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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.

My Very First Book of Our World

My Very First Book of Our World

My Very First Book of Our World

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Very First Book of Our World

Matthew Oldham

Lee Cosgrove

Usborne, 2016

12pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

9781474917896

One of the wonderful things about working with our youngest readers is watching them emerge like The Very Hungry Caterpillar from their self-centred world focused on their immediate family and surrounds into creatures who not only realise that there is a larger world around them but want to explore it oand take it on head on.  So this large-format board book is the perfect starting place to help Miss 5 and all those like her to start to learn about this planet they live on, how it works, how it is shaped and who they share it with.  

Beginning with a personalised explanation of night and day and how it and the seasons differ in different places, young readers them learn about the features and creatures of deserts, rainforests, polar regions mountains, rivers, coast, oceans and even under their feet. There are pages about wild weather (very appropriate right now) and volcanoes and earthquakes are explained in lanuage and diagrams that they understand.

Apart from answering their questions at a level that is accessible to them,  My Very First Book of Our World also starts to develop their information literacy skills as they start to realise that books contain information as well as stories and books can offer them the explanations they are seeking so it makes sense to them. As they see pictures of new worlds and unfamiliar places and creatures, their world continues to expand as they demand to know more and more.

As well as being a useful addition to the non fiction collection for early readers, with Christmas coming and parents and grandparents looking for suggestions for Christmas stockings, this is one to share with them.  Miss 5 will find it in her stocking!

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.

 

The Mix + Match Lunchbox

The Mix + Match Lunchbox

The Mix + Match Lunchbox

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Mix + Match Lunchbox

Cherie Schetselaar

Britney Rule

Exisle, 2016

102pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9781942934660

Imagine opening your lunchbox and finding almond joy popcorn; cream cheese pinwheels and a melon and grape fruit salad.  Or quinoa cookie bites, chopped Thai chicken salad and a homemade ranh dip.  Or any one of the 27 000 three-course combinations embracing whole grains, proteins and fruit and veggies that can be made from this glossy mix and match flip book.

With Term 4 here and another 10 weeks of school lunches looming, this is a timely release that lit up Miss 10’s eyes as soon as she saw it because there was nothing too difficult for her to make here.  

Beginning with an explanation of why a healthy lunch is important and then the role that the four food groups play in achieving it,  it continues with a section on the perfect lunchbox so that everything stays fresh and cool and then helps with time and menu management by helping to plan ahead and food preparation.  

Each suggestion comes complete with coloured photo and the recipe at the side using simple, easily available fresh ingredients  so that the lunchbox looks appealing, is healthy and satisfying.  No more dumping soggy sangers in the nearest bin!!

Having looked at it thoroughly, Miss 10 and Miss 5 (who could easily help because of the simplicity of the suggestions) were heard to say that they wished school was back already!

Definitely one to promote to parents not only looking for new ideas but also ways that will encourage the children to join in the preparation and perhaps start them on their cooking journey.

 

small things

Small Things

Small Things

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

small things

Mel Tregonning

Allen & Unwin, 2016

40pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9781742379791

 

Over recent weeks my life seems to have been leading up to opening this book.  

It started with a friend’s son committing suicide and my going back into the classroom as a volunteer to allow a colleague to attend the funeral.

There was RUOK Day which is a big thing for me because suicide has touched my life too many times.

Three schools I’ve been associated with have recently installed buddy benches.

This story came through my Facebook feed-Teen Makes Sit With US App That Helps Students Find Lunch Buddies and then, this morning, this meme…

small_things2

Even so, I was not prepared for the storyline of this important book even though I’d skimmed posts about its launch on my network connections. Let the blurb tell it for you…

An ordinary boy in an ordinary world. small things tells the story of a boy who feels alone with his worries, but who learns that help is always close by.”

Perhaps a storyline that has been done one way or another many times – but then, on the publishers’ blurb there is this…

In 2008, Mel began illustrating a graphic novel about the universal feelings of loneliness and happiness. In May 2014, Mel took her own life.

It is the most absorbing story of a boy who is dealing with lots of the small things in life that we all face but which affect each of us differently – small things that appear to be so unimportant that they don’t even require capital letters in the title.  Yet, while for some they may be no big deal, for others they lead to sadness, anxiety and depression exacerbated by the perception that you are the only one feeling this way.  Other people can make friends, other people can do pesky maths problems, other people can play basketball – why can’t you?  And the thoughts and doubts start grow and become demons which start to chip away from the inside out and then open cracks until you are surrounded by and followed by them.  They constantly exude from you without let=up until you are so overwhelmed that the pain of keeping them in is greater than physical pain of letting them out. So you give them a helping hand and for a brief minute one pain exceeds the other. But when even that doesn’t help and the darkness descends…

Mel died before she completed her book and the wondrous Shaun Tan completed the final three pages.  And in doing so, he turns the darkness around into a powerful and hopeful ending so that even though there are small things that can cause such despair and desolation there are other small things that can lead to hope and happiness. It’s a story about discovering your place in the world and finding your path through it; about realising that while others’ paths may seem the same as yours, theirs may have obstacles invisible to you and hurdles they find too hard to climb; about being aware of others as well as ourselves and developing and showing empathy; about discovering that others have similar pains and you are not alone; about building a sense of a strong self and knowing and employing the strategies to achieve this. For all its physical, emotional and conceptual darkness, it is a story about light.

With so many of our students, even very young ones, struggling with bullying and mental health issues that too often lead to the dire consequences of drugs and death, this is an important book for teachers to examine so we can be alert to the needs of the children in our care and consider whether the remark made in jest or the less-than-average grade might have a deeper impact than we think. It’s about the need to help our children build a core of resilience and self-esteem so they can cope when their expectations are not realised and to help parents understand that stepping in and solving every problem for a child in the short term in not necessarily the best solution in the long term.  It’s about helping our children understand that there are not losers, only learners.

It’s about so much more than one reviewer can express in one review.  Perhaps its most critical role is that it even though it encapsulates the feelings and thoughts of the boy in its evocative pictures so well that no words are needed, it becomes the conversation starter – more than that, it generates a loud call to action.

On a literary level I believe this will feature in the CBCA Book of the Year lists in 2017; on a social level it is so much more important than that.

There are Teachers Notes for both primary and secondary available and they come with a warning of how you use it because of the nerves that may be touched, a warning I would echo.  Do not share this book as a stand-alone, time-filler. It’s format of many small frames does not readily lend itself to a class sharing, but rather a one-to-one exploration with a sensitive adult taking the helm.  However the teachers notes offer some really positive ways of promoting positive mental health and strategies for those who are feeling fragile as well as helping others know how they might help a friend.   Asking R U OK? is not just for one day a year. 

A most remarkable and life-changing book.  We need to nurture those who will sit with the lonely kid in the cafeteria but we must also know who the lonely kids are.

 

Shaun Tan completes graphic novel after author Mel Tregonning’s suicide: ‘Her absence made me try even harder’

Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800

Lifeline 13 11 14

Australian Maths Dictionary

Australian Maths Dictionary

Australian Maths Dictionary

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Australian Maths Dictionary

Judith de Klerk

Dorling Kindersley, 2016

128pp., pbk., RRP $A19.99

9781740333412

Maths has always been a critical subject that is embedded in every aspect of life, not just a regular timeslot in the class timetable..  It is receiving an even greater focus as the buzzword of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) sweeps across the curriculum.  Mastery of it is built on a spiral where one thing leads to another and another and another and if a basic is missed it can be difficult to fill the gap and the foundation can become shaky.

It is also, arguably, the subject that perplexes parents the most if it is sent home as a homework task because there is a perception that the way things are done now are not methods they are familiar with and the end result is frustration and a feeling of failure for both child and parent. The temptation to convince themselves they are no good at maths is so easy.

How much easier things would be if students had access to a maths dictionary in the same way they have access to a word dictionary; if they had access to a ready reference where they could look up a particular term and discover just what it is.  For example, what’s a scalene triangle and how is it different from an isosceles or equilateral one? If the problem tells the solver to ‘deduct’, what does that mean?  And what on earth is a “mixed number”?

This new publication from Dorling Kindersley is set out like a dictionary with clear definitions and diagrams and should be a must in every home and desk or tote tray.  While it doesn’t share particular processes, it does explain over 400 terms used in primary school mathematics and thus offers invaluable support to both children and parents in their quest to understand and master basic concepts, because not everything is possible on the calculator.  You need to have an idea of what you’re doing so you know the calculator is telling you the truth.  And it’s much quicker to access it than searching the Internet.

Definitely a publication to let teachers, parents and students know about.

My Encyclopedia of Very Important Things

My Encyclopedia of Very Important Things

My Encyclopedia of Very Important Things

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Encyclopedia of Very Important Things

Dorling Kindersley, 2016

224pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9780241224939

The sub-title for this new publication from Dorling Kindersley is “for little learners who want to know everything” and that is very apt.  This is the perfect introduction to non fiction and the purpose of encyclopedias for our youngest readers.

There are sections devoted to the planet, places, animals, people, themselves and “other very important things”.  Each topic within each section has a double page spread that is a mix of clear, colourful pictures, text and “white space” that presents the basic information in a way that speaks directly to the child and in language that they can understand.  For example, they can learn that if they were to drive a car straight up it would only take about an hour to reach space and on the way they would pass through five layers of air called the atmosphere.  Accompanying the car is a kid-friendly diagram that shows the different layers with a sentence about each and pictures of the things that ascend to each layer.  

There is such a body of research now that clearly shows the importance of print in the development of research skills and those who have a solid foundation of skills in that medium are better able to use online sources much more effectively and efficiently later so it is no surprise that I am a fan of this book.  When Miss 4 asks, “Where does the sun go at night?” it’s so easy to say, “Let’s have a look in our book to see if we can find out.”  It reinforces the ideas that we can get information from books and with the index at the back, it is a quick and easy exercise.  The structure mimics that of encyclopedia for older readers (although it is not in alphabetical order) so right from get-go they are learning to locate information using contents, an index, page numbers, headings and captions.

It is also perfect for those who prefer non fiction – and in this one the text is accessible so they can do more than just look at the pictures – and even suits those who like to be seen with the heaviest, thickest books (although its size is just fine for Miss 5 to manage independently).  

For a few years, voluminous encyclopedias went out of fashion – and often out of home and school libraries because of the wonder and speed of the Internet.  But thankfully, print versions are making a comeback as we now understand that technology does not provide all the answers; that connectivity and accessibility can be an issue; that what is available is not necessarily at the child’s level of understanding; and that print comes free of advertisements and other distractions.  And a one-off cost can be cheaper than an annual subscription, particularly for basic information that doesn’t change.  

In 2015 I gave a presentation at SLANZA in Christchurch called Information Literacy for Littlies (building on the theme of “From the ground up”) .  Many were surprised that we can help very young children begin to develop their information literacy skills from preschool. My Encyclopedia of Very Important Things is a perfect resource to support this.

Parents and grandparents will love to pop this into the Christmas stocking.

A peek inside...

A peek inside…