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Miss Kraken

Miss Kraken

Miss Kraken

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Miss Kraken

Nicki Greenberg

Allen  $ Unwin, 2019

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

9781760637743

It’s the beginning of the new school year and the children are looking forward to meeting their new teacher.  But this one is very different – she’s strict, she imposes rules and confiscates contraband and is no fun at all.  So when she disappears on an excursion to the aquarium because the students have reverted to their usual abominable behaviour, it seems like a good thing…at first.  But having to be fetched by the principal and her replacement for Miss Kraken who never returns is not necessarily the outcome the children were wanting…

There are those who think that teachers should always be like Miss Kraken – after all, there is no discipline in schools these days and boundaries never hurt the proponents who have all turned out perfectly – and there are those who think that there is room for change, a happy medium between fear and anarchy because rule by fear does not bring about sustained behaviour change but no boundaries breeds confusion and confrontation. So apart from the humour in the story, and the surprising solution that could spark debate, this is a great discussion starter about why society needs rules to guide it and whether these should be imposed or negotiated for greatest success. Classes will see themselves in the story and there could be great debate and greater understanding if a “what if…?” question were posed, as they examine the impact of the class’s behaviour on those working or visiting the aquarium, even the creatures themselves. How does their personal behaviour affect those around them?

The more often you read this story the deeper the questions that can be asked and explored…  

Is It Halloween Yet?

Is It Halloween Yet?

Is It Halloween Yet?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is It Halloween Yet?

Susannah Chambers

Tamsin Ainslie

Allen & Unwin, 2019

24pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

9781760297404

Emily is a big fan of Halloween and begins early to pester her family about the preparations for it.  But they are very busy with their everyday lives and don’t really have time to get involved, so Emily has to do much of the preparation herself, including making the jack-o-lantern from a watermelon because Halloween is not pumpkin season in Australia.  Will she be able to get her family involved eventually?

Told entirely in dialogue with Emily’s speech in red and that of the other family members in black, with touches of humour and a need to read the pictures as much as the words, this is a story for young children who are noticing the preparations happening in stores for this not-so-traditional celebration in Australia but who are fascinated by it, its trappings and the concept of trick-or-treat.  While it is growing in popularity here, there are still many who mutter about it being an American thing but in fact, it is much older than that, dating back to  pagan times and the festival of Samhain which marked the end of the harvest season  then gradually morphing into All Hallows Eve as the night before the Christian festival of All Saints Day as Christianity spread throughout Britain.. Each of the symbols in the story that Emily refers to. and those associated with this time of year has an interesting story behind it and its association with the festival, so this is a chance to help our young readers pose questions about them and then try to discover the answers.  While some schools do not like students delving into the paranormal, nevertheless they do feature heavily in historical periods and religions so information is vital. It is  also a great opportunity to indulge in all the crafts that are associated with this topic as students seek different ways to display their new knowledge, and instructions for folding an origami bat are offered on the last page.

So much more than candy and fancy dress!

Who’s Afraid of the Quite Nice Wolf?

Who's Afraid of the Quite Nice Wolf?

Who’s Afraid of the Quite Nice Wolf?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who’s Afraid of the Quite Nice Wolf?

Kitty Black

Laura Wood

New Frontier, 2019

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

9781925594706

Unlike the not-nice wolf pack he lived with, Wilfred was a quite-nice wolf, who, instead of eating rabbits they captured, he preferred to help them! Rather than being a carnivore, he was a vegetarian much to the disgust of his wolf-pack brothers. So when they propose to raid the local herd of sheep, Wilfred is not only alarmed but feels he must do something…

Given a new meaning to “a wolf in sheep’s clothing”, this is an hilarious romp that will engage young readers from cover to endpaper, as it celebrates the courage of the individual to be true to themselves and who they are rather than give into the pack and peer pressure. How hard was it for Wilfred to “betray” the leader of the pack?  But it could also spark discussions about stereotypes and the perceptions we hold about people and creatures because of our experiences or what we have been told, and perhaps encourage broader investigations. Stories that work well as entertainment, as this does, are fabulous but those that make the mind probe a little deeper, see the world through different eyes and perhaps hear a different tune are even better.  This is one of those.

Dr Seuss’s Horse Museum

Dr Seuss's Horse Museum

Dr Seuss’s Horse Museum

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dr Seuss’s Horse Museum

Dr Seuss

Andrew Joyner

Puffin, 2019

75pp., hbk., RRP $A27.99

9780241425725

Throughout history, the horse has been the subject of paintings, sketches, sculptures  and other interpretations and each artist has viewed the same creature through a different lens.  Some have seen its outline, others its bulk; some have seen its lines, others its strength, and each has conveyed their perception in a different way. According to Ted Geisel (aka Dr Seuss), when an artist sees a horse, it is not viewed from a photographic point of view but what the horse means to them as a person, and that depends on their education, experience and the thousands of other influences that shape anyone’s view of the world, not just its horses. 

Twenty-one years after Geisel’s death, his wife found the manuscript that is the basis of this book illustrated by South Australian Andrew Joyner.  The actual timeline of the manuscript is unclear but it does reflect Geisel’s lifetime interest in art with rough pencil sketches and notes for the entire book, and this has now been interpreted by Joyner using his imagination and the actual art works that Geisel planned. Working through a range of art genres including Surrealism, Expressionism, Cubism and Abstraction, the young reader is not only taken on a journey through the interpretation of the horse but through art itself, offering an introduction to the various movements that have swept the world along making this a book for older readers as much as for younger. Accompanied by notes about the manuscript, Geisel’s own art and the featured works, the story is told in prose (as opposed to the usual rhyme) and speaks directly to the reader so it is entertaining as well as educational. 

It’s a great discussion starter as young artists think about what they see when they see a horse, as well as a springboard for getting out the tools and creating a personal interpretation. Something unique to add to the art curriculum.

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

 

A Curious Menagerie: Of Herds, Flocks, Leaps, Gaggles, Scurries, and More!

A Curious Menagerie

A Curious Menagerie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Curious Menagerie: Of Herds, Flocks, Leaps, Gaggles, Scurries, and More!

Carin Berger

Greenwillow Books, 2019

40pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9780062644572

We’ve all heard of a herd of cows and a flock of sheep, but what is a group of giraffes called?  A murder of crows is a common trivia answer, but what about a mischief of mice?  Exploring collective nouns is always fun and in this book the ringmaster and the monkey investigate 64 of them opening up a menagerie of creatures for little ones to learn and perhaps wonder about and perhaps research their validity.  A parliament of owls?  Really?  That could either be flattering to some parliaments or insulting to some owls!

Berger has used her skills of making cut-paper collages to create fascinating illustrations and tying the collection together with the ringmaster and the monkey makes it a bit more engaging than the usual word book, especially the final pages!  One that will encourage small groups to share and delight in, and perhaps try to make up their own.  Would a group of koalas be called a cuddle?  Or a group of cockatoos a squawk?

 

Story Time Stars: Favourite Characters from Australian Picture Books

Story Time Stars

Story Time Stars

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Story Time Stars: Favourite Characters from Australian Picture Books

Stephanie Owen Reeder

National Library of Australia, 2019

148pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9780642279408

Years ago, when Jackie French was asked by one of my students about how she created her characters, she told the class that the most important thing was to create someone that the reader cared enough about to want to know what happens to them. For without that emotional investment in the character, they won’t bother turning the pages till the end of the story.

So what is it that makes a character in a story so memorable that often as adults, we remember our childhood favourites, even to the point that we pass on those stories to our own children? Why they resonate with us is as individual as the characters themselves, but in this fabulous book, Dr Reeder has collected together some of the most well-known characters from Australian children’s literature, characters that have resonated with so many that we instantly know who they are and are transported back to those childhood memories with love and affection and a warm feeling of well-being. 

Whether it’s Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, Mulga Bill, Grug, Koala Lou, Leonie, the Paw, or even the more recent Mr Huff, each is gathered here in chronological order to tell their stories, share their debuts, successes and encores so that we can not only get to know our favourites a little better, but also discover new ones waiting to be friends too. And perhaps consider who we might add to the collection.

Coinciding with the launch of the new NLA exhibition, Story Time: Australian Children’s Literature  presented in conjunction with  the National Centre for Australian Children’s Literature, this is another addition to the preservation of the creation and history of children’s literature in Australia and complements the  books, manuscripts, illustrations and ephemera from the NLA’s extensive collections alongside significant loans of the exhibition, which is free and open until February 9, 2020. A must-see and a must-buy for anyone with a love of Australia’s favourite storytime characters.  Most definitely Australia: Story Country.

 

Ravi’s Roar

Ravi's Roar

Ravi’s Roar

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ravi’s Roar

Tom Percival

Bloomsbury, 2019

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

9781408892183

Ravi is the smallest one in his family – smaller and younger than Kiran, Jaya and Anil – and most of the time, he is OK with that.  But sometimes it wasn’t the best thing – being last to get a seat on the train, too small to find the others during hide-and-seek; too little for the giant slide… After a most frustrating day at the park, Ravi’s frustration gets the better of him and he lets out the loudest roar.  A roar so loud that he turns into a tiger!!!

At first, Ravi likes his tiger-power and makes the most of it but soon, the novelty wears off as he discovers its consequences…

A companion to Perfectly Norman and Ruby’s Worry , Percival has once again hit the nail on the head by focusing on real issues that are common to his readers and turning them into a story which helps them to deal with the emotions and understand and manage their feelings. It’s a great discussion starter for letting little ones talk about what makes them really angry and, while learning that anger and frustration are normal human emotions, how they can express their feelings without giving into full-blown temper tantrums that only upset them and everyone else, and don’t get them what they want. They can learn that anger is usually born from frustration and that perhaps rather than roaring like a tiger, they might be able to find a way through the frustration. One for the mindfulness collection.

Searching for Cicadas

Searching for Cicadas

Searching for Cicadas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Searching for Cicadas

Lesley Gibbes

Judy Watson

Walker Books, 2019

32pp., hbk., RRP $A26.99

9781922244420

It is one of the distinctive sounds of summer in Australia and Grandpa and Child are going in search of its creator – the cicada.  Packing up their tent and other supplies in the little wagon, they head off to Apex Reserve to wait and watch with the other families. At sunset the noise starts  – the male calling for a mate – and the hunt begins.  Last year they saw Green Grocers, Yellow Monday sand a Floury Baker.  Will they be lucky this year and find the elusive Black Prince?

Packed with facts both in the story and in the accompanying  information paragraphs, this is another in the stunning Nature Storybooks collection that teaches our young readers about our unique fauna within the context of a picture book story.  In this case it highlights one of those special relationships children have with adults, that when they themselves are an adult, they will look back on with fond memories and perhaps try to replicate them with their own offspring.  I know my memories of time spent with my grandfather have shaped my relationships with my granddaughters. 

As well as the information within the story, there is also a summary about the cicada and an index to take the reader back to the relevant pages so that even from a very young age, little ones can begin to understand the structure of non fiction and how to use it to learn more.

Fact or fiction? This is a line-crosser that is quite simply, brilliant.  Loved it (even though I’m not a fan of anything with more than four legs.)

Argh! There’s a Skeleton Inside You!

Argh! There's a Skeleton Inside You!

Argh! There’s a Skeleton Inside You!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Argh! There’s a Skeleton Inside You!

Idan Ben-Barak

Julian Frost

A & U Children’s, 2019

32pp., hbk.,  RRP $A19.99

9781760631635

Quog the armless blob and Oort the gas cloud are on their way to Kevin’s party in their spaceship but they have run into some strife which they are having trouble fixing.  Being amorphous, neither of them have the means to open the spaceship door and so the reader is invited to help them.  Quog is fascinated by the reader’s hands which are first used to open the spaceship door, and then examines them more closely as other tasks are complete, discovering bones, muscles and nerves. As she investigates the purpose of each through the simple explanations offered, she grows her own so that she and Oort can get on their way to the party, once again.

This is another ingenious story from the creators of Do not lick this book to help our youngest readers understand how their body works.  Rather than examining the whole skeleton, just focusing on the hand, the body part that is helping repair the spaceship, the reader can interact with the text very easily without being overwhelmed.  By placing their hand on the picture and allowing Oort to look at it through x-ray type eyes, the bones, muscles and nerves are revealed and their function explained making it very interactive and engaging.  There is a more in-depth explanation about how to grow hands at the end of the book, but it’s what Quog does with her new hands that is the most appealing.

The original concept,  bright illustrations,  and cartoon-like format make this a book that will draw young readers back to it again and again as they learn more and want to know even more than that, perhaps taking them to other body books about their body parts and how they work. Non fiction for littlies at its best. (And just for fun, check out the origins of Oort‘s name! What about Quog?)

Frost, the illustrator, says  he uses his hands to “draw and write and make silly sculptures” while Ben-Barak uses his “to write, hug, scratch itchy bits and poke things to see what happens.”  What do you do with yours?

 

My Dad is a Dragon

My Dad is a Dragon

My Dad is a Dragon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Dad is a Dragon

Damon Young

Peter Carnavas

UQP, 2019

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

Some dads pull billycarts

painted blue and black.

But my dad is a dragon…

I sit upon his scaly back!

Dads do some amazing things in their lives and this is a celebration of their diversity whether they have “pointy pencils for designing bridges” or “tough trolleys for hauling heavy fridges” but what if your dad was really different? What if he were a dragon?

Often the acknowledgement of Father’s Day in schools is overshadowed by the celebrations of Book Week or it is kept low-key because so many children do not have live-at-home fathers, but nevertheless the role of a dad in a child’s life is critical and so this is the perfect book to add to your collection about families and diversity.  Superbly illustrated by Peter Carnavas, who himself might be considered a dad who is different because his daily life is not that of many fathers, this opens up the scope for a discussion on how dads are different and how they show us they love us.  Because even if the dad is not on the scene full-time for whatever reason, it is a rare dad who does not love his kids. Maybe it is that very absence that is the demonstration – protecting his children from a life of arguments and hostility after a relationship breaks down.  It’s also a great opportunity to reflect on how our dads influence our lives and the choices we make.  How many sporting heroes have followed their father’s footsteps?  How many budding architects or musicians or whatevers have fathers who have led the way?

One of a series of stories that takes a light-hearted look at family relationships, nevertheless, there is more to this than meets the eye.