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Wilbur, Grace and Joe

Wilbur, Grace and Joe

Wilbur, Grace and Joe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wilbur, Grace and Joe

Phil Cummings

Amanda Graham

Little Book Press, 2017

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

9780994385284

Wilbur the dog is as much in love with the new twins Grace and Joe as their parents. He becomes their furry, four-legged guardian angel as he shares the exciting days and the sleepless nights as they grow from newborns to toddlers with all that that entails.

This is a charming family story with a soft palette that emphasises its gentleness and which families will relate to as a new baby enters the world of a couple and their dog.  A lovely bedtime story for a young reader with a faithful dog who will want to know if that’s what their life was like too.

 

Here We Are: Notes For Living On Planet Earth

Here We Are: Notes For Living On Planet Earth

Here We Are: Notes For Living On Planet Earth

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here We Are: Notes For Living On Planet Earth

Oliver Jeffers

HarperCollins, 2017

48pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9780008266165

“Well, hello.
And welcome to this Planet.
We call it Earth.

Our world can be a bewildering place, especially if you’ve only just got here. Your head will be filled with questions, so let’s explore what makes our planet and how we live on it. From land and sky, to people and time, these notes can be your guide and start you on your journey. And you’ll figure lots of things out for yourself. Just remember to leave notes for everyone else… Some things about our planet are pretty complicated, but things can be simple, too: you’ve just got to be kind.”

Written for his baby son, Jeffers tries to offer an explanation of this planet and how it works so that young Harland (and any other little children) will be able to negotiate it successfully.  Even though this planet is a complex place, Jeffers manages to extract its essential elements  – there are basically two parts, the land and the sea – and using direct narrative, his iconic illustrations and simple labels he explores the concepts of the planet and the people and animals who inhabit it. Huge ideas reduced to simple but carefully chosen words that convey both explanation and advice.

“People come in many shapes, sizes and colours.  We may all look different, act differently and sound different … but don’t be fooled, we are all people.”

Throughout there is the underlying message of choosing kind and gentle to the land, its people and all its inhabitants, underpinned by a quote from J. M. Barrie as part of the dedication page..

With so much emphasis on the environment in our school curricula these days, this is the perfect book to create a child’s awareness of their surroundings beyond their immediate self.  But there are so many avenues that could be explored by posing questions such as “Is there more land that sea?”  or “If most of the land is at the top of the planet, why doesn’t the planet roll?” that could lead to investigations by all ages.  

Here We Are: Notes For Living On Planet Earth was the #1 New York Times Bestseller and voted #1 TIME Best Book of the Year for 2017.  It’s easy to see why. A must-have in your collection and one to be recommended to teachers as the staple that underpins all their lessons this year.

Pete the Cat – Meet Pete

Pete The Cat: Meet Pete

Pete The Cat: Meet Pete

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pete The Cat: Meet Pete

James Dean

HarperCollins, 2017

18pp., board book., RRP $A12.99

 9780062675170

From posts sent to a US teacher librarian network, Pete the Cat is one of the most popular characters for preschoolers and now our youngsters can meet him and his friends in this new tabbed board book.  With each character having its own tab, little fingers can easily turn to the page that they are seeking – a very early manifestation of the role of an index in the information literacy process!

With a strong emphasis on songs and music and a myriad of online resources to enrich and enhance the child’s experience, this little cat is sure to become a favourite here too. 

The Wolf, the Duck and The Mouse

The Wolf, the Duck and The Mouse

The Wolf, the Duck and The Mouse

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Wolf, the Duck and The Mouse

Mac Barnett

Jon Klassen

Walker Books, 2017

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

9781406377798

When the wolf swallows the mouse, Mouse is very surprised to find that his cries of woe wake Duck who is safely ensconced in bed and trying to sleep.  Because it is dark in the wolf’s tummy, the difference between daylight and darkness can’t be discerned but when Duck discovers it is morning he declares it is breakfast time and produces the first of many surprises for Mouse.

Explaining that on the ‘outside’ there was always the danger of being swallowed, but now that that has happened Duck has no intention of being eaten and so has set up home in the ‘belly of the beast.'”You would be surprised what you can find inside of a wolf”.

But their celebrations give the wolf a bellyache and his howls attract the attention of a hunter…

Despite the limited colour palette, there is much that is included in Klassen’s illustrations that those attuned to looking for detail will enjoy and which will make the ending not only surprising but appropriate.

This story has a fable/fairytale quality that is enhanced by both the choice of characters and the language they use, and its conclusion cements that.  While primarily for younger readers, it also has a place in the library of those a bit older as the underlying message that it is those who are flexible who will flourish in a world and time of change is so relevant.

The Poesy Ring – a love story

The Poesy Ring

The Poesy Ring

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Poesy Ring – a love story

Bob Graham

Walker, 2017

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

9781406378276

Way back when, in this case in 1830 in County Kerry, Ireland, poesy rings were given as tokens of friendship and affection between lovers.  And way back when, just as today, bitter words can be spoken, relationships break up and rings discarded. 

This one, aptly inscribed “Love Never Dies”, is caught by the wind, tumbling end over end and settles deep in a meadow near the sea where it lies for seasons undisturbed until a little deer catches it in its hoof as it eats the acorns from the tree that has grown ad fruited over the years beside the ring.  Then its adventure begins until over 200 years later it is placed on a new finger, showing that its message is as eternal as the land that has ensconced it.

This is Bob Graham at his story-telling best using the poetry of his words and the beauty of his illustrations to take the reader on a journey through and across time showing that the world and its living things keep turning and enduring offering hope and optimism even if things seem a bit bleak in the short term.  And it is the same with love and relationships – just as the ships that cross the ocean near the meadow sail through storm and war as the lighthouse guides them to safety – so the bonds between people can be tested, saved or severed.

Astute readers might pick up on the dedication at the front of the book and the date that the love story turns full circle – perhaps this has been inspired by something very personal to the creator. 

While publishers’ and booksellers’ website suggest that this is a story for 3-8 year olds, it is so full of symbolism that it is a story for all ages.  Parents sharing it with their young children might need to offer a few explanations, pointing out how Graham has shown how time passes and love endures and once they understand the subtlety of the illustrations they will learn to look for the clues and cues by themselves, not only enriching their engagement with this story but enhancing their understanding of how top-shelf picture books work. It is a story that needs to read and then read again so the beauty of its message is as entrenched as the beauty of the prose and pictures.

Like so many of his previous titles, this is most likely to be on awards lists in 2018.

 

 

The ABC Book of Feelings

The ABC Book of Feelings

The ABC Book of Feelings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The ABC Book of Feelings

Helen Martin & Judith Simpson

Cheryl Orsini

ABC Books, 2017

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

9780733338298

Many schools are now including mindfulness in their curricula as they encourage children to check in on their own feelings and those of their peers in a bid to promote and protect positive mental health.  This book, the 9th in this series, will be a valuable addition to the resources as it not only introduces the range of human emotions but also reaffirms them as being natural rather than positive or negative; demonstrates that feelings change; and that others might respond to a particular situation in a way that we don’t experience or expect.

The latter point can be a tricky concept for little ones to understand as they are not yet mature enough to step beyond their own response to objectively look at others but the process can be started by having them compare food likes and dislikes so they begin to understand that there can be differences of opinion and that our personal experiences shape who we are and how we respond.  For example, a little one I know who is so totally in tune with nature has no issue with having her pet snake as her hair adornment whilst others will shudder because their experiences with these creatures are very different! But knowing and accepting that we all respond differently can be a step towards minimising teasing and bullying.

Speaking directly to the reader, the authors not only introduce the more common emotions we experience but acknowledge that anger and sadness and apprehension are also natural and offer ways to deal with them so we can move on to a better place.  They explain that other people can influence our feelings and even the way our body is feeling physically can have an impact.  Who hasn’t been cranky when they’re hungry or have a headache or been in the sun too long?

Any book that helps little ones understand and acknowledge their feelings and know that they are the body’s natural response to events and are part of who we are as humans is important in not only helping us to know ourselves better but also to know others and help develop both empathy and resilience, both important in combating bullying.. With its charming illustrations and personalised text, this could be at the core of your collection of mindfulness and mental health resources.

 

An Aussie Day Before Christmas

 

 

 

An Aussie Day Before Christmas

An Aussie Day Before Christmas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Aussie Day Before Christmas

Kilmeny Niland

Scholastic, 2008

32pp., hbk., RRP $A15.99

9781741690972

‘Twas the day before Christmas
And in his beach shack,
Santa was snoozing,
Flat out on his back.

‘Shake a leg, love,’
Sheila Claus said.
‘Time to get ready
For the big night ahead.’

There is much to do before Santa makes his once-a-year flight…chooks to feed, breakfast to have, a walk with his missus, the news to read, pressies to wrap and the ‘roos to sort out. “The koalas won’t help me, they’re too flamin’ slow.” 

Putting iconic Australian sayings and slang to the familiar rhythm of the Clement C. Moore poem, Kilmeny Niland uses her artistic talent to portray a DownUnder day before Christmas through stunning illustrations that capture a very different picture of Santa than the traditional one our children are so familiar with.  

Before sharing it, children might like to speculate on what it is that Aussie Santa does in preparation – perhaps a surf, perhaps a nap, perhaps prawns and a beer – whatever they predict they will delight in Niland’s interpretation that might dispel their snowy North Pole images forever. And a must for any collection of Australian Christmas stories you might be sending to children overseas.

Tallulah’s Nutcracker

Tallulah's Nutcracker

Tallulah’s Nutcracker

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tallulah’s Nutcracker

Marilyn Singer

Alexandra Boiger

Clarion Books, 2013

48pp., hbk., RRP $A33.99

9780547845579

Christmas time means it is time for the popular perennial performance of Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker based on the original story by E. T. A. Hoffman and budding ballerina Tallulah is very excited as she has won a role as one of the mice.  She is convinced she will be the best mouse ever and practises very diligently, turning down social invitations and inviting everyone she knows.  Even when she discovers the role is more about scurrying around wriggling her paws rather than doing eye-catching ballet moves, she doesn’t get discouraged, 

But on the night things don’t go according to her plan, and her performance is not what she dreamed it would be, so she scuttles off and hides, too ashamed to face even her family.  And when the ballet master, Clara and the Sugar Plum fairy come looking for her she is sure her future as a ballerina is over before it gets started…

This is a story that will appeal to all those who aspire to being the Sugar Plum Fairy one day with its gentle but realistic storyline and charming watercolour illustrations.  For those who are familiar with the story of The Nutcracker it takes on a new dimension and for those for whom this is new, not only will it help explain the prevalence of nutcracker decorations in stores at this time but it will also lead to one of the classic Christmas time stories, and perhaps even a performance of the ballet!

Worth tracking down for the ballerina who likes to read!

The Princess and the Christmas Rescue

 

 

 

The Princess and the Christmas Rescue

The Princess and the Christmas Rescue

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Princess and the Christmas Rescue

Caryl Hart

Sarah Warburton

Nosy Crow, 2017

32pp., hbk. RRP $A24.99

9780857637079

Kept in her beautiful palace at the top of the world by parents who fear for her safety because of what lives in the surrounding forest, Princess Eliza is lonely  But even though she is stuck inside all day with no one to play with, she is resourceful and she figures out how to make almost anything with a few bits of wood and some string — including her own toys! But her parents think that her mechanical inclinations aren’t suited to a princess, and tell her she’d be better off devoting her time to searching for a friend.

But not being allowed to go out into the world makes that a tricky thing, and even drawing on her fairytales doesn’t help – the gingerbread man skedaddles, the frog she kisses doesn’t turn into a prince and even dangling her long hair out the window brings no visitors. But as she sits at the window she smells smoke drifting over the trees and is determined to find out who is making it and she slips out into the forest.  As a huge shaggy shape looms up out of the snow she is frightened but it turns out to be a friendly deer who carries to his master’s house where she finds elves who are overworked and despondent because  Santa has the flu and they’re unlikely to finish all the orders before Christmas Eve.

But Eliza knows just what to do – at last all that time spent with paper and paperclips, scissors and glue comes in very handy… but can she save Christmas?

Recommended by A Mighty Girl for being a story that empowers girls and encourages them to be “smart, confident and courageous” this certainly meets these criteria.  From defying her parents and going into the forest, demonstrating her inventive intelligence in an elves-and-shoemaker kind of way to save Christmas and yet still keeping her feet on the ground (sort of), this is a story that will appeal to girls everywhere and help take the sting from the word ‘princess’ that it has acquired over the last decade or so. Being clever, imaginative and inventive is not restricted to boys! And it could well be the springboard for kickstarting some problem-solving as Makerspaces need new life breathed into them at the beginning of 2018.  Students could brainstorm the other sorts of problems that Santa might encounter as he tries to meet everyone’s requests and then they could invent something to solve them.  

A joyful, fun story that will be a permanent part of my Christmas Countdown.