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Swim, Little Wombat, Swim!

Swim, Little Wombat, Swim!

Swim, Little Wombat, Swim!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Swim, Little Wombat, Swim!

Charles Fuge

Walker Books, 2021

24pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9781760653538

Little Wombat is so very excited because he’s found a fun new friend to play with – one with a strange name Pla-ty-pus and with an even stranger walk, a funny face and who can swim like a fish. But when Little Wombat tries to mimic Platypus’s walk and finds himself in the water and having to be rescued by his new friend, he realises water is not for him.  Nevertheless, he is determined to learn to swim and while tries teaching Little Wombat  Rabbit and Koala begin to wonder if wombats should, after all, stick to dry land!

Swimming lessons are such an integral and necessary part of our littlies’ lives that when the NSW “roadmap to freedom” was released it was quickly changed to bring forward the opening of indoor pools because of the outcry of parents demanding access to swimming lessons for their young children.  Indeed, in my teacher ed days in New Zealand we could not graduate until we each had our swimming teacher quals as swimming lessons were a compulsory part of the phys ed curriculum for both term 4 and Term 1 with most schools, even in the coldest parts of the country, having their own learner pools installed as a matter of course. 

So this is a timely tale about the importance of learning to swim and the fun it can be, as Little Wombat learns to kick his legs and float using a log, to paddle like a dog and dive like a frog.  After all, if a wombat can learn to swim and become a wom-bat-y-pus, then so can any little child! So sharing this message with a lovable little character with the most endearing expressions with them will give them confidence to try and the expectation that if they work hard as Little Wombat does, they will succeed.  Swimming is just what Australian kids do. 

Maxine

Maxine

Maxine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maxine

Bob Graham

Walker Books, 2021

40pp., hbk., RRP $A27.99

9781406387636

There are lots of babies being born in the neighbourhood, but now it is Max who is going to have a little brother or sister. And even before the ultrasound can tell if it is a boy or a girl, the traditional family mask is in place!

When she was born there was a hand-knitted Super cape from Grandma and soft leather boots from Grandpa and she grew up to be just like her mother Madam Thunderbolt, her dad Captain Lightning and of course, Max.  She was so clever that she started school early, but there things began to change, because she just didn’t seem to fit in with the other children.  First to go, much to the family’s chagrin, was the cape – jeans were so much more practical – but Maxine kept her mask.  

But will she ever going to be able to break free of her family’s expectations and be herself?

To quote the publisher, this is a book about “a coming-of-age superhero story about growing up and discovering your identity, with the support of a loving family” and while that might be a popular theme in literature for young child, this one has the magic of Bob Graham’s craftmanship.  And even though it is 20 years since we first met Max himself, this one is likely to be just as timeless and relevant in 2041. 

Tilda Tries Again

Tilda Tries Again

Tilda Tries Again

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tilda Tries Again

Tom Percival

Bloomsbury, 2021

32pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781526612991

Tilda’s world is just the way she likes it.  She has her toys, books and friends.  But then something happens that turns everything upside down and nothing is the way it was.  Nothing seems to be right and gradually Tilda retreats into herself, into a dark place where she doesn’t want to do or try anything.  What’s the point?  

Toys, books and friends are abandoned and she is swallowed by the darkness.  Until one day she sees a ladybird on its back, struggling to get back on her feet again…

This is another in this series  which includes Perfectly NormanRuby’s Worry,   Ravi’s Roar, and Meesha Makes Friends , that examines the big feelings that are a natural part of a child’s life, feelings that they might not yet be able to articulate and don’t have the strategies to deal with.  It gives the reader some guidance into coping with tricky situations that threaten to overwhelm,  to help them build resilience and embrace a ‘can do’ approach to life. It offers affirmation that everyone has to confront those times when nothing works out quite as they wished, usually because there are factors beyond our control, and that we have to deal with the altered circumstances rather than what we dreamt of.  That even though the clouds may surround us in gloom, they move on to show the sun is still shining and the birds still singing, if we put our brave on and stare them down. 

This is a series that is going to be particularly important in the weeks ahead as children return from weeks of isolation and all the negative feelings and events that that has entailed and emerge to be with friends again, navigating and negotiating the new boundaries -emotional, mental, social and physical – that separation has altered and shaped who we now are. By starting with a story and inviting others to share theirs, little ones can start to understand that their big feelings are normal and can be managed. 

Little Monsters

Little Monsters

Little Monsters

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Little Monsters

David Walliams

Adam Stower

HarperCollins, 2021

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

9780008305741

Howler is a little werewolf with a big problem.  Whenever he tries to howl at the moon, his voice is really squeaky and not at all scary.  Because all the other werewolves laugh at him, his parents send him to Monster School so he can learn to be frightening.  

But Howler finds the school itself frightening- he’s not sure if the teachers or the students are the scariest, particularly when he can’t meet their standards for scary smiles, spooking, or growling.  The others laugh at him, his teacher mocks him and he is so woeful he gets expelled!

But on his way home back to the forest in shame, Howler meets some kids out on their annual Hallowe’en trick or treat fun, and he suddenly discovers that it is not only okay to be different but it is also quite useful. 

David Walliams has a knack of reaching out to those children who feel they don’t quite fit in and being able to encapsulate their anxiety and then alleviate it in stories that resonate and appeal.  Even though they might not aspire to be scary like Howler, nevertheless there is always something we’d like to achieve but not quite reach the peak we set. So this story that shows that the best we can do is good enough and that it can have its own rewards is very reaffirming. This is particularly so at this time when our students are heading back to school after a long absence and may be worried that they haven’t achieved all their peers might have because they haven’t had the same opportunities.  While it will have appeal as a story for those who celebrate Hallowe’en, it is one for a broader spectrum because of its life lessons.  

But even without going into that sort of depth, it is just a great story with illustrations that epitomise all that we imagine vampires, ghosts, skeletons, witches, ogres and werewolves to be! 

 

Horrible Harriet and the Terrible Tantrum

Horrible Harriet and the Terrible Tantrum

Horrible Harriet and the Terrible Tantrum

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Horrible Harriet and the Terrible Tantrum

Leigh Hobbs

A&U Children’s, 2021

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

9781760878221

Horrible Harriet lives in a nest in the roof of the school. All the other children are scared of her. But she has decided it is time for a change – she is going to be the Good Girl that everyone likes. But no matter how hard she tries, she can’t convince her classmates that she has changed.  

Harriet is convinced it is because up in her room , locked in a cage is a Terrible Tantrum.  Even though she treats it like a pampered  pet, Harriet refuses to let it out because she knows it won’t behave as it becomes more and more demanding and frightening. And the morning she discovers it has escaped and taken her seat in class, she just knows that this was going to be a challenging day…

Leigh Hobbs was the Australian Children’s Laureate 2016-2017, acknowledged for all the splendid characters he has brought into children’s lives over the years including Old Tom,  The Freaks in 4F and Mr Chicken. He first introduced us to Horrible Harriet in 2002 and this new episode celebrates her 20th anniversary. He has a knack for creating characters that really appeal to his readers and Harriet is no exception.  Everyone will see a part of themselves in her which means, that despite her behaviour, she resonates and when she tries to be good there is a certain sympathy for her well-intentioned but mis-directed efforts. 

A great opportunity to introduce students to this character. follow her adventures and talk about how we can manage ourselves in all sorts of situations, recognise the triggers that will release the Temper Tantrum and  what can be done to keep it contained. By making the Temper Tantrum a separate physical entity Hobbs cleverly separates it so it can be examined and managed dispassionately, enabling the child to also look at their behaviour at arm’s length.

The Song of Lewis Carmichael

The Song of Lewis Carmichael

The Song of Lewis Carmichael

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Song of Lewis Carmichael

Sofie Lsguna

Marc McBride

Allen & Unwin, 2021

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

9781760878573

Matthew has dreamed and read and thought about the North Pole for as long as he can remember. And he has done it secretly. It is a place that cannot be tarnished by the world in which he lives – a world in which he struggles to find answers and make friends, while everything seems to come easily to other children.

But one day, while reading in the park, Matthew befriends a crow with a broken wing and that night  Lewis Carmichael taps on Matthew’s window – a crow who believes in Matthew in the most simple and ordinary ways. Soon, the unexpected voyage of a lifetime begins, and it will change everything… A hot-air balloon ride to the Arctic and now Matthew stood on the snowy peak and stared out at the world spread before him. Every picture in his books had been limited by the size of the page, contained within frames. Here, there was no frame. Here, the picture didn’t end. Beyond those icy plains, the sea, and beyond the sea, a land that floated on the ice, drifting northwards. Matthew put the binoculars to his eyes and saw valleys and cliffs and rivers all made of snow. Everywhere was white.

Parents looking for quality stories to slip into their child’s Christmas stocking this year are spoiled for choice – and this new one from Sofie Laguna is no exception.  Matthew is that quiet child, withdrawn, unable to make friends who prefers to read and make friends with the characters in his books because he feels like he doesn’t belong that so many parents and teachers will recognise. But, to my knowledge, none of those I know have befriended a crow, particularly one that can talk, and get taken on such an extraordinary adventure… Yet, this is so well-written and so delicately illustrated (the Aurora Borealis spread is exquisite) that it is utterly believable and the reader is swept up in the adventure. And while he is away, this child of helicopter parents has to learn to be resilient, independent, decisive, courageous and confident – all those things that we want for our children but are sometimes too afraid to let them develop. 

Presented entirely in a blue monochromatic scheme, including the text, this is one that is either a read-alone for independent readers, a read-together between parent and child as the perfect bedtime story or a read-aloud with a class and the opportunity to explore a mysterious land with Matthew. 

 

The Shark Caller

The Shark Caller

The Shark Caller

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Shark Caller

Zillah Bethel

Usborne, 2021

368pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781474966849

Blue Wing is desperate to become a shark caller like her waspapi Siringen. 

“I want to be able to call the sharks. Teach me the magic and show me the ways,” she begs him for the hundredth thousandth taim but he refuses, telling her she knows why he will not. 

Instead she must befriend infuriating newcomer Maple, who arrives unexpectedly on Blue Wing’s island. At first, the girls are too angry to share their secrets and become friends. But when the tide breathes the promise of treasure, they must journey together to the bottom of the ocean to brave the deadliest shark of them all… and it’s not a great white.

Papua New Guinea is just as a mysterious land now as it was when I lived there 50 years ago, steeped in history, legends and traditions going back to the earliest civilisations and when the author moved from there to the UK (and had to wear three jumpers even in summer) she was peppered with so many questions about her life there that she wrote this book to help answer them.  And in doing so, she has woven an intriguing tale of adventure, friendship, forgiveness and bravery with such a real-life background that I was taken back to the days when I was there with all sorts of memories that I thought were forgotten, including the pidgin phrases.  

Even though physically it is at the upper end of the readership for this blog, competent independent readers of all ages will immerse themselves in the story which, even though it has such a diverse backdrop, still has a universal theme threaded through it. For those interested in finding out more there are the usual Usborne Quicklinks, as well as a most informative note from the author and some questions for book clubs that delve deeper.  One for those who are ready to venture into something a little different.  

What Zola Did on Sunday

What Zola Did on Sunday

What Zola Did on Sunday

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Zola Did on Sunday

Melina Marchetta

Deb Hudson

Puffin, 2021 

96pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

9781760895228

Ever since we first met Zola a year ago,  readers have been following her adventures as she brings her community together and now all the connections reach their pinnacle at the St Otto’s Community Fete. Their is the stall of the knitting group that Zola and her nonna belong to; her friend Leo’s mum is going to be givng a demonstration about how police dogs work in the community; her other nonna will be hosting the organic produce stall and her mum will have the cake stall.  As well there are competitions and all sorts of other attractions.  Will Zola be able to get through the fete without any of the drama and strife she seems to attract?

This is the final in this series that has had young readers enthralled and Zola and her friends have become friends of the reader too.  And for those who have not yet met Zola, then there is a treat in store.  A must-have for anyone with a reader who is just embarking on novels but needs the textual supports as well as the familiarity of characters and situations to consolidate their skills.

Hattie and Olaf

Hattie and Olaf

Hattie and Olaf

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hattie and Olaf

Frida Nilsson

Stina Wirsen

Gecko Press, 2021

184pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9781776573189

Hattie, the  street-smart country girl who lives “just outside of nowhere, right next to no one at all” has wanted a horse more than anything. Her friend Ellen has three ponies. So when Hattie’s father finally comes home with a horse float, Hattie is ecstatic. But instead of a horse, out stomps Olaf—a donkey. Now Hattie not only has horse fever, she suddenly catches lying sickness as well.

This is the second adventure in this series about this young Scandinavian girl whose life is so similar to so many of her peers in Australia – they will relate to the isolation and the joy of being able to go to school because of the social contact it brings.  The banter between friends, the laughs, the pleasure in just being with others are all on offer in this funny story that is a great read-aloud or read-alone for independent readers. Even the longing for a horse is familiar and we all know the disappointment when a gift or experience turns out not to be what we imagined. 

Nilsson is an award-winning children’s writer from Sweden who has her finger on the pulse of what young readers relate to, no matter where in the world they live. 

Making Friends: A Book About First Friendships

Making Friends: A Book About First Friendships

Making Friends: A Book About First Friendships

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Making Friends: A Book About First Friendships

Amanda McCardie

Colleen Larmour

Walker, 2021

32pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9781406394542

Sukie is starting a new school and shares the concerns of every child in the same situation – will she make friends.  But she soon learns that making friends can happen in all sorts of ways, big and small, even unexpected.  However, it is not enough to make friends – you have to work on maintaining the friendships by respecting others’ differences as well as the things you have in common.

So many children who have been restricted by stay-at-home orders in parts of Australia are separated from their friends right now – even though they have visual contact through online sources or audio through the phones, it is the physical, spontaneous face-to-face contact they are missing and which is impacting on their mental well-being.  Even Miss 10, the family social butterfly, is  worried that she will be forgotten and won’t have any friends when school eventually returns.  

If nothing else, this time at home has demonstrated the critical role schools play well beyond the formal academic teaching and this book would be a worthwhile addition to any teacher’s toolkit as they help their students navigate making friends and being friends again after such a long social isolation. It has a wider reach than just supporting those who will be starting a new school as a new year approaches.  Readers are invited to agree, disagree and add to the situations in which Sukie finds herself – should be embarrassed and uncomfortable that Mikkel refuses her help with his jigsaw puzzle or is it OK to say no sometimes? And cleverly, illustrator Colleen Larmour has included a picture of someone sharing kindness on almost every page, opening up not only an opportunity to look closely but also the concept of doing a random act of kindness every day.  

Our children are negotiating a tricky time at the moment, different but just as confronting as children in past generations, and the strategies and coping mechanisms we help them to develop now will play a large role in how they will survive and thrive. This book has a role to play in that.