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Jørn’s Magnificent Imagination

Jørn’s Magnificent Imagination

Jørn’s Magnificent Imagination

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jørn’s Magnificent Imagination

Coral Vass

Nicky Johnston

EK Books, 2022

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

It is the backdrop to the lives of so many, draws millions of visitors from around the world, and yet is so familiar now that many don’t even see it.

Who would have thought that such a magnificent structure could grow from a little boy playing with sailboats, watching swans land on water, collecting seashells and flowers, even playing with his breakfast orange peel?  And yet it did and in this beautiful retelling of the young life of  Jørn Utzon, the reader learns not only of the beginnings of one of the world’s most recognisable buildings but the power of the imagination, and the importance of letting dreams lead us into amazing places.

Where might today’s discovery take a young person in years to come? Even if it is a wet, indoors day, what might they build from “rubbish” that could become the start of something magnificent?  In 50 years, will a nation be celebrating their dreams as they are about to celebrate Jørn’s?  

Sensitively written and illustrated in a way that doesn’t reveal the mystery to the end, this is a book that not only celebrates a little life that has big dreams that come true, but inspires the reader to drift away and imagine… If Jørn could begin a building with orange peels, could they make a city floodproof by playing in their porridge and milk?

Ella and the Useless Day

Ella and the Useless Day

Ella and the Useless Day

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ella and the Useless Day

Meg McKinlay

Karen Blair

Walker Books, 2022

32pp., hbk., RRP $A25.99

9781760653095

When Dad takes a tumble in Ella’s room because it is so full, just like the rest of the house, it is clearly time for a clean-out.  And so, together, they search, scramble, sort, poke, pick and pile all the useless stuff they find into the trailer to take it to the tip, where useless things go.

But is it really useless?  Or is their truth in the old adage that “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure”? Because by the time they get to the tip, all that is left in the trailer is  a bag of fabric scraps and they even find the most delightful use for that.

Meg McKinlay can always be relied on to tell an entertaining story, always unique, and this is no different.  With its subtle message of sustainability at a time when spring cleaning and all sorts of sort-out, clean-out resolutions seem to grip us, this is a timely release to encourage us to think about what can be reused, repurposed or recycled instead of going to the growing mountains of landfill.  But really, what can be done with a rusty tricycle, a blanket full of holes, an ugly suit or a cracked fish bowl?  Or any of the other items community members claim as Ella and her dad make their way to the tip?  Young readers could have lots of fun predicting the new life each object might have, and then enjoy Karen Blair’s final vignettes of just what their new owners did with them.

Perhaps this is the perfect book, the perfect time and the perfect opportunity for children to clean out their bedrooms and have a community swap-and-save sale to build awareness of the need to be less of a throwaway society, to offer their things a new life in a new home and to be an example to the grown-ups in their lives.  

 

 

The Very Hard Book

The Very Hard Book

The Very Hard Book

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Very Hard Book

Idan Ben-Barak

Philip Bunting

A&U Children’s, 2022

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

9781760526221

Can you make up a joke that makes you laugh? Sit in an empty room?  Or be somewhere else for a minute?

At first, this book with its short sentences, large font and intriguingly ‘simple’ pictures looks like one of those fun ones that engage young children in the joy of reading through the power of the absurd,  And, indeed, it is just that – but a closer look, as well as the diagram on the final endpaper, show that it is so much more.

Because once again, the author of the very popular Do Not Lick This Book has put his scientific brain to work to create an introduction to the world beyond the words, this time about thinking about thinking. The act of thinking about thinking is known as metacognition and forms the basis of all critical thought. It is also a concept that comes easily to children whose inquisitive nature makes them able to engage in abstract questions and open-ended thinking without the constraints, learning and lenses that the adult brain automatically imposes.

Bunting, who teamed up with Ben-Barak to create We Go Way Back has very cleverly used characters that resemble dendrites , the brain cell’s message receptors, to further emphasise the confusion and complexity of the tasks that seem so simple on the surface.  

Some years ago when science made it possible for specialists to really start delving into how people learn, and people like Bob Sylwester, Renate and Geoffrey Caine  Eric Jensen and Robin Fogarty  began to interpret what this looked like in the classroom providing the foundations for the pedagogies we now use, students were encouraged to think about their thinking, to know how their brains worked and apply that to their learning.  And they were engaged and fascinated as they learned about “the magic trees of the mind” . Even though this might not be such a focus now, nevertheless this would be an excellent introduction to get them to start thinking about thinking and stretching and growing their brains beyond the screen and someone else’s imagination. 

For surely, if our students are to become critical thinkers, they must first know how and why they think and the influences that play on that. 

 

A Feather on a Wing

A Feather on a Wing

A Feather on a Wing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Feather on a Wing

Maria Speyer

UQP, 2022

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

9780702263255

Sometimes, when it’s dark and you’re lonely, the best thing to make you feel better is to have a big sister to reassure you that you are not alone.  Like a feather on a wing, a flower in a daisy chain, a raindrop in a shower, we are always connected to someone and together we make up a whole that has unlimited potential.

With illustrations as gentle as the rhyming text, imagery that calms as it connects,  and the whole put to music as an addendum, this is a charming story that not only soothes the little girl but also provides the reader with food for thought as they consider the connections in their own lives and the ‘something bigger’ that they are a part of.   Feeling alone, perhaps a little afraid, in the dark is such a relatable experience and in each spread not only does the big sister reinforce the concept of belonging, but gradually widens the circle so that it embraces shared sorties, toys, other children…

Through her use of metaphors, the big sister encourages her little sister to practise mindfulness, to be in the moment, to dream with her eyes open…

What wholes are you part of?

Teachers’ notes are available.

Be Wild, Little One

Be Wild, Little One

Be Wild, Little One

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Be Wild, Little One

Olivia Hope

Daniel Egnéus

Bloomsbury, 2022

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

9781408884805

Wake up early, don’t be shy.
This bright world can make you FLY . . .

Described as an “anthem of bravery” this is a picture book that encourages young readers to embrace and explore the world around them, to be driven by their imagination, unshackled by any practical limitations, as they journey through the beauties of nature: from pine forests to awe-inspiring mountains, and from sparkling seas to starry skies,  fly across oceans, run with wolves through the mountain snow, dance with fireflies, and just be wild.

While in itself it might appear somewhat fanciful, nevertheless it could be a good discussion starter for exploring the local world, particularly those attractions that are there to enjoy for free as school holidays entice adventures and expeditions.  Your wild one might not be able to run with wolves but perhaps there is a hillside that needs climbing or a rockpool to explore.

 

 

Zadie Ma and the Dog Who Chased the Moon

Zadie Ma and the Dog Who Chased the Moon

Zadie Ma and the Dog Who Chased the Moon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Zadie Ma and the Dog Who Chased the Moon

Gabrielle Wang

Puffin, 2022

272pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

 9781761046513

Zadie Ma’s passion is writing stories, and she has discovered that sometimes they come true – as they did with the story of Little Ant Cassandra when the ants miraculously disappeared before her mother could spray them , and Little Kit who was a fox who could sing and the next day, she saw exactly that outside her window.  

Shy and without a close friend until Sparrow moves in next door, Zadie’s dearest wish is to have a dog of her own and so she starts to write the story of a poor unwanted dog called Jupiter, who’s just waiting to be rescued by a loving girl like Zadie. Although Zadie can’t control which of her stories come true, perhaps this might be one of those that do. 

Interspersed with both Zadie’s stories and graphic novel elements, this is a new release from Australian Children’s Laureate, Gabrielle Wang, for independent readers who like a down-to-earth story featuring characters they can relate to.  For when Zadie sets off to find Jupiter, instead of minding the family’s shop, she does indeed find him and rescues him.  But then she realises that she can’t keep him because her mother will not let her have a dog, particularly as their relationship is somewhat strained… Will her story have the happy ending she dreams of?

Gabrielle Wang is the author of a number of books for primary-aged readers, including The Beast of Hushing Wood , each different and intriguing. This one, set in Melbourne in 1955, has a personal tinge to it as it is prefaced with a photo of her with her grandfather and the family dog and dedicated to “Rusty, and all the other dogs who were lost and never found their way home”. In fact, in an interview, Wang says “This novel is a special love letter to my very first dog, Rusty, who my grandfather found wandering around lost at the Victoria market in Melbourne. “

It also touches on some of the attitudes that were prevalent at the time, including issues of racism and the place of women and animals in society offering an opportunity to reflect on how things have changed – or haven’t.  Other stories with a similar timeframe  that could be companion novels are 52 Mondays  and The Unstoppable Flying Flanagan, both quite different but also with themes of family, friendship, determination and courage.  

 

 

 

 

Whose Poo?

Whose Poo?

Whose Poo?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whose Poo?

Daisy Bird

Marianna Coppo

Andersen Press, 2022

44pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9781839132285

The two baby mice are fascinated by poo and even though their dad tells them it is an off-limits conversation while on their zoo trip, they can’t help themselves.  As they walk to the zoo, they see lots of different people and their imaginations run wild as they picture the sort of poo the person would do – but once they get there, there’s no stopping their fantasies.  “Chameleons do sneaky, camouflage poo.  They can hide it anywhere they want to!” 

But the greatest insight is when Father Mouse takes them to meet the Pookeeper…

While this is an hilarious story in rhyme that will have young readers laughing out loud that might have them imagining what sort of poo those around them would do, this story also has a serious side.. It shows that going to the toilet is an everyday occurrence for everybody and everything and is a necessary part of being healthy, sparking conversations about the digestive system and how it works. .  By normalising it in this way, the stigma that has been attached to getting rid of body waste for centuries as though it is something nasty and naughty may be diminished so that if there is a change in the habit or the product, it can be addressed without embarrassment.  It may also minimise the advent of toilet humour that seems to grip young boys and often lasts into adulthood.  

A fun read with a serious side. 

Marshmallow Clouds: Poems Inspired by Nature

Marshmallow Clouds: Poems Inspired by Nature

Marshmallow Clouds: Poems Inspired by Nature

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marshmallow Clouds: Poems Inspired by Nature

Ted Kooser & Connie Wanek

Richard Jones

Walker Books, 2022

72pp., hbk., RRP $A32.99

9781529507072

There have been a number of books reviewed on this site over the last couple of years like The Secret Signs of Nature that have encouraged young readers to explore their immediate environment with  critical, sensitive eyes to discover the detail hiding in the big picture. 

But what if, as well as their senses and science brain, they also took their imagination out to play? And what they saw really did become a clown on the top of the hill, up on one leg, juggling a pie, rather than just a winter tree with a long-vacated squirrel’s nest on the end of a branch? 

The subtitle of the US version of this book by former US poet laureate Ted Kooser and and poet Connie Wanek is ” Two Poets at Play Among Figures of Speech” and while a bit dull, nevertheless, it sums up this stunning collection of blank verse poems perfectly.  By letting their imaginations out to play, and using similes and metaphors and other literary devices beloved of English teachers, a thunderstorm becomes something that has become lost in the dark of the house, not wanting to wake us but crashing into walls as they stumble about, occasionally striking a match to see their way; tadpoles become commas making them “the liveliest of all punctuation” ; and a book is transformed into a sandwich with all sorts of goodness between its folded pitta covers!

 Organized by the elements of Fire, Water, Air and Earth and accompanied by distinctive, sparse illustrations that interpret the words but which don’t interfere with the picture created by the reader this is an intriguing anthology to dip and delve into, for letting the imagination roam free, wander, and stay healthy. So while we understand that a fire has no stomach, is “never full, never satisfied” and thus must never be set dree, it is an entirely different story for our imaginations.

 

An Artist’s Eyes

An Artist's Eyes

An Artist’s Eyes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Artist’s Eyes

Frances Tosdevin

Clémence Monnet

Frances Lincoln Children’s, 2022

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

9780711264830

When Mo looks at the sea, she sees “dazzling duck-egg blue, a swirl of peacocks and the inky indigo of evening” but all Jo sees is blue.  

When Mo looks at the forest, she sees “shiny apple-green, the lime of gooseberries and the springy zinginess of moss” and shadows that make the green go darker.  But all Jo sees is green, making him more and more frustrated because he can’t see what Mo does.  But Mo is patient and gradually Jo begins to use his imagination although instead of seeing the shades and hues that Mo does,  he starts to see something different…

This is a powerful yet gentle story that reminds the reader that two people can look at exactly the same thing and see it differently- that each of us has artist’s eyes that are shaped by our imagination, experience and perceptions and it can take us a while to align them.  Monnet’s watercolour interpretation of Tosdevin’s lyrical text is enchanting and with their shapes, lines and colour choices the reader will view them through Mo’s eyes or Jo’s eyes or their own eyes…

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

At the age where our children are exploring a new independence and making a wider friendship group, they look at those around them and think that being like them is the key to “success:” and they try to change who they are to be like those they admire.  So this familiar message of being comfortable in your own skin, being the unique individual you are, perhaps even being the ‘you’ that others admire and seek to emulate is important and cannot be shared too often.  So this iteration of that truth is not only important but being a completely different interpretation gives it added reach and recognition.  Whether our eyes kiss in the corners or speak to the stars, sees shapes or colours or sparkles, what we see is unique to us and is as valid as what our neighbour sees. 

I Wish I Was a Fish

I Wish I Was a Fish

I Wish I Was a Fish

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Wish I Was a Fish

Laura Bridekirk

Vanessa Fernandes

Little Steps, 2022 

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

9781922358776

Oh, what a thrill it would be to have a tail and gills! Imagine breathing underwater water! The idea gives me chills.

The little lad in this story is fascinated by fish and the world they live in so he takes the reader on an imaginary adventure under the water as he dreams of what his life would be like if his dreams came true.  But wait! What would he have to give up  as a little boy if they did?  Is there a compromise?

This story-in-rhyme is not only an introduction to the creatures of the watery world for our young readers, but it is also an opportunity for them to share the things they wish for – and reflect on the price they would pay if they actually came true.  A chance to think about the meaning of “Be careful what you wish for.”