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Happiness is a Cloud

Happiness is a Cloud

Happiness is a Cloud

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happiness is a Cloud

Robert Vescio

Nancy Bevington

Big Sky, 2020

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

9781922265715

Out for a walk with his father and dog, Jasper, Harry sees a flying pig! Well. it’s actually a cloud shaped like a flying pig and suddenly the walk is made more interesting as the two spot all sorts of shapes in the clouds overhead.  Even when dark, ominous ones roll in with menacing shapes like a rhinoceros and a wolf that make Harry shiver,  his dad shows him how they are good for the earth and all that grows in it.

 Just as the clouds change shape and colour so does Harry’s mood, particularly when Jasper disappears, and Vescio has cleverly mirrored these changes so young readers can understand that while they may be sad and unhappy now, there will come a change to happier times, just as the sun will always return to peek through and fill us with joy and hope again.  We just need to be patient and resilient to wait for it. That is the silver lining of clouds.

As well as being an engaging way to help young children understand the cycle of moods and feelings, this is also a wonderful way to build imagination and vocabulary as there are few things more peaceful than lying down and watching the endless patterns of clouds. Harry even touches on the question of what clouds are and why they can’t be touched, so that opens up another avenue of investigation while Bevington’s illustrations of Harry, his father and Jasper superimposed onto real cloudscapes will attract the artistic mind.

Living in a rural landscape with no pollution, reading the clouds to predict the weather and just appreciating their diversity of shape, colour, density and speed is one of the joys of the simple life. This book will connect our kids to these oft-overlooked phenomena while also showing them that there is always hope on the horizon.

The Giant and the Sea

The Giant and the Sea

The Giant and the Sea

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Giant and the Sea

Trent Jamieson

Rovina Cai

Lothian Children’s, 2020

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

 9780734418876

There was once a giant who stood on the shore of the sea. She looked out across the water the water, because that is what she had promised to do long, long ago.

On the shore there was a young girl who would often come and sing and while the giant never moved or spoke, she listened. Then one day, she warned the girl that the people in the city had a machine that was causing the sea to rise. If the machine were not turned off, the people would all drown. The girl tried to warn the people but they would not listen.  They loved their machine and could not imagine that it would ever do them harm, until….

In the style of Armin Greder and Shaun Tan, this is a picture book that has a powerful message that in these days of climate change conversations, even our younger readers will grasp. Even though the little girl remains nameless, each of them could see themselves as being her as they try to make the adults in their world listen to their fears. While the palette of the illustrations is dark and moody reflecting the tone of the story, there is also a thread of hope when the giant returns and rescues those that heard the girl – not all the ears were deaf.

The ending is poignant and bittersweet but it reinforces the power of children’s voices at a time when the adults seem to have lost their way.

The best picture books are those that span all age groups with a meaning and message that speaks to each, and this is one of those. 

Teachers’ resources with salient discussion points particularly for older students are available to help you make the most of it with your students because it is one that will linger in the mind long after it has been shared. 

We Catch the Bus

We Catch the Bus

We Catch the Bus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We Catch the Bus

Katie Abey 

Bloomsbury, 2020 

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

9781526607195

A companion to We Eat Bananas and We Wear Pants this is another interactive picture book for young readers encouraging them to find their favourite characters driving or riding on all sorts of transport.  Monkeys flying planes, llamas riding scooters – whether it’s buses, planes, trucks, trains, diggers, cars, bikes, boats, emergency vehicles, tractors or rockets; little ones can hunt for their favourites and hone their visual perception skills as they search the highly detailed illustrations for all sorts of things, including Monkey who is the star of the earlier books. 

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

As with the others, each double-spread contains speech bubbles, many of them questions that readers can respond to such as counting the red vehicles or searching for the chameleon.  

This is a series of books that keeps on giving as there is so much on offer there is something new to look for and discover with each reading. Even without adult guidance, little ones can pore over the pictures and maybe imagine themselves as part of their favourite.  They learn to search for the details that offer clues to the meaning of the text in a very humorous setting, an important early reading behaviour. 

A great one for preschool or parent recommendations. 

 

Women Artists A to Z

Women Artists A to Z

Women Artists A to Z

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Women Artists A to Z

Melanie LaBarge

Caroline Corrigan

Puffin, 2020

64pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781760896317

As International Women’s Day approaches, this is a timely release of a collection of international women artists spanning a variety of genres including painting, drawing, sculpture, and more. The work of each is succinctly summarised in the title of each double-page spread such as F is for Flower (Georgia O’Keefe), O is for Opposites (Hilma Af Klint), Q is for Quilt (The Gee’s Bend Collective) and Y for Yarn (Xenobia Bailey). While there is just a paragraph describing the thrust of their work, there are more detailed biographical notes about each in the final pages as well as a provocative question about each inspiring the reader to think and do according to the medium or concept that captures their attention.  For example, aspiring quilters are challenged to consider who in their community they would like to work with on a collaborative piece.

Australian artist Mirka Mora is featured (A is for Angels because these found their way into work so often) but this could serve as a model for students to create their own spreads with a focus on the works of Australian artists. Rather than just retelling the artist’s life, the challenge becomes the summation of their works. Definitely one to share with your art faculty. 

 

Coming Home To Country

Coming Home To Country

Coming Home To Country

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coming Home To Country

Bronwyn Bancroft

Little Hare, 2020

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

9781760501921

The saying “there’s no place like home” has never been expressed so poignantly as in this new book from leading indigenous artist Bronwyn Bancroft who always creates a visual feast accompanied by lyrical text. The young girl is coming home across the old wrinkled hills, through the palette of “leaf green, red rust, yellow ochre, deep blue and crimson”  to draw in the breath of the valley, listen to the bird orchestra, slip into crystal clear waters and be held in the embrace of her ancestors. 

“This is peace” and even with its bright colours and traditional busy patterns, that is exactly the feeling that is evoked by the gentle words as they envelop the reader. With the tumultuous summer we are experiencing with such weather extremes and the insatiable fire dragon, this is the book that we and our children need so we can retreat to somewhere safe and know that there is the evidence that Mother Nature will prevail if we would only listen to those who have cared for the land for generations. In her dedication she urges her “three warriors” to keep rallying for change so that “all children can have hope for the future” and know that the fire-ravaged, desecrated landscape that they are seeing right now can heal.

A timely release as we seek to comfort those for whom everything currently seems bleak and black and silent so they know that there can and will be colour and noise and life again soon. 

The Voyage

The Voyage

The Voyage

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Voyage

Robert Vescio

Amanda Edmonds

EK Books, 2019

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

9781925820034

Fourteen words. If books were priced based on the number of words the story had, then you would probably ask for your money back with this one, but those 14 words document a life-changing episode in one family – a family that could be any one of a number of those whose children we teach and will teach as conflict continues to circle the world. Just fourteen words to tell such a story that are more powerful than if there were 10 or 100 times that many. 

War displaces the family and their pet duck and so they must escape on a boat into the unknown. At first there is the CHAOS of the conflict; then there is the WILD ocean as a storm tosses the boat and overturns it;but BEAUTY awaits as they finally sight land ahead and at last they are SAFE.

But words alone are not enough and it is the remarkable and powerful watercolour illustrations that meld with those 14 words to tell an all-too familiar story of despair, hope, courage, resilience and joy. In fact, more mature readers might be able to empathise with the family and retell the story using an emotion for each page, perhaps sparking greater understanding and compassion  for their peers who have lived the nightmare.  But while those illustrations have strong words to convey, they have soft lines and gentle colours so the humanity and reality of the people is maintained and the reader is not turned off by page after page of darkness.. Again, older students could compare the illustrations and mood of this book with those of the 2019 CBCA Honours Book The Mediterranean

Accompanying notes tell us that both author and illustrator were driven by the need to tell what is becoming a common story so that there is greater understanding and compassion amongst those whose lives are less traumatic and through that, build stronger, more cohesive communities so that life is better, enriched and enhanced for everyone. Edmonds deliberately chose a Middle Eastern family as her centrepiece because of the richness of the culture so that the reader can appreciate the depth and meaning of what is being left behind – the dilemma  of leaving  all that is known and loved for the uncertainty of the unknown and the heartache and danger that either choice will bring.

Beyond the storyline itself, this is a book that so clearly demonstrates the critical, integral relationship between text and illustration, that a picture really is “worth a thousand words” , and often the picture book format is the most powerful way to tell a story.

Look for this one in the 2020 awards lists.

 

Running with the Horses

Running with the Horses

Running with the Horses

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Running with the Horses

Alison Lester

Puffin, 2019

96pp., hbk., RRP $A16.99

9781760892760

Nina lives with her father above the palace stables at the Royal Academy of Dancing Horses. She loves watching the famous white stallions as they parade for the crowds, but her favourite horse is a mare called Zelda – an old cab horse Nina often pats on her way home from school.

When Nina’s world changes dramatically, she and her father have to flee from the city. Their journey over the mountains with Zelda and the stallions seems impossible, with danger at every turn. It will require all of Nina’s bravery, daring and faith in an extraordinary old horse.

This is a new edition of the picture book first released 10 years ago, now in a format that will attract newly independent readers to enjoy this story inspired by the rescue of the Lipizzaner stallions from the Spanish Riding School in Vienna during the Second World War, offering yet another story and insight into that conflict. although Lester insists it is a work of fiction.

With all the original illustrations – the main characters being in  black and white line drawings set against lavish colourful backgrounds – this is an intriguing read that justifies its re-release and promotion to a whole new generation.  

Animology: The Big Book of Letter Art Alphabeasts

Animology

Animology

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Animology : The Big Book of Letter Art Alphabeasts

Maree Coote

Melbournestyle Books, 2019

72pp., hbk., RRP $A34.99

9780992491796

Every part of me’s a letter!

Does that help you find me better?

Look very closely- can you see

The hidden letters that find me?

Sometimes letters may repeat

To make more eyes or fur or feet

Look back-to-front,

Look upside down,

Every letter can be found!

This is one of the most unusual books I’ve reviewed for a long time and one of the most fascinating. Paired with an informative verse about its subject, each illustration is created by using the letters of the creature’s name and the reader is challenged to find each one. From the vibrant mandrill on the front cover, the challenge is set to take a journey through the natural world discovering everything from swans to budgerigars, all cleverly constructed from their letters.  

Readers have to examine the details in each illustrations, honing their visual acuity skills amongst others, as Coote has had fun with fonts, their shapes and sizes to tease even the most discerning eye. One for those boys who like to gather round the same book and test themselves.  And having got the concept by looking, students can then be challenged to try for themselves, remembering that they not only have to spell the name correctly and use all the letters, but make the finished design resemble to creature!! Something very different for an art/biology lesson that could be a shared activity as the artists draw and the wordsmiths research to create the verse!

A significant step up from the usual look-and-find books for younger readers.

 

Dr Seuss’s Horse Museum

Dr Seuss's Horse Museum

Dr Seuss’s Horse Museum

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dr Seuss’s Horse Museum

Dr Seuss

Andrew Joyner

Puffin, 2019

75pp., hbk., RRP $A27.99

9780241425725

Throughout history, the horse has been the subject of paintings, sketches, sculptures  and other interpretations and each artist has viewed the same creature through a different lens.  Some have seen its outline, others its bulk; some have seen its lines, others its strength, and each has conveyed their perception in a different way. According to Ted Geisel (aka Dr Seuss), when an artist sees a horse, it is not viewed from a photographic point of view but what the horse means to them as a person, and that depends on their education, experience and the thousands of other influences that shape anyone’s view of the world, not just its horses. 

Twenty-one years after Geisel’s death, his wife found the manuscript that is the basis of this book illustrated by South Australian Andrew Joyner.  The actual timeline of the manuscript is unclear but it does reflect Geisel’s lifetime interest in art with rough pencil sketches and notes for the entire book, and this has now been interpreted by Joyner using his imagination and the actual art works that Geisel planned. Working through a range of art genres including Surrealism, Expressionism, Cubism and Abstraction, the young reader is not only taken on a journey through the interpretation of the horse but through art itself, offering an introduction to the various movements that have swept the world along making this a book for older readers as much as for younger. Accompanied by notes about the manuscript, Geisel’s own art and the featured works, the story is told in prose (as opposed to the usual rhyme) and speaks directly to the reader so it is entertaining as well as educational. 

It’s a great discussion starter as young artists think about what they see when they see a horse, as well as a springboard for getting out the tools and creating a personal interpretation. Something unique to add to the art curriculum.

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

 

Duck Duck Moose

Duck Duck Moose

Duck Duck Moose

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Duck Duck Moose

Lucinda Gifford

Allen & Unwin, 2019 

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

9781760634704

Two ducks with attitude are making their way through the forest when suddenly they encounter Moose…

To tell the rest of the story would not only spoil it but would also just be my interpretation of the sparse text juxtaposed against the fabulous illustrations which contain all the action and expressions, the problem and its solution.

This is one of those books that is perfect for encouraging littlies to read both the words and the pictures and tell their own story, and even though Australian children might not be familiar with a moose there is no mistaking what it is and its impact on the ducks.  With the endpapers being an integral part of the story, it really does encourage interaction with the whole book and provides so much scope for language development, not just reading.

So, as well as being perfect for littlies, it is also rich enough in its story for being one for those who are learning English as a new language to also engage with.  Apart from interpreting the story itself, there is scope to talk about the expressions and emotions, so perfectly portrayed in the illustrations and which are universal.  

A true picture book where every element is interdependent and the key link between them is the reader and their imagination.