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May I Hug You?

May I Hug You?

May I Hug You?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May I Hug You?

Oleta Blunt

Katherine Appleby

Little Steps, 2024

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

9781922678119

Isla is very excited because she has a new puppy and she rushes forward to greet him.  But this is a new situation for Basil and he is feeling very unsure so he heads back into his carry cage where she can’t reach him.  Isla is disappointed, not understanding why Basil seems scared of her, but her mother explains that he is feeling unsure because he doesn’t know her yet and Isla needs to take things quietly and build trust and friendship step-by-step.

This is a message-story for all young readers anticipating the arrival of a new pet – sometimes their excitement and enthusiasm can be overwhelming, particularly to something as small as a puppy or a kitten, and they need to take a step back and consider how the pet might construe their innocent actions as threatening.  But it could also be a lesson to the adult sharing it with them as together they think about consent. Is it okay for an adult to assume that it is okay to hug or kiss or even just touch kids they have just met?  Does being a relative afford them certain rights? Exploring the young person’s response through the lens of Basil offers opportunities to talk about relationship-building at arm’s length – and we can all learn a lesson about starting on their level from the Obama approach.

All Australian schools are now required to teach age-appropriate consent education from the first year of compulsory schooling to Year 10 and in 2022, a new Australian Curriculum was released with updated content and guidance for teaching about consent (ACARA 2022).  While each state has developed its own support materials, their resource suggestions seem to lack links to appropriate fiction so this story dovetails in nicely with teaching our youngest children about respectful relationships, especially those involving an “imbalance of power” because there are few times as little ones where they hold the upper hand.

A story with greater potential than just about a girl and her new pet.  

 

 

Where Is the Cat?

Where Is the Cat?

Where Is the Cat?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where Is the Cat?

Eva Eland

Andersen Press, 2024

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

9781839131837

Whenever Suzy visits Auntie, all she wants to do is play with the cat.  But Cat is nowhere to be found, or is he?  No matter where Suzy looks, she can’t find Cat, but is she looking hard enough?

This is a joyous story for very young readers who will enjoy spotting Cat even though Suzy can’t.  They will love joining in to point him out, much like the audience in a pantomime, as well as learning and understanding prepositions like “behind”, “under” and so forth. There is also the opportunity to talk about how the cat, used to a quiet, good life, might feel when confronted by the boisterous, effervescent Suzy.

While it’s a familiar theme, nevertheless these sorts of stories are always enjoyable for our younger readers who like the feelings they have as they engage with the print and pictures, all helping them to enjoy the power of story believe that they can be readers themselves.

Little Ash (series)

Little Ash (series)

Little Ash (series)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Little Ash (series)

Sports Carnival

9781460764633

Puppy Playtime

9781460764640

Ash Barty

Jasmine McCaughey

Jade Goodwin

HarperCollins, 2023

64pp., pbk., RRP $A9.99

Hot on the heels of the successful launch of the junior version of her autobiography comes the latest two in this series for young, newly independent readers.  

As with the others, they feature themes that are likely to be familiar to the audience – getting a puppy, and having to put the greater good before your own desires – and encouraging the reader to consider what they would do in a similar circumstance. Part of learning to win is learning to lose, and it is refreshing to have plots where the main character, who in real life we all seem to expect to win all the time, actually faces difficulties and defeat and has to handle that.  It is also refreshing to read stories where, even for champions, success doesn’t come easily – there is a lot of trial and error and practice that has to be endured, and not just with sport.  So many children who find something like learning to read comes easy naturally expect things like maths or music will also require little effort and when faced with a challenge either turn away or label themselves as “no good at that”.    

As sports stars come and go, much in the same way as new waves of young readers discover they can read by themselves, series like this also come and go and are very popular and useful at their time.  Students discover that those they admire most face similar dilemmas and choices as they do, making them more real and, at the same time, showing them that they do have power to determine things for themselves. And with their subject matter and format carefully designed for those emerging readers, regardless of the celebrity on the masthead, they also show them that they can read independently, that reading is something they can master and enjoy and that it will open a whole variety of new worlds and pathways.  So this is another important addition to your Stepping Stone collection with application and attraction beyond just those who like tennis. 

Smarty Pup 3: To the Rescue

Smarty Pup 3: To the Rescue

Smarty Pup 3: To the Rescue

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Smarty Pup 3: To the Rescue

Anh Do

Anton Emdin

A&U Children’s, 2023

160pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9781761068959

After Lily lost her mum, life was a little ordinary and sad,  but things changed when her Dad decided they could be a family of three again by getting a dog – something both Lily and her mum had wanted for ages.  At the animal shelter, Lily chose JJ, who was kind of clumsy, but something about his smiley face made her really happy inside. They changed even more when Lily discovered  that JJ could talk and is actually super smart. He can speak a number of languages, and knows the answers to maths and geography questions.

Now the family is healing and is back again in a third adventure with this extraordinary dog who has just declared that he want to be a firedog, following a visit to Lily’s school by Chief Firefighter Do and his son Weirdo. But, like many little ones fascinated by the noise and speed and sirens of fire engines, and the wonder of where they are off to, when fire threatens to burn down a local building, Lily and JJ realise there’s more to firefighting than just driving a big red truck. Will JJ and his latest invention save the day?

Sadly, for too many of our children the sights and sounds of the fire trucks have already been heard this summer as bushfire season shows its hand early, so this is a timely release to focus their thoughts on being prepared and knowing what to do if they are in danger, because unlike JJ, they probably won’t have a mini-copter at the ready. 

With its intriguing hologram covers, this is a series for young independent readers whose older siblings are reading Anh Do’s other series and they want some of the fun, too.  

George and Tao

George and Tao

George and Tao

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

George and Tao

Claude K. Dubois

Gecko Press, 2023

48pp., hbk., RRP $A22.99

9781776575251

When George the puppy is introduced to Tao the kitten, The two of them “look at each other and wag their tails,”  and it is not long before they are best friends. playing and together all day long. But when George chases him up the curtain in the living room, and Tao falls, George is bereft. While the kitten is scooped up and taken to the vet, George has no idea where his friend is.  He searches in all the usual spots but Tao is nowhere, and so he sits at the door and waits and waits, and waits…

This is a tiny book just made for little hands and being shared with a little one, that focuses on friendship and fun and what happens when things get out of hand -as they often do when little ones play together.  The text is simple, but the watercolour artwork carries so much making George’s loss when Tai disappears, palpable.  

Exquisite. 

Etta and the Octopus

Etta and the Octopus

Etta and the Octopus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Etta and the Octopus

Zana Fraillon

Andrew Joyner

Lothian, 2023

100pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9780734421685

FOUND!

One octopus!

Likes to eat tuna sandwiches.

Goes by the name of ‘Oswald’.

It all began when Etta decided to take a bath . . . And realised she wasn’t alone. In the bath sat Oswald. Etta had never had an octopus in her bath before. At first, Etta thinks it might be fun to have Oswald around. But she soon learns that octopuses are not very good at being tidy . . . or cooking . . . or sharing . . . or even playing nicely. Just as Etta has almost had enough, someone comes to claim Oswald. Oswald isn’t perfect, but does Etta really want to send him away?

This is another in the collection of books for emerging independent readers that focus on a young person being befriended by an unusual creature – in this case, an octopus.  It has all the structures like a larger font, short chapters and plenty of illustrations that a young person needs; it contains instructions for the game that Etta and Oswald play, and Andrew Joyner has included a step-by-step guide to drawing Oswald.  But what sets it apart is that Etta starts making a list of the pros and cons of having an octopus as a pet, a strategy that our young readers can learn and adapt as they venture into the realm of persuasive writing.  Their growing maturity allows them to view a problem or situation from more than their own perspective and to be able to stand back and look at the advantages and disadvantages and then list these so they can make an informed opinion is the basis of a quality  argument which is at the heart of persuasive writing and being a critical thinker.  

So, having shared the story with the students, it offers opportunities to set up similar situations such as a dragon having taken up residence in the school playground, so they can start to explore and develop this strategy for themselves.

The ending of this story sets it up to be a series so perhaps there will be more to come that those who like quirky adventures can enjoy. 

Being a Cat

Being a Cat

Being a Cat/ Being a Dog

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Being a Cat: A Tail of Curiosity

9780063067929

Being a Dog: A Tail of Mindfulness

9780063067912

Maria Gianferrari

Pete Oswald

HarperCollins, 2023

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

Little people, like big people, love their pets and often try to be like them, so these two books are perfect for encouraging them to examine their cats and dogs to really get to know them.

With minimal text and quirky, funny illustrations, they can get up close and personal and then, explore the traits in more detail in the final pages.

Something very different for the animal lovers in your domain. 

Harriet Hound

Harriet Hound

Harriet Hound

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Harriet Hound

Kate Foster

Sophie Beer

Walker, 2023

176pp., pbk., RRP $A15.99

9781760654702

Harriet Hound is pretty much like other girls her age – she is eight years old; she has short curly hair; her favourite letter is H; she lives in a town called Labrador; and she loves dogs.  She lives with her grandparents, her mum, and her older brother Hugo in a huge home especially built to be dog-friendly and now it is a dog rescue shelter.  BUT – she is also autistic and has a superpower that allows her to summon the dogs from her family’s rescue shelter every time there’s trouble afoot… Whether it’s a carnival catastrophe, a sudden storm, or vanishing vegetables, Harriet and her best dog friends use their super special talents and problem-solving skills to save the day!

Told in a series of short stories, this is a delightful book from the author of one of my favourite recent releases, The Bravest  Word  and again, she makes Harriet’s autism such a natural part of her life, something Harriet and her family are comfortable with, and it is this authenticity that not only allows those on the spectrum to read a book about themselves but for those around them to understand the condition better.  As Harriet says, “I stimmed. I flapped my hands out to the side and clicked my fingers out in front of me over and over again. It’s okay. There’s no need to be worried. Stimming is something I do ALL THE TIME. I do it when I’m worried and when I’m angry.  Sometimes I can’t stop my hands from doing it, but I also do it when I’m excited or when I’m happy. I stim to calm myself down.”  Can there be a better, more straightforward explanation By showing that being autistic is just a different way of being human, that there is nothing wrong that needs to be “fixed”, and certainly nothing to be ashamed or frightened of, Foster advances the cause of acceptance immeasurably.  Indeed, she continues this focus on kids with special needs in her upcoming book, The Unlikely Heroes Club

Autistic or not, this is a wonderful set of stories for young, independent readers who love dogs and who would desperately like to live where Harriet does, and have her superpower. 

 

Smarty Pup 2: JJ and the Giant Panther

Smarty Pup 2: JJ and the Giant Panther

Smarty Pup 2: JJ and the Giant Panther

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Smarty Pup 2: JJ and the Giant Panther

Anh Do

Anton Emdin

Allen & Unwin, 2023

160pp., pbk., RRP $A15.99

9781761068720

Life was a little ordinary for Lily for a while, particularly as she had lost her mum, but things changed when her Dad decided they could be a family of three again by getting a dog – something both Lily and her mum had wanted for ages.  

At the animal shelter, Lily chose JJ, who was kind of clumsy, but something about his smiley face made her really happy inside. They changed even more when Lily discovered  that JJ could talk and is actually super smart. He can speak a number of languages, and knows the answers to maths and geography questions .

In this second episode of this series, Lily’s teacher, Mr Hosking, agrees that Lily can take JJ to the school camp at Camp Pineapple. Everyone is  having fun until glowing eyes start appearing in the shadows.  Could it be the legendary Giant Panther?

Anh Do is one of Australia’s most popular and prolific authors, and this new series is somewhat of a cross between a picture book and a novel, but not a graphic novel per se. Told by Lily herself , highly illustrated in colour with conversations in speech bubbles and different fonts, it is an ideal stepping stone between basal, instructional readers and the novels newly independent readers are aspiring to. The story is grounded in the familiar situation of going to school camp and the characters are relatable, although of course there is the usual Anh Do twist. Reading a popular author loved by older peers and siblings is an added bonus, as well as enticing them to try other series he has written! 

 

 

In or Out: A Tale of Cat Versus Dog

In or Out: A Tale of Cat Versus Dog

In or Out: A Tale of Cat Versus Dog

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In or Out: A Tale of Cat Versus Dog

Stacy Gregg

Sarah Jennings

HarperCollins, 2023

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

9780008549237

Dog wants in. He’s trying to build blocks, play with his cars and finish his painting masterpiece.  Cat wants in. No, Cat wants out. In. Out. In. Out. It’s enough to drive Dog crazy!

Any child with a cat or a dog is going to relate to this hilarious story as they recognise the familiar situation of their pet not being able to make up its mind about being in or out.  Whether they have the patience of Dog is another matter.

But the power in this story for our youngest readers is that they can tell the story for themselves just by looking at the picture and thus predicting the simple, large text that accompanies it. They can be “real readers”, strengthening their belief that they will master those squiggles on the page by looking at the context and drawing on their existing knowledge to make sense of what is going on. That, in itself, makes this book worthwhile and the underlying themes of friendship and understanding wrapped up in an hilarious, familiar circumstance  just add to the fun.