Archive | October 2020

Skydragon: Skydragon 1

Skydragon 1

Skydragon 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Skydragon 1

Anh Do

James Hart

Allen & Unwin, 2020

232pp., pbk., RRP $A15.99

9781760876364

When a mysterious glowing purple ball ignites their home while they are innocently making pizzas for tea, only Amber and her brother Reggie emerge from the inferno alive but both are badly injured, Reggie in a coma. Weeks later, watching from her neighbour’s fence Amber sees what remains of her home demolished in a very hush-hush operation.

Five years later, with Reggie still in a coma and Amber reminded daily of the events because of the scar on her face, she is  the butt of nasty comments and bullying from her peers who refuse to see the girl beyond the scar. The only constant is her fascination with dragons and her only joy, the beauty of the insect world. But something very strange happens when she trips and falls while on an insect-watching excursion with her class and is surrounded by a swarm of deadly hornets…

Afterwards, Amber knows she has been given an incredible power, but was it a freak accident, or was there something she was supposed to do with it?  Controlling her new ability might be the hardest thing Amber has ever done. Especially when she is running for her life.  Who is her mysterious enemy? What connection does he have to Amber’s past? And, most importantly, does Amber have what it takes to truly become . . . Skydragon?

This is a brand new series from the prolific and talented Anh Do, aimed at those who are straddling that invisible divide between needing the support of short chapters and illustrations and reading complex novels.   There is the familiar background of school but also the twist of the legacy of that glowing purple ball that opens up all sorts of possibilities for adventure. At the top end of the readership for this blog, but one for the more independent 8 year-olds to aspire to. 

 

What Do You Call Your Grandpa?

What Do You Call Your Grandpa?

What Do You Call Your Grandpa?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Do You Call Your Grandpa?

Ashleigh Barton

Martina Heiduczek

ABC Books, 2020

32pp., hbk., RRP $A17.99

9780733340864

In every country around the world are grandpas short and tall,

Though they go by different names, we love them one and all

A Poppy here, a Grampa there – or maybe he’s a Pa?

Turn the page, let’s meet a few of the finest near and far…

My friends and I are definitely in the grandparent generation and amongst us there is a Grandma, a Nonna, a Nanna, a Gr’Anne, a Biddy, a Mimi and a Gran.  But all the grandfathers are either Granddad or Poppy. Not much diversity at all.  So this is an interesting book, both delightful and enchanting, that takes the reader on a journey around the world and introduces them to grandchildren and their grandfathers and the special names they are known. Who knew there were so many?  Saba, Taid, Vô, Babu, YeYe, Koro, Bompa, Nua Nua, Daada, Belo, Nonno, Lolo, Kaku, ..so many terms of endearment from so many languages and cultures, all of which are identified in the glossary on the final page. 

Despite the many terms though, what shines through this story in rhyme is that no matter where we are, that special relationship between a child and their grandfather is universal and the memories made are enduring.  As well as teaching little ones new names – I can envisage of wall display of photos of the children’s grandparents and the special names they call them, especially as the author invites the reader to share – this would also be a grand book for those who are learning English as a new language because they will delight in seeing their own culture represented in a way that connects us all.

 Our family?  Very ordinary.  One of us is Grandma Gruesome and one is Grandpa Grumpy!  And we work hard to live up to expectations! 

Old Man Emu

Old Man Emu

Old Man Emu

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Old Man Emu

John Williamson

Simon McLean

Puffin, 2020

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

9781760898793

Fifty years ago teacher John Williamson wrote a ditty about an old emu racing across the Australian countryside in pursuit of a female friend.  As he goes he meets many iconic creatures such as a galah, cockatoo, wedge-tail eagle, kookaburra and the kangaroo, but while they all they have their unique characteristics, none is as charismatic or as fast as Old Man Emu.

“He can’t fly but I’m telling you, he can run the pants off a kangaroo.”

 

Such hilarious and well-known lyrics, which not only launched Williamson’s career as a singer and songwriter but became essential singing in classrooms, demand to be illustrated and Simon McLean has done an outstanding job bringing them to life so that a whole new generation can  sing and laugh along and be introduced to the work of the man who gave us True Blue , regarded as one of our national anthems, and the haunting Raining on the Rock.

Over the past half century, Williamson has given us so many songs, each with such a unique message about this country, its people, its places, its past that they cry out to be the basis of investigations to discover what it is that makes us unique.  What is he saying in Rip, Rip Woodchip? What is the story behind A Flag of Our Own? So to have this very first one in picture book format to open up a study of not only emus but a whole range of fauna is just precious, and I’m sad that I’m no longer in a classroom or library to make it happen.

Something special for any child, Australian or otherwise. 

Pea and Nut Go for Gold!

Pea and Nut Go for Gold!

Pea and Nut Go for Gold!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pea and Nut Go for Gold!

Matt Stanton

ABC Books, 2020

24pp., hbk., RRP $A17.99

9780733340680

Pea the panda and Nut the flamingo are best friends but they are also great rivals.  Anything Pea can do, the boastful Nut can do better!!  After the fun that was their version of The Great Australian Bake-Off,  the contest is on again…

This time, while Pea wants to sleep in the sun, Nut is keen to jump in the pool and because they can’t help themselves it quickly becomes a competition to rival any Olympic 100 metres final. except this race has no rules and what follows is the funniest romp little ones will enjoy in a long time – perhaps since the bake-off.

Matt Stanton has proven over and over that if a book has his name on it, it is going to be an engaging story that is full of laughter and love and this is no exception. His philosophy is “books inspire the imagination, imagination births creativity and creativity changes the world” and no matter the age group, he is bringing this to reality and these two lovable characters are proof.  It’s as though he said to himself, “Who are the two most unlikely friends I could pair up?” and the beautiful, elegant flamingo and the slow lumbering panda could not be more diverse, and having determined that, he has asked, “What are the craziest adventures these two could have?” 

As well as being sheer entertainment for our younger readers, this could also start a discussion about why we have rules, particularly appropriate at this time when we are being asked to follow so many.

In the meantime, it will be soon be time for our local pool to open for the summer and I am going to take careful note of those with whom I am sharing the water.  If there is a panda or a flamingo in sight, I will just sit back and enjoy the hijinks. The laughter will be as much exercise as a couple of laps. 

 

It’s OK to Cry

It's OK to Cry

It’s OK to Cry

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s OK to Cry

Molly Potter

Sarah Jennings

Featherstone, 2020

32pp., hbk., RRP $A21.99

9781472942425

Not so long ago, when boys got to about six or seven, they started hearing the familiar mantra of “big boys don’t cry”, encouraging them to “be tough” and suppress their emotions.  While such a philosophy is still acceptable in many parts of society, for the most part it has been phased out but there are still many other less explicit messages that we pass on to our boys which have the same effect.  Our words and our actions and reactions to particular circumstances all combine to pass on a subliminal message that somehow it’s not OK for boys to be in touch with and express their emotions.  To do so is “girly” and sadly, that is somehow is showing weakness.

This book has been written to demonstrate to boys, particularly, that it is OK, in fact beneficial, to know and understand and express their emotions. Starting with a collage of some of those ways we parents make statements that suggest that to cry when you’re hurt is not tough and followed by another that has all sorts of similar subliminal media messages, it is clear that it is no wonder our boys can be confused.  The pages that follow offer insights into a range of feelings, positive and negative, situations in which they might arise and words to describe them so when they occur they can be shared.   There is a strong message that experiencing a variety of feelings over the day is completely natural – in fact it is what makes us human. It demonstrates that we won’t all have the same response to the same situation and that at any one time, there can be all sorts of emotions happening within a group of people.

It acknowledges that sometimes our feelings can make us uncomfortable and offers strategies to deal with these and there are also notes to enlighten parents about helping their children acknowledge, own and deal with their emotions in a healthy way rather than just suppressing them.

Even though this book has particular application at this time when life is not normal and adults are struggling with their mental health in an unprecedented way, it has application far beyond that as we pay more attention to the mental health of our students and address them. It could form the basis for a term’s work exploring much more deeply than the more traditional “I feel happy when…; I feel sad when…” offering students insight that could be the foundation for lifelong learning that takes us all to a calmer, more empathetic place.

The Secret Garden: The Story of the Movie

The Secret Garden: The Story of the Movie

The Secret Garden: The Story of the Movie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Secret Garden: The Story of the Movie

Frances Hodgson Burnett

Linda Chapman

HarperCollins, 2020

224pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

 9780008340070

First published in 1911, The Secret Garden is the story of Mary, a  sickly, neglected, unloved and unwanted 10-year-old girl whose care has been mostly left to the servants who care for her English family in colonial India. After her parents die in a cholera epidemic, she is sent back to England into the care of her unknown uncle Archibald Craven  at his isolated mansion Misselthwaite Manor on the Yorkshire Moors. 

At first, Mary is rude and obnoxious, disliking everything about her new circumstances but eventually she warms to Martha Sowerby who tells her about her aunt, the late Lilias Craven and how she would spend hours in a private walled garden growing roses. After his wife died in an accident in the garden,  Mr Craven locked the garden and buried the key.

Mary becomes interested in finding the secret garden herself and once she discovers the key, her life begins to change…

This version is based on the screenplay of  2020 movie which has finally been released and which many students will have seen.  Telling the core of the original story it evokes a magical world that encourages self-discovery and change and perhaps an interest in reading the original.  A stunning way to introduce a new generation to a classic. 

The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Dangerous Animals

The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Dangerous Animals

The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Dangerous Animals

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Dangerous Animals

Sami Bayly

Lothian Children’s, 2020

130pp., hbk., RRP $A32.99

9780734420015

Not content with introducing us to some of the world’s ugliest animals (shortlisted for the CBCA Eve Pownall Award,  natural history illustrator Sami Bayly has now collected 60 of the planet’s most dangerous creatures into another stunning volume.

Whether it’s the tiny hooded pitohui that weighs in at just 65 grams but is the world’s most poisonous bird, the boomslang whose venomous bite stops blood from clotting, or the more familiar crown of thorns starfish, each page introduces the reader to something new and mind-boggling.   Should we be threatened by these animals or appreciate them for their incredible features?

As well as the usual information about what they look like, what they eat and where they live, there is also a paragraph about why they are so dangerous to humans or the environment and whether we are at risk of meeting one on our daily walks, especially as so many of them are Australian!.  Fun Facts give each a bit of personality but it is the lifelike drawings that will hold the fascination of even the youngest reader.  (This copy is going to a preschooler who could not get enough of Ugly Animals, even though he’s not quite reading yet.) 

Unlike my mum I am unlikely to have an encounter with a leopard seal in the Sub-Antarctic Islands, but I am grateful that the local magpie couple have good memories and remember the hand (head) that feeds them and leaves our fibres for their nests during this swooping season! Time to offer them a little more mince as I’ve just noticed a teeny-tiny head rising above the nest!

One that will keep the reader entranced, particularly those boys who have a need to gather around one book and discuss what they find,

 

What Zola Did on Wednesday

What Zola Did on Wednesday

What Zola Did on Wednesday

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Zola Did on Wednesday

Melina Marchetta

Deb Hudson

Puffin, 2020

96pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

9781760895174

Zola is getting very busy after school these days.  She has her gardening club on Mondays and her knitting group on Tuesdays and she still has to find time to play with her cousin Alessandro and the dogs while trying to keep out of trouble.  But when her neighbour Leo’s mum, who is a police officer, brings home a new sniffer dog for training, things can only get interesting – particularly when her friend Sophia’s little turtle goes missing and Lola hatches a plan to find it…

This is the third in this series about Zola and her friends – a diverse group of kids who could live in any neighbourhood, anywhere. Their everyday lives are just like those of the readers who can see themselves, understand and relate to the friends, while being a stepping stone for  consolidating their new reading skills with a solid text combined with lots of illustrations, short chapters and humour.  Because the characters and events are so common,  the stories could be the inspiration for children to get together in ways they did in previous generations and be the foundation blocks of a new community as we find new ways to get together in these COVID times. Perhaps our new lives may not be so frantic that we don’t have time for the simpler pleasures of yesteryear.

There are seven stories in the series altogether and each one is as entertaining as the others. 

Shoo You Crocodile!

Shoo You Crocodile!

Shoo You Crocodile!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shoo You Crocodile!

Katrina Germein

Tom Jellett

Little Book Press, 2020

32pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9780648551041

The class of preschoolers are at the museum when suddenly they are confronted by a large crocodile!  With its crocodile teeth it is intent on biting the children’s feet. CHOMP CHOMP CHOMP.

But instead of running the children stand their ground and STOMP STOMP STOMP and ROAR ROAR ROAR frightening it away. Or have they?

This is one of those books that our youngest readers are going to love because there is no way they will just sit and listen to it.  They HAVE to join in with the sound effects, the louder the better so the crocodile is sent back to where it came from.  The brilliant illustrations ,the repetitive text, the concept of the story and its ending are engaging enough but the urge to make this a full sensory experience will be irresistible.  This is the sort of story I loved sharing with my little ones – our aim was to be so loud that those around us would smile and know that we were engrossed in the enjoyment of the story.  Can there be a better experience?

A peek inside....

A peek inside….

 

The Whales on the Bus

The Whales on the Bus

The Whales on the Bus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Whales on the Bus

Katrina Charman

Nick Sharratt

Bloomsbury, 2020

32pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

9781526603432

Can you imagine whales on a bus riding round the town?  Or some goats on boats?  Dragons is wagons? Sheep in a jeep?  Perhaps bees on skis is more your thing? Well, Katrina Charman and Nick Sharratt have and the result is the most vibrant picture book with a familiar rhyme and rhythm that is not only going to enable our littlest readers to read this book for themselves but also put a song in your head and a smile on your face for the rest of the day. 

Because the concept is so familiar  and the pictures so clear and energetic, it won’t matter if your child can’t decode the words yet – they can work them out for themselves.  And voilà! They are reading.  Just like a real reader.  Such a huge boost to their confidence and self-esteem!

This book is just a joyful celebration of silliness in the boldest of colours that it will be loved and read over and over again – just like that song…