Archives

Dexter Lost His Boo-Woo

Dexter Lost His Boo-Woo

Dexter Lost His Boo-Woo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dexter Lost His Boo-Woo

Shane Hegarty

Ben Mantle

Hodder Children’s, 2024

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

9781444966350 

HELP! Dexter’s lost his Boo-Woo.

It’s a scary sounding beast! It has fiery eyes and floppy ears, and twenty pointy teeth!

Soon the whole town is on the hunt for the Boo-Woo… police officers, firefighters and so many more join in the search, each getting more and more concerned as Dexter describes the Boo-Woo.  They are very relieved when they find it,  but have they?

At first glance, this is a story written in fast-paced rhyme for very young children about finding something precious that has been lost and the emotions that that engenders, but it has the potential to be so much more because as the locals join the search, Dexter adds more and more information building up the picture of what his Boo-Woo looks like.  So much like The Dudgeon is Coming, young students can build group or individual pictures adding features as they are revealed, particularly if the first reading of the story is read aloud without showing the illustrator’s interpretation of the words (wrap the cover in brown paper) so the listeners really have to engage with the text as each new detail is revealed.  

It not only provides an excellent opportunity to focus on description and descriptors which will enrich their own writing, but also on perception because each drawing will be different and none will be the same as that of Ben Mantle.  You can talk about how our experiences shape our mind’s eye, and perhaps even introduce the classic poem, The Blind Men and the Elephant by John Godfrey Saxe. Extend the experience by having them draw the king in The King’s Breakfast by A. A. Milne, Dahl’s BFG as he walks down the street blowing dreams through the windows, or even Gandalf’s first meeting with Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit. Each has a description that lends itself to be interpreted in a graphic and because each of us interprets what we see and hear differently can lead to discussions about perception, what is truth and how it is shaped by our beliefs, values and even our role in an incident.   

But to be able to hang such a series of lessons on a story, you first need an engaging story that appeals to its audience on the surface, and Dexter and his Boo-Woo is certainly that, with the ending lending itself to even more possibilities!  

The Crayons Love Our Planet

The Crayons Love Our Planet

The Crayons Love Our Planet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Crayons Love Our Planet

Drew Daywalt

Oliver Jeffers

HarperCollins, 2024

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

9780008560898

Our planet is a colourful place…white ice caps, green trees, blue oceans and skies, brown soil . . . and more! And each crayon is delighted to share their part in keeping it colourful, especially Beige who pops up constantly to highlight his contribution,  like a little toddler desperate not to be overlooked.

This is a funny addition to this series for young readers, as they are encouraged to look at the world around them and its colours and begin to develop an appreciation for their environment and their responsibility towards it. It opens up opportunities for some elementary data collection as natural elements and objects are classified according to colour as well as art appreciation as they discover the myriads of tints, tones and shades of the hues of the colour wheel represented in Nature.

As well as being lovable characters in themselves, the Crayons always have adventures and experiences that can lead to greater learning, and this one is just as promising as all the others. in the series. 

Dear Unicorn

Dear Unicorn

Dear Unicorn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Unicorn

Josh Funk

Charles Santoso

Viking, 2023

40pp., hbk., RRP $A32.99

9780593206942

It is the beginning of the school year and Connie’s art class is partnering up with pen pals. Both Connie and Nic’s teachers encourage them to to ask their pen pals questions, to talk about their own lives, to be creative, share their likes and dislikes and to enjoy themselves. Even though Connie is a little reluctant to start with, soon both love exchanging letters despite the two of them seeming so very different. Connie takes her art seriously and thinks things like kittens are nothing more than a distraction, while Nic has a more whimsical approach to painting and knows the value of a good cupcake. Both are eagerly awaiting the end of year pen pal art festival where their two classes will finally meet, but what is the surprise that is in store for both of them?

Building on the original concept of Dear Dragon, the story has some clever wordplay (like Connie’s surname summing up her pessimistic outlook) that leads to some misunderstandings that carry both the letter-writing and the story along, and young readers will immerse themselves in the fantasy particularly as, through the illustrations, they can see what Connie and Nic don’t.  What would it like to have a friend such as Nic? Can we be friends with those who seem to be so different from us (even if that is not as extreme as this relationship?)

As well as being useful for exploring the essential give-and-take nature of relationships, and how we can learn from those around us to seek common bonds despite being unique individuals, the book also opens up the almost-extinct concept of penpals, letter-writing and the anticipation of a letter in the mailbox.  Perhaps it will be the spark for building some new connections between classes in this new school year, 

 

Ancestory: The Mystery and Majesty of Ancient Cave Art

Ancestory: The Mystery and Majesty of Ancient Cave Art

Ancestory: The Mystery and Majesty of Ancient Cave Art

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ancestory: The Mystery and Majesty of Ancient Cave Art

Hannah Salyer

Clarion Books, 2023

48pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

 9780358469841

Give a child a flat space and the means to make a mark and that is exactly what they will do.  And not only will they make marks but there will be a story that goes along with them, one that the child can visualise and tell in greater detail than the marks can depict and the viewer can ascertain. 

And from this stunning and intriguing book we learn that such activity is almost instinctual as it traces human history and “the lives, dreams and stories of our ancient ancestors” through the images portrayed in rock art. From the earliest known markings – those of prehistoric man discovered in the Biombos Cave, South Africa – these time capsules demonstrate the vital information and connections made between peoples around the globe who, despite the difficulties and dangers they faced daily still took the time to create, even though each etching might have taken many days and many people to complete.  From the making of tools to make a mark to the choice of medium to use as an enduring pigment, the effort to create these becomes apparent and underlines their historic importance, with a strong message of why they need to be both appreciated and  preserved.   

With its clever title, Ancestory takes the reader on a short journey of a long period showing how the creation of pictorial works is an integral part of who we are, and then, in the final pages, offers more detailed insight including links to more information for those who want to know more, making this a book that spans not only its topic but also age groups and the curriculum.  While young readers are often fascinated by the lives of the “cavemen”, older visual arts students can also discover much that will satisfy the upper bands of the Australian Curriculum. 

Fascinating.

Giinagay Gaagal, Hello Ocean

Giinagay Gaagal, Hello Ocean

Giinagay Gaagal, Hello Ocean

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Giinagay Gaagal, Hello Ocean

Melissa Greenwood

ABC Books, 2023

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

9780733343001

Gaagal (ocean) is our special place,

we love to swim in the waves.

We’ll catch some yamaarr (fish),

eat, dance and play games.

Is there anything more iconic than the sights and sounds of little ones running down the beach to dip their toes in the cool waters of the ocean on a hot summer’s day, carefree and careless?

It’s a scene that has been and will be repeated for decades and decades as the sun beats down and the waves invite. But, after reading this lyrical ode to the ocean, perhaps this summer our children might stop and consider the privilege they are enjoying, maybe even offer a word of appreciation…

But first, before walking on Country, we talk to the land

and het her know that we re here to play.

We are grateful for what she has to offer,

we promise to take care of her during our stay. 

Woven among the stunning artwork that is so evocative of the experience if you take the time to look at it, is a description of something that has been done over and over and over – dancing over the hot yellow sand, gathering bush fruits and collecting pipis in the tide zone, keeping an eye out for sharks and knowing when it is safe to swim, watching the whales and dolphins twist and turn in their own special water dance, collecting shells, dodging crabs, building a fire to make lunch and sheltering from sunburn all taking on a bit of extra magic as the children play but all the while having that connection that keeps them aware of how lucky they are. “We say, ‘Yaarri yarraang gaagal, darrundang, Goodbye ocean and than you,,, until next time.'”. Each thing has its own particular and unique place in the landscape and landshape that is so much more than just for the delight and amusement of the human intruders. 

As with Miimi Marraal, Mother Earth, there are indigenous words scattered throughout,  and the full text is included in both English and Gumbaynggir in the final pages, adding to the resources for preserving and revitalising First Nations languages.  

This is another of a number of brilliant new books that help our children understand the significance of that now-familiar Acknowledgement of Country, perhaps even inspiring them to develop their own connections as another summer looms and they too, “must go down to the seas again”. 

What Can I Do With a Cardboard Box?

What Can I Do With a Cardboard Box?

What Can I Do With a Cardboard Box?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Can I Do With a Cardboard Box?

James Maclaine

Harriet Noble & Erin Wallace

Usborne, 2023

48pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9781805310037

We have all had experiences where we have seen mega amounts of money spent on a gift for a young child yet their greatest enjoyment has come from the cardboard box it was packaged in.

This new release from Usborne takes that humble cardboard box to a new level, well beyond the imagination of the toddler and into the construction skills of the older child. Using all sorts of boxes, each type readily available, they are challenged and guided to building a mini village, turning tissue boxes into monsters and rolling up chunky beads from bold and bright packaging. Bridges and ramps are put to the stability and functionality test, and that knowledge is used to investigate how to make an empty box strong enough to sit on.  They can see what happens when a marble is rolled in the lid of a shoebox with some paint. And simple step-by-step instructions can turn any big cereal box can become an amazing 3D model of the Solar System.

Forget being thrilled about creating a cardboard version of Hogwarts – these projects will satisfy all of the requirements of the Design and Technologies curriculum while encouraging creative and critical thinking as models are designed, made and appraised as well as giving hours of enjoyment and fun. And there are even more ideas at the Usborne Quicklinks page. 

Perfect for the Christmas stocking for both child and teacher!  

A cardboard Hogwarts

A cardboard Hogwarts

The Concrete Garden

The Concrete Garden

The Concrete Garden

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Concrete Garden

Bob Graham

Walker Books, 2023

32pp., hbk., RRP $A27.99

9781529512649

At last, winter is over, lockdown is lifted and the children spill out of the large apartment block ” like sweets from a box”.  Last out is Amanda and she is carrying a large box of chalks because she has an idea. Choosing green first, she draws a large circle with some smaller circles radiating from it – and from there the fun begins… Firstly, Jackson made a dandelion from Amanda’s circle, and then Janet added a mushroom and then the twins added flowers and then…

This is Bob Graham at his best offering the reader so many ideas to explore as the book is read and re-read.

Firstly, there has to be that glorious feeling of being free to connect with others, including those whom you have never met, when isolation has been imposed on you. The reader can hear the shouts of delight of the children and the babble of busyness as they get to be kids again, and imagine that their new and renewed friendships will spread to those of the adults in their lives too, meaning that there will be a greater sense of community in the apartments once inside beckons again.  But what if that isolation isn’t COVID related?  What if there is a child confined to a hospital bed, or isolated by language or being new to the area or… How might the reader reach out to them?

And while many will resonate with living in an apartment building where there is no opportunity to have the sort of gardens that feature in In My Garden , that doesn’t mean the children are oblivious to Mother Nature and the colour and magic and togetherness that she brings.  As so many of the young artists add natural elements to the drawing, there is an unspoken acknowledgement of what is missing from this hemmed-in concrete jungle, perhaps inspiring something more than a transient chalk drawing to be done. And, as with In My Garden, there is much to explore about the connectivity of gardens, real and imagined, in “The picture crossed deserts and mountains and oceans and cities.  It bounced around the world, returning to fill the screens in all the dark rooms over the concrete garden”. 

Others might like to explore why it is the seemingly simple activity of drawing a picture with chalk that brings so much imagination, friendship, co-operation, optimism and joy rather than the more formal, organised, prescriptive activities that seem to be such a part of children’s lives.  They might be let loose with chalk in their playground, or start a chain picture to which everyone contributes in the classroom, or even work together on a physical project to beautify their school or local community.  The possibilities are endless.

This is not only Bob Graham at his best but also the picture book at its best.  The links between text and illustration are woven so tightly together, one can’t stand without the other and each thread of the tapestry offers something to explore and ponder.  Expect to see this one up there in all the awards in the coming year.   

Picasso and the Greatest Show on Earth

Picasso and the Greatest Show on Earth

Picasso and the Greatest Show on Earth

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Picasso and the Greatest Show on Earth

Anna Fienberg

A & U Children’s, 2023

384pp., pbk., RRP $A17.99

9781760296988

Frances is in a new house in a new neighbourhood and going to a new school, but no amount of new can make her forget the old, sad secret dragging at her heart. Not the pictures of bacteria that she draws with painstaking precision, not even Picasso, the puppy with the long soft ears and the cute black circle like a target on his bottom. With her father overseas in Pakistan writing about terrible diseases and her mother in mourning, they are both out of reach to Frances and she carries her grief and guilt alone. 

But then she meets Kit, the tall, quiet boy with the two-coloured eyes, who seems as alone as she is, as he seeks refuge in the school library to draw each lunch break. . Kit is a real artist. His coloured pencils fill page after page of exercise books. He sees wonder in the rocks and ferns and sky, although Frances soon detects  Kit has worries of his own.

But when secrets are spilled, Frances’s life turns grey and drab. Not even Picasso’s wet nose can brighten her up. Frances and Kit will need to face the truth of their pasts to find colour in their world again. After all, don’t the most brilliant sunsets need a cloudy sky? 

While their stories may be different, many readers will relate to this new novel by Anna Fienberg as they too, will have been the new kid in town with all the uncertainty and upheaval that that will bring, although few would be carrying the guilt of believing they are responsible for their younger brother’s death. In subtle, gentle ways, the author draws together a diversity of characters each experiencing and expressing grief in different ways and how shared interests, nature and a cheeky puppy can bring about a healing not thought possible.
More suited for upper primary students, this is a story that offers reassurance and hope that there is is way through the darkness we experience, even if the light  is not yet visible.  You never know when it will glimmer and brighten or the direction that will come from. 

Need a House? Call Ms Mouse!

Need a House? Call Ms Mouse!

Need a House? Call Ms Mouse!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Need a House? Call Ms Mouse!

George Mendoza

Doris Susan Smith

A & U Children’s, 2022

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

9781761066016

The sign outside her home says that Ms Mouse & Co are “builders, designers and decorators” and certainly she has a portfolio to back her claims.  All the animals want to live in a house designed by Ms Henrietta Mouse, because she is the only mouse in the world who understands exactly what makes a squirrel or a rabbit, a caterpillar or a frog feel at home.

With her faithful mouse helpers she has built just the right home for so many of her forest friends and each is shown in beautiful detail on each double spread from the spaceship for Squirrel to the underwater Atlantis for Trout to the highly tuned web for Spider. Fourteen homes in all, so what does her own home look like?

As the 2022 season of The Block draws to a close, the interest in home design and décor is rising, and I am always amazed at the number of children who not only turn up to view the open houses but who can speak quite knowledgeably about the contestants and what they have achieved.  Some even aspire to be on the show themselves.  So this picture book  will inspire their imaginations as they think about what their own house might look like, taking into account their personal preferences and foibles, or perhaps inspire an activity that involves designing a home for an Australian animal, also considering their unique needs.  Combine it with books like Puffin the Architect, and Built by Animals and there is the basis for a range of skills and strengths to come into play combining STEM and art that might even kickstart a career choice… 

Jørn’s Magnificent Imagination

Jørn’s Magnificent Imagination

Jørn’s Magnificent Imagination

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jørn’s Magnificent Imagination

Coral Vass

Nicky Johnston

EK Books, 2022

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

It is the backdrop to the lives of so many, draws millions of visitors from around the world, and yet is so familiar now that many don’t even see it.

Who would have thought that such a magnificent structure could grow from a little boy playing with sailboats, watching swans land on water, collecting seashells and flowers, even playing with his breakfast orange peel?  And yet it did and in this beautiful retelling of the young life of  Jørn Utzon, the reader learns not only of the beginnings of one of the world’s most recognisable buildings but the power of the imagination, and the importance of letting dreams lead us into amazing places.

Where might today’s discovery take a young person in years to come? Even if it is a wet, indoors day, what might they build from “rubbish” that could become the start of something magnificent?  In 50 years, will a nation be celebrating their dreams as they are about to celebrate Jørn’s?  

Sensitively written and illustrated in a way that doesn’t reveal the mystery to the end, this is a book that not only celebrates a little life that has big dreams that come true, but inspires the reader to drift away and imagine… If Jørn could begin a building with orange peels, could they make a city floodproof by playing in their porridge and milk?