Archives

In The Dead of the Night

In The Dead of the Night

In The Dead of the Night

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In The Dead of the Night

Arthur McBain

Tom Knight

Little Hare, 2019

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

9781760503413

It’s a cold, rainy night and a storm is outside
Rain beats on the window by Lily’s bedside
She’s scared of the dark so she shuts her eyes tight
She hates nothing more than the dead of the night

Tap. Tap. Tap. Comes a noise from the hallway …

There is something about hearing strange sounds in the middle of the night that makes our imaginations run wild as we think about the possibilities – is there a monster with horns on its head; a vampire looking for prey; or a mesmerised ghost? All of these ideas fill Lily’s head as she lies there listening to the Tap. Tap. Tap. But, remembering her little brother is also asleep and needs protecting, she summons her courage and determines to conquer whatever is making the noise…

Using rhyme and repetitive text, and stunning illustrations that are fearsome but not too scary, McBain and Knight have managed to build a story that reaches a crescendo of tension but which resolves itself with an unusual twist which will resonate with lots of young readers whose imaginations are as active as Lily’s.  It’s an opportunity to talk about what might be making the tap, tap, tap and for little ones to share their fears about the dark and the noises of the night, and to reassure them that even as adults, we are all scared of the unknown at times and we have to summon our courage to investigate too. 

Reassuring and different.

.

 

Hey Grandude!

Hey Grandude!

Hey Grandude!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hey Grandude!

Paul McCartney

Kathryn Durst

Puffin, 2019

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

9780241375655

Grandad, known to his grandchildren (chillers) as Grandude, lives in a very normal house in a very normal street, but when the four chillers – Lucy, Tom, Bob and Em-  come to visit they have adventures that are far from normal.  For in his pockets, Grandude has some magic – postcards and a shiny compass. All he has to do is give the compass a rub, wave it over the postcard and say,

See the compass needle spin,

Let the magic fun begin.

And all of them are whisked away to the destination on the postcard, on a magical mystery tour that takes them to a tropical island, cowboy country, and listening to Grandude strum his guitar in Sound of Music country. And just as the day begins to wane and little ones begin to too, out comes the compass and a photo of Grandude’s very ordinary home…

From the  the creator of some of the world’s most iconic and recognisable songs, this story is based on McCartney’s own experiences of being a grandfather while giving the reader an insight into the magical imagination of someone who can  create such diversity as Yellow Submarine and Hey Jude. Setting aside the realisation that my teenage idol is now a grandparent (as am I) and trying to review this dispassionately, this is still a story that will appeal because it celebrates that special relationship that children have with their grandfathers (who are usually more relaxed than even their grandmothers) and inspires a conversation about where they would go if they had a postcard and a magic compass and the adventures that might happen when they get there, because none of those of Lucy, Tom, Bob and Em end well and they have to beat a hasty retreat! Or an opportunity to recall and retell some of the places they have already been with their grandparents and the memories evoked.

With appealing illustrations created by Durst which show her experience as both an  animator and an intern with Pixar Studios, this is a modern story, unsentimental but nevertheless engaging and one deliberately structured to draw the curtains on the day.

A peek inside....

A peek inside….

 

 

Fly

Fly

Fly

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fly

Jess McGeachin

Puffin, 2019

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

9781760892562

Lucy had always been good at fixing things, and Dad needed a bit of help. It was just the two of them after all. So when Lucy finds a bird with a broken wing, she’s sure she can fix him too…

Even though Dad diagnoses a broken wing and doubts that Flap will ever fly again, Lucy is determined that he will soar again like all the other birds.  So she thinks and draws and works until she has the perfect plan.  Flap does fly again, but not in the way we imagine, and Lucy learns that not all things that are broken can be fixed.

This is a beautiful story of resilience, determination and imagination that, on the surface, appears to be about a little girl, her dad and a bird with a broken wing, and given the creator’s full-time job at the Melbourne Museum and the final pages featuring birds of all countries and continents coming together, that is enough in itself. It shows the strong relationship between Lucy and her dad, which is not unique, but there is no mention of her mum and what might have happened to her. So perhaps this is an allegory for a broken relationship, a split family, a marriage that can’t be mended no matter how hard the child tries, whether the cause is death or divorce, and that together, those who are left have to cope, adapt and go forward in a different direction. Regardless of Flap’s undisclosed fate, there is a strong message of healing that may well offer a sense of hope to the other Lucys and their dads.

 

Roald Dahl’s Beastly Brutes & Heroic Human Beans

Roald Dahl’s Beastly Brutes & Heroic Human Beans

Roald Dahl’s Beastly Brutes & Heroic Human Beans

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Roald Dahl’s Beastly Brutes & Heroic Human Beans

Stella Caldwell & Roald Dahl

Quentin Blake

Puffin, 2019

64pp., hbk., RRP $A39.99

9781760891589

Whether your child’s favourite Dahl book is Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Twits, Matilda or The BFG, they will find their favourite characters brought to life in this unique book as they meet them face-to-face and learn more about what makes them tick.  From Grandpa Joe and Mike Teavee, to Mr and Mrs Twit and Muggle-Wump, to Sophie and the Fleshlumpeater. Miss Trunchbull and Bruce Bogtrotter, each has a special place in this collection that, as the title suggests. looks at Dahl’s most heroic human beans and beastly brutes, each created by Dahl to engage children and show them that children can have power over the adults. The main character from each book guides the reader around the story and introduces the rest of the cast. 

But, as the introduction states, “this is no ordinary book…it’s a press-out paper adventure” because there are lots of card press-outs of the characters and places that help the child describe the roles and personalities of the players and recreate and retell the story in their own words.  Making new from old. (And there’s a convenient envelope at the back to keep them in too.) Clever design means parts of the pages can be pressed out to reveal a glorious parade of characters, interacting with each other in quirky and mischievous ways. 

This is probably not one for the general circulation shelves but it would be the most wonderful prop for any study of Dahl, who has been and will be a children’s favourite for generations, or the ideal gift for a Dahl fan.  Like Dahl’s writing which offers something new with every reading (wouldn’t mind a dollar for every time I’ve read or gifted The BFG), this is a gift that will keep on giving, especially it if it’s teamed with the featured books!. 

Sea Monsters

Sea Monsters

Sea Monsters

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sea Monsters

Sharon J. Yaxley

Forty South Publishing, 2019

46pp., hbk., $25.00

9780648168881

A walk along the beach is often characterised by the sound of the waves, the fresh air and the sheer exuberance of being able to move with such freedom as we pass rocks, seaweed and other detritus washed up by the tides. Being king of the castle, drawing pictures in the sand with sticks, feeling the texture of the sand and shells under our feet and the delight of beating the waves as they try to soak our clothes are just a few joys of this most pleasurable experience.

But what if we slowed down and took the time to look at what is there, to examine the shapes and colours and textures of the landscape? Where might our imaginations take us? Into a world of monsters or somewhere different?

Environmental activist David Suzuki says

Unless we are willing to encourage our children to reconnect with and appreciate the natural world, we can’t expect them to help protect and care for it.

Author/photographer of this new book for young readers, Sharon Yaxley has used this quote to describe the concept of this remarkable book for young readers, to encourage them to look more closely at the things in their world and let those things talk to their imaginations.  Tails, tusks, dark eyes, sharp noses and jaws with jagged teeth are all there in the seaweed, driftwood, rocks, sand… and when the tide crashes in and the wind does its work, they change into something different.  Looking closely, thinking about the object’s story and the story it could inspire all help to slow the child down in this breakneck world, to be curious and spark their wonder.

Even if your students live nowhere near a beach, this can still be the inspiration to take them outside and let them immerse themselves in what is there and imagine… Let’s take the opportunity to connect our kids to the real world so they want to protect it too. Extensive teaching notes aligned to many strands of the Australian Curriculum are available. 

 

 

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”.