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Backyard Birdies

Backyard Birdies

Backyard Birdies

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Backyard Birdies

Andy Geppert

Lothian Children’s, 2021 

24pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

9780734420695

Can your children tell the difference between a beach chicken (seagull) and a bin chicken (white ibis) ?

Or a roof chicken (pigeon)  and a chicken chicken (chicken)?

In this introduction to the birds commonly seen in Australian backyards, including large inflatable flamingoes and swans, Andy Geppert mixes a few basic facts with a lot of humour to make for an enjoyable read for young children who will just be noticing the differences between the species.  Clever illustrations and funny text combine to make this the most unusual field guide but one which will pique little ones’ curiosity and have them trying to identify the birds that they see.   They could even make a chart and mark each one off as it is spotted from their window, beginning their skills in data gathering, mapping and interpretation!   It’s the simple things….

Nestling Cockatoos: The Story of Squeak and Squawk

Nestling Cockatoos: The Story of Squeak and Squawk

Nestling Cockatoos: The Story of Squeak and Squawk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nestling Cockatoos: The Story of Squeak and Squawk

Angela Robertson-Buchanan

Wild Dog Books, 2021

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

9781742036076

When their tree-home was cut down leaving two baby sulphur-crested cockatoos alone because their parents flew away in fear, wildlife rangers rescued them and raised them until they were able to be independent.  Anyone who has heard the screech of these common birds of the bush will understand how well their names Squeak and Squawk suit them, and will enjoy following this photographic journey of their survival from just two weeks old.

Written for young readers,  this is a beautiful book written and photographed by a wildlife carer and  includes just enough information to give the intended audience what they need to know about these majestic birds. Teacher’s notes   encourage young readers to think about why young creatures need human help and what can be done to help them.

A great introduction not only to sulphur-crested cockatoos but also to how books can provide us with information and open new worlds. 

The Song for Everyone

The Song for Everyone

The Song for Everyone

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Song for Everyone

Lucy Morris

Bloomsbury, 2021

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

9781526631121

From a tiny window, too high in the eaves to be noticed from below and too small to let in much daylight, came a delicate tune.
A melody, a song, a sound so sweet which drifted on the breeze to the lanes and streets below. …

Day after day, the song is heard through the town. making the old feel young and comforting the lonely. It fills the whole town with joy and kindness. No one knows who sings the song, but they know it is good.  Until one day, the music stops. Can the town work together to save the song for everyone?

This is a gentle story that shows how it is the little things that can shape our day and our well-being. With the music being depicted as whirls and swirls of tiny flowers and leaves small enough to get into everyone’s ears and heart, yet its origins not revealed till the climax of the story+, young readers can predict not only who or what is offering this gift to the town but also what has happened to make it stop.

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

It also shows that music is a universal language and begin an investigation into its various genres and what they think would be the one tune that everyone would like to hear. How does music affect our mood? What mind pictures does it create ? Is there, indeed, a song for everyone?

Mo and Crow

Mo and Crow

Mo and Crow

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mo and Crow

Jo Kasch

Jonathan Bentley

A & U Children’s, 2021

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

9781760631758

Mo lives in a little house high on a hill, protected by a thick stone wall that is stronger than both the wind and the rain.  It keep out everything that Mo wants kept out and that is exactly how he wanted it.  The outside world was not welcome in Mo’s world.

But one day he hears a tap-tap-tap on his wall and even though he whistles loudly and pulls hit hat down over his ears, the noise continued.  Tappity-tappity-tappity-tappity until suddenly a crow pushes a stone out of the wall and pops its head through the hole.  Mo tells the crow to go and fills the breach, but next day the crow is back.  Each is as stubborn and persistent as the other, so who will wins this war of wills?

On the surface this is a charming story about a man and a bird each determined to get their own way, but for the more astute reader it is also an allegory for the walls we each build around ourselves to protect our innermost personal thoughts and feelings.   While one might speculate on what has happened to Mo to make him choose to live in such isolation, we might also reflect on those things that we, as individuals, hold deep and refuse to share.  Is there any truth in the old adage, “A problem shared is a problem halved”?

Bentley’s bold illustrations bring to life this clever story about breaking down barriers and discovering the joys that a strong friendship can bring. 

The Greatest ShowPenguin

The Greatest ShowPenguin

The Greatest ShowPenguin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Greatest ShowPenguin

Lucy Freegard

Pavilion, 2021 

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

9781843654681

Poppy the Penguin comes from a long line of circus performers. Many skills have been passed down from penguin to penguin. However, Poppy soon decides that performing in the family circus is not for her as she prefers to feel calm and in control. But the hardest thing is not juggling, or riding a unicycle – it’s telling her mum that she doesn’t want to perform any more. The bravery is worth it when Poppy discovers a better role – organising and coordinating the whole show. And what a show it turns out to be!

So often, we, as parents, lead our children down the path of learning the things we like to do and expecting them to love them with a similar passion.  But it can be a road fraught with danger because our children always see us as the experts and that somehow they are never going to be quite good enough, which can lead to mental health and self-esteem issues.  Even though Poppy is very good as a performer and her parents are really proud of her, deep down inside she knows that the limelight is not for her and luckily she not only has the courage but also the relationship with her parents to express her unhappiness. Perhaps sharing this story might be the catalyst for our students to have similar conversations if they feel they have the need.

Freegard also brings up another element that often rears its head, particularly during class performances – that of “job snob”.  How often is the lead in the school play sought by the class’s leading light and both child and parents celebrate their celebrity?  Yet, as Poppy shows, the whole show cannot go on without those backstage workers, the support cast and everyone else who helps to make it happen.  Here is a great opportunity to demonstrate that no job is better or more important than another – they are just different and without one, others will flounder.  The school cannot function without all the admin staff making it easier for the teachers to do their thing.

Some big life lessons in one little book! 

My Summer with Grandad

My Summer with Grandad

My Summer with Grandad

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Summer with Grandad

Tom Tinn-Disbury

New Frontier, 2020

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

9781922326140

Eric loves spending summers with his grandad and this summer is even more special because Eric is going to be able to go on the fishing boat and help Grandad catch fish.  However, fishing doesn’t turn out to be quite as easy as he imagined, and so Grandad gives him the important role of being the Chief Seagull Shoo-er.  And when a baby seagull gets  injured when it is caught in the fishing net, Eric finds himself becoming a very good carer, although letting Beaky go is going to be hard.

This is a charming story for young readers about the special bond between a child and their grandparent provoking memories about those special times they have shared together. There is a subtle message about the need for wild things to be allowed to be wild, but all in all, it’s a feel-good story about a boy and his grandfather.

Penguin Bloom (Young Readers’ Edition)

Penguin Bloom (Young Readers' Edition)

Penguin Bloom (Young Readers’ Edition)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Penguin Bloom (Young Readers’ Edition)

Chris Kunz, Harry Cripps, Shaun Grant

ABC Books, 2021

160pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9780733341670

On a family holiday to Thailand, Noah’s mum has a fall with devastating consequences – confined to a wheelchair for the future.

On a stormy night in Sydney’s Northern Beaches a little magpie has a fall from its nest – a broken wing for a magpie is like a broken back to a human.

But the two are miraculously connected and from that has emerged a story of hope, love, kindness and the lessons we can learn if we are ready to learn them.

Sometimes bad things happen to people and no matter what, you have to deal with it and in this edition of this story for young readers the focus is not so much on the accident and all the medical stuff but how a family had to come together to deal with it.  There is Sam Bloom, angry, bewildered and trying to come to terms with who she was, who she now is and who she thought she would be. There is her husband photographer Cam Bloom, father of Noah, Reuben and Oli who is walking the fine line of holding the family together juggling the balls of dependence and independence; there is Nana Jan whose daughter has catastrophic injuries and she can’t fix them; there are Noah’s young brothers Oli and Reuben, who despite his mother’s predicament still continue to leap off the roof to bounce on the trampoline below.  And there is Noah who is convinced his mum blames him for the accident because he discovered the viewing platform that gave way when she leaned on it,  And binding them together, eventually, is a little magpie chick named Penguin.

Noah tells the story of the family’s healing from his perspective talking directly to the reader, openly admitting that there are bad bits and bad days and exposing these as part of the process of becoming a family again, one that is different to what they thought it would be but still one that is whole.

This story spoke to me on many levels, not the least of which is because my own sister-in-law is in Sam’s situation after an afternoon walk with her dog went so very wrong. We live in the bush with our resident family of magpies who raise their babies on the lawn in front of us each year so Penguin’s antics were so familiar. And there are the kids who have been in my care as a teacher over the years who have had to face similar circumstances and somehow have had to navigate a way through.

Students may well have seen the movie Penguin Bloom – Noah’s story will give them an extra layer of understanding.

 

One Lone Swallow

One Lone Swallow

One Lone Swallow

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One Lone Swallow

Corinne Fenton

Owen Swan

New Frontier, 2020

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

9781922326195

Florence, Italy , around 1805 and as night falls a lone swallow leaves her babies and flies across the city, with the single sole purpose of finding her mate who has not returned.

But it is not the courage and determination of the swallow in her mission that is the hallmark of this story, but the beautiful, lyrical description of her journey accompanied by the exquisite, soft illustrations that are the perfect match. 

For most of us, night comes in each day almost unnoticed in its regularity and sameness, unless there is a stunning sunset or storm to catch the eye. But in this simple story, Fenton and Swan, creators of other sensitive stories like Scrufflenut, turn the reader’s focus to the sights and sounds of nightfall, not just in Florence on this night but their own backyard. What are the sights, sounds, smells and colours that they hear as night falls across their home?  If they were like the swallow and could have a bird’s-eye view what would attract their attention as dusk and then night settles across the city? Is it a swift or lingering event?  Why? Would it be different if we were in a city, the bush, by the sea? Would it have been different in another time? Given this is set in 1805, what is noticeably missing if it were set today?  Perhaps this could inspire an individual, group or class poem focusing on how Fenton has made the ordinary extraordinary through her word choices and phrasing, and with illustrations that, like those of Swan, become an integral part of the tale told.

A perfect opportunity to encourage our students to take a close look at their environment and engage all their senses. 

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.