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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. 

In My Mosque

In My Mosque

In My Mosque

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In My Mosque

M. O. Yuksel

Hatem Aly

Farshore, 2021

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

9780755502608

The mosque as both a place and the way of life it represents plays such a significant role in the lives of so many of our students that this book that explores how it is used by families, friends and communities for worship, learning, eating, helping each other and playing will be welcomed by many.  For not only does it reflect the lives of so many – and we know the power of reading about ourselves in books – but it also demystifies the building and what happens within for those who are unfamiliar.

Based on the author’s visits to many mosques around the world, it shows both similarities and differences and how through these there is unification overall. Illustrated by the artist behind The Proudest Blue the reader is taken inside a place that radiates peace and love and the simple commentary of what happens explains much.

An important addition to the collection of any library that serves the followers of this faith, as well as others as we try to break down the walls by offering insight and understanding. 

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 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.  

There Is No Big Bad Wolf In This Story

There Is No Big Bad Wolf In This Story

There Is No Big Bad Wolf In This Story

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There Is No Big Bad Wolf In This Story

Lou Carter

Deborah Allwright

Bloomsbury, 2021

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

9781526608161

The Big Bad Wolf is late AGAIN and is ruining stories as he rushes through the forest to Grandma’s house. When the Three Little Pigs get seriously grumpy AGAIN, Wolf tells them he’s had ENOUGH. There will be no more HUFFING and PUFFING from this Big Bad Wolf. The fairytale characters aren’t worried – they can totally manage without him!

But Big Bad Wolfing is harder than it looks … And what happens when they realise that they really need a Big Bad Wolf in this story.

Like its predecessor, There is No Dragon in this Story, this is another charming romp through Fairytale Land, this time The Three Little Pigs and Little Red Riding Hood, particularly, with some other familiar characters thrown in.  This is more for readers who are familiar with the original tales and characters that are commonly found in fairytales as that will help them appreciate the nuances of the story and its irony. Would the little pigs really want their houses blown down and would the wolf really want to end up in the pot each time? There is also a subtle message about taking others for granted and working as a team that threads its way through  and it offers an introduction to investigating the role of the ‘villain’ in these sorts of stories, as well as the original didactic purpose of the genre itself.  On an even deeper level, some could consider whether stories such as The Three Little Pigs and Little Red Riding Hood colour a person’s perceptions of the wolf from a young age leading to situations like those of Fourteen Wolves allowing for real differentiation of the curriculum through one apparently simple book.

Nevertheless, even without the maturity to view the story through those lenses, this is one that little ones will enjoy because of its familiar characters, bright illustrations and fast-paced action. But I’m glad it allowed me to dig deeper for possibilities, as all quality picture books do. 

What If, Pig?

What If, Pig?

What If, Pig?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What If, Pig?

Linzie Hunter

HarperCollins, 2021

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

9780008409470

Mouse has never had a friend quite like Pig. Pig is so incredibly kind, endlessly thoughtful and fabulously fun, that he is the best friend anyone could ever have. But Pig also has a big secret… he’s a tremendous worrier!

So when he decides to throw a party for all his friends the concern kicks in and he worries about everything from a lion eating the invitations to his guests comparing this party to others.  In fact, he worries so much that he decides to call it off.

Luckily, Mouse is attuned to Pig’s mental health and suggests a walk so they can talk things over before he makes a final decision…

Anxiety about the what ifs are becoming a real part of the psyche of so many of our students these days because adults seem to be attaching such high stakes to the smallest things. And with lockdown in many places stretching out seemingly endlessly the lack of that interaction with their peers that normally provides some perspective and balance is lacking and so molehills become mountains very quickly.  So sharing stories like this in which we are assured that “things don’t stay grey for very long” is an essential part of helping our little ones cope and develop strategies for when the what ifs seem to take over. 

As well as the positive story which is charming in itself, the quirky illustrations and visual tricks with the text really make this book stand out, offering an introduction to the ways illustrators and designers can add so much to words on a page.  It demonstrates the differences in style between artists -compare this pig to one from Three Little Pigs for example and talk about the similarities and differences yet the legitimacy of each style.  This is the age when children become super-critical of their own artwork, and if it doesn’t look like the real thing or what they envisage, many dismiss their efforts, tell themselves they “can’t draw” and this self-talk destroys  their creativity.

So, all in all, this is a must-have for so many reasons. 

If the World Were 100 People

If the World Were 100 People

If the World Were 100 People

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If the World Were 100 People

Jackie McCann

Aaron Cushley

Red Shed, 2021

32pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

9780755503537

 

Over time there have been a number of books that reduce the world’s population to 100 people so that little ones can understand how things compare.

Imagining a number like 8 billion is tricky but reducing it to a village where 100 people live – each person representing around 80 million people in the real world and then exploring the similarities and differences through specific questions  makes it easier to understand. Are they all grown-ups? Are there more males or females? How many have black hair or blue eyes? What languages do they speak? Who can read and write? How many have access to the internet or have enough food to eat? Does everyone have access to electricity or clean water?

Using double-page spreads, clever illustrations and graphic design elements, the global village is reduced to manageable proportions making it easier to see the things we have in common, and the things that make us different. There is also a challenge to consider the world in 2050 when they will be the decision-makers and how they can contribute to making the world more equitable.

But as well as the social and humanitarian aspects of the book, it is also an excellent way to talk about data collection, interpretation and presentation, offering the perfect pathway into learning about the various types of graphs, their purposes and formats. Students could also survey their class to see how it compares to the village by calculating the class number as a percentage of the 100 villagers, asking the questions and comparing the numbers.  A purposeful and meaningful way to bring real life into their maths lessons.

A valuable addition to any teacher’s toolbox and a fascinating examination for any child interested in their world and its statistics.

 

A Different Sort of Normal

A Different Sort of Normal

A Different Sort of Normal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Different Sort of Normal

Abigail Balfe

Puffin, 2021

240pp., pbk., RRP $A19.99

9780241508794

It begins with a poem, the last stanza of which says,

This is for ANYONE

Who has ever felt out of place

You don’t have to be the “odd one out”

You’re unique and that’s just great.

It continues with a childhood memory of a Punch and Judy birthday treat that she hated and when she later asked her mum why, her mum said, “I wanted you to be a normal child.  I didn’t want you to be an outcast like I was.”

The blurb says the rest…

Hi! My name is Abigail, and I’m autistic. But I didn’t know I was autistic until I was an adult-sort-of-person*.

This is my true story of growing up in the confusing ‘normal’ world, all the while missing some Very Important Information about myself.

There’ll be scary moments involving toilets and crowded trains, heart-warming tales of cats and pianos, and funny memories including my dad and a mysterious tub of ice cream. Along the way you’ll also find some Very Crucial Information about autism.

If you’ve ever felt different, out of place, like you don’t fit in . . . this book is for you.

While there are a lot of books that explore autism so others can have an insight, such as Annabel’s Dance; The Chalk Rainbow; and A Boy called BAT this is the first I’ve read that is written by someone on the spectrum for others on the spectrum.  It maps her journey through childhood through a time when she didn’t know that there was a scientific reason for her difference, just all the while feeling confused, unwanted and left out.  

It is a unique book, one for children and adults alike and made all the more poignant because of its honesty, truthfulness and lack of sugar-coating.  The author explains her reasons for sharing her story and while she had to navigate the world alone because she did not have a diagnosis, to help others pave a different path she has produced a poster that helps us to be an ally to those we know. 

Even though it is written directly to encourage children who are autistic to understand that while they ae unique, what they experience is not unique to them and they are not alone, it is one for anyone who has anything to do with children.  Because if we don’t understand we can’t empathise.

The Super Adventures of Ollie and Bea (series)

The Super Adventures of Ollie and Bea

The Super Adventures of Ollie and Bea

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Super Adventures of Ollie and Bea

It’s Owl Good

9781760526474

Squeals on Wheels

9781760526481

Renee Treml

A&U Children’s 2021

64pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

Ollie is an owl who wears glasses. And Bea is a bunny with very big feet. They don’t know it yet, but they are about to be best friends. Can they help each other to find their OTTER-LY awesome inner superhero?

This is a new series in graphic novel format for young readers transitioning from the basal readers of commercial reading schemes to less-controlled books offering a stepping stone to more complex “early chapter books”. Treml has endowed her characters with the usual charm so they appeal to her audience and Owl’s constant corny puns offer an introduction to this play on words as a humorous concept.  Told as a continuous conversation primarily between Owl and Bea, unlike her Sherlock Bones series, this one has blank backgrounds that therefore place the emphasis on the characters and what they are saying, another opportunity to explore the concept of how critical dialogue can be to carry the story.

Young readers will relate to and like Ollie and Bea, seeing parts of themselves in each, and will no doubt look forward to further adventures. 

 

Frankie and the Fossil

Frankie and the Fossil

Frankie and the Fossil

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Frankie and the Fossil

Jess McGeachin

Puffin, 2021

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

9781760898847

Frankie knows all there is to know about dinosaurs because not only is she fascinated by them but she has memorised all the labels at the Natural History Museum, a place she loves to visit.  

But one day she notices a new sign, one that says “Don’t feed the fossil”. Thinking that was unfair, she pulled a cheese sandwich from her pocket and sneakily gave it to the dinosaur. 

That single action leads to a whole new ‘career’ for Frankie as her knowledge about dinosaurs deepens to understanding…

In an earlier time, the significance of this book may well have passed me by but with so many schools currently in lockdown and students isolated at home. no plan to get them back to school because school staff have still not been identified as front-line workers (and where they have, vaccinations are stretched too thinly), and many surveys examining the effect of the lack of contact with others on children, particularly their mental health, this underlying message of this story  was crystal clear.  Both people and dinosaurs are herd creatures and lack of contact with others can and does have a long-term impact.  (My friend and I still laugh that going for our flu shots in 2020 (on her birthday) was the best outing we had in weeks! So now we make the most of our days as we can.)

So in these days of enforced confinement, how can we as teachers, promote our students connecting with each other?  Can we design collaborative projects? Can we develop a team game or challenge? Can we plan an online celebration like a dress-up for Book Week or an unbirthday party? Can the walk around the neighbourhood looking for teddies in windows be expanded to something more? What are the students’ suggestions? How can they connect with a family member, a neighbour, someone else they know so they can make that person’s life easier?  Classmates are the equivalent of the dinosaur’s herd and the teacher is the leader of that herd, so apart from setting lessons, what else can we do to promote connectivity and well-being so when our kids do return to school their resilience and enthusiasm for life is intact?  

When Jess McGeachin first started planning this story, she would have had no idea of what was to come and how timely its release would be.  But what a windfall that we can share the story (Penguin Random House, the parent publisher are permitting online readings) and then use it to help our students and help them help others.

Here are some ideas contributed by our peers that might kick-start your thinking…

Clare Bell suggests

  • Write a letter to a neighbour or a relative
  • Decorate a pebble for a school garden
  • Create a picture to be hung on the school fence as an art gallery

Elise Ellerman  suggests

  • An online book club (For ideas allowing readers to respond to any book see here. )
  • Celebrate birthdays … We prepare some party food and a bake a birthday cake. We then create birthday boxes with this food. Deliver the boxes (contactless) and then have a Zoom party with some games. Everyone shares in a piece of cake together (over Zoom).

This is a link to the power and healing of reading during this COVID=19 crisis.