Archives

Boots

Boots

Boots

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Boots

Elizabeth Pulsford

Krista Brennan

Wombat Books, 2024

32pp., hbk., RRP $A26.99

9781761111037

Those who know me know that I like to create things using my imagination and my amazing embroidery machine, including author kits that inspire children to write their own stories.  So when I saw a design that took me back to my school days when the class was set a task to write a story about a pair of old boots – a story I still recall writing even though it was about 65 years ago – I knew I had to make it.  Who else might discover the world of words because they were inspired by something similar?

 

Design C7574 Embroidery Library https://emblibrary.com/design/blooms-in-a-boot-c7574

Design C7574 Embroidery Library https://emblibrary.com/design/blooms-in-a-boot-c7574

Those who know me also know I believe in serendipity and so it really was no surprise when I opened my mail a day later to discover this book that so matched my memories.

In something completely different to the modern stories for children that I usually read, this one follows the journey of a pair of ordinary workboots as they sit on the shoemaker’s shelf to be purchased by a young farmhand and worn daily until he (and they) die.  Shining a light on the ups and downs of rural life in a perfect fusion of simple text and evocative illustrations, the boots are witness to the highs and lows of family, fire, flood, drought… offering an insight into a life very different from that led by the majority of today’s children.

Although I can’t recall the details of that story I wrote, it would have been quite different to this one, for this one is timeless – it could be about Grandpa’s boots or it could be about a pair purchased by a young farmhand today underlining the regular routines of rural life regardless of extraneous events, ruled by the seasons.  It is an entertaining and engaging way to focus the reader’s thinking on the differences between city and country life, as it celebrates that sense of community and connectedness that is unique to small towns and surrounds.  

Maybe this will be among the award winners in the future, but for me, and the memories it evoked, it is already a winner. 

The Tiny Woman’s Coat

The Tiny Woman's Coat

The Tiny Woman’s Coat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Tiny Woman’s Coat

Joy Cowley

Giselle Clarkson

Walker Books, 2021

28pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781776573424

A storm is brewing and the tiny woman realises she will need a coat to stay dry and warm.  But where will she get the cloth, the scissors, the thread, the needle, the buttons?

On the surface this is a lovely story about friendship and co-operation in the tiny woman’s community but to those who understand how little children learn to read it is so much more than that.

When I started my initial teacher ed course in New Zealand in 1970, Joy Cowley was the leading author behind the Ready to Read series, a collection of basal readers that was used in junior classrooms in every school in New Zealand for reading instruction.  In the 70s there would have been few Kiwi children who were unfamiliar with Early in the Morning , Grandma Comes to Stay and The Fire Engine, and the thrill of moving from red to yellow, blue and green levels before starting on ‘chapter books” like The Donkey’s Egg or The Hungry Lambs.  The series was revolutionary in its approach to teaching children to read because it used natural language rather than phonics or controlled vocabulary, drawing on the research on world leaders in early literacy like Sylvia Ashton-Warner and Dr Marie Clay. She then went on to be the talent behind the Storybox Library series with titles like Mrs Wishy Washy and The Kick-a-Lot Shoes.

And it is her knowledge and experience of how children learn that underpins this story so that they can experience “real reading” and consolidate their belief that they can be “real” readers. To start with the tiny woman wonders where she will get the cloth for her coat, focusing the reader’s attention of the sorts of things that will be needed to construct it so they can draw on their own experience to suggest the items that will be required.  Then each “chapter” starts with the repeated statement and question… “The tiny woman wanted a coat. “Where will I get some…” leaving the reader to suggest what the next word might be and possible solutions. All the while the sky is changing building the anticipation of whether she will get her coat completed before the storm hits.  

While there are hundreds of stories written and published for our youngest readers every year, there are few that are so deeply rooted in understanding those early reading behaviours and which consolidate our children’s expectations of being readers as well as those by this author.  While the world has clearly moved on from the scenario of Grandma arriving in a Vickers Viscount  (after 50+ years I still remember the theme of the stories) , the process of learning to read remains the same, and this is the perfect support to that. 

Millie Mak the Maker

Millie Mak the Maker

Millie Mak the Maker

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Millie Mak the Maker

Alice Pung

Sher Rill Ng

HarperCollins, 2023

288pp., hbk., RRP $A22.99

9781460763773

Life has been pretty tricky lately for nine-year-old Millie Mak. As well as her family moving to a new neighbourhood to be closer to her mother’s parents, she has started a new school and being quiet and somewhat shy, she has found it hard to make friends, not made easier by being Scottish-Chinese with Asian features and flaming red hair.  Things come to a head when she and her Granny find an old dolls house put out on the street for Hard Rubbish Day collection, perfect for them to renovate, but which is also seen by the young sister of one of the mean girls who throws a tantrum when she does not get it.  

But Millie and her grandmother have been revitalising and renewing old stuff  together for a long time and now it’s in Millie’s nature to look for new ways to use old things, turning them into something beautiful and useful.  So when she sees her other Chinese grandmother who lives with them and takes care of the household, including two year old Rosie, making sleeve savers from an old pillowcase, she has an even better idea using her dad’s broken umbrella. She learns even more when she goes to the holiday program at the local community centre – not the expensive Awesome Kids workshops she was hoping for – and meets Veesa and Glee whose mums actually make the popular brand-name clothes that everyone, including those mean girls, are paying so much money for.  Who knew you could make a trendy skirt from some tea towels?

The second story also focuses on making something from almost nothing, as a new girl, Amrita, starts at the school and being Sikh, experiences the same isolation that Millie did.  But the two girls strike up a friendship that not only opens new doors for both of them but has them having the most popular stall at the school fete.

All the familiar themes and feelings of starting a new school are threaded through this story – isolation, bullying, racism, stereotyping – as well as having to grapple with issues at home like the rivalry between her grandmothers and her dad unable to work because of an accident, so it will resonate with many readers but its focus on recycling and upcycling will really appeal to those who love to do the same, particularly those learning to sew – made even moreso because there are clear instructions given for some of the projects at the end of each story as well as some other avenues to explore.  Who knew that fabric could come from animals, minerals and plants and we could be wearing all at the same time?

Both Millie’s family and the situations she and Rita, particularly, face will not only be familiar to those who have walked that path, but there are also lessons to be learned by those on the other side, particularly about making assumptions about how someone might feel or react.   Teaching notes offer other ideas for exploring the issues in greater depth – there is so much but a book review can only be so long.

When a friend recently offered sewing classes for children, she was so overwhelmed with the responses that she had to add extra sessions, and so there are many boys and girls who have an interest in this sort of creativity and this is the ideal book for feeding that interest as well as sparking inspiration for others.  Being one of those who sews every day and knits each night, I read it in one sitting and kept thinking of how I could share it with one of the little ones in Jane’s sewing classes because I know they would love it.  

 Luckily for those budding creators, this is just the first in the series and Children’s Books Daily has an interview with the author to share.

 

 

Hats Are Not for Cats!

Hats Are Not for Cats!

Hats Are Not for Cats!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hats Are Not for Cats!

Jacqueline K. Rayner

HarperCollins, 2023

30pp., board book., RRP $A16.99

9780358731085

Who hasn’t heard of the cat in the hat – the Dr Seuss story that is a staple for all little people?  But what if hats are not for cats?

In this fun rhyming book for our youngest readers, a bossy dog in a very fancy hat is laying down the law to the cat that hats are not for them.  But the cat disagrees.  Who wins the argument? Or can there be a compromise?

Young readers can learn a lot about peaceful conflict resolution in this simple, silly story as they put themselves in the shoes of both the cat and the dog.  Perhaps they can figure out a win-win solution.  And then have fun designing a hat for a dog and a hat for a cat!

 

 

Jack’s Jumper

Jack's Jumper

Jack’s Jumper

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jack’s Jumper

Sara Acton

Walker, 2022

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

9781760654054

Jack’s jumper is special because it can be many things – a den, a hat, a hug – but most of all it is special because it belonged to Jack’s big brother, Paul. Jack wears the jumper every day, but when forced to take it off to have a bath, the cat sees a comfy new bed… Now the jumper is just a ball of wool!  But there are a couple of surprises in store for Jack. 

This is a charming story that many younger readers will relate to having a hand-me-down that is so much more than a parent being responsible and recycling.  Because as well as being so many things to Jack, most of all it is a tangible memory of a brother no longer living at home and which triggers many more memories.  

There are few of us who wouldn’t have a treasured memento of someone dear to us – I have my mum’s silver fern marcasite brooch – that instantly sparks reminders of special times together, and even though they are little, this offers an opportunity for even our youngest readers to share some of theirs.  Maybe, as adults, we need to think twice and ask first before we dispose of things. 

Sophia the Show Pony

Sophia the Show Pony

Sophia the Show Pony

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sophia the Show Pony

Kate Waterhouse

Sally Spratt

Puffin, 2022

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

9781761042492

Sophia is literally a show pony.  Not for her smelly, draughty stables and a manky horse blanket.  “She lived uptown in fancy Flats, the ritziest place on earth” and was “known for her stylish array of hats, paired with coats and designer gowns.”  But Sophia has a secret dream to actually  win the race that she and her friends dress up for.  Her friends discourage her saying that her destiny is being a fashionista and so Sophie settles for that until…’

Waterhouse has combined her fashion and racing backgrounds with her desire to write a book for her daughters which embraces ” all the lessons I want to impart ” about ” following your passion no matter what anyone says and finding your place in the world, and also embracing your individuality.” This message is a common one in children’s stories, but one which needs to be heard often so whatever story it is embedded in is worthwhile.  Choosing to tell it in rhyme can be tricky with both vocabulary and rhythm having to be manipulated but Waterhouse has done this creating a story that gallops along accompanied by illustrations which have all the characteristics that appeal to its target audience.  With its gold borders and pink roses, the book itself wouldn’t look out of place in the member’s area of the racecourse. 

 

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

 

 

Mr Bat Wants a Hat

Mr Bat Wants a Hat

Mr Bat Wants a Hat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mr Bat Wants a Hat

Kitty Black

Laura Wood

New Frontier, 2021

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

9781922326218

Mr Bat is largely content with his life, doing what he likes when he likes.  But one evening when flying above the local park, he discovers hats and decides that he needs one NOW!  His attempts to steal one from the adults is unsuccessful but a sleeping baby is a different story.  Yet, while he is proud of himself and thinks he is the grandest thing around, others are not so impressed…

This is a fun story for young readers about the impact their actions can have on others.  Even though taking the hat made Mr Bat feel good, how did the theft affect the baby? Starting these conversations starts the ripple-in-the-pond effect of our actions and helps develop the concepts of compassion and empathy, starting to move them away from their egocentric, self-centred world to understand and acknowledge the feelings of others.  

Even though this message is embedded in the story, on the surface it is bright and funny with a twist in the end that will offer lots of scope for predicting what might come next and what might happen when it does. 

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”.  

 

The Katha Chest

The Katha Chest

The Katha Chest

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Katha Chest

Radhiah Chowdhury

Lavanya Naidu

Allen & Unwin, 2021

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

9781760524326

Asiya loves going to Nanu’s house because it is filled with all sorts of treasures, but the very best one is the katha chest.  For inside it are the katha quilts that Nanu made from the old saris that Maa and her sisters didn’t wear anymore, quilts that hold the family’s history in their patterns and stitches and stories.  Asiya likes nothing more than to crawl inside the chest and listen to the stories of her family that the quilts whisper to her.  Stories of her family members that unfold in four panels on subsequent pages showing not only the richness of pattern, texture and colour of the saris but also the family itself; stories which wrap themselves around Asiya as warmly as the quilt. 

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

While this is a story rooted deeply in the Bangladeshi family of the author, for generations women, particularly, have made quilts from discarded clothing, quilts which tell the story of its wearer or an event.  Every traditional patchwork block has a story behind its creation and some, when put together in a particular way, carried secret messages such as those of the Underground Railroad. Thus, this story with its stories within offers riches beyond that of the beautiful fabric of the saris – the reader is invited to trace each family member’s story from the panels to understand the connections between that and the sari that Nanu has used for the katha. 

It is also one of those picture books that can span the ages and stages because what the reader takes from it will depend on their level of maturity.  Young children may just consider their family tree and who is part of it beyond those they see daily; while much older readers may like to think of a family member they know well enough to construct their story in four panels and even design a fabric swathe that would epitomise that story. Those with a deeper interest might like to investigate the role of patchwork and quilting in communities as a way of passing on the culture between generations and across borders and understand that it is universal. 

Being a quilter, I found this story really resonated with me (inspiring me to dig out the bag of my son’s music t-shirts that he asked me to make into a quilt for his children years ago) but as can be seen, it is so much more than a tale about putting pretty fabric together. This is one for every collection and curriculum that has a focus on children discovering their family history.

Teachers’ notes are available from the publisher’s website

 

Peppa Pig Duo

Peppa Pig

Peppa Pig

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peppa’s Spooky Halloween

9780241412268

Peppa Loves the Great Barrier Reef

9780241457542

Ladybird, 2020

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

The end of this weird school year is in sight and plans for 2021 start to solidify including introducing today’s pre-schoolers to the adventure of “big school” that will be their reality next year.  Whether this is being done in person or via video clips, the orientation is a critical part of the transition to allay all the natural fears that these littlest ones will have.  Thus to come to the library and see familiar family favourites like Peppa Pig on display ready for them to take home can be very reassuring.

Family Favourites were always popular with the little ones.

Family Favourites were always popular with the little ones.

So these two new releases from the ever popular Peppa Pig range will be valuable additions to your Family Favourites collection that will provide familiarity and continuity to these newest students.

In Peppa Loves the Great Barrier Reef Peppa and her family join marine biologist Mrs Kangaroo in her submarine as she explores her office, the Great Barrier Reef, learning about the creatures that inhabit this very special part of the planet. In Peppa’s Spooky Halloween the family don their favourite costumes for a special spooky show. – both books offering the opportunity to go beyond current boundaries and enjoy an adventure.

Never underestimate the power of seeing familiar characters in unfamiliar situations or the impact that they can have on early reading behaviours as their familiarity immediately connects the young reader to books and stories and the promise of fun to come.  So whether you are doing virtual visits or are lucky enough to be allowed real-life, real-time sessions, having stories like these visible will offer promises of magic and more magic.  The library is a place for them – what a positive message to receive from the get-go!