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Something for Fleur

Something for Fleur

Something for Fleur

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Something for Fleur

Catherine Pelosi

Caitlin Murray

Lothian Children’s, 2018

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

9780734418098

Fleur the Flamingo has a birthday coming up and her friend Bo is teasing her with the clues about her present by sending her letters.  The first clue is that it is very big – could that mean there will be ice-cream mountains or ten-tiered cakes?  The second clue is that it is very strong.  Could that mean superheroes with soaring wings or body builders to carry things? The third clue has Fleur baffled – it is a little bit wobbly! So maybe multi-coloured swimming fishes or belly dancers to polish dishes.

But on her birthday there was nothing in the letterbox and no parcel on her doorstep! So she waited and waited and waited and then…

Storybooks that you can hear yourself reading and imagine the children responding to, are the very best IMO.  And that is the case with this one.  We could have so much fun trying to imagine what Fleur’s present might be and gradually eliminating suggestions as we combine the clues.

Rhyme, rhythm, and a touch of intrigue – wonderful!

In the Mouth of the Wolf

In the Mouth of the Wolf

In the Mouth of the Wolf

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the Mouth of the Wolf

Michael Morpurgo

Barroux

Egmont, 2018

160pp., hbk, RRP $29.99

9781405285261

In the village of Le Pouget, in the Languedoc region of south west France, Francis Cammaerts is resting after the celebrations for his 90th birthday come to a close.  As dusk turns to dark and the church bell strikes midnight, he thinks of those who have been a part of his journey to this ripe old age – those who raised him, supported him and had so much to do with the man he became.  And from those reminiscences comes a story of determination, danger, courage and heroism that would have gone untold if not for Morpurgo’s pen and Barroux’s brush.

One of two sons born during the Great War, Francis grows up to be a teacher while his brother Pieter is a burgeoning actor,  But when World War II breaks out, the brothers take very different paths. Frances believes war is futile and barbaric, that people should not descend to the level of the fascists and that only education and pacifism are the “way forward for humanity”. Pieter, however, believes that pacifism will not stop Hitler, that the cruelty of fascism had to be confronted and so he becomes a Sergeant Navigator in the RAF.  While he eventually goes to join a bomber squadron in Cornwall, Francis goes to Lincolnshire to work on a farm having justified his beliefs to a tribunal.  

But when Pieter is killed returning from an air raid over France and a bomb dropped by a German plane kills the family on the next farm including including baby Bessie, Francis begins to rethink his decision, particularly as he now has a wife and the birth of his own child is imminent.  He talks to Harry, his mentor from his teaching days – a conversation that changes his life forever as it leads him into the silent world of the secret agent working with the Resistance in France…

As with Flamingo BoyMorpurgo shines a light on the real story of war and its impact on ordinary people by taking an unusual perspective and telling the story through that.  This is not a tale of derring-do embellished with action scenes and special effects -although it could be that in the hands of another – but a quiet tale of remembrance and reflection, of the impact of the legacy of others on a particular life, when that life itself has left its own legacy.  Morpurgo has said, ” This book may read like fiction. But it is not. That is because it does not need to be.” It is the story of his own uncles.

Generously illustrated using family photographs which are included at the back of the book as well as biographical details of those who had such a profound impact within the story, Morpurgo has produced a story that not only tells yet another untold story of the war but one which has shaped his life too.  

One for independent readers  wanting something different, compelling and utterly readable. 

The Hole

The Hole

The Hole

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Hole

Kerry Brown

Lucia Masciullo

ABC Books, 2018 

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

9780733335235

Squirrel is making her way through the woods with a basket of goodies to share with her cousin Vera.  But when she stops to have a rest, she spies a hole in the ground and being inquisitive she peers down it. Wondering who lives there she climbs into it, only to find she can’t touch the bottom and she is stuck because she can’t get a purchase on the sheer walls to hoist herself up.  Her shouts for help are heard by an ostrich passing by, also with a basket of goodies to share with his cousin but when he sticks his long neck down the hole to investigate, it is longer than squirrel’s legs and he declares he can’t see anything,  Trouble strikes when his head his wedged in the hole, both Squirrel and Ostrich convinced that there is a monster at the bottom of the hole who will have them both for his lunch. Three monkeys also find themselves trapped and when a tiny mouse appears to waken the monster by yelling at it, everyone seems doomed…

This is a charming  adventure that engages from the get-go with its 3D cover featuring a hole filled with black and two bright eyes!  Young readers will suggest that it’s about a monster at the bottom of a hole but the monster shape revealed on the front page could be anything so there are no clues there,  The story begins with Squirrel’s curiosity, moves through the willingness of others to help those in distress or need and ends with a friendship amongst some unlikely characters. Young readers might like to speculate on what might be at the bottom of the hole, although they are unlikely to guess because it’s not a creature young Australians would be familiar with.  Nevertheless, the scope for describing the monster that might be there is endless. They could also put themselves in the position of the squirrel, the ostrich and the monkeys to consider how they would respond – would they be curious, would they help or would they continue of their journey because someone is expecting them?

Its rhyming format and the cumulative text make it perfect for reading aloud and Masciullo’s illustrations capture the emotions and the drama of the moment perfectly.

Teachers’ notes are available.

Ruby’s Worry

Ruby's Worry

Ruby’s Worry

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ruby’s Worry

Tom Percival

Bloomsbury, 2018 

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

9781408892152

Ruby is very happy being Ruby, happy to be by herself and content in her own company. But one day she discovers she has a companion, one that is invisible to all but her.  It is a worry.  And the more she thinks about it, the bigger it grows, the more persistent and pervasive it is.  No matter where she goes or what she does, it is there with her until she gets to be worrying so much about the worry that there is no room in her brain or life for anything else.

Then, in the park one day, she spies a young boy looking as sad and forlorn as she is.  Taking her courage in her hands she speaks to him, and together they discover something quite miraculous.

Anxiety in children is at an all-time high these days as they try to meet all the expectations put on them – academic, sporty, physical, creative – and as they try to please all those they hold in high esteem- parents, family, friends, teachers… It is no wonder that so many of them are like Ruby, carrying around worries that threaten to swallow them whole if they haven’t done so already. So this book which brings to life the old adage of “a problem shared is a problem halved” is a critical part of any mindfulness program or anything that deals with children’s mental health.  Children take on board all sorts of things that adults don’t realise, bits of overheard conversations or things that they see start to play on their mind, growing bigger with imagination and become all-consuming because not only do they not have the ability to detach themselves from the here and now, but they also don’t have the strategies to deal with them.  Living in the bubble that is often the way of children’s lives these days, they believe that they are the only ones with the problem and that only they can solve it. Despite their apparent connections to others, they actually feel very isolated. 

Therefore to have an easily accessible picture book that starts the conversation is so important. Because Percival does not identify Ruby’s particular worry, the story has universal application- it could be the story of any child in our care. By using the story as the starter for a discussion that demonstrates the importance of reaching out to family and friends for support and that this is as important for children as it is for adults, we are offering them a beginning strategy that can be built on as they mature.  

An important addition to your mindfulness collection.

 

Jacaranda Magic

Jacaranda Magic

Jacaranda Magic

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jacaranda Magic

Dannika Patterson

Megan Forward

Ford Street, 2018

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

9781925804010 

A hot, sticky summer afternoon and Will, Charlotte, Priya, Finn and Lizzie don’t know what to do with themselves. Lying under the large jacaranda tree, with little energy and less motivation they are bored with their regular pursuits and with each other.

“Too mopey for mischief, too wriggly to rest.

All stuck for ideas, no one knew what was best.”

Suddenly a little breeze blows through the tree and showers them with beautiful purple petals – and that gives Will an idea! And in a flash that tree becomes the ultimate playground – just add imagination.

In this age of wrapping our kids in bubblewrap and cottonwool and where allowing them to be bored is seen as the ultimate failure as a parent, this story whisks the reader back to a time when climbing trees was a vital part of growing up and there was no such thing as risk assessment and management.  In fact, schools spent a lot of money installing climbing frames and other equipment so that there were “fake trees” available and children could build their upper body strength and indulge in all the gross motor activities so critical for development. Climbing encourages children to develop their own risk assessment and management and while there may be falls and the occasional broken arm, it’s all part of growing up and building a willingness to take a chance and being resilient.

And at last, there is recognition that boredom is also critical for development, that on-tap entertainment in whatever form stifles the imagination and creativity which is THE essential element of human endeavour.  There is no more critical question starter that “what if…”

As the children scramble through the tree’s branches, feeling its different textures and letting its shapes inspire their imaginations, they discover a world of fun and endless possibilities that will not only encourage the reader want to find a tree and shinny up it, but will want them to return again and again as its potential for fun and discovery is endless.   

Even if there is no tree nearby for the children to climb, or policy forbids that, maybe start with asking the children “What would you do if you had an afternoon to yourself and no access to toys or technology?’ It’s amazing how many times the things that stick in the child’s memory are those that cost nothing and were done with family or friends.  Their imagination is not dead – they just need to time and space to explore it.  Just as Will, Charlotte, Priya, Finn and Lizzie discovered.

Teachers notes are available to kickstart your imagination. 

 

 

A Different Boy

A Different Boy

A Different Boy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Different Boy

Paul Jennings

Geoff Kelly

A & U Children’s, 2018

112pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781760523503

Anton is lost, lonely, hungry and bewildered as he is led into Wolfdog Hall, a home for boys without parents. He is handed his tag – O. Muller – and told the O is for “Orphan” although he will most likely end up as a C – ‘custody’ or ‘criminal’, the tag for those who try to abscond.  As gloomy and as dismal as his future, which was to have been on the great ocean liner he can see sailing to  “a warm, sunburnt country -a land of sweeping plains and rugged mountains which ran down to golden beaches surrounded by a jewel sea,” Anton soon finds himself between a rock and a hard place.  He is either going to be strapped by a brutal teacher for drawing a rude picture of him or be beaten up by the boy who did draw it for dobbing on him.  But then he recalls his dead’s fathers words – ‘If you’ve got a bad deal, get out of it and move on.” – and so he walks out of the orphanage altogether.

His steps lead him to that ocean liner but how is he to get aboard with no boarding pass, no family, no money and no luggage?  Is he doomed to be returned to the orphanage and fulfil the officer’s prophecy?

Confronted on the first page by just two paragraphs of text surrounded by razor wire, it is obvious that this is not going to be one of Paul Jennings’ more light-hearted stories. And indeed, it isn’t.  Despite its initial appearance as a stepping stone for newly-independent readers, this one has a lot of twists and turns that need a more mature mind to get the most from it.  Although Australia is clearly identified as the “New Land”, Anton’s origins are not defined beyond being a country that has recently been devastated by war, which may resonate with some readers, and the events on board the ship are complex, especially the final resolution.  

As an adult reader, this is Jennings at his best but don’t be misled thinking that this is one for younger readers.  That said, it is unique, different and utterly absorbing for those who are ready for it.

The Magic Pudding – centenary edition

The Magic Pudding

The Magic Pudding

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Magic Pudding

Norman Lindsay

HarperCollins, 2018

208pp., hbk., RRP $A49.99

9781460756201

Written a century ago to settle an argument with his friend Bertram Stevens who believed children liked to read about fairies while  Norman Lindsay believed they liked to read about food, The Magic Pudding is now celebrating its 100th anniversary with this new slipcover edition.

Written in four slices,  it tells the story of Bunyip Bluegum the koala, Sam Sawnoff the penguin and Bill Barnacle the sailor who have a magic pudding called Albert who reforms into a whole pudding no matter how much of him is eaten. 

Albert is cranky, has bad manners and is always demanding that he be eaten because that is the only thing gives him pleasure. As they travel together, they meet Possum and Wombat who want to have Albert for themselves and the newly-formed Noble Society of Pudding Owners then embark on a series of adventures trying to defend Albert from being stolen regardless of the dastardly tricks that the Pudding Thieves try.

Albert

With such an original, funny and intriguing plot it is no wonder that The Magic Pudding is considered one of five great children’s classics in Australian literature along with Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, Blinky Bill , The Muddleheaded Wombat and Dot and the Kangaroo.,  This collector’s edition also  includes a section, ‘From the Publisher’s Archives’ that contains a fascinating collection of correspondence between Norman Lindsay and his publishers, Angus & Robertson. The letters have come from the A & R Archives held in the Mitchell Library and were selected with the assistance of Lindsay’s granddaughter, Helen Glad, who also wrote a short biography of him especially for this book.

Perfect for starting a child’s collection of quality Australian stories so they learn about their literary heritage.

Lucia and Lawrence

Lucia and Lawrence

Lucia and Lawrence

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lucia and Lawrence

Joanna Francis

New Frontier, 2018 

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

9781925594157

Lucia and Lawrence live next door to each other, but two more diverse children would be hard to find.  Lucia is creative and lives in a world of fantasy with “dreams that reach as high as the sky and as deep as the sea.” She loves playing outdoors, cloud-dreaming and letting her imagination soar. Lawrence, on the other hand, has “a head full of numbers that are predictable and safe.” He prefers to stay indoors, using his imagination in a different way.  Lucia is outgoing, loud and confident; Lawrence is quiet, shy and prefers his own company. She is a risk-taker, he prefers the logic and order of his calculations. Hers is a world of colour ; his more monochromatic. 

Connecting through messages on paper aeroplanes and tin cans joined with string, they build up a friendship, respecting each others’ differences.  But when Lucia asks Lawrence to her birthday party, he declines and watches through his window as Lucia and her friends gallivant around her backyard in fancy dress and having a magical time.  And that gives him an idea, one that will combine his world of numbers and physics and her world of imagination and fantasy.

Children usually make friends easily, prepared to play with whoever is at hand ignoring all but the game in motion.  But every now and then they meet someone who is not quite like them, the yin to their yang, and yet still there is a connection that suggests this will be a deep and lasting relationship. But sometimes, even that connection is at the risk of fracturing as Lucia and Lawrence’s is when he refuses his party invitation and it can be tricky to build a bridge.  But if and when that bridge can be built it can lead to something that is better than before. 

Stunningly illustrated with images and colours that depict their characters’ personalities, this is a different story about a familiar theme that opens up much to explore about Lucia’s imaginary world and Lawrence’s more practical one.  Readers might identify with one child more than the other and this in itself lends itself to discussions and responses that will show a personal connection to the story.  Everyone will know either a Lucia or a Lawrence and be able to reflect on their similarities and differences as they learn the art of compromise, the glue that holds relationships together. 

Lottie Perkins (series)

Lottie Perkins (series)

Lottie Perkins (series)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lottie Perkins (series)

Katrina Nannestad

Makoto Koji

ABC Books, 2018

64pp., pbk., RRP $A9.99

Movie Star

9780733339059

Ballerina

9780733339066

Pop Singer

9780733339073

Fashion Designer

9780733339080

 

Charlotte (you can call me Lottie) Perkins is an exceptional child – well, that’s her belief anyway.  She has a range of talents -each different in each book – but most of all she has drive, determination and a confidence in herself that is remarkable for a seven year old.  In each episode of this new series, Lottie becomes a different character, one that is determined by the events that get her into strife and how she extricates herself from it. 

Aided and abetted by her best friend Sam Bell, who believes in her as much as she does herself, her goat Feta and her pet rabbits, she slips into new roles while managing to circumvent the blocking efforts of mean-girl Harper Dark and her cronies, using her unique talents to emerge triumphant and even more confident than ever.

This is a new series for young girls who are becoming independent readers, with its large font, short chapters and liberal illustrations supporting their efforts.  They will relate to the feisty, resilient Lottie and readily imagine themselves in her shoes. Something new for this age group who are transitioning between basal readers and novels with the first two books available now and the next two to come in November 2018.

 

Help Around the House

Help Around the House

Help Around the House

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Help Around the House

Morris Gleitzman

Puffin, 2018

198pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9780143793236

Eleven-year-old Ludo is on his way to live in Canberra because his father has just been elected as the new Independent federal representative for Culliton, but beginning with being seated in business class he is overwhelmed by the luxury and ostentation that come as part of a federal Member’s salary and entitlements.

A boy who lives (almost) strictly according to Scout Law and his deceased mother’s mandate of helping others, Ludo vows to turn things around and get the politicians to understand and act on how much their generous remuneration would help others who are not so fortunate, particularly the homeless.  But it is not as easy as it seems and while his father is off on a fundraising trip, Ludo, with his new Scout friend Henry, soon finds himself embroiled in the seedier, selfish side of Canberra’s political life, hampered by Mike, his father’s aide who can see no further than votes, the next election and power, but helped by Mrs B, the housekeeper who knows more than a regular housekeeper might. Ludo is determined to ensure that fairness and justice prevail, even though that finds him out late at night, bending some of the rules instilled in him by his mother with whom he has regular ‘conversations’ and who Gleitzman says is modelled on his own mother who died while he was writing the book.  She is certainly a strong guiding presence for Ludo in a place where moral principles seem to have departed, and while the ideals learned from her may get shaken at times, nevertheless, Ludo’s core beliefs about who he is and what he should do are unshaken.

This is the latest release from the current Australian Children’s Laureate (his next is the finale to the Once series) and like all his books since his first, The Other Facts of Life written in 1987, this is a cracker.  Over 30 years of writing for children. children whose  own children will be getting ready to share his work with their children, and Gleitzman still has the rare gift of combining credible, likeable characters in almost-plausible situations with a message softened with humour.  Ludo who sees life through the idealistic eyes of a typical 11-year-old who has been brought up in kindness and selflessness and who has absorbed the tenets of Scout Law into his psyche learns some tough lessons about the reality of life, particularly how personal perceptions shape responses, while his father also has to reassess his future as the truth about political life becomes apparent.  Given the recent events in federal parliament, this is particularly relevant as questions are asked about who among our young people would want to become a politician.

Having spent 30 years living in Canberra, this book has a personal connection and even though some of the places are fictitious,  many of the events in the story are not and Gleitzman’s exposure of the behind-the-scenes machinations and motivations was unsurprising to this somewhat-jaded senior citizen.  But to the young reader, perhaps meeting Gleitzman for the first time,  it may be disappointing that adults are so self-centred but the ending is uplifting and will reaffirm their belief in the basic goodness and good intentions of most adults.  A page-turner!