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Leafy Critters

Leafy Critters

Leafy Critters

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leafy Critters

Yvonne Lacet

Blue Dot, 2020

36pp., hbk., RRP $A16.95

9781733121224

The limitless shapes, colours and textures of leaves is explored as an art medium in this almost wordless picture book to inspire young creators to try their hand.  The reader is encouraged to examine the components of the pictures that have been created so instead of seeing just green leaves in the environment, they start to realise that each tree has a myriad of colours and that the shapes can suggest all manner of things that can go together to make a whole.

As summer wanders on and some trees have already begun to change colour because rainfall is still scarce, this is the ideal time to take littlies outside to observe, gather, collect and create their own artworks using the free materials on offer from Mother Nature.

These creations help them search for the finer detail in the whole and examine the parts and their unique elements so as well as taking a closer look at their surroundings, they are also developing their visual acuity which is such an essential early reading skill as they distinguish letter shapes and search illustrations for clues to the text. 

Einstein declared that “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution.”

What better way to start a new school year than with such an open-ended imaginative project that will appeal to all ages. 

One Lone Swallow

One Lone Swallow

One Lone Swallow

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One Lone Swallow

Corinne Fenton

Owen Swan

New Frontier, 2020

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

9781922326195

Florence, Italy , around 1805 and as night falls a lone swallow leaves her babies and flies across the city, with the single sole purpose of finding her mate who has not returned.

But it is not the courage and determination of the swallow in her mission that is the hallmark of this story, but the beautiful, lyrical description of her journey accompanied by the exquisite, soft illustrations that are the perfect match. 

For most of us, night comes in each day almost unnoticed in its regularity and sameness, unless there is a stunning sunset or storm to catch the eye. But in this simple story, Fenton and Swan, creators of other sensitive stories like Scrufflenut, turn the reader’s focus to the sights and sounds of nightfall, not just in Florence on this night but their own backyard. What are the sights, sounds, smells and colours that they hear as night falls across their home?  If they were like the swallow and could have a bird’s-eye view what would attract their attention as dusk and then night settles across the city? Is it a swift or lingering event?  Why? Would it be different if we were in a city, the bush, by the sea? Would it have been different in another time? Given this is set in 1805, what is noticeably missing if it were set today?  Perhaps this could inspire an individual, group or class poem focusing on how Fenton has made the ordinary extraordinary through her word choices and phrasing, and with illustrations that, like those of Swan, become an integral part of the tale told.

A perfect opportunity to encourage our students to take a close look at their environment and engage all their senses. 

The Tree

The Tree

The Tree

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Tree

Graeme Base

Puffin, 2020

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

9781760897048

This is the story of a cow, a duck and a very big tree that has Cow’s favourite mooberries growing on its branches and Duck’s favourite mushquacks growling amongst its roots.  So Cow builds herself a castle high in the tree and pulls up the drawbridge so no one can get in, and Duck digs deep amongst the roots and secures his domain with a secret key.  They forget each other, each content in their own “fiefdom” and all appears well until one night a massive storm upends everything. Suddenly they rediscover each other and the jealousy and selfishness begins…

Whether it is a classic like Animalia or Uno’s Garden, a tale like The Last King of Angkor Wat or Moonfishor something for the younger readers like The Amazing Monster Detectoscope or Bumblebunnies, Graeme Base can be guaranteed to give the reader the most exquisitely illustrated story that has more layers than the bed in The Princess and the Pea!  This new story is no exception with so much to discover in the pictures and so much to discuss in the words., encapsulated in the final masterful illustration. For the tree is so much more than a home to a selfish cow and a greedy duck and the reader can spend hours getting lost in the worlds of it branches, trunk and roots, knowing that one cannot survive without the other and so it becomes a symbol for harmony, co-operation and sharing. But, sturdy and steadfast as it may seem, it is not indestructible .However, from its demise something just as precious emerges offering the one thing that keeps life going – hope for a better future.

Graeme Base has created such a fabulous body of work since he first gave us My Grandma Lives in Gooligulch   that, in my opinion, he is one of Australia’s master storytellers who deserves a very special place in our history of children’s literature. 

One for all ages.

 

Combat Wombat to the Rescue

Combat Wombat to the Rescue

Combat Wombat to the Rescue

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Combat Wombat to the Rescue

Gina Newton

Tiffanee Daley

Ford Street, 2020

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

9781925804577

Combat Wombat, Wildlife Warrior of the Bush is fast asleep when he is woken by the other creatures, wanting to play. But there is no time to play because Combat Wombat’s super-sensitive nose, ears and paws have picked up some unmistakable signals – there is a bushfire on its way.  Quickly organising  his friends to be in charge of certain elements of safety, Combat Wombat leads them to Billabong Island where they will be safe.  Even though there are significant obstacles on the way he uses his special talents to overcome these until he gets to the river’s edge.  All the others can get across the water, but wombats are not built for leaping, flying or swimming.  Can he trust Bingo Dingo to get him there safely?

This is a story for younger readers that puts the plight of wildlife during a bushfire firmly in focus, particularly relevant given the events of last summer.  By using their special talents and working together, the creatures keep themselves safe, a lesson that goes beyond this particular situation. Much of the story is told in the artwork which is unique and Tiffanee Daley has shared her technique in this video.

Teachers’ notes offer a variety of ideas about how to use this book in the classroom with little ones but I believe they will enjoy it just for its own sake. I did.

I NEED a Parrot

I NEED a Parrot

I NEED a Parrot

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I NEED a Parrot

Chris McKimmie

Ford Street, 2020 

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

9781925804287

Like so many little people, this little boy decides he needs a pet.  Not just any pet – he needs a parrot in particular. But while he feels ne needs a parrot, and is prepared to take care of it, what does the parrot need?

Apart from the enduring argument about whether birds of any kind should be kept in cages, the story opens up discussions about wants versus needs and whether the two concepts are interchangeable.  

McKimmie has a unique artistic style that makes his illustrations very childlike in appearance and this really speaks to his audience underlining the message in his text.  Not only does he use the first person to talk to his audience but the words are backed up with images that look like they have been drawn by the narrator offering a double-whammy to pay attention. Starting the book with the image of a cage and ending it with a big blue sky is a powerful mechanism that will remain imprinted in the child’s mind, another technique that reinforces the message. There are many layers to this book that, on the surface, seems quite simple – a case of how less can indeed be more.

This book won the 2020 CBCA Picture Book of the Year Award , a worthy winner if the criteria is a story’s ability to open the minds of readers and challenge or change their thinking.

Teachers’ notes are available, and if it is sold out in your bookstore, contact the publisher. 

 

 

 

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.