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Introducing D’Lila LaRue

Introducing D’Lila LaRue

Introducing D’Lila LaRue

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Introducing D’Lila LaRue

Nette Hilton

A. Yi

Walker, 2021

128pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781760652562

D’Lila LaRue lives in the smallest house with the neatest fence and the rosiest garden in the street with her trusty sidekick, Nanny-Anny (who is probably very old but it doesn’t matter). This trilogy of stories features D’Lila and Nanny-Anny sharing many fun-filled adventures, whether it’s by building an award-winning rose garden, becoming an artist, or attending a favourite play. Even if things don’t go exactly to plan . . .

Books with engaging characters and modern scenarios for newly independent readers are always welcome particularly if, like this one, they engage the reader immediately and support them on their continuing reading journey. But Nette Hilton is a very experienced author and knows just what is needed for this age group starting with a feisty young miss whose parents are absent so there are no constraints apart from Nanny-Anny whom D’Lila has twisted around her little finger. Short snappy chapters and stories, humour and could-happen-to-me circumstances mean this is one that young girls will love. 

The Best Mum

The Best Mum

The Best Mum

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Best Mum

Penny Harrison

Sharon Davey

New Frontier, 2021

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

9781922326225

Everyone else seems to have the BEST mum – mums who can make fancy dress costumes, roller-skate; sing and dance, float like a fairy, even make rare, exotic sweets – but the little girl’s mum is a duffer at all of those sorts of things. But in the end it doesn’t matter because when it comes to cuddles and hugs, nothing can beat the love that comes with them.

So often we look at our mums, compare them to other mums and find them wanting.  Recent events have made me reflect on my childhood and think about how it was my best friend’s mum who taught me to knit (something I’ve picked up again to rebuild my arm and finger muscles) and to bake the best ginger fluff sponges, khaki cakes and banana cakes  (even though I’m not renowned as a cook of any type). But Helen’s mum was a stay-at-home mum, typical of the era, whilst mine was out breaking ground as she pioneered the way for female journalists in the world, particularly New Zealand and Australia.  Like this little girl’s mum she loved me deeply and whilst she didn’t show it by making me fancy dress costumes or roller-skating through the streets of Invercargill she showed it in a zillion other ways, ways that have shaped me all my life, and when it came to bedtime she gave the best cuddles too!

As the annual celebration of mothers comes around again, this is the perfect book and the perfect time to focus on all those things that mothers do daily to show and share their love each in their own unique, individual way.  The rhyming text and the bright, bold illustrations add to the joy of this time whilst validating those thoughts we have about others’ mums yet being so grateful for the one we have. 

Bear and Rat

Bear and Rat

Bear and Rat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bear and Rat

Christopher Cheng

Stephen Michael King

Puffin, 2020

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

9781760896287

Bear and Rat are the very best of friends, there for each other no matter what.  But even though Bear has proven his devotion to his friend, Rat is feeling concerned about the future.

“Bear,” said Rat, “I’ve been wondering. Will we always hold hands like this, even when we are old and wrinkly…and tottering up this hill?”

“Of course we will,” said Bear. “As long as you hold mine when my fur turns grey and starts to fall out.”

But something is clearly troubling Rat because despite all Bear’s reassurance she still feels unsettled and unsure, until she finally asks, “What if I have to leave and go somewhere you can’t come?” And Bear offers her the perfect answer, one that comforts and assures her that no matter what, they will be together one way or another forever.

This has been one of the most difficult books for me to read and review because even though it is the most delicate love story, it is based on a real story and sadly, because the author and his wife have been friends of mine for years, I knew its truth and its outcome.  Also, having experienced my own Bear and Rat episodes twice in 18 months, it was all the more poignant, and to be honest, it took me some time to put on my big girl pants and read it. 

But often our children need the sort of reassurance that Rat does – that regardless of what they do or say or experience, someone will be there for them through everything because real love is unconditional and enduring. Chris has captured this special, incredible relationship perfectly because he has lived it and Stephen’s illustrations with their gentle palette and lines are the perfect accompaniment, suggesting he too, knows what it is to love in this way.  And as a reader, with tissues in hand, so do I. 

A remarkable picture book that shows that regardless of what else we might have, to have that sort of love of another is everything.  

The Little Pirate Queen

The Little Pirate Queen

The Little Pirate Queen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Little Pirate Queen

Sally Anne Garland

New Frontier, 2021

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

9781921928833

Every week Lucy boards her rickety raft and sets sail looking for Far Away Island, a mysterious place that no one had ever reached before and therefore no one knew what treasures might be found there. During the journeys Lucy has to constantly mend the little craft and she and it have been through some rough seas lately and as her friends cruise past her in their more sea-worthy craft, she wishes she had a shiny new yacht. 

But she keeps moving, imagining she is a brave Pirate Queen, and even though sometimes she doesn’t feel brave at all, she sails on.  Then, one day a huge storm hits and a giant wave washes away Lucy and the other children. Even though it is badly damaged her rickety raft is the only one to survive and Lucy discovers the meaning of the saying “a smooth sea never made a skilled sailor.”

Based on that quote from Franklin D. Roosevelt, author and illustrator Sally Anne Garland has crafted a story to show children that the strategies and skills they learn when coping with tough times shape our ability to navigate our future – that if all we know is smooth sailing  then when a storm hits, we might not know what to do. It is a story about resilience and compassion. as well as drawing links between Lucy and pirates generally – for whatever reason, neither quite fits into society and therefore have to learn to adapt and survive, to be brave and bold and mask their vulnerability so they can keep something of themselves for themselves.

Whether read at its surface level of a little girl who turns out to be a brave Pirate Queen, or explored at the metaphorical level, this is a story that can be enjoyed by a wide age range who will see a little of Lucy in each of them. 

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

Paws

Paws

Paws

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paws

Kate Foster

Walker Books, 2021

252pp., pbk., RRP $A13.99

9781760652685

As Year 6 moves along  Alex has one goal – to make a friend, preferably Jared and the other popular kids, who won’t be mean to him when he starts secondary school. Because this is not easy when you are autistic and have super sensory awareness when sights and sounds, particularly overwhelm your brain, he has developed a plan to achieve this.  It has three components – to be an expert at the computer game Orbs World; to run fast enough so his relay team, which includes Jared, can go to the district competition and for his beloved cockapoo Kevin to win a trophy at the upcoming dog show, Paws. However, when his expectations and plans start to go awry, he pins all his hopes on Kevin being successful… 

Based on her own son’s experience when the family adopted a spoodle, the author has created an engaging story that will engage the reader from start to finish.  Told by Alex himself so that we discover how he thinks, what he does to help himself and why, this is a rare insight into the world of the autistic child and the challenges they encounter just dealing with everyday situations we take for granted.  Unlike the neurotypical brain that comes with ‘templates” for responses to situations, autistic brains are wired differently and Alex’s story shows how they have to build these responses from scratch, learning through mirroring and masking experiencing hard emotional lessons and confusing rejection as they do. Human behaviour being what it is, even his mum and brother can’t always match his need for consistency, and the one constant in Alex’s life is the unconditional love and sensitivity of Kevin.  The bond between them is critical to his well-being.

While it is intended for independent readers, it would also make an excellent class read-aloud particularly for any class that has a child like Alex. If we are to develop empathetic, compassionate children then they need to understand the challenges that others endure, and this does that perfectly in a story that you can’t put down.

The Song for Everyone

The Song for Everyone

The Song for Everyone

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Song for Everyone

Lucy Morris

Bloomsbury, 2021

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

9781526631121

From a tiny window, too high in the eaves to be noticed from below and too small to let in much daylight, came a delicate tune.
A melody, a song, a sound so sweet which drifted on the breeze to the lanes and streets below. …

Day after day, the song is heard through the town. making the old feel young and comforting the lonely. It fills the whole town with joy and kindness. No one knows who sings the song, but they know it is good.  Until one day, the music stops. Can the town work together to save the song for everyone?

This is a gentle story that shows how it is the little things that can shape our day and our well-being. With the music being depicted as whirls and swirls of tiny flowers and leaves small enough to get into everyone’s ears and heart, yet its origins not revealed till the climax of the story+, young readers can predict not only who or what is offering this gift to the town but also what has happened to make it stop.

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

It also shows that music is a universal language and begin an investigation into its various genres and what they think would be the one tune that everyone would like to hear. How does music affect our mood? What mind pictures does it create ? Is there, indeed, a song for everyone?

Amira’s Suitcase

Amira's Suitcase

Amira’s Suitcase

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amira’s Suitcase

Vikki Conley

Nicky Johnston

New Frontier, 2021

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

9781922326133

When Amira’s family arrive in their new home as refugees, it is clearly different from what Amira is used to and she is felling lost and alone.  But hiding in her suitcase is a tiny seedling struggling for life and it becomes her new best friend, thriving as she nurtures and nourishes it. Something warm starts to grow inside her  as she is reminded of happier times. 

As children do, Amira meets some of the other children in the camp who share their seeds with her and despite being surrounded by poverty, tin shacks, and not much else between them and the friendship that grows like their plants, they are able to bring a little beauty to the bleak environment and harsh life that is now their reality. And just as the seedlings climb and reach for the sun, so do the children build hopes and dreams.

This is a gentle text that tells an all-too common story of displacement but it is tempered by the friendships that are born and thrive like the seedling in Amira’s suitcase. It is a story of acceptance and hope as the children reach out to each other oblivious to race, colour, beliefs and backgrounds, seeing only someone to talk to, to play with and who understands the circumstances. Smiles appear on their faces again as families meet new families and a community begins to grow because a little girl felt lonely and found a seed.

There will be children in our care who will have their own stories to share about camps such as that Amira finds herself in, in a world very different to what they have now and that of the children who are their peers.  But just like Amira they will build new friendships and a new future buoyed by seeing themselves in a story book, learning that just like plants, friendships need to be nurtured to make them strong and healthy. 

 

 

The Katha Chest

The Katha Chest

The Katha Chest

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Katha Chest

Radhiah Chowdhury

Lavanya Naidu

Allen & Unwin, 2021

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

9781760524326

Asiya loves going to Nanu’s house because it is filled with all sorts of treasures, but the very best one is the katha chest.  For inside it are the katha quilts that Nanu made from the old saris that Maa and her sisters didn’t wear anymore, quilts that hold the family’s history in their patterns and stitches and stories.  Asiya likes nothing more than to crawl inside the chest and listen to the stories of her family that the quilts whisper to her.  Stories of her family members that unfold in four panels on subsequent pages showing not only the richness of pattern, texture and colour of the saris but also the family itself; stories which wrap themselves around Asiya as warmly as the quilt. 

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

While this is a story rooted deeply in the Bangladeshi family of the author, for generations women, particularly, have made quilts from discarded clothing, quilts which tell the story of its wearer or an event.  Every traditional patchwork block has a story behind its creation and some, when put together in a particular way, carried secret messages such as those of the Underground Railroad. Thus, this story with its stories within offers riches beyond that of the beautiful fabric of the saris – the reader is invited to trace each family member’s story from the panels to understand the connections between that and the sari that Nanu has used for the katha. 

It is also one of those picture books that can span the ages and stages because what the reader takes from it will depend on their level of maturity.  Young children may just consider their family tree and who is part of it beyond those they see daily; while much older readers may like to think of a family member they know well enough to construct their story in four panels and even design a fabric swathe that would epitomise that story. Those with a deeper interest might like to investigate the role of patchwork and quilting in communities as a way of passing on the culture between generations and across borders and understand that it is universal. 

Being a quilter, I found this story really resonated with me (inspiring me to dig out the bag of my son’s music t-shirts that he asked me to make into a quilt for his children years ago) but as can be seen, it is so much more than a tale about putting pretty fabric together. This is one for every collection and curriculum that has a focus on children discovering their family history.

Teachers’ notes are available from the publisher’s website

 

The Usborne Book of the Brain and How It Works

The Usborne Book of the Brain and How It Works

The Usborne Book of the Brain and How It Works

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Usborne Book of the Brain and How It Works

Dr Betina Ip

Mia Nilsson

Usborne, 2021

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

9781474950589

The most important part of the human body is the brain but it is only in the last little while that technology has enabled scientists to examine it more closely and start to understand its complexities and connections and figure out how it works. Indeed, about 20 years ago there were huge shifts in the way we teach as new pedagogies emerged from this new understanding and “brain-based learning” was the buzzword of the times.

But for all that we, as teachers, were learning about the principles of  learning,  and the magic trees of the mind,  books which clearly explained how the brain functions which were accessible by young learners have been few and far between.  So this new publication which is essentially a conversation between a wise owl and a curious little girl fills a void.

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

Using speech bubbles, the owl takes the girl on a journey through her brain clearly explaining its parts, its functions, how we learn and how to keep it active and healthy offering a clear and concise explanation that is perfectly pitched for its target audience.  From the senses to sleep, memories to making decisions, it provides an introduction to this fascinating topic and then this is supported by the selected online sites  in the Quicklinks that accompany these  sorts of Usborne publications.  

An essential part of any investigation into how we learn by teachers and how our bodies work by students. At the very least, it will help both groups understand why each of us is unique. and views the world that little bit differently.

Main Abija My Grandad

Main Abija My Grandad

Main Abija My Grandad

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Main Abija My Grandad

Karen Rogers

Allen & Unwin, 2021

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

9781760526030

As the loss of HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh is dominating headlines, the special relationship we have with our grandfathers has been thrown sharply into focus – the memories we made, the things we were taught… particularly if he, too, has passed and so there can be no more.

And so it is for Ngukurr great grandmother Karen Rogers who reflects on all that she learned from her grandfather, the adventures they add, the memories they made and how she is passing it all on to her grandchildren and great grandchildren in this enchanting story told in both her own Kriol language and English and illustrated with her bold illustrations, a talent inherited from her grandmother and great-aunts.  From school holidays spent on his outstation at Wuyagiba “near the saltwater” where he was a stockman, she recalls travelling in the old Toyota troopy to go fishing and swimming, and learning about  the land, its bounty and its secrets while they were there. 

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

The stories are told in words and pictures that are inseparable, as the best picture books are, and the feelings of connection and the unending circle of life are strong.   It offers a wonderful opportunity to not only see how the author’s memories are common to all of us – there will be many, like me, who have sat and listened to their granddad tell stories as the sun sets over the ocean (or anywhere) or had their first fishing lessons under his guidance – but also to reflect on other memories and what they have already learned, despite being so young, that they will pass onto their own children.  Sitting in my loungeroom, untouched for years because I never mastered it is an expensive Yamaha piano, bought purely because of the memory of sitting on my grandfather’s knee while he played to me! 

Even though this is a story personal and unique to Ms Rogers, it is, at the same time, a universal one – and stories come no better than that.