Archive | April 2020

The Astronaut’s Cat

The Astronaut's Cat

The Astronaut’s Cat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Astronaut’s Cat

Tohby Riddle

Allen & Unwin, 2020

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

9781760524944

The astronaut’s cat is an inside cat.
And she likes it like that.

But unlike other inside cats, the astronaut’s cat is on the moon, where it is so hot during the day a bowl of water would quickly boil, and so cold during the night it’s ten times colder than being in a fridge freezer!!  So each day Cat looks out the window at Astronaut working while she watches and snoozes and dreams of going outside to pounce and bounce lighter than a birthday balloon.  But when Earth rises on the inky black horizon she dreams of being back where there is colour and movement and shapes and forms and Mother Nature fills her with sights and sounds and scents…

When the masterful Mr Riddle created this book he would have had no idea that it was going to be released at a time when many of its readers were going to be cooped up inside, just like his cat. That being able to go outside and breathe fresh air and savour the sights, sounds and smells of the great outdoors would be as much a risk for them at this time as it is for Cat. That they would gaze through their windows and dream of earlier times… 

He probably thought that he was just creating a story about his cat Pom Pom who is just like the cat in the story – completely white, odd eyes and pink ears – and who, being an inside cat, spends her time gazing at the window outside.  While he has cleverly superimposed Pom Pom and Astronaut onto real backgrounds of the lunar landscape to help intensify the feelings of isolation and disconnectedness, here on Earth it is a deadly disease keeping people indoors rather than a hostile environment.  But unlike Cat we can connect so perhaps sharing this story could be the catalyst to connect our kids with the Through My Window activity. Have each one look out their window as Cat did, and draw or photograph what they see, including the sounds and the smells they are missing (good or not-so) and write an explanation to share with their friends. Maybe they could pop a teddy or something in the scene and challenge others to find it. 

Here’s what is outside my window this morning…

But here’s what I am missing…

 

A great way to think about how Cat might be feeling and the things we take for granted. As Joni Mitchell sand in Big Yellow Taxi, “You don’t know what you’ve got
‘Till it’s gone…”

To The Bridge

To The Bridge

To The Bridge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To The Bridge; the journey of Lennie and Ginger Mick

Corinne Fenton

Andrew McLean

Walker Books, 2020 

40pp., hbk., RRP $A26.99

 9781925126822

Little Lennie Gwyther is fascinated by the construction of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, but unlikely to ever see it because it’s a long way from Leongatha in Victoria to Sydney in NSW.  And even less likely because the country is in the grip of the Great Depression and money is tight for train fares.  But when his father his hospitalised and Lenny takes up the responsibility of running the family farm, his parent decide to reward him for his hard work.  Lennie knows what he wants to do but because train fares are so expensive, he decides to saddle up his horse Ginger Mick and begin a journey that is the stuff of legends, 90 years later. So much so, that he is remembered in his home town with a statue to tell his story

Both Corinne Fenton and Andrew McLean have created a sensitive reconstruction of Lennie’s quest, bringing to life a time of great hardship for families that might be being echoed in homes again now.  But Lennie had a dream and he was able to make it come true, so perhaps this will offer some hope and comfort to a new generation facing an uncertain future. Lennie’s story is one worth sharing, even moreso now.  Why not set up an opportunity for students to investigate stories of kids who achieved their dreams like Lennie and maybe share the dreams of their own?

 

Monty’s Island 1: Scary Mary and the Stripe Spell

Scary Mary and the Stripe Spell

Scary Mary and the Stripe Spell

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scary Mary and the Stripe Spell

Emily Rodda

Lucinda Gifford

Allen & Unwin, 2020

176pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781760529857

Monty lives on a perfect island in the middle of a magical sea. Sometimes the sea throws up something interesting … and Monty goes on an amazing adventure! It sounds idyllic but when the Laughing Traveller gives Monty, Tawny and friends the startling news that Scary Mary and her pirate crew are on their way, looking for a new island to call home, their peace is shattered. What can they do? There’s no way they can hide – especially when Bunchy accidentally turns the whole island stripy with her new magic wand.

It’s going to take one of Monty’s best ideas to save them!

Emily Rodda is renowned for writing the most divine series that really engage readers – how many boys did I turn on to reading when Deltora Quest was at its peak? – and this new one has all the promise of being another winner.  It is directed at the younger, newly-independent reader and with at least two more episodes on their way, this is going to keep Miss 9 occupied over winter when she has finished her birthday books.  It is time for a new generation to be introduced to this amazing author and her timeless body of work. Perhaps it could be your recorded read-aloud to share as a bedtime story with your students. 

Here’s a sneak peek – the author reading the first chapter.

There’s No Such Thing

There's No Such Thing

There’s No Such Thing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There’s No Such Thing

Heidi McKinnon

Allen & Unwin, 2020

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

9781760877279

It’s night time and Bear and Ted are camping in the yard for the very first time.  But the sounds of night falling are keeping Bear awake and his imagination is on high alert.  From blood-sucking spiders, to hungry giants, and fire-breathing dragons, the dark is populated by amazing monsters,.  Luckily, he has Ted there to help him stay calm.  But when they both smell something….

From the creator of the delightful Baz and Benz and I Just Ate My Friend, this is another story that will appeal to our youngest readers because they can be the hero and reassure Bear that there is no such thing, but, at the same time, being reassured by Ted that there is no such thing.   Whatever their imagination might think, there is a logical explanation.  Or is there???? 

Why I Love The Earth

Why I Love The Earth

Why I Love The Earth

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why I Love The Earth

Daniel Howarth

HarperCollins, 2020

26pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

9780008389109

Illustrator Daniel Howarth has taken the words of our littlest ones about why they love this planet and transformed them into charming, fun illustrations that will appeal and inspire.

Starting with Teacher Bunny showing her class a globe and giving her class a classic teaching strategy of completing a sentence, she says, “I love the Earth because…” 

Then all her students respond with a range of reasons in a series of double-page spreads that bring together aspects of the planet, familiar and not-so.

This would be a wonderful book to share with both parents and children at this time because it is just made for getting our youngest readers to respond with text and illustration, especially when we are trying to strike a balance with screen time. Some might even like to investigate some of the phenomena that are mentioned such as how old the Earth is or why it has so many colours.

It’s a great way to differentiate the curriculum as each follows something that fascinates them or has piqued their curiosity.

Another picture book that transcends its target age group and opens up worlds of possibilities. 

What a Lot of Nonsense

What a Lot of Nonsense

What a Lot of Nonsense

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What a Lot of Nonsense

Sheena Knowles

Jonathan Bentley

Angus & Robertson, 2020

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

9781460756140

Dear reader, please take time to note
Two ways to read this book I wrote.
The first way is for everyone,
Just read the book, enjoy the fun.

The second way will challenge those
Who like to look beyond the prose.
Who’d like to ACT just like a ‘cat’
(And that’s an anagram, in fact).

Even though my littlies are now almost biggies (9 and 13) respectively and I’ve had to take a long hard look at the shelves bending under the weight of picture books for them in their special bedroom,  two titles that will never be moved on in my lifetime are Edward the Emu and Edwina the Emu. Albeit a little tired from being shared with every class I ever taught, they are classics for me and they will soon be joined by this new title from their author, Sheena Knowles.  It is delightful, funny and SO clever and Jonathan Bentley’s illustrations give it an extra layer of magic.

The opening rhyme says it all and from there on it is just a romp of fun and hilarity – why should you worry if a camel eats curry? – and the recurring image of Bear struggling to get dressed just ties it all together.  And then to weave the tapestry even more tightly is the use of anagrams, a fun word device that might set readers off an entirely new tangent as they discover another aspect of our language. Maybe students could write and illustrate their own couplet that contains an anagram and give their classmates a lift during this at-home time.

 

 

Eureka!: A story of the goldfields

Eureka!

Eureka!: A story of the goldfields

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eureka!: A story of the goldfields

Mark Wilson

Lothian Children’s, 2020 

40pp., hbk., RRP $A26.99

9780734416810

Like thousands and thousands of others, Molly and her father have emigrated to Australia to try their luck as gold prospectors in Ballarat, Victoria. Life on the diggings is hard and Molly misses her mother, who died before they left England.

A Chinese teenager, Chen, shows Molly and her Papa how to pan for gold and helps them when their food and money run out. Not everyone on the goldfields is friendly, however. Chen and other Chinese diggers are often bullied and the police lock up miners who haven’t paid the exorbitant gold licence fee. Before long, Molly, Papa and Chen are caught up in a protest that will become known as the Eureka Rebellion – a legendary battle that will profoundly affect them all.

Based on a true story, this intricately illustrated story gives an insight into what life was like on the Victorian goldfields particularly from the perspectives of a young girl and that of being Chinese.  For the Chinese were not welcome, were not trusted and racism regularly raised its ugly head.

 IMO historical fiction like this is a critical element of helping our students understand the nuances of life at the time, I wonder what a book of the future will depict about this time we are living through.  Because this is based on a true story it could also lead to investigating the sorts of documents that people kept,  like family Bibles, photographs, diaries and journals, and the role they play in helping us reconstruct the stories of the past. Perhaps students could document “A Day in the Life Of…” as a way of memorialising this time because what will happen to all the emails and photos and so forth that are only stored online, without a physical copy for posterity.

For those for whom a study of the goldfields is on the curriculum, this is an excellent example of how history can be accessed through a narrative and enable young readers to get a more human insight into the time that bare facts and figures do not offer. This is what Mark Wilson does best and in this, he is at his best.

 

Pests: Mouse in Training

Pests

Pests:Mouse in Training

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pests: Mouse in Training

Emer Stamp

Hodder Children’s, 2020

190pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781444949629

Stix is the size of an egg cup, can jump the width of a dog’s bottom, and LOVES cheese. That’s because Stix is a mouse. He probably lives behind your washing machine, but you wouldn’t know it, because his grandma taught him to always stay out of trouble and NEVER let the humans know he’s there. But disaster strikes and now Stix is left adrift until he stumbles across PESTS – the Peewit Educatorium for Seriously Terrible Scoundrels – in the basement of his building. Along with a whole host of new pesty friends (and enemies), he’s about to rip up Grandma’s rule book – strict rules like ‘never poop in places mans will see’ ensure the deadly Nuke-A-Pest are never called ensuring a peaceful and happy life- and make a REAL pest of himself because a different set of rules apply. 

This year may be the year that our students discover the joys of reading as they look forward to a winter indoors with very little outside activity, so this would be a good story to recommend to newly independent readers who are still bridging the gap between stepping stone “chapter books”and full-text novels. Supported by its own website and  YouTube channel which has lots of videos and activities, including learning how to draw Stix, it will have lots of appeal that should extend over time., particularly as it’s a series.

One to recommend to parents as a read-aloud or a read-alone.

Ruby Red Shoes: My Wonderful Grandmother

Ruby Red Shoes: My Wonderful Grandmother

Ruby Red Shoes: My Wonderful Grandmother

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ruby Red Shoes: My Wonderful Grandmother

Kate Knapp

Angus & Robertson, 2020

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

 9781460758885

Ruby Red Shoes lives with her grandmother Babushka Galina Galushka and they have a most wonderful relationship because her grandmother wears fluffy slippers to the shops and doesn’t care what others think;   she tells stories from the time of the dinosaurs when she was a little girl; she says big words like ‘quandary’ and ‘hullabaloo’; she belongs to a Book Club that meets once a month and sometimes laugh more than it talks; and she keeps fit through aqua aerobics.  But mostly she’s wonderful because she has x-ray spectacles and she can see deep inside Ruby and knows just what she’s feeling.

In these times when so many little ones are separated from their grandparents, as mine are from me, because of being in that high-risk age group, this could be the perfect opportunity to reflect on the relationships and consider why they are so important. In fact, Ruby invites the reader to do just that.  Perhaps the reflection might inspire a letter or a phone or video call so that connections can be maintained, or maybe the creation of a book just like this one full of special thoughts and memories that can be shared when all this is over and we can get together again.

Ruby Red Shoes: My Wonderful Grandmother

Ruby Red Shoes: My Wonderful Grandmother

Extraordinary!

Extraordinary!

Extraordinary!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Extraordinary!

Penny Harrison

Katie Wilson

New Frontier, 2020

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

9781925594911

While we may all have had an extraordinary wish to skip through the stars, harness a unicorn or sail around Mars, this story encourages us to look for the extraordinary in the ordinary.  To find what Mother Nature has provided; or the shared time with friends and family; or the sounds and smells of silence. 

Written in rhyme and illustrated with rich detail so there is as much to discover in the pictures as there is in the world around us,  this is a timely release at this time when we are all but confined to home.  Psychologists and others are telling us that more important than any formal schoolwork undertaken at this time are the relationships we build with our families and the memories we make as we pull together, so having such a beautiful book to share to help us focus on the ordinary and find the extraordinary is serendipitous. One to share under the conditions granted to schools at this time and to encourage students to share their extraordinary in the ordinary.  Keep them connected. What one finds, another may also discover.