Archive | September 2014

Hello from Nowhere


Hello from Nowhere

Hello from Nowhere










Hello from Nowhere

Raewyn Caisley

Karen Blair

Viking/Penguin 2014

hbk., 32pp., $24.99


Far out in the middle of nowhere, the back of beyond, even beyond the black stump lives Eve – and she thinks it is the best place in the world to live.  Even though it is so desolate and distant, she’s never lonely because there are all sorts of creatures who keep her company and  she meets plenty of people who come into the family’s roadhouse. And even when there is no one there it doesn’t matter because she has time and space to run or lie down and just look at the sky and feel the magic of nature all around her.  But there is one person she really wants to see – her Nan.  Can she persuade her to come for a visit?

This is a joyful book that celebrates how much pleasure there can be in the simplest of lives and the starkest of surroundings.  Eve can’t rely on screen-based connections and organised activities for her entertainment – she has to rely on herself.  And for me, this is the power of the story.  Every time school holidays roll around parents hear the “I’m bored” refrain and are bombarded with advertisements about ways to amuse and entertain.  But there is a whisper that is growing louder that kids need to be bored if they are to develop their imaginations, their resilience and their ability to relax and do nothing.  Not every minute of every day has to be crammed with something.  Hello from Nowhere is the perfect starting point for getting younger readers (and older) to consider this and stop and think about their surroundings.  What is there already in their environment waiting to be discovered?  If, like Eve, they moved from city to country, would they have the wherewithal to discover the delights of such a different situation?  In the US particularly, schools celebrate Screen-free Week (it used to be Turn Off TV Week) so if this were also a major focus here, what would the children do to entertain themselves?

There are many challenges that could be set …

Be like Eve and write to someone persuading them to visit by identifying all the things you could do together, none of which is to involve organised entertainment but each of which is to tempt the person by being something they probably wouldn’t experience where they are.

Give students a budget of $50 and have them investigate and devise a timetable of entertainment for the next school holidays which includes a limit on the amount of screen-time. Publish the suggestions in your school’s newsletter for parents to consider.

Have students investigate how their peers entertain themselves, then analyse the data and publish the findings.

Investigate ways of adding extra-curricular activities to what the school offers – perhaps creating a frog-friendly garden or starting an interest-based group – and discovering how these might be actually put in place.

Karen Blair’s illustrations also depict the isolation and beauty of Eve’s circumstances – when was the last time you shared a waterhole with camels? – and that leads on to a whole new field of investigation about looking at landscapes and examining and creating artworks that depict their diversity.

The best picture books are a synergy of text and illustrations and have many layers which allow them to be shared again and again and again, with something new to be discovered each time.  This is one of those.

Hasel and Rose

Hasel and Rose

Hasel and Rose









Hasel and Rose

Carolyn Magerl

Penguin/Viking 2014

hbk., 32pp., RRP $A24.00


“Rose was a new face in a new street. And there was a new town right outside her window.”  What, for some, might be the start of a new adventure filled with anticipation and excitement, for Rose is a descent into loneliness and apprehension. Rose looked out her windows to the stars and wished. But the wish thing which has no name did not come.  It did not make it’s away across country sweeping along the powerlines on the great poles that stride across the land; it did not come swept by stormy winds on a parachute.  Nothing could bring peace and joy to Rosie’s heart until…

The publisher’s blurb says, “A magical story of hope and new beginnings for anyone who’s ever loved and lost. Hasel and Rose celebrates the power of imagination and resilience, even when things seem too hard,” and it would be difficult to express the theme of this story better. When parents make a decision to move away from all that is familiar, there are many worries and what-ifs that haunt children, often too big for them to articulate and so nothing brings comfort, particularly with the natural impatience of the young.  But this story, written by someone who, herself, has experienced dislocation of the familiar and friendly many times and accompanied by her own evocative hand-coloured etchings which add so much atmosphere and tension, offers confirmation that sometimes all it takes is time, and new journeys can happen around any corner.

The journey of the evolution of Hasel and Rose is told by the author on her website and it, in itself, is a remarkable piece of writing  because it helps to answer that question that children always ask authors …”Where do you get your ideas from?”  Like many stories, it evolved over a long period of time, an idea tickling the edges of the mind until it found a purpose and a pathway to become more.  Its crafting and development is as much of a journey as Hasel’s, and that in itself is a most valuable lesson for students and their teachers to learn.  Great stories cannot be written to order and a timetable, but need to be nurtured and nourished and allowed to flourish in their own time…just as Rosie did.

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

The Monster who ate Australia

The Monster who ate Australia

The Monster who ate Australia









The Monster who ate Australia

Michael Salmon

Ford Street, 2014

hbk., 32pp., RRP $A19.95


pbk., RRP $A12.95


“The boggabri is an extremely rare Australian mammal.  Like its cousin the bunyip, it eats a lot and is very shy.  But, unlike the bunyip, it has peculiar teeth that grow longer each day.  To keep them trimmed, the boggabri chews rocks and other hard objects…” 

Burra the boggabri lives peacefully at Uluru with nearby Kata Tjuta providing nice tasty rocks to eat that kept his teeth in shape. But as the tourists come in threatening his peace of mind and food supply, he is driven out looking for new fodder.  And so begins his quirky journey around Australia, beginning with eating the America’s Cup in Perth and continuing on to some of the nation’s most recognisable man-made landmarks, unaware of the havoc he creates.  Finally trapped in the thick gooey mud at the bottom of Sydney Harbour, trapped and placed on display in the elephant house at Taronga Zoo, Burra is viewed by many more tourists than those he ran away from…

This is the 30th anniversary edition of this Michael Salmon classic and it maintains all the appeal of the original as it takes its readers on a journey around Australia, introducing them to places, familiar and new.  Michael Salmon recently visited Miss 8’s school and she was so excited and engaged that she still tells me about it.  You can imagine her thrill when she discovered that I had a collection of his books right here on the shelf and she spent hours reading them and immersing herself in the illustrations that are such an integral part of the stories, a reaction I often see when I suggest his stories to younger readers.  Then I showed her his website which has always been my inspiration, and kerpow!!!  My next surprise is to take her to the statue of Burra’s cousin, Alexander Bunyip, who now stands outside the Gungahlin Library in Canberra after having eaten all the other city landmarks in The Monster that ate Canberra in 1972!

Michael Salmon’s stories and artworks have delighted children for 40 years and I’m thrilled that publishers are re-releasing titles like The Monster who ate Australia  so that yet another generation can enjoy them.

That Car!

That Car!

That Car!









That Car!

Cate Kennedy

Carla Zapel

Allen & Unwin, 2014

hbk., RRP $A24.99


The first day the children move to the farm, they find an old car in the shed.  Mrs Crosbie’s, the previous owner of the farm, tells the children that the car has been in her family for 60 years. But, “It doesn’t go too far, nowadays, though.” However, she doesn’t take into account the imaginations of Joey, Luke and Ellie and, once more, the car begins to travel again.  It takes them to Buckingham Palace for tea with the Queen, to base camp on Mt Everest, to the Ruff’s International Dog Show, and on safari to discover a rhinocersaurus and a rare, one-horned buffabulleroo.  Wherever their imaginations can roam, that old car takes them. But as well as making memories, they also learn that the car has its own history and memories and the generations are joined.

This beautifully illustrated story is a celebration of the unstructured, inventive play of children, free to follow their fancies to wherever their minds may wander.  If the children in your class had an old car, where might it take them?  What journeys might it have already been on?  I really liked this story because it exudes the joy and exuberance and fun of childhood – the right of every little person in our lives.