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Finding François

Finding François

Finding François

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finding François

Gus Gordon

Puffin, 2020

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

9780143794141

Alice Bonnet lived with her grandmother on a hill in the middle of town and together they made a very good team as they did all sorts of things together, particularly cooking. But while Alice adored her grandmother and loved their time together, especially Fridays, there were times when she really longed for someone of her own size to talk to.  And so one day she wrote a message, put it in a bottle and threw it in the river…

Set in France, with all sorts of French things to capture the reader embedded in the illustrations, this is a gentle, charming story of the power of healing that a special friendship can bring, particularly when dark clouds seem to hang around forever and the sun is hiding. Both Alice and Francois need each other because each is lonely and by using the randomness of messages in a bottle finding each other, and continuing to do so, illustrates the concept that we never know just when and where we find a special someone that we will connect with for the long term. 

Adding to the charm of the story are the anthropomorphic characters who are completely unaware of their differences, and Gordon’s clever insertion of French elements that encourage the reader to use the illustrations to discover their meaning. 

Every time you read this book, there is another layer to discover and because it’s theme is one that will resonate with readers of all ages, it is one that will be read over and over again.

 

Funny Kid Peeking Duck

Funny Kid Peeking Duck

Funny Kid Peeking Duck

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Funny Kid Peeking Duck

Matt Stanton

ABC Books, 2020

256pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9780733340598

 

Every kid wants to laugh, but Max is the boy who can make it happen.

He’s not the smartest kid; he’s not the fastest kid; he’s not the prettiest kid; but he might just be the funniest kid you’ve ever met.

Max and his friends take a road trip to Adventure Park to dare each other to ride The Tower of Dying Deathly Doom. But it may be Duck who is the bravest one of all.

This is #7 in this series about Max, his friends and family and his duck. Despite having 250+ pages, it is one for newly independent readers who are ready to tackle something a bit meatier but still with the support of short chapters and plenty of graphics, which showcase Stanton’s talent as a cartoonist as well as a writer.  He believes “books inspire the imagination, imagination births creativity and creativity changes the world” and with collections like This is a Ball to his credit, he is fast becoming one of our most popular creators with everyone from preschool onwards.

This year has been a challenging one, as much for the kids as the adults in their lives, and so introducing them to a series that will produce many a LOL moment for them as well as encouraging them to keep reading can only be a positive. And for an extra treat, share this Q&A with Matt from the publishers, or search YouTube where he has offered drawing lessons and other goodies during this time. In fact, students may know him from YT and be thrilled to find his books on your shelf.

 

Tashi 25th Anniversary Edition

Tashi 25th anniversary edition

Tashi 25th anniversary edition

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tashi 25th Anniversary Edition

Anna Fienberg

Barbara Fienberg

Kim Gamble

Allen & Unwin, 2020

112pp., hbk., RRP $A16.99

9781760525446

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, a little boy was finally born to a couple who so desperately wanted a child that after consulting Wise-As-An-Owl the wife sipped a special mixture made for her and within a year, Tashi was born.  Right from the start he proved to be very clever and had many adventures before finally fleeing from a wicked warlord, arriving in this land on the back of a swan where he became Jack’s special friend.  Every now and then he would share an adventure with Jack and then Jack recounted these to his incredulous parents.  And so the adventures and legend of Tashi were born…

And for 25 years they have fascinated young, independent readers being the perfect introduction to the world of fantasy and the fantastic, including almost every Year 3 class I’ve taught since the stories were first published.  Presented in a paperback format that contained two stories, they were perfect for real-alouds as well as read-alones, so much so that in 2001 my Year 3 classes led a national Book Rap that had students from all over the country answering the questions my students had posed about the stories via online activities and emails as the power of the Internet was gradually harnessed to connect children beyond the school walls.

Now the first of those stories, including the story of Tashi’s birth and the first indication on his cleverness at the age of one – Tashi and the Silver Cup-  and his becoming Jack’s friend,  have been republished in this special edition to celebrate that special milestone. 

In addition, all the stories have been collected into special editions each containing eight tales in each volume.  The Book of Giant Adventures; The Book of Magnificent Monsters; The Book of Magical Mysteries; and The Book of Spells and Secrets(each 256 pages and $A16.99 RRP) mean yet another generation of young readers can get to know this lovable little character, marvel at the detail in Kim Gamble’s illustrations and think about what they might do if they found themselves in a similar predicament. 

When I recently met up with some of those students who participated in the Rap in 2001, they all remembered it and the fun they had, particularly the power they had because they set the questions and tasks for the other participants, meaning each had to read the story closely to be able to construct open-ended activities.  Such memories would not be possible without having the quality and appeal of the stories to work with.  If your students haven’t met Tashi yet, now is the time to introduce them.

Lottie Luna and the Twilight Party

Lottie Luna and the Twilight Party

Lottie Luna and the Twilight Party

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lottie Luna and the Twilight Party

Vivian French

Nathan Reed

HarperCollins, 2020

144pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9780008343019

This is the second in this series for newly independent readers about Lottie Luna who is a werewolf. While she’s super-fast, super-strong and has X-ray vision. she doesn’t really like to use her skills.  She just wants to be like everyone else. But when it’s her friend Marjory’s birthday, Lottie sees a way she can use her special powers to get her the biggest surprise ever…

Characters having alter egos with special powers continue to be popular with readers and this new series for newly independent readers will satisfy those who like this genre.  Richly illustrated with monochrome cartoon-like illustrations to support the text, young girls will see themselves in Lottie – on the surface being just regular little girls, but with a heroine not too far below the surface.

Something new but “old” to welcome readers back to what’s been added to the collection while they were stuck at home. 

Elizabella and the Haunting of Lizard Lake

Elizabella and the Haunting of Lizard Lake

Elizabella and the Haunting of Lizard Lake

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Elizabella and the Haunting of Lizard Lake

Zoë Norton Lodge

Georgia Norton Lodge

Walker Books, 2020

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

 9781760651855

Excitement is in the air as Elizabella – poet, fixer of fairytales and the biggest prankster in the history of her school – heads off to camp with the rest of her class. But when Larry the Lizard learns she’s headed to Lizard Lake he stows away in her suitcase, dreaming of discovering the other sentient lizards rumoured to be living there. Soon, Elizabella begins having strange dreams and wonders if Lizard Lake is haunted. Meanwhile back at Bilby Creek, Martin madly searches for Larry, eventually stumbling on another lizard who looks exactly like him. After discovering who is really haunting Lizard Lake, Larry and Elizabella return home to solve another mystery. Who is the imposter hanging out with Martin? 

This is the third in this series for young independent readers – Elizabella Meets Her Match and Elizabella and The Great Tuckshop Takeoverhave already been published and Elizabella Breaks a Leg will be available in September. Described as a ” messy mix of Matilda, Pippi Longstocking and Horrid Henry”, this is a lively series for girls who like a light-hearted read but with a bit of substance as they see themselves in the situations that Elizabella manages to get mixed up in.   Told from the perspectives of Elizabella, her father, her pet lizard and her principal Mr Gobblefrump, the adventures of Bilby Creek Primary School’s camp at Lizard Lake will entertain as the camp’s motto is “Don’t Worry, Be Happpy” (distorted for copyright reasons) and everything has a positive spin on it.  While Elizabella and her friend Minnie really want to devise the greatest prank of all time, they are confronted by real-life issues that provide a serious side that makes for a story that offers more than the blurb would suggest.

This is a series worth promoting to your students in that Year 3-4 range who are ready for the next step on their reading adventure.   

 

 

 

The Schoolmaster’s Daughter

The Schoolmaster's Daughter

The Schoolmaster’s Daughter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Schoolmaster’s Daughter

Jackie French

Angus & Robertson, 2020

384pp., pbk., RRP $A17.99

9781460757710

The turn of the 20th century, a new nation and perhaps a new start for Hannah’s family as her father has been appointed schoolmaster of the one-teacher school at Port Harris, a town founded, owned and ruled by one man who built the local sugar cane industry, itself built on the slave labour of the Pacific Islanders “contracted” to work and live in conditions that would rival the worst of what we know about the southern states of the USA.

It is not an auspicious start with the Cecily McPhee foundering as she was caught in a storm of Pirate Bay, and the shipwrecked travellers having to fight their way to shore.  While the men decide they will try to find a way to the port, the women shelter and are rescued by a young lad and taken to his family farm. But that young lad is coloured and the product of a mixed marriage between his white mother and his Kiribatian father and immediately the first ugly seeds of racism start to grow.  While Hannah and her mother have no qualms, the other women immediately adopt the holier-than-thou attitude of European settlers of the time and demonstrate why Jamie and his mum have been ostracised. 

Add into the mix Mrs Gilbert’s liberal views, her passion for women’s suffrage and universal education that includes girls and non-whites, so much so that she starts a secret school for Hannah and Jamie, and you have another powerful historical novel that is as much fact as it is fiction.  Once again, Jackie French exposes the reader to times past that have been hidden because men wrote the history books and directed the classroom curriculum by bringing her own family history to light and to life.  As the nation moved through the early months of Federation, the first tentative steps towards women’s suffrage and the introduction of the White Australia Policy that prohibited all non-European immigration and was not abolished until 1973 when it at last became illegal to discriminate on the grounds of race, Hannah and her mother unpeel those carefully constructed layers subtly and softly through staying true to their beliefs without fanfare or fuss and certainly not offence. Hannah’s mother is very well aware of the impact of scandal and how it would affect the progress of change.  Now, 120 years on, we are starting to see and appreciate the determination and strength of those shoulders on which we stand as we become and celebrate a nation of many cultures, enjoy universal education whose value is even clearer in current circumstances, and even our personal lives as we choose to marry or not, divorce or not, have children or not.

Definitely a read for older, independent readers, this is a story that has both the deepest of depths and the widest of implications as we really consider where we have come from as both individuals and a nation, and where we want to go.  For this is a unique time in which the world has paused and we can choose the future, personally and collectively.

Weird Little Robots

Weird Little Robots

Weird Little Robots

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weird Little Robots

Carolyn Crimi

Corinna Luyken

Walker Books, 2020

240pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781406387988

In a new town with only the robots she creates in a sagging backyard shed from the treasure she finds on her walks for company, it only takes a little bit of magic to change everything for eleven-year-old Penny Rose. With her new friend Lark – an eccentric tinkerer herself – the promise of joining a secret science club and her newly sentient robots, Penny Rose can’t imagine how she was ever lonely. But a fateful misstep means Penny Rose will have to choose between the club she’s always dreamed of and the best friend she’d always hoped for. And in the end, it may be her beloved little robots who pay the price

As the world waits in anticipation of the first manned space launch from US soil in nearly a decade, it is a very different one from the one I remember in 1969 as we waited for the launch of Apollo 11 and man’s attempt to land on the moon. In those days, it was very much man’s attempt for science, on the surface, appeared to be a man’s world – certainly very little, if any, public recognition was given to the women behind  the scenes. But this engaging, 21st century novel demonstrates so many changes the world has seen in those 50 years, not the least of which being that my granddaughter can openly engage in her passion for science, technology and construction and read about herself in a mainstream novel, The dreams I had for her in 69 have come true, not that at the age of 18 I was projecting myself forward to being a grandmother!  But for those of us with an interest in “boys’ subjects” at high school but who had been directed down other paths simply because of our gender, reading a book like this would not have been possible. 

Written for independent readers, there are indications that Penny Rose could be on the autism spectrum but even so, neither that nor her passion for science overwhelms that key theme of friendship and the choices that have to be made, that are so important to that age group.  Miss Amost-14, while still passionately interested in science and its possibilities, has moved beyond these sorts of illustrated novels, but had this been available three years ago she would have loved it!

Ginnie & Pinney Learn & Grow Series

Ginnie & Pinney Learn & Grow Series

Ginnie & Pinney Learn & Grow Series

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ginnie & Pinney Learn & Grow Series

Penny Harris & Winnie Zhou

Big Sky, 2020

256pp., 8 x 32pp pbk books., RRP $A197.00

9781922265814

As our little ones restart their school journeys and have to relearn how to mix and mingle with others beyond their family bubble, many may need some extra guidance in how to build those relationships with their peers again.  This collection of eight books, which offer QR access to videos and teacher resources, could be a valuable tool in this process.

Designed to help our very youngest readers develop ethical thinking, emotional intelligence, and social and emotional intelligence, each book focuses on a key concept such as selflessness, persistence, sharing, taking responsibility, fairness, inclusiveness, self-identity and learning to say sorry.  Featuring a recurring cast of characters including Pinney ‘Potamus, Ginnie Giraffe, Miranda Panda, Dodo Komodo, Lulu Kangaroo, Tao Tiger and Kevin, Kelly and Kylie Koala, all portrayed as stitched felt creatures, young readers will enjoy the different adventures as well as pondering what the best course of action would be to solve the problem. 

Something new to support the Personal and Social Capability strand so students are having the concepts consolidated with a new range of materials. 

Rocky and Louie

Rocky and Louie

Rocky and Louie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rocky and Louie

Phil Walleystack & Raewyn Caisley

Dub Leffler

Puffin, 2020

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

 9780143786528

Rocky is a star Aussie Rules player and his little brother Louie adores him.  Rocky has taught Louie all sorts of footballing skills but more than that, he has taught him about their country and how to engage with it to both use it and protect it.  After they made a proper hunting boomerang together, Rocky taught him how to respect the animals and even though they might kill them for food, how to think about where that food comes from.  Rocky taught and Louie learned the legends and lessons of the land, forging a strong bond that would ensure that they would endure.

But Rocky has a dream to become more than just a local football star and to do that he must leave.  Louie is devastated but Rocky knows that he must go, just as Louie must stay.  What could Louie offer him to make sure that Rocky doesn’t forget him or his roots despite the pull and the attractions of the city.

While this is a powerful story about the love and bonds shared between brothers, it has an even stronger message about being connected to our heritage whatever that may be.  In this case it is that of Australia’s indigenous people and the lessons Rocky teaches Louie will help the reader understand that deep connection to country that our Aboriginal peoples have, helping them appreciate why they felt so bereft when so many were uprooted ruthlessly from families, events commemorated on  National Sorry Day on May 26. The theme of responsibility and respect for what has gone before that has shaped us into who we are now is very strong, but it also opens up the prospect of having to deal with change, with having to be unselfish and let others follow their destiny regardless of the impact on our comfort zone, and accepting and acknowledging that we are who we are because of those around us and we must be the best we can be to honour that and them. 

Co-written with Noongar man and emerging elder, Phil Walleystack, Raewyn Caisley (who has already given us the hauntingly beautiful Hello from Nowhere and Something Wonderful ) views this as her legacy with “the power to change our nation”.  For so many reasons, she could well be right.

All About Friends

All About Friends

All About Friends

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All About Friends

Felicity Brooks

Mar Ferrero

Usborne, 2020

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

9781474968386

It can be fun to spend time by yourself, You can play whatever you want and you don’t have to share your toys or your snacks…

But what every one of us has learned over the isolation of the last few months is that friends are critical and a crucial part of our mental well-being.  As schools gradually return to full-time face-to-face teaching, some little ones may have been at home for so long that they have forgotten what it is like to work and play with others and how to be a friend, so this beautifully designed book will be the perfect platform for getting things back on an even keel.  Each double page spread focuses on an issue such as what are friends, why we need them,  what makes a good friend, who can be friends and so on, offering lots of scope for sharing personal stories and contributing to discussions in a way they haven’t done for some time. There are also pages devoted to how friendships grow and change, how they can be destroyed and how they can be mended so that the children realise that there will be ups and downs and part of growing up is knowing what to do and doing it, developing tolerance, understanding, forgiveness and resilience.

The final pages include a “friendship puzzle” offering the reader a few scenarios for which they have to select the most appropriate behaviour, and two pages of information for new parents about their children’s friendships, skills and strategies to help them develop and some reassuring words about imaginary friends and dealing with conflict. – the most important being to give the child time to try to sort it out.  That perspective alone tells me that this author knows her stuff and her advice is sound.