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The Secret of the Youngest Rebel

The Secret of the Youngest Rebel

The Secret of the Youngest Rebel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Secret of the Youngest Rebel (Secret Histories Book 5)

Jackie French 

Angus & Robertson, 2019

128pp., pbk., RRP $A 14.99

9781460754801

1804 in the fledgling colony of New South Wales, and Frog, like so many orphan children is starving, eking an existence by stealing food scraps and anything else of value for Ma Grimsby in exchange for some rat-infested straw to sleep on at night. Tempted by an apple tart in a basket carried by a fine lady, Frog cannot resist and snatches it – but is caught by a tall man and life changes forever.  It is the time of the Irish uprisings against England in Ireland, and transported to the colonies for their sedition, the word of rebellion is spreading through Sydney Town, Parramatta, Green Hills and beyond.  And the person who has caught Frog is their leader, Phillip Cunningham. 

Frog is enraptured by Cunningham, his eloquence, his promises and enthralled by the thought of a life that is so much better than this and the cry of “death or liberty”, Frog joins the rebels in their ill-fated rebellion at Castle Hill but Frog has a secret even bigger than that of being a rebel. To say much more would be to disclose Frog’s greatest secret and that is something that the young independent reader should have the surprise of discovering, but this is another intriguing read and one that offers amazing insight into the lives of the children of this time – a life so utterly different and unimaginable for today’s younger generation.

Meticulously researched as usual, based on eyewitness accounts and reaching back into her family’s history, Jackie French has created the fifth in this series of this country’s secret histories, and it stands proudly alongside Birrung the Secret Friend, The Secret of the Black Bushranger, Barney and the Secret of the Whales and Barney and the Secret of the French Spies  helping to bring history alive for young readers who may otherwise  see it as dry, dusty and irrelevant. 

This is a must-have series in any library as it not only sits alongside the mandated curriculum but brings it to life in a way that only Jackie French can.

 

Grandma’s Treasured Shoes

Grandma's Treasured Shoes

Grandma’s Treasured Shoes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grandma’s Treasured Shoes

Coral Vass

Christina Huynh

NLA Publishing, 2019

36pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9780642279354

Grandma has oodles and oodles of shoes.

Walk to the park shoes

Dance in the dark shoes

Fun shoes and sun shoes

Out and about shoes

Splash in the rain shoes

Fancy shoes, 

Plain shoes,

But her favourite shoes 

Are her worn and torn shoes

From a time long ago

And a land far away. 

For they are the shoes of her childhood in wartorn Vietnam, a time when her childhood was like that of others until the night she and her family have to flee with just the shoes on their feet.  They are shoes that take her on a terrifying journey to a new land where she is given new shoes to wear.  But she never forgets or discards those old shows with the memories and stories they hold for her.

Beginning with a rhyme and rhythm reminiscent of Frida Wolfe’s poem Choosing Shoes , this is a story that could be that of the grandmother or grandfather of any number of our students who have come to Australia as refugees, but in particular those who fled the Viet Cong and arrived here in boats in the 1970s. (But not always to the welcome that Grandma gets.) Using the shoes as a vehicle to tell the story of the fear and the flight, both author and illustrator have introduced the young reader to the story of refugees in a sensitive, non-confrontational way.  They have put themselves in the shoes of those who have had to flee their countries and imagined that regardless of the country, “that each shoe would have a different tale of danger, hardship, sacrifice and the cost of freedom to tell.”

This approach is rich in possibilities for a wide age group – children could tell the story of their shoes’ daily journey while those who have been in Grandma’s situation might feel comfortable about telling their story through the perspective of their shoes.  It could also serve as a lead-in to a series of lessons about perspective and how the different role a person has in a situation alters how the story is told. For example, what might be the glass slipper’s version of the Cinderella story? In a time when immigration is once more in the news as the tragedy in Christchurch starts debates again, older students might even examine the different responses by those such as Jacinda Ardern (#theyareus) and Donald Trump (building the wall).

As usual with NLA publications, there are pages of information at the back, these ones outlining the history of refugees in Australia and in particular, those who came from Vietnam in the 70s, the grandmothers and grandfathers of so many of our students. Perfect for Harmony Day celebrations or any focus on the multicultural nature of this country.

 

 

Grandma’s Treasured Shoes from STYNA on Vimeo.

Sea Bear: a journey for survival 

Sea Bear

Sea Bear: a journey for survival

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sea Bear: a journey for survival 

Lindsay Moore

Greenwillow Books, 2019

48pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9780062791283

Imagine you are a polar bear.

Your coat is thick. Your teeth are sharp.

Your front paws are paddles, your back paws are rudders, and you can swim for miles.

Your home has always been the sea and the ice.

A sea bear, far north in the Arctic, hunts and naps and raises her young. She moves with the ice, swimming, running, stalking seals, resting. She follows the rhythm of the sea and the seasons.

But what happens when those rhythms change? What happens when there is no ice?

Told from the perspective of a female bear, the reader is taken on a journey of the Arctic seasons starting in spring when the ice is thick and the baby seals numerous, through to summer when the water warms and the ice melts, making it too thin to stand on and the seals more wary and quicker. Smelling land on the offshore breeze, the bear starts to swim to shore for food but it is a long arduous and perilous journey filled with lots of other creatures of the cold seas.  But above all, polar bears are patient and so she continues knowing that the world will turn, the time will pass and winter will come again. Courage, determination, resilience – even in the animal kingdom.

As well as the evocative text, it is the illustrations which make this book a stand-out.   Using a palette of a myriad of blues, the reader is treated to all the moods and times of this wonderland -starry night skies, ocean depths and shallows, the aurora borealis, the breaking ice pack and isolate seashore. While it could be a story of any sea bear, using the first person builds a connection with the reader so we are invested in her survival as well as that of all her kind. Her companions of the deep become less threatening as they pass by each other as Moore’s illustrations reflect her Master of Science in Medical and Scientific Illustration.

A page of information about sea ice and polar bears and another introducing the creatures she passes on her journey to shore add to the value of this book which shines a light on the plight of Arctic (and Antarctic) creatures as global warming continues and the amount of sea ice declines each year

A valuable addition to your environment and sustainability collection.

 

Mallee Sky

Mallee Sky

Mallee Sky

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mallee Sky

Jodi Toering

Tannya Harricks

Black Dog Books, 2019

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

9781925381672

“The first people of the land call the Mallee “Nowie”.  It means sunset country. When the sun goes down, the red heat of the day bleeds into the sky and sets it on fire.”

In this most evocative book with poetic text and stunning illustrations, we are introduced to life on the Mallee under the harshest conditions of drought, where the summer sky is big and blue and at night there are more stars in the sky than anywhere in the world. Where bitumen melts, red dirt cracks, the scrub sighs from thirst and the wind is so hot and tired it can’t raise more than a whisper…

No rain falls here and the ancient eucalypts are ghosts of themselves until one day there is a strange sound on the tin roof…

The author, herself born in the Mallee , has taken seven years to perfect her book and the time and dedication shows in its sensitive, picturesque phrases that build an image so vivid it must have been easy for illustrator Tannya Harricks to know what to capture and bring to life with her oil paints and bold brushstrokes. , even though the two only met for the first time at the launch of the book! 

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

What is typical for this vast region of Western Victoria, encompassing more than a quarter of the state is sadly the scenario and scenery for much of the eastern states as this drought drags on and on, and so this is a timely publication and addition to the collection because so many will be able to see their own surroundings and lives in it and how they, as people, are shaped by Mother Nature, and perhaps draw hope that they too will dance in the rain as the Mallee kids did. In fact, Toering herself says, ““This is really a book about Australia. Even though it is set in the Mallee and it’s called Mallee Sky, in essence it’s about drought, which affects every part of Australia, it’s about climate change, it’s about farming and small towns and the impact that drought has on them.”

Simply stunning. and could well be among the award winners over the next 12 months. 

 

 

Wrestle!

Wrestle!

Wrestle!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wrestle!

Maya Newell, Charlotte Mars and Gus Skattebol-James

Tom Jellett

Allen $ Unwin, 2019

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

9781760296810

It’s nearly time for Mardi Gras and wrestling-loving Gus wants to go as a wrestler, just like his heroes who are big and tough with really huge muscles. But his mums are uncomfortable with this, trying to help him understand that there are other ways to be strong.  They don’t want him to think that muscles and being able to conquer others is the only way to be good, smart and popular.  They try to persuade him to change his mind, and to perhaps be like sister Rory who is going as a dinosaur.  However Gus tries to persuade Rory to change her mind and he starts to teach her all about wrestling… until Rory gets hurt and wrestling is banned.  That night Gus has a dream and he learns that there is more than one way to be a wrestler…

While this story has a different family structure to the more conventional ones, which means that some of our students can actually see their own lives reflected in an age-appropriate story, it is not the overt theme of the story.  Rather the focus is on how we can all be wrestlers in our own way, even if we never enter a ring!

The back story to this book is as intriguing as the story itself,  From the website…

“Maya and Charlotte spent 8 years making a film about the experiences of children in same-sex attracted families, Gayby Baby. To get the film and its messages out there in the world, Maya and Charlotte did all kinds of funny things – they once crashed a TV talk show, another time they staked-out a morning news show to try and get on air, and one time they made a live video from a rollercoaster! Even when fighting for important issues, they always try to have fun. They also took the film, and a group of Gaybies, to share stories and discuss policy with our nation’s leaders at state and federal parliaments. 

One of the kids they followed around for 3 years making Gayby Baby, is their co-author, Gus Skattebol-James. These days, Gus isn’t obsessed with wrestling, but he is a black belt in Aikido (a Japanese martial art) and is mad about skateboarding. Now that Gus is almost a grown up, he is finishing his HSC exams and next year he wants to travel the world. “

However, because the whole concept of gay relationships might be controversial in some school communities  it is essential that having stories about members of the LBTQIA+ communities within the collection be addressed in the Collection Policy so that should there be challenges there is documentation that supports the decision.  Those who need to address this can read The Censor’s Hat and The Tricky Topics Hat and follow the links to the Sample Collection Policy  which offers wording that can be used.

 

Geronimo; the penguin who thought he could fly

Geronimo

Geronimo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Geronimo: the penguin who thought he could fly

David Walliams

Tony Ross

HarperCollins Children’s, 2018

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

9780008279752

At the “bottomest bottom” of the world, amidst a huge colony of emperor penguins, little Geronimo is born and right from the get-go, all he wanted to do was fly! Despite his dad telling him that penguins don’t fly, Geronimo persisted in following his dream and whether it was using the icy slopes as a runway, the elephant seal’s tummy as a trampoline, or the spout from the blue whale’s blowhole as a launching pad, he was determined that he would overcome his not-made-for-flying-despite-its-wings body.  Despite the failures, Geronimo still dreamed of flying – a dream apparently shared by all penguins in their early lives.  But after a particularly devastating misadventure while trying to hitch a ride on an albatross, Geronimo has to admit that the dream was indeed, over and a single tear rolled down his face.

His father was so moved by that that he called a meeting of the whole colony and…

The theme of penguins dreaming to fly is not a new one in children’s stories but when it is in the hands of master storyteller David Walliams and the creative genius of Tony Ross the result is an hilarious adventure that will be a firm favourite with younger readers.  They will empathise with Geronimo as he tries everything to make his dream come true, and perhaps be inspired by his determination, perseverance and resilience. At the other end of the scale, older readers could identify their dreams and perhaps start investigating what it is that they need to do to make them come true while parents sharing this with their children will also want to be like Geronimo’s father, prepared to try anything and everything to help their child’s dream come true, supporting them, protecting them and helping them deal with the failures and disappointments that will inevitably befall them. 

An utterly charming book that celebrates dreams and making them happen.

The Good Egg

The Good Egg

The Good Egg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Good Egg

Jory John

Pete Oswald

Harper, 2018

40pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

9780062866004

The Good Egg is verrrrrry good. It does all sorts of things like rescuing cats, carrying groceries, watering plants, changing tyres, even painting houses.  If there is anything or anyone needing help, it’s there to assist.  Back in the store where it lived with another 11 eggs – Meg, Peg, Greg, Clegg, Shel, Shelly, Sheldon, Shelby, Egbert, Frank and the other Frank – altogether in a house with a recycled roof, things weren’t particularly harmonious because The Good Egg found the behaviour of the others confronting.  They ignored bedtime, only ate sugary cereal, dried for no reason, threw tantrums, broke things… and when The Good Egg tried to be the peace maker and fix their behaviour no one listened. It became so hard and frustrating that its head felt scrambled and there were cracks in his shell, so The Good Egg left.

As time went by, it began to focus on the things it needed rather than what it thought everyone else needed and in time it began to heal…

This is a sensitive story that explores finding a balance between personal and social responsibility so that the egg, or any person really, can live at peace with itself.  It’s about helping the perfectionist lower their expectations of themselves so they are not always struggling and feeling failure, and, at the same time, accept that those around them will always have faults and to be comfortable with those.  Self-perception is such a driver of mental health and self-imposed standards of excellence are impossible to live up to and so the spiral towards depression begins, even in our youngest students.  

A companion to The Bad Seed, John and Oswald have combined sober text with humorous illustrations to present an engaging story that has a strong message of accepting oneself and others for who we are, not who we think we should be. 

Great addition to the mindfulness collection.

 

Little People, Big Dreams (series)

Little People, Big Dreams

Little People, Big Dreams

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Little People, Big Dreams (series)

Muhammad Ali

9781786037336

Stephen Hawking

9781786037329

Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, 2019

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

New to the Little People, Big Dreams series, young readers can delve into the lives of these two men who, in their own unique ways, made such a contribution to the world of sport and science respectively. Presented in a picture book format and focusing on the childhood events that shaped their future decisions and success, the series is an excellent introduction to the biography genre.

As a child, young Cassius Clay had his bike stolen. He wanted to fight whoever stole his bike, but a police officer told him to control his anger, and learn how to box. After training hard in the gym, Cassius developed a strong hook and a stronger work ethic. His smart thinking and talking, inside and outside the ring, earned him the greatest title in boxing: Heavyweight Champion of the World while Stephen used to look up at the stars and wonder what else was out there. After gaining his education at Oxford University, Stephen went on to make a groundbreaking discovery to do with black holes: Hawking radiation. Although his health was declining due to MS, Stephen was more determined than ever to study and share his findings with the world. With his trademark voice and wit, Stephen brought science to everyone and became loved around the world.

Rather than a dry book of facts and figures, this series is intended to show our young students that even the most famous people came from ordinary beginnings, often similar to their own, and that it was a dream and the perseverance, determination and resilience to chase it that made the difference.  Perhaps they, too, have such a dream and with such inspiration could one day find themselves being in a series such as tis.

 

 

Princess Scallywag and the No-Good Pirates

Princess Scallywag and the No-Good Pirates

Princess Scallywag and the No-Good Pirates

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Princess Scallywag and the No-Good Pirates

Mark Sperring

Claire Powell

HarperCollins, 2019

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

9780008212995

Princess Scallywag and the Queen are out on the royal yacht enjoying the fresh air when they are invaded by three stinky, sweaty, no-good pirates waving their swords and determined to take them prisoner. 

But three stinky, sweaty, no-good pirates are no match for the quick-thinking Queen and the persnickety princess, although it is touch-and-go for a while as they desperately try to save themselves from being made galley slaves, scrubbing the decks and walking the plank!

A sequel to Princess Scallywag And The Brave, Brave Knight, this is a bold adventure story for those who like their princesses feisty, clever, and subversive.

The Man With Small Hair

The Man With Small Hair

The Man With Small Hair

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Man With Small Hair

Jane Jolly

Andrew Joyner

Hardie Grant Egmont, 2018

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

9781742977584

The man with small hair loves his small hair. He also loves his short pants, zing-a-ding boots and clickety-clackety beads. He cartwheels with joy and bursts into song when he wears them. But the man with small hair is the only person who wears his hair small, and no one else has colourful boots or musical beads either. He decides to hide the things that make him happy in order to blend in with the crowd. Until one day he looks in the mirror and doesn’t recognise the man staring back at him. 

Jane Jolly has written a particularly pertinent story about being brave and confident enough to walk to the beat of your own drum, rather than the tune that someone else is piping for you. Sadly, in a world that wants to celebrate individuality and relies on creativity and lateral thinking to solve its problems, conformity seems to be the name of the game and those who dare to be different are teased, bullied and shunned.  So the man who prefers his hair short, and indeed loves it because he likes the feel of the prickly bristles and the funny shadows they make, hides behind disguises that make him seem like all the others on the outside, makes himself one of the crowd who move along in a grey flock, lacking the confidence to express who he really is.

Andrew Joyner’s choice of a predominantly grey palette for the start of the story emphasises the monotonous, monochromatic world that the man inhabits underlining what a dismal place a one-look-fits-all environment can be  But when the man lets his real self shine through, then there is a great burst of colour – as bright as his new found confidence. Not only does the story give the inner person permission to be themselves, but perhaps when they do they will inspire others to discard their masks and show the world their true colours. And even if it is a world of school uniforms there is always some how that we can let ourselves shine.

An excellent story to start off the mindfulness curriculum for the new school year.

Teaching notes are available.