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Lovely Beasts: The Surprising Truth

Lovely Beasts: The Surprising Truth

Lovely Beasts: The Surprising Truth

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lovely Beasts: The Surprising Truth

Kate Gardner

Heidi Smith   

HarperCollins US, 2019

48pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9780062741615

Spiders are creepy.
Porcupines are scary.
Bats are ugly.

Or are they . . .

This captivating book invites you to look beyond your first impressions at these awe-inspiring animals in the wild. On each page is an exquisite pencil illustration of a common creature that usually inspires an emotion in the viewer accompanied by a one word description that fits that emotion.  But when you turn the page, there is an equally exquisite but different picture of the same creature, this time with a few lines about its uniqueness that shows a completely different side to it. 

For example, sharks, particularly the great white, can shivers up the spines of those who like to swim in the ocean yet without them at the top of the food chain, the entire marine ecosystem would collapse.  Similarly, bats eat many insects – up to 8000 mosquitoes in a night – thus controlling the populations.

Something a little different to encourage us to look beyond the first impression and the reputation…

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

 

Geronimo; the penguin who thought he could fly

Geronimo

Geronimo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Geronimo: the penguin who thought he could fly

David Walliams

Tony Ross

HarperCollins Children’s, 2018

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

9780008279752

At the “bottomest bottom” of the world, amidst a huge colony of emperor penguins, little Geronimo is born and right from the get-go, all he wanted to do was fly! Despite his dad telling him that penguins don’t fly, Geronimo persisted in following his dream and whether it was using the icy slopes as a runway, the elephant seal’s tummy as a trampoline, or the spout from the blue whale’s blowhole as a launching pad, he was determined that he would overcome his not-made-for-flying-despite-its-wings body.  Despite the failures, Geronimo still dreamed of flying – a dream apparently shared by all penguins in their early lives.  But after a particularly devastating misadventure while trying to hitch a ride on an albatross, Geronimo has to admit that the dream was indeed, over and a single tear rolled down his face.

His father was so moved by that that he called a meeting of the whole colony and…

The theme of penguins dreaming to fly is not a new one in children’s stories but when it is in the hands of master storyteller David Walliams and the creative genius of Tony Ross the result is an hilarious adventure that will be a firm favourite with younger readers.  They will empathise with Geronimo as he tries everything to make his dream come true, and perhaps be inspired by his determination, perseverance and resilience. At the other end of the scale, older readers could identify their dreams and perhaps start investigating what it is that they need to do to make them come true while parents sharing this with their children will also want to be like Geronimo’s father, prepared to try anything and everything to help their child’s dream come true, supporting them, protecting them and helping them deal with the failures and disappointments that will inevitably befall them. 

An utterly charming book that celebrates dreams and making them happen.

Where Happiness Lives

Where Happiness Lives

Where Happiness Lives

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where Happiness Lives

Barry Timms

Greg Abbott

Little Tiger, 2018

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

9781848699519

In the beginning Grey Mouse is very happy and satisfied with his sweet little house which has enough room for each mouse to have fun, plenty of windows to let in the sun where he is safe and never alone. But one day while he is out walking he spots a much larger house that is hard to ignore, the home of White Mouse who invites him up to the balcony to view an even more impressive house high on a hill.  Together they set out to visit it, so focused on reaching their destination they are oblivious to all the sights, sounds and smells that surround them on their journey. 

 When they get there, it is indeed a house like no other, and they are welcomed in by Brown Mouse who delights in showing them round her magnificent mansion,  Grey Mouse and White Mouse feel more and more inadequate and its features are revealed until they come to a room that has a large telescope and they peek through it…

Told in rhyme and illustrated with clever cutouts and flaps to be lifted, this is a charming story for young readers who will learn a lesson about bigger not always being better, and the difference between wants and needs, as well as being encourage to reflect on what makes them happy.  It is things?  Or something else? Is the grass always greener?

Both the story and the presentation have a very traditional feel about them, making it perfect for young readers who relish the places books can take them. And with the aid of boxes, rolls and other everyday items they can have much fun creating their ideal home!

 

The Good Egg

The Good Egg

The Good Egg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Good Egg

Jory John

Pete Oswald

Harper, 2018

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

9780062866004

The Good Egg is verrrrrry good. It does all sorts of things like rescuing cats, carrying groceries, watering plants, changing tyres, even painting houses.  If there is anything or anyone needing help, it’s there to assist.  Back in the store where it lived with another 11 eggs – Meg, Peg, Greg, Clegg, Shel, Shelly, Sheldon, Shelby, Egbert, Frank and the other Frank – altogether in a house with a recycled roof, things weren’t particularly harmonious because The Good Egg found the behaviour of the others confronting.  They ignored bedtime, only ate sugary cereal, dried for no reason, threw tantrums, broke things… and when The Good Egg tried to be the peace maker and fix their behaviour no one listened. It became so hard and frustrating that its head felt scrambled and there were cracks in his shell, so The Good Egg left.

As time went by, it began to focus on the things it needed rather than what it thought everyone else needed and in time it began to heal…

This is a sensitive story that explores finding a balance between personal and social responsibility so that the egg, or any person really, can live at peace with itself.  It’s about helping the perfectionist lower their expectations of themselves so they are not always struggling and feeling failure, and, at the same time, accept that those around them will always have faults and to be comfortable with those.  Self-perception is such a driver of mental health and self-imposed standards of excellence are impossible to live up to and so the spiral towards depression begins, even in our youngest students.  

A companion to The Bad Seed, John and Oswald have combined sober text with humorous illustrations to present an engaging story that has a strong message of accepting oneself and others for who we are, not who we think we should be. 

Great addition to the mindfulness collection.

 

Old Friends, New Friends

Old Friends, New Friends

Old Friends, New Friends

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Old Friends, New Friends

Andrew Daddo

Jonathan Bentley

ABC Books, 2018

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

9780733338137

It’s a new school year and there is a whole class full of old best friends to greet and play with.  But excitement and fizzy tummies disappear when she realises that her new class is full of children whom she doesn’t know.  There is not one familiar face amongst them.  The happy tummy bubbles pop, turning to cartwheels instead; her smile dims and her hands are soggy.

But then she remembers some advice from her mum about being brave, and her grandfather about finding a smile somewhere, and tells herself that her very best BFF will always be herself and suddenly the light begins to shine and a whole world of possibilities opens up.

As the new school year gets underway, many children will be finding themselves in a classroom where they know no one whether that’s because of the way things have been sorted or moving to a new school and it can be a daunting and overwhelming proposition. So this is the perfect book to share to help children like that feel they can make the first step towards making friendships and that a class of 30 kids they don’t know is just 30 opportunities to open up new possibilities.  This is the advice I’ve given to Miss Moving-On-To-High-School because the strategies are just as relevant there.

When someone has lost their smile, give them one of yours.

The beginning of the year is the perfect time for a focus on friends and friendships and so the team who gave us When I Grow Up and First Day have done it again, with their finger on the pulse of what it is like to be a littlie.

 

Flat Cat

Flat Cat

Flat Cat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Flat Cat

Hiawyn Oram

Gwen Millward

Walker Books, 2019

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

9781406371543

High in an apartment at the top of a tall building in one of the world’s busiest cities Sophie lives with her parents and her pet cat that she called Jimi-My-Jim.  She loves Jimi-My-Jim dearly and spoils him in every possible way.  But Jimi-My-Jim is not happy – for all that he has all the things a cat could want, the one thing he desires most is a cat friend.  But there is no way out of the apartment  and as he watches the world go by from the apartment window for hours and hours, days and days, he begins to go flat. Soon, hHe even looked as flat as he feels

Then one day, he finds a way to escape and he finds himself in the world of the city and its “fat cats, cool cats, jazz cats, boss cats, scaredy cats, alley cats, cat burglars, cat-nappers and even a few dogs who thought they were the cat”s whiskers.”

But is this a new life for Jimi-My-Jim or is he destined to be a Flat Cat watching on from the window for ever?

This is an intriguing book for young readers who love cats and who will adore the amazing, distinctive artwork that helps to tell Jimi-My-Jim’s tale.  But there is also an undertone of whether it’s right to keep animals in places where they are cooped up all day and can’t access the outdoors.  And whether things are a substitute for getting outside, friendship and all the other stuff that a wider world can offer.

And it brings to mind T. S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats,  the foundation of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical Cats. Perhaps it could be an entry point into those poems starting with Macavity’s Not There! Nothing like getting our youngest readers into worlds perhaps considered beyond them via a genuine bridge!

 

 

The Man With Small Hair

The Man With Small Hair

The Man With Small Hair

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Man With Small Hair

Jane Jolly

Andrew Joyner

Hardie Grant Egmont, 2018

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

9781742977584

The man with small hair loves his small hair. He also loves his short pants, zing-a-ding boots and clickety-clackety beads. He cartwheels with joy and bursts into song when he wears them. But the man with small hair is the only person who wears his hair small, and no one else has colourful boots or musical beads either. He decides to hide the things that make him happy in order to blend in with the crowd. Until one day he looks in the mirror and doesn’t recognise the man staring back at him. 

Jane Jolly has written a particularly pertinent story about being brave and confident enough to walk to the beat of your own drum, rather than the tune that someone else is piping for you. Sadly, in a world that wants to celebrate individuality and relies on creativity and lateral thinking to solve its problems, conformity seems to be the name of the game and those who dare to be different are teased, bullied and shunned.  So the man who prefers his hair short, and indeed loves it because he likes the feel of the prickly bristles and the funny shadows they make, hides behind disguises that make him seem like all the others on the outside, makes himself one of the crowd who move along in a grey flock, lacking the confidence to express who he really is.

Andrew Joyner’s choice of a predominantly grey palette for the start of the story emphasises the monotonous, monochromatic world that the man inhabits underlining what a dismal place a one-look-fits-all environment can be  But when the man lets his real self shine through, then there is a great burst of colour – as bright as his new found confidence. Not only does the story give the inner person permission to be themselves, but perhaps when they do they will inspire others to discard their masks and show the world their true colours. And even if it is a world of school uniforms there is always some how that we can let ourselves shine.

An excellent story to start off the mindfulness curriculum for the new school year.

Teaching notes are available.

Bat vs Poss

Bat vs Poss

Bat vs Poss

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bat vs Poss

Alexa Moses

Anil Tortop

Lothian Children’s, 2019

32pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9780734418395

Meek lives with her three sisters, a gaggle of birds, lizards and other creatures next to a tumbledown terrace house. Everyone shares the space, and life is pretty sweet until the day a rude and messy fruit bat named Squabbles moves in – and demands everyone else move OUT.  And the creatures are thinking that’s what they will have to do when, at a meeting of all the residents, Meek has a plan.  It means putting her brave on and all the others working together but if it works, it will give them their peaceful home back.

Written in rhyme and charmingly illustrated by Anil Tortop in a palette that reflects the nocturnal life of the story’s characters, this is a story that may be familiar to readers who have had their lives disrupted by a bully who hasn’t learned how to behave well yet. But it is also a story of redemption, showing that sometimes being given a second chance is needed if bad behaviour is to change rather than just continue in a different setting. 

This is the perfect story to share at the beginning of a new school year when some children may be afraid of moving into their new class because of the reputations of some of their new classmates. And for those who have not learned acceptable behaviour skills in the past, it is confirmation that new starts can be made as they start to understand the impact of their actions on those they really want to be friends with, if they only knew how.  A great forerunner for talking about respect and responsibility and establishing class expectations and guidelines for the new year. 

47 Degrees

47 Degrees

47 Degrees

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

47 Degrees

Justin D’Ath

Puffin, 2019

256pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9780143789079

Saturday, February 7, 2009 and Victoria wakes to a weather forecast of 47 degrees in Melbourne with strengthening northerly winds, part of the pattern of the previous few days as a heatwave crawls across the state. In the tiny community of Flowerdale,  Zeelie’s dad is enacting the family’s bushfire survival plan to stay and defend their home even though her mum and young brother are in the Emergency Department of a Melbourne hospital because Lachy has fallen off Zeelie’s horse Rimu.

Zeelie’s not sure her dad has made the right decision but even though there is a lot of smoke in the air her dad is convinced that his precautions are just that – precautions, and wherever the fire is, they will be safe. But when Zeelie goes next door to find Atticus, the old dog they are minding for absent neighbours who has wandered home and discovers small fires already started by embers, her fear rises particularly for the welfare of her horse Rimu. And when the generator fails and there is no longer electricity for the water pumps, it is clearly time to leave… but what about Mum and Lachy and Rimu?

Based solidly on his own experiences during those Black Saturday bushfires, Justin D’Ath has woven a tale that could be the story of any one of our students or children who has experienced the very real horror of bushfires.  At a time when adults are frantically busy trying to keep everyone and everything safe, and reassuring their children with what they want them to hear, there is not time to put themselves in their child’s shoes and see the events through their eyes.  When her dad asks her to pack suitcases, Zeelie packs her mum’s wedding dress and evening gowns rather than the more practical things;  she is angry at her mum because she has taken the vehicle with the towbar because she didn’t have enough petrol in hers so Rimu will be left to his own devices … kids focus on the details while the adults are dealing with the big picture and providing an insight into the child’s thinking and fears is what D’Ath has done so skilfully. Because he experienced many of the events that Zeelie does, the story has a unique authenticity and the reader feels the heat, smells the smoke, visualises the flames and empathises with the fear as Zeelie and her dad try all sorts of routes to get to Melbourne, only to be turned back towards the danger because even greater danger lies ahead.  D’Ath deals with the less-than-happy parts sensitively, acknowledging rather than ignoring them, and helping readers deal with the fact that not all things have a sugar-coated happy ending.  

As the 10th anniversary of one of this country’s greatest natural disasters when  173 people died and over 2000 homes were destroyed approaches, this is not only account of the an event that had an impact well beyond those who were caught up in it but also an insight into the what-did-happens and the what-ifs of those who have experienced similar events, providing us with an inkling of the trauma that many of our students might have faced and are still dealing with, critical as the milestone memory will generate a lot of media that could bring a wave of flashbacks and other psychological issues.

However, it is also a story of hope for them because 10 years on Justin is still able to write stories for them despite losing everything himself, and while the immediate future might be bleak, unknown and scary there is clear air coming and because Australians step up in an extraordinary way at these times, they will be OK. 

 

Marvin and Marigold: A Stormy Night

Marvin and Marigold: A Stormy Night

Marvin and Marigold: A Stormy Night

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marvin and Marigold: A Stormy Night

Mark Carthew

Simon Prescott

New Frontier, 2018

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

9781925594225

With the wind howling, branches swishing and all sorts of scary noises, Marigold Mouse is terrified and decides the safest place for her on this wild, stormy night is under her bed.  But she puts her brave on to let her neighbour Marvin in because he is just as frightened as she is and sometimes it’s better to be scared together. But when there is a bump, thump, boom at the door, will they be brave enough to answer it?

Stormy nights can be very frightening for little ones, so  this story that acknowledges their fears but also shows them how to be brave is perfect for sharing and reassuring them, particularly at this time when storms are common.  The third in this series about the mouse friends, the rhyme and rhythm carry the story along at the pace of the storm while the illustrations capture all the emotions of two fearful little creatures.

A great kickstarter for investigating storms, their noises and the things that frighten us.