Archives

This Is Home: Essential Australian Poems for Children

This Is Home: Essential Australian Poems for Children

This Is Home: Essential Australian Poems for Children

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This Is Home: Essential Australian Poems for Children

Jackie French

Tania McCartney

NLA Publishing, 2019

160pp., hbk., RRP $A34.99

9780642279385

In the beginning

The waves purred on beaches touched only

By bird prints, the slash of crocodilian tails,

Diprotodon tracks lumbering like furred boulders

Eagle wings whispered on the wind.

Then human feet left prints upon white sand.

For 60 000 years the nations sang…

This is the beginning of a haunting poem written by Jackie French that wends its way through this remarkable collection of poems that highlight and celebrate this land and its people. Using the poetry of old and new, the classic and the newly minted, from poets well-known and not-so, the threads of the history of this nation are woven together into a tapestry that is as rich in colour and culture as the life around us.  And yet, in the words of Oodgeroo Noonuccal, “I know, this little now, this accidental present, is not all of me, Whose long making Is so much of the past. ” As Jackie explains in her introduction, to have included all the threads that make this place unique would require a book “so big you would need a forklift to carry it and a million dollars to buy it.”

But what it does have is a smattering of that which makes us unique told in lyrical lines that are compelling, but as Jackie so rightly points out in her introduction, not every poem is for everyone; not every poem will speak to you today but it may tomorrow; or, as she says, that “shoes for an eight-year-old won’t fit a twelve year old”; “sometimes we need chilled watermelon: sometimes we long for pizza.”

But whichever poem you choose today, and there is a list of suggestions to match your mood or desire, it will be beautifully illustrated by the magical work of Tania McCartney, adding an extra layer of cream to words that are already so rich.  From a yummy-looking sundae in a glass to accompany Jackie Hosking’s A Dessert Sky to the confronting cityscape that accompanies Horns by Shaun Tan, you are compelled to read the words that are on the page and think more deeply, appreciate more wisely. 

My apologies to the local school – my review copy is not coming to you this time.  This is one to give to Miss 8 and Miss 12 so they can share in the beauty of this land and its people, and the words of those who tell them about it. It is indeed Australia: Story Country.

 

 

Colouroos

Colouroos

Colouroos

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Colouroos

Anna McGregor

Lothian Children’s, 2019

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

9780734418821

In the Red Centre of Australia live the red kangaroos; in the Blue Mountains live the blue kangaroos; and on the Gold Coast live the yellow kangaroos.  When the drought drives each group from their traditional homes and they go in search of water and end up gathered around the same waterhole, they look at each other and think they are strange. But they all enjoy the cool water, are afraid of dingoes, leap on their long legs and eat the juicy grass and when, at night. “the colour left to dance in the sky above”, they all looked the same.  And strange things began to happen…

On the surface this is a delightful Australian story for our youngest readers about the mixing of colours to create new ones, and it does this very effectively, although the adult sharing it might have to explain how joeys arrive. Full of colour, rhythm and repetitive text it engages and perhaps inspires the young child to do some experimenting with their own paints and ask What happens when…? It could give rise to a host of science and art activities about colour and light.

But a deeper look could also lead the older reader into considering how humans also mix and match, mingle and marry and give birth to the continuing story of multiculturalism and diversity that makes each community so special. Not just colours interacting but also cultures, foods, sports …

If there is one book to put on your to-buy list in preparation for the next Harmony Day, this is it. The best picture books span the age groups seamlessly and this debut by this author/illustrator has nailed it.

Grandma’s Treasured Shoes

Grandma's Treasured Shoes

Grandma’s Treasured Shoes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grandma’s Treasured Shoes

Coral Vass

Christina Huynh

NLA Publishing, 2019

36pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9780642279354

Grandma has oodles and oodles of shoes.

Walk to the park shoes

Dance in the dark shoes

Fun shoes and sun shoes

Out and about shoes

Splash in the rain shoes

Fancy shoes, 

Plain shoes,

But her favourite shoes 

Are her worn and torn shoes

From a time long ago

And a land far away. 

For they are the shoes of her childhood in wartorn Vietnam, a time when her childhood was like that of others until the night she and her family have to flee with just the shoes on their feet.  They are shoes that take her on a terrifying journey to a new land where she is given new shoes to wear.  But she never forgets or discards those old shows with the memories and stories they hold for her.

Beginning with a rhyme and rhythm reminiscent of Frida Wolfe’s poem Choosing Shoes , this is a story that could be that of the grandmother or grandfather of any number of our students who have come to Australia as refugees, but in particular those who fled the Viet Cong and arrived here in boats in the 1970s. (But not always to the welcome that Grandma gets.) Using the shoes as a vehicle to tell the story of the fear and the flight, both author and illustrator have introduced the young reader to the story of refugees in a sensitive, non-confrontational way.  They have put themselves in the shoes of those who have had to flee their countries and imagined that regardless of the country, “that each shoe would have a different tale of danger, hardship, sacrifice and the cost of freedom to tell.”

This approach is rich in possibilities for a wide age group – children could tell the story of their shoes’ daily journey while those who have been in Grandma’s situation might feel comfortable about telling their story through the perspective of their shoes.  It could also serve as a lead-in to a series of lessons about perspective and how the different role a person has in a situation alters how the story is told. For example, what might be the glass slipper’s version of the Cinderella story? In a time when immigration is once more in the news as the tragedy in Christchurch starts debates again, older students might even examine the different responses by those such as Jacinda Ardern (#theyareus) and Donald Trump (building the wall).

As usual with NLA publications, there are pages of information at the back, these ones outlining the history of refugees in Australia and in particular, those who came from Vietnam in the 70s, the grandmothers and grandfathers of so many of our students. Perfect for Harmony Day celebrations or any focus on the multicultural nature of this country.

 

 

Grandma’s Treasured Shoes from STYNA on Vimeo.

All Are Welcome

All Are Welcome

All Are Welcome

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All Are Welcome

Alexandra Penfold

Suzanne Kaufman

Bloomsbury, 2019

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

9781526604071

Regardless of where you come from, what you wear, how you get around, all children are welcome in this classroom and this book celebrates individual’s diversity as well as inclusivity.  This could, and should, be a snapshot of any classroom anywhere, as families of all types and origins connect to share their children’s education. It clearly shows that however different the children’s home lives are (and we get a glimpse of those in the illustrations) children everywhere love to do and learn about the same things.

Though the rhyming text might be a bit saccharin in some places (although other reviewers have called it “almost radical in our polarized time”) there is much that the teacher librarian and classroom teacher can take from the illustrations particularly to acknowledge and celebrate the diverse heritages of our students. From creating a display of national flags and sharing the various words for hello, to having students create displays of their homelands to coincide with national days or having parents who are fluent in another language come in and tell stories in their language to other students, it all helps the student feel that they are indeed welcome here.

Dress Like a Girl

Dress Like a Girl

Dress Like a Girl

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dress Like a Girl

Patricia Toht

Lorian Tu-Dean

Harper, 2019

32pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9780062798923

Time for a sleepover and the guests have been instructed to “dress like a girl”.  But what does that mean? 

Does it really mean dresses and high heels, buttons and bows?  Or could it mean a space suit, a wetsuit, a medico’s coat or something entirely original?  

Told in rhyme the opening stanza sums up the focus and purpose of this book perfectly…

What does it mean to dress like a girl

Many will tell you in this big, wide world

that there are strict rules that must be addressed,

rules you will need when looking your best.

But when you are given these rules to obey,

the secret is heeding them-in your own way.

The strong message is that we are each individuals and we should be dressing to suit ourselves rather than what others might say about our appearance, or what “fashion” dictates or other external influences. Written for the young girl who is becoming more aware of the world around her, what others are doing and wearing and starting to shape her own tastes and preferences, this is a timely release that should spark lots of discussions not just about what is “acceptable” but also self-acceptance and the influence of peer pressure. Do “clothes maketh the man”? 

While Tu-Dean has depicted a diverse range of ethnicities and origins in the illustrations, there is a strong theme of events like slumber parties being about the friendships and fun that are common desires of everyone, rather than differences that divide or separate or having to conform to a given look to be accepted. Great for the mindfulness collection.

Mallee Sky

Mallee Sky

Mallee Sky

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mallee Sky

Jodi Toering

Tannya Harricks

Black Dog Books, 2019

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

9781925381672

“The first people of the land call the Mallee “Nowie”.  It means sunset country. When the sun goes down, the red heat of the day bleeds into the sky and sets it on fire.”

In this most evocative book with poetic text and stunning illustrations, we are introduced to life on the Mallee under the harshest conditions of drought, where the summer sky is big and blue and at night there are more stars in the sky than anywhere in the world. Where bitumen melts, red dirt cracks, the scrub sighs from thirst and the wind is so hot and tired it can’t raise more than a whisper…

No rain falls here and the ancient eucalypts are ghosts of themselves until one day there is a strange sound on the tin roof…

The author, herself born in the Mallee , has taken seven years to perfect her book and the time and dedication shows in its sensitive, picturesque phrases that build an image so vivid it must have been easy for illustrator Tannya Harricks to know what to capture and bring to life with her oil paints and bold brushstrokes. , even though the two only met for the first time at the launch of the book! 

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

What is typical for this vast region of Western Victoria, encompassing more than a quarter of the state is sadly the scenario and scenery for much of the eastern states as this drought drags on and on, and so this is a timely publication and addition to the collection because so many will be able to see their own surroundings and lives in it and how they, as people, are shaped by Mother Nature, and perhaps draw hope that they too will dance in the rain as the Mallee kids did. In fact, Toering herself says, ““This is really a book about Australia. Even though it is set in the Mallee and it’s called Mallee Sky, in essence it’s about drought, which affects every part of Australia, it’s about climate change, it’s about farming and small towns and the impact that drought has on them.”

Simply stunning. and could well be among the award winners over the next 12 months. 

 

 

Wrestle!

Wrestle!

Wrestle!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wrestle!

Maya Newell, Charlotte Mars and Gus Skattebol-James

Tom Jellett

Allen $ Unwin, 2019

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

9781760296810

It’s nearly time for Mardi Gras and wrestling-loving Gus wants to go as a wrestler, just like his heroes who are big and tough with really huge muscles. But his mums are uncomfortable with this, trying to help him understand that there are other ways to be strong.  They don’t want him to think that muscles and being able to conquer others is the only way to be good, smart and popular.  They try to persuade him to change his mind, and to perhaps be like sister Rory who is going as a dinosaur.  However Gus tries to persuade Rory to change her mind and he starts to teach her all about wrestling… until Rory gets hurt and wrestling is banned.  That night Gus has a dream and he learns that there is more than one way to be a wrestler…

While this story has a different family structure to the more conventional ones, which means that some of our students can actually see their own lives reflected in an age-appropriate story, it is not the overt theme of the story.  Rather the focus is on how we can all be wrestlers in our own way, even if we never enter a ring!

The back story to this book is as intriguing as the story itself,  From the website…

“Maya and Charlotte spent 8 years making a film about the experiences of children in same-sex attracted families, Gayby Baby. To get the film and its messages out there in the world, Maya and Charlotte did all kinds of funny things – they once crashed a TV talk show, another time they staked-out a morning news show to try and get on air, and one time they made a live video from a rollercoaster! Even when fighting for important issues, they always try to have fun. They also took the film, and a group of Gaybies, to share stories and discuss policy with our nation’s leaders at state and federal parliaments. 

One of the kids they followed around for 3 years making Gayby Baby, is their co-author, Gus Skattebol-James. These days, Gus isn’t obsessed with wrestling, but he is a black belt in Aikido (a Japanese martial art) and is mad about skateboarding. Now that Gus is almost a grown up, he is finishing his HSC exams and next year he wants to travel the world. “

However, because the whole concept of gay relationships might be controversial in some school communities  it is essential that having stories about members of the LBTQIA+ communities within the collection be addressed in the Collection Policy so that should there be challenges there is documentation that supports the decision.  Those who need to address this can read The Censor’s Hat and The Tricky Topics Hat and follow the links to the Sample Collection Policy  which offers wording that can be used.

 

Geronimo; the penguin who thought he could fly

Geronimo

Geronimo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Geronimo: the penguin who thought he could fly

David Walliams

Tony Ross

HarperCollins Children’s, 2018

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

9780008279752

At the “bottomest bottom” of the world, amidst a huge colony of emperor penguins, little Geronimo is born and right from the get-go, all he wanted to do was fly! Despite his dad telling him that penguins don’t fly, Geronimo persisted in following his dream and whether it was using the icy slopes as a runway, the elephant seal’s tummy as a trampoline, or the spout from the blue whale’s blowhole as a launching pad, he was determined that he would overcome his not-made-for-flying-despite-its-wings body.  Despite the failures, Geronimo still dreamed of flying – a dream apparently shared by all penguins in their early lives.  But after a particularly devastating misadventure while trying to hitch a ride on an albatross, Geronimo has to admit that the dream was indeed, over and a single tear rolled down his face.

His father was so moved by that that he called a meeting of the whole colony and…

The theme of penguins dreaming to fly is not a new one in children’s stories but when it is in the hands of master storyteller David Walliams and the creative genius of Tony Ross the result is an hilarious adventure that will be a firm favourite with younger readers.  They will empathise with Geronimo as he tries everything to make his dream come true, and perhaps be inspired by his determination, perseverance and resilience. At the other end of the scale, older readers could identify their dreams and perhaps start investigating what it is that they need to do to make them come true while parents sharing this with their children will also want to be like Geronimo’s father, prepared to try anything and everything to help their child’s dream come true, supporting them, protecting them and helping them deal with the failures and disappointments that will inevitably befall them. 

An utterly charming book that celebrates dreams and making them happen.

Where Happiness Lives

Where Happiness Lives

Where Happiness Lives

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where Happiness Lives

Barry Timms

Greg Abbott

Little Tiger, 2018

24pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781848699519

In the beginning Grey Mouse is very happy and satisfied with his sweet little house which has enough room for each mouse to have fun, plenty of windows to let in the sun where he is safe and never alone. But one day while he is out walking he spots a much larger house that is hard to ignore, the home of White Mouse who invites him up to the balcony to view an even more impressive house high on a hill.  Together they set out to visit it, so focused on reaching their destination they are oblivious to all the sights, sounds and smells that surround them on their journey. 

 When they get there, it is indeed a house like no other, and they are welcomed in by Brown Mouse who delights in showing them round her magnificent mansion,  Grey Mouse and White Mouse feel more and more inadequate and its features are revealed until they come to a room that has a large telescope and they peek through it…

Told in rhyme and illustrated with clever cutouts and flaps to be lifted, this is a charming story for young readers who will learn a lesson about bigger not always being better, and the difference between wants and needs, as well as being encourage to reflect on what makes them happy.  It is things?  Or something else? Is the grass always greener?

Both the story and the presentation have a very traditional feel about them, making it perfect for young readers who relish the places books can take them. And with the aid of boxes, rolls and other everyday items they can have much fun creating their ideal home!

 

The Good Egg

The Good Egg

The Good Egg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Good Egg

Jory John

Pete Oswald

Harper, 2018

40pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

9780062866004

The Good Egg is verrrrrry good. It does all sorts of things like rescuing cats, carrying groceries, watering plants, changing tyres, even painting houses.  If there is anything or anyone needing help, it’s there to assist.  Back in the store where it lived with another 11 eggs – Meg, Peg, Greg, Clegg, Shel, Shelly, Sheldon, Shelby, Egbert, Frank and the other Frank – altogether in a house with a recycled roof, things weren’t particularly harmonious because The Good Egg found the behaviour of the others confronting.  They ignored bedtime, only ate sugary cereal, dried for no reason, threw tantrums, broke things… and when The Good Egg tried to be the peace maker and fix their behaviour no one listened. It became so hard and frustrating that its head felt scrambled and there were cracks in his shell, so The Good Egg left.

As time went by, it began to focus on the things it needed rather than what it thought everyone else needed and in time it began to heal…

This is a sensitive story that explores finding a balance between personal and social responsibility so that the egg, or any person really, can live at peace with itself.  It’s about helping the perfectionist lower their expectations of themselves so they are not always struggling and feeling failure, and, at the same time, accept that those around them will always have faults and to be comfortable with those.  Self-perception is such a driver of mental health and self-imposed standards of excellence are impossible to live up to and so the spiral towards depression begins, even in our youngest students.  

A companion to The Bad Seed, John and Oswald have combined sober text with humorous illustrations to present an engaging story that has a strong message of accepting oneself and others for who we are, not who we think we should be. 

Great addition to the mindfulness collection.