Archives

The Fate of Fausto: A Painted Fable

The Fate of Fausto: A Painted Fable

The Fate of Fausto: A Painted Fable

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Fate of Fausto: A Painted Fable

Oliver Jeffers

HarperCollins, 2019

96pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9780008357917

There was once a man who believed he owned everything and set out to survey what was his.

Claiming a flower, a sheep and a tree with relative ease he meets opposition from first the lake, and then the mountain but shaking his fist, stamping his foot and shouting brings them into line and they too, finally bow before him.  But still unsatisfied with those possessions and his seemingly invincible power, he commands a boat and sails out to sea, determined to conquer that too.  But the sea has other ideas…

Using traditional lithography and deceptively simple text, this is one of those books that those who adhere to reading levels would classify as juvenile fiction suitable for 4-8 year-olds, and perhaps on the surface, that’s what it would seem to be. Younger readers might say it is about being friendly, more co-operative and not being bossy because no one will like you.

But to really appreciate what Jeffers is saying, particularly in light of the explanation of its dedication, readers need to have a much deeper knowledge of human behaviour, of the drive of an individual’s ego and its need to be fed often by power and greed; of the transient nature of human life against the backdrop of Mother Nature; and a realisation that who we are as individual, compassionate beings is enough. Even the choice of the protagonist’s name is significant, presumably referring to Faust who, in the German legend, is highly successful but still dissatisfied with his life, leading him to make a pact with the Devil exchanging his soul for unlimited knowledge and worldly pleasures. In addition, the subtitle A Painted Fable suggests that there is more to this story than meets the eye, opening up discussions that are likely to run deep.

If ever there were a “poster-child” for picture books being for all ages, this would be it.  Jeffers is a genius.

 

 

No Place for an Octopus

No Place for an Octopus

No Place for an Octopus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No Place for an Octopus

Claire Zorn

UQP, 2019

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

978070226260 

At that special time when the ocean pauses its ceaseless movement, a little one goes for a walk to explore the mysterious water worlds in the cracks and crannies in the rocks that have been left behind by the retreating tide. Rockpools reveal all sorts of secrets and there, hiding behind the seaweed is an octopus!

Long. curly arms/legs, suction caps and a blobby head, perhaps a little afraid and definitely looking lonely,hungry, wet and cold. Imagine the fun it could have if the little took it home, fed it, bathed, it, made it comfy and snug, an interesting friend that could play games or even ride the roller-coaster…  Or could it?

With its intriguing front cover and stunning illustrations, the author’s first foray into illustration, indeed picture books, this is a story that will resonate with every child, indeed adult, who has wandered among the rockpools and been mesmerised by the life within them, and determined to take a creature home with them.  How many show-and-share sessions have we seen starfish and shells and other creatures carefully preserved in buckets of sea water, but so far away from their home they can never see it again? The message that the rockpool is the perfect place for the octopus, and all the other rockpool creatures, is very strong, despite the adventures we humans might think it would like.  Thus, this is a timely story to share and discuss as summer holidays loom and visits to the beach and rockpools are anticipated. No matter the temptation we need to take only photographs, leave only footprints whether that is the rockpool or the desert.  

Zorn says, “I wanted to engage with the child’s love of the absurd by placing the octopus in all sorts of silly scenarios…[but] I also sought to create an exercise in empathy where the child is able to identify the octopus’s feelings about the situation it finds itself in.”  She succeeded.

Teachers’ notes are available.

The Caveman Next Door

The Caveman Next Door

The Caveman Next Door

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Caveman Next Door

Tom Tinn-Disbury

New Frontier, 2019

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

9781925594850

Penny’s street and home were just like any others until a caveman moved into an empty lot next door.  A caveman who cooked his meals outside, didn’t have a TV, didn’t wear socks and whose furniture (what there was of it) was made of sticks and stones. And he didn’t speak English – all he could do was grunt.

One day after school, Penny decided to show him around the neighbourhood – the library, the bus, the park, a restaurant… But wherever they went, and no matter how hard he tried, Ogg didn’t know what to do or how to act and they were shown the door of every place. Until Penny took him to her school…

It’s hard enough fitting into a new neighbourhood when you speak the language and have mastered the social niceties, but to do so without either of these like Ogg, must be overwhelming and daunting.  And yet, with our multicultural and global perspective that welcomes people from all over the world, this must be a common experience for many.  While the children are able to go to school, make friends, learn the language and the expectations, parents, particularly mums, are left at home isolated, mixing only with others who share their lifestyle and so a vicious cycle of exclusion and racism begins.  While Ogg’s attempts to do the right thing are funny, there is an underlying pathos at his awkwardness and also a sadness at the actions of those who object to his actions.  Only at school does he find compassion.  

Using a caveman analogy to bring awareness to the issues of being different is clever because not only does it highlight just how hard it can be, no one can criticise the author for being insensitive towards one group or another.  It certainly opens up the opportunities for discussions about how we respond to newcomers and identifying those things peculiar to us that they might have difficulty adjusting to as well as putting the students in Ogg’s shoes.  With space travel on the horizon, what if they went to Mars to live and found there were indeed Martians…?

While the theme of being different, fitting in and accepting others is common in children’s picture book, even though it might be expressed in a unique way each time, the more often we expose our students to these sorts of stories and talk about them, provoke their thinking and even develop strategies to embrace all, then the better and stronger the communities we build will be.  Strong, united communities are the key to a peaceful, harmonious future if we are to move beyond the current, nationalistic “our best interests” philosophy and look at what is good for humanity as a whole.

Children Who Changed the World: Incredible True Stories About Children’s Rights!

Children Who Changed the World

Children Who Changed the World

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Children Who Changed the World: Incredible True Stories About Children’s Rights!

Marcia Williams

Walker Books, 2019

40pp., hbk., RRP $A27.99

9781406384109

Have you heard of Malala Yousafzai?  What about Baruani Ndume?  Or Ryan Hreljac?

Forty years ago the UN declared that 1979 was to be the International Year of the Child  and as part of that. in 1989, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child was proclaimed, setting out 54 equally important articles that 196 countries have agreed to follow so that each child, no matter where they live, has the support and protection they deserve.  

Using her iconic graphic format, Marcia Williams has explored the lives of 13 children, all born since the Declaration and all of whom have made a significant difference to the lives of the children in their home countries and beyond.  Each double spread is devoted to the pivotal work of the child under the banner of one of those UN rights.

Deliberately designed to inform children of their rights, Williams speaks directly to the reader in the introduction and encourages them to not only be aware of those rights but to take action when they see injustice or something that needs changing.  With our students being so aware of the global picture these days, and being involved in actions like School Strike 4 Climate this is an important and timely release to help our students know that they can make a difference and will.  Perhaps one of them will become the new Greta Thunberg, who has risen to prominence since the book was prepared but who not only deserves a place in it but also demonstrates that kids can be heard and supported and change can happen. 

This is a book that needs to be promoted to kids everywhere, to give them inspiration and hope that their voices will be heard.

Miss Kraken

Miss Kraken

Miss Kraken

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Miss Kraken

Nicki Greenberg

Allen  $ Unwin, 2019

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

9781760637743

It’s the beginning of the new school year and the children are looking forward to meeting their new teacher.  But this one is very different – she’s strict, she imposes rules and confiscates contraband and is no fun at all.  So when she disappears on an excursion to the aquarium because the students have reverted to their usual abominable behaviour, it seems like a good thing…at first.  But having to be fetched by the principal and her replacement for Miss Kraken who never returns is not necessarily the outcome the children were wanting…

There are those who think that teachers should always be like Miss Kraken – after all, there is no discipline in schools these days and boundaries never hurt the proponents who have all turned out perfectly – and there are those who think that there is room for change, a happy medium between fear and anarchy because rule by fear does not bring about sustained behaviour change but no boundaries breeds confusion and confrontation. So apart from the humour in the story, and the surprising solution that could spark debate, this is a great discussion starter about why society needs rules to guide it and whether these should be imposed or negotiated for greatest success. Classes will see themselves in the story and there could be great debate and greater understanding if a “what if…?” question were posed, as they examine the impact of the class’s behaviour on those working or visiting the aquarium, even the creatures themselves. How does their personal behaviour affect those around them?

The more often you read this story the deeper the questions that can be asked and explored…  

Who’s Afraid of the Quite Nice Wolf?

Who's Afraid of the Quite Nice Wolf?

Who’s Afraid of the Quite Nice Wolf?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who’s Afraid of the Quite Nice Wolf?

Kitty Black

Laura Wood

New Frontier, 2019

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

9781925594706

Unlike the not-nice wolf pack he lived with, Wilfred was a quite-nice wolf, who, instead of eating rabbits they captured, he preferred to help them! Rather than being a carnivore, he was a vegetarian much to the disgust of his wolf-pack brothers. So when they propose to raid the local herd of sheep, Wilfred is not only alarmed but feels he must do something…

Given a new meaning to “a wolf in sheep’s clothing”, this is an hilarious romp that will engage young readers from cover to endpaper, as it celebrates the courage of the individual to be true to themselves and who they are rather than give into the pack and peer pressure. How hard was it for Wilfred to “betray” the leader of the pack?  But it could also spark discussions about stereotypes and the perceptions we hold about people and creatures because of our experiences or what we have been told, and perhaps encourage broader investigations. Stories that work well as entertainment, as this does, are fabulous but those that make the mind probe a little deeper, see the world through different eyes and perhaps hear a different tune are even better.  This is one of those.

Unicorn Academy (series)

Unicorn Academy (series)

Unicorn Academy (series)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unicorn Academy (series)

Julie Sykes

Lucy Truman

Nosy Crow, 2019

112pp., pbk, RRP $A12.99

9781788004565

Imagine a school where you meet your own unicorn and have amazing adventures together! That’s what happens for the girls at Unicorn Academy on beautiful Unicorn Island. There are 12 books in the series  (some still to be released), the latest being Ariana And Whisper.

Written for younger independent readers, the series appeals to those for whom unicorns remain a fascination and who dream of having their own one day, a fascination that shows no signs of abating.  Such series are very popular with younger readers just starting their reading journey through novels as they associate with and invest themselves in the characters, putting themselves in their shoes and truly immersing themselves in the experiences.  They form relationships with them that mean they are eager to read and re-read each one in the series, honing their skills and understandings of reading as they do so. So this is a series that will have a strong following because it features all those characteristics that hook these emerging readers in.  Worth the investment, not just for themselves but the reading pathways  that keen readers will then follow.

When Billy Was a Dog

When Billy Was a Dog

When Billy Was a Dog

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When Billy Was a Dog

Kirsty Murray

Karen Blair

Allen & Unwin, 2019

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

9781760631826

Billy loves dogs and he really, really wants a dog. He adores Mrs Banerjee-next-door’s little dog, Fluff, but even though he promises to wash it and walk it, feed it and clean up its messes if he one of his own, his parents are not sure.  And so he hatches a plan.  If he cannot have a dog, he will be one.

To his parent’s surprise (and embarrassment) he copies all the things he knows that Fluff does, even eating his breakfast from a bowl on the floor, and when his mum and Mrs Banarjee go to the cafe, he waits on the floor alongside Fluff.  He even curls up in Fluff’s basket with her and sleeps, until Fluff begins to make funny noises and Mrs Banerjee sends him home.  He is confused but…

Many young readers will see themselves in Billy – desperately wanting a dog or a pet of some sort but not getting one.  But while many might think that pester-power is the answer, Billy’s novel solution offers the foundation for an interesting story that will appeal widely.  Being a pet-owner requires a lot of responsibility as many advertisement from places like the RSPCA  remind us particularly around Christmas time, but there could be discussion about whether Billy’s solution is actually the best one.  How else could he have shown that he was mature enough to understand what is involved and that he is responsible enough to take it seriously?

Being responsible for a pet is a huge undertaking but there are many other things that young readers want to do or have that are beyond the realm of their maturity.  So this story opens up the pathway for discussions about those sorts of things and the best responses that could become strategies.  With Book Week rapidly approaching and many schools holding book fairs, this is a great way to open up conversations about how students might be able to purchase what they want without the usual whingeing and moaning and tantrum throwing!