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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. 

 

 

 

Look

Look

Look

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Look

Fiona Woodcock

GreenWillow Books, 2018

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

9780062644558

From the rooster’s first cock-a-doodle-doo to the owl’s hooting at the moon, this clever story takes the young reader on a trip to the zoo with a brother and sister, using only words that contain the diphthong oo.  With just one word on each page, two children have a lovely time visiting the zoo, seeing the animals and having a scoop of icecream (which has an untimely end!).

 While it predominantly uses the long sound as in bamboo, kangaroo and cockatoo,  there are occasional entries for the shorter sound as in look and book. In several cases the artwork forms the diphthong allowing the young reader to read the words so they can create the story for themselves.

Original and fun, but it could pose some confusion if it is introduced as part of a phonics program because it emphasises the diversity of sounds rather than their consistency.  Enjoy it for the story it tells, not the lessons it might offer.

Chalk Boy

Chalk Boy

Chalk Boy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chalk Boy

Margaret Wild

Mandy Ord

Allen & Unwin, 2018

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

9781760630683

As the city rushes by on its way to who-knows-where intent on who-knows-what, pavement artist Barnaby begins to draw with his thick blue chalk.  His focus is a portrait of a boy, but unlike his other drawings this one has a head that thinks, eyes that see, ears that hear and a heart that feels.  Barnaby warns the boy that when the rain comes he will wash away, and the boy accepts that, but in the meantime he will enjoy the life he has been given, no matter how short it is.  

But when the cold, cold night comes with its ominous dark clouds, and the inevitable is near, the boy cries out because he does not want to die alone.  Is his fate sealed?

Margaret Wild has a knack for packing a punch into her stories using a minimum of words, and this observation about the fragility of life and the need to enjoy what we have rather than wish for what we haven’t, is no exception.  Although it starts as a third-person narration about Barnaby creating his picture, it switches to the boy being the teller of his own story making it even more powerful.  Mandy Ord’s edgy, street-art illustrations are not only perfect for the setting but reflect her background with the Melbourne underground comic community. The concept of people hurrying, always seeking the next thing rather than being in the moment and appreciating it for what it is is very strong. The almost monochromatic palette with the boy in symbolic light blue being the only relief puts the focus where it needs to be.   

Despite the seemingly simple text, this is a book for older readers who can delve beneath what is on the page and consider what is actually being said. 

Puffin the Architect

Puffin the Architect

Puffin the Architect

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Puffin the Architect

Kimberly Andrews

Puffin, 2018

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

9780143793755

Puffin the architect has designed some stunning homes for some fastidious clients, having to take into account their particular needs.  For instance, Platypus the baker’s riverbank home needed “lots of clever cupboards full of flour, salt and yeast” while Giraffe the gardener needed “a rolling outdoor tub on wheels for soaking aching necks”.

But her new clients are the most discerning and needy of all, for they are her own children and all they want is a puffin cottage. Can she deliver?

This is an intriguing, engaging and very clever book on as many levels as there are in Puffin’s designs. 

Firstly, all the illustrations of the different homes are presented as cross-sections, a technique which not only allows a peek inside to show all the details but which also appeals enormously to young readers who feel as though they are inside the house and can search for all the things in the text.  The text itself is also very clever as it builds through the story.  Each successive client wants what the previous clients have had – clever cupboards; furniture that folds away; a tunnel system; a pulley-operated rack; a skylight;, a rolling, outdoor paddling pool…  but also something extra specific to their needs. And so the text builds over each spread with each device then being customised to fit the client’s particular demands. And if that is not enough, it is all in rhyme making for an absorbing read that holds the reader’s attention.  What more could the pufflings actually want that their mother hasn’t already included in other designs?

A peek inside....

A peek inside….

With so much interest in designing and making and appraising the results as we encourage our students to be creative and think laterally, this is a book that could be used in so many ways within the curriculum.  Children could be encouraged to choose another creature and consider their needs so they could then design a home for them; they could investigate the purpose and construction of cross-sections and how to draw and label them; or they could explore other books where the text is cumulative.

Different, distinctive and  a valuable addition to your collection.

The Gum Family Finds Home

The Gum Family Finds Home

The Gum Family Finds Home

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Gum Family Finds Home

Tania McCartney

Christina Booth

NLA Publishing, 2018

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

9780642279255

The Gums – Mum, Dad, Leaf and Nut – are a family of koalas who live in a eucalyptus tree which is perfect for them as a food source, but not much else.  The open nature of the branches means they have little shelter when it rains and on days when the branches are whipped about by the wind, it is just plain dangerous.  Reluctantly, because it means leaving all they know especially their dear friend Kooka, they decide to find a safer home – one that is rock solid.  Armed with a checklist of must-haves including safe, dry, strong, food, shelter, views, friendly neighbours, water, rocks… Dad hooks up the caravan and off they go leaving their cackling, buzzing, windy, rainy home far behind.

And so begins an adventure that takes them and the reader on a journey around Australia’s iconic geological formations – Uluru, Kata Tjuta, Kings Canyon, Karlu Karlu, the Bungle Bungle Range, Katherine and its Butterfly Gorge, the Glasshouse and Blue Mountains, the wonders of Tasmania and the Twelve Apostles of Victoria, and across the Nullabor to Wave Rock and The Pinnacles. Is there any place that will fulfil their requirements?

Let me declare that I am an unabashed Tania McCartney fan – I love the way that she can write the most engaging stories while weaving in all sorts of information that just beg the reader to explore further.  And this is no exception.  Together with Christina Booth’s unique illustrations which seamlessly combine her artwork with photographs of the focus landscape, this story introduces young readers to Australia’s distinctive, ancient geographical features formed up to 3000 million years ago, encouraging them to wonder about the what, where, why and the how of them. Each place that the Gum family visits has its origins explained in notes and photos in the final pages, each of which is part of the National Library‘s collection. 

The story cries out for students to discover more about the land they live in, perhaps setting up a challenge where partners investigate one of the landforms that the Gum family visit, post a series of clues based on their findings and invite their peers to work out where it is.  (I did this some years ago using pictures from landscape calendars but it could also be done effectively as a slideshow or other digital app.)  They might even investigate other landshapes and landscapes choosing one of these instead…

Great Sandy Desert Tanami Desert Great Victoria Desert Gibson Desert Simpson Desert
Sturt Desert Mt Kosciuszko Mt Bogong Mt Bimberi Mt Bartle Frere
Mt Ossa Mt Zeil Mt Woodroffe Mt Meharry Great Diving Range
Australian Alps Murray River Murrumbidgee River Darling River Lachlan River
Franklin River Cooper Creek Goulburn River Gascoyne River Lake Eyre
Uluru Twelve Apostles Devils Marbles Three Sisters Bungle Bungles
Coorong Flinders Island Fraser Island Heron Island Melville Island
Grampians Great Barrier Reef Jenolan Caves Kakadu Kangaroo Island
Katherine Gorge Lake Mungo Lake Pedder Nullabor Plain Wave Rock
Flinders Ranges Wilpena Pound Kangaroo Island Kings Canyon Kata Juta
Wallaman Falls Lake Argyle Lake Eucumbene Lake Gordon Mt Townsend
Finke River Yilgam Lakes Gulaga Mt Augustus Menindee Lakes

Others might prefer to investigate the formation of the land generally – there are a number of excellent resources available via Scootle and GeoScience Australia or even reading the opening chapter of Michener’s Hawaii while others may prefer to examine, compare and contrast the creation stories of our indigenous peoples and other first nations.  

Younger students could map the Gum family’s travels trying to plot a journey that doesn’t double back on itself too often, learning how to interpret and create maps as they do while even younger ones might like to think about the requirements the Gum family needed for a safe home and compare those to those needed by a wombat or a dugong or other species that they are interested in.  

I’ve often said that the best picture books are those that entertain and educate and this has to be up there with the very best of those. 

Tania has decorated the bookshop at the National Library in Canberra and has written about the book and its purpose here, she talks more about the creation of the book and offers some goodies here. and more teaching ideas  covering AC English, Science and HASS are available here.  

 

The (temproary) new look for the bookshop at the NLA.

The (temporary) new look for the bookshop at the NLA.

 

 

 

When I’m Older

When I'm Older

When I’m Older

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I’m Older

Isa & Neil Flory

Somak Chaudhary

Allen & Unwin, 2018

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

9781760296322

Speculating about what a little one might become when they are older is a perennial topic, but if you are a lump of blue clay then the possibilities are endless.

I can be a head, I can be a bed, I can be a crocodile playing dead!.

From the creator of The Short Giraffeand using rhyme and rhythm which will capture the ear of the very young listener, this is a clever story that can spark conversations as, in so many ways, very young children are just like the lump of clay waiting to be moulded by nurture and nature.  The use of clay as the starting point is very clever as not only is it flexible, pliable and malleable into shapes depending on whose hands are on it, it can also be returned to its original form, to its core of who/what it is and in this case, being happy with that.

Clay also makes the illustrations so credible as this strange lump changes so readily and have a Gumby-like character (for those of us old enough to remember him.)


 

It also offers little ones the opportunity to get some hands-on experience and mould their own clay/plasticene/playdough into their dreams for the future, perhaps even making a rhyming sequence like one from the book as an introduction to playing with the sounds of our language. (ACELA1438, ACELA1439, ACELT1785, ACELT1579 & ACELT1580) 

Who would have thought such a seemingly simple book would have me quoting Australian Curriculum outcomes?????  But it shows that this is more than just for preschoolers – imagine its power for those learning English as a new language or even producing a stop-go animation of a group or class book!  

Picture books are for everyone!

What’s That There?

What's That There?

What’s That There?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s That There?

Ros Moriarty

Balarinji

Allen & Unwin, 2017 

24pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

9781760297817

Australia is more than a landscape of endless red plains and grey-green gum trees, and in this vividly illustrated book younger readers are encouraged to look more closely at the landscape around them.

Using a predictable text pattern of both question and answer and repetition, the reader is invited to examine the bird’s-eye view of the landscape and engage with the illustrations to identify what it is the bird sees.

What’s that there?

“That’s the rushing river’s curly bend,” cries the sea eagle perched on a swaying, knotted branch. “There, look!”

And in stunning pictures, based on traditional Aboriginal designs and created by Balarinji established by the author and her husband, the astute young reader can indeed pick out the river winding through and the sea eagle from its on-high perch.  Or the hawk soaring over the “cliff face sharp with sun-scorched stones glinting”. Or “the dry, cracked billabong sleeping”  that the stick-bug clinging to the peeling tree bark sees.

As well as being a celebration of the country and its creatures, the poetic text and the stunning illustrations introduce landscapes that may be familiar but but are unseen as we race through life, not pausing to see things through artistic or linguistic eyes, Not only does it encourage us to slow down and think about what we are seeing, it also offers a different perspective.  What do the tops of the grey-green bush look like to the magpies, currawongs and crimson rosellas that are always flying over and around my house? What do they make of the dun coloured, drought-affected grasses that stretch between the trees? 

Understanding and using the bird’s-eye view perspective where things are seen from above, often an unfamiliar angle for our little ones, is a difficult concept to grasp and yet it is an essential skill of mapping and “unplugged coding” so this book is an intriguing way of introducing them to that concept, perhaps even challenging them to try their hand at interpreting their own surroundings from such a perspective. 

 For those who want to explore a different aspect, there is a translation of the English into the Yanyuwa language (spoken in families in Borroloola , NT) at the end which not only allows the young readers of those families to see and read stories in their own language as part of the author’s Indi Kindi initiative but also demonstrates that not everyone speaks English as their first language offering the opportunity to explore the languages spoken by classmates and families and celebrate the value of that first language.  

For a seemingly simple, 24 page book there is so much packed into this, it is a must-have in your collection.

More artwork created by Balarinji

More artwork created by Balarinji

Maya & Cat

Maya & Cat

Maya & Cat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maya & Cat

Caroline Magerl

Walker Books, 2018

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

 9781921977282

On a roof, as wet as a seal, as grey as a puddle, Cat was rumbling, a rumbly purr.  Through the window from the warmth of her bedroom, Maya spots Cat and tries to entice her inside, safe from the wet and wild outdoors. But feather boas, pink shoelaces and a pompom on a stick are not what Cat wants.  And although a can of sardines placed at the back door brings her hungry tummy down, Cat returns to her perch on the roof, wet and forlorn. 

Determined that one of the windows shining its warm light on the bleakness, Maya is determined to  find Cat’s home but every door she knocks on is not the one. Until she finds Cat in her bicycle basket as though it is saying, “Let me show you…”  

This is a stunning story of a little girl’s determination to help reunite a pet with its owners and the beautiful reward she is offered. The heartache of separation for both humans and pets is  a familiar one as anyone with a Facebook feed would know and so it will resonate with so many readers, adult and child alike.  The language is poetic, the ink and watercolour illustrations are exquisite with the one where Maya is cycling along the jetty taking me straight back to my 1950s childhood favourites in Edward Ardizzone’s  series about Tim. Having seen hundreds of thousands of illustrations over my time as a teacher, one that instantly brings back such warm memories means the book is an instant winner for me! The subtlety of the palette, the blend of colours, the intricacy of the linework, the detail in every illustration not only bring the words to life but offer so much to see as it is read again and again, providing a stark contrast to the bright, bold computer-generated works that our students are so familiar with.  This is a series of lessons about visual literacy and the need to look deep within, the purpose of picture books and the connections between text and graphics, author, illustrator and reader all wrapped up in one engaging, enthralling story. 

This is more than just a story about a girl and a lost cat – it’s a celebration of words and pictures that is likely to become an enduring childhood memory for many.

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

The Silver Sea

The Silver Sea

The Silver Sea

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Silver Sea

Alison Lester & Jane Godwin

Children from the Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne

Affirm Press, 2018

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

9781925584745

Let’s go down to The Silver Sea,
Come on, I’ll hold your hand…

Take a journey with two little children as they explore what is beneath the waves in this magical adventure created by young people at the Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne with  Australian authors Alison Lester and Jane Godwin.

Inspired by a multi-storey aquarium that was once part of the RCH environment, and created during a series of drawing workshops with the young patients, this is a stunning collaboration that features the rhythmical lullaby-like text of Lester and Godwin and the distinctive artwork of children that can never be replicated by adults.   From splashing with the dolphins and seals in the waves to deep down in the indigo depths and back home again through diving shearwaters, the vast array of sealife is brought to life through the eyes and hands of the children.

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

Little ones will be inspired to create their own images of what they might see if they were able to go on an adventure like the children in the story. while older readers might like to investigate some of the creatures that they encounter.  There is nothing quite so entrancing as seeing a leafy sea dragon in amongst the seaweed – an enduring memory of my scuba diving days – and wanting to know more about them!

All proceeds from the book’s sales go to the Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne, making an extra reason for ensuring this utterly charming story is in your collection.  

 

The Perfect Leaf

The Perfect Leaf

The Perfect Leaf

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Perfect Leaf

Andrew Plant

Ford Street, 2018 

32pp., pbk., RRP $A16.95

9781925736007

In the centre of the local town there are huge trees, planted generations ago and now the source of the most stunning leaf show in autumn that children and adults alike love to swoosh through, making them scatter, building piles to fall into and have some great free fun on Mother Nature.  

And so it is with Elly and Mai on this “cold-sun sort of day, this wind-in-the-branches day.  Both are in the park and they meet as they kick their way through the rustling, crunching piles, each searching for that perfect leaf and eventually finding something even more special.  Is there a perfect leaf to be found?  Is it yellow as butter or red as a summer apple? Delicate as gold or crimson velvet? Like a warm flame on a winter’s day of rain or like the sun on your face on a day so cold that your breath steams like a dragon’s? Does it matter if there is a tear, a mark or a hole or do they all have a special magic?

The language, the pictures, the colours of this story make the fun of playing in autumn leaves that we all remember burst from the page in a joyous celebration of childhood delight.  Young readers will readily relate to Elly and Mai and their special quest while adult readers will have a smile of reminiscence. Apart from the riot of colour, Andrew has also hidden lots of little woodland dwellers in the shapes and shadows pictures – you can find the list in the teachers’ notes  – so the reader is encouraged to not only look at the details in the picture but also to look more closely at the natural world that surrounds them so that something like a pile of autumn leaves becomes a full sensory experience.  Perhaps they, too, will find the magic as Elly and Mai did. 

Each time I receive a book with Andrew Plant’s name on it (The Poppy, Spark and Glitch) I look forward  to something special – and this is no different. A wonderful kickstart to asking “Why do the leaves change colour?” and all the STEM activities associated with that.