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My Real Friend

My Real Friend

My Real Friend

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Real Friend

David Hunt

Lucia Masciullo

ABC Books, 2019

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

9780733334894

Rupert is William’s imaginary friend, a role he is quite happy to have because they do so much together.  Make music, paint pictures, play games … it’s all great fun except for two things. He never gets to choose the game and be the hero, but worst of all, that William will stop imagining him and he will fade away. And one day, William breaks the news to him…

Told from Rupert’s perspective, this is a charming book for early readers who are familiar with imaginary friends. As Rupert contrasts his life with William’s, there is a lot of humour in his observations and sometimes Rupert’s life in the imagination seems more fun. Poignant though his comments are, there is always the expectation that this story will not end well for Rupert but Masciullo’s clever mixed-media illustrations soften the blow and his appearance as the shadow on William’s new friend’s skateboard is masterful, suggesting that William might not quite have let go yet. 

Friendships, real and imaginary, wax and wane over time as circumstances and situations change and this is a celebration of that.  Rupert is a vital part of William’s childhood, as imaginary friends are for many children, and the letting go as social circles widen can be painful.  It validates those imaginary friends of the young readers and opens the doorway for discussions about the difference between the two and the place they have in our lives.  It is a way of encouraging those still rooted in their immediate concrete world to start viewing things from another perspective, particularly through Rupert’s weariness of always being the victim or the loser!

Ideas to guide the discussions are available

Moonwalkers

Moonwalkers

Moonwalkers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moonwalkers

Mark Greenwood

Terry Denton

Puffin, 2019

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

9780143793557

July 21, 1969 and like so many Australian children, Billy stared at the moon in amazement through his telescope wondering if it was really possible for man to land on the moon. Nearby, in a sheep paddock , a much larger telescope was also trained skywards as Apollo 11 with Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins on board, made its historic voyage.  

For the three days between launch and landing Billy taught his little sister and brother all about how to be astronauts, building models, making spacesuits, using the bath to experience lunar gravity and recreating the Command Module in their bedroom. And as that large telescope in the field nearby beamed live pictures of the landing, the whole family sat transfixed in front of their television and watched and wondered. 

Man’s first landing on the moon was one of those momentous occasions in history when those who were alive can recall exactly where they were and what they were doing, and all collectively wondering whether the astronauts would make it back to Earth safely.  Greenwood and Denton have taken this event and woven the facts and details into a stunning story that will not only bring back memories for many but also introduce the emotions and intricacies of the event to new generations who take space exploration for granted, perhaps even having it on their to-do list. Using their own memories as the basis for the story- it was near Denton’s birthday and he was convinced it was some sort of special birthday present – they have created a story that shows the power of imagination coming true as generations of children throughout the centuries have looked at the moon and wondered “what if…?” What dreams will this story inspire?

A great story in itself, it is also the perfect springboard to investigating the event as the 50th anniversary approaches and there is also an activity pack to accompany it. 

Up to Something

Up to Something

Up to Something

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Up to Something

Katrina McKelvey

Kirrili Lonergan

EK Books, 2019

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

9781925335705

A sign on the door of the hardware store catches Billy’s eye – it’s for a great billycart race.! It doesn’t matter that Billy doesn’t have a billycart because he has heard his Dad banging, drilling and sawing in his shed so many times that he is excited about what they could build together.

He is even more excited when his Dad agrees and they begin work together.  But excitement turns to disappointment when his dad appoints him as his “special helper” fetching and carrying the tools and materials, rather than using them. And even though he gets promoted to “assistant” because it sounds more important, the duties don’t change and Billy is soon bored with menial tasks like sweeping his dad gets him to do.  He had dreams of them working side by side building something magnificent together. But as he sweeps he has an idea and while Dad is busy measuring and sawing, Billy is doing the same…

Billy’s story is that of so many youngsters – wanting to get in and be like their dads but being assigned to the sidelines – that it will resonate with young readers who are more interested in making and doing than watching. Lonergan’s gentle illustrations that are so rich in detail echo the relationship between Billy and his dad offering a story that could be a lesson for dads about not underestimating the talents and skills of their offspring.

From a STEM perspective there is plenty of scope to explore creating plans for billycarts, but if readers look carefully at the elements of Billy’s cart they might be encouraged to look at everyday objects differently.  What else could a laundry basket or an old pair of roller skates become? Lots of scope for creative thinking embedded in a story that is just a joy to read in itself.

The Incurable Imagination

The Incurable Imagination

The Incurable Imagination

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Incurable Imagination

Paul Russell

Aska

EK Books, 2019

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

9781925335972

Right from when she was born Audrey was different to other children because she had the most amazing imagination.  When other children painted their parents, she painted an ogre who lived under her bead drinking tea.  Other children sang songs about black sheep while Audrey made up her own songs.  And when she started school and was supposed to learning her alphabet and counting her numbers, Ausdey had much more fun letting her imagination run riot. Her teachers diagnose “imaginitis” which is not only incurable but it is also contagious and before long it is starting to spread among the children and the adults in her life.

Little children always have such wonderful imaginations that seem to disappear when the formalities of school kick in and this is an interesting look at what might happen if we just let kids develop in their own ways in their own time.  The bright pictures are really appealing as they bring the weird and wonderful daydreams alive. Imagination is critical if society is to survive – we need to encourage our children to ask ‘what if…?” and see over hills and horizons to what could be beyond, to become the storytellers, the writers, the artists, the poets so books that celebrate “imaginitis” while showing how the formal curriculum, outcomes, accountability and reports stifle this are to be welcomed, themselves celebrated and shared.  We are among the significant adults in children’s lives – what can we do to spread imaginitis? How can we join our children in their world, rather than dragging them into ours?

 

Lottie and Walter

Lottie and Walter

Lottie and Walter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lottie and Walter

Anna Walker

Puffin, 2019

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

9780143787181

Lottie had a secret that neither her mother, baby brother or swimming teacher knew.  At the bottom of the learners’ pool lived a shark that only wanted to eat Lottie.  So every Saturday, Lottie would go to the pool, get changed, watch and wait and then get dressed again without getting wet.  But then she met Walter the Walrus who liked the things she did- books, bubbles and fish fingers. So she told him her fears.  Would Walter be able to help her before the pool party next Saturday?

Anna Walker, who created the iconic Mr Huff, has again used a child’s fear as a focus for her new picture book, exploring something common to many children and helping them understand that such fears can be overcome with a little help and imagination. Little people don’t always have the language yet to be able to articulate what is bothering them so Lottie’s use of a shark in the pool is a common device.  Even though her mother and swimming teacher might be able to prove to her there is no actual shark in the pool itself(if they knew it was there), nevertheless it masks something that Lottie can’t express yet.  The strength in the story lies in only Lottie knowing the secret and therefore only Lottie can sort it out, empowering her rather than making her dependent on grown-ups, demonstrating that both Lottie and the reader that little people can solve problems if given the space to do so.

Swimming is an essential skill that all Australian children need to master but there are many Lotties amongst them so this is a perfect book to share and discuss before swimming lessons begin, so that those who do have fears can realise they are not alone and can develop some strategies to overcome the “sharks in the water”. 

Lola Dutch When I Grow Up

Lola Dutch When I Grow Up

Lola Dutch When I Grow Up

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lola Dutch When I Grow Up

Kenneth Wright

Sarah Jane Wright

Bloomsbury USA, 2018

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

9781681195544

Lola Dutch  is frantic because she doesn’t know what she wants to be when she grows up and even though her sensible friend Bear thinks there is time to discuss it, Lola sees it as an emergency.  So she drags him to the den where she consults all sorts of books and decides that she wants to be on the stage and lets her imagination wander…But then she thinks she might be an inventor, or a botanist, or a high court judge or…

This is another delightful book that explores the wonderful world of Lola Dutch and her imagination, but concludes with her being happy with just who she is – for the moment at least!

Young girls will delight in seeing themselves in Lola while those who are looking for diversity in books about girls will be glad to see the various ambitions that Lola has that go beyond the traditional choices, that open up all sorts of opportunities for dreams and plans but also acknowledges that it is perfectly fine to be just who you are. No decisions have to be made right now! Great as a read-aloud or a read-alone and perfect for satisfying any curriculum outcomes about career education.

 

The Flying Orchestra

The Flying Orchestra

The Flying Orchestra

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Flying Orchestra

Clare McFadden

UQP, 2019

40pp., pbk., RRP $A16.95

9780702249297

No matter what is happening in our lives, the Flying Orchestra has a solo, a symphony or a sonata to accompany it  Whether a happy, joyous occasion, or one that disappoints or even invokes sadness there is a piece of music to go with it and the orchestra is ready to play regardless of whether we are in the suburbs, at the airport, or out in the country.

This is the paperback release of of the hardback version which won the CBCA Crichton Award in 2011 and is perfect for introducing a new generation of young readers to the music around us.  It includes a list of appropriate orchestral pieces that may be the child’s first introduction to this sort of music, provoking plenty of discussion about why a particular piece was chosen and introducing them to how music can both provoke and reflect a variety of emotions and moods. While the notion of an actual orchestra flying around might be a piece of fantasy, nevertheless the concept that music surrounds us and that somewhere, sometime, someone has composed just the right piece of music to match our actions, thoughts and feelings is one that many children will find fascinating and may make them even more sensitive to their world and what it offers.  Just imagine the sounds that would accompany a day “so windy that even the angels lose their balance from the top of City Hall.”

Teachers’ notes for early childhood are available here while those for older readers are available here, while McFadden herself reads the story with a musical accompaniment on You Tube.

If you or your teaching colleagues are planning to introduce young students to the wide world of music this year and are looking for something beyond the traditional Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf or Britten’s The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra or Saint-Saens Carnival of the Animals, this could be it.

The Box Cars

The Box Cars

The Box Cars

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Box Cars

Robert Vescio

Cara King

EK Books, 2019

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

9781925335835

Best friends Liam and Kai love to race around the park every day in their box cars, pretending to be everything from policemen to limo drivers! One day they notice a little girl watching them — she’s keen to join in, but there’s only room for two.  Each boy offered Eve his car but then that meant someone was left standing alone on the sidelines watching.  However, they solved the problem by the boys sharing a box, but cardboard box cars are not built for two people!

Robert Vescio has written yet another delightful story for the early childhood brigade, focusing on ordinary, everyday adventures familiar to so many and bringing them to life.  Who hasn’t seen a young child turning a large cardboard box into anything but a cardboard box, letting their imagination soar and having the time of their life? 

The gentle illustrations, which include the most charming endpapers, are perfect for the tone of the story and capture its emotions so well.  

 

A peek inside....

A peek inside….

Focusing on friendship, creativity and problem-solving, this is likely to become a much-requested favourite.

 

Eva’s Imagination

Eva's Imagination

Eva’s Imagination

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eva’s Imagination

Wendy Shurety

Karen Erasmus

New Frontier, 2018 

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

 9781925594232

“Mum, I’m bored!” announces Eva as she throws herself onto the carpet.

But when her mum suggests she uses her imagination, Eva has no idea what that is, although her mum assures her she will know when she finds it.  So Eva pulls on her boots, gathers some snacks, a stick and her faithful dog Chops and sets out to find it.  

On her journey she wanders through a narrow valley, explores a pine forest while a lonely cuckoo calls, climbs up a steep mountainside while the wind whistles, pausing to rest at the top before continuing on her adventure in the hunt for her imagination.  Dark caves with scary creatures, bridges to rainforests full of ferns and vines and even a snake… on and on the search goes until she stumbles across a pile of books and seeks refuge on Mum’s knee for a story, convinced she can’t find her imagination anywhere!

As the excitement of Christmas and holidays pass but the hot days linger, every mum in Australia has heard the words, “I’m bored.”  And probably responded in the same ways as Eva’s mum.  Being bored is an essential part of life for not only does it mean we have to draw on our inner selves for the entertainment we seem to crave, but it also means we need to draw on our imaginations, our creativity, and wander into the world of “what if?”  It helps us pose problems and solve them, taking us out of the here and now and into the realm of possibility, daydreams and wonder, through valleys, up mountains and into scary caves.  Rather than fearing being bored (or having our kids be bored), we should welcome and embrace it as  the portal to the unknown. Who knows what we will find!

This is a story that may mean children never look at their own homes in quite the same way again! Adventures can be anywhere and everywhere with just a little imagination -even if you don’t know you have one!

Beware the Deep Dark Forest

Beware the Deep Dark Forest

Beware the Deep Dark Forest

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beware the Deep Dark Forest

Sue Whiting

Anne White

Walker Books, 2018

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

9781742032344

People say that the deep dark forest is thick with danger – carnivorous plants and venomous snakes are just two of its threats – but when Rosie’s little pup Tinky runs into it, she knows she has to face its fearful reputation and rescue him.  Despite the strange noises that made her knees wobble and made her eyes as round as the moon, she put her brave on and in she went, going further and further into the unknown, calling for Tinky.  But then she came across something worse than a venomous snake or a carnivorous plant…

Echoing the perils that heroes have to encounter in traditional fairy tales and illustrated in a style that brings the creepy scariness of the woods to life, this is a story for young readers who like a bit of tension in their tales but no so scary that it can’t be a bedtime read.  There is plenty of scope for the young reader to predict what could be scarier than a venomous snake or a carnivorous plant or how Rosie might cross the “dizzily, dangerously, dreadfully, deep ravine”, encouraging them to let their imaginations roam and reveal a little of their own fears.

As well as immersing themselves in the stunning illustrations which add the atmosphere as well as the detail, they can explore the meaning of the vocabulary which certainly doesn’t talk down to them.  Knowing what words like ‘venomous’ and ‘carnivorous’ mean and investigating why animals and plants have such mechanisms can be very empowering, like being able to say the names of the dinosaurs.  And having them put themselves in Rosie’s shows as she encounters the problem of the ravine enables them to be active listeners rather than passive participants while being Rosie and shouting at the troll would just be pure fun! So much scope for follow-up activities too!

Stories that engage and involve readers so they become part of the action are my favourites – this would be one of those.