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Was Not Me

Was Not Me

Was Not Me

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Was Not Me

Shannon Horsfall

HarperCollins 2016

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

9781460752463

When there is a big mess in the house, Not Me is the cause.  When the bathroom is flooded after battles fought with tough pirates, Not Me is responsible.  When the garden is trashed because masses of monkeys have been chased away, it’s Not Me’s fault.  And when the bed breaks because it’s been used by a circus tumbler, Not Me has done it again.

This is a funny and familiar story about a little boy and his invisible twin brother Not Me whom he holds accountable whenever something that is done that makes his mum cross.  Young readers will resonate with its invisible friend theme but they will also like the ending which exposes the real culprit. As well as the rhyming text which invites the reader to join in with “Not ME”, the pictures cleverly incorporate the leg of Not Me running off to the next page to cause some more mischief and inviting us to tag along.  And although we don’t see mum looking cross and cranky, we do see the little boy looking very sheepish and remorseful and you just know that he will own up to the devilment because mums ALWAYS know!

A charming debut story for this new author-illustrator. 

 

Stanley

Stanley

Stanley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stanley

Colin Thompson

ABC Books, 2016

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

9780733332852

Stanley is not the world’s most attractive dog – he looks like he has been built out of very old, very weathered, very strong bricks and even though he looks dangerous from a distance, he was really as soft as a pillow.  Stanley loves four things – his bed, his dinner, his red rubber ball and Gerald, his human. Unlike Stanley who looked like he had been built from bricks, Gerald looks like he has been created from carefully crafted paper, folded and glued together and rather than looking dangerous, he looked as “harmless as a postage stamp.”  Gerald loves his mum, Stanley and Lego.

Most days Stanley walks Gerald to school but on the whole he was quite lonely at times as Gerald and his mum were all the family in the house, and while he loved them, they never came to sleep in his bed with him.  So when Gerald took Stanley and his red ball to the park and Stanley got to play with other dogs, he loved it.  When Gerald threw the  ball all the dogs would chase it, but they always stood back and let Stanley fetch it.  Until the day a fluffy little thing called Lulu caught it and refused to give it back…an event that will change his life forever!

Colin Thompson, author of the fabulous Fearless, has created another doggy character that children will love and resonate with giving them hope that even though they might feel lonely and be the only one in a single-parent family, things can change.  With his vivid words-and-pictures descriptions of both Stanley and Gerald (with lots of wonderful similes to explore) there is a strong message about not judging things on their appearance and the juxtaposition of the soft, fluffy Lulu  standing up to the tough-looking Stanley is just one example.  

This story has many layers so will appeal to many age groups, but overall it’s just about love and the power of hope and a red rubber ball.

Very useful teachers notes are available.

 

Wormwood Mire

Wormwood Mire

Wormwood Mire

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wormwood Mire: A Stella Montgomery Intrigue

Judith Rossell

ABC Books, 2016

288pp., hbk., RRP $A22.99

9780733333019

 

Stella Montgomery is in disgrace.  After being missing for two nights and returning covered in mud and dressed as a boy after the adventures described in Withering-By-Sea her aunts Deliverance, Temperance and Condolence have packed her off to join her cousins Strideforth and Hortense and their governess at the family home of Wormwood Mire.  Now she is alone on a long, lonely train journey rattling along towards an unknown, ancient stately home once owned by Wilberforce Montgomery, the epitome of the eccentric Englishman of the late Victorian era who travelled the world collecting all sorts of plant and animal specimens and filling his home and its grounds with them, dead and alive.

With just A Garden of Lilies, Improving Titles for Young Minds, a book of doom and gloom and depressing moralistic statements for company, nevertheless Stella is not daunted because surely nothing could be worse than the weeks of icy weather, cold porridge, endless boring lessons, and her aunts’ disdain and distaste that she has just endured. Even though she imagines Strideforth, Hortense and a strict governess to be just waiting for her to make a mistake, Stella has with her a stolen photo of a mother pushing a pram with two toddlers in it and the inscription “P, S & L’ on the back.  She is sure that P is for Patience, her mother, and S is for herself, and imagines L to be for an unknown sister named Letty.  So despite everything, she is somehow looking forward to this trip because she is hoping to discover who (or what) she is. Even though strange things begin to happen immediately when she ventures into the mysterious Spindleweed Sweetshop hoping to get something for her empty tummy while she waits to be taken to Wormwood Mire, she draws on Letty for strength and courage and ventures forth with determination.

Judith Rossell is a master of  building intrigue, mystery and suspense through her compelling descriptive writing that takes the reader right into the setting of an ancient, deserted English pile with multitudes of empty, dusty rooms, clanking pipes, secret tunnels and overgrown gardens where who knows what dwells.  Luckily for Stella Strideforth, Hortense and the governess Miss Araminter are friendly and as curious as she is but Jem and his reclusive grandparents with their warnings of dire, mysterious happenings in the past and their reaction to Stella make for another gripping episode that keeps the reader enthralled. Pet mollymawks and ermines, peacocks that split the night with their raucous shriek, a giant fish with razor teeth that seems to frighten creatures to stone and a tower-top study full of a secret collection of dangerous creatures and plants suck you in like a monster Venus flytrap and the outside world ceases to exist.

Like Withering-By-Sea, this one is printed in that dark green favoured by the Victorians and the monochromatic illustrations in the same tones all add to the atmosphere that suggests that more timid readers might like to read this in daylight.  

Withering-By-Sea won a host of awards –Winner, Indie Award, Children’s and YA, 2015; Winner, ABIA Book of the Year for Older Children, 2015; Winner, Davitt Award, Best Children’s Crime Novel, 2015; Honour Book, CBCA Book of the Year, Younger Readers, 2015; Shortlisted, Aurealis Awards, Children’s Book, 2014;; Shortlisted, Prime Minister’s Literary Awards, 2015 and I predict this one will be just as successful and popular.  

But if you will excuse me, I need to read just one more chapter!

BTW – HarperCollins are hosting a virtual excursion called Cautionary Tales with Judith Rossell on Tuesday October 18 11.30-12.15 AEDT  for students in Years 4-6.  

Just the Way We Are

Just the Way We Are

Just the Way We Are

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just the Way We Are

Jessica Shirvington

Claire Robertson

ABC Books, 2016

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

9780733331640

 

Families come in all sorts of shapes and Anna, Chiara, Henry , Izzy and Jack lovingly introduce the reader to theirs.  Anna’s family includes her grandfather who does wonderful things with her after school; Chiara has two dads while Henry lives in one house with his mum and his brother and his dad lives in another house.  Izzy is loved by her foster family and there’s only Jack and his mum in his family.  

But despite the different configurations there are several things that are all the same – each family does the same sorts of things and enjoys them, each family is full of love and hugs and each family is perfect just the way it is. 

With its pastel colours and gentle illustrations, this book is an affirmation of all the different types of families that our children live in and encounter through their friendships and that as long as there is plenty of love and hugs and fun, each family is just the right shape for it.  The call for greater diversity of the characters in the stories our children enjoy, both in print and onscreen, is starting to be heard and so it is not only delightful but also important that books like this feature predominantly in our library collections – both school and home.  Children have the right and the need to be able to see themselves and their situations reflected in the stories they enjoy so their lives are just as normal as others and marginalisation (and bullying) is minimised.  

Using the children’s thumbnail sketches of their families in this book as a role model would be a wonderful way to explore the different shapes of families in the classroom and demonstrate that the common thread of love is the most important of all.

Grandma Wombat

Grandma Wombat

Grandma Wombat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grandma Wombat

Jackie French

Bruce Whatley

HarperCollins, 2016

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

9780732299590

 

Grandma Wombat is like most wombats – and a lot of grandmas!  She likes to spend her day relaxing – scratching, eating, sleeping and occasionally baby-sitting. She solves problems like there being no carrots and thinks that, unlike the kangaroos who bounce around her, her grandson is polite, well-mannered and even, better behaved.  

But while she is sleeping, Grandson Wombat is NOT!  Oh no!  He’s off having his own adventures because, to him, kangaroos are playmates and their wombat-size pouches and their big bouncy legs are perfect for taking a wombat to places where a wombat has never before ventured.  Grandson Wombat is a master at hitching a ride wherever he sees one but on the back of a skydiver might be a jump too far!

Once again, Jackie French and Bruce Whatley have created a wonderful adventure for little people that is just bursting with the joy of life and the fun of the perfect marriage of text and illustrations that will make them want to read it over and over and over again.  And perhaps think up their own adventures for next time they go to visit their grandma…

 

Grandpa’s Big Adventure

Grandpa's Big Adventure

Grandpa’s Big Adventure

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grandpa’s Big Adventure

Paul Newman

Tom Jellett

Penguin Viking, 2016

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

9780670078172

“I’m afraid of the water . . . but Grandpa loves it, and he’s teaching me to swim”

And to help him overcome his fears, Grandpa tells him all about his biggest adventure -the time he swam around the world.  Covered in grease which drove Grandma crazy, holding a big plastic bag to keep things dry and taking sweets to eat and tea to drink, Grandpa swam all day long but rested at night because that’s when you bump into things.  Dealing with sharks, dining with the Prince of Wales and trying to beat the fish to the answers to the quiz shows on television, Grandpa had all sorts of tales to tell as they go up and down the pool, getting better and better without really knowing it. Distraction is a very effective way to overcome fear!

This is a wonderful story that is such a great example of the tall tales that grandpas are allowed to tell their grandchildren without being discredited.  Tom Jellett’s illustrations turn the text into a truly believable adventure and highlight the clever word play which adds humour and fun to this extraordinary feat.  

Little ones will enjoy it and will be asking their grandpas what they did when they were young.  It would be a tall tale indeed to beat this one – unless it was about going to the moon.

Oh, Albert

Oh, Albert

Oh, Albert

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oh, Albert

Davina Bell

Sara Acton

Penguin Viking 2016

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

9780670078608

Albert is one of those dogs – a lovable golden labrador puppy with a voracious appetite for everything, regardless of whether it is ‘official’ dog food or not.  Each day, when no one is around he finds something that grabs his attention and as is the manner of dogs, explores it by eating it.  Taste is not an issue – pink ribbons, red flags, white cords, green swim goggles, a black bike helmet – they are all part of Albert’s diet, much to the family’s frustration and threats.  Until on Saturday he eats something dogs should NEVER  eat – chocolate!

As they sit at the vet hoping he will pull through, the family begin to realise what Albert means to them and regret their hasty comments.  But whether Albert pulls through and whether he learns his lesson is an ending for the reader to discover…

This is a captivating story that is so full of riches, not the least of which is how Albert would feel if he were human and all he heard were negative remarks.  Because each double spread only shows the times when Albert’s appetite has got him into trouble you wonder if that is the only time this busy family with their pilates, ballet, swimming, school, bike-riding and so on notice him.  Is he doing this stuff for the attention he craves? Do we only notice and attend to the things our children,our students or our pets do wrong, rather than acknowledging the 99% of the time they bring us love and joy? are we so busy being busy that we forget why we had the children or got the pet in the first place? Do we only stop to reflect when there is a crisis? Hmmm…

Davina Bell’s text is perfect for engaging the young reader in early-reading behaviours.  It has a repetitive refrain that encourages the child to join in (and consolidate their knowledge of the days of the week) and Sara Acton’s pictures invite prediction of not only what Albert will eat but how that will impact on the ‘victim’.  Focusing on the essential storyline with white space instead of extraneous detail, little people will be able to read this to themselves easily, able to work out what happens as they turn each page – but hearing the words will add so much more to the experience that they will want it over and over.  It will move from first-read to familiar to favourite very quickly. It is a cumulative story so each episode leads into the next in a way that is really cohesive so there is also the opportunity to talk about cause and effect.  If you leave your swimming goggles where Albert can eat them, how will you cope at swimming the next day?

But mostly this is a story of the unconditional love we have for our pets and readers, adult and child, will be able to put themselves into the story sparking memories that can be shared and drawn. . Maybe everyone and everything will get an extra hug today.

Miss 5 is going through a ‘dog phase’ and this is one she is going to adore.

 

Wild Pa

Wild Pa

Wild Pa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wild Pa

Claire Saxby

Connah Brecon

Random House Australia, 2016

32pp. hbk., RRP $A24.99

9780857988003

 

My Pa is not a quiet Pa,
a sit-and-read-the-news Pa.
My Pa is a Wild Pa –
and Wild Pas are lots of fun.

Indeed they are as they chase their grandsons through the dunes in full pirate garb; grow peas in crazy shapes; cook up spectacular meals; and even indulge in a full-on food fight.  Not for this grandfather the conventional “comb-his-three-long-strands” pa; the “trim-and-tidy-roses” pa; or even the traditional baked beans or sausages,  But for all his fun and games, this pa is nevertheless responsible and knows “when enough is quite enough”.

This is an hilarious romp written in rhyme that leaps off the pages with its actions and colourful illustrations. Right from the front cover which depicts Pa and grandson swinging Tarzan-like across the crocodile-infested pond you know this will be a story of fun and frolics that will engage young readers from the get-go.  Pa is cleverly depicted as just an adult version of his younger relative, distinguished only by a somewhat dodgy moustache and beard, emphasising the role model he is offering not only as a grandfather but also a caring family member. The endpapers are delightful – from swinging on a somewhat worse-for-wear clothesline to the suggestion that perhaps they are now in the doghouse!!  

Many schools now celebrate Grandparents Day and this and titles like Miss Mae’s Saturday would be perfect as part of a display about grandparents that could be shared on this day – or as part of a special selection in a Book Fair. Young children will delight in telling their own stories about their own grandfathers (who are no more the stereotypical white-haired chap in a cardigan and slippers than the grey-haired, bun wearing grandmother sitting in her chair knitting) and will begin to understand the family structure as they do.  Sometimes they are a whole lot of fun with a lot of wild ideas!!!

wild_pa2 wild_pa3

 

One Photo

One Photo

One Photo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One Photo

Ross Watkins

Liz Anelli

Penguin, 2016

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

9780670077977

One day dad came home with an old camera – the type that used film and you took it to get developed and you had real photos in your hand to keep.  Then he spends his time taking photos of things around the house.  Not the usual things that people photograph but odd everyday things like his cereal bowl and coffee cup.  Things that he didn’t want to forget as though he thought he was in danger that he would.

He got the photos developed and stuck them on the window in his study.  He used more and more rolls and took more and more photos, but he didn’t seem to want to take any of his family.  This upset them terribly.  “Aren’t we worth remembering?” they asked.

And then the camera was gone.  And so was Dad. For ever.  But one day the camera turns up in the post.  There is still a film in it and when they get it developed, there is just one photo. And finally his family understands the purpose and significance of all those other photos.

This is a most poignant story, one of the most unusual I’ve read in a long time.  And yet it is a story of many of our students, one that may be hard for them to articulate.  In the gentle drawings and soft palette it traces a father’s way of dealing with a terminal illness, one which affects his mind and memory but in a way that is filled with love and tenderness.  The endpapers are intriguing as they juxtapose two different types of photos – one set full of people shots, the other not.  Those of us old enough to remember “real” photos will be taken back to the days of  photo albums and the pleasure they give as they are dragged out so memories can be revisited and recalled, where only one or two photos were taken for posterity rather than the plethora taken today as though we live through the photo rather than the event, even though we might not look at the photo again. Photos were private memories not public trophies  And we will understand what Dad was trying to do and why the old-fashioned camera was so important.  It could open up a whole new world for students who may be scrambling to find such memories in a few years as technology moves inexorably onwards.

One Photo is different.  It’s sad and moving and yet offers hope for those who might be left behind – memories don’t have to fade.

 

The Stupendously Spectacular Spelling Bee

The Stupendously Spectacular Spelling Bee

The Stupendously Spectacular Spelling Bee

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Stupendously Spectacular Spelling Bee

Deborah Abela

Random House Australia, 2016

232pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781925324822

Things have been tough in the tiny town of Yungabilla, and particularly so for the Wimple family since mum gave up her teaching job to homeschool Boo because of his asthma and Dad lost his as a journalist when the local newspaper closed down and he’s now got his own handyman business. But they are a close-knit family with Dad’s eternal optimism steering them through the roughest times, Mum’s patience and calming influence keeping everyone on track and Nanna Flo’s pragmatism keeping them grounded Every Friday night they gather around the television to watch The Stupendously Spectacular Spelling Bee with India Wimple successfully spelling every word along with the contestants.  So when host Philomena Spright looks straight down the camera lens exhorting children to enter the new series, India feels she is speaking directly to her.

Which is all very well because spelling really tricky words is not India’s problem – it’s her shyness and the family’s pecuniary problems that are bigger hurdles.  When she was younger and had the starring role in the school play, she was all set to go but just as she stepped on stage she saw a couple of people leaving and realised it was her mum and dad hurrying her young brother Boo outside to deal with another major asthma attack.  She lost her lines and her confidence in public at that moment but gained a loud voice in her head that constantly fuels her self-doubt and her fear that it would happen again. It pops up all the time suggesting that it’s impossible for one as ordinary as her to achieve a dream  So, at first she tells her family that she can’t enter and despite their protestations she sticks to her decisions.  But that night she sees Dad smile, something that is rare these days, so so that she can see that smile again, she agrees to have a go.

And so the scene is set for a most heart-warming, spirit-lifting story of a family and a community getting together to overcome all sorts of obstacles and hardships to make the dream come true.  This is not just about India- the whole town needs this, if only to prove that kids from the back of beyond are just as clever and polished as city kids and their own children can have the future they want.

Much has to be done to help India build her confidence and self-belief, just as much has to be done to find the money to get her to the heats and the final.  There are all sorts of contestants including the super-confident as well as  pushy parents to contend with, without even thinking of words that most of her age won’t have heard of, let alone use or understand (even when they are in a sentence!) It’s a story that we’re seeing playing on television all day at the moment, as our Olympic competitors from all sorts of backgrounds, overcome all the odds and realise their dream of being an Olympian. Even the contestants in the tremendously popular television program The Great Australian Spelling Bee will now come to life and be more like the real kids they know.  And while for Olympian, television contestant and India alike the prize is the goal, it’s also about the journey and what they learn along the way that is the most important.

This is an inspirational story that would make a great read-aloud and a wonderful read-alone at any time but particularly at this time or at the beginning of the year as we encounter students with all sorts of concerns about what hurdles they will have to leap as a new phase unfolds and fears have to be faced. Striving for a dream, using the support of those around you, taking one step at a time, believing in yourself and allowing obstacles to become opportunities is a  message that our young need to hear, especially when they seem to be surrounded by ‘instant success” and live in a world of ‘instant gratification’. 

Adding to the story is the introduction of each chapter… a particular word is featured, it’s definition and part of speech and just like in the competition it is used in a sentence.  This prepares the reader for what is to come, building personal vocabulary and understanding in the best way as we read on to see how it plays out.  Daunting, valorous, imperious, calamitous and skulduggery all come to life!

Deborah Abela has written a most profound book, very different from much that is available to younger readers today, and created not only an engaging, what-happens-next story but one built around a family who will be readily recognisable by readers.  If Miss 10 were to adopt India Wimple as her role model, I would be more than happy.