Even though it is almost thirty years since Roald Dahl died, his characters are such household names with young readers that there are few who would not have read at least one of his stories. And even though Dahl might have passed onto the greatest storyland, illustrator Quentin Blake is still with us and sharing his iconic graphics in this latest book that sets the reader all sorts of activities to do, games to play and puzzles to solve.
Beginning with a brief biography of Dahl including some fascinating facts like his birthday being September 13 and thus spawning annual celebrations on Roald Dahl Day ; and a similar though less familiar introduction to Quentin Blake, there are tips about bow to be a storyteller like Dahl followed by a host of other engaging, interactive pages that build on the stories and the characters bringing them to life. And once all the challenges have been completed, the successful reader can call themselves a World of Roald Dahl Superstar with an appropriate certificate.
Miss 9 adored the Dahl puzzle books and boxed set she found in her 2019 Christmas stocking and was so excited when her 2020 school year was devoted to exploring his works. Imagine how much more she will bring and be when she discovers this one! In fact, with winter dragging on and Term 3 being the longest ever, she might discover it sooner than later! A reward for the days and days spent at home with none of her usual distractions.
Cousins Zola and Alessandro live next door to each other – there’s even a gate cut into the fence by their Nonno Nino before he died so they could be together as much as they want, so most afternoons after school they play together.
After her adventures trying to help her Nonna and the school gardening club, Zola has been trying to stay out of trouble joining Nonna at the community gardening club, trying to learn to listen and even giving Alessandro’s dog Gigi obedience lessons so she will be allowed to play in Nonna’s garden with the children. But new neighbours, cats and dogs that aren’t yet friends, Nonna learning to knit and a new school project to help the homeless can really only have one outcome when Zola gets involved…
This is another joyous romp about Zola and her friends doing ordinary everyday things in which the reader can see themselves, understand and relate to, while forming a stepping stone for newly independent readers with a solid text combined with lots of illustrations, short chapters and humour. This could be any neighbourhood anywhere and it could be the inspiration for children to get together in ways they did in previous generations and be the foundation blocks of a new community as the children in this series are. Most children, regardless of the heritage, understand “Nonna” is the Italian word for grandmother and now they can add the Arabic word Teta to their vocabulary – just another subtle way that diversity is celebrated in the story.
There are seven stories in the series altogether and each one promises to be just as engages and entertaining.
Each time a new baby is born into the family, Nanna knits a new baby bunny. Each is distinct in its colouring and becomes a favourite with the recipient. But the fourth bunny is a bit different – it has a grey body but no eyes. Nanna says she can’t decide what colour to use and leaves the task to the family. Each comes home from the haberdashery shop with their choice of buttons, but will any of them do the job and be perfect?
This is a charming story for young readers that shows an unusual way of having siblings become involved in the birth of a new baby so they feel part of the process. It offers opportunities for them to talk about special toys and gifts they have received and will perhaps even pass on to their own children. But it is also a powerful statement about gift-giving – it is not the fanciest, most expensive gift that is necessarily the most treasured. It is often those made with love and time and a personal connection that stand the test of time.
Bluey is a six-year-old blue heeler pup who loves to play. Along with her friends and family, Bluey enjoys exploring the world and using her imagination to turn everyday life into an amazing adventure. Based on the Australian children’s television program that is so popular on ABC Kids , the adventures continue in print format enabling our youngest readers to extend their fun while appreciating the joy of stories. They can also get creative with the activities from the ABC.
Young readers are now expecting their heroes to be in multimedia format, giving them a more holistic experience, so adding print to the collection so familiar and favourite characters are seamlessly interwoven is a critical part of their literacy development. So as well as this new adventure where it is Bob Bilby’s turn to take Bluey home, there is also a craft book available. While its focus is Easter, there are still many activities that little ones will enjoy doing that are more general, and all of which will develop their imagination and fine motor skills. Perfect as winter approaches and this stay-at-home time extends.
Peppa and her friends are learning about caring for the planet at playgroup and Madame Gazelle asks them each to make a scrapbook that shows the everyday things they do at home to help the planet. So from walking to school to recycling bottles to using scrap card for their scrapbooks, Peppa and George embrace the task enthusiastically learning that even little changes can make a difference.
This would be an excellent story to share with our youngest readers, particularly at this time when so many are not able to attend school because they, too, could create a Love Our Planet scrapbook and share photos and explanations of what they are doing each day. Keeping students engaged in their learning could be tricky for parents who are not used to taking on the teacher’s role so having an authentic task such as this and featuring such well-known characters who are already role models will be most welcome. And sharing new ideas can expand both the task and the learning.
Here’s today’s contribution to my scrapbook – providing our local crimson rosella population with water to drink and bathe in.
‘Late one night, Felix heard a thousand giants march across the sky and the round, silver moon went into hiding.’
Alone in his room, Felix is frightened – he imagines he can hear giants gathering on the rooftop. As a wild storm thunders through the night, Felix turns to his trusty torch, creating strong, brave shadow creatures who can keep him company and protect him from the ferocity of the wind and rain.
One by one, frolicking creatures crowd Felix’s bedroom. With his shadow friends impatient to play in the night, Felix must decide whether to stay, alone, or venture out shoulder to shoulder with his friends and confront his fears.’
Storms can be terrifying for young people (and not-so) and how well I remember being told that lightning was just the angels having a fireworks party and thunder, the clouds banging together – explanations I shared with both my son and my grandchildren when they crept into my bed seeking comfort. So Felix’s fear is understandable and will resonate with young readers and perhaps offer them some reassurance. It offers an opportunity to not only investigate the origins of storms but also to play around with shadows and discover how they are caused.
But being from the NLA, this story has the added bonus of extra pages and these one focus on the art of telling stories with shadows, particularly shadow puppets. There are even instructions for making your own and patterns that can be used. In these times of schools not necessarily being in physical spaces, this is one that could be recommended to parents (it’s available for purchase online) to offer lots of creativity and fun as well as learning.
The Christmas song The Twelve Days of Christmas has had many versions and interpretations over the centuries including originally being a game in 19th century to being a catechism song for young Catholics forbidden from practising their faith in England, but one thing is for sure – none is quite like this version that combines the traditional lyrics with the literature of Roald Dahl.
. . on the third day of Christmas, my true love gave to me . . . Three Naughty Muggle-Wumps, Two Smelly Twits and Matilda in the library!
Focusing on the stories that have been children’s favourites over the years, “This gloriumptious book is packed full of: – whipple-scrumptious recipes for festive feasting – tricksy pranks guaranteed to get you on the naughty list – amazing chrimbo activities to impress (or prank) your family – jolly jokes that are even better than the ones in the crackers.”
Each day centres on a different book and there are activities, recipes, stories, poems and a host of other things that will keep the Dahl fan fascinated and occupied once the anticipation and excitement of December 25 has passed. Combine it with a gift pack of the books themselves – Matilda, The Twits, The Enormous Crocodile, The BFG, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Fantastic Mr Fox, James and the Giant Peach, The Giraffe, The Pelly and Me, George’s Marvellous Medicine, Esio Trot, The Witches and a couple of twisted tales – and you have the perfect gift for the fan or to introduce a new reader that will keep them entranced for the whole holidays!
Emily is a big fan of Halloween and begins early to pester her family about the preparations for it. But they are very busy with their everyday lives and don’t really have time to get involved, so Emily has to do much of the preparation herself, including making the jack-o-lantern from a watermelon because Halloween is not pumpkin season in Australia. Will she be able to get her family involved eventually?
Told entirely in dialogue with Emily’s speech in red and that of the other family members in black, with touches of humour and a need to read the pictures as much as the words, this is a story for young children who are noticing the preparations happening in stores for this not-so-traditional celebration in Australia but who are fascinated by it, its trappings and the concept of trick-or-treat. While it is growing in popularity here, there are still many who mutter about it being an American thing but in fact, it is much older than that, dating back to pagan times and the festival of Samhain which marked the end of the harvest season then gradually morphing into All Hallows Eve as the night before the Christian festival of All Saints Day as Christianity spread throughout Britain.. Each of the symbols in the story that Emily refers to. and those associated with this time of year has an interesting story behind it and its association with the festival, so this is a chance to help our young readers pose questions about them and then try to discover the answers. While some schools do not like students delving into the paranormal, nevertheless they do feature heavily in historical periods and religions so information is vital. It is also a great opportunity to indulge in all the crafts that are associated with this topic as students seek different ways to display their new knowledge, and instructions for folding an origami bat are offered on the last page.
A walk along the beach is often characterised by the sound of the waves, the fresh air and the sheer exuberance of being able to move with such freedom as we pass rocks, seaweed and other detritus washed up by the tides. Being king of the castle, drawing pictures in the sand with sticks, feeling the texture of the sand and shells under our feet and the delight of beating the waves as they try to soak our clothes are just a few joys of this most pleasurable experience.
But what if we slowed down and took the time to look at what is there, to examine the shapes and colours and textures of the landscape? Where might our imaginations take us? Into a world of monsters or somewhere different?
Environmental activist David Suzuki says
Unless we are willing to encourage our children to reconnect with and appreciate the natural world, we can’t expect them to help protect and care for it.
Author/photographer of this new book for young readers, Sharon Yaxley has used this quote to describe the concept of this remarkable book for young readers, to encourage them to look more closely at the things in their world and let those things talk to their imaginations. Tails, tusks, dark eyes, sharp noses and jaws with jagged teeth are all there in the seaweed, driftwood, rocks, sand… and when the tide crashes in and the wind does its work, they change into something different. Looking closely, thinking about the object’s story and the story it could inspire all help to slow the child down in this breakneck world, to be curious and spark their wonder.
Even if your students live nowhere near a beach, this can still be the inspiration to take them outside and let them immerse themselves in what is there and imagine… Let’s take the opportunity to connect our kids to the real world so they want to protect it too. Extensive teaching notes aligned to many strands of the Australian Curriculum are available.
On the surface, this looks like a how-to guide to creating illustrations using collage, a technique defined by the Oxford Dictionary as “A piece of art made by sticking various different materials such as photographs and pieces of paper or fabric on to a backing”. Created by Jeannie Baker whose collage masterpieces have fascinated readers in all her works including Where the Forest Meets the Sea and Window, the reader is led through various sections that explore and explain such things as the tools to be used, the materials that lend themselves to being used and even a page that challenges the reader to identify a variety of those materials.
But to me, its power lies in its introduction. Ms Baker shares how even examining paint that has dried and weathered fascinated her, and how its cracks and layers told her so much about the story of the object it was adhered to. Each was another story in its history and made her curious and she would carefully collect a piece to add to other pieces that would help tell a similar story. She finds the materials for her work everywhere, both natural and manmade, and she has become more and more observant of the things that make up this world and how they can be used together to create something new and equally wondrous. And as she says, the purpose of the book is to inspire the reader to be and do the same – to look more closely, to discover “secrets and gems”, to think about them beyond their original purpose or state, and to create more and different magic with them.
As young children move through the natural stages of creating pictures, they get to one where their creation must be lifelike and when it doesn’t meet their expectations, that’s where their artistic abilities stall. They are so dissatisfied with their efforts they tell themselves they can’t draw and the negative self-talk takes over. But, as Ms Baker points out, “When you work in abstract, you don’t have to worry about how things ‘should’ be done -it allows for you to be far more creative and free. There are no right or wrong answers: nothing is ‘bad, just trust your instincts and PLAY!”
By offering the reader ideas for starting their own collage and sharing samples of her work by putting the individual found pieces into a pleasing arrangement, this book should kickstart those who have stalled off in a new direction, encouraging them to pay closer attention to the shapes, colours and textures of the world around them, as well as sending them back to Baker’s earlier works to examine them in closer detail.
In the breakneck speed that our children seem to lead their lives, anything that gives them cause to pause, stop, look and wonder, perhaps even create, has to be a positive influence. There is tremendous scope to use this as the centrepiece of a group activity in the library, with children invited to bring in suitable materials and arrange them in interesting ways – rather like the group jigsaw but much more creative because there is no “right way.” Get started with the Teachers Resource Kit and worksheets.
She also talks to the ABC about her long career, her love of collage and her passion for the environment here.