmond

Walker Books, 2017

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

9781406377330

Bunny and Dog live on opposite sides of the fence, both literally and figuratively.  Bunny’s house is a blue square and overgrown, Dog’s is a red round and immaculate. Each  home reflects who they are in subtle but significant ways and each lifestyle is their own, yet remarkably similar.  For years they live side by side, never speaking, valuing their privacy, leading solitary lives but very lonely.  Then one clear night while out looking at the stars, they both see a shooting star…

This is a story of opposites, of differences but mostly of friendship. No matter how different from us someone might seem, we should take the opportunity to reach out and connect because the riches and rewards of friendship, even between opposites is worth it. There is scope for predicting why the two have not connected after all this time and how they feel, while also giving the children an opportunity to think about their neighbours and their relationships with them. Perhaps even explore the meaning of this popular advertisement and consider what they could do or say to make someone’s life less lonely.

Gentle, calming and a perfect bedtime story.

 

Niko Draws A Feeling

Niko Draws A Feeling

Niko Draws A Feeling

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Niko Draws A Feeling

Bob Raczka

Simone Shin

Carolrhoda Books, 2017

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

9781467798433

Like many children, Niko loved to make pictures and everywhere he went he had a packet of coloured pencils and a pad of paper.

He was inspired by so much of what he saw that he just had to draw it, and when inspiration hit it felt like a window opening in his brain. An idea would flit through the open window like a butterfly, flutter down to his stomach, then along his arm and fingers to his pencils where it would escape onto his paper in a whirlwind of colour,

But in a world of what-is no one understood his pictures when he shared them.  They could not see the ice cream truck, the sun, or the robin’s nest because Nico had drawn the feelings that he felt – the ring-a-ling of the bell of the icecream truck, the warmth of the sun on his father’s face, the hard work of the mother robin making her nest- and so his pictures were too abstract to their rooted-in-reality viewers. This inability to understand his interpretations of his world had an impact on Niko and that night he drew a picture of his feelings, taping it to the back of his door where it wouldn’t be seen.

But even though he viewed the world through different eyes he was undaunted and as he set off with his paper and pencils the next day, a removalist van pulled in next door.  Niko’s world was about to change… he meets someone who feels the butterfly land on her fingers when she sees his pictures.

In the late 70s just as I was beginning my teaching career and finding my feet in the classroom, Harry Chapin released a song that had a profound effect on me and my teaching, helping me understand the individuality of people and that their differences should be not only accepted but celebrated.  And all those memories and lyrics came flooding back from 40 years ago as soon as I started reading Niko Draws A Feeling.  This is a story that acknowledges that being different can be difficult, that admires the resilience of those who accept themselves for who they are regardless, and that affirms that no matter how outside-the-square we are there are others like us and if we are lucky our path through life will find them.

Raczka has written a story that should have an impact on both adults and children and perhaps even on teachers, in the way Flowers Are Red had on me. Cleverly, Simone Shin’s illustrations bridge the world of Niko and those who look at his drawings.  They are clearly recognisable for what they are but their depiction uses media and techniques which step well away from photographic representations or the realistic style we are familiar with.

A book that will change the reader. If I were to draw my feelings about it, the page would be filled with red hearts.

 

Finn and Puss

Finn and Puss

Finn and Puss

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finn and Puss

Robert Vescio

Melissa Mackie

EK Books, 2017

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

9781925335507

When Finn, a lonely little boy, finds a lost cat it would seem their problems are solved.  Finn has a friend and the cat has a home. 

But then Finn spots a poster advertising the cat as lost … Will he return it or is their friendship more important to him?

Told in a few words but with exquisite illustrations that are as gentle as the story but rich in emotion and detail, this  is a story which explores the connections between a child and a pet and how hard it can be to do the right thing.  But sometimes that right thing can have its own reward.

Charming.

Maybe

Maybe

Maybe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maybe

Morris Gleitzman

Viking, 2017

192pp., pbk., RRP $A19.99

9780670079377

Once I escaped from an orphanage to find Mum and Dad…

Then I had a plan for me and Zelda…

After the Nazis took my parents I was scared…

Soon I hoped the Nazis would be defeated and they were…

Now Zelda learns her grandfather’s story…

Maybe there will peace and happiness for Felix at last…

Felix, Gabriek and Anya, who is now seven months pregnant, are once again on the run trying to get back to Gabriek’s farm and hide from Zliv, the murderous brother of Gogol the Polish patriot who vowed  ‘Poland has been crawling with vermin for centuries. Germans, Austrians, Jews, Ukrainians, Russians.  Now we’re cleaning them up.” and killed by Felix.

But there is a very rude and dangerous homecoming and once again they have to flee – this time on a treacherous journey that lands Felix in Australia. Maybe this will be the land of opportunity for a young boy who only wants to attend university to become a doctor. But…

The sixth in this family of books that tells the remarkable story of Felix in a way that it has to have a considerable element of truth, shows that when the guns fall silent the war is not necessarily over and sanctuary is elusive not guaranteed, Yet throughout both this book and the series, Felix maintains his humanity and resourcefulness and in cases, his child’s logic provides a touch of humour to lighten the dark which Gleitzman does not shy away from. He believes our children need to know about this history which is so recent if could be that of their grandparents’ and refuses to patronise them by glossing over the not-so-nice. 

Much has been written about the Holocaust that is inaccessible to our upper primary students because it is so factual and so foreign they can’t comprehend it – in this series written through the eyes of a child it becomes clearer and starts to develop a belief that this must never happen again, whether it be against a religion, a race, a gender or any other reason that people can be marginalised.  Sadly, now termed “ethnic cleansing” it does continue but no longer does the world turn such blind, uncaring eyes.  

For those who are venturing into the investigation of how Australian has developed in post-war times particularly with the immigration of so many from Europe, this series is essential reading to understand why people couldn’t just “return home”; why there were no homes to go to and why somewhere as faraway and foreign as Australia held such appeal.  For it is the Felixes of this world who established not only the town I live in but this multicultural, tolerant nation that we and those who follow must work hard to maintain. 

And now we await Always, the conclusion to an enriching and engrossing saga.

It’s OK to feel the way you do

It's OK to feel the way you do

It’s OK to feel the way you do

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s OK to feel the way you do

Josh Langley

Big Sky, 2017

90pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781925520965

The buzzword in many personal development programs these days is resilience and phrases such as “Eat cement and harden up”, “Build a bridge and get over it”, and “Suck it up, princess” are often heard bandied around. It’s as though expressing our emotions, particularly ‘negative’ ones, is becoming unacceptable and we are supposed to bottle up anger and disappointment and fear and let it fester away inside, becoming bigger and bigger, in case we offend or hurt someone else’s feelings.

This can be very confusing especially for young children who are recognising their range of feelings and learning how to control their actions in response to them.  Our emotions are controlled by chemicals in the brain such as dopamine, serotonin and adrenalin and we cannot control their release although we are expected to control and even suppress their consequences.  So a book written and illustrated especially for young children that explores the natural feelings of happiness, anger, sadness, loneliness, pride, fear and anxiety and shows that is OK to have the whole range of such emotions – in fact, it is unhealthy not to – is welcome, particularly as mindfulness programs gather momentum.

Understanding that emotions are what makes us human and that certain things trigger certain emotions, even though there are different triggers for each person, is a huge step in understanding ourselves and we need to do that if we are to understand others.  Acknowledging our feelings is the first step in dealing with them appropriately, developing responses and reactions and then being able to move on to choices is part of natural maturity.  Langley tells his own story of how a negative comment in his childhood spurred him on to greater things rather than sending him into a downward spiral and so children can learn it’s not the emotion that is the issue, but how we can deal with it for the better -do we express it or suppress it?

The bright, bold colours and cartoon-like illustrations will capture the young reader, the text that talks directly to them and the affirmation that feeling feelings is natural and OK will help to empower our young students and help them from feeling overwhelmed even confused.  In the past, health curricula have included exploring feelings and children have completed a zillion sentences starting “I am happy when…” but in today’s world we need to take this further and show that feelings are natural, that they are shared, that disappointment and anger are OK and can lead us in a new direction, that everyone has fears and doubts and highs and lows and life is not necessarily the glossed-up television version.

Indeed, it’s OK to feel the way you do.

The Amazing Monster Detectoscope

The Amazing Monster Detectoscope

The Amazing Monster Detectoscope

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Amazing Monster Detectoscope

Graeme Base

Penguin, 2017

28pp.,  hbk., RRP $A29.99

9780670079308

My house is full of monsters. Some are big and some are small.

They lounge around the living room and huddle in the hall.

But I am going to find them all – all those monsters have no hope,

‘Cos I’ve saved up and got myself this cool DetectoScope.

And thus armed with his amazing machine our hero goes in search of the monsters, finding them in all the locations he expected -the lounge, the garden shed, his sister’s room, under the stairs, even in the kitchen drawers. By the time he gets to the 9th location, the bathroom, he’s starting to have second thoughts about this monster hunting – he’s finding way too many to be comfortable.  So there is no Location Ten – he’s thrown his Detectoscope away. But suddenly the ground starts to move and buildings start to sway – it looks like the monsters are after him and they are heading his way!  So does he flee in fear  or does he have the courage to turn and face them?

See the name Graeme Base on a book and you know you are in for a treat – an intriguing story and outstanding, detailed artwork at the very least – and this new release is no different.  But now he has added paper engineering to the mix and added a completely new dimension which is not only jaw-droppingly amazing in its detail and precision but is also intrinsic to the story as the monsters are revealed.  And very scary they are too. 

This is one to read aloud, read alone and read together and each experience will be different as new things reveal themselves.  It is a story for all ages and we each see monsters in places where there is nothing but our imaginations and the ‘what-ifs’ so both its theme and message apply to all.

Another masterpiece that is sure to feature on awards list.