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Happy Birthday Wombat

Happy Birthday Wombat

Happy Birthday Wombat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Birthday Wombat

Jackie French

Bruce Whatley

HarperCollins, 2019

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

9781460751596

There are a few modern characters in Australian children’s literature that are a must-have in the literary and literacy journey of every young reader, and one of those is Mothball the wombat. It is 16 years since we first met her in 2003 in Diary of a Wombat and here she is, back again in a new adventure. 

Today is her birthday and while her human friends are set to enjoy a party for her, birthday parties seen through a wombat’s lens are different to those through a child’s lens. A jumping castle may be fun for the children but it’s an enemy to vanquish to a wombat!   The result is an hilarious adventure that combines the minimal text of Mothball’s thoughts with the classic illustrations that tell so much of the story, and which thoroughly engage the young reader as they follow Mothball’s day.

Anyone who follows Jackie’s Facebook page will be aware of the adventures she shares about Wild Whiskers and friends, and knows of her love for and affinity with these creatures, including that they bite and they can be very destructive.  But her portrayal of these characteristics as being almost childlike in their single-mindedness not only appeals to the audience for whom she is writing, but also raises awareness of these creatures in our environment, encouraging a love to protect them from an early age. Living in the country as I do, sadly wombats are often the victims of cars and I will never forget having to pacify Miss Then-3 when she saw “Mothball” on the side of the road and clearly in wombat heaven. It took a lot of talking to assure her it was a distant cousin who hadn’t learned the road rules and Mothball was very happy still living with Jackie near Braidwood.

Long may she go on to have many more adventures that will bring such delight and empathy to our very youngest readers.

For those who need to satisfy curriculum outcomes, teachers’ notes are available.

 

 

 

 

The Flying Orchestra

The Flying Orchestra

The Flying Orchestra

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Flying Orchestra

Clare McFadden

UQP, 2019

40pp., pbk., RRP $A16.95

9780702249297

No matter what is happening in our lives, the Flying Orchestra has a solo, a symphony or a sonata to accompany it  Whether a happy, joyous occasion, or one that disappoints or even invokes sadness there is a piece of music to go with it and the orchestra is ready to play regardless of whether we are in the suburbs, at the airport, or out in the country.

This is the paperback release of of the hardback version which won the CBCA Crichton Award in 2011 and is perfect for introducing a new generation of young readers to the music around us.  It includes a list of appropriate orchestral pieces that may be the child’s first introduction to this sort of music, provoking plenty of discussion about why a particular piece was chosen and introducing them to how music can both provoke and reflect a variety of emotions and moods. While the notion of an actual orchestra flying around might be a piece of fantasy, nevertheless the concept that music surrounds us and that somewhere, sometime, someone has composed just the right piece of music to match our actions, thoughts and feelings is one that many children will find fascinating and may make them even more sensitive to their world and what it offers.  Just imagine the sounds that would accompany a day “so windy that even the angels lose their balance from the top of City Hall.”

Teachers’ notes for early childhood are available here while those for older readers are available here, while McFadden herself reads the story with a musical accompaniment on You Tube.

If you or your teaching colleagues are planning to introduce young students to the wide world of music this year and are looking for something beyond the traditional Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf or Britten’s The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra or Saint-Saens Carnival of the Animals, this could be it.

The Perfect Leaf

The Perfect Leaf

The Perfect Leaf

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Perfect Leaf

Andrew Plant

Ford Street, 2018 

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

9781925736007

In the centre of the local town there are huge trees, planted generations ago and now the source of the most stunning leaf show in autumn that children and adults alike love to swoosh through, making them scatter, building piles to fall into and have some great free fun on Mother Nature.  

And so it is with Elly and Mai on this “cold-sun sort of day, this wind-in-the-branches day.  Both are in the park and they meet as they kick their way through the rustling, crunching piles, each searching for that perfect leaf and eventually finding something even more special.  Is there a perfect leaf to be found?  Is it yellow as butter or red as a summer apple? Delicate as gold or crimson velvet? Like a warm flame on a winter’s day of rain or like the sun on your face on a day so cold that your breath steams like a dragon’s? Does it matter if there is a tear, a mark or a hole or do they all have a special magic?

The language, the pictures, the colours of this story make the fun of playing in autumn leaves that we all remember burst from the page in a joyous celebration of childhood delight.  Young readers will readily relate to Elly and Mai and their special quest while adult readers will have a smile of reminiscence. Apart from the riot of colour, Andrew has also hidden lots of little woodland dwellers in the shapes and shadows pictures – you can find the list in the teachers’ notes  – so the reader is encouraged to not only look at the details in the picture but also to look more closely at the natural world that surrounds them so that something like a pile of autumn leaves becomes a full sensory experience.  Perhaps they, too, will find the magic as Elly and Mai did. 

Each time I receive a book with Andrew Plant’s name on it (The Poppy, Spark and Glitch) I look forward  to something special – and this is no different. A wonderful kickstart to asking “Why do the leaves change colour?” and all the STEM activities associated with that.

I Got a Chicken for My Birthday

I Got a Chicken for My Birthday

I Got a Chicken for My Birthday

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Got a Chicken for My Birthday

Laura Gehl

Sarah Horne

Carolrhoda Books, 2018

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

9781512431308

Three times Ana asked Abuela Lola for tickets to the amusement park for her birthday but instead, she got a CHICKEN. Somewhat pragmatic Ana figures it’s better than socks or a sweater or underwear and she does like scrambled eggs, but this is not ordinary chicken.  Rather than laying eggs and doing other chicken things, this one has a long list of the most extraordinary things including straw, sticks and bricks, 100 steel girders, 10 000 screws, 60 000 nails, a host of familiar nursery characters, even a partridge in a pear tree!  

Then with the help of Ana’s other pets, the chicken sets to work digging, building, hammering… what on earth is happening?

This is a unique story that has the most outrageous but fun ending that will delight young readers.  Told by the bewildered Ana with the title being the repetitive pattern, and the chicken only communicating through placards, the sparse text is in direct contrast to the illustrations which are full of busyness, action and foreground detail. Little ones will be wondering just what it is the chicken is doing and even the adult reader will suspend their disbelief as the story rollicks along.

Fun for everyone especially if they are then challenged to design their own amusement park or work on Ana’s wish for her next birthday.

Dinosaur Juniors (1) – Happy Hatchday

Dinosaur Juniors (1) - Happy Hatchday

Dinosaur Juniors (1) – Happy Hatchday

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dinosaur Juniors (1) – Happy Hatchday

Rob Biddulph

HarperCollins, 2018

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

9780008286385

Once upon a time a long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, time ago there was a batch of nine perfect eggs.  One by one, eight of them hatched and out came Otto, Winnie, Hector, Sue, Nancy, Martin, Wilf and Boo Dinosaur.  And then, finally Greg (short for gregosaurus) popped out.  But Greg was a week later than his brothers and sisters and when he went to join them, they had paired up and were really busy – Otto and Winnie were painting and gluing; Sue and Hector were baking; Nancy and Martin were making music; and Wilf and Boo were blowing balloons.  There seemed to be no room for Greg anywhere. He was very despondent.  But then his little friend Ziggy the dragonfly tells him to cheer up…

This is a charming story, the first in the series, that will delight younger readers with its clever rhyme and bright pictures. They will empathise with Greg as he tries to find a friend and have fun trying to spot Ziggy in each spread.  

We all know that dinosaurs are the preschooler’s best friend so Biddulph has the content covered, and the rhyme and rhythm and colour will really entice the very young to want to read it for themselves. Perfect for preschoolers.

Bush Birthday

Bush Birthday

Bush Birthday

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bush Birthday

Lorette Broekstra

Allen & Unwin, 2018

24pp., hbk.,  RRP $A14.99

9781925267051

One climbs up a tree with an intriguing gift-wrapped package and Two climbs down to receive it.  Then they pass it to Three, and together  they creep through the hollow log to the burrow of Four.  And so it goes on, the group getting larger and larger until they finally reach the home of the recipient.  Whose birthday is it?  And what could be in the package? 

Using iconic but stylised Australian creatures in their natural habitats, this is a delightful story for little ones that uses a minimum of text to tell it, but that text is carefully chosen to explore both numbers and position so that the reader has a better understanding of both.  Little ones will have fun identifying each of the animals as well as working out which one has not yet been featured as  they try to identify whose birthday it is.   And what sort of gift could come in a parcel of that shape and size?

More to this one than it appears at first glance and something new to explore with each reading.  

Father Christmas’s Fake Beard

 

 

 

Father Christmas’s Fake Beard

Father Christmas’s Fake Beard

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Father Christmas’s Fake Beard

Terry Pratchett

Mark Beech

Doubleday, 2017

204pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9780857535504

Christmas and Christmas stories are a little bit different in the mind and hands of master storyteller Terry Pratchett.  Instead of the usual, sometimes twee, tales of reindeer, helpful elves and generous children this collection has  a huge exploding mince pie, a pet abominable snowman, and  a very helpful partridge in a pear tree. Father Christmas himself  goes to work at a zoo,  causes chaos in a toy store  and is even arrested for burglary!

This is a previously unpublished selection of seasonal stories from Sir Terry Pratchett, author of the popular Discworld series, and perfect for the Christmas Countdown for slightly older readers who can appreciate his humour and perspective.  Stories are short, funny and liberally illustrated with pictures as wacky as the words.

Given it is nearly three years since his death, this may be the last original, unpublished work offered from this author so it may become a collector’s piece for that alone.  

 

 

I Just Couldn’t Wait to Meet You

I Just Couldn't Wait to Meet You

I Just Couldn’t Wait to Meet You

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Just Couldn’t Wait to Meet You

Kate Ritchie

Hannah Somerville

Penguin Random House, 2017

32pp., board book., RRP $A14.99

9780143785071

When the author discovered she was pregnant, typically she was very excited and so she began to write about her feelings as she waited for the time to pass.  The result is this gentle story-in-rhyme that mirrors the thoughts and feelings of most expectant parents and their families.  Who will this new little life be?  And what will their life be like?  It traces the things that are done during that nine months from ultrasounds to decorating the nursery, tracking a common journey that very young readers first asking about where they came from will love to know about. It might even reassure parents-in-waiting that anxiety is as normal as anticipation.

Even though this is Ms Ritchie’s story, it is a universal one and Hannah Somerville’s illustrations using such a soft palette take it beyond the personal so it becomes almost a lullaby of love that would serve very well as Baby’s first favourite shared each night.  There is so much evidence that even our very youngest children are aware of the harsh realities of life, the differences between their lives and that of their peers, so to have such an affirmation of being loved and wanted and cherished should bring enormous comfort and reassurance.

There is a place and a need for this sort of book and Ms Ritchie has fulfilled it well. 

The Birthday Invitation

The Birthday Invitation

The Birthday Invitation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Birthday Invitation

Lucy Rowland

Laura Hughes

Bloomsbury, 2017

32pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

9781408862995

Tomorrow is a very special day for Ella -it’s her birthday party.  She finishes writing the invitations and hurries through the woods to deliver them to her friends.  But she is so excited she doesn’t realise she has dropped one and that it is picked up by a wizard.  And so begins a remarkable journey for the invitation, one that means Ella is going to have the best celebration ever! Wizards, pirates, a princess and all sorts of interesting guests turn up – and each has a tale to tell about how they got there!

Written in rhyme which keeps the pace and action moving at a fast clip, this is a charming story that will engage and delight.  Laura Hughes’s bright detailed illustrations are sheer pleasure and the invitation almost comes to life leaving the reader to wonder where it will land next.  

As well as engaging young readers in its fun and light-heartedness, it’s also a great vehicle for focusing on sequencing and mapping the story.  Positional words such as first, next, after can be explored as a map of the invitation’s journey is constructed.  And for those who feel they have to, there is also an opportunity to investigate rhyming patterns as many of the couplets end with words with the same sound but a different spelling pattern.But I think the children will have much more fun thinking of the unique gifts that each character might give Ella for her birthday.

 

Nanna’s Button Tin

Nanna's Button Tin

Nanna’s Button Tin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nanna’s Button Tin

Dianne Wolfer

Heather Potter

Walker Books, 2017

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

9781922077677

Poor Ted.  He has been cuddled so hard for so long he has lost his eye and needs a new one.  And so it is Nanna’s button tin to the rescue.  It’s a special tin with all sorts of buttons – surely there will be one that is just right for Ted. One that is just the right size, just the right shape and just the right colour. Perhaps it is the yellow one that was on the baby jacket worn home from hospital – but no, it is too shiny-bright.  Maybe the brown, bear-shaped button from the birthday jumper; or the angel ones sewn on to the snuggly to protect a sick little girl.  For every button in the button tin has a special story and an important memory to be shared.  But none is quite right until… and a new story and a new memory are made.

In the days of the Great Depression and World War II, when make-do-and-mend was the mantra, mums everywhere saved buttons off outgrown clothes, pieces of string and all sorts of things for the day they would be needed again.  Button tins were the norm and many a young girl of the 50s had a special treat of being able to upend the tin, sort through the gems and hear family stories that may well have been forgotten if the connections were not made.  In these days of zippers, stretch fabrics and throwaway fashion one wonders how such family memories will be passed on.

This is a warm, wrap-you-in-a-hug story perfectly illustrated in a retro palette with gentle lines and details that will bring back memories of the button tin to many grandmothers sharing the story with their little ones.  And for more modern mums, it might be the inspiration to gather those special clothes together so a memory quilt can be made so the stories can be passed on.  For it is those intimate family details that continue our heritage as much as the monoliths of the past.  Who would have thought something as small and innocuous as a button could spawn so much, not the least an amazing book that needs to be on every family shelf.

This one is on its way to someone with her very own memories of her nanna’s button tin and a tin full of memories to share with her granddaughters.