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Jacaranda Magic

Jacaranda Magic

Jacaranda Magic

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jacaranda Magic

Dannika Patterson

Megan Forward

Ford Street, 2018

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

9781925804010 

A hot, sticky summer afternoon and Will, Charlotte, Priya, Finn and Lizzie don’t know what to do with themselves. Lying under the large jacaranda tree, with little energy and less motivation they are bored with their regular pursuits and with each other.

“Too mopey for mischief, too wriggly to rest.

All stuck for ideas, no one knew what was best.”

Suddenly a little breeze blows through the tree and showers them with beautiful purple petals – and that gives Will an idea! And in a flash that tree becomes the ultimate playground – just add imagination.

In this age of wrapping our kids in bubblewrap and cottonwool and where allowing them to be bored is seen as the ultimate failure as a parent, this story whisks the reader back to a time when climbing trees was a vital part of growing up and there was no such thing as risk assessment and management.  In fact, schools spent a lot of money installing climbing frames and other equipment so that there were “fake trees” available and children could build their upper body strength and indulge in all the gross motor activities so critical for development. Climbing encourages children to develop their own risk assessment and management and while there may be falls and the occasional broken arm, it’s all part of growing up and building a willingness to take a chance and being resilient.

And at last, there is recognition that boredom is also critical for development, that on-tap entertainment in whatever form stifles the imagination and creativity which is THE essential element of human endeavour.  There is no more critical question starter that “what if…”

As the children scramble through the tree’s branches, feeling its different textures and letting its shapes inspire their imaginations, they discover a world of fun and endless possibilities that will not only encourage the reader want to find a tree and shinny up it, but will want them to return again and again as its potential for fun and discovery is endless.   

Even if there is no tree nearby for the children to climb, or policy forbids that, maybe start with asking the children “What would you do if you had an afternoon to yourself and no access to toys or technology?’ It’s amazing how many times the things that stick in the child’s memory are those that cost nothing and were done with family or friends.  Their imagination is not dead – they just need to time and space to explore it.  Just as Will, Charlotte, Priya, Finn and Lizzie discovered.

Teachers notes are available to kickstart your imagination. 

 

 

My Storee

My Storee

My Storee

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Storee

Paul Russell

Aška

EK Books, 2018

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

9781925335774

When he is at home the stories running through his head keep him awake at night – stories about dragons and rainbow eggs at the bottom of Grandma’s garden; his teacher being eaten by a gruesome ogre; unicorn detectives chasing robotic pirates up alien volcanoes.  The wonderful, magical ideas just keep flowing and he writes and writes and writes.  It’s all about the adventures and not about the writing rules.

But at school, the adventures dry up because the writing rules rule. And the red pen is everywhere,

“But at school their are too many riting rulz and with all the rulz I can never find my dragons.”

At school he doesn’t like to write

Until a new teacher comes – one who is a storyteller himself and knows writing is about the story and not the rules.

In the 80s I was lucky enough to be deeply involved in the process writing movement where we truly believed that writing had to be about the ideas and the adventures and that the processes of reviewing, editing and publishing came later once there was something to work with.  Children were just happy to express themselves and as teachers, it was our job to guide them with spelling, punctuation and grammar, semantics and syntax, so that if one of their ideas grabbed them enough that they wanted to take it through to publication then we would work together to do that. Words were provided as they were needed in context and punctuation and grammar tackled on an individual’s needs rather than one-size-fits-all lessons. And if the effort of writing was enough and the child wasn’t  interested in taking it further, then we had to accept that – flogging a dead horse was a waste of time.   In pre-computer days, how many nights did I spend on the typewriter with the big font so a child could have the joy of their own creation in our class library?  Children enjoyed writing for writing’s sake, were free and willing to let their imaginations roam free and were prepared to take risks with language conventions for the sake of the story. 

But when publicity-seeking politicians whose only experience with the classroom was their own decades previously declared that “assessment processes need to be more rigorous, more standardised and more professional” (a quote from Teacher ) we find ourselves back to the red pen being king and our future storytellers silenced through fear. While the teachers’ notes tag this book as being about a dyslexic child, it really is about all children as they learn how to control their squiggles and regiment them into acceptable combinations so they make sense to others, a developmental process that evolves as they read and write rather than having a particular issue that is easy and quick to label and therefore blame.  We need to accept what they offer us as they make this journey and if they never quite reach the destination, or are, indeed, dyslexic, then as well-known dyslexic Jackie French says, “That’s what spellcheck and other people are for.”  So much better to appreciate their effort than never have the pleasure of their stories.

So many children will relate to this story – those whose mums have “to wade through a papar ocean to wake [them] up” – and will continue to keep writing regardless of adults who think they know better. But who among those adults will have the conviction and the courage to be like Mr Watson? Who among the powers-that-be will let them do what they know works best? If the red pen kills their creativity now, where will the storytellers and imaginative problem-solvers of the future come from?

 

Monsters

Monsters

Monsters

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monsters

Anna Fienberg

Kim Gamble & Stephen Axelsen

Allen & Unwin, 2018

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

9781760293369

Tildy hated the night.  Night meant sundown. Sundown meant moonlight. Moonlight meant monsters. They sailed in from outside and hid behind the curtains., invisible to anyone but Tildy. No matter how much reassurance she got from her mum and dad, her aunts and uncles and 23 cousins (including the one who told her not to eat spicy food before bedtime) the monsters remained very real and bedtime was nerve-wracking.  It’s very hard to sleep with one eye open!

However when Hendrik comes to school and spends his time drawing monsters that he kills with his sword, Tildy finds an ally – someone else who believes in these fearsome creatures of the night. All is well until Hendrik invites her to his house for a sleepover and suggests they can sleep in the garden in his tent…

Adults and children alike are plagued with monsters in their lives, some with shape and from like Tildy’s, others not so tangible but just as scary and threatening, and so the message from this book that there is a way through is important.  Little ones who have their own monsters will draw comfort from knowing that they are not alone and may even offer suggestions for how Tildy can relax and enjoy the sleepover before  she is faced with her fears.            

Lovers of Tashi will adore this latest book from the imaginative mind of Anna Fienberg, the final one from Kim Gamble who became too ill to finish it so his close friend Stephen Axelsen took over.  The story of its creation is told in part on the endpages as we bid farewell to Kim, but Megan Daley’s blogpost is just exquisite.  Vale Kim Gamble – thank you for all the joy you have brought me, my family and the children in my care over the years.

There’s a Dragon in Your Book

There's a Dragon In Your Book

There’s a Dragon In Your Book

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There’s a Dragon In Your Book

Tom Fletcher

Greg Abbott

Puffin, 2018 

32pp., hbk. RRP $A24.99

9780141376127

OH LOOK!

There’s an egg in your book!

It looks ready to hatch.

Whatever you do, don’t turn the page…

With such an intriguing introduction of course you are going to page – I can’t believe you did that! – and suddenly there is a dragon in your book.  A baby dragon who, when her nose is tickled at the author’s invitation, sneezes and sets fire to the book!  Oh no!  How are we going to get the fire out?

This is the most charming, fun, interactive book for little people that I’ve seen for a while.  The conversation between the author and the reader immediately invites the child to interact, use their imagination and just delight in this story that celebrates everything that is fun and enjoyable about books and reading, reinforcing their understanding that reading is something pleasurable to do.  

The saying on one of my Storybook Cushions is “Dragons breathe fire and magic into stories” and this one certainly does – but in the nicest way with child-friendly illustrations that depict a happy baby dragon that will not frighten little listeners before bed. 

Interactive, imaginative and fun – what more do little people need in a story?

I Got a Chicken for My Birthday

I Got a Chicken for My Birthday

I Got a Chicken for My Birthday

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Got a Chicken for My Birthday

Laura Gehl

Sarah Horne

Carolrhoda Books, 2018

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

9781512431308

Three times Ana asked Abuela Lola for tickets to the amusement park for her birthday but instead, she got a CHICKEN. Somewhat pragmatic Ana figures it’s better than socks or a sweater or underwear and she does like scrambled eggs, but this is not ordinary chicken.  Rather than laying eggs and doing other chicken things, this one has a long list of the most extraordinary things including straw, sticks and bricks, 100 steel girders, 10 000 screws, 60 000 nails, a host of familiar nursery characters, even a partridge in a pear tree!  

Then with the help of Ana’s other pets, the chicken sets to work digging, building, hammering… what on earth is happening?

This is a unique story that has the most outrageous but fun ending that will delight young readers.  Told by the bewildered Ana with the title being the repetitive pattern, and the chicken only communicating through placards, the sparse text is in direct contrast to the illustrations which are full of busyness, action and foreground detail. Little ones will be wondering just what it is the chicken is doing and even the adult reader will suspend their disbelief as the story rollicks along.

Fun for everyone especially if they are then challenged to design their own amusement park or work on Ana’s wish for her next birthday.

Cloud Conductor

Cloud Conductor

Cloud Conductor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cloud Conductor

Kellie Byrnes

Ann-Marie Finn

Wombat Books, 2018

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

9781925563344

Frankie’s active, outdoors life is cut short when she finds herself confined to a hospital bed and she is physically restricted to the four walls of the room.  But her imagination has no such boundaries and as one of those walls is a large window, she is able to slip outside and explore the beauty and magnificence of the clouds that pass by, something she loved to do when she was well.  Through the seasons their shapes, colours  and movement change and Frankie rejoices in their splendour, listening to their melodies, conducting “symphonies in the sky” as her hands wave in time to the beat of her imagination – even on the darkest of days. She sees their pictures and lets them take her on journeys to familiar and far-away places, far beyond the reaches of those physical walls.

Spring, summer, autumn, winter – the clouds are her escape mechanism allowing her to leave her reality behind, if just for a short time.  And then she realises, this is a gift she can share…

Children don’t have to be in a hospital bed to have horrible stuff happening in their lives and this beautifully illustrated book celebrates the unconfined power of the imagination to escape, even if just for a little while. to somewhere else, to touch base with another world where trouble doesn’t intrude and even offer a fresh perspective on the situation itself.

While teachers’ notes are available, taking the children outside in all sorts of weathers where they can see the sky and letting them look and imagine and conduct their own symphonies would be the most powerful of all.

 

Papa Sky

Papa Sky

Papa Sky

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Papa Sky

Jane Jolly

Sally Heinrich

MidnightSun, 2017

32pp., hbk., RRP $A27.99

9781925227291

Way up high in the cloud forests where the earth meets the sky, Papa Sky is having fun taking handfuls of clouds, shaping them into beautiful sculptures and then, with a puff, sending them east and west across the lands.  All day he is does it. making amazing lifelike images to drift across the big blue for cloud-dreamers to watch and imagine. 

But that night he is so tired that while he is sleeping a wind blows him down, down, down through the forest where he lands with a thump and a bump startling the inquisitive creatures below.  But while they are fascinated by their unexpected visitor, they know that he must return to his home for “Without him, we are nothing.” And so, from the smallest, and the quietest to the most secretive they work together to try to get Papa Sky back where he belongs.  Can they do it?  Will be once again be the maker of cloud-shapes and fabulous figures?

From the first endpaper to the last, this is a beautiful story stunningly illustrated with a palette as gentle as the text making it a seamless match of words and pictures that is unique. High over some of the worlds tropical and subtropical regions where there is persistent moisture that continually rises in the heat, rainforest canopies mingle with the clouds making for a mysterious setting just waiting for someone with the imagination of Jane Jolly and the talent of Sally Heinrich to weave something magical, almost a modern legend that could be shared with children when they ask where the clouds come from and start to see the ever-changing shapes. 

Australia has its own cloud forests beyond Cairns, as does New Zealand so students could investigate what creatures would be there to help Papa Sky if he had fallen there, and, using the back endpaper as a model, present their discoveries. A new way to studying the perennial “creatures of the rainforest” topic! Or perhaps pose the question, “If Papa Sky doesn’t make the clouds, where do they come from?” and male a mural on cloud-shaped paper of the suggestions and then investigate and create an explanation. Or maybe just take them outside on a “partly cloudy” day and let them experience the joy of just lying back and watching the clouds and wondering

This book deserves its place among the CBCA Notables for 2018.

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

The Bear in our Backyard

The Bear in our Backyard

The Bear in our Backyard

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Bear in our Backyard

Emma Middleton

Briony Stewart

Affirm Press, 2018

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

9781925584806

Mum says, “Tom and Tilly if you go outside and play, don’t make too much noise in case your bear is there today.”

As they go out, they find large muddy footprints that lead to the treehouse,  where the bear might be sleeping!  Preparing a nice sugary sweet snack to entice the bear to wake, as they go up the stairs to share it, they drop it.  The bear is awake…  Playing lots of games and having lots of fun, the children and the bear spend a precious afternoon together, sharing dinner and then “Bear” has to leave.

With Mother’s Day on the horizon this is a charming book that celebrates the relationship between mothers and their children, one that goes beyond the dull, dreary routines that have to be done and explores those special times when the only focus is fun. Young readers will like sharing their special mum-moments while perhaps thinking about how they can help mum with the dull and dreary so she has more time for making memories with them.

A companion to The Lion in Our Living Room, this is one to share whenever the focus is on families.

 

 

 

The Dream Bird

The Dream Bird

The Dream Bird

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Dream Bird

Aleesah Darlison

Emma Middleton

Wombat Books, 2018

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

9781925563337

George was a day child – he loved to run and play in the sunshine and light.  But it was a different story at night time when it was time to snuggle down and sleep.  No matter what he did, he could not sleep.  Even following the suggestions of his family like counting 100 sheep backwards and drinking hot milk did not work. 

Deciding to try something new, he crept into Gran’s room but her bed is cold without her cuddles to make it cosy.  But as he slips forlornly to the floor, she slips into the room and tells him a story about a magical bird that will help him sleep and have the nicest of dreams…

This is a most intriguing story, one that has many layers.  Certainly, on the surface, it celebrates the power of the bedtime story as an essential part of the nighttime routine and it also opens up discussions about the importance of sleep and the ways we can help ourselves drift off.  But what is Grandma’s secret?  Is she alive?  Did she die in her sleep making George scared that that will happen to him?  Is it her “ghost” telling the story of the Dream Bird?  

The contrast in the illustrations between George the day child and George the night child using the softest palette and increasingly ethereal lines, the transition between the two parts of the story is perfect, and even though Grandma is the youngest looking grandma on the planet (probably appropriate given George’s age), it all goes towards making this another Darlinson delight that will entertain as much as it intrigues. 

See Hear – a beginner’s book of senses

See Hear - a beginner's book of senses

See Hear – a beginner’s book of senses

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

See Hear – a beginner’s book of senses

Tania McCartney

Jess Racklyeft

EK Books, 2018

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

9781925335675

“If I stop and look around, I can see so many things.”

In this sequel to Smile Cry, Piglet, Bunny and Cat are looking closely at the world around them and then using their words to describe what they see – the crawling spots on the ladybird; the squiggly rain down the window, the heavenly horses in the clouds…

Then flip the book over and they explore the world through it sounds – baby birds tweeting in the nest, a page being turned, the sizzling of carrot chips in the pan…

And then the two sides meet in the perfect observation – the endless stars and the endless quiet of outer space.

Young children find out so much of what they know about the world around them through their senses – they’re not yet old enough to consult books, watch David Attenborough or search Google – so teaching them to really look and listen is such an essential skill.  But also essential, and what Tania McCartney does so well, is to teach them to express what they see in words that create pictures and memories, to use all their senses to evoke and provoke emotions. Will you ever hear thunder again and not think “calamitous clouds”?

 

While on the surface this looks like a book for the preschooler, imagine how it could be used to encourage young writers to bring depth and richness to their words, to explore the world of metaphor and simile, to really look and listen and feel and taste and then share that with their readers. Start by having each contribute a new page for the book, making the common uncommon,; the stereotype original; the banal beautiful. Watch their writing grow!

Such riches in an exquisite combination of author and illustrator that goes so far beyond the usual eyes see, ears hear books for this age group.