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Kevin Henkes

Greenwillow, 2017

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

9780062408723

Four eggs – one pink, one yellow, one blue, one green.  Crack. Crack Crack.  Three hatch and release their little ones – but the green one does not.  Waiting, waiting, waiting…Listening, listening, listening… Peck. Peck. Peck.  Until finally… But what emerges is not what is expected.  And as the birds fly away in surprise it is left alone, sad and miserable.  Until…

Described as “a graphic novel for pre-schoolers”, Caldecott Medallist Kevin Henkes has woven a magnificent story with the minimum of words and some seemingly simple illustrations.  Using the softest pastel palette, simple lines and shading he conveys so much emotion and action that even the very youngest reader will be able to sit and tell the story to themselves and their teddies without having to know one word of the sparse text.  They will enjoy predicting what might be in that final egg and be surprised when the secret is discovered.  Could that really be inside an egg?  Are birds the only things that hatch from eggs?  They will also empathise with the surprise when it is left alone and lonely, perhaps able to express their own feelings when they have been in a similar situation.  A perfect opportunity to build a word wall of synonyms for ‘sad”. Inviting them to retell the story will encourage them to organise and order their thoughts, begin to understand sequence is important, and use their own words and language skills to express what happened – critical elements in developing early reading skills.  And of course, this story is the perfect lead-in to the classic tale of The Ugly Duckling.

Brilliant for littlies but older children could gain a lot from looking at the techniques used to produce so much from so little.

Ready, Steady, Hatch

Ready, Steady, Hatch

Ready, Steady, Hatch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ready, Steady, Hatch

Ben Long

David Cornish

Ford Street, 2017

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

9781925272536

Way down yonder in the pumpkin patch, ten little eggs were beginning to hatch.  As they did, they danced and twirled – it was time to go and see the world.  But the last little chick gets distracted by a large cherry, unseen by the others who marched on to meet their mother.  But she was very concerned when she counted them because that morning there were ten and now there were only nine! So with Mother Hen in front they set out on a hunt to find the missing chick.  But no matter how or where they searched, they had no luck until…

This is a rollicking romp in rhyme which will appeal to young readers as they enjoy the language, the search and the charming illustrations which add so much action and sound you are drawn into the story. The rhythm of the rhyme is reinforced as the chicks march to the musical notes and then drum on logs and stomp their feet trying to bring the little one out of hiding.  

There is something about the theme of Chooks in Books that has always appealed, perhaps because it lends itself to lots of research such as investigating whether chickens are the only creatures that start life as eggs as well as lots of artwork for there are so many ways to create chickens to build a class mural to retell the story, surround with chook facts, and build a wall of Chooks in Books stories. Imagine how much easier the concept of 10 and ordinal numbers will become as the children identify the subtle differences between the line of chooks and then line themselves up like the chickens and march or run or creep around to the beat of a drum.   

Ben Long and David Cornish have created a story that will capture the attention of little ones and reaffirm their understanding that there is much fun to be had between the pages of the book. 

 

The Usborne Big Book of Bugs

The Usborne Big Book of Bugs

The Usborne Big Book of Bugs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Usborne Big Book of Bugs

Emily Bone

Fabiano Fiorin

Usborne 2017

16pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

9781474928960

Some little people, unlike their grandmothers, love bugs and see them for what they are – an essential element of life on this planet either as pollinators or food for pollinators.  So those little people will probably love this book with its life-size pictures of these multi-legged creatures and wonder and marvel at Mother Nature’s creations, ingenuity and magic.  

Even though there are officially only 16 pages, there are four huge fold-out pages that offer many more pictures to explore  – the biggest ones, the most deadly, those with wings and those with lots of legs, those that are beautiful and those that are not-so, even those that could win gold medals in a Bugs Olympics – there are bugs from all around the world to discover, learn a little about and perhaps even investigate further.  Usborne even provides a page of Quicklinks to support further investigations as well as activities. 

Not necessarily my favourite book of the year because I’m a wuss, but definitely one for little people wanting to get up close and personal with Mother Nature. 

Is Bear Here?

Is Bear Here?

Is Bear Here?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is Bear Here?

Jonathan Bentley

Little Hare, 2017

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

9781760129811

Bear is lost.  Where could he be? Perhaps he has been left in town.  At the market?  At the museum? Perhaps at the park?  Oh no.  Bear is nowhere to be found.  But wait…

Reminiscent of a stage show where the villain keeps popping up but the hero doesn’t see him, and the audience is screaming loudly “There! Look!” but split-second timing is everything, this companion to Where is Bear will delight very young readers.  Luckily in this story, though, bear isn’t a villain – in fact he is the hero.

A perfect book for teaching little ones about the joys of story and the fun to be had between the pages of books while they empathise with the trauma of having lost a favourite companion.

 

Town Mouse, Country Mouse

Town Mouse, Country Mouse

Town Mouse, Country Mouse

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Town Mouse, Country Mouse

Richard Jones

Libby Walden

Caterpillar, 2017

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

9781848575462

Living in a bustling town is exhausting for a little mouse and she dreams of a quiet place in the country.  So she writes to her country cousin to see if she can visit for a while, swapping homes so they each have a holiday..  Country Mouse is very excited because he has always wanted to be “a mouse about town.” But things are not quite as wonderful as they expect and neither is sorry when their holiday is over and it’s time to go HOME.

This traditional fable from Aesop has been retold in rhyme, bringing its powerful message of what it means to be home and to belong to a new generation.  Cleverly illustrated with a gentle palette and strategic cutouts it’s a story that has endured over time because of its timeless message of “the grass always seems greener” .  Little ones can have fun imagining what it might be like to live the life of their hero or in another place, but then also reflect on the things they would miss if they were really able to make the swap.

A classic.

Winnie the Pooh: The Great Heffalump Hunt

The Great Heffalump Hunt

The Great Heffalump Hunt

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Winnie the Pooh: The Great Heffalump Hunt

Giles Andreae

Egmont, 2017

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

9781405278300

Piglet trotted happily beside his best friend Pooh.

Talking about nothing much as best friends often do.

When suddenly Pooh stopped and said, “I’ve got a Grand Idea”.

“I’m going to catch a Heffalump. I’ve heard they live around here.”

Giles Andreae of Giraffes Can’t Dance fame has taken this wonderful and well-known adventure of A. A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh and reinterpreted into a delightful rhyme and pictorial experience.  More than 90 years on from the first publication of the adventures of Christopher Robin, Winnie-the-Pooh, Piglet and Tigger inspired by a real-life bear  Milne’s stories are as enchanting and popular as ever so to have this one in a picture book version for our youngest readers is a treat indeed.  

As well as providing a taste of the delights of what is in the original collection, it celebrates friendship, bravery and the imagination, even providing the basis for an inquiry project for beginners.  Just what is a Heffalump, what does it look like, and what would be the best way to catch it?  Each child could create their own version, design a suitable trap and bait and maybe even start to consider whether catching wild creatures is ever a good idea.  Those a little older might even start to investigate the role of zoos and how they’ve changed, particularly given Winnie’s origins.

Even though this is an adaptation of a classic, in its new form there are so many layers to explore that it is perfect as a standalone., and another generation will learn to love this lovable bear and his endearing friends.

 

The Chalk Rainbow

The Chalk Rainbow

The Chalk Rainbow

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Chalk Rainbow

Deborah Kelly

Gwynneth Jones

EK, 2017

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

9781925335453

Zane is different to other kids – he lives in his own world with his own language, a need to line things up and has an inordinate fear of the colour black.  Black food, black clothes, black anything – he won’t go near it.  Not the pedestrian crossing, the soft fall at the playground, not even his own driveway.  So Zane is trapped on the front step unable to venture further, even when his dad yells at him.  Until one day his sister starts to draw a chalk rainbow on the steps to cheer him up.  Zane likes colour so he joins in. And then the magic begins…

Like so many children Zane is on the Autism Spectrum and while their issues might seem unreasonable and even be unfathomable to those around them, like Zane’s fear of black frustrates and angers his father, nevertheless they are very real to the child.  And because of the way their brain is wired they can’t overcome them any more than we can expect them to change their hair colour or foot size, so it is up to us as adults to adapt our way of thinking and working so we can enable the child to manage the world better.  It’s about acknowledging their disorder and treating them with respect and dignity.  If they can’t change then we must.  Through imagination and love, the rainbow bridges work for Zane’s family and instead of being frustrated even his dad is able to free Zane from the prison walls of black.  

Kids themselves are very accepting of others whatever their differences, but they don’t always understand how their actions can help or hinder.  Nearly every classroom had a child with ASD these days and while that child’s issues might not be the colour black, using this book as a springboard to introduce how peers can help the ASD child have a better time at school would be a brilliant start towards total acceptance and understanding.  Even if there is no ASD involved, using the imagination to make something like a chalk rainbow to take that next step into the unknown is a wonderful strategy.

An essential addition to the school library’s collection and the home library of the siblings of an ASD child.

Tiger, Tiger

Tiger, Tiger

Tiger, Tiger

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tiger, Tiger

Jonny Lambert

Little Tiger, 2017

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

9781848694446

Mother Tiger has somewhere she needs to be so she leaves her cub in the care of Old Tiger.  But while Little Cub wants to play and explore, Old Tiger thinks he is too old to babysit and just wants to sleep.  But he consents to a “very slow stroll”  through country he has seen so many times that he believes “There’s nothing to see around her any more.”  But he doesn’t factor in the joy and enthusiasm and fresh eyes of the very young and gradually his grey, tired world takes on new colours and new life.

With plenty of action words that young readers will love and relate to as well as text that sometimes rhymes, this is a story that moves from shadow to light as Old Tiger rediscovers the sights of his youth and even begins to take the lead in the play.  Sometimes, as we age and life seems to weigh heavily at times, we forget to take delight in the everyday things that surround us so this story is a reminder that we need to make time for the simple and that there is fun to be had without always having to be entertained by external things.

Lambert is first and foremost an illustrator and that’s evident not just in the detail in the pictures but in the way he has used colour to reflect Tiger’s perception of the world.  At first the jungle is dull and grey but as the adventure continues the colours brighten and the details are more intense and lush.  The reader sees more and more just as Old Tiger does.

A great book for little ones and older ones alike.

 

 

A Patch from Scratch

A Patch from Scratch

A Patch from Scratch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Patch from Scratch

Megan Forward

Penguin Viking 2016

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

9780670078295

Living a country life in the city is an appealing prospect for many.  Picking fresh fruit and vegetables from the garden bed instead of the supermarket shelves; having your own chooks to provide fresh eggs; recycling waste instead of sending it to landfill – all these things appeal to Jesse and his family and so they design, plan and develop their own patch from scratch.

Told from Jesse’s perspective, the story chronicles what would seem to be a real-life experience that shows all the aspects of creating an edible garden in a suburban backyard.  From Lewis’ desire to grow beans like Jack of beanstalk fame, to Jesse’s dream of fresh strawberries and even Mum’s longing for chooks each step is documented in text and illustrations that show what needs to be done in a way that draws the reader in and shows them that they can do it too.  In fact, once they start it’s amazing how many people become involved as seeds, seedlings and advice are shared and suddenly chores like weeding and watering become fun. Jesse starts a plant diary for his strawberries as he patiently waits for them to ripen.  But why are there five not six? And what is happening to the tomatoes and lettuce, leaving holes in them? How can the patch be saved from the robbers? 

As well as being so informative, particularly as more and more schools are developing kitchen gardens to supply the canteen, there are lots of other issues raised that will kickstart lots of investigations that should give greater understanding for the future of our planet.  Why are bees critical?  If pesticides wipe out bugs, what will the birds eat? How did people manage when there were no supermarkets? What happens to supermarket food when it is not bought? What are the essential elements that need to be included in the design of a chicken coop?

To round off the story, there is some really useful information and suggestions for finding out more as well as a flowchart of how the patch from scratch works. There is also a lot of information on the author’s page for the book and at the Kitchen Garden Foundation which supports this concept in schools.

Identified as a CBCA 2017 Book of the Year Notable and with sustainability being one of the cross curriculum priorities of the Australian Curriculum this is an essential addition to both the home and school library as we look to a better, healthier future 

Once Upon an ABC

Once Upon an ABC

Once Upon an ABC

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once Upon an ABC

Sophie Masson

Christopher Nielsen

Little Hare, 2017

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

9781760128432

A is for Anansi, both clever and neat,

B is for Brer Rabbit with tar-sticky feet…”

This is a clever romp-in-rhyme through the characters of familiar fairy tales and folktales that will bring back memories of loved stories as well as suggest new ones to explore. Who is Herd Boy?  Why was the Nymph protecting her tree? And why is ‘ugly’ just a disguise?  Perfect for extending children’s reading into traditional tales from a range of countries as they try to match character with story.

But while the illustrations are quirky, I’m not so sure that the target audience is attracted to these muted, retro colours that seem to be so prominent in children’s books at the moment. My experience of 45 years with littlies is that children will view the cover as quite dull and pass it over in favour of something more eye-catching, so that while the text is brilliant it will take an adult’s encouragement to entice the child to explore it.  

Concept is great, presentation not so.