Archive | May 2024

Cry Hard, Chucky

Cry Hard, Chucky

Cry Hard, Chucky

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cry Hard, Chucky

Andrew Kelly

Emma Stuart

Little Steps, 2024

32pp., hbk., RRP $A26.95

9781922833419

Chucky is a great little kid. He is good mannered, fun loving and into everything. But when he makes a mistake, or things don’t go his way, he tends to get angry and upset. With Dad’s help, Chucky learns the healing powers of having a good cry.

In times gone by there was a saying that “boys don’t cry” as though it was somehow “unmanly” for males to show and share their emotions, and as that slowly dissolved into the past, there came a new acronym of SNAG – sensitive, new age guy – as though, again, for a male to be showing and sharing emotions was so unusual it needed a label.  And sadly, in some families these sorts of beliefs still hold true and boys learn to repress their anger and their sadness, regret, hurt and all those other emotions until they explode, sometimes with disastrous consequences. 

So this is a story that has a place in helping our young understand that emotions are normal, that expressing them appropriately is essential and often cathartic, and it is, indeed, okay for boys to cry.  In fact it is natural and a necessity. Chucky encounters a number of situations that will be familiar to young readers and his dad encourages him to “cry hard” validating both the situation and Chucky’s response to it. Tears can make others feel uncomfortable and many feel a need to apologise if they fell themselves welling up, but stories like these that normalise such emotions go a long way to addressing them.  

Superhero Animals

Superhero Animals

Superhero Animals

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Superhero Animals

Chris Packham

Anders Frang

Farshore. 2024

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

9780755504657

What links whales, earthworms, dogs and wasps?  How does whale poo make the underwater world go round? Why are tiny ants so mighty? What makes bats heroes of the night? 

Each of the 9 000 000 species of animal, plant and fungi that humans share this planet with has a special role in ensuring that the world’s ecosystems keep working and stay healthy. whether that’s pollinating plants, fertilising the oceans or cleaning the soil or the myriad of other tasks that they work together to do.  And in this new addition to the Little Experts series, readers are introduced to some of these superhero creatures on which we all rely. 

In the introduction, the reader is reminded that they can make a difference – one person, in one community, on our one planet, so while some creatures , like the tiger shark and the vulture seem quite exotic and out of our everyday realm,  others like bees, wasps, bats and frogs are much more familiar and for these, there are challenges to take up to understand them better, protect them and share what we know so others do too. 

 Little Experts is a series designed to introduce 6-9 year olds to the world around them by having experts in the field share their knowledge in easily accessible explanations accompanied by rich illustrations, , and even though they, themselves, may not recognise the names of the experts who are mostly UK based,  nevertheless having titles about everyday things that our little ones are curious about and pitched at their level can only be a positive addition to  non fiction collections. 

 

Losing the Plot

Losing the Plot

Losing the Plot

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Losing the Plot

Annaleise Byrd

Walker Books, 2024

144pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781760656409

Imagine if you preferred to be playing any sport in the world on a Saturday afternoon instead of having to stop indoors to practise your reading.  Especially with a kid you have nothing in common with.  Or, on the other hand, you enjoy reading but you’ve been assigned the task of helping someone with theirs, someone with whom you have nothing in common and who wants to be anywhere else instead. 

And then, suddenly, one of the characters leaps from the pages of the book and you are dragged into it and a wild adventure….

That’s the situation for Basil Beedon and Terry Clegg, who are neighbours but the street they live in is the only thing they have in common.  But since Basil’s dad and Terry’s nan got talking and it transpires that Terry will be kicked off the football team if his schoolwork doesn’t improve. Basil has been assigned to helping him with his reading. Every. Single. Saturday. 

Because boys of that age who don’t like reading prefer a bit of action and gore, Basil chooses some of the original versions of the fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm, but neither is prepared for what happens.  As they begin to read The Complete Fairytales of the Brothers Grimm  Gretel comes shooting out of the story in tears because her brother Hansel is lost and she needs their help.  So the boys are plunged into a dangerous world run by the Fairytale Alliance Network of Character Yunions (FANCY), where not everyone is what they seem, Hansel has been kidnapped and a plot hole threatens to destroy everything.

With its setting far from the saccharine depictions of early childhood picture book version of the fairytale, familiar characters yet very different from the expected, fast action, clever use of words , particularly acronyms, and a myriad of twists and turns in the plot, this is the first in a series that will capture not only Basil and Terry but other newly independent readers as they not only discover a different world of fairytales beyond those presented by Disney (not so long ago I met a bookseller who did not know that there was a version of Cinderella before Disney!) but also that there is a wide range of these tales to read and explore, well beyond the most familiar.  It is a story that opens up the familiar in an unfamiliar way, draws on the need for trust and compromise as friendships, relationships and alliances are built between unlikely companions, and celebrates the magic that reading, in itself, can offer.  One that not only works with this year’s CBCA Book Week theme but also that of 2021 – Old Worlds, New Worlds, Other Worlds.  

(And while they wait for the next episode, readers might like to explore Pages & Co or Temora and the Wordsnatcher.)

Grandmas Are the Greatest

Grandmas Are the Greatest

Grandmas Are the Greatest

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grandmas Are the Greatest

Ben Faulks

Nia Tudor

Bloomsbury, 2024

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

9781526634849

There are certain days on which I just HAVE  to wear my favourite t-shirt.  The one that tells others that they had better be careful!

Because even though I am a grandma to two of the best grandchildren you could ever wish for, I am so much more than that.

And this charming book in rollicking rhyme with its oh-so-appropriate illustrations is a celebration of ALL the things grandmas are rather than some doddery stereotype with a bun, cardigan and walking stick.  Grandmas can be actors or acrobats, ambulance drivers, expert chef. even a secret spy.  But there is one thing they all have in common – they love their grandchildren unconditionally and just want whatever is best for them. And there is a companion book about grandads too, offering such scope for a pictorial display of all the things the children’s grandparents are that this book is a must-have for any study of families or stereotypes.  

The only problem I have with being a grandma is that the grandchildren grow up so fast – one day they are babes in arms and the next they are young adults in jobs!  Where does the time go? 

Shower Land (series)

Shower Land (series)

Shower Land (series)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shower Land (series)

Break the Curse 

9781761342523

Feel the Freeze

9781761342530

Nat Amoore

James Hart

Puffin, 2024

208pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

Monday morning and it’s time to get up but bed is a much warmer option.  But Dad is threatening all sorts of dire consequences if you don’t, and your little brother is cracking silly jokes so you hurry into the shower, turn it on and BAM!   Suddenly you find yourself in the middle of a field, naked, and an army of soldiers is heading towards you.  Or, having had that experience, you resist having a shower until you really smell, and this time you find yourself knee-deep in snow on the side of a mountain in your swimmers!!

Such is the life of 10-year-old Felix in this new series for young independent readers.  

Not since the infamous shower scene in Hitchcock’s Psycho  has taking a shower been so precarious because you never know where you might end up as it acts as a portal to other places.  Luckily though for Felix, while he finds himself in unfamiliar settings and times and his first priority is to find some clothes, he is able to find some friendly faces who are willing to help him find his way back home but not before he encounters characters with problems much more confronting than his own and for whom he is able to draw on his own family experiences to help solve, not only assisting them but learning more about himself and people generally, at the same time. 

This is a fast-paced series, with appealing, humorous illustrations and formatting to support the newly independent reader, that uses the portal trope to transport both the hero and the reader out of the everyday into worlds where anything can live and anything can happen – just the kind of escapism that is needed at times. Young lads will see themselves as Felix, others will relate to the single-dad scenario, there is the more serious underlying message of self-discovery that adds substance, and it is just the right length for a quick read that carries you along wanting to find out what happens to whom.

And with the promise of a third, Walk the Plank, in September, readers will have something to look forward to. 

 

Billy And The Epic Escape

Billy And The Epic Escape

Billy And The Epic Escape

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Billy And The Epic Escape

Jamie Oliver

Puffin, 2024

416pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

 9780241683965

Billy and his best friends Anna, Jimmy and Andy are looking forward to a summer exploring Waterfall Woods, discovering more about the magical creatures who live there and the Rhythm of nature, the beat that keeps nature in harmony and keeps their world, and ours, in balance.

Then the woods come under attack from a mysterious red lady, forcing the sprites and brothers Wilfred and BiIfred into hiding, and the gang rush to the rescue! But what does the red lady really want? Could she be connected to Bilfred’s disappearance all those years ago? And, if so, how is it possible she looks exactly the same decades later. . .

Can Billy and his friends uncover the truth and stop the red lady’s plans, before the Rhythm is put in danger once again?

The sequel to Billy and the Great Adventure, this is an adventure fantasy, a genre popular with many young readers as they see themselves in the role of the hero conquering evil and saving their family, friends and even the world.  But what I love most about the series is that author Jamie Oliver has been deeply involved in its production using his own childhood experiences of having difficulty processing text and so it is formatted to be accessible to those with dyslexia as he is.  The print edition is in a sans serif font while the audio version has state-of-the-art sound effects, multiple voices including narration by the author so that the characters and situations are brought to life in “a fully immersive experience”. But apart from those physical concessions, at its heart this is an engaging, entertaining tale for all readers who enjoy these sorts of adventures. 

How children learn to read has been the subject of research and pedagogical debate for decades – in fact, a century when one considers the breakthrough works of Sylvia Ashton Warner – and clearly, if there were one approach that was the silver bullet for all children, it would have been identified by now.  But as factions and their fads wax and wane, there are kids who fall through the cracks as the favoured method does not meet their needs, and so there are many who get to be 8,9, and 10 for whom reading is a chore, who see and label themselves as failures already, and for whom the school experience becomes a negative to be endured with all the implications of that  Thus, any book that identifies and then caters to the needs of these children gets a big thumbs-up from me.  To add to the positivity, is the fact that the author is celebrity chef Jamie Oliver and it is so easy to find stuff by and about him that he can be held as a role model for these students with their fragile self-esteem.  Not only has he made a successful, high-profile career from cookery but even with his reading difficulties he has written two books – so if he can do that, what can they do?

They can start by enjoying an action-packed adventure that carries them along at a fast clip and enables them to join in discussions with their friends so they too can be part of something they felt excluded from.  And having achieved that success, who knows…. 

Love Like Chocolate

Love Like Chocolate

Love Like Chocolate

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Love Like Chocolate

Yracy Banghart

Alina Chau

Little, Brown, 2024

40pp., hbk., RRP $A34.99

9780316408516 

As a family welcomes an adopted little girl to their home, her brother takes it upon himself to teach his new sister their traditions. For good days and bad, for birthdays, holidays, and everything in between, their family always celebrates with chocolate. They make super chewy chocolate chip cookies in the spring, very-berry chocolate-cherry mousse in the summer, chocolate banana pancakes in the fall, and warm chocolate sauce in the winter. But the boy soon realizes that his sister might have favourite treats of her own, and that if they work together, they can create new traditions and memories together.

The author’s note at the back says that this book was, in part, inspired by her family’s experiences in welcoming a child from Thailand into their family, and so this is a story that will allow adoptees to see themselves in a story, but I believe its broader appeal will be because of the subject matter because one of the truisms of this world is that chocolate makes everything better.

And just as the children share and make recipes, it provides an opportunity to be the centrepiece of a display that encourages children from throughout the school to share their special chocolate recipes (focusing on procedural texts), perhaps even sparking new friendships, as well as investigating all other things chocolate. Often the most unexpected storybooks can lead to all sorts of discoveries and this has the potential to do that. 

Grey

Grey

Grey

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grey

Laura Dockrill

Lauren Child

Walker, 2024

40pp., hbk., RRP $A27.99

9781406389562

Today I am grey.

I don’t feel sunshine yellow, or balloon orange bright, or treetop green…”

Or, indeed, any of the other colours of nature that surround me.  Today I am grey like the scribble on the page, the puddle on the road, the storm when in the clouds…

And that’s fine.  It’s  OK to be grey. Grey days are normal and natural  but the colours are still inside you, they’re just a little overwhelmed right now . They will peek out and come back soon.

This is a charming book exploring those feelings we all have, and its simple, direct text combined with Lauren Child’s iconic illustrations including clever cutouts offers the child not only validation of their emotions but also reassurance and hope that the brighter days are close by.  It also provides the little one with a way of expressing their feelings as often they don’t have the words to articulate either the how or the why of their mood.  

Colour is used to express  emotions across languages and cultural traditions, and particular colours are associated with various feelings regardless of our beliefs or origins.  We feel blue, see red, or we are green with envy and while this could be an area to investigate, perhaps for this intended audience it is the metaphorical use of the language that could be fun.  Little ones don’t necessarily need to know adult words like “simile” and “metaphor” but how engaging is the phrase “as grey as tea when it’s gone cold” or “lullaby blue”?  What fun they could have sharing their own favourites and how rich their language and writing will become.

But for all that, this is a story that tells our little ones that no matter how they feel, the feelings are natural and the adults in their lives will understand and love them regardless.  And that’s a message they need to hear over and over again.  

May I Hug You?

May I Hug You?

May I Hug You?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May I Hug You?

Oleta Blunt

Katherine Appleby

Little Steps, 2024

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

9781922678119

Isla is very excited because she has a new puppy and she rushes forward to greet him.  But this is a new situation for Basil and he is feeling very unsure so he heads back into his carry cage where she can’t reach him.  Isla is disappointed, not understanding why Basil seems scared of her, but her mother explains that he is feeling unsure because he doesn’t know her yet and Isla needs to take things quietly and build trust and friendship step-by-step.

This is a message-story for all young readers anticipating the arrival of a new pet – sometimes their excitement and enthusiasm can be overwhelming, particularly to something as small as a puppy or a kitten, and they need to take a step back and consider how the pet might construe their innocent actions as threatening.  But it could also be a lesson to the adult sharing it with them as together they think about consent. Is it okay for an adult to assume that it is okay to hug or kiss or even just touch kids they have just met?  Does being a relative afford them certain rights? Exploring the young person’s response through the lens of Basil offers opportunities to talk about relationship-building at arm’s length – and we can all learn a lesson about starting on their level from the Obama approach.

All Australian schools are now required to teach age-appropriate consent education from the first year of compulsory schooling to Year 10 and in 2022, a new Australian Curriculum was released with updated content and guidance for teaching about consent (ACARA 2022).  While each state has developed its own support materials, their resource suggestions seem to lack links to appropriate fiction so this story dovetails in nicely with teaching our youngest children about respectful relationships, especially those involving an “imbalance of power” because there are few times as little ones where they hold the upper hand.

A story with greater potential than just about a girl and her new pet.  

 

 

Jonty’s Unicorn

Jonty's Unicorn

Jonty’s Unicorn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jonty’s Unicorn

Rebecca Fraser

ifwg Publishing, 2024

140pp., pbk., RRP $A22.99

9781922856678

In the quiet hamlet of Blaxby in the Kingdom of Irrawene, twelve-year-old Jonty Fairskye’s mother is gravely ill. A tonic from Dagatha, the fearsome witch who dwells in the dark heart of the Terrenwild Woods may be her only hope, but everyone knows Dagatha’s cures cost dearly — both in gold and regret.

Determined to save her mother, Jonty resolves to enter the King’s Annual Horse Race on her beloved horse, Onyx. The prize, a pouch of gold — more than enough to pay Dagatha. When Jonty discovers Rose, an injured unicorn, during a woodland training session, she is wonderstruck. There hasn’t been a unicorn sighting in Irrawene for over a century. Jonty smuggles Rose back to the safety of her barn to recover.

As the great horse race draws closer, disaster strikes and Jonty is forced to make a decision that will impact the lives of everyone she loves. Danger and betrayal lurk around every corner, and Jonty will learn that the true meaning of kindness and bravery comes down to how much you’re willing to sacrifice.

If ever there were a stereotypical entry into the world of fantasy for young readers, then this would be it. From setting to situation to characters to plot, it has all the hallmarks of what you expect from this genre for this age group from the ailing parent and the young child down to their last pennies; the possibility of a cure from the wicked witch who lives deep in the forest but at a cost too much to pay; the possibility of winning the money; the child ready to save the parent whatever it takes;  the disaster, the disappointment, the redemption – and of course, a magical unicorn.  But this is not a bad thing for the newly independent reader because it confirms and brings to life all those mind-pictures that they have formed already from listening to such stories and seeing illustrations in picture books.  Beautifully descriptive, here, in words alone, are all the things that have been imagined and now they can read them for themselves and solidify that platform they have built, perhaps even extending their reading by seeking others in the same genre.  

It also has the classic plot structure of a novel for younger readers with problems, possible solutions, complications and suspense to the final resolution making it an ideal way to introduce this longer format and the value in persevering rather than expecting the story to be done and dusted in one sitting like a picture book or television episode, while the underlying perennial message of being resilient and standing up for what is right is also strong as it carries the story along

Perhaps a little more expensive than other paperbacks, nevertheless its value as a mentor text for examining the tropes of this genre, the construction of a plot, and descriptive language that would enable even the lousiest artist like me to construct a mental or physical image of the setting and the characters, and its potential to extend the readers interest to find similar stories,  make it a worthwhile investment.