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Little Lion A Long Way Home

Little Lion A Long Way Home

Little Lion A Long Way Home

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Little Lion –  A Long Way Home

Saroo Brierly

Bruce Whatley

Puffin, 2020

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

9780143795094

Born in Khandwa, India, in 1986 at the age of just 5, Saroo Brierley was separated from his brother at a train station and, not knowing his family name or where he was from, he managed to survive for weeks on the streets of Calcutta before finally being taken to an orphanage and eventually adopted by an Australian family. Even though he was happy growing up in Tasmania, he always wondered about his long-lost family and the story of his search for them has become an award-winning movie based on the adult version of his autobiography.

This incredible story of love, resilience and hope has been exquisitely illustrated by Bruce Whatley in a version for younger readers that will intrigue and inspire as they are touched by his need to discover his roots and what happened, particularly to his older brother whom he was with.  In its own way, it will be the story of many of the children in our care who have two families and who want to know and love both. They might not have the geographical journey that Saroo has to navigate, but  there is the emotional one they have to negotiate as they discover where and how they fit in.  There is the powerful realisation that it is possible to love and be loved by more than one, and that each significant relationship we form will influence our lives and characters.

It also opens up a window to the world beyond their own bubble so they begin to understand that not all children share the life they do, and that poverty and homelessness are real for Australian children as well as India and other countries.

Comprehensive teachers’ notes are available.

For those who want to read further, there is also the co-release of Lioness, by Sue Brierly, Saroo’s adoptive mother.

Dr Karl’s Surfing Safari through Science

Dr Karl's Surfing Safari through Science

Dr Karl’s Surfing Safari through Science

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dr Karl’s Surfing Safari through Science

Karl Kruszelnicki

ABC Books, 2020

192pp., pbk., RRP $A35.00

9780733340338

“The year 2020 has reminded us that science is a bit like a wave. By that , I mean, that science is a dynamic process that ebbs and flows, rather than being something set in stone…. science is NOT a collection of facts- that’s what you have an encyclopaedia for.  Instead science is a process of discovering facts through curious exploration and then using them to understand the Universe around us…Science is an ongoing process,  It’s self-correcting- which, let me emphasise, is a strength not a weakness,,, That might sound confusing at first, but scientists are flexible and willing to look at results and tweak the advice accordingly…”

So like its predecessor Dr Karl’s Random Road Trip Through Sciencethe familiar Dr Karl takes a journey through a broad range of subjects in which the scientific thinking has changed over time or there is a greater understanding of the why because of new thinking and developments. 

Aimed at older, independent readers there is a more in-depth look at some of the more unusual phenomena from what it means to be winded to vegan diets to the 5G network, as he explores all sorts of topics assisted by an augmented reality app which has a hologram of Dr Karl offering a more in-depth introduction and then buttons to explore even further information. 

Mist students are familiar with Dr Karl and know he not only talks sense but he speaks in a language that is easily accessible to them – you don’t have to be a scientist to understand what he says.  So this book, which stands alone without the technology but is definitely enriched by it, is one for both the novice and the more experienced with an interest in the world around them.

Yorick and Bones

Yorick and Bones

Yorick and Bones

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yorick and Bones

Jeremy Tankard

Hermione Tankard

HarperCollins, 2020

144pp., pbk., RRP $A34.99

9780062854308

This is an hilarious story about a skeleton who is roused from his death when a hot dog vendor collides with a witch causing a potion she’s carrying to spill from her hands and seep into Yorick’s grave. He awakens, surprised to find he has slept so long that he has lost his memory until a dog digs him up. All that Yorick wants is a sausage and someone to share it with but while he finds the sausage easily enough, finding a friend is a harder task. 

Subtitled “The lost graphic novel by William Shakespeare”, this is a graphic novel for the upper end of the readership of this blog because the text has been written in Shakespeare’s language and iambic pentameter rhythm, making it one for those independent enough to cope with that.  At the same time, it may well capture older readers’ imagination, particularly those familiar with Shakespeare’s works as there are references that have been cleverly adapted throughout. 

Something different to offer those who declare that they have ‘read everything”. 

Vote 4 Me

Vote 4 Me

Vote 4 Me

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vote 4 Me

Krys Saclier

Cathy Wilcox

Wild Dog Books, 2020 

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

9781742035956

The students at Mount Mayhem school are about to hold an election to form a committee to make some long-wanted changes at the school.  But the Year 6 class can’t decide on who should represent them and so Ms Sparks decides it is an excellent opportunity to teach them about Australia’s system of preferential voting.

Written by an expert in teaching students about elections, this book provides an explanation of the system within a context that the children will understand and carry with them into later life when they are involved in local, state and federal elections. It clearly shows how the process works and why it is fairer than a first-past-the-post count, offering the opportunity for all voices to be heard equally. 

At a time when elections are being held and getting a lot of publicity and coming into the period when school-based elections for leadership teams for 2021 are held, this is a book that has a place in any collection that focuses on democracy and how it works.  Sharing it when there is a real-life context to relate it to gives it extra punch and helps create more-informed voters of the future.  

Untwisted: The Story of My Life

Untwisted: The Story of My Life

Untwisted: The Story of My Life

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Untwisted: The Story of My Life

Paul Jennings

Allen & Unwin, 2020

336pp., hbk., RRP $A34.99

9781760525828

When you give a story to someone else to read, it is like sending out your love. If it is rejected it is a horrible experience. It takes courage to reveal your own soul to just one person, let alone put it into print. You make yourself incredibly vulnerable.” 

But since 1983 when he was searching for a lighthouse in a stormy sea of a marriage breakdown, being a single dad to four children, and an uncertain professional future because of the change in his personal circumstances, Paul Jennings has been making himself vulnerable and to the harshest of critics – children. 

And since 1985 when his first short story collection Unreal was published, generations  of kids have been grateful that he has had the courage to show his vulnerability. He has shared 125 individual stories and sold 10 000 000 copies of them, changing the reading lives of hundreds of thousands of kids. And I, as a teacher and teacher librarian for 50 years have been privileged to see those changes and the impact they have had.

Forty odd years ago the children’s literature world was starting to change and while there were the established authors like Southall and Thiele (both heroes of Jennings) there was  no one like this person who offered short stories that could be read in a sitting that brought a world of kids’ humour and interests to life. No one who touched on “unmentionable” subjects in a way that challenged more conservative teachers to read them aloud when the kids demanded them and certainly no one had reluctant readers, mostly boys, demanding time to read, lining up at the library door to be the first to get the new release, talking about books and reading in a way they never had before.  But here, in my classrooms, it was happening – this former lecturer in Reading Education and Children with Special Needs put his professional knowledge to work, wittingly or not, and wrote the sorts of stories that these readers were craving (even if they didn’t know it because they had already written themselves off as readers.)

And perhaps, with this memoir that shows that Jennings was no silver-spoon kid, the reading journeys of another generation will take a new turn as they explore new ground.  This is not a book written for children specifically; it is not one of those that picks out the salient turning points in a life and condenses the achievements into a quick-read factual account but it is one about someone whom the children know and love; whose work they are directly familiar with and which may open up the world of autobiographies and biographies to them. 

There have already been many reviews and articles and so forth written by luminaries of the literary world about this book, its contents and quality, that I don’t need to add to them. Suffice to say that it is as engaging as his stories and that in the hands of an independent aficionado of even a young age, it could be a turning point. Jennings himself says that he believes his journey as a writer has been a journey about seeking love and acceptance starting as a six-year-old dressing as a pirate for the attention it afforded him, a journey that cast him as the “silly son” who finally returns home to discover himself because he has learned what is important. So, if him, then why not me? As he says, a real story is told, not plotted.

From Stella Street to Amsterdam

 From Stella Street to Amsterdam

From Stella Street to Amsterdam

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From Stella Street to Amsterdam

Elizabeth Honey

Allen & Unwin, 2020

432pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9781865084541

In 1995 Elizabeth Honey wrote 45 & 47 Stella Street, a story told by Henni Octon, writer-to-be. of what happened to Zev, Danielle, Frank and Briquette the dog and everyone else when The Phonies moved into their street and started to spoil everything. It was funny and fast, and very scary and they never knew what was going to happen next! Over the years more tales were added to the series , and each time a new one was released there was a reserves queue that necessitated buying multiple copies! 

Now, 25 years on, there is a new addition that is not only a great read in itself, but which could well spark a stampede to read the original stories in the series, (So search your shelves to see if you have the others on hand in readiness!)

In this one, Henni’s stubborn old neighbour Willa insists on returning to her childhood home in the Netherlands for a wedding, and Henni leaps at the chance to be her travelling companion. ‘Lucky duck! Fantastic opportunity!’ That’s what everyone in Stella Street said. ‘Oh boy, chance of a lifetime.’

But during the long flight to Amsterdam, Willa reveals to Henni the real reason for her journey: a terrible family secret stretching back to the Second World War. As Henni makes friends with more and more of Willa’s relatives, she must decide if they should know the truth. And is that the only mystery?

Talking about the original, Honey said she “wanted to write about kids who were open and robust, ingenious, tenacious and funny” and  “families [who] are strong and enjoy life. They go through ups and downs but basically they stick together.” And that basically sums up this t=story and the series – they are about characters and situations that our children can relate to, feel-good stories that have all the tension and drama required to keep the reader engaged but which have “a happy ending, not in a Disneyland way, an Australian way.” 

I love books that open up other avenues for readers, books that compel them to keep reading beyond the pages and it is SO good to see this one because not only is it likely to entice the readers to seek out those prequels but they’re going to venture into a series that quite possibly their parents read and enjoyed, opening up the possibilities for all sorts of discussions and memory-making.  The enduring power of print vs the fleeting influence of the screen!!!

Diamonds

Diamonds

Diamonds

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Diamonds

Armin Greder

Allen & Unwin, 2020

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

9781760877040

A young girl watches her mother get ready for a night out, curious about the diamond earrings she is wearing.  Using a child’s logic and train of thought she asks about their origins, but her mother cuts the conversation short ostensibly because it is time for her to go but perhaps she doesn’t really want to delve too deeply into their story.  

When the young girl is put to bed by the maid, clearly of African descent, the story continues without words, tracing the journey of those diamonds from the African mine workers through the hands of various “brokers” each seemingly driven by the riches they will bring regardless of the poverty and plight of those whom they exploit until the earrings are presented to her mother by Winston.

Greder is well known for looking beyond the story to the story beneath and presenting this with a minimum of text but the most powerful illustrations, and this is no exception. What really does go on in the mysterious netherworld of international trade so that those with a lust for power and riches can satisfy their hunger?

This is a picture book for older readers that, like The Mediterranean and Australia to Z,  is confrontational but it is one way to raise awareness and start conversations.  The afterwords by Francesco Boille and Riccardo Noury are not only powerful but also add extra information and insight making this a unique must-have for any school curriculum and library collection that has a social justice focus.

The Giant and the Sea

The Giant and the Sea

The Giant and the Sea

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Giant and the Sea

Trent Jamieson

Rovina Cai

Lothian Children’s, 2020

32pp., hbk., RRP $A26.99

 9780734418876

There was once a giant who stood on the shore of the sea. She looked out across the water the water, because that is what she had promised to do long, long ago.

On the shore there was a young girl who would often come and sing and while the giant never moved or spoke, she listened. Then one day, she warned the girl that the people in the city had a machine that was causing the sea to rise. If the machine were not turned off, the people would all drown. The girl tried to warn the people but they would not listen.  They loved their machine and could not imagine that it would ever do them harm, until….

In the style of Armin Greder and Shaun Tan, this is a picture book that has a powerful message that in these days of climate change conversations, even our younger readers will grasp. Even though the little girl remains nameless, each of them could see themselves as being her as they try to make the adults in their world listen to their fears. While the palette of the illustrations is dark and moody reflecting the tone of the story, there is also a thread of hope when the giant returns and rescues those that heard the girl – not all the ears were deaf.

The ending is poignant and bittersweet but it reinforces the power of children’s voices at a time when the adults seem to have lost their way.

The best picture books are those that span all age groups with a meaning and message that speaks to each, and this is one of those. 

Teachers’ resources with salient discussion points particularly for older students are available to help you make the most of it with your students because it is one that will linger in the mind long after it has been shared. 

Embrace Your Body

Embrace Your Body

Embrace Your Body

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Embrace Your Body

Taryn Brumfitt

Sinead Hanley

Puffin, 2020

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

9781760895983

There is something scary in the statistic that 70% of primary school children have a concern about their body image, and when this is coupled with the greatest desire of post-restriction Australia is for beauty salons and gyms to re-open, it is easy to see why and that without intervention, this obsession with how we look is not going to change. From long before the voluptuous Marilyn Monroe to waif-like Twiggy to the more-rounded Kardashians, our obsession with how our bodies look rather than how they perform has dominated so many lives, and this is as true for our males as it is for females.  How many young lads see themselves in the image of a Hemsworth?

In 2016 Taryn Brumfitt wrote and directed a documentary Embrace which encouraged us to love who we are as we are, but that doco received a MA15+ classification and so did not reach down to the roots of where the obsession starts.

So now she is addressing this with the establishment of a number of initiatives that speak directly to our children including another documentary , a song and, based on that song, this book. Based on the mantra that “your body is not an ornament:it is the vehicle to your dreams!”. children of every size, shape, colour and ability are engaged in all sorts of activities  showing the extraordinary things our bodies can do proving that nobody has a body that is the same as anyone else’s and that it is capable of so much more than conforming to some arbitrary stereotyped look.

This book has an important role in the conversations and investigations we have with our youngest students and not just in the health and mindfulness programs we offer. Because we are all individuals it opens up the world of science and maths as we investigate why and how that is, delving into genetics and measurement and a host of other areas that give a deep understanding to the message of the book, including the language we use to describe others. ‘Smart’, ‘clever’, ‘athletic’ are so much better than the pejorative terms of ‘pretty’, ‘handsome’ and ‘strong’.  For if, from an early age, we can grasp that we, as individuals, are a combination of the unique circumstances of both our nature and nurture, then our understanding of and appreciation for who we are is a big step towards valuing the inside regardless of the outside in both ourselves and others. 

It is sad that there is still a need for this sort of book in 2020, just as there was in 1920 and 1960, but if you make and use just one purchase this year, this could be the one that changes lives for the better. 

 

 

More than a Kick: Footy, the Photo and Me

More than a Kick: Footy, the Photo and Me

More than a Kick: Footy, the Photo and Me

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More than a Kick: Footy, the Photo and Me

Tayla Harris and Jennifer Castles

A & U Children’s, 2020

192pp., pbk., RRP $A19.99

9781760525804

Sunday, March 17, 2019 and Tayla Harris goes to work as normal, just as she has every other day. But this was to be no ordinary day – not only was it the last round of the AFLW home-and-away matches to determine which team would be in the finals, but it was the day Tayla was propelled into the media in a way she never sought nor wanted.

During the match, she kicked a goal and photographer Michael Wilson snapped the action as it happened.  Ordinarily, it would be no big deal but when it was published online to showcase her amazing athletic ability, suddenly the faceless trolls who hide behind their keyboards decided she was fair game and the photo went viral, along with a plethora of nasty comments that turned it into something it was not. Rather than being a photo of an athlete at work, it became a war of words – a war that hit the headlines here and overseas. And because 7AFL chose to remove the photo rather than hold the trolls accountable, it attracted even more attention. 

The photo...

The photo….

In this frank and very personal memoir of that time, Harris speaks directly to the reader about the impact that it had on her as an individual and as a footy player and her concerns for herself, her family and the families of those who felt it was OK to write what was essentially sexual abuse. She notes that she was “lucky” because she had a manager, a family and a community who rallied around her to support her through the furore, but she is very concerned for those who suffer similar bullying and do so, alone and often in secret. 

Whether readers are footy fans or not, know who Tayla Harris is or not, this is a powerful story that shows the power of social media and the consequences of those faceless remarks that so many seem to think they have the right to make.  For our girls wanting to aspire to the highest level of sport, it is inspirational; for those who are suffering at the hands of these anonymous cowards it offers hope and guidance; for those who write such trash, it is an eye-opener into what their words can do.  For Tayla, it resulted in a statue in Federation Square and a boost to women’s football that was unprecedented, but sadly, for some like Dolly Everett it is a burden too tough to bear.  That’s why, despite not usually reviewing books for the age group that this is written for, I’m sharing Tayla’s story because this is a story that needs to be heard over and over and over – until the haters and trolls are held accountable and responsible for their actions.

The statue... (Daily Mail, UK))

The statue… (Daily Mail, UK))