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Tarni’s Chance

Tarni’s Chance

Tarni’s Chance

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tarni’s Chance

Paul Collins

Jules Ober

Ford Street, 2022

32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.95

9781922696052

When Tarni’s mum says goodbye, all the colour and joy of life seem to go with her. Tarni retreats into her bubble. Her world became smaller and the air seemed thinner. But then Chance steps in . . .

As much as the text in this narrative of family breakdown, self-doubt and anxiety echoes the feelings of loss and loneliness that so many readers will have felt, it is the illustrations that make it so special.  Beginning in deep shades of grey as her parents argue, with the only colour being Tarni and her guitar, her bubble of music, a monochromatic scheme that continues as Tarni comes to grip with her loss, finding solace only in solo activities like drawing and reading, gradually being consumed by the grey of her grief.  Using handmade miniatures set against black and white photography, the reader is drawn deeper into Tarni’s world, but then Tarni spots a stray, ragged dog, seemingly as lost as she is, and there is a ray of hope.  Brief though it is, it shows both the reader and Tarni that there is still a glimmer of colour in the world, and when the dog returns the grey gradually disappears. 

While this is not the first book to use colour to depict mood and emotion in this way, and the use of miniatures and photography was a feature of the 2020 CBCA shortlisted The Good Son, nevertheless it is a powerful representation that those who have passed through the grey of grief will relate to, and those who are still in it will be buoyed by the prospect that colour still exists and step by step they will find it. 

 

Hot Dog

Hot Dog

Hot Dog

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hot Dog

Mark Sperring

Sophie Corrigan

Bloomsbury, 2022

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

9781408876114

On the fast food stand at the beach lies a hot dog – a sausage and bun – who is very glum as he watches all the real dogs gallivanting and cavorting in the waves and sand. How he longed to be like them with heads and tails and feet. But when the Mustard Fairy makes his dreams come true, will he be accepted by the other dogs? Or will he have to fight for his place in the sun?

How refreshing it is to just read a story for the share joy and silliness of it, to just savour the rhyme and rhythm rolling off your tongue with no underlying didacticism, although there could be a slight flavour of “be careful what you wish for.”  From the team behind Santa Jaws, Mince Spies, and Jingle Smells , this is another hilarious fast-paced romp that needs to be shared just for the fun of it, to entertain the reader and make them laugh.  And as our beach days approach, let our imaginations roam wild with what if… 

Finding You

Finding You

Finding You

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finding You

Robert Vescio

Hannah Sommerville

New Frontier, 2022

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

9781922326539

In the busy, anonymous concrete jungle that is the city, a little boy spots a stray dog that lives in a cold, discarded cardboard box that no one else even notices.  With each seemingly alone as each other, they begin to explore their surroundings, venturing into new areas that reveal hidden delights if you put your imagination on and see what is beyond what is really there, finding new friends in unlikely places – or not.  

This is an intriguing story that explores the new doors that new friends can open, opportunities that can be life-changing and unexpected if you’re willing to reach out or be brave enough to accept. It offers an opportunity to not only talk about the bond between humans and their pets, but also to take it deeper and consider those who are homeless or newcomers or different in any way, those who are isolated even in the city and who just need a friend or a kind conversation, or even just a smile so they know they are not invisible. As with Seal ChildInto the Wild and his other stories, this is more than a story about a boy and a lost dog. It’s about stepping out and reaching out beyond your boundaries to discover so much more than you thought was there, both without and within.

For me, Vescio is one of the masters in saying much in so few words, and Hannah Sommerville’s choice of palette, style and layout is the perfect accompaniment to not only interpret the text but also give it so many layers that there is something new to discover and ponder with each reading. It celebrates the acceptance and innocence of children, not yet tarnished and prejudiced by viewing the world through an adult lens.

Romi Sharp says, “Finding You is a book that signifies the true essence of humanity and friendship through the special nature of boy’s best friend. It is just sublime…. Finding You is a picture book for all ages, cultural and social backgrounds, that is literally and figuratively beautiful, heartfelt and just magical. This really is a must-read.” I have to agree. 

Willa and Woof 1: Mimi is Missing

Willa and Woof 1: Mimi is Missing

Willa and Woof 1: Mimi is Missing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Willa and Woof 1: Mimi is Missing

Jacqueline Harvey

Puffin, 2022

128pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

9781761043314

Willa’s four-legged best friend is her albino wolfhound, Woof; her same-age best friend is Tae Jin whose name means “person of greatness” in Korean; and her old-age best friend is Frank Pickles who lives next door in the retirement village and is very old and very grumpy with crinkly skin and bags under his eyes.  Willa visits him almost every day and listens to his stories about how he used to race pigeons when he was younger, although now he only has Mimi in the aviary in his tiny back yard. 

So when Willa discovers Mimi is missing and she thinks it is her fault because she didn’t latch the cage properly, she is devastated and, after searching everywhere, hatches a plot to lure her home.  But when that backfires, she knows she has to confess to Frank – but then she discovers he is missing too…

Told by Willa herself with that typical young-person humour, this is the first in a new series from the author of Clementine Rose, Alice-Miranda, and Kensy and Max , created for younger readers who are consolidating their skills and need quality writing, interesting characters and relatable plots, supported by short chapters, a larger font and illustrations.  For me, one of its strengths is the small group of main characters who are interesting even though they don’t stray too far from what is expected allowing the reader to take in the whole story without having to think too much about who’s who and their relationships.  At the same time though, there are those who play a minor role in this story but who will most likely pop up again in sequels, establishing a network that will become familiar.  This is a key reason that series are particularly popular with readers – they can bring their prior knowledge of the characters to the page and get stuck into the story itself without having to be distracted.

While I think this is a series that is going to build into becoming as popular with young readers as its predecessors, why not offer it to a reluctant reader and ask them to read and assess whether it will be worth buying the additions that follow, ensuring that they support their judgement..  Giving them context and purpose for their reading could be just the bridge they need to cross…  (And if they’re not hooked, you’ve started a conversation about what they do like to read, as well as the opportunity to give it to others on a 2/3 basis for purchase.) 

Clarice Bean: Scram!

Clarice Bean: Scram!

Clarice Bean: Scram!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Clarice Bean: Scram

Lauren Child

HarperCollins, 2022

176pp., pbk., RRP $A17.99

9780008541507

Clarice Bean Tuesday is 12, second youngest in an extended family that comprises her granddad, and her grandmother, her dad, her mother, her 16-year old brother Kurt, her 14 year old sister Marcie and her younger brother Minal Cricket Tuesday who is 5.  As with many larger families, life is often chaotic but on this particular day Clarice is feeling bored because nothing ever happens except for sometimes. And only on rare-ish occasions, which is hardly ever. There are times when even I can’t turn the nothing into more than it is. But there was one day in the holidays that began as a nothing day and then everything happened. Absolutely nearly everything.

Cranky and bored because it is the summer holidays and her brothers and sister are annoying, her best friend Betty Moody is away,  and Robert Grainger, her weird neighbour is boasting that he is looking after a rabbit. Everyone seems to be having more fun than she is. That is, until she finds that a puppy has followed her home and will not ‘scram’. Knowing that when her parents return from the wedding, they  will only make her try to find its owner, Clarice and her siblings all work together to look after the dog and hide it from them.

Written in Clarice’s 12 year-old voice, this is a series from the author of Charlie and Lola,  that has been around for over 20 years but with intermittent new releases, remains as popular as ever with younger newly independent readers. They will relate to the everyday events that Child skillfully makes entertaining and using lots of the formatting devices that support young readers to tackle longer reads, this new release could see the resurgence of the series amongst a new generation of readers.

Zadie Ma and the Dog Who Chased the Moon

Zadie Ma and the Dog Who Chased the Moon

Zadie Ma and the Dog Who Chased the Moon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Zadie Ma and the Dog Who Chased the Moon

Gabrielle Wang

Puffin, 2022

272pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

 9781761046513

Zadie Ma’s passion is writing stories, and she has discovered that sometimes they come true – as they did with the story of Little Ant Cassandra when the ants miraculously disappeared before her mother could spray them , and Little Kit who was a fox who could sing and the next day, she saw exactly that outside her window.  

Shy and without a close friend until Sparrow moves in next door, Zadie’s dearest wish is to have a dog of her own and so she starts to write the story of a poor unwanted dog called Jupiter, who’s just waiting to be rescued by a loving girl like Zadie. Although Zadie can’t control which of her stories come true, perhaps this might be one of those that do. 

Interspersed with both Zadie’s stories and graphic novel elements, this is a new release from Australian Children’s Laureate, Gabrielle Wang, for independent readers who like a down-to-earth story featuring characters they can relate to.  For when Zadie sets off to find Jupiter, instead of minding the family’s shop, she does indeed find him and rescues him.  But then she realises that she can’t keep him because her mother will not let her have a dog, particularly as their relationship is somewhat strained… Will her story have the happy ending she dreams of?

Gabrielle Wang is the author of a number of books for primary-aged readers, including The Beast of Hushing Wood , each different and intriguing. This one, set in Melbourne in 1955, has a personal tinge to it as it is prefaced with a photo of her with her grandfather and the family dog and dedicated to “Rusty, and all the other dogs who were lost and never found their way home”. In fact, in an interview, Wang says “This novel is a special love letter to my very first dog, Rusty, who my grandfather found wandering around lost at the Victoria market in Melbourne. “

It also touches on some of the attitudes that were prevalent at the time, including issues of racism and the place of women and animals in society offering an opportunity to reflect on how things have changed – or haven’t.  Other stories with a similar timeframe  that could be companion novels are 52 Mondays  and The Unstoppable Flying Flanagan, both quite different but also with themes of family, friendship, determination and courage.  

 

 

 

 

Old Fellow

Old Fellow

Old Fellow

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Old Fellow

Christopher Cheng

Liz Anelli

Walker Books, 2022

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

9781760652395

The Swedish have a word for this story- fika [fee-ka]. It means “a moment to slow down and enjoy the good things in life”.  And that is exactly what the old man and his dog do from the moment they wake and stretch their creaky old bones, through their walk in the park meeting old friends and new and then home again for a well-earned cuppa. But is it the man or his dog that is the “old fellow”?

There are only a handful of authors who can take such an everyday occurrence as an old man and his dog taking their daily exercise and turn it into such a charming story that has so many possibilities.  Indeed, Chris Cheng has dedicated this story to the “Old fellows of Campderdown Memorial Park”, suggesting that he. himself, has spent an hour or more there just  practising fika as he watches all the meetings and greetings and connections that are made, for a walk in the park is as much mental and emotional exercise as it is physical.

While, in previous generations the old man might be represented by a grandfather, that stereotype has been replaced and so our children might not have as much contact with those whose birthdays start with a 7 and beyond and so this is an opportunity for them to engage with this age group and as programs such as Old People’s Home for 4 Year Olds showed so well, there are huge benefits for both sides. Teachers’ notes are available.

In the meantime, Liz Anelli’s illustrations are so rich in detail as she captures not only the community who enjoy the park but their connections and friendships that you can almost feel the camaraderie coming off the page. And the reader’s next walk in their park will be viewed through a different lens.

With titles such as Bear and Rat  and One Tree , among many others to his credit, Chris has once again shown his incredible ability to capture the emotional essence of a situation that can open up a whole new world for young readers as they learn to identify, express and manage their own feelings.  

In the meantime, here is that elusive fika in action!

Bluey: A Jigsaw Puzzle Book

Bluey: A Jigsaw Puzzle Book

Bluey: A Jigsaw Puzzle Book

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bluey: A Jigsaw Puzzle Book

Bluey

Puffin 2022

8pp., hbk., RRP $A16.99

 9780143777878

Just as the new season of Bluey appears on the screen, and the controversy about whether Bandit is a “bad dad” fills talk shows, comes a new, interactive print edition  for the lovable character’s fans. 

Each double page includes a put-together puzzle that emerges into a new adventure for Bluey and her family, then young readers can flip each puzzle over for a new picture.

Despite what those who have to politicise everything through their narrow, adults lenses have to say, this series, its characters and situations remains one of the most popular for young children ever, and interactive books like this which rely on their interaction with both the book and the story are perfect for developing those critical early reading behaviours!  At last the preschool population are being seen as a real audience with specific needs and interests and these are being met by print-based publishers. While Mem Fox has continually stated, “” If every parent -and every adult caring for a child – read aloud a minimum of three stories a day to the children in their lives, we could probably wipe out illiteracy in one generation!” it is also essential to actively engage the child in the story, either through the reading itself, talking about it, creating something or music and movement, giving the child the power to manipulate it, as this does, is also vital.  

Another essential for those who care for our very young. 

The Bravest Word

The Bravest Word

The Bravest Word

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Bravest Word

Kate Foster

Walker Books, 2022

240pp., pbk., RRP $A17.99

9781760654719

Last year Matt did really well at school, loved being a star football player, hanging out with his friends Kai and Ted and playing jungle Warfare, while avoiding bully-boy Joseph. But this year things are very different – and it’s much more than the changes that being at high school bring. 

Instead of enjoying football, he has a panic attack when he steps on the field; he avoids Kai and Ted; he’s not paying attention in class or doing his homework – in fact, he feels like he is so worthless that he is ruining the lives of those around him, including his loving parents and is beginning to wonder whether he should really be here at all. He is always tired and wanting to sleep and the tears come all the time, especially when he doesn’t want them…

While his mother dismisses his issues as “growing pains”, his father has a suspicion that there is something deeper going on and he takes Matt on a walk to see if Matt will open up.  But before he gets the chance, they hear a whimper in the bushes and discover a severely neglected and abused dog tied to a tree.  Together they release it and take it to a vet where Matt promises Cliff, whom he has named after his recently passed, dearly loved grandfather, that life will get better. But is that a promise he can keep when he is in such a dark place and his mother has said no to having a dog so many times before… And when it all boils down, who helps whom the most?

While this is a story probably more suited to the upper end of the target audience of this blog, nevertheless it is a poignant, compelling story for both teachers and parents as it gives such an insight into childhood anxiety and depression demonstrating that these are real illnesses for our kids, and also for the students themselves, because there will be some who will see themselves in Matt and who may, through him, build the courage to utter that bravest word.  Although the story is written very positively, the characters are very real and there were times when I was close to tears as I read. Why is there still such a stigma attached to having a mental illness but not-so when it’s a physical illness?  Why is it OK to take medication long-term to have a healthy heart but not to have a healthy brain?

However, shared as a classroom read-aloud in conjunction with the teachers’ notes  and other authoritative resources,  this could have a positive outcome for someone, especially when suicide is the leading cause of death in Australians aged 15-24 and “for every youth suicide, there are 100 to 200 more attempts.”  At the very least it will raise awareness and understanding and even if the sick child doesn’t or can’t open up, one of their classmates might trigger a conversation.

Kate Foster is also the author of Pawsin which she drew on her own son’s experience to give us a look into the world of the autistic child and this book is every bit as eye-opening as that.  If we are to acknowledge and recognise the struggles that some of those we know are experiencing, then this is a must-read in my opinion.  

 

 

Bluey: Typewriter

Bluey: Typewriter

Bluey: Typewriter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bluey: Typewriter

Bluey

Puffin, 2022

24pp., hbk., RRP $A14.99

9781761046070

As Bluey listens to a story from Calypso, he decides that she can write one with a better ending, but when she looks for her typewriter it is gone!  She believes she can’t be a real writer without her typewriter but while she, Snickers and Winton are on their way to ask Calypso for help with their problems, they are ambushed by the Terriers. But Bluey is cluey and uses the unique talents of her friends to get past and each discovers something more than Bluey’s typewriter…

This is another print version of an episode of the popular television series which is enhanced by lift-the-flap interactivity.  While very young readers may be mystified by what a typewriter is, it could open up up discussions about how things such as keyboards, phones and other household items have changed just within the lifespan of their grandparents. But it could also lead to a chat about whether we need the newest/smartest/flashiest tool to do a job or whether simple is often best.