Archive | September 2022

Dirt by Sea

Dirt by Sea

Dirt by Sea

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dirt by Sea

Michael Wagner

Tom Jellett

Puffin, 2022

40pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781760894061

When Daisy’s family join in a rendition of the national anthem while watching television, little do they know the impact it is about to have.  Because Daisy hears the lyrics as “dirt by sea” rather than “girt by sea” and even though her grandparents and father explain that “girt by sea” means being surrounded by ocean, when she looks out the window all she sees is “girt by dirt.”

It is then her dad realises that he has never taken her to the beach, let alone the ocean, and the trip he and Daisy’s mum made in their old Kombi van are fading into distant memory.  So on Christmas Day, Daisy’s gift is that old Kombi, and on Boxing Day, she and her Dad set off…

Drawing on their own experiences of childhood and adulthood road trips with families, this is a round-Australia adventure for those with the skills to be able to read and follow its graphic novel format. It starts with Daisy’s blank map of Australia on the front endpage and finishes with a completely filled in, colourful one at the back detailing their trip from south-western Queensland to Airlie Beach and beyond around the country’s coastline.

But this is more than just being a travelogue or tourist brochure. Carried along in the conversations between the two, it becomes a personal journey of development for Daisy, her relationship with her dad as he relives his life with Daisy’s mum whose absence is both noticeable and unexplained, and also Daisy’s realisation that she misses her family, and for all it might by “girt by dirt” there is still no place like home with the people and things you love and how they have helped you become who you are. By the time they make it home, neither Dad nor Daisy are the same people who left, and there is a bond between them that the reader knows will endure long into their futures. 

As the blurb says, they discover so much more than the sights and sounds of the wild and wonderful Aussie coast. 

 

An Anthology of Aquatic Life

An Anthology of Aquatic Life

An Anthology of Aquatic Life

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Anthology of Aquatic Life

Sam Hume

DK Publishing, 2022

224pp., hbk., RRP $A39.99

9780241546321

It is no secret that I have long been a fan of the non fiction produced by DK Publishing as a source for non fiction for young readers, and this latest one in a series which includes Nature’s TreasuresDinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Life, and The Mysteries of the Universe is no exception. 

This time the reader is taken an enthralling journey through the aquatic world that spans  the deepest, widest ocean to the tiniest puddle. Each page, with its stunning illustrations and easily accessible text introduces amazing animals, ingenious plants, and much more  within the categories of deep ocean, shallow seas, wetlands, rivers lakes and ponds, covering s diversity of watery habitats that each houses its unique lifeforms, some familiar, many not-so. It also includes a timeline of life moving from water to land, as conversely, land back to water, while the index is in the form of a visual guide that allows the browser to follow up on what piques their interest visually.

It is a fascinating dip-and -delve book that offers an entree that will satisfy the taste buds of the generally curious while encouraging those with a deeper interest to go in search of the main course. DK editors know what young readers are interested in and they know how to present it so that the imagination is captured while the information is shared and that’s a winning combination, in my opinion.                             

Tarni’s Chance

Tarni’s Chance

Tarni’s Chance

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tarni’s Chance

Paul Collins

Jules Ober

Ford Street, 2022

32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.95

9781922696052

When Tarni’s mum says goodbye, all the colour and joy of life seem to go with her. Tarni retreats into her bubble. Her world became smaller and the air seemed thinner. But then Chance steps in . . .

As much as the text in this narrative of family breakdown, self-doubt and anxiety echoes the feelings of loss and loneliness that so many readers will have felt, it is the illustrations that make it so special.  Beginning in deep shades of grey as her parents argue, with the only colour being Tarni and her guitar, her bubble of music, a monochromatic scheme that continues as Tarni comes to grip with her loss, finding solace only in solo activities like drawing and reading, gradually being consumed by the grey of her grief.  Using handmade miniatures set against black and white photography, the reader is drawn deeper into Tarni’s world, but then Tarni spots a stray, ragged dog, seemingly as lost as she is, and there is a ray of hope.  Brief though it is, it shows both the reader and Tarni that there is still a glimmer of colour in the world, and when the dog returns the grey gradually disappears. 

While this is not the first book to use colour to depict mood and emotion in this way, and the use of miniatures and photography was a feature of the 2020 CBCA shortlisted The Good Son, nevertheless it is a powerful representation that those who have passed through the grey of grief will relate to, and those who are still in it will be buoyed by the prospect that colour still exists and step by step they will find it. 

 

ACHOO!

ACHOO!

ACHOO!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ACHOO!

Simon Philip

Nathan reed

Bloomsbury, 2022

32pp., pbk., RRp $A14.99

9781526623737

You probably know it’s good manners to always say thank you and please

To cover your mouth if you’re going to cough, and cover your nose when you sneeze.

Sid knew this but one day, as his nose started to twitch, he forgot and so began one of those zany, absurd adventures that little children love as both the author’s and the artist’s imaginations are carried away.  

With recent events meaning every public sneeze is viewed with suspicion, this is an hilarious way to teach our youngest about the importance of covering your nose – while they will have fun imagining what might have happened next!

 

Out of the Pouch

Out of the Pouch

Out of the Pouch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Out of the Pouch

Laura Hamilton

Nandina Vines

Little Steps, 2022

32pp., pbk., RRP $A14.95

9781922358431

Poppy the baby joey is learning to be independent and so her mother often nudges her out of the pouch to explore.  Poppy loves the freedom but one day she zigs and zags and zooms so much she gets lost.  Using her smarts, she doesn’t panic but asks the other creatures for help.  But Kookaburra. Koala and Echidna are too busy in their own little worlds to know where Poppy’s mother is.  Until Cockatoo comes to the rescue…

This is an Australian twist on a familiar theme that would be the perfect introduction to talking to our youngest readers about what they should do should they get lost.  An opportunity to teach them about who the safe strangers are, the importance of knowing their name, address and telephone number, and having the resilience to take a deep breath and think of the best strategy to use. 

One for the preschooler’s library…

 

Tatty Mouse Rockstar

Tatty Mouse Rockstar

Tatty Mouse Rockstar

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tatty Mouse Rockstar

Hilary Robinson

Mandy Stanley

Catch A Star, 2022

16pp., board book., RRP $A14.99

 9781922326553

Tatty Mouse wants to play in her brother’s band, but given they already have a guitarist, a saxophonist and a singer, she has to find a place.  Known as the ‘mend-it, make-it mouse”, and so, after consulting a book she decides on maracas and drums and sets to, using everyday objects from her home to make her own musical instruments.

The board book format lends itself perfectly to a lift-the-flap experience for our youngest readers as they follow Tatty Mouse’s instructions, perhaps making their own versions as they do because everything she uses is readily available.  

Catch A Star continues to recognise the need for even our youngest readers to have engaging stories that are sturdy enough in their own hands so they can mimic the reading of those who read to them, a critical step in becoming a reader, and this is no exception. The text is simple but the story can be followed without being able to read it because the pictures are colourful and clearly amplify what the words say, while the lift-the-flap and the invitation to do so adds to the engagement.  Above all, this format shows little ones the value of the constancy of print – rather than being a fleeting image on a screen, it is one they can return to again and again, not just to enjoy Tatty’s inventiveness but also to explore their own. 

 

The Zebra’s Great Escape

The Zebra's Great Escape

The Zebra’s Great Escape

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Zebra’s Great Escape

Katherine Rundell

Sara Ogilvie

Bloomsbury, 2022

60pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9781408885758

Mink doesn’t believe in rules. She loves running wild and free. While she is swinging in her yard she meets a baby zebra named Gabriel who is very distressed because he has lost his parents, Mink senses this and they touch heads upon which colours stream out that tell a story and start a communication between the two that leads to great adventure. The little zebra tells her  that his parents have been captured by the evil Mr Spit -who looks just like the villain of every child’s imagination –  she knows that it’s up to her to help rescue them

So begins a grand adventure to rescue a whole menagerie of imprisoned animals – from aardvarks to zebras –  with the help of a a dog called Rainbow and  a squirrel called Rodentia who can all communicate with and connected by the same colour scheme, .– an adventure that will take all of Mink’s courage and determination…

This is more than your standard 32 page picture book as it straddles the borders of that format with the length of a stepping-stone novel, thus helping the young reader transition to reading longer stories but still offering all the pictorial support needed to augment the text. It is a tale of friendship, courage and resolve that moves along at a fast pace, and the reader can put themselves in Mink’s place as she is determined to outwit the evil Mr Spit. 

Reminiscent of Dr Dolittle and his ability to talk to the animals, this is a story to capture the imagination and lead the reader on an adventure to remember.   

Tilda

Tilda

Tilda

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tilda

Sue Whiting

Walker Books, 2022

272pp., pbk., RRP $A17.99

9781760654634

As the 19th century becomes the 20th, hard times have befallen Tilda and her beloved Papa as they grieve the loss of Tilda’s mother, the burning down of the Nimble Ninepence so Papa is out of a job, and his family turning his back on them. Desperate, he puts Matilda into the Brushwood Convent and Orphanage for Girls while he joins the SA Citizen Bushmen Contingent to go to South Africa to fight in the Boer War.  

But he vows to return to her for her, and it is this promise that Matilda clings to as she endures orphanage life with all the harshness that we associate with those institutions, except she has a particularly rough time as head nun Sister Agatha has singled her out for some reason, determined to break her spirit.  Buoyed by her mother’s advice telling her to be strong, and her strong friendship with the sickly Annie, Matilda resists every attempt and every punishment to admit that she is an orphan, until she sees apparent proof that her father has indeed, abandoned her, and her world crumbles…

Ever since I first came to Australia and read Playing Beattie Bow in 1980 (introduced to her by a Tl mate whose job I envied),  I have had a penchant for historical fiction set in Australia, with strong female leads..  Tilda is a worthy addition to my list.  Author Sue Whiting has grounded the story loosely on her grandmother’s life who, like mine, was born in New Zealand in 1896, and then moved as a baby to Australia.  While she has manipulated the events and the timeline slightly, as authors are allowed to do, she has used the little she knows to craft a powerful story of courage and determination, a willingness to stand up to authority and be her own person, that was not the norm in those times.  Or, if they were, it was still very much a man’s world and such resilience in girls was not written in the history books.  Despite the reign of Queen Victoria. the lives of independent young women were relegated to novels. 

More for the older end of the target readership of this blog , nevertheless it is one that more mature younger independent readers will relish as a new world of times past will be opened up to them.  While they may not relate directly with Tilda’s circumstances, nevertheless they will be cheering her on, barracking for her each time she stands up to Sister Agatha, and empathising with her as she is determined to look after Annie.  Who knows – this may be a young girl’s “Beattie Bow” and lead them down reading paths they didn’t know existed.  

Hot Dog

Hot Dog

Hot Dog

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hot Dog

Mark Sperring

Sophie Corrigan

Bloomsbury, 2022

32pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781408876114

On the fast food stand at the beach lies a hot dog – a sausage and bun – who is very glum as he watches all the real dogs gallivanting and cavorting in the waves and sand. How he longed to be like them with heads and tails and feet. But when the Mustard Fairy makes his dreams come true, will he be accepted by the other dogs? Or will he have to fight for his place in the sun?

How refreshing it is to just read a story for the share joy and silliness of it, to just savour the rhyme and rhythm rolling off your tongue with no underlying didacticism, although there could be a slight flavour of “be careful what you wish for.”  From the team behind Santa Jaws, Mince Spies, and Jingle Smells , this is another hilarious fast-paced romp that needs to be shared just for the fun of it, to entertain the reader and make them laugh.  And as our beach days approach, let our imaginations roam wild with what if… 

Be Careful, Xiao Xin!

Be Careful, Xiao Xin!

Be Careful, Xiao Xin!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Be Careful, Xiao Xin!

Alice Pung

Sher Rill Ng

Working Title Press, 2022

48pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781922033932

All through the day, no matter where he is or what he is doing, Xiao Xin’s family is warning him to be careful.  Even the most common things that children do like climbing on the monkey net come with warnings and commands not to do it. If ever an example of helicopter parenting were needed, this is it. 

But rather than feeling loved and protected, Xiao Xin feels stifled. 

They don’t understand what I can do!

They don’t understand what I can be!

For he dreams with his eyes wide open and sees himself as a Red Fire Warrior capable of doing “infinite things”. But more than that, he also sees how this constant care and concern is limiting him and his little sister.

So, when one day Xiao Xin leaves the house to prove he can be independent and safe,  and doesn’t tell anyone, panic sets in, until…

Children are often the most-longed for gift, and certainly the most precious, and so it is understandable that parents want to protect them, but this deeply-layered story with its stunning illustrations which add another dimension in themselves, demonstrates that just as our children grow up, so must we and we must be willing to let them become the confident, competent, independent adults they need to be. 

Written in both English and Mandarin (itself another layer of complexity), it is one that straddles all age groups as the child who hears it may well relate to Xiao Xin’s situation and the parent who reads it might also reflect on how their protectiveness and expectations might be stunting the child’s growth.  I was reminded of a vignette in a recent episode of Old People’s Home for Teenagers in which a young girl who, because of parental expectations, worked hard to excel academically stumbled when presented with a problem that could not be solved by the technology in her hand.  Reading a print street directory was too much of a challenge, but more concerning was her response to not being able to do so.  There is a fine line and Xiao Xin not only pushes it but has the courage to cross it!

Watch for this one in awards season!