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Ori’s Christmas

 

 

 

Ori’s Christmas

Ori’s Christmas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ori’s Christmas

Anne Helen Donnelly

Self-published, 2017

32pp., pbk., RRP $A17.99

9780646962207

Christmas is coming and Ori the Octopus wants to celebrate Christmas with his friends.  But each friend has a request for what should be done or otherwise they will not attend.  Singing Christmas carols, taking photographs, wrapping presents, a Christmas tree, a hot lunch… all the common Christmas traditions are requested. But when the day comes and Ori has organised all that has been asked, each creature finds that they can’t do everything and all looks gloomy.  Until…

Bright, colourful illustrations accompany this original story which offers lots of opportunities for the little ones to join in with actions and comments about the special things their families always do at Christmas that would need to be included if they had been invited.

Notes for parents and teachers as well as some cut-out decorations that can be coloured and hung are included. Something different for very young readers.

A Very Quacky Christmas

 

 

 

A Very Quacky Christmas

A Very Quacky Christmas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Very Quacky Christmas

Frances Watts

Ann James

ABC Books, 2017

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

9780733329623

Sebastian Tortoise is bamboozled by Samantha Duck’s Christmas preparations.  As she winds tinsel around the reeds, hangs baubles and her Christmas stocking on a branch, and sings “We wish you a quacky Christmas” while making a long list so she can give presents to all the animals in the world, he keeps telling her that Christmas is not for animals.  But she convinces him to help her by pointing out that Christmas is about giving and sharing and that they can make all the gift themselves by getting the other animals on the farm to help. 

To his surprise, the animals love the idea and each helps in their own way keeping Samantha and   Sebastian very busy.  But having made all the presents, delivering them on Christmas Eve becomes problematic – perhaps Christmas is not for animals after all.

This is a gentle story for younger children that celebrates the joy of sharing and giving, belief and perseverance and offers another perspective of the meaning of Christmas for little ones. Is Christmas just about receiving presents?  Do presents have to be store-bought, big, bright and shiny to be worthwhile?  What could they make by themselves or with a sibling or friend to give to others? Perhaps children could draw a name out of a hat and make just one present for that child as part of the STEM curriculum so each gets something and the pressure put on parents to provide presents for everyone that is becoming a common expectation can be abolished.  

Even though Sebastian was so sceptical he agreed  to help Samantha and he is the one encouraged to keep trying when all seems lost so explore the concept of friendship and how teamwork can often achieve the impossible. 

Unlike many books with a Christmas theme, this one is as rich in ideas to explore as Santa’s sack while still maintaining the charm and the delight of the season. 

Teachers notes are available but for me,  the story stands alone as a must-have addition to that special time of the Christmas Countdown at bedtime.     

 

Marvin and Marigold: A Christmas Surprise

 

 

 

Marvin and Marigold: A Christmas Surprise

Marvin and Marigold: A Christmas Surprise

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marvin and Marigold: A Christmas Surprise

Mark Carthew

Simon Prescott

New Frontier, 2017

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

9781925059991

On the first of December Marigold Mouse found a rather large box at the front of her house.  As she struggled to lift it inside branches and baubles fell out fueling her curiosity. But a letter from her mother soon solved the mystery – it was the family Christmas tree with all the traditional decorations that had been on it and held so much love and so many memories for Marigold’s family. 

Seeing her friend Marvin Mouse looking a little lonely and forlorn next door, she invites him in to help her to decorate the tree. And as they work together memories are unwrapped and revisited and shared as the tree begins to take shape until everything is complete and it lights up the night.

Told in gentle rhyme, this story is not only about the tradition of putting up the tree and reliving memories but also about sharing the times with those we love or who are feeling not-so as the festive time draws now.  It’s lovable characters, recognisable story line and bright illustrations will really appeal to youngsters on the Christmas Countdown and perhaps inspire them to think more deeply of the significance of those special decorations.

Unicorn Princesses (Series)

Unicorn Princesses

Unicorn Princesses

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unicorn Princesses (series)

Sunbeam’s Shine

9781681193267

Flash’s Dash

9781681193304

Emily Bliss

Bloomsbury, 2017

128pp., pbk., RRP $A9.99

Unicorns are Cressida Jenkins’s favourite thing so when she meets one in the woods behind her house, one who needs her help and invites her to the Rainbow Realm, her greatest wish comes true.  

In Sunbeam’s Shine a blundering wizard-lizard casts a spell that accidentally robs Princess Sunbeam of her magic yellow sapphire. Without it, she loses her powers–the ability to create light and heat. The only way to reverse the spell is for a human girl who believes in unicorns to find the yellow sapphire and reunite Sunbeam with her gemstone. Sunbeam ventures into the human world and enlists Cressida’s help.

In Flash’s Dash, the annual Thunder Dash is approaching, and Princess Flash has opened the race to non-unicorns for the first time ever! Cressida is the first human girl invited to participate, but Ernest the wizard-lizard accidentally casts a spell that covers the race track in sticky, pink goo! 

Is Cressida able to help her new friends out?

Judging by requests by students and parents in forums I belong to, unicorns are the in thing of young girls and so a new series about them will be very popular, particularly one that is designed to be read independently by emerging readers or read aloud to those not quite there yet.  Illustrated and with a heroine who probably personifies the inner wishes of the reader to have their own special unicorn,  it is a light read that encourages them to find the magic in stories and they will be looking for the next additions to the series.

The Fairy Dancers: Dancing Days

The Fairy Dancers: Dancing Days

The Fairy Dancers: Dancing Day

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Fairy Dancers: Dancing Days

Natalie Jane Prior

Cheryl Orsini

ABC Books, 2017

48pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

9780733335648

Every Saturday, with a hop, a skip, and a magical twirl, Mia, Emma and Grace (with a little help from Mia’s dachshund, Coco) put on their dancing shoes and turn into Fairy Dancers. First introduced in 2015 with The Fairy Dancers, this is the second volume which brings the three friends together in three stories perfect for young readers and aspiring ballerinas. 

Starting with a sleepover at Miss Ashleigh’s house where Emma is concerned about sleeping away from home; then a story where the girls have to dance with boys; and finally an adventure with Santa, this is a great way to build the bridge into reading longer “chapter books” independently.  Each story is short and complete in its own right and there are plenty of gentle illustrations that both illuminate and break up the text .

One for the budding ballerinas and perfect to pop in the Christmas stocking.

 

On the Night of the Shooting Star

On the Night of the Shooting Star

On the Night of the Shooting Star

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the Night of the Shooting Star

Amy Hest

Jenni Desmond

Walker Books, 2017

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

9781406377330

Bunny and Dog live on opposite sides of the fence, both literally and figuratively.  Bunny’s house is a blue square and overgrown, Dog’s is a red round and immaculate. Each  home reflects who they are in subtle but significant ways and each lifestyle is their own, yet remarkably similar.  For years they live side by side, never speaking, valuing their privacy, leading solitary lives but very lonely.  Then one clear night while out looking at the stars, they both see a shooting star…

This is a story of opposites, of differences but mostly of friendship. No matter how different from us someone might seem, we should take the opportunity to reach out and connect because the riches and rewards of friendship, even between opposites is worth it. There is scope for predicting why the two have not connected after all this time and how they feel, while also giving the children an opportunity to think about their neighbours and their relationships with them. Perhaps even explore the meaning of this popular advertisement and consider what they could do or say to make someone’s life less lonely.

Gentle, calming and a perfect bedtime story.

 

Niko Draws A Feeling

Niko Draws A Feeling

Niko Draws A Feeling

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Niko Draws A Feeling

Bob Raczka

Simone Shin

Carolrhoda Books, 2017

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

9781467798433

Like many children, Niko loved to make pictures and everywhere he went he had a packet of coloured pencils and a pad of paper.

He was inspired by so much of what he saw that he just had to draw it, and when inspiration hit it felt like a window opening in his brain. An idea would flit through the open window like a butterfly, flutter down to his stomach, then along his arm and fingers to his pencils where it would escape onto his paper in a whirlwind of colour,

But in a world of what-is no one understood his pictures when he shared them.  They could not see the ice cream truck, the sun, or the robin’s nest because Nico had drawn the feelings that he felt – the ring-a-ling of the bell of the icecream truck, the warmth of the sun on his father’s face, the hard work of the mother robin making her nest- and so his pictures were too abstract to their rooted-in-reality viewers. This inability to understand his interpretations of his world had an impact on Niko and that night he drew a picture of his feelings, taping it to the back of his door where it wouldn’t be seen.

But even though he viewed the world through different eyes he was undaunted and as he set off with his paper and pencils the next day, a removalist van pulled in next door.  Niko’s world was about to change… he meets someone who feels the butterfly land on her fingers when she sees his pictures.

In the late 70s just as I was beginning my teaching career and finding my feet in the classroom, Harry Chapin released a song that had a profound effect on me and my teaching, helping me understand the individuality of people and that their differences should be not only accepted but celebrated.  And all those memories and lyrics came flooding back from 40 years ago as soon as I started reading Niko Draws A Feeling.  This is a story that acknowledges that being different can be difficult, that admires the resilience of those who accept themselves for who they are regardless, and that affirms that no matter how outside-the-square we are there are others like us and if we are lucky our path through life will find them.

Raczka has written a story that should have an impact on both adults and children and perhaps even on teachers, in the way Flowers Are Red had on me. Cleverly, Simone Shin’s illustrations bridge the world of Niko and those who look at his drawings.  They are clearly recognisable for what they are but their depiction uses media and techniques which step well away from photographic representations or the realistic style we are familiar with.

A book that will change the reader. If I were to draw my feelings about it, the page would be filled with red hearts.

 

Meeka

Meeka

Meeka

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meeka

Suzanne Barton

Anil Tortop

Bluebell Books, 2017

32pp., hbk., RRP $A22.99

9780648099307

There are lots of tantalising tastes and smells at the community food markets – crusty French bread, buttery corn on the cob, fluffy, puffy fairy floss, peanuts, walnuts, all kinds of nutty nuts… but the most tantalising of all is dad’s spicy, dicey stew. Made with spices, herbs, almonds, apricots, lemons and some other secret ingredients, it not only draws in the market-goers but also a cute little bird called Meeka who samples it every day and sings with delight.

But Meeka also likes to sample all the goodies from the other stalls and is friendly with all the other cooks and sellers so when Meeka goes missing, there is great consternation.  Finally found with a bulging tummy and feeling very sick from eating all the non-bird food, Meeka is placed in one of the tagines used for the spicy, dicey stew to recover and then disaster happens…

New author Suzanne Barton crowd-funded this charming story that gently suggests that we really should not feed our pets and wildlife human food because it is not the best for them and that Mother Nature really has a better diet for them.  Anil Tortop’s gentle pastel illustrations bring the busyness of the markets to life in a series of vignettes that tell as much of the story as the text.  Certainly there are two crucial pictures that are not referred to in the words on which the story hangs, and which demonstrate the links between words and pictures in quality picture books.

Young children will enjoy this story – you can hear them gasp when they see what the little girl does with Meeka and encourage their predictions of Meeka’s fate and they will like the rhythm and rhyme of the food words.  They can share their favourite foods and maybe taste each other’s and then investigate why it is not a good idea to indulge our pets and wildlife as they discover just what they should be eating.

Debut story, debut author but hopefully not the first-and-only.

Finn and Puss

Finn and Puss

Finn and Puss

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finn and Puss

Robert Vescio

Melissa Mackie

EK Books, 2017

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

9781925335507

When Finn, a lonely little boy, finds a lost cat it would seem their problems are solved.  Finn has a friend and the cat has a home. 

But then Finn spots a poster advertising the cat as lost … Will he return it or is their friendship more important to him?

Told in a few words but with exquisite illustrations that are as gentle as the story but rich in emotion and detail, this  is a story which explores the connections between a child and a pet and how hard it can be to do the right thing.  But sometimes that right thing can have its own reward.

Charming.

The Beast of Hushing Wood

The Beast of Hushing Wood

The Beast of Hushing Wood

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Beast of Hushing Wood

Gabrielle Wang

Puffin, 2017

192pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9780143309178

For the close-knit residents of Dell Hollow, Hushing Wood is dark and sinister but for nearly-12 year old Ziggy it wraps itself around the town like a sleeping cat, protecting it from the outside world – not that there are any towns or villages anywhere nearby  Lately though, since her dad left because no matter how long they live there, “foreigners” are still outsiders,  its reputation seems to be coming true as strange things seem to be happening, not the least of which is the recurring nightmare that Ziggy has that has convinced her she is going to drown on her 12th birthday. A place that has offered her solace and comfort now seems menacing and unfamiliar.

So when Raffi Tazi begins at the school, the first new student there ever, not only is he an outsider but he has black wavy hair and skin the colour of burned butter, very different from the Dell Hollow norm of fair skin and light hair.  And instead of wearing his shirt tucked into his belted pants, he wears a loose white cotton shirt that hangs over baggy trousers.  Fodder indeed for the narrow minds of the town, particularly class bully Harry Arnold. So is he friend or foe? How does his arrival coincide with the strange happenings and appearances that Ziggy experiences?

A mixture of mystery, magic, and adventure this is an imaginative tale that will appeal to  independent upper primary readers who are starting to be aware of themselves and their place in the world and perhaps experiencing a little insecurity at the changes happening within and without.  Even Grandpa who has been Ziggy’s rock for so long can not help as he is sliding into dementia and although there is a hint that Hushing Wood used to be different, his memories are muddled and so Ziggy must find her own path to understanding and acceptance .

An intriguing read that will resonate long after the last page is read.