Hilda Snibbs is not like other people. She doesn’t have a dog or a cat or even a goldfish – she has three little monkeys. Their names are Tim and Sam and Lulu and they are very lively. Every time she leaves the house and leaves them on their own, they trash it. Nothing is safe – not her hat, her knitting, her favourite shampoo, the toilet paper…
She tells them she is disappointed in them, she asks what she has done to deserve such wretched little monkeys; she wonders how long she can put up with them – and each time Tim and Sam and Lulu look at her with their big round eye and say nothing. One day after they had been into everything in her bathroom, she cries, “Oh, for a peaceful life without these wicked little monkeys!” But when she comes home the next day and they are gone, she realises how much she misses them until…
This is a funny, lovable story that will become a favourite of little ones as they recognise some of the mischief they themselves might have created over time. Quentin Blake’s words marry so well with Emma Chichester Clark’s illustrations – little vignettes that are full of action and fun as they show the monkeys at work – that this is a masterful collaboration. Even though the monkeys are so naughty they remain lovable and it’s Hilda Snibbs who becomes the “villain”. As Miss 5 said, “Why did she keep leaving them on their own? She’s stupid!”
Three Little Monkeys is the perfect bedtime read-aloud as the children delight in the antics and naughtiness of the monkeys and see that they are loved regardless of what they do, while Hilda Snibbs will resonate with exasperated parents who sometimes long for the quiet life they had before their own little monkeys were born., even though they know they wouldn’t have it any other way.
At the bottom of the garden
where no one really sees,
a secret school is hidden
amongst the grass and weeds.
And it is the first day of school for all the little bugs that live in the garden. Spiders have to learn the pitfalls to avoid like climbing up waterspouts, crickets need to know their new song for the summer, ladybirds have to learn to count spots and all of the other things that go with the first day of school, under the watchful, caring eye of Miss Bumblebee.
With a new school year just over the horizon for many of our pre-schoolers this is a delightful story in rhyme that will help them allay their nerves and they start the what-ifs and their anxiety begins to build. The illustrations show each bug as a friendly individual (even the spiders) and the idea that school is fun threads its way through helping to quell questions and nerves.
One to add to your preschool collection to be shared as the term moves on – the children might even like to think of a favourite bug and decide what it is they would have to learn. Would a centipede have to know how to tie shoelaces?
That eerie time just before dawn as the sky lightens and the stars are fading rapidly.
That split second of sunrise as the shards of light spread new life on the landscape.
That changing palette of oranges and yellows as the sun marches across the zenith on its inexorable journey , textures are in sharp relief and stones shelter and slumber.
That sheltered, filtered coolness as a few rays reach down through the canopy to the soft, sensitive plants on the forest floor.
Those subtle changes as the day draws to a close in a hush of blue, indigo and violet as gentle showers fall and sometimes thunder rumbles.
That all-consuming blackness of night as the sun takes its rest and only shadows remain.
In this visually stunning new book by one of our nation’s leading indigenous artists, the colours of the day stride through the pages capturing and encapsulating the patterns, the moods and the moments of what we so often take for granted, or just don’t see. Bancroft always brings the beauty of nature into focus in her paintings and her evocative text, leaving an impact that forces us to look around and start to view what she sees – perfection in the natural shape, lines and layers of the landscape – through a new lens. Even if we do not have the talent to interpret the landscape and tell its story in the wonderful way of Bancroft, at the very least we can drink in this book and look with new eyes and better understand the connection to the land that our indigenous people enjoy and celebrate so well.
She has used the colours of her homeland west of Grafton, NSW as her inspiration but are they the same colours that would be seen in other parts of Australia? Are we united by them or is the landscape different but no less beautiful? Have you students observe and paint what they see during the course of the day to discover the answer.
Before Mia moved in next door, Jack was lonely. But Mia brought rainbows, jungles, concerts and lots and lots of giggles. Even their mums thought they were “two sides of the one coin” and “fit together like a puzzle.” Mia’s amazing imagination took them on adventures that Jack had never dreamed of and when they both got sick at the same time, they were each given a book about making and doing, make-believe and play that allowed them to continue the fun from their beds.
When they were better they kept using their books, snipping, gluing, taping and tying a magnificent cardboard castle. They each wore crowns and royal robes and ruled over their kingdom with wisdom and kindness. They were as close as the materials that held that castle together. Until one day Mia moves far away with her family and Jack is back into the isolation and desolation that he felt before Mia entered his life. Nothing was the same any more.
Across the sea, Mia had also given up. She was missing Jack just as much. But then Jack found Mia’s book in his toybox and…
There is nothing like the deep friendships forged in childhood where there are no distractions beyond deciding what today’s fun will be about. Jack and Mia is a charming story that focuses on such a friendship and how it can continue even after separation has intervened. It will resonate with children who have moved away from familiar surroundings and friends and show them that there are plenty of ways of keeping in touch to relive old memories and make new ones. The technology of today gives them so much more than that of previous generations and the world can come to you with just a few clicks.
The illustrations enrich the storyline as Jack and Mia do not share the same skin colour but neither notice – it’s all about who each child is, how they connect and the fun that can be had when kids get together, just as it is in any playground. In fact, I’d proffer that the readers will not even notice the difference. Racism and all that it entails is very definitely a concept learned from adults.
When there is a big mess in the house, Not Me is the cause. When the bathroom is flooded after battles fought with tough pirates, Not Me is responsible. When the garden is trashed because masses of monkeys have been chased away, it’s Not Me’s fault. And when the bed breaks because it’s been used by a circus tumbler, Not Me has done it again.
This is a funny and familiar story about a little boy and his invisible twin brother Not Me whom he holds accountable whenever something that is done that makes his mum cross. Young readers will resonate with its invisible friend theme but they will also like the ending which exposes the real culprit. As well as the rhyming text which invites the reader to join in with “Not ME”, the pictures cleverly incorporate the leg of Not Me running off to the next page to cause some more mischief and inviting us to tag along. And although we don’t see mum looking cross and cranky, we do see the little boy looking very sheepish and remorseful and you just know that he will own up to the devilment because mums ALWAYS know!
A charming debut story for this new author-illustrator.
Stanley is not the world’s most attractive dog – he looks like he has been built out of very old, very weathered, very strong bricks and even though he looks dangerous from a distance, he was really as soft as a pillow. Stanley loves four things – his bed, his dinner, his red rubber ball and Gerald, his human. Unlike Stanley who looked like he had been built from bricks, Gerald looks like he has been created from carefully crafted paper, folded and glued together and rather than looking dangerous, he looked as “harmless as a postage stamp.” Gerald loves his mum, Stanley and Lego.
Most days Stanley walks Gerald to school but on the whole he was quite lonely at times as Gerald and his mum were all the family in the house, and while he loved them, they never came to sleep in his bed with him. So when Gerald took Stanley and his red ball to the park and Stanley got to play with other dogs, he loved it. When Gerald threw the ball all the dogs would chase it, but they always stood back and let Stanley fetch it. Until the day a fluffy little thing called Lulu caught it and refused to give it back…an event that will change his life forever!
Colin Thompson, author of the fabulous Fearless, has created another doggy character that children will love and resonate with giving them hope that even though they might feel lonely and be the only one in a single-parent family, things can change. With his vivid words-and-pictures descriptions of both Stanley and Gerald (with lots of wonderful similes to explore) there is a strong message about not judging things on their appearance and the juxtaposition of the soft, fluffy Lulu standing up to the tough-looking Stanley is just one example.
This story has many layers so will appeal to many age groups, but overall it’s just about love and the power of hope and a red rubber ball.
In Focus: 101 Close Ups, Cross Sections and Cutaways
Little Tiger Press, 2016
26pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99
Twenty years ago one of the most popular series of books in my library featured the cutaway illustrations of Stephen Beisty as the children were fascinated by being able to look beneath the outside of things to see what lay concealed and how these things worked. In this fascinating book compiled by Libby Walden, ten illustrators have placed ten everyday subjects under the microscope to uncover what lies beneath their surface and produced 101 fascinating pictures that are familiar to children and which will fascinate them for hours.
Using the broad headings of Oceans, Home, Earth and Space, Landmarks, Nature, Everyday Objects, Buildings, Fruit and Vegetables, Animals and transport, they can explore the workings of everything from a shark to the Statue of Liberty to the inside of a banana in close-ups, cross-sections and cutaways. They can even discover how their toilet works!
Even though the book nominally has 26 pages, each opens out to a double spread giving each topic six pages of fascinating information. On the exterior of the gatefold is an illustration of a number of objects and then by opening it, the interior of each object is exposed, a clever design technique that adds to the notion of peeking inside. Because the captions are brief and sometimes technical this is more suited to the independent reader who can use it as a starter to find out more, but nevertheless would still be good in the hands of an adult and child who is curious and just wants a simple explanation.
Another example of why and how we can keep our print collections vibrant and interesting. A perfect adjunct for those with a makerspace in the library.
The ballerina lived in a little wooden box and every day she stood straight and tall and danced for the little girl who would laugh and clap her hands and dance like the ballerina herself. But as the years passed, the little girl grew up and the ballerina danced for her less and less, until, eventually, she danced no longer.
So one day she jumped down from her box, skipped out the windowsill to find a new dance partner. But the bee in the flowers was too busy; the turtle on the seashore wasn’t a dancer; and the leopard on the island wanted her for his lunch! So the ballerina hurried home to her box and danced one last time for the little girl. But sadly, it was not enough and the lid was closed and the box stored away for many years. Until one day another little girl opened the lid…
This is a poignant story about growing up and the treasured keepsakes we grow beyond as we do so. For while it is the story of the ballerina wanting to do what she loves, it is also the story of those things that we always think of when we think of our childhood and which we know we will pass on to our own children in the hope they will get similar joy. Gwynneth Jones’s illustrations are charming – gentle pastels while the ballerina is happy dancing for the girl and a bolder palette as she gets bolder – and feed right into the vision we have when we think about musical boxes with their magic tucked inside.
A great opportunity to talk about memories with our children as well as what they love enough to want to keep for their children, creating bonds across generations.
Ada does not look forward to weekends, particularly Saturdays, because Saturday is ballet day and she HATES ballet. Her leotard is too tight and her tutu too itchy and as for the moves she is forced to do and practise and practise…as she says, “Arabesques are GROTESQUE”. As for pirouettes – well! Even with her little monster sidekick who tries to offer support and encouragement, she just doesn’t like it. For Ada, it is definitely NOT a case of “practice makes perfect”.
But one Saturday morning when she is trying to please Miss Pointy she pirouettes right out the door and into a whole new world, one where she fits perfectly.
Across the world, Saturday mornings see young girls and boys going off to do things like ballet and music and sport and so on because their parents think they should, or they should enjoy them or the parents are reliving their dreams, but how many are like Ada and have no aptitude or passion for the activity? Many were the freezing mornings I cycled many miles to piano lessons thinking of excuses for not having practised until my long-suffering teacher told my mum she was wasting her money. Based on the creator’s one disastrous attempt at ballet when she was four, this story will resonate with those whose abilities, talents and interests lie beyond those that they are expected to do.
The illustrations are very expressive – even the youngest non-reader can tell that this is a story about an unhappy child who seems to have a permanent scowl and for all their apparent simplicity, the feelings of Miss Pointy and the other girls are very obvious. With a predominantly gentle colour scheme, lime greens and bright reds punctuate Ada’s discomfort along with speech bubbles and onomatopoeia giving it a fast pace that will encourage young readers to read it for themselves independently without much trouble. The final page is perfect.
A peek inside…
Sharing this with a class could enable a discussion about the sorts of things that the students do on weekends and their feelings about those activities. There may be a number of Adas uncovered who will be grateful for having their feelings legitimised and perhaps even have the courage to talk to their parents about what they would really like to be doing and lerning.
Like all foxes, the Fox family love to watch football and from their den under the garden shed, Father Fox and his eldest son venture forth to watch their favourite team, the Leicester City Foxes, although the night usually ends in disappointment because their team is soundly beaten each time. On the night that they were beaten by Chelsea, the foxes were making their way home trying to keep their spirits up by raiding the dustbins along the way looking for food scraps, especially pizzas but anything that had been left behind that would make a quick and easy meal. As usual they venture into a city carpark that is being dug up because there is a good chance of finding some fresh, juicy worms but this night there attention is caught by an invisible voice seeking their help.
The voice purports to be the king of England who desperately wants the foxes to dig a tunnel to him so the archaeologists can find him and give him the fitting regal burial he is due and help clear his reputation that he believes, “that villainous scribbler Will Shakespeare”, “that wretched man, that ruinous rhymster, that dastardly dramatist”, has ruined. Eventually the foxes agree but being cunning creatures, there has to be something in it for them -“such stuff as dreams are made on”.
If anyone can draw a connection between the remains of King Richard III being found in a carpark in Leicester City and the Leicester City Foxes winning the English Premier League for the first time ever, it would be Michael Morpurgo. This is a short, humorous story retold by Master Fox whose story is backed up by articles in the Leicester Echo that will appeal to younger readers who are almost independent but who still need the support of short chapters, larger fonts and supporting illustrations.
Morpurgo is a master at creating new stories that are unique in their storylines and this one is no different. Superb.