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I Am So Clever

I Am So Clever

I Am So Clever

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Am So Clever

Marcos Ramos

Gecko Press, 2019

48pp., hbk., RRP $A27.99

9781776572489

Little Red Riding Hood is on her way through the woods to Grandma’s house when she encounters the wolf.  Thinking that his dinner will be delightful with Grandmother for the main course and a little raspberry for dessert, he persuades Little Red Riding Hood to pick some flowers while he races off to Grandma’s house.  But she is not there – all he finds is her pink frilly nightie and nightcap.  

So he decides to change his plans – and that’s where the story goes off-piste into a well-fractured fairytale that features a whole cast of characters from the Land of Fairytales. Readers who are familiar with the original tale will appreciate the twists in this one and its unlikely ending. 

Written by respected Belgian author Mario Ramos, this is a companion to I am so Strong and I am so Handsome, both featuring the hapless wolf in encounters with favourite fairytale characters.

Baaa Baa Black Sheep, The Fleeced Fleece (Nursery Crimes: Case 1)

Baaa Baa Black Sheep, The Fleeced Fleece

Baaa Baa Black Sheep, The Fleeced Fleece

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Baaa Baa Black Sheep, The Fleeced Fleece

John Barwick

Dave Atze

Big Sky, 2019

120pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

9781925675993

Sheep go to a lot of trouble to grow their wool to keep themselves warm, but as soon as it gets to a certain length the farmer shears it off and sells it, often making a lot of money for it, particularly if it is black like Baaa Baa’s. Surrounded by high fences, spotlights and video cameras so neither she nor her wool could be stolen, Baaa Baa was fed the best food and was shorn twice a year whereas her lighter cousins were only shorn once. Once shorn the wool was stored in a closely-monitored control centre with television surveillance so it is certainly precious. So when Farmer Fred sells one of the three precious bags to the local headmaster, another to Dame Horrida and the third to Theodore Thumpnose, the local bully, when he could have got much for it at the wool market, suspicions are raised….

This is the first of seven stories investigating the crimes in the nursery rhymes that little ones hear so often. Told in an interesting style where the narrator and an imaginary reader engage in a conversation, as  though the narrator is anticipating the questions a real reader might ask, it is engaging and different and designed to appeal to the newly-independent reader who is ready to move on but would still benefit from the familiarity of known characters.  It is reminiscent of the fractured fairytale format where something well-known is turned on its head and examined more closely, told from a different perspective and raises issues that might not otherwise have been thought about. 

Cleverly illustrated by David Atze that takes it out of the realm of the usual cutsie graphics of nursery rhymes, this is fun and perfect for those who like something out of left-field.

Beware the Deep Dark Forest

Beware the Deep Dark Forest

Beware the Deep Dark Forest

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beware the Deep Dark Forest

Sue Whiting

Anne White

Walker Books, 2018

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

9781742032344

People say that the deep dark forest is thick with danger – carnivorous plants and venomous snakes are just two of its threats – but when Rosie’s little pup Tinky runs into it, she knows she has to face its fearful reputation and rescue him.  Despite the strange noises that made her knees wobble and made her eyes as round as the moon, she put her brave on and in she went, going further and further into the unknown, calling for Tinky.  But then she came across something worse than a venomous snake or a carnivorous plant…

Echoing the perils that heroes have to encounter in traditional fairy tales and illustrated in a style that brings the creepy scariness of the woods to life, this is a story for young readers who like a bit of tension in their tales but no so scary that it can’t be a bedtime read.  There is plenty of scope for the young reader to predict what could be scarier than a venomous snake or a carnivorous plant or how Rosie might cross the “dizzily, dangerously, dreadfully, deep ravine”, encouraging them to let their imaginations roam and reveal a little of their own fears.

As well as immersing themselves in the stunning illustrations which add the atmosphere as well as the detail, they can explore the meaning of the vocabulary which certainly doesn’t talk down to them.  Knowing what words like ‘venomous’ and ‘carnivorous’ mean and investigating why animals and plants have such mechanisms can be very empowering, like being able to say the names of the dinosaurs.  And having them put themselves in Rosie’s shows as she encounters the problem of the ravine enables them to be active listeners rather than passive participants while being Rosie and shouting at the troll would just be pure fun! So much scope for follow-up activities too!

Stories that engage and involve readers so they become part of the action are my favourites – this would be one of those. 

 

 

The Prince and the Witch and the Thief and the Bears

The Prince and the Witch and the Thief and the Bears

The Prince and the Witch and the Thief and the Bears

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Prince and the Witch and the Thief and the Bears

Alastair Chisholm

Jez Tuya

Walker Books, 2018

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

9781406365139

When it’s time for Jamie’s bedtime story, his Dad begins to tell an age-old fairy tale about a prince in a faraway land full of dragons, wolves and princesses in distress. But inquisitive Jamie can’t help but add to his dad’s story, and the prince is soon joined by an evil-eyed witch who turns people to jelly, a broccoli-wielding ninja frog and a jewel-thief, lock picking princess. It may not be the story Dad set out to tell, but together, he and Jamie create something much more energetic and hilarious than they could have alone.

Familiar to nearly every parent who has set out to tell their little one a bedtime story only to find that their child has very definite ideas on what the story should be about and what should happen, this is a lovely story that incorporates all the familiar characters of traditional fairy tales but with a modern twist. Young listeners will enjoy Jamie’s interruptions as they relate to him and learn that stories can be whatever you want them to be.  It just takes some imagination.

The Return of the Jabberwock

The Return of the Jabberwock

The Return of the Jabberwock

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Return of the Jabberwock

Oakley Graham

David Neale

Big Sky 2017

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

9781925675009

A long time ago, before you were born,

Lived a beast with eyes of flame and horns!

Your great grandfather defeated the Jabberwock beast

And returned home to a magnificent victory feast!

Inspired by his father’s tale and his great grandfather’s feats, the boy decides to go on his own quest to find his own Jabberwock, and so, armed with just a sword and helmet, he ventures into mysterious, gloomy Tulgey Wood where he is confronted by unimaginable monsters almost at every turn!  Monsters with long spidery legs, ugly beaks and toothless smiles, a turtle-like creature with the ears of a hog and the mouth of a shark… Bravely he continues on his quest but his legs turn to jelly when he sees two scary creatures – could these be the legendary Jubjub bird and the ferocious Bandersnatch?   Courageous though he is, when the Jabberwock itself appears, it is too much and the boy flees…

At this time of the year when scary monsters, ghost, witches and other fantastic creatures abound and people carve glaring pumpkin heads to frighten them off, this is the perfect story to send yet a few more tingles up the child’s spine!  With its atmospheric colour palette, the scene is set for an adventure like no other as each of us hopes we would be as brave as the little boy – but acknowledge there are limits. It’s a great opportunity to discuss fears and feelings and help young children understand that fear is not only shared emotion but an innate human response as encapsulated in the “fight or flight” response.  Do I stay or do I not? 

It is also an entry into the work of Lewis Carroll for those who may not have met him before, or who only know Alice in Wonderland through movie interpretations, as the original poem of The Jabberwocky first appeared in Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, the sequel to  Wonderland.  Considered one of the greatest nonsense poems written in English, Carroll penned the first verse in 1855 and since then its meaning has been discussed and debated.  But it not only confounded Alice…”It seems very pretty,” she said when she had finished it, “but it’s rather hard to understand!” (You see she didn’t like to confess, even to herself, that she couldn’t make it out at all.) “Somehow it seems to fill my head with ideas—only I don’t exactly know what they are! However, somebody killed something: that’s clear, at any rate,” Carroll himself later wrote that he did not know the origins of some of the words.

So while it is something a little different to share this Hallowe’en as those who have not yet been able to leave this  mortal coil wander around seeking their final release, it has application across the ages, across the curriculum and throughout the year. 

It is, indeed, a frabjous day when we find such a rich resource.

There Is NO Dragon In This Story

There Is No Dragon In This Story

There Is No Dragon In This Story

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There Is NO Dragon In This Story

Lou Carter

Deborah Allwright

Bloomsbury, 2017

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

9781408864906

Most stories about dragons have the dragon capturing a princess and fighting the brave knight who comes to save her.  But that’s not what this story is about because the dragon has gone off in a huff in search of a story where he is the hero not the villain.

But each time he enters a story – The Gingerbread Man, The Three Little Pigs, Goldilocks, Hansel and Gretel, Little Red riding Hood – he is told the same thing. “No! There are no dragons in this story!”

And then he spies a boy climbing a beanstalk. But just as Jack tells him the same thing, the giant captures the dragon and suddenly the dragon doesn’t want to be in the story!  But just as he seems doomed, the giant sneezes and blows out the sun…  Can the dragon be a hero at last?

This is a charming, colorful romp through a lot of childhood favourites that young children will delight in recalling and discussing the various forms the villain takes if it is not a dragon.  They will connect with characters and settings they know while the left-to-right direction of print is emphasised with the vivid and clever illustrations.  Older children can venture down the path of learning about stereotypes and how preconceived notions can lead to unfounded expectations, perhaps even starting to gather a collection of stories where the stereotype is challenged and then starting to examine their own prejudices.  

Quality stories always have lots of layers to suit lots of readers – this is one of those.

The Princess and the Frogs

The Princess and the Frogs

The Princess and the Frogs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Princess and the Frogs

Veronica Bartles

Sara Palacios

Balzer + Bray, 2017

40pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9780062365910

Princess Cassandra had everything she could possibly want  – hundreds of dresses, thousands of books and servants to bring her anything she wanted.  She should have been the happiest princess in the world.  

But there was one thing she didn’t have – she was lonely playing by herself and desperately wanted a best friend.  In particular, she wanted a pet – one that would match her best dress, swim and jump and play all day and at night sit on her pillow and sing to her.  So the Royal Pet Handler set off on a quest to find the perfect pet, but nothing was quite right.  The mouse was too squeaky, the kitten refused to swim, the hippo wouldn’t jump and none of them were green.  The task seemed impossible until one day the Royal Pet Handler arrived with a frog.  It seemed just perfect.  It was able to swim, jump and play, AND it was green.  But when Princess Cassandra put it on her pillow and kissed it goodnight, it turned into a prince!  

“Princes aren’t pets,” she declared and banished it to the royal kitchens.  So the Pet Handler went in search of another frog and the same thing happened.  Again and again and again, until there were princes everywhere.  Then one day, the princess found her own frog but the same thing happened, except this time the prince wanted to stay a frog.  Will she ever get the perfect pet?

This is an hilarious take on the traditional Princess and the Frog story made even moreso by the terrific pictures of Palacios who brings the characters to life through their facial expressions. Who would have thought there were so many different frogs?

A playful bedtime read that might make little ones think twice about kissing things goodnight!

Wolfie An Unlikely Hero

Wolfie An Unlikely Hero

Wolfie An Unlikely Hero

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wolfie An Unlikely Hero

Deborah Abela

Connah Brecon

Random House, 2017

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

9780143781509

Whenever you ask young children what they are afraid of, you can be sure that some will say “a wolf”. Even though we don’t have them Australia, nevertheless they rank right up there because children’s storybooks are littered with wolves that do the wrong thing.  Little Red Riding Hood, The Three Little Pigs, Peter and the Wolf, The Boy who cried Wolf – all stories they hear over and over and all with the wolf as the baddie.  No wonder their ranking on the scare-o-meter is so high!

But what happens when the wolf wants to improve his image, reinvent himself and get some good PR? In this charming twist on the classics, Wolfie and the author have a conversation but no matter what evidence the wolf offers to defend himself, each time the author starts a new story it descends into the same-old, same-old cliché. And even when it DOES go further than the first page there is not a happy ending.  Is it possible to give a bad reputation a makeover?

This is a unique, hilarious story about trying to change your image which will appeal to all sorts of ages for all sorts of reasons.  Little ones will just love it as they recognise favourite characters and plots and the action-packed pictures; older readers might be encouraged to think about stereotypes, perceptions and preconceptions and even the phrase “being tarred with the same brush” which has particular application in today’s political arena. 

Unique, funny, and very readable for all ages.

 

Goldilocks

Goldilocks

Goldilocks 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Goldilocks

Robyn Press

Caitlin Miller

Little Steps Publishing, 2015

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

9781925117257

The story of Goldilocks and the three bears is a familiar traditional tale passed down through generations, but it always ends with Goldilocks fleeing into the woods destination unknown.  In this rhyming version, the story is continued as Goldilocks is charged with break and enter, damaging goods, and terrorising bears.  She claims she has a defence – she was employed by Mrs Bear to renovate her home but it had to be done in secret because Mr Bear would not agree.

My bear-in-law is coming here

The house is in bad shape, We haven’t had the time, you see

We’ve had to hibernate.

It’s been a few long winters

The house is getting old

And you’re the one to make it new

Or so I have been told.

 And so Goldilocks goes on to explain just how the chair got broken, how the porridge got eaten and why she was found asleep in the bed.

Brightly illustrated, it is written by a Brisbane primary teacher who clearly knows how to engage young children and make them think beyond the page.  As well as being an appealing story it raises lots of questions for the children to discuss such as whether they believe Goldilocks or they could even hold a mock trial developing the arguments for the prosecution and defence and each student being a jury member coming to a verdict and explaining why they reached their conclusion.  

It also offers a way to demonstrate the concept of perspective and how this changes depending on the character’s role in the story, paving the way for the students to examine other stories from the perspectives of their different characters.

So, as well as an entertaining story, it has great potential as a teaching tool.