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What’s Up Top?

What's Up Top?

What’s Up Top?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s Up Top?

Marc Martin

Viking, 2017

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

9780143783886

Ever walked past a ladder propped against a wall and wondered what’s up top?  Could it be a hat or a cat? Or something that only a wild imagination could dream of?

Written in rhyme, this book lets that imagination go with each possibility getting more and more outrageous. Not since Enid Blyton introduced young readers to The Magic Faraway Tree has speculation about what might be at the top of the ladder been so intriguing.  

With soft colours and soft lines that emphasise the dream-like suggestions, creator Marc Martin cleverly does not answer the question, leaving it up to the imagination and speculation of the reader, opening up the opportunity for some artworks and discussions as the children offer their suggestions. 

Something quite different from Max but just as delightful.

Aliens, Ghosts and Vanishings

Aliens, Ghosts and Vanishings

Aliens, Ghosts and Vanishings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aliens, Ghosts and Vanishings: Strange and Possibly True Australian Stories

Stella Tarakson

Richard Morden

Random House Australia, 2016

288pp., hbk., RRP $A27.99

9781925324969 

Australia really is a ‘story country” and the tales, tall and true that have been collected in this volume prove just how rich and diverse this nation is.  Even our unofficial national anthem focuses on a ghost so why wouldn’t there be a wealth of stories about mythical creatures, mysterious locations, haunted places, UFO sightings, bizarre disappearances and strange happenings?

 

From bunyips and yowies to Azaria Chamberlain and the disappearance  of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, this is a collection that will absorb the lover of the weird, wonderful and utterly mysterious, some familiar and others not-so. Ostensibly for those 10 and over, its clear format, short chapters and abundant illustrations will appeal to any independent reader who is interested in finding out more about the strange and unusual that this country has on offer.   

As well as the stories themselves, there are pages with extra information and some of the sources the author used for her research are included for those who wish to investigate further.  

Identified as a Notable Book in the 2017 Eve Pownall Award for Information Books, I know a couple of young readers who are going to be having to do scissors-paper-rock to see who reads this one first.

Winnie the Pooh: The Great Heffalump Hunt

The Great Heffalump Hunt

The Great Heffalump Hunt

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Winnie the Pooh: The Great Heffalump Hunt

Giles Andreae

Egmont, 2017

32pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9781405278300

Piglet trotted happily beside his best friend Pooh.

Talking about nothing much as best friends often do.

When suddenly Pooh stopped and said, “I’ve got a Grand Idea”.

“I’m going to catch a Heffalump. I’ve heard they live around here.”

Giles Andreae of Giraffes Can’t Dance fame has taken this wonderful and well-known adventure of A. A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh and reinterpreted into a delightful rhyme and pictorial experience.  More than 90 years on from the first publication of the adventures of Christopher Robin, Winnie-the-Pooh, Piglet and Tigger inspired by a real-life bear  Milne’s stories are as enchanting and popular as ever so to have this one in a picture book version for our youngest readers is a treat indeed.  

As well as providing a taste of the delights of what is in the original collection, it celebrates friendship, bravery and the imagination, even providing the basis for an inquiry project for beginners.  Just what is a Heffalump, what does it look like, and what would be the best way to catch it?  Each child could create their own version, design a suitable trap and bait and maybe even start to consider whether catching wild creatures is ever a good idea.  Those a little older might even start to investigate the role of zoos and how they’ve changed, particularly given Winnie’s origins.

Even though this is an adaptation of a classic, in its new form there are so many layers to explore that it is perfect as a standalone., and another generation will learn to love this lovable bear and his endearing friends.

 

The Chalk Rainbow

The Chalk Rainbow

The Chalk Rainbow

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Chalk Rainbow

Deborah Kelly

Gwynneth Jones

EK, 2017

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

9781925335453

Zane is different to other kids – he lives in his own world with his own language, a need to line things up and has an inordinate fear of the colour black.  Black food, black clothes, black anything – he won’t go near it.  Not the pedestrian crossing, the soft fall at the playground, not even his own driveway.  So Zane is trapped on the front step unable to venture further, even when his dad yells at him.  Until one day his sister starts to draw a chalk rainbow on the steps to cheer him up.  Zane likes colour so he joins in. And then the magic begins…

Like so many children Zane is on the Autism Spectrum and while their issues might seem unreasonable and even be unfathomable to those around them, like Zane’s fear of black frustrates and angers his father, nevertheless they are very real to the child.  And because of the way their brain is wired they can’t overcome them any more than we can expect them to change their hair colour or foot size, so it is up to us as adults to adapt our way of thinking and working so we can enable the child to manage the world better.  It’s about acknowledging their disorder and treating them with respect and dignity.  If they can’t change then we must.  Through imagination and love, the rainbow bridges work for Zane’s family and instead of being frustrated even his dad is able to free Zane from the prison walls of black.  

Kids themselves are very accepting of others whatever their differences, but they don’t always understand how their actions can help or hinder.  Nearly every classroom had a child with ASD these days and while that child’s issues might not be the colour black, using this book as a springboard to introduce how peers can help the ASD child have a better time at school would be a brilliant start towards total acceptance and understanding.  Even if there is no ASD involved, using the imagination to make something like a chalk rainbow to take that next step into the unknown is a wonderful strategy.

An essential addition to the school library’s collection and the home library of the siblings of an ASD child.

Playtime with Ted

Playtime with Ted

Playtime with Ted

 

 

 

 

 

 

Playtime with Ted

9781408880807

Bedtime with Ted

9781408880791

Sophy Henn

Bloomsbury, 2017

10pp., board, RRP $aA12.99

For the reading delight of toddlers comes a new series of lift-the-flap books featuring Ted who has an amazing imagination and makes fun from the most mundane things- things that the little readers will recognise and relate to. 

In Playtime with Ted he has extraordinary adventures in what, to the adult eye, is an ordinary cardboard box but which to Ted is a racing car, a digger, a submarine – even a rocketship!

In Bedtime with Ted the nightly routine of bathing, teeth-cleaning, having a final class of milk are made all the more fun when you share them with some unusual friends.

Perfect for teaching our newest readers that not only is there fun in books and stories but they have the power to manipulate the story as they guess what might be under the flap and then lift it to find out.  And even if their predictions don’t match the pictures, that’s okay because they’ve had fun bringing what they know to the words.  Good stuff!

 

Archie and the Bear

Archie and the Bear

Archie and the Bear

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Archie and the Bear

Zanni Louise

David Mackintosh

Little Hare, 2017

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

9781760127510

Archie loves being a bear but people just see his as a boy in a bear suit.  Strong-willed, determined and frustrated that people don’t believe him, Archie runs away to the forest where he meets a bear who is all about being a boy.  When Archie comments on the bear’s boy suit the bear growls at him that he is a boy not a bear, and instantly there is a bond between them.  Sharing the things they love like honey sandwiches, fishing and reading they support each other until darkness falls and the night grows cold and suddenly it’s better to be who you really are.

Mackintosh’s illustrations bring each identity to life using scale to show not just the physical relationships but also the emotional ones. And despite being so small, even just a speck in some pictures, Archie’s will remains strong and large saying much about physical size and shape not defining us as people. 

This is a quirky, original story about being true to yourself that will open up all sorts of discussions about imagination, self-belief and friendships. Even though adults might not see Archie as a bear, young readers will get it as the author has climbed into their thinking and they will relate to it. Sometimes it’s not enough to be a powerless little boy in an adult-dominated world.

Discussions may even wander into the field of how each living thing has adapted to its environment, each with its own special needs met within it, and why the ending was inevitable.

Unusual but intriguing.    

The Magic Word

The Magic Word

The Magic Word

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Magic Word

Mac Barnett

Elise Parsley

Balzier & Bray, 2016

40pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9780062354846

Paxton C. Heymeyer seems to have forgotten his manners, so when he asks his babysitter for a cookie she asks him for the magic word.  But instead of saying, “Can I have a cookie, please”, Paxton C. Heymeyer shouts “Can I have a cookie, alakazoomba?”  Suddenly, in a puff of blue smoke he not only discovers a cookie in his hand but the power to summon up anything he wants with that one magic word.  A walrus to chase the babysitter to the North Pole; a waterslide in the living room; a jungle bedroom; anything his imagination lets him dream.  Even an elephant and a robot-servant!

But when Rosie comes to play he finds that things aren’t quite what he wishes for because elephants can’t play cards or any of the other things friends do together…

There would be few of our littlies who have not been asked for “the magic word” so they will relate well to this engaging story of being able to have whatever you want – it brings life to the saying “Be careful what you wish for.”  Asking them what they would wish for or dream of having will elicit a lot of discussion and drawing, but there is also much to think about when Rosie refuses to play and goes home. Friendship and happiness are not all about material things and instant gratification, and this book may provide food for thought for those who want to have the latest thing NOW, and those who wish they could.

 

The Leaky Story

The Leaky Story

The Leaky Story

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Leaky Story

Devon Sillet

Anil Tortop

EK Books, 2017

32pp., hbk., 2017

9781925335392
 
The Blossburn family are engaged in their usual activities – parents engrossed in a television program while J.J. is playing with toys on the mat.  No one is taking any notice of the books on the shelves, least of all the one that is slowly swelling as it demands to be read.  Only when it swells so much that it falls over and the letters start to spill out with the drip-drips becoming plop-plops does J.J. notice and try to stem the flood.  In fact it is not until the plop-plops become a splish-splash and the living room starts to look like an aquarium as all sorts of sea creatures invade it and swamp their recliner chairs that Mr and Mrs even start to notice that something might be amiss.  But their attention is grabbed when pirates sail through and challenge them that the fun really begins.
 
Young children will love this concept as they willingly suspend their reality and let their imaginations take over.  Canberra-based author Devon Sillet was awarded the Australian Postgraduate Award for her research into speculative fiction for young adults and it seems that this is a great example of the “what-if’ story starter.  What if your favourite story came to life right there in your living room?  Can you imagine the responses the children could draw, just as Anil Tortop has done with Sillet’s words in such a colourful, fun way?  Let them tell you about as book they have bought or borrowed that they just couldn’t wait to read and what it would be like if it came true right there in their home. A great way to start their writing careers.
Or even if they all started with the same story – an intriguing way to introduce the concept that even with the same information we all perceive and interpret things differently because of our previous experiences and understandings. Similarly,  they might like to turn the story around and talk about how 17th century pirates would feel in a 21st century home.
 
The final page is very satisfying as the Blossburns have all discovered the magic of words and the adventures they can take them on – what will they have happen in their living room next? What adventure would the children like to have?

Just Like Molly

Just Like Molly

Just Like Molly

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just Like Molly

Pippa Dowling

Sunshine 

Empowering Resources, 2016

32pp., pbk., RRP $A17.00

9780994501073

At some stage in their young lives, children have an imaginary friend – one who likes to do the things that you like, eat the things you eat, be scared of the things you are scared of and share good times with you.  And so it is with the little girl in this story.  Her friend Molly loves playing games, going to the park and going on the slides, eating fish and chips and gelati.  She doesn’t mind the other kids who are noisy but the barking dogs are a bit frightening.

But one day Molly disappears and no amount of searching finds her.  Things are bleak and lonely especially as school has just started and everyone seems to have a friend already.  And then one day a little girl called Zoe offers to share her crayons…

This is not an uncommon theme in children’s storybooks but the remarkable thing about this one is that the author wrote it when she was just 10.  She is now just 13. Whimsical characters in colours that echo the mood of the story bring the little girl and her friend to life and reassures those who are about to begin a new phase of their life that there will be someone ready to support them. It opens up opportunities to talk about what friends are and how to initiate friendships through kindness and that through our lives we will have many different friends. 

You can read more about this young author here and perhaps her story will inspire the writers in your class to keep at it. 

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.