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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.  

 

 

Big Gorilla: A Book of Opposites

Big Gorilla: A Book of Opposites

Big Gorilla: A Book of Opposites

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Big Gorilla: A Book of Opposites

Anthony Browne

Walker Books, 2024

32pp., hbk., RRP $A26.99

9781529509588

Even though he has more than 50 books to his credit, when one thinks about award-winning creator Anthony Browne’s works, most often it is his connection to primates that feature in so many, particularly the stories about Willy the chimp, that come to mind most readily.  Even his website depicts one as a signature image. As he himself says,  “I am fascinated by them and the contrast they represent – their huge strength and gentleness. They’re thought of as being very fierce creatures and they’re not.” Perhaps it was that very contrast that inspired this book about words and their antonyms.

So it is really no surprise that in this latest addition, designed to teach very young readers about opposites, that he has chosen to use primates to illustrate the words. From gorillas to chimpanzees, white-faced capuchins to orangutans,  each capturing the unique facial features and expressions, little ones can develop their vocabulary in the most charming way.  

With the question on one page – and the same wording is used repeatedly so the reader will learn to ask it for themselves, and the answer on the next, there is plenty of time to predict the answer before it is revealed so there is a sense of empowerment as they make their way through it, as well as the sheer enjoyment of being engaged with such a text. 

Bluey: The Decider

Bluey: The Decider

Bluey: The Decider

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bluey: The Decider

Bluey

Puffin, 2024

24pp., hbk., RRP $A16.99

9781761344763

State of Origin in rugby league and Bluey and Chucky are watching the footy with their families. Bluey’s family is supporting the Maroons but Chucky’s parents are on opposing teams, and Chucky is confused.  Can Bluey help him pick a side?

This is a scene that will play out in many households over the next few weeks as the real-life State of Origin unfolds, and there will be those who will be as confused as Chucky, particularly if their parents are on opposing sides because of their place of birth or their loyalties. But, as in the story, there will soon come a time when everyone can be on the same team – unless you’re like my family where some of them are green-and-gold and I am definitely with Mackenzie’s family!!!  

 

Brown Bears

Brown Bears

Brown Bears

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brown Bears

Dr Nick Crumpton

Colleen Larmour

Walker Books, 2024

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

9781529508727

Spring has arrived in Alaska, and a brown bear is waking up. She was alone when she fell asleep at the start of winter; now she is climbing out of her den with two cubs. Follow them as they discover how to survive in the wilderness, from climbing trees to catching salmon, as their mother teaches the cubs how to be bears. There is a saying about not getting between a mother and her cubs, and the confrontation between a male and the mother demonstrates this, showing that a mother’s protection of her offspring extends into the animal world as well as the human. The perfect choice for a Mother’s Day review as young readers can reflect on the other parallels between human and animal mothers!

While this story is set in Alaska, zoologist-author Nick Crumpton explains that because this species is not fussy about its diet, they are able to live in many countries, although exclusively in the northern hemisphere, opening opportunities to explore the differences in climate, seasons, habitats and inhabitants of those regions compared to Australia,  

This is another in the brilliant Nature Storybooks series that personalises the stories of particular creatures by focusing on one member of the species while providing more general facts separate to the narrative.  It is a successful technique that engages young readers because it brings the information into the child’s realm rather than being a series of disconnected facts and figures, and thus provides a solid bridge between fiction and non fiction.  

The Buffalemu

The Buffalemu

The Buffalemu

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Buffalemu

Paul de Guingand

Nandina Vines

Little Steps, 2023

3pp., pbk., RRP $A16.95

9781922833761

“Out East of Oodnadatta, where the elder animals meet, 

On past the towns, beyond the downs, and endless fields of wheat…'”

the band of old animal mates (Chewy the one-eyed red ‘roo, Smokey the wombat, Johnno the crow, Roosta the three-legged dingo, Sad-Eyes the ancient goanna) have gathered  together because they heard that their mate Aggie the emu is feeling upset and unhappy, and so like good mates do, they resolve to do what they can to help her.

‘We’ll go sort it out, with a chinwag, a yarn, have a chat. We’ll head up the creek, hear out her deep thinking, and figure out where her head’s at.’

For three days and nights, they head out to find her  – “They’d arrive when they got there, no sooner, no later; that’s how things should be in the bush” – and discover that Aggie is having an identity crisis.  To her, she doesn’t seem like a real bird with her long, thin wobbly legs and she feels she would be much better if she were strong with four legs, like a buffalo.  ‘I’d be Buffalemu!’, she says.

But no matter what her friends say, she is not comforted and begins a long walk of her own – one that takes her to the edge of a town and there she discovers that she not only fits in just as she is, but has a special place in the scheme of things.

Accompanied by appealing illustrations that really portray the sense of place of this story, this is one that young readers will enjoy as they not only identify the Australian fauna that they already know, but also begin to understand that no matter what we look like, our age or our impediments, who we are as we are is enough.  Many stories are written in rhyme, often contrived, that adds little to the story but the rhythm of this one carries the story along at pace and the choice of language is familiar but used so well. Common phrases like ‘barking up the wrong gum tree’ and ‘flown the coop” are embedded seamlessly but then you have stunners like this…

“Now Sad-Eyes , the ancient goanna, sat high on a pile of stones.

So old, they day, that the dreamtime could be seen written deep in her bones”.

Surely, for those who have never seen the weathered, wrinkled skin of this creature for themselves, there is an instant image of patience and wisdom, knowledge and understanding. What a model to use for aspiring young writers looking to develop their vocabulary! 

Stories about Australia’s unique wildlife abound, and the concept of being yourself is a common trope for this age group to explore, but the combination of the two in this one is a winner. 

 

 

 

Wurrtoo: The Wombat Who Fell in Love with the Sky

Wurrtoo: The Wombat Who Fell in Love with the Sky

Wurrtoo: The Wombat Who Fell in Love with the Sky

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wurrtoo: The Wombat Who Fell in Love with the Sky

Tylissa Elisara

Dylan Finney

Lothian, 2024

185pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

9780734421982

In the fifty-fifth burrow of Bushland Avenue in a beautiful clearing on Kangaroo Island where the arching gum trees kiss, is the home of Wurtoo, the hariy-nosed wombat. His is the one at the end with the big red trapdoor and large gold doorknob and a myriad of tunnels because he loves to extend it, so much so that it can take awhile for him to get to his front door. It even has a library where he has just four books that he cherishes – a book of fairytales that has taught him all about love; a plant encyclopedia that told him where to find his favourite muntrie berries and wattleseeds;  a cookbook which helps him make them into something delicious, and a fourth, his favourite, which had stories as old as time and in particular, a map of a most sacred place, the Forest of Dreaming. And it fuelled his dream to follow the map across the water to the mainland, climb the ancient tree to the heavens, and marry the love of his life, the sky.

But first, he needs to find the courage because right now, he can barely leave the burrow without his nerves getting the better of him, because having led such a solitary life, the thought of meeting other creatures terrified him. And so , despite being nocturnal by nature, he chooses to go out in the daytime so he can be unseen, and each day he makes a pilgrimage to the lighthouse for a picnic.Little does he know, that on this particular day his life will change forever because he inadvertently saves Kuula the koala from a bushfire, and acquires the adventure companion he didn’t know he needed.

With Kuula by his side, Wurrtoo finds the courage to leave the safety of his burrow and sets out on an epic journey to cross the island, reach the mainland and climb to the top of tallest tree in the Forest of Dreaming. But it’s fire season, and danger and strange creatures lurk behind every gum tree. To make it, the pair must face their fears together, learn the importance of friendship and discover the power of wombat wishes.

Described as an “Indigenous Blinky Bill meets Winnie the Pooh”, this heartwarming and beautifully illustrated novel for independent readers by the 2021 black&write! fellow Tylissa Elisara, and it is worth reading for the power of the descriptions of the landscape alone.  Immediately, the reader is transported into Wurtoo’s world, akin to Tolkien’s description of the home of Bilbo Baggins, and relate to his ambitions, desires and fears.  It is one for those readers who love adventures and quests, and with traditional First Nation stories, knowledge, food and culture woven seamlessly into the tale, it becomes one that not only engages and entertains, but helps the non-indigenous reader better understand that incredible connection to Country that exists for those who are.

There is also the underlying universal theme of building trust, facing your fears, accepting those you meet for who they are, so friendships are built on similarities rather than differences, that will speak to many readers, perhaps encouraging them to think that if Wurrtoo can do this, so can they.  

For me, the mark of a story that works, is hearing myself read it aloud to a class of students, and this one is one of those rare ones.  So with teachers’ notes available to enhance and enrich the experience, this is definitely recommended as a read-aloud for Years 3-4.  Something different, inspiring and Australian.

Kevin the Sheep

Kevin the Sheep

Kevin the Sheep

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kevin the Sheep

Jacqueline Harvey

Kate Isobel Scott

Puffin, 2024

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

9781761048951

Shaun, Shauna, Sheryl and Shane are sheep – and are as predictable in their sheepish behaviour as the alliteration of their names.  Along with the rest of the flock, they are happy doing the same things over and over day after day in their fields of green grass and clover.

But Kevin is different.  To start with, he’s allergic to grass and would much prefer a bowl of soup (sprinkled with chives) and instead of subjecting himself to the regular shearing, he prefers to keep his locks long, and have painted purple hooves!  And if that’s not enough, he’s into drama and dance, is learning to knit (from a Ewe-Tube video), and is mastering kung fu, among other things. Sadly for Kevin, the other sheep don’t approve and ostracise him, make him feel like an outcast and he gets sadder and sadder.  Until one night…

There are many stories for young readers about being yourself, embracing the things that make you unique and standing up to those who would prefer you to be one of the flock, but few that I have read have been as LOL funny as this one, and as appealing.  Living as I do in sheep country, sheep behaviour is a common sight and both the author and the illustrator have captured that brilliantly. A paddock of sheep is a paddock of sheep is a paddock of sheep… So to have a Kevin to rock the flock is a masterpiece, particularly as his differences span all sorts of attributes from physical appearance to food allergies to sporting prowess to hobby choices… No matter how a little one in your realm stands out from the crowd, they will be able to relate to Kevin and draw strength from his determination to accept his differences (even though it takes some sleepless nights to understand that he has the inner strength to do so) so that they, too, can revel in who they are, what they look like and what they can do. 

Teachers’ notes include some pages to colour that could become the centrepiece of the reader’s own story or they might even like to use Kate Scott’s illustrations as a model to draw Kevin doing what they like to do most, then making up their own story to go with that. 

Definitely one for both the home and school library.

 

I Hear a Búho

I Hear a Búho

I Hear a Búho

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Hear a Búho

Raquel Mackay

Armando Fonseca

Scribble Kids, 2024

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

9781761380495

As night falls, a  mother and daughter snuggle together in a hammock on their porch, and listen to the sounds of the night. The young girl makes animal calls and her mother responds, identifying the creatures in Spanish while the striking illustrations identify them for those who don’t speak that language. Then to their surprise a real búho appears and flies across the night sky.

When she was little, Ms Almost-18 and I drove regularly between Canberra and Cooma and on the way she would delight in teaching me the Spanish words that she learned from watching Dora the Explorer and took even more delight in the words she knew and which I didn’t (and I had to guess from her clues).  Children are fascinated by other languages and so this new book, the first bilingual text from this publisher, not only gives young Spanish-speaking readers the buzz of seeing their language celebrated in a book but also offers non-Spanish speakers some new words to add to their vocabularies so they, too, can baffle their elders.

I recently gave another bilingual book to a friend teaching a couple of Italian-speaking children and she told me that the doors it opened and the bridges it built between school and home were remarkable as the whole family got involved in sharing it, so we should never underestimate the power of acknowledging the languages spoken by our children and demonstrating to parents that we do this.  The animals that are featured in this seemingly simple rhyming story are a dog, cat, frog and owl, so how inclusive would it be if we invited all students to teach us what their words for these creatures are, and then extend that to teaching us their words for other creatures that we see around us in the local environment, or for the sounds we hear as night falls.  The sights and  sounds of the city are very different to the sights and  sounds of the country.

As with many well-written picture books that appear at first glance to be for the very young, in the hands of an imaginative teacher they can become powerful teaching tools for all ages, and this one has great potential too.  

Super Sloth: Revenge of the Chick-Oats

Super Sloth: Revenge of the Chick-Oats

Super Sloth: Revenge of the Chick-Oats

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Super Sloth: Revenge of the Chick-Oats

Aleesah Darlison

Cheri Hughes

Big Sky, 2024

140pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781923004948

On a remote itty-bitty island off the coast of Panama there is an itty-bitty community of itty-bitty creatures. And while the rest of these pygmy sloths are content to dwell in the trees and move around “as slow as a rainy winter weekend”, Romeo Fortez, is different.  At his naming ceremony, the heavens do spectacular and amazing things and  Romeo is imbibed with powers of speed, intelligence, and irresistibly hypnotic good looks. As he grows up, Romeo craves speed and adventure and even his parents know that Escudo Island would never be big enough for him. But then he overhears a reference to New York – the city that never sleeps – and he knows that that is where he must be…

In the second episode of this action-packed series for newly independent young readers, ,Romeo’s nemesis, the unhinged Professor Ian Weird-Warp, is at it again. Bent on revenge, he concocts a quirky catastrophe. Mixing chicken and goat genes, he spawns a gang of eccentric chick-oats and they’re on the loose in the Big Apple, destroying everything in their path all the while chanting, ‘Berk-berk-baa!’

As the team faces off against Professor Weird-Warp’s sinister demands for Romeo’s surrender, they must hatch a brilliant plan to thwart the mad professor’s wicked schemes once and for all. Can this unlikely crew save the city from the clutches of the chick-oats?

Apart from being a fun read, it ends with the professor obviously intending more shenanigans so readers might like to have fun imagining what his next mutations might be – firstly it was a shark and a wolf, now chickens and goats so what could be next?  Perhaps they could even draw what they visualise and develop their own story based on what they already know of the resident characters, Weird-Warp’s motivations and their own imaginations.  

Where Is the Cat?

Where Is the Cat?

Where Is the Cat?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where Is the Cat?

Eva Eland

Andersen Press, 2024

32pp., hbk., RRP $A25.99

9781839131837

Whenever Suzy visits Auntie, all she wants to do is play with the cat.  But Cat is nowhere to be found, or is he?  No matter where Suzy looks, she can’t find Cat, but is she looking hard enough?

This is a joyous story for very young readers who will enjoy spotting Cat even though Suzy can’t.  They will love joining in to point him out, much like the audience in a pantomime, as well as learning and understanding prepositions like “behind”, “under” and so forth. There is also the opportunity to talk about how the cat, used to a quiet, good life, might feel when confronted by the boisterous, effervescent Suzy.

While it’s a familiar theme, nevertheless these sorts of stories are always enjoyable for our younger readers who like the feelings they have as they engage with the print and pictures, all helping them to enjoy the power of story believe that they can be readers themselves.