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The Wind in the Willows

The Wind in the Willows

The Wind in the Willows

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Wind in the Willows

Kenneth Grahame

Robert Ingpen

Walker, 2017

64pp., hbk., RRP $A27.99

9781760650247

Bored with his annual spring cleaning, Mole leaves his underground home to explore his surroundings and discovers a small community of other creatures living on the riverbank of a gentle English river. His first new friend is Rat, and after a long lazy afternoon boating down the river, Rat invites Mole to live with him.  And then the adventures begin as he meets Toad of Toad Hall and Badger.

This children’s classic first published in 1908 has remained in print in many guises for 110 years as well as being converted to other media including  stage, film  and television. Now, an abridged version beautifully illustrated by Robert Ingpen is available for another generation to enjoy the adventures of these four friends in Edwardian England. 

Whether read aloud as a bedtime story, a perfect vehicle for introducing young listeners to the concept of “chapter books” where the same characters feature in a complete story in each chapter, or as a foray into longer books by the newly independent reader, timid Mole, friendly Water Rat, imperious Badger and mischievous Toad will find a new set of fans as yet another generation follows their fun and frolics.

Ingpen himself has an impressive body of work including a range of children’s classics, his work was launched with the release of Colin Thiele’s Storm Boy in 1974, and as the only Australian illustrator to have won the Hans Christian Andersen Medal, his portfolio would make an excellent introduction for studying illustration in children’s picture books.  

Storm Boy

Storm Boy

“I just want to make pictures that help get messages across and tell stories and, if children are involved, I want to be able to have them maintain their natural imagination for as long as possible.”

An exquisite addition to a personal or a library’s collection.

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

The Poesy Ring – a love story

The Poesy Ring

The Poesy Ring

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Poesy Ring – a love story

Bob Graham

Walker, 2017

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

9781406378276

Way back when, in this case in 1830 in County Kerry, Ireland, poesy rings were given as tokens of friendship and affection between lovers.  And way back when, just as today, bitter words can be spoken, relationships break up and rings discarded. 

This one, aptly inscribed “Love Never Dies”, is caught by the wind, tumbling end over end and settles deep in a meadow near the sea where it lies for seasons undisturbed until a little deer catches it in its hoof as it eats the acorns from the tree that has grown ad fruited over the years beside the ring.  Then its adventure begins until over 200 years later it is placed on a new finger, showing that its message is as eternal as the land that has ensconced it.

This is Bob Graham at his story-telling best using the poetry of his words and the beauty of his illustrations to take the reader on a journey through and across time showing that the world and its living things keep turning and enduring offering hope and optimism even if things seem a bit bleak in the short term.  And it is the same with love and relationships – just as the ships that cross the ocean near the meadow sail through storm and war as the lighthouse guides them to safety – so the bonds between people can be tested, saved or severed.

Astute readers might pick up on the dedication at the front of the book and the date that the love story turns full circle – perhaps this has been inspired by something very personal to the creator. 

While publishers’ and booksellers’ website suggest that this is a story for 3-8 year olds, it is so full of symbolism that it is a story for all ages.  Parents sharing it with their young children might need to offer a few explanations, pointing out how Graham has shown how time passes and love endures and once they understand the subtlety of the illustrations they will learn to look for the clues and cues by themselves, not only enriching their engagement with this story but enhancing their understanding of how top-shelf picture books work. It is a story that needs to read and then read again so the beauty of its message is as entrenched as the beauty of the prose and pictures.

Like so many of his previous titles, this is most likely to be on awards lists in 2018.

 

 

Swan Lake

Swan Lake

Swan Lake

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Swan Lake 

Anne Spudvilas

Allen & Unwin, 2017

48pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9781743318454

Over 140 years ago, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky brought a story about first love, betrayal, loss, and good versus evil to life through a musical score he called Swan Lake. and on March 4 1877 through the choreography of Julius Reisinger and a few years later that of Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov that music was interpreted through dance, laying the foundations of one of the most loved and enduring of the classical ballets.

Now, in 2017, it has been reinterpreted through the stunning artwork of Anne Spudvilas.   

With a synopsis of each act to explain what the reader is going to experience, the story unfolds in pictures that echo the dark, hazy, haunting mood that permeates the story – the lake at midnight, the malevolence afoot at the Grand Ball,  the storm that accompanied Siegfried’s battle with the Sorcerer and the final tragic ending. Dramatic in their composition and demonstrating how many shades of grey there really are, Spudvilas has captured the essential elements of the story while also portraying the atmosphere that the music and choreography bring to the experience.

For those who are unfamiliar with Swan Lake as a ballet it is a complete sensual experience in itself; for those like me (and Spudvilas) who have been entranced with it since childhood, it is yet another layer adding to the wonder and love of the original. 

Definitely one to add to the collection for a range of reasons – at its basic level it is the story behind a classic ballet and its  interpretation in pictures;  but at a deeper level there is so much to explore and interpret such as  the creation of mood through a monochromatic scheme; the use of imagery and colour to identify emotions or portent…

While the long-ago LP record cover that took me into a lifelong love of ballet in general and Swan Lake in particular has disappeared forever, this new interpretation will be a suitable substitute and will join the other members of my treasured collection that brings back such happy memories. And even though I know I will only ever be Odette in my dreams maybe it will spark a dream for my granddaughters!

Watch this for in the 2018 awards lists…

Cinderella

Cinderella

Cinderella

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cinderella

Susanna Davidson

Sara Gianassi

Usborne Pop-Up Fairy Tales, 2017

10pp., pop-up, RRP$A14.99

9781474939553

What do you get when you combine one of the world’s most popular stories – there is a version in almost every culture with 345 of them being documented in 1893 – and the popular format of pop-up pictures?  You get this new version of this age-old tale recreated using the core of Perrault’s text and the most stunning paper engineering that will absolutely delight young readers.  

While maybe not suitable for general circulation through the library, it has its place in a collection of versions of the story that could be compared and contrasted with other versions both those we know and those from other cultures to identify the core elements which appear in each one as well as the central meaning. 

A new look for an old favourite.

Niko Draws A Feeling

Niko Draws A Feeling

Niko Draws A Feeling

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Niko Draws A Feeling

Bob Raczka

Simone Shin

Carolrhoda Books, 2017

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

9781467798433

Like many children, Niko loved to make pictures and everywhere he went he had a packet of coloured pencils and a pad of paper.

He was inspired by so much of what he saw that he just had to draw it, and when inspiration hit it felt like a window opening in his brain. An idea would flit through the open window like a butterfly, flutter down to his stomach, then along his arm and fingers to his pencils where it would escape onto his paper in a whirlwind of colour,

But in a world of what-is no one understood his pictures when he shared them.  They could not see the ice cream truck, the sun, or the robin’s nest because Nico had drawn the feelings that he felt – the ring-a-ling of the bell of the icecream truck, the warmth of the sun on his father’s face, the hard work of the mother robin making her nest- and so his pictures were too abstract to their rooted-in-reality viewers. This inability to understand his interpretations of his world had an impact on Niko and that night he drew a picture of his feelings, taping it to the back of his door where it wouldn’t be seen.

But even though he viewed the world through different eyes he was undaunted and as he set off with his paper and pencils the next day, a removalist van pulled in next door.  Niko’s world was about to change… he meets someone who feels the butterfly land on her fingers when she sees his pictures.

In the late 70s just as I was beginning my teaching career and finding my feet in the classroom, Harry Chapin released a song that had a profound effect on me and my teaching, helping me understand the individuality of people and that their differences should be not only accepted but celebrated.  And all those memories and lyrics came flooding back from 40 years ago as soon as I started reading Niko Draws A Feeling.  This is a story that acknowledges that being different can be difficult, that admires the resilience of those who accept themselves for who they are regardless, and that affirms that no matter how outside-the-square we are there are others like us and if we are lucky our path through life will find them.

Raczka has written a story that should have an impact on both adults and children and perhaps even on teachers, in the way Flowers Are Red had on me. Cleverly, Simone Shin’s illustrations bridge the world of Niko and those who look at his drawings.  They are clearly recognisable for what they are but their depiction uses media and techniques which step well away from photographic representations or the realistic style we are familiar with.

A book that will change the reader. If I were to draw my feelings about it, the page would be filled with red hearts.

 

The Amazing Monster Detectoscope

The Amazing Monster Detectoscope

The Amazing Monster Detectoscope

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Amazing Monster Detectoscope

Graeme Base

Penguin, 2017

28pp.,  hbk., RRP $A29.99

9780670079308

My house is full of monsters. Some are big and some are small.

They lounge around the living room and huddle in the hall.

But I am going to find them all – all those monsters have no hope,

‘Cos I’ve saved up and got myself this cool DetectoScope.

And thus armed with his amazing machine our hero goes in search of the monsters, finding them in all the locations he expected -the lounge, the garden shed, his sister’s room, under the stairs, even in the kitchen drawers. By the time he gets to the 9th location, the bathroom, he’s starting to have second thoughts about this monster hunting – he’s finding way too many to be comfortable.  So there is no Location Ten – he’s thrown his Detectoscope away. But suddenly the ground starts to move and buildings start to sway – it looks like the monsters are after him and they are heading his way!  So does he flee in fear  or does he have the courage to turn and face them?

See the name Graeme Base on a book and you know you are in for a treat – an intriguing story and outstanding, detailed artwork at the very least – and this new release is no different.  But now he has added paper engineering to the mix and added a completely new dimension which is not only jaw-droppingly amazing in its detail and precision but is also intrinsic to the story as the monsters are revealed.  And very scary they are too. 

This is one to read aloud, read alone and read together and each experience will be different as new things reveal themselves.  It is a story for all ages and we each see monsters in places where there is nothing but our imaginations and the ‘what-ifs’ so both its theme and message apply to all.

Another masterpiece that is sure to feature on awards list. 

Leaf

Leaf

Leaf

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leaf

Sandra Dieckmann

Flying Eye Books, 2017

32pp., hbk., RRP $A27.99

9781911171317

 

Crow saw it first. The strange white creature, carried upon the dark waves towards the shore…

When a polar bear arrives unexpectedly in the woods, a creature unlike anything the other animals  had seen, they fear and avoid him, suspecting him to be dangerous particularly when it began to collect leaves. They nicknamed him Leaf and desperately wanted him to leave because no one should live in fear.  Then one day Leaf burst through the forest covered in leaves and leapt off the hill with a giant roar.  Perhaps inspired by the crow’s feathers that helped it fly to freedom he has turned the leaves into wings, but sadly they lifted him but briefly and he tumbled into the lake. 

A meeting of the other creatures was held and attitudes started to soften, but like many such meetings, the only outcome was an agreement to disagree and nothing was done. But when Leaf tried to fly again a few days later, this time landing in the ocean realisation dawned and  things begin to change…

There is a quote on the dedication page of this book…

“Deeper meaning resides in the fairy tales told to me in my childhood than in the truth that is taught in life.” -Friedrich Schiller

And so it is with this book which is one of those that resonates more and more with each reading.  Accompanied by the most stunning, memorable artwork which is rich in colour, pattern and details, on the surface it is a tale about a polar bear who wants to go home.  But what is the message behind the polar bear arriving on a shard of iceberg in the first place? Climate change? Refugee? And what can we learn about and from the forest creatures’ automatic fear and distrust of this unfamiliar, different animal in their midst? Or is the whole a metaphor for a child or adult with a terminal illness who wants to die but who must endure the intervention of science and medicine before finding release? The dedication suggests this…

While the polar bear is the subject, the story is told very much from an objective observer’s eye, a narrator that states the facts and actions without emotion,even though there is so much emotion embedded in the illustrations. An intriguing book that makes the reader ponder.

 

Shapes of Australia

Shapes of Australia

Shapes of Australia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shapes of Australia

Bronwyn Bancroft

Little Hare, 2017

24pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781760129286

So often we walk around with our eyes open but we don’t really see anything.  Yes, we see trees and rocks and distant mountains and even birds in the sky but do we ever see the distinctive shapes they make and the patterns within them?

With her artist’s eye, Bronwyn Bancroft has taken the items we take for granted and brought them to life through colour and pattern in the distinctive way that only she can, ensuring that next time we see ocean waves and river boulders, even city skyscrapers, we will look at them with new eyes.

Inspirational for its bold use of colour, intricate, detailed patterns and simplified geometry emphasised  by the shapes within the shapes, this visually stunning book will also inspire poetry as students appreciate the simple sentences that accompany each picture building metaphors like the “crystal shards” of skyscrapers and the “quilt of nature’s comfort” of the grasslands. 

An excellent companion to Colours of Australia students could be encouraged to examine the unique shapes of their own landscapes, even if that is just the playground, and reproduce them in Bancroft style.

Why do we need bees?

Why do we need bees?

Why do we need bees?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why do we need bees?

Katie Daynes

Christine Pym

Usborne, 2017

12pp, board book, RRP $A19.99

 9781474917933

Type the title of this book into a search engine and you instantly get millions of results including this video, such is the importance of this tiny creature to the welfare of the world.  For without bees to pollinate the plants there are no plants and therefore no food to sustain people or animals. 

So it makes sense to make our very youngest scientists and botanists aware of the critical need to protect these creatures as they carry out their important work and this new release in the Usborne Lift-the-Flap series does just this. 

Using the question-and-answer format that little children themselves use and which lays the foundations for inquiry-based learning, the role of bees is explored in six double page spreads.  Each starts with a key question such as what are bees?; why do we need bees?; and where do bees live? and this is then supported by a more focused question, the answer to which is hidden under a flap. Delicately illustrated but sturdily constructed as a board book, each page offers much to explore and learn, with both the questions and answers in simple sentences and vocabulary that young readers understand. And for those who want to know more Usborne Quicklinks supplies vetted weblinks to satisfy.

Children are curious about the world around them and we know that as parents and teachers we can’t always answer all their questions.  Helping them understand that there is information to be found in books and their questions can be answered is a first step in the development of their information literacy, and learning that you can dip and delve into books as your interest is piqued and that you can readily return to what you discover is invaluable.  

Even though this is a lift-the-flap book, a format normally associated with the very young, it contains a way into non fiction that is perfect for early childhood and could serve as a model for presentation for older students required to investigate the world around them as they learn to pose questions as well as answer them succinctly.  An interesting way to introduce keywords, note-taking, summarising, paraphrasing and using your own words!  

A book that has riches beyond those given to us by its subject!

The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors

The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors

The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors

Drew Daywalt

Adam Rex

HarperCollins, 2017

48pp., hbk, RRP $A24.99

9780008252397

In the ancient and distant realm called the Kingdom of the Backgarden lives the warrior Rock.  He believes he is the greatest because no one can give him a worthy challenge that will prove his superiority.  While his battle with the clothes peg and the apricot entertain the backyard dwellers, he feels unsatisfied so he leaves the garden in search of a worthy foe.

Meanwhile in the Empire of Mum’s Study, Paper is feeling the same way. No one can outwit him and so he, too, leaves to look for a worthy opponent.  At the same time, in the Kitchen Realm, Scissors has beaten both Sticky Tape and Dinosaur Chicken Nuggets  so she also goes on a quest to find something better.

And in the great cavern of Two-Car Garage, the three meet for the first time…

Children (and adults) everywhere play the traditional game of Rock Paper Scissors to help them make decisions and reach compromises and now the mastermind behind The Day the Crayons Quit has brought us their true story. Told in narrative and speech bubbles which make the most of bold fonts and imaginative layout, and accompanied by fantastic pictures that bring the most mundane objects to life and emphasise the action, this is a story that will be enjoyed again and again.  Children will love the boldness and loudness that oozes from the pages and you can just see them swaggering around like the characters as they take on their favourite. 

“Dramatic”, “raucous”, “bombastic”, “energetic”, “outrageous” – all have been used to describe this story. Apart from encapsulating it perfectly, what fun students can have suggesting their own adjectives for it and investigating what those ones mean. Further teachers’ notes are available.

A superhero origin story of a slightly different type!