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Bear and Duck (series)

Bear and Duck (series)

Bear and Duck (series)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Goodnight Already!

9780008101343

I Love You Already

9780008165994

Come Home Already

9780008276850

Jory John

Benji Davies

HarperCollins, 2018

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

Bear and Duck are neighbours – but two more different would be hard to find.  Bear is huge, slow and somewhat grouchy; Duck small, energetic and always looking for fun. Told in dialogue with each character having their own font that cleverly echoes their nature, each story focuses on a conflict between the two as Bear wants one thing – usually a quiet life – while Duck wants the opposite.

In Goodnight Already! Bear is ready to settle into bed with his pink fluffy bunny ready for his annual hibernation through the winter months while Duck wants to be up and doing; in I Love You Already Bear is set for a relaxing day but Duck wants him to prove his love; while in Come Home Already, when Bear decides to go fishing for a week Duck is lost without him so he finally decides to go fishing too…

Using a familiar dichotomy of unlikely characters forming close friendships regardless of their differences, this is a charming series that will delight preschoolers who will enjoy the humour and which will resonate with their parents who will see themselves as Bear just wanting a little respite from the untiring, unceasing energy of their “Duck”.

 

The Last Peach

The Last Peach

The Last Peach

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Last Peach

Gus Gordon

Viking, 2018

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

9780670078912

As summer draws to a close, a delicious golden peach hangs in front of the two bugs, tantalising them with its perfection.   But which of them should eat it?  Indeed, should it be eaten at all? Should it remain beautiful and perfect or should they satisfy their hunger?

Discussing the problem and examining the pros and cons, the story is told entirely in dialogue and illustrated using mixed media, particularly paper collage, making the pictures as diverse as the bugs’ dilemma.  

It is ideal for encouraging students how to look at the many sides of a situation because even the simplest set of circumstances can have many perspectives and possible solutions, and perhaps even examining motive and bias,  Does the bug that tells them it’s probably “all stinky and rotten on the inside” covet it for himself? 

This is an intriguing read with a most unexpected outcome that will encourage lots of discussion and debate. 

 

Meerkat Choir

Meerkat Choir

Meerkat Choir

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meerkat Choir

Nicki Greenberg

Allen &  Unwin, 2017

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

9781760290795

It is time for the very first practice of the meerkat choir and the choir-master is all set to begin.  But each time he starts the countdown  he is interrupted by another creature wanting to join in.  But this choir is for meerkats only – no outsiders allowed = and so he sends them away, in an increasingly less-than-friendly manner as his frustration grows.  Finally, the other creatures get his message that they are not welcome and practice begins.  But the sound is not what he is wanting – it’s more enthusiastic than musical and he stomps off in disgust.   Then the disappointed meerkats hear a beautiful noise and go to investigate…

As well as being a LOL story which nevertheless has serious undertones about acceptance and inclusion, the intrigue of this book is in its format and illustrations.  The narrative is told in large speech bubbles with the choir-master’s increasing frustration being expressed in larger and larger fonts while the clever use of soft shapes, lines and colours gives a visual aspect to the melodious sounds which contrasts with that depicting the sounds of the meerkats when they finally do sing.  While children will tell you that they can’t see sounds, this technique shows that sounds can evoke visual imagery just as they can evoke physical movement and offers a great opportunity to play them contrasting pieces that firstly encourage them to move in different ways and then express them using colours and lines.  Extending the exercise further, they could discuss the mood that music can elicit and how it’s possible to accentuate mood through music by listening to the background tracks of movies or television, or even watching different parts of a ballet such as Swan Lake where the music, mood and movement of the Four Little Swans is so different from that of the final conflict between Siegfried and the sorcerer.

A book that can take you from a choir of meerkats who first appeared in The Naughtiest Reindeer at the Zoo to the masterful work of Tchaikovsky and Pepita; one that has each of a range of reviewers focusing on different elements of its content and construction,  is indeed special – no wonder it is a 2018 CBCA Notable in the Early Childhood category!

Teachers’ notes are available.

 

I love you, Stick Insect

I love you, Stick Insect

I love you, Stick Insect

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I love you, Stick Insect

Chris Naylor-Ballesteros

Bloomsbury, 2018

32pp., pbk., RRP A12.99

9781408882955

How much fun can two stick insects have in one day?  When one meets another, he immediately falls in love and describes the magical day they will have – joining a band, going to the beach, surfing, skating, kiting… But all the while the butterfly is trying to tell him he is romancing a stick!  But is he???

A year or so ago a friend’s granddaughter (who has been described as a mini David Attenborough) went through a stick-insect-as-a-pet stage, apparently more common that we might think with specimens easily purchased from various sources.  She chose a Goliath (or two or three) and while not everyone’s idea of a pet, she took great care of them ensuring they had the right leaves and humidity and so on to maximise their lifespan. 

So while a humorous book with a stick insect as its focus might seem strange, nevertheless there will be those who will pick it up because of that.  Others will just love it for its fun and the twist in the end.  Those who enjoyed I’m Going to Eat this Ant will be familiar with the creator’s way of telling a story and will be pleased to see a new release from him.

Hickory Dickory Dash

Hickory Dickory Dash

Hickory Dickory Dash

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hickory Dickory Dash

Tony Wilson

Laura Wood

Scholastic Press, 2018

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

9781743811160

Mother Mouse  – the one in the rhyme, the one that climbed the clock at one, then ran back down – is frantic with worry and in a desperate hurry to find her two bold sons.  They had been playing outside in the moonlight when the cat pounced quite unannounced and they scarpered for safety.  Now  Mother Mouse is searching the house for them with the cat hot on her tail.

Where can they be?  They are not in the playroom or the kitchen; not the pantry or the garage or even the backyard.  Every room in the house is visited in this desperate dash,  as wherever she searches the cat is there, ready to pounce but being bamboozled each time  either by mouse savvy, swiftness or circumstance.  

Finally, exhausted and sobbing after two hours of searching, Mother Mouse sits on the verandah almost without hope – and then she has an idea…

Even if this hadn’t been selected for the 2018 National Simultaneous Storytime  it would have been an automatic hit with a wide range of readers.  As with his first book, The Cow Tripped Over the Moon Wilson has drawn on a familiar nursery rhyme and given it new life with his own twist and message of perseverance and the lengths a parent goes to for the love of their children. Clever rhymes move the story along at a dashing pace and with the cat in hot pursuit, the reader wonders if this will have a happy ending.  As well as the suspense there is also humour – the cat’s fate in the nursery will produce a LOL moment- as each time Mother Mouse narrowly escapes a horrible fate.  Laura Woods’ illustrations  use so many different perspectives  that we can feel Mother Mouse’s fear as well as using light and shade cleverly to bring the house at midnight alive and  put critical elements in focus. 

Suggestions for using the story as part of NSS 2018 are available but as May 23 draws closer there are bound to be more and more available as it lends itself to many facets of the curriculum, including maths.  But even without formal curriculum-related activities, this is just a rollicking read that is likely to become raucous as the children are drawn into to its almost vaudeville-like humour.  Watch out, Mother Mouse!

 

Mr Bambuckle’s Remarkables Fight Back

Mr Bambuckle's Remarkables Fight Back

Mr Bambuckle’s Remarkables Fight Back

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mr Bambuckle’s Remarkables Fight Back

Tim Harris

James Hart

Random House Australia, 2018

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

9780143785873

The 15 students in Room 12B are not happy.  As they walk into class, they discover the aptly-named Miss frost writing a list of rules on the board, none of which inspire positive behaviour but promise dire consequences for the opposite.  “Discipline is the new order” is her mantra and she further inspires their love and co-operation (not) by handing out 11 pages of handwriting exercises, and then walks around criticising everyone’s efforts. 

The class that had been labelled misfits and miserables who were just beginning to blossom and bloom with their quirky but beloved Mr Bambuckle, fired by Principal Sternblast, started to shrink back as though they had been sprayed with weedkiller. 

But Vex Vron has a plan and it’s time to put it into action… but he will need the help of his classmates and their particular and peculiar powers.

Readers who took a shine to Mr Bambuckle in the first of this new series will be glad to see him making a quick comeback – is there anything worse than having to wait a year for a sequel?- while others might be comparing their new year’s teacher with him and wishing they could be in 12B too! Ideal for independent readers with its humour, identifiable characters, short chapters, copious illustrations and other inserts that break up the text, this series is a perfect read-aloud to break the ice of the new school year and to encourage even reluctant readers that there is much fun to be had between the covers of books – they just have to open them!

Great thing that the ending of this one sets things up perfectly for yet another sequel.

 

Freaks on the Loose

Freaks on the Loose

Freaks on the Loose

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Freaks on the Loose

Leigh Hobbs

Allen & Unwin, 2018

240pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9781760294311

When you pick up a book that not only has Leigh Hobbs’ name on the front cover but also a warning to the reader that if they see the characters within they should report them to the Education Department and run, as well as another to prospective teachers to reconsider their career choice, then you know you have a gem in your hands – one that your students are going to love.

Populated with the most amazing and diverse Year 4 students that a teacher could ever dread to have, Freaks on the Loose is a combination of 4F for Freaks and Freaks Ahoy! In typical Hobbs’ style with compelling line drawings and minimal text he sets out to portray the class from hell, drawing on people he has met over time to create a novel that will appeal to all those who share his quirky sense of humour and like a bit of subversion.  He admits that he likes to go into bat for the underdog and while his characters may be somewhat extreme in their portrayal, underneath there is something that we can all relate to, all having felt freakish at some stage in our lives.

As the Australian Children’s Laureate for 2016-2017, Hobbs did a magnificent job of spreading the word about the critical importance of reading, of reaching out to those for whom stories might not be entertaining or accessible, of showing that print is just as entertaining as the screen, and in this collection of two of his funniest books, he is spreading his message to even the most reluctant readers in our classes.

 

Don’t Leap, Larry

Don't Leap, Larry

Don’t Leap, Larry

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t Leap, Larry

John Briggs

Nicola Slater

Pavilion, 2017

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

9781843653387

Lemmings are small rodents that live in the Arctic regions and are best known popularly known for the misconception that they commit mass suicide by jumping off cliffs, So when one little lemming decides to stand out from the crowd and not do as they do, there is great confusion and consternation.

This little lemming, who wants to be known as Larry, does not want to look like, sound like or act like his peers. When he is asked if he would jump over a cliff, he says, “No, ” but fronting up wearing a mask and fins just in case he has to.  Instead of digging a tunnel to keep warm, Larry goes sledging with the puffins; while the others squeak and squeal be plays bongos with the seals; and while they nibble moss from under a rock he prefers pepperoni pizza with extra cheese and hot sauce!  He is certainly a very different lemming who stands out from the crowd.

So when the other lemmings call a meeting and unanimously decide that all lemmings should be the same, Larry knows it is time for him to move on.  But he finds life with his other friends a little different from his expectations – sometimes the grass is not always greener.  Is there a new and better life for Larry or is he doomed to join them on that inevitable, fatal leap over the cliff?

Humour and appealing illustrations which begin with the front cover with Larry firmly attached to a parachute as he leaps off the cliff make for a quirky tale that nevertheless has a strong message about remaining true to yourself and encouraging others to question, interpret and think for themselves too.   A great discussion starter about being individuals even in a culture that has children dressing alike, looking alike and learning alike. 

 

The Susie K Files (series)

The Susie K Files

The Susie K Files

 

 

 

 

 

 

Life of the Party

9781760296681

Game Changer

9781760296698

Shamini Flint

Sally Beinrich

Allen & Unwin, 2018

112pp., pbk., RRP $A9.99

Susie K is nine years old and says she has mega-huge problems – problems as big as the Sydney Opera House, as tall as the Eiffel Tower and as massive as the pyramids of Egypt. But she is OK with that because she likes to use her scientific mind to solve them, and understanding the importance of keeping records of the trials she has to solve the problem, she has decided to keep a file on each one that she solves. 

Her first problem is that she loves animals but is allergic to fur so she has the class goldfish for her only pet.  Problems 2, 3 and 4 come in the shape of her family – firstly her dad who is a mad sports fanatic and Susie is not; then her brother Jack who is constantly putting her down;and  #4 is her mum who is a Sri Lankan refugee who had a very tough childhood and refers to it often so she now wants Susie to be a huge success at everything she tries, which would be impossible even if she didn’t have the ridiculous name of Susanna Saathiavanni Kanagaratnam-Smith. Why couldn’t she just be Susie Smith? But being like most little girls, Susie is keen to please her mum and does her best to do so.

At school, Susie prefers the people in books to the people in real life so she’s not the most popular person, which she doesn’t mind and is relieved when she is no longer invited to parties and other social occasions. But when her mum discovers she was the only one not at a class pool party, her mum decides to do something about it even though Susie begs her not to get involved because parents sticking their noses in does not always have a happy outcome. And so Operation: Life of the Party begins…

In the second in the series, Game Changer, her mother is thrilled that Susie is competing in the school sports carnival but when you are no good at sport and actually hate them, the problems start.

This is a new series that will really support newly-independent readers with its graphic-novel type format as much of Susie’s thoughts  and conversations are in a cartoon-like style that not only moves the action along but adds greater depth to Susie’s character as she works her way through the issues.  Many girls will see themselves in Susie’s shoes, if not with the family background but definitely with the problems she has and they will gain insight and perhaps hope that with some lateral thinking, there isn’t anything that can’t be negotiated or solved – without a parent interfering! 

A read-alone rather than a read-aloud, this is an intriguing new series that deserves a place in your collection.

Penguin Problems

Penguin Problems

Penguin Problems

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Penguin Problems

Jory John

Lane Smith

Walker Books,  2016

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

9781406375992

Poor Mortimer.  His life really is difficult.  It’s so hard living in the Antarctic when you don’t like snow, the light is too bright, you have to swim in the ocean which is too dark and it smells salty, you sink like a stupid rock and there are lots of things that want you to be their dinner.  And when you are on land you have to waddle and you look silly when you waddle, and that’s just the beginning.  Try looking like everyone else and not being able to find your parents… Is there no end to the problems that penguins have?  Every day seems to be a “terrible, horrible, no good very bad day” and then a  walrus tapping him on the shoulder. Is this day going to have a very bad ending too?

Apart from being very funny even though Mortimer himself is so serious and makes sure he gets the last word, this is an important book in the armoury of the mindfulness collection and even moreso with the issue of children’s mental health attracting official attention so teachers in all sectors can detect and determine students’ problems early. Mortimer is definitely a pessimist who can see no joy in anything and as teachers, we are all aware of the child in our class who has a similar outlook.  While one story alone is not going to turn this around – as the final page in the story suggests – nevertheless we can help children start to count their blessings, look for positive validation in themselves and offer genuine affirmation to others. 

Perhaps the author deliberately chose a penguin as his protagonist because of their stark “black-and-whiteness” where life is either good or bad and Lane through her illustration style not only softens the edges of Mortimer but also his surroundings so that there is the possibility of some light getting through.  If we are teaching our students to be critical readers and ask, “What is the author’s purpose for writing ?” ;”What does the author want me to know from reading this story?” and “How is the message being conveyed?” then this would be an excellent tool as we try to get them to examine  issues of objectivity and accuracy in other resources.

Right from the get-go with no title on the front cover (it is on the back, though) and the inner flap setting Mortimer’s tone, the reader knows this story is going to be different. A search online will reveal a range of resources to support it, but as with all quality picture books, it stands alone as an entertaining story first and foremost whether its underlying message is explored or not.