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Bear in Space

Bear in Space

Bear in Space

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bear in Space

Deborah Abela

Marjorie Crosby-Fairall

Walker Books, 2020

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

9781760651510

Bear is different. While all his friends were noisy and busy and never seemed to stop, Bear preferred his own company and the quietness and solitude of his books – particularly his books about space.  Because even though the other bears sometimes laughed at him and called him names, Bear was absorbing all he could learn about the mysterious place beyond the planet because he had plans…

This is a charming story for early readers that has so many layers.  Firstly, it is a tribute to those children who are more introverted, who are happy and complete in their own space and who single-mindedly pursue their dreams, prompting discussions about how there are all sorts of people in the world who may have different values and dreams to us. But it also shows how those dreams can be enriched and enhanced when they are shared with like-minded souls and friends, changing perceptions of relationships and how the world works.  It also has lots of facts about space embedded into it so as well as sharing Bear’s adventures, the reader also learns a little on the journey.

This is one of those perfect pictures books where the text and illustrations are seamless and one would be so much less if the other weren’t there.  Even though both themes of being a loner and having dreams of space travel have been visited in children’s stories before, this is a stand-out because of the story’s layers and that integration of words and pictures that entertain and educate at the same time. A marriage of imagination and information.

I Saw Pete and Pete Saw Me

I Saw Pete and Pete Saw Me

I Saw Pete and Pete Saw Me

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Saw Pete and Pete Saw Me

Maggie Hutchings

Evie Barrow

Affirm, 2020

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

9781925972825

Often, as adults rushing to be where we aren’t yet, we miss the little things on the way, but no so kids. They see and they notice because they are so much more in the moment so when the little boy sees the homeless man begging on the footpath he does not hurry on like the adults who are either not seeing or choosing not to.  Instead he stops and is rewarded with a chat and a beautiful yellow bird drawn in chalk on the path.  And that chat leads to his mum seeing Pete and others in the community who had not seen him before…

But one day Pete gets sick and disappears. No one has seen him and all the little boy wants is a sign that he is OK….

This is a charming story, at times confronting, that really resonated with me because earlier this year a little person at a school that I have been associated with was just like the boy in the story.  She saw, she thought and she acted, initiating a schoolwide fundraiser that raised enough money to purchase some sleepwear for those who were about to endure the coldest of winters on the streets of the national capital. 

Homelessness is a significant issue in this country and sadly our students are likely to know someone not much older than them who will not sleep in their own bed tonight. While its causes and solutions are as diverse as each individual, nevertheless stories like this (dedicated to the author’s great-great  grandmother who was homeless) can start to build social awareness in the same way we are actively promoting environmental awareness.  While the issue itself is hard and spiky, this is a gentle story of caring, unselfishness and hope accompanied by equally engaging illustrations  that might encourage all of us to look and really see, not to avert our eyes if we don’t like the scenery and have the courage of both the little boy and my little girl to act. 

Toffle Towers (series)

Toffle Towers (series)

Toffle Towers (series)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Toffle Towers (series)

Tim Harris

James Foley

Puffin, 2020

256pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

Described as “Fawlty Towers meets Treehouse ”  this is an hilarious series for newly independent who like a bit of a challenge but still need some support with their reading.

Toffle Towers, a rundown, family hotel, has been inherited by ten year old Chegwin Toffle, a young lad with an entrepreneurial streak, a wild imagination and just enough common sense to change Toffle Towers from a boring hotel for grown-ups into an incredibly exciting destination for children (and their families). But running a hotel isn’t easy. Chegwin has a lot to learn, and his tendency to drift off into daydreams doesn’t help He has plenty of ideas. But can he turn his madcap daydreams into reality?

In the first in the seriesFully Booked   the reader meets Chegwin who has inherited the hotel from his great-uncle Terence and sets out to transform it so that is a money-spinner rather than a millstone.  Even with the competition from a nearby hotel, with the help of some new friends and the somewhat eccentric staff whose jobs he is determined to save Chegwin and his parents are focused on their goal, come what may.

The Great River Race continues the saga as  one by one, his hotel staff are ‘reverse mugged’ by two mysterious men. Chaos ensues and it’s Chegwin’s job to get to the bottom of these attacks before Toffle Towers loses all its hard-earned guests. Meanwhile, the town of Alandale is preparing for the annual Great River Race. Once Chegwin discovers his saboteur is no other than Brontessa Braxton,(no relation to me) owner of the rival hotel in town, Chegwin find himself preparing to go head to head with her in the Great River Race to save his beloved staff and Toffle Towers.

The latest in the series. Order in the Court sees Toffle Towers facing yet another challenge from Brontessa Braxton setting up a court challenge that can only have one winner.

Many of our students will be familiar with the writings of Tim Harris because they have shared his adventures of Mr Bambuckle’s Remarkables   and so they will be delighted that there is another series that continues the fun and hilarity as they either envisage themselves in Chegwin’s shoes or are lining up to make a booking for this remarkable place once these travel restrictions are over.  In the meantime, all they can do is delve into their imaginations and enjoy the ride. At least that’s safe!

Grumbelina

Grumbelina

Grumbelina

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grumbelina

Esther Krogdahl

Aleksandra Szmidt

Moa, 2020

32pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9781869714291

On the day she turned three and a half, sweet, compliant Hazel turned into Grumbelina , a grumpy child, so disgruntled yet small, with a list of complaints that could cover a wall”. Despite being a cranky cross-patch her parents were very patient with her and were sure that she would be better in the morning after a good night’s sleep.  But Hazel/Grumbelina has other ideas…

There are certain ages and stages in a child’s life where they turn from mild to monster and the experts say it’s because of their brains going through rapid periods of change.  But whatever the reason, parents will all relate to Hazel/Grumbelina and her mood swings as they share this rhyming tale with their little ones which takes a humorous look at tantrums and lets everyone relax for a little while.  While tantrums and loud voices might be pictured as spiky and sharp-edged, the soft lines and palette of the illustrations takes the edge off Hazel’s behaviour offering a sense of peace and understanding rather than confrontation and exasperation.  

One to recommend to parents who need a new way through this time. 

Beware! Ralfy Rabbit and the Secret Book Biter

Beware! Ralfy Rabbit and the Secret Book Biter

Beware! Ralfy Rabbit and the Secret Book Biter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beware! Ralfy Rabbit and the Secret Book Biter

Emily Mackenzie

Bloomsbury, 2020

32pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

9781408892091

Ralfy Rabbit loves to read but when his new baby brother arrives,  his peace is constantly shattered and he can not find anywhere quiet to read and enjoy his stories.  He finally ventures to the library which works well until he is embarrassed to find a huge bite taken out of his library book!  

Using his special detective kit he sets out to find who is responsible but when he discovers the culprit (along with several other books with bites taken out of them), the solution isn’t as straightforward as it might seem. 

All lovers of books and reading can relate to Ralfy’s dismay when he finds his precious books damaged, and this is a charming story for early readers who have younger siblings who haven’t yet learned about taking care of things.  And once they discover who the biter is, they can have fun predicting how the problem might be solved. What would they do if they were Ralfy?

Ellie’s Dragon

Ellie's Dragon

Ellie’s Dragon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ellie’s Dragon

Bob Graham

Walker Books, 2020

32pp., hbk., RRP $A27.99

 9781406387629

Hidden among the boxes of eggs on the supermarket shelf, Ellie discovers a tiny dragon, so small it’s eyes are not yet open.  Because its claws tickled the palm of her hand she called it Scratch and made it a bed in a matchbox. But when she asked her mum for some match heads for its breakfast, her mum can only see the matchbox.

And so it is with all the adults in her world.  None of them can see Scratch even though as she grows her friends can and Scratch just becomes a normal part of their activities.  But, just like Jackie Paper and that other famous dragon, Puff, as Ellie gets older, Scratch begins to fade.  Until one day a little boy called Sam found him wandering in the High Street, a fully-grown, house-trained affectionate dragon just looking for a new home…

Bob Graham is a master storyteller who has been delighting young readers around the world for the best part of 40 years with so many charming stories like The Poesy Ring   and Home in the Rain , and this gentle story about growing up with an imaginary friend is just as inviting as all the others. His signature style in both text and artworks is there again for a whole new group of fans to enjoy as so many of them will relate to Ellie either as the very young girl or as she grows older.  There is a reason that Graham has won so many awards for his writing and it’s encapsulated again in this new book.  Perfect for invoking discussions about imaginary friends particularly at this time when so many of our little ones are deprived of the company of real ones, but also for thinking about the possibilities and pitfalls of providing a home for a dragon.  

The Sloth and the Dinglewot

The Sloth and the Dinglewot

The Sloth and the Dinglewot

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Sloth and the Dinglewot

Nicole Prust

Amanda Enright

New Frontier, 2020

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

9781925594966

Down near the banks of the lazy lagoon,

Where the trees slowly swayed in the light of the moon,

A family of sloths slept soundly asleep

As the birds of the sunrise started to cheep.

And as the rest of the world awakened, they stretched, yawned and rolled over and went back to sleep. Except for Samuel who found keeping still and patient all day tough when he really wanted to explore beyond the tree he lived in, much to the amazement of his family. So, Samuel makes his way to the top of the tree but, as he does so, he is startled by something -something that darted and dashed between the trees, the bells on its feet dingling and jingling as it did. When Samuel challenges it, it introduces itself asthe Dinglewot Jinglewot Dingledum Dee and invites Samuel  to come on an adventure to meet a furry old friend. But now, faced with reality, will Samuel have the courage to actually leave his tree and have the adventures he yearns for?

Told in rhyme with a rhythm that echoes the movement of the Dinglewot and carries the story faster than even Samuel can move, this is a charming story about facing your fears and having the courage to go new places, try new things and reap the rewards of doing so.  Illustrated in a palette as bright as the Dinglewot itself, Samuel (and the reader) go to extraordinary places as he dances with the baboons, listens to the bat band and meets all the Dinglewot’s sprightly relatives.

Apart from sloths being the new unicorns with young readers, the choice of a sloth as a main character is inspired because if there is anything generally portrayed as being unadventurous, lazy and sedentary it is the sloth – and what child wants to be tagged with that label?  So this would be a great opportunity to start discussions about what our children are afraid of, what they might be missing because of that fear and to support them in leaving their “worries and fears at the door.” 

Boo Loves Books

Boo Loves Books

Boo Loves Books

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Boo Loves Books

Kaye Baillie

Tracie Grimwood

New Frontier, 2020

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

9781922326027

Phoebe is not the most confident reader in Miss Spinelli’s class and does whatever she can to avoid it for fear of showing her inability to both her teacher and her classmates. But Miss Spinelli is smart and knows what is behind Phoebe’s reluctance and so she organises an excursion to the local animal shelter. Phoebe’s tummy is in knots until she meets Big Boo who is just as nervous as she is.  And then the magic happens…

Many of our younger readers believe that “real” reading is making no mistakes at all, and rather than display their lack of confidence, choose not to read at all because they fear being judged by their audience.  So finding someone or something to read to that does not judge, does not comment, but just enjoys the sound and the rhythm of the words can often be the key to unlocking the reader within.  This is a charming story that will not only give many of our students a confidence boost as they relate to Phoebe but also up conversations about what a “real” reader does, including making those inevitable mistakes. 

And while it might not be possible to visit a dog shelter or have a dog visit the classroom, there is always a teddy who is willing to listen! 

Elephant Me

Elephant Me

Elephant Me

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Elephant Me

Giles Andreae

Guy Parker-Rees

Orchard Books, 2020

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

9781408356524 

Each year the baby elephants present themselves to Elephant Mighty who demands they perform unique feats that will suggest their new name. And so he watches elephants on stilts, on their heads, standing on one leg, swinging on vines … Nina pulls out a tree by its roots with her trunk so becomes Elephant Strong, while Norcus bellows so loud that even the vultures take flight so he is dubbed Elephant Noisy. 

But when Num Num has no special skills or tricks, Elephant Mighty calls him Elephant Nothing-At-All, humiliating Num Num so much he feels compelled to leave the herd and find another waterhole. But there he makes friends with a lot of other creatures and learns that not only does he have a special talent but he also has the courage to return to confront Elephant Mighty – with surprising results.

Using his signature rhyming style and accompanied by the most glorious illustrations, this is a story that reaffirms for youngsters that who they are is enough, that it is not about what you can do or what you have or what you look like. Particularly pertinent at a time when its target audience is negotiating the wider world of school and navigating social boundaries within that, Num Num shows that you do not have to conform to a particular stereotype to fit in but that it can take a lot of strength and support to be yourself, a message that needs to be reinforced over and over, even with adults as Elephant Mighty learns. 

Finding François

Finding François

Finding François

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finding François

Gus Gordon

Puffin, 2020

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

9780143794141

Alice Bonnet lived with her grandmother on a hill in the middle of town and together they made a very good team as they did all sorts of things together, particularly cooking. But while Alice adored her grandmother and loved their time together, especially Fridays, there were times when she really longed for someone of her own size to talk to.  And so one day she wrote a message, put it in a bottle and threw it in the river…

Set in France, with all sorts of French things to capture the reader embedded in the illustrations, this is a gentle, charming story of the power of healing that a special friendship can bring, particularly when dark clouds seem to hang around forever and the sun is hiding. Both Alice and Francois need each other because each is lonely and by using the randomness of messages in a bottle finding each other, and continuing to do so, illustrates the concept that we never know just when and where we find a special someone that we will connect with for the long term. 

Adding to the charm of the story are the anthropomorphic characters who are completely unaware of their differences, and Gordon’s clever insertion of French elements that encourage the reader to use the illustrations to discover their meaning. 

Every time you read this book, there is another layer to discover and because it’s theme is one that will resonate with readers of all ages, it is one that will be read over and over again.