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Madeline Finn and the Library Dog

Madeline Finn and the Library Dog

Madeline Finn and the Library Dog

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Madeline Finn and the Library Dog

Lisa Papp

Old Barn Books, 2017

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

9781910646328

Madeline Finn does not like to read. Not books. Not magazines. Not even the menu on the ice cream van. Reading out loud in class is a nightmare and the words get stuck in her mouth “like peanut butter” and the other children laugh.  While they get stars from their teacher, all Madeline gets is a “Keep Trying” sticker.  She gets a lot of those.  But she desperately wants a star and so one night she makes a wish on a star for a star.  

Sadly, some wishes take a bit of time to come true and come the end of the week and it’s time for her to visit the local library she is truly despondent, is tired of trying and has all but convinced herself she will never be a reader.  But librarian Mrs Dimple has a surprise for her – a surprise that will not only turn her reading around but also her life…

There are children like Madeline Finn in every class – children who hate the out-dated practice of having to read aloud to the group because all it does is shine a public light on their struggles as they try to master the written word and self-talk themselves further and further down the rabbit hole of being a non-reader.  As a teacher and teacher librarian who has spent 45 years helping little ones to read I wanted to shake Madeline’s teacher and show her that stickers and stars and “keep trying” are fruitless – but then Lisa Papp wouldn’t have had a story and there wouldn’t have been a happy outcome, albeit fraught with anxiety, for Madeline.

Sharing this story with the class will help the Madelines understand that there are many kids like them who just haven’t quite got reading sorted yet, but that it is achievable and even enjoyable. They are not the only ones who find the squiggles on the page confronting but that it is OK to make “mistakes” and these become fewer as their understanding and confidence grows.  Reading is not about the stars on a chart, but the inner satisfaction of being immersed in something that takes you away from the here and now and into the land of imagination and possibility. 

More and more the power of dogs as pets as therapy is being recognised and they are turning up in all sorts of places. While it might not be possible to have one in your school library, it is possible to substitute Bonnie for a teddy – or a host of teddies – so those who have yet to develop confidence in their reading because they believe “real readers” don’t make mistakes can have a non-judgemental partner to read to.  My experience was children who dreaded coming to the library would be there before school and at lunchtimes reading to their favourite teddy – I ended up with about 50 in the collection – as they built their confidence and their skills in a safe, friendly, non-threatening environment. They even became regular borrowers!

While this story will bring comfort and hope to a lot of little people, hopefully it will also inspire teachers to reflect on their professional practice and consider whether they are doing things that inadvertently marginalise their not-there-yet readers and make changes.  

Teacher’s hat is now off!

 

 

Can You Find Me?

Can You Find Me?

Can You Find Me?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Can You Find Me?

Gordon Winch

Patrick Shirvington

New Frontier, 2017

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

9781925059793

Mother Nature has provided many of our commonly seen creatures with the most amazing camouflage so that when they are in their natural habitat they are very hard to see.  In this stunning book by Gordon Winch, author of Samantha Seagull’s Sandals which has delighted so many children in my care over the years, readers are encouraged to spot familiar and not-so-familiar creatures hidden in plain sight in Pat Shirvington’s beautiful lifelike illustrations which really connect to the natural world.  

Apart from little ones loving these sorts of hide and seek books, it also encourages them to look with new eyes at their local landscape and wonder what might be living there.  Perhaps before they go stomping through the bush or the sand dunes they will stop and tread more carefully appreciating it more as a home for creatures, camouflaged though they may be.

Then using the text format as a model, they could investigate a different creature and then create their own page to add to the book – a new way of presenting information for the ubiquitous report about Australian animals that is in every early childhood curriculum.

DK Children’s Encyclopedia

DK Children's Encyclopedia

DK Children’s Encyclopedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DK Children’s Encyclopedia

DK, 2017

304pp., hbk., RRP $A49.99

9780241283868

 

Miss 6, a newly independent reader with an insatiable curiosity for the world around her, came to stay for the weekend.  As usual, after dumping her bag where Grandad could trip over it she headed straight for my pile of review books to see what was new and this encyclopedia was on the top of the pile… and that was the last we saw of her till teatime.

Written for her age group with appropriate language, sentence structure, pictures and layout at last she felt she had found something just right for her.  No more having to get Miss 11 or a nearby adult to help her find things and then explain them – she was independent and LOVING it. (And no arbitrary phonics tests to test her skills – she was motivated, she expected to find out what she wanted to know and she had a range of strategies to draw on!)

Each page is devoted to a topic and with its alphabetical arrangement she was able to flip through to what she wanted, although after she learned how to use the Contents page she felt very grown up. Nine different key subject areas are covered – Art, People, History, Earth, Nature, Science, Technology, Space and the Human Body – all those which fascinate this age group and each is colour-coded so classifying is easy and the idea of grouping like with like is reinforced.  Each topic also has a “See Also” box so the reader can read more in related topics, and there is a comprehensive glossary, an index and a Reference section, each of which Miss 6 wanted to learn how to use “so I can use my book properly.” There are also several “Story of…” pages, double-page spreads which bring together information from different perspectives to take the thinking further.

While her bag was somewhat heavier when she left for home, Miss 6 didn’t mind the extra weight because she now had her “very own ‘cyclopedia”, had learned a lot of new skills and was feeling very smug. 

This is the perfect addition to your early childhood collection so little people can feel as empowered as Miss 6 and a perfect suggestion for parents for the Christmas stocking!

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

 

Pea Pod Lullaby

Pea Pod Lullaby

Pea Pod Lullaby

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pea Pod Lullaby

Glenda Millard

Stephen Michael King

Allen & Unwin, 2017

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

9781760290085

I am the lullaby

You are the melody

Sing me

It starts like a gentle lullaby, perhaps a story you would share with your very youngest children to help them slip into sleep at the end of a long happy day.  But turn the page and a different story emerges from this remarkable collaboration between author and illustrator that grew as a special project at the Manning Regional Art Gallery in NSW.

The first hint that this is not a traditional lullaby comes when you turn the page and you are confronted by the image of a baby being passed into a tiny boat despite the stormy sea, safe into the arms of a young boy, while high on the rugged, isolated cliff barbed wire tangles it way down, clearly designed to prevent such departures. Yet despite this ominous scenery, the words evoke a feeling of trust, safety and comfort…

I am the small green pea

You are the tender pod 

Hold me.

This message of security and belief that there will be protection threads throughout the rest of the story in its gentle, lyrical text and despite the pictures portraying a somewhat different, more threatening story, the inclusion of the red bird constantly with them and appearing somewhat like the dove from Noah’s Ark towards the end of the journey is reassuring.  

The symbolism is strong  – a polar bear found floating on a fridge is taken on board and returned to its family with the help of the whales, the boat expanding to accommodate all shows that this is a story about the planet, not just its people – and all the while the little peapod boat sails on towards it destination regardless of the sea’s moods, just as love carries us all through life. While the final stanza – I am the castaway, you are the journeys end. welcome me – might suggest the story is over, the final pages and the endpapers show that this is a bigger story than that of the family in that little boat. 

While the family in the boat give a focus to those who find literally launching themselves into and onto the great unknown a better prospect than staying where they are, this is about that uniquely human emotion of hope – the family believe they will reach a better destination and they will be welcomed with warmth and compassion and even in their midst of their own struggle they find the wherewithal to help others, just as they hope they would be helped.

There are teachers’ notes available that take this so much deeper than any review can, but don’t be surprised to see this amongst the CBCA Book of the Year winners in 2018.

Sarah and the Steep Slope

Sarah and the Steep Slope

Sarah and the Steep Slope

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sarah and the Steep Slope

Danny Parker

Matt Ottley

Little Hare, 2017

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

9781742974675

When Sarah opened her door one morning she was confronted by it.  A steep slope. Blocking out the sun and casting a shadow across everything. Rising in front her like an insurmountable and impenetrable barrier.  And so it proved to be.

Prodding and pushing didn’t move it,  surprising it didn’t shake it and trying to sneak around it was hopeless.  And when she tried to climb it, even with her climbing shoes, she got halfway and then slid all the way back down.  How was she going to see her friends?

Nothing worked – even ignoring it didn’t make it go away and neither did the help of the slope doctor so he left clutching a lot of notes for Sarah’s friends and going out the door to a flat, sunlit landscape. Next day her friends visited her and they didn’t see the steep slope either. They stayed and played all day long.  And the next day…

This is a sophisticated picture book for older readers who will appreciate its symbolism as Sarah tries to negotiate the steep slope that is only visible to her. Younger readers who are still at a very literal stage of development may not understand that the slope exists only in Sarah’s mind and that it is a representation of a problem that she perceives to have no solution.

If used in a class situation, students may make suggestions about the slope that is facing Sarah and be willing to share the “slopes” they have had to navigate – physical, academic, mental and emotional – and how they found their way, while others with slopes in front of them still may draw comfort and even hope that they are not alone and that there is a pathway they can follow. We are all faced with “slopes’ as we live and learn – some steeper than others but without them there is no progress in life – and part of the success of climbing them lies in being able to acknowledge and  analyse the issue, break it into small steps, develop strategies to tackle each step, understand that others are willing and able to help and it is no shame to ask them,  believe success is possible and engage in positive self-talk.  

This is a story about the power of friendship, of having the courage to take the next step forward, of being resilient and acknowledging we are part of a village that we can seek support from and that there is always help and hope. The absence of Sarah’s family in her solution and her reaching out to a doctor rather than a parent suggest that sometimes the issue is within the family or it is not something the child feels comfortable talking about with a family member for a range of reasons, giving the reader the approval that it is okay to seek advice and assistance beyond the traditional helpers used as they have grown up without feeling guilty that they have betrayed anyone or hurt their feelings.  

Apart from the concepts of symbolism, similes and metaphors and all that technical English language stuff, this is an important book in the mindfulness collection as we finally start to acknowledge the mental health issues for even the youngest children and help them develop the strategies and skills that will enable and empower them. Those are the important lessons teachers, and I use the word in its broadest sense, teach.

 

 

Why Crocodiles Smile

Why Crocodiles Smile

Why Crocodiles Smile

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why Crocodiles Smile: Cric Croc discovers nature’s wonders

Anthony W Buirchell

Laila Savolainen

Cric Croc Enterprises, 2017

32pp., pbk., RRP $A16.95

 

9780995424340

Young children are warned from an early age to “never smile at a crocodile” but what if the crocodile smiles at you?

Cric the Crocodile has spent a week with his family in the Daintree region of Far North Queensland but he is puzzled because all the crocodiles he met smiled all the time. So his dad Crisis explains why.

The bull Crocodile was a sneaky beast

It was looking around for a scrumptious feast

With big yellow eyes it searched around

Looking for food from the watery ground.

And as those big yellow eyes alighted on a possible meal, it smiled with anticipation. But the creatures – cassowaries, brolgas, cormorants, barramundi and a host of other beautiful creatures indigenous to the area- were smarter that Crocodile and took themselves out of harm’s way very quickly.  Until an unwary Pelican came by…

Like its predecessors the story is told in rhyme as young readers are introduced to a range of Australia’s unique but less familiar creatures.  Beautiful drawings by Pickawoowoo illustrator, Laila Savolainen bring the text to life with their accuracy and spectacular colour palettes as well as inspiring interest in the flora and fauna of a part of Australia that would be unfamiliar to many.  It also introduces the concept of the food chain – after all, the crocodile does have to eat – and perhaps an investigation into the mechanisms that Mother Nature provides so that creatures do not become easy prey.

A worthy addition to the library’s collection of books for younger readers that introduce them to the amazing wonders of this country. 

Shapes of Australia

Shapes of Australia

Shapes of Australia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shapes of Australia

Bronwyn Bancroft

Little Hare, 2017

24pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781760129286

So often we walk around with our eyes open but we don’t really see anything.  Yes, we see trees and rocks and distant mountains and even birds in the sky but do we ever see the distinctive shapes they make and the patterns within them?

With her artist’s eye, Bronwyn Bancroft has taken the items we take for granted and brought them to life through colour and pattern in the distinctive way that only she can, ensuring that next time we see ocean waves and river boulders, even city skyscrapers, we will look at them with new eyes.

Inspirational for its bold use of colour, intricate, detailed patterns and simplified geometry emphasised  by the shapes within the shapes, this visually stunning book will also inspire poetry as students appreciate the simple sentences that accompany each picture building metaphors like the “crystal shards” of skyscrapers and the “quilt of nature’s comfort” of the grasslands. 

An excellent companion to Colours of Australia students could be encouraged to examine the unique shapes of their own landscapes, even if that is just the playground, and reproduce them in Bancroft style.

Bobo & Co

Bobo & Co

Bobo & Co

 

 

 

 

 

 

Numbers

9781408880029

Colours

9781408880012

Nicola Killen

Bloomsbury, 2017

10pp, board book, RRP $A11.99

Meet Bobo the panda and his friends, Snap the crocodile, Riff the giraffe and the rest of the gang, in this enjoyable and engaging new lift-the-flap first concepts series. In Colours Bobo the panda and his friends want to paint a picture for their friend Snap, but oh-oh! Things get a bit messy while Numbers involves a game of hide and seek for his friends.

While most board books focusing on these concepts for the very young usually feature pages that are disconnected, the continuity of a story throughout makes these appealing and helps little ones realise that books are more than just pictures with labels.  The lift-the-flap format makes them interactive as well as encouraging the child to predict what might come next.

Perfect for a gift for a new mum or a daycare centre.

Why do we need bees?

Why do we need bees?

Why do we need bees?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why do we need bees?

Katie Daynes

Christine Pym

Usborne, 2017

12pp, board book, RRP $A19.99

 9781474917933

Type the title of this book into a search engine and you instantly get millions of results including this video, such is the importance of this tiny creature to the welfare of the world.  For without bees to pollinate the plants there are no plants and therefore no food to sustain people or animals. 

So it makes sense to make our very youngest scientists and botanists aware of the critical need to protect these creatures as they carry out their important work and this new release in the Usborne Lift-the-Flap series does just this. 

Using the question-and-answer format that little children themselves use and which lays the foundations for inquiry-based learning, the role of bees is explored in six double page spreads.  Each starts with a key question such as what are bees?; why do we need bees?; and where do bees live? and this is then supported by a more focused question, the answer to which is hidden under a flap. Delicately illustrated but sturdily constructed as a board book, each page offers much to explore and learn, with both the questions and answers in simple sentences and vocabulary that young readers understand. And for those who want to know more Usborne Quicklinks supplies vetted weblinks to satisfy.

Children are curious about the world around them and we know that as parents and teachers we can’t always answer all their questions.  Helping them understand that there is information to be found in books and their questions can be answered is a first step in the development of their information literacy, and learning that you can dip and delve into books as your interest is piqued and that you can readily return to what you discover is invaluable.  

Even though this is a lift-the-flap book, a format normally associated with the very young, it contains a way into non fiction that is perfect for early childhood and could serve as a model for presentation for older students required to investigate the world around them as they learn to pose questions as well as answer them succinctly.  An interesting way to introduce keywords, note-taking, summarising, paraphrasing and using your own words!  

A book that has riches beyond those given to us by its subject!

NoMax!

NoMax!

NoMax!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NoMax!

Shannon Horsfall

Angus & Robertson, 2017

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

9781460753927

He is such a clever puppy.  He knows his name already.  He hears it from dad so often-when he frees the morning paper from its wrap; brings Dad’s slippers; helps dig the weeds from the garden…  And of course walks where you visit the neighbours and the butcher are proof that he is well-loved. NOMAX ! NOMAX! NOMAX!

So why, then, is the name on his bowl so different?

This is an hilarious story that will resonate with anyone who has welcomed a puppy into their home.  With its rhyming text exemplifying the pace and the action, it follows a typical day in the life of a new puppy learning a family’s ways – with the words telling one story (from Max’s perspective) and the pictures telling another.  Miss 6 adored it and there were some precious moments when we heard “No Max!” being shouted from the bedroom as she read it to her almost-independent self and laughed out loud when she realised the joke halfway through. You know a book has hit the mark when that happens.

There are teaching notes available that focus on the dichotomy between pictures and text opening the way for a discussion about the concept of perspective, but this will quickly become a favourite with the early childhood sector because it is just so much fun.