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Don’t Leap, Larry

Don't Leap, Larry

Don’t Leap, Larry

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t Leap, Larry

John Briggs

Nicola Slater

Pavilion, 2017

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

9781843653387

Lemmings are small rodents that live in the Arctic regions and are best known popularly known for the misconception that they commit mass suicide by jumping off cliffs, So when one little lemming decides to stand out from the crowd and not do as they do, there is great confusion and consternation.

This little lemming, who wants to be known as Larry, does not want to look like, sound like or act like his peers. When he is asked if he would jump over a cliff, he says, “No, ” but fronting up wearing a mask and fins just in case he has to.  Instead of digging a tunnel to keep warm, Larry goes sledging with the puffins; while the others squeak and squeal be plays bongos with the seals; and while they nibble moss from under a rock he prefers pepperoni pizza with extra cheese and hot sauce!  He is certainly a very different lemming who stands out from the crowd.

So when the other lemmings call a meeting and unanimously decide that all lemmings should be the same, Larry knows it is time for him to move on.  But he finds life with his other friends a little different from his expectations – sometimes the grass is not always greener.  Is there a new and better life for Larry or is he doomed to join them on that inevitable, fatal leap over the cliff?

Humour and appealing illustrations which begin with the front cover with Larry firmly attached to a parachute as he leaps off the cliff make for a quirky tale that nevertheless has a strong message about remaining true to yourself and encouraging others to question, interpret and think for themselves too.   A great discussion starter about being individuals even in a culture that has children dressing alike, looking alike and learning alike. 

 

The Susie K Files (series)

The Susie K Files

The Susie K Files

 

 

 

 

 

 

Life of the Party

9781760296681

Game Changer

9781760296698

Shamini Flint

Sally Beinrich

Allen & Unwin, 2018

112pp., pbk., RRP $A9.99

Susie K is nine years old and says she has mega-huge problems – problems as big as the Sydney Opera House, as tall as the Eiffel Tower and as massive as the pyramids of Egypt. But she is OK with that because she likes to use her scientific mind to solve them, and understanding the importance of keeping records of the trials she has to solve the problem, she has decided to keep a file on each one that she solves. 

Her first problem is that she loves animals but is allergic to fur so she has the class goldfish for her only pet.  Problems 2, 3 and 4 come in the shape of her family – firstly her dad who is a mad sports fanatic and Susie is not; then her brother Jack who is constantly putting her down;and  #4 is her mum who is a Sri Lankan refugee who had a very tough childhood and refers to it often so she now wants Susie to be a huge success at everything she tries, which would be impossible even if she didn’t have the ridiculous name of Susanna Saathiavanni Kanagaratnam-Smith. Why couldn’t she just be Susie Smith? But being like most little girls, Susie is keen to please her mum and does her best to do so.

At school, Susie prefers the people in books to the people in real life so she’s not the most popular person, which she doesn’t mind and is relieved when she is no longer invited to parties and other social occasions. But when her mum discovers she was the only one not at a class pool party, her mum decides to do something about it even though Susie begs her not to get involved because parents sticking their noses in does not always have a happy outcome. And so Operation: Life of the Party begins…

In the second in the series, Game Changer, her mother is thrilled that Susie is competing in the school sports carnival but when you are no good at sport and actually hate them, the problems start.

This is a new series that will really support newly-independent readers with its graphic-novel type format as much of Susie’s thoughts  and conversations are in a cartoon-like style that not only moves the action along but adds greater depth to Susie’s character as she works her way through the issues.  Many girls will see themselves in Susie’s shoes, if not with the family background but definitely with the problems she has and they will gain insight and perhaps hope that with some lateral thinking, there isn’t anything that can’t be negotiated or solved – without a parent interfering! 

A read-alone rather than a read-aloud, this is an intriguing new series that deserves a place in your collection.

Penguin Problems

Penguin Problems

Penguin Problems

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Penguin Problems

Jory John

Lane Smith

Walker Books,  2016

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

9781406375992

Poor Mortimer.  His life really is difficult.  It’s so hard living in the Antarctic when you don’t like snow, the light is too bright, you have to swim in the ocean which is too dark and it smells salty, you sink like a stupid rock and there are lots of things that want you to be their dinner.  And when you are on land you have to waddle and you look silly when you waddle, and that’s just the beginning.  Try looking like everyone else and not being able to find your parents… Is there no end to the problems that penguins have?  Every day seems to be a “terrible, horrible, no good very bad day” and then a  walrus tapping him on the shoulder. Is this day going to have a very bad ending too?

Apart from being very funny even though Mortimer himself is so serious and makes sure he gets the last word, this is an important book in the armoury of the mindfulness collection and even moreso with the issue of children’s mental health attracting official attention so teachers in all sectors can detect and determine students’ problems early. Mortimer is definitely a pessimist who can see no joy in anything and as teachers, we are all aware of the child in our class who has a similar outlook.  While one story alone is not going to turn this around – as the final page in the story suggests – nevertheless we can help children start to count their blessings, look for positive validation in themselves and offer genuine affirmation to others. 

Perhaps the author deliberately chose a penguin as his protagonist because of their stark “black-and-whiteness” where life is either good or bad and Lane through her illustration style not only softens the edges of Mortimer but also his surroundings so that there is the possibility of some light getting through.  If we are teaching our students to be critical readers and ask, “What is the author’s purpose for writing ?” ;”What does the author want me to know from reading this story?” and “How is the message being conveyed?” then this would be an excellent tool as we try to get them to examine  issues of objectivity and accuracy in other resources.

Right from the get-go with no title on the front cover (it is on the back, though) and the inner flap setting Mortimer’s tone, the reader knows this story is going to be different. A search online will reveal a range of resources to support it, but as with all quality picture books, it stands alone as an entertaining story first and foremost whether its underlying message is explored or not. 

 

The Wolf, the Duck and The Mouse

The Wolf, the Duck and The Mouse

The Wolf, the Duck and The Mouse

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Wolf, the Duck and The Mouse

Mac Barnett

Jon Klassen

Walker Books, 2017

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

9781406377798

When the wolf swallows the mouse, Mouse is very surprised to find that his cries of woe wake Duck who is safely ensconced in bed and trying to sleep.  Because it is dark in the wolf’s tummy, the difference between daylight and darkness can’t be discerned but when Duck discovers it is morning he declares it is breakfast time and produces the first of many surprises for Mouse.

Explaining that on the ‘outside’ there was always the danger of being swallowed, but now that that has happened Duck has no intention of being eaten and so has set up home in the ‘belly of the beast.'”You would be surprised what you can find inside of a wolf”.

But their celebrations give the wolf a bellyache and his howls attract the attention of a hunter…

Despite the limited colour palette, there is much that is included in Klassen’s illustrations that those attuned to looking for detail will enjoy and which will make the ending not only surprising but appropriate.

This story has a fable/fairytale quality that is enhanced by both the choice of characters and the language they use, and its conclusion cements that.  While primarily for younger readers, it also has a place in the library of those a bit older as the underlying message that it is those who are flexible who will flourish in a world and time of change is so relevant.

There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Star

 

 

 

There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Star

There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Star

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Star

P. Crumble

Louis Shea

Scholastic, 2017

24pp., pbk., RRP $A15.99

9781742833309

There was an old lady who swallowed a fly…

So many of a certain generation recall this traditional rhyme from yesteryear and marvelled at how much one old lady could fit in her stomach.  Even the somewhat brutal ending didn’t faze us because it was inevitable.  Now Victorian author P. Crumble has taken this rhyme and built it into a series of hilarious editions that are so much fun for younger readers, encouraging them to read and recite them just for the delight of the words on their tongue and the pictures on their eyes.

So this one, newly released with 3D pictures and glasses, which features the old lady getting very greedy about Christmas, will be the perfect addition to Miss 6’s Santa Sack.    And I’m so glad that even though she swallowed Santa Claus (to wild applause) there is a happy ending.

The Naughtiest Reindeer Takes a Bow

The Naughtiest Reindeer Takes a Bow

The Naughtiest Reindeer Takes a Bow

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Naughtiest Reindeer Takes a Bow

Nicki Greenberg

Allen & Unwin, 2017

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

9781760295653

All the reindeer are fast asleep, tucked up in their beds resting before the big night ahead when their dreams are shattered by Ruby telling them it is time to get up!  Except it’s not.

But she is determined to get a head start on the Christmas deliveries because she is tired of taking the blame for time running out and everyone getting anxious and stressed and so she takes off on her own…

Luckily when she runs out of puff, she crashes into George and Amelia’s home – they are familiar with her from her previous antics in The Naughtiest Reindeer and The Naughtiest Reindeer at the Zoo but what are they to do with her when she is a day early? Easy – they take her to school!!! Oh dear!

The naughtiest reindeer has become a Christmas favourite of the Christmas Countdown and this new adventure is no different.  It rollicks along with rhyme and illustrations each highlighting the chaos that only Ruby can cause! I know two little girls who will enjoy renewing their friendship with her before sharing this latest adventure this Christmas Eve. 

Father Christmas’s Fake Beard

 

 

 

Father Christmas’s Fake Beard

Father Christmas’s Fake Beard

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Father Christmas’s Fake Beard

Terry Pratchett

Mark Beech

Doubleday, 2017

204pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9780857535504

Christmas and Christmas stories are a little bit different in the mind and hands of master storyteller Terry Pratchett.  Instead of the usual, sometimes twee, tales of reindeer, helpful elves and generous children this collection has  a huge exploding mince pie, a pet abominable snowman, and  a very helpful partridge in a pear tree. Father Christmas himself  goes to work at a zoo,  causes chaos in a toy store  and is even arrested for burglary!

This is a previously unpublished selection of seasonal stories from Sir Terry Pratchett, author of the popular Discworld series, and perfect for the Christmas Countdown for slightly older readers who can appreciate his humour and perspective.  Stories are short, funny and liberally illustrated with pictures as wacky as the words.

Given it is nearly three years since his death, this may be the last original, unpublished work offered from this author so it may become a collector’s piece for that alone.  

 

 

I Went to See Santa

 

 

 

I Went to See Santa

I Went to See Santa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Went to See Santa

Paul Howard

Bloomsbury, 2017

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

9781408844724

It’s a classic scenario of little ones and their need to be just that bit better than their friend.  So when the little girl announces that she went to see Santa and got a pair of Christmas glasses, her friend says well he not only got Christmas glasses but also an amazing magic set!

And so it goes on and on, getting more and more fabulous until the most unexpected end!

Young children love stories like this where they can not only join in but also help the ageing, forgetful adult remember all the things in the list.  

If you share this with more than one, prepare for a rollicking, raucous time that will bring joy and delight and an affirmation that stories and books and reading are FUN!

Mr Bambuckle’s Remarkables

Mr Bambuckle’s Remarkables

Mr Bambuckle’s Remarkables

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mr Bambuckle’s Remarkables

Tim Harris

James Hart

Random House Australia, 2017

240pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9780143785859

Imagine walking into class and instead of seeing Miss Schlump you see a man in a dazzling blue suit riding a unicycle balanced on top of a desk! Not only that, he seems to be able to magic tricks like flicking rasher of bacon and some eggs from his sleeves and cooking his breakfast on a pre-heated frying pan. Then to top that off he also seems to know everything about each student already and has a unique way of getting them to tell their stories and overcome whatever is bothering them!

Despite the one-size-fits-all curriculum imposed on teachers, the best know that each student is a unique individual with their own unique personalities shaped by their life’s events and only by reaching and teaching the student not the subject, is the child likely to start knowing themselves and reaching their particular potential.  Mr Bambuckle is such a teacher -although Principal Sternblast is definitely not – and through getting the students to tell their stories within a more general narrative framework he does just that. 

There are 15 students in 12B and each has a thumbnail introductory sketch at the beginning of the book, emphasising that this will be a story about them rather than Mr Bambuckle which is just how a class should be.  The child is very much at the centre of his teaching and author Tim Harris has drawn on his long experience as a primary teacher to show that it is possible to know each child individually and draw out the best from them, starting by giving them ownership of what they will do by having them design their own merit stickers – the tried and true but somewhat meaningless tool-of-trade of many. 

Both independent readers and those listening to it as a read-aloud will either recognise their own teacher or wish they were in 12B,while teachers might also like to be Mr Bambuckle.

Great new story from a new author with others in the series on the horizon!

Molly Mischief: My Perfect Pet

Molly Mischief: My Perfect Pet

Molly Mischief: My Perfect Pet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Molly Mischief: My Perfect Pet

Adam Hargreaves

Pavilion, 2017

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

9781843653424

Molly, aka Molly Mischief or MOLLY!!!, has lots of ideas, some of which are not as good as others.  When her dad takes her and her brother to the zoo, she decides that she would really like a BIG pet, one much bigger than Polka her pet mouse.

And so she tries a few – a hippopotamus, a polar bear, a giraffe, a tiger, a rhinoceros, even a walrus – but none of them is just right.  Even the ostrich and the snake weren’t suitable – her family is so hard to please.  But then she discovers the elephant…

 When his father Roger died after a series of strokes in 1988, Adam took over the successful Mr Men series and even though it took him “years of trial and error” to perfect his father’s art style, he persevered and it is that same canvas that adds the charm to this new series that will resonate with many children who have good but out-there ideas, annoying brothers, and a twinkle in their eye.  

When almost-independent Miss 6 spotted this on the review pile, she pounced on it and did not surface until it was complete, and even after reading it she had so much to tell us as she speculated on the sort of pet she could/would have! A better recommendation than any fancy words I might write!