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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.

Snot Chocolate

Snot Chocolate

Snot Chocolate

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Snot Chocolate

Morris Gleitzman

Puffin Books, 2016

165pp, pbk., RRP $A14.99

9780143309222

The blurb reads, “Stop your mum picking her nose, read the secret diary of a dog, catch a bus and then let it go, discover how one slice of toast can make you the most popular person in school, start wearing a crown and give up eating pig-nostril gruel, use a wrecking ball to defeat a bully, show your big sister the very scary secret in your wardrobe, unleash the awesome power of chips, live in a house that gets wiped clean more often than a bottom.”

But there is so much more to this collection of short stories from a master storyteller who seamlessly switches between the poignancy of Two weeks with the Queen, the gaiety of Toad Rage and the seriousness and sincerity of the Once series. Gleitzman himself says, “Nine stories, and I’ve made them different lengths because different parents have different ideas about how long a person should be allowed to read before turning the lights out.”

With a title designed to attract that reader who loves to makes sure parents and teachers have a stomach-churning moment when they see it, nevertheless there are serious undertones to each as the central character of each tries to grapple with a big problem affecting family or friends using a thought process and logic that are particular to that age group.  Creativity is alive and well in children – until the formality and seriousness of school try to quell it.

Along with Give Peas a Chance and Pizza Cake, these stories which give the author “a break from the stiff neck and stiff brain you sometimes get writing book-length stories” might seem a long way from the stories Gleitzman commonly crafts and which he is so valued for, but as he says, he would” hate to forget that in stories a laugh can have a teardrop as a very close neighbour.”  However, despite the sombre notes this is a collection that will keep those newly independent readers, particularly boys, reading and help them transition to the next phase of their reading journey – which will probably be a Gleitzman novel – as they show that even short stories with wicked titles can have great, credible characters and a depth of plot that makes reading so worthwhile.  

Parents,  teachers and teacher librarians are blessed to have such a gifted writer as Gleitzman on their side.

Read what Morris Gleitzman has to say on the value of short stories.

Jack and Mia

Jack and Mia

Jack and Mia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jack and Mia

Robert Vescio

Claire Richards

Wombat Books, 2016

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

9781925139730

Before Mia moved in next door, Jack was lonely.  But Mia brought rainbows, jungles, concerts and lots and lots of giggles.  Even their mums thought they  were “two sides of the one coin” and “fit together like a puzzle.”  Mia’s amazing imagination took them on adventures that Jack had never dreamed of and when they both got sick at the same time, they were each given a book about making and doing, make-believe and play that allowed them to continue the fun from their beds.  

When they were better they kept using their books, snipping, gluing, taping and  tying a magnificent cardboard castle.  They each wore crowns and royal robes and ruled over their kingdom with wisdom and kindness.  They were as close as the materials that held that castle together.  Until one day Mia moves far away with her family and Jack is back into the isolation and desolation that he felt before Mia entered his life.  Nothing was the same any more.

Across the sea, Mia had also given up.  She was missing Jack just as much.  But then Jack found Mia’s book in his toybox and… 

There is nothing like the deep friendships forged in childhood where there are no distractions beyond deciding what today’s fun will be about.  Jack and Mia is a charming story that focuses on such a friendship and how it can continue even after separation has intervened. It will resonate with children who have moved away from familiar surroundings and friends and show them that there are plenty of ways of keeping in touch to relive old memories and make new ones. The technology of today gives them so much more than that of previous generations and the world can come to you with just a few clicks.

The illustrations enrich the storyline as Jack and Mia do not share the same skin colour but neither notice – it’s all about who each child is, how they connect and the fun that can be had when kids get together, just as it is in any playground. In fact, I’d proffer that the readers will not even notice the difference.  Racism and all that it entails is very definitely a concept learned from adults.

Heartwarming and positive. 

Watch Out for Muddy Puddles

Watch Out for Muddy Puddles

Watch Out for Muddy Puddles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Watch Out for Muddy Puddles

Ben Faulks

Ben Cort

Bloomsbury, 2016

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

9781408867204

 

Watch out for muddy puddles!

Because you never really know…

What there might be lurking

down in the depths below.

As south-eastern Australia picks itself up from another weather event and hopefully heeds the message about the dangers of floodwaters, do we ever stop to warn our children about what might lie in the depths of muddy puddles? Because underneath that calm surface that just asks to be splashed all over from a massive jump in your best boots there could be all sorts of strange things – long-lost footballs, lonely socks and underwater kings or maybe hungry crocodiles, angry pirates or kissing frogs!  Frozen ones can be treacherous too and there are some that will spin you round and round like a washing machine or plunge you deep down through the planet, tumbling past the sandstone, the fossils and the granite. But the worst one of all is the one that is home to the BIG BAD rubber ducky.

A funny and fantastic romp in rhyme through puddles and the imagination from Mr Bloom from CBeebies that will charm the boots of our youngest readers who will be itching to tell you what they think might be at the bottom of a muddy puddle!  Great inspiration for a class mural!!

Watch the trailer, have fun with the activities and investigate where the puddles go when the sun shines.  A perfect introduction to some basic science.

 

The Gobbledygook and the Scribbledynoodle

The Gobbledygook and the Scribbledynoodle

The Gobbledygook and the Scribbledynoodle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Gobbledygook and the Scribbledynoodle

Justin Clarke & Arthur Baysting

Tom Jellett

Penguin Viking, 2016

32pp., hbk. RRP $A19.99

 

Look! Look! It’s the Gobbledygook!
He’s reading his favourite mon-story book.

Comfortable in the library and using his best book-reading manners that he learned in The Gobbledygook is Eating a Book, the Gobbledygook is enjoying exploring his favourite book, whispering the quiet words, shouting the loud ones and making up those he doesn’t know (just like real-life early readers).  But when one of the monsters jumps right out of the book and begins to scribble all over the books the Gobbledygook is very distressed. While the Scribbledynoodle takes notice when it is told that it should not draw on the books, it then takes to drawing on everything else in the library – the walls, the shelves, even the librarian – until the Gobbledygook and his friend escort it outside.  And there it teaches them that there are pictures in many more places than a book. Clouds, rainbows, puddles and snail trails all have their own kind of pictorial magic with the day (and the story) ending in peeking ‘at the pictures we dream in our sleep.”

This is a wonderful romp in rhyme for young readers who will delight in its tongue-twisting words, fast pace, crazy ideas and bright, colourful pictures.  Even though the Gobbledygook is a monster with big teeth and even bigger feet, he’s not one that will scare them and you can just hear the oohs and ahs as they see the destruction that the Scribbledynoodle causes.  Even though they are young THEY know better and will delight in telling the adult reader so.  But they will be pleased that instead of the Scribbledynoodle being in BIG trouble, it gets redirected and through the kindness of the Gobbledygook and his friend, it not only makes new friends but shows them important things too.  The children will be on their way outside to see if they can see an elephant’s bum in the clouds! But they will also look at the colours, shapes and patterns in nature with new eyes, perhaps getting inspiration for their own drawings.

This is “a magnificent, magical, colourful doodle of a day in the life of a Scribbledynoodle”. which will go from first-read to favourite very quickly!

 

Up, Up and Away

Up, Up and Away

Up, Up and Away

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Up, Up and Away

Tom McLaughlin

Bloomsbury, 2016

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

9781408870150

Orson loves to make things and he is always tinkering and experimenting.  His latest idea is the most ambitious yet, but what does it take to build your very own planet?  Can it be made with

  • A cup full of rocks
  • A dash of water
  • A sprinkling of metal
  • A lot of nothingness
  • A big bang …

BOOM! He has it – a tiny planet with rings around it, right there in his bedroom! But it seems that BUILDING a planet is the easy bit; taking care of it is a different thing altogether. Over time, Orson realises that his planet needs to be free and that sometimes you have to let go of the things that you love the most …

This is a quirky story that will appeal to the dreamers as Orson realises his dream after a lot of reading and research. Those with an innate need to invent and make will empathise with Orson’s need as well as his dilemma when he realises what he must do.  But there is a deeper message here. When Orson tries to keep his planet happy by taking it to the movies but it doesn’t respond, he undertakes even more reading to find out what it really needed – thereby posing a big question for the reader.  What DOES our planet need to keep it happy?  What can we do to make sure that it is?  

With its deceptively simple text and storyline and charming pictures, this book has the potential to spark an important investigation into all aspects of the environment and its sustainability.

The Great Sock Secret

The Great Sock Secret

The Great Sock Secret

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Great Sock Secret

Susan Whelan

Gwyneth Jones

EK Books, 2016

32pp., hbk.,  RRP $A19.99

9781925335248

It is one of the great mysteries of our times.  Ever since washing machines were automated and readily available, pairs of socks have been forever separated, never to meet their match again.  And Sarah’s house is no different – there is a basket full of odd socks and her mum is on a mission to find their partners.

But Sarah knows where they are – the fairy families that live in her house are masters at repurposing them for all sorts of fun and games – and she is desperate that her mother not discover the truth.  She even suggests that they take Max the puppy for a walk instead but her mother is not to be deterred or distracted and so the great sock hunt begins.  However, even though she searches high and low, in cupboards, behind doors, in the bathroom, under the furniture, and in brother Thomas’s bedroom, her mother’s eyes are not as sharp as Sarah’s and she does not see what is really happening with the socks.  But when she is satisfied with the two she does find Sarah breathes a sigh of relief  – until her mother suggests that they now start searching for lost pens…

This is an utterly charming story from the team that created the outstanding Don’t Think About Purple Elephants that reminded me of The Borrowers by Mary Norton (and which would be a great read-together serial as a follow-on.)  Like Sarah, the reader has to have sharp eyes to find what has happened to the socks because so much of the story is in the wonderful illustrations – a trait of perfect picture books in my opinion.  

Young children will take great delight in seeing what adults can’t as they try to spot all the fairies as well as suggesting what else they might use the socks for.  Maybe that is where all the missing socks in their homes have disappeared to – watch them go searching but don’t let them tell!

Miss 5 loved this – we read it over and over during a recent visit and there was something new to discover each time! And yes, The Borrowers will be the next family serial.

 

Be A Friend

Be A Friend

Be A Friend

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Be A Friend

Salina Yoon

Bloomsbury, 2016

40pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781408869093

Dennis was an ordinary who liked doing ordinary boy things – BUT instead of talking about them like other boys he expressed himself differently. His hero was the great mime artist Marcel Marceau  and like his hero with his white face and top hat, Dennis would mime what he wanted to say.  While other children climbed trees, Dennis was happy to be a tree.   But trees get lonely and as the other children played happily, Dennis looked on wistfully, feeling invisible, as though he were standing behind a wall t . .. until the day he kicked an imaginary ball and a little girl called Joy caught it.

The blurb on the back of the book says it is “a heart-warming celebration of individuality, imagination and the power of friendship” and that is spot on.  This is a subtle but powerful exploration of children who are different from the “norm”, who literally and figuratively don’t have a voice and who feel invisible because of that difference.  It’s not that the other children are cruel or unkind but they are busy being children and don’t always see beyond their own horizons, let alone have time to understand Dennis and his special needs.  Even though Joy is like Dennis in that she, too, does not speak, the power of friendship that exists between two children can open new worlds for not just them but others around them too.

Yoon’s illustrations are exquisite – a dotted red line captures Dennis’s actions so the reader knows what is happening and the final illustration using the imaginary skipping rope and all the other children running to join in the game is perfect.

While the storyline focuses on Dennis who doesn’t speak, it could apply to anyone who feels different such as a child new to the country with no English or someone with a physical disability or an emotional need – it will resonate with anyone who feels marginalised and who would just like a friend. But just as it is their story, so it can be a story for one of those “ordinary” children.  As educators we must never under-estimate the value of teaching children how to make friends and be friends – it is a skill that will take them far beyond the first few days of Kindergarten.

Making and being friends is the theme of so many stories for young children that you wonder if there could ever be a new slant on it.  Be A Friend has found it.

The Everything Princess Book

The Everything Princess Book

The Everything Princess Book

The Everything Princess Book

Barbara Beery

Brooke Jorden

Michele Robbins

David Miles

Rebecca Sorge

Bloomsbury, 2016

160pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9781942934653

This book is exactly what the title says – it is all to do with princesses and royalty from stories to recipes, games and activities, things to make and how to be a princess. Richly illustrated,  it begins with half a dozen traditional stories of princesses from around the world and then moves on to a section bursting with all sorts of recipes fir for a secret garden tea party, a cottage picnic and a pink princess party .  There are tips for serving the food, correct table manners and etiquette including how to wave and curtsey and even a guide to the members of the Royal household.  In fact there is little about being a princess that is not covered.

Going through a ‘princess stage’ is almost a rite of passage for little girls, enhanced by Disney’s adaptations of many of the traditional fairy tales, and there was always a big demand for anything of this nature in the school I was in last year, particularly with those girls who were learning English as another language and who saw this as a way into the language of the playground.  This would be like a bible for them as the stories and concepts are already familiar so as well as speaking the ‘same language’ they can now read it too.

With is lavish hardcover protecting its spiral bound contents, it is attractive and would be one to recommend to grandparents looking for something special for the Christmas stocking.

The Arty Book

The Arty Book

The Arty Book

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Arty Book

Nikalas Catlow & David Sinden

Bloomsbury, 2016

160pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9781408870662

 

Growing Up in Australia: The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC) is a major study following the development of 10,000 children and families from all parts of Australia. The study commenced in 2004 with two cohorts – families with 4-5 year old children and families with 0-1 year old infants. Among its findings is that many children under 12 are spending a third of their waking hours in front of a screen of some sort and this is having, and will continue to have, ramifications on their physical, social and emotional well-being.  Experts say that there are two keys ways of reducing this amount – being a role model so not being on a screen all the time ourselves, and making sure that other activities have priority so that screen time is restricted to what little time might be left over in the day.

With the school holidays happening or fast approaching in Australia, The Arty Book could be part of the solution to providing alternatives to endless television or computer gaming. 

While it is somewhat similar to the activity books of old that we remember, this one is much more upmarket, interactive and appealing to an older audience.  It’s key character is a cartoon-like character called Arty with quirky curly hair and distinctive red glasses and users are invited to participate in all sorts of activities to make Arty unique so their own creativity is to the fore.  This is not a colour-in-the-lines or connect-the-dots book.  They can change Arty to what they want him to look like as they are presented with just his trademark glasses; make Arty badges; even use their feet to make  Footprint Arty.  Each page has a new suggestion that encourages them to customise the Arty artworks so they are imaginative and personal . They also take the child into new areas of art they might not have explored before so there is scope for new explorations like collage and spatter painting, 

Parents and grandparents who are looking for something engaging that will be more appealing than a screen would love to know about this book – especially if the school library were to host an after-holidays display of Arty drawings seeking the most imaginative, original and unique as the centrepiece of a collection of art-technique books and a Makerspace challenge to create a 3D Arty. There might even be a storyfest with Arty, based on one of the drawings, as the central character!  A great opportunity to embrace so many areas of the curriculum.  

From little things…