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Curly Tales: Short Stories with a Twist

Curly Tales: Short Stories with a Twist

Curly Tales: Short Stories with a Twist

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Curly Tales: Short Stories with a Twist

Bill Condon

Dave Atze

Big Sky Publishing, 2017

130pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

9781925520590

A worm who wants to be an anaconda, an elephant that won’t do tricks, a gorilla named Harry Hairybutt… these are among the memorable characters that The Simple Things     author Bill Condon has  created in these 14  animal-based short stories that will appeal to the young emerging reader transitioning to novels.  

Each is based on a familiar proverb but that proverb is twisted to suit the story, and, depending on your opinion of puns, they are clever or dreadful. But each story is very funny and just the right length in a well-spaced font with plenty of illustrations.

At the end there is a glossary of the original proverbs with their actual meaning that introduces them to the reader, enriching their experience with the stories themselves. 

Fun and entertaining.

Scarface Claw, Hold Tight

Scarface Claw, Hold Tight

Scarface Claw, Hold Tight

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scarface Claw, Hold Tight

Lynley Dodd

Puffin, 2017

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

9780143770985

It is a calm, peaceful sunny morning where everything is as and where it should be, including Scarface Claw snoozing in the sun on top of the roof of the car.  But all that changes when Tom starts the car and drives off without realising Scarface is still on top!!!

Is there any more famous cat with young children than Scarface Claw? He’s the toughest tomcat in town, the roughest and toughest, the boldest, the bravest, the fiercest, mighty and magnificent – so much so that he sent Schnitzel von Krumm with a very low tum, Bitzer Maloney all skinny and bony, Muffin McLay like a bundle of hay, Bottomley Potts covered in spots, Hercules Morse as big as a horse and Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy scampering home with just one EEEEEOWWWFFTZ way back in 1983!

And now it is Scarface Claw’s turn to be terrified as he clings on for dear life to the roof of Tom’s speeding car.

This new adventure from Dame Lynley Dodd told in rhyme with all the action and wonderful illustrations of the others in this fabulous series for young children is set to introduce a new generation to a host of characters that have brought so much joy that they have their own sculpture in Tauranga in New Zealand.  (In fact, Hairy Maclary is such a part of my reading story that, despite the pouring rain, I chose to find this sculpture instead of accompanying the family to Hobbiton.)

 

Every child needs to know Scarface Claw, Hairy Maclary and the rest of the gang – this new tale will be a great introduction and is icing on the cake of a brilliant series for existing fans. 

Madeline Finn and the Library Dog

Madeline Finn and the Library Dog

Madeline Finn and the Library Dog

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Madeline Finn and the Library Dog

Lisa Papp

Old Barn Books, 2017

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

9781910646328

Madeline Finn does not like to read. Not books. Not magazines. Not even the menu on the ice cream van. Reading out loud in class is a nightmare and the words get stuck in her mouth “like peanut butter” and the other children laugh.  While they get stars from their teacher, all Madeline gets is a “Keep Trying” sticker.  She gets a lot of those.  But she desperately wants a star and so one night she makes a wish on a star for a star.  

Sadly, some wishes take a bit of time to come true and come the end of the week and it’s time for her to visit the local library she is truly despondent, is tired of trying and has all but convinced herself she will never be a reader.  But librarian Mrs Dimple has a surprise for her – a surprise that will not only turn her reading around but also her life…

There are children like Madeline Finn in every class – children who hate the out-dated practice of having to read aloud to the group because all it does is shine a public light on their struggles as they try to master the written word and self-talk themselves further and further down the rabbit hole of being a non-reader.  As a teacher and teacher librarian who has spent 45 years helping little ones to read I wanted to shake Madeline’s teacher and show her that stickers and stars and “keep trying” are fruitless – but then Lisa Papp wouldn’t have had a story and there wouldn’t have been a happy outcome, albeit fraught with anxiety, for Madeline.

Sharing this story with the class will help the Madelines understand that there are many kids like them who just haven’t quite got reading sorted yet, but that it is achievable and even enjoyable. They are not the only ones who find the squiggles on the page confronting but that it is OK to make “mistakes” and these become fewer as their understanding and confidence grows.  Reading is not about the stars on a chart, but the inner satisfaction of being immersed in something that takes you away from the here and now and into the land of imagination and possibility. 

More and more the power of dogs as pets as therapy is being recognised and they are turning up in all sorts of places. While it might not be possible to have one in your school library, it is possible to substitute Bonnie for a teddy – or a host of teddies – so those who have yet to develop confidence in their reading because they believe “real readers” don’t make mistakes can have a non-judgemental partner to read to.  My experience was children who dreaded coming to the library would be there before school and at lunchtimes reading to their favourite teddy – I ended up with about 50 in the collection – as they built their confidence and their skills in a safe, friendly, non-threatening environment. They even became regular borrowers!

While this story will bring comfort and hope to a lot of little people, hopefully it will also inspire teachers to reflect on their professional practice and consider whether they are doing things that inadvertently marginalise their not-there-yet readers and make changes.  

Teacher’s hat is now off!

 

 

Scary Hairy Party

Scary Hairy Party

Scary Hairy Party

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scary Hairy Party

Claire Freedman

Sue Hendra

Bloomsbury, 2017

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

9781408867174

Everyone has been invited to a party at Monster’s house and so they are all dressing up in their party best.  But before they go, they drop into Raymond’s hair salon so they can also have the nicest hairdo to go with their nice clothes.  

But Raymond the octopus has more arms than skill and things start to go very wrong… Can they really go to a party with their hair like this? From being on a high, they descend to a low.

Fast-moving rhyming text, bold, bright illustrations and a crazy plot with hilarious twists will make this a perfect read-aloud for little people who like monster stories but who don’t really want to be scared.  Perfect in the lead-up to Hallowe’en.  

Alfie in the Woods

Alfie in the Woods

Alfie in the Woods

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alfie in the Woods

Debi Gliori

Bloomsbury, 2017

24pp., hbk., RRP $A22.99

9781408872048

Alfie, the little rabbit with the big imagination is back in a new adventure, this time walking through the woods.  As he gathers woodland treasures and plays hide-and-seek he notices many of the little creatures and his mind morphs him into becoming each of them. Such a busy day – luckily Daddy is there to carry him and his treasures home.

Deb Gliori’s distinctive illustrations bring the woods to life but with soft lines, textures and palettes, it does not become a place that is too scary for the littlest reader.  It will encourage lots of imaginative and active play and then be perfect for drawing the curtains on the day as a bedtime story.

 

Big Box Little Box

Big Box Little Box

Big Box Little Box

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Big Box Little Box

Caryl Hart

Edward Underwood

Bloomsbury, 2017

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

9781408872765

Big box, little box…

My box, YOUR box!

Cat loves boxes – all sorts of boxes – big, small, fat, thin, huge tiny… and in this romp in rhyme so many boxes are explored. But it is not just a collection of rhyming words or opposites, there is a story told in the clever choice of words and their accompanying pictures that early readers will be able to tell for themselves, delighting in their ability to read.  

This is a great story to share with little ones because there is so much to share and talk about. If a fat cat sits on a little box, what will be the outcome?  And if a box has a corner nibbled out of it, what might be inside? And given the obvious answer, is this story about to end badly? Two word phrases, rhyme, bold pictures, humour, predictability that engages the reader – a perfect combination to take our youngest readers further into their love with reading. 

 

I Wish I Could Be a Superhero

I Wish I Could Be a Superhero

I Wish I Could Be a Superhero

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Wish I Could Be a Superhero

Susan Hall

Cheryl Westenberg

NLA Publishing, 2017

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

9780642278890

Wesley Wombat really wanted to be a superhero.

‘If only I had superpowers like all my friends!’ he thought longingly.

If only he could fly like the king parrot, swim like the platypus, jump like the kangaroo or protect himself with body armour like the echidna.  But, sadly, no matter how hard he tries to be like his friends in the bush, his attempts end in near disaster.  He is feeling really despondent but his mother reassures him he will find his special talent and to look forward to the birthday party with his friends the next day.  And it is on his way to the party that Wesley discovers his super power and becomes a super hero.

This is a charming story written for the very young who are learning to identify our unique indigenous creatures and their special characteristics.  Using a lift-the-flap format, Cheryl Westenberg has created the most wonderful illustrations of Wesley’s mishaps that little ones (and bigger ones too) will roll on the floor laughing and really understand the fun to be had in stories while understanding that each of us has our own super power because we are all really good at something. Bright and colourful and accompanied by extra pages of facts about each of the featured creatures, this is a must-have addition for the early childhood collection.  

Leaf

Leaf

Leaf

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leaf

Sandra Dieckmann

Flying Eye Books, 2017

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

9781911171317

 

Crow saw it first. The strange white creature, carried upon the dark waves towards the shore…

When a polar bear arrives unexpectedly in the woods, a creature unlike anything the other animals  had seen, they fear and avoid him, suspecting him to be dangerous particularly when it began to collect leaves. They nicknamed him Leaf and desperately wanted him to leave because no one should live in fear.  Then one day Leaf burst through the forest covered in leaves and leapt off the hill with a giant roar.  Perhaps inspired by the crow’s feathers that helped it fly to freedom he has turned the leaves into wings, but sadly they lifted him but briefly and he tumbled into the lake. 

A meeting of the other creatures was held and attitudes started to soften, but like many such meetings, the only outcome was an agreement to disagree and nothing was done. But when Leaf tried to fly again a few days later, this time landing in the ocean realisation dawned and  things begin to change…

There is a quote on the dedication page of this book…

“Deeper meaning resides in the fairy tales told to me in my childhood than in the truth that is taught in life.” -Friedrich Schiller

And so it is with this book which is one of those that resonates more and more with each reading.  Accompanied by the most stunning, memorable artwork which is rich in colour, pattern and details, on the surface it is a tale about a polar bear who wants to go home.  But what is the message behind the polar bear arriving on a shard of iceberg in the first place? Climate change? Refugee? And what can we learn about and from the forest creatures’ automatic fear and distrust of this unfamiliar, different animal in their midst? Or is the whole a metaphor for a child or adult with a terminal illness who wants to die but who must endure the intervention of science and medicine before finding release? The dedication suggests this…

While the polar bear is the subject, the story is told very much from an objective observer’s eye, a narrator that states the facts and actions without emotion,even though there is so much emotion embedded in the illustrations. An intriguing book that makes the reader ponder.

 

Can You Find Me?

Can You Find Me?

Can You Find Me?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Can You Find Me?

Gordon Winch

Patrick Shirvington

New Frontier, 2017

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

9781925059793

Mother Nature has provided many of our commonly seen creatures with the most amazing camouflage so that when they are in their natural habitat they are very hard to see.  In this stunning book by Gordon Winch, author of Samantha Seagull’s Sandals which has delighted so many children in my care over the years, readers are encouraged to spot familiar and not-so-familiar creatures hidden in plain sight in Pat Shirvington’s beautiful lifelike illustrations which really connect to the natural world.  

Apart from little ones loving these sorts of hide and seek books, it also encourages them to look with new eyes at their local landscape and wonder what might be living there.  Perhaps before they go stomping through the bush or the sand dunes they will stop and tread more carefully appreciating it more as a home for creatures, camouflaged though they may be.

Then using the text format as a model, they could investigate a different creature and then create their own page to add to the book – a new way of presenting information for the ubiquitous report about Australian animals that is in every early childhood curriculum.

Baabwaa and Wooliam

Baabwaa and Wooliam

Baabwaa and Wooliam

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Baabwaa and Wooliam

David Elliott

Melissa Sweet

Candlewick Press, 2017

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

 9780763660741

Baabwaa is a sheep who loves to knit. Wooliam is a sheep who loves to read. It sounds a bit boring, but they like it. However, one day Wooliam suggest they leave their comfortable caravan and seek an adventure. Even though they live in a field that is surrounded by a stone wall they do encounter an adventure as a  third sheep shows up -a funny-looking sheep who wears a tattered wool coat and has long, dreadfully decaying teeth. Wooliam, being well-read, recognizes their new acquaintance as the Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing! The wolf is so flattered to discover his literary reputation precedes him that he stops trying to eat Baabwaa and Wooliam. And a discovery by the sheep turns the encounter into an unexpected friendship.

This is an intriguing but interesting story for young readers that has a number of twists and turns to keep them engaged as they learn that even those considered too different, perhaps even a threat, can become a friend.  Funny, descriptive, and accompanied by illustrations that capture the personalities of both Baabwaa and Wooliam, and show the wolf in a variety of lights, this will capture young minds right from the front cover as they predict that this is not just about two sheep enjoying life and that there is trouble looming in paradise.