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Sea Monsters

Sea Monsters

Sea Monsters

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sea Monsters

Sharon J. Yaxley

Forty South Publishing, 2019

46pp., hbk., $25.00

9780648168881

A walk along the beach is often characterised by the sound of the waves, the fresh air and the sheer exuberance of being able to move with such freedom as we pass rocks, seaweed and other detritus washed up by the tides. Being king of the castle, drawing pictures in the sand with sticks, feeling the texture of the sand and shells under our feet and the delight of beating the waves as they try to soak our clothes are just a few joys of this most pleasurable experience.

But what if we slowed down and took the time to look at what is there, to examine the shapes and colours and textures of the landscape? Where might our imaginations take us? Into a world of monsters or somewhere different?

Environmental activist David Suzuki says

Unless we are willing to encourage our children to reconnect with and appreciate the natural world, we can’t expect them to help protect and care for it.

Author/photographer of this new book for young readers, Sharon Yaxley has used this quote to describe the concept of this remarkable book for young readers, to encourage them to look more closely at the things in their world and let those things talk to their imaginations.  Tails, tusks, dark eyes, sharp noses and jaws with jagged teeth are all there in the seaweed, driftwood, rocks, sand… and when the tide crashes in and the wind does its work, they change into something different.  Looking closely, thinking about the object’s story and the story it could inspire all help to slow the child down in this breakneck world, to be curious and spark their wonder.

Even if your students live nowhere near a beach, this can still be the inspiration to take them outside and let them immerse themselves in what is there and imagine… Let’s take the opportunity to connect our kids to the real world so they want to protect it too. Extensive teaching notes aligned to many strands of the Australian Curriculum are available. 

 

 

Ella and Mrs Gooseberry

Ella and Mrs Gooseberry

Ella and Mrs Gooseberry

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ella and Mrs Gooseberry

Vikki Conley

Penelope Pratley

EK Books, 2019

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

9781925335255

When Mrs Gooseberry was in her front yard she always seemed grumpy, slamming her door and making the children afraid to ask for their ball when they accidentally kick it into her yard.  But when Ella, who lived next door, saw Mrs Gooseberry in her backyard, it was a different story.  She had a lovely vegetable garden  and chickens that she talked to and she seemed happy.  Confused, Ella asks her mum how a person could be grumpy in their front yard yet happy in the back and she learns that Mrs Gooseberry has “lost her love.” That confuses her even more because she didn’t know that you could lose love and whether it might be found again.

She asks the important adults in her life what love is and gets a different answer from each one, and gradually realises that love can be many things. When she sees her cat’s kittens snuggling into their mother’s warm tummy, she has an idea…

This is a charming story that will help young readers understand that love can take many forms and it doesn’t always have to be encased in the words, “I love you.”  It can be expressed in the things we do (or don’t do); the way we look at and treat others; the care we take; the extra gestures or actions we make… It is an ideal way for them to start thinking about how those who are important to them show their love and how they reciprocate those feelings.  It cries out for an activity where children inscribe one side of a heart with “My —— loves me because —–” and the other side with “I love —– because —-” where the blanks are filled with the little personal things that show love without being words.  Apart from raising awareness of how they are loved, it might also inspire them to think of new ways to express their love such as cleaning their room or doing the dishes so the adults have one less thing to do. And perhaps it might show those who think they have lost their love, that they haven’t – it’s just in a different shape now.

Goodbye House, Hello House

Goodbye House, Hello House

Goodbye House, Hello House

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Goodbye House, Hello House

Margaret Wild

Ann James

Allen & Unwin, 2019

32pp., hbk., RRP $a24.99

9781743311103

This is the last time I’ll fish in this river. 
This is the last time I’ll run through these trees. 
This is the last time I’ll dream by this fire …  

In scenes familiar to many, Emma is saying goodbye to all the familiar places in her old home in the country as her family prepares to move to a new one in the city.  Perhaps the most poignant is when she  changes the writing on the wall from Emma lives here to  Emma lived here. But rather than being maudlin and upset, the story turns around as she arrives at the new house and she anticipates all the possibilities it offers. And this time changes the writing on the wall of her new room by changing the old Kim lives here to Emma lives here now, consolidating the idea that change happens and things move on. 

Even though Wild has used a minimum of text, James’s illustrations tell much of the story with the backgrounds depicting the juxtaposition of the two houses, with the unique depiction of Emma superimposed on them showing that she remains the same and the experiences she will have will still be familiar in many respects. Against the muted background, Emma really pops out with all her emotions on display, again demonstrating that the story of a little girl is what’s important rather than the place she finds herself in.  We are still who we are despite the circumstances that surround us. 

Many young readers will have stories to tell that are similar to Emma’s and this offers them the opportunity to open up about their experiences and emotions, particularly those around starting a new school as Emma will have to do. It may offer some insight into how scary things can be for those who have not had the experience.  

Rabbit’s Hop: A Tiger & Friends book

Rabbit's Hop

Rabbit’s Hop

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rabbit’s Hop

Alex Rance

Shane  McG

Allen & Unwin, 2019 

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

9781760524449

Jack Rabbit loved Rabbit Island. He loved his friends and family and all the little rabbits. He loved being the best at hopping and chomping and (nearly the best) at zigzagging. As he taught the little rabbits to hop and chomp and zigzag, he encouraged them to be kind, work hard and enjoy themselves, a mantra that he finds himself putting into practice as he makes his way from his comfort zone of Rabbit Island to the unknown of Big Island at the invitation of his cousin Roo.

This is an entertaining tale that encourages young readers to have the confidence to take risks and explore a world wider than the one they know. A sequel to Tiger’s Roar it continues the positive message of self-belief, unselfishness and perseverance that young readers need to hear and see in practice.  And to add a twist, a series of letters from the key characters on the final page sets up the series for its next episode.  

Just a happy, charming series about friendships and our dependence on one another to be our best selves.

 

Duck Duck Moose

Duck Duck Moose

Duck Duck Moose

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Duck Duck Moose

Lucinda Gifford

Allen & Unwin, 2019 

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

9781760634704

Two ducks with attitude are making their way through the forest when suddenly they encounter Moose…

To tell the rest of the story would not only spoil it but would also just be my interpretation of the sparse text juxtaposed against the fabulous illustrations which contain all the action and expressions, the problem and its solution.

This is one of those books that is perfect for encouraging littlies to read both the words and the pictures and tell their own story, and even though Australian children might not be familiar with a moose there is no mistaking what it is and its impact on the ducks.  With the endpapers being an integral part of the story, it really does encourage interaction with the whole book and provides so much scope for language development, not just reading.

So, as well as being perfect for littlies, it is also rich enough in its story for being one for those who are learning English as a new language to also engage with.  Apart from interpreting the story itself, there is scope to talk about the expressions and emotions, so perfectly portrayed in the illustrations and which are universal.  

A true picture book where every element is interdependent and the key link between them is the reader and their imagination. 

When Billy Was a Dog

When Billy Was a Dog

When Billy Was a Dog

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When Billy Was a Dog

Kirsty Murray

Karen Blair

Allen & Unwin, 2019

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

9781760631826

Billy loves dogs and he really, really wants a dog. He adores Mrs Banerjee-next-door’s little dog, Fluff, but even though he promises to wash it and walk it, feed it and clean up its messes if he one of his own, his parents are not sure.  And so he hatches a plan.  If he cannot have a dog, he will be one.

To his parent’s surprise (and embarrassment) he copies all the things he knows that Fluff does, even eating his breakfast from a bowl on the floor, and when his mum and Mrs Banarjee go to the cafe, he waits on the floor alongside Fluff.  He even curls up in Fluff’s basket with her and sleeps, until Fluff begins to make funny noises and Mrs Banerjee sends him home.  He is confused but…

Many young readers will see themselves in Billy – desperately wanting a dog or a pet of some sort but not getting one.  But while many might think that pester-power is the answer, Billy’s novel solution offers the foundation for an interesting story that will appeal widely.  Being a pet-owner requires a lot of responsibility as many advertisement from places like the RSPCA  remind us particularly around Christmas time, but there could be discussion about whether Billy’s solution is actually the best one.  How else could he have shown that he was mature enough to understand what is involved and that he is responsible enough to take it seriously?

Being responsible for a pet is a huge undertaking but there are many other things that young readers want to do or have that are beyond the realm of their maturity.  So this story opens up the pathway for discussions about those sorts of things and the best responses that could become strategies.  With Book Week rapidly approaching and many schools holding book fairs, this is a great way to open up conversations about how students might be able to purchase what they want without the usual whingeing and moaning and tantrum throwing!

100 Ways to Make the World Better

100 Ways to Make the World Better

100 Ways to Make the World Better

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

100 Ways to Make the World Better

Lisa M. Gerry

National Geographic Kids. 2019

256pp., pbk., RRP $A19.99

9781426329975  

From something as manageable as forgiving someone or leaving a complimentary note in their locker to more complex ideas such as taking a First Aid class or letting your trash be someone else’s treasures, this is a small book full of big ideas about how to make the world a better place both physically and emotionally. 

With philosophy such as being the kind of friend you’d like to have and being inclusive, it covers personal issues that can help the individual be more calm, more mindful and more responsive to their world while also taking actions that can help shape the world into what they want it to be.   Ideas are presented as simple concepts with engaging graphics and photographs, and many are followed by detailed supporting information, including advice from Nat Geo explorers, interviews with experts and weird but true facts. readers can get a sense of their own power to make a difference and an understanding of what actions contribute to positive outcomes and how they can change things by themselves.

While journalling and personal challenges are becoming a popular way to have students focus on the positives and support their mental health, sometimes knowing where to start can be overwhelming so this could be used to guide that journey by having students set themselves the 100 tasks over the school year, and help them structure their progress that way as they work their way through them. They might also have spaces for another 20 ways they discover that are not mentioned in the book and these could be added to a class wall chart to inspire others to look more widely. 

While these sorts of books always inspire when you first pick them up, without accountability life can go back to routine quickly so offering ways to keep the ideas in focus and support the reader over time will not only help them, but also the adult offering that support. We can all make our world better. 

 

Wolfy

Wolfy

Wolfy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wolfy

Grégoire Solotareff

Gecko Press, 2019

36pp., pbk. RRP $A16.99

9781776571574

Once upon a time there was a rabbit who had never seen a wolf, and a young wolf who had never seen a rabbit.The pair meet and become good friends. Tom the rabbit teaches the wolf to play marbles, read, count and fish. Wolfy teaches Tom to run very, very fast.

But eventually their friendship is tested by the classic game Who’s-afraid-of-the-big-bad-wolf? Can the little rabbit and the young wolf remain best friends in all the world?

With its striking artwork, this is a story about how opposites can be friends despite their differences – not a new theme in children’s literature – but the twist is in the resolution.  When Wolfy frightens Tom so badly during their game that Tom scurries to his burrow vowing never to come out again, Wolfy doesn’t get it -until he does.  It’s the young child’s version of “walk a mile in my shoes” that sets this book about friendship apart and which has lessons to teach those who find it hard to empathise with the results of their actions.  Plenty of scope for discussion and reflection. 

The Visitor

The Visitor

The Visitor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Visitor

Antje Damm

Gecko Press, 2019

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

9781776571895

Elise was frightened—of spiders, people, even trees. So she never went out, night or day. One day a strange thing flies in through the window and lands at her feet. And then there comes a knock at the door. Elise has a visitor who will change everything.

This is a charming story, cleverly constructed with its dark and bright palettes, that shows how a child can unwittingly bring life and light back to where there seems only darkness. Using a unique process of drawing Elise and Emil and then placing their cutout figures in a small, tidy home with furnishings crafted of paper and board, photographing them and then adding colour washes or not as the story’s mood dictates, Damm demonstrates how much we really do need others in our lives if we are to experience its true joy. The final page demonstrates this perfectly.

Whenever there is a news story about children visiting an aged care facility, the residents always talk about how alive they start to feel, something that my own mother-in-law experienced herself.  Unable to recognise her own son and daughter towards the end, nevertheless she was able to recall the words to the songs that our school choir sang and join in with them.  But not only did she talk about it to us for many visits afterwards, the children themselves also talked about the people they had met, the grandparents they didn’t have and the friendships that were beginning to blossom as the visits became a regular fortnightly activity. There was a purpose to their learning new lyrics and practising their singing and my m-i-l always knew when there was a visit imminent.

Lots of scope to develop vocabulary about feelings but more powerfully, never underestimate the power of a child in someone’s life and think about how you and yours could brighten someone else’s.

 

 

Brindabella

Brindabella

Brindabella

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brindabella

Ursula Dubosarsky

Andrew Joyner

Allen & Unwin, 2018

208pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9781760112042

While Pender is playing in the bush near his home, he hears a gunshot and to his dismay he discovers a mother kangaroo taking her last breath.  But as her eyes glaze, he notices movement in her pouch and Pender finds himself with no choice but to take care of the baby joey he names Brindabella.  With his artistic, somewhat reclusive father, they raise Brindabella and even though Pender knows she will one day need to return to the bush he puts that way to the back of his mind, until the day her natural instincts become too much for her and Brindabella leaves…

With the narrative switching between Pender and Brindabella’s perspectives, this is a sensitively written novel for young independent readers that explores the relationship between people and animals. Why do Pertelote the chook, Billy-Bob the dog and Ricky the cat stay with Pender and his father while Brindabella has a compelling need to leave? Confronting, even emotional in parts, Dubosarsky brings the Australian bush alive so all the senses are engaged and the reader is there with Pender, opening opportunities for lots of sensory responses that confirm, compare and contrast Pender’s home with that of the reader themselves.

Shortlisted for the 2019 CBCA Book of the Year for Younger Readers, this is a story that I know Miss 8 is going to adore particularly because she loves to roam our bush block and we have our own share of Brindabellas, but for those not as fortunate, there are teachers’ notes and activities that will help to bring it into the realm of city kids. Download them from the home site.