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Leaf

Leaf

Leaf

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leaf

Sandra Dieckmann

Flying Eye Books, 2017

32pp., hbk., RRP $A27.99

9781911171317

 

Crow saw it first. The strange white creature, carried upon the dark waves towards the shore…

When a polar bear arrives unexpectedly in the woods, a creature unlike anything the other animals  had seen, they fear and avoid him, suspecting him to be dangerous particularly when it began to collect leaves. They nicknamed him Leaf and desperately wanted him to leave because no one should live in fear.  Then one day Leaf burst through the forest covered in leaves and leapt off the hill with a giant roar.  Perhaps inspired by the crow’s feathers that helped it fly to freedom he has turned the leaves into wings, but sadly they lifted him but briefly and he tumbled into the lake. 

A meeting of the other creatures was held and attitudes started to soften, but like many such meetings, the only outcome was an agreement to disagree and nothing was done. But when Leaf tried to fly again a few days later, this time landing in the ocean realisation dawned and  things begin to change…

There is a quote on the dedication page of this book…

“Deeper meaning resides in the fairy tales told to me in my childhood than in the truth that is taught in life.” -Friedrich Schiller

And so it is with this book which is one of those that resonates more and more with each reading.  Accompanied by the most stunning, memorable artwork which is rich in colour, pattern and details, on the surface it is a tale about a polar bear who wants to go home.  But what is the message behind the polar bear arriving on a shard of iceberg in the first place? Climate change? Refugee? And what can we learn about and from the forest creatures’ automatic fear and distrust of this unfamiliar, different animal in their midst? Or is the whole a metaphor for a child or adult with a terminal illness who wants to die but who must endure the intervention of science and medicine before finding release? The dedication suggests this…

While the polar bear is the subject, the story is told very much from an objective observer’s eye, a narrator that states the facts and actions without emotion,even though there is so much emotion embedded in the illustrations. An intriguing book that makes the reader ponder.

 

Can You Find Me?

Can You Find Me?

Can You Find Me?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Can You Find Me?

Gordon Winch

Patrick Shirvington

New Frontier, 2017

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

9781925059793

Mother Nature has provided many of our commonly seen creatures with the most amazing camouflage so that when they are in their natural habitat they are very hard to see.  In this stunning book by Gordon Winch, author of Samantha Seagull’s Sandals which has delighted so many children in my care over the years, readers are encouraged to spot familiar and not-so-familiar creatures hidden in plain sight in Pat Shirvington’s beautiful lifelike illustrations which really connect to the natural world.  

Apart from little ones loving these sorts of hide and seek books, it also encourages them to look with new eyes at their local landscape and wonder what might be living there.  Perhaps before they go stomping through the bush or the sand dunes they will stop and tread more carefully appreciating it more as a home for creatures, camouflaged though they may be.

Then using the text format as a model, they could investigate a different creature and then create their own page to add to the book – a new way of presenting information for the ubiquitous report about Australian animals that is in every early childhood curriculum.

What George Forgot

What George Forgot

What George Forgot

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What George Forgot

Kathy Wolff

Richard Byrne

Bloomsbury, 2017

40pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781408884027

George is all ready to go to school but in the back of his mind he has that feeling that he has forgotten something.  Being a boy who never likes to forget anything, it troubles him and so he mentally goes through all his preparations for school.  He’s woken up, made his bed, greeted his patents, got dressed, had breakfast… So what could it be?

Aha! He realises at the very last minute as the school bus turns up that it is his shoes he has forgotten!  Or is it???

Young children will love trying to help George remember and by the end of the book they will be shouting at him just as they do in performances where the villain pops up just behind the hero and quickly disappears.  They will enjoy comparing his routine to theirs as they delight in Richard Byrne’s clever, funny illustrations and the clever use of font and print direction.  And they will probably start to do a mental check before they go out the door in future. They might even add the word ’embarrassing” to their vocabulary!

A good, funny read that will become a favourite.

Baabwaa and Wooliam

Baabwaa and Wooliam

Baabwaa and Wooliam

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Baabwaa and Wooliam

David Elliott

Melissa Sweet

Candlewick Press, 2017

40pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

 9780763660741

Baabwaa is a sheep who loves to knit. Wooliam is a sheep who loves to read. It sounds a bit boring, but they like it. However, one day Wooliam suggest they leave their comfortable caravan and seek an adventure. Even though they live in a field that is surrounded by a stone wall they do encounter an adventure as a  third sheep shows up -a funny-looking sheep who wears a tattered wool coat and has long, dreadfully decaying teeth. Wooliam, being well-read, recognizes their new acquaintance as the Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing! The wolf is so flattered to discover his literary reputation precedes him that he stops trying to eat Baabwaa and Wooliam. And a discovery by the sheep turns the encounter into an unexpected friendship.

This is an intriguing but interesting story for young readers that has a number of twists and turns to keep them engaged as they learn that even those considered too different, perhaps even a threat, can become a friend.  Funny, descriptive, and accompanied by illustrations that capture the personalities of both Baabwaa and Wooliam, and show the wolf in a variety of lights, this will capture young minds right from the front cover as they predict that this is not just about two sheep enjoying life and that there is trouble looming in paradise.

 

Why can’t I be a dinosaur?

Why can't I be a dinosaur?

Why can’t I be a dinosaur?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why can’t I be a dinosaur?

Kylie Westaway

Tom Jellett

Allen & Unwin, 2017

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

9781760294724

Nellie is all dressed up in her dinosaur costume because today is a Dinosaur Day.  But it is also her Aunt Daisy’s wedding and she is supposed to be the flower girl and wearing her special purple dress. While some parents might exert their parental power, Nellie’s try a more negotiated approach,  as stubborn as any preschooler, Nellie refuses to change and despite her parents’ pleading she stands her ground.  Can a compromise be reached with Aunt Daisy having the pretty flower girl at the wedding of her dreams?

This is a funny yet familiar story that will resonate with both parent and child – parents because we can all remember some of the monumental battles we have had with stubborn, determined little people, the child because the adult world does seem to have some weird rules and expectations and having to wear a purple dress to a wedding is just one of them.

It’s refreshing to see a girl in the lead role in a book about dinosaurs and Tom Jellett has captured Nellie’s obsession with them and her feelings at being told no perfectly.  You can feel the tension in the air as powerful wills meet even though voices are not raised (except as a dinosaur roar) and the parents remain calm.  Lots of discussion points about feelings, doing what others expect, negotiating and compromising and whether clothes really do “maketh the man”. 

 

 

Pea Pod Lullaby

Pea Pod Lullaby

Pea Pod Lullaby

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pea Pod Lullaby

Glenda Millard

Stephen Michael King

Allen & Unwin, 2017

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

9781760290085

I am the lullaby

You are the melody

Sing me

It starts like a gentle lullaby, perhaps a story you would share with your very youngest children to help them slip into sleep at the end of a long happy day.  But turn the page and a different story emerges from this remarkable collaboration between author and illustrator that grew as a special project at the Manning Regional Art Gallery in NSW.

The first hint that this is not a traditional lullaby comes when you turn the page and you are confronted by the image of a baby being passed into a tiny boat despite the stormy sea, safe into the arms of a young boy, while high on the rugged, isolated cliff barbed wire tangles it way down, clearly designed to prevent such departures. Yet despite this ominous scenery, the words evoke a feeling of trust, safety and comfort…

I am the small green pea

You are the tender pod 

Hold me.

This message of security and belief that there will be protection threads throughout the rest of the story in its gentle, lyrical text and despite the pictures portraying a somewhat different, more threatening story, the inclusion of the red bird constantly with them and appearing somewhat like the dove from Noah’s Ark towards the end of the journey is reassuring.  

The symbolism is strong  – a polar bear found floating on a fridge is taken on board and returned to its family with the help of the whales, the boat expanding to accommodate all shows that this is a story about the planet, not just its people – and all the while the little peapod boat sails on towards it destination regardless of the sea’s moods, just as love carries us all through life. While the final stanza – I am the castaway, you are the journeys end. welcome me – might suggest the story is over, the final pages and the endpapers show that this is a bigger story than that of the family in that little boat. 

While the family in the boat give a focus to those who find literally launching themselves into and onto the great unknown a better prospect than staying where they are, this is about that uniquely human emotion of hope – the family believe they will reach a better destination and they will be welcomed with warmth and compassion and even in their midst of their own struggle they find the wherewithal to help others, just as they hope they would be helped.

There are teachers’ notes available that take this so much deeper than any review can, but don’t be surprised to see this amongst the CBCA Book of the Year winners in 2018.

Sarah and the Steep Slope

Sarah and the Steep Slope

Sarah and the Steep Slope

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sarah and the Steep Slope

Danny Parker

Matt Ottley

Little Hare, 2017

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

9781742974675

When Sarah opened her door one morning she was confronted by it.  A steep slope. Blocking out the sun and casting a shadow across everything. Rising in front her like an insurmountable and impenetrable barrier.  And so it proved to be.

Prodding and pushing didn’t move it,  surprising it didn’t shake it and trying to sneak around it was hopeless.  And when she tried to climb it, even with her climbing shoes, she got halfway and then slid all the way back down.  How was she going to see her friends?

Nothing worked – even ignoring it didn’t make it go away and neither did the help of the slope doctor so he left clutching a lot of notes for Sarah’s friends and going out the door to a flat, sunlit landscape. Next day her friends visited her and they didn’t see the steep slope either. They stayed and played all day long.  And the next day…

This is a sophisticated picture book for older readers who will appreciate its symbolism as Sarah tries to negotiate the steep slope that is only visible to her. Younger readers who are still at a very literal stage of development may not understand that the slope exists only in Sarah’s mind and that it is a representation of a problem that she perceives to have no solution.

If used in a class situation, students may make suggestions about the slope that is facing Sarah and be willing to share the “slopes” they have had to navigate – physical, academic, mental and emotional – and how they found their way, while others with slopes in front of them still may draw comfort and even hope that they are not alone and that there is a pathway they can follow. We are all faced with “slopes’ as we live and learn – some steeper than others but without them there is no progress in life – and part of the success of climbing them lies in being able to acknowledge and  analyse the issue, break it into small steps, develop strategies to tackle each step, understand that others are willing and able to help and it is no shame to ask them,  believe success is possible and engage in positive self-talk.  

This is a story about the power of friendship, of having the courage to take the next step forward, of being resilient and acknowledging we are part of a village that we can seek support from and that there is always help and hope. The absence of Sarah’s family in her solution and her reaching out to a doctor rather than a parent suggest that sometimes the issue is within the family or it is not something the child feels comfortable talking about with a family member for a range of reasons, giving the reader the approval that it is okay to seek advice and assistance beyond the traditional helpers used as they have grown up without feeling guilty that they have betrayed anyone or hurt their feelings.  

Apart from the concepts of symbolism, similes and metaphors and all that technical English language stuff, this is an important book in the mindfulness collection as we finally start to acknowledge the mental health issues for even the youngest children and help them develop the strategies and skills that will enable and empower them. Those are the important lessons teachers, and I use the word in its broadest sense, teach.

 

 

Once Upon a Small Rhinoceros

Once Upon a Small Rhinoceros

Once Upon a Small Rhinoceros

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once Upon a Small Rhinoceros

Meg McKinlay

Leila Rudge

Walker Books, Australia, 2017

3299., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781925126709

 

While her family and friends wallowed in the mud and bathed in the sun and did all the other things that rhinoceroses do, the little rhinoceros gazed at the boats sailing past on the nearby river and dreamed…

“Don’t you wish that you could see the world?” she asked the others.

But they were not dreamers  or adventurers – they had everything that a rhinoceros needs right there and told the little rhinoceros so.  “You belong here”, they told her. 

However that didn’t stop the little rhinoceros dreaming and one day she began to put her plans in action.  First, she gathered the things she needed to make a boat blocking out the negative comments of the older rhinoceroses, and one day all the mud-wallowing, grass-grazing, tree-scratching, sun-bathing rhinoceroses gathered in alarm as they watched her sail out of sight…

As soon as I picked up this story it resonated with me.  It could have been the story of my mum who watched the ships leave Bluff, her home town at the very south of the South Island of New Zealand, headed not just for the vast oceans of the world but also the Antarctic.  And her heart was captured, her hope stirred and her determination to follow in their wake cemented.  Despite all the comments about where she belonged, what she as a child of the 1940s should be doing, the belief that Antarctica was a men-only domain, she “built her own boat” and in 1968 she sailed south too – the first female journalist to do so, a trailblazer for women in both Antarctic exploration and journalism.  Its publication on the 3rd  anniversary of her death is particularly poignant.

Cape Hallett Station, Antarctica, February 1968. The first woman to set foot there.

Cape Hallett Station, Antarctica, February 1968. The first woman to set foot there.

Others will write about the literary and artistic merits of this book – I just adore it because of its power to show that stick-in-the-muds can stay stuck; nay-sayers can be ignored and that dreams can come true.  This is one I will be sharing over and over with my grandchildren who were privileged to know their great-gran and to be inspired by her.

 

There Is NO Dragon In This Story

There Is No Dragon In This Story

There Is No Dragon In This Story

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There Is NO Dragon In This Story

Lou Carter

Deborah Allwright

Bloomsbury, 2017

32pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

9781408864906

Most stories about dragons have the dragon capturing a princess and fighting the brave knight who comes to save her.  But that’s not what this story is about because the dragon has gone off in a huff in search of a story where he is the hero not the villain.

But each time he enters a story – The Gingerbread Man, The Three Little Pigs, Goldilocks, Hansel and Gretel, Little Red riding Hood – he is told the same thing. “No! There are no dragons in this story!”

And then he spies a boy climbing a beanstalk. But just as Jack tells him the same thing, the giant captures the dragon and suddenly the dragon doesn’t want to be in the story!  But just as he seems doomed, the giant sneezes and blows out the sun…  Can the dragon be a hero at last?

This is a charming, colorful romp through a lot of childhood favourites that young children will delight in recalling and discussing the various forms the villain takes if it is not a dragon.  They will connect with characters and settings they know while the left-to-right direction of print is emphasised with the vivid and clever illustrations.  Older children can venture down the path of learning about stereotypes and how preconceived notions can lead to unfounded expectations, perhaps even starting to gather a collection of stories where the stereotype is challenged and then starting to examine their own prejudices.  

Quality stories always have lots of layers to suit lots of readers – this is one of those.

Stitches and Stuffing

Stitches and Stuffing

Stitches and Stuffing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stitches and Stuffing

Carrie Gallasch

Sara Acton

Little Hare, 2017

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

9781760127787

Wherever Adeline went, so did Bunnybear. They had been together since forever, never apart. He was soft and cuddly, his ears and legs wibbling and wobbling and he flipped and flopped along.  He even had his own seat at the table for morning milk and biscuits with Nanna.  Bunnybears was her best friend and she didn’t feel right without him.  Until one day, Bunnybear accidentally got left at the beach… Caught in a tug-of-war between a curious seagull and Adeline’s puppy, poor Bunnybear was destroyed and Adeline was distraught.  That night there was a Bunnybear-shaped empty space in her bed and she felt very alone.

Next day Nanna sat in her knitting chair and made a new Bunnybear for Adeline.  But this one wasn’t the same. It was too stiff and straight and no matter how Adeline squished and squashed him, he felt like a stranger.  And so he sat on the shelf, hard and still like a statue. But then, one day Nanna had to go away for a while and with no milk and biscuits for morning tea, and no sitting in the knitting chair with her, the days became long and quiet. And then Adeline remembered…

This is a soft and gentle story, illustrated with the soft and gentle palette and the soft and gentle lines of watercolours, that will remind all readers, young and not-so of their favourite take-along-everywhere toy of their childhood.  Everyone has a Bunnybear in their story, that one toy that we felt lost without regardless of whether it was shabby or pristine. In fact, shabby was better because it showed how loved it was but despite that, there is always room for change and sometimes when it is thrust upon us we need to embrace it.  This softness is not just in the storyline but also in the rhythm of the story – long sentences that spread out over vignettes and pages as life continues on its merry way but changing to shorter, more abrupt statements when the worst happens and then gradually getting longer and more rhythmic as life takes on a new pattern.  The whole wraps around the child like a hug, reassuring them that things will work out even if they are different. 

Sometimes when little ones go to big school there is a suggestion that it is time to leave their preschool lives behind, including their beloved toys that have been with them since birth.  And yet with this huge change in their lives they are left without the companionship of their most trusted and comforting friend and ally. Photos of Prince George starting school recently showed him looking a bit bewildered and unsure, and even though his grandfather Prince Charles thought the experience “character-building” we have to remember we can still count in months the time these little ones have been in the world and they need and deserve all the support they can get.  The astute teacher will acknowledge that these are more than just a collection of stitches and stuffing, that they are imbued with love, safety and security and perhaps having a special shelf so the special toys can come to school too with the child deciding when they want to wean themselves. Meanwhile the teacher librarian can encourage them to read to their special toy in school and at night and might even provide a collection of teddies for those who just need an extra hug or two. It worked for me!