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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. 

Two Dogs

Two Dogs

Two Dogs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two Dogs

Ian Falconer

HarperCollins, 2022

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

9780008399863

Two dogs, dachshunds

Dignified, slightly imperious

with aquiline noses and noble profiles.

Indeed, they look like Roman emperors…

Everyone loved Augie and Perry when they were puppies and played with them all the time, but as the years passed and the children went to school and the adults were at work, the dogs were left to their own devices during the day.  Most days they were fine but one day they found a way to get through the screen door and outside and soon they’re diving into the swimming pool, digging an enormous hole in the lawn, and causing all kinds of chaos… But then they hear the family car pull up… 

Many of our young readers will have got a pet for Christmas and while that’s all well and good during this long summer break, just what will those pets get up to when school goes back? This is an hilarious story that will entertain young readers but plant seeds of doubt as to what might be really happening when they are not there.  

Smarty Pup (series)

Smarty Pup

Smarty Pup

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Smarty Pup: Friends Fur-ever

Anh Do

Anton Emdin

A & U Children’s, 2022

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

9781760526399

Life is a little ordinary for Lily right now, particularly as she has lost her mum, but things change when her Dad decides 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 chooses JJ, who kind of clumsy, but something about his smiley face makes her really happy inside. They change even more when Lily discovers  that JJ can talk and is actually super smart. He can speak a number of languages, and knows the answers to maths and geography questions.  This could be the answer to her constant dilemma about having something interesting for show-and -tell, but then things get complicated. It’s one thing to be the centre of attention for a few minutes, another to be accused of something you didn’t do. 

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. 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 what to share for Show and Tell, 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! 

A new series that will have a lot of fans and followers.  

 

Willa and Woof 2: Birthday Business

Willa and Woof 2: Birthday Business

Willa and Woof 2: Birthday Business

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Willa and Woof 2: Birthday Business

Jacqueline Harvey

Puffin, 2022

128pp., pbk., RRP $A 12.99

9781761043321

Willa’s best old-age-friend Frank hates birthdays, but that’s not going to stop her from throwing him the greatest surprise party ever!

Willa plunges headlong into party planning and things immediately start to go wrong. Why don’t older people look forward to and celebrate birthdays as enthusiastically as the young?  She’ll need all her problem-solving skills (with the help of Tae, her best same-age friend, and her trusty sidekick Woof) to save the celebration!

Can Willa pull off the surprise?

This is the second in this new series from popular Jacqueline Harvey, with the third, Grandparents for Hire due in January, ensuring young readers do not have to wait long between reads for the next episode to whet their appetite.  As with the first, it is 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.  

In my review of the first one, Mimi is MissingI suggested offering it to a reluctant reader and asking them to read it and assess whether it will be worth buying the additions that follow, and so this could be the consolidation read – is the series living up to expectations?  To extend their thinking, you could invite them to think about what more they learned about the characters in this new story and have them build a summary of characters such as this, so others can get to know them and follow the relationships…

This could then become part of a bigger display called Select-A-Series created by students summarising their own favourite series to persuade others to extend their reading horizons, as well as giving real purpose and context for reading as they become more critical readers, encouraged to pause and think about what they are reading rather than skimming the pages and looking for what’s next.   To add depth it could become part of a poll to find the most popular series for the year, making and building on the display for the entire year ensuring student-centred learning and participation.  

Federal Minister for Education Jason Clare is currently spruiking a proposal for providing teachers with lesson plans, returning to a cookie-cutter approach that focuses on the subject rather than the student, so this could be a way of providing something that meets curriculum outcomes but in a highly personalised way, 

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.) 

Floof

Floof

Floof

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Floof

Heidi McKinnon

Albert Street Books, 2022

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

9781761180088

This is Floof.
Floof is floofy.
Floof is VERY floofy.
Floof is the FLOOFIEST!
Floof is going to have a very busy day

This is a story for our youngest readers, particularly those who have big, fluffy cats because they will recognise their pet immediately.  From breakfast in the morning till the final evening snooze, Floof is busy, often creating havoc unintentionally as he just goes about his day.  

The text is simple and little ones will need to connect it with the illustrations to fully appreciate McKinnon’s tale, an essential part of those early reading behaviours as they learn to read beyond the lines.  In fact, the astute adult will skip the words initially, and have the child suggest what is going on, getting them to retell Floof’s adventures in their own words. 

While we are familiar with those who over-write, who share every detail in words as though their audience cannot see or draw their own connections, this is a case of less is more, and in that, lies it appeal and brilliance. 

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.  

 

 

 

 

The World’s Worst Pets

The World's Worst Pets

The World’s Worst Pets

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The World’s Worst Pets

David Walliams

Adam Stower

HarperCollins, 2022

312pp., pbk., RRP $A24.99

9780008499778

Imagine if instead of your cat Tiddles or your dog Fido, you had Houdini, the magician’s rabbit or Zoom, the supersonic tortoise, or Griselda, a grizzly bear with a big secret or even Furp, the monstrous goldfish! Good pets, bad pets, supervillain pets, pets as big as a house and pets that could eat you in one gulp! What would your life be like? 

Well, you can catch a glimpse in this new addition to Walliams’ World’s Worst series that includes The World’s Worst Children, The World’s Worst Teachers and The World’s Worst Parents as he brings his unique sense of humour and writing style to another ten stories of humour and horror.  Short stories, crazy characters, and hundreds of full-colour illustrations – the perfect recipe for encouraging newly independent readers to keep reading despite the book being among the heaviest they will ever pick up!!!

As winter closes in and the grey, cold, wet days seem unending, this is the perfect fill-a-minute read-aloud to cheer up a class or a child.  And perhaps lead them to other works by Walliams to read alone such as the escapades of Gangsta Granny or the more serious Code Name Bananas .

 

Pearly and Pig and the Great Hairy Beast

Pearly and Pig and the Great Hairy Beast

Pearly and Pig and the Great Hairy Beast

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pearly and Pig and the Great Hairy Beast

Sue Whiting

Walker, 2022

224pp., pbk., RRP $A15.99

9781760653590

When the special phone rings in the middle of a storm, a phone that is a secret landline of the Adventurologists Guild and only meant to be answered by qualified members of that group, Pearly Woe is sent into a panic,  Her parents are members, she is not, but they should have been home hours ago and it keeps ringing – MOOOO, MOOOO, MOOOO. Should she answer it and break the rules or does she use her initiative and pick it up because such non-stop ringing is so unusual?

For despite being able to speak 27 languages, including some animal tongues,  Pearly Woe is one of the world’s greatest worriers and her over-active imagination creates a dozen different scenarios for even the most common situation. But when she does finally lift the receiver, hearing her mother’s voice does not bring her comfort – instead the strange message with its cryptic clues set off a chain of events that even Pearly’s imagination couldn’t have conjured.  Pearly’s parents have been kidnapped by Emmeline Woods, who is not the nice character she portrays on screen, and who demands that Pearly hand over Pig, her pet pig  whom she talks to all the time to ease her anxiety.  Alarm bells are ringing loudly already but seeing Woods shoot Pig with a tranquiliser gun  galvanises Pearly into mounting a rescue mission that sees her in the icy wastes of Antarctica and having to confront her worries, fears and imagination in ways the she would not have dreamed possible. 

This is a fast-paced, intriguing adventure for young, independent readers who are beginning to want some depth to the stories they read and the characters they meet.  While there are subtle environmental messages embedded in the story, it is Pearly’s anxiety and self-doubt that many will relate to personally, while others will cheer her on to believe in herself and overcome those fears.  It can be amazing how our love and concern for those who are most precious can spur us to do things we never though we would be capable of… even if we can’t speak 27 languages to help us out.

To me, the mark of a quality story is if I can hear myself reading it aloud to a class, and this is definitely one of those.