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Combat Wombat to the Rescue

Combat Wombat to the Rescue

Combat Wombat to the Rescue

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Combat Wombat to the Rescue

Gina Newton

Tiffanee Daley

Ford Street, 2020

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

9781925804577

Combat Wombat, Wildlife Warrior of the Bush is fast asleep when he is woken by the other creatures, wanting to play. But there is no time to play because Combat Wombat’s super-sensitive nose, ears and paws have picked up some unmistakable signals – there is a bushfire on its way.  Quickly organising  his friends to be in charge of certain elements of safety, Combat Wombat leads them to Billabong Island where they will be safe.  Even though there are significant obstacles on the way he uses his special talents to overcome these until he gets to the river’s edge.  All the others can get across the water, but wombats are not built for leaping, flying or swimming.  Can he trust Bingo Dingo to get him there safely?

This is a story for younger readers that puts the plight of wildlife during a bushfire firmly in focus, particularly relevant given the events of last summer.  By using their special talents and working together, the creatures keep themselves safe, a lesson that goes beyond this particular situation. Much of the story is told in the artwork which is unique and Tiffanee Daley has shared her technique in this video.

Teachers’ notes offer a variety of ideas about how to use this book in the classroom with little ones but I believe they will enjoy it just for its own sake. I did.

Yorick and Bones

Yorick and Bones

Yorick and Bones

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yorick and Bones

Jeremy Tankard

Hermione Tankard

HarperCollins, 2020

144pp., pbk., RRP $A34.99

9780062854308

This is an hilarious story about a skeleton who is roused from his death when a hot dog vendor collides with a witch causing a potion she’s carrying to spill from her hands and seep into Yorick’s grave. He awakens, surprised to find he has slept so long that he has lost his memory until a dog digs him up. All that Yorick wants is a sausage and someone to share it with but while he finds the sausage easily enough, finding a friend is a harder task. 

Subtitled “The lost graphic novel by William Shakespeare”, this is a graphic novel for the upper end of the readership of this blog because the text has been written in Shakespeare’s language and iambic pentameter rhythm, making it one for those independent enough to cope with that.  At the same time, it may well capture older readers’ imagination, particularly those familiar with Shakespeare’s works as there are references that have been cleverly adapted throughout. 

Something different to offer those who declare that they have ‘read everything”. 

Julian at the Wedding

Julian at the Wedding

Julian at the Wedding

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Julian at the Wedding

Jessica Love

Walker, 2020

40pp., hbk., RRP $A27.99

9781406397482

Julian and his grandmother are attending a wedding. In fact, Julian is in the wedding along with his cousin Marisol. When wedding duties are fulfilled and with a new dog friend in tow, the pair takes off to roam the venue, exploring everywhere from underneath tables to enchanting willow trees to muddy puddles!  So when Mariola’s dress gets ruined, Julian has the perfect solution. But how will the grown-ups respond?

We first met Julian and his flamboyant grandmother in Julian is a Mermaid, a brilliant but controversial interpretation of being true to oneself. This sequel is just as good as it subtly shifts the narrative of convention so that the wedding being that of two brides is as normal as any other is almost unremarkable. After all, a wedding is just “a party for love.”

However, its impact may be more profound. 

The story behind Charles M. Schultz introducing a black character into the Peanuts comic strip has been well-documented and there are stories galore of how this impacted young black readers in the US, particularly.  Suddenly they were seeing themselves in literature in a new and positive portrayal. And so it may well be with children like Julian – those who don’t live in a conventional family; those for who two mums and two dads is the norm; those who prefer to be mermaids than superheroes. Here they are in a story that treats their situation as the norm and moves on to the real issues – ruining your bridesmaid’s dress at a wedding where, traditionally, you’re supposed to remain pristine!

Like its predecessor, most of this story is told in the stunning illustrations with the minimum of text, and they hold so many riches that the book demands to be explored again and again. Jessica Love won the Bologna Ragazzi Award and Klaus Flugge Prize for Julian is a Mermaid, her debut picture book and it is quite probable that this will be among the prizewinners too. 

I NEED a Parrot

I NEED a Parrot

I NEED a Parrot

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I NEED a Parrot

Chris McKimmie

Ford Street, 2020 

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

9781925804287

Like so many little people, this little boy decides he needs a pet.  Not just any pet – he needs a parrot in particular. But while he feels ne needs a parrot, and is prepared to take care of it, what does the parrot need?

Apart from the enduring argument about whether birds of any kind should be kept in cages, the story opens up discussions about wants versus needs and whether the two concepts are interchangeable.  

McKimmie has a unique artistic style that makes his illustrations very childlike in appearance and this really speaks to his audience underlining the message in his text.  Not only does he use the first person to talk to his audience but the words are backed up with images that look like they have been drawn by the narrator offering a double-whammy to pay attention. Starting the book with the image of a cage and ending it with a big blue sky is a powerful mechanism that will remain imprinted in the child’s mind, another technique that reinforces the message. There are many layers to this book that, on the surface, seems quite simple – a case of how less can indeed be more.

This book won the 2020 CBCA Picture Book of the Year Award , a worthy winner if the criteria is a story’s ability to open the minds of readers and challenge or change their thinking.

Teachers’ notes are available, and if it is sold out in your bookstore, contact the publisher. 

 

 

 

There’s Something Weird About Lena

There's Something Weird About Lena

There’s Something Weird About Lena

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There’s Something Weird About Lena

Sigi Cohen

James Foley

Walker Books, 2020

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

9781760651503

On my first day back at school I met a girl called Lena. Every time she acted mean she laughed like a hyena.

But it is not only Lena’s laugh that is weird – look closely at the illustrations and you will see the reason for it. Lena loves playing pranks and gets great delight in seeing others’ humiliation and fear. But finally the others have had enough and decide to play a prank on Lena…

Given the number of storybooks I’ve read over the years, I expected to discover that Lena had some sort of social impediment that hampered her interaction with other children and that this would be resolved through friendship, kindness and understanding so when this is not the case it was a big surprise.  Lena probably does have issues with socialising but whatever they are, she’s content to continue being mean and scaring the children, and the readers. It seems she is happy to be different, on the outer and disliked (although the teacher in me wonders if it’s a case of hurting before being hurt.) Perhaps there could be some discussion and speculation about why she is like she is, just to  help the students understand that there are always reasons for behaviour, and it is not a surface thing. 

Created by the duo who also created My Dead Bunny about a zombie rabbit, told in Cohen’s signature rhyming text and illustrated in a monochromatic palette with splashes of bright orange, this is one for those who love horror, unexplained weirdness and all things gross! Probably a perfect bedtime read for tonight given the restrictions on Halloween activities and one that might introduce a new genre to those craving a bit more than the usual in their stories. 

 

The Joy in You

The Joy in You

The Joy in You

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Joy in You

Cat Deeley

Rosie Butcher

Random House. 2020

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

9780593181416

Dream big, as big as the night sky full of stars. When you discover the things you love, you’ll find true joy.

Mother Koala is teaching her baby about the joy that can be found in finding your inner passion and being yourself. 

You can sing!

If you love to sing, sing.

You can dance!

If you love to dance, dance.

Accompanied by a cast of colourful characters, Baby Koala is encouraged to use her imagination and to embrace her emotions and feelings, searching for the joy that is to be found in being true to oneself. And to be reassured that even if things don’t always work out, there will always be someone there to catch her.

It is the colour and the exuberance in the illustrations that put the joy on my face in this story, a theme that has been explored in many ways by many authors. While dancing crocodiles, orangutans, pandas and giraffes add visual fun,  placing Baby Koala on the back of an ageing tortoise so they both wonder and wander is an enduring image.

When the baby might have had a fractious day, this is one that can be shared at bedtime to calm both parent and child and remind them of their special, unique connection. 

 

The Thank-you Present

The Thank-you Present

The Thank-you Present

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Thank-you Present

Jane Martino

Annie White

Puffin, 2020

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

9781761040054

Evie and Lola are best friends.  They share everything and like the same things.  But most of all they like July because that’s when they have their birthdays, and birthdays mean presents.  But July is a long way away and they really can’t wait until then.  However, when they put a plan to have their birthdays now to their Dad, he says no and explains that presents are a way of saying thank you.  At first the girls don’t understand but when they do, they discover the meaning and the feeling of gratitude.

 This is the first book in the five-part mindfulness-informed series, developed in collaboration with Smiling Mind, Australia’s leading not-for-profit organisation in the pre-emptive mental health space. This year we have all learned that gratitude comes in many forms and the things we are grateful are not necessarily physical and tangible. Following the story, which is thought-provoking especially for littlies, there is a three-minute guided exercise focusing on gratitude  for the reader to engage in as well as a suggestion for creating a thank you letter, and an activity pack to make it easier. 

If there is a silver lining to the events of 2020 it is the spotlight being shone on the mental health of all ages of the community, including our youngest who don’t necessarily understand what’s been happening and why they can’t do the things they take for granted. Introducing them to the concept of being grateful for what they do have rather than grieving for what they haven’t can be a sound springboard.

 

The Battle

The Battle

The Battle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Battle

Ashling Kwok

Cara King

EK Books, 2020

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

9781925820409

 

It is Edward’s first day at knight school and  to protect from the battles he expects to face, he puts on his full suit of armour. Sitting in the back of the Great Hall surrounded by unfriendly creatures , he is mortified when the king asks him to tell the others about himself. Even though at home he likes to fight giants and ogres, here at knight school he seems to be surrounded by them and he is not so brave. And when one sits beside him on the bench as he starts to eat his lunch, things are r-e-a-l-l-y scary…

It is that time of the year again when the prospect of Big School is looming closer and closer and some of our little ones are getting really apprehensive, particularly this year where, in some places, the opportunity for orientation visits and becoming familiar with people and places has not been allowed. So stories like these that not only show that fears are shared but they can be overcome are welcome as they offer such reassurance. Cleverly illustrated showing the ogres and dragons as ordinary boys and girls and the concept of the physical armour holding him back in the same way that mental armour does, Edward comes to some new understandings and discovers this school-thing isn’t as frightening after all.

However you are connecting with your preschoolers this year, include this story in your repertoire for an added dose of confidence. 

Go Away, Worry Monster!

Go Away, Worry Monster!

Go Away, Worry Monster!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Go Away, Worry Monster!

Brooke Graham

Robin Tatlow-Lord

EK Books, 2020

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

9781925820393

It is the night before Archie is due to start at a new school and the Worry Monster has crept into his bedroom spruiking all the usual worries about getting lost, not making friends, doing maths all day and no sport that such monsters do.

Normally, Archie would call on his mum and dad to scare it away because it is scared of them, but this time he tries to have a go himself.  He thinks back to the things his mum taught him the last time, and summoning all his courage he applies them.  He takes a deep breath so his lungs make his belly grow bigger like a balloon; he thinks of the facts and tells them to the Worry Monster; he tells the Worrmy Monster to go away; and then he reads a book to ignore it and distract him.  But do his strategies work…

Worry Monsters have been out and about all this year, not just before big events like starting school and any stories that help our littlies develop strategies to send them on their way are welcome.  This one is beautifully written and illustrated and any child could put themselves in Archie’s pyjamas and feel empowered.

 

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

Encouraging littlies to dig deep to find the courage and determination to send the Worry Monster scampering is an ongoing process because they’re not necessarily ready to do it at the same time as their siblings or peers.  So to have another book in the arsenal is valuable – sharing Archie’s story might just be the one that reaches a particular child.

 

I’m a Hero Too

I'm a Hero Too

I’m a Hero Too

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m a Hero Too

Jamila Rizvi

Peter Cheong

Puffin, 2020

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

9781761040115

Heroes come in all shapes and sizes and most of them don’t wear capes – that’s the lesson we can learn from this pandemic that has rocked the nation, indeed the world.  In fact, in some countries people have stood outside at a certain time and applauded the local heroes, particularly the health care workers . However, while the children have joined in, many have been left bewildered about the changes in their lives. Children like Arty who doesn’t understand why he can’t listen in on Mum’s conversations any more; or why his dad is working at home and often grumpy; or having to be at the end of the skipping rope from Granny and not being allowed to play in the playground.   

Why are there all these changes?  Why can’t the world go back to the way it was?

When his dad finally explains that that can’t happen until people like Arty’s mum find a way to beat the virus, Arty realises he can do things that will help to beat it too. That he is not powerless and that he can be a hero fighting this invisible, supersonic virus by doing ordinary, everyday things like washing his hands properly and often; not touching things like supermarket trolleys and his face; coughing into his elbow and putting his tissues in the bin; and helping at home by getting dressed when he is told and waiting for his dad to finish his video calls before interrupting. He can even  draw beautiful pictures and post them to Granny.  And one day, if he and everyone else is a hero, things will change back to the way they were.

Our kids are remarkably resilient and if they understand why they have to do certain things they will adapt and adopt quickly, but sometime we adults forget the explanation.  This is a remarkable book that takes the time to talk to the children and show them how they too, can be heroes just by doing what they have been asked.  That while restrictions may be tiresome and boring, every little bit helps and together, we can defeat this insidious enemy. 

Share the story, and make a wall display in a cape-shape that details the things that our kids can do to be heroes and then let them look for their friends being heroes so they can add their name to the display.  Reinforce the everyday hero concept so they feel empowered and powerful. That’s the way to win.