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Unicorn!

Unicorn!

Unicorn!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unicorn!

Maggie Hutchings

Cheryl Orsini

Affirm Press, 2018 

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

9781925712506

Luka makes the world light up
Like a shooting star on a dark night.

But when Luka gets really sick and makes a wish for a unicorn, it is not so easy for her best friend to keep her promise of making it come true.  Even though she did lots of research about where to find one and how to catch it when she did, she couldn’t find the information she needed.  So she drew a picture of one but that didn’t satisfy Luka as she lay in her hospital bed. And neither did dressing up in a onesie.  Even borrowing a pony and putting a cardboard horn on it did not make a difference.  But sometimes every minute spent wishing and hoping and determined to keep a promise can pay off…

Unicorns and little girls currently go together like fish and chips – there is an inexorable pull between them – and so to discover a picture book that features them is all that will be needed to get your young readers clamouring for this one.  The double bonus is that it is a quality story that is about friendship and the lengths we go to for those we love which is accompanied  by exquisite illustrations.  And the ending is perfect – even I looked under my bed!

 

Lenny’s Book of Everything

Lenny's Book of Everything

Lenny’s Book of Everything

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lenny’s Book of Everything

Karen Foxlee

Allen & Unwin, 2018

352pp., pbk., RRP $A19.99

9781760528706

On July 26, 1969, six days after man walked on the moon, Cindy Spink caught the Number 28 bus to the hospital where she gave birth to Davey, a brother for three-year-old Lenny.  Right from the start she had a ‘dark heart feeling -as big as the sky but kept in a thimble” that something wasn’t right and so it proved to be.  For, although he was a normal sized baby, Davey kept growing and growing until by the time he was ready to start school he was already 4″5″ (135cm) tall and had been denied entry to preschool because of his height. 

Lenny loves her brother very much but it’s tough being a sister to someone who is a bit different, no matter how lovable, and when your dad has walked out and your mum has to work two jobs just to keep a roof over your head so your eccentric Hungarian neighbour looks after you for much of the time, life can be confusing and conflicting . 

The bright spot every week is the arrival of the latest issue of the Burrell’s Build-It-at-Home Encyclopedia, which their mum won in a competition. Through the encyclopedia, Lenny and Davey experience the wonders of the world – beetles, birds, quasars, quartz – and dream about a life of freedom and adventure. Davey loves the articles about birds of prey while Lenny becomes fixated on beetles and dreams of being a coleopterist.  Together they dream of a life in a log cabin in Great Bear Lake, away from the away from the noisy city and the busy bus station across the road, their strange neighbours and the creepy Mr King. And when the instalments don’t arrive fast enough and the company keeps trying to tempt them to spend money to get issues faster and with the special volume covers, Mrs Spink takes the time to take on the publishers with the letters becoming a side story that shows her persistence and determination to do the best for her kids, regardless of the challenge. 

But as Davey’s health deteriorates, Lenny realises that some wonders can’t be named, but they can be diagnosed and when Davey’s gigantism is traced to tumours in his pituitary gland, in a time when cancer and its treatment were still referred to as “the C word”, the reader knows that there is probably not going to be a happy outcome. 

This is both a heart-warming and heart-wrenching book for older, independent readers, one they can relate to because Lenny’s life is so ordinary and like theirs, yet one that will engender compassion as she struggles to come to terms with what is happening to Davey, not wanting to burden her mother who is “made almost entirely of worries and magic” and who does not realise just how desperately she is missing her dad until she thinks she has found his family. For those who have siblings with significant health issues it may even be cathartic as they realise that the feelings of resentment, even shame, that they sometimes have are natural, common and understandable and they are not evil or undeserving for having them. 

Lenny’s Book of Everything doesn’t just refer to the encyclopedia that opens up the world for her and Davey; it refers to all her thoughts and emotions, reactions and responses of a childhood spent with a sick sibling in a sole-parent family in a poorer neighbourhood of a moon-rock drab town with very little money for everyday things let alone treats. It is raw in places but eminently understandable.  

Written when the author herself was going through a time of momentous grief . it is beautifully written, a compelling read and one that adults will also appreciate. It is a story of joy and heartbreak, humour and honesty, but mostly it’s just about the immense, immeasurable love among families.

 

 

 

 

We Are Together

We Are Together

We Are Together

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We Are Together

Britta Teckentrup

Little Tiger, 2018

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

9781848576582

On our own we’re special, And we can chase our dream.
But when we join up, hand in hand, Together we’re a team. 

This is the message of this story  – the power of one, but the even greater power of many.  Starting with being content with one’s own company flying a kite, it grows to embrace others in our lives, known or not-yet, so whether it’s being caught in a storm or being passionate about a cause, the support and strength found in the love and friendship of others alongside us is cause for joy and celebration.

If ever we’re lonely, we’ll just say out loud: Let’s all stand together, one big happy crowd! 

The cover is intriguing with cutouts peeking through to just two of the children on the stunning endpapers showing children of all nationalities and ethnicities, and as each page is turned the cutouts increase revealing an ever-widening circle of children capturing the innate way they have of making friends regardless of any external differences. 

 

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

It provides an opportunity to talk about not only receiving a helping hand but also extending one, valuing and sharing the things we do well personally while respecting and trying the things others can do. It emphasises that while we are individuals, humans are also dependent on others – no man is an island – and that co-operation, collaboration and company are essential elements of our well-being. 

 

 

 

Waiting for Chicken Smith

Waiting for Chicken Smith

Waiting for Chicken Smith

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Waiting for Chicken Smith

David Mackintosh

Little Hare, 2018

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

9781760501761

Every year, I stay in the same cabin at the beach with my family, and every year Chicken Smith’s here too, with his Dad and his dog, Jelly. But this year, something’s different.’

Convinced that his friend Chicken Smith will appear any moment, the young narrator of this story waits resolutely for him, cradling the piece of driftwood that Chicken Smith carved into a whale shape last summer. While he waits and waits, his sister tries to get his attention but he ignores her – nothing is more important than being there to greet Chicken Smith when he arrives. Apart from anything else, he has a shell to give him as a thank you for the driftwood whale.  

As he remembers and reflects on past summers, it gradually becomes clear that perhaps Chicken Smith won’t be coming this year.  The cabin he stays in is shut up with long grass all around it and a huge cobweb in Chicken’s bedroom window.  And at last, he pays attention to his sister’s entreaties and discovers something that makes up for Chicken Smith’s absence…

This is a moving story that will inspire young readers to reminisce on their own holidays at the beach, the friends they made, the things they did and start to build the anticipation of having such a magical time again.  They might like to speculate on what has happened to Chicken Smith and ponder whether the boy will have as good a holiday without him, using the clues towards the end to think about the new friendship that is beginning. 

The childlike language and the illustrations that could have been drawn by the narrator make this a more personal experience for the reader – you are just waiting for Chicken Smith to appear and for the boys to get on with what boys do at the beach.  Great for starting thoughts about the upcoming summer…

Teachers’ notes are available.

A peek inside....

A peek inside….

Invisible Jerry

Invisible Jerry

Invisible Jerry

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Invisible Jerry

Adam Wallace

Giuseppe Poli

EK Books, 2018

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

9781925335781

People don’t notice Jerry. If someone bumps into him, they don’t say sorry. If he makes a joke, no one laughs. He never gets picked last for sports teams — but that’s because he never gets picked at all. It’s like he’s invisible. Even though, like most kids, he doesn’t want to be so different that he stands out, he hates being invisible.  He really would like to be part of the crowd, laughing, smiling and having fun but that’s hard if you’re quiet and  shy.

But then along comes Molly… and not only does she change Jerry’s life, she enables him to change the lives of others.

There is a fine line between being the centre of attention and perhaps putting a target on your back for bullies and being so introverted that you’re not even noticed. Most kids seem to work within a happy medium between the two but there are always the extremes – like the Bell curve of distribution.  Sharing this book with young readers can help make those in the middle more aware of those like Jerry who don’t have the confidence to step forward, or who are ignored when they try, while at the same time, give the introverts the opportunity to reach out to someone who is just like them and who is probably feeling as unhappy as they are. Whilst we don’t all have or want to be in the limelight, sometimes it’s necessary to cast a light into the shadows.

From the front cover of this book where the line between Jerry and his peers is drawn with the title dividing him from them, the placement of Jerry in the illustrations underscores his isolation and the gentle palette reinforces the light touch that Spark author, Adam Wallace has used to portray a common situation that can be dark and overwhelming.

Another wonderful story for your mindfulness collection. 

Meet the Fingerlings

Meet the Fingerlings

Meet the Fingerlings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meet the Fingerlings

Rosie Peet

DK, 2018

24pp., hbk., RRP $A12.99

9780241370803

The Fingerlings are a lively gang of monkey, sloth, and unicorn friends who love to hang out together and this book introduces very young readers to Boris the energetic monkey who loves to play the drums, Marge the brainy sloth and Gigi the bubbly unicorn who is always the life and soul of the party as well as  Bella the monkey who loves to jump and climbs and  Kingsley the sloth whose favourite sport is surfing!

At first glance, this is just another book that is a tie-in to a set of popular commercial characters, and to some extent it is, but with the expected DK twist of educating as well as entertaining, it is more than that.  Each character has their own page with basic information about them in easily accessible language but the book also has a quiz at the end to test the children’s knowledge of what they have read and an index so they can find the answers quickly if they are unsure.  While not a fan of quizzing kids on what they’ve read as though they somehow have to prove they have read and understood things, nevertheless this is a fun format to introduce the concept that books can contain information and that it can be found by using specific cues and clues, thus laying down the foundations of information literacy.  

Even if it is viewed as a clever marketing tool to popularise characters soon to hit Australian preschoolers, books that tie screen to print are always popular as young would-be readers recognise familiar things and with the bonus of some simple guidelines to help them with those first research skills, this deserves a place in the early childhood collection- just as we provide books about Star Wars and superheroes for our older readers. 

Me and My Fear

Me and My Fear

Me and My Fear

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Me and My Fear

Francesca Sanna

Flying Eye, 2018

32pp., hbk., RRP $A27.99

9781911171539

In the beginning her constant companion Fear is small, just big enough to keep her from doing things that would be harmful or dangerous.  But when she moves to a new country where she doesn’t know the language, the neighbourhood, the school or those she meets there, Fear grows and grows until it all but cripples her.  She feels more and more lonely and isolated each day, her self-confidence disappears and she hides herself away, full of self-doubt and beginning to loathe this new place as she begins to believe that she is too different to be understood, accepted and liked .  But a little boy is watching… can he lead her back by helping to shrink Fear?  And what does she discover about all the children in her class, indeed, everywhere?

This could be the story of any one of the children in our care, even those who have not had to emigrate to a new country and a whole new way of life.  While this companion to The Journey shows that the plight of refugees is not necessarily resolved as soon as they reach a new country, anxiety about the unknown, even the known, plagues many of our students, some to the point that they cannot get themselves to school, and so this book which demonstrates the power of how reaching out, being friendly, having empathy and making connections (even if that is your own biggest fear) can lead a troubled child back to a more normal world, where Fear is natural but it is a normal size.

The soft, retro colour palette reinforces the gentle tone of the book, and even though Fear grows and grows, it is not a black, dark, formidable, force but more a white, soft, marshmallow-like character that is not physically threatening . It maintains its shape even as it grows suggesting that its core remains the same, rather than becoming an overwhelming fear of everything.

Recommended in many lists as one that can help children not only begin to understand and overcome their own fears, but also one which can help others make the first step of reaching out and embracing those who seem isolated, this story is one that has many roles to play within the curriculum.

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.