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What if … ?

What if … ?

What if … ?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What if … ?

Lynn Jenkins

Kirrili Lonergan

EK Books, 2021

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

9781925820973

Issy’s mind was always very busy. She was always wondering “What if…” and then imagining all sorts of situations that scared her.  She worried about monsters in her cupboard, aliens taking her in the middle of the night, her bedroom floor turning to quicksand and sucking up both her bed and her.

But her wise mother recognises the anxiety her imagination causes and the power of those two little words, and as she tucks Issy into bed she takes her turn at the “What if…”” But instead of scary things, she takes Issy and her imagination on an amazing and humorous trip of people walking on their hands and wearing their undies on their head; of clouds of different colours that smell of fairy floss and popcorn… Then she invites Issy to try and when she takes her mind in a new direction, her anxiety vanishes.

This is another beautiful offering from the pairing that gave us stories like Tree, and the Little Anxious Creatures series as the author draws on her expertise and experience as a clinical psychologist to acknowledge children’s big feelings and then articulates them in a way that both resonated with the child and helps them develop strategies that empower them to deal with them for themselves.  Changing thinking from what if a storm brews, a tree crashes through my window and a vampire bat flies into my bedroom to what if there were hot air balloons that could take me anywhere I wanted to go following a path made by the stars is as powerful as those two words themselves. As Jenkins says, “we are the bosses of our brains” and thus we can choose what we want to think. Lonergan’s illustrations in soft pastel colours are as gentle as the story itself,  and would be the ideal model for little ones to think of their own what if and then illustrate it, thinking of the way colour can portray mood as much as any other element.  A physical reminder to look at whenever their mind starts to wander down dark paths…

There has been much talk about the impact that the last 18-20 months has had on the mental health of our children and so this book, and the others by this couple, are more critical to know about and share than ever.

As well as teachers’ notes, Jenkins shares the story herself.

 

The What on Earth Institute of Wonder

The What on Earth Institute of Wonder

The What on Earth Institute of Wonder

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The What on Earth Institute of Wonder

Lisa Nicol

Puffin, 2021

288pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9781761041556

In the dead of night, the full moon blazing and with their mum double-dosed on sleepy-time tea, 12 year-old Sal (who can talk to birds and animals) and 8 year-old Roy (who’s ready for the apocalypse) quietly climb into a 1975 VW Kombi campervan already filled with an adolescent African elephant and driven by 14 year-old Bartholomew (who is yet to get his drivers’ licence),  This unusual crew, accompanied by Hector the kakapo, set off on a strange expedition which the reader is warned about in the prologue, deep into the Animal Kingdom.  

Despite its quirkiness, there is much the independent reader will relate to in this story including being in single-parent families where the remaining parent is barely coping; the small-minded community members of a small town whose slogan is “Don’t Get Your Hopes Up”; the feeling that animals are more trust-worthy and reliable than adults; and the desire to save the entire animal kingdom from the ravages humans inflict on it.

Nicol has a proven record of turning the ordinary into the extraordinary through her amazing imagination and her desire to empower the children who are her heroes through books like Vincent and the Grandest Hotel on Earth and Dr Boogaloo and the Girl who Lost her Laughter  but still embodying those critical themes of family, friendship, self-belief and loyalty throughout.

Whether this is a read-alone or a read-together, it will appeal to those ready to take flight on an extraordinary adventure, accept strange things really do happen and just enjoy the ride. 

The Imagineer

The Imagineer

The Imagineer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Imagineer

Christopher Cheng

Lucia Masciullo

NLA, 2021

34pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9780642279682

Penny was an imagineer – one of those clever people who can create in their head and then craft with their hands. All day long she would look at the everyday things around her and imagine how they could be used in a different way, like turning an umbrella upside-down to catch the rain and use its unique shape to funnel the water into a mug with a tap.  She was always pulling things apart and then twisting and turning, screwing, taping tying until they were back together again -sometimes as they were but usually not. 

Her imagination knew no limits as she sketched and planned but sadly the little apartment where she lived was not as large.  However, Grandpa lived in a much larger house, one where he had lived for a very long time and the rooms were packed!  When Penny first visited, she was in seventh heaven. The treasures to be explored… And then she discovered the shed!

Between them, Christopher Cheng and Lucia Masciullo have used their imaginations and their incredible skills with words and pictures to craft a thoroughly entertaining tale that is rich in all those elements that make the very best stories for children – I had to check there were only 34 pages because there was just so much packed in even though the text is just the right amount.  The final foldout page is just adorable and young readers will spend hours just poring over its possibilities, lighting their own imaginations.  

And because it is a publication from the National Library of Australia, there are vignettes of the tools that are mentioned in the story with brief explanations of what they are and how or why they were used (because even the grown-ups sharing the story won’t be old enough to remember let alone used them, unlike me who still has some of them) . It is such a clever way of taking youngsters back to Old Worlds so they can see how things have evolved over time and allow them to speculate on how their own imaginations might develop them further.

To use Chris’s own words, this is a “most wonderful, phantasmagorical, increibleacious, stupendorific” read.

You Can’t Take an Elephant on Holiday

You Can't Take an Elephant on Holiday

You Can’t Take an Elephant on Holiday

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You Can’t Take an Elephant on Holiday

Patricia Cleveland-Peck

David Tazzyman

Bloomsbury, 2021

32pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

9781408898567

With winter closing in, holidays seem like a tempting option right now but whatever you do or wherever you go, DON’T take an elephant with you. Or a cheetah, or a rhino, or a meerkat or an albatross for that matter.   Or any of the animals mentioned in this wacky book, because even though they just want to have fun, they are going to cause havoc.

This latest addition to the You Can’t Take an Elephant  series is as hilarious as the others and will delight both child and adult alike as they share it together.  Let the child think of then draw a scene from their favourite holiday spot and then add a favourite animal and a situation and there is the basis for a story.  Even better if it rhymes as this text does! Or explore how the author has used language to make the rhymes and play with their words so they do too. Imagine what a wombat might do if you took it to the beach with you!

A bit of fun to play with as the long winter terms drags on…

 

The Magic Faraway Tree: Silky and Moonface’s Stories

The Magic Faraway Tree: Silky and Moonface's Stories

The Magic Faraway Tree: Silky and Moonface’s Stories

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Silky’s Story

Enid Blyton & Jeanne Willis

Mark Beech

9781444956290

Moonface’s Story

Enid Blyton & Emily Lamm

Mark Beech

9781444957989

 

Hodder Children’s, 2021

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

The Magic Faraway Tree with its ladder at the very top leading through the clouds to wondrous lands of adventure and magic has been a favourite for generations and has always been my go-to read-aloud when introducing young children to the concept of series with their continuing settings and characters. 

Now, almost 80 years later , two new stories about two of the favourite residents of the Faraway Tree have been created to introduce this magical world to a new generation of  young readers and have them clamouring to read more.

In Silky’s Story, the children arrive at The Tree to discover it silent, its leaves on the ground, its fruit eaten and, as they climb, they follow a trail of mess, mud and fruit stones.  Their friends are all frightened and Silky the fairy is missing!  It seems that the Land of Roundabouts and Swings has arrived at the top of the tree and an unusual and seemingly unpleasant visitor has come down the tree causing havoc and taken Silky back to the Land with him…

Meanwhile, in Moonface’s Story, it is Moonface’s birthday and he wants to hold a party for all his special friends. Of course, birthday parties always require cake but when he tries to bake a cake  it ends up burnt. Will he find help in one of the wonderful lands at the top of the Faraway Tree?

Lavishly illustrated in bold colours, both books make both the perfect bedtime story as well as taking the child to ‘old worlds, new worlds and other worlds.’  The perfect entrée to the main course of the complete collection – The Enchanted Wood ,  The Magic Faraway Tree and The Folk of the Faraway Tree

 

Good Night, Ivy Bright

Good Night, Ivy Bright

Good Night, Ivy Bright

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Good Night, Ivy Bright

Ben Long

Andrew Plant

Ford Street, 2021

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

9781925804720

Ivy couldn’t get to sleep; her mind was burning bright.

I’m done with counting sheep, she thought, I’ll paint my dreams tonight.

So using her favourite paintbrush she sprinkles blue and yellow together and sets sail on a sea of green, painting all sorts of wondrous creatures from the depths of the ocean and her imagination.  But when she paints a whale, she runs out of purple before she can give it a tail. Determined not to leave it tailless, she goes on a new journey in search of the elusive purple, discovering so many other colour combinations as she does.

Told in rhyme, this is a story as vibrant as Andrew Plant’s illustrations that will appeal to so many young readers. Many of them will recognise those nights when their mind is so full of the day that has been or the one to come that sleep doesn’t come even though they know they need to drift off, so suggesting that they paint their dreams is one way to focus their imagination and calm their thoughts.  They could even think about who plays the role of the sensible, calming moose in their lives as they breathe deeply.

With teachers’ notes available,  this is one that opens up lots of opportunities to discuss the need for sleep, the exploration of colour and its combinations, and the development of calm strategies as well as the literary and artistic aspects. 

The Magic Faraway Tree Collection

The Magic Faraway Tree Collection

The Magic Faraway Tree Collection

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Magic Faraway Tree Collection

Enid Blyton

Hodder Children’s, 2020

638pp., pbk., RRP $A19.99

9781444959437

Imagine being able to walk to the woods at the bottom of your garden where the leaves of the trees whisper to each other that you are there and find yourself at the bottom of a tree that has the most remarkable inhabitants like Moonface, Silky and Dame Washalot living in its branches and a revolving world of magical lands at its top, high in the clouds.  That is what Joe, Beth and Frannie (PC’ed from the original Fanny) discover when they move to the countryside and  discover that their new house lies next to the Enchanted Wood! And in that wood stands the Magic Faraway Tree where they have so many amazing encounters and adventures.

This collection comprising all three books in the series – The Enchanted Wood, The Magic Faraway Tree and The Folk of the Faraway Tree – is now, once again, on offer to parents, teachers and independent readers to share.  Over my 50+ years in teaching, I’ve lost count of how many children I have shared this magic with. Apart from transporting the children to new worlds of imagination and wonderment, it was my go-to read-aloud when they were ready for a serial that had continuous characters and settings so they were familiar with the background, but still needed a complete story within each session.  

There is a reason that Blyton’s stories (over 700 books and about 2,000 short stories) have not dated and have sold over 500 million copies and have been translated into other languages more often than any other children’s author and remain in print more than 50 years after her death.  Apart from being childhood favourites of previous generations and thus handed down through families like fairytales, her imagination gave her readers the wings to fly away from whatever circumstances they were in to a world where anything was possible, anything could happen and usually did.  In series like The Magic Faraway Tree, The Famous Five, The Secret Seven,  Malory Towers and Noddy, there were no everyday constraints on the characters and they could become heroes in the most mundane of circumstances, resonating with the audience in ways many authors have envied and tried to emulate since. 

Visiting a new world every read, this is truly a perfect collection for this year’s CBCA Book Week theme of Old Worlds, New Worlds, Other Worlds and because my own grandchildren have had this series on their bookshelves for many years, I know just which family needs this copy to start their tradition. 

 

The Song for Everyone

The Song for Everyone

The Song for Everyone

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Song for Everyone

Lucy Morris

Bloomsbury, 2021

40pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781526631121

From a tiny window, too high in the eaves to be noticed from below and too small to let in much daylight, came a delicate tune.
A melody, a song, a sound so sweet which drifted on the breeze to the lanes and streets below. …

Day after day, the song is heard through the town. making the old feel young and comforting the lonely. It fills the whole town with joy and kindness. No one knows who sings the song, but they know it is good.  Until one day, the music stops. Can the town work together to save the song for everyone?

This is a gentle story that shows how it is the little things that can shape our day and our well-being. With the music being depicted as whirls and swirls of tiny flowers and leaves small enough to get into everyone’s ears and heart, yet its origins not revealed till the climax of the story+, young readers can predict not only who or what is offering this gift to the town but also what has happened to make it stop.

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

It also shows that music is a universal language and begin an investigation into its various genres and what they think would be the one tune that everyone would like to hear. How does music affect our mood? What mind pictures does it create ? Is there, indeed, a song for everyone?

While You’re Sleeping

While You're Sleeping

While You’re Sleeping

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While You’re Sleeping

Mick Jackson

John Broadley

Pavilion, 2021

40pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781843654650

Night time.  Time to snuggle down under the covers, think briefly about tomorrow and drift off to the land of sweet dreams.

But night is not a time of peace and quiet for all.  There is much that happens.  Weather changes, animals hunt and there are many many workers who ensure that the wheels of modern life keep turning, and on the other side of the world children are going about their daytime life.

With its highly detailed imagery, which are fully explored in the excellent teachers’ notes, this book introduces the young reader to another world which exists side by side with their own.

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

This world of the night-time worker will either acknowledge what they already know because they have a family member who works then (and thus they see their own lives in print), or expose them to a whole new concept helping them to understand how the world works and appreciate those who make it so.  Either way, it opens up a realm of possibilities to explore from children sharing their own experiences to investigating what causes night and darkness. Starting with a focus on things that are close to the child, it gradually encompasses a broader perspective to show that there is always much life and activity happening somewhere, and even though they might be asleep another child will be sitting in class. Perfect for this year’s CBCA Book Week theme.

This is an original concept that will capture the imagination with its intriguing cover -why is there a  bed floating over the town? – and the calm, undramatic text will soothe and comfort. 

The Odds

The Odds

The Odds

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Odds

Matt Stanton

ABC Books, 2020

208pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9780733340635

Kip is a quiet kid in a loud city. Living with her father after her mum died, she prefers to keep a low profile and her home is her sanctuary. She’s easy to miss and that’s the way she likes it. School, with its hustle and bustle and noise is overwhelming and she is dreading the day the spotlight falls on her and she has to tell the rest of the class why she is special.

Then, one day, Kip’s quiet life is suddenly interrupted. Ten of her favourite characters have stepped out of their worlds of her imagination and memories and into hers as real-life beings.

But what happens when a dragon-hunting rabbit leaves his comic strip? When an old man leaves his picture book? When a ninja leaves her TV show, a race-car driver leaves their video game, and a dinosaur turns up from Kip’s nightmares? But while Kip just wants the creatures to hide and be invisible as she wishes to be, her father tells her , “If you start running away from hard things you never stop running” and Kip (and the reader) learn a significant life lesson.

Matt Stanton is rapidly becoming one of the decade’s most sought after authors by young, newly independent readers who like his humour that is always tempered with a good, solid storyline focusing on activities and issues  that resonate with his audience.  While not all will have dragon-hunting rabbits in their lives, nevertheless they will have those familiar feelings of fitting in, self-doubt and discovering just who they are as they become more and more independent and start to have their own opinions and ideas that shape their identities.

Using his cartooning skills, Stanton has produced a graphic novel that is going to appeal to a wide range of readers, each of whom will see themselves in one of the characters such as the little elephant who really just wants to hide under the covers all day.  Using a graphic novel format means the reader has to engage with the story in an active way taking in all that is going on so the continuity is maintained and in such a visually-dominated world, this is a critical skill.

The first in the series, this is a book that has depth as well as diversity and carries a message that will reach out to even the most reluctant reader.