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Leafy Critters

Leafy Critters

Leafy Critters

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leafy Critters

Yvonne Lacet

Blue Dot, 2020

36pp., hbk., RRP $A16.95

9781733121224

The limitless shapes, colours and textures of leaves is explored as an art medium in this almost wordless picture book to inspire young creators to try their hand.  The reader is encouraged to examine the components of the pictures that have been created so instead of seeing just green leaves in the environment, they start to realise that each tree has a myriad of colours and that the shapes can suggest all manner of things that can go together to make a whole.

As summer wanders on and some trees have already begun to change colour because rainfall is still scarce, this is the ideal time to take littlies outside to observe, gather, collect and create their own artworks using the free materials on offer from Mother Nature.

These creations help them search for the finer detail in the whole and examine the parts and their unique elements so as well as taking a closer look at their surroundings, they are also developing their visual acuity which is such an essential early reading skill as they distinguish letter shapes and search illustrations for clues to the text. 

Einstein declared that “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution.”

What better way to start a new school year than with such an open-ended imaginative project that will appeal to all ages. 

How To Make A Bird

How To Make A Bird

How To Make A Bird

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How To Make A Bird

Meg McKinlay

Matt Ottley

Walker, 2020

32pp., hbk., RRP $A25.99

9781925381894

“To make a bird you will need a lot of very tiny bones.  They will be smaller than you imagine, some so tiny they are barely there, And they will be hollow, these hundreds of bones – so light that when they rest in your palm you will hardly feel them.”

So begins a haunting, almost ethereal, picture book that takes the reader through the process of how a bird is made – particularly timely for me as I watch our resident Father and Mother Magpie patiently raise this season’s twins.  Like them, the girl is also patient and extremely careful as she patiently adds all the other elements like the feathers (saving the longest for the wings and the tail) and a heart that will beat sure and steady to carry the bird across oceans and continents at the end of a long winter, eyes, beak , claws and a song to sing.  But just the physical stuff is not enough – it is having the courage to let go of what you have made so it can find its place in the world that is the final piece of the jigsaw.

This is a stunning book, beautifully illustrated in a soft, calming palette that emphasises the care and the patience needed to create anything, and it could be an allegory for any creative process.  First you have to have the mechanical, physical elements and the know-how of how they fit together, but it is having the faith to let others see and test your creation and offer feedback that takes it from being an object to something more. Just as the little girl sets her bird free to explore the wild blue yonder so that it can truly reach its potential as a bird, so have McKinlay and Ottley set their creations off into the unknown to be explored, accepted, appreciated or not.  Just as we encourage our kids to take what they know and be brave enough to transform it and test it in new situations.   Just as we raise our own children and our students the best we know how, we have to give them that ultimate freedom of independence and making their own way in the world.  Are we able to relinquish our control and just let go?

This is a story that can work on many levels for many ages.  It can help a little person understand how birds can defy gravity and fly even when they cannot  but it can also work on that allegorical level of knowing you have done all you can and taking that leap of faith. Comprehensive teachers’ notes demonstrate how it can be used across the ages, stages and curriculum.

It would not surprise me to see this among the award winners in the future. 

The World of Roald Dahl

The World of Roald Dahl

The World of Roald Dahl

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The World of Roald Dahl

Roald Dahl

Quentin Blake

Puffin, 2020

96pp., pbk., RRP $A19.99

9780241447970

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.

What Zola Did on Tuesday

What Zola Did on Tuesday

What Zola Did on Tuesday

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Zola Did on Tuesday

Melina Marchetta

Deb Hudson

Puffin, 2020

96pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

9781760895167

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.

 

The New Baby’s Bunny

The New Baby's Bunny

The New Baby’s Bunny

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The New Baby’s Bunny

Philippa Brown

Krista Brennan

Little Steps, 2020

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

9781925839029

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: Bob Bilby

Bluey: Bob Bilby

Bluey: Bob Bilby

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bluey: Bob Bilby

Puffin, 2020

24pp., board book., RRP $A14.99

9781760896638

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 Loves Our Planet

Peppa Loves Our Planet

Peppa Loves Our Planet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peppa Loves Our Planet

Ladybird Books, 2020

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

9780241436721

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.

The Night of the Hiding Moon

The Night of the Hiding Moon

The Night of the Hiding Moon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Night of the Hiding Moon

Emma Allen

Sher Rill Ng

NLA Publishing, 2020

4099., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9780642279583

‘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. 

Roald Dahl’s The Twelve Days of Christmas

Roald Dahl's The Twelve Days of Christmas

Roald Dahl’s The Twelve Days of Christmas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Roald Dahl’s The Twelve Days of Christmas

Puffin Books, 2019

128pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

9780241428122

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!

 

 

Is It Halloween Yet?

Is It Halloween Yet?

Is It Halloween Yet?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is It Halloween Yet?

Susannah Chambers

Tamsin Ainslie

Allen & Unwin, 2019

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

9781760297404

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.

So much more than candy and fancy dress!