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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.

Classic Nursery Rhymes

Classic Nursery Rhymes

Classic Nursery Rhymes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Classic Nursery Rhymes

L. Edna Walter

Lucy E. Broadwood

Dorothy M. Wheeler

Bloomsbury, 2016

104pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9781472932389

Even though it’s 2016, almost 2017, there is something about a superbly crafted , beautifully bound book of traditional nursery rhymes that tugs at the heartstrings and takes older adults back to their childhood.  And even though it’s 2016, almost 2017 they are rhymes that are still taught to our little ones today – some new but most very familiar.  They are part of the traditions that we hand on from generation to generation regardless of the numbers on a calendar.

Published to acknowledge the 100th anniversary of the original, it is illustrated using the original watercolour-and-ink illustrations of Dorothy M. Wheeler who also did the original illustrations for many of Enid Blyton’s books.  With her eye for detail, and a soft pastel palette the illustrations bring the rhymes to life showing life at the time she knew it when the rhymes were learned at Nanny’s knee as joyful little ditties and no one delved too far into their origins and meaning.  Each is featured on a double page spread, the full rhyme on one page and a full-colour illustration surrounded by exquisite line work on the other.  To complete the package the music for each is included at the back of the book, just ready for little fingers to play.

This would make a great gift for anyone with a new baby in the offing – the perfect foundation for their first library that will become a treasured heirloom.

Wormwood Mire

Wormwood Mire

Wormwood Mire

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wormwood Mire: A Stella Montgomery Intrigue

Judith Rossell

ABC Books, 2016

288pp., hbk., RRP $A22.99

9780733333019

 

Stella Montgomery is in disgrace.  After being missing for two nights and returning covered in mud and dressed as a boy after the adventures described in Withering-By-Sea her aunts Deliverance, Temperance and Condolence have packed her off to join her cousins Strideforth and Hortense and their governess at the family home of Wormwood Mire.  Now she is alone on a long, lonely train journey rattling along towards an unknown, ancient stately home once owned by Wilberforce Montgomery, the epitome of the eccentric Englishman of the late Victorian era who travelled the world collecting all sorts of plant and animal specimens and filling his home and its grounds with them, dead and alive.

With just A Garden of Lilies, Improving Titles for Young Minds, a book of doom and gloom and depressing moralistic statements for company, nevertheless Stella is not daunted because surely nothing could be worse than the weeks of icy weather, cold porridge, endless boring lessons, and her aunts’ disdain and distaste that she has just endured. Even though she imagines Strideforth, Hortense and a strict governess to be just waiting for her to make a mistake, Stella has with her a stolen photo of a mother pushing a pram with two toddlers in it and the inscription “P, S & L’ on the back.  She is sure that P is for Patience, her mother, and S is for herself, and imagines L to be for an unknown sister named Letty.  So despite everything, she is somehow looking forward to this trip because she is hoping to discover who (or what) she is. Even though strange things begin to happen immediately when she ventures into the mysterious Spindleweed Sweetshop hoping to get something for her empty tummy while she waits to be taken to Wormwood Mire, she draws on Letty for strength and courage and ventures forth with determination.

Judith Rossell is a master of  building intrigue, mystery and suspense through her compelling descriptive writing that takes the reader right into the setting of an ancient, deserted English pile with multitudes of empty, dusty rooms, clanking pipes, secret tunnels and overgrown gardens where who knows what dwells.  Luckily for Stella Strideforth, Hortense and the governess Miss Araminter are friendly and as curious as she is but Jem and his reclusive grandparents with their warnings of dire, mysterious happenings in the past and their reaction to Stella make for another gripping episode that keeps the reader enthralled. Pet mollymawks and ermines, peacocks that split the night with their raucous shriek, a giant fish with razor teeth that seems to frighten creatures to stone and a tower-top study full of a secret collection of dangerous creatures and plants suck you in like a monster Venus flytrap and the outside world ceases to exist.

Like Withering-By-Sea, this one is printed in that dark green favoured by the Victorians and the monochromatic illustrations in the same tones all add to the atmosphere that suggests that more timid readers might like to read this in daylight.  

Withering-By-Sea won a host of awards –Winner, Indie Award, Children’s and YA, 2015; Winner, ABIA Book of the Year for Older Children, 2015; Winner, Davitt Award, Best Children’s Crime Novel, 2015; Honour Book, CBCA Book of the Year, Younger Readers, 2015; Shortlisted, Aurealis Awards, Children’s Book, 2014;; Shortlisted, Prime Minister’s Literary Awards, 2015 and I predict this one will be just as successful and popular.  

But if you will excuse me, I need to read just one more chapter!

BTW – HarperCollins are hosting a virtual excursion called Cautionary Tales with Judith Rossell on Tuesday October 18 11.30-12.15 AEDT  for students in Years 4-6.  

Junior Illustrated English Dictionary and Thesaurus

Junior Illustrated English Dictionary and Thesaurus

Junior Illustrated English Dictionary and Thesaurus

Junior Illustrated English Dictionary and Thesaurus

Felicity Brooks

Nikki Dyson

Usborne, 2016

480pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9781474924481

This new release from Usborne, who are masters at putting together quality education resources, comes in perfect time for sharing with parents who are looking for something special for the Christmas stocking for that between-group who are a little old for toys but not quite ready for all the trappings of being a young adult.  Grandparents will LOVE it as a suggestion!

With so many thesauri and dictionaries on the market for this age group, there has to be a point of difference to make a new one stand out and having seen and used so many over my 40+ years of teaching, it’s hard to think what that might be.  However, Usborne have discovered it – scattered throughout the 480 pages amongst the 6000+ words are text boxes with all sorts of information about the words including spelling tips, word families, word origins and so on- each of which helps the child build their vocabulary and their knowledge of how words and English work so they can build on what they know to be even more proficient.  There are explanations about the s/z conflict in British and American English as well as things like the t/-ed endings and who uses which.  (Australian standards use ‘t’ but either is acceptable where there is a choice and the context and meaning is not changed).

There is a comprehensive “how to” introductory section which explains the features and layout of the book including how to use a dictionary generally, the different word classes such as nouns, adjectives and verbs and links to further explanations, activities and games for both the dictionary and the thesaurus which will extend the user’s knowledge and skills even further.In between the dictionary and thesaurus sections are pages about how to make plurals, and prefixes and suffixes, all serving to make this more than just a word finder. The plentiful, colourful illustrations are really useful and would serve someone learning English for the first time very well, particularly older students who prefer something a little more grown-up than basic alphabet books.

If you are looking for a new class set of this sort of reference text for the library, this one really deserves serious consideration – in the meantime, this copy will find its way to Miss Almost-Year-5.  It will be the perfect present for her.

 

The Mix + Match Lunchbox

The Mix + Match Lunchbox

The Mix + Match Lunchbox

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Mix + Match Lunchbox

Cherie Schetselaar

Britney Rule

Exisle, 2016

102pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9781942934660

Imagine opening your lunchbox and finding almond joy popcorn; cream cheese pinwheels and a melon and grape fruit salad.  Or quinoa cookie bites, chopped Thai chicken salad and a homemade ranh dip.  Or any one of the 27 000 three-course combinations embracing whole grains, proteins and fruit and veggies that can be made from this glossy mix and match flip book.

With Term 4 here and another 10 weeks of school lunches looming, this is a timely release that lit up Miss 10’s eyes as soon as she saw it because there was nothing too difficult for her to make here.  

Beginning with an explanation of why a healthy lunch is important and then the role that the four food groups play in achieving it,  it continues with a section on the perfect lunchbox so that everything stays fresh and cool and then helps with time and menu management by helping to plan ahead and food preparation.  

Each suggestion comes complete with coloured photo and the recipe at the side using simple, easily available fresh ingredients  so that the lunchbox looks appealing, is healthy and satisfying.  No more dumping soggy sangers in the nearest bin!!

Having looked at it thoroughly, Miss 10 and Miss 5 (who could easily help because of the simplicity of the suggestions) were heard to say that they wished school was back already!

Definitely one to promote to parents not only looking for new ideas but also ways that will encourage the children to join in the preparation and perhaps start them on their cooking journey.

 

Gumnut Babies

Gumnut Babies

Gumnut Babies

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gumnut Babies

May Gibbs

HarperCollins, 2016

272pp., hbk., RRP $A39.99

9781460752555

 

One hundred years ago the first edition of May Gibbs’ iconic Gumnut Babies was published – the forerunner to her classic Snugglepot and Cuddlepie. In this stunning centenary edition which echoes the original layout, fonts, illustrations and colours, a new generation is introduced to the stories of The Gumnut Babies, the Gum Blossom Babies, The Flannel Flowers and Other Bush Babies, Boronia Babies, Wattle Babies, Nuttybub and Nittersing, and Chucklebud and Wunkydoo. 

On all the big Gumtrees there are Gumnut Babies.  Some people see them and some don’t; but they see everybody and everything.  Perhaps that’s why their eyes are so big… They are full of mischief and are always teasing the slow-going creatures; but they hurt nothing and are gentle, for they love all the worlda.

Born in 1877 in England and coming to Australia at just four years old, May Gibbs spent years observing the bush and its creatures as her family farmed in both South Australia and Western Australia and she claimed she “could draw before I could walk”.  She excelled at botanical drawing and has said, “It’s hard to tell, hard to say, I don’t know if the bush babies found me or I found the little creatures”.  The Gumnut Babies made their first appearance in 1913 as part of the illustrations for Ethel Turner’s The Magic Button and gradually the bushland fantasy world grew with the writing and publication of a number of stories, including the publication of Tales of  Snugglepot and Cuddlepie in 1918.

Gibbs was a fierce protector of the environment and these stories are guaranteed to have young readers begin to appreciate all that lives in our unique natural landscape.  Her legacy lives on through Nutcote as well as her generous gift of leaving the copyright of all her works to Northcott which provides support to those with disabilities and the Cerebral Palsy Alliance which supports the 34 000 people living with this condition in Australia alone.    

Apart from being a classic of Australian literature the May Gibbs website  offers activities and lesson plans; there is a stage production of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie currently touring the country and the State Library of NSW has an online exhibition of her works.

A fitting centenary tribute to a true Australian classic.

A century apart... Gumnut Babies then and now

A century apart… Gumnut Babies then and now

Animalia

Animalia

Animalia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Animalia

Graeme Base

Penguin, 2016

32pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9780670079131

Thirty years ago in 1986 an armoured armadillo avoiding an angry alligator appeared from the pen of one of Australia’s most iconic illustrators.  It was followed by beautiful blue butterflies basking by a babbling brook and a host of other creatures including eight enormous elephants expertly eating Easter eggs; horrible hairy hogs hurrying homeward on heavily harnessed horses; meticulous mice monitoring mysterious mathematical messages; and even zany zebras zigzagging in zinc zeppelins.  

For this was the magical, mystical, marvellous Animalia – an alliterative alphabet book  and which, after selling more than three million copies worldwide and spawning a television series, is now celebrating its 30th birthday and a whole new audience is set to wonder at its creativity, its detail, its colour and try to spot the tiny Graeme on each page.  It is indeed a feast of vivid visual literacy. And underneath the familiar dust cover which so cleverly hints at what is inside is a glamorous golden cover AND a fabulous poster of the lazy lions lounging in the local library.  (Great role models for reading!!!)

Since Animalia’s  original publication we have come to associate Graeme Base with intriguing stories woven around the most scintillating illustrations  and if this is your first introduction to his work, you will be on the lookout for his other works.

Congratulations Graeme – thank you for bringing us these superb creatures and creating such riches for our young readers. 

 

 

My Encyclopedia of Very Important Things

My Encyclopedia of Very Important Things

My Encyclopedia of Very Important Things

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Encyclopedia of Very Important Things

Dorling Kindersley, 2016

224pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9780241224939

The sub-title for this new publication from Dorling Kindersley is “for little learners who want to know everything” and that is very apt.  This is the perfect introduction to non fiction and the purpose of encyclopedias for our youngest readers.

There are sections devoted to the planet, places, animals, people, themselves and “other very important things”.  Each topic within each section has a double page spread that is a mix of clear, colourful pictures, text and “white space” that presents the basic information in a way that speaks directly to the child and in language that they can understand.  For example, they can learn that if they were to drive a car straight up it would only take about an hour to reach space and on the way they would pass through five layers of air called the atmosphere.  Accompanying the car is a kid-friendly diagram that shows the different layers with a sentence about each and pictures of the things that ascend to each layer.  

There is such a body of research now that clearly shows the importance of print in the development of research skills and those who have a solid foundation of skills in that medium are better able to use online sources much more effectively and efficiently later so it is no surprise that I am a fan of this book.  When Miss 4 asks, “Where does the sun go at night?” it’s so easy to say, “Let’s have a look in our book to see if we can find out.”  It reinforces the ideas that we can get information from books and with the index at the back, it is a quick and easy exercise.  The structure mimics that of encyclopedia for older readers (although it is not in alphabetical order) so right from get-go they are learning to locate information using contents, an index, page numbers, headings and captions.

It is also perfect for those who prefer non fiction – and in this one the text is accessible so they can do more than just look at the pictures – and even suits those who like to be seen with the heaviest, thickest books (although its size is just fine for Miss 5 to manage independently).  

For a few years, voluminous encyclopedias went out of fashion – and often out of home and school libraries because of the wonder and speed of the Internet.  But thankfully, print versions are making a comeback as we now understand that technology does not provide all the answers; that connectivity and accessibility can be an issue; that what is available is not necessarily at the child’s level of understanding; and that print comes free of advertisements and other distractions.  And a one-off cost can be cheaper than an annual subscription, particularly for basic information that doesn’t change.  

In 2015 I gave a presentation at SLANZA in Christchurch called Information Literacy for Littlies (building on the theme of “From the ground up”) .  Many were surprised that we can help very young children begin to develop their information literacy skills from preschool. My Encyclopedia of Very Important Things is a perfect resource to support this.

Parents and grandparents will love to pop this into the Christmas stocking.

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

Mr Chicken Arriva A Roma

Mr Chicken Arriva A Roma

Mr Chicken Arriva A Roma

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mr Chicken Arriva A Roma

Leigh Hobbs

Allen & Unwin, 2016

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

9781925266771

 

What’s next when the fun and focus of Book Week is over?  A new Mr Chicken adventure of course!!

 

With his insatiable appetite for travel, Mr Chicken, Citizen of the World, takes us on his latest exploits.  This time he is in Rome and from endpaper to endpaper it is a feast of fun.  Armed with his Very Frequent Flyer card, a list of things to see and some handy phrases, Mr Chicken arrives in Rome keen to explore his childhood dreams of Ancient Roman life and places.  With his guide Federica he’s off to see some ruins and meet some real Romans, although the departing view of him on Federica’s Vespa is a bit disturbing and is one of those things that can never be unseen!

As with his previous visits to Paris and London, he visits the main tourist sights, often becoming more of an attraction than the attraction itself.  The Colosseum, the Pantheon, the Vatican, and the Trevi Fountain (where he takes a dip to cool off much to the entertainment of the crowds) are all on his itinerary and provide endless opportunities for photographs. But what would Italy be without gelato and pasta?  And which pasta – spaghetti, cannelloni, penne, tortellini, papalina or tagliatelle?  Or all of them? Decisions, decisions. Left on his own for the afternoon, he takes a nap and his dreams take him to the Rome of long ago where he is the star until…

Luckily his nightmare is interrupted by the return of Federica who is taking him to her family for dinner,  This time Mr Chicken is in charge of the Vespa and brings a whole new meaning to the madness of traffic in Rome.  But all too soon it is time to say “Arrivederci” to this fascinating place and create an album of all those selfies he took.

In his iconic style that is so familiar to younger readers, Leigh Hobbs has once again created the most enjoyable ‘travelogue’ of one of the world’s greatest cities and as well as offering a wonderful adventure with the indomitable Mr Chicken that children will love, he’s also provided a terrific teaching tool to show our youngest students that there is a world beyond their town.  Some of the best lessons I’ve ever given have focused on Mr Chicken’s adventures as we’ve read the books, used Google Earth to explore each city and its significant places and then wound up with examining our local community for the places Mr Chicken would have to see if he came to our town.  Superb for exploring built and manmade features, discussing those things that are unique to the area and getting the children to not only discover their surroundings but also draw them and tell their stories.

Now Australian Children’s Laureate for 2016 and 2017, Leigh Hobbs has come from behind his drawing board to be in the spotlight and is a perfect candidate for an author/illustrator study.  There’s an interview with him from Story Box  and a Q&A with ABC Splash at / ; an interview with The Australian and Mirrors Windows Doors /; and soon there will be a plush toy available too.  He’s even produced the Story Calendar which features all his characters – Mr Chicken, Mr Badger, Old Tom and Horrible Harriet and which inspires readers to explore a new type of story every month!

So if you’re concerned that the current spotlight on the library might dim soon, Leigh Hobbs and Mr Chicken are guaranteed to turn it back to full beam.

Roald Dahl Collection

Roald Dahl Collection

Roald Dahl Collection

 

 

 

 

 

 

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

9780141365374

Matilda

9780141365466

The BFG

9780141365428

Roald Dahl

Puffin, 2016

pbk., RRP $A16.99

On September 13, 1916 one of the greatest children’s authors of all time was born and in just 43 days there will be great celebrations to mark the centenary of his birth.  There are many events planned, particularly in the UK but to mark the occasion here, Penguin Random House have relaunched a number of his most popular books, bringing the works of this word wizard into the world of a new generation.

Originally written in 1964 and already over 50 years old, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is arguably the best-known of Dahl’s creations having been made into a movie in both 1971 (under the title Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory) and in 2005. It was also converted to an opera The Golden Ticket in 2010 and a musical in 2013.  It is the story of poverty-stricken Charlie Bucket who wins one of five golden tickets (along with Augustus Gloop, Veruca Salt, Mike Teavee and Violet Beauregard) to visit the mysterious, magical chocolate factory of eccentric chocolatier Willie Wonka and the adventures that befall them. 

Matilda is the story of child genius Matilda Wormwood who loves to read and study but who is regarded by her ignorant, self-absorbed family as a freak and a scab.  This does not deter her in any way for she is smart enough to see them for what they are.  It also features the lovely Miss Honey and the frightening, stereotypical principal Miss Trunchbull who has her own reasons for being so nasty that the children live in fear of her.  This has also been made into both a movie and a musical. (Tickets to the Brisbane production of this are part of the Readathon prize)

In 1982, Dahl wrote The BFG introducing us to Sophie, the Big Friendly Giant, a host of very unfriendly giants and his wonderful way with words that speak directly to his audience.  Few children would not know what a whizzpopper is and be able to explain its cause and effect  particularly after the release of the movie that was such a hit in the recent school holidays.

Dahl’s writing career spanned five decades and during that time he brought love and laughter, mystery, mayhem and magic into the lives of millions – telling stories that engage adults as much as children.  These three are just a tiny portion of those he wrote and having been translated into 55 languages, there would be few who would not know of his genius and had a little light brought into their lives because of it.  Publishers Penguin Random House have launched a readathon competition to celebrate this milestone but for me, it will be about sharing my favourite story (George’s Marvellous Medicine) with Miss 5 whom I know is going to make a reading friend for life