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Kate and The Thing

Kate and The Thing

Kate and The Thing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kate and The Thing

Heidi Cooper Smith

Wombat Books, 2018

32pp. hbk., RRP $A24.99

 9781925563290

Kate is about to start her first day at a new school, and like thousands of other kids who have to face the same experience, she is feeling anxious and reluctant.  But then a mysterious white Thing comes into her life and helps her set the fear aside temporarily as it shows her the beauty in the colour of the autumn leaves and the joy in the sound of the sidewalk buskers.  All through her first day and the days following, Kate has the Thing by her side, giving her courage and confidence to hang in there, take each new event one step at a time and gradually stepping back so she can go it alone.  

Then one day she spots a new boy, sitting forlornly and lonely on a bench, a Thing next to his side that he hasn’t yet seen…

Every child who has faced being new at somewhere or something will relate to and empathise with Kate.  The feelings of having to step into the unknown and even the uncomfortable will be familiar and they will relate to having The Thing, or Some Thing giving them invisible support to keep putting one foot in front of the other until the walk is mastered, giving great scope for exploring feelings and emotions and building vocabulary.

This story offers a couple of lines of investigation – before and after.  While Kate has The Thing to support her, it’s helpful to teach students how to prepare for new situations by having them envisage what might go wrong and having some strategies to deal with these if indeed they happen.  Knowing that even if the worst comes to the worst you have some action you can take can often give an added boost of confidence. 

At the other end of the spectrum, as teachers many of us will have had new students starting in our classes over the past couple of weeks as new terms start around the states.  So perhaps this is a time to check up on them and see how they are settling in, that no one is slipping through the cracks in the busyness that is the start of the school year.

Heidi Cooper Smith has written a story that everyone can relate to  and which can offer a springboard to more than just the story of Kate and her Thing.

 

First Day

First Day

First Day

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


First Day

Andrew Daddo

Jonathan Bentley

ABC Books, 2014

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

 9780733332715

It’s a day like no other – the first day of school.  Together mother and daughter get ready  – waking early, having a special breakfast of pancakes and fruit salad, getting dressed,  new shoes, washing and scrubbing, packing bags – all the routines that will become familiar as the novelty wears off and school becomes the place you go to every day.  

But while this is a theme that has been done in so many ways in so many stories, this one has a particular twist that will not only heighten its appeal to parents but also give pause for thought.  Is it only the child who is encountering new environments and experiences?

Daddo has a knack for taking the unusual within the usual and turning it into a story while Bentley’s illustrations are just perfect.  

One for both preschool and school libraries that can be used to provoke discussion on those transition days, encourage new friendships and perhaps even initiate a follow-up, catch-up, how-are-you-coping meeting that can help overcome anxiety and isolation in the community.

 

Mr Bambuckle’s Remarkables Fight Back

Mr Bambuckle's Remarkables Fight Back

Mr Bambuckle’s Remarkables Fight Back

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mr Bambuckle’s Remarkables Fight Back

Tim Harris

James Hart

Random House Australia, 2018

240pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9780143785873

The 15 students in Room 12B are not happy.  As they walk into class, they discover the aptly-named Miss frost writing a list of rules on the board, none of which inspire positive behaviour but promise dire consequences for the opposite.  “Discipline is the new order” is her mantra and she further inspires their love and co-operation (not) by handing out 11 pages of handwriting exercises, and then walks around criticising everyone’s efforts. 

The class that had been labelled misfits and miserables who were just beginning to blossom and bloom with their quirky but beloved Mr Bambuckle, fired by Principal Sternblast, started to shrink back as though they had been sprayed with weedkiller. 

But Vex Vron has a plan and it’s time to put it into action… but he will need the help of his classmates and their particular and peculiar powers.

Readers who took a shine to Mr Bambuckle in the first of this new series will be glad to see him making a quick comeback – is there anything worse than having to wait a year for a sequel?- while others might be comparing their new year’s teacher with him and wishing they could be in 12B too! Ideal for independent readers with its humour, identifiable characters, short chapters, copious illustrations and other inserts that break up the text, this series is a perfect read-aloud to break the ice of the new school year and to encourage even reluctant readers that there is much fun to be had between the covers of books – they just have to open them!

Great thing that the ending of this one sets things up perfectly for yet another sequel.

 

Freaks on the Loose

Freaks on the Loose

Freaks on the Loose

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Freaks on the Loose

Leigh Hobbs

Allen & Unwin, 2018

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

9781760294311

When you pick up a book that not only has Leigh Hobbs’ name on the front cover but also a warning to the reader that if they see the characters within they should report them to the Education Department and run, as well as another to prospective teachers to reconsider their career choice, then you know you have a gem in your hands – one that your students are going to love.

Populated with the most amazing and diverse Year 4 students that a teacher could ever dread to have, Freaks on the Loose is a combination of 4F for Freaks and Freaks Ahoy! In typical Hobbs’ style with compelling line drawings and minimal text he sets out to portray the class from hell, drawing on people he has met over time to create a novel that will appeal to all those who share his quirky sense of humour and like a bit of subversion.  He admits that he likes to go into bat for the underdog and while his characters may be somewhat extreme in their portrayal, underneath there is something that we can all relate to, all having felt freakish at some stage in our lives.

As the Australian Children’s Laureate for 2016-2017, Hobbs did a magnificent job of spreading the word about the critical importance of reading, of reaching out to those for whom stories might not be entertaining or accessible, of showing that print is just as entertaining as the screen, and in this collection of two of his funniest books, he is spreading his message to even the most reluctant readers in our classes.

 

Friday Barnes: Never Fear (series)

Friday Barnes: Never Fear

Friday Barnes: Never Fear

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday Barnes: Never Fear

R.A. Spratt

Random House, 2018

256pp., pbk., RRP $A15.99

9780143784203

A new school term and Friday is dismayed to discover all her stuff is being moved out of the room she shares with best friend Melanie.  There is another surprise when she goes to investigate why with the Headmaster and instead of curmudgeonly old man she is expecting, she is greeted by a “woman in the mid-thirties, not much taller than Friday, wearing a smart fashionable suit”. To Friday’s dismay, Dr Belcredi has ordered that she be promoted to Year 12, away from Melanie and Ian and into a clique that doesn’t like the status quo being threatened by a young upstart, and a seriously intelligent one at that. She is concerned that she is one step away from being ousted from the one place she regards as home and where, despite her social awkwardness, she is nevertheless now liked and admired.

Sneaking out of school with Melanie to visit the old headmaster in hospital where he is in the cardiac ward, Friday gets the first hint that all is not as it should be but he has been paid off by the School Council and cannot afford to say any more. Solving a mystery for the nurses while she is there, Friday’s detective antennae are bristling and she knows that there is something afoot.

Combined with strange men in grey suits and a government car, dodgy builders who blow up a barn full of asbestos, a new headmistress who is not what she appears on paper and the underlying mystery/legend of the gold of Sebastian Dowell the founder of Highcrest Academy, this is an intriguing finale to this popular series – one that Miss 11 was delighted to find in its entirety in her Santa Sack and then to discover #8 sitting in the review pile was too much.  I was given 48 hours to read and review it!!

With Friday being so much like Miss 11 and so many other young ladies -intelligent, quirky, and a bit different from her peers but very comfortable in her own skin, yet deep down wanting to be just like them – she will be missed by her legion of followers but the beauty of this series is that it is one that can be read and read again, each time offering something new. Spratt has hit the mark with her target audience in this series and we eagerly await the new one, The Peski Kids.

The Susie K Files (series)

The Susie K Files

The Susie K Files

 

 

 

 

 

 

Life of the Party

9781760296681

Game Changer

9781760296698

Shamini Flint

Sally Beinrich

Allen & Unwin, 2018

112pp., pbk., RRP $A9.99

Susie K is nine years old and says she has mega-huge problems – problems as big as the Sydney Opera House, as tall as the Eiffel Tower and as massive as the pyramids of Egypt. But she is OK with that because she likes to use her scientific mind to solve them, and understanding the importance of keeping records of the trials she has to solve the problem, she has decided to keep a file on each one that she solves. 

Her first problem is that she loves animals but is allergic to fur so she has the class goldfish for her only pet.  Problems 2, 3 and 4 come in the shape of her family – firstly her dad who is a mad sports fanatic and Susie is not; then her brother Jack who is constantly putting her down;and  #4 is her mum who is a Sri Lankan refugee who had a very tough childhood and refers to it often so she now wants Susie to be a huge success at everything she tries, which would be impossible even if she didn’t have the ridiculous name of Susanna Saathiavanni Kanagaratnam-Smith. Why couldn’t she just be Susie Smith? But being like most little girls, Susie is keen to please her mum and does her best to do so.

At school, Susie prefers the people in books to the people in real life so she’s not the most popular person, which she doesn’t mind and is relieved when she is no longer invited to parties and other social occasions. But when her mum discovers she was the only one not at a class pool party, her mum decides to do something about it even though Susie begs her not to get involved because parents sticking their noses in does not always have a happy outcome. And so Operation: Life of the Party begins…

In the second in the series, Game Changer, her mother is thrilled that Susie is competing in the school sports carnival but when you are no good at sport and actually hate them, the problems start.

This is a new series that will really support newly-independent readers with its graphic-novel type format as much of Susie’s thoughts  and conversations are in a cartoon-like style that not only moves the action along but adds greater depth to Susie’s character as she works her way through the issues.  Many girls will see themselves in Susie’s shoes, if not with the family background but definitely with the problems she has and they will gain insight and perhaps hope that with some lateral thinking, there isn’t anything that can’t be negotiated or solved – without a parent interfering! 

A read-alone rather than a read-aloud, this is an intriguing new series that deserves a place in your collection.

First Day

First Day

First Day

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First Day

Margaret Wild

Kim Gamble

Allen & Unwin, 2017

32pp., pbk, RRP $A14.99

9781760293918

Like thousands of other children around Australia at this time, Salma, Khalil, Jun, Stephen, Penny and Alex are getting ready for their first day of school.  Each has a different routine and each has different emotions.  Each has things they can do really well and each has things that bother them – differences that every kindergarten teacher knows will make this another exciting year as personalities emerge, learning happens and unbreakable bonds are made.  Because no matter what those differences are – whether they are how the children are feeling, who is in their family, even how they journey to school, like Ms Manoli it is their job to shape and direct these young lives so their first day of school is the best day and each child feels excited and empowered to come back again and again and again… or twelve years!

Sharing First Day on the first day is a great way to start the school year as it will help the children understand that each of them is an individual but whatever their hopes and fears, they are shared by others and they are not alone.  Even adults, like Alex’s mum who is also returning to school for the first time in a long time has similar feelings so it’s not babyish to be feeling apprehensive and concerned.

It could also be a solid foundation for a foray into the early steps of information literacy as each child compares their feelings, expectations, achievements and routines with the children in the story.  There is scope for sequencing as they map the school day; graphing as they discover how each comes to school; mapping as they identify key parts of the school like Stephen who needs to know where all the toilets are – a host of real-life, in-context activities that can kickstart this learning journey.

First Day was first published 20 years ago – it is testament to its quality that it is still in print and still a staple of the early childhood collection.

Pippa’s Island: Kira Dreaming

Pippa's Island: Kira Dreaming

Pippa’s Island: Kira Dreaming

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pippa’s Island: Kira Dreaming

Belinda Murrell

Random House, 2018

240pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9780143783701

Life could hardly be more different for Pippa.  From a seemingly happy family living in a Victorian terrace house in London to a caravan in her grandparents’ backyard on a tropical island off the Australian coast.  Forced to make changes when her husband decided to work in Switzerland without them, Pippa’s mother has uprooted the family to a totally new environment where she is now running the increasingly popular Beach Shack Cafe created from an old, abandoned boat shed – a huge contrast to being a stockbroker in London!.

Pippa has a new puppy called Summer, is learning to surf, has settled into school and now has a group of friends – Meg, Cici and Charlie- and they call themselves the Sassy Sisters. 

This, the third in this series for independent readers, focuses on Kira Cove Public School’s talent quest.and while her friends are excited about performing, Pippa is very nervous. Singing to an audience is not what she likes.  After a disastrous audition the girls get a second chance, but can Pippa find a way to smash her stage fright before the VIP concert?

Meanwhile, at the Beach Shack Cafe a mysterious visitor is causing havoc when backs are turned. When Pippa finds a clue, she is determined to track down the mischievous cafe thief.

This series was going to be in Miss 11’s Santa’s Sack but when that got too full, I decided to hold it back till that time in the holidays when there is a lull in the excitement – in her case, wedged between Christmas and a new bike and going on Scout camp.  And it was a great decision because as soon as I gave it to her she was off to read it and has now read all three books in 48 hours and demanding to know when the next one is coming out.  She tells me she loves them because the story “sounds just like me and my friends and the things we do.”  I could rave on about the quality of Murrell’s writing and the way she portrays the characters, but surely there is no better review than a big thumbs up and huge anticipation from one for whom the story was written!

If you don’t have this series in your collection, then put it at the top of your to-buy list and let your girls have at it. 

Mr Bambuckle’s Remarkables

Mr Bambuckle’s Remarkables

Mr Bambuckle’s Remarkables

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mr Bambuckle’s Remarkables

Tim Harris

James Hart

Random House Australia, 2017

240pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9780143785859

Imagine walking into class and instead of seeing Miss Schlump you see a man in a dazzling blue suit riding a unicycle balanced on top of a desk! Not only that, he seems to be able to magic tricks like flicking rasher of bacon and some eggs from his sleeves and cooking his breakfast on a pre-heated frying pan. Then to top that off he also seems to know everything about each student already and has a unique way of getting them to tell their stories and overcome whatever is bothering them!

Despite the one-size-fits-all curriculum imposed on teachers, the best know that each student is a unique individual with their own unique personalities shaped by their life’s events and only by reaching and teaching the student not the subject, is the child likely to start knowing themselves and reaching their particular potential.  Mr Bambuckle is such a teacher -although Principal Sternblast is definitely not – and through getting the students to tell their stories within a more general narrative framework he does just that. 

There are 15 students in 12B and each has a thumbnail introductory sketch at the beginning of the book, emphasising that this will be a story about them rather than Mr Bambuckle which is just how a class should be.  The child is very much at the centre of his teaching and author Tim Harris has drawn on his long experience as a primary teacher to show that it is possible to know each child individually and draw out the best from them, starting by giving them ownership of what they will do by having them design their own merit stickers – the tried and true but somewhat meaningless tool-of-trade of many. 

Both independent readers and those listening to it as a read-aloud will either recognise their own teacher or wish they were in 12B,while teachers might also like to be Mr Bambuckle.

Great new story from a new author with others in the series on the horizon!

Malala’s Magic Pencil

Malala's Magic Pencil

Malala’s Magic Pencil

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Malala’s Magic Pencil

Malala Yousafzai

Kerascoët

Puffin, 2017

45pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9780241322567

When she was young, Malala Yousafzai watched a television program called Shaka Laka Boom Boom about a boy who had a magic pencil which he used to draw the things he needed to get himself out of trouble or to get the things he needed like a bowl of curry when he was hungry.  As Malala watched she wished she had a magic pencil too so she could draw and get the things she wanted, like a lock on her door to keep her brothers out, some flowers to erase the smell of the nearby rubbish dump, beautiful dresses for her mum, even a real soccer ball so she and her brothers didn’t have to play with an old sock stuffed with rubbish.

Every night she wished for a magic pencil and every morning she looked for it but it was never there.

Then one day whilst throwing potato peelings and eggshells on that nearby rubbish dump she saw something that she had never seen and which, ultimately, changed her life.  A girl was sorting the rubbish into piles and boys were fishing for metal scraps with magnets on a string. As she talked it over that evening with her school principal father, she learned that not all were lucky like her and got to go to school, that many many children had to help support their families with the rubbish they found and that for so many school was a luxury only to be dreamed of. And she also realised that even with her education, she could be just as trapped as those girls on the rubbish dump.

New dreams began and that elusive magic pencil was going to be put to a wider use.

But Malala was smart enough to know that there was not going to be a magic pencil miraculously waiting beside her bed one morning so she had to create her own.  So she did…

One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world…

The youngest person to ever receive the Nobel Peace Prize, Malala is one of the most inspirational young women this generation has seen and her story is becoming more and more well-known as she hopes to inspire others to lend their voices to the global issue of education for girls.  In this stunning picture book, aimed at children who are the age she was when she began her campaign, the reader not only learns about what inspired her but also becomes inspired to make a whisper become a worldwide shout.  If the current #metoo campaign can become such a voice for opposing sexual aggression against women, then what can be done to create a similar movement for girls’ education.  Study after study has shown that the way to world peace is through the education of girls so this is the perfect vehicle to help our young students understand they do have a voice, it is important and it can be loud.