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Top Koala

Top Koala

Top Koala

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Top Koala

Jackie French

Matt Shanks

Angus&Robertson, 2019

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

 9781460754818

I am top of every tree!

Top is always best to be.

Having convinced us he is not a bear,  Koala is determined to show us that he is at the top of everything because “top” means “best” and that will always, absolutely be him. In this charming, rhyming tale French and Shanks unite again to take the reader on a journey around Australia’s iconic sights introducing our unique fauna as Koala is intent on achieving his goal to be the top of everyone and everything

But at what cost? Because as Koala shinnies to the top of trees, masts, poles and people he is oblivious to the reactions of those he steps on as he goes – their expression perfectly caught in Shanks’s illustrations and suggesting that Koala might get to the top but there might not be too many willing support him once he is there.  Sound familiar? 

With the devastation of our wildlife during this terrifying bushfire season making headlines around the world and the koala being the “poster child” for the campaigns, on the surface this is a lovely book to introduce our youngest readers to the diversity of our wildlife and the impact that nature and humans  can have on their habitats, but, as with all books written by this brilliant author, there is something deeper to discuss with our older students too.  What are the qualities of a true leader?

I had to wait for my copy of this book because it sold out immediately, and I was disappointed, But given the events of this summer I’m glad I had to wait because it now has a much more prominent and  poignant place in our children’s literature story. 

The Princess Rules

The Princess Rules

The Princess Rules

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Princess Rules

Philippa Gregory

Chris Chatterton

HarperCollins, 2019

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

9780008339791

Princess Florizella was friends with some of the princesses who had studied the Princess Rules, and behaved just as the Rules said they should. Florizella thought their hair was lovely: so golden and so very long. And their clothes were nice: so richly embroidered. And their shoes were delightful: so tiny and handmade in silk. But their days bored her to death…”

Instead, Princess Florizella rides her horse, Jellybean, all over the kingdom, having adventures of her own…

Originally written for her daughters in 1989 when the concept of rebel princesses as heroines was scarcely heard of much beyond Munsch’s  The Paper Bag Princess Philippa Gregory has reimagined this collection of three stories for her granddaughters and created a thoroughly modern tale.  “I’m much clearer that she’s up against something worse than a bad fairy at a christening – the ‘rules’ that try to persuade bright multi-talented children into stereotype notes. Florizella and her BFF Prince Bennet find their own paths around giants, wolves and (of course) dragons.”

With humour that stabs at convention and stereotypes and their consequences, Gregory has created a feisty heroine who will appeal to today’s newly independent reader who may once have dreamed of life as Aurora or Belle or some other Disney princess but who will no doubt much prefer to be Florizella instead.  

With a growing call for diversity in children’s literature, movies and other arts, the issue of stereotyping is a topical one so while this book may have a predominantly young female audience, it also has the scope to be a platform for exploring this topic among those much older. And Gregory’s experience as a writer shines through so it would not be considered as a twee, sugar-coated read beneath that older audience. It may even lead them to her more grown-up novels.  

Nop

Nop

Nop

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nop

Caroline Magerl

Walker Books, 2019

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

9781760651251

In an old armchair in a corner of Oddmint’s Dumporeum Nop sits watching, unloved, unwanted and belonging nowhere.  At night he watched the other toys  come alive and pretty themselves up with buttons, beads,  ribbons, scarves and spangles ready for the rush of shoppers searching for that elusive perfect toy in the morning.  Each going off in a crinkly paper bag to some place wonderful and a new life. But no one chooses Nop, not even with his brand new red bow tie. 

But he maintains his faith that there is a special place for him, regardless of the opinions of others and devises an intriguing plan to find it…

In this gentle story, the creator explores the concepts of self-belief and determination as well as beauty being in the eye of the beholder.  Nop’s new friend does not care that Nop is not plush in places – he has enough plush for both of them – or that he is not shiny and new with spangles and stars and glitz and glamour.  Nop knows that there is someone and something for him beyond the armchair in Oddmint’s Emporium and it’s up to him to find it.

This would be an excellent and somewhat different way to start the new school year for those who like their students to identify their personal goals and then consider how they might achieve them. 

All Bodies Are Good Bodies

All Bodies Are Good Bodies

All Bodies Are Good Bodies

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All Bodies Are Good Bodies

Charlotte Barkla

Erica Salcedo

Little Hare, 2019

24pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

9781760503932

I love hands!
Hands that are white and hands that are brown,
Freckles mean sunshine has sent kisses down.
Short fingers, long fingers, bendy or straight,
Hands to clap, or high-five your mate.

Even though the human body comprises the same elements, each is unique. No two are the same unless you are an identical twin.  In this superbly illustrated book, each body part such as hands, hair, eyes and even tummies is featured while those characteristics which make them unique are celebrated.  It doesn’t matter if your nose is long and thin or short and flat or even turned up like a pussycat, we each have one and each does its special job.

With its bouncy rhyme and positive message about accepting the diversity and differences which make each of us special, it actively promotes the acceptance of the body regardless of shape, colour, or size so that we appreciate our individuality and are inclusive in our choices. When even our youngest readers are aware of their physical appearance these days and start to develop their relationship with their body, this is a critical message that encourages the positive mental health mindset so essential to developing resilience and empathy and offering lots of scope to collect and interpret data as the children compare and contrast their differences. 

 

Foothand Elbownose

Foothand Elbownose

Foothand Elbownose

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Foothand Elbownose

Kiah Thomas

Connah Brecon

Little Hare, 2019

24pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

9781760502027

While Max liked to splash in puddles and get his feet soaking wet, Right Foot had finally had enough.  Sick of being wet, living inside smelly, squelchy socks, and having to contend with prickles and stubbed toes, it finally rebels and demands to be a hand.  Max is open to the idea and for the rest of the day, Foot is happy being a hand, painting letters and helping Max eat his dinner.  But the trouble begins when the other parts of Max’s body decide they want to be different parts too and suddenly Max find himself with an elbownose, mouthear, headbottom,  and a tonguefoot and fingernail had just declared a wish to be an eyelash. Max is so confused he shouts “Enough!” but will the body bits agree to return to their original functions?

This is a quirky book cleverly illustrated that not only helps little ones focus on the parts of their body and how they are perfectly formed for the job they have to do, but also whether who they are is enough or is the grass really greener? Even though they might admire someone a great deal and want to swap lives with them, would they be really happy and suited to being that other person?

Exploiting the preschooler’s ability to totally suspend their imagination so that a foot becoming a hand is utterly plausible, both author and illustrator offer an opportunity for our youngest readers to indulge in the fantasy , perhaps even suggesting other swaps that could have hilarious consequences.

The Fate of Fausto: A Painted Fable

The Fate of Fausto: A Painted Fable

The Fate of Fausto: A Painted Fable

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Fate of Fausto: A Painted Fable

Oliver Jeffers

HarperCollins, 2019

96pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9780008357917

There was once a man who believed he owned everything and set out to survey what was his.

Claiming a flower, a sheep and a tree with relative ease he meets opposition from first the lake, and then the mountain but shaking his fist, stamping his foot and shouting brings them into line and they too, finally bow before him.  But still unsatisfied with those possessions and his seemingly invincible power, he commands a boat and sails out to sea, determined to conquer that too.  But the sea has other ideas…

Using traditional lithography and deceptively simple text, this is one of those books that those who adhere to reading levels would classify as juvenile fiction suitable for 4-8 year-olds, and perhaps on the surface, that’s what it would seem to be. Younger readers might say it is about being friendly, more co-operative and not being bossy because no one will like you.

But to really appreciate what Jeffers is saying, particularly in light of the explanation of its dedication, readers need to have a much deeper knowledge of human behaviour, of the drive of an individual’s ego and its need to be fed often by power and greed; of the transient nature of human life against the backdrop of Mother Nature; and a realisation that who we are as individual, compassionate beings is enough. Even the choice of the protagonist’s name is significant, presumably referring to Faust who, in the German legend, is highly successful but still dissatisfied with his life, leading him to make a pact with the Devil exchanging his soul for unlimited knowledge and worldly pleasures. In addition, the subtitle A Painted Fable suggests that there is more to this story than meets the eye, opening up discussions that are likely to run deep.

If ever there were a “poster-child” for picture books being for all ages, this would be it.  Jeffers is a genius.

 

 

Sulwe

Sulwe

Sulwe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sulwe

Lupita Nyong’o

Vashti Harrison

Puffin, 2019

48pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9780241394328

Sulwe was born the colour of midnight – not the colour of dawn like her mother; the colour of dusk like her father or even the colour of high noon like her sister Mich. No one in her school was as dark as Sulwe and while Mich was called “Sunshine’ and “Ray ” and “beauty”, Sulwe was called “Blackie’ and “Darky” and “Night”, names that hurt her so she hid and wished with all her might that she could be lighter like her sister.  But not even wishing, using an eraser on her skin, Mama’s makeup, eating only light-coloured foods or even praying made the slightest difference.

Desperately unhappy, she finally told her mother how she was feeling and her mother gave her some great advice but it is not until she has a magical nighttime adventure and hears the story of Day and Night that she finally gets some self-belief.

In some ways mirroring the experiences of the author, actress Lupita Nyong’o , this is a story deliberately written to inspire those who look different to look inside themselves for their beauty. While “what is on the outside is only one part of being beautiful…[and] it’s important to feel good about yourself when you look in the mirror …what is more important is working on being beautiful inside.” With body image still playing such a key role in our mental health, any story like this that helps our young readers begin to feel positive about themselves as early as possible before the ignorant taunts of others do their damage, has to be shared and discussed.  Highlighting how Sulwe felt when she was called names, asking what if Sulwe was in this class, listing the mean names directed at students that are heard in the classroom and playground and their impact on their peers might be what is needed to confront the bullies with the impact and power of their words, calling the behaviour for what it is could be the tough love that some of our students need.Starting with the fiction but transferring it to reality, having the students be in the shoes of Sulwe, can be the most powerful teaching tool.  This is a story that is not just about empowering the individual, it’s about awakening the collective. 

All of Us: A history of Southeast Asia

All of Us: A history of Southeast Asia

All of Us: A history of Southeast Asia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All of Us: A history of Southeast Asia

Jackie French & Virginia Hooker

Mark Wilson

HarperCollins, 2019

48pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9781460750025

Just over 25 years ago, then-Prime Minister Paul Keating delivered a speech in which he told Australians “our destiny [is] as a nation in Asia and the Pacific” much to the horror of those who saw us as irrevocably tied to Britain and causing shockwaves which reverberated across all facets of the nation. Now, in November 2019 Prime Minister Scott Morrison has committed to being part of RCEP, the world’s largest trade deal centering on the key Asian nations. Yet, in this new book written by Australia’s leading writer of historical fiction for young people and social historian Emeritus Professor Virginia Hooker, our ties to Asia go back 200 000 000 years when we are part of the supercontinent Gondwanaland and homo sapiens walk out of Africa, travel around and through the lands now known as Asia and eventually establishing the first known indigenous populations in Lake Mungo, NSW 40 000 years ago. Our connections to our neighbours are so much more and so much older than speeches of political leaders seeking new economic directions.

And it is those connections which set this beautifully illustrated book apart, making it unique in the cacophony of books about the history of the region. Accompanying the timeline of major events that have shaped the geographical, political and economic landscapes, French introduces the social perspective through superbly evocative poems telling the stories of two children of each era making this a personal story that shows the thread of connectivity of the people down through the ages.

From the rock art of Timor-Leste …”We carved a face upon the rock to say, “I’m here. I’m me.”‘ to the modern day “Kita semma, all of us, we stride towards tomorrow” the common bonds of seeking identity, dignity, recognition and connection are woven into something unique, beautiful and personal.  It is not a litany of transient, petty power-seeking but a story of the determination and resilience of humans culminating in a collection of ways that the reader can continue the journey forwards. 

IMO, with its emphasis on our connectivity despite our diversity, this book should be at the core of your resources for the Asia and Australia cross-curriculum priority for all ages and stages. either as an introduction or a springboard. It seems to capture all the essential elements of understanding that that CCP embodies.

Teachers’ notes are available. and don’t be surprised to see it in all the awards’ lists in 2020.

Tulip and Brutus

Tulip and Brutus

Tulip and Brutus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tulip and Brutus

Liz Ledden

Andrew Plant

Ford Street, 2019

32pp., pbk., RRP $A16.95

9781925804348

Tulip and her ladybug friends live amongst the flowers while Brutus and his stinkbug friends live up in a tree.  They never play together. They are so very different that it would be hard to think they could ever be friends. But after a day of heavy rain, their habitats become merged and they realise they have to work together to protect themselves.  As they do, they begin to understand they have more in common than they realise, and each discovers new joys to explore.

The theme of unlikely friendships is not new in children’s literature, but this one is brought to life by the scintillating, action-packed illustrations of Andrew Plant (Pippa, The Perfect Leaf; Glitch,  Spark, and The Poppy) . With a mix of imagination and real-world, Ledden and Plant have combined to create a story that will appeal to young readers, bug-lovers and haters alike, and help them understand that being different and diverse is natural but that there is much to learn and enjoy through trying new things.

 

 

Africa, Amazing Africa: Country by Country

Africa, Amazing Africa: Country by Country

Africa, Amazing Africa: Country by Country

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Africa, Amazing Africa: Country by Country

Atinuke

Mouni Feddag

Walker, 2019

80pp., hbk.,  RRP $A29.99

9781406376586

No continent’s political borders seem to be as fluid as those of Africa and so this new publication is an introduction to all 55 countries on the African continent.  It captures Africa’s unique mix of the modern and the traditional, as its geography, its peoples, its animals, its history, its resources and its cultural diversity are explored in accessible text and colourful illustrations.

The book divides Africa into five sections: South, East, West, Central and North, each with its own introduction. This is followed by a page per country,which provides the merest taste of the riches of each that can be explored further if desired. The richest king, the tallest sand dunes and the biggest waterfall on the planet are all here, alongside drummers, cocoa growers, inventors, balancing stones, salt lakes, high-tech cities and nomads who use GPS! 

With so many classes now including students of African origin, this is a wonderful way to begin exploring their background, showing them that they are represented in the library’s collection and have a unique heritage to share – as the author says, Africa is the birthplace of the world’s population. It could be a great adjunct to an EALD program using the child’s home country to introduce meaningful reading and information literacy skills.