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Atticus Van Tasticus

Atticus Van Tasticus

Atticus Van Tasticus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Atticus Van Tasticus

Andrew Daddo

Stephen Michael King

Puffin, 2019

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

9780143796541

1750, when times were tough and teeth were rotten…

As part of an ancient family tradition, young Atticus Van Tasticus narrowly escapes a life down the coal mines – or worse, going to school – when he gets to choose the gift of a pirate ship from his Grandnan’s treasure pile. ..

Atticus has a taste for adventure, beauty and danger – “where any minute might be your last, and your next minute could be your best” – so he pulls together a crew of misfit friends, of both genders and hits the high seas to lead the life of a pirate.

Spiked with humour and dozens of quirky illustrations, including a continuing comic strip of a stowaway puppy, this is a book full of crazy adventures that will appeal to all those longing to escape the humdrum of school, home and homework. Daddo has moved on a little from his recent focus on picture books for the very young and created a quirky character who is really quite ordinary but who, with the help of a very rich grandmother, is able to make his innermost dreams come true because on his 10th birthday he is allowed to pick something  from her wealth. Trouble is that his older brother and sister squandered their picks and now the future of the family is squarely on his shoulders. Choosing a pirate ship so he can search for treasure to replace what has been lost seems the obvious choice…

For independent readers who still need a little support, who appreciate and dream of crazy, out-there adventures and who like their illustrations to be more than just decoration, this is the first in a new series that will capture the imagination and the hearts of younger students and keep them reading.

 

Handa’s Noisy Night

Handa's Noisy Night

Handa’s Noisy Night

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Handa’s Noisy Night

Eileen Browne

Walker Books, 2019

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

9781406320015

Handa and her friends Akeyo live in Kenya, and when Handa has a sleepover with Akeyo, the girls are allowed to spend the night in a little hut near the house. They’re excited to be on their own, but as they get ready for bed, Handa feels more and more nervous. She keeps hearing things – strange snorts, chitter chattering, a big thud. Akeyo says it’s only her noisy family, but on the opposite page the reader sees the nocturnal animals who are really making the noise – and while some of them are familiar, others are very peculiar-looking indeed! 

With rich, vibrant night-time illustrations, sound effects, and plenty of curious animals, coupled with Akeyo’s explanations which are not only hilarious, but ingenious. this is a story that will resonate with children the world over as they step out of the familiar and have their first sleepover away from home with all the unfamiliar noises that will keep them awake.  While the causes might not be as exotic as those that kept Handa awake, nevertheless there is never a limit to the imagination when it’s dark. 

We first met Handa from the  Luo tribe in south-west Kenya in  Handa’s Surprise nearly 25 years ago and that book was  included in the  Seven Stories’ Diverse Voices list –  50 best children’s books celebrating cultural diversity in the UK since 1950. That, and its sequel Handa’s Hen have sold more than a million copies globally, with each focusing on a topic that children all over the world can relate to, and perhaps even adapt to their own circumstances.  If you were sleeping in a tent or a caravan, what might be making the snorting, chattering, rattling, squeaking and slurping noises you can hear? Rich pickings for the imagination! 

Don’t Worry, Little Crab

Don't Worry, Little Crab

Don’t Worry, Little Crab

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t Worry, Little Crab

Chris Haughton

Walker Books, 2019

48pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781406385519

In the rockpool above the sea, live two crabs: Big Crab and Little Crab. Today, they’re going for a dip in the sea. “This is going to be so great!” says Little Crab as they go tic-a-tac, tic-a-tac over the rocks, splish splash, splish splash across the pools and squelch, squelch, squelch through the slimy, slippery seaweed. “I can go ANYWHERE”, says Little Crab.

But when he reaches the sea and sees the size of the ocean waves, he is somewhat daunted and very reluctant to take that final leap.  Will he find the courage?

The illustration style  is very distinctive and it tells as much of the story as the text does, about a little one finding the courage to face their uncertainty. This is a common theme in children’s picture books, this time inspired by the creator’s observations of crabs and their human-like way of moving. and the way they braced for the impact of a wave but then went about their business once it frothed away. In fact, the story of the story’s evolution gives a real insight into where authors get their ideas and how they are shaped, so it is worth sharing that too. It wasn’t so much the message that came first, but thinking about what was in front of him and working from that! Perhaps a lesson for budding writers about being observant and curious and working backwards!

 

Scruffle-Nut

Scruffle-Nut

Scruffle-Nut

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scruffle-Nut

Corinne Fenton

Owen Swan

New Frontier, 2019

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

9781925594768

As winter leaves tumble and twirl a wisp of memory wraps itself about me and whispers me back to long ago…

As a child, her Nanny Clementine took her to the park where she played on the swings and the see-saw and rode the carousel horses for as long as time.  And one day, she sees a squirrel, one that the others squirrels growl at and chase away because he has a stumpy tail, not a magnificent curled one like theirs. And so begins a brief friendship between them – the little squirrel who is a bit different and the little girl who is also a bit different – and there is a strong sense of empathy that builds up, until the snow falls and the park is closed. What is it that the little girl learned from that squirrel in those few short days that has stayed with her all her life?

Sensitive, with beautifully descriptive passages that are sublimely illustrated in a palette and manner as soft and gentle as the story, this is a story that tugs at the heart-strings for we all know the child who is shunned because of their “stumpy tail” and the silent pain and rejection they feel.  One to share and talk about what it would be like to be the one that is on the outside, rather than being part of the Bully-Bunch, and perhaps change a few perceptions. 

Ollie and Augustus

Ollie and Augustus

Ollie and Augustus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ollie and Augustus

Gabriel Evans

Walker, 2019

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

9781760650711

Even though Ollie is small (like a pickling jar or a shoebox) and Augustus is big (like a table or a fridge), they do everything together,including cycling, painting, dressing up, digging (Ollie’s favourite thing) and stick collecting (Augustus’s favourite thing), as best friends do.  But soon it will be time for Ollie to start school and he is worried that Augustus will be lonely without him.  So he sets out to find him a friend.  But none of the dogs that apply for the position are quite right and so Ollie has to start school and leave Augustus on his own.  All day he worries that Augustus will be lonely and bored, but is he?

Term 4 has started and that means “big school” is on the horizon for many of our littlest readers, with all the anxieties that that prospect brings.  There will be many Ollies among them who will worry that their treasured pets will be lonely and not being toys, they have to be left at home. So this is a timely story for them to reassure them that all will be fine and at least one concern can be alleviated. Perfect for sharing with preschoolers about to take the next big step in their growing-up adventure.

 

 

A Home for Luna

A Home for Luna

A Home for Luna

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Home for Luna

Stef Gemmill

Mel Armstrong

New Frontier, 2019

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

9781925594843

On a cold, moonlit night a dark crate washes up on a lonely shore, and out crawls a bedraggled, lonely cat, wary of her surroundings so different from the home she remembers, but glad to be out of the ceaseless motion of the sea.  As daylight creeps up, she woke and looked around only to find herself among creatures that didn’t look like anything she had seen, certainly not cats, but the familiar fishy smell drew her forward. 

Too tired to move, she lay on the rocks watching the penguins swim and return with fish, making her tummy rumbled.  And then one of them approached her… is this a friendly move or one fraught with fear?

Mel Armstrong, an experienced illustrator making her children’s book debut, has created bold illustrations which suggest that Luna is  no weak, wimpy cat and so the reader expects that this story is going to go well beyond that initial meeting and that conflict or camaraderie. there is some meat to it.

On the surface, this is a simple story about two creatures forming an unlikely friendship, one that reaches a climax when humans arrive at the colony and decide that it is no place for a cat.  But looking beneath the surface, could it be the story of a refugee arriving in a strange land amongst strange people, and being accepted just for who they are, rather than anything else?  And a government making a determination about their suitability to stay?  Or am I viewing it through the lens of so many news stories about worthy people facing deportation, so much so my views of a children’s story have been tainted and I see allegory each time I read a story like this?  Whichever, it is refreshing to read one that is about resilience and hope and which has the sort of ending we would all wish for, whether it’s a cat washed ashore or a person. 

Read more about the story behind the story here

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

Elmer: A Classic Collection/ Elmer’s Birthday

Elmer: A Classic Collection

Elmer: A Classic Collection

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Elmer: A Classic Collection

David McKee

Andersen Press, 2019

152pp., hbk., RRP $29.99

9781783448678

Thirty years ago I discovered a lovable character that has been an integral part of the lives of the very young students I’ve taught and my grandchildren – a patchwork elephant called Elmer. Every time his creator David McKee offered a new story, it was in my hands and in the ears of the nearest children.  So now, to have a collection of the five earliest stories in one volume is heaven on a stick for such a fan.

Featuring Elmer, Elmer and the Rainbow, Elmer and the Lost Teddy, Elmer in the Snow, and Elmer’s Special Day, just five of the 27 stories in the series, the little patchwork elephant who likes to play jokes on his friends but is always compassionate and helpful, is set to make a whole new generation of fans as parents discover this childhood favourite all over again.

Elmer's Birthday

Elmer’s Birthday

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Elmer’s Birthday

David McKee

Andersen Press, 2019

32pp., hbk., RRP $24.99

9781783447947

And to celebrate his 30th birthday, there is a new story called, appropriately, Elmer’s Birthday. Hoping to get their own back on him, the elephants decide to play a joke on Elmer on his birthday and spend the day getting all the other animals on board.  But who has the last laugh? 

Great for teaching children about elephants, the animals of the jungle, colour and patterns, as well as the themes of each story, I believe little ones have not had a real education if they don’t meet Elmer. These two are going straight to my version of the pool room!

 

The Gift

The Gift

The Gift

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Gift

Michael Speechley

Puffin Books, 2019

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

9780143788980

Across the road from Rosie’s house is an old dilapidated house with an unloved garden that most people thought was deserted.  But Rosie knew someone lived there, even though she had never actually seen anyone.  Once, she’d seen a shadow in the old attic window and occasionally a hand would  reach through the door and grab the groceries that were delivered and she convinced herself there was an old woman living there, one who might be mean and cranky but could also be just lonely. Like Rosie was lonely sometimes when she missed her mum and the things they did together.  

Rosie decided she would give the old woman a gift – but what? She thought long and hard and her mum’s words echoed in her ears – If you look long and hard enough, you’ll see the beauty in everything. That gave her an idea and she went across the street and finally crept up the wonky steps and placed her gift at the front door.

But why would she leave her neighbour a great big prickly weed. roots and all, and tied with a ribbon? And how will her neighbour receive such a gift?

This is the second book from Michael Speechley, – his first, The All New Must Have Orange 430 was an Honours Books in the 2019 CBCA Picture Book of the Year – and it is as intriguing as his first, with its different and poignant storyline.  Sadly, too many of our students have lost a loved one but this story shows how reaching out with a simple act of kindness to someone else can help us manage, if not heal, our own grief . Illustrated using a colour palette that reflects Rosie’s mood and feelings as the story progresses, and with an ending that doesn’t need words to suggest what is happening,   this is something special that might well join its predecessor in the awards lists for 2020.

 

Zanzibar

Zanzibar

Zanzibar

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Zanzibar

Catharina Valckx

Gecko Press, 2019 

144pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

 9781776572564

Zanzibar the crow cooks a fine mushroom omelette, but when Achille Le Blah a lizard reporter for the Voices of the Forest knocks at his door wanting to write an article about a remarkable person, Zanzibar begins to think he is very ordinary. The lizard seems to doubt that Zanzibar has any special qualities worth writing about and  Zanzibar thinks that to be remarkable, and be worthy of an article in the newspaper, he must achieve something incredible, an extraordinary feat. So he decides that’s what he’ll do. But first he needs to find a camel…

A quirky story for newly independent readers written by an author who has been nominated four times for the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, this tale celebrates both believing in yourself and the support and encouragement of friends. But even though Zanzibar as a crow is unique and that should be enough, he still thinks he needs to be better than he is and so his single-mindedness to achieve the task he sets himself and the co-operation of those he knows and meets to help him combine to create an entertaining story that also helps the reader appreciate the simple, everyday things as well as the exotic. 

Something a bit different to engage those who like their stories to be off the beaten track. 

Mermaid Holidays (series)

Mermaid Holidays series

Mermaid Holidays series

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Talent Show

9780143796510

The Magic Pearl

 9780143796497

The Bake-Off

9780143796480

The Reef Rescue

9780143796473

Delphine Davis

Adele K. Thomas

Puffin, 2019

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

 

Sophia, Willow, Chloe and Olivia have been best friends since they were merbies. Even though they don’t go to school together, whenever they come home to Turtleville for the holidays, they are inseparable. And these school holidays, their home town Turtleville is holding its first ever talent show, and of course the mermaids have to enter.  But Sophie insists that their act has to be led by her singing, even though none of the others can sing and dislike doing so. Chloe prefers to rap, Willow plays the shell trumpet and Olivia loves to dance.  But when even Sophia’s compromise act still focuses on her singing, there is a danger of their entry being all about Sophia…

This is the first in a four-book series, each episode featuring on a different mermaid and their cast of ocean family and friends and each with underlying themes of friendship, teamwork, individuality and compassion.  Written in short, easy-to-read chapters and with lots of illustrations, it will appeal to young female readers who are transitioning to novels from their instructional readers. The second in the series, The Magic Pearl was released in July, the third,The Bake-Off in September and the fourth, The Reef Rescue will be here before Christmas, so readers don’t have to wait too long in between one story and the next. 

Mermaids, along with unicorns, are very much part of the lifestyle of young girls these days, so this is a series with characters that will appeal immediately and encourage our emerging readers to keep reading.