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Perfectly Norman

Perfectly Norman

Perfectly Norman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Perfectly Norman

Tom Percival

Bloomsbury, 2017

32pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

9781408880982

Norman had always been perfectly normal. That was until the day he grew a pair of wings! 

He had imagined growing taller or even growing a beard like his dad, but not growing  a pair of wings!

Norman is very surprised to have wings suddenly – and he has the most fun ever trying them out high in the sky. But then he has to go in for dinner. What will his parents think? What will everyone else think? Norman feels the safest plan is to cover his wings with a big coat.

But hiding the thing that makes you different can prove tricky and upsetting. The coat became a burden, even an embarrassment and Norman began to resent the wings until he realised it was the coat making him unhappy, not the wings. After all, no-one else has wings, so why him? Can he find the courage to discard the coat? What does he discover when he does?

In this poignant story about being different, Percival has set the text against striking backgrounds of various shades of grey depicting normal and dull while giving Norman bright colour and light so that his feelings of being unique are highlighted physically as well as emotionally. He has also chosen to depict a diversity of characters, each unique in their own way and each of whom accept Norman as normal, so really, what does “normal’ mean?

 For a wonderful part of their lives, children don’t see difference and they just love who they are but then awareness starts to develop and they start to see themselves with new and often unkind eyes.  They want nothing more than to be the same as their peers, to not stand out, to be normal and anything that makes them unique, whether it is skin colour, wearing spectacles, being an only child or growing a set of wings, becomes a burden that they would rather not carry. But the freedom when the coat is shed… 

Accepting and celebrating who we are and what we are, especially those things that make us special and unique is so important for our mental health and at last, we are starting to understand that the self-talk and messages we give ourselves as we interpret our interactions and experiences as a child can have an incredible impact on the well-being of our older selves. The more children can encounter books like Perfectly Norman and discuss them so they understand that there is no ‘normal’ or “perfect” the healthier they will be.  It is our responsibility as teacher librarians, teachers and other significant adults in their lives to make sure they meet lots of Normans and not only grow to love their own wings but to use them to fly!

 

What George Forgot

What George Forgot

What George Forgot

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What George Forgot

Kathy Wolff

Richard Byrne

Bloomsbury, 2017

40pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781408884027

George is all ready to go to school but in the back of his mind he has that feeling that he has forgotten something.  Being a boy who never likes to forget anything, it troubles him and so he mentally goes through all his preparations for school.  He’s woken up, made his bed, greeted his patents, got dressed, had breakfast… So what could it be?

Aha! He realises at the very last minute as the school bus turns up that it is his shoes he has forgotten!  Or is it???

Young children will love trying to help George remember and by the end of the book they will be shouting at him just as they do in performances where the villain pops up just behind the hero and quickly disappears.  They will enjoy comparing his routine to theirs as they delight in Richard Byrne’s clever, funny illustrations and the clever use of font and print direction.  And they will probably start to do a mental check before they go out the door in future. They might even add the word ’embarrassing” to their vocabulary!

A good, funny read that will become a favourite.

Why can’t I be a dinosaur?

Why can't I be a dinosaur?

Why can’t I be a dinosaur?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why can’t I be a dinosaur?

Kylie Westaway

Tom Jellett

Allen & Unwin, 2017

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

9781760294724

Nellie is all dressed up in her dinosaur costume because today is a Dinosaur Day.  But it is also her Aunt Daisy’s wedding and she is supposed to be the flower girl and wearing her special purple dress. While some parents might exert their parental power, Nellie’s try a more negotiated approach,  as stubborn as any preschooler, Nellie refuses to change and despite her parents’ pleading she stands her ground.  Can a compromise be reached with Aunt Daisy having the pretty flower girl at the wedding of her dreams?

This is a funny yet familiar story that will resonate with both parent and child – parents because we can all remember some of the monumental battles we have had with stubborn, determined little people, the child because the adult world does seem to have some weird rules and expectations and having to wear a purple dress to a wedding is just one of them.

It’s refreshing to see a girl in the lead role in a book about dinosaurs and Tom Jellett has captured Nellie’s obsession with them and her feelings at being told no perfectly.  You can feel the tension in the air as powerful wills meet even though voices are not raised (except as a dinosaur roar) and the parents remain calm.  Lots of discussion points about feelings, doing what others expect, negotiating and compromising and whether clothes really do “maketh the man”. 

 

 

Stitches and Stuffing

Stitches and Stuffing

Stitches and Stuffing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stitches and Stuffing

Carrie Gallasch

Sara Acton

Little Hare, 2017

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

9781760127787

Wherever Adeline went, so did Bunnybear. They had been together since forever, never apart. He was soft and cuddly, his ears and legs wibbling and wobbling and he flipped and flopped along.  He even had his own seat at the table for morning milk and biscuits with Nanna.  Bunnybears was her best friend and she didn’t feel right without him.  Until one day, Bunnybear accidentally got left at the beach… Caught in a tug-of-war between a curious seagull and Adeline’s puppy, poor Bunnybear was destroyed and Adeline was distraught.  That night there was a Bunnybear-shaped empty space in her bed and she felt very alone.

Next day Nanna sat in her knitting chair and made a new Bunnybear for Adeline.  But this one wasn’t the same. It was too stiff and straight and no matter how Adeline squished and squashed him, he felt like a stranger.  And so he sat on the shelf, hard and still like a statue. But then, one day Nanna had to go away for a while and with no milk and biscuits for morning tea, and no sitting in the knitting chair with her, the days became long and quiet. And then Adeline remembered…

This is a soft and gentle story, illustrated with the soft and gentle palette and the soft and gentle lines of watercolours, that will remind all readers, young and not-so of their favourite take-along-everywhere toy of their childhood.  Everyone has a Bunnybear in their story, that one toy that we felt lost without regardless of whether it was shabby or pristine. In fact, shabby was better because it showed how loved it was but despite that, there is always room for change and sometimes when it is thrust upon us we need to embrace it.  This softness is not just in the storyline but also in the rhythm of the story – long sentences that spread out over vignettes and pages as life continues on its merry way but changing to shorter, more abrupt statements when the worst happens and then gradually getting longer and more rhythmic as life takes on a new pattern.  The whole wraps around the child like a hug, reassuring them that things will work out even if they are different. 

Sometimes when little ones go to big school there is a suggestion that it is time to leave their preschool lives behind, including their beloved toys that have been with them since birth.  And yet with this huge change in their lives they are left without the companionship of their most trusted and comforting friend and ally. Photos of Prince George starting school recently showed him looking a bit bewildered and unsure, and even though his grandfather Prince Charles thought the experience “character-building” we have to remember we can still count in months the time these little ones have been in the world and they need and deserve all the support they can get.  The astute teacher will acknowledge that these are more than just a collection of stitches and stuffing, that they are imbued with love, safety and security and perhaps having a special shelf so the special toys can come to school too with the child deciding when they want to wean themselves. Meanwhile the teacher librarian can encourage them to read to their special toy in school and at night and might even provide a collection of teddies for those who just need an extra hug or two. It worked for me!

Sometimes

Sometimes

Sometimes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sometimes

Jessica Love

Echo Books, 2017

32pp., pbk., RRP $A24.95

9780995436435

Sometimes when you’re gone I wonder why your job seems more important to you…than me.

Sometimes when you’re gone I get upset and angry when you miss things that are important to me.

Sometimes I look at what you do and I realise that you don’t want to leave… but by making our lives harder, you are making other people’s lives better.

But even with that understanding, it doesn’t make the life of a child with a parent in the Defence Forces or any other profession which necessitates prolonged absences any easier.  

This is poignant true story based on the 16 year-old author’s own experiences of being a child in a military family grappling with the absence of a loved parent.  It was her way of telling her dad about her feelings while he was away and her confusion when he came home as the family had to adjust to another routine. In an interview with the Canberra Times she says, “When I showed it to Dad, it wasn’t really anything we had discussed before … it was quite a shock to him…

But Jess didn’t just write this book for her dad, she wrote it for all children of Defence families and in a letter to them she tries to reassure them that their feelings are common and normal,they are not alone and  even providing a page for them to write their own ending to the sentence, Sometimes when you’re gone…

Many of us have taught many children from military families who have struggled with having a parent deployed and there has been an expectation that they will “soldier on” and manage the separation and the emotions that go with it.  But this book has a wider application than just military families – many of our students will have parents away, either permanently or temporarily – and in sensitive hands this could be the perfect opportunity to support them by getting them to open up about their feelings; to help them understand that they are not alone and it’s normal to feel resentful at times and they don’t have to feel guilty; to help them help their parents understand the impact of the separation because often parents are so busy being adults that they forget what it’s like to be a bewildered kid.

This is one for all teachers, not just counsellors, and deserves a wide audience among our profession – it has the power to change lives. 

Pippa’s Island: Cub Reporters

Pippa's Island: Cub Reporters

Pippa’s Island: Cub Reporters

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pippa’s Island: Cub Reporters

Belinda Murrell

Random House Australia, 2017

240pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9780143783688

Life could hardly be more different for Pippa.  From a seemingly happy family living in a Victorian terrace house in London to a caravan in her grandparents’ backyard on a tropical island off the Australian coast.  Forced to make changes when her husband decided to work in Switzerland without them, Pippa’s mother has uprooted the family to a totally new environment where she is now running the increasingly popular Beach Shack Cafe created from an old, abandoned boat shed – a huge contrast to being a stockbroker in London!.

Pippa has a new puppy called Summer, is learning to surf, has settled into school and now has a group of friends – Meg, Cici and Charlie- and they call themselves the Sassy Sisters. So when teacher librarian Mrs Neill launches a student newspaper inviting all the students to submit articles for the first edition, they are very excited.    But each has different interests and therefore different ideas of the focus of their story so whose idea will be adopted? And what happens when naughty puppies and tropical weather and unco-operative shopkeepers interfere with their plans? Being a junior journalist is not as easy as it sounds.

This is the second in this new series by Belinda Murrell, aimed at the independent reader who is looking for something that will absorb them for a while.  Writing modern stories for this tween-age group who are on the cusp of becoming young women with all that that entails is difficult because there is a fine line between what to include so the older girl remains interested and what to leave out so that the younger girl who is reading at this level is not turned away. In this series, Murrell has nailed it with just the right balance.  There is action aplenty, a healthy relationship with the boys in the story, Cici’s fashion interests to add the touch of glamour and a main character who could be almost any girl who picks up the book.  This and its predecessor The Beach Shack Cafe      will be in Miss 11’s Santa’s Sack this year!

When I was this age I read The Pen and Pencil Girls   by Clare Mallory, a book which had such an influence on my writing as a child that I tracked a copy down and bought it a few years ago. Move forward a couple of decades and the Junior Journalists club was the most popular and sustainable one  that operated in my school library, and now we have Cub Reporters to inspire another generation.  Offering kids an authentic outlet for their writing, their illustrating and their photography is a winner for getting those who have a passion for these things involved in school life while perhaps moving them on to a higher level of expertise. Let this book be the one to kickstart a program in your library. 

Sage Cookson: Literary Launch

Sage Cookson: Literary Launch

Sage Cookson: Literary Launch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sage Cookson: Literary Launch

Sally Murphy

New Frontier, 2017

56pp., pbk., RRP $A9.99

9781925594010

Sage Cookson is a ten-year-old whose parents, Ginger and Basil, travel Australia and the world, and lucky Sally gets to go with them. While they are sampling the food, learning new cooking techniques and then sharing their new knowledge with their massive television audience through their show The Cookson’s Cook On, Sage has a lifestyle that others might envy.

In this latest episode, Sage is confronted by a school assignment which many children dread – having to prepare and present a three-minute speech to her classmates.  She fears all the things that many do – forgetting the words, being laughed at, being boring – and even the comforting words of her best friend Lucy don’t reassure her.  Nevertheless she perseveres amidst all the excitement of the launch of her mother’s first cookbook at the Sydney Opera House, helped enormously by Tori who has flown in from Singapore to give her own speech at the occasion.  But when traffic delays everyone except Sage and her mum, Sage finds herself volunteering to do the opening speech … is this the silliest decision she has made?

This new series for newly independent younger readers combines the author’s love of television cooking shows and mysteries, so that in each new addition something goes wrong and Sage has to solve the problem.  Sage is going to appeal to a range of young readers who will be able to follow her adventures and then visit her website for more fun, as well as trying out the delicious cupcake recipe included. 

The Boy and the Spy

The Boy and the Spy

The Boy and the Spy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Boy and the Spy

Felice Arena

Puffin, 2017

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

9780143309284

Little did Antonio know that when he stuck an irreverent sketch of Hitler and Mussolini on the windscreen of a German jeep that that his life would change forever. Chased by a German soldier, leaping from the treacherous il Diavolo, and rescuing a wounded American spy is not in the script of life for a rota, an abandoned child who is despised and ridiculed by his Sicilian village even though he has been adopted and taken in by and cares for Mamma Nina. 

But that one act by an innocent 12-year-old sets off a chain of events that keeps the reader enthralled as Antonio lurches from one situation to another seeing the reality of war and understanding the true meaning of family. Set in his homeland, Felice Arena has always wanted to create a story there but it took a long time for Antonio’s voice to echo in his head and demand that his story be told. It is a story worth the wait,

Any story that encourages boys, particularly, to read is to be commended but it is wonderful to see what could be termed a true, rollicking, boy’s own adventure being published. Moving apace with credible characters, both good and evil, Antonio gets into such situations that you wonder how he will get out of them but are willing him onward to success even though he is technically helping the enemy.  That said, it will also appeal to girls because without Simonetta’s help Antonio would have stumbled at the first hurdle and Arena himself says that there could be another story in the escape of Simonetta and her mother.  That’s one I will be looking out for!

This one is for the slightly older independent readers who are looking for a bit of meat and tension in their stories, who like something that compels them to keep reading and appreciate story-crafting at a high level. 

Pip and Houdini

Pip and Houdini

Pip and Houdini

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pip and Houdini

J. C. Jones

Allen & Unwin, 2017

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

9781760296056

Pip Sullivan first entered our reading lives in Run, Pip, Run when she had to live on her wits to stay out of the clutches of the authorities when her “grandfather” Sully had a stroke and subsequently died. Fearful of being put in foster care, Pip found temporary refuge with her best friend Matilda’s family. But to Pip, Matilda is perfect and never seems to get into trouble whereas Pip doesn’t seem to be able to stay out of it. Convinced she is going to be put in formal foster care with all that entails because she believes the Brownings no longer want her, Pip hits the road with her inseparable dog Houdini determined to find her real mother.  With only a nine-year-old postcard to go by, she is determined to get to Byron Bay…

Full of determination, resilience and quick-thinking Pip has much to overcome as she makes her way north, all the while never giving up hope and never forgetting Houdini who is very well named. Despite her somewhat unorthodox upbringing, she has learned some important life lessons from Sully and these make her a particularly likable little girl of just ten and a bit.  Asking to pay extra for her train fare because she had skipped without paying the day before is just one example. And when all you want is a family of your own, nothing will deter you.

Written so that the reader can understand her perspective and her thinking, it is an engaging sequel that is every bit as good as the CBCA shortlisted original. An engaging, solid read that is a little bit different for independent readers.

 

Grandma Forgets

Grandma Forgets

Grandma Forgets

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grandma Forgets

Paul Russell

Nicky Johnston

EK, 2017

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

9781925335477

 

My grandmother forgets who I am.  Every time we meet, it likes meeting someone new….

Even though Grandma can’t remember us, we have so many memories of her.”

There are the sausages as big as elephant’s legs that she served for Sunday lunch; going to the beach; snuggled in together with a hot-water bottle and a blanket watching the nighttime storms split the sky… The little girl and her dad have memories galore that they share with her in her new home with the painted garden and people who remember for her.  

Young children encountering older relatives who are succumbing to the challenges of the ageing process are becoming more common as generations live longer than ever, and so stories that help them deal with what can be a confronting situation are always welcome.  This is a gentle comforting story about the enduring love between the generations, although if Grandma is 80 as her birthday cake shows there seems to be a skipped generation in the chain.  My own grandchildren would appear to be about the age of the children in the story and they faced this situation with their great-grandmothers, not their grandmas. We are only in our 60s!  

Nevertheless, this is an uplifting story that shows how children embrace the changing circumstances, accepting the changes and the challenges and working with them, rather than taking them as a personal rejection.  There are adults who could learn from this unconditional love that children display and how they adapt so they almost become the adult themselves.  And while there are old memories to recall, there are always new ones to make.

The soft palette and lines chosen by the illustrator portray the beautiful memories perfectly and the love between them all just oozes from the page setting up the perfect opportunity to let the children tell and draw their own stories of their own special moments with their grandparents, perhaps cementing them even more firmly.

A family story that provides lots of comfort.