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Through the Gate

Through the Gate

Through the Gate

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Through the Gate

Sally Fawcett

EK Books, 2017

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

9781925335415

As she looks through the gate of her new house, the little girl is feeling really despondent because it is anything but new.  All she could see were the drooping roof, the peeling paint, and the crumbling steps.  As she sits on the step pondering all the changes of a new house, a new town and a new school she sees nothing bright in her future.  But gradually, slowly, one step at a time things begin to change – and so does she.

This is a familiar story for many children who are uprooted from their comfort zone that has been told on so many different levels that it is quite brilliant.

Firstly there is the concept – as the house is slowly restored to something smart and vibrant so does her mood and her willingness to look beyond her untied shoelaces, gradually lifting her head to the possibility and potential that surrounds her. Then there is the text itself – carefully chosen vocabulary that reflects the girl’s moods, changing with each step forward that she takes in settling into her new environment.  This is accompanied by illustrations that have an increasing use of colour and detail, climaxing in full-colour spreads as the future becomes clearer. And throughout, the changes are reflected in the life of the little bird that first appears on the front endpaper as a lonely soul with a forlorn twig and ends on the back endpaper showing all the riches of life.

This is a story about nothing staying the same; about even the most dismal day waking to a sunrise soon; about how our moods and feelings can colour our world; and cliches like “light at the end of the tunnel”;  “some days are diamonds and some days are stones” and “without rain there can be no rainbows.” While younger readers may engage on a more superficial level at spotting the changes to the house and the bird’s business, older readers may be able to dig deeper and look at the more philosophical ideas that underpin the story as well as learning about looking for the positive, managing emotions and expectations, and developing strategies that will help them deal with new, tough or confusing situations, physical or emotional.  Some might even like to share such occasions and how they coped perhaps sending a message to other classmates that they are not alone and not on their own.

Change can be challenging but time can take care of things.

Extensive teaching notes are available.

Little Paws (Series)

Little Paws

Little Paws

 

 

 

 

 

Little Paws (series)

Welcome Home, Harley

9780143781776

Ringo’s Road Trip

9780143781813

Meg’s Big Mystery

9780143781790

Goldie Makes the Grade

9780143781837

Jess Black

Gabrielle Evans

Penguin Random House Australia, 2017

88pp., pbk,, RRP $A9.99

 

Guide Dogs Australia provide essential services to those with vision impairment as well as those who suffer other conditions through their Pets as Therapy program, relieve the isolation and loneliness of the elderly through Companion Dogs and are piloting Autism Assistance dogs for children so this new series which highlights the training of these dogs as well as helping to raise funds for that training is as much a community service as it is a really good read for those newly independent readers.

Each book focuses on the children in different families helping to train the dogs for their special jobs, taking on the responsibility of all aspects of what is involved, providing an engaging story as well as guidance for how the reader might train their own four-legged, tail-wagging friend. They also shed some insight into how life can be for those whose vision is impaired and the impact having some of the stress removed can have, maybe even encouraging them to become puppy-raisers themselves.  So many refuse to do it because of the heartbreak of having to part with the dog, but there’s a lesson to be learned in suffering a little to give someone else so much.

2017 celebrates 60 years since Guide Dogs Australia placed the first dog and April 26 is International Guide Dogs Day. The purchase of each book supports their work so that even more puppies can bring help and joy to others.  But apart from that, each story is a good read and Miss Dog-Loving 6 who is on the cusp of being ready to read chapter books independently is going to love them.  They will give her that little push she needs to make the leap!

 

 

The Dragon with the Chocolate Heart

The  Dragon with the Chocolate Heart

The Dragon with the Chocolate Heart

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The  Dragon with the Chocolate Heart

Stephanie Burgis

Bloomsbury USA, 2017

256pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781408880319

Bored with being confined to the cavern on the mountain and faced with another 30 years of the same until her scales are hardened, baby dragon Aventurine squeezes through a secret exit to take herself off to find the world and a human to eat.  As she wanders down the mountain because she damaged her wings in her escape, her sensitive nose not only picks up the smell of a human but also of something else, utterly delicious and tantalising – and dangerous…

For the human is a food mage and in order to protect himself from being Aventurine’s dinner he tempts her to try his delicious chocolate drink.  Suddenly, instead of being a fearsome dragon with glittering silver and red scales towering over the human, Aventurine finds herself transformed into a little girl with tiny, blunt teeth, no fire, and not a single claw to use in battle, prostrate in front of this now gloating tall man who leaves her to her own devices.  

Trying to stand but failing, Aventurine tries to crawl back up the mountain to her family but when her Grandfather doesn’t recognise her as he flies overhead and indeed, shoots a warning burst of fire in her direction, she realises she will have to try to make her way to the city to find a life and satisfy her insatiable craving for chocolate.

But how can a penniless, naive girl with the thoughts and heart of a dragon survive the betrayal, deception, trickery and unknown ways of humans in a large busy city obsessed with money, class and position?

Suitable for a read-aloud or a read-alone for an independent reader, this is a unique, intriguing tale with a strong female protagonist who learns a lot about herself as both a human and a dragon as she navigates the unfamiliar world of Drachenberg. For those who like adventure tinged with fantasy this is something new.

Ginger Green: Playdate Queen (series)

Ginger Green: Playdate Queen

Ginger Green: Playdate Queen

 

Ginger Green: Playdate Queen

Kim Kane

Jon Davis

Hardie Grant Egmont, 2016

60pp., pbk. $A9.99

 

This is a new series featuring Ginger Green, a lovable little fox, who likes to dance, do gymnastics, dress up and make-believe.  But even more importantly she likes to play with her friends and has lots of playdates, each of which brings a new challenge to negotiate and resolve. Friends who won’t share, friends who prefer her sister, friends who like to do different things, friends who are naughty… each one requires tact and thoughtfulness so it ends in a win-win situation.

Written for emerging independent readers with short chapters, large font and charming illustrations, this is a great series for those just growing into the realm of developing friendships beyond the influence of parents and having to work through the minefield of egos, wants, needs and  expectations. Using settings and situations that will be familiar to the audience, the stories provide suggestions for how to handle challenges that the reader will inevitably face without having to rely on parental help, helping build empathy, resilience and compassion.

Goodnight World

Goodnight World

Goodnight World

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Goodnight World

Debi Gliori

Bloomsbury Children’s, 2016

32pp., hbk.,  RRP $A22.99

9781408872734

Bedtime and time to say goodnight to the world.

Goodnight planet, goodnight world,

Peaceful clouds around Earth curled.

In a gentle, lullaby-like rhyme the little one is getting ready for bed and wishing everything a goodnight before sleep takes over.  The polar regions, the Northern Lights, the oceans and seas , cars, boats, planes, birds, bees and fish – everything that he knows is included in this final farewell for the day.  

Goodnight houses, nests and burrows.

Goodnight daylight, until tomorrow’s.

The text is captured in a soft palette of muted colours, softened even further by subtle tones and shadings and blurred lines and within each picture everything is settling down for the night, snuggled together and listening to a bedtime story.  Even the tiniest insect is reading or listening as the flowers and grasses curl around them.  In fact the whole theme is one of being curled up in the arms of something that loves and protects, and that night and darkness and sleep are a time of safety and security.

This would be the perfect inclusion as the final read for the bedtime reading routine, gently calming everyone and sending them off to dreamland comforted and comfortable, loving and loved.

Triangle

Triangle

Triangle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Triangle

Mac Barnett

Jon Klassen

Walker Books, UK, 2017

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

9781406376678

Triangle lives in a triangular house with a triangular door.   One day he decides to visit his friend Square and play a sneaky trick on him.  He walks past lots of triangles – small, medium and big – and past a lot of others that weren’t triangles any more until he got to a place where there were many squares.  When he finally gets to Square’s house he plays his sneaky trick, hissing like a snake because he knows Square is afraid of snakes.  

But he gives the game away when he is laughing so hard Square discovers him.  After glaring at each other Square chases Triangle all the way home – back past the squares, the shapes with no names and the triangles – and has the last laugh.  Or does he?

Often the simplest ideas and illustrations create the best stories and that is definitely the case with this, the first in a trilogy of stories about sneaky shapes.  Mac Barnett has crafted a charming story that will intrigue and make young readers think, while Klassen’s  iconic muted illustrations allow the storyline and the main characters to shine while still being a critical part of the tale. Being able to  convey everything through just the shape and position of the eyeballs is proof of a master at work and will encourage the reader to look even more closely at the illustrations, building those critical concepts about print that are so vital for early readers.

Perfect as a standalone, readalong story that will become a favourite, it also offers lots of things to talk about such as shape recognition but could also extend the more curious with question like “Why aren’t they triangles any more? What might have happened?” or “What would you call the shapes without names?” And the question posed on the final page will elicit a vigorous discussion as well as predictions about what will happen next. There might also be a philosophical discussion about whether Triangle and Square are friends and whether this is what friends do to each other. Why did Triangle want to trick Square; how sometimes the prankster doesn’t realise the impact the prank is having and  is it possible to still be friends if someone plays a prank on you?

Young children will delight in creating their own versions of Triangle and Square, perhaps as stick puppets, and making up their own adventures to tell.

Looking forward to the next in the series…

I Love You

I Love You

I Love You

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Love You

Xiao Mao

Tang Yun

New Frontier, 2017

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

9781925059762

Preschool teacher Ms Giraffe has three favourite words – “I love you” – and when she teachers Little Badger and her friends how to say them in a variety of different languages, Little Badger is inspired. She practises and practises uttering the words in Chinese, Spanish, French, German, Italian and English to everything she sees, even her new knickers! She is determined to learn and not forget them.

This is a charming story from a Chinese author and illustrator that will have a place in any collection where there are children learning about others and sharing their lives as they discover that there are languages other than English but while words can sound different they can still have the same meaning.  While our Chinese, Spanish, French, German and Italian students will delight in having their language celebrated in this way, it is also a wonderful opportunity for those who speak other languages to share how to say “I love you” in their special way, and contribute to a stunning wall display that demonstrates both diversity and inclusion.  It would be the perfect focus for Harmony Day.

While primarily for younger readers, it could also be a springboard for investigating other common phrases in various languages as well as discovering just how many languages are spoken in the homes of the students.

Books and stories which reach out in this way to those who are new to this country or who are learning English as another language do wonderful things for embracing the multicultural nature of our society and the riches that such a patchwork of origins can bring to all out lives as well as sending a welcoming message to the non-English speakers.  Aroha nui New Frontier for bringing this to our children.

Florette

Florette

Florette

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Florette

Anna Walker

Viking, 2017

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

9780670079414

For children moving house away from friends and familiar things can be tougher than parents realise, and especially so when the move is from one well-known environment to one that is completely unknown.

Mae and her family move from her house with a garden, an apple tree, daisies and daffodils, green grass and birds to an inner-city apartment that is all rooftops and tall buildings – the epitome of the concrete jungle.  There are no windy paths and leafy cubbies, just statues and Keep Off The Grass signs.  There are no treasures for her treasure jar, just boxes and more boxes and when she tries to draw familiar things on the pavement outside, the rain washes them away.  No matter what she does, Mae cannot make this new place resemble her old one.  

But one day, standing on a box peering through her binoculars at the endless rooftops, she spies an open space with swings in the distance and so she, her mum and dog set off to find it.  It is a long walk through this unforgiving city and the end result is a disappointment.  But as she sits forlornly on the swing, she spies a bird and follows it until it disappears into a leafy forest.  But the forest is closed.  And then Mae spots something that changes things…

Anna Walker is the creator of Mr Huff, winner of the CBCA Early Childhood Book of the Year in 2016, Peggy shortlisted in 2013 and a host of other books that centre around her ability to get into the head of the subject, consider “what if…” and then emerges through her gentle, detailed illustrations that bring the text to life and invite the reader to delve deeply into them.  

Mae could be any child who has moved house, perhaps with little say in the decision made by parents concerned with adult-things, who has discovered themselves amongst the totally unfamiliar but who has drawn on their inner reserves and resilience to try to make it work until eventually it does.  Without describing Mae’s feelings, but detailing her actions in words and pictures, the reader feels and understands Mae’s vulnerability and bewilderment and yet throughout there is a sense of hope and a knowledge that she will prevail. Despite the bleakness of the city and its harsh facade there is a feeling that Mae will break through – perhaps it is in the children who come to view her courtyard art amidst empty plants pots or in the new budding trees as she goes through the streets, or in the swan, duck and ducklings in the river as the city awakens to spring…   Florette, a small flower that makes up a bigger one, is the perfect title for this story perfectly encapsulating that concept of from little things…

A look through Anna Walker’ website shows a host of awards for her work – this could well be added to that list. 

Me and You

Me and You

Me and You

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Me and You

Deborah Kelly

Karen Blair

Viking, 2017

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

9780670079247

There are many people in a child’s life – parents, siblings, grandparents, aunties, uncles, cousins, neighbours, best friends, parents’ friends, pets…and that’s before they even venture into the world of preschool and big school!  And the shape of the relationship with each one is different.

In this new book by Deborah Kelly, as softly illustrated as its focus, the connections are explored and enjoyed – the arty-crafty days; the yummy-scrummy days; the pedal-pushing days; the silly-billy days; the sandy-sandwich days; the footy-playing days; the slippery-sliding days; the grubby-garden days; the woofy-wagging days; the handy-helper days; the sausage-sizzling days; the stretchy-yawning days – all mixing, matching and melding together to enrich the child’s life and cocoon them in love.  

Apart from the variety of adventures that the child has and the reader will resonate with, the richness of the language and its rhyme, rhythm and repetition will engage and perhaps even encourage the young reader/listener to start thinking about the relationships they have and starting to describe them using similar language.  Primarily aimed at the preschooler, this book could also have traction with older students as an extension of learning about friendships so they move from thinking about what makes a friend and how to be one but also the types of relationships they have with those in their lives. For example, the relationship with their parents will be different from that with their teacher, and that with other children can be shaped by age, expertise and even power.  Discussing why we are friends with particular people (or aspire to be), how friends should make us feel and where we fit in others’ lives brings confidence and builds empathy and resilience when things don’t work out. Are friendships always smooth sailing?

Many parents seem to be deeply concerned about the friendships their children make particularly when the meetings are beyond parental control – as evidenced by this request to an international email group where a parent was looking for books about “choosing the “right” friends.  She has requested that there be African American characters and she is concerned that he [bright son] seems to be choosing friends who are in the lower academic classes.”  By sharing Me and You older children might examine the friendships they have and what holds them together; debate the notion of “right friends”; discuss how a variety of friends who bring different circumstances, skills and attitudes can enrich lives; and begin to understand the role and influence that friends have in their lives as well as their position in the lives of their friends. Such understanding may well offer valuable insight into their connections with other people, now and in the future helping them to make the sorts of choices their parents would be happy with. and defending those that they wouldn’t. 

Perhaps author and illustrator just wanted to share the joy of being a child with all its fun and activity, but for me the best picture books work across a number of levels and delve deeper than the immediate storyline and pictures and therefore this one works very well.

The crazy-daisy dawn-to-dusk days…

Just Like Molly

Just Like Molly

Just Like Molly

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just Like Molly

Pippa Dowling

Sunshine 

Empowering Resources, 2016

32pp., pbk., RRP $A17.00

9780994501073

At some stage in their young lives, children have an imaginary friend – one who likes to do the things that you like, eat the things you eat, be scared of the things you are scared of and share good times with you.  And so it is with the little girl in this story.  Her friend Molly loves playing games, going to the park and going on the slides, eating fish and chips and gelati.  She doesn’t mind the other kids who are noisy but the barking dogs are a bit frightening.

But one day Molly disappears and no amount of searching finds her.  Things are bleak and lonely especially as school has just started and everyone seems to have a friend already.  And then one day a little girl called Zoe offers to share her crayons…

This is not an uncommon theme in children’s storybooks but the remarkable thing about this one is that the author wrote it when she was just 10.  She is now just 13. Whimsical characters in colours that echo the mood of the story bring the little girl and her friend to life and reassures those who are about to begin a new phase of their life that there will be someone ready to support them. It opens up opportunities to talk about what friends are and how to initiate friendships through kindness and that through our lives we will have many different friends. 

You can read more about this young author here and perhaps her story will inspire the writers in your class to keep at it.