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Group Hug!: A Collective Noun Safari

Group Hug!: A Collective Noun Safari

Group Hug!: A Collective Noun Safari

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Group Hug!: A Collective Noun Safari

Andy Fackrell

Ford Street, 2022

40pp., pbk., RRP $A16.95

9781922696007

Have you heard of a flamboyance of flamingos?  Perhaps a bloat of hippos or even an implausibility of gnus?

Wilbur is on a journey through his local zoo, visiting his favourite animals and discovering the wonderful words that describe groups of them.

Written in rhyme with a repetitive refrain, it is an entertaining way for students to investigate some of the more outrageous nouns, as they develop their vocabulary and perhaps even speculate on how the groups got their labels.  They might even investigate the noun associated with their favourite creature to create an extra page for the book, including illustrations that offer  similar extra information as the originals.   Teachers’ notes offer other suggestions for using this book in the English strand.

However, Fackrell has intended this to be more than a romp through a zoo to build vocabulary.  He is a strong supporter of The Lion’s Share, a fund backed by the United Nation’s Development Programme – its mentor David Attenborough –and its work protecting our most vulnerable wildlife groups. Thus, each spread features a supporting cast of unnamed species, all biologically correct to the ecosystem. For instance, in the Andes, alongside the Flamboyance of Flamingos there is a Knot of endangered, Lake Titicaca Water Frogs.

The endpapers of the hardback version are a definitive and fun reference source with a world map of all known collective nouns  drawn on the inside front, with the matching animal names on the inside back.

To learn more about the book’s creation, there is a Q & A with Andy Fackrell here. 

Kind

Kind

Kind

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kind

Jess McGeachin

Allen & Unwin, 2022

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

9781761066047

The publisher’s description of this book as a ” beautiful ode to the wonders of our natural world” is spot on.

In this book you’ll find

Many kinds of things

Some have slippery scales

Some have feathered wings

But kind is more than type

Kind is how you care

For creatures that you meet

And places that we share. 

There have been a plethora of books in the last couple of years that encourage us to take greater notice of our immediate surroundings, particularly as that has been where we have been confined to, and implore us to take greater care of where we step, what we see and how we act.  Leaving a shell on the beach means a lot to the little creature who seeks shelter beneath; not stepping on an ant means  even more to the ant! So this is another reminder to take the time to acknowledge,  appreciate and applaud Mother Nature, to remember that the real seven wonders of the world are at our fingertips.

But it is her final verse that really has great impact if we are to continue to be healthy and happy individuals who have the compassion, empathy, strength and energy to be kind to everyone and everything else. 

Whose Poo?

Whose Poo?

Whose Poo?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whose Poo?

Daisy Bird

Marianna Coppo

Andersen Press, 2022

44pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9781839132285

The two baby mice are fascinated by poo and even though their dad tells them it is an off-limits conversation while on their zoo trip, they can’t help themselves.  As they walk to the zoo, they see lots of different people and their imaginations run wild as they picture the sort of poo the person would do – but once they get there, there’s no stopping their fantasies.  “Chameleons do sneaky, camouflage poo.  They can hide it anywhere they want to!” 

But the greatest insight is when Father Mouse takes them to meet the Pookeeper…

While this is an hilarious story in rhyme that will have young readers laughing out loud that might have them imagining what sort of poo those around them would do, this story also has a serious side.. It shows that going to the toilet is an everyday occurrence for everybody and everything and is a necessary part of being healthy, sparking conversations about the digestive system and how it works. .  By normalising it in this way, the stigma that has been attached to getting rid of body waste for centuries as though it is something nasty and naughty may be diminished so that if there is a change in the habit or the product, it can be addressed without embarrassment.  It may also minimise the advent of toilet humour that seems to grip young boys and often lasts into adulthood.  

A fun read with a serious side. 

Let’s Build a Backyard

Let's Build a Backyard

Let’s Build a Backyard

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let’s Build a Backyard

Mike Lucas

Daron Parton

Lothian, 2022

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

9780734421289 

Chug! Chug! Chug! That’s the sound of the tipper truck.

Bang! Bang! Bang!  That’s the sound of the nails being hammered into the fence.

Sing! Sing! Sing! That’s the sound of the birds in the big tree that offers shelter and shade to countless living things and which must be protected.

In this charming companion to Let’s Build A House, Dad and his daughter are back again, this time building the backyard from bringing in quality topsoil to building a bee motel to planting the vege patch, installing a frog pond and planting bright flowers that feed on stinky chicken poo.  Using simple rhyming sequences and repetitive text, Mike Lucas and Daron Parton have once again combined to bring the complex task of creating a backyard haven for the family and wildlife alike into the realm of our youngest readers.  The bond between father and daughter is just as strong as she helps him with all the tasks – imagine the fun of being allowed to control the bobcat – with the final spread showing them sharing the joy of their labour together, suggesting that there is no mother in the story, a situation many will relate to.

As well as introducing young readers to all the tasks involved in creating a backyard and the order in which they must be done, the story opens up the opportunity for students to dream with their eyes open and plan their own backyard.  What features should it have so that it is perfect for playing and relaxing while still being a safe haven for the local wildlife and environmentally sustainable?  Teach them about bird’s-eye-view maps and drawing to scale so things fit. Big concepts for little children but made thoroughly accessible through this must-have book. (And if the prospect of a backyard is not feasible, how could the school playground be improved in a similar way? )

 

Sophia the Show Pony

Sophia the Show Pony

Sophia the Show Pony

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sophia the Show Pony

Kate Waterhouse

Sally Spratt

Puffin, 2022

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

9781761042492

Sophia is literally a show pony.  Not for her smelly, draughty stables and a manky horse blanket.  “She lived uptown in fancy Flats, the ritziest place on earth” and was “known for her stylish array of hats, paired with coats and designer gowns.”  But Sophia has a secret dream to actually  win the race that she and her friends dress up for.  Her friends discourage her saying that her destiny is being a fashionista and so Sophie settles for that until…’

Waterhouse has combined her fashion and racing backgrounds with her desire to write a book for her daughters which embraces ” all the lessons I want to impart ” about ” following your passion no matter what anyone says and finding your place in the world, and also embracing your individuality.” This message is a common one in children’s stories, but one which needs to be heard often so whatever story it is embedded in is worthwhile.  Choosing to tell it in rhyme can be tricky with both vocabulary and rhythm having to be manipulated but Waterhouse has done this creating a story that gallops along accompanied by illustrations which have all the characteristics that appeal to its target audience.  With its gold borders and pink roses, the book itself wouldn’t look out of place in the member’s area of the racecourse. 

 

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

 

 

I Wish I Was a Fish

I Wish I Was a Fish

I Wish I Was a Fish

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Wish I Was a Fish

Laura Bridekirk

Vanessa Fernandes

Little Steps, 2022 

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

9781922358776

Oh, what a thrill it would be to have a tail and gills! Imagine breathing underwater water! The idea gives me chills.

The little lad in this story is fascinated by fish and the world they live in so he takes the reader on an imaginary adventure under the water as he dreams of what his life would be like if his dreams came true.  But wait! What would he have to give up  as a little boy if they did?  Is there a compromise?

This story-in-rhyme is not only an introduction to the creatures of the watery world for our young readers, but it is also an opportunity for them to share the things they wish for – and reflect on the price they would pay if they actually came true.  A chance to think about the meaning of “Be careful what you wish for.” 

The Unfunny Bunny

The Unfunny Bunny

The Unfunny Bunny

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Unfunny Bunny

Adrian Beck

James Hart

Puffin, 2022

24pp., hbk., RRP $A17.99

9781761043093

’Twas the night before EASTER
When I spotted the BUNNY!
So I offered to help
Make the EGG HUNT more FUNNY!

Like many other families, this one has gathered en masse at the beach house but with the rain tumbling down it doesn’t look like it’s going to be the fun holiday they had planned.  But when the mischievous little kid finds the Easter Bunny hiding eggs in the house, they decide to take matters into their own hands and help out, hiding the eggs in places that are significant to each recipient. But not only are the placements accompanied by an explanation, they also all the worst puns of the season…

Pop’s on a health kick, which he finds unappealing.

So we placed all his eggs up near the ceiling. 

He’ll have to do some hare-robics!”

While the new Easter Bunny is carried away with the pranks and the  jokes, they finally notice that the real Easter Bunny is not amused, and perhaps there should be a re-think of the  plans… Perhaps the funny bunny isn’t so funny after all. 

From the rollicking rhyme, to the predictable puns to the perfect illustrations this is a story that needs to be read aloud to an audience because the groans of those who get the incessant plays on words will just add to the atmosphere. Even though the Easter Bunny has heard them all before, the listeners will not and they will delight in the fun and the joy as they add to them with their own (while learning a bit more about how our language works.)  And because James Hart has cleverly depicted the main character as gender-neutral, each child will see themselves being the Easter Bunny’s offsider and wondering how they could play similar pranks. 

But this is more than just an “hare-larious” story that opens up opportunities for the more serious to explore puns in particular and humour in general – it’s just plain fun and while Easter may again look different for many this year because after the fires and the pestilence, many are now coping with floods, it it still those strong family connections that glue us together whatever the circumstances.  

One to share year after year…

 

 

It Starts with a Bee

It Starts with a Bee

It Starts with a Bee

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It Starts with a Bee

Jennie Weber

Quarto, 2022

34pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

9780711270336

Slowly, slowly we are beginning to understand how critical bees are to our survival, and yet how endangered they are becoming, so any book for young readers that helps them understand the crucial role that bees play has to be an important addition to any collection. 

Using rhyming text and delicate illustration the reader is taken on a journey through the seasons from winter to autumn showing how a garden is pollinated and thus blooms to be beautiful flowers, fruits and vegetables bringing both joy and food to our lives, culminating in a magnificent three-page spread summarising the essential elements of the process.  As well, it shows how bees work together with each other and other insects creating an interdependent eco-system which we must protect. 

Although created by an English illustrator who believes ” if people are amazed by the natural world, then they will be less likely to destroy it.” so that there is a “English country garden” feel to it, many of the plants featured are very familiar to young Australian readers, making it’s message as important here as it is anywhere.  It is an ideal complement to books like Holly, the Honeybee Dancing Star  and Bee Detectives (with its focus on Australian species) , all with their strong message of not just conservation but how simple it is for even our youngest readers to ensure their safety and survival. 

 

 

 

That Cat

That Cat

That Cat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That Cat

Jacqueline Harvey

Kate Isobel Scott

Puffin, 2022

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

9781761040702

All over the country I meet lots of interesting cats

Cats of all shapes and sizes in many different guises…

Using simple rhyming terms but very clever, detailed illustrations to completely engage the reader, this is a brilliant book for all cat-lovers and all ages.  For the Mat Cat is not a modest moggy curled up on a rug in front of the fire as you might expect, but a very fit, energetic yoga expert!  The Rat Cat hasn’t caught something nasty to leave at the front door but an echo of the Pied Piper of Hamelin.

While young readers will love being able to read it for themselves because of the simple rhyming pattern, it is drawing the connections between the words and the pictures that adds depth, humour and a storyline that has the most comforting ending. Author and illustrator first met when Harvey taught Scott at school and that relationship shines through this book as though Scott knew that Harvey would never intend for a Fat Cat to be a self-satisfied feline surrounded by dead mice. 

Adorable in itself, and never written to be an instructional text, nevertheless this is one that could be shared with a class focusing on phonics and word families (don’t get me started…) but in a fun way where the children search out other -at words and then use their imaginations to illustrate them in surprising ways.   Or just re-interpret the words in the story.  Either way, they will not only learn a common sound for the -at combination but also start to look at character and how that can be expressed in the details of an illustration.  Can what has happened to Scat Cat be any more obvious even though there are but three words on the page???  The cues and clues offered through the pictures in a picture book are a critical, integral part of the child’s early language and reading development and texts like there that require a focus on both are an essential part of any book collection. 

 

An Amazing Australian Road Trip

An Amazing Australian Road Trip

An Amazing Australian Road Trip

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Amazing Australian Road Trip

Jackie Hosking

Lesley Vamos

Walker Books, 2022 

40pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9781760653842

We’re travelling from Melbourne on a birthday trip west, our aunty is sixty and we’re off on a quest

She’s keen for a picnic and fancies a view, a cake and a loud “Happy Birthday to You!”

So off they go with their 4WD loaded to the hilt, the most magnificent birthday cake taking pride of place on the roof rack.  But despite circumnavigating the country, including Tasmania, and visiting significant scenic and cultural attractions  in each state and territory, Aunty cannot find the perfect picnic spot until…

In my review of Ancient Wonders  I suggested that families could use it as an opportunity to plan a journey (or two or three) to discover the remarkable land shapes and landscapes that are our own backyard, and here it has been laid out already.  Iconic destinations such as The Twelve Apostles, Coober Pedy, Port Arthur, Kakadu, Uluru, Canberra and others have all been included in this itinerary and as well as the ongoing story of Aunty’s objections (and the very fitting ending), there are also factual notes about the significance of each.  The maps on the endpages summarise the journey so well – and any adult sharing  the story will empathise. 

So the challenge to set students, having the model in front of them, is to create a new itinerary that the family could try foe when Aunty is 65!  Differentiate the task by setting it up as either Australia-wide, state-wide or even just town-wide… what places would be perfect for a picnic celebration and why?  Even though our national borders are opening up, there is still so much to see and do in our own country.  By sharing their plans, students may discover new places in their own back yard! 

To me, the best picture books are those that set the reader up for further journeys (both literally and figuratively), that have layers for them to explore and build their understandings on, those that educate as well as entertain.  This is definitely one of those and an essential addition to any collection focused on Australia’s geography.