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Willa and Woof 3: Grandparents for Hire

Willa and Woof 3: Grandparents for Hire

Willa and Woof 3: Grandparents for Hire

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Willa and Woof 3: Grandparents for Hire

Jacqueline Harvey

Puffin, 2023

128pp. pbk., $A12.99

9781761043338

Willa’s four-legged best friend is her albino wolfhound, Woof; her same-age best friend is Tae Jin whose name means “person of greatness” in Korean; and her old-age best friend is Frank Pickles who lives next door in the retirement village and is very old and very grumpy with crinkly skin and bags under his eyes.  Willa visits him almost every day and listens to his stories about how he used to race pigeons when he was younger, although now he only has Mimi in the aviary in his tiny back yard. 

But when the principal announces that there will be a Grandparents’ Day next week when the children can bring their grandparents to school to join in activities – a common event in many schools – Willa discovers that not everyone has a grandparent to ask or that some are just not in a position to attend, including herself.  So she sets out with a plan to make it a day that everyone can enjoy but sometimes plans don’t turn out the way you expect.

This is the third in this series for younger emerging readers following Mimi is Missing and Birthday Business with the fourth due in April, making the wait in between episodes not too long and thus being ideal for demonstrating how books in a series build on each other so the characters become more and more familiar and thus, more real. They begin to care about what happens to them, an essential if they are to finish the book. 

Series are an important part of reading development and are so much more than a commercial decision to attract readers back. Because the reader is already familiar with the characters, the settings and the likely storyline they are able to bring their existing knowledge to the read, predict what is likely to happen and be empowered to tackle more complex stories, using and honing their developing skills as they do so. Each book completed offers a sense of accomplishment and builds a desire and momentum to complete the series, making the choice of the next read easier while continuing to affirm that they can become a “real reader” and encouraging them to seek other books by the same author or in the same genre, ever widening their reading horizons.    

It’s worth finding innovative ways to display series so they are easily accessible by even the most reluctant reader and build on their intrinsic popularity. Authors like Jacqueline Harvey who create characters like Willa and her friends and build stories around things that are really familiar to young readers do so much to make the teacher librarian’s job so much easier. 

 

Zola and the Christmas Lights

 

 

 

 

Zola and the Christmas Lights

Zola and the Christmas Lights

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Zola and the Christmas Lights

Melina Marchetta

Deb Hudson

Puffin, 2022

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

 9780143777649

Zola loves living on Boomerang Street with her mum and her nonna and next door to her cousin Alessandro in a little house in a little street in a little suburb in a big city. Every day of the week is an adventure and now,  it’s Zola’s last day in 2B and having learned that not everyone in the class celebrates the Christian festival, she wonders what it is that all the festivals, stories and traditions have in common.

This year, though, Christmas will be different because Nonno is no longer with them and he was the one who transformed their house into a wonderland.  The box of Christmas lights has even disappeared.  And as Zola searches for them because the street hasn’t had lights for two years and she and Alessandro want to light it up once again, she learns what is at the core of the celebrations, regardless of their different ways and times of marking them. 

For two years during 2020 and 2021, young readers followed Zola’s adventures as her curiosity got her into all sorts of strife but at the same time drawing her diverse neighbourhood into a community.  For many, during the long days of COVID restrictions and lockdowns she became another friend who took her fans beyond their own rooms and houses for a brief time.  Thus, for many, Melina Marchetta, author of Looking for Alibrandi (a classic for older readers which has just been re-released) gave them a gift as precious as Nonno’s lights and shows that this time of the year is so much more than expensive toys and shiny gift wrap. This is the perfect wrap for a delightful series. 

 

Mrs Turtle Becomes a Grandma

Mrs Turtle Becomes a Grandma

Mrs Turtle Becomes a Grandma

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mrs Turtle Becomes a Grandma

Julia Hopp

Michael Lee

Little Steps, 2022

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

9781922678720

Wonderful news – Mrs Turtle is becoming a Grandma! But Mrs Turtle is worried she may not be a good enough Grandma for the new baby. After all, with her love of socialising, travelling and exercising she was not like most other turtles )or grandmothers) that she knew and she was concerned that she would not match expectations.

Beginning with the illustration on the front cover with a very glamorous turtle with flowing golden locks and red high heels, this is a great story for introducing young readers to the concept of stereotypes as well as building and meeting expectations.  

Currently, there is a series of advertisements on television for an insurance company that invites the viewer to make assumptions about various people based on their external appearance and the assumptions made could not be further from the truth of the reality, and this story is in a similar vein.  What assumptions do we already make about turtles and/or grandmothers? What do we expect them to look like or behave? Why do we have those expectations? Are they valid? How do we feel when their looks and actions don’t meet our expectations?  Important questions for children to discuss but equally so are those relating to the expectations we put on ourselves and the consequences if we feel we do not meet what we expect of ourselves, or what we think others expect of us. Do we hide away,  berate ourselves and have all sorts of negative thoughts that we eventually turn into truths, or are we able to learn from the situation and move on? Can we learn and accept that everyone’s definition of “perfect” is different and who we are as we are is enough?

Grandma Turtle learns a really valuable lesson in this story and young readers can start to have conversations about the issues raised too. There is a saying about being “comfortable in your own skin” which eventually happens when you understand that the only opinions that matter are your own and those of those who are important to you, and so by starting the conversations early with stories such as this, our young people might be able to avoid some of the pitfalls of peer pressure that are ahead of them.

A little story but with huge potential, well beyond the protection of turtles that the author includes in the final pages. . 

Far Away Granny

Far Away Granny

Far Away Granny

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Far Away Granny

Harriet Cuming

Angela Perrini

Little Steps, 2022

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

9781922358417

When Granny lives far, far away, there are lots of ways her granddaughter can keep in touch with her. But what happens when her granddaughter fantastically slips through the screen? Well, they cuddle together and eat ice cream- sometimes caramel and sometimes mint green.

Connecting with grandparents via apps like Zoom has become the norm for grandparents and grandchildren over the last few years – perhaps it was one of the few positives of COVID as we all became a bit more tech-savvy- and it’s a far cry from my 50s childhood when we waited for our grandparents to make the 17 mile trip from their town to ours because they had a car and we didn’t!! (A trip that took ages then but is nothing now as both towns are almost linked by suburban sprawl.)

But what hasn’t changed is the anticipation, excitement and love when a meeting happens and this book celebrates the connections and special bonds, regardless of the means used to make it. 

As the holiday season approaches and plans are made for family gatherings, the physical distance between the generations is often emphasised as some make plans for long-awaited visits while others realise it won’t happen so this is one to help them understand that even though they can’t be together, the love is just as strong and undiminished and there will be a real-time, real-life get together to share that ice cream.

Lots of opportunities for little ones to share their special relationships with their grandparents, the things they will do together when they do get together – and their favourite ice cream flavour!

 

Back On Country: Welcome to Our Country

Back On Country: Welcome to Our Country

Back On Country: Welcome to Our Country

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Back On Country: Welcome to Our Country

Adam Goodes

Ellie Laing

David Hardy

A&U Children’s, 2022

24pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781761065088

Mum is taking David and Lucy on a road trip to visit her family and they are as excited as they are curious for this is their first time back on Country and there are so many special places to see, things to do, stories to hear and words to learn. This is their time to reconnect with their Aboriginality, and learn about their land and culture and how they fit within it from their Elders. As the children find out, it can be very emotional and spiritual as they learn of the generations who have gone before and how those ancestors continue to influence and impact their modern lives.

The third in this series, which includes Somebody’s Land and  Ceremony, young readers continue to learn about what is behind the Acknowledgement of Country that has become an integral part of the day in so many schools now.  As with the others, this is a story from the Adnyamathanha people of the Flinders ranges in South Australia, the country of author Adam Goodes. with  stunning illustrations and text featuring both English and Adnyamathanha words (which are explained in a visual glossary on the endpages).  As well as the introductory background notes on the verso, there is a QR code that leads to a reading of the story as well as teachers’ notes  available to download. 

In my opinion, this series is one of the most significant publications available to help our young children understand and appreciate the long-overdue recognition of our First Nations people in schools, so that when they hear a Welcome to Country or participate in an Acknowledgement of Country they do so with knowledge of and respect for all that is contained in the words.  

 

Willa and Woof 2: Birthday Business

Willa and Woof 2: Birthday Business

Willa and Woof 2: Birthday Business

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Willa and Woof 2: Birthday Business

Jacqueline Harvey

Puffin, 2022

128pp., pbk., RRP $A 12.99

9781761043321

Willa’s best old-age-friend Frank hates birthdays, but that’s not going to stop her from throwing him the greatest surprise party ever!

Willa plunges headlong into party planning and things immediately start to go wrong. Why don’t older people look forward to and celebrate birthdays as enthusiastically as the young?  She’ll need all her problem-solving skills (with the help of Tae, her best same-age friend, and her trusty sidekick Woof) to save the celebration!

Can Willa pull off the surprise?

This is the second in this new series from popular Jacqueline Harvey, with the third, Grandparents for Hire due in January, ensuring young readers do not have to wait long between reads for the next episode to whet their appetite.  As with the first, it is created for younger readers who are consolidating their skills and need quality writing, interesting characters and relatable plots, supported by short chapters, a larger font and illustrations.  

In my review of the first one, Mimi is MissingI suggested offering it to a reluctant reader and asking them to read it and assess whether it will be worth buying the additions that follow, and so this could be the consolidation read – is the series living up to expectations?  To extend their thinking, you could invite them to think about what more they learned about the characters in this new story and have them build a summary of characters such as this, so others can get to know them and follow the relationships…

This could then become part of a bigger display called Select-A-Series created by students summarising their own favourite series to persuade others to extend their reading horizons, as well as giving real purpose and context for reading as they become more critical readers, encouraged to pause and think about what they are reading rather than skimming the pages and looking for what’s next.   To add depth it could become part of a poll to find the most popular series for the year, making and building on the display for the entire year ensuring student-centred learning and participation.  

Federal Minister for Education Jason Clare is currently spruiking a proposal for providing teachers with lesson plans, returning to a cookie-cutter approach that focuses on the subject rather than the student, so this could be a way of providing something that meets curriculum outcomes but in a highly personalised way, 

My Baba is the Best

My Baba is the Best

My Baba is the Best

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Baba is the Best

Bachar Houli

Debby Rahmalia

Puffin, 2022

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

9781761046568

As Fathers Day approaches, this is a book to share to celebrate the special bond between fathers and daughters, and the fun times they share. 

My baba has a big beard and a big smile. He gives the best hugs and never sits still.
Gardening, jogging, fishing, watching movies or going camping . . . Baba and I do lots of things together.

My baba is the best. I love my baba!

And while you might think there are many such books available, this one is written by Bachar Houli, not only triple AFL Premiership player for Richmond and All-Australian on-field, but also the  first devout Muslim to play the game at that level.  So this is a unique opportunity for our Muslim students to see themselves in such a story, demonstrating that their relationships with their dads is pretty much the same as all kids, whilst acknowledging the subtle differences like the special bedtime prayer.  

Time and time again we hear those who are not from the dominant mainstream WASP community say that they despaired because they never saw anyone like them represented in books or on television – Dylan Alcott addressed it directly in his acceptance speech for Australian of the Year, 2022 –  “I used to hate having a disability. I hated it so much. I hated being different and, you know, I didn’t want to be here anymore. I really didn’t… Whenever I turned on the TV or the radio or the newspaper, I never saw anybody like me.”- and while this is gradually being addressed , how delighted young readers will be to see their family reflected in something so special. 

While we all have more in common than difference, it is the difference that seems to get the attention so by sharing such as this even our youngest readers can start to understand the threads that bind us are so much stronger.  Our relationships with our dads are the same no matter who we are, what we look like, what we do or what we believe in. 

Willa and Woof 1: Mimi is Missing

Willa and Woof 1: Mimi is Missing

Willa and Woof 1: Mimi is Missing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Willa and Woof 1: Mimi is Missing

Jacqueline Harvey

Puffin, 2022

128pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

9781761043314

Willa’s four-legged best friend is her albino wolfhound, Woof; her same-age best friend is Tae Jin whose name means “person of greatness” in Korean; and her old-age best friend is Frank Pickles who lives next door in the retirement village and is very old and very grumpy with crinkly skin and bags under his eyes.  Willa visits him almost every day and listens to his stories about how he used to race pigeons when he was younger, although now he only has Mimi in the aviary in his tiny back yard. 

So when Willa discovers Mimi is missing and she thinks it is her fault because she didn’t latch the cage properly, she is devastated and, after searching everywhere, hatches a plot to lure her home.  But when that backfires, she knows she has to confess to Frank – but then she discovers he is missing too…

Told by Willa herself with that typical young-person humour, this is the first in a new series from the author of Clementine Rose, Alice-Miranda, and Kensy and Max , created for younger readers who are consolidating their skills and need quality writing, interesting characters and relatable plots, supported by short chapters, a larger font and illustrations.  For me, one of its strengths is the small group of main characters who are interesting even though they don’t stray too far from what is expected allowing the reader to take in the whole story without having to think too much about who’s who and their relationships.  At the same time though, there are those who play a minor role in this story but who will most likely pop up again in sequels, establishing a network that will become familiar.  This is a key reason that series are particularly popular with readers – they can bring their prior knowledge of the characters to the page and get stuck into the story itself without having to be distracted.

While I think this is a series that is going to build into becoming as popular with young readers as its predecessors, why not offer it to a reluctant reader and ask them to read and assess whether it will be worth buying the additions that follow, ensuring that they support their judgement..  Giving them context and purpose for their reading could be just the bridge they need to cross…  (And if they’re not hooked, you’ve started a conversation about what they do like to read, as well as the opportunity to give it to others on a 2/3 basis for purchase.) 

Dancing with Memories

Dancing with Memories

Dancing with Memories

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dancing with Memories

Sally Yule, Maggie Beer & Prof. Ralph Martins 

Cheryl Orsini

ABC Books, 2022

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

9780733342578

I am Lucy and I dance with memories.
Sometimes I remember.
Sometimes I forget.
Sometimes I remember that I forget.
Sometimes I forget that I remember…
My doctor says I have dementia.
I wish I didn’t but I do.
‘Your brain has changed’, she says, ‘but you are still Lucy.’
She knows that I have a brain AND a heart.

Sometimes Lucy remembers that she forgets, and sometimes she forgets that she remembers. But even if her memory plays tricks, she still has all the love in her heart for the people and activities she has always enjoyed.  On this particularly important day, the day of her granddaughter’s wedding, she is determined to get to the wedding on her own even though her daughter has left her a note telling Lucy she will pick her up.  But things go a little astray and she ends up lost….

As grandparents and great-grandparents live longer, more and more of our students are coming into contact with those with dementia and so this is an important book to have on hand to help them understand and cope with the condition. The author, Sally Yule, has been working with people with dementia, including her own parents, for over 30 years and as she says, her main purpose was to help children “learn the role they can play supporting people living with dementia in their family or community.”  Lucy’s story and the lively illustrations which accompany it demonstrate that there is still plenty of love and joy in a patient’s  life even if the memory is muddled, and that the person deserves the same respect and dignity as well as being able to continue to do the things they can for themselves, regardless.  

As well as the story itself, Professor Ralph Martins, Foundation Chair in Ageing and Alzheimer’s Disease at Edith Cowan University WA, and Professor of Neurobiology at Macquarie University NSW has contributed a Q & A that helps anyone understand the disease. In my opinion, the core message of this story is summed up in this one paragraph…

Q. Is someone with dementia still the same person on the inside, even though they act differently on the outside?

A. Yes, they are definitely the same person inside.  They can feel so much, even if they cannot tell you about it…

While there is not yet a cure for dementia, scientists are working towards discovering its cause, and, as with many diseases, a healthy diet is always a good start so Maggie Beer’s recipes for healthy lunchboxes that could be shared between child and patient add another dimension and there are some simple teachers’ notes that can offer suggestions for supporting those we know who are living with the illness. 

There is more and more evidence that intergenerational relationships offer so much to all involved, and this is yet another essential addition to the collection to not only promote this but encourage them. 

 

Old Fellow

Old Fellow

Old Fellow

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Old Fellow

Christopher Cheng

Liz Anelli

Walker Books, 2022

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

9781760652395

The Swedish have a word for this story- fika [fee-ka]. It means “a moment to slow down and enjoy the good things in life”.  And that is exactly what the old man and his dog do from the moment they wake and stretch their creaky old bones, through their walk in the park meeting old friends and new and then home again for a well-earned cuppa. But is it the man or his dog that is the “old fellow”?

There are only a handful of authors who can take such an everyday occurrence as an old man and his dog taking their daily exercise and turn it into such a charming story that has so many possibilities.  Indeed, Chris Cheng has dedicated this story to the “Old fellows of Campderdown Memorial Park”, suggesting that he. himself, has spent an hour or more there just  practising fika as he watches all the meetings and greetings and connections that are made, for a walk in the park is as much mental and emotional exercise as it is physical.

While, in previous generations the old man might be represented by a grandfather, that stereotype has been replaced and so our children might not have as much contact with those whose birthdays start with a 7 and beyond and so this is an opportunity for them to engage with this age group and as programs such as Old People’s Home for 4 Year Olds showed so well, there are huge benefits for both sides. Teachers’ notes are available.

In the meantime, Liz Anelli’s illustrations are so rich in detail as she captures not only the community who enjoy the park but their connections and friendships that you can almost feel the camaraderie coming off the page. And the reader’s next walk in their park will be viewed through a different lens.

With titles such as Bear and Rat  and One Tree , among many others to his credit, Chris has once again shown his incredible ability to capture the emotional essence of a situation that can open up a whole new world for young readers as they learn to identify, express and manage their own feelings.  

In the meantime, here is that elusive fika in action!