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The Biscuit Maker

The Biscuit Maker

The Biscuit Maker

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Biscuit Maker

Sue Lawson

Liz Anelli

Walker Books, 2020

32pp., hbk., RRP $A25.99

9781760650438

Every morning Benedict Stanley and his  cat Audrey Mae stand at their gate and greet their neighbours as they scurry off ready to start their day.  But sadly, the neighbours are too busy to reply – ears are full and mouths are closed.  And even though Benedict and Audrey Mae spend hours creating a beautiful garden to give those neighbours something beautiful to look at, still the neighbours just rush on by. 

Then one day Rory stops to admire Audrey Mae and with a gappy smile, tells Benedict that the Tooth Fairy will be visiting him tonight.  That give Benedict an idea and so he goes to the kitchen, reaches for his wife’s recipe book and begins to bake…

Soon, nearly every event that happens in Mavin Road is celebrated with a batch of special biscuits, made and delivered secretly by Benedict and Audrey Mae.  what a difference it makes until one day Benedict gets so ill he cannot bake.  Will the neighbours notice? Will they discover who their benefactor is?

This is a heart-warming story that demonstrates the human need for connection to others yet even on a busy street like Mavin Road, loneliness can be deep, especially for those who are older, retired, widowed or otherwise living alone. Rory’s connection to the cat changes more lives that can be imagined by one conversation and that special bond that little ones often have with the generation beyond their parents is celebrated. It also shows how sharing food is a universal way of bringing people together, opening the door for readers to share and cook their own special biscuit recipes for the class.

One of those “old-fashioned” stories that wraps its arms around you like a hug, it is a worthy CBCA Picture Book of the Year Notable for 2021.

Good Question

Good Question

Good Question

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Good Question

Sue Whiting

Annie White

Walker, 2020

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

9781760650841

Remember the story of Henny Penny, Ducky Lucky and their mates who were on their way to tell the King that the sky was falling when they met up with Fox? Well, this is the story behind the story that explains just how Fox came to be in the right place at the right time to get himself something to fill his empty tummy.

There is a hint on the front endpapers that there is more to this story than meets the eye with a number of familiar fairytale characters in the woods, although the main story starts with Fox high in a tree talking to the reader and ready to explain why he is there.  It’s an intriguing tale of cause and effect that takes the reader back through his frustrating day told in a monologue that engages the  reader and makes them want to turn the page.  How do all those characters fit in to one story?

Accompanied by action-packed illustrations that enrich Fox’s narrative in the best way, there is a repetitive refrain that drives the story on until we are back to why Fox is up the tree.  And what happens then? Good question.  I thought you’d never ask.  And to discover the answer you have to look closely and follow right to the final endpages.

As well as being a most entertaining story, this has so much potential to be a model for a class or individual story.  The great storytellers always say they start with the end in mind – they know where their main character is going to finish up and then it’s a matter of working backwards to untangle how that happens and how they got there.  So the story end becomes the story start. Younger writers might all start with the same stimulus of a particular picture that has a character in an unusual situation and track the story backwards, offering the potential for a class book of imaginative interpretations while older students might choose their own character and situation.

This really deserves its place as a CBCA Picture Book of the Year Notable for 2021.

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 Tram to Bondi Beach 40th Anniversary Edition

The Tram to Bondi Beach 40th Anniversary Edition

The Tram to Bondi Beach 40th Anniversary Edition

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Tram to Bondi Beach 40th Anniversary Edition

Libby Hathorn

Julie Vivas

Angus & Robertson, 2021

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

9781460759660

Sydney in the 1930s and Kieran is fascinated by the trams as they rattle past his house and down the hill to Bondi Beach.  But even moreso, he loves to watch Saxon the paperboy swing his way along the running board, deftly selling papers and giving change as he goes.  He is determined that he too will be a paperboy and finally, when he is 9, Mr Francis gives him a job. The only trouble is, when the newsagent hires him,  Saxon tells the younger Keiran this tramstop is his territory.

Keiran is determined and tries to copy Saxon’s technique on the trams. It all ends in a fall and his dad’s fury and the threat of losing his first job. Are Keiran’s dreams shattered before they have really formed?

This is a classic story from one of Australia’s most established children’s authors that has lasted the test of time as it takes the reader back to an era barely recognisable in today’s hustle and bustle.  The lives of Keiran and Isabelle are quite different from that of today’s 9 year-old – could having a job as well as school be a normal thing today? The signature style of Julie Vivas’s illustrations add a richness that demand a compare and contrast that will show that while there are many outward differences as time has moved on, not just between 1931 and now but also 1981 when it was first published and now. that inner strength of family remains unchanged. 

It also highlights the current controversy of the delivery of news, including the situation with Facebook withdrawing access to news sites, setting up an investigation into how people have got their news over time, its integrity and its relevance, making it a book that could be used at any level across the school. 

 

Matthew Flinders – Adventures On Leaky Ships

Matthew Flinders – Adventures On Leaky Ships

Matthew Flinders – Adventures On Leaky Ships

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Matthew Flinders – Adventures On Leaky Ships

Carole Wilkinson

Prue Pittock

Wild Dog, 2020

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

9781742034935

Imagine being so inspired by a book that you change your entire life’s plans and instead of becoming a doctor like your father and grandfather, you opt for a life of adventure on the high seas.  The young Matthew Flinders was so taken with Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe that he decided that a maritime life was the one for him so at the age of 16 he joined the British Royal Navy.

Although England was at war with the French in those days, and Flinders had a taste of conflict early on, Flinders was more interested in exploration and following the lead of his hero, Captain James Cook. The rest, as they say, is history.  From his meeting with surgeon George Bass on HMS Reliance on their way to New South Wales; their adventures in Tom Thumb; their discovery of Bass Strait; the eventual circumnavigation of the land he named Australia in Investigator and his ultimate imprisonment by the French on Mauritius accused of being a spy his achievements are all told in this easily read biography for young readers that offers an introduction to the courage and determination of another era as well as to the man who played such a significant role in the development of this country.

But beyond just offering a history lesson, it also opens up the opportunity for discussing what a comparable journey might look like today.  What are the great unknowns that wait to be explored in 2021 and who, at an age not much more than they are now, would have the courage to say goodbye to family, friends and comfort to pursue their dreams? If Flinders was inspired by Robinson Crusoe, which stories are those that inspire today’s youngsters so much so that lives are consciously changed because of them? Whose story would they like to be a part of?

The adventures and exploits of Matthew Flinders have been the subject of many books over the years and while our students should know of them, by putting them in Flinders’ shoes and connecting what he did to their lives is a most effective way to develop that sense of awe and appreciation that is often lacking around historical studies.

As well as the detailed maps and timeline included, teachers’ notes are available.

Zoe, Max and the Bicycle Bus

Zoe, Max and the Bicycle Bus

Zoe, Max and the Bicycle Bus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Zoe, Max and the Bicycle Bus

Steven Herrick

UQP, 2020

228pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9780702263002

There are as many stories in 5D as there are students, each with a different perspective on the first day of the new school year and a new teacher. There’s Olivia and Dabir, Jordi, Zoe, Lily and Dylan, Max and Mr Bertolli the lollipop man, each very different but united by the commonality of school, each a thread that makes up the tapestry of the class. But only Olivia is allowed to ride her bike to school – until Miss Dillon suggests a bicycle bus to overcome their parents’ fears about traffic and other possibilities.  And  everything changes.

As they ride, they learn new things about themselves and each other, seeing the world through a different lens. Olivia can fix a puncture in two minutes and Max can ride on one wheel.  Lily wishes she wasn’t quite so wobbly and Jordi’s been waiting forever to ride on the road. Dylan has a speedy getaway from alley cats, Dabir’s glad to be part of a group and Zoe’s bike even has a name (Esmeralda). Everyone loves their new way of getting to school.

But there’s a narrow stretch on Fishers Road with no white line to separate the cyclists from the local traffic, so Zoe and Max decide they need to make it right (even if that means breaking a few rules).

This is a novel written in free verse by the master of this format that not only entertains and resonates, but introduces young readers to a different ways of telling a story. Each character tells their own story, with characters swapping in and out after a couple of pages, the next linked to its predecessor in some way and so the reader makes the connections and the continuity rather than imposed descriptions of setting and activity. 

The sun is shining
and today feels like an adventure,
only one I can go on
whenever I want
because I have a bicycle
and friends
and a city
just waiting to be explored.

The same could be said of this book – it’s an adventure only the reader can go on because it is what they bring to the words that brings them alive.

Teachers’ notes are available.

 

I Saw Pete and Pete Saw Me

I Saw Pete and Pete Saw Me

I Saw Pete and Pete Saw Me

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Saw Pete and Pete Saw Me

Maggie Hutchings

Evie Barrow

Affirm, 2020

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

9781925972825

Often, as adults rushing to be where we aren’t yet, we miss the little things on the way, but no so kids. They see and they notice because they are so much more in the moment so when the little boy sees the homeless man begging on the footpath he does not hurry on like the adults who are either not seeing or choosing not to.  Instead he stops and is rewarded with a chat and a beautiful yellow bird drawn in chalk on the path.  And that chat leads to his mum seeing Pete and others in the community who had not seen him before…

But one day Pete gets sick and disappears. No one has seen him and all the little boy wants is a sign that he is OK….

This is a charming story, at times confronting, that really resonated with me because earlier this year a little person at a school that I have been associated with was just like the boy in the story.  She saw, she thought and she acted, initiating a schoolwide fundraiser that raised enough money to purchase some sleepwear for those who were about to endure the coldest of winters on the streets of the national capital. 

Homelessness is a significant issue in this country and sadly our students are likely to know someone not much older than them who will not sleep in their own bed tonight. While its causes and solutions are as diverse as each individual, nevertheless stories like this (dedicated to the author’s great-great  grandmother who was homeless) can start to build social awareness in the same way we are actively promoting environmental awareness.  While the issue itself is hard and spiky, this is a gentle story of caring, unselfishness and hope accompanied by equally engaging illustrations  that might encourage all of us to look and really see, not to avert our eyes if we don’t like the scenery and have the courage of both the little boy and my little girl to act. 

The Secrets of Magnolia Moon

The Secrets of Magnolia Moon

The Secrets of Magnolia Moon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Secrets of Magnolia Moon

Edwina Wyatt

Katherine Quinn

Walker Books, 2019

160pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

9781760651541

From the publisher…

Magnolia Moon is nine years old, likes Greek mythology, her best friend Imogen May (who understands the importance of questions like, “If you could be one fruit, any fruit, what would you be?”), wishing trees, and speaking crows. She knows instinctively that buffadillos are armadillos crossed with buffalos and believes there are walramingos living in her garden. She’s also the kind of person who can be entrusted with a great many secrets. Each chapter in this novel, which captures Magnolia’s year of being nine and ends on Chapter Almost 10, reveals a secret that Magnolia is keeping. But the novel also chronicles a year of change for Magnolia. From her best friend moving to the birth of her little brother Finnegan, Magnolia navigates every challenge and secret that comes her way with the kind of authenticity and innocence that comes from being nine years wise.

I have been deliberately sitting on this book till now because as soon as I got it to review I knew it would be perfect for Miss About-To -Turn-9 and I needed to keep it a secret. But the day is nearly here and with it being listed as a CBCA Notable for Younger Readers for 2020 it is time to share.  While the book spans a year in Magnolia’s life giving the story continuity, each chapter is a separate entity so it is perfect for that bedtime read when just a chapter is enough to transition to the world of dreams. With its recognisable hero mixed with just a touch of fantasy, it is just right for newly independent readers who are reading on and consolidating their love for reading and honing their skills each day. The writing uses twists of phrases such as “It was only Tuesday, but Magnolia felt hungry enough for Wednesday’s and Thursday’s lunch too. Plus a hot chocolate. ” that not only stay in the reader’s head but also inspire them to broaden their own writing style., and there is a balance of illustrations that continues to support those budding skills and understanding.

Miss About-To -Turn-9 is going to love this and with a Canberra winter looming, the more books she has the happier she will be. 

Papa Sky

Papa Sky

Papa Sky

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Papa Sky

Jane Jolly

Sally Heinrich

MidnightSun, 2017

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

9781925227291

Way up high in the cloud forests where the earth meets the sky, Papa Sky is having fun taking handfuls of clouds, shaping them into beautiful sculptures and then, with a puff, sending them east and west across the lands.  All day he is does it. making amazing lifelike images to drift across the big blue for cloud-dreamers to watch and imagine. 

But that night he is so tired that while he is sleeping a wind blows him down, down, down through the forest where he lands with a thump and a bump startling the inquisitive creatures below.  But while they are fascinated by their unexpected visitor, they know that he must return to his home for “Without him, we are nothing.” And so, from the smallest, and the quietest to the most secretive they work together to try to get Papa Sky back where he belongs.  Can they do it?  Will be once again be the maker of cloud-shapes and fabulous figures?

From the first endpaper to the last, this is a beautiful story stunningly illustrated with a palette as gentle as the text making it a seamless match of words and pictures that is unique. High over some of the worlds tropical and subtropical regions where there is persistent moisture that continually rises in the heat, rainforest canopies mingle with the clouds making for a mysterious setting just waiting for someone with the imagination of Jane Jolly and the talent of Sally Heinrich to weave something magical, almost a modern legend that could be shared with children when they ask where the clouds come from and start to see the ever-changing shapes. 

Australia has its own cloud forests beyond Cairns, as does New Zealand so students could investigate what creatures would be there to help Papa Sky if he had fallen there, and, using the back endpaper as a model, present their discoveries. A new way to studying the perennial “creatures of the rainforest” topic! Or perhaps pose the question, “If Papa Sky doesn’t make the clouds, where do they come from?” and male a mural on cloud-shaped paper of the suggestions and then investigate and create an explanation. Or maybe just take them outside on a “partly cloudy” day and let them experience the joy of just lying back and watching the clouds and wondering

This book deserves its place among the CBCA Notables for 2018.

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

Road Trip

Road Trip

Road Trip

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Road Trip

Danny Parker

Nathaniel Eckstrom

Little Hare, 2017

48pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781760127404

It’s a familiar scene on Australian roads – cars packed to overflowing as the family heads out on a road trip.  And, inside, the conversation is just as familiar… “How long till we get there, Dad?” “About an hour.” “How long is an hour?”

Clearly, for this father and son that’s the start of this new adventure because in clever rhyming verse Dad lists all the things that take an hour…

It’s sixty short minutes, not one moment more.

A bike ride, 

A boat trip,

Ice cream by the shore.

It’s a hammock in summer; or the park with the dogs.

It’s a snuggle in winter; hot chocolate with rugs…

But as the drive continues from the city through magnificent countryside his son gets more and more frustrated urging his dad to go faster.  But Dad is quite content to stick to the speed limit and enjoy the journey as the scenery unfolds.  Until finally…

This story will be familiar to most families who have ever undertaken a journey that goes beyond the regular routine of shops, schools and sportsgrounds.  Parents will relate to the joy of just getting away from those clogged, crowded roads and breathing the country air, while their children will be full of the excitement and anticipation of the destination and couldn’t care about the journey.  And why does it always take longer to get there than it does to get home?  And how long is an hour anyway? What are the fun things that a family does that fill in an hour?

Apart from the charming illustrations which bring the journey to life for the adult reader but which tend to show the countryside as somewhat bland and featureless as a child sees it, illustrator Nathaniel Eckstrom has cleverly added some ideas in the endpages which suggest ways that child passengers might like to engage with the journey- making maps, writing a journey, recording a diary (although the concept of a cassette tape might baffle)… Anything other than “I Spy” or playing video games …  This grandma who lives 90 minutes through the countryside from her granddaughters just might have to get creative. Perhaps a scavenger hunt looking through the car windows, or a count-the-clouds competition…

A CBCA Notable for 2018, it is worthy of that honour.