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Lenny’s Book of Everything

Lenny's Book of Everything

Lenny’s Book of Everything

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lenny’s Book of Everything

Karen Foxlee

Allen & Unwin, 2018

352pp., pbk., RRP $A19.99

9781760528706

On July 26, 1969, six days after man walked on the moon, Cindy Spink caught the Number 28 bus to the hospital where she gave birth to Davey, a brother for three-year-old Lenny.  Right from the start she had a ‘dark heart feeling -as big as the sky but kept in a thimble” that something wasn’t right and so it proved to be.  For, although he was a normal sized baby, Davey kept growing and growing until by the time he was ready to start school he was already 4″5″ (135cm) tall and had been denied entry to preschool because of his height. 

Lenny loves her brother very much but it’s tough being a sister to someone who is a bit different, no matter how lovable, and when your dad has walked out and your mum has to work two jobs just to keep a roof over your head so your eccentric Hungarian neighbour looks after you for much of the time, life can be confusing and conflicting . 

The bright spot every week is the arrival of the latest issue of the Burrell’s Build-It-at-Home Encyclopedia, which their mum won in a competition. Through the encyclopedia, Lenny and Davey experience the wonders of the world – beetles, birds, quasars, quartz – and dream about a life of freedom and adventure. Davey loves the articles about birds of prey while Lenny becomes fixated on beetles and dreams of being a coleopterist.  Together they dream of a life in a log cabin in Great Bear Lake, away from the away from the noisy city and the busy bus station across the road, their strange neighbours and the creepy Mr King. And when the instalments don’t arrive fast enough and the company keeps trying to tempt them to spend money to get issues faster and with the special volume covers, Mrs Spink takes the time to take on the publishers with the letters becoming a side story that shows her persistence and determination to do the best for her kids, regardless of the challenge. 

But as Davey’s health deteriorates, Lenny realises that some wonders can’t be named, but they can be diagnosed and when Davey’s gigantism is traced to tumours in his pituitary gland, in a time when cancer and its treatment were still referred to as “the C word”, the reader knows that there is probably not going to be a happy outcome. 

This is both a heart-warming and heart-wrenching book for older, independent readers, one they can relate to because Lenny’s life is so ordinary and like theirs, yet one that will engender compassion as she struggles to come to terms with what is happening to Davey, not wanting to burden her mother who is “made almost entirely of worries and magic” and who does not realise just how desperately she is missing her dad until she thinks she has found his family. For those who have siblings with significant health issues it may even be cathartic as they realise that the feelings of resentment, even shame, that they sometimes have are natural, common and understandable and they are not evil or undeserving for having them. 

Lenny’s Book of Everything doesn’t just refer to the encyclopedia that opens up the world for her and Davey; it refers to all her thoughts and emotions, reactions and responses of a childhood spent with a sick sibling in a sole-parent family in a poorer neighbourhood of a moon-rock drab town with very little money for everyday things let alone treats. It is raw in places but eminently understandable.  

Written when the author herself was going through a time of momentous grief . it is beautifully written, a compelling read and one that adults will also appreciate. It is a story of joy and heartbreak, humour and honesty, but mostly it’s just about the immense, immeasurable love among families.

 

 

 

 

Waiting for Chicken Smith

Waiting for Chicken Smith

Waiting for Chicken Smith

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Waiting for Chicken Smith

David Mackintosh

Little Hare, 2018

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

9781760501761

Every year, I stay in the same cabin at the beach with my family, and every year Chicken Smith’s here too, with his Dad and his dog, Jelly. But this year, something’s different.’

Convinced that his friend Chicken Smith will appear any moment, the young narrator of this story waits resolutely for him, cradling the piece of driftwood that Chicken Smith carved into a whale shape last summer. While he waits and waits, his sister tries to get his attention but he ignores her – nothing is more important than being there to greet Chicken Smith when he arrives. Apart from anything else, he has a shell to give him as a thank you for the driftwood whale.  

As he remembers and reflects on past summers, it gradually becomes clear that perhaps Chicken Smith won’t be coming this year.  The cabin he stays in is shut up with long grass all around it and a huge cobweb in Chicken’s bedroom window.  And at last, he pays attention to his sister’s entreaties and discovers something that makes up for Chicken Smith’s absence…

This is a moving story that will inspire young readers to reminisce on their own holidays at the beach, the friends they made, the things they did and start to build the anticipation of having such a magical time again.  They might like to speculate on what has happened to Chicken Smith and ponder whether the boy will have as good a holiday without him, using the clues towards the end to think about the new friendship that is beginning. 

The childlike language and the illustrations that could have been drawn by the narrator make this a more personal experience for the reader – you are just waiting for Chicken Smith to appear and for the boys to get on with what boys do at the beach.  Great for starting thoughts about the upcoming summer…

Teachers’ notes are available.

A peek inside....

A peek inside….

It’s Not Scribble to Me

It's Not Scribble to Me

It’s Not Scribble to Me

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s Not Scribble to Me

Kate Ritchie

Jedda Robaard

Puffin Books, 2018 

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

9780143790136

Little Teddy loves to draw – crayons, paints, pencils, even stencils (and the permanent markers if he can reach them) are all his favourite tools of trade.  But while paper is nice, it’s not big enough to hold all of his drawings and so he uses other nearby surfaces like the wall,the bathroom tiles and even the toilet seat lid -wherever the colour takes his imagination.  Like most parents, his parents get annoyed at having to continually clean up but Teddy doesn’t see his work as scribble.  Each one is a personal masterpiece inspired by his surroundings and begs them to understand that his marks are the “colourful, magical, bountiful, beautiful, whimsical, wonderful world” in his head.

On the surface, this is a fun book that will be a familiar scenario for many preschoolers, written in rhyme to engage them and perhaps even consolidate their knowledge of colours. Its theme will resonate with many parents and they might even have discussions about what else Teddy could have drawn that was green, red, yellow or black.

But it is also a very useful tool to teach slightly older readers about perspective – that what one sees as beautiful artworks, another sees as scribble and vice versa.  Little children are still very much in the world of the here and now and what they can see, so to start to view things from another’s perspective is a critical step in their development, particularly as they also have a very strong sense of justice and what’s fair. Taking someone’s pencil without asking may be seen as “theft” by one little one, while really it’s just using something that’s needed and available by another one used to sharing without asking. 

Little Miss Muffet might have been frightened by the spider, but how did the spider feel about her sitting right where he was in the process of building his web? 

Little Boy Blue probably shouldn’t have fallen asleep while he was supposed to be watching the sheep, but what if he had been up all night helping a little lamb be born?

Seeing another’s point of view is an essential element of the development of Ethical Understanding  and it’s not too early to start our littlies thinking about the perspectives of those around them, perhaps even exploring the old adage that “there are always two sides to a story.”

 

I Went Trick-or-Treating

I Went Trick-or-Treating

I Went Trick-or-Treating

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Went Trick-or-Treating

Paul Howard

Bloomsbury, 2018

32pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

97814088922886

I went trick-or-treating and I scared… a naughty, warty toad, a sliding, gliding ghost, a howling, growling wolf and some super silly skeletons…

When a brother and sister go trick-or-treating, they compete to see who can scare the creepiest creatures. As they try to remember each hair-raising encounter, everything escalates – until they get the biggest fright of all! 

Young children love the rhythm of repetitive, cumulative text and the challenge of trying to remember all the items in a list, so this is the perfect book for those who enjoy Hallowe’en and the custom of trick or treating. If participation is the sign of an engaged audience then this will be right up there. Along with the well-chosen language that rhymes and slips off the tongue because of its alliteration, the bright bold pictures are just perfect for the age group and the sibling rivalry will resonate with most! even talking about what scares them will add to the experience.

As the event continues to gather momentum in Australia, it is also an opportunity to look past “the Americanisation” and explore its origins dating back to pagan times then All Hallows Eve as the night before the Christian festival of All Saints Day. Each of the symbols in the story and those associated with this time of year has an interesting story behind it, so this is a chance to help our young readers pose questions and then try to discover the answers.  While some schools do not like students delving into the paranormal, this is a great opportunity to indulge in all the crafts that are associated with this topic as students seek different ways to display their new knowledge. So much more than candy and fancy dress!

Sage Cookson’s Stormy Weather

Sage Cookson's Stormy Weather

Sage Cookson’s Stormy Weather

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sage Cookson’s Stormy Weather

Sally Murphy

Celeste Hume

New Frontier, 2018

56pp., pbk., RRP $A9.99

9781925594263

Sage Cookson is a ten-year-old whose parents, Ginger and Basil, travel Australia and the world sharing their knowledge of food and cooking with their massive television audience through their show The Cookson’s Cook On, and lucky Sage gets to go with them. While they are sampling the food, learning new cooking techniques, Sage has a lifestyle that others might envy.

In this new addition to the series, the Cooksons are off to Townsville but there is a cyclone looming and Sage is quite concerned about their safety.  Even though it is the perfect opportunity to research a weather phenomenon as part of the schoolwork she has been given to do, nevertheless the grey skies, stormy seas and increasing wind are frightening, particularly when they have to evacuate their hotel rooms for the safety of the makeshift shelter downstairs.

This is the 7th in this series for young, newly independent readers who like adventure and cooking together.  As well as a yummy recipe for mango cheesecake dessert cups included, there is also Sage’s website with more recipes and activities to explore.

 

Dinosaur Day Out

Dinosaur Day Out

Dinosaur Day Out

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dinosaur Day Out

Sara Acton

Walker Books, 2018

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

9781760650049

When Sally and Max go to the museum with their dad and discover their favourite dinosaur exhibition is closed for the day, they head into the city for a day out instead.  There are lots of things to see and do, but it’s amazing what a little knowledge and a lot of imagination can conjure up and their day is filled with dinosaurs.  

This is a charming story to share with young readers and even those not-so-young who are dinosaur fans.  As each dinosaur is encountered they will be able to add to the information that Dad  shares from the new book about dinosaurs he bought at the museum, and those who live in Sydney may well recognise some of the more familiar landmarks. 

Dinosaur books are always popular so to have one that entertains as well as educates and which is aimed at our youngest readers is a gift. 

Ideas for extending the story are available.

The Forever Kid

The Forever Kid

The Forever Kid

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Forever Kid

Elizabeth Mary Cummings

Cheri Hughes

Big Sky, 2018 

32pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781925675382

Today is Johnny’s birthday. And as in many families, the birthday kid gets to choose the food, the games and the way they want to celebrate.  And Johnny’s family is no different.  Cloud stories are definitely on the list of must-do – lying on your back and looking for pictures in the clouds and making up stories about what you see. 

But this birthday is different to the others that have gone before. For this year, Johnny is no longer there.  He’s the Forever Kid – one who was part of the family but who has passed away leaving just memories.  And on the is special day, each family member remembers Johnny in their own special way as they celebrate and feel closer to him.  But they all gather together to look for and make cloud stories. 

Much as it saddens us as adults to think that the children we know are touched by death and grief, nevertheless it is a fact of life for many.  Illness and accidents take their toll and often the adults are so busy dealing with adult-things that the toll of the child is overlooked.  Kids are seen as resilient, as ‘not really understanding’, as bounce-back-and-move-on beings.  But anyone who has been with a child who has had to face such a harsh reality will know that the pain runs deep and the bewilderment is confusing so to have such a gentle book that focuses on the child left behind, their feelings, even their guilt, is a salutary reminder that as adults, we need to take care of their emotions too.  

Four years ago, Miss Then 8 lost her precious great-grandmother, my mother, and as we grieved and made funeral arrangements and all that grown-up stuff, it would have been easy to overlook her distress.  I asked her if she would like to say something at the memorial service and she said yes.  My heart broke when this little one, who was such a chip off her great-gran’s block, stood up and just said, “I love you Great Gran.” That’s when the tears began to flow, and we knew that she knew what she had lost but she would never forget her even though she was so young. So this year, when her other grandmother died and the wake was to be at a local restaurant, it was no surprise that Miss Now 12 did not want to go because that’s where she had had so many good times with her Great Gran and “didn’t want them spoiled by sadness”.  Just as Johnny is the Forever Kid, so we have a Forever Great Gran.

This gentle book, with its soft, sympathetic illustrations, is a reminder to us all that we need to acknowledge our children’s feelings and their grief, and allow them the opportunity to remember and celebrate and know that it is perfectly okay to do so. Take the time to lie on the grass with your child, make up cloud stories and let them remember and reminisce.  It will help you both. 

Lulu at the Zoo

Lulu at the Zoo

Lulu at the Zoo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lulu at the Zoo

Camilla Reid

Ailie Busby

Bloomsbury, 2018 

20pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9781408828175

Lulu is visiting the zoo with her mummy and her favourite toy, Rabbity.  With everything packed, they catch the bus and off they go, ready to meet all sorts of creatures. But when Lulu discovers she has lost Rabbity, she is very upset and they have to hunt for her.

This is another in the Lulu series designed to introduce preschoolers to new adventures and help them talk about those they have already experienced.  There are lots of flaps to lift to discover what’s underneath, engaging the young child not only in the story but offering them the opportunity to share their own stories. 

Stories about going to the zoo are not new but this one will be new to our youngest readers and they will learn that books have lots of fun inside them.

In the Mouth of the Wolf

In the Mouth of the Wolf

In the Mouth of the Wolf

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the Mouth of the Wolf

Michael Morpurgo

Barroux

Egmont, 2018

160pp., hbk, RRP $29.99

9781405285261

In the village of Le Pouget, in the Languedoc region of south west France, Francis Cammaerts is resting after the celebrations for his 90th birthday come to a close.  As dusk turns to dark and the church bell strikes midnight, he thinks of those who have been a part of his journey to this ripe old age – those who raised him, supported him and had so much to do with the man he became.  And from those reminiscences comes a story of determination, danger, courage and heroism that would have gone untold if not for Morpurgo’s pen and Barroux’s brush.

One of two sons born during the Great War, Francis grows up to be a teacher while his brother Pieter is a burgeoning actor,  But when World War II breaks out, the brothers take very different paths. Frances believes war is futile and barbaric, that people should not descend to the level of the fascists and that only education and pacifism are the “way forward for humanity”. Pieter, however, believes that pacifism will not stop Hitler, that the cruelty of fascism had to be confronted and so he becomes a Sergeant Navigator in the RAF.  While he eventually goes to join a bomber squadron in Cornwall, Francis goes to Lincolnshire to work on a farm having justified his beliefs to a tribunal.  

But when Pieter is killed returning from an air raid over France and a bomb dropped by a German plane kills the family on the next farm including including baby Bessie, Francis begins to rethink his decision, particularly as he now has a wife and the birth of his own child is imminent.  He talks to Harry, his mentor from his teaching days – a conversation that changes his life forever as it leads him into the silent world of the secret agent working with the Resistance in France…

As with Flamingo BoyMorpurgo shines a light on the real story of war and its impact on ordinary people by taking an unusual perspective and telling the story through that.  This is not a tale of derring-do embellished with action scenes and special effects -although it could be that in the hands of another – but a quiet tale of remembrance and reflection, of the impact of the legacy of others on a particular life, when that life itself has left its own legacy.  Morpurgo has said, ” This book may read like fiction. But it is not. That is because it does not need to be.” It is the story of his own uncles.

Generously illustrated using family photographs which are included at the back of the book as well as biographical details of those who had such a profound impact within the story, Morpurgo has produced a story that not only tells yet another untold story of the war but one which has shaped his life too.  

One for independent readers  wanting something different, compelling and utterly readable. 

Collecting Sunshine

Collecting Sunshine

Collecting Sunshine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Collecting Sunshine

Rachel Flynn

Tamsin Ainslie

Puffin Books, 2018

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

9780143785187

Mabel and Robert are enjoying walking in the park, collecting things in their paper bag.  Leaves, stones, seedpods, berries, flowers and sticks – they all go into the bag.  But disaster strikes when it begins to rain and Robert decides to collect the raindrops.  The bag disintegrates and their collection falls on the ground!  Mabel is despondent but Robert soon cheers her up – he has another way to collect things.

The is a charming book for early childhood readers that turns an ordinary walk into an adventure and will inspire them to do the same. Before the rain, Mabel and Robert just collected things they could pick up and put in their bag, but without the bag they have to use their senses and really start to experience the beauty of the park so this could be the beginning of a sensory walk through the playground.  But first they can use their sense of sight to spot the budgie and the mouse hidden in each illustration, helping them to hone in on the detail in the illustrations – an essential early reading skill!

As cheery as its title.

An activity pack is available.