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The Dragon with the Chocolate Heart

The  Dragon with the Chocolate Heart

The Dragon with the Chocolate Heart

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The  Dragon with the Chocolate Heart

Stephanie Burgis

Bloomsbury USA, 2017

256pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781408880319

Bored with being confined to the cavern on the mountain and faced with another 30 years of the same until her scales are hardened, baby dragon Aventurine squeezes through a secret exit to take herself off to find the world and a human to eat.  As she wanders down the mountain because she damaged her wings in her escape, her sensitive nose not only picks up the smell of a human but also of something else, utterly delicious and tantalising – and dangerous…

For the human is a food mage and in order to protect himself from being Aventurine’s dinner he tempts her to try his delicious chocolate drink.  Suddenly, instead of being a fearsome dragon with glittering silver and red scales towering over the human, Aventurine finds herself transformed into a little girl with tiny, blunt teeth, no fire, and not a single claw to use in battle, prostrate in front of this now gloating tall man who leaves her to her own devices.  

Trying to stand but failing, Aventurine tries to crawl back up the mountain to her family but when her Grandfather doesn’t recognise her as he flies overhead and indeed, shoots a warning burst of fire in her direction, she realises she will have to try to make her way to the city to find a life and satisfy her insatiable craving for chocolate.

But how can a penniless, naive girl with the thoughts and heart of a dragon survive the betrayal, deception, trickery and unknown ways of humans in a large busy city obsessed with money, class and position?

Suitable for a read-aloud or a read-alone for an independent reader, this is a unique, intriguing tale with a strong female protagonist who learns a lot about herself as both a human and a dragon as she navigates the unfamiliar world of Drachenberg. For those who like adventure tinged with fantasy this is something new.

Ginger Green: Playdate Queen (series)

Ginger Green: Playdate Queen

Ginger Green: Playdate Queen

 

Ginger Green: Playdate Queen

Kim Kane

Jon Davis

Hardie Grant Egmont, 2016

60pp., pbk. $A9.99

 

This is a new series featuring Ginger Green, a lovable little fox, who likes to dance, do gymnastics, dress up and make-believe.  But even more importantly she likes to play with her friends and has lots of playdates, each of which brings a new challenge to negotiate and resolve. Friends who won’t share, friends who prefer her sister, friends who like to do different things, friends who are naughty… each one requires tact and thoughtfulness so it ends in a win-win situation.

Written for emerging independent readers with short chapters, large font and charming illustrations, this is a great series for those just growing into the realm of developing friendships beyond the influence of parents and having to work through the minefield of egos, wants, needs and  expectations. Using settings and situations that will be familiar to the audience, the stories provide suggestions for how to handle challenges that the reader will inevitably face without having to rely on parental help, helping build empathy, resilience and compassion.

Sage Cookson (series)

Sage Cookson

Sage Cookson

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sage Cookson’s Sweet Escape

9781925059618

 

Sage Cookson’s Ring of Truth

9781925059748

 

Sage Cookson’s Fishy Surprise

978-1-925059-75-5

 

Sage Cookson’s Singapore Sensation

9781925059960

Sally Murphy

New Frontier, 2017

56pp., pbk., RRP $A9.99

Sage Cookson is a ten-year-old whose parents, Ginger and Basil, travel Australia and the world, and lucky Sally gets to go with them. While they are sampling the food, learning new cooking techniques and then sharing their new knowledge with their massive television audience through their show The Cookson’s Cook On, Sage has a lifestyle that others might envy.

However, in each episode she gets into a scrape that she needs to get out of.  In the first book, Sweet Escape  there are problems with a famous chocolatier while in Ring of Truth she is accused of stealing a treasured ring. Her friend Lucy travels with her to Crystal Bay in  Fishy Surprise but the return of an old adversary causes issues and in Singapore Sensation things go wrong when a lady with pink hair starts to stalk them.

This new series for newly independent younger readers combines the author’s love of television cooking shows and mysteries, so that in each new addition something goes wrong and Sage has to solve the problem.  Despite the glamorous backdrops of each story, food is the focus so all the budding Junior Masterchefs can enjoy reading about cooking, trying the recipes which are included and then visiting Sage’s website  for more.  With four books in the series so far, Sage is going to appeal to a range of young readers who will be able to follow her adventures without having to wait for the next one. Perfect for the upcoming cooler days when reading is the best thing to do.

Baby Band

Baby Band

Baby Band

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Baby Band

Dianne Jackson Hill

Giuseppe Poli

New Frontier, 2017

28pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781925059779

Many people live in the tall apartment block, each living their lives without even knowing their neighbours let alone socialising with them.  They didn’t even say hello to each other in the corridors! That is, until the baby moves into an apartment on the 8th floor. And like babies do because they have to, the baby cried, and cried a lot no matter how much his mother try to calm and soothe him.  His cries could be heard all over the 8th floor.

And then one day, when he was a little older he found the pits and pans, as babies do, and of course he clanged them together, as babies do. His mother screamed in delight and the CLANG, AHHH could be heard in every unit.  And something amazing began to happen…

This is a charming story that takes the everyday event of a baby crying and turns it into a tale that many will resonate with .  Exploiting her personal passion for music, the author has shown that there is music  in anything, it can come from anywhere and can creates harmony, and not just the musical kind. Guiseppe Poli’s little vignettes capture the lives of the people in the apartments, emphasising their separation whilst providing little clues for what is about to happen, and the things they share like the teacher who teaches drama and the teen creating movies; the girls and the older lady both enjoying knitting that suggest this baby is going to be the catalyst for some enduring connections.  Even the front and back endpapers suggest that there will be a remarkable journey taking place between them.

On the surface this appears to be just a book for our very young readers whereas it has a place for older readers too, especially if it is shared by a teacher with a purpose.  There is the theme of isolation even though the people live so close together and the theme of friendship through common interests that can be explored, while there is also the fun of making a body band – using the parts of the body to make a sound and a rhythm that can be melded together and then the exploration and combination of the sounds of ordinary objects. 

Diane Jackson Hill started writing children’s books including the wonderful Annabel’s Dance after a long career in teaching, and her understanding of what children want in a story is very clear. This should become a family favourite as who can sit still when all around music is being made.

 

Digby and the Yodelayhee…Who!

Digby and the Yodelayhee...Who!

Digby and the Yodelayhee…Who!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Digby and the Yodelayhee…Who!

Renee Price

Anil Tortop

Create It Kids, 2017

24pp., hbk., RRP $A22.99

9780992345754

High in a very tall tree Digby Fixit hears an unusual and very noisy noise.  Being a lover of music he scrambles down the tree to discover who is making it. Perhaps it is one of his very-bestest friends.  Is it Stanley strumming his guitar? Or Sophie tooting her kazoo? Perhaps it is Freda on the piano or Theo thumping his drum.  Maybe it is Wilfred on his double bass or Tarquin tapping the sticks.  No.  None of these and the noise was still noisy.  So using his trust noise-o-meter he followed its lead and found…

Written in rhyming verse to echo the passing of time and the rhythm of the music, author Renee Price has used her early childhood teaching and music educator experience to bring an engaging tale to young readers, introducing them to a variety of common instruments and their sounds along the way. Full of energy, fun and colour, readers are taken on a journey that will have them showing you their knowledge of the movements and sounds associated with the various instruments and then wanting to join in the jam session at the end- which they can do because there is a recording of the song that can be downloaded via the QR code provided.  They will also recognise that final sound that brings the music to an end – but not the fun.

Illustrator Anil Tortop has also hit the mark with her illustrations – each set on a background of a bold, solid colour and capturing such a wide range of action and emotion in clever, unfussy strokes that even include an intrigued cat. And, as with many characters, Digby now has his own website so the fun can continue.

An original storyline that teaches children a little about musical instruments (a change from Peter and the Wolf),  a little about the passage of time and a lot about curiosity, friendship and fun will be a welcome addition to home and library collections.


 

Cric Croc

Cric Croc

Cric Croc

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cric Croc

9781925442595

Cric Croc and the Bedraggled Pony

9780995424302

Anthony W. Buirchell

Nikki Ball

Vivid Publishing, 2016

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

In the first of what is proposed to be a series that spans the Australian continent, young readers meet Cric Croc who is a baby crocodile born on the Daintree and learning to lead a healthy life with exercise, good food, plenty of sleep, lots of fun, friends and love.  Intended to be a “role model for good behaviour”, the lovable Cric Croc does lots of things that preschoolers will identify with and perhaps emulate. The things he does support the health syllabus for early years and young children can discuss the things that they do that Cric Croc also does.

In the second book, Cric Croc wants to learn to ride and befriends a bedraggled, bullied pony he meets in a stable and between the two of them they triumph. Its focus is looking beyond the physical appearance to the inner person beneath and how mutual respect and teamwork can be win-win.

Written in rhyming text by retired teacher Anthony Buirchell and illustrated by Nikki Ball, this is a new team to the Australian publishing scene with plans to take Cric Croc, his friend Roo and their cameras across the country sharing the sights it has to offer, introducing children to places beyond their neighbourhood. Those in WA can have free visits to schools while those further afield have access to other support materials.  

Something new that will entertain and educate and perhaps become a favourite character in young children’s lives.

The Magic Word

The Magic Word

The Magic Word

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Magic Word

Mac Barnett

Elise Parsley

Balzier & Bray, 2016

40pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9780062354846

Paxton C. Heymeyer seems to have forgotten his manners, so when he asks his babysitter for a cookie she asks him for the magic word.  But instead of saying, “Can I have a cookie, please”, Paxton C. Heymeyer shouts “Can I have a cookie, alakazoomba?”  Suddenly, in a puff of blue smoke he not only discovers a cookie in his hand but the power to summon up anything he wants with that one magic word.  A walrus to chase the babysitter to the North Pole; a waterslide in the living room; a jungle bedroom; anything his imagination lets him dream.  Even an elephant and a robot-servant!

But when Rosie comes to play he finds that things aren’t quite what he wishes for because elephants can’t play cards or any of the other things friends do together…

There would be few of our littlies who have not been asked for “the magic word” so they will relate well to this engaging story of being able to have whatever you want – it brings life to the saying “Be careful what you wish for.”  Asking them what they would wish for or dream of having will elicit a lot of discussion and drawing, but there is also much to think about when Rosie refuses to play and goes home. Friendship and happiness are not all about material things and instant gratification, and this book may provide food for thought for those who want to have the latest thing NOW, and those who wish they could.

 

Triangle

Triangle

Triangle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Triangle

Mac Barnett

Jon Klassen

Walker Books, UK, 2017

48pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781406376678

Triangle lives in a triangular house with a triangular door.   One day he decides to visit his friend Square and play a sneaky trick on him.  He walks past lots of triangles – small, medium and big – and past a lot of others that weren’t triangles any more until he got to a place where there were many squares.  When he finally gets to Square’s house he plays his sneaky trick, hissing like a snake because he knows Square is afraid of snakes.  

But he gives the game away when he is laughing so hard Square discovers him.  After glaring at each other Square chases Triangle all the way home – back past the squares, the shapes with no names and the triangles – and has the last laugh.  Or does he?

Often the simplest ideas and illustrations create the best stories and that is definitely the case with this, the first in a trilogy of stories about sneaky shapes.  Mac Barnett has crafted a charming story that will intrigue and make young readers think, while Klassen’s  iconic muted illustrations allow the storyline and the main characters to shine while still being a critical part of the tale. Being able to  convey everything through just the shape and position of the eyeballs is proof of a master at work and will encourage the reader to look even more closely at the illustrations, building those critical concepts about print that are so vital for early readers.

Perfect as a standalone, readalong story that will become a favourite, it also offers lots of things to talk about such as shape recognition but could also extend the more curious with question like “Why aren’t they triangles any more? What might have happened?” or “What would you call the shapes without names?” And the question posed on the final page will elicit a vigorous discussion as well as predictions about what will happen next. There might also be a philosophical discussion about whether Triangle and Square are friends and whether this is what friends do to each other. Why did Triangle want to trick Square; how sometimes the prankster doesn’t realise the impact the prank is having and  is it possible to still be friends if someone plays a prank on you?

Young children will delight in creating their own versions of Triangle and Square, perhaps as stick puppets, and making up their own adventures to tell.

Looking forward to the next in the series…

Me and You

Me and You

Me and You

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Me and You

Deborah Kelly

Karen Blair

Viking, 2017

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

9780670079247

There are many people in a child’s life – parents, siblings, grandparents, aunties, uncles, cousins, neighbours, best friends, parents’ friends, pets…and that’s before they even venture into the world of preschool and big school!  And the shape of the relationship with each one is different.

In this new book by Deborah Kelly, as softly illustrated as its focus, the connections are explored and enjoyed – the arty-crafty days; the yummy-scrummy days; the pedal-pushing days; the silly-billy days; the sandy-sandwich days; the footy-playing days; the slippery-sliding days; the grubby-garden days; the woofy-wagging days; the handy-helper days; the sausage-sizzling days; the stretchy-yawning days – all mixing, matching and melding together to enrich the child’s life and cocoon them in love.  

Apart from the variety of adventures that the child has and the reader will resonate with, the richness of the language and its rhyme, rhythm and repetition will engage and perhaps even encourage the young reader/listener to start thinking about the relationships they have and starting to describe them using similar language.  Primarily aimed at the preschooler, this book could also have traction with older students as an extension of learning about friendships so they move from thinking about what makes a friend and how to be one but also the types of relationships they have with those in their lives. For example, the relationship with their parents will be different from that with their teacher, and that with other children can be shaped by age, expertise and even power.  Discussing why we are friends with particular people (or aspire to be), how friends should make us feel and where we fit in others’ lives brings confidence and builds empathy and resilience when things don’t work out. Are friendships always smooth sailing?

Many parents seem to be deeply concerned about the friendships their children make particularly when the meetings are beyond parental control – as evidenced by this request to an international email group where a parent was looking for books about “choosing the “right” friends.  She has requested that there be African American characters and she is concerned that he [bright son] seems to be choosing friends who are in the lower academic classes.”  By sharing Me and You older children might examine the friendships they have and what holds them together; debate the notion of “right friends”; discuss how a variety of friends who bring different circumstances, skills and attitudes can enrich lives; and begin to understand the role and influence that friends have in their lives as well as their position in the lives of their friends. Such understanding may well offer valuable insight into their connections with other people, now and in the future helping them to make the sorts of choices their parents would be happy with. and defending those that they wouldn’t. 

Perhaps author and illustrator just wanted to share the joy of being a child with all its fun and activity, but for me the best picture books work across a number of levels and delve deeper than the immediate storyline and pictures and therefore this one works very well.

The crazy-daisy dawn-to-dusk days…

Baby Dance

Baby Dance

Baby Dance

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Baby Dance

Katrina Germein

Doris Chang

Raising Literacy Australia, 2016

12pp., board book, RRP $A9.90

9780994385321

 

Four delightful Australian animal babies are doing what all babies do when they hear a piece of music – they move to it.  So in this charming story Wombat, Sugar Glider, Echidna and Cockatoo show off their individual and unique moves until in the end they all have to sleep, the one thing they and all little ones have in common.

In soft, earthy pastel colours and the simplest of rhymes this is a story that will engage the youngest readers as they move along with the babies or let its rhythm lull them to sleep.  Given that our native creatures feature in so many story for the very young, they will delight in  recognising perhaps familiar friends like the wombat or meeting new ones like the echidna and even learning a little more about them.  Why does the echidna spin when the others do not?  Why do the others cover their ears when Cockatoo sings?  

Its sturdy board book format and small size make it perfect for toddlers to handle for themselves so they can be role-play readers while parents will enjoy sharing with their child because of the fun that can be had.

Another one on its way to Miss 21 months as her delight in stories grows.