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The Dream Bird

The Dream Bird

The Dream Bird

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Dream Bird

Aleesah Darlison

Emma Middleton

Wombat Books, 2018

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

9781925563337

George was a day child – he loved to run and play in the sunshine and light.  But it was a different story at night time when it was time to snuggle down and sleep.  No matter what he did, he could not sleep.  Even following the suggestions of his family like counting 100 sheep backwards and drinking hot milk did not work. 

Deciding to try something new, he crept into Gran’s room but her bed is cold without her cuddles to make it cosy.  But as he slips forlornly to the floor, she slips into the room and tells him a story about a magical bird that will help him sleep and have the nicest of dreams…

This is a most intriguing story, one that has many layers.  Certainly, on the surface, it celebrates the power of the bedtime story as an essential part of the nighttime routine and it also opens up discussions about the importance of sleep and the ways we can help ourselves drift off.  But what is Grandma’s secret?  Is she alive?  Did she die in her sleep making George scared that that will happen to him?  Is it her “ghost” telling the story of the Dream Bird?  

The contrast in the illustrations between George the day child and George the night child using the softest palette and increasingly ethereal lines, the transition between the two parts of the story is perfect, and even though Grandma is the youngest looking grandma on the planet (probably appropriate given George’s age), it all goes towards making this another Darlinson delight that will entertain as much as it intrigues. 

See Hear – a beginner’s book of senses

See Hear - a beginner's book of senses

See Hear – a beginner’s book of senses

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

See Hear – a beginner’s book of senses

Tania McCartney

Jess Racklyeft

EK Books, 2018

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

9781925335675

“If I stop and look around, I can see so many things.”

In this sequel to Smile Cry, Piglet, Bunny and Cat are looking closely at the world around them and then using their words to describe what they see – the crawling spots on the ladybird; the squiggly rain down the window, the heavenly horses in the clouds…

Then flip the book over and they explore the world through it sounds – baby birds tweeting in the nest, a page being turned, the sizzling of carrot chips in the pan…

And then the two sides meet in the perfect observation – the endless stars and the endless quiet of outer space.

Young children find out so much of what they know about the world around them through their senses – they’re not yet old enough to consult books, watch David Attenborough or search Google – so teaching them to really look and listen is such an essential skill.  But also essential, and what Tania McCartney does so well, is to teach them to express what they see in words that create pictures and memories, to use all their senses to evoke and provoke emotions. Will you ever hear thunder again and not think “calamitous clouds”?

 

While on the surface this looks like a book for the preschooler, imagine how it could be used to encourage young writers to bring depth and richness to their words, to explore the world of metaphor and simile, to really look and listen and feel and taste and then share that with their readers. Start by having each contribute a new page for the book, making the common uncommon,; the stereotype original; the banal beautiful. Watch their writing grow!

Such riches in an exquisite combination of author and illustrator that goes so far beyond the usual eyes see, ears hear books for this age group.

When I Grow Up

When I Grow Up

When I Grow Up

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I Grow Up

Andrew Daddo

Jonathan Bentley

ABC Books, 2016

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

9780733333422

Hairdresser, inventor, astronaut, writer, performer, secret agent…little people have big dreams when they are asked that perennial question about what they want to be when they grow up.  And these days nothing is impossible.  But there is one thing that is more important than anything else…

This is an engaging book that not only explores the range of possibilities that little ones suggest but also has fun exploring what they think those jobs involve.  For example, the writer suggests he will write a story about “a prince [rescuing] a princess, and she’ll say, “I can rescue myself, thank you!” But they will still live happily ever after.”  The inventor will invent “a bedroom cleaner (that’s not called me)” while the budding hairdresser will tame goldy locks  into buns and braids, bobs and beehives  and give the boys buzzcuts or bowls. 

Once again, Jonathan Bentley’s superb illustrations take the text to a higher level as they translate imagination into reality.  

These sorts of books are perfect for helping budding readers and writers as they serve as a wonderful model for a class book.  Imagine the interest in writing and illustrating a page about your dreams for your future and then having these collated into a book to be pored over and over, maybe even set up as a slideshow to be shared with parents and grandparents from afar. Even research can begin as they discover just what is involved in their choices perhaps inviting parents or representatives of their choices to talk to them -learning that it is often not enough to say what they want but justifying it too.

Personal, in-context activities like these are irresistible to young children and boost their writing and reading enormously as they have such an explicit, overt purpose and meaning consolidating what they expect from a story.

A Boat of Stars: New poems to inspire and enchant

A Boat of Stars: New poems to inspire and enchant

A Boat of Stars: New poems to inspire and enchant

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Boat of Stars: New poems to inspire and enchant

Margaret Connolly & Natalie Jane Prior (eds)

ABC, 2018

128pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9780733337932

A boat of stars came down tonight
and sailed around my bed –
it sprinkled stardust on my eyes,
put dreams inside my head…

Poetry, with its vocabulary, rhythm and sometimes rhyme, and its nuances that are the sounds of our spoken language is a critical part of helping our young readers not only learn to speak but also to fire their imaginations and create dreams.  Sadly, though, it has been a long time since we have had a new anthology of children’s poems that is appealing enough to attract the eyes and ears of our younger generation and so, to them, poems have become something you dissect for structure and syllables and struggle to emulate, missing the magic and meaning in the poet’s words.  

In this new collection put together by Margaret Connolly & Natalie Jane Prior because,like many parents and teachers, they struggled to find something that would engage, many of Australia’s renowned writers and illustrators have plied their craft with words and media to bring a joyful, diverse, and thoroughly engaging posse of poems that will re-ignite the beauty of the format and have children feeling satisfied that despite the brevity, they have visited a new place, thought new thoughts and heard a story. 

With topics ranging from zucchinis to giraffes to balls and beyond, each one is different in topic and structure and each reaches out to the everyday lives of our children, drawing them into something they are familiar with but told in a brand new way.  Something as common as a new baby coming into the family is given a whole new spin by Sophie Masson and  Julie Vivas; as ordinary as getting a new hat (Alexa Moses and Matt Shanks) or even just digging a hole (Kate Mayes and Matt Shanks) are brought to life in a way that inspires the imagination and suggests that poetry really does have a special place in their reading menu.  Being able to tell a story in just a few words and even fewer lines is a gift that few have but to the listener/reader it highlights the beauty of our language and shows how it is possible to make every word work hard to stir the brain and the heart.

This really is “a boat of stars” for the imagination and dreams, one that is accessible to all as a shared experience and a welcome addition to a critical area of literature and language that has been neglected for too long. 

 

Lola Dutch

Lola Dutch

Lola Dutch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lola Dutch

Kenneth Wright

Sarah Jane Wright

Bloomsbury USA, 2018

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

9781681195513

Sometimes Lola Dutch is a little bit much!  Each morning she wakes up brimming with ideas about how to have an AMAZING day and then, with her animal friends, goes about doing so.  

It starts with breakfast where Gator gets grits and gravy, Pig gets pastries with hot chocolate and marshmallows, Crane orders crepes and cream and all the while her friend Bear watches on with trepidation because he knows who gets to wash the dishes and clean up. On their morning walk, Lola decides to go to the library and while the others read about great inventors, chemists and writers, Lola reads about great artists – which sets her imagination running…

And so the day goes on, with Lola’s imagination knowing no bounds and Bear trying to rein it in a little.  Even bedtime is not calming and peaceful until Lola discovers that despite the frenetic day, there is really only one thing she needs.

Inspired by the antics of their four children, this husband and wife team have created a book that not only is full of big ideas but also leaves the reader a bit breathless.  Parents choosing to read this to their children at bedtime need to be ready for their suggestions for how their next day can be AMAZING – and then hope it’s all forgotten about come morning, unless they want an AMAZING day too! If they do, there’s more here.

 

How to Be a Fashion Designer

How to Be a Fashion Designer

How to Be a Fashion Designer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Be a Fashion Designer

Lesley Ware

Tiki Papier

DK, 2018

96pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

 9781465467614

The world of fashion, with its perceived glamour and glitz, always appeals to a certain number of students who care about what they wear and have the ability to make the proverbial sack look good. Sadly though, enduring emphasis on body image continues despite all that is done to combat it and many soon realise they don’t have “the look” to be a top model and turn away.  But in this easy-to-read manual other avenues in fashion are explored, particularly those of the designer and the stylist.  “While designers create their clothes, stylists know how to put them together.”

Using themed double-spreads students are taken through the basic steps with typical DK layout pizzazz, illustrations galore, tips and challenges that encourage them to start designing now.  The last 20 pages offer opportunities to design a t-shirt, trousers, skirt, hat, shoes and accessories with outlines already provided so new knowledge can be applied immediately as the reader learns about colour, texture, patterns and shape while being encouraged to be inspired by the event and the environment.  Recycling and upstyling are explored so not only is waste minimised but even those with few dollars do not need to be deterred.

Ware believes that those who can “speak up with fashion” have the courage to speak up in other ways too so as teachers we should look to those who dare to be different as being more than clothes horses.  A close-to-home example is a student I taught a few years ago who always made the compulsory school uniform a personal statement, who was a whizz at design puzzles like tangrams and who, at 17, starred in a local show in a country town and six months later in 2017, had her designs on the catwalk in Vancouver  and more recently, Nassau in the Bahamas! Her story alone should give students confidence to continue.

Written to support a STEAM curriculum, the suggestions in this book offer an entire term’s curriculum for those with this sort of interest but even those who aren’t particularly interested in fashion can learn how to step out with a bit more style to give themselves a confidence boost.

 

Kate and The Thing

Kate and The Thing

Kate and The Thing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kate and The Thing

Heidi Cooper Smith

Wombat Books, 2018

32pp. hbk., RRP $A24.99

 9781925563290

Kate is about to start her first day at a new school, and like thousands of other kids who have to face the same experience, she is feeling anxious and reluctant.  But then a mysterious white Thing comes into her life and helps her set the fear aside temporarily as it shows her the beauty in the colour of the autumn leaves and the joy in the sound of the sidewalk buskers.  All through her first day and the days following, Kate has the Thing by her side, giving her courage and confidence to hang in there, take each new event one step at a time and gradually stepping back so she can go it alone.  

Then one day she spots a new boy, sitting forlornly and lonely on a bench, a Thing next to his side that he hasn’t yet seen…

Every child who has faced being new at somewhere or something will relate to and empathise with Kate.  The feelings of having to step into the unknown and even the uncomfortable will be familiar and they will relate to having The Thing, or Some Thing giving them invisible support to keep putting one foot in front of the other until the walk is mastered, giving great scope for exploring feelings and emotions and building vocabulary.

This story offers a couple of lines of investigation – before and after.  While Kate has The Thing to support her, it’s helpful to teach students how to prepare for new situations by having them envisage what might go wrong and having some strategies to deal with these if indeed they happen.  Knowing that even if the worst comes to the worst you have some action you can take can often give an added boost of confidence. 

At the other end of the spectrum, as teachers many of us will have had new students starting in our classes over the past couple of weeks as new terms start around the states.  So perhaps this is a time to check up on them and see how they are settling in, that no one is slipping through the cracks in the busyness that is the start of the school year.

Heidi Cooper Smith has written a story that everyone can relate to  and which can offer a springboard to more than just the story of Kate and her Thing.

 

Butterfly Wishes (series)

Butterfly Wishes

Butterfly Wishes

 

 

 

 

 

Butterfly Wishes (series)

Jennifer Castle

Bloomsbury, 2018 

128pp., pbk., RRP $A9.99

Sisters Addie and Clara have just moved to a new house in the country, where they discover that their backyard is a gateway to the enchanted realm of magical butterflies called Wishing Wings. These special butterflies have the power to make wishes come true! 

Each story is complete with plenty of illustrations (the covers alone will inspire imagination) and contain a gentle life lesson as the problem and its resolution are explored.

This is a new series for newly independent readers, particularly girls, who are looking for something with sparkle, magic and the beginnings of fantasy.  While the first, The Wishing Wings,  is available now the others will be released in quick succession so these young readers do not have to wait too long to revisit this new magical world. 

A delightful new series that will encourage young readers to keep coming back for the next episodes.

 

Yay! It’s Library Day

Yay! It's Library Day

Yay! It’s Library Day

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yay! It’s Library Day

Aleesah Darlinson

Australian Children

Wombat Books, 2018

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

9781925563238

For Oliver and Ivy it is the best day of the week because it’s the day their dad takes them to the library.  That’s because that’s the day they can tip=toe through the lion’s lair into the realm of fairies and on into vast rolling oceans ruled by pirates, and even play ping-pong with purple llamas from Timbuctoo! Every book on the library’s shelves takes them to a new world and introduces new characters to frolic with in their words and pictures.  Princess, sea creatures, kangaroos,  ballerinas are all their as the magic carpet sweeps them on new adventures … those amazing books bring their imaginations alive.  

If this book were only this story that is as powerful an advertisement for stories and reading as the Superbowl ad was for Australian tourism, then it would be amazing as Darlinson’s rollicking rhyme shares the possibilities of story, but it is more than that because this is the second one that has drawn on the talents of Australia’s children to illustrate it.  Like its predecessor Zoo Ball, each page Wombat Books invited children all over Australia to submit drawings to accompany the story to provide them with an introduction to the world of illustrating and the opportunity to be published professionally and so each page has its own unique illustration to accompany Darlinson’s text, and providing a different and unique interpretation of it, just as stories do.  Now more than 30 budding illustrators have had their work featured, but over 600 took the opportunity to participate – a figure that suggests we need to consider offering students as much opportunity to draw as write as we teach.

Indeed, offering them the text and inviting them to interpret it as part of your lessons would not only provide an authentic way to investigate how we each interpret the same words differently according to our personal experiences but also open up discussions about perspective and interpretation of events and our role within them.  That’s as well as giving you a unique and intriguing display particularly if students are then encouraged to suggest and find stories that match the pictures, accompanied by their comments about why they love their library!

I hope Wombat Books continue to offer this opportunity to young Australian illustrators, but even if they don’t, it gives us a reminder that we should never underestimate the power of the picture!  

The perfect book to share on Library Lovers’ Day!

 

The Art Garden

The Art Garden

The Art Garden

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Art Garden

Penny Harrison

Penelope Pratley

EK Books, 2018

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

9781925335590

Sadie loves playing with colour and finding patterns and shapes in unlikely places, looking at details of lines and texture with the eye of an artist.  More than anything she wants to be a painter, just like her best friend, Tom whose brush dances across the page, swooshing and swirling into shapes and stories and drawing Sadie right into them. .   But whenever Sadie picks up a paintbrush her colours slip and slurp, splatter and splodge and her paintings don’t look anything like the real thing. So instead, she spends her time working in the garden or playing with Tom.

But, one day, when she ends up painting herself instead of a picture,  Sadie chucks a tantrum in frustration and climbs her favourite tree – and suddenly gets a look at things from a different perspective and makes a big discovery about herself and her own creativity. 

This is a unique story, charmingly illustrated in water colour, that will offer a new perspective to those who don’t see themselves as creative just because they cannot paint.  It opens up lots of potential for discussion about how each of us is creative even if “we can’t draw a straight line”, whether it’s working in a different medium such as stone or fabric or in a different field such as words or music or movement. While we each interpret our environment differently. each one of us is creative and it is creativity that drives us forward. 

Like many kids, Sadie focuses on and is frustrated by the things she can’t do rather than paying attention to that which she does well and her self-talk of doubt takes over.  Sadly, sometimes negative language is all that some of our students hear so they need to learn to think “I can…” rather than “I can’t…” with the help of visible affirmations so maybe get the students to write a personal “I can’t …” statement relating to something they really want to achieve, then rephrase it into an “I can …” mantra that can start to change their inner voice and the thinking that drives it.

Quality picture books are like the seeds that Sadie planted … an engaging story that is the  beautiful flower but so much more beneath the surface that is grounding it and helping it grow.  This is quality.