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Me and You

Me and You

Me and You

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Me and You

Deborah Kelly

Karen Blair

Viking, 2017

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

9780670079247

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.

The crazy-daisy dawn-to-dusk days…

Hooray for Birds

Hooray for Birds

Hooray for Birds

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hooray for Birds

Lucy Cousins

Candlewick Press, 2017

40pp., hbk., RRP $a24.99

9780763692650

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.  

A peek inside....

A peek inside….

Full of fun and energy, this will ensure a menagerie in the house for sure!

Hello Rainbow

Hello Rainbow

Hello Rainbow

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hello Rainbow

Rhonda Brown

Trevor Salter

Oombee Woombee Books 2016

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

9780646953076

 

Blue yellow

Yellow blue

Mix the two in a blue-yellow brew…

Green!

Green goose

Green mouse

Green juice

Green house

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.

Baby Dance

Baby Dance

Baby Dance

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Baby Dance

Katrina Germein

Doris Chang

Raising Literacy Australia, 2016

12pp., board book, RRP $A9.90

9780994385321

 

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.

Fancy Pants

Fancy Pants

Fancy Pants

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fancy Pants

Kelly Hibbert

Amanda Graham

Raising Literacy Australia, 2016

32pp., pbk., RRP $A14.90

9780994385352

Once a year the Outback Dance is held near Bunyip’s Bluff

Where animals in fancy pants arrive to strut their stuff…

Dingo loves to dance under the desert’s night sky but he doesn’t have any fancy pants -just his regular coat and while he pretends not to care, deep down he really does.  

Meanwhile all the other outback creatures are preparing for the big night, although not without some difficulty.  Poor Emu is more suited to scarves – pants are not her thing while Bilby’s britches are still on the line and Kangaroo falls over in his and tears a big hole in them!  Wombat seems to have gained some weight since the last dance, Koala has too many choices and makes a big mess and poor Cockatoo is just bamboozled about how a bird can fit into pants!  Only Frill-Neck Lizard seems comfortable, looking like something straight from Priscilla, Queen of the Desert!

But eventually everyone gets themselves sorted, meeting together near Wombat’s place – and then Dingo turns up in just his coat.  At first the animals are concerned for their safety but then when he says that his coat is all he has, Kangaroo breaks the hush that has fallen…

February 16 is World Read Aloud Day and what better way to celebrate than with a rollicking, rhyming yarn that will not only entertain young readers with its humour and bright pictures, but will also allow them to hear the sounds and rhythms of our language and join in the delight that stories give.  

Who hasn’t had the dilemma of what to wear to a party and then found that their choice doesn’t work – it’s too small, it’s in the wash, it has a scratchy tag, it’s ripped, it’s just not right somehow?  And who has felt awkward and awful  about not having a costume when everyone else is in fancy dress? Not only will young readers resonate with the situations in this story but it will also help think about Dingo and how he might be feeling and how they might respond if this was one of their friends.  Would they poke fun, making him feel more miserable than he already is, or is there a better way?  And what if they were Dingo with no fancy pants to wear?  Would they decide to stay home or wrap themselves in a cloak of resilience and go anyway?  

Team it with the 1988 classic Animals Should Definitely Not Wear Clothing by Judi and Ron Barrett and have them design their own fancy dress for the story by giving them “paper doll” cutouts that they have to dress, encouraging them to think about size and structure and fit. Talk about why humans wear clothing, why our clothes are so different, national costumes, fashion, and a host of other related topics.  

While illustrator Amanda Graham has many books under her belt, this is the first work of an experienced primary school teacher and to another teacher’s eye it reflects so much of what we know attracts youngsters to the printed word including a strong underlying theme that opens up lots of discussions that will help children think beyond the words and pictures on the page.  A book that will be read again and again and which enables a new pathway to be explored each time.

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.

The Night Santa Got Lost: How NORAD Saved Christmas

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The Night Santa Got Lost: How NORAD Saved Christmas

The Night Santa Got Lost: How NORAD Saved Christmas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Night Santa Got Lost: How NORAD Saved Christmas

Michael Keane

Michael Garland

Regency Kids, 2015

40pp., hbk.

9781621573982

 

On a day long ago began NORAD’s tradition-

Tracking Santa’s red sleigh on his once-a-year mission.

Using radar and satellites – fighter jets too!

Reporting on Santa, wherever he flew.

But one Christmas Eve a blizzard rolls in and so Santa leaves the North Pole early much to the dismay of NORAD who weren’t prepared for the unscheduled start.  And as the green blip disappears off the radar screen and there is no sign of Santa or his reindeer, panic ensues.  A  four star general and the Commander-in-Chief order the fighter jets into the air and every last piece of technology the US Air Force has is set to searching for Santa.

Eventually he is found buried deep in a snow drift but now it is too late to get all the presents to the children in the traditional way of reindeer and sleigh, so once again the bigwigs put their heads together and come up with a most audacious plan that involves NATO and other US allies, battleships, cruisers, submarines, helicopters, C-17s, trucks and tanks and every other sort of transport available to the military. And for those places where “The children love Santa, but the leaders say no”, there are Special Ops, Navy SEALS and tough Army Rangers.

Will their mission succeed?  Will they get to all the children of the world in time?

Dedicated to the children whose parents “allow us to live in a world where we have the freedom to believe in Santa Claus” this is a very different story for Christmas, one that acknowledges those who serve by showing them in a less-that-traditional setting.  NORAD (North American Aerospace Defence Command) is a joint United States and Canadian military organisation and for over 60 years it has tracked Santa’s flight each December 24. Children can watch where he is by going to the website   or downloading an app so they know when they have to get into bed after their tour of the local Christmas lights as more than 1500 people trace his every movement through 47 radar installations in Northern Canada and Alaska, alerting them to when Santa actually leaves the North Pole, and satellites at about 22,000 miles above the Earth with infrared sensors, which see the heat coming off of Rudolph’s nose. In addition, there  high-speed digital SantaCams set up around the world to catch a glimpse of him passing by the different cities.

Written in the vein of  The Night Before Christmas this is one that even older children will enjoy.  While predominantly American  and with several pages of explanations at the end, nevertheless it will resonate particularly with children whose family members are in the services.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

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Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Robert L. May

Antonio Javier Caparo,

Little Simon, 2014

40pp., hbk.

9781442474956

Santa is in trouble.  A fog as thick as white soda fizz as enveloped the night and he is really worried that he is not going to be able to deliver his gifts for the children on time.  He and his reindeer will have to fly low and slow guided only by streetlamps and houses as the stars and the moon have vanished.  This works okay until midnight but when most lights are extinguished by then he is literally in the dark.

Through dark street and houses old Santa did poorly.

He now picked the presents more slowly, less surely.

He really was worried! For what could he do

If folks started waking before he was through?

And then he finds himself in the bedroom of a little reindeer – one who has been teased and ostracised by his brothers and sisters because of his glowing red nose – and suddenly Santa had a solution to his problem!

And, you,” he told Rudolph, may yet save the day!

Your shining bright nose, son, can show us the way!”

 Told in a rhythm that mimics Clement Clark Moore’s The Night Before Christmas this is a wonderful story that tells the story behind the familiar song that our children all seem to know so well.  It is the original story created in 1939 as a cost-saving measure for a department store chain that gave away colouring books at Christmas and which was eventually translated into the familiar song by the author’s brother -in-law in 1949, becoming an instant and enduring hit.

Superbly illustrated with stunning reality, colour and texture, it is a perfect bedtime read as that night comes closer and closer and little ones are starting to get excited.  Told as much from the perspective of Rudolph as from Santa, it opens up lots of opportunity for discussing teasing, emotions and feelings and even how being different can be a good thing.  As one who had the trifecta of red hair, freckles and glasses at a time when Shirley Temple lookalikes were prized, I can relate to that concept.  

A Christmas classic that needs to be in every Countdown collection!

Pig the Elf

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Pig the Elf

Pig the Elf

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pig the Elf

Aaron Blabey

Scholastic, 2016

24pp., hbk., RRP $A16.99

9781760154271

Pig the Elf knows about Christmas – or at least, what he considers the most important part.  So he has written Santa the longest list of things that he wants and, dressed in his elf suit, is determined to stay up and ensure that Santa delivers everything on it.  Even when his friend Trevor begs him to come to bed because he knows Santa doesn’t come till everyone is asleep, Pig refuses and settles down to wait.

Three-thirty comes and at last there is a strange noise – “And who should appear down the chimney with swag, but a portly old gent with a lumpy red bag.”

But it is very clear to Pig that he has been short-changed.  The pile of presents is much smaller than it should be and he shouts at Santa, “HEY! I asked for MORE!” And as Santa heads back to the chimney, Pug nips him on his big red rosy bum – and doesn’t let go!!!

Show a child a book with Pig on the cover and you will have the most excited, engaged, entranced audience as they settle down for another hilarious adventure with this crazy dog who is rapidly becoming one of the nation’s favourite characters of little people.  And this Christmas addition to the series is no different.  With its rhyme, rhythm, humour and slightly risque storyline which resonates with every child who has ever wanted to stay awake to see Santa (or at least hear the reindeer on the roof) but not quite succeeded, Pig the Pug is their hero.  They will demand it again and again and thankfully, it’s one of those stories that will keep the reader amused over and over again too.  

Aaron Blabey, who is now an established favourite with littlies who don’t usually remember the authors of stories, really knows how to craft a tale for this age group that not only entertains over and over and over but teaches them about the joy of picture books where the fun can be repeated just by picking the book up whenever you want to. Australian parents, teachers (and teacher librarians) are so lucky he is one of ours!

And to add to the magic there is an official colouring-in activity waiting to be printed and completed, just perfect for turning into a special Christmas card. 

Miss 5 is going to squeal when she finds this in her Santa Sack!

Five Little Elves

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Five Little Elves

Five Little Elves

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Five Little Elves

Dan Yaccarino

HarperFestival, 2016

16pp., board book, RRP $A12.99

9780062253385

 

Five little elves sitting on a sled,

The first one said, “Where’s the man in red?”

With the concept of Elf on a Shelf gaining such ground in the homes of those with little people – the perfect spy for Santa – this timely release of this traditional rhyme in board book format is a perfect addition to the Christmas stocking of the very young.  With its rhyme and rhythm and bold, bright illustrations it is definitely one for sharing over and over, helping even the tiniest ones start to learn the nuances of our language and the joy of story. At the same time, being a board book, it is sturdy enough to be placed in those tiny hands and survive the explorations that they and teeth will make.

Board books are an ideal way to introduce children to the love of reading as having heard the story in a safe, loving relationship, their format allows them to be handled and sucked and chewed as the little one begins to exercise their own power over the story. Even though they might not yet be able to read the words for themselves, may even be too young to join familiar rhymes and stories, being able to handle and manipulate the book itself is a huge step in that early reading journey.

Many publishers have  produced board books for Christmas – some are familiar stories reproduced such as the charming Room for a Little One by Martin Waddell; some feature characters like Elmer, Clifford and Maisy with whom the children are already familiar; others like That’s Not My Elf offer a textural element while others like Dear Santa are just new stories published in a format that will appeal. Whatever their foundation, each serves the very real purpose of enchanting very young children with the pleasure that comes from sharing a story, one that speaks to them of the best time of the year and offers delight and satisfaction.

A friend (an expert in children’s reading and literature) Kerry Neary, who has been known to wander shopping centres at Christmas time to give board books to the young children he sees in an endeavour to start their love of reading as early as he can, has compiled a collection of well-loved stories in board book form. At least one of them should find their way into the stocking of a toddler you know this Christmas. These are all available from Book Depository as well as bookstores but he emphasises it is only a selection, rather than a definitive collection.  To Kerry, to me and to all  those with a passion for having children love reading from the get-go, any book popped into the stocking and shared is a bonus.

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