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Why I Love Summer

Why I Love Summer

Why I Love Summer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why I Love Summer

Michael Wagner

Tom Jellett

Puffin, 2018

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

9780143783749

There are four seasons in a year, and they’re all awesome, but only one of them gets to be summer!

Summer in Australia is unique for many reasons, not the least of which is that is very much a family time and this story, as bright as the season it’s about, celebrates this.  With his family involved in all sorts of activities – so many of them familiar to the young readers who will enjoy this – it’s an opportunity to not only get excited about all the outdoor free fun that summer offers, but also for the adult reader to reminisce about happy childhood memories from their own summers. Perhaps even recreate them. 

Backyard cricket, wheelbarrow races, cooling off under the sprinkler, sharing fun with friends at the local swimming pool, ice-cream o’clock. extended bedtimes as the long summer nights laze on as the barbecue smokes in the background, holidays at the beach amidst crowds of people with the same idea  – what could be more iconic than that?

Use it to kickstart an investigation into the seasons, or spend the last week of the year creating a mural of all the activities students are planning to celebrate the upcoming summer holidays.

At a time when money is often tight because of the Christmas splurge and screens seem to soak up so much time, this is the perfect book to celebrate the season and make memories to last through both winter and adulthood!

 

 

 

Midnight at the Library

Midnight at the Library

Midnight at the Library

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Midnight at the Library

Ursula Dubosarsky

Ron Brooks

NLA Publishing, 2018

36pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9780642279316

A long time ago a boy looked out of a window and wondered about the world. And as he thought and wondered, his head filled with words and they came out of his head, down his arm, into his hand and into his fingers and onto the page… Over time and place that little book was opened and loved, given and taken, closed and lost, found and forgotten as it journeyed until it is now waiting to be discovered in a library.

In this beautifully written and stunningly illustrated story by the familiar team of Dubosarsky and Brooks, young readers are introduced to the concept of a book and its critical place in society as the purveyor of stories that tell us about who and what has gone before, the roots of who we are as a nation and indeed, as people.  And just as this little book lives on in the library to tell its seekers its stories, young readers can imagine what story they could write today to be discovered and revered years and generations hence. 

As well as telling the story of the book, Dubosarsky and Brooks also celebrate the importance of libraries as the safe havens of the written word, a concept also explored on the final pages as some of the books, as magical as that in the story,  that are available to be explored at the National Library of Australia are highlighted.

Apart from just being a wonderful read, the potential to use this book across the curriculum is almost endless as students consider the role of the written word, the history of its communication, the changes in format, the types of books and stories on offer and the need for a common set of symbols, syntax and semantics to make our message understood regardless of the language we speak.

Formal teachers’ notes are available but for me, this has so much more potential than just satisfying some AC outcomes. It’s all wrapped up in the universal wonder of story.

 

 

 

 

Giraffe Problems

Giraffe Problems

Giraffe Problems

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Giraffe Problems

Jory John

Lane Smith

Walker Books, 2018 

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

9781406383164

Edward the giraffe does not like his long neck.  In fact, he’s embarrassed by it. 

It’s too long.

Too bendy.

Too narrow.

Too dopey.

Too patterned.

Too stretchy.

Too high.

Too lofty.

Too … necky.

He thinks everyone stares at it, and as he tries to disguise with ties and scarves and hide it behind trees and shrubs, he admires those with much smaller necks.  And then he meets Cyrus the turtle who is frustrated by his short neck and…  Together they learn that they can co-operate to solve problems and accept themselves as they are.

The creators of Penguin Problems  have combined forces again to bring young readers a new book, one that focuses on acknowledging and being grateful for those things we do have because what we see as a negative may well be a positive to others.  They may even envy it.  Someone’s long legs might be just what the shorter person desires; someone’s auburn hair might be the thing that makes them stand out in a crowd… Encouraging children to accept themselves as they are physically and to celebrate that which makes them unique is all part of their development and may help them to become more comfortable in their own skin, more self-assured and less likely to follow fads and trends or even risky behaviour as they get older. Given that body image issues are concerns of even some of the youngest readers, any story that helps with self-acceptance has to be worthwhile. To discuss this without getting personal, children could make charts of the pros and cons of features such as the elephant’s trunk, the zebras stripes, the lion’s mane or other distinctive characteristics of different species that they suggest. 

There is also a subtle sub-text about not being so self-focused.  While Edward is busy admiring the necks of the other animals, they feel he is staring at them and making them feel self-conscious so children can be encouraged to think of their actions from the perspective of others. Learning that there are “two sides to a story” is an important part of growing up.

Another addition to the mindfulness collection as we try to foster strong, positive mental health in our young readers. 

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

 

Under the Southern Cross

Under the Southern Cross

Under the Southern Cross

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Under the Southern Cross

Frané Lessac

Walker Books, 2018

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

9781925381016

Nighttime in Australia and amongst the billions of stars that shine each night is the iconic Southern Cross constellation that is so symbolic of this country. With its four bright stars of Alpha Crucis, Beta Crucis, Gamma Crucis, and Delta Crucis and the not-so-bright Epsilon Crucis it hovers in the skies of the southern hemisphere all year round, providing a sort of security blanket for those who live under it.

But what do those who do live under it, do at nighttime? This superbly illustrated book by the creator of A is for Australian Animals: A factastic tour explores Australia after dark, showing what its people do once the sun has sunk in the west.  From the penguin parade at Phillip Island, to watching the Aurora Australis in Tasmania to being one of the many thousands who attend the annual Dawn Service at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, we are out and about making the most of the sunless hours, much of it provided by Mother Nature herself.

Each double-page spread focuses on a different part of the country combining a simple lyrical sentence with a few pertinent facts about the phenomenon being observed.

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

As well as being a beautiful book about our country and its lifestyle, it begs for children to discover why there is night and day, share their stories about what they do after dark, especially if there are attractions unique to their area, and, of course, investigate the Southern Cross, its features and its impact on our lives such as being on the flag. 

Frané Lessac always creates extraordinary from ordinary and this is no different. 

Sonam and the Silence

Sonam and the Silence

Sonam and the Silence

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sonam and the Silence

Eddie Ayres

Ronak Taher

Allen & Unwin, 2018

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

9781760293666

When Sonam turns seven, she is deemed no longer a child and her big brother orders her to cover her hair and begin to work. But the streets of Kabul and its market are too loud and scary for Sonam, the cacophony making a storm in her head and so she runs.  As she runs, she hears a strange sound and follows it, finding an old man with milky eyes and a curved spine in a garden of mulberry and pomegranate trees.  In his arms he is cradling a rubat, making music that Sonam has never heard before because in Taliban Afghanistan music has been banned.  

The music captures Sonam’s heart and each day she visits the old man, learning to play the rubat that he has given her – the one he played as a child.  But when her brother hears her humming and investigates further, he takes Sonam’s rubat forbidding her to sing or play again.  And as the noise builds in her head again, and the roar of gunfire and rockets is so close, she becomes withdrawn and her heart shrinks.  Until one day, she knows she just has to go back to the pomegranate garden…

This is “a lyrical fable-like story by the well-known musician, author and broadcaster Eddie Ayres, about the irrepressible power of music.” Based on his own experiences in Afghanistan and a young girl he knew there, he challenges the reader to think what a world without music would be like, particularly as it is often the key connection between peoples with no other common language. But as Sonam discovers, even if there is no audible external sound, there is still music.  

Illustrated by Iranian-Australian visual artist Ronak Taher using sombre colours and many layers and textures, which offer uplifting features like Sonam floating above the noise and chaos of the city, this is a thought-provoking story about how other children live in other parts of the world, and, indeed, how some of those in our classes have lived. While music has now been allowed in Afghanistan, the six years that the silence reigned must have been devastating for those for whom music is as essential as food. Readers are challenged to consider what their life would be like if something they held dear was banned, and if others prevented them from indulging in it because of the dangers such behaviour could invite.  Ayres suggest an Australia without sport, but what about a country without books? As with no music, how would the stories be told and continued?

As Christmas draws closer and the hype escalates, this is a book to share and consider those whose lives are very different and for whom joy comes from something other than a brightly wrapped present. 

Catvinkle

Catvinkle

Catvinkle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Catvinkle

Elliot Perlman

Laura Stitzel

Puffin, 2018 

240pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

9780143786368

Catvinkle lives in Amsterdam, with her barber-owner Mr Sabatini, and she likes to think that the world revolves around her, as cats generally do. From her basket near the fireplace in what she considers to be her room, she watches the legs and feet of the passers-by as they walk past her window, delighted when she sees someone with socks that don’t match and occasionally swishing her tail that has a big red bow tied to it. All is well with her world.

But one day, kindly Mr Sabatini brings home a stray Dalmatian to live with them and Catvinkle’s life is not only interrupted but is irrevocably changed.  Even though cats and dogs are not supposed to like each other, Ula’s politeness and meekness impress Catvinkle and gradually they become friends.  But when they present their friendship to others of their species, they find that what they have is not necessarily acceptable to all.

Written in response to what the author describes “as a ‘surge in, and tolerance for, racism and bullying’ in public discourse” this is a gentle story that addresses  that racism and bullying and promotes social inclusion while remaining on the surface, a story about an unlikely friendship between a cat and a dog. If they can accept a llama who plays backgammon, why can’t others?

Perlman has been short-listed twice for the Miles Franklin Literary Award and his skill with putting words onto paper is very evident – this story, while intended for young independent readers, engages adults so it makes a perfect bedtime read-aloud to younger children too.

Something different for those who like something different. 

Teachers’ notes are available.

Australia Illustrated (2nd edition)

Australia Illustrated

Australia Illustrated

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Australia Illustrated (2nd edition)

Tania McCartney

EK Books, 2018

96pp., hbk., RRP $A32.99

9781925335880

“Australia. Big. Beautiful. Diverse. From the First People to washing lines and crocodiles, football and sunshine, koalas and akubras, skyscrapers and beaches, this is a glorious tribute to this wide brown land and its rich and varied multicultural communities. Vibrantly illustrated with watercolour, ink and mono-printing, it not only celebrates the more ‘typical’ Australian flora, fauna and landmarks, but also showcases the everyday quirks and idiosyncrasies that make Australia unique.”

This new, updated edition is just as superb as the first, and you can read my review of that here. A must-have in your school library and personal collections, and the perfect gift for someone overseas, regardles of their age..

 

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Meltdown

 Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Meltdown

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Meltdown

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Meltdown

Jeff Kinney

Puffin Books, 2018 

224pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9780143309352

Lots of kids live on Greg Hoffley’s street, but because it is partly on the flat and partly on the hill, loyalties are fiercely divided and any peace is an uneasy truce. Those on the flat think they own the street, refusing to let those from higher up play there, but then the tables are turned when it snows and those from down below want to come uphill to enjoy sledding.  “if you live on Surrey Street, you’re either a HILL kid or a NON-hill kid and there’s no switching sides.”

After a miserable week of bitterly cold days which have been a trial for Greg as he had to face walking to school while other friends’ parents drive past; indoor recesses where people sneeze their germs over him; worrying about frostbite because he is so skinny; navigating perilous footpaths and a host of other dangers that made his life more than difficult, his life is made more miserable because he’s in trouble for not digging the driveway clear, even though he did have it done but because he tried to renege on the deal he had made with some neighbourhood kids, they piled all the snow back again! So when the weekend comes and he’s looking forward to a lie-in and playing a few video games, he’s dismayed to discover that his mother decides he needs to spend the day outside being active, and even locks the door so he can’t come back inside.

And that’s when the conflict starts… but the end result is a great lesson in dealing with differences, problem solving,  strategising, co-operating, knowing when to compromise, all life skills that are so important.

Greg Hoffley has a legion of fans as his popularity grows from when we first met him more than 10 years ago  and this 13th book in the series will not only delight them but also garner him a lot more as new readers learn about this young lad who struggles to fit in with his peers in middle school (Years 5-8 in the USA) and his loyal best friend Rowley Jefferson.  With their first-person narrative that echoes the voice and thoughts of so many boys like Greg, their cartoon drawings and humour, this addition to the series is available in paperback, hardback, audio book and ebook so regardless of the format that most appeals to a young reader, they can access it.  

This is one of those books that even reluctant readers will want to have because to be talking about it will mean being part of the “in-crowd”, important for those who otherwise struggle to belong.

 

 

 

Elbow Grease

Elbow Grease

Elbow Grease

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Elbow Grease

John Cena

Howard McWilliam

Puffin Books, 2018

40pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

9780143794400

Elbow Grease is the smallest monster truck in the Demolition Derby. Even though his brothers Tank, Flash, Pinball and Crash were tougher, faster, smarter and braver, they didn’t intimidate him nor deter him from racing.  Even the fact that he was different because he ran on an lithium-ion battery and needed to be recharged every night did not stop him believing in himself and his ability to keep up with his brothers.  Because Elbow Grease had gumption, that mixture of strong will and determination to keep on going even when it seemed all was lost.

When Mel the mechanic puts a large poster of a monster truck Grand Prix on the wall, Elbow Grease is determined to compete, regardless of the derision of his brothers.  He drove to the Grand Prix by himself, snuck in behind all the others at the starting line and off he went.  It soon became obvious that the other trucks had more experience and better technique but Elbow Grease refused to give up. On an on he went until it started to pour and his battery went completely flat…

Inspired by growing up with four older brothers, John Cena has captured the spirit of determination that younger siblings so often have as they strive to keep up, and has created a powerful story about trying new things, resilience, facing fears and obstacles, and doing everything you can to keep going.  It’s a lesson in “Of at first you don’t succeed….” 

Told with a bare narrative with all the speech in speech bubbles, sometimes the message is less than subtle, but young readers will delight in the bright, bold illustrations that carry the expression and the humour.  Some who are familiar with WWE competitors might even recognise Cena from that field and be inspired because of that.  In an interview, Cena said, “With ‘Elbow Grease’ and the books to follow, I want to offer kids a fun and engaging way to learn about the power of ambition, dedication, and heart. These concepts have been transformative in my life, from my childhood up to now, and it’s so important to me to pass the positivity on and help our youngest generation see that right mindset is key to achievement,”

Monster trucks appeal to so many little boys that even if they don’t absorb Cena’s message at first, at least they will continue to discover the joy of reading as they find books about the topics that interest them. 

We Are Together

We Are Together

We Are Together

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We Are Together

Britta Teckentrup

Little Tiger, 2018

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

9781848576582

On our own we’re special, And we can chase our dream.
But when we join up, hand in hand, Together we’re a team. 

This is the message of this story  – the power of one, but the even greater power of many.  Starting with being content with one’s own company flying a kite, it grows to embrace others in our lives, known or not-yet, so whether it’s being caught in a storm or being passionate about a cause, the support and strength found in the love and friendship of others alongside us is cause for joy and celebration.

If ever we’re lonely, we’ll just say out loud: Let’s all stand together, one big happy crowd! 

The cover is intriguing with cutouts peeking through to just two of the children on the stunning endpapers showing children of all nationalities and ethnicities, and as each page is turned the cutouts increase revealing an ever-widening circle of children capturing the innate way they have of making friends regardless of any external differences. 

 

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

It provides an opportunity to talk about not only receiving a helping hand but also extending one, valuing and sharing the things we do well personally while respecting and trying the things others can do. It emphasises that while we are individuals, humans are also dependent on others – no man is an island – and that co-operation, collaboration and company are essential elements of our well-being.