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The Wheelbarrow Express

The Wheelbarrow Express

The Wheelbarrow Express

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Wheelbarrow Express

Sue Whiting

Cate James

Walker Books, 2023

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

9781760654627

It’s Tommy’s last day at Pa’s farm and it’s time to say goodbye. Tommy doesn’t want to go. Not yet. He loves the farm and its playful pigs and clucking chickens and galloping goats and the dam that is deep and blue and perfect for skimming stones. And he loves Pa.

But Pa has a plan: there’s time for one last run on the Wheelbarrow Express. Toot! Toot! All aboard!

The best stories for little people are those that involve familiar settings, situations and people and this is one of those.  Who hasn’t had a holiday with their grandparents that they want to last a little bit longer? And who wouldn’t like a ride in the wheelbarrow express?  Even if the farm setting is not familiar, it will be after sharing this story as a remarkably fit but rapidly tiring grandfather pushes Tommy around all the animals to say goodbye, making sure there is time for one last special time at the dam.

This is a charming story celebrating the special bond between grandparent and grandchild that is destined to become a family favourite. 

Amazing Dad

Amazing Dad

Amazing Dad

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amazing Dad

Alison Brown

Farshore, 2023

32pp., hbk., RRP $A 19.99

9780008555474

Dads can be busy, whizzy, caring, sharing . . . and so much more. But there’s just ONE dad who gives the best hugs of all. Can you guess who it is?

This is a companion to Amazing Mum and like that, it features all sorts of anthropomorphic dads  doing all sorts of things with their little ones with rhyming captions that really encourage young readers to examine the pictures so they can predict the text. Often these sorts of books focus on actual activities that kids and dads can do together but this one is more diverse and includes acknowledgement of dads who have taken on others’ children, dads who live apart and may only be weekend dads, and even dads who can  only live on in the child’s heart.  So there is something for almost every child to relate to and to share about their own dad.

As well as being a tribute to dads and helping the young reader focus on all the things their dad does, it encourages the development of a lot of essential foundation literacy skills not the least of which is that print is fun.  

Our Mob

Our Mob

Our Mob

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our Mob

Jacinta Daniher & Taylor Hampton

Seantelle Walsh

Ford Street, 2023

32pp., pbk., RRP $A17.95

9781922696236

If you look at the AIATSIS  indigenous map of Australia it is obvious that the Australia of our First Nations people ” is made up of many different and distinct groups, each with their own culture, customs, language and laws” and thus it is clearly rich in diversity and difference.  Or is it?

In this beautifully illustrated book for younger readers, each double-page spread is devoted to a proud Aboriginal kid from a number of countries, each sharing the word for ‘hello’ or ‘welcome’ in their own language as well as something that they really like to do.  But what struck me was that although the words might be different, the sentiments were the same – the connection to and concern for Country, the sharing of favourite activities with family members and the similarities among the activities themselves.  From watching the stars at night to collecting the treasures of the sea; from the collection of food and preparing and sharing it – all are based on meeting everyday human needs and all offer the connection with family and friends that humans need.  The words might be different, the stories that accompany them varied, and the actual activity unique to the circumstance but there is a common thread of childhood joys and human needs that weaves everyone together, regardless of their origin and ancestry.

So while the richness and diversity of indigenous culture is celebrated, IMO its power lies in the realisation of the  similarities that connect us all regardless of race. religion, location, timeframe or any of the other constraints that might appear to be impediments .  Targeted at those “aged 3 to 8 years”, it could form part of a bigger investigation into identifying what are our basic needs as humans –  to love and belong, to be powerful, to be free, to have fun and to survive – and then compare and contrast these to how they are met by the children in the class and the children in the book.  The teachers’ notes offer some ideas for exploring  this, such as Lylah’s aunty making bush bread, but there is scope in every page for students to connect the text to themselves and the world. For example, Eli is a proud Aboriginal kid from Gamilaraay Country and he likes to look at the stars with his uncle and hear the stories associated with them, such as the emu in the sky.  But other students might see the Southern Cross or other star patterns of the southern sky, while some may have been more familiar with the northern hemisphere, opening up scope for investigations on many levels.

The potential of this book to permeate so much of the curriculum beyond its initial Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Histories and Cultures makes it an essential part the collection.

 

Grandads are the Greatest

Grandads are the Greatest

Grandads are the Greatest

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grandads are the Greatest

Ben Faulkes

Nia Tudor

Bloomsbury, 2023

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

9781408867570

It is the summer picnic especially for grandads and their grandchildren and a chance to celebrate their relationship.  But being a grandad is about the only thing the men have in common . For each one has a different career or interest – baker, barber, explorer, inventor, magician… But they all share one passion – their love for their grandchildren.

Written in rhyme this is a joyful  picture book that honours these special men and the wonder and happiness they bring to the lives of their young ones.  As well as helping the child to understand the structure of the family tree, it also offers them the opportunity to share what is special about their own grandfather and would be the perfect companion to What do you call your Grandpa?

One to set aside for Grandparents’ Day in your school. 

Desert Jungle

Desert Jungle

Desert Jungle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Desert Jungle

Jeannie Baker

Walker Books, 2023

40pp., hbk., RRP $A27.99

9781406387872

Despite being surrounded by mountains of rock and cacti, the boy prefers to sit inside and experience the world through the screen of his tablet.  He fears going far from his home because he has heard the coyotes howling at night and the village dogs barking.

But then he goes to stay with his grandpa in a place far away, much more isolated than even his tiny village,  but it still has internet coverage and so his tablet remains his friend.  Until the night a coyote steals the bag with it inside, and in his search for it Chico’s life changes in ways he will never imagine…

Set in the Valle de los Sirios in the Sonoran Desert in Baja California, Mexico, Jeannie Baker’s magnificent and magical collage artwork brings to life an environment that shows that the desert is not necessarily the barren, desolate, lifeless place we envisage but one which is rich in flora and fauna and history.  While the landscape she portrays is a specific part of the Mexican  desert, nevertheless she raises the possibility that this could be a desert anywhere, just as rich in biodiversity if only we took the time to look and appreciate.

In her notes, she refers to “nature-deficit disorder,” where children are indifferent to their natural surroundings because they are isolated from it and ignorant about it, and  thus they are likely to fear what they don’t know, and what they fear, they will destroy. so this book has a much wider application than just introducing the reader to the wonders of a particular piece of this planet.  Even the juxtaposition of the words in the title is significant as it evokes two totally different images in the mind at the same time, neither necessarily as compatible as the title suggests, and those who are familiar with the author’s work know that there will be many layers to explore in both text and illustration.  For while it is the story of the boy’s individual growth as he learns to love the environment and those feelings of wonder and protectiveness follow him home – the lizard unseen on the rock at the beginning becomes a thing of fascination at the end – it could also be the stories of many who are given the chance to experience Nature at her best in the raw and in the wild first-hand.  How many city kids have never seen a dark sky glistening with stars because the city lights keep them in permanent twilight?  How many country kids have never felt the sea foam tickle their toes or been in awe of the power of the waves crashing on the rocks?

There are so many books for young readers that focus on sustainability and the need to protect the environment, but this is a masterpiece that shows them just what it is they are protecting.  And if not here, then where? 

It is nearly seven years since we were gifted Circle, and the wonder and beauty of Desert Jungle has been worth the wait. 

 

Willa and Woof 4: Wedding Rescue

Willa and Woof 4: Wedding Rescue

Willa and Woof 4: Wedding Rescue

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Willa and Woof 4: Wedding Rescue

Jacqueline Harvey

Puffin, 2023

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

 9781761043345

It’s summer and Willa is looking forward to her Aunty Jane’s wedding.  But it is also a time for bushfires and  and Willa’s town is in danger. When a spot fire burns down the wedding venue, she has to jump into action to save the day. But while she figures out that the showground might be a good new venue, she is trapped with a secret.  Local bully Robbie has hidden some injured koalas there and because he has her diary, he threatens Willa he will tell her secrets if she tells his….

The fourth is this series for emerging independent readers,  Harvey has captured the black-and-white, do-or-die world of eight-year-olds well. What to an adult may seem trivial, young ones seem as really important and they don’t yet have the world experience that enables them to prioritise so the possibility of the “world” knowing about her crush on a particular boy is as devastating as what might happen to the koalas.  Robbie has her over a barrel.  And so whether she is able to rescue the wedding remains to be seen…

The importance of and scope for using series with emerging readers has been outlined in reviews of previous episodes in the series and this one consolidates that work.  Because the series has characters and situations that will be recognisable to the readers, perhaps they can think about how the text relates to their own lives,  and how they would respond if they were in a similar situation.  What can they learn from Willa, Tae and Frank that they could draw on in the future? How has reading this series helped them better understand themselves and their friends?  And if all that is too deep and meaningful for a holiday read, they can look forward to Episode 5 in July! 

 

Quiet Time with My Seeya

Quiet Time with My Seeya

Quiet Time with My Seeya

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Quiet Time with My Seeya

Dinalie Dabarera

A&U Children, 2023

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

9781761180286

Right back into the early days of my teaching career that began more than 50 years ago, one of the most rewarding things I have experienced over and over, is the way that kids relate to each other and have fun even though they don’t share a word of each other’s language.  Regardless of whether it was in an inner city school in Christchurch, New Zealand where the only two people with fluent English were my teaching partner and I; a new Canberra primary school, where the ESL teacher and I found 42 different languages spoken amongst the children, let alone their families; or another school where those who had arrived from overseas with no English at all came to the Introductory English Centre for six months of intensive study before going to their neighbourhood schools; classrooms and playgrounds alike were always hubs of co=operation, collaboration and communication as through shared body language, hand signals, laughter, smiles,  fun and games children from all nationalities and age groups played together, learned from each other and there were no barriers. 

And that situation has been captured in this delightful book about the relationship between a little girl and her non-English speaking grandfather.  Inspired by a situation in which the author’s Sri Lankan grandmother moved to Australia with only her native Sinhalese so that “most of her outside social interactions were limited to a smile”, the little girl and her grandfather have the best fun doing everyday things with gusto and joy, “show[ing] more than we tell”.

This is a situation that will resonate with many of our students whose own language is not the same as those around them, but who, nevertheless, can share joy and love, happiness and sadness, and from whom, we adults can learn so much.  It opens up opportunities to investigate languages spoken within the class families and how humans, as a species, often say more with their bodies than their mouths.  It might even be fun to create a series of emojis that encapsulate the emotions and feelings common to all of us so we understand that we have more similarities than differences, and that spoken language is just one element. of communication.

Little Treasure

Little Treasure

Little Treasure

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Little Treasure

Chanelle Gosper

Jennifer Goldsmith

Lothian Children’s, 2023

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

9780734421494

At first, when you look at a deserted beach it looks like an empty seascape of sand, surf, sea, and sandhills undisturbed by much more than seagulls and the incessant breeze – the ocean’s kiss to remind you who is in charge.  

But take off your adult sunglasses and see it through the eyes of the child and it becomes a treasure chest of things to discover – on the sand, in the rockpools, up in the dunes, down where the waves break and out on the horizon.  

In this beautifully illustrated story-in-rhyme – young readers are transported to the beach and perhaps their own memories as they discover the magic with mother and daughter.  The ordinary becomes the extraordinary as shells and seaweed become a mermaids’ jewels; a ship on the horizon transports treasure to unknown places; footsteps in the sand become pathways to new adventures and undiscovered worlds.  And throughout it all, is threaded the unending love between mother and child fed by the small moments that become memories and the joy of sharing them in a timeless bubble, reminding us that those are the most precious things of all.  For as much as the little girl gets pleasure in her finds, the mother gets pleasure in the little girl’s pleasure. 

Certainly, the story echoed my own childhood by the sea at the south of the South Island of New Zealand where my brother and I knew to watch the tide, come home when it turned or when darkness began to fall.  But not all children have that particular experience, so perhaps this is the springboard for getting them to recall and retell a time that they shared with someone special, in a different setting where there were just two of them without distractions, making discoveries and memories together.  Maybe they could create an I Love You card illustrated with the memory to give to the other person, to create another memory and that special joy of the bond. 

Grandma’s Guide to Happiness

Grandma's Guide to Happiness

Grandma’s Guide to Happiness

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grandma’s Guide to Happiness

Andrew Daddo

Stephen Michael King

ABC Books, 2023

32pp., hbk., RRP $A22.99

9780733341304

My grandma says the funniest things.

She says that you don’t need much to be happy – not really.

Grandmas know that it’s often the simplest things that make you happy, like splashing in a puddle or baking delicious cookies, and the further I got into this book the more I was convinced that Andrew Daddo had been spying on me – right down to the creation of the fairy garden!!! We even moved from city to country so our little ones would have the space to roam freely and use their imaginations!

So there were so many memories of the things we did together when they were little in this charming book that shows that happiness can be found in the simplest things, if we just take the time to enjoy the moment. Despite all the attractions and distractions of today’s busy world, there is something magical about lying on the grass watching the pictures in the clouds or cooling off under the sprinkler or taking a sneaky swing on the clothesline.  The things we grandmas enjoyed as children are just as fun today, if we and our grandchildren just take the time… Although Stephen Michael King has been flattering in his illustration of me – I’m more the traditional short, rounded, glasses-wearing granny (although I do still have my natural red hair) – nevertheless, he has interpreted and captured Daddo’s words in a way that just shows the magic of mindfulness,  And although my littlies are now Miss 12 and Miss Nearly 17, there are still times when we just take a minute to jump in a muddy puddle – especially if Grandad is close by!

Intergenerational relationships are so important for all, and they’re long and strong in this family.  Thanks for the memories, Andrew and Stephen!!!!

 

 

Song in the City

Song in the City

Song in the City

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Song in the City

Daniel Bernstrom

Jenin Mohammed

HarperCollins, 2023

40pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

 9780063011120

Sunday morning in the city, and Emmelene is accompanying her Grandma Jean to church where there is a choir singing and trumpets blowing  and hand-clapping to hear and join in with. But Grandma Jean is getting cross because Emmelene is lagging behind because she is listening to the music of the city – the tap-tappa-tap, the yip-yippa-yip, the pitter-patter-drip and all the other sounds that her ears hear but her eyes can’t see.  

And in church, when Grandma Jean’s music makes little impression on Emmelene , Grandma gets even crankier and just doesn’t understand what Emmelene can hear – although she does try. And then Emmelene shows her…

A long time ago, I read a poem about the sounds of night falling and it made such an impression on me, that now, mosquitoes willing, one of my favourite wind-down activities is to listen to the dark creep across our bushland home.  I have to admit that I’m a bit like Grandma Jean and haven’t heard the music of the city so maybe I should sit in the park in town and close my eyes… Certainly, it is something we can do with our kids on a nice day – take them outside, let them lie on the grass in the sun and just listen to the music of the outdoors.  And if someone falls asleep, that’s fine – either they needed the rest or the activity had the desired effect of putting them in the zone for a while.  

But, while this is a great book to inspire an awareness of our surroundings and be mindful in the moment, on a more practical level it is also one for exploring the concept of onomatopoeia as the sounds of the vehicles and other things that Emmelene hears are illustrated in a way that makes you see them as well as hear them.  Another opportunity to explore and experience our language.