“In the light of the moon a little egg lay on a leaf…” So begins one of the most well-known stories written for children in the modern era. First published in 1969, who doesn’t know this classic story of the hatching of that little egg, and the caterpillar’s journey through a an orchard of fruits throughout the week, an un-caterpillar feast on Saturday and culminating in a massive stomach ache? So big, in fact, that the little caterpillar has to eat through a nice green leaf to ease it and then goes to sleep for another week, snug in a cocoon until he emerges as a beautiful butterfly.
With an engaging character, bright pictures created in Carle’s signature collage style, cut and cutout pages that promise new things when they are turned, counting and predicting and reading along, and a most satisfying ending, this book has endured to become a classic, one that should be on the bottom shelf, your read-aloud basket and your teaching toolkit. Being a larger board book edition, it is designed to stand up to the constant reading it will have as it is passed along and around families, sparking and creating memories of times spent together. A classic that needs to be kept alive for generations, despite screens and other distractions.
Here is the blue sheep, and here is the red sheep. Here is the bath sheep, and here is the bed sheep. But where is the green sheep?
There are some stories that you can recite word for word even if it’s years since you last read them, such is their power and the insistence of the little ones in your life to “Read it again, Grandma!”
I owe a debt of gratitude to Mem and Judy because this is the story that Miss Now-9 learned to read on and when Grandma got tired, Miss Now 14 was able to take over the reading duties. No other book, no matter how well promoted, ever came close to the demand for this one and so with Puffin’s 80th birthday celebrations in full swing, it seems timely to promote it to a whole new generation of parents and grandparents so they too can achieve this particular rite of passage.
With its. rhyme, rhythm and repetition and simple illustrations that help the youngest reader to predict the text and share the joy when it is confirmed, Fox and Horacek have hit on the right recipe for a story to encourage our youngest readers to love the sound of our language. Given Mem’s background in working with and writing for littlies though, this is hardly surprising and you know any book with her name on the cover will be a winner.
In fact, so iconic is this title from one of Australia’s most-loved author-illustrator partnerships that there is even a 2020 edition that really puts the icing on the cake of this special year. There can be no greater tribute.
Even though it is almost thirty years since Roald Dahl died, his characters are such household names with young readers that there are few who would not have read at least one of his stories. And even though Dahl might have passed onto the greatest storyland, illustrator Quentin Blake is still with us and sharing his iconic graphics in this latest book that sets the reader all sorts of activities to do, games to play and puzzles to solve.
Beginning with a brief biography of Dahl including some fascinating facts like his birthday being September 13 and thus spawning annual celebrations on Roald Dahl Day ; and a similar though less familiar introduction to Quentin Blake, there are tips about bow to be a storyteller like Dahl followed by a host of other engaging, interactive pages that build on the stories and the characters bringing them to life. And once all the challenges have been completed, the successful reader can call themselves a World of Roald Dahl Superstar with an appropriate certificate.
Miss 9 adored the Dahl puzzle books and boxed set she found in her 2019 Christmas stocking and was so excited when her 2020 school year was devoted to exploring his works. Imagine how much more she will bring and be when she discovers this one! In fact, with winter dragging on and Term 3 being the longest ever, she might discover it sooner than later! A reward for the days and days spent at home with none of her usual distractions.
Hidden among the boxes of eggs on the supermarket shelf, Ellie discovers a tiny dragon, so small it’s eyes are not yet open. Because its claws tickled the palm of her hand she called it Scratch and made it a bed in a matchbox. But when she asked her mum for some match heads for its breakfast, her mum can only see the matchbox.
And so it is with all the adults in her world. None of them can see Scratch even though as she grows her friends can and Scratch just becomes a normal part of their activities. But, just like Jackie Paper and that other famous dragon, Puff, as Ellie gets older, Scratch begins to fade. Until one day a little boy called Sam found him wandering in the High Street, a fully-grown, house-trained affectionate dragon just looking for a new home…
Bob Graham is a master storyteller who has been delighting young readers around the world for the best part of 40 years with so many charming stories like The Poesy Ring and Home in the Rain , and this gentle story about growing up with an imaginary friend is just as inviting as all the others. His signature style in both text and artworks is there again for a whole new group of fans to enjoy as so many of them will relate to Ellie either as the very young girl or as she grows older. There is a reason that Graham has won so many awards for his writing and it’s encapsulated again in this new book. Perfect for invoking discussions about imaginary friends particularly at this time when so many of our little ones are deprived of the company of real ones, but also for thinking about the possibilities and pitfalls of providing a home for a dragon.
As International Women’s Day approaches, this is a timely release of a collection of international women artists spanning a variety of genres including painting, drawing, sculpture, and more. The work of each is succinctly summarised in the title of each double-page spread such as F is for Flower (Georgia O’Keefe), O is for Opposites (Hilma Af Klint), Q is for Quilt (The Gee’s Bend Collective) and Y for Yarn (Xenobia Bailey). While there is just a paragraph describing the thrust of their work, there are more detailed biographical notes about each in the final pages as well as a provocative question about each inspiring the reader to think and do according to the medium or concept that captures their attention. For example, aspiring quilters are challenged to consider who in their community they would like to work with on a collaborative piece.
Australian artist Mirka Mora is featured (A is for Angels because these found their way into work so often) but this could serve as a model for students to create their own spreads with a focus on the works of Australian artists. Rather than just retelling the artist’s life, the challenge becomes the summation of their works. Definitely one to share with your art faculty.
The fish that live in the pond beneath the dragon-moon are happy. They know the moon will keep them safe. But it was not always like this . . . There was a time when they looked to the skies with fear.
In this stunning new picture book, Graeme Base, creator of so many stunning picture books including Animalia , has crafted a story about being and belonging, about having to leave to discover who you are, with undertones of the ugly duckling but so much more than that. Set in China, it tells the story of a baby fish who is found and taken in by a family who care for him, but as he grows and grows and grows, understand his feeling that he doesn’t fit in and needs to undertake a journey to discover where he does. It will resonate with lots of students who feel where they are isn’t quite the best fit for them, whether that is physically, sexually, culturally or whatever is making them uncomfortable, yet despite its dark palette it offers hope and possibility.
You can learn more about the story behind the story here., but expect this one to be on the 2020 awards lists.
Whether your child’s favourite Dahl book is Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Twits, Matilda or The BFG, they will find their favourite characters brought to life in this unique book as they meet them face-to-face and learn more about what makes them tick. From Grandpa Joe and Mike Teavee, to Mr and Mrs Twit and Muggle-Wump, to Sophie and the Fleshlumpeater. Miss Trunchbull and Bruce Bogtrotter, each has a special place in this collection that, as the title suggests. looks at Dahl’s most heroic human beans and beastly brutes, each created by Dahl to engage children and show them that children can have power over the adults. The main character from each book guides the reader around the story and introduces the rest of the cast.
But, as the introduction states, “this is no ordinary book…it’s a press-out paper adventure” because there are lots of card press-outs of the characters and places that help the child describe the roles and personalities of the players and recreate and retell the story in their own words. Making new from old. (And there’s a convenient envelope at the back to keep them in too.) Clever design means parts of the pages can be pressed out to reveal a glorious parade of characters, interacting with each other in quirky and mischievous ways.
This is probably not one for the general circulation shelves but it would be the most wonderful prop for any study of Dahl, who has been and will be a children’s favourite for generations, or the ideal gift for a Dahl fan. Like Dahl’s writing which offers something new with every reading (wouldn’t mind a dollar for every time I’ve read or gifted The BFG), this is a gift that will keep on giving, especially it if it’s teamed with the featured books!.
On the surface, this looks like a how-to guide to creating illustrations using collage, a technique defined by the Oxford Dictionary as “A piece of art made by sticking various different materials such as photographs and pieces of paper or fabric on to a backing”. Created by Jeannie Baker whose collage masterpieces have fascinated readers in all her works including Where the Forest Meets the Sea and Window, the reader is led through various sections that explore and explain such things as the tools to be used, the materials that lend themselves to being used and even a page that challenges the reader to identify a variety of those materials.
But to me, its power lies in its introduction. Ms Baker shares how even examining paint that has dried and weathered fascinated her, and how its cracks and layers told her so much about the story of the object it was adhered to. Each was another story in its history and made her curious and she would carefully collect a piece to add to other pieces that would help tell a similar story. She finds the materials for her work everywhere, both natural and manmade, and she has become more and more observant of the things that make up this world and how they can be used together to create something new and equally wondrous. And as she says, the purpose of the book is to inspire the reader to be and do the same – to look more closely, to discover “secrets and gems”, to think about them beyond their original purpose or state, and to create more and different magic with them.
As young children move through the natural stages of creating pictures, they get to one where their creation must be lifelike and when it doesn’t meet their expectations, that’s where their artistic abilities stall. They are so dissatisfied with their efforts they tell themselves they can’t draw and the negative self-talk takes over. But, as Ms Baker points out, “When you work in abstract, you don’t have to worry about how things ‘should’ be done -it allows for you to be far more creative and free. There are no right or wrong answers: nothing is ‘bad, just trust your instincts and PLAY!”
By offering the reader ideas for starting their own collage and sharing samples of her work by putting the individual found pieces into a pleasing arrangement, this book should kickstart those who have stalled off in a new direction, encouraging them to pay closer attention to the shapes, colours and textures of the world around them, as well as sending them back to Baker’s earlier works to examine them in closer detail.
In the breakneck speed that our children seem to lead their lives, anything that gives them cause to pause, stop, look and wonder, perhaps even create, has to be a positive influence. There is tremendous scope to use this as the centrepiece of a group activity in the library, with children invited to bring in suitable materials and arrange them in interesting ways – rather like the group jigsaw but much more creative because there is no “right way.” Get started with the Teachers Resource Kit and worksheets.
She also talks to the ABC about her long career, her love of collage and her passion for the environment here.
On January 17, 1977 “in a land far away, where fairies, pixies and elves live deep in the woods,” a baby girl was born. To her parents she was Mamie, but to generations of Australians she is May Gibbs, creator of the iconic literary characters the Gumnut Babies. In this centenary year of the publication of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, Tania McCartney has created this stunning tribute to Mamie’s life, tracing the early years of the little girl with the big imagination who could draw as soon as she could walk, staged home-made musicals and who became fascinated with the Australian bush and its creatures after her family moved to Adelaide and then Perth when she was just a few years old.
Told in a way that engages and enchants, rather than a litany of sterile facts – “she skipped and rode through shimmering bushland where smooth grey trees dipped their blossoms-heavy branches, and birds gathered to trill and chatter” – McCartney not only brings the world of May Gibbs to life but also puts dreams in the head of any young child with an imagination. May Gibbs was just an ordinary little girl who did wonderful things as she grew up, so why not them?
Mamie also introduces young readers to the genre of biography and the concept of the stories behind the stories. Instead of the usual dispassionate collection of dates and milestones that are soon forgotten, we see the person and how her eventual legacy was shaped by the very ordinary days and deeds of her childhood and circumstances. Perhaps other important people have a similar story to tell too.
Just as Gibbs had her distinctive style, so does McCartney and it is this modern interpretation that is such a big part of the appeal of this book. This is not a stodgy piece of close-formatted text with deadpan pictures in a dull retro palette – it is as fresh and alive as Mamie herself was, full of plans and actions just like so many little girls today, finishing at what was really just the beginning.
For Oliver and Ivy it is the best day of the week because it’s the day their dad takes them to the library. That’s because that’s the day they can tip=toe through the lion’s lair into the realm of fairies and on into vast rolling oceans ruled by pirates, and even play ping-pong with purple llamas from Timbuctoo! Every book on the library’s shelves takes them to a new world and introduces new characters to frolic with in their words and pictures. Princess, sea creatures, kangaroos, ballerinas are all their as the magic carpet sweeps them on new adventures … those amazing books bring their imaginations alive.
If this book were only this story that is as powerful an advertisement for stories and reading as the Superbowl ad was for Australian tourism, then it would be amazing as Darlison’s rollicking rhyme shares the possibilities of story, but it is more than that because this is the second one that has drawn on the talents of Australia’s children to illustrate it. Like its predecessor Zoo Ball, each page Wombat Books invited children all over Australia to submit drawings to accompany the story to provide them with an introduction to the world of illustrating and the opportunity to be published professionally and so each page has its own unique illustration to accompany Darlison’s text, and providing a different and unique interpretation of it, just as stories do. Now more than 30 budding illustrators have had their work featured, but over 600 took the opportunity to participate – a figure that suggests we need to consider offering students as much opportunity to draw as write as we teach.
Indeed, offering them the text and inviting them to interpret it as part of your lessons would not only provide an authentic way to investigate how we each interpret the same words differently according to our personal experiences but also open up discussions about perspective and interpretation of events and our role within them. That’s as well as giving you a unique and intriguing display particularly if students are then encouraged to suggest and find stories that match the pictures, accompanied by their comments about why they love their library!
I hope Wombat Books continue to offer this opportunity to young Australian illustrators, but even if they don’t, it gives us a reminder that we should never underestimate the power of the picture!