Archives

Little i

Little i

Little i

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Little i

Michael Hall

Greenwillow Books, 2017

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

9780062383006

The alphabet letters were quite happy being what they were until one day Little i’s dot fell off.  It rolled down a hill, tumbled over a cliff and splashed into the sea.  Little i felt weird and the other letters felt confused because now Little i looked like a number and you can’t make words with numbers.  

So Little i decided to find his dot and starts off on an adventure that takes him to some interesting places. His question mark boat takes him across the seas until he finds an island that has a remarkable sea passage that passes a spectacular exclamation point waterfall, through the cold dark parenthesis tunnel (with asterisk gems), through the field of lovely comma sprouts, across the spine-chilling hyphen bridge to the very edge of the land where his dot completes his journey like a full stop at the end of a sentence.  But when Little i puts his dot back on he feels strange, setting his quest and his story up for an imaginative and fun end.

With bold shapes and colours, this is one of those books that seems really simple on the surface but then you wonder what sort of mind could make such a story. But then he did write Red, A Crayon’s Story.  Not only is it clever it is brilliant, so rich in so much for the very young reader. Little i feels incomplete without his dot and that he doesn’t really belong in the alphabet, just as some children feel adrift if they haven’t got their mum, a special friend or a favourite toy by their side and so talking about Little i’s story may help them realise that they can not only survive without that security blanket but be even better for being brave enough to leave it behind.  Self-confidence in who we are is such a critical part of growing up.

It is also wonderful for those who are just beginning to understand that words are constructed from letters – Hall shows this by having the letters in the words do their talking; distinguishing between letters and numerals; and maybe starting to wonder what the other marks on the page are. There is a myriad of talking and teaching opportunities as the children demonstrate their knowledge of those initial concepts about print that are part of early kindergarten assessments.  Yet, whatever level the child is at for looking at the technicalities and tools of language, overall and throughout there is an engaging story and a satisfying finish which have to be at the core of anything we share with little ones if they are to love stories and reading and all that they offer.

If this were Australian, I’d be looking for it during Awards Season 2018!  

Mr Bambuckle’s Remarkables

Mr Bambuckle’s Remarkables

Mr Bambuckle’s Remarkables

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mr Bambuckle’s Remarkables

Tim Harris

James Hart

Random House Australia, 2017

240pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9780143785859

Imagine walking into class and instead of seeing Miss Schlump you see a man in a dazzling blue suit riding a unicycle balanced on top of a desk! Not only that, he seems to be able to magic tricks like flicking rasher of bacon and some eggs from his sleeves and cooking his breakfast on a pre-heated frying pan. Then to top that off he also seems to know everything about each student already and has a unique way of getting them to tell their stories and overcome whatever is bothering them!

Despite the one-size-fits-all curriculum imposed on teachers, the best know that each student is a unique individual with their own unique personalities shaped by their life’s events and only by reaching and teaching the student not the subject, is the child likely to start knowing themselves and reaching their particular potential.  Mr Bambuckle is such a teacher -although Principal Sternblast is definitely not – and through getting the students to tell their stories within a more general narrative framework he does just that. 

There are 15 students in 12B and each has a thumbnail introductory sketch at the beginning of the book, emphasising that this will be a story about them rather than Mr Bambuckle which is just how a class should be.  The child is very much at the centre of his teaching and author Tim Harris has drawn on his long experience as a primary teacher to show that it is possible to know each child individually and draw out the best from them, starting by giving them ownership of what they will do by having them design their own merit stickers – the tried and true but somewhat meaningless tool-of-trade of many. 

Both independent readers and those listening to it as a read-aloud will either recognise their own teacher or wish they were in 12B,while teachers might also like to be Mr Bambuckle.

Great new story from a new author with others in the series on the horizon!

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!

 

On the Night of the Shooting Star

On the Night of the Shooting Star

On the Night of the Shooting Star

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the Night of the Shooting Star

Amy Hest

Jenni Desmond

Walker Books, 2017

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

9781406377330

Bunny and Dog live on opposite sides of the fence, both literally and figuratively.  Bunny’s house is a blue square and overgrown, Dog’s is a red round and immaculate. Each  home reflects who they are in subtle but significant ways and each lifestyle is their own, yet remarkably similar.  For years they live side by side, never speaking, valuing their privacy, leading solitary lives but very lonely.  Then one clear night while out looking at the stars, they both see a shooting star…

This is a story of opposites, of differences but mostly of friendship. No matter how different from us someone might seem, we should take the opportunity to reach out and connect because the riches and rewards of friendship, even between opposites is worth it. There is scope for predicting why the two have not connected after all this time and how they feel, while also giving the children an opportunity to think about their neighbours and their relationships with them. Perhaps even explore the meaning of this popular advertisement and consider what they could do or say to make someone’s life less lonely.

Gentle, calming and a perfect bedtime story.

 

Niko Draws A Feeling

Niko Draws A Feeling

Niko Draws A Feeling

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Niko Draws A Feeling

Bob Raczka

Simone Shin

Carolrhoda Books, 2017

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

9781467798433

Like many children, Niko loved to make pictures and everywhere he went he had a packet of coloured pencils and a pad of paper.

He was inspired by so much of what he saw that he just had to draw it, and when inspiration hit it felt like a window opening in his brain. An idea would flit through the open window like a butterfly, flutter down to his stomach, then along his arm and fingers to his pencils where it would escape onto his paper in a whirlwind of colour,

But in a world of what-is no one understood his pictures when he shared them.  They could not see the ice cream truck, the sun, or the robin’s nest because Nico had drawn the feelings that he felt – the ring-a-ling of the bell of the icecream truck, the warmth of the sun on his father’s face, the hard work of the mother robin making her nest- and so his pictures were too abstract to their rooted-in-reality viewers. This inability to understand his interpretations of his world had an impact on Niko and that night he drew a picture of his feelings, taping it to the back of his door where it wouldn’t be seen.

But even though he viewed the world through different eyes he was undaunted and as he set off with his paper and pencils the next day, a removalist van pulled in next door.  Niko’s world was about to change… he meets someone who feels the butterfly land on her fingers when she sees his pictures.

In the late 70s just as I was beginning my teaching career and finding my feet in the classroom, Harry Chapin released a song that had a profound effect on me and my teaching, helping me understand the individuality of people and that their differences should be not only accepted but celebrated.  And all those memories and lyrics came flooding back from 40 years ago as soon as I started reading Niko Draws A Feeling.  This is a story that acknowledges that being different can be difficult, that admires the resilience of those who accept themselves for who they are regardless, and that affirms that no matter how outside-the-square we are there are others like us and if we are lucky our path through life will find them.

Raczka has written a story that should have an impact on both adults and children and perhaps even on teachers, in the way Flowers Are Red had on me. Cleverly, Simone Shin’s illustrations bridge the world of Niko and those who look at his drawings.  They are clearly recognisable for what they are but their depiction uses media and techniques which step well away from photographic representations or the realistic style we are familiar with.

A book that will change the reader. If I were to draw my feelings about it, the page would be filled with red hearts.

 

Grace and Katie

Grace and Katie

Grace and Katie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grace and Katie

Susanne Merritt

Liz Anelli

EK Books, 2017

32pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

9781925335545
Twins Grace and Katie like to draw but their drawings are very different.  Grace’s drawings are done with a variety of pens and pencils, all black and full of straight lines, angles, shapes and precision.  Katie’s are done with all sorts of media in all sorts of colours, and filled with patterns, squiggles and swirls and imagination.
Neither cares much for the other’s style until one day they both decide to draw their home.  Grace’s is like a map and organised, Kate’s is full of people and bright and colorful.  But then both girls realise there is something missing…
This is  an interesting exploration of the difference between twins who so often are assumed to be the same, particularly when they look so alike.  Illustrator Liz Anelli has emphasised the difference between the two girls by giving Grace a straight, organised hairstyle while Kate’s is more every-which-way, a bit like her.  But essentially, physically they are the same.  However that’s where the similarities end – you can imagine that Grace would have a sensible, neat, organised bedroom and lifestyle while Kate’s would be the opposite and yet outsiders would assume that because they look alike they must also be alike and think alike.
Stories about twins are not common so this is a great addition to the collection so that not only can the children read about themselves in a book but also send a message to the world that they are individuals first but lucky enough to share the special bond that twins have and which both girls discover. 

Finn and Puss

Finn and Puss

Finn and Puss

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finn and Puss

Robert Vescio

Melissa Mackie

EK Books, 2017

32pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

9781925335507

When Finn, a lonely little boy, finds a lost cat it would seem their problems are solved.  Finn has a friend and the cat has a home. 

But then Finn spots a poster advertising the cat as lost … Will he return it or is their friendship more important to him?

Told in a few words but with exquisite illustrations that are as gentle as the story but rich in emotion and detail, this  is a story which explores the connections between a child and a pet and how hard it can be to do the right thing.  But sometimes that right thing can have its own reward.

Charming.

It’s OK to feel the way you do

It's OK to feel the way you do

It’s OK to feel the way you do

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s OK to feel the way you do

Josh Langley

Big Sky, 2017

90pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781925520965

The buzzword in many personal development programs these days is resilience and phrases such as “Eat cement and harden up”, “Build a bridge and get over it”, and “Suck it up, princess” are often heard bandied around. It’s as though expressing our emotions, particularly ‘negative’ ones, is becoming unacceptable and we are supposed to bottle up anger and disappointment and fear and let it fester away inside, becoming bigger and bigger, in case we offend or hurt someone else’s feelings.

This can be very confusing especially for young children who are recognising their range of feelings and learning how to control their actions in response to them.  Our emotions are controlled by chemicals in the brain such as dopamine, serotonin and adrenalin and we cannot control their release although we are expected to control and even suppress their consequences.  So a book written and illustrated especially for young children that explores the natural feelings of happiness, anger, sadness, loneliness, pride, fear and anxiety and shows that is OK to have the whole range of such emotions – in fact, it is unhealthy not to – is welcome, particularly as mindfulness programs gather momentum.

Understanding that emotions are what makes us human and that certain things trigger certain emotions, even though there are different triggers for each person, is a huge step in understanding ourselves and we need to do that if we are to understand others.  Acknowledging our feelings is the first step in dealing with them appropriately, developing responses and reactions and then being able to move on to choices is part of natural maturity.  Langley tells his own story of how a negative comment in his childhood spurred him on to greater things rather than sending him into a downward spiral and so children can learn it’s not the emotion that is the issue, but how we can deal with it for the better -do we express it or suppress it?

The bright, bold colours and cartoon-like illustrations will capture the young reader, the text that talks directly to them and the affirmation that feeling feelings is natural and OK will help to empower our young students and help them from feeling overwhelmed even confused.  In the past, health curricula have included exploring feelings and children have completed a zillion sentences starting “I am happy when…” but in today’s world we need to take this further and show that feelings are natural, that they are shared, that disappointment and anger are OK and can lead us in a new direction, that everyone has fears and doubts and highs and lows and life is not necessarily the glossed-up television version.

Indeed, it’s OK to feel the way you do.

What Makes Me A Me?

What Makes Me A Me?

What Makes Me A Me?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Makes Me A Me?

Ben Faulks

David Tazzyman

Bloomsbury, 2017

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

9781408883327

Who am I?
I ask myself.
What makes me a ME?
I think hard with all my might,
And look around to see.

What is it that makes us unique, unlike anything or anyone else despite the similarities we see? Are we like our clothes -the same shape and the same age; maybe like a computer that knows lots of things; or perhaps a tree because our arms stick out like branches? But then, for everything we see a similarity with there are also subtle differences.  Super Guy helps the goodies and fights the baddies but he also likes to kiss girls!  Maybe we move like a snail, especially first thing in the morning, but where are our eyes on stalks and the slimy trail?

The author of Watch Out for Muddy Puddles  and the illustrator of You Can’t Take an Elephant on a Bus  have combined to create an intriguing story-in-rhyme that encourages children to think about their identity and what it is that makes them special.  Because no matter how like something or someone you are, there is always a subtle – or not-so subtle- difference that makes you, you.  

A perfect parent-child read-along, it would also be the ideal introduction to an early childhood unit that explores each child’s individuality while still acknowledging that each is human and has the same needs and dreams as their friends.  They could have fun thinking how they might be like something, especially if their thinking is extended by pulling the name of an object out of a hat (perhaps a woolly blue one) and looking for a link. My friend tells me I am an eggbeater but didn’t say if it’s because I’m always whirring around or whipping everything up!!!  Lots of potential for all sorts of activities in this one. 

Soon

Soon

Soon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Soon

Jessica Love

Echo Books, 2015

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

9780994232397

My dad is leaving soon.

He is going to another country to help keep other families safe.

Soon is coming too fast…

It is Christmas today.

My dad is still gone. I am sad.  Christmas feels strange without him… but soon is getting closer.

Time is such an abstract concept for young children to grasp that adults usually resort to the seemingly innocuous “soon” when asked, “How long till…?”

But soon can seem to be a long time when you’re young, seemingly meaning  “forever” when it stretches over birthdays, Christmas and Easter, and almost touches “Never!” When creator Jess Love’s dad was deployed overseas with the Australian Defence Forces, she became one of many children, including my own grandchildren, who measured the concept of “soon” in special days, events and activities missed.  Even letters, emails and phone calls become bittersweet because while it is great to catch up, it just makes the pain of missing even more acute and “soon” seems just as far away as it ever was.  Even knowing the absence is because someone else is being helped doesn’t really register with littlies because they want their daddy or mummy there to help them.

The predecessor to Sometimes   young author Jessica has articulated and illustrated the innermost feelings of any child missing a loved one who is absent for whatever reason, not just overseas deployment.  While the adults in their lives can understand calendars and do mental countdowns and fill their days, young children have to be satisfied with “soon” and it can be confusing.  Is it a long time, getting closer, almost here, or taking too long? And for some it can mean feeling bereft or even abandoned.

This is an important book for parents to know about so they can understand that “soon” isn’t enough in times of extended absence; that while their child might seem to understand time it can be confusing and there needs to be some sort of mechanism that help them have a picture of what “soon” means such as a calendar to cross off the days or the number of sleeps left; something that helps them realise that “soon” will come and it will happen. 

For the children of those in the Defence Forces or other professions that entail long absences, it is important for them to know that their feelings are real, shared and validated and that “soon” will come eventually. While crossing dates off a calendar might seem pointless and endless, perhaps instead of marking special things missed, they can set themselves a goal to achieve before “soon” happens.  Riding their bike, playing a tricky tune on the piano, knitting a jumper, achieving the next level in a sport – whatever is their passion can become their driving force for making “soon” hurry up. And even though it seems that it is dragging its feet, it eventually does arrive.

As teachers there is much that we can do to acknowledge the anxiety, help the understanding of time by making the countdown the kickstart for a series of lessons about how humans have measured time over millennia and make “soon” become “now”.

Another important addition to  our mindfulness toolboxes and collections.