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How To Make A Bird

How To Make A Bird

How To Make A Bird

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How To Make A Bird

Meg McKinlay

Matt Ottley

Walker, 2020

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

9781925381894

“To make a bird you will need a lot of very tiny bones.  They will be smaller than you imagine, some so tiny they are barely there, And they will be hollow, these hundreds of bones – so light that when they rest in your palm you will hardly feel them.”

So begins a haunting, almost ethereal, picture book that takes the reader through the process of how a bird is made – particularly timely for me as I watch our resident Father and Mother Magpie patiently raise this season’s twins.  Like them, the girl is also patient and extremely careful as she patiently adds all the other elements like the feathers (saving the longest for the wings and the tail) and a heart that will beat sure and steady to carry the bird across oceans and continents at the end of a long winter, eyes, beak , claws and a song to sing.  But just the physical stuff is not enough – it is having the courage to let go of what you have made so it can find its place in the world that is the final piece of the jigsaw.

This is a stunning book, beautifully illustrated in a soft, calming palette that emphasises the care and the patience needed to create anything, and it could be an allegory for any creative process.  First you have to have the mechanical, physical elements and the know-how of how they fit together, but it is having the faith to let others see and test your creation and offer feedback that takes it from being an object to something more. Just as the little girl sets her bird free to explore the wild blue yonder so that it can truly reach its potential as a bird, so have McKinlay and Ottley set their creations off into the unknown to be explored, accepted, appreciated or not.  Just as we encourage our kids to take what they know and be brave enough to transform it and test it in new situations.   Just as we raise our own children and our students the best we know how, we have to give them that ultimate freedom of independence and making their own way in the world.  Are we able to relinquish our control and just let go?

This is a story that can work on many levels for many ages.  It can help a little person understand how birds can defy gravity and fly even when they cannot  but it can also work on that allegorical level of knowing you have done all you can and taking that leap of faith. Comprehensive teachers’ notes demonstrate how it can be used across the ages, stages and curriculum.

It would not surprise me to see this among the award winners in the future. 

The Heartsong of Wonder Quinn

The Heartsong of Wonder Quinn

The Heartsong of Wonder Quinn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Heartsong of Wonder Quinn

Kate Gordon

UQP, 2020

184pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9780702262821

Lonely orphan Wonder Quinn lives in the attic of Direleafe Hall with only a gloomy crow for company. Every year she hopes to make a true friend and every year her heart breaks when she doesn’t.

But when a spirited new student, Mabel Clattersham, befriends her in class, Wonder’s dreams seem to be coming true. As the girls grow closer, Wonder discovers her friend has a list of strange wishes: Throw a pie, leap into the sky, break someone’s heart…

What is Mabel’s big secret? Can Wonder protect her heart from being broken all over again?

This is a beautifully written ghost story with a difference.  Rather than being scary, this is a gentle ghost who craves a friend and becomes one, celebrating friendship, love, acceptance and belonging while embracing grief as a natural emotion that we all experience. This is a sensitive story, and despite its larger font, illustrations and short chapters, probably more suited to more mature readers who are able to read between the lines as well as along them.  The reader is not told that Wonder is a ghost, although there are clues from the get-go that perhaps she is not an ordinary schoolgirl for the astute reader to pick up – that fact that she is watching the girls arrive at school from her perch on the roof yet is unseen and undetected by either the students or the staff is one such indicator. It is also what I would have told my students is a tissue book – be prepared to shed some tears.

Normally, this is not my preferred genre but its evocative title, superb selection of vocabulary and imagery, its sensitivity and its uniqueness kept me engaged till the end.  One to look for and put into the hands of just the right reader.

 

 

Hello Jimmy!

Hello Jimmy!

Hello Jimmy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hello Jimmy!

Anna Walker

Puffin, 2020

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

9781760893422

When Jack visits his dad he never knows which dad he is going to see – will it be the funny, joke-telling dad he used to know or will it be the one who is so sad and silent, the one who feels as lonely as Jack does? These days it seems to be the sad, silent one more often than not until one day his Dad finds Jimmy the parrot on his doorstep.  But while Jimmy appears to cheer him up, it seems it is at the expense of his relationship with Jack. So while everyone else seems to be pleased that Jimmy is now in dad’s life and bringing him some happiness, Jack is not so thrilled and one night when he leaves his bedroom window open, Jimmy flies out…

Sadly, Jack’s situation and his relationship with his dad will be familiar to many of our students as they struggle to deal with separation, divorce and alternate visiting periods and not yet mature enough to understand the impact that this has on everyone.  The sadness, the remoteness, the isolation is interpreted as not being loved any more or somehow being held responsible for the split and thus a lot of internal, negative self-talk that can damage bonds permanently.

Anna Walker, who also gave us the touching Florette, was inspired to tell this story of the enduring bond between father and child as she watched her brother cope with a separation.  This real-life reference gives it a tenderness and poignancy because as an observer, but one who was close to the situation, she was able to view the impact on both her brother and the children as well as bringing other personal experiences and memories to the pages, giving the reader the impression that this story has really happened.  

This year has been one of the toughest that many families will have ever endured and there are going to be many of our children who will be feeling as confused, perhaps abandoned, as Jack does.  Hello Jimmy! gives us an opportunity to share this situation within the classroom and without touching on specific relationships, help those children understand that they are visible, they are not alone, there is understanding and support for their plight available, that even though their parents are grieving for the loss of their marriage and dreams, they are still loved and wanted.  The good times of funny jokes and making milkshakes and tacos together will return.

Atlas Of Amazing Birds

Atlas Of Amazing Birds

Atlas Of Amazing Birds

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Atlas Of Amazing Birds

Matt Sewell

Pavilion, 2019

160pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9781843654063

It is generally accepted that there are about 10 000 species of birds on this planet, using the traditional classification methods and avid bird-watcher Matt Sewell has selected those he considers to be the “most beautiful, strange, scary, speedy and enchanting” from around the globe  in this collection.

He has sorted them according to continental region and each is introduced through a bright watercolour illustration and a few paragraphs of easily accessible text. Along with the usual facts, he also adds in some other interesting stuff – for example, while the ostrich’s egg might be the largest in the world, in comparison to its body size it’s eggs are the smallest!

Suitable for independent readers, this would appeal to those who have an interest in the avian world or those who are curious about finding out more.

You can have  sneak peek here.

 

Pip Finds a Home

Pip Finds a Home

Pip Finds a Home

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pip Finds a Home

Elena Topouzoglou

New Frontier, 2019

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

9781925594744

When Pip is discovered wandering around the Arctic by a young explorer, she tells him that penguins live at the South Pole and gathers him up and takes him there on their ship. When he eventually meets up with some penguins, they are very friendly but they discover he is not one of them.  They are Adelie penguins. Perhaps he is a Macaroni penguin because he jumps like them but doesn’t have feathers on his head. Or maybe an Emperor, although he is too short.  Or a Gentoo but his beak is black and white, not orange… Just what sort of penguin is he?

This is a charming story that introduces young readers to the variety of penguins that inhabit the Antarctic as well as showing that there can be friendship and fun amongst us, even if we are a little different.  None of the penguin species shunned Pip because he wasn’t quite like them – he is accepted immediately for who he is, a nice change from some darker stories I have read and reviewed recently.

When Pip’s species is revealed, it is a surprise and there is more information about him and his kind on the final page, as well as brief notes about the species who befriend him. Older readers might like to speculate about why we do not see Pip and his relatives today. Very topical.

Illustrated in a manner and palette that is as soft and gentle as the narrative, this could be the introduction to a study pf endangered and extinct species, starting even the youngest readers thinking about how gentle they can be on the environment.

A peek inside....

A peek inside….

 

Teachers notes  are available.

 

Little Puggle’s Song

Little Puggle's Song

Little Puggle’s Song

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Little Puggle’s Song

Vikki Conley

Hélène Magisson

New Frontier, 2019

32pp,m hbk.  RRP $A24.99

9781925594690

All Little Puggle, the baby echidna, wanted to do was to be able to sing like the birds in his native bushland.  Each bird had its own sound – Little Blue’s was whispery like the wind; Fantail peeped like a bush mouse; Fancy Crest’s voice had a crack like lightning and when Brown Feather laughed the bush stood still – but Little Puggle made no sound at all.

When Brown feather gathered the birds together to begin a bush choir, even Little Grey and Long Tail were allowed to join, but all silent Little Puggle could do was watch from the sidelines.  But when disaster strikes the choir’s special performance for the birth of the emu babies, Little Puggle finds his voice in a very different way!

This is the most charming story, superbly illustrated, that introduces our youngest readers to the creatures that are unique to the Australian bush and to the concept that we, ourselves, are unique, each with their own way of contributing. An opportunity  to take the children outside and have them listen to the birdsong and notice that each species has a different sound, one that is individual to them but each of which contributes to the chorus, and then to have a discussion about each child’s special talents and how they help make the class or their family, a whole.

 

Fly

Fly

Fly

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fly

Jess McGeachin

Puffin, 2019

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

9781760892562

Lucy had always been good at fixing things, and Dad needed a bit of help. It was just the two of them after all. So when Lucy finds a bird with a broken wing, she’s sure she can fix him too…

Even though Dad diagnoses a broken wing and doubts that Flap will ever fly again, Lucy is determined that he will soar again like all the other birds.  So she thinks and draws and works until she has the perfect plan.  Flap does fly again, but not in the way we imagine, and Lucy learns that not all things that are broken can be fixed.

This is a beautiful story of resilience, determination and imagination that, on the surface, appears to be about a little girl, her dad and a bird with a broken wing, and given the creator’s full-time job at the Melbourne Museum and the final pages featuring birds of all countries and continents coming together, that is enough in itself. It shows the strong relationship between Lucy and her dad, which is not unique, but there is no mention of her mum and what might have happened to her. So perhaps this is an allegory for a broken relationship, a split family, a marriage that can’t be mended no matter how hard the child tries, whether the cause is death or divorce, and that together, those who are left have to cope, adapt and go forward in a different direction. Regardless of Flap’s undisclosed fate, there is a strong message of healing that may well offer a sense of hope to the other Lucys and their dads.

 

Pippa

Pippa

Pippa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pippa

Dimity Powell

Andrew Plant

Ford St, 2019

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

9781925804270

Pippa the pigeon thinks she is ready to fly the skies by herself and have adventures. Rather than being hesitant to go out of her comfort zone, Pippa wants to experience the world for herself.  But her parents have other ideas. They are worried she is too young and do all sorts of things to keep her  at home and safe . But one day while they are out foraging for food, she flaps her wings and soars.  Over the town, the river and the paddocks she sails, going further and further from home.  But then fatigue and hunger set in and she discovers that while this big wide world is beautiful there are perils in it! Will she make it home safely?

A tender tale about parents wanting to keep their children safe, this is a story that cuts through the middle of parental protection and childish curiosity.  Our children need to be allow to fly; they need to face and conquer the obstacles they encounter if they are to be resourceful and resilient, but they also need to know there is a soft place to fall when it all gets too much.  

Dimity Powell has created a story that reflects both the parents’ perspective and that of Pippa – offering much to talk about as readers think about what they would like to do, whether they are ready and what they might learn as they try. It’s about striking a balance between independence and the security of home and Andrew Plant’s illustrations are perfect. Who wouldn’t be terrified seeing the face of the falcon coming towards you or those malevolent red eyes glowing in the dark?

As our young readers go through a number of stages where their desire for independence becomes overwhelming, this is a book that spans many age groups and there are excellent teaching notes which support this sort of use.  Perfect for teaching about being prepared, being resilient and being able to overcome obstacles without panicking. 

Leonard Doesn’t Dance

Leonard Doesn't Dance

Leonard Doesn’t Dance

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leonard Doesn’t Dance

Frances Watts

Judy Watson

ABC Books, 2019

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

9780733333040

It’s just a week until the Big Beaky Bird Ball and Leonard would love to go but he doesn’t know how to dance!

And so he decides to ask his friends to help.  On Monday the magpies teach him how to do the warble-warble- waltz. On Tuesday the duck teach him to do-si-do and Wednesday’s lesson is how to do the caw-caw can-can with the crows.  Despondent because none of the lessons has been successful, Leonard decides he is not a dancer and refuses the offers from the rosellas, galahs and woodpeckers, hiding in his nest, ashamed. He huddles down deeper when his friends come looking for him on Sunday but when he hears them say they can’t go without him he feels even worse and agrees to go…but he won’t dance!

With stunning illustrations that take you straight to the Australian bush even though there is a range of birds from around the globe, this is a glorious story that rollicks along on the rhythm of the alliteration with a surprising and funny twist that will have the young reader’s feet tapping in anticipation.  How would they dance if what happened to Leonard happened to them? An invitation to get up and move and try all the dances for themselves!

Dance, like music, is an innate human expression and this is a celebration of that.  Everyone can dance, even those for whom movement is tricky, and Leonard shows that you just have to find out what works for you!

 

Baz & Benz

Baz & Benz

Baz & Benz

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Baz & Benz

Heidi McKinnon

Allen & Unwin, 2019

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

9781760523688

‘Benz, are we friends?’
‘Yes, Baz, we are best friends’
‘For how long?’
‘For ever and ever.’

Baz and Benz are two little owls, and Baz is trying to discover how far he can push the boundaries of the friendship as he suggests all kinds of things he could do that might fracture the friendship.  But even when Benz gets annoyed, the friendship remains strong because Benz is very wise. 

From the creator of I Just Ate My Friend,  McKinnon once again explores the concept of friendship and what it takes to be a good friend.  As with her previous book, the illustrations are set against a plain night sky background, ensuring the young reader pays attention to the focal point and much of the emotion of both Baz and Benz comes through the facial expressions and body language. The story is carried in dialogue colour-coded to each character enabling very young readers to start developing early concepts about print. 

Perfect for preschoolers just learning about having friends and being one, as they reflect on their behaviour and its impact on those around them, as well as how other’s behaviour impacts on them.