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There’s Only One Mum Like You

There’s Only One Mum Like You

There’s Only One Mum Like You

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There’s Only One Mum Like You

Jess Racklyeft

Affirm Press, 2019

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

9781925712902

I love your quiet stories,
songs sung loud in the rain.
No one can hug like you, Mum
or makes me feel the same.

Brave mums, playful mums, cuddly mums, quiet mums – every mum is special in her own way and author/illustrator Jess Racklyeft celebrates the many things that mums do to make their child’s life better in this ode to mothers that has been released just in time for Mothers Day.

But rather than a twee platitude of a kind that we see too much of, Racklyeft has illustrated this with watercolours of a host of different mums from the animal kingdom, showing that motherhood is not just the realm of humans and that in their way, mums are critical in a child’s development well beyond birth. 

For those who are focusing on Mothers Day and may be treading warily in acknowledgement of those students without mums, this is an innovative approach that offers something a little different.

 

A Great Escape

A Great Escape

A Great Escape

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Great Escape

Felice Arena

Puffin, 2019

176pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9780143794042

Berlin, August 13, 1961, the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the US and its allies is at its peak and  Peter is playing with his mates Max and Hubert, ignoring his mother’s requests to come inside because they are leaving to visit the western side of the city, controlled by the Western Allies and entirely surrounded by the Soviet-controlled East Berlin and East Germany. It doesn’t seem like a big deal because Peter can always stay with his grandparents as he frequently does.

But this time things change for overnight the East German authorities start constructing the wall which divided the city for 28 years and Peter finds himself separated from his parents and little sister Margrit as they are unable to return to the East and he can not join them. Guarded by tanks and soldiers with ferocious dogs and who shoot to kill, it seems that Peter will never see his family again.  However, he is determined to escape and despite seeing the fate of most of those who do try, including the body of his best friend’s older brother left caught in the barbed wire as a warning, his resolve to rejoin his parents doesn’t waver.  While he meets new friends Otto and Elke he is scorned by others, including being taunted and beaten by his old friend MAx who considers him to be a traitor for wanting to be reunited with his family.

This is knife-edge reading about a period in time that was the backdrop to the life of a generation and inspired by the author’s visit to Berlin and asking himself, “If the Wall were to be implemented today, and I were separated from my family, what would I do?” He has brought the period and the dilemma of so many to life through Peter and his friends, and created another must-read to go with The Boy and the Spy and Fearless Frederic.  As well as shining a spotlight on a recent period in history that is still fresh in the minds of many of our students’ grandparents who will have seen it, perhaps even been affected by it, it also sets up a number of ethical questions that could lead to some robust discussions.  

Just as with its predecessors, this is a meaty book that will appeal to those who like some real depth to their reading and who are then compelled to find out more about the events and circumstances.  Perfect for independent readers who are a little older and have a sense of history and are interested in the lives of other children in other places in other times.  As Arena asked himself, what would they do if they found themselves in another’s shoes?

Saying Goodbye to Barkley

Saying Goodbye to Barkley

Saying Goodbye to Barkley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saying Goodbye to Barkley

Devon Sillett

Nicky Johnston

EK Books, 2019

32pp., hbk. RRP $A24.99

9781925335965

Olivia and Barkley are best friends who do everything together, especially catching the bad guys,  With her trusty cape and his sensitive nose, they were two pieces of the same puzzle, but then Barkley got sick and instead of helping Olivia, he just lay in his basket all day. Olivia tried to understand and to go on without him but it just wasn’t the same and when he died she was totally bereft.  Like everyone who suffers any sort of loss of a loved one, the bottom fell out of her world and she was too sad to do anything.  Sleeping didn’t even help because if she dreamed of him, he was gone when she woke up.  And life would never be right again, because every superhero needs a sidekick.

But then, slowly, even though she was still grieving she was able to think about the fun they had together and when she woke up one morning, she had a plan…

Every one of us loses someone who is dear and sadly, that is as true for children as it is for adults.  Devon Sillett, author of both Scaredy Book: It’s not always easy to be brave! and The Leaky Story is gradually building a body of work that shows she is in touch with the thoughts and emotions of our youngest readers and is able to help them recognise, articulate and share those feelings with others.  This is a gentle, tender story of the loss of a loved pet but one which has a happy ending that shows that while the loved one can’t be replaced, there is still life to live and love to give, even if it’s different from what you imagined.

Nicky Johnston’s illustrations are as soft and gentle as the words and add to the poignancy of the whole story and from the front cover to the final endpaper the love that Olivia has to give is on display. In fact the endpapers cleverly preface the story – Barkley hiding under the covers at the front, and Spud pulling them off and the astute adult sharing this story might even prepare the child for its content and theme by wondering aloud why there are two different dogs. Teachers’ notes to assist in exploring and explaining the story are available.

This is an essential addition to both home and school library as it is a sensitive approach to a situation that so many of our little people will face but will not understand without some adult guidance.  

One Tree

One Tree

One Tree

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One Tree

Christopher Cheng

Bruce Whatley

Puffin, 2019

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

9780143786733

Long, long ago Grandfather lived high on a hill in a one-room house with nine other people, a dog and a goldfish. He loved his mountain home. “Better than an Emperor’s palace “, he would say, and when he went to the village market he could always see his home perched beside the tallest tree on the mountain.  At night, Grandfather would tell stories and everyone gathered around to hear them because his stories were the best.

But time passes and Grandfather is old and now he lives in his grandson’s apartment in the city, a busy, noisy, crowded city that has swallowed up the fields, killed the trees and silenced the birds. No longer does he tell stories – he just stares at the fading painting of his mountain and a visit to the markets is one of haste rather than leisure, of fie de lah rather than conversation, where all the buildings look the same and there is no way they can spot their apartment. 

But one day the little boy sees a little plant with two pale leaves growing through a crack in the path, and knowing that it will soon be crushed by the hundreds of rushing feet, he rescues it and despite his grandfather’s pessimism about its future, the little boy nourishes it and it flourishes – and slowly something amazing begins to happen…

If you pick up a book by Christopher Cheng , you know you are going to get an outstanding story, one that will have a profound effect on you. In my opinion, One Tree is as impressive as his iconic One Child  (now 21 years old) with its powerful message about the power of one and the change that can happen because just one child believes. 

And true to form, Bruce Whatley who says he would “get bored if I stuck to one or two [illustration styles}” has illustrated this book in a completely new style, one that complements the text perfectly. “For One Tree I wanted to do something new yet it had to have a traditional feel. I have fond memories of doing Linocuts in college, carving into soft ochre layers, taking away the space between the lines. Then rolling ink onto it and printing the result. Such a great medium. Not having the time or space and being mobile for most of the time I decided to create the technique using Photoshop on my portable Wacom Cintiq tablet and my Mac. I constructed 3 layers in Photoshop, an off white base layer, a dark ochre middle layer, (these colours echoed the lino and were purely for nostalgic reasons) and a top transparent layer where I copied my pencil roughs. I then used the eraser tool with a stylus pen on the ochre layer to ‘gouge’ out the space between the lines. What was left I converted to a black textured line and added the colours on the layer beneath.” Books Illustrated

Like all quality picture books, this is one that spreads itself across all age groups, inspires the reader to act on what they have read and is a pleasure to read, review and recommend. 

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

 

Ivanhoe Swift Left Home at Six

Ivanhoe Swift Left Home at Six

Ivanhoe Swift Left Home at Six

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ivanhoe Swift Left Home at Six

Jane Godwin

A. Yi

Allen & Unwin, 2019

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

9781760631864

Ivanhoe Swift left home when he was six.
He had heard many songs about the world, and it was time to see it for himself. 
‘We won’t know where you are!’ cried his father.
‘I’ll know where you are,’ said Ivanhoe. ‘And you can look out for my kite in the sky. Goodbye, parents!’

This is a touching story about the young child’s need to push the boundaries and explore the world beyond the grip of their mother’s hand or the garden gate.  Ivanhoe’s parents understand this and are prepared to let him go, but knowing that some of the things he will see and the people he will meet might not be as nice as they are, they ensure that he knows he is loved and is always welcome home. 

Go well, as you travel, over the world as you roam…

But if you grow weary of your journey, then let the sea bring you home.

So armed with his bag , a hat and a pencil, the map from his wall, his kite and the songs in his head, he sets off on his adventure.  And sure enough he meets the nice and not-so-nice, braves the woods and sees the ocean  but when his kite. now battered and tattered, is taken by the wind, he knows it’s time to head home.

Young children will resonate with Ivanhoe’s desire to see the world and be inspired to create their own journeys, but will their parents be as trusting as Ivanhoe’s?

 

I’m not (Very) Afraid of the Dark

I'm not (Very) Afraid of the Dark

I’m not (Very) Afraid of the Dark

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m not (Very) Afraid of the Dark

Anna Milbourne

Daniel Riebey

Usborne, 2019

24pp., hbk. RRP $A19.99

9781474940726

During the daytime I’m not afraid of the dark. In the daytime the Dark is small and tucks itself under things almost as if it’s hiding.  But it’s different as the day draws to a close and the Dark starts to stretch out and starts to cover EVERYTHING. It’s not too scary when the lights are on even though there are corners where the Dark lurks, but once the lights are off…

And when Dad suggests a camping trip that means being outside in the Dark where the noises are unknown, well that’s a whole new level of scared…

Fear of the dark is a common phenomenon, particularly for little ones who don’t yet understand the concept of Earth’s rotation and night and day and thus it is also a common theme in stories for them. What sets this one apart though is the way that the Dark is personified and explored using engaging language that expresses the child’s thoughts so well.  Instead of referring to “shadows”, the little boy says it “tucks itself under things almost as if it’s hiding.” and illustrations that show those same shadows getting longer and longer.  But the standout feature is the use of cutouts throughout the book that cleverly highlight  the text -“the feeling inside me gets bigger too-like a hole I could fall into” as well as offering a peek into what’s coming.  Even the very last page has some that provide the perfect ending.

Like others on this theme, there is much that both parent and teacher can explore with the child as the book is shared – the concept of darkness and how it is created and needed, emotions and fears and how these can be addressed, the stars and other bodies in the night sky … 

All in all, a great story beautifully told and brilliantly illustrated that offers both comfort and learning.

Grandma’s Treasured Shoes

Grandma's Treasured Shoes

Grandma’s Treasured Shoes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grandma’s Treasured Shoes

Coral Vass

Christina Huynh

NLA Publishing, 2019

36pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9780642279354

Grandma has oodles and oodles of shoes.

Walk to the park shoes

Dance in the dark shoes

Fun shoes and sun shoes

Out and about shoes

Splash in the rain shoes

Fancy shoes, 

Plain shoes,

But her favourite shoes 

Are her worn and torn shoes

From a time long ago

And a land far away. 

For they are the shoes of her childhood in wartorn Vietnam, a time when her childhood was like that of others until the night she and her family have to flee with just the shoes on their feet.  They are shoes that take her on a terrifying journey to a new land where she is given new shoes to wear.  But she never forgets or discards those old shows with the memories and stories they hold for her.

Beginning with a rhyme and rhythm reminiscent of Frida Wolfe’s poem Choosing Shoes , this is a story that could be that of the grandmother or grandfather of any number of our students who have come to Australia as refugees, but in particular those who fled the Viet Cong and arrived here in boats in the 1970s. (But not always to the welcome that Grandma gets.) Using the shoes as a vehicle to tell the story of the fear and the flight, both author and illustrator have introduced the young reader to the story of refugees in a sensitive, non-confrontational way.  They have put themselves in the shoes of those who have had to flee their countries and imagined that regardless of the country, “that each shoe would have a different tale of danger, hardship, sacrifice and the cost of freedom to tell.”

This approach is rich in possibilities for a wide age group – children could tell the story of their shoes’ daily journey while those who have been in Grandma’s situation might feel comfortable about telling their story through the perspective of their shoes.  It could also serve as a lead-in to a series of lessons about perspective and how the different role a person has in a situation alters how the story is told. For example, what might be the glass slipper’s version of the Cinderella story? In a time when immigration is once more in the news as the tragedy in Christchurch starts debates again, older students might even examine the different responses by those such as Jacinda Ardern (#theyareus) and Donald Trump (building the wall).

As usual with NLA publications, there are pages of information at the back, these ones outlining the history of refugees in Australia and in particular, those who came from Vietnam in the 70s, the grandmothers and grandfathers of so many of our students. Perfect for Harmony Day celebrations or any focus on the multicultural nature of this country.

 

 

Grandma’s Treasured Shoes from STYNA on Vimeo.

52 Mondays

52 Mondays

52 Mondays

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

52 Mondays

Anna Ciddor

Allen & Unwin, 2019

208pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781760523480

Melbourne in the hot summer of February 1964 , in the hot car on the way to Nana and Zayda’s and Anna clutches the library book she can’t wait to read. It’s called Hitty: the life and adventures of a wooden doll and it not only inspired young Anna to own her own antique doll, a dream that lasts 52 Mondays, but also inspired the older Anna, the author, to tell the tale of the joys and disappointments of her real-life childhood search for the doll.

Based on her own life and following the success of The Family with Two Front Doors  which tells the story of  her own family, the Rabinovitches who “dance, laugh and cook their way through an extraordinary life in 1920s Poland”, the author takes the readeron a journey through the life and times of children growing up in 1960s Melbourne.  No computers, no Internet or social media, in many homes, not even a television set – just the day-to-day adventures of children who had to seek and make their own fun.  For those like me it is a trip down memory lane to the days of warm school milk, Mr Whippy, and desks in rows in schools, while for more modern young readers it is an insight into the lives of their grandparents -something very different to that which they know.

Whichever, it is a very readable story about a little girl with a dream, parents who understand and support it, the  highs and lows of following it, and the determination and resilience  required to achieve it. 

 

 

Mallee Sky

Mallee Sky

Mallee Sky

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mallee Sky

Jodi Toering

Tannya Harricks

Black Dog Books, 2019

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

9781925381672

“The first people of the land call the Mallee “Nowie”.  It means sunset country. When the sun goes down, the red heat of the day bleeds into the sky and sets it on fire.”

In this most evocative book with poetic text and stunning illustrations, we are introduced to life on the Mallee under the harshest conditions of drought, where the summer sky is big and blue and at night there are more stars in the sky than anywhere in the world. Where bitumen melts, red dirt cracks, the scrub sighs from thirst and the wind is so hot and tired it can’t raise more than a whisper…

No rain falls here and the ancient eucalypts are ghosts of themselves until one day there is a strange sound on the tin roof…

The author, herself born in the Mallee , has taken seven years to perfect her book and the time and dedication shows in its sensitive, picturesque phrases that build an image so vivid it must have been easy for illustrator Tannya Harricks to know what to capture and bring to life with her oil paints and bold brushstrokes. , even though the two only met for the first time at the launch of the book! 

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

What is typical for this vast region of Western Victoria, encompassing more than a quarter of the state is sadly the scenario and scenery for much of the eastern states as this drought drags on and on, and so this is a timely publication and addition to the collection because so many will be able to see their own surroundings and lives in it and how they, as people, are shaped by Mother Nature, and perhaps draw hope that they too will dance in the rain as the Mallee kids did. In fact, Toering herself says, ““This is really a book about Australia. Even though it is set in the Mallee and it’s called Mallee Sky, in essence it’s about drought, which affects every part of Australia, it’s about climate change, it’s about farming and small towns and the impact that drought has on them.”

Simply stunning. and could well be among the award winners over the next 12 months. 

 

 

Kensy and Max: Undercover

Kensy and Max: Undercover

Kensy and Max: Undercover

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kensy and Max: Undercover

Jacqueline Harvey

Random House Australia, 2019

400pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9780143791904

The third in this series which includes Breaking News and Disappearing Act , twins Kensy and Max have adjusted to the disappearance of their parents, and are comfortable in their new life as part of the important Pharos organisation, headed up by their grandmother, Cordelia. 

In this adventure they are back in London for no time at all before things begin to heat up – quite literally. As a result, Granny Cordelia ships them off to Australia on an undercover mission. The twins find themselves planted in a posh Sydney school where first appearances prove to be deceiving.

What seems like a straightforward assignment turns into something so much bigger. Kensy and Max must employ all their spy skills – the fate of their parents, and who they’ve been searching for, depends on it.

When I gave Miss 12 the first two in this series all other Christmas presents were forgotten as she sat and devoured them, and then re-read them on the long bus trip to the Australian Jamboree near Adelaide just a couple of weeks later. Regardless of what anyone else might say, there is no more powerful review than that of the intended audience and to me, Miss 12, who is a discerning reader, has said it all.

Perfect for your up-and-coming independent readers who want characters they can relate to and events that they can picture themselves being involved in and emerging victorious of course, as they  try to solve the clues as they read and using the mysterious Caesar code to encrypt the chapter headings.