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Tearaway Coach

Tearaway Coach

Tearaway Coach

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tearaway Coach

Neridah McMullin

Andrew McLean

Walker Books, 2024

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

9781760653170

1855 and travel around the goldfields of Victoria was a very different proposition to the same trip being made today.  In those days,  coaches drawn by teams of horses in the hands of experienced drivers were the way to go but they faced all sorts of dangers including rough tracks, flooded rivers, unpredictable weather and even being held up by bushrangers.

So while young Fen Wood is excited to see his mum who is in Geelong awaiting the birth of her new baby, he has some trepidations about the journey itself.  His father has paid extra for him to ride alongside the coach driver, none other than Cabbage Tree Ned, but in a time of no seatbelts and deep potholes, Fen is not so sure that this is a trip he is going to enjoy, despite the possibility of a baby brother at the end of it.  Sensing his discomfort, Ned hands Fen the reins to distract him and Fen appears worthy of the responsibility until two bushrangers appear with guns drawn in front of them…

As the author of Shearer, Drover, and Eat My Dust, among others, Neridah McMullin is fast becoming a respected name in writing narrative non fiction based on some of Australia’s most interesting and even infamous characters.  This is no exception.  With Andrew McLean’s expressive illustrations, this story takes the reader straight back into that amazing time in our history that formed such an important part of the Australian story, and as much as Fen’s journey is engaging and exciting, it also opens up another aspect of life in the times to explore.  Who isn’t fascinated by tales of bushrangers, coaches being held up, runaway horses and that goes with them?

For many of our students, the study of history produces a glazed look of who-cares, but in the hands of storytellers like McMullin who bring it alive through story, doors are opened up and suddenly times past becomes as exciting and interesting as times present.  How would they respond if they were either Fen or Cabbage Tree Ned? 

 

Everyone Starts Small

Everyone Starts Small

Everyone Starts Small

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Everyone Starts Small

Liz Garton Scanlon

Dominique Ramsey

Candlewick Press, 2024

40pp., hbk., RRP $A34.99

9781536226157

Sun grows beams
and Grass grows blades
and Cloud cannot contain herself.

Spring rains change Water from a tumbling creek to a roaring river and bring Tree nutrients it needs to stretch toward the sky. As Sun’s rays intensify, the sprouts and fruits and insects of the forest grow and bloom and develop, all working together in harmony. Even Fire, whose work causes Tree to ache from the inside, brings opportunity for the next generation of flora and fauna. This poetic tribute to our planet’s resilience, accompanied by its striking illustrations is a resonant story of life, death, and regeneration and demonstrates to young readers the interdependence of the elements of Nature and how without one, or too much of one, our planet cannot survive, let alone thrive.

It echoes the old Aesop fable of The North Wind and the Sun although the theme of this is not competition but the symbiosis of the elements, despite Tree warning that “it is not a race”.  As well as building a greater awareness of the world around them, it introduces young readers to the concept of life cycles and possibly sparking investigations of the connections between creatures and their habitats and what they can do to help such as making a bee motel.

For those more mature readers, the personification could be a metaphor for their own lives, a reassurance that despite all they might experience as they grow and mature into independence, like Tree, they have the resilience and wherewithal to cope with whatever they encounter no matter how bleak the immediate future might seem.  Despite the devastation of Fire and the harshness of Winter, following the devastation, the Earth renews itself, and new lives arise again, rife with fabulous potential – just as they can. 

Words Between Us

Words Between Us

Words Between Us

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Words Between Us

Angela Pham Krans

Dung Ho

HarperCollins US, 2024

40pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9780063224544

Felix and Grandma have always lived oceans apart—until the day Grandma arrives in the city from Vietnam. Felix is so excited to meet Grandma and spend time with her. But it’s tricky when he speaks no Vietnamese and she speaks no English. They get by with both showing each other special things like Felix’s pet iguana Pete and Grandma showing him how to care for the garden but one day, when Felix and Grandma are visiting a big festival,  Grandma gets lost and doesn’t know how to ask for help.  It is then that Felix decides to teach her English, and by working together and teaching each other, they bond closely as they learn to share words as well, culminating in their shared love of pizza.

With end papers that have flashcard translations of common words, (and Grandma’s recipe for pizza), this is another story like I Hear a Buho and Giovanni  that allows us to share and celebrate the languages spoken by our students as they take the opportunity to teach us the common words for the things that unite us regardless of our heritage.  Having bilingual books in our collections and actively promoting them is a way that we can build bridges and open doorways for those who are not native English speakers by showing them that we value what they can bring to the teaching and learning experience.  

For many newcomers to this country not speaking the common language can be a very isolating experience, compounding the difficulties of what must have already been a difficult decision, but if we can reach out to families through stories – perhaps even inviting them into the library to share the stories of their childhood in their own language to encourage those of the same background to hear them and learn about them – we show the parents, particularly the mothers, that we care and that their child will not be lost.  And, in return, we all gain so much!!!

The Adventures of William Brambleberry: Aviator Mouse

The Adventures of William Brambleberry: Aviator Mouse

The Adventures of William Brambleberry: Aviator Mouse

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Adventures of William Brambleberry: Aviator Mouse

Genevieve Hopkins

Alexandra Heazlewood

The Military Shop,, 2017

32pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9780648153221

As war rages above the skies of the Cornish town of Perranporth, a little mouse watches the Spitfires of the RAAF Squadron 453 fly overhead and dares to dream… “One day I’ll be the bravest, most adventurous aviator mouse in all the world.”

The other mice laughed at him and told him he was too small to fly planes, but William had faith and one day, instead of just looking at them, he took the first step in making his dream come true – a step that had the most remarkable consequences.

Based on thorough research and including actual air and ground crew characters at the time, this is not only a story to encourage young readers to work towards making their dreams reality, but it will also appeal to those with an interest in military aviation and Spitfires in particular. Diagrams and accurate illustrations add authentic information and there is also the most adorable soft toy available.  It is the first of three proposed stories so young readers can look forward to learning more as they read more.

With the commemoration of ANZAC  Day on April 25, this is something different to add to that collection of Australia’s military history to appeal to those looking for a new avenue to explore, particularly families whose families may have served either in the squadron itself, or in the RAAF generally as something other than stories featuring ground troops. 

The book is available from the Military Shop and similar outlets as well as selected Australia Post shops, so an internet search would be the best way to identify your best supplier.  

Kevin the Sheep

Kevin the Sheep

Kevin the Sheep

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kevin the Sheep

Jacqueline Harvey

Kate Isobel Scott

Puffin, 2024

32pp., hbk., RRP $A17.99

9781761048951

Shaun, Shauna, Sheryl and Shane are sheep – and are as predictable in their sheepish behaviour as the alliteration of their names.  Along with the rest of the flock, they are happy doing the same things over and over day after day in their fields of green grass and clover.

But Kevin is different.  To start with, he’s allergic to grass and would much prefer a bowl of soup (sprinkled with chives) and instead of subjecting himself to the regular shearing, he prefers to keep his locks long, and have painted purple hooves!  And if that’s not enough, he’s into drama and dance, is learning to knit (from a Ewe-Tube video), and is mastering kung fu, among other things. Sadly for Kevin, the other sheep don’t approve and ostracise him, make him feel like an outcast and he gets sadder and sadder.  Until one night…

There are many stories for young readers about being yourself, embracing the things that make you unique and standing up to those who would prefer you to be one of the flock, but few that I have read have been as LOL funny as this one, and as appealing.  Living as I do in sheep country, sheep behaviour is a common sight and both the author and the illustrator have captured that brilliantly. A paddock of sheep is a paddock of sheep is a paddock of sheep… So to have a Kevin to rock the flock is a masterpiece, particularly as his differences span all sorts of attributes from physical appearance to food allergies to sporting prowess to hobby choices… No matter how a little one in your realm stands out from the crowd, they will be able to relate to Kevin and draw strength from his determination to accept his differences (even though it takes some sleepless nights to understand that he has the inner strength to do so) so that they, too, can revel in who they are, what they look like and what they can do. 

Teachers’ notes include some pages to colour that could become the centrepiece of the reader’s own story or they might even like to use Kate Scott’s illustrations as a model to draw Kevin doing what they like to do most, then making up their own story to go with that. 

Definitely one for both the home and school library.

 

Dexter Lost His Boo-Woo

Dexter Lost His Boo-Woo

Dexter Lost His Boo-Woo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dexter Lost His Boo-Woo

Shane Hegarty

Ben Mantle

Hodder Children’s, 2024

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

9781444966350 

HELP! Dexter’s lost his Boo-Woo.

It’s a scary sounding beast! It has fiery eyes and floppy ears, and twenty pointy teeth!

Soon the whole town is on the hunt for the Boo-Woo… police officers, firefighters and so many more join in the search, each getting more and more concerned as Dexter describes the Boo-Woo.  They are very relieved when they find it,  but have they?

At first glance, this is a story written in fast-paced rhyme for very young children about finding something precious that has been lost and the emotions that that engenders, but it has the potential to be so much more because as the locals join the search, Dexter adds more and more information building up the picture of what his Boo-Woo looks like.  So much like The Dudgeon is Coming, young students can build group or individual pictures adding features as they are revealed, particularly if the first reading of the story is read aloud without showing the illustrator’s interpretation of the words (wrap the cover in brown paper) so the listeners really have to engage with the text as each new detail is revealed.  

It not only provides an excellent opportunity to focus on description and descriptors which will enrich their own writing, but also on perception because each drawing will be different and none will be the same as that of Ben Mantle.  You can talk about how our experiences shape our mind’s eye, and perhaps even introduce the classic poem, The Blind Men and the Elephant by John Godfrey Saxe. Extend the experience by having them draw the king in The King’s Breakfast by A. A. Milne, Dahl’s BFG as he walks down the street blowing dreams through the windows, or even Gandalf’s first meeting with Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit. Each has a description that lends itself to be interpreted in a graphic and because each of us interprets what we see and hear differently can lead to discussions about perception, what is truth and how it is shaped by our beliefs, values and even our role in an incident.   

But to be able to hang such a series of lessons on a story, you first need an engaging story that appeals to its audience on the surface, and Dexter and his Boo-Woo is certainly that, with the ending lending itself to even more possibilities!  

The Knight of Little Import

The Knight of Little Import

The Knight of Little Import

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Knight of Little Import

Hannah Batsel

Carolrhoda Books, 2024

40pp., hbk., RRP $A37.99

9781728450995

Compared to the big and boisterous city of Biggerborough, Charlie’s home town of Little Import is very staid and sedate, which is extremely embarrassing for someone who is supposed to slay monsters and keep people safe.  But in reality, Charlie had never even seen a monster, let alone fought one, and she spent her days reading about them in her Big Book of Beastly Brutes and imagining them.

 

But what she didn’t realise was that the slow demise wasn’t being caused by the brashness of Biggerborough and the knights there fighting mile-high monsters and ogres, but by a host of little monsters  that were hiding in plain sight in her own town.  It starts with her helping the baker get rid of the Triple-Tier Hungerbeak who has been eating his pastries every night for a week and the word of her knowledge and bravery spreading…

This  is one of the most original stories I’ve read and reviewed for a long time, one that will have readers of all ages engaged in Charlie’s adventures.  As each character presents Charlie with their problem, there is a description of the monster in a separate box and so astute readers will want to use the clues to see if they spot it before Charlie does.

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

The ending is a delightful surprise demonstrating that solving small problems can lead to big changes, not only in Little Import but also in life itself, offering a subtle message that having the courage to confront small issues when they arise can prevent bigger problems.  The old adage “A stitch in time saves none” comes to mind and older readers might want to probe the meaning of that. 

The Daredevil Princess and the Golden Unicorn

The Daredevil Princess and the Golden Unicorn

The Daredevil Princess and the Golden Unicorn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Daredevil Princess and the Golden Unicorn

Belinda Murrell

Rebecca Crane

Puffin, 2024

144pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781761340437

Her Royal Highness, Crown Princess Mathilda Amalia Charlotte Adelaide Rose – known to all as Tillie except for Mr Grimm the pompous stickler-for-manners royal steward – lived a relaxed life with her parents, Queen Cordelia who ruled the queendom of Blumenfeld, King Edwin her absent-minded inventor father and Prince Oskar, her younger brother, a would-be, swashbuckling knight. 

Even though her mother has to wear the heavy, uncomfortable crown today because her everyday crown is missing, she is more concerned about the theft of roses from the royal gardens, particularly because tomorrow is the Summer Harvest Festival  and the palace roses are the feature.  She orders the thief to be found and to be thrown in the dungeon for a year and a day.  But who is the thief? And why steal roses AND the palace peacocks?   Princess Tillie is determined to discover them before the festival is ruined…

Belinda Murrell who gave a previous wave of newly independent readers the wonderful Lulu Bell series, has created a new collection for the next generation of young girls who are consolidating their skills, this time building on that recurring dream of being a princess, but being bold and brave and independent and encouraged to do so despite the presence of Mr Grimm and Miss Prim. With all the supports that these emerging readers need including short chapters, larger font, and a few strategic illustrations, this is one that will have wide appeal, with The Goblin King already available, and The Fire Dragon and The Grumpy Goblin due in the next few months

When The Fog Rolls In

When The Fog Rolls In

When The Fog Rolls In

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When The Fog Rolls In

Pam Fong

Greenwillow, 2024

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

9780063136540

On a clear day, when the sea and the horizon stretch endlessly around, the flock of puffins takes flight from their rocky island home – except for one, who is a little tentative and anxious.  But, when he has the courage to follow his mates, the fog rolls in and things become murkier and murkier until it is so thick, he stumbles and can’t find his way forward.  Perhaps it would be safer to stay just where he is, but when a walrus looms in front of him, he realises that that can be dangerous.  And so, he summons his brave that let him leave his home in the first place, and goes forward learning that “the closer you get, the more you see. And the more you see, the clearer the path becomes.” And eventually, the fog lifts and the world and the horizons spread in front of you again.

On the surface this is a story about a little puffin separated from his flack, lost, afraid and bewildered until he finds them again, but it has been deliberately written as an allegory for helping young ones navigate uncertainty, open their minds and finding their way back to a place of safety and certainty. It helps them understand that, at times, we all face feeling lost and unsure, having to make decisions and having faith that what we decide will lead us to clarity.  

While there are lots of stories that celebrate being happy and positive, and others that deal with anger and sadness, there are few that confront confusion and uneasiness in such a way that makes it easy to start conversations and explore those emotions so that the child not only understands that there can be a pathway through without becoming too anxious, but others feel the same way at times.

An exceptional addition to your mindfulness collection for little ones, while useful for teaching older students about allegories and learning to read between and beyond the lines to what the author is really saying – an essential skill in being a critical reader.   

Dog Squad: The Race

Dog Squad: The Race

Dog Squad: The Race

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dog Squad: The Race

Clara Vulliamy

HarperCollins, 2024

128pp., pbk., RRP $A11.99

9780008565428

Eva has always wanted to be a journalist, and, together with her friends Simone and Ash, the she produces  the Newshound newspaper for her school readers.  Their first big story came when a whippet followed her home – so thin that she called him Wafer – and Eva set out to discover its owner, and found out more than she bargained on. 

Now she wants to help Wafer makes some doggy friends and so she takes him to the local whippet races,  And again, there is more to the story than meets the eye when she realises that there is some cheating going on.  Along with Simone and Ash, she decides to investigate because this might be their next big story, but can they crack the case and is it safe to do so?

This is the second in this new series for young independent readers that has broad appeal for those who love animals, those who love mysteries and those who like to write.  The diversity of characters, their relationships and interests makes for an engaging read, but it is interesting that many reviewers have pointed out that Ash is non binary.  While it is important for kids to see themselves represented in stories, it also demonstrates that we still have some way to go before gender diversity is accepted without comment, in the same way that nationalities are.  As illustrated in As Bright as a Rainbowthere are many ways to be a kid, and my experience is that they accept each other regardless of looks, clothes, gender, religion, language or any other barriers.  It is the adults who impose the labels. But the more there is inclusivity featured in stories the easier it will be for those who may be “outside the norm”. In this interview, the author, herself, speaks about why she includes diverse characters in her stories as she recognises the need for such diversity to be normalised, and, unsurprisingly, it is  adults who feel they have to vilify her.

Regardless, this is an engaging series that is being enjoyed by many and they will look forward to The Show in April.