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The Biscuit Maker

The Biscuit Maker

The Biscuit Maker

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Biscuit Maker

Sue Lawson

Liz Anelli

Walker Books, 2020

32pp., hbk., RRP $A25.99

9781760650438

Every morning Benedict Stanley and his  cat Audrey Mae stand at their gate and greet their neighbours as they scurry off ready to start their day.  But sadly, the neighbours are too busy to reply – ears are full and mouths are closed.  And even though Benedict and Audrey Mae spend hours creating a beautiful garden to give those neighbours something beautiful to look at, still the neighbours just rush on by. 

Then one day Rory stops to admire Audrey Mae and with a gappy smile, tells Benedict that the Tooth Fairy will be visiting him tonight.  That give Benedict an idea and so he goes to the kitchen, reaches for his wife’s recipe book and begins to bake…

Soon, nearly every event that happens in Mavin Road is celebrated with a batch of special biscuits, made and delivered secretly by Benedict and Audrey Mae.  what a difference it makes until one day Benedict gets so ill he cannot bake.  Will the neighbours notice? Will they discover who their benefactor is?

This is a heart-warming story that demonstrates the human need for connection to others yet even on a busy street like Mavin Road, loneliness can be deep, especially for those who are older, retired, widowed or otherwise living alone. Rory’s connection to the cat changes more lives that can be imagined by one conversation and that special bond that little ones often have with the generation beyond their parents is celebrated. It also shows how sharing food is a universal way of bringing people together, opening the door for readers to share and cook their own special biscuit recipes for the class.

One of those “old-fashioned” stories that wraps its arms around you like a hug, it is a worthy CBCA Picture Book of the Year Notable for 2021.

Sometimes Cake

Sometimes Cake

Sometimes Cake

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sometimes Cake

Edwina Wyatt

Tamsin Ainslie

Walker, 2020

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

9781760650421

Audrey and Lion are best friends and when Audrey sees Lion with a balloon she assumes it is his birthday.  Even though it isn’t, it must be someone’s somewhere so they celebrate anyway.  Together they move through the week celebrating special things until the day Lion looks forlorn because he seems to have nothing to celebrate.  To cheer him up, Audrey pulls together all the things they enjoy and she has a party just to celebrate their friendship because sometimes it’s about acknowledging the ordinary rather than the extraordinary.

Like other reviewers, I found this to have some of the overtones of the simple logic of Winnie-the-Pooh and his friends, a logic that little people love because it is so literal.  With its soft watercolour illustrations, it is one that preschoolers will enjoy because they could be Audrey or Audrey could be their friend. It also opens up the possibilities for talking about the why and how of  celebrations and how some families do things a little differently, even though cake may be the common element!

A CBCA Picture Book of the Year Notable for 2021.

 

 

Turning Cartwheels

Turning Cartwheels

Turning Cartwheels

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Turning Cartwheels

Amy Adeney

Amy Calautti

EK, 2021

32pp., hbk., RRP $A32.99

9781925820515

Emma is desperate to join queen bee Carly’s Cartwheel Club. Week after week Emma lines up for a try-out, only to be told that she hasn’t made the cut. When Emma is finally accepted, she finds that Carly’s rules and requirements take all the joy out of cartwheeling, and being part of the gang isn’t as awesome as she expected. And so she takes matters into her own hands…

This is a story that could have taken place in Any School, Anywhere and so it will resonate with a wide range of readers. At a certain stage the need to belong, to be part of the in-crowd becomes the driving force in a child’s life but so often, once in, things aren’t as rosy as expected.  Emma’s solution to her dilemma shows imagination and resilience and could be a suggestion for those who are struggling with the constantly changing friendship groups that dominate those middle primary years. It brings that subtle social bullying to the surface to be examined and exposed for what it is, putting those who practise it on notice, while alerting the Emmas about its existence and how it is manifested.

An excellent addition to your collection and lessons about what friendship and bullying is, taking the reader into the realm of how friendships change as children get older. Things are sometimes more than they seem. 

My Favorite Memories

My Favorite Memories

My Favorite Memories

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Favorite Memories

Sepdeh Sarihi

Julie Völk

Blue Dot, 2020

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

9781733121248

When her parents tell her that the family is moving to another country, the little girl is quite excited particularly as she is allowed to take her favorite things.  But she changes her mind when she discovers that she cannot fit her aquarium, her wooden chair that her grandpa made, the pear tree that was the exact same age as she is, her bus driver and her best friend into the small suitcase her parents give her.

“In that case, I cannot come,” she tells her mother and wanders down to the ocean, another of her favourite things.  But there, she has an idea and discovers a way that perhaps she can go with her family and have her favourite things. And it takes sharp eyes to see her solution!

Moving to a new place, even if it is not a new country, can be a tough time for children as they don’t yet have the knowledge and wisdom to understand that while it may mean leaving the old and familiar, it is also an opportunity to explore the new and unknown so this touching story, translated from the original German is one that will resonate with many of our students. It will also help them understand that while we may have to leave some things behind physically, there is always the memory that we can revisit when we want to remember them.

With illustrations as gentle as the text and its message, this is something new and different to share and talk about.  If they were asked to pack their favourite things, what would they be? what would they do with those things that are too big for the suitcase?

 

The Book of Hopes

The Book of Hopes

The Book of Hopes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Book of Hopes

Bloomsbury, 2021

400pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781526629883

Even though much is being made of the rollout of the coronavirus vaccine rollout and the messages of hope and optimism that are being spread with it, Australia, although in a “comfortable” position, is not out of the woods and the effects of lockdowns, job losses and uncertainty, and the breakdown of family relationships is still affecting many families at a personal level. 

And as has been shown in other crises like floods and bushfires, the adults get busy doing adult things as they must and sometimes the children are left to sort their own feelings and emotions and imaginations. 

When the UK went into lockdown, recognising that in difficult times, what children really need is hope. author Katherine Rundell emailed some of the children’s writers and artists whose work she loved most:
‘I asked them to write something very short, fiction or non-fiction, or draw something that would make the children reading it feel like possibility-ists: something that would make them laugh or wonder or snort or smile. The response was magnificent, which shouldn’t have surprised me, because children’s writers and illustrators are professional hunters of hope … I hope that the imagination can be a place of shelter for children and that The Book of Hopes might be useful in that, even if only a little.’

First published online to comfort, entertain and inspire the children, this print collection, packed with short stories, poems and pictures from the very best children’s authors and illustrators, aims to provide just that. Within its pages you’ll find animal friends from insects to elephants, high-flying grandmas, a homesick sprite, the tooth fairy, and even extra-terrestrial life.

There are 133 contributions from authors and illustrators, including Anthony Horowitz, Axel Scheffler, Catherine Johnson, Jacqueline Wilson, Katherine Rundell, Lauren Child, Michael Morpurgo and Onjali Q. Raúf. There is also a reading list so the reader can explore more books by the contributors thus offering not only comfort (and often a laugh) now but also a pathway forward for more entertainment. who could resist wanting to find out about the washing machine that went to the moon (David Solomons) or the hungriest caterpillar (Isabel Thomas).

Proceeds from this book will be donated to NHS Charities Together, but regardless, it is a wonderful new addition to the teacher’s toolbox for those times when you want to fill both a few moments and a little heart.

Moonlight Mums

Moonlight Mums

Moonlight Mums

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moonlight Mums

Laura Stitzel

Puffin, 2020

24pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

9781760895792

Bedtime and time to snuggle down. But in this family, like so many others, it is dad who is putting the little one to sleep because her mother is still at work. 

And as he acknowledges that her mum misses her too, he tells her of other mums like the owl, the frog and the wombat who must also be awake and alert at night so they can keep their babies safe and snug.

This is one of those gentle stories that help little ones understand that there are many different types of family circumstances and each family works out just which is right for them. There is no right or wrong, just different. My own granddaughters were tucked up and in by their dad every night because of the different shifts their parents worked and they just accepted it for what it was.  Of course it was a treat to have mummy home to read the bedtime story when she could but otherwise, life went on to its own rhythm.

The gentle rhyming text and soft palette add to the atmosphere of drawing the curtains on the day…

Mums with many things to do
All miss their little ones, like you.

As well as reassuring little ones that Mummy will be home and will kiss them goodnight, using the creatures as illustrations opens up ideas to explore what other creatures are awake at night and why they are.  Why is the dark the safest cover for some? 

Reassuring, restful and recommended for families whose working hours are not the conventional. 

Into the Wild

Into the Wild

Into the Wild

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Into the Wild

Robert Vescio

Mel Armstrong

New Frontier, 2020

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

 9781921928789

Roman was in his happy place when he was free to explore the wild, following the grasshopper’s chirp or the seagull’s flight or exploring the hidden depths of the rockpool. He was tuned into the sights and sounds of nature but then he wonders if that is enough. What if he had someone to share his discoveries with?  And then he finds an unexpected surprise…

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

With its stunning illustrations by Mel Armstrong, once again Vescio has encouraged the young reader to step outside and view the everyday, the ordinary, the take-for-granted as a whole new world to explore. But as well as encouraging them to appreciate what Mother Nature lays out for us for free, there is the subtle reminder that there are some things that are even more important and which enrich and enhance the experience – the sharing of it all with a special friend. Because it is that human need for companionship and understanding and sharing that lifts the experience to something special and memorable. 

My Summer with Grandad

My Summer with Grandad

My Summer with Grandad

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Summer with Grandad

Tom Tinn-Disbury

New Frontier, 2020

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

9781922326140

Eric loves spending summers with his grandad and this summer is even more special because Eric is going to be able to go on the fishing boat and help Grandad catch fish.  However, fishing doesn’t turn out to be quite as easy as he imagined, and so Grandad gives him the important role of being the Chief Seagull Shoo-er.  And when a baby seagull gets  injured when it is caught in the fishing net, Eric finds himself becoming a very good carer, although letting Beaky go is going to be hard.

This is a charming story for young readers about the special bond between a child and their grandparent provoking memories about those special times they have shared together. There is a subtle message about the need for wild things to be allowed to be wild, but all in all, it’s a feel-good story about a boy and his grandfather.

Penguin Bloom (Young Readers’ Edition)

Penguin Bloom (Young Readers' Edition)

Penguin Bloom (Young Readers’ Edition)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Penguin Bloom (Young Readers’ Edition)

Chris Kunz, Harry Cripps, Shaun Grant

ABC Books, 2021

160pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9780733341670

On a family holiday to Thailand, Noah’s mum has a fall with devastating consequences – confined to a wheelchair for the future.

On a stormy night in Sydney’s Northern Beaches a little magpie has a fall from its nest – a broken wing for a magpie is like a broken back to a human.

But the two are miraculously connected and from that has emerged a story of hope, love, kindness and the lessons we can learn if we are ready to learn them.

Sometimes bad things happen to people and no matter what, you have to deal with it and in this edition of this story for young readers the focus is not so much on the accident and all the medical stuff but how a family had to come together to deal with it.  There is Sam Bloom, angry, bewildered and trying to come to terms with who she was, who she now is and who she thought she would be. There is her husband photographer Cam Bloom, father of Noah, Reuben and Oli who is walking the fine line of holding the family together juggling the balls of dependence and independence; there is Nana Jan whose daughter has catastrophic injuries and she can’t fix them; there are Noah’s young brothers Oli and Reuben, who despite his mother’s predicament still continue to leap off the roof to bounce on the trampoline below.  And there is Noah who is convinced his mum blames him for the accident because he discovered the viewing platform that gave way when she leaned on it,  And binding them together, eventually, is a little magpie chick named Penguin.

Noah tells the story of the family’s healing from his perspective talking directly to the reader, openly admitting that there are bad bits and bad days and exposing these as part of the process of becoming a family again, one that is different to what they thought it would be but still one that is whole.

This story spoke to me on many levels, not the least of which is because my own sister-in-law is in Sam’s situation after an afternoon walk with her dog went so very wrong. We live in the bush with our resident family of magpies who raise their babies on the lawn in front of us each year so Penguin’s antics were so familiar. And there are the kids who have been in my care as a teacher over the years who have had to face similar circumstances and somehow have had to navigate a way through.

Students may well have seen the movie Penguin Bloom – Noah’s story will give them an extra layer of understanding.

 

The Day Saida Arrived

The Day Saida Arrived

The Day Saida Arrived

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Day Saida Arrived

Susana Gômez Redondo

Sonja Wimmer

Blue Dot, 2020

32pp., hbk. RRP$A27.99

9781733121255

The day Saida arrived at the school she seemed to have lost her words and instead of joy and laughter there were tears and sadness. Her new classmate hunted high and low for the words but could not find them so instead, she drew a heart in chalk and Saida drew a smile.  The first breakthrough!

When her dad explains that Saida probably hasn’t lost her words, it was just that her words wouldn’t work in this country, the little girl sets out to teach Saida the new words she needs as well as learning Saida’s words.  What follows is the beginning of a joyous, lifelong friendship that is so characteristic of our children when confronted with this sort of language problem. They work it out, find common ground, ignore boundaries and borders and learn together.  

Having worked so often  in schools where English is an additional language for so many, where students with no English at all come to get that first grounding before they go to their neighbourhood school, this story is a stunning portrayal of how kids get along regardless particularly when adults don’t intervene.  The playground is such a cosmopolitan learning space and whether the language is Arabic like Saida’s or Tagalog or whatever,  the children’s natural needs overcome barriers. Enriching friendships are formed and their words that every “shape, sound and size” just mingle naturally.

With illustrations that are as joyful as the concept and the text, this is the perfect story for this time of the year to help students understand that being in such an alien environment can be bewildering and confusing, that there will be times when they are in Saida’s shoes and their words won’t work, but there is always help and hope. Because the learning between the girls works both ways, the story values Saida’s Arabic as much as her new friend’s English so that Saida is an equal partner in the story, offering a subtle nudge for us to consider how equally we treat our NESB students. What accommodations can and do we make for those whose words don’t work in our libraries and classrooms?

Teachers’ notes are available and while these are written for the US, they are readily adaptable to the Australian situation..