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I’m Ready for Christmas

I'm Ready for Christmas

I’m Ready for Christmas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m Ready for Christmas

Jedda Robaard

Puffin, 2019

board book., 14pp., RRP $A 12.99

9781760891619

Getting ready for Christmas is an exciting time for little ones. And it is no different for Miss Wombat’s family. There is much to do such as baking a big, round pudding from Great-great-great- Grandma’s recipe and decorating the tree. 

Very young readers will love seeing the things that their families do reflected in this very Australian interpretation of the Christmas experience, all helping to build anticipation for the great day. 

This is a new series of board books for our youngest readers shining a light on familiar events in their lives, aimed to bridge the gap between single-word concept books and the longer narrative of picture books.  Little ones can compare what the characters do to their own lives learning valuable concepts about stories and how they entertain as they do, a vital part of early literacy development. While their story might parallel Miss Wombat’s, why isn’t there any snow and the other trappings of the northern hemisphere Christmas that are so prevalent in what they see in print and on film?  Critical thinking can start as early as you like!

The Underhills: A Tooth Fairy Story

The Underhills: A Tooth Fairy Story

The Underhills: A Tooth Fairy Story

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Underhills: A Tooth Fairy Story

Bob Graham

Walker Books, 2019

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

9781406387612

It is time for the the Underhill children from the tooth fairy family to have a sleepover at Grandma and Grandad’s house, nestled in a teapot under the flight path of a large city airport.  The children love it there where they are doted on by their grandparents and do all sorts of special things like making fairy cakes and tasting leftover chocolate and using the punching bag to keep in shape. 

But when an urgent job comes in, one their parents can’t attend to because they are on another case already, it’s up to Grandma and April and Esme to try to find Akuba, a little girl in a red coat just arrived from Ghana. Will they find her amidst all the busyness and turmoil of the airport terminal?

A thoroughly modern interpretation of an age-old story, Bob Graham continues the tradition of the Tooth Fairy for today’s youngest readers. His distinctive illustrations reinforce the belief in all things magical, including cupids and angels, with references to mobile phones, and other modern conveniences.  But through it all, Grandad’s devotion to baby Vincent and Esme’s gift to her grandma, show that while some things change, the fundamentals stay the same.  A charming story that will reconnect children to past traditions.  

My Folks Grew Up in the ’80s

My Folks Grew Up in the '80s

My Folks Grew Up in the ’80s

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Folks Grew Up in the ’80s

Beck & Robin Feiner

ABC Books, 2019

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

9780733339417

To those of us of a certain vintage, the 80s don’t seem all that long ago but to today’s generation they really are the olden days – the days of their parents’ childhood when technology was just starting to emerge and become part of everyone’s everyday life, rather than that of industry or business.  In this light-hearted lookback, today’s kids are introduced to telephones that never left the house; movies that had to be hired from and returned to a store; music that was carried on the shoulder and clothes and hairstyles that will hopefully never return. 

In the colours and style of the era, students like Miss 8 and Miss 13 can look at life when their parents were the same age, and wonder at how they coped in times before the Age of Instant Gratification. But even though it could be a little tongue-in-cheek, it could also be the kickstart to investigating the development of the things that are taken for granted today as well as the impact of technology on lives and lifestyles. And to be honest, if this were Miss 8 and Miss 13, they wouldn’t have to go far to discover working examples of most of the things mentioned in the book! Just because their grandfather is a Luddite….

 

Sulwe

Sulwe

Sulwe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sulwe

Lupita Nyong’o

Vashti Harrison

Puffin, 2019

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

9780241394328

Sulwe was born the colour of midnight – not the colour of dawn like her mother; the colour of dusk like her father or even the colour of high noon like her sister Mich. No one in her school was as dark as Sulwe and while Mich was called “Sunshine’ and “Ray ” and “beauty”, Sulwe was called “Blackie’ and “Darky” and “Night”, names that hurt her so she hid and wished with all her might that she could be lighter like her sister.  But not even wishing, using an eraser on her skin, Mama’s makeup, eating only light-coloured foods or even praying made the slightest difference.

Desperately unhappy, she finally told her mother how she was feeling and her mother gave her some great advice but it is not until she has a magical nighttime adventure and hears the story of Day and Night that she finally gets some self-belief.

In some ways mirroring the experiences of the author, actress Lupita Nyong’o , this is a story deliberately written to inspire those who look different to look inside themselves for their beauty. While “what is on the outside is only one part of being beautiful…[and] it’s important to feel good about yourself when you look in the mirror …what is more important is working on being beautiful inside.” With body image still playing such a key role in our mental health, any story like this that helps our young readers begin to feel positive about themselves as early as possible before the ignorant taunts of others do their damage, has to be shared and discussed.  Highlighting how Sulwe felt when she was called names, asking what if Sulwe was in this class, listing the mean names directed at students that are heard in the classroom and playground and their impact on their peers might be what is needed to confront the bullies with the impact and power of their words, calling the behaviour for what it is could be the tough love that some of our students need.Starting with the fiction but transferring it to reality, having the students be in the shoes of Sulwe, can be the most powerful teaching tool.  This is a story that is not just about empowering the individual, it’s about awakening the collective. 

Bluey (series)

Bluey (series)

Bluey (series)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bluey (series)

The Beach

9781760894054

Fruit Bat

9781760894047

Time to Play

9781760894030

Puffin, 2019

24pp., board book., RRP $A14.99

Bluey is a six-year-old blue heeler pup who loves to play. Along with her friends and family, Bluey enjoys exploring the world and using her imagination to turn everyday life into an amazing adventure. Based on the Australian children’s television program that is so popular on ABC Kids , the adventures continue in print format enabling our youngest readers to extend their fun while appreciating the joy of stories. They can also get creative with the activities from the ABC. 

Young readers are now expecting their heroes to be in multimedia format, giving them a more holistic experience, so adding print to the collection so familiar and favourite characters are seamlessly interwoven is a critical part of their literacy development.

My Parents Cancelled My Birthday

My Parents Cancelled My Birthday

My Parents Cancelled My Birthday

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Parents Cancelled My Birthday

Jo Simmons

Nathan Reed

Bloomsbury, 2019

256pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

9781526606587

Tom is really looking forward to his birthday- he has had to wait a whole year while all the others in his class have had theirs and he is the last to do so. It is also his Lucky Birthday – 11 on the 11th – and so it is sure to be extra special with amazing activities and lots of presents.  But then disasters begin to befall the family – the Curse of the Tooth Fairy according to his little sister Meg – and his parents are so swamped they cancel his birthday.  How can this be?  And with the invitations designed and delivered already!!  

But then Tom draws on his resistingance, and with the help of his friends decides to throw himself the best party ever!  What could go wrong?

Written in the first person so the reader is constantly viewing the circumstances through Tom’s eyes and empathising, this is an engaging read for the newly-independent reader. Peppered with cartoon-like illustrations and Dad’s peculiar expressions, it is funny without resorting to toilet humour and a seriously hilarious but concerning twist at the end, this is one to promote to the boys who are looking for something quirky and fun.

Super Nova

Super Nova

Super Nova

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Super Nova

Krys Saclier

Rebecca Timmis

Ford Street, 2019

32pp., pbk., RRP $A16.95

9781925804300

Nova’s brother thinks his little sister gets away with everything as she has all the family bluffed about being the perfect child.  Whether it’s dad’s raspberry muffins disappearing, Nan’s knitting wool getting knotted or Harry’s chemistry set vanishing, Nova never gets the blame – but he does.  However, when he sets out to prove that she is at the heart of all the mischief he makes an amazing discovery and ends up with a decision to make.  Will he keep her secret?

With a very real “Nova and brother” relationship close to me, this is such a great portrayal of how wily little sisters can be and how dimples and a smile can fool the most astute.  There will be many big brothers (and sisters) who will relate to this scenario, although not necessarily the situation, and who will delight in the outcome. Lots of opportunity for them to talk about their personal experiences when they have been blamed for EVERYTHING! The title is a clever play on words that could spark some discussion and the illustrations work well with the text, cleverly pulling the reader through the story to find out just what is going on. 

Another one to consolidate young readers’ understanding that there is much fun to be had in stories and books.

Peppa’s Australian Underwater Adventure

Peppa's Australian Underwater Adventure

Peppa’s Australian Underwater Adventure

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peppa’s Australian Underwater Adventure

Peppa Pig

Ladybird, 2019

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

9780241405024

When Peppa wins a colouring competition, nobody can believe the prize is a trip to the Great Barrier Reef! Peppa and her family head to Australia to explore the wonders of the reef with Kylie Kangaroo and marine biologist Mummy Kangaroo. There are so many incredible creatures to find in their underwater adventure.

With its usual mix of entertainment and education, this is another brilliantly coloured addition to the Peppa Pig series that is so appealing to our youngest readers. Years ago I was somewhat sceptical about these sorts of books that were clearly spin-offs from movies and television but after seeing the joy of a little boy who suddenly discovered The Wiggles among the titles on the shelves of Kmart and demanding that his mother buy it for him (if she didn’t, I would have) I realised their power and importance in discovering the joy of reading. 

To discover favourite and familiar characters in books not only sets up expectations and anticipation but also encourages the child to bring what they already know to the text, to test what they expect and what happens against that prior knowledge and understand that books can be better because you can enjoy them at your own pace, flick back and forth and return to them time and again is a critical step in the learning journey.

Creators and publishers have also realised this and the quality of the stories has increased exponentially so it’s worth capitalising on the appeal and giving our little ones a headstart.  Being a successful reader is as much about having a positive attitude as it is about the skills involved. 

The Voyage

The Voyage

The Voyage

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Voyage

Robert Vescio

Amanda Edmonds

EK Books, 2019

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

9781925820034

Fourteen words. If books were priced based on the number of words the story had, then you would probably ask for your money back with this one, but those 14 words document a life-changing episode in one family – a family that could be any one of a number of those whose children we teach and will teach as conflict continues to circle the world. Just fourteen words to tell such a story that are more powerful than if there were 10 or 100 times that many. 

War displaces the family and their pet duck and so they must escape on a boat into the unknown. At first there is the CHAOS of the conflict; then there is the WILD ocean as a storm tosses the boat and overturns it;but BEAUTY awaits as they finally sight land ahead and at last they are SAFE.

But words alone are not enough and it is the remarkable and powerful watercolour illustrations that meld with those 14 words to tell an all-too familiar story of despair, hope, courage, resilience and joy. In fact, more mature readers might be able to empathise with the family and retell the story using an emotion for each page, perhaps sparking greater understanding and compassion  for their peers who have lived the nightmare.  But while those illustrations have strong words to convey, they have soft lines and gentle colours so the humanity and reality of the people is maintained and the reader is not turned off by page after page of darkness.. Again, older students could compare the illustrations and mood of this book with those of the 2019 CBCA Honours Book The Mediterranean

Accompanying notes tell us that both author and illustrator were driven by the need to tell what is becoming a common story so that there is greater understanding and compassion amongst those whose lives are less traumatic and through that, build stronger, more cohesive communities so that life is better, enriched and enhanced for everyone. Edmonds deliberately chose a Middle Eastern family as her centrepiece because of the richness of the culture so that the reader can appreciate the depth and meaning of what is being left behind – the dilemma  of leaving  all that is known and loved for the uncertainty of the unknown and the heartache and danger that either choice will bring.

Beyond the storyline itself, this is a book that so clearly demonstrates the critical, integral relationship between text and illustration, that a picture really is “worth a thousand words” , and often the picture book format is the most powerful way to tell a story.

Look for this one in the 2020 awards lists.

 

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.