Sylvester & Arnold
Sylvester & Arnold
Little Hare, 2013
Hbk., RRP $A24.95
Sylvester was a BIG, TOUGH croc. And so was Arnold.
Sylvester wore tough-croc shorts,
A tough-croc vest and tough –croc boots
When he went out to play
He put on an ugly tough-croc face. So did Arnold.
Both spent all day making sure that everyone in the big, wide swamp where they lived knew who was boss. But they had never met, until one day…
This is a delightful story of how these two crocs set out how to be fiercer than the other but then an even bigger threat arrives and suddenly they are bullies no longer. It has a twist in its tail that is charming and offers much to discuss about being friends and building friendships.
Tom Jellett’s illustrations are the perfect accompaniment and offer a lot to explore about perspective. Even though each page is the same size, how does he manage to portray the size and fierceness of Sylvester and Arnold and then dwarf this with his illustrations of Betty?
There is plenty of scope for little ones to be both the fierce, tough Sylvester and Arnold and then contrast that with the meek and mild Sylvester and Arnold as they try to sneak away under the cover of darkness. Whole-body interaction accompanied by emotions, expressions and noise!
It would also serve as a great introduction to the research process if you ask the students what they already know about crocodiles before you read it. Then, afterwards, discuss which parts might be true and which parts are made up. Share other fiction stories about crocs and then contrast these with the factual resources highlighting the difference between what is written for the imagination and what is written for information. Introduce the interpretation of text by showing how the Bedford and Jellett can let their imaginations roam because their purpose is to entertain rather than inform. If your non-fiction resources are separate from the fiction, explain the library layout and where the crocodile resources are located. And there are dozens of ways each could present what they have learned to create an engaging display for the library’s walls.
Who would have thought 32 pages could contain so much???
Ford Street, 2014
hbk., RRP $A26.95
pbk., RRP $A16.95
“On a yellow morning when the sun is new and shadows long a puppy comes to live at Beth’s house. For Beth it is too soon.” No matter what puppy pranks and antics Patches gets up to, Beth is not interested. She sits and stares seeing nothing; endlessly winds a string of beads around her fingers; occasionally weeps. Time passes and Beth remains deep in her grief and depression following the death of her mother. She sees only shadows and memories. It is clearly more than normal sadness and while she is in almost every picture, she is not there in emotion. It’s as if she, herself, is a shadow. But slowly, slowly, she becomes aware of Patches until one spring day Patches is a little too curious and is bitten by a snake. And Beth has something to cuddle and love again. No more shadows.
This is a most sensitive book on a sensitive subject – childhood depression brought about by death and grief. The text is gentle and poetic – instead of “Dad took Patches out for a wee”, the author has crafted “An outside visit night-time tumble wide eyes watching bat ears fly” – and it all adds to the atmosphere of the story. The illustrations from first-time illustrator Hannah Somerville are just exquisite, their soft lines and muted tones echoing Beth’s mood and taking over perfectly so there is no text needed. The story tells itself. Each is overlaid with shadows until the large page which is full of light and colour and happiness and love.
Throughout the story there is a strong thread of love – Beth’s love for her mother, the father’s love for Beth even though he, too must be grieving, Patches’ love for both father and daughter as well as life, and eventually Beth’s love for Patches. It is a heart-warming story at the same time as it is heart-wrenching, for as much as there is said in the evocative word choices, there is just as much unsaid that has just as powerful a presence in the story.
The publisher’s recommendation for this book is 10+ and it is featured in the Older Readers reviews in Magpies but I believe it can work for all ages. At its simplest level, it can just be a story about a puppy winning over a little girl’s heart and she takes a while to love him perhaps because she’s a little afraid of puppies or because it’s too soon after the death of another one; at the other end it could be used to support a child through a similar experience as Beth, validating their grieving process and offering some hope that they will pass through it. It can be a conversation starter with a child, a group or a class as, sadly, we know too many children with depression these days and this could be the beginning of the understanding and acceptance and support that will show the way out of the shadows. However it is used, it is an important addition to the library’s collection.
Wombat Books, 2014
hbk., RRP $A24.99
“Little Meerkat did not like cuddles. ‘Cuddles are for babies. I am not a baby. I am a heroic hunter’.” Little Meerkat did not like staying at home when the others went to search for food and nor did he like slinking through the grass when the others stood in their distinctive stance. In fact, Little Meerkat didn’t like anything that baby meerkats did and even though his family members had very good reasons for him to hold paws, paddle at the edge of the lake and get dry afterwards he did it very grudgingly. Until a snake decides he will make a ssplendidly delicousss ssnake ssnack…
Using an internationally recognised animal as the main character to ensure children from all backgrounds, cultures and countries can connect with and learn from Little Meerkat’s story, Aleesah Darlison has created this delightful tale for young children who want to be older than they are – “threenagers” is the word that has been used for Miss 1 and Miss 2 lately. Inspired by their older siblings they believe they can do anything, oblivious to danger or consequences until they are stuck at the top of the monkey bars, or, in this case, a snake comes along. It really is a story that spans borders and boundaries.
There is something about meerkats that automatically endear them to us and Shannon Melville has captured this in her illustrations perfectly. Little Meerkat as the tribal warrior, as the stealthy scout, as the swimming champion add humour but more importantly they enable the reader to empathise with Little Meerkat and perhaps see themselves in him. Will it stop Miss 2 from wanting to be Miss 7, or Miss 1 wanting to be Miss 9? Probably not – but it offers a great reason to dissuade them from being too risky. “Remember what happened to Little Meerkat?” may become a regular refrain in this house!
In conjunction with the release of this book, Wombat Books have launched their inaugural Book Illustration Challenge. They’re seeking original illustrations from school-aged students to publish in Zoo Ball by Aleesah Darlison to be released in 2015. The Challenge has been established in order to provide aspiring young illustrators with the opportunity to be published in a professionally produced children’s book and gain an introduction into the world of illustrating. Click here for further details.