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The Sloth and the Dinglewot

The Sloth and the Dinglewot

The Sloth and the Dinglewot

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Sloth and the Dinglewot

Nicole Prust

Amanda Enright

New Frontier, 2020

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

9781925594966

Down near the banks of the lazy lagoon,

Where the trees slowly swayed in the light of the moon,

A family of sloths slept soundly asleep

As the birds of the sunrise started to cheep.

And as the rest of the world awakened, they stretched, yawned and rolled over and went back to sleep. Except for Samuel who found keeping still and patient all day tough when he really wanted to explore beyond the tree he lived in, much to the amazement of his family. So, Samuel makes his way to the top of the tree but, as he does so, he is startled by something -something that darted and dashed between the trees, the bells on its feet dingling and jingling as it did. When Samuel challenges it, it introduces itself asthe Dinglewot Jinglewot Dingledum Dee and invites Samuel  to come on an adventure to meet a furry old friend. But now, faced with reality, will Samuel have the courage to actually leave his tree and have the adventures he yearns for?

Told in rhyme with a rhythm that echoes the movement of the Dinglewot and carries the story faster than even Samuel can move, this is a charming story about facing your fears and having the courage to go new places, try new things and reap the rewards of doing so.  Illustrated in a palette as bright as the Dinglewot itself, Samuel (and the reader) go to extraordinary places as he dances with the baboons, listens to the bat band and meets all the Dinglewot’s sprightly relatives.

Apart from sloths being the new unicorns with young readers, the choice of a sloth as a main character is inspired because if there is anything generally portrayed as being unadventurous, lazy and sedentary it is the sloth – and what child wants to be tagged with that label?  So this would be a great opportunity to start discussions about what our children are afraid of, what they might be missing because of that fear and to support them in leaving their “worries and fears at the door.” 

Elephant Me

Elephant Me

Elephant Me

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Elephant Me

Giles Andreae

Guy Parker-Rees

Orchard Books, 2020

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

9781408356524 

Each year the baby elephants present themselves to Elephant Mighty who demands they perform unique feats that will suggest their new name. And so he watches elephants on stilts, on their heads, standing on one leg, swinging on vines … Nina pulls out a tree by its roots with her trunk so becomes Elephant Strong, while Norcus bellows so loud that even the vultures take flight so he is dubbed Elephant Noisy. 

But when Num Num has no special skills or tricks, Elephant Mighty calls him Elephant Nothing-At-All, humiliating Num Num so much he feels compelled to leave the herd and find another waterhole. But there he makes friends with a lot of other creatures and learns that not only does he have a special talent but he also has the courage to return to confront Elephant Mighty – with surprising results.

Using his signature rhyming style and accompanied by the most glorious illustrations, this is a story that reaffirms for youngsters that who they are is enough, that it is not about what you can do or what you have or what you look like. Particularly pertinent at a time when its target audience is negotiating the wider world of school and navigating social boundaries within that, Num Num shows that you do not have to conform to a particular stereotype to fit in but that it can take a lot of strength and support to be yourself, a message that needs to be reinforced over and over, even with adults as Elephant Mighty learns. 

Funny Kid Peeking Duck

Funny Kid Peeking Duck

Funny Kid Peeking Duck

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Funny Kid Peeking Duck

Matt Stanton

ABC Books, 2020

256pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9780733340598

 

Every kid wants to laugh, but Max is the boy who can make it happen.

He’s not the smartest kid; he’s not the fastest kid; he’s not the prettiest kid; but he might just be the funniest kid you’ve ever met.

Max and his friends take a road trip to Adventure Park to dare each other to ride The Tower of Dying Deathly Doom. But it may be Duck who is the bravest one of all.

This is #7 in this series about Max, his friends and family and his duck. Despite having 250+ pages, it is one for newly independent readers who are ready to tackle something a bit meatier but still with the support of short chapters and plenty of graphics, which showcase Stanton’s talent as a cartoonist as well as a writer.  He believes “books inspire the imagination, imagination births creativity and creativity changes the world” and with collections like This is a Ball to his credit, he is fast becoming one of our most popular creators with everyone from preschool onwards.

This year has been a challenging one, as much for the kids as the adults in their lives, and so introducing them to a series that will produce many a LOL moment for them as well as encouraging them to keep reading can only be a positive. And for an extra treat, share this Q&A with Matt from the publishers, or search YouTube where he has offered drawing lessons and other goodies during this time. In fact, students may know him from YT and be thrilled to find his books on your shelf.

 

Mabel and the Mountain

Mabel and the Mountain

Mabel and the Mountain

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mabel and the Mountain

Kim Hillyard

Ladybird, 2020

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

9780241407929

Mabel is a fly.  But despite being only as big as a fingernail, she has BIG plans which include climbing a mountain, hosting a dinner party and making friends with a shark!  Despite the lack of encouragement from her friends, Mabel is determined to achieve her dreams and starts by looking for a mountain to climb – one that will challenge her.  And challenge her it does, and even though at times she thinks about changing those plans, she believes in herself and perseveres.

With a now-familiar theme of believing in yourself, persevering and being resilient, this is another story to encourage our young children to dream big and have the courage to continue, perhaps even inspiring their friends to have their own dreams. By having Mabel choose climbing a mountain as her challenge, a familiar metaphorical concept in itself, Hillyard is able to demonstrate the hard work, the sustained effort and ignoring of detractors that goes into achieving goals – there will always be setbacks and obstacles to be negotiated and navigated but the effort is worth it if the dream is.

A good one for the start of the year, or now that the year has restarted, when we ask children what their goals are – perhaps they could map out a route and trace their journey as they go, giving a tangible record to help them stay on track.

 

Tippy and Jellybean – The True Story of a Brave Koala who Saved her Baby from a Bushfire

Tippy and Jellybean

Tippy and Jellybean

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tippy and Jellybean – The True Story of a Brave Koala who Saved her Baby from a Bushfire

Sophie Cunningham

Anil Tortop

Albert Street Books, 2020

24pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

9781760878474

Tippy and Jellybean live in the beautiful eucalypt forests bordering Australia’s high country in Victoria. Life is as it should be for mum and bub until one day in Summer 2019 just as it is turning over to 2020, they wake to smell smoke on the hot, windy air. While the kangaroos and wallabies bound away, the wombats crawl deep into their burrows and the cockatoos take off in noisy flight, Tippy and Jellybean can do none of those things.  As koalas, their only sanctuary is to climb to the top of the tree and hope they will be safe from the fire dragon that is on the warpath.

Curling herself around Jellybean, Tippy protects her baby from the flames even though she herself is burned…

Amidst the horror that was the summer of 2019-2020 , one of the enduring stories for our young readers is that of the impact on the wildlife. So to have this charming true story that not only tells of Tippy and Jellybean’s recovery but also of the dedication and expertise of veterinary professionals to preserving what they can offers a feel-good followup that will go a long way to helping the children heal too. And we are desperately in need of feel-good stories right now.

As fate would have it, Gelantipy was on my list of go-to places after having seen a documentary about in on ABC Back Roads, (it’s a comfortable drive from here) and we had a trip planned, but the fires beat us to it. Then we ourselves had to evacuate… So to know that there is a happy news story, the words interpreted in gentle, non-threatening illustrations by Anil Tortop, and that this is just one of so many creatures saved and treated by carers (many volunteers, some from overseas) strengthens my desire to explore this area as soon as.

To show our young readers that there can be happy endings, that in a time that seems so relentlessly harsh and tough there can be hope and help on the other side, and that Mother Nature can rise up no matter how beaten she is is what our students who have endured the fires, both first-hand and vicariously need right now.  Reassurance can sometimes be the greatest gift and this book provides that.

Dedicated to all the creatures that were not as lucky as Tippy and Jellybean, the publisher will donate $1 from every copy sold of this book to the Bushfire Emergency Wildlife Fund, to help fund emergency veterinary assistance and scientific intervention.

Slime

Slime

Slime

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Slime

David Walliams

Tony Ross

HarperCollins, 2020

312pp., pbk., RR     P $A19.99

9780008349141

There are 999 people living on the Isle of Mulch, most of them awful adults who do not like children. Even those who should like children, like those at the school, the local park, the toy shop and even the island’s ice-cream van  like nothing more than making children miserable. And the island is owned by the most awful one of all – Aunt Greta Greed!

But then there is Ned, an 11-year-old boy in a wheelchair who is constantly tormented by his older sister Jemima who resents him because he gets all the attention. Despite being unable to walk Ned is perpetually optimistic and makes it his mission to change the miserable adults and the misery. While trying to get his own back on  Jemima, he discovers one of the great mysteries of the world – slime! What is it? Who is it? Where does it come from? And how does Ned use slimepower to take on the horrible grown-ups of Mulch? 

Using his characteristic humour which so appeals to that audience of newly independent readers, the wacky illustrations of Tony Ross and an intriguing visual layout, this story bounces along at a rapid pace that draws the reader in and keeps them as hooked as the local shoe fish that are the main diet of the islanders. Yet for all its wackery and humour, there is a solid story underpinning the adventures that make if more than a bit of floss read to pass the time.  Everyone will be cheering for Ned and perhaps see themselves in him, always a winning element.

Tashi 25th Anniversary Edition

Tashi 25th anniversary edition

Tashi 25th anniversary edition

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tashi 25th Anniversary Edition

Anna Fienberg

Barbara Fienberg

Kim Gamble

Allen & Unwin, 2020

112pp., hbk., RRP $A16.99

9781760525446

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, a little boy was finally born to a couple who so desperately wanted a child that after consulting Wise-As-An-Owl the wife sipped a special mixture made for her and within a year, Tashi was born.  Right from the start he proved to be very clever and had many adventures before finally fleeing from a wicked warlord, arriving in this land on the back of a swan where he became Jack’s special friend.  Every now and then he would share an adventure with Jack and then Jack recounted these to his incredulous parents.  And so the adventures and legend of Tashi were born…

And for 25 years they have fascinated young, independent readers being the perfect introduction to the world of fantasy and the fantastic, including almost every Year 3 class I’ve taught since the stories were first published.  Presented in a paperback format that contained two stories, they were perfect for real-alouds as well as read-alones, so much so that in 2001 my Year 3 classes led a national Book Rap that had students from all over the country answering the questions my students had posed about the stories via online activities and emails as the power of the Internet was gradually harnessed to connect children beyond the school walls.

Now the first of those stories, including the story of Tashi’s birth and the first indication on his cleverness at the age of one – Tashi and the Silver Cup-  and his becoming Jack’s friend,  have been republished in this special edition to celebrate that special milestone. 

In addition, all the stories have been collected into special editions each containing eight tales in each volume.  The Book of Giant Adventures; The Book of Magnificent Monsters; The Book of Magical Mysteries; and The Book of Spells and Secrets(each 256 pages and $A16.99 RRP) mean yet another generation of young readers can get to know this lovable little character, marvel at the detail in Kim Gamble’s illustrations and think about what they might do if they found themselves in a similar predicament. 

When I recently met up with some of those students who participated in the Rap in 2001, they all remembered it and the fun they had, particularly the power they had because they set the questions and tasks for the other participants, meaning each had to read the story closely to be able to construct open-ended activities.  Such memories would not be possible without having the quality and appeal of the stories to work with.  If your students haven’t met Tashi yet, now is the time to introduce them.

More than a Kick: Footy, the Photo and Me

More than a Kick: Footy, the Photo and Me

More than a Kick: Footy, the Photo and Me

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More than a Kick: Footy, the Photo and Me

Tayla Harris and Jennifer Castles

A & U Children’s, 2020

192pp., pbk., RRP $A19.99

9781760525804

Sunday, March 17, 2019 and Tayla Harris goes to work as normal, just as she has every other day. But this was to be no ordinary day – not only was it the last round of the AFLW home-and-away matches to determine which team would be in the finals, but it was the day Tayla was propelled into the media in a way she never sought nor wanted.

During the match, she kicked a goal and photographer Michael Wilson snapped the action as it happened.  Ordinarily, it would be no big deal but when it was published online to showcase her amazing athletic ability, suddenly the faceless trolls who hide behind their keyboards decided she was fair game and the photo went viral, along with a plethora of nasty comments that turned it into something it was not. Rather than being a photo of an athlete at work, it became a war of words – a war that hit the headlines here and overseas. And because 7AFL chose to remove the photo rather than hold the trolls accountable, it attracted even more attention. 

The photo...

The photo….

In this frank and very personal memoir of that time, Harris speaks directly to the reader about the impact that it had on her as an individual and as a footy player and her concerns for herself, her family and the families of those who felt it was OK to write what was essentially sexual abuse. She notes that she was “lucky” because she had a manager, a family and a community who rallied around her to support her through the furore, but she is very concerned for those who suffer similar bullying and do so, alone and often in secret. 

Whether readers are footy fans or not, know who Tayla Harris is or not, this is a powerful story that shows the power of social media and the consequences of those faceless remarks that so many seem to think they have the right to make.  For our girls wanting to aspire to the highest level of sport, it is inspirational; for those who are suffering at the hands of these anonymous cowards it offers hope and guidance; for those who write such trash, it is an eye-opener into what their words can do.  For Tayla, it resulted in a statue in Federation Square and a boost to women’s football that was unprecedented, but sadly, for some like Dolly Everett it is a burden too tough to bear.  That’s why, despite not usually reviewing books for the age group that this is written for, I’m sharing Tayla’s story because this is a story that needs to be heard over and over and over – until the haters and trolls are held accountable and responsible for their actions.

The statue... (Daily Mail, UK))

The statue… (Daily Mail, UK))

 

 

Elizabella and the Haunting of Lizard Lake

Elizabella and the Haunting of Lizard Lake

Elizabella and the Haunting of Lizard Lake

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Elizabella and the Haunting of Lizard Lake

Zoë Norton Lodge

Georgia Norton Lodge

Walker Books, 2020

224pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

 9781760651855

Excitement is in the air as Elizabella – poet, fixer of fairytales and the biggest prankster in the history of her school – heads off to camp with the rest of her class. But when Larry the Lizard learns she’s headed to Lizard Lake he stows away in her suitcase, dreaming of discovering the other sentient lizards rumoured to be living there. Soon, Elizabella begins having strange dreams and wonders if Lizard Lake is haunted. Meanwhile back at Bilby Creek, Martin madly searches for Larry, eventually stumbling on another lizard who looks exactly like him. After discovering who is really haunting Lizard Lake, Larry and Elizabella return home to solve another mystery. Who is the imposter hanging out with Martin? 

This is the third in this series for young independent readers – Elizabella Meets Her Match and Elizabella and The Great Tuckshop Takeoverhave already been published and Elizabella Breaks a Leg will be available in September. Described as a ” messy mix of Matilda, Pippi Longstocking and Horrid Henry”, this is a lively series for girls who like a light-hearted read but with a bit of substance as they see themselves in the situations that Elizabella manages to get mixed up in.   Told from the perspectives of Elizabella, her father, her pet lizard and her principal Mr Gobblefrump, the adventures of Bilby Creek Primary School’s camp at Lizard Lake will entertain as the camp’s motto is “Don’t Worry, Be Happpy” (distorted for copyright reasons) and everything has a positive spin on it.  While Elizabella and her friend Minnie really want to devise the greatest prank of all time, they are confronted by real-life issues that provide a serious side that makes for a story that offers more than the blurb would suggest.

This is a series worth promoting to your students in that Year 3-4 range who are ready for the next step on their reading adventure.   

 

 

 

The Schoolmaster’s Daughter

The Schoolmaster's Daughter

The Schoolmaster’s Daughter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Schoolmaster’s Daughter

Jackie French

Angus & Robertson, 2020

384pp., pbk., RRP $A17.99

9781460757710

The turn of the 20th century, a new nation and perhaps a new start for Hannah’s family as her father has been appointed schoolmaster of the one-teacher school at Port Harris, a town founded, owned and ruled by one man who built the local sugar cane industry, itself built on the slave labour of the Pacific Islanders “contracted” to work and live in conditions that would rival the worst of what we know about the southern states of the USA.

It is not an auspicious start with the Cecily McPhee foundering as she was caught in a storm of Pirate Bay, and the shipwrecked travellers having to fight their way to shore.  While the men decide they will try to find a way to the port, the women shelter and are rescued by a young lad and taken to his family farm. But that young lad is coloured and the product of a mixed marriage between his white mother and his Kiribatian father and immediately the first ugly seeds of racism start to grow.  While Hannah and her mother have no qualms, the other women immediately adopt the holier-than-thou attitude of European settlers of the time and demonstrate why Jamie and his mum have been ostracised. 

Add into the mix Mrs Gilbert’s liberal views, her passion for women’s suffrage and universal education that includes girls and non-whites, so much so that she starts a secret school for Hannah and Jamie, and you have another powerful historical novel that is as much fact as it is fiction.  Once again, Jackie French exposes the reader to times past that have been hidden because men wrote the history books and directed the classroom curriculum by bringing her own family history to light and to life.  As the nation moved through the early months of Federation, the first tentative steps towards women’s suffrage and the introduction of the White Australia Policy that prohibited all non-European immigration and was not abolished until 1973 when it at last became illegal to discriminate on the grounds of race, Hannah and her mother unpeel those carefully constructed layers subtly and softly through staying true to their beliefs without fanfare or fuss and certainly not offence. Hannah’s mother is very well aware of the impact of scandal and how it would affect the progress of change.  Now, 120 years on, we are starting to see and appreciate the determination and strength of those shoulders on which we stand as we become and celebrate a nation of many cultures, enjoy universal education whose value is even clearer in current circumstances, and even our personal lives as we choose to marry or not, divorce or not, have children or not.

Definitely a read for older, independent readers, this is a story that has both the deepest of depths and the widest of implications as we really consider where we have come from as both individuals and a nation, and where we want to go.  For this is a unique time in which the world has paused and we can choose the future, personally and collectively.