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Snow Penguin

Snow Penguin

Snow Penguin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Snow Penguin

Tony Mitton

Alison Brown

Bloomsbury, 2017

32pp., hbk., RRP $A22.99

9781408862957

Way down south at the very bottom of the world a little penguin is very curious about what the world is like beyond the icy, snowy rookery. But as he gazes seaward on the edge of the ice he doesn’t notice that the ice is cracking and suddenly he finds himself floating amidst a world of creatures that he hasn’t seen before. Blue whales, orcas, elephant seals, sea lions – all are new to him and potentially dangerous.  But even though he is not afraid of them, as darkness draws in and the sea turns from blue to black he is worried about getting home to his family.  Will he be safe or will he be someone’s dinner?

This is a charming story that particularly appeals because of its subject and location. But apart from that it is beautifully illustrated, with almost realistic creatures but with a touch of whimsy that make them seem friendly so you know the cute little penguin will be okay.

Told in rhyming couplets that keep the rhythm smooth and soothing, this is a gentle book perfect for bedtime and introducing young readers to some of the unfamiliar creatures that share this planet with them – and the curious penguin.

Koala Bare

Koala Bare

Koala Bare

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Koala Bare

Jackie French

Matt Shanks

HarperCollins, 2017

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

9781460751619

If there is anything more than an Australian who hates hearing koalas being labelled “bears”, it is the koalas themselves. 

I may be furry, fat and square-

but I am definitely not a bear!

In this joyful romp in rhyme Koala points out to the little bird trying to stick a “bear” label on his toe why he is not a teddy, a grizzly, a panda, a polar bear, or any other sort of bear – not even one from Goldilocks. 

Who wants blue or yellow fur?

Grey is the colour I prefer!

he says in absolute disdain of teddies and as for wearing trousers!! Teddy bears may feel superior, but not when faced with my posterior!

Jackie French is a most gifted and versatile author, writing for and entertaining older readers with the fabulous Matilda saga ; the newly independents with her Secret History series; history buffs with her family’s story about Horace and of course the very young with the tales about her resident wombat and echidna.  And now she has again drawn on the wonderful wildlife of her idyllic bush home to entertain and educate about koalas!  For me, one of the most appealing aspects of Jackie’s writing apart from telling a ripper yarn which has to be paramount, is her ability to teach as she tells so the reader finishes the book so much richer for having read it. 

But there is also a strong message that we are each unique and as individuals we shouldn’t be stereotyped or taken for what we are not.  As a natural redhead I’ve been plagued with assumptions that I have a fiery temper when really I’m quite placid and reasonable, and if I fire up it’s the issue at hand and nothing to do with my hair colour.  Everywhere we turn these days people are being labelled based on what they look like not who they are and this is a great story to start young readers thinking about the value of the individual rather than judging by how they are dressed or the colour of their skin. 

Matt Shanks has emphasised the gentle but firm thread of this story with his soft lines and light palette using watercolours.  Even the cover is soft to touch.   The addition of the scholarly cockatoo taking notes on each page is masterful.  Little ones will enjoy looking for him while others might predict what he has learned and recorded from each experience. There’s an opportunity to summarise right there – informal, in context and purposeful!

Apart from being a must-have addition to the library’s collection, this is the perfect gift for any little ones but particularly those who live overseas.  Maybe it will help dispel the belief that koalas are bears and save the grating on the ears from all those who know they are NOT!

Teaching notes are available but whether the little ones for whom this is intended need to know the technicalities of ‘onset and rime’ baffles me.  This is where schools stomp on the joy and wonder of reading – they have to teach a curriculum that focuses on deconstructing text rather than constructing imagination and wonderment! Shame, ACARA, shame!

 

Jump and Shout

Jump and Shout

Jump and Shout

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jump and Shout

Mike Dumbleton

Peter Carnavas

Little Book Press, 2017

32pp., pbk., RRP$A14.99

 9780994385376

Is there anything better than a family picnic in the park where you can walk and run, jump and shout and climb and swing and then flop and drop at day’s end?

This is a rollicking adventure perfect for preschoolers who will recognise themselves in the story and will love to join in all the actions as they relive a special day out they have had, right through to the very end!

Written in rhyme with each word cleverly illustrated to show what it says, this is one that a little one will soon read independently as the content is so familiar. Dumbleton and Carnavas   really know how to reach our younger readers and start them on their adventures in reading.

Those of you familiar with The Little Big Book Club and Raising Literacy Australia and their work with early childhood literacy will be glad to know that Little Book Press is its new official publishing house and there is already an extensive catalog of titles perfect for preschoolers, many of which have been reviewed on this blog.  

 

Taller and Shorter

That's Not My Taller and Shorter

That’s Not My Taller and Shorter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taller and Shorter

Fiona Watt

Rachel Wells

Usborne, 2017

10pp., board book., RRP $A14.99

 9781474928922

One of the trickiest maths concepts for the very young to grasp is that of conservation – that a group of three is three no matter how it is arranged or a 10cm stick is still a 10cm stick even if it’s moved or turned.  It’s a part of the maturation process but once understood then it is a natural progression to compare things and learn words like taller, shorter, smaller, larger, longer and so on.  Little books like this one are an essential part of the process of both the understanding and the development of the vocabulary.

Beginning with a little mouse floating in a life ring on the pond, it compares the height of a number of different creatures each taller than its predecessor.  With cutouts to peer through and a progression that emphasises the left-to-right nature of text, it introduces the very young to a wide variety of creatures in bright unfussy pictures culminating in a fun fold-out that introduces the tallest of all.

Little ones will have fun predicting what might be next in the chain as they share their knowledge of the world around them and comparing themselves to those things around them. Try to access What is Big? in Sounds of Numbers   by Bill Martin Jr for lots more fun and teach them words like ginormous and humongous and all those other superlatives that littlies like to use!  Make maths fun!

The Fairy Dancers: Dancing Days

The Fairy Dancers: Dancing Days

The Fairy Dancers: Dancing Day

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Fairy Dancers: Dancing Days

Natalie Jane Prior

Cheryl Orsini

ABC Books, 2017

48pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

9780733335648

Every Saturday, with a hop, a skip, and a magical twirl, Mia, Emma and Grace (with a little help from Mia’s dachshund, Coco) put on their dancing shoes and turn into Fairy Dancers. First introduced in 2015 with The Fairy Dancers, this is the second volume which brings the three friends together in three stories perfect for young readers and aspiring ballerinas. 

Starting with a sleepover at Miss Ashleigh’s house where Emma is concerned about sleeping away from home; then a story where the girls have to dance with boys; and finally an adventure with Santa, this is a great way to build the bridge into reading longer “chapter books” independently.  Each story is short and complete in its own right and there are plenty of gentle illustrations that both illuminate and break up the text .

One for the budding ballerinas and perfect to pop in the Christmas stocking.

 

Swan Lake

Swan Lake

Swan Lake

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Swan Lake 

Anne Spudvilas

Allen & Unwin, 2017

48pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9781743318454

Over 140 years ago, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky brought a story about first love, betrayal, loss, and good versus evil to life through a musical score he called Swan Lake. and on March 4 1877 through the choreography of Julius Reisinger and a few years later that of Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov that music was interpreted through dance, laying the foundations of one of the most loved and enduring of the classical ballets.

Now, in 2017, it has been reinterpreted through the stunning artwork of Anne Spudvilas.   

With a synopsis of each act to explain what the reader is going to experience, the story unfolds in pictures that echo the dark, hazy, haunting mood that permeates the story – the lake at midnight, the malevolence afoot at the Grand Ball,  the storm that accompanied Siegfried’s battle with the Sorcerer and the final tragic ending. Dramatic in their composition and demonstrating how many shades of grey there really are, Spudvilas has captured the essential elements of the story while also portraying the atmosphere that the music and choreography bring to the experience.

For those who are unfamiliar with Swan Lake as a ballet it is a complete sensual experience in itself; for those like me (and Spudvilas) who have been entranced with it since childhood, it is yet another layer adding to the wonder and love of the original. 

Definitely one to add to the collection for a range of reasons – at its basic level it is the story behind a classic ballet and its  interpretation in pictures;  but at a deeper level there is so much to explore and interpret such as  the creation of mood through a monochromatic scheme; the use of imagery and colour to identify emotions or portent…

While the long-ago LP record cover that took me into a lifelong love of ballet in general and Swan Lake in particular has disappeared forever, this new interpretation will be a suitable substitute and will join the other members of my treasured collection that brings back such happy memories. And even though I know I will only ever be Odette in my dreams maybe it will spark a dream for my granddaughters!

Watch this for in the 2018 awards lists…

Aussie Legends Alphabet

Aussie Legends Alphabet

Aussie Legends Alphabet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aussie Legends Alphabet

Beck Feiner

ABC Books, 2017

56pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9780733338946

A is for Adam Goodes . An Aussie Rules superstar who fought hard for his footy team and even harder for his people.

B is for Bob Hawke. A lovable larrikin who helped make Australia fair dinkum.

And so it continues throughout the alphabet with a well-known person personifying each letter, introducing young readers to some of Australia’s more colourful characters and perhaps inspiring them to find out more about those who interest them.

However, while the concept is interesting, I was confused about the target audience – IMO definitely not for three year olds as suggested by the publisher because little ones of that age are more interested in E for Easter Bunny and S for Santa Claus. But do those who are ready to learn about those who made Australia require an alphabet book with text suitable for the very young and pictures that have been contrived to echo the letter they represent?  Even though there is an expanded thumbnail sketch of each person on the final three pages, the content, format and intended audience did not gel for me.

Similarly, there is confusion with the alphabetical order because the format is not consistent… while most entries draw on the first letter of the personality’s first name some resort to the first letter of the surname while “D” refers to Dame Edna Everage, X is for INXS and Z is for “Shazza, Wazza, Kezza and the rest”. 

However, those issues aside, this could serve as a model for those who are investigating significant people who have shaped this country to build their own Aussie Legends Alphabet as a shared project.  Not only would this give them purpose and practise with note-taking, extrapolating and summarising but it would also be an interesting insight into those whom they think are important as they justify their choices. Challenging them to provide evidence is an important skill as they learn to build an argument that can be defended in a discussion.

Fluke

Fluke

Fluke

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fluke

Lesley Gibbes

Michelle Dawson

Working Title Press, 2017

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

9781921504891

Under the shadow of the great harbour bridge a little southern right whale is born.  For weeks it stays and plays with its mother getting stronger for the long journey south to the Antarctic waters, delighting the people of Sydney who hadn’t seen a pair like this for many years.  But one day a ferry’s motor startles Fluke and he dives deep to the bottom of the water where it is dark and murky and he can no longer hear his mother calling.  

The people of Sydney begin an anxious search for him knowing that without her protection he will be easy prey for a shark…

Based on actual events, this is a charming story illustrated in a palette as soft and gentle as both the text and the events themselves.  Like the humpbacks that are so prevalent down the Humpback Highway at the moment, southern right whales – so-called because early whalers believed them to be the ‘right’ whale to catch because they were large, slow-moving, rich in oil and blubber and floated when they were killed – were hunted almost to extinction in the early 20th century and so the appearance of mum and bub in the harbour brought both joy and hope.  The endpapers provide a thumbnail sketch of these wonderful creatures, adding an extra dimension to the book.

Now that whale-hunting has taken on a whole new meaning  and with seeing a whale in the wild on many bucket lists making it a sustainable tourist industry for many little coastal towns, learning about them through stories like Fluke can only bring a greater awareness and help to guarantee their revival and survival. The whalers  were an important part of our coastal history and settlement, making them an important part of the history curriculum but unlike a generation ago, their activities can now be scrutinised through several lenses as students discuss and debate the “rightness” of their endeavours. The use of books like Fluke would bring another perspective to a webquest.

Teachers’ notes are available 

Loved it.

Cinderella

Cinderella

Cinderella

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cinderella

Susanna Davidson

Sara Gianassi

Usborne Pop-Up Fairy Tales, 2017

10pp., pop-up, RRP$A14.99

9781474939553

What do you get when you combine one of the world’s most popular stories – there is a version in almost every culture with 345 of them being documented in 1893 – and the popular format of pop-up pictures?  You get this new version of this age-old tale recreated using the core of Perrault’s text and the most stunning paper engineering that will absolutely delight young readers.  

While maybe not suitable for general circulation through the library, it has its place in a collection of versions of the story that could be compared and contrasted with other versions both those we know and those from other cultures to identify the core elements which appear in each one as well as the central meaning. 

A new look for an old favourite.

Tilly’s Reef Adventure

Tilly's Reef Adventure

Tilly’s Reef Adventure

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tilly’s Reef Adventure

Rhonda N. Garward

NLA Publishing, 2017

36pp., pbk., RRP $A19.99

9780642279088

On a still moonlit night, a mother turtle lays her eggs in a hole in the sand of a Queensland beach and returns to the ocean with all the other mothers who have done the same thing.  When it comes to raising offspring, their job is done.

Eight weeks later the eggs hatch and right from the get-go, life is hazardous.  Just getting to the water from the nest is treacherous with a lot of dangers to dodge – hungry herons, seagulls and crabs lie in wait – and life in the water is also testing.  Who is friend and who is foe?  Luckily, Shelly the seahorse is a friend and introduces Tilly to some of the other creatures that inhabit this unique, spectacular watery world.  While there are still those who are enemies, Tilly’s greatest threat comes from something that is water-borne but not water-bred…

You just know that children’s books from NLA Publishing  are going to be brilliant, packed with stunning real-life illustrations and information that is pitched at the young reader and backed up with added extras after the story ends.  Tilly’s Reef Adventure is no exception. Using a seamless lift-the-flap format, young readers are introduced to the creatures of the Great Barrier Reef so they can experience its beauty and colour and start to build an affinity with it through the personification of its inhabitants.  Thus, when Tilly’s life is threatened because of thoughtless human actions, there is an emotional connection so that they might think before they do a similar thing.  Actions have consequences and sometimes they are devastating.

A stunning addition to a growing collection of beautiful books that offer so much more than a good story.

A peek inside...

A peek inside…