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Snow Ghost

Snow Ghost

Snow Ghost

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Snow Ghost

Tony Mitton

Diana Mayo

Bloomsbury, 2020

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

9781408876633

“Snow Ghost came whispering out of the air,

Oh, for a home to be happy – but where?

Snow Ghost is looking for a home. Through the dark winter sky, she swoops and swirls, past the whirling traffic of town, into the dense, tangled wood and to the top of the blustery hill, searching endlessly to no avail, unwanted. And then on the moors she spots a small farm where children are playing in the snow. She has found her home at last.

This is a beautiful story, written in rhyme with rich imagery and exquisitely and delicately illustrated that, on the surface, would appear to be about the weather. T But what if it were a metaphor for the refugees and the struggles they face when they have to flee their country and find it difficult to find friendly shelter, particularly in these times? That theme opens up a whole lot of possibilities that not only take the reader into a different world but raise their awareness of the challenges that have to be faced, racism being just one… It is about hope and an inner knowing that there will be the perfect place to belong, and having the resilience to find it. So even though it is not winter, and there are few places here that see snow, it has a much broader appeal and application.

 

Zoe, Max and the Bicycle Bus

Zoe, Max and the Bicycle Bus

Zoe, Max and the Bicycle Bus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Zoe, Max and the Bicycle Bus

Steven Herrick

UQP, 2020

228pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9780702263002

There are as many stories in 5D as there are students, each with a different perspective on the first day of the new school year and a new teacher. There’s Olivia and Dabir, Jordi, Zoe, Lily and Dylan, Max and Mr Bertolli the lollipop man, each very different but united by the commonality of school, each a thread that makes up the tapestry of the class. But only Olivia is allowed to ride her bike to school – until Miss Dillon suggests a bicycle bus to overcome their parents’ fears about traffic and other possibilities.  And  everything changes.

As they ride, they learn new things about themselves and each other, seeing the world through a different lens. Olivia can fix a puncture in two minutes and Max can ride on one wheel.  Lily wishes she wasn’t quite so wobbly and Jordi’s been waiting forever to ride on the road. Dylan has a speedy getaway from alley cats, Dabir’s glad to be part of a group and Zoe’s bike even has a name (Esmeralda). Everyone loves their new way of getting to school.

But there’s a narrow stretch on Fishers Road with no white line to separate the cyclists from the local traffic, so Zoe and Max decide they need to make it right (even if that means breaking a few rules).

This is a novel written in free verse by the master of this format that not only entertains and resonates, but introduces young readers to a different ways of telling a story. Each character tells their own story, with characters swapping in and out after a couple of pages, the next linked to its predecessor in some way and so the reader makes the connections and the continuity rather than imposed descriptions of setting and activity. 

The sun is shining
and today feels like an adventure,
only one I can go on
whenever I want
because I have a bicycle
and friends
and a city
just waiting to be explored.

The same could be said of this book – it’s an adventure only the reader can go on because it is what they bring to the words that brings them alive.

Teachers’ notes are available.

 

What We’ll Build: Plans for Our Together Future

What We'll Build: Plans for Our Together Future

What We’ll Build: Plans for Our Together Future

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What We’ll Build: Plans for Our Together Future

Oliver Jeffers

HarperCollins, 2020

48pp., hbk., RRP $A 24.99

9780008382209

What shall we build, you and I?

I’ll build your future and you’ll build mine.

We’ll build a watch to keep our time.

Sitting perfectly alongside its predecessor Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth in which Jeffers tries to offer an explanation of this planet and how it works so that his young son Harland  (and any other little children) will be able to negotiate it successfully; this time Jeffers is talking to his daughter Mari about how they will build their future together with a home to keep them safe, love to keep them warm and memories to cherish. Thus it is as much about satisfying the tangible, physical needs as the intangible, emotional that are perhaps even more critical.

Given the year that just was, this is the perfect start to a new year – one which has never been more anticipated and had more hope built into it by our young students – so that they can look forward rather than back and think about their dreams and how they might build these, while for the adult sharing the book it is a time for them to pause, look at their children and grasp that there, is one of their dreams come true – a happy, healthy child. And the future for each is inextricably intertwined.

Jeffers has a unique style of both text and illustration which is perfectly suited to this sort of philosophical text; one that might be directed to his daughter but which has universal application for starting this new year.  If 2021 is to live up to expectation what do we need to do to ensure that it does?

Peppa’s Night Before Christmas

Peppa's Night Before Christmas

Peppa’s Night Before Christmas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peppa’s Night Before Christmas

Ladybird, 2020

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

9780241448625

To round out Peppa’s busy year of celebrations and holidays, this new adventure in which she and George help Santa out of a sticky situation will be welcomed by her young fans.  Written to the rhythm of the Clement C. Moore poem , it will capture their imagination as they anticipate the big night. 

Peppa has had many exciting adventures throughout the year,  but this is the crowning glory.  Imagine helping Santa out!!! It will send little ones off to sleep with wonderful ideas whizzing!!! Even the littlest, most stubborn person falls asleep eventually!

 

Wild Symphony

Wild Symphony

Wild Symphony

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wild Symphony

Dan Brown

Susan Batori

Puffin, 2020

44pp., hbk., RRP $A44.99

9780241467916

Before he wrote classics like The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown wrote music. It was a secret sanctuary for him bringing peace and calm and solace. And in this wonderful, interactive book he has combined those two gifts into a remarkable story for children that offers messages of affirmation and guidance. It is a place for them to seek that same peace and calm and solace.

Led by Maestro Mouse, the reader is taken on a journey of the animal kingdom and invited to learn something from each one that helps them deal with life. At the same time by using a QR code or going to the website, and downloading the app, they can  tune into the music of the creatures. Along the way, Maestro Mouse has left surprises  — a hiding buzzy bee, jumbled letters that spell out clues, and even a coded message to solve – making this a book that has many layers and which begs to be explored again and again.

 

 

Pirate Stew

Pirate Stew

Pirate Stew

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pirate Stew

Neil Gaiman

Chris Riddell

Bloomsbury, 2020

48pp., hbk., RRP $A22.99

9781526614728

Their parents are having a night out and so have hired a babysitter, but he is not your regular carer.

His hair was grey. His face was scarred.

Right leg a peg, left hand a hook.

He grinned a grin and said, “my card.”

It read

Long John McRon, Ship’s Cook.

Soon joined by others, each the quintessential stereotype of a pirate crew member, they set about feeding the children but it is no ordinary food they concoct.  They make pirate stew.

But rather than joining in the fun and games as all sorts of things are thrown into the pit, the children remain dubious, if not worried, , because if they eat the stew they will become pirates too. But nevertheless, a night of adventures lies ahead which gets even more interesting when their parents arrive home and hungry, devour the children’s bowls of uneaten pirate stew!

This is the most delightful tale from an author absolutely dedicated to getting children to read through entertaining stories, and so richly illustrated that it is impossible to summarise it in a few lines for a review.  Starting with two children who faces show what they think of their parents having a night out and who do not embrace the possibilities of having a pirate cook for a babysitter,  Gaiman’s rollicking rhyme and Riddell’s detailed illustrations offer an adventure that can be and demands to be read again and again and again. Just what was in those doughnuts?  The twist in the ending is unexpected and sets up a whole lot of opportunities for asking “what if…”.

Here’s a taste…

A wonderful opportunity for children and parents to find their treasure…. 

 

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”. 

There’s Something Weird About Lena

There's Something Weird About Lena

There’s Something Weird About Lena

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There’s Something Weird About Lena

Sigi Cohen

James Foley

Walker Books, 2020

32pp., hbk., RRP $A25.99

9781760651503

On my first day back at school I met a girl called Lena. Every time she acted mean she laughed like a hyena.

But it is not only Lena’s laugh that is weird – look closely at the illustrations and you will see the reason for it. Lena loves playing pranks and gets great delight in seeing others’ humiliation and fear. But finally the others have had enough and decide to play a prank on Lena…

Given the number of storybooks I’ve read over the years, I expected to discover that Lena had some sort of social impediment that hampered her interaction with other children and that this would be resolved through friendship, kindness and understanding so when this is not the case it was a big surprise.  Lena probably does have issues with socialising but whatever they are, she’s content to continue being mean and scaring the children, and the readers. It seems she is happy to be different, on the outer and disliked (although the teacher in me wonders if it’s a case of hurting before being hurt.) Perhaps there could be some discussion and speculation about why she is like she is, just to  help the students understand that there are always reasons for behaviour, and it is not a surface thing. 

Created by the duo who also created My Dead Bunny about a zombie rabbit, told in Cohen’s signature rhyming text and illustrated in a monochromatic palette with splashes of bright orange, this is one for those who love horror, unexplained weirdness and all things gross! Probably a perfect bedtime read for tonight given the restrictions on Halloween activities and one that might introduce a new genre to those craving a bit more than the usual in their stories. 

 

The Fire Wombat

The Fire Wombat

The Fire Wombat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Fire Wombat

Jackie French 

Danny Snell

HarperCollins, 2020

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

 9781460759332

A curl of smoke appears on the horizon, gradually getting bigger, blacker and more ominous as it comes closer.  The parched earth burns and day becomes night as the ash-thick air envelops all before it and beneath it. 

Nowhere above the ground is safe for anything with two legs or four, but this is not the animals’ first fire and Wombat knows where to go and what to do. And when it is finally safe to emerge, the landscape is unlike the one they had left… grey, charred, burnt, devoid of both food and water. But a primeval instinct drives Wombat and she pushes on and on, seeking the liquid that would mean life…

Written about a little wombat that stumbled onto her Araluen Valley property and then collapsed, this is Jackie French’s own story of resilience and hope amidst the horror that was the summer of 2019-2020 when she and those she loves were surrounded by four fires and the future looked bleak, if not dire. It is a story about how when things seem to be at their worst, basic human nature, kindness and goodness prevails and we look out for those who are in worse circumstances, including our precious but often helpless wildlife. Even though what is done initially may not solve the problem, it is something that can lead to something else and something else… Like the Fire Wombat, we just need to keep searching until we find what we need.

It is a story that  embraces all the age groups – on the surface it is a story for little ones about a little wombat whose basic instinct is preservation and which perseveres to find what it needs; but it is also for older students who can consider the sort of assistance that is required and what they can do; maybe even what they can do to prevent fires of the future. The teachers’ notes which I wrote span all these aspects offering another avenue for our students to heal from that awful summer.  Pandemic or not, there are still many wounds to tend to.

No matter at what level you read this beautiful story – along the lines, between them or beyond them – you  will acknowledge that Jackie French is indeed a master storyteller, and her words have been enriched and enhanced by Danny Snell’s sensitive artwork.

And the rainbow after the rain, the dawn after the dark? Jackie has just shared that the Fire Wombat now has a baby of her own, “black as charcoal, fat and bouncing” . She glimpsed them in the valley three weeks ago and Fire Wombat is fat and happy too! 

 

Rain Before Rainbows

Rain Before Rainbows

Rain Before Rainbows

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rain Before Rainbows

Smriti Halls

David Litchfield

Walker Books, 2020

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

9781406382358

Rain before rainbows. Clouds before sun. Night before daybreak. A new day’s begun…

With pictures as stunning as its title and as gentle as its message, this is a beautiful book that encourages children to hang in there, that whatever they are facing right now will pass and there will be a brighter time coming. The text is quite simple on the surface as the girl and her friendly fox climb mountains, face dragons and endure dark days as they strive towards their dreams.  Along the way they discover that there are friends to help, alternative paths to follow and ropes to hold on to as they seek the treasure of a new day.  While younger readers can follow along seeing the journey in a literal way,  it is the metaphorical message that will resonate with the older reader who is able to operate at a more abstract level.

This is a story about trust, resilience, optimism and hope that will empower young readers to have the courage to keep moving forward, to follow their dreams, to see obstacles as opportunities and to be willing to be open to new things and be proactive.  That, for all the storm might be noisy and scary, there is nevertheless beauty in it and  the calm on the other side is savoured even more deeply because of the contrast.

These themes of courage, resilience and hope are featuring in many recent books for our young readers but given the calamity that has been 2020, it could be argued that the more we have access to the better, because at least one of them has to resonate and reach out to a child in need.  And if it does, then the work of the author, illustrator and the adult who placed it in their world, is done.