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Sarah and the Steep Slope

Sarah and the Steep Slope

Sarah and the Steep Slope

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sarah and the Steep Slope

Danny Parker

Matt Ottley

Little Hare, 2017

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

9781742974675

When Sarah opened her door one morning she was confronted by it.  A steep slope. Blocking out the sun and casting a shadow across everything. Rising in front her like an insurmountable and impenetrable barrier.  And so it proved to be.

Prodding and pushing didn’t move it,  surprising it didn’t shake it and trying to sneak around it was hopeless.  And when she tried to climb it, even with her climbing shoes, she got halfway and then slid all the way back down.  How was she going to see her friends?

Nothing worked – even ignoring it didn’t make it go away and neither did the help of the slope doctor so he left clutching a lot of notes for Sarah’s friends and going out the door to a flat, sunlit landscape. Next day her friends visited her and they didn’t see the steep slope either. They stayed and played all day long.  And the next day…

This is a sophisticated picture book for older readers who will appreciate its symbolism as Sarah tries to negotiate the steep slope that is only visible to her. Younger readers who are still at a very literal stage of development may not understand that the slope exists only in Sarah’s mind and that it is a representation of a problem that she perceives to have no solution.

If used in a class situation, students may make suggestions about the slope that is facing Sarah and be willing to share the “slopes” they have had to navigate – physical, academic, mental and emotional – and how they found their way, while others with slopes in front of them still may draw comfort and even hope that they are not alone and that there is a pathway they can follow. We are all faced with “slopes’ as we live and learn – some steeper than others but without them there is no progress in life – and part of the success of climbing them lies in being able to acknowledge and  analyse the issue, break it into small steps, develop strategies to tackle each step, understand that others are willing and able to help and it is no shame to ask them,  believe success is possible and engage in positive self-talk.  

This is a story about the power of friendship, of having the courage to take the next step forward, of being resilient and acknowledging we are part of a village that we can seek support from and that there is always help and hope. The absence of Sarah’s family in her solution and her reaching out to a doctor rather than a parent suggest that sometimes the issue is within the family or it is not something the child feels comfortable talking about with a family member for a range of reasons, giving the reader the approval that it is okay to seek advice and assistance beyond the traditional helpers used as they have grown up without feeling guilty that they have betrayed anyone or hurt their feelings.  

Apart from the concepts of symbolism, similes and metaphors and all that technical English language stuff, this is an important book in the mindfulness collection as we finally start to acknowledge the mental health issues for even the youngest children and help them develop the strategies and skills that will enable and empower them. Those are the important lessons teachers, and I use the word in its broadest sense, teach.

 

 

I just ate my friend

I just ate my friend

I just ate my friend

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I just ate my friend

Heidi McKinnon

Allen & Unwin, 2017

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

9781760294342

I just ate my friend. He was a good friend. But now he is gone. Would you be my friend?

Monster has eaten his friend and now he is on a search for another one.  One by one he asls other monsters but each has a different reason why they can’t oblige.  Too big, too small, too slow, too scary – each has a unique excuse.  But finally another one agrees…but this is definitely a case of “Be careful what you wish for”!

Set against a background of a dark starry sky, this is a story that has a dark humour to it and the twist in the end may puzzle very young readers but older readers will appreciate it. Even though the illustrations appear quite simple, there is a lot of expression built into the large white eyes and the slitted mouth that offer a lot of scope for encouraging young readers to look at the details in the pictures and interpret feelings from the facial features. Teaching them to read the pictures as well as the words is a critical skill to get the most from stories, even those that appear to be fairly simplistic. 

Using the universal desire for having a friend as its basis, it offers scope to discuss what it means to be a good friend and how you keep them.  Perhaps eating them is not the best idea, but what can you do when you find you don’t agree on something. Even discussing the fundamental question of whether friends can disagree and still be friends is important in developing the concept of friendship. 

Fresh, original and offering all the things a quality picture book should.

 

Garcia & Colette Go Exploring

Garcia & Colette Go Exploring

Garcia & Colette Go Exploring

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Garcia & Colette Go Exploring

Hannah Barnaby

Andrew Joyner

HarperCollins Children’s, 2017

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

9781460754306

Garcia the Rabbit and Colette the Fox cannot agree on where they want to go exploring – Garcia is fixated on space while Colette wants to see the sea.  With no agreement in sight they agree to go their separate ways.  Garcia builds a snazzy, silver rocket while Colette makes a gold and glorious submarine.  Packing peanut butter sandwiches, a notebook, a pen and their lucky charms, each heads off on their own adventure. 

But is exploring new and exciting places all that much fun when you don’t have your best friend by your side?

Cleverly written and illustrated so that each character remains connected despite their physical separation, this is a charming story of friendship and compromise that will appeal to a broad range – those who love the sea and those who love space.  Is there a middle ground and how can it be reached? A great way to introduce the art of negotiation and seeking win-win solutions while younger children can have fun contributing to murals of what each friend saw on their travels.    

Pippa’s Island: Cub Reporters

Pippa's Island: Cub Reporters

Pippa’s Island: Cub Reporters

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pippa’s Island: Cub Reporters

Belinda Murrell

Random House Australia, 2017

240pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9780143783688

Life could hardly be more different for Pippa.  From a seemingly happy family living in a Victorian terrace house in London to a caravan in her grandparents’ backyard on a tropical island off the Australian coast.  Forced to make changes when her husband decided to work in Switzerland without them, Pippa’s mother has uprooted the family to a totally new environment where she is now running the increasingly popular Beach Shack Cafe created from an old, abandoned boat shed – a huge contrast to being a stockbroker in London!.

Pippa has a new puppy called Summer, is learning to surf, has settled into school and now has a group of friends – Meg, Cici and Charlie- and they call themselves the Sassy Sisters. So when teacher librarian Mrs Neill launches a student newspaper inviting all the students to submit articles for the first edition, they are very excited.    But each has different interests and therefore different ideas of the focus of their story so whose idea will be adopted? And what happens when naughty puppies and tropical weather and unco-operative shopkeepers interfere with their plans? Being a junior journalist is not as easy as it sounds.

This is the second in this new series by Belinda Murrell, aimed at the independent reader who is looking for something that will absorb them for a while.  Writing modern stories for this tween-age group who are on the cusp of becoming young women with all that that entails is difficult because there is a fine line between what to include so the older girl remains interested and what to leave out so that the younger girl who is reading at this level is not turned away. In this series, Murrell has nailed it with just the right balance.  There is action aplenty, a healthy relationship with the boys in the story, Cici’s fashion interests to add the touch of glamour and a main character who could be almost any girl who picks up the book.  This and its predecessor The Beach Shack Cafe      will be in Miss 11’s Santa’s Sack this year!

When I was this age I read The Pen and Pencil Girls   by Clare Mallory, a book which had such an influence on my writing as a child that I tracked a copy down and bought it a few years ago. Move forward a couple of decades and the Junior Journalists club was the most popular and sustainable one  that operated in my school library, and now we have Cub Reporters to inspire another generation.  Offering kids an authentic outlet for their writing, their illustrating and their photography is a winner for getting those who have a passion for these things involved in school life while perhaps moving them on to a higher level of expertise. Let this book be the one to kickstart a program in your library. 

Guff

Guff

Guff

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Guff

Aaron Blabey

Viking, 2017

32pp., hbk., RRP $A16.99

9780670077175

Guff is a somewhat weather-beaten soft toy. With both an eye and an ear missing, patches and fraying edges he looks like he has had a hard life, when, in fact he has had a loved life.  Given to the little girl when she was very tiny and he was as new and pristine as she was, he’s been with her every step of her growing-up journey and has survived the nearest of near misses like being left on the bus, floating out to sea  and even going through the washing machine.

With its sparse text the real story of Guff is told in the pictures with insight and humour – the mother’s expressions are exquisite and the love and the special relationship amongst mother, daughter and toy  just exudes from the page.

Guff is the toy we’ve all had, the constant companion that has given support and comfort when we’ve needed it – our best friend and confidante. Guff is there in all our childhood memories, intertwined with our adventures and misadventures. Guff makes it OK to go on your first sleepover or your first school camp with him close by your side even if you are in Year 4 or 5.  Guff is the warmth and comfort of Linus’s security blanket and just as acceptable.  He is the toy we will treasure and pass on to our children and tell them stories about.

Guff is Aaron Blabey’s latest masterpiece, not just a story for little people to listen to as they snuggle down with their Guff but one that will evoke memories for the storyteller and generate even more stories .

Guff is precious and very special – both the book and the toy.

Peas and Quiet

Peas and Quiet

Peas and Quiet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peas and Quiet

Gabrielle Tozer

Sue de Gennaro

Angus & Robertson

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

9781460752395

Down in the vegie patch behind the garden gnome, live two little peas in a pod they call home…

They joke and they laugh, these best of best friends… but they also drive each other right round the bend.

Because each night Pop, the eldest, snores like a bear as he sleeps in his chair, while Pip likes to bake and as she does, she loves to sing.  But she can’t sing well and her tuneless ditties wake Pop up in a very grumpy mood.  Eventually he can stand it no longer and he backs his bags and leaves the pod. Pip is glad to see him go but as time goes on both begin to realise how much they miss each other.  Is there a way forward that can give this story a happy ending?

This is a charming story perfectly illustrated to appeal to younger readers as has been shown by the number of times it was chosen as the dress-up favourite for parades for Book Week recently.  Young readers really embraced the characters and their dilemma as they recognised themselves and their siblings – often at loggerheads but lost without each other.  It’s rhyming couplets move the pace along ensuring the action is maintained without getting too intense, even when Pop is caught by the kitten making just the right amount of tension for little people to manage.  And they are sure to have suggestions about how Pop and Pip can overcome their differences – many will draw on their own experiences!

One of those stories that will stand out and quickly become a favourite.

Reena’s Rainbow

Reena's Rainbow

Reena’s Rainbow

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reena’s Rainbow

Dee White

Tracie Grimwood

EK Books

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

97817755935223

Reena is deaf and the little brown dog in the park is homeless. But even though her ears didn’t work, her eyes did and she saw the things that others take for granted.  So even though she couldn’t hear the wind in the trees, she could still see the leaves swirling and Dog leap to catch the acorns.

When the children came to play hide and seek in the park she was very good at finding their hiding places, but when it was her turn to hide no one could find her and she couldn’t hear them calling so they left her there alone.  Luckily Dog was able to fetch her mother who explained that people are like the colours of the rainbow – each one different but together a strong and beautiful entity.  But both Reena and Dog felt like they didn’t belong in the rainbow.  Will they ever fit in?

As well as windows that show readers a new world, stories should also be mirrors that reflect their own lives.  Children, in particular, should be able to read about themselves and children like them in everyday stories so they understand they are not freaks and that others share their differences and difficulties.  Reena’s Rainbow is a wonderful addition to a growing collection of stories that celebrate the uniqueness of every person and not only show them they are not alone but also help others to understand their special needs.  Imagine how frightened Reena must have felt when all the children left the park because they assumed she had gone home.

Young children are remarkably accepting and resilient – they don’t see colour, language, dress or disability as a barrier to the child within – those are handicaps that adults impose on themselves – but the more stories like this that we share with them, the more likely they are to develop knowledge, understanding, tolerance and acceptance and thus develop into adults who embrace difference rather than shunning it.  Close inspection shows that rainbows actually include every shade of every colour, not just those visible to the eye, and through Reena and Dog and characters like them we can all learn to discern the not-so-obvious beauty.

Bobo & Co

Bobo & Co

Bobo & Co

 

 

 

 

 

 

Numbers

9781408880029

Colours

9781408880012

Nicola Killen

Bloomsbury, 2017

10pp, board book, RRP $A11.99

Meet Bobo the panda and his friends, Snap the crocodile, Riff the giraffe and the rest of the gang, in this enjoyable and engaging new lift-the-flap first concepts series. In Colours Bobo the panda and his friends want to paint a picture for their friend Snap, but oh-oh! Things get a bit messy while Numbers involves a game of hide and seek for his friends.

While most board books focusing on these concepts for the very young usually feature pages that are disconnected, the continuity of a story throughout makes these appealing and helps little ones realise that books are more than just pictures with labels.  The lift-the-flap format makes them interactive as well as encouraging the child to predict what might come next.

Perfect for a gift for a new mum or a daycare centre.

The Royal Academy of Sport for Girls (series)

The Royal Academy of Sport for Girls

The Royal Academy of Sport for Girls

 

 

 

 

 

The Royal Academy of Sport for Girls (series)

Laura Sieveking

Random House Australia, 2017

160pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781925324624

The Royal Academy of Sport for Girls is the dream school for girls aspiring to be elite athletes in almost any sport.  With a range of high-spec training facilities, top coaches and a curriculum that embraces all the regular things but still allows time for training without ridiculous pre-dawn or after-dark hours, only the most promising are able to pass the rigorous entrance tests and go on to take advantage of what’s on offer.

This is a new series that will appeal to independent readers who are sports-minded and who are looking for stories about girls who excel at what they do. While each title so far focuses on a sport that  is normally for individuals, each is encased in a team atmosphere so the message about teamwork is still strong.  There is a strong central character who is devoted to her sport but who also faces particular challenges in order to be more than just a champion competitor.  In High Flyers Abby doubts her ability; in Leap of Faith Chloe starts two months after the other girls;  in Running Free Josie academic work is suffering; and in In Too Deep Delphie discovers a secret about a rival team member who is also her friend. 

Each book stands alone – it is the setting that is the common theme rather than the characters – but the whole series will be welcomed by those who enjoy reading about girls like themselves and putting themselves in the character’s shoes as they confront the choices that have to be made.

I Don’t Want Curly Hair

I Don't Want Curly Hair

I Don’t Want Curly Hair

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Don’t Want Curly Hair

Laura Ellen Anderson

Bloomsbury, 2017

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

9781408868409

 

Imagine having curly hair  that has spirals and squiggles and swirls and curls that are too bouncy and loopy and knotty and fuzzy and frizzy… so hard to handle it makes you dizzy!!!  

Now imagine all the crazy-daisy ways you might try to straighten it.  You could brush it for hours; get your friends to stretch it; you could put big books on it or even tie balloons to it! Maybe stick it down with sticky tape or even give yourself a bucket bath…

Or you might learn to live with it and love it, especially if you met someone with dead straight hair who would love to have your curls…

This is a superbly illustrated, funny, story-in-rhyme that will resonate with every girl who wants what she hasn’t got. Whether it’s straight hair, long legs, no freckles, there is always something we wish we could change.  

Even though its target audience is very young readers, this would be the perfect kickstart for a discussion about body image, body-shaming, self-acceptance, loving who we are on the inside and all those sorts of issues that start to plague young girls.  An important addition to your collection relating to mental health and mindfulness.