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Leaf

Leaf

Leaf

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leaf

Sandra Dieckmann

Flying Eye Books, 2017

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

9781911171317

 

Crow saw it first. The strange white creature, carried upon the dark waves towards the shore…

When a polar bear arrives unexpectedly in the woods, a creature unlike anything the other animals  had seen, they fear and avoid him, suspecting him to be dangerous particularly when it began to collect leaves. They nicknamed him Leaf and desperately wanted him to leave because no one should live in fear.  Then one day Leaf burst through the forest covered in leaves and leapt off the hill with a giant roar.  Perhaps inspired by the crow’s feathers that helped it fly to freedom he has turned the leaves into wings, but sadly they lifted him but briefly and he tumbled into the lake. 

A meeting of the other creatures was held and attitudes started to soften, but like many such meetings, the only outcome was an agreement to disagree and nothing was done. But when Leaf tried to fly again a few days later, this time landing in the ocean realisation dawned and  things begin to change…

There is a quote on the dedication page of this book…

“Deeper meaning resides in the fairy tales told to me in my childhood than in the truth that is taught in life.” -Friedrich Schiller

And so it is with this book which is one of those that resonates more and more with each reading.  Accompanied by the most stunning, memorable artwork which is rich in colour, pattern and details, on the surface it is a tale about a polar bear who wants to go home.  But what is the message behind the polar bear arriving on a shard of iceberg in the first place? Climate change? Refugee? And what can we learn about and from the forest creatures’ automatic fear and distrust of this unfamiliar, different animal in their midst? Or is the whole a metaphor for a child or adult with a terminal illness who wants to die but who must endure the intervention of science and medicine before finding release? The dedication suggests this…

While the polar bear is the subject, the story is told very much from an objective observer’s eye, a narrator that states the facts and actions without emotion,even though there is so much emotion embedded in the illustrations. An intriguing book that makes the reader ponder.

 

Can You Find Me?

Can You Find Me?

Can You Find Me?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Can You Find Me?

Gordon Winch

Patrick Shirvington

New Frontier, 2017

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

9781925059793

Mother Nature has provided many of our commonly seen creatures with the most amazing camouflage so that when they are in their natural habitat they are very hard to see.  In this stunning book by Gordon Winch, author of Samantha Seagull’s Sandals which has delighted so many children in my care over the years, readers are encouraged to spot familiar and not-so-familiar creatures hidden in plain sight in Pat Shirvington’s beautiful lifelike illustrations which really connect to the natural world.  

Apart from little ones loving these sorts of hide and seek books, it also encourages them to look with new eyes at their local landscape and wonder what might be living there.  Perhaps before they go stomping through the bush or the sand dunes they will stop and tread more carefully appreciating it more as a home for creatures, camouflaged though they may be.

Then using the text format as a model, they could investigate a different creature and then create their own page to add to the book – a new way of presenting information for the ubiquitous report about Australian animals that is in every early childhood curriculum.

Pea Pod Lullaby

Pea Pod Lullaby

Pea Pod Lullaby

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pea Pod Lullaby

Glenda Millard

Stephen Michael King

Allen & Unwin, 2017

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

9781760290085

I am the lullaby

You are the melody

Sing me

It starts like a gentle lullaby, perhaps a story you would share with your very youngest children to help them slip into sleep at the end of a long happy day.  But turn the page and a different story emerges from this remarkable collaboration between author and illustrator that grew as a special project at the Manning Regional Art Gallery in NSW.

The first hint that this is not a traditional lullaby comes when you turn the page and you are confronted by the image of a baby being passed into a tiny boat despite the stormy sea, safe into the arms of a young boy, while high on the rugged, isolated cliff barbed wire tangles it way down, clearly designed to prevent such departures. Yet despite this ominous scenery, the words evoke a feeling of trust, safety and comfort…

I am the small green pea

You are the tender pod 

Hold me.

This message of security and belief that there will be protection threads throughout the rest of the story in its gentle, lyrical text and despite the pictures portraying a somewhat different, more threatening story, the inclusion of the red bird constantly with them and appearing somewhat like the dove from Noah’s Ark towards the end of the journey is reassuring.  

The symbolism is strong  – a polar bear found floating on a fridge is taken on board and returned to its family with the help of the whales, the boat expanding to accommodate all shows that this is a story about the planet, not just its people – and all the while the little peapod boat sails on towards it destination regardless of the sea’s moods, just as love carries us all through life. While the final stanza – I am the castaway, you are the journeys end. welcome me – might suggest the story is over, the final pages and the endpapers show that this is a bigger story than that of the family in that little boat. 

While the family in the boat give a focus to those who find literally launching themselves into and onto the great unknown a better prospect than staying where they are, this is about that uniquely human emotion of hope – the family believe they will reach a better destination and they will be welcomed with warmth and compassion and even in their midst of their own struggle they find the wherewithal to help others, just as they hope they would be helped.

There are teachers’ notes available that take this so much deeper than any review can, but don’t be surprised to see this amongst the CBCA Book of the Year winners in 2018.

Why Crocodiles Smile

Why Crocodiles Smile

Why Crocodiles Smile

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why Crocodiles Smile: Cric Croc discovers nature’s wonders

Anthony W Buirchell

Laila Savolainen

Cric Croc Enterprises, 2017

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

 

9780995424340

Young children are warned from an early age to “never smile at a crocodile” but what if the crocodile smiles at you?

Cric the Crocodile has spent a week with his family in the Daintree region of Far North Queensland but he is puzzled because all the crocodiles he met smiled all the time. So his dad Crisis explains why.

The bull Crocodile was a sneaky beast

It was looking around for a scrumptious feast

With big yellow eyes it searched around

Looking for food from the watery ground.

And as those big yellow eyes alighted on a possible meal, it smiled with anticipation. But the creatures – cassowaries, brolgas, cormorants, barramundi and a host of other beautiful creatures indigenous to the area- were smarter that Crocodile and took themselves out of harm’s way very quickly.  Until an unwary Pelican came by…

Like its predecessors the story is told in rhyme as young readers are introduced to a range of Australia’s unique but less familiar creatures.  Beautiful drawings by Pickawoowoo illustrator, Laila Savolainen bring the text to life with their accuracy and spectacular colour palettes as well as inspiring interest in the flora and fauna of a part of Australia that would be unfamiliar to many.  It also introduces the concept of the food chain – after all, the crocodile does have to eat – and perhaps an investigation into the mechanisms that Mother Nature provides so that creatures do not become easy prey.

A worthy addition to the library’s collection of books for younger readers that introduce them to the amazing wonders of this country. 

Two Rainbows

Two Rainbows

Two Rainbows

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two Rainbows

Sophie Masson

Michael McMahon

Little Hare, 2017

48pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781760127794

The little girl looks out from her city window and sees a cloud and part of a rainbow.  At first, it seems like it is the only colour in this grey, drab city landscape and she thinks longingly of the rainbows she used to see in the country on the family farm – rainbows that spanned the whole sky and lit it up, not just a small arc peeping from a cloud because the sky is full of buildings. 

But gradually she begins to see spots of colour in her new surroundings – not the full-blooded red of the tractor of the farm but the red postbox in the street; not the orange of the sunset and the twine around the hay bales, but a curl of orange peel on the pavement; not the blue of her sheepdog Billy’s eyes but the paint of a neighbour’s fence…  And there is one colour that both landscapes have in common.

This story is a marriage of text and illustration, each interdependent as they should be in quality picture books.  At first the little girl sees only the rainbow, even though there are other spots of colour around her, as she thinks nostalgically of the colours of the country but as she starts to see more of her environment, so too the colours in the pictures increase although the city remains grey and the country bathed in light. And as her thoughts slowly attune to the city environment she begins to see more objects, different from the farm but perhaps with something to offer as she peers over the blue fence and sees a treehouse with a rope ladder and maybe a friend.

Perhaps, after all, there is but one rainbow – it just sees different things.  An interesting contrast between city and country living that poses the question about why the family may have moved; about nostalgia as we tend to yearn for the things we remember when we are out of our comforts zone and hope as we learn to adjust and adapt to new places, new things and new experiences. 

Shapes of Australia

Shapes of Australia

Shapes of Australia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shapes of Australia

Bronwyn Bancroft

Little Hare, 2017

24pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781760129286

So often we walk around with our eyes open but we don’t really see anything.  Yes, we see trees and rocks and distant mountains and even birds in the sky but do we ever see the distinctive shapes they make and the patterns within them?

With her artist’s eye, Bronwyn Bancroft has taken the items we take for granted and brought them to life through colour and pattern in the distinctive way that only she can, ensuring that next time we see ocean waves and river boulders, even city skyscrapers, we will look at them with new eyes.

Inspirational for its bold use of colour, intricate, detailed patterns and simplified geometry emphasised  by the shapes within the shapes, this visually stunning book will also inspire poetry as students appreciate the simple sentences that accompany each picture building metaphors like the “crystal shards” of skyscrapers and the “quilt of nature’s comfort” of the grasslands. 

An excellent companion to Colours of Australia students could be encouraged to examine the unique shapes of their own landscapes, even if that is just the playground, and reproduce them in Bancroft style.

Whatcha Building?

Whatcha Building?

Whatcha Building?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whatcha Building?

Andrew Daddo

Stephen Michael King

ABC Books, 2017

32pp, hbk., RRP $A24.99

9780733334153

Every day on his way home from school Little Davey Durak watches the old milk bar on the corner being demolished, another victim of the ever-encroaching city inexorably guzzling all in its path. And every day Bruce the Builder would say hello to Davey as he carefully pulled the building apart and put the pieces in the skip, their final resting place.  

One afternoon, Davey asks Bruce for some wood -something he begins to do each day.  Sometimes it is a long piece and sometimes, short or chunky or thin.  But no matter how often Bruce asks what Davey is building, Davey doesn’t tell.  Bruce has heaps of ideas about what it could be but Davey keeps his secret.  Until the day Bruce helps him heave the old milkbar sign home…

Set against a backdrop of a city built like no other, one that could only be constructed in the mind of Stephen Michael King, Daddo has created a story that has many layers to it.  Young readers will have fun trying to predict what it is that Davey is building while others will relate to their neighbourhood slowly but surely changing as “progress” comes to town.  Others might like to investigate how the collage effect of the main characters superimposed on the landscape adds to the image of the layering of the landscape and how, in reality, everything is an imposition on the original.  And there might also be discussions about why King has chosen to depict the modern city using everyday objects in new ways while thinking about how they themselves might recycle or upcycle instead of throwing out. 

So many conversation starters – Is progress always good?  How do Bruce and Davey represent the past and the present? How has the children’s community changed over time? Has this been for the best?  Perhaps that could even inspire a local history project with interviews with long-term residents and a photographic journey or perhaps the children could create a record of their community as it is now so that future generations can do a compare and contrast. 

Teachers’ notes are available but all of that is wasted if it is not built on a solid, engaging, entertaining story – and this is certainly that.

A Bag and a Bird

A Bag and a Bird

A Bag and a Bird

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Bag and a Bird

Pamela Allen

Viking, 2017

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

9780143783909

John and his mother decided to have a picnic in Sydney’s Botanic Gardens.  The long walk from Kirribilli across the Harbour Bridge to the Gardens was all part of the adventure and there was something special about seeing everyone else rushing while they were relaxing.  

Nevertheless, when they finally arrived they were hungry and John pulled his sandwiches out of a plastic bag.  Surrounded by curious, hungry ibises John is more interested in the way they snaffle his last sandwich when a teasing wind blows his bag onto the ground not realising that he is setting off a chain of events that is unlikely to end well…

Master storyteller Pamela Allen’s message in this story could not be clearer.  Clean Up Australia   estimate that about 1 trillion bags are used and discarded world-wide every year and in Australia alone over 10 million new bags are being used every day. These either end up in landfill or in the waterways, taking 400-1000 years to break down depending on their exposure to light. The story of the ibis is just one story of hundreds that must happen every day to our fauna, without such a good ending.

With plastic bags banned in some jurisdictions and about to be in others, nevertheless even those which replace them can be just as toxic to our wildlife so this is the perfect book to develop awareness and to begin investigations into their use, their disposal and the litter issues that we seem to be drowning in ourselves.  While many schools have student-led litter patrols which focus on the immediate environment, A Bag and a Bird highlights what can happen further afield, particularly bringing the message home with her choice of setting and illustrations of sights very familiar to even those who don’t live in Sydney.

Not just a cracking story, this book has the potential to change attitudes and actions – can we ask for more from 32 pages? A book for all ages. 

 

My Encyclopedia of Very Important Animals

My Encyclopedia of Very Important Animals

My Encyclopedia of Very Important Animals

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Encyclopedia of Very Important Animals

Dorling Kindersley, 2017

224pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9780241276358

 

Anyone who has spent time with little people, particularly boys, will know that they often gravitate to the non fiction collections of the school library where they can get a THICK book (very important) and then pore over the pictures for hours at a time.  If the pictures and diagrams are of high quality then they can absorb a lot of information from them even if they can’t manage the text yet.  

In this new publication from non fiction experts DK the editors have mastered combining stunning illustrations with just the right amount of text to support the beginning reader, often only one sentence and using vocabulary that is appropriate to the age group whilst not “talking down.” Divided into four sections – All About Animals;  Amazing Animals; Animal Antics and More Very Important Animals – it begins with a clear explanation of what animals are, differentiating them from plants, and then moves on to those of land, sea and air. 

Using lots of colour, a clear, clean font of a good size, labels, speech bubbles and other literary devices, the young reader is taken on a journey through the animal kingdom that they will return to again and again, all the while honing their reading skills as they want to know more than just the pictures can tell them.  At the back they are introduced to the concept of a glossary which explains the meaning of some of the more unusual words they might encounter like amphibian and exoskeleton, as well as an index that will help them find just what they are looking for. 

With more and more research emerging about the need for children to develop basic literacy skills using print if they are to use and interpret online information efficiently and effectively,this is a must-have addition in both the school and home libraries.  

 

Paddy O’Melon the Irish Kangaroo

Paddy O'Melon the Irish Kangaroo

Paddy O’Melon the Irish Kangaroo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paddy O’Melon the Irish Kangaroo

Julia Cooper

Daryl Dickson

Exisle, 2017

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

9781925335637

On the very day that he took his first steps out of his mother’s pouch, the little kangaroo is separated from her as two large black marauding dogs race through the clearing, scattering them to shelter.  The joey cannot keep up with his mum so he hides, found hours later by the O’Melon family who live in a valley in the rainforest and who care for injured and orphaned native creatures.  They all him Paddy O’Melon, their Irish kangaroo.

Wrapped in a pillowcase pouch and bottle-fed a special milk mixture, Paddy not only survives but thrives. He spends more and more time in the garden as he grows meeting and making friends with the other creatures that the O’Melons have rescued.  Eventually, all his time is spent outdoors and the family tell him that when he is old enough he can return to the wild and live with his own kind.  But just what is his “own kind”? When he introduces himself as Paddy O’Melon the Irish kangaroo, he is met with sniggers and giggles and no one is able to help him.  The best advice he can get is to find the cassowary who knows everything and everyone…

This is a charming story with echoes of Are You My Mother? but with much more depth and interest.  Written by a highly regarded naturalist, who has since passed away, it not only introduces the reader to the unfamiliar and unique creatures of Far North Queensland but carries a lot of information about them in both the text and the stunning illustrations, but never intruding into the story of Paddy’s quest.  

While many are familiar with kangaroos and wallabies,  few know about their cousins the pademelons who inhabit the northern rainforests  In an effort to spread the word about the species of her home region, Cooper has deliberately included the more unusual and suggests that readers can go here for more information about them. There are also Teachers’ Notes available and royalties are being donated to further the conservation of the area.

Apart from just being a good story, this book also introduces us to more of Australia’s wonderful wildlife, perhaps setting up an investigation that compares and contrasts those of the FNQ region to those in the students’ region.