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Ten Little Figs

Ten Little Figs

Ten Little Figs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ten Little Figs

Rhiân Williams

Nathaniel Eckstrom

Walker Books, 2020 

32pp., hbk., RRP $a24.99

9781921977312

Ten little figs are on my tree. 

I love figs and they’re all for me

Nestled amongst the rough leaves of the sandpaper fig are ten juicy figs, each one a tempting morsel of delight for the little boy.  But he is not the only one with his eye on them, and one by one, the creatures in the backyard carry them off for their own enjoyment.  Soon, there is only one left and it is too high for him to reach… will he get any figs at all?

In the tradition of count-backwards stories, this is another clever rhyming tale that will help our littlest readers understand both the number system and the concept of subtraction, while they predict what might be the next creature to spoil the little boy’s anticipation. Set in a backyard garden big enough for a tree, with the shadow of the city looming nearby,  the illustrations depict a scene that may not be known to every city child but nevertheless for those who do, the temptation to go outside to the fresh air and explore what is there is strong.  Who knew there were so many little creatures all with their hearts set on having figs? And all there for the seeing if you just look with close eyes.

This is a charming debut for this Australian author which combines so many elements that young readers will return again and again to discover something new.  Even if they don’t have the luxury of their own garden, this is one they can share and put themselves in the picture. And if they are not familiar with figs, perhaps that’s something that could go on the shopping list, a bit of research for a recipe, some cooking…and more in-context, meaningful learning accomplished!

 

Nelson 1: Pumpkins and Aliens

Nelson 1: Pumpkins and Aliens

Nelson 1: Pumpkins and Aliens

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nelson 1: Pumpkins and Aliens

Andrew Levins

Katie Kear

Puffin, 2020

176pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

9781760893347

Nelson hates vegetables. He hates the smell of them, he hates the look of them. Most of all, he hates eating them, which can be tricky when you live in a family that loves them.  His grandparents grow them, his father cooks them and the family devour them – all except Nelson who has the grossest pile of smuggled, uneaten vegetables stored under his bed. His greatest hate is pumpkins but this is pumpkin season and his grandfather has grown his best crop ever – which he brings to town weekly so Nelson’s dad can cook them in every way imaginable.  

The other thing that Nelson hates is school, particularly Mr Shue who has been his teacher for four years, since Kindergarten.  They are always on a collision course. But when his grandmother tricks him into swallowing an entire bowl of pumpkin soup, and he discovers that he has superpowers, will he us them to save the school and Mr Shue from aliens from Neptune – aliens that he invented in a moment of desperation?

This is the first in a fast-paced series that will appeal to newly-independent readers who are ready for something more meaty but still having the short chapters and liberal illustrations to support them.  With its premise that will resonate with many, characters that are easily recognisable and the type of exaggerated humour that appeals to its target audience,  Levins has created a series that children will engage with and parents will love, simply because it may encourage a lot more vegetable eating and the battles about eating the daily requirement may be over. Unlike Nelson who was looking for ways to hide his veges, perhaps readers will even be moved to seek out pumpkin recipes and then cook them and share their opinions with their friends in this time of stay-at-home. 

The Fabulous Cakes of Zinnia Jakes 1: The Crumbling Castle

The Fabulous Cakes of Zinnia Jakes 1: The Crumbling Castle

The Fabulous Cakes of Zinnia Jakes 1: The Crumbling Castle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Fabulous Cakes of Zinnia Jakes 1: The Crumbling Castle

Brenda Gurr

New Frontier, 2020

88pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781925594973

Zoe Jones has a hidden talent and a secret identity.  Daughter of one of the most famous pastry chefs in the world, sadly dead now, and a secret globe-trotting international food critic, at the age on nine, she has inherited her mother’s interests and talents, and when she is not at school she creates masterpieces that are highly sought after, aided and abetted by her guardian Aunty Jam.  

In this, the first in the series, she gets a new pastry order for a special medieval crumbling cake, but she has no idea where to start! It needs to be ready in less than a day for the school fair and the clock is ticking. Will she deliver it on time and remain the undercover secret pastry chef everyone talks about?

Given the shortage of eggs, flour and other baking ingredients on the supermarket shelves at the moment, it can be assumed that there might be many budding pastry chefs like Zinnia Jakes emerging from kitchens and so this is a timely release that should have widespread appeal to young, newly independent readers.  While different to the Sage Cookson series, it nevertheless caters to a similar audience of younger readers with an interest in food, and while they wait for the second episode, The Tumbling Tortoises,  due in October 2020, they could indulge themselves with that collection.  

 

Oscar the Hungry Unicorn Eats Christmas

Oscar the Hungry Unicorn Eats Christmas

Oscar the Hungry Unicorn Eats Christmas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oscar the Hungry Unicorn Eats Christmas

Lou Carter

Nikki Dyson

Orchard, 2019

32pp., pbk., RRP $A15.99

9781408355824 

Oscar the unicorn is always hungry and on Christmas Eve he is eating his way through the palace Christmas preparations.  The stockings, the tree the presents… But the trouble really starts when he eats the reindeer food meaning the reindeer no longer have their magic power to fly.  How will Santa deliver the presents?

This is a bright captivating tale that will enchant our youngest readers as they continue the Christmas Countdown to that special night. There is lots of humorous detail in the pictures, particularly the one focusing on Christmas morning and this is likely to be one that is requested again and again.  

Pea + Nut

Pea + Nut

Pea + Nut

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pea + Nut

Matt Stanton

ABC Books, 2019

24pp., hbk., RRP $A17.99

9780733340673

Pea the panda and Nut the flamingo are best friends but they are also great rivals.  Anything Pea can do, the boastful Nut can do better!! So when Pea decides to make a cake, and Nut decides to make it a baking competition, there is a contest worthy of any seen in the showstopper category of The Great Australian Bake-Off!

Nut is convinced that  his cake will win while Pea’s will be put in the bin and driven by his ego (and a few mind-games from Pea) Nut begins “a complex production of layers and towers and major construction.” Will he create a cake  that meets his ambition and expectations? Or will Pea’s slow but steady approach take the cake?

Most readers will know that if it is a Matt Stanton book, it will be funny and this is no exception.  The rhyming text, the vibrant, action-packed illustrations and a concept that will appeal to younger readers combine to make this one of his best, and it is just the first in the series for these two oddball friends. But like all top-shelf picture books there is so much more than the story on the page – it screams out for experimentation in baking and stacking shapes; the contrast between the friends’ approach and how Stanton portrays this can teach little ones about characterisation and the need to look deeply at the detail; and there is also a comparison to be made with The Hare and the Tortoise and the lessons that offers.. Children can also ponder Pea’s final gesture – is this what they expected?

A great read for all ages.

 

Noodle Bear

Noodle Bear

Noodle Bear

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Noodle Bear

Mark Gravas

Walker Books, 2019

32pp., hbk., RRP $A26.99

9781760651022

Throughout the winter, instead of sleeping like other bears, Bear has been watching Noodle Knockout, a television game show that now has him addicted to noodles.  When Fox has a Welcome Spring party, and Bear finally turns up he is not interested in the food the other animals have brought – all he wants is noodles, particularly as he has eaten his entire supply.

When no one can help him he decides to travel to the city to be on the game show himself in the hope of winning a lifetime’s supply but ends up beginning to understand that too much of a good thing isn’t always a good thing.

Written and illustrated by the creator/director of television favourites such as Yakkity Yak, Here Comes Peter Cottontail: The Movie  and Caspar’s Scare School, this is an engaging read for young children that explores what we gradually understand to be the most important things in life – family, friends and home.

While young readers might like to share their favourite foods that they would like to eat for a lifetime (offering an opportunity for data collection and mapping), others might like to look at the way the cover has been designed and explore what they can do with the various noodles and other pastas available.  Cooking might also be an option so they start to be able to prepare themselves a simple meal and there is also the not-so-simple task of learning how to eat noodles in public! There are lots of ways to make this fun story come alive!

 

Dinosaur Juniors (2) – Give Peas a Chance

Dinosaur Juniors (2) - Give Peas a Chance

Dinosaur Juniors (2) – Give Peas a Chance

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dinosaur Juniors (2) – Give Peas a Chance

Rob Biddulph

HarperCollins, 2019

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

9780008280635

The baby dinosaurs are having lots of fun together, but then Nancy is called in for dinner.  She’s reluctant to go because she is having so much fun but her dad insists, telling her she can play again when she shows him her clean plate.  But alongside the Dino Bites and fluffy rice, which she likes,  are peas! And Nancy doesn’t like peas – or anything green for that matter. 

But then she hatches a clever plan and it’s not too long before she is able to show her dad an empty plate.  But has she outsmarted him?

This is the second in this joyful series for preschoolers that will appeal to them because of the bright pictures, the clever rhyme and Nancy’s clever plan.  Many of them will relate to not liking green vegetables and enjoy Nancy’s subterfuge but the ending may well surprise them. 

Perfect for little ones who love dinosaurs and for encouraging the belief that reading is lots of fun. 

 

 

We Eat Bananas

We Eat Bananas

We Eat Bananas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We Eat Bananas

Katie Abey

Bloomsbury, 2019

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

9781408899212

The sequel to We Wear Pants, this is as equally engaging and fun as its predecessor.  On each double spread, a clutch of creatures is eating a variety of foods like a flamingo munching on a banana and a shark slurping on fruit smoothie, each in their own unique way.  Young readers are invited to find their favourite amongst them and with interactive speech bubbles and an eccentric little monkey to look for on each page, there is much to encourage them to search for details and develop their visual acuity. 

Designed to encourage children to try new foods and have fun at the same time, parents will enjoy this as much as their children. 

 

 

Cherries

Cherries

Cherries

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cherries

Carrie Gallasch

Sara Acton

Little Hare, 2018

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

9781760128593

 As soon as the blossoms appear on the cherry tree in Spring, the children are eager to pick the fruit.  But, “It’s not time yet.” As the weeks pass and the cherries develop, the children indulge in all sorts of outdoor pastimes, but “it’s not time yet.” Until it is…

This is a joyful story of anticipation and family rituals as the extended family all take part in the waiting and the eating.   Young children will delight in recognising events that are familiar to them as well as starting to understand the passage of time, a complex concept for little ones.

The gentle words and pictures complement each other, just as they did in Stitches and Stuffing  and this has the potential to become a favourite. 

 

Clementine Rose and the Bake-Off Dilemma

Clementine Rose and the Bake-Off Dilemma

Clementine Rose and the Bake-Off Dilemma

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Clementine Rose and the Bake-Off Dilemma

Jacqueline Harvey

Random House Australia, 2018

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

9780143780595

Clementine Rose is a sassy young girl who was delivered not in the usual way at a hospital but in the back of a mini-van in a basket of dinner rolls.  Living in the magnificent mansion in Penberthy Floss with her mother, her Aunt Violet, Digby Pertwhistle the butler and pet teacup pig, Lavender, Clementine Rose has had many adventures that her readers can really relate to, making her a favourite with newly independent readers.

In this new story, Clementine Rose and the Bake-Off Dilemma, Clementine Rose is bursting with plans for the school holidays! But with the announcement that a new cooking show will be filmed in the village, everything changes. While Clementine is disappointed that her activities have been cancelled, she soon has an idea and takes to the kitchen in a baking frenzy. If only her mother wasn’t feeling so sick and could help out when things turn sticky.

Everyone wants to be a part of the show – especially Mrs Bottomley! – and it doesn’t take long before temperatures are running high. With the main event being held at Penberthy House, Clementine has the inside scoop and spies some surprising behaviour from the contestants. Will she uncover a secret? And will the show be a flop, or a scrumptious success?

When the first in this series, Clementine Rose and the Surprise Visitor, was published in September  2012 I introduced Miss Then 6 to it and she was enthralled because here was a feisty young heroine whom she could relate to and each new addition to the series was greeted with much anticipation.  As the series progressed along with her reading skills, she would read them eagerly to her younger sister.  Now she is 12 and moving into high school she has moved on but now her young sister is an independent reader herself and I’m sure she will love this new episode as much as the others, even moreso because she will be able to read it for herself. 

Jacqueline Harvey has certainly created a character who resonates with her readers and as the new school year isn’t that far away,  this is a series to introduce to a whole new group of newly independent readers looking for something that will engage and intrigue as they meet Clementine and her friends.   As my friend Sue Warren says on her Just So Stories blog, “Jacqueline Harvey continually strikes just the right note with her books for younger girls. The mix of adventure, mischief, humour and excitement has great appeal for the intended age group and each book contains much with which these readers can easily identify – even though they don’t live in a big old house or own a teacup pig!” Exactly what I would have said (and have, in previous reviews.)

If this series in not yet in your collection, seriously consider adding it if you want to capture young girls looking for a great read.