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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.