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Billy and the Minpins

Billy and the Minpins

Billy and the Minpins

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Billy and the Minpins

Roald Dahl

Quentin Blake

Puffin, 2017

112pp., hbk., RRP $A22.99

9780141377506

Billy’s mum is always telling what to do and what not to do to be good,  But all the things he was allowed to do were boring, and those he was forbidden were exciting.  The one thing he was not allowed to do was to never ever go outside the gate all by himself and certainly to never go into the Forest of Sins  which he could see from the loungeroom window.    His mother painted a fearsome picture of the beasts that lived there – Whangdoodles, Hornswogglers, Snozzwanglers, Vernicious Knids and most terrifying of all, the Terrible Bloodsuckling Toothpluckling Stonechuckling Spittler- and told him that while many went in, none came out.

Billy figured this was just mother-talk to keep him from breaking the rules so when one day The Devil whispered in his ear, he could resist no longer and out the window he climbed, through the gate he went and into the forest he disappeared…

Roald Dahl is  master storyteller and he loved to write stories for children that made them not only the heroes but also in defiance of the adults in their lives, so this is Dahl at his best.  While not as well known as some of his other works, it is nevertheless just as gripping and intriguing and engaging as the others.  This new edition is the first time that Quentin Blake has done the illustrations for it in his iconic style and as usual he has brought Dahl’s imagination and words to life.  They are liberally scattered throughout the text, breaking up both the words and the tension so that this is a perfect version for the newly-independent reader venturing into the world of “chapter books’ while, at the same time, introducing fans to a not-so-familiar story.

To me, the perfect novel is one I can hear and see myself reading to my students and just as The BFG captured me from the get-go so did this.  This needs to be on your read-aloud list for 2018.  

What George Forgot

What George Forgot

What George Forgot

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What George Forgot

Kathy Wolff

Richard Byrne

Bloomsbury, 2017

40pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781408884027

George is all ready to go to school but in the back of his mind he has that feeling that he has forgotten something.  Being a boy who never likes to forget anything, it troubles him and so he mentally goes through all his preparations for school.  He’s woken up, made his bed, greeted his patents, got dressed, had breakfast… So what could it be?

Aha! He realises at the very last minute as the school bus turns up that it is his shoes he has forgotten!  Or is it???

Young children will love trying to help George remember and by the end of the book they will be shouting at him just as they do in performances where the villain pops up just behind the hero and quickly disappears.  They will enjoy comparing his routine to theirs as they delight in Richard Byrne’s clever, funny illustrations and the clever use of font and print direction.  And they will probably start to do a mental check before they go out the door in future. They might even add the word ’embarrassing” to their vocabulary!

A good, funny read that will become a favourite.

Why Crocodiles Smile

Why Crocodiles Smile

Why Crocodiles Smile

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why Crocodiles Smile: Cric Croc discovers nature’s wonders

Anthony W Buirchell

Laila Savolainen

Cric Croc Enterprises, 2017

32pp., pbk., RRP $A16.95

 

9780995424340

Young children are warned from an early age to “never smile at a crocodile” but what if the crocodile smiles at you?

Cric the Crocodile has spent a week with his family in the Daintree region of Far North Queensland but he is puzzled because all the crocodiles he met smiled all the time. So his dad Crisis explains why.

The bull Crocodile was a sneaky beast

It was looking around for a scrumptious feast

With big yellow eyes it searched around

Looking for food from the watery ground.

And as those big yellow eyes alighted on a possible meal, it smiled with anticipation. But the creatures – cassowaries, brolgas, cormorants, barramundi and a host of other beautiful creatures indigenous to the area- were smarter that Crocodile and took themselves out of harm’s way very quickly.  Until an unwary Pelican came by…

Like its predecessors the story is told in rhyme as young readers are introduced to a range of Australia’s unique but less familiar creatures.  Beautiful drawings by Pickawoowoo illustrator, Laila Savolainen bring the text to life with their accuracy and spectacular colour palettes as well as inspiring interest in the flora and fauna of a part of Australia that would be unfamiliar to many.  It also introduces the concept of the food chain – after all, the crocodile does have to eat – and perhaps an investigation into the mechanisms that Mother Nature provides so that creatures do not become easy prey.

A worthy addition to the library’s collection of books for younger readers that introduce them to the amazing wonders of this country. 

A Bag and a Bird

A Bag and a Bird

A Bag and a Bird

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Bag and a Bird

Pamela Allen

Viking, 2017

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

9780143783909

John and his mother decided to have a picnic in Sydney’s Botanic Gardens.  The long walk from Kirribilli across the Harbour Bridge to the Gardens was all part of the adventure and there was something special about seeing everyone else rushing while they were relaxing.  

Nevertheless, when they finally arrived they were hungry and John pulled his sandwiches out of a plastic bag.  Surrounded by curious, hungry ibises John is more interested in the way they snaffle his last sandwich when a teasing wind blows his bag onto the ground not realising that he is setting off a chain of events that is unlikely to end well…

Master storyteller Pamela Allen’s message in this story could not be clearer.  Clean Up Australia   estimate that about 1 trillion bags are used and discarded world-wide every year and in Australia alone over 10 million new bags are being used every day. These either end up in landfill or in the waterways, taking 400-1000 years to break down depending on their exposure to light. The story of the ibis is just one story of hundreds that must happen every day to our fauna, without such a good ending.

With plastic bags banned in some jurisdictions and about to be in others, nevertheless even those which replace them can be just as toxic to our wildlife so this is the perfect book to develop awareness and to begin investigations into their use, their disposal and the litter issues that we seem to be drowning in ourselves.  While many schools have student-led litter patrols which focus on the immediate environment, A Bag and a Bird highlights what can happen further afield, particularly bringing the message home with her choice of setting and illustrations of sights very familiar to even those who don’t live in Sydney.

Not just a cracking story, this book has the potential to change attitudes and actions – can we ask for more from 32 pages? A book for all ages. 

 

The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors

The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors

The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors

Drew Daywalt

Adam Rex

HarperCollins, 2017

48pp., hbk, RRP $A24.99

9780008252397

In the ancient and distant realm called the Kingdom of the Backgarden lives the warrior Rock.  He believes he is the greatest because no one can give him a worthy challenge that will prove his superiority.  While his battle with the clothes peg and the apricot entertain the backyard dwellers, he feels unsatisfied so he leaves the garden in search of a worthy foe.

Meanwhile in the Empire of Mum’s Study, Paper is feeling the same way. No one can outwit him and so he, too, leaves to look for a worthy opponent.  At the same time, in the Kitchen Realm, Scissors has beaten both Sticky Tape and Dinosaur Chicken Nuggets  so she also goes on a quest to find something better.

And in the great cavern of Two-Car Garage, the three meet for the first time…

Children (and adults) everywhere play the traditional game of Rock Paper Scissors to help them make decisions and reach compromises and now the mastermind behind The Day the Crayons Quit has brought us their true story. Told in narrative and speech bubbles which make the most of bold fonts and imaginative layout, and accompanied by fantastic pictures that bring the most mundane objects to life and emphasise the action, this is a story that will be enjoyed again and again.  Children will love the boldness and loudness that oozes from the pages and you can just see them swaggering around like the characters as they take on their favourite. 

“Dramatic”, “raucous”, “bombastic”, “energetic”, “outrageous” – all have been used to describe this story. Apart from encapsulating it perfectly, what fun students can have suggesting their own adjectives for it and investigating what those ones mean. Further teachers’ notes are available.

A superhero origin story of a slightly different type! 

The Chocolate Monster

The Chocolate Monster

The Chocolate Monster

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Chocolate Monster

Pip Jones

Laura Hughes

Faber & Faber, 2017

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

9780571327515

 

Oh my goodness!  A mighty tricky, sticky thief has been spotted on the loose.  It’s The Chunk.  He’s silent like a cloud, walks on tippy-toes, has HUGE hands and feet and a bulbous twitching nose.  His purple fur streaked with pink covers his gleaming eyes and even though he is very tall, he’s very good at disguise!  And his passion is chocolate – no matter where it is or how it is, he can find it and steal it.  

This is a lovely romp in rhyme searching out that elusive chocolate monster, that mysterious, invisible creature who manages to discover and devour any chocolate in the house or even the neighbourhood. Everyone is warned to be on their guard because who knows where he will turn up next – and with 100 000 chocolate bars as a reward, who wouldn’t be watching for it.

This is a hilarious standalone story that little ones will love but it also offers some great teaching opportunities, the first being to give the children the description of the monster without showing them Laura Hughes’s interpretation and challenge them to draw what the words suggest.  Even though they are all working with the same words, each picture will be different because of each individual’s previous experience so it is a great introduction to the notion that we all perceive events in a different way depending on what we already know and believe and our role within them.  As a follow-up, share A. A. Milne’s The King’s Breakfast and have the children draw the King!  

Back in the days when we could have fun at school, Year 3 did an investigation into chocolate which transcended curriculum borders and this book would be an ideal starting point for a similar investigation,  Why is chocolate so loved?  Would the book have the same appeal if it were a broccoli monster?  Does a chocolate a day keep the doctor away? Why, if not for a fly no bigger than a pinhead, would there be no chocolate? 

There are riches more yummy than chocolate itself in this book!

The Magic Word

The Magic Word

The Magic Word

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Magic Word

Mac Barnett

Elise Parsley

Balzier & Bray, 2016

40pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9780062354846

Paxton C. Heymeyer seems to have forgotten his manners, so when he asks his babysitter for a cookie she asks him for the magic word.  But instead of saying, “Can I have a cookie, please”, Paxton C. Heymeyer shouts “Can I have a cookie, alakazoomba?”  Suddenly, in a puff of blue smoke he not only discovers a cookie in his hand but the power to summon up anything he wants with that one magic word.  A walrus to chase the babysitter to the North Pole; a waterslide in the living room; a jungle bedroom; anything his imagination lets him dream.  Even an elephant and a robot-servant!

But when Rosie comes to play he finds that things aren’t quite what he wishes for because elephants can’t play cards or any of the other things friends do together…

There would be few of our littlies who have not been asked for “the magic word” so they will relate well to this engaging story of being able to have whatever you want – it brings life to the saying “Be careful what you wish for.”  Asking them what they would wish for or dream of having will elicit a lot of discussion and drawing, but there is also much to think about when Rosie refuses to play and goes home. Friendship and happiness are not all about material things and instant gratification, and this book may provide food for thought for those who want to have the latest thing NOW, and those who wish they could.

 

Fox and the Jumping Contest

Fox and the Jumping Contest

Fox and the Jumping Contest

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fox and the Jumping Contest

Corey R. Tabor

Balzer & Bray, 2016

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

9780062398741

 

The animals are having a jumping contest – Elephant, Bear, Rabbit, Turtle, Frog and Fox have all entered – and Fox is determined he will win.  He even imagines how good the trophy will look perched on his mantlepiece.  

But Fox isn’t particularly good at jumping so he figures if that trophy is going to have pride of place in his loungeroom he will need a bit of assistance.  So while the other animals practise, he schemes and plans and builds.  His solution? A jetpack that he paints to match his fur hoping the other animals won’t notice – so it is clear that he knows he is cheating. 

On the day of the contest with the bird judges all ready and perched high in the branches the animals show their talents.  Frog does well and gets extra points for style; Turtle doesn’t do as well and Elephant less so.  Bear was loud and Rabbit was spectacular.  And then it was Fox’s turn…

This is a story with a twist, and it’s a twist that can spark some great discussion points which are perfect for getting young children to start to think critically, to philosophise and to empathise. Fox with his jetpack strapped to his back disappears so high in the sky that the judges can’t wait for him to return so they begin the awards ceremony. But just as Rabbit is about to receive the trophy, Fox falls back to Earth and plops into it and takes first place. The final scene shows Fox standing back admiring the cup on his mantlepiece, right where he had envisioned it would be.

But does Fox deserve it?  Has he cheated? Were there written rules about external assistance or were they just assumed? Why do we have rules? How do the other animals feel about the win? What about rabbit? Has there been fair play and sportsmanship? What is the twist in that final scene and was it a reasonable way to solve the problem? What does ‘compromise’ mean? 

Careful exploration of the text, verbal and visual, offers a lot of depth to this story and it deserves re-reading to get the most from it.  For example, Elephant doesn’t mind that she cannot jump well because she is “good at other things” and that in itself could provoke another discussion about how we all have our strengths so comparisons are not always fair.  Even very young children have a strong sense of justice and with the pictures enriching the words so well with their extra detail and action there is much to examine and ponder.

Life and literature are full of characters who are determined to win regardless and this is a surprisingly good story that can introduce even very young children to contemplate, at their own level, the philosophical question of does the end justify the means and giving them an opportunity to start thinking on a more abstract level, from different perspectives and consider what is not being said.    

One to get brains moving…

 

 

Three Little Monkeys

Three Little Monkeys

Three Little Monkeys

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Three Little Monkeys

Quentin Blake

Emma Chichester Clark

HarperCollins, 2016

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

9780008164478

Hilda Snibbs is not like other people.  She doesn’t have a dog or a cat or even a goldfish – she has three little monkeys.  Their names are Tim and Sam and Lulu and they are very lively.  Every time she leaves the house and leaves them on their own, they trash it.  Nothing is safe – not her hat, her knitting, her favourite shampoo, the toilet paper…

She tells them she is disappointed in them, she asks what she has done to deserve such wretched little monkeys; she wonders how long she can put up with them – and each time Tim and Sam and Lulu look at her with their big round eye and say nothing.  One day after they had been into everything in her bathroom, she cries, “Oh, for a peaceful life without these wicked little monkeys!”  But when she comes home the next day and they are gone, she realises how much she misses them until…

This is a funny, lovable story that will become a favourite of little ones as they recognise some of the mischief they themselves might have created over time. Quentin Blake’s words marry so well with Emma Chichester Clark’s illustrations – little vignettes that are full of action and fun as they show the monkeys at work – that this is a masterful collaboration.  Even though the monkeys are so naughty they remain lovable and it’s Hilda Snibbs who becomes the “villain”.  As Miss 5 said, “Why did she keep leaving them on their own?  She’s stupid!”

Three Little Monkeys is the perfect bedtime read-aloud as the children delight in the antics and naughtiness of the monkeys and see that they are loved regardless of what they do, while Hilda Snibbs will resonate with exasperated parents who sometimes long for the quiet life they had before their own little monkeys were born., even though they know they wouldn’t have it any other way.

Joyful. 

 

Watch Out for Muddy Puddles

Watch Out for Muddy Puddles

Watch Out for Muddy Puddles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Watch Out for Muddy Puddles

Ben Faulks

Ben Cort

Bloomsbury, 2016

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

9781408867204

 

Watch out for muddy puddles!

Because you never really know…

What there might be lurking

down in the depths below.

As south-eastern Australia picks itself up from another weather event and hopefully heeds the message about the dangers of floodwaters, do we ever stop to warn our children about what might lie in the depths of muddy puddles? Because underneath that calm surface that just asks to be splashed all over from a massive jump in your best boots there could be all sorts of strange things – long-lost footballs, lonely socks and underwater kings or maybe hungry crocodiles, angry pirates or kissing frogs!  Frozen ones can be treacherous too and there are some that will spin you round and round like a washing machine or plunge you deep down through the planet, tumbling past the sandstone, the fossils and the granite. But the worst one of all is the one that is home to the BIG BAD rubber ducky.

A funny and fantastic romp in rhyme through puddles and the imagination from Mr Bloom from CBeebies that will charm the boots of our youngest readers who will be itching to tell you what they think might be at the bottom of a muddy puddle!  Great inspiration for a class mural!!

Watch the trailer, have fun with the activities and investigate where the puddles go when the sun shines.  A perfect introduction to some basic science.