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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.  

 

The Return of the Jabberwock

The Return of the Jabberwock

The Return of the Jabberwock

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Return of the Jabberwock

Oakley Graham

David Neale

Big Sky 2017

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

9781925675009

A long time ago, before you were born,

Lived a beast with eyes of flame and horns!

Your great grandfather defeated the Jabberwock beast

And returned home to a magnificent victory feast!

Inspired by his father’s tale and his great grandfather’s feats, the boy decides to go on his own quest to find his own Jabberwock, and so, armed with just a sword and helmet, he ventures into mysterious, gloomy Tulgey Wood where he is confronted by unimaginable monsters almost at every turn!  Monsters with long spidery legs, ugly beaks and toothless smiles, a turtle-like creature with the ears of a hog and the mouth of a shark… Bravely he continues on his quest but his legs turn to jelly when he sees two scary creatures – could these be the legendary Jubjub bird and the ferocious Bandersnatch?   Courageous though he is, when the Jabberwock itself appears, it is too much and the boy flees…

At this time of the year when scary monsters, ghost, witches and other fantastic creatures abound and people carve glaring pumpkin heads to frighten them off, this is the perfect story to send yet a few more tingles up the child’s spine!  With its atmospheric colour palette, the scene is set for an adventure like no other as each of us hopes we would be as brave as the little boy – but acknowledge there are limits. It’s a great opportunity to discuss fears and feelings and help young children understand that fear is not only shared emotion but an innate human response as encapsulated in the “fight or flight” response.  Do I stay or do I not? 

It is also an entry into the work of Lewis Carroll for those who may not have met him before, or who only know Alice in Wonderland through movie interpretations, as the original poem of The Jabberwocky first appeared in Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, the sequel to  Wonderland.  Considered one of the greatest nonsense poems written in English, Carroll penned the first verse in 1855 and since then its meaning has been discussed and debated.  But it not only confounded Alice…”It seems very pretty,” she said when she had finished it, “but it’s rather hard to understand!” (You see she didn’t like to confess, even to herself, that she couldn’t make it out at all.) “Somehow it seems to fill my head with ideas—only I don’t exactly know what they are! However, somebody killed something: that’s clear, at any rate,” Carroll himself later wrote that he did not know the origins of some of the words.

So while it is something a little different to share this Hallowe’en as those who have not yet been able to leave this  mortal coil wander around seeking their final release, it has application across the ages, across the curriculum and throughout the year. 

It is, indeed, a frabjous day when we find such a rich resource.

What Makes Me A Me?

What Makes Me A Me?

What Makes Me A Me?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Makes Me A Me?

Ben Faulks

David Tazzyman

Bloomsbury, 2017

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

9781408883327

Who am I?
I ask myself.
What makes me a ME?
I think hard with all my might,
And look around to see.

What is it that makes us unique, unlike anything or anyone else despite the similarities we see? Are we like our clothes -the same shape and the same age; maybe like a computer that knows lots of things; or perhaps a tree because our arms stick out like branches? But then, for everything we see a similarity with there are also subtle differences.  Super Guy helps the goodies and fights the baddies but he also likes to kiss girls!  Maybe we move like a snail, especially first thing in the morning, but where are our eyes on stalks and the slimy trail?

The author of Watch Out for Muddy Puddles  and the illustrator of You Can’t Take an Elephant on a Bus  have combined to create an intriguing story-in-rhyme that encourages children to think about their identity and what it is that makes them special.  Because no matter how like something or someone you are, there is always a subtle – or not-so subtle- difference that makes you, you.  

A perfect parent-child read-along, it would also be the ideal introduction to an early childhood unit that explores each child’s individuality while still acknowledging that each is human and has the same needs and dreams as their friends.  They could have fun thinking how they might be like something, especially if their thinking is extended by pulling the name of an object out of a hat (perhaps a woolly blue one) and looking for a link. My friend tells me I am an eggbeater but didn’t say if it’s because I’m always whirring around or whipping everything up!!!  Lots of potential for all sorts of activities in this one. 

The Amazing Monster Detectoscope

The Amazing Monster Detectoscope

The Amazing Monster Detectoscope

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Amazing Monster Detectoscope

Graeme Base

Penguin, 2017

28pp.,  hbk., RRP $A29.99

9780670079308

My house is full of monsters. Some are big and some are small.

They lounge around the living room and huddle in the hall.

But I am going to find them all – all those monsters have no hope,

‘Cos I’ve saved up and got myself this cool DetectoScope.

And thus armed with his amazing machine our hero goes in search of the monsters, finding them in all the locations he expected -the lounge, the garden shed, his sister’s room, under the stairs, even in the kitchen drawers. By the time he gets to the 9th location, the bathroom, he’s starting to have second thoughts about this monster hunting – he’s finding way too many to be comfortable.  So there is no Location Ten – he’s thrown his Detectoscope away. But suddenly the ground starts to move and buildings start to sway – it looks like the monsters are after him and they are heading his way!  So does he flee in fear  or does he have the courage to turn and face them?

See the name Graeme Base on a book and you know you are in for a treat – an intriguing story and outstanding, detailed artwork at the very least – and this new release is no different.  But now he has added paper engineering to the mix and added a completely new dimension which is not only jaw-droppingly amazing in its detail and precision but is also intrinsic to the story as the monsters are revealed.  And very scary they are too. 

This is one to read aloud, read alone and read together and each experience will be different as new things reveal themselves.  It is a story for all ages and we each see monsters in places where there is nothing but our imaginations and the ‘what-ifs’ so both its theme and message apply to all.

Another masterpiece that is sure to feature on awards list. 

Scarface Claw, Hold Tight

Scarface Claw, Hold Tight

Scarface Claw, Hold Tight

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scarface Claw, Hold Tight

Lynley Dodd

Puffin, 2017

32pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

9780143770985

It is a calm, peaceful sunny morning where everything is as and where it should be, including Scarface Claw snoozing in the sun on top of the roof of the car.  But all that changes when Tom starts the car and drives off without realising Scarface is still on top!!!

Is there any more famous cat with young children than Scarface Claw? He’s the toughest tomcat in town, the roughest and toughest, the boldest, the bravest, the fiercest, mighty and magnificent – so much so that he sent Schnitzel von Krumm with a very low tum, Bitzer Maloney all skinny and bony, Muffin McLay like a bundle of hay, Bottomley Potts covered in spots, Hercules Morse as big as a horse and Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy scampering home with just one EEEEEOWWWFFTZ way back in 1983!

And now it is Scarface Claw’s turn to be terrified as he clings on for dear life to the roof of Tom’s speeding car.

This new adventure from Dame Lynley Dodd told in rhyme with all the action and wonderful illustrations of the others in this fabulous series for young children is set to introduce a new generation to a host of characters that have brought so much joy that they have their own sculpture in Tauranga in New Zealand.  (In fact, Hairy Maclary is such a part of my reading story that, despite the pouring rain, I chose to find this sculpture instead of accompanying the family to Hobbiton.)

 

Every child needs to know Scarface Claw, Hairy Maclary and the rest of the gang – this new tale will be a great introduction and is icing on the cake of a brilliant series for existing fans. 

Scary Hairy Party

Scary Hairy Party

Scary Hairy Party

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scary Hairy Party

Claire Freedman

Sue Hendra

Bloomsbury, 2017

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

9781408867174

Everyone has been invited to a party at Monster’s house and so they are all dressing up in their party best.  But before they go, they drop into Raymond’s hair salon so they can also have the nicest hairdo to go with their nice clothes.  

But Raymond the octopus has more arms than skill and things start to go very wrong… Can they really go to a party with their hair like this? From being on a high, they descend to a low.

Fast-moving rhyming text, bold, bright illustrations and a crazy plot with hilarious twists will make this a perfect read-aloud for little people who like monster stories but who don’t really want to be scared.  Perfect in the lead-up to Hallowe’en.  

Big Box Little Box

Big Box Little Box

Big Box Little Box

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Big Box Little Box

Caryl Hart

Edward Underwood

Bloomsbury, 2017

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

9781408872765

Big box, little box…

My box, YOUR box!

Cat loves boxes – all sorts of boxes – big, small, fat, thin, huge tiny… and in this romp in rhyme so many boxes are explored. But it is not just a collection of rhyming words or opposites, there is a story told in the clever choice of words and their accompanying pictures that early readers will be able to tell for themselves, delighting in their ability to read.  

This is a great story to share with little ones because there is so much to share and talk about. If a fat cat sits on a little box, what will be the outcome?  And if a box has a corner nibbled out of it, what might be inside? And given the obvious answer, is this story about to end badly? Two word phrases, rhyme, bold pictures, humour, predictability that engages the reader – a perfect combination to take our youngest readers further into their love with reading. 

 

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.