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Rabunzel

Rabunzel

Rabunzel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rabunzel

Gareth P. Jones

Loretta Schauer

Egmont, 2021

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

9781405298582

Rabunzel has a teeny tufty tail, a twitchy nose and two wide brown eyes. She also has VERY long ears – so long that her mother worries they will make her easy bait for the hungry creatures of the forest.

The answer? Rabunzel must be kept safe … in towering hutch, high in the sky. Here Rabunzel, bored to bits,  waits grumpily for her mother’s daily visit with carrots and fresh lettuce, letting down her ears so she can climb up the tower.

But one day, it isn’t her mother who climbs up Rabunzel’s very long ears…

Usually I’m wary of these fractured versions of fairytales because they can be a bit silly, but this new series is subtitled Fairy Tales for the Fearless and it has a feminist twist which sits with Neil Gaiman’s message perfectly.

With its rhyming text and lovely pictures, it is an entertaining story in itself and Rabunzel’s solution for dealing with the hungry animals and her rejection of her “saviour” Flash Harry Hare offer lots of discussion points that can initiate some critical thinking of other stories that our girls, particularly, are dished up as essential reading – still! It can also pose some provocative questions to challenge the thinking of some of our boys.

This video clip is the perfect accompaniment and summary…

 

 

And if you’re looking for more in this vein, this is from A Mighty Girl… The Ultimate Guide to the Independent Princess    ‘These princesses are smart, daring, and aren’t waiting around to be rescued – more than likely, they’ll be doing the rescuing themselves! Fans of independent princesses will also appreciate our collection of girl-empowering dolls, which includes several of the princesses depicted in these stories, as well as our collection of dress-up clothing which features several independent princess outfits. Our clothing section also features a Princess Alternative section with shirts depicting both independent princesses and alternative princess themes. For a diverse selection of more empowering fairy tales, visit our Fairy Tale & Folklore Collection.”

 

The Butterfly Within

The Butterfly Within

The Butterfly Within

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Butterfly Within

Natalie, Layla and Scarlett Drake

Annabel Cutler

Little Steps. 2021

32pp., pbk., RRP $A14.95

9781925839982

Inspired after finding a milkweed bush full of Monarch caterpillars and taking them home to watch their development, this is a beautifully illustrated story that follows the life cycle of the Monarch butterfly from the adult playing with its friends and eventually laying eggs to one of those eggs hatching and eventually emerging as a butterfly to start the cycle again.

But rather than being a factual narration of steps, the butterflies have been personified as the author’s children and the focus is on their having the courage to take the next step in their lives. In fact Guillaume Apollinaire’s oft-quoted poem is included in the dedication offering encouragement to others to take the next step in their lives, something that is very relevant as a new school year begins. 

“Come to the edge,” he said.
“We can’t, we’re afraid!” they responded.
“Come to the edge,” he said.
“We can’t, We will fall!” they responded.
“Come to the edge,” he said.
And so they came.
And he pushed them.
And they flew.”

Whether you choose to use this book to inspire students to have the confidence to greet the new adventures ahead with confidence or as an example of biological metamorphosis, or even as an example of personification to satisfy the English curriculum, it is a worthwhile addition to the collection. 

 

Inside the Suitcase

Inside the Suitcase

Inside the Suitcase

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Inside the Suitcase

Clotilde Perrin

Gecko Press, 2021

20pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9781776573431

Away behind the hills you’ll find a charming little house. Who’s inside? Knock knock… A boy packing his suitcase. Lift the flaps to see what he takes, and travel with him over oceans and mountains, underwater and into the forest. With every step on this voyage of obstacles the boy faces a decision that will lead to a new adventure and help him get home.

Suitcases have always fascinated me because they mark the start of a journey that was always an adventure.  We could have been going to my grandma’s house on the beach or my aunty’s on the farm.  Or somewhere else entirely.  So this book really captured my imagination, particularly with its layers and layers of lift-the-flap opportunities to explore and follow. Within each are the most unlikely tricks and treasures that help the boy to go full circle, rather like Alice in Wonderland, and the end is a surprise – although the reader imagines it will only be for a short time.  

While we usually associate this sort of format with stories for the very young, this one is more for the independent reader as not only is the font in cursive, but it uses the technique to unveil the action, rather than words.  As a shared story between parent and child, it would be so much fun.  And then they could track down its predecessor Inside the Villains, and explore inside the heads of an ogre, a wolf and a witch!

As many of our young readers demand the special effects of screen-based stories, Clotilde Perrin demonstrates that is it can be just as intriguing exploring the possibilities of print! 

Gustavo, the Shy Ghost

Gustavo, the Shy Ghost

Gustavo, the Shy Ghost

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gustavo, the Shy Ghost

Flavia Z. Drago

Walker Books, 2021

40pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9781406398502

 Gustavo is a ghost. He is good at doing all sorts of paranormal things, like walking through walls, making objects fly and glowing in the dark. And he loves playing beautiful music on his violin. But Gustavo also has a problem. He is SHY. Which means some things are harder for him to do, like getting in a line to buy eye-scream or talking to the other monsters. But Gustavo longs to be a part of something, he longs to be seen. More than anything, he wants to make a friend. So, plucking up all his courage, he sends a very special letter: “Dear Monsters, I would like to invite you to my violin concert at the Day of the Dead party…”

But will anybody come?

This is a most delightful, award-winning story that will resonate with so many who find their shyness crippling, to the point that it really impacts their life and stifles their dreams.  Based on the creator’s own childhood, it offers hope to those who would really like to make a friend by encouraging them to discover their strengths and passions, play to them and share them. Even for those who are not as shy as Gustavo, a lack of confidence in who we are can prevent us from making the most of the situations that present themselves, and this has been quite noticeable after months of having to be t  home without the physical contact of our friends,  So sharing Gustavo’s story, considering the worst that might happen in a situation and then suggesting strategies that could be used if it does can be a starting point to taking that first step.  If Gustavo can find a way, our children can.  

One to share with all our students as the social season really starts to take off, and even if it’s making the first move to make a new friend in the caravan park at the beach, it will open up new horizons. 

Boris Goes Berserk

Boris Goes Berserk

Boris Goes Berserk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Boris Goes Berserk

Robert Favretto

Janice Bowles

Ford Street, 2021 

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

9781925804867

When Boris the huntsman spider crawls along the wall looking for a blowfly for dinner, he has no idea the chaos his appearance will cause.  And will he get out of this alive? (Not if he’s in my house!)

This is an hilarious story that will resonate with kids and adults alike as Boris tries to elude his potential killers. Told in rhyme, it rollicks along as all the family members, particularly Dad, try to dispatch Boris to somewhere else, and both actions and scenes (including Dad in his jocks) will be very familiar. Or maybe not to those who are braver than me and mine.

IMO, anything with more than two legs  has too many (unless it’s my cavoodle), particularly things that bite and leave me swollen and itchy and so Boris and his relatives have no place in my house – half a can of fly spray is my weapon of choice, but Dad didn’t try that.  Clearly, kinder than me. 

Whatever your opinion of the place of spiders and other creepy-crawlies in your life, this is a LOL story that will appeal to all from the author of Morphing Murphy and there are teachers notes’ available for those who want to investigate spiders  and fears more closely. 

Pax, Journey Home

Pax, Journey Home

Pax, Journey Home

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pax, Journey Home

Sara Pennypacker

Jon Klassen

HarperCollins, 2021

256pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

9780008470289

A year has passed since Peter and Pax have seen each other, since the separation of a once inseparable pair.

The war is over but the land has been left desecrated and deserted as the water supplies have been poisoned by heavy metals. Peter’s father has died in questionable circumstances and although Peter is back living with Vola, and his grandfather visits regularly, he believes that everything he loves he hurts and they leave him so he is determined to shut the world out and live alone.  After all, he is nearly 14.  

And so, the boy-man sets out on a journey to reclaim his old home; to join the Water Warriors, a band of people painstakingly cleaning up the polluted waterways to restore life -flora, fauna and human – to it;  and to keep the world at arm’s length and out of his heart forever. That way he can keep those he might love, safe. But is that possible?  He certainly didn’t count on meeting Jade, let alone her insight and wisdom. 

Meanwhile, Pax has adapted to the wild he did not seek; and has become father to a litter of kits, one of whom is an inquisitive, feisty female whom he must protect at all costs, particularly after she drinks deeply of the contaminated water. And as they continue their long journey home, Pax continually picks up the scent of the boy who abandoned him…

This is one of those stories that stays with you long after you reluctantly turn the final page, not just because of the power of the surface story but because the layers and  currents that run through it,just like those of the river that is at its heart – the river that put Peter back into old territory and provides Pax with safe passage from humans and predators. Although Pennypacker believed that she would not write another novel after Pax, clearly deep within her she knew there was more of this story to be told and this is the compelling sequel, one that kept me up well past my bedtime as I immersed myself in it, wanting to finish but knowing that when I did I would be left with that feeling that comes when an absorbing plot and great writing come together.

If you have mature, independent readers who can appreciate the nuances and parallels of what is between and beyond the words  then this is the duo for them.  Less sophisticated readers will enjoy the story for what it is, but it is those who are able to reach down to the deeper waters below the surface who will most appreciate it. 

Outstanding. 

 

Witch in Training

Witch in Training

Witch in Training

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Witch in Training

Michelle Robinson

Briony May Smith

Walker Books, 2021

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

9781406377804

Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and caldron bubble.
Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the caldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt and toe of frog,
Wool of bat and tongue of dog,
Adder’s fork and blind-worm’s sting,
Lizard’s leg and howlet’s wing,
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.
Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and caldron bubble.
Cool it with a baboon’s blood,
Then the charm is firm and good.
Macbeth: IV.i 10-19; 35-38
This scene and these words from the three witches in Shakespeare’s Macbeth have become the epitome of our perception of witches standing around a cauldron concocting a spell… but where do those ingredients come from?  Are they stored in a special with pantry to be on hand whenever they feel the need or the urge?  Or is there another secret supply?
In this rollicking rhyme-story, readers are invited to join Betty who is about to learn how to prepare her first spell as a trainee witch. and her mother as they gather the ingredients needed for her first lesson.  There are items to gather from the sky, the wood and other mysterious places and then there is the spell itself to craft.  But this is Betty’s first attempt – can she expect it to go well from the get-go?
Apart from being an engaging read, this is also a familiar tale for our youngsters because, although the circumstances will be entirely different, everyone has had the experience of expecting to do things well especially when we have prepared so well and then finding the outcome not quite what we expected, and having to learn about being resilient, trying again, practising to make progress and all the while leaning from and building on our experience and that of our teachers. 
There is the opportunity to explore the format of recipes, the need to follow instructions, to invent and write their own spells and even speculate on what the unintended consequences could be.
Perhaps even explore those original Shakespearean words and discover just what eye of newt is!  
Love stories like this that can take the reader on all sorts of unexpected journeys…

Born to Run

Born to Run

Born to Run

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Born to Run

Cathy Freeman

Charmaine Ledden-Lewis

Puffin, 2021

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

9781761043802

There would be few who were able to witness the lighting of the cauldron at the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000 who will have forgotten the image of Cathy Freeman standing with the torch.

 

Now, in this picture book version of her autobiography, we can learn of all that it took to get there. and then to the finish line of the 400m in the gold medal position just a few days later. We learn about her older sister Anne-Marie who, crippled by cerebral palsy, inspired her to keep training; how even when she won it was the second-place getters who were awarded the medals because they were white; of having to leave her beloved family and go to boarding school where she was the only Aboriginal girl…

This is an inspirational story of someone who is a household name in Australian sport, one of the best of the best who overcame so much, not the least of which was the colour of her skin.  But more than that it demonstrates that champions and heroes start life as ordinary people, just like the book’s readers, that they face all the setbacks, doubts and other obstacles as “regular people” but they dig deep because their passion to achieve is so strong. It demonstrates the power of self-belief, and particularly the support of family, and shows that there are many others standing on the dais even if they’re not seen by the public. 

Written openly and honestly, the picture book format is perfect for its intended audience because they are at the age when dreams start to take shape, the passion starts to build and the foundations for becoming a champion are being put in place. Perhaps it will help consolidate their own dreams. 

Biographies and autobiographies in a format and language accessible to younger readers are an important part of the development of the age group for a lot more reasons than just a lot of facts about someone famous.  And for this to be about someone so familiar yet so ordinary in many ways, may just be the catalyst a future star might need. If she could, I can… She persisted.

 

Tiny Possum and the Migrating Moths

Tiny Possum and the Migrating Moths

Tiny Possum and the Migrating Moths

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tiny Possum and the Migrating Moths

Julie Murphy

Ben Clifford

CSIRO Publishing, 2021

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

9781486314621

High in the snowy mountains of the Australian Alps an amazing story of life plays out each year, one that was thought to have long since ended but a chance discovery at Mt Hotham in 1966 gave hope.

The story of the  mountain pygmy possum and its relationship with the migration of the bogong moth is told in this beautifully illustrated book, bringing to life the tiny creature’s dependence on them for food.  In the warmer months, the moths migrate to the mountains where the pygmy possum gorges on them to build up the fat reserves it needs to survive in its little nest deep beneath the winter snows.  But as urbanisation expands, climate changes and droughts hit. many moths do not make it to their mountain homes (there has been a 99.5% decline in populations in five years and it is now on the IUCN red List) meaning there is less food for the possum.  With only 2500 left in three isolated populations in the alps, this could lead to those earlier fears coming true.

As with One Potoroo, once again CSIRO Publishing have brought the plight of one of our lesser-known endangered species to light in a picture book that will have broad appeal.  Apart from the information embedded in the story, there are extra pages that give much more insight into the possum’s life and habitat and how we can help.. Something as simple as turning off excess lights or drawing the curtains if your home is part of the moths’ migratory path can mean they won’t get distracted and can fly on.  

Clifford’s illustrations are works of art in themselves – their detail is exquisite offering much to explore – and the whole really offers food for thought, not just for those who live in this region but also those who enjoys its winter snows.  If there is a tiny pygmy possum surviving the winter beneath their feet, what else might there be? And what else might be living in other habitats that we take for granted? As usual. there re comprehensive teachers’ notes directly linked to the Australian Curriculum to support its use in the classroom.

Superb!

 

Pax

Pax

Pax

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pax

Sara Pennepacker

Jon Klassen

HarperCollins, 2017

298pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9780008158286

War is coming and Peter’s father is answering the call to arms. But first he must deliver Peter to his grandfather’s care 300 miles away and before that, they must return the fox that has been Peter’s pet since it was a kit to the wild.

Pax and Peter have been inseparable since Peter found him, his mother killed by a car (as was Peter’s and their friendship has helped him come to terms with his anger and grief as his father dealt with his) and  his siblings having starved to death, so to abandon Pax to the wild  is heart-breaking.  But while Peter sort of understands why, Pax is bewildered when the car roars off while he is searching for a beloved toy Peter has thrown…

And so begins one of the most heart-warming, heart-wrenching stories of the love between human and animal that I’ve read for a long time. Told in alternating chapters between them, we follow Pax’s gradual adaptation to his new surroundings as he slowly comes to accept that Peter is not coming back, at the same time as we follow Peter’s journey back from his grandfather’s home determined to find him and reunite.  Neither feels whole without the other.  The author worked closely with an expert in fox behaviour, and as well as celebrating that limitless affinity that a child can have with an animal, tame or wild, she uses the two-voice perspective to explore and explain the issues in the story.

This is one for independent readers, or even a class read-aloud, with much to consider and discuss.  At the end of it, Pennepacker was not going to write another novel but eventually she did.  That book is  a sequel to this one – Pax: the Journey Home  – and it was receiving that to review that had me requesting Pax.  I am so glad I did.