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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.

 

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…

Shearing Time

Shearing Time

Shearing Time

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shearing Time

Allison Paterson

Shane McGrath

Big Sky Publishing, 2017

32pp., pbk.,

9781925520095

 

Since its early days as a fledgling settlement, Australia has had a great reliance on sheep, particularly the income from the wool they produce.  For a century our economy “rode on the sheep’s back” as it depended on primary industry for the nation’s living standards.  However, in recent decades this dependency has decreased somewhat and there is a greater distance between city and country than ever before.

Nevertheless, farming is still a critical industry for our nation and there are going to be thousands of country kids who will see themselves in this story of their lives in 2017.  As shearing time comes around again in many rural areas, they will be the child in the story up at the crack of dawn and ready for a day’s hard work in the shearing shed.  And apart from the mechanisation of the shed, it is still the same back-breaking process of years and generations gone by with the same satisfaction of having done a good days’ work at the end of it.

This is a refreshing story that not only puts our country students in the frame but also allows their city cousins to have a glimpse of a different kind of life and help them understand the vital role that our rural communities have in our welfare and well-being and that other kids spend their time doing very different things.  “From paddock to plate” has become a familiar phrase of recent cooking shows and Shearing Time is an illustration of a similar sort of theme that opens lots of possibilities for investigations for all ages as we select our clothes from local chain stores and few have a Made In Australia label.  So once it is shorn, skirted, graded and baled what does happen to the wool?   

Based on her own childhood memories, Allison Paterson and illustrator Shane McGrath have created an insight that entertains as well as educates.  Click go the Shears – that iconic song of any Australian singalong – has come to life.

Just Like Molly

Just Like Molly

Just Like Molly

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just Like Molly

Pippa Dowling

Sunshine 

Empowering Resources, 2016

32pp., pbk., RRP $A17.00

9780994501073

At some stage in their young lives, children have an imaginary friend – one who likes to do the things that you like, eat the things you eat, be scared of the things you are scared of and share good times with you.  And so it is with the little girl in this story.  Her friend Molly loves playing games, going to the park and going on the slides, eating fish and chips and gelati.  She doesn’t mind the other kids who are noisy but the barking dogs are a bit frightening.

But one day Molly disappears and no amount of searching finds her.  Things are bleak and lonely especially as school has just started and everyone seems to have a friend already.  And then one day a little girl called Zoe offers to share her crayons…

This is not an uncommon theme in children’s storybooks but the remarkable thing about this one is that the author wrote it when she was just 10.  She is now just 13. Whimsical characters in colours that echo the mood of the story bring the little girl and her friend to life and reassures those who are about to begin a new phase of their life that there will be someone ready to support them. It opens up opportunities to talk about what friends are and how to initiate friendships through kindness and that through our lives we will have many different friends. 

You can read more about this young author here and perhaps her story will inspire the writers in your class to keep at it. 

My Friend Ernest

My Friend Ernest

My Friend Ernest

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Friend Ernest

Emma Allen

Hannah Sommerville

Angus & Robertson, 2017

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

971460750544

It is the first day of school and Oscar has put his brave on along with the knight’s shining helmet from the big dress-up box.  But just as he goes to get the shield he is shoved out of the way by a kid who snatches the dragon tail.  A knight and a dragon are traditional enemies and so it seems to be the case again.  Oscar is intimidated by this scary dragon-child and even though he acts brave he’s not really.  Seeking shelter in the cubby he finds a princess who is  hiding from the crocodiles  and then in comes the dragon…

This is a story that was probably reflected in most of the schools around Australia just three or four weeks ago as the newest bunch of big-schoolers began their new adventure.  No matter how big and brave and fearless they were on the outside, they were just little five-year olds in a big new world on the inside.  While in those traditional scenarios Oscar would have slain that dragon, in this story he faces his fears.  He tells the dragon he is not afraid of him but when they come face to face he is able to articulate that he is a little bit scared and why.  Rather than hiding behind his fears and perhaps not having the best start to school because he makes Ernest scarier than he is, Oscar learns that acknowledging them and facing them can lead to something much better. He also learns that just as he is hiding his concerns behind the knight’s outfit, others might also be hiding behind a brave face and that taking the time to dig a little deeper can lead to some rewarding and fun times.

From the front cover, Sommerville’s illustration bring this text to life – young children will know immediately that this is going to be about two little boys – one a knight, the other a dragon and thus destined for conflict.  But there is also a clue to the outcome in the title – the main character is Oscar but the book is called My Friend Ernest.

Even though the beginning of term is slipping away into the memory, it is only days gone by so this would be a timely book to read to the children and remind them of how they were feeling back then and how far they have already come in conquering their fears and how brave they are and can be.  Life is going to be tricky at times – just how tricky depends on how we deal with the twists and turns.

 

Our Dog Benji

Our Dog Benji

Our Dog Benji

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our Dog Benji

Pete Carter

James Henderson

EK Books, 2017

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

9781925335330

Benji is a dog that eats anything and everything – no matter what, he has a go at it and even sits in front of the fridge each morning in the hope that it has exploded overnight.  Hus young master is not so adventurous – like many of his age he takes his time with new tastes and flavours and can be quite a fussy eater.  But he decides to follow Benji’s example and be a little more adventurous as he sees that these foods don’t kill Benji – although they might make his tummy rumble and cause a smell that no one can stand, not even Benji.  But there is one thing neither of them will eat…

Told with humour and colourful detailed pictures, this is a charming story for under-5s who aren’t quite sure when something unfamiliar appears on their plate.  But it is also an opportunity to talk to them about the things a dog should never eat and should never be given particularly pig products, milk, onions and chocolate because they are toxic to them.   Taking care of a pet is more than a daily walk and a brush every now and then.

Given the new research that shows the food that toddlers eat has a profound effect on their lives long-term particularly their likelihood of being overweight or obese, any books that start conversations with them about nutrition  and what they and their pets need to be healthy and active has to be a winner.  Thumbs up for this one.

The Fix-It Man

The Fix-It Man

The Fix-It Man

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Fix-It Man

Dimity Powell

Nicky Johnston

EK Books, 2017

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

9781925335347

Dads can fix anything – that’s what dads do.  Kites, kennels, teapots – whatever is needed.  He can even cobble together a rug made of rainbows and old hugs for mum – but he can’t fix mum.  Not even with his special peach and honey brew.  Even the doctors and lots of rest can’t fix mum. Not even all the love in the world.  

And no matter how hard they try, little girls can’t mend broken hearts – not hers, not dad’s and not Tiger’s.  Well, not with stick tape or glue or needle and thread..  But dad has one more special thing up his sleeve  and together they start to mend.

This is a poignant story of loss and one that will resonate with many children who have lost a parent or other loved one.  With its gentle text and soft palette, even though it is sad it is not gloomy because the love between this family oozes from the page and from that, the hope is tangible. And the threads that bind the family are stronger and more enduring than nails, glue, sticky-tape or any other kind of man-made adhesive or fastening.

Grief is a natural part of life and while we might like to protect our children from it, nevertheless it happens and we often struggle helping them to cope with their loss.  This book allows conversations to start and explores the way it is an emotion that we each express and deal with in our own way.  Dad’s lap is cosy and warm but his face is crumpled and wet; pieces spill out from Tiger’s heart and little girls try to do what they can to paper over the cracks – but they are too wide. But together…

Whether shared as a 1:1 or as a class, it offers children the opportunity to talk about losses in their life and to learn that they are not alone in feeling lonely, lost, scared and even betrayed but there is love and it does get easier.

Handstand

Handstand

Handstand

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Handstand

Lisa Stickley

Pavilion, 2016

32pp., hbk., RRP $A17.99

9781843653127

Little girls love to do handstands and Edith is no exception.  She is teaching herself and each day she gets a little better increasing her upside-downness by a second each day.  But each day something interrupts her concentration like the worm who popped up by her hand, the bird who used her hand for target practice and the spider that crawled down her shorts when she rested her legs against a tree.  But nevertheless she keeps on practising…

This is an interesting book – it’s tagline is “a kind of counting book” which it is as Edith manages an extra handstand and an extra second each day and the words and numbers are included in the illustrations.  But it is also intriguing because as she encounters each little creature the creature gives its perspective on how Edith has interrupted it, offering an introduction to getting young readers to see things from another point of view.  The worm pops his head above ground and sees “a giant hand next to my preferred popping up place”.  It could spark some discussion and drawing about how little girls and little boys appear to the creatures in their environment. Resilience is also a theme – how we must practise and practise to get better and not be deterred by trivial things like a spider in your knickers.

The appearance of the book is also interesting – harking back to a time when handstand competitions were features of recess and lunch break entertainment for girls of my era, the colours and style give it a definite retro feel.  Even the name ‘Edith’ suggests a bygone time. The illustrations are also what a child the age of the narrator might draw adding to the impression that this is, indeed a young girl telling her story, but the font, presented in the style of a young child might prove tricky for young readers  to start with. 

Even though this appears to be a counting book at first flick-through, there is much more in it that can provide lots of chat between child and adult and even tempt them to try a new skill.  I’m sure Miss 10 and Miss Nearly-6 eyes will boggle at the thought of Grandma being the school handstand champion a lifetime ago!!!

The Little Drummer Boy

christmas_countdown_2016

 

 

 

 

The Little Drummer Boy

The Little Drummer Boy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Little Drummer Boy

Bruce Whatley

Random House, 2011

32pp., pbk., RRP $A9.99

9781864719925

When she was a little girl, Annie’s grandfather carved the little drummer boy from the leg of an old oak table left on the street, painted it carefully and wrapped it up in paper and twine.  Right from the start Annie loved it and it always had pride of place at the top of the Christmas tree.  Year after year, no matter where she was, it would look down like the guardian angel of Christmas.  Even when she had her own children and they had children, the little drummer boy was there at the top no matter how many other decorations were added.  Even when he was getting a little faded, Annie put it down to his being loved and loved him more.

But there came a day when there was no Christmas tree and no Annie…

This is a beautiful, touching story of the enduring nature of love and Christmas traditions, traditions that bind families together across time and place at this time of the year.  Even my own son, now 42, was horrified that I was contemplating not putting up a tree even though his family would not be able to visit this year.  He needed to know that what has been familiar to him for 42 years would still continue anyway.

As well as being a charming story, it is also a time to explore the unique things that each child’s family does at this time, the things that have endured over time and those things that they will pass on to their own children.  It even offers scope to look at the origins of some of the things that we, as a society, do each year and speculate on whether we will ever lose those northern winter images and customs that persist and why they have such deep roots in such a summer society anyway.

In the meantime enjoy my favourite version of my favourite Christmas song from my favourite group

Blue Sky, Yellow Kite

Blue Sky, Yellow Kite

Blue Sky, Yellow Kite

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blue Sky, Yellow Kite

Janet A. Holmes

Jonathan Bentley

Little Hare Books, 2016

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

9781760124229

High above a bright yellow kite soars in the bright blue sky and as it dips and dives, flits and flies with its tail feathers flying it catches the eye of Daisy.  Intrigued she follows its string to see who is flying such a magnificent thing.  Up the hill, down the hill and across the field she finds William in a big house on the edge of town.  As she watches longingly through the fence, he invites her in and teaches her how to fly it. But then she does the unthinkable – she runs away with the kite all the way back to her house.  Knowing she has done the wrong thing she hides it and doesn’t fly it – but where is the joy in a kite sitting on top of a wardrobe instead of soaring through the sky?  At last she cannot stand it and she just has to fly the kite – but William sees her and just walks away.  Again the kite is placed on the top of the wardrobe but the next day, Daisy takes it down again…

Sometimes little people are just so tempted by someone else’s things that they just have to take them, even though, like Daisy, they know it is wrong to do so.  And with Christmas coming on and lots of children having lots of things to show off, there are going to be a lot of children fighting temptation.  Thus this is a timely story about wanting, needing, guilt and honesty which has a heart-warming ending that  lends itself to all sorts of discussions in the home and in the classroom.  

The visual contrast, both physically and metaphorically, of the bright yellow kite against the deep blue sky, juxtaposes Daisy and William’s positions and Jonathan Bentley’s illustrations add much to the text with   their movement and colour.

This is a charming story about friendship and forgiveness and the dilemma of whether a thing is more important than a friend.