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Introducing D’Lila LaRue

Introducing D’Lila LaRue

Introducing D’Lila LaRue

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Introducing D’Lila LaRue

Nette Hilton

A. Yi

Walker, 2021

128pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781760652562

D’Lila LaRue lives in the smallest house with the neatest fence and the rosiest garden in the street with her trusty sidekick, Nanny-Anny (who is probably very old but it doesn’t matter). This trilogy of stories features D’Lila and Nanny-Anny sharing many fun-filled adventures, whether it’s by building an award-winning rose garden, becoming an artist, or attending a favourite play. Even if things don’t go exactly to plan . . .

Books with engaging characters and modern scenarios for newly independent readers are always welcome particularly if, like this one, they engage the reader immediately and support them on their continuing reading journey. But Nette Hilton is a very experienced author and knows just what is needed for this age group starting with a feisty young miss whose parents are absent so there are no constraints apart from Nanny-Anny whom D’Lila has twisted around her little finger. Short snappy chapters and stories, humour and could-happen-to-me circumstances mean this is one that young girls will love. 

Bear and Rat

Bear and Rat

Bear and Rat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bear and Rat

Christopher Cheng

Stephen Michael King

Puffin, 2020

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

9781760896287

Bear and Rat are the very best of friends, there for each other no matter what.  But even though Bear has proven his devotion to his friend, Rat is feeling concerned about the future.

“Bear,” said Rat, “I’ve been wondering. Will we always hold hands like this, even when we are old and wrinkly…and tottering up this hill?”

“Of course we will,” said Bear. “As long as you hold mine when my fur turns grey and starts to fall out.”

But something is clearly troubling Rat because despite all Bear’s reassurance she still feels unsettled and unsure, until she finally asks, “What if I have to leave and go somewhere you can’t come?” And Bear offers her the perfect answer, one that comforts and assures her that no matter what, they will be together one way or another forever.

This has been one of the most difficult books for me to read and review because even though it is the most delicate love story, it is based on a real story and sadly, because the author and his wife have been friends of mine for years, I knew its truth and its outcome.  Also, having experienced my own Bear and Rat episodes twice in 18 months, it was all the more poignant, and to be honest, it took me some time to put on my big girl pants and read it. 

But often our children need the sort of reassurance that Rat does – that regardless of what they do or say or experience, someone will be there for them through everything because real love is unconditional and enduring. Chris has captured this special, incredible relationship perfectly because he has lived it and Stephen’s illustrations with their gentle palette and lines are the perfect accompaniment, suggesting he too, knows what it is to love in this way.  And as a reader, with tissues in hand, so do I. 

A remarkable picture book that shows that regardless of what else we might have, to have that sort of love of another is everything.  

Paws

Paws

Paws

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paws

Kate Foster

Walker Books, 2021

252pp., pbk., RRP $A13.99

9781760652685

As Year 6 moves along  Alex has one goal – to make a friend, preferably Jared and the other popular kids, who won’t be mean to him when he starts secondary school. Because this is not easy when you are autistic and have super sensory awareness when sights and sounds, particularly overwhelm your brain, he has developed a plan to achieve this.  It has three components – to be an expert at the computer game Orbs World; to run fast enough so his relay team, which includes Jared, can go to the district competition and for his beloved cockapoo Kevin to win a trophy at the upcoming dog show, Paws. However, when his expectations and plans start to go awry, he pins all his hopes on Kevin being successful… 

Based on her own son’s experience when the family adopted a spoodle, the author has created an engaging story that will engage the reader from start to finish.  Told by Alex himself so that we discover how he thinks, what he does to help himself and why, this is a rare insight into the world of the autistic child and the challenges they encounter just dealing with everyday situations we take for granted.  Unlike the neurotypical brain that comes with ‘templates” for responses to situations, autistic brains are wired differently and Alex’s story shows how they have to build these responses from scratch, learning through mirroring and masking experiencing hard emotional lessons and confusing rejection as they do. Human behaviour being what it is, even his mum and brother can’t always match his need for consistency, and the one constant in Alex’s life is the unconditional love and sensitivity of Kevin.  The bond between them is critical to his well-being.

While it is intended for independent readers, it would also make an excellent class read-aloud particularly for any class that has a child like Alex. If we are to develop empathetic, compassionate children then they need to understand the challenges that others endure, and this does that perfectly in a story that you can’t put down.

Dandy and Dazza

Dandy and Dazza

Dandy and Dazza

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dandy and Dazza

Mike Dumbleton

Brett Curzon

New Frontier, 2021

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

9781921928826

Dandy was a best-in-show sort of hound while Dazza was a rough-and-tumble sort of mongrel.  As dogs go, they couldn’t be more different.  One liked five-star food, the other old bones found in the rubbish bin;  one liked peace and quiet; the other barked and went crazy; one walked demurely to the park in a fur-lined coat and leg-warmers; the other pulled and strained at the leash covered in the mud and muck from rolling in puddles on the way… 

Could two such different temperaments ever get along?

From the title to the endpages to  the text itself, you just know that this is going to be a book of contrasts that brings so much fun to the reader. And it doesn’t disappoint.  How will two  such polar opposites be able to share the park together?  This is a story that will appeal to young readers, especially those with dogs because no doubt they will recognise their own pooches in the pictures and the antics.  The bright, brilliant  illustrations catch the eye and the roll-off-the-tongue text will make this a favourite while sparking discussions about how opposites attract and despite our differences, friendship is still possible..  

The Song for Everyone

The Song for Everyone

The Song for Everyone

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Song for Everyone

Lucy Morris

Bloomsbury, 2021

40pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781526631121

From a tiny window, too high in the eaves to be noticed from below and too small to let in much daylight, came a delicate tune.
A melody, a song, a sound so sweet which drifted on the breeze to the lanes and streets below. …

Day after day, the song is heard through the town. making the old feel young and comforting the lonely. It fills the whole town with joy and kindness. No one knows who sings the song, but they know it is good.  Until one day, the music stops. Can the town work together to save the song for everyone?

This is a gentle story that shows how it is the little things that can shape our day and our well-being. With the music being depicted as whirls and swirls of tiny flowers and leaves small enough to get into everyone’s ears and heart, yet its origins not revealed till the climax of the story+, young readers can predict not only who or what is offering this gift to the town but also what has happened to make it stop.

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

It also shows that music is a universal language and begin an investigation into its various genres and what they think would be the one tune that everyone would like to hear. How does music affect our mood? What mind pictures does it create ? Is there, indeed, a song for everyone?

Amira’s Suitcase

Amira's Suitcase

Amira’s Suitcase

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amira’s Suitcase

Vikki Conley

Nicky Johnston

New Frontier, 2021

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

9781922326133

When Amira’s family arrive in their new home as refugees, it is clearly different from what Amira is used to and she is felling lost and alone.  But hiding in her suitcase is a tiny seedling struggling for life and it becomes her new best friend, thriving as she nurtures and nourishes it. Something warm starts to grow inside her  as she is reminded of happier times. 

As children do, Amira meets some of the other children in the camp who share their seeds with her and despite being surrounded by poverty, tin shacks, and not much else between them and the friendship that grows like their plants, they are able to bring a little beauty to the bleak environment and harsh life that is now their reality. And just as the seedlings climb and reach for the sun, so do the children build hopes and dreams.

This is a gentle text that tells an all-too common story of displacement but it is tempered by the friendships that are born and thrive like the seedling in Amira’s suitcase. It is a story of acceptance and hope as the children reach out to each other oblivious to race, colour, beliefs and backgrounds, seeing only someone to talk to, to play with and who understands the circumstances. Smiles appear on their faces again as families meet new families and a community begins to grow because a little girl felt lonely and found a seed.

There will be children in our care who will have their own stories to share about camps such as that Amira finds herself in, in a world very different to what they have now and that of the children who are their peers.  But just like Amira they will build new friendships and a new future buoyed by seeing themselves in a story book, learning that just like plants, friendships need to be nurtured to make them strong and healthy. 

 

 

Mo and Crow

Mo and Crow

Mo and Crow

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mo and Crow

Jo Kasch

Jonathan Bentley

A & U Children’s, 2021

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

9781760631758

Mo lives in a little house high on a hill, protected by a thick stone wall that is stronger than both the wind and the rain.  It keep out everything that Mo wants kept out and that is exactly how he wanted it.  The outside world was not welcome in Mo’s world.

But one day he hears a tap-tap-tap on his wall and even though he whistles loudly and pulls hit hat down over his ears, the noise continued.  Tappity-tappity-tappity-tappity until suddenly a crow pushes a stone out of the wall and pops its head through the hole.  Mo tells the crow to go and fills the breach, but next day the crow is back.  Each is as stubborn and persistent as the other, so who will wins this war of wills?

On the surface this is a charming story about a man and a bird each determined to get their own way, but for the more astute reader it is also an allegory for the walls we each build around ourselves to protect our innermost personal thoughts and feelings.   While one might speculate on what has happened to Mo to make him choose to live in such isolation, we might also reflect on those things that we, as individuals, hold deep and refuse to share.  Is there any truth in the old adage, “A problem shared is a problem halved”?

Bentley’s bold illustrations bring to life this clever story about breaking down barriers and discovering the joys that a strong friendship can bring. 

Fish Kid and the Turtle Torpedo

Fish Kid and the Turtle Torpedo

Fish Kid and the Turtle Torpedo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fish Kid and the Turtle Torpedo

Kylie Howarth

Walker, 2021

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

9781760652548

Originally, Bodhi did not share his parents’ love of the underwater world – his dad is a marine biologist and his mum an underwater photographer – and while they travelled the world together to explore what really happens beneath the surface, he preferred dry land until he discovered he had magical powers…

In the third in this series that introduces the reader to life beneath the waves and the hazards the inhabitants face,  the reader is taken to the Maldives where Fish Kid’s friendship with bestie, Emely, soon hits a snag during a tricky sea turtle rescue. Secretly wishing for powers of her own, Emely’s strange behaviour leaves Fish Kid wondering if their friendship and the super-sick turtle will survive. And if things weren’t bad enough, another turtle from the sanctuary goes missing. 

Full of action, adventure and humour, and all the techniques proven perfect for supporting those transitioning to longer novels, this series also includes fact boxes about the various creatures encountered and draws on the author’s personal knowledge of the world under the waves enriching the reader’s understanding and awakening an awareness to protect it. 

A powerful series that hopefully will inspire young readers to wonder and find out more, perhaps even be like Miss 14 who is currently studying oceanography and marine biology in Year 9 and undertaking her diver’s qualification!  The power of story to spark the “what if…” and while a mask and scuba tank aren’t quite the same as Bodhi’s powers, they work just fine!

 

The Biscuit Maker

The Biscuit Maker

The Biscuit Maker

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Biscuit Maker

Sue Lawson

Liz Anelli

Walker Books, 2020

32pp., hbk., RRP $A25.99

9781760650438

Every morning Benedict Stanley and his  cat Audrey Mae stand at their gate and greet their neighbours as they scurry off ready to start their day.  But sadly, the neighbours are too busy to reply – ears are full and mouths are closed.  And even though Benedict and Audrey Mae spend hours creating a beautiful garden to give those neighbours something beautiful to look at, still the neighbours just rush on by. 

Then one day Rory stops to admire Audrey Mae and with a gappy smile, tells Benedict that the Tooth Fairy will be visiting him tonight.  That give Benedict an idea and so he goes to the kitchen, reaches for his wife’s recipe book and begins to bake…

Soon, nearly every event that happens in Mavin Road is celebrated with a batch of special biscuits, made and delivered secretly by Benedict and Audrey Mae.  what a difference it makes until one day Benedict gets so ill he cannot bake.  Will the neighbours notice? Will they discover who their benefactor is?

This is a heart-warming story that demonstrates the human need for connection to others yet even on a busy street like Mavin Road, loneliness can be deep, especially for those who are older, retired, widowed or otherwise living alone. Rory’s connection to the cat changes more lives that can be imagined by one conversation and that special bond that little ones often have with the generation beyond their parents is celebrated. It also shows how sharing food is a universal way of bringing people together, opening the door for readers to share and cook their own special biscuit recipes for the class.

One of those “old-fashioned” stories that wraps its arms around you like a hug, it is a worthy CBCA Picture Book of the Year Notable for 2021.

Sometimes Cake

Sometimes Cake

Sometimes Cake

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sometimes Cake

Edwina Wyatt

Tamsin Ainslie

Walker, 2020

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

9781760650421

Audrey and Lion are best friends and when Audrey sees Lion with a balloon she assumes it is his birthday.  Even though it isn’t, it must be someone’s somewhere so they celebrate anyway.  Together they move through the week celebrating special things until the day Lion looks forlorn because he seems to have nothing to celebrate.  To cheer him up, Audrey pulls together all the things they enjoy and she has a party just to celebrate their friendship because sometimes it’s about acknowledging the ordinary rather than the extraordinary.

Like other reviewers, I found this to have some of the overtones of the simple logic of Winnie-the-Pooh and his friends, a logic that little people love because it is so literal.  With its soft watercolour illustrations, it is one that preschoolers will enjoy because they could be Audrey or Audrey could be their friend. It also opens up the possibilities for talking about the why and how of  celebrations and how some families do things a little differently, even though cake may be the common element!

A CBCA Picture Book of the Year Notable for 2021.