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The Bird in the Herd

The Bird in the Herd

The Bird in the Herd

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Bird in the Herd

Kathryn Apel

Renée Treml

UQP, 2021

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

9780702262944

There’s a bird in the herd that stalks as it walks, eating slugs and the bugs that the herd stirred. 

After half a century as a teacher, most of it spent focusing on teaching our youngest readers to read, I am quite vocal with my criticism of the current push to have phonics as the basis of instruction and while I could write much about why, I won’t.  However, this is a clever and quirky read which mainly relies on rhyme, rhythm and  repetition to carry it along but central, and most importantly, there is a charming story at its core. 

Beginning with a bird stalking a herd of cows to snap up the slugs and bugs they disturb, the scene is tracked back through all its elements – there is so much more than just the cows wandering along the track- with a repetition reminiscent of The House that Jack Built until an ignorant, impatient idiot  upsets everything.  So rather than the traditional set of disconnected pictures with sentences declaring the cat sat on the mat and the frog sat on the log, this is one that young readers can not only apply their new knowledge of phonemes but can actively engage with Treml’s illustrations and their existing knowledge of farm animals to read it for themselves.  They learn that the best books tell a story that is worth reading, that the words and pictures are integral to each other and this reading thing is something they can master. Such empowerment. If only all that we asked our beginning readers to read were as good as this…

Teachers’ notes are available.

The Plastic Throne

The Plastic Throne

The Plastic Throne

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Plastic Throne

Amani Uduman

Kera Bruton

MidnightSun, 2021 

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

9781925227802

 

Denver flushes all kinds of things down the toilet but never stops to think about what happens to them once they are gone. One night, while he sleeps, the ocean begins to stir, no longer able to suppress its fury over how it’s being treated. Can Denver and his sister Maisy make things right before it’s too late? More importantly, is Denver’s solution to flushing things the best option or are there changes we can make in our everyday lives that would be better?

The problem of plastic in the environment is finally receiving the sort of attention it requires and this story helps focus young readers’ attention on both the issue and its solution.  Inspiring readers to not only think about their plastic usage, it also highlights the impact of the waste humans generate on the world, enabling the development of attitudes about sustainability from a young age. 

Blue Flower

Blue Flower

Blue Flower

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blue Flower

Sonya Hartnett

Gabriel Evans

 Puffin, 2021

36pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781760894450

Each morning when she wakes up, the little girl doesn’t want to go to school. There are so many reasons why.  She doesn’t make friends as easily as you’re supposed to; she can’t run and jump and climb as well as she is supposed too; she’s not chatty or fast of funny; not bossy or loud or wild.  And she anguishes about answering questions in case she is wrong.  She constantly compares herself to her peers and finds herself wanting, so the anxiety builds and builds.  

But she gathers her courage and goes each day, although it’s at her mother’s insistence.  Finally, her mother asks her why she doesn’t want to go to school and they have a conversation that turns her life around.  With her new-found perspective she ventures outside with her cat Piccolo and begins to see that being different is what everyone is and that it is to be celebrated rather than shunned or feared.  “Things being different is what makes the world wonderful.”

So many children suffer anxiety because they view the world through the lens of what they think they should be, rather than who they are. They watch others do things, listen to adults admire looks and skills and achievements , feel the impact of peer pressure as others boast… and all the while they don’t realise that others are admiring them for their unique attributes.  This story is one for the mindfulness collection as it now only has the power to spark discussion but to promote self-acceptance and a change of mindset.  Anxiety amongst children is on the rise at an alarming rate  and the sooner we can teach them that life is not a competition, that who they are at this time is enough; that it our uniqueness that makes the tapestry richer,  the better,  . Hartnett has done this beautifully. 

Early One Morning

Early One Morning

Early One Morning

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Early One Morning

Mem Fox

Christine Davenier

Puffin, 2021

32pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

9781761040030

Early one morning a little boy wakes up with a particular thing on his mind for breakfast, and so he sets off in search of it.  What follows is his quest as he travels around all the familiar objects and animals found on a farm until at last he has success.

If anyone knows what is needed to create a story that will engage the hearts and minds of our youngest readers and ensure they fall in love with the written word, then it is Mem Fox. Here, she has taken a very ordinary, everyday concept combined it with a very familiar character and using just the right amount of carefully chosen text she has crafted a story that will most definitely become a favourite.  The illustrations are perfect, not only helping to make the text predictable so the reader feels empowered but the little chook following the boy adds humour as well as the clue to his search.  As the little chap visits the truck and the tractor and the sheep and the ponies, he doesn’t see he is being followed and little ones will be shouting, “Look behind you!” much like they do the villain in the pantomime, while at the same time I hear the music to this version of Rosie’s Walk!   Two for the price of one!  Chooks in books – always a winning combo.

As well, it opens up the opportunity to investigate where our food comes from and how it gets to our plates. Lots of learning all round. 

 

Peppa Loves Easter

Peppa Loves Easter

Peppa Loves Easter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peppa Loves Easter

Ladybird, 2021

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

9780241476406

It’s Easter time and Madame Gazelle has a special Easter surprise for Peppa and her friends after playgroup – Miss Rabbit has organised an Easter Egg-stravaganza!

There’s Easter cakes, Easter cards to make, an egg decorating stall and Granny and Grandpa Pig’s fluffy newly-hatched chicks, but where is Miss Rabbit?And who is inside the huge Easter egg?

After the events of the last couple of years our littlest children are really revelling in the excitement of Easter and not only is this a lovely story to share with them, but it also provides the inspiration for creating a similar Eggstravanganza, either for the class or the family. It has all the elements that children like with the scavenger hunt providing a little bit of mystery and the activities providing a lot of fun! 

Little Owl’s Bathtime

Little Owl's Bathtime

Little Owl’s Bathtime

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Little Owl’s Bathtime

Debi Gliori

Alison Brown

Bloomsbury, 2021

32pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

9781526613875

Little Owl is back in another adventure that will resonate with our youngest readers as he tries everything he can think of to continue playing King of the Castle and avoid having a bath. Bathtime means the end of the day and the end of the fun. But Mummy Owl has a few tricks up her sleeve and entices him to wallow in Bubble Mountain and play with the Giant Invisible Penguin, so much so that Little Owl doesn’t want to get out. 

As with the others in this series, Gliori and Brown have combined to create a story around a familiar activity that the target audience will recognise and get great fun from.  Even if they can’t outwit their parents who are trying to bather them, they will have a host of new excuses to try out, while their parents may get some tips to deal with the situation without needing tears and tantrums.

The Greatest ShowPenguin

The Greatest ShowPenguin

The Greatest ShowPenguin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Greatest ShowPenguin

Lucy Freegard

Pavilion, 2021 

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

9781843654681

Poppy the Penguin comes from a long line of circus performers. Many skills have been passed down from penguin to penguin. However, Poppy soon decides that performing in the family circus is not for her as she prefers to feel calm and in control. But the hardest thing is not juggling, or riding a unicycle – it’s telling her mum that she doesn’t want to perform any more. The bravery is worth it when Poppy discovers a better role – organising and coordinating the whole show. And what a show it turns out to be!

So often, we, as parents, lead our children down the path of learning the things we like to do and expecting them to love them with a similar passion.  But it can be a road fraught with danger because our children always see us as the experts and that somehow they are never going to be quite good enough, which can lead to mental health and self-esteem issues.  Even though Poppy is very good as a performer and her parents are really proud of her, deep down inside she knows that the limelight is not for her and luckily she not only has the courage but also the relationship with her parents to express her unhappiness. Perhaps sharing this story might be the catalyst for our students to have similar conversations if they feel they have the need.

Freegard also brings up another element that often rears its head, particularly during class performances – that of “job snob”.  How often is the lead in the school play sought by the class’s leading light and both child and parents celebrate their celebrity?  Yet, as Poppy shows, the whole show cannot go on without those backstage workers, the support cast and everyone else who helps to make it happen.  Here is a great opportunity to demonstrate that no job is better or more important than another – they are just different and without one, others will flounder.  The school cannot function without all the admin staff making it easier for the teachers to do their thing.

Some big life lessons in one little book! 

Courageous Lucy

Courageous Lucy

Courageous Lucy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Courageous Lucy

Paul Russell

Cara King

EK Books, 2021

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

9781925820775

Lucy is a child who worries constantly, and because she has such a vivid imagination she worries about the most incredible things such as one day her shadow turning into an enormous black hole and swallowing her up or that she might be the person who discovers Bigfoot on the day he stubs his toe… She didn’t like going first because she worried that she would mess things up, but she didn’t want to go last either in case she missed out.

But when her teacher Mrs Hunt starts auditions for the cast of the school musical, Lucy is either going to have to speak up or there will be no parts left.  Does she have the courage?

Many of our students are like Lucy, full of worry and anxiety about getting things right, not messing up and being laughed at and it is becoming a huge concern as not only does it impact their mental health, it also reduces their willingness to take those risks that allow us to learn.  Sometime, somewhere, somehow, someone has instilled in them that they are meant to be perfect first time and all the time, and thus their lack of faith in their own ability hampers their freedom to do something as simple as predicting what will happen in a story – an essential element of early reading.  This is a situation that needs more than a “Don’t worry…” and so this book could be really useful in opening up discussions about fear of failure and all that’s associated with that.  Because Lucy’s fears are so extreme and unlikely, readers will feel safer because it puts them at arm’s length, but they will relate to missing out on something they really want because they didn’t speak up. Providing students with strategies to cope if they do have to face their fears, or even a more general one when those uncalled for clouds start to loom in their heads are the ultimate goal but if sharing this so others understand that worry is natural and common, but it shouldn’t be overwhelming  may lead to less anxiety and thus the book has done its job. 

The Thing That Goes Ping!

The Thing That Goes Ping!

The Thing That Goes Ping!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Thing That Goes Ping!

Mark Carthew

Shane McG

Ford Street, 2021

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

9781925804669

In the faraway town of Figgy-tra-ling, you may hear the faint ring of a thing that goes ping!

But this ting’s hard to find though its sound is quite loud

As the thing that goes ping can get lost in a crowd.

If you wish to know where you can find this ping thing

Let’s ask the good people of Figgy-tra-ling…

And so begins the quest to  discover this thing that goes ping, whatever it might be.  Moving through the town using rhyming couplets that instantly reminded me of a recent favourite, The Dingle-Dangle Jungle, the reader is taken on a journey that introduces a variety of creatures in a range of settings around the farm until eventually that thing that goes ping is revealed.  And it is a satisfying solution that makes the trip worthwhile!

This story works on a number of levels for all ages, particularly younger readers who are not only learning the names of common creatures but who revel in the sounds and rhythms of our language.  The rhymes roll off the tongue in a most satisfying way and with the repetition of the phrases and the very supportive illustrations they will not only be joining in but also be predicting the next text. Perfect for early reading behaviours, encouraging readers to suggest, write and illustrate their own resident of Figgy-tra-ling who could help the quest.  It is also excellent for using with students for whom English is an additional language as not only can they connect the English words with creatures they readily recognise, but again, the predictive text and the rhyme will help them explore the language easily.   As well, there are comprehensive teachers notes, song lyrics and even card games to download, making this the complete reading experience. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Antiracist Baby

Antiracist Baby

Antiracist Baby

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Antiracist Baby

Ibram X. Kendi

Ashely Lukashevsky

Puffin, 2021

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

9780241512388

“Antiracist Baby is bred, not born.”

Beginning with this premise, this book takes the reader through nine steps to ensure that they and their offspring can learn how to be tolerant, compassionate individuals “to make equity a reality.”

  1. Open your eyes to all skin colours
  2. Use your words to talk about race.
  3. Point at policies as the problem, not people.
  4. Shout.  There’s nothing wrong with the people.”
  5. Celebrate all our difference.
  6. Knock down the stack of cultural blocks.
  7. Confess when being racist.
  8. Grow to be antiracist.
  9. Believe we shall overcome racisms.

Each principle is expanded by a rhyming couplet and, given the recent disclosures within the Royal Family as well as this being Harmony Day, there is scope for discussion and debate as we are encouraged to consider the things we say and do, often without thought, that could be deemed racist by another. The author has included additional discussion prompts to help readers recognise and reflect on bias in their daily lives as well links to US organisations that can offer more support.  A teachers’ guide is also available.

Despite looking like and being promoted as a book for babies, this is more one for those who understand the concept of racism already and are ready to learn more.  Reviews are very mixed mostly because while the intentions and purpose are valid, the confusion over who the intended audience is, is strong.