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My Sister

My Sister

My Sister

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Sister

Joanna Young

New Frontier, 2018

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

9781925594041

Who knows you the best, laughs at your jokes and keeps your secrets safe?  Your sister!

This softly illustrated book for very young readers celebrates the special bond that exists between sisters, perhaps to remind them that even when sibling rivalry rears its head, there is still no one closer to you that your sister.

Growing up the only girl in the middle of eight boisterous boys (one brother, seven cousins) sometimes it would have been nice to have had a sister to confide in, particularly if the bond between them is as strong as sisters say.  This is a gentle book about counting your blessings because there really is nothing stronger than the bonds between a family. 

 

My Australia

My Australia

My Australia

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Australia

Julie Murphy

Garry Fleming

NLA Publishing, 2018

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

9780642279163

Over a century ago Dorothea Mackellar wrote her iconic poem My Country and shared the beauty of Australia’s diverse landscape as she wrote about the amazing contrasts that make it unique.  Now Julie Murphy has used a similar theme to share her interpretation of its remarkable environments and habitats from the “wild wind-carved mountains” to the “white salty foam.” 

But this version is not a collection of words to be memorised and analysed and trotted out in response to literature assignments – this is a journey around and across this country that is lavishly illustrated in almost photo-like style by wildlife artist Garry Flemming, making it both an audial and visual celebration of what is on offer.  Followed by several pages with easily-readable explanations of each of the biomes in the stories, which themselves are accompanied by photos held by the National Library of Australia, this book would not only be the perfect souvenir for the traveller but also opens up the country for those who have not yet travelled.

The final words can be the beginning of something as magnificent as this country.

Here in my country I’ll live and roam

My spirit sings here – this is my home.

But home for me is very different to the home of my family and my friends – we stretch from mountains to cities to seaside and the views from our windows are vastly different, and where we live shapes how we live.

Young children tend to see the world immediately around them as indicative of what the whole world is like, so this would be a perfect kickstart to broadening their horizons through teaming up with schools in a totally different landscape perhaps through a Travelling Teddy exchange or a Through My Window art collaboration, both of which not only connect the kids but help them to look closely at their own environment so they can share it with others elsewhere.  Where we live also shapes how we live and what we consider to be normal routines so comparing and contrasting things such as school and leisure time activities can also open doors and minds to difference. My Australia expands to become Our Australia.

 

Flamingo Boy

Flamingo Boy

Flamingo Boy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Flamingo Boy

Michael Morpurgo

HarperCollins, 2018

288pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9780008134631

Time and circumstance have led Vincent to the Camargue in south-western France, the vast delta of the Rhone River,  cut off from the sea by sandbars  with over a third of it shallow lakes or swampy marshland, a haven for birdlife particularly the flamingo. Drawn there by a van Gogh painting that has hung in his bedroom since he was a child and an old story about following the bend in the road, Vincent succumbs to a mystery illness and finds himself in the care of Kezia, a middle-aged gypsy woman and the autistic Lorenzo who has significant intellectual challenges but who has a remarkable affinity with the wildlife, particularly the flamingos, his beloved “flam, flam”. 

Seascape at Saintes-Maries

Seascape at Saintes-Maries

 At first, Vincent assumes that they are husband and wife but as he slowly recovers, Kezia gradually tells him the story of how they became best forever friends and how when the Germans came and occupied their town, another unlikely friendship with a German soldier enabled ‘Renzo to cope and survive with the unexpected and unwanted changes that were inevitable under Occupation  where those, including children, who were different were always under threat.

“Lorenzo loved everything to be the same, even goodbyes. Goodbyes, hellos, sausages and songs, he loved what he knew, never wanted anything to be different. The trouble is that things do change, whether we like it or not. And for Lorenzo any change was always difficult. It still is sometimes.”

Morpurgo has a gift for telling unique, utterly engaging stories that appeal to all ages, and this one is no different. Inspired by his autistic grandson, Sir Michael Morpurgo describes it as “a story of love and friendship, of how people from different cultures and backgrounds can come together, especially when they are under threat.” 

The narrative style of being a story within a story has drawn criticism from some reviewers – all adults; and Morpurgo himself says that his knowledge of autism is “too shallow” but for the younger audience it is intended for, it is gentle and compelling. If the reader takes nothing away from this book beyond Morpurgo’s description of Lorenzo …“He was like no one I had ever encountered before. He joined our world – the real world as we like to think of it – and left it as and when he felt like it. Everything he did was both spontaneous and meant. His words and his ways were his own” which so superbly sums up the autistic child, then it is worth the time taken to absorb yourself in it. 

Alma and How She Got Her Name

Alma and How She Got Her Name

Alma and How She Got Her Name

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alma and How She Got Her Name

Juana Martinez-Neal

Candlewick Press, 2018

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

9780763693558

Sometimes parents give their babies names that are bigger than they are- even when the baby grows up! And so it is with Alma Sofia, Esperanza Jose Pura Candela.  So she turns to her Daddy to explain why she has six names and as he tells her, she learns of Sofia, the grandmother who loved books and flowers; Esperanza, the great-grandmother who longed to travel; José, the grandfather who was an artist; the spiritual Pura and her activist grandmother Candela.  As she hears the story of her name and her history, Alma starts to think it might be a perfect fit after all — and realizes that she will one day have her own story to tell.

Parents choose our names for so many reasons – my own was changed to be the initials of the harbour board of which my grandfather was the chief engineer, initials which were on the risers of the steps leading to his important office so I was convinced they were my personal stairway to heaven – and to discover those reasons can be a fascinating insight into what life was like for our parents at the time, just as it was for Alma. But despite, or because of, our names we all remain unique individuals who will, in time, have our own stories to tell – just as Alma does.

There are so many cross-curriculum activities that can be done just by playing with and exploring our names – my students loved to see how much their names were worth if each letter had the dollar value of a Scrabble tile – that to have such a clever, poignant but fascinating story such as this to kickstart the investigations is just perfect.  (If you’re looking for suggestions scramble through your Teacher Resource section and see if you have a copy of Maths  About Me, written in 1991 under my other name of Hosie.)

Maths About Me

Maths About Me

Sandcastle

Sandcastle

Sandcastle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sandcastle

Philip Bunting

Allen & Unwin, 2018

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

9781760295387

Rae loves the beach and wants to build a sandcastle, one of those magnificent ones you see in books with towers, ramparts, a moat and even a dragon to guard it!  With the help of his grandfather, he does just that. But while they eat their fish and chips, the inexorable tide moves closer and closer and Rae is worried that the fortifications will not be enough to keep out the sea.  Sadly, they don’t but Rae learns an amazing lesson about the nature of things…

In the author’s dedication he says, “You, me, this book, your breakfast…we’re all made from tiny particles, stuff that has been around since the beginning of time.  We’re only borrowing these particles from the enormous universe that made them.  Once we’re done with them, the bits that make us will go on to lead many new existences on Earth, and beyond.” So while, on the surface, this could be just a pleasant story about a boy and his grandfather at the beach doing something and experiencing the consequences that so many young readers will resonate with, it could also be an introduction to lessons about matter and atoms and stuff, another one of those topics that little ones find tricky to understand because they can’t see the individual components.

But for me, I found beauty in the words as a way of helping a child cope with the grief of losing a family member or pet – that no matter how a disease might have crept through their body and ultimately stolen it, as the sea does a sandcastle, the person still exists as memories and that a little part of them lives on in each person they touched and influenced in some way.  Very philosophical for so early in the morning but a mark of a quality storyteller whose work can touch the reader in many, often unintended, ways.

Parvana – a graphic novel

Parvana - a graphic novel

Parvana – a graphic novel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Parvana – a graphic novel

Deborah Ellis

Allen & Unwin, 2018

80pp., graphic novel, RRP $A19.99

9781760631970

In 2000, Canadian author Deborah Ellis told the story of Parvana, an 11 year old girl who living in  Kabul, Afghanistan with her mother Fatana, her father, her older sister Nooria, and two younger siblings, Maryam and Ali when Taliban soldiers enter her house and arrest her father for having a foreign education and beginning a fascinating, intriguing, award-winning series of books which include Parvana’s Journey , Shauzia  and Parvana’s Promise that shone a spotlight on the conditions of women and girls in Afghanistan that continues to this day.

As a series it is an amazing, true-to-life story of a young girl living in circumstances that the rest of the world knew little about but which has now led to the establishment of international organisations which support not only Afghan women but the recognition and provision of education for girls in male-dominated countries like Afghanistan and Pakistan.  As a story, it is one of courage, resilience, determination and grit that is inspirational as well as educational.  So many young girls that I know who have read this have commented about how it puts their own issues into perspective.

Renamed The Breadwinner in the US, it was made into a film of the same name and now that has been adapted into graphic novel format which will enable so many more to learn about Parvana’s story and perhaps continue to read the entire series.

If this series is not on your shelves for your Year 5/6+ readers, it should be.  If it is but has not circulated, perhaps it is time to promote it to a new audience.   In my opinion, it is a modern classic that should be read by all as an introduction to the world beyond the Australian classroom.

 

NB If you are searching for the series it also has the titles The Breadwinner (1),  Mud City (3) and My Name is Parvana (4)

Piggy: Let’s Be Friends!

Piggy: Let's Be Friends!

Piggy: Let’s Be Friends!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Piggy: Let’s Be Friends!

Trevor Lai

Bloomsbury, 2018

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

9781681190686

Piggy loves reading books, having tea parties, and most of all, making new friends! One day he sees a little mole across his garden. Before Piggy can get to know him, the mole hides underground. 

Miles loves reading books and baking cakes, and he would love to have a friend! But the world above makes him so nervous that every time he goes above ground he sneezes. One day they spot each other but before Piggy can find out more, Miles disappears back underground.  Can they find a way to get together?

This is a picture book that little people will love for its bold, bright characters (especially Piggy’s enormous glasses) and its gentle message that friends can be found anywhere no matter how different or shy we might be.  Piggy knows this because initially, in Lai’s first book about him,  he spent all his time reading and was too busy to meet others, but discovered the joy of friendship when he decided to save his very last book and took a kite outside. 

A fresh story about a familiar topic that will appeal to very young readers.

Reflection: remembering those who serve in war

Reflection: remembering those who serve in war

Reflection: remembering those who serve in war

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reflection: remembering those who serve in war

Rebecka Sharpe Shelberg

Robin Cowcher

Walker Books, 2016

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

9781922179050

Left! Left! Left! Right! Left! We make our way in the dark.

On the one hand feet make their way to a commemorative service; on the other soldiers’ boots take them to the battlefront. 

As ANZAC Day approaches and the centenary commemorations of World War I continue, this book reminds us that Australians have been involved in wars since before we were even officially called Australia and that our presence is known and respected in wartorn countries even today.

Each double-page spread with its simple text and evocative illustrations juxtaposes the people at the commemorative ceremonies with soldiers in conflict throughout our history. From the title page where the family hurries out the door into darkness through to the endpapers with the iconic poppies that we associate with remembrance in this country the reader is taken on a journey through our military history in such a sensitive way. 

As the Dawn Service moves through prayers,  the raising of the flags, the lighting of candles, the placement of wreaths and poppies, silences and the familiar bugle call of The Last Post and Reveille so too we move through time –  The Boer War, World Wars I and II. Korea, Vietnam, Iraq I and II, Bosnia & Herzegovina, East Timor, Afghanistan – whether as combat troops or peacekeepers, Australians have had a role committing hundreds of thousands of men and women, each of whom deserves our respect and gratitude. While each page just has one factual statement of what is happening, the  illustrations bring a depth and dimension that inspire emotion and memories as the two marry together perfectly. From the sprig of rosemary somehow surviving the stomp of boots on the first page to the ghost-like images marching with the people on the last, there is a sense that this is an enduring commitment by military and civilian personnel alike.   One could not stand without the other.   

Thumbnail sketches of each conflict are provided at the end of the book and teachers notes’ are also available for those who want to use this as the first step in a deeper investigation for both History and English. It may even inspire some students to investigate the role that their family has had in the Services and given our multicultural population there may be students who have personal experiences to share that might give a unique insight that can’t be gleaned from picture books, no matter how stunning they are.

Something a little different to share this ANZAC Day, not only to remember the huge contribution that has been made but also to acknowledge those who have served and continue to serve so that those students who have had or still have family in the military forces understand that they are included in the thoughts and prayers.  The services are not just for the sacrifices made long ago on faraway battlefields by generations unknown, but for everyone who has served in the short 120 years of our united history.

We hear the sweet songs of morning. And we remember them.

 

Ruby in the Ruins

Ruby in the Ruins

Ruby in the Ruins

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ruby in the Ruins

Shirley Hughes

Walker Books, 2018

32pp., hbk., RRP $A27.99

9781406375893

“Ruby and Mum have lived through the terrifying London Blitz and are waiting for Dad to come home from the war. Ruby hardly recognizes the tall man who steps off the train, but when she falls in the ruins nearby, there’s only one person who she wants to rescue her.”

Even though the setting and time are very specific in this new story from multiple award-winner Shirley Hughes, it is one with universal application for all those children whose parents have been away for an extended time and their return means changes not just to regular routines but also having to get to know this stranger whose experiences have changed them as much as those left behind have changed.  It also has particular application to many of Australia’s children as it could be the story of their grandparents and great-grandparents  who came here after the huge disruptions caused by World War II, helping to put pictures into minds that previously had only heard words.  

We are so lucky not to have known the devastation and death of war on our doorstep but many of our new arrivals may be more than familiar with the scenes and the experiences so it needs a sensitive and knowledgeable adult to share this story, particularly if it is read aloud to a class.  An important story about the lives of children in another time while remembering it could also be the story of a child in our own time.

 

Dinosaur Juniors (1) – Happy Hatchday

Dinosaur Juniors (1) - Happy Hatchday

Dinosaur Juniors (1) – Happy Hatchday

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dinosaur Juniors (1) – Happy Hatchday

Rob Biddulph

HarperCollins, 2018

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

9780008286385

Once upon a time a long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, time ago there was a batch of 

nine perfect eggs.  One by one, eight of them hatched and out came Otto, Winnie, Hector, Sue, Nancy, Martin, Wilf and Boo Dinosaur.  And then, finally Greg (short for gregosaurus) popped out.  But Greg was a week later than his brothers and sisters and when he went to join them, they had paired up and were really busy – Otto and Winnie were painting and gluing; Sue and Hector were baking; Nancy and Martin were making music; and Wilf and Boo were blowing balloons.  There seemed to be no room for Greg anywhere. He was very despondent.  But then his little friend Ziggy the dragonfly tells him to cheer up…

This is a charming story, the first in the series, that will delight younger readers with its clever rhyme and bright pictures. They will empathise with Greg as he tries to find a friend and have fun trying to spot Ziggy in each spread.  

We all know that dinosaurs are the preschooler’s best friend so Biddulph has the content covered, and the rhyme and rhythm and colour will really entice the very young to want to read it for themselves. Perfect for preschoolers.