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The Cherry Pie Princess

The Cherry Pie Princess

The Cherry Pie Princess

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Cherry Pie Princess

Vivian French

Marta Kissi

Walker Books, 2017

176pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781406368970

“It’s not much fun being a princess: you have to be prim, proper and obedient. Princess Peony lives in a world full of magical creatures – hags, trolls, giants and fairy godmothers – but her father’s strict rules leave her feeling bored and lonely. She wants to learn how to DO things, and cooking’s at the top of her list. But when Peony borrows a recipe book from the public library, the king has the old librarian who tried to help her arrested for “speaking out of turn”. Can Peony stand up to her father and make things right?”

The publisher’s blurb sums up this engaging story very well. Despite being somewhat of a misfit in her family shunning shoes and pretty dresses to better herself, she counts down the days till her 13th birthday when she is allowed an unescorted “educational” visit but is dismayed to find that her plans to again visit the library which she first discovered when she was nine, are thwarted by Mrs Beef who believes a visit to the family’s mausoleum to study her ancestors would be much better for her. But she manages to escape, makes her way to the library and there her adventures really begin…   

For independent readers who like their princesses to have some attitude but also compassion, this is a new take on the more traditional tale.  Lovers of familiar  fairy tales will see it still has many of the features of the originals with a tyrant king with old-fashion views; older, self-absorbed sisters who treat the youngest one with disdain; the mean, miserable governess with the iron fist; fairy godmothers who can grant wishes; a neglected old hag who is cranky that her invitation to the new prince’s christening has not arrived; dark gloomy dungeons where innocents sit forgotten for years; a talking cat… and only one person who can save the day when trouble threatens.   But they will also like the determination, compassion, resilience and self-reliance of Peony who is more like them and isn’t relying on a handsome prince to get her out of bother.

Vivian French’s storytelling is accompanied by a sprinkling of illustrations that add charm and character, making this ideal for a bedtime read-along  or read-alone for the 7+ age group.

Once Upon an ABC

Once Upon an ABC

Once Upon an ABC

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once Upon an ABC

Sophie Masson

Christopher Nielsen

Little Hare, 2017

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

9781760128432

A is for Anansi, both clever and neat,

B is for Brer Rabbit with tar-sticky feet…”

This is a clever romp-in-rhyme through the characters of familiar fairy tales and folktales that will bring back memories of loved stories as well as suggest new ones to explore. Who is Herd Boy?  Why was the Nymph protecting her tree? And why is ‘ugly’ just a disguise?  Perfect for extending children’s reading into traditional tales from a range of countries as they try to match character with story.

But while the illustrations are quirky, I’m not so sure that the target audience is attracted to these muted, retro colours that seem to be so prominent in children’s books at the moment. My experience of 45 years with littlies is that children will view the cover as quite dull and pass it over in favour of something more eye-catching, so that while the text is brilliant it will take an adult’s encouragement to entice the child to explore it.  

Concept is great, presentation not so.

Wolfie An Unlikely Hero

Wolfie An Unlikely Hero

Wolfie An Unlikely Hero

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wolfie An Unlikely Hero

Deborah Abela

Connah Brecon

Random House, 2017

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

9780143781509

Whenever you ask young children what they are afraid of, you can be sure that some will say “a wolf”. Even though we don’t have them Australia, nevertheless they rank right up there because children’s storybooks are littered with wolves that do the wrong thing.  Little Red Riding Hood, The Three Little Pigs, Peter and the Wolf, The Boy who cried Wolf – all stories they hear over and over and all with the wolf as the baddie.  No wonder their ranking on the scare-o-meter is so high!

But what happens when the wolf wants to improve his image, reinvent himself and get some good PR? In this charming twist on the classics, Wolfie and the author have a conversation but no matter what evidence the wolf offers to defend himself, each time the author starts a new story it descends into the same-old, same-old cliché. And even when it DOES go further than the first page there is not a happy ending.  Is it possible to give a bad reputation a makeover?

This is a unique, hilarious story about trying to change your image which will appeal to all sorts of ages for all sorts of reasons.  Little ones will just love it as they recognise favourite characters and plots and the action-packed pictures; older readers might be encouraged to think about stereotypes, perceptions and preconceptions and even the phrase “being tarred with the same brush” which has particular application in today’s political arena. 

Unique, funny, and very readable for all ages.

 

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?

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.

Colour Your Own Medieval Alphabet

Colour Your Own Medieval Alphabet

Colour Your Own Medieval Alphabet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Colour Your Own Medieval Alphabet

British Library

Pavilion. 2016

56pp., pbk., RRP $A22.99

9781911216001

Before the age of printing made books more accessible to the general populace, texts were painstakingly produced by hand in monasteries by monks who were among the few literate people in a community.  Artists known as illuminators embellished a text made by a scribe with a colourful, highly decorative capital letter often gilded with gold leaf so it appeared to be filled with light.  Such books were priceless and became treasured objects.

From its collection of texts, most of which are 500 years old,  the British Library has selected 26 examples, each representing a letter of the alphabet and each annotated with the origin of the original, and transformed them into intricate outlines perfect for those who enjoy the challenge of colouring in.  There are samples from medieval charters and seals, historical and literary manuscripts, from Virgil to Chaucer and Royal Statutes to the Book of Psalms and the endpapers have reproductions of the originals so there is a choice to try to duplicate the original or create something new.

While there are many benefits of colouring in for children that centre around the development of hand-eye co-ordination and spatial awareness, it is becoming a favoured occupation by those who are older for the therapeutic qualities particularly promoting mindfulness and reducing stress.  

Although photocopying of the images for multiple use in a makerspace environment would be a breach of copyright, nevertheless each page could be given to individuals in need of a break, Printed on quality paper they would make a colourful display which could spark an investigation into the origin and history of the written word, the history and origin of the process of illuminations or even life in the Middle Ages generally, particularly the role of religion which is such a driving force for many, even today.  The current anti-Islamic fervour which seems to be building around the world has very deep roots!

It could also become the ubiquitous alphabet chart found in primary libraries or even become the signage for the fiction section.  Imagine the boost to a child’s self-esteem when they see their work put to such a useful purpose!

This books offers more than just a shoosh-and-colour activity to fill in time. It has the potential to take the students on a journey into our past.

The Gobbledygook and the Scribbledynoodle

The Gobbledygook and the Scribbledynoodle

The Gobbledygook and the Scribbledynoodle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Gobbledygook and the Scribbledynoodle

Justin Clarke & Arthur Baysting

Tom Jellett

Penguin Viking, 2016

32pp., hbk. RRP $A19.99

 

Look! Look! It’s the Gobbledygook!
He’s reading his favourite mon-story book.

Comfortable in the library and using his best book-reading manners that he learned in The Gobbledygook is Eating a Book, the Gobbledygook is enjoying exploring his favourite book, whispering the quiet words, shouting the loud ones and making up those he doesn’t know (just like real-life early readers).  But when one of the monsters jumps right out of the book and begins to scribble all over the books the Gobbledygook is very distressed. While the Scribbledynoodle takes notice when it is told that it should not draw on the books, it then takes to drawing on everything else in the library – the walls, the shelves, even the librarian – until the Gobbledygook and his friend escort it outside.  And there it teaches them that there are pictures in many more places than a book. Clouds, rainbows, puddles and snail trails all have their own kind of pictorial magic with the day (and the story) ending in peeking ‘at the pictures we dream in our sleep.”

This is a wonderful romp in rhyme for young readers who will delight in its tongue-twisting words, fast pace, crazy ideas and bright, colourful pictures.  Even though the Gobbledygook is a monster with big teeth and even bigger feet, he’s not one that will scare them and you can just hear the oohs and ahs as they see the destruction that the Scribbledynoodle causes.  Even though they are young THEY know better and will delight in telling the adult reader so.  But they will be pleased that instead of the Scribbledynoodle being in BIG trouble, it gets redirected and through the kindness of the Gobbledygook and his friend, it not only makes new friends but shows them important things too.  The children will be on their way outside to see if they can see an elephant’s bum in the clouds! But they will also look at the colours, shapes and patterns in nature with new eyes, perhaps getting inspiration for their own drawings.

This is “a magnificent, magical, colourful doodle of a day in the life of a Scribbledynoodle”. which will go from first-read to favourite very quickly!

 

Junior Illustrated English Dictionary and Thesaurus

Junior Illustrated English Dictionary and Thesaurus

Junior Illustrated English Dictionary and Thesaurus

Junior Illustrated English Dictionary and Thesaurus

Felicity Brooks

Nikki Dyson

Usborne, 2016

480pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9781474924481

This new release from Usborne, who are masters at putting together quality education resources, comes in perfect time for sharing with parents who are looking for something special for the Christmas stocking for that between-group who are a little old for toys but not quite ready for all the trappings of being a young adult.  Grandparents will LOVE it as a suggestion!

With so many thesauri and dictionaries on the market for this age group, there has to be a point of difference to make a new one stand out and having seen and used so many over my 40+ years of teaching, it’s hard to think what that might be.  However, Usborne have discovered it – scattered throughout the 480 pages amongst the 6000+ words are text boxes with all sorts of information about the words including spelling tips, word families, word origins and so on- each of which helps the child build their vocabulary and their knowledge of how words and English work so they can build on what they know to be even more proficient.  There are explanations about the s/z conflict in British and American English as well as things like the t/-ed endings and who uses which.  (Australian standards use ‘t’ but either is acceptable where there is a choice and the context and meaning is not changed).

There is a comprehensive “how to” introductory section which explains the features and layout of the book including how to use a dictionary generally, the different word classes such as nouns, adjectives and verbs and links to further explanations, activities and games for both the dictionary and the thesaurus which will extend the user’s knowledge and skills even further.In between the dictionary and thesaurus sections are pages about how to make plurals, and prefixes and suffixes, all serving to make this more than just a word finder. The plentiful, colourful illustrations are really useful and would serve someone learning English for the first time very well, particularly older students who prefer something a little more grown-up than basic alphabet books.

If you are looking for a new class set of this sort of reference text for the library, this one really deserves serious consideration – in the meantime, this copy will find its way to Miss Almost-Year-5.  It will be the perfect present for her.

 

Did You Take the B from My _ook?

Did You Take the B from My _ook?

Did You Take the B from My _ook?

Did You Take the B from My _ook?

Beck & Matt Stanton

ABC Books, 2016

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

9780733334832

Did you take the B from my _ook, or my _ed, _ull, or even my _utterfly???

Following on from the hilarity of This is a Ball, Beck and Matt Stanton have created another delightful romp for preschoolers focusing on what happens when their favourite letter ‘B” is removed from some of their favourite words.

Starting by introducing the sound and the noise it makes, it continues with some single words which are then combined into a series of hilarious sentences that just beg for the child to interact and supply the missing letter.  Look! The _eetle is wearing the _lue _oots, jumping on the _ed and _ouncing the _all with the _ulls!”  Someone has stolen the “b’ and only the child can fix it! At the bottom of each page there is a commentary between the writer and the reader, openly inviting them to join in so there is even more fun to be had.

Like its counterpart This is a Ball, this book has a much wider audience than a first glance would suggest and a much wider application than fun between parent and child as a bedtime read. With such an emphasis, rightly or wrongly, on phonics in early reading instruction these days this is a perfect way to introduce this sound and all the others, in a  way that plays with language and makes it fun so the desire to be a reader is enhanced.  It could spark a host of class books based on favourite letters or those that start the children’s names so they explore its sound, the words that start with it and then put them together in crazy sentences that can then be illustrated.  There might even be a discussion about how those letters not chosen might feel and a joint construction made as a model prior to their creating their own.  The Bruna-esque illustrations are perfect with their entire focus being the particular word or sentence in focus and provide an easy-to-emulate model.

Those learning our language for the first time would delight in it, particularly those who are a bit older and who want something more than a traditional alphabet book and posters of words starting with a particular phoneme. There would be so much engagement that the learning would be natural and meaningful and go deeper than other more traditional strategies.

Both this and This is a Ball seem such simple concepts for a book that you wonder why they haven’t been done before – but it takes creators who have a real understanding of just what it takes to engage a child in reading so they are bouncing about and demanding more to pull it off so successfully.

Look forward to many more…

Have a look for yourself!


 

 

 

Children’s Illustrated Encyclopedia

Children's Illustrated Encyclopedia

Children’s Illustrated Encyclopedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Children’s Illustrated Encyclopedia

Caroline Bingham

Dorling Kindersley, 2016

600pp., pbk., RRP $A59.99

9780241238905

A few years ago, perhaps in an effort to be seen as a cutting-edge, digital-age facility, many libraries weeded their reference collections, disposing of almanacs, atlases and encyclopedias in the belief that “everything was now available on the Internet”.  True, some of those multi-volume sets did take up precious shelf space even though they were seldom consulted but were retained because of the expense of acquiring or replacing them.  Those who sent them to new homes (or the skip) were seen as brave and even now there are libraries where one can find these sets taking pride of place despite being years out of date.

But gradually there came a realisation that not everything was available on the Internet and what was there was not necessarily accessible physically or intellectually to those requiring it at their point of need.  In addition, research started to emerge about the differences between reading print and digital material with strong evidence that those who read, evaluate, interpret and use online information best do so because they have a solid foundation of traditional print-based skills. But it is tricky to help our newest readers develop those skills if we no longer have that traditional collection of print-based resources to offer them.

So this updated, 25th anniversary edition of the iconic Children’s Illustrated Encyclopedia is going to be a welcome addition to many school and home libraries.  It is hard to imagine that it is more than a quarter of a century since Dorling Kindersley (DK) revolutionised the presentation of non fiction to cater for the needs of younger readers with clear headings, smaller chunks of information, clear, coloured illustrations and the use of white space which decluttered the page and allowed the reader to feel more in control rather than overwhelmed.  With indices, glossaries, quick-fact boxes and a host of other features DK pioneered this new-look non fiction which made all sorts of topics accessible to the youngest readers who could learn much just from browsing the pictures even if they couldn’t read the words yet.

This 8th edition of the 1991 original covers nearly 400 topics, arranged in the traditional alphabetical format, offering full or double-page spreads on those things that young readers want to investigate as well as new things that will catch their eye as they navigate through it.  One of the common arguments raised against the cost of and access to online encyclopedias is that they have a particular bias towards their country of publication, but this one does not appear to favour anywhere over another.  Australia has the same amount of space as the United States; England has no more than New Zealand. 

Each topic is presented in that clear DK style and does what an encyclopedia is supposed to do – offer an overview of each featured topic that can be further explored in more in-depth texts if desired. There is both a full index and gazetteer, critical for developing effective search terms and location skills, as well as a full list of acknowledgements so we can demonstrate the ethical use of information and illustrations. 

Even though it is heavy for little muscles, it would be a wonderful and affordable way to introduce students to those essential, traditional skills that are going to provide the platform for more sophisticated use of non fiction resources, print or online, in the future.  And being just one volume, it won’t take up the real estate of those older, more traditional sets. Parents and grandparents will be pleased to know that there is something with which they are familiar appearing on the shelves, and many will find their birthday or Christmas gift problem solved.

A peek inside...

A peek inside…