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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.

Our Dog Benji

Our Dog Benji

Our Dog Benji

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our Dog Benji

Pete Carter

James Henderson

EK Books, 2017

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

9781925335330

Benji is a dog that eats anything and everything – no matter what, he has a go at it and even sits in front of the fridge each morning in the hope that it has exploded overnight.  Hus young master is not so adventurous – like many of his age he takes his time with new tastes and flavours and can be quite a fussy eater.  But he decides to follow Benji’s example and be a little more adventurous as he sees that these foods don’t kill Benji – although they might make his tummy rumble and cause a smell that no one can stand, not even Benji.  But there is one thing neither of them will eat…

Told with humour and colourful detailed pictures, this is a charming story for under-5s who aren’t quite sure when something unfamiliar appears on their plate.  But it is also an opportunity to talk to them about the things a dog should never eat and should never be given particularly pig products, milk, onions and chocolate because they are toxic to them.   Taking care of a pet is more than a daily walk and a brush every now and then.

Given the new research that shows the food that toddlers eat has a profound effect on their lives long-term particularly their likelihood of being overweight or obese, any books that start conversations with them about nutrition  and what they and their pets need to be healthy and active has to be a winner.  Thumbs up for this one.

Frog and Toad: The Complete Collection

Frog and Toad: The Complete Collection

Frog and Toad: The Complete Collection

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Frog and Toad: The Complete Collection

Arnold Lobel

Harper Collins, 2016

256pp., hbk., RRP $A39.99

9780008136222

 

In the 1970s two characters appeared in the realms of children’s literature and they are as popular today as they were then.  Frog and Toad are an odd couple but Lobel wrote four volumes each with five stories about them exploring their friendship and showing young readers that it is fine to be an individual and your own person.  This collection brings together all of the engaging, warm and funny stories and features a special foreword by Julia Donaldson, author of The Gruffalo.

Written with familiar vocabulary in simple sentences and a large font with his hand-drawn and hand-coloured illustrations, Lobel has crafted stories around familiar incidents that young children will resonate with such as the dilemma of sharing a cool ice cream on a hot day, or raking leaves on a windy day.  While Frog is the practical one, Toad is more emotional and imaginative as in the story of Christmas Eve when Frog is late and Toad immediately thinks something has happened to him.

“Classic” literature are stories which have a deeply human message that carries across time and space regardless of its historical or geographical setting and even those Frog and Toad have been around for 40 years, each story appeals and echoes with today’s readers just as it did then.  Mr 42 loved hearing these as bedtime stories and as he travelled on his journey to being an independent reader he loved that he could read them for himself.  Now it is time to share that joy and pleasure with his Miss Nearly 6.

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

Words

Words

Words

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Words

Christoph Niemann

Greenwillow, 2016

352pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

 9780062455505

 

What can you do with a word?  For me drawing and writing are very closely related. Both a word and a picture have the power to express extremely complex thoughts and emotions with amazing simplicity. Think of the word “love,” or a drawing of a smiling face. Being able to understand words and images opens the door to knowledge, communication, and connection to people all over the world.”

What originated as a set of cards for the New York City Department of Education to inspire children to learn English in a playful way has evolved into a most unusual book that takes more than 300 of the words we use often and interprets them in simple line drawings that require the reader to look closely to match meaning and picture. The illustration of the meaning is not always literal so that it has to be teased out and talked about, enhancing the reader’s understanding of it. Niemann makes connections between the word and emotions, cause and effect, actions, opposites, comparisons  and whatever else he feels will best express the richness of its meaning in an entertaining way that will teach and endure.  It is the relationship between the word and its illustration that is the key to explaining its meaning, rather than just a set of graphemes and a tangible object.  In fact many of the words that are included are not nouns or verbs but other parts of speech that can be tricky to explain. (He has even added a pictorial explanation for the common parts of speech at the end that should really help students remember them!)  Others such as scintilla and Brobdingnagian rely on their juxtaposition to enhance their meaning and add to the humour while homophones are depicted with their multiple meanings. And the toast that ALWAYS falls jam-side down is the perfect definition  

 

 

As much fun as this book is in and of itself, it is also a perfect springboard for getting students to try their hand at their own pictorial explanations for those words that trip them up.  There are many applications in the teaching day to have students interpret words through graphics and let them broaden their understanding of how our language works.

What looks like a simple book at first glance is full of promise and potential as a teaching tool.

The Fix-It Man

The Fix-It Man

The Fix-It Man

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Fix-It Man

Dimity Powell

Nicky Johnston

EK Books, 2017

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

9781925335347

Dads can fix anything – that’s what dads do.  Kites, kennels, teapots – whatever is needed.  He can even cobble together a rug made of rainbows and old hugs for mum – but he can’t fix mum.  Not even with his special peach and honey brew.  Even the doctors and lots of rest can’t fix mum. Not even all the love in the world.  

And no matter how hard they try, little girls can’t mend broken hearts – not hers, not dad’s and not Tiger’s.  Well, not with stick tape or glue or needle and thread..  But dad has one more special thing up his sleeve  and together they start to mend.

This is a poignant story of loss and one that will resonate with many children who have lost a parent or other loved one.  With its gentle text and soft palette, even though it is sad it is not gloomy because the love between this family oozes from the page and from that, the hope is tangible. And the threads that bind the family are stronger and more enduring than nails, glue, sticky-tape or any other kind of man-made adhesive or fastening.

Grief is a natural part of life and while we might like to protect our children from it, nevertheless it happens and we often struggle helping them to cope with their loss.  This book allows conversations to start and explores the way it is an emotion that we each express and deal with in our own way.  Dad’s lap is cosy and warm but his face is crumpled and wet; pieces spill out from Tiger’s heart and little girls try to do what they can to paper over the cracks – but they are too wide. But together…

Whether shared as a 1:1 or as a class, it offers children the opportunity to talk about losses in their life and to learn that they are not alone in feeling lonely, lost, scared and even betrayed but there is love and it does get easier.

Colour Your Own Medieval Alphabet

Colour Your Own Medieval Alphabet

Colour Your Own Medieval Alphabet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Colour Your Own Medieval Alphabet

British Library

Pavilion. 2016

56pp., pbk., RRP $A22.99

9781911216001

Before the age of printing made books more accessible to the general populace, texts were painstakingly produced by hand in monasteries by monks who were among the few literate people in a community.  Artists known as illuminators embellished a text made by a scribe with a colourful, highly decorative capital letter often gilded with gold leaf so it appeared to be filled with light.  Such books were priceless and became treasured objects.

From its collection of texts, most of which are 500 years old,  the British Library has selected 26 examples, each representing a letter of the alphabet and each annotated with the origin of the original, and transformed them into intricate outlines perfect for those who enjoy the challenge of colouring in.  There are samples from medieval charters and seals, historical and literary manuscripts, from Virgil to Chaucer and Royal Statutes to the Book of Psalms and the endpapers have reproductions of the originals so there is a choice to try to duplicate the original or create something new.

While there are many benefits of colouring in for children that centre around the development of hand-eye co-ordination and spatial awareness, it is becoming a favoured occupation by those who are older for the therapeutic qualities particularly promoting mindfulness and reducing stress.  

Although photocopying of the images for multiple use in a makerspace environment would be a breach of copyright, nevertheless each page could be given to individuals in need of a break, Printed on quality paper they would make a colourful display which could spark an investigation into the origin and history of the written word, the history and origin of the process of illuminations or even life in the Middle Ages generally, particularly the role of religion which is such a driving force for many, even today.  The current anti-Islamic fervour which seems to be building around the world has very deep roots!

It could also become the ubiquitous alphabet chart found in primary libraries or even become the signage for the fiction section.  Imagine the boost to a child’s self-esteem when they see their work put to such a useful purpose!

This books offers more than just a shoosh-and-colour activity to fill in time. It has the potential to take the students on a journey into our past.

This is Banjo Paterson

This is Banjo Paterson

This is Banjo Paterson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is Banjo Paterson

Tania McCartney

Christina Booth

NLA Publishing, 2017

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

9780642278982

The final verse of one of Australia’s most iconic poems reads…

And down by Kosciuszko, where the pine-clad ridges raise

Their torn and ragged battlements on high,

Where the air is clear as crystal, and the white stars fairly blaze

At midnight in the clear and frosty sky,

And where around The Overflow the reed beds sweep and sway

To the breezes, and the rolling plains are wide,

The man from Snowy River is a household word today,

And the stockmen tell the story of his ride.

But what is also “a household word today” is the name of the man who wrote those words – A. B. (Banjo) Paterson.

In this brand new book, written and illustrated especially for younger readers, Tania McCartney and Christina Booth tell the story of a man whose legacy of stories of life in the Australian bush told in rich, evocative language and distinctive rhyme and rhythm lives on more than 150 years since his birth. 

Born on February 17 1864 and named Andrew Barton Paterson he was known to his family and friends as Barty, the eldest of seven children in a typical rural Australian family of the time.  He grew up with a deep love of horses, particularly one called Banjo, and even when he moved to the city to attend high school and later become a journalist and a war correspondent, he never lost his love of the bush.

There is more than a hint of truth in the words of Clancy of the Overflow…

I am sitting in my dingy little office, where a stingy

Ray of sunlight struggles feebly down between the houses tall,

And the foetid air and gritty of the dusty, dirty city

Through the open window floating, spreads its foulness over all…

And I somehow rather fancy that I’d like to change with Clancy

Like to take a turn at droving, where the seasons come and go…

But the focus of this book is not Paterson’s poems but his life, particularly that of his childhood and the influences and circumstances that shaped him, his writing and his subsequent place in our literature, history and hearts. Tania has drawn on a plethora of rich research material, much of it held in the National Library of Australia, to present this story so that even this year’s Kindy kids who may well be learning the words of Waltzing Matilda for the very first time, can be inspired to not only know about the person who wrote them but also to see that they weren’t created overnight by a grown-up who just decided to write them,. Instead it was the stuff of the poet’s childhood and the things he learned as he grew up that made him able to write so richly, and maybe they can acknowledge their own talents and build on them. Perhaps, even at their young age they are good at words or drawing or making things and they can follow that passion now – they don’t have to wait to be a grown-up.

“Even children in early education need to be exposed to inspiring and life-altering stories of real life people that once so deeply affected–and continue to do so–our lives, our history and where we are going.” (McCartney, 2017)

What sets this book apart from others on the same topic and with a similar audience is the parallel visual storyline that accompanies it in Christina’s watercolour illustrations.  These are not just mere depictions of Paterson’s life that add a visual element to the words – these add extra layers to the words by showing kids of the 21st century playing in the backyard and doing the modern-day equivalent of what Banjo would have done in his time. Drawing on their own childhoods (and that of nearly every other child in the world), McCartney and Booth went back to the world of dress-ups, role-play and story-telling, further underlining the concept that this is as much a story of the reader’s life and dreams as it is that of Paterson’s.  Immediately there is a connection not just between prose and illustration but also between creators and reader, a connection that is vital to engage the mind and the imagination and the what-if.  (You can read more of the thinking behind the illustrations here.)

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

The first collaboration between McCartney and Booth was This is Captain Cook and I venture to say that this will be as well-received and as successful. As well as the factual material and excerpts from poems that are included at the back (as is common with books published by the National Library), Tania is currently running a virtual launch of the book on her blog where the backstory of the book’s creation is being told.  Day 6 includes links to some great resources as well as comprehensive teachers’ notes linked to the K-3 Australian Curriculum  There is also a free real-life launch at the NLA in Canberra on February 11  or for those not near the national capital you can join Tania on Periscope on Friday 17 February at 1pm AEDST, where she will be chatting about the book live from the National Library, and showing various priceless Banjo Paterson items, along with original artwork by Christina Booth!

 

And, as an added extra, for those of you are fans of Paterson and his work there is the Banjo Paterson Australian Poetry Festival in Orange, NSW from February 16-26, 2017 or you can visit his childhood home.

Little Chicken Chickabee

Little Chicken Chickabee

Little Chicken Chickabee

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Little Chicken Chickabee

Janeen Brian

Danny Snell

Raising Literacy Australia, 2016

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

9780994385338

Crickle, scratch, crackle, hatch – four little chicks pop from their eggs of proud Mother Hen.  Each one cheeps as expected except for Number 4 who says, “Chickabee.”  This startles Mother Hen and the other chicks who insist that “Cheep” is right and “Chickabee” is not.  But Little Chicken is not deterred and goes off to see the world.  However, she finds that even the other farm animals insist that chickens say “Cheep” not “Chickabee” although when Little Chicken challenges them, they have no real reason why not.  

Showing amazing resilience, Little Chicken knows that while “Chickabee” might be different, it is right for her and regardless of the sound she makes, she is still a chicken.  Even when her brothers and sisters reject her again, she has the courage to go back into the world and this time she meets different things that make different sounds which bring her joy,  And then she meets a pig…

This is a charming story about difference, resilience, courage and perseverance and how these can lead to friendships, even unexpected ones. Beautifully illustrated by Danny Snell, this story works on so many levels.  It would be a great read for classes early in this 2017 school year as new groups of children come together and learn about each other while even younger ones will enjoy joining in with the fabulous noises like rankety tankety, sticketty-stackety and flippety-flappity as they learn the sorts of things that are found on a farm.

Given the trend throughout the world towards convention and conservatism and an expectation that everyone will fit the same mould and be legislated or bullied into doing so, Little Chicken could be a role model for little people that it is OK to be different and that no one is alone in their difference.  

 

Dog Stories

Dog Stories

Dog Stories

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dog Stories

Various

Jules Faber

Random House Australia, 2016

185pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9780143780977

What happens when you ask leading authors such as Nick Falk, Sofie Laguna, Tristan Bancks, Jacqueline Harvey, George Ivanoff, Aleesah Darlinson and half a dozen others to write a short story featuring a dog? You get a volume of twelve stories starring magic dogs, invisible dogs, hacker dogs, and all sorts of others that will keep dog lovers reading for a long time.

There are stories about Bad Buster, The Dog Kisser, Susie the Wonderdog, The Dog who Forgot and even The Magic Piddle that will appeal to the newly independent reader with their larger font and manageable word count, and illustrated by Jules Faber.  The quality of the authors mean the quality of the story is guaranteed and even though they are brief, the reader is still left feeling satisfied that they have been entertained and perhaps even seek out other works by the authors.

With summer holidays here and children looking for something to read that doesn’t need too much effort and concentration, short stories are the answer. They can be the bridge between formal instructional texts and fully independent reading of self-selected novels so their value should never be underestimated.  So if you have a dog-lover who is looking for something short but satisfying, this is the ideal solution.

Artie and the Grime Wave

Artie and the Grime Wave

Artie and the Grime Wave

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Artie and the Grime Wave

Richard Roxburgh

Allen & Unwin 2016

240pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9781760292140

When bully Nate Grime and his sidekick Wart throw Artie’s only pair of shoes over the overhead wires, they start off a chain of events that not only brings down the Mayor of the town but also provides for a hair-raising crazy adventure that will appeal to boys in those mid-late primary years.

Artie only has one pair of shoes because after his dad, a trapeze artist, died a few years previously, his mother has been so deep on grief that she has confined herself to the couch all but abandoning Artie and his angry older sister, Lola.  His best mate Bumshoe – (real name Alex Baumschule) suggests that they find paperbark trees to make new shoes from so Artie not only avoids his mother’s anger but can also go to school.  It is while they are searching for the trees that they discover a cave full of possibly-stolen-stuff and its sinister guardians Mary, Funnel Web and Mr Budgie.

Populated with a number of eccentric characters who all become part of Artie and Bumshoe’s attempts to get the truth out as they search for Gladys Unpronounceable-enko’s tortoise Gareth which has disappeared and desperately avoid the clutches of the ruthless gang, Roxburgh has written and illustrated a rambunctious romp that pits the skinny, awkward kid and his overweight mate against bullies, mean teachers and desperate gangsters that many readers will put themselves in the hero’s shoes.  In fact Roxburgh says, “”My oldest boy started to hit an age where I was conscious I was finding the books I was reading him as entertaining and amusing as he was,” … ”I thought I could write to that world, I could locate myself in that neck of woods and deal with that immature adventurous sense of play.

Because of his public profile, Roxburgh and his book received a lot of publicity when it was released in October 2016 and I was keen to see if the writing actually lived up to the hype.  Pleased to record that it kept me reading to the end and that I could ‘see’ young boys particularly enjoying it and recommending it to their peers.  A great start to the 2017 reading seasons.