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The Tiny Star

The Tiny Star

The Tiny Star

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Tiny Star

Mem Fox

Freya Blackwood

Puffin, 2019

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

9780670078127

Once upon a time, although this happens all the time, a tiny star fell to earth . . . and turned into a baby!  The people who found it loved it immediately…

And as the tiny star grew and flourished others loved it too, and as it grew up to be caring and kind and loving and wise, it was adored in return.  The older it grew the more it was loved even though it was gradually getting smaller and smaller, and even when it was so small it disappeared, the love was immense and palpable. Hearts were broken.  Until one day it appeared again, and at last the hearts began to mend.

Anyone who has ever had the privilege to hear Mem Fox read aloud will hear her voice reading this to you, wrapping itself around you like a snuggly quilt and making you see yourself as that tiny star, or at least hoping that this is your life story too.   Tender, gentle, charming it explores the journey of a life begun and ended in love and accompanied, surprisingly for the first time by Freya Blackwood‘s stunning artistry, it is just perfect for helping little people understand that while we all have a physical beginning and end, we live on in the memories and hearts of those whom we touch along the way. 

As a young teacher I was lucky enough to hear Mem speak a number of times, especially about the importance of the bedtime story and how it “draws the curtains on the day” – a phrase I have repeated often.  The Tiny Star is the perfect book to draw the curtains on a life, to help a young child understand the loss of a loved grandparent or great-grandparent and to look each night to the stars to spot the new one shining down on them.  I wish I’d had it five years ago to help Miss Then-8 and Miss Then-3 to cope with the passing of their beloved Great Gran.

This is one for families to share, to seek comfort and to remember the love and the laughs in a warm story that just embraces you.

For those of you who haven’t heard Mem read aloud, listen here – it will stay with you for a very long time. For those of you who want to know more, fellow TL Sue Warren has a Q&A with Mem here.

Moonfish

Moonfish

Moonfish

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moonfish

Graeme Base 

Puffin, 2019

48pp., hbk. RRP $A26.99

9780143791409

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.

Scruffle-Nut

Scruffle-Nut

Scruffle-Nut

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scruffle-Nut

Corinne Fenton

Owen Swan

New Frontier, 2019

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

9781925594768

As winter leaves tumble and twirl a wisp of memory wraps itself about me and whispers me back to long ago…

As a child, her Nanny Clementine took her to the park where she played on the swings and the see-saw and rode the carousel horses for as long as time.  And one day, she sees a squirrel, one that the others squirrels growl at and chase away because he has a stumpy tail, not a magnificent curled one like theirs. And so begins a brief friendship between them – the little squirrel who is a bit different and the little girl who is also a bit different – and there is a strong sense of empathy that builds up, until the snow falls and the park is closed. What is it that the little girl learned from that squirrel in those few short days that has stayed with her all her life?

Sensitive, with beautifully descriptive passages that are sublimely illustrated in a palette and manner as soft and gentle as the story, this is a story that tugs at the heart-strings for we all know the child who is shunned because of their “stumpy tail” and the silent pain and rejection they feel.  One to share and talk about what it would be like to be the one that is on the outside, rather than being part of the Bully-Bunch, and perhaps change a few perceptions. 

Children Who Changed the World: Incredible True Stories About Children’s Rights!

Children Who Changed the World

Children Who Changed the World

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Children Who Changed the World: Incredible True Stories About Children’s Rights!

Marcia Williams

Walker Books, 2019

40pp., hbk., RRP $A27.99

9781406384109

Have you heard of Malala Yousafzai?  What about Baruani Ndume?  Or Ryan Hreljac?

Forty years ago the UN declared that 1979 was to be the International Year of the Child  and as part of that. in 1989, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child was proclaimed, setting out 54 equally important articles that 196 countries have agreed to follow so that each child, no matter where they live, has the support and protection they deserve.  

Using her iconic graphic format, Marcia Williams has explored the lives of 13 children, all born since the Declaration and all of whom have made a significant difference to the lives of the children in their home countries and beyond.  Each double spread is devoted to the pivotal work of the child under the banner of one of those UN rights.

Deliberately designed to inform children of their rights, Williams speaks directly to the reader in the introduction and encourages them to not only be aware of those rights but to take action when they see injustice or something that needs changing.  With our students being so aware of the global picture these days, and being involved in actions like School Strike 4 Climate this is an important and timely release to help our students know that they can make a difference and will.  Perhaps one of them will become the new Greta Thunberg, who has risen to prominence since the book was prepared but who not only deserves a place in it but also demonstrates that kids can be heard and supported and change can happen. 

This is a book that needs to be promoted to kids everywhere, to give them inspiration and hope that their voices will be heard.

A Home for Luna

A Home for Luna

A Home for Luna

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Home for Luna

Stef Gemmill

Mel Armstrong

New Frontier, 2019

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

9781925594843

On a cold, moonlit night a dark crate washes up on a lonely shore, and out crawls a bedraggled, lonely cat, wary of her surroundings so different from the home she remembers, but glad to be out of the ceaseless motion of the sea.  As daylight creeps up, she woke and looked around only to find herself among creatures that didn’t look like anything she had seen, certainly not cats, but the familiar fishy smell drew her forward. 

Too tired to move, she lay on the rocks watching the penguins swim and return with fish, making her tummy rumbled.  And then one of them approached her… is this a friendly move or one fraught with fear?

Mel Armstrong, an experienced illustrator making her children’s book debut, has created bold illustrations which suggest that Luna is  no weak, wimpy cat and so the reader expects that this story is going to go well beyond that initial meeting and that conflict or camaraderie. there is some meat to it.

On the surface, this is a simple story about two creatures forming an unlikely friendship, one that reaches a climax when humans arrive at the colony and decide that it is no place for a cat.  But looking beneath the surface, could it be the story of a refugee arriving in a strange land amongst strange people, and being accepted just for who they are, rather than anything else?  And a government making a determination about their suitability to stay?  Or am I viewing it through the lens of so many news stories about worthy people facing deportation, so much so my views of a children’s story have been tainted and I see allegory each time I read a story like this?  Whichever, it is refreshing to read one that is about resilience and hope and which has the sort of ending we would all wish for, whether it’s a cat washed ashore or a person. 

Read more about the story behind the story here

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

Who’s Afraid of the Quite Nice Wolf?

Who's Afraid of the Quite Nice Wolf?

Who’s Afraid of the Quite Nice Wolf?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who’s Afraid of the Quite Nice Wolf?

Kitty Black

Laura Wood

New Frontier, 2019

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

9781925594706

Unlike the not-nice wolf pack he lived with, Wilfred was a quite-nice wolf, who, instead of eating rabbits they captured, he preferred to help them! Rather than being a carnivore, he was a vegetarian much to the disgust of his wolf-pack brothers. So when they propose to raid the local herd of sheep, Wilfred is not only alarmed but feels he must do something…

Given a new meaning to “a wolf in sheep’s clothing”, this is an hilarious romp that will engage young readers from cover to endpaper, as it celebrates the courage of the individual to be true to themselves and who they are rather than give into the pack and peer pressure. How hard was it for Wilfred to “betray” the leader of the pack?  But it could also spark discussions about stereotypes and the perceptions we hold about people and creatures because of our experiences or what we have been told, and perhaps encourage broader investigations. Stories that work well as entertainment, as this does, are fabulous but those that make the mind probe a little deeper, see the world through different eyes and perhaps hear a different tune are even better.  This is one of those.

The Runaways

The Runaways

The Runaways

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Runaways

Ulf Stark

Kitty Crowther

Gecko Press, 2019

144pp., pbk., RRP $A18.99

9781776572342

Grandpa is stuck in hospital with a broken leg and a heart that is coming to the end of its working life.  Used to being an engineer on the great ships of the seas,  being confined to a bed is making him cranky and cantankerous and he swears at everyone, continually pushes the alarm buzzes because he is bored and complains about the food.  “Not even the water tastes any good.” Only young Gottfried, his grandson, finds pleasure in visiting him and understands the reason for his moods.

And so he hatches a plan to get Grandad out of there, on one last adventure…

This is a heart-warming family story that captures the frustration of the elderly who know their end is coming and want to be anywhere but in a hospital as well as the ideality of youth whose imaginations are not constrained by the realities of what is safest – they think of ‘what if” and deal with ‘what now ‘ and ‘what next’ if and when it arises. Gottfried’s plan to give his grandfather one last simple pleasure has to be complex and he does worry about whether sometimes it’s OK to lie and the consequences, but his love for Grandpa is stronger than any obstacles.

Written by a renowned Swedish author and set in Stockholm, this is, nevertheless, a universal story, one that many of us with ageing parents and grandparents will relate to. The unusual illustrations done with coloured pencil bring colour into what is otherwise a drab life for Grandpa but Gottfried’s love for him shines through, making it an uplifting story about how both deal with end-of-life issues. Something special.

 

Zanzibar

Zanzibar

Zanzibar

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Zanzibar

Catharina Valckx

Gecko Press, 2019 

144pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

 9781776572564

Zanzibar the crow cooks a fine mushroom omelette, but when Achille Le Blah a lizard reporter for the Voices of the Forest knocks at his door wanting to write an article about a remarkable person, Zanzibar begins to think he is very ordinary. The lizard seems to doubt that Zanzibar has any special qualities worth writing about and  Zanzibar thinks that to be remarkable, and be worthy of an article in the newspaper, he must achieve something incredible, an extraordinary feat. So he decides that’s what he’ll do. But first he needs to find a camel…

A quirky story for newly independent readers written by an author who has been nominated four times for the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, this tale celebrates both believing in yourself and the support and encouragement of friends. But even though Zanzibar as a crow is unique and that should be enough, he still thinks he needs to be better than he is and so his single-mindedness to achieve the task he sets himself and the co-operation of those he knows and meets to help him combine to create an entertaining story that also helps the reader appreciate the simple, everyday things as well as the exotic. 

Something a bit different to engage those who like their stories to be off the beaten track. 

Little Puggle’s Song

Little Puggle's Song

Little Puggle’s Song

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Little Puggle’s Song

Vikki Conley

Hélène Magisson

New Frontier, 2019

32pp,m hbk.  RRP $A24.99

9781925594690

All Little Puggle, the baby echidna, wanted to do was to be able to sing like the birds in his native bushland.  Each bird had its own sound – Little Blue’s was whispery like the wind; Fantail peeped like a bush mouse; Fancy Crest’s voice had a crack like lightning and when Brown Feather laughed the bush stood still – but Little Puggle made no sound at all.

When Brown feather gathered the birds together to begin a bush choir, even Little Grey and Long Tail were allowed to join, but all silent Little Puggle could do was watch from the sidelines.  But when disaster strikes the choir’s special performance for the birth of the emu babies, Little Puggle finds his voice in a very different way!

This is the most charming story, superbly illustrated, that introduces our youngest readers to the creatures that are unique to the Australian bush and to the concept that we, ourselves, are unique, each with their own way of contributing. An opportunity  to take the children outside and have them listen to the birdsong and notice that each species has a different sound, one that is individual to them but each of which contributes to the chorus, and then to have a discussion about each child’s special talents and how they help make the class or their family, a whole.

 

A Curious Menagerie: Of Herds, Flocks, Leaps, Gaggles, Scurries, and More!

A Curious Menagerie

A Curious Menagerie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Curious Menagerie: Of Herds, Flocks, Leaps, Gaggles, Scurries, and More!

Carin Berger

Greenwillow Books, 2019

40pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9780062644572

We’ve all heard of a herd of cows and a flock of sheep, but what is a group of giraffes called?  A murder of crows is a common trivia answer, but what about a mischief of mice?  Exploring collective nouns is always fun and in this book the ringmaster and the monkey investigate 64 of them opening up a menagerie of creatures for little ones to learn and perhaps wonder about and perhaps research their validity.  A parliament of owls?  Really?  That could either be flattering to some parliaments or insulting to some owls!

Berger has used her skills of making cut-paper collages to create fascinating illustrations and tying the collection together with the ringmaster and the monkey makes it a bit more engaging than the usual word book, especially the final pages!  One that will encourage small groups to share and delight in, and perhaps try to make up their own.  Would a group of koalas be called a cuddle?  Or a group of cockatoos a squawk?