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I Hear a Búho

I Hear a Búho

I Hear a Búho

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Hear a Búho

Raquel Mackay

Armando Fonseca

Scribble Kids, 2024

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

9781761380495

As night falls, a  mother and daughter snuggle together in a hammock on their porch, and listen to the sounds of the night. The young girl makes animal calls and her mother responds, identifying the creatures in Spanish while the striking illustrations identify them for those who don’t speak that language. Then to their surprise a real búho appears and flies across the night sky.

When she was little, Ms Almost-18 and I drove regularly between Canberra and Cooma and on the way she would delight in teaching me the Spanish words that she learned from watching Dora the Explorer and took even more delight in the words she knew and which I didn’t (and I had to guess from her clues).  Children are fascinated by other languages and so this new book, the first bilingual text from this publisher, not only gives young Spanish-speaking readers the buzz of seeing their language celebrated in a book but also offers non-Spanish speakers some new words to add to their vocabularies so they, too, can baffle their elders.

I recently gave another bilingual book to a friend teaching a couple of Italian-speaking children and she told me that the doors it opened and the bridges it built between school and home were remarkable as the whole family got involved in sharing it, so we should never underestimate the power of acknowledging the languages spoken by our children and demonstrating to parents that we do this.  The animals that are featured in this seemingly simple rhyming story are a dog, cat, frog and owl, so how inclusive would it be if we invited all students to teach us what their words for these creatures are, and then extend that to teaching us their words for other creatures that we see around us in the local environment, or for the sounds we hear as night falls.  The sights and  sounds of the city are very different to the sights and  sounds of the country.

As with many well-written picture books that appear at first glance to be for the very young, in the hands of an imaginative teacher they can become powerful teaching tools for all ages, and this one has great potential too.  

Dexter Lost His Boo-Woo

Dexter Lost His Boo-Woo

Dexter Lost His Boo-Woo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dexter Lost His Boo-Woo

Shane Hegarty

Ben Mantle

Hodder Children’s, 2024

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

9781444966350 

HELP! Dexter’s lost his Boo-Woo.

It’s a scary sounding beast! It has fiery eyes and floppy ears, and twenty pointy teeth!

Soon the whole town is on the hunt for the Boo-Woo… police officers, firefighters and so many more join in the search, each getting more and more concerned as Dexter describes the Boo-Woo.  They are very relieved when they find it,  but have they?

At first glance, this is a story written in fast-paced rhyme for very young children about finding something precious that has been lost and the emotions that that engenders, but it has the potential to be so much more because as the locals join the search, Dexter adds more and more information building up the picture of what his Boo-Woo looks like.  So much like The Dudgeon is Coming, young students can build group or individual pictures adding features as they are revealed, particularly if the first reading of the story is read aloud without showing the illustrator’s interpretation of the words (wrap the cover in brown paper) so the listeners really have to engage with the text as each new detail is revealed.  

It not only provides an excellent opportunity to focus on description and descriptors which will enrich their own writing, but also on perception because each drawing will be different and none will be the same as that of Ben Mantle.  You can talk about how our experiences shape our mind’s eye, and perhaps even introduce the classic poem, The Blind Men and the Elephant by John Godfrey Saxe. Extend the experience by having them draw the king in The King’s Breakfast by A. A. Milne, Dahl’s BFG as he walks down the street blowing dreams through the windows, or even Gandalf’s first meeting with Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit. Each has a description that lends itself to be interpreted in a graphic and because each of us interprets what we see and hear differently can lead to discussions about perception, what is truth and how it is shaped by our beliefs, values and even our role in an incident.   

But to be able to hang such a series of lessons on a story, you first need an engaging story that appeals to its audience on the surface, and Dexter and his Boo-Woo is certainly that, with the ending lending itself to even more possibilities!  

‘Twas the Night Before Pride

'Twas the Night Before Pride

‘Twas the Night Before Pride

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Twas the Night Before Pride

Joanna McClintick

Juana Media

Walker Books, 2023

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

9781529512502

 On the night before Pride, families everywhere are preparing to take part in this special parade celebrating gender diversity and honouring those in the LBGTQ+ community who fought against injustice and inequality. As one family packs snacks and makes signs, an older sibling shares the importance of the parade with the newest member of the family. Reflecting on the day, the siblings agree that the best thing about Pride is getting to be yourself.

This book has been sitting on my shelf waiting for the right opportunity to review it, and that seemed to present itself in the last week or two. Firstly, there was a conversation with a number of women of a certain age who still seem to believe that gender diversity is an active choice made by the individual and who not only thought it “disgusting” but believed it to be a result of the child’s upbringing and so condemned all those involved, which in this instance, included me.  Secondly, there was a request to a teacher librarian forum for LGBTQIA+ book suggestions for a primary school including how to deal with anticipated parental backlash.  So clearly there remains a need to continually educate and advocate for those who don’t fit the accepted norm, and the lines from the story

It sometimes happens we’re not given respect. It can take a long time for some to accept

becomes even more poignant and relevant, especially in light of some of the policies in schools in parts of the US and book bannings in libraries which clearly, some would prefer to have here as well.  

It remains my hope that one day soon that family and gender diversity in stories will not be a cause for comment, let alone a label but until then we need to continue to include books that demonstrate that people are people regardless of who they might share their nights with in our collection so that our young people don’t have the prejudices that are clearly still in our community.  This one, written to the rhythm of “Twas the Night Before Christmas”, although written for a US audience with reference to historical events there, is nevertheless, a worthwhile addition to your collection particularly because of the lines I’ve quoted, and to help our young ones understand the message behind the parade at Mardi Gras.

In the meantime, if you’re looking for appropriate titles, search this blog for LGBTQIA+, check out this list from Walker Books, or this one from Readings, and if you need to explain or defend your position, see how it is dealt with in this sample collection policy and this blog post

Tree

Tree

Tree

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tree

Claire Saxby

Jess Racklyeft

A & U Children, 2024

28pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781761069505

On a misty mountain morning, just like the one outside my window this morning, the tree stands tall in the forest, high above those that surround it , “older than those who find it, younger than the land it grows from.”

From its roots that gather food and the tiny, feathery threads that connect it to other trees to the tips of it top leaves that reach for the sun and give dappled shade from it, the tree brims with life – both its own and those who seek shelter and food from it.

Known as “the forest giant” as they can soar to a height of more than 100 metres, and sometimes living up to 300 years old, this is the story of a mountain ashEucalyptus regnans – native to the forests of Tasmania and Victoria, born from a seed the size of a pinhead but uniquely designed to be able to push its way through the ash of a bushfire and begin its rapid growth that helps regenerate the scorched land below. 

Just like Iceberg this is another incredible offering from this team of author and illustrator, one that brings to life the life of something so ordinary yet extraordinary  in words and pictures (including an amazing three-page spread) in a way that should be used as a role model for students tasked with research-and-report writing.  Compare “In the layered litter, a a scaly thrush flicks. A lyrebird scritch-scratches. Slaters curl, beetles burrow and centipedes scurry.” to  something like “At the bottom of the tree lots of birds and animals live among the dropped leaves and twigs.” It is the lyricism of Saxby’s language that shines through in all her books and in this case, Racklyeft’s watercolour illustrations put the reader right in with those little inhabitants.

But whether the tree is a magnificent mountain ash, or a humble backyard specimen, this is one that will spark awareness of the value that any tree adds to both the landscape and life itself, and thus needs protection rather than destruction. 

 

Pidge’s Poppies

Pidge’s Poppies

Pidge’s Poppies

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pidge’s Poppies

Jan Andrews

Timothy Ide

Ford Street, 2024

32pp., hbk., RRP $A27.99

9781922696380

High on a ledge in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the Australian Wat Memorial in Canberra, there is a blodge of bright scarlet that stands out even against the colour of the stunning stained glass windows. And if you’re lucky, your keen eye might just pick out a couple of proud pigeons in this nest made from the remembrance poppies people have placed beside the names of their loved ones in the Hall of Remembrance down below to show that they and their service has not been forgotten.

Based on a true story that took place in 2019, and bringing the story of the role that pigeons played during World War I and II to life, this is a sensitive but compelling read that offers a new perspective to the commemoration of ANZAC Day, one that acknowledges the human sacrifices made but focuses on the contribution of these little birds – the many-times great grandmother and great grandfather of Pidge and Henry- instead.

In 2019, the Australian Parliament declared 24 February each year as the National Day for War Animals, also known as Purple Poppy Day. It’s a day to pause, wear a purple poppy, and pay tribute to the many animals who served alongside soldiers and this is a poignant and stunningly illustrated tribute to all those creatures, often symbolised by Simpson’s donkey but which involved so many other species doing so many other things in so many fields. So important have they been that there is now an international war memorial for animals at Posières in France and those who have provided outstanding service or displayed incredible courage and loyalty can be awarded the Dickin Medal or the Blue Cross Medal.

Accompanied by thoughtful teachers’ notes, this would be an ideal addition to your collection, particularly if used alongside Wear a Purple Poppy, and the resources  available through  the Australian War Memorial including a digitised version of their popular A is for Animals exhibition and its accompanying publication M is for Mates which may be in your collection already because it was distributed to all schools in 2010. There is also an education kit available.

Sadly, too many of our students have first-hand experience of war, or have relatives currently embroiled in conflict, so the commemoration of ANZAC  Day, while a critical part of the calendars of Australia and New Zealand, has to be handled in a different way, so perhaps exploring the stories of animals like Pidge’s relatives who served, and continue to do so, can put the horror at arm’s length yet still observe the purpose and solemnity of the day. 

Giraffe Math

Giraffe Math

Giraffe Math

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Giraffe Math

Stephen R. Swinburne

Geraldo Valério

Little, Brown Young Readers US, 2023

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

9780316346771

Twiga the giraffe introduces young readers to fascinating facts about giraffes and their relationship to other creatures-all by using math concepts such as measurements, graphs, shapes, word problems, and more.

This interactive picture book explores these spectacular animals through a STEM lens as everything from their speed and size to their intricate camouflage patterns (which act as internal air conditioning) and other body characteristics are featured. It’s an in-depth look at the animal kingdom’s most beloved gentle giants.

Animals have cycles of popularity and where, not so long ago, it was all about dolphins and elephants, now giraffes are enjoying the limelight.  So those in their fan club are not going to be too bothered by all the facts and figures in this book being in imperial measurements, because there is so much more information embedded in the text.  That said, for the young Australian reader, a lot of it will seem to be in a foreign language as they grapple with terms like feet and inches, ounces and pounds, and although there is a conversion chart provided, nevertheless such things can be hard to visualise for the inexperienced, even with the many illustrations offered as comparisons )although they are not necessarily done to scale.).   For older readers, it can be an opportunity to learn about different systems of measurements, both current and past, as well as doing the calculations involved in converting imperial to metric, although an online  measurement converter does it online in a flash. 

Despite the shortcomings on the mathematics side, this is still a worthwhile book for those with a fascination for the species and who are keen to learn more about these creatures with their strange ossicones (different between male and female) and their pizza-sized hooves.  

 

The Knight of Little Import

The Knight of Little Import

The Knight of Little Import

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Knight of Little Import

Hannah Batsel

Carolrhoda Books, 2024

40pp., hbk., RRP $A37.99

9781728450995

Compared to the big and boisterous city of Biggerborough, Charlie’s home town of Little Import is very staid and sedate, which is extremely embarrassing for someone who is supposed to slay monsters and keep people safe.  But in reality, Charlie had never even seen a monster, let alone fought one, and she spent her days reading about them in her Big Book of Beastly Brutes and imagining them.

 

But what she didn’t realise was that the slow demise wasn’t being caused by the brashness of Biggerborough and the knights there fighting mile-high monsters and ogres, but by a host of little monsters  that were hiding in plain sight in her own town.  It starts with her helping the baker get rid of the Triple-Tier Hungerbeak who has been eating his pastries every night for a week and the word of her knowledge and bravery spreading…

This  is one of the most original stories I’ve read and reviewed for a long time, one that will have readers of all ages engaged in Charlie’s adventures.  As each character presents Charlie with their problem, there is a description of the monster in a separate box and so astute readers will want to use the clues to see if they spot it before Charlie does.

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

The ending is a delightful surprise demonstrating that solving small problems can lead to big changes, not only in Little Import but also in life itself, offering a subtle message that having the courage to confront small issues when they arise can prevent bigger problems.  The old adage “A stitch in time saves none” comes to mind and older readers might want to probe the meaning of that. 

Grandad’s Pride

Grandad's Pride

Grandad’s Pride

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grandad’s Pride

Harry Woodgate

Andersen Press, 2023

32pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9781839132667

Milly and her family, including Gilbert the dog, are back for their annual summer holiday with Grandad, and while she is rummaging in the attic to build a pirate fort, Milly discovers a beautiful rainbow flag.  It sparks a discussion about how Grandad used to march in the Pride parades, celebrating the diversity of the community and sharing the message that regardless of who they love or their gender, everyone should be treated with equality and respect. 

When Milly suggests going to a parade in the old camper van, and Grandad tells her his partying days are over, she has an idea… and Pride comes to Grandad and the village!

Not only is this a joyous celebration of Pride and all that it means, it is also a down-to-earth explanation that young children can understand immediately, and many will delight in seeing children just like them portrayed in the illustrations as the villagers come together to make this a brilliant celebration.  Like its predecessor, while gender diversity is at its core, it is more about relationships and communities and connections regardless of differences like skin colour, beliefs or living arrangements.  After all, we are all humans striving to be loved and treated with dignity and respect.  

Footprint

Footprint

Footprint

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Footprint

Phil Cummings

Sally Soweol Han

A & U Children, 2024

34pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781761180323

Take the time, a moment or two

To ponder what lies in front of you

And… breathe,  Yes, breathe.

There is an old saying about taking only photographs and leaving only footprints, that could be summed up by this beautiful book as the reader joins a hiker on a walk that begins by taking a track through the forest, experiencing, acknowledging and appreciating the wonders of nature journeying further and further through nature’s diverse landscapes, even stepping into new lands and biomes. And as they go, they are encouraged to absorb and appreciate what they are seeing, and, at the same time, acknowledge that humans have not always been kind to the natural world so they must consider how they, themselves, will move forward in a responsible way.

There is no stopping tomorrow, today.

On you go to find a way .Because

You carry hope and future need.

With careful footprint, plant the seed…

With the modern curriculum’s focus on the environment and its sustainability, today’s child is very aware of the precarious predicament of the world around them, and although they know they must touch it lightly, sometimes the task can be overwhelming.  How can one person make a difference, especially a little one like them?  

With its beautiful illustrations and gentle, lyrical text, this is a discussion starter that can lead to individual actions particularly in their relationship with their environment.  While no one particular pathway such as reducing plastic use or maintaining a bee-friendly garden is suggested, nevertheless children will have been exposed to those sorts of ideas and can choose their own path to walk. And though the pathway may be difficult or sad at times, finding ways around and over the obstacles is part of the journey which must go ever onward. There is hope for a future and they can plant the seeds of theirs now, a concept consolidated by the author talking directly to the reader., making the message personal. Teachers’ notes focusing on the choice and use of the language are available and, in this case, draw out a deeper understanding of the intent and purpose of the book as a while. 

 

 

Green: The Story of Plant Life on Our Planet

Green: The Story of Plant Life on Our Planet

Green: The Story of Plant Life on Our Planet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Green: The Story of Plant Life on Our Planet

Nicola Davies

Emily Sutton

Walker Books, 2024

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

9781406399998

These days young children are very aware of the importance of plants and bees, the  deadly potential of climate change and the concept of “green” being more than just a colour in the paint palette. But what is the connection between them?

It is all explained in this beautifully illustrated picture book. In accessible text, the young reader learns that a tree isn’t just a tree standing green and shady but that it is really busy purifying the air through photosynthesis as it does, and from there they are led naturally through a timeline of the development of plants on the planet, the impact of using the remains of the ancient forests as fossil fuels, and the interaction and interdependence of plants on the planet’s health and function, as they begin to understand why “GREEN is the most important colour in the world.”

This really is the most remarkable book that explains really complex concepts in such a simple way that it should be the starting point for any study into the environment and why we need to protect what we have.  It is the basic WHY of all the what, where, who, how and all the other questions that students have that will provide context and purpose for any investigation, encapsulating and explaining such a  big idea in a way that just gives sense to so much else. No matter what the topic under investigation, if it is about the natural world, it will stem back to plants and their health and prevalence.  

Research shows that the eye distinguishes more shades of green than any other colour and certainly the view from my window has more hues than I could count, but it never ceases to suggest a sense of calm and peace, which is why so many medical facilities are painted in shades of green. This book is the beginning of understanding why this is so, and why it is so important to our lives and well-being. 

A must-have in any collection.