Wherever Adeline went, so did Bunnybear. They had been together since forever, never apart. He was soft and cuddly, his ears and legs wibbling and wobbling and he flipped and flopped along. He even had his own seat at the table for morning milk and biscuits with Nanna. Bunnybears was her best friend and she didn’t feel right without him. Until one day, Bunnybear accidentally got left at the beach… Caught in a tug-of-war between a curious seagull and Adeline’s puppy, poor Bunnybear was destroyed and Adeline was distraught. That night there was a Bunnybear-shaped empty space in her bed and she felt very alone.
Next day Nanna sat in her knitting chair and made a new Bunnybear for Adeline. But this one wasn’t the same. It was too stiff and straight and no matter how Adeline squished and squashed him, he felt like a stranger. And so he sat on the shelf, hard and still like a statue. But then, one day Nanna had to go away for a while and with no milk and biscuits for morning tea, and no sitting in the knitting chair with her, the days became long and quiet. And then Adeline remembered…
This is a soft and gentle story, illustrated with the soft and gentle palette and the soft and gentle lines of watercolours, that will remind all readers, young and not-so of their favourite take-along-everywhere toy of their childhood. Everyone has a Bunnybear in their story, that one toy that we felt lost without regardless of whether it was shabby or pristine. In fact, shabby was better because it showed how loved it was but despite that, there is always room for change and sometimes when it is thrust upon us we need to embrace it. This softness is not just in the storyline but also in the rhythm of the story – long sentences that spread out over vignettes and pages as life continues on its merry way but changing to shorter, more abrupt statements when the worst happens and then gradually getting longer and more rhythmic as life takes on a new pattern. The whole wraps around the child like a hug, reassuring them that things will work out even if they are different.
Sometimes when little ones go to big school there is a suggestion that it is time to leave their preschool lives behind, including their beloved toys that have been with them since birth. And yet with this huge change in their lives they are left without the companionship of their most trusted and comforting friend and ally. Photos of Prince George starting school recently showed him looking a bit bewildered and unsure, and even though his grandfather Prince Charles thought the experience “character-building” we have to remember we can still count in months the time these little ones have been in the world and they need and deserve all the support they can get. The astute teacher will acknowledge that these are more than just a collection of stitches and stuffing, that they are imbued with love, safety and security and perhaps having a special shelf so the special toys can come to school too with the child deciding when they want to wean themselves. Meanwhile the teacher librarian can encourage them to read to their special toy in school and at night and might even provide a collection of teddies for those who just need an extra hug or two. It worked for me!
Sometimes when you’re gone I wonder why your job seems more important to you…than me.
Sometimes when you’re gone I get upset and angry when you miss things that are important to me.
Sometimes I look at what you do and I realise that you don’t want to leave… but by making our lives harder, you are making other people’s lives better.
But even with that understanding, it doesn’t make the life of a child with a parent in the Defence Forces or any other profession which necessitates prolonged absences any easier.
This is poignant true story based on the 16 year-old author’s own experiences of being a child in a military family grappling with the absence of a loved parent. It was her way of telling her dad about her feelings while he was away and her confusion when he came home as the family had to adjust to another routine. In an interview with the Canberra Times she says, “When I showed it to Dad, it wasn’t really anything we had discussed before … it was quite a shock to him…
But Jess didn’t just write this book for her dad, she wrote it for all children of Defence families and in a letter to them she tries to reassure them that their feelings are common and normal,they are not alone and even providing a page for them to write their own ending to the sentence, Sometimes when you’re gone…
Many of us have taught many children from military families who have struggled with having a parent deployed and there has been an expectation that they will “soldier on” and manage the separation and the emotions that go with it. But this book has a wider application than just military families – many of our students will have parents away, either permanently or temporarily – and in sensitive hands this could be the perfect opportunity to support them by getting them to open up about their feelings; to help them understand that they are not alone and it’s normal to feel resentful at times and they don’t have to feel guilty; to help them help their parents understand the impact of the separation because often parents are so busy being adults that they forget what it’s like to be a bewildered kid.
This is one for all teachers, not just counsellors, and deserves a wide audience among our profession – it has the power to change lives.
Life could hardly be more different for Pippa. From a seemingly happy family living in a Victorian terrace house in London to a caravan in her grandparents’ backyard on a tropical island off the Australian coast. Forced to make changes when her husband decided to work in Switzerland without them, Pippa’s mother has uprooted the family to a totally new environment where she is now running the increasingly popular Beach Shack Cafe created from an old, abandoned boat shed – a huge contrast to being a stockbroker in London!.
Pippa has a new puppy called Summer, is learning to surf, has settled into school and now has a group of friends – Meg, Cici and Charlie- and they call themselves the Sassy Sisters. So when teacher librarian Mrs Neill launches a student newspaper inviting all the students to submit articles for the first edition, they are very excited. But each has different interests and therefore different ideas of the focus of their story so whose idea will be adopted? And what happens when naughty puppies and tropical weather and unco-operative shopkeepers interfere with their plans? Being a junior journalist is not as easy as it sounds.
This is the second in this new series by Belinda Murrell, aimed at the independent reader who is looking for something that will absorb them for a while. Writing modern stories for this tween-age group who are on the cusp of becoming young women with all that that entails is difficult because there is a fine line between what to include so the older girl remains interested and what to leave out so that the younger girl who is reading at this level is not turned away. In this series, Murrell has nailed it with just the right balance. There is action aplenty, a healthy relationship with the boys in the story, Cici’s fashion interests to add the touch of glamour and a main character who could be almost any girl who picks up the book. This and its predecessor The Beach Shack Cafe will be in Miss 11’s Santa’s Sack this year!
When I was this age I read The Pen and Pencil Girls by Clare Mallory, a book which had such an influence on my writing as a child that I tracked a copy down and bought it a few years ago. Move forward a couple of decades and the Junior Journalists club was the most popular and sustainable one that operated in my school library, and now we have CubReporters to inspire another generation. Offering kids an authentic outlet for their writing, their illustrating and their photography is a winner for getting those who have a passion for these things involved in school life while perhaps moving them on to a higher level of expertise. Let this book be the one to kickstart a program in your library.
Sage Cookson is a ten-year-old whose parents, Ginger and Basil, travel Australia and the world, and lucky Sally gets to go with them. While they are sampling the food, learning new cooking techniques and then sharing their new knowledge with their massive television audience through their show The Cookson’s Cook On, Sage has a lifestyle that others might envy.
In this latest episode, Sage is confronted by a school assignment which many children dread – having to prepare and present a three-minute speech to her classmates. She fears all the things that many do – forgetting the words, being laughed at, being boring – and even the comforting words of her best friend Lucy don’t reassure her. Nevertheless she perseveres amidst all the excitement of the launch of her mother’s first cookbook at the Sydney Opera House, helped enormously by Tori who has flown in from Singapore to give her own speech at the occasion. But when traffic delays everyone except Sage and her mum, Sage finds herself volunteering to do the opening speech … is this the silliest decision she has made?
This new series for newly independent younger readers combines the author’s love of television cooking shows and mysteries, so that in each new addition something goes wrong and Sage has to solve the problem. Sage is going to appeal to a range of young readers who will be able to follow her adventures and then visit her website for more fun, as well as trying out the delicious cupcake recipe included.
Little did Antonio know that when he stuck an irreverent sketch of Hitler and Mussolini on the windscreen of a German jeep that that his life would change forever. Chased by a German soldier, leaping from the treacherous il Diavolo, and rescuing a wounded American spy is not in the script of life for a rota, an abandoned child who is despised and ridiculed by his Sicilian village even though he has been adopted and taken in by and cares for Mamma Nina.
But that one act by an innocent 12-year-old sets off a chain of events that keeps the reader enthralled as Antonio lurches from one situation to another seeing the reality of war and understanding the true meaning of family. Set in his homeland, Felice Arena has always wanted to create a story there but it took a long time for Antonio’s voice to echo in his head and demand that his story be told. It is a story worth the wait,
Any story that encourages boys, particularly, to read is to be commended but it is wonderful to see what could be termed a true, rollicking, boy’s own adventure being published. Moving apace with credible characters, both good and evil, Antonio gets into such situations that you wonder how he will get out of them but are willing him onward to success even though he is technically helping the enemy. That said, it will also appeal to girls because without Simonetta’s help Antonio would have stumbled at the first hurdle and Arena himself says that there could be another story in the escape of Simonetta and her mother. That’s one I will be looking out for!
This one is for the slightly older independent readers who are looking for a bit of meat and tension in their stories, who like something that compels them to keep reading and appreciate story-crafting at a high level.
Pip Sullivan first entered our reading lives in Run, Pip, Run when she had to live on her wits to stay out of the clutches of the authorities when her “grandfather” Sully had a stroke and subsequently died. Fearful of being put in foster care, Pip found temporary refuge with her best friend Matilda’s family. But to Pip, Matilda is perfect and never seems to get into trouble whereas Pip doesn’t seem to be able to stay out of it. Convinced she is going to be put in formal foster care with all that entails because she believes the Brownings no longer want her, Pip hits the road with her inseparable dog Houdini determined to find her real mother. With only a nine-year-old postcard to go by, she is determined to get to Byron Bay…
Full of determination, resilience and quick-thinking Pip has much to overcome as she makes her way north, all the while never giving up hope and never forgetting Houdini who is very well named. Despite her somewhat unorthodox upbringing, she has learned some important life lessons from Sully and these make her a particularly likable little girl of just ten and a bit. Asking to pay extra for her train fare because she had skipped without paying the day before is just one example. And when all you want is a family of your own, nothing will deter you.
Written so that the reader can understand her perspective and her thinking, it is an engaging sequel that is every bit as good as the CBCA shortlisted original. An engaging, solid read that is a little bit different for independent readers.
My grandmother forgets who I am. Every time we meet, it likes meeting someone new….
Even though Grandma can’t remember us, we have so many memories of her.”
There are the sausages as big as elephant’s legs that she served for Sunday lunch; going to the beach; snuggled in together with a hot-water bottle and a blanket watching the nighttime storms split the sky… The little girl and her dad have memories galore that they share with her in her new home with the painted garden and people who remember for her.
Young children encountering older relatives who are succumbing to the challenges of the ageing process are becoming more common as generations live longer than ever, and so stories that help them deal with what can be a confronting situation are always welcome. This is a gentle comforting story about the enduring love between the generations, although if Grandma is 80 as her birthday cake shows there seems to be a skipped generation in the chain. My own grandchildren would appear to be about the age of the children in the story and they faced this situation with their great-grandmothers, not their grandmas. We are only in our 60s!
Nevertheless, this is an uplifting story that shows how children embrace the changing circumstances, accepting the changes and the challenges and working with them, rather than taking them as a personal rejection. There are adults who could learn from this unconditional love that children display and how they adapt so they almost become the adult themselves. And while there are old memories to recall, there are always new ones to make.
The soft palette and lines chosen by the illustrator portray the beautiful memories perfectly and the love between them all just oozes from the page setting up the perfect opportunity to let the children tell and draw their own stories of their own special moments with their grandparents, perhaps cementing them even more firmly.
When the author discovered she was pregnant, typically she was very excited and so she began to write about her feelings as she waited for the time to pass. The result is this gentle story-in-rhyme that mirrors the thoughts and feelings of most expectant parents and their families. Who will this new little life be? And what will their life be like? It traces the things that are done during that nine months from ultrasounds to decorating the nursery, tracking a common journey that very young readers first asking about where they came from will love to know about. It might even reassure parents-in-waiting that anxiety is as normal as anticipation.
Even though this is Ms Ritchie’s story, it is a universal one and Hannah Somerville’s illustrations using such a soft palette take it beyond the personal so it becomes almost a lullaby of love that would serve very well as Baby’s first favourite shared each night. There is so much evidence that even our very youngest children are aware of the harsh realities of life, the differences between their lives and that of their peers, so to have such an affirmation of being loved and wanted and cherished should bring enormous comfort and reassurance.
There is a place and a need for this sort of book and Ms Ritchie has fulfilled it well.
When Little Koala climbs up the branch for dinner he gets a nasty surprise when instead of feeding him, his mother’s pouch is closed and she gives him a cuff around the ear. He is no longer welcome as she is pregnant again and it is time for him to become independent. Koalas not only live solitary lives but they are also territorial so the search for his own home among the gum trees is not easy. When he thinks he has found a safe place to sleep he is woken by a thunderous roar and pushed out of the tree by another older male but he must find another resting place quickly because he is unsafe on land.
Bushfire-ravaged country, storms, snakes and food options limited make finding a new home challenging – is there a safe place for him?
Koala is a perfect book for not only teaching young readers about one of our iconic faunal symbols but also introducing them to the concept of non fiction. Like Python ,it crosses the boundaries between imagination and information by bringing real life to life through story. Even though the story of Koala only took place in Saxby’s imagination, it is so well-researched and accurately portrayed by Vivas’s lifelike illustrations that it could have happened, and, as we read, we get both information and insight into these extraordinary creatures. Vivas has portrayed the key physical attributes of the koala accurately so its need for two thumbs and strong sharp claws are evident but she has also given him emotions as he is kicked out and faces going it alone. As well as the details embedded in the story there are also additional facts included in a different font so the distinction between story and information is clear and this is referred to in the simplified index, itself a great teaching tool.
Young children always have questions about their world and this concept of “faction” is the perfect way to help them learn more before they are able to read independently. Finding non fiction that is accessible to young readers and answers questions as well as generating more is difficult in early childhood, but this certainly meets all the criteria to spark a range of investigations, not the least of which could be comparing the koala’s age of independence with that of the child as well as a variety of family structures.
An important addition to any primary library collection.
Usborne have added another volume to their stable of illustrated collections that bring us the tales, stories, myths and legends that have been shared with and enjoyed by children throughout the generations. This collection includes The Secret Garden, The Railway Children, The Wizard of Oz, Black Beauty, Little Women and Heidi, all based on the original stories and beautifully illustrated to entice the young reader ready to take their reading in a new direction.
There are some stories that have endured over time for very good reasons and this collection is one that celebrates some of those that continue to be published in full so many years later. They are the sorts of stories that grandparents and even great-grandparents remember fondly and love to give so these abridged versions are the perfect introduction to the longer, original stories. Apart from just being a good read, they give 21st century children a glimpse into the lives of children of the past to a time when life wasn’t dominated by screens and technology. Who wouldn’t be tempted to explore the mysteries of Misselthwaite Manor, wander down the yellow brick road or be afraid of going from luxury to poverty overnight?
As well as being an essential addition to the collection, this could be one to flag in your suggestions for Christmas purchases for parents!