It’s a Story, Rory!

It's a Story, Rory!

It’s a Story, Rory!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s a Story, Rory!

Frances Watts

David Legge

HarperCollins, 2018 

40pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9780733335938

 

Hey, Milly, why are we on this blank page?’

‘It won’t be blank for long. We’re going to be in a STORY, Rory!’

Rory the fox is puzzled because he has never been in a story before and he’s not even sure how one works. Luckily his friend Milly the chook knows a  little bit more and with the  helpful voice of the narrator explaining how stories work, they have an adventure that will  entertain as much as it educates.

This is a brilliant companion to the fabulous Parsley Rabbit’s Book About Books, the CBCA Eve Pownall Book of the Year in 2008. In that, Parsley Rabbit explained all the parts of a book to young readers, and in this new one, Watts and Legge have teamed up again to talk young readers through the structure of a story.  Explaining the role and purpose of the narrator, the characters, the plot, and the setting; discussing the need for description (which can be achieved with words or pictures or both combined); creating an event which engages the reader and to which the characters should react; building anticipation; introducing the concept of genre to determine how the story will proceed; and drawing the story to a conclusion which satisfies both the characters and the reader are all done as Rory’s and Millie’s adventure unfolds on the pages. 

Illustrator Legge has said, “The line between writer and illustrator was well and truly blurred to the point where I’m not sure where some of the ideas for both words and pictures came from,” and this is very evident as the link between the text and pictures and the narrator’s explanation and the characters’ adventure is seamless. Whereas Parsley Rabbit focused on the child as a consumer of stories making it easier for them to navigate their way around a physical book, this one concentrates on the child as the creator of stories, helping them move from the blank page to something that has all the essential elements that engage a reader. For those who want to read the story behind this story, Frances and David discuss it here

As both a teacher and a teacher librarian, I can envisage having this book as the basis for my entire writing program for a class for a year, satisfying nearly every outcome of the English strand of the Australian Curriculum.  Imagine giving every child a blank page and inviting them to either draw an original character or describe one (depending on their preference for words or pictures) and then passing that page on to either have words or a picture added.  That’s the start of a collaboration that could go on and on as the characters become real as the other elements are explored. Further teaching notes are available

If there is one book that you are going to add to your teaching toolbox this year, this should be it.  Ask for it in your Christmas stocking!

 

 

 

 

Elbow Grease

Elbow Grease

Elbow Grease

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Elbow Grease

John Cena

Howard McWilliam

Puffin Books, 2018

40pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

9780143794400

Elbow Grease is the smallest monster truck in the Demolition Derby. Even though his brothers Tank, Flash, Pinball and Crash were tougher, faster, smarter and braver, they didn’t intimidate him nor deter him from racing.  Even the fact that he was different because he ran on an lithium-ion battery and needed to be recharged every night did not stop him believing in himself and his ability to keep up with his brothers.  Because Elbow Grease had gumption, that mixture of strong will and determination to keep on going even when it seemed all was lost.

When Mel the mechanic puts a large poster of a monster truck Grand Prix on the wall, Elbow Grease is determined to compete, regardless of the derision of his brothers.  He drove to the Grand Prix by himself, snuck in behind all the others at the starting line and off he went.  It soon became obvious that the other trucks had more experience and better technique but Elbow Grease refused to give up. On an on he went until it started to pour and his battery went completely flat…

Inspired by growing up with four older brothers, John Cena has captured the spirit of determination that younger siblings so often have as they strive to keep up, and has created a powerful story about trying new things, resilience, facing fears and obstacles, and doing everything you can to keep going.  It’s a lesson in “Of at first you don’t succeed….” 

Told with a bare narrative with all the speech in speech bubbles, sometimes the message is less than subtle, but young readers will delight in the bright, bold illustrations that carry the expression and the humour.  Some who are familiar with WWE competitors might even recognise Cena from that field and be inspired because of that.  In an interview, Cena said, “With ‘Elbow Grease’ and the books to follow, I want to offer kids a fun and engaging way to learn about the power of ambition, dedication, and heart. These concepts have been transformative in my life, from my childhood up to now, and it’s so important to me to pass the positivity on and help our youngest generation see that right mindset is key to achievement,”

Monster trucks appeal to so many little boys that even if they don’t absorb Cena’s message at first, at least they will continue to discover the joy of reading as they find books about the topics that interest them. 

Unicorn!

Unicorn!

Unicorn!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unicorn!

Maggie Hutchings

Cheryl Orsini

Affirm Press, 2018 

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

9781925712506

Luka makes the world light up
Like a shooting star on a dark night.

But when Luka gets really sick and makes a wish for a unicorn, it is not so easy for her best friend to keep her promise of making it come true.  Even though she did lots of research about where to find one and how to catch it when she did, she couldn’t find the information she needed.  So she drew a picture of one but that didn’t satisfy Luka as she lay in her hospital bed. And neither did dressing up in a onesie.  Even borrowing a pony and putting a cardboard horn on it did not make a difference.  But sometimes every minute spent wishing and hoping and determined to keep a promise can pay off…

Unicorns and little girls currently go together like fish and chips – there is an inexorable pull between them – and so to discover a picture book that features them is all that will be needed to get your young readers clamouring for this one.  The double bonus is that it is a quality story that is about friendship and the lengths we go to for those we love which is accompanied  by exquisite illustrations.  And the ending is perfect – even I looked under my bed!

 

Noni the Pony Rescues a Joey

Noni the Pony Rescues a Joey

Noni the Pony Rescues a Joey

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Noni the Pony Rescues a Joey

Alison Lester

Allen & Unwin, 2018

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

9781760293123

Noni the Pony heads out for a wander in the hills behind Waratah Bay with her friends Coco the Cat and Dave the Dog.  They haven’t gone far when they meet a lost wallaby on the trail and so it becomes their mission to help the little joey find his family.  But none of the other creatures can help, mostly because they sleep during the day and haven’t seen anything. Will the joey find his family?

Former Australian Children’s Laureate Alison Lester first introduced us to Noni the Pony in 2011 and it was shortlisted for the CBCA Early Childhood Book of the Year.  This was followed by another adventure Noni the Pony Goes to the Beach.in 2014 so she has become a favourite of  many preschoolers over time.  This new adventure, written in rhyme and beautifully illustrated, will become a favourite too, particularly if today’s preschooler has an older sibling who remembers the earlier stories.  Apart from the joy of the rhythm and the rhyme of the language, it’s a chance to introduce our youngest readers to some of the more familiar indigenous creatures of this country and talk about why they would all be asleep during the day when surely, that’s the time to be up and about like Noni. There is also the opportunity to talk about how the joey felt being separated from its parents and what the child should do if it finds itself in a similar situation.

While it is the perfect bedtime story, it might be better shared during the day when everyone can join the cows in the celebratory dance at the end!

 

 

The TinyWing Fairies

The TinyWing Fairies

The TinyWing Fairies

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The TinyWing Fairies

Suzanne Barton

Bloomsbury, 2018

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

9781408864876

As the snow falls on the forest, the TinyWing Fairies are fast asleep in their Hideaway Tree home, dreaming of the Winter Fair that is to be held the next morning.  But Little Ess is woken by a strange noise, one that continues to disturb her until she is compelled to find out what it is.  Joined by Marthy, Pip and Tiffin the fairies set out to investigate, following the noise across the frozen landscape to Mrs Mouse’s house.  

But the noise they hear is not that of her babies squeaking in their sleep and so Mrs Mouse joins them on their quest.  Nor is it Mr Owl’s owlets hooting or even Mrs rabbit’s bunnies excitement about their first snow.  What could it be?

A lovely story for those who still believe in fairies that focuses on determination and then helping others which will reassure young readers about noises in the night always having a logical explanation. 

Lenny’s Book of Everything

Lenny's Book of Everything

Lenny’s Book of Everything

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lenny’s Book of Everything

Karen Foxlee

Allen & Unwin, 2018

352pp., pbk., RRP $A19.99

9781760528706

On July 26, 1969, six days after man walked on the moon, Cindy Spink caught the Number 28 bus to the hospital where she gave birth to Davey, a brother for three-year-old Lenny.  Right from the start she had a ‘dark heart feeling -as big as the sky but kept in a thimble” that something wasn’t right and so it proved to be.  For, although he was a normal sized baby, Davey kept growing and growing until by the time he was ready to start school he was already 4″5″ (135cm) tall and had been denied entry to preschool because of his height. 

Lenny loves her brother very much but it’s tough being a sister to someone who is a bit different, no matter how lovable, and when your dad has walked out and your mum has to work two jobs just to keep a roof over your head so your eccentric Hungarian neighbour looks after you for much of the time, life can be confusing and conflicting . 

The bright spot every week is the arrival of the latest issue of the Burrell’s Build-It-at-Home Encyclopedia, which their mum won in a competition. Through the encyclopedia, Lenny and Davey experience the wonders of the world – beetles, birds, quasars, quartz – and dream about a life of freedom and adventure. Davey loves the articles about birds of prey while Lenny becomes fixated on beetles and dreams of being a coleopterist.  Together they dream of a life in a log cabin in Great Bear Lake, away from the away from the noisy city and the busy bus station across the road, their strange neighbours and the creepy Mr King. And when the instalments don’t arrive fast enough and the company keeps trying to tempt them to spend money to get issues faster and with the special volume covers, Mrs Spink takes the time to take on the publishers with the letters becoming a side story that shows her persistence and determination to do the best for her kids, regardless of the challenge. 

But as Davey’s health deteriorates, Lenny realises that some wonders can’t be named, but they can be diagnosed and when Davey’s gigantism is traced to tumours in his pituitary gland, in a time when cancer and its treatment were still referred to as “the C word”, the reader knows that there is probably not going to be a happy outcome. 

This is both a heart-warming and heart-wrenching book for older, independent readers, one they can relate to because Lenny’s life is so ordinary and like theirs, yet one that will engender compassion as she struggles to come to terms with what is happening to Davey, not wanting to burden her mother who is “made almost entirely of worries and magic” and who does not realise just how desperately she is missing her dad until she thinks she has found his family. For those who have siblings with significant health issues it may even be cathartic as they realise that the feelings of resentment, even shame, that they sometimes have are natural, common and understandable and they are not evil or undeserving for having them. 

Lenny’s Book of Everything doesn’t just refer to the encyclopedia that opens up the world for her and Davey; it refers to all her thoughts and emotions, reactions and responses of a childhood spent with a sick sibling in a sole-parent family in a poorer neighbourhood of a moon-rock drab town with very little money for everyday things let alone treats. It is raw in places but eminently understandable.  

Written when the author herself was going through a time of momentous grief . it is beautifully written, a compelling read and one that adults will also appreciate. It is a story of joy and heartbreak, humour and honesty, but mostly it’s just about the immense, immeasurable love among families.

 

 

 

 

We Are Together

We Are Together

We Are Together

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We Are Together

Britta Teckentrup

Little Tiger, 2018

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

9781848576582

On our own we’re special, And we can chase our dream.
But when we join up, hand in hand, Together we’re a team. 

This is the message of this story  – the power of one, but the even greater power of many.  Starting with being content with one’s own company flying a kite, it grows to embrace others in our lives, known or not-yet, so whether it’s being caught in a storm or being passionate about a cause, the support and strength found in the love and friendship of others alongside us is cause for joy and celebration.

If ever we’re lonely, we’ll just say out loud: Let’s all stand together, one big happy crowd! 

The cover is intriguing with cutouts peeking through to just two of the children on the stunning endpapers showing children of all nationalities and ethnicities, and as each page is turned the cutouts increase revealing an ever-widening circle of children capturing the innate way they have of making friends regardless of any external differences. 

 

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

It provides an opportunity to talk about not only receiving a helping hand but also extending one, valuing and sharing the things we do well personally while respecting and trying the things others can do. It emphasises that while we are individuals, humans are also dependent on others – no man is an island – and that co-operation, collaboration and company are essential elements of our well-being. 

 

 

 

The Puffin Book of Summer Stories: Eight favourite Australian picture books

The Puffin Book of Summer Stories

The Puffin Book of Summer Stories

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Puffin Book of Summer Stories

Puffin, 2018

256pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9780143793540

Even though it’s only November, it feels like summer is here already so this compilation of eight of the best of Australia’s summer stories of recent years is the perfect accompaniment to the bedtime read-together ritual.

Featuring eight favourites…

Summer by June Factor and Alison Lester
Max by Marc Martin 
Grandpa and Thomas by Pamela Allen
Castles by Allan Baillie and Caroline Magerl 
My Hippopotamus is on our Caravan Roof Getting Sunburnt by Hazel Edwards and Deborah Niland
Seadog by Claire Saxby and Tom Jellett
There’s a Sea in My Bedroom by Margaret Wild and Jane Tanner, and 
Eve and Elly by Mike Dumbleton and Laura Wood

each is unabridged and complete with the original illustrations, providing a diversity of stories and artwork each linked by the common theme of summer, being outdoors and having fun. Some stories may be familiar favourites already, others will be new but each will be enjoyed as the long hot days roll on. 

One to share in those last days of term as the holidays loom and everyone is anticipating being by the beach or anywhere but in a hot classroom, or a great Christmas gift for a reasonable price –  eight books for little more than the cost of one! 

Waiting for Chicken Smith

Waiting for Chicken Smith

Waiting for Chicken Smith

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Waiting for Chicken Smith

David Mackintosh

Little Hare, 2018

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

9781760501761

Every year, I stay in the same cabin at the beach with my family, and every year Chicken Smith’s here too, with his Dad and his dog, Jelly. But this year, something’s different.’

Convinced that his friend Chicken Smith will appear any moment, the young narrator of this story waits resolutely for him, cradling the piece of driftwood that Chicken Smith carved into a whale shape last summer. While he waits and waits, his sister tries to get his attention but he ignores her – nothing is more important than being there to greet Chicken Smith when he arrives. Apart from anything else, he has a shell to give him as a thank you for the driftwood whale.  

As he remembers and reflects on past summers, it gradually becomes clear that perhaps Chicken Smith won’t be coming this year.  The cabin he stays in is shut up with long grass all around it and a huge cobweb in Chicken’s bedroom window.  And at last, he pays attention to his sister’s entreaties and discovers something that makes up for Chicken Smith’s absence…

This is a moving story that will inspire young readers to reminisce on their own holidays at the beach, the friends they made, the things they did and start to build the anticipation of having such a magical time again.  They might like to speculate on what has happened to Chicken Smith and ponder whether the boy will have as good a holiday without him, using the clues towards the end to think about the new friendship that is beginning. 

The childlike language and the illustrations that could have been drawn by the narrator make this a more personal experience for the reader – you are just waiting for Chicken Smith to appear and for the boys to get on with what boys do at the beach.  Great for starting thoughts about the upcoming summer…

Teachers’ notes are available.

A peek inside....

A peek inside….

It’s Not Scribble to Me

It's Not Scribble to Me

It’s Not Scribble to Me

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s Not Scribble to Me

Kate Ritchie

Jedda Robaard

Puffin Books, 2018 

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

9780143790136

Little Teddy loves to draw – crayons, paints, pencils, even stencils (and the permanent markers if he can reach them) are all his favourite tools of trade.  But while paper is nice, it’s not big enough to hold all of his drawings and so he uses other nearby surfaces like the wall,the bathroom tiles and even the toilet seat lid -wherever the colour takes his imagination.  Like most parents, his parents get annoyed at having to continually clean up but Teddy doesn’t see his work as scribble.  Each one is a personal masterpiece inspired by his surroundings and begs them to understand that his marks are the “colourful, magical, bountiful, beautiful, whimsical, wonderful world” in his head.

On the surface, this is a fun book that will be a familiar scenario for many preschoolers, written in rhyme to engage them and perhaps even consolidate their knowledge of colours. Its theme will resonate with many parents and they might even have discussions about what else Teddy could have drawn that was green, red, yellow or black.

But it is also a very useful tool to teach slightly older readers about perspective – that what one sees as beautiful artworks, another sees as scribble and vice versa.  Little children are still very much in the world of the here and now and what they can see, so to start to view things from another’s perspective is a critical step in their development, particularly as they also have a very strong sense of justice and what’s fair. Taking someone’s pencil without asking may be seen as “theft” by one little one, while really it’s just using something that’s needed and available by another one used to sharing without asking. 

Little Miss Muffet might have been frightened by the spider, but how did the spider feel about her sitting right where he was in the process of building his web? 

Little Boy Blue probably shouldn’t have fallen asleep while he was supposed to be watching the sheep, but what if he had been up all night helping a little lamb be born?

Seeing another’s point of view is an essential element of the development of Ethical Understanding  and it’s not too early to start our littlies thinking about the perspectives of those around them, perhaps even exploring the old adage that “there are always two sides to a story.”