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The Curse Of The School Rabbit

The Curse Of The School Rabbit

The Curse Of The School Rabbit

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Curse Of The School Rabbit

Judith Kerr

HarperCollins, 2019

80pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

 9780008351847

Ever since it peed on him in Miss Bennett’s Year 2 class, Tommy has hated Snowflake the school rabbit.  And now it has come to stay because his sister Angie is in Miss Bennett’s class and Snowflake needs a home while Miss Bennett goes to look after her mother.But because Angie is so little, Tommy has the task of looking after Snowflake and while the extra pocket money will be handy because he thinks if he wants a new bike he will have to buy it, this is not a task he is savouring.  And so the trouble starts… dangerous dogs bale him up in the park when he is walking the rabbit; his out-of-work-actor father misses out on a job because Snowflake pees on someone important, Angie gets really sick, Snowflake goes missing… There really is a curse!

Written and illustrated during the final year of her life – Kerr died in May 2019 aged 95 – this is an engaging story for the newly-independent reader from the author of classics such as the Mog the Forgetful Cat series andWhen Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit,  It shows she still had all the imagination and wit that she had when she first wrote The Tiger Who Came to Tea in 1968 and will probably gain her a whole new legion of fans.

You can read more about her work in this obituary

One Runaway Rabbit

One Runaway Rabbit

One Runaway Rabbit

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One Runaway Rabbit

David Metzenthen

Mairead Murphy

Allen & Unwin, 2019

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

9781760523558

Lulu is happy to live in her hutch in the backyard but one night when she spots a hole in the fence, she is tempted through to explore the world further. Unfortunately a hungry fox is on the prowl and his nose smells Lulu and the chase is on.  Can she escape?

Metzenthen has used the minimum of words to tell this tale because with the exquisite illustrations in a style that might be unfamiliar to younger readers, no more than what are there are needed. This is perfect for encouraging the reader to look carefully, tell their version of the story and predict the outcome.  All are essential elements of the early reader’s arsenal in making sense of print and stories and demonstrate their level of comprehension. 

A delightful story that offers something new to explore each time it is read, especially if the astute adult asks “what if…?”.  Metzenthen says he dreams of writing the perfect story – this is getting close to it. 

 

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!

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. 

 

 

Squish Rabbit’s Pet

Squish Rabbit’s Pet

Squish Rabbit’s Pet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Squish Rabbit’s Pet

Katherine Battersby

UQP, 2019

32pp., hbk., RRP $A21.95

9780702260469

Squish Rabbit would dearly love a pet, in particular a puppy. His best friend Twitch sewed him a soft puppy but it wasn’t the same as a real one. One day, while out for a walk, Squish came across an egg and decided he would take it home and care for it until a puppy hatched out of it.  And so he nurtured that egg, doing all the right things until Twitch told him that puppies don’t hatch from eggs. But Squish was undeterred and vowed to love whatever came from it – but what would that be?

A delightful story about friendship, hope and making wishes comes true for our very youngest readers.

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.  

Flat Cat

Flat Cat

Flat Cat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Flat Cat

Hiawyn Oram

Gwen Millward

Walker Books, 2019

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

9781406371543

High in an apartment at the top of a tall building in one of the world’s busiest cities Sophie lives with her parents and her pet cat that she called Jimi-My-Jim.  She loves Jimi-My-Jim dearly and spoils him in every possible way.  But Jimi-My-Jim is not happy – for all that he has all the things a cat could want, the one thing he desires most is a cat friend.  But there is no way out of the apartment  and as he watches the world go by from the apartment window for hours and hours, days and days, he begins to go flat. Soon, hHe even looked as flat as he feels

Then one day, he finds a way to escape and he finds himself in the world of the city and its “fat cats, cool cats, jazz cats, boss cats, scaredy cats, alley cats, cat burglars, cat-nappers and even a few dogs who thought they were the cat”s whiskers.”

But is this a new life for Jimi-My-Jim or is he destined to be a Flat Cat watching on from the window for ever?

This is an intriguing book for young readers who love cats and who will adore the amazing, distinctive artwork that helps to tell Jimi-My-Jim’s tale.  But there is also an undertone of whether it’s right to keep animals in places where they are cooped up all day and can’t access the outdoors.  And whether things are a substitute for getting outside, friendship and all the other stuff that a wider world can offer.

And it brings to mind T. S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats,  the foundation of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical Cats. Perhaps it could be an entry point into those poems starting with Macavity’s Not There! Nothing like getting our youngest readers into worlds perhaps considered beyond them via a genuine bridge!

 

 

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! 

 

The Dog With Seven Names

The Dog With Seven Names

The Dog With Seven Names

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Dog With Seven Names

Dianne Wolfer

Random House Australia, 2018

240pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9780143787457

A tiny dog, the runt of the litter, is born on a remote cattle station. She shouldn’t have survived, but when she is given to Elsie, the station-owner’s daughter as a Christmas gift, and is called Princess, she becomes a cherished companion. Life is perfect … until War arrives.

With Japanese air raids moving closer, Elsie’s family leaves the Pilbara for the south and safety. But the small dog has to stay behind. Found by Stan and Dave, two drovers intent on signing up for the Army, but who have a mob of cattle to deliver to Port Hedland, she becomes just plain “Dog”. But tragedy strikes and she is taken under the wing of a flying doctor,who calls her Flynn, and becomes a hospital dog and experiences the impact of war on north-western Australia. She witnesses wonderful and terrible things and gives courage to many different humans… 

But through all her adventures and many names, the little dog remembers Elsie, who girl who loved her best of all. Will she ever find her again?

Told through the voice of Princess, this is a heart-warming story that not only tugs at the heart-strings but also brings to life the events of the early 1940s and their impact on north-western Australia, a region as historically remote to many as it is geographically,  in a way that alerts children but doesn’t scare them. 

Many of Dianne Wolfer’s books have an historical theme which brings the past to life for young readers (Light Horse Boy was a CBCA Honour Book in 2014 and Nanna’s Button Tin is a Notable for this year) and once again, her thorough research is a hallmark of this new release.  There is a timeline of the events of World War II aligned to the events in the story as well as other historical notes, all of which not only add authenticity to the story but also provide new pathways for interested readers to follow.  

Independent readers who like animal stories will adore this. 

Maya & Cat

Maya & Cat

Maya & Cat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maya & Cat

Caroline Magerl

Walker Books, 2018

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

 9781921977282

On a roof, as wet as a seal, as grey as a puddle, Cat was rumbling, a rumbly purr.  Through the window from the warmth of her bedroom, Maya spots Cat and tries to entice her inside, safe from the wet and wild outdoors. But feather boas, pink shoelaces and a pompom on a stick are not what Cat wants.  And although a can of sardines placed at the back door brings her hungry tummy down, Cat returns to her perch on the roof, wet and forlorn. 

Determined that one of the windows shining its warm light on the bleakness, Maya is determined to  find Cat’s home but every door she knocks on is not the one. Until she finds Cat in her bicycle basket as though it is saying, “Let me show you…”  

This is a stunning story of a little girl’s determination to help reunite a pet with its owners and the beautiful reward she is offered. The heartache of separation for both humans and pets is  a familiar one as anyone with a Facebook feed would know and so it will resonate with so many readers, adult and child alike.  The language is poetic, the ink and watercolour illustrations are exquisite with the one where Maya is cycling along the jetty taking me straight back to my 1950s childhood favourites in Edward Ardizzone’s  series about Tim. Having seen hundreds of thousands of illustrations over my time as a teacher, one that instantly brings back such warm memories means the book is an instant winner for me! The subtlety of the palette, the blend of colours, the intricacy of the linework, the detail in every illustration not only bring the words to life but offer so much to see as it is read again and again, providing a stark contrast to the bright, bold computer-generated works that our students are so familiar with.  This is a series of lessons about visual literacy and the need to look deep within, the purpose of picture books and the connections between text and graphics, author, illustrator and reader all wrapped up in one engaging, enthralling story. 

This is more than just a story about a girl and a lost cat – it’s a celebration of words and pictures that is likely to become an enduring childhood memory for many.

A peek inside...

A peek inside…