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The Tiny Star

The Tiny Star

The Tiny Star

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Tiny Star

Mem Fox

Freya Blackwood

Puffin, 2019

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

9780670078127

Once upon a time, although this happens all the time, a tiny star fell to earth . . . and turned into a baby!  The people who found it loved it immediately…

And as the tiny star grew and flourished others loved it too, and as it grew up to be caring and kind and loving and wise, it was adored in return.  The older it grew the more it was loved even though it was gradually getting smaller and smaller, and even when it was so small it disappeared, the love was immense and palpable. Hearts were broken.  Until one day it appeared again, and at last the hearts began to mend.

Anyone who has ever had the privilege to hear Mem Fox read aloud will hear her voice reading this to you, wrapping itself around you like a snuggly quilt and making you see yourself as that tiny star, or at least hoping that this is your life story too.   Tender, gentle, charming it explores the journey of a life begun and ended in love and accompanied, surprisingly for the first time by Freya Blackwood‘s stunning artistry, it is just perfect for helping little people understand that while we all have a physical beginning and end, we live on in the memories and hearts of those whom we touch along the way. 

As a young teacher I was lucky enough to hear Mem speak a number of times, especially about the importance of the bedtime story and how it “draws the curtains on the day” – a phrase I have repeated often.  The Tiny Star is the perfect book to draw the curtains on a life, to help a young child understand the loss of a loved grandparent or great-grandparent and to look each night to the stars to spot the new one shining down on them.  I wish I’d had it five years ago to help Miss Then-8 and Miss Then-3 to cope with the passing of their beloved Great Gran.

This is one for families to share, to seek comfort and to remember the love and the laughs in a warm story that just embraces you.

For those of you who haven’t heard Mem read aloud, listen here – it will stay with you for a very long time. For those of you who want to know more, fellow TL Sue Warren has a Q&A with Mem here.

Scruffle-Nut

Scruffle-Nut

Scruffle-Nut

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scruffle-Nut

Corinne Fenton

Owen Swan

New Frontier, 2019

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

9781925594768

As winter leaves tumble and twirl a wisp of memory wraps itself about me and whispers me back to long ago…

As a child, her Nanny Clementine took her to the park where she played on the swings and the see-saw and rode the carousel horses for as long as time.  And one day, she sees a squirrel, one that the others squirrels growl at and chase away because he has a stumpy tail, not a magnificent curled one like theirs. And so begins a brief friendship between them – the little squirrel who is a bit different and the little girl who is also a bit different – and there is a strong sense of empathy that builds up, until the snow falls and the park is closed. What is it that the little girl learned from that squirrel in those few short days that has stayed with her all her life?

Sensitive, with beautifully descriptive passages that are sublimely illustrated in a palette and manner as soft and gentle as the story, this is a story that tugs at the heart-strings for we all know the child who is shunned because of their “stumpy tail” and the silent pain and rejection they feel.  One to share and talk about what it would be like to be the one that is on the outside, rather than being part of the Bully-Bunch, and perhaps change a few perceptions. 

Ollie and Augustus

Ollie and Augustus

Ollie and Augustus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ollie and Augustus

Gabriel Evans

Walker, 2019

32pp., hbk., RRP $A26.99

9781760650711

Even though Ollie is small (like a pickling jar or a shoebox) and Augustus is big (like a table or a fridge), they do everything together,including cycling, painting, dressing up, digging (Ollie’s favourite thing) and stick collecting (Augustus’s favourite thing), as best friends do.  But soon it will be time for Ollie to start school and he is worried that Augustus will be lonely without him.  So he sets out to find him a friend.  But none of the dogs that apply for the position are quite right and so Ollie has to start school and leave Augustus on his own.  All day he worries that Augustus will be lonely and bored, but is he?

Term 4 has started and that means “big school” is on the horizon for many of our littlest readers, with all the anxieties that that prospect brings.  There will be many Ollies among them who will worry that their treasured pets will be lonely and not being toys, they have to be left at home. So this is a timely story for them to reassure them that all will be fine and at least one concern can be alleviated. Perfect for sharing with preschoolers about to take the next big step in their growing-up adventure.

 

 

The Immortal Jellyfish

The Immortal Jellyfish

The Immortal Jellyfish

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Immortal Jellyfish

Sang Miao

Flying Eye Books, 2019 

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

9781911171799

Grandpa is explaining about the immortal jellyfish to his grandson, a creature that begins its life again when it is about to die.  When the boy asks his grandfather if humans are immortal, he is told that there are other ways humans can live on but sadly the old man dies before he can explain.  While the boy is devastated, one night his grandpa appears in a dream and takes him on a journey to the Life Transfer City where those that have died can choose a new identity.  But before he discovers his grandfather’s choice he is taken back to the real world on the back of a beautiful white bird…. Will he ever recognise his grandfather again?

At first glance, this seems a rather morbid book with its dark palette, but it really is a most beautiful way to help young children deal with the passing of a loved one as sadly, so many have to. Helping them understand that those who die live on in our memories and thoughts, the things we see, do and smell or taste, even when they are no longer physically here is a way that we can help with the grieving process, particularly if there is no religious belief of an afterlife. It offers a way for the bereaved child to think about those memories and what their loved one might choose to be, as well as being able to share those thoughts rather than not talk at all, which is so often the case. Grown-ups often want to protect little ones by not talking, but often that’s just what the child needs to do. 

Sensitive and heart-warming, but not sickly-sentimental, this is something special for one of the most difficult parts of growing up. 

In The Dead of the Night

In The Dead of the Night

In The Dead of the Night

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In The Dead of the Night

Arthur McBain

Tom Knight

Little Hare, 2019

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

9781760503413

It’s a cold, rainy night and a storm is outside
Rain beats on the window by Lily’s bedside
She’s scared of the dark so she shuts her eyes tight
She hates nothing more than the dead of the night

Tap. Tap. Tap. Comes a noise from the hallway …

There is something about hearing strange sounds in the middle of the night that makes our imaginations run wild as we think about the possibilities – is there a monster with horns on its head; a vampire looking for prey; or a mesmerised ghost? All of these ideas fill Lily’s head as she lies there listening to the Tap. Tap. Tap. But, remembering her little brother is also asleep and needs protecting, she summons her courage and determines to conquer whatever is making the noise…

Using rhyme and repetitive text, and stunning illustrations that are fearsome but not too scary, McBain and Knight have managed to build a story that reaches a crescendo of tension but which resolves itself with an unusual twist which will resonate with lots of young readers whose imaginations are as active as Lily’s.  It’s an opportunity to talk about what might be making the tap, tap, tap and for little ones to share their fears about the dark and the noises of the night, and to reassure them that even as adults, we are all scared of the unknown at times and we have to summon our courage to investigate too. 

Reassuring and different.

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All of the Factors of Why I Love Tractors

All of the Factors of Why I Love Tractors

All of the Factors of Why I Love Tractors

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All of the Factors of Why I Love Tractors

Davina Bell

Jenny Lovlie

Little Hare, 2019

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

9781760501457

Frankie McGee is very excited because today’s the day he goes to the library with his mother and he can borrow another book about tractors – his favourite thing in the whole world.  And no matter how much his mum tries to persuade him to borrow something else – cars, planes, cranes, trains – he is determined and launches into a list of all the factors of why he loves tractors.

Told in a rollicking rhyme that moves both the story and the text along at a great rate, this is the most delightful book that will appeal to a lot of little boys, particularly those in rural areas who are able to tell their John Deeres from their Massey Fergusons. 

But it is the last four lines that are the best and which should put a smile on any parent’s (or teacher librarian’s) face…

“See, Mama?” I say as we check our books out.

“I like books – that’s what matters. Not what they’re about.

And don’t worry, ” I add. “I know this one by heart.

I can read it to you – all the way from the start.”

Reading really is a super power!

A Home for Luna

A Home for Luna

A Home for Luna

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Home for Luna

Stef Gemmill

Mel Armstrong

New Frontier, 2019

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

9781925594843

On a cold, moonlit night a dark crate washes up on a lonely shore, and out crawls a bedraggled, lonely cat, wary of her surroundings so different from the home she remembers, but glad to be out of the ceaseless motion of the sea.  As daylight creeps up, she woke and looked around only to find herself among creatures that didn’t look like anything she had seen, certainly not cats, but the familiar fishy smell drew her forward. 

Too tired to move, she lay on the rocks watching the penguins swim and return with fish, making her tummy rumbled.  And then one of them approached her… is this a friendly move or one fraught with fear?

Mel Armstrong, an experienced illustrator making her children’s book debut, has created bold illustrations which suggest that Luna is  no weak, wimpy cat and so the reader expects that this story is going to go well beyond that initial meeting and that conflict or camaraderie. there is some meat to it.

On the surface, this is a simple story about two creatures forming an unlikely friendship, one that reaches a climax when humans arrive at the colony and decide that it is no place for a cat.  But looking beneath the surface, could it be the story of a refugee arriving in a strange land amongst strange people, and being accepted just for who they are, rather than anything else?  And a government making a determination about their suitability to stay?  Or am I viewing it through the lens of so many news stories about worthy people facing deportation, so much so my views of a children’s story have been tainted and I see allegory each time I read a story like this?  Whichever, it is refreshing to read one that is about resilience and hope and which has the sort of ending we would all wish for, whether it’s a cat washed ashore or a person. 

Read more about the story behind the story here

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

Charlie Turns Into a T-Rex

Charlie Turns Into a T-Rex

Charlie Turns Into a T-Rex

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Charlie Turns Into a T-Rex

Sam Copeland

Sarah Horne

Puffin, 2019

320pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

9780241346228

Charlie McGuffin is a 9-year-old boy who can change into animals when he gets nervous, and once again Charlie is very nervous.

When his dad’s business takes a sudden turn for the worse, the McGuffin family face the terrible prospect of having to sell their house and move in with Aunt Brenda and her seventeen cats (and wooden leg). Only Charlie and best friends Flora, Mohsen and Wogan can save the day. If they can break into the fortress-like offices of Van Der Gruyne Industries and recover the McGuffins’ stolen gold, maybe Charlie won’t have to move away after all.

Trouble is, the pressure is getting to Charlie, making it harder for him to control when he changes into an animal – and harder still to change back. Can Charlie’s friends help him master his powers once and for all, or will he end up stuck as a pigeon forever . . . ?

This is the sequel to Charlie Changes into a Chicken  and is just as funny and will be just as popular as the original with newly independent readers who like a bit of quirky in their reading. Even though it is 320 pages long, it is not a daunting read because it is liberally illustrated and with footnotes offering extra information, the well-spaced prose is broken into manageable chunks.  And for those who missed the first one, there is more information about Charlie and his friends here.  A nice set to set aside for the Santa sack for young boys who need to read. 

Miss Kraken

Miss Kraken

Miss Kraken

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Miss Kraken

Nicki Greenberg

Allen  $ Unwin, 2019

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

9781760637743

It’s the beginning of the new school year and the children are looking forward to meeting their new teacher.  But this one is very different – she’s strict, she imposes rules and confiscates contraband and is no fun at all.  So when she disappears on an excursion to the aquarium because the students have reverted to their usual abominable behaviour, it seems like a good thing…at first.  But having to be fetched by the principal and her replacement for Miss Kraken who never returns is not necessarily the outcome the children were wanting…

There are those who think that teachers should always be like Miss Kraken – after all, there is no discipline in schools these days and boundaries never hurt the proponents who have all turned out perfectly – and there are those who think that there is room for change, a happy medium between fear and anarchy because rule by fear does not bring about sustained behaviour change but no boundaries breeds confusion and confrontation. So apart from the humour in the story, and the surprising solution that could spark debate, this is a great discussion starter about why society needs rules to guide it and whether these should be imposed or negotiated for greatest success. Classes will see themselves in the story and there could be great debate and greater understanding if a “what if…?” question were posed, as they examine the impact of the class’s behaviour on those working or visiting the aquarium, even the creatures themselves. How does their personal behaviour affect those around them?

The more often you read this story the deeper the questions that can be asked and explored…  

The Runaways

The Runaways

The Runaways

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Runaways

Ulf Stark

Kitty Crowther

Gecko Press, 2019

144pp., pbk., RRP $A18.99

9781776572342

Grandpa is stuck in hospital with a broken leg and a heart that is coming to the end of its working life.  Used to being an engineer on the great ships of the seas,  being confined to a bed is making him cranky and cantankerous and he swears at everyone, continually pushes the alarm buzzes because he is bored and complains about the food.  “Not even the water tastes any good.” Only young Gottfried, his grandson, finds pleasure in visiting him and understands the reason for his moods.

And so he hatches a plan to get Grandad out of there, on one last adventure…

This is a heart-warming family story that captures the frustration of the elderly who know their end is coming and want to be anywhere but in a hospital as well as the ideality of youth whose imaginations are not constrained by the realities of what is safest – they think of ‘what if” and deal with ‘what now ‘ and ‘what next’ if and when it arises. Gottfried’s plan to give his grandfather one last simple pleasure has to be complex and he does worry about whether sometimes it’s OK to lie and the consequences, but his love for Grandpa is stronger than any obstacles.

Written by a renowned Swedish author and set in Stockholm, this is, nevertheless, a universal story, one that many of us with ageing parents and grandparents will relate to. The unusual illustrations done with coloured pencil bring colour into what is otherwise a drab life for Grandpa but Gottfried’s love for him shines through, making it an uplifting story about how both deal with end-of-life issues. Something special.