Two interactive board books for the very young which take them on a journey into town or to the farm teaching them new vocabulary and inviting them to find things hidden in the illustrations. Very young children will delight in finding things that they are already familiar with – there are peepholes and flaps galore to explore – and learning the names of the places and things that are common to them. On the other hand. often city kids have no idea at what is found and done on a farm and vice versa – country kids may not be aware of the hustle and bustle of the city – so introducing them to the sorts of things they may find there at such an early age helps sets up their schema for when they encounter them in other stories. Even the concepts of “city” and “farm” and where they are and how they get there can be explored, compared and contrasted, and new vocabulary built.
Great for the very young as well as those learning English for the first time. They might illustrate additional things they know as they show off their new knowledge.
A Kiwi Year – twelve months in the life of New Zealand kids
32pp., hbk., RRP SA19.99
On the surface there don’t appear to be many difference between Australian kids and their Kiwi cousins apart from the fact the we Kiwis “talk funny”. But as five Kiwi kids – Charlie, Ruby, Oliver, Mason and Kaia – show us as they journey through their year, there are subtle distinctions, enough to make their lives special and unique.
As well as different vocabulary like ‘tramping’ not ‘bushwalking’ and ‘jandals’ not ‘thongs’ Kiwi kids love rugby not rugby league or Australian Rules and are familiar with a very different range of flora and fauna. Maori culture and the influence of our Pacific Island neighbours is very strong with official places and concepts being in both languages. Maoritanga is a mandatory part of the school curriculum. The land is younger and much more mountainous and so winter is more severe with more opportunities to participate in snow sports, but summer sees us at the beach and playing cricket, even if we still remember that infamous underarm bowling incident.
But like Australia, ANZAC Day is sacred and we remember those who put the NZ in the word, and with the European forefathers of both country being predominantly from the United Kingdom many of the annual festivals are the same. But there are some that are unique that celebrate our heritage and landscape bringing a richness to our lives and our culture that is unique.
So many times I’ve heard Australians say they don’t want to go to New Zealand because it would be just like Australia in miniature, but once having been there, change their tune and marvel at just how different it is. Tania and Tina have ferreted out those things that make this country and its people unique and bring them to life through the eyes of the children, celebrating them in such a special way that this book will be handed on to my grandchildren (whose dad is also a Kiwi) so they can understand where they come from – and why Grandma is just a tad different at times! LOL.
No matter your choice of religion or lack of it, the story of the flood caused by rain for 40 days and 40 nights and how Noah, his family and a collection of animals survived it by living on the Ark transcends them all and has almost become part of the folklore children are expected to know.
This sturdy board book, the perfect size for little hands is a great introduction to this ageless story with its bright pictures and simple text. Religion and story aside, it is also a great story to start a myriad of investigations taking the learner on a journey of their fancy. They could investigate questions such as
Where did Noah live?
How big was the Ark?
How long is 40 days?
Why did he take two of each creature?
What makes rain?
What is a rainbow?
Geography, length, time, reproduction, family trees, weather, light and colour, history, can all be explored through this one story and each would lead to a better understanding of the world around them, something they strive to do. Such a rich story will be read over and over with something new to be discovered each time .Even if this board book version isn’t the one for your students seek out a version that is appropriate for your students, surround it with a myriad of questions and let them loose!
Henry loves yetis. In fact he is so passionate about them that he is determined to prove their existence by finding one. Even though others, including the principal, laugh at him and demand evidence when he finds one, Henry remains determined and packs all the equipment he needs for his expedition, especially his camera, and sets off. It’s an arduous journey out of the city, across an ocean, up a hill, over a river, through a dense forest and up and down several mountains but Henry doesn’t lose his faith – although it does waver a bit.
But then his luck turns and he has a lovely time playing (and taking lots of photos). Soon it is time to return home but when he unpacks his bag there is no camera. So no one believes him until…
This is a story for young readers about believing in yourself and following your dreams, even if they are not quite as grand as proving that yetis exist. With unique illustrations that bring both Henry and his dream to life even in their minimalist style, it encourages determination, perseverance and resilience.
As a read-aloud for younger students, it is absorbing and entertaining as they predict whether Henry will achieve his dream and how he will cope with the loss of his camera, but it has wider appeal as it would be a great starting point for those goal-setting sessions that we encourage students to undertake at the beginning of each term. Ask the students if Henry’s goal was to find a yeti what did he need to know about them and do to make success more likely. Similarly, having identified their own goal – which might not be quite so ambitious but nevertheless just as personally important -what do they need to know and do to achieve it? Who do they need to seek assistance from; what do they need to have or learn; what are the steps they need to achieve along the way – all those questions that we as teachers ask when putting together our professional learning plans can be applied to students too.
Another book that looks simplistic on the surface but which has much more than meets the eye!
This is an ideal reference tool for young readers who want to see the world at a glance, rather than having to click through screens that can become confusing and lost.
Clearly divided in to 10 sections – each continent, Early Earth, Polar Regions, The Oceans and Reference – it brings the planet’s geography alive with 3D maps, lots of pertinent facts and illustrations about the landscape, population, landmarks, climate and wildlife. Each section also takes a particular focal point and expands on it – South America is the Amazon Basin; Australia and Oceania is New Zealand – providing a ready reference tool that kept both Miss Nearly 11 and Miss 6 poring over its pages on a recent wet afternoon.
Globes and maps have a fascination for children – they love to discover where they came from, where their family and friends might be and also the settings of their favourite stories so to have a book that provides not just maps but so much more is a treat. While many school libraries are doing away with their reference collections, having a beautiful volume like this on permanent display so students can flick through it at their leisure will not only grab their attention but may have them demanding more information about a particular region.
Miss Nearly 11 was particularly fascinated by the Early Earth section as she knows Australia is ancient and we regularly drive through an area littered with huge granite boulders, the remnants of long ago mountains now weathered away. Miss 6 liked Australia but also New Zealand where she had a holiday in 2015! Definitely something for everyone which would be a superb addition to the collection that students will keep returning to.
Some birds fly north; some birds fly south; some birds take the bus… but George Laurent doesn’t go anywhere. It seems he is too busy baking his scrumptious pastries to be able to explore the world. Even when his world-travelling customers try to tempt him with descriptions of a sunrise over the Andes, or Paris by night, even the Alaskan tundra in autumn, George always has an excuse – even the ironing is more important!!
But come the bleak, cold days when all his feathered friends have disappeared to warmer parts and George is left alone, his only remaining friend Pascal Lombard drops in looking for somewhere warm for winter. He is puzzled that George has not gone with the others, and slowly he manages to eke out the truth – George Laurent, baker extraordinaire, does not know how to fly. When it was flying lesson day all those years ago he had been doing something else and since then he had just made excuses not to – even though he really would have liked to have been able to go somewhere else.
Pascal, who believes he has a knack for solving tricky problems, is determined to teach George how to fly but it is not until they see a picture in a newspaper…
This is an engaging tale which will resonate with many children – having a zillion reasons for not doing something you can’t but are expected to be able to do. As a teacher I was a master at detecting avoidance behaviour because I lived it at home with my son, so as soon as I started reading I knew there was an underlying issue. But astute readers may well pick it up in the clues in the amazing illustrations which use a variety of media, particularly collage. From the carefully selected advertisements of old styles of luggage on the endpapers, Gus Gordon has skilfully used pieces of print from all sorts of sources to add depth, mystery and humour to the exquisite illustrations. Every time you read it there is more to peruse and ponder.
Time to get out the atlas and discover the places that George’s friends went and maybe even investigate the concept of animal (and human) migration. Why are they always on the move? We can tell the seasons where I live by the variety of birdlife that is present so perhaps it’s time to do an inventory of the local birdlife over time – perfect real-life context for data collection and interpretation. Or perhaps a physiological investigation into how most birds fly but some can’t and how this has been translated into human flight. Then there is the philosophical question about “no place like home” as George and Pascal discover something familiar is missing from their travels. Some children might even learn from George and seek help to find pathways around their own difficulties.
I love picture books that seem to be written for one age group but with some consideration can transcend all ages, offering the prefect reason to return to them again and again apart from just being an absorbing story. A CBCA Notable for 2017, I was surprised this did not make the shortlist.
Those of us of a certain vintage will remember a film from a few decades ago called Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines(or if not the film, at least the earworm of its title tune). The subtitle was How I Flew from London to Paris in 25 hours 11 minutes and the film focused on a fictional 1910 competition, when Lord Rawnsley, an English press magnate, offered £10,000 (about $A2 000 000 today) to the winner of the Daily Post air race from London to Paris, to prove that Britain was “number one in the air”. Set less than a decade after the Wright brothers made that famous first flight at Kittyhawk in 1903 it offered a look at those early days of aviation and the costs and risks involved for those who live in an era when air travel is taken for granted.
But while the focus of flight was centred overseas, Australia was producing its own heroes who were also thinking about how humans could fly – people like Dr William Bland whose drawings of an Atomic Ship were displayed in the Crystal Palace in London in 1854 and Lawrence Hargrave who experimented with box kites to investigate the concept of wings in 1894 and whose work led to that iconic flight of Orville and Wilbur.
When we think of Australian aviation heroes we tend to think of Charles Kingsford Smith, Bert Hinkler and perhaps Nancy Bird Walton but in this book the experiments and exploits of a number of other great aviators are brought to life adding to our incredible story of innovation and invention. Written by authors who bought their own vintage aeroplane in 2000 and wanted to know its history, it brings to life the lives of those pioneers through imagined diary entries, easily written facts and numerous archival photos and illustrations in a way that makes them accessible to young readers with a thirst to know more. Fascinating reads within themselves, each story makes the reader want to investigate further – why were the long-distance, record-breaking flights so important to Australia? Why were women not allowed to fly until 1927 and who broke the barriers? Who is Deborah Wardley and why do girls owe so much to her? There are so many more heroes than the ten covered in this collection – offering students the opportunity to add another chapter to the timeline, or to investigate flight itself, including how the technical difficulties were understood and overcome without the aid of computers.
The best non fiction doesn’t tell us all the answers – it poses questions that make us want to investigate further. Amazing Australians in their Flying Machines certainly does that. Could well be among those nominated for the CBCA awards next year.
Despite it being centuries since pirates ruled the seas of the Caribbean, they still hold a fascination for young readers, many of whom see themselves in the role of the swashbuckling buccaneer. So in this rollicking story-in-rhyme, author Mark Sperring has created a job description for prospective applicants which illustrator Ed Eaves has interpreted in the boldest, brightest colours populated with regular girls and boys that young readers will recognise.
All the well-known tasks of pulling up the anchor, climbing the rigging, peering from the crow’s nest for land, digging deep holes for burying and retrieving treasure, waiting on the fat, demanding Captain McGrew deliberately suggesting that this might not be the romantic life stories have portrayed in other books, particularly as this time the ‘heroes’ are the crew not the captain. Having to sploosh the deck, batten the hatches and fire the cannons while all around a fierce storm rages might dampen enthusiasm, but if it doesn’t then there is always the thought of octopus stew, endless dishwashing and even walking the plank to discourage the most hardy. If the constant tiredness and navigating through the night are the deal-breakers then there is always Norman the Knight…
Every stereotypical aspect of life on the high seas is addressed in this engaging tale which will feed the imagination and perhaps inspire the life-plan of our young readers for the long-term, but in the short-term they will enjoy its rhyme and rhythm, its vibrancy and action and learn that stories can take them anywhere they want to go. And just what might a job description for a knave look like? Maybe it might be better to stay a kid for a while.
A railway station in rural Anywhere, Australia and Molly and Mae are looking forward to their journey to the city. On the platform there is fun to be had like hide and seek to play as they and the other passengers wait for the train to arrive and their friendship is full of laughter and giggles as the excitement builds. Even being stuck in the bubblegum doesn’t dampen their delight. And even as the waiting goes on and on, there is fun to be had as they enjoy each other’s company. When at last the train comes the fun continues as they colour in, dress up their dolls, experience the dining car, and even do crazy stuff like hanging upside down from the seats!
But slowly as the trip seems interminable cracks start to appear as boredom sets in. Molly thinks Mae is silly and tells her so and Mae doesn’t like it and before long the girls are not speaking to each other, turning away and spending their time peering through the window at the wet, smeary countryside. The whole world looks murky, echoing their feelings. Will they resolve their spat or is this the end of something special?
This is a story about so much more than a long train journey as it mirrors real-life friendships – the excitement of new shared interests, the pleasure in just being together and doing everyday stuff and the anticipation of adventures to come. But there are also times when it is boring, when difficulties happen and there is a choice of building bridges and continuing on the main track or branching off onto another one.
This is a true marriage of text and graphics. Blackwood’s soft palette and somewhat retro feel and clever headings of platform, timetable, journey, signal failure, destination that replicate both the stages of the journey and the development of the friendship express Parker’s concept and text perfectly and the reader is drawn deeper and deeper into the story from the early morning endpaper through the title page to the explosion of the big city station and as night falls over the city. Blackwood has explained her thought processes and choices here showing just how much goes into such a project.
If teachers were ever looking for a book to explain metaphor, this is it!
Would not be surprised to see this among the CBCA shortlisted titles in 2017.
Before Mia moved in next door, Jack was lonely. But Mia brought rainbows, jungles, concerts and lots and lots of giggles. Even their mums thought they were “two sides of the one coin” and “fit together like a puzzle.” Mia’s amazing imagination took them on adventures that Jack had never dreamed of and when they both got sick at the same time, they were each given a book about making and doing, make-believe and play that allowed them to continue the fun from their beds.
When they were better they kept using their books, snipping, gluing, taping and tying a magnificent cardboard castle. They each wore crowns and royal robes and ruled over their kingdom with wisdom and kindness. They were as close as the materials that held that castle together. Until one day Mia moves far away with her family and Jack is back into the isolation and desolation that he felt before Mia entered his life. Nothing was the same any more.
Across the sea, Mia had also given up. She was missing Jack just as much. But then Jack found Mia’s book in his toybox and…
There is nothing like the deep friendships forged in childhood where there are no distractions beyond deciding what today’s fun will be about. Jack and Mia is a charming story that focuses on such a friendship and how it can continue even after separation has intervened. It will resonate with children who have moved away from familiar surroundings and friends and show them that there are plenty of ways of keeping in touch to relive old memories and make new ones. The technology of today gives them so much more than that of previous generations and the world can come to you with just a few clicks.
The illustrations enrich the storyline as Jack and Mia do not share the same skin colour but neither notice – it’s all about who each child is, how they connect and the fun that can be had when kids get together, just as it is in any playground. In fact, I’d proffer that the readers will not even notice the difference. Racism and all that it entails is very definitely a concept learned from adults.