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A Stone for Sascha

A Stone for Sascha

A Stone for Sascha

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Stone for Sascha

Aaron Becker

Candlewick Press, 2018 

48pp., hbk., RRP $A27.99

9780763665968

Just before the family leaves on a holiday at the beach, they bury their beloved dog.  As Sascha grieves and dusk falls, she takes her bucket to the ocean’s edge to collect stones to take home to cover the bare mound that is her dog’s grave.  Among those she picks up is one that is particularly bright and shiny and as she looks up to the stars she begins to wonder and trace the stone’s journey to its resting place on the shore.  From a meteor that hurls itself to Earth in the time of the dinosaurs to being picked up by Sascha and eventually placed on her dog’s grave,  it has a long and fascinating history that reveals itself in a series of stunning illustrations in this wordless text, traveling through time and across lands. 

But, perhaps most important of all, although Sascha continues to miss her dog terribly, she begins to understand that nothing is truly lost – everything, even a stone and a dog, has a history and a legacy and is but one piece in the jigsaw that is both our own and the planet’s story.  We are more than what is happening to us in the moment – all that has gone before has shaped us and what we do now will change us for the future. 

Described by one reviewer as the “young person’s Shaun Tan”, this story has so many layers to explore and ponder with each visit – Becker’s decision to not add text means the reader has to impose their own making for a wonderful opportunity to reflect and consider and wonder. Against the background of the muted palette, the gold of the stone stands out like a thread weaving its way through a carpet, just as our own individual stories while being but one strand of a much larger tale, nevertheless stand out for us.

Is It The Way You Giggle?

Is It The Way You Giggle?

Is It The Way You Giggle?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is It The Way You Giggle?

Nicola Connelly

Annie White

New Frontier, 2018

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

9781925594102

What makes you special?

Is it the way you look or something that you can do?

Is it the way you giggle or the way you wiggle?

This is a new take on a perennial topic that will encourage little people to think about what it is that makes them special.  With the entire text being in question format as though the author is speaking directly to the reader, it provokes thought about those things that are unique to us that make us stand out, going beyond the obvious of the colour of the skin, eyes and hair and starting to look at the inner person-their personality, their expertise  and their mannerisms.  Even those with low self-esteem will be able to contribute something and perhaps get a little lift that there is something special about them.  

Annie White’s charming illustrations in watercolour and pencil show that even within one family of four kids from the same parents and exposed to the same sorts of things, there is huge diversity amongst them which is accepted, appreciated and celebrated within the family. 

Extensive teachers’ notes offer new ideas about using this book with early childhood children but as a parent-child read-along, it’s a great opportunity for a chat about how the child and other family members are special and even what makes the family itself unique.

My Best Friend is a Goldfish

My Best Friend is a Goldfish

My Best Friend is a Goldfish

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Best Friend is a Goldfish

Mark Lee

Chris Jevons

Carolrhoda Books, 2018 

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

9781512426014

“If you ask me, a best friend is the best thing in the world .  Best friends enjoy the same things. They play together all the time. and they always get along with each other.”

So it was never going to end well when one wanted to be the captain of the spaceship and the other, the captain of the pirate ship.  Harsh words are said, a friendship is split and a new best friend has to be found.  But dogs, cats, hamsters and even goldfish have their drawbacks as best friends and so…

This seamless combination of text and illustrations challenges the concept that many little people have that best friends are like peas in a pod, liking and doing the same things at the same time and never being different.  Is it possible to have different ideas and do different things and still be best friends? If someone disagrees with us, does that mean the friendship is doomed or does it offer an opportunity to explore and respect the differences, perhaps even learn something new?  Can we have more than one friend at a time? How is a best friend different from a regular friend? While in this book the friends look similar, is this a pre-requisite to being friends?  How do shared values and beliefs affect friendships? Is it OK to be angry with or disappointed in or surprised by your best friend?

“What is a friend?” is a perennial topic in early childhood education and this book can take the conversation a step further by having the children consider those sorts of questions. Having friends is about being a friend and there are many facets to that.

 

The Bad Seed

The Bad  Seed

The Bad Seed

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Bad Seed

Jory John

Pete Oswald

HarperCollins, 2017

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

 9780062467768

Born as one of hundreds of seeds of a sunflower, this little guy wasn’t always bad. He was close to his family and had fun, and, like them, ended up being harvested and put into a packet of sunflower seeds . But just as he thinks his days are numbered, he is spat out and lands in the rubbish of the bleachers.  And his life is changed,  Now he is BAD. In fact, he is baaaaaaaaaad! He has a bad temper, bad manners, and a bad attitude. He’s been bad since he can remember! This seed cuts in line every time, stares at everybody and never listens – although he does hear others’ comments about his behaviour which reinforce his belief that he is bad and unworthy. So he stopped smiling, kept to himself, drifted along, seemingly uncaring until one day he makes a big decision…

The illustrations take this book from being a bit morbid into a realm of mindfulness, self-reflection and at times, humour.  It’s message that how we are perceived by others is not only shaped by our behaviour but continues to shape it is an important one to learn as is that of being able to change but that change can take time.  So while we are, to a large degree, in charge of our own destiny, we need to work out what we want to be like, take the steps necessary to achieve that but above all, be patient with ourselves and others.

Something different to spark thought and conversations.

 

The All New Must Have Orange 430

The All New Must Have Orange 430

The All New Must Have Orange 430

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The All New Must Have Orange 430

Michael Speechley

Penguin Viking, 2018

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

9780143788973

Remember the fidget spinners of last year that were the essential, all-new, must-have for kids?  The beyblades? The shopkins? And a hundred other toys that clever advertising has made top-of-the-toy-parade but which fade as quickly as they appear?  Well, Harvey had them all – and then some! Boxes and buckets full of them! So when he heard about The All New Must Have Orange 430 then he had to have that too.

The only thing that was empty in Harvey’s room was his money box but after checking everything and everywhere he finally found enough coins to be able to buy his latest desire.  So intent was he on owning it that he didn’t notice the huge April Fools’ Sale sign or that this  All New Must Have Orange 430 sat on a shelf surrounded by items such as dead batteries, free fat, grey fluff and even a lead balloon! He was only focused on having The All New Must Have Orange 430!

When he got home he eagerly unwrapped it.  It had EVERYTHING _ a thingy that did nothing; a whatsit that did squat; a dooverlacky that was whacky; and a something that was silly.  But what did it do? No matter what he did, it did nothing and he finally realised it was “actually completely useless.”

So he decided to take it back – and then his life changed forever.

In a world that seems to be all about having the latest and greatest, keeping-up-with-the-Jones is paramount and we are bombarded by advertisements in every aspect of our lives (even in public toilets),  this book is a breath of fresh air.  As parents find it easier to give into pester power than suffer the sulks of a firm “no’ as their children mimic their own consumer-driven behaviour, the ideas of looking for value or even restraint and second thoughts seems to have disappeared in this age of instant gratification. So to have a well-written, superbly illustrated book that compels the reader to think before they buy is excellent and will serve as a brilliant teaching tool to introduce the power of advertising, peer pressure, impulse buying, the value of money and even saving for something that seems to be beyond the mindset of so many, including Miss 12! Maybe, for those who are a little older, there could be an examination of the psychology that drives the need to belong, to be one of the flock rather than individual.

Its sepia tones used for all but The All New Must Have Orange 430 add to its layers as they depict what appears to be a beige life with the only spot of colour being a new purchase. But once the brief thrill of the purchase is made, and everyone has what the other does, it too fades to beige in anticipation of the next best-thing.  

As nearly all of us seek more and more storage for more and more stuff, swearing that we will declutter someday soon, reading and taking heed of the important themes of this book may help our younger students refrain from being Harveys in the first place!  

Definitely one for Miss 12 and Miss 7 – perhaps even their parents!  And definitely one for any unit of work that focuses on consumerism and marketing. 

The Perfect Leaf

The Perfect Leaf

The Perfect Leaf

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Perfect Leaf

Andrew Plant

Ford Street, 2018 

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

9781925736007

In the centre of the local town there are huge trees, planted generations ago and now the source of the most stunning leaf show in autumn that children and adults alike love to swoosh through, making them scatter, building piles to fall into and have some great free fun on Mother Nature.  

And so it is with Elly and Mai on this “cold-sun sort of day, this wind-in-the-branches day.  Both are in the park and they meet as they kick their way through the rustling, crunching piles, each searching for that perfect leaf and eventually finding something even more special.  Is there a perfect leaf to be found?  Is it yellow as butter or red as a summer apple? Delicate as gold or crimson velvet? Like a warm flame on a winter’s day of rain or like the sun on your face on a day so cold that your breath steams like a dragon’s? Does it matter if there is a tear, a mark or a hole or do they all have a special magic?

The language, the pictures, the colours of this story make the fun of playing in autumn leaves that we all remember burst from the page in a joyous celebration of childhood delight.  Young readers will readily relate to Elly and Mai and their special quest while adult readers will have a smile of reminiscence. Apart from the riot of colour, Andrew has also hidden lots of little woodland dwellers in the shapes and shadows pictures – you can find the list in the teachers’ notes  – so the reader is encouraged to not only look at the details in the picture but also to look more closely at the natural world that surrounds them so that something like a pile of autumn leaves becomes a full sensory experience.  Perhaps they, too, will find the magic as Elly and Mai did. 

Each time I receive a book with Andrew Plant’s name on it (The Poppy, Spark and Glitch) I look forward  to something special – and this is no different. A wonderful kickstart to asking “Why do the leaves change colour?” and all the STEM activities associated with that.

Scaredy Cat

Scaredy Cat

Scaredy Cat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scaredy Cat

Heather Gallagher

Anil Tortop

New Frontier, 2018 

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

9781925594171

“Have you seen my Scaredy Cat?

He’s afraid of this and afraid of that…”

There are many things that put fear into her beloved pet like “noise and walking toys and  calling, sprawling, brawling boys”  but the little girl is very brave and protective and happy to keep him safe.

The repetitive text, rhyme and rhythm make this a catchy story to read and share and the clean, crisp illustrations provide lots to enjoy but don’t overwhelm the page so that the reader can still have fun trying to find Scaredy Cat in them.  He’s there in each one.  The ending is quite unexpected. 

One to make us think about how far we would go for our pets. 

 

Waves – for those who come across the sea

Waves - for those who come across the sea

Waves – for those who come across the sea

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Waves – for those who come across the sea

Donna Rawlins

Heather Potter  & Mark Jackson

Black Dog, 2018

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

9781925381641

“If you are not an Indigenous Australian, your family have, at some stage, come to Australia from across the waves.”

“Every journey is perilous, every situation heartbreaking. Every refugee is a person forced by famine or war or fear to leave their
home, their families, their friends and all they know. Children have travelled on the waves of migration to the shores of Australia for
tens of thousands of years. This book tells some of their stories.” 

In this poignant narrative non fiction that begins with endpapers forming a timeline of people and their vessels from 50 000 years ago to the present, we meet the fictional children who are representative of all those who have come before as they tell their stories of their situation and circumstances and their anticipation for a new life in a new land. War, famine and fear have forced each of them to leave all that is familiar and escape across the treacherous seas to safety and security with the waves of migration almost as regular as  those that hit our shores interminably.  

Somewhat reminiscent of the iconic My Place by Nadia Wheatley, each double-page spread presents a new child’s story, a snippet of the life that set them on the waves and the life they hope to have, softly and superbly illustrated to give life to the words. 

From Anak who arrives by raft from Indonesia to settle in northern coastal Australia 55 000 years ago to  the refugees of the the present day, it demonstrates how this nation has been shaped by those who have sought solace, safety and security here.  But as well as bringing to life this country’s chronological migration history, it is also an opportunity to spark students’ interest in their own stories and to investigate the circumstances that brought their families across the waves.  Naturally this would have to be done with some sensitivity as not all would be stories that parents would want to be shared especially if there were difficult or traumatic circumstances but it could fill parts of the identity jigsaw as well as stimulate greater understanding and empathy for others.

Teachers’ notes focusing on the History and English strands of the Australian Curriculum for Years 3-6+ are available. 

If we are to put human faces to our history so that its study has relevance, meaning and connection for our young students, this is a must-have to be in every collection and to be promoted. It is indeed part of Australia: Story Country.

Wemberly Worried

Wemberly Worried

Wemberly Worried

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wemberly Worried

Kevin Henkes

Greenwillow Books, 2010

32pp., pbk., RRP $A9.99

9780061857768

Wemberly worried about spilling her juice, about shrinking in the bathtub, even about snakes in the radiator. She worried morning, noon, and night.

“Worry, worry, worry,” her family said. “Too much worry.”

And like many children,  Wemberly worried about one thing most of all: her first day of school. But when she meets a fellow worrywart in her class, Wemberly realises that school is too much fun to waste time worrying!

Wemberly Mouse’s anxiety is on an extreme scale though and regardless of her family’s reassurances she cannot relax.  She clutches Petal her doll and strokes her ears when the levels rise, but then worries if she strokes them too much they will fall off.  She is so good at thinking “What if” that she may have a career as a writer when she grows up! 

As the year ticks by and many of our younger children are going to start the transition from daycare and preschool to big school, there will be those who are starting to get a little anxious already with all the usual concerns that making such a big step encounters.  And those worries can become so enormous that they become fears and the anticipation and excitement of this new adventure that is somewhat of a rite of passage are overwhelmed. 

Often it is not enough to just say, “Don’t worry”, (as Wemberly’s family does) to children with a high level of anxiety – they need to have their fears listened to and, where appropriate, helped to develop coping strategies should the worst happen.  There are many resources available now to help parents help their child but sometimes when little ones go to big school there is a suggestion that it is time to leave their preschool lives behind, including their beloved toys that have been with them since birth and have been their confidante and security blanket in stressful times.  And yet with this huge change in their lives they are left without the companionship of their most trusted and comforting friend and ally.  Wemberly would have been unable to cope without Petal just as Jewel would have been lost without Nibblet.  The astute teacher will acknowledge that these are more than just a collection of stitches and stuffing, that they are imbued with love, safety and security, and perhaps having a special shelf so the special toys can come to school too with the child deciding when they want to wean themselves. Meanwhile the teacher librarian can encourage them to read to their special toy in school and at night and might even provide a collection of teddies for those who just need an extra hug or two. It worked for me!  

This book has been in continuous publication since its release in 2000 – that, in itself, says so much about how it resonates with little children and needs to be part of that transition process.  There will be  both a Wemberly and a Jewel in each new cohort.

 

Cloud Conductor

Cloud Conductor

Cloud Conductor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cloud Conductor

Kellie Byrnes

Ann-Marie Finn

Wombat Books, 2018

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

9781925563344

Frankie’s active, outdoors life is cut short when she finds herself confined to a hospital bed and she is physically restricted to the four walls of the room.  But her imagination has no such boundaries and as one of those walls is a large window, she is able to slip outside and explore the beauty and magnificence of the clouds that pass by, something she loved to do when she was well.  Through the seasons their shapes, colours  and movement change and Frankie rejoices in their splendour, listening to their melodies, conducting “symphonies in the sky” as her hands wave in time to the beat of her imagination – even on the darkest of days. She sees their pictures and lets them take her on journeys to familiar and far-away places, far beyond the reaches of those physical walls.

Spring, summer, autumn, winter – the clouds are her escape mechanism allowing her to leave her reality behind, if just for a short time.  And then she realises, this is a gift she can share…

Children don’t have to be in a hospital bed to have horrible stuff happening in their lives and this beautifully illustrated book celebrates the unconfined power of the imagination to escape, even if just for a little while. to somewhere else, to touch base with another world where trouble doesn’t intrude and even offer a fresh perspective on the situation itself.

While teachers’ notes are available, taking the children outside in all sorts of weathers where they can see the sky and letting them look and imagine and conduct their own symphonies would be the most powerful of all.