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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!!!

This is Banjo Paterson

This is Banjo Paterson

This is Banjo Paterson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is Banjo Paterson

Tania McCartney

Christina Booth

NLA Publishing, 2017

40pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9780642278982

The final verse of one of Australia’s most iconic poems reads…

And down by Kosciuszko, where the pine-clad ridges raise

Their torn and ragged battlements on high,

Where the air is clear as crystal, and the white stars fairly blaze

At midnight in the clear and frosty sky,

And where around The Overflow the reed beds sweep and sway

To the breezes, and the rolling plains are wide,

The man from Snowy River is a household word today,

And the stockmen tell the story of his ride.

But what is also “a household word today” is the name of the man who wrote those words – A. B. (Banjo) Paterson.

In this brand new book, written and illustrated especially for younger readers, Tania McCartney and Christina Booth tell the story of a man whose legacy of stories of life in the Australian bush told in rich, evocative language and distinctive rhyme and rhythm lives on more than 150 years since his birth. 

Born on February 17 1864 and named Andrew Barton Paterson he was known to his family and friends as Barty, the eldest of seven children in a typical rural Australian family of the time.  He grew up with a deep love of horses, particularly one called Banjo, and even when he moved to the city to attend high school and later become a journalist and a war correspondent, he never lost his love of the bush.

There is more than a hint of truth in the words of Clancy of the Overflow…

I am sitting in my dingy little office, where a stingy

Ray of sunlight struggles feebly down between the houses tall,

And the foetid air and gritty of the dusty, dirty city

Through the open window floating, spreads its foulness over all…

And I somehow rather fancy that I’d like to change with Clancy

Like to take a turn at droving, where the seasons come and go…

But the focus of this book is not Paterson’s poems but his life, particularly that of his childhood and the influences and circumstances that shaped him, his writing and his subsequent place in our literature, history and hearts. Tania has drawn on a plethora of rich research material, much of it held in the National Library of Australia, to present this story so that even this year’s Kindy kids who may well be learning the words of Waltzing Matilda for the very first time, can be inspired to not only know about the person who wrote them but also to see that they weren’t created overnight by a grown-up who just decided to write them,. Instead it was the stuff of the poet’s childhood and the things he learned as he grew up that made him able to write so richly, and maybe they can acknowledge their own talents and build on them. Perhaps, even at their young age they are good at words or drawing or making things and they can follow that passion now – they don’t have to wait to be a grown-up.

“Even children in early education need to be exposed to inspiring and life-altering stories of real life people that once so deeply affected–and continue to do so–our lives, our history and where we are going.” (McCartney, 2017)

What sets this book apart from others on the same topic and with a similar audience is the parallel visual storyline that accompanies it in Christina’s watercolour illustrations.  These are not just mere depictions of Paterson’s life that add a visual element to the words – these add extra layers to the words by showing kids of the 21st century playing in the backyard and doing the modern-day equivalent of what Banjo would have done in his time. Drawing on their own childhoods (and that of nearly every other child in the world), McCartney and Booth went back to the world of dress-ups, role-play and story-telling, further underlining the concept that this is as much a story of the reader’s life and dreams as it is that of Paterson’s.  Immediately there is a connection not just between prose and illustration but also between creators and reader, a connection that is vital to engage the mind and the imagination and the what-if.  (You can read more of the thinking behind the illustrations here.)

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

The first collaboration between McCartney and Booth was This is Captain Cook and I venture to say that this will be as well-received and as successful. As well as the factual material and excerpts from poems that are included at the back (as is common with books published by the National Library), Tania is currently running a virtual launch of the book on her blog where the backstory of the book’s creation is being told.  Day 6 includes links to some great resources as well as comprehensive teachers’ notes linked to the K-3 Australian Curriculum  There is also a free real-life launch at the NLA in Canberra on February 11  or for those not near the national capital you can join Tania on Periscope on Friday 17 February at 1pm AEDST, where she will be chatting about the book live from the National Library, and showing various priceless Banjo Paterson items, along with original artwork by Christina Booth!

 

And, as an added extra, for those of you are fans of Paterson and his work there is the Banjo Paterson Australian Poetry Festival in Orange, NSW from February 16-26, 2017 or you can visit his childhood home.

Christmas in the Barn

christmas_countdown_2016

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas in the Barn

Christmas in the Barn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas in the Barn

Margaret Wise Brown

Anna Dewdney

HarperCollins, 2016

40pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9780062379863

 

First published in 1952, but reprinted with new full-colour illustrations, Christmas in the Barn is a retelling of the Nativity from the perspective of the barn animals.  As dusk comes and night settles, and the animals take up their usual places and positions two people come into the barn and before long, without fuss or fear, Mary gives birth.  The star shines, the shepherds and the Wise Men arrive and the baby is laid in a manger, no crib for a bed.  

Told in rhyme this is a charming retelling of the traditional story that underpins the celebration of Christmas that is quite secular in its interpretation, making it perfect for sharing and explaining what is behind the images and imagery that is common at this time.  

While some schools and communities have bowed to political correctness and taken the story of the Nativity out of the curriculum, I believe that given the widespread celebration of Christmas in Australia, all children should know its origins so they can understand the importance placed on it, just as they should know the stories and understandings behind the commemorations and celebrations of other religions.  Because this version makes no reference to God – indeed neither the people nor the baby are even named because the emphasis is on the warmth, safety and harmony of everyone and everything in the barn – it is perfect for introducing very young children or those unfamiliar with Christmas to the basis of the beliefs of those who celebrate.

 

The Little Drummer Boy

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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

One Small Donkey

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One Small Donkey

One Small Donkey

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One Small Donkey

Dandi Daley Mackall

Martina Alvarez Miguens

Tommy Nelson, 2016

32pp., board book., RRP $A14.99

9780718082475

One small donkey

Hunting for a blade of grass

Sees big horses full of power and might

Prancing proudly as they pass.

This is the story of The Nativity told from the perspective of Joseph’s donkey,  Despite its apparent smallness and insignificance, the donkey still played a massive role in this event that continues to be celebrated around the world.  Though the donkey wasn’t the biggest, fastest, or strongest of all the animals, he had an important job all the same. 

Told in rhyme, this is a way to explain the story behind all the Christmas hype to the very young so they begin to understand what is really being recognised at this time.  With its bright pictures and strong message that even the smallest of us has a role to play, it will appeal to parents who want their child to begin to know this enduring story and the common symbols associated with it including the angels, shepherds and the birth in the manger.

As an extra treat to start the season here’s a childhood favourite from Bing Crosby …

Animasaurus Incredible Animals that Roamed the Earth

Animasaurus

Animasaurus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Animasaurus Incredible Animals that Roamed the Earth 

Tracey Turner

Harriet Russell

Bloomsbury, 2016

96pp. hbk., RRP $A26.99

9781408884850

While we are all familiar with the incredible dinosaurs, icthyosaurs and pterosaurs that inhabited our planet long before we did, this book focuses on the other megafauna that was here before humans evolved, tracing their evolution from the ancient to its modern counterpart.  

From the gigantopithecus to the orangutan, the dunkleosteus to the bull shark, the quetzalcaotlus to the wandering albatross, the reader can see the transition from the unknown to the more familiar.  Uncluttered interpretations of the ancient creatures based on what has been learned from fossils are compared to photos of the modern relatives making the transition even clearer.  Each double spread has a habitat map and some basic facts as well as tidbits of interesting information to encourage the reader to learn more, perhaps even trace the lineage of their own favourite creature.  There is a timeline, a glossary and an index at the back which not only help with navigating the book but also serve as an introduction to the features of a non fiction book for younger readers.

We know books about dinosaurs only linger on the shelf for a short time before being borrowed by an enthusiastic reader – this book will lead them into a whole new world of exploration.

Radio Rescue!

Radio Rescue!

Radio Rescue!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Radio Rescue!

Jane Jolly

Robert Ingpen

NLA Publishing, 2016

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

9780642278784

Jim loved living at Four Wells – hunting rabbits, exploring with Bluey and chasing goannas.  But life in Australia’s remote regions can be very lonely and there were times when Jim wished he could be a bit closer to his best friend Frank.  He couldn’t wait until they got one of those “new-fangled radios” that were making people so excited.  It would be wonderful to hear voices from all over the country – voices other than those of his mum and dad who loved the life as much as Jim did, but who often felt just as lonely and isolated as Jim.  

So there was huge excitement the day a truck finally appeared on the horizon and a man called Alf helped them connect it altogether and how to use the pedals and tap out Morse code.   And when the words, “Hello to everyone at Four Wells, Welcome aboard” came back, it felt as though the world had burst open!  

But when a snake spooked Dad’s horse and he fell off with a thud, that radio came into its own…

Although the Australian Inland Mission Aerial Medical Service under the stewardship of John Flynn was well established, it was clear that there needed to be better ways for those in the Outback to communicate their needs and their location so during the 1920s Alf Traegar worked hard at inventing a radio that could be powered by foot leaving the hands free to tap out the dots and dashes of Morse code.  He finally succeeded in late 1928 and in mid-1929 the first radio was installed in a private home, changing the lives of so many for ever.

While there is information in the back of the book about the invention and impact of the radio,  it is the way Jane Jolly has interpreted this into a personal story that brings the importance of its invention to life so that today’s technology-immersed children can connect with life in a time not so long ago. Surrounded by instant communication with the entire planet,  it takes something like this story to demonstrate the life of children before the Internet and the difficulties that were faced not 100 years ago!!!  These developments have happened within the lifetime of their great-grandparents.

Robert Ingpen’s illustrations are exquisite – each one featuring a monochromatic drawing of its focus and then opening out into a double page colour spread that echo the colours of the land, its unique light  and emphasise its vastness and isolation.

A superb contribution to Australia: Story Country.

Barney and the Secret of the Whales

Barney and the Secret of the Whales

Barney and the Secret of the Whales

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Barney and the Secret of the Whales

Jackie French

Mark Wilson

HarperCollins, 2016

144pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

9780732299446

 

It is Sydney in 1791 and Barney and Elsie have settled into their lives with the Reverend and Mrs Johnson as the fledgling colony tries to establish itself.  The Third Fleet has arrived and Captain Melvill is a guest at dinner.  Little does Barney know that this will change his life for Melvill is in command of the Britannia, a whaling ship and intent on sailing into southern waters to plunder its riches now their human cargo has been safely delivered.

With a promise of earning enough money to buy stock for land he hopes to be awarded in time, particularly after the Johnsons have made it clear they will return to England, Barney is enticed to join Melville’s crew for the journey south.  But the dream is shattered almost the minute he steps on deck and he is dismayed to discover that this is not a one-off experience – he is indentured for three years!  Assigned to being up the mast as the lookout, Barney soon spots whales and he and the reader are plunged into the gruesome details of the hunt, the capture and the destruction of a magnificent creature.  Because he is the one who gave the alert of its presence, Barney holds himself responsible for its death and wonders if he can really do this for another three years.  

The second in the Secret Histories series and sequel to Birrung, the Secret Friend, this is another engrossing and engaging read from master historical storyteller, Jackie French.  In the notes at the back she makes it clear that distasteful as they may be to the modern reader, whaling and sealing were the two industries which sustained our nation in those early years and enabled it to diversify so that other products like wool could take over.  

Written for readers the same age as Barney, it traces Barney’s story through his own voice and his discovery of himself – a landlubber rather than a seaman – with a clarity that many of his age would not have today. At its most basic level  there is scope for comparing the life of a child of Barney’s era and circumstance to one of a 12 year old in Australia in the 21st century and even to track the events that have occurred to bring about the changes.    What do today’s children think those of the 23rd century might think about their lives?

French has not glossed over the details of the fate of the whale but viewed through Barney’s perspective which is sympathetic to the whale’s ordeal, it is perhaps a more gentle account than the reality and may well raise issues about how humans treat animals and why they do or did.  There is an excellent opportunity to compare and contrast the perception and treatment of whales in the 18th and 19th centuries and their consequences  to the current situation where they are revered. 

As usual, Jackie French has crafted a tale that is a perfect standalone read as well as being an opportunity to dig deeper, behind and beyond the words.  Teaching notes are available.

Meet…The Flying Doctors

Meet...The Flying Doctors

Meet…The Flying Doctors

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meet…The Flying Doctors

George Ivanoff

Ben Wood

Random House, Australia, 2016

32pp., hbk.,  RRP$A24.99

9780143780687

In 1911 John Flynn went to work on a mission more than 500 kilometres from Adelaide, the beginning of a journey for which thousands of people have been grateful for over the decades since then.  In what is still a remote area, Flynn was greatly disturbed by the lack of medical facilities beyond the metropolitan areas . Not satisfied with patients being treated by those with a rudimentary knowledge of first aid with support being sent in Morse code over the telegraph system, while doctors could take weeks to reach them using whatever transport was available.  Flynn knew there had to be a better way and so began his quest to find a solution.

Flight seemed the obvious answer but in those days both planes and pilots were hard to come by and it took 10 years of campaigning before his first plane was ready for service.  In 1928, his dream came true – he formed the Australian Inland Mission Aerial Medical Service using  a single-engine plane on loan from QANTAS< aptly named Victory.  Immediately there was a difference – 50 missions and 255 patients treated in a year.  

But they were not out of the woods yet – in fact they were a bit lost over desert landscapes navigating by landmarks because there were no radios in the planes. Even though it meant that they could only fly at night in extreme emergencies,  nevertheless the pilots put their craft down in the most amazing places and with Alf Traegar’s invention of the pedal radio in 1929 at last the people of the outback started to get the services they needed.

In 1955 the name was changed to the Royal Flying Doctor Service, and one of Australia’s most iconic institutions  has gone from strength to strength now servicing rural and remote areas from 23 bases scattered around the country. 

The story of the RFDS is one that every child should know – from those in the cities where medical services on tap can be taken for granted to those in the Outback where lives depend on it daily.  It is a rich and rewarding story of success and Ivanoff has managed to cram so much information into just 32 pages while still keeping it personal and connected to its child audience.  Wood’s illustrations emphasise the isolation and enormity of the landscape adding weight to the extent of the issue and the importance of its solution.

As always with this series, there is a timeline at the back that encapsulates the milestones.

Meet… is one of the most significant series of biographies written for young Australian readers as they are introduced to the diverse and critical contributions that have been made by individuals to the development of this nation. including Ned Kelly, Captain CookMary McKillop, Douglas Mawson , The ANZACs , Nancy Bird Walton, Banjo Paterson, Weary Dunlop, Sidney Nolan , Don Bradman and Nellie Melba. In my opinion, John Flynn’s story is one of the most important.

Discovering Dinosaurs

Discovering Dinosaurs

Discovering Dinosaurs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Discovering Dinosaurs

Simon Chapman

Bloomsbury, 2016

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

9781408194614

Can we ever have too many books about dinosaurs to entice our young people, particularly boys, to pick up a book and read?  

Certainly in my school library I put all those with the 567.9 classification on a special shelf so they were easily gettable (and put awayable) because they were in constant demand and it was hard to keep up with the requests.

But this new title by explorer Simon Chapman is not just another book of facts and figures and pictures.  Told in a semi-narrative style, Chapman tells the stories of  various paleontologists who made the various discoveries across the world and fills the pages with incredible illustrations, pop-outs, pull-downs, lift-the flaps and other devices that make this one of the richest, most intriguing books on this subject I’ve seen.  Every page is crammed with new discoveries to be made so the reader feels the anticipation of those early scientists as they pursued their quests.  

From the 3D-like cover through to its glossary on the endpapers it is the most sumptuous, luxurious publication you just want to keep running your hands over it and investigating each page thoroughly to what makes a dinosaur, when and where they lived, what they ate, why they fought and why they became extinct.

Not only would this be a very welcome addition to a library’s collection, if I had a student who was passionate about this subject I’d be giving parents a heads-up that this might be an ideal item for this year’s Santa sack!