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How Many Dinosaurs Deep?

How Many Dinosaurs Deep?

How Many Dinosaurs Deep?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How Many Dinosaurs Deep?

Ben Kitchen

Vicky Fieldhouse

New Frontier, 2017

32pp., hbk., RRP $A22.99

9780995625556

Jim is learning how to swim but when it is time to move up from the baby pool to the middle-sized pool, he is not so sure that he is ready.   he’s concerned about its depth so his mother tells him that it would not even reach the knees of a stegosaurus.  This sparks a chain reaction of how deep would a … be and each time mum is able to explain it in terms of how many dinosaurs it would take to reach the surface.  And when she explains the Mariana Trench in the Pacific Ocean would need 587 brachiosauruses standing on each other’s head, Jim finally feels he is ready to cope.

This is a unique story that combines the love of dinosaurs that so many little ones have with their natural apprehension of venturing into something they are unsure of.  Clearly Ben Kitchen has done his homework on  dinosaur dimensions and there are two pages explaining the key features of those that are mentioned, including some that young readers may not be familiar with.  While more or less anatomically correct, the illustrations are still whimsical and fun and readers will gain courage from them rather than fear.  

Something completely different for the younger reader. Perhaps even an opportunity to go outside and measure things to compare them with the dinosaurs to bring the imagination to reality.

 

The Princess and the Frogs

The Princess and the Frogs

The Princess and the Frogs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Princess and the Frogs

Veronica Bartles

Sara Palacios

Balzer + Bray, 2017

40pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9780062365910

Princess Cassandra had everything she could possibly want  – hundreds of dresses, thousands of books and servants to bring her anything she wanted.  She should have been the happiest princess in the world.  

But there was one thing she didn’t have – she was lonely playing by herself and desperately wanted a best friend.  In particular, she wanted a pet – one that would match her best dress, swim and jump and play all day and at night sit on her pillow and sing to her.  So the Royal Pet Handler set off on a quest to find the perfect pet, but nothing was quite right.  The mouse was too squeaky, the kitten refused to swim, the hippo wouldn’t jump and none of them were green.  The task seemed impossible until one day the Royal Pet Handler arrived with a frog.  It seemed just perfect.  It was able to swim, jump and play, AND it was green.  But when Princess Cassandra put it on her pillow and kissed it goodnight, it turned into a prince!  

“Princes aren’t pets,” she declared and banished it to the royal kitchens.  So the Pet Handler went in search of another frog and the same thing happened.  Again and again and again, until there were princes everywhere.  Then one day, the princess found her own frog but the same thing happened, except this time the prince wanted to stay a frog.  Will she ever get the perfect pet?

This is an hilarious take on the traditional Princess and the Frog story made even moreso by the terrific pictures of Palacios who brings the characters to life through their facial expressions. Who would have thought there were so many different frogs?

A playful bedtime read that might make little ones think twice about kissing things goodnight!

The Most Perfect Snowman

The Most Perfect Snowman

The Most Perfect Snowman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Most Perfect Snowman

Chris Britt

Balzer & Bray, 2016

32pp., hbk., RRP $A34.99

9780062377043

Built in the first flurry of winter snow, Drift was the loneliest of snowmen.  With his stick arms, small mouth and coal eyes he stood forlorn and forgotten amongst the bare winter trees.  He dreamed of having a smart scarf, warm gloves and a long orange carrot nose like the other snowmen so he could join in their banter, their fashion parades, snowball fights and other fun stuff.  But he was too plain and different to be included, so his days were spent swooshing and sliding through the woods, stopping and standing in the shadows to watch the others at play.

Then one day some children gave Drift all that he wanted – a fluffy blue hat, warm mittens, a soft scarf and even a long orange carrot nose.  Suddenly the other snowmen found him acceptable now that he had his new accessories and watched as he played all afternoon with his new friends.  But that night a blizzard blew and Drift lost his smart new clothes and no matter how hard he looked, he couldn’t find them. All he had left were his scarf and his long orange carrot nose.  Then he heard a tiny voice – a little bunny was lost in the snow, frightened and shivery cold.  Drift knows he can save the bunny by wrapping it in his soft scarf and giving it his long orange carrot nose but can he bear to part with them? Can he go back to being that plain snowman with skinny stick eyes, a small nose and coal eyes?

As winter begins to grip southern Australia and some parts are seeing early snowfalls, this is a charming story about what it means to be “perfect” and whether it is about looking a particular way or having the right things or whether it runs deeper than that. What is the meaning of the old adage “Clothes maketh the man” and is it true?  Are we more visible and therefore perhaps more powerful because of our external appearance?

It also raises the concepts of selfishness and selflessness and whether even giving just a little can make any difference.  Do we need to be applauded and rewarded for doing something kind or should it be enough to within that we have made a difference?  Do we have to be the person giving the boldest and brightest present at birthday parties or is it the phone call saying thank you afterwards that is most remembered?

The soft palette echo the gentleness of both the story and its message but this is more than just a story to welcome winter.

 

Fabish: the horse that braved a bushfire

Fabish: the horse that braved a bushfire

Fabish: the horse that braved a bushfire

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fabish: the horse that braved a bushfire

Neridah McMullin

Andrew McLean

Allen & Unwin, 2016

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

9781925266863

Bushfires are part of the Australian landscape and psyche.  Even though we know they are a necessary part of the life cycle of the indigenous flora, we still brace ourselves each summer hoping that we won’t be affected by one that season.  When they do strike though, news reports are cluttered with statistics of acreage burnt, homes and buildings destroyed, and too often, lives lost.  Seldom do we hear of the wildlife that is caught up in them, those that can’t clamber into a car and head to safety, although occasionally there are tragic photos of fields of dead sheep or heart-warming ones of a firey giving a koala a drink from his water bottle.  

In this book, based on real events that emerged from the tragic Black Saturday fires in Victoria in 2009, we are taken to Tarnpirr Farm in Narbethong in north-east Victoria where trainer Alan Evett tried desperately to save the horses in his care. With expensive thoroughbreds to save, Evett had no choice but to set retired favourite Fabish and the seven young horses he led free from their paddock to fend for themselves while he cared for those he hustled into the stables.  All around the fire raged, Evett working tirelessly on spot fires and keeping the horse calm, while outside…

Thankfully, the fire dragon passed over the top of the building even though it ate everything else in its path and when morning came, Evett emerged to a scene of utter desolation.   Although he had saved the life of the racehorses. Evett feared he would never see his old mate Fabish again.  Climbing into an old ute that had somehow escaped too, he drove out through the paddocks to be met by more devastation and disaster.  Standing in the smoke-filled ruins of what had been his landscape and livelihood he mourned for Fabish and the yearlings until…

Together McMullin and McLean have brought to life not only the story of Fabish and all the other horses like him, but also the sights, sounds and the smells of a fire that once experienced can never be forgotten. Through carefully chosen vocabulary and evocative pictures the reader is drawn into the story hoping for a good outcome. The fire dragon is indiscriminate when it attacks and young children are often caught up in it just as grown-ups are, and their questions are often about the animals and how they survived.  In the aftermath when adults are busy doing the adult things they must, the children are often left wondering and so to have an uplifting story like this that not only demonstrates the determination and courage of those like Alan Evett who put their charges’ welfare before their own but also has a happy ending can go some way to alleviate their fear that everything is destroyed.

Sensitive in its approach, even those children who can remember the fires will relate to it although some discretion might be needed if there have been recent fires in your area because even though it is heart-warming we must be conscious of the memories it might evoke. For those who want to know more, Fabish was honoured a year later at the Healesville Picnic Races  and while Evett died not long after, his heroic story and that of Fabish are becoming more widely known as this book is shortlisted for the 2017 CBCA Eve Pownall Award.

A story for horse lovers as well as those exploring the impact of bushfires on the landscape.  

Fabish and his yearlings, picture courtesy Racing Victoria Ltd.

Fabish and his yearlings

Little Owl’s Egg

Little Owl's Egg

Little Owl’s Egg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Little Owl’s Egg

Debi Gliori

Alison Brown

Bloomsbury, 2016

32pp. pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781408853795

When Mummy Owl announces that she has laid a beautiful egg and there is going to be a new baby owl in the nest, Little Owl is most dismayed.  There cannot be another baby owl because that’s him! But when Mummy suggests that perhaps it will be a worm rather than an owl, Baby Owl is even more distressed.  

And so begins a charming tale of speculating just what might be in the egg . In the absence of it being a Princess Wormy Choco-Penguin Crocophant Dragowl Baby Owl is prepared to settle for it being a dragon but then he starts to think and gradually his mind is changed and he begins to look forward to the newcomer.

Young readers will connect with this story, particularly those who have had news that there is to be a new baby in the house and they are worried that there won’t be enough love for two. Alison Brown’s illustrations capture the author’s text perfectly and make the characters very endearing. Speculating what else could be inside the egg will provide fun and the opportunity to investigate what else begins as an egg because chickens aren’t the only onescould lead to some interesting discoveries.

 

Wolfie An Unlikely Hero

Wolfie An Unlikely Hero

Wolfie An Unlikely Hero

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wolfie An Unlikely Hero

Deborah Abela

Connah Brecon

Random House, 2017

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

9780143781509

Whenever you ask young children what they are afraid of, you can be sure that some will say “a wolf”. Even though we don’t have them Australia, nevertheless they rank right up there because children’s storybooks are littered with wolves that do the wrong thing.  Little Red Riding Hood, The Three Little Pigs, Peter and the Wolf, The Boy who cried Wolf – all stories they hear over and over and all with the wolf as the baddie.  No wonder their ranking on the scare-o-meter is so high!

But what happens when the wolf wants to improve his image, reinvent himself and get some good PR? In this charming twist on the classics, Wolfie and the author have a conversation but no matter what evidence the wolf offers to defend himself, each time the author starts a new story it descends into the same-old, same-old cliché. And even when it DOES go further than the first page there is not a happy ending.  Is it possible to give a bad reputation a makeover?

This is a unique, hilarious story about trying to change your image which will appeal to all sorts of ages for all sorts of reasons.  Little ones will just love it as they recognise favourite characters and plots and the action-packed pictures; older readers might be encouraged to think about stereotypes, perceptions and preconceptions and even the phrase “being tarred with the same brush” which has particular application in today’s political arena. 

Unique, funny, and very readable for all ages.

 

The Giant Jumperee

The Giant Jumperee

The Giant Jumperee

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Giant Jumperee

Julia Donaldson

Helen Oxenbury

Puffin, 2017

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

9780141363820

Just as Rabbit was about to scamper down his burrow he hears a loud voice coming from inside it…

“I’m the GIANT JUMPEREE and I’m as scary as can be!”

Terrified, Rabbit races off to find Cat and explains what has happened.

“Don’t worry,” said Cat. “I’ll slink inside and pounce on him!”

But Cat is not so brave when the Giant Jumperee threatens him and neither is Bear or Elephant.  But then the story takes a surprising twist…

Combine the author of The Gruffalo with the illustrator of We’re Going on a Bear Hunt and you have a storybook that will become as classic as its forebears.  Written in catchy rhyme and illustrated with the most divine pictures that will capture the imagination of our youngest readers this is a delightful tale that delivers fun and enjoyment and everything that compels kids to love listening to stories.  Apart from the rhyme and the rhythm or repetition there is the suspense of wondering what is in Rabbit’s burrow and then the joy of predicting what will come out.  They can scamper like rabbit, slink like a cat, swagger like bear and stomp like elephant; they can show their courage and their fear and of course, they can yell like the Giant Jumperee.

This one is for Miss Nearly 2 – she is going to love it and she is going to frighten the pants off her Grandad!!!

Olivia’s Voice

Olivia's Voice

Olivia’s Voice

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Olivia’s Voice

Mike Lucas

Jennifer Harrison

Midnight Sun, 2017

32pp., hbk., RRP $A26.99

9781925227192

Imagine waking to a world of silence – no traffic, no sirens, no strident voices; no birdsong, no waves crashing no children laughing.   That is Olivia’s world.  But despite the lack of sound, it is still a beautiful world for her as she sees the patterns and movement of the life in the gum tree outside her window; smells the tasty fragrance of hot toast with butter;  feels the soft warmth of her mother’s cheek against hers as they hug; and embraces life at school just like every child. 

In this charming journey through Olivia’s day she shows us that there is still a beautiful, wondrous world to be explored even if it doesn’t have a sound accompaniment, teaching the reader to observe, enjoy and appreciate what they do have rather than mourning what they haven’t.  Through photograph-like illustrations and first-person text, we see the joy Olivia finds in life and hear her voice so loudly that we can share her curiosity, her wonder and her contentment with what is rather than what isn’t.  

Children with hearing impairments are part of the fabric of a classroom and they have so much more to teach us than just to look at them when we speak.  Opportunities abound in this book to help our students walk a mile in Olivia’s shoes – through artwork, through music, through games and every other aspect as we encourage them to consider a world without a particular sense. Learning only occurs when we reflect on new information and situations and assimilate them into what we already know, so this would be the perfect book to encourage the children to engage with reflecting on three things that have changed their day each day, encouraging gratitude and empathy and perhaps understanding themselves and their circumstances better. Obstacles are just opportunities for us to learn, grow and know ourselves better.

Stunning, evocative, thought-provoking.

 

 

 

 

Somewhere Else

Somewhere Else

Somewhere Else

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Somewhere Else

Gus Gordon

Viking, 2016

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

9780670078851

Some birds fly north; some birds fly south; some birds take the bus… but George Laurent doesn’t go anywhere.  It seems he is too busy baking his scrumptious pastries to be able to explore the world.  Even when his world-travelling customers try to tempt him with descriptions of a sunrise over the Andes, or Paris by night, even the Alaskan tundra in autumn, George always has an excuse – even the ironing is more important!!

But come the bleak, cold days when all his feathered friends have disappeared to warmer parts and George is left alone, his only remaining friend Pascal Lombard drops in looking for somewhere warm for winter.  He is puzzled that George has not gone with the others, and slowly he manages to eke out the truth – George Laurent, baker extraordinaire, does not know how to fly.  When it was flying lesson day all those years ago he had been doing something else and since then he had just made excuses not to – even though he really would have liked to have been able to go somewhere else.

Pascal, who believes he has a knack for solving tricky problems, is determined to teach George how to fly but it is not until they see a picture in a newspaper…

This is an engaging tale which will resonate with many children – having a zillion reasons for not doing something you can’t but are expected to be able to do.  As a teacher I was a master at detecting avoidance behaviour because I lived it at home with my son, so as soon as I started reading I knew there was an underlying issue.  But astute readers may well pick it up in the clues in the amazing illustrations which use a variety of media, particularly collage.  From the carefully selected advertisements of old styles of luggage on the endpapers, Gus Gordon has skilfully used pieces of print from all sorts of sources to add depth, mystery and humour to the exquisite illustrations. Every time you read it there is more to peruse and ponder.

Time to get out the atlas and discover the places that George’s friends went and maybe even investigate the concept of animal (and human) migration.  Why are they always on the move? We can tell the seasons where I live by the variety of birdlife that is present so perhaps it’s time to do an inventory of the local birdlife over time – perfect real-life context for data collection and interpretation. Or perhaps a physiological investigation into how most birds fly but some can’t and how this has been translated into human flight. Then there is the philosophical question about “no place like home” as George and Pascal discover something familiar is missing from their travels. Some children might even learn from George and seek help to find pathways around their own difficulties.

I love picture books that seem to be written for one age group but with some consideration can transcend all ages, offering the prefect reason to return to them again and again apart from just being an absorbing story.  A CBCA Notable for 2017, I was surprised this did not make the shortlist.

 

Through the Gate

Through the Gate

Through the Gate

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Through the Gate

Sally Fawcett

EK Books, 2017

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

9781925335415

As she looks through the gate of her new house, the little girl is feeling really despondent because it is anything but new.  All she could see were the drooping roof, the peeling paint, and the crumbling steps.  As she sits on the step pondering all the changes of a new house, a new town and a new school she sees nothing bright in her future.  But gradually, slowly, one step at a time things begin to change – and so does she.

This is a familiar story for many children who are uprooted from their comfort zone that has been told on so many different levels that it is quite brilliant.

Firstly there is the concept – as the house is slowly restored to something smart and vibrant so does her mood and her willingness to look beyond her untied shoelaces, gradually lifting her head to the possibility and potential that surrounds her. Then there is the text itself – carefully chosen vocabulary that reflects the girl’s moods, changing with each step forward that she takes in settling into her new environment.  This is accompanied by illustrations that have an increasing use of colour and detail, climaxing in full-colour spreads as the future becomes clearer. And throughout, the changes are reflected in the life of the little bird that first appears on the front endpaper as a lonely soul with a forlorn twig and ends on the back endpaper showing all the riches of life.

This is a story about nothing staying the same; about even the most dismal day waking to a sunrise soon; about how our moods and feelings can colour our world; and cliches like “light at the end of the tunnel”;  “some days are diamonds and some days are stones” and “without rain there can be no rainbows.” While younger readers may engage on a more superficial level at spotting the changes to the house and the bird’s business, older readers may be able to dig deeper and look at the more philosophical ideas that underpin the story as well as learning about looking for the positive, managing emotions and expectations, and developing strategies that will help them deal with new, tough or confusing situations, physical or emotional.  Some might even like to share such occasions and how they coped perhaps sending a message to other classmates that they are not alone and not on their own.

Change can be challenging but time can take care of things.

Extensive teaching notes are available.