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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…

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…

I Just Couldn’t Wait to Meet You

I Just Couldn't Wait to Meet You

I Just Couldn’t Wait to Meet You

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Just Couldn’t Wait to Meet You

Kate Ritchie

Hannah Somerville

Penguin Random House, 2016

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

9780857989703

When the author discovered she was pregnant, typically she was very excited and so she began to write about her feelings as she waited for the time to pass.  The result is this gentle story-in-rhyme that mirrors the thoughts and feelings of most expectant parents and their families.  Who will this new little life be?  And what will their life be like?  It traces the things that are done during that nine months from ultrasounds to decorating the nursery, tracking a common journey that very young readers first asking about where they came from will love to know about. It might even reassure parents-in-waiting that anxiety is as normal as anticipation.

Even though this is Ms Ritchie’s story, it is a universal one and Hannah Somerville’s illustrations using such a soft palette take it beyond the personal so it becomes almost a lullaby of love that would serve very well as Baby’s first favourite shared each night.  There is so much evidence that even our very youngest children are aware of the harsh realities of life, the differences between their lives and that of their peers, so to have such an affirmation of being loved and wanted and cherished should bring enormous comfort and reassurance.

There is a place and a need for this sort of book and Ms Ritchie has fulfilled it well. 

The Eagle Inside

The Eagle Inside

The Eagle Inside

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Eagle Inside

Jack Manning Bancroft

Bronwyn Bancroft

Little Hare 2015

Hbk., 32pp., RRP $A24.95

9781742974699

It is Jimmy the honeyeater’s first day at flying school and just like all new students he is somewhat anxious.  Would there be other small birds?  Would they sip nectar like him or would they be worm eaters? As he approaches the school he is surrounded by birds of all sorts and sizes- all much bigger than he is.  Full of fear and doubt already, his anxiety is increased when Cockatoo almost crashes into him and immediately blames Jimmy. “No one bumps into me and gets away with it” screeches Cockatoo who demands Jimmy’s lunch. The other birds laugh at him and Jimmy feels so humiliated he huddles at the bottom of the tree and cries.  School is not a place for him.

But then Eagle takes him under his wing and Jimmy (and the other birds) learn a lot of lessons about self-belief, individuality and the eagle inside. 

In his dedication to this book, the author writes. “If you have ever felt alone, undervalued or doubted yourself, this book is for you.  No matter what people say, you can be what you want if you are willing to believe in yourself and back it up with hard work, hard work and more hard work.”  This is a story for everyone who has ever felt intimidated by situation or circumstance, showing that we all have our strengths and an eagle inside.  It’s perfect for the preschooler about to journey on to “big school” but also a reaffirmation for those about to start any new journey into an unknown word.

Renowned artist Bronwyn Bancroft has interpreted her son’s words in her distinctive style full of colour, pattern and movement which put Jimmy’s tiny size perfectly in perspective, not only emphasising the reasons for his concerns but how we all feel when we are intimidated if not humiliated. The natural symbiosis between mother and son is evident in the relationship between the text and illustrations and it is no wonder that Ms Bancroft has been nominated for the prestigious Hans Christian Andersen Awards for 2016!

An early contender for the next CBCA Picture Book of the Year nomination, in my opinion!

Thunderstorm Dancing

Thunderstorm Dancing

Thunderstorm Dancing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thunderstorm Dancing

Katrina Germein

Judy Watson

Allen & Unwin, 2015

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

9781743314593

A day at the beach.  The sky darkens and the sea turns a sinister shade of green.  Thunder rumbles.  Shh. Listen.  What can you hear?  It’s coming closer. Time to pack up.  Can you feel it?  It’s ominous and a bit scary.  Sit beside me. 

In a paucity of words accompanied by the most evocative pictures, a storm brews out to sea, rumbles in and hits with powerful fury.  But instead of letting the fear take over, Daddy makes the fierce into fun as he encourages his family to be the storm.  He is the wind whizzing and blowing, howling and growing, making trees whoosh! making seas swoosh!  Tommy is the clouds and Poppy the thunder, Lachie is the lightning and Mummy the rain – everyone swirling and swishing into the most outrageous cacophony of sound and exuberance of movement taking the storm on at its own game.  Making it fun and not frightening.  Until it passes and all is calm and safe and Granny brings the sun and the last page is the most beautiful of all.

With its fantastic vocabulary, rhyme, rhythm and repetition the story is the storm full of the most amazing and inspiring energy – you just want to get up and move and make noise and join in the fun.  It is a joyous celebration of something that can be scary and intimidating and is the perfect example of how careful colour choice and the use of line and expression are integral to creating mood and atmosphere. Just like a storm, it builds to a crescendo and then suddenly there is peace and serenity until…  Even without yet having read it to my Year 2 audience, I can hear it in my head and know they are going to adore this and it will add so much to what they have been learning about setting, characters and plot.   

But apart from that it’s just a rollicking good read that encourages us to embrace our fears, stare them in the face and poke fun at them by making ourselves their master.

 

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

Don’t Think about Purple Elephants

Don't Think about Purple Elephants

Don’t Think about Purple Elephants

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t Think about Purple Elephants

Susan Whelan

Gwyneth Jones

EK Books, 2015

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

9781921966699

Sophie is just like lots of other girls her age. She goes to school and learns lots of interesting things and plays with her friends; she enjoys doing home things on the weekend and riding her bike and looking at the clouds – but when night time comes she starts to worry.  Each night she gets the what-ifs and lies awake worrying about them.  What if there is no milk so she can’t have cereal for breakfast?  What if her favourite shirt was still in the wash and she couldn’t wear it on the weekend?  Her worrying made it so hard for her to relax and go to sleep that she was often so tired in the mornings she couldn’t do the things she loved to do.  And no matter how her family tried to help her, it didn’t work until…

While its subject matter is serious, this is a whimsical approach that acknowledges that many children suffer from anxiety as Sophie does, often at night when the lights are out and no one notices without diminishing the worry or trivialising the concerns. This is a clever, well-written book that brings the problem out into the light and helps children understand that they aren’t on their own. It provides a wonderful opportunity to open up a conversation and the imaginative solution for Sophia’s concerns will delight everyone. You wonder what a teacher would do if a student wrote, “I wish my teacher knew I think about purple elephants at night.”

The colourful illustrations are full of fun and fancy and capture the carefree life of a child and then dramatically change to monochrome as night creeps in, offering the chance to explore how colour can depict mood and how we, as readers, can often predict the tone of a story from the palette used.

This is another title from this independent publisher that is not afraid to tell stories that many children resonate with and seek solace from.  Teachers notes and a sneak peek are available.