The Leaky Story
EK Books, 2017
32pp., hbk., 2017
The Leaky Story
EK Books, 2017
32pp., hbk., 2017
Me and You
32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99
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 Story of Australia
Robert Lewis / National Museum of Australia
Random House Australia, 2017
416pp., pbk., RRP $A34.99
The National Museum of Australia is home to one of the richest collections of objects, photographs, artefacts and other items that document the history of this country from the times of our earliest indigenous people through European exploration, settlement and expansion and on into the 21st century. Drawing on these riches, Robert Lewis has traced the story of Australia in a way that is accessible to young independent readers wanting to begin to understand their heritage.
Filled with photographs, charts and other illustrations, it gives an overview offering explanations of key events and the people behind them which encourage the young historian to delve deeper, explore further and perhaps even make a plan to visit the museum itself to see the actual objects.
This would make a great reference work to have on the home shelves as children start their formal study of the nation’s history but it also perfect for the library’s collection to help answer quick questions and show that history is about story not just facts and figures.
Rock Pool Secrets
Walker Books, 2017
32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99
“Down on the rocky shore, waves crash and smash. Then the tide goes out and the sea is calm. It’s a good time to explore the rock pools.”
For some the magnificence of high tide with the waves pounding the coast is their favourite sea-time – the tranquility of low tide is not dramatic enough for them. But what looks to be a peaceful, not-much-happening environment is actually one of the greatest activity on the seashore because the myriad of creatures that live there have just a few short hours to feed and do what they do before the inexorable tide encroaches again. You just have to take the time to look.
In this superbly illustrated new book from Narelle Oliver, she takes us on a journey around the rockpools pointing out things that might stay hidden to the non-looker exposing them underneath flaps that blend into the artwork as well as the creatures blend into their habitats. The transparent shrimp in its leafy hideaway; the hermit crab in its seashell home; the anemones like seafloor flowers…each brought to life in their subtle colours in extraordinarily detailed linocuts waiting to be discovered nestling in crevices, hiding in the seaweed or camouflaged on the rocks.. As well as the captions that accompany the text there is also a glossary with further information about the creatures featured that will inspire young beach-goers to spend some time looking and wondering and marvelling at nature’s disguises when they next catch the beach at low tide.
As a child I grew up in the very south of the South Island of New Zealand (next stop was literally Antarctica) and we were allowed to roam the rockpools all day (until the tide came in) so so many of my childhood memories are built around the discoveries we made. Nowadays, when I get to the coast I head for the rockpools and do what I did way back when and spend many calming, healing hours just looking.
Armed with the beauty and knowledge from this book, perhaps there will be a new generation of hunters inspired to look a little closer, tread a little more gently and delight in the hidden wonders especially as summer draws to a close and many are making a last trip to the beach until the warm comes again.
Over the years of her too-short life, Narelle Oliver has brought nature to life for young readers in her exquisite works like The Hunt, Leaf Tail, The Best Beak in Boonaroo Bay, Fox and Fine Feathers, Sand Swimmers and for her final work to be one that focuses on my favourite environment is just superb.
Vale Narelle. You gave us so much and we are indebted to you. Thank you.
Oombee Woombee Books 2016
32pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99
Mix the two in a blue-yellow brew…
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.
Lift-the-flap Questions and Answers about Science
16pp., board book, RRP $A19.99
From the time they are born children are innately curious and as soon as they are able to articulate the words, they ask questions so they can make the connections they need as they try to make sense of their world. As the nearest adult we try to help them with the answers. Some of the answers are at our fingertips but some need a little more digging.
Often those answers lie in science and this book is a great introduction for the budding young scientist who has the questions and wants a basic explanation that can be followed further if they wish. Just 16 pages long, it is divided into double page spreads with the headings what, why, when, where, which, who, how and yes or no. Each page has several questions, the answers for which are hidden under the flaps. Starting with the basic “What is science?” and “What do scientists do?” it goes on to explore other questions about science itself as well as others such as “Is the sky really blue?” Simple explanations and quirky pictures under the flaps provide a straight-forward answer as well as the starting point for further investigations. Having the answers under the flap gives the child an opportunity to consider the question and then suggest their own explanation before checking to see if they are on the right track.
Aimed at the young reader with an interest in science, nevertheless it is a book to be shared with a grownup who can help with some of the words, interpret the answers more fully and suggest other sources for finding out more including the publishers’ webpage for the book which has more questions, links to websites and other books in the series that delve deeper.
Books like this start the young child on their way to being information literate – able to locate, evaluate, analyse, interpret information so they can then use it to satisfy their curiosity, discover the world around them and ask new questions. With the current emphasis on STEM (science technology, engineering and maths) in the school curriculum not only does this book provide answers , it demonstrates that those answers can be found in print as well as modelling how to ask questions that require more than a one-word answer to take an investigation further.
It could even be the springboard for an ongoing class activity with a question posed each week so students can share their answers which are then compared to the explanation provided, discussed and investigated sparking an interest in science that endures.
This is a dip-and-delve book – one the reader will come back to time and time again.
Big Sky Publishing, 2017
Since its early days as a fledgling settlement, Australia has had a great reliance on sheep, particularly the income from the wool they produce. For a century our economy “rode on the sheep’s back” as it depended on primary industry for the nation’s living standards. However, in recent decades this dependency has decreased somewhat and there is a greater distance between city and country than ever before.
Nevertheless, farming is still a critical industry for our nation and there are going to be thousands of country kids who will see themselves in this story of their lives in 2017. As shearing time comes around again in many rural areas, they will be the child in the story up at the crack of dawn and ready for a day’s hard work in the shearing shed. And apart from the mechanisation of the shed, it is still the same back-breaking process of years and generations gone by with the same satisfaction of having done a good days’ work at the end of it.
This is a refreshing story that not only puts our country students in the frame but also allows their city cousins to have a glimpse of a different kind of life and help them understand the vital role that our rural communities have in our welfare and well-being and that other kids spend their time doing very different things. “From paddock to plate” has become a familiar phrase of recent cooking shows and Shearing Time is an illustration of a similar sort of theme that opens lots of possibilities for investigations for all ages as we select our clothes from local chain stores and few have a Made In Australia label. So once it is shorn, skirted, graded and baled what does happen to the wool?
Based on her own childhood memories, Allison Paterson and illustrator Shane McGrath have created an insight that entertains as well as educates. Click go the Shears – that iconic song of any Australian singalong – has come to life.
Fly Way Peter
32pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99
Jeffrey the Giraffe is very unhappy. Even though it is a lovely day, and he is the same size as the other giraffes and has the same spots as them, he has a short neck and that makes him different. As he wanders through the jungle feeling sorry for himself he almost steps on a little bird walking in the grass. The little bird is most indignant but when he hears Jeffrey’s story about being different and lonely he suggests going for a wall.
Jeffrey is surprised that the bird, whose name is Peter suggests a walk when everyone knows birds fly. But like Jeffrey, Peter is different for he cannot fly. That is until an innocent game of hide and seek changes both their lives forever…
First published in 1964, it has been republished several times over the years and now another generation will get to share this story with a theme that not only passes the test of time but endures in a myriad of situations everywhere so it will resonate with today’s readers as much as it did 50 years ago. Steadman’s bright, detailed illustrations are full of fun and echo the artwork of children although there is much to discover with closer examination.
Little ones can be encouraged to predict what might happen at several parts in the story particularly when Jeffrey’s predicament becomes apparent, which encourages them to take risks in a very safe environment, and they will enjoy joining in with the actions and words as the animals try to solve Jeffrey’s problem. Retelling and art opportunities abound! The best stories promote this sort of spontaneous interaction and so it is perfect for helping them understand the fun and enjoyment of stories and the printed word.
This is a classic story about friendship, co-operation and accepting others for what they are not what they look like that will probably still have a place on the shelves 50 years from now.
Fox and the Jumping Contest
Corey R. Tabor
Balzer & Bray, 2016
32pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99
The animals are having a jumping contest – Elephant, Bear, Rabbit, Turtle, Frog and Fox have all entered – and Fox is determined he will win. He even imagines how good the trophy will look perched on his mantlepiece.
But Fox isn’t particularly good at jumping so he figures if that trophy is going to have pride of place in his loungeroom he will need a bit of assistance. So while the other animals practise, he schemes and plans and builds. His solution? A jetpack that he paints to match his fur hoping the other animals won’t notice – so it is clear that he knows he is cheating.
On the day of the contest with the bird judges all ready and perched high in the branches the animals show their talents. Frog does well and gets extra points for style; Turtle doesn’t do as well and Elephant less so. Bear was loud and Rabbit was spectacular. And then it was Fox’s turn…
This is a story with a twist, and it’s a twist that can spark some great discussion points which are perfect for getting young children to start to think critically, to philosophise and to empathise. Fox with his jetpack strapped to his back disappears so high in the sky that the judges can’t wait for him to return so they begin the awards ceremony. But just as Rabbit is about to receive the trophy, Fox falls back to Earth and plops into it and takes first place. The final scene shows Fox standing back admiring the cup on his mantlepiece, right where he had envisioned it would be.
But does Fox deserve it? Has he cheated? Were there written rules about external assistance or were they just assumed? Why do we have rules? How do the other animals feel about the win? What about rabbit? Has there been fair play and sportsmanship? What is the twist in that final scene and was it a reasonable way to solve the problem? What does ‘compromise’ mean?
Careful exploration of the text, verbal and visual, offers a lot of depth to this story and it deserves re-reading to get the most from it. For example, Elephant doesn’t mind that she cannot jump well because she is “good at other things” and that in itself could provoke another discussion about how we all have our strengths so comparisons are not always fair. Even very young children have a strong sense of justice and with the pictures enriching the words so well with their extra detail and action there is much to examine and ponder.
Life and literature are full of characters who are determined to win regardless and this is a surprisingly good story that can introduce even very young children to contemplate, at their own level, the philosophical question of does the end justify the means and giving them an opportunity to start thinking on a more abstract level, from different perspectives and consider what is not being said.
One to get brains moving…
Raising Literacy Australia, 2016
32pp., pbk., RRP $A14.90
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.