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Mina and the Whole Wide World

Mina and the Whole Wide World

Mina and the Whole Wide World

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mina and the Whole Wide World

Sherryl Clark

Briony Stewart

UQP, 2021

120pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9780702263231

More than anything else in the whole wide world Mina wants her own bedroom . And it’s almost ready! Just one more lick of sunny yellow paint and it’s hers.

But then Mina’s parents take in an unexpected guest, and give her room away. At first, Mina is too upset to speak. She is so devastated by her loss and she doesn’t care that this new boy, Azzami, needs a place to stay. Her loss is almost too great to bear. 

At school, the other kids call Azzami names but throughout the bullying, he stays silent.  Mina wishes he’d stand up for himself especially after she ends up in strife for hitting Oliver, the worst of the culprits.  But although Azzami doesn’t speck he draws and he as a tale to tell in his drawings,  a tale made all the more poignant when Mina goes with him to visit his very sick mother.  For the first time she really thinks about the life and loss of the quiet boy, what he has seen and escaped from, the death of his father and the illness of his mother, being the least of them, and gradually the loss of her own bedroom is put into perspective. 

This verse novel for younger readers is an important addition to the collection and a vital inclusion to any study of refugees because it gives the silent among our students a voice.  Even though Azzami himself doesn’t speak, his silence is powerful because it echoes that of so many of those we teach who have experienced trauma and fear that we will never know.  Sadly, there are those like Oliver in every class who cannot cope with difference and manifest their lack of understanding and empathy through a display of power and disdain, but there are also Minas who have a more open mind and benefit by finding friendship and tolerance and gratitude. And there are also wise teachers like Ms Smart who know when to step back and when to step up.

This is a story about finding friendship where you least expect it and making room for everyone across this “whole wide world” and the teachers notes will help guide students’ awareness, knowledge, understanding, compassion and tolerance so that the conversation about acceptance, diversity, and caring for others has a new tone.  In addition, there is much to be learned about Clark’s choice of format, vocabulary and using only Mina’s perspective as a vehicle for  a narrative that needs to be had (seemingly over and over, even though refugees have been a critical part of this country’s fabric and fibre since the end of World War II). 

Look for this among the award nominees in 2022.  

 

The Travelling Bookshop: Mim and the Baffling Bully

The Travelling Bookshop: Mim and the Baffling Bully

The Travelling Bookshop: Mim and the Baffling Bully

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Travelling Bookshop: Mim and the Baffling Bully

Katrina Nannestad

Cheryl Orsini

ABC Books, 2021 

224pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9780733341656

Imagine being a young girl travelling the world in an old wooden caravan pulled by a horse that decides where they will go and which seems to have magical powers that mean borders and mountains and oceans are no barriers.  And that caravan is full of books, because it, too, has a magic that means that it is like a Tardis with so much more on the inside than appears on the outside. 

That is the life of 10-year-old Miriam-Rose Cohen (who prefers Mim), her father and little brother Nat, Coco the cockatoo and Flossy the horse.  They travel to wherever they are needed, wherever there is a child in need of a book to make their world right again because “the line between books and real life is not as clear as people suppose.”

In this first episode of this new series inspired by her childhood dream of living in a double-decker bus, the author of the 2021 CBCA shortlisted We Are Wolves and the Lottie Perkins series, we are taken to a pretty Dutch village where Mim meets Willemina, a kind and gentle child, who is being bullied by Gerda. Mim is convinced that Willemina will be much happier if her dad would just find her the right book, but is it really Willemina who needs it? 

This is a brand new series that had me at its title, took a greater hold at the image of little Nat being secured to the caravan’s roof because his dad nailed his pants to it, and held me right through to the end with its quirky characters and madcap adventures that will transport any reader far away from this gloomy, long winter. It’s the stuff that allows the imagination to run wild and starts dreams -that just might come true. 

Train Party

Train Party

Train Party

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Train Party

Karen Blair

Puffin, 2020

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

9781760899578

No matter how sophisticated travel gets with electric cars, sleek yachts and even spacecraft, there is still a fascination with the old-fashioned steam train. And for little ones, riding on model trains can be a highlight they remember for ever. 

Still a talking point, 10 years on...

Still a talking point, 10 years on…

So this delightful story about a family birthday at a miniature railway park will be as timeless as its topic, particularly as the clever vocabulary choice means the rhyme and rhythm echoes that iconic clickety clack of wheels over train tracks.

Red, blue and green,

yellow and black.


Here come the trains!


Clickety-clack.

Written and illustrated by the illustrator of some of my favourite stories including the irrepressible Eve of the outback, this is one that little readers will love and demand over and over as they take themselves off on their own train adventure and plan their own party. There’s a map of the track on the endpages so they can see where the children go from the station under the trees, around the old shack, passing the pond, over the bridge… and, of course, through the tunnel. Finally, there’s the birthday cake  – what shape will it be? 

What Zola Did (series)

What Zola Did (series)

What Zola Did (series)

What Zola Did (series)

What Zola Did on Thursday

 9781760895181

What Zola Did on Friday

9781760895020

What Zola Did on Saturday

:9781760895211

What Zola Did on Sunday

9781760895228

Melina Marchetta

Deb Hudson

Puffin, 2021

96pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

This great series for newly independent readers continues with the  release of three new titles and concludes in September with What Zola did on Sunday.

Readers first met Zola, her cousin Alessandro and her friends last year in What Zola Did on Monday  when she roped her Nonna into helping rebuild the community gardens and as her adventures continued in subsequent books, so the community got to know each other and bonded. And so in these latest releases, even though she continues to get into strife – forming a band and upsetting a cranky neighbour, painting Nonno Nino’s little yellow boat; helping Nonna with her prized tomatoes; and joining in the fun of the St Odo’s Day fete – she still manages to bring the community together so that instead of being isolated individuals as they were to start with, there are now friendships and love and laughter.

Inspired by her own daughter who was intelligent but reluctant to read, Marchetta has written this series with its humour, relatable characters and all the supports for those building their confidence with novels, so that others can grow as her daughter did. She has taken parts of her daughter’s character and family members and events and melded them into stories that not only her daughter was able to relate to, but just about every other child in Australia.  While there is a vast variety of characters, settings and plots in children’s stories today (as opposed to the good vs evil didactic tales of the past) those that resonate with readers, particularly reluctant ones, are those in which they see themselves, where they can put themselves into the events and become a participant rather than an observer.  So creating something with a big family, cousins who live in the house behind you, a hole in the fence to climb through so you can play together and a street of diverse interesting neighbours to explore means that this has wide appeal for so many. 

It’s a perfect series to binge-read during this lockdown and inspire the children to get to know their communities better when they are allowed out to play again. There are teachers’ notes available  and Thursday has an activity pack that could be used as inspiration for children to build their own for the others in the series. 

Zola, her friends and their adventures have become a friend over the last 18 months or so and it’s sad that the series is complete, but I’m glad they were in my life. 

 

The Imagineer

The Imagineer

The Imagineer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Imagineer

Christopher Cheng

Lucia Masciullo

NLA, 2021

34pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9780642279682

Penny was an imagineer – one of those clever people who can create in their head and then craft with their hands. All day long she would look at the everyday things around her and imagine how they could be used in a different way, like turning an umbrella upside-down to catch the rain and use its unique shape to funnel the water into a mug with a tap.  She was always pulling things apart and then twisting and turning, screwing, taping tying until they were back together again -sometimes as they were but usually not. 

Her imagination knew no limits as she sketched and planned but sadly the little apartment where she lived was not as large.  However, Grandpa lived in a much larger house, one where he had lived for a very long time and the rooms were packed!  When Penny first visited, she was in seventh heaven. The treasures to be explored… And then she discovered the shed!

Between them, Christopher Cheng and Lucia Masciullo have used their imaginations and their incredible skills with words and pictures to craft a thoroughly entertaining tale that is rich in all those elements that make the very best stories for children – I had to check there were only 34 pages because there was just so much packed in even though the text is just the right amount.  The final foldout page is just adorable and young readers will spend hours just poring over its possibilities, lighting their own imaginations.  

And because it is a publication from the National Library of Australia, there are vignettes of the tools that are mentioned in the story with brief explanations of what they are and how or why they were used (because even the grown-ups sharing the story won’t be old enough to remember let alone used them, unlike me who still has some of them) . It is such a clever way of taking youngsters back to Old Worlds so they can see how things have evolved over time and allow them to speculate on how their own imaginations might develop them further.

To use Chris’s own words, this is a “most wonderful, phantasmagorical, increibleacious, stupendorific” read.

The ABC of Cuddles

The ABC of Cuddles

The ABC of Cuddles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The ABC of Cuddles

Sophy Williams

Gavin Scott

A & U Children’s, 2021

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

9781760526115

A is for airport cuddle, when it’s time to go away.
B is for bear hug, when teddy goes astray.
C is for crying cuddle, a scary ghost went boo!
D is for daddy cuddle, when only Dad will do.

In these times when even the littlest person knows the phrase “social distancing”,  in fact, especially  in these times, the need for and the warmth of a cuddle is paramount.  And in this beautiful book for those littlest learners, cuddles between family members are celebrated in an entire alphabet of reasons. Using a menagerie of animals, Gavin Scott has captured the clever text perfectly making this a lilting lullaby that little people will relate to as they share the joy of contact with those they love, whether there is a reason or not. 

Alphabet books are a common part of a young child’s library and come in many formats, but regardless of whether this is used as a formal educational tool by getting them to suggest other reasons, the language has that connection and cadence that is so important to their literacy learning and the joy of the love that is demonstrated is palpable.

Ideal for giving to new parents to share. 

Over the Moon: Let Love In

Over the Moon: Let Love In

Over the Moon: Let Love In

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Over the Moon: Let Love In

Colin Hoston

Yujia Wang

HarperCollins, 2021

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

9780063002418

After losing someone, special, Fei Fei a bright young girl fueled with determination and a passion for science, builds a rocket ship to the moon to prove the existence of a legendary Moon Goddess who may hold the answers  to her questions.  There she ends up on the adventure of a lifetime and discovers a whimsical land of fantastical creatures. 

Based on the Netflix original animated film, this picture books retells the story of Over the Moon. Based on a classic Chinese myth, it is a timeless tale of keeping the faith, keeping the love and embracing the unexpected, and the power of imagination.  Young readers will enjoy reliving Fei Fei’s adventures long after the screen image has faded with its simple, direct text and stunning illustrations, and perhaps encourage them to move on to the novelisation.. 

Who Fed Zed?

Who Fed Zed?

Who Fed Zed?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who Fed Zed?

Amelia McInerney

Adam Nickel

Allen & Unwin, 2021

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

9781760524432

This is  a picture book about Ted, Ned and Fred, Fred’s dog, Jed, and Fred’s fish, Zed.

Zed the fish is white and red.
His poo hangs down in one long thread.
The main thing, though, is what Fred said,
‘NEVER, EVER FEED ZED BREAD.’

Because feeding fish bread can kill them and although Zed survives this incident there are other problems that he is faced with.

This is a clever story that will engage young readers with its rhyming text and retro feel.  Teachers may well pick up on it because it appears to feed perfectly into the current push for phonics and “sounding out” to be THE way to teach reading but within the first eight lines there are three different ways of spelling the “ed” sound demonstrating not only the complexity of the English language and its spelling, but also the trickiness in teaching by this method and the confusion children feel when confronted by it, particularly as English is full of such anomalies.

That said, young children will love to listen to the poem as it carries them along on a wave of rhythm and they will be surprised by its ending.  They might even be ready to explore how the author created that rhythm paying attention to elements such as the number of syllables, whether they are long or short, stressed or unstressed to make a beat and thus the cadence of our language.  They might even want to create a list of other words that rhyme with Zed that the author might have chosen, thus building their vocabulary and spelling knowledge.   

But above all, and most importantly, it’s a story that will resonate with any young readers who have either a goldfish or a dog with fleas, or perhaps both. 

 

Frizzle and Me

Frizzle and Me

Frizzle and Me

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Frizzle and Me

Ellie Royce

Andrew McLean

Ford Street, 2021 

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

9781925804744

In the beginning, there was just Mummy and me.  But over time the family grows to be Mummy, Jani, David, Elizabeth, Frizzle and me, And even though the relationships between them are less than conventional, they still do and share the most important things so each is surrounded by love and has what they need to be happy.

This is a charming story that celebrates the diversity of relationships that make up families and households these days, demonstrating that there is a much stronger glue holding them together than an official certificate.  So many readers will delight in reading about a family like theirs that is not the usual nuclear model of mum, dad and kids. Ellie Royce has honed on those special connections that are important to a child and the adults around them and the shared love oozes from Andrew McLean’s pictures.  

Just five years ago, I wrote a blog post  about the placement of such books in the collection after a teacher in the US shared one and found his job in jeopardy and I was prompted to approach the exec at the school I was at to get their stance about being informed if I chose a similar route (they managed to avoid the discussion and I never got a response so went ahead anyway). Now, I wouldn’t hesitate to promote it, although some schools might need to be sensitive to their particular demographic given a recent discussion of The Pout-Pout Fish  in a NSW TL forum.  There are so many stories  from those whose lives have been changed because they finally read a story about a kid like them so at last they felt normal that IMO, these sorts of books need to be promoted and shared.  Who knows who we will touch by doing so? 

A Glasshouse of Stars

A Glasshouse of Stars

A Glasshouse of Stars

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Glasshouse of Stars

Shirley Marr

Puffin, 2021

288pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

 9781760899547

Meixing Lim and her family have arrived at the New House in the New Land, inherited from First Uncle who died tragically and unexpectedly while picking oranges in the backyard. Everything is vast and unknown to Meixing and not in a good way, including the house she has dubbed Big Scary. She is embarrassed by the second-hand shoes given to her by the kind neighbours, has trouble understanding the language at school, and with fitting in and making new friends. Her solace is a glasshouse in the garden that inexplicably holds the sun and the moon and all the secrets of her memory and imagination.

Her fragile universe is rocked when tragedy strikes and Ma Ma refuses to face the world outside. Meixing finds herself trapped within the shrinking walls of Big Scary. Her parents said this would be a better life for them all, but it feels like the worst and most heart-breaking experience of Meixing’s entire existence. Surviving will take all the resilience and inner belief of this brave girl to turn their world around.

In this intriguing novel, the author has drawn on the good, the bad and the ugly of her own experiences of arriving in Australia in the 1980s after being a refugee on Christmas Island and having to adjust to such a different life and lifestyle.  Her “Western mind and Eastern heart” resonate throughout the story, offering the reader an insight into what it must be like for so many of their peers and perhaps helping them to understand and interact with them better.  

Jessica Townsend, the author of the Nevermoor series, has described this book as “‘Heart-twisting and hopeful, bursting with big feelings and gentle magic. This is a special book from a powerful, compassionate new voice in children’s literature, destined to be read and loved for generations and held close in many hearts (including mine).’  And, really, that says it all. More for the upper end of the readership of this blog, nevertheless it is one that needs to be shared with your mature, capable independent readers who are wanting something that will engage them and stay with them long after the last page is read.  While they will need to have some tissues handy as they ride the rollercoaster of emotions as Meixing faces the changes and the accompanying ‘big scaries’ they will rejoice in her resilience and ultimate triumph.