The Leaky Story
EK Books, 2017
32pp., hbk., 2017
The Leaky Story
EK Books, 2017
32pp., hbk., 2017
I Love You
New Frontier, 2017
32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99
Preschool teacher Ms Giraffe has three favourite words – “I love you” – and when she teachers Little Badger and her friends how to say them in a variety of different languages, Little Badger is inspired. She practises and practises uttering the words in Chinese, Spanish, French, German, Italian and English to everything she sees, even her new knickers! She is determined to learn and not forget them.
This is a charming story from a Chinese author and illustrator that will have a place in any collection where there are children learning about others and sharing their lives as they discover that there are languages other than English but while words can sound different they can still have the same meaning. While our Chinese, Spanish, French, German and Italian students will delight in having their language celebrated in this way, it is also a wonderful opportunity for those who speak other languages to share how to say “I love you” in their special way, and contribute to a stunning wall display that demonstrates both diversity and inclusion. It would be the perfect focus for Harmony Day.
While primarily for younger readers, it could also be a springboard for investigating other common phrases in various languages as well as discovering just how many languages are spoken in the homes of the students.
Books and stories which reach out in this way to those who are new to this country or who are learning English as another language do wonderful things for embracing the multicultural nature of our society and the riches that such a patchwork of origins can bring to all out lives as well as sending a welcoming message to the non-English speakers. Aroha nui New Frontier for bringing this to our children.
32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99
For children moving house away from friends and familiar things can be tougher than parents realise, and especially so when the move is from one well-known environment to one that is completely unknown.
Mae and her family move from her house with a garden, an apple tree, daisies and daffodils, green grass and birds to an inner-city apartment that is all rooftops and tall buildings – the epitome of the concrete jungle. There are no windy paths and leafy cubbies, just statues and Keep Off The Grass signs. There are no treasures for her treasure jar, just boxes and more boxes and when she tries to draw familiar things on the pavement outside, the rain washes them away. No matter what she does, Mae cannot make this new place resemble her old one.
But one day, standing on a box peering through her binoculars at the endless rooftops, she spies an open space with swings in the distance and so she, her mum and dog set off to find it. It is a long walk through this unforgiving city and the end result is a disappointment. But as she sits forlornly on the swing, she spies a bird and follows it until it disappears into a leafy forest. But the forest is closed. And then Mae spots something that changes things…
Anna Walker is the creator of Mr Huff, winner of the CBCA Early Childhood Book of the Year in 2016, Peggy shortlisted in 2013 and a host of other books that centre around her ability to get into the head of the subject, consider “what if…” and then emerges through her gentle, detailed illustrations that bring the text to life and invite the reader to delve deeply into them.
Mae could be any child who has moved house, perhaps with little say in the decision made by parents concerned with adult-things, who has discovered themselves amongst the totally unfamiliar but who has drawn on their inner reserves and resilience to try to make it work until eventually it does. Without describing Mae’s feelings, but detailing her actions in words and pictures, the reader feels and understands Mae’s vulnerability and bewilderment and yet throughout there is a sense of hope and a knowledge that she will prevail. Despite the bleakness of the city and its harsh facade there is a feeling that Mae will break through – perhaps it is in the children who come to view her courtyard art amidst empty plants pots or in the new budding trees as she goes through the streets, or in the swan, duck and ducklings in the river as the city awakens to spring… Florette, a small flower that makes up a bigger one, is the perfect title for this story perfectly encapsulating that concept of from little things…
A look through Anna Walker’ website shows a host of awards for her work – this could well be added to that list.
Me and You
32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99
There are many people in a child’s life – parents, siblings, grandparents, aunties, uncles, cousins, neighbours, best friends, parents’ friends, pets…and that’s before they even venture into the world of preschool and big school! And the shape of the relationship with each one is different.
In this new book by Deborah Kelly, as softly illustrated as its focus, the connections are explored and enjoyed – the arty-crafty days; the yummy-scrummy days; the pedal-pushing days; the silly-billy days; the sandy-sandwich days; the footy-playing days; the slippery-sliding days; the grubby-garden days; the woofy-wagging days; the handy-helper days; the sausage-sizzling days; the stretchy-yawning days – all mixing, matching and melding together to enrich the child’s life and cocoon them in love.
Apart from the variety of adventures that the child has and the reader will resonate with, the richness of the language and its rhyme, rhythm and repetition will engage and perhaps even encourage the young reader/listener to start thinking about the relationships they have and starting to describe them using similar language. Primarily aimed at the preschooler, this book could also have traction with older students as an extension of learning about friendships so they move from thinking about what makes a friend and how to be one but also the types of relationships they have with those in their lives. For example, the relationship with their parents will be different from that with their teacher, and that with other children can be shaped by age, expertise and even power. Discussing why we are friends with particular people (or aspire to be), how friends should make us feel and where we fit in others’ lives brings confidence and builds empathy and resilience when things don’t work out. Are friendships always smooth sailing?
Many parents seem to be deeply concerned about the friendships their children make particularly when the meetings are beyond parental control – as evidenced by this request to an international email group where a parent was looking for books about “choosing the “right” friends. She has requested that there be African American characters and she is concerned that he [bright son] seems to be choosing friends who are in the lower academic classes.” By sharing Me and You older children might examine the friendships they have and what holds them together; debate the notion of “right friends”; discuss how a variety of friends who bring different circumstances, skills and attitudes can enrich lives; and begin to understand the role and influence that friends have in their lives as well as their position in the lives of their friends. Such understanding may well offer valuable insight into their connections with other people, now and in the future helping them to make the sorts of choices their parents would be happy with. and defending those that they wouldn’t.
Perhaps author and illustrator just wanted to share the joy of being a child with all its fun and activity, but for me the best picture books work across a number of levels and delve deeper than the immediate storyline and pictures and therefore this one works very well.
Hooray for Birds
Candlewick Press, 2017
40pp., hbk., RRP $a24.99
Can you imagine…just for one day…you’re a busy bird? Yes, a bird! Hooray!
Ask a little child what birds can do and they are bound to tell you that they fly. But in this exuberant book by Lucy Cousins we learn about all the other things they can do – and that the child can do too. They can start the day by shouting cock-a-doodle-doo, hop, peck, swim and stretch, stand very tall on just one leg waddle like a penguin and run like an ostrich, puff out their chest and then bid the day farewell with a tuwit tuwoo.
As well as responding to the vibrant colours and bold illustrations on solid colour backgrounds, young readers will delight in doing the things that birds do, flapping their wings, exercising their lungs and generally just having a lot of fun as they are introduced to a flock of different birds, some familiar, some not-so. It soon becomes clear that birds come in all shapes and sizes and colours and can do all sorts of things and make all sorts of noises. Even though there are not the familiar magpies, kookaburras and emus that might be found in a book of Australian origin, nevertheless roosters, swans, peacocks and flamingos are very recognisable and will help the child learn about the diversity of our feathered friends.. Combined with a simple rhyming pattern the distinctive pictures will help the child become a role-play reader as they engage with the book on their own.
Full of fun and energy, this will ensure a menagerie in the house for sure!
Rock Pool Secrets
Walker Books, 2017
32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99
“Down on the rocky shore, waves crash and smash. Then the tide goes out and the sea is calm. It’s a good time to explore the rock pools.”
For some the magnificence of high tide with the waves pounding the coast is their favourite sea-time – the tranquility of low tide is not dramatic enough for them. But what looks to be a peaceful, not-much-happening environment is actually one of the greatest activity on the seashore because the myriad of creatures that live there have just a few short hours to feed and do what they do before the inexorable tide encroaches again. You just have to take the time to look.
In this superbly illustrated new book from Narelle Oliver, she takes us on a journey around the rockpools pointing out things that might stay hidden to the non-looker exposing them underneath flaps that blend into the artwork as well as the creatures blend into their habitats. The transparent shrimp in its leafy hideaway; the hermit crab in its seashell home; the anemones like seafloor flowers…each brought to life in their subtle colours in extraordinarily detailed linocuts waiting to be discovered nestling in crevices, hiding in the seaweed or camouflaged on the rocks.. As well as the captions that accompany the text there is also a glossary with further information about the creatures featured that will inspire young beach-goers to spend some time looking and wondering and marvelling at nature’s disguises when they next catch the beach at low tide.
As a child I grew up in the very south of the South Island of New Zealand (next stop was literally Antarctica) and we were allowed to roam the rockpools all day (until the tide came in) so so many of my childhood memories are built around the discoveries we made. Nowadays, when I get to the coast I head for the rockpools and do what I did way back when and spend many calming, healing hours just looking.
Armed with the beauty and knowledge from this book, perhaps there will be a new generation of hunters inspired to look a little closer, tread a little more gently and delight in the hidden wonders especially as summer draws to a close and many are making a last trip to the beach until the warm comes again.
Over the years of her too-short life, Narelle Oliver has brought nature to life for young readers in her exquisite works like The Hunt, Leaf Tail, The Best Beak in Boonaroo Bay, Fox and Fine Feathers, Sand Swimmers and for her final work to be one that focuses on my favourite environment is just superb.
Vale Narelle. You gave us so much and we are indebted to you. Thank you.
Oombee Woombee Books 2016
32pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99
Mix the two in a blue-yellow brew…
Written for preschoolers, this is a fun book full of bright colours, catchy rhymes and whimsical illustrations that helps to teach our young readers the names of the colours they see in their world and how they are made.
Children show preferences for particular colours from a very early age. Since she could say the word, Miss Nearly 6 has had a very strong preference for blue – provided it was blue she would have it, even broccoli if we could work out a way to dye it! So to have the primary and secondary colours presented in such a bold way is sure to catch the eye and promise fun because who can resist an octopus, a paint brush in each of his eight arms splashing colour everywhere?
As well as the nonsense rhymes appealing to the ear in a familiar rhythm and the splashes of colour, the illustrations themselves invite exploration and interpretation encouraging the child to engage with the text. Can you find the purple socks? What do you think the blue bee is saying? Will that relaxed green mouse be safe from the large red cat looming over the house? And why is the red cow looking so angry? Children can then be encouraged to seek similar colours in their own environment, look at shades and tones, perhaps even build their own colour book called As red /yellow/green as...using pictures and captions.
There is also scope for practical experimenting using food colouring, dyes or paint so the child can discover for themselves what happens if we mix this with that, laying the foundations for some early science and building the concepts about things changing. Even though its primary audience is the very young, it also has scope for Kindy kids formally investigating colour and change as well as those a little older who are discovering the properties of light and rainbows. Why are the colours of the rainbow always the same and in the same order?
There is a myriad of ideas that this book could be the springboard for; ideas, investigations and experiments as rich as the colours themselves helping our young readers understand that not only do we get information from books but books can lead us on new adventures.
Lift-the-flap Questions and Answers about Science
16pp., board book, RRP $A19.99
From the time they are born children are innately curious and as soon as they are able to articulate the words, they ask questions so they can make the connections they need as they try to make sense of their world. As the nearest adult we try to help them with the answers. Some of the answers are at our fingertips but some need a little more digging.
Often those answers lie in science and this book is a great introduction for the budding young scientist who has the questions and wants a basic explanation that can be followed further if they wish. Just 16 pages long, it is divided into double page spreads with the headings what, why, when, where, which, who, how and yes or no. Each page has several questions, the answers for which are hidden under the flaps. Starting with the basic “What is science?” and “What do scientists do?” it goes on to explore other questions about science itself as well as others such as “Is the sky really blue?” Simple explanations and quirky pictures under the flaps provide a straight-forward answer as well as the starting point for further investigations. Having the answers under the flap gives the child an opportunity to consider the question and then suggest their own explanation before checking to see if they are on the right track.
Aimed at the young reader with an interest in science, nevertheless it is a book to be shared with a grownup who can help with some of the words, interpret the answers more fully and suggest other sources for finding out more including the publishers’ webpage for the book which has more questions, links to websites and other books in the series that delve deeper.
Books like this start the young child on their way to being information literate – able to locate, evaluate, analyse, interpret information so they can then use it to satisfy their curiosity, discover the world around them and ask new questions. With the current emphasis on STEM (science technology, engineering and maths) in the school curriculum not only does this book provide answers , it demonstrates that those answers can be found in print as well as modelling how to ask questions that require more than a one-word answer to take an investigation further.
It could even be the springboard for an ongoing class activity with a question posed each week so students can share their answers which are then compared to the explanation provided, discussed and investigated sparking an interest in science that endures.
This is a dip-and-delve book – one the reader will come back to time and time again.
Raising Literacy Australia, 2016
12pp., board book, RRP $A9.90
Four delightful Australian animal babies are doing what all babies do when they hear a piece of music – they move to it. So in this charming story Wombat, Sugar Glider, Echidna and Cockatoo show off their individual and unique moves until in the end they all have to sleep, the one thing they and all little ones have in common.
In soft, earthy pastel colours and the simplest of rhymes this is a story that will engage the youngest readers as they move along with the babies or let its rhythm lull them to sleep. Given that our native creatures feature in so many story for the very young, they will delight in recognising perhaps familiar friends like the wombat or meeting new ones like the echidna and even learning a little more about them. Why does the echidna spin when the others do not? Why do the others cover their ears when Cockatoo sings?
Its sturdy board book format and small size make it perfect for toddlers to handle for themselves so they can be role-play readers while parents will enjoy sharing with their child because of the fun that can be had.
Another one on its way to Miss 21 months as her delight in stories grows.
Lift-the-Flap Friends Pirates
Lift-the Flap Friends Princess
14pp., board book., RRP $A12.99
Lift-the-flap books have been a very popular format for books for the very littlies for decades simple because they work so well at engaging them through their physical interactivity. These two new publications in this series featuring topics that young children love (others are Dinosaurs and Fairy) continue this tradition of building anticipation by having to find what’s hidden. With each page containing a number of flaps to lift and the text posed as a question they can also start the child on the road to making predictions about what will be discovered and thus encouraging them to take risks in a safe environment. Using the clues in the bright illustrations and asking them what they think might be under the flap, they discover the fun of being right but also learn to cope if their prediction is not spot on. All are big-picture concepts that will help develop an understanding of and a delight in print and story.
Perfect for starting our earliest readers on their new adventures, perhaps even for those a little older who are learning English as another language and needing to build schemata about topics popular with their classmates.