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Is There Anyone Better than Henrietta?

Is There Anyone Better than Henrietta?

Is There Anyone Better than Henrietta?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is There Anyone Better than Henrietta?

Martine Murray

A & U Children’s, 2022

384pp., pbk., RRP $A19.99

9781761067181

Hello everybody, it’s me, Henrietta. I have a baby brother, two white mice, a chocolate-coloured dog, a woolly mammoth, two long green socks with toes, one pickle-eating best friend, a bathtub for sailing in, and definitely a huge HUGE amount of discoveries to discover. And if anyone tells you I make things up, you’d better believe it…

Henrietta P. Hoppenbeek the First is the star of this compilation of four short stories – Henrietta: There’s No One Better, Henrietta the Great Go-Getter
Henrietta Gets a Letter and including Henrietta and the Perfect Night  the 2018 Honour Book CBCA Book of the Year Awards, Younger Readers category.

Perfect for newly independent readers who enjoy funny, short stories amply supported with illustrations so they are not overwhelmed with text, and stories that resonate with their own lives. 

Great Big Softie

Great Big Softie

Great Big Softie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Great Big Softie

Kaye Baillie

Shane McG

New Frontier, 2022

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

 9781922326485

Elliot is a GREAT BIG SOFTIE. But to fit in with the other monsters he decides to perform some MONSTROUS deeds. After scaring a little girl on her bike, he must decide whether to continue being MONSTROUS or follow his heart.

This is a charming story for young readers that focuses on being true to who you are on the inside and having the courage to be that person, rather than what others expect of you.  It can be hard to resist the pull of peers but Elliot shows it can be done.  

But it could also be used with older children to explore the concept of stereotypes and how people assume what others are like just based on their physical appearance. Start by getting them to draw a monster and note the similarities in the results.  And perhaps, from there, investigate how advertisers perpetuate those stereotypes such as always making librarians middle-aged, hair-in-a-bun, sensible-shoes-and cardy-wearing, saying “shoosh” or putting a white coat on someone to portray a “scientific truth”.  Or perhaps delve into the origins of racism…Or discrimination in general… And how it feels when you’re the one who is discriminated against.  

Sometimes it is the books that seem to have the most simple, almost superficial storylines that can become the best for exploring tricky concepts. 

 

 

The Accidental Diary of B.U.G.: Sister Act

The Accidental Diary of B.U.G.: Sister Act

The Accidental Diary of B.U.G.: Sister Act

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Accidental Diary of B.U.G.: Sister Act

Jen Carney

Puffin, 2022

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

9780241455494

Billie Upton Green (aka .B.U.G.) is 10 years old, in Class Five at school and is weaving her way through life at that age keeping a diary about her life and those people and events that are important in it. 

In the first in the series the reader learns that BUG has two mums and that she is adopted, but the main focus of the story is that there is a new girl in their class who seems to take up more of BUG’s best friend Layla’s attention that BUG would like, which has the effect of totally normalising BUG’s family structure so that those who are also in a different configuration to what is considered “normal” not only relate but appreciate that who they live with is no big deal in the bigger picture.

Of course, there are always those who will raise their eyebrows and so Patrick North personifies those conservative views with his comments but they tend to be water off a duck’s back by this third book, where BUG’s circumstances and adoption are widely known and accepted and it focuses on BUG preparing to have a baby sister, also adopted, but who seems to be taking forever to arrive because of all the rules and regulations, even though BUG desperately wants to hold her up for show and share. Luckily, the school musical is in full swing, giving BUG the perfect distraction. She just needs to watch out for Painy Janey, who has her eyes on the main part and doesn’t care what gets in her way…

Told in an easy-to-read conversational style by BUG herself, and interspersed with her doodles and other comments, this is a quick, enjoyable read for those who don’t want to put too much effort into following complex characters and plots. Yet, in saying that, there are thought-provoking incidents that offer “what-would-I-do?” moments so those who are facing familiar issues (or will do) can consider their own reactions and responses, perhaps even plan a strategy they hadn’t thought of.  

Miss 11 pounced on this in my review pile and stuck her name on it, begging me to “process it, Grandma” before she went home so she could take it with her.  That seems like a sure-fire winner to me. 

 

 

Bluey: Baby Race

Bluey: Baby Race

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bluey: Baby Race

Bluey

Puffin, 2022

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

9781761044908

It’s important to Bluey that she be better at things than Bingo and Judo, but when Mum says she should run her own race, Bluey doesn’t understand what she means.  And so Mum tells her of the race she thought she was in when Bluey was learning to crawl and walk and Judo was  don’t them first.  Mum learned lots of important lessons during that time about letting Bluey, and later, Bingo, do things in their own way at their own time, because despite her self-doubt, it was neither a race nor a competition.  

Based on the episode of the ABC series of the same name, this is another is this very popular collection of stories in print format that allows young readers to return to the story time and again, cementing in their minds the value of print as a medium as well as learning some of life’s necessary lessons. 

Little ones always compare themselves to others, seemingly having a need to be better or the best, perhaps a trait learned from their proud parents even in those early months, and so learning to “run your own race” and accept yourself for who you are and what you can do at the time is a difficult concept to grasp.  But it is a critical one because if our children are going to be mentally and emotionally healthy, they need to know that who they are right now is enough. If they are doing all they can, and the best they can with what they know and have available to them, as Mum was, then that is all that can be expected.  While it is natural and healthy to have aspirations and goals to strive for, they need to learn the meaning of “walk before you run” so they are building a solid foundation on which to move forward.

So while this is an abstract philosophical concept for minds still working at the here-and-now level, stories like this can help parents teach them in a way they can understand.  “Remember the story about Bluey and…” is a common refrain heard in early childhood circles and this is another example of that. 

We Are Australians

We Are Australians

We Are Australians

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We Are Australians

Duncan Smith & Nicole Godwin

Jandamarra Cadd

Wild Dog Books, 2022

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

9781742036328

“We are Australians.  We are citizens of our family, classroom, school, community, church, street, suburb, team, town, state, country, world.”

“As citizens of Australia, we have rights, And we have responsibilities.”

There, in those few stark words alone, is so much food for thought and discussion with our students, particularly as we head into another federal election. What does it mean to be a ‘citizen’?  And what are the “rights” and “responsibilities”? But team those words with the illustrations which accompany them and there is a whole new dimension to consider. 

Rather than the focus being on individual rights and responsibilities, what do those words mean when it comes to the bigger picture – the looking after each other, the caring for the land? And not just for those who have gone through the formal citizenship ceremony, but also for those born here? And not just for now, but also into the future?

Over the last two years, our students would have heard the phrase “for the greater good” often, particularly in relation to the safety procedures related to COVID-19, but what do they mean when it comes to living with each other despite our diverse heritages and histories, so that the present does have a future? What do we, as individuals, need to know, understand, do, appreciate and value about our own culture and that of others so that we can contribute to move forward positively, collectively? In particular, what do we need to know, acknowledge and embrace about those who have gone before, who have lived here for thousands of generations so we can connect and continue their legacy so we leave our children a deep attachment to the country they walk on that is more than the comings and goings of political parties, politicians and policies? For all that we have heard the voices of those with the power to access the microphone, whose voices have been silenced? And now that those who were once silent are now being heard, what are they saying that we must listen to?  What do they know that we must learn if we are to survive as a cohesive whole? 

From the vivid cover illustration of a young face vibrantly sporting a rainbow of colours to the more grizzled, aged face in its traditional hues, Jandamarra Cadd’s illustrations add a depth to the text that goes beyond his blending of contemporary portraiture with traditional techniques, suggesting that ultimately the way forward has to become a blend of the two – those First Nations peoples who have been here for 50 000  years and those “who’ve come across the seas”. The timeline at the end of the book suggests that there is a merging of the journeys but what more can be done to make them fully intertwined in the future?

This is a stunning and provocative book that has a place in every classroom to promote and grow that concept of “the greater good’ – from Kinder Kids making new friends and learning what it means to be a citizen “of the classroom” to those facing voting and having to consider the national, and even global aspects of both their rights and responsibilities.  

 

What’s New, Harper Drew?

What's New, Harper Drew?

What’s New, Harper Drew?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s New, Harper Drew?

Kathy Weeks

Aleksei Bitskoff

Hachette, 2022

214pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9781444961775

“My name is Harper Drew. I’m using my new journal to take note of all the totally ridiculous things that seem to go on around me with my family and friends. I seem to be the ONLY ONE who sees this all of this stuff for what it is. Completely BEYOND normal.

Recently I’ve been logging Drew Dial Ratings for all the mayhem. On a scale of 0 to 10, how likely is someone to SAY or DO something that would be less sensible than (for example) … a demented camel?

First up is the annual Drew trip to France… and while there might not be camels, there are BATS and Llamas – and my brother Troy who is so obsessed with his hairstyle, he won’t even go swimming… that’s a whole lot of ratings. I’m just hoping I land an invite to Maisie Felix’s party when I’m back to distract me from the Drews… for one whole evening!”

Promoted as  being “perfect for fans of Dork Diaries”, this is the first of a new illustrated series, all about embracing family, and finding unique ways to deal with life’s dramas that is most likely to appeal to girls who are independent readers, who are moving into that tween age and wanting something more sophisticated in the stories they read. The diary format, the first person in a stream of consciousness conversation make it a relatively easy read that is somewhat of a bridge between the novels they are used to and the edgier contemporary realistic fiction they will encounter in a couple of years.  While it is still about family and their relationships so it will resonate with the reader, the more objective perspective of examining what is being said and done gives it some punch and given diary-writing is a popular pastime with its age-intended audience, it will have broad appeal. Harper herself is  sensible, logical, considerate, and very resourceful in solving the problems and so she could become a role model. Even though Harper develops the “Drew Dial Rating” assigning a rating to each individual in terms of their “bizarre, odd, weird, and totally ridiculous” behaviour” her assessments are always done kindly as she accepts each for who they are and understands that who they are is what makes her who she is. There is a strong message about accepting people for who they are, while who you are is enough. 

Readers will find themselves fitting themselves into the story easily, if not as Harper then an engaged observer, and that, in itself, is a recipe for success.  

 

 

 

An Artist’s Eyes

An Artist's Eyes

An Artist’s Eyes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Artist’s Eyes

Frances Tosdevin

Clémence Monnet

Frances Lincoln Children’s, 2022

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

9780711264830

When Mo looks at the sea, she sees “dazzling duck-egg blue, a swirl of peacocks and the inky indigo of evening” but all Jo sees is blue.  

When Mo looks at the forest, she sees “shiny apple-green, the lime of gooseberries and the springy zinginess of moss” and shadows that make the green go darker.  But all Jo sees is green, making him more and more frustrated because he can’t see what Mo does.  But Mo is patient and gradually Jo begins to use his imagination although instead of seeing the shades and hues that Mo does,  he starts to see something different…

This is a powerful yet gentle story that reminds the reader that two people can look at exactly the same thing and see it differently- that each of us has artist’s eyes that are shaped by our imagination, experience and perceptions and it can take us a while to align them.  Monnet’s watercolour interpretation of Tosdevin’s lyrical text is enchanting and with their shapes, lines and colour choices the reader will view them through Mo’s eyes or Jo’s eyes or their own eyes…

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

At the age where our children are exploring a new independence and making a wider friendship group, they look at those around them and think that being like them is the key to “success:” and they try to change who they are to be like those they admire.  So this familiar message of being comfortable in your own skin, being the unique individual you are, perhaps even being the ‘you’ that others admire and seek to emulate is important and cannot be shared too often.  So this iteration of that truth is not only important but being a completely different interpretation gives it added reach and recognition.  Whether our eyes kiss in the corners or speak to the stars, sees shapes or colours or sparkles, what we see is unique to us and is as valid as what our neighbour sees. 

Amanda Commander: The Purple Invitation

Amanda Commander: The Purple Invitation

Amanda Commander: The Purple Invitation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amanda Commander: The Purple Invitation

Coral Vass

Heidi Cooper Smith

Wombat Books, 2022 

72pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

 9781761110771

Amanda Caomhánach (aka Amanda Commander) is really upset because it  appears she is the only girl in the class who has not received one of the glittery lavender invitations to the very popular Eve’s birthday.  The other two members of the Dolphin Squad Lucia Cazzoli (aka Rainbow Fudge) and Mai Le (aka Plum Flower) have both received theirs and are as vexed as Amanda as to why she has missed out. And so they devise a plan that will get Eve to give Amanda an invitation…

This is a new series for the newly independent reader, particularly girls, which focuses on the sorts of issues that eight and nine year olds face as they navigate the world of greater independence and making and maintaining friendships. Thus, it will resonate with many who will see themselves in the stories, and start to think about what they might do in the same circumstances.  Even though Amanda has been friends with Eve since Kindergarten and can think of no reason she would have been excluded, is surreptitiously pandering to her just for what she can get, the right/best thing to do?  Or are there other ways she could handle the situation such as asking Eve directly?   

Using all the textual devices that support those making the transition to novels, this is a series that will be a sound stepping stone.  

The First Tackle

The First Tackle

The First Tackle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The First Tackle

Rikki-Lee Arnold

Wombat Books, 2022

136pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

 9781761110818

Daniella Murphy is on a mission. All she has ever wanted to do is play rugby league, just like her three brothers. However, her grandma who has come to live with the family since Daniella’s mother died says no, her dad stays silent and the school bully just laughs in her face. Their message is clear – girls don’t play footy. But is this just being sexist or is there another reason?

As Daniella watches her older brother Jimmy practise with the Banford Saints she spies a girl playing!  One who becomes an even bigger hero for her than Kalyn Ponga because here is proof that girls can and do play rugby league! She is more determined than ever and so, against the adults’ wishes, she gets Jimmy to teach her to tackle – until an accident that lands her in hospital blows open the lies and the secrets…

This is an engaging read that encourages readers to follow their dreams, to not give up and not give in, even if they’re somewhat out of the ordinary – an inscription my mum wrote to me in a dedication in her book she wrote after she became the first female journalist to go to the Antarctic over 50 years ago, and one I’ve believed in since then.  So, at first, the grandmother’s attitude annoyed me because it seemed so sexist, so out-of-touch and so dated, particularly as I have a grandchild the same age as Daniella who is definitely not the girly-girl Daniella is expected to be.  But as the story evolves the reasons behind Grandma’s thinking emerge, her father begins to function as a father and even the school bully begins to reveal what’s behind his attitude (so common to many bullies) giving the story depth and currency.  

As the AFLW and NRLW reach their peak, young female league players might begin to wonder why the existence of the NRLW is such a revelation to Daniella, but, nevertheless, they will resonate with her determination and passion to play the game she loves as they immerse themselves in her story.  In The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey included, “Begin with the end in mind so all your steps are in the right direction” and so it is common to have even quite young students start their school term with a goal-setting exercise and thus this book could be a useful read-aloud for them to identify not only their goal for the next 10 weeks or so, but also the things they need to do for themselves to achieve it.  Who are the people they need to approach for help, what actions and activities do they need to commit to, how will they know that they are making progress or even success?  What can they learn from Daniella’s realisation about having to do it for herself  rather than expecting it to be handed to her and from Steph’s revelation that “you can’t be what you can’t see”? Further teaching notes are available. 

 

We Feel Happy

We Feel Happy

We Feel Happy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We Feel Happy

Katie Abey

Bloomsbury, 2022

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

9781526619907

Our youngest readers are encouraged to explore their emotions in this vibrant book from the creator of such gems as We Catch the Bus and We Wear Pants.  Using  hooks such as counting, first words, recognising animals, interactive speech bubbles, prompts and ideas on how to understand and process emotions,  the reader is involved in the actions as they examine the vignettes to discover  lots of interesting things to spot on each page. While the animals are experiencing lots of different emotions, from the hippos who are excited to visit their friends to the shark who is grumpy about brushing its teeth, not only are there opportunities for the reader to speculate on why the animal is feeling the way it does and make connections, they are also given the opportunity to reflect on the occasions when they share the same emotions. .

Focusing on the feelings of happy, calm, worried, shy, curious, grumpy, sad, scared, sorry, excited, there is also  a non-fiction spread for parents and teachers with lots of useful information for speaking to children about their emotions.

Often when our littlies feel big, overwhelming feelings they don’t realise that these are part of life and everyone experiences them, both the pleasant and the not-so,  Books like these that help them understand that such emotions are common and essential to our well-being are an important part of their development.