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.
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.
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.
Pip Sullivan first entered our reading lives in Run, Pip, Run when she had to live on her wits to stay out of the clutches of the authorities when her “grandfather” Sully had a stroke and subsequently died. Fearful of being put in foster care, Pip found temporary refuge with her best friend Matilda’s family. But to Pip, Matilda is perfect and never seems to get into trouble whereas Pip doesn’t seem to be able to stay out of it. Convinced she is going to be put in formal foster care with all that entails because she believes the Brownings no longer want her, Pip hits the road with her inseparable dog Houdini determined to find her real mother. With only a nine-year-old postcard to go by, she is determined to get to Byron Bay…
Full of determination, resilience and quick-thinking Pip has much to overcome as she makes her way north, all the while never giving up hope and never forgetting Houdini who is very well named. Despite her somewhat unorthodox upbringing, she has learned some important life lessons from Sully and these make her a particularly likable little girl of just ten and a bit. Asking to pay extra for her train fare because she had skipped without paying the day before is just one example. And when all you want is a family of your own, nothing will deter you.
Written so that the reader can understand her perspective and her thinking, it is an engaging sequel that is every bit as good as the CBCA shortlisted original. An engaging, solid read that is a little bit different for independent readers.
My grandmother forgets who I am. Every time we meet, it likes meeting someone new….
Even though Grandma can’t remember us, we have so many memories of her.”
There are the sausages as big as elephant’s legs that she served for Sunday lunch; going to the beach; snuggled in together with a hot-water bottle and a blanket watching the nighttime storms split the sky… The little girl and her dad have memories galore that they share with her in her new home with the painted garden and people who remember for her.
Young children encountering older relatives who are succumbing to the challenges of the ageing process are becoming more common as generations live longer than ever, and so stories that help them deal with what can be a confronting situation are always welcome. This is a gentle comforting story about the enduring love between the generations, although if Grandma is 80 as her birthday cake shows there seems to be a skipped generation in the chain. My own grandchildren would appear to be about the age of the children in the story and they faced this situation with their great-grandmothers, not their grandmas. We are only in our 60s!
Nevertheless, this is an uplifting story that shows how children embrace the changing circumstances, accepting the changes and the challenges and working with them, rather than taking them as a personal rejection. There are adults who could learn from this unconditional love that children display and how they adapt so they almost become the adult themselves. And while there are old memories to recall, there are always new ones to make.
The soft palette and lines chosen by the illustrator portray the beautiful memories perfectly and the love between them all just oozes from the page setting up the perfect opportunity to let the children tell and draw their own stories of their own special moments with their grandparents, perhaps cementing them even more firmly.
When the author discovered she was pregnant, typically she was very excited and so she began to write about her feelings as she waited for the time to pass. The result is this gentle story-in-rhyme that mirrors the thoughts and feelings of most expectant parents and their families. Who will this new little life be? And what will their life be like? It traces the things that are done during that nine months from ultrasounds to decorating the nursery, tracking a common journey that very young readers first asking about where they came from will love to know about. It might even reassure parents-in-waiting that anxiety is as normal as anticipation.
Even though this is Ms Ritchie’s story, it is a universal one and Hannah Somerville’s illustrations using such a soft palette take it beyond the personal so it becomes almost a lullaby of love that would serve very well as Baby’s first favourite shared each night. There is so much evidence that even our very youngest children are aware of the harsh realities of life, the differences between their lives and that of their peers, so to have such an affirmation of being loved and wanted and cherished should bring enormous comfort and reassurance.
There is a place and a need for this sort of book and Ms Ritchie has fulfilled it well.
“It’s not much fun being a princess: you have to be prim, proper and obedient. Princess Peony lives in a world full of magical creatures – hags, trolls, giants and fairy godmothers – but her father’s strict rules leave her feeling bored and lonely. She wants to learn how to DO things, and cooking’s at the top of her list. But when Peony borrows a recipe book from the public library, the king has the old librarian who tried to help her arrested for “speaking out of turn”. Can Peony stand up to her father and make things right?”
The publisher’s blurb sums up this engaging story very well. Despite being somewhat of a misfit in her family shunning shoes and pretty dresses to better herself, she counts down the days till her 13th birthday when she is allowed an unescorted “educational” visit but is dismayed to find that her plans to again visit the library which she first discovered when she was nine, are thwarted by Mrs Beef who believes a visit to the family’s mausoleum to study her ancestors would be much better for her. But she manages to escape, makes her way to the library and there her adventures really begin…
For independent readers who like their princesses to have some attitude but also compassion, this is a new take on the more traditional tale. Lovers of familiar fairy tales will see it still has many of the features of the originals with a tyrant king with old-fashion views; older, self-absorbed sisters who treat the youngest one with disdain; the mean, miserable governess with the iron fist; fairy godmothers who can grant wishes; a neglected old hag who is cranky that her invitation to the new prince’s christening has not arrived; dark gloomy dungeons where innocents sit forgotten for years; a talking cat… and only one person who can save the day when trouble threatens. But they will also like the determination, compassion, resilience and self-reliance of Peony who is more like them and isn’t relying on a handsome prince to get her out of bother.
Vivian French’s storytelling is accompanied by a sprinkling of illustrations that add charm and character, making this ideal for a bedtime read-along or read-alone for the 7+ age group.
When Little Koala climbs up the branch for dinner he gets a nasty surprise when instead of feeding him, his mother’s pouch is closed and she gives him a cuff around the ear. He is no longer welcome as she is pregnant again and it is time for him to become independent. Koalas not only live solitary lives but they are also territorial so the search for his own home among the gum trees is not easy. When he thinks he has found a safe place to sleep he is woken by a thunderous roar and pushed out of the tree by another older male but he must find another resting place quickly because he is unsafe on land.
Bushfire-ravaged country, storms, snakes and food options limited make finding a new home challenging – is there a safe place for him?
Koala is a perfect book for not only teaching young readers about one of our iconic faunal symbols but also introducing them to the concept of non fiction. Like Python ,it crosses the boundaries between imagination and information by bringing real life to life through story. Even though the story of Koala only took place in Saxby’s imagination, it is so well-researched and accurately portrayed by Vivas’s lifelike illustrations that it could have happened, and, as we read, we get both information and insight into these extraordinary creatures. Vivas has portrayed the key physical attributes of the koala accurately so its need for two thumbs and strong sharp claws are evident but she has also given him emotions as he is kicked out and faces going it alone. As well as the details embedded in the story there are also additional facts included in a different font so the distinction between story and information is clear and this is referred to in the simplified index, itself a great teaching tool.
Young children always have questions about their world and this concept of “faction” is the perfect way to help them learn more before they are able to read independently. Finding non fiction that is accessible to young readers and answers questions as well as generating more is difficult in early childhood, but this certainly meets all the criteria to spark a range of investigations, not the least of which could be comparing the koala’s age of independence with that of the child as well as a variety of family structures.
An important addition to any primary library collection.
Chook is not his real name – that’s Simon – but he’s earned his nickname because he is anxious and scared about many things, even everyday encounters, and “chook” is another word for chicken. Let’s Do Diwali, Up and Away, On the Road and Unhappy Camper are the latest releases in this series especially designed for the young reader making the transition from basal reader to novels.
In each story, Chook faces a situation that scares him such as working with new people, speaking in public, being in a crowd, playing with strangers, sleeping away from home and he has to draw on his inner reserves to deal with each one. Often circumstances are that he becomes involved in events and doesn’t realise that he has overcome his fear and come out the other side until it is all over, each time gaining a little more confidence. All the issues he faces are those that will be familiar to the young reader so they can draw strength and confidence from Chook’s success.
Short chapters, large font and plenty of illustrations support the newly emerging reader and with such relevant topics told well this is a perfect series to entice even the reluctant reader into more challenging books and show them that this reading thing actually has something to offer them and they can be successful at it.
George is having a very bad day – an I can’t, I won’t, I don’t kind of day as he grumbles and shouts and stomps. His mum tells him there is a big bad mood around him but George can’t see it and when he goes searching for it with no luck he gets even crankier. Then suddenly, The Big Bad Mood is standing right in front of him! Rough and smelly, it takes George by the hand and off they go to create mischief and mayhem.
At first it is fun but eventually…
Young children, and those around them, are no strangers to temper tantrums born of frustration as they push the boundaries of independence, but sometimes the stars are just not aligned and we wake up on the wrong side of the bed. But right from the get-go we learn that expressing our displeasure through shouting and stomping is not acceptable and so there can be an expectation that we should be happy and cheerful all the time, never giving into whatever is making us feel less so. Yet there can be no rainbows without rain and our lives are full of the ups and downs that give us light and shade so this is a wonderful kickstart to a discussion with little ones about whether it is ever OK to be angry and moody, and if so, how to deal with it.
As George goes about his day with The Big Bad Mood, he slowly begins to realise the impact his mood and behaviour are having on those around him and his attitude starts to change and then his actions follow suit. Little ones need to understand that being cranky is part of everyday life and it’s not a sin or a personality defect but it’s how they deal with the anger and frustration that shapes who they are, not just in the moment but long term as the responses we have become ingrained habits. Is the glass half-full or half-empty?
Often young people don’t have the vocabulary and the language skills to be able to articulate their frustration and that leads to even more tension but by having Olga Demidova’s illustrations that make the invisible visible they realise that bad moods are real, can be tangible and can be dealt with. Equally important is acknowledging the feelings of those who have been affected by their attitude and actions and the power of saying sorry and trying to do better. Even though the target audience of this book are still too young to be able to step back and look at what is causing their mood objectively, nevertheless the patterns of their behaviour are being laid down so discussions about why they get cross and what they can do about it, as George did, are vital.
A perfect addition to your mindfulness collection!