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Abigail and the Restless Raindrop

Abigail and the Restless Raindrop

Abigail and the Restless Raindrop

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Abigail and the Restless Raindrop

Matthew Cunningham

Sarah Wilkins

Puffin, 2020

32pp., pbk., RRP $A17.99

9780143774495

Like all children her age, Abigail often has BIG questions about the world around her as she strives to makes sense of it.  And those questions can consume her until she gets an answer.  Today, as she gets ready to jump in the puddles made by the incessant rain, her big questions is about where the rain comes from.  And, again like all children her age, she isn’t satisfied with the first answer she gets from her mum – that it comes from the clouds – and she has to delve deeper, wanting to know how the water gets into the clouds.  

So using a lot of imagination mixed in with information, her mum tells her of a little drop of water who always wanted to fly and gently and gradually Abigail comes to understand the water cycle.

Investigating where the rain comes from was always an intriguing investigation as my classes explored the science, the maths, the language and even the story of Noah’s Ark and tho have had this book as an introduction would have added another layer.  Putting that big question which always started a unit into such an engaging story, giving the children the opportunity to reflect on what they know and believe to be the answer so that their imaginations are captured and they are invested in the investigation brings those big questions down to their level. 

Tagged with “a curious girl explores BIG ideas” , this is the second in this series – the first explores the birth of the sun– in which Abigail wants answers and her family members help her discover them in a way that combines the facts of science with the magic of story.  The final picture in Abigail and the Restless Raindrop hints at what her next big question will be and young readers can have fun predicting what it is as they wait for the next instalment. 

Finding François

Finding François

Finding François

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finding François

Gus Gordon

Puffin, 2020

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

9780143794141

Alice Bonnet lived with her grandmother on a hill in the middle of town and together they made a very good team as they did all sorts of things together, particularly cooking. But while Alice adored her grandmother and loved their time together, especially Fridays, there were times when she really longed for someone of her own size to talk to.  And so one day she wrote a message, put it in a bottle and threw it in the river…

Set in France, with all sorts of French things to capture the reader embedded in the illustrations, this is a gentle, charming story of the power of healing that a special friendship can bring, particularly when dark clouds seem to hang around forever and the sun is hiding. Both Alice and Francois need each other because each is lonely and by using the randomness of messages in a bottle finding each other, and continuing to do so, illustrates the concept that we never know just when and where we find a special someone that we will connect with for the long term. 

Adding to the charm of the story are the anthropomorphic characters who are completely unaware of their differences, and Gordon’s clever insertion of French elements that encourage the reader to use the illustrations to discover their meaning. 

Every time you read this book, there is another layer to discover and because it’s theme is one that will resonate with readers of all ages, it is one that will be read over and over again.

 

Happiness is a Cloud

Happiness is a Cloud

Happiness is a Cloud

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happiness is a Cloud

Robert Vescio

Nancy Bevington

Big Sky, 2020

32pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781922265715

Out for a walk with his father and dog, Jasper, Harry sees a flying pig! Well. it’s actually a cloud shaped like a flying pig and suddenly the walk is made more interesting as the two spot all sorts of shapes in the clouds overhead.  Even when dark, ominous ones roll in with menacing shapes like a rhinoceros and a wolf that make Harry shiver,  his dad shows him how they are good for the earth and all that grows in it.

 Just as the clouds change shape and colour so does Harry’s mood, particularly when Jasper disappears, and Vescio has cleverly mirrored these changes so young readers can understand that while they may be sad and unhappy now, there will come a change to happier times, just as the sun will always return to peek through and fill us with joy and hope again.  We just need to be patient and resilient to wait for it. That is the silver lining of clouds.

As well as being an engaging way to help young children understand the cycle of moods and feelings, this is also a wonderful way to build imagination and vocabulary as there are few things more peaceful than lying down and watching the endless patterns of clouds. Harry even touches on the question of what clouds are and why they can’t be touched, so that opens up another avenue of investigation while Bevington’s illustrations of Harry, his father and Jasper superimposed onto real cloudscapes will attract the artistic mind.

Living in a rural landscape with no pollution, reading the clouds to predict the weather and just appreciating their diversity of shape, colour, density and speed is one of the joys of the simple life. This book will connect our kids to these oft-overlooked phenomena while also showing them that there is always hope on the horizon.

Mabel and the Mountain

Mabel and the Mountain

Mabel and the Mountain

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mabel and the Mountain

Kim Hillyard

Ladybird, 2020

32pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9780241407929

Mabel is a fly.  But despite being only as big as a fingernail, she has BIG plans which include climbing a mountain, hosting a dinner party and making friends with a shark!  Despite the lack of encouragement from her friends, Mabel is determined to achieve her dreams and starts by looking for a mountain to climb – one that will challenge her.  And challenge her it does, and even though at times she thinks about changing those plans, she believes in herself and perseveres.

With a now-familiar theme of believing in yourself, persevering and being resilient, this is another story to encourage our young children to dream big and have the courage to continue, perhaps even inspiring their friends to have their own dreams. By having Mabel choose climbing a mountain as her challenge, a familiar metaphorical concept in itself, Hillyard is able to demonstrate the hard work, the sustained effort and ignoring of detractors that goes into achieving goals – there will always be setbacks and obstacles to be negotiated and navigated but the effort is worth it if the dream is.

A good one for the start of the year, or now that the year has restarted, when we ask children what their goals are – perhaps they could map out a route and trace their journey as they go, giving a tangible record to help them stay on track.

 

Tell ’em!

Tell 'em!

Tell ’em!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tell ’em!

Katrina Germein, Rosemary Sullivan with the children of Manyallaluk School

Karen Briggs

Working Title Press, 2020

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

9781921504921

It starts with a little girl answering a question asked by an unseen asker  – I know what you should tell ’em – and, apparently prompted by that unseen asker asking ‘what else?”, continues with a joyous celebration of the lives of the children as they share the activities of their community and country.  And even though the children of this remote community live about an hour east of Katherine, NT much of what they do and enjoy is very similar to what all children enjoy because kids are kids, everywhere.

Tell ’em how us kids like to play.
We got bikes and give each other rides.
Tell ’em about the dancing and singing,
And all the stories the old people know.

Yes, there are things that may be unfamiliar like the buffalo and the crocodiles – “just freshwater ones” – and maybe families hunting for bush turkey, goanna and kangaroo for dinner might not be the norm for city kids but dancing and listening to stories and hunting for phone reception will all resonate.

But what threads through this achingly beautiful picture book apart from those similarities is the sheer delight and joy that these children have in their lives, the respect they have for their elders and their country and their understanding of the intertwining of the past, present and future.

I wonder what the children in our communities would share if they were asked the same question!

Maybe the first step could be figuring out the question these children were asked, and then given that most were so keen to get back to school after their enforced weeks at home, build a class response that helps them focus on why! 

A stunning, exuberant joyful celebration of being a child that has to make you smile.

 

 

Tippy and Jellybean – The True Story of a Brave Koala who Saved her Baby from a Bushfire

Tippy and Jellybean

Tippy and Jellybean

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tippy and Jellybean – The True Story of a Brave Koala who Saved her Baby from a Bushfire

Sophie Cunningham

Anil Tortop

Albert Street Books, 2020

24pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

9781760878474

Tippy and Jellybean live in the beautiful eucalypt forests bordering Australia’s high country in Victoria. Life is as it should be for mum and bub until one day in Summer 2019 just as it is turning over to 2020, they wake to smell smoke on the hot, windy air. While the kangaroos and wallabies bound away, the wombats crawl deep into their burrows and the cockatoos take off in noisy flight, Tippy and Jellybean can do none of those things.  As koalas, their only sanctuary is to climb to the top of the tree and hope they will be safe from the fire dragon that is on the warpath.

Curling herself around Jellybean, Tippy protects her baby from the flames even though she herself is burned…

Amidst the horror that was the summer of 2019-2020 , one of the enduring stories for our young readers is that of the impact on the wildlife. So to have this charming true story that not only tells of Tippy and Jellybean’s recovery but also of the dedication and expertise of veterinary professionals to preserving what they can offers a feel-good followup that will go a long way to helping the children heal too. And we are desperately in need of feel-good stories right now.

As fate would have it, Gelantipy was on my list of go-to places after having seen a documentary about in on ABC Back Roads, (it’s a comfortable drive from here) and we had a trip planned, but the fires beat us to it. Then we ourselves had to evacuate… So to know that there is a happy news story, the words interpreted in gentle, non-threatening illustrations by Anil Tortop, and that this is just one of so many creatures saved and treated by carers (many volunteers, some from overseas) strengthens my desire to explore this area as soon as.

To show our young readers that there can be happy endings, that in a time that seems so relentlessly harsh and tough there can be hope and help on the other side, and that Mother Nature can rise up no matter how beaten she is is what our students who have endured the fires, both first-hand and vicariously need right now.  Reassurance can sometimes be the greatest gift and this book provides that.

Dedicated to all the creatures that were not as lucky as Tippy and Jellybean, the publisher will donate $1 from every copy sold of this book to the Bushfire Emergency Wildlife Fund, to help fund emergency veterinary assistance and scientific intervention.

Tashi Picture Books

Tashi Picture Books

Tashi Picture Books

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alphabetical Tashi

80pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

9781760525293

My First Tashi Colours 

32pp., hbk., RRP$A14.99

9781760877323

My First Tashi 123

32pp., hbk., RRP $A14.99

9781760525286

Anna & Barbara Fienberg

Kim, Arielle & Greer Gamble

Allen & Unwin, 2020

Coinciding with the 25th anniversary of the publication of the original Tashi story, are three early childhood books which introduce the very youngest readers to the characters and settings while also helping with those basic concepts of  number, colours and the alphabet.

Because the original stories are perfect family read-alouds at bedtime, this collection will be ideal for introducing younger readers to that magical world that carries the stories along, or to assist those who are learning English as an additional language to learn the basic words using titles that are not as babyish as more traditional concept board books.  The original stories were illustrated by Kim Gamble, but since his passing his daughters have assumed the mantle and there is a seamless transition between the old and the new bringing the traditional monochromatic drawings to life in vivid colour.

With his own website and television series, Tashi is a perennial favourite who deserves his place in the legends of Australian children’s literature.

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Roma the Road Train’s First Road Trip

Roma the Road Train's First Road Trip

Roma the Road Train’s First Road Trip

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Roma the Road Train’s First Road Trip

Debbie Camps

David Clare

Little Steps, 2020

32pp., pbk., RRP $A16.95

9781925839524

The road from Darwin to Alice Springs is almost 1500 km long and travels through some of Australia’s most scenic but inhospitable country.  Getting freight between the two centres can be arduous and hazardous even for the huge road trains that make the trip regularly.

This story about Roma the road train’s first journey takes young readers through that  outback country showing off not only the countryside but also the life of the driver who makes it, one typical of the men and women who do it frequently as they earn their living.  Driver and truck become one as the journey unfolds, the driver attuned to every nuance of the motor, every sensation felt through the steering wheel and then every night time sound as he curls up in the bunk behind the cab.

If you have young students, boys or girls, who have a hankering to be a truckie, or are just wanting to demonstrate another different lifestyle found in this vast country, then the road train drivers, the distances they travel, the country they travel through and the sort of freight they carry offer that. 

Yellow Truck Road Train

Yellow Truck Road Train

Yellow Truck Road Train

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yellow Truck Road Train

Mandy Tootell

A & U Children’s, 2020

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

9781760525811

Distances are huge and roads are long in the Northern Territory and so are the trucks that travel them. Yellow Truck Road Train is just one of the vehicles that transport stock and freight across the landscape during the dry season and this book by a truckie’s wife not only gives an insight into that life but celebrates it.

Being the wife of a truckie, I appreciate the story of the drive, its ups and downs, its friendships and loneliness but I must confess it puts the trips hubby makes on the east coast into perspective for distance! Young readers aspiring to make the highway their home will enjoy the uniquely Australian aspects of this book and the h-u-g-e fold out at the end showing the anatomy of a 6-deck road train including a Kenworth T904 prime mover will fascinate them. Trucker language is also unique but there is a glossary to help out.

One to add to your Australia: Story Country collection to entice young lads, particularly, to read. 

 

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.