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Frog and Toad: The Complete Collection

Frog and Toad: The Complete Collection

Frog and Toad: The Complete Collection

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Frog and Toad: The Complete Collection

Arnold Lobel

Harper Collins, 2016

256pp., hbk., RRP $A39.99

9780008136222

 

In the 1970s two characters appeared in the realms of children’s literature and they are as popular today as they were then.  Frog and Toad are an odd couple but Lobel wrote four volumes each with five stories about them exploring their friendship and showing young readers that it is fine to be an individual and your own person.  This collection brings together all of the engaging, warm and funny stories and features a special foreword by Julia Donaldson, author of The Gruffalo.

Written with familiar vocabulary in simple sentences and a large font with his hand-drawn and hand-coloured illustrations, Lobel has crafted stories around familiar incidents that young children will resonate with such as the dilemma of sharing a cool ice cream on a hot day, or raking leaves on a windy day.  While Frog is the practical one, Toad is more emotional and imaginative as in the story of Christmas Eve when Frog is late and Toad immediately thinks something has happened to him.

“Classic” literature are stories which have a deeply human message that carries across time and space regardless of its historical or geographical setting and even those Frog and Toad have been around for 40 years, each story appeals and echoes with today’s readers just as it did then.  Mr 42 loved hearing these as bedtime stories and as he travelled on his journey to being an independent reader he loved that he could read them for himself.  Now it is time to share that joy and pleasure with his Miss Nearly 6.

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

The Fix-It Man

The Fix-It Man

The Fix-It Man

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Fix-It Man

Dimity Powell

Nicky Johnston

EK Books, 2017

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

9781925335347

Dads can fix anything – that’s what dads do.  Kites, kennels, teapots – whatever is needed.  He can even cobble together a rug made of rainbows and old hugs for mum – but he can’t fix mum.  Not even with his special peach and honey brew.  Even the doctors and lots of rest can’t fix mum. Not even all the love in the world.  

And no matter how hard they try, little girls can’t mend broken hearts – not hers, not dad’s and not Tiger’s.  Well, not with stick tape or glue or needle and thread..  But dad has one more special thing up his sleeve  and together they start to mend.

This is a poignant story of loss and one that will resonate with many children who have lost a parent or other loved one.  With its gentle text and soft palette, even though it is sad it is not gloomy because the love between this family oozes from the page and from that, the hope is tangible. And the threads that bind the family are stronger and more enduring than nails, glue, sticky-tape or any other kind of man-made adhesive or fastening.

Grief is a natural part of life and while we might like to protect our children from it, nevertheless it happens and we often struggle helping them to cope with their loss.  This book allows conversations to start and explores the way it is an emotion that we each express and deal with in our own way.  Dad’s lap is cosy and warm but his face is crumpled and wet; pieces spill out from Tiger’s heart and little girls try to do what they can to paper over the cracks – but they are too wide. But together…

Whether shared as a 1:1 or as a class, it offers children the opportunity to talk about losses in their life and to learn that they are not alone in feeling lonely, lost, scared and even betrayed but there is love and it does get easier.

Little Chicken Chickabee

Little Chicken Chickabee

Little Chicken Chickabee

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Little Chicken Chickabee

Janeen Brian

Danny Snell

Raising Literacy Australia, 2016

32pp., pbk., RRP $A14.90

9780994385338

Crickle, scratch, crackle, hatch – four little chicks pop from their eggs of proud Mother Hen.  Each one cheeps as expected except for Number 4 who says, “Chickabee.”  This startles Mother Hen and the other chicks who insist that “Cheep” is right and “Chickabee” is not.  But Little Chicken is not deterred and goes off to see the world.  However, she finds that even the other farm animals insist that chickens say “Cheep” not “Chickabee” although when Little Chicken challenges them, they have no real reason why not.  

Showing amazing resilience, Little Chicken knows that while “Chickabee” might be different, it is right for her and regardless of the sound she makes, she is still a chicken.  Even when her brothers and sisters reject her again, she has the courage to go back into the world and this time she meets different things that make different sounds which bring her joy,  And then she meets a pig…

This is a charming story about difference, resilience, courage and perseverance and how these can lead to friendships, even unexpected ones. Beautifully illustrated by Danny Snell, this story works on so many levels.  It would be a great read for classes early in this 2017 school year as new groups of children come together and learn about each other while even younger ones will enjoy joining in with the fabulous noises like rankety tankety, sticketty-stackety and flippety-flappity as they learn the sorts of things that are found on a farm.

Given the trend throughout the world towards convention and conservatism and an expectation that everyone will fit the same mould and be legislated or bullied into doing so, Little Chicken could be a role model for little people that it is OK to be different and that no one is alone in their difference.  

 

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

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Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Robert L. May

Antonio Javier Caparo,

Little Simon, 2014

40pp., hbk.

9781442474956

Santa is in trouble.  A fog as thick as white soda fizz as enveloped the night and he is really worried that he is not going to be able to deliver his gifts for the children on time.  He and his reindeer will have to fly low and slow guided only by streetlamps and houses as the stars and the moon have vanished.  This works okay until midnight but when most lights are extinguished by then he is literally in the dark.

Through dark street and houses old Santa did poorly.

He now picked the presents more slowly, less surely.

He really was worried! For what could he do

If folks started waking before he was through?

And then he finds himself in the bedroom of a little reindeer – one who has been teased and ostracised by his brothers and sisters because of his glowing red nose – and suddenly Santa had a solution to his problem!

And, you,” he told Rudolph, may yet save the day!

Your shining bright nose, son, can show us the way!”

 Told in a rhythm that mimics Clement Clark Moore’s The Night Before Christmas this is a wonderful story that tells the story behind the familiar song that our children all seem to know so well.  It is the original story created in 1939 as a cost-saving measure for a department store chain that gave away colouring books at Christmas and which was eventually translated into the familiar song by the author’s brother -in-law in 1949, becoming an instant and enduring hit.

Superbly illustrated with stunning reality, colour and texture, it is a perfect bedtime read as that night comes closer and closer and little ones are starting to get excited.  Told as much from the perspective of Rudolph as from Santa, it opens up lots of opportunity for discussing teasing, emotions and feelings and even how being different can be a good thing.  As one who had the trifecta of red hair, freckles and glasses at a time when Shirley Temple lookalikes were prized, I can relate to that concept.  

A Christmas classic that needs to be in every Countdown collection!

Pig the Elf

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Pig the Elf

Pig the Elf

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pig the Elf

Aaron Blabey

Scholastic, 2016

24pp., hbk., RRP $A16.99

9781760154271

Pig the Elf knows about Christmas – or at least, what he considers the most important part.  So he has written Santa the longest list of things that he wants and, dressed in his elf suit, is determined to stay up and ensure that Santa delivers everything on it.  Even when his friend Trevor begs him to come to bed because he knows Santa doesn’t come till everyone is asleep, Pig refuses and settles down to wait.

Three-thirty comes and at last there is a strange noise – “And who should appear down the chimney with swag, but a portly old gent with a lumpy red bag.”

But it is very clear to Pig that he has been short-changed.  The pile of presents is much smaller than it should be and he shouts at Santa, “HEY! I asked for MORE!” And as Santa heads back to the chimney, Pug nips him on his big red rosy bum – and doesn’t let go!!!

Show a child a book with Pig on the cover and you will have the most excited, engaged, entranced audience as they settle down for another hilarious adventure with this crazy dog who is rapidly becoming one of the nation’s favourite characters of little people.  And this Christmas addition to the series is no different.  With its rhyme, rhythm, humour and slightly risque storyline which resonates with every child who has ever wanted to stay awake to see Santa (or at least hear the reindeer on the roof) but not quite succeeded, Pig the Pug is their hero.  They will demand it again and again and thankfully, it’s one of those stories that will keep the reader amused over and over again too.  

Aaron Blabey, who is now an established favourite with littlies who don’t usually remember the authors of stories, really knows how to craft a tale for this age group that not only entertains over and over and over but teaches them about the joy of picture books where the fun can be repeated just by picking the book up whenever you want to. Australian parents, teachers (and teacher librarians) are so lucky he is one of ours!

And to add to the magic there is an official colouring-in activity waiting to be printed and completed, just perfect for turning into a special Christmas card. 

Miss 5 is going to squeal when she finds this in her Santa Sack!

Blue Sky, Yellow Kite

Blue Sky, Yellow Kite

Blue Sky, Yellow Kite

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blue Sky, Yellow Kite

Janet A. Holmes

Jonathan Bentley

Little Hare Books, 2016

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

9781760124229

High above a bright yellow kite soars in the bright blue sky and as it dips and dives, flits and flies with its tail feathers flying it catches the eye of Daisy.  Intrigued she follows its string to see who is flying such a magnificent thing.  Up the hill, down the hill and across the field she finds William in a big house on the edge of town.  As she watches longingly through the fence, he invites her in and teaches her how to fly it. But then she does the unthinkable – she runs away with the kite all the way back to her house.  Knowing she has done the wrong thing she hides it and doesn’t fly it – but where is the joy in a kite sitting on top of a wardrobe instead of soaring through the sky?  At last she cannot stand it and she just has to fly the kite – but William sees her and just walks away.  Again the kite is placed on the top of the wardrobe but the next day, Daisy takes it down again…

Sometimes little people are just so tempted by someone else’s things that they just have to take them, even though, like Daisy, they know it is wrong to do so.  And with Christmas coming on and lots of children having lots of things to show off, there are going to be a lot of children fighting temptation.  Thus this is a timely story about wanting, needing, guilt and honesty which has a heart-warming ending that  lends itself to all sorts of discussions in the home and in the classroom.  

The visual contrast, both physically and metaphorically, of the bright yellow kite against the deep blue sky, juxtaposes Daisy and William’s positions and Jonathan Bentley’s illustrations add much to the text with   their movement and colour.

This is a charming story about friendship and forgiveness and the dilemma of whether a thing is more important than a friend.  

Snot Chocolate

Snot Chocolate

Snot Chocolate

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Snot Chocolate

Morris Gleitzman

Puffin Books, 2016

165pp, pbk., RRP $A14.99

9780143309222

The blurb reads, “Stop your mum picking her nose, read the secret diary of a dog, catch a bus and then let it go, discover how one slice of toast can make you the most popular person in school, start wearing a crown and give up eating pig-nostril gruel, use a wrecking ball to defeat a bully, show your big sister the very scary secret in your wardrobe, unleash the awesome power of chips, live in a house that gets wiped clean more often than a bottom.”

But there is so much more to this collection of short stories from a master storyteller who seamlessly switches between the poignancy of Two weeks with the Queen, the gaiety of Toad Rage and the seriousness and sincerity of the Once series. Gleitzman himself says, “Nine stories, and I’ve made them different lengths because different parents have different ideas about how long a person should be allowed to read before turning the lights out.”

With a title designed to attract that reader who loves to makes sure parents and teachers have a stomach-churning moment when they see it, nevertheless there are serious undertones to each as the central character of each tries to grapple with a big problem affecting family or friends using a thought process and logic that are particular to that age group.  Creativity is alive and well in children – until the formality and seriousness of school try to quell it.

Along with Give Peas a Chance and Pizza Cake, these stories which give the author “a break from the stiff neck and stiff brain you sometimes get writing book-length stories” might seem a long way from the stories Gleitzman commonly crafts and which he is so valued for, but as he says, he would” hate to forget that in stories a laugh can have a teardrop as a very close neighbour.”  However, despite the sombre notes this is a collection that will keep those newly independent readers, particularly boys, reading and help them transition to the next phase of their reading journey – which will probably be a Gleitzman novel – as they show that even short stories with wicked titles can have great, credible characters and a depth of plot that makes reading so worthwhile.  

Parents,  teachers and teacher librarians are blessed to have such a gifted writer as Gleitzman on their side.

Read what Morris Gleitzman has to say on the value of short stories.

The Bike Ride

The Bike Ride

The Bike Ride

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Bike Ride

Jan Ormerod

Freya Blackwood

Hardie Grant Egmont, 2016

10pp., board book, RRP $A14.99

9781760128982

Bear’s world revolves around Maudie, and so does Maudie’s. Bear is the hero that every little person needs in their life.  The one that does everything for them, no matter how trying they are; the one that is the guardian angel on their shoulder; the one that loves them unconditionally no matter what. 

So when Maudie says she needs some exercise, in particular a bike ride, Bear is there ready to help out.  He gets the bike while Maudie gets… her sunglasses, then their hats, then her scarf, sunscreen, bug spray.  All the while Bear waits patiently until at last they are ready to go. But just who gets the exercise?

This is a gentle, quirky story from the late Jan Ormerod, re-released in board book format so it is perfect for the little hands of its intended audience.  As usual, Freya Blackwoods’s gentle pictures in their soft palette bring the words to life in a way that just wraps the reader up in all the love that Bear has for Maudie.

 

Worm Loves Worm

Worm Loves Worm

Worm Loves Worm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Worm Loves Worm

J.J.  Austrian

Mike Curato

Balzer & Bray, 2016

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

9780062386335

Worm loves Worm.  So they decide to get married.  It shouldn’t be a problem but suddenly all their minibeast friends chip in. “You’ll need someone to marry you. That’s how it’s always been done.”  You’ll need a best man, bridesmaids, rings, a band… and so on and so on, because “that’s how it’s always been done.”  Worm and Worm agree to each suggestion hoping that after they acquiesce they can get married but no… there is always something else.

So when they are told that they need to have a bride and groom, worms being hermaphrodites, they have no trouble with being either or both – but that isn’t how it’s always been done.  Will they ever just celebrate their love by getting married???

This is a charming book that, on the surface, is just a story about two worms wanting to get married because they love each other, and that, to a four-year-old is a natural thing to do.  It is just a celebration of love.  For those in different circumstances or a little bit older there is a sub-text of marriage equality and things can change – they don’t always have to be because they have always been.  It’s enough to love each other without all the other trappings; it’s about inclusion and equality and showing affection regardless of any traditional views and values that have been imposed on a natural state of mind. That’s what little ones understand and accept – intolerance is something they learn.

Choosing worms as the main characters is a masterstroke because there are no physical differences between worms – there is nothing to say which is female and therefore the bride or male and therefore the groom. So the central message of love being the key ingredient and the rest of the elements of a wedding just being seasoning remains the central theme.  

Perhaps some of our politicians  and those who influence them should read this and get to the core of what really matters.

A great addition to a school library collection that allows children to see their own family structure in a story, to show others that there are all sorts of family structures,  and to explain marriage equality to those unfamiliar with the concept.

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

 

 

Molly & Mae

Molly & Mae

Molly & Mae

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Molly & Mae

Danny Parker

Freya Blackwood

Hardie Grant Egmont, 2016

32pp. hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781742975276

 

A railway station in rural Anywhere, Australia and Molly and Mae are looking forward to their journey to the city.  On the platform there is fun to be had like hide and seek to play as they and the other passengers wait for the train to arrive and their friendship is full of laughter and giggles as the excitement builds.  Even being stuck in the bubblegum doesn’t dampen their delight.  And even as the waiting goes on and on, there is fun to be had as they enjoy each other’s company.  When at last the train comes the fun continues as they colour in, dress up their dolls, experience the dining car, and even do crazy stuff like hanging upside down from the seats!  

But slowly as the trip seems interminable cracks start to appear as boredom sets in.  Molly thinks Mae is silly and tells her so and Mae doesn’t like it and before long the girls are not speaking to each other, turning away and spending their time peering through the window at the wet, smeary countryside.  The whole world looks murky, echoing their feelings.  Will they resolve their spat or is this the end of something special?

This is a story about so much more than a long train journey as it mirrors real-life friendships – the excitement of new shared interests, the pleasure in just being together and doing everyday stuff and the anticipation of adventures to come.  But there are also times when it is boring, when difficulties happen and there is a choice of building bridges and continuing on the main track or branching off onto another one.

This is a true marriage of text and graphics.  Blackwood’s soft palette and somewhat retro feel and clever headings of platform, timetable, journey, signal failure, destination that replicate both the stages of the journey and the development of the friendship express Parker’s concept and text perfectly and the reader is drawn deeper and deeper into the story from the early morning endpaper  through the title page to the explosion of the big city station and as night falls over the city.  Blackwood has explained her thought processes and choices here showing just how much goes into such a project.

If teachers were ever looking for a book to explain metaphor, this is it!

Would not be surprised to see this among the CBCA shortlisted titles in 2017.