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A Hundred Thousand Welcomes

A Hundred Thousand Welcomes

A Hundred Thousand Welcomes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Hundred Thousand Welcomes

Mary Lee Donovan

Lian Cho

Greenwillow, 2021

40pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

 9780063228658

“There are almost as many ways of making someone feel welcome as there are people on the planet. ” 

However, regardless of the race, religion, culture or creed there are two things that particularly permeate our need to connect with others, to seek acceptance if not friendship, and offer help and protection for those in need and that is the verbal language of welcome and the sharing of food.

In this book, written as a poem to the world as a “protest against intolerance, injustice and inhumanity” both are explored and explained through the text and illustrations. Beginning as a way to discover how to say ‘welcome; in as many languages as possible, it has evolved into an exploration of the various customs that usually accompany the word when it is spoken.   Sitting alongside the text, the illustrator illuminates this with pictures of everyday families sharing food as they welcome strangers to their homes, culminating in a huge four-page spread that has everyone at the same table.  There is even a pronunciation guide to help you get your tongue around the unfamiliar words. 

Even though there are many languages throughout the world, there is a limit to the number that can be included and so the author has selected 13 of those most commonly spoken – English, Indonesian, Arabic, Spanish, Mandarin, Japanese, Bengali, German, Hindi, Urdu, Lakota Sioux, Bashkir and Gaelic – immediately offering an opportunity for your students to add their own version both of the words and the customs, providing an authentic activity to celebrate both diversity and inclusion. Astute teachers would include a focus on the language of our First Nations peoples and a closer examination of the meaning, purpose and origins of the traditional Welcome to Country.

Just as the author discovered that there is so much more to ‘welcome” beyond the spoken word, so, too, there can be so much more to sharing this book to explore and share meaningful, purposeful learning. 

Rabunzel

Rabunzel

Rabunzel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rabunzel

Gareth P. Jones

Loretta Schauer

Egmont, 2021

32pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781405298582

Rabunzel has a teeny tufty tail, a twitchy nose and two wide brown eyes. She also has VERY long ears – so long that her mother worries they will make her easy bait for the hungry creatures of the forest.

The answer? Rabunzel must be kept safe … in towering hutch, high in the sky. Here Rabunzel, bored to bits,  waits grumpily for her mother’s daily visit with carrots and fresh lettuce, letting down her ears so she can climb up the tower.

But one day, it isn’t her mother who climbs up Rabunzel’s very long ears…

Usually I’m wary of these fractured versions of fairytales because they can be a bit silly, but this new series is subtitled Fairy Tales for the Fearless and it has a feminist twist which sits with Neil Gaiman’s message perfectly.

With its rhyming text and lovely pictures, it is an entertaining story in itself and Rabunzel’s solution for dealing with the hungry animals and her rejection of her “saviour” Flash Harry Hare offer lots of discussion points that can initiate some critical thinking of other stories that our girls, particularly, are dished up as essential reading – still! It can also pose some provocative questions to challenge the thinking of some of our boys.

This video clip is the perfect accompaniment and summary…

 

 

And if you’re looking for more in this vein, this is from A Mighty Girl… The Ultimate Guide to the Independent Princess    ‘These princesses are smart, daring, and aren’t waiting around to be rescued – more than likely, they’ll be doing the rescuing themselves! Fans of independent princesses will also appreciate our collection of girl-empowering dolls, which includes several of the princesses depicted in these stories, as well as our collection of dress-up clothing which features several independent princess outfits. Our clothing section also features a Princess Alternative section with shirts depicting both independent princesses and alternative princess themes. For a diverse selection of more empowering fairy tales, visit our Fairy Tale & Folklore Collection.”

 

Cat Problems

Cat Problems

Cat Problems

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cat Problems

Jory John

Lane Smith

Walker, 2021

48pp., hbk., RRP $A26.99

9781529506136

What could a pampered house cat possibly have to complain about?

Just like most cats, this cat lives an extremely comfortable life. But he has his problems, too… The sun spot he’s trying to bathe in just won’t stop moving. The nosy neighbour squirrel just can’t seem to mind its own business. And don’t even get him started on the monster that is the vacuum cleaner! It’s an absolute menace! Will this cat ever find the silver lining? 

The creators of both Penguin Problems and Giraffe Problems  have teamed up again with this new story that not only entertains but, like the others, has a subtle sub-text that is just right for these times.  Because while it has been an inside-cat for eight years and longs for a change of scenery, the squirrel has a different perspective on the outdoors and tells the cat so. Instead of being hand-fed in a warm cosy, exclusive setting, it has to share its tree, be out in all weathers and continually forage for its food. So while we might be tired of this pandemic and all its restrictions, there are those in other places who have it much tougher.  The grass is not necessarily greener… And while life, particularly misery and grief, is not a competition it is useful to view things through a different lens at times so we can be grateful for what we have. Even if we can’t get our favourite takeaway chicken right now because of supply chain issues, what would it be like to not even know if and when you are going to have another meal at all?

This a particularly relatable story for our young readers, not only because they have experienced the cat’s frustration of being confined, but because many of them will have their own cats and will have seen the behaviours that John and Smith so clearly articulate in words and pictures. But it might also give pause for thought – even though the preferred option is for cat-owners to keep their pets indoors these days, is that fair on a cat whose origins are wild and whose instincts are to be outdoors?

As with Penguin Problems and Giraffe Problems, the reader is once again encouraged to view particular situations through the perspective of others, a skill that helps develop both empathy and compassion while making them more aware of the impact of their own actions on others.  A powerful trilogy in the mindfulness collection. 

 

Winston and the Indoor Cat

Winston and the Indoor Cat

Winston and the Indoor Cat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Winston and the Indoor Cat

Leila Rudge

Walker Books, 2021

32pp., hbk., RRP $A25.99

9781760652609

Winston is an outdoor cat and because that’s all he has ever known, it suits him perfectly.  Then he spies the Indoor Cat and thinks that it is trapped so he devises a plan to free it so it, too, can enjoy the outdoors as he does.  But the Indoor Cat soon learns that it prefers the indoors – can the two ever be friends?

In the vein of the old story of the town mouse and the country mouse, this is a story that introduces the concept of being able to be friends even if you have differences in beliefs, values and habits.  Both the simple but powerful text and the gentle illustrations in their subtle palette convey a tone of harmony even though the cats are distinctly different.  

A good one for the beginning of the school year when new classes are formed and friendships forged even though everyone is a unique individual. 

 

 

The Mountain

The Mountain

The Mountain

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Mountain

Rebecca Gugger

Simon Röthlisberger

NorthSouth, 2021

48pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9780735844575

The bear knows exactly what the mountain looks like—a forest. The sheep, octopus, and ant also know the mountain. It’s a meadow! It’s surrounded by water! It’s a maze of tunnels! The chamois and snow hare have their opinions too. It seems the mountain looks different to every animal. How can that be? And whose point of view is right, particularly when bird challenges them by asking if any of them have actually been to the top of it to investigate…

Reminiscent of the parable of The Blind Men and the Elephant this is a great story to demonstrate how we each see things through the lens of our own experience and form opinions based on our relationship to an object or situation.  It’s why witnesses to an incident can each have a different account because different things have different priorities for them or their personal experience throws something into sharper relief. It’s why this Kiwi who grew up with the rugged, jagged Southern Alps as her stage setting now sees the current backdrop of the Snowy Mountains more as rolling hills, even though she knows and understands the geological differences. 

Thus, it is a wonderful way to explore the concept of perception with even young students – read them The King’s Breakfast by A. A. Milne and have them draw the king then compare and contrast the drawings so they begin to understand how their preconceived ideas influenced their drawing.  Continue with either the description of the BFG (Dahl) or the hobbit (Tolkien) and discuss how, even when they were working with identical words, each drawing is different. Have them retell Little Miss Muffet from the spider’s perspective and venture into the world of stereotypes and even “judging a book by its cover.” 

One book – so many options.  Perfect! 

A Tale of Two Dragons

A Tale of Two Dragons

A Tale of Two Dragons

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Tale of Two Dragons

Geraldine McCaughrean

Peter Malone

Andersen Press, 2021

32pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

 9781839130281

The kingdoms of Arbor with its lush forests, and Pomosa rich with farmland, are separated by a high, thorny hedge and they have no love between them. But at night, the children have taken to sneaking across the borders to thieve -some to gather fallen branches for firewood, the others to cut the corn and milk the cows to feed families.  But instead of sharing their riches,  the Kings decide to fight, instead… with dragons. But what kind of future will that bring?

This is a tale with an olde-worlde feel about it that carries an age-old message about sharing and co-operating rather than hoarding and fighting. Having the children doing the stealing because they hear their parents lamenting not only demonstrates the power of children living what they see and hear but opens up a discussion about the morals and ethics involved.  Do you do what you know to be morally right or do you do what needs to be done?

An interesting story that could be compared to the good versus evil fairytales that were the moral compass of yesteryear. 

 

Christmas Always Comes

 

 

 

 

Christmas Always Comes

Christmas Always Comes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas Always Comes

Jackie French

Bruce Whatley

HarperCollins, 2021 

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

9781460757895

Christmas Eve, 1932 and both drought and The Depression have driven Joey’s family into living and droving on the “long paddock”, that narrow strip of land between the road and the farmers’ fences that has become saviour for many as they seek fodder and water for cattle who have long ago eaten what was available in their own paddocks. 

Young Joey, sitting in the dray with his older sister Ellie, remembers Christmases past and is very concerned that there seems to be little preparation for this one. “There’s always a tree at Christmas. With red and gold decorations and tinsel. And Santa finds everyone!” But Ellie is more pragmatic and tries to keep him from getting his hopes up. “you can’t have a Christmas tree droving the long paddock,” she tells him.

As the mob finally find some puddles to drink, a gift in itself, the family pulls up deciding to stop for Christmas Day and although Ellie warns him there is no money, Joey is determined to have Christmas pudding and presents and hangs up his old sock on the barbed wire fence in anticipation.  But what will await him when the new day dawns?

This is a heart-warming story from one of Australia’s best teams for creating picture books, and both French and Whatley have crafted words and images that cut to the core of what we really remember and celebrate at Christmas regardless of the time or circumstances.  That Christmas comes in many guises apart from the stereotype “perfection’ of television advertisements and programs because love and friendship and compassion can be found anywhere if we choose to look.  

After another year of COVID-19 overshadowing our lives like a black cloud,  as adults we are reminded of the irrepressible spirit and joy for life of our children who live in the moment as Joey’s belief and determination to find Christmas show us that this is a time for family, for simple things, and for delighting in the share joy of sharing and just being alive. Whether it is in the city, country, bush, beach or on the long paddock, it is those we share the time with, the things we do together and the memories we create that make Christmas uniquely special regardless of artificial trappings and trimmings. So whether it is a big party celebrating reuniting after borders open or something small and Zoomed, everyone can have a Christmas.

As always, Jackie packs so much more into her stories than just the words on the page (and Whatley has a gift for interpreting them with such insight) but regardless of the settings, her stories invariably have an underlying theme of hope and love – and that’s really all we need. 

 

 

Pax, Journey Home

Pax, Journey Home

Pax, Journey Home

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pax, Journey Home

Sara Pennypacker

Jon Klassen

HarperCollins, 2021

256pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

9780008470289

A year has passed since Peter and Pax have seen each other, since the separation of a once inseparable pair.

The war is over but the land has been left desecrated and deserted as the water supplies have been poisoned by heavy metals. Peter’s father has died in questionable circumstances and although Peter is back living with Vola, and his grandfather visits regularly, he believes that everything he loves he hurts and they leave him so he is determined to shut the world out and live alone.  After all, he is nearly 14.  

And so, the boy-man sets out on a journey to reclaim his old home; to join the Water Warriors, a band of people painstakingly cleaning up the polluted waterways to restore life -flora, fauna and human – to it;  and to keep the world at arm’s length and out of his heart forever. That way he can keep those he might love, safe. But is that possible?  He certainly didn’t count on meeting Jade, let alone her insight and wisdom. 

Meanwhile, Pax has adapted to the wild he did not seek; and has become father to a litter of kits, one of whom is an inquisitive, feisty female whom he must protect at all costs, particularly after she drinks deeply of the contaminated water. And as they continue their long journey home, Pax continually picks up the scent of the boy who abandoned him…

This is one of those stories that stays with you long after you reluctantly turn the final page, not just because of the power of the surface story but because the layers and  currents that run through it,just like those of the river that is at its heart – the river that put Peter back into old territory and provides Pax with safe passage from humans and predators. Although Pennypacker believed that she would not write another novel after Pax, clearly deep within her she knew there was more of this story to be told and this is the compelling sequel, one that kept me up well past my bedtime as I immersed myself in it, wanting to finish but knowing that when I did I would be left with that feeling that comes when an absorbing plot and great writing come together.

If you have mature, independent readers who can appreciate the nuances and parallels of what is between and beyond the words  then this is the duo for them.  Less sophisticated readers will enjoy the story for what it is, but it is those who are able to reach down to the deeper waters below the surface who will most appreciate it. 

Outstanding. 

 

The Boy and the Elephant

The Boy and the Elephant

The Boy and the Elephant

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Boy and the Elephant

Freya Blackwood

Angus & Robertson, 2021

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

9781460759998

The boy lives in a city, where everything is fast and loud. But amidst the bustle and the noise, the boy has a secret …

In the overgrown lot next to his apartment building, deep within the green, he has a friend.

But one day progress arrives, bringing with it plans for something new, and the boy must find a way to save his friend before it’s too late …

To offer any more than the publishers’ official blurb would destroy the magic and the wonder of this masterpiece from Freya Blackwood who has told the most evocative story entirely in her exquisite illustrations.  From the very first page (even the credits are afforded minimal space) there unfolds the most enchanting story of a little lad with a special friend and a critical mission – one that shows that one child can make a difference and can open adult eyes.

If ever there is a book that epitomises the 2022 CBCA Book Week theme, then this is it – and my prediction is that this will be among the winners.  

Just Like Me

Just Like Me

Just Like Me

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just Like Me

Tess Osborne

Zoe Osborne

Little Steps, 2021

24pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781925839845

Zoe is delighted when a new girls starts at a her school and she is just like her.  She has a favourite doll, a pet dog and a naughty little brother just like she does. It is lovely to have a friend with so much in common.

But the story in this story is in the illustrations rather than the words as the reader is likely to pick up that Zoe’s new friend is not quite like her.  Or they may not, depending on what they have been taught because this book is designed to demonstrate that little ones do not see difference like colour or disability.  They see the way people are like them, rather than unlike them and that to look for difference is a learned behaviour.

But books like this can be a two-edged sword, thus moving them from their intended audience of little ones to use with older students because they can debate whether such books actually teach young ones to look for difference in their peers.  With the words saying one thing and the illustrations another so the message of the book is grasped, does this then contribute to that learning about difference? If they didn’t see it then, will they look for it now?  Or does it just consolidate that it doesn’t matter – kids are kids everywhere?  Food for thought.