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Molly & Mae

Molly & Mae

Molly & Mae

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Molly & Mae

Danny Parker

Freya Blackwood

Hardie Grant Egmont, 2016

32pp. hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781742975276

 

A railway station in rural Anywhere, Australia and Molly and Mae are looking forward to their journey to the city.  On the platform there is fun to be had like hide and seek to play as they and the other passengers wait for the train to arrive and their friendship is full of laughter and giggles as the excitement builds.  Even being stuck in the bubblegum doesn’t dampen their delight.  And even as the waiting goes on and on, there is fun to be had as they enjoy each other’s company.  When at last the train comes the fun continues as they colour in, dress up their dolls, experience the dining car, and even do crazy stuff like hanging upside down from the seats!  

But slowly as the trip seems interminable cracks start to appear as boredom sets in.  Molly thinks Mae is silly and tells her so and Mae doesn’t like it and before long the girls are not speaking to each other, turning away and spending their time peering through the window at the wet, smeary countryside.  The whole world looks murky, echoing their feelings.  Will they resolve their spat or is this the end of something special?

This is a story about so much more than a long train journey as it mirrors real-life friendships – the excitement of new shared interests, the pleasure in just being together and doing everyday stuff and the anticipation of adventures to come.  But there are also times when it is boring, when difficulties happen and there is a choice of building bridges and continuing on the main track or branching off onto another one.

This is a true marriage of text and graphics.  Blackwood’s soft palette and somewhat retro feel and clever headings of platform, timetable, journey, signal failure, destination that replicate both the stages of the journey and the development of the friendship express Parker’s concept and text perfectly and the reader is drawn deeper and deeper into the story from the early morning endpaper  through the title page to the explosion of the big city station and as night falls over the city.  Blackwood has explained her thought processes and choices here showing just how much goes into such a project.

If teachers were ever looking for a book to explain metaphor, this is it!

Would not be surprised to see this among the CBCA shortlisted titles in 2017.

 

 

Jack and Mia

Jack and Mia

Jack and Mia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jack and Mia

Robert Vescio

Claire Richards

Wombat Books, 2016

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

9781925139730

Before Mia moved in next door, Jack was lonely.  But Mia brought rainbows, jungles, concerts and lots and lots of giggles.  Even their mums thought they  were “two sides of the one coin” and “fit together like a puzzle.”  Mia’s amazing imagination took them on adventures that Jack had never dreamed of and when they both got sick at the same time, they were each given a book about making and doing, make-believe and play that allowed them to continue the fun from their beds.  

When they were better they kept using their books, snipping, gluing, taping and  tying a magnificent cardboard castle.  They each wore crowns and royal robes and ruled over their kingdom with wisdom and kindness.  They were as close as the materials that held that castle together.  Until one day Mia moves far away with her family and Jack is back into the isolation and desolation that he felt before Mia entered his life.  Nothing was the same any more.

Across the sea, Mia had also given up.  She was missing Jack just as much.  But then Jack found Mia’s book in his toybox and… 

There is nothing like the deep friendships forged in childhood where there are no distractions beyond deciding what today’s fun will be about.  Jack and Mia is a charming story that focuses on such a friendship and how it can continue even after separation has intervened. It will resonate with children who have moved away from familiar surroundings and friends and show them that there are plenty of ways of keeping in touch to relive old memories and make new ones. The technology of today gives them so much more than that of previous generations and the world can come to you with just a few clicks.

The illustrations enrich the storyline as Jack and Mia do not share the same skin colour but neither notice – it’s all about who each child is, how they connect and the fun that can be had when kids get together, just as it is in any playground. In fact, I’d proffer that the readers will not even notice the difference.  Racism and all that it entails is very definitely a concept learned from adults.

Heartwarming and positive. 

Grandma Wombat

Grandma Wombat

Grandma Wombat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grandma Wombat

Jackie French

Bruce Whatley

HarperCollins, 2016

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

9780732299590

 

Grandma Wombat is like most wombats – and a lot of grandmas!  She likes to spend her day relaxing – scratching, eating, sleeping and occasionally baby-sitting. She solves problems like there being no carrots and thinks that, unlike the kangaroos who bounce around her, her grandson is polite, well-mannered and even, better behaved.  

But while she is sleeping, Grandson Wombat is NOT!  Oh no!  He’s off having his own adventures because, to him, kangaroos are playmates and their wombat-size pouches and their big bouncy legs are perfect for taking a wombat to places where a wombat has never before ventured.  Grandson Wombat is a master at hitching a ride wherever he sees one but on the back of a skydiver might be a jump too far!

Once again, Jackie French and Bruce Whatley have created a wonderful adventure for little people that is just bursting with the joy of life and the fun of the perfect marriage of text and illustrations that will make them want to read it over and over and over again.  And perhaps think up their own adventures for next time they go to visit their grandma…

 

Mr Chicken Arriva A Roma

Mr Chicken Arriva A Roma

Mr Chicken Arriva A Roma

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mr Chicken Arriva A Roma

Leigh Hobbs

Allen & Unwin, 2016

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

9781925266771

 

What’s next when the fun and focus of Book Week is over?  A new Mr Chicken adventure of course!!

 

With his insatiable appetite for travel, Mr Chicken, Citizen of the World, takes us on his latest exploits.  This time he is in Rome and from endpaper to endpaper it is a feast of fun.  Armed with his Very Frequent Flyer card, a list of things to see and some handy phrases, Mr Chicken arrives in Rome keen to explore his childhood dreams of Ancient Roman life and places.  With his guide Federica he’s off to see some ruins and meet some real Romans, although the departing view of him on Federica’s Vespa is a bit disturbing and is one of those things that can never be unseen!

As with his previous visits to Paris and London, he visits the main tourist sights, often becoming more of an attraction than the attraction itself.  The Colosseum, the Pantheon, the Vatican, and the Trevi Fountain (where he takes a dip to cool off much to the entertainment of the crowds) are all on his itinerary and provide endless opportunities for photographs. But what would Italy be without gelato and pasta?  And which pasta – spaghetti, cannelloni, penne, tortellini, papalina or tagliatelle?  Or all of them? Decisions, decisions. Left on his own for the afternoon, he takes a nap and his dreams take him to the Rome of long ago where he is the star until…

Luckily his nightmare is interrupted by the return of Federica who is taking him to her family for dinner,  This time Mr Chicken is in charge of the Vespa and brings a whole new meaning to the madness of traffic in Rome.  But all too soon it is time to say “Arrivederci” to this fascinating place and create an album of all those selfies he took.

In his iconic style that is so familiar to younger readers, Leigh Hobbs has once again created the most enjoyable ‘travelogue’ of one of the world’s greatest cities and as well as offering a wonderful adventure with the indomitable Mr Chicken that children will love, he’s also provided a terrific teaching tool to show our youngest students that there is a world beyond their town.  Some of the best lessons I’ve ever given have focused on Mr Chicken’s adventures as we’ve read the books, used Google Earth to explore each city and its significant places and then wound up with examining our local community for the places Mr Chicken would have to see if he came to our town.  Superb for exploring built and manmade features, discussing those things that are unique to the area and getting the children to not only discover their surroundings but also draw them and tell their stories.

Now Australian Children’s Laureate for 2016 and 2017, Leigh Hobbs has come from behind his drawing board to be in the spotlight and is a perfect candidate for an author/illustrator study.  There’s an interview with him from Story Box  and a Q&A with ABC Splash at / ; an interview with The Australian and Mirrors Windows Doors /; and soon there will be a plush toy available too.  He’s even produced the Story Calendar which features all his characters – Mr Chicken, Mr Badger, Old Tom and Horrible Harriet and which inspires readers to explore a new type of story every month!

So if you’re concerned that the current spotlight on the library might dim soon, Leigh Hobbs and Mr Chicken are guaranteed to turn it back to full beam.

Rockhopping

Rockhopping

  Rockhopping

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rockhopping

Trace Balla

Allen & Unwin, 2016

80pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781760112349

 

Uncle Egg and Clancy are spending a lazy, languid afternoon on the Glenelg (Bugara) River which flows through the area we call The Grampians but which is known to its indigenous peoples as Gariwerd.  Clancy muses on where all the water is coming from and Uncle Egg suggests that they should find out.  But this adventure will be different to the previous one in Rivertime  where they took a canoe to the river’s mouth.  This time they will be heading upstream so they will have to walk and rockhop.  And this time, Clancy is much more enthusiastic, even prepared to walk to school in new boots every day so he can prepare for the journey.

Their journey begins at Budja Budja (Halls Gap), sleeping in a tent under the stars amongst the motorhomes, caravans and pop-tops, already suggesting an underlying theme of being at one with the world rather than manipulating it.  And just as in Rivertime, through detailed text and illustration in graphic novel format, we share Clancy’s journey, learning as he learns about the river’s story, its flora and fauna, its secret ways of enabling its ancient custodians to survive, and the prehistoric mountains it passes through.  It is an intimate account of his journey, not so much his self-realisation this time as it was in Rivertime but one of resilience, perseverance, self-reliance, respect and trust, particularly when Egg’s backpack falls into a ravine and Clancy is stranded halfway up the cliff.  He learns about the power and the gift of silence and solitude and the surprises and secrets Nature is willing to show us if we take the time to look and listen, and about his place in the universe.  Even when Egg rejoins him and while they are not lost –“just going a different way”- there are lessons to learn and gradually the relationship becomes one of two equals regardless of age, sharing something unique that teaches them more than they ever imagined. Going with the flow rather than the plan.

This really is a story about the journey being as important as the destination.

“That’s just it.

I’m not going anywhere, or trying to find anything. I’m just being here.”

And that message of enjoying the moment we are in is perhaps the most important of all. 

There is an interview with Trace Balla on the CBCA Reading Time site  which explains the authenticity of the story and how she enables the reader to be embraced by the serenity and beauty just as Egg and Clancy are.  In my review of Rivertime I wrote, “ It’s not just the story of Clancy and Egg and their journey, but a calming, almost meditative, read for the reader. The format of the comic strip with individual panels not only reflects the pace of the dogged, uphill climb but also ensures the reader slows down to enjoy the surroundings just as Clancy and Egg do. Often when we pick up a picture book we just skim read it just as we can “skim read” our daily lives because we don’t think we have time to delve deeper and really appreciate and value what we have, but as you get into this story it drags you in, just as it did Clancy, until you become absorbed and oblivious to the distractions around you.”  And so it is with Rockhopping.  It’s a book that deserves every minute you put into reading it but ensure you have lots of minutes so you can savour it to its core.

The epitome of Australia: Story Country.

Big Bug Log

Big Bug Log

Big Bug Log

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Big Bug Log

Sebastien Braun

Nosy Crow, 2016

16pp., board book, $A14.99

9780857635969

Bugsy Bug is going to visit his grandma.  She lives somewhere in the Big Bug Log but Bugsy is not sure how to get there so the reader has to help him.  Solving clues to find the right doors, lifting flaps, following directions, trails and mazes, escaping from the scary spider, through the log he travels until he reaches safety, this is an interactive read perfect for the parent and very young child to enjoy together.

The shape of the cover with its cutout says, “Explore me!” and the bright colourful pictures are enticing. There is much to discover and discuss in their fine detail as the child seeks to solve the clues.  While there needs to be an adult to read the commentary and clues, the child will delight in looking for things like the bee in the bow tie, using their finger to follow snail trails and so on, all of which reinforce the left-to-right direction of reading and the delight of story. 

The benefits of having children enjoy stories from a very young age are well documented but having those stories being interactive and demanding input from the listener is a bonus.  This is much more than a story about Bugsy getting to Grandma’s house – it demands the child’s attention and input, all the while consolidating that subliminal message that stories are not only fun but that the child and the activity are worth the attention of the adult sharing it with them.  This is not a disembodied voice encouraging them to tap this or swipe that – this is someone who cares about them making the time to get involved and help them solve Bugsy’s problem.

Perfect for preschool and even younger and a wonderful opportunity to create some original artwork, a map of the log, and to team with some early non fiction about bugs!

Captain Jimmy Cook Discovers Third Grade

Captain Jimmy Cook Discovers Third Grade

Captain Jimmy Cook Discovers Third Grade

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Captain Jimmy Cook Discovers Third Grade

Kate and Jol Temple

Jon Foye

Allen & Unwin, 2016

160pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

9781760291938

 

It all starts in History Week when Jimmy Cook discovers three things…

  1. Captain Cook was the greatest explorer that ever lived.
  2. Captain Cook is his great grandfather 32 times removed
  3. Third grade is going to be the best year of his life.

He also discovers that he and said Captain Cook have three things in common…

  1. They share the same name
  2. They are both great explorers
  3. They both look good in a tricorn hat.

Discovering these things is almost as good as the escape of the class’s pet ambystona mexicanum (axolotl) and helps the younger James Cook discover there is more to history than that discovered so far on yawn.com.  His interest wanes fractionally when Ms Fennel insists that each student keeps a diary of Cook.  Jimmy is having none of this “sitting down with a fluffy purple pen and drawing rainbows that smile and flowers with tears.”  Diaries are definitely girl things and Captain James Cook would never have done that as he bravely explored the high seas, but he changes his mind when Ms Fennel points out that a ‘boy diary’ is called a log, and Captain James most definitely kept one of those. 

So for the next six weeks Jimmy Cook keeps a log, starting with a note of the weather and an inventory of his pockets, as all logs do. He shares his excitement at having to dress as Captain Cook and his bitter disappointment when he discovers that the local museum does not have HM Bark Endeavour but just an old nail.  But it his discovery that Cook died a violent death in Hawaii, a land surely still inhabited by savages who need to be tamed that provide the impetus for him to get to Hawaii himself, and the discovery that a cereal company is offering an all-expenses paid trip there to the person who collects the most coupons could be his means to get there.

This is a rollicking, fast-moving story full of typical Year 3 thoughts and humour that will carry the reader along, eager to discover whether Jimmy beats his rival Alice Toolie in the coupon collection stakes and whether he does make it to Hawaii to tame the savage beasts who killed his hero and great grandfather (32x removed).  With the diary entries keeping chapters short and interspersed with graphics that could have been drawn by Jimmy himself, it has broad appeal for younger readers who will see themselves in the story somewhere.  It has its serious moments, particularly when Jimmy does work experience as a Town Crier helping Bernie the homeless man sell The Big Deal, but all in all, it’s an engaging read that will inspire our younger boys to keep reading. 

They can discover more on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HZkrpS5olcA and look forward to Captain Jimmy Cook Discovers X Marks the Spot.

Miss Mae’s Saturday

Miss Mae's Saturday
Miss Mae’s Saturday

Miss Mae’s Saturday

Justine Flynn

J.Yi

Random House Australia, 2016

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

97808579888584

It is a well-known fact, perhaps even a universal truth, that grandmas are the BEST.  And Miss Mae’s grandma is no exception.  Each Saturday she comes to visit and off they go to the ballet and the zoo and all those other wonderful places that grandmas take their granddaughters.  But THIS Saturday is different.  Grandma comes, as usual, but the weather is wet and nasty and not nice for being outdoors.  Miss Mae is disappointed and even moreso when all that Grandma brings is a large cardboard box and it’s EMPTY!  What use is an empty cardboard box?

Well, as well as being awesome, grandmas are also wise.  It comes with our advancing years and experience and Miss Mae’s grandma is no different.  She knows that a cardboard box can become anything and take you anywhere if you fill it with your imagination, rather than stuff.  And so Miss Mae and her grandma set off around the world on the most exciting adventure…  In fact, it’s so good that when they get home, Miss Mae can’t wait for another wet Saturday!

With this weekend’s weather forecast for the eastern states, could this story be better timed?  Even if it’s not possible for grandma to visit, how much fun is a cardboard box?  Even babies know that boxes and wrapping are often more fun than the contents! 

This book needs to be tucked into your teacher’s toolbox (or into a large cardboard box) to be brought out when the weekend forecast is not for sunny, play-outside weather.  Spark the children’s imagination by asking them where the box is going to take them this weekend and have them draw and talk about their adventures.  I can envisage the most exciting wall display of the responses!  And if like Miss Mae’s grandma, you suggest the destination – perhaps a country or a time period about to be the focus of a formal study – and have the students write what they know already then you have a wonderful way of setting a pre-test without anxiety or angst.

Imagination, and grandmas, are magical.

There’s a Moose on the Loose

There's a Moose on the Loose

There’s a Moose on the Loose

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There’s a Moose on the Loose

Lucy Feather

Stephan Lomp

Nosy Crow, 2016

32pp., hbk., RRP $A22.99

9780857635853

Out of the forest and into the city rushes moose.  Clearly in a very big hurry, he races through the fire station, around the department store, into the library, in and out of the museum, around the supermarket and even through the hospital! Even a castle, a swimming pool and a school don’t deter him – he must get where he’s going NOW!  Up the stairs into the City View Apartments – up, up, up to the roof terrace where there is a – big birthday party.  And just as he gets there it’s present-opening time.  But wait!  Why is Moose so unhappy?  Oh no! he forgot to bring a present… and off he goes again.

This is a fun picture book written by the editorial staff of Nosy Crow under the pen-name of Lucy Feather. The text is directed at the reader encouraging them to join in by following the arrows and looking for the objects that collect on Moose’s antlers and those who join in the chase wanting to reclaim their things.  The big bold double-page spreads are full of colour, movement and detail that encourage closer examination once we’ve learned just why Moose is in such a hurry.  Pre-schoolers will delight in being able to re-read this book all by themselves because after that first read, the text is not really necessary.   Putting on my teaching hat, I love that Moose’s journey and the arrows for the children to follow reinforce that left-to-right progression of reading helping the eyes make that sort of track a muscle memory while also encouraging visual acuity with so much to see and find within the illustrations.  Stephan Lomp has created a wonderful world of interactivity with his energetic style, crazy animal antics, and bright, lively colours.

This book definitely has a place in your preschool collection and the shelves of those just learning to read.

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

My Family is a Zoo

My Family is a Zoo

My Family is a Zoo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Family is a Zoo

K. A. Gerrard

Emma Dodd

Bloomsbury, 2016

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

9781408869406

Imagine if all your family’s favourite animal toys came alive and then they were all put into the family car to go on a special journey.  So your dad’s elephant, your bear, your sister’s whale… – even your uncle’s penguin – are all in together, squished in, strapped on, smooshed up and not a complaint amongst them. It must be a special destination or celebration. There’s no mention of mum at all although there are a couple of unattached polar bears that might give a clue.

This is a fun, colourful story-in-rhyme that will appeal to pre-schoolers and make them laugh out loud.  They will enjoy the rhyme and the rhythm as well as watching the car get more and more crowded.  Perhaps it’s a good thing the family gets to their destination when they do.  Because all the familiar family members are mentioned this would be a great starting point to explore the concept of family and how its members are related as well as where they fit in the scheme of things.  Some may choose to investigate their immediate family tree and compare the structure, people and numbers in their families to those of their friends and the book family. If every family is different, what is the thread that makes them a family?  Others might like to do an in-class survey to find out if teddies are the most popular toys, graph the results and talk about their findings.     

Simple on the surface but like all good stories, one read is not enough because there is always more to explore.