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Wolfy

Wolfy

Wolfy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wolfy

Grégoire Solotareff

Gecko Press, 2019

36pp., pbk. RRP $A16.99

9781776571574

Once upon a time there was a rabbit who had never seen a wolf, and a young wolf who had never seen a rabbit.The pair meet and become good friends. Tom the rabbit teaches the wolf to play marbles, read, count and fish. Wolfy teaches Tom to run very, very fast.

But eventually their friendship is tested by the classic game Who’s-afraid-of-the-big-bad-wolf? Can the little rabbit and the young wolf remain best friends in all the world?

With its striking artwork, this is a story about how opposites can be friends despite their differences – not a new theme in children’s literature – but the twist is in the resolution.  When Wolfy frightens Tom so badly during their game that Tom scurries to his burrow vowing never to come out again, Wolfy doesn’t get it -until he does.  It’s the young child’s version of “walk a mile in my shoes” that sets this book about friendship apart and which has lessons to teach those who find it hard to empathise with the results of their actions.  Plenty of scope for discussion and reflection. 

The Visitor

The Visitor

The Visitor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Visitor

Antje Damm

Gecko Press, 2019

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

9781776571895

Elise was frightened—of spiders, people, even trees. So she never went out, night or day. One day a strange thing flies in through the window and lands at her feet. And then there comes a knock at the door. Elise has a visitor who will change everything.

This is a charming story, cleverly constructed with its dark and bright palettes, that shows how a child can unwittingly bring life and light back to where there seems only darkness. Using a unique process of drawing Elise and Emil and then placing their cutout figures in a small, tidy home with furnishings crafted of paper and board, photographing them and then adding colour washes or not as the story’s mood dictates, Damm demonstrates how much we really do need others in our lives if we are to experience its true joy. The final page demonstrates this perfectly.

Whenever there is a news story about children visiting an aged care facility, the residents always talk about how alive they start to feel, something that my own mother-in-law experienced herself.  Unable to recognise her own son and daughter towards the end, nevertheless she was able to recall the words to the songs that our school choir sang and join in with them.  But not only did she talk about it to us for many visits afterwards, the children themselves also talked about the people they had met, the grandparents they didn’t have and the friendships that were beginning to blossom as the visits became a regular fortnightly activity. There was a purpose to their learning new lyrics and practising their singing and my m-i-l always knew when there was a visit imminent.

Lots of scope to develop vocabulary about feelings but more powerfully, never underestimate the power of a child in someone’s life and think about how you and yours could brighten someone else’s.

 

 

Brindabella

Brindabella

Brindabella

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brindabella

Ursula Dubosarsky

Andrew Joyner

Allen & Unwin, 2018

208pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9781760112042

While Pender is playing in the bush near his home, he hears a gunshot and to his dismay he discovers a mother kangaroo taking her last breath.  But as her eyes glaze, he notices movement in her pouch and Pender finds himself with no choice but to take care of the baby joey he names Brindabella.  With his artistic, somewhat reclusive father, they raise Brindabella and even though Pender knows she will one day need to return to the bush he puts that way to the back of his mind, until the day her natural instincts become too much for her and Brindabella leaves…

With the narrative switching between Pender and Brindabella’s perspectives, this is a sensitively written novel for young independent readers that explores the relationship between people and animals. Why do Pertelote the chook, Billy-Bob the dog and Ricky the cat stay with Pender and his father while Brindabella has a compelling need to leave? Confronting, even emotional in parts, Dubosarsky brings the Australian bush alive so all the senses are engaged and the reader is there with Pender, opening opportunities for lots of sensory responses that confirm, compare and contrast Pender’s home with that of the reader themselves.

Shortlisted for the 2019 CBCA Book of the Year for Younger Readers, this is a story that I know Miss 8 is going to adore particularly because she loves to roam our bush block and we have our own share of Brindabellas, but for those not as fortunate, there are teachers’ notes and activities that will help to bring it into the realm of city kids. Download them from the home site.

My Real Friend

My Real Friend

My Real Friend

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Real Friend

David Hunt

Lucia Masciullo

ABC Books, 2019

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

9780733334894

Rupert is William’s imaginary friend, a role he is quite happy to have because they do so much together.  Make music, paint pictures, play games … it’s all great fun except for two things. He never gets to choose the game and be the hero, but worst of all, that William will stop imagining him and he will fade away. And one day, William breaks the news to him…

Told from Rupert’s perspective, this is a charming book for early readers who are familiar with imaginary friends. As Rupert contrasts his life with William’s, there is a lot of humour in his observations and sometimes Rupert’s life in the imagination seems more fun. Poignant though his comments are, there is always the expectation that this story will not end well for Rupert but Masciullo’s clever mixed-media illustrations soften the blow and his appearance as the shadow on William’s new friend’s skateboard is masterful, suggesting that William might not quite have let go yet. 

Friendships, real and imaginary, wax and wane over time as circumstances and situations change and this is a celebration of that.  Rupert is a vital part of William’s childhood, as imaginary friends are for many children, and the letting go as social circles widen can be painful.  It validates those imaginary friends of the young readers and opens the doorway for discussions about the difference between the two and the place they have in our lives.  It is a way of encouraging those still rooted in their immediate concrete world to start viewing things from another perspective, particularly through Rupert’s weariness of always being the victim or the loser!

Ideas to guide the discussions are available

The Boy in the Big Blue Glasses

The Boy in the Big Blue Glasses

The Boy in the Big Blue Glasses

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Boy in the Big Blue Glasses

Susanne Gervay

Marjorie Crosby-Fairall

EK Books, 2019

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

9781925335996

Superhero Sam has had to get glasses – big blue ones – but he doesn’t like them. They make his ears hurt and even though, his well-meaning parents and  grandparents and even his teacher say he looks handsome in them, he hates that.  It’s as though it’s all about his glasses and he, himself, is invisible. They make such a fuss about this new superhero, it’s as though they’ve forgotten the old superhero he was before.  

His best friend George still knows him and plays with him though, but then the day comes when George is not at school and the other children start to make fun of him…

Every now and then you pick up a story that really resonates with you and Sam was me 60+ years ago, my son 40 years ago and my granddaughter seven years ago.  Each of us had to go through the trauma of appearing in public wearing glasses, and despite the well-intended comments of others, it’s tricky to know who you are when you don’t recognise yourself in the mirror but you know you are still you inside.

Sam is just one of hundreds of other kids who face this situation, and author Susanne Gervay is well-known for taking those everyday but confronting situations and putting them into the spotlight so the extraordinary becomes ordinary, and inspiring hope for happiness ahead.  No one likes to be different when they are little and wearing glasses seems like a huge placard that tells others you are not 100% perfect and that somehow you are less than the other children in your class.  Yet inside you know you are just the same person you were the day before when you didn’t have glasses.

Superbly and sensitively illustrated, this is a book that not only belongs in any collection for young readers and which should be actively promoted because so many children will see it as a mirror and learn to love reading even more as they read about themselves. Others might see it as a window and begin to understand how self-conscious Sam and others feel and how they can be more empathetic, rather than unkind like the children in the story who call Sam “googly-eyes” and “pufferfish”. It might even be an opportunity to  explore other “disabilities” and the sorts of ways that science and technology can now assist in overcoming them comparing the advances to the days when no such help was available and life became a misery. 

Excellent, down-to-earth, and one for everyone, glasses or not!

Pippa

Pippa

Pippa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pippa

Dimity Powell

Andrew Plant

Ford St, 2019

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

9781925804270

Pippa the pigeon thinks she is ready to fly the skies by herself and have adventures. Rather than being hesitant to go out of her comfort zone, Pippa wants to experience the world for herself.  But her parents have other ideas. They are worried she is too young and do all sorts of things to keep her  at home and safe . But one day while they are out foraging for food, she flaps her wings and soars.  Over the town, the river and the paddocks she sails, going further and further from home.  But then fatigue and hunger set in and she discovers that while this big wide world is beautiful there are perils in it! Will she make it home safely?

A tender tale about parents wanting to keep their children safe, this is a story that cuts through the middle of parental protection and childish curiosity.  Our children need to be allow to fly; they need to face and conquer the obstacles they encounter if they are to be resourceful and resilient, but they also need to know there is a soft place to fall when it all gets too much.  

Dimity Powell has created a story that reflects both the parents’ perspective and that of Pippa – offering much to talk about as readers think about what they would like to do, whether they are ready and what they might learn as they try. It’s about striking a balance between independence and the security of home and Andrew Plant’s illustrations are perfect. Who wouldn’t be terrified seeing the face of the falcon coming towards you or those malevolent red eyes glowing in the dark?

As our young readers go through a number of stages where their desire for independence becomes overwhelming, this is a book that spans many age groups and there are excellent teaching notes which support this sort of use.  Perfect for teaching about being prepared, being resilient and being able to overcome obstacles without panicking. 

Lights Out, Leonard

Lights Out, Leonard

Lights Out, Leonard

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lights Out, Leonard

Josh Pyke

Chris Nixon

Picture Puffin, 2019

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

9780143793489

Leonard is not afraid of the dark.  It’s the five-nosed, seven-tailed, eleven-handed, scaly-waily monster (and its cousins)that are hiding in the corner of his bedroom that make him reluctant to have the lights out at night. No matter whether it’s mum, dad or both of them together he begs them to leave the lights on – and so they do. For several nights the lights stay on all night in Leonard’s room, lighting up the dark and scaring the monsters until one day he finds a strange book on his bed. It’s called How to frighten Monsters and is full of tips and tricks to scare them away. And it has a BIG poster to hang on his door. But does it do the trick?

This is a funny story about a very common subject, one that parents with children who demand the lights be left on will appreciate for its strategies for dealing with the fears.  Pyke’s descriptions of the monsters lurking in Leonard’s room demand to be drawn in all their glory – perhaps another tip for getting rid of them – because they have deliberately not been shown in full so that there is nothing too confronting to scare the reader. But there is enough to suggest the fear they instill in Leonard. 

Even though this story has a theme that has been covered before, the resolution is original and effective and by giving Josh the power to vanquish his demons himself. success is guaranteed. It will also generate discussion about what makes it dark and why it can be scary, as well as the opportunity to share other ideas for defeating those monsters. Perhaps each child could create their own page for a class manual! Teaching notes are available here and there is also an activity pack.

I Don’t Want to be Small

I Don't Want to be Small

I Don’t Want to be Small

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Don’t Want to be Small

Laura Ellen Anderson

Bloomsbury, 2019

32pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781408894064

Being small is a pain.  Having to stand on tiptoes in crowds; missing out on rides at theme parks;  wearing hand-me-downs that are too big – it’s just so unfair!  And it makes him so angry that he throws his teddy in disgust and it lands in a tree – too high for him to reach to get it down again. And no matter what he tries – stilts, sticks, even a rope made of socks – he is too small to reach it.  What can he do? 

This is a charming story that many young readers will relate to – just being a little bit shorter than your friends can be so frustrating and means you always have to sit in the front row in class photos!  Told in rhyme and accompanied by delightful illustrations that are so expressive, this is a story about feeling frustrated, seeking solutions and finding friendships in unlikely situations. Take it from one who knows, eating your greens does not make you grow tall – that’s just a mother-myth to trick you!

My Book (Not Yours)

My Book (Not Yours)

My Book (Not Yours)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Book (Not Yours)

Ben Sanders

Lothian Children’s 2019

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

9780734419040

Lento Sloth is all set to share his book with the reader but first he needs a little nap. But as he puts his head down. Fox swings by and steals the book- “You snooze, you lose, Sloth!” Telling Lento that a book needs “a dynamic lead character, a star with style and pizzazz, a hero with wit and talent”, Fox is determined to be the star of the story.  But Lento does not give in and there follows an hilarious duel as he struggles to get his book back so he can be its star. Can he do it?

This is the first in a new series of adventures featuring Lento and Fox that is likely to appeal to young readers, particularly those who are almost independent because all the action is in the dialogue and the illustrations. However, it would also work as a read-aloud as children can use the illustrations to predict how Sloth is feeling and what he is going to do and who will be the victor. They might even investigate the characteristics of sloths to imagine just what Lento’s story might be, while examining the behaviour of fox as cunning and sly and discuss stereotyping. There are lots of subtle tweaks in the endpapers, title pages and even the cover that add to the story -something a little different from the usual, that demonstrates that print can have as much action and humour as the screen. 

Maple the Brave

Maple the Brave

Maple the Brave

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maple the Brave

Chloe Jasmine Harris

Walker, 2019

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

9781925381924

Nestled in the high branches of a tree deep in the forest is a little house where Maple lived. “No one knew how she got there or where she came from, but nevertheless there she was.” Sustained by the rain that gave her water and the trees that gave her ripe fruit, Maple never ventured from her high house because she was afraid of everything that was below it.  Her dreams were peppered with fierce creatures who lurked below, the wind becoming their terrifying howls.  Until there came a time when the rain and the trees no longer gave her what she needed and she knew she would have to descend the ladder into the unknown…

Facing your fears and even conquering them is a common theme of picture books for the young, but the setting and the isolation of Maple without parents or history, gives this one an olde-worlde feel that will appeal to those who like gentle stories that are neither confronting or confrontational. At some stage in our lives we all have to step outside our comfort zone and face the unknown, an unknown that we may have already built up to be scarier than it is and Maple offers inspiration that it can be OK.

Beautifully illustrated by this debut author/illustrator with pictures that are as gentle as the story itself, this is one that can be shared as a read-along or a read-aloud to encourage young readers to take that first step.