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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.

This Is a Ball and Other Books That Drive Kids Crazy!

This Is a Ball and Other Books That Drive Kids Crazy!

This Is a Ball and Other Books That Drive Kids Crazy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This Is a Ball and Other Books That Drive Kids Crazy!

Beck & Matt Stanton

ABC Books, 2020

176 pp., hbk., RRP $A35.00

9780733341076

Five years ago we were introduced to a book called This is a ball, a book guaranteed to engage because of its intriguing cover which promised something offbeat and delivered it!

This is a ball

Since then, Beck & Matt Stanton have gone on to create four other books in the series, including Did you take the B from my -ook?The Red Book, Wait ! and The Book that never ends , and now they are all together in this one collection.  Using block colour, large font, line drawings and text that appears simple but in reality, makes the reader read and re-read it and try to refute its truth because the brain is not reading what the eyes are seeing, these stories are worth reading over and over again across the years, 

Compendia like these are always good value and this is an opportunity to have a collection that will intrigue and entertain again and again, while engaging young readers in the power and fun of print.

Cinders and Sparks (series)

Cinders and Sparks (series)

Cinders and Sparks (series)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cinders and Sparks (series)

Magic at Midnight

 9780008292119

Fairies in the Forest

9780008292140

Goblins and Gold

9780008292171

Lindsay Kelk

Pippa Curnick

HarperCollins, 2019-2020

176pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

Cinders lives a boring life with her selfish stepsisters and mean stepmother, doing the chores and tending to their every need, just like her traditional counterpart.  While they prefer to stay indoors all day listening to their mother read, Cinders would dearly love to be outside playing and although they can’t see the value of that she is allowed to do so once her chores are completed.  But something strange happens while she is outside –  her dog Sparks starts talking to her, her wishes start coming true and her fairy godmother, Brian, materialises.  (It’s been hard to track Cinders down because she is not on social media.)

And so begins a new series for young independent girls who are ready for a solid adventure story but still believe in magic and the characters of their childhood.  Easy to read, engaging and funny in parts,familiar characters and an ongoing quest make this a great read but at the same time, it has an underlying message that celebrates diversity and reaffirms that it is OK to be different. 

Miss 9 asked for The Worst Witch series for her birthday six weeks ago, and she is going to be thrilled when she discovers this series in her letterbox as a follow up because it will be perfect for her.  Thoroughly modern, thoroughly entertaining and just right for a winter read.

 

What a Lot of Nonsense

What a Lot of Nonsense

What a Lot of Nonsense

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What a Lot of Nonsense

Sheena Knowles

Jonathan Bentley

Angus & Robertson, 2020

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

9781460756140

Dear reader, please take time to note
Two ways to read this book I wrote.
The first way is for everyone,
Just read the book, enjoy the fun.

The second way will challenge those
Who like to look beyond the prose.
Who’d like to ACT just like a ‘cat’
(And that’s an anagram, in fact).

Even though my littlies are now almost biggies (9 and 13) respectively and I’ve had to take a long hard look at the shelves bending under the weight of picture books for them in their special bedroom,  two titles that will never be moved on in my lifetime are Edward the Emu and Edwina the Emu. Albeit a little tired from being shared with every class I ever taught, they are classics for me and they will soon be joined by this new title from their author, Sheena Knowles.  It is delightful, funny and SO clever and Jonathan Bentley’s illustrations give it an extra layer of magic.

The opening rhyme says it all and from there on it is just a romp of fun and hilarity – why should you worry if a camel eats curry? – and the recurring image of Bear struggling to get dressed just ties it all together.  And then to weave the tapestry even more tightly is the use of anagrams, a fun word device that might set readers off an entirely new tangent as they discover another aspect of our language. Maybe students could write and illustrate their own couplet that contains an anagram and give their classmates a lift during this at-home time.

 

 

The Night of the Hiding Moon

The Night of the Hiding Moon

The Night of the Hiding Moon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Night of the Hiding Moon

Emma Allen

Sher Rill Ng

NLA Publishing, 2020

4099., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9780642279583

‘Late one night, Felix heard a thousand giants march across the sky and the round, silver moon went into hiding.’

Alone in his room, Felix is frightened – he imagines he can hear giants gathering on the rooftop. As a wild storm thunders through the night, Felix turns to his trusty torch, creating strong, brave shadow creatures who can keep him company and protect him from the ferocity of the wind and rain.

One by one, frolicking creatures crowd Felix’s bedroom. With his shadow friends impatient to play in the night, Felix must decide whether to stay, alone, or venture out shoulder to shoulder with his friends and confront his fears.’

Storms can be terrifying for young people (and not-so) and how well I remember being told that lightning was just the angels having a fireworks party and thunder, the clouds banging together – explanations I shared with both my son and my grandchildren when they crept into my bed seeking comfort. So Felix’s fear is understandable and will resonate with young readers and perhaps offer them some reassurance. It offers an opportunity to not only investigate the origins of storms but also to play around with shadows and discover how they are caused.

But being from the NLA, this story has the added bonus of extra pages and these one focus on the art of telling stories with shadows, particularly shadow puppets.  There are even instructions for making your own and patterns that can be used. In these times of schools not necessarily being in physical spaces, this is one that could be recommended to parents (it’s available for purchase online) to offer lots of creativity and fun as well as learning. 

There’s a Hippopotamus on Our Roof Eating Cake (40th Anniversary edition)

There's a Hippopotamus on Our Roof Eating Cake

There’s a Hippopotamus on Our Roof Eating Cake

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There’s a Hippopotamus on Our Roof Eating Cake

Hazel Edwards

Deborah Niland

Puffin, 2020

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

9781760896270

What do you do when there is a hippopotamus on your roof eating cake?  Well, you keep calm and carry on, of course.  It doesn’t matter whether its drawing with crayons, having a shower or wearing a bandage on its knee just like yours, there’s nothing outlandish or outrageous about having a hippopotamus on your roof.

When Dad notices that there’s a hole in the roof, his imaginative daughter decides that there is a hippopotamus up above eating cake that’s causing it. and even though it works part-time at the zoo it always returns to share the adventures she has had that day, even when she’s been in bother. Eventually men fix the leaking roof, but they don’t see it because it clambers down the ladder when they are not looking, but the little girl is convinced the hippopotamus will be back that night. In fact, it is likely it will be on the roof or accompanying her on adventures all through  her childhood.

When this was first published in 1980, it became such a favourite that it has been published continuously for 40 years and has evolved into a series of seven picture books, and inspired a young readers’ novel, classroom play scripts, a musical production for the stage and a short movie, as well as having been translated into Auslan and Braille.  There would be few children who have not been exposed to the story in one format or another. 

With its rhythmic, repetitive text and simple line drawings depicting the hippo as a friendly fellow, the appeal of this book and it premise of imaginary friends has been tested over time and this special anniversary edition has a special cover to make it a collector’s edition while also revitalising the character for another generation. 

 

 

Nine Worlds in Nine Nights: A Journey Through Imaginary Lands

Nine Worlds in Nine Nights: A Journey Through Imaginary Lands

Nine Worlds in Nine Nights: A Journey Through Imaginary Lands

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nine Worlds in Nine Nights: A Journey Through Imaginary Lands

Hiawyn Oram

David Wyatt

Walker Studio, 2019

48pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9781406377705

Theoretical physicist, Professor Dawn D. Gable Ph.D., MRI, MInsiP, deals only in facts and shuns the world of stories and imagination.  So when she is interrupted on her birthday by her niece and nephew whom she hasn’t seen for years and doesn’t even recognise, she is not pleased. Even moreso when they present her with a gift from her brother, and she tosses the unwanted present aside. But as midnight draws close, she finds herself being drawn to it as if by an unseen force, and tearing off the wrapping she discovers a book, a childhood favourite called Lost in the Imagination, written and illustrated by “dreamers, fantasists and folklorists”, and which took her and her brother to amazing worlds when they were young, but which she has no time for now.

Tossing the book on the fire, she is surprised that it does not burn – and the strange magic begins. 

This is the journal of that magic, as led by the strange creature Hyllvar, descendant of Nidhogg, the ancient Norse dragon, who emerges from the flames, Prof Gable realises she is alone, bereft of new ideas and inspiration and in need of a challenge…

Superbly crafted and beautifully illustrated, both the professor and the reader are taken on a journey to explore a city of robots, the ancient city of Kor, the miniature world of Lilliput and flying island of Laputa, a mountainous home of mythical beasts, the primeval island of Buyan, Atlantis, Valhalla and more. From cover to cover this is a mystical and magical book that even non-fantasists like me are drawn into in a way that I was drawn into both Middle earth and Hogwarts. It is captivating and a must for all those whose imaginations know no bounds and who delight in exploring the mythical places of the ancients, the literary creations of minds long gone but whose fantasies linger.  Miss 8 and Miss 13 are going to love this and perhaps venture into more classical tales of fantasy as their imaginations will be piqued to read more. In fact, Grandma might make up a package of the stories that go with the worlds just to entice them!

Peppa’s Australian Underwater Adventure

Peppa's Australian Underwater Adventure

Peppa’s Australian Underwater Adventure

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peppa’s Australian Underwater Adventure

Peppa Pig

Ladybird, 2019

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

9780241405024

When Peppa wins a colouring competition, nobody can believe the prize is a trip to the Great Barrier Reef! Peppa and her family head to Australia to explore the wonders of the reef with Kylie Kangaroo and marine biologist Mummy Kangaroo. There are so many incredible creatures to find in their underwater adventure.

With its usual mix of entertainment and education, this is another brilliantly coloured addition to the Peppa Pig series that is so appealing to our youngest readers. Years ago I was somewhat sceptical about these sorts of books that were clearly spin-offs from movies and television but after seeing the joy of a little boy who suddenly discovered The Wiggles among the titles on the shelves of Kmart and demanding that his mother buy it for him (if she didn’t, I would have) I realised their power and importance in discovering the joy of reading. 

To discover favourite and familiar characters in books not only sets up expectations and anticipation but also encourages the child to bring what they already know to the text, to test what they expect and what happens against that prior knowledge and understand that books can be better because you can enjoy them at your own pace, flick back and forth and return to them time and again is a critical step in the learning journey.

Creators and publishers have also realised this and the quality of the stories has increased exponentially so it’s worth capitalising on the appeal and giving our little ones a headstart.  Being a successful reader is as much about having a positive attitude as it is about the skills involved. 

In The Dead of the Night

In The Dead of the Night

In The Dead of the Night

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In The Dead of the Night

Arthur McBain

Tom Knight

Little Hare, 2019

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

9781760503413

It’s a cold, rainy night and a storm is outside
Rain beats on the window by Lily’s bedside
She’s scared of the dark so she shuts her eyes tight
She hates nothing more than the dead of the night

Tap. Tap. Tap. Comes a noise from the hallway …

There is something about hearing strange sounds in the middle of the night that makes our imaginations run wild as we think about the possibilities – is there a monster with horns on its head; a vampire looking for prey; or a mesmerised ghost? All of these ideas fill Lily’s head as she lies there listening to the Tap. Tap. Tap. But, remembering her little brother is also asleep and needs protecting, she summons her courage and determines to conquer whatever is making the noise…

Using rhyme and repetitive text, and stunning illustrations that are fearsome but not too scary, McBain and Knight have managed to build a story that reaches a crescendo of tension but which resolves itself with an unusual twist which will resonate with lots of young readers whose imaginations are as active as Lily’s.  It’s an opportunity to talk about what might be making the tap, tap, tap and for little ones to share their fears about the dark and the noises of the night, and to reassure them that even as adults, we are all scared of the unknown at times and we have to summon our courage to investigate too. 

Reassuring and different.

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Hey Grandude!

Hey Grandude!

Hey Grandude!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hey Grandude!

Paul McCartney

Kathryn Durst

Puffin, 2019

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

9780241375655

Grandad, known to his grandchildren (chillers) as Grandude, lives in a very normal house in a very normal street, but when the four chillers – Lucy, Tom, Bob and Em-  come to visit they have adventures that are far from normal.  For in his pockets, Grandude has some magic – postcards and a shiny compass. All he has to do is give the compass a rub, wave it over the postcard and say,

See the compass needle spin,

Let the magic fun begin.

And all of them are whisked away to the destination on the postcard, on a magical mystery tour that takes them to a tropical island, cowboy country, and listening to Grandude strum his guitar in Sound of Music country. And just as the day begins to wane and little ones begin to too, out comes the compass and a photo of Grandude’s very ordinary home…

From the  the creator of some of the world’s most iconic and recognisable songs, this story is based on McCartney’s own experiences of being a grandfather while giving the reader an insight into the magical imagination of someone who can  create such diversity as Yellow Submarine and Hey Jude. Setting aside the realisation that my teenage idol is now a grandparent (as am I) and trying to review this dispassionately, this is still a story that will appeal because it celebrates that special relationship that children have with their grandfathers (who are usually more relaxed than even their grandmothers) and inspires a conversation about where they would go if they had a postcard and a magic compass and the adventures that might happen when they get there, because none of those of Lucy, Tom, Bob and Em end well and they have to beat a hasty retreat! Or an opportunity to recall and retell some of the places they have already been with their grandparents and the memories evoked.

With appealing illustrations created by Durst which show her experience as both an  animator and an intern with Pixar Studios, this is a modern story, unsentimental but nevertheless engaging and one deliberately structured to draw the curtains on the day.

A peek inside....

A peek inside….