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Ava’s Spectacular Spectacles

Ava's Spectacular Spectacles

Ava’s Spectacular Spectacles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ava’s Spectacular Spectacles

Alice Rex

Angela Perrini

New Frontier, 2017

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

9781912076536

Ava does not like wearing her spectacles at school so she finds it difficult to see the board and read her books.  Her teacher understands this and knows she has to help Ava feel okay with wearing them so she begins to talk to Ava.  “If only Little Red Riding Hood had put on her glasses the day she went to visit her grandmother…she would have seen the big teeth and big eyes.”

Ava stops crying and Mrs Cook continues, gradually getting Ava to understand that wearing glasses is helpful and a good thing, not a badge of shame.

Every now and then you pick up a story that really resonates with you and Ava was me 60 years ago, right down to the red hair tied up in bunches. It’s as though illustrator Angela Perrini had been looking at my family photo albums (although we didn’t have coloured photos way back then!)  And then six years ago, it was my granddaughter who was Ava and in the intervening time, hundreds of other kids too. No one likes to be different when they are little and wearing glasses seems like a huge placard that tells others you are not 100% perfect and that somehow you are less than the other children in your class.  As a teacher of 45 years, I’ve seen it over and over although luckily there is much greater acceptance these days.  Oh, to have had a teacher as understanding and as smart as Mrs Cook.

This is a book that not only belongs in any collection for young readers but which should be actively promoted to both teachers and parents as a strategy for getting little ones to be comfortable with wearing their glasses rather than ashamed.  While Mrs Cook sticks to well-known stories and rhymes where 20/20 vision would have been helpful there would be plenty of incidents, real and imaginary, that teachers and parents could draw on to play the what-if game.  

So many children will see this book as a mirror and learn to love reading even more as they read about themselves, while others will see it as a window and begin to understand how self-conscious Ava and others feel and how they can be more empathetic. They might even explore other “disabilities” and the sorts of ways that science and technology can now assist in overcoming them comparing the advances to the days when no such help was available and life became a misery. 

Superb.

Nanna’s Button Tin

Nanna's Button Tin

Nanna’s Button Tin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nanna’s Button Tin

Dianne Wolfer

Heather Potter

Walker Books, 2017

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

9781922077677

Poor Ted.  He has been cuddled so hard for so long he has lost his eye and needs a new one.  And so it is Nanna’s button tin to the rescue.  It’s a special tin with all sorts of buttons – surely there will be one that is just right for Ted. One that is just the right size, just the right shape and just the right colour. Perhaps it is the yellow one that was on the baby jacket worn home from hospital – but no, it is too shiny-bright.  Maybe the brown, bear-shaped button from the birthday jumper; or the angel ones sewn on to the snuggly to protect a sick little girl.  For every button in the button tin has a special story and an important memory to be shared.  But none is quite right until… and a new story and a new memory are made.

In the days of the Great Depression and World War II, when make-do-and-mend was the mantra, mums everywhere saved buttons off outgrown clothes, pieces of string and all sorts of things for the day they would be needed again.  Button tins were the norm and many a young girl of the 50s had a special treat of being able to upend the tin, sort through the gems and hear family stories that may well have been forgotten if the connections were not made.  In these days of zippers, stretch fabrics and throwaway fashion one wonders how such family memories will be passed on.

This is a warm, wrap-you-in-a-hug story perfectly illustrated in a retro palette with gentle lines and details that will bring back memories of the button tin to many grandmothers sharing the story with their little ones.  And for more modern mums, it might be the inspiration to gather those special clothes together so a memory quilt can be made so the stories can be passed on.  For it is those intimate family details that continue our heritage as much as the monoliths of the past.  Who would have thought something as small and innocuous as a button could spawn so much, not the least an amazing book that needs to be on every family shelf.

This one is on its way to someone with her very own memories of her nanna’s button tin and a tin full of memories to share with her granddaughters.

We’re All Wonders

We're All Wonders

We’re All Wonders

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’re All Wonders

R.J. Palacio

Puffin, 2017

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

9780141386416

Wonder is the unforgettable story of August Pullman, an ordinary boy with an extraordinary face that has touched readers all over the world as it became an instant classic, used widely for one-school-one read projects and spread through word-of-mouth recommendations.  Now Palacio has transformed the core message of that book into a picture book that transcends ages with its powerful theme.

Even though he does ordinary things like riding a bike, eating ice cream and playing ball, Auggie is not an ordinary kid because he does not look like all the other kids in his class.  He knows this and he knows they point and laugh and call him names which hurt his feelings.  But he and his dog Daisy have a remarkable strategy for dealing with things when they get tough… And it certainly puts the hurt into perspective.

Even though he knows he can’t change the ways he looks, perhaps he can change the way people see.

Echoing the cover of the original, Palacio has depicted Auggie has a one-eyed child wearing a bright red t-shirt which stands out like a beacon against the more muted tones of the illustrations, somewhat like Auggie himself standing out amongst the masses. And for someone with no face, Palacio has nevertheless managed to convey a whole range of emotions in the illustrations and text. Every word does a job. 

In a book full of messages about belonging and acceptance perhaps the strongest one is Auggie’s inner strength.  Yes his feelings are hurt but he has learned through his family’s love and acceptance of him as he is that he has the strength to endure, maybe even overcome the insults and prejudices.  Even though he needs time out to heal, he has the resilience to come back stronger than ever.  He knows he is a wonder, he is unique – but then, aren’t we all?

Those who have not read the novel do not need to do so in order to connect to this book (although this one may well inspire them to seek it out) because it’s message is more important than the character.  Every one of us is an Auggie in some way – try being a red-head with freckles and glasses in the 50s when Marilyn Monroe-types were the role models – so every one of us could be the central character.  Written sensitively and with a light hand, particularly when it comes to Auggie’s solution, this book should be at the core of any program focusing on mindfulness, well-being, inclusivity, acceptance of others and being enough just as we are.  Perhaps this book will, indeed, bring Auggie’s hope of changing how people see to fruition.

 

My Amazing Body Machine

My Amazing Body Machine

My Amazing Body Machine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Amazing Body Machine

Robert Winston

Owen Gildersleeve

DK Publishing, 2017

128pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9780241283806

Young children are always fascinated with their bodies and how they work and this new publication from DK is the perfect starting point for those who are ready to delve a little deeper.  Divided into nine sections, each dealing with a different but related phenomenon of the body, with bite-sized chunks of information in accessible text  interspersed with colourful informative diagrams and photos, this is would be an ideal addition to the family reference library ready to consult when questions are asked as well as the school library collection.  Having it out on display so students can leaf through it as they wait will spark lots of curiosity and a desire to find out more. The perfect introduction to the role of the encyclopedia as a starting point to finding out a little and sparking the desire to go to a more specialised book to find out more.

DK have been at the forefront of introducing non fiction to young readers for decades and this is no exception.

What’s Where on Earth? Atlas

What's Where on Earth? Atlas

What’s Where on Earth? Atlas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s Where on Earth? Atlas

DK London, 2017

160pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9780241228371

 

This is an ideal reference tool for young readers who want to see the world at a glance, rather than having to click through screens that can become confusing and lost.

Clearly divided in to 10 sections – each continent, Early Earth, Polar Regions, The Oceans and Reference – it brings the planet’s geography alive with 3D maps, lots of pertinent facts and illustrations about the landscape, population, landmarks, climate and wildlife.  Each section also takes a particular focal point and expands on it – South America is the Amazon Basin; Australia and Oceania is New Zealand – providing a ready reference tool that kept both Miss Nearly 11 and Miss 6 poring over its pages on a recent wet afternoon.  

Globes and maps have a fascination for children – they love to discover where they came from, where their family and friends might be and also the settings of their favourite stories so to have a book that provides not just maps but so much more is a treat.  While many school libraries are doing away with their reference collections, having a beautiful volume like this on permanent display so students can flick through it at their leisure will not only grab their attention but may have them demanding more information about a particular region.

Miss Nearly 11 was particularly fascinated by the Early Earth section as she knows Australia is ancient and we regularly drive through an area littered with huge granite boulders, the remnants of long ago mountains now weathered away.  Miss 6 liked Australia but also New Zealand where she had a holiday in 2015!  Definitely something for everyone which would be a superb addition to the collection that students will keep returning to. 

 

Lift-the-flap Questions and Answers about Science

Lift-the-flap Questions and Answers about Science

Lift-the-flap Questions and Answers about Science

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lift-the-flap Questions and Answers about Science

Katie Daynes

Marie-Eve Tremblay

Usborne, 2017

16pp., board book, RRP $A19.99

9781409598985

 

From the time they are born children are innately curious  and as soon as they are able to articulate the words, they ask questions so they can make the connections they need as they try to make sense of their world.  As the nearest adult we try to help them with the answers.  Some of the answers are at our fingertips but some need a little more digging.

Often those answers lie in science and this book is a great introduction for the budding young scientist who has the questions and wants a basic explanation that can be followed further if they wish.  Just 16 pages long, it is divided into double page spreads with the headings what, why, when, where, which, who,  how and yes or no.  Each page has several questions, the answers for which are hidden under the flaps.  Starting with the basic “What is science?” and “What do scientists do?” it goes on to explore other questions about science itself as well as others such as “Is the sky really blue?”  Simple explanations and quirky pictures under the flaps provide a straight-forward answer as well as the starting point for further investigations.  Having the answers under the flap gives the child an opportunity to consider the question and then suggest their own explanation before checking to see if they are on the right track.  

Aimed at the young reader with an interest in science, nevertheless it is a book to be shared with a grownup who can help with some of the words, interpret the answers more fully and suggest other sources for finding out more including the publishers’ webpage for the book which has more questions, links to websites and other books in the series that delve deeper.

Books like this start the young child on their way to being information literate – able to locate, evaluate, analyse, interpret information so they can then use it to satisfy their curiosity, discover the world around them and ask new questions.  With the current emphasis on STEM (science technology, engineering and maths) in the school curriculum not only does this book provide answers , it demonstrates that those answers can be found in print as well as modelling how to ask questions that require more than a one-word answer to take an investigation further.

It could even be the springboard for an ongoing class activity with a question posed each week so students can share their answers which are then compared to the explanation provided, discussed and investigated sparking an interest in science that endures.

This is a dip-and-delve book – one the reader will come back to time and time again.  

The Night Before Christmas

christmas_countdown_2016

 

 

 

 

The Night Before Christmas

The Night Before Christmas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Night Before Christmas

Clement Clarke Moore

Helen Magisson

New Frontier, 2016

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

9781925059700

 

Since early in the 19th century when the poem was first written, reading The Night Before Christmas on Christmas Eve has become a ritual for families around the world.  So iconic has it become that many of the rituals that we continue to associate with this special period originated within its lines, including the fact that Santa arrives on Christmas Eve rather than Christmas Day.

No Christmas Countdown collection would be complete without at least one version of this poem so this new one, beautifully interpreted in pictures by French-Australian illustrator Helen Magisson is the perfect addition.  

Like many homes at this time, excitement abounds and getting the grandies off to sleep on that night of nights is tricky.  But they have learned over the years, that after we have put the special magic key out for Santa and checked the sky one last time that we then sit together and share this classic as the bedtime tradition.  They are quite happy to snuggle down and close their eyes and pretend they are sleeping (even though they are secretly staying awake to listen for hooves on our tin roof) and in no time at all they are.

So, if you want to start such a routine and don’t have a version of this in your collection, or are looking for a new one, this is the pick of those I’ve seen this year. 

Christmas Songbook

christmas_countdown_2016

 

 

 

 

Christmas Songbook

Christmas Songbook

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas Songbook

Sam Taplin

Richard Johnson

Usborne, 2016

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

9781474921244

In certain countries and to certain generations, the images of carol singers going door to door at this time of the year sharing their music is not far from the mind.  More recently, the school-based Carols by Candlelight was always a sign that the festive season was here as neighbourhoods joined together to herald this fun time in song, sentiment and a sausage sizzle.  Classes practised those traditional songs in preparation for the annual Christmas concert and there were few who did not know all the verses of Away in a Manger and Silent Night.

So to find a new illustrated  volume of these well-known tunes arranged for voice, piano and guitar is a delight as yet a new Christmas season is here and another generation needs to know the music that binds this time.  Some are very familiar, others not so, but each is presented on a clear double page spread with all the verses and music as well as an illustration that makes this more than just a book of sheet music.  Even the extra original verses of  Jingle Bells – nothing to with Batman or even a rusty Holden ute – are there right alongside I Saw Three Ships, the first song my sea-loving grandfather ever taught me!

Vision Australia’s Carols by Candlelight at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl remains one of the most  watched television broadcasts on Christmas Eve – how wonderful if our children could fully participate because the tunes are familiar and the words are known!

A perfect addition to both your privet and professional collection.

And in the meantime here are a couple of clips I know you will enjoy…

 

Usborne Illustrated Traditional Stories

Usborne Illustrated Traditional Stories

Usborne Illustrated Traditional Stories

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Usborne Illustrated Traditional Stories

Usborne 2016

256pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9781409596721

 

This is a collection of 17 stories from around the world that have been passed on from generation to generation so they are now part of our literature but which don’t fit into the fairytale classification.  Stories like The Boy who Cried Wolf, The Gingerbread Man, Baba Yaga and The Little red Hen sit alongside not-so-well-known ones like Tam Lin and The Fisherman and the Genie/

With lovely illustrations throughout and with a luxury padded hardback cover, this is one of those must-have volumes in your teacher’s toolkit that you can take out and share whenever there is a spare minute or two, continuing the tradition of passing them on to a new generation.  Newly independent readers will also enjoy them as the familiar stories,  larger font and short story format will make them an easy bedtime read.  

This series is filling a niche for younger readers that has been empty for some time .

Classic Nursery Rhymes

Classic Nursery Rhymes

Classic Nursery Rhymes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Classic Nursery Rhymes

L. Edna Walter

Lucy E. Broadwood

Dorothy M. Wheeler

Bloomsbury, 2016

104pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9781472932389

Even though it’s 2016, almost 2017, there is something about a superbly crafted , beautifully bound book of traditional nursery rhymes that tugs at the heartstrings and takes older adults back to their childhood.  And even though it’s 2016, almost 2017 they are rhymes that are still taught to our little ones today – some new but most very familiar.  They are part of the traditions that we hand on from generation to generation regardless of the numbers on a calendar.

Published to acknowledge the 100th anniversary of the original, it is illustrated using the original watercolour-and-ink illustrations of Dorothy M. Wheeler who also did the original illustrations for many of Enid Blyton’s books.  With her eye for detail, and a soft pastel palette the illustrations bring the rhymes to life showing life at the time she knew it when the rhymes were learned at Nanny’s knee as joyful little ditties and no one delved too far into their origins and meaning.  Each is featured on a double page spread, the full rhyme on one page and a full-colour illustration surrounded by exquisite line work on the other.  To complete the package the music for each is included at the back of the book, just ready for little fingers to play.

This would make a great gift for anyone with a new baby in the offing – the perfect foundation for their first library that will become a treasured heirloom.