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The Silver Sea

The Silver Sea

The Silver Sea

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Silver Sea

Alison Lester & Jane Godwin

Children from the Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne

Affirm Press, 2018

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

9781925584745

Let’s go down to The Silver Sea,
Come on, I’ll hold your hand…

Take a journey with two little children as they explore what is beneath the waves in this magical adventure created by young people at the Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne with  Australian authors Alison Lester and Jane Godwin.

Inspired by a multi-storey aquarium that was once part of the RCH environment, and created during a series of drawing workshops with the young patients, this is a stunning collaboration that features the rhythmical lullaby-like text of Lester and Godwin and the distinctive artwork of children that can never be replicated by adults.   From splashing with the dolphins and seals in the waves to deep down in the indigo depths and back home again through diving shearwaters, the vast array of sealife is brought to life through the eyes and hands of the children.

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

Little ones will be inspired to create their own images of what they might see if they were able to go on an adventure like the children in the story. while older readers might like to investigate some of the creatures that they encounter.  There is nothing quite so entrancing as seeing a leafy sea dragon in amongst the seaweed – an enduring memory of my scuba diving days – and wanting to know more about them!

All proceeds from the book’s sales go to the Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne, making an extra reason for ensuring this utterly charming story is in your collection.  

 

The Perfect Leaf

The Perfect Leaf

The Perfect Leaf

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Perfect Leaf

Andrew Plant

Ford Street, 2018 

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

9781925736007

In the centre of the local town there are huge trees, planted generations ago and now the source of the most stunning leaf show in autumn that children and adults alike love to swoosh through, making them scatter, building piles to fall into and have some great free fun on Mother Nature.  

And so it is with Elly and Mai on this “cold-sun sort of day, this wind-in-the-branches day.  Both are in the park and they meet as they kick their way through the rustling, crunching piles, each searching for that perfect leaf and eventually finding something even more special.  Is there a perfect leaf to be found?  Is it yellow as butter or red as a summer apple? Delicate as gold or crimson velvet? Like a warm flame on a winter’s day of rain or like the sun on your face on a day so cold that your breath steams like a dragon’s? Does it matter if there is a tear, a mark or a hole or do they all have a special magic?

The language, the pictures, the colours of this story make the fun of playing in autumn leaves that we all remember burst from the page in a joyous celebration of childhood delight.  Young readers will readily relate to Elly and Mai and their special quest while adult readers will have a smile of reminiscence. Apart from the riot of colour, Andrew has also hidden lots of little woodland dwellers in the shapes and shadows pictures – you can find the list in the teachers’ notes  – so the reader is encouraged to not only look at the details in the picture but also to look more closely at the natural world that surrounds them so that something like a pile of autumn leaves becomes a full sensory experience.  Perhaps they, too, will find the magic as Elly and Mai did. 

Each time I receive a book with Andrew Plant’s name on it (The Poppy, Spark and Glitch) I look forward  to something special – and this is no different. A wonderful kickstart to asking “Why do the leaves change colour?” and all the STEM activities associated with that.

The Mediterranean

The Mediterranean

The Mediterranean

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Mediterranean

Armin Greder

Allen & Unwin, 2018

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

9781760630959

“After he had finished drowning, his body sank slowly to the bottom, where the fish were waiting.”

This is the introductory text, indeed the only text in this new book by Armin Greder, the master at honing in on the heart of an issue and then using his brilliant  artwork to express the story using a monochromatic palette, line and detail which really doesn’t need words.

In 2017 alone, it was estimated that more than 2000 refugees drowned in the Mediterranean Sea making the treacherous crossing from North Africa to Europe and Greder has explored the why and how of this in his iconic way which has a master twist of irony in it. It is a macabre, almost grotesque ‘life cycle’ that is enriched by the absence of text because the reader is forced to examine the pictures closely to create the story for themselves. 

The story has its own story (as the best ones do) and this is explained in the afterword by Alessandro Leogrande and there is also a ‘footnote” as part of the blurb from Riccardo Noury, a spokesperson for Amnesty International Italy.

As Australia debates the ball-tampering incident within Cricket Australia and many demand that such things are put into the perspective of things that really matter, the question is asked – how long will we remain silent witnesses?

This is a picture book for older readers, one that raises more issues and questions than it answers and one that is a must-have in the collection of secondary libraries, or any school with a significant refugee population. 

 

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

Reflection: remembering those who serve in war

Reflection: remembering those who serve in war

Reflection: remembering those who serve in war

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reflection: remembering those who serve in war

Rebecka Sharpe Shelberg

Robin Cowcher

Walker Books, 2016

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

9781922179050

Left! Left! Left! Right! Left! We make our way in the dark.

On the one hand feet make their way to a commemorative service; on the other soldiers’ boots take them to the battlefront. 

As ANZAC Day approaches and the centenary commemorations of World War I continue, this book reminds us that Australians have been involved in wars since before we were even officially called Australia and that our presence is known and respected in wartorn countries even today.

Each double-page spread with its simple text and evocative illustrations juxtaposes the people at the commemorative ceremonies with soldiers in conflict throughout our history. From the title page where the family hurries out the door into darkness through to the endpapers with the iconic poppies that we associate with remembrance in this country the reader is taken on a journey through our military history in such a sensitive way. 

As the Dawn Service moves through prayers,  the raising of the flags, the lighting of candles, the placement of wreaths and poppies, silences and the familiar bugle call of The Last Post and Reveille so too we move through time –  The Boer War, World Wars I and II. Korea, Vietnam, Iraq I and II, Bosnia & Herzegovina, East Timor, Afghanistan – whether as combat troops or peacekeepers, Australians have had a role committing hundreds of thousands of men and women, each of whom deserves our respect and gratitude. While each page just has one factual statement of what is happening, the  illustrations bring a depth and dimension that inspire emotion and memories as the two marry together perfectly. From the sprig of rosemary somehow surviving the stomp of boots on the first page to the ghost-like images marching with the people on the last, there is a sense that this is an enduring commitment by military and civilian personnel alike.   One could not stand without the other.   

Thumbnail sketches of each conflict are provided at the end of the book and teachers notes’ are also available for those who want to use this as the first step in a deeper investigation for both History and English. It may even inspire some students to investigate the role that their family has had in the Services and given our multicultural population there may be students who have personal experiences to share that might give a unique insight that can’t be gleaned from picture books, no matter how stunning they are.

Something a little different to share this ANZAC Day, not only to remember the huge contribution that has been made but also to acknowledge those who have served and continue to serve so that those students who have had or still have family in the military forces understand that they are included in the thoughts and prayers.  The services are not just for the sacrifices made long ago on faraway battlefields by generations unknown, but for everyone who has served in the short 120 years of our united history.

We hear the sweet songs of morning. And we remember them.

 

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.

 

The Sleeping Beauty – The Australian Ballet

The Sleeping Beauty

The Sleeping Beauty

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Sleeping Beauty – The Australian Ballet

David McAllister

Gabriela Tylesova

Little Hare, 2017

40pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9781760129934

“From the stage to the page”.

Based on the Australian Ballet’s 2015 production of this iconic ballet in which Creative Director David McAllister wanted to preserve the original choreography by Pepita “while introducing modern pacing and narrative logic” this is a ballet lover’s must-have. 

Following the traditional story with no Disney additions in sight,  the story of Aurora, Carabosse, the Lilac Fairy and the handsome prince is told in simple narrative,  accompanied by the most exquisite illustrations created by Gabriela Tylesova who was also the designer of the stage production. In all the shades of grey and pink all the characters have a magical quality filled with intricate detail that makes their balletic movements jump off the page. You can see the ballet and hear the music, even in the silence of awe.

 

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

 

From the intriguing front cover to the stunning back one, this is a book that will needs to be in the ballet-lover’s collection as well as that of anyone who just likes beautiful things.  It thoroughly deserves its CBCA 2018 Notables nomination.

Yay! It’s Library Day

Yay! It's Library Day

Yay! It’s Library Day

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yay! It’s Library Day

Aleesah Darlinson

Australian Children

Wombat Books, 2018

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

9781925563238

For Oliver and Ivy it is the best day of the week because it’s the day their dad takes them to the library.  That’s because that’s the day they can tip=toe through the lion’s lair into the realm of fairies and on into vast rolling oceans ruled by pirates, and even play ping-pong with purple llamas from Timbuctoo! Every book on the library’s shelves takes them to a new world and introduces new characters to frolic with in their words and pictures.  Princess, sea creatures, kangaroos,  ballerinas are all their as the magic carpet sweeps them on new adventures … those amazing books bring their imaginations alive.  

If this book were only this story that is as powerful an advertisement for stories and reading as the Superbowl ad was for Australian tourism, then it would be amazing as Darlinson’s rollicking rhyme shares the possibilities of story, but it is more than that because this is the second one that has drawn on the talents of Australia’s children to illustrate it.  Like its predecessor Zoo Ball, each page Wombat Books invited children all over Australia to submit drawings to accompany the story to provide them with an introduction to the world of illustrating and the opportunity to be published professionally and so each page has its own unique illustration to accompany Darlinson’s text, and providing a different and unique interpretation of it, just as stories do.  Now more than 30 budding illustrators have had their work featured, but over 600 took the opportunity to participate – a figure that suggests we need to consider offering students as much opportunity to draw as write as we teach.

Indeed, offering them the text and inviting them to interpret it as part of your lessons would not only provide an authentic way to investigate how we each interpret the same words differently according to our personal experiences but also open up discussions about perspective and interpretation of events and our role within them.  That’s as well as giving you a unique and intriguing display particularly if students are then encouraged to suggest and find stories that match the pictures, accompanied by their comments about why they love their library!

I hope Wombat Books continue to offer this opportunity to young Australian illustrators, but even if they don’t, it gives us a reminder that we should never underestimate the power of the picture!  

The perfect book to share on Library Lovers’ Day!

 

The Pink Hat

The Pink Hat

The Pink Hat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Pink Hat

Andrew Joyner

Random House Australia, 2018

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

9780143789369

At first there wasn’t a pink hat but after some deft weaving of a skein of wool there was and its maker, an older woman,  wore it all the time because it was so cosy.  That is, until a cat grabbed it and had fun with it.  That is, until it flew out the window as it was thrown around and landed in a tree where some children found it.  But as they climbed the tree to reach it, it dislodged and fell into a stroller where a baby claimed it.  

And so the pink hat’s adventures continued until it became one of millions of pink hats in the largest political march in history and became a symbol for women’s rights and recognition worldwide. Something so simple and common became so powerful. 

Dedicated to the “women who march us forward” this is a masterpiece that brings the equality of half of the world’s population into sharp focus without preaching or bias but with so much scope to take the discussion further as the meaning of the placards carried by the participants – women, men and children – is explored and explained. Its power lies in its subtlety not just in the text but in the monochrome illustrations where the only pop of colour is the hat so that it is the focal point of each page while those who come into contact with it are united in their lack of colour – gender, age, ethnicity, religion and socioeconomic status become irrelevant. 

As one who lived through the “bra-burning days”, who benefited greatly from what was so hard-won by the women who went before me and who has fought for the recognition of those achievements watching young girls go places and do things never before considered possible because of their gender, it bewildered me that ‘feminism’ had become the second f-word, despised, derided and almost abandoned as though it had sinister connotations.  Now, with this book and another march taking place on all seven continents to continue what was begun, not only will pink hats become the hottest headwear but our young women can continue their inexorable but unending march forward. 

Let the conversations begin and rise in a crescendo.

A picture book for all ages and both genders, excellent for encouraging the answers to “What is the author’s message?’ and “How has it been conveyed?”.

The Wind in the Willows

The Wind in the Willows

The Wind in the Willows

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Wind in the Willows

Kenneth Grahame

Robert Ingpen

Walker, 2017

64pp., hbk., RRP $A27.99

9781760650247

Bored with his annual spring cleaning, Mole leaves his underground home to explore his surroundings and discovers a small community of other creatures living on the riverbank of a gentle English river. His first new friend is Rat, and after a long lazy afternoon boating down the river, Rat invites Mole to live with him.  And then the adventures begin as he meets Toad of Toad Hall and Badger.

This children’s classic first published in 1908 has remained in print in many guises for 110 years as well as being converted to other media including  stage, film  and television. Now, an abridged version beautifully illustrated by Robert Ingpen is available for another generation to enjoy the adventures of these four friends in Edwardian England. 

Whether read aloud as a bedtime story, a perfect vehicle for introducing young listeners to the concept of “chapter books” where the same characters feature in a complete story in each chapter, or as a foray into longer books by the newly independent reader, timid Mole, friendly Water Rat, imperious Badger and mischievous Toad will find a new set of fans as yet another generation follows their fun and frolics.

Ingpen himself has an impressive body of work including a range of children’s classics, his work was launched with the release of Colin Thiele’s Storm Boy in 1974, and as the only Australian illustrator to have won the Hans Christian Andersen Medal, his portfolio would make an excellent introduction for studying illustration in children’s picture books.  

Storm Boy

Storm Boy

“I just want to make pictures that help get messages across and tell stories and, if children are involved, I want to be able to have them maintain their natural imagination for as long as possible.”

An exquisite addition to a personal or a library’s collection.

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

The Poesy Ring – a love story

The Poesy Ring

The Poesy Ring

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Poesy Ring – a love story

Bob Graham

Walker, 2017

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

9781406378276

Way back when, in this case in 1830 in County Kerry, Ireland, poesy rings were given as tokens of friendship and affection between lovers.  And way back when, just as today, bitter words can be spoken, relationships break up and rings discarded. 

This one, aptly inscribed “Love Never Dies”, is caught by the wind, tumbling end over end and settles deep in a meadow near the sea where it lies for seasons undisturbed until a little deer catches it in its hoof as it eats the acorns from the tree that has grown ad fruited over the years beside the ring.  Then its adventure begins until over 200 years later it is placed on a new finger, showing that its message is as eternal as the land that has ensconced it.

This is Bob Graham at his story-telling best using the poetry of his words and the beauty of his illustrations to take the reader on a journey through and across time showing that the world and its living things keep turning and enduring offering hope and optimism even if things seem a bit bleak in the short term.  And it is the same with love and relationships – just as the ships that cross the ocean near the meadow sail through storm and war as the lighthouse guides them to safety – so the bonds between people can be tested, saved or severed.

Astute readers might pick up on the dedication at the front of the book and the date that the love story turns full circle – perhaps this has been inspired by something very personal to the creator. 

While publishers’ and booksellers’ website suggest that this is a story for 3-8 year olds, it is so full of symbolism that it is a story for all ages.  Parents sharing it with their young children might need to offer a few explanations, pointing out how Graham has shown how time passes and love endures and once they understand the subtlety of the illustrations they will learn to look for the clues and cues by themselves, not only enriching their engagement with this story but enhancing their understanding of how top-shelf picture books work. It is a story that needs to read and then read again so the beauty of its message is as entrenched as the beauty of the prose and pictures.

Like so many of his previous titles, this is most likely to be on awards lists in 2018.