Archive | May 2016

Stuff Happens: Luke

Stuff Happens: Luke

Stuff Happens: Luke

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stuff Happens: Luke

James Valentine

Puffin Books, 2016

120pp/. pbk., RRP $A9.99

9780143308973

 

Every now and then everyone gets scared – that’s normal.  But when even the mere thought of something like a spider, being shut in a small space, going into the outdoors, the calendar showing Friday the 13th totally freaks you out, then that’s a phobia.  And Luke has the most common phobia of all – glossophobia, the fear of public speaking. He can talk normally with his mates, his family, even his teacher in informal situations but ask him to speak in front of a crowd, even his classmates, and he freezes.  The words just don’t come at all. 

As the summer holidays come to an end and Year 5 looms, he is freaking out that he will be in 5H, Miss Hobbie’s class, because everyone knows that Term 2 is Speech Term and the whole focus is on preparing a speech for the class in the final week.  And his panic continues as his name is called for 5H, even though it is just Day One of Term One. Before he knows it Term Two arrives and as he expected, it’s Speech Term.  Even though his classmates know of his phobia and accept it as part of his being Luke, he labels himself a loser because of it and he is unable to overcome his fear.  He can’t even think of a topic, such is his mindblock. When Miss Hobbie learns of his condition from Perfect Pupil Dan, she sets out to help him suggesting he talk about phobias generally thinking that it will help Luke understand is condition and that it is very common. But it is his Dad, the one with his own YouTube channel, who comes up with the ultimate solution. Yet, when the big day comes Luke faints – even understanding that he has a phobia and being able to be word-perfect with his speech does not negate it.  Even fainting does not deter Miss Hobbie from insisting her deliver so while Luke doesn’t overcome his fear, he finds a solution that not only works for him but leads him down a new pathway, one that will build a stronger relationship with his dad.

Each year students across Australia participate in public speaking assignments whether they are comfortable like Dan or fearful like Luke.  There is an expectation that it is something that comes easily to kids who talk all the time anyway, and it will help them learn to articulate their thoughts in formal situations, use their voices and body language effectively, and boost their confidence in themselves.  But what if there are those like Luke?  What if this expectation of having to speak, let alone compete, starts to grip them months before the actual delivery date?  Teachers who seem to be comfortable in speaking to large groups because it is such a part of what we do, can learn as much from this new book in this terrific series as Luke does. 

So often boys see their fears and inabilities as weaknesses.  They look at the Dans of the world who seem to be so confident and so able and compare themselves, find they don’t measure up and label themselves losers affecting their self-esteem and self-confidence that it often becomes a downward spiral sometimes with disastrous consequences as they hit their teens.  The facts and statistics for suicide in Australia are scary and while we are not in the top 25 countries, nevertheless there are nearly 8 deaths each day because of it.  While reading Stuff Happens is not necessarily going to impact on that rate, the stories that are told are important for boys to see that no one is an all-macho hero like their comic-book favourites or even the peers they have put on a pedestal, that everyone has at least one Achilles heel and that the things that worry and scare them also worry and scare their friends. They are not alone. 

Susannah McFarlane, the series editor, has created something akin to the Men’s Shed for boys with this collection of stories that are so modern and so relevant.  World-class authors who create stories about the everyday things and write them in an unpatronising way that speaks directly to the reader, helping them to understand that not being able to do this or fearing that have to have an impact.  It’s OK to not be “perfect” and with each story ending on such a hopeful note for the future, young readers are encouraged to seek  their own solutions.  No wonder this series is so popular with my boy readers.

Mrs Dog

Mrs Dog

Mrs Dog

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mrs Dog

Janeen Brian

Marjorie Crosby-Fairall

Five Mile Press, 2016

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

9781760066451

 

Once, not so long ago, Mrs Dog rounded up the Woolly-Heads on the farm, but now, as time has caught up with her as it does with everything, she just follows Tall-One and chases shadows.  But one day she finds a tiny lamb, abandoned by its mother because it is so small and weak, and she carries it home to be its foster mother, caring for it as though it were one of her own puppies from a long-ago litter. Gradually, with milk and a cosy blanket from Tall-Two, Baa-rah grew stronger and it was time to see the big wide world.  But even though Mrs Dog could teach him to beg and belly-crawl and pounce, she could not teach him to bark.  It sounded like he was trying to spit out a fly!

Mrs Dog also taught Bah-raa the dangers of the farm, especially the steep cliff that overhung the river where only Beaky-Wings, the fierce magpies, came back from if you went too close.  And it is one of the Beaky-Wings who swoops Mrs Dog, arrow-sharp beak aiming for her eyes that sends Mrs Dog over the cliff!  Bah-raa searches everywhere for her, eventually gathering her courage to go closer, closer to the edge and peer over…

How will she save the one who saved her?

This is a page-turning, charming story that has more layers than a bed in winter.  It’s about ageing and how there is purpose even though the working life might be over; there is change as roles develop and evolve; there is trust between two not normally friends; there is belief, determination and compassion as older nurtures younger; there is courage as the love is reciprocated and from deep within Bah-raa draws on the most important lesson she learned – how to bark!

While on the surface it is a story about an ageing dog and a young lamb, in many ways it reminded me of the remarkable relationship that developed between Miss Then-8 and Ms 87 as her hospital stays became longer- a relationship that I’ve seen replicated so many times as wrinkles and ageing, aching joints are made invisible, outshone by the love between elder and youngster and the special sparkle that it brings. There wasn’t a dry eye when the young one found the courage to tell the congregation of her love for the older one at the funeral. 

Superbly illustrated in intricate detail and a soft palette that add real life to the story, it is a story of hope and love that will lift any heart. Janeen Brian is a master story-teller and Marjorie Crosby-Fairall is the ideal illustrator for a book that should be on the awards lists in the future.

Teaching notes are available but it just provides a wonderful opportunity for our students to talk about their relationships with the older people in their lives and the special things they do together.

Zoo Ball

Zoo Ball

Zoo Ball

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Zoo Ball

Aleesah Darlinson

Australian Children

Wombat Books, 2016

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

9781925139433

 

Ned loves his big, bright bouncing ball.  So much so, that he takes it to the zoo and even though his parents warn him not to bounce it, he just can’t help himself. Everywhere he goes he bounces it … right into the kangaroos starting a wonderful adventure for the animals as they get in on the game and send it from one to the other.  From kangaroo to lion, to penguins to pelican…from tiger to toucan and tapir too.  Even into Ellie Elephant’s poo!!  Ned, his mum, dad, Aunt Lucy and the zookeeper follow, trying to retrieve it but they are always one step behind and all the while the ball is continuing its journey giving animals and crowd alike fun and joy.  Then Ned has an idea…

This is a joyful story that bounces along in rhyming text providing as much fun for the reader as it does for the zoo creatures.  But the unique feature is its illustrations.  Wombat Books invited children all over Australia to submit drawings to accompany the story to provide them with an introduction to the world of illustrating and the opportunity to be published professionally. Now, twenty aspiring illustrators have their work included and acknowledged in a story that will be very popular with young readers. Even the cover is by a young illustrator, Alyssa Teoh, who also has an illustration in the book.

However, as well as inspiring those who were successful to continue, this book will also inspire other young artists.  Sadly, children are often only exposed to the ‘perfect’ artwork of adults and never believe their own is quite good enough.  We have all heard the plaintive questions, “Do you like mine, Miss?” and “Is this good enough?” as they seek reassurance for their efforts so this is an excellent book to celebrate the beauty and worthiness of children’s art. It should be on hand to show them what can be achieved even by children. That what they produce is valid, valued and valuable. One of the young artists said, “I entered the Zoo Ball Challenge following Aleesah Darlison’s visit to our primary school at the beginning of 2014. Aleesah was really passionate about her writing and I am really passionate about my drawing. I thought immediately that this was the challenge for me.”

Aleesah’s passion for writing comes through every story she writes and to be able to inspire our students to read, write and draw as she does, is a special gift to be treasured. You can read more about how the project evolved in an interview with Aleesah at Kids Book Review  

I hope this book is really successful so that Wombat Books are inspired to host a similar challenge in future.

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

Stuff Happens: Dale

Stuff Happens: Dale

Stuff Happens: Dale

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stuff Happens: Dale

Adrian Beck

Puffin, 2016

120pp., pbk., RRP $A9.99

9780143308966

Despite what Prince Harry has done for the reputation of redheads, being a redhead can still be a beacon for teasing and even bullying in schools.  It seems nothing has changed since the 50s when I was at school with my bright red hair, freckles AND glasses!  And so it is for Dale.  He has heard it all over the years – Ranga, Blue, Carrots, Carrot-top, Strawbs, Sauce – it seems there are more names for redheads than there are shades of auburn.  So it’s the last straw when Perfect Pupil Dan, lead in the school play that Dale has a non-speaking role as a monkey, taunts him.  What starts as a ‘wardrobe malfunction’ quickly makes its way back to cracks about his red hair and Dale has had enough. 

At break he sits in the No Hat, No Play zone, his hat pulled tightly down to hide not only his hair but himself.  And it is there that the idea for payback is born.  And when he fails to bleach his hair with lemons (I could have told him it wouldn’t work and neither does pure household bleach) the concept of getting his own back and embarrassing Dan grows and grows, and takes shape when he discovers an unexpected ally in Dan’s best friend Boaz. 

But once the plan is hatched and put into action, both have second thoughts.  Should the efforts of the whole cast be overshadowed by their need to embarrass Dan publicly?  Is it too late to stop?

There are now twelve books in the very popular Stuff Happens series, each written by a leading Australian author who has a sound track record of writing stories that boys enjoy.  What appeals most is that each takes a very ordinary situation that everyone can relate to and builds a story from it that is both engaging and entertaining as well as thought-provoking.  Each is also a great demonstration in writing about what you know – taking an ordinary everyday event and building it into a story with ordinary, everyday characters whom readers relate to. So often we tend to act first and think later, but the stories follow through on the consequences of the actions (or their potential) and perhaps give real-life readers pause for thought before they take that last step.

This is a series that really appeals to boys – it didn’t stay on the shelves, if it even got there as episodes were eagerly pounced on as soon as they were returned  – and getting them enjoying reading with such quality stories is a match made in heaven.

Boomerang and Bat: The story of the real first eleven

Boomerang and Bat: The story of the real first eleven

 

Boomerang and Bat: The story of the real first eleven

Mark Greenwood

Terry Denton

Allen & Unwin, 2016

32pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9781743319246

It’s the 1860s in the Wimmera district of Victoria and Aboriginal stockman Unaaarrimin (aka Johnny Mullagh) is watching the white settlers play “a curious game called cricket”.  When he is invited to play he hits the ball so hard he splits the redgum bat!  And so begins the remarkable story of the first Aboriginal cricket team and the first Australian team to tour England.  Johnny introduced his fellow stockmen to the game and they were so good that soon they were beating the local white settler teams and invited to play in the city at the MCG!  An English cricketer, Charles Lawrence spotted them, recognised their potential and proposed a tour of England.  But his plans were thwarted when the Board for the Protection of Aborigines refused to let them go claiming “These men might not survive the voyage.”

Undaunted and driven by the money-making opportunity of the novelty of such a team, Lawrence did not give up, continuing to coach them and all the while hatching a secret plan to smuggle Johnny and his mates to England.  After eight days of sneaking through Victoria to Queenscliff, they were taken by longboat to a steamer bound for Sydney and from there, under the cover of darkness they boarded the Parramatta bound for England. 

The tour of England was both triumphant and tragic.  Viewed initially with fascination and later admired for their ability, the team played 47 games in six months with 14 wins, 14 losses and 19 draws.  Mullagh scored 1,698 runs and took 245 wickets.  But racism reared its head, Bripumyarrimin (King Cole) got sicked and died, the players were tired and they were all homesick.  And so they returned to Australia, but unlike today’s teams, “there was no triumphant welcome” – and each, apart from Mullagh,  went their own way back to the bush and anonymity, at home in their country.

Mark Greenwood is the master of telling the back story, the unknown or unheralded truth of those who should be Australian heroes, and this book is no different.  Once again he stands up for the Aboriginal people who were denied their identity, their heritage and their dignity to shine a light on our original cricketing heroes, and bringing to life a team of characters and personalities, not just facts and statistics.  Who knew they had to sneak out of the country like criminals? Who knew they donned traditional gear at the end of the match to entertain crowds with their “tricks” so they could make a little extra money?

Terry Denton also brings each of the players to life with his iconic illustrations.  Double page spreads, vignettes – each one helps the reader picture the action as well as the emotions. Even though the text is written in the third-person in a ‘reporter-like’ fashion, the astute reader marries both words and pictures to get to the purpose that drives this story-telling.   The endpapers are poignant – showing the delight and excitement of the cricketers as they leave on their long sea voyage to the individual portraits that gives each a name and an identity, going a little way to restoring the dignity they deserved but didn’t get 150 years ago.

This book is rich in so many areas for discussion and investigation and comprehensive teaching notes are available.    

The Snow Wombat

The Snow Wombat

The Snow Wombat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Snow Wombat

Susannah Chambers

Mark Jackson

Allen & Unwin, 2016

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

9781760113810

 

Wombat is out on his daily wander through the high country.  Everywhere he goes there is snow. 

Snow on the stockman’s hut

Snow on the crows

Snow on the woollybutt

Snow on my NOSE!

But in this winter wonderland, there is one place where there is no snow… and that’s where he is headed.  But not until he’s savoured the delights on his way, appreciating the sights, smells, tastes and feel of the snow.

How could I resist a beautiful story about my favourite creature exploring the country I live in?  Few Australian children have the opportunity to live where snowfalls are a regular event and where our native creatures have to do the best they can to survive so this is a wonderful opportunity to introduce them to an environment that is Australian but so different to their own.  Wombat meets some of the high country fauna and flora on his journey, all snow-covered in what is a harsh habitat in the winter months but which is his home and which he loves.

Written in rhyming text with perfect pauses that invite the reader to join it, the story is beautifully illustrated in a palette that is so familiar to me yet so unfamiliar to others.  This is not your harsh red and ochre colour scheme of the stereotypical Australian landscape, but the subtle whites, greys and murky greens set against the brightest, bluest sky anywhere.  The endpapers have the map of Wombat’s journey which adds another dimension (including consolidating the left-to-right progression of text) and would encourage getting an atlas to see just where this story is set. Some may be surprised to find it is very close to their home!

This story is rich in possibilities for starting investigations.  Apart from the obvious of finding out about wombats generally, they could explore the prospects of the endangered Northern Hairy Nose Wombat who has its own special day on May 11 each year headed by Wombat Foundation director Jackie French http://www.wombatfoundation.com.au/hairy-nosed-day.html   Older readers could be inspired to think about the adaptations made by both wildlife and vegetation to survive in snow country and how it compares to that with which they are more familiar while others may choose to look at climate change and what that might mean for Wombat and his friends, and the high country generally.   A sign of a great picture book is its ability to engage readers far beyond its apparent audience, and this is one of those.

For those of you who are lucky to live near Great Escape Books on the Great Ocean road at Airley’s Inlet there is a free event focusing on this book on Monday June 13, 2016 at 11.00am.  It’s free but bookings are essential – myevents@greatescapebooks.com.au.  Perhaps it’s an opportunity to get to know this iconic creature and the Australian landscape better.

A presentation of the book at the Cooma Monaro Shire Library

A presentation of the book at the Cooma Monaro Shire Library

Help me with the rhyming words

Help me with the rhyming words

Orphaned baby wombats being cared for by L.A.O.K.O. http://www.laoko.org.au

Orphaned baby wombats being cared for by L.A.O.K.O.

Getting up close and personal

Getting up close and personal

 

 

 

 

This is a Circle

This is a Circle

This is a Circle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is a Circle

Chrissie Krebs

Random House, 2016

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

9780857988058

Take a wild-looking one-eyed bear, a pant-wearing fluffy-eared fox, a song-singing cat and a tap-dancing goat and some everyday props and you have the ingredients for a fun, saucy adventure that will appeal to young readers who love exploring the rhythm and rhyme of our language.  Written in rhyme with bold cartoon-feel illustrations that bring so much to the text, this is a quirky Seuss-like tale that has enormous appeal from its unusual cover to its thought-provoking end!!

Because of the marriage between the text and the illustrations and the repetition of the key words (each in a larger font) this is one that will enable pre-readers to tell themselves the story and indulge in the experience of being a reader.  

This is the creator’s first book – her second, There’s Something Weird in Santa’s Beard will be out nearer Christmas – and even though she is a secondary teacher from Melbourne, my first thought was that this was someone with lots of experience with little ones and teaching them to read.  It has all the elements they will enjoy and would be a perfect curl-up-together bedtime book.

How to build a motorcycle: A racing adventure of mechanics, teamwork, and friendship

How to build a motorcycle: A racing adventure of mechanics, teamwork, and friendship

How to build a motorcycle: A racing adventure of mechanics, teamwork, and friendship

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to build a motorcycle: A racing adventure of mechanics, teamwork, and friendship

Saskia Lacey

Martin Sodomka

Quarto, 2016

64pp., hbk., $A19.95

9781633220577

Known as ‘The Marvelous Mouse Mechanic’ following his construction of and adventures in both a miniature plane and a miniature car, Eli is somewhat full of himself and much to the dismay of his best friends Hank Frog and Phoebe Sparrow, he is now determined to build a miniature motorbike. However, along with the talented pit crew they band together and set to work.  As they start working, they encounter many unexpected obstacles, teaching them (and the reader) about the different parts that make a motorcycle work. Through hard work and perseverance, the three friends learn about mechanics and teamwork as they work together to build a miniature motorcycle, ready for the big race.

But an accident during trials puts lives, friendships and the race on the line. Is winning everything?

This is the third in this series that weaves the building of everyday objects into a story of friendship.  Detailed illustrations explain the overall functions of the engine, clutch, brakes, distributors, as well as many other parts of the motorcycle and how they all go together to make it work demonstrating the principles of movement and motion and physics in a practical way that helps younger readers to understand them more clearly.  More for the independent, mechanically-minded reader, this series certainly has a place on the shelves of those with makerspaces or trying to encourage a greater interest in STEM.  It fits E for Engineering very well!

Old MacDonald’s Things That Go

Old MacDonald's Things That Go

Old MacDonald’s Things That Go

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Old MacDonald’s Things That Go

Jane Clarke

Miggy Blanco

Nosy Crow, 2016

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

9780857634061

 

This is a lively, quirky version of the traditional rhyme Old MacDonald had a Farm, except this time instead of exploring farm animals and the noises they make, it focuses on vehicles.  Cars, tractors, combine harvesters … all feature in this hilarious romp which have the farm animals helping out and having the most extraordinary fun. 

As with the original, it’s the rhyme, rhythm and repetition and the opportunity to join in with the noises that will make this a favourite while the big, bright, bold, hilarious illustrations add to the fun.  They are full of vignettes and detail that there are new things to discover and discuss with each reading.  Everything about this book invites the reader to join in and have fun too, from the first page where he’s armed with his banjo and all the creatures are joining in through to the delightful end!

Perfect for pre-schoolers as well as children who are learning English as their second language.

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

There’s a Moose on the Loose

There's a Moose on the Loose

There’s a Moose on the Loose

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There’s a Moose on the Loose

Lucy Feather

Stephan Lomp

Nosy Crow, 2016

32pp., hbk., RRP $A22.99

9780857635853

Out of the forest and into the city rushes moose.  Clearly in a very big hurry, he races through the fire station, around the department store, into the library, in and out of the museum, around the supermarket and even through the hospital! Even a castle, a swimming pool and a school don’t deter him – he must get where he’s going NOW!  Up the stairs into the City View Apartments – up, up, up to the roof terrace where there is a – big birthday party.  And just as he gets there it’s present-opening time.  But wait!  Why is Moose so unhappy?  Oh no! he forgot to bring a present… and off he goes again.

This is a fun picture book written by the editorial staff of Nosy Crow under the pen-name of Lucy Feather. The text is directed at the reader encouraging them to join in by following the arrows and looking for the objects that collect on Moose’s antlers and those who join in the chase wanting to reclaim their things.  The big bold double-page spreads are full of colour, movement and detail that encourage closer examination once we’ve learned just why Moose is in such a hurry.  Pre-schoolers will delight in being able to re-read this book all by themselves because after that first read, the text is not really necessary.   Putting on my teaching hat, I love that Moose’s journey and the arrows for the children to follow reinforce that left-to-right progression of reading helping the eyes make that sort of track a muscle memory while also encouraging visual acuity with so much to see and find within the illustrations.  Stephan Lomp has created a wonderful world of interactivity with his energetic style, crazy animal antics, and bright, lively colours.

This book definitely has a place in your preschool collection and the shelves of those just learning to read.

A peek inside...

A peek inside…