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Yay! It’s Library Day

Yay! It's Library Day

Yay! It’s Library Day

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yay! It’s Library Day

Aleesah Darlinson

Australian Children

Wombat Books, 2018

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

9781925563238

For Oliver and Ivy it is the best day of the week because it’s the day their dad takes them to the library.  That’s because that’s the day they can tip=toe through the lion’s lair into the realm of fairies and on into vast rolling oceans ruled by pirates, and even play ping-pong with purple llamas from Timbuctoo! Every book on the library’s shelves takes them to a new world and introduces new characters to frolic with in their words and pictures.  Princess, sea creatures, kangaroos,  ballerinas are all their as the magic carpet sweeps them on new adventures … those amazing books bring their imaginations alive.  

If this book were only this story that is as powerful an advertisement for stories and reading as the Superbowl ad was for Australian tourism, then it would be amazing as Darlinson’s rollicking rhyme shares the possibilities of story, but it is more than that because this is the second one that has drawn on the talents of Australia’s children to illustrate it.  Like its predecessor Zoo Ball, each page Wombat Books invited children all over Australia to submit drawings to accompany the story to provide them with an introduction to the world of illustrating and the opportunity to be published professionally and so each page has its own unique illustration to accompany Darlinson’s text, and providing a different and unique interpretation of it, just as stories do.  Now more than 30 budding illustrators have had their work featured, but over 600 took the opportunity to participate – a figure that suggests we need to consider offering students as much opportunity to draw as write as we teach.

Indeed, offering them the text and inviting them to interpret it as part of your lessons would not only provide an authentic way to investigate how we each interpret the same words differently according to our personal experiences but also open up discussions about perspective and interpretation of events and our role within them.  That’s as well as giving you a unique and intriguing display particularly if students are then encouraged to suggest and find stories that match the pictures, accompanied by their comments about why they love their library!

I hope Wombat Books continue to offer this opportunity to young Australian illustrators, but even if they don’t, it gives us a reminder that we should never underestimate the power of the picture!  

The perfect book to share on Library Lovers’ Day!

 

Little i

Little i

Little i

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Little i

Michael Hall

Greenwillow Books, 2017

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

9780062383006

The alphabet letters were quite happy being what they were until one day Little i’s dot fell off.  It rolled down a hill, tumbled over a cliff and splashed into the sea.  Little i felt weird and the other letters felt confused because now Little i looked like a number and you can’t make words with numbers.  

So Little i decided to find his dot and starts off on an adventure that takes him to some interesting places. His question mark boat takes him across the seas until he finds an island that has a remarkable sea passage that passes a spectacular exclamation point waterfall, through the cold dark parenthesis tunnel (with asterisk gems), through the field of lovely comma sprouts, across the spine-chilling hyphen bridge to the very edge of the land where his dot completes his journey like a full stop at the end of a sentence.  But when Little i puts his dot back on he feels strange, setting his quest and his story up for an imaginative and fun end.

With bold shapes and colours, this is one of those books that seems really simple on the surface but then you wonder what sort of mind could make such a story. But then he did write Red, A Crayon’s Story.  Not only is it clever it is brilliant, so rich in so much for the very young reader. Little i feels incomplete without his dot and that he doesn’t really belong in the alphabet, just as some children feel adrift if they haven’t got their mum, a special friend or a favourite toy by their side and so talking about Little i’s story may help them realise that they can not only survive without that security blanket but be even better for being brave enough to leave it behind.  Self-confidence in who we are is such a critical part of growing up.

It is also wonderful for those who are just beginning to understand that words are constructed from letters – Hall shows this by having the letters in the words do their talking; distinguishing between letters and numerals; and maybe starting to wonder what the other marks on the page are. There is a myriad of talking and teaching opportunities as the children demonstrate their knowledge of those initial concepts about print that are part of early kindergarten assessments.  Yet, whatever level the child is at for looking at the technicalities and tools of language, overall and throughout there is an engaging story and a satisfying finish which have to be at the core of anything we share with little ones if they are to love stories and reading and all that they offer.

If this were Australian, I’d be looking for it during Awards Season 2018!  

Madeline Finn and the Library Dog

Madeline Finn and the Library Dog

Madeline Finn and the Library Dog

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Madeline Finn and the Library Dog

Lisa Papp

Old Barn Books, 2017

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

9781910646328

Madeline Finn does not like to read. Not books. Not magazines. Not even the menu on the ice cream van. Reading out loud in class is a nightmare and the words get stuck in her mouth “like peanut butter” and the other children laugh.  While they get stars from their teacher, all Madeline gets is a “Keep Trying” sticker.  She gets a lot of those.  But she desperately wants a star and so one night she makes a wish on a star for a star.  

Sadly, some wishes take a bit of time to come true and come the end of the week and it’s time for her to visit the local library she is truly despondent, is tired of trying and has all but convinced herself she will never be a reader.  But librarian Mrs Dimple has a surprise for her – a surprise that will not only turn her reading around but also her life…

There are children like Madeline Finn in every class – children who hate the out-dated practice of having to read aloud to the group because all it does is shine a public light on their struggles as they try to master the written word and self-talk themselves further and further down the rabbit hole of being a non-reader.  As a teacher and teacher librarian who has spent 45 years helping little ones to read I wanted to shake Madeline’s teacher and show her that stickers and stars and “keep trying” are fruitless – but then Lisa Papp wouldn’t have had a story and there wouldn’t have been a happy outcome, albeit fraught with anxiety, for Madeline.

Sharing this story with the class will help the Madelines understand that there are many kids like them who just haven’t quite got reading sorted yet, but that it is achievable and even enjoyable. They are not the only ones who find the squiggles on the page confronting but that it is OK to make “mistakes” and these become fewer as their understanding and confidence grows.  Reading is not about the stars on a chart, but the inner satisfaction of being immersed in something that takes you away from the here and now and into the land of imagination and possibility. 

More and more the power of dogs as pets as therapy is being recognised and they are turning up in all sorts of places. While it might not be possible to have one in your school library, it is possible to substitute Bonnie for a teddy – or a host of teddies – so those who have yet to develop confidence in their reading because they believe “real readers” don’t make mistakes can have a non-judgemental partner to read to.  My experience was children who dreaded coming to the library would be there before school and at lunchtimes reading to their favourite teddy – I ended up with about 50 in the collection – as they built their confidence and their skills in a safe, friendly, non-threatening environment. They even became regular borrowers!

While this story will bring comfort and hope to a lot of little people, hopefully it will also inspire teachers to reflect on their professional practice and consider whether they are doing things that inadvertently marginalise their not-there-yet readers and make changes.  

Teacher’s hat is now off!

 

 

I Want to Be in a Scary Story

I Want to Be in a Scary Story

I Want to Be in a Scary Story

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Want to Be in a Scary Story

Sean Taylor

Jean Jullien

Walker Books, 2017

48pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781406363463

Monster wants to be in a scary story – but is he brave enough? Scary stories have creepy witches and creaky stairs and dark hallways and spooky shadows… Oh my goodness me! That is very scary. Maybe, a funny story would be better after all?

Told in a conversation between the little monster and the story-teller, perhaps a parent, this is a delightful book for pre-schoolers who fancy starring in their own version of a scary story, as long as it’s not too scary.  Direct sentences with the speaker indicated through colour rather than punctuation and extraneous words, speech bubbles that show how Little Monster is feeling, and illustrations created with bold lines and bright colours, the young child is taken through the dark forest and into the spooky house, each page building up a little more tension which is diffused with the story-teller warning Little Monster in advance of what is coming and Little Monster stating what the reader is probably feeling.  And then ending is just what it should be!

Something different that will empower our youngest readers to be in their own stories and help them understand the fun that is between the covers of a book.

 

Baabwaa and Wooliam

Baabwaa and Wooliam

Baabwaa and Wooliam

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Baabwaa and Wooliam

David Elliott

Melissa Sweet

Candlewick Press, 2017

40pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

 9780763660741

Baabwaa is a sheep who loves to knit. Wooliam is a sheep who loves to read. It sounds a bit boring, but they like it. However, one day Wooliam suggest they leave their comfortable caravan and seek an adventure. Even though they live in a field that is surrounded by a stone wall they do encounter an adventure as a  third sheep shows up -a funny-looking sheep who wears a tattered wool coat and has long, dreadfully decaying teeth. Wooliam, being well-read, recognizes their new acquaintance as the Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing! The wolf is so flattered to discover his literary reputation precedes him that he stops trying to eat Baabwaa and Wooliam. And a discovery by the sheep turns the encounter into an unexpected friendship.

This is an intriguing but interesting story for young readers that has a number of twists and turns to keep them engaged as they learn that even those considered too different, perhaps even a threat, can become a friend.  Funny, descriptive, and accompanied by illustrations that capture the personalities of both Baabwaa and Wooliam, and show the wolf in a variety of lights, this will capture young minds right from the front cover as they predict that this is not just about two sheep enjoying life and that there is trouble looming in paradise.

 

The Cherry Pie Princess

The Cherry Pie Princess

The Cherry Pie Princess

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Cherry Pie Princess

Vivian French

Marta Kissi

Walker Books, 2017

176pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781406368970

“It’s not much fun being a princess: you have to be prim, proper and obedient. Princess Peony lives in a world full of magical creatures – hags, trolls, giants and fairy godmothers – but her father’s strict rules leave her feeling bored and lonely. She wants to learn how to DO things, and cooking’s at the top of her list. But when Peony borrows a recipe book from the public library, the king has the old librarian who tried to help her arrested for “speaking out of turn”. Can Peony stand up to her father and make things right?”

The publisher’s blurb sums up this engaging story very well. Despite being somewhat of a misfit in her family shunning shoes and pretty dresses to better herself, she counts down the days till her 13th birthday when she is allowed an unescorted “educational” visit but is dismayed to find that her plans to again visit the library which she first discovered when she was nine, are thwarted by Mrs Beef who believes a visit to the family’s mausoleum to study her ancestors would be much better for her. But she manages to escape, makes her way to the library and there her adventures really begin…   

For independent readers who like their princesses to have some attitude but also compassion, this is a new take on the more traditional tale.  Lovers of familiar  fairy tales will see it still has many of the features of the originals with a tyrant king with old-fashion views; older, self-absorbed sisters who treat the youngest one with disdain; the mean, miserable governess with the iron fist; fairy godmothers who can grant wishes; a neglected old hag who is cranky that her invitation to the new prince’s christening has not arrived; dark gloomy dungeons where innocents sit forgotten for years; a talking cat… and only one person who can save the day when trouble threatens.   But they will also like the determination, compassion, resilience and self-reliance of Peony who is more like them and isn’t relying on a handsome prince to get her out of bother.

Vivian French’s storytelling is accompanied by a sprinkling of illustrations that add charm and character, making this ideal for a bedtime read-along  or read-alone for the 7+ age group.

Once Upon an ABC

Once Upon an ABC

Once Upon an ABC

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once Upon an ABC

Sophie Masson

Christopher Nielsen

Little Hare, 2017

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

9781760128432

A is for Anansi, both clever and neat,

B is for Brer Rabbit with tar-sticky feet…”

This is a clever romp-in-rhyme through the characters of familiar fairy tales and folktales that will bring back memories of loved stories as well as suggest new ones to explore. Who is Herd Boy?  Why was the Nymph protecting her tree? And why is ‘ugly’ just a disguise?  Perfect for extending children’s reading into traditional tales from a range of countries as they try to match character with story.

But while the illustrations are quirky, I’m not so sure that the target audience is attracted to these muted, retro colours that seem to be so prominent in children’s books at the moment. My experience of 45 years with littlies is that children will view the cover as quite dull and pass it over in favour of something more eye-catching, so that while the text is brilliant it will take an adult’s encouragement to entice the child to explore it.  

Concept is great, presentation not so.

Wolfie An Unlikely Hero

Wolfie An Unlikely Hero

Wolfie An Unlikely Hero

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wolfie An Unlikely Hero

Deborah Abela

Connah Brecon

Random House, 2017

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

9780143781509

Whenever you ask young children what they are afraid of, you can be sure that some will say “a wolf”. Even though we don’t have them Australia, nevertheless they rank right up there because children’s storybooks are littered with wolves that do the wrong thing.  Little Red Riding Hood, The Three Little Pigs, Peter and the Wolf, The Boy who cried Wolf – all stories they hear over and over and all with the wolf as the baddie.  No wonder their ranking on the scare-o-meter is so high!

But what happens when the wolf wants to improve his image, reinvent himself and get some good PR? In this charming twist on the classics, Wolfie and the author have a conversation but no matter what evidence the wolf offers to defend himself, each time the author starts a new story it descends into the same-old, same-old cliché. And even when it DOES go further than the first page there is not a happy ending.  Is it possible to give a bad reputation a makeover?

This is a unique, hilarious story about trying to change your image which will appeal to all sorts of ages for all sorts of reasons.  Little ones will just love it as they recognise favourite characters and plots and the action-packed pictures; older readers might be encouraged to think about stereotypes, perceptions and preconceptions and even the phrase “being tarred with the same brush” which has particular application in today’s political arena. 

Unique, funny, and very readable for all ages.

 

The Leaky Story

The Leaky Story

The Leaky Story

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Leaky Story

Devon Sillet

Anil Tortop

EK Books, 2017

32pp., hbk., 2017

9781925335392
 
The Blossburn family are engaged in their usual activities – parents engrossed in a television program while J.J. is playing with toys on the mat.  No one is taking any notice of the books on the shelves, least of all the one that is slowly swelling as it demands to be read.  Only when it swells so much that it falls over and the letters start to spill out with the drip-drips becoming plop-plops does J.J. notice and try to stem the flood.  In fact it is not until the plop-plops become a splish-splash and the living room starts to look like an aquarium as all sorts of sea creatures invade it and swamp their recliner chairs that Mr and Mrs even start to notice that something might be amiss.  But their attention is grabbed when pirates sail through and challenge them that the fun really begins.
 
Young children will love this concept as they willingly suspend their reality and let their imaginations take over.  Canberra-based author Devon Sillet was awarded the Australian Postgraduate Award for her research into speculative fiction for young adults and it seems that this is a great example of the “what-if’ story starter.  What if your favourite story came to life right there in your living room?  Can you imagine the responses the children could draw, just as Anil Tortop has done with Sillet’s words in such a colourful, fun way?  Let them tell you about as book they have bought or borrowed that they just couldn’t wait to read and what it would be like if it came true right there in their home. A great way to start their writing careers.
Or even if they all started with the same story – an intriguing way to introduce the concept that even with the same information we all perceive and interpret things differently because of our previous experiences and understandings. Similarly,  they might like to turn the story around and talk about how 17th century pirates would feel in a 21st century home.
 
The final page is very satisfying as the Blossburns have all discovered the magic of words and the adventures they can take them on – what will they have happen in their living room next? What adventure would the children like to have?

Words

Words

Words

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Words

Christoph Niemann

Greenwillow, 2016

352pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

 9780062455505

 

What can you do with a word?  For me drawing and writing are very closely related. Both a word and a picture have the power to express extremely complex thoughts and emotions with amazing simplicity. Think of the word “love,” or a drawing of a smiling face. Being able to understand words and images opens the door to knowledge, communication, and connection to people all over the world.”

What originated as a set of cards for the New York City Department of Education to inspire children to learn English in a playful way has evolved into a most unusual book that takes more than 300 of the words we use often and interprets them in simple line drawings that require the reader to look closely to match meaning and picture. The illustration of the meaning is not always literal so that it has to be teased out and talked about, enhancing the reader’s understanding of it. Niemann makes connections between the word and emotions, cause and effect, actions, opposites, comparisons  and whatever else he feels will best express the richness of its meaning in an entertaining way that will teach and endure.  It is the relationship between the word and its illustration that is the key to explaining its meaning, rather than just a set of graphemes and a tangible object.  In fact many of the words that are included are not nouns or verbs but other parts of speech that can be tricky to explain. (He has even added a pictorial explanation for the common parts of speech at the end that should really help students remember them!)  Others such as scintilla and Brobdingnagian rely on their juxtaposition to enhance their meaning and add to the humour while homophones are depicted with their multiple meanings. And the toast that ALWAYS falls jam-side down is the perfect definition  

 

 

As much fun as this book is in and of itself, it is also a perfect springboard for getting students to try their hand at their own pictorial explanations for those words that trip them up.  There are many applications in the teaching day to have students interpret words through graphics and let them broaden their understanding of how our language works.

What looks like a simple book at first glance is full of promise and potential as a teaching tool.