Archives

Baz & Benz

Baz & Benz

Baz & Benz

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Baz & Benz

Heidi McKinnon

Allen & Unwin, 2019

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

9781760523688

‘Benz, are we friends?’
‘Yes, Baz, we are best friends’
‘For how long?’
‘For ever and ever.’

Baz and Benz are two little owls, and Baz is trying to discover how far he can push the boundaries of the friendship as he suggests all kinds of things he could do that might fracture the friendship.  But even when Benz gets annoyed, the friendship remains strong because Benz is very wise. 

From the creator of I Just Ate My Friend,  McKinnon once again explores the concept of friendship and what it takes to be a good friend.  As with her previous book, the illustrations are set against a plain night sky background, ensuring the young reader pays attention to the focal point and much of the emotion of both Baz and Benz comes through the facial expressions and body language. The story is carried in dialogue colour-coded to each character enabling very young readers to start developing early concepts about print. 

Perfect for preschoolers just learning about having friends and being one, as they reflect on their behaviour and its impact on those around them, as well as how other’s behaviour impacts on them. 

Lottie and Walter

Lottie and Walter

Lottie and Walter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lottie and Walter

Anna Walker

Puffin, 2019

40pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9780143787181

Lottie had a secret that neither her mother, baby brother or swimming teacher knew.  At the bottom of the learners’ pool lived a shark that only wanted to eat Lottie.  So every Saturday, Lottie would go to the pool, get changed, watch and wait and then get dressed again without getting wet.  But then she met Walter the Walrus who liked the things she did- books, bubbles and fish fingers. So she told him her fears.  Would Walter be able to help her before the pool party next Saturday?

Anna Walker, who created the iconic Mr Huff, has again used a child’s fear as a focus for her new picture book, exploring something common to many children and helping them understand that such fears can be overcome with a little help and imagination. Little people don’t always have the language yet to be able to articulate what is bothering them so Lottie’s use of a shark in the pool is a common device.  Even though her mother and swimming teacher might be able to prove to her there is no actual shark in the pool itself(if they knew it was there), nevertheless it masks something that Lottie can’t express yet.  The strength in the story lies in only Lottie knowing the secret and therefore only Lottie can sort it out, empowering her rather than making her dependent on grown-ups, demonstrating that both Lottie and the reader that little people can solve problems if given the space to do so.

Swimming is an essential skill that all Australian children need to master but there are many Lotties amongst them so this is a perfect book to share and discuss before swimming lessons begin, so that those who do have fears can realise they are not alone and can develop some strategies to overcome the “sharks in the water”. 

There’s Only One Mum Like You

There’s Only One Mum Like You

There’s Only One Mum Like You

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There’s Only One Mum Like You

Jess Racklyeft

Affirm Press, 2019

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

9781925712902

I love your quiet stories,
songs sung loud in the rain.
No one can hug like you, Mum
or makes me feel the same.

Brave mums, playful mums, cuddly mums, quiet mums – every mum is special in her own way and author/illustrator Jess Racklyeft celebrates the many things that mums do to make their child’s life better in this ode to mothers that has been released just in time for Mothers Day.

But rather than a twee platitude of a kind that we see too much of, Racklyeft has illustrated this with watercolours of a host of different mums from the animal kingdom, showing that motherhood is not just the realm of humans and that in their way, mums are critical in a child’s development well beyond birth. 

For those who are focusing on Mothers Day and may be treading warily in acknowledgement of those students without mums, this is an innovative approach that offers something a little different.

 

A Great Escape

A Great Escape

A Great Escape

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Great Escape

Felice Arena

Puffin, 2019

176pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9780143794042

Berlin, August 13, 1961, the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the US and its allies is at its peak and  Peter is playing with his mates Max and Hubert, ignoring his mother’s requests to come inside because they are leaving to visit the western side of the city, controlled by the Western Allies and entirely surrounded by the Soviet-controlled East Berlin and East Germany. It doesn’t seem like a big deal because Peter can always stay with his grandparents as he frequently does.

But this time things change for overnight the East German authorities start constructing the wall which divided the city for 28 years and Peter finds himself separated from his parents and little sister Margrit as they are unable to return to the East and he can not join them. Guarded by tanks and soldiers with ferocious dogs and who shoot to kill, it seems that Peter will never see his family again.  However, he is determined to escape and despite seeing the fate of most of those who do try, including the body of his best friend’s older brother left caught in the barbed wire as a warning, his resolve to rejoin his parents doesn’t waver.  While he meets new friends Otto and Elke he is scorned by others, including being taunted and beaten by his old friend MAx who considers him to be a traitor for wanting to be reunited with his family.

This is knife-edge reading about a period in time that was the backdrop to the life of a generation and inspired by the author’s visit to Berlin and asking himself, “If the Wall were to be implemented today, and I were separated from my family, what would I do?” He has brought the period and the dilemma of so many to life through Peter and his friends, and created another must-read to go with The Boy and the Spy and Fearless Frederic.  As well as shining a spotlight on a recent period in history that is still fresh in the minds of many of our students’ grandparents who will have seen it, perhaps even been affected by it, it also sets up a number of ethical questions that could lead to some robust discussions.  

Just as with its predecessors, this is a meaty book that will appeal to those who like some real depth to their reading and who are then compelled to find out more about the events and circumstances.  Perfect for independent readers who are a little older and have a sense of history and are interested in the lives of other children in other places in other times.  As Arena asked himself, what would they do if they found themselves in another’s shoes?

Saying Goodbye to Barkley

Saying Goodbye to Barkley

Saying Goodbye to Barkley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saying Goodbye to Barkley

Devon Sillett

Nicky Johnston

EK Books, 2019

32pp., hbk. RRP $A24.99

9781925335965

Olivia and Barkley are best friends who do everything together, especially catching the bad guys,  With her trusty cape and his sensitive nose, they were two pieces of the same puzzle, but then Barkley got sick and instead of helping Olivia, he just lay in his basket all day. Olivia tried to understand and to go on without him but it just wasn’t the same and when he died she was totally bereft.  Like everyone who suffers any sort of loss of a loved one, the bottom fell out of her world and she was too sad to do anything.  Sleeping didn’t even help because if she dreamed of him, he was gone when she woke up.  And life would never be right again, because every superhero needs a sidekick.

But then, slowly, even though she was still grieving she was able to think about the fun they had together and when she woke up one morning, she had a plan…

Every one of us loses someone who is dear and sadly, that is as true for children as it is for adults.  Devon Sillett, author of both Scaredy Book: It’s not always easy to be brave! and The Leaky Story is gradually building a body of work that shows she is in touch with the thoughts and emotions of our youngest readers and is able to help them recognise, articulate and share those feelings with others.  This is a gentle, tender story of the loss of a loved pet but one which has a happy ending that shows that while the loved one can’t be replaced, there is still life to live and love to give, even if it’s different from what you imagined.

Nicky Johnston’s illustrations are as soft and gentle as the words and add to the poignancy of the whole story and from the front cover to the final endpaper the love that Olivia has to give is on display. In fact the endpapers cleverly preface the story – Barkley hiding under the covers at the front, and Spud pulling them off and the astute adult sharing this story might even prepare the child for its content and theme by wondering aloud why there are two different dogs. Teachers’ notes to assist in exploring and explaining the story are available.

This is an essential addition to both home and school library as it is a sensitive approach to a situation that so many of our little people will face but will not understand without some adult guidance.  

I’m not (Very) Afraid of the Dark

I'm not (Very) Afraid of the Dark

I’m not (Very) Afraid of the Dark

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m not (Very) Afraid of the Dark

Anna Milbourne

Daniel Riebey

Usborne, 2019

24pp., hbk. RRP $A19.99

9781474940726

During the daytime I’m not afraid of the dark. In the daytime the Dark is small and tucks itself under things almost as if it’s hiding.  But it’s different as the day draws to a close and the Dark starts to stretch out and starts to cover EVERYTHING. It’s not too scary when the lights are on even though there are corners where the Dark lurks, but once the lights are off…

And when Dad suggests a camping trip that means being outside in the Dark where the noises are unknown, well that’s a whole new level of scared…

Fear of the dark is a common phenomenon, particularly for little ones who don’t yet understand the concept of Earth’s rotation and night and day and thus it is also a common theme in stories for them. What sets this one apart though is the way that the Dark is personified and explored using engaging language that expresses the child’s thoughts so well.  Instead of referring to “shadows”, the little boy says it “tucks itself under things almost as if it’s hiding.” and illustrations that show those same shadows getting longer and longer.  But the standout feature is the use of cutouts throughout the book that cleverly highlight  the text -“the feeling inside me gets bigger too-like a hole I could fall into” as well as offering a peek into what’s coming.  Even the very last page has some that provide the perfect ending.

Like others on this theme, there is much that both parent and teacher can explore with the child as the book is shared – the concept of darkness and how it is created and needed, emotions and fears and how these can be addressed, the stars and other bodies in the night sky … 

All in all, a great story beautifully told and brilliantly illustrated that offers both comfort and learning.

Circle

Circle

Circle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Circle

Mac Barnett

Jon Klassen

Walker Books, 2019

4899., hbk. RRP $A24.99

9781406384222

Triangle and Square are visiting Circle, who lives at the waterfall. When they play hide-and-seek, Circle tells the friends the one rule: not to go behind the falling water. But after she closes her eyes to count to ten, of course that’s exactly where Triangle goes. Will Circle find Triangle? And what OTHER shapes might be lurking back there?

This is the third in this trilogy which started with Triangle  and continued with Square., and it is just as engaging as its predecessors.  As well as Barnett’s text, Klassen’s almost monochromatic illustrations carry the action with much of it being conveyed through the eyes alone. As with the other two, there is a subtle message in the story – this time, after running out from behind the waterfall because they are scared of the unknown shape, Circle ponders about whether the unknown really is scary.  In addition, the reader is invited to imagine just which shape the two may have been talking to, opening up the scope to explore other common 2D shapes and perhaps even craft their own stories about them.

This is an intriguing trilogy, unlike anything done before which deserves a place in any home or school library because it is timeless and will cross the generations.

Mallee Sky

Mallee Sky

Mallee Sky

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mallee Sky

Jodi Toering

Tannya Harricks

Black Dog Books, 2019

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

9781925381672

“The first people of the land call the Mallee “Nowie”.  It means sunset country. When the sun goes down, the red heat of the day bleeds into the sky and sets it on fire.”

In this most evocative book with poetic text and stunning illustrations, we are introduced to life on the Mallee under the harshest conditions of drought, where the summer sky is big and blue and at night there are more stars in the sky than anywhere in the world. Where bitumen melts, red dirt cracks, the scrub sighs from thirst and the wind is so hot and tired it can’t raise more than a whisper…

No rain falls here and the ancient eucalypts are ghosts of themselves until one day there is a strange sound on the tin roof…

The author, herself born in the Mallee , has taken seven years to perfect her book and the time and dedication shows in its sensitive, picturesque phrases that build an image so vivid it must have been easy for illustrator Tannya Harricks to know what to capture and bring to life with her oil paints and bold brushstrokes. , even though the two only met for the first time at the launch of the book! 

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

What is typical for this vast region of Western Victoria, encompassing more than a quarter of the state is sadly the scenario and scenery for much of the eastern states as this drought drags on and on, and so this is a timely publication and addition to the collection because so many will be able to see their own surroundings and lives in it and how they, as people, are shaped by Mother Nature, and perhaps draw hope that they too will dance in the rain as the Mallee kids did. In fact, Toering herself says, ““This is really a book about Australia. Even though it is set in the Mallee and it’s called Mallee Sky, in essence it’s about drought, which affects every part of Australia, it’s about climate change, it’s about farming and small towns and the impact that drought has on them.”

Simply stunning. and could well be among the award winners over the next 12 months. 

 

 

Charlie Changes into a Chicken

Charlie Changes into a Chicken

Charlie Changes into a Chicken

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Charlie Changes into a Chicken

Sam Copeland

Sarah Horne

Puffin, 2019

299pp., pbk., RRP $A7.99

9780241346211

When the draft copy of this book first arrived in the post, it came with a flurry of yellow feathers and straight away it was apparent that it was going to be something a little different and lots of fun.

Charlie is an optimist, but things are conspiring against him. His brother SmoothMove is in hospital waiting for an operation, his parents are trying to hide how worried they are, and the school bully is upping the ante in Charlie’s direction.

The thing is, Charlie’s never really been stressed before – not properly, sweatily, heartpumpingly, stressed – and with everything going on at home, plus all the normal worries at school, he’s starting to panic. And this is bad, because Charlie’s just learnt that when he gets properly, sweatily, heartpumpingly, stressed, he turns in to an animal, all sorts of animals. A flea. A pigeon. A rhino. Who knows what’s next?

The school play is only a couple of weeks away, and Charlie is starting to worry. What if he transforms in front of the whole school, while he’s on stage playing Sad Potato Number 1? What if he turns into a naked mole rat or a John Dory in front of everyone he knows, with the spotlight on him? Will he get sent away for Science to deal with? Will his parents crack up with all the extra stress? Will everyone know he’s a freak?

With the help of his three best friends, Charlie needs to find a way to deal with his extraordinary new talent. And fast.

With its eye-catching bright gold cover, zany illustrations and informative footnotes that add extra information about the story without intruding into it, this one will be a winner with independent readers looking for the fun in stories.  They can learn more about Charlie’s friends, who are introduced here

The new year is bringing forth a wealth of new novels and series for young independent readers who just want to curl up and read a quality story and this is one of them.  Hook your boys with this one, with at least two more to come.

Sleep Tight, Platypup

Sleep Tight, Platypup

Sleep Tight, Platypup

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sleep Tight, Platypup

Renée Treml

Puffin Books, 2019

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

9780143789697

Alone in his burrow, the baby platypus wakes up and is disturbed by the shadows and noises of the night.  He calls out for his mummy who has been out searching for food, and after giving him a big hug she takes him outside to show him the night.  At first all he can see is darkness but when she encourages him to look more closely, he sees other things that are familiar to him during the day and starts to understand.  When the wind blows, she encourages him to listen carefully to the sounds and again, he starts to distinguish those that are familiar and his fear dissipates.  

Superbly illustrated in her distinctive style, the creator of gems like Wombat Big, Puggle Small, Ten Little Owls, Once I heard a wombat, One Very Tired Wombat and Colour  for Curlews  has designed another gentle story for young readers which not only introduces them to another of Australia’s unique creatures but also helps dispel fears they might have about the night – perhaps even offering human parents a strategy that could help their little ones.  

With its soft, gentle palette of purples portraying the night, rather than the more usual starkness of black, its sensitive text that reflects just how a mother would soothe a frightened child and its universal theme of a fear of the dark, this is a winner on so many levels.  

A peek inside....

A peek inside….

An activity pack with some lovely activities to enrich the book and help them understand their fears is available.