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Mallee Sky

Mallee Sky

Mallee Sky

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mallee Sky

Jodi Toering

Tannya Harricks

Black Dog Books, 2019

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

9781925381672

“The first people of the land call the Mallee “Nowie”.  It means sunset country. When the sun goes down, the red heat of the day bleeds into the sky and sets it on fire.”

In this most evocative book with poetic text and stunning illustrations, we are introduced to life on the Mallee under the harshest conditions of drought, where the summer sky is big and blue and at night there are more stars in the sky than anywhere in the world. Where bitumen melts, red dirt cracks, the scrub sighs from thirst and the wind is so hot and tired it can’t raise more than a whisper…

No rain falls here and the ancient eucalypts are ghosts of themselves until one day there is a strange sound on the tin roof…

The author, herself born in the Mallee , has taken seven years to perfect her book and the time and dedication shows in its sensitive, picturesque phrases that build an image so vivid it must have been easy for illustrator Tannya Harricks to know what to capture and bring to life with her oil paints and bold brushstrokes. , even though the two only met for the first time at the launch of the book! 

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

What is typical for this vast region of Western Victoria, encompassing more than a quarter of the state is sadly the scenario and scenery for much of the eastern states as this drought drags on and on, and so this is a timely publication and addition to the collection because so many will be able to see their own surroundings and lives in it and how they, as people, are shaped by Mother Nature, and perhaps draw hope that they too will dance in the rain as the Mallee kids did. In fact, Toering herself says, ““This is really a book about Australia. Even though it is set in the Mallee and it’s called Mallee Sky, in essence it’s about drought, which affects every part of Australia, it’s about climate change, it’s about farming and small towns and the impact that drought has on them.”

Simply stunning. and could well be among the award winners over the next 12 months. 

 

 

Charlie Changes into a Chicken

Charlie Changes into a Chicken

Charlie Changes into a Chicken

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Charlie Changes into a Chicken

Sam Copeland

Sarah Horne

Puffin, 2019

299pp., pbk., RRP $A7.99

9780241346211

When the draft copy of this book first arrived in the post, it came with a flurry of yellow feathers and straight away it was apparent that it was going to be something a little different and lots of fun.

Charlie is an optimist, but things are conspiring against him. His brother SmoothMove is in hospital waiting for an operation, his parents are trying to hide how worried they are, and the school bully is upping the ante in Charlie’s direction.

The thing is, Charlie’s never really been stressed before – not properly, sweatily, heartpumpingly, stressed – and with everything going on at home, plus all the normal worries at school, he’s starting to panic. And this is bad, because Charlie’s just learnt that when he gets properly, sweatily, heartpumpingly, stressed, he turns in to an animal, all sorts of animals. A flea. A pigeon. A rhino. Who knows what’s next?

The school play is only a couple of weeks away, and Charlie is starting to worry. What if he transforms in front of the whole school, while he’s on stage playing Sad Potato Number 1? What if he turns into a naked mole rat or a John Dory in front of everyone he knows, with the spotlight on him? Will he get sent away for Science to deal with? Will his parents crack up with all the extra stress? Will everyone know he’s a freak?

With the help of his three best friends, Charlie needs to find a way to deal with his extraordinary new talent. And fast.

With its eye-catching bright gold cover, zany illustrations and informative footnotes that add extra information about the story without intruding into it, this one will be a winner with independent readers looking for the fun in stories.  They can learn more about Charlie’s friends, who are introduced here

The new year is bringing forth a wealth of new novels and series for young independent readers who just want to curl up and read a quality story and this is one of them.  Hook your boys with this one, with at least two more to come.

Sleep Tight, Platypup

Sleep Tight, Platypup

Sleep Tight, Platypup

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sleep Tight, Platypup

Renée Treml

Puffin Books, 2019

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

9780143789697

Alone in his burrow, the baby platypus wakes up and is disturbed by the shadows and noises of the night.  He calls out for his mummy who has been out searching for food, and after giving him a big hug she takes him outside to show him the night.  At first all he can see is darkness but when she encourages him to look more closely, he sees other things that are familiar to him during the day and starts to understand.  When the wind blows, she encourages him to listen carefully to the sounds and again, he starts to distinguish those that are familiar and his fear dissipates.  

Superbly illustrated in her distinctive style, the creator of gems like Wombat Big, Puggle Small, Ten Little Owls, Once I heard a wombat, One Very Tired Wombat and Colour  for Curlews  has designed another gentle story for young readers which not only introduces them to another of Australia’s unique creatures but also helps dispel fears they might have about the night – perhaps even offering human parents a strategy that could help their little ones.  

With its soft, gentle palette of purples portraying the night, rather than the more usual starkness of black, its sensitive text that reflects just how a mother would soothe a frightened child and its universal theme of a fear of the dark, this is a winner on so many levels.  

A peek inside....

A peek inside….

An activity pack with some lovely activities to enrich the book and help them understand their fears is available. 

The Flying Orchestra

The Flying Orchestra

The Flying Orchestra

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Flying Orchestra

Clare McFadden

UQP, 2019

40pp., pbk., RRP $A16.95

9780702249297

No matter what is happening in our lives, the Flying Orchestra has a solo, a symphony or a sonata to accompany it  Whether a happy, joyous occasion, or one that disappoints or even invokes sadness there is a piece of music to go with it and the orchestra is ready to play regardless of whether we are in the suburbs, at the airport, or out in the country.

This is the paperback release of of the hardback version which won the CBCA Crichton Award in 2011 and is perfect for introducing a new generation of young readers to the music around us.  It includes a list of appropriate orchestral pieces that may be the child’s first introduction to this sort of music, provoking plenty of discussion about why a particular piece was chosen and introducing them to how music can both provoke and reflect a variety of emotions and moods. While the notion of an actual orchestra flying around might be a piece of fantasy, nevertheless the concept that music surrounds us and that somewhere, sometime, someone has composed just the right piece of music to match our actions, thoughts and feelings is one that many children will find fascinating and may make them even more sensitive to their world and what it offers.  Just imagine the sounds that would accompany a day “so windy that even the angels lose their balance from the top of City Hall.”

Teachers’ notes for early childhood are available here while those for older readers are available here, while McFadden herself reads the story with a musical accompaniment on You Tube.

If you or your teaching colleagues are planning to introduce young students to the wide world of music this year and are looking for something beyond the traditional Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf or Britten’s The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra or Saint-Saens Carnival of the Animals, this could be it.

Lovely Beasts: The Surprising Truth

Lovely Beasts: The Surprising Truth

Lovely Beasts: The Surprising Truth

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lovely Beasts: The Surprising Truth

Kate Gardner

Heidi Smith   

HarperCollins US, 2019

48pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9780062741615

Spiders are creepy.
Porcupines are scary.
Bats are ugly.

Or are they . . .

This captivating book invites you to look beyond your first impressions at these awe-inspiring animals in the wild. On each page is an exquisite pencil illustration of a common creature that usually inspires an emotion in the viewer accompanied by a one word description that fits that emotion.  But when you turn the page, there is an equally exquisite but different picture of the same creature, this time with a few lines about its uniqueness that shows a completely different side to it. 

For example, sharks, particularly the great white, can shivers up the spines of those who like to swim in the ocean yet without them at the top of the food chain, the entire marine ecosystem would collapse.  Similarly, bats eat many insects – up to 8000 mosquitoes in a night – thus controlling the populations.

Something a little different to encourage us to look beyond the first impression and the reputation…

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

 

Geronimo; the penguin who thought he could fly

Geronimo

Geronimo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Geronimo: the penguin who thought he could fly

David Walliams

Tony Ross

HarperCollins Children’s, 2018

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

9780008279752

At the “bottomest bottom” of the world, amidst a huge colony of emperor penguins, little Geronimo is born and right from the get-go, all he wanted to do was fly! Despite his dad telling him that penguins don’t fly, Geronimo persisted in following his dream and whether it was using the icy slopes as a runway, the elephant seal’s tummy as a trampoline, or the spout from the blue whale’s blowhole as a launching pad, he was determined that he would overcome his not-made-for-flying-despite-its-wings body.  Despite the failures, Geronimo still dreamed of flying – a dream apparently shared by all penguins in their early lives.  But after a particularly devastating misadventure while trying to hitch a ride on an albatross, Geronimo has to admit that the dream was indeed, over and a single tear rolled down his face.

His father was so moved by that that he called a meeting of the whole colony and…

The theme of penguins dreaming to fly is not a new one in children’s stories but when it is in the hands of master storyteller David Walliams and the creative genius of Tony Ross the result is an hilarious adventure that will be a firm favourite with younger readers.  They will empathise with Geronimo as he tries everything to make his dream come true, and perhaps be inspired by his determination, perseverance and resilience. At the other end of the scale, older readers could identify their dreams and perhaps start investigating what it is that they need to do to make them come true while parents sharing this with their children will also want to be like Geronimo’s father, prepared to try anything and everything to help their child’s dream come true, supporting them, protecting them and helping them deal with the failures and disappointments that will inevitably befall them. 

An utterly charming book that celebrates dreams and making them happen.

Where Happiness Lives

Where Happiness Lives

Where Happiness Lives

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where Happiness Lives

Barry Timms

Greg Abbott

Little Tiger, 2018

24pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781848699519

In the beginning Grey Mouse is very happy and satisfied with his sweet little house which has enough room for each mouse to have fun, plenty of windows to let in the sun where he is safe and never alone. But one day while he is out walking he spots a much larger house that is hard to ignore, the home of White Mouse who invites him up to the balcony to view an even more impressive house high on a hill.  Together they set out to visit it, so focused on reaching their destination they are oblivious to all the sights, sounds and smells that surround them on their journey. 

 When they get there, it is indeed a house like no other, and they are welcomed in by Brown Mouse who delights in showing them round her magnificent mansion,  Grey Mouse and White Mouse feel more and more inadequate and its features are revealed until they come to a room that has a large telescope and they peek through it…

Told in rhyme and illustrated with clever cutouts and flaps to be lifted, this is a charming story for young readers who will learn a lesson about bigger not always being better, and the difference between wants and needs, as well as being encourage to reflect on what makes them happy.  It is things?  Or something else? Is the grass always greener?

Both the story and the presentation have a very traditional feel about them, making it perfect for young readers who relish the places books can take them. And with the aid of boxes, rolls and other everyday items they can have much fun creating their ideal home!

 

The Good Egg

The Good Egg

The Good Egg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Good Egg

Jory John

Pete Oswald

Harper, 2018

40pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

9780062866004

The Good Egg is verrrrrry good. It does all sorts of things like rescuing cats, carrying groceries, watering plants, changing tyres, even painting houses.  If there is anything or anyone needing help, it’s there to assist.  Back in the store where it lived with another 11 eggs – Meg, Peg, Greg, Clegg, Shel, Shelly, Sheldon, Shelby, Egbert, Frank and the other Frank – altogether in a house with a recycled roof, things weren’t particularly harmonious because The Good Egg found the behaviour of the others confronting.  They ignored bedtime, only ate sugary cereal, dried for no reason, threw tantrums, broke things… and when The Good Egg tried to be the peace maker and fix their behaviour no one listened. It became so hard and frustrating that its head felt scrambled and there were cracks in his shell, so The Good Egg left.

As time went by, it began to focus on the things it needed rather than what it thought everyone else needed and in time it began to heal…

This is a sensitive story that explores finding a balance between personal and social responsibility so that the egg, or any person really, can live at peace with itself.  It’s about helping the perfectionist lower their expectations of themselves so they are not always struggling and feeling failure, and, at the same time, accept that those around them will always have faults and to be comfortable with those.  Self-perception is such a driver of mental health and self-imposed standards of excellence are impossible to live up to and so the spiral towards depression begins, even in our youngest students.  

A companion to The Bad Seed, John and Oswald have combined sober text with humorous illustrations to present an engaging story that has a strong message of accepting oneself and others for who we are, not who we think we should be. 

Great addition to the mindfulness collection.

 

Old Friends, New Friends

Old Friends, New Friends

Old Friends, New Friends

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Old Friends, New Friends

Andrew Daddo

Jonathan Bentley

ABC Books, 2018

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

9780733338137

It’s a new school year and there is a whole class full of old best friends to greet and play with.  But excitement and fizzy tummies disappear when she realises that her new class is full of children whom she doesn’t know.  There is not one familiar face amongst them.  The happy tummy bubbles pop, turning to cartwheels instead; her smile dims and her hands are soggy.

But then she remembers some advice from her mum about being brave, and her grandfather about finding a smile somewhere, and tells herself that her very best BFF will always be herself and suddenly the light begins to shine and a whole world of possibilities opens up.

As the new school year gets underway, many children will be finding themselves in a classroom where they know no one whether that’s because of the way things have been sorted or moving to a new school and it can be a daunting and overwhelming proposition. So this is the perfect book to share to help children like that feel they can make the first step towards making friendships and that a class of 30 kids they don’t know is just 30 opportunities to open up new possibilities.  This is the advice I’ve given to Miss Moving-On-To-High-School because the strategies are just as relevant there.

When someone has lost their smile, give them one of yours.

The beginning of the year is the perfect time for a focus on friends and friendships and so the team who gave us When I Grow Up and First Day have done it again, with their finger on the pulse of what it is like to be a littlie.

 

Flat Cat

Flat Cat

Flat Cat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Flat Cat

Hiawyn Oram

Gwen Millward

Walker Books, 2019

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

9781406371543

High in an apartment at the top of a tall building in one of the world’s busiest cities Sophie lives with her parents and her pet cat that she called Jimi-My-Jim.  She loves Jimi-My-Jim dearly and spoils him in every possible way.  But Jimi-My-Jim is not happy – for all that he has all the things a cat could want, the one thing he desires most is a cat friend.  But there is no way out of the apartment  and as he watches the world go by from the apartment window for hours and hours, days and days, he begins to go flat. Soon, hHe even looked as flat as he feels

Then one day, he finds a way to escape and he finds himself in the world of the city and its “fat cats, cool cats, jazz cats, boss cats, scaredy cats, alley cats, cat burglars, cat-nappers and even a few dogs who thought they were the cat”s whiskers.”

But is this a new life for Jimi-My-Jim or is he destined to be a Flat Cat watching on from the window for ever?

This is an intriguing book for young readers who love cats and who will adore the amazing, distinctive artwork that helps to tell Jimi-My-Jim’s tale.  But there is also an undertone of whether it’s right to keep animals in places where they are cooped up all day and can’t access the outdoors.  And whether things are a substitute for getting outside, friendship and all the other stuff that a wider world can offer.

And it brings to mind T. S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats,  the foundation of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical Cats. Perhaps it could be an entry point into those poems starting with Macavity’s Not There! Nothing like getting our youngest readers into worlds perhaps considered beyond them via a genuine bridge!