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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.

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.

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.  

 

Animasaurus Incredible Animals that Roamed the Earth

Animasaurus

Animasaurus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Animasaurus Incredible Animals that Roamed the Earth 

Tracey Turner

Harriet Russell

Bloomsbury, 2016

96pp. hbk., RRP $A26.99

9781408884850

While we are all familiar with the incredible dinosaurs, icthyosaurs and pterosaurs that inhabited our planet long before we did, this book focuses on the other megafauna that was here before humans evolved, tracing their evolution from the ancient to its modern counterpart.  

From the gigantopithecus to the orangutan, the dunkleosteus to the bull shark, the quetzalcaotlus to the wandering albatross, the reader can see the transition from the unknown to the more familiar.  Uncluttered interpretations of the ancient creatures based on what has been learned from fossils are compared to photos of the modern relatives making the transition even clearer.  Each double spread has a habitat map and some basic facts as well as tidbits of interesting information to encourage the reader to learn more, perhaps even trace the lineage of their own favourite creature.  There is a timeline, a glossary and an index at the back which not only help with navigating the book but also serve as an introduction to the features of a non fiction book for younger readers.

We know books about dinosaurs only linger on the shelf for a short time before being borrowed by an enthusiastic reader – this book will lead them into a whole new world of exploration.

Blue Sky, Yellow Kite

Blue Sky, Yellow Kite

Blue Sky, Yellow Kite

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blue Sky, Yellow Kite

Janet A. Holmes

Jonathan Bentley

Little Hare Books, 2016

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

9781760124229

High above a bright yellow kite soars in the bright blue sky and as it dips and dives, flits and flies with its tail feathers flying it catches the eye of Daisy.  Intrigued she follows its string to see who is flying such a magnificent thing.  Up the hill, down the hill and across the field she finds William in a big house on the edge of town.  As she watches longingly through the fence, he invites her in and teaches her how to fly it. But then she does the unthinkable – she runs away with the kite all the way back to her house.  Knowing she has done the wrong thing she hides it and doesn’t fly it – but where is the joy in a kite sitting on top of a wardrobe instead of soaring through the sky?  At last she cannot stand it and she just has to fly the kite – but William sees her and just walks away.  Again the kite is placed on the top of the wardrobe but the next day, Daisy takes it down again…

Sometimes little people are just so tempted by someone else’s things that they just have to take them, even though, like Daisy, they know it is wrong to do so.  And with Christmas coming on and lots of children having lots of things to show off, there are going to be a lot of children fighting temptation.  Thus this is a timely story about wanting, needing, guilt and honesty which has a heart-warming ending that  lends itself to all sorts of discussions in the home and in the classroom.  

The visual contrast, both physically and metaphorically, of the bright yellow kite against the deep blue sky, juxtaposes Daisy and William’s positions and Jonathan Bentley’s illustrations add much to the text with   their movement and colour.

This is a charming story about friendship and forgiveness and the dilemma of whether a thing is more important than a friend.  

illuminature

illuminature

illuminature

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

illuminature

Rachel Williams

Carnovsky

Wide-Eyed, 2016

64pp., hbk., RRP $A35.00

9781847808868

“Nature never stops.  With every tick of the clock, an animal wakes up and goes in search of food. The sky might be dark when the creature first stirs; night-time is ruled by the nocturnal animals.  During the light of day diurnal animals like to hunt.  And as the world welcomes dawn, or bids farewell to the day at dusk, crepuscular creatures appear.”

And in this most amazing book the reader gets to discover what’s out and about at the various times of the planet’s rotation.  Firstly you select a destination from amongst ten different habitats which include such diversity as the Simpson Desert, the Weddell and Ross Seas of Antarctica, the rainforest of the Congo, the Andes Mountains, even the Ganges River basin. From the observation deck what appears to be a jumble of colour slowly exposes itself as the outlines of a number of creatures, but when you then use the special multi-coloured lens which is supplied, and peer through the different colours a whole new world emerges! The red lens exposes the daytime creatures, the blue lens those who prefer a darker environment while the green lens illuminates the plant life of the region.  Then to make the experience even better, there is a double-page spread that identifies each creature with some brief information about it.  There are 180 different creatures to discover throughout the book, 18 for each region!

This is not a ready reference book packed full of information about the world’s habitats and their inhabitants. There are countless other resources that do that.  This is an introduction to the boundless wonders of nature, its diversity and difference that reveals itself with the passage of time and which will leave the reader with a feeling of awe and perhaps a greater awareness of just what might be living in or dependent on the environment as they go stomping through it.  It truly does illuminate Nature.

Have a sneak peek at what’s on offer for The Simpson Desert.  (image from Let Them Be Small)

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

Or check out the YouTube trailer…

A Miscellany of Magical Beasts

A Miscellany of Magical Beasts

A Miscellany of Magical Beasts

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Miscellany of Magical Beasts

Simon Holland

Various illustrators

Bloomsbury, 2016

48pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9781408881958

Long before J.K. Rowling introduced us to basilisks, blast-ended skrewts and bow-truckles, literature was alive with fantastic creatures stretching way back into the mythology of ancient civilisations.  “Mythology is a place where we can meet all kinds of beings, from human-like spirits to hybrids formed from two or more different animals.”

From giants to griffins, Cerberus to Pegasus this luxuriously illustrated book introduces  a menagerie of sixteen fantastic creatures and explains their origins and their powers.  With the illustrations being done by a variety of artists and a myriad of techniques used, this is a lavish visual feast that has the reader delving into each creature’s story and learning the background of those things that inhabit so many favourite books and films and may even take them on a journey through the mythologies of storytellers, perhaps even investigate why they populate history in the way they do. 

This is a must-have in any school library collection to satisfy the fascination with fantasy and those which inhabit that world that shows no signs of abating.

 

Molly & Mae

Molly & Mae

Molly & Mae

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Molly & Mae

Danny Parker

Freya Blackwood

Hardie Grant Egmont, 2016

32pp. hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781742975276

 

A railway station in rural Anywhere, Australia and Molly and Mae are looking forward to their journey to the city.  On the platform there is fun to be had like hide and seek to play as they and the other passengers wait for the train to arrive and their friendship is full of laughter and giggles as the excitement builds.  Even being stuck in the bubblegum doesn’t dampen their delight.  And even as the waiting goes on and on, there is fun to be had as they enjoy each other’s company.  When at last the train comes the fun continues as they colour in, dress up their dolls, experience the dining car, and even do crazy stuff like hanging upside down from the seats!  

But slowly as the trip seems interminable cracks start to appear as boredom sets in.  Molly thinks Mae is silly and tells her so and Mae doesn’t like it and before long the girls are not speaking to each other, turning away and spending their time peering through the window at the wet, smeary countryside.  The whole world looks murky, echoing their feelings.  Will they resolve their spat or is this the end of something special?

This is a story about so much more than a long train journey as it mirrors real-life friendships – the excitement of new shared interests, the pleasure in just being together and doing everyday stuff and the anticipation of adventures to come.  But there are also times when it is boring, when difficulties happen and there is a choice of building bridges and continuing on the main track or branching off onto another one.

This is a true marriage of text and graphics.  Blackwood’s soft palette and somewhat retro feel and clever headings of platform, timetable, journey, signal failure, destination that replicate both the stages of the journey and the development of the friendship express Parker’s concept and text perfectly and the reader is drawn deeper and deeper into the story from the early morning endpaper  through the title page to the explosion of the big city station and as night falls over the city.  Blackwood has explained her thought processes and choices here showing just how much goes into such a project.

If teachers were ever looking for a book to explain metaphor, this is it!

Would not be surprised to see this among the CBCA shortlisted titles in 2017.