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The Great Zoo Hullabaloo

The Great Zoo Hullabaloo

The Great Zoo Hullabaloo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Great Zoo Hullabaloo

Mark Carthew

Anil Tortop

New Frontier, 2017

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

9781925059786

“When Jess and Jack open the gates to the zoo
It was strangely deserted. Nobody said BOO.”

So where have all the creatures gone? Because the more they look, the less they see – just trails of scats and feathers and tracks. Determined to find them they separate following the clues but as dusk falls and there is still no sign, Jess is getting concerned.  Then comes the sound of music from the nearby bush and a huge flash of a flare splits the sky and Jack emerges.  The animals are having a party but what are they celebrating?

A charming story told in rhyme which  will enchant young listeners as they try to guess where the animals have gone, and once they’ve been discovered, predict what they are up to. Filled with movement and sound both words and pictures convey the fun and excitement of a party  – just the feel of the word ‘hullabaloo’ on the tongue is fun.  But being part of it is even more fun so be prepared for making music!

But  there is also the opportunity for little ones to learn more about the creatures in the zoo – the fact that each has a different-shaped foot that makes a unique track starts the exploration on the endpapers, the references to the different feathers of the different birds and the introduction of the term “scats” and what they are and how they offer valuable clues about their producer all meld to make this an intriguing initiation into a more in-depth recognition of animals than just their shape and colour.

Further ideas are available in the teachers’ notes and Anil Tortop has demonstrated her illustrative techniques  to show how a pencil sketch becomes such a beautiful picture full of depth and colour.

Somewhere Else

Somewhere Else

Somewhere Else

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Somewhere Else

Gus Gordon

Viking, 2016

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

9780670078851

Some birds fly north; some birds fly south; some birds take the bus… but George Laurent doesn’t go anywhere.  It seems he is too busy baking his scrumptious pastries to be able to explore the world.  Even when his world-travelling customers try to tempt him with descriptions of a sunrise over the Andes, or Paris by night, even the Alaskan tundra in autumn, George always has an excuse – even the ironing is more important!!

But come the bleak, cold days when all his feathered friends have disappeared to warmer parts and George is left alone, his only remaining friend Pascal Lombard drops in looking for somewhere warm for winter.  He is puzzled that George has not gone with the others, and slowly he manages to eke out the truth – George Laurent, baker extraordinaire, does not know how to fly.  When it was flying lesson day all those years ago he had been doing something else and since then he had just made excuses not to – even though he really would have liked to have been able to go somewhere else.

Pascal, who believes he has a knack for solving tricky problems, is determined to teach George how to fly but it is not until they see a picture in a newspaper…

This is an engaging tale which will resonate with many children – having a zillion reasons for not doing something you can’t but are expected to be able to do.  As a teacher I was a master at detecting avoidance behaviour because I lived it at home with my son, so as soon as I started reading I knew there was an underlying issue.  But astute readers may well pick it up in the clues in the amazing illustrations which use a variety of media, particularly collage.  From the carefully selected advertisements of old styles of luggage on the endpapers, Gus Gordon has skilfully used pieces of print from all sorts of sources to add depth, mystery and humour to the exquisite illustrations. Every time you read it there is more to peruse and ponder.

Time to get out the atlas and discover the places that George’s friends went and maybe even investigate the concept of animal (and human) migration.  Why are they always on the move? We can tell the seasons where I live by the variety of birdlife that is present so perhaps it’s time to do an inventory of the local birdlife over time – perfect real-life context for data collection and interpretation. Or perhaps a physiological investigation into how most birds fly but some can’t and how this has been translated into human flight. Then there is the philosophical question about “no place like home” as George and Pascal discover something familiar is missing from their travels. Some children might even learn from George and seek help to find pathways around their own difficulties.

I love picture books that seem to be written for one age group but with some consideration can transcend all ages, offering the prefect reason to return to them again and again apart from just being an absorbing story.  A CBCA Notable for 2017, I was surprised this did not make the shortlist.

 

Through the Gate

Through the Gate

Through the Gate

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Through the Gate

Sally Fawcett

EK Books, 2017

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

9781925335415

As she looks through the gate of her new house, the little girl is feeling really despondent because it is anything but new.  All she could see were the drooping roof, the peeling paint, and the crumbling steps.  As she sits on the step pondering all the changes of a new house, a new town and a new school she sees nothing bright in her future.  But gradually, slowly, one step at a time things begin to change – and so does she.

This is a familiar story for many children who are uprooted from their comfort zone that has been told on so many different levels that it is quite brilliant.

Firstly there is the concept – as the house is slowly restored to something smart and vibrant so does her mood and her willingness to look beyond her untied shoelaces, gradually lifting her head to the possibility and potential that surrounds her. Then there is the text itself – carefully chosen vocabulary that reflects the girl’s moods, changing with each step forward that she takes in settling into her new environment.  This is accompanied by illustrations that have an increasing use of colour and detail, climaxing in full-colour spreads as the future becomes clearer. And throughout, the changes are reflected in the life of the little bird that first appears on the front endpaper as a lonely soul with a forlorn twig and ends on the back endpaper showing all the riches of life.

This is a story about nothing staying the same; about even the most dismal day waking to a sunrise soon; about how our moods and feelings can colour our world; and cliches like “light at the end of the tunnel”;  “some days are diamonds and some days are stones” and “without rain there can be no rainbows.” While younger readers may engage on a more superficial level at spotting the changes to the house and the bird’s business, older readers may be able to dig deeper and look at the more philosophical ideas that underpin the story as well as learning about looking for the positive, managing emotions and expectations, and developing strategies that will help them deal with new, tough or confusing situations, physical or emotional.  Some might even like to share such occasions and how they coped perhaps sending a message to other classmates that they are not alone and not on their own.

Change can be challenging but time can take care of things.

Extensive teaching notes are available.

The Catawampus Cat

The Catawampus Cat

The Catawampus Cat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Catawampus Cat

Jason Carter Eaton

Gus Gordon

Viking 2017

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

9780143785583

Dictionaries define ‘catawampus’ as ‘out of alignment’, ‘crooked’, ‘askew’ ‘awry’… but when the catawampus cat arrived in town early on Tuesday morning nobody really noticed.  People went about their busy business as usual until the cat caught the eye of Mr Grouse the grocer who tried to straighten him.  To no avail.  But when his wife Lydia tilted her head to figure out what was wrong with the cat, her life changed.  As did that of the barber’s client who found herself with a unique haircut; the painter whose boring job on the mayor’s house suddenly became a work of art; and Captain Whizzbang set a record he was not even trying to do!  Even the town librarian found herself taking a new path and as for Bushy Brows Billiam…

Meanwhile the cat moves nonchalantly on, in contrast to  the life of the town with its unceasing traffic and frenetic people all captured in the delightful, detailed illustrations that emphasise the non-stop nature of city life.  As the town begins to learn to look at life from a new angle (literally) Mayor Meyer declares Catawampus Cat Day but the catawampus cat has a different idea.

This is a quirky story that illustrates the quirky nature of cats and their ability to ignore, if not disdain, the actions of humans. There is a lot of clever wordplay and  graphics that entertain the adult reader but mostly young readers will love the aloofness of the cat and will relate to its ability to be totally engaged on itself, and not be distracted by anything going on around it. At the very least they will love their new word and the way it rolls of the tongue!  Charming!

Rock Pool Secrets

Rock Pool Secrets

Rock Pool Secrets

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rock Pool Secrets

Narelle Oliver

Walker Books, 2017

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

9781922179357

“Down on the rocky shore, waves crash and smash.  Then the tide goes out and the sea is calm. It’s a good time to explore the rock pools.”

For some the magnificence of high tide with the waves pounding the coast is their favourite sea-time – the tranquility of low tide is not dramatic enough for them. But what looks to be a peaceful, not-much-happening environment  is actually one of the greatest activity on the seashore because the myriad of creatures that live there have just a few short hours to feed and do what they do before the inexorable tide encroaches again.  You just have to take the time to look.

In this superbly illustrated new book from Narelle Oliver, she takes us on a journey around the rockpools pointing out things that might stay hidden to the non-looker exposing them underneath flaps that blend into the artwork as well as the creatures blend into their habitats.  The transparent shrimp in its leafy hideaway; the hermit crab in its seashell home; the anemones like seafloor flowers…each brought to life in their subtle colours in extraordinarily detailed linocuts  waiting to be discovered nestling in crevices, hiding in the seaweed or camouflaged on the rocks.. As well as the captions that accompany the text there is also a glossary with further information about the creatures featured that will inspire young beach-goers to spend some time looking and wondering and marvelling at nature’s disguises when they next catch the beach at low tide. 

My seaside home...

My seaside home…

As a child I grew up in the very south of the South Island of New Zealand (next stop was literally Antarctica) and we were allowed to roam the rockpools all day (until the tide came in) so so many of my childhood memories are built around the discoveries we made.  Nowadays, when I get to the coast I head for the rockpools and do what I did way back when and spend many calming, healing hours just looking.  

Armed with the beauty and knowledge from this book, perhaps there will be a new generation of hunters inspired to look a little closer, tread a little more gently and delight in the hidden wonders especially as summer draws to a close and many are making a last trip to the beach until the warm comes again.

Over the years of her too-short life, Narelle Oliver has brought nature to life for young readers in her exquisite works like The Hunt, Leaf Tail, The Best Beak in Boonaroo Bay, Fox and Fine Feathers, Sand Swimmers and for her final work to be one that focuses on my favourite environment is just superb.

Vale Narelle.  You gave us so much and we are indebted to you.  Thank you.

Words

Words

Words

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Words

Christoph Niemann

Greenwillow, 2016

352pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

 9780062455505

 

What can you do with a word?  For me drawing and writing are very closely related. Both a word and a picture have the power to express extremely complex thoughts and emotions with amazing simplicity. Think of the word “love,” or a drawing of a smiling face. Being able to understand words and images opens the door to knowledge, communication, and connection to people all over the world.”

What originated as a set of cards for the New York City Department of Education to inspire children to learn English in a playful way has evolved into a most unusual book that takes more than 300 of the words we use often and interprets them in simple line drawings that require the reader to look closely to match meaning and picture. The illustration of the meaning is not always literal so that it has to be teased out and talked about, enhancing the reader’s understanding of it. Niemann makes connections between the word and emotions, cause and effect, actions, opposites, comparisons  and whatever else he feels will best express the richness of its meaning in an entertaining way that will teach and endure.  It is the relationship between the word and its illustration that is the key to explaining its meaning, rather than just a set of graphemes and a tangible object.  In fact many of the words that are included are not nouns or verbs but other parts of speech that can be tricky to explain. (He has even added a pictorial explanation for the common parts of speech at the end that should really help students remember them!)  Others such as scintilla and Brobdingnagian rely on their juxtaposition to enhance their meaning and add to the humour while homophones are depicted with their multiple meanings. And the toast that ALWAYS falls jam-side down is the perfect definition  

 

 

As much fun as this book is in and of itself, it is also a perfect springboard for getting students to try their hand at their own pictorial explanations for those words that trip them up.  There are many applications in the teaching day to have students interpret words through graphics and let them broaden their understanding of how our language works.

What looks like a simple book at first glance is full of promise and potential as a teaching tool.

Colour Your Own Medieval Alphabet

Colour Your Own Medieval Alphabet

Colour Your Own Medieval Alphabet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Colour Your Own Medieval Alphabet

British Library

Pavilion. 2016

56pp., pbk., RRP $A22.99

9781911216001

Before the age of printing made books more accessible to the general populace, texts were painstakingly produced by hand in monasteries by monks who were among the few literate people in a community.  Artists known as illuminators embellished a text made by a scribe with a colourful, highly decorative capital letter often gilded with gold leaf so it appeared to be filled with light.  Such books were priceless and became treasured objects.

From its collection of texts, most of which are 500 years old,  the British Library has selected 26 examples, each representing a letter of the alphabet and each annotated with the origin of the original, and transformed them into intricate outlines perfect for those who enjoy the challenge of colouring in.  There are samples from medieval charters and seals, historical and literary manuscripts, from Virgil to Chaucer and Royal Statutes to the Book of Psalms and the endpapers have reproductions of the originals so there is a choice to try to duplicate the original or create something new.

While there are many benefits of colouring in for children that centre around the development of hand-eye co-ordination and spatial awareness, it is becoming a favoured occupation by those who are older for the therapeutic qualities particularly promoting mindfulness and reducing stress.  

Although photocopying of the images for multiple use in a makerspace environment would be a breach of copyright, nevertheless each page could be given to individuals in need of a break, Printed on quality paper they would make a colourful display which could spark an investigation into the origin and history of the written word, the history and origin of the process of illuminations or even life in the Middle Ages generally, particularly the role of religion which is such a driving force for many, even today.  The current anti-Islamic fervour which seems to be building around the world has very deep roots!

It could also become the ubiquitous alphabet chart found in primary libraries or even become the signage for the fiction section.  Imagine the boost to a child’s self-esteem when they see their work put to such a useful purpose!

This books offers more than just a shoosh-and-colour activity to fill in time. It has the potential to take the students on a journey into our past.

illuminature

illuminature

illuminature

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

illuminature

Rachel Williams

Carnovsky

Wide-Eyed, 2016

64pp., hbk., RRP $A35.00

9781847808868

“Nature never stops.  With every tick of the clock, an animal wakes up and goes in search of food. The sky might be dark when the creature first stirs; night-time is ruled by the nocturnal animals.  During the light of day diurnal animals like to hunt.  And as the world welcomes dawn, or bids farewell to the day at dusk, crepuscular creatures appear.”

And in this most amazing book the reader gets to discover what’s out and about at the various times of the planet’s rotation.  Firstly you select a destination from amongst ten different habitats which include such diversity as the Simpson Desert, the Weddell and Ross Seas of Antarctica, the rainforest of the Congo, the Andes Mountains, even the Ganges River basin. From the observation deck what appears to be a jumble of colour slowly exposes itself as the outlines of a number of creatures, but when you then use the special multi-coloured lens which is supplied, and peer through the different colours a whole new world emerges! The red lens exposes the daytime creatures, the blue lens those who prefer a darker environment while the green lens illuminates the plant life of the region.  Then to make the experience even better, there is a double-page spread that identifies each creature with some brief information about it.  There are 180 different creatures to discover throughout the book, 18 for each region!

This is not a ready reference book packed full of information about the world’s habitats and their inhabitants. There are countless other resources that do that.  This is an introduction to the boundless wonders of nature, its diversity and difference that reveals itself with the passage of time and which will leave the reader with a feeling of awe and perhaps a greater awareness of just what might be living in or dependent on the environment as they go stomping through it.  It truly does illuminate Nature.

Have a sneak peek at what’s on offer for The Simpson Desert.  (image from Let Them Be Small)

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

Or check out the YouTube trailer…