Archive | January 2014

Beetle Bottoms

Beetle Bottoms

Beetle Bottoms

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where is Pip?

Fiona Whyte & Sarah Hill

Visible Love Publishing, 2013

board book, RRP $A18.00

9780987595911

 

Beetle Bottoms and the Sticky Situation

Sarah Hill, Madison Holroyd, Fiona Whyte

Visible Love Publishing, 2013

Pbk, RRP $A15.00

978098595904

“Beetle Bottoms are tiny people who live in gardens all over the world, but only a few people have ever noticed them because they are no bigger than an apple pip.  When you are that little, life is very exciting and often dangerous.  You can dive into a raindrop, slide down a poppy stalk and ride on the backs of insects.”

Created by a family team who believe in “creating a world where your children’s imagination can come to life where your children know how amazing they are, where they know they are loved and they know they can follow their dreams” is the first in what should be a great series of charming books and other resources that will capture the heart and imagination of your youngest readers and their younger siblings.

Where is Pip? is a lift-the-flap adventure which not only introduces the characters in an engaging way, but each page provides a clue not only for what is to come next, but what it is that Pip is actually doing. Miss Nearly 3 and I had great fun not only peeking behind the flap to see where Pip was, but also trying to predict what she was doing.  Accompanied by simple, repetitive text and bright, engaging illustrations, this book quickly became a favourite. It is a mark of quality story-telling and artistry that make it a return-to book, even after the surprises have been revealed.

Beetle Bottoms and the Sticky Situation  was equally engaging as it deals with someone who thinks she is big, but isn’t quite yet – something we address each day with Miss Nearly 3 who wants to be Miss 7! Her adventurousness leads Pip into trouble, trouble which gets more and more serious as the story proceeds and which takes a deal of problem-solving and luck to sort out. If I were Pip, I think I’d rather take my chances with the worm than be rescued in the way she is, but Miss Nearly 3 was quite comfortable! She’s braver than Grandma! And Pip’s final response was so familiar!

Both books offered a lot of scope for talking and thinking which is such a critical part of sharing stories with little ones, if we want them to learn the language we are expecting them to master.  And after we read them, there was a lot of fun searching for Beetle Bottoms in the fairy garden that is such an integral part of my granddaughters’ playground. And as we were looking we learned about petals, and thorns, and bark, and all those nature-related words. No wonder we adored these books. In fact, when we had a recent hailstorm, Miss Nearly 3 was concerned that her Beetle Bottoms might have been hurt or drowned!

However, the books are just part of this interactive package – there is a whole Beetle Bottoms world online  as well as supporting products. We really liked the Story Play cards which have story beginnings on them so children can create their own adventures to tell, draw or act. There are support activities, a Beetle Bottoms club to join and wall decals that are perfect for enabling the children to create their own stories and experience all the fun that that brings.

There has been a lot of media coverage lately about the need to have education generally, and reading in particular, valued in the home, and as teacher librarians we can contribute to this by reaching out to our communities with suggestions for quality materials that will keep the adults as interested as their children.  This is a series that I would highly recommend be at the top of that list for this year. The resources are available directly from the website and schools can apply for a wholesale account which gives them 50% off the RRP for sales totalling over $100- click on the wholesale tab on the website.

 

Pirate Gold

Pirate Gold

Pirate Gold

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pirate Gold

Michael Salmon

Ford Street Publishing, 2013

pbk., 32pp., RRP $A12.95

9781921665691

hbk., 32pp., RRP$A19.91

9781921665684

 

The pirate ship Hogwash is home to the Piganeers, led by Captain Porker. After several successful raids on Spanish galleons, Captain Porker orders his crew to weigh anchor off a little tropical island, a regular stop on the voyage home because his treasure is buried there – but his treasure map is missing.  How will he find his loot without it?  Luckily for his crew, who were at risk of being turned into bacon burgers, he finds it … but not where he usually hides it.  Could someone have found it and worked out its secret?  Midnight sees him setting out alone, rowing to the island, but after a night of digging, daylight dawns and his fears are confirmed.  His treasure is not there. But who is responsible for stealing it?  Younger children will enjoy joining Captain Porker on his hunt to find the culprits with its quirky twists and turns.

Pirates are a perennial favourite with young students and this rollicking adventure adds to the plethora of stories with this theme that have lasting appeal.  Michael Salmon’s style is eye-catching, engaging and easily recognisable as this is the latest in a long string of books and other child-centred ventures which began in 1967. His cartoon style with his bright colours captures the eye and the imagination, and this book, a re-release of one published in the USA in 1998, is sure to attract a new generation of fans.

My experience has been that whenever I lead young boys, particularly, to the Michael Salmon section, that they are hooked and the word spreads very quickly. Perfect for reading aloud or reading alone by those on the cusp of independence, and coupled with his interactive website  Salmon has a formula that is a winner.  So much so, that the ACT Government commissioned a statue of Alexander Bunyip (of The Bunyip that ate Canberra fame) to stand outside their new Gungahlin Library in 2011  This title deserves its place in your Salmon collection.

The Dark

The Dark

The Dark

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Dark

Lemony Snicket

Jon Klassen

Orchard Books, 2013

hbk.,  RRP $A 24.99

9781408330029

Laszlo is afraid of the dark. But he lives in a big house with a creaky roof, smooth, cold windows and several flights of stairs so there are many places that dark can hide.  But mostly, dark lives in the basement waiting in a distant corner during the day and then coming ut at night to spread itself against the windows and doors of Laszlo’s house.  But Laszlo thought that if he visited the dark in its room, it wouldn’t come and visit him in his room so each morning he would peek at it in the basement and say hello.  Until one night, it did…

The power of this story lies in Snicket’s ability to personify the dark as a real entity as it leads Laszlo on a journey through the house and down, deep into the basement. It talks to Laszlo as though it is a real character, and Laszlo’s calm response, both expression and action, helps convey the message that there is nothing to fear. Then just as the climax is almost reached, Snicket provides an explanation of the need for creaky roofs and blank windows, almost as though he is trying to defuse the suspense to make it manageable for the young reader.

Jon Klassen’s illustrations help build up the suspense – a limited palette, the use of shadow, shade and light, bare walls, uncovered windows and empty rooms all add to the atmosphere and feed a little’s boy’s imagination – and, in the words of one reviewer, this is an “inspired pairing”.  This is a perfect example of a picture book where text and illustrations work so well that each would be diminshed without the other.

“The Dark” appeared regularly on the best-of lists for 2013, particularly those in the US, and it is a gentler Snicket at work than the one we are accustomed to.  Both the US and UK publishers have book trailers and Neil Gaimam has an audio clip .

This would be a great introduction to introducing the science concepts of light and day, day and night, the rotation of the earth and so forth so that young children begin to understand more and fear less – another way to support the curriculum beyond the traditional English perspective.

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

It’s a Miroocool

It's a Miroocool

It’s a Miroocool

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s a Miroocool

Christine Harris

Ann James

Little Hare, 2012

hbk, RRP $A24.99

9781921541018

Audrey Barlow has reached one of the milestones of childhood – she has lost her first tooth!  But Audrey lives in the outback, many kilometres from the Tooth Fairy’s usual  nightly route, so how will she find her way to Audrey’s bedside and the billy containing that precious prize?  Because Audrey is clever, she has lots of ideas and spends the day making sure that the Tooth Fairy will find her and goes to bed knowing she has done as much as she can to guide the fairy.  But she doesn’t count on the fickleness of nature, and during the night all her plans are wrecked.  Will she wake up disappointed and disbelieving in a tradition that has been around for decades?  The ending is magical – so much better than a gold coin or whatever inflation has put the value of a tooth at, these days.  (Miss 6 has her first wobbly one, so I wonder if she will also treasure the Tooth Fairy’s gift in the same way, when the time comes. I will give her this book!)

Many students are familiar with this lovable wonderful character through the “Audrey of the Outback” novels that Christine Harris has created, so to see a hardback picture book story will just delight them.  And if this is their first introduction to her, then the promise of a series of novels to read afterwards will be greeted with anticipation.  Audrey brings a particular slice of Australian life to the lives of children who will probably never experience it for themselves.  Just HOW could you guide the Tooth Fairy to your house when it’s not even marked on a map? In fact, Audrey’s ideas had such an impact on Miss 6 that now, when she has a problem, we ask “What would Audrey do?”

The whole is brought to life by the remarkable artwork of Ann James which complements the story perfectly.  Even the youngest reader is able to envisage the isolation of Audrey, feel the dryness, and delight in the solutions that Audrey thinks of.  The medium, colours and style work so well together to convey the landscape, the actions, the mood and atmosphere that this is the perfect author/illustrator match. We could feel Audrey’s concern when she realises her predicament; feel her delight and excitement as she carries out her plans and thinks she has all bases covered; and her anguish as Mother Nature rears her head. These pictures are drawn by someone who has lived Audrey’s life.

Apart from the value in having the readers predict how Audrey might solve her problem, this book has a particular place on library shelves just because of its setting.  It is a rich springboard for a compare-and-contrast exercise about how children in rural and remote Australia do the everyday things that children everywhere must do. It’s a superb introduction to helping children understand that theirs is not the only life led. There’s even a song written and sung by Bill Marsh to accompany it available  that incorporates images that complement the artwork and take the children to where Audrey lives.  Teaching notes for a range of themes that could be explored are available and  Audrey even has her own blog  and website.

This is the perfect present for the child who has just lost their first tooth – a wonderful way to remember and one which definitely deserves a place on the shelves.

Snap!

Snap!

Snap!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Snap!

Janet A. Holmes

Daniella Germain

Little Hare 2013

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

9781921714993

It is the first day of school and such days can seem so scary that you just want to hide under your bed.  But sometimes you don’t have a choice and you have to face the monsters, so another strategy is needed.  So put on your crocodile mask and snap and snarl and scare them away.  It will work for a while but it can leave you feeling very lonely.  That is unless you meet a little girl with a wise owl mask who ignores your unfriendliness and makes you something that works better.

In the next couple of weeks, thousands of little people will be facing the unknown and starting pre-school or big school, and this is a lovely title which sensitively explores how such fears can be faced. Because it is written in the first person it gives a voice to what a lot of our newest students are thinking and they will be able to empathise with the little boy.  But as well as showing that they are not alone in their fears, it is also a vehicle for exploring how they can deal with them.  There is great scope for talking about the best strategies to use for making friends, particularly as not making friends is one of the greatest causes of anxiety of school-starters.

As a read-aloud it offers lots of scope for the children to join in enthusiastically and the paper collage illustrations also offer several talking points, both features which will help the children on their literacy journey.  Offer it to your kindergarten teachers to share on that first day – it is one that should be in the their school bag so they too can turn the crocodiles back into the gentle child behind the mark.

Gracie and Josh

Gracie and Josh

Gracie and Josh

Susanne Gervay

Serena Geddes

Ford Street Publishing, 2013

hbk, 32 pp., RRP $A26.95

9781921665844

pbk., RRP $A16.95

9781921665851

Josh is making a movie, the first on his journey to being a famous movie director.  His sister, Gracie, is the star – dressed up as a spider with lovely black squishy sausage legs and singing Incy Wincy Spider with gusto and love, especially love.  This is a good week for Josh and it’s celebrated with things like going to school… because that is a celebration for Josh. The following week he’s on the downhill slide to his next bout of chemotherapy.  That striped beanie is not just an artistic affectation.  Gracie urges him to be resilient, “Look, Josh, the spider fell down six times.  But the spider didn’t give up.  You just have to try, try and try again.” The story follows to Josh to hospital and the events there are touched with such a gentle brush that it uplifts the spirit. It is a story which shows both the joys of being a kid as well as their vulnerability and confusion when confronted with tough stuff, and how the special relationship between siblings is so critical. As much as Gracie is there for Josh, he is there for Gracie.

Full disclosure – I have to be one of Susanne Gervay’s greatest fans, but I’m not going to recuse myself from reviewing her books.  I love the way she tackles topics that are not the mainstream for children’s literature, but ARE mainstream in the lives of many children.  I am blessed – so far none of the precious little people in my life have been touched by serious illness or injury, but so many families have and so many of the children in our care would relate so well to Gracie.  To go to the bookshop or the school library and find a book that deals so beautifully and sensitively with what is your everyday life has to bring some comfort.  “Wow, someone sees the way my family is as normal and important enough to write a book for me … maybe I’m not so alone after all.  Maybe now my friends will understand.”  There needs to be no other justification for having this book in your collection than that, and the fact that it is perfectly pitched, masterfully written and delicately illustrated in the softest lines and colours just adds to its beauty.  The partnership between Susanne and Serena is inspired.

This story has been endorsed by Variety, a  organisation dedicated to making the lives of sick children better – no doubt many of us have reason to be grateful for their work .

Make sure this book is part of your collection -there is a reason I’ve made it my selected review for Australia Day.  Teaching notes are available from  – and they are great conversation starters for the classmates of a student like Josh, or even for a parent needing guidance in talking to their healthy children.  Correlating them to the ANC is a bonus.

 

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

 

This entry was posted on January 26, 2014, in Picture Book.

10 Little Circus Mice

10 Little Circus Mice

10 Little Circus Mice

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10 Little Circus Mice

Caroline Stills

Judith Rossell

Little Hare, 2013

hbk., RRP $A24.95

9781921894176

This is a delightful counting book with a difference because each page focuses on the antics of all ten mice, but they are grouped differently on each page.  So while nine mice tidy their beds, one somersaults; while eight cook, two juggle; while seven wash the cups, three spin the saucers. Circus acts are much more fun than housework!  Little readers will delight in looking at the pictures and concocting the story to go with them as well as finding and following the antics of their favourites as they turn daily chores into fun and games. 

While it could be used as a book to support early addition, it is also very useful for helping early mathematicians develop the concept of the conservation of number – that 10 is 10 is 10 no matter how it is grouped – in an engaging and intriguing way. 

There is a lot of research which suggests that stories have more impact when they are supported by targeted, explicit activities and this book lends itself very well to these.  Having the children make and decorate their own mice and then working with their peers to create number stories, record these and then add text to describe what they are doing is just one.  Even though this might appear on the surface to be just another in a long line of counting books, it is, in fact, much more than that and is rich in possibilities to help both literacy and numeracy development.  Share it with your Kindergarten teachers – they will thank you for it.

Christina’s Matilda

Christina's Matilda

Christina’s Matilda

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christina’s Matilda

Edel Wignell

Elizabeth Botté

IP Kidz, 2011

hbk 9781921479878 RRP $A26.00

ebk 9781921479885 RRP $A8.00

With Australia Day almost upon us, what better opportunity to review this fascinating title by Edel Wignell focussing on the story behind the story of our unofficial anthem, ‘Waltzing Matilda’?  As Wignell asks, why is Paterson’s role in the creation of this song so well-known when that of Christina Macpherson is almost unknown, even though it is just as vital?  Wignell then tells us the story of Macpherson, beginning with an encounter with bushranger Daniel ‘Mad’ Morgan at the family home of Peechelbar in Victoria, her childhood in a large wealthy Melbourne household, and her eventual meeting with A.B. ‘Banjo’ Paterson at the home of her brother on a station on the Diamantina River about 128km from Winton, Queensland. Evenings were a time for entertainment – Paterson sharing his poetry and Macpherson playing the piano, including a tune called “Craigielee” that she had heard at the Warrnambool Races some time before and which had stuck in her mind.  Paterson was well aware of the plight of many shearers displaced by the Great Shearers’ Strike in 1894 and the stories accompanying the hardships they endured, and it wasn’t long before he penned the words of  ‘Waltzing Matilda’ to fit the tune. Wignell then traces the story of the song through to its place in the Australian identity today, including the work of Richard Magoffin who relentlessly tracked the song’s origins, eventually being able to identify Christina’s contribution in 1983.

The story is accompanied by a variety of illustrations including paintings and drawings, maps, photos, posters and programs, letters and sheet music, each adding to the authenticity of the story and providing insight into the times that inspired the lyrics and the history of the song.  Perhaps the most interesting is a facsimile of an extract from a letter from Christina which explains how the song came to be. Each sepia page is bordered with exquisite line drawings by Elizabeth Botté which enrich and enhance the story. 

While it is written in a style and language accessible to a newly independent reader, its use of primary sources to support the text would be a great way to introduce the importance of these sorts of sources to support research and provide evidence, an integral element of the historical skills strands of the Australian History Curriculum for Year 7.   

This is a resource that needs to be on library shelves and a story that needs to be known by everyone old enough to sing the song!

 

King Pig

King Pig

King Pig

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

King Pig

Nick Bland

Scholastic Press, 2013

hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781742834955

King Pig thinks he is just that – an autocratic leader who can get his minions, the sheep, to do anything they want.  But while he could make them do such things as strap boards on their backs so he has a ramp into his sheep-free palace or pull down the branch of the apple tree so he could pick the fruit, and scrub his castle he just couldn’t make them like him.  No matter how loudly he shouted, they didn’t listen properly; no matter how hard he tried to get their attention, the more they ignored him. Viewing himself in the mirror one day, he decided that a fancier set of clothes might be the answer. So he invited them into his castle and there they set to work.

To discover whether this works and if there is any way this arrogant pig can make friends, you need to read this brilliant book by one of Australia’s most popular authors.  And you need to read the pictures as well as the words because the two not only work perfectly in harmony to tell the surface story, but they also tell a story of their own about power and bullying, making friends, arrogance and humility, do clothes maketh the man? – all great discussion starters that will help children reflect on the sorts of qualities that are shared and valued by friends.

Nick Bland has that unique gift of being able to tell a tale within a tale without being overtly didactic.  The story can stand alone as entertainment without delving deeper and his appealing illustrations inject humour that tickle the fancy of even the youngest audience. When I recently reviewed The Runaway Hug  I suggested that Nick Bland be the focus of an author/illustrator study (including links to some useful resources) and King Pig reinforces this belief.  With a growing body of work to his name, Nick is becoming  a well-known name amongst our younger readers and new stories are greeted with delight and appeal across the board because of the levels at which each can be read.

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

The Day the Crayons Quit

The Day the Crayons Quit

The Day the Crayons Quit

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Day the Crayons Quit

Drew Daywalt

Oliver Jeffers

HarperCollins Children’s Books UK, 2013

9780007513758

 

One day, in class, Duncan went to take out his crayons and found a stack of letters with his name on them.  Each letter was from a different-coloured crayon explaining why they didn’t want to work anymore.  Red feels overworked, constantly colouring in fire engines, apples and strawberries, even working in the holidays colouring Santas and Valentine hearts.  Black is bored with just being used for outlines and craves things such as black beach balls while poor peach has had all the paper peeled off and is too embarrassed to leave the box! So Duncan decides to do something about it… and ends up making all the crayons happy!

The Day the Crayons Quit has consistently appeared on all the best-reads and must-haves lists that appeared at the end of 2013 and with good reason.  It is delightfully original and has many layers to it, with each audience being able to take something from it at their level, whether it be “What other things could Duncan colour purple?” to investigating whether it’s OK to have an orange whale.  I’m very much reminded of Flowers are Red by Harry Chapin  There are lessons to be learned about stereotyping – something we strive to make students aware of but modern literature doesn’t readily allow it because authors strive to avoid it!  You could also use it to explore emotions and feelings and how we can tactfully express that things are making us unhappy.  So just as the crayons express why they are unhappy, perhaps this could be a model for each child to express why they are happy.  Because this book has received such acclaim, there are many suggestions for how it might be used online accessible by a search.

Each letter is written ‘by’ a crayon using a font that might make this story difficult for the emerging reader to read alone, but it is a perfect read-aloud for many ages!  Jeffers’ illustrations have an authenticity about them – they look like they have been drawn and coloured by young children and the credits suggest that there has been significant input, either physical or intellectual, from them. And this provides another level to the book – my experience is that children start to believe that their drawings are not worthy because they don’t have the realism they see around them or the professionalism of book illustrators, so seeing pictures that look just like theirs in such a popular book validates their efforts and hopefully encourages them to keep drawing.

I borrowed this book from my public library because I wanted to see what the fuss was about, but it is now on my to-buy list so I can share it with Miss Nearly 3 and Miss 7 because it will appeal to both.  That’s the greatest accolade I can offer.

A peek inside...

A peek inside…