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Koala Bare

Koala Bare

Koala Bare

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Koala Bare

Jackie French

Matt Shanks

HarperCollins, 2017

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

9781460751619

If there is anything more than an Australian who hates hearing koalas being labelled “bears”, it is the koalas themselves. 

I may be furry, fat and square-

but I am definitely not a bear!

In this joyful romp in rhyme Koala points out to the little bird trying to stick a “bear” label on his toe why he is not a teddy, a grizzly, a panda, a polar bear, or any other sort of bear – not even one from Goldilocks. 

Who wants blue or yellow fur?

Grey is the colour I prefer!

he says in absolute disdain of teddies and as for wearing trousers!! Teddy bears may feel superior, but not when faced with my posterior!

Jackie French is a most gifted and versatile author, writing for and entertaining older readers with the fabulous Matilda saga ; the newly independents with her Secret History series; history buffs with her family’s story about Horace and of course the very young with the tales about her resident wombat and echidna.  And now she has again drawn on the wonderful wildlife of her idyllic bush home to entertain and educate about koalas!  For me, one of the most appealing aspects of Jackie’s writing apart from telling a ripper yarn which has to be paramount, is her ability to teach as she tells so the reader finishes the book so much richer for having read it. 

But there is also a strong message that we are each unique and as individuals we shouldn’t be stereotyped or taken for what we are not.  As a natural redhead I’ve been plagued with assumptions that I have a fiery temper when really I’m quite placid and reasonable, and if I fire up it’s the issue at hand and nothing to do with my hair colour.  Everywhere we turn these days people are being labelled based on what they look like not who they are and this is a great story to start young readers thinking about the value of the individual rather than judging by how they are dressed or the colour of their skin. 

Matt Shanks has emphasised the gentle but firm thread of this story with his soft lines and light palette using watercolours.  Even the cover is soft to touch.   The addition of the scholarly cockatoo taking notes on each page is masterful.  Little ones will enjoy looking for him while others might predict what he has learned and recorded from each experience. There’s an opportunity to summarise right there – informal, in context and purposeful!

Apart from being a must-have addition to the library’s collection, this is the perfect gift for any little ones but particularly those who live overseas.  Maybe it will help dispel the belief that koalas are bears and save the grating on the ears from all those who know they are NOT!

Teaching notes are available but whether the little ones for whom this is intended need to know the technicalities of ‘onset and rime’ baffles me.  This is where schools stomp on the joy and wonder of reading – they have to teach a curriculum that focuses on deconstructing text rather than constructing imagination and wonderment! Shame, ACARA, shame!

 

Aussie Legends Alphabet

Aussie Legends Alphabet

Aussie Legends Alphabet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aussie Legends Alphabet

Beck Feiner

ABC Books, 2017

56pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9780733338946

A is for Adam Goodes . An Aussie Rules superstar who fought hard for his footy team and even harder for his people.

B is for Bob Hawke. A lovable larrikin who helped make Australia fair dinkum.

And so it continues throughout the alphabet with a well-known person personifying each letter, introducing young readers to some of Australia’s more colourful characters and perhaps inspiring them to find out more about those who interest them.

However, while the concept is interesting, I was confused about the target audience – IMO definitely not for three year olds as suggested by the publisher because little ones of that age are more interested in E for Easter Bunny and S for Santa Claus. But do those who are ready to learn about those who made Australia require an alphabet book with text suitable for the very young and pictures that have been contrived to echo the letter they represent?  Even though there is an expanded thumbnail sketch of each person on the final three pages, the content, format and intended audience did not gel for me.

Similarly, there is confusion with the alphabetical order because the format is not consistent… while most entries draw on the first letter of the personality’s first name some resort to the first letter of the surname while “D” refers to Dame Edna Everage, X is for INXS and Z is for “Shazza, Wazza, Kezza and the rest”. 

However, those issues aside, this could serve as a model for those who are investigating significant people who have shaped this country to build their own Aussie Legends Alphabet as a shared project.  Not only would this give them purpose and practise with note-taking, extrapolating and summarising but it would also be an interesting insight into those whom they think are important as they justify their choices. Challenging them to provide evidence is an important skill as they learn to build an argument that can be defended in a discussion.

Fluke

Fluke

Fluke

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fluke

Lesley Gibbes

Michelle Dawson

Working Title Press, 2017

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

9781921504891

Under the shadow of the great harbour bridge a little southern right whale is born.  For weeks it stays and plays with its mother getting stronger for the long journey south to the Antarctic waters, delighting the people of Sydney who hadn’t seen a pair like this for many years.  But one day a ferry’s motor startles Fluke and he dives deep to the bottom of the water where it is dark and murky and he can no longer hear his mother calling.  

The people of Sydney begin an anxious search for him knowing that without her protection he will be easy prey for a shark…

Based on actual events, this is a charming story illustrated in a palette as soft and gentle as both the text and the events themselves.  Like the humpbacks that are so prevalent down the Humpback Highway at the moment, southern right whales – so-called because early whalers believed them to be the ‘right’ whale to catch because they were large, slow-moving, rich in oil and blubber and floated when they were killed – were hunted almost to extinction in the early 20th century and so the appearance of mum and bub in the harbour brought both joy and hope.  The endpapers provide a thumbnail sketch of these wonderful creatures, adding an extra dimension to the book.

Now that whale-hunting has taken on a whole new meaning  and with seeing a whale in the wild on many bucket lists making it a sustainable tourist industry for many little coastal towns, learning about them through stories like Fluke can only bring a greater awareness and help to guarantee their revival and survival. The whalers  were an important part of our coastal history and settlement, making them an important part of the history curriculum but unlike a generation ago, their activities can now be scrutinised through several lenses as students discuss and debate the “rightness” of their endeavours. The use of books like Fluke would bring another perspective to a webquest.

Teachers’ notes are available 

Loved it.

Tilly’s Reef Adventure

Tilly's Reef Adventure

Tilly’s Reef Adventure

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tilly’s Reef Adventure

Rhonda N. Garward

NLA Publishing, 2017

36pp., pbk., RRP $A19.99

9780642279088

On a still moonlit night, a mother turtle lays her eggs in a hole in the sand of a Queensland beach and returns to the ocean with all the other mothers who have done the same thing.  When it comes to raising offspring, their job is done.

Eight weeks later the eggs hatch and right from the get-go, life is hazardous.  Just getting to the water from the nest is treacherous with a lot of dangers to dodge – hungry herons, seagulls and crabs lie in wait – and life in the water is also testing.  Who is friend and who is foe?  Luckily, Shelly the seahorse is a friend and introduces Tilly to some of the other creatures that inhabit this unique, spectacular watery world.  While there are still those who are enemies, Tilly’s greatest threat comes from something that is water-borne but not water-bred…

You just know that children’s books from NLA Publishing  are going to be brilliant, packed with stunning real-life illustrations and information that is pitched at the young reader and backed up with added extras after the story ends.  Tilly’s Reef Adventure is no exception. Using a seamless lift-the-flap format, young readers are introduced to the creatures of the Great Barrier Reef so they can experience its beauty and colour and start to build an affinity with it through the personification of its inhabitants.  Thus, when Tilly’s life is threatened because of thoughtless human actions, there is an emotional connection so that they might think before they do a similar thing.  Actions have consequences and sometimes they are devastating.

A stunning addition to a growing collection of beautiful books that offer so much more than a good story.

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

Maybe

Maybe

Maybe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maybe

Morris Gleitzman

Viking, 2017

192pp., pbk., RRP $A19.99

9780670079377

Once I escaped from an orphanage to find Mum and Dad…

Then I had a plan for me and Zelda…

After the Nazis took my parents I was scared…

Soon I hoped the Nazis would be defeated and they were…

Now Zelda learns her grandfather’s story…

Maybe there will peace and happiness for Felix at last…

Felix, Gabriek and Anya, who is now seven months pregnant, are once again on the run trying to get back to Gabriek’s farm and hide from Zliv, the murderous brother of Gogol the Polish patriot who vowed  ‘Poland has been crawling with vermin for centuries. Germans, Austrians, Jews, Ukrainians, Russians.  Now we’re cleaning them up.” and killed by Felix.

But there is a very rude and dangerous homecoming and once again they have to flee – this time on a treacherous journey that lands Felix in Australia. Maybe this will be the land of opportunity for a young boy who only wants to attend university to become a doctor. But…

The sixth in this family of books that tells the remarkable story of Felix in a way that it has to have a considerable element of truth, shows that when the guns fall silent the war is not necessarily over and sanctuary is elusive not guaranteed, Yet throughout both this book and the series, Felix maintains his humanity and resourcefulness and in cases, his child’s logic provides a touch of humour to lighten the dark which Gleitzman does not shy away from. He believes our children need to know about this history which is so recent if could be that of their grandparents’ and refuses to patronise them by glossing over the not-so-nice. 

Much has been written about the Holocaust that is inaccessible to our upper primary students because it is so factual and so foreign they can’t comprehend it – in this series written through the eyes of a child it becomes clearer and starts to develop a belief that this must never happen again, whether it be against a religion, a race, a gender or any other reason that people can be marginalised.  Sadly, now termed “ethnic cleansing” it does continue but no longer does the world turn such blind, uncaring eyes.  

For those who are venturing into the investigation of how Australian has developed in post-war times particularly with the immigration of so many from Europe, this series is essential reading to understand why people couldn’t just “return home”; why there were no homes to go to and why somewhere as faraway and foreign as Australia held such appeal.  For it is the Felixes of this world who established not only the town I live in but this multicultural, tolerant nation that we and those who follow must work hard to maintain. 

And now we await Always, the conclusion to an enriching and engrossing saga.

I Wish I Could Be a Superhero

I Wish I Could Be a Superhero

I Wish I Could Be a Superhero

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Wish I Could Be a Superhero

Susan Hall

Cheryl Westenberg

NLA Publishing, 2017

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

9780642278890

Wesley Wombat really wanted to be a superhero.

‘If only I had superpowers like all my friends!’ he thought longingly.

If only he could fly like the king parrot, swim like the platypus, jump like the kangaroo or protect himself with body armour like the echidna.  But, sadly, no matter how hard he tries to be like his friends in the bush, his attempts end in near disaster.  He is feeling really despondent but his mother reassures him he will find his special talent and to look forward to the birthday party with his friends the next day.  And it is on his way to the party that Wesley discovers his super power and becomes a super hero.

This is a charming story written for the very young who are learning to identify our unique indigenous creatures and their special characteristics.  Using a lift-the-flap format, Cheryl Westenberg has created the most wonderful illustrations of Wesley’s mishaps that little ones (and bigger ones too) will roll on the floor laughing and really understand the fun to be had in stories while understanding that each of us has our own super power because we are all really good at something. Bright and colourful and accompanied by extra pages of facts about each of the featured creatures, this is a must-have addition for the early childhood collection.  

Can You Find Me?

Can You Find Me?

Can You Find Me?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Can You Find Me?

Gordon Winch

Patrick Shirvington

New Frontier, 2017

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

9781925059793

Mother Nature has provided many of our commonly seen creatures with the most amazing camouflage so that when they are in their natural habitat they are very hard to see.  In this stunning book by Gordon Winch, author of Samantha Seagull’s Sandals which has delighted so many children in my care over the years, readers are encouraged to spot familiar and not-so-familiar creatures hidden in plain sight in Pat Shirvington’s beautiful lifelike illustrations which really connect to the natural world.  

Apart from little ones loving these sorts of hide and seek books, it also encourages them to look with new eyes at their local landscape and wonder what might be living there.  Perhaps before they go stomping through the bush or the sand dunes they will stop and tread more carefully appreciating it more as a home for creatures, camouflaged though they may be.

Then using the text format as a model, they could investigate a different creature and then create their own page to add to the book – a new way of presenting information for the ubiquitous report about Australian animals that is in every early childhood curriculum.

Why Crocodiles Smile

Why Crocodiles Smile

Why Crocodiles Smile

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why Crocodiles Smile: Cric Croc discovers nature’s wonders

Anthony W Buirchell

Laila Savolainen

Cric Croc Enterprises, 2017

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

 

9780995424340

Young children are warned from an early age to “never smile at a crocodile” but what if the crocodile smiles at you?

Cric the Crocodile has spent a week with his family in the Daintree region of Far North Queensland but he is puzzled because all the crocodiles he met smiled all the time. So his dad Crisis explains why.

The bull Crocodile was a sneaky beast

It was looking around for a scrumptious feast

With big yellow eyes it searched around

Looking for food from the watery ground.

And as those big yellow eyes alighted on a possible meal, it smiled with anticipation. But the creatures – cassowaries, brolgas, cormorants, barramundi and a host of other beautiful creatures indigenous to the area- were smarter that Crocodile and took themselves out of harm’s way very quickly.  Until an unwary Pelican came by…

Like its predecessors the story is told in rhyme as young readers are introduced to a range of Australia’s unique but less familiar creatures.  Beautiful drawings by Pickawoowoo illustrator, Laila Savolainen bring the text to life with their accuracy and spectacular colour palettes as well as inspiring interest in the flora and fauna of a part of Australia that would be unfamiliar to many.  It also introduces the concept of the food chain – after all, the crocodile does have to eat – and perhaps an investigation into the mechanisms that Mother Nature provides so that creatures do not become easy prey.

A worthy addition to the library’s collection of books for younger readers that introduce them to the amazing wonders of this country. 

Shapes of Australia

Shapes of Australia

Shapes of Australia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shapes of Australia

Bronwyn Bancroft

Little Hare, 2017

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

9781760129286

So often we walk around with our eyes open but we don’t really see anything.  Yes, we see trees and rocks and distant mountains and even birds in the sky but do we ever see the distinctive shapes they make and the patterns within them?

With her artist’s eye, Bronwyn Bancroft has taken the items we take for granted and brought them to life through colour and pattern in the distinctive way that only she can, ensuring that next time we see ocean waves and river boulders, even city skyscrapers, we will look at them with new eyes.

Inspirational for its bold use of colour, intricate, detailed patterns and simplified geometry emphasised  by the shapes within the shapes, this visually stunning book will also inspire poetry as students appreciate the simple sentences that accompany each picture building metaphors like the “crystal shards” of skyscrapers and the “quilt of nature’s comfort” of the grasslands. 

An excellent companion to Colours of Australia students could be encouraged to examine the unique shapes of their own landscapes, even if that is just the playground, and reproduce them in Bancroft style.

Whatcha Building?

Whatcha Building?

Whatcha Building?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whatcha Building?

Andrew Daddo

Stephen Michael King

ABC Books, 2017

32pp, hbk., RRP $A24.99

9780733334153

Every day on his way home from school Little Davey Durak watches the old milk bar on the corner being demolished, another victim of the ever-encroaching city inexorably guzzling all in its path. And every day Bruce the Builder would say hello to Davey as he carefully pulled the building apart and put the pieces in the skip, their final resting place.  

One afternoon, Davey asks Bruce for some wood -something he begins to do each day.  Sometimes it is a long piece and sometimes, short or chunky or thin.  But no matter how often Bruce asks what Davey is building, Davey doesn’t tell.  Bruce has heaps of ideas about what it could be but Davey keeps his secret.  Until the day Bruce helps him heave the old milkbar sign home…

Set against a backdrop of a city built like no other, one that could only be constructed in the mind of Stephen Michael King, Daddo has created a story that has many layers to it.  Young readers will have fun trying to predict what it is that Davey is building while others will relate to their neighbourhood slowly but surely changing as “progress” comes to town.  Others might like to investigate how the collage effect of the main characters superimposed on the landscape adds to the image of the layering of the landscape and how, in reality, everything is an imposition on the original.  And there might also be discussions about why King has chosen to depict the modern city using everyday objects in new ways while thinking about how they themselves might recycle or upcycle instead of throwing out. 

So many conversation starters – Is progress always good?  How do Bruce and Davey represent the past and the present? How has the children’s community changed over time? Has this been for the best?  Perhaps that could even inspire a local history project with interviews with long-term residents and a photographic journey or perhaps the children could create a record of their community as it is now so that future generations can do a compare and contrast. 

Teachers’ notes are available but all of that is wasted if it is not built on a solid, engaging, entertaining story – and this is certainly that.