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Arthur and the Tiger

Arthur and the Tiger

Arthur and the Tiger

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Arthur and the Tiger

Sophie Beer

Puffin Books, 2019

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

9780143791836

Arthur’s circus is full of daring performers.

The Acrobat can soar like an eagle. The Strongman can lift a car with one finger. The Jugglers can breathe fire like dragons. But Arthur has never been brave enough to learn any daring circus tricks. He would prefer to have a picnic and tea with his friends.

So what will Arthur do when a terrifying tiger joins the circus? Especially when his father, the Ringmaster tells him he is to be the tiger tamer!

This new book from Sophie Beer with its bright illustrations with a rather retro look focuses on Arthur facing his fears and overcoming them, albeit with a little help from the tiger itself. Even though  community rumours have built up the fear to fever pitch, perhaps, in reality, things aren’t as bad as they seem.

It also takes readers back to a time when the circus coming to town was a huge event, animals were allowed to be part of the acts and part of the appeal was seeing them as wild creatures being subjugated by humans even though they were supposedly wild and fierce and scary. In fact circus public relations traded on this to attract the crowds so if older students were investigating animal rights in relation to recent news events, this could be a valuable resource to examine another perspective. Similarly, the way the citizens of the city respond to the news of the tiger, each adding to or twisting the story could also be the basis for a discussion about fake news, particularly in light of the current election.  

Good picture books span age groups – this is one of those.

Touch the Moon

Touch the Moon

Touch the Moon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Touch the Moon

Phil Cummings

Coral Tulloch

 A&U Children’s, 2019

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

9781760523657

July 21, 1969 seemed like a pretty ordinary winter’s day in much of Australia and elsewhere.  Smoke drifted from chimneys, ice clung to the windscreens of cars, breakfast was served, dogs waited to be walked… But there was something different about this day. In the days before breakfast television was the norm, televisions were turned on and tuned in to an event happening a quarter of a million miles away and the whole world was focused on it.  Man was about to touch the moon!

But as life slowed in anticipation, something else began to happen.  For the first time in the tiny town of Peterborough, 200 km north of Adelaide, snowflakes began to fall. The dilemma between watching world history, indeed space history, being made and playing in snow for the first time ever was such a tough decision to make.  Which will win?

As we lead up to the 50th anniversary of Neil Armstrong’s “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”, this is the author’s autobiographical account of a momentous day in history, both for the world and for him. He was torn between going out to play in the snow or watching the events unfolding on television but even if it hadn’t snowed in Peterborough it was still such a momentous day that there would be few who were alive then and are alive now who can not remember where they were and what they witnessed.  And that is the purpose of his writing the story – for older generations to “share with children their experiences and memories and encourage children to ponder and be excited by the endless possibilities in their future.” 

Beautifully written and superbly illustrated the story inspires the reader to think about what a whole new world would look like for them. Would it be seeing snow, the ocean, the city or the desert for the first time? Would it be imagining what the world would be like on the centenary of the anniversary in 2069? Would it be having a brother or sister or being disease-free or something else they longed for that would be life-changing? Have they already experienced such a change? So much scope for talking and writing and dreaming, pondering and wondering just as Cummings wanted!

 

A Quiet Girl

A Quiet Girl

A Quiet Girl

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Quiet Girl

Peter Carnavas

UQP, 2019

32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.95

9780702260025

Mary is one of those children who treads lightly on this planet, preferring to look and listen and learn its wonders and secrets rather than be an in-your-face master of it. But when she tries to share her discoveries her voice is too quiet for most people to hear, and even though she tries to speak up she is still not heard.  And so she withdraws more and more into herself, becoming more and more invisible to the world, even her parents.  And then one day one of her little bird friends comes to the window and suddenly her mother discovers that she has no idea where Mary is.  She begins to look, shouting and calling and soon the whole neighbourhood is looking for Mary. Will they be able to find her?  What must they do if they want to discover where she is?

Peter Carnavas is a master at crafting stories out of very ordinary situations, turning the gentle and everyday around so the pack a powerful punch. A Quiet Girl is no exception and he reminds us of those more introverted souls we know, who really do have much to say and share but just are not heard over the raucous, busy, noisy world that seems to be today’s norm.  (No wonder there are so many successful television programs about escaping to the country!)  Rather than be constantly on the chase for the “next big thing”, to be over the fence on the greener grass, or being the Joneses that other strive to keep up with, perhaps there is more calm, peace and pleasure in living life at a gentler pace; being the meandering stream rather than the rushing river.

Mary can teach us all lessons about listening, looking, thinking and appreciating and how it is often as important to be an observant bystander as much as an active participant.  And she can also teach us lessons about embracing and encouraging those who are not as bold as we are, but rather than urging them to join our noisy world we should visit theirs. She can also teach us about being true to ourselves and who we are, believing in our strengths and talents and being resilient enough to withstand the criticism and demands of those more outgoing, and understanding that being loud doesn’t mean being more confident. 

There could even be a broader message here as Australia heads towards a federal election – who are the quiet voices with concerns and considerations who are being drowned out by the big voices and the big bucks? Will those quiet voices still be there when the noise dies down?

The teachers’ notes offer some questions and activities that may help you explore this book and its concepts with your students, particularly as we strive to help them become more mindful. 

 

 

Baz & Benz

Baz & Benz

Baz & Benz

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Baz & Benz

Heidi McKinnon

Allen & Unwin, 2019

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

9781760523688

‘Benz, are we friends?’
‘Yes, Baz, we are best friends’
‘For how long?’
‘For ever and ever.’

Baz and Benz are two little owls, and Baz is trying to discover how far he can push the boundaries of the friendship as he suggests all kinds of things he could do that might fracture the friendship.  But even when Benz gets annoyed, the friendship remains strong because Benz is very wise. 

From the creator of I Just Ate My Friend,  McKinnon once again explores the concept of friendship and what it takes to be a good friend.  As with her previous book, the illustrations are set against a plain night sky background, ensuring the young reader pays attention to the focal point and much of the emotion of both Baz and Benz comes through the facial expressions and body language. The story is carried in dialogue colour-coded to each character enabling very young readers to start developing early concepts about print. 

Perfect for preschoolers just learning about having friends and being one, as they reflect on their behaviour and its impact on those around them, as well as how other’s behaviour impacts on them. 

Lottie and Walter

Lottie and Walter

Lottie and Walter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lottie and Walter

Anna Walker

Puffin, 2019

40pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9780143787181

Lottie had a secret that neither her mother, baby brother or swimming teacher knew.  At the bottom of the learners’ pool lived a shark that only wanted to eat Lottie.  So every Saturday, Lottie would go to the pool, get changed, watch and wait and then get dressed again without getting wet.  But then she met Walter the Walrus who liked the things she did- books, bubbles and fish fingers. So she told him her fears.  Would Walter be able to help her before the pool party next Saturday?

Anna Walker, who created the iconic Mr Huff, has again used a child’s fear as a focus for her new picture book, exploring something common to many children and helping them understand that such fears can be overcome with a little help and imagination. Little people don’t always have the language yet to be able to articulate what is bothering them so Lottie’s use of a shark in the pool is a common device.  Even though her mother and swimming teacher might be able to prove to her there is no actual shark in the pool itself(if they knew it was there), nevertheless it masks something that Lottie can’t express yet.  The strength in the story lies in only Lottie knowing the secret and therefore only Lottie can sort it out, empowering her rather than making her dependent on grown-ups, demonstrating that both Lottie and the reader that little people can solve problems if given the space to do so.

Swimming is an essential skill that all Australian children need to master but there are many Lotties amongst them so this is a perfect book to share and discuss before swimming lessons begin, so that those who do have fears can realise they are not alone and can develop some strategies to overcome the “sharks in the water”. 

There’s Only One Mum Like You

There’s Only One Mum Like You

There’s Only One Mum Like You

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There’s Only One Mum Like You

Jess Racklyeft

Affirm Press, 2019

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

9781925712902

I love your quiet stories,
songs sung loud in the rain.
No one can hug like you, Mum
or makes me feel the same.

Brave mums, playful mums, cuddly mums, quiet mums – every mum is special in her own way and author/illustrator Jess Racklyeft celebrates the many things that mums do to make their child’s life better in this ode to mothers that has been released just in time for Mothers Day.

But rather than a twee platitude of a kind that we see too much of, Racklyeft has illustrated this with watercolours of a host of different mums from the animal kingdom, showing that motherhood is not just the realm of humans and that in their way, mums are critical in a child’s development well beyond birth. 

For those who are focusing on Mothers Day and may be treading warily in acknowledgement of those students without mums, this is an innovative approach that offers something a little different.

 

A Great Escape

A Great Escape

A Great Escape

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Great Escape

Felice Arena

Puffin, 2019

176pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9780143794042

Berlin, August 13, 1961, the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the US and its allies is at its peak and  Peter is playing with his mates Max and Hubert, ignoring his mother’s requests to come inside because they are leaving to visit the western side of the city, controlled by the Western Allies and entirely surrounded by the Soviet-controlled East Berlin and East Germany. It doesn’t seem like a big deal because Peter can always stay with his grandparents as he frequently does.

But this time things change for overnight the East German authorities start constructing the wall which divided the city for 28 years and Peter finds himself separated from his parents and little sister Margrit as they are unable to return to the East and he can not join them. Guarded by tanks and soldiers with ferocious dogs and who shoot to kill, it seems that Peter will never see his family again.  However, he is determined to escape and despite seeing the fate of most of those who do try, including the body of his best friend’s older brother left caught in the barbed wire as a warning, his resolve to rejoin his parents doesn’t waver.  While he meets new friends Otto and Elke he is scorned by others, including being taunted and beaten by his old friend MAx who considers him to be a traitor for wanting to be reunited with his family.

This is knife-edge reading about a period in time that was the backdrop to the life of a generation and inspired by the author’s visit to Berlin and asking himself, “If the Wall were to be implemented today, and I were separated from my family, what would I do?” He has brought the period and the dilemma of so many to life through Peter and his friends, and created another must-read to go with The Boy and the Spy and Fearless Frederic.  As well as shining a spotlight on a recent period in history that is still fresh in the minds of many of our students’ grandparents who will have seen it, perhaps even been affected by it, it also sets up a number of ethical questions that could lead to some robust discussions.  

Just as with its predecessors, this is a meaty book that will appeal to those who like some real depth to their reading and who are then compelled to find out more about the events and circumstances.  Perfect for independent readers who are a little older and have a sense of history and are interested in the lives of other children in other places in other times.  As Arena asked himself, what would they do if they found themselves in another’s shoes?

Saying Goodbye to Barkley

Saying Goodbye to Barkley

Saying Goodbye to Barkley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saying Goodbye to Barkley

Devon Sillett

Nicky Johnston

EK Books, 2019

32pp., hbk. RRP $A24.99

9781925335965

Olivia and Barkley are best friends who do everything together, especially catching the bad guys,  With her trusty cape and his sensitive nose, they were two pieces of the same puzzle, but then Barkley got sick and instead of helping Olivia, he just lay in his basket all day. Olivia tried to understand and to go on without him but it just wasn’t the same and when he died she was totally bereft.  Like everyone who suffers any sort of loss of a loved one, the bottom fell out of her world and she was too sad to do anything.  Sleeping didn’t even help because if she dreamed of him, he was gone when she woke up.  And life would never be right again, because every superhero needs a sidekick.

But then, slowly, even though she was still grieving she was able to think about the fun they had together and when she woke up one morning, she had a plan…

Every one of us loses someone who is dear and sadly, that is as true for children as it is for adults.  Devon Sillett, author of both Scaredy Book: It’s not always easy to be brave! and The Leaky Story is gradually building a body of work that shows she is in touch with the thoughts and emotions of our youngest readers and is able to help them recognise, articulate and share those feelings with others.  This is a gentle, tender story of the loss of a loved pet but one which has a happy ending that shows that while the loved one can’t be replaced, there is still life to live and love to give, even if it’s different from what you imagined.

Nicky Johnston’s illustrations are as soft and gentle as the words and add to the poignancy of the whole story and from the front cover to the final endpaper the love that Olivia has to give is on display. In fact the endpapers cleverly preface the story – Barkley hiding under the covers at the front, and Spud pulling them off and the astute adult sharing this story might even prepare the child for its content and theme by wondering aloud why there are two different dogs. Teachers’ notes to assist in exploring and explaining the story are available.

This is an essential addition to both home and school library as it is a sensitive approach to a situation that so many of our little people will face but will not understand without some adult guidance.  

I’m not (Very) Afraid of the Dark

I'm not (Very) Afraid of the Dark

I’m not (Very) Afraid of the Dark

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m not (Very) Afraid of the Dark

Anna Milbourne

Daniel Riebey

Usborne, 2019

24pp., hbk. RRP $A19.99

9781474940726

During the daytime I’m not afraid of the dark. In the daytime the Dark is small and tucks itself under things almost as if it’s hiding.  But it’s different as the day draws to a close and the Dark starts to stretch out and starts to cover EVERYTHING. It’s not too scary when the lights are on even though there are corners where the Dark lurks, but once the lights are off…

And when Dad suggests a camping trip that means being outside in the Dark where the noises are unknown, well that’s a whole new level of scared…

Fear of the dark is a common phenomenon, particularly for little ones who don’t yet understand the concept of Earth’s rotation and night and day and thus it is also a common theme in stories for them. What sets this one apart though is the way that the Dark is personified and explored using engaging language that expresses the child’s thoughts so well.  Instead of referring to “shadows”, the little boy says it “tucks itself under things almost as if it’s hiding.” and illustrations that show those same shadows getting longer and longer.  But the standout feature is the use of cutouts throughout the book that cleverly highlight  the text -“the feeling inside me gets bigger too-like a hole I could fall into” as well as offering a peek into what’s coming.  Even the very last page has some that provide the perfect ending.

Like others on this theme, there is much that both parent and teacher can explore with the child as the book is shared – the concept of darkness and how it is created and needed, emotions and fears and how these can be addressed, the stars and other bodies in the night sky … 

All in all, a great story beautifully told and brilliantly illustrated that offers both comfort and learning.

Circle

Circle

Circle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Circle

Mac Barnett

Jon Klassen

Walker Books, 2019

4899., hbk. RRP $A24.99

9781406384222

Triangle and Square are visiting Circle, who lives at the waterfall. When they play hide-and-seek, Circle tells the friends the one rule: not to go behind the falling water. But after she closes her eyes to count to ten, of course that’s exactly where Triangle goes. Will Circle find Triangle? And what OTHER shapes might be lurking back there?

This is the third in this trilogy which started with Triangle  and continued with Square., and it is just as engaging as its predecessors.  As well as Barnett’s text, Klassen’s almost monochromatic illustrations carry the action with much of it being conveyed through the eyes alone. As with the other two, there is a subtle message in the story – this time, after running out from behind the waterfall because they are scared of the unknown shape, Circle ponders about whether the unknown really is scary.  In addition, the reader is invited to imagine just which shape the two may have been talking to, opening up the scope to explore other common 2D shapes and perhaps even craft their own stories about them.

This is an intriguing trilogy, unlike anything done before which deserves a place in any home or school library because it is timeless and will cross the generations.