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Unleash Your Creative Monster: A Children’s Guide to Writing

Unleash Your Creative Monster: A Children's Guide to Writing

Unleash Your Creative Monster: A Children’s Guide to Writing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unleash Your Creative Monster: A Children’s Guide to Writing

Andy Jones

Olaf Falafel

Walker Books, 2021

176pp., pbk., RRP $A24.99

 9781406396621

Over my 50+ years working with children, and particularly following my passion for developing their literacy skills, I have been exposed to as many “magic bullet” pedagogies for getting them to write well as there are theories of child development.  From a tightly structured approach where the writer is given topic, focus, essay-length and limited vocabulary to the revolution of the freedom of Donald Graves’ ‘process writing” – his books are still on my shelf – and back again, the one constant is that putting pen to paper is an individual task, and the ‘best’ approach is as unique as the individual doing the writing.

Some find writing to be their preferred way of expressing themselves, others like to sing, dance, paint or just talk. Of the writers, some like to write fiction, others prefer mon fiction; some like to draw first, others loathe drawing; some like to let the thoughts run free and edit at the end, others like to fix as they go… 

So this book is not a one-size-fits-all that a parent can give to their child and envisage another J. K. Rowling; it is not a step-by-step guide for a teacher to follow as their writing syllabus for the year; and it is certainly not a tool to teach all those obscure technical terms and techniques so beloved by today’s English teachers and curriculum writers. What it is is a guide for those who already like to write to help them hone their skills and develop their ideas. Begun as a way to amuse the author’s daughters on wet days, it presents a monster as a muse – because monsters are “exciting, unpredictable, powerful” – and by speaking directly to the reader, they are encouraged to work through the book (or dip and delve if they choose) engaging in a series of exercise and story prompts to learn the basics of stories, developing characters, settings and plots as they develop their vocabulary – all the fundamentals of story writing but at their own point of need and their own pace.  

With its easily accessible text and myriad of cartoon-style illustrations it takes the would-be writer on a personal journey of development, tapping into their existing desire to write.  However, while it is not that do this-do that guide for the busy classroom teacher, it is one that is more than worthwhile having because it offers explanations and explorations that the teacher can pass on to the student to encourage them to try new things, to delve deeper and expand their horizons.  It encourages originality and diversity rather than the cookie-cutter approach and there’s none of that technical jargon in sight.

Being the child of journalists, I could use a typewriter before I could use a telephone and it was expected that both my brother and I would be able to put words on paper as easily as we spoke. But even in such an environment, one of us went much further than the other and neither of us wrote in the style of our parents.  Certainly, my preferred genre is non fiction and mastery of my imagination eludes me.  But with this book in hand, perhaps I could try again and find a new path… 

Roald Dahl: On the First Day of Christmas

 

 

 

 

 

Roald Dahl: On the First Day of Christmas

Roald Dahl: On the First Day of Christmas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Roald Dahl: On the First Day of Christmas

Roald Dahl

Quentin Blake

Puffin, 2021

16pp., board book, RRP $A14.99

9780241492888

On the twelfth day of Christmas a grown-up gave to me…

12 books a-balancing

And so begins a less-than-traditional countdown to Christmas featuring many of Dahl’s most well-known and well-loved characters and Quentin Blake’s iconic illustrations.  But as well as being a counting book, it is also the best introduction for little ones to the works of this much-loved author whose books, while largely written for more independent readers, will nevertheless entertain our youngest ones if they’re shared as a read-aloud.  No child should go through their young life without knowing what a whizz-popper is or dreaming of winning that golden ticket!

And when they’ve heard those classics, there are the other stories featured in this book to work through and then a whole host of others crafted by one of the most popular authors in a primary school library.  Can you think of a better, more enduring gift to give a little one? 

Pages & Co. 4- The Book Smugglers

Pages & Co. 4- The Book Smugglers

Pages & Co. 4- The Book Smugglers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pages & Co. 4- The Book Smugglers

Anna James

HarperCollins, 2021

432pp,, hbk., RRP $A19.99

9780008410810

“From outside on the busy north London high street, Pages & Co looked like an entirely normal bookshop. but once inside it didn’t quite make sense how everything fitted inside its ordinary walls. The shop was made up of five floors of corners and cubbyholes, sofas and squashy armchairs, and a labyrinth of bookshelves heading off in different direction.  A spiral staircase danced up one wall, and painted wooden ladders stretched into difficult-to-reach corners.  Tall arched windows above made it feel a little like a church when the light spilled in and danced on the air. When it was good weather the sun pooled on the floor and the bookshop cat – named Alice for her curious nature- could often be found dozing in the warmest spots.  During the summer the big fireplace behind the till was filled to bursting with fresh flowers, but at is was October, a fire was roaring there…”

This is the home of Matilda Page, always known as Tilly,  who prefers the company of book characters to the people in real life and, although not having been outside London, is a seasoned traveller within the pages of the books that abound on the shelves for in the first in the series she discovered her father was a fictional character and she, herself, was half fictional.  As she and her best friend Oskar search for her missing mother, they meet the powerful but sinister Underwood family, search for the mysterious  Archivists and encounter the Sesquipedalian, a magical train that uses the power of imagination to travel through both Story and the real world. It is owned by Horatio Bolt who specialises dodgy dealings as a book smuggler trading in rare books, and his nephew Milo .

When Horatio takes on a dangerous new job, he needs Tilly’s help o and because she owes Horatio a favour she feels she has little choice. But when poisoned copies of The Wizard of Oz are sent to Horatio and Tilly’s grandfather, sending them both into deep sleeps, Milo and Tilly find themselves racing against time to save them – and to figure out what is going on. Their journey takes them to the Emerald City with Dorothy, rocketing on the unruly Quip, and eventually to Venice in Italy, in pursuit of the mysterious Alchemist. The very essence of imagination, story itself, may be in danger . . .

This is a series that, IMO, has the potential to rival Harry Potter among younger readers and certainly when I told Miss 10 I had the latest addition she begged me to post it to her rather than waiting for the restrictions of interstate lockdowns to end. Even though this one includes a brief summary of what has gone before, it is a series that is best read in order and I found myself wanting to go back to read the previous three again. (I shall have to persuade Miss 10 to lend it back to me!) 

If I were still in a school, I’d be recommending this to the parents of those who are already hooked as a must-have for the Santa Sack because there is just not enough time left in the school year (particularly with borrowing restrictions in place) for every student who will want to read it to have access to it. Imagine the joy of getting the WHOLE series all at once – what a binge-read that would be! Don’t think we will see much of Miss 10 once she gets her copy!

The Best Cat, the Est Cat

The Best Cat, the Est Cat

The Best Cat, the Est Cat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Best Cat, the Est Cat

Libby Hathorn

Rosie Handley

State Library of NSW, 2021

32pp., hbk., RRP $A27.95

9781925831191

Situated n the heart of Sydney on the corner of Macquarie Street and Shakespeare Place since 1826, the State Library of NSW is the oldest library in Australia.  And among its bigg-est, small-est, and strang-est items is a secret cat with magical powers that make it and its followers invisible.  And so young readers are taken on a special journey around the library -to the reading room which is the booki-est place; to the art gallery where ghosts might come alive; to  the stacks, seven stories below street level, where there are stories, poems and pictures from near and far as well all sorts of curios telling the story of this country;  to all parts of the library revealing its treasures both visible and not. The cat introduces them to the biggest, the smallest, the strangest, the rarest and the gluggiest objects, shows them secret places and spaces and ontroduces them to some of the workers.

Using clever rhyme and superlative language and illustrations which are a blend of collage, digital artwork and sketching, the cat explores all the corners of this institution finally revealing itself to be none other than Trim, the cat that helped Matthew Flinders put Australia on the map.  And all the items that are featured in the story are given their own brief explanation in the final pages not only encouraging demonstrating the broad spectrum of items on offer but encouraging further exploration.

Any NSW resident who has a public library card can access the State Library’s collections and so introducing young readers to all that is on offer opens up one of the finest collections of books (end to end, they would stretch 140km), letters, journals, paintings, photographs, maps and objects that they can access for free to assist with whatever investigation they are undertaking.

The Best Cat even has its own web presence with teachers’ notes and a competition offering the opportunity  to win a special behind-the-scenes tour of the Library with author Libby Hathorn and illustrator Rosie Handley.  

This is the Library’s first foray into publishing children’s books and it has set an extremely high bar. 

The Great Book-Swapping Machine

The Great Book-swapping Machine

The Great Book-swapping Machine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Great Book-Swapping Machine

Emma Allen

Lisa Coutts

NLA Publishing, 2021

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

9780642279736

 

Late one night, a thing appears in the paddock next to Fabio’s house, way out in the outback where people just drove past without stopping. .

His dad calls it ‘space junk’ and rang the Space Agency to come to take it away. But Fabio figures it is more than just junk and when he opens the hatch and climbs inside he discovers books. Books about the galaxy; big, fat books; books full of poems. On the pilot’s seat is a book called A Daydreamer’s Guide to the Galaxy and he can’t resist taking it home, staying up late into the night reading and learning. Next morning he feels he is ready to fly but when he pulls the big red lever, nothing happens and he throws the book out in disgust.  The next morning it is gone – but not too far.  The girl from next door is reading it and she hands him one of her books. It is the first of many swaps made among all sots of people, all of whom have to band together to stop the persistent people from the Space Agency from taking the “space junk” away.

This is one of the most enjoyable stories I’ve read and reviewed this year – but then, given its focus, that’s hardly surprising.  With its  funny, original and imaginative story, whimsical illustrations and an informative fact section, it’s a book about the joys of reading and the importance of community, both of which are dear to my heart.  While the usual fact pages at the back of any NLA publication give information about the National Library itself ( a familiar, favourite stomping ground for me) and little street libraries it opens the door to investigating the many different libraries in the world such as The Library of Ashurbanipal, the oldest known in the world, to the packhorse librarians of the Appalachians to their local children’s library and all stops in between.

I adore stories that send me down rabbit holes of discovery and this one has all the elements to do just that.

The Travelling Bookshop: Mim and the Baffling Bully

The Travelling Bookshop: Mim and the Baffling Bully

The Travelling Bookshop: Mim and the Baffling Bully

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Travelling Bookshop: Mim and the Baffling Bully

Katrina Nannestad

Cheryl Orsini

ABC Books, 2021 

224pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9780733341656

Imagine being a young girl travelling the world in an old wooden caravan pulled by a horse that decides where they will go and which seems to have magical powers that mean borders and mountains and oceans are no barriers.  And that caravan is full of books, because it, too, has a magic that means that it is like a Tardis with so much more on the inside than appears on the outside. 

That is the life of 10-year-old Miriam-Rose Cohen (who prefers Mim), her father and little brother Nat, Coco the cockatoo and Flossy the horse.  They travel to wherever they are needed, wherever there is a child in need of a book to make their world right again because “the line between books and real life is not as clear as people suppose.”

In this first episode of this new series inspired by her childhood dream of living in a double-decker bus, the author of the 2021 CBCA shortlisted We Are Wolves and the Lottie Perkins series, we are taken to a pretty Dutch village where Mim meets Willemina, a kind and gentle child, who is being bullied by Gerda. Mim is convinced that Willemina will be much happier if her dad would just find her the right book, but is it really Willemina who needs it? 

This is a brand new series that had me at its title, took a greater hold at the image of little Nat being secured to the caravan’s roof because his dad nailed his pants to it, and held me right through to the end with its quirky characters and madcap adventures that will transport any reader far away from this gloomy, long winter. It’s the stuff that allows the imagination to run wild and starts dreams -that just might come true. 

Leilong the Library Bus

Leilong the Library Bus

Leilong the Library Bus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leilong the Library Bus

Julia Liu

Dei Lynn

Gecko Press, 2021

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

9781776573325

The children are late for storytime at the library. Ever helpful, Leilong the enthusiastic dinosaur can get them there one time but riding a brontosaurus through the city can cause issues, When they finally get there, he is not allowed in because his  small head is the only part of him that fits and besides, he doesn’t have a library card.  Rules are rules!  So he must listen through the window. But he gets so excited by the story, he starts to shake the building. and risks destroying the library. When he is ordered out, the children walk out too –  and the library is left empty.  Is there a compromise?

No matter where in the world we live, children love and deserve stories and a quick internet search brings up lots of innovative ways that this has been achieved when going to a physical library is not possible.  From the packhorse librarians of Kentucky to the boom in tiny street libraries adults have found ways to get books into the hands of children, so why not a dinosaur?

This is a charming, unique story that will delight young readers and help them understand just how lucky they are to have access to such a wealth of stories right there in their school!!!

This is NOT a Book!

This is NOT a Book!

This is NOT a Book!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is NOT a Book!

Kellie Byrnes

Aska

EK Books, 2021 

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

9781925820508

In this brightly illustrated book. the main character is convinced they’re not in a book How can they be when they are real?  After all, if this were a book, there’d be pages to turn … Oops! We’ve turned the page. But that’s not proof this is a book.

Even if there are pages to turn, there would be things happening and there would be a focus and other characters, a distinct time period and exciting settings, action to be involved in, problems to solve . yet, to him, there is nothing happening, despite what is being portrayed in the illustrations.

it is one of four books from this publisher – the others are The Art of Words  The Leaky Story and My Storee – that focus on metafiction, helping young readers become young writers. Told by the main character (who is deliberately not identified by gender) in a monologue, the text in this story says one thing whilst in the illustrations the opposite is happening, showing that all the elements  the character says should be in a book -main and subsidiary characters, settings, plots, problems, resolutions and so forth – are actually there. 

This is a novel way to help children turn their ideas into written stories to share with others and teachers’ notes are available.

 

 

Poo and Other Words That Make Me Laugh

Poo and Other Words That Make Me Laugh

Poo and Other Words That Make Me Laugh

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Poo and Other Words That Make Me Laugh

Felice Arena

Tom Jellett

ABC Books, 2021

40pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

9780733341427

There are some words that toll off the tongue so smoothly that you just want to say them again and again for the sheer joy of it.  My own two favourites are mugwump and ragamuffin, and in this hilarious book, Felice Arena has collected a whole lot more. Words like bumbershoot and wishy-washy and hullabaloo and, of course, poo!

Accompanied by Tom Jellett’s bold illustrations, this is a book that celebrates the sounds of our language as well as introducing a whole range of vocabulary for each word is real and has its definition included at the end. It invites the reader to contribute their own favourites and this, in turn, sets up the opportunity to play with rhythm with a voice orchestra.  Have small groups of children repeat a word over and over -its syllables will give the rhythm – and then combine them to make something magical.  Imagine the combinations if your EALD students added their favourite words in their language – and taught the others what they meant.

Books should be entertaining and this is indeed, that!

Scoop McLaren: Waves of Mystery

Scoop McLaren: Waves of Mystery

Scoop McLaren: Waves of Mystery

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scoop McLaren: Waves of Mystery

Helen Castles

New Frontier, 2020

170pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781922326010

Scoop McLaren is the thirteen-year-old news editor of her own online newspaper Click! Her role model is her dad  (who runs his own newspaper too) and he has taught her that delivering the news is an extremely important job because people rely on it so they can be properly informed.  Together with Evie, her roving reporter best friend, the girls strive to keep the residents of their seaside village of Higgity Harbour informed while using their sleuthing skills to solve some curious mysteries along the way. 

This is the second episode in this series for independent readers and in it Scoop has another mystery to solve. When Fletcher, her childhood friend enters the Higgity Harbour top surfing competition, strange things start happening… It looks like someone could be out to stop Fletcher from winning! With her roving reporter, Evie, by her side, Scoop investigates all avenues. Can she track down and rescue her friend to solve this monster wave of a mystery once and for all?

Series remain popular with young readers as they become so familiar with the characters they not only see them as friends but also see themselves as being in the story, rather than an arm’s length observer.  So as our readers head back to the library to see what is new and exciting after the long summer break, new additions to favourite series are pounced upon starting the reading journey for the year.  This series is for those who like a mystery that has realistic, relatable characters and the promise of more episodes to come…the last page ends on a cliff-hanger ensuring another one won’t be far away..