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Touch the Moon

Touch the Moon

Touch the Moon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Touch the Moon

Phil Cummings

Coral Tulloch

 A&U Children’s, 2019

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

9781760523657

July 21, 1969 seemed like a pretty ordinary winter’s day in much of Australia and elsewhere.  Smoke drifted from chimneys, ice clung to the windscreens of cars, breakfast was served, dogs waited to be walked… But there was something different about this day. In the days before breakfast television was the norm, televisions were turned on and tuned in to an event happening a quarter of a million miles away and the whole world was focused on it.  Man was about to touch the moon!

But as life slowed in anticipation, something else began to happen.  For the first time in the tiny town of Peterborough, 200 km north of Adelaide, snowflakes began to fall. The dilemma between watching world history, indeed space history, being made and playing in snow for the first time ever was such a tough decision to make.  Which will win?

As we lead up to the 50th anniversary of Neil Armstrong’s “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”, this is the author’s autobiographical account of a momentous day in history, both for the world and for him. He was torn between going out to play in the snow or watching the events unfolding on television but even if it hadn’t snowed in Peterborough it was still such a momentous day that there would be few who were alive then and are alive now who can not remember where they were and what they witnessed.  And that is the purpose of his writing the story – for older generations to “share with children their experiences and memories and encourage children to ponder and be excited by the endless possibilities in their future.” 

Beautifully written and superbly illustrated the story inspires the reader to think about what a whole new world would look like for them. Would it be seeing snow, the ocean, the city or the desert for the first time? Would it be imagining what the world would be like on the centenary of the anniversary in 2069? Would it be having a brother or sister or being disease-free or something else they longed for that would be life-changing? Have they already experienced such a change? So much scope for talking and writing and dreaming, pondering and wondering just as Cummings wanted!

 

Moonwalkers

Moonwalkers

Moonwalkers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moonwalkers

Mark Greenwood

Terry Denton

Puffin, 2019

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

9780143793557

July 21, 1969 and like so many Australian children, Billy stared at the moon in amazement through his telescope wondering if it was really possible for man to land on the moon. Nearby, in a sheep paddock , a much larger telescope was also trained skywards as Apollo 11 with Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins on board, made its historic voyage.  

For the three days between launch and landing Billy taught his little sister and brother all about how to be astronauts, building models, making spacesuits, using the bath to experience lunar gravity and recreating the Command Module in their bedroom. And as that large telescope in the field nearby beamed live pictures of the landing, the whole family sat transfixed in front of their television and watched and wondered. 

Man’s first landing on the moon was one of those momentous occasions in history when those who were alive can recall exactly where they were and what they were doing, and all collectively wondering whether the astronauts would make it back to Earth safely.  Greenwood and Denton have taken this event and woven the facts and details into a stunning story that will not only bring back memories for many but also introduce the emotions and intricacies of the event to new generations who take space exploration for granted, perhaps even having it on their to-do list. Using their own memories as the basis for the story- it was near Denton’s birthday and he was convinced it was some sort of special birthday present – they have created a story that shows the power of imagination coming true as generations of children throughout the centuries have looked at the moon and wondered “what if…?” What dreams will this story inspire?

A great story in itself, it is also the perfect springboard to investigating the event as the 50th anniversary approaches and there is also an activity pack to accompany it. 

Up to Something

Up to Something

Up to Something

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Up to Something

Katrina McKelvey

Kirrili Lonergan

EK Books, 2019

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

9781925335705

A sign on the door of the hardware store catches Billy’s eye – it’s for a great billycart race.! It doesn’t matter that Billy doesn’t have a billycart because he has heard his Dad banging, drilling and sawing in his shed so many times that he is excited about what they could build together.

He is even more excited when his Dad agrees and they begin work together.  But excitement turns to disappointment when his dad appoints him as his “special helper” fetching and carrying the tools and materials, rather than using them. And even though he gets promoted to “assistant” because it sounds more important, the duties don’t change and Billy is soon bored with menial tasks like sweeping his dad gets him to do.  He had dreams of them working side by side building something magnificent together. But as he sweeps he has an idea and while Dad is busy measuring and sawing, Billy is doing the same…

Billy’s story is that of so many youngsters – wanting to get in and be like their dads but being assigned to the sidelines – that it will resonate with young readers who are more interested in making and doing than watching. Lonergan’s gentle illustrations that are so rich in detail echo the relationship between Billy and his dad offering a story that could be a lesson for dads about not underestimating the talents and skills of their offspring.

From a STEM perspective there is plenty of scope to explore creating plans for billycarts, but if readers look carefully at the elements of Billy’s cart they might be encouraged to look at everyday objects differently.  What else could a laundry basket or an old pair of roller skates become? Lots of scope for creative thinking embedded in a story that is just a joy to read in itself.

A Quiet Girl

A Quiet Girl

A Quiet Girl

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Quiet Girl

Peter Carnavas

UQP, 2019

32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.95

9780702260025

Mary is one of those children who treads lightly on this planet, preferring to look and listen and learn its wonders and secrets rather than be an in-your-face master of it. But when she tries to share her discoveries her voice is too quiet for most people to hear, and even though she tries to speak up she is still not heard.  And so she withdraws more and more into herself, becoming more and more invisible to the world, even her parents.  And then one day one of her little bird friends comes to the window and suddenly her mother discovers that she has no idea where Mary is.  She begins to look, shouting and calling and soon the whole neighbourhood is looking for Mary. Will they be able to find her?  What must they do if they want to discover where she is?

Peter Carnavas is a master at crafting stories out of very ordinary situations, turning the gentle and everyday around so the pack a powerful punch. A Quiet Girl is no exception and he reminds us of those more introverted souls we know, who really do have much to say and share but just are not heard over the raucous, busy, noisy world that seems to be today’s norm.  (No wonder there are so many successful television programs about escaping to the country!)  Rather than be constantly on the chase for the “next big thing”, to be over the fence on the greener grass, or being the Joneses that other strive to keep up with, perhaps there is more calm, peace and pleasure in living life at a gentler pace; being the meandering stream rather than the rushing river.

Mary can teach us all lessons about listening, looking, thinking and appreciating and how it is often as important to be an observant bystander as much as an active participant.  And she can also teach us lessons about embracing and encouraging those who are not as bold as we are, but rather than urging them to join our noisy world we should visit theirs. She can also teach us about being true to ourselves and who we are, believing in our strengths and talents and being resilient enough to withstand the criticism and demands of those more outgoing, and understanding that being loud doesn’t mean being more confident. 

There could even be a broader message here as Australia heads towards a federal election – who are the quiet voices with concerns and considerations who are being drowned out by the big voices and the big bucks? Will those quiet voices still be there when the noise dies down?

The teachers’ notes offer some questions and activities that may help you explore this book and its concepts with your students, particularly as we strive to help them become more mindful. 

 

 

The ANZAC Billy

The ANZAC Billy

The ANZAC Billy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The ANZAC Billy

Claire Saxby

Mark Jackson & Heather Potter

Black Dog Books, 2019

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

9781925126815

At first they said the war would be over by Christmas, but another Christmas is coming and it’s time to fill a billy for Dad who is overseas with the rest of the Australian troops, somewhere in Europe. Into the tin, which is not only airtight and sturdy enough to withstand the sea journey but can also be used by the recipient for cooking, the little boy puts his favourite things – butterscotch, a fish, the last walnuts from the tree, a bar of chocolate and a pair of hand-knitted socks. His mother and grandmother also put in things, more practical than the little boy’s but packed with just as much love. And then it is time to send it on its way – will it reach the little boy’s father or find a home with another soldier?  Whichever, there is a letter and that’s what matters. 

This is a tender family story, one known by so many families in so many places at the time, of waiting for a father, a husband, a son to come home from war safe and well. Meticulously researched and illustrated in great detail in water colours as gentle as the story, it provides yet another glimpse into what life was like a century ago as families came to terms with what it meant to have the men overseas, and the sending of these special hampers was common. 

The centenary of World War I has provided us with a wealth of stories for young readers, each unique and each helping the young reader to understand life in this different and difficult time, bringing history to life in a way that resonates with them. As well as the teachers’ notes available for this book, there is much to explore and compare in this story to life 100 years on and the opportunity to speculate about what might go into a soldier’s billy today. 

An essential  inclusion in your ANZAC collection.

 

There’s Only One Mum Like You

There’s Only One Mum Like You

There’s Only One Mum Like You

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There’s Only One Mum Like You

Jess Racklyeft

Affirm Press, 2019

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

9781925712902

I love your quiet stories,
songs sung loud in the rain.
No one can hug like you, Mum
or makes me feel the same.

Brave mums, playful mums, cuddly mums, quiet mums – every mum is special in her own way and author/illustrator Jess Racklyeft celebrates the many things that mums do to make their child’s life better in this ode to mothers that has been released just in time for Mothers Day.

But rather than a twee platitude of a kind that we see too much of, Racklyeft has illustrated this with watercolours of a host of different mums from the animal kingdom, showing that motherhood is not just the realm of humans and that in their way, mums are critical in a child’s development well beyond birth. 

For those who are focusing on Mothers Day and may be treading warily in acknowledgement of those students without mums, this is an innovative approach that offers something a little different.

 

A Great Escape

A Great Escape

A Great Escape

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Great Escape

Felice Arena

Puffin, 2019

176pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9780143794042

Berlin, August 13, 1961, the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the US and its allies is at its peak and  Peter is playing with his mates Max and Hubert, ignoring his mother’s requests to come inside because they are leaving to visit the western side of the city, controlled by the Western Allies and entirely surrounded by the Soviet-controlled East Berlin and East Germany. It doesn’t seem like a big deal because Peter can always stay with his grandparents as he frequently does.

But this time things change for overnight the East German authorities start constructing the wall which divided the city for 28 years and Peter finds himself separated from his parents and little sister Margrit as they are unable to return to the East and he can not join them. Guarded by tanks and soldiers with ferocious dogs and who shoot to kill, it seems that Peter will never see his family again.  However, he is determined to escape and despite seeing the fate of most of those who do try, including the body of his best friend’s older brother left caught in the barbed wire as a warning, his resolve to rejoin his parents doesn’t waver.  While he meets new friends Otto and Elke he is scorned by others, including being taunted and beaten by his old friend MAx who considers him to be a traitor for wanting to be reunited with his family.

This is knife-edge reading about a period in time that was the backdrop to the life of a generation and inspired by the author’s visit to Berlin and asking himself, “If the Wall were to be implemented today, and I were separated from my family, what would I do?” He has brought the period and the dilemma of so many to life through Peter and his friends, and created another must-read to go with The Boy and the Spy and Fearless Frederic.  As well as shining a spotlight on a recent period in history that is still fresh in the minds of many of our students’ grandparents who will have seen it, perhaps even been affected by it, it also sets up a number of ethical questions that could lead to some robust discussions.  

Just as with its predecessors, this is a meaty book that will appeal to those who like some real depth to their reading and who are then compelled to find out more about the events and circumstances.  Perfect for independent readers who are a little older and have a sense of history and are interested in the lives of other children in other places in other times.  As Arena asked himself, what would they do if they found themselves in another’s shoes?

Saying Goodbye to Barkley

Saying Goodbye to Barkley

Saying Goodbye to Barkley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saying Goodbye to Barkley

Devon Sillett

Nicky Johnston

EK Books, 2019

32pp., hbk. RRP $A24.99

9781925335965

Olivia and Barkley are best friends who do everything together, especially catching the bad guys,  With her trusty cape and his sensitive nose, they were two pieces of the same puzzle, but then Barkley got sick and instead of helping Olivia, he just lay in his basket all day. Olivia tried to understand and to go on without him but it just wasn’t the same and when he died she was totally bereft.  Like everyone who suffers any sort of loss of a loved one, the bottom fell out of her world and she was too sad to do anything.  Sleeping didn’t even help because if she dreamed of him, he was gone when she woke up.  And life would never be right again, because every superhero needs a sidekick.

But then, slowly, even though she was still grieving she was able to think about the fun they had together and when she woke up one morning, she had a plan…

Every one of us loses someone who is dear and sadly, that is as true for children as it is for adults.  Devon Sillett, author of both Scaredy Book: It’s not always easy to be brave! and The Leaky Story is gradually building a body of work that shows she is in touch with the thoughts and emotions of our youngest readers and is able to help them recognise, articulate and share those feelings with others.  This is a gentle, tender story of the loss of a loved pet but one which has a happy ending that shows that while the loved one can’t be replaced, there is still life to live and love to give, even if it’s different from what you imagined.

Nicky Johnston’s illustrations are as soft and gentle as the words and add to the poignancy of the whole story and from the front cover to the final endpaper the love that Olivia has to give is on display. In fact the endpapers cleverly preface the story – Barkley hiding under the covers at the front, and Spud pulling them off and the astute adult sharing this story might even prepare the child for its content and theme by wondering aloud why there are two different dogs. Teachers’ notes to assist in exploring and explaining the story are available.

This is an essential addition to both home and school library as it is a sensitive approach to a situation that so many of our little people will face but will not understand without some adult guidance.  

One Tree

One Tree

One Tree

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One Tree

Christopher Cheng

Bruce Whatley

Puffin, 2019

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

9780143786733

Long, long ago Grandfather lived high on a hill in a one-room house with nine other people, a dog and a goldfish. He loved his mountain home. “Better than an Emperor’s palace “, he would say, and when he went to the village market he could always see his home perched beside the tallest tree on the mountain.  At night, Grandfather would tell stories and everyone gathered around to hear them because his stories were the best.

But time passes and Grandfather is old and now he lives in his grandson’s apartment in the city, a busy, noisy, crowded city that has swallowed up the fields, killed the trees and silenced the birds. No longer does he tell stories – he just stares at the fading painting of his mountain and a visit to the markets is one of haste rather than leisure, of fie de lah rather than conversation, where all the buildings look the same and there is no way they can spot their apartment. 

But one day the little boy sees a little plant with two pale leaves growing through a crack in the path, and knowing that it will soon be crushed by the hundreds of rushing feet, he rescues it and despite his grandfather’s pessimism about its future, the little boy nourishes it and it flourishes – and slowly something amazing begins to happen…

If you pick up a book by Christopher Cheng , you know you are going to get an outstanding story, one that will have a profound effect on you. In my opinion, One Tree is as impressive as his iconic One Child  (now 21 years old) with its powerful message about the power of one and the change that can happen because just one child believes. 

And true to form, Bruce Whatley who says he would “get bored if I stuck to one or two [illustration styles}” has illustrated this book in a completely new style, one that complements the text perfectly. “For One Tree I wanted to do something new yet it had to have a traditional feel. I have fond memories of doing Linocuts in college, carving into soft ochre layers, taking away the space between the lines. Then rolling ink onto it and printing the result. Such a great medium. Not having the time or space and being mobile for most of the time I decided to create the technique using Photoshop on my portable Wacom Cintiq tablet and my Mac. I constructed 3 layers in Photoshop, an off white base layer, a dark ochre middle layer, (these colours echoed the lino and were purely for nostalgic reasons) and a top transparent layer where I copied my pencil roughs. I then used the eraser tool with a stylus pen on the ochre layer to ‘gouge’ out the space between the lines. What was left I converted to a black textured line and added the colours on the layer beneath.” Books Illustrated

Like all quality picture books, this is one that spreads itself across all age groups, inspires the reader to act on what they have read and is a pleasure to read, review and recommend. 

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

 

Ivanhoe Swift Left Home at Six

Ivanhoe Swift Left Home at Six

Ivanhoe Swift Left Home at Six

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ivanhoe Swift Left Home at Six

Jane Godwin

A. Yi

Allen & Unwin, 2019

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

9781760631864

Ivanhoe Swift left home when he was six.
He had heard many songs about the world, and it was time to see it for himself. 
‘We won’t know where you are!’ cried his father.
‘I’ll know where you are,’ said Ivanhoe. ‘And you can look out for my kite in the sky. Goodbye, parents!’

This is a touching story about the young child’s need to push the boundaries and explore the world beyond the grip of their mother’s hand or the garden gate.  Ivanhoe’s parents understand this and are prepared to let him go, but knowing that some of the things he will see and the people he will meet might not be as nice as they are, they ensure that he knows he is loved and is always welcome home. 

Go well, as you travel, over the world as you roam…

But if you grow weary of your journey, then let the sea bring you home.

So armed with his bag , a hat and a pencil, the map from his wall, his kite and the songs in his head, he sets off on his adventure.  And sure enough he meets the nice and not-so-nice, braves the woods and sees the ocean  but when his kite. now battered and tattered, is taken by the wind, he knows it’s time to head home.

Young children will resonate with Ivanhoe’s desire to see the world and be inspired to create their own journeys, but will their parents be as trusting as Ivanhoe’s?