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Santa’s Christmas Journey

Santa's Christmas Journey

Santa’s Christmas Journey

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Santa’s Christmas Journey

Fiona Watt

Simona SanFilippo

Usborne, 2016

10pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9781474906401

Once a year Santa makes an important trip that starts off at the North Pole, goes high over a busy city and above snowy mountains to land safely on the rooftops of your house.  He squeezes down the chimney and then heads out over the rooftops to continue on his way.

And it is nearly time for him to make that journey!

This is a charming novelty book that preschoolers will love because it comes with a wind-up sleigh that follows the tracks inset into the thick board pages and which move from left to right so reinforcing the direction of print. . And as they watch it go on its journey there are things for them to seek in the colourful detailed pictures which add to the interactivity and fun.  Not suitable for those under 3 because of the small parts, nevertheless this  would make a perfect Santa Sack filler that will engross the little one and help them understand the fun and joy of books and reading. Older siblings could even trace Santa’s journey to their house and map it or use the Santa Tracker from Google or NORAD!

The Night Santa Got Lost: How NORAD Saved Christmas

christmas_countdown_2016

 

 

 

 

The Night Santa Got Lost: How NORAD Saved Christmas

The Night Santa Got Lost: How NORAD Saved Christmas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Night Santa Got Lost: How NORAD Saved Christmas

Michael Keane

Michael Garland

Regency Kids, 2015

40pp., hbk.

9781621573982

 

On a day long ago began NORAD’s tradition-

Tracking Santa’s red sleigh on his once-a-year mission.

Using radar and satellites – fighter jets too!

Reporting on Santa, wherever he flew.

But one Christmas Eve a blizzard rolls in and so Santa leaves the North Pole early much to the dismay of NORAD who weren’t prepared for the unscheduled start.  And as the green blip disappears off the radar screen and there is no sign of Santa or his reindeer, panic ensues.  A  four star general and the Commander-in-Chief order the fighter jets into the air and every last piece of technology the US Air Force has is set to searching for Santa.

Eventually he is found buried deep in a snow drift but now it is too late to get all the presents to the children in the traditional way of reindeer and sleigh, so once again the bigwigs put their heads together and come up with a most audacious plan that involves NATO and other US allies, battleships, cruisers, submarines, helicopters, C-17s, trucks and tanks and every other sort of transport available to the military. And for those places where “The children love Santa, but the leaders say no”, there are Special Ops, Navy SEALS and tough Army Rangers.

Will their mission succeed?  Will they get to all the children of the world in time?

Dedicated to the children whose parents “allow us to live in a world where we have the freedom to believe in Santa Claus” this is a very different story for Christmas, one that acknowledges those who serve by showing them in a less-that-traditional setting.  NORAD (North American Aerospace Defence Command) is a joint United States and Canadian military organisation and for over 60 years it has tracked Santa’s flight each December 24. Children can watch where he is by going to the website   or downloading an app so they know when they have to get into bed after their tour of the local Christmas lights as more than 1500 people trace his every movement through 47 radar installations in Northern Canada and Alaska, alerting them to when Santa actually leaves the North Pole, and satellites at about 22,000 miles above the Earth with infrared sensors, which see the heat coming off of Rudolph’s nose. In addition, there  high-speed digital SantaCams set up around the world to catch a glimpse of him passing by the different cities.

Written in the vein of  The Night Before Christmas this is one that even older children will enjoy.  While predominantly American  and with several pages of explanations at the end, nevertheless it will resonate particularly with children whose family members are in the services.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

Meet…The Flying Doctors

Meet...The Flying Doctors

Meet…The Flying Doctors

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meet…The Flying Doctors

George Ivanoff

Ben Wood

Random House, Australia, 2016

32pp., hbk.,  RRP$A24.99

9780143780687

In 1911 John Flynn went to work on a mission more than 500 kilometres from Adelaide, the beginning of a journey for which thousands of people have been grateful for over the decades since then.  In what is still a remote area, Flynn was greatly disturbed by the lack of medical facilities beyond the metropolitan areas . Not satisfied with patients being treated by those with a rudimentary knowledge of first aid with support being sent in Morse code over the telegraph system, while doctors could take weeks to reach them using whatever transport was available.  Flynn knew there had to be a better way and so began his quest to find a solution.

Flight seemed the obvious answer but in those days both planes and pilots were hard to come by and it took 10 years of campaigning before his first plane was ready for service.  In 1928, his dream came true – he formed the Australian Inland Mission Aerial Medical Service using  a single-engine plane on loan from QANTAS< aptly named Victory.  Immediately there was a difference – 50 missions and 255 patients treated in a year.  

But they were not out of the woods yet – in fact they were a bit lost over desert landscapes navigating by landmarks because there were no radios in the planes. Even though it meant that they could only fly at night in extreme emergencies,  nevertheless the pilots put their craft down in the most amazing places and with Alf Traegar’s invention of the pedal radio in 1929 at last the people of the outback started to get the services they needed.

In 1955 the name was changed to the Royal Flying Doctor Service, and one of Australia’s most iconic institutions  has gone from strength to strength now servicing rural and remote areas from 23 bases scattered around the country. 

The story of the RFDS is one that every child should know – from those in the cities where medical services on tap can be taken for granted to those in the Outback where lives depend on it daily.  It is a rich and rewarding story of success and Ivanoff has managed to cram so much information into just 32 pages while still keeping it personal and connected to its child audience.  Wood’s illustrations emphasise the isolation and enormity of the landscape adding weight to the extent of the issue and the importance of its solution.

As always with this series, there is a timeline at the back that encapsulates the milestones.

Meet… is one of the most significant series of biographies written for young Australian readers as they are introduced to the diverse and critical contributions that have been made by individuals to the development of this nation. including Ned Kelly, Captain CookMary McKillop, Douglas Mawson , The ANZACs , Nancy Bird Walton, Banjo Paterson, Weary Dunlop, Sidney Nolan , Don Bradman and Nellie Melba. In my opinion, John Flynn’s story is one of the most important.

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.

LEGO: Build Your Own Adventure

LEGO: Build Your Own Adventure

LEGO: Build Your Own Adventure

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LEGO: Build Your Own Adventure – City

9780241237052

LEGO: Build Your Own Adventure – Star Wars

9780241232578

Dorling Kindersley, 2016

Kit including hbk book and LEGO pieces, RRP $A39.99

An unusual review today but one deliberately chosen to alert you to a new series of books published by Dorling Kindersley and released here through Penguin.  Given the buzzword of the moment in school libraries is ‘makerspaces’ and there are constant requests to the forums I belong to for ideas about activities that can be offered, especially those which enhance the library experience as well as the design, make, appraise process, this series offers a wide-ranging solution.

While we are all familiar with the regular box of Lego bricks and paper instructions for making what’s inside (instructions which always get damaged or lost), the instructions for these creations come in a hardcover book with the LEGO pieces in a separate container which can be opened out to form the foundation of the adventures. They are enclosed in a sturdy slipcase which makes for easy storage. The box also has a pictorial list of its contents so putting them back should be easy. 

Each comes with a mini-figure and a vehicle related to the theme – City has a fireman and a firetruck while Star Wars has a rebel pilot and Y-Wing Starfighter – and the makers are encouraged to build them from the supplied bricks following the very clear, full-colour numbered instructions.  Then, within the book there are suggestions for building further adventures using their own bricks to create their own story.  Each is divided into chapters with clear pictures of the models that could be built to enhance the telling although instructions are not given because builders might not have the precise bricks used.  For example, in City which features Ed the firefighter there are clear pictures to build the fire station environment as well as suggestions for uniform lockers, a town map and a tool bench.  Each chapter then features a cityscape with a range of related suggestions for getting the imagination and creativity into top gear.

For those new to LEGO there is a pictorial ‘glossary’ identifying terminology with examples so budding builders can hunt through their existing LEGO collection to find the sorts of pieces they will need, as well as five pre-build checks which would make a handy poster to display in the makerspace.

  1. Organise your bricks into colours and types
  2. Be creative and substitute other bricks if you don’t have the exact one in the plan
  3. Research what you want to build by finding pictures on it in books or online
  4. Have fun and if something isn’t what you thought it would be, change it to something else
  5. Make a model stable to house the creations

While each of the books in the series would be perfect for an individual LEGO fan, their appeal for the library collection is that there are plenty of ideas and opportunities for groups of builders to collaborate and negotiate to build an entire scene that could then be photographed and used as an individual story stimulus, allowing each to create and achieve at their own level.

Whether your library or school has an existing LEGO collection or is just starting to acquire one, this series is an excellent starting point to giving its place in the makerspace and the curriculum focus and purpose, not just for the thinking and building processes involved but also those essential people skills of collaborating, negotiating, making suggestions tactfully, offering feedback and being a team member.   

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

How to build a motorcycle: A racing adventure of mechanics, teamwork, and friendship

How to build a motorcycle: A racing adventure of mechanics, teamwork, and friendship

How to build a motorcycle: A racing adventure of mechanics, teamwork, and friendship

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to build a motorcycle: A racing adventure of mechanics, teamwork, and friendship

Saskia Lacey

Martin Sodomka

Quarto, 2016

64pp., hbk., $A19.95

9781633220577

Known as ‘The Marvelous Mouse Mechanic’ following his construction of and adventures in both a miniature plane and a miniature car, Eli is somewhat full of himself and much to the dismay of his best friends Hank Frog and Phoebe Sparrow, he is now determined to build a miniature motorbike. However, along with the talented pit crew they band together and set to work.  As they start working, they encounter many unexpected obstacles, teaching them (and the reader) about the different parts that make a motorcycle work. Through hard work and perseverance, the three friends learn about mechanics and teamwork as they work together to build a miniature motorcycle, ready for the big race.

But an accident during trials puts lives, friendships and the race on the line. Is winning everything?

This is the third in this series that weaves the building of everyday objects into a story of friendship.  Detailed illustrations explain the overall functions of the engine, clutch, brakes, distributors, as well as many other parts of the motorcycle and how they all go together to make it work demonstrating the principles of movement and motion and physics in a practical way that helps younger readers to understand them more clearly.  More for the independent, mechanically-minded reader, this series certainly has a place on the shelves of those with makerspaces or trying to encourage a greater interest in STEM.  It fits E for Engineering very well!

Old MacDonald’s Things That Go

Old MacDonald's Things That Go

Old MacDonald’s Things That Go

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Old MacDonald’s Things That Go

Jane Clarke

Miggy Blanco

Nosy Crow, 2016

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

9780857634061

 

This is a lively, quirky version of the traditional rhyme Old MacDonald had a Farm, except this time instead of exploring farm animals and the noises they make, it focuses on vehicles.  Cars, tractors, combine harvesters … all feature in this hilarious romp which have the farm animals helping out and having the most extraordinary fun. 

As with the original, it’s the rhyme, rhythm and repetition and the opportunity to join in with the noises that will make this a favourite while the big, bright, bold, hilarious illustrations add to the fun.  They are full of vignettes and detail that there are new things to discover and discuss with each reading.  Everything about this book invites the reader to join in and have fun too, from the first page where he’s armed with his banjo and all the creatures are joining in through to the delightful end!

Perfect for pre-schoolers as well as children who are learning English as their second language.

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

Poles Apart

Poles Apart

Poles Apart

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Poles Apart

Jeanne Willis

Peter Jarvis

Nosy Crow, 2014

32pp/. hbk., RRP $A22.99

9780857634924

 

Everyone knows that penguins are found at the South Pole not the North Pole.  But when the Pilchard-Browns get lost on the way to their picnic things change.  Mr and Mrs and Peeky, Poots and Pog find themselves floating on an iceberg that drifts through days and nights until they discover a strange something on another iceberg.  It turns out to be Mr White the polar bear who tells them that the South Pole is 12 430 miles in the opposite direction!

But Mr White has always wanted to go to the South Pole and so the Pilchard-Browns follow Mr White – always on the lookout for a picnic place.  The ice floe they are on isn’t safe with killer whales floating around, and America was too  busy – and it wasn’t home.  Even though England was charming it still wasn’t home.  And so the journey continues, through countries large and small as they make their way south.  But no place is home, not even for Mr White.

This is a quirky story, aptly named for the theme that runs through it that even we can follow our dreams there is a place for each of us that is home.  But as we journey through life we can meet many different types who can still be friends even though everything about us is poles apart. Written mostly in dialogue, it could be a good read-aloud for new students starting school for the first time to show that friends can come from many different places, as well as reaching out to those new to this country so they can see themselves in a story.  It might even serve as a vehicle for a class version – if Mr White and the Pilchard-Browns visited all the countries represented in our class, where would they go?  It could be an engaging introduction to getting to know each other, as well as mapping.

More to this than meets the eye.

 

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

Horace the Baker’s Horse

Horace the Baker's Horse

Horace the Baker’s Horse

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Horace the Baker’s Horse

Jackie French

Peter Bray

National Museum of Australia, 2015

32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.95

9781921953255 

As “mornings come with ash grey light, daytime nibbling away the night” Old William, the town baker, slides crusty loaves and fancy buns out of his ovens, steaming and fresh with an aroma that can never be forgotten.  Alongside Old William is his grandson Young Billy, helping out before school and learning his family’s trade in the traditional way, while, outside, Horace the baker’s horse waits patiently as Big Bill loads them into the baker’s cart to be delivered to the townsfolk. Life in this town, like many others around Australia of the time, is lived in a different way and to the beat of a different drum – the sound of horses’ hooves as they plodded around the town pulling distinctive carts and making their daily deliveries of bread and milk and ice and vegetables and meat, even rabbits!  Their route was as familiar and predictable as the routine of those who prepared the goods they delivered. The merchants knew their customers and their regular orders, and their horses were as much a part of the community as the children who loved them.  (Many spring roses owed their magnificence to the gifts left by the horses.)

But it is 1919 and the scourge of Spanish flu is sweeping the nation.  Even Old William is not immune and to Horace’s dismay he slumps to the ground unable to carry on.  Horace’s whinnies wake Big Bill and Young Billy and they find themselves doing the jobs that three used to do, and then Young Billy finds himself having to do it all.  At night he carries wood for the fire for the ovens, makes and mixes the dough, kneads and shapes it, cooks the loaves and buns and then piles them into the cart to deliver them.  Clearly too much for one little lad but he knows that if his family and friends are to recover they need the bread so they can have something to eat to regain their strength.

But what happens when Young Billy just cannot make bread all night and then deliver it all day?

This is a story dear to author Jackie French’s heart because it is one from her own family.  When the Spanish flu decimated populations (killing more people than World War 1) many of the deaths were because people just had no one to care for them.  Jackie’s great-grandmother made vats and vats of stew but while the protein and vitamins were essential, it was the carbohydrates in the bread that gave the energy to push on.  So, inspired by the stories that her grandmother told her and Bakery Cart No. 168, an exhibit at the National Museum of Australia, Jackie has crafted this wonderful story that is not only a story in and of itself but is also an integral part of the story of our country, of life in another time, of people whom we will never know again. Through Young Billy and Horace, neither of whom were unique, another thread has been woven into the fabric that is Australia.   

Combined with the exquisite illustrations of Peter Bray who has created a visual mural of life in post-war Australia and captured the essence of the people who lived it, this is the perfect example of how we can engage even the very youngest student in times that have gone before.  Even though their grandparents’ memories might not stretch so far back (unlike Jackie and me), nevertheless Grandma and Grandad may well remember stories told to them by their grandparents that can be shared again and the thread continued. Just as my child was amazed that my New Zealand childhood did not include television, so his children are amazed that his did not have the internet, and while it was confronting when they first asked me, “What was life like in the olden days, Grandma?” nevertheless it was an opportunity to tell them of a life spent roaming the shoreline as free as the seagulls above me – a life that came to life for them when I took them “home” a few weeks ago.

The inquiry questions for Foundation of the HASS strand of the Australian Curriculum are

What is my history and how do I know?

What stories do other people tell about the past?

How can stories of the past be told and shared?

Horace the Baker’s Horse is the perfect way to show how our history is told through story and to encourage our students to discover theirs, share and compare. Even at the launch in Canberra yesterday, audience members were sharing stories about the anticipation that the smell of a hot loaf of bread evoked and the scoldings endured because the centre had been eaten out before the loaf reached home!  If Jackie had been able to eavesdrop, she might have gleaned the material for another book!

A must-have.

 

The launch of Horace The Baker's Horse at the NMA in Canberra

The launch of Horace The Baker’s Horse at the NMA in Canberra (Click the picture for the Canberra Times article)