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A Christmas Wish

 

 

 

A Christmas Wish

A Christmas Wish

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Christmas Wish

Beatrix Potter

Eleanor Taylor

Puffin, 2017

18pp., board book, RRP $A12.99

9780241291757

It’s Christmas Eve and Peter Rabbit and his sisters are excited, but Peter is worried too. They have all wished for a special present but Peter can’t sleep, and he knows Father Christmas won’t visit if he’s still awake. As the hours drag by anxious Peter hears a little creak here, and a little bump there, so now he’s even less likely to fall asleep, especially as he is convinced each noise must be Santa and he gets up to investigate. Then he decides to sit and gaze at the lights on the Christmas tree…will Santa come while he’s there?

The charm and delight of Beatrix Potter’s tales about Peter Rabbit have endured over decades and this adaptation is no exception.  Perfect for that final sleep on the BIG night, little ones will empathise with Peter as they share his excitement and find it just as tricky to get to sleep it will become a classic part of the annual Christmas Countdown.

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One Christmas Wish

 

 

 

One Christmas Wish

One Christmas Wish

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One Christmas Wish

Emily Sutton

Bloomsbury, 2017

64pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781408885734

It’s Christmas Eve and once again, Theo’s parents are at work and he is left home alone with the babysitter – not even his regular beloved Mrs Goodyere – and even she has fallen asleep with her nose in her phone.  

While there is a tree, the only thing under it is an envelope with gift vouchers that no matter how hard he tries to fold into an interesting shape, still remains an envelope with gift vouchers.  Theo decides to decorate the tree using baubles that have seen better days – his parents have had no time to buy a turkey, let alone new decorations – and a tin soldier, a robin, a rocking horse and an angel, each as decrepit and neglected as everything else.  The angel’s’ wings are moulting; the robin has a bald patch, the rocking-horse’s runners have been half-eaten with woodworm and the soldier’s drum is rusted.

As Theo looks out the window because it is better than looking at the saddest Christmas tree ever, he spots a red and green light soaring across the star.  “A shooting star,” he whispers and immediately closes his eyes, clenches his fists, crosses his toes, bites on his tongue and makes a wish.  If wishes are to come true, you have to wish for your whole body and all Theo wanted was to be un-alone. He wishes so hard that his skins prickles and his head spins and…

With its retro theme and look, this is more than a picture book but not quite a novel that could become a regular read-aloud in the lead-up to Christmas.  It tries to transition between the olde-worlde Christmas of times past where families gather around the tree lovingly decorated with familiar trinkets with each holding memories and the frantic lives parents choose to have, so much so that they can’t even be home on the one night of the year that is so special for so many children.  It’s a reminder that we need to value the underlying meaning of Christmas, even if just for a few hours, and make and share the magic that  our children enjoy for such a short time.

 

If You’re Happy And You Know It

If You're Happy And You Know It

If You’re Happy And You Know It

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If You’re Happy And You Know It

Barbara Szepesi Szucz

Zonderkidz, 2017

20pp., board book., RRP $A15.99

9780310759225

There are few little ones who don’t learn this catchy tune very early and love to move to it as they follow the actions. So this new board book version, sturdy enough to survive the repeated readings it will get, is perfect for involving them in the reading process and helping them understand that they can be readers too. Asking about what makes them happy them for other actions that they can do to demonstrate their feelings is always a winning activity.

All sorts of creatures having fun together in the park  portrayed in a childlike way with happy expressions and bright colours will attract their attention and before long, instead of being a first-read at bedtime it will be an all-day favourite.

Snow Penguin

Snow Penguin

Snow Penguin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Snow Penguin

Tony Mitton

Alison Brown

Bloomsbury, 2017

32pp., hbk., RRP $A22.99

9781408862957

Way down south at the very bottom of the world a little penguin is very curious about what the world is like beyond the icy, snowy rookery. But as he gazes seaward on the edge of the ice he doesn’t notice that the ice is cracking and suddenly he finds himself floating amidst a world of creatures that he hasn’t seen before. Blue whales, orcas, elephant seals, sea lions – all are new to him and potentially dangerous.  But even though he is not afraid of them, as darkness draws in and the sea turns from blue to black he is worried about getting home to his family.  Will he be safe or will he be someone’s dinner?

This is a charming story that particularly appeals because of its subject and location. But apart from that it is beautifully illustrated, with almost realistic creatures but with a touch of whimsy that make them seem friendly so you know the cute little penguin will be okay.

Told in rhyming couplets that keep the rhythm smooth and soothing, this is a gentle book perfect for bedtime and introducing young readers to some of the unfamiliar creatures that share this planet with them – and the curious penguin.

Koala Bare

Koala Bare

Koala Bare

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Koala Bare

Jackie French

Matt Shanks

HarperCollins, 2017

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

9781460751619

If there is anything more than an Australian who hates hearing koalas being labelled “bears”, it is the koalas themselves. 

I may be furry, fat and square-

but I am definitely not a bear!

In this joyful romp in rhyme Koala points out to the little bird trying to stick a “bear” label on his toe why he is not a teddy, a grizzly, a panda, a polar bear, or any other sort of bear – not even one from Goldilocks. 

Who wants blue or yellow fur?

Grey is the colour I prefer!

he says in absolute disdain of teddies and as for wearing trousers!! Teddy bears may feel superior, but not when faced with my posterior!

Jackie French is a most gifted and versatile author, writing for and entertaining older readers with the fabulous Matilda saga ; the newly independents with her Secret History series; history buffs with her family’s story about Horace and of course the very young with the tales about her resident wombat and echidna.  And now she has again drawn on the wonderful wildlife of her idyllic bush home to entertain and educate about koalas!  For me, one of the most appealing aspects of Jackie’s writing apart from telling a ripper yarn which has to be paramount, is her ability to teach as she tells so the reader finishes the book so much richer for having read it. 

But there is also a strong message that we are each unique and as individuals we shouldn’t be stereotyped or taken for what we are not.  As a natural redhead I’ve been plagued with assumptions that I have a fiery temper when really I’m quite placid and reasonable, and if I fire up it’s the issue at hand and nothing to do with my hair colour.  Everywhere we turn these days people are being labelled based on what they look like not who they are and this is a great story to start young readers thinking about the value of the individual rather than judging by how they are dressed or the colour of their skin. 

Matt Shanks has emphasised the gentle but firm thread of this story with his soft lines and light palette using watercolours.  Even the cover is soft to touch.   The addition of the scholarly cockatoo taking notes on each page is masterful.  Little ones will enjoy looking for him while others might predict what he has learned and recorded from each experience. There’s an opportunity to summarise right there – informal, in context and purposeful!

Apart from being a must-have addition to the library’s collection, this is the perfect gift for any little ones but particularly those who live overseas.  Maybe it will help dispel the belief that koalas are bears and save the grating on the ears from all those who know they are NOT!

Teaching notes are available but whether the little ones for whom this is intended need to know the technicalities of ‘onset and rime’ baffles me.  This is where schools stomp on the joy and wonder of reading – they have to teach a curriculum that focuses on deconstructing text rather than constructing imagination and wonderment! Shame, ACARA, shame!

 

Fluke

Fluke

Fluke

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fluke

Lesley Gibbes

Michelle Dawson

Working Title Press, 2017

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

9781921504891

Under the shadow of the great harbour bridge a little southern right whale is born.  For weeks it stays and plays with its mother getting stronger for the long journey south to the Antarctic waters, delighting the people of Sydney who hadn’t seen a pair like this for many years.  But one day a ferry’s motor startles Fluke and he dives deep to the bottom of the water where it is dark and murky and he can no longer hear his mother calling.  

The people of Sydney begin an anxious search for him knowing that without her protection he will be easy prey for a shark…

Based on actual events, this is a charming story illustrated in a palette as soft and gentle as both the text and the events themselves.  Like the humpbacks that are so prevalent down the Humpback Highway at the moment, southern right whales – so-called because early whalers believed them to be the ‘right’ whale to catch because they were large, slow-moving, rich in oil and blubber and floated when they were killed – were hunted almost to extinction in the early 20th century and so the appearance of mum and bub in the harbour brought both joy and hope.  The endpapers provide a thumbnail sketch of these wonderful creatures, adding an extra dimension to the book.

Now that whale-hunting has taken on a whole new meaning  and with seeing a whale in the wild on many bucket lists making it a sustainable tourist industry for many little coastal towns, learning about them through stories like Fluke can only bring a greater awareness and help to guarantee their revival and survival. The whalers  were an important part of our coastal history and settlement, making them an important part of the history curriculum but unlike a generation ago, their activities can now be scrutinised through several lenses as students discuss and debate the “rightness” of their endeavours. The use of books like Fluke would bring another perspective to a webquest.

Teachers’ notes are available 

Loved it.

The Return of the Jabberwock

The Return of the Jabberwock

The Return of the Jabberwock

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Return of the Jabberwock

Oakley Graham

David Neale

Big Sky 2017

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

9781925675009

A long time ago, before you were born,

Lived a beast with eyes of flame and horns!

Your great grandfather defeated the Jabberwock beast

And returned home to a magnificent victory feast!

Inspired by his father’s tale and his great grandfather’s feats, the boy decides to go on his own quest to find his own Jabberwock, and so, armed with just a sword and helmet, he ventures into mysterious, gloomy Tulgey Wood where he is confronted by unimaginable monsters almost at every turn!  Monsters with long spidery legs, ugly beaks and toothless smiles, a turtle-like creature with the ears of a hog and the mouth of a shark… Bravely he continues on his quest but his legs turn to jelly when he sees two scary creatures – could these be the legendary Jubjub bird and the ferocious Bandersnatch?   Courageous though he is, when the Jabberwock itself appears, it is too much and the boy flees…

At this time of the year when scary monsters, ghost, witches and other fantastic creatures abound and people carve glaring pumpkin heads to frighten them off, this is the perfect story to send yet a few more tingles up the child’s spine!  With its atmospheric colour palette, the scene is set for an adventure like no other as each of us hopes we would be as brave as the little boy – but acknowledge there are limits. It’s a great opportunity to discuss fears and feelings and help young children understand that fear is not only shared emotion but an innate human response as encapsulated in the “fight or flight” response.  Do I stay or do I not? 

It is also an entry into the work of Lewis Carroll for those who may not have met him before, or who only know Alice in Wonderland through movie interpretations, as the original poem of The Jabberwocky first appeared in Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, the sequel to  Wonderland.  Considered one of the greatest nonsense poems written in English, Carroll penned the first verse in 1855 and since then its meaning has been discussed and debated.  But it not only confounded Alice…”It seems very pretty,” she said when she had finished it, “but it’s rather hard to understand!” (You see she didn’t like to confess, even to herself, that she couldn’t make it out at all.) “Somehow it seems to fill my head with ideas—only I don’t exactly know what they are! However, somebody killed something: that’s clear, at any rate,” Carroll himself later wrote that he did not know the origins of some of the words.

So while it is something a little different to share this Hallowe’en as those who have not yet been able to leave this  mortal coil wander around seeking their final release, it has application across the ages, across the curriculum and throughout the year. 

It is, indeed, a frabjous day when we find such a rich resource.

On the Night of the Shooting Star

On the Night of the Shooting Star

On the Night of the Shooting Star

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the Night of the Shooting Star

Amy Hest

Jenni Desmond

Walker Books, 2017

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

9781406377330

Bunny and Dog live on opposite sides of the fence, both literally and figuratively.  Bunny’s house is a blue square and overgrown, Dog’s is a red round and immaculate. Each  home reflects who they are in subtle but significant ways and each lifestyle is their own, yet remarkably similar.  For years they live side by side, never speaking, valuing their privacy, leading solitary lives but very lonely.  Then one clear night while out looking at the stars, they both see a shooting star…

This is a story of opposites, of differences but mostly of friendship. No matter how different from us someone might seem, we should take the opportunity to reach out and connect because the riches and rewards of friendship, even between opposites is worth it. There is scope for predicting why the two have not connected after all this time and how they feel, while also giving the children an opportunity to think about their neighbours and their relationships with them. Perhaps even explore the meaning of this popular advertisement and consider what they could do or say to make someone’s life less lonely.

Gentle, calming and a perfect bedtime story.

 

Niko Draws A Feeling

Niko Draws A Feeling

Niko Draws A Feeling

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Niko Draws A Feeling

Bob Raczka

Simone Shin

Carolrhoda Books, 2017

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

9781467798433

Like many children, Niko loved to make pictures and everywhere he went he had a packet of coloured pencils and a pad of paper.

He was inspired by so much of what he saw that he just had to draw it, and when inspiration hit it felt like a window opening in his brain. An idea would flit through the open window like a butterfly, flutter down to his stomach, then along his arm and fingers to his pencils where it would escape onto his paper in a whirlwind of colour,

But in a world of what-is no one understood his pictures when he shared them.  They could not see the ice cream truck, the sun, or the robin’s nest because Nico had drawn the feelings that he felt – the ring-a-ling of the bell of the icecream truck, the warmth of the sun on his father’s face, the hard work of the mother robin making her nest- and so his pictures were too abstract to their rooted-in-reality viewers. This inability to understand his interpretations of his world had an impact on Niko and that night he drew a picture of his feelings, taping it to the back of his door where it wouldn’t be seen.

But even though he viewed the world through different eyes he was undaunted and as he set off with his paper and pencils the next day, a removalist van pulled in next door.  Niko’s world was about to change… he meets someone who feels the butterfly land on her fingers when she sees his pictures.

In the late 70s just as I was beginning my teaching career and finding my feet in the classroom, Harry Chapin released a song that had a profound effect on me and my teaching, helping me understand the individuality of people and that their differences should be not only accepted but celebrated.  And all those memories and lyrics came flooding back from 40 years ago as soon as I started reading Niko Draws A Feeling.  This is a story that acknowledges that being different can be difficult, that admires the resilience of those who accept themselves for who they are regardless, and that affirms that no matter how outside-the-square we are there are others like us and if we are lucky our path through life will find them.

Raczka has written a story that should have an impact on both adults and children and perhaps even on teachers, in the way Flowers Are Red had on me. Cleverly, Simone Shin’s illustrations bridge the world of Niko and those who look at his drawings.  They are clearly recognisable for what they are but their depiction uses media and techniques which step well away from photographic representations or the realistic style we are familiar with.

A book that will change the reader. If I were to draw my feelings about it, the page would be filled with red hearts.

 

Finn and Puss

Finn and Puss

Finn and Puss

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finn and Puss

Robert Vescio

Melissa Mackie

EK Books, 2017

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

9781925335507

When Finn, a lonely little boy, finds a lost cat it would seem their problems are solved.  Finn has a friend and the cat has a home. 

But then Finn spots a poster advertising the cat as lost … Will he return it or is their friendship more important to him?

Told in a few words but with exquisite illustrations that are as gentle as the story but rich in emotion and detail, this  is a story which explores the connections between a child and a pet and how hard it can be to do the right thing.  But sometimes that right thing can have its own reward.

Charming.