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Paddington Bear – 60th anniversary

Paddington at St Pauls

Paddington at St Pauls

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paddington at St Pauls

Michael Bond

R. W. Alley

HarperCollins, 2018 

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

9780008272043

Sixty years ago today, on October 13, 1958 a small bear with a blue coat, a red hat, a suitcase and a note pinned to his coat which read “Please look after this bear” was found by the Brown family at Paddington Station London.  Sent from darkest Peru by his Aunt Lucy who has gone into a retirement home, the little bear was a stowaway on a lifeboat where he survived on marmalade until the Browns renamed him Paddington and took him to their home at 32 Windsor Gardens near Notting Hill. 

And so began a great series of adventures culminating in this final addition, completed before Bond’s death in June 2017 and issued to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Paddington’s arrival.

Also being released are anniversary editions of the main Paddington Bear series, each of which has a number of chapters which work either as a continuing story or a stand-alone episode, making them perfect as read-alouds to get the child used to the concept of the continuing characters in novels or read-alones for the newly independent reader.

 

The Paddington Collection

The Paddington Collection

With more than 35 million copies sold worldwide, translated into 40 languages, television and features movies, Paddington Bear is arguably one of the most favourite bears in the world.  To have the stories republished, an exquisite gift edition of the first story with the original illustrations by Peggy Fortnum, and this final chapter is indeed a fitting anniversary gift to introduce a new generation to this series inspired by a lone teddy that Bond saw on a shelf in a London toy store and the children who were evacuated from English cities during World War II. 

The Dam

The Dam

The Dam

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Dam

David Almond

Levi Pinfold

Walker Studio, 2018

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

9781406304879

It looks like death will come to this valley as the dam is almost completed, and when it is and the waters rise, so much will be washed away, drowned and never seen again.  In tribute to all that have gone and for all that are still to come, the musician sings and his daughter plays her violin as they wander through the empty houses that were once homes. But even though the physical things may be gone or going, the music plays on, locked in the memories as new opportunities await.

Forty years ago when a great dam was built by the Kielder Water in Northumberland,  UK, the valley below slowly filled with water. But just before this, when the villagers had been moved out, two musicians went back to the abandoned valley. They tore down the boards over the houses, stepped inside and started to play – for this would be the last time that music would be heard in this place.  But while much of the natural landscape was lost, a new one was created, one which brought new activities and adventures and allowed for new memories to be created.

While this is the story of a dam in the UK, it could be the story of places in Australia like Adaminaby, moved in the 50s to allow for the creation of Lake Eucumbene, nine times larger than Sydney Harbour and part of the might Snowy Hydro scheme that changed Australia forever.  Yes the valley was drowned, and as droughts wrack this country, sometimes, as now, remnants of what was lost rise from the deep, but in its place is a haven for fishers, boaters and artists, and the influx of European refugees who came to help build it changed the shape of Australia forever.

It could be the story of parts of the South Island of New Zealand as dams like Benmore and Aviemore reshaped that landscape as the need for electricity grew; parts of Tasmania where building dams on Lake Pedder in the 60s and the proposed damming the Gordon below the Franklin River in the 70s shone the brightest spotlight on the environment and its conservation that this country had seen.

It could even be the story of those living near Badgery’s Creek where Sydney’s new airport is at last being constructed after 50 years of talk.  It could be the story of 1000 places where human needs have outweighed those of Mother Nature and “progress” moves inexorably onwards and outwards.  

But this is not a morbid book, despite its dramatic, monochromatic sombre palette, vignettes of things lost like fleeting memories and the haunting text which is like music itself.  While it is a memorial to those who have gone before it is also a promise that there will be new life, new different memories  waiting to be made and celebrated just as the change in colours and mood of the illustrations indicate. 

Change throughout our lives in inevitable – some visible and dramatic, others not-so and more subtle – but each alters the path that we have planned or dreamed of.  While this book might be overtly about a true story of the Northumberland wilds, it is a conversation starter for all those who are facing life-changing circumstances, physical or emotional.  The musician and his daughter chose to remember through a musical tribute but were also ready to embrace the new landscape, illustrating that it is how we deal with and embrace that over which we have no control that shapes us.  “That which doesn’t kill us, only makes us stronger” has never been more apt. 

The Forever Kid

The Forever Kid

The Forever Kid

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Forever Kid

Elizabeth Mary Cummings

Cheri Hughes

Big Sky, 2018 

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

9781925675382

Today is Johnny’s birthday. And as in many families, the birthday kid gets to choose the food, the games and the way they want to celebrate.  And Johnny’s family is no different.  Cloud stories are definitely on the list of must-do – lying on your back and looking for pictures in the clouds and making up stories about what you see. 

But this birthday is different to the others that have gone before. For this year, Johnny is no longer there.  He’s the Forever Kid – one who was part of the family but who has passed away leaving just memories.  And on the is special day, each family member remembers Johnny in their own special way as they celebrate and feel closer to him.  But they all gather together to look for and make cloud stories. 

Much as it saddens us as adults to think that the children we know are touched by death and grief, nevertheless it is a fact of life for many.  Illness and accidents take their toll and often the adults are so busy dealing with adult-things that the toll of the child is overlooked.  Kids are seen as resilient, as ‘not really understanding’, as bounce-back-and-move-on beings.  But anyone who has been with a child who has had to face such a harsh reality will know that the pain runs deep and the bewilderment is confusing so to have such a gentle book that focuses on the child left behind, their feelings, even their guilt, is a salutary reminder that as adults, we need to take care of their emotions too.  

Four years ago, Miss Then 8 lost her precious great-grandmother, my mother, and as we grieved and made funeral arrangements and all that grown-up stuff, it would have been easy to overlook her distress.  I asked her if she would like to say something at the memorial service and she said yes.  My heart broke when this little one, who was such a chip off her great-gran’s block, stood up and just said, “I love you Great Gran.” That’s when the tears began to flow, and we knew that she knew what she had lost but she would never forget her even though she was so young. So this year, when her other grandmother died and the wake was to be at a local restaurant, it was no surprise that Miss Now 12 did not want to go because that’s where she had had so many good times with her Great Gran and “didn’t want them spoiled by sadness”.  Just as Johnny is the Forever Kid, so we have a Forever Great Gran.

This gentle book, with its soft, sympathetic illustrations, is a reminder to us all that we need to acknowledge our children’s feelings and their grief, and allow them the opportunity to remember and celebrate and know that it is perfectly okay to do so. Take the time to lie on the grass with your child, make up cloud stories and let them remember and reminisce.  It will help you both. 

Ariki and the Giant Shark

Ariki and the Giant Shark

Ariki and the Giant Shark

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ariki and the Giant Shark

Nicola Davies

Nicola Kinnear

Walker Books, 2018

144pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

9781406369793

Washed up on the shores of Turtle Island in her cradle, no one knows quite where Ariki has come from and the islanders wanted to put her back on the waves, but Arohaka said she was a gift from the ocean and a gift should never be refused.  So he becomes her guardian although no matter how long she lives there, she is not accepted as one of them – by the adults or the children.

Protected by her distinctive tattoos which are different from those of the other children, Ariki loves to spend her days in the sea rather than doing chores.  An excellent swimmer, her favourite game is to catch the tail of the baby yellow moon sharks and hitch a ride around the lagoon while they are too young to turn and bite her.  She is more at home in the sea than on the land, and on the day her life is saved from the jaws of the nihui by a shark bigger than she has ever seen, life changes for her.  Struck by drought, the islanders are struggling to find food and when two of the island’s fishermen tell a tale of a large creature that scares the nihui and almost bites their boat in half, leaving behind a tooth bigger than a man’s hand, then fear strikes and the islanders are frightened to go into the sea. They are determined to kill this monster but Ariki, her friend Ipo, Arohaka and the children have other ideas…

This is the first in a new series from zoologist Nicola Davies and as well as being an entertaining read, her knowledge of the ocean, its ways and its creatures gives an added dimension of authenticity.  Ariki is a strong, independent feisty heroine who is content with herself despite the ridicule of her peers and her friend Ipo also shows similar resilience as he deals with his own issues. Highly original, well-written and utterly engaging, this is the perfect read for those who are independent readers moving on from beginner novels. 

 

Wisp

Wisp

Wisp

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wisp

Zana Fraillon

Grahame Baker-Smith

Hachette, 2018

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

9780734418043

Idris lived in a small world where fences grew from the ground, shadows ruled and there were no trees offering shade, no rivers offered cool water to drink and there were no seas to swim in. His was a world full of people, but everyone in it was alone. 

Then one evening a Wisp came in on the evening breeze, unnoticed by all except Idris who gentlied it from the ground and softlied away the dust.  Clean and free, it began to wriggle and flitted away, finally settling at the feet of an old man, whose eyes had blurred long ago, but who put the Wisp to his ear and music memories of long ago poured forth.  Then, when it came again, it went to a woman who whispered the magic word, “Once” and a forest blossomed and a thunder of colours rained down. Whispers start as the memories are released and shared and gradually the loneliness is not so sharp any more.

Time and again the Wisp brings memories to those who have not forgotten but who have no one to share them with, so what happens when the Wisp settles with Idris, whose only memories are those of the desolate, lonely place he lives in?

Set against the darkest palette that reflects the world of Idris but which lightens when memories are evoked, this is a story of hope and promise – something that no amount of hardship and desolation seems to dampen within the human spirit. No matter where the refugee camp is there is always hope that there will be freedom and a life without fences, restrictions and oppression. With its poetic, eloquent words, this is another picture book that brings to life and light the plight of refugees around the world, adding to a growing collection that makes the more fortunate stop and think. 

For most children in our care, the world of refugees is not part of their every day experience but as some people show compassion and open their hearts and their doors to the families, it is creeping ever closer as the children become part of our classes, and everyone’s life is enriched.  Other reviewers have suggested that this book is for those 5 or 6 years and up but as I watch colleagues share stories like The Wonky Donkey and The Book with No Pictures  I wonder if those of such a young age are ready for one such as this. What questions will it raise and will we be able to answer them adequately, let alone reassure them?  Certainly, if the concept of refugees is part of their known world, then in the hands of someone prepared to listen and explain, younger readers will manage it, but IMO it is one for older readers who have an understanding of the sorts of things that cause people to flee their countries; the fears of those who think such people need to be imprisoned rather than welcomed; and the concepts of hope and freedom. Despite its warm fuzzy ending, like A Different Boy, the underlying constructs are dark and it is one that needs to be read before it is shared, particularly if there are children who have been in camps like Idris in the audience. Sensitivity is essential.

Princess Swashbuckle

Princess Swashbuckle

Princess Swashbuckle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Princess Swashbuckle

Hollie Hughes

Deborah Allwright

Bloomsbury, 2018

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

9781408862810

Recently there was a national furore because a 9-year-old girl considered the words of our national anthem, concluded they were disrespectful to the indigenous community and refused to stand for the song in a school assembly.  Adults were outraged, claimed that this had to be the parents’ doing and recommended family counselling, suspension from school, and even a “kick up the pants” – bullying in a way that in the next breath they condemn. And yet we as teachers are striving to have students form opinions, express and justify them and the book reviewers I most admire – Megan Daley, Sue Warren, Margot Lindgren and Tania McCartney to name just a few – identify, celebrate and recommend those books we discover that have feisty, independent, thinking female characters that our readers can relate to.

So what then, would these conservative self-styled social commentators and political leaders make of Princess Swashbuckle? For this froggy princess (designed perhaps as a sideswipe at the saying about having to kiss lots of frogs to find a prince) has dreams to “one day rule the waves as a froggy pirate queen”, much to her parents’ dismay as they see her married to a handsome prince and leading a more conventional, traditional life. Disgusted by this thought, Princess Swashbuckle understands that she is so much more than her parents’ ideas, so she packs her bags and stows away on a pirate ship. Assuming leadership of the Stinky Fish abandoned by its captain, she tells the crew that they are “going on a mission to find NICE things to do.” News of her good deeds spreads far and wide but even swashbuckling princesses can get homesick…

Told in rollicking rhyme and rhythm and beautifully illustrated, this is a story to inspire young girls and boys to know themselves and follow their dreams to find their own version of happy.  If that means bucking the conservative, conventional norm, then so be it. Being the change you want to see can be difficult.   In the wake of the publicity given to Harper Nielsen’s protest, including a dedicated Twitter tag #sitwithharper, social media was flooded with alternative, more inclusive versions of the anthem including this one from Judith Durham.

Just as Harper started a conversation that might change thinking and Princess Swashbuckle changed Frogland forever, we need more of both of them – if only to inspire our girls and to show the right-wing,status-quo, stick-in-the-mud thinkers that young people do have thoughts and opinions and as future leaders, they need to be encouraged to express them, act on them and be acknowledged for their courage to do so.  

Ruby’s Worry

Ruby's Worry

Ruby’s Worry

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ruby’s Worry

Tom Percival

Bloomsbury, 2018 

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

9781408892152

Ruby is very happy being Ruby, happy to be by herself and content in her own company. But one day she discovers she has a companion, one that is invisible to all but her.  It is a worry.  And the more she thinks about it, the bigger it grows, the more persistent and pervasive it is.  No matter where she goes or what she does, it is there with her until she gets to be worrying so much about the worry that there is no room in her brain or life for anything else.

Then, in the park one day, she spies a young boy looking as sad and forlorn as she is.  Taking her courage in her hands she speaks to him, and together they discover something quite miraculous.

Anxiety in children is at an all-time high these days as they try to meet all the expectations put on them – academic, sporty, physical, creative – and as they try to please all those they hold in high esteem- parents, family, friends, teachers… It is no wonder that so many of them are like Ruby, carrying around worries that threaten to swallow them whole if they haven’t done so already. So this book which brings to life the old adage of “a problem shared is a problem halved” is a critical part of any mindfulness program or anything that deals with children’s mental health.  Children take on board all sorts of things that adults don’t realise, bits of overheard conversations or things that they see start to play on their mind, growing bigger with imagination and become all-consuming because not only do they not have the ability to detach themselves from the here and now, but they also don’t have the strategies to deal with them.  Living in the bubble that is often the way of children’s lives these days, they believe that they are the only ones with the problem and that only they can solve it. Despite their apparent connections to others, they actually feel very isolated. 

Therefore to have an easily accessible picture book that starts the conversation is so important. Because Percival does not identify Ruby’s particular worry, the story has universal application- it could be the story of any child in our care. By using the story as the starter for a discussion that demonstrates the importance of reaching out to family and friends for support and that this is as important for children as it is for adults, we are offering them a beginning strategy that can be built on as they mature.  

An important addition to your mindfulness collection.

 

A Different Boy

A Different Boy

A Different Boy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Different Boy

Paul Jennings

Geoff Kelly

A & U Children’s, 2018

112pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781760523503

Anton is lost, lonely, hungry and bewildered as he is led into Wolfdog Hall, a home for boys without parents. He is handed his tag – O. Muller – and told the O is for “Orphan” although he will most likely end up as a C – ‘custody’ or ‘criminal’, the tag for those who try to abscond.  As gloomy and as dismal as his future, which was to have been on the great ocean liner he can see sailing to  “a warm, sunburnt country -a land of sweeping plains and rugged mountains which ran down to golden beaches surrounded by a jewel sea,” Anton soon finds himself between a rock and a hard place.  He is either going to be strapped by a brutal teacher for drawing a rude picture of him or be beaten up by the boy who did draw it for dobbing on him.  But then he recalls his dead’s fathers words – ‘If you’ve got a bad deal, get out of it and move on.” – and so he walks out of the orphanage altogether.

His steps lead him to that ocean liner but how is he to get aboard with no boarding pass, no family, no money and no luggage?  Is he doomed to be returned to the orphanage and fulfil the officer’s prophecy?

Confronted on the first page by just two paragraphs of text surrounded by razor wire, it is obvious that this is not going to be one of Paul Jennings’ more light-hearted stories. And indeed, it isn’t.  Despite its initial appearance as a stepping stone for newly-independent readers, this one has a lot of twists and turns that need a more mature mind to get the most from it.  Although Australia is clearly identified as the “New Land”, Anton’s origins are not defined beyond being a country that has recently been devastated by war, which may resonate with some readers, and the events on board the ship are complex, especially the final resolution.  

As an adult reader, this is Jennings at his best but don’t be misled thinking that this is one for younger readers.  That said, it is unique, different and utterly absorbing for those who are ready for it.

The Dog With Seven Names

The Dog With Seven Names

The Dog With Seven Names

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Dog With Seven Names

Dianne Wolfer

Random House Australia, 2018

240pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9780143787457

A tiny dog, the runt of the litter, is born on a remote cattle station. She shouldn’t have survived, but when she is given to Elsie, the station-owner’s daughter as a Christmas gift, and is called Princess, she becomes a cherished companion. Life is perfect … until War arrives.

With Japanese air raids moving closer, Elsie’s family leaves the Pilbara for the south and safety. But the small dog has to stay behind. Found by Stan and Dave, two drovers intent on signing up for the Army, but who have a mob of cattle to deliver to Port Hedland, she becomes just plain “Dog”. But tragedy strikes and she is taken under the wing of a flying doctor,who calls her Flynn, and becomes a hospital dog and experiences the impact of war on north-western Australia. She witnesses wonderful and terrible things and gives courage to many different humans… 

But through all her adventures and many names, the little dog remembers Elsie, who girl who loved her best of all. Will she ever find her again?

Told through the voice of Princess, this is a heart-warming story that not only tugs at the heart-strings but also brings to life the events of the early 1940s and their impact on north-western Australia, a region as historically remote to many as it is geographically,  in a way that alerts children but doesn’t scare them. 

Many of Dianne Wolfer’s books have an historical theme which brings the past to life for young readers (Light Horse Boy was a CBCA Honour Book in 2014 and Nanna’s Button Tin is a Notable for this year) and once again, her thorough research is a hallmark of this new release.  There is a timeline of the events of World War II aligned to the events in the story as well as other historical notes, all of which not only add authenticity to the story but also provide new pathways for interested readers to follow.  

Independent readers who like animal stories will adore this. 

Lucia and Lawrence

Lucia and Lawrence

Lucia and Lawrence

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lucia and Lawrence

Joanna Francis

New Frontier, 2018 

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

9781925594157

Lucia and Lawrence live next door to each other, but two more diverse children would be hard to find.  Lucia is creative and lives in a world of fantasy with “dreams that reach as high as the sky and as deep as the sea.” She loves playing outdoors, cloud-dreaming and letting her imagination soar. Lawrence, on the other hand, has “a head full of numbers that are predictable and safe.” He prefers to stay indoors, using his imagination in a different way.  Lucia is outgoing, loud and confident; Lawrence is quiet, shy and prefers his own company. She is a risk-taker, he prefers the logic and order of his calculations. Hers is a world of colour ; his more monochromatic. 

Connecting through messages on paper aeroplanes and tin cans joined with string, they build up a friendship, respecting each others’ differences.  But when Lucia asks Lawrence to her birthday party, he declines and watches through his window as Lucia and her friends gallivant around her backyard in fancy dress and having a magical time.  And that gives him an idea, one that will combine his world of numbers and physics and her world of imagination and fantasy.

Children usually make friends easily, prepared to play with whoever is at hand ignoring all but the game in motion.  But every now and then they meet someone who is not quite like them, the yin to their yang, and yet still there is a connection that suggests this will be a deep and lasting relationship. But sometimes, even that connection is at the risk of fracturing as Lucia and Lawrence’s is when he refuses his party invitation and it can be tricky to build a bridge.  But if and when that bridge can be built it can lead to something that is better than before. 

Stunningly illustrated with images and colours that depict their characters’ personalities, this is a different story about a familiar theme that opens up much to explore about Lucia’s imaginary world and Lawrence’s more practical one.  Readers might identify with one child more than the other and this in itself lends itself to discussions and responses that will show a personal connection to the story.  Everyone will know either a Lucia or a Lawrence and be able to reflect on their similarities and differences as they learn the art of compromise, the glue that holds relationships together.