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Scarface Claw, Hold Tight

Scarface Claw, Hold Tight

Scarface Claw, Hold Tight

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scarface Claw, Hold Tight

Lynley Dodd

Puffin, 2017

32pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

9780143770985

It is a calm, peaceful sunny morning where everything is as and where it should be, including Scarface Claw snoozing in the sun on top of the roof of the car.  But all that changes when Tom starts the car and drives off without realising Scarface is still on top!!!

Is there any more famous cat with young children than Scarface Claw? He’s the toughest tomcat in town, the roughest and toughest, the boldest, the bravest, the fiercest, mighty and magnificent – so much so that he sent Schnitzel von Krumm with a very low tum, Bitzer Maloney all skinny and bony, Muffin McLay like a bundle of hay, Bottomley Potts covered in spots, Hercules Morse as big as a horse and Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy scampering home with just one EEEEEOWWWFFTZ way back in 1983!

And now it is Scarface Claw’s turn to be terrified as he clings on for dear life to the roof of Tom’s speeding car.

This new adventure from Dame Lynley Dodd told in rhyme with all the action and wonderful illustrations of the others in this fabulous series for young children is set to introduce a new generation to a host of characters that have brought so much joy that they have their own sculpture in Tauranga in New Zealand.  (In fact, Hairy Maclary is such a part of my reading story that, despite the pouring rain, I chose to find this sculpture instead of accompanying the family to Hobbiton.)

 

Every child needs to know Scarface Claw, Hairy Maclary and the rest of the gang – this new tale will be a great introduction and is icing on the cake of a brilliant series for existing fans. 

Once Upon a Small Rhinoceros

Once Upon a Small Rhinoceros

Once Upon a Small Rhinoceros

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once Upon a Small Rhinoceros

Meg McKinlay

Leila Rudge

Walker Books, Australia, 2017

3299., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781925126709

 

While her family and friends wallowed in the mud and bathed in the sun and did all the other things that rhinoceroses do, the little rhinoceros gazed at the boats sailing past on the nearby river and dreamed…

“Don’t you wish that you could see the world?” she asked the others.

But they were not dreamers  or adventurers – they had everything that a rhinoceros needs right there and told the little rhinoceros so.  “You belong here”, they told her. 

However that didn’t stop the little rhinoceros dreaming and one day she began to put her plans in action.  First, she gathered the things she needed to make a boat blocking out the negative comments of the older rhinoceroses, and one day all the mud-wallowing, grass-grazing, tree-scratching, sun-bathing rhinoceroses gathered in alarm as they watched her sail out of sight…

As soon as I picked up this story it resonated with me.  It could have been the story of my mum who watched the ships leave Bluff, her home town at the very south of the South Island of New Zealand, headed not just for the vast oceans of the world but also the Antarctic.  And her heart was captured, her hope stirred and her determination to follow in their wake cemented.  Despite all the comments about where she belonged, what she as a child of the 1940s should be doing, the belief that Antarctica was a men-only domain, she “built her own boat” and in 1968 she sailed south too – the first female journalist to do so, a trailblazer for women in both Antarctic exploration and journalism.  Its publication on the 3rd  anniversary of her death is particularly poignant.

Cape Hallett Station, Antarctica, February 1968. The first woman to set foot there.

Cape Hallett Station, Antarctica, February 1968. The first woman to set foot there.

Others will write about the literary and artistic merits of this book – I just adore it because of its power to show that stick-in-the-muds can stay stuck; nay-sayers can be ignored and that dreams can come true.  This is one I will be sharing over and over with my grandchildren who were privileged to know their great-gran and to be inspired by her.

 

Garcia & Colette Go Exploring

Garcia & Colette Go Exploring

Garcia & Colette Go Exploring

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Garcia & Colette Go Exploring

Hannah Barnaby

Andrew Joyner

HarperCollins Children’s, 2017

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

9781460754306

Garcia the Rabbit and Colette the Fox cannot agree on where they want to go exploring – Garcia is fixated on space while Colette wants to see the sea.  With no agreement in sight they agree to go their separate ways.  Garcia builds a snazzy, silver rocket while Colette makes a gold and glorious submarine.  Packing peanut butter sandwiches, a notebook, a pen and their lucky charms, each heads off on their own adventure. 

But is exploring new and exciting places all that much fun when you don’t have your best friend by your side?

Cleverly written and illustrated so that each character remains connected despite their physical separation, this is a charming story of friendship and compromise that will appeal to a broad range – those who love the sea and those who love space.  Is there a middle ground and how can it be reached? A great way to introduce the art of negotiation and seeking win-win solutions while younger children can have fun contributing to murals of what each friend saw on their travels.    

Glitch

Glitch

Glitch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Glitch

Michelle Worthington

Andrew Plant

Ford Street, 2017

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

9781925272710

Glitch, a trembly, twittery,twitchy kind of bug built amazing creations from the things that he found on the rubbish dump where he lived.  It really was a case of one man’s trash being another’s treasure.  His best friend June was a much calmer bug as well as being the best billycart driver ever.  Glitch spent his time rummaging through the mountains of mouldy mess deposited daily by the dump trucks trying to build June the best billycart ever.  But even though he managed to do that, they had never won a race.  Somehow, despite June’s brilliant driving, Glitch’s issues as the co-driver denied them victory.

So this time, June decides that Glitch will be the driver – a thought that terrifies him and has him seeking all sorts of excuses why not.

Full of alliteration that give it pace and rhythm this is a story that will delight young readers and culminates in something they will resonate with – having to put their brave on and do something that scares them. Great for getting the children to think about what they are afraid of and considering taking the first step to vanquish it.  Andrew Plant, illustrator of the magnificent Spark   and the brilliant The Poppy has really let his imagination go wild and got down and dirty amongst the rubbish heaps to bring the story to life and show how the most mundane things can be repurposed.  With makerspaces the current big thing in school libraries, this is the perfect book to challenge students to make a billycart for a bug using recycled and repurposed materials.

Miss 6, whose first task at Joeys was to help build a raft from drink bottles, is right into recycling so she is going to love this.  Such a strong message told in such an entertaining way.

 

Somewhere Else

Somewhere Else

Somewhere Else

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Somewhere Else

Gus Gordon

Viking, 2016

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

9780670078851

Some birds fly north; some birds fly south; some birds take the bus… but George Laurent doesn’t go anywhere.  It seems he is too busy baking his scrumptious pastries to be able to explore the world.  Even when his world-travelling customers try to tempt him with descriptions of a sunrise over the Andes, or Paris by night, even the Alaskan tundra in autumn, George always has an excuse – even the ironing is more important!!

But come the bleak, cold days when all his feathered friends have disappeared to warmer parts and George is left alone, his only remaining friend Pascal Lombard drops in looking for somewhere warm for winter.  He is puzzled that George has not gone with the others, and slowly he manages to eke out the truth – George Laurent, baker extraordinaire, does not know how to fly.  When it was flying lesson day all those years ago he had been doing something else and since then he had just made excuses not to – even though he really would have liked to have been able to go somewhere else.

Pascal, who believes he has a knack for solving tricky problems, is determined to teach George how to fly but it is not until they see a picture in a newspaper…

This is an engaging tale which will resonate with many children – having a zillion reasons for not doing something you can’t but are expected to be able to do.  As a teacher I was a master at detecting avoidance behaviour because I lived it at home with my son, so as soon as I started reading I knew there was an underlying issue.  But astute readers may well pick it up in the clues in the amazing illustrations which use a variety of media, particularly collage.  From the carefully selected advertisements of old styles of luggage on the endpapers, Gus Gordon has skilfully used pieces of print from all sorts of sources to add depth, mystery and humour to the exquisite illustrations. Every time you read it there is more to peruse and ponder.

Time to get out the atlas and discover the places that George’s friends went and maybe even investigate the concept of animal (and human) migration.  Why are they always on the move? We can tell the seasons where I live by the variety of birdlife that is present so perhaps it’s time to do an inventory of the local birdlife over time – perfect real-life context for data collection and interpretation. Or perhaps a physiological investigation into how most birds fly but some can’t and how this has been translated into human flight. Then there is the philosophical question about “no place like home” as George and Pascal discover something familiar is missing from their travels. Some children might even learn from George and seek help to find pathways around their own difficulties.

I love picture books that seem to be written for one age group but with some consideration can transcend all ages, offering the prefect reason to return to them again and again apart from just being an absorbing story.  A CBCA Notable for 2017, I was surprised this did not make the shortlist.

 

Amazing Australians in their Flying Machines

Amazing Australians in their Flying Machines

Amazing Australians in their Flying Machines

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amazing Australians in their Flying Machines

Prue & Kerry Mason

Tom Jellett

Walker Books, 2017

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

9781922244635

Those of us of a certain vintage will remember a film from a few decades ago called Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines  (or if not the film, at least the earworm of its title tune).  The subtitle was How I Flew from London to Paris in 25 hours 11 minutes and the film focused on a fictional 1910 competition, when Lord Rawnsley, an English press magnate, offered £10,000 (about $A2 000 000 today) to the winner of the Daily Post air race from London to Paris, to prove that Britain was “number one in the air”.  Set less than a decade after the Wright brothers made that famous first flight at Kittyhawk in 1903 it offered a look at those early days of aviation and the costs and risks involved for those who live in an era when air travel is taken for granted.

But while the focus of flight was centred overseas, Australia was producing its own heroes who were also thinking about how humans could fly – people like Dr William Bland whose drawings of an Atomic Ship were displayed in the Crystal Palace in London in 1854 and Lawrence Hargrave who experimented with box kites to investigate the concept of wings in 1894 and whose work led to that iconic flight of Orville and Wilbur.

When we think of Australian aviation heroes we tend to think of Charles Kingsford Smith, Bert Hinkler and perhaps Nancy Bird Walton but in this book  the experiments and exploits of a number of other great aviators are brought to life adding to our incredible story of innovation and invention.  Written by authors who bought their own vintage aeroplane in 2000 and wanted to know its history, it brings to life the lives of those pioneers through imagined diary entries,  easily written facts and numerous archival photos and illustrations in a way that makes them accessible to young readers with a thirst to know more.  Fascinating reads within themselves, each story makes the reader want to investigate further – why were the long-distance, record-breaking flights so important to Australia?  Why were women not allowed to fly until 1927 and who broke the barriers?  Who is Deborah Wardley and why do girls owe so much to her? There are so many more heroes than the ten covered in this collection – offering students the opportunity to add another chapter to the timeline, or to investigate flight itself, including how the technical difficulties were understood and overcome without the aid of computers.

The best non fiction doesn’t tell us all the answers – it poses questions that make us want to investigate further.  Amazing Australians in their Flying Machines certainly does that. Could well be among those nominated for the CBCA awards next year.

 

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.