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!
Amy’s family was the speediest family in the world. Everywhere they went and everything they did was done at breakneck speed as they rushed through their day, only to do the same thing the next day. There seemed to be no time to chat or play or laugh or just enjoy each other’s company. Then one day Amy brings a sloth that she has found hanging in a tree in the park home – and sloths move at a very different pace to Amy’s family. Will it adapt to the speed of the family or will the family change to meet the rhythm of the sloth?
Amy’s family seem typical of so many families these days who seem to need to cram so much into every day that they forget to stop and enjoy the things they do. Once again, Margaret Wild has observed the everyday and asked “What if?…” and brought young readers a delightful tale that so many will relate to. Vivienne To’s illustrations are right up to date although for such a busy family it’s a wonder Amy’s dad hasn’t discovered what a waste of time ironing is!
There’s a saying that it’s about the journey not just the destination and this has been captured perfectly in this story as Amy declares the first day with the sloth the best day of her life. An excellent addition to your collection focusing on mindfulness, the need to reflect and absorb what is and let it become part of who we are. Look around, enjoy the subtle colours of a winter sunrise, the chatter of the birds and the sounds of night falling – be like a sloth and be happy and comfortable with that.
Chook is not his real name – that’s Simon – but he’s earned his nickname because he is anxious and scared about many things, even everyday encounters, and “chook” is another word for chicken. Let’s Do Diwali, Up and Away, On the Road and Unhappy Camper are the latest releases in this series especially designed for the young reader making the transition from basal reader to novels.
In each story, Chook faces a situation that scares him such as working with new people, speaking in public, being in a crowd, playing with strangers, sleeping away from home and he has to draw on his inner reserves to deal with each one. Often circumstances are that he becomes involved in events and doesn’t realise that he has overcome his fear and come out the other side until it is all over, each time gaining a little more confidence. All the issues he faces are those that will be familiar to the young reader so they can draw strength and confidence from Chook’s success.
Short chapters, large font and plenty of illustrations support the newly emerging reader and with such relevant topics told well this is a perfect series to entice even the reluctant reader into more challenging books and show them that this reading thing actually has something to offer them and they can be successful at it.
George is having a very bad day – an I can’t, I won’t, I don’t kind of day as he grumbles and shouts and stomps. His mum tells him there is a big bad mood around him but George can’t see it and when he goes searching for it with no luck he gets even crankier. Then suddenly, The Big Bad Mood is standing right in front of him! Rough and smelly, it takes George by the hand and off they go to create mischief and mayhem.
At first it is fun but eventually…
Young children, and those around them, are no strangers to temper tantrums born of frustration as they push the boundaries of independence, but sometimes the stars are just not aligned and we wake up on the wrong side of the bed. But right from the get-go we learn that expressing our displeasure through shouting and stomping is not acceptable and so there can be an expectation that we should be happy and cheerful all the time, never giving into whatever is making us feel less so. Yet there can be no rainbows without rain and our lives are full of the ups and downs that give us light and shade so this is a wonderful kickstart to a discussion with little ones about whether it is ever OK to be angry and moody, and if so, how to deal with it.
As George goes about his day with The Big Bad Mood, he slowly begins to realise the impact his mood and behaviour are having on those around him and his attitude starts to change and then his actions follow suit. Little ones need to understand that being cranky is part of everyday life and it’s not a sin or a personality defect but it’s how they deal with the anger and frustration that shapes who they are, not just in the moment but long term as the responses we have become ingrained habits. Is the glass half-full or half-empty?
Often young people don’t have the vocabulary and the language skills to be able to articulate their frustration and that leads to even more tension but by having Olga Demidova’s illustrations that make the invisible visible they realise that bad moods are real, can be tangible and can be dealt with. Equally important is acknowledging the feelings of those who have been affected by their attitude and actions and the power of saying sorry and trying to do better. Even though the target audience of this book are still too young to be able to step back and look at what is causing their mood objectively, nevertheless the patterns of their behaviour are being laid down so discussions about why they get cross and what they can do about it, as George did, are vital.
A perfect addition to your mindfulness collection!
How long will I love you? A second is too short. A second is no time for a love of this sort. A minute is no better, for minutes fly by! They’re gone in a moment like a sweet butterfly. Moving through the day, the seasons and then the years, Mother Mouse’s ode to her child and everlasting love will reassure children that they are lovable and loved and will be always. “Love you to the moon and back” is something our little ones hear often but this story, told in rhyme and accompanied by charming pictures that just ooze warmth and love, expresses that concept in a way that little ones can understand. The affirmation that a mother’s love is never-ending, even when our offspring challenge us, is so important and this is a wonderful way of helping them understand that, especially as there are lots of other mums depicted in the pictures. This is a universal feeling, not one confined to Mother Mouse and her baby.
Time is such a nebulous and abstract idea that children find it difficult to get their heads around it, but this delightful story helps to explain it by quantifying the measurements in order. A second is so short we can but blink, but there are many things we can do in an hour or a morning, while nighttime brings its own unique activities and each season its features.
A perfect lullaby-type story to draw the curtains on the day for our little people.
Once there was a gecko and she lived inside a cave. She was very, very small but she was also really brave.
Not only was she brave, but she was also very smart. For inside her cave were three gecko eggs that needed to be guarded day and night because there were many crafty creatures who thought that gecko eggs would make a tasty snack. But she was ready for them and when Snake slithered by at sunrise looking for his breakfast she told him he would need to be very brave because inside the cave were 100 geckos! And just one shout would bring them out. But Snake didn’t have his brave on so he slithered on.
Eagle also thought gecko eggs would make a tasty lunchtime treat but she too turned away when threatened with 100 geckos waiting for her. But come evening, when Rat was looking for his dinner he wasn’t intimidated. In fact he decided to call Mother Gecko’s bluff…
Clever use of rhyme and charming illustrations carry this tale of courage and trickery along and young readers will really enjoy the fact that Mother Gecko can outsmart her enemies. They will also enjoy investigating how echoes are created – they are fascinated by them and whenever you take a child into a tunnel or an underpass or wherever conditions are perfect, they delight in shouting and hearing their voice come back to them. Why does that happen? A perfect kickstart for a science lesson as well as a good story!
Zane is different to other kids – he lives in his own world with his own language, a need to line things up and has an inordinate fear of the colour black. Black food, black clothes, black anything – he won’t go near it. Not the pedestrian crossing, the soft fall at the playground, not even his own driveway. So Zane is trapped on the front step unable to venture further, even when his dad yells at him. Until one day his sister starts to draw a chalk rainbow on the steps to cheer him up. Zane likes colour so he joins in. And then the magic begins…
Like so many children Zane is on the Autism Spectrum and while their issues might seem unreasonable and even be unfathomable to those around them, like Zane’s fear of black frustrates and angers his father, nevertheless they are very real to the child. And because of the way their brain is wired they can’t overcome them any more than we can expect them to change their hair colour or foot size, so it is up to us as adults to adapt our way of thinking and working so we can enable the child to manage the world better. It’s about acknowledging their disorder and treating them with respect and dignity. If they can’t change then we must. Through imagination and love, the rainbow bridges work for Zane’s family and instead of being frustrated even his dad is able to free Zane from the prison walls of black.
Kids themselves are very accepting of others whatever their differences, but they don’t always understand how their actions can help or hinder. Nearly every classroom had a child with ASD these days and while that child’s issues might not be the colour black, using this book as a springboard to introduce how peers can help the ASD child have a better time at school would be a brilliant start towards total acceptance and understanding. Even if there is no ASD involved, using the imagination to make something like a chalk rainbow to take that next step into the unknown is a wonderful strategy.
An essential addition to the school library’s collection and the home library of the siblings of an ASD child.
Living a country life in the city is an appealing prospect for many. Picking fresh fruit and vegetables from the garden bed instead of the supermarket shelves; having your own chooks to provide fresh eggs; recycling waste instead of sending it to landfill – all these things appeal to Jesse and his family and so they design, plan and develop their own patch from scratch.
Told from Jesse’s perspective, the story chronicles what would seem to be a real-life experience that shows all the aspects of creating an edible garden in a suburban backyard. From Lewis’ desire to grow beans like Jack of beanstalk fame, to Jesse’s dream of fresh strawberries and even Mum’s longing for chooks each step is documented in text and illustrations that show what needs to be done in a way that draws the reader in and shows them that they can do it too. In fact, once they start it’s amazing how many people become involved as seeds, seedlings and advice are shared and suddenly chores like weeding and watering become fun. Jesse starts a plant diary for his strawberries as he patiently waits for them to ripen. But why are there five not six? And what is happening to the tomatoes and lettuce, leaving holes in them? How can the patch be saved from the robbers?
As well as being so informative, particularly as more and more schools are developing kitchen gardens to supply the canteen, there are lots of other issues raised that will kickstart lots of investigations that should give greater understanding for the future of our planet. Why are bees critical? If pesticides wipe out bugs, what will the birds eat? How did people manage when there were no supermarkets? What happens to supermarket food when it is not bought? What are the essential elements that need to be included in the design of a chicken coop?
To round off the story, there is some really useful information and suggestions for finding out more as well as a flowchart of how the patch from scratch works. There is also a lot of information on the author’s page for the book and at the Kitchen Garden Foundation which supports this concept in schools.
Identified as a CBCA 2017 Book of the Year Notable and with sustainability being one of the cross curriculum priorities of the Australian Curriculum this is an essential addition to both the home and school library as we look to a better, healthier future