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Grandpa’s Space Adventure

Grandpa's Space Adventure

Grandpa’s Space Adventure

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grandpa’s Space Adventure

Paul Newman

Tom Jellett

Viking, 2018

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

9780143785569

“I’m afraid of the dark… But Grandpa says there’s nothing to be afraid of, so tonight we’ll be camping out.”

Grandpa is the ultimate grandpa for understanding little ones’ fears and ever since he taught his grandson to swim , you can sense that the bond has been growing and it’s time for the next big adventure.

He says that if you don’t have the dark you wouldn’t be able to see the stars, the planets or the moon and, snuggled into their tent, he launches into the most hilarious tale of the time he and his dog Rover went to the moon.  Building their rocket ship in the backyard (which meant Grandma couldn’t hang out her washing for weeks) there follows the most jaw-dropping adventure based on wicked puns which will tickle the adult reader’s fancy and make the young listener LOL. Everything from launch boxes and cooking unidentified frying objects not only make this funny but they distract the young boy from his fears as night falls and darkness creeps over the land.  

The tone for the book is set from the outset with the covers  showing the planets and constellations with their unique names; the endpapers with the phases of the moon just inviting questions about why it changes shape; to Jellett’s illustrations which add so much zing to the text  and you just know it is going to be a firm favourite in no time.  Grandpa’s solution to not getting burned when they undertake their trip to the sun is just perfect and you know that there is going to be much love and many tall tales to come (next one is about going on safari) as Newman and Jellett explore the very common fears of little people and exploit the special bond between grandfather and grandson to dispel them.  

Just perfect for sharing and encouraging young readers to share their fears and understand that they are not alone with them.  

 

Want to Play Trucks?

Want to Play Trucks?

Want to Play Trucks?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Want to Play Trucks?

Ann Stott

Bob Graham

Walker Books, 2018

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

9781406378238

Almost every morning Jack and Alex play together in the sandpit at the playground while their mothers have a chat.  They enjoy playing together, Jack with the trucks, particularly those that are big and can wreck things,  and Alex with his doll, who has a pink, sparkly dress. When Jack suggests they play trucks, Alex counters with playing dolls that drive trucks. And this is a happy compromise until Jack chooses a crane and tells Alex that dolls with tutus can’t drive cranes.

But this is not an argument about gender, although as it escalates it seems it is – Jack has a much more pragmatic perspective which Alex quickly solves and they are soon playing happily again until they hear the sound of the ice cream truck.

Time and again over the 45+ years I’ve been in education I’ve seen children squabble and adults intervening because they have imposed their beliefs and perspectives on what they think is the problem, when it is really a much more simple issue such as in this story. Rather than letting the children sort it for themselves and learning all sorts of critical social skills as they do, the adults are too prone to step in looking for peace above all else.  In my opinion, it is what is going on in the background that is as important as the foreground in this story, as the mothers continue to chat, nurse Alex’s baby sister when she wakes up and go with the boys to get ice cream, ignoring the boys’ conflict, if indeed they notice it. Graham also has lots of other characters passing by going about their lives with no reference to what is happening in the sandpit – there is no notice taken of the boys’ different ethnicity, their preference for particular toys or their minor squabble.  Life is what it is and is as it is. And therefore the boys are left to work things out for themselves,learning in their particular microcosm how to negotiate, compromise, change, accept, include… all those vital attributes that will help them navigate their expanding world.

While this book appears to be about challenging gender stereotypes because of the boys’ choice of toys, to me that is just the hook on which the broader issue of how kids deal with, negotiate and celebrate difference and diversity has been hung on.    Sharing this with little ones will open up opportunities for them to not only share their stories but to learn their own strategies as they are challenged by new situations. 

Won’t be surprised to see this nominated for awards in the future.

Cat Spies Mouse

Cat Spies Mouse

Cat Spies Mouse

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cat Spies Mouse

Rina A. Foti

Dave Atze

Big Sky Publishing. 2018

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

9781925675344

When Cat spies mouse, he grabs him and tells him he is going to gobble her up.  But being a feisty mouse, she disagrees and asks, “Why would you do that?” And so begins a back-and-forth conversation about the fairness of bigger being allowed to eat smaller because “that’s the way it is”. Mouse, who must be terrified, nevertheless has courage and tries to convince Cat that it would be better to be friends, but Cat is not interested until along comes D-O-G!

Told entirely in conversation with different coloured text identifying each speaker, this is a charming story about assumed power invested by size – just because you’re bigger doesn’t make you in charge – and it will promote discussion about whether being little means giving in or having rights. Is Cat (or Dog) a bully? Mouse’s arguing against the status quo is very reminiscent of little ones who feel injustice keenly but who don’t quite know how to get something sorted, although they are determined to win and make their own world fairer. Having the courage to speak up for change is a big lesson in assertiveness, and while parents might end the conversation with “Because I said so!” it is nevertheless a sign that their little one is maturing and gaining independence. 

The illustrations are divine – set on a white background, all the emotions and feelings are contained in the animals’ body language and facial expressions that even without being able to read the words for themselves, very young readers will still be able to work out the story and participate in that crucial pre-reading behaviour.

Don’t be fooled by its apparent simplicity – this is a thought-provoking read that we can all take heed of, regardless of our age!

 

My Storee

My Storee

My Storee

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Storee

Paul Russell

Aška

EK Books, 2018

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

9781925335774

When he is at home the stories running through his head keep him awake at night – stories about dragons and rainbow eggs at the bottom of Grandma’s garden; his teacher being eaten by a gruesome ogre; unicorn detectives chasing robotic pirates up alien volcanoes.  The wonderful, magical ideas just keep flowing and he writes and writes and writes.  It’s all about the adventures and not about the writing rules.

But at school, the adventures dry up because the writing rules rule. And the red pen is everywhere,

“But at school their are too many riting rulz and with all the rulz I can never find my dragons.”

At school he doesn’t like to write

Until a new teacher comes – one who is a storyteller himself and knows writing is about the story and not the rules.

In the 80s I was lucky enough to be deeply involved in the process writing movement where we truly believed that writing had to be about the ideas and the adventures and that the processes of reviewing, editing and publishing came later once there was something to work with.  Children were just happy to express themselves and as teachers, it was our job to guide them with spelling, punctuation and grammar, semantics and syntax, so that if one of their ideas grabbed them enough that they wanted to take it through to publication then we would work together to do that. Words were provided as they were needed in context and punctuation and grammar tackled on an individual’s needs rather than one-size-fits-all lessons. And if the effort of writing was enough and the child wasn’t  interested in taking it further, then we had to accept that – flogging a dead horse was a waste of time.   In pre-computer days, how many nights did I spend on the typewriter with the big font so a child could have the joy of their own creation in our class library?  Children enjoyed writing for writing’s sake, were free and willing to let their imaginations roam free and were prepared to take risks with language conventions for the sake of the story. 

But when publicity-seeking politicians whose only experience with the classroom was their own decades previously declared that “assessment processes need to be more rigorous, more standardised and more professional” (a quote from Teacher ) we find ourselves back to the red pen being king and our future storytellers silenced through fear. While the teachers’ notes tag this book as being about a dyslexic child, it really is about all children as they learn how to control their squiggles and regiment them into acceptable combinations so they make sense to others, a developmental process that evolves as they read and write rather than having a particular issue that is easy and quick to label and therefore blame.  We need to accept what they offer us as they make this journey and if they never quite reach the destination, or are, indeed, dyslexic, then as well-known dyslexic Jackie French says, “That’s what spellcheck and other people are for.”  So much better to appreciate their effort than never have the pleasure of their stories.

So many children will relate to this story – those whose mums have “to wade through a papar ocean to wake [them] up” – and will continue to keep writing regardless of adults who think they know better. But who among those adults will have the conviction and the courage to be like Mr Watson? Who among the powers-that-be will let them do what they know works best? If the red pen kills their creativity now, where will the storytellers and imaginative problem-solvers of the future come from?

 

Hello, Horse

Hello, Horse

Hello, Horse

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hello, Horse

Vivian French

Catherine Rayner

Walker Books, 2018

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

 9781406349948

It is very daunting meeting Catherine’s friend Shannon for the first time – because Shannon is a horse, a very big horse.  But slowly and gently Catherine manages the meeting showing the little boy that even though Shannon appears huge, she’s actually very gentle and with an apple and some grooming she is very friendly.  But when Catherine suggests that he ride Shannon, does he have the courage?

Part of the Nature Storybook series which includes Dingo, Koala, and Python this new addition looks at a more domesticated animal, one that is familiar to so many of our students but which can appear formidable up close because of its size.  But in the company of an experienced person and armed with the information in both the narrative and the sub-text, like the boy in the story little ones will have more confidence facing their concerns and discovering one of the gentle joys of life – plodding along on the back of a horse. The story is based on the illustrator and her own horse and the detailed watercolour illustrations not only echo her familiarity with these animals but also mirror the child’s anxiety so the reader understands it. 

Those readers who are already familiar with horses will enjoy sharing their knowledge and experiences when the book is shared, but it could also serve as a model for discussing the dos and don’ts of dealing with other domestic pets that may seem somewhat scary to start with.  It will also show that such concerns are common, not babyish, but they can be overcome by learning more.

 

 

Spirit

Spirit

Spirit

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spirit

Cherri Ryan

Christina Booth

Black Dog Books, 2018

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

9781925381771

A small, woven basket, a couple of handkerchiefs , a stick, some buttons and thread and a scrap of fabric for a flag and Spirit is ready for her inaugural voyage sailing across the garden pond. 

A victory dance,  some attention to her mast and hull and she was ready for the next challenge – bobbing and dipping as she rides the currents of the creek. 

Another victory dance and some more tweaking – will she be ready for the greatest adventure yet?  All was well as she rode the calm waters of the river with her fishy attendants, her rudder true and her bow leading the way, but after the bridge jagged rocks churn and froth the water and Spirit faces the biggest dangers of all.  Will she survive or will she be broken?

On the surface, this is a charming story about a little girl building a boat and testing it, increasing the degree of difficulty of each challenge.  But just like the creek and the river, there are hidden depths as children navigate life and have to learn to be steadfast, resilient, imaginative and have faith in themselves and their abilities to survive the setbacks.  Much as we would like our children’s lives to be smooth sailing, character is built through adversity and they need to learn to pick themselves up, oil their hulls and smooth their masts, or let someone more experienced help them do that, and move on to the next challenge, persevering, learning about failure as well as success, commiseration and celebration.  They need to know they have an inner spirit, one that can’t be broken but like Spirit one which gets stronger and stronger particularly when they are knocked down, but sometimes they have to dig deep into the unknown to find it.

As busy classroom teachers, we often just see the surface of our students’ lives, only sometimes being privileged to catch a glimpse of the depths beneath -some of which are joyful; some of which are deep and dark with jagged rocks but all having as many twists and turns as the river. So this would be an ideal read-aloud sharing both the words and pictures that intertwine with each other perfectly, and talking about the underlying thoughts behind them. Discussing the name of the boat, the girl’s feelings, determination and courage, the invisible hands guiding her while letting her try that are not revealed until the penultimate page, the role of the fish as they support Spirit on its journeys,  and the connection of the girl’s story to their own lives may help those who are troubled and struggling realise they are not alone and deep down they too have the courage to take the next step forward, even if it is into the unknown.

A perfect addition to your mindfulness collection. 

 

Being a Princess is Very Hard Work

Being a Princess is Very Hard Work

Being a Princess is Very Hard Work

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Being a Princess is Very Hard Work

Sarah Kilbride

Ada Grey

Bloomsbury, 2018 

32pp., hbk., RRP $A21.99

9781408881934

Throughout the generations, inspired by storybooks and real-life princesses like Elizabeth and Margaret, Anne, Diana, and now Catherine and Megan, little girls have had dreams of being a princess, no matter how fleetingly.  But when the little girl in the story is dropped off at princess school by her parents, she soon finds it not just about pretty dresses and handsome princes.  

Being a princess is very hard work,

There’s so much to do it would drive you berserk.

Not only is there so much to learn like sitting on a throne for hours, practising handshakes and being tested by spinning wheels and dragons, but there is also so much you are not allowed to do.  No bouncing on the trampoline, no nits in your hair, no burping or farting or picking your nose… really, in the end it is much better to be an ordinary little girl.

With its fast-moving rhyme and bright pictures that are full of humour and detail this is a story that will not only illuminate the behind-the-scenes life of princesses but will also reaffirm that little girls are perfect just as they are.  

Lots of fun and perhaps an inspiration to look at what really lies behind some of the other glamorous jobs that appeal.

A peek inside....

A peek inside….

Is it a Mermaid?

Is it a Mermaid?

Is it a Mermaid?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is it a Mermaid?

Candy Gourlay

Francesca Chessa

Otter-Barry Books, 2018

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

 9781910959121

It has been suggested that the origin of mermaids comes from sailors mistaking ‘sea-cows’ or dugongs for these fanciful creatures and letting their imaginations and desires fill in the gaps.  But not so for Benji, who, with his sister Bel spots a dugong on the beach.  He knows exactly what it is but dugong disagrees, insisting she is not an “it”, but is, indeed, a mermaid – a beautiful mermaid.

She shows the children her tail, which Benji insists is a dugong’s tail; sings to them which hurts Benji’s ears;  and even demonstrated how gracefully she could swim in the sea.  While Bel wishes she, too, could be a mermaid, Benji refuses to give up his criticism, adamant to prove the creature is a dugong. But when he calls her a “sea cow”, she is very hurt and Benji suddenly realises how sharp and cruel his words and attitude have been. Can he make amends?

The word ‘dugong’ comes from the Malay for mermaid as 17th and 18th European sailors saw them or the first time in South East Asian waters  and while this story is set in the Philippines, they are also found in warm Australian waters too.  So, as well as being a story about the power of words and how hurtful they can be even when that is not the intention, this is also a story that puts a focus on these elusive, endangered creatures more closely related to elephants than cows. Young children could create a comparison between mermaids and dugongs while older students might investigate their habits and habitats more fully, perhaps even getting involved in Project Seagrass

The sustainability of the environment and its inhabitants is an important part of the primary curriculum and this is the perfect introduction to a less familiar endangered species that could be added to those already studied. 

 

Monsters

Monsters

Monsters

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monsters

Anna Fienberg

Kim Gamble & Stephen Axelsen

Allen & Unwin, 2018

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

9781760293369

Tildy hated the night.  Night meant sundown. Sundown meant moonlight. Moonlight meant monsters. They sailed in from outside and hid behind the curtains., invisible to anyone but Tildy. No matter how much reassurance she got from her mum and dad, her aunts and uncles and 23 cousins (including the one who told her not to eat spicy food before bedtime) the monsters remained very real and bedtime was nerve-wracking.  It’s very hard to sleep with one eye open!

However when Hendrik comes to school and spends his time drawing monsters that he kills with his sword, Tildy finds an ally – someone else who believes in these fearsome creatures of the night. All is well until Hendrik invites her to his house for a sleepover and suggests they can sleep in the garden in his tent…

Adults and children alike are plagued with monsters in their lives, some with shape and from like Tildy’s, others not so tangible but just as scary and threatening, and so the message from this book that there is a way through is important.  Little ones who have their own monsters will draw comfort from knowing that they are not alone and may even offer suggestions for how Tildy can relax and enjoy the sleepover before  she is faced with her fears.            

Lovers of Tashi will adore this latest book from the imaginative mind of Anna Fienberg, the final one from Kim Gamble who became too ill to finish it so his close friend Stephen Axelsen took over.  The story of its creation is told in part on the endpages as we bid farewell to Kim, but Megan Daley’s blogpost is just exquisite.  Vale Kim Gamble – thank you for all the joy you have brought me, my family and the children in my care over the years.

Tropical Terry

Tropical Terry

Tropical Terry

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tropical Terry

Jarvis

Walker, 2018 

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

9781406376425

Terry is a very plain fish who lives with his best friends Cilla the crab and Steve the sea snail, playing games like Dodge-a-Dolphin, Shark Speed and Hide-a-Fish. But while he enjoys their company and the games, he secretly covets the glamour of the other residents of Coral Reef City as they flit about showing off their colourful, glittery finery.  But they see Terry as dull and boring and shun him leaving Terry sad and isolated. 

But then he has an idea and after a bit of this and a bit of that he emerges as the most stunning, dazzling tropical fish in the ocean.  Immediately those who shunned him the day before are attracted and beg him to play with them.  Swishy, swishy, swooshy, swooshy – Terry joins his new friends leaving Cilla and Steve behind.  But as well as attracting his new friends, Terry has also caught the eye of Eddie the Eel who has just one thing on his mind…dinner!

This is a new take on the old themes of being satisfied with and proud of who you are, being comfortable in your own skin, being careful about what you wish for and the value of real friends.  It builds to a climax and young readers will want to know if Terry escapes and whether his new “friends” will still be friends.  The bright illustrations contrast with Terry’s feeling of being dull and with their rich blue background, the reader feels they are part of that undersea world with all its riches and colours. 

Perfect for inspiring discussions about individuality and valuing the differences of others as well as artwork!.