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Busy Betty & The Circus Surprise

Busy Betty & The Circus Surprise

Busy Betty & The Circus Surprise

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Busy Betty & The Circus Surprise

Reese Witherspoon

Xindi Yan

Puffin, 2023

40pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

9781761047510

Every morning, Busy Betty wakes up with “a MILLION questions and a BILLION ideas.”  In this second book, Betty decides to throw her mum a surprise birthday party, and then decides to make it a circus. After all, Jeffrey can juggle, Mae is an acrobat of sorts, she has watched her mother put on makeup every day so that makes her a professional, and while they don’t have a lion, they do have Frank the dog… What could possibly go wrong?

With its bright illustrations that carry much of the story, this moves along at a frenetic pace sweeping the reader up in the narrative as they focus on what else would be needed for a circus.  While it might not be one for bedtime, nevertheless its celebration of imagination and free, spontaneous, unstructured, unregulated, unsupervised play offers lots of ideas for children to create their own circus or other games as the long summer days stretch out, as well as all the social connectivity and learning as problems arise and are solved as a team working together towards a common goal.

In my review of the original story, I noted my wariness of stories told by celebrities where often it is the name selling the book rather than the quality of the story, but this seems destined to be a series that will stand on its merits, particularly because its target audience will probably be unaware of the author’s credits in the film world. 

Pick a Story: A Dinosaur Unicorn Robot Adventure

 Pick a Story: A Dinosaur Unicorn Robot Adventure

Pick a Story: A Dinosaur Unicorn Robot Adventure

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pick a Story: A Dinosaur Unicorn Robot Adventure

Sarah Coyle

Adam Walker-Parker

Farshore, 2023

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

9781405299053

Gwen was very excited about having a fancy-dress birthday party,  the decorations are up and the food set out.  But suddenly the birthday cake that Dad has made disappears!  Who has taken it?

Well, that depends on what the reader decides because depending on whether they choose the unicorn, robot or dinosaur they are taken on a different adventure, each time being able to choose the next chapter in their story.

While choose-your-own adventures have been in novel format for years and been immensely popular because of all the possibilities they open up, a picture book format is unusual. Young readers will love the interactivity that takes them beyond the more familiar lift-the-flap and gives them the power to decide the direction of the story.  And when one is told, they can return to the beginning and start another…  The power of choice.

There are three in this series now – a pirate/alien/jungle/adventure already available and a dragon/mermaid/superhero adventure to be released in time for Christmas – so all those characters that young readers love are covered and they can follow all sorts of paths and trails through the stories. Putting the reader in the writer’s seat is empowering and they might even be able to suggest a new combination or adventure, teaching them that they can not only be readers but writers too.  

 

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A Very Dinosaur Birthday

A Very Dinosaur Birthday

A Very Dinosaur Birthday

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Very Dinosaur Birthday

Adam Wallace

Christopher Nielsen

Thomas Nelson, 2023

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

9781400242054

Dinosaurs are big, and strong, and scary, and farty,

So do you really want them coming to your birthday party

So many little people are fascinated by dinosaurs and can think of nothing better than having them come to their birthday party.  But even though it might be the most amazing party in the neighbourhood that year, there could well be unexpected consequences. Using colourful, cartoon-like illustrations of actual species (which the informed will have delight in identifying) this is an hilarious romp of what-if that will amuse young readers from start to finish.

Some light-hearted fun to inspire the imagination.

We’re Going to a Birthday Party

We're Going to a Birthday Party

We’re Going to a Birthday Party

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’re Going to a Birthday Party

Martha Mumford

Cherie Zamazing

Bloomsbury, 2023

24pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9781526632234

We’re going to a birthday party!
Come and join the fun!

Throughout the year there is not much that is more exciting for a little one than having or going to a birthday party, and in this new release, the bunnies  are gathering their friends together for the birthday party of a lifetime. But there is plenty to do in preparation and young readers will delight in lifting the flaps to help the bunnies find the essentials – perhaps, before they read, they might even make a list of the things they associate with birthday parties so they can check it off as they read and make sure the bunnies don’t miss anything.  

The familiar characters, the  rhythm of the rhyme and the excitement of lifting the flaps to discover what’s hidden underneath will make this a fun read, the perfect introduction to learning about why we have birthdays, building context-specific vocabulary, learning the sequence of the months and discovering when each other’s birthday is and graphing the information.  Riches indeed!

Willa and Woof 2: Birthday Business

Willa and Woof 2: Birthday Business

Willa and Woof 2: Birthday Business

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Willa and Woof 2: Birthday Business

Jacqueline Harvey

Puffin, 2022

128pp., pbk., RRP $A 12.99

9781761043321

Willa’s best old-age-friend Frank hates birthdays, but that’s not going to stop her from throwing him the greatest surprise party ever!

Willa plunges headlong into party planning and things immediately start to go wrong. Why don’t older people look forward to and celebrate birthdays as enthusiastically as the young?  She’ll need all her problem-solving skills (with the help of Tae, her best same-age friend, and her trusty sidekick Woof) to save the celebration!

Can Willa pull off the surprise?

This is the second in this new series from popular Jacqueline Harvey, with the third, Grandparents for Hire due in January, ensuring young readers do not have to wait long between reads for the next episode to whet their appetite.  As with the first, it is created for younger readers who are consolidating their skills and need quality writing, interesting characters and relatable plots, supported by short chapters, a larger font and illustrations.  

In my review of the first one, Mimi is MissingI suggested offering it to a reluctant reader and asking them to read it and assess whether it will be worth buying the additions that follow, and so this could be the consolidation read – is the series living up to expectations?  To extend their thinking, you could invite them to think about what more they learned about the characters in this new story and have them build a summary of characters such as this, so others can get to know them and follow the relationships…

This could then become part of a bigger display called Select-A-Series created by students summarising their own favourite series to persuade others to extend their reading horizons, as well as giving real purpose and context for reading as they become more critical readers, encouraged to pause and think about what they are reading rather than skimming the pages and looking for what’s next.   To add depth it could become part of a poll to find the most popular series for the year, making and building on the display for the entire year ensuring student-centred learning and participation.  

Federal Minister for Education Jason Clare is currently spruiking a proposal for providing teachers with lesson plans, returning to a cookie-cutter approach that focuses on the subject rather than the student, so this could be a way of providing something that meets curriculum outcomes but in a highly personalised way, 

What If, Pig?

What If, Pig?

What If, Pig?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What If, Pig?

Linzie Hunter

HarperCollins, 2021

40pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

9780008409470

Mouse has never had a friend quite like Pig. Pig is so incredibly kind, endlessly thoughtful and fabulously fun, that he is the best friend anyone could ever have. But Pig also has a big secret… he’s a tremendous worrier!

So when he decides to throw a party for all his friends the concern kicks in and he worries about everything from a lion eating the invitations to his guests comparing this party to others.  In fact, he worries so much that he decides to call it off.

Luckily, Mouse is attuned to Pig’s mental health and suggests a walk so they can talk things over before he makes a final decision…

Anxiety about the what ifs are becoming a real part of the psyche of so many of our students these days because adults seem to be attaching such high stakes to the smallest things. And with lockdown in many places stretching out seemingly endlessly the lack of that interaction with their peers that normally provides some perspective and balance is lacking and so molehills become mountains very quickly.  So sharing stories like this in which we are assured that “things don’t stay grey for very long” is an essential part of helping our little ones cope and develop strategies for when the what ifs seem to take over. 

As well as the positive story which is charming in itself, the quirky illustrations and visual tricks with the text really make this book stand out, offering an introduction to the ways illustrators and designers can add so much to words on a page.  It demonstrates the differences in style between artists -compare this pig to one from Three Little Pigs for example and talk about the similarities and differences yet the legitimacy of each style.  This is the age when children become super-critical of their own artwork, and if it doesn’t look like the real thing or what they envisage, many dismiss their efforts, tell themselves they “can’t draw” and this self-talk destroys  their creativity.

So, all in all, this is a must-have for so many reasons. 

Train Party

Train Party

Train Party

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Train Party

Karen Blair

Puffin, 2020

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

9781760899578

No matter how sophisticated travel gets with electric cars, sleek yachts and even spacecraft, there is still a fascination with the old-fashioned steam train. And for little ones, riding on model trains can be a highlight they remember for ever. 

Still a talking point, 10 years on...

Still a talking point, 10 years on…

So this delightful story about a family birthday at a miniature railway park will be as timeless as its topic, particularly as the clever vocabulary choice means the rhyme and rhythm echoes that iconic clickety clack of wheels over train tracks.

Red, blue and green,

yellow and black.


Here come the trains!


Clickety-clack.

Written and illustrated by the illustrator of some of my favourite stories including the irrepressible Eve of the outback, this is one that little readers will love and demand over and over as they take themselves off on their own train adventure and plan their own party. There’s a map of the track on the endpages so they can see where the children go from the station under the trees, around the old shack, passing the pond, over the bridge… and, of course, through the tunnel. Finally, there’s the birthday cake  – what shape will it be? 

The King’s Birthday Suit

The King's Birthday Suit

The King’s Birthday Suit

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The King’s Birthday Suit

Peter Bently

Claire Powell

Bloomsbury, 2021

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

9781408860144

King Albert-Horatio-Otto the Third
had SO many clothes it was simply absurd 

He had clothes for every occasion, even changing just to go to the loo, so when his birthday was on the horizon it was obvious he was going to need a new outfit.  But when fashion designers came from all over the kingdom with their finest collections, he could find nothing suitable. But then two arrived who declared they could  make an outfit of only the very BEST and most special cloth, one that only the most clever and wisest of all could see. So of course the vain king could not resist but the results were not what he expected…

This is an hilarious makeover of Hans Christian Andersen’s  traditional tale The Emperor’s New Clothes with Bently’s clever rhyming text and Powell’s illustrations bringing it to life for a whole new generation of readers.  It is rich, engaging and will have young readers utterly enthralled as they become engrossed in the details and they will love the risqué ending, because it is just a little bit naughty!  So much fun from cover to cover, yet offers so much to talk about whether “clothes maketh the man” and even the meaning of “sycophant”.  

 

Before You Were Born

Before You Were Born

Before You Were Born

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Before You Were Born

Katrina Germein

Hélène Magisson

Working Title Press, 2021 

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

9781876288150

Before you were born
and while you grew,
there was a party
just for you.

In the past, as in as late as the 1970s, pregnancy was a very personal matter and expectant mums like me hid their growing figures underneath voluminous tent dresses as though there were something to be ashamed of.  In fact, there was even outrage just 24 years ago in 1997 when Nicki Buckley, co-host of the very popular Sale of the Century quiz show went on national television wearing a figure-hugging gown that showed her baby bump very clearly!

Thankfully, society has moved on and now pregnancy is celebrated with gender reveal parties getting more and more outlandish and the once humble, discreet baby shower taking on enormous proportions.  So, although this book wouldn’t have been published when my son was born, it can be now and it is wonderful in its celebration of the excitement and anticipation of an impending birth.  Written in rhyme and addressed directly to the child, Germein has captured the joy that parents-to-be feel but it is Magisson’s illustrations that show the diversity of families that celebrate the delight that are its focal point.  No matter what culture, ethnicity, whatever, the happiness that greets the announcement of a pregnancy is universal.  Families gather, the news is shared with all ages, nurseries are prepared and shared and the baby bump is not hidden away … pregnancy is no longer something secretive, even shameful!

This would be the ideal gift for an expectant couple who want something different to share with their child who was the focus of such love and joy but wasn’t quite there to share it! 

Sometimes Cake

Sometimes Cake

Sometimes Cake

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sometimes Cake

Edwina Wyatt

Tamsin Ainslie

Walker, 2020

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

9781760650421

Audrey and Lion are best friends and when Audrey sees Lion with a balloon she assumes it is his birthday.  Even though it isn’t, it must be someone’s somewhere so they celebrate anyway.  Together they move through the week celebrating special things until the day Lion looks forlorn because he seems to have nothing to celebrate.  To cheer him up, Audrey pulls together all the things they enjoy and she has a party just to celebrate their friendship because sometimes it’s about acknowledging the ordinary rather than the extraordinary.

Like other reviewers, I found this to have some of the overtones of the simple logic of Winnie-the-Pooh and his friends, a logic that little people love because it is so literal.  With its soft watercolour illustrations, it is one that preschoolers will enjoy because they could be Audrey or Audrey could be their friend. It also opens up the possibilities for talking about the why and how of  celebrations and how some families do things a little differently, even though cake may be the common element!

A CBCA Picture Book of the Year Notable for 2021.