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When Billy Was a Dog

When Billy Was a Dog

When Billy Was a Dog

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When Billy Was a Dog

Kirsty Murray

Karen Blair

Allen & Unwin, 2019

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

9781760631826

Billy loves dogs and he really, really wants a dog. He adores Mrs Banerjee-next-door’s little dog, Fluff, but even though he promises to wash it and walk it, feed it and clean up its messes if he one of his own, his parents are not sure.  And so he hatches a plan.  If he cannot have a dog, he will be one.

To his parent’s surprise (and embarrassment) he copies all the things he knows that Fluff does, even eating his breakfast from a bowl on the floor, and when his mum and Mrs Banarjee go to the cafe, he waits on the floor alongside Fluff.  He even curls up in Fluff’s basket with her and sleeps, until Fluff begins to make funny noises and Mrs Banerjee sends him home.  He is confused but…

Many young readers will see themselves in Billy – desperately wanting a dog or a pet of some sort but not getting one.  But while many might think that pester-power is the answer, Billy’s novel solution offers the foundation for an interesting story that will appeal widely.  Being a pet-owner requires a lot of responsibility as many advertisement from places like the RSPCA  remind us particularly around Christmas time, but there could be discussion about whether Billy’s solution is actually the best one.  How else could he have shown that he was mature enough to understand what is involved and that he is responsible enough to take it seriously?

Being responsible for a pet is a huge undertaking but there are many other things that young readers want to do or have that are beyond the realm of their maturity.  So this story opens up the pathway for discussions about those sorts of things and the best responses that could become strategies.  With Book Week rapidly approaching and many schools holding book fairs, this is a great way to open up conversations about how students might be able to purchase what they want without the usual whingeing and moaning and tantrum throwing!

Amazing Dogs with Amazing Jobs

Amazing Dogs with Amazing Jobs

Amazing Dogs with Amazing Jobs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amazing Dogs with Amazing Jobs

Laura Greaves

Puffin, 2019

288pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9780143796879

Dogs have been living with and helping humans for around fifteen thousand years. All those years ago dogs were either hunters or guardians, but these days, dogs can do all kinds of amazing jobs. Often our first thoughts about working dogs are those who are assistance dogs or those on farms working with cattle or sheep, perhaps even Oddball who protected a penguin sanctuary from fox attacks,  but in this collection the stories of over 30 dogs are told, each one different and unique.  There is Bailey the border collie became the Assistant Director of Seagulls at the Australian National Maritime Museum;  Caesar, the footy mascot for the Western Bulldogs;  Mr Walker who became a canine ambassador at a Melbourne hotel and Molly Polly, the Aussie silky terrier, who  saves lives.

Written for independent readers, each “biography” features a fact file that the reader can use to determine if this is a dog they want to read about today, and for those like Oscar  who have their own online presence , there are links to follow to find out more. While many of the dogs are Australian-based, the author has also included stories of dogs from other places like the Akaroa Dolphin dogs in New Zealand and Rowdy who is a vitiligo ambassador in the US. 

This is definitely a dip-and-delve book that will not only appeal to dog lovers, but perhaps also to reluctant readers who are still developing their skills because the chapters are short, it is non fiction and the subject is a universal one. Perhaps they could even add a chapter about a special dog they know.

My Friend Fred

My Friend Fred

My Friend Fred

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Friend Fred

Frances Watts

A. Yi

Allen & Unwin, 2019

24pp, hbk, RRP $A19.99

9781760290948

Fred the dachshund likes and does many things – he east dog food for breakfast; chases balls; sniffs trees; wears a coat when it’s cold… But none of these things appeal to his friend. But nevertheless, even though they are different, they are still best friends.

This is an intriguing book about friendship for young readers because, although there are hints about who might be telling the story available to the sharp-eyed, the identity is not revealed till the last page. And when it is, it underlies the message of the book that regardless of differences, close bonds are still possible. 

By not revealing the identity explicitly, young readers are encouraged to pay close attention to the delightful illustrations which are full of expression and movement, and interpret the friend’s observations so well.   They may well like to compare Fred’s pleasures with those of a dog they know, and once they learn the twist in the tale, retell the story from Fred’s perspective. Older children could discuss whether our friends perceive us as we perceive ourselves, another opportunity to explore the concepts of perception and bias.

Lots of scope for learning in this one. 

 

 

Mr Walker (series)

Mr Walker (series)

Mr Walker (series)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mr Walker Gets the Inside Scoop

9780143793090

Mr Walker and the Dessert Delight

9780143793083

Mr Walker Braves the Night

9780143793106

Mr Walker and the Perfect Mess

9780143793113

Jess Black

Sara Acton

Puffin Books, 2019

96pp., hbk. RRP $A14.99

We first met Mr Walker, the lovable labrador who is the ambassador for Guide Dogs Australia at the Park Hyatt hotel in Melbourne in The Tales of Mr Walkera CBCA Notable Book for 2019. And now he is back in four separate stories this time, continuing his adventures as he meets and greets the guests and managing to get himself into mischief at the same time.

In Mr Walker and the Dessert Delight, there’s a special anniversary celebration happening at the hotel and everyone is excited – especially Mr Walker! A famous chef is flown in for the event, and although she is all smiles and sweet delights, Chef Remy is none too pleased about sharing his kitchen. Mr Walker smells trouble . . . big trouble indeed, while it’s all systems go as the staff prepare for the arrival of an important reviewer in Mr Walker Gets the Inside Scoop.

Jess Black creates two more wonderful stories out of his antics in the other two books which are due in August and all are accompanied by the delightful artworks of Sara Acton who captures him perfectly, together making a fabulous series of stories that will capture the hearts and minds of newly independent readers, especially those who love stories about dogs. 

While the stories themselves are developed from actual events, the author has put the familiar disclaimer about the names, characters and so forth not bearing any relation to anyone real so this could be an opportunity to discuss with readers why authors should do this and the need for them to respect other’s privacy if they are writing or telling stories.  It’s OK to write this but not that… 

Destined to be an in-demand series in your library… 

 

 

 

Pirate Pug

Pirate Pug

Pirate Pug

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pirate Pug

Laura James

Eglantine Geulemans

Bloomsbury, 2019 

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

9781408896948

Pug and Lady Miranda are off to the seaside! Pug is dreaming of naps under the beach umbrella, but when a little mishap means he has to wear an eyepatch, things quickly get a lot less snoozy! Soon Pirate Pug and his ragtag crew of friends find themselves on the trail of buried treasure. They have to reach the island where X marks the spot before the other pirates beat them to it. There’s just one problem – Pug is scared of water!

This is the fourth adventure in this series for newly independent readers who are ready for novels, but who still need the support of illustrations, short chapters and a larger font.  Pug gets himself into all sorts of adventures, often with humorous outcomes, and young readers who like something a little wacky will enjoy both this stories and its predecessors. 

Saying Goodbye to Barkley

Saying Goodbye to Barkley

Saying Goodbye to Barkley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saying Goodbye to Barkley

Devon Sillett

Nicky Johnston

EK Books, 2019

32pp., hbk. RRP $A24.99

9781925335965

Olivia and Barkley are best friends who do everything together, especially catching the bad guys,  With her trusty cape and his sensitive nose, they were two pieces of the same puzzle, but then Barkley got sick and instead of helping Olivia, he just lay in his basket all day. Olivia tried to understand and to go on without him but it just wasn’t the same and when he died she was totally bereft.  Like everyone who suffers any sort of loss of a loved one, the bottom fell out of her world and she was too sad to do anything.  Sleeping didn’t even help because if she dreamed of him, he was gone when she woke up.  And life would never be right again, because every superhero needs a sidekick.

But then, slowly, even though she was still grieving she was able to think about the fun they had together and when she woke up one morning, she had a plan…

Every one of us loses someone who is dear and sadly, that is as true for children as it is for adults.  Devon Sillett, author of both Scaredy Book: It’s not always easy to be brave! and The Leaky Story is gradually building a body of work that shows she is in touch with the thoughts and emotions of our youngest readers and is able to help them recognise, articulate and share those feelings with others.  This is a gentle, tender story of the loss of a loved pet but one which has a happy ending that shows that while the loved one can’t be replaced, there is still life to live and love to give, even if it’s different from what you imagined.

Nicky Johnston’s illustrations are as soft and gentle as the words and add to the poignancy of the whole story and from the front cover to the final endpaper the love that Olivia has to give is on display. In fact the endpapers cleverly preface the story – Barkley hiding under the covers at the front, and Spud pulling them off and the astute adult sharing this story might even prepare the child for its content and theme by wondering aloud why there are two different dogs. Teachers’ notes to assist in exploring and explaining the story are available.

This is an essential addition to both home and school library as it is a sensitive approach to a situation that so many of our little people will face but will not understand without some adult guidance.  

Pippa’s Island: Puppy Pandemonium

Pippa's Island: Puppy Pandemonium

Pippa’s Island: Puppy Pandemonium

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pippa’s Island: Puppy Pandemonium

Belinda Murrell

Random House, 2018

240pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9780143793267

Life could hardly be more different for Pippa.  From a seemingly happy family living in a Victorian terrace house in London to a caravan in her grandparents’ backyard on a tropical island off the Australian coast.  Forced to make changes when her husband decided to work in Switzerland without them, Pippa’s mother has uprooted the family to a totally new environment where she is now running the increasingly popular Beach Shack Cafe created from an old, abandoned boat shed – a huge contrast to being a stockbroker in London!.

But the end of caravan life is in sight as Pippa’s mum finally has enough money to get the apartment finished – the children have even given up their pocket money to add a few more dollars to the pot. So when Pippa is overcome by a wave of unexpected jealousy because she is still wearing her daggy English school swimmers and doesn’t have a bike to go to other parts of the island with her friends, she decides to turn the negative feelings into a positive, particularly when she sees a beautiful pair of swimmers on sale.  And so Pippa’s Perfect Pooch Pampering is born.  Offering dog-walking, pampering and pooper-scoopering, what could possibly go wrong?

As this review is published, Miss Now 12 will be on her way to the Australian Scout Jamboree, on a bus for 15 hours with electronic devices banned.  But no doubt she will have her nose buried in this latest episode in her favourite series which she loves because the story “sounds just like me and my friends and the things we do.”  

For those who are new to the series, they don’t have to have read the others first (although it would be time well spent) because Murrell introduces Pippa, her family and friends and circumstances in an easy-to-read introduction meaning each episode is a stand-alone.  With its theme of just appreciating the pleasures found in friendships and simple things, and reflecting the lives of regular kids, even those who don’t live on a tropical island,  this is a glorious series for girls who are independent readers but who are not quite ready or interested in the contemporary realistic fiction that features in many stories for young adults. 

Even though she is a year older than when I first introduced her to Pippa and her friends, I know Miss 12 will be delighted to have them accompany her on that long bus trip! 

 

Beware the Deep Dark Forest

Beware the Deep Dark Forest

Beware the Deep Dark Forest

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beware the Deep Dark Forest

Sue Whiting

Anne White

Walker Books, 2018

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

9781742032344

People say that the deep dark forest is thick with danger – carnivorous plants and venomous snakes are just two of its threats – but when Rosie’s little pup Tinky runs into it, she knows she has to face its fearful reputation and rescue him.  Despite the strange noises that made her knees wobble and made her eyes as round as the moon, she put her brave on and in she went, going further and further into the unknown, calling for Tinky.  But then she came across something worse than a venomous snake or a carnivorous plant…

Echoing the perils that heroes have to encounter in traditional fairy tales and illustrated in a style that brings the creepy scariness of the woods to life, this is a story for young readers who like a bit of tension in their tales but no so scary that it can’t be a bedtime read.  There is plenty of scope for the young reader to predict what could be scarier than a venomous snake or a carnivorous plant or how Rosie might cross the “dizzily, dangerously, dreadfully, deep ravine”, encouraging them to let their imaginations roam and reveal a little of their own fears.

As well as immersing themselves in the stunning illustrations which add the atmosphere as well as the detail, they can explore the meaning of the vocabulary which certainly doesn’t talk down to them.  Knowing what words like ‘venomous’ and ‘carnivorous’ mean and investigating why animals and plants have such mechanisms can be very empowering, like being able to say the names of the dinosaurs.  And having them put themselves in Rosie’s shows as she encounters the problem of the ravine enables them to be active listeners rather than passive participants while being Rosie and shouting at the troll would just be pure fun! So much scope for follow-up activities too!

Stories that engage and involve readers so they become part of the action are my favourites – this would be one of those. 

 

 

Catvinkle

Catvinkle

Catvinkle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Catvinkle

Elliot Perlman

Laura Stitzel

Puffin, 2018 

240pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

9780143786368

Catvinkle lives in Amsterdam, with her barber-owner Mr Sabatini, and she likes to think that the world revolves around her, as cats generally do. From her basket near the fireplace in what she considers to be her room, she watches the legs and feet of the passers-by as they walk past her window, delighted when she sees someone with socks that don’t match and occasionally swishing her tail that has a big red bow tied to it. All is well with her world.

But one day, kindly Mr Sabatini brings home a stray Dalmatian to live with them and Catvinkle’s life is not only interrupted but is irrevocably changed.  Even though cats and dogs are not supposed to like each other, Ula’s politeness and meekness impress Catvinkle and gradually they become friends.  But when they present their friendship to others of their species, they find that what they have is not necessarily acceptable to all.

Written in response to what the author describes “as a ‘surge in, and tolerance for, racism and bullying’ in public discourse” this is a gentle story that addresses  that racism and bullying and promotes social inclusion while remaining on the surface, a story about an unlikely friendship between a cat and a dog. If they can accept a llama who plays backgammon, why can’t others?

Perlman has been short-listed twice for the Miles Franklin Literary Award and his skill with putting words onto paper is very evident – this story, while intended for young independent readers, engages adults so it makes a perfect bedtime read-aloud to younger children too.

Something different for those who like something different. 

Teachers’ notes are available.

Good Rosie!

Good Rosie!

Good Rosie!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Good Rosie!

Kate DiCamillo

Harry Bliss

Walker Books, 2018 

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

9781406383577

Rosie loves living with George and going for walks with him, but she is lonely.  The dog in the bottom of her empty silver food bowl does not talk back to her, and when George sees historical figures in the clouds, Rosie just sees squirrels to chase – never another dog.  But when George does point out a dog-cloud and Rosie barks at it, he realises she wants company and takes her to the dog park.  

But there are too many dogs who are loud and boisterous for Rosie until…

This charming story in graphic novel format by the author of such outstanding books like Because of Winn-Dixie is perfect for any little person who loves dogs, or who is a little like Rosie and not sure how to go about making friends.  And it’s not just Rosie who learns to navigate the obstacles, but George himself finds some new people for his life too. Bliss manages to give each dog its own personality with compassion and humour so that even Maurice is portrayed as awkward rather than a bully. 

As a new school year looms on the horizon and many children will be facing new adventures in new schools, and perhaps with some trepidation, they may well relate to this little terrier as she enters a new environment which is overwhelming but manages to find her place within it. Because of its format with some quite small panels, this is one to be shared one-on-one with a child so Rosie’s anxiety and how she dealt with it can be talked about, and perhaps give reassurance and confidence that, on the whole, the big wide world of school is a friendly place and that each child is like Maurice, Fifi and Rosie – they just want a friend if only they could learn now to make one.