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Wild Symphony

Wild Symphony

Wild Symphony

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wild Symphony

Dan Brown

Susan Batori

Puffin, 2020

44pp., hbk., RRP $A44.99

9780241467916

Before he wrote classics like The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown wrote music. It was a secret sanctuary for him bringing peace and calm and solace. And in this wonderful, interactive book he has combined those two gifts into a remarkable story for children that offers messages of affirmation and guidance. It is a place for them to seek that same peace and calm and solace.

Led by Maestro Mouse, the reader is taken on a journey of the animal kingdom and invited to learn something from each one that helps them deal with life. At the same time by using a QR code or going to the website, and downloading the app, they can  tune into the music of the creatures. Along the way, Maestro Mouse has left surprises  — a hiding buzzy bee, jumbled letters that spell out clues, and even a coded message to solve – making this a book that has many layers and which begs to be explored again and again.

 

 

Little Lon

Little Lon

Little Lon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Little Lon

Andrew Kelly

Heather Potter & Mark Jackson

Wild Dog, 2020

40pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781742035970

In the heart of Melbourne is a narrow street running between Spring Street and Spencer Street known as Little Lonsdale Street. In an area originally built from gold rush money, “Little Lon” was a dark, dingy place hidden from the elegant homes, shops and hotels of the main streets surrounding it, but it was home to many, and even if they were poor and not so flash as their nearby neighbours, immigrants newly arrived and those down on their luck, it was a thriving, energetic place, a melting pot of cultures and customs and colours that made it unique.

In this exquisitely illustrated book, the reader is taken back in time to that time when families created lives very different to today’s, where the only place to play was on the street so kids made friends with everyone; where Saturday night was a dip at the local pool to wash away the weekday grime; and on Sundays you dropped your roast and veg into a shop on the way to church and it was cooked ready for you to collect on your way home!

Drawing on the memories of one of the children, Marie Hayes, Andrew Kelly shows the 2020 reader a different life in a different time where everyone was accepted for her they were and valued for what they added to the community.  

Children’s lives have not always been rush, rush, rush, screen-driven hives of activity and this will be a valuable addition to that collection that takes them back in time to discover how things have changed and to consider whether it is a time to envy. Extensive teachers’ notes are available.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Deep End

The Deep End

The Deep End

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Diary of a Wimpy Kid:  The Deep End

Jeff Kinney

Puffin, 2020

224pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9780143796084

Greg Heffley returns to delight readers in the 15th episode of this popular series, one that will resonate particularly this year because, like many Australian families searching for a summer holiday, Greg  and his family hit the road for a cross-country camping trip, ready for the adventure of a lifetime.  But things take an unexpected turn, and they find themselves stranded at an RV park that’s not exactly a summertime paradise. When the skies open up and the water starts to rise, the Heffleys wonder if they can save their vacation – or if they’re already in too deep.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid is a series that has gone from strength to strength since its inception over 12 years ago as new waves of young lads hear his story about trying to fit in to middle school and relate to it.  Written in the first person as a diary and liberally illustrated with stick-like figures it is an easy read that has hit the mark for reluctant and ready readers, ensuring they continue to find reading a pleasure.

A great one to pop in the Santa Sack to give a few hours of pleasure during those seemingly endless kilometres or the inevitable wet day stuck inside!

 

The Tree

The Tree

The Tree

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Tree

Graeme Base

Puffin, 2020

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

9781760897048

This is the story of a cow, a duck and a very big tree that has Cow’s favourite mooberries growing on its branches and Duck’s favourite mushquacks growling amongst its roots.  So Cow builds herself a castle high in the tree and pulls up the drawbridge so no one can get in, and Duck digs deep amongst the roots and secures his domain with a secret key.  They forget each other, each content in their own “fiefdom” and all appears well until one night a massive storm upends everything. Suddenly they rediscover each other and the jealousy and selfishness begins…

Whether it is a classic like Animalia or Uno’s Garden, a tale like The Last King of Angkor Wat or Moonfishor something for the younger readers like The Amazing Monster Detectoscope or Bumblebunnies, Graeme Base can be guaranteed to give the reader the most exquisitely illustrated story that has more layers than the bed in The Princess and the Pea!  This new story is no exception with so much to discover in the pictures and so much to discuss in the words., encapsulated in the final masterful illustration. For the tree is so much more than a home to a selfish cow and a greedy duck and the reader can spend hours getting lost in the worlds of it branches, trunk and roots, knowing that one cannot survive without the other and so it becomes a symbol for harmony, co-operation and sharing. But, sturdy and steadfast as it may seem, it is not indestructible .However, from its demise something just as precious emerges offering the one thing that keeps life going – hope for a better future.

Graeme Base has created such a fabulous body of work since he first gave us My Grandma Lives in Gooligulch   that, in my opinion, he is one of Australia’s master storytellers who deserves a very special place in our history of children’s literature. 

One for all ages.

 

Julian at the Wedding

Julian at the Wedding

Julian at the Wedding

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Julian at the Wedding

Jessica Love

Walker, 2020

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

9781406397482

Julian and his grandmother are attending a wedding. In fact, Julian is in the wedding along with his cousin Marisol. When wedding duties are fulfilled and with a new dog friend in tow, the pair takes off to roam the venue, exploring everywhere from underneath tables to enchanting willow trees to muddy puddles!  So when Mariola’s dress gets ruined, Julian has the perfect solution. But how will the grown-ups respond?

We first met Julian and his flamboyant grandmother in Julian is a Mermaid, a brilliant but controversial interpretation of being true to oneself. This sequel is just as good as it subtly shifts the narrative of convention so that the wedding being that of two brides is as normal as any other is almost unremarkable. After all, a wedding is just “a party for love.”

However, its impact may be more profound. 

The story behind Charles M. Schultz introducing a black character into the Peanuts comic strip has been well-documented and there are stories galore of how this impacted young black readers in the US, particularly.  Suddenly they were seeing themselves in literature in a new and positive portrayal. And so it may well be with children like Julian – those who don’t live in a conventional family; those for who two mums and two dads is the norm; those who prefer to be mermaids than superheroes. Here they are in a story that treats their situation as the norm and moves on to the real issues – ruining your bridesmaid’s dress at a wedding where, traditionally, you’re supposed to remain pristine!

Like its predecessor, most of this story is told in the stunning illustrations with the minimum of text, and they hold so many riches that the book demands to be explored again and again. Jessica Love won the Bologna Ragazzi Award and Klaus Flugge Prize for Julian is a Mermaid, her debut picture book and it is quite probable that this will be among the prizewinners too. 

The Joy in You

The Joy in You

The Joy in You

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Joy in You

Cat Deeley

Rosie Butcher

Random House. 2020

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

9780593181416

Dream big, as big as the night sky full of stars. When you discover the things you love, you’ll find true joy.

Mother Koala is teaching her baby about the joy that can be found in finding your inner passion and being yourself. 

You can sing!

If you love to sing, sing.

You can dance!

If you love to dance, dance.

Accompanied by a cast of colourful characters, Baby Koala is encouraged to use her imagination and to embrace her emotions and feelings, searching for the joy that is to be found in being true to oneself. And to be reassured that even if things don’t always work out, there will always be someone there to catch her.

It is the colour and the exuberance in the illustrations that put the joy on my face in this story, a theme that has been explored in many ways by many authors. While dancing crocodiles, orangutans, pandas and giraffes add visual fun,  placing Baby Koala on the back of an ageing tortoise so they both wonder and wander is an enduring image.

When the baby might have had a fractious day, this is one that can be shared at bedtime to calm both parent and child and remind them of their special, unique connection. 

 

I’m a Hero Too

I'm a Hero Too

I’m a Hero Too

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m a Hero Too

Jamila Rizvi

Peter Cheong

Puffin, 2020

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

9781761040115

Heroes come in all shapes and sizes and most of them don’t wear capes – that’s the lesson we can learn from this pandemic that has rocked the nation, indeed the world.  In fact, in some countries people have stood outside at a certain time and applauded the local heroes, particularly the health care workers . However, while the children have joined in, many have been left bewildered about the changes in their lives. Children like Arty who doesn’t understand why he can’t listen in on Mum’s conversations any more; or why his dad is working at home and often grumpy; or having to be at the end of the skipping rope from Granny and not being allowed to play in the playground.   

Why are there all these changes?  Why can’t the world go back to the way it was?

When his dad finally explains that that can’t happen until people like Arty’s mum find a way to beat the virus, Arty realises he can do things that will help to beat it too. That he is not powerless and that he can be a hero fighting this invisible, supersonic virus by doing ordinary, everyday things like washing his hands properly and often; not touching things like supermarket trolleys and his face; coughing into his elbow and putting his tissues in the bin; and helping at home by getting dressed when he is told and waiting for his dad to finish his video calls before interrupting. He can even  draw beautiful pictures and post them to Granny.  And one day, if he and everyone else is a hero, things will change back to the way they were.

Our kids are remarkably resilient and if they understand why they have to do certain things they will adapt and adopt quickly, but sometime we adults forget the explanation.  This is a remarkable book that takes the time to talk to the children and show them how they too, can be heroes just by doing what they have been asked.  That while restrictions may be tiresome and boring, every little bit helps and together, we can defeat this insidious enemy. 

Share the story, and make a wall display in a cape-shape that details the things that our kids can do to be heroes and then let them look for their friends being heroes so they can add their name to the display.  Reinforce the everyday hero concept so they feel empowered and powerful. That’s the way to win.

The Heartsong of Wonder Quinn

The Heartsong of Wonder Quinn

The Heartsong of Wonder Quinn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Heartsong of Wonder Quinn

Kate Gordon

UQP, 2020

184pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9780702262821

Lonely orphan Wonder Quinn lives in the attic of Direleafe Hall with only a gloomy crow for company. Every year she hopes to make a true friend and every year her heart breaks when she doesn’t.

But when a spirited new student, Mabel Clattersham, befriends her in class, Wonder’s dreams seem to be coming true. As the girls grow closer, Wonder discovers her friend has a list of strange wishes: Throw a pie, leap into the sky, break someone’s heart…

What is Mabel’s big secret? Can Wonder protect her heart from being broken all over again?

This is a beautifully written ghost story with a difference.  Rather than being scary, this is a gentle ghost who craves a friend and becomes one, celebrating friendship, love, acceptance and belonging while embracing grief as a natural emotion that we all experience. This is a sensitive story, and despite its larger font, illustrations and short chapters, probably more suited to more mature readers who are able to read between the lines as well as along them.  The reader is not told that Wonder is a ghost, although there are clues from the get-go that perhaps she is not an ordinary schoolgirl for the astute reader to pick up – that fact that she is watching the girls arrive at school from her perch on the roof yet is unseen and undetected by either the students or the staff is one such indicator. It is also what I would have told my students is a tissue book – be prepared to shed some tears.

Normally, this is not my preferred genre but its evocative title, superb selection of vocabulary and imagery, its sensitivity and its uniqueness kept me engaged till the end.  One to look for and put into the hands of just the right reader.

 

 

Ruby and Graham

Ruby and Graham

Ruby and Graham

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ruby and Graham

Lucy Barnard

New Frontier, 2020

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

9781921928758

Ruby the red squirrel loves to party and have fun, whereas Graham the grey squirrel prefers to be more organised and less spontaneous.  Between them, Acorn Wood is a good place to live although, to Graham, Ruby seems to be more popular and have more friends.  So one day he decides that the party life is for him so he throws away his clipboard with its list of things to do and joins in the fun.  If changing who he is means more fun and more friends, then that’s the life for him.

But as he parties, gradually Acorn Woods starts to change and it is no longer the pleasant place it was. Chaos and confusion become the norm. No one liked it, least of all Ruby who decided she would speak to Graham about it and confesses her secret desire… 

Little ones will love this story that shows them that while each of us is different, it is the differences that keep everything in balance.  We can’t all be spontaneous and carefree like Ruby, no matter how much fun that might look from the outside, and trying to change who we really are inside can be tricky.  But it is possible to be both sensible and sensational at the same time – it’s just that there are different times for the different sides to shine! 

Hello Jimmy!

Hello Jimmy!

Hello Jimmy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hello Jimmy!

Anna Walker

Puffin, 2020

40pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781760893422

When Jack visits his dad he never knows which dad he is going to see – will it be the funny, joke-telling dad he used to know or will it be the one who is so sad and silent, the one who feels as lonely as Jack does? These days it seems to be the sad, silent one more often than not until one day his Dad finds Jimmy the parrot on his doorstep.  But while Jimmy appears to cheer him up, it seems it is at the expense of his relationship with Jack. So while everyone else seems to be pleased that Jimmy is now in dad’s life and bringing him some happiness, Jack is not so thrilled and one night when he leaves his bedroom window open, Jimmy flies out…

Sadly, Jack’s situation and his relationship with his dad will be familiar to many of our students as they struggle to deal with separation, divorce and alternate visiting periods and not yet mature enough to understand the impact that this has on everyone.  The sadness, the remoteness, the isolation is interpreted as not being loved any more or somehow being held responsible for the split and thus a lot of internal, negative self-talk that can damage bonds permanently.

Anna Walker, who also gave us the touching Florette, was inspired to tell this story of the enduring bond between father and child as she watched her brother cope with a separation.  This real-life reference gives it a tenderness and poignancy because as an observer, but one who was close to the situation, she was able to view the impact on both her brother and the children as well as bringing other personal experiences and memories to the pages, giving the reader the impression that this story has really happened.  

This year has been one of the toughest that many families will have ever endured and there are going to be many of our children who will be feeling as confused, perhaps abandoned, as Jack does.  Hello Jimmy! gives us an opportunity to share this situation within the classroom and without touching on specific relationships, help those children understand that they are visible, they are not alone, there is understanding and support for their plight available, that even though their parents are grieving for the loss of their marriage and dreams, they are still loved and wanted.  The good times of funny jokes and making milkshakes and tacos together will return.