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Kevin the Sheep

Kevin the Sheep

Kevin the Sheep

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kevin the Sheep

Jacqueline Harvey

Kate Isobel Scott

Puffin, 2024

32pp., hbk., RRP $A17.99

9781761048951

Shaun, Shauna, Sheryl and Shane are sheep – and are as predictable in their sheepish behaviour as the alliteration of their names.  Along with the rest of the flock, they are happy doing the same things over and over day after day in their fields of green grass and clover.

But Kevin is different.  To start with, he’s allergic to grass and would much prefer a bowl of soup (sprinkled with chives) and instead of subjecting himself to the regular shearing, he prefers to keep his locks long, and have painted purple hooves!  And if that’s not enough, he’s into drama and dance, is learning to knit (from a Ewe-Tube video), and is mastering kung fu, among other things. Sadly for Kevin, the other sheep don’t approve and ostracise him, make him feel like an outcast and he gets sadder and sadder.  Until one night…

There are many stories for young readers about being yourself, embracing the things that make you unique and standing up to those who would prefer you to be one of the flock, but few that I have read have been as LOL funny as this one, and as appealing.  Living as I do in sheep country, sheep behaviour is a common sight and both the author and the illustrator have captured that brilliantly. A paddock of sheep is a paddock of sheep is a paddock of sheep… So to have a Kevin to rock the flock is a masterpiece, particularly as his differences span all sorts of attributes from physical appearance to food allergies to sporting prowess to hobby choices… No matter how a little one in your realm stands out from the crowd, they will be able to relate to Kevin and draw strength from his determination to accept his differences (even though it takes some sleepless nights to understand that he has the inner strength to do so) so that they, too, can revel in who they are, what they look like and what they can do. 

Teachers’ notes include some pages to colour that could become the centrepiece of the reader’s own story or they might even like to use Kate Scott’s illustrations as a model to draw Kevin doing what they like to do most, then making up their own story to go with that. 

Definitely one for both the home and school library.

 

Hatch and Match

Hatch and Match

Hatch and Match

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hatch and Match

Ruth Paul

Walker Books, 2024

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

9781760656980

Early morning on the farm, and as the rooster crows to start the new day, an assortment of the most brightly coloured, highly patterned chickens jump down from the tree they have roosted in overnight and begin to search for their eggs.  And as they search the farmyard with all its hazards, the reader is invited to help them search by matching colours and patterns so that each hen finds its eggs.  

But when all are reconciled, that’s not the end of the story – there is a delightful twist as the eggs hatch into chicks that will make the reader think about things a little more deeply.

This has to be one of the most engaging books for our youngest readers that I’ve read for a while.  Not only do they interact with the text and illustrations, developing their visual acuity as they match patterns and colours (a precursor to distinguishing more  subtle changes like letter shapes), but the ending offers food for thought that will have a lasting impact on how they view the world.  If it weren’t for this being by a Kiwi author (go us) making it ineligible, it is one I would expect to see in the CBCA awards lists in the future.

Shearer

Shearer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shearer

Neridah McMullin

Michael Tomkins

Walker 2023

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

9781760653163

Click go the shears, boys — click, click, click,
Wide is his blow and his hands move quick,
The ringer looks around and is beaten by a blow,
And curses the old snagger with the bare-bellied yoe.

Click Go the Shears is one of those traditional Australian songs that our children learn about the same time they learn the iconic Waltzing Matilda. But while the origins and meaning of that song are learned alongside the lyrics, what is the story behind some of the strange words and phrases in the shearing song?  Surely sheep are shorn using machinery.

But before Frederick Wolseley perfected his invention of mechanical shears in 1888 – a design 25 years in the making – sheep were shorn with hand or blade shears requiring great skill and considerable strength in the hand, arm and back and then, as now, it was one of the most physically demanding jobs as far as stress to the human body according to a 2000 report by the National Occupational Health and Safety Commission. 

Iconic images of the 19th century shearing shed. Shearing the Rams (top) and The Golden Fleece (bottom) both by Tom Roberts.

Iconic images of the 19th century shearing shed. Shearing the Rams (top) and The Golden Fleece (bottom) both by Tom Roberts.

Shearers travelled from woolshed to woolshed as wool became one of the most valuable resources of the Australian economy, particularly as gold discoveries dwindled, and among those men, was Jack Howe who had “hands the size of tennis racquets, legs like tree trunks and wrists made of steel”. 

Shearer is the story of the day Howe sheared a record 321 sheep in 7 hours and 40 mins at Alice Downs Station in Blackall, using blade shears, bringing to life the story of a man still regarded as Australia’s greatest shearer and after whom, the iconic navy blue singlet of the tradie is named.  

With her books Eat My Dust, and Drover  and the upcoming Tearaway Coach, Neridah McMullin is becoming known for telling the stories of those who have had a significant impact on Australian life, particularly that of rural communities, and thus opening up all sorts of opportunities to explore further.  Shearer continues this tradition, particularly as attendances at shows that bring the country to the city continue to break records and shearing demonstrations attract huge crowds.

For a century Australia “rode on the sheep’s back” and this book gives readers, young and older, an entry point to investigate the hows and whys of this common saying. 

The Wheelbarrow Express

The Wheelbarrow Express

The Wheelbarrow Express

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Wheelbarrow Express

Sue Whiting

Cate James

Walker Books, 2023

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

9781760654627

It’s Tommy’s last day at Pa’s farm and it’s time to say goodbye. Tommy doesn’t want to go. Not yet. He loves the farm and its playful pigs and clucking chickens and galloping goats and the dam that is deep and blue and perfect for skimming stones. And he loves Pa.

But Pa has a plan: there’s time for one last run on the Wheelbarrow Express. Toot! Toot! All aboard!

The best stories for little people are those that involve familiar settings, situations and people and this is one of those.  Who hasn’t had a holiday with their grandparents that they want to last a little bit longer? And who wouldn’t like a ride in the wheelbarrow express?  Even if the farm setting is not familiar, it will be after sharing this story as a remarkably fit but rapidly tiring grandfather pushes Tommy around all the animals to say goodbye, making sure there is time for one last special time at the dam.

This is a charming story celebrating the special bond between grandparent and grandchild that is destined to become a family favourite. 

One Little Duck

One Little Duck

One Little Duck

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One Little Duck

Katrina Germein

Danny Snell

HarperCollins, 2023

32pp., hbk., RRP $A22.99

 9781460761649

Five little ducks went out one day… and came home when they were called by their mother, “Quack Quack Quack Quack”.

But now there is only one little duck left at home and even though Mother Duck is happy for her last one to go over the hills and far away, she strikes trouble when it is time to call him home and she can’t remember how to quack!  So she tries Moo Moo Moo Moo instead -with s surprising result. Little Duck comes back for tea but with a friend in tow.  And so the pattern continues. Each evening , as she tries to find her quack, the roll at the tea table grows in length and diversity but she remains unflappable, just getting out a bigger cooking pot and more dishes and cutlery each time.  Until one night…

Young readers can have heaps of fun with this one, not only appreciating the rhyme and rhythm and building vocabulary and spelling patterns,  but also predicting and suggesting which friend might come home with Little Duck this time. And what might Mother Duck be cooking that they would all enjoy? They could even examine the camping picture and identify who is not there, focusing their suggestions on animals likely to be found on a farm. and how that creature might feel about being left out. Perhaps they could use the established pattern to add some more verses. Counting and sequencing activities as well as learning the ordinal numbers and positional words add extra possibilities but this would also work well with English as an Additional Language learners particularly if it were used in conjunction with similar stories like Old MacDonald had a Farm.  What a wonderful opportunity to create a mural to label all the creatures with words from lots of languages!!!

Wake Up Lionel

Wake Up Lionel

Wake Up Lionel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wake Up Lionel

Sian Turner

Rebecca Cool

Little Steps, 2023

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

9781922833907

When Lionel goes to stay at his grandmother’s farm, his mother warns him that there will be strange night noises that he won’t have heard in the city.  But the country air must have an amazing effect because when Lionel sleep-walks around the farm, none of the animals can wake him even though they all try with their loudest noise.  Even following him back to his bed and sharing it with him doesn’t disturb his slumber.

Written in rhyme, this is a story that could introduce young readers to the animals they are likely to see on the farm and they can have fun mimicking the various noises, perhaps even learning the traditional song about Old MacDonald.  They might also like to compare and contrast the sounds that Lionel might have heard at home by taking time to listen to the sounds of night falling where they live and what Lionel hears, thus learning to involve all their senses when they are reading. Guiding them to think about what they might see, hear, feel and smell in a particular setting helps them to orient themselves and make plausible suggestions for unknown words based on content and context rather than sounds. 

So even though the animals were unable to wake up Lionel, perhaps they can spark some genuine learning in this seemingly simple tale. 

Duckling Runs Away

Duckling Runs Away

Duckling Runs Away

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Duckling Runs Away

Margaret Wild

Vivienne To

Allen & Unwin, 2023

32pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

9781761065804

Duckling is angry with her mother and declares she is running away and “never coming back. Never, ever.” And off she goes – past the chickens, puppies, kittens, piglets, lambs and bunnies who are all playing games together and having fun.  Even though they invite her to join them, she refuses saying that she is running away. But as she is running, day turns to dusk and not only is Duckling unsure of the dark but she can’t remember why she ran away in the first place! She may not know where she is but she knows where she needs to be…

There are a handful of authors whose name on the cover of a book is a guarantee of a great story, and Margaret Wild is one of those. Together with Vivienne To, (the team who gave us The Sloth Who Came to Stay) she has created an engaging, familiar story that you can imagine evolved from a foot-stamping, tantrum-throwing toddler saying exactly the same thing. Not only has Wild captured such a common occurrence in the lives of our little ones and turned it into a story that resonates but doesn’t threaten, To’s soft illustrations add to the atmosphere, particularly as the sun starts to sink and we wonder what Duckling will do when night falls. There is as much atmosphere and drama in the illustrations as there is in Duckling’s announcement! 

While there is a subtle underlying theme of unconditional love between parent and child, this is a pure celebration of story reflecting real life that will endear our youngest readers to the printed word and strengthen those special bonds they have.   

 

A Clue for Clara & Rita’s Revenge

A Clue for Clara & Rita's Revenge

A Clue for Clara & Rita’s Revenge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Clue for Clara 

9781760877699

Rita’s Revenge

9781761066009

Lian Tanner

Allen & Unwin, 2020-2022

320+ pages, pbk., RRP $A16.99

 

GREETINGS. AM LOOKING FOR A MAJOR CRIME TO SOLVE. PLEASE INFORM ME OF ANY RECENT MURDERS, KIDNAPPINGS OR JEWEL HEISTS IN THIS AREA.’

A scruffy chook, literally henpecked by the other hens, Clara has become addicted to the detective shows she sees on the humans’ television and now she wants to be a famous detective like her hero Amelia X with her own TV show. She can read claw marks, find missing feathers and knows Morse code and semaphore, but  being small and scruffy chook no one takes her seriously. But when she teams up with Olive, the daughter of the local policeman, they might just be able to solve the crimes that have been troubling the town of Little Dismal. 

And having solved the crime and prevented the theft of some sheep, but in the process having made the ducks look less than the courageous creatures they perceive themselves to be, the ducks are ticked off and are seeking revenge.  They decide they are going to make Clara’s life a misery but brave as they profess to be, none is willing to lead the charge.  Until Rita, in disgrace for offering poetry at the recent Talent Night, volunteers in an effort to seek redemption.  But But Rita finds more than revenge on her mission. She uncovers a dastardly plan to chook-nap the clever chicken that will take them both a long way from home.  But her unlikely friendship with a small human and the help of some street-smart birds just might save the day and inspire an epic poem!

This is a LOL duo for the newly independent reader who likes something completely wacky and entertaining, written in an easy-to-read unique diary format with plenty of other textual supports while being thick enough to impress peers!  Both see the human world through a different lens offering interesting insights as well as hilarious observations and misinterpretations, but more than that, they validate the importance of being yourself regardless if that is a little different to the norm and the expectation of others.  Young readers who see themselves as being a little outside whatever is currently accepted amongst their peers will delight in seeing both Clara and Rita rise above the pack (flock?) to triumph. 

 

Who’s This Little Chick?

Who's This Little Chick?

Who’s This Little Chick?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who’s This Little Chick?

Auntie Aldang

Little Steps, 2021

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

9781922358370

When a little chick hatches from a little rock in their garden, Jay and Essie go on a mission to find her family.  Assuming that because she hatched from an egg. they go to the chicken zoo to search.  But while they find all sorts of different chickens, none of them are the little chick’s parents.  Will there be a happy ending?

Told in rhyme, this story follows a familiar theme of searching for a parent by comparing the baby’s characteristics to those of the adults, but this has the twist of introducing young readers to some of the different species of chooks that there are, beyond those that are more familiar.  Some of very strange but sadly, this little chick isn’t like them at all.

As well as that aspect, young readers can also consider whether chickens are the only things that hatch from eggs, and they could even start to compare their own looks to those of their parents so they can see the various features they share that make them a unique blend of genes. 

Was the little chick even a chick? Perhaps a story that initiates the discussion about where they came from. 

Noni the Pony Counts to a Million

Noni the Pony Counts to a Million

Noni the Pony Counts to a Million

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Noni the Pony Counts to a Million

Alison Lester

Allen & Unwin, 2021

24pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781760524395

Former Australian Children’s Laureate Alison Lester first introduced us to Noni the Pony in 2011 and it was shortlisted for the CBCA Early Childhood Book of the Year.  This was followed by another adventure Noni the Pony Goes to the Beach.in 2014 and then Noni the Pony Rescues a Joey  in 2018. So she has become a favourite of  many preschoolers over time, and this new adventure, written in rhyme and beautifully illustrated, will become a favourite too, particularly if today’s preschooler has an older sibling who remembers the earlier stories.

Little people know that learning to count is a sign that they are growing up and Noni the Pony is no different.  So as she watches her farm  friends play and frolic, she counts them – all the way to a million!! And while most counting books just introduce the words for one to ten, this one includes the concepts of dozens, hundreds, thousands and a million – as the stars shine overhead on what has been a very busy day.  

Featuring all the vital elements that help develop young readers’ concepts about print, this is one that they will be able to read to themselves within a very short while because the illustrations support the text so well, adding another layer to their belief that they will be a successful reader.  Who could ask for more?