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We’re All Wonders

We're All Wonders

We’re All Wonders

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’re All Wonders

R.J. Palacio

Puffin, 2017

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

9780141386416

Wonder is the unforgettable story of August Pullman, an ordinary boy with an extraordinary face that has touched readers all over the world as it became an instant classic, used widely for one-school-one read projects and spread through word-of-mouth recommendations.  Now Palacio has transformed the core message of that book into a picture book that transcends ages with its powerful theme.

Even though he does ordinary things like riding a bike, eating ice cream and playing ball, Auggie is not an ordinary kid because he does not look like all the other kids in his class.  He knows this and he knows they point and laugh and call him names which hurt his feelings.  But he and his dog Daisy have a remarkable strategy for dealing with things when they get tough… And it certainly puts the hurt into perspective.

Even though he knows he can’t change the ways he looks, perhaps he can change the way people see.

Echoing the cover of the original, Palacio has depicted Auggie has a one-eyed child wearing a bright red t-shirt which stands out like a beacon against the more muted tones of the illustrations, somewhat like Auggie himself standing out amongst the masses. And for someone with no face, Palacio has nevertheless managed to convey a whole range of emotions in the illustrations and text. Every word does a job. 

In a book full of messages about belonging and acceptance perhaps the strongest one is Auggie’s inner strength.  Yes his feelings are hurt but he has learned through his family’s love and acceptance of him as he is that he has the strength to endure, maybe even overcome the insults and prejudices.  Even though he needs time out to heal, he has the resilience to come back stronger than ever.  He knows he is a wonder, he is unique – but then, aren’t we all?

Those who have not read the novel do not need to do so in order to connect to this book (although this one may well inspire them to seek it out) because it’s message is more important than the character.  Every one of us is an Auggie in some way – try being a red-head with freckles and glasses in the 50s when Marilyn Monroe-types were the role models – so every one of us could be the central character.  Written sensitively and with a light hand, particularly when it comes to Auggie’s solution, this book should be at the core of any program focusing on mindfulness, well-being, inclusivity, acceptance of others and being enough just as we are.  Perhaps this book will, indeed, bring Auggie’s hope of changing how people see to fruition.

 

How Many Dinosaurs Deep?

How Many Dinosaurs Deep?

How Many Dinosaurs Deep?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How Many Dinosaurs Deep?

Ben Kitchen

Vicky Fieldhouse

New Frontier, 2017

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

9780995625556

Jim is learning how to swim but when it is time to move up from the baby pool to the middle-sized pool, he is not so sure that he is ready.   he’s concerned about its depth so his mother tells him that it would not even reach the knees of a stegosaurus.  This sparks a chain reaction of how deep would a … be and each time mum is able to explain it in terms of how many dinosaurs it would take to reach the surface.  And when she explains the Mariana Trench in the Pacific Ocean would need 587 brachiosauruses standing on each other’s head, Jim finally feels he is ready to cope.

This is a unique story that combines the love of dinosaurs that so many little ones have with their natural apprehension of venturing into something they are unsure of.  Clearly Ben Kitchen has done his homework on  dinosaur dimensions and there are two pages explaining the key features of those that are mentioned, including some that young readers may not be familiar with.  While more or less anatomically correct, the illustrations are still whimsical and fun and readers will gain courage from them rather than fear.  

Something completely different for the younger reader. Perhaps even an opportunity to go outside and measure things to compare them with the dinosaurs to bring the imagination to reality.

 

Little Owl’s Egg

Little Owl's Egg

Little Owl’s Egg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Little Owl’s Egg

Debi Gliori

Alison Brown

Bloomsbury, 2016

32pp. pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781408853795

When Mummy Owl announces that she has laid a beautiful egg and there is going to be a new baby owl in the nest, Little Owl is most dismayed.  There cannot be another baby owl because that’s him! But when Mummy suggests that perhaps it will be a worm rather than an owl, Baby Owl is even more distressed.  

And so begins a charming tale of speculating just what might be in the egg . In the absence of it being a Princess Wormy Choco-Penguin Crocophant Dragowl Baby Owl is prepared to settle for it being a dragon but then he starts to think and gradually his mind is changed and he begins to look forward to the newcomer.

Young readers will connect with this story, particularly those who have had news that there is to be a new baby in the house and they are worried that there won’t be enough love for two. Alison Brown’s illustrations capture the author’s text perfectly and make the characters very endearing. Speculating what else could be inside the egg will provide fun and the opportunity to investigate what else begins as an egg because chickens aren’t the only onescould lead to some interesting discoveries.

 

Olivia’s Voice

Olivia's Voice

Olivia’s Voice

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Olivia’s Voice

Mike Lucas

Jennifer Harrison

Midnight Sun, 2017

32pp., hbk., RRP $A26.99

9781925227192

Imagine waking to a world of silence – no traffic, no sirens, no strident voices; no birdsong, no waves crashing no children laughing.   That is Olivia’s world.  But despite the lack of sound, it is still a beautiful world for her as she sees the patterns and movement of the life in the gum tree outside her window; smells the tasty fragrance of hot toast with butter;  feels the soft warmth of her mother’s cheek against hers as they hug; and embraces life at school just like every child. 

In this charming journey through Olivia’s day she shows us that there is still a beautiful, wondrous world to be explored even if it doesn’t have a sound accompaniment, teaching the reader to observe, enjoy and appreciate what they do have rather than mourning what they haven’t.  Through photograph-like illustrations and first-person text, we see the joy Olivia finds in life and hear her voice so loudly that we can share her curiosity, her wonder and her contentment with what is rather than what isn’t.  

Children with hearing impairments are part of the fabric of a classroom and they have so much more to teach us than just to look at them when we speak.  Opportunities abound in this book to help our students walk a mile in Olivia’s shoes – through artwork, through music, through games and every other aspect as we encourage them to consider a world without a particular sense. Learning only occurs when we reflect on new information and situations and assimilate them into what we already know, so this would be the perfect book to encourage the children to engage with reflecting on three things that have changed their day each day, encouraging gratitude and empathy and perhaps understanding themselves and their circumstances better. Obstacles are just opportunities for us to learn, grow and know ourselves better.

Stunning, evocative, thought-provoking.

 

 

 

 

Through the Gate

Through the Gate

Through the Gate

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Through the Gate

Sally Fawcett

EK Books, 2017

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

9781925335415

As she looks through the gate of her new house, the little girl is feeling really despondent because it is anything but new.  All she could see were the drooping roof, the peeling paint, and the crumbling steps.  As she sits on the step pondering all the changes of a new house, a new town and a new school she sees nothing bright in her future.  But gradually, slowly, one step at a time things begin to change – and so does she.

This is a familiar story for many children who are uprooted from their comfort zone that has been told on so many different levels that it is quite brilliant.

Firstly there is the concept – as the house is slowly restored to something smart and vibrant so does her mood and her willingness to look beyond her untied shoelaces, gradually lifting her head to the possibility and potential that surrounds her. Then there is the text itself – carefully chosen vocabulary that reflects the girl’s moods, changing with each step forward that she takes in settling into her new environment.  This is accompanied by illustrations that have an increasing use of colour and detail, climaxing in full-colour spreads as the future becomes clearer. And throughout, the changes are reflected in the life of the little bird that first appears on the front endpaper as a lonely soul with a forlorn twig and ends on the back endpaper showing all the riches of life.

This is a story about nothing staying the same; about even the most dismal day waking to a sunrise soon; about how our moods and feelings can colour our world; and cliches like “light at the end of the tunnel”;  “some days are diamonds and some days are stones” and “without rain there can be no rainbows.” While younger readers may engage on a more superficial level at spotting the changes to the house and the bird’s business, older readers may be able to dig deeper and look at the more philosophical ideas that underpin the story as well as learning about looking for the positive, managing emotions and expectations, and developing strategies that will help them deal with new, tough or confusing situations, physical or emotional.  Some might even like to share such occasions and how they coped perhaps sending a message to other classmates that they are not alone and not on their own.

Change can be challenging but time can take care of things.

Extensive teaching notes are available.

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.

Hero

Hero

Hero

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hero

Jennifer Li Shotz

HarperCollins

224pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9780062652218

Hero, a retired search-and-rescue dog, is not prepared for a stray puppy to come into his life. But when he and twelve-year-old Ben find Scout injured and afraid, the new addition leads them down an unexpected and dangerous path. When Scout goes missing, it’s up to Hero to use his search-and-rescue skills to find Scout and bring him home.

This is a compelling story about the bond between a boy and his dogs and the lessons Ben has to learn about sorting out priorities as he promises that he will keep up his schoolwork and grades if he is allowed to keep the puppy, Scout. But it’s hard when you have friends and baseball also vying for your time.

More for the independent reader, nevertheless it would make a great read-aloud to a class or younger person who loves dogs with just the right amount of tension and a happy ending.  

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.