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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.  

 

The Sleeping Beauty – The Australian Ballet

The Sleeping Beauty

The Sleeping Beauty

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Sleeping Beauty – The Australian Ballet

David McAllister

Gabriela Tylesova

Little Hare, 2017

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

9781760129934

“From the stage to the page”.

Based on the Australian Ballet’s 2015 production of this iconic ballet in which Creative Director David McAllister wanted to preserve the original choreography by Pepita “while introducing modern pacing and narrative logic” this is a ballet lover’s must-have. 

Following the traditional story with no Disney additions in sight,  the story of Aurora, Carabosse, the Lilac Fairy and the handsome prince is told in simple narrative,  accompanied by the most exquisite illustrations created by Gabriela Tylesova who was also the designer of the stage production. In all the shades of grey and pink all the characters have a magical quality filled with intricate detail that makes their balletic movements jump off the page. You can see the ballet and hear the music, even in the silence of awe.

 

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

 

From the intriguing front cover to the stunning back one, this is a book that will needs to be in the ballet-lover’s collection as well as that of anyone who just likes beautiful things.  It thoroughly deserves its CBCA 2018 Notables nomination.

Busy Little Creatures

Busy Little Creatures

Busy Little Creatures

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Busy Little Creatures

Raising Literacy Australia

Fiona Bowden

Little Book Press, 2017

24pp., hbk., RRP $A14.99

9780994385345 

From bees to beetle to butterflies, our world is full of busy little creatures and ten of them are collected here in a book which not only introduces them but also helps the very young reader explore movement, colours, patterns, sizes and numbers. Perhaps they might also become a detective as they create a chart of the creatures so they can tick off each as it is discovered and maybe even add new ones not featured in the book!  There could also be discussions about why people are dependent on these minibeasts and how we need to protect them rather than squash them, squirt them and otherwise kill them, as well as learning which are friendly and which are not-so!

Wilbur, Grace and Joe

Wilbur, Grace and Joe

Wilbur, Grace and Joe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wilbur, Grace and Joe

Phil Cummings

Amanda Graham

Little Book Press, 2017

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

9780994385284

Wilbur the dog is as much in love with the new twins Grace and Joe as their parents. He becomes their furry, four-legged guardian angel as he shares the exciting days and the sleepless nights as they grow from newborns to toddlers with all that that entails.

This is a charming family story with a soft palette that emphasises its gentleness and which families will relate to as a new baby enters the world of a couple and their dog.  A lovely bedtime story for a young reader with a faithful dog who will want to know if that’s what their life was like too.

 

That Christmas Feeling

 

 

 

That Christmas Feeling

That Christmas Feeling

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That Christmas Feeling

Lili Wilkinson

Amanda Francey

Allen & Unwin, 2017

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

9781760294960

This Christmas sure isn’t like last Christmas.  This year Jem and Dottie and Shortbread the dog are staying with Grandma and Grandpa and the fizzy, exciting feeling where everything is a bit magical just isn’t there.  No matter how hard Grandma and Grandpa try to replicate the events of last year, the feeling isn’t happening and Jem and Dottie are so worried that their mum and dad won’t get home in time. There is no sparkle.

Come bedtime and with still no parents, and a concern that Santa won’t find them, Dottie is really despondent,  To cheer her up Jem suggests they go outside and find Christmas… and as they marvel in the stars which are their twinkly lights and sing some carols they hear a noise.  Is it Santa?  No it’s a car…

Every year authors’ imaginations come up with a host of new stories for this festive season, and That Christmas Feeling has to be one of the most special for this year.  Sometimes, for lots of reasons, it is hard to get your Christmas on and no matter how hard you or others try, it just doesn’t happen. Lili Wilkinson, who established http://insideadog.com.au, the Inky Awards and the Inkys Creative Reading Prize at the Centre for Youth Literature, State Library of Victoria, has created a gentle, loving story that will resonate with lots of children who are missing their parents at this time and whose absence is all the more poignant because of the dates.  While there is a happy ending for Jem and Dottie, others are not so fortunate so sharing the story could be a catalyst for our children to think of those who can’t get the feeling this year and how they might be able to reach out to them in some way.  

Something very special to add to your Christmas Countdown collection.

A Very Quacky Christmas

 

 

 

A Very Quacky Christmas

A Very Quacky Christmas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Very Quacky Christmas

Frances Watts

Ann James

ABC Books, 2017

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

9780733329623

Sebastian Tortoise is bamboozled by Samantha Duck’s Christmas preparations.  As she winds tinsel around the reeds, hangs baubles and her Christmas stocking on a branch, and sings “We wish you a quacky Christmas” while making a long list so she can give presents to all the animals in the world, he keeps telling her that Christmas is not for animals.  But she convinces him to help her by pointing out that Christmas is about giving and sharing and that they can make all the gift themselves by getting the other animals on the farm to help. 

To his surprise, the animals love the idea and each helps in their own way keeping Samantha and   Sebastian very busy.  But having made all the presents, delivering them on Christmas Eve becomes problematic – perhaps Christmas is not for animals after all.

This is a gentle story for younger children that celebrates the joy of sharing and giving, belief and perseverance and offers another perspective of the meaning of Christmas for little ones. Is Christmas just about receiving presents?  Do presents have to be store-bought, big, bright and shiny to be worthwhile?  What could they make by themselves or with a sibling or friend to give to others? Perhaps children could draw a name out of a hat and make just one present for that child as part of the STEM curriculum so each gets something and the pressure put on parents to provide presents for everyone that is becoming a common expectation can be abolished.  

Even though Sebastian was so sceptical he agreed  to help Samantha and he is the one encouraged to keep trying when all seems lost so explore the concept of friendship and how teamwork can often achieve the impossible. 

Unlike many books with a Christmas theme, this one is as rich in ideas to explore as Santa’s sack while still maintaining the charm and the delight of the season. 

Teachers notes are available but for me,  the story stands alone as a must-have addition to that special time of the Christmas Countdown at bedtime.     

 

Mr Bambuckle’s Remarkables

Mr Bambuckle’s Remarkables

Mr Bambuckle’s Remarkables

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mr Bambuckle’s Remarkables

Tim Harris

James Hart

Random House Australia, 2017

240pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9780143785859

Imagine walking into class and instead of seeing Miss Schlump you see a man in a dazzling blue suit riding a unicycle balanced on top of a desk! Not only that, he seems to be able to magic tricks like flicking rasher of bacon and some eggs from his sleeves and cooking his breakfast on a pre-heated frying pan. Then to top that off he also seems to know everything about each student already and has a unique way of getting them to tell their stories and overcome whatever is bothering them!

Despite the one-size-fits-all curriculum imposed on teachers, the best know that each student is a unique individual with their own unique personalities shaped by their life’s events and only by reaching and teaching the student not the subject, is the child likely to start knowing themselves and reaching their particular potential.  Mr Bambuckle is such a teacher -although Principal Sternblast is definitely not – and through getting the students to tell their stories within a more general narrative framework he does just that. 

There are 15 students in 12B and each has a thumbnail introductory sketch at the beginning of the book, emphasising that this will be a story about them rather than Mr Bambuckle which is just how a class should be.  The child is very much at the centre of his teaching and author Tim Harris has drawn on his long experience as a primary teacher to show that it is possible to know each child individually and draw out the best from them, starting by giving them ownership of what they will do by having them design their own merit stickers – the tried and true but somewhat meaningless tool-of-trade of many. 

Both independent readers and those listening to it as a read-aloud will either recognise their own teacher or wish they were in 12B,while teachers might also like to be Mr Bambuckle.

Great new story from a new author with others in the series on the horizon!

Koala Bare

Koala Bare

Koala Bare

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Koala Bare

Jackie French

Matt Shanks

HarperCollins, 2017

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

9781460751619

If there is anything more than an Australian who hates hearing koalas being labelled “bears”, it is the koalas themselves. 

I may be furry, fat and square-

but I am definitely not a bear!

In this joyful romp in rhyme Koala points out to the little bird trying to stick a “bear” label on his toe why he is not a teddy, a grizzly, a panda, a polar bear, or any other sort of bear – not even one from Goldilocks. 

Who wants blue or yellow fur?

Grey is the colour I prefer!

he says in absolute disdain of teddies and as for wearing trousers!! Teddy bears may feel superior, but not when faced with my posterior!

Jackie French is a most gifted and versatile author, writing for and entertaining older readers with the fabulous Matilda saga ; the newly independents with her Secret History series; history buffs with her family’s story about Horace and of course the very young with the tales about her resident wombat and echidna.  And now she has again drawn on the wonderful wildlife of her idyllic bush home to entertain and educate about koalas!  For me, one of the most appealing aspects of Jackie’s writing apart from telling a ripper yarn which has to be paramount, is her ability to teach as she tells so the reader finishes the book so much richer for having read it. 

But there is also a strong message that we are each unique and as individuals we shouldn’t be stereotyped or taken for what we are not.  As a natural redhead I’ve been plagued with assumptions that I have a fiery temper when really I’m quite placid and reasonable, and if I fire up it’s the issue at hand and nothing to do with my hair colour.  Everywhere we turn these days people are being labelled based on what they look like not who they are and this is a great story to start young readers thinking about the value of the individual rather than judging by how they are dressed or the colour of their skin. 

Matt Shanks has emphasised the gentle but firm thread of this story with his soft lines and light palette using watercolours.  Even the cover is soft to touch.   The addition of the scholarly cockatoo taking notes on each page is masterful.  Little ones will enjoy looking for him while others might predict what he has learned and recorded from each experience. There’s an opportunity to summarise right there – informal, in context and purposeful!

Apart from being a must-have addition to the library’s collection, this is the perfect gift for any little ones but particularly those who live overseas.  Maybe it will help dispel the belief that koalas are bears and save the grating on the ears from all those who know they are NOT!

Teaching notes are available but whether the little ones for whom this is intended need to know the technicalities of ‘onset and rime’ baffles me.  This is where schools stomp on the joy and wonder of reading – they have to teach a curriculum that focuses on deconstructing text rather than constructing imagination and wonderment! Shame, ACARA, shame!

 

Jump and Shout

Jump and Shout

Jump and Shout

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jump and Shout

Mike Dumbleton

Peter Carnavas

Little Book Press, 2017

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

 9780994385376

Is there anything better than a family picnic in the park where you can walk and run, jump and shout and climb and swing and then flop and drop at day’s end?

This is a rollicking adventure perfect for preschoolers who will recognise themselves in the story and will love to join in all the actions as they relive a special day out they have had, right through to the very end!

Written in rhyme with each word cleverly illustrated to show what it says, this is one that a little one will soon read independently as the content is so familiar. Dumbleton and Carnavas   really know how to reach our younger readers and start them on their adventures in reading.

Those of you familiar with The Little Big Book Club and Raising Literacy Australia and their work with early childhood literacy will be glad to know that Little Book Press is its new official publishing house and there is already an extensive catalog of titles perfect for preschoolers, many of which have been reviewed on this blog.