Archive | November 2021

The Secret Lives of Dragons

The Secret Lives of Dragons

The Secret Lives of Dragons

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Secret Lives of Dragons

Prof Zoya Agnis

Alexander Utkin

Flying Eye, 2021

64pp., hbk., RRP $A34.99

9781838740474

“Deep in the cold mountains of a distant land, there was once a magnificent kingdom of dragons. The songs of dragon families echoed across its peaks, and priceless treasures were hoarded in its caves. But what happened to this kingdom?” 

From stories like The Paper Bag Princess to the drama of Smaug’s arrival in the opening scenes of The Hobbit, both before and beyond, dragons have been a common entry to the world of fantasy for our young readers, sparking the imagination to go on wondrous adventures. For some, just being engrossed in the particular story is enough, but for others, there is a desire to know more and for them, this book is the answer.

It contains everything a curious mind wants to know to become an expert Drackenosopher just like the esteemed author, Zoya Agnis.  Through clever illustrations and readily accessible text, they can learn to identify the different dragon families, name the most fearsome dragon slayers, the bravest of Drackenosophy scholars and everything else there is to know about the beautiful dragons that we share our planet with.

About 20 years ago, there was another series of books like this (this series also includes The Secret Lives of Mermaids  and The Secret Lives of Unicorns) and it became the perfect vehicle for transitioning young readers into the world of non fiction as we took a topic they were fascinated by and started exploring information books.  In fact they came up with the slogan, Fiction = Imagination; Non Fiction = Information, something I have used in many instances since then. This would serve the same purpose. 

Whenever I make a storybook cushion or a journal or author kit featuring a dragon, I know I will only have it for a short time, such is the popularity of these fantastic beasts. Adults and children snap them up immediately, such is the fascination with and popularity of this creature.  So this is the perfect book to be the centrepiece of a display and promotion featuring fantasy promising to take readers on magical adventures. A must-have if you have fantasy lovers amongst your readers. 

I Have a Magic Ball

I Have a Magic Ball

I Have a Magic Ball

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Have a Magic Ball

Nisrine El-Choueifati

Amy Calautti

Little Steps, 2021

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

 9781922358738

“Grab a ball that’s boring, find a ball that’s plain, please grab a ball so you can play this game …’”

The concept of a magic ball has been one that has fascinated for centuries and this book invites young readers to find balls in their lives and imagine what they could become or do or… From snowballs to fireballs, there are so many different sphere shaped objects in our lives and each has a story to tell about how it became or what it might become.

Designed to encourage children to use their imagination and think about the what-ifs and what-might-bes , it has the potential to be the story starter for many wondrous tales, limited only by the storyteller’s power to imagine. Even sitting in a circle with just one ball, perhaps a balloon, with each child offering something before 1-2-3 CHANGE…

Something different for our youngest readers to help them understand they can be story makers as well as takers.

 

 

Boris Goes Berserk

Boris Goes Berserk

Boris Goes Berserk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Boris Goes Berserk

Robert Favretto

Janice Bowles

Ford Street, 2021 

32pp., pbk., RRP $A16.95

9781925804867

When Boris the huntsman spider crawls along the wall looking for a blowfly for dinner, he has no idea the chaos his appearance will cause.  And will he get out of this alive? (Not if he’s in my house!)

This is an hilarious story that will resonate with kids and adults alike as Boris tries to elude his potential killers. Told in rhyme, it rollicks along as all the family members, particularly Dad, try to dispatch Boris to somewhere else, and both actions and scenes (including Dad in his jocks) will be very familiar. Or maybe not to those who are braver than me and mine.

IMO, anything with more than two legs  has too many (unless it’s my cavoodle), particularly things that bite and leave me swollen and itchy and so Boris and his relatives have no place in my house – half a can of fly spray is my weapon of choice, but Dad didn’t try that.  Clearly, kinder than me. 

Whatever your opinion of the place of spiders and other creepy-crawlies in your life, this is a LOL story that will appeal to all from the author of Morphing Murphy and there are teachers notes’ available for those who want to investigate spiders  and fears more closely. 

Cato’s Can Can

Cato’s Can Can

Cato’s Can Can

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cato’s Can Can

Juliet Sampson

Katrina Fisher

Ford Street, 2021

32pp., pbk., RRP $A16.95

9781925804768

Cato the cockatoo loves to dance. Each day he bops and rocks and kicks and stomps all by himself.  He would dearly love to find a dance partner but none of the local birds are interested.  But then, throughout the course of a week he spies lots of dancers who move just like his different bird-world friends – spinning like a lyrebird, bopping like lorikeets, snapping like lyrebirds, leaping like brolgas, tapping like grebes, hopping and prancing like bowerbirds – but even though he shows off his moves, they disappear without noticing him.

So, instead of showing off his moves, he decides to follow them – and everyone gets a surprise…

This is a charming story that celebrates both the unique movement of bird species and the magic of dance. Using a days-of-the-week and cumulative-counting format, both Cato and the reader focus on the various forms of dance that humans have developed to bring joy to themselves and others making a delightful read for all those who love to dance. No doubt they would be able to add other genres and similes such as waltzing and gliding like swans.  As well as being great for investigating similes, bird movements and dance types, it would also be fun to explore the sort of music that would accompany each, and perhaps even find examples of each type. 

So much more than a one-off read! 

Old Grandpa’s Book of Practical Poems

Old Grandpa's Book of Practical Poems

Old Grandpa’s Book of Practical Poems

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Old Grandpa’s Book of Practical Poems

Peter Macinnis (curator)

Amazon, 2021

337pp., pbk., RRP $A22.00

ebook $A4.00

9798583706266

Imagine having at your fingertips a comprehensive collection of the poems that are most often quoted, or pop up in allusions and crosswords. 

This collection carefully curated by wordsmith Peter Macinnis includes rhymes, brief and not-so from Britain, North America and Australia and in his words, should be “read aloud: adult to child; child to child; child to adult.” While he believes it is a collection that  “young people of all ages can benefit from encountering” it is, “above all, a work of love, both of language and also of grandchildren, official and unofficial, everywhere. “

However, IMO, it is one that should be in the collection of all educators and school libraries because it provides such ready access to all those verses that we know snippets of but can’t quite recall the whole thing.   Grouped under these rough headings: Short, Sweet and Sour; Pieces to Get the Tongue Around; Parodies; Fun with words; Adventures; Stories; Travel; Myths and Other Animals; Books and the arts; Seasons; Love and beauty; Funny; Society and its oddities; Nature; Science; Sport and The game of war, it spans works such as The Elf and the Dormouse (particularly topical given the weather we are experiencing on the East Coast and that which is predicted for the summer) to Banjo of the Overflow, a parody of my favourite Clancy of the Overflow,

This is the third edition of this work, again as carefully and meticulously researched as any who know Peter expect, and for many has proven to be the turning point in their relationship to poetry. There is something special about sharing something so personal as poetry preferences with those you love., be they children, grandchildren or your students. How many times have I had fun with young ones exploring Southey’s The Inchcape Rock (p59)  and the inglorious fate of Sir Ralph the Rover? Sometimes words with no pictures to shape the imagination are exactly what is needed. 

This anthology is the perfect vehicle for whenever you and yours need to just shut your eyes, listen and watch the images on the screens of your eyelids. 

Pax, Journey Home

Pax, Journey Home

Pax, Journey Home

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pax, Journey Home

Sara Pennypacker

Jon Klassen

HarperCollins, 2021

256pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

9780008470289

A year has passed since Peter and Pax have seen each other, since the separation of a once inseparable pair.

The war is over but the land has been left desecrated and deserted as the water supplies have been poisoned by heavy metals. Peter’s father has died in questionable circumstances and although Peter is back living with Vola, and his grandfather visits regularly, he believes that everything he loves he hurts and they leave him so he is determined to shut the world out and live alone.  After all, he is nearly 14.  

And so, the boy-man sets out on a journey to reclaim his old home; to join the Water Warriors, a band of people painstakingly cleaning up the polluted waterways to restore life -flora, fauna and human – to it;  and to keep the world at arm’s length and out of his heart forever. That way he can keep those he might love, safe. But is that possible?  He certainly didn’t count on meeting Jade, let alone her insight and wisdom. 

Meanwhile, Pax has adapted to the wild he did not seek; and has become father to a litter of kits, one of whom is an inquisitive, feisty female whom he must protect at all costs, particularly after she drinks deeply of the contaminated water. And as they continue their long journey home, Pax continually picks up the scent of the boy who abandoned him…

This is one of those stories that stays with you long after you reluctantly turn the final page, not just because of the power of the surface story but because the layers and  currents that run through it,just like those of the river that is at its heart – the river that put Peter back into old territory and provides Pax with safe passage from humans and predators. Although Pennypacker believed that she would not write another novel after Pax, clearly deep within her she knew there was more of this story to be told and this is the compelling sequel, one that kept me up well past my bedtime as I immersed myself in it, wanting to finish but knowing that when I did I would be left with that feeling that comes when an absorbing plot and great writing come together.

If you have mature, independent readers who can appreciate the nuances and parallels of what is between and beyond the words  then this is the duo for them.  Less sophisticated readers will enjoy the story for what it is, but it is those who are able to reach down to the deeper waters below the surface who will most appreciate it. 

Outstanding. 

 

Witch in Training

Witch in Training

Witch in Training

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Witch in Training

Michelle Robinson

Briony May Smith

Walker Books, 2021

32pp., hbk., RRP $A27.99

9781406377804

Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and caldron bubble.
Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the caldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt and toe of frog,
Wool of bat and tongue of dog,
Adder’s fork and blind-worm’s sting,
Lizard’s leg and howlet’s wing,
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.
Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and caldron bubble.
Cool it with a baboon’s blood,
Then the charm is firm and good.
Macbeth: IV.i 10-19; 35-38
This scene and these words from the three witches in Shakespeare’s Macbeth have become the epitome of our perception of witches standing around a cauldron concocting a spell… but where do those ingredients come from?  Are they stored in a special with pantry to be on hand whenever they feel the need or the urge?  Or is there another secret supply?
In this rollicking rhyme-story, readers are invited to join Betty who is about to learn how to prepare her first spell as a trainee witch. and her mother as they gather the ingredients needed for her first lesson.  There are items to gather from the sky, the wood and other mysterious places and then there is the spell itself to craft.  But this is Betty’s first attempt – can she expect it to go well from the get-go?
Apart from being an engaging read, this is also a familiar tale for our youngsters because, although the circumstances will be entirely different, everyone has had the experience of expecting to do things well especially when we have prepared so well and then finding the outcome not quite what we expected, and having to learn about being resilient, trying again, practising to make progress and all the while leaning from and building on our experience and that of our teachers. 
There is the opportunity to explore the format of recipes, the need to follow instructions, to invent and write their own spells and even speculate on what the unintended consequences could be.
Perhaps even explore those original Shakespearean words and discover just what eye of newt is!  
Love stories like this that can take the reader on all sorts of unexpected journeys…

The Boy and the Elephant

The Boy and the Elephant

The Boy and the Elephant

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Boy and the Elephant

Freya Blackwood

Angus & Robertson, 2021

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

9781460759998

The boy lives in a city, where everything is fast and loud. But amidst the bustle and the noise, the boy has a secret …

In the overgrown lot next to his apartment building, deep within the green, he has a friend.

But one day progress arrives, bringing with it plans for something new, and the boy must find a way to save his friend before it’s too late …

To offer any more than the publishers’ official blurb would destroy the magic and the wonder of this masterpiece from Freya Blackwood who has told the most evocative story entirely in her exquisite illustrations.  From the very first page (even the credits are afforded minimal space) there unfolds the most enchanting story of a little lad with a special friend and a critical mission – one that shows that one child can make a difference and can open adult eyes.

If ever there is a book that epitomises the 2022 CBCA Book Week theme, then this is it – and my prediction is that this will be among the winners.  

Just Like Me

Just Like Me

Just Like Me

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just Like Me

Tess Osborne

Zoe Osborne

Little Steps, 2021

24pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781925839845

Zoe is delighted when a new girls starts at a her school and she is just like her.  She has a favourite doll, a pet dog and a naughty little brother just like she does. It is lovely to have a friend with so much in common.

But the story in this story is in the illustrations rather than the words as the reader is likely to pick up that Zoe’s new friend is not quite like her.  Or they may not, depending on what they have been taught because this book is designed to demonstrate that little ones do not see difference like colour or disability.  They see the way people are like them, rather than unlike them and that to look for difference is a learned behaviour.

But books like this can be a two-edged sword, thus moving them from their intended audience of little ones to use with older students because they can debate whether such books actually teach young ones to look for difference in their peers.  With the words saying one thing and the illustrations another so the message of the book is grasped, does this then contribute to that learning about difference? If they didn’t see it then, will they look for it now?  Or does it just consolidate that it doesn’t matter – kids are kids everywhere?  Food for thought.

 

Orangutan Hats and Other Tools Animals Use

Orangutan Hats and Other Tools Animals Use

Orangutan Hats and Other Tools Animals Use

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Orangutan Hats and Other Tools Animals Use

Richard Haynes

Stephanie Laberis

Candlewick Press, 2021

48pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9781536200935

Move over, humans! We’re not the only creatures who can invent and use tools to keep ourselves fed, warm, safe, healthy, comfortable—even entertained. Thanks to the careful observations of biologists working in the field, we now know that elephants use sunscreen, long-tailed macaques floss their teeth, assassin bugs use bait to lure their prey, orangutans make pillows, and crows will go sledding just for fun.

Defining a tool as “any functional object, fashioned or found, that is not part of the user”, the reader is taken on a fascinating tour around the world examining creatures that use tools including the boxer crab and bottlenose dolphin of our region to the African elephant and even the bald eagle. For thousands of years, humans believed that only they were intelligent enough to invent and use tools but since the 1960s, particularly, scientists specialising in observing animal behaviour have proven this to be a fallacy as they the many ways that the animal kingdom uses and adapts common objects to meet their needs in their quest for survival.

Those uses include health and healing, defence, hunting, harvesting and eating, and comfort and joy and the book has been divided into these sections, with examples of each. So while the elephant uses straw, grass, mud, and sometimes vomit to protect itself from the burning rays of the sun, the orangutan uses large tropical leaves like umbrellas to protect themselves from the rain.

With large and small realistic illustrations, some with a touch of whimsy, to support the readily accessible text, this is one for independent readers fascinated by our natural world and who want to know more about a topic they may not have even thought about.  To support their reading there is a map, glossary, bibliography, and index so as well as the content, they can also learn how to navigate a print non fiction text. 

A peek inside...

A peek inside…