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Go Go and the Silver Shoes

GoGo and the Silver Shoes

Go Go and the Silver Shoes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Go Go and the Silver Shoes

Jane Godwin

Anna Walker

Penguin Viking, 2018

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

9780143785521

When all your clothes are the hand-me-downs from your three wild brothers,  it is important to make the most of what you have.  Even though they were fourth-hand, Go Go had a knack for making them interesting and wore them proudly even if “friends” like Annabelle made unkind comments.  

And when the only new things you get are your knickers and sneakers, then it is especially important to choose the most beautiful you can find.  So when Go Go chose a pair of silver sneakers that sparkled in the sun she wore them everywhere.  She loved them and was so proud of them, even if they were a bit big to last longer.  But disaster struck the day the family went on a picnic and while Go Go and her brothers were having an adventure down through the rocks in the river, one of the precious shoes is lost.  Go Go is heartbroken and very cross as her mum points out that perhaps she should have worn older shoes that day.  

But undeterred and despite her brothers’ suggestions for what she could do with the remaining shoe, Go Go is determined to wear it still – even if it means teaming it with an odd shoe and facing the jeers of Annabelle.  This is a decision that leads to an unexpected friendship as both Go Go and the lost shoe have their own journeys to make…

There is so much to love about this story… as the grandmother of one who never wears matching socks and is so unaffected by a need to be trendy, I love Go Go’s independence and confidence in creating her own style and being a bit different; as one who grew up in the middle of eight boys (all but one cousins), I love that she is me 50+ years ago and all the memories that evokes; and I love Anna Walker’s illustrations that are so subtle and detailed and tell a story of their own.  And I love the ending… you just never know where or how lasting friendships are going to happen.  From its sparkly cover to its stunning endpages, this is a unique story that had me enthralled to the end.

So many will identify with Go Go  and draw strength and confidence from her independence and ability to get to the nub of what being a child is about without all the frills and fripperies. 

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

Shout Out to the Girls: A Celebration of Awesome Australian Women

Shout Out to the Girls: A Celebration of Awesome Australian Women

Shout Out to the Girls: A Celebration of Awesome Australian Women

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shout Out to the Girls: A Celebration of Awesome Australian Women

Random House Australia, 2018

210pp., hbk., RRP  $A29.99

9780143789420

In recent reviews such as Barney and the Secret of the French Spies,  Women in Science and Three Cheers for Women I have challenged readers to consider a woman whose story, they believe, needs telling.  The problem is that when it comes to uncovering these stories few have been revealed and so it is those of the “usual suspects” that are told and retold.  

But now, this new publication from Random House Australia opens a whole new range of women whose lives and work need to be given “a public expression of thanks”.  Although we find people like Cathy Freeman, Germaine Greer and Mary Mackillop featured, there are dozens of new names like Yassmin Abdel-Magied, Rachel Perkins, and Felicity Wishart whose names might only be known to those in that particular field of endeavour. There are also those of more recent heroes like Sia, Carrie Bickmore and Turia Pitt making this an exploration of significant women in our girls’ lives, not just women in history with whom they may feel no connection. 

All in all over 50 women have a brief one-page biography accompanied by an illustration from a range of illustrators. However, the book also acknowledges all those who have made a contribution to the field, not just the “poster person” for it.  For example, while Magda Szubanski is celebrated for “helping us laugh and speaking the truth”, there is a shout out “Brava for the women who make their own roles on stage, on screen and in life”; Rosie Batty for “her compassion and bravery” but also to “the courageous and strong women who speak out for the vulnerable”; and Mum Shirl for “unwavering dedication and generosity” as well as thanks to all “the advocates and activists who give so much of themselves to help others in need”. There is a feeling of inclusivity that we are drawn into as though someone, somewhere is acknowledging that which we do as we go about our daily lives.

There is even a shout-out to the reader for picking up the book wanting to learn about awesome Australian women while the very last entry is a shout-out to the Smith Family to whom all royalties will be donated so they can continue helping Australian kids get the most from their education.

From the front cover depicting a range of Australian native flowers because like Australian women, its flowers “aren’t wilting violets; they are strong and tough, and have evolved to endure extreme environments” this is an intriguing book in its design and content that must be in every library’s collection if we are to continue to reveal and tell the stories of our women and how they have contributed so much to the life that we enjoy today, holding up mirrors, staring through windows, marching through doors and breaking down barriers.  

Again I ask, “Whose story will you tell?”

Barney and the Secret of the French Spies

Barney and the Secret of the French Spies

Barney and the Secret of the French Spies

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Barney and the Secret of the French Spies

Jackie French

HarperCollins, 2018 

128pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

 9781460751305

Barney first met the mysterious Elsie hiding under a rock and, like him, eking out an existence on the shores of Port Jackson in 1791 where he was an orphaned child, son of a convict and with no one and nowhere to call home.  Like Barney, she was eventually taken under the wing of the Reverend and Mrs Johnson but she remained an enigma for she never spoke.  On one or two very rare occasions, Barney did hear her utter something but it was so fleeting he thought he was hearing things. 

Now, in this 4th in this series that features Barney telling of his life while uncovering some of the secrets of this country’s early beginnings, Elsie’s story is told at last.  While Barney is beginning to prosper on his farm on the Parramatta River, Elsie has stayed in Sydney Town with the Johnsons and become a sought-after cook by the colony’s elite like Mrs Macarthur. But when word comes that she is desperately ill, perhaps with typhus, Barney hastens to her side in the isolation hut at the hospital and while she doesn’t have typhus it soon becomes clear why she has been put in isolation.  For in her delirium she cries out and while to Barney’s ear she is speaking gobbledygook, both Mrs Johnson and Mrs Macarthur recognise it as French!  They also recognise the dire consequences if Elsie’s nationality is discovered for once again, England and France are at war.

Acknowledging his  enduring love for Elsie and his intention to marry her, Barney stays by her side as she recuperates, encouraged by both women for they believe that he is the only one one that Elsie is likely to divulge her secrets to.  And what a secret it is….

The very best historical fiction weaves fact and fiction so closely together that the reader is left not only wondering what is true and what is imagined, but also wanting to discover more.  And so it is again with Jackie French’s masterful storytelling only this time the secret that Elsie discloses opens up so many pathways to wander down and explore that it is almost overwhelming.  Traditionally history has been told by men because only men were listened to and only the things men did were deemed important and so women and their achievements have been all but invisible. 

But they were there – often in disguise as Elsie’s great-aunt was – and making their mark in life if not in the history books! In the prologue the reader is warned that there are two secrets in this book – not just the story of Elsie but another one “every person needs to yell out loud” – the stories of the women in history that have been kept secret for centuries and generations; secrets that are slowly being uncovered and secrets that will never be discovered.   For it is only in this generation of women alive now that so many barriers have been battered down – even my own mother was expected to give up her hard-fought for job in journalism so a man returning from war could have employment –  that we can learn about the role of the women in our past and acknowledge and celebrate it. Through Elsie’s story and her author’s notes, Jackie not only builds awareness that the role of women goes far beyond anything we can imagine but also challenges us to expose it!

Whose secret will you share?

Bobby the Plain-Faced Cattle Dog

Bobby the Plain-Faced Cattle Dog

Bobby the Plain-Faced Cattle Dog

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bobby the Plain-Faced Cattle Dog

Amy Curran

Pink Coffee Publishing, 2018

48pp., pbk., RRP $A14.95

9780646239307

Bobby was the last of Peggy’s litter of Australian cattle dogs to find a new home – some of his brothers and sisters had  already moved to new homes – but he was OK with that because he was just a puppy.  His mother consoled him and told him not to worry because he would find friends and “be accepted by others.”  Because Booby was different.  Instead of having the regular markings and patches of his breed, his face was plain.

He didn’t know he was a bit different until the other cattle dogs at his new home, when a farmer finally came to claim him, wouldn’t play with him and this saddened him  In fact it wasn’t until he befriended Mother Duck and she had him look in a pool of still water that he noticed the difference.  Was he going to spend his life being different and alone? It would seem so until something happens that makes Bobby a hero and finally he is accepted for who he is inside rather than what he looks like.

Based on a real dog and his experiences with other dogs, this story has a strong message of being accepted for who we are rather than what we look like.

Bullying, in all its facets, is certainly at the top of the agenda in these weeks following the suicide of Amy “Dolly’ Everett and there are calls from all quarters for it to be addressed, with the brunt of the expectations falling squarely on the shoulders of schools.  While the other dogs don’t nip or bite or otherwise abuse Bobby in what is the overt form of bullying, excluding him because of his looks is just as damaging and it makes a good discussion starter to raise the issue with young children so they can understand that bullying can take many forms and each can have unforeseen and unseen consequences.

Written for young, almost independent readers, this is the first in a proposed series that is designed to teach young children to look beyond exteriors because “It’s what on the inside that counts.”  There are teachers’ notes available as well as a plush toy that will give the story extra meaning.

 

 

 

 

Freaks on the Loose

Freaks on the Loose

Freaks on the Loose

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Freaks on the Loose

Leigh Hobbs

Allen & Unwin, 2018

240pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9781760294311

When you pick up a book that not only has Leigh Hobbs’ name on the front cover but also a warning to the reader that if they see the characters within they should report them to the Education Department and run, as well as another to prospective teachers to reconsider their career choice, then you know you have a gem in your hands – one that your students are going to love.

Populated with the most amazing and diverse Year 4 students that a teacher could ever dread to have, Freaks on the Loose is a combination of 4F for Freaks and Freaks Ahoy! In typical Hobbs’ style with compelling line drawings and minimal text he sets out to portray the class from hell, drawing on people he has met over time to create a novel that will appeal to all those who share his quirky sense of humour and like a bit of subversion.  He admits that he likes to go into bat for the underdog and while his characters may be somewhat extreme in their portrayal, underneath there is something that we can all relate to, all having felt freakish at some stage in our lives.

As the Australian Children’s Laureate for 2016-2017, Hobbs did a magnificent job of spreading the word about the critical importance of reading, of reaching out to those for whom stories might not be entertaining or accessible, of showing that print is just as entertaining as the screen, and in this collection of two of his funniest books, he is spreading his message to even the most reluctant readers in our classes.

 

Three Cheers for Women!

Three Cheers for Women!

Three Cheers for Women!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Three Cheers for Women!

Marcia Williams

Walker Books, 2018

48pp., hbk., RRP $A27.99

9781406374865

Featuring influential women across the ages including Cleopatra, Boudicca, Joan of Arc, Elizabeth I, Mary Wollstonecraft, Jane Austen, Florence Nightingale, Marie Curie, Eleanor Roosevelt, Amelia Earhart, Frida Kahlo, Wangari Maathai, Mae C. Jemison, Cathy Freeman and Malala Yousafzai, Marcia Williams brings to life just a smattering of the women who have helped shaped this planet and the life we live today.

While each of the key women’s stories is told in a comic-strip format which will appeal to many, dozens more have a thumbnail sketch in the final pages prompting the reader to want to find out more about them.  In a concluding letter to the reader, Williams says that as she wrote the book she dreamed of a book with never-ending pages so she could include “every single world-changing female” but in the absence of that had to settle for her favourites.

She also asks, ” How many women do you think I have left out?” and includes a blank banner for adding new names, setting up the perfect opportunity for students to investigate their own choice of who should be included, adding a new page to the book so that its pages do become never-ending.

 

The Pink Hat

The Pink Hat

The Pink Hat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Pink Hat

Andrew Joyner

Random House Australia, 2018

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

9780143789369

At first there wasn’t a pink hat but after some deft weaving of a skein of wool there was and its maker, an older woman,  wore it all the time because it was so cosy.  That is, until a cat grabbed it and had fun with it.  That is, until it flew out the window as it was thrown around and landed in a tree where some children found it.  But as they climbed the tree to reach it, it dislodged and fell into a stroller where a baby claimed it.  

And so the pink hat’s adventures continued until it became one of millions of pink hats in the largest political march in history and became a symbol for women’s rights and recognition worldwide. Something so simple and common became so powerful. 

Dedicated to the “women who march us forward” this is a masterpiece that brings the equality of half of the world’s population into sharp focus without preaching or bias but with so much scope to take the discussion further as the meaning of the placards carried by the participants – women, men and children – is explored and explained. Its power lies in its subtlety not just in the text but in the monochrome illustrations where the only pop of colour is the hat so that it is the focal point of each page while those who come into contact with it are united in their lack of colour – gender, age, ethnicity, religion and socioeconomic status become irrelevant. 

As one who lived through the “bra-burning days”, who benefited greatly from what was so hard-won by the women who went before me and who has fought for the recognition of those achievements watching young girls go places and do things never before considered possible because of their gender, it bewildered me that ‘feminism’ had become the second f-word, despised, derided and almost abandoned as though it had sinister connotations.  Now, with this book and another march taking place on all seven continents to continue what was begun, not only will pink hats become the hottest headwear but our young women can continue their inexorable but unending march forward. 

Let the conversations begin and rise in a crescendo.

A picture book for all ages and both genders, excellent for encouraging the answers to “What is the author’s message?’ and “How has it been conveyed?”.

First Day

First Day

First Day

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First Day

Margaret Wild

Kim Gamble

Allen & Unwin, 2017

32pp., pbk, RRP $A14.99

9781760293918

Like thousands of other children around Australia at this time, Salma, Khalil, Jun, Stephen, Penny and Alex are getting ready for their first day of school.  Each has a different routine and each has different emotions.  Each has things they can do really well and each has things that bother them – differences that every kindergarten teacher knows will make this another exciting year as personalities emerge, learning happens and unbreakable bonds are made.  Because no matter what those differences are – whether they are how the children are feeling, who is in their family, even how they journey to school, like Ms Manoli it is their job to shape and direct these young lives so their first day of school is the best day and each child feels excited and empowered to come back again and again and again… or twelve years!

Sharing First Day on the first day is a great way to start the school year as it will help the children understand that each of them is an individual but whatever their hopes and fears, they are shared by others and they are not alone.  Even adults, like Alex’s mum who is also returning to school for the first time in a long time has similar feelings so it’s not babyish to be feeling apprehensive and concerned.

It could also be a solid foundation for a foray into the early steps of information literacy as each child compares their feelings, expectations, achievements and routines with the children in the story.  There is scope for sequencing as they map the school day; graphing as they discover how each comes to school; mapping as they identify key parts of the school like Stephen who needs to know where all the toilets are – a host of real-life, in-context activities that can kickstart this learning journey.

First Day was first published 20 years ago – it is testament to its quality that it is still in print and still a staple of the early childhood collection.

Here We Are: Notes For Living On Planet Earth

Here We Are: Notes For Living On Planet Earth

Here We Are: Notes For Living On Planet Earth

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here We Are: Notes For Living On Planet Earth

Oliver Jeffers

HarperCollins, 2017

48pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9780008266165

“Well, hello.
And welcome to this Planet.
We call it Earth.

Our world can be a bewildering place, especially if you’ve only just got here. Your head will be filled with questions, so let’s explore what makes our planet and how we live on it. From land and sky, to people and time, these notes can be your guide and start you on your journey. And you’ll figure lots of things out for yourself. Just remember to leave notes for everyone else… Some things about our planet are pretty complicated, but things can be simple, too: you’ve just got to be kind.”

Written for his baby son, Jeffers tries to offer an explanation of this planet and how it works so that young Harland (and any other little children) will be able to negotiate it successfully.  Even though this planet is a complex place, Jeffers manages to extract its essential elements  – there are basically two parts, the land and the sea – and using direct narrative, his iconic illustrations and simple labels he explores the concepts of the planet and the people and animals who inhabit it. Huge ideas reduced to simple but carefully chosen words that convey both explanation and advice.

“People come in many shapes, sizes and colours.  We may all look different, act differently and sound different … but don’t be fooled, we are all people.”

Throughout there is the underlying message of choosing kind and gentle to the land, its people and all its inhabitants, underpinned by a quote from J. M. Barrie as part of the dedication page..

With so much emphasis on the environment in our school curricula these days, this is the perfect book to create a child’s awareness of their surroundings beyond their immediate self.  But there are so many avenues that could be explored by posing questions such as “Is there more land that sea?”  or “If most of the land is at the top of the planet, why doesn’t the planet roll?” that could lead to investigations by all ages.  

Here We Are: Notes For Living On Planet Earth was the #1 New York Times Bestseller and voted #1 TIME Best Book of the Year for 2017.  It’s easy to see why. A must-have in your collection and one to be recommended to teachers as the staple that underpins all their lessons this year.

The ABC Book of Feelings

The ABC Book of Feelings

The ABC Book of Feelings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The ABC Book of Feelings

Helen Martin & Judith Simpson

Cheryl Orsini

ABC Books, 2017

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

9780733338298

Many schools are now including mindfulness in their curricula as they encourage children to check in on their own feelings and those of their peers in a bid to promote and protect positive mental health.  This book, the 9th in this series, will be a valuable addition to the resources as it not only introduces the range of human emotions but also reaffirms them as being natural rather than positive or negative; demonstrates that feelings change; and that others might respond to a particular situation in a way that we don’t experience or expect.

The latter point can be a tricky concept for little ones to understand as they are not yet mature enough to step beyond their own response to objectively look at others but the process can be started by having them compare food likes and dislikes so they begin to understand that there can be differences of opinion and that our personal experiences shape who we are and how we respond.  For example, a little one I know who is so totally in tune with nature has no issue with having her pet snake as her hair adornment whilst others will shudder because their experiences with these creatures are very different! But knowing and accepting that we all respond differently can be a step towards minimising teasing and bullying.

Speaking directly to the reader, the authors not only introduce the more common emotions we experience but acknowledge that anger and sadness and apprehension are also natural and offer ways to deal with them so we can move on to a better place.  They explain that other people can influence our feelings and even the way our body is feeling physically can have an impact.  Who hasn’t been cranky when they’re hungry or have a headache or been in the sun too long?

Any book that helps little ones understand and acknowledge their feelings and know that they are the body’s natural response to events and are part of who we are as humans is important in not only helping us to know ourselves better but also to know others and help develop both empathy and resilience, both important in combating bullying.. With its charming illustrations and personalised text, this could be at the core of your collection of mindfulness and mental health resources.