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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.

 

 

The Thank-you Present

The Thank-you Present

The Thank-you Present

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Thank-you Present

Jane Martino

Annie White

Puffin, 2020

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

9781761040054

Evie and Lola are best friends.  They share everything and like the same things.  But most of all they like July because that’s when they have their birthdays, and birthdays mean presents.  But July is a long way away and they really can’t wait until then.  However, when they put a plan to have their birthdays now to their Dad, he says no and explains that presents are a way of saying thank you.  At first the girls don’t understand but when they do, they discover the meaning and the feeling of gratitude.

 This is the first book in the five-part mindfulness-informed series, developed in collaboration with Smiling Mind, Australia’s leading not-for-profit organisation in the pre-emptive mental health space. This year we have all learned that gratitude comes in many forms and the things we are grateful are not necessarily physical and tangible. Following the story, which is thought-provoking especially for littlies, there is a three-minute guided exercise focusing on gratitude  for the reader to engage in as well as a suggestion for creating a thank you letter, and an activity pack to make it easier. 

If there is a silver lining to the events of 2020 it is the spotlight being shone on the mental health of all ages of the community, including our youngest who don’t necessarily understand what’s been happening and why they can’t do the things they take for granted. Introducing them to the concept of being grateful for what they do have rather than grieving for what they haven’t can be a sound springboard.

 

Hound the Detective

Hound the Detective

Hound the Detective

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hound the Detective

Kimberley Andrews

Puffin, 2020

32pp., pbk., RRP $A17.99

9780143774655

I’m Hound! And I’m a sleuth.

I solve all types of cases.

I sniff and snuff until my nose

detects the clues and traces.

Missing jewels, stolen cars —I always solve the crime.

And his latest case has been mysteriously delivered by post, sending him on a trail that takes him all over town on the scent of something mysterious – although that something isn’t disclosed till the very last page. 

Kimberley Andrews, the creator of the memorable Puffin the Architect has created another masterpiece that will have readers of all ages poring over the detailed illustrations as eagerly as Hound follows his nose,  searching for clues and other hidden treasures. With its clever rhyming text, there’s an unspoken challenge for the reader to find the solution before Hound does, ensuring close engagement with the mystery and offering the opportunity for prediction and speculation. One for a range of ages that reminded me of the fun my students had trying to solve the mystery in the Graeme Base classic, The Eleventh Hour.

Isla’s Family Tree

Isla’s Family Tree

Isla’s Family Tree

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Isla’s Family Tree

Katrina McKelvey

Prue Pittock

EK Books, 2020

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

9781925820379

Isla’s family is about to grow and she is not happy.  “This family is full”, she declares.

So her mother sits her down and explains how families are like trees -they have a trunk that is formed by the grandparents, branches formed by their children and then the leaves are the children of those children like Isla and her cousins.  Isla begins to understand but when she learns that her mum is to have two babies, then there is no room for any more leaves on her branch and the family is definitely full.

The prospect of a new baby entering an already tight-knit family is very common and can be very confronting to a child who is used to being the only one so this approach to explaining the upcoming event is one that will appeal to many parents. Promoting it with your parent community would be a great way to promote the school library’s relationship with that community. 

However it would also have a valuable place in the early childhood classroom as children investigate their families and their structure.  Not all of Isla’s family have the traditional formation of mother, father and children so there is  scope for each child to make their own tree and show and share that families can have all sorts of shapes, just as trees and their leaves do, perhaps bringing comfort to those who might see themselves as being different. 

Investigating their own origins is always a surefire winner with young children because it deeply connects to their own lives and there are as many branches to explore as there are in the family tree. The concepts of birthdays, naming, physical appearance and genetics, development and maturation, vocabulary building… the list is almost endless with lots of other stories that can be shared as well.  There are teachers’ notes available.

It also helps children understand that their trepidation when faced with the same sort of news and change is normal, that sometimes we have to change a little ourselves so we can adapt to that change but that’s what people do and it can help us grow too. 

Another example of how what appears to be a simple picture book for young readers can open up a world of possibilities. 

My Parents Cancelled My Birthday

My Parents Cancelled My Birthday

My Parents Cancelled My Birthday

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Parents Cancelled My Birthday

Jo Simmons

Nathan Reed

Bloomsbury, 2019

256pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

9781526606587

Tom is really looking forward to his birthday- he has had to wait a whole year while all the others in his class have had theirs and he is the last to do so. It is also his Lucky Birthday – 11 on the 11th – and so it is sure to be extra special with amazing activities and lots of presents.  But then disasters begin to befall the family – the Curse of the Tooth Fairy according to his little sister Meg – and his parents are so swamped they cancel his birthday.  How can this be?  And with the invitations designed and delivered already!!  

But then Tom draws on his resistingance, and with the help of his friends decides to throw himself the best party ever!  What could go wrong?

Written in the first person so the reader is constantly viewing the circumstances through Tom’s eyes and empathising, this is an engaging read for the newly-independent reader. Peppered with cartoon-like illustrations and Dad’s peculiar expressions, it is funny without resorting to toilet humour and a seriously hilarious but concerning twist at the end, this is one to promote to the boys who are looking for something quirky and fun.

Clancy the Quokka

Clancy the Quokka

Clancy the Quokka

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Clancy the Quokka

Lili Wilkinson

Alison Mutton

Allen & Unwin, 2019

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

9781760634711

Here’s Clancy the quokka. So friendly and charming.
His innocent face is entirely disarming…

But Clancy has a fancy for all things sweet and his favourite pastime is raiding the picnics of island visitors, something he plots and schemes to do at every opportunity.  So when he hears the noises of a child’s birthday party and sees the enormous feast that is on offer, including a huge birthday cake he determines that it will be his.  And so he sets out on his mission.  Nothing distracts him until he reaches his goal except the lit candles and then he gets cranky…

This is a funny story about how a determined creature can set their mind to something and be so set on achieving it they don’t even see the consequences of their behaviour, so great is their drive.  Is it OK to be so single-minded and focused that the impact on other people’s lives can be disregarded? Could there have been a middle road that would be a win-win for Clancy and the party-goers?

Written in rhyme that bounces along, with colourful illustrations that depict the perfect, traditional birthday party that all children would love, it’s hard to determine whether Clancy is a goodie or a baddy. which in turn sets up a discussion about characterisation.  Are characters/people one-dimensional or are we more complex than that?  A class vote and chart of the justification for the decision would prove interesting. When Clancy vows to change his ways, is that as easy as it sounds or is temptation a hard taskmaster? There might even be a conversation about how Clancy developed a love of sweet things could lead to awareness about human intervention in feeding wild animals and the consequences that can have. Is it ever OK?

Little ones will enjoy the rhythm and the rhyme, the plot and the ending but it’s also an opportunity to get them thinking about the importance of creating characters that they will invest in and care about enough to read to the end. And if there is a bigger picture for the reader to think about introduced, even better.